Friday, March 26, 2010

FRNY Track Meet, NYC Half, and a Long Bike Ride

Lots of running this past weekend.  Friday was the 11th Annual Front Runners New York Track Meet, held at the Armory.  I've always enjoyed the FRNY Track Meet because it brings together a bunch of gay runners with some serious, really, really fast non-gay track athletes who otherwise wouldn't ever run together.  It's also one of the few times I ever get to actually race on the track.  I was disappointed last year when the club canceled the meet (I think due to low membership turnout in past meets, but I was always impressed by the number of FRs who were willing to race on the unfamiliar territory of the track).  But this year was by far the best meet yet for FRNY.  We had around 50 FRs compete, and probably 100 or so non-FRs.  It was a great event, with gift certificates to Urban Athletics as prizes, medals to all age group winners, and lots of fun relays.

Because fast running aggravates my butt condition more than anything else, I was mostly just a spectator, except for one event.  Anthony, Da, Tsing and I (four of the club "gaysians"...aptly named Team Joy Luck Club!) did the "Distance Medley Relay."  I had never even heard of a DMR before, but it's a fun event, consisting of four legs of varying distances (1200m, 400m, 800m, 1600m).  I was assigned to do the 1200.  I hated the fact that the 1200 was first, because I was planning to take it easy, and it would mean that everyone would see that I was last, haha.  (I can be insecure like that.)  Things turned even worse when, lining up for the start, I realized that Dane was also doing the 1200 for his team.  I KNEW Dane would never let me hear the end of it if he beat me in the 1200, so I was forced to make a decision...turn this into a real "race" and end up further aggravating my butt (and possibly jeopardizing my performance in the NYC Half-Marathon less than 36 hours later), or face Dane's ridicule and taunting.  The choice was clear.

When the gun started, the faster people in the heat (Kelsey, Peter Macari, Chris Stoia) took off and were quickly way up front.  Then it was Dane and me.  I decided to tuck in right behind him and let him set the pace.  I knew if I were leading, I'd want to pace off the fast group, and there was no way I'd be able to sustain that for 1200m.  So for four laps, I stayed one foot behind Dane, giving him the job of dictating how fast we were going and cutting through the stale Armory air.  I felt like I could go a little faster, but I was happy to hang back, for a while.  I could tell I was psyching him out a little bit because in that fourth lap, he looked back twice to see if I was still behind him.

On the fifth lap, I decided to make my move.  Starting on the straightaway on the far side of the track (where there was a nice audience of other FRs watching, haha), I moved over to the outside lane and kicked it up a gear.  Dane groaned when I passed him, and I knew he didn't have enough gas to keep up.  Even so, I ran that last lap and a half as hard as I could, not giving him any opportunity to breach the gap.  I never looked back, and I ended up beating him by a comfortable margin (sorry, Dane!).  Stupidly, I forgot to stop my watch as I handed off the baton to Tsing, but I think I did the 1200 in about 4:08 or so.  I was very pleased.

After that run, though, I was completely wiped out.  My butt was aching, and I couldn't stop coughing because the air in the Armory is just so nasty.  Funny how 3/4 of a mile could be so physically draining.

I did end up doing one more event that night, but it was more of a fun run.  Because the half-marathon was on Sunday, Koach Kelsey had a special run at the end of all the normal track events.  For this one run, the clocks were turned off and we had to take off our watches.  We were all supposed to predict our pace (could be anything but most people picked their half-marathon goal pace) and the person who ran a mile closest to that pace was the winner.  I picked 7:15, although that was a little faster than what I expected to do in the half.

This was hard!  A 7:15 pace meant 54-55 second 200s, which is slower than anything I've ever run on the track before.  When we started, I just started running at a comfortable pace, having no idea whether I was going anywhere near 7:15.  Eventually, I knew I was going too fast, but it was so hard to get myself to slow down once I had settled on the pace I was going.  I did cheat a little, too...  I was about to pass Josh (who was not going anywhere near his half-marathon pace) when he whispered to me that he trying to run a 6:57.  That made me slow down dramatically.

In the end, though, I was still way off my goal pace, finishing the mile in 6:51.  I've never run a half that fast in my life!  (Although I'd love to, and be able to finally break 1:30.)  29 seconds off of my goal.  I had mixed emotions...  I was way off my goal pace, but at least I felt good doing it, and it reminded me that in the real half, I'd have to start off much, much slower.

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Sunday morning was the New York City Half.  It started at 7:35, on E. 95th Street.  I overslept, and woke up at 6:55, on W. 14th Street.  My first reaction was: "SHIIIIIIIIIT!!!"

My second reaction was to throw on my race clothes (which, luckily, I had organized on the floor before I went to bed) and run out the door.  No breakfast, no usual pre-race bathroom routine.  I was so, so annoyed.

I ran across 14th Street to 7th Avenue to get a taxi.  There were no taxis around.  So I ran to 6th Avenue.  Still no taxis.  5th Avenue, no taxis.  But I did see this girl in her racing outfit and approached her, hoping to split the next taxi or gypsy cab that came by.  She told me that her mom was on her way to pick her up and bring her to the start.  Less than a minute later, her mom pulls up, and I get in the car.  I think her mom was a little confused, but she was really nice, and we had a very smooth and fast ride up to E. 97th Street.  I still had my bag to check, so I ran up to the late baggage van, all the way up at 102nd Street, and back down to the blue corral at 95th Street.  Fortunately, they let me into the corral without a problem, and I was there, all warmed up, at 7:33, with two minutes to spare.

I was so relieved that actually made it to the start on time that it almost didn't even matter to me how I did in the race.  And, I just knew that sometime during the race, I would have to make a bathroom stop since I didn't get to go in the morning (and Dane and I had a big carby dinner at Cola's the night before).  This might be too much detail, but I almost went to the porta-potty at around mile 6, but at the last second decided to wait one more mile, but then quickly regretted not going, but then the feeling went away and I didn't have to go for the rest of the race.  Ah, the unpredictability of a runner's GI system.

As for the race itself, I pretty much stuck to the plan I outlined in my last post, meaning I did about 7:30s in the park, and ramped it up once I got outside.  Here are my splits:

            Mile 1: 7:26
            Mile 2: 7:28
            Mile 3: 7:30
            Mile 4: 7:37 (rolling hills b/t 80th and 96th on the West side)
            Mile 5: 7:25
            Mile 6: 7:41 (going up Harlem Hill)
            Mile 7: 7:29
            Mile 8: 7:35 (last mile in the park, seem to have slowed down a bit)
            Mile 9-10: 14:48 (forgot to press lap; sped up and ran with IJ for a bit along 42nd Street)
            Mile 11: 7:20 (the band playing "Eye of the Tiger" on the Westside Highway @ mile 10 got me pumped up)
            Mile 12: 7:10
            Mile 13: 6:52 (felt good for the finishing kick)
            Mile .1: 0:41

In the end, I got a 1:37:06, which was one of my slower halves.  But it was my first NYRR race since the marathon, I stuck with my game plan, and I was strong at the finish, so overall I am very pleased with my performance.  Thanks to everyone who I saw cheering along the way:  Matt, Paul, Fred, Todd, Bernd, Tyler, Gabby, Rob, Kelsey (although you almost missed me!) and AJ.  You guys helped push me to the end!

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After the Half, Mike Terry convinced me that a long bike ride would be a good way to recover my legs.  Easy for him to say, he didn't run the half!  But it was a beautiful day on Sunday, so I agreed.  We ended up going about 30 miles, meeting on the WSH at 14th Street, going across the GW Bridge, and spending some time on Route 9W (the beginning of the route that many people take to bike out to Nyack, a ride that I've been wanting to do for awhile).

The 30 mile bike ride was, I think, the 3rd longest I've ever biked in my life (the longest was my Half-Ironman relay with Dane and Ryan [56 miles], and then my 36-mile Thanksgiving ride with my brother).  It was a lot of fun, and since we weren't going too fast, I felt really good afterwards.  Hopefully, if the weather is good this weekend, I might do the full trip from the GWB to Nyack.

On Saturday, though, I'm planning on doing the Wurtsboro Mountain 30k, held in Wurtsboro, NY by the Sullivan Striders.  It's a really tough race, with the first four miles rising about 1000' in vertical gain.  Two years ago, I finished in 2:17:08 (7:21 pace).  It's going to be a "fun run" this year, though...  maybe around 8:00 miles or something.  But I'm excited!

Friday, March 19, 2010

5 Weeks Till Boston; 6 Weeks Without a Kitchen

I've been cautiously trying to ramp up my running as I near the peak of my training for Boston, which is now less than five weeks away.  I usually try to peak at around 45-50 miles a week when training for a marathon, but this time I think my highest weeks are going to be closer to 35 miles.  I'm hoping, though, that my cross-training (swimming, biking, yoga) will make up for some of my lost miles.

One thing I've decided not to do anymore is speed workouts.  Two weeks ago, I went to my first speed workout since November.  I had been running pretty consistently, and figured that if I didn't push myself too hard, I would be able to get a good workout without further injuring myself.  The workout that night was 5 x 1mile (first 1000m @ 10k pace, last 600m faster), with a 3 minute rest / 1 lap jog between sets.

I ran the first set at 4:10 (1st 1000) / 6:30 (total).  It was the fastest mile I had run since probably September or October.  It felt exhilarating--every time I run on the track I feel like I am pushing myself to go as fast as I could go, and with each step, I feel like I want to go faster and faster.  That was a mistake.  By the end of the mile, I felt like I wanted to die.  I had forgotten how nasty and stale the air was inside the armory.  More significantly, I had forgotten that pretty much all of my running over the past several months had been in the 7:45 minute pace or slower.  The fast boys doing the workout (Mikey B, Stephan, Peter Macari, Timmy and Matt) sucked me into their vortex.  But I couldn't keep up with them, and I felt like I was killing myself trying.  Although my butt felt fine, I didn't think there was any way I could maintain that pace for the other four sets.

So for the next set, I decided to let the boys do their own thing while I paced off of Kerstin, who said she was doing 7 minute miles.  It felt much better running with her.  At first, I felt like I was holding myself back, but I quickly settled into her pace, and figured that this would leave me with enough juice to be able to do the last 600 faster.  About the third or fourth lap, she ended up pulling off because of a shoelace issue or something, and all of a sudden I was left without a pacer.  And I suck at pacing myself.  I ended up running the rest of that set way too fast (4:17 / 6:42), felt like crap, and had to sit the next set out to catch my breath.  Ugh.

The last two sets I ended up, again, pushing myself harder than I should have: 4:09/6:33, and 4:10/6:30.  Of course, at the time, I was very pleased that my last set was the exact same time as my first set.  But for the next FOUR DAYS, I couldn't walk without limping, and I couldn't sit without feeling the intense pain in my butt.  I decided then and there that I wasn't going to do another speed workout.

It's funny, though... the four miles of fast running made my butt feel so bad, but four days after that, I did a twenty miler, and I ended up feeling fine afterwards.  The 20-mile run itself, though, was bruuutal.  The plan was to go from Chris's house in Washington Heights, across the GW Bridge, and into the Palisades Park in NJ.  It's a really pretty run, but there's no water, and the hills make Harlem Hill seem puny in comparison.  On the day of our run, though, everything but the very Southernmost portion of the park was closed due to all of the trees that had fallen into the road from Snowpocalypse the week before.  Even the part that wasn't closed was icy and littered with fallen trees. 

We ended up all turning back at around mile 5.5.  Most of the group went to do loops around Fort Tryon Park, but Mikey had a good idea of running North on the Hudson River Greenway, into the Bronx, turning around at the Tortoise and Hare Statue.  I had never done that route before, so I was excited.  Although not as bad as the Palisades Park, this route was pretty hilly too.  And my legs were just about worn out after the heavy climbs and steep descents of the park, even though we only ran about 6 miles in it.  But one of the lighter moments of the run came when, shortly after Mikey and I crossed the bridge into the Bronx, a teenage girl saw us in our skimpy running clothes and shouted out to us: "Work it, Girls!"  Haha, I love the Bronx.

Mikey said that run took us 3 hours and 1 minute, which works out to about 20 miles at 9 minutes per mile.  Considering that six months ago I ran 26 miles in 3:09, I was a little disappointed with our run.  But the good thing about the run was that it made me realize I need to do a lot more hill training before Boston.  Because of the weather this winter, most of our long runs have along the Hudson River or Eastside Greenways, which are both pretty much pancake flat.  But if I'm going to avoid crashing and burning at Boston, I'm gonna need to better train for Heartbreak Hill.

I felt pretty good the day after the 20-miler, although, when I woke up, I was sore, tired, and lazy, and ended up deciding to skip the Coogan's 5k.  I felt bad, since this was the first points race of the year.  It would not have been a pretty run, though.  And I did end up making it to the FRNY brunch at Patrick and Johnny's house afterwards.  :-)

The following days, I felt really good.  So I decided I would give the Armory workout another try.  It was another 5 x 1mile workout, this time with 800 @ 10k pace, and 800 faster.  I paced off of Cenk for most of the sets, except the 3rd (which I sat out because of stomach issues) and the 5th (when he made me go in front).  This time, I felt much better cardiovascularly, and was really happy with my times and how I felt afterwards.  However, starting from my second set, I could feel my hamstring/butt issue acting up, and I knew that wasn't a good sign.  Nevertheless, I completed the workout, which I admit was probably not the best idea.  Here are the splits:
1:  3:22 (1st 800) / 6:22 (total)
2:  3:20 / 6:30
3:  um, quick trip to the men's room.
4:  3:21 / 6:24
5:  3:07 / 6:14
So with my fifth set, when Cenk made me go in front, I didn't have anyone to pace off of, and ended up going out way too fast, and I couldn't go "faster" for the last 800.  Nevertheless, I was happy that I had it in me to do a 6:14.

The next few days meant more limping and more butt pain.  Not good.  So, after that workout, I REALLY decided that I'm not doing any more Armory workouts.  Tonight, though, is the FRNY Track Meet, at the Armory.  I'm only planning on doing one event, the Distance Medley Relay, with Anthony, Da and Tsing (the four gaysians...  we're team "Joy Luck Club").  The DMR is a four-person relay with a 1200, 800, 400 and mile.  I'm doing the 1200...and I'm a little nervous, but I'm not going to push it too hard.

Sunday is the New York City Half Marathon, which I'm signed up for.  I really like this race because you get to run through Times Square, which is closed off to traffic.  And although the first half is in Central Park, the second half is down the Westside Highway, which is flat and fast.  My PR is on this course 2 years ago, although at the time I was a little disappointed with my performance...  I got a 1:31:30, way off my goal of sub-1:30.  I KNOW that I have it in me to do a sub 1:30 sometime; I just have to get back in shape and wait for this damn butt issue to go away.  But for Sunday, I'll be satisfied with a 7:30 pace (1:38:19) if I feel good afterwards.  I'm thinking maybe I'll start there and ramp it if I can, once I get out of the park.  I'll be delighted if I can get a bit faster than that, we'll have to see what happens.

*                       *                        *

I got another MRI a few weeks ago, this time on my hip and pelvic region.  The results show that I have a "small superior right hip labral tear," "mild bilateral intertrochanteric bursitis," and a "mild stress reaction" at the "pubic symphysis." 

Seeing these results, Dr. Babiy referred me to Dr. Srino Bharam, a hip specialist.  Dr. Bharam stretched my leg in a bunch of different directions to put pressure on my hip joint, asking me if I felt any pain.  I did feel a little bit of a pinch in the joint when he put me in a certain position, which confirmed the MRI report's diagnosis of a small labral tear.  Dr. Bharam said he thinks that the the hamstring/butt issue that I have is related to the labral tear because of the way my running mechanics are changed as a result of it.  He said that ideally, I should stop running for a while.  But short of that, I should just be careful not to overtrain, and after Boston, he recommended that I take some time off of running.

To be quite honest, though, I think Dr. Bharam is just plain wrong.  My research online shows that labral tears occur in sports with twisting/pivoting motions, like golf or softball, or contact sports like football or hockey...  nothing about how it's a running injury.  The most common symptom of a labral tear is a clicking or catching sensation in the hip joint, which I don't have.

Dr. Degis thinks (and I tend to agree) that I have a tear/strain in my hamstring up by the tendons that attach the hamstring muscles to the sit bones of the pelvis (the "ischial tuberosity").  Because tendons receive less blood flow than muscles, it takes a long time for them to heal.  And because the tear is where it is, the pain occurs mostly when I am sitting, which stretches the tendon out and puts pressure on the exact spot where that tendon attaches to my pelvis.

If you do a Google search for "running ischial tuberosity," the very first result is a Runner's World forum discussion on ischial tuberosity pain syndrome, a discussion which has lasted 4 years with 142 responses.  The postings all sound like exactly my symptoms (pain while sitting/driving, no pain while running, pain while bending over, etc).  Virtually all of the postings make the outlook sound extremely bleak (suffering from the pain for 2, 5, 7 years; getting surgery that doesn't work; cortisone injections that don't do anything; running careers that ended, etc).  Dr. Degis, though, said he knows this condition very well, and he says that he is confident it will eventually go away.  I am currently just seeing him once a week.  He knows that I have the marathon coming up, and my sessions are mostly just to keep myself loose so my injury doesn't become worse.  After the marathon, he thinks I should cut down on my running, and go in 2-3 times a week to aggressively break down the scar tissue and rebuild my muscles in the area.  So that's the plan...after Boston, the running will be minimal, and I will do what I have to do to get rid of this pain in the butt.

Dr. Bharam, the hip specialist, also mentioned mention a treatment that I've been reading a lot about, platelet-rich plasma therapy.  Some of you might recall that Dr. Gallina, the ankle specialist, said this was a possible course of treatment to take if my ankle tendinitis didn't heal.  The New York Times says the following about PRP:
The method, which is strikingly straightforward and easy to perform, centers on injecting portions of a patient’s blood directly into the injured area, which catalyzes the body’s instincts to repair muscle, bone and other tissue. Most enticing, many doctors said, is that the technique appears to help regenerate ligament and tendon fibers, which could shorten rehabilitation time and possibly obviate surgery.
The problem with PRP is it that because it's still in the experimental stages, it isn't covered by insurance, and costs about two thousand dollars.  Still, it sounds promising, and if it means I can run without pain, maybe it's worth it.
*                       *                       *

As a way to cut down on my running, I've decided that this summer is going to be the summer of triathlons.  So far I'm registered for the following races:
5/16: Jersey Shore Sprint Triathlon
7/18: Metroman Tri (Intermediate) -- This was the race where I had my disastrous ocean swim last year.  Hopefully this year will be better.
10/2: Mightyman Half -- This will be my first Half Ironman...I'm excited and nervous!
I'm looking to do a couple more... maybe the Mighty Montauk in June, and something in August / September.

*                       *                          *

A few weeks ago, the Front Runners had its First Friday happy hour at RF Lounge, a swanky lesbian bar in the former, less fancy Rubyfruit Bar and Grill.  Afterwards, some of us went to Grand Sichuan Seventh Avenue in the Village.  I had a few drinks at RF Lounge, so I don't remember everything we ordered, but I did snap this photo of the whole fish with chili sauce.  It was very good.

*                        *                         *

I'm still working on renovating my kitchen.  It's been about six weeks, and it's starting to feel like the project that will never end.  Fortunately, I think I'm closing in on the finish.  These past couple of weeks, I've installed the oven and microwave, got an electrician to put in some new circuits, had the countertop put in, and did most of the plumbing except for the drain.

The electrician put in two new 20 amp circuits and carried the lines into my kitchen, where there will be two new outlets: one for the microwave/hood, and one under my sink for the disposal and instant hot water dispenser.  I was originally planning on doing the electrical work by myself, but then I got nervous and ended up calling for help.  But when I saw the electrician do it, I was kicking myself after seeing how easy it was...  All he did was run the wire through the five feet of wall between the kitchen and the breaker box, connect it to a breaker, and plug it into the box.  I had to patch up the holes in the wall myself.

With the electricity in, it meant I could install the microwave hood.  This, I really should have gotten help with.  I ended up having to lift the microwave, which weighed like 100 pounds, by myself, hold it up with one hand and a shoulder against a brace on the wall, and screw it in with the other hand into the top cabinet.  If I dropped it, it would have crushed my feet, and I would have said goodbye to my new microwave.  Luckily, it went up without incident. 

The most exciting thing about the microwave is that I installed a duct so that it would vent out the exhaust instead of recirculating it back to me.  I've always thought it was pointless for range hoods to spit the exhaust back into your face, but I think that's what most NYC apartments have.  Fortunately, I already have a vent in my kitchen, which wasn't really serving any purpose.  So I just got some ductwork to hook up and spit out all the exhaust into that vent.  Hopefully, it's not going to spit it out into someone else's apartment...

Then came the granite countertop.  I ordered the countertop from E Stone, Inc. in Brooklyn, which I highly recommended since it was about a third cheaper than Home Depot or even Ikea, and also quite a bit faster (less than 1 week turnaround versus 2-3 weeks) since they did all of the cutting on the premises.  Here's the guys installing the countertop:

And here's the final product:

What do you guys think about the faucet?  I love the commercial kitchen look to it, but it's a little big for the space.  I think the sprayer is going to hit up against the bottom of the wall cabinet every time I use it, which could be annoying.  On the other hand, I think it looks kinda sexy.

With the countertop in, I turned to installing the stove.  This ended up being a really annoying project.  In order for the stove to sit flush up against the back wall, there's a little recessed area in the back of the stove where the gas line coming out of the wall is supposed to fit into.  Unfortunately, my gas pipe missed the recess by about 6 inches, so the stove ended up sitting away from the back wall by about two inches (the depth of the gas pipe).  To fix this, I ended up having to cut a hole in the back panel of the stove to accommodate the gas pipe, and then thread the gas connector through the inside of the stove.  It's hard to explain, but there are electrical wires in the area where I threaded the gas connector, so I don't think there's any risk of that area getting too hot for the gas line.

Anyway, here's a picture of the cutout I made into the back panel:

And here's me connecting the gas line:

But after all that, I actually got the stove to work!  And all without a gas or electrical explosion, haha!

Next up: connecting the dishwasher and putting in a new drain for the double-basin sink.  Then I just have the moldings and trim left....  almost there!