Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Nice shot of the front of the Art Museum.

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After the race

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Looking down the Parkway from the Art Museum steps.
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Almost there!

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Marathon Recovery

I am curious what other runners are doing for recovery. Both on line articles and in the many running books I have, marathon recovery means very little running and certainly no speed work. The recovery period is one day for every mile run but some recommend even longer.

Certainly, I don’t want to risk injury and I am sure these recommendations are based on real runners’ experience.

However, I do wonder – while I am on my feet twice as long as an elite runner I don’t believe my running either before or during the race is as stressful as the for the elite runner.

I went out today for a recovery run – whereas on a “normal” Sunday I would so 10 to 12 miles, today I did about 4.5. I will admit my legs felt somewhat heavy, but that may have been due to yesterday’s 15 trips to the attic for Christmas decorations rather than marathon running. No serious aches. It was rather nice to make that last turn from home and feel full of energy (good thing since I had a couple of hours of leaf raking ahead of me.)

So I will keep the mileage down (and with the Christmas season coming that’s a necessity anyway) but on December 11th, I will run a local 5K and hope to run hard. Then it’s time for Christmas lights running. After that it I will look into some
cross training – I am especially hoping to do some biking if the weather cooperates. But I still wonder how much?

So what is your winter schedule like?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Maps and Running

Maps and Running

I have always loved maps.  Geography was a favorite of mine and I loved making the maps that showed facts about the country.  I loved drawing maps even though my renderings were never very neat.  I am always amazed when I read of the map illiteracy of so many people.

My love of maps may explained my obsession with Google maps and all the mash ups But maps are also integral to runners.  Many if not most runners want to see a map of a race course, all the better if the map also has an elevation chart.  Therefore, it is no surprise that a number of mash ups have been made that explicitly address running.

Some of the ones I have investigated follow:

One of the earliest and easiest to use is Gmap pedometer: This app allows you to map any course you choose and determine mileage.

Map my run has a lot of nice features and allows you to save your run and view other runs.  

Walk, Jog , Run is an interesting site but I found it a little buggy and hard to work with.  Worked to build a run, only to have it disappear on save.   But it is worth a look.

Favorite Run also allows you to plot a run and save it.  It also has a run log feature which I have not used but looks interesting.  

If you run with a GPS device (like Forerunner) that allows downloads this site would be useful:  

Also useful if you have a GPS is Run Outside

A new favorite of mine is Wayfaring.

This site allows you to map a route and add "waypoints", notes, and tags. I did one on the Philadelphia Marathon. Didn't get it exactly right but I explained why in a note.

Finally there is Frappr. This google hack allows group members to plot themselves on a map. Contributors can add their photo and comments. This one is great fun.

I have created two maps: the Dead Runners Society and the Bryn Mawr Runners Club

Let me know if you find any of these useful.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Philadelphia Marathon

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I just fired off a letter to the organizers thanking them for a job well done. The event was well organized and from a user point of view went off almost flawlessly. The volunteers were great. The kids who worked the refreshments, baggage, and chip removal were polite, cheerful, and eager to help. Where do they get them? It makes me optimistic about the next generation.

The weather cooperated with almost perfect running weather. Cool not cold, light winds, lots of fall sunshine. It seemed very crowded but the numbers listed as finishers seemed about the same as last year.

I drove down with my friend Mukund and his son who was running the Rothman 8K. We found parking near my usual spot on 33rd Street and walked over to Eakins Oval. What seems so easy in the morning will be a long hike coming back.

Mukund was planning on going out for a 3:45 finish while I was hoping for a solid 4.

The start area was crowded but not excessively. I saw an acquaintance from the Bryn Mawr Running Club. He suggested I run with his son who was running his first marathon and was also aiming at four. I was a little reluctant since I am not a good pacer but figured it wouldn't hurt to start together. It turned out to be a good decision. John ran smart and kept us at a good pace even when I tended to surge forward. I only hope I didn't bug him too much with my constant prattle. I am normally quite taciturn but something about running endorphins (at least for the first 14 miles) makes me quite voluble.

The course is a great tour of Philadelphia, each street with its own character, the majestic Parkway, Arch Street's Chinatown, Race Street's Old City, and then a long stretch on Columbus Blvd - a shame the city hasn't figured how to use this great resource. Under I95 and back up Front to South, back to the oldest part of the City when you turn up Sixth Street and pass Independence Hall. A long run takes you west on Chestnut over the Schuylkill and into West Philly past Drexel and the U of Pennsylvania, turning onto 34th. The first real uphill is here. 34th goes by the Zoo. Always think it would be cool if the Zoo could bring out some animals but I guess it would be too stressful for the animals. We did get a good view of the Zoo Balloon which I got to ride a couple of weeks ago. Here the course dips into Fairmont Park, downhill and then up the steepest hill of the course. It seemed easy this year. You go pass Memorial Hall - one of the last buildings of the 1876 Centennial. Then up Belmont turning into the ground of the Horticultural Center. Nice treat this year - the course went directly by the Japanese House. A gift to Philadelphia from Japan it was renovated in the 90‚'s and looks great. Back out and down to Martin Luther King Drive (West River). You can look over to Kelly Driver and see the leaders going out to Manayunk. I told John: I wish I could be them; I glad I am not them. He understood the sentiment perfectly. Warned John to be careful on the sharp downhill; take it but not too fast or hard. We are quickly to the half. And then we go on up MLK to the Art Museum. Since this is also the finish the crowds are thickest and loudest here. They made the way a little wider and the crunch is not as tight as previous years. Kelly Drive is a beautiful place to run. It is framed by the river on your left and a wooded hillside that hides the railway just above. You pass wonderful public sculpture that I am sure most runners miss but that I treasure and use as landmarks. Now some people love the out and back of Kelly Drive and some hate it. There are few spectators but except for a small section where you transition to Ridge Avenue you get to see the runners ahead of you coming back on their last six miles. For me it is always exciting seeing the lead runners and then later look to cheer friends who are on their way back. There is one last tough climb up an overpass to get back to Kelly Drive and then it is all downhill until you get back to Boathouse Row for the push and the slight uphill to the Art Museum finish. Through the finish and hopefully the finish photos will show me robust and happy.

Tried to get my chip off and began to cramp when a young volunteer came to my aid. I asked her if she could retie my shoe which she cheerfully did using a method I had never seen before. After thanking her profusely I also thank her for showing me a new tie technique and how great it was to learn something new. I think she got a kick out of that.

This year I felt good longer then ever. Didn't drop off pace until mile 19. No anti-water stops (I had four in NY). Lost a full minute when I had a one of those moments that often occur to addled runners late in a race. I fumbled ridiculously trying to get my gel out of my pocket. It should have been a easy motor skill task but somehow I couldn't get my gloved hand to locate and grasp the packet. Thinking clearly I could have stripped the glove off - long past its usefulness or just abandoned the quest altogether. But I doggedly yank and tugged wasting precious time. Yikes. (Worst I was only wearing one glove - got to the start and only had one glove so I did a Michael Jackson and wore the one on my left hand. Actually worked pretty well since the bare hand got wet and sticky. But I should have lost the glove around mile ten.)

There was some cramping - I managed to lose my Succeed somewhere on the course probably when I went for the gel. I had one scare where my right foot really seized up, but mercifully the cramping eased; partly due to a new product I tried- Clif Bar blocks. I know that you are not supposed to try anything new marathon day, but I had tried these at the Expo and they seemed innocuous enough. They are gels that Clif advertises as electrolyte replacements. They were easy to ingest, didn't taste horrible, and did seem to give me some energy late in the race. I was worried they would melt but they held up fine and got me thru the late miles.

I have said in the past that Philly is a great destination marathon. It has some of atmosphere of big races but continues to offer the intimacy of smaller venues. The city looked great; the spectators where present were enthusiastic. It is a very BQ friendly course.

I walked back to my car with a group of women who asked about the marathon. Turns out they had been at the Art Museum not for the race but for a Segway tour of the city. Sounded like great fun (my wife said I guess you are going to have to do that - and yes I will).

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Friday, November 11, 2005

New York Marathon

I waited some time to post about this race. I didn’t have a terrible day but there was disappointment.

I had run NY in 2001 and I have run the Marine Corps Marathon and Boston so I thought I knew big races but nothing had prepared me for this NY. I realize now that because of the tragedy of Sept 11 the number of participants was down in 2001. Coming down the long stretches of 4th and 1st it is just impossible to believe the numbers of runners.

However let me begin at the beginning. I drove down to Jersey City Saturday morning. In an earlier incarnation I was a monk, a member of the religious order known as LaSallian Christian Brothers. My old friend Paul who had remained in the order and is also a marathoner invited me to stay in the Brothers' residence at Hudson Catholic in Jersey City.

The school is a few blocks from the PATH station at Journal Square. Saturday I took the train into Manhattan for the Expo. Didn't seem that great for such a big marathon, but I did get to meet Ed Whitlock (a 70+ runner who does 3 hour marathons) and Deanna Drossin.

Sunday morning I again made my way to the Path Station. This time I used the Newark - World Trade Center connection. Despite the early hour there were plenty of people on the train including a few runners. It was striking to get off at WTC and see the gaping hole and realize just how close this station was to the destruction.

I followed a runner who seemed to know where he was going and made my way down to Battery Park to the marathon buses. (If I had it to do over again I would have take the Ferry over to Staten Island.) No problem getting the bus; boarder promptly and left almost immediately. The trip out to Ft. Wadsworth seemed to take no time at all.

Found a comfortable spot in blue area (I had brought two plastic bags to place on the ground) and settled in for the long wait. It was a little chilly but had some coffee and yogurt. Did a little exploring but mostly tried to relax. Porta potties were initially pretty good but as it got closer to 10 O'clock the lines were pretty long and people had gone over the snow fence and into woods. It is amazing to see how quickly people are to ignore ordinary limits. Explains a lot about the disorders that follow a natural disaster.
I spoke to the 4 hours pace runner and decided I would line up slightly further forward (about 50 yards). Just about where my number said I should be. We began moving forward about 9:55. We were still moving toward the bridge when I heard the cannon go off. I thought I might be a long time getting to the start but it was only about four minutes. I was able to run immediately but very slowly. In 2001 I had been on the left side which definitely had the better view (not that it matter fog pretty much obscured every thing). If you run NY try for the orange start. There was a strange sensation that the bridge was moving - is this possible could the runners actually make it move?

The incline didn't seem all that difficult but when we got to mile one I was very disappointed to see it had taken me 11 minutes. I still had hope to make it up in the next mile which would be downhill but no one seemed to be speeding up and it was impossible to move forward without a lot of dodging and weaving that didn't seem wise. I looked at the orange side which seemed to be moving faster and was tempted to climb over the medial strip.

Coming down you can clearly see the two streams. The orange takes a sharp left while the blue and green continue on a couple of blocks before turning.

For most of Brooklyn the two streams flow down on separate sides. The orange mile markers are slightly after the blue/green markers. This initially confused me until I realized how they were color coded. The second mile was also slow - again much slower then I expected. I kept thinking at least I didn't go out too fast (little did I know). I tried to take in as much of the crowd (runners and spectators) as I could. The water stations were difficult. I wasn't prepared for the pushing and shoving. (This continued for most of the first 15 miles and twice I almost had words with runners I thought were unnecessarily aggressive.) Because of the congestion I missed the first couple of Gatorade stations. That I think came back to haunt me. I was once again tempted to switch to the orange side since it seemed slightly less crowded but I thought what if everyone decided they could simply ignore the routes so I stuck with the course. Mostly I tried to stay on the blue line. When we got to 8 miles and all three courses merge it was even tighter. During this time I was gradually increasing speed and at 13.1 was 2:07. Not on target but not badly off.

One of the last neighborhoods in Brooklyn is Williamsburg where there is a large Hasidic community (an ultra conservative Jewish sect). The crowds were sparse but those watching seem interested yet there wass no cheering or clapping. Does anyone know why? Is there a Talmudic proscription against it? (I hadn't noticed last time but someone pointed out that almost all the young children are girls. Perhaps all the young boys are engaged in religious studies.)

The Pulaski Bridge is not much of an incline but already many people were walking. I still felt pretty good but was concerned because I was soaking wet, yet despite that I had the urge to dehydrate. Didn't seem a good sign if I was properly taking up water. I was using my Succeed tablets and had taken two gels. Yet I wasn’t confident that I was hydrating properly.

When we got to the Queensboro Bridge at mile 15 it seemed more people were walking than running. This is a very long uphill (the uphill on this bridge seems longer than the downhill - is that possible?). I was still reluctant to walk since I suspected I might have some problems later so I ran but that did mean some dodging.

Those who have run NY will tell you that coming off the Queensboro is one of the highlights of the race. It has been a tough climb and very quiet. After miles of spectators there are none for more than a mile, then you hear the dull roar and that gets louder and louder and suddenly you see that huge crowd at the base of bridge and hear the loudest cheering of the race. It was thrilling in 2001 and was just a thrilling in 2005.

First Avenue is great. The number of spectators between 16 and 18 is incredible. I however have slowed down. Still not bad but I am no longer making up time and I am drifting toward a 4:20 finish. Somewhere on First Avenue I past a runner with the legend on her back - Six month cancer survivor and I'm ahead of you.

In Harlem the crowds peter out. To enter the Bronx you cross the Willis Ave Bridge. This is the bridge that they cover with "rugs" to cover the metal grating of the bridge.

On the bridge, there is some kind of construction and concrete barriers force a narrowing of the course. Now almost everyone is walking and in the press of people I finally give up and walk. Even after it opens a little I continue to walk until the downhill and into the Bronx. I never remember a race where so late the crowds were so dense as to interfere with running.

When we turn onto Alexander Ave there is an empty porta pottie and I take advantage of it. It bothers me that this late in the race I should need it. At the bridge that crosses back into Manhattan I am hit with the first bad cramping. Eventually I will cramp almost everywhere but these first ones are in my right forearm and right foot. So begins the last six miles of more and more walking and less running. Nor am I alone. Hundreds are walking and trying to stretch out cramps. For the most part and I walk and for the most part I can walk quickly so I stick with that. Once or twice I think I will have to stop altogether but mostly the cramps respond to a change of pace. The only muscle that really gives me trouble is my right quad.

While on First Avenue I had felt really hot, it doesn't seem so bad now. The park is beautiful and I can pick out the areas where I saw the Gates last February. Great crowds and I am embarrassed to be walking so much. But at this point there is little to be done. I am just trying to avoid seizing up all together and find myself unable to go forward at all. Ironically it all seems to going so fast - my time is slow but the experience seems to be flowing always all too quickly. I will actually be disappointed to be finished. Does that sound strange? I am having a hard time expressing it but the sensory load is so great - there is so much to take in. I am enjoying it all despite my appalling time.

There are lots of nice downhills in Central Park and couple of times I got up a pretty good head of steam before the next spasm came along. I am determined I will run the last half mile. The signs show 2000 K, then 400 Meters, then 400 yards, then 200 yards. I am running not very fast but I am running.

The rest is anticlimax. There is an incredibly long walk out of the park, but lots of camaraderie. You receive your medal. Very nice. Your Mylar blanket and a small piece of tape to close it. I did get a small bag of food but never opened it. The baggage car was another hike but at least my truck wasn't crowded. The truck beside me had one of the free for all scenes with people holding up their numbers and bags being tossed out.

Something I had never seen before. Two different guys in two different areas stripped down naked on Fifth Avenue to change. The one actually took time to pour water out and sponge off. I am just not that uninhibited. Must have been Europeans.

I asked a police office about getting downtown. He said don't use the Fifth Ave subway (too crowded) walk down a couple of blocks and take the 1. Even that train is packed and I hear a New Yorker grumble that they should have been on a weekday schedule. I have no idea where to get off but several passengers were helpful with directions. (Ironically when I got out of the subway and was walking to the Path train a young lady asked me for directions. Not quite sure I would have accosted a stranger that looked like me. Had to explain I too was a stranger. She realized that I had run the marathon and was suitably impressed.)

While waiting for the subway had a nice conversation with an older gentleman who had run the race in the eighties. He remembered a race when it was in the nineties and remembered there were a couple of fatalities. At that time the race was in October and he said that led to it being moved to November. He looked in pretty good shape and I told him he should give it another go.

On the way back to NJ had another good talk with a family from Connecticut staying in NJ. Mom was the marathon runner. The kids and Dad seemed very proud of her. It was nice to see.

Another nice thing in this race are the Achilles runners. They are all the runners with some handicap. When I encounter them on the course it is humbling that they and their guides will be fighting the good fight long after I have finished even my slow race.

So NY. My slowest ever (4:40) yet strangely satisfying. Somehow it was less disappointing to fail spectacularly then it would have to just missed my goal.

The big marathons never disappoint even when you have a rough day.