Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ridley 5k

Today was my 8th running of the "Run for the Ridley 5k" in Riverhead. It's a great organization that rescues sea turtles on Long Island. I've done this race every year since 2002. It's great because it starts a little later in the morning (10a) and it's nice and flat. A nice course for me to try and get a PR since I know it like the back of my hand.

I was a little nervous coming into this race because after my run on Tuesday I came right home, stretched, and then sat in a recliner for a few hours studying for exams. When I finally got up, my left hamstring was a little sore. I really noticed it the next day. Everytime I extend my knee and flex my hip (lengthen the HS), I could feel it pull a little. I wasn't too worried about running because I never duplicate that motion when I run. Only when I walk. I ran yesterday and it did not bother my while I ran. When I got home I sat on an ice pack and then got a massage later. Holy cow, I nearly cried. My left glutes did not want to be touched. But I told her to work it out and that I would keep the sobbing to a minimum. Got home and iced again. It sucks getting old.

When I woke up this morning, I felt good. We drove down to the race and started to walk to registration. Wingman was walking a little faster than I was and when I tried to keep up (bigger step required here) I could feel the HS. I prayed to the hamstring gods to let me get through this race without any issues. We picked up our race numbers and timing chips and made our way to the race start. After a very light warmup, I felt OK. I assumed my spot on Main Street for the start and begged one more time for some cooperation from the HS.

The gun went off and I started running. With each step of my left leg, my HS reminded me who was boss. I didn't want to listen and it turned into a heavyweight battle. I could hear the fight announcer in my head "Ladies and Gentlemen, in this corner, hailing from the Ischial tuberosity and fibular head - Biiiiiiiiceeeep Femmmoooorrris!!!! And this this corner, hailing from Long Island New York, The Hero of the Stupid!!!! (that would be me). Let's get ready to rumble!!" Finally after a few minutes I was able to deliver the knockout blow and the HS cooperated from that point on.

I made my way down Main Street like I was shot out of a cannon. I knew I could not hold that pace for too long and quickly settled into a running pace that felt easier to maintain. For some reason I did not bother looking for my Tony in this race. But I knew I wanted to stay ahead of the double wide jogging stroller with the two kids inside. If I could not beat them, I was going to toss my sneakers into the river and never run again. The weather was warm and pretty humid out. I wore a short sleeve running shirt and shorts, but I started to get hot very quickly. It was windy but it did nothing to cool me off. I just decided to keep my focus on the PR. When I got to the 1 mile marker I looked at my split time and realized that I went out too fast and was going to give a lot of time back between miles 2 and 3. Doesn't look good for a PR today. I made my way down to the first small circle to turn around. This is the first good place where you can see who is behind you and roughly how far behind they are. I was able to see Wingman and we flashed our "gang sign" to each other. He was looking pretty good.

I made my way back up the road and then turned down to run towards 105. They have an aid station setup for water. I've never used it in the past, but today I had no choice. I grabbed a cup and poured it down the back of my neck. I needed to try and cool off. I made my way to the 2nd turn around and was able to get another look at Wingman. Once again, a flashing of the "gang sign" was exchanged and I was feeling bad at this point. Got to mile 2 and I was ~20 seconds slower per mile. Definitely not going to PR today. I calculated what I needed to do the last 1.1 miles in and I knew it was not possible. I did try to dig deep though in the last 1/2 mile. I passed Pipi Longstockings and turned back onto Main Street.

I did run pretty hard down Main Street and made the turn towards the finishing shoot. No way I could sprint here. I didn't want to upset the HS since I beat it into submission earlier. I finished the race about 55 seconds slower than my PR. Oh well, I have two more 5k's this fall/winter in which to go for it. I think it's possible this year.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Blue Point Brewery "5k" Beatdown

This morning I met up with some classmates to do the Blue Point Brewery "5k" race. It was easy to convince them to come out since the race ends at the brewery and there is free beer involved. Overall, there were 7 of us down there (classmates, not total racers). It was a little chilly, but I knew once we got going it would be OK. While chatting with my friends, I looked around for my Tony. Originally it was going to be this woman that had patella tendon wraps on both knees with kinesio tape on both pes anserine as well. At first I wondered if I was setting my sights too low that she might be an easy mark. But I left it at that and waited for the start.

When the gun went off, I took off (way too fast of course) down the road. 'Tony' was left in the dust. Wow, that was easy. I thought she might hang with me for a while. I followed the crowd as we made our way down River Ave. My music was going and I settled in to a nice pace. I didn't wear the Garmin for the race, I just wore my watch. This would later come back to haunt me. I wore a lighter pair of running shoes and I was feeling good. The course is nice and flat so I'm thinking about the possibility of a 5k PR today.

I get about a mile in and turn to find 'Tony' is not in sight. My work was done early. But up ahead I see a new one. She was dressed in pink and I was gaining on her. I could smell the blood in the water now! I make my way closer without really changing my pace. As I pull up along side her, she maybe comes up just past my waist. I ask her how old she is and she tells me she's 7. On the outside I put on a smile and cheer her on, but on the inside all I can think about is crushing the hopes and dreams of a 7 year old. What can I say, I'm competitive. I want to retain what little dignity I have left!

She has an interesting strategy. She runs hard and then walks. I always encourage her as I pass her walking or when she runs past me. On the inside I'm saying stuff like "you're going down little girl!" I was concerned that her run/walk may keep her ahead of me at the end. But I noticed something odd. Around 18 minutes in, I see a bunch of people from the race walking ahead of me. How on earth did they get ahead of me at that pace? There was even a guy being pushed in a wheelchair ahead of me. I'm slow, but not that slow! What's going on here?

I keep plugging away and figured as walkers they had a shorter course to follow. Or did they? I kept my focus on "pretty in pink" as I did not want to let her get too far away. I looked down at my watch again and it said 28:13. Hmm, where's the finish line? I have no concept of where I am on this course. There are people still around me so I know I am in the right place, but I should be on the street that we started on by now. At this point I have no idea how much more running I have to do or how much I have really done. There was no one out there giving splits. The good news is my new little Tony is slowing down. When I pass over a bridge she's walking and looking tired. The long race is getting to her. I am now energized and getting my second wind. I left her in the dust. The beatdown is complete. King Kong ain't got nothing on me!

We finally make it back onto River Ave and I look at my watch. I know the course was long at this point but I have no idea. As I sprint towards the finish, I see a racer on the side of the road with a Garmin. I ask him the mileage and he says the course was 4.1 miles. What?!?! That's 6.6k, not 5k. I cross the finish line a stop my watch. Looks like I smoked the course and when I average out the distance, I set a 4 mile PR, not the 5k I was hoping for. I found another runner with a Garmin and they also have the same mileage. I found out the lead police car didn't stay on course like he should have and wound up adding a mile to the race. They caught it in time for the walkers to stay on course. That is how they got ahead of the runners.

During my cooldown I could see the little girl flying towards the finish. I'm glad I passed her earlier because there is no way I could even come close to her furious finish. She had flames coming out of her shoes! I was going to talk to the race people about testing her for PED's. I gave her a high 5 and told her she ran great. Honestly, she looked great out there. She had such nice form when she was running.

Next up is the Ridley 5k in Riverhead. I know that course will be accurate. If anyone is up for a fun race, they should come down and check it out.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mission accomplished - HOOAH

Today was our 2nd running of the Army 10 miler. We did this race last year and enjoyed it so much we decided to go back this year and run it again. When else can you run through the streets of Washington DC with up to 30,000 other runners. Last year we were not in as good running shape as we were this year. I remember our conversation vividly from the race expo a year ago. Wingman's training for this race consisted of a 10k race in June. That was it. He didn't get any other running in so he decided to just show up and race. When we got there he was a little worried about his running shoes feeling a little small. He toyed with the idea of getting a new pair at the expo and what came out of his mouth next shocked me:

Wingman: "I'd get a new pair of sneakers for the race, but it wouldn't be a good idea to do something new the day of a race."
Me: "Are you kidding me?! You haven't run at all since June, and you are worried about doing something new on race morning?"

Fast forward to this year, and we are trained and ready to go!

Our day began at 5am. I got up, ate my sandwich, took a shower, waited for Wingman to shower and then we were on our way to the Metro. We stayed at the same hotel as last year and it is two stops from the race start/finish - the Pentagon. The Army really does a great job with this race. This year we were in the first wave. So we headed up to the highway to wait. It was a little chilly so I had a long sleeve shirt on over my race shirt. Before the singing of the anthem, 4 Army parachuters jumped from a plane and landed on the highway near the race start. The jumps were amazing to watch. Then came the singing of the anthem. I swear you could hear a pin drop it was so quiet. In the distance you could see what was coming in the sky.

The Army does a fly over with 4 Blackhawk helicopters. They flew so low right over our heads What an awesome site. My only gripe is you can't have cell phones or cameras at the race. Due to the location of the start (Pentagon) they don't allow photos or videos in the area.

Prior to the first wave is the Wounded Soldier start. Since we were way back, we didn't see them start. 5 minutes later you could hear the big Army cannons fire signaling the start of the race. My goal was to run the first few miles at an easy pace. I had a goal in mind for the race that was 12 minutes faster than last year. I was wearing my Garmin so I could keep an eye on how I was doing. I quickly realized that my pace felt waaaaay to slow. I couldn't hold it so I picked it up by 30 seconds. It still felt nice and easy and not like I was going to pay for it later.

Mile 1
The first mile of the race is down highway 27 from the Pentagon along the Potomac towards the Lincoln memorial. You cross the bridge (over the Potomac) and make your way towards Lincoln. I swear, spectators can be so stupid. I saw a woman pickup her stroller and run across the road to get to the other side. Problem here was she ran right in front of me. Now when I am running, there is no way I can stop quickly or dart out of the way. I yelled at her as she barely got out of my way. If push came to shove, I would have had to tackle her and then explain to the Wingman how I ran over more children (at least this time I wasn't on a bicycle). I settled back into my pace and calmed myself down.

Mile 2
At this point you are running away from the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool. This area is nice a well shaded and you head around the Department of State and the Federal Reserve Building. This is where you come across the first hill in the race. It's not that bad of a hill, but since most of the race is flat, any incline becomes a hill. I took it easy going up and enjoyed the downhill on the other side. It was here that I was reminded that no matter how much I felt like I was hurting, there was a wounded Army soldier competing in this race and I had nothing to complain about. He had one working leg and was using lofstrand crutches to help him walk. He's a true badass in my book. It was also at this time that I started feeling like I needed a porto-john stop. I didn't want to stop at them because the lines looked long and I did not want to wait. I knew they would come up every two miles so I figured I would wait it out.

Mile 3
"I am not a crook." Here you get to pass the Watergate complex. I observed a moment of silence for my boy Richard Nixon. On Saturday, I walked the streets of Arlington with my "Nixon's My Man" shirt.

I am sure my mother is shaking her head in disapproval at me and convinced she took the wrong child home from the hospital. Once you pass Watergate, you come along the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and also run along the Potomac.

Mile 4
You wind back around into the heart of DC. Well, not really sure you can say the heart of DC since all politicians are heartless. Anyway, at this point the race takes you down Independence Ave. I picked up my pace a little as I was feeling pretty good. I made sure not to look at the time on the Garmin, just my pace. I did not want to get caught up in worrying about my time yet. I knew if I just kept my pace, things would just take care of themselves. Passed up on the porto-john again because of the lines. Oh man, am I going to make it?

Mile 5
I crossed the mile 5 time checkpoint and saw the first funny sign of the day. It said "Ben, Bacon at the end." And it had a big picture of bacon on it. At this point I am feeling really good about the race. I almost get a little cocky about it thinking maybe I could shave off more than 12 minutes. But I knew I was only halfway there and the last two miles can be rough. This stretch of the race takes you down Independence Way and there are lots of spectators around. Plus, the runners ahead of you are making their way back up the road towards the highway.

Mile 6
Here you make your way around the Capitol Building's reflecting pool. You get a nice view of the Capitol Building and if you listen very carefully, you can hear the sucking sound of your tax dollars being wasted. I picked up my pace here because I was getting a little ticked off at my government and wanted to get the heck out of there. My pace went through the roof and I had to be sure I reigned it in quickly. Now I am back onto Independence Ave heading back towards the highway. I also pass on the porto-john since the line still looked long. At this point I am a little nervous about what to do. I did start to dart across the road, but decided not to. I can wait.....I think.

Mile 7
It was here that I was almost stopped dead in my tracks. I saw a sign that said "There's no place like home." It was a sign thanking our troops. But with my Wizard of Oz reference in an earlier post, it was a little weird. Plus, about 10 feet away from the sign was a woman dressed like this:

I swear I started looking for flying monkeys at this point. Where's the Wizard? If I could have clicked my heels, I would have. But I think I am more like the scarecrow - if I only had a brain. Heck, I would have settled for a bigger bladder at this point.

Mile 8
Last water stop and last bathroom stop. Now I see there is no line so I dash between the tables and make my way in, take care of business, and head back out. Overall the stop probably cost me a minute. I looked down at my watch now and realized if I wanted to go under my goal time, I had to keep a certain pace. This was going to be difficult as the last two miles is up and down on the highway. Why oh why can't it be flat. Plus a song came on that reminded me of my sense of urgency:

Number one, time is running out
Number two, time is running out
Number three, time is running out
Number four, let it all hang out.
"Time is running out" - Apollo Four Forty

I also saw the funniest sign in a race to date. "Hey Jen, keep running. You're still fat." Wow, with friends like that, who needs enemies. After the sign it was back to the highway. This part was rough. It had a few ups and downs as you made your way over. At this point I could feel my pace slowing down. It took everything I had to not lose too much time. Again, I was constantly reassessing my times and figuring if I could make it.

Mile 9
Please, let me hang on. Just let me make it to the end in one piece and feeling strong. This is what I kept trying to tell myself as I kept looking at my time and pace. It was getting close to the sub-goal time threshold. Can I make it? I had one last little hump in the road to get over - the exit ramp to the Pentagon. Once I got to the top, it was downhill from here - literally. I flew down the hill and made the turn towards the finishing chute. I looked at my watch and new I had to haul ass if I wanted to make it under my goal time. Feet don't fail me now!! My legs and arms were pumping furiously. If it came down to it, the elbows would be flying and I'd be taking people out of my way. But I was able to make it to the finish without hurting anyone and especially myself. I stopped my watch and saw that I made it under my goal with 18 seconds to spare. Phew.

So overall, I shaved 13 minutes off of my time from last year. If I didn't have to stop for the bathroom break, it might have been 14 minutes. Oh well, there's always next year.

I made my way through the finish chute and picked up my finisher's coin. I wanted to get some food as I was quite hungry at this point, but the food lines were outrageous. The food lines in Russia were never as long. I passed on the food, grabbed my clothes and waited for Wingman to finish. We met up and made our way back to the hotel. I sat down on the bed and quickly fell asleep. It was a nice power nap and then I got up, showered, packed and we grabbed lunch and headed to the airport. At BWI, there would be no groping. Oh well, maybe next time.

And for those interested in the Army 10 Miler next year, the race date has been announced: October 24th, 2010. The signup is in April and it sells out in a matter of a couple of days.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

"What did you just call me?!?!"

The security checks at the airport are always fun. You have to remove any metal and your shoes and send your belongings through a machine where they may or may not be checking the contents of your bag. I usually make it through without a second look from them. Not today. I chose to keep my hooded sweatshirt on as I passed through the metal detector. It did not go off (because I had no metal on me). But that was not good enough for the agent. Nope. He pulled me aside and said I had to be patted down by a female agent. Seriously? I asked why (politely) and he said "you're bulky." I bit my lip because I wanted to say "Hey fatty, who are you calling bulky?!" The nerve of him. At this point I start to lift my shirt up so anyone in earshot of hearing I'm bulky can see that I am not really bulky. He proceeds to call a female agent over and I am told to follow her and to "stand on the footprints on the mat." Since I don't do well with authority figures, I chose to stand on the mat but not on the footprints. I know, I'm such a rebel. Here's where the fun begins.

Agent: "put your arms out to the sides"
Me: "OK. I could take my sweatshirt off if it makes it easier. I have another shirt underneath."
Agent: "no, that's OK."
Me: "Please be gentle. I'm delicate."

At this point, as she's groping me, I'm wondering if this is some kind of kinky fantasy for the Wingman. He is now standing nearby and watching.

Agent: "OK, you're clear. Enjoy your flight."
Me: "Was it good for you?"
Agent: laughs
Me (as she walks away): "Call me........."

I hope I didn't sound too desperate. You have to look on the bright side of this. I got a free breast exam and was this close to having a pelvic exam without giving up a copay. Maybe this government run healthcare system isn't all that bad.