Wednesday, September 30, 2009


With our move to Syosset looming in the near future, I haven’t been so attentive to my running (or posting) this last week. True, I did get in a nice 13 miler last Thursday and I plan on getting that 15 done tomorrow, but I’ve been distracted. The school district we are moving into requires an inordinate (IMHO) amount of proof that we are living within the town of Syosset, so I’ve literally spent hours a day gathering up documents and persuading utilities to forward letters with our new address to satisfy the bean counters over at the district office.

I have been assuaging myself with the thought of running under canopies of crimson maple leaves on the trails of the nature preserve near our new house. This visualization of me on a cold morning run-clouds of vapor breath and frosty dew on slowly browning fields- never fails to reduce my stress to manageable levels. I plan on using it extensively while on line at the DMV tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Missing Runner

This is unfortunate. Apparently a pair of ultra-runners set out in California on Sunday for a 30 miler, got separated, then she disappeared. He was found alive yesterday. Authorities are scouring the area and ultra-runners are running the trails looking for Maria "Gina" Natera-Armenta, 34. Sheriff's deputies and U.S. Forest Service agents are using a helicopter and bloodhounds. But the dogs have their limits. "A dog cannot run that far, and their scent can only work for a mile or so," Sherriff Amormino said.

Hopefully she will be found, alive and safe.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Race Report-Bluemont 10k

I rolled out of bed on Saturday morning and instantly knew I hadn’t had a sufficient amount of sleep. We pulled into Virginia late, around midnight, but it still took me a good hour to wind down from the 6 hour drive from New York. It seemed like my head just hit the pillow when the rooster started crowing at the crack of dawn. Mark and Sue live on a farm in the town of Bluemont Virginia, with an arthritic dog, a gaggle of hens, and a rooster who gets up earlier than everyone else. I stumbled downstairs to grab a cup of coffee, pulling on my running shoes and searching around for the car keys. I had to make my way over to Great Country Farm to register for the 10k race that started at eight, and it was approaching 7:15. I didn’t know how many people were running and I didn’t want to get shut out.

I needn’t have worried. When I got to the starting line and registration area there were no more than 20 runners milling around, jogging in place or nervously eyeing the bathroom. When I filled out my race form I was given number 47. The most recent race I’d run prior to the Bluemont 10k was the Long Island ½ marathon which had a field of 12,000 runners. By the time the gun went off in Bluemont, the number of participants had swelled to around 120, which according to the race director, was a new record. While I was waiting for the race to start, I took stock of the competition, mentally dividing the field into people who would end the race behind me and those I could tell I had no prayer of beating. The competition seemed to be an exceptionally fit and trim group of runners, and I was starting to get a little nervous about where I would finish, especially because the field was so small. Oh well, I thought, I’m just out here to have some fun and get in a work out.

The race director counted down from 10 to one and then we were off. The course wound around a dirt and gravel path inside the farm before spilling out onto the back-country roads which rolled through the Virginia countryside. The air was crisp and clear, the day sunny. Fall was in the air, although the leaves had yet to change colors. I started out chugging at a 9 minute mile until I could pass a few handfuls of people who were blocking the narrow path through the hay fields. By the end of the first mile I had passed about 15 people (and at least as many farm animals) and was in turn passed by a few runners who had also gotten stuck in the back. Most of the people who blew by me were the sort you’d expect would be able to leave a 41 year old borderline Clydesdale eating dust-high-school cross country runners, skinny girls, etc. I was ok with that. I believe in the decline of the body with advancing age and acknowledge my limitations. Nevertheless, there was one fellow who got ahead of me whose speed seemed to offend the natural order in some fundamental way. He was over six feet tall and pushing 220 pounds with tree-trunk legs and a bit of a beer belly. He was breathing heavily and had a stride that resembled an out of control helicopter. When he passed me, my first thought was that he had opened up the throttle a little too early and that within a mile he’d be either walking, or jogging so slow that he’d wind up finishing long after I’d started on my second banana. It took me four and a half miles to catch him. He maintained a killer pace and then raced me neck and neck over the last ½ mile until I finally left him in the weeds.

My time was 48:08, not bad for a first outing at that distance. In the last half mile I passed a 16 year old girl and a US Army Ranger. I’m not sure which was more satisfying. It was a great morning and a fun race. Now its back to some distance.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Good Week

This was a model week for training-long run, speed-work and a 10k race on tap for tomorrow morning. I feel like I’m right on schedule for Philadelphia, but I need to increase my time out on the road. Things have been hectic at home and I haven’t been sleeping all that well. I also am getting a little irritated gaining and losing the same 3 pounds over and over again. Lately the scale has been stuck at 192 (with clothes and sneakers on)-probably about five pounds heavier than I should be. More running means more eating and I think I might be a little out of balance. I have some time to lose it so I’m not going to get too upset.

After work today we’re driving down to Virginia to see Mark & Sue and take the boys to the Bluemont Fair. The race is part of the fair festivities. I have been meaning to run it for several years, but never wanted to get up so early after the long drive the night before. This year I’m going to do it. The T-shirts are pretty artsy and the run winds through the Blue Ridge Mountains so the course is nice as well. I’ll definitely set a PR since I don’t think I’ve ever run a 10k race before. They always seemed too short to be worth the effort. Since my regular Saturday run is a 6 mile loop, I figure I might as well do the race and run with other people for a change.
S: 11
M: 5
Tu: 5
Th: 5
Fr: 45 minutes Elliptical
Sat: 6.2
Total: 39.2

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lost Week-end

I went to an old friend’s wedding on Saturday and ended up tipping back a few too many Coronas. Then when I got home, Erin and I stayed up late killing off a bottle of wine. As a result I was in pretty poor shape for running on Sunday. Nevertheless I was able to grind out an 11 miler, even though it felt like someone was following just behind me whacking the back of my head with a bat the entire time. When I was younger I used to enjoy running with a hangover, plus I think carb-loading with all of that beer made the long runs easier. Now I’m too old and out of practice with drinking to derive anything positive from the experience. Hopefully I’ll be feeling recovered enough (from the run, not the drinking) on Wednesday to get that 15 mile run in. Time is slipping by and the marathon is getting closer.

I came across an article in Time Magazine last week that bothered me on several levels. The author was seeking an answer as to why he finds it hard to lose weight even though he exercises around five days per week. What he discovered was that scientists are now finding that while it's true that exercise burns calories and that you must burn calories to lose weight, exercise can also stimulate hunger. That causes us to eat more, which in turn can negate the weight-loss benefits we just accrued. Exercise, in other words, isn't necessarily helping us lose weight. It may even be making it harder. Jeez. My thinking is that the last thing legions of American couch potatoes need to hear is that they can give up on exercise because it doesn’t work as a weight loss routine. I mean, come on. “Dieting doesn’t work”, “exercise doesn’t work”, shit, we might as well nestle into the couch cushions and rip open that second bag of Doritos because getting in shape is impossible. I think Time is pretty irresponsible for using their public bully pulpit to encourage laziness. People exercise for all different reasons. Personally, I run for my mental sanity as much as for the physical benefits. I have always struggled with my weight and have also noticed that once my weekly mileage goes over 30 my weight actually rises by a pound or two. Oh well. I firmly believe if it wasn’t for regular running I never would have lost that 30 pounds I dumped in 2007. The key is balancing exercise with a fundamentally healthy diet and good lifestyle choices. I guess that story wouldn’t sell as many issues of Time to the immobile masses.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Running in the Dark

This morning I got up at 5:15am to get in a run before heading off to work. I used to run in the mornings all the time, but when Jack was born I fell out of the habit. I wasn’t getting any sleep as it was, so rising before dawn to hoof around Silver Lake Park for six miles seemed slightly insane. Plus, I had a gym membership so I could run at lunchtime and save that extra hour in the morning for fitful sleep between feedings. I still have a gym at work, but I’ve been having a lot of lunch meetings lately so I’ve been contemplating a switch to a morning running schedule, at least for a few days out of the week.

I realized that mother nature wasn’t going to make it easy on me when I stepped out of my building into the darkness at 5:30. A driving rain and heavy winds threatening to wash away my resolve, but I cranked the i-pod and headed out into the night. (I mean, early morning.) The north shore of Long Island is a sleepy place even in the middle of the day, and it is positively spooky in the dark during a storm. There are very few streetlights along my six mile route, so I stuck close to the middle of the road to avoid stepping in a hole or tripping over a branch. Fortunately, I think I saw only one car during the entire run, which was kind of nice, actually. Clearly, morning runs in the dark are not the best venue to set any new pace records. I chugged back into my apartment complex after a 6 miler which took almost 56 minutes. In the dark I felt like I was flying, but I must have been moving more slowly as I felt my way through the darkness.

I think I’ll take it easy tomorrow-maybe a 5 mile tempo run, and rest up for a 15 miler next Wednesday.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I got to do a few runs in the Nike Frees, the longest being a 6 miler at 8:30 pace. Honestly, I can’t feel much of a difference between them and my regular beat-to-shit Saucony’s, but maybe I need to go long in them to see what the big deal is. My first outing I stepped into a big pile of dog shit which I hope is not an allegory for the training I have in the immediate future.

I’ve been having a pretty good week mileage-wise, even though I had to cut my long run to 10 miles yesterday to get Dimitri to his first day of kindergarten on time. I might try for 15 on Saturday morning, but it might be a crunch because I have to attend an old friend’s wedding which starts at noon. Today is an off day.

Erin and I are moving to a house in Syosset next month. Syosset is a town on the North Shore of Long Island where I grew up, and where I did some of my first long runs 18 years ago. It will be nice to get back on those old familiar roads and also have the opportunity to put in some miles on the trails of the Muttontown preserve which is a mile or two down the block. I’m eagerly anticipating the pleasure of a long slow run down 25A to Sagamore Hill, Teddy Roosevelt’s Long Island home.

The temperatures have been coming down and fall is definitely in the air; this morning was a nice, cool 58 degrees. I think I’ll get out on the road early tomorrow because I have a lunch meeting and won’t be able to grind out 5 on the treadmill.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Long Run Thursday

I went out for a long run this morning. I work from home on Thursdays so it’s easier to get up early and knock out some mileage, rather than trying to do it on a Sunday when there’s usually a lot going on. A couple of days ago I decided that I needed to add some kettleball squats to my daily routine, with the result being that I stressed out just about every muscle in the upper part of my hamstrings. For the last two days I have struggled to get up from my chair, never mind get in my daily mileage. Yesterday it took all of my strength just to get on the treadmill and get 5 miles in. I felt a little better today but it was still a tough 11 miles. I’m not going to beat myself up too much about the pace (9:15/mile) as I’m sure once my hamstrings get back in action I’ll be able to get back to my goal pace of 8:50. Overall I felt pretty good. Next week I’m going to shoot for 13 or 15.

I got my Nike Frees in the mail. They seem to fit ok in that tightish Nike sort of way. I ordered a 1/2 size larger to account for the fact that the shoes tend to run small but I’m wondering whether I should have gone up a full size. The toe box seems a little snug. I can’t wait to take them out for a run, but since tomorrow is a rest day I will have to wait until Saturday.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Back on the Road

A lot has gone on since I posted my last entry. For one, I finished the book, Born to Run by Chris McDougall. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this book changed my life. It reminded me why I am a runner and reignited my dream of becoming an ultra-marathoner. For those who haven’t read the book, Born to Run is ostensibly a story of the the reclusive Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s Copper Canyons, a tribe who’s 100 plus mile foot races through mountainous trails are legendary among runners. However, McDougall’s book goes beyond an entertaining and thought-provoking look at the Tarahumaras (and the ultra-running community that is the tribe’s closest American counterparts.) Indeed the first two-thirds of the book lay the groundwork for the introduction of a startling thesis--that human beings have evolved for running. With the support of evolutionary biologists and anthropologists, McDougall tackles and answers some big questions: Why did our ancestors outlive the stronger, smarter Neanderthals? Why do expensive running shoes increase the odds of injury? Ultimately he comes to the conclusion that running steadily for hours at a time is not only therapeutic but also natural. Primitive humans did it constantly, catching and killing quarry simply by exhausting them in marathon hunts. They also did it barefoot. I urge everyone, whether runner or not, to read this wonderful book and then go for a run.

In acknowledgment of my evolutionary destiny, I signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon on November 21, 2009. Training has already commenced, and I am going to get this race under my belt and start running ultras.