Al Goldstein Summer Speed Series #1 2018

Before Boston, I was ridiculously anxious.  That’s normal.

After Boston, I was, to put it mildly, in a bit of a funk.  Especially considering that I was disappointed with my performance, that’s also normal.  (The follow-up disappointing half marathon did not help improve matters.)

However, it is now nearly six weeks later, and I think I can officially concede that I’m not “in a funk,” I’m in a depressive episode.  Yay!  With age comes wisdom, so I no longer bother talking about these things because I’ve finally learned that A, nobody cares, and B, even if A weren’t true, it’s not like anyone can do anything to fix what’s unfixable, so it’s a moot point.

The “running helps me not want to kill myself” thing doesn’t seem to be working too well these days.  I guess I can understand that; when running just reinforces every belief that I have about my being a useless shit, why would it help?

So, in what can only be explained as an exhibition of utter psychosis, I registered for the Al Goldstein Summer Speed SeriesThe whole thing.  Let’s review that for a second: I’m never exactly a social butterfly, but when I’m super depressed, the very last thing I want to do is be around other people.  And yet I apparently decided it was a good idea to subject myself to just such a situation.  Repeatedly.

What the hell is wrong with me?!

I mean, aside from the fact that I have a broken brain.  And that I am getting over my sixth (or seventh, or eighth… I lost count) cold of the year, the last leaving behind an ear infection of epic proportions for which I am still on antibiotics.  Even if I weren’t irredeemably fat and slow, which is maybe subjective, antibiotics have been scientifically proven to have a negative effect on athletic performance.  And digestive systems; mine is a disaster all the time already.  Terrific.

How dumb is it to run a race while congested (it’s hard to run at all, let alone fast, when it’s hard to breathe before you’ve even moved a step), on antibiotics, with a leg that hurts, and coming straight from the dentist thanks to a terrible toothache?  Did you know that ear infections could cause that?  Yeah, me neither.  This is probably not going to end well.

The dubious good thing about depression is that it makes you not care about anything whatsoever.  So while I might know that I suck, and that I am setting myself up to run a crappy race, I find it hard to care, and was fully prepared to run my slowest Al Goldstein ever.  I’ve run 21:59 a couple of times, but never 22:xx, which would be a 7:05 pace, and the thought of that would make me laugh if I were in the mood of laughter.  On the plus side, one might hope that the next race can only be an improvement solely by virtue of the fact that I won’t be on antibiotics anymore.

Don’t know why I chose these shoes.  The black rubberized floor is because I was hiding by the lockers at Lakeside since, you know, people.  Shudder.

After spending a lot of time cursing myself out for putting this onus on myself, we finally started to run.  While I didn’t know what to expect (I mean, I did a 5K predictor workout last week that indicated mid-21s, but those aren’t always so accurate), I certainly did know that the 6:00 pace I was at was too fast.

So I slowed down and got to lag behind everyone up the hill.  More so than I normally would, because breathing is important, and I currently can’t do it very well, but I did get to pass some of them later, which was nice.

The second mile was the fastest, as usual.  I was only able to dip below 7:00 because of the assistance from gravity; that went out the window in the last mile.  I swear, it hurt more than my 5K PR did.  I felt like there was no point in putting up with it since I wasn’t going to PR anyway, but I was skating right along the edge of coming in under 22:00, and I thought I may as well try to hang onto that since I was so close.

The clock had already passed 22:00 when I crossed the finish line, despite my valiant attempt at a finishing kick.  I was a little annoyed (but only a little, because affect is mostly missing from my life at the moment), and then I looked at my watch.

I had forgotten that they now have timing mats at the start.  So it turns out that it wasn’t my slowest Al Goldstein 5K, after all.

Garmin: 3.14 miles in 21:58, 7:00/mi.

Officially, 3.1 miles in 21:56, 7:05/mi; 114/508 OA, 19/237 F, and 5/55 F30-34.  I ran the exact same time in one of these races last year.  When I wore these exact same shoes.  But it felt a hell of a lot easier back then.  Because I wasn’t slow and fat, or on antibiotics.

And now I get to do this another half a dozen times.  Lucky me.  I say that with only partial sarcasm because despite everything, I am still appreciative of every step I am able to run.

(Okay, my finish time wasn’t as bad as I’d expected.  But it’s still ninety seconds slower than my first Al Goldstein race last year, and my leg hurts.)

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Long Island Half Marathon 2018

Once upon a time, back when I still knew how to PR, this was my half.  I owned it.  Every time I ran it, it was faster than the time before — even though in 2016, I didn’t run an all-out PR since I finished 24 seconds slower than I had at the MORE Half two weeks previously.  My actual half PR is from a race with a course around Eisenhower Park, just like this one.  I’m pretty sure that PR was a total fluke since I haven’t come close to touching it since then, but I was willing to give it a shot.  Because I am dumb and a glutton for punishment and I don’t know when enough is enough already, dammit.

This race actually played out pretty much exactly how I expected.  I’m not even surprised, and so it doesn’t make sense that I’m so upset about it, because I knew it was coming.  But anyway.

Since I was fairly certain a PR was not going to happen, and I didn’t want to waste my magic shoes on it, I decided the 4%s deserved a chance to prove themselves in a race that is not run during a total deluge.

Yeah, I stand by my original assessment… they are totally not worth $272.20.  At all.  (Though I did beat a woman wearing the exact same ones, so I guess they were even less worthwhile for her.  But I shouldn’t say that, since for all I know, she ran a massive PR in them.  She probably did.  Seems like everyone does.  Except for me.  She also nearly tripped me around mile five while we were going around a corner.  I’m glad I didn’t land on my face, but something happened to my hip and it’s still not very happy, so thanks a lot.)

Almost perfect running weather.  A bit humid, but it was just cloudy instead of raining like the forecast had said it would, and this is my ideal temperature (even if I did have to shiver a bit beforehand).

Also almost a perfect course, topographically speaking.  Not much in the way of visual stimulation or spectator support, but that never seemed to hurt me before.

I was a little surprised that I managed to run the first mile right on goal pace, because I didn’t actually think I could do that.  And it didn’t feel so hard, not any harder than the start of my PR half.  The next couple of miles told me that this was nothing but a horrible tease and there was no way my body was going to run that pace for the whole distance.

My knees, which I had been expecting to be my biggest problem, actually weren’t, because that’s always the way it works.  No, this time it was my stupid left post tib tendon, which I knew was being a brat, and so I taped it, but apparently it didn’t help.  (Or it did and it would have hurt even more without that.  I’ll never know.)  The knees were relatively okay until about mile ten, when, for the first time ever, RockTape failed me, and I just ripped it off rather than have it irritatingly flap around.  It was probably partly my fault for applying it too soon after Voltaren, but still.  The last 5K hurt.  A lot.  Which is a shame, because even though the course is pretty flat, there’s a relative rise until about mile 8, and then the rest is supposedly downhill.  This is, it seems, the story of my life — having great courses handed to me on a silver platter and being unable to take advantage of them.

Once I knew I was going to have to kiss a PR goodbye, I thought I could at least manage a course PR.  This seemed like no big deal, except that the distance gap between my watch and the mile markers just kept growing, and I didn’t even know what my course PR was, but I thought it was 1:37:4x, so I wanted to come in under that.

Kind of successful, because it is a course PR by seven whole seconds, and it’s so nice that I still have a bit of a finishing kick left in me.  (Yes, I am being sarcastic.  That’s really just… pathetic.)

Garmin: 13.24 miles in 1:37:44, 7:23/mi.  The splits look fine.  They’re basically uniform after I let go of the notion of a PR.  So it’s just like all the other races I’ve run lately: a display of perfect mediocrity.

Officially, 1:37:42, 7:28/mi.  105/2150 OA, 16/984 F, and 3/131 F30-34.  While I would vastly prefer a finish time that doesn’t make me want to explode with self-loathing, I’m glad I at least managed to squeeze in an AG award there, because after I had to drive all the way back to Long Island two years ago to pick up my award, I hung around this year.  And hung around.  And hung around.  And hung around, because the half marathon results took f-o-r-e-v-e-r to be posted, and I would have been even more pissed if I had waited for nothing.

Like.  Yay.

I know that not every race can be a PR.  But I have run nothing but middling races for months now, and that doesn’t look like it’s going to be changing anytime soon, because I am just too fat and slow.  The whole point of gaining weight was to protect me from getting hurt; I would have been willing to sacrifice speed for that.  But it hasn’t protected me from getting hurt.  I get injured just as much as ever.  The only difference is that now I am fat and hurt, which was really not the way it was supposed to work.  I cannot stand the level of revulsion I feel when I look in a mirror (an activity I avoid whenever possible), and apparently it was all for nothing.

I guess I just have some sort of self-flagellating need to prove my own worthlessness, because I keep running races, and they keep making me hate myself.  (Though I suppose I’d do that anyway, so it’s hardly racing’s fault.)

Thrilling.

PADI Rescue Diver + EFR

My first foray into the glorious underwater world was back in 2008.  I got my Open Water certification the following year, my Advanced Open Water certification in 2012, and that was that… because unless you’re planning to become a dive professional, that’s really all you need.

Then I let myself be convinced to get Nitrox certified last November.  And I decided that since I was already getting specialty certifications, I may as well get five of them so that I could be a Master Scuba Diver.  Note: this is completely different from Divemaster; that’s a professional rating, whereas the one I’m pursuing is pretty much just good for bragging rights.  But I figured that if I was already doing it, it made more sense to go after useful specialties instead of just “fun” ones.

Two down, three to go!

The only little wrinkle in this plan is that I would need to move beyond AOW and get my Rescue Diver certification.  Everyone says that’s the hardest, but most fun, course they’ve ever taken.  I was… not excited.  I mean, the diving part sounded great; the part where I’m being tested on things, not so much.  Test anxiety is real.

But anyway, I jetted off to Cozumel to distract myself from the Boston Marathon aftermath.  The course and accompanying dives would take three days.

Imagine having to sit with this as your surface interval while you suffer through a long, hot EFR class.

And then, finally, finally, finally.

(That’s my good friend Jacques Cousteau.)

Then I got to spend the next couple of evenings reviewing the Rescue Diver text, and the following two days practicing the skills before we went for a little shore dive.  The same dive site, three days in a row, and it never got boring.

Especially on the third day, because this happened:

I saw my first eagle ray!  Two of them, actually.  It made the whole trip worth it.

But before that excitement, I had to take the written exams.  That wasn’t anxiety-provoking at all (PS, I’m lying).  I opted to take them before the practical portion, because I get so stressed out over such things that I just wanted to get it over with.  It’s also why, instead of using Wednesday morning to craft my emergency plan and visit the International Hospital to see the hyperbaric chamber, I did it late Tuesday afternoon.  I wouldn’t have been able to sleep on Tuesday otherwise — I’d have been too busy worrying.

The hyperbaric chamber was actually really cool; I always thought it was like an MRI machine inside, but it’s nothing like that at all.

Anyway.  I took the written exams (and passed; I tend to do okay on such things, despite how much they freak me out), and then came the rescue scenario dive.

TEST TIME!

Rescuing people is hard work.  I was wearing the HRM-Swim along with my Mk1, so you can see that it takes a bit of effort to haul someone to safety while simultaneously administering rescue breaths and removing their gear as well as your own.

Let’s just say that I hope I never actually have to do this in real life.  But I did pass!

Having had enough of studying and tests and related anxiety, I decided not to do an additional specialty on this trip, instead opting for two days of recreational boat dives.

I don’t have the words to describe how diving fills up my heart so that it feels like it’s about to explode from happiness.  This is just something that requires first-hand experience to understand.

Boston has proven to me that I am fat and slow and out of shape, and running like that makes me feel like shit about myself.  (And I don’t really need any help in that department.)  Somehow, diving is not like that… everyone is the same, you can’t really be bad at it.  I mean, sure, Diver A might have better trim or air consumption or whatever than Diver B, but for some reason it doesn’t feel competitive the way running does.  Like, my finning needs work.  (I kick from the knee instead of the hip, and have been doing so for such a long time that it’s hard to rewire my brain to do it differently.)  But it doesn’t make me feel like you’re a worthless human being because you don’t kick properly.  If I spend enough time working on it, I can fix it.

Whereas I can apparently never, ever change the fact that I am evidently eternally doomed to running mediocrity.

That was just a monologue to point out that I am a much happier person when I can dive every day… and a much sadder one when I realize that I can’t.

PURE JOY

Boston Marathon 2018

Sometimes I like to write a race report ASAP, while everything is fresh in my mind.  Sometimes I prefer to let things percolate a bit because I’m not quite sure how I feel about it.  (And because I want to wait for photos to break up an endless block of text, but MarathonFoto is a hopeless cause so that isn’t going to happen right now.)

This was supposed to be my marathon retirement party.  But since I don’t really think marathons are “fun,” I can’t run one just to enjoy the experience; and because I chose a conservative goal to BQ in NYC in 2016, it wouldn’t be so ridiculous to get a PR now.  I mean, my knees and my ankles are falling apart but it’s not as if I have any idea what it’s like to run without everything hurting, so it shouldn’t make much of a difference.  I printed out two pace bands.

Course-specific, very conservative start.  Ideally, I would have used the 3:25 pace band for the first half, then switched to the 3:20 when I hit the Newton hills.  It sounds a little backwards.  But if 3:20 turned out to be too ambitious and I ended up having to stick with the 3:25, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.

And then it turned out that the forecast was right; it was miserably cold, rainy, and windy, and I threw out the thought of 3:20.  I don’t do well in cold.  Especially not with a headwind.  At least I prepared adequately for the long wait — I had many throwaway layers, the crowning glory of which was my bright pink quilted jacket.

People were jealous.  I was warm.  (There was a black zip-up hoodie underneath that, because I remembered having to fish one out of the donation bin prior to the NYC Half.)

side note: Boston Marathon earrings

It was tough to make a decision on what to wear, because I knew I’d be cold and wet and miserable no matter what.  In the end, I think what I chose was perfect for me — I mean, it was still cold and wet and miserable, but I think I minimized that as much as I possibly could have.  (PPTC singlet over a long-sleeve base layer, compression tights, billed cap, headband [over the cap so the wind didn’t blow it off my head], cheap cotton gloves inside latex gloves, clear poncho.  My cotton gloves actually did get wet, but because the latex blocked the wind, my hands didn’t freeze.)

I was on an early bus to Athlete’s Village since Jana and I took an Uber from her sister’s place to the bus pickup spot together, and she was in Wave 1.  There was a bit of unnecessary excitement when our driver had to pull over onto the shoulder for a few minutes after what we thought was a blown tire.  Never figured out what it was, but we did eventually make it to Hopkinton.  We squashed our way into one of the tents, which looked like some sort of post-apocalyptic scene… people camped out all over the place on tarps and plastic bags.  On spongy, muddy ground that you could feel squelching beneath you (and there were so many people that I was practically sitting with my knees tucked under my chin, which said knees did not appreciate).  As time went on, the grass turned into more and more of a mud pit, and going to the porta potties on the perimeter of the field involved wading through what may as well have been quicksand.  I was very glad that I was wearing throwaway shoes and socks.

Cumulus 13 — the first shoes in which I ever got fitted.  Sadness.  I have no photo of my racing shoes, because I didn’t put them on until I left the field and went to the corrals, and my phone was back in bag check at the finish line.  In leaving said field, I stupidly attempted to climb up the little hill to the sidewalk.  What happens when you try to climb up a slippery muddy embankment is that you will fall and slide halfway to the bottom and then need to crawl your way back up.  Good think I was covered in plastic; all I had to do was stand in the pouring rain for thirty seconds and all the mud washed off.

After changing into dry socks and my 4%s (both of which were soaked within seconds), I headed to the start corrals.  I was in Wave 3, corral 1, so I had to run there to make it before the gun.  At least it meant there wasn’t much time left to freak out before we started running.  I was still wearing the clear poncho, along with a clear garbage bag and the zip-up hoodie underneath.

My mental playlist kept singing for the first time in forever, you’re doing Boston.  I may have felt a bit weepy because I couldn’t believe I had actually made it there.

I was determined not to be one of those people who goes out way too fast and trashes their quads for the hills in the second half — hence the “very conservative start” pace band.  I stuck to it pretty well, and the first half of the race went by pretty uneventfully.  If you call a monsoon uneventful, anyway.  It poured the entire time.  You would not think such heavy rainfall could continue unabated for so long, but it did, even turning into ice pellets at one point.  Once in a while there was a nasty gust of wind — and of course it was blowing from the east.

I got rid of the hoodie after about a mile, and the garbage bag not too long after that.  I hung on to the poncho in a valiant attempt to at least keep my core relatively dry and warm so that I didn’t fall victim to cold diuresis.  I had knotted it at the back so that it wasn’t quite so billowy and parachute-like, but I was willing to sacrifice some time to wind resistance in order to keep from becoming hypothermic.

I was also supposed to do a run/walk thing like in Jerusalem, because my knees were still bothering me, even though I got a cortisone shot in one of them a couple of weeks prior after sucking it up and dealing with the pain for the past two months so that I could get one right before Boston.  But I didn’t plan to start implementing that strategy until a couple of miles in so that the herd could spread out a bit.  And then it was just too damn cold to stop to walk, never mind that it was so noisy, I sometimes couldn’t even hear/feel the alert; I just slowed to a recovery jog pace whenever I was able to hear it, which was probably less than half the time.

Around mile 6, I saw Jimmy and Nicole, and then Missy.  I had no idea they’d be there so early in the course, so that was a nice surprise!  In general, the crowd support in Boston is amazing.  I definitely could hear the Scream Tunnel from well over half a mile away, even in the nasty weather.  I can’t even imagine what it would be like on a nice day.

This is somewhere between mile 14 and 15.  Everything was still clicking nicely along at that point.  Until mile 17, when the hills started.  That’s when I was supposed to switch to the more aggressive pace band.  Except in light of the conditions, and the fact that my knees ****ing hurt and hills make that worse, I decided to be more conservative until after Heartbreak Hill.  Everyone says the last five miles are downhill, so I was counting on making up some of that time then.  My watch, of course, was measuring ahead of the course, but I calculated that I could still afford to do this and come away with a PR.  Not sub-3:25, but a PR nonetheless.

I didn’t see Linda, but she got this photo right around mile 18.  The true suck hadn’t yet begun, I don’t think, because I passed the PPTC cheer station not too long after that (no photographic evidence of this), and I remember that I still had the presence of mind to be excited to see them.

I made it to the top of Heartbreak Hill a bit slower than I would have liked, but it wasn’t too bad; I definitely still had a PR within reach.  And it’s so exciting, because it’s supposedly all downhill from here!

Imagine being in that position and making the turn after cresting Heartbreak, only to be hit in the face with sustained 30 MPH headwinds that accompany you the rest of the way.  The last few miles are largely open on the runners’ left side, so the northeasterly wind was blowing right at us.

And the “downhill finish” is not exactly downhill.  Maybe it’s a net elevation loss, but it’s comprised of gentle rolling hills.  The NYC finish is similar, but I am familiar with the hills in Central Park (even if I hate them), so I know how to gauge the effort level required.  I was not expecting that here, and when combined with the freezing cold rain, the headwind, and my impossible knees and ankles, I just couldn’t fight it anymore.  The PR was getting smaller and smaller and then it pretty much slipped away; I could have had it until mile 25 or so.  I’ve heard that the Citgo sign is deceiving because you see it and get all excited, but there’s still more than a mile to go.  My quads weren’t really trashed from the early downhills, but my climbing these little rollers in the last couple of miles was making my hamstrings start to seize up.  (I know this happens to people a lot.  It has never, ever happened to me.)

There were mile markers, and there were markers every 5K.  I don’t know what the hell my mental math was doing, but somewhere around 35K my stupid brain had calculated that I could still squeeze out a PR if I kept my pace under 8:30.  (I couldn’t go by “keep your average pace at 7:xx,” because my watch was measuring too long for me to rely on that.)  At 40K, I realized I had somehow miscalculated, and that I would have to run like hell to even have the slightest shot of making it.  I knew I would be infuriated if I missed by just one or two seconds, and since I was barely able to stagger in a straight line at that point, running like hell wasn’t likely to be happening anyway.  No PR for me.

Neither my brain nor my body were fully functioning, so I couldn’t really appreciate the historic “right on Hereford, left on Boylston.”  I do remember wishing that Hereford was a long stretch and Boylston was a short one rather than the other way around, because it’s such a tease to have the finish line at the end of a long straight road… down which I ran/hobbled while watching a sub-3:30 vanish before my eyes.

The finish line part of my adidas highlight film is a little frightening… I’m not sure I can call that running.  Just about the only positive thing I can say about it is that I’m not veering all over the place.

Found myself on the NBC stream — I’m standing on the “N.”  I stopped running a few steps after the second timing mat, and if I thought I was staggering before… I had been hurting while I was running, but once I stopped, it was like an instant barrage of excruciating agony.  My knees completely stopped working.  And the groin muscle that I aggravated a few days earlier (opening a bathroom door… don’t ask) was kind enough to keep quiet during the race, but it chimed in on this cacophony.  It’s always a good sign when a medic after the finish line offers you a wheelchair.

Which I turned down, because it’s not like they could have done anything for me anyway, and I was so damn cold that all I wanted was to get into some dry clothes.  It was a long, painful hobble to get my water, medal, heat sheet (poncho, whatever), food bag, and then finally reach the baggage tent.

Whereupon I stood and shivered with my teeth chattering because the volunteer couldn’t find my bag.  (“Are you sure it’s 16503?  All I can find is 16513.”  That… doesn’t really help me very much, and I’m going to die of hypothermia in about five seconds.)  When it finally showed up, I just could not wait in the endless line for the changing tent, so I changed in the baggage tent.  That heat sheet made a nice barricade.  And the inside of the clear plastic poncho that I had worn for the entire race gave me a somewhat dry surface to stand on while I went through the exquisitely painful process of getting out of my wet clothes and into dry ones.

I considered taking an Uber back to Jana’s sister’s place, but I would have had to walk a couple of blocks since the race meant that a lot of streets were closed to traffic.  I couldn’t bear the thought of that, so I just took the T since there was a station right there.  It took me nearly ten minutes to creep the half block back to the apartment after that.  Feeling sore and achy after a marathon is normal; I don’t mind that my quads are a little sore now.  But outright pain is not normal, and should not be par for the course.  Unless, I guess, you are me.

My Garmin, which measured way long, says I ran 26.52 miles in 3:30:37, 7:57/mi.

I can’t even.

Officially, 3:30:33, 8:02/mi.  8114 / 25746 OA, 1930 / 11604 F, and 1606 / 5783 F18-39.  I did come in ahead of my bib number, which was just a weirdly random thing I wanted to do, but that’s about the only thing I managed to accomplish successfully.

This is even more frustrating to me because I really don’t think 3:25 (or even 3:20!) is a reach goal for me.  And yet…

…I missed a PR by less than a minute.  It’s still a BQ, but it’s only a -4:27 buffer, and after last year, I’m not so sure that’s going to cut it.

Because even though I really wanted this to be my last marathon, I don’t want to go out on such a sour note; I want my last one to be a race of which I can be proud, and this one just brought home the fact that I suck.  The conditions may have been shitty, but lots of people did manage to PR, and I couldn’t pull that off even with those supposed magical shoes (which I think are a waste of money because they felt fine, and all, but so would a $100 shoe).  So, yes, I am disgusted and disappointed with myself even though I realize that this isn’t really a bad finish time.  It is much like all of the races I run lately: not terrible, but not great.  And frankly, I’m getting really, really sick of my own mediocrity.

NYC Half Marathon 2018

For some inexplicable reason, the Jerusalem Marathon was a week earlier than usual this year — which meant that it did not take place on the same weekend as the NYC Half.  I haven’t done the latter race since 2015, when it was my “victory lap” after Tel Aviv.  That time, I qualified by doing 4/6; I can no longer do that, since Brooklyn and Queens are now both on Saturdays, and one of the remaining four is the NYC Half, which I can’t get into without doing 4/6, and… this is what we call a classic catch-22.

Of course I entered the lottery.  Of course I didn’t get in.  So I just resigned myself to being disgruntled about never getting to do this, which was doubly upsetting since this year brought a new course that starts in Brooklyn!  Which is as close as I’ll ever get to being able to do any NYRR race in my home borough, because apparently the sky would fall if one ever happened on a Sunday.

To cut a long story short: I registered for this the day before the Jerusalem Half, AKA, ten days prior to race day.  (Thank you, Linda!)

Before I got rejected via the lottery, I had planned to run Jerusalem as an indicator for Boston, and NYC just for the experience.  Obviously, thanks to my body’s ability to fall apart with startling regularity, I did not get to race Jerusalem the way I wanted to, and I wouldn’t be able to do that on this course either.  That wasn’t so bad, I guess, because the old NYC Half course was fast and friendly… this one, not so much.

And my knees still hurt.  And my ever-cranky post tib tendon has been throwing quite the temper tantrum.  And my hip decided to start bugging me for no good reason whatsoever, which meant I had a very anxiety-ridden week fretting over a possible FNSF.  I do not like this body.

This is me being thrilled to bits that I was able to just roll out of bed and walk to the start.  And slightly less thrilled about how damn cold it was.  I bought that jacket on Amazon for less than ten bucks; when I buy throwaway layers, I deliberately try to get things I don’t actually like so that I won’t feel sorry parting with them.  But I was very, very sorry indeed to shed this layer, because it was so. so. cold.

So I dropped it in one of the Goodwill bins, and fished out a zip-up hoodie instead because I knew it would probably be cold and windy on the bridge, and I’d rather run in that than a down jacket with a furry hood.

You see how crazy the GPS went in Midtown?  Yeah.  It was a downhill start — this course is the type where you don’t necessarily bank time, but you just know the back half will probably be slower.  I hit the first mile in just over seven minutes, which did seem a bit fast, but since I had no particular time goal in mind, I didn’t really care if I ran a huge positive split.

And then my watch said I ran the second mile in 6:30.  That really didn’t seem right.  It seemed to get back on track over the bridge, but by the time we got into Manhattan, I was about a quarter mile ahead.  I dropped the hoodie near an aid station and decided not to worry about my pace too much… I wasn’t running for time, after all, so it’s not like it mattered.  Anyway, I was a little distracted with focusing on my hip, which did not, and still does not, feel right, though I guess it’s probably not broken, because I would know about it by now if it was.

I did try to pay attention to the course, which isn’t something I usually do, but I really should make an effort to do it more often, because it can be really pleasant.  Of course, that’s a lot easier when you aren’t devoting all of your energy to actually racing.

When I hit the 10K marker, I noted that I’d run pretty evenly until then, and calculated that if I maintained that pace, I’d be able to finish under 1:40.  And then all GPS hell broke loose, and I had to rely solely on the course mile markers, because I proceeded to set all sorts of world records.

This is annoying since I had to delete the records from my watch to get rid of this preposterous nonsense.  The only one that really bothers me is losing my record from the Go Hard or Go Home Half, but whatever.

When I looked at the course profile before the race, I thought that I’d struggle most with the last 5K — I’m not good on Central Park’s hills in general, never mind as the finish of a half marathon.  But apparently, I had a harder time with the stretch from the FDR Drive and up Seventh Ave. to the park.  (Not if you ask my watch, though.  I flew there.)

I did see Henrik and Shan cheering when I ran through Times Square!

This was around mile 9, but my watch thought I had already run 11 miles.  If only!

Once we actually got into Central Park, my GPS sorted itself out.  So, yeah, I was two miles ahead, but the pace seemed commensurate with reality now.  And it looked like if I kept it faster than 7:30, I’d be able to finish under 1:40.  Which wasn’t a particular goal of mine for this race (would have appreciated it in Jerusalem, though), but if I was so close, I figured I should at least give it my best shot.

It feels like it’s been forever since I ran in Central Park.  And because we came in from an entrance that meant we started running in a different spot from the standard four-mile course, I was really confused about where Cat Hill was, and didn’t figure it out until I actually saw the cat statue at the top.  But Cat Hill isn’t my true nemesis… that would be the Three Sisters.

Those hurt.  I seriously didn’t think I could do it, but I kept reminding myself that I once ran a half marathon PR solely in Central Park at a faster pace than 7:30, so I can do it.  I mean, I wasn’t injured seven different ways to Sunday then, but, semantics.

By the time I reached the “800 meters to go” sign, I was pretty sure I had it.  Couldn’t let up, though, because if I missed by a couple of seconds, I’d be very, very annoyed with myself, so I picked a woman in a bright pink top ahead of me and decided I had to beat her.  And I did.

Doesn’t everyone run two miles extra in running a half marathon at their 5K PR pace?  No?  Just me?  Okay, then!  (It really wasn’t just me.  A lot of people had their GPS go way screwy.)

FWIW.  Which is, basically… nothing.

Officially, 1:39:16, 7:35/mi.  2299/21945 OA, 457/11070 F, and 111/2142 F30-34.

I’m not upset with my finish time; that wouldn’t make any sense, since I didn’t really have a specific time goal, and I’m glad that I was at least able to come in under 1:40.  It’s just discouraging to me that I can’t do better because I hurt so much.  I can’t really push myself to a true race effort level when I’m already in pain before I’ve even started.  (We’re not even going to get into the condition I’m in after the fact.)

If this is my eternal status quo, I don’t see how I’m ever going to be able to run a PR again.

Jerusalem Half Marathon 2018

For the second year in a row, I traveled to Jerusalem for a race while hurting. Last year, I dropped down from the 10K to the 5K in deference to my ankle, and it miraculously didn’t hurt at all during the race. This year, I didn’t see any point in dropping down because it hurts no matter what, so I decided to try a 6/:30 run/walk strategy to help offload some of the pounding. I tested it out last week to see whether it was even possible for me to reach my desired pace that way, and with some race day adrenaline, it looked like it might be.

Because for the first time ever, I actually had a time goal for the Jerusalem Half — and that had nothing to do with my plan to use it as an indicator for Boston. It was because in 2016, the course measured short on my watch, and I came tantalizingly close to running sub-1:40.

Then my knees got messed up beyond all reason. And it turned out to be a very windy day. Still, I was running the Jerusalem Half Marathon again, finally, so I could at least be grateful for that.  Or try to be, if I was awake enough.  Jet lag has been hitting me something fierce, and I gave up around 1:30 AM and took half an Ativan because I was getting so stressed out about the sleep deprivation.  Which bizarrely made me more anxious, not less, so I wound up with something like three hours of total sleep.

Side note: this is also the second consecutive year that I lugged along my wetsuit (and neoprene vest and swimsuit and hood and gloves) in the hope of diving in Tel Aviv.  I think I’m just going to give up on that ever happening, as it seems Mother Nature just likes to play with my emotions.  Sure, we can dive tomorrow!  And then, at 4 PM, oh, sorry, it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to go out tomorrow after all.  This happened two days in a row.  But, fine, whatever.

One thing about races in Jerusalem is that I can have my pre-race Holy bagel without needing to toast it first.  I mean, just look at this delicious chewy goodness!

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Anyway, moving on.  The hotel I always stay in was sold out, so I wound up in a studio apartment that is equally conveniently located to the start, and possibly more conveniently located in terms of everything else, but I really miss having access to a pool.  I hate it when I can’t be active in some way every day.  (Although, I do have to say… I didn’t run here before race day, but my glutes were so sore from just walking around, and I did walk a lot.  These hills are no joke.)

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That weather … it was five or six degrees cooler, at least.  And windy.  So windy.  I figured I’d give it my best shot, and if it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen.  Can’t do much else about that, right?

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within the first couple of miles, I think

I started near the 1:40 pacer, but I knew I wouldn’t be with him the whole time anyway if I was doing that run/walk thing.  In a way, it made it mentally easier, because at any given time, I would never have more than another six minutes to run.  But on the other hand, I don’t like breaking things up like that.  I wasn’t running the running portions so fast that I necessarily felt like I needed the rest, and putting on the brakes on a steep downhill hurts more than just running.  (I jogged slowly for those instead of walking.)

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The funniest part was how people around me showered me with encouragement every time I walked.  I mean, it was sweet, I guess, but then they looked a little baffled once I started running again, because it wasn’t exactly like I was doing a death shuffle that warranted walking.  I’m doing this on purpose, okay?!

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All that really stood out in my memory re: the half marathon course was that there was an unpleasant hill somewhere around mile 5, and a truly hideous monster around mile 12.  And, indeed, those were my two slowest miles.  The latter hill was even worse than I remembered.  That part did feel like a death march.  It didn’t help that I had realized after the first 10K or so that barring a massive leap in the last couple of miles, my watch was going to measure the course way long.  There was no way I was going to finish under 1:40 unless I ran the last mile and a half at mile pace (which would maybe give me a chance).  I can’t even do that in a mile race, because I suck at the mile.

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As is to be expected of any truly cruel course, the race ends on an incline.  I had already missed my sub-1:40; and as predicted, the course was measuring long, even longer than I thought, and I saw that there was no way in hell I’d even get a course PR.  So I just didn’t bother with a finishing kick.  I did skip the last walking break because it seemed stupid when I was just a couple of minutes from the finish, but I was basically jogging at that point.

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La-de-da, and all that.

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Yeah… my lap pace for that finishing stretch is generally 6:xx, if not 5:xx.  Not today!

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I thought I slowed down an awful lot after the first few miles, but in retrospect, I don’t think I did — it’s a pretty accurate reflection of the course topography.  And not only did my Garmin measure long so that my pace was faster than 2016, my GAP per Strava was much faster too.

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That’s only three seconds slower than my HM PR pace.  Which was on a flat course.  I think that’s supposed to mean I could PR a HM right now, but that is so not the case, it’s almost funny.

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So my Garmin says I ran 13.37 miles in 1:42:37, 7:40/mi.  And then come the official results…

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Yeah, see, when I took that screenshot, I was third in my category (women 20-34, I think, for whatever reason).  I have since been dropped down to fourth.  Which I don’t understand at all, because the first two women in my AG were 1-2 OA females, which should mean they’re not eligible for AG awards.  Anyway.  Officially, I ran 13.1 miles in 1:42:35, 7:50/mi.  At present, I supposedly placed 308/4209 OA, 12/1099 F, and 4/254 F20-34.  I hope that last one changes.  Because they still owe me my award from last year, which I am obviously never going to see, so I should get one this year instead!

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As for using this as a predictor for Boston… a flat-out McMillan equivalent is 3:35 and change.  Which obviously won’t do.  Once I’m a little less jet-lagged, I have to do elevation profile comparisons to see what it actually equates to, but I didn’t really get to run this as an indicator the way I wanted, so I’m not sure it tells me anything.

Except that I think, if I had to, I could 6/:30 Boston at this pace.  Which would at least get me a PR.  Not ideal, but then, nothing ever is.  Such as the way my knee is currently killing me.  And that’s the good one!  Apparently, they’ve switched places.  The left one, which I first injured in 2014, hurts a little when I run and pretty much goes back to normal after that.  The right one, from which the December cortisone has evidently worn off, hurts like a bitch while I run and then even more afterwards.

But I still managed to limp a couple of miles for my post-Israeli-race ice cream.  Because tradition.

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PPTC Cherry Tree 10 Miler & Relay 2018

It took three registrations culminating in two DNS and one weather-related cancellation, but I finally got to run this race!

Which is not to say it was all fun and games, because it hurt.  I registered on Sunday night; online registration closed on Monday night.  Monday morning, my knee(s) went insane.  If something hurts enough for me to not get out of bed in the morning for some sort of workout… it’s bad.

Given that I have three and a half years of experience in dealing with this (in my left knee, at least), I managed to get it to calm down after a couple of days.  On Thursday, I ran my NYRR Virtual for the Kids 5Krace” (apparently I can only do NYRR virtual races now; I’m so glad I paid for a membership), and it felt okay.  So I decided to give the race a shot.

Except that I ran that virtual race on a track, which is flat; Prospect Park is not flat.  And remember how the Go Hard or Go Home Half destroyed my knees?  This course is basically the same.  Minus half a loop.

My one and only goal here was to run it.  I didn’t care about my pace at all.  But we know how that always works out … I end up running faster than I intend to run unless I’m with someone and focus on that instead.  I was going to run with Michael, but he couldn’t make it at the last minute, so I was on my own.

Then I started to think that maybe it would hurt less to run faster, because a higher turnover is usually better when it comes to this kind of thing.  Who knows?

Jimmy was running the relay, so he was spectating the start.  This was when my knee(s) still felt okay.

It had snowed the previous night, and they did a good job of clearing the main road, plus it was warm enough for everything to start melting.  Which meant that we were being bombarded by little blobs of snow falling off the trees.  And on the first loop, there was a dicey patch at the top of the hill.  It wasn’t long after that my knee(s) started to bark.

Second time up the hill — I guess, because it’s not crowded enough to be the first loop, and I took my gloves off about halfway through the race, which would be not long after this photo was taken.  I do not look thrilled.  I imagine I looked even less thrilled when I turned my wrist to look at my watch a couple of minutes later and a snowball plopped off a tree onto my sleeve right next to my watch.  At least it missed!

But when I spotted Elise a couple of miles later, I looked very happy indeed.

Because in a laugh or cry situation, you laugh.  I have a lot of practice in running with this knee being angry (“it’s fine to run as long as you can stand the pain,” the doctor said… in 2014), and I can do it without really altering my gait, but it hurts, dammit.  And it’s hard to run very fast when you hurt.  So I was glad that I didn’t have any particular time goal.

That actually looks pretty normal for the course.  The GAP on Strava shows that the splits are pretty even, so… yay?

Garmin says 1:18:33 for 10.08 miles, 7:47/mi.  I mean, it’s nice that I can run that pace even if I’m in pain, but it would be even nicer to not be in pain.

Officially, 10 miles in 1:18:29, 7:51/mi; 185/734 OA, 43/356 F, 22/143 F30-39.  And my laps were basically all the same pace, so I was consistent if nothing else!  Actually, part of the reason I didn’t care about my pace was because I looked up previous years’ results and saw that I couldn’t place anyway, not unless I really worked for it, and I absolutely didn’t want to do that.  Turns out that I actually could have placed third in my AG… but I am really not that upset that I didn’t.

BECAUSE EVERYBODY’S A WINNER!

I’m glad I finally got to run Cherry Tree, though.  I really don’t think I’d be in a lesser degree of pain right now if I hadn’t, because the bike hurts too, and I’m not about to sit around and vegetate forever.  I did manage to run three miles home afterward, so it’s definitely not as bad as it could be.

The problem is that Jerusalem is in a couple of weeks, and I was going to use that as my indicator for Boston.  Jerusalem is very, very hilly.

Oh dear.