Al Goldstein Summer Speed Series #3 2017

Being late and feeling rushed cause me a great deal of anxiety.  This is why, when I am running an evening race, I get to work earlier in the morning.  Leaving earlier in the afternoon helps to dissipate that I’m not going to have enough time panic.

Unless, of course, you factor in that the MTA’s level of suckage of late is impressive even by their standards.  Suffice it to say that despite leaving work by 4:30, for a commute that shouldn’t take longer than 45 minutes, I did not arrive home until after 6:00.  I ended up leaving for the race just a few minutes later than I normally would have, but because I was rushing, I felt all stressed out and aggravated and ended up running my warm-up to the start faster than usual.  I knew that if I ran a shitty race, I could place the blame right at the feet of the MTA.

Though I guess that since I was so busy being stressed over the delays, I didn’t have much time to freak out over the race itself.  Namely: I would be running this one solo, and I wanted to race it.  It was nearly twenty degrees warmer than the first and second races of the series (both of which I considered nearly perfect, weather-wise), so that would undoubtedly have an effect; I decided to be happy with another sub-21, but to try and pace it similarly to my PR and hopefully cut a few seconds off in the second downhill mile (without giving them back in the third).

Of note: for the past couple of weeks, the patellar tendon in my left (AKA, “bad”) knee has been doing this weird snapping thing.  It doesn’t hurt per se, it’s just incredibly annoying; I’m not super worried about it because this has happened before, and it eventually goes away on its own.  What hasn’t happened before is the knee going numb.  That doesn’t hurt, either, but it definitely isn’t normal.  Knees should not feel like they’ve been shot up with Novocaine.  It’s possible that this can be attributed to a climb in which I somehow bashed my knee into both a volume and a foothold at the same time, but regardless of origin, it needs to go away.

Same old, same old.  And a lovely, balmy 81°.  I actually ran in short sleeves for this one, which I don’t usually do, solely because I was already so hot from dashing around like a lunatic trying to get home, and upon reaching home I had no time to cool off before going back out again.  So.  Short sleeves it was.

During my run to the park, I was running into a headwind.  As I approach from the east, this ought to have meant that I wouldn’t be spending much time running into the wind on the course.  Turns out that was not the case.  I suppose I should be grateful that I was running into it on the downhill, instead of on the uphill, but that kind of messed with my “cut off a few seconds during the second mile” plan.

The splits are nearly identical to those from my PR.  I went out conservatively, having learned the hard way that it’s stupid to power up the hill, but I think I was a little too overly cautious in the next two miles.  It definitely felt like I was racing a 5K, but not quite at the “I’m going to drop dead” level, so I probably could have — and should have — pushed a little harder.

There is that nice little finishing kick because I heard someone coming up behind me, and I didn’t know whether it was a man or a woman, so I couldn’t let that person pass me!  (It was a man.  We crossed the finish line simultaneously.)

Garmin says I ran 3.1 miles in 20:36, 6:38/mi.  Officially…

20:33, 6:38/mi.  89/525 OA, 9/214 F, and 5/56 F30-34.

Yes, that’s right… I missed a PR by four seconds.  Once upon a time, I would have beaten myself up endlessly about this, and while I am a wee bit annoyed, I’m also a little proud.  Because it was much worse weather than we had for my PR race, and I did this on my own, without a pacer.

Plus, it heat-adjusts to a sub-20!  So there may be hope yet.

Excuse me while I go laugh myself silly.

Flats Mile 2017

I suck at mile races.  Pretty sure it’s mostly a mental thing — there is no reason why I should not physically be able to break six minutes.  Back when I first started trying to do that, almost two years ago, my 5K PR was nearly a minute slower.  It would have been a huge stretch, but I did think I could do it.

Now my 5K PR predicts a 5:54 mile.  And yet… every single mile race I run is slower than the one before it: 6:11 at the 2015 Fifth Avenue Mile, which is still my official PR; 6:12 at last summer’s Harlem One-Miler, which I followed up with a 6:10 time trial less than a week later; and 6:15 in December at the Sri Chinmoy 1 Mile Race Around the World, which I followed up with a stress fracture.  This knocked me out of the entire winter indoor mile series at the Park Slope Armory, which sucked a whole lot since I think part of the reason I’m terrible at the mile is because there are so few opportunities for me to race them, and so I get way too psyched out about each one.

This year, though, I might actually have more than one shot at it.  If my body holds up.  A very big fat if, when you’re me.  It is because of this body that I was delaying registering for the North Avenue Mile, which I ran in 2014.  (And was over the moon to just make my goal of 6:45, which is now slower than my 5K PR pace.  Perspective is a funny thing.)

Except that when I tried to finally register a couple of weeks ago, the race page was a dead link, and it wasn’t listed on NYCRUNS’ website anymore.  Curious.  I asked Angela about it, since it was a NewRo Runners event, and she said that it had been canceled, but the reasons why were unclear.


Then, a few days later, she told me about this mile race, which she heard about in their Facebook group.  (I guess kind of like… “We’re sorry we canceled our mile race, but here is this one on the same day!”)

Van Cortlandt Park is a pain in the ass to get to, but it’s less of a pain in the ass than New Rochelle.  And it’s on the flats, so it’s … flat.  These are the good things.  I was still dubious about my chances at running a mile race that didn’t suck, but I dutifully did not race all-out at last week’s Al Goldstein 5K.  Which, honestly, I don’t think would have mattered.

Because last Tuesday, I was wearing a down jacket.  It is suddenly forty degrees warmer than it has been, and while I do handle heat better than most people, I still need time to acclimate to it.  So, yeah… it’s suddenly a million degrees (okay, ninety, but same difference), sunny, and oh, right, there’s an air quality alert in effect.  Not to mention that the flats might be flat, but it’s a cinder track, which is really not the fastest surface.

And since it was a small inaugural event, there weren’t a whole lot of runners participating.  It’s harder to race something when there aren’t a lot of people alongside you, and there were only fourteen people in the open women’s heat.  Which went off at 10:40 AM.

On a brutally hot day.  Under blazing sunshine.  (I know the weather on the map above shows clouds.  Trust me.  That is inaccurate.  I was there.)

Now, the whole point of having Jana pace me is so that I don’t see my splits.  I am almost positive that I could not have run under 21:00 at the first Al Goldstein race had I known how fast I was actually running.  So when the horn sounded, I just followed her, and all was well until the quarter mile mark, which we passed in ninety seconds.  I knew this because someone was there calling out the splits.  Which, I mean, great, we’re exactly on pace — and maybe hearing that lulled me into complacency.  And then hearing at the halfway point that I’d just run a 1:37 quarter… I knew that there was pretty much no way I’d be able to battle back from that to get my sub-6:00, but I could have still gotten a PR.  Except I just gave up on it.  I’m not going to say it felt like I was running easy, but it didn’t feel like it hurt any more than my 5K PR did.  (Accurate, as my third quarter was basically 5K pace.)  And then once the clock was in sight, and I saw that it read 6:04 and I would definitely need more than six seconds to reach it, meaning a PR was not going to happen, I didn’t even try to pick up the pace.  I just didn’t see the point in it.

Yep, what lovely splits.

I’d be lying if I said I was thrilled with this result.  But honestly, I’m not as upset as I would have expected, because it’s not like last year’s Harlem One-Miler, where I just missed a PR — this is so far off that, and so close to my 5K PR pace, that it can’t be explained away as an I just suck at racing the mile thing.  (Everyone ran slower than their expected times, some by as much as a minute, so I guess it could have been worse.  If I hadn’t even run under 7:00… yeah, that would have been pretty devastating.)

Looking this up is probably something I should have done before the race instead of after it, but according to this temperature calculator, the heat-adjusted pace for a 5:59 mile in today’s conditions is 6:16.  I have no doubt that I could have run that had I not given up the way I did.

But I want to run a PR, not a heat-adjusted PR.  So I will just have to keep trying.



Al Goldstein Summer Speed Series #2 2017

Were it not Global Running Day, I would not have done this race.  But it was, and so I felt compelled to participate.  As did a whole hell of a lot of other people, apparently, because the size of the crowd was anxiety-provoking!  I knew that this would be the first Al Goldstein race in which I did not score an AG award: the bigger-than-usual field, coupled with the timing mats at the start, would have been enough.  But there was also the fact that Jana told me I wasn’t allowed to race, since the plan is for her to pace me on Sunday.  (Another hilarious proposition right there.)

She claimed that I’d be shocked by how easy a 21:30 would feel after having run a 20:30.  I took this in with a great deal of skepticism, since I still view anything under 22:00 as difficult… not to mention that I haven’t run a 5K on my own since last summer.  (Jerusalem obviously doesn’t count.)

Having someone to run with seemed ideal — I certainly don’t feel confident enough to pace someone to 21:30.  If I feel terrible and can’t run fast anyway, then it’s a moot point, but if I feel good it is very hard for me to hold back in a race.  Tifenn was running with her run4fun kids, so there went that!  It was going to be just me, then.

Oren was next to me at the start line, so I asked him what he was planning to run; the “run as fast as I can” thing would have been great for me if I were trying to PR, but not so much on this particular day.  Then Luca showed up, and he was looking for someone to run with, because he didn’t feel like racing it.  He kind of made a face when Oren said he was aiming for a 6:30 pace, so I decided to take him instead.  I said that I wanted to run 6:50.  That’s actually a bit faster than 21:30, but I assumed I’d end up running a bit slower, so who cares?  Even effort, not even pace.

We started running, and Luca settled in next to me and said, “So, how’ve you been?”  My incredulous response: “You expect me to carry on a conversation?  This isn’t really a chatting pace for me!  If you want to talk, tell me a story.”  (Come to think of it, I never did get my story.)

He was a few steps ahead of me for most of the race, but it wasn’t like when I was following Jana — I was looking at my watch this time.  And if we’re going for even effort here, with an overall pace of 6:50, why did we run the first (uphill!) mile faster than that?!  I pointed out during the second mile that we were running too fast, and he said, “No, you said 6:50!”  Which is true, except that we are now running 6:44.  And the “we’re going downhill!” explanation doesn’t work, because I was referring to our average pace, not lap pace.  But okay, we’ll go with that!

The little form checks were helpful, though; that might be part of why it didn’t feel as hard as it could have.  I’m not saying it felt easy, because it most certainly did not, but it didn’t feel like death was imminent.  I was even able to devote some attention to checking in on all my injured and semi-injured parts.

It was a weird sort of luxury to be able to respond to, “Mary just went by, you’re going to let her pass you?!” with, “Yep, because Sunday is more important to me!”  I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have caught her anyway, but let’s conveniently ignore that.

Even effort, huh?!  I mean, I guess miles two and three did wind up being right around what I expected, but that first mile… eek.

Garmin says I ran 3.12 miles in 20:59, 6:43/mi.  It took me a ridiculously long time to stop my watch — I kept trying to hit the stop button and my fingers just wouldn’t cooperate!  I thought that I had come in just under 21:00 because of that, but apparently there were a few more seconds to spare.

20:54, 6:45/mi.  123/588 OA, 20/257 F, and 8/68 F30-34.  So I was right about not placing!  I would have had to run 20:25 for that.  I think I probably can, but it was not the goal here.  It’s just too bad since I missed out on getting a medal from Al Goldstein himself.  (And also?  It took me five seconds to stop my watch.  Do you know how long that is when all you’re trying to do is press a stupid little button?!)

Since it was Global Running Day, we got free beer tickets.  I loathe beer.  Yes, I know, I’m a terrible excuse for a runner.  This is old news.

I had told Noah he could have mine, but he wasn’t there when I went to redeem the ticket, so I just went with what the guy ahead of me in line did.  Brooklyn Lager, apparently.  Turned out to be a well-received choice.

And in exchange, I got this picture!

Surprisingly, my toes, which were killing me after the last Al Goldstein, felt pretty good after this one.  I suppose that might be because the pain moved along to my heel.  Cue freakout that it’s another calcaneal fracture.  I tell you…

SBRC Warriors Relay

Don’t ask me how I ended up registered for this race, because I’m not quite sure myself.  I mean, I know how I registered for it, I’m just not sure how I wound up doing that — a bunch of PPTC people were doing it and somehow I ended up on a team too.  Since most relay races are on Friday nights into Saturdays, I’ve never gotten to do one, so I was game for the experience anyway.

The general premise: to follow the route of the gang in the 1979 movie The Warriors, starting in Van Cortlandt Park and finishing at Coney Island.  I, being the non-movie person that I am, had never even heard of this one, but why should that stop me?  In fact, I did not watch the movie after registration like most people did, but I had a vague idea of what was supposed to be happening because I read this.  Good enough.  The race was broken down into eight legs, and at each hand-off, the runners were to take a photo aping a scene in the movie at that location, to be posted to Instagram.

Rival PPTC gangs!

Since I did not watch the movie, I’m not really sure which gang we were supposed to resemble.

Running in a denim vest, in case you are wondering, is lovely for about five minutes when the weather is a bit chilly.  It is far less lovely after that, once its complete lack of breathability makes itself evident.

I was originally under the impression that every team member had to be present at every location, but apparently I was mistaken.  So Jana and I (legs 6, 7, and 8 — we ran all three together, though I was officially only 7), having a few hours to kill, went and got salads.  Nothing like eating a salad right before running…

Leg 6 started at Union Square.  The Whole Foods right across the street might have wondered why their supply of toilet paper dwindled so rapidly that day.  I’m sorry.

The predicted rain, of course, began right around the time that we started to run.  I really am a more accurate forecaster than the actual meteorologists!

What I am not: someone possessed of navigational skill.  I can get lost crossing the street.  But I am able to read a map, so the navigating fell to me.

Isn’t that a long leg?!  I stopped to take off my pack to check my phone and make sure we were going where we were supposed to be going, and in so doing, I accidentally saved the activity on my watch.  (This pissed me off because it meant I had to run extra at the end to complete the Strava Half Marathon Challenge.  I should be glad it was only a mile in, and not three or four.)

The most astounding thing that happened all day: we did not get lost even once!

I did, however, nearly get run over by a skateboard.  And we played chicken on Bowery approaching the Manhattan Bridge, because it is impossible to run on sidewalks there.

Leg 6 handed off to leg 7 at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn subway stop.  The scene to be re-enacted:

We spent a couple of minutes trying to find the volunteer to check in, but were unsuccessful.  I was sure we were in the right place, so we just took our photo, feeling idiotic, and moved on.

This was almost like a big city marathon — we woke up so early, but we didn’t start running until hours later!  We were both dragging and exhausted.  Plod plod plod.  Good thing we’d never planned to race it.

This might have been the point at which I ran into a car.  I always thought that if I had a green light, it meant I was allowed to cross, and the vehicles were supposed to wait.  But I suppose sanity has never been a strong point of mine, so obviously I was wrong.

Leg 7 handed off to leg 8 at the New Utrecht Ave./62nd St. subway station.

There was a volunteer here, and we learned that one of the handoff locations was unmanned.  It might or might not have been the previous one, which would have been nice to know in advance, but hey.

I suppose this put us into the home stretch!  We were both more than ready to be done, but at least there weren’t really any hills left at this point.  Last scene:

Our numbers had dwindled.  Oh dear.

And then everyone else got to drink beer and eat food, while I ran that stupid extra distance.  (I hate beer and can’t eat any of this food anyway.  So then I just went home.)

It feels a little odd to write a race report for something that wasn’t really a race.  I don’t think this experience is comparable with a Ragnar-type relay, where you’re with your teammates the whole time except for those who are running.  But then, I don’t think I’d want to do one of those… since my shitty body wouldn’t be able to handle multiple legs anyway.  (Said shitty body is, unsurprisingly, being a shit.  My toes still hurt.  And my broken ankle has to be fully healed by now, so it’s not like it’s any  more susceptible to breakage than any other fragile bone in me, but it freaks me out whenever it doesn’t feel right.  I am freaked out.)

But!  It really was a fun, if long, day.  SBRC did a great job in organizing it — inaugural events are very often complete disasters from a logistical standpoint, and that was not the case at all here.  So two thumbs up for that.  And it was definitely nice to do an event without having the pressure of feeling like I needed to run fast.  (Not that it seems to have made a difference in how my body feels after the fact, but still.)

In short: recommended.

Al Goldstein Summer Speed Series #1 2017

As has been well documented over the previous several months, 2017 thus far can best be described as a total shit show.  (Direct quote from me.)  There are so many lingering injuries going on that I can barely even keep track of them.  But I registered for this race anyway, the day prior, and a few hours later my almost-back-to-normal foot started to complain again.

I mean, really?  This has got to be a joke.  I must be imagining it.  It cannot possibly be real.

But no way in hell am I going to rack up another DNS if I am not in excruciatingly agonizing pain, so off I went, snorting all the way at the thought of Jana pacing me to a PR.  I was actually quite nervous about this, because I knew she had a streak of successful pacing ventures going, and I didn’t want to break that for her!

Also previously well-documented: my propensity for horrible pre-race anxiety.  Couple that with an already sky-high anxiety level unrelated to running, and, well… if anxiety could outright kill you, I’d be dead.  (If only!)  Jana insisted that this anxiety could be channeled into running a fast race, but my plan was really just to follow her and pray very hard.  She had a pacing strategy, but I didn’t even want to think about it, because I had zero faith in my ability to actually run anything close to my PR (21:04), so I chose to exist in blissful oblivion and not look at my watch even once.

Best news ever: there are now timing mats at the start line!  So we didn’t feel compelled to be in the very front, even though we kind of ended up pretty close since everyone else likes to lollygag.  Gun sounds, we start to run, I take stock of my trouble areas (currently my right ankle, left calf, and left foot), and then realize that there is no way in hell I am going to be able to maintain this pace for another three miles.  But since I can’t talk at that pace, I couldn’t tell Jana that, so I just had to hang on and pray even harder.

Once we crested Zoo Hill, the most technically difficult part of the course was done.  The first mile is always the slowest because of that hill, and the second mile is always the fastest because it’s downhill.  My watch beeped a second after we passed the first mile marker, and then Jana decided that we ought to slow down a little and “take it easy” for the next half mile.  I would have laughed that she was calling the pace we were running “easy,” but breathing was difficult enough already.

There was a woman in a Dashing Whippets singlet not too far ahead of us, and some random guy running in the opposite direction told us we were second and third females, which meant that passing her would put us in the lead.  Not that you can trust spectators’ observations of placement, but even once we picked up the pace again, we stayed right behind her until about the second mile marker (which also matched up with my watch beeping), because it would have taken too much energy to play the “I pass you, you pass me, I pass you” game.

My inability to talk, since I was too busy dying, didn’t prevent me from uttering two things: “uh huh” around mile two, in response to something I forget (cheerleader-y, I’m sure!), and “I am dying” around half a mile later, when Jana told me that I was going to be shocked at how good my time was after hanging on until the end.

I wasn’t looking at my 620, but I did periodically glance at my vívofit on my other wrist — just to get a general idea of how many more minutes I could be expected to suffer.  On the one hand, it freaked me out to hear that I was on pace for a big PR; but on the other hand, it would have been worse to be urged to speed up if I wanted to PR when I was already deep into the pain cave!

And then, third mile marker.  And we round the turn and we can see the finish line, and I saw 20:12 on the clock.  With less than a tenth of a mile to go.  Jana was nice and let me cross ahead of her.

I don’t look like I’m dying, but trust me, it sure felt like it.  At least I remembered not to hunch over in that classic “hands on knees” pose as soon as I finished, because that always makes things worse.  It’s so much easier to get your lungs back to normal when you stretch out and actually give them room to expand.

I knew that I had run a big PR, but I didn’t know just how big, because I actually didn’t notice what the clock said when I crossed the finish line.  This is my “WTF just happened?” face.

I’ve been trying to break 21:00 for close to two years.  It makes absolutely zero sense that it would finally happen now, in the midst of a maelstrom of running-related disasters, but beggars can’t be choosers, and I certainly am not going to complain about it.  (I mean, I would have complained during the race had I been able to breathe enough to do it, because this was one of the more painful experiences of my life.  Not in an injury way — breathing rates higher than anything else, apparently, so having trouble with that kind of blinds you to other things.  But I will say that while it didn’t bother me during the race, my left foot is feeling rather hateful after the fact.)

I don’t really have any words for this.  I do not have any idea how the hell I did that — and I most definitely could not have done it on my own!  Pacer par excellence, right here.

You might notice the medals: silver and bronze.  Because, as expected, that guy was wrong, and we finished second and third overall, not first and second.  (The first place woman was more than a minute ahead of us.  We never even saw her.)

Garmin says 3.11 miles in 20:34, 6:36/mi.  Which is pretty close to the official results, and that’s always nice!  3.1 miles in 20:30, 6:37/mi; 56/395 OA, 2/159 F, and I think there were thirty people in the F30-34 AG including me, but that doesn’t count here.

That’s a PR by 34 seconds.  And, eerily, 20:30 is the exact time McMillan predicted off my HM PR.  So these predictions are basically identical to that — the longer ones are just a second or two faster for some reason.  And yes, I am laughing at all of them.  Because they seem just as impossible as they did back then.

1mi — 5:54.4
4mi — 26:39 (6:40/mi)
5mi — 34:00 (6:48/mi)
10K — 42:34 (6:51/mi)
15K — 1:05:58 (7:05/mi)
10mi — 1:11:10 (7:07/mi)
HM — 1:34:55 (7:15/mi)
FM — 3:19:45 (7:37/mi)

It should go without saying… but I really, really needed this.


Hanging on the cabinet next to my desk in my office are finisher’s certificates from the Tel Aviv Half 2015, NYC Half 2015, and Jerusalem Half 2016.  Most of the time I don’t even see them, really, because they’ve been there for so long.  But when I do notice them, they make me sad.

I haven’t run a half marathon since October.  I’ve taken a DNS in three of them.

I haven’t raced anything since November.  (Yes, I have run a couple of races.  That is not the same thing.)  Intellectually, I realize that I am not a worthwhile person only if I race well; but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel that way.  And this year has been a complete and total shit show, which only serves to compound my utter uselessness on this planet.

Besides that, I am a terrible human, because it is beyond my ability to share in others’ joy after their successful races when I so badly miss being able to experience that for myself. This renders me completely unfit for human interaction of any sort.

My foot is almost back to normal, having done the job of stealing the Long Island Half from me.  But that really means nothing at all, because of course something else immediately took its place.  It is a rule of the universe that I must always be in some degree of pain.  And when I say that, I don’t mean that something is a little uncomfortable when I’m running.  I mean it actually hurts, regardless of whether or not I run.

It is really, really exhausting.  At this point, even if I can run — which I don’t think has been the case for longer than two consecutive weeks all year long — it’s hard to appreciate it because I am so busy being scared of having that ability snatched away from me again.

Which inevitably happens.

With stunning regularity.

It’s true that even under the best of circumstances, I would not be described as a cheery person.  I tend toward flat affect more than anything else, but to me, it’s not a sign of something negative; it’s simply neutral.  Now, though?  I am just plain sad.

All the time.

Broken Record

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result, I suppose parroting the same words repeatedly falls under that category too.

But words are the only thing I have.

Sunday’s weather is looking perfect.  If you’re lucky enough to be able to run a race you’d planned to race, instead of, like me, being let down yet again by the sorry lump of flesh that is my excuse for a body.

Look, I realize that pretty much everyone has to DNS upon occasion.  I’m not special in that regard.  But at risk of sounding like a total bitch (which I know I am, so it’s fine) — I just. fucking. did. this.  Maybe it’s time for someone else to take a turn.  Or the turn can get skipped and nobody gets injured, I don’t really care, but if someone has to … why does it always have to be me?

This is my troublesome left foot.  Nothing untoward here.  (Yeah, I know it looks like the pinky toe is broken.  It’s not.)  Feel free to act like that means something, but I will point out that exactly zero of my fractures have shown up on X-rays.  This includes the traumatic fractures from when I crashed my bike.  So I don’t even know why I bothered with this… usually it’s because I need a negative X-ray in order to get an MRI.  But I don’t want an MRI.  My foot hurts like a bitch regardless of what’s wrong with it, and if I hear, “You have a stress fracture” one more fucking time I am going to kill myself.

(Only I won’t, because I wouldn’t be lucky enough not to fail at that too, and I don’t need to add to my list of failures.  Read Dorothy Parker’s Resumé.  That’s about the gist of it.)

Instead, I am going to go completely out of my way to pick up my race packet under the delusion that my foot will magically fix itself in the next thirty-six hours.  Or because I may as well get the shirt since I already paid for it… and they do tend to have decent shirts.  Sometimes.  Of course, I could have someone get it for me, but I’m not going to do that because I have trust issues and pretty much every single time I ever ask someone to do anything for me, I end up being let down.

Though I really have no right to get upset at other people for giving out on me.  My own stupid body does nothing but that.