Just another central park 18 miler

My sneakers had a 605 mile life. Rest in peace my friends, we’ve been through so much since January. The concrete roads, the rainy days, the dirt gravel and mud, the joys, the fails, the good times and bad. This post is dedicated to you.

Marathon is becoming my second job but instead of getting paid for it, I pay for it. With almost 2 months left until judgement day (NYC marathon), the Saturday long runs are slowly approaching 20 milers. According to my calculations, there is approximately 300 training miles left so each one has to count. Last week was a good week:

Monday: 7.21 miles @ 9:11 min/mile pace. A rather steady pace and confident mental state during this one.

Wednesday: 7.11 miles @ 8:56 min/mile pace. Unbelievable, running below 9 min/mile like its nothing. Aaoooo, the lone wolf strikes again!

Thursday: 5:48 miles @ 9:45 min/mile pace. Eh, this is the recovery run, and I may have used up the engine a bit much on Wednesday. The session would’ve ended sooner if it wasn’t for a sunset which I couldn’t resist.

Saturday: 19+ miles @ approx 10:30 min/mile pace via the 3 Central Park loops. What can go wrong will go wrong. The TFK group was meeting up at 7am at “the spot” (there are 2 spots). I was already 5 minutes late so I just ran from the 77th street station on the East side to 81st street on the West side. Just my luck, I confused the meet up spots. The other meetup spot is on 62nd street. With my backpack, I continued to run to the other spot. I managed to join with the group right before they began the 18 mile journey but I was already a sweaty mess with 2 miles down. Today is a 18 miler but 20 for Jon, lovely.

Mile 1-6 (Loop 1): Too many miles to run with the wolf pack today, so I decide to run with the intermediate group. I eventually end up alone somehow; the lone wolf. It takes at least a minute of waiting on line to drink water at the water fountains due to the 1000s of runners outside. Trust me, with the 80% humidity, I don’t mind taking these breaks. Anyway, the first 10K was a good warm-up.

Mile 7-12 (Loop 2): Somehow, this loop goes by a bit faster than the first. I quickly started to feel fatigue toward the last 2 miles.

Mile 13-18 (loop 3): I’m really feeling it by now. This is when the legs feel heavy and stiff like metal so my feet tend to drag on the ground occasionally. Trees, runners, trees, runners, its like the twilight zone. Time becomes slower after 2 hours of running. What seems like a mile may have been just a quarter of a mile. Every change in scenery teases the mind into believing that its the end point but it’s not. More reasons to stop running start to creep in; “take a shortcut, who cares”, “take a break Jon”, “nobody is looking, stop and take a breather”, “you’ve done enough already, time to just stop”, “it’s not the real race, this doesn’t matter”, “you already ran enough, time to stop”. Its like I’m going crazy in my mind but yet the legs still run. Long story short, this was a tough one, but it was a success. A full marathon would have required just a 10K more.

Mental training tends to occur after 2 hours of running, when most of the glycogen is depleted. This is when your thoughts yell louder than your music from your earphones. This is when the wall follows you around but you have to ignore it. You have to convince your mind that there is no wall.

Running with the wolfpack now

That’s right, I’m WOLF status now. It only took a month and a half of sweating, struggling, and stressing. Throughout the month of fasting, I managed to keep up with the training but the real training starts now! No more elevators, no more slacking, no more lazy days, no more excuses (because there are no excuses).

Monday: 5.32 miles @ 9:08 min/mile pace. As usual, a good performance after 2 days rest, Jon is pleased thus far.

Tuesday: 2.88 miles @ 10:38 min/mile pace. Huh?

Thursday: 5.65 miles @ 9:54 min/mile pace. Resting makes such a difference, perhaps I should just cross train on those off days. This would be the longest run while fasting; almost a 10k. And this would be the last training run during fasting too. From now, the weekdays will be 7-8 miles with the proper hydration and GU gels.

Saturday: 12.38 miles @ 8:02 min/mile pace via the NYC Summer Streets route.
There is only 3 times in the year (all during August) that you can run Park Avenue from 72nd street Central park all the way to Brooklyn Bridge and back, with NO cars. This was really cool, even though it rained heavily throughout. Yep, I’ve never run in rain like this before and non-stop for almost 2 hours. Were we the only crazy ones running in the rain? Hell no, hundreds of runners and bikers were on Park Avenue from 7am-9am avoiding puddles and squeezing out water from their shirts. For once it wasn’t so hot or humid, I’ll take this rain any day. The route was a back-n-forth between Central Park and Brooklyn Bridge.

When I got there, it was such a light drizzle, perhaps it would stop soon I thought. Silly me. As usual, I join the wolf pack (the fastest group of runners in our TFK group). The skies clear up slightly, I have a good feeling about today. And it begins…

Mile 1,2,3: (9:18,8:28,7:20) As soon as we entered Park Avenue, the clouds changed their minds and decided to unload the super soakers, goodbye drizzle. After trying to avoid puddles, I eventually stepped in a pool of water by accident. But then again, who cares, I’m already soaked at this point. My sneakers are swish swashing and remain this way till the very end. We pass by my office building on 53rd street, then we pass Grand Central station and just run right through it.

I guess the wolf pack is getting excited because the pace picks up dramatically. I soon noticed that cars still need to get across somehow, so there were traffic lights to stop for every now and then. I figured that this could be used to my advantage if I begin to lag behind. I could catch up to the wolf pack while they wait for red lights to turn green. Lets see how this plays out.

Mile 4,5,6: (7:50,8:55,8:06) 34th street, 23rd street, 14th street Union Square, NoHo, NoLita, Little Italy, Brooklyn Bridge. All in 25 minutes. And if it wasn’t for the traffic light stops, I wouldn’t have been able to keep up, I’m breathing heavier than the rest of them. We reach Brooklyn bridge (the halfway point) and the clouds are not finished raining on us. The craziest thing is that the wolf pack never stops for water, not once. Perhaps hydration isn’t necessary since its raining? But one thing is certain in my mind. Staying with the wolves is more important than water at this point. We are halfway there! Maybe they will keep the pace steady for me.

Mile 7,8,9 (7:23,???,???) Oh God. Was the last 6 miles a warmup? The pace picked up even more. There I was, lagging behind the group by Houston street, without a pack, the lone wolf. But remember the traffic lights. There is still a chance, don’t give up Jon. Mile 8 and 9 didn’t register correctly but I’m pretty sure the pace remained speedy. About every 15-20 blocks, the wolf pack gained 2-3 blocks on me, but I would gain it all back once they stopped at a traffic light. All this meant was that they get breaks, and I don’t. Keep in mind that there were no water stops, maybe I should just drink rain.

Mile 10,11,12 (8:36,7:55,8:55) By now they would gain 3 blocks, and I could catchup only 2. Although the group is still in sight , the gap was widening a block or two per mile. Just like last week, I snap again. My eyes wide open and teeth clenched, the wolf in me comes out. The rain is heaviest now, drops are just hitting me in the face and eyes. I sprint every few blocks. Aaooo (wolf noise)! I use it all, everything I have, everything I am and everything I’m not, as if the world would explode and everyone would die if I didn’t succeed in catching up to the others. Block after block, mile after mile, closer, closer. By central park, I caught up to them at the final traffic light. I DID IT, I’M A WOLF! I’m so happy, a feeling never felt during training in such a long time. I celebrated this victory at a Seafood buffet (http://www.ichiumi.com/NewYork-Home) with my #1 fan; my wife.

Next week, it’s going to be an 18 mile training run!

The Roosevelt Island dehydration 17 miler

Training for a marathon isn’t easy, especially during a humid summer. When you finally think that you’re making progress, you’ll eventually experience a running session that kicks your ass and teaches you a lesson. This is the story of one of the worst running sessions in my life but also one of the most memorable.

Monday: 4.51 miles @ 9:00 min/mile pace. A job well done! A 7:54 min/mile pace at mile 2; can I please keep this up 🙂 ?!

Tuesday: 5.1 miles @ 9:40 min/mile pace. Monday’s run somehow messed up my right leg. So I took it easy; this will just be considered the “recovery session”. I’ll train hard on Wednesday.

Wednesday: 3.41 miles @ 9:50 min/mile pace. I feel like absolute Poo after getting home from work. But ‘there are no excuses’. This wasn’t the quality training session I was hoping for. How will I ever improve 😦 ?

Thursday: 4.51 miles @ 9:55 min/mile pace. Well at least my leg is feeling better. I’ll assume that this means that I’m ready for the Saturday long run; its gonna be a tough one.

Saturday: 16.86 miles @ 10:57 min/mile pace

This is the TFK’s infamous NYC marathon simulator. In the actual NYC marathon, mile 16 is considered to be the toughest part. Why? Because to get into Manhattan from Queens, you have to cross the QBB (Queensboro Bridge). Its long and steep, oh, and you cross it during mile 16. Saturday’s route starts on 59th street, cross the QBB, then head to RI (Rosevelt Island) bridge, 3 laps around RI, then head back. Long story short, I completed the course but almost passed out. Short story long…

Mile 1-3: So humid! Like almost 90%, everybody is sweating before we actually begin. I decide to run with the advanced team (the wolf pack). The bridge itself is a mile long, but wasn’t as bad as it seemed. First of all, its mile 1. Second, going from Manhattan to Queens is easier since the bridge isn’t symmetric; not as steep. Unfortunately, the actual NYC marathon is from Queens to Manhattan. Anyway, there is a great view of the city. The pace picks up as we approach the island between boroughs. We then cross this small bridge into RI. After a brief water/Gatorade station stop, we all head out for the first loop (3.5 miles).

Loop 1: I’ve never been on RI before. There are nice views of course. Its mostly flat so naturally the pace speeds up. I thought it was just me, but there were some runners shouting out “hey control the pace”. Forget about having conversations, I was breathing too hard to say anything. And the heat; I feel it now. And the worst part; there is only ONE refueling station on the island which is once every 3.5 miles!

Loop 2: I inhaled the water at the refueling station. 2 more laps in this heat, you’ve got to be kidding me! It doesn’t even take 5 minutes; I fall behind. But I’m not upset this time, it was inevitable, and I’m fine with that. Run smart instead of run fast; endurance is the key. I’ll just tag along until I catchup eventually. Besides, we all have to conserve the energy for the bridge at mile 16.

Loop 3: Once again at the refueling station. I decided to wait for the intermediate group. I should be fine running at a more reasonable pace. Haha, I couldn’t keep up with them either. I actually stopped and just hid in some bushes so they wouldn’t notice that I stopped. There’s no energy left in my system. All that pasta for nothing. By this point, there is nobody in sight; I’m alone. I might be the last one off this island, oh no. This is the thought that keeps me going. And then, my right earphone dies out, lovely. Grrr, I must get the hell off of this island!

The Escape From the Island: For some reason, my mouth became numb, my vision started to get a bit hazy, and I felt tingles in my arms. This can’t be good. Using energy and strength that I did not have, I pushed to the refueling station for one last time. I could already see people heading back via the RI bridge. That should be meeee! I drink a few more cups of water and wait 5 minutes for another group to form (I’m not the last one on this island after all). Then we all head back. My legs are stiff and shaky.

The Final Mile – QBB: I collapsed right before the QBB. As I watched the group pass by me, I wondered about my life, about all of the times I failed at something. I also remembered all of the times I tried again and succeeded. Never in my life have I failed this many times! No pain, no gain, so bring the pain! Up the bridge I go, with nothing left, running at walking pace, dragging my feet, with the angriest grill face. I felt every step. Thirsty, sweaty, sleepy; the eyes only focus forward desparately waiting to see the slope of the bridge reverse. At this point, I snapped. The Running Madness! I ran as fast as I could going down the bridge, like a crazy maniac. And then, FINISH!

Uhhhhh, I’m dizzy and seeing stars, too messed up to even stretch with the group. It feels like being drunk and high at the same time. Did I not drink enough fluids at the refueling station. This must be what it feels like, to be dehydrated. I can see my calf muscles moving and twitching as if there is an alien in there preparing to burst out. After a 45 minute train ride, I still feel the effects.

Big lesson learned… hydrate hydrate HYDRATE! I’ll be ready next time!

Running on empty – week 2

Another hot sweaty summer week of running and a Bronx 15 miler. During the weekdays, I’m awake before sunrise and run during sunset with nothing to eat or drink in between, then go all out on Saturday morning. After 2 weeks, its routine already.

Monday: 3.8 miles @ 9:13 min/mile pace. Not a bad start to the week. Vita Coco is officially my post-run drink now.

Tuesday: 4.04 miles @ 9:08 min/mile pace. A bit farther and a bit faster, yes! It actually would’ve went quicker if I didn’t notice this hawk fly right over me and land on a lamp post. My favorite bird is the horned owl, but hawks are cool too. Eagles are also pretty cool.

Wednesday: 4.11 miles @ 9:29 min/mile pace. I usually run in the street close to the line of parked cars while going against traffic so that the drivers and I see each other as we approach. Thus far, I’ve knocked a parked car mirror out-of-place twice. I try use the bike lanes when available.

Thursday: 4.15 miles @ 9:06 min/mile pace. My best run for the week (mile 2 was done in 7:58 min/mile pace, whoa).

Saturday: 14.85 miles @ 10:46 min/mile pace (last few miles ruined the pace completely).

How do I begin? Oh yea, the temperature was like 90 degrees and the humidity was 85%! We were all already sweating during the warm-ups, lovely. Again, I decided to run with the advanced group for 15 miles.

First 10K: Off we went; 10 warriors into the woods. But first, a 2 minute bathroom break. I really needed to pee. After a brief water break, the fun began. Onward to the Putnam trail. I coudn’t keep up with the wolf pack for morethan 4 miles. I ended up alone, why does this keep happening to meeee! All sweaty and frustrated, I take off my shirt and dedicate the remainder of the trail to “catching” them. The view for most of the way looked like the picture below; kinda like running in a hot muddy jungle.

Second 10K: We reached the end of the Putnam trail, and the wolf pack waited at the water break stop. We stayed for 4-5 minutes to see if anyone else from our group completed the trail, but nobody made it out yet. I ran with the remaining 4 until the next water break. Its really hot now, and we all are shirtless and sweaty. Some use the bathrooms but I just chug down liquids. So off we go again through the Putnam trail, the 5 of us, I am one of the warriors now! Crap, it was fun while it lasted, I was left in the dust and just couldn’t resist a walking break. Did I not drink enough water? Why can’t I keep up? C’mon Jon! I should train harder during the week. The punishment starts Monday, grrr.

Final 5K: I see them. The gap is getting smaller! Perhaps the only reason I caught up to the wolf pack is because 2 of them needed to use the bathroom. We proceeded as a group to the water break stop. After a few minutes of rest, there were 2 miles left. Again, they kept their pace while I just stayed behind. I stopped caring by this point; my legs had no more juice. There was a point where a took a walk break from running, and then took a standing break from walking! This is a first; it must be pure exhaustion or “the wall”. With just a half mile left, with nothing left, I had to borrow energy from the future to continue on. I survived.

Will I finally be able to stay with the wolf pack throughout the entire run? Do I have what it takes to be a marathon warrior?