The Hurricane week

Where to begin. Perhaps at the beginning of the week when all was peaceful in NYC. I had a good run Monday night while keeping in mind that these are the taper weeks. I had a small business trip from Wednesday to Thursday, to Boston! After a 4 hour train ride and a 5 hour training session, we dined at the Union Oyster House; great seafood. I made sure to store up the carbs for my Thursday morning Boston running tour.

Although 10 degrees colder than NYC, I didn’t mind, the weather and views were great. With so many possible routes to run and so much to see, when is the next business trip to Boston?

This “Y” bridge is so cool, running under it, even cooler.

Running along with the Charles River to my right during Fall foliage; awesome.

It’s the man on the dollar bill and 25 cent coin.

Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff
We all knew that a storm was coming Sunday night, but runners will run until we can’t. Since hurricane Sandy wasn’t here yet, the show must go on. Off I went to run a 5 mile race with the TFK; most of us dressed up since its Halloween season. Running with the wolf pack as usual, we had the Peter Pan crew, a vampire doctor, Cat in the Hat, and one coach in a full body Gumby suit!


Hurricane Sandy
I was thinking it would be another Irene, but this was more like 2 Irenes. NYC took a beating, as you could see in the news. The storm pushed waters higher than ever causing floods in shoreline areas (all boroughs). The winds ripped trees from the roots taking the concrete slabs and street signs with them. Unusual events too; a water tanker ship was pushed ashore in Staten Island, an electrical transformer explosion downtown, Brooklyn battery tunnel flooded, a whole exterior of a building wall (several floors) tore off making it look like a huge doll house, and quite a few fatalities. For the first time, public schools were closed for 3 days in a row and even the NYSE had to shut down. The subways are flooded; nobody can go anywhere except by car, biking, or on foot.

I’m one of the lucky ones since I didn’t lose power, but I’m sure that 100K+ people lost theirs. Everyone has a story to tell; my story is quite simple. I stayed home while watching the news and episodes of the Walking Dead on Netflix. The day after, I decided to take a jog and survey my area; Forest Hills. My running routes were all blocked either by huge trees or water. Keep in mind, other areas suffered far worse.

Despite all this, NY-ers are tough, and we’ll just figure out ways around it. Througout this week, there has been discussions about whether or not to have the NYC marathon. It won’t be easy with all the transportation problems, floods, and power outages with less than a week left. Let’s see how this all plays out.

The last 10 miles

“Everything Else Is A Warm-Up”!

Race day approaches. There’s one last thing to do … to get a feel for the actual course. The itinerary for Saturday morning was to run the last 10 miles of the NYC marathon course. From 59th st. via 1st. ave. up to the Bronx, then back down to 59th. st. via 5th ave., then through the central park finish line. The last 10 miles are quite hilly, but at least I now know when to expect them.

One last time, I ran with the wolf pack at 8:15-8:30 pace for 2/3 of the run. The team then split up to run at our individual marathon pace (ha, we were already running faster than my marathon pace). Don’t ask how I ran 7:49 at mile 10. It’s not my expected marathon behavior at all, just me trying to keep up with the sub 8 pace guys.

With the finish line in site, marathon bleachers set up, and the wolf pack cheering on, me and Lee sprint to the finish. For the first time, I can see some muscle on my chicken legs which I’ve had all my life, thanks team!

This is it, just 5 or 6 training sessions left ranging from 5-7 miles each. Next Sunday is the Poland Spring marathon kick-off 5 mile race which should be fun.

Is there life after the marathon, or will I be depressed/bored without anything to aspire to? I hope I’m not one of those people who repeat the same thing next year only to get a better marathon time. Perhaps smaller races like 5Ks and 10Ks would be a good idea. To cut back on mileage and increase my speed. It would be awesome to finally break the 7:00 min/mile pace for at least one mile. It will require a different training regimen which doesn’t call for 20 mile long runs in the summer (yay). To go back to the times when a half-marathon distance was as long as it gets. Who knows, maybe in 2-3 years, I’ll revisit the marathon distance. I just can’t imagine a marathon race that would inspire me as much as the ING NYC Marathon!


Passing the Final Exam of 22

4 miles short of the real thing. Long story short, I passed the test and can finally start “the taper”. The peak of the training is over, only 18 days left. The idea of running a marathon always worried me, especially during those days after being wiped out on a long run which wasn’t even close to a marathon distance. And those consecutive weeks where there was no sign of progress, making 26 miles seem like a hopeless distance.

Running a 22 miler is the perfect solution for a shaken confidence. It’s the prefect marathon simulation. With such a great course and good company, the miles just fly by:

A Manhattan loop more or less.

It’s hard to believe that I’m writing this now; that I’m ready to run the NYC marathon! Based on my latest performance (22.12 miles in 3:32 hours @ 9:36 min/mile pace, including breaks) I should have a 4:00 – 4:15 marathon, but with so many variables, anything can happen.

So whats my strategy for a 4 hour marathon? I have to maintain a comfortable 8:45 – 9:00 min/mile pace for 2/3 of the race so that I can afford to drop it to 9:30 – 9:45 on the Queensboro bridge and the final 10K. Based on my history, I am the king of positive splits; the master of getting slower and slower as the distance goes past 16 miles. Going too fast (8:30 or less) for too long will wipe me out and going too slow (9:30 or more) for too long will obviously knock me out of the 4 hour limit. But this is just the physical.

The mental strategy? DO NOT GET CRAZY! 47,000 runners, the 2 million cheering people throughout, all of my training being put to the test, my friends counting on me; I must have the same clear mind as if it was the 22 miler final exam. Most importantly when things go sour, I have to remain calm. It won’t be the end of the world if it takes longer than 4 hours, even 4:30. 

The fuel? 4 GUs and 4 salt packets, one for each hour. The nightly carbo loading special: half pound salmon with a BOX of pasta. The pre-race meal: oatmeal, peanut butter, vitamins, tea. Must bring some fig bars and nuts to the starting line since it will be hours until the race actually starts. Clothes? Almost exactly what I wore to the 22 miler.

Most importantly, there is 2 weeks to master taking pictures and video on the run using my phone for the ultimate post. I’ll start practicing tonight.

3 weeks left to marathon day

It’s been about 2 years since this running thing started. I can still recall my first attempt at a mile. As fit as I thought I was, it was a fail. After 10 blocks, the 26 mile dream was crushed instantly. Running a half marathon was something I could possibly pull off but never a whole marathon. Why? That’s for the crazies.

After a half-year of running 6 miles twice per week and slowly building the mileage to 9 then 12, I felt ready. Speed was never a thing for me, 10 min/mile pace was my comfortable pace. I can still recall my first half marathon race; the Brooklyn Half. Finished in 2:04, and it was my fastest ever. The only thought going through my mind at the finish line was “Wow I did it, but NEVER AGAIN”. Somehow that feeling was quickly forgotten, and I signed up for 3 more half marathon races that year and felt the same at the finish line every time, like I enjoy torturing myself, like this is as good as it gets for me. I then doubted myself. Is this the extent of my strength, of my resolve, of my drive to prosper? Why did I even start? What was the stimulus which made me go outside to run 10 blocks that first day? To run the NYC marathon, to be one of those people, to cross the finish line and feel the glory.

In December 2011, running the NYC marathon became my new year’s resolution and I then started this blog around that time. I’ve struggled ever since (most of my posts will clearly show my joys, pains, and frustrations). I fought against myself, to be more than I was, to be more than I thought I could be. Without much experience or guidance, I went out and ran like a fool with a dream. Injuries came and went, but I kept on. I jogged, I blogged, repeat. 

By May 2012, my performance was improving a bit. I avenged my younger self in the Brooklyn Half race and finished in 1:56! But this is only 13 miles, my 17+ mile performance was horrible. It always took about 3 hours; a painful 3 hours. How the hell could I run 10 more miles after such a beating. And the most important thing, could I even enjoy the journey at the same time?

Thanks to the TFK coaches and the wolf pack group, I’ve learned to train properly and increased my performance further. I feel more powerful, faster, and the injuries are a thing of the past. After surviving the brutal training in the summer heat, the results are better than expected. October 8, 2012: (in the rain) I ran 17 miles in 2:33; a 25 minute reduction, and I enjoyed the entire journey!

There is one last test, the 22 miler, the peak of the training! Stay tuned for that post.

Running in Madrid

Yes, the business trip to Madrid finally came, October 1st. I made sure to get my 3 training runs in during the previous week. The results are in for the week of September 24th-29th:

Monday: 8:03 miles @ 8:54 min/mile pace.
Wednesday: 6.78 miles @ 8:36 min/mile pace.
Thursday: 5.89 miles @ 10:08 min/mile pace.
Saturday: 11.50 miles @ 8:44 min/mile pace.


Perhaps I didn’t care on Thursday since it was the recovery run. As long as 2 out of 3 are under 9:00 pace. The Saturday long run was 1 outer loop and 2 inner loops of Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Once again, I ran with the wolf pack; it was great. We even hit 7:42 pace at mile 9; something I would never try when running solo.

My overnight flight to Madrid was on Monday night. Packing light is an art, I think I’m getting good at it. No briefcase or anything like that, just a book bag and shoulder bag for 4-5 days. And of course, I packed my running sneakers and stuff. Once the plane (Iberia) landed, I decided to give myself a quick tour of the sites. Taking the Metro was quite easy. Sightseeing was rushed due to only having 3-4 hours of freedom before checking in to the company hotel site.

Bear and the Madroño Tree, heraldic symbol of Madrid in Puerta del Sol.

Walking down Gran Via street.

Temple of Debod

Found a cab, then headed to the company hotel site. The next day was the conference (day 1) from 9am-6pm, long but interesting. After sitting in a room for so long, my legs were itching to run and be free. I just ran until the sunset.

The next conference (day 2) was also 9am-6pm; the lack of sleep is slowly taking its toll. Afterwards, the team was treated to a 2 hour Madrid walking tour:

The final conference (day 3) was from 9am-2pm. The biggest challenge was staying awake after the group dinner and bar/club outing which went on until 3am. Once the conference was over, we all say our goodbyes and I headed to the final hotel in Madrid for one night prior to my flight back. Once I arrived around 6pm, there were plans to meet up with some colleagues in the city for dinner and drinks at 9pm. Free time eh, I couldn’t resist, Jon’s Running Tour!

Retiro Park is like a piece of Central Park; Spaniard joggers are fast.

It started to get dark once I exited the park. I quickly became disoriented and lost. 30-45 extra minutes of running around without GPS and a poorly drawn map eventually led me back on track somehow.

Yay, I found my way to the hotel.

Long story short, I made it back to home sweet home in NYC and slept for 12 hours on Saturday because Sunday morning is a 17 mile long run. A session that earned a post all to itself!