Thursday, July 19, 2012

Boilermaker 2012 and Gunga Din

Veni, vedi, veci...  I came to Utica, I saw Utica, and I conquered Utica, I think.

The Boilermaker is over.  I finished the race among the thousands who finished.  However, Dr. Barry finally beat me.  He ran the course a minute and a half faster than I. 

This morning was a tough run for all runners because of the high level of humidity which I believed to be the worst among the 4 Boilermakers I have run.  I was sweating like a hot hog waiting for the boss to add water to my sty.  The overcast had to have a hand in keeping the humidity level up while the sun burned through the clouds by the time I made it through Valley View Golf Course.  Then the sun did its usual job...

This was also the largest crowd of runners I remember battling with runners all the way to Burrstone Road.  The herky-jerky, stop and go running hurts. Being injured, as usual, before the race even started.  I completed my last long run the week prior to the Boilermaker, and followed that run up by extreme muscle tension in my neck which forced me out of work for two days and still offers me moments of striking pain.  I was quite concerned that I may not be in shape to run.  Thank God for 800 Motrin and Skelaxin.  These pills got me through the week and became a pre-race cocktail the morning of the Boilermaker.

Now with all that being said, I love the Boilermaker, its the best.  Large crowds of spectators, thousands of runners, and hundreds of (annoying) walkers, who wouldn't love this race.  Its is better and more fun than the San Diego RnR Marathon and the Disney Marathon.  Its better than the Mountain Goat (sorry Syracuse, Utica has the best runs).  The Boilermaker also has the best post race party, beer, and snack selection.  The volunteers are fantastic.  Without them there is no way the Boilermaker could ever be a success story.  However, there are problems.  I have to mention three that truly annoy me, and  hope the Boilermaker organizers can make a few improvements.

The first problem is the number of runners.  Although I consider the large number of runners as a strength, there must be a limit; otherwise, its a drawback to a fine race.  Each year I have run this fabulous race, the number of runners always increase year over year.  I registered early to make sure I got in, but it didn't matter.   The pool of runners expanded by a thousand, give or take a couple 100.  That means there either will be too much congestion at the start, at the Valley View Golf Course, and/or too many runners for the water stops that line both sides of the running route.  Too many runners can ruin the most popular 15K in the nation.  Please reduce the cutoff!  Ten thousand runners plus a couple hundred "elites" are perfect.

The second problem are the number of water stops.  Yup, its hot, and runners need water, ice, and electrolyte refreshments, but is it necessary to have a water stop every mile, on both sides of the road, and in the most narrow parts of the course?  No way!  Its insane.  I collided with a runner who decided to stop after getting water and turned around for to fetch a second cup.  That's simply ridiculous.  I cursed and glared at the guy who ruined a comfortable stride. Too many water stops tcan truly be painful.  The stop and go pace increased the pain in my left leg which has lingered since Disney 2010. Moreover, the inconsistent pace caused my right side to flare up. 

Disney, funny that marathon comes to mind for causing some everlasting injuries, was another race that had horrible water stop placements which caused similar congestion throughout the course. What made Disney 2010 worse was the cold.  Temperatures didn't rise above twenty-five degrees.  Water stops were not only congested, but were covered in black ice creating slippery, leg breaking possibilities.   The Boilermaker did not have black ice.  No, it had too many cups on the road causing many runners to slip as if they were running on ice.  So, too many water stops, in summary, create unnecessary congestion and leg breaking waste hazards.

The third problem, and most annoying to me, occurs at the finish line-- zero water, only lapel pins.  If you're not a runner, imagine running nine point three miles in high humidity, and ninety degree heat hoping to finish the run with a smile while  gulping down an icy cold bottle of water (Powerade would be better), but instead your pushed along by the unfriendly words of "Keep Moving" (reminiscent of the Japanese Death March) and handed a pin. No refreshment awaits you until you complete the trek to Varrick Street.  You would think that Gunga Din would be standing at the finish line pouring cold water into your parched mouth rather than a volunteer handing you a pin and telling you to "keep moving."  The pin can wait.  That's truly annoying.  No other race makes runners wait so long to get water.  None!  Most of the races a sports drink like Powerade, or at least give you a bottle of cold water.  Not the Boilermaker.  Its water only.  But first take the pin then go crawl and find the water.

In the words of the great philosopher Forest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."

My after race ritual was the same as usual:  a beer at the post race party followed by a quick bite at McDonald's.  However, my wife asked me to take her to an Italian Bakery too.  I directed her to drive up Bleeker St to pick up a variety of cookies for the ride home from Florentine's.  Wow, what a bakery.  The cookies "are real and they are spectacular."  Florentine's is well worth the stop.  It shall be our new post Boilermaker tradition.

Until next year,  I'll see you on the road.

Monday, July 2, 2012

An Equipment Check

This morning's run was about my new semi-minimalist Nike's.  I love 'em.  I have always wanted a pair of these new light and airy shoes after I ran barefoot on my treadmill a year ago.  That treadmill run was pain free and comfortable although I did acquire a blister on my toe from the rough tread.  No big deal though.

I ran again with out sneakers while in NC.  I ran along the ocean's edge dodging the ringlets of water that repeatedly washed up onto the well packed sand as the tide rolled in.  It too was cool, but I needed to wear sneaker's I decided by the end of that beach run; there are too many shells, sharp pieces of wood, and stones beneath the sand.  I found myself dizzy from looking straight down at the ground hoping to spot a protruding, sharp annoyance.  No fun.  Yet the free feeling of not having shoes felt awesome.

So, I made the plunge and purchased some light, semi minimalist sneaks.  The most challenging and time consuming part of getting these shoes was finding the color I wanted.  I am not a fan of black, nor solid bright colors, nor do I like running shoes with, what I consider feminine, purple lace holes.  I may have been a little too direct with the salesman on these counts.  Kids today are way too sensitive.  If you want to sell me a pair of running shoes, please drop the pc attitude; its not necessary, HR is "not in the house".

I ran well this morning.  No pain at all...

Well, somewhere around mile 6, I felt some discomfort near the side of my foot below the toe.  I feared the dreaded blister being born.  It may have been that the laces were not tied snug to prevent my foot from moving toward the side of the shoe or it could have been the insert beneath my foot was cut poorly at the factory causing a "short edge" feeling.

I did not have a blister.  My joints were fine.  The sneakers, I believe, were a success.  I will run in them again before the Boilermaker this weekend and determine what I think the issue is, a short edged insert in my right sneaker.

So, I apologize for boring Richard, the fellow I ran with on Saturday morning for boring him with my shoe review as we ran our eight miles from Ophaelia's to the zero marker to the OLP's end and back.  It was a necessary evil. Yet, his Nike GPS, which we also reviewed, had us running 8.7 miles.  No chance.  He said this first edition attempt by Nike to create a GPS system has had set backs, namely it loses its signal often and reverts to the sensor system which ruins any potential accuracy.

Maybe that should be our next run, a product test run.  Let's review what works and doesn't work.  Shoes, laces, wrist bands, GPS, compression items, or whatever.  Having knowledge is always a good thing.  Saving money for something that works is better.

See you on the road.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Art of Joyful Running

This morning was a beautiful day to run.  I forced myself out of bed, grabbed a bottle of water, and drove to the OLP.  I parked out by the dog park and ran from there to the Wegmans skater park and back.  What makes this run enjoyable though is not the act of running, but what you see and experience while running.

The sights and sounds of the park make the first impression:  cars zooming by along 370 can be heard, the hum of bikers, and the steps of runners coming up from behind and the sound of a dogs gallop.  All of these sounds surround you while the music of birds and squirrels offer a constant chorus to fill the quiet as you step further away from the parking area and fee to the sanctity of the inner park.

More runners pass by from behind and from the opposite direction.  But what catches my eye are the variety of walkers and runners.  many of the walkers are elderly folk who are making an attempt to stay fit and live "just a bit" longer.  I hope they achieve their goal.  Its a pleasure to see an older couple walking along in conversation, sometimes holding hands.  They seem happy.  Pointing at things they see in the park or out in the horizon of Onondaga Lake, laughing and simply enjoying their time together.

I see roller bladers.  Most rolling quietly by quickly.  Those wheels are dead silent.  Its amazing to watch them glide along so effortlessly.  I saw a young mom rolling swiftly while pushing a double sport stroller.  The kids were young, yet they seemed to be having a blast feeling the wind in their face silently riding along.  Then there was the dad who was running while pushing a single sport stroller.  He, too, made it look easy.  I know its not though.  Not from experience, but from running with an old friend who brought his sport stroller a few times.  He struggled at times to keep up.  Maybe that's why he was such a fast runner.  He persevered through those challenging runs and made it to the end.

There was even a moment of sweetness.  A little girl, no more than 10 or 11 years old was running with her toddler age brother.  He could not have been older than 4.  They were running.  She look like a fairly strong runner for her age while her brother struggled.  She slowed down so he could catch up and she held out her hand and said, "You gotta slow down."  Those are the best words of advice for beginning runners.  Slow down.  Running fast is not the goal.  Running comfortably is the goal so running long and far into the future can be accomplished.  I bet that in a few years that little boy will be running with his sister ten years from now and will be out running her.  However, he will always owe it to her, his sister, for giving him that small piece of advice that he can share with his running mates when they can't finish the run... slow down.  I hope he doesn't forget the most important part of that advice though, he has to slow down, too.  Stay with your friend.  Encourage him or her to keep running.  However, its alright to walk.

On a note of sticking with your pal who is running slow... There was such a pair this morning.  A tall, thin woman ran slowly alongside her overweight friend although, I'm sure she could have sped up any time.  She showed her loyalty in helping her friend who struggled.  Obviously, she was helping and encouraging her friend to achieve a personal health goal.  To be honest with you, I wanted to run with them.  Its these experiences, these strangers, who inspire me the most to continue running.  They demonstrate the any challenge can be overcome and remind me of my running journey that started in April of 2008.

A few final notes:  On my way to the OLP, I witnessed a bicycle crash.  I drove by a group of road bikers who stood by caring for their fallen pedal-mate along Budweiser Highway, Rte 631.  I slowed down to see if they needed any assistance.  They were waiting for the ambulance.  I later discovered that the fallen cycler was a woman, 60ish years old, and she broke her elbow in the crash.  I do not know the details of her fall, but I hope she gets better with minimal complications and gets back on her pedals again soon.

I also learned how fragile life is just before lunch when I bumped into a friend who told me about a young mother, Desiree, who ran with us a few times.  Apparently she was having some numbness in her left arm that turned out to be a bulging disk problem she was unaware of and it burst while attending a function for her son.  She dropped and is currently at University Hospital Spinal Center.  She is paralyzed from the chest down.  Please say a few prayers for her and her son.  My hope is that she recovers and can reverse her paralysis.

There is one more item I'd like to add.  As I ran toward and around my turnaround, there was a an exercise spectacle happening on the main lawn alongside the lake.  There was an aerobic instructor leading a class of 30 or so women in a morning aerobics class blasting and moving to some awesome music.  I loved it.  This is what makes Syracuse so wonderful.  The people are outside and enjoying the beautiful day.  I hope I see this again soon.  If you haven't been out to the OLP in a while, I command you to go and take it all in.

Keep running.  Never stop.

See you on the road.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

No Goat for Me

Well, although I trained for and ran the training run three times, I was unable to participate in the Mountain Goat Run with all my friends and old running mates.  I was ready too... then I had two obstacles:  one, my dad's 70th birthday and two, injuries.

As such, I have no stories of the run to tell other than letting everyone know that I will be ready for the Boilermaker and have high hopes of running without injury or pain and plan to pay close attention to all the happenings so I may share them on this site.

I have been running fewer days and slower to avoid pain and injury.  I am probably only logging about 15 to 21 miles/week.  Occasionally   I will push a long run into double digits, but I pay the price in soreness and back pain that grounds me for two or three days.  I get very anxious when I get laid up, so I must do my best to run as I feel which means slowing down or stopping when my back becomes uncomfortable (or at least slow down to reduce the impact).

I am still trying to figure out this mac.  I haven't figured out how to add pictures from the web with this computer.  However, I did finally figure out how to "right click". 

OK.  I digress.  I don't have much to say.

so I shall sign off... "see you on the road."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Making It Another Ten

Well, another weekend training run for the Mountain Goat has passed, and it was a challenging run from the get go...

Waking up early after a late night of watching The Walking Dead was quite appropriate because I had nothing on hose zombies except for I could think about the task before or rationalize a way to stay in bed.

I did roll out of bed, and I hit the road for downtown Syracuse where I promptly arrived just before the start of the run with upwards of 300 other runners.  This morning I ran alone which made it that much more mentally taxing.

I ran to the music in my iPhone. As always the start is unbearable.  My legs and back ached and my mind was telling me to quit.  I slowed my pace and watched the other runners.  The best distraction and motivation a runner can have is to chill and observe the surroundings, especially the runners.  Runners are quite varied in their appearance... One guy looked like a jigsaw puzzle.  He wore long sweat pants covered by jogging shorts and several shirts of various colors and sleeve lengths.  As I ran passed him, I wondered if he actually dressed himself and realized how silly he looked.  I would have said, "Is he blind or something to dress like that" until I witnessed a first, a blind runner.  She ran while holding onto her sighted running friend.  Now that was inspiration.

I felt good now that we were about a mile in.  I was acing just over a ten minute mile and reached the water tower of our first descent into Strathmore and Hiawatha Park.  More hills and another beautiful downhill; I love going downhill.  An opportunity to go fast and rest simultaneously.  Unfortunately, I still had many aches and pains in my legs and back plus ankle pan.  Yet I ran forward determined to make it those ten miles.  My pace quickened nonetheless.

As I trudged up Colvin, I passed a friend who was walking and two other friends passed me floating on clouds.  Very impressive.  I decided to stay close to them to maintain a nice pace through Thrndon Park for that final hill and quick descent toward East Genesee St and the finish line at Armory Square.  I made it to the square and kept running to my car saying to myself, "what a hard run, but I'm glad to have completed the course for a third time."

My only words of encouragement are to "stay the course."  Finish the race my friends.  Train hard and never waiver from your goal because its achievable.  Overcome the negative aches and pains that push you to quit.  Replace the bad thoughts with the happy thoughts of success and the joy of reaching the end.

With that said, "I'll see you on the road."

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Thinking... An untitled Post Noe Titled

 Running and Management

It has been a long time since my last post.  I fell away from writing as I fell away from running long, bu for different reasons.  I tried to start writing again several times only to stop abruptly because I wasn't writing about something I love.  I love to run and enjoyed my stories of running in a variety of places and talking about the people who I have met and who inspired me while running the miles.

This weekend, I was just beat by late hours and could not get out of bed to run the Mountain Goat training run so I forced myself to run ten miles on Sunday morning.  I ran a solo ten miles of hills and flats.  I even doubled back to run a steep incline and a long gradual incline to "pretend" I was running up the short hill in Hiawatha Park and the long gradual, and final incline of Thorndon Park; if I hadn't done this, I would have felt guilty.  There were several times I wanted to quit.  My legs were burning and my mind was bored.  Yet, I trudged onward, finishing my own training run.

I think of many things while running alone. I think of friends past, running mates whom I haven't run with since my back surgery in 2010, and all the things I hoped to accomplish, but haven't.  Hence the reason why its so critical that I run and finish what I start.  Running, unlike work, places only one obstacle before me, me.  There is nothing out of my control once I head onto the asphalt.  I can control my mind, my pace, my breathing, and my desire to finish.  In work there are too many obstacles, too many people who interfere or just get in the way, too many managers who believe good management is molding everyone to them when they should be managing talents toward their strengths.  Running allows me to manage my talents to my strength, running fast down hills and slow up hills while maintaining a consistent and engaged pace on the flats.  I know my weaknesses and I know what hurts.  I have only had one manager who understood that...  But that another story about successful management best saved for another blog that may be worthy of creating.

Todays weekly run take homes for me are the following: 
1) Run and finish what I start.
2) Find someone to run long with so I can generate more endurance and better stories.
3) Do not expect a manager to manage you toward your strengths, only I can do that for myself.

See you on the road.