Thursday, December 22, 2011

Run a Marathon, Make a Friend

Since I haven't been running regularly (if at all), this running blog has suffered from a serious dearth of postings. I realize I never completed my NYC Marathon recaps. I recently wrote a short piece on NYC for the LA Leggers newsletter. The story focused on the morning before the marathon. Enjoy the read, and I'll recap on the actually marathon soon - before the new year :)

Long-distance running is best appreciated as a group sport, and if you keep this in mind when travelling solo to a marathon, the experience is never a solitary one. I remembered this recently at the New York City Marathon.
I got into the Marathon on my first try and was scheduled to run it in 2010, but had to postpone due to injury. By the time I arrived in Staten Island at 6:15 am on November 6, 2011, it felt like a long time coming.
I was most nervous about this part - the waiting around for hours part. My corral was one of the last of the 10:40 am crowd scheduled to leave. Luckily, the weather was nice and I came prepared with plenty of items - large towel, garbage bags, pillow, mylar blanket, food, extra clothes, and even magazines to pass the time.
Amidst roughly 47,000 people, I found a great grassy area under a pitched tent. I set up camp and tried to rest. With my eyes closed, I listened to the energy of the crowd nearby - a trio of Finnish men, a large group of Team In Training runners, and eventually two women right next to me. They sounded like close friends. I got up and introduced myself.
Both from New York, it turned out that Lori and Joanie had just met. This happens at races - we runners are generally friendly people, and if we are open to it, can make fast friendships - even just for one day. Inez, a smiling woman in her 60's, soon joined our group. She came decked out in an aquamarine polyester track suit (which she later donated). Inez brought with her the sunshine. She was from Holland, and came with a huge 1000+ delegation of Dutch runners. For them, New York is the mother of all marathons. I think we all felt her enthusiasm.

Lori, Joanie and Inez in our "camping" area

Picture of Inez - she came with this smile when we first met her.

"A bunch of hippies gathered under some bridge in Staten Island" 

I mention these women because the waiting around part I was so worried about earlier turned into the highlight of the day. We took care of each other, offered food, advice, Vaseline, and watched each other's items when one of us made a pit stop. Most importantly, we offered company. We were amongst many thousands gathered under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, like a bunch of groupies waiting for their favorite band to perform. Some people sat alone on the concrete - I vividly recall one person who wrapped himself tightly in a mylar blanket ball against the fence. Not all runners are social, but you are missing out if you don't welcome the community aspect of the sport. 

Joanie and I waiting in our corral (thanks to Inez for this picture)

Lori left for her corral early, and Joanie, Inez and I set off together. We joined Inez in her corral - corral 65 - in the back of the pack. We exchanged kisses and hugs, wished each other good luck, and to the sounds of Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York", we were off.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

New York City Marathon Expo

I will bypass the details of the evening arriving into New York City. Suffice it to say, that I will get a cab next time flying into Newark with more than one carry-on. Arriving in a crowded Penn Station and waiting for a cab may have been fun and exhilarating ten years ago, but I was over all that. For the first time in a long time, I preferred L.A. to New York.

That evening, I had dinner with my godfather and his wife. It took about five stops before we found a restaurant that had room for us and which measured high on their foodie palate (I just wanted to eat and go to sleep!). We ended up dining at a very nice Italian restaurant. The ambiance was complete with a bunch of loud New Yorkers next to our booth. Of course, I walked everywhere with my running shoes since I didn't want to exacerbate my calf pain in the name of social acceptance.

The next day, I took a cab to the site of the New York City Expo. I had big expectations but the expo did not deliver. Booth rentals must have been really expensive, since the diversity of running organizations, events, and stores, was severely lacking. On a positive note, I was very happy to see that Running Skirts was in attendance. I would plan on running in my black skirt  on marathon day. "Gone for a Run" also had a booth, and I purchased a 26.2 decal for my car. The Asics area was huge, and I bought a lovely turquoise long sleeve shirt to wear under my Leggers singlet, as well as a license plate holder, and a signature Asics/ING New York City Marathon duffel bag. 

Miraculously, I ran into a Legger friend, who then joined me for lunch at my very favorite Amish Market in Chelsea with my friend Daniel. I bought an extra sandwich since I was worried that I would get hungry marathon day. After lunch, I headed back to the hotel, and then took a cab to meet up with Heather at her hotel around Park Avenue and 71st. I was put in touch with Heather through L.A. Sports Massage since were both flying to New York from L.A. for the event. She raised $3500 for UNICEF! I was very happy to meet her, and we had spaghetti at a very old-school Italian place near her hotel. Her injury problems sounded worse than mine, so it was comforting to know that we injured runners were out there and ready to make it to the finish together.

Grabbing a cab back to the hotel was craazzzy, so I took a short walk. Looking back at it now, I can't completely recall all my pre-race rituals, but I was very thankful to get that extra hour of sleep due to daylight savings. I went over the location of the shuttle pick up on the map. I set three alarms for 3:00 A.M. and went to sleep.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

6.5 miles before New York

Back to running in my favorite route around Brentwood. No pain for 6.5 miles. This was good news. I could estimate that for at least double that - 13 miles - I would be Ok. I would leave to New York happy, but cautious.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

10 Days Post-Injury

I read online somewhere that the minimum rest required for a calf injury is ten days if the injury is nominal (six weeks if moderate), so I waited about that long  before I tried running again. I ran with my calf compression sleeves in Balboa Park, and you know what? It hurt! This wasn't good. At some point, I removed the compression sleeve and this made it less painful. I would try one more run on Wednesday and hope to be able to eek out at least 6 miles.

My physical therapist also began taping my knee. I would run with the taping on Wednesday and see how that improved my overall knee pain.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Spectating at L.A. Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon

Since my calf had "popped", I decided to take about 10 days off from running. The New York City Marathon was just two weeks away. After consulting with my massage therapist, I was convinced that I hadn't torn anything. I would go to her as well as my PT, and plan for New York.

So on Sunday, October 30, I went off to another day of spectating - this time in Downtown L.A. I took the subway and settled around mile 8/mile 12 in a central downtown location. My friend and fellow Legger Liz had met up with her group at the start, and she joined me soon as well. It turned out to be quite a warm day. We were fully equipped with pretzels, cowbells, and oranges. There was a very big Legger turnout. Oh yeah, since it was the day before Halloween, there were a lot of costumes - I also think any costumed runner received a free beer at the end (party with Brett Michaels!). I spotted at least four Waldos in the crowd, and about that many Elvi. Adam and Eve were also in attendance with strategically placed fig leaves.

Overall I heard people liked this event, although the route was not the preferred old City of Angels Half. RnR gives you big medals and usually promises good headliners. All in all, we had fun, hope they did too!

Liz giving out oranges to a grateful Legger.

Here I am in a picture taken by Legger Jennifer Fah

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


So on Saturday, I made a very early running date - probably a little too early - 5:15 a.m. I was watching the Pearl Jam documentary on PBS the night before, and perhaps too excited from that, I missed my alarm at 4:00 a.m. I got up half an hour later, and by the time my running buddy and I connected, it was about 5:45 a.m. The point here is that I didn't stretch or warm up.

Even after we started, I requested we stop around mile 2 and stretch, but that didn't stop my calf muscle from rebelling. Around mile 4.3, I felt a sudden pain, and even heard an audible noise - like a mattress coil coming undone. I pulled over. True, I was pushing the pace a little, but I blame it on not warming up. We walked the 4.3 miles back. I was sad and worried the whole time. We stopped for ice, and with Adriana's help and the help of my headband and an extra plastic bag, secured a bag of ice to my calf. Now, nearly a week later, my recovery has progressed a lot with massage and PT, but working out (not running just yet) causes my calf to tense up.

And yet....nothing will stop me from participating in the New York Marathon! What would a running life be without injury? It would be fantasy. Now I remember a Runner's World article I read a while ago that featured an elite runner who trained himself - he warmed-up and cooled-down for 45 whole minutes each. If I can get a 15 minute warm up, I'll be happy.

Spectating at Rock n' Roll Los Angeles on Sunday.

See you there!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

12 miles with a new running buddy

I met Legger Adriana (first time meeting) around 5:30 a.m. on Saturday for a 13 miler. I had to be back at home base at 8:30, so I worked my way backwards and 5:30 was the earliest I could conceive starting, so that would yield about 13 miles.

We started a little late, but it was still dark outside, and continued to stay dark for about 45 minutes, when the sun came up. The weather was surprisingly un-chilly for an early morning in Santa Monica.

The first several miles went by soooo quickly - I need to run early in the dark more often. Somewhere between dreamland and reality, it all felt a little bit easier.

Adriana and I became fast friends - exchanging personal stories and sharing advice. On a long run, I have found that the mix of physical and emotional exertion results in opening up to another person. Adriana is a newbie Legger who has two marathons and 1 half under her belt (the Chips and Salsa Half-Marathon in Albuquerque - with - you guessed it - chips and salsa at the end).

We ended up running about 12.2 miles. Great run. Planning for 16-18 miles this Saturday for my longest run before NY in 3 weeks.

Happy running!