Sunday, November 12, 2006

The New York City Marathon

I have waited a week before posting my account of the New York City Marathon. I guess I needed it to ferment in my mind before I really realized what my response to the marathon would be.

Right off let me say that I ran the race wearing shoes. I wore Reebok Circa Waffle cross-country shoes, insoles ripped out. They are very flat and minimal. One guy did the marathon barefoot. And the shoes did give me some trouble - I had to pull over and loosen my left shoe because I had pain under the ball of my foot because the shoe felt too tight. My foot must have swelled, because this wasn't until after the 59th street bridge.

My finishing chip-time was 3:19:28. That was way slower than my 3-hour goal. Part of the reason that I entered was because I wanted to run with Lance Armstrong. That didn't happen. For a lot of the race I was only a few minutes behind him. There were a lot of spectators yelling stuff like, "Lance is right in front of you!" But a non-runner doesn't realize that a few minutes is really quite a distance. I never saw the media entourage following Lance at all. Despite not hitting my goal, which I am a little disappointed about, it was a great experience and I can pull a lot of positives out of it.

First of all, though this is my 15th marathon, I haven't run a marathon for about 12 years. The last time I ran New York was 1986, 20 years ago. I ran 3:41 in 1986 and I ran 2:48 in 1985. The 3:41 was a negative split after running the first half with my friend Paul G. So at least, by finishing, I have a 40's PR.

Second, I remembered a bunch of stuff. Like I remembered how much a marathon hurts, compared to anything in the 5K-half-marathon range. I remembered how difficult the NYC Marathon course is. One does not think of New York City as a particularly hilly area. But the bridges, Central Park, and even 1st Avenue are quite a factor. The 59th Street Bridge, was especially difficult. It is about a mile of constant up-hill.

Third, I realized that even though I had more mileage behind me this year than in the last couple of years, I need to run faster long runs. My pace early on seemed easy, but that was just because I was tapered and the weather was so perfect. In reality, I was over my head to try maintaining sub-7 minute pace for 26 miles. All my long runs were too slow to expect that to happen. You can see below my analysis of my early great form, and subsequent decay.

I ran a great 30K - which is ironically the length of two trail races I did this summer with no problem, the Double-Trouble 30K and the Escarpment Trail Run. Each 5K after the first 30 was slower by three minutes! That means in 30-35K I ran one minute per mile slower than I did in my first 30, then in 35-40K I ran two minutes per mile slower than I had for the first 30. That is quite a slowdown. If I paced for a 3:08 or so from the start, I might have made it.

While running during the last few miles I knew I was damaging my muscles. I didn't want that to happen, considering that I want to run a good 15K next weekend to complete my Grand Prix. I actually thought about dropping out, but realized that as a president of a running club, that would not be a good example nor a good story to tell to the members of the club. During miles 24 and 25 I walked through the water stations, and probably another 100 yards after them, and I walked a little up the last steep roller in Central Park. You can see that I am walking in one of the photos by Brightroom here:
I am looking back to make sure nobody is coming up to run into my slow walking body. The Central Park spectators are deep and they do not let you walk for very long! I did run the entire way after hitting mile 25. But you can see my "Red Zone" info above, the pace there was 9:02/mile.

The second marathon on marathon day is getting to your bag of stuff in the UPS trucks from the starting area, and getting to the ride home. After crossing the finish line in Central Park, there is about a hundred yards of rehydrators, medal and solar blanket givers, chip clippers, photographers, medical help. Then the UPS trucks start. They are simply parked on the park road, starting with truck #1, then continuing numerically. First thing I did was take off my shoes and began the long slog. My stuff was in truck #26. It felt literally like a second marathon walking to #26. I felt really sorry for the people that had truck numbers as high as the seventies! Once I got my stuff, I exited the park at about 75th street & Central Park West. The church where the busses were was on 60th & Columbus Avenue. So I had to walk the 15 blocks back down to 60th.

It was nice that in the basement of the church there was warmth, bathrooms, food and massage therapists. I was one of the first ones arriving at the church, so I had plenty of time to get myself together. I toweled off, changed, ate and got a massage. This was good. After about an hour I felt pretty normal. Others got to the church, there was much congratulations, war stories, conversations. We left the church at about 5:30, but it took a couple of hours to get home because the driver got a little lost in the city. School bus seats hurt when it takes that long to get home after a marathon!

I think I will do it again to get it right next year, if I can get in. I think I have a qualifying half-marathon time again from Liberty. If I can pull off my run-to-work plan this winter, I would even consider running Boston, since my NYC time qualifies me.

One thing I have to note about New York, is that running that race takes a financial toll as well as a physical toll. It costs $9 to process an entry, then the entry fee is still an additional $109. I paid $50 for bussing to the starting line and back to Cranford. It cost $12 in train fare to get into New York to pick up my number. That is $180, not including incidentals like PowerGel.

Another toll the marathon takes is one of your time. And I am not talking about the time spent training. As the marathon approached, I spent a lot of nervous energy on Friday night preparing for Saturday and Sunday. Saturday I went to the expo, then to some family activities which I didn't get home from until about midnight. I had to pack my marathon bags and didn't go to sleep until about 1:30 AM! Waking at 6:30, then not arriving home from the marathon day until about 9 PM. The weekend of the marathon just sucks you into it and becomes all encompassing.

My recovery is good. Last week I took a couple mile walk on Tuesday, and I ran 5 miles barefoot on the road on Thursday. Friday I ran easy about 15 minutes, and Saturday I did 55 minutes on the D&R Towpath in the morning (shod), and another 15 minutes in the afternoon, barefoot on pavement. Today I ran the Giralda Farms 10K at 41:04. During the race my legs felt fine, just not too fast.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Barefoot at The Library

j milliken wrote at the Yahoo! Group:

I voted on Tuesday. Then I got kicked out of the building. It was a library.

"Where are your shoes? Do you have any shoes? Come with me."

I was taken to the reference desk. The reference librarian stared alternately at me and into space. Another librarian at the adjacent desk said, quietly, as an aside, "It's not really a rule."

This brought a third librarian bursting out of the back room. "It is too a rule. It exists for health considerations."

I was given a blue card with crimes on one side that are absolutely not allowed in libraries: public sex acts, flashing, molestation, theft.

On the back there was a very long list of unacceptable behaviors. Failure to wear shoes was one. Also, sleeping and bathing in the library, having hygiene so horrible it is a nuisance to others, beating your child so hard you injure it, putting your feet up, etc.

I responded:

I have a good relationship with our small library in my town. I have been going often since my oldest kid was about 3 - that is about 10 years. The library has probably saved us thousands of dollars in books and CD's. The librarians recognize me, some speak to me by name, and one even waves and says hello when I am running and she is out on her daily exercise walk.

I had been going to the library barefoot with no problem for a while, then one day last summer, while picking up some holds, a familiar librarian said to me, "I'm going to have to ask you to start wearing shoes when you come in." When I asked why, she said it was because books could fall off a shelf and land on my foot and injure it. I tried to explain that there were both librarians and patrons wearing flip-flops, and that those would not prevent such injury. Also that there is a near zero probability of a book falling off a shelf in the library because earthquakes are rare in NJ, and asked her if that had that ever actually happened to anyone, shod or not. She then added that an additional reason was that if she let me be barefoot, she would have to let the teenagers come in barefoot in the summer. I asked what was so bad about that, that at least teenagers were coming to the library.... but I let it go at that and said I would bring flip-flops next time. So that is what I do now.

Floyd Landis: Why Do I Care?

I have really been trying to figure out why I care so much about the Floyd Landis doping allegations. The story is very engrossing, starting with Floyd's horrible ride in the mountains at the Tour this summer, followed by his outrageous ride, then the announcement that he had a bad urine sample, then all the problems that have been revealed about the entire procedure. With the comments and rumors available on the Internet about the power brokers and conspiracy behind professional cycling, it reads like an unfolding novel! Here is something from today -

Trial in Cofidis affair opens window into cycling's doping culture

Doping has plagued cycling for years but has hit the sport particularly hard in 2006. A Spanish doping investigation led to nine riders _ including pre-race favorites Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich _ being barred from the Tour de France.

The Tour winner, Floyd Landis, tested positive for excessive levels of testosterone and is no longer considered the champion by race organizers. He denies doping and is contesting the charges.

This is by an AP writer who seemed to cover some TDF stories this summer, yet it is inaccurate on several counts. If not the writer, at least the editor who lets these things through should research the implied "facts" before going to print with a story!

First, Landis's level was not "excessive", rather the test alleges that the ratio of two types of testosterone were too far apart. That may mean that one type was too low. Additionally, there are too many problems with the test procedures, with the mathematics used to interpret the results, and the with samples themselves to even list here. See the current status updated several times daily here.

Secondly, Landis is still considered the champion, unless he loses his appeal - which, many observers agree, he has a good chance of winning. Landis is still listed as the winner at the official TDF web site.

And what does this have to do with running barefoot? Perhaps it is similar because of the way so many people think that just walking around during one's daily routine barefoot is a lot like being accused of doping in cycling. The self-appointed shoe police accuse barefooters of doing something that they believe is not good for the public health. Once accused, the barefooter has to prove his or her innocence. And that is the way it is in cycling with doping allegations - the doping police can accuse without much cause, and then the accused must prove innocence. That is not the way justice is supposed to work in the civilized world, or so I thought. Guilt has to be proved by the accuser. In cycling's case, the accuser is depending on tests to prove the guilt - but the tests in Landis's case don't look any more reliable than those winning lottery emails I get every day.