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The Running Laminator

Persuasions, Perspectives and Perspiration: My Adventures as a Marathon Runner in NYC

Updated: 2018-04-10T08:02:08.233-04:00


I've Moved!


Hi Everyone! This is quick post to let you know that I've officially moved! From now on I'll be posting at my new domain located at:

Please update your bookmarks and feeds and check me out at my new digs. Thanks =)(image)

I Wonder*


(*This post was inspired by IronBrandon who asked me this provocative question - What do you wonder about when you run? Here's my response...)...If I'll run another sub-3 marathon this year....If my brother will finish his first marathon in May...if my mom will win an age group award before me....if the snowstorms will ever end....if the new blog will take off like the old one did....if i can trust myself to know when to say when (in terms of racing)....if i'll ever find love in running and running in love....if i can run a sub-5 minute mile....when we'll find a cure for cancer or diabetes....if i can blog and write like I used to....if my running brings me closer to friends and family who don't run....if i can ever be a consistent pre-dawn runner....if the obesity epidemic will ever end....if our healthcare system will ever be fixed....if my sister is proud of me....if i'll ever learn to use Wordpress....if i am living up to my potential....if i can log 2500 miles this year or if i'll even want to....if medicine and running can ever coexist....if i'll ever find peace despite the social injustices i see around me everyday....if we'll ever find out how he met his mother....if i can keep paying it forward without asking/expecting to be paid back....if the Mets and Knicks will win another championship in my lifetime....if Flushing Meadows will ever be home base for a running club....if i can ever run another sub-7 min mile at Mile 25....if i'll retire from blogging or running first....if I can teach as much as I have learned from others....if i'll ever wear black magic marker digits on my many kids died because of of the Wakefield paper....when i'll write another poem....if it's easier to run clockwise or counterclockwise around Central Park....if Seattle Greys will ever admit an endocrine case they can't treat surgically....when we'll stop selling guns to criminals....if i'll see a fully operational 2nd Avenue subway in my lifetime....if anyone is still reading this list....if we'll ever win the war against tyranny and terror....why the marathon course runs through the worst part of Queens....if there's such a thing as a healthy addiction....if i'll ever enjoy red wine....when i'll find my 3rd slice of heaven....if the 2hr marathon barrier will be broken in my lifetime....when the time comes, if I can actually stop, not look back...and just walk away.What do YOU wonder about?[...]

Lam Clan Become Road Runners
Race Report from the Fred Lebow Classic 5M


I have a confession to make. Racing, January, and me just don't mix. Never mind the fact that I've traditionally taken the first part of the winter off to snowboard, travel, or goof off in the name of rest and recovery, even during the years when I've been forced to start training early in preparation for a spring marathon, I've just never found much success racing in January. The weather is extremely variable, the roads are slippery and slick, and the treadmills at the gym are overtaken by newbies trying to make good on their New Year's Resolutions. Finding both time and space to train is a difficult challenge when you're at the mercy of the road conditions and mother nature. For these reasons and others, I make it a point never to schedule a race until at least late January. Imagine my surprise then when I found myself pinning my bib and lacing my racing flats at 5:30AM this morning. At multiple points during this procedure, I asked myself just exactly what I was doing and where I was going. Outside, it was 23F with a windchill in the teens, was I sure I was heading in the right direction? If I closed my eyes, I could have sworn I was just walking in my sleep! But as I stopped to look at the three multi-colored racing bibs I held in my hand, I knew I had no other choice but to open the door and go. A couple of weeks ago, somewhat unbeknownst to me, my parents and my brother had registered for today's race, the Fred Lebow 5M. Ever since they ran the Turkey Trot with my brother and me on Thanksgiving, mom and dad have been itching at the chance to run a race in Central Park. Despite my warning that this would likely be a frigid and cold race, they signed up for this, their first NYRR race, almost as soon as online registration opened. My brother went along soon after. I hawed and hummed but ultimately decided that if my whole family was going to race, I should at least showed some respect and run even if it meant totally going against my principle of no racing in January. The train ride over to the race start was surprisingly efficient. For once, we arrived at our destination about 20 minutes ahead of scheduled. Because of the extreme cold and wind, we even waited in the station for about 10-15 before we ambled over to Central Park to start our race. We checked our bags, visited the portapotties one last time, changed and bid each other farewell as we went to our respective corrals. (For this race, I was in blue, my brother in red, and mom and dad were running together from pink). I got into my corral with about ten minutes to spare. Because this race was so sparsely attended, I found room to run a few short sprints to warm up. It wasn't so effectively though because as soon as I was done, I'd be shivering again. As the corral filled up, I found a few Flyers and exchanged pleasantries with them as I waited for the start of the race. I also saw and spoke to DN, a fellow DailyMiler, who like me, was not so prepared for this race. We both lamented how we might have been better off had NYRR stuck with the original plan of going with yesterday as the race day. It would have been about 10 degrees warmer! As it was, this stands to be the coldest race that either of us has ever run in. We were both very eager to get this over with and get back to our warm clothes! Haha! Pretty soon afterwards, the national anthem was sung and we were off. Right off the bat, I approached this race mentally as a tempo effort more than as a race. My feet were numb, my left knee was still hurting from a couple of nasty falls I had taken on hard ice a few days ago and i had not done a good long tempo run since sometime in November. I allowed my effort to ease gradually to a pace that I thought I could maintain. Lots of runners wearing lots of heavier clothes were passing me initially which felt odd but I did not get distracted and cruised around the 102nd St Tranverse and along the West Side Hills. I passed the first mile at around 6:20 by the course clock but no[...]

Running Beyond 26.2


For as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a versatile runner. In my mind, the mark of a great runner was someone who was as equally proficient in short distance races as he or she is in the long ones. (Think Haile and Kara, who both excelled on the track before becoming world class marathoners). Indeed, one of the crowning achievements of the past year for me was getting PRs in the shortest of road races (5K, 4M) as well as in the longest, the marathon, in the same calendar year. To see some measure of success in both arenas in 2010 was thrilling and motivating and gave me hope that with some degree of dedication, passion, hard work, and luck, I may achieve even better results in the short and long distances in 2011.Then December came, and with it, some rest and recovery, and slower long runs with friends and family and a laid-back trailish 10K on Christmas morning until suddenly I woke up one day a couple of weeks ago and found myself registering for a 50K...on trails no less! I'm not exactly sure why I decided to register for my first ultra that day. Maybe I was desperate for adventure. Maybe I was getting bored with base building and maintenance running. Maybe I just wanted to prove something to myself in a way that even a sub-3 marathon can't. Whatever the reason, I am scheduled to run the longest race of my life in the 50K version of the New Jersey Ultra Festival in mid-March. Holy crap, did I just admit to myself that I am crossing beyond the 26.2 threshold in hopes of becoming an ultramarathoner?To many, what I call a "baby ultra" is nothing more than five miles beyond 26.2. To me though, it's a huge mental challenge as well as a physical one just to learn how to train properly for one of these. From what little I know so far, drawn from the knowledge and experience of those who've done a plethora of these and longer, I can already say that preparing for an ultra will be nothing like preparing for a marathon. For example, In marathons, we eat gels and shot blocks.In ultras, they eat chicken soup and PB&J sandwiches.In marathons, we run on pavement and roads with thousands. In ultras, they run on trails, mostly alone and cross rivers/streams.In marathons, we run according to pace & measure training in miles. In ultras, there is no set pace and training is measured in hours.As you can see, I've got a lot to learn and practice in the next two months if I want to do well in this race. Biggest problem for me will be finding some longer distance trails to practice on. I see a lot of visits to the Central Park Bridle Path and Van Cortlandt Trails in my future!I find it funny that a friend/teammate of mine thought I would be in danger of underestimating the distance when I first mentioned this race on a facebook post. In actuality, I'm been freaked out and scared and stressed beyond belief for the past week about this March trail run. I was so preoccupied with my race prep that I even had a vivid dream about it in my sleep a few nights back. In it, I was taking a PB&J break at an aid station during the race when Scott Jurek comes flying by from out of nowhere, whispers in my ear that "50Ks are A LOT of Ks" and takes off again. With the help of several friends, I was able to decipher the hidden dream message: Ditch the PB&J and go with Special K for the race!Finally, I want to leave you all with this excerpt of a typical conversation between an ultramarathoner and his wife. Let's just say I'm glad I'm not married as I train for this 50K =) Are you an ultramarathoner? If so, what are your secrets? Any good tips to share with a newbie like me? If not, why not? Has it enter piqued your interest? Is it a no for life or no just for now? As always, thanks in advance for all your tips, advice and suggestions. [...]

Looking Back, Looking Ahead


A couple of days ago, I gave you all a blow-by-blow month-by-month account of how 2010 went for me in terms of running. To be sure, there were things I did which I am quite proud of (4 mile PR, sub-3 marathon, inspiring parents/brother to take up running) and other things I did which I am decidedly NOT (marathon DNS in NJM, medical DNF in 4-miler, no half marathon/10K PR). Nevertheless, if I were to be completely objective and disregard my emotional attachment to speed and faster times, I'd have to say that 2010 was overall a successful running year because I finally discovered how to embrace running as a lifestyle and not just a hobbie and/or a sport. I (finally) learned that performance gains on the road doesn't necessarily come in a perfect sequential order. I learned that taking a step back, or two or even a DNF or DNS, is sometimes necessary to prevent unnecessary physical damage and allow the body to heal quicker and stronger. I learned about the importance of social running and of moderation and of active recovery. I learned how to inspire others by allowing others to inspire me with their struggles, their dedication and their triumphs regardless of speed, sex, race or background. I learned how to be an active member of the running community while still remaining true to my identity. In short, I became a more complete runner, not just in any individual pursuit, but as it relates to my life, my family, my friends, and the virtually running world.Before I close the chapter on last year, let's take a look at how I fared in my ten 2010 running goals as set forth last January 2nd. (Feel free to cover your eyes 'cause I know it ain't pretty...)Ten Running Goals for 2010I will enter my first ever triathlon, ultramarathon, or overnight relay race - CHECK [Ragnar NY - It was a really fun time. May I have another please...]Train two newbies for their first long distance race - CHECK [Madame E in Philly Marathon and My brother in 15K - There were others...but less epic.]Sub 3 - CHECK [Chicago Marathon - 2:59:55 - Need I say more?]PR in 4 races - FAIL [Only 3 PRs - 5K, 4M, Marathon - Sigh.]Finish Pentathlon (missing sub 24min 5K, sub 3hr Marathon) - CHECK [I had forgotten about this quirky wannabe running quest I had designed myself...glad to have completed it even if unintentionally]Six out-of-town races - FAIL [Only did 4. Yes, I seriously need to get out more!]Volunteer to be 7-min pacer for LTR - FAIL [Stuck to my safe 7:30 pace on both occasions. No excuses.]Run in 8 different city parks - CHECK [Not that you should care, but the list includes Riverside, Central, Morningside, Flushing Meadows, Kissena, Cunningham, Forest and the exotic Balboa Park in San Diego]Run in 9 different race distances - FAIL [Did 5K, 4M, 5M, 10K, 10M, 13.1M, 26.2, but neglected 1M, 15K. So many races, so little time.]Run 2010 miles - CHECK [Ran 2304 miles. For those scoring at home that's 44 mpw on average!]Final Grade - C+; 6/10 Goals completed (At least I passed! Barely...)Meh, so last year wasn't exactly the best for me. I think we already know that. Maybe if I actually took the time to look at my goals from time to time, I could've done a better job. Anyway, moving on. Because I'm a bit narcissistic and frustrated that I barely missed out on some of my 2010 goals, I'm requesting a do-over on the items I missed and adding some newer challenges to the mix for my list of running goals for 2011. I'm not sure how many of these I will get done by year's end, but I'm throwing them all out there just to keep myself honest and accountable and because that's we all do on January 2nd. Right? Here goes.Eleven Running Goals for 2011Complete one (or two) ultramarathons.Cut 2 minutes off my NYCM PR - in other words - sub 3 in NYCMCoach 3 new runners to first half marathon or longer.PRs in 4 races - including 10k and the half marathon.Run 2500 miles.Compete in 6 out-of-town races.Volunteer for 7-min/mi pacer for LTR.Complete at [...]

The Year in Running Review


Hi everyone, remember me? Yes, it's been a while since I've posted. Rest assured though that it's NOT because I've retired from running or blogging. Although I haven't raced since the Joe Kleinerman 10K, I've actually been running pretty consistently, 25-35 miles per week, for the past month. As for the blogging front, I'm actually hard at work designing a new webspace for these essays, posts, and race reports. It's going to be hosted in my own personal website...which is kind of exciting for me! It's still being constructed so I don't want to spill the beans, but once everything is finalized (hopefully in the new week or two), I'll be sure to pass the information along.As we descend upon the New Year and say goodbye to 2010, I'd be remiss both as a runner and as a blogger if I didn't take a few minutes to survey the training log, reread my race reports and review all the adventures I had in this, my 6th year of running.The Year in Running Review2010 was a crazy and magical yet instructive and humbling running year for me. I experienced so much and learned so many things about myself and others that I could write a whole book on the subject and it still probably wouldn't be enough. Alas, because I have neither the time or the resources to invest in this project, I'll condense the verbosity and just give you the monthly highlights. January - I began 2010 as a Saucony Hurricane. I also joined DailyMile and Twitter. Both of these events were instrumental in my development as a runner this year. I began my racing year by pacing my friend and podcaster IronBrandon to 1:35 finish in the Manhattan Half. Training also officially began for the New Jersey Marathon.February - This was a pretty blah month for me. It was cold. It was gloomy. There were no races (well there was one scheduled, but I had to bail because of MTA FAIL. Still, I managed to consistently put down three 50+ mile training weeks, which gave me confidence that I could sustain marathon training without injury.March - Thawing from the deep freeze, my month started with a surprising 5K PR at Coogans. I experimented with barefoot running on the treadmill and indoor jogging track but had to scrap these workouts after sustaining troublesome tendinitis in Achilles and peroneal tendons. I also went down to our nation's capital where I got to meet my Saucony captain, Dorothy and volunteer for the National Marathon.April - I raced in the inaugural NYC 13.1, found myself in top 10 overall midway through, but got lost and wound up 4th in my AG with 1:24:59. I got interviewed by the local paper but am/was still bitterly disappointed by the finish. I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in DC the following weekend but hadn't recovered sufficiently well to race well that day. I entered the taper the next week and dreamt of a sub-3 finish in NJM.May - As a prelude to race week, I volunteered for an NYRR 10K in the rain. I wanted good karma for race day. Instead what I got was a supervirus that sidelined me for 3 days and 3 nights and killed my chances for NJM. It was a DNS (the first) for me. Instead, I switched to the half and ran a PW along the shore...on the surface of the sun, 'cause that's what it felt like that day. Two weeks later, I ran Ragnar NY (my first 24-hr relay) and helped my team to a 3rd place CoEd finish. Three weeks later, I ran the Brooklyn Half planning to pace my friend DC to a 1:30 half, but she sustained a hip injury in the first mile, and I had to run the rest from the back of the pack without her.June - This month started similar to the last. I planned to race, but DNF'd (another first) a 4-Miler in Central Park. I felt a bit lost both literally and figuratively after a back-to-back DNS and DNF. I was wilting under the sun! Luckly, I escaped to milder climes and had some cooler and restorative runs in San Diego. I came back to CP at the end of the month and finished a five mile race in a mor[...]

How NOT To Have A Bad Race When You're Racing Badly


Just to show that I was indeed a little brain dead and racing in short sleeves and shorts with a bleeding right knee in Sunday's Joe Kleinerman 10K, I present to you this race photo compliments of brightroom. As you can see, despite the pained expression on my face and the blood trickling down the side of my leg, I looked pretty cool and color coordinated despite it being 30 degrees. Score one for me. (Yes, that's the only highlight from my race so I'm milking it for all I've got!) Over the past few days, while remembering and analyzing the range of emotions I felt during this race, I came across this great Running Times article on Racing Your Best When Feeling Your Worst. In it, the author Matt Pulle discusses how NOT to throw in the towel at the midpoint of a race when things just aren't going your way. The article was apropos to my racing experience in my past two road races (Philly Half, JK 10K) because there were moments during each when it became painfully obvious that a PR would not be in the cards for me that day. My first instinct in each of these circumstances was to just bail and quit. After all, what's the point in racing if the end result would be disappointing or embarrassing anyway? But then, somehow, for some reason, in Philly and then again in Central Park, I continued running and racing hard until the end. How did I managed to salvage what would've otherwise be a poor performance or a DNF?Although I tried hard to erase those forgettable races from my memory bank as quickly as possible, I still remembered a few tricks and tactics I used to keep my brain occupied and my legs turning over as quickly as possible instead of just giving up. First and foremost, I told myself NOT TO QUIT. In both circumstances, I felt I had to press on because that's what runners do. I also knew that if I gave in to the DNF temptation in these races, it will be that much easier to repeat the same patterned behavior in the future. Once I convinced myself that quitting was not an option, I began to develop strategies that would motivate me to race the remainder of the course. For starters, I forced myself to devise an alternative goal or plan that seemed somewhat worthwhile to pursue despite having lost the overall battle against the clock. In Philly, it was let's see if I can just run the last 5K faster than I did last year. In the JK 10K, it became a rallying cry to break 40 minutes. When that didn't work, I'd tell myself to forget the race and get back to basics. After all, no matter the result, races are still an extreme form of speedwork, meaning that I can still work on my breathing, my form, and my mechanics even if the rate of forward progress was a little slower than I would have liked. Finally, during the last mile of the respective races, when the physical pain seemed to have caught up to the mental anguish of a disappointing performance, I would force myself to remember (and say) that despite everything, I was still having fun and that racing/running is always better than the alternative. I remember succinctly thanking and appreciating running as I was sprinting toward the finish in the 10K which seemed so awkward to acknowledge in retrospect because I was hurting so much at the time but I needed to remind myself why I was out there in the first place and motivate myself to do the best I can given the circumstance. Looking bad, I can say that although I'm a little disappointed that I didn't prepare adequately and missed a great opportunity to PR in the 10K and the Half, I'm proud that I didn't fall apart despite the troubles during the race and kept it together to finish each race in a decent time. Personally, I learned it is just as important to know how to race badly as it is to race well since as you gain experience and chase PRs, that's probably more likely to happen than not.Just curious - What do you guys/gals do to motivate your[...]

Race Report from the Joe Kleinerman 10K


It's often been stated by those in professional running circles, that in a road race or longer endurance event, a good start does not often equate to ultimate success. Get off to a bad one however, and you can kiss your PR chances goodbye! I must say that prior to today, I'd never given much credence to these esoteric observations. After all, it is the redeeming quality of long distance running, the ability to find "a second wind" and "a second chance at life" despite a poor start that endears me to the sport. But, knowing now the sequence of events that transpired as a result of my bad start to race day, if I had to do today over again, I might have been better off just choosing to stay in bed.It's a bit sad for me to acknowledge how truly excited I was to run this race just 24 hours ago. As I mentioned at the start of my previous post, this was the last race of the year for me. I desperately wanted to cap off a successful racing season with a newly minted 10K PR. Although I haven't done a full loop of Central Park in several months, I figured that I was familiar enough with the terrain and had enough fitness remaining from marathon training that I still should be able to run a good race. My aspirations were tempered a bit when I woke up early on race day and found myself shivering from the deep freeze that had developed overnight. A check of the weather forecast quickly confirmed my suspicions. It was going to be 31F at the start in Central Park with winds of 10+ MPH. I debated going back to bed but knew my absence would be felt by both teammates and friends. So I begrudgingly put on my racing attire (shorts and short sleeves with gloves, bandana and compression socks), threw on a couple of additional layers for the long travel into the city and got out the door.For a subway ride that ordinarily takes about an hour on weekends, I gave myself an additional half hour for the journey just in case. Sitting on an empty 7 train with no other passengers except for two homeless guys sleeping on the seats on the opposite end of the train felt surreptitiously eerie this early on a cold Sunday morning in December. I couldn't remember the last time I voluntarily woke up before dawn to travel so far to run a 10K race. I must want this PR bad, I thought to myself. Unfortunately, my sentiments were not share by the MTA who, despite my best intentions, still managed to delay the 6 train for 20 minutes at the 86th Street Station, leaving us with less than 10 minutes to get to the start when the train pulled into 103rd Street. Knowing that I was in serious jeopardy of missing my corral and the start, I took off in a pull sprint once I got out of the station. I was weaving and dodging the pilgrimage of runners strolling about, counting the minutes and seconds I had left before the start of the race. I ran about a full block before my feet got caught on an uneven section of the pavement and sent me flying toward the ground. I got up as soon as I felt impact, and although I did not feel much pain, I could see that my right knee was badly scraped and bleeding. I continued running, not daring to stop for fear that I'll miss the race.By the time I got to Central Park, ran to baggage, dropped off my bag, and arrived at the starting line, they were already starting to sing the national anthem. The corrals had already collapsed and I found myself on the wrong side of the barricades at the front of the race with less than 2 minutes to go before the start. I ran toward the back until I could find an opening to squeeze through. I was now squarely in the back of the red corral with the race about to start. Less than a minute later, with my heart rate not yet settled from my race to the start, the command was given and we were off.As expected, there was a lot of bumping and weaving in the first mile. I ran decisively but conservatively [...]

Winter Running: My Ever-Evolving Dilemma


As we approach the conclusion of yet another spectacular fall racing season (the Kleinerman 10K on Sunday will be the last race for me in 2010), I am once again faced with a clean slate on my running calendar with no defined scheduled workouts for a month and asking myself the same question that I've heard from numerous running friends for the past week and a half "What are you planning for this offseason? What's your general approach to winter running? Will you be resting and recovering or training hard and racing?"To be honest, I'm fairly new at this cold weather running game. As recently as a few years ago, I had always equated the finish line of the NYC Marathon as a metaphorical ending to the running and racing year. I'd do a few miles here or there, but once the temperatures began consistently dipping into the 30s, I'd retire the running shoes, lace up the snowboarding boots and hit the slopes instead. For the first 2 years of running, I don't think I've ever managed more than 50 miles a month during the winter. Then in fall of 2007, I did something stupid and qualified for Boston, which meant that my "No winter running" policy would soon have to be modified. To compound my mistake, I fractured my collarbone on a non-contact freak snowboarding accident in early 2008, scarring my tenacity and audacity on the slopes for life. So running during winter for me only started in earnest in early 2009. That year, in preparing for Boston, I was still training mostly indoors on a treadmill, and hitting the roads only when absolutely necessary for long runs in the cold. My accumulated mileage that winter was minimally adequate for marathon training. It resulted in a painful hammy cramp at mile 20, mere steps before Heartbreak Hill. Last winter, I corrected my mistake and got out more than I did before to do long and short runs in the park. Unfortunately, I got sick on race week and never got to run my target spring marathon. So it was impossible to tell whether my training and hard work during the winter actually benefited me. What it did though, was forced me to become more aware of and learn to treat my own overuse injuries, since I was essentially running nonstop for the better part of two years. So this brings me to this winter. It is a little daunting to think about, because it's already cold and windy and it isn't even the official start of the season for another 3 weeks! Nevertheless, I think this winter will be a productive one in terms of running. For the first time since I don't know when, maybe forever, I will spend the next month or longer in logging miles with no intervals, no speed, and no pressure of racing. It will strictly be a period of rest, recovery, yet maintaining a stronger aerobic base on which more race specific workouts can be built upon at a later date. I will not be racing (except for possibly the Manhattan Half at the end of January as a benchmark). Rather, I'll be running with friends, family and others who I don't get to run with ordinarily because they don't run my pace. For this base building phase however, I will openly and gladly make exceptions. Most importantly, I plan to have fun when I'm out in the cold and snow. I want to enjoy my time on the roads, even if it's slow. I know the speed, like the birds, will return in the spring. I'm not worried. Let's together get through this bitter winter first.Now that you've heard mine, what's your winter running story? Will you be or not be seen running when it's cold? Let me know so I can look out for you. We can commiserate together...[...]

First Family Run on Turkey Day
Race Report from the 2010 Garden City Turkey Trot


When asked what to do when you find yourself getting annoyed by other's inability to measure up to your expectations, a wise man once said "Just give them time. Wait long enough and people will surprise and impress you." (Actually, this wasn't just some anonymous wise man, this was Randy Pausch. And this wasn't just a random quote. This is an excerpt from his famous Last Lecture. If you haven't heard it yet, you should. Just make sure you have a box of tissues handy and take careful notes...)Since for as long as I could remember I had always been the solo runner in the family, the only one who runs, the only one who trains and the only one who's ever completed a registered race of any distance. This all changed last year when my little brother joined me on Thanksgiving for the Turkey Trot (read 2009 race report here). He ran well that day in completing his first ever road race. My parents were on the sidelines that day cheering and spectating for my brother and I. It was a bit surreal to race by my parents that day because I never imagined them there but it was extremely fun to have them see me running so well that day. (It was a PR race for me) Up until a few days ago, that remain the last time my whole family ever drove up together for the same race.Imagine my surprise then when my brother announced a week ago that BOTH my parents would be joining my brother and I in running the Turkey Trot this year! Unbeknowedst to me, both of them have started running with my brother to get ready for this five mile race. I was skeptical at first because I had never known either of my parents to be much interesting in running, much less racing. So I contained my excitement and went about my business in the weeks and days leading up to the race. It was only after we all drove up to the start, parked, got our packets and saw my parents and brother pinning bibs to their race shirts, did I hear my inner voice go "HOLY @#$%, WE'RE ALL REALLY DOING THIS!" We took several pictures to commemorate our first family race and headed off to the start.The conditions were a little brisky (40F) and there was a slight breeze in the air when the four of us took our respective places for this race. The preliminary race plan as my brother and I conjured up the night before was that I was going to run with my brother while my dad was going to run with mom the whole way through. Since the finish is right next to mile 3.5 of this 5 mile course, my brother and I would jump right back in with my parents after we were done so we could finish up this race together as a family. My brother and I lined up somewhere between the 7 and 8 minute pace signs while my parents mozzied off to the back. (We projected them to run 11-12 minutes miles so we thought a finish time of an hour would be a good result for them!) After a few minutes of admiring the old, the young and everyone in between, there was a quiet "Go!" shout from up in the front, and we were off!The plan for me was to pace my brother to a 7:30 start in mile one and then accelerate to finish every subsequent mile about 10 seconds faster. He has a tendency to be too conservative at the start when racing so my goal was to help him get off to a strong start. Unfortunately, this race was very crowded with no corrals and tight turns and despite my best intentions, we crossed mile 1 at 7:35. Mile 2 was better as the crowds thinned and we were able to make up ground gradually. I was aiming for a 7:20 for this mile, but my brother was cruising so I just ran along side and allowed him to dictate the pace. Mile 2 was passed in 6:50. After a turn into a mild ascent, his pace gradually slowed and he dragged behind me. We took some water at a water stop and I pressed him to maintain his speed. Mile 3 was done in 7:08. Mile 4 was a bit rough. There w[...]

Philadelphia Half Marathon
Race and Spectator Report


I went down to Philly this weekend and ran a half marathon today. This was the same race I ran last year so I had every reason to believe I'd do well, perhaps even PR again. Maybe it's because I was so confident I "knew" this course that I took it for granted and did not prepare adequately to run my best. I went through the motions and figured I'd just run to comfort and let things just take care of itself. I somehow convinced myself that my race wasn't all that important because my main reason for coming to Philly this weekend was to spectate and cheer my friends running the full marathon. I was running the half so I wouldn't have to stand out in the cold and wait as long for friends to finish and also so I wouldn't feel as guilty and lame watching the race from just in front of the Rocky statue at mile 26. I had no plan and that was perhaps my biggest problem.Things for me went well for the first 4-5 miles. Although it was quite cold (~40F) at the start, I actually felt very comfortable running. I started very conservatively and was speeding up through the early going, running between 6:15-6:25 every mile, on pace for a PR, when my shoes felt loose and my laces suddenly became untied! That's when I realized I had absolutely forgotten to check my laces or double-knot them prior to this race. I cursed myself, pulled off to the side, took care of them the best I could with my cold numb fingers, and got back on the road only to find myself in that same predicament one mile later and a third time at mile 8. I figured I lost in total about 2 minutes of time because of my shoelace issues. Once I realized my race was ruined, it was hard to refocus on running fast again. Yet, I still managed to pull off a better finishing 5K time this year on my way to 1:26:54 than I did last year when I ran 2 minutes faster and set my PR there. I'm not sure there's a good takeaway from this race for me except to realize that I STILL make rookie running mistakes and I cannot just roll out of bed and run a good race even if my hotel was less than 2 blocks away from the start of the race! This is all right. I was humbled by running today. I feel you need to be that way sometimes to appreciate the training and the races where everything comes together. (One final takeaway from this race is that whoever is advertising Philly to be a flat course obviously did not run this race!)Afterwards, I cleaned up, hiked to mile 26 and waited for the rest of the field to come through the finish. Unfortunately, my fellow compatriot who accompanied me on this trip, IronBrandon, developed G.I. issues at 11 and had to pull out at the half marathon point. (I'll let him tell you all the rest of the story...) Many others though did complete their journey and became marathoners. I even got to run a few hundred feet with my friend Madame Erica as she came through mile 26. I had so much fun cheering and spectating that I didn't even mind not running a good half earlier in the day. A couple of people even recognized and identified themselves to me as avid blog readers out on the course today, which was completely awesome!So this trip was more about positives than negatives for me. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and watching them all become marathoners in the span of a few hours. It was a universal love fest for long distance running in Philly this weekend and I'm just so proud and happy that I got to be a part of the celebration. [...]

Homecoming: The 2010 NYC Marathon
Part IV - The Bronx, 5th Ave and The Finish


Coming to Terms with Da Bronx Ever since my first NYCM, I've always thought of the short jaunt through the Bronx as a visit through my own personal hell. In past years, I've cramped here, I've walked here, I've even once thought about DNF'ing here. It's no wonder then why I continue to have nightmares about this place well in advance of the race. This time though, as I strode confidently into the belly of the beast, the underworld of the Bronx, shortly after the 20th mile, I was not at all worried about my legs or my pace. I was more concerned with finding my Flyer friends on the left side of the road coming off the bridge and then running back to the right sidelines to find my other group of Flyer friends right before the next bridge. But find them I did and I was able to double-high-five both parties (of two each) prior to exiting the borough in the 21st mile. My times for both the 20th (7:33) and 21st mile (7:07) were very pedestrian at first glance but they actually represent one of the fastest times I've ever recorded running through here. My effort was helped out by a Flyer lady teammate DC who called out to me as she was running. I was a little shocked to see her there. Since her self-reported projected time was about 10 minutes slower than I'd figured I'd run today, I didn't know whether she was having an exceptional day or whether I was just running exceptionally slow. In either case, I was reminded by her presence that I should run faster in earnest just because I could. Reaching the Madison Ave Bridge, I found myself running back into Manhattan at a faster pace than I did when I left a couple of miles ago. I was grateful that my legs held out well for the most part through the borough that had always given me such trouble in the past. Although my legs were started to grow a little weary and my hamstrings a little bit tight, I was happy to know that the finish line was just a 5 mile jog through Central Park away.Hi Five Tally for The Bronx - 3; Total - 24.2Running with Lil Bro on 5th Ave The crowds were spilling onto the streets by the time I made my way back to West Harlem and back on 5th Avenue. Between pedestrians trying to cross through the marathon route and runners cramping and walking along the course, I had difficulty finding much running room on this stretch. I kept my eyes peeled to the left side for my brother who I was expecting at mile 22 to jump in and run a mile with me. As I looked around, wondering if/when he was going to show, I felt myself wondering if he'd be able to hold my speed now that I was running sub 7 minute pace again. At mile 21.8, right before the course hits Marcus Garvey Park, I spotted my brother, gave him a high-five and he jumped in to run with me. Actually, I believe it was my cousin J who first spotted me out on the course and had the wherewithal to record this video documentation of my brother joining me in the race. To this day, I have no idea how she managed to turn on the videocamera at the exact moment as I was coming through. (Major kudos to Cuz for the shot!)Tackling the 5th Ave Mile with my brother was a major highlight of this race for me. Not only have I dreamt about this exact scenario on many occasions in the past, but now that it was actually happening here, in between the 22nd and 23rd miles of the NYC marathon, which in the past versions of this race have been dedicated to my brother and my sister respectively, made the entire experience very surreal for me. We ran easy, we ran fast, and we passed more people (including Minnie, a fellow teammate, and a CPTC'er!) than I ever though I could running uphill on 5th Ave. At times, it felt was as if we were rollerblading while everyone else was standing still! Yes, it felt that good. We held a stron[...]

Homecoming: The 2010 NYC Marathon
Part III - Queens & First Ave


Finding Family in QueensIt had gotten sunnier and significantly warmer now as I made my way through mile 14. I had thrown away my gloves back at mile 5 but was still wearing my arm sleeves that I started the race with. Because I was expecting my brother in the next half-mile, I took off my sleeves here anticipating a drop-off once I saw him. As I did, I ran by DM friends Susan and Robin who I did not expect to be watching the race from out in Queens. It was nice to see them although I was too preoccupied at the time to give them a hi-five. I continued on hoping to find them later on in the course.Less than a minutes later, right off a turn, I spotted two Flyer friends LG and DL and gave them each a quick high-five. They were good friends of mine and residents of Queens so it energized me to see them there. I wanted to stop for a chat but thought better of it since I knew many friends in Manhattan would be expecting me to keep time. At the end of this busy block, almost right at the entrance to the Queensboro Bridge, I found my little brother, my cousin and her financee for the first time that day. This was the first time my brother has ever watched me run a marathon, so it was tremendously exciting for me to see him on the sidelines cheering. Not only so, but since he had recently picked up running earlier this year, I hoped that by experiencing the fervor of the marathon firsthand, he'd get excited about distance running and maybe attempt NYCM someday soon too.Upon reaching my family members, I gave them each a well deserved hi-five, but didn't say too much since I knew I'd be seeing them twice more later. I dropped off my arm sleeves with my brother, said hi and continued on.Hi Five Tally for Queens - 6; Total - 11.2Double Dipping with Flyers and Friends on Manhattan (1st Ave)Reaching the Queenboro Bridge felt somewhat of a bittersweet victory for me. More than half the race was already over, my knee pain which came on insidiously at mile 8 had somehow disappeared in Queens, and even as I was climbing the bridge, I was passing waves of runners and feeling as strong as I've ever felt at this stage of the marathon. Still, I couldn't help but feel as if my pace could've and should've been better had I allowed myself to race. My time became so irrelevant to me that I forgot to press lap on my Garmin and check my pace at mile 14! So all I had as I pass by 15 was a 2-mile split of 14:24 for the section of Queens. But as I began to wonder if all this fun was worth sacrificing another chance to run a great race, I saw an Achilles runner with a mangled leg slowing walking with a cane up the Queensboro Bridge. All of us runners clapped and cheered him on as he crested the hill. This inspirational effort reminded me that my race today wasn't really about me. It's about the spirit of the marathon and sharing this homecoming experience with family and friends who have supported and encouraged my passion to run. As I began my decent into Manhattan, I briefly reviewed my preconceived game plan of where I was going to run and who I was going to see and almost instantaneously became happy and emotional that I will soon be arriving at the mecca of running, 1st Avenue in the NYCM, once again.The crowds coming off the bridge and up the first portion of First Avenue was as heavy, loud, and dense as I had remembered it in years past. Although I enjoyed the loud cheering and fed off their energy as I made my trek toward the Upper East Side, it was difficult to find friends spectating along the heavily populated route. I missed my bloggy pal Dori and another who had a sign for me. I did however find my good friend MT who was my lucky charm in Chicago and a long running friend AG who was right where[...]

Homecoming: The 2010 NYC Marathon
Part II - The Start & Brooklyn


The theme of the New York City Marathon this year was "I'M IN. WE'RE IN." I wasn't sure what it meant when I first saw this message on a subway ad on my way to work. I didn't know what it mean when I saw it on the back cover of my registration packet. It wasn't until I heard it from Mary Wittenberg in an interview for the marathon on a local news program a few days before November 7th that the simple message hit home for me. As a runner in the NYC Marathon, no one ever runs alone. Besides the 50,000+ who will be joining me in the annual exodus from Staten Island to Central Park, there will be countless thousands of volunteers, police officers, medical personnel, sanitation workers, and of course the 2,000,000+ who will be watching from the sidelines, cheering the runners on. So no matter where you are a runner, a volunteer, a officer, a spectator, or just someone watching the 5 hour marathon coverage on NBC, everyone in town is involved on some level with the race. Everyone for that one day is a part of the NYC marathon experience.In many ways, the goal of NYRR to create an interactive communal marathon experience between runners, neighbors, friends and spectators mirrors my own objectives for this race. In each of the previous 3 years, NYCM has always been a target race for me. Whether the goal was to BQ, PR, or run sub-3, I've always been concerned with time, speed, and pace while running this marathon. Each time I ran I would see many fellow runners, especially the European contingent, purposely run along the sidelines to give everyone hi-fives. Some runners would even peel off mid-race just to have a beer or jump into a crowd of friends for a quick picture or two. They all seem to have so much fun! I'd be lying if I didn't admit to a twinge of envy every time I saw these events as I ran by. I wondered many times whether I'd ever allow myself to not race this marathon all-out but run a little slower just to enjoy the festivities and have a little fun. This year, after finally reaching my sub-3 goal in Chicago, and given that I will likely have many friends and family out cheering for me, I figured that I'd use this opportunity to interact with the crowds and run this marathon as a homecoming race. What follows then is the story of my interactive fun run through 26.2 miles (and 26.2 hi-fives) in the five boroughs of New York City.Thoughts at The StartEven as I huddled with a handful of others about an hour before the start in a makeshift tent at the Local Competitive Start on Fort Wadsworth, quietly reviewing the list of friends and family I was expecting to see and where they'd be out on the course that day, I felt utterly out of place and unprepared for the task at hand. For one thing, this was my first time starting off the marathon from the lower level of the Verrazano Bridge in the Green Start (I had always been Blue up at the top in years past), and second of all, I wasn't sure I belong in this elite field since I wasn't planning on racing this marathon (I was urged by my running group and NYRR friends not to sacrifice my spot since it's considered an honor to be there, even though for many reasons, I'd preferred my previously assigned Orange Start). Add to it the fact that it was bitterly cold and windy at the start and I had forgotten to pack breakfast for the hour-and-half trek over to Staten Island from Queens, I was afraid to consider the natural progression of this day that was already off to such an inauspicious start. I felt considerably better a short while later when I began to see more friends and teammates trickling into the corral. I left my spot in the secluded tent which wasn't offering much protection from the cold anyway and we[...]

Homecoming: The 2010 NYC Marathon
Part I - The Race Result


Yesterday, I ran the NYCM and as promised, had the most FUN I've ever had in a marathon! For the first time, I allowed myself to enjoy the spectacle of the race in front of family and friends with no pacing strategy and no race goal in mind and had an absolute blast.

In between 26.2 miles (actually more like 27.1 miles according to Garmin), I hi-fived 26.2 people, I ran through the Flyer PowerGel Station TWICE, ran with my brother for 1.2 miles, conquered Fifth Avenue, and had enough in the end to race the last 5K.

It was a whirlwind of a race and I completely enjoyed myself. Thanks goes out to all friends, family, Flyer peeps, blog/DM/Twitter buddies, co-workers, and everyone in between who came out and spectated yesterday. I think I was about 80% successful in hi-fiving all of you on my spreadsheet (double-hi fives counts as two right?).

Of course, there will be a much longer race report to come! (Don't seven parter though). In the meantime, for those who specifically care about the digits, here are mine:

Finishing Time - 3:04:52
Average Pace - 7:03 min/mi
Overall Place - 1236
Gender Place - 1156
Age Place - 260
NY Flyer Men - 3rd

Congratulations to all who ran the NYC Marathon yesterday! Thanks for being a part of the most spectacular annual event in New York City!

Getting Ready for NYCM: Old Race, New Goals


"If Chicago was your VICTORY dance, then New York City should be your HOMECOMING!" A friend had suggested this a week or so ago when I was still too exhausted from 10/10/10 to think about my own motivations for running this race. After all I had already achieved my big hairy audacious goal (or BHAG) earlier this fall so I have every right to run this race with no expectations and no goals. The curious thing though is that as race day appears closer and closer and I find myself running less and less (in the spirit of the "taper"), I have begun to secretly question what NYCM means to me and what I hope to accomplish in this, my fifth version of the race. That's when I realize that I'll never be able to run a marathon with no objectives or goals. Even if times and pace are not what I'm after, I still must have a set of criteria or measurements of success to focus and chase after that is applicable and worthwhile to me. Otherwise, a marathon will be no different than just another 26.2 mile training run, with a few extra friends and spectators along the way. Not only so, but this is the NYC MARATHON, the biggest of the big city marathons. Hundreds of thousands have tried but not many actually get to run this spectacular race. Running to Central Park from the depths of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Staten Island the first Sunday of every November has become a sacred annual pilgrimage for me. As those who have run it will say and those who have not run it yet will soon find out, the NYCM is a special race unlike any other. Towards that end, to commemorate my 5th running of this race, I'd like to present:My 5 Goals for the 2010 NYC Marathon1. To Have More Fun Than I've Ever Had - In each of the four previous times I've run this race, it's always been about times and goal paces and PRs and BQs. For the first time on this course, I want to run this one for FUN! Although I will not run in costume or hop off for lunch on 1st Ave, like some have suggested I do, I plan to have the most fun I've ever had regardless of time. Just how I'm planning to have my fun is for me to plan and for you to find out on race day. 2. To Acknowledge and Greet as Many Friends as I Can - Ever since Chicago I've been thinking that marathons are a lot like weddings. Although the planning and execution falls on the actual participants, the main purpose of the actual ceremony and reception is to announce and celebrate the occasion with fans, the family and friends who've supported the couple all along. Similarly, I want to share the joy of running NYCM with friends and spectators who'll be lined up in various sections of the course. I've never been the best at spotting friends or acknowledging crowds in my previous marathons. I hope to change that this time around. 3. To Run More Consistently Than I Ever Have in NYCM - By now, everyone knows that NYCM is not an easy course to run. There are massive bridges to climb, sharp turns to navigate and tough hills to conquer. However, I believe that having run the course four times before, I have somewhat of an advantage on the mean streets of NYC. So one of my goals this year will be to negotiate this course and maintain a stable consistent pace throughout. If I can keep my mile times all within a 30-second window between the fastest and slowest mile, I would consider that a victory for me. 4. To Run One Mile with My Brother...His Mile on 5th Ave - To date, none of my immediate family has ever come out to watch me run this race. However, this coming weekend, my little brother will be out there among the spectators to see my run. To commemorate this momentous occasion, I've asked[...]

The Perfect Tenth
Race Report from the 2010 Chicago Marathon
Part VII - Post Race Analysis


Now that you've all seen the pictures and read the story of how my sub-3 in Chicago came to be, I guess it's time to close the book on this epic marathon. After all, New York is coming up in a little over a week and I need to get my head back in the "Empire State of Mind", if you know what I mean. But before I (finally) leave Chicago behind, I'd like to take this opportunity to assess my physical and mental approach to this race as a whole and point out five major reasons why I think this race worked out well for me. 1. Effort-Based Pacing - Unlike any of my previous attempts at sub-3, I lined up at the start of this marathon not knowing EXACTLY what my pace plan should be. Because of a minor flu I'd been dealing with all week and the volatile weather that were expected on race day, I didn't know what my body was capable of on race morning. As a result, I made myself a pact not to calculate paces or projected finishing times except at major checkpoints (ex. 10 miles, half marathon, 20 miles). My plan was not to use an arbitrary time as a gauge of whether to speed up or slow down in every mile. Rather, I was going to rely one my own self-perceived effort as a guide to how I ought to be running every mile. Even in the last 10K, when I knew I was closing in on 3 hours, I did not dare look down at my watch. Instead, I told myself just to sprint and run to the best of my ability. I felt that if I could do that and give every ounce of energy I had left out on the course, then I could really be happy and proud knowing there would be no regrets, regardless of my final time. 2. 20 Mile Run 10K Race - Even as I was running well and feeling good for somuch of this race, I kept reminding myself that the first 20 miles is just the appetizer to the entree, the preface to the story, the prelude to the race. Although I felt I controlled my pace well through the first 20 miles and only allowed myself to "race" the last 10K, it wasn't until I compared my splits in this race to the ones from my last sub-3 attempt in 2009 NYCM did I realize how applicable the pace/race metaphor would be. If you performed a side-by-side comparison of the 5k split times between the two races, you'd see that I was only 7 seconds faster at the half and only 6 seconds faster at the 30K split in Chicago! This means that all the speed and fitness gains I experienced this summer compared to last year did not make any difference in the first 18.6 miles but resulted in a tremendous difference in the last 12.2K. This was a bit shocking to me because I assumed and convinced myself that I was running so much faster this year especially in the early going as compared to last year. Boy was I wrong!3. Hydration - As many have said, this was a very warm marathon. We knew this was going to be the case all race weekend. Some chose to "freak out" and just ignore the sun. Others had a contingency plan to drop out or slow down when it got too hot. I told myself on race morning to realistic about my chances and just run as fast as I could without burning out. One thing that was nonnegotiable though was a self-imposed decree to drink 3 cups of fluids at every single water station, regardless of how I felt. This impromptu hydration plan not only kept me out of trouble for most of the race, I was so well hydrated that I was able to skip the last 2 water stops as I sprinted toward the finish line. That has never happened to me before. 4. Blessings in Disguise - Remember the guy that bumped into me at mile 23...causing my body to stop running and my right leg to seize? At the time, I thought it was an absolute disaster. For a [...]

The Perfect Tenth
Race Report from the 2010 Chicago Marathon
Part V - The Final 10K


During the Saucony Hurricanes team dinner Friday night, I found myself seated right between a woman who was about to run her first marathon and a guy who just completed the Leadville 100 miler for the fifth time earlier this year. Although the discussion topics varied and the conversation flowed effortlessly between us, there was one particular question that the marathon rookie asked that hung in the air for longer than it should - During the marathon, what happens after mile 20? As I entered the twilight zone otherwise known as mile 21 of the Chicago Marathon, I found my mind asking my body the same thing.I've been here before, I was sure. But somehow it feels different. I see people with their head down faces transfixed in a daze walking, limping, struggling to move forward and it reminds me of me, how I was, how I used to be during this mile. But now I am not, I am running. My hamstrings and quads are becoming sore and my back is starting to hurt just a little but I am running! I take another GU, my third of the day, to celebrate. If I could run sub 7 minutes miles for 6 more miles, I will be golden.I turned a corner at 20.5 to begin my final out and back loop on Chicago's South Side and see my Flyer teammate SH standing and cheering alone on the side. Given that this part of the course was relatively dead with minimal crowd support, I was surprised to see her there. I stick out my tongue to show my fatigue but she just laughs and snaps a photo of me as I ran by. I wanted to thank her but had no energy so I just continued on.Relative to the others on the course, I thought I was running well. I was running strong. I passed many with ease and never felt like I was slowing down. So it was a little demoralizing when I passed the mile 21 marker in a very pedestrian 7:02. This was the first mile I'd registered over 7 and served as further evidence that I was starting to fade.My head was not in a good place at the beginning of mile 22. My pace was bad, it was starting to get warm, and my legs were starting to hurt. I needed some help to get my mind back in the game. So I asked for my brother and conjured up our own private conversation. You see, a few days ago, I'd promised him 22 as his personal dedication mile. In return he was to find a special power song that I could hum/sing while running his mile. He came back to me a day later with a number by Justin Bieber and I just had to laugh. I smiled while running 22 thinking of all the excuses he gave for that little faux pas. It served its purpose as it distracted me from having to think about the road, the sun, and the deep fatigue I was starting to feel. Mile 22 ended with a 7:05, which wasn't good, but wasn't horrific either.I started mile 23 wanting to regain my pace. After all, there was only 4 miles left and I wanted for all the world to finish strong. But right then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a bright yellow weather alert marker behind an aid station and quickly decide that it just wasn't safe to push pace. Besides, in the back of my mind, I knew a special spectator was waiting at 22.5 and I thought blowing up and dying right at her side probably would not make for a very good first impression. So I just continued on, running with the same effort I had established before. I made sure to concentrate on my breathing and focus on my form, knowing both will be important as I got more and more fatigued.Then at 22.5, I saw HER. She was where she'd said she would be...out on the side of the road, all decked out in her pink tutu and posters filled with [...]

The Perfect Tenth
Race Report from the 2010 Chicago Marathon
Part IV - The Second Ten Miles


It may come as a shock to many that I've never considered myself much of a marathoner. Ever since I crashed and burned so hard in my first marathon that I was reduced to crawling on my hands/knees for two whole blocks, I've always thought of myself as a 13.1 miler kind of guy. Never mind that I've done close to 25 of the short version and only 10 of the long kind, I find I often lack the physical stamina and the mental discipline to compete successfully in the longer distance. Besides 26.2 miles is so far to run and takes so much time that anything can happen at any point to ruin a perfectly paced race that you've been training for many many months. This is why whenever I'm running a marathon, I always feel as if I must fake the distance until i make the distance. I also take care to divide the race to a few shorter and more psychologically manageable segments. For this 26.2, in keeping with the theme of the weekend, I planned to split up my race into a first ten (miles), a second ten (miles) and the final 10(K). Having conquered the first ten in admirable fashion, I was anxious to begin the task of nailing down the second ten.As I set off on what was now mile 1 for me again, I did an internal systems check on my body. Aside from some transient and intermittent back stiffness, my upper body was feeling great. I was breathing in synchrony with my feet. I had no stomach issues and whatever coughing, sniffling, and sneezing I had experienced this morning had long been gone after the first ten miles! As for my legs and lower body, everything was okay there too even if I was foreshadowing and anticipating pain and complaints all morning. In fact, as I gingerly ran through the 11th mile at 6:44, I began to feel cautiously optimistic that today might yet turn out to be a special day.Back on the course, where mile 12 brought us back from the suburbs to the edge of town, I saw the crowds thicken and becoming more rambunctious as the morning worn on. Runners all around me were responding in kind, many urging the spectators on with hand gestures to turn up the volume as if their cheering alone could provide a power boost for the later miles. A pack of college boys all with their shirts off were running past me as if it was their every intention to sprint to the half and just drop dead. One of them knocks into me and I almost take a dive. Luckily, I catch myself just as I was about to lose balance. I wanted to get angry but quickly decide it's not worth the stress. Lose the battle. Win the war. I slow down to take an extra water at the next fluid station because I feel it's getting warmer and then speed up again to pass the mile 12 marker at 6:49.I'm immediately excited running back over the cross bridge into the center of town. For one thing, I'm now less than a mile way from the half marathon checkpoint and as far as I could tell, still running strong and gaining time. For another, my friend M will be here again along the bend at mile 12.5 before the next out-and-back portion to the west. After missing her the first time near mile 2.5, I wanted to be sure to pick her out of the crowd. I kept my eyes peeled to the side as I ran along the left edge of the road. It wasn't long before I spotted her bubbly face at our pre-arranged locale. I went over gave her a hug and high-five and left just as quickly to resume my place with the group of guys I had been running with for the last half mile. Although our rendezvous was short, I felt relieved just to have seen her and know that we were both on our wa[...]

The Perfect Tenth
Race Report from the 2010 Chicago Marathon
Part III - The First Ten Miles


There's something about starting from the first corral of a world major marathon that is magical, breathtaking and inspiring. With the best athletes in the world leading the charge through the starting gate and into the deafening screams and cheers from several hundred thousand boisterous fans lining the streets on either side, you feel as if you're being sucked into a giant vacuum of speed and sound that would make any previous rollercoaster experience you've ever had pale in comparison. Of course, my designated plan going into the race was to start slow and gradually accelerate to marathon pace over the first two miles. However, I don't think I fully considered the energy of the crowd and the magnetic pull of my fellow first corral mates to be so strong. So even as I was focused on starting the race with a self-perceived conservative effort and watched as everyone around me took off towards a much faster start, I was surprised when I passed mile 1 in 6:46, a full 10 seconds or so faster than where I thought I would or should be. But I was feeling strong and effortless, gliding along the same streets I had just walked the day before. So I carried on. Somewhere around mile 1.5 as I was settling into my pace, someone comes up on my shoulder and starts chatting to me about the race. I immediately see he has the same race shirt as me and recognize him as F, a Saucony Hurricane teammate I had just met over dinner a couple of days before. He is nice and asks about my goal time for this race. I tell him about sub-3 but add that I feel uneasy given the warm conditions expected for this race. He tells me not to let the weather get to my head and to execute my race like I had planned. He himself is holding back, having conquered his first 100-miler a few weeks back. Wow, a marathon must feel less than a training run for him, I thought to myself as he talked casually while sustaining sub-6:50 pace. I wondered aloud if I'll ever get to a point where a marathon feels as easy as a short training run. Amazing! I thanked him for his sage advice, wished him well on his race and scooted off to refocus my energy back on my race.Mile 2 passed a little fast again at 6:40 but I was already preoccupied with another task to worry about it too much. My friend M was planning to make her first appearance as a spectator somewhere in this mile. Judging from the thick packs of spectators lining the streets five to six rows deep at times, I knew finding her so early on in this race would prove a difficult task. As I scanned the crowds, hoping to find a familiar face, I felt extremely grateful that she was here somewhere cheering for me in this race. I also thought about the tens if not hundred of friends back home virtually tracking my every footfall as I ran. This made me smile a bit too! Although I ultimately did not find my friend in this mile as the crowded conditions proved a bit too tough for spectating, I did find many funny posters and signs held out by nonrunners that made me chuckle. A couple of my favorites were: "If you can read this, you're not running fast enough!" and "Me: Beer for Run. You: Run for Beer."I passed the mile 3 marker in 6:45 and felt myself settling into this race. Having briefly surveyed the course map the night before, I knew I was starting out on the first of three out-and-back loops at this point. The crowds were thinner now as the course moved through the northern sections of town. Gone are the skyscrapers and modern architectural marvels that dominate th[...]

The Perfect Tenth
Race Report from the 2010 Chicago Marathon
Part II - Before the Start/In the Beginning


Before The StartHaving arrived in Chicago on Friday morning and experienced the warmer weather up close and personal for a day and a half, I felt as prepared to face the sun on race morning as I did the full 26.2 mile distance...which is another way of saying NOT. SO. MUCH. Perhaps I should explain.For the past week and a half of taper, I'd been dealing with a slightly pulled muscle in my right hamstring that would give me little pinches of pain whenever I'd run at tempo pace or faster. On Monday of race week, I also caught a cold from one of the sick kids in clinic that left me a little sniffly and sneezy all the way to Chicago. So I'd be lying to myself if I thought i was 100% physically fit to race this course. But given that I'd been eating right and sleeping well and felt good on my dress rehearsal run of a few miles at marathon pace earlier in the week, I felt that I had a decent shot of running a good race. Besides, this was my 10th marathon on 10/10/10 and I'd been training all spring and summer for THIS RACE on THIS DAY to break sub-3. Was there any possible conceivable way for me to gracefully bow out of my race goal NOW? To make matters worse (or better depending on your perspective), my best fan/friend MT from home as well as several other blogger/podcaster friends were coming out to watch me race. To let them down with a sub-stellar performance would be more than a little disappointing for me.So after gathering my things and filling my stomach with a blueberry muffin and a banana I had bought the day before, I left my friend M still sleeping at the hotel we were staying at and made my way downtown to the starting area at Millenium Park.In the BeginningThe sun had barely begun peering over the horizon when I scooted into the seeded corral starting area after dropping off my bags at 6:45AM. Although I was a bit early, with the scheduled start at 7:30AM, I did not want to waste much needed energy fighting with the crowds and stressing over possibly not making it to my corral before they collapsed them. Besides I had a three digit bib number and a corral start right behind the elites for this race and so I thought I might possibly sneak up to the front and "touch a Kenyan" for good luck before it got too crowded in the corral. So I did, apologized for my intrusion, and grabbed a seat on the side towards the middle of my corral where I waited patiently for all the runners to come join me. As they came, one by one at first, then by the masses, I couldn't help but notice how many of my neighbors were so much younger than I am. I was surrounded by so many skinny legs and track tanks with college logos figured prominently in the front, that I felt as if I had just invited myself to a running fraternity party. Although I was a little intimidated by their boisterous talk, each verbally predicting a better finishing time than his peers, I was more energized by the immediacy of this sub3 attempt. I reminded myself that since I wasn't getting younger, I need to take full advantage of these racing opportunities as they come to me. As I always say before almost every race - Someday I will no longer be able to do this but today just isn't that day! Soon after I had this thought, the national anthem was played and the 33rd Annual Chicago Marathon got underway.[...]

The Perfect Tenth
Race Report from the 2010 Chicago Marathon
Part I - The Race Result


I've held out from you guys long enough. As you may or may not have found out, yours truly fulfilled a dream goal that I've set out for myself a long time ago. In the mini-microwave of heat that was the 2010 Chicago Marathon, I somehow pulled out a 2:59:55 to earn my first sub-3 hour marathon in my 10th marathon by 5 seconds! In many ways, it was the perfect race for me. In other ways, it was not. In my wildest dreams, I never quite imagined this day would come in one of the warmest marathons i've ever run. Yet I managed a strong pace for the most part and fought like heck when it seemed like all hope was gone. I have so many stories to tell and so many people to thank that it will take me a little while to think, reflect, and put down the details. Bear with me though. I promise to make it worth your while.

In the meantime, enjoy the results and my split times. Thanks for all the spectator/virtual cheers, well wishes, and congratulatory remarks. They were highly appreciated and was thought of during the race!

Final Statistics
Official Time: 2:59:55 (PR by 2:25!)
Average Pace - 6:52 min/mi
Overall Place - 707/36159
Gender Place - 598th
Age Group Place - 81st

Split Times
5K - 20:53
10K - 41:53
15K - 1:03:00
20K - 1:24:10
13.1 M - 1:28:45
25K - 1:45:17
30K - 2:06:39
35K - 2:28:29
40K - 2:50:32

1st 13.1M - 1:28:45
2nd 13.1M - 1:31:10
Positive Split - 2:25

Five Days Away from Race Day


While the rest of the world (aka Chicago runners) is up at arms and freaking out about the 55° weather expected for race day, I, on the other hand, am about as calm as I have ever been about a marathon. I have not checked the weather in the past 24 hours. I have not packed a single item into my travel pack. I have not even watched the race course preview in its entirety that's right there on the corner of my own website! You might be wondering - Is Lam so confident in his own abilities that he can afford not to worry? Is he preparing not to race this one all-out? Is he perhaps trying to play some Jedi mind trick to make himself believe this is not a race with an all important goal?Honestly, the truth is that I've already come to the terms with myself that this race may not turn out exactly right for me. I don't know about others but I've had a pretty disastrous couple of weeks juggling work, running, and tapering. I pulled my right hammy running tempo a little too aggressively last week. My body is fighting a viral infection that I probably got from one of the kids late last week and I haven't really had a solid long workout run since the run over the Palisades 3 weeks ago! To say that I'm a little unprepared for this all-out marathon effort is a bit of an understatement.But on the bright side, I do feel that I have at least a fighting chance of running sub-3. Even if my taper wasn't as effective as I'd imagine it'd be, it shouldn't take away all the training I've done over the entire duration of the past 16 weeks. If I've lost a few seconds/mi of fitness over my projected marathon pace of 6:43, I should still have enough breathing room to come in under 3 hours. If my hammy doesn't give out and cramp mid-race and I remain in control of my pace, my body and my emotions, I believe the goal is still achievable.Whatever happens though, I am already satisfied of how far I've come this year in my running. I withstood a couple 70+ mile/weeks during this cycle and proved to myself that training 5, even 6 days a week won't automatically land me in the D.L. I learned about active recovery and perfected my form. More than anything, I can stand in front of the mirror now and not cringe when I call myself an athlete. Sure it will be great to have the validation afforded by a marathon PR and a sub-3 time, but if it doesn't happen, I already know what I'm all about as a runner. I will be fine. I no longer need the label of a great race time to define me. Others may need the digits on a clock to categorize and validate me but I personally no longer place such importance on my performance or such demands on my body to meet/exceed expectations. In five days, I can guarantee that I will run well, I will run fast, and I will run to the best of my ability. Whatever happens after that, I will deal with and accept. After all, isn't that what running is all about? Maybe that's why I am no longer anxious. Maybe that's why I'm no longer scared. We fear what we do not know. In my case, I already know myself. What is there left to fear? All that's left to do is to show the world what I've already come to know for quite some time - this guy is a runner and a mighty fine one at that!Friends, are we ready to show the world what we've got? In FIVE days...READY, SET, CHICA--GO![...]

10 Days to 10/10/10
The Countdown is ON


What better way to commemorate the start of the 10 Day countdown then with a list of my Top Ten Reasons I will Rock Chi-Town (even if I pulled a hammy two days ago, got very little sleep last night and lost my gym bag with my Garmin in it this morning! Like I said earlier...if tapering was a college course, I'd be FAILING right now.) But never mind all of that, the question isn't if I'm ready for Chicago, the question is - Is Chi-Town ready for ME?Top Ten Reasons I will ROCK Chi-Town10. Because I'm faster than I used to be. ...4 mile PR, mile repeats in sub-6 pace...need I say more?9. Because I feel stronger than I've ever been. ...ran 22 miles over the palisades and no post-run nap.9. Because I run farther than I used to go ...I've done 800+ miles over 16 weeks to prepare for one 26.2 run.8. Because I've trained harder for #10 than 1-9 recovery week mileage would count as peaks last year.7. Because 2 years is a long time to wait for a breakthrough marathon ...3:02 in NYCM 2008, 3:02 in Boston 2009...i think it's time.6. Because I'm bringing along friends to cheer me on. ...some running, some not, but all so motivating and inspiring5. Because my bandanna gives off speedy magical powers ...that's right now the best kept secret in town!4. Because I will rest, taper and not get sick before race day. ...because everyone deserves a second chance 3. Because sleep is no longer an optional commodity ...I will get 8+ hours a day even if I theoretically can't2. Because I will DEFINE MY OWN AWESOMENESS in Chi-Town ...that will be my rallying cry in the last 10K1. Because this is my new power song:The Countdown is On! Are YOU ready? [...]