Monday, November 1, 2010

Lions and Wildebeests

Newport Liberty Half Marathon - September 25, 2010

When in need of a tough training run, scheduling a “training” race serves as a powerful training tool. Many non - runner friends wonder why even race? Meaning why the effort to get up early, drive to a race, and pay to pin on a bib number to go for a run with strangers? Is your ego that lioness that you need to prove yourself versus 2400 people you don’t know of varying abilities? Why not just get up go out your front door, run, and go on with your day?

My short answer is always “motivation”. That is to run your best you need to train hard. To max your training and put out your best effort you need to be motivated. Or simply put, wildebeests runs their fastest with lions tailing their asses!

With two weeks of recovery from the SSH, I am ready to resume my mileage and cardio buildup for the Nov. 7th ING New York Marathon seven weeks out. My training plan calls for a long hard 14-16 miler this weekend. So, the need to get up at 4:30am on Saturday and run from 6am to 8:15 before kiddie soccer, a dreadful proposition. Not a formula for success to run your best by venturing out into the dark chilly air to run a long two hour solo run under streetlights an hour before the dawn light.

Many opportunities for the elephant to better the rider; 1. Will I even get out of bed? 2, maybe sleep in an hour and then just cut the distance in half, or 3 put forth the full mileage but at less than a maximum hard effort that I need. Advantages elephant, that is until my R2C14 relay buddies Jim C. and Ellen D. convince me to run the half marathon with them the next morning on Sunday with a promise to be home by noon, rider up!!


At 6am Sunday, the cool dawn air foreshadowes an optimal running day for an 8:30am morning race along the Hudson River. I walk down the hill to meet Jim at his house and we pick up Ellen for an easy 30 minute drive to Pavonia/Newport, NJ. Race registration is a breeze, but the 25 port-o-let to 3000 runner ratio mandates alternative olfactory arrangements be made. I lead my crew into the nearby Newport Mall and we locate his and her Newport Odeon Cinema restrooms that are in pristine condition at 7am, but less so by 7:04am upon my departure!

Race Start

The start and lineup on Washington Avenue is as breezy as the waterfront. The gun goes off, and I quickly settle into sub 8 minute mile pace. A minor complaint by the GPS runners is that the course mileage markers are not accurate. Mile one is actually 1.15 miles, so my 8:21 pace is not actually that bad. (In total, the course actually measures more like 13.35, than 13.1 miles.) However, after the GEER 100K that measured 105K or 1.5 miles too long, this slight over distance is no big deal to me!

We finger up Washington Avenue toward Hoboken, and then return to turn right up Grand Street to cross mile three on slightly sub 8 minute pace at 23:45. A system check indicates tingling in my legs and arms, a preliminary indicator of dehydration. In full disclosure, my diet and alcohol intake has not been ideal through September! Jim catches me here and we run together at a taxing but sustainable race effort.

The course navigates the Port Liberty Harbor, shoots behind the Science Center and traverses Ellis Island through the Liberty State Park. The route affords majestic early morning views of the Hudon River, the Statue of Liberty and downtown Manhattan. I cut the most efficient lines through corners and continued motoring on my hard training pace mile after mile, the younger, faster (lion) runners on my beest tail.

Jim maintains contact, but unfortunately I never see him after mile 4 once on the asphalt trail. He says he did not want to “mess with my vibe”, however, I also think he likes being a hunter lion as opposed to the hunted beest!

So, at juat over an hour in at mile 8 my pace is right on redline, or 7:45s similar to my race effort at the Superhero last may. I like to think that the brisk winds, and dehydration impact my pace a bit, but the sun and 70s weather are close to perfect and are probably as much a pace enhancer as the breeze is an inhibiter. With water and skyline views, running the medal is a positive mental process versus a pre-dawn solo training run slogging through miles to “fit them in". I am gassed but glorious as I approach the mile ten aid station at one hour 16 minutes.

5K to Go!

I pause and injest a gel with water for the final 5K push. Ten miles into a solo training run the focus would be to “get home”. But in a race, your focus for the last 5K is “to not slow down and get passed at the end as well as a sub 24 minute 5K”. My inner wildebeest bears down, hits the hammer and maxes it out. As I regain redline, just ahead a cop is preparing to hold up the pace line for the light rail street car to cross. No way Jose, this beest is coming through!

I barrel across the tracks, then careen through the turn down Grand Street to the waterfront. The slight downhill allows me to increase speed and overtake runners. At mile twelve along the water the winds flare as does the left hamstring. Tim, focus!! I know I am close and resort to my mental “hot coals” trick. That is as soon as my foot lands, jerk it up off the firey coals or risk getting burnt. I stay on pace and pass slowing runners through to the finish. The beest has given so much more than in any kind of solo training run.


My 1:41:30 time, same as Superhero, or 7:45 mile pace finishes 365th out of the nearly 2400 finishers. Good strong tempo run for the ING New York in seven weeks! Room for improvement but a solid effort and I am happy. A scan of the results indicates the strength of the runners in the field evidenced by the 152 runners that finish sub 1:33, or seven minute mile pace. Jim comes in on my heels, evidence to his improved training, and Ellen is not long behind us. The wildebeests survives for another day, and we motor home for hearty well earned lunches with our perspective herds!

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