Tuesday, November 20, 2012

NYC 60K Race Recap – November 17, 2012

Each year New York Road Runners puts on dozens of races besides the ING NYC Marathon.  Many of the races are in Central Park.  Races in the park vary from 5K’s to half marathons and regularly have 7,000+ participants.  Volunteers herd runners into corrals for the most organized start possible and several miles are needed for the hoard to evolve into a smooth flow of biomass.

Then there’s the 60K (formally known as the Knickerbocker 60K), which is limited to a few hundred participants.  Starting at 6:45 bibs and t-shirts were ready to be picked up at the NYRR headquarters, which is half a block from the park, 200 or so yards from the start/finish line.

The race “village” was set up on the Bridle Path, just below the famous reservoir running path and consisted of a scoring tent, a tent with warm beverages, bag check tent and of course a few outhouses.  Runners placed drop bags along the fence just past the village, the course would take us by this spot several time.

It was a sunny morning with only a light breeze in Central Park, but temperatures in the mid to upper 30’s had some runners shivering and some donning their souvenir t-shirts.  I was glad I was going to get moving as opposed to the volunteers who would be standing for several hours, I suspect they experienced some cold toes and noses before it warmed up later in the day. (NYRR members can get guaranteed entry in to the marathon by participating in 9 races and volunteering once each year, I choose to volunteer at the Marathon Expo since I KNOW what the weather will be like indoors!)

The runners assembled on the south side of the start/finish line.  The course began with us running just over ½ a mile north on East Drive, around a pylon and back.  Once crossing the start/finish we began our first of 9 “Inner Loops”.  Central Park’s Loop is made up of East Drive and West Drive and is very close to 6 miles around.  The Inner Loop utilizes the 72nd Street transverse and the 102nd Street transverse to form a 4 mile loop.  This leaves off the Harlem Hills north of 102 and by running clockwise we ran down Cat Hill, the other significant hill in the park.

I hadn’t put much thought into my strategy.  I wasn’t confident I had done enough long runs to be prepared.  My last marathon, in July, wasn’t very successful.  Sure it was a good 20 mile run, but that was followed by a 10K walk.  I assumed I’d need some walking breaks, but hadn’t planned them.  I though my very best case scenario would be to get under 10 min/mile and break 6 hours, even if I struggled I thought I would finish in less than 7 hours.  I set out at a 10 min/mile pace.

The out and back from the start features a gentle swale each way, then a flat section through the start/finish.  After passing the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the left and the Great Lawn on the right we descended Cat Hill, named after the bronze panther crouching on the rocks about 15 feet above the roadway.  The bottom of the hill houses the Central Park Boathouse.  Then we start up an incline, turning right onto the 72nd Street transverse and continuing the incline to the midpoint of the transverse, which overlooks Bethesda Terrace.  A short decline and right turn onto West Drive where we passed a stones throw from Strawberry Fields.  Running northward on West Drive we covered some rolling hills and passed the second aid station.  This second station had water and Gatorade (and of course outhouses).  After a nice downhill section passing the North Meadow (kids playing soccer) we turned right onto the 102nd Street transverse.  We were greeted a 20 foot high mountain of mulch which extended for at least 100 yards.  Before Hurricane Sandy visited Central Park this mountain had been elms, maples, oaks and other hardwood trees.  At the end of Mulch Mountain we turned right onto East Drive to return to the start/finish.

As the runners crossed the finish line they could see their time and number of laps completed on a monitor.  In addition to the D-Tag timing volunteers manually recorded the laps; no one wanted any unfortunate effects caused by an electronic failure.  The aid station here had water, Gatorade, flat Coca-Cola, pretzels, bagels, Power-Gel and bananas.  Many runners had left drop bags in this area as well.

I was running with my water belt carrying 16 oz of Accelarade, I sipped on that as I went and took some small amounts of Gatorade early in the race as well.  I had eaten half of a Clif bar before starting and I finished that bar in the on my second loop.  Near the end of my second loop I saw my wife and son.  They cheered as I passed by and went to the playground – he is three.   On the third loop I traded empty Accelarade bottles for full ones and a new Clif bar and my wife joined me for a 4 mile loop, leaving our son with some friends.  After running four miles my wife and fans left to go eat pancakes, I kept running.

Up to this point I had not felt any pain, chafing, cramping or any discomfort other than requiring a few bathroom breaks.  When I looked at my watch and saw 14+ miles I was relieved that I felt so good and even more relieved that the time had seemed to pass quickly, let’s be honest, when you know you are going to be out there a long time you worry about getting bored.  The warm and fuzzy was awesome, for about three minutes, then I must have unconsciously done some math and the “I still have to run 23 miles” thought popped into my head.  It was deflating, but only partly so.

As I finished my 6th lap the #3 finisher crossed the line.  So, three folks beat me by 12 miles or more, good for them.

 By this point the racers are well spaced out and by far the minority of the runners in the park on a sunny Saturday.  Many of the other runners as well as some of the dog walkers and tourists in the park gave words of encouragement and a small, but enthusiastic crowd was gathering at the finish line.

Just into my 7th loop I spotted a couple of friends, one of whom joined me.  She can talk up a storm while running 9:30 miles, so the time passed quickly.  I continued running with no walk breaks other than what was required to pick up a bagel.  My pace crept down ever so slightly throughout the race.  I never felt I was pushing to maintain the pace.  My shoulders and neck had been stiff for a little while but that passed.  My friend reminded my to open up my stride a bit on the down hills to give some muscles a break.  It was a good idea.

As we neared the finish area for me to start my final loop, my wife and son reappeared, fresh from their pancake brunch.  Our son stayed with our friends, quickly falling asleep, while my wife and I set off for the final four miles.

These four miles turned out to be my fastest miles.  I still never felt that any extra effort was required to maintain my pace, I was just running, and for the first time during the day I had no concern about going too fast.  I had thought I’d be closer to my 6 hour time goal, but early in the final loop I realized I wouldn’t be very close.  I hadn’t figured into my pacing the lack of perfect tangents that I would be running.  In all, according to Mr. Garmin, I ran 37.98 miles, or about ¾ of a mile more than the measured distance.  I didn’t particularly try to cut all the corners and in some stretches I stayed to the center of the road where the road is flatter rather than where it’s more sloped, but I still am a bit surprised at the difference.

My finishing time was 6:13:01 on my watch for an average pace of 10:02/mile for the measured distance.  Finishers received an engraved Lucite plaque.

After getting finisher’s plaque, grabbing some water and thanking some volunteers, I checked the scoring tent to ensure the timing mat read my D-Tag.  Some hugs and congrats from friends and family and within a few minutes I was back home.

It was a great experience.  Just about every variable came up in my favor.  The weather was perfect for a run of that length.  It was my home course – I’ve run that loop 100’s of times in the last 10 years.  I was very fortunate to have company for almost half of the run.  The volunteers were always cheerful and friendly.  I had no problems with cramps, blisters or chafing, I’m still amazed about that – thank you Aquaphor.  I did not have any stomach problems.  Even though I was prepared with gels I stuck with solids, Clif bars and bagels (cinnamon raisin).

This event benefits from New York Road Runners expertise in putting on road races.  They average one event per week year round.  But the small field and type of runners attracted to an even of this distance gave it a very different feel than other NYRR events.  I would highly recommend this race to anyone wanting to visit Manhattan and Central Park in November.  Friends and family can brunch at the Boathouse and cheer each of your nine loops.  One possible downside is that the course is entirely asphalt; on the other hand it won’t be muddy!

Visit www.nyrr.org for details, photos and results.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

New GOP policy: Devolution of civil discourse

Low turn out of Republicans in this season's primaries and caucuses have allowed the extremists to drive the debate off the deep end. Rick Santorum is so extreme he believes: a) all sex is a sin - even within a marriage - unless it is for the purpose of procreation b) contraception should be outlawed c) the federal government has an interest in your individual sexual habits enough so that d) the federal government has the authority to outlaw contraception, and most farcical e) people will not have sex if contraception is illegal. Rick Santorum believes HIS religious beliefs should be the law of the land. He does not believe in separation of church and state. He doesn't even believe in attempting to persuade people to accept his beliefs, he just believes in forcing them on people.

New Gingrich and Mitt Romney are pedaling as fast as they can to get as far to the right as Santorum. The party has lost its way, is beyond hypocritical in that it does not stand for "small government" or "individual freedoms" as it advertises, and is preventing any meaningful political debate in this country.

For more information on Rick Santorum please visit Spreading Santorum

Friday, April 8, 2011

What makes me angry? Republican hypocrisy in the budget debates

The Republican Party claims that they speak for all Americans and that we all want to cut government spending to the bone and want further tax cuts. They are in fact not serious about cutting spending, they only want to cut programs which do not fit into their social agenda. And they do not speak for me.

Want some evidence?

On Tuesday March 1st Republicans in the House of Representative voted unanimously to continue tax subsidies for oil companies. Yes, you read that correctly. Republicans gave billions of dollars of tax subsidies to companies such as ExxonMobil and BP.

Speaking for all Americans on this issue? I don't think so. 74% of Americans oppose these subsidies:

Robert Gates, a Republican, became Secretary of Defense under President Bush and was retained in that position by President Obama. He is responsible for putting together the budget request for the Department of Defense. Republicans in Congress are insisting that the DOD needs more money than he is requesting. In particular they insist on continuing a program to create a second jet engine for a new fighter plane. Sec. Gates has asked Congress several years in a row to allow this program to die, it will ultimately cost three billion dollars and the Pentagon considers it unnecessary.

Speaking for all Americans on this issue? I don't think so. 76% of Americans support eliminating unnecessary weapons systems:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My message to Congress - Raise Taxes

Senator Schumer,

I believe the Republican Party is determined tear apart the very fabric which generations of Americans have woven together. The ideal of e pluribus unum is being cast aside to appease a vocal minority who believe they never received any help from others and owe nothing to the community at large. They are delusional, all Americans have benefitted from programs such as Head Start, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The Republican Party, despite is rhetoric, appears bent on creating a permanent lower class. In a recent article in Vanity Fair, Joseph Stiglitz wrote: “In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran.” - http://www.vanityfair.com/society/features/2011/05/top-one-percent-201105

If we allow this to happen our great country may never recover. If we do not address our budget deficits and keep social programs intact they could be lost forever. The only responsible way to address the issue is to raise taxes. If we give in to the conservative ideologues now it may be several political cycles before we could even broach the subject again. Having any discussion with the Republican Party of spending cuts without talking about increasing revenues is a fool’s errand.

Please stand up for what is best for our country and fight for what is best for all of us now and for generations to come.



Monday, August 10, 2009

Let's tax the working folks?

Many people in this country have been duped into believing changes in tax law benefit them, they don't. This country became a great nation because people were given the opportunity to succeed - or fail - through their own hard work. Yet the last 30 years have seen this decimated by people that are changing our tax code to focus on taxing Labor - the work that we do to earn money - and reducing taxes on Wealth.

Now, the average middle class voter might think that when I say wealth I mean money we have saved. No, this refers to the wealthy, a special class of people who live entirely off the capital gains of money that their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers worked hard to earn.

In his article describing the Son of Boss tax dodge, Robert L. Sommers writes:
"When one understands the tax code, it becomes apparent that the conflicts are not between liberals and conservatives, but rather the battle is between old wealth (both liberal and conservative) and new wealth – those living on investments verses those earning an income. Thus, the estate tax, capital gains, and tax-free bonds laws favor old wealth, while those earning large incomes (professionals, business owners, entertainers and athletes) pay the highest rates on their compensation income, as well as employment taxes."

Think carefully about this. You may be paying a few dollars, maybe a few hundred dollars less in taxes since the tax rate on capital gains has been cut, but if you still work for a living, whether you are self employed, work for a small company or a huge corporation, do you really want to shift more of the tax burden to working folks like yourself?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Clean Shaven

For the last couple of months I've been shaving my head. Let's be honest, my hair wasn't getting any thicker and I was wearing a hat to keep my head warm in the winter and to keep my scalp from sunburned in the summer.

The coolest part about shaving my head is that shaving my head is fun! The first couple of times I used the same four blade disposable razor I had been using for my beard, and it worked fine. But I was wondering if there were any good top of the head shaving products out there. I checked in the drug store and found the HeadBlade.

The HeadBlade looks likes a cross between a matchbox car and a razor! Just put the blade and the wheels on your skin and push the car over your skull, no need to apply any pressure. With the grain, against the grain, it's up to you to decide. In a matter of seconds I have a clean shaven head, no nicks, no cuts, no razor burn.

Now I know what your thinking, "Neal, why are you writing a testimonial for this product?" Well a couple of reasons. First, I haven't written anything in a while and I needed something to write about. Next, it's a product I really believe in and highly recommend. And finally, yes indeed, the kind folks at HeadBlade are giving me a discount on products when I refer customer.

Use the link below to checkout the HeadBlade online store. You'll see the referral code "65409" when you checkout, this entitles first time customers a 20% discount (and I'll get some store credit!).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

When Bad Things Happen to Good People (me)

Sunday morning was my orientation and check out dive here at Divi Dive Bonaire, which of course meant checking out my new camera, housing and strobe. Everything was going smoothly until I noticed some tiny bubbles. No Don Ho did not move to Bonaire from Hawaii. The tiny bubbles were coming from the battery compartment of the strobe. When bubbles are coming out that means water is going in. Water does not belong in the battery compartment of the strobe. The strobe did continue to fire throughout the dive so I hoped for the best.

When I got out of the water I confirmed the worst. The battery compartment had flooded. Bad, but not tragic. The batteries were quite degraded, but they can be easily replaced. Unfortunately the guts of the batteries had eaten away at the contacts and one is missing altogether. No amount of cleaning, drying and fresh batteries is going to make this thing flash again. It can be repaired and is under warranty, but there's a limit to what can be done on the island.

I attempted using the camera without the strobe. But the particular housing I bought - yes the more expensive one - blocks most of the light from the camera's internal flash. It's specifically designed to be used with an external strobe. The housing is also specifically designed to be used with a strobe from the same manufacturer and isn't universally compatible, something I never really thought of before.

So I had planned this trip several months ago. I opted to keep the old TV that requires a solid daily slap to head to keep displaying a picture. And I spent hours researching the camera equipment I wanted to purchase. Apparently I had done all that for one (1) dive.

Now on that first dive I had gone to about 50 feet. At that depth divers and all there equipment are exposed to around two and a half atmospheres of pressure, and salt water is quit corrosive - though an excellent conductor of electricty - so things don't have to go terribly wrong before a small problem becomes a big problem. I understand this, so I wasn't nearly as angry as I was disappointed. Yes, I did indeed pout.

On Monday I dove without a camera for the first time in about 100 dives. It was still enjoyable and relaxing, but different. My mind was free to go on autopilot instead of contemplating thought such as "how can I get perfectly still in this current in order to get this shot in focus". Relaxing or not it didn't cure the disappointment, and my pout didn't make it to a smile.