Monthly Archives: October 2009

running the pace race 10k with a legend

Yesterday, I went over to Everyday Athlete, my local running store because I wanted to get a chance to meet marathoning legend Bill Rodgers.  He’d become a legend by winning the Boston and New York City Marathons four times apiece.  Along the way, he broke the American marathon record twice.  Bill is known to be a great competitor and a really nice guy.

Meeting him the day before the race was a lot of fun.  He’s very affable, and loves encouraging others to run well.  He talked a bit about some of the folks he’d competed with over the years, including Jeff Galloway and Dick Beardsley – two very inspirational marathoners who I’ve had the opportunity to meet.  He also talked a bit about the infamous situation with Rosie Ruiz at the 1980 Boston Marathon.  But rather than talk about what Rosie did, Bill talked about the grace Jacqueline Gareau, the real female winner demonstrated.  She quietly let the BAA folks determine the real results, and then accepted her medal at a press conference one week later.  If you’re curious, you can read an archived article written in 2000 about the 1980 race and about the people involved.  It’s a good story to know, and in thinking about the way Bill, Jacqueline, and WIll Cloney (the race director in Boston that day) handled things, it’s emblematic of the sorts of qualities I wish to demonstrate as a competitor and a person.

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I’d intended to simply get his autograph and then head out for a 12-15 mile run.  But after speaking with Bill, and learning that he’s currently recovering from Prostate Cancer.  In fact, he is just three weeks removed from radiation therapy.  I felt honor bound to run in the PACE Race 10k in support of finding a cure for Prostate Cancer.

So on race morning I found myself out shivering with the other competitors, as we waited for the race to start.  The temperature had dipped down into the thirties, but it was dry.  In other words, a good morning for running.  The horn blew, and we were off.  The first bit of the race was a simple out and back that started uphill.  I was running at the rear of the front pack for the first quarter to half mile, and couldn’t figure out why my breathing was so labored.  The reason became clear as we hit the first mile marker in downtown Kirkland.  I had run a 6:33 mile to start the race. 

I told myself I needed to throttle it back a bit.  This turned out to be mandatory anyway, as there was a good climb up Kirkland Avenue and 6th Street for a good part of the second mile.  Still, I kept a pace of about 7:27 for the second mile.  By now, I’d become a bit too fixated on the time, and began pushing myself a bit harder than I should have.  The basic problem was that I’d never run this distance in a race before, and came into it with a vague race goal of keeping it under 8 minutes per mile.  With a goal like that, I’m prone to get into some trouble.

Mostly it was a good kind of trouble though.  I knew I was overdoing it, but also knew that one way or another, it would all be over in just a few miles.  We did the up and down stretches of 108th, and then started downhill for mile 5.

I was aghast when I saw the split at the 5 mile marker – it was 6:03.  Now as much as I’d like to have done that, I’m just not believing it.  The reason I’m skeptical is that I simply hadn’t picked up my downhill/flat pace to the tune of 25 seconds.  Adding to this is that the fastest mile (singular) I’ve recorded myself running is about 5:51.  Most likely, this split was a bit short.  In looking at my split times, I’d guess that however short miles 4-5 were, an equivalent extra amount of distance ended up in the 6-6.2 split.  According to my watch, I did this last stretch at over 12 minutes per mile.  Also not true.  More likely I’d run about 7:25 there, which might have evened things out a bit.

In any case, I pushed hard over the final mile or so, to catch the guy directly in front of me.  It didn’t happen – he ended up two seconds in front of me.  I crossed the finish in just 43:14, which was a good bit faster than I could have expected.  This was good for a second place finish in the 40-49 male age division.  That’s my best placement in a race of any size (77 men ran the 10k, 15 of them in my age division).  Not a bad morning.

My race splits and cumulative average splits are shown below.  I simply don’t believe the 12:27 pace for the final 0.2, so I’ve allowed that portion of the chart to be clipped out to show more detail for the other splits.  It’s not a textbook race.  While the two longer miles both had some good uphill stretches, I’m wondering whether I might not have come in the same or faster by taking mile 4-6 a bit more easy.  The race results are posted here.

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I braved the very chilly weather and waited around for the age group awards for two reasons.  First, this doesn’t happen to me very often.  And second, I wanted to experience receiving the award from Bill himself.  Definitely a thrill.

All in all, I’d have to call this race an unexpected treat.  In some ways, running the shorter distance is more difficult, because you can put more time pressure on yourself.  Still – sometimes you can surprise yourself and have a good race.  It’s not what the clock tells you – rather, it’s what your heart tells you.

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reflections on visiting friends and family back east

This past week I took my first trip to the New York area since my accident nearly sixteen months ago.  It was really great to see everyone back there, and it also felt good to be there on business as well – first time away on one of those in about twenty months. 

Some pictures from the trip are here.

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I got to visit with my good friends, the Krakow family, and to spend time with my cousins.  We spent a bit of time talking about my accident and recovery.  I’ve never had trouble talking about these things, particularly with good friends and family. 

I got lots of hugs, and warm words about miracles. 

One thing that I become more mindful of over time, is that I don’t want the visits to be just about me or my accident.  I hope that I didn’t ramble on about myself too much.  It was definitely wonderful seeing these people who mean so much to me.

I visited the Krakows at the home they’ve lived in for (I think) about forty years.  My family spent quite a bit of time there when I was young.  I remember spending two weeks there back when I was about seven, with my friend Doron’s parents and my parents swapping week-long kidless getaways while the other couple watched all of us.  Doron and I are both over forty now, and we have kids of our own.  But while I was in their house, I felt the memories washing over me, particularly when I looked at the many pictures on the wall.  Spending time with Janet and Doron’s kids was a lot of fun too – they’re very smart and engaging.

I spent the weekend with my cousins Sandra and Chris (who had come up from NC for the weekend for cousin Julia’s confirmation).  They were wonderful indulging me with a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  There’s so much to see there, I had trouble deciding where to go next.  They have excellent collections of old European masters, American ‘heritage’ pieces, and more modern pieces.  We capped the first day with a nice Chinese meal. 

Sunday morning found us in Connecticut for Julia’s confirmation.  It was a beautiful service, and I got to join the other family members in going up for the laying on of hands to Julia, showing love and support for her.  Then we went back to the house, and enjoyed a day of visiting and (lots of) eating.  I may have consumed about five days worth of delicious ziti and pie. 

Seeing Art and Cheryl’s kids is always a pleasure.  Art’s son was able to answer one of the more difficult technical questions I ask interviewees.  The kid’s not yet sixteen, but I’d hire him :).  Their eldest girls were home from college (whoah!), and it was great catching up with them.  One is doing crew and studying biomedical engineering.  The other is studying English Lit, and writes.  And Julia is a sweet, thoughtful, smart (and very athletic) kid.

I’d been able to get back there probably once or twice per year before the accident.  I always enjoy spending time with the people back there.

Although I’ve not lived in New York for over 35 years, it still feels like home in a way.


running in new york city

Having spent the past week in NYC, I’ve had the chance to visit some parts of it on foot.  While working, I made a point of getting up early and heading out for some runs.  Usually I kept it to between four and six miles, but it was a lot of fun.

I stayed up in midtown for three days last week.  I chose the hotel closest to Central Park, which allowed me to run without having to stop for many traffic signals.  For the most part, I’d head out from the Columbus Circle area, and head over to the east side of the park, and then go partway around the reservoir before heading back.  I’d round the morning routine out by stopping for a cappuccino before heading back to my room to wash up.  On Saturday, I went around the reservoir a couple of times, and then took a turn around the whole park too.  I rounded the distance out to probably 9 or 9 1/2 miles.  One my way out, I ended up running with a bunch of folks from the local Team in Training program.  It was great to see them out there, some training for their first marathon.  One my way back, I ended up running into the flow of runners participating in the Terry Fox Cancer Research 10k.  It made me wish I’d registered and run it too.  Great cause, and a nice venue for it.

This week, I worked in lower Manhattan, with a couple of other guys on my team.  We stayed in Tribeca, on the edge of Little Italy and Chinatown.  In the morning, I’d head out to cross the Brooklyn Bridge.  This was a nice way to start the run.  The bridge has a great pedestrian walkway, and provides a great place to watch the sunrise.  Yesterday I wound back around by ground zero before heading back.  This morning, I went there, down to St Paul’s church, before cutting over to the path along the West side Highway.  This was a great way to start the day – lots of people, decent scenery and landmarks to enjoy, and I kept a very easy pace too.

Running in New York City reminds me of why I love to run.  It’s a great way to connect with the world around me – even if I don’t say a word when I’m out.  Running with the other people, enjoying the landmarks, seeing the neighborhoods is a lot of fun.


working in new york city

I’ve been working in New York City since last week, and am having a good time.  I’ve spent two days interviewing students at Columbia University, and then a couple of days this week will be spent with customers using the product I work on (the Windows Presentation Foundation developer platform framework).

This is my first college recruiting trip in a year and a half, and it’s great to be back into this.  I genuinely enjoy interviewing people.  It’s not always easy, and can be very intense work.

On one of these trips, I typically speak with 24-26 people in two days.  Each interview is 25 minutes long, wit 5 minutes in between for paperwork.  Other than a lunch and a couple of 15 minute breaks, I’m “on” all day.  You can;t let your mind wander – that wouldn;t be good for my employer’s chances of making the most of the time.  It also wouldn’t be fair to the people I’m talking with.  This is a good opportunity for them, and I need to value their time as well.

Historically, of the 24 or so people i speak with, perhaps two to four might ultimately get an offer.  This is not based on a quota or target number at all.  It’s a historically valid number reflecting data from perhaps 25 campus trips I’ve taken over the years.  That’s been at some top-tier schools (MIT, CMU and the like), as well as some second and third tier schools.  Perhaps that doesn’t sound like much of a yield, given that a trip will cost several thousand dollars.  But over the years, I’ve followed how some of the folks I’ve interviewed (who were ultimately hired) have done.  It’s very fulfilling to watch them grow and advance.  And getting a couple of good hires for that kind of cost is time and money well spent.

The other part of the trip was a bit more of a mystery.  When speaking with customers I had to help give a presentation about our product, answer questions, and gather wish-list items from them.  The experience was mixed.  One of the customers did not really make very good use of the time.  This was for a variety of reasons – the biggest one being that their experience level with our product was fairly low.  The other customer packed more purpose into an hour than the first one did in a day and a half.  All in all, it was worthwhile – although I have some ideas about how to make better use of the time in the future.

The thing about the customer visits for me was that it involved a market sector I’d not had much experience with.  As is true with anything like this, there’s a whole vocabulary to learn and lots of context to gather.  The technical domain is interesting enough that I wouldn’t mind more experience with it.  Despite the fact that the time could have been better spent with one of the customers, I did draw some good experience from the trip – hopefully that will translate into some good product stuff too.

Of course, being in New York allowed me to do some fun things as well.  I got to visit with my very good friend Doron and his family.  The last time I saw Doron was when I was still in the hospital last year.  It was great to catch up with he and his family.  I got to spend the weekend with some of my cousins celebrating a confirmation.  I’ve been coming back to NY once or twice a year since about 2001, and it’s always a real treat to catch up with friends and family.


some reflections on yesterday’s marathon

I’ve been thinking about yesterday’s race quite a bit.  It feels a bit compulsive that I’d been annoyed about the course length.  One way or another, I had a really good day out there.  I felt good most of the way, and pushed myself pretty hard.  Check out the split chart to see what I mean :

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The blue line represents my mile pace for each length of the course I ran (it was a double out and back, so I ran it four times).  The splits themselves were pretty consistent, within a minute for each length.  The resulting pace per mile was also pretty consistent as a result.  Better is the downward slope in the red line, which means that I negative split overall.  You can click on the chart for a larger view of it.

One way or another, this means I averaged between 8:09 and 8:14 for the race, even allowing for a slower 0.4 mile run to round out the distance to 26.2 miles.  A good day indeed.

Not sure whether I’ll run another of the races put on by this race director.  He was a nice guy, and it was a nice course.  When you’re putting on so many races at once – triathlon, 5k, 10k, 10 miler, half marathon, marathon – and charging money for them, I’d expect the course length to be pretty close to correct.

This happens a bit in uncertified races.  I believe a marathon in Oregon recently went through the process to get their course USTF certified, and determined that they’d run their race with a short course for years.  It was a tradition for people to go down there and PR, and now they know one of the reasons why that might have happened.  In that case, I believe the course was even shorter than the one I ran.  And to be honest, it wouldn’t have been much of an issue to me if I’d not PR’d.  In fact, on a bad day, I may not have even noticed.

The fact remains that when you’re gauging yourself against your history and your goals, it does matter a bit.

In any case, I’m pleased with my effort and the results – whatever they are.  This time last year, I could not have imagined being in a quandary like this one.  Indeed – I’m one of the most fortunate people on the planet.


a nice day to run – just a bit farther though

This morning I completed the Columbus Day Marathon down in pastoral Elma Washington.  The race was a small one, but it will be particularly memorable for a couple of reasons.  I set a new PR (personal record), and as luck had it I was the first finisher overall.  I never imagined I’d do that, even in a smaller event.  I’ll talk a bit more about the PR later.

I’d originally hoped to fit in another 50k this month, but the timing didn’t work out.  In searching for a marathon, I considered several others close by, but ultimately was drawn to the Columbus Day event for several reasons.  First – it was a lot less expensive than some of the other races.  And it had an unusually late start time, which meant I’d be able to drive down just before the race, without having to decide between paying for lodging or getting up incredibly early to make the 2 hour drive.

So – I found myself driving through the hinterlands of Grays Harbor County heading to the race.  Packet pickup took about 15 seconds, which gave me about 40 minutes to snooze in the car before the race.

Apparently a number of runners had taken off early, to avoid having to run midday.  I’d seen a number of them on the way into the park.  We’d see each other a number of times along the way.  The course was a simple twice out and back course from Vance Creek Park, along flat roads.  I think there was just one turn to keep track of, so it was pretty simple.  There were also 5k, 10k, 10 mile, and half marathon runs along the course as well, so the aid stations turned out to be pretty frequent (located at the respective turnarounds for each distance).

Our race director counted down, and sent us off, just before 10:30 am.  There was a really fast guy who bolted off going at least 2 min/mile faster than me.  He got small pretty fast.  I settled into a good pace, as the second one out of the gate.  I figured that it was a matter of time before I was passed – I’m used to that.

I’ve taken a simpler approach to running marathons this year.  The fanciest gadget I wear is a Timex Ironman watch – no GPS, no Heart Rate Monitor.  So when there are no mile markers, I have to rely on how I feel in order to decide whether to speed up or slow down.  I’ve noticed recently that I’m tending to pick up a bit more speed.  This has been true for some of my low-mileage runs during the week.  I’d look at my watch after finishing, surprised at the time.  And that happened today, in a very good way.  Although I never actually measured it, my cadence felt faster – possibly above 85 strides per minute.  And my core felt nice and strong, possibly owing to the fact I’ve been doing my crunches more regularly.  So – when i forced myself to lean forward a bit to pick up speed, it seemed to work nicely.

Still – I didn’t believe that I hit the turnaround for the 5k (about 1.55 miles) in less than 12 minutes.  That would put me under an 8 minute per mile pace, which I simply didn’t believe.  I hit the 10k turnaround in about 26 minutes, which was about an 8 minute per mile pace as well.  Either I was having a really great day running, or the course was just a bit short.  Hm – perhaps both?

I hit the turnaround for the half distance at about 52 minutes.  This essentially put me on pace for a flat 8 minute pace, which I still wasn’t really believing.  I hit the halfway mark in just over 1:45, which meant the same thing.  Each of my course lengths was completed in about the same amount of time – 52-53 minutes.  If nothing else, I was being consistent.

By the time I rounded the last turnaround, I was feeling fatigued.  By now, I thought there was a reasonable chance I’d finish first overall, and that I’d also probably push the 3:30 mark.  This time is especially interesting to me, as it is my qualifying time for the Boston Marathon.  While this particular race was not a qualifier (not a certified course), hitting this mark would establish that I could probably do it again.  Wow.

So, by now I was pushing myself a bit too hard.  I felt a bit dizzy, and out of breath.  At the same time, you can’t take yourself out of a race when things are going this well.  So on I pushed.

When I hit the final aid station, about 1.55 miles from the finish, I had given up the illusion that I’d be able to kick hard for the final mile – already did that.  My steps were becoming more stilted and erratic as I struggled to focus.  By now, it was all about trying to get in under 3:30.

As I turned the corner into the park, and found the finish, I saw that I’d come in just 15 seconds over 3:30.  They got my name, and handed me the trophy as the top finisher.  Wow again – I guess the superfast guy in front of me was running the half marathon.

As I settled down a bit, I asked the woman at the finish whether they were sure about the course length.  I had just PR’d by 10 minutes, which was a big surprise to me.  She said "well – it’s about 0.4 short".  Oh.

I got up and told her I needed to round out the distance.  As I stumbled along for a 4 minute easy run, I was surprised at how annoyed I felt by this.  The reason is that I’d PR’d, but now had no real way of determining what my new PR was.  And while I was pleased to have finished first overall, I race against myself and my own goals, rather than others.

So – I think the way I’m viewing the PR is to add the four or so minutes I ran afterwards to my official time and call it good.  I took it pretty easy, but then my legs were also cramping, so it’s unclear that I could have run faster during the race.  Let’s call it 3:35 and think of it as a good day.

Whatever the time really should have been, it’s clear that I’m running stronger than I did before the bike accident.  Qualifying for Boston is within reach – but will require me to throttle down the racing schedule, and do some focused quality speed and strength work.  Unclear whether I’m willing to give up the marathon per month routine to do this.  Need to think about it.