Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for New York City Marathon

Chirunning in the Berkshires

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View from Kripalu porch

Paging through the Kripalu catalog offerings this summer, I noticed a workshop for Mindful Chirunning. A yoga and health retreat center tucked away in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, Kripalu has a wonderful location atop a knoll, a sparkling lake at the base and Tanglewood just down the road. With the classes at the Kripalu center, it was possible to slip into a few yoga sessinss and lectures on various mind and body topics between and after our workshops.

The program dates worked with some other New England stops on the summer agenda, so my opportunity was right for a  contemplative and studied approach to my running.

The loss of my trusted Garmin 305 which stopped working a week before the workshop was one less diversion from the Chi lessons.

Along with the great location and perfect timing, the Chirunning workshop continued me on the current path of working on some alignment issues. 

Most days, we participated in three daily sessions, resulting in multiple daily showers, a large laundry bag and many notes and helpful feedback to take home. We worked in large and small groups and received individual direction and correction from the corps of excellent Chirunning trainers. 

The Chirunning technique developed by Danny Dreyer and based on Tai Chi movement, uses the runner’s energy, or chi, for running efficiency and modeled to help reduce or prevent injuries. Some of the forms of the technique include a subtle forward lean assisted by gravity, a midfoot strike, engagement of the body’s core and a mind-body connection – doing an occasional check-in on form focuses while running. Increased speed is not a promised outcome, but some runners find that it just happens as a very nice side effect.

Analyzing our foot falls on sand.

Mike helps us analyzing our foot falls on the sand beach.

Individual film analysis has been helpful for me and I continue to work on my own to make the form focuses a habit. During my initial filming, the instructors identified some correction areas:

  • the ‘splay’ of my right foot. I had been working through some exercises to correct this and they offered more tips to eventually correct. A work in progress but it is coming along.
  • Shoulders hunched close to my ears (another work-in-progress correction).
  • Moderate heel strike.

By the final filming on Thursday, I had made progress (but not eliminated) the splay, improved relaxation in my shoulders, held the correct posture and was landing with midfoot.

Overall, my cadence and breathing are good and didn’t need much in the way of correction.

Each runner or walker in the workshop had slightly different modifications to make and it was interesting to watch how each of us was able to concentrate and improve during the five days.

The last session of the week included a 6:30 a.m. optional trail run. Behind Kripalu,  past Monk’s Pond to Olivia’s Overlook, there were plenty of rocks and roots to keep the mind focused and plenty of opportunity to put Danny’s tips for trail running into use.

At the ridge overlooking Lake Mahkeenac with Chirunning cofounder Danny Dreyer and the early a.m. trail running group. Good company, great trail and a beautiful view.

At the ridge overlooking Lake Mahkeenac with Chirunning cofounder Danny Dreyer and the early a.m. trail running group. Good company, rugged trail and a beautiful view.

Life crests another hill this year and I can see my seventh decade out in the distance. There is no sure thing, but my plan is to employ the Chirunning techniques and use the individual critiques to ensure that my running form will enable me to continue running far into the future.

Thanks to Danny, Lisa, Angela, and Mike for your guidance during the workshop.

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In Praise of the Small Marathon

I’m giving some thought to a Fall marathon (or two). Oddly, my last two marathons were at opposite ends of the marathon experience. Earlier, I posted a blog on the New York City (NYC) Marathon, the largest marathon in the world. Let me tell you about a follow-up to the New York Marathon, a wonderful early March small race about 5 hours south of New York. The Lower Potomac River (LPR) Marathon isn’t the smallest marathon in the world, but it’s close.

Sunrise start during mile 1 of LPM - Photo credit: Jeanne Larrison

Sunrise start during mile 1 of LPM – Photo credit: Jeanne Larrison

I hesitate to spread the word about this small gem for fear of losing out on registration another year. I’ll take that chance and share my large/small marathon comparison:

Entry Fee (depending on registration date/details):
NYC: $255
LPM: $50

Transportion to Start:
NYC: 2.5 hours approx. Subway, ferry, then bus to Start
LPR: 5 minute drive to start/finish at Paul Hall Center from the St. George Inn

Start Time:
NYC: 10:30 a.m. – 3rd wave
LPR: 7:30 a.m.

Women and Place in F65-69 Age Group:
NYC:121 in AG, 6th Place
LPR: 3 in AG, 2nd Place

Finishers:
NYC: 53,000
LPR: 180 (Race caps registration at 200) 

About as crowded as it got on the course. Photo credit:  Crystal Rapp

About as crowded as it got on the course. Photo credit: Crystal Rapp

Fantastic Women Race Directors:
NYC: Mary Wittenberg
LPR: Liza Recto

Personal Finish Time:
NYC: 4:28
LPR: 4:39 (I’ll save the excuses)

Scenic:
NYC: through portions of 5 boroughs, over Hudson River
LPR: along Potomac River, past lighthouse, horse farm, riverside cottages

Weather:
NYC: High Winds, cool & crisp
LPR: Clear, crisp, minimal remaining roadside ice and snow after a tough winter

Photo Credit: Jeanne Larrison

If you enjoy hearing early morning bird calls and the wind in the pines, this race is for you. If crowd support is a must, maybe not. Photo Credit: Jeanne Larrison

Time Change on Race Date (how odd is this?):
NYC: To EST – gained an hour
LPM: To DST: – lost an hour

Race Photos:
NYC: 3-Image Download, $49.95
LPM – Courtesy images at request from on-course photo-joggers of  Chesapeake Bay Running Club.

Perks:
NYC:
    Large Expo
    Seminars
    Photo Ops with Elite Runners

LPM:
Waterside dinner with local runners at the
                  Ruddy Duck steps away from Inn
      Indoor Bathrooms at Start/Finish
      Post-race Showers available in the Spa
      Buffet luncheon (no charge for runners) during awards

How do your large and small marathons compare?

Pre-race Dinner at the Ruddy Duck with local runners. Photo credit: Crystal Rapp

Pre-race Dinner at the Ruddy Duck with local runners. Photo credit: Crystal Rapp

Does the convenience and hospitality of the small marathon trump the celebrity, expo, and crowd support of the mega-marathons – or not?

Sketched-Out Running Plans on a Frigid Morning

As expected, dawn on this last day of January brought single digit temps, drifting snow and a windchill well below zero, I’ve rescheduled my long run and taken to the keyboard. It’s about time, since the draft version of my 2015 running plan is stale and outdated.

With the nagging ache of a 2-year old ski injury, I’ve taken a few pie-in-the-sky running adventures off the table for this year in order to concentrate on strengthening my knee and working on alignment, doing what I need to do now to assure that I can continue to say that I am still a runner.

So, what is left for the year? I plan to honor the races I have already registered for, but run them simply as training and enjoyment without a concern for time. By mid-year, I expect to be back full-throttle. In the meantime, here is a scaled back list of possibilities:

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Lakeside Trail Pinchot Park January 2015

February: First up is the Squirrely Tail Twail Wun, a 1/2 Marathon in the woods. I impulsively registered after a January trail run/walk tagging along behind a fellow race director and his cohorts mapping out the HARRC in the Park fall 15K trail race on some of the same trails. Conditions for Squirrely Tail were notoriously bad last year and this year will likely not resemble the snowy but reasonably passable trail of January. This may be a scratch.

March:

Lower Potomac River Marathon, a low-key, low cost Maryland marathon limited to 200 runners. I selected it as an antidote after running New York, the largest marathon in the world, a few months ago. Originally, I also selected it for the likelihood of a good finish time. Now, I’m planning to just take it easy and make it through.

Capital 10-Miler – a run for the Arts On March 29, I will be race directing the race but I love the course through the Greenbelt and across the Susquehanna bridges and will be running it with race committee members a number of times before race date.

Capital 10-Miler, mile 6 along the Susquehanna

Capital 10-Miler, mile 6 along the Susquehanna

 April:

Hmm, seems to be a drought here. A good time to continue working on corrections and rest. I will likely pick up a few 5K’s and 10K’s and find some trail runs or hikes in preparation for ……

May:

Dirty German 50K (really) I signed up for my first ultra, a well-established run and the course is a figure 8. If I decide a 50K is beyond my ability, this may be downgraded to the 25K. We’ll see.

June:

My big plans for June are scuttled by better judgment, with hope for that adventure next year. I’m sure I will find something to fill this space.

July:

National Senior Games in Minneapolis, MN. I will be racing the 10K on July 4 and the 5K on July 6. Qualification for national games is at the state level in even-numbered years. If you’re interested, take a look at your state – or surrounding states – for the competition schedule in 2016. This is a great opportunity to meet and watch some outstanding senior athletes in action. With a minimum age of 50 years, there will be 12,000 athletes attending and competition in more than 20 different sports.

Running with the big dogs. In 1st place on the AG podium is Jeannie Rice, fastest 66 yr. old Female marathoner in US, with Nancy Rollins, a decorated masters runner who placed 2nd in AG at Boston this year. Keep looking to the right, to the right - and there I am in 7th place just proud to be in the top 10.

2013 Senior Games 5K in Cleveland and running with the big dogs.1st place on the 65-69 AG podium is Jeannie Rice, fastest 66 yr. old Female marathoner in US, 2nd place Nancy Rollins, a decorated masters runner who placed 2nd in AG at 2014 Boston. Keep looking to the right, to the right – and there I am in 7th place just pleased to be in the top 10 of the outstanding field of women.

My last trip to Minneapolis was to a conference where my time in the beautiful city was mostly spent in meeting rooms. This time, I plan to enjoy family, the outdoors and some of the many arts venues.

August/September/October:

Nothing big planned here, so a great time to get in distance training and throw in a couple of half-marathons. Wild card – I may throw my name in the Chicago Marathon lottery, another opportunity to tie running in with a visit to the Midwest.

November:

Harrisburg Marathon In spite of tempting e-mails from the NYC Marathon warning me I have only xxx weeks left to claim my guaranteed entry before the February 15 deadline, with only a week between the New York and Harrisburg Marathons, I’m saying no. It has been several years since I ran the full Harrisburg Marathon and I want to get at least one in while in the F65-69 AG. This is a wonderfully organized marathon with miles of scenic riverside and neighborhood running.

Harrisburg Marathon, my first marathon, 2003, on the only non-scenic mile of the course.

Harrisburg Marathon, my first marathon, 2003, on the only non-scenic mile of the course.

When I’m not running the full Harrisburg, I volunteer and/or run with a senior relay team, all great alternatives. So, NYC, I’ll see you again another year.

December:

It depends – on where or if I’m traveling. Who knows what the future holds?

Well now, I see sunshine flowing in the window and temps have moved into the high teens. Maybe I’ll get in a mile or two.  Gotta run…………

 

 

NYC Marathon Bookend Days

Destination marathons, and even home town marathons, have a before and after. Taking on 26 miles requires your mental space. That may mean a day-before get together with friends who will patiently listen to you second guess your training plan. It may mean sitting quietly with yourself for even a short time, a moment to focus physical and mental energy. The closing bookend may be a day back at the office where the mind wanders to the previous day’s accomplishment and while your  body reminds you that, yes – you really did do that – again.IMG_0978

With New York, there was a before day to gently roll into that weekend and an after day of soaking up some post-marathon activity before a mid-day departure.

Our threesome took the ever-convient Amtrak in, with a window of time to discuss running, catching up on other miscellany, and more running talk.

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With running friends Carol and Becky. My green bib is a giveaway that they are speedier runners.

With a mid-day Friday arrival, we dropped our bags at the hotel and off to the Expo shuttle bus for the Javits Center. From the start, there is the distinct international feel to this marathon. We had ample time to pick up our registration bags, check out the running gear and with an extra day before the marathon, we dared to taste test the myriad of sample energy products on display.

There are items I know after a brief scent or a bite are not for me. Others I’m willing to try. I brought samples home to experiment with as I begin my next cycle of long training runs. I’ll let you know how they work for me.

Large selections of running gear did not tempt me. I seldom buy gear at an Expo. Well, there was the time in Boston when my luggage took another route, but aside from emergencies I’m more likely to ponder my selections until its too late. It’s a great way to save.

After a few hours of browsing time, the crowd was growing and we exited the Expo for an early dinner at Joe G’s, a Manhattan favorite for me, located below street level with a grotto feel and deliciously seasoned Italian.

Saturday started with an early shake-out run from the Da Vinci Hotel, a boutique place chosen for its proximity to the NYC Marathon finish line. The friendly, helpful staff were a bonus.

2-DSC00768 A cold rain fell and by mid afternoon the wind was picking up. It was a relaxing, do your own thing day. We could easily have fit in a show, but kept things unstructured,  rendezvousing for a few meals. I particularly liked the Bread and Honey market neaby,image where we restocked on snacks and bananas and enjoyed a hot cup of soup. A quick stop at the Westerly Natural Market (more samples in my cache), then a late lunch/early dinner was nearby at the Ivy Bar. It was time to call it a day.

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A gracious Meb signs autographs

Our closing bookend day had a great start, thanks to Terri, my running friend and fellow blogger at  See Jain Run. From her, I learned about a post-marathon day presentation and information session on a product I have yet to try (another sample I’m saving for an upcoming long training run. I’m looking forward to trying the product  – more on this later). IMG_0997There we had the opportunity to hear Olympian and winner of earlier Boston and NYC Marathons Meb Keflezighi  offer comments and insights on running  and competing and life, and some nutrition information from running coach and author Greg McMillan as well.

A brief chat with Greg McMillan. Love his coaching tips.

A brief chat with Greg McMillan. Love his coaching tips.

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Whoever invented the rolling suitcase, thank you.

Off to catch the train with no time to spare, the bookends fold and marathon weekend is complete. Great marathon, great city, nasty weather. We’ll be back. Maybe.

 

Windy, Wild NYC Marathon

With more than 50,000 NYC Marathon finishers, there are as many stories. Here is mine. A long and tedious path from a half marathon qualifier in 2012, cancellation of NY 2012, 2013 tumble down a ski hill, defer to 2014. The wait was worth it.

Any marathon the size and reputation of NY has a before and after the main event. That will wait. Today, its the main event. The decision early on was do a tourist run, enjoy the sites and finish time be damned.

View from the Staten Island Ferry. Photo Credit: Carol Varano

View from the Staten Island Ferry. Photo Credit: Carol Varano

Race day we’re off – subway to Staten Island Ferry, buses to athletes villages, most runners carrying bags of throw-away clothing for warmth in the 40mph winds at the start.

Hugs and goodbye, good luck to my faster friends Carol and Becky off to their starts. I keep walking to the green village where my corral will begin the gauntlet of wind on the Verrazano Bridge, first mile uphill – second mile downhill.IMG_0988

High over the Hudson River, I tried my best to stay in the middle of a group of runners. Instead, those runners were being buffeted about while I was blown to the right into the barricades, then bouncing back into the group, hopping across layers of clothing abandoned as runners exit the wind swirls on the bridge and enter Brooklyn.

The relentless wind moves from broadside to a headwind. I search the crowd for a bigger person running my pace, fall in behind a young man clicking along at about a 9:40, slightly taller and wider than me. I give him a couple of feet of space and soon a small woman cuts in at his heels. How unfair, slipping in and stealing my windshield. Off to find a replacement.

And there he is, about 6’6″ with a wide torso, wearing either halloween devil horns or a Viking helmet, not sure which. I draft behind him for a full mile before he stops to talk to his cheerleaders. I take solace and energy in James Brown’s music blasting from the sideline.

IMG_0981I miss the sign coming into Queens (subbing a photo from the Expo, featuring Senior Runners from Queens – my kind of people).

Around Mile 20, we enter the Bronx for a mile or two. An enthusiastic group of live musicians welcomes us. IMG_0990No lip-synching here as they perform on a raw morning. The wind is again straight on as we enter Manhattan. Anything for survival, I see runners scooping down to pick up outerwear abandoned by earlier runners, protecting their chest and thighs. The city skyscrapers have caused my GPS to go wacky. As I pass the Mile 24 sign, my watch is reading Mile 25, a cruel trick. Up the last hill in Central Park and crossing the finish line into a slow, slow craziness, photo ops, bite of the apple from the finisher bag, man with a German accent attempts to chat with me but my mouth is too frozen to respond, move through the barriers to exit the park, and receive the lined marathon cloak. Thank you, NYC Marathon.

Two block walk and the warmth of the subway is welcome.

Walk of the Marathon finisher zombies. Photo credit: Rebecca Cover

Walk of the Marathon finisher zombies. Photo credit: Rebecca Cover

Time? 4:28 and change. What does it say that I do nearly as well goofing my way through a marathon as I do in all-out efforts? I’ll end with a cheer for my fellow senior women runners in F65-69 AG – 121 of us still runners and NYC Marathon finishers.

 

Eating our Way to the 5-Boro Bike Tour

 

Bike New York’s TD 5-Boro Bike Tour is once again upon us, Sunday, May 4. I won’t be there this year, but am wishing good weather, a good ride and good eats to my friends who will be. Maybe I’ll consider 2015. And, maybe I can convince fellow travelers to do a repeat of some of the wonderful food stops we enjoyed last year.

A 40-mile bike ride and a 4 a.m. volunteer stint required adequate nutrition, and what better place to find some good eats than New York City.

Our culinary tour included:

Mile End Deli:   This Brooklyn eatery, walking distance from The Flea, has a walk-up carry-out window and a sit-down dining area that accommodates 20- 25 people max. Most of our group ordered smoked meat sandwiches, making comparisons with the smoked meat at Montreal’s delis.  I ordered a hot dog along with a a side order of slaw and frites, which were flavorful and plentiful.

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La Silhouette An evening meal took us to a Manhattan restaurant familiar to friends Phyllis and Mike from her days of living in New York. I have since heard this restaurant closed in late 2013 and no word on it reopening. Pity, because it had a wonderful ambience, a varied menu with beautifully prepared entrees, particularly seafood dishes, and service that was flawless.

Joe G’s Following a long and chilly day for our five cyclists,P1010218three of our crew opted for comfort food and a cozy restaurant.  We chose this below-street level restaurant near our hotel.  At Joe G’s you will find dark wood, white tablecloths, pleasant staff and a selection of Italian dishes perfect for four tired senior athlete travelers.

If you give any of of our dining choices a try, please let me know if you agree.  For me, I can’t wait to return to New York for the sights, the food and the athletic events.  P1010227

And maybe next time, I will step out of the volunteer t-shirt and onto two wheels.

Before I return to NYC for the 5-Boro Bike Tour, I will be making my way through the five boros at the 2014 New York City Marathon. I’m looking for some additional dining choices and will be building my list early.  I’ve already received recommendations for Brooklyn’s Grimaldi’s pizza.  Any other suggestions out there?

The Case of the Disappearing Road Races

As I look out my window at another mid-February snow, I’m wondering what plants will survive the ice storms and return anew in the Spring.  Was this the last year to enjoy some percentage of them that will now simply become memories?

The Colon Cancer Prevision 5K will not be returning in 2014 - my first 2013 race after 3 months off from injury

A favorite, the  Colon Cancer Prevention 5K will not be returning in 2014

I wonder the same about some of my favorite road races, which leads me to muse. Do road races have a timed-out life expectancy? What happens that well organized races with strong race directors and a loyal following disappear from the current year’s race listings? Is there anything that runners can do to keep their favorites alive?

This year, at least two of my favorite local 5K’s drawing 400 – 600 runners, a good number for our small city area, will not be returning to the race list.

The same is true of two marathons where winter brings news that their doors have closed.

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Mile 1 of the former Gansett Marathon

January 24th, the Gansett Marathon race director announced the dreaded news on Facebook. There would not be a 2014 race.  I wrote a post earlier about this wonderful marathon located in Narragansett, Rhode Island. This was a niche race, no fundraising entries, and requiring previous marathon times 5 minutes over the required Boston Marathon times.

I loved this marathon for the fresh sea air, wildlife spottings and beautiful neighborhoods with only a small section through a business/industrial area. Gansett had a loyal following, but apparently not large enough in number meeting the challenge of the required entry times. 

Another winter announcement came from the Mother Road Marathon. An email came to my inbox alerting me to its demise. The MRM website now reads:

We regret to inform you that the Mother Road Marathon has been cancelled indefinitely. The decision was made by the Joplin City Council due to registration declining consistently since the inaugural year. The City of Joplin is the primary funding source for MRM. We have truly enjoyed our runners over the past four years and we thank you for supporting our race.

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Galena KS on the route of the former MRM and the original Route 66.

With both Boston and New York on my race list for 2014, I’m thinking my 2015 plans will include a registration and support of some out-of-the-way marathons with a local flare. There are so many beautiful and interesting corners of this country and the world, I want to explore them on foot, and preferably on the run.

I’m thankful I had the opportunity to experience the Mother Road and Gansett Marathons before their cycles of life ended.

IMG_1538I wonder how many other local races are quietly closing their doors and mysteriously disappearing from the upcoming race lists. I’m hoping my shrubbery and all of our remaining favorite races will survive the ravages of winter and time. If you have favorite races that have recently disappeared, let’s hear about them.