2015 – Summer/Fall Part 3

TCS NEW YORK CITY MARATHON

With Chicago’s performance in the bank I felt fairly accomplished for the season, but rather than just sitting on the couch a NYCM entry in the pockets was enough motivation to shortly rest and prepare for a decent performance after two weeks.
The goal was helping Warren Street secure a few club points in one of the events that generally we fall short on, due to lack of participation.

This year we had Sebastien and Alex lining up, plus Aaron and Fabio pacing the faster groups that NYRR organizes. This would have guaranteed us at least a 4th or 5th team finish, enough to make the Ted Corbitt 15k in December worth the trip.
I knew Seb was getting back to his running glory, since he ran two fast 1:13 half marathons leading up to the race, despite his always limited training/sleeping regiment, while Pascal told me that Alex was coming to the race really fit and trained.
My goal was to avoid blowing up like I generally did the previous years when I PRed despite slowing down considerably in the second part.

The week before the marathon brought some unexpected bad surprises after a great 8mile workout 9 days prior to the event: first a pulled hamstring that got back in working conditions only 2 days before the race after extensive treatments and application of tape, then the fact that I had to work multiple shifts day and night up to Friday before the race, and possibly also Saturday day. When could I possibly rest?

The forecast this time was not as ugly as 2014, when headwind had been our companion from start to end.

My strategy was to try and run evenly, with no particular goals, but at least avoid a death march on 5th Ave.

As usual I get angry during the race start up procedures, when dozens, actually, hundreds of people from corrals behind us try to pass us on the way to the start. The result is always the same: a mess in the first 45 seconds. I’ve always started the race in the local competitive area, reserved for those local runners who supposedly have a certain qualifying time, hence the perk of lining up at the very front. Instead, after making the left turn out of the gates, people of any ability and from every country engage in a “pre-race” race to start in front of each other and appear on TV.

This year I did not get penalized too much, since after the start I revived my elbowing skills from my early football days. Maybe 10 seconds lost at best? I’m sure some not so kind words were addressed to me in those first 300 meters.

Back to the race: I was hoping to pop out at the 5k mark together with teammate Seb and hopefully run together since he started from a different corral.

When I turned into 4th Ave in Brooklyn I did not see Seb so I believed I was probably just a little ahead of him. I continued with a conservative pace looking behind me when I could to see if I could spot him. Brooklyn, Williamsburg and Greenpoint went by relatively quickly. Here I had the chance to pick up some fluids from a private aid station set up by my helpful Michelle who had a bottle of lucky water for me.

In the process I picked up some Italians runners who started way too fast. It is pretty entertaining to observe the difference in attire between European runners and American runners: despite the standardization of the top athletes uniforms the mass is still diversified. I noticed Europeans, especially Italians, the French, and some Eastern European runners, are big into compression: socks, shorts, Tshirts, tight singlet on top of compression shirts, BANDANAs (or buffs as they are now called), possibly aerodynamic gloves and brand new shine shoes. Americans – on the other hand – don’t care too much, but they generally prefer to mix and match some pretty ugly color combinations carefully picked from a base array of neon-yellow and bright fluorescent orange or pink/fuchsia.

While crossing the Pulaski Bridge I realized I was even going a bit faster than the splits I had in Chicago; I figured that was a positive, since I would have lost precious time on the Queensboro Bridge. Clearly I knew I was not going to best my 2:35 from the Wind City, but I could have easily got a sub 2:40 that all considered was not going to be a bad deal after a marathon and a 50k just three and two weeks prior.

I was really concern about keeping myself prepared to master 1st ave, and avoid the inconvenience of a 9 min/mile with bathroom stop and intestine troubles like the previous year, so I took things a bit easy on the Queensboro and tried not to get too engaged emotionally by the crowd on 1st ave. I tried to spot the MPF crew that was along 1st ave, but did not make it to see them. Just before reaching the Warren Street cheering station I recognized the first familiar face of the pack: flying by went Hector Rivera, moving well and fast. He would go along to close in 2:36, with an impressive second half.

Everything went well till mile 19, when I had a glimpse of another runner ahead of me moving with a style that was familiar.

It was Sebastien, crossing the Willis Ave Br into the Bronx. Shortly after, on 135th St I caught up with him and I saw he was struggling a little. At that point I was still feeling good and was running strong. He encouraged me to go ahead and not spend time with him.

I felt bad for not sticking around, but we had to give it our best to get some points for the team, so I slowly pulled away from him. However, not too long after that, I sensed that I was getting depleted quickly. I tried to drink some of the water I had with me after the Madison Ave Br, but I could not make it to eat some of the bolts. That is usually a bad sign. I noticed my body was getting tenser and tenser. More than holding the water bottle in my hand I was strangling it.

5th ave for me started to become another slow march towards Central Park. I tried to dose the energy and run as solid as I could without slowing down or accelerating too much.

Despite the unfavorable course profile of the last 4 miles of the race (with quite some climbing late in the race for a marathon) my pace did not get affected dramatically and I made it to loose just a couple of minutes.

I got passed by a few runners, and I passed others and pretty much maintained the same position till Engineer Gate. From here on I envisioned to be able to run more efficiently and steadily than 5th Ave, and I tried to save some energies to at least look good for a nice picture along the final stretch of the finish line.

Everything went ok till I merged on Central Park South. Right turn, slightly uphill stretch that I have run over and over and over even with city traffic, and here I see a small group of runners ahead of me. The desire to catch them was too big and so I did try to increase the effort. I heard someone calling my name, but I could not see clearly who it was. I got close to the group and once caught the tail end my right leg decided to give up.

I ran the whole race after three sessions of treatment with Dr Stu who applied a tape on my right hamstring to reduce a little the tension generated by a small tear on the muscle 8 days before the race during a short recovery run in Norwalk.

All of a sudden I was stuck in the middle of the road limping. I stopped. I felt something got pulled. I waited about 10 seconds and realized I was actually having a cramp. I was about to start swearing left and right to unleash my disappointment, but I remained calm. I walked it off for a few feet, while Michelle popped out of the crowd on the left side of CPS.

I kept walking, then jogging and running again. I tried to catch up those 6-8 runners that had passed me while getting my leg back in working order, but the best I could do was maintain that position.

I finished crossing the line basically walking “on eggs” the last 3-4 feet with cramps ready to come out again…see a video of the finish line here at minute 19:55. Peter Ciaccia came over and shook hands and basically closed the deal for another NYC Marathon that left me fairly happy in terms of performance: squeezed out my PR on the course despite my cramps and slow final 5 miles; but fairly disappointed in terms of placing, since till half a mile to go I was comfortably navigating  on the high 80th position, and finished 90th male, and 102nd overall. Such a disappointment to give up a top 100 finish in a major race like this.

Well… then there is a reason to sign up for 2016

N.B.: After receiving hints from fellow teammates I decided to leave the photo gallery from marathon photo out of the equation this time and avoid problems of image rights bla bla bla

 

NYRR 60k

Two weeks after NYCM and with a lot going on at work with an important deadline to meet before Thanksgiving that put training a little bit on the side, the NYRR 60k represented the perfect scenario to revamp the fitness I gained before Chicago and get ready for the North Face Championship in San Francisco.

I signed up almost last minute when the race was near capacity; I asked around a few runners and inquired if they were participating. I gathered that Stephen England (former 3rd finisher) and Adolfo Munguia (former winner) were both participating. Not that I dislike a little bit of competition, but this time I was not looking forward to set my mind into competition mode. I wanted to experience a few relaxing laps of the Park with friends, maybe a little bit of chatting, and then see if we had it to put up an honest “fight” towards the end.

Well…that’s always wishful thinking, till you toe the line and, as usual for this even, there is the novice runner who decide to gun the first part of the race.

This year the course was slightly different from previous editions and we tackled the 5mile loop of CP starting from Engineer Gate and then switch for the mentally grueling 8 laps of the 4 mile loop counter clockwise.

Despite my preference for the counter clock direction, the idea of doing Cathill 9 times is not so appealing.

So, back to the race, we all started packed with a conservative pace and we exchanged a few words, while one of the usual warriors, white long sleeve t-shirt, blond long hair, gloves and fancy colorful socks, decided to have his 45 minutes of glory 10 minutes into the race and took off with an improbable pace. I learned at this point that Adolfo was not in good shape and was coming back from an injury. I was particularly intrigued by another young guy that was talking to Stephen and was moving his legs quite well (Eric).

After the end of the first lap we formed a small group of 5-6 runners chasing the lonely guy in the breakaway.

Early stages of the race: the chasing group up Cathill looking for #278

Early stages of the race: the chasing group up Cathill looking for #278

While we talked a little, I tried to focus on eating something and drinking regularly at least in this initial phase; soon the pace became more sustained and by the end of the second lap we made some ground and quickly closed the gap: once we had the sprinter in our sight, we relaxed a little, but at that point the pace became very unstable: one minute we were going at 7 min/mile and 200 yards after we were pushing low 6 min/mile. I did not need that type of stress: I can take a constant beating but I did not want to try out an erratic pace for another 3 hours or more, so towards the end of the third lap I started pushing a little the pace, and went constant around 6min/mile or under trying to create a gap. The only other runner that stayed with me was Eric, who not only followed me, but at times was pushing the pace and making me go harder than I wanted.

3rd or 4th lap, still in good company

3rd or 4th lap, still in good company

At one point on the west side of the park he asked me if I thought we were going too fast. “Of course” I told him. I knew we could not keep that up forever, but he also confessed he never ran more than 20 miles, and he did that the weekend before.

“Oh boy” – I thought – “He is going to suffer later on”. If you have not experienced running for more than 20 miles, and you are in the initial phases of a 37 mile run at this pace, only one thing is guaranteed: you will suffer and you will want to quit.

At this point I wondered if I was stepping on the gas pedal too much, but I really wanted to remain alone and run at my pace; I was expecting Adolfo to catch up at one point or another, so I tried to save some energy to keep up with him.

In little to no time I crossed EG again and I saw that Adolfo was instead, unfortunately, sidelined and getting some help from his friends. I found out that his injury came out again and he did not want to make it worse than what it was.

A little messed up by Adolfo’s injury, I kept running; I gave a glance to the watch and saw that the pace was around 6:30. I tried t do some math and see if I was still in time to close it under 4 hours, but it seemed a little hard at that point.

With a couple of laps to go I was joined by teammate Alex who gave me a needed refreshing change of mood. He was biking in the park and followed me for a few minutes talking to me, distracting me and…then he got schooled by the marshal that was following me at the front of the race.

The marshal was threatening to disqualify me since Alex tried to exchange a few words…ridiculous. She told him to disappear and not come close anymore. Now I want to understand why on earth you are trying to threaten people like that.

First, Alex was not offering any help, he was only cheering me. He was not providing support with food, water, nor was he pacing me, so….why are you so nasty? And is there a rule that allows male runners not to be paced while female runners can be paced along the course (heard the same bike marshal saying hi to some of the female runners she knew and asking how they were doing and they answered “great, such and such are pacing me, it’s great”)

Anyway…the result was that Alex stepped on the side and got separated. I finished my dreadful last lap a bit tired and while I took it easy up Cathill, I tried to sprint towards the finish line to finish in under 4:04.

Last turn into 72nd transverse. Visually tired at the idea of doing Cathill once more

Last turn into 72nd transverse. Visually tired at the idea of doing Cathill once more

Mission accomplished with 4:03:59, a slight improvement from the year before, despite the easy pace and the race course changes.

2015 RACE TO DELIVER

This is going to be one of the most enjoyable, yet disappointing races I’ve run. I’ve signed up to this race in an attempt to run more events with NYRR under the new age group (35-39) than what I did as a 30-34 (which is an incredibly competitive group).
I had little expectations, knowing that in 2014 the whole NYAC Team showed up to sweep the top 5 spots, but knowing Sebastien was coming, I wanted to at least try and run with him for as much as I could.
The morning of the race I remember warming up and doing a few strides, but I quickly realized that there was no PR for me ready to happen, and there was not a lot of joy along the course waiting for me. As Sebastien and I lined up near the front at the start we realized that actually only one NYAC guy showed up, and he did not look as harmful as others of his teammates.
Jokingly I told Seb he was going to win the race.

We started and the chasing game began.

While Seb pulled away and was quickly followed by Sebastian (the NYAC guy), I struggled to remain in their proximity the whole time. They alternated taking the lead of the race from each other, and I was hoping that the hills of the west side could help me pick up some of the deficit I had on them.
However, Just before the transverse on 102nd, we were all pretty much regrouped. But not for long: my Sebastien opened up a gap quickly. While I really could not do anything that try to hold my pace, I was hoping he could gain enough to get the win. At one point he was well ahead of me and the NYAC guy, and I got excited dreaming of Sebastien winning the race.

Along the west side hills Sebastian (NYAC) did not run particularly fast, but once the rolling terrain was over, he ran a really fast last mile and a half and despite Seb’s effort, he caught up and left both of us behind. I was the silent witness of their battle, with little to say or add to their rivalry, since I was already gassed out.

As we approached the left turn on 72nd street Seb looked back to check if I was going to be a threat, but a glimpse at my face probably gave him enough comfort.
Seb finished 9 seconds ahead of me, only 5 behind the winner, but we did an incredible run. I was a bit disappointed for not hitting a decent time on the clock, but obviously satisfied for a podium.

After the race we got treated with VIP measures, enjoyed some food at the finish line tend and then proceeded to the award ceremony where we were pictured in an image that I could only dream of three years before when joining him, Paul, Charlie, Fabio, Aaron and Pascal with Warren Street. Often we can find pride, joy and enthusiasm in sharing these moments with people that you look up to, not just obtaining a nice result or a good performance.

Second Place: Sebastien Baret and me with a big smile from one ear to the other

Second Place: Sebastien Baret and me with a big smile from one ear to the other

Percy Sutton Harlem 5k

After running this race in 2012 and having a positive experience (with near death feelings after the finish line), I never thought to include this event in the calendar for 2013, since it was not part of the team races.

Michelle decided to run it to collect an extra point in the 9+1, just in case for next year and was almost undecided whether to run it or not till last-minute, given her persistent leg problems that never went away this summer; I decided to tag along and try to help Warren Street collect a decent overall place and maybe bring home some money for the team budget. In fact, NYRR had a small prize money for the first few teams.
It was not ideal racing conditions for me since I did not want to modify the weekly training schedule and ended up running very hard tempo repetitions the evening before the race.

Quite tired Michelle and I drove to Harlem early in the morning for packet pick up and immediately spotted Paul. We started running along the course to warm up and refresh our memories of those steep hills that we would tackle in the first mile. Paul was wise enough to review the garmin data from his previous years and told me that my perception of the course been all up for one mile and then basically all down from there on was wrong: the highest point was going to be just after the 2 mile marker. Not fully convinced of his data, I still trusted Paul and revised my plan for the race.

First, I was not fresh, so I needed to start conservative. Second, with hills coming till the second mile, the conservative approach made sense.

As we took off I probably had almost 100 runners in front of me. They were sprinting like maniacs trying to make it in first place at the bottom of the first hill. I did not quite understand the reason, since after the turn they all disappeared back.
I saw Aaron just ahead of me and knowing he was in great shape, I tried to catch up to him slowly on the first hill. I did and I locked myself behind a tall tall dude from Central Park. He was great: large shoulder, maybe 6′-5″ and a great device to break the wind in front of us. A couple of other runners lined up with me behind him and together reached the northern point of the course to make the 180 degree turn onto St Nicholas.

Here I could take a breath for a sec, since we went downhill slightly for a couple of blocks. I realized that I would have lost to all those guys next to me had we finished together in the final long stretch, so the only way to pull away was to wear them down slowly with a faster pace from that point.
I tried to get away, but Mr tall tall Dude kept following me and sprinting to catch up. Every time I glanced back he was responding to my “attacks”, so I stopped trying to open a gap and kept the pace more constant. I saw Aaron was following close, and I was happy to hang at that pace.
In this part of the race I also lost sight of Paul, a good sign that he was going to fight and be close to his sub 16 goal.

Around mile 2, I saw Sham that encouraged us and took some nice (even if I look like cr#p) shots. Now after a quarter of a mile downhill the race was all flat along the final long tricky straight stretch.
I say tricky because from far away you can see the start line. Problem is: the start line IS NOT the finish line. I knew that very well, because I did that mistake two years ago.

This time I kept myself in check and did not sprint after the last left turn, as other did. I let them go and caught up with them with just 100 meters to go: they were gassed out too early. I did not feel my sprint was anything fast, but it was effective. I passed just a few runners, and one two pulled away from me. Thankfully this time the chip system worked fine and those two runners that out-sprinted me, actually ended up behind since they started well ahead of me.

Of course Paul was just after the finish line, already grabbing some food, and he welcomed me and Aaron (just on my tail).
Paul told us he was feeling left out from the group since we all got a PR on the course that day, while he barely missed his sub 16 goal by mare seconds.

True, Aaron and I got PRs, (finally a decent one for me…still just a few decimals short of that 80% AG). However, how would I describe the magnificent race that Paul put together? 7th overall, once again beyond 90%, first master and more importantly the passion and the commitment that he put into training. That is the magic behind Paul: the dedication and the relationship he has with running. He simply inspires others to run more, better and harder.

But why would one run? why are we running? Why am I running?

That is the question that uncle Pascal asked me about a year ago during a long cold run in Central Park. That question never found an answer and I have focused more recently on finding an answer as well as learning why others do it.

One more thing: Paul beat me by half a minute in a race (yes, I am improving slightly) but I publish this more than a month after he published his report.
Total domination from his end.

Second thing: even Michelle had a good race, much better than expected given the initial conditions and our total lack of speedwork in the last 6 months.

Montana awaits for us, and we will be present and ready

2014 Team Champs

With little time to write about running these days, I must try to be concise to highlight a few thoughts about this race.

I’ve had the chance to talk to Paul and his brother Stephen then very next day and we were delighted to have experienced the Team Champs once more.
It is a race in a sort of puritan running spirit: it is a race for runners, for people that have the passion for running, and share a great deal of their time training with teammates.
It is not intended to be a fashion show with the latest and greatest gears such as watches, hydration belts, and compression bands, it is not a place to show off bright colorful and weird costumes, or where faces are smiling and displaying pleasure (at least not until a very few moments after the finish line).

Fancy Tshirts are replaced almost completely with team singlets, compressions shorts and tight shorts are generally MIA, while the short shorts are generally ruling the scene. Also, all the fancy shoes with support inserts, pronation aids, extra cushion foam layers, or five fingers shape are not going to be part of the event, because the vast majority of the runners will show up with their racing flats, or their regular trainers.

This is a form of running that probably connects more with the original spirit of the sport that boomed a few decades ago. Regardless of speed, this is a no frills event for runners that are giving their best effort and contribute to make their team shine. Hence, there is going to be a lot of sweat involved.

The level of competition is extremely high and the best of the best in NYC comes out to this event.

This year Warren Street suffered the “loss” of a great mate, Charlie, who moved from NYC just a few weeks prior to the race. Charlie certainly contributed very well in previous editions of the race, and could have brought us in a better spot had he been here. Charlie, you are and will be missed, not just for the results, but for the company and the spirit you brought during our long runs and the workouts. Also a strong runner like Emilio was not listed with us, because he finally joined his newly founded team. Rob unfortunately could not be at his best, Pascal was still trying to figure out what bit him on the plane going to France and attempting to climb Mt Blanc, and Fabio was still trying to get some workouts while working a crazy schedule.

A couple of good notes were 1) that Paul was back from a situation that a year before was totally different, and also 2) Sam was going to run and he was in great shape.

The race was short and quick; rain welcomed us when we were warming up and during the woman race that this year was scheduled before the men’s event. The few drops that came down were enough to soak us and keep an incredibly high level of humidity for the race.

I warmed up with Sebastian and Pascal, and even Paul was doing some strides along East Drive north of Engineer’s Gate; this way warming up meant also checking out the final phases of the women race and cheering for the WS team lead by Michelle this year.
We lined up near the start and knowing how aggressive the start of the race is, I decided to stay back quite a few rows and rather deal with people in front of me than going out too fast.
This seems to be a constant in my races: I am always afraid of going out too fast. Maybe one day I should really try to run with no mental barriers and see what happens.

Paul and I hanging out before the start. The smiles are just to cover up the tension

Paul and I hanging out before the start. The smiles are just to cover up the tension

I saw Paul, Seb, Aaron, Ryan Rob and Sam taking off quickly and I kept my effort fairly moderate for the first mile. Regardless of the weather conditions, I felt that mile one was fairly easy and it got me over a couple of the west side rolling hills. clock said 5:28, and I still had a few team mates around.
Mile 2 split was 10:50 and the gap between me and other runners in front kept shrinking. While crossing the Marathon finish I sneaked behind Aaron and Ryan was just around the same zone. I followed them on West drive till south end of the park, and here I had my doubts about passing Aaron: he was running strong and fast.
With the risk of burning myself out a bit too soon I increased a little the effort right at the bottom of the park and thought I could have maintained that to the finish. For the first mile or so it worked and then I had to deal with Cathill.

It is funny how a little bump on the road that generally I would not even consider worth mentioning in longer races, here it gets a lot of attention. Cathill is Cathill; it is not a difficult hill, it is not a climb, it is just a bump. The question is: “how fast can you run this 1/4 mile?”
The faster the better usually, therefore it always becomes a difficult spot for races in Central Park. I remember having my share of fatigue making my way to the top, but once over it, the legs were still moving with a good turnaround.

I picked up a few spots in the last 2.5 miles of the race and got closer to a small group of 5 just after the flat straight of EG. I did not save energy for the final sprint like the year before, when I did get a bit faster at the end; rather I kept an increasing sustained effort for the last half mile.

I was able to close the gap with the little group I was chasing, passed one runner and worked hard to overtake another NBR ahead of me.

Sham caught me on the final left turn trailing behind him just moments before completing the task:

IMG_0405

IMG_0404

I am not sure what happens with NYRR results lately, but I started behind this guy (I clearly saw him at the start, I know the guy cause he often wears a Ninja-Naruto headband in races and he was at least two seconds ahead of me under the start line), finished just in front of him, and ended up with a slower time. I cannot make this work in my head.
Also the time shown in the official results doesn’t make sense with my watch time, and I have heard of several other runners getting a “gun” time rather than the chip time. Mistery!!

Regardless, happy with my performance and my final time (about 1 minute and 10 secs better than the previous Champs), and about 30 secs behind teamate Sebastien (still tired from Mt Blanc).

Warren Street had a pretty good run, we finished 4th overall, with great runs by Paul (26:16 at 48), Sam, Rob, Aaron (just behind me) and Ryan.
Too bad Emilio did not run for us bacuse with his time we could have got third with a very big chance to take third overall for the entire year.

Instead now we are pretty much set in 4th place and it will be very difficult to change that given the fast races we are approaching (Autism Speak 4M and 5th Ave Mile) where Central Park has an edge on us given their track background.

Warren Street after the effort

Warren Street after the effort

Joe Kleinerman 10k – 01/11/2014

Running is a great hobby; more often I tend to believe it is some sort of second job for me: the dedication, the attention, the fatigue you put into this sport can be extreme. And the enthusiasm, the benefit, the results and the friendships that come along with it are unbelievable.

After running the New York Marathon my training has been quite slow. For a few weeks I believed that I naturally needed some rest since the last time I took a little break was after the LUT when I regrouped and focused more on training harder. Getting ready for a marathon and giving almost everything you had on the course can leave you somehow accomplished and a bit lazy.

That’s how I felt for a few weeks in November. A few days off from the park would not be a problem, I thought. Even the Pete McArdle race in Van Cortlandt Park was a success, pushing a 57min 15k on rolling hills, windy and cold weather. A little bit of pain here and there when I tried to to some workouts with the Warren Street guys consolidated the idea that some rest was needed. Also work (the real job) was calling for some more attention due to the important traffic switch that would have closed Stage 2 of the project. Some night work and weird schedules slowed me down a little bit, and that was ok, cause I felt I needed a short break before pushing hard again.

Mid december I took a few days off from the job and combined with the 2 week shut down that was scheduled, I wanted this to be the period of my come back. Unfortunately after a few short runs with Pascal in CP and Tom in Bear Mountain, my achilles started to give up and after 6-7 miles or about 45-60 minutes of running I always began slowing down in pain, incapacitated to sustain the effort without feeling sharp needles and very tight legs around the ankle area.

More rest and no runnig was the logical solution, since strengthening with some Power House workouts did not help at all.

At that point I attended a few sessions of Bikram Yoga in the Bronx. After experiencing it a few times in the past I became a little more regular towards the end of december and showed up 3 times in 4 or 5 days. Day 1 was a massacre since I had a nice ice cream just before going into the studio…the following times it was a more pleasurable experience. Great for feeling better physically when running is not an option.

With the new year I started to feel I was quite behind preparing for the season goals. Many are the objectives of 2014, and short term there are some challenging events ahead:

1. Febapple Frozen 50k (would love to run the 50M, but I had so much fun doing the 50k a year ago thatI am up for a repeat, hopefully in similar weather and terrain conditions)
2. NYC Half in March
3. Boston Marathon in April

And now that I have a solid 2013 season behind my back, I can compare how training/physical conditions are going with the new season.
And the frst week of January was not great, since a couple of runs with Paul in the Rockies and in CP made me realize how far back I was compared to a year ago.
The main problem is that I could not push during the workouts, so a steady 7-8 mile run was the only possible activity I was granted by my body.

Joe Kleinerman was the first test of the season, and I had spent the week trying to accumulate some milage, with poor results: Monday the weather was extremely cold when I got home and my lazyness prevailed throwing me in bed under warm sheets. Tuesday I felt very very guilty and I went to CP ready for some good miles, but not a lot of time, knowing Michelle would have met me by 6:30-6:45. Paul preferred to do a steady run, given the cold conditions, and it was a very good workout (as usual with him). Wednesday I kicked another 7.5 miles in Norwalk while dropping the check for utilities and deposit the check from the insurance company (best way to combine errands and running), while Thursday I was finally able to get a good 3-4 mile tempo, not very fast, but consistent and strong, followed by 3 laps of the reservoir with Paul. After leaving Paul I tried to do a couple of sprints, but the low level of energy and the fact I have not done any speedwork in several months, left me a bit disappointed. Friday, as usual, I rested from running and I tried to relieve the legs a little using the electric massager I bought last summer.

And finally Saturday and the Jow K came up. Got up around 5:30am, and while getting coffee and nutella ready Paul messaged us saying he was not going to join for the race. Disappointing, cause he is in very good shape and his appointment with victory and a nice 90+% AG is overdue.
So this left me and Pascal as the lonely representatives of Warren Street for today.
Michelle drove me to the Park and left me by the 102 transverse while looking for a parking spot. After vising the portable potties and while dropping my bag with a sweather for the after race, I heard a voice saying “Here is a strong runner”. I smiles and thought it was somebody making fun of me. When I raised my head I saw it was Marco Beghin, another italian fellow runner that recently moved with his partner Felix from NYC to Vancouver. We exchanged a few thoughts and then the warm up began.

While doing the strides I realized speed was impossible to find in my legs, so I was hoping for a consistent race, trying to at least push a little the hills so I could get a god workout out of the morning. The lower part of the legs was feeling like a piece of concrete and that’s something I need to address if I want to get more quality miles in the future.
Pascal popped out from nowhere, a little late for my schedule, but I noticed even last year he gets ready in a very short time. I guess you can call it experience. I felt a little sad cause this time last year other friends joined the race, or were around spectating: Fabio, Peter, Sebastien, Charlie, etc. This year we were a little more “lonely”…will change this soon!! Fabio is back, and Seb will catch up with us soon. Charlie and Aaron will join us as well. Back to normal in the near future

We lined up at the very front, since our bibs were in the low numbers and I saw Emiliano Garcia warming up. He looked very good and I know he had been secretely running in the Rockies as well (not so secretly, but you know…he runs a lot). The usual suspects came together at the start: a few WSX Ethiopians, Emiliano, GNY Mike Cassidy and a few known faces like Bobby Asher from VCTC.

I also saw Kaher, Bassel’s twin brother. Those two are so great! I wish I could run with my brother as well, sometimes.

The gun went off and we were all running like maniacs. All but me and Pascal. We took the conservative approach and ran smart the first half mile. So slow that we tripped each other at the very start, on the timing mat. Pascal was actually ahead of me the in the descent to wards 110th street, when I saw him almost falling due to an ice plaque that NYRR personnell did not manage to remove from the road. Pascal backed off from the gas pedal a bit after that, and probably he is now regretting it…but that’s another story.

Pascal clearly tripping me and pushing me towards the barricades trying to get an advantage

Pascal clearly tripping me and pushing me towards the barricades trying to get an advantage

I stayed quiet, trying to wait for my legs to loosen up a little, and kept a comfortable stride with small and quick steps. When we reached the first and biggest hill of the day I tried to switch gears and surprisingly I felt a little better. I passed quite a few people from my initial 50th position (or even 60th) but consciously I slowed down since this was just the beginning and some rolling hils were ahead.
The race went on pretty uneventful for me. Happy to see Michelle at mile 1 and a quarter, screaming my name, and happy to hear her screaming Pascal’s name just a few seconds later. That means he did the hill pretty well as well.
As I said the race was a bit boring, progressively faster for me, picking up other runners that started too fast, or did not have enough strenght in the uphill sections. I noticed I passed Piana-Agostinetti, another italian dude from Rome and running for UA, passed a few younger folks that outsprinted me at the start, and passed at the very bottom of the Park the Brazilian runner that blew up in the 60k. Irecognized the face, because after seeing him there I did some google stalking to find out more about his running background. Obviously he is still learning how to pace himself. Cathill came up quickly and I made sure I got to the base with some energy to spend. The hill went well and picked up a few more spots and made some ground from the two runners in front of me. Beyond them, only a foggy view with nobody else for at least 1 minute: I really could not see anybody ahead.
The goal was to reach them and I worked a little extra hard to make it happen, but the lack of speed was evident and I was able to pass only one guy. The second, the CPTC runner, finished just ahead of me.
I hate having a runner from another team finishing ahead of me; in this case, had I known that he was in my age group and he would have finished third in the award chart, while I would have placed 4th, maybe, only maybe, I could have picked up those couple of seconds. Especially since this is a guy I have always left behind in the past, in most of the races. And that the last quarter of a mile was just 5:26 a mile. Not a great sprint at all. But it’s ok.

I feel pretty accomplished by how my body treated me today.
35:59, only 26 secs behind a PR/PB in not ideal conditions (weather) and pretty bad training record; a blazing 1:33 faster than the same race last year. A good way to start the 2014 season. Unexpected and sweeter than the best prevision.

A side note, congratulations to Pascal for his 2nd place master only 8 secs behind first place….next time don’t slip and fall so you can win. Congratulations to Emiliano Garcia, for finishing 3rd overall, and a great thank you to Warren Street AC, who completed the race in second place as a team

And a ggreat thank you to my body who brought me around the park for 35 minutes well under 6:00 min/mile once more, after a long time…

NYRR Autism Speak 4 Miler

This 4 miler comes right in the middle of UROC and NYC marathon training.
I’ve had some good workouts lately, especially running uphill on the Great Hill in CP, that made me think this could have been a good race to try and see what pace I could sustain. At the same time, I was not highly concern with hte result: did not have any fear of blowing up half way through, did not have concerns about not scoring for the team, since we were represented fairly well, with only Paul really missing.
I asked Paul during the week what he though about trying a pace that is highly different from anything I’ve done before.
His suggestion was to follow Charlie, since he is very good at maintaining constant splits.
The course started on the east side of the park, just before the 72nd st cutoff heading north counter clockwise.
I reached the park fairly early and could do a pretty decent warm up, and got even lucky to get a sip of Seb’s special lucky water.
Mile 1 included also Cathill and it was a fantastic surprise to see myself right next to/behind Charlie without being in serious danger of exploding. Fabio was just around us, running smart as usual, especially now that his training is a bit slower due to working loads.
Sebastian was already ahead of us with Rob just behind him and Ryan about 20-30 yards in front of us. The clock said 5:29. Really nice!
Mile 2 did not preset particular difficulties navigating along Engineer Gate’s flats and the little bumps towards 102nd cutoff.
I felt pretty good her eand the legs had a good turnover. I was feeling I could have pulled out of the little pack we formed with other runners, but Paul’s words about Charlie’s pace came up very strong inside me.
At this point it was better to use his experience and go with him, until we hit the hills of the west side.
Along the cutoff Fabio Charlie and I passed Ryan, who had probably suffered from some injuries lately and is missing out his favourite part of the season: the fall short races.
Mile 2 went by in 5:20, and I did not even feel the pain of the effort.
The hills on the west side were sweet. I found myself keeping a very good short and fast stride going up, passing multiple people who…passed me back on the next section downhill. I need to seriously find a good way to run well the downhill without being passed so often.
I think on the first hill I passed about a dozen people, carrying with me Charlie and Fabio.
On the downhill about 4-5 runners went by and created a little gap on me.
More rolling hills were coming, so I was not afreaid of a few yards of disadvantage. Fabio got a few seconds behind at this point, while Charlie held tight, catching up downhill.
Mile 3 was over in about 5:33, slower than the previous one, but much more hilly.
Now we were approaching the last stretch, and I felt I could use some residual energy in the flat portion around the Strawberry Fields. I knew I had to keep myself in control in the previous downhill: a couple of guys went by way too fast, and the finish line was still 3/4 of a mile away.
Noticing Charlie was a bit out of gas, I tried to encourage him to follow me; afterall, he did the work for 2 miles, now it was time to pay him back of his fantastic pacing.
After that I remember very little, except the continous sprinting I did for the last 600 meters changing from 5:25 to 5:15 for 200 meters, then about 5:00 for another 200 meters and eventually 4:45 for the final home stretch.
It was great to even sprint agains one of the dudes from CP.
Mile 4 was a 5:16

Yeah, I'm behind

Yeah, I’m behind


Still Behind, but I'll catch you

Still Behind, but I’ll catch you


Damn, you don't give up

Damn, you don’t give up


Me neither. And by the way...you started way in front of me. So I win this time

Me neither. And by the way…you started way in front of me. So I win this time


Too bad for him he started ahead of me the race, so his net time was going to be higher at the end.
21:39 was the final time, for a 5:25 min/mile pace.
Happy and feeling great I went for a cool down with Seb and Pascal (who also ran a stellar time of 22:50 and 5th overall in age group).

A happy face

Speed is there.

Time to build more endurance for Colorado

NYRR Team Champs

This was my first Team Champs, after joining Warren Street in December 2012.
I’ve run a lot with about a dozen of the mates that usually show up for the workouts every week and I have enjoyed every moment I shared with them. Not only they are friendly and very supportive while working out, but they also help a lot when novice runners (as my case) have questions or doubts about the discipline.
I’m really proud to be part of such a successful bunch of guys and even if 5 miles is not really my specialty, I felt pretty happy about participating at this race.

The team is now ranked 6th in the NYRR standings, a bit under the real value of its members, but since Paul and Sebastian have been half duty (Paul has not even run one scored event this year), we have missed a lot their contribution.

Unfortunately there were a few obstacles for a successful race.
1. Paul is still recovering from his accident and getting into perfect shape; also he scheduled a trip to England, so he was not even be around
2. Fabio was not going to be around either, since he was to be back in Italy

Personally I was not at my best due to the preparation I have been doing to get ready to UROC, after the little unseccess at the Lavaredo. At least I was healthy and decently fit. With many miles in the legs in the previous 4 weeks, despite of the heat wave that hit the Norht East, I was ready to make my honest contribution to the team.

Michelle came with me, despite Masi not feeling great. So we hit the road Saturday morning and parked in the UES. Walked to the meeting point in Central Park, and saw immediately Seb warming up. While I was getting changed I saw Ryan getting there. Then Pascal, Mike and others showed up.
The atmosphere was pretty relaxing, cloudy sky and some humidity was calling for showers later that day.

Near the start line I spotted Larry, Aaron and Charlie and a photographer took a quick photo of the team, or at least half a dozen of us.

I was hoping we could keep at least our position in the standings.
At the start I lined up with Larry in the red corral, maybe too far back from what I would have liked and with about 300 people in front of me.

My plan was to keep a visual with Charlie and Aaron for the first couple of miles, knowing they were faster than me, losing some ground, but having the visual would have stimulated and helped during the last couple of miles. The plan was unrealistic, since they started well ahead of me so I could not establish any visual contact whatsoever.
At least I had Larry on my side, so I could gauge the effort a little bit. Mile 1 was a bit slow, around 5:47, and I felt pretty good at that point; I kept Larry a few feet ahead of me, and looked around to find other runners with similar pace to continue the effort together from the third mile on. Got also pumped to hear Michelle screaming my name at that point. Good excitement. Pascal also popped out by my side. Good to have a shoulder by your side.

Pascal and I on the left trying to find our way thought the thick crowd; Larry on the right

Pascal and I on the left trying to find our way thought the thick crowd; Larry on the right

The second mile was a little disturbing, with a CPTC runner continuosly bumping his elbow on my right arm. He hit me once and I pulled over to the left to give him more room: it does happen to mistakenly hit somebody, and that is fine. But when it happens again, then you get a bit mad, since at this point we had passed already about 50 runners and the “snake” was getting thinner: there is definetly enough room for everybody.
After the second hit I let him move to the left, and told him: “WTF man”. He steered left, I went right and that’s the lst time I had him around.

I checked in front of me and Larry was about 30ft ahead. We were approaching the little incline after the 72st cut off, and I like that little stretch leading to the marathon finish (backwords). I pushed a bit the effort and close mile 2 at 5:37, passing Larry while he grabbed a cup of water to rinse himself quickly.

Mile 3 was full of doubts for me: I was afraid of pushing too much too early and with Cathill still ahead, I thought it was a good idea to hold back a bit. 5:46 was the average pace, and still I had to maneuver around quite a few fellows who were now losing some momentum in their effort.

Mile 4 started just before Cathill and for the first time I attacked the hill a bit scared. I did not feel great during the ascent, yet I passed a few dozen runners. My speed was nothing trascendent, but I guess it was enough. I honestly was a bit disturbed by the lack of strength in this section.
I have done a few hard workouts recently to improve the uphill strenght, mostly in steep rocky hills, and I was expecting a bit more from myself, especially looking forward to NYC and UROC. I closed the mile with a 5:50 and I felt I had something left in the tank to spend it in the last 800mt.

I cruised through the long flat stretch of EG and then heard my name again. Michelle jumped over on the east side to scream again, and she is not quiet. Her voice is pretty recognizable even in the middle of such a big crowd. I felt the moment was right and I started kicking it up a bit more. I passed another 2-3 runners and realized I was going to hit under 29 minutes, so it was a decent effort. While approaching the last 800 I still felt with energy in me and I sprinted even more. My Garmin says that after mile 4.5 I run the next quarted mile at 5:13 and then last 400mt between 5:01 and 4:49. This was a great feeling.

And here I am taking on my last 800mt

And here I am taking on my last 800mt

I saw a runner in a white singlet about 20 meters ahead of me, with only 150 meters to go. That was my goal. I thought it could have made the difference for the team to gain a spot on the overall results, so I gave it my best shot. While catching up I passed 2 more runners that were completely out of gas at that point. At the last left turn I was only 10ft behind, so the effort was almost accomplished, but I was running out of ground in front of me.
I pushed again harder and did not stop until I reached the second electronic mat after the finish line.

Mission accomplished and 5:42 overall pace for a great 28:28 that at this point seems to be almost unreal for me.

At the finish line Seb, Charlie, Aaron and Ryan were waiting for the rest of us, and it was very refreshing to be welcomed by such a great crowd.

The team finished well. We placed 6th overall and extended our lead on the 7th team.

Given the conditions we entered the race, I feel we did pretty well. The field was much deeperthan just a year before when a 5:45 pace would have guaranteed a spot in the first 50. This year my 5:42 gave me 96th place, and I’m proud of it!!

Great job by WS, especially Seb, Charlie, Aaron, Ryan, Larry and Pascal

Un-human Sebastien barely touching the ground. You can always count on him

Un-human Sebastian barely touching the ground. You can always count on him

Aaron had a great race, you can see him leading his wave

Aaron had a great race, you can see him leading his wave

Ryan had a fast race as well. I'm sure he wanted to do better, still he did awesome

Ryan had a fast race as well. I’m sure he wanted to do better, still he did awesome

Charlie, sizing up the huy in the front. Target locked

Charlie, sizing up the huy in the front. Target locked