January 12, 2019: Southside 12K

In February 2018, the Atlanta Track Club offered the Southside 12K race as a new course as part of the Grand Prix series, free for members.  At the time I was training for my fourth marathon, with the Atlanta Track Club training group.  Our coach had instructed us to run the race at "half-marathon pace".  But I wanted to challenge myself at a new distance, and see if I could run the 12K course at my personal best pace for a 10K.  

I succeeded with my ambitious time goal, finishing in less than 60 minutes, but also pulled a hamstring muscle in my left leg.  I tried to insist that it wasn't anything major, and tried to carefully manage it through the last month of training.  But on marathon day one month later, it really flared up after 12 miles.  

I had a miserable experience limping through the rest of the route in order to avoid a DNF.  And that resulted in a CNR (could not run) for the next five weeks.  I needed seven months of physical therapy to recover, just in time to run the New York City Marathon in November.  

With the new year, my legs are healthy again.  I struggled through a 5K on New Year's Day, in part because I was at least 10 pounds over my goal weight, but that got me back into tracking what I'm eating.  I haven't lost much weight yet but I know that the best way is to do so gradually, and at least I'm eating much more healthily, and notice the difference in how I feel.  I've also cut way back on caffeine - just one cup in the morning at home and none at all during the day at work.  As a result I'm sleeping much better and don't feel tired during the day, which was what was sending me to the coffee machine in the front office.  

I was a bit nervous about today's race.  For one thing, I set a personal best in the 12K distance that I may never beat!  And with an extremely hilly course, I knew that I could injure myself again if I ran with poor form.  However, I'm training again with Coach Carl Leivers, hoping to improve on my half marathon performance in the Publix Atlanta half in mid-March, and aiming for a 1:55 finish, which translates to about an 8:45 min / mile average pace.  He advised me to run the race at goal half-marathon pace, which would get me to the finish line around 65 minutes.  Carl knows that I'm working on improving my pace discipline.  To quote: "The one thing that I would caution is let's try to have you hit that pace without any crazy sprinting / pushing the last mile.  Aside from the injury last year (and sprinting downhill is certainly a major issue for hamstrings!), it also doesn't really fall in line with a true measure of goal pace."  With that advice in mind, I was determined to follow his instructions perfectly.  

I arrived for the race about 1 hour early, wearing a cap and two layers, showing off the New York City Marathon shirt for my top layer.  It was windy and moderately cold, 43 deg F at the start, but at least it wasn't raining.  I decided to start near the front of wave C, for runners at a pace between 8:30 and 9:30 min / mile.  As we started, that was a very good decision.  I didn't try to keep up with the half-dozen who sprinted ahead.  We were running downhill at the beginning but I tried to rein myself in.  I checked my watch after about a quarter-mile, and was running about an 8:15 min / mile pace, so I relaxed my pace a bit more.  

I won't go through the mile-by-mile summary this time, but after the 1.2 miles, we ran a two-loop route with each loop approximately 5K.  I managed to run every mile between 8:24 and 9:04, and with fairly good correlation with net elevation gain or loss for each mile.  I decided to run straight through instead of run-walk, other than walking through the water stations on each loop.  This was the first time in months that I had run more than 5 miles or so without using intervals, but at the average 8:45 min / mile pace, my pulse rate and breathing was under control.  It wasn't an easy jog, I was definitely working, and I could feel the lactate burn in my legs as we climbed hill after hill, but the route always crested before I felt that I had to substantially slow down or take a walk break.  

Near the end of the first loop, I began hearing sirens and police horns in the background, then rapidly growing nearer.  Was that the winner coming into the finish?  Shortly before reaching the timing mat, I could see the police car lights about 100 yards back.  Atlanta Track Club personnel were eagerly looking for the winner.  As I passed the timing mat, they began unrolling the finish line ribbon.  Then I heard the announcement of the first finisher, in an amazing time of 42:15!  With a four-minute delay for wave C, I barely avoided being lapped!  When I checked the official result after the race, I finished the first loop in 37:49, at an average pace of 8:42 min / mile (about 4.3 miles elapsed).  

The second loop went smoothly as well.  I wondered if I was slowing just a little, but resolved to maintain a consistent effort and not worry about "making up the time" by pushing harder.  As the mile 5 and 6 markers ticked by, I put the mindset as if I had 13.1 miles to run today, and that helped me settle down with the pace.  Coming into the finish, I was aware that I was very close to the goal pace!  The clock read 69 minutes as I approached, my watch ticked past 65 minutes, but I felt that I had just executed the workout perfectly!  I continued running for another half-mile or so, to gradually cool down and finish 9 miles for the day.  

When I checked my official chip time, I was delighted to see 1:05:05, 8:44 min / mile overall pace!  And I did it without making any "adjustments" to my pace in the last mile! 


When I returned home, I wrote Coach Carl.  He responded quickly, and was also really pleased with the result.  Of course we were both very happy that I finished unscathed.  Carl asked how the hills compared with what I would face at the Publix half.  My feeling was that the organizers had squeezed all of the hills of the Publix half marathon into 7.45 miles, but the scientist in me demanded that I check the data.  It turns out, today's race had an even tougher elevation profile!  

Southside 12K: 827 ft net gain, 828 ft net loss
Publix GA 13.1 miles: 599 ft net gain, 608 ft net loss

To compare with the marathons that I've run outside of Atlanta:

Chickamauga 26.2 miles: 641 ft net gain, 635 net loss
New York City 26.2 miles: 821 ft net gain, 841 net loss

January 1, 2019: Resolution Run, 1 mile and 5K races

For 2019, my running goals are to improve at all of the distances shorter than the marathon, and then return to the marathon in spring 2020 in better shape and hopefully mentally stronger.  I'm training with Coach Carl for the Publix Atlanta Half-Marathon in mid-March, aiming to set a new personal best.  This morning's Resolution Run would be the first checkpoint run, to see what I'm capable of running.  Last year I set my 5K personal best at 23:30, in 20 degree temperatures.  Today it was 40 degrees warmer! 

I wasn't expecting to break this record today for a couple of reasons, including: 
  • I've gained 5 pounds since the marathon; and
  • Bonnie and I just returned from a wonderfully relaxing 5-day cruise, where I acquired an additional pound-per-day, thanks to:
    • too many delicious chocolate croissants at breakfasts
    • a few loaves of delicious bread with lunches and dinners
    • several afternoon ice creams
      • free vanilla ice cream on deck 11
      • Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia in a waffle cone on deck 5
  • it would have been worse if I hadn't run three times on the cruise:
    • 5 miles speedwork on day 2 on deck 12
    • 4 miles on the treadmill on day 3 in the fitness center on deck 11, as it was far too windy to run safely on the top deck 12
    • 3 miles on day 5 on deck 12
      • totaling 12 miles running
      • and at least as many miles walking and taking the stairs whenever possible. 
Independence of the Seas, docked in Cozumel.
Notice the Atlanta Track Club caps,
and I'm wearing the Peachtree Road Race shirt from 2015.
My first New Year's resolution is to strictly track everything that I eat, so that I can shed the excess weight.  As I recently ran a low 25-minute 5K in early December, taking it relatively easy given that I was running a half-marathon that I really cared about the next day, I felt that I could break 25 minutes.  


Tucker Running Club at 9:30 am
But before the 5K at 10:30 am, there was the 1-mile race at 10:00 am.  In past years, I haven't run the 1-mile race, but at the Atlanta Track Club end-of-year breakfast, I heard that we could double up for the same registration fee.  After jogging the 1-mile course to get a sense of where the quarter-mile, half-mile, and three-quarter mile marks would be, I warmed up with a second mile of strides, meaning that I would alternate 60 - 90 second jogs with 30 second "strides" accelerating to faster than my 1-mile pace.  I made it to the starting area, making sure that I was in front of the children and not directly behind the man with the stroller. 


The 1-Mile race route
The race began at 10:00 sharp.  In contrast with other 1-mile races that I've run, I started fairly cautiously, gradually accelerating to what I felt was about a 7 min / mile pace.  For the most part, the first half-mile was a gentle but steady uphill along the eastern side of the Active Oval, which afterwards I saw was a net 50 foot gain.  At the north end of the Active Oval, the road leveled about: this was about 3 minutes in.  I began to speed up as we ran downhill, moving ahead of several other runners.  I checked my watch and saw that my pace was around 7:04, and decided to try to stick with that pace.  For the last third of the race, the route was relatively level, along the north side of Lake Clara Meer.  But with about 0.2 mile to go, I suddenly felt very tired.  I coasted for about 100 meters, then pushed again as the mile 3 sign came into view.  Only 0.11 mile to go!  Nonetheless I couldn't find a higher gear.  I heard my watch signal 1 mile completed about 15 seconds before I reached the finish line, seeing 7:25 on the clock, and according to my watch, finished in 7:21.  
Pace vs. elevation for the 1-mile race
I was a little disappointed with my time.  But overall, I was happy with my pace discipline.  Only after the race did I realize that some of the runners wore two bibs: one for the 1 mile race just completed, and a second bib for the 5K to come.  Ooof, I should have realized that I would need a second bib!  Nonetheless, since I didn't set any kind of record, I didn't really care about that.  But I discovered when the results were posted, I would have likely finished second in my age group if I had worn the 1-mile bib.  Something to remember for the next time! 
Bonnie captured my finish in the 1-mile race
Actually my bigger mistake on the day was ... running the 1 mile race before running the 5K.  I was so tired when I finished, yet I needed to recover for the 5K, to start within 25 minutes!  After eating half a banana and drinking most of a bottle of water while I walked to the starting area for the 5K, I still didn't feel 100% ready.  A few rounds of leg swings helped with leg soreness, but my heart rate was still above 100 beats per minute.  As I waited for wave B to begin, I thought through my plan: run the first mile at 8:00 flat, then try to maintain that pace for the second mile (two big hills), and see what I could do with the third mile (net downhill) and the finish.  

The bullhorn sounded, and wave B took off!  I crossed the starting mat 8 seconds after the official wave start.  I thought that I started conservatively (although the Garmin pace chart shows otherwise) but seemed to settle into an 8 min / mile pace.  The first third of mile 1 followed exactly the same course as the 1-mile race, then we headed uphill to the Botanical Gardens.  This is normally a good hill training venue, gaining about 30 feet of elevation.  I shortened my stride and increased my turnover, and felt pretty good as I crested the top of that hill.  Out of the Botanical Gardens and onto Piedmont Road, we now enjoyed a long downhill.  Several people passed me in this section, but I was committed to coast at an 8 min / mile pace, letting my pulse rate drop a few points.  As we turned onto Winchester Drive, I saw the 1 mile sign and my watch signaled 7:57 elapsed, mission accomplished for mile 1.  
The 5K race route

Mile 2 continued downhill on Winchester and into the north end of Piedmont Park.  Then we hit the sharp uphill section past the Orpheus Brewery.  Having run the same route last year, this hill was not a surprise, but all of a sudden, I ran out of steam.  Carrying those chocolate croissants uphill required a walk break.  30 seconds later, I resumed running, but couldn't get back up to speed even though the parking lot was level.  The loaves of bread threatened to trip me up.  Both Ben & Jerry were dragging me down.  I took another walk break through the water station, then resumed running with the turn onto Monroe Drive.  Heading through the gate back into the Park, I began to chip away at my pace for mile 2, which was above 9 min / mile, then dropped to the high 8 min / mile range.  The next hill, running past the Sage Parking Deck, was much tougher than I remembered.  At that stage, I was surprised to hear Curt Walker's voice.  He must have started behind me.  He tried to introduce me to "Kevin" but I was so out of breath I couldn't spare the courtesy of a hello, didn't even have the energy to turn my head.  Curt and Kevin passed me and then I slowed down to a walk, again.  Shortly after the path leveled out, the mile 2 sign came into view and my watch signalled 8:56.  Sigh, last year I managed 8:00 flat in this tough mile.  

To have any chance at a 25 minute finish, I needed to really speed up in mile 3.  Unfortunately I could hardly manage to stay faster than a 10 min / mile pace, carrying Cherry Garcia around.  A light drizzle had begun, although it wasn't really too bad at first.  We turned onto the sandy lower level of the Active Oval, which had several large mud puddles covering the route.  I thought I saw Bonnie on the outbound leg above (she began with wave F) and then to my surprise heard Brian Minor call out "Frank! Better run faster, I'm gonna catch you!"  Of course he was more than a mile behind me, as he was walking the route with his wife Beverly, who was recovering from some soreness from a recent traffic accident.  The drizzle increased to a regular rain.  At that moment I regretted not wearing a cap, and removed my sunglasses, holding them in my hand.  We came off of the Active Oval and back onto the path north of Lake Clara Meer.  I wanted to speed up a little, but Ben & Jerry in conspiracy with the croissants and loaves of bread just wouldn't get go of me.  At that point, I let go of the race, conceding that today wasn't my day.  I needed 9:09 for mile 3.  
Everything fell apart after about 10 minutes.  I was no match for the hills today.
Enough of this, I wanted to get to the finish line as fast as possible.  Ben & Jerry may have slipped off of my back.  Whatever the reason, I found a little more speed.  I passed a few people in the last 0.11 mile, although two kids passed me shortly before I crossed the finish line mat.  29 minutes on the clock, 26:51 official time.  


Well, well, well.  This checkpoint run showed me that I'm not in decent shape at this moment.  Although I ran during the cruise, it was all on flat surface without any hill work at all, and it wasn't enough to counteract the marathon of eating everything on the ship.  I'm confident that I can get back into shape, but it will be much easier if I can lose ten pounds over the next couple of months.  

December 9, 2018: Jeff Galloway Half Marathon


A nice note from Jeff Galloway, acknowledging my 5-year streak! 
I woke up at 5:15 am, to the sound of steady rain, which had continued for more than 24 hours.  On top of that, the temperature today was a few degrees colder than it had been yesterday.  Nonetheless, yesterday's 5K race had given me confidence that I could run well this morning.  I didn't feel any significant soreness!  

I aimed to run just under a 9 minute / mile pace in today's race.  I set my personal best in last year's Galloway Half, running an average 8:55 min / mile pace to finish in 1:56:46.  Brian Minor challenged me nearly a year ago to race the Galloway Half Marathon.  Brian is faster than me, having run a 1:45 half a couple of years ago.  As a newlywed, perhaps he doesn't train quite as consistently, and his work schedule is not that conducive to running as regularly as I can.  Brian felt that he could run a 1:55 race.  To have a chance to outrun Brian, I knew that I needed a similar - or better performance.  The other part of my strategy, which I learned from watching the elite men running the New York City Marathon, was for the eventual winner to stay close behind the leader or leaders until the last mile or so, then make a move that hopefully the leader couldn't match.  Although I wouldn't bet on myself to actually outrun Brian unless things went badly for him, at least I was confident that I could run well.  A sub 2-hour half marathon felt realistic for today!

Almost ready to run, but we still need to shed our outer layer.
My cap doesn't look like it's on very tightly. 
I arrived at the Piedmont Park deck shortly after 7 am, stretching and warming up in the lot.  Then I jogged at an easy pace to the starting area on 11th Street, about one mile, which was a perfect warmup.  It was drizzling and windy at the start of my jog, but by the time I arrived in the starting area, the rain had stopped!  I caught up with Brian, said hello to several other friends who were running today, and just tried to keep moving to keep my muscles warmed up, until the National Anthem.  Unlike yesterday, when I removed my cap, my head remained dry.  To protect my ears for a longer run and the prospect of a windy day, I did wear a skullcap.  As the anthem came to an end, I realized that we would begin within a minute.  I replaced my cap and hurriedly removed a third throw-away layer, instead of waiting to remove it during the race.  There were fewer runners than in previous years, no doubt due to the bad weather, but the camaraderie and energy was high among those of us who showed up to run.  

The great contest has begun: mano a mano!
Jeff Galloway gave the signal to start, and I immediately began running.  I must have crossed the starting mat within a couple of seconds of the official start.  Brian and I crossed the timing mat together, but within a few hundred feet, he moved ahead, so my strategy was on the right foot!  Two blocks into the race, we turned right onto Juniper Street, and a gust of wind blew my cap off of my head!  I decided to let it go, it was an Atlanta Track Club cap that was sent to all members several years ago - and I had another one at home.  I must not have put it on very firmly after the National Anthem.  

For the first few miles, I "leapfrogged" the 2 hour pace group.  Their intervals were 2:00 run / 0:30 walk, whereas I was on what for me was a more comfortable 3:30 run / 0:30 walk interval.  After a few miles, I left them behind for good, and I didn't hear the pacers calling out intervals.  This was a nice repeat of last year's personal best start to my race.  I crossed the 5K timing mat at 28:03, similar to last year's pace.  The only difference from last year was in mile 4: when we turned off of Freedom Parkway onto the PATH trail, we encountered a giant water hazard which forced us to carefully walk on the grass.  
Trying to catch up to Brian on the Eastside Beltline.
As the miles ticked by, I remained about 100 yards behind Brian.  Brian and I were using exactly the same run / walk intervals, and he stuck with the plan, slowing down within a second of me, then returning to a run at the same time that I did.  I thought about skipping a walk break to partially close the gap, but that was probably a bad idea, so I also stuck with my own plan.  On the Eastside Beltline, I picked up some speed.  At one point, only one runner was between me and Brian.  I didn't see Brian turn around, so I don't know if he saw me, but he also picked up some speed, as we both ran in the downhill direction.  Mile 5 was my fastest mile of the race, in 8:25 minutes.  At the north end of the Beltline, Brian's wife Beverly was taking photographs, next to a water station that nearly coincided with a scheduled walk break.   I said to her "I'm not too far behind your husband!"  "I know" she replied.  After the race was over, Beverly told me: "I gave you up: I told Brian that you weren't far behind!"  Brian must have seen me for himself when he made the sharp right turn onto Kanuga Street.  

Beverly photographed me near the north terminus of the Beltline,
when I was only 20 - 30 seconds behind Brian.
At the six mile mark, my watch recorded 53 minutes elapsed, about 30 seconds ahead of my position in the 2017 race.  After another turn, I crossed the 10K timing mat at 55:06 elapsed, having just run a 27 minute 5K!  The gap between Brian and me remained constant.  I counted about a 20 second lead based on when Brian passed landmarks.  That was certainly surmountable if I kept running strongly.  But then we made a left turn onto St. Charles Street.  I told Brian yesterday that there was a long hill on St. Charles, and he might not see but he would probably notice the effect on his effort or his pace.  It turns out that my memory was faulty: the hill loomed up ahead quite visibly!  This was the first mile where I began to tire, when I began looking forward to the 30 second walk breaks.  And Brian seemed to increase the gap, running strongly up the hill.  Afterwards Brian told me that he had seen me, and knowing that I was close behind spurred him on to turn up the effort!  I can say the same, he was my pacer for the first six miles.  But mile 7, as in previous JG 13.1 races, was my slowest mile, this year in 9:36, 1:02:30 elapsed.  When I compared stats later in the day, I lost 15 seconds in that mile.  I never saw Brian again after he turned onto Highland Avenue early in mile 8.  At the end of mile 8, 1:11:34 had elapsed: in 2017, I had finished mile 8 at 1:11:36.  

And from this point, I gradually slowed for the remainder of the race, running every single mile between 13 and 32 seconds slower than last year.  I had leapfrogged Tom Pate for awhile.  Tom is a fellow runner with Coach Carl's group on Tuesday evenings.  In last week's Eastside Beltline 10K, I passed Tom around mile 5.  Today Tom passed me for good around the mile 8 mark, finishing in 1:56:15, with a strong negative split. 

With Tom Pate after the race.  Tom won his age group! 
Running uphill at the end of mile 9 and the beginning of mile 10, I really struggled.  Several runners passed me while I was running!  I reached the 15K mark at 1:24:14 elapsed, corresponding to a 29 minute 5K.  I could hardly wait for the 30 second walk breaks - what a relief when each one was signaled!  Fortunately with each walk break, I recovered a bit, so at the beginning of each run interval, I returned to a decent pace.  Then around 2 minutes into the run interval, I would struggle again.  I really had to dig deep to keep pushing.  I fought off the temptation to take early or additional walk breaks.  Turning onto Piedmont Road, running uphill past Piedmont Park, I was looking and looking for the mile 10 marker.  It took forever to reach it - however my watch signaled mile 10 was covered in 9:28, not that badly!  About 30 seconds later, I passed the 10 mile marker at 1:30:30 on my watch.  Surely I could run a 29 minute 5K to finish in less than 2 hours!  Finally we created the top of the hill, and I began to pick up speed on the long downhill stretch of Piedmont Road to the intersection with Monroe Avenue.  Despite wanting to run through a walk break while running downhill, I decided to take the walk break, although it was probably only about 20 seconds, as a group of other runners caught up with me.  Mile 11 was my last sub-9 minute miles, in 8:41.  

Beverly photographed me again around the mile 9 marker.
The last two miles through Piedmont Park were net uphill, about 40 feet in each mile, although these were small rollers.  My legs were really sore.  I remembered that the 12 mile marker came before the south end of the park.  But near that point, where Bonnie had taken photographs last year, there was a large puddle covering the sidewalk.  I had no choice but to slosh through the mudpit along the left side of the pathway.  I held out my arms to maintain my balance, and managed to get through the quagmire without falling.  Afterwards I heard that some other runners were not as fortunate.  Finishing mile 12 in 9:33, my watch read 1:48:13 elapsed.  A new personal record was now out of reach.  On the other hand a sub-2 hour half marathon was virtually assured, as long as I ran faster than a 10 minute pace for mile 13.  The only disappointment was that there wasn't a Phiddippides Cheer Group at the south end of the park.  Under the conditions, I couldn't really blame them for not coming out this year. 
Bonnie captured Brian's finish.  He and the woman immediately behind him
had quite a heated competition for a good part of the race!
I kept up with the walk breaks at 1:51:30 and 1:55:30, conceding that I couldn't get through the rest of the race without the 30 second walk breaks.  Nonetheless I managed to record a time of 9:23 for mile 13, 1:57:36 elapsed.  Not much further, I told myself.  Keep pushing, keep pushing, KEEP PUSHING!  As I passed the True Speed Photographer, I wondered what look of pain he would capture on my face.  A runner wearing a red jacket caught up with me, and for a moment I thought I could stay in front of him.  Then he found a strong kick as the finish line came into sight, and I couldn't match him.  I could hardly see as I made maximal effort to get to the finish line.  I heard Bonnie, Beverly, and Josh Mann cheering as I approached the finish line.  At least I would beat 1:59!  
Gritting my teeth as I powered through the last 0.1 mile.
Were my eyes open?!
I was totally dazed for the first minute or two after finishing, but gradually regained some equilibrium around the time that Jeff Galloway handed me the medal.  I felt better after a banana and a little post-race cool-down jog and stretching.  My official time was 1:58:53, good for 77th place out of 563 finishers, and 7th out of 30 in my age group.  Brian finished in 1:55:57, 58th place and 8th in his age group.  

My finish (above), and
pace vs. elevation profile for today's race (below)

The medal was so heavy, Jeff Galloway had to help me hold it!
I'm smiling so the post-run endorphins must be kicking in. 
Although I didn't win the race with Brian, I am very proud of today's performance.  This has been a tough year for my running, after getting injured in February and needing seven months of physical therapy to recover in time for the New York City Marathon.  Not only was this my best half marathon of 2018, this was my second fastest half-marathon on a certified course.  I'm really happy to finish the year on a strong note, and I look forward to improving in 2019! 

Bonnie left a little later, but made it to the finish line in time
 to capture several finishers including her hubby! 
Beverly Minor took several photos for this blog
 throughout today's race.  Thanks Beverly! 
Standing with champions, from left-to-right:
Anna Calcaterra, Female Masters Champ and 23rd overall;
Brian Minor, 58th overall; Daniel Yee, 17th overall and 2nd age group;
and yours truly, 77th overall
Total bling this weekend: Double G, for running both the 5K and half-marathon;
Barb's 5K medal; and JG 13.1 medal
Analysis, 2018 vs. 2017, faster this year in blue, slower in red
mile 1, 8:52 vs. 9:01
mile 2, 8:55 vs. 8:48
mile 3, 8:51 vs. 8:55
   5K, 28:03 vs. 28:11
mile 4, 9:09 vs. 9:12
mile 5, 8:25 vs. 8:37
mile 6, 8:43 vs. 8:53
   10K, 55:06 vs. 55:50
mile 7, 9:36 vs. 9:20  
mile 8, 9:03 vs. 8:50
mile 9, 8:57 vs. 8:32
   15K, 1:24:14 vs. 1:23:36
mile 10, 9:28 vs. 9:14
mile 11, 8:41 vs. 8:28
mile 12, 9:33 vs. 9:01
mile 13, 9:23 vs. 8:51
   13.1M, 1:58:53 vs. 1:56:46, 9:04 min/mi vs 8:54 min/mi

Celebrating and bragging with Brian
Calorie replacement programme: crab and scrambled eggs hash,
and chocolate chip pancakes (I took half of the pancake home).
Thanks Brian for treating us to brunch! 

December 8, 2018: Barb's 5K

Last year, Brian Minor told me that he would register for the "Double G", the Saturday 5K named for Barbara Galloway, and the Sunday half-marathon organized by Jeff Galloway.  As I've always enjoyed the half-marathon - and the registration fee for the next year is half-price in the days following each year's races, I decided to join Brian and registered for both races in the Galloway weekend.  In the past I've resisted, largely because I've believed that running a 5K on Saturday is a good recipe for a bad half-marathon on Sunday.  But I resolved to run the 5K conservatively, simply as a shakeout run. 

Rain began Friday evening and continued throughout the night, and during my drive to Ansley Mall in midtown Atlanta, where we gathered at the Phiddippides store before the race.  But fortunately the rain diminished to a light drizzle as the 8 am starting time for the race approached.  Brian and I made our way to the start, about a half-mile south of the store, which was a perfect warmup jog.  I looked around at the small group gathering for the start, and said to Brian "I might have a chance for an age group award: not too many old guys here today!"

Before the race began, the National Anthem was sung and I dutifully removed my cap.  Until then, my head was dry, but I could feel my hair getting soaked with the drizzle.  The singer delivered the anthem at a patriotic, majestic, slow tempo, holding the high note .....  drawing out the last stanza, not wanting to end the anthem.  Finally I put my cap back on, now that I was evenly wet, in 39 deg F temperatures.   

A line of about a dozen runners gathered at the start line, including Brian.  There was a big gap between them and the second line.  We were waiting for more fast runners to fill the space!  As Barb Galloway counted down to the start, with about 5 seconds to go I began walking toward the start line.  Immediately upon hearing the starting command, I began running, crossing the start line with no more than a second delay.  

And I kept running, fast, fast, fast.  Attaboy Frank, way to throw away the conservative race plan in the first five seconds of the race!  But, I felt really good!  Fast, fast, fast, and then downhill on Winchester Drive, across Piedmont Road and then more steeply downhill, even faster!  The road seemed a little slick with leaves pasted to the asphalt, so I was careful, but kept going fast, fast, fast.  At the bottom of the hill I finally slowed a little, to avoid wiping out on the sharp right turn into Piedmont Park.  

Having safely negotiated the turn, I just kept running.  My Garmin data showed a sub-7 minute pace for much of that initial sprint.  At 3:30, my watch sounded, and so I took the first 30 second walk break.  At least I stuck to that part of the plan.  Normally I would feel silly taking a walk break in a 5K, but in a Galloway race, that was 100% appropriate.  When my watch sounded again, I sprinted ahead of the people that had just passed me.  Then a little boy passed me at incredible speed!  But 100 feet ahead of me, he slowed to a walk, panting heavily, weaving in the walkway.  I passed him on his left, barely staying on the path, but avoiding contact as I passed.  I may have outweighed him by more than 100 pounds: it would have been criminally bad if I had collided with him.   

The second walk break coincided with a water station and the 1 mile marker, so I took a cup of water as the watch recorded 7:46 for mile 1, 67 feet net downhill.  Continuing through the park, we now ran over some gentle rollers.  At the south end of the park, we turned onto the same path that we had taken late in mile 4 of last Saturday's Eastside Beltline 10K.  I expected to see a big puddle at a dip in the path that would force us onto the muddy grass.  Today, the puddle did not extend across the path.  Unfortunately, a maintenance truck was very slowly moving in the opposite direction.  That truck threatened to drive onto the dry half of the path: don't you dare!  I stared down the truck and stood my ground on the dry side of the path.  Potential collision #2 avoided.  

No wonder I ran so fast at the start! 
In mile 2 I had slowed to 8:38, 16:24 elapsed, but I believe that I would have slowed more if I hadn't taken the walk breaks.  I ran a sub-8 minute pace for most of the second half of mile 2, 32 feet net uphill.  Now to the finish!  As one of the few runners using run-walk, I leapfrogged runners with every run interval, then a few people would pass while I walked.  But overall I gained ground on more runners than I lost.  I took a walk break at 19:30, resumed running at 20:00 even, but calculated that I would finish in more than 25 minutes.  Around 23:10 elapsed, I decided to take a short walk break, then when the walk signal sounded at 23:30, I resumed sprinting, for what turned out to be 100 seconds.  My watch recorded 8:11 for mile 3, 24:35 elapsed, 20 feet net downhill.  In the final 0.11 mile, I passed two runners but couldn't catch up with a couple of others who had moved ahead of me earlier in the race.  But I wasn't really racing, right?!  I saw Bonnie just past the finish line as I crossed in 25:12, running a 7:03 pace for the last 0.11 miles, 19 feet net downhill.  Overall the Garmin data recorded that the race route was 75 net downhill!  



I saw the preliminary results on Sunday: Brian finished in 23:49, 8th out of 282 finishers (6th male), and I finished 18th, 16th male.  I was third in my age group, and wasn't surprised as I thought that there were a couple of older guys immediately in front of me.  This was a fun experience, even with the drizzle and cold.  I took care to cool down with an easy jog to the store, and stretched immediately afterwards, and throughout the afternoon and evening.  I didn't feel any ill effects from the race.  Despite a lot of excitement in the evening - Atlanta United won the Major League Soccer Championship Game - I slept really well that night!  


December 1, 2018: The Eastside Beltline 10K

My first 10K race was the Eastside Beltline, in December 2013, and I've run it without fail each year since.  Last year I ran my best time on the course, finishing in 51:09 (although the course was about 0.1 mile short) and notched a few new personal bests in the coming weeks, including a half-marathon PR two weeks later, and a 5K PR on January 1.  And then I injured myself running a 12K in less than 60 minutes on a hilly course in February of this year, and exacerbated the injury by foolishly completing a marathon in March.  

I've spent the last 8 months recovering and gradually regaining endurance to successfully run the New York City Marathon four weeks ago.  Finally I feel mostly recovered in the legs, but I don't really know where I stand with regard to conditioning, since I haven't tried to run at my fastest pace for any distance longer than a mile.  To maintain my streak in the Eastside Beltline race, and to continue supporting the Beltline project, I decided earlier this week to register for this year's race.  But it's not always a straightforward decision: mile 3 of this race is always held on an unimproved section of the Beltline, which under the best of conditions has all of the hazards of trail running, and when wet is a dangerous slough of muddy puddles and slippery gravel.  

After I registered on Monday evening, the weather forecast began to worsen.  By yesterday morning, the chance of rain was predicted at 90% for each hour between 8 am and 12 pm.  And when I awoke this morning, it had rained for most of the night and the prediction was 100% rain with a chance of thundershowers later in the morning.  Originally I had planned to run 12 miles today, parking at Piedmont Park 3 miles away from the start-finish area.  But with torrential rain at the house when I left shortly after 8 am, I knew that I could find street parking near the start-finish area, and other than a little warmup ahead of time, decided not to run much more than the 10K.  I deliberately left my iPhone hidden in the car, as I didn't want to risk damaging the phone, so the few photos in this blog post were available from the race organizers. 

Fortunately the intensity of the rain diminished to a drizzle as I arrived.  I was lucky enough to find a parallel parking spot on Edgewood Road just two blocks from the start-finish area.  I jogged easily to the Stoveworks - Krog Street Market complex, had plenty of time for dynamic stretching, a little pre-race socializing, and a cappuccino bracketed by two porte-potty stops.  Five minutes before the start, the rain began to increase again, but I walked to the starting area per the race organizers instructions, among one of the first few dozen runners to line up.  Only then did I get drenched, but to the larger group of people huddled under the awnings adjacent to the starting area, I figured, what does it matter, when you're all going to get completely soaked within a minute or two. 

A few seconds into the race
We began exactly at 9:30 am, I crossed the starting mat about 20 seconds after the official start, and made my way in a large mass of runners slowly heading north on Krog Street.  Then the people in front of me came to a dead stop: there was a large water puddle at the intersection with Irwin Street.  What the heck, my feet were already wet, and the puddle wasn't all that deep, so I just ran straight through, made two turns, and landed on the Beltline in a decent position with regard to the center of the way and with a group moving at the "right" pace, about a 9 min / mile pace.  To my surprise, there were some big puddles in sections of the Beltline, so anyone who had kept their feet dry in the first few hundred yards was surely running in wet socks by the end of the first mile.   

Given the bad weather, my plan was simply to run easily on the downhill part of the Beltline, settling in just under a 9 min / mile pace for the first 2 miles, just get through the treacherous third mile without injury, and once I had returned to the sidewalk at the north end of Piedmont Park, see what I could manage with a faster pace in the final 5K or so.  I covered mile 1 in 8:35.  Passing under the Highland Avenue bridge, a torrent of water pouring through a hole in the street hit me in the face and head, as I couldn't quite get out of the way due to all of the people around me.  Fortunately I was wearing a cap, which blocked most of the water.  And as we began to spread out along the course, I finished mile 2 in 8:16, seemingly without that much effort.  Now to mile 3, crossing Monroe Avenue and onto the gravel parking lot behind Park Tavern, and then onto the unimproved Beltline trail.  It was much worse than I had remembered.  In several places, deep puddles or long muddy stretches meant that we jogged single file along the grassy edge.  A relatively young and slender-looking man was walking back toward us with a limp: he was facing a long and painful walk back to the start-finish area, presuming that he didn't call a Lyft or ask organizers for assistance.  As we approached the north end of this stretch, I could hear the boiling cascade of water pouring down a spillage stream separating the Beltline from the main section of Piedmont Park.  The memory of Niagara Falls came to mind.  Up and over a wooden bridge and finally on to pavement at Winchester Street, to head into the park proper.  

I had not seen any mile markers along the way, but my watch indicated 9:06 for the third mile and 26 minutes total elapsed, and I estimated that I reached the 5K point at about 27 minutes even.  Now to try to speed up a little.  Mile 4 through Piedmont Park itself was a series of gentle rollers, and near the south end of the park I could see a nice downhill into the meadow.  I thought I could pick up a few seconds on the last downhill section of this race, but I shouldn't have been surprised to see a large puddle at the bottom of the hill.  I followed the path of most of the other runners on the grass parallel to the submerged pathway, which meant that we were churning through mud instead.  I'm glad that I wore my third-newest shoes, which were actually about six months old, in case they ended up ruined by the water and mud.  I finished mile 4 in 8:38, 34:35 elapsed, which I thought was pretty good for the conditions.   

Back onto the Beltline, I aimed to pick up some speed, even though I knew from experience that it would be uphill for the rest of the race.  I had mostly passed people through the park, but began to slow as I grew tired on the Beltline, before I had reached Ponce City Market.  A women wearing a white and grey hoodie passed me at that stage, followed shortly thereafter by a man with a blue-grey hoodie.  Then a woman with a red hoodie started to pass me.  Maybe I should have worn a hoodie myself.  At that moment I found a higher gear and got back in front of her, and proceeded to pass a few more people approaching the North Avenue overpass.  But now I felt a stitch on my lower right side.  Had eaten too much breakfast?  My felt a little queasy.  Don't throw up, I thought to myself, as I visualized leaning over the railing that I would reach at the next overpass at Ralph McGill Avenue.  Instead, I slowed down, hoping that none of the people that I had just passed would overtake me, as my watch signaled that I completed mile 5 in 8:54, 43:30 elapsed.  The woman in the red hoodie did catch up at that point.  

I reached the Ralph McGill overpass, and my stomach felt better.  I felt funny passing the woman in the red hoodie while simultaneously holding and massaging the stitch in my right side.  My legs didn't hurt, especially not the Achilles tendon or the knee that had become sore in the middle of the New York City Marathon, but I struggled with fatigue, as my heart had not been tested at this speed for so long for many months.  C'mon Frank, I said to myself, you just ran the Freaking New York City Marathon, you can do better in this little ol' 10K, especially with less than a mile to go.  And I picked up a little surge at that moment.  

Then I began to hurt again as I crossed under Highland Avenue.  At least I missed getting hit by the stream of water still falling from the underside of the bridge.  The woman with the red hoodie caught up to me again, but I accelerated to keep her from getting ahead of me - until a woman wearing a maroon long-sleeved shirt - not a hoodie - passed me moving quickly.  I tried to speed up, and kept in front of red hoodie, but maroon shirt, and the other two hoodie runners were increasing their gaps in front of me.  Then the intersection with Irwin Street came into view.  I knew that the end was near, especially when red hoodie passed me, this time for good as she accelerated toward the finish line.  

There were some surges in the last few miles,
but I ended running no better than an even-split race.
Mile 6 alert sounded in 8:54, 52:25 elapsed, right before I crossed Irwin Street, with the intersection protected by a single policeman.  As soon as I crossed, I heard the sound of cars passing through the intersection: hmm, there must have been a sizable gap just behind me.  Even though I could see the finish line banner up ahead, I was just about completely out of fuel.  Don't walk, Frank, keep running, you're almost there!  I looked over my shoulder to see if anyone was behind me, and didn't see anyone at all.  A moment later I looked again, the nearest runner was far behind me, maybe a 100 feet or more.  Knowing that I wouldn't get passed by anyone else, and realizing that I probably couldn't catch up to anyone behind me, I started to slow down, then put on one final surge to clear the last 100 feet of the race route.  


Turns out, the top and bottom photos show that
other runners were not that far behind me! 
53:39 on my watch.  To my surprise, not only had I not seen a single mile marker along the route, there was no clock at the finish!  And I had to stop running abruptly upon crossing the finish line, to stand in line to have my bib scanned, and then to tear off a bottom strip from the bib which had been written last night by a volunteer at bib pickup. I congratulated the woman in the red hoodie as we walked up to a table to collect a banana and Powerade.  "I had six miles in me today, but not 6.2," I said.  

(When my official time was originally posted, at 53:59, I wrote to the race organizer to ask them to check the raw data.  Lowell Starr responded within a few days: my chip had not recorded at the start, probably due to the crowd, but he confirmed the start time from their photo.  The finish line did record, and the bib collection process was simply a backup in case the finish line sensors were not working.  Lowell posted my time as 53:37, which matched my watch to the extent that I typically start the watch a second or so before crossing the start line, and likewise I stop the watch a second or so after crossing the finish line.  Thanks to Lowell for taking care of this!)

It's the best 10K race that I've run this year, and the fastest that I've run for a 10K distance since the 12K race in mid-February, 9-1/2 months ago, so I shouldn't be unhappy, even if my watch measured only 6.14 miles for the route. 

November 4, 2018: The TCS New York City Marathon

The New York City Marathon is always held on the first Sunday of November, which coincides with the end of Daylight Savings Time; thus all of the participants get an extra hour of rest!  I had set the alarm for 5 am, but I awoke at 4 am and didn't really get back to sleep.  I dreamt about running too fast because the great New York City band The Ramones were playing along the route: 

             "Rock-Rock-Rockaway Beach, Rock-Rock-Rockaway Beach,
              Rock-Rock-Rockaway Beach, we can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach."  

Hmmm. 
My name on the wall at the Expo

I got up around 4:50 am and began to get ready.  I enjoyed a cup of hotel room coffee and light breakfast of cereal with almond mile.  We were in the subway station shortly after 6 am, but had to wait awhile for the #1 local, arriving around 6:30 am.  We reached the South Ferry station at 7:00 am, 30 minutes ahead of my official time to board the ferry.  There was a large crowd of excited runners, and Bonnie and I enjoyed soaking in the excitement.  We were onto the next ferry by 7:20 am, taking a wonderful 30 minute trip across the harbor.  Despite the thousands of runners on the ferry, it was remarkably quiet.  Many of us took photos of the Statue of Liberty as we sailed past.  We had a NYPD boat escort across the harbor.  It was a beautiful morning, hardly a cloud in the sky, about 50 degrees F, and no wind at all!  As we swarmed into the terminal, I said goodbye to Bonnie, and headed up the steps to the exit.  I found myself following a woman dressed in a tiger outfit, with her tail behind her.  I thought that wasn't such a great idea for a costume, considering that I was trying not to step on her tail as I climbed the steps. 
Waiting for the subway, and then on the #1 line heading south

Statue of Liberty; police escort for the ferry

Waiting 30 minutes or more for the bus

Here was the first surprise of the day: there was a very long line to the busses. Fortunately we must have all listened to the advice to stay calm with regard to the logistics.  There was no complaining to be heard while we inched our way forward.  A few men ran outside of the line, but perhaps they were wave 1 runners.  It must have taken at least 30 minutes before we reached the street where the buses would arrive.  i just remembered the advice from Rogue Running, "Just be patient, if someone pushes ahead of you, let them go ahead, everyone will get there. Races are lost at this stage!"  Finally a long line of buses arrived.  I was the last person onto a bus and was glad not to have to wait, but ended up standing for 30 minutes or more as the bus inched its way through the streets of Staten Island. When we finally reached the starting village, and cleared security, we had a 15 minutes walk to the green start village, 2 full hours from the time that we got onto the ferry in lower Manhattan.  The women's race had already begun, but we heard the cannon shot as the men's race and wave 1 began at 9:52 am.  I tried to check the progress of the women's race, but the local cellphone service was overwhelmed.  In any case I had just enough time to use a port-a-potty, get a free bagel, stretch a little, make sure my shoes were tied just right, then walked to corral A, Green wave 3. 

From the Green Wave starting village
We seemed to wait only a moment, when the gate opened and we surged onto the bridge. Now the energy of the runners was really high! The music was playing 

             "Roadrunner, roadrunner; 
              Fifty thousand watts of power; 
              Going faster miles per hour; 
              With the radio on..."  

The atmosphere was definitely not conducive to getting into a mind-set of starting slowly and conservatively!  I tried not to burn any extra energy waiting for the start, energy that I knew that I would desperately need in 2, 3 or 4 hours.
10 minutes before the start, standing on the approach to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge
One of the runners in wave 3 sang a beautiful rendition of "America the Beautiful". Then we surged closer to the line, and the announcer gave instructions for starting, "On your mark" and then an enormous cannon boom sounded followed immediately by its reverberation sounded!  Just as I had heard on the televised broadcast, the sounds of Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" started on cue.  Within a minute I crossed the starting mat!

My goal for the race was to finish in 4:30, running a slight negative split.  I had memorized the following splits: 5K in 33 - 34 minutes, 10K in 66 - 67 min, 13.1 miles in 2:17, and 20 miles in 3:27.  I intended to use intervals of 4:30 running, 30 seconds walking, and/or walking through water stops. 

I was heading up the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, taking care not to run too fast. I had aimed for a 12 minute first mile.  As runner after runner passed me on the bridge, I remembered the Rogue Running advice "If people aren't passing you on the bridge, you're going too fast." I settled in behind a couple at an appropriate pace: the woman was wearing a purple shirt with the slogan "Pancreatic cancer is tough. I'm tougher."

Looking over the harbor toward Manhattan, it was a beautiful day to run!  How fortunate I was to win the NYC marathon AND the weather lottery this year!  Several people jumped onto the raised walkway to take photos, but I just kept slowly running, all business. 

At 4-1/2 minutes, my watch signaled for a walk break. I was on the far left but runners were passing on the side on the raised walkway, so I couldn't find an option to get out of the way.  I just kept running at a very easy pace.  That was going to be a pattern for most of the race.  The 4:20 pacers starting in corral B passed me, followed by the 4:25 pacers.  That's OK, I wasn't planning to keep up with them, aiming for a 4:30 finish.  At 9-1/2 minutes we had spread out a bit.  I looked behind me, and felt I could safely take a 30 second walk break.  Shortly afterwards, we were near the top of the bridge, as my watch sounded 11:30 for mile 1, but the mile 1 sign came up about 30 seconds later, so I was probably right on track.

Now we were heading downhill toward Brooklyn. I could still see the beautiful towers of lower Manhattan to the left, and Brooklyn up ahead seemed forested along the coastline. As we came off the bridge, I was just gliding along very easily, yet my watch was reading sub-10 min / mile.  As we came off the bridge, we saw a large sign "Welcome to Brooklyn!"  Those of us in the green wave took a slightly different route from the other two waves, staying on the highway while we saw the other runners came off the upper level of the bridge to our left.  Then I saw a familiar red jersey: "Thanks Atlanta Track Club @silversue"  And it was Sue Landa!  I called her name and gave her a quick hug as we ran together for most of the next several miles. At that moment I said "This is probably the only time that I'll get to run New York, so I'm looking for a great experience." 

The crowds in Brooklyn were enthusiastic, just as advertised!  What a blast!  The runners were equally enthusiastic, exchanging high-fives with the children lining the route.  Mile 3 came up quickly, followed by the 5K mark, which I crossed exactly at 33 minutes on my watch:  "Nailed it!"

Now I settled in to just run at an easy pace, finding my rhythm. In some places it was convenient to take the walk breaks when the watch sounded, in other places it was a bit narrow and I just kept running. I did slow down or walk through most of the water stops, accepting a cup of Gatorade, even though I was carrying a bottle of Nuun in a 23 oz SmartWater bottle and another 16 oz on my water belt. Sue and I were "leapfrogging" a bit with my walk breaks, but she seemed to be running well. At the 10K mark, I registered 1:05:30, a little fast! (Aiming for 66 - 67 minutes)

Before getting ahead of Sue around mile 8, I had amended my thinking on future New York City marathons, as I said "These crowds are incredible, I can see coming back again, in a few years start entering the lottery again!"

After mile 8, we turned from 4th avenue onto famous Bedford Avenue, with more enthusiastic and cheering crowds. and then at mile 10, it began to get quieter. Ah, this is the famous Hasidic neighborhood of Williamsburg. I saw a few men dressed in black on the sidewalks, some going about their business seemingly oblivious to the runners, but others were watching us. None were cheering, but hopefully they enjoyed seeing the parade of runners. There were a few other people on the streets in western dress who were cheering, and even a group of women who may have been Hasidic by their conservative dress but were also watching us.  On the right side of the street, a side advertised Moishe's Hatters.

We ran a few miles along Bedford Avenue, during which the crowds of spectators gradually increased again.  Around mile 12, we made several turns, and I noticed a sign that seemed specifically for the marathon "Caution sharp left turn slow down. I had never before seen that in a race, but then realized that was for the wheelchair races moving at 20 - 25 miles per hour.  Hay bales provided some padding, probably protecting from some hazardous steel behind the bales, which fortunately all seemed intact.

Then it was time to cross the Pulaski Bridge, as we left Brooklyn to enter Queens. I looked at my watch as I passed the mile 13 marker. 2:17 and change, yet I was aiming to get to 13.1 in 2:17. I had imperceptibly slowed over the last several miles. But I held back from speeding up, as I was determined to maintain pace discipline through the third quarter of the race.

The Pulaski bridge was higher and longer than I had expected, but of course this was just another hill by Atlanta standards. I ran past quite a few people who had slowed to a walk. On the bridge, a young man wearing what appeared to be a Hasidic black hat jumped up on the platform alongside the bridge to take a selfie. Other than the hat, he was wearing the usual running clothes.

We entered Queens, with plenty of enthusiastic crowds, but I mostly remember making several turns in this area. Then suddenly we were running up the approach to the Queensboro Bridge. As warned, everything became very quiet. There were just the sounds of thousands of feet on the bridge, and the occasional bus passing overhead on an upper deck. That was a pretty tough uphill section.

And now, my left knee began to ache.  What?! That wasn't a problem in the months of training! My watch showed that I was running 15 min/mile pace. Surely that wasn't right, it must be the metal of the bridge interfering with the signal. But when we reached the official clock for mile 16 (I started 51 minutes after the wave 1 men) it looked like I had just run a 13 minute mile. After a long mile, we began heading downhill. Quite a few runners were stopped and stretching, a few others took photos. Many others were passing me. Then we headed downhill just a short distance and I started to hear the crowds cheering ahead. 

Making a U-turn off of the bridge, and then a left turn, we were on 1st Avenue. As promised, we enjoyed incredible crowd support in this section, with people several rows deep. I knew that a former graduate student from my lab would be watching but I wasn't sure from which side of the road.  I decided to stay to the left. Unfortunately my knee was hurting pretty badly, but I tried to stick with the plan: only walk every 5 minutes, and through water stops.  At least I kept moving, more or less in the mid 11 min/mile range. I had heard that 1st avenue was downhill as we would run north, but to me it seemed to be rolling hills.

Recent doctoral student Jessica Hurtak,
now a postdoctoral associate at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center,
made this great periodic table-themed sign!
She snapped my photo on First Avenue, below

There were great bands throughout the race, including in this section.  At one point a band was playing: 

                 "Because I'm happy, clap along if you feel like a room without a roof,
                  Because I'm happy, clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth,
                  Because I'm happy, clap along if you know what happiness is to you, 
                  Because I'm happy, clap along if you feel like that's what you want to do!" 

Did everyone start running just a little bit faster?!

As we ran north approaching Harlem, the crowds thinned out a bit, but also encroached into the street. The blue tape was flexible, so naturally as people looked down the street at approaching runners, they would step forward if the person in front of them did so, etc. etc. At one point, a policeman realized that and was trying to get the crowds to move back, but as we ran north the route became fairly narrow. 

Then ahead, I saw the Willis Avenue bridge. And it was another hill! Struggling quite a bit at this stage, I took an extra walk break. Then we were in the Bronx. To our left was a series of tables advertising Biofreeze. I decided to pull over, squeezed a big squirt of green gel into my hand and rubbed it my sore knee, then another squirt onto my calf, and at least one more squirt all over the lower left leg. I muttered "I had hoped that I wouldn't need to stop here." But the volunteer said "that's what we're here for!" and I remembered to smile and thank him.

I could feel the cooling numbness on my skin but I'm not sure that it got down into the muscles. And now I had to be very careful not to rub my eyes or any other sensitive areas! After about 5 minutes, I made another 30 second stop, to do some leg swings, hoping that would ease the soreness. Again I'm not sure if it made a difference, but I resumed running. When I was moving at what I considered was an easy pace, I was passing people, then I would take a walk break, then repeat.  There was a section in the Bronx where we were running northbound and I could see the runners ahead running southbound, separated by just a block.  What a temptation to cut the course at that point!  But I didn't want to become the lead article in the next release of "Marathon Investigation"!  I noticed at mile 20 my elapsed time was 3:37.  Was that what I was trying for?  Was it 3:17, 3:27, 3:37? 

We left the Bronx via the Madison Avenue bridge.  Someone held up a sign reading "Last Damn Bridge!"  Thank goodness that bridge was flat!  As we re-entered Manhattan, I noticed that we were at 138th street, and I knew Bonnie was waiting at Marcus Garvey park at 124th street. 14 blocks to Bonnie! That kept me going, as the blocks quickly ticked down. Around 126th street, I took a walk break, because I was determined to run when I saw Bonnie.  And then I made a right turn.  I stayed to the left side, scanning the crowd ahead for Bonnie in her pink hoodie.  We saw each other at the same time: I heard Bonnie shouting "Frank! Frank!" as I shouted "Bonnie! Bonnie!" waving my hands in the air so that she could see me. I ran past shouting "Oh, the pain!!"
Bonnie caught my photo in the 22nd mile
Turning the corner, there was the mile 22 sign. I was really hurting now. I started thinking about my father, 13 years deceased.  I began saying in my mind "Dad, be proud of me, Dad, be proud of me."  Again and again.  I know my father was always proud of me, I don't know why that thought came.  The mind goes to some strange places after mile 20 in the marathon.  I don't really believe in the afterlife, but I suppose I was channeling my father.  Did someone once say, "There are no atheists after mile 20 in the marathon"? 

Bonnie's family was waiting
for me at mile 26!
A woman held up a sign "Pain is French for bread" and I laughed at that one. I saw the 23 mile sign, around 110th street, had to go all the way to 59th street! But I could see the green expanse of Central Park to my right. I started thinking about my grandparents, everything that they went through during World War II in Europe, at least my pain was nothing compared to that.  The crowds were cheering, but all of the runners were silent, unlike our boisterousness in Brooklyn three hours earlier.  And I started running a little faster. At 90th street, we turned into Central Park. After the mile 24 sign, I started thinking about Han Choi. He ran the 2014 marathon. At the time, he said it was the toughest thing he had ever done, because he didn't train for it. Then Han got pancreatic cancer and 3-1/2 years later he was gone. My pain is nothing compared to that.

At mile 25 sign, I remembered coach Carl's advice to think of laps around the track. 5 laps remaining, I can do this. Fight fight fight! And I suddenly accelerated, passing people left and right in the last part of the park. Was that the woman in the tiger outfit that I was passing?  She was still holding her tail to keep other runners from stepping on it.  Turning onto 59th street (Central Park South), running running running, staying to the left, looking for Bonnie's sister and parents near the intersection with 7th Avenue. I never did see them although they were screaming, but their cheers were drowned out by the pain in my legs. Running running running, trying to beat 4:48, I thought I was going to better that time by a minute or two, until I got into the park again, and there was no mile 26 marker anywhere in sight.

Running running running, finally there was the mile 26 marker, and I was past 4:46 on my watch. Oooh, I'm not going to make it, or maybe? Running running running where is the finish line? Running past the first grandstand, up a hill, and a slight left turn, "Shalane's turn" and there was the finish line, thankfully with the timing mat in front of the finish sign. Over the first mat, then kept pushing over the second mat to make sure I really finished, remembering Meb Keflezighi last year collapsing over the second mat: 4:48:33 on my watch.

Within a minute, I checked my phone to see a flood of messages of best wishes, mid-run photos, and congratulations. Will told me the official time, 4:48:23. I missed a personal best by 11 seconds!  But what I was really looking for was the great experience that I had, absolutely superb! 


There was a long walk ahead, during which we received our medals, a warming sheet, and a food box.  The apple was the most delicious ever!  Downing a bottle of water and then a bottle of Gatorade revived much of my energy, as we continued walking through the park.  Still the parade of walkers was extremely quiet.  I wanted to shout, "We just finished the New York City Marathon!!!!"  but either I didn't have the energy or didn't want to disrupt the decorum.  Finally we made our way around to the exit where they were handing out blue ponchos.  Amazingly my legs weren't too sore.  I was even able to make it down the stairs in the subway, two stops from 72nd to 96th Street, up the stairs in the station, proudly making sure my medal was showing outside of the poncho, to the hotel, up the stairs and to the room!  

Although my time wasn't quite what I had hoped for, this was definitely the first marathon where I didn't feel beaten up afterwards.  In fact I was even able to jog around a little bit on Monday.  Thank goodness for all of the training, to prepare myself for this challenge! 
At the finish line, on the day after 
Checking my watch at the Fred Lebow statue

My name and time in the New York Times, Nov. 5, 2018
Upon returning to Atlanta for my Tuesday morning Chem 522 class, the students gave me a treasured gift!