Monday, January 27, 2014

Fred Lebow Manhattan Half Recap

I just wanted to honor the memory of the great Fred Lebow, co-founder of the NYC Marathon, by saying a few words here about the New York Road Runners' January marathon that was held in his name for the first time yesterday at Central Park.

The Stats:
Finishers: 4,027
Net time: 2:42
Overall races: 94
NYRR races: 82

It is always an icebox 13.1 -- as it was in 2007, when it was my first half -- but this time was the extreme of the extreme. Fortunately, it wasn't as bad as we were expecting. Wind chill at the start was 6 according to The sun was out the entire race, a high of 17. Was it cold? Yes. Was it enough to make it a fun run? Thankfully no.

I made a judgment call before walking out the door, putting the ASICS Storm Shelter jacket away and opting for the featherweight ASICS windbreaker from my 2007 NYC Marathon expo. I wore it over two longsleeve layers. I wore a buff and pulled it over half my face for much of the race. I donned an ASICS knit cap, and wore the giveaway signature Fred running cap on top of that.

For bottoms, two layers of ASICS, the PR tights and the Storm Shelter pant. Add Zensah calf compression sleeves, socks and my ASICS Gel Kayano 20s, gloves, sunglasses, a Breathe-Right strip, watch, iPhone and earbuds, 3 gel packs and Grabber handwarmers...and I was ridiculously geared up. I set a personal ASICS record! Fortunately, it all felt just right when I was out there.

The Course

We started at 63rd Street on the West Side, by Tavern on the Green. Our course was counter-clockwise, the usual running pattern at Central Park, which unfortunately meant running up Cat Hill. Two laps, and after the second one, continue around the bottom loop to add the extra 1.1 mile and then finish on 72nd Street Transverse. Volunteers did a terrific job, giving us a clean track after working through the night with salt. I encountered no slippery spots. Huge hand to all the volunteers for this one, photogs too!

Fluid stations were plentiful, some with Gatorade mixed in. It was a day to squeeze the cup and break the ice that had formed, then sip. And at the end, it was a slushy Gatorade that did the job.

The Race

I'm still battling my way up hills right now and mixing in too much walk, which is a little concerning. I'm six weeks into Coach Kastor's 12-Week Training Plan for the March 9 ASICS LA Marathon, and ideally I would be more continuous in my running. Sometimes I wonder whether it's just age, and whether I will really be able to challenge my 5:13 NYC Marathon PR of 2008 (my goal is 5:12). As someone told me today, Father Time remains undefeated. I am doing my best to stay strong, to think ageless.

I was better on the steeper Harlem Hill. I counted backward from 100, as I usually do, and looked down. I actually had a benefit there. My non-fog sunglasses were constantly fogged, a result of my wearing a slobbery buff up to my nose. I could hardly see anything. I could see just enough, though, and for me it was strategy! I don't want to see the horizon on hills.

When I got around to the Boathouse for mile 8, I ran in the right lane and the race leaders were just finishing. I decided to give my watch the day off. I knew that I started at 8:03 a.m., and that's all I wanted to know. When I crossed the finish line, I would look down and check the time and that would be my net. That's what I did. No splits, no frets, just run.

After all, this was a training run for me, my weekend long run (a couple miles short actually). By running the hills, I was preparing myself well for Dodger Stadium-to-the-Sea. I was imagining how nice it will feel running in just shorts and a tee.

I had a chafing fail for the second long run in a row. I'm working in some new gear and getting used to everything. So far my tights are chafing in the thighs, and it was a huge problem in the mile 8-11 range. This despite opening a new Body Glide and rubbing it on liberally everywhere I could think of, over and over. Body Glide did not get the job done. Maybe I need my familiar compression shorts under my new tights. Not a good solution, but comfort wins. My new friend Summerly is a triathlete and she just suggested Skin Sake Athletic as an anti-chafing product used by many of her peers, maybe will try it.

I struggled my way up Cat Hill again, running even less the second time over. But I fought Harlem Hill hard again. I summoned #beastmode mentality and stayed determined, blocking out whatever got in the way. I crossed the finish line smiling with an arm up high, and then one of the volunteers not only placed a heatsheet around me, but took the time to tie it for me.

The Hardest Part

Without question, it was the walk to my car after finishing. I parked on Columbus between 73rd and 74th, and on a summer day that is a blink of the eye. It felt like forever this time. It is really important after a cold race like this to bring you body temperature up as quickly as possible, and with every step mine was dropping until I finally got to the car.

A Word About Fred

Every time I run around Central Park, I look at the statue at Runners Gate near 90th Street, at the familiar man checking his watch for a runner's time. I wish I had known Fred in person. He was president of the NYRR, and it was his vision that led to so much of what many of us take for granted in our lives. His spirit lives on. I can only hope mine will as well one day. I am thankful for all that he did for us.

In fact, it's pretty cool how NYRR now has a full-fledged "Pioneer Series" -- the Ted (Corbitt 15K), the Joe (Kleinerman 10K) and the Fred, all consecutively within a month of each other.

Next up: NYRR Gridiron Classic / Longest Football Throw

This is an annual tradition, the always-frigid 4-miler the morning of the Super Bowl. I'm looking forward to this one, because not only will Lisa and I run it, but so will Lisa's 19-year-old daughter, who is making her NYRR debut!

That is how it goes on. Girls see other girls running the kinds of races Fred Lebow presented as opportunities. Runners become members. A way of life develops, running for life.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Running in the Buff

What is your one absolutely most-trusted and favorite piece of running gear?

Probably your shoes, right? Or some garment that has kept you free of chafing for years? I've been thinking about this, and for me it might be the Buff.

I never even knew there was a word for this. In fact, I went to and noticed that they need to update the definition for "buff" because there is nothing that represents (a) the way fit people get "buff" through muscle toning, or (b) multifunctional running headwear from ASICS.

I have two buffs, and I just laid them out side by side above in the deep snow on my deck to show you what I'm talking about. Looking through my running pics I can see that I have often run in the buff, wearing it around my neck so it is ready to be summoned if needed.

The first one was in my registration bag at the 2012 Marathon de Paris expo, sponsored by ASICS. It's the blue one. I wasn't sure what it was for at first. I immediately realized its value the next day, as a strong and punishing cold wind blasted us at the start and then stayed in our face as we ran the six or so miles along the Seine. I ran many of those miles like a bandit, pulling the buff up over my nose and ears to cover the lower half of my face as I hunkered down. It is sheer so you can still breathe through it, and in fact it helps filter out the especially cold air that practically numbs your tonsils. And it dries immediately, a good thing because of the wetness around your mouth. Then I pulled it back down around my neck as needed.

The second one was in my registration bag at the expo, again sponsored by ASICS, right before the decision was made to cancel the 2012 New York City Marathon. To give you an idea of the versatility, I even brought this black buff to the Fort Lauderdale A1A Publix Marathon last February. They had near-record cold temperatures at the start, and again I found  myself running against a ceaselessly cold wind at an unexpected location, this time up the beach. Once again, I was running marathon miles wearing a buff for some respite, and once it warmed later in the race, I pulled it off and stuck it in a pocket.

Here are some examples of running in this buff:

Even just running training miles in the summer, I sometimes will wear the buff at Central Park instead of a hat, letting the length flow down my back like Arabian sun protection. It's breathable so it lets you release heat from the top of your head. You can wear it as a headband, on your wrists, ankles, whatever works. I wash mine on cold and delicate with my other gear, and lay it over a clothes rack to dry. Never, ever use a dryer for that or any other running gear.

Do you run in the buff? I mean, you know, the one you wear. What's your real go-to gear?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

When to retire your running shoes

I'm a longtime Super Runners Shop customer (and occasional member of their running group), and I came across this post on their Facebook page that I thought was worth sharing. These are the thoughts of store manager Lawrence Riddles from their Brooklyn location, about the life of a running shoe such as my new ASICS Gel Nimbus 15 (right): 

"Most elite runners are pretty good with updating their running shoes. However, many 'weekend warriors' and new runners use their shoes too long. As a result people come in to our store experiencing symptoms such as heel pain, knee pain, and sometimes back pain. Much of this can be avoided by simply keeping up with the life of the shoes.

"A rule of thumb for running shoes is 350-500 miles, or 3-6 months. Sometimes the shoes may still look like they are in good condition but the midsole breaks down and can no longer disperse the impact involved with running. The impact instead travels to the feet , knee, and back which can result in heel pain or even metatarsalgia. The pavement is unforgiving and does not absorb any shock. Your shoes are the only thing between you and the pavement. Like a car with no shocks the impact will put premature wear and tear on your body.

"Something I like to say to customers is: 'Your running shoes should never have a birthday.'"

I usually follow the 300-400 mile rule of thumb, but I'll defer Lawrence's expertise. I am now breaking in two new pair of ASICS, Gel Kayano 20 and Gel Nimbus 15, and am planning to run the ASICS LA Marathon in the former on March 9. So those shoes should be a third of the way to retirement after that race is run, as long as I keep maintaining my course on Coach Kastor's 12-Week Training Plan!

Updated 6:46 on Jan. 23: Just followed NJ podiatrist and runner Peter Wishnie, who also posted about the need to change your running shoes frequently.

What do you do after retiring shoes? Here's my post on how to donate your running shoes.

Speaking of new running shoes...

Have you heard about the 2014 ASICS LA Marathon edition GEL-Lyte33 3? It will be almost two ounces lighter than its predecessors, and limited quantities will be available starting in early February at Let Deena Kastor and Ryan Hall tell you all about it:

Friday, January 17, 2014

South Florida

Week 5 of my 12-Week Training Plan for the 3/9 ASICS LA Marathon took us to South Florida for a much-welcomed respite from one of the harshest NY winters I've experienced yet. We rented a Volvo convertible and whiled away the hours in Palm Beach and Miami Beach, stayed at family's condo in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and took advantage of utterly perfect training weather.

Monday - Off, arrived 3 am

Tuesday - 1 hr 15 min easy + 6 x stride + 100 crunches + 15 min jumprope

Wednesday - 6.5 miles GMRP + 30 minutes pool laps

Thursday - Ran 35 minutes easy + 100 crunches + seashell squats

Friday - Swam 45 minutes laps

Now: Friday evening flight back up the coast to NYC

Saturday - 11 miles in snow for #MegsMiles (updated)

Sunday - Off

Andrew Kastor is our coach as part of this ASICS LA Marathon Blogger Challenge opportunity, and he emailed our team this week to really stress the importance of all the miles and work we have put in so far. I've finished 12 marathons or ultras, but I am going back to the basics for this one and trying to be as diligent as I can in hopes of PRing in LA. So far, so good!

Gear Review

That respite meant leaving my great ASICS cold weather gear up north, wearing as little gear as possible and testing out my new Gel Kayano 20s and three pair of Kayano socks. My feet were in a dream this week. The cushiony ride is fabulous, and I will rotate the Kayano shoes with a new pair of Gel Nimbus and another pair of trainers. I ran in the Kayano Classic Low Cut socks, which features anatomic fit, NanoGLIDE™ moisture and friction management, articulated arch support, horizontal lace pad, and mesh knit construction. They kept me dry even as I ventured close to the water on the beaches of Fort Lauderdale.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

@Marathoner Gear Review: ASICS Cold Weather Combo

Last week I reviewed the new ASICS Storm Shelter Jacket during one of the harshest running days of the past decade at Central Park. On Friday morning, I completed the whole package with the addition of the new Storm Shelter Pant, plus the Thermopolis LT Half Zip and PR Tights as base layers.

It was Week 4 of my 12-week ASICS LA Marathon training plan laid out by Andrew Kastor, who is coaching our ASICS LA Marathon Blogger Challenge team. It was our latest snowy and rugged day here in the NYC area, and I was headed for my regular trail that goes up the Hudson River through Nyack.

Interestingly enough, it was Coach Kastor's wife, the renowned Olympian Deena Kastor, who gave me the only inspiration I needed to get out the door on this morning:

That was enough for me. All I needed was the right gear and I was off.

Let's start with the base layers:

Thermopolis LT Half Zip

I will wear this on its own from time to time going forward, but it was just right for me on this run. This half zip feels silky-soft against your skin, and it is practical as well. There's a sleeve zip pocket for your media with a cord loop, although I did not need it on this day as I was wearing the Storm Shelter Jacket. My favorite part was actually the thumb hole on both sleeves. I used that feature the entire run, making it easier for my sleeve to go inside of my gloves to avoid exposed skin. One note: If you use the thumb hole, make sure you wear your watch OVER the sleeve (lesson learned), so you can check your time as needed.

PR Tights

I am running with new ASICS tights after having gone six years rotating the same three pairs of tights. If I can pass on anything to newer runners, one thing would be to take good care of your gear. Since I started running in December 2006, I have never used a dryer and only use cold water and delicate cycle to wash. I used to wash all my gear by hand for the first few years, but delicate cycle is fine -- with a regular detergent gel, not the stinky running wash detergent that they still sell some places. And never use softener. I lay all my socks on the dryer to air dry, and I hang up everything else to dry. That's why my tights lasted so long.

The PR Tights, however, are a definite step up for me. They lock down on me perfectly, and my favorite feature is the elastic grip tape leg opening. The bottoms won't ride up on my ankle, again meaning no exposed skin. These tights also have flatlock stitching to minimize chafing, ideal for cold long runs.

Storm Shelter Pant

The last time I was this excited to pull on a pair of bottoms for the snow was those waterproof overall pants mom would give you to go sledding on a snow day with no school. You know that insulated feeling you got, knowing you could make snow angels and do anything and feel warm inside? Well, welcome to the Storm Shelter Pant.

This truly completes the best combo in cold weather running today. If you don't have these and know you are going to deal with snow and ice for part of your running calendar, then you are missing out. I pulled these on over my PR Tights and was pleasantly surprised by the almost tailored cut. They aren't big and bulky. They look good. They let me freely stretch out my legs, the only worry I had had.

From a functionality standpoint, the bottoms are an extension of the jacket I previously reviewed. It features zip-open vents and mesh-lined gusset to help you cool down when you heat up. I love the 360-degree 3M reflectivity, as I tend to run in the dark or dusk often. The waterproof zippers are another reason they bottoms are going to last a long time in my running future.

The Test

It didn't take me long to truly test out the Storm Shelter Pant. My trail was completely white.

I had no tracks on my soles so I was expecting adventurous footing. I looked for exposed vegetation -- the stuff I would avoid in the summer -- as that would give me a grip. Some areas covered solid ice. I hit one of those patches during my run, and went airborne for a complete wipeout. No problem, though. I was even tempted to do a quick snow angel before resuming. Just brush off the snow.

I ran five miles in an hour. I am supposed to take Friday off in advance of Saturday's long run, but have had to juggle my schedule this week for a few reasons. It was one of those #beastmode days where everything felt white, even the Hudson River as you can see here from my view atop the Palisades cliffs:

I'm inside the Storm Shelter combo and like I said before it feels like a fortress, but with the breathability and flexibility that lets you know you are training and pushing the limits unhampered. It makes you feel like:

How do YOU get through those cold-weather runs when there is no way you are staying inside?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

@Marathoner Gear Review: ASICS Storm Shelter Jacket


That is stitched into the neck flap of the ASICS Storm Shelter Jacket, and today I saw that as I zipped up my incredible new piece of running gear and set out for a 15-mile ASICS LA Marathon training run at frozen Central Park. Those words spoke to me and put me in the perfect frame of mind for my subsequent 3:20 run on icy pavement.

This was one of the most challenging days I have had in terms of gear selection since I started marathon running in 2007. We were just coming out of Winter Storm Hercules' wrath, with record cold temps and huge snowpiles. On this day, freezing rain was added to the equation. So I had to deal with brutal cold, icy surface, and now intermittent rain just to make it more tricky. My old jacket wasn't going to cut it.

I drove straight to Paragon Sports at Union Square and bought the plaid ASICS Storm Shelter for $130. (Women's version here.) I had regretted not buying one at the New York City Marathon Expo in November. I am lucky that ASICS now sponsors me and ships me training gear, but this was me doing what I have done for the last 7+ years -- buying ASICS stuff, because they make the best running gear, simply put.

I parked at 93rd and Madison amid piles of snow and entered Central Park at Runner's Gate, running counter-clockwise.

As I ran, it occurred to me that this is a remarkably well-named piece of apparel. It truly felt like a storm shelter. It felt not like a garment, or an object, but like a place, a safe haven, total insular protection. It felt like I was going inside while running outside. In fact, I can safely say that out of the 100+ runners I encountered on the 2+ full 6-mile loops of Central Park, I won the Best Dressed Award. If I was on an Oscars red carpet, I was the woman in Vera Wang who everyone talked about. It was that good.

Let's start with my video product review, just to cover some of the features.

The first three miles, the freezing drizzle was coming down. The running path was a slippery mess, and it had that crackled glazed look that you see on 24-hour-old Krispy Kreme donuts. You tried to run on any available black pavement. We could span out onto the whole road, because this day was off-limits to bikes. That made it feel like a privilege to run there, actually. I saw three guys on bikes later in the day and one of them wiped out, because they were idiots. It was for #beastmode runners only.

Here's what the surface looked like:

Here's what it looked like running up the vaunted and icicle-bound North Woods Hill, which I ran up twice:

Here's a panorama shot of the icicle-covered walls along the North Woods Hill ascent:

Then the precip stopped, and I was starting to heat up so I pulled off the hood that had been my fortress. I had my iPhone safely tucked inside the zipper in the left breast, with a hole for my earbud wire. I listened to Pandora the whole day. I had two Chocolate Outrage GUs in each jacket pocket, and I unzipped the long vent flaps on each side of the jacket to release my body heat. Under it I wore a base layer and a long sleeve NYRR shirt, and I could have done without the second shirt. The Storm Shelter is lined, so that serves as your second shirt, basically. It has a great sleeve liner also, and the Lycra wrist gaiters have a gap for each thumb so it can double as lightweight gloves. The hood is removable, when the weather clears. They thought of everything, and it has a fabulous reflection pattern so you are covered running in the dark.

This was the finish of Week 3 in my 12-Week Training Program administered by Coach Andrew Kastor, who is guiding about a dozen of us who were invited by ASICS to be in the ASICS LA Marathon Blogger Challenge. I had a tough time in Week 2 with a lengthy cough and sinus issue, but I think I'm back on track. This 15-miler brought my weekly mileage to 30. I am doing the Beginner/Intermediate program rather than Advanced, because I want to go back to the basics in chasing my goal of a 5:12 PR.

In fact, you can see "5:12" on the mirror of my bathroom. Coach Kastor said in a CNN article that runners should post a piece of paper on their mirror with a number that they will stare at every day, so that they can make right choices to achieve that. So mine is 5:12, which would beat my PR of 5:13 set at the 2008 New York City Marathon. I have dropped 20 to 30 minutes from that over recent marathons and want to get faster. Next to my number is "1,000,000" for King Bingley (aka Chub), representing 1 million treats. We thought he would want to go after that mostly.

In the last five miles of my 15-miler, it began to drizzle again. I put the hood back on, and used the convenient adjusters to snuggle up. It was fascinating. It was like I was a world away from bad weather. I ran past runners wearing the standard knit cap and jacket look, and they looked so exposed. I didn't want my knit cap to be soaked with frozen rain. That's bad stuff. I am so armed for future #beastmode weather. I cannot recommend the ASICS Storm Shelter enough.