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.

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