Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wow It's Hot!

I was in Prospect Park this evening (just running, not racing), and had a firsthand look at the people who braved the weather to race in the initial PPTC Al Gordon Speed Series race.

Folk didn't look happy. And that's an understatement.

Whooh, hate the time of the year when you're transitioning from spring weather and you get an unexpected scorcher. Hope everyone takes precautions and transitions well into the hot weather running. (Thankfully, it gets cooler this weekend).

P.S. Anyone got thoughts on who can fix the water fountain by the GAP entrance to the park? The one on the path that's constantly clogged? My favorite fountain, but the standing water tends to get kind of gnarly.

PPTC Speed Series Starts Wednesday

The first race of the PPTC Al Gordon Speed Series takes place Wednesday (tonight) at about 7 p.m., with registration at the Oriental Pavilion and the start near the zoo.

The 5K races are run every other Wednesday throughout the summer - very low key and a lot of fun.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Rise of the Half Marathon

Interesting piece here ... Note the size of the largest races in 2009.

Could Brooklyn handle 12,000, or more? I think it could, provided:

*National sponsor (beyond Contintental as the half-marathon sponsor)
*Allowing the whole park to be used for runners
*Better logistics, particularly at the start

Is there demand? Certainly. The tie-in to the economy seems to be going well (though most of the runners finished before Coney Island "opened" up, I love the idea of the coupon book and will be heading out there next weekend.)

Other thoughts (beyond what I've said before):

*Get a set date (I like idea of the weekend before Memorial Day as a set date) and set the course (obviously, PPark construction had an impact -- if I had to choose, I like last year's course better than this one).

*Hire local bands for Ocean Parkway - one per half mile. PLEASE (anything to break the monotony.) (Yeah, I'm sure the locals wouldn't like ... maybe a compromise there).

Leave the NYC Half for the prize money. Make this the People's Half for NYC!

OK, off the pedestal. Hope everyone went for an easy run today. :-)

Brooklyn Half: Your Stories

*The Long Rush felt like he was running uphill on Ocean Parkway ... and still broke 1:20

*One Runners World ran with a friend, and had a blast

*Run Dangerously has posted photos and promises a story soon

*The Funner Runner mulls what happens if he invested in training (and still ran his third-best half).

*To Badwater stopped off for a PR at Brooklyn (and gives us a little insight to the VIP tents)

*Washington Ran Here was able to find some race shorts in time for the 7 a.m. start

*Bye 25 (hello 26.2) ran a PR before heading to a BBQ

*Big Apple Beth ran into baggage problems

*Runnin' Down Dreams said nearing Surf Avenue near the end "was heavenly"

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Brooklyn Half 2010: One Person's Take

So I dragged myself out of bed at 4 a.m. for a bowl of cereal (and then back to bed), up at 5:15 a.m. for some coffee, so I could grab a 6 a.m. subway to Grand Army Plaza on the 3. It didn't help that the MTA was doing construction on the F line, so decided to avoid it entirely. Meant a longer pre-race walk in the morning, though at the same time, helped to relax me. Other thoughts:

*Most of the riders on the subway were runners. I feel bad for those just coming home at that hour wondering what the heck was going on.

*When I got to the pre-race organization area, seemed a bit of mess. The Portapotties that could be seen had an endless line (though there were others that volunteers kept announcing about.) And, while I like the baggage trucks on the upper transverse ... wow, it seemed messy. I got my bag there in time - I'm hoping that wasn't a problem for others.

*Marty Markowitz (yep, he was there) called this the biggest half marathon in metro NY. At 7,006, it falls short of the NYC Half this year (which had 11,600). It still felt crowded in the park, even with 2,600-plus less finishers from last year. I suspect the Brooklyn Half could handle 12,000, if the logistics are handled. (PPark may be too small, however.)

*The humidity when I reached the park was thick ... so thick that you could, well, you get the picture. I was leery about the water problems from last year, but figured that things would be better. Well, they had to be. And while I wasn't a fan of the first water table a mile from the start, it was a welcome sight at 4.5 miles on the second loop.

*The split between the slower runners and the faster runners seemed to work better this year (though I admittedly yelled at some slower runners who got into the fast runner lane near the 6.5 mile part, if only because I feared they'd get trampled as folk bulled past ... OK, yes, including myself).

*Running on Ocean Parkway remains for me a huge mental challenge - even though my pace was pretty even, I spent a lot of time arguing with myself about whether to just give in. (Usually I can distract myself with something else, but there was nothing there, just a stream of runners. Even singing the alphabet song didn't work.)

*There's a huge local advantage at running this race. Not only did I see folk beforehand, from all walks of life, but several running friends during the race provided inspiration, whether or not I was passing them or they were passing me. The spectators as well were key, and wonderful.

*After two years of running it, I'm definitely a fan of the PPark-Coney Island route. I'd rather there was more run in Coney Island (running two loops of PPark is harder, obviously), but so be it. I can live with the 7 a.m. start, though would urge both a consistent time, and date, for the race.

*Can I say enough about the volunteers? Probably not, but let me give a shout-out to everyone who was out there at the crack of dawn, if not earlier. Thank you.

*Overall was very pleased with my race. 4 seconds off my post-college PR for that distance, and my best Brooklyn Half time. As always, helped by the home course advantage, and that I saw so many runners that I knew before, during and after the race. It's a fun race to run.

*I didn't get a chance to spend much time at the beach and do any post-race festivities (having to jump onto the subway for the aforementioned trip to the Bronx). I did stop at a local pizza joint for a Gatorade, and was encouraged on the upsell on a spinach calzone (which I probably would have puked out, regardless of its quality). I hope folk get a chance to use the coupon books over the next few days.

*Most of the people starting on the Q-train at Coney Island heading back into Brooklyn and Manhattan were runners. I feel sorry for the people who got on later, and had to sit in some of those seats.

*What I'd like next year? Better registration policies, better organization at the start, better weather, better MTA coordination, more Portapotties. Suspect there were some other flaws, but all-in-all, a good race this year.

What did you think?

Brooklyn Half: Rave and Rants, Comment Away

OK, back from the Brooklyn Half (and an unavoidable trip to the Bronx following the race, so I feel for the Bronx commuters today).

I'll start pulling together some stuff, including my own race experience, other blogs, and a look at some of the numbers (only 7,006 finishers this year, down from 9,641 last year. Obviously there's a back story here .,.. probably tied into the registration mess.)

What'd you think? How was the organization at the beginning? Enough water? (God the humidity stunk). Still like the course: PPark to Coney Island? Anyone jump in the surf at the end?

Talk to me people, and I'll offer up my own stuff in a bit.

Best of Luck!

Good luck everyone today: I hope you all achieve your goals. Low 60s temperature still holds for the start, doesn't appear to be much wind. So, it'll be warm on the course, but not stifling, so could make some good times.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Others' Thoughts on the Brooklyn Half

Getting tired of watching myself type, so figured I'd also toss out some other blogger thoughts on the race tomorrow ...

*Run Dangerously talks about the packet pickup (and has a photo of the shirt, which saves me from having to take my own).

*The Long Rush warmed up with a race (of sorts) in Central Park ... something I need to ask about

*Hills Are My Friends is plotting how to run the first half of the race in Prospect Park.

*Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn got hurt and won't be running this year

*NY FlyGirl is channeling Ke$ha ...

*Runner's World gave a shout-out to the Brooklyn Half (scroll to the bottom)

*Marathon Madrigal ran Paris, and now she's doing Brooklyn

*Washington Ran Here is taking a philosophical approach ...

The F Train is Not Your Friend

A last-minute reminder for those of you taking the subway to the Brooklyn Half tomorrow: The F-line is not your friend, as a shuttle bus is running from Jay St. to Church Ave. (and won't that be fun, especially early in the morning).

That means being creative: look at the Brooklyn bus schedules, or plan a warmup if you take the 2/3 or the Q. The MTA schedules, particularly early in the day, are surprisingly accurate (the days I have to be in at work at 6, I can get to my subway stop at 5:25 and know I'll have to wait for 2 minutes.)

The NYRR has a little checklist on their site to make sure you don't forget stuff. One thing to remember: They are providing a clear bag for baggage check, so if you've already picked up your number, make sure to bring the bag (one would think there would be extras).

Get Your Stuff Today

Reminder: If you're able, get your stuff for the Brooklyn Half today (it'll save you from one more thing to worry about in the morning tomorrow.)

The T-shirt is a light blue technical T (as opposed to the cotton ones in past years), similar in make up to what they had at Health Kidney last week.

What Comes After the Letter C

#6: Knowing your alphabet is never more crucial than when you're doing the second half of the Brooklyn Half.

For example, what comes after Avenue C when running along Ocean Parkway? (You want it to be Avenue D, don't you). ?

That's not the case, however: It's Cortelyou Road. And then Ditmas. And then it's kind of a mess for a short time.

Thankfully, after you hit Avenue H, it's a fairly regular countdown to the end (Quentin Road takes place of Avenue Q). Do note, however, that once you hit Avenue Z, you've still got a bit more to do before you hit Coney Island, so don't get disappointed.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Race Number Sales and the Brooklyn Half

For the second time today, I'm involved in a conversation about whether it's OK to sell your number/buy someone's number if you can't run in the Brooklyn Half. Here's an e-mail I just got from a reader:

"I've been training for the Brooklyn Half and unfortunately registration closed before I had actually registered (it was in March). Do you know of anywhere that people post their information if they're unable to make the race, so I could buy their number from them? Any advice you have would be most helpful."

Since you asked, and I suspect this lengthy rant isn't what you expected ... don't do it. It violates NYRR rules and inadvertently can affect others. But this is a complicated debate, and a lot of parties get involved, so understand why I'm saying this, and then make your own determination.

First off, the way the race was closed was done ... well, it was handled poorly. There was very limited notice, so folk woke up one day and discovered that the race was closed. I hope the NYRR will fix it so that something like this doesn't happen again. There are few local races on their calendar with this kind of demand - they want it to be a destination race, that people plan for. Well, that's what happened. And because it closed out abruptly, a lot of folk got burnt. (Whether they should institute a lottery for this race .. that would be messy. It's a friggin' local race!)

That said: When they determine how many people can be handled in a race, directors build in an expected number of cancellations. (Don't know what this level is, but let's say it's 3%). If people barter/sell those numbers, that can increase the support needs beyond planning levels.

An obvious solution: Create a marketplace so that people *can* swap race numbers. Yes, the number of people who are accepted to a race would be lower initially, but it would benefit those who sign up early and get hurt - thus wasting the entry fee (my spot in a spring marathon, for example), and those who want to run. Or better yet, set up a reverse auction - have people set a fee that they would be willing to pay to get into the race that it closed as numbers become available. The extra money goes to charity. This is efficient! (Ooh, the economics classes I took in school are kicking in!)

The other problem if you buy a number: you may seriously mess up the age-group categories. If you bet a number from a 75-year-old male (and you happen to be a 28-year-old female), and you run a great time: Well, you may have just won that category. Even though this may get resolved, you've cheated the actual winner out of the immediate gratification, especially if this involves medal awards at the race itself. (Apparently this happened last year at New York with one of the local runners).

I have friends who vehemently think that violators of the race number policy should be punished. (You do it in in a NYRR race, you face serious sanctions can lose a spot in the NYC Marathon, I think for life, though I need to check the rules). I have other friends who have done this, don't think it's an issue, and figure that they are simply obtaining a legitimate spot in a race. (Especially if it hasn't closed out). Why not help all involved?

It's possible you can find numbers on Craigslist (though I suspect that NYRR might catch you - it's happened for the NYC Marathon). You could also just simply run the race with no number (if you do, I'd advocate that you send a donation to a NYRR charity after the fact to cover your cost, and then some, if you inconvenience other runners by taking their water. Extreme? Last year many water stations were a disaster after they ran out).

Would I do it, for this race? No. But that's also my personal decision. Because the marketplace hasn't responded, I think you need to decide if it's worth it. (Hey, I want the NY Times Mag Ethicist columnist to weigh in.)

I hope this stream-of-consciousness helps. Best of luck. Whether it's in the race on Saturday, or in another half.

7 More Things: Weather is Key

Obviously my consistency on these haven't been ... well ... consistent. (Kind of reminds me of my spring racing season, of which Brooklyn caps off an injury-plagued adventure.)

The good thing is that summer beckons. Ahh, but so does Saturday's race, and I confess a thrill as I was talking about it with co-workers and picking up my number today.

This, admittedly, will be haphazard - I will get to all seven things in the next 10 hours (with some gaps). Easier for me to do it in a few separate postings.

#7: Know the weather, and plan/drink accordingly.

Right now, we're looking at temperatures in the low-60s for race start (OK, it's the temperature in Brooklyn Heights, but it's close), but high humidity. It'll get warmer as the day goes on; it's also be key whether or not the sun is out for the early morning race.

For some, this will almost be ideal conditions; others of you might want it a bit cooler. (ME, ME) Adjust accordingly. Make sure you're hydrated before the race, and know where the water stations are on the course. Ocean Parkway is fairly exposed (I think you can probably one on one side of the road and avoid the sun, though haven't been out at that time in that part of Brooklyn in a while). Wear sunblock.

Monday, May 17, 2010

#8: Know the Logistics

#8 ... know the logistics about the race, and make sure you've got the details ironed out ahead of time.

The race starts at 7. You should be in your corral probably by 6:50 a.m. at the latest, meaning you're stretched, prepped, ready to go. (Dang I hate 7 a.m. starts). Do you know where the race starts? How you're going to get there? Are you going to pick up your shirt and number that day (yawn) or in Manhattan?

Last year, the bathroom lines were horrendous. So, for NYRR, the options are: a) more porto-potties; b) fewer runners or c) do nothing and see what happens. If you're from Brooklyn, and you know Prospect Park - *** know where the public bathrooms/porto-potties are *** (or lean heavily on a friend who doesn't mind a bathroom visit that early. (Hmm, maybe Farrell's is still open)).

What are you wearing? (It's a faux pas to wear the Brooklyn Half shirt this year *before* you've run in the race. After all, you have to earn it. Anyways, it's going to be hot. Cotton is a no-no if that's the shirt they give) Clothes washed? Prepared? You have the Gu/Gatorade on hand? Your lucky bandanna in place? Oh the pressure (and I just turned on the Red Sox-Yankee game and see the Sox gave up a 5-spot in the first, so now I'm stressed out even further).

Seriously, take the time over the next few days to deal with the things that you *don't* need to think about. That'll make race day so much more pleasurable.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Brooklyn Half: Know the Course

#9. Know the course

Study this course map, and visualize your race.

Many of us (including myself) set up a specific per-mile pace. The terrain doesn't always agree. Know the terrain. If for some reason you've never been in Prospect Park, get there now: two loops for the uninitiated won't be fun. If you've never done Ocean Parkway - at least do a couple of miles this week. It's flat, and boring, and mind-numbing.

Some thoughts on the per-mile pace, based on the map:

Mile 1: ~even. Slightly uphill net (I think), but adrenaline kicks in from the beginning. If you're stuck back in the pack and don't start running well until the first 1/4 mile, add 15 sec. ... or more Take the start with a grain of salt. If the race hits 10,000, and you're in the back, it's going to be a while before you can start racing.

Mile 2: Add 10 sec-30 sec. You're running uphill for a good 600m this leg. Some thrive, some don't. Take it into account. And don't sweat it, because ...

Mile 3: It's pretty much neutral

Mile 4: ... Subtract 10 sec.-20 sec. How fast are you at the downhills?

Mile 5: Add 10 sec. - 20. sec. Cat Hill redux

Mile 6: I spend the first part of this mile recovering, the second part racing, Because ...

Mile 7: Subract 30 sec. If you're going to set a PR, now's the time to establish it. You're getting the long, rolling downhill stretch out of Prospect Park. You've run a great first half; now's the time to set the tone for the second half, which is flat, boring, flat, boring. (No hills!)

Rest of the race: Flat. Boring. Flat. (Until you hit the final mile on the boardwalk. Where it's flat. And exciting because people are yelling at you. Of course, if you're in the front, at 8:10 a.m., no one will be there except dog-walkers. And the dogs will be excited. (hah/ouch) (So enjoy the different terrain.)

I love the uphills. I thrive on the uphills (I pass people). I stink at the downhills (I get passed). In the first half of this race, there's plenty of both. Know your strengths, and plan your race accordingly.

Brooklyn Half Volunteers Needed

NYRR is sending out e-mails to registered runners, seeking volunteers for the Brooklyn Half. Given this is a specific race plea (as opposed to the general - we need volunteers for races), worth giving it a shout, especially if you're not running.

Sign up here. Remember that, you're doing the NYC Marathon guaranteed entry program, you need to do one volunteer stint (as well as the nine races) during the year. So look beyond any bitterness you might feel about how NYRR handled the registration closing of the race this year, and help out!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tavern's Cup 10K on Saturday

OK, it took me about 5 minutes to realize there's a second 10K this weekend ... in Brooklyn!

The Tavern's Cup 5K starts at the 69th St. pier, goes along the Shore Promenade in the direction of the Verazzano, turns around at the 3.1 mile mark. So, very, very flat. (Hey, train for the second half of the Brooklyn Half)

Details are here and here ... and here. Race starts at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

So, the obvious question ... is there beer? According to the application, the first 100 applying get a beer "glass" .... there's also "discounted beer" involved.

Bittman's Take on Scott Jurek

Mark Bittman is one of my favorite NY Times writers, so I love the fact that he did a piece looking at Scott Jurek's 5,000-8,000 calorie a day diet ... with no meat.

The meal they shared? "... a lemony Greek salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, loads of olives and seaweed; a stir-fry of vegetables with tofu and an impressive miso and cashew sauce; and a mound of quinoa."

Explains Jurek: “I need five to eight thousand calories a day, and I get that all from plant sources. It’s not hard, either. I like to eat, and I don’t have to worry about weight management. All I need is a high-carbohydrate diet with enough protein and fat.”

A decidedly different take comes from the April issue of Runner's World

10 Days to Brooklyn Half

And, of course, 10 things you should know or do ... starting with:

10. What's your tune-up run this weekend? Let me make a couple of suggestions:

The Health Kidney 10K, a full loop of Central Park (and then some), will give you practice in a) running with thousands of other runners (almost 8,000 last year) and b) give you an opportunity to test out your half marathon race pace. And it doesn't look like there will be any race cap, unlike some races we know and love. (I think we need the UAE to sponsor the Brooklyn Half).

Speaking of which, the Brooklyn Half course map is up on the NYRR site - two full loops of Prospect Park (counterclockwise) before heading down to Coney Island. Nothing wrong with running parts of the course ahead of time. Remember you'll have to do Zoo Hill twice (yippee!)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Brooklyn Half Course Description Out

NYRR is out with a Brooklyn Half logistical update (which coincidentally ... or not) address some of the issues raised on the blog in the past several days:

*Brooklyn Half starts at 7 a.m. ... and the kids races now start at 9:45 a.m. (Very cool)

*Course description is now posted:

The start is on Prospect Park’s Well House Drive. Turn left onto West Drive and complete two counterclockwise loops of Prospect Park. Exit the park at the southwest corner (the second exit), turn right onto Park Circle, and continue to the Fort Hamilton Parkway/Ocean Parkway entrance ramp. A fork to the left of the road will take you to the Ocean Parkway entrance ramp. Continue south on Ocean Parkway, turn right (west) on Surf Avenue, turn left onto the boardwalk entrance ramp near West Fifth Street (between the handball courts and the Aquarium), and then make an immediate right onto the Coney Island Boardwalk. The finish line is located on the boardwalk between Fifteenth and Sixteenth streets.

(The race started on Center Drive last year and then turned a sharp left onto Well House drive before hitting the park. You figured the construction needed for Well House would prevent this again. Now NYRR is replacing that start and moving it up ... and adding the lower part of the park to compensate. Hopefully NYRR learned from the logistical nightmare last year where the faster runners were passing the slower runners and figures out a way to break people into appropriate lanes. )

Details on Coney Island events aren't quite available. (Some needs: Great places for brunch, and a Farrell's like bar that opens at 9.)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Music Time

This is when you time your evening runs for certain summer dates. I'm aiming for Norah Jones (if I can escape from the kids ... or maybe they'll come along)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Race Calendar

Actually, I'm punting a bit ... NYCRuns, a new Web site, has a pretty decent calendar here, so linking to this ...

Doesn't have much trail racing on it, so I'll see if I can supplement. Details are also lacking on a few events, but it's a start. (It doesn't have the PPTC 5K Series that starts on May 26, so put that on your calendar)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Brooklyn Half Kids Races at 11:15 a.m.

A follow to the last post ... if you run a 2 hour half-marathon, that puts you in Coney Island at 9 a.m.. If you wanted to bring your kids down to run the races in Keyspan Park, that means sticking around for another 2:15.

Still might be worth it, though worth keeping in mind as you plan your race day.

On the flip side, a 7 a.m. start means that you could be back at Farrell's by 10 a.m. (I'm guessing it's open on race day, though don't know for sure)

Brooklyn Half Now Starts at 7 a.m.!

Wow, this could be interesting. Not sure when this was posted, but according to the NYRR, Brooklyn Half is now starting at 7 a.m. (yawn)

The exact language:

Update: The start time of the Brooklyn Half-Marathon has moved from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.

(OK, not sure I added much to this, but still ...)

I want to check this, but I've got to think this may be the one of the earliest ... if not *the* earliest ... start time for a NYRR race (there may have been some races in Central Park that had this start time though).

One hopes that the MTA isn't mucking around with the subway schedules that AM - oh, wait, that's almost a guarantee, given all the (necessary) work needed on the lines. So make sure you're watching the planned rerouting to figure out where you need to be.

Some speculation as to why: Avoiding the weather conditions/water mess that happened last year, or safety/traffic issues would be my two top choices. Note the course still hasn't been posted, which could be a third, if they have to modify.

For those of you who are hoping to get into the race, you're out of luck - NYRR has already closed the race. Expect about 10,000 runners on the course.

NYRR Mothers' Day 4M Nears Capacity

The May 9 race in Central Park (a NYC Marathon qualifier) is nearing capacity, NYRR says on its Web site.