Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cool Running

This was one of those ideas that doesn't arrive as planned. How few do, but still... .

The idea was to go to the track at 137th Street because the streets were icy. At least, that was my excuse was for not going all the way down to Central Park.

And I wanted to re-calibrate my Garmin, that's my new toy, uh, training tool.


It's a watch,
it's a timer,
it's a speedometer,
it's a pace keeper,
it's a heart monitor
AND it takes all the data it gets from the sensor on your shoe and the band around your chest and puts it on your computer.

But of course, the track was frozen solid. Really solid.
I did a lap like the guy above on the inside rail on the crusty snow.
Parts of it on tippy toe.
That should be accurate.

It was so cold that no one in their right mind would is someone who REALLY likes to paint.

I watched him for a moment getting set up. There would be three hard parts I think: 1) keeping the easel from flying off with the geese into the river below, 2) keeping the paint from freezing on the pallet before it froze on the canvas and 3) using your bare hands to draw anything like a fine line.

I did meet a couple of people, the guy running in the picture is actually a personal trainer who was waiting for his client to show up. (Best of luck with that, I said.) And a woman runner who wanted to know more about the Garmin after I mentioned I was there to calibrate the thing. "Does it measure distance?" she asked. "Down to the hundredth of a mile, " I replied, "and it will tell how many steps you took to get there." I love stats.

While I took off to do my lap I saw them head North up the river. I thought about just packing it in but ... if they could do it..... so I headed North too, thinking I would just run the three miles or so home. The path was icy and covered with water at points but mostly clear. They passed me coming back at about a mile and half and yelled that it wasn't any worse ahead. I chugged up the hill at the George Washington Bridge. The path in the woods was a solid sheet of ice and snow making the going very tough uphill. (At one point the chart shows a dead stop, but I was moving the whole time, I just had to dig the edges of my sneakers into the crust. I met a biker on a road bike, think very skinny tires in that icy stuff, coming down. He was walking his bike astraddle. I told him that after the big water at the bottom of the hill, he'd be okay. Cold, but okay.

The re calibrated thingy says it is exactly three miles to the house from the bottom of the stairs to the track. A good thing to remember for next Spring.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The First Ice and the Last Ducks

SUNDAY arrived with no wind and a white sky. The little duck pond just off of 103rd Street had pulled part of a sheet of ice up over itself, getting a late start on a long winter's sleep. The ducks at the opposite end were still snoozing as 5000 runners came down over the hills for Joe's 10K.

Joe Kleinerman, that is. Who's he? Well, he's the guy who thought up the idea of running a race in age groups. You don't think of something like that as being thought up by someone. You just think it's always been that way. Like you don't think about lot of things in sports having to have come from somewhere- who was the first ref to use a whistle? Or who thought up the rule in football/soccer that the goalies have to wear other colors from both their teammates and the opposing team? Is the name of the person who dreamed up the designated hitter on the tip of your tongue?

Of course, these are all sports barely out of their infancy-- baseball, soccer and basketball are all modern inventions, running as a sports competition goes back before the Greeks and the Macedonians, before the bricks were laid in the city of Ur. Probably on some as yet undiscovered cave wall there is the declaration that Igkophra ran to glory in a race against all the peoples. Running, despite it's agedness, uh, agelessness, had remained remarkably unchanged for almost all of it's 6000-8000 years. There was a start and a finish, sometimes just two lines in the sand, sometimes the victor had to grab something like a banner or a flag to win. If a creaky forty year old wanted to run with the twenty two year olds that was fine as long as he didn't mind suffering the constant humiliation of never being close to the skinny greyhounds at the front.

Joe Kleinerman fixed that.

Now people who are 50-54 can see how they stack up against all the other codgers out there. The coots who are 60 like me run against the other 104 coots 60-64.

Oh, and did I mention Coach Kleinerman's other contribution to running? He promoted the very radical idea that women should be allowed to run with the men. (I am old enough to remember how a woman attempting to run in the Boston Marathon was tackled, yes, tackled to the ground to prevent her from competing.) Joe Kleinerman is probably the guy most responsible for the revolution in women's running worldwide.

So we all lined up in the cold to salute a great man, a great runner, a great coach and, to hear all the stories, a great friend.

I ran hard the whole way and for the very first time beat sixty minutes for a 10K, almost seven minutes faster than last year in this race. I'm getting better, stronger. It was funny in this run, as I came around the hill at five miles my brain was playing slow down a little and I was all hell no . I had to keep pretending that this was not a six mile run but a ten or a thirteen mile run. My brain likes to try to cruise in for a landing instead of pushing to the limit at the end. I feel like I have to take a meeting with it sometime over this issue.

I did see another bird in the woods after the race.

And I did check on the ducks tonight, Tuesday, those last ducks apparently intend to stay until after Christmas and with the way the world is warming maybe they won't leave at all.