Monday, April 24, 2006

The 9-Minute Mile

382. 28:11. 9:04.

That's my line from the Lincoln Tunnel 5K. 382nd place out of 1150. 28 minutes, 11 seconds to completion. 9.07-minute mile.

I made it under 30, so that's something to be proud of, though I think I could have shaved a minute or so off my time had I paced myself better. The tunnel is a long dip, so that the 1st quarter is downhill, the second uphill, then, on the way back, the third quarter is downhill, and the fourth is uphill. Not wanting to run too quickly and crap out before the end, thus having to suffer the shame of walking, I made sure I kept something in reserve so that I could spend it all with an all out sprint at the end. This may be an okay strategy for a flat race or one that ends in a downhill, but saving that energy for an uphill was not te best. It takes that much more kick ot try to accelerate uphill. Had I really flown down the 3rd quarter of the race and dogged it to the finish, I would have improved my time.

On the drive home, my legs were all shaky. I had jelly-leg for the next couple hours, and today am sore as sore can be. So I ran as hard as I could, and of that I am glad. Now I have to plan my next racing adventure. But first on the agenda is Joshua Tree, CA, Thursday through Sunday.

I will post pictures.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

An Open Apology

To all the pedestrians crossing lawfully in the crosswalk who I have terrified, I apologize. I try to convince myself that cycling to work on the city streets is a healthful, pleasant way to get to work. And while it's true that it has its benefits, it is a stressful undertaking. A cyclist has to constantly avoid death by motor vehicle. One must always assume that the cars, trucvks and vans of the road either do not see you or do not care if they hit you. It is an exceptional ride when some driver dies not at least give you a mile terror.

Unfortunately, I all too often turn this aggression to pedestrians. Like the abused boy who beats his dog, I berate unwary pedestrians wandering into bike lanes or jaywalking. And I am impatient. I do not like to stop at all. Momentum is king, and the ride is the best at top speed. But I have gotten too aggressive I fear, zooming through crosswalks when pedestrians are moving through, unaware. I have little empathy when I startle someone who does not have the right of way, and I should maybe have a little more compassion for people who are behaving much like myself when I am on foot. But I should be especially careful not to interfere with people legally crossing the street. I know I am not going to hit any pedestrians, but I forget how startling it can be to have a cyclist race by you within inches when you are not expecting it. By zooming through crosswalks and buzzing people, I am not merely being rude, but giving all cyclists a bad name, and earning the hate so many pedestrians have for us.

The above was brought on by a confrontation I had with a pedestrian who sort of tapped me on the back as I swerved around him in a crosswalk in Brooklyn Heights. I spun around, said "Who did that?", saw a guy grinning at me, and said "Was that you did, you touch me?" He said he did, walked up to me and we started arguing. The details of the argument are unimportant. I was mad that he had invaded my personal space, which he had done because I scared him. I think we were each at fault, though the initial provocation was mine. Incidentally, about 20 minutes later, on 6th ave. in the village, as I was still turning the event over in my mind, a van driver scared the crap out of me by honking hs horn at me because I had the audacity to be in the road, in his way. There is a reason I ride in the middle of the lane: I have a right to the road, and if I ride to the side of the lane, people like the van driver will zoom around me within inches and, invariably, cut me off.

So the incident with the van provided me with a similar jolt to the one I gave the pedestrian. Treat others as you would be treated. It's pretty simple.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Lincoln Tunnel Madness

I have not yet discovered a way to lose the weight without doing the exercise. Despite eating more fish, because that has less fat because it's fish (name that reference), I also do a bit of running. Actually, I don't run for weight loss. That's an ancillary, and as yet unfulfilled benefit. I run for that peculiar endorphine rush and sense of accomplishment. The rush comes halfway into the run. It's the proverbial second wind. Suddenly, running, which felt difficult at the start, now feels great. It feels like you can run forever. Of course, that lasts about a minute, and then the real endurance and test of will comes into play. I've found, through running, that I can go a lot longer than I thought. My body says, "I'm tired, I want to stop," almost immediately. Yet I can go for a half hour and at a high enough rate to make me beat red, covered and sweat, and frightening to people who happen upon me on my way back from the gym. All the above is to say that, while it's quite gruelling and painful, I like running. It gives me a sense of physical accomplishment that weight training alone cannot.

I am not, though, a serious runner. Marathoners boggle my mind. Which is why, for my first actual race, this Sunday, I'll be running a mere 5 kilometers. I might not even be writing about it now except that this particular 5K is through the Lincoln Tunnel. How cool is that? I know what you're thinking: "Wow: that can't be good for your lungs." Well, as you might guess, the tube is closed for the run. It's not like you're running alongside traffic. And a friend who has done the run has told me (and I choose to believe him without doing any independent verification) that the entire air volume of the tunnel is changed every 30 seconds. You know those massive structures outside the tunnel on the Jersey side? Air cleaners.

So, I'm a little nervous, but, given that I run 2-4 miles at the gym a couple times a week, I should be A-OK. I'll be not upset with 45 minutes, and fantastically pleased if I can come in under a half hour.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Man Boobs

For a few years now, I've been working on my manboobs. Trying to make them bigger, firmer, more appealing. Yeah, that's right, more appealing. When I started working out, trying to get bigger, I avoided confronting my vanity by justifiying it as a necessary pursuit of a performer.

I continued to use that justification as I made my bi-weekly trips to the gym. It's not a bad justification, just not altogether true. It has also made me healthier, no doubt, and decreased my body fat: though my gut remains: a testament to the power of a greasy, fatty diet.

Now that my career as a performer is taking a backseat to lawyerly pursuits, though, I am forced to take my weight training for wht it is: vanity. After a good workout or a step up at the gym, I find myself before the mirror at home, flexing, sucking in my gut, trying to look as buff as possible. I spent a long time as a scrawny beanpole type, hunched over in slacker mode, trying to disappear. Coming to grips with pursuing better looks is a tough task. I've never been one to emphasize looks over substance, so this contradadiction in my personality is at least as hard to resolve as my NY Yankees fandom.

I can say this: the gym, especially running, but also weight training, is a fabulous mood enhancer. The endorphines. The use of the body. The testing of one's limits. The understanding that one can go much further past "exhausted" than one at first thinks.

And while I am vain, I am not desperately so, which I prove every time I decide against going to the gym. Biweekly is a slow way to increase muscle, and my periods of sloth often negate periods of growth. I won't be competing against the Chelsea boys anytime soon.

By the way, if anyone knows how to be rid of a gut without doing tons of awful ab work, let me know.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Science of Prayer

(image borrowed from Mamiya Medical Heritage Center)

Remember that time you read that prayer had been documented to be effective?

Shockingly, a massive study needed to be undertaken to prove this bit of wisdom untrue. The researchers did not get the results they were hoping for.

See William Saletan on Slate for more.