There were a couple of things that stood out during Sunday’s New York City Marathon. Let’s start with Lance Armstrong first.
I was struck at the production surrounding Armstrong’s marathon debut that was magnified when the cameras panned back on the web cast and showed the famous cyclist and philanthropist running in a phalanx of security pals, famous Nike runners, a pace car and the “Lance Cam.”
In interviews Armstrong talked about how he was excited to be a mid-packer – which he kind of is with his 2:59:36 finishing time. But when was the last time a mid-packer had Alberto Salazar, German Silva, Joan Samuelson and Hicham El Guerrouj say anything other than, “you’re welcome for the autograph…” Forget about acting as a rabbit or handing over drinks or gels.
The absolute genius of Armstrong’s run in New York didn’t dawn on me until I was about 2 miles into today’s run (a 14-miler in 1:35:26). Asics, the sponsor of runners Deena Kastor and Stefano Baldini, was the “official” sponsor of the race. The shirts, jackets, caps, etc. that runners bought or were given at the expo were branded with the Asics logo. So too was the finish line area and mile markers. Asics clearly spent a lot of money to be the “official” sporting goods sponsor of the ING New York City Marathon.
But all anyone will talk about is the Nike guy and his Nike pals breaking 3-hours.
Nike knows marketing. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if Nike suggested to Armstrong that he run the New York City Marathon. Why not? Nike already had all of the top runners, how about the 3-hour guys, too.
Shrewd. Very shrewd.
Ready, set... uh... go?
The other thing that struck me was how passive and tentative the top runners were. Chalk this up to the deep field where every runner knew each other’s credentials and chose to err on the side of caution. When eventual winner Marilson Gomes dos Santos made his move on First Avenue before crossing in to the South Bronx just shy of the 20th mile, the ever-dwindling main pack of runners just allowed him to waltz ahead. It seemed as if everyone in the pack was watching Paul Tergat. When Tergat didn’t break after the Brazilian, no else did either.
That is until it was too late.
Afterwards, according to the Chasing KIMBIA site, Tergat told second-place finisher Stephen Kiogora that “we let him get to far away.”
The same thing happened in the women’s race, too, only the star-studded women’s field allowed the defending NYC champ build a 20-second lead after one mile that quickly turned to a minute for most of the race. By the time Jelena Prokopcuka was blowing kisses to the crowd in Central Park while jogging in the final mile, her name had already been engraved on her trophy.
Like Tergat, women’s favorite Kastor said the women’s race was too tactical.
“I think we were being a little tentative, and by the time it was ready to roll it was too late,” she told reporters. “I think out of respect to the other women. I think we were all tentative in seeing what the others wanted to do.”
Those tactics by some of the best runners in the world are baffling. After months of training, planning and hype, when it came time to get dirty and be aggressive, only two runners went after it.
“To win a marathon you have to have courage,” dos Santos said.
The 2006 New York City Marathon turned out to be just a typical outing for American runners. On the women’s side, Kastor finished sixth in 2:27. She chalked her disappointing finish up to just one of those days.
Meanwhile, stomach trouble ruined Alan Culpepper and Meb Keflezighi’s day. Culpepper dropped out in the Bronx after 20 miles, while Meb, who finished in second and third in the past two years, limped home in 2:22:02. According to The New York Times, Keflezighi got food poisoning in New York on Thursday and drank Pepto-Bismal before the race on Sunday morning.
It didn’t help.
Californian Peter Gilmore, who is not sponsored by Nike, adidas or Asics, was the top American in 2:13:13. That’s Gilmore’s second-best time ever, and a good encore for his seventh-place finish in 2:12:45 in Boston last April.
Wonder boy Dathan Ritzenhein ran 2:14:01 in his highly anticipated marathon debut. Ritzenhein ran a 61-minute half marathon in his tune up before New York, which made him a pre-race top 10 pick, but as veteran marathoners know, the race is fickle and tricky. If you have a weakness, the marathon will expose it.
That fact is the only guarantee about marathon running.
Cole Hamels was an injury waiting to happen, I wrote repeatedly during the first half of the 2006 baseball season. In a blog and in regular-styled writing, a stint on the disabled list was inevitable, I mused.
Why not? Throughout his professional baseball career, the delicate left-hander never completed a full season. Injuries to his back, arm and hand always seemed to be lurking despite the once-in-a-lifetime talent the 22-year old had.
But after 23 starts following his call-up from the minors, Hamels never got hurt. His first full and complete professional season came as a Major Leaguer. His chronic back trouble, as well as his arm, elbow, hand and everything else held up under the rigors of a tough season in which the Phillies were in the playoff chase until the bitter end. Oh sure, he did a two-week stint on the disabled list and missed two starts, but that was strictly a precaution. In retrospect, Hamels said, he didn’t need to go on the disabled list.
So in September, after Hamels turned in another winning late-season outing, I asked the kid what the deal was. How was he able to keep himself healthy and from breaking down after struggling with injuries since high school? After all, it was the history of injuries that kept Hamels from being selected with one of the top handful of picks in the 2002 draft instead of falling to 17th. Finally, after all this time Hamels was recovering well enough to be dependable.
What was the deal?
Part of it was an improved diet rich with organic fruits and vegetables, no alcohol, regular massages as well as regular chiropractic adjustments. But the coup de grace was the active release technique (ART) treatments that Hamels said he received twice a week.
Suddenly a light bulb went off. Active release, huh?
I had recently been informed about ART a few weeks prior from a chiropractor who referred me to the web site, which defines ART as, “a patented, state of the art soft tissue system/movement based massage technique that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves. Headaches, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, shoulder pain, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, knee problems, and tennis elbow are just a few of the many conditions that can be resolved quickly and permanently with ART. These conditions all have one important thing in common: they are often a result of overused muscles.”
Plus, if it worked for someone as “delicate” as Hamels, why couldn’t it work for someone like me… you know, because I’m so tough.
In a nutshell, the theory is that the layers of muscles form adhesions that can produce scar tissue to an affect area. According to the official ART web site, as scar tissue builds up, muscles become shorter and weaker, tension on tendons causes tendonitis, and nerves can become trapped. This can cause reduced range of motion, loss of strength, and pain.
To free up the muscles and tendons (my word) and alleviate the adhesions, a series of soft-tissue massage and stretching movements are preformed by the chiropractor.
When I developed something others referred to as “runner’s knee,” and regular massage and chiropractic adjustments didn’t lessen the pain, I figured it was time for ART after talking to Hamels.
It’s a good thing, too, because a few months later – after a weekly session with my chiropractors who also work on a bunch of well-known NFL and NHL players – I have not missed a day of running. In fact, my training is much more consistent, my recovery is better than ever and my knee hasn’t hurt ever again.
Better yet, my chronic calf and hamstring soreness is much more manageable. After a week of hard running I typically show up at my sessions with my achy calves and hammys and am as good as new within 20 minutes.
It’s pretty amazing.
No, my consistency and health is not all because of ART. I eat better and pay much more attention to my recovery than in the past, but my flexibility is better and I haven’t had to worry about injuries.
That’s pretty important.
After Friday afternoon’s ART session, I didn’t feel any discomfort in my hamstrings when I sat down. The muscle spasms in my calves were gone, too. Because of this refreshed feeling, I decided Saturday afternoon would be the perfect time for a hill workout. Speed would have been preferable, as in a race or something like that, but high winds and steady made such a plan a battle on Saturday morning. The point of the training is to get strong and fast, and not to beat myself up in the rain and wind.
So I headed for the hills on Saturday, doing climbs and descents on every substantial hill I could find for the first 61 minutes of the run. And no doubt there were plenty of hills on my regular routes through the neighborhood and its outskirts – I suppose that’s the luxury of living in an area called School Lane Hills.
Nevertheless, I ran extra repeats up and down the hills I run regularly and then ran three circuits on North School Lane between Wheatland and Marietta avenues. After the 61 minutes I was legitimately whipped – so beat that I felt a little weak in the knees when I stopped for a quick drink about 12 miles into the outing.
Because of that I took it easy on the back portion of the run, skipping my regular hills in attempt to keep some semblance of pace on the gently rolling roads back to my house.
But that’s also where it got tricky, too. Figuring I was just a few meters short of running 18 miles, I took the wrong way around on the back loop to home. That’s when I looked at my watch and realized that I was either running very, very slow or the loop was longer than I thought.
It was longer.
Final stats: 19 miles in 2:11:59
Despite the tiredness from the hills, I ran miles 12 to 15 in 19:40 as well as one of those miles in 6:27. That’s not blazing, but quick enough for the workout I was doing.
Maybe it’s the ART? Better yet, it was probably the tailwind that pushed me across the Harrisburg Pike stretch near F&M.