Great News

From the New York Road Runners Web Site:

Hello, Andrew!

Congratulations! You're in for the experience of a lifetime, the 2008 NYC HALF Marathon Presented by Nike!

We are thrilled that you will be joining us on Sunday, 7:30:00 AM. Be sure to bookmark our site and visit it often for the latest news. Good luck with your training.

The race is July 27 and features a great course. Here's the description:
The course will begin on Central Park's East Drive (near 85th Street) and make a complete, clockwise loop around the park. Runners will then continue to the south end of the park and exit onto Seventh Avenue, heading south to Times Square. A right turn onto 42nd Street will take runners to 12th Avenue (West Street), where, after a left turn, the race continues along the Hudson River waterfront to Lower Manhattan. The finish is on West Street near Rector Street and Battery Park.

500 Miles....and Counting

More details to follow, but I crossed a big milestone today: I've run just over 500 miles since the beginning of the year.

A few years ago I set out to run a thousand miles in a year, but broke down quickly as I didn't really know what I was doing from a training perspective. At this point I feel great, so barring any major surprises, I should be able to surpass the thousand mile mark (how cool does that sound?) some time this fall.

Jamming with Eli

Waaaaaaaaay back in business school - in the first semester of my first year in 1992 - I read a book called The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement for my Technology and Operations Management class. The book made a big impression back then and is pretty much a must-read for anyone interested in improving the performance of manufacturing or distribution operations.

Fast forward 16 years. One of our main priorities at work this year is to improve the performance of our supply chain - which in book publishing incluseds everything from printing to distribution to returns. Our work on supply chain led us to some consultants with a company called the Goldratt Group. As in Eli Goldratt. As in Eli Goldratt, author of The Goal along with a bunch of other books. Goldratt has a really interesting story as he's a physicist by training who has turned his scientific approach to solving business problems.

Eli (pictured above with me and my colleagues and two consultants - Eli is the one on the far right) took a particular interest in our project and offered to work with us for a few days to see if he could help address some of the challenges facing book publishing. A group of five of us flew over to Amsterdam and started our work with him earlier today. We had a great day with a great exchange of ideas and concepts. What I like best so far is that he starts from a place assuming everything is possible, which is consistent with my own view of the world. I'll be here for just one more day; the rest of the team will be here working into the middle of next week.

Hello from Amsterdam

Hello readers, and greetings from Amsterdam! I'm here for a couple of days of meetings.

Believe it or not, the picture above was shot at 10:12PM!

A Book Worth Checking Out

Just finished reading Severance Package, a thriller by Duane Swierczynski; it's pretty close to a one-sitting read.

The story is about a guy who goes to work one day only to find his boss plans to kill him along with everyone else who works at the company. Set near the top of a Philadelphia high-rise, the book is full of twists, turns, double-crosses, and fun action scenes.

Reading the book reminded me of another one-sitting thriller I read 13 years ago: Vertical Run, by Joseph Garber. I was less than a year into my publishing career at that point, and I can still remember sitting in my hotel room at the Millenium Broadway in New York reading the book from cover to cover.

I'd also recommend one of Swierczynski's earlier books, The Blonde.

If you've read a great thriller recently, let me know in the comments!

Sometimes It's Good To Run Counterclockwise

When I run in Central Park I usually like to run clockwise; the hills seem easier (even though the total elevation change is the same regardless of which direction you run) and the people-watching is a bit better (since most people run counterclockwise).

To change things up I ran counterclockwise today. As I was headed up the east side, I was thinking about how I never see my friend/colleague Kirk even though he's a regular early morning runner; not three minutes later, who do I see? Kirk, running with his fiancee Lindsay.

Today's run was a good one - I completed the park loop at a pace of 8:07 - not bad for 6+ miles.

Butterflies & BBQ

Originally uploaded by aweber9

We had a great family excursion this past weekend for anyone interested in plants/butterflies/nature and.....barbeque.

Early Saturday morning we set out for Rainbow's End Farm, a business whose focus is on butterfly education and habitat conservation. The farm sells plants and butterfly tchotchkes, but the real highlight is a small greenhouse where you can interact with the butterflies. You're actually encouraged to hold them - on qtips soaked in a sweet blue liquid.

After the farm we headed over to Big W's BBQ, a restaurant in Wingdale, NY that's short on style (it's in a former convenience store in a small rundown strip mall) but long on great BBQ. Big W (Warren) is a former high-end chef who cooked in New York City but converted to pit-smoking BBQ when he and his family moved out of the city to the suburbs. After selling BBQ out of a truck on Route 22 for a number of years, he opened his restaurant in Wingdale a couple of years ago or so. While all of the food is great, the chicken is consistently the best bbq chicken I've had.

The two places are no more than 5-10 minutes from each other, so it's a perfect outing.

The Lunch Request

IMG_5427, originally uploaded by aweber9.

Elizabeth is going on a field trip today to the Staten Island Ferry. The photo is her lunch request. Clearly she's big on list-making.....

Another NYC Runner/Blogger

I've never actually tried to figure out how many runner/bloggers there are running around NYC these days - it's probably quite a few. I don't remember where I first came across Running Down a Dream, but I've enjoyed it.

Today's post
on the Wall Street race I ran yesterday provides a great overview of the experience. Unfortunately (?) I missed out on the Wii Fit socks, but courtesy of Mrs. Longest Run, now own the real thing as of this morning.

Paying It Forward

I enjoyed this article by Jim Koch, Chairman of the Boston Brewing Company (Sam Adams, Boston Lager, etc.) on his decision to share hops - a key ingredient in craft beers such as the ones his company makes - with competitors during a hops shortage.

This was the killer quote for me:
What can leaders in other industries take away from our experience? Of course a rising tide lifts all boat, but more than that, leaders can be the gravity that lifts that tide. Leaders need to be alert to situations in which the long-term interests of their companies are best served by putting the needs of their segments or industries first, even when that means enabling competitors to better compete for your customers in the short-term.

One Must Remain Flexible

IMG_5423, originally uploaded by aweber9.

Mrs. Longest Run and I had separate plans tonight, and with the regular babysitters unavailable, Elizabeth and Sarah were watched by someone they know and like but who is unfamiliar with the regular evening routines.

Tonight's routines were off in any case as it was the grand finale of Season 7 of American Idol, and we'd agreed the girls could stay up for the first hour of the final show (which would take them to an hour past their regular bedtime).

Once we were all home, we were swept up by the moment and agreed the girls could watch the entire show. Elizabeth, of course, had to amend the schedule she'd mapped out for the babysitter.

Though we were split between the two Davids (I wanted Cook to win, Katherine wasn't sure, and the daughters wanted Archuleta to win), we were all ultimately pleased with the final outcome. This is the first season I've watched a substantial number of the shows, and it's been a lot of fun. Elizabeth and Sarah joined late in the process; since we really enjoyed watching together, we're already looking forward to the return of the show in January.

Great Race Tonight

I ran this evening in the AHA Start! Wall Street Run, a 3 mile run through lower Manhattan. After watching it rain most of the day and expecting to be wet and cold for the race, we were blessed with cool temperatures and overcast skies with just a few sprinkles.

The race was tricky given the sheer number of people (4,300 entrants), narrow streets (here's the course map), and big puddles. Though the course was pretty cool, I didn't have a chance to really look up until the third mile. At that point I had a nice view of clearing skies and the Statue of Liberty - not so bad.

My splits were so strange I wasn't convinced the course was really the advertised 3 miles. According to my watch, I ran the first mile in 7:42, the second in 8:12, and the last mile in 6:48 even though I felt that was the slowest mile.

The official results:
3 miles
22:36 minutes
7:32 per mile
overall place: 885 (out of 4,301)
gender place: 764 (out of 2,563)
age place: 122 (out of 507)

To put things in perspective, the mens winner (a 44 year old) finished in 15:36; the top female runner (a 30 year old) finished in 17:11) .

Cool Twitter Discovery.

I've posted previously on the joys of Twitter here, here, and here. Courtesy of the post Endless Conversation: The Unfolding Saga of Blogs, Twitter, Friendfeed, and Social Sites on Dion Hinchcliffe's Web 2.0 blog, I learned today how to use TwitterFeed to have my blog posts show up as tweets.

Not such a big deal for readers who already receive feed posts via rss and a feed reader, but cool for someone who might just use Twitter.

To check it out, look for me on twitter as user aweber9.

Great Star Sighting.

Alex Rodriguez. Columbus Circle. Surprisingly free of hangers-on or autograph seekers.

He looked tanned and well-rested. Good news, I suppose, for Yankees fans.

What's your best star sighting, in NYC or elsewhere?

On the future of books and reading

I know some of you are interested in the question of where books are headed in the future. Earlier today I came across two articles which I found thoughtful and wanted to share them with you. Enjoy!

Columbia Journalism Review - The Future of Reading

A book publisher’s manifesto for the 21st century (5 parts with 1 part yet to come).

Ending The Week With A New PR

My running week starts Monday and finishes Sunday. Typically I run Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. The weekly long run is typically on Saturday.

After a tough week, I was really pleased today to run a new PR (personal record) for my standard route in Connecticut - a 5.5 mile loop from the top of the Isle to the bottom and back. My previous best was 47.89 minutes; I finished today in 47.88.

Next up: a NYRR 5K in downtown New York City on Tuesday evening.

Good News/Bad News. But Mostly Bad News.

I learned a lesson this morning: don't ever look at the New York Road Runners web site before heading out for a run - it's potentially demotivating.

Checking the site this morning, I noticed that the date for the Staten Island Half-marathon has been October 12th. For those of you who have been following regularly, you know that October 12th is the day of the Chicago Marathon (now only 148 days and 19 hours away). Now, I've noticed that the dates for some of the NYRR races can move around a lot, so there's a chance that the race date will move again, but it's a bummer to think I might be denied in my quest for the Grand Prix when I've already completed 3 of 5 races.

That's the bad news. The good news is that the weekend the race was originally scheduled to take place - September 13/14 - now has a NYRR marathon training run on the schedule; that will likely give me a chance to do one of my extra-long marathon preparation runs (20 miles +) in Central Park with lots of other people and the support that usually goes with the races put on by NYRR. Small consolation, though.

Since this week has been a bit of a grind on the training front - particularly compared to last week - I wasn't sure if I would do a long run this morning. Inspired by beautiful weather - mid-40's, clear, and sunny - I set out to do at least one loop of the park. I did the loop plus an extra lower loop for a total of just under 9 miles at a pace of 8:34, giving me 25.7 miles for the week.


Last night Katherine and I had the chance to attend the taping of Jon Stewart's Daily Show with a friend of ours from the kids' school who used to work at Comedy Central. We got the total VIP treatment - hanging out in the employee lounge before being seated in the studio, getting seated first and in totally prime seats (on the front row just to the right of Jon Stewart in the video below), and meeting Jon after the show (he's really down to earth!).

It was cool to see all the work that happens behind the scenes to put on a tv show and fun to be in the audience. One highlight was watching the comedian who came out before Jon Stewart to warm up the crowd; he's a guy by the name of Quentin Heggs, and he's very, very funny (sorry, couldn't find any videos online which are safe for the blog). Who knew there were comedians to warm up the crowd?

After the show we walked a couple of blocks to a terrific restaurant called Taboon at 52nd St. and 10th Avenue here in New York City (here's the New York Magazine review of the restaurant). The bread at the restaurant is absolutely fantastic; we had both a plain loaf (which we ate with tatzik)i as well as a drippy, goopy, cheese-filled loaf. Fantastic!

In some ways the real highlight of the evening was meeting New York Times technology columnist David Pogue and his wife. I've been a huge fan of his writing (blog posts, NYT columns, and books) for some time now, so it was really cool to meet him in person. Here's how it happened: right after we were seated, a couple sat down next to us. I struck up a conversation with the woman, who was sitting right next to me, noting that she had a copy of Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness (mentioned previously on The Longest Run here). We went through the usual questions - where do you live, where do you work, what do you do, etc.. The man looked sort of familiar to me and once he said 'technology writer, New York Times,' I knew exactly who it was. We had a long chat before the show, including a demo of his MacBook Air with a wireless broadband modem as mentioned on his blog this week). In person he's just like you'd expect based on reading his blog and columns - funny, friendly, outgoing, and really enthusiastic about great technology. The one thing I didn't get to tell him is that my link to his review of the Flip Video Camera became a big source of traffic to my blog (relatively speaking, given that The Longest Run doesn't exactly have TONS of readers). Even today, if you google 'Pogue flip', my post is the second result.

All in all, a terrific experience.

Scary Stuff in Houston

The New York Times reports MILLIONS of crazy ants in Houston.

The List

IMG_5422, originally uploaded by aweber9.

Preparations are underway for the school talent show tonight. The older daughter will be singing Castle on a Cloud from Les Miserables with a classmate.

She made this list to prepare herself for the show.

Fishing In Westminster

IMG_5421, originally uploaded by aweber9.

I had the chance to go on a short fishing outing with some colleagues at work this week. We actually had some success, catching about 15 fish of all shapes and sizes, including smallmouth and largemouth bass. The picture is of one of the larger bass I caught.

The fun part of the story is that I was fishing basically at the office. There's a county park right outside our distribution center in Westminster Maryland that has a small pond in it. Many years ago I learned the state of Maryland stocks (well, stocked) the pond with trout, so I'd wanted to fish there for a long time. Things finally came together this week and we had a little expedition on an absolutely beautiful day.

Unfortunately the fishing in the pond at the park wasn't so good. Fortunately a couple of people who were with us told us that the fishing in our retention pond is actually quite good; we went over there and had a lot of success. I've included a satellite photo from google maps below. The pond in the park is just under/to the left of where it says 'Random House Park'; the retention pond is over at the far right hand side of the picture. All of the big buildings you can see are part of our operations center.

View Larger Map

World's Best Bird Feeder?

On the heels of my recent post on grosbeaks, I got into an email discussion on birdfeeder strategies with a friend of mine. Birdfeeder conversations inevitably turn to squirrel conversations, and I mentioned the Yankee Flipper bird feeder (by Droll Yankees) to the friend. He found this video on YouTube.

Taking A Day Off

After working out 7 days in a row and 12 of the last 13 days, including running 48 (!) miles in 9 days....I'm taking a day off. Last week was my highest mileage week yet - 34.9 miles - and I'm pleased to report my knees feel great. I'm hoping to maintain about 30 miles per week going into my training for the Chicago Marathon, which I expect to start in a few weeks.

A Return Visitor

Grosbeak 2008

Grosbeak 2007

Last weekend I took a picture of a bird that I don't see very often - a rose-breasted grosbeak; I'd only seen one once before, When I went to look through old photos to figure out when I'd seen the last one - it turns out it was almost exactly one year ago. I suppose the grosbeaks may just pass through our area on the way to somewhere.....

Try to get your mind wrapped around this Twitter application

Business Week article twitter experiment

I'd say if you can figure out how to follow and participate in this one, you've got the whole twitter thing nailed......

Ambient Intimacy

Courtesy of Jeff Jarvis at Buzz Machine - who in turn is blogging a post by Leisa Reichelt - comes the idea of 'ambient intimacy'; given previous explorations of twitter and blogging I found the idea very interesting.

Reichelt also has a post on the three kinds of bloggers that's worth checking out.

A Little Taste of Texas

I'm sitting at a restaurant in NYC where Katherine is eating what she says is her 'favorite dessert in the whole world' - Blue Bell vanilla ice cream. The ice cream is imported from a little creamery in Brenham, Texas.

We ate dinner at Momofuku Noodle Bar then walked over to Hill Country restaurant for dessert.

On the road again....

Had a nice run this morning of just over 5 miles. I wasn't too sore from Saturday, but it was nice to get out on the road again.

Last night, I was reading Bob Glover's excellent book The Competitive Runner's Handbook: The Bestselling Guide to Running 5Ks through Marathons. I came across this passage which I think really captures what's exciting to me about running half-marathons and a full marathon. In the chapter for first-time marathoners, Glover writes:
Why would anyone in their right mind want to run a marathon? The training involves a lot of time and effort, and increased risk of injury. The race itself is grueling and unpredictable. It's long enough to fully tax your body, mind, and soul. Your energy supplies, muscular endurance, emotions, and psychological strengths are fully tested. Therein lies its appeal to participants and spectators alike: It isn't easy. The marathon is an epic struggle.

Exciting, daunting, and scary, all at the same time. I've never run farther than 15 miles, so there's a lot of hard work ahead. The next 23 weeks are going to be interesting, so I hope you'll continue to follow along.....

Brooklyn Half-Marathon - The Full Story

Lots of details I want to share with you about the run yesterday. Before I do that, though, I want to say thank you to the many readers who reached out over the past few days with well wishes and positive thoughts; your support meant (and means) a lot to me. As I struggling through the latter part of the race I thought a lot about the goals I'd set and shared with all of you; that gave me extra motivation to keep up the pace....

As challenging as I found the run, it was an incredibly satisfying experience and a really fun day. Here's how it unfolded:

I got on a yellow school bus in Manhattan at about 6:20. By 7AM we were at the boardwalk on Coney Island, so I had two hours to burn before the race started. I spent the first hour walking down the boardwalk (this was my first time there) - taking pictures and checking things out. At about 8:20 I checked my bag and started to get ready for the race - stretching, jogging to warm up, 'eating' my PowerBar chocolate gel for breakfast, etc.

At 8:50 I got into the corral for my number group (3,000-3,999) and got ready to go. One of the race starters mentioned that the Brooklyn course tends to be a place where people set PRs (personal records), so I thought that was a good omen. The horn sounded at 9 sharp and we were off. The first 2.7 miles or so were along the boardwalk; the course doubled back on itself, which gave me the chance to see the elite runners, which I always think is fun and inspiring.

We left the boardwalk and after a short trip along Surf Avenue, turned north onto Ocean Parkway. My pace improved through mile 5, at which point I started feeling a bit tired; I also found myself mentally challenged by the fact that there were almost 4 miles to go on the Parkway, which, in spite of being flat and smooth, felt like an endless stretch of road. I slowed my pace just a bit to conserve energy for the park section, but I didn't want to slow down too much for risk of missing my finishing time goal.

Around mile 9 we turned into Prospect Park. Much like Central Park. the park looked gorgeous - lush greens and blooming trees - and there were a good number of people out cheering on the runners (more than had been at the Manhattan half-marathon in January and the Bronx half-marathon in February). I was feeling even more tired at this point, and then I confronted the hills that a number of people had warned me about. In the end (obviously) I got through the hills, and though my pace slowed a bit, I maintained a pace that was much better than how I felt (which was terrible). As I mentioned yesterday, it was a HUGE boost to see Betsy waiting to cheer me on along the trip up the long hill on the Park Slope side of the park.

I finished mile 12 at 1 hour, 44 minutes, so I knew the goal of 1:54 was reachable. There were some little hills in the last mile which slowed me down, and I often forget about the last .1 miles when I'm multiplying my pace by the mileage to project my time; in spite of that, I managed to cross the finish line (with a short sprint at the end) at an official time of 1:54:01 - 4:24 faster than the Bronx half and 7:51 faster than the Manhattan half.

On finishing I felt excited about what I'd accomplished, and also really emotional. The race was a lot more difficult than I had expected, and in the end I think it was a huge relief to be finished and to know that I'd pushed successfully through the difficult phases of the race.

I'm not sure yet what made the race so challenging. In the end, the weather was pretty perfect - 48 degrees, dry, and not too much wind; my knees felt fine as well. So what could it have been? Nutrition/hydration? Running a couple of hours later than I typically do? Not enough tapering off in preparation for the race? Not enough speed work? Too fast a pace at the beginning?Certainly the hills played a part, but I was feeling tired long before the hills. In any case, lots to think about as I turn my attention to preparations for the Chicago Marathon (now 161 days away); I'll have at least two more half-marathons (Staten Island, Queens) and maybe three (the Nike half, which goes from Central Park to Battery Park) that I'll run as part of my Chicago training. I'm also participating in a 5K race down around Wall Street on May 20th.

For those of you who aren't yet bored to tears by all the details, just a few more things to share:

The splits:

Mile 1: 9:00
Mile 2: 9:00
Mile 3: 8:41
Mile 4: 8:15
Mile 5: 8:12
Mile 6: 8:34
Mile 7: 8:22
Mile 8: 8:37
Mile 9: 8:33
Mile 10: 8:57
Mile 11: 9:20
Mile 12: 8:29
Mile 13: 9:16
The last .1: 0:49

There were 5,832 finishers; of which 3,292 were men and 471 were men between 40 and 44.

I was finisher 2,630 overall, 1,950 among the men, and 267 among the men between 40 and 44.

After the Manhattan half, I set a goal to get into the top half of the finishers across all three categories and estimated I'd need to be around 1:51 to do that. My time yesterday put me in the top 45% of finishers overall, but I finished behind 59.2% of the men and 56.7% of the men my age. To be in the top half of those groups yesterday would have required a 1:50.

Finally, I wanted to share my ipod playlist with you. The overall playlist I prepared for the race worked really well in that I had to skip very few songs; the list below reflects only the songs I played through to the end.

Thanks again to everyone for all your support!

What is it about publishing people and half-marathons?

Funny on the day of my third half-marathon to come across Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt's blog entry about his experience last week at the Country Music Half-Marathon. I think the entry nicely captures a lot of the things I've enjoyed about my experiences so far this year.

The Results Are In.....

Tough, tough run, but a new personal record: 1:54:04.

I owe a special debt of gratitude to my friend/colleague Betsy, who came out to cheer me on. She was waiting for me in my darkest hour - running up a loooooooong hill in Prospect Park around Mile 11. Thank you Betsy!!!!

Almost there.....

Just over an hour to go to race time. The bus arrived on Coney Island at 7AM, so I've had some time to walk the boardwalk and take a bunch of pictures.

I'll check my bag shortly and start warming up. Best news so far - while it's still cool and breezy, it is dry. Fingers crossed it stays that way.

More to come after I'm finished!

On the Bus

I'm on the bus on the way out to Brooklyn. Since it's been so long since I've been on a yelllow school bus I'd forgotten how incredibly bumpy they are.

The weather is pretty icky, but at least it's not actually raining. It's in the high 40's, breezy, and very foggy.

Sweating the Details....

Tomorrow is the big day! I take a bus (at 6:30) from the East side of Manhattan out to Coney Island. Not sure exactly what time we arrive but I expect to do some standing around before the race starts at 9AM.

The training work is done and all that's left is sweating the details (I was going to say managing the details, but I suppose one can't really manage the weather....).

What kind of weather will we have? The AccuWeather forecast shows rain between 9AM and 10AM; the Weather Channel says cloudy with 20% chance of rain. I'm hoping the worst case is scattered showers. Running in the rain can be fun, but not for two hours, not when it's 50 degrees, and not when you have to wait around for a race to start.

The uncertainty in the weather means uncertainty on what to wear. Long-sleeved or short-sleeved t-shirt? Tights or no tights? Hat or no hat?

I've got my bib/number and assigned corral - the 7-8 minute/mile group. It looks like my corral is based on the time I ran the Coogan's 5K rather than on the time of the Bronx half-marathon. Generally that should be good as I'll be with a group of runners faster than I am, but I'll have to be careful not to start off too fast and burn out.

The other big detail I'm thinking about is what to eat and when. I usually run early in the morning (starting between 5:30 and 6:45) having had a cup or two of coffee but no food. I think with a start time much later than my typical running time I'll need to eat something....but I haven't figured out what to eat and when. I ate a banana shortly before the Bronx half-marathon and it didn't sit too well.

I'm really excited about the race. After struggling through part of the training schedule, I'm feeling fresh and strong and confident and am really curious to see what kind of time I can achieve. It will also be really interesting to see how the mental side of things goes as this is the first time I've followed a real training program. In the two half-marathons earlier this year my goal was to just finish; I know now that I can do the mileage but don't have real clarity on how to manage my pacing.

One final note. As part of a cholesterol screening today, a nurse checked my blood pressure and resting pulse. The results for both were significantly better than they'd been in the past and are terrific numbers: resting pulse of 48 and blood pressure of 96/64. I'm really happy about that!

On Animals

Courtesy of Cal Vornberger, photographer and author of the terrific Birds of Central Park, check out Natalie Angier's NYT article Noble Eagles, Nasty Pigeons, Biased Humans, which will resonate for anyone who has tried keeping squirrels away from birdfeeders or animals out of one's garden.

Full disclosure: I've recently battled woodchucks in my garden and fully identify with some of the people characterized in the article....

The View From The Park

Gorgeous morning. Had a nice easy run - more like a jog - this morning as the final tuneup for Saturday's race. The apple and cherry trees around the reservoir are in full bloom.