Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 In Review & 2016 Goals

This past year has been an amazing one primarily due to the following highlights
  • Moving in with my boyfriend
    • and getting him to race his first 5k!
  • Getting promoted to manager at work
  • Enjoying time with family & friends 
  • Running a sub-1:45 half marathon
  • Running a sub-4:00 marathon
  • Further involvement with organizations related to my passions 
    • Manhattan Wind Ensemble & Columbia Summer Winds
My total mileage for the year was 1293.26. While it would be nice to get slightly higher mileage this coming year, my focus will more on race and personal goals than trying to adhere to a specific number per week.

Despite the occasional stressful day, I am well aware of how lucky I am, and I am very grateful for all of the experiences that I am fortunate to have had in 2015.

With that being said, it's time to establish some resolutions for 2016 - or perhaps it would be better to call them goals at this point? Anyway, here are some ideas I have in mind, both running and non-running related:
  •  Continue to improve my race times
  • Continue to improve times in all racing distances
  • Finally officially get a sub 50 minute 10K that's not during the course of an HM
  • To run at least 4 days per week and do some form of cross-training 2 days per week
    • try to get my boyfriend to join me for some of it and a couple of races!
  • Make sure to keep weight steady & consistent
  • To practice my musical instrument more regularly
    • and to buy myself a new piccolo!
That being said, next year won't be all goal oriented - I have a couple of exciting trips to look forward to, including a London vacation with the boyfriend & a biking trip with mom that we have been planning for years.

While 2015 was an amazing year and will be hard to beat, I am sure that 2016 will have some amazing things happening as well. Looking forward!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

5 Years & Counting: So, What's Next?

I looked at Facebook this morning, and the On This Day feature gave me a friendly reminder that today was the fifth year anniversary of my decision to get out of bed before work, go out to the park, and not come back before jogging around the reservoir twice. 

After many stops along the way, I returned home exhausted, but excited to get to the point where I could do it without stopping, and immediately started doing this a few days a week. It's a miracle that I didn't get injured right away and swear off running for life.  

I lost my mileage spreadsheet a while back, and had stopped updating it regularly, but after a bit of snooping through old files here are my stats:

Total Miles Run: 6,900.96 
          Projected to hit 7,000+ by the end of 2015
Number of Races
           50 NYRR Races - including the 2013 & 2015 NYC Marathon
           10 NYCRuns Races - including one 2nd place age group award
             7 Other Races

Personal Records / McMillan Potential
1 Mile: 6:43 / 6:31 
5K: 23:44 / 22:37

4 Mile: 30:55 / 29:24
10K: 50:45 / 46:59
15K: 1:19:54 / 1:12:48
10 Mile: 1:22:32 / 1:18:32
Half: 1:44:45 / 1:44:45
Full: 3:51:05 / 3:40:27

    Thank Yous!

    Before I get into my future goals, I'd like to thank the following people. While everyone in my life has been super supportive, there were a few people that went above and beyond to help me get where I am today:

    - My favorite running partner - my mother - who came out in the cold, windy rain to run 5 of my last 20 mile run with me
    - Leiba - for being great company on long runs and on our quest to see which ice cream is most worthy of our long run efforts
    - Rachel - for being my soundboard and running guru - we didn't run together as much as I'd like but there's more time for that next year!
    - Paul - my wonderful boyfriend - for being so understanding and supportive during the whole marathon training process
    - The rest of my family and friends for putting up with the craziness :-)  

    New Goals

    Since I had been chasing the sub-4 marathon dream for years, I now need a new long term goal to chase after, but what? After a week off of running to recuperate from the marathon and consider my next steps, I am ready to get back out there and set new goals for myself. 

    Short Term

    Achieve McMillan potential in some of the other distances over the next year. Of course, once this happens, all of the numbers may realign, but that's part of the fun. A Sub-30 4 mile has a nice ring to it!

    Long Term / Long Shot
    Win another age group award - but this is not as likely to happen as the NYC running scene is especially competitive. The one time I did win was partially because it wasn't a large field, and all of the faster people competed in the longer distance.

    Bring my half-marathon time down to a point where I MIGHT have a shot at qualifying for Boston. Per McMillan calculator, I would have to go no slower than a 1:42:09, but that assumes perfect training. In reality I would probably need to go even faster than that and get around a 1:40. I would need to drop my marathon time by 37 seconds per mile, which is no easy task. 

    I told myself that 2015 NYCM would be my last marathon but there is a good chance that I will probably run one again in the future. 

    It's been a great five years so far, and I look forward to seeing what I am capable of doing in the future!

    Tuesday, November 3, 2015

    2015 NYC Marathon Race Report: Mission Accomplished!!!!

    Short Version

    2013 NYCM: 4:02:09

    Crazy A Goal: 3:45:00
    Realistic B Goal: 3:50:00
    C Goal: under 4 hours 

    Actual Time: 3:51:05 @ 8:49mm

    AG Rating: 58.6%
    Official Placement: TBD
    Bonus: Once again, I made the NYTimes!

    Long Version

    Pre-Race: Training & Strategy

    Although I had a great experience two years ago, I was still bummed out that I didn't get my goal of under four hours. So in 2014, I once again did my 9+1, and told myself that I would have an epic training cycle and smash my automatic PR to bits.  I had a 14 week accelerated program where I would do lots of long midweek runs, at least three 20 mile runs, and lots of speedwork. 

    Unfortunately, things did not go exactly as planned but strangely enough, it was because of other positive developments in my life. Just before training began, I was promoted to manager at work. This was an amazing turn of events that happened sooner than anticipated but that meant a lot of late nights as it was our busiest season. I suddenly found that I wasn't able to fit all of the midweek long runs as planned, and as a result my mileage suffered. To add insult to injury, I was sick for a week and missed one of my longer training runs as a result. 

    Despite that and only having two 20 milers under my belt, there were some amazing moments during this training cycle that somewhat restored faith in my abilities: My mile, 5K and half marathon PRs at 6:43, 23:44 and 1:44:45 respectively. I was proudest of my half PR as I hadn't gotten under 1:50 since the Staten Island half in 2012, and this was the first time I truly all out raced a half since then. It also reset some of my McMillan predicted times and many of them were hilarious as I've never hit these times in the shorter distances

    A 3:40 marathon time was definitely NOT going to happen!

    Taking all of this into account I had to decide what pace to aim for right out of the gate. Although I wanted to take a conservative pace, I felt uneasy at the idea of not putting a small amount of time in the bank, so after a lot of consideration, I decided to go for an 8:45 pace, which would bring me just under 3:50. My plan was to take the first twenty miles at this pace then hold on as long as possible. That way, if I faded in the last few miles like last time, I could hopefully at least push myself to a sub-4 hour finish. 

    Race Day!

    Once again I woke up at 5am, took my time to make sure that I had everything that I needed, and took the subway down to the ferry. Since I no longer have a full length mirror in the living room, I didn't take a picture of myself before leaving, but here is a picture of flat me. 

     I wanted to stick with my orange and blue theme from my previous marathon so I painted my fingernails and toenails blue. Wearing the Staten Island Half shirt also gave me a mental boost of confidence - if I could get a sub-1:45 half and tough it out, perhaps I could apply the same mental toughness to get a PR.

    I got to the ferry without any issues and even managed to board the 6:45am pretty quickly. Security & lines were not an issue for me, but I later learned that people who arrived at the terminal later faced longer lines. 

    I bought some breakfast at the terminal after using the bathroom, then went to get in line for the buses that would take us to Fort Wadsworth. The bus trip took much longer than I remembered, so I ate breakfast at this point, but I still got there in plenty of time to relax, take in the scenery, and use the portapotties multiple times before I had to head towards my corrals. 

    Since I started in wave 2, I was told to report to my corral at 9am as they closed at 9:40. We didn't end up going into our corrals until about 9:40, but they closed not too long after that. After taking off my layers, I realized that my 3:50 pace band had stopped sticking, but thankfully someone was able to give me a safety pin. One more portapotty stop later I walked with my fellow runners towards the Verrazzano bridge.     

    Ready to start!
    After listening to the national anthem and waving to the helicopters that flew above us, it was finally time for wave 2 to go off! I forced myself to take it easy, soak in the experience, and not worry about my pace during the first mile as not only was it a steep incline, but it was not worth the effort of trying to push my way around people. I was a bit annoyed at people turning around to take pictures, but that quickly passed. 

    I saw the first mile marker to my right, but moments after pressing the lap button on my watch, I saw another mile 1 marker up ahead to the left and realized that the orange and blue starts had seperate markers at that point. So my first mile was split into two segments. Whoops! Regardless of how it looks it ended up being by far my slowest mile at 9:20.  

    Since mile 2 was a downhill, I decided to try and even out the pace a little to get back on track and ended up with 8:22 mile. We arrived in Brooklyn and I looked forward to taking my tour of fourth avenue. The rest of my first 5K was uneventful, and I ended up with an official split of 27:33 which is an average pace of 8:52mm. So far, so good!

    Miles 4-6 went without incident, and my Garmin recorded splits of 8:45, 8:57 and 8:55. I fueled at mile 5 as planned. I decided to alternate between peanut butter and chocolate peanut butter GUs - I took shotbloks last time but realized that it was too difficult for me to chew in the later miles. My official 10K split was 54:57 at a pace of 8:50mm which was pretty close to being on target. At this point I knew that my A goal of 3:45 was out of the question, which wasn't a surprise, but if I held on, 3:50 may not be completely unrealistic. 

    I looked forward to mile 8 as my friends Brooke & Dan would be cheering me on - I ended up hearing them, but unfortunately, I couldn't see them as it was a very crowded area. Miles 7 and 8 passed without incident at 8:52 and 8:58, but shortly after that all of the different color starts - orange, blue and green - merged on the race course. I felt a little crowded and had a hard time running my pace for a bit but still ended up officially finishing the 15K at 1:22:26 which is still at an 8:50mm pace.  

    My every 5 mile fueling strategy was working as planned, but I had a hard time at a few of the water stations. My goal was to not stop running the entire time, but it was difficult to grab a cup of water and get out of there as a lot of people don't know how to navigate water stations, but thankfully I got through all of the water stations with no major mishaps. 

    I am not sure why this was, but I found the period between 15K and the halfway mark to be the most difficult of the race. For some reason, this was the point where self doubt began to creep in and I noticed that my legs felt a bit stiff. Despite this I finished miles 10-13 with splits of 8:40, 8:43, 8:44 and 8:54, but I was worried that things would all fall apart soon. 

    It took a change of scenery and the halfway point to turn my mood around. As I approached the Pulaski bridge, I knew that I had family waiting on the other side for me, and it brightened up my mood significantly. I reached the halfway mark with an official split of 1:55:55 which was still at an 8:50mm pace. 

    We may have not spent much time in Queens, but I did have a lot of representation there. Around the mile 14 mark, I saw my brother Matt, sister-in-law Erin, and my adorable niece Sophie, who was watching her very first marathon and cheering on both me and her uncle Josh, who had already passed through. 

    The siblings & significant others picture with two new faces :-)
    After my brief tour of Queens, we ran over the Queensborough bridge. I tried not to look at my Garmin as I knew the signal would be completely wacky. As I suspected, mile 14 was 8:49 but the uphill mile 15 was clocked in at a 9:08. I knew that it wasn't worth exerting the extra effort as I would be making it up over the downhill portion of the bridge. I took another GU and looked forward to the wall of people I would encounter on first avenue. I clocked in mile 16 at 8:51 and knew that the last 10 miles, particularly the final 10K, was where the real test began.  

    I spotted my friend Zahava after getting off the bridge and just before turning onto first avenue - I suddenly heard my name and noticed the yellow and blue hat. Since Zahava didn't have one of the Team Dahlia signs, I was worried that I would miss her, so I was very happy that I didn't. In the first stretch up first avenue, I also managed to spot my friend Rachel on the right, which was a real feat since she didn't have a sign or a hat! After a quick high five I moved over to the left side of the first avenue in anticipation of seeing more family members.

    Miles 17 & 18 went by in 8:49 and 8:26..... ok Dahlia, I know you're excited about seeing your sister and parents, but seriously, SLOW DOWN. We aren't even in the Bronx yet! I saw them all shortly thereafter and got this lovely picture.

    Mile 19 was still a little fast at 8:34 but by the time I crossed into the Bronx and hit the mile 20 marker I was back on track with a 8:42 split. At this point, I told myself the following: this is the point where you need to run with your heart because at some point your legs will just not want to move another step. 

    After taking another gel, I took my brief tour of the Bronx, which was enjoyable, and hit the mile 21 marker with a 8:50 split. Running over the bridge back into Manhattan was thrilling as I knew that once I got back into my home borough, it would be a straight shot down fifth avenue towards the entrance to Central Park. 

    Like last time, Paul & Jen were waiting for me around mile 22, which I finished in 8:45. Since the area of the course was less crowded, I was able to give them both high fives before continuing. My legs were feeling fine for the moment, but I knew the hardest mile was yet to come. 

    Mile 23 was completed in 8:47 and after thinking for a moment, decided to take the extra GU I had packed just in case even though I had a hard time swallowing at that point. I was resigned to slowing down significantly over the slow incline on fifth avenue leading up to the park, but to my surprise, I finished mile 24 in 8:51. After that, my legs were really feeling it, but I had come too far and I was way too stubborn to slow down at that point. 

    Despite all of that, I was thrilled after completing mile 24 because I just knew that even if I had a terrible last mile I would be finishing under four hours. That being said, since I was so close to my B goal of 3:50, I wanted to see how close I could get to it. 

    Once again, I saw my parents and my sister in the park, along with my aunt Anne, and seeing them all gave me the energy boost that I needed going into the last couple of miles. 

    After finishing mile 25 in 8:54 my only focus was to finish strong. That being said, Central Park South felt like it dragged on forever despite the loud, vocal support of the spectators. When I finally entered the park for the last time, I was very eager to cross that finish line!

    I didn't pay too much attention to my 8:49 mile 26 split but I felt like the finish could not come soon enough. Just before I crossed, I saw my friend Tatiana to the side, and it was wonderful to hear her cheer me in. I held my arms up in the air and grinned as I finally achieved my sub-4 hour goal with plenty of time to spare. 

    I was beyond excited that I achieved my goal and I was even happier that I finished the second half in 1:55:10, which meant that my second half was 40 seconds faster than the first. Last time, my second half was six minutes slower

    After I had to do a lot of walking to get my post race poncho, it was time to go to my parents and celebrate with all of my supporters. Since my friend Josh also ran the race, we included him in our festivities as well. 

    Of course, no party is complete without an ice cream cake from Ben & Jerry's, and it was incredibly tasty. 

    Unlike the last race, I felt that this time everything went as smoothly as possible. I felt good almost the entire time and I am pretty sure that I did not walk a single step the entire race. Even two days later, I am still stunned that I have finally achieved a goal that was several years in the making. I now feel that I have finally earned the medal that Kathy's daughter made me as a consolation prize after the 2012 marathon had been cancelled. 

    As much as I enjoyed working towards this goal, I have no intentions of running a marathon next year.  It takes a lot of time and energy to train, and I'd rather focus on other things and not make the huge time committment. That being said, I would be open to running another marathon someday if I am able to take the time to properly train for it. It would also be nice if I could eventually qualify for Boston, but since I am still over 16 minutes away, that may take more work than I am willing to commit to over the next few years.

    I would like to thank my family and friends for supporting me through my training, whether it was running with me, keeping me company the night before, cheering me on both in person or online, and just generally being awesome. 

    More pictures are posted to my facebook, and I plan on buying the professional photos as soon as they are ready, but for now, I will end this with a couple of parting shots:

    Thanks for reading!