Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Review: A Great Year of Running

It has been an amazing year for me in terms of running. First, here are some statistics that I kept track of on excel over this past year, followed by goals for 2012:

2011 Stats / 2012 Goals
Total Miles Run: 1389.85 / 1500
Average Miles Per Month: 115.82 / 125
Average Miles Per Week: 26.62 / 28.85
Average Miles Per Day: 3.81 / 4.10

Apparently I could run from NYC to Lincoln, NE with a few miles to spare. Either that, or I could run to the southern tip of Florida with almost 100 miles to spare.

Also, here are my PRs as of today, along with my 2012 goals:

2011 PR / 2012 Goal
1 Mile:     7:04 / 6:59
5K:          27:27 / 23:59
4 Miles:   32:44 / 31:59
5 Miles:   43:40 / 41:59
10K:       54:27 / 52:xx
15K:       1:19:54 / 1:17:xx
HM:        1:54:27 / 1:49:xx
Marathon: NA / 4:29:xx

I don't know how realistic some of these goals are, but any improvements made will be a good things. I know that as a newer runner, improvements would come very quickly, but I know that eventually, it will take much more work to see even any improvements at all.

But numbers don't tell the whole story. The other day, while my mom and I were running, she asked me what I liked most about running, I realized that it wasn't just about the PRs and the numerical data, no matter how much I enjoy analyzing it on excel.

I find that running has done the following for me
- keeps me healthy and in shape
- gave me a whole new circle of friends
- gives me goals to aim for
- has given me the means to accomplish what I never thought I could do.

I have also learned a few critical lessons that will help me when it comes time for marathon training
- Listen to my body
- Don't try and increase quality workouts and mileage at the same time
- Running is part of my life, but don't let it be my entire life. There must be balance

I also have other, non running related personal goals that I hope to achieve, and this includes being more aware of what I'm eating and making sure I make healthier choices. Losing weight would be nice, but being healthy is even more important. It is also a goal of mine to incorporate more cross training (1-2x per week) and strength training (2x per week) into my life.

Thanks to everyone who supported me throughout this year, and I look forward to another great year of running, starting off with the Emerald Nuts 4 mile run to bring in the New Year.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Ted Corbitt 15K: A Surprise PR to end the racing season

Short Version
Distance: 15K (about 9.3 miles)
Previous PR: 1:23:21
Time: 1:19:54 (8:36mm) - New PR
Overall Place: 1551/4287
Gender Place: 471/2247
Age Place: 134/611

Long Version

The last several weeks of running had gone pretty well for me. After taking a cut back week following the Cape Cod Half, I kept to my goal of running at least 30 miles per week, and even managed to get in just over 37 miles last week. Other than the Race to Deliver last month, I didn't race, and just focused on maintaining my base around my busy schedule. 

I signed up for the Ted Corbitt 15K a few months ago because I wanted to break my 15K PR of 1:23:21, which was set in March. NYRR only offers two 15Ks per year, and I had enjoyed the Colon Cancer Challenge, which had a similar course (but a different start/end point). I figured that since my HM best pace was an 8:45, I should be able to crush my previous 15K PR of 1:23:21 (8:57 pace) pretty easily.

However, this past week I ran into a major roadblock. I started getting the sniffles on Monday, and by Tuesday it developed into a full blown cold. I ran on Tuesday and Wednesday, but it wasn't pretty, and on Thursday I had to take a USRD. I made up the mileage Friday, but all throughout the week, I had a hard time keeping up my easy pace, so I started to worry about whether I'd even feel well enough to participate in the race, much less do well.

However, after taking Theraflu for a couple of nights, and drinking a couple of glasses of wine at my office party, I woke up reluctantly yesterday morning feeling a bit tired, but decent overall. After getting ready, I walked about a mile to baggage check, and met up with a couple of friends, as well as a new running friend, before heading to the corrals with them.

My race bib
I had considered starting back a corral if I didn't feel well, but in the end I started in my usual corral with my friend Abbey. It was chilly standing around, but after the national anthem, the race started right on time, and I quickly warmed up. 

The course consisted of a four mile loop and a five mile loop. The only difference between the two loops was that the five mile loop took us all the way to the bottom of the park, while the four mile loop cut the bottom part out. As a result, I faced two sets of hills twice during the course of the race. 

We got off to a slow start, but after the first mile it was easier to speed up. The west side rolling hills (set #1) took place during mile one and continued into mile two. After finishing the first mile at close to 9 minutes (my garmin always hit the mile marker earlier), I sped up to finish a mostly downhill mile two about 15 seconds faster. The one thing that bothered me was some guy who ran past me was loudly complaining about how he had to pass all of the "slow pokes". Thanks for that remark, random rude guy.

Mile three had Cat Hill (set #2) so I slowed back down a little, but I still felt good after finishing the hill. My pace was still well under my PR pace of 8:57, so after doing mile four in about 8:30, I felt confident that I was at least going to get a PR unless I fell apart in the second half of the race.

We were briefly slowed down at the start of the second loop since the transverse was split into a finishing lane, and a lane for those doing their second lap, but my pace wasn't too affected by that. I was in the middle of the second round of the west side hills when I approached the mile five marker and I realized that I hit it at almost exactly my five mile PR of 43:40.

I couldn't really eat much before the race, so I had a shot blok before starting, and I would take two more along the course before water stops. I got water a third time simply because I was really thirsty and I figured that it wouldn't affect my time too much.

I don't remember much about miles six and seven, other than the fact that I was thinking that once I did Cat Hill for the second time, the rest of the race would be easy to deal with. But then I hit the mile seven marker and then I realized something very interesting that would change the tone of the race for me...

I hit the mile seven marker at almost exactly 1:01. After doing some quick math in my head, I realized that if I completed the last 2.3 miles in under 19 minutes, I would not only PR, but I would get a sub 1:20 time. I asked myself the following: would you be as happy with your time if you didn't push it and get a sub-1:20, or would you be wondering whether taking that one extra water stop was a bad idea? Being the type-A person that I was, the answer was pretty clear.

At that point, I sped up as I started mile eight, but I knew that keeping a fast pace would be tough now that Cat Hill was coming up again. The last two miles would be very tough for me, but I just refused to slow down for any reason. I knew that it would be very close, but after completing Cat Hill I was able to speed up slightly and my last full mile ended up being my fastest. As I took the final turn towards the finish, I knew that I was going to make it, and when I crossed, my garmin said 1:19:56

Someone clearly did not do a good job of
running the tangents 

My official time ended up being 1:19:54 (8:36 pace). Considering I wasn't even hoping to PR the day before, this was the best outcome I could have hoped for.

I met up with my friends and we went to Starbucks to celebrate our great race times and drink lattes (and show off our nice race shirts, which for once wasn't white).

 When I got home, I realized that based on my HM best time on a flatter course, McMillan predicted a time of 1:19:42 - on a hillier course, I was off by only 12 seconds.

Overall, this was a great way to end my 2011 racing season, and I look forward to seeing what 2012 will bring.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Race to Deliver #2: A New 4 Mile PR & Free Broadway Tickets!

Short Version
Distance: 4 Miles
Time: 32:44 (8:11mm) - New PR and NYRR bib time
Overall Place: 1212/4501
Gender Place: 294/2384
Age Place: 96/625

Long Version
This past Sunday was the Race to Deliver, a 4 mile race that takes place in Central Park. It is put on by God's Love We Deliver, an organization that delivers meals to those who are unable to shop or cook for themselves.

This was my very first race last year, and it was an entirely different experience this time around. Last year, I had no previous races with NYRR, so I had to estimate my pace per mile when I signed up. Mom & I estimated about 11mm and we were placed in the last corral. I was excited and terrified at the same time - I had no idea what to expect in a race, and a part of me worried that I wouldn't be able to finish. However, with some good pace setting from my mom, we ended up finishing the course in 42:59 at a 10:44 pace. 

A lot has changed over the last year, even if the race shirt stayed almost exactly the same. Before this race, my best 4 mile time was a 33:33, and my NYRR bib time was 8:23, so because of that I was in the fourth coral, which is a 3xxx green bib. This time, I had a definite time goal, which was finishing in under 33 minutes, or 8:15mm. My reach goal was under 32 minutes but I knew that it was a very long shot. 

Sister Act the musical was a co-sponsor of the race this year, and so the first 500 people to pick up their race packets would receive nun-habits, and if they wore their nun habits at any point of the race (and walked up to a table), they would get two tickets to the show. Since my friend got to pick up early, she picked up my stuff and so I was able to do this. Note: I didn't race in the costume, and I literally just threw on the main part of the costume, walked up to the table, and the person let me sign up. So no costume pictures this time. 

I ran a warm-up mile, and then met up with my friend in the corral. As we were waiting for the race to start, my mother's friend ran by, but she was too far away for me to call out to her. Although I had been looking forward to this race, for some reason, I wasn't in the mood to race. I literally woke up and I thought, "ugh, another Central Park 4 mile race?" (This was a clear sign that I did too many races this year). In addition, the race started over 5 minutes late, and I was getting a little annoyed. It wasn't until I crossed the start line did the adrenaline come back, and I instantly remembered why I was out there. 

The race started out a bit slow since the people in front of me were a bit slower than I thought they would be. It didn't help that some people were barely jogging 100 meters into the race, but it didn't take long for me to get into a rhythm. (The picture on the left is me just passing the first start line. I'm the one in the grey t-shirt)

The first mile included Cat Hill, which is one of the larger hills in Central Park, but since it was at the beginning, it didn't feel that difficult. The mile marker ended up being a little short, but according to my Garmin I finished mile 1 at 8:04

Going into this race, I realized that I always tended to slow down on mile 2 of this course because it was flatter, and mentally, I was giving myself a break, so this time, I focused on trying to gain some time before the very hilly mile 3. Thankfully, it worked, and I finished mile 2 in 7:51 (but as usual, the garmin hit a mile shortly before the actual mile marker showed up).

Although I was on track for a sub-32 minute finish at this point, I knew that the three successive rolling hills on the West Side would make this very difficult to maintain. No matter how many times I do these hills (almost every day), running them easy is a different experience than racing them, especially when the first two miles are done at about an 8 minute pace. I fought as hard as possible not to slow down, and was pleasantly surprised to see a 8:12 on my garmin (the mile marker came after the garmin though so my pace was probably closer to 8:2x).

I wanted to speed up for mile 4, and although my garmin was off, I think I did a little bit. I did the last part at a faster pace, even if it wasn't reflected in mile 4 (you can see my splits here). Most of the last mile is downhill, so slowly but surely, my legs started to move faster. I started to speed up even further as I was turning around the last bend because I looked at my watch and started to worry that I wouldn't get in under 33 minutes. Thankfully, I made my goal - my garmin said 32:47 but my official time was 32:44 (8:11mm) - this is the first time I've reached BQ pace in a race - too bad it's only a 4 miler though. I was very happy with my time - to me, it was a reflection of my training for the Cape Cod Half. I would eventually like a sub-32, but hopefully it will happen next year.

My friend Abbey was within my sights for most of the race, but she finished ahead of me at exactly 32:00. After we reunited, we found her daughter, Kayleigh with the babysitter, and we set off towards the kids races. All of the races had the same finish line, but the start lines were in different spots depending on how old the kids were. The older the kids, the further back the start line. They originally planned on having the 3 & 4 year old girls run together, but they ended up splitting them. I got a picture of the adorable mother-daughter pair after the race (and also immediately decided that when I have kids, I plan on entering them into the kids races too)

How adorable is this?

Overall, it was a fun day, and I look forward to receiving the free tickets to sister act! There are more pictures to see, so if you are interested, feel free to look here. As always, thanks for reading! 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How did I become the crazy one?: Reflections on a year of running

Mom and me posing
after a midnight run
New Year's Eve
My mother started running regularly in the early nineties, and completed 4 marathons (3 NYC, 1 Boston) between 1993 and 2003. While I admired her for her accomplishments, most of my family thought that she was a little crazy, myself included. Why would anyone want to go out at 6am and run several miles around Central Park when they could be sleeping/watching TV/doing anything else?

I was never much of an athlete. I played soccer and basketball in middle school, but I wasn't especially good at either of them. But after watching the marathon year after year, and hearing about a few friends' marathon experiences, I started to think that the marathon was something worth aiming for. In other words, I got attracted to all of the hype and the mystique of doing a marathon. I also figured that I should lose weight and get in better shape, so this would be killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. I investigated my options, and decided to start running and do the 9+1 required for guaranteed entry in 2011 in order to get into the 2012 marathon.

Of course, this required actually getting out there and running. With trepidation, I went to the Central Park reservoir the day after the 2010 marathon and told myself that I wouldn't go home until I did two laps of the reservoir loop (3 miles). I ran very slowly, and I stopped more times than I wanted to admit to catch my breath, but I eventually got the miles done. Well, ok, that wasn't so bad, I thought. Let's try that again tomorrow. It felt a bit easier, and I could almost run the whole time without stopping. To my surprise, I went out 6/7 days that week and ran a total of 24 miles, joined NYRR and signed up for a 4 mile race later that month.

I completed my first race, which was 4 miles, in 42:59 (10:44 pace) about two weeks after I started running, and although it was not a fast time, I was extremely proud of myself. My mother was nice enough to pace me, and having her there made all of the difference. It was also much easier waking up in the morning when I knew that someone would be out in Central Park waiting for me.

My first 15k race in late March
I never thought that I would ever get infected with the running bug, but before I knew it, I found myself enjoying it more and more. I lost some weight, got in better physical shape, and slowly but surely got faster. I signed up for as many races as possible to keep myself motivated to keep going out there, and before I knew it, I started planning for my first half-marathon. I used to think that running was something I had to do to get in shape, like a chore, but now I find that my mornings flow much more smoothly and I concentrate better at work when I run beforehand.

Throughout the year, I had several great race experiences, and a few not so great ones, but I felt like I learned something each time, and proved to myself that I was capable of more than I thought I was. Pictures from my running journey from 2011 can be found here and here

I also made a whole new group of amazing friends from all walks of life who I would have never known had I not gotten into running. There are way too many of you to name, but other than my mother and her running buddies, you guys were the ones who tolerated my running neurosis, were supportive, and gave me advice on how to train properly. I wouldn't be the runner I was today if it weren't for the support and patience of all of you.

Since I am almost as type A as one can possibly get, it's time to evaluate what I've accomplished over the past year, and set new goals for myself for the upcoming year (and beyond).

Wallis, Rachel & me at Grete's Great Gallop HM
We clearly coordinated our outfits :P
Things I've accomplished
- Completed the 9+1 for the 2012 NYCM (ok, it was more like 20+2 - someone got a bit overenthusiastic when it came to racing this year :D )
- Raced almost every distance under the marathon in under 9mm, including my first sub-2 hour half marathon
- Ran over 1,000 miles this year so far. Final YTD number is to be determined, but my guess is somewhere near 1,300

Goals for this coming year / 2012
- Run my first marathon - ideally under 4:30 but I'll take making the NY Times
- Beat my 2011 PRs
- Run 1,500 miles for the year
- Increase base mileage (this will be easier once I graduate business school in June)
- Get an AG rating of 60% in at least one race this year (my closest was 59.41% in the 5th avenue mile)
- Get a NYRR bib time of 7:xx (current bib time is 8:23)
- Eat healthier and actually keep an accurate food log. I started to do that this year but I fell off track and never quite got back on

Long Term Goals
- Sub-4 hour marathon on the way to...
- BQ: The likelihood of happening before age 35 are slim to none. Under the new standards, BQ means doing a 8:12 pace, which I could possibly do over a 5k at most. Perhaps this will happen when I'm 40
- Do the Clam Chowder Challenge in Cape Cod

A year ago, I could have never imagined becoming a runner, and now, I feel like running is a vital part of my day to day life. I look forward to seeing what the next year brings, and hopefully all of the hard work I plan on putting in to improve my running will pay off. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Veni, Cucurri, Vici: The Cape Cod Half Race Report!

My previous HM PR had been from my first attempt at the distance, which was the Brooklyn Half back in May. My goal was to get under 2 hours, but in hindsight, I really didn't know how to properly train for a half marathon. My mileage was probably not high enough, I took my easy runs way too fast, and speedwork seemed far too intimidating to attempt. In addition, after my one attempt at taking GU gave me a bad reaction, I was too scared to try anything else in time so I only drank water during the half. Big mistake. With all being said and done, I got a 2:01:50 after bonking in the second half, so that gave me hope that I could get a sub-2 half in the future.

I started training for the Cape Cod Half 12 weeks out, after taking a week to recover from the Queens HM, which I had trained more efficiently for, but didn't PR at since it was way too hot out. I used a smart coach plan I generated based on my half-PR, and managed to hit almost every workout on the plan. I peaked at 37 miles, and averaged around 30 mpw for the entire thing. I felt that this was my best cycle yet for a few reasons: I incorporated speed intervals for the first time, I got over my fear of doing them on the treadmill, and I managed to include two additional HMs as training runs and earn my 4/5 to get entry into the NYC half.

My parents were nice enough to come with me to the Cape to cheer me on - they probably also came because the Cape is simply an awesome place to be in the fall, so I was able to get a ride up from them. The five hour drive to the Cape was fairly scenic. We stopped at a popular diner that also had a used bookstore inside of it. I was amazed to see that there was already some snow covering the ground in the area. There was a possible threat of rain/snow earlier in the week, but thankfully it wasn't going to happen until a couple of hours after I finished my race at the earliest. It was still supposed to be cold, so I ended up going with a long sleeved tech shirt instead of my usual short sleeves.

After checking into our hotel, we went to number pickup at the local high school and I got the lowest bib number I would ever receive in a race since it was done based on the order of registration (as in there is no way I'll ever be fast enough to get #25 in a NYRR race). They actually had a special edition of their town newspaper where they printed up all of our names, bib numbers, and our previous best times (if we submitted them). They had the same thing for the marathoners. I did feel better once someone told me that there would be volunteers marshaling the course so that I couldn't make a wrong turn somewhere. After walking around town a bit, and having a nice pre-race meal of pizza with a glass of white wine, I got an early night and plenty of sleep.

I woke up at 6am, got ready quickly, ate my usual pre-race half of a bagel, and then we drove five minutes to the post office where most people were standing outside waiting. It was dark when we left, but as we arrived it started to get lighter out. After using the porta-potty, I stood around feeling awkward because it seemed that most people knew at least one other person. I eventually started talking to another girl who had the same time goal as I did, and we decided to start out together. At about 7:20, we all started to line up. There were no corrals, so I settled for somewhere in the middle of the pack.

I didn't know this at the time, but the person who was supposed to sing the national anthem was not able to make it, so they asked the audience for volunteers. Someone clearly stepped up to the plate, and moments later, we heard a loud gun go off. As I crossed the start, I pressed the start button on my garmin and off we went!

I ended up losing my running buddy shortly after the start when I started passing people. To me it felt like people were barely moving, but maybe I should have lined up a bit further towards the front. I tried to enjoy the scenery as I got a pace, and eventually I was hovering close to where I wanted to be. However, the one "crisis" of the race arose when I glanced at my garmin to find that it was....going into POWERSAVE????? I don't know what happened there, but I quickly reset my garmin and decided to wait until the mile 1 marker to restart. That's why my splits only include the last 12.24 miles. As I passed the marker, I heard a volunteer say that it had been about nine minutes, but after comparing my final time with my garmin time, it must have been around 8:41. I kept re-adding nine minutes to the watch to see how I was really doing throughout the race to be on the conservative side.

I had told myself that I wouldn't go faster than 8:45 (ideally 8:50-9:00) for most of the race, and I managed to stay close to that on average for the first 10 miles. I knew that I was going on the faster side, but I figured that the hills from miles 6-9 would slow me down and that I would reevaluate once those were done. The miles seemed to go by very quickly, and I had the mental advantage of knowing that I was really one mile ahead of what my garmin told me. Most of the route was very scenic, and in the earlier part of the race, we were running along a bike path that was right along the beach, so there were a lot of pretty views. I even managed to take my eyes off of the garmin long enough to enjoy them for some of the race. There was very little traffic on the route - there were maybe 5 cars and 1 bike and they weren't a big deal.

My parents were waiting for me at around the halfway point on a bridge. They got to see all of the runners go under the bridge, then come around onto the bridge itself before passing by. My dad took pictures of the lead runners as they passed. Eventually, I came around, and there were pictures taken. At the time, I was talking to a Scottish guy who was doing both the half that day and the full marathon the next day - otherwise known as the Clam Chowder Challenge (the Massachusetts version of the Goofy Challenge). When I passed them, I gave her the hat she loaned me since I no longer needed it.

Shortly after the halfway point, we hit the rolling hills they were talking about. I thought that I would slow down significantly, but I didn't find the hills to be such a big deal after the hills of Central Park. I think I actually sped up during those miles. As I was getting to mile 10, I realized I was speeding up and decided to go with it for the final 5k. I realized around that time that sub-2 was almost certainly going to happen. It was simply a question of by how much, and that by itself inspired me to go faster towards the finish. Other than a sore ankle towards the end, I felt great all the way up to the end.

There were two sets of costumes that were particularly memorable to me. There were these two girls who wore green t-shirts that said "two peas in a pod" and two girls dressed up as insects. I ended up playing passing games with them before passing all of them in the end. The girl I had lost at the beginning of the race ended up finishing less than a minute behind me, and I saw her at the end as well.

As I approached the final half a mile, I turned around the bend to see people cheering, and was surprised to hear many people yell out my name. How did so many people know my name? (my mother apparently told them to cheer for me so that she could run towards the finish line). I vaguely heard my dad shout "you're going to get under 1:55!" - I didn't believe him but as I went around the bend and crossed the finish line, I realized that he was right - I crossed the finish line when the clock still said 1:54:xx. Later on I found out that my gun time was 1:54:45 and my net time was 1:54:27. I was stunned - I was expecting 1:58 as a best case scenario. In fact, three days later I'm still kind of in shock.

Yes, the craziness runs in the family, or at least on one side, at any rate
This was my first non-NYRR race, and I was very pleased with how well the race was organized. The course was beautiful, and I enjoyed doing a smaller race for a change. There were only a couple of things that I wasn't thrilled about. Their water stations could have been spaced out a little better - there was one at mile 3, then one at mile 4.8, but we didn't see another station for a while after that. It kind of messed with my nutrition, but I ended up taking one shot blok at mile 5, 7 and 9 and it seemed to work out. Also, they determined all AG placements by gun time, not net time. Looking at my results, there were people who were really faster than me who were placed behind me, and people who were slower than me who were placed ahead of me. I would care more about that, but since I was 62 out of over 200 people in the 14-39 year old open division, it didn't really make much of a difference. Still, assuming my first marathon goes well, I will probably come back within the next few years to do their full marathon (or maybe even their Clam Chowder Challenge :D )

I picked up a pretty purple medal (my first medal for running a half, and only my second medal for a race) along with my long-sleeved t-shirt at the marathon expo, and then went out to brunch with my parents and one of my college friends that lived in the area. Don't those pumpkin pancakes look amazing? Unfortunately, our drive back wasn't so pleasant, but we eventually made it back through the snowstorm (even if the trip took 3 hours longer than it was supposed to).

In the end, I had a great experience, and I'm very happy with the results of my training. If anyone is interested in seeing all of the pictures, they can find them here. I'd also like to give a shout out to all of my running buddies, and thank them for having the patience to listen to me constantly talk about it for the past several months. Hopefully I'll be able to get a sub-2 hour time in my next NYRR half as well. Next up? I aim to smash my four mile PR at the Race to Deliver later this month so that I can lower my NYRR bib time. My one year running anniversary is also exactly a week from today, so I intend on posting about that as well.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cape Cod Half Marathon Update: Race Logistics and Goals

In less than two weeks, I will be running the Cape Cod marathon, and now that I have more information on race day logistics, it is time to start thinking obsessing (even more than I already am) about every single minute detail!

Bib Number / Pickup: I almost missed the email because it hit my spam box, but thankfully their website said they sent out emails so I was able to find it. I am #25 - the bib number must have been determined by the order of registration. For NYRR races I will never have a bib number that is less than four digits long.

B Tag vs. D Tag: The Cape Cod Marathon uses B Tags. This means that instead of fastening a separate tag on the shoe, your race bib has the timing chip taped to it. So bending the bib or hiding it under clothing is generally a bad idea. I've only raced once with a B Tag and it seemed to work out, but it also helps that I'll probably be wearing only one layer for this race.

Baggage/Pre-race stuff: Apparently baggage will be stored in plastic bags in a truck. If I can't shower in my hotel room, there are available showers at the school so I'll pack spare clothes and shower stuff along with my phone.

Lining Up: All participants can line up in the staging area between 6:15 and 7:20. I'll probably make sure to line up by 7am if possible (after using the restroom, checking my baggage, etc).

Course Map/Elevation: The course has a small out and back in the beginning for the first few miles, then kind of travels south along the coast to a turn-around point, then more inland on the way back. According to the race website, the course is "generally flat except for some rolling hills between miles 6.5 and 9.5". The course will be marked with mile signs and turns indicated by "1/2" in white paint. For the first time, I'm a bit nervous that I'll miss a turn and end up getting lost somewhere on Cape Cod. Hopefully there will be some course marshals out there in case. In addition, the roads will NOT be closed to traffic, which will be a first for me. I can deal with running on the right side of the road, but I will not be happy pissed off if my goal time is compromised due to waiting for traffic.

Course Amenities: There will be two porta-potties on the course at miles 4 and 9.8 but hopefully I won't have to use either one. There will be water stations every 3 miles along the course, which is very important information when considering my fueling strategy. If I run at my goal pace, that will mean that there will be approximately 27 minutes in between each water station. I have gone that long in previous races, so I'm not extremely worried about it, but if it's much hotter than I predict it will be, I reserve the right to take my handheld, but I hope that won't be the case because I'd rather not carry anything extra. Assuming I don't have to take my handheld, I'll need to take my shot bloks just before hitting the mile 6 water station. It's a bit earlier than I would like to take them, as I usually take them every hour, but waiting until mile 9 wouldn't be the best idea. This week I am practicing taking water every 3 miles in Central Park, and if I can do it over easy runs, which take longer, I should be more than fine for race day.

Finish Line: Times will be posted at the nearby school. They also have a post-race meal, but I'll probably go out somewhere with my parents after I check my official time. I'd rather not wait until the evening to check them online if I don't have to, but at least I'll have my garmin so I won't be too far off in the worst case scenario.

My Goals for Cape Cod: I have decided on my A, B, and C goals. They are as follows...
A. Finish in under 1:58:30
B. Finish in under 2 hours
C. Finish in under 2:01:50 (my current PR)
D. Clearly something went very wrong. Re-evaluate, and then focus on getting sub-2 in either the Manhattan Half or the NYC Half early next year (and try not to spontaneously combust at the two hour mark wherever I am on the course)

Pacing Strategy: I plan on sticking to a 8:50-9:00mm pace until mile 10. If my garmin goes below 8:45mm I will immediately pull back. If I take 10-15 seconds to walk through both water stations, I will lose approximately 30 seconds total throughout the first half, which won't be a major deal since 9:09 is really the slowest pace I can do and still get sub-2. At mile 10, if I am feeling good, I will speed up and do the final 5k at around 8:40-8:45mm. If I am starting to feel tired, I will do my best to maintain 9mm.

I'll try and keep things in perspective and have fun, but I feel that if I was able to get so close to sub-2 in the Brooklyn Half (where I made tons of rookie mistakes), I should be able to achieve it this time barring any unforeseen circumstances. Training has gone very well this cycle, and I have managed to incorporate all of my speedwork and tempo runs in (with the exception of changing one tempo run to an easy run due to a cold). While a part of me knows that I should be able to do this, I'm too cautious paranoid to count my chickens before they hatch.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Note to self: Never run a half marathon the day after fasting

This last week was a significant week for a couple of reasons:

 1. I got my 4/5 borough halves needed for guaranteed entry to the NYC half next year - Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx (credit) and Staten Island (more on the Staten Island race below)
2. I hit the 1,000 mile mark for the year this past Friday

Staten Island was a tough race for me, but I only anticipated one of the following obstacles
1. I had a bad cold a few days before
2. The day before was Yom Kippur - that meant 27 hours of complete fasting that's hard to recover from in less than 12 hours (this I anticipated)
3. Hills! Whoever said this course was mostly flat was clearly mistaken
4. The heat - isn't this supposed to be a FALL race?

Last night, I had a major headache and my stomach was upset from breakfast, so I was extremely nervous going to sleep. Thankfully, I had taken theraflu the day before and my cold had gone away, but I still felt under the weather from fasting.

I woke up the next morning, and felt ok, so I got ready to head to the terminal. Rachel had stayed over, so we split a cab to get there by 7am. We get there by 7am to find an already crowded terminal. We met up with my friends Nicole and Abbey, and we met Nicole's sister in law Kelly and her friend. In hindsight, it probably would have been smarter to go for the 6:30am ferry, but I had been told that runners had always managed to get on in the past. Also, at the time, I just was not in the mood to spend an extra hour and a half on Staten Island. Because my friends and I were close to the doors when the ferry loaded, we got on, but there was a large group of runners who had been waiting for almost half an hour that weren't nearly as lucky. I would end up seeing much faster runners pass me during the race since they got such a late start.

The ferry left late, so it was already 8:10 when we got to Staten Island. I knew that I needed to use the restroom before we started, so Abbey, Rachel and I stopped while the others made their way towards the race. Once we left, Abbey rushed ahead while Rachel and I made our way to baggage. I checked my bag, and as we went towards the corrals they started to collapse. Thankfully we were still able to get into my corral just in time for the national anthem. This was definitely the closest I have come to being late to a race, and I have no plans on cutting it that close again.

This was never meant to be a goal race. That is still about 20 days away at this point. In fact, due to timing, I almost did not attempt the 4/5, but that ended up being the only reason why I showed up at the starting line. Therefore, I used this as a long training run instead.

The first five to six miles were honestly just awful. Despite eating an entire bagel with cream cheese before hand (I usually only eat half), I just had no energy on the course and I had to force myself to keep going. If I hadn't been going for my 4/5, I could have easily just walked off that course with no regrets. By the way, where did those HILLS come from? I was told that this course was "fast and flat"! At least we were treated to some nice views of the bay. Too bad it was far too warm outside for a fall race to enjoy it.

There was music all along the first part of the course, and it made things slightly more bearable for me. This was the second time I ended up listening to Lady Gaga songs during a race. I carried a water bottle, something I wouldn't usually do for a fall race, but it was a much warmer day than it should be in October and I knew I had a hydration deficit from the day before.

Just before mile 5, we saw the leaders heading back towards us and they looked very strong. The first place male finisher was far ahead of the pack at this point. We ran towards the halfway point, and I slowly but surely started to feel better after walking through a water stop.

As we headed back, we saw our friend Gary looking strong out there as he made his way towards the halfway point. We looked for Nicole as well - she saw us but we missed her. Then we approached the one hill we actually got warned about - it was steep, but no worse than facing Harlem Hill, and after that, the rest of the race didn't seem so bad. I think that drinking lots of water on the course and taking my usual shot bloks halfway probably contributed to a better second half.

I took off in the last minute or so of the race and had a fast finish, but overall my time was 2:12:33 (10:08mm) - you can see my splits here. Clearly this was not a PR, but considering how I felt going into the race, I consider this a victory, especially when I put things in perspective: in the New Years race, I did 4 miles at a 10:08 pace, and that was my PR. Now, I'm doing that for a half marathon, and that's not even close to being my best time. In fact, I probably should not have gone faster than 10:15 per mile, but thankfully I was close enough that I could still count this as an easy training run.

All of us met up at the end for a bit, then Abbey, Rachel and I rushed to make the 11:30 ferry out since we were all completely exhausted from the race. We sat on the top deck this time, and had a nice view of the ride home (see pic above for a view of the Statue of Liberty). I enjoyed the race overall, but I'm not sure I would do it next year, especially since the ferry on Sundays is a big pain to deal with.

To summarize, here is what I learned today:
1. Never do a half marathon the day after a fast (I can't imagine doing Chicago after Yom Kippur - I wonder how those people did it)
2. Take the earlier ferry, even if it means getting there ridiculously early
3. The Staten Island course is not flat nor does it have any shade

Only 19 more days until I'm in Cape Cod getting ready for my goal race!

Monday, October 3, 2011

It takes a lot of patience and restraint to use a HM as a training run...

This past week was a cutback week for me, so I was only supposed to do a total of about 26 miles with a "long run" of about 5 miles. But that weekend I saw that Grete's Great Gallop was going on in Central Park. I figured that it would be fun to do it as a long training run with friends. Also, the race was the second one this year that honored the late Grete Waitz, who died of cancer this year.

Since it was a cutback week, I had no tempo runs or speed work scheduled. To compensate for the added distance in my long run, I cut down to running four days instead of five. I had a few easy 4-5 milers that went pretty well.

After celebrating Rosh Hashanah on Thursday and Friday, I was all ready to go on Saturday. Rachel had stayed over that night and planned on doing an extra 7 miles beforehand. As she was about to leave, she realized that her garmin didn't properly charge and was dead. Or so she says. I'm convinced she did it on purpose so that I wouldn't be able to speed ahead ;)

I run a warm up mile down to the race, check the baggage, and wait in Rachel's corral for her and Wallis. Since it was a club points race, we were almost in the nose bleed section even though all three of us had bib times under nine minute miles. Supposedly, there were really nice words said about Grete but I couldn't hear what was going on up front. While I was waiting, I ended up meeting a girl who went to my school and had a couple of mutual friends. Small world, huh?

I found Rachel and Wallis, and after a few minutes, the race began. I had my stopwatch on, but I didn't bother using it. This was my first time using a half marathon as a training run, and I found it very difficult to keep a slow and steady pace, especially since I wasn't wearing my garmin. Had I been on my own, I probably would have taken it too fast and ended up racing it. To my credit though, I only needed to be told a few times to slow down. Running slow is much more difficult than it looks!

My parents and grandparents were waiting for us shortly after mile two, and snapped a few pictures of us. I gave a thumbs up as I passed to indicate that I was feeling pretty good so far. In fact, I felt good the entire time, which made sense since it was a training run and not a race for me. My hamstring was slightly sore but it was nothing stretching couldn't cure. In fact, my only real issue was that I had to use the restroom for most of the race, but not badly enough to stop.

We were lapped by the male leaders on our first loop, and I think I heard the female leader approaching the finish line as we were running past it heading into our second loop. I almost am never lapped on a loop course in Central Park, so it was a real treat to see the elite athletes run past us. They make running look easy!

Our splits were pretty consistent. It's Rachel's 20 miler - I didn't do the first 7 miles and my last mile was slightly faster since I pulled ahead, but I think you'll get the idea.

Over the last couple of months, I learned that one has to be patient and keep their eyes on the prize. As much as my ego is bruised to have a time of 2:16:53 as a half marathon time on record, I just have to keep telling myself that I can't let all of my hard work towards the Cape Cod Half go to waste.

The next couple of weeks are my hardest weeks yet - I have 36 and 37 miles on the schedule respectively. In addition, I have to fast the day before the Staten Island half, so I've been drinking Gatorade every day to compensate for the loss of nutrition/electrolytes I will surely have on Saturday. If I weren't trying for the 4/5 I wouldn't have bothered signing up for a race the day after Yom Kippur, but there you have it. If I'm smart, I won't finish SI much under 2:10 or so but we'll see what actually happens.

After a rough start of feeling under the weather and not running yesterday, I had a nice easy 5 miler today. I was able to adjust my schedule for the rest of the week, and hopefully all will go according to plan.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The 5th Avenue Mile: mile long races are actually fun! (RR)

Background: I somehow managed to avoid doing any timed miles in PE class over the years, so I went into this race with no idea of what to expect. The fastest I had done a mile was at 7:43 during speed training. Based on my HM time, McMillan told me I would finish a mile in 7:37 or so. I didn't know how accurate predicting a mile time based on a HM time was, but I figured that I would be happy with anything below 7:45

Race Day: I had 11 miles on tap for today, so I figured that I would complete 3-4 before the race, and do the remainding mileage afterwards. It was very humid out, so after 3 miles I headed over to the race. I missed heat #1 (media people) but I got there in time to see the lone person in the wheelchair/handicycle division take off. Heat #3 lined up (8-14 year olds of both genders) and my heat got ready to go right behind them (15-29 year old females). As soon as the kids took off, we lined off in the starting area. It was one big corral, so I wasn't quite sure where to line up, so I got towards the back so that I wouldn't be trampled on.

Race: And we're off! The first few seconds were a bit cramped, but I quickly settled into a groove. But then disaster strikes - my left shoelace decided to come undone 100 meters into the race. . Since stopping wasn't an option, I kept going and hoped that I wouldn't trip. Since the field was spread out, no one was close enough to me to be tripped.

Running down 5th avenue was such a treat, and it was something that few New Yorkers ever get to do (without risking being run over)! I started off very strongly - about 1/4 of a mile in I was on course for a sub-7 minute mile. Then we hit a hill that lasted almost until the halfway point - the avenue never seemed this hilly before! I recovered quickly but I knew that I wouldn't be able to keep a sub-7 pace for the whole mile. Still, I gave it my all, and pushed as hard as I could to the finish. I crossed the line before the gun time said 7:15

Result: Official time was 7:04! Much better than I could have hoped for. My AG percentage was a 59.4% - my highest yet!

After my race was over, I ran a few miles and then came back to watch my friend compete. Overall, it was an amazing experience. I learned a few valuable lessons along the way:

1. A mile race can be at least as difficult as an HM to do correctly (if not more so!)
2. Retie the shoelaces before starting just in case
3. Warm-Up miles are crucial, but they become less effective when you have to stand in your heat for a long time

Unfortuantely I have no pictures of the actual race - I didn't take my phone with me. I just took one of me afterwards before I changed. If I get any brightroom pictures I will update. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Reflections on a Juggling Act

I have been very spoiled this summer. Since I was on vacation from school, I was able to increase my mileage and still get to bed early enough in order to get enough sleep at night. I was actually able to fit in a social life, and it was a very fun experience. I also played my instrument with my pops group a few times as well, and got a bit of practice time in.

However, all of that ended last week when I started school again. Getting enough sleep to wake up for morning runs between 4-8 miles during the week has been much more difficult now that I can't get to bed before 11pm at least two nights a week. In addition, I will be starting up Wind Ensemble next week, meaning that I will be out late three nights during the week.

This wasn't as much of an issue last year simply because as a newer runner, I wasn't as dedicated, and I did maybe 20 miles per week at most. Now, I am following a training plan for a half marathon in October that averages close to 30 miles per week, and it is much harder to make up runs if I miss it. Even without factoring in a social life, my schedule is looking pretty daunting, especially since both of my classes are reading and writing intensive.

So this brings me to the question of the day - have I bitten off more than I can chew? I pride myself on being the girl who can "do it all", but when is it time to say that something has to give? If it's too much, what has to give?

I'll have a lot to think about over the next couple of weeks, but I will do everything I can to keep all of the balls in the air. Hopefully my time management skills will be up to the task.

Which brings me to wonder - how does everyone else juggle all of the things going on in their lives?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Best Laid Plans...

So, by this time tomorrow I had hoped to at least make, if not achieve, another sub-2 hour HM attempt. However, a certain someone named Irene had other plans.

So instead of a race report, I'll briefly discuss how my Cape Cod Half Marathon Training is going!

Three weeks have gone by so far, and already, I'm doing a better job training this time around. Not only have I hit my long runs on schedule, including a HM long run on Friday night to make up for the Bronx, but I have finally executed two tempo runs. I was supposed to do about 9mm and I did within the 8:50s across 3 miles with very little variation, so I was happy about that.

My speed work is also slowly progressing. I have only done one workout so far, and while I ended up taking my fast workouts too fast, it made feel better knowing that I could do my upcoming mile race at a sub-8 minute pace. Still, when I attempt my next speed workout next week, I'll try and reign it in a little. I've also been advised to vary the interval lengths a little bit, so I'll look into doing that as well.

Last weekend, I attended Long Training Run #2, which NYRR held in Central Park. I met up with Kathy and Wallis, and the three of us ran with Wallis' friend. The pacers we started out with went too fast, but on our second loop we had a pacer who stayed steadily at a 10:30 pace. I got 11 miles in successfully, and probably could have eked out another couple of miles had I wanted to.

On a different note, I discovered that doing a long run at night was more difficult for me than I thought it would be. Even though I completed the 13.1 miles in lieu of doing the now cancelled Bronx half, it was far more difficult to do so without either the race or company as a motivator. Still, the miles got done, and now I am watching the rain pour down in the city.

This represents a major mental shift to me - when I first started out back in November, I wouldn't have thought that missing a run was a major deal, but this week, I felt that missing my long run was simply not an option, so I did what I needed to do to ensure it didn't happen, even if it meant running at a time that was not ideal to me. I guess I've finally become an addict :P

I'm probably going to order a couple of running books to read - I'm thinking of getting the Pfitz book and the Glover book - I've heard great reviews from several running friends and I know I still have a great deal to learn.

Next week is a cut-back week for me, so I look forward to getting some quality cross training in before NYSC shuts down the pool for its annual cleaning. I hope the hurricane doesn't do too much damage this weekend!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Queens Half Marathon: Around the World & Through the Maze

This past Saturday, I ran the Queens Half Marathon in Flushing Meadow Park, and I had a completely different experience than I had for the Brooklyn Half. If you look at finish times alone, you would think that Brooklyn went better for me since I got a 2:05 in Queens and a 2:02 in Brooklyn. However, the times don't tell the whole story.

I went to number pick-up Thursday, and ran into Amy as I was coming down the stairs, and we talked about our goals for Queens. In my head, I still had the unrealistic goal of doing a sub-2 half, even knowing that it would be an impossibility in the heat, but I figured that a girl could dream. My thought was that if I found myself doing 9mm at the beginning, and felt ok, that I would hold on to that as long as possible.

I had Rachel over Friday night and we grabbed Italian, along with bagels for the next morning. The bagel place had some amazing looking frozen hot chocolates, and we decided then and there that those would be our reward for finishing tomorrow. After getting to sleep by 9:30pm or so, I woke up before 5am to shower. I had never tried that before, but I figured it would wake me up. It wasn't completely successful but it was a start. We made sure to pack our waters, fuel, etc, and then we picked up our friend Wallis in a cab. Of course, out of all the cab drivers in NYC, we got the one driver who didn't know his way around Queens.

Nevertheless, we arrived at the start at around 6:20, dropped off the baggage and used the porta-potty before splitting up into our corrals. To my pleasant surprise, I saw someone I had paced with in Van Cortlandt park, so we decided to run together at least in the beginning. After the national anthem, there was a 15 minute delay, but then we finally got to start the HM.

The course looked very confusing on paper, but on the ground, it was very easy to know where you were going. Besides, not being in the front of the pack certainly helped, but the course marshals were very good at directing everyone. I wasn't necessarily sure where I was, and there were a few points early on when we were teased with the higher mile markers, but overall, I enjoyed the course. It was flat for the most part, and had this race been held in April, then it would have been a great opportunity for most people to PR.

According to NYRR, the temperature was 77 degrees with 60 percent humidity. I decided to try and not look at my watch for the first mile to see where my pace naturally fell. Of course, I still looked at the watch anyway, but I didn't let it affect my pace. When it beeped (as usual, ahead of the actual mile marker), I noticed it said 9:40 (the first mile would actually take 9:50. It was at that moment I realized that a sub-2 half was NOT happening. I was finally able to let that delusion go.

Unfortunately, I lost my friend to the porta-potty, so I continued on alone. I remember passing the zoo at some point, and I heard an elephant roaring in the background. Sometime during mile 5, I looked up to see faster runners going towards me - we hit an out and back loop and the runners coming back were wearing red and yellow bibs for the most part. I kind of glanced over to see whether I knew any of the faster crowd, and I didn't, but I still cheered them on. I didn't realize it at the time, but my friend from Wind Ensemble saw me running, and she was about 15 minutes ahead of me overall. As I was running back, I saw my friend again, and she waved to me, but that was the last time I saw her. Apparently Lady Gaga was watching her friend somewhere around the mile 9 mark, but even if I had known in advance, I might have not seen her. Knowing that she was watching us run is still pretty cool.

After an hour of running, I took three shot bloks. Two of them were the margarita flavored ones with extra sodium - they all would have been that flavor, but I ran out and they didn't have any more at the Jack Rabbit store. I had a 22 ounce handheld with me, and the misting stations on the course were very effective in keeping my body temperature down. I had not planned to stop at any water stations to save time, but sometime in between the mile 7 and 8 marker, I realized that I was running low. I decided to keep a little in the tank in case I really needed it between water stations. I ended up walking through the water stations for about 10 seconds - just long enough to pick up a water, drink most of it, then dump the rest on my head. I barely lost any time on it, and I think it was a good strategy.

As I got closer to the finish, I realized that a sub-2:05 finish was a possibility, so I gunned the last mile or so as fast as possible. Alas, I missed it only by a few seconds and got an official time of 2:05:02. Although this time was slower than my Brooklyn time, there were several things that I did this time around that I didn't do during Brooklyn that probably cost me my sub-2 finish a couple of months ago
1) Handheld water bottle - did not have one for Brooklyn
2) Race nutrition - I didn't have any nutrition during the Brooklyn half other than water. The shot bloks definitely made a difference in terms of energy levels
3) Good pacing - if you compare the Garmin Splits between Queens and Brooklyn, it is obvious that the Queens splits were far more even. I clearly went out too fast for Brooklyn (something I wouldn't admit back then), and then lack of nutrition ensured that I bonked around mile 10.
4) Better training - I followed a Smart Coach plan, and although I didn't do the amount of speedwork that I should have done due to the extreme heat, I felt that this plan played a role in my improvement.

So that's why I felt I did a better job in Queens even though my time was ultimately not as good. After the race, I took a couple of more shot bloks, had a piece of fruit, and waited for my friends to come along. I had been worried about Rachel since she had been under the weather, but she and Wallis finished, and Amy finished around the same time as they did. The four of us navigated the subway system - which is always SO fun during the weekend, and once we got back, Rachel and I rewarded ourselves with our promised frozen hot chocolates.

There is still plenty of room for improvement
1) Better eating habits - now that I have a roommate who cooks, I might be able to pool in with her for healthier foods and groceries. It's hard to eat healthy when I don't have time to gocery shop, especially during the school year.
2) Body glide - I managed to notice that my thighs were red during the race and prevented further damage by pulling down my shorts, but I should start incorporating that.
3) More speedwork /tempo runs

Since I'm on vacation in Cape Cod, I have a light week of running, and am focusing more on biking, but next week, I will start a 12-week training program for the Cape Cod Half Marathon on October 29th. I'm gunning for sub-2 again. Although I know it will eventually happen, I hope that it happens in 2011. Only time will tell!

Wallis, Rachel and I at the finish

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Boomer's Cystic Fibrosis Run to Breathe (10K)

Last Saturday, I ran the Boomer's 10K in Central Park. This was the first 10K that I participated in that went counter-clockwise, which is my direction of choice. I had no expectations of a PR, but I at least wanted to get below my worst time at the Healthy Kidney race. My manager picked up my bib for me, and I was pleased to see that I was once again in the 3000 corral.

I left a bit later than I wanted to after eating a few shot bloks, so I took the train down to 68th street and then jogged to Central Park from there. I headed over to meet Nicole and Abbey at baggage check, and the three of us headed to the starting corrals. I was going to start with Abbey, but since she decided to warm up a bit more, we missed each other in the corrals, especially since they broke down so quickly. After Boomer Esiason spoke about his son's struggles with Cystic Fibrosis (and called us all crazy for running in this heat), the National Anthem was sung, and we were off!

Mile 1, which included Cat Hill as usual went pretty well, and I felt good, but as I finished, I knew after 8:53 or so that it would not be a PR day. I would only get slower when confronted with Harlem and the west side hills. Nonetheless, I kept going, and during the course of mile 2, I saw Abbey and caught up with her for a brief second before she got ahead of me once more. I was pleasantly surprised to see a misting station up ahead of me, and as I ran through it, I felt a burst of energy which helped me to complete my fastest mile of the race at 8:44.

By the time I approached Harlem Hill, the heat and humidity started to get to me, but I at least stayed at the same pace throughout the hills of mile 3 and 4. Unfortunately, both miles were at 9:25 so any chance at a PR was long gone. There was a misting station, but it was a smaller one and did not have the same effect.

I picked up the pace over the last two miles though, and completed mile 5 in 9:03. After I crossed that mile marker, I went all out and completed mile 6 as fast as possible on my tired legs. I completed mile 6 in 9:00 minutes flat, and then proceeded to completed the remaining .24 in 2:03. My total unofficial time was 56:36, and my official time was 56:33. Although I was over 2 minutes slower than my 10K PR at the Mini, I felt that I ran a smart race. I stayed consistent on the hills, and I pushed my pace, but not to the point of injury or illness.

After a fun race, I found Abbey and Nicole at baggage. I met up with a coworker at the festivities. My manager was unfortunately under the weather and could not participate. Nicole and I went to get some post-race coffee and hung out by the 68th street train station before we went our separate ways. Although I didn't PR, I had a great time doing the race and would consider doing it next year if it works with my marathon training schedule

Next up: LTR #1 - my first attempt to run 15 miles. I will have better pictures since my hair is now straight, and hopefully my bib will have arrived in the mail by then!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fourth of July Trail HM

The last time I ran in Van Cortlandt Park, it was Christmas Day, and I had been running for less than two months, so suffice to say, the 10K loop was quite the challenge. Now, several months later, I was there to do twice that distance. I had no time expectations because of the difficulty of the course except to just finish it.

I travelled up with my friends Wallis and Vicki and we arrived at the site fairly early. I met up with my other friend Rebecca, who only planned on doing one loop. We hung out for a bit, collected some free stuff they handed out, including a free bandana, and made sure we used the bathroom beforehand. After taking some pictures, we were ready to go.

Looking back, I probably should have warmed up a bit more (or rather, at all) but you live and you learn. At least I got the nutrition part right. Next time I'll jog from the train to the event.

Wallis and I stuck together for most of the first loop, and it was far more difficult than I anticipated. We were going slowly at first due to the traffic, but as we progressed, I realized that the trail itself was getting to me. I wasn't used to running through the woods, much less the muddy trails, and quite frankly, I was acting like a little girl. Several times, I considered quitting, but I plodded through. There were some very rough hills which I had to walk up, but as I finished the first loop, I felt some of my energy start to return, and I knew I'd be ok for at least most of the second loop so I continued. I stopped for a water refill, and ate a few shot bloks before continuing.

Since the public bathroom was closed, I snuck into the golf club bathroom. After that, I got back on the trail to complete the second loop. I started to tire by mile 9, but by then I found someone on the trail ahead of me who was running by themselves, so I joined them and started a conversation. The last four miles would have been horrible without my new friend, but we made it through. My finishing time was almost 2:35. about 30 minutes more than my usual HM time, but as my friend put it, XC courses deserve their own PRs. You can see my splits here. It's pretty clear which mile I used the restroom - without that time I probably would have gotten a 2:30 but during a race, time doesn't stop for anything.

It was a difficult course, but if I could complete it even with a later starting time, even on a much tougher course, I know that I can handle the Queens Half. Although it was technically a free race, I donated $10 since I would like to break my XC PR on Labor Day, and they need the funds to hold this race! I'm already looking forward to Labor Day!

My further adventures in cross training!

So, I said I would be posting my 30 mile bike report shortly. Over two weeks later, I still hadn't done it. Oops! I apologize to those who were eagerly waiting my report. I will write about it now, and I will also include some other cross training highlights.

Even before I started taking my physical fitness seriously, I always enjoyed biking. I have done 30 mile rides on my old mountain bike, plus several trips on the Cape over the years. But after I started running, I noticed that biking became far easier. It also helps that I was able to use my mother's hybrid bike, but my improvement in physical fitness played a very large role in my successes over the last few months.

So, I did my 30 mile bike ride with my parents. It was a very fun experience. It was well organized, and there were a few rest stops along the way. Some highlights included biking across the World's Longest Pedestrian Bridge. The picture on the left is of me and my mom as we waited for the rest of our group to catch up. Other than that, there were some nice back roads towards the end. The rest stops were well organized, and I split a couple of PB&Js with my dad along the road. Despite some hills and having to go slowly around people, I averaged 5 minute miles per my garmin splits. I was a little disappointed to discover that the course was only 27.66 miles. Also, some of the course was on main roads where the shoulders were dangerously narrow. The t-shirt I received was way too large, but I can always use that as a nightgown since there were no extra smalls.

On the whole, I have gotten better at biking. I've also done a couple of longer bike rides. This past weekend, I went on a 15 mile bike ride. The last mile is the one I'm the most proud of. The road leading up to my parent's upstate place consists of three hills, and I managed to ride up all three of them without stopping. It was an amazing moment. If you look at my garmin splits, you'll appreciate how tough this elevation was.

I plan on continuing to bike whenever I go upstate, which is hopefully once a week, and in September, I am signed up for the 30 mile Twin Lights Bike ride in New Jersey with my parents. My mother's friend has done it before, and said that it is a great experience. I'd like to do a longer distance someday, but they didn't have a 44 miler, and 55 seemed to be too much.

I have never been much of a swimmer. In fact, when I took lessons in fourth grade at school I was always by far one of the slowest. However, whenever I visited my grandparents in Florida over the past few years, I started swimming some laps while I was there. My form probably still isn't the best, but I can probably swim about a quarter of a mile. I would like to get stronger at it, so I recently switched back to NYSC so that I can get into a pool twice a week. It's a small pool, but getting the distance in is key, especially now that I have a new goal for next year.

Strength Training / Gym Routines
As a new member of NYSC, I was given the opportunity to have a free fitness evaluation with a Personal Trainer. I had very good stats, including a good resting heart rate and blood pressure. I managed to do 25 pushups in one minute, which surprised me considering I'm terrible at them. I also managed to do 54 crunches, 30 lunges, and 17 burpees (never heard of them before today lol). I also learned how to use a foam roller. I know my running friends will be scandalized to know I've never used one before but there you go. I also learned some weight routines I can try out as well.

So what's my new goal for next year? In addition to the NYCM next November, I will also be doing the NYRR Sprint Triathalon in July 2012. It involves a 400m swim, a 13.1 mile bike ride, and a 5K. I am capable of doing the second two parts easily, but I need to improve my swimming, which is one of the reasons why I switched gyms. Also, there is a NYSC location near my parents upstate, so in the winter, when I can't run outside up there, that's where I'll be.

Now I just need to adjust my running schedule so I can factor in running 5 days a week, swimming 2 days per week, biking 1-2 times a week, and strength training / routines 2-3x per week. Wish me luck!

Monday, June 27, 2011

A PR in Celebration of Gay Marriage!

I had two major things on my mind going into this Saturday's race:

1. I had only done one 5 mile race previously, and it was barely two months after I had started running (see pic on left). At the time, my auto PR of 45:38 thrilled me, especially since this was the first race I had done on my own, but after achieving 5K, 4M, 10K and 15K PRs at under 9mm, I knew that I was capable of doing the same for this distance. Although I tried not to have any expectations of myself due to possible weather conditions, I knew that a part of me would be disappointed if I didn't PR.

2. Gay marriage had passed in the NYS senate the previous evening, and this was the perfect way to celebrate. I was very happy for all of my friends in the LGBAC as well as the rest of my LGBT friends, so I figured that having a great race would be the perfect way to celebrate. I didn't have much colorful swag, but I arranged ponytail holders on both wrists to look like a rainbow. Later on, I sadly noted that I would win an age group award before some of the more conservative states allowed gay marriage, but as someone who will probably never win an AG, I hope this isn't true. Hopefully NY will be a turning of the tide, but only time will tell.

I planned on waking up earlier and eating a nice leisurely breakfast before heading over, but instead, I ate a powerbar on the go after I jogged about 1/2 mile before I ran into Amy. I met up with her and Gary before the race, and I met a couple of other RW BF people in person for the first time. Rebecca, and Jennifer, it was great meeting you! Thanks Gary for the picture! We hung out for a bit, then walked towards the race. After using the bathroom and checking our baggage, we walked towards the corrals. Gary pointed to the left and (jokingly) said "hey Dahlia, that's your corral!". Um, no Gary. That's the elite corral. I'm not quite ready to make Gal eat my dust just yet lol.

I hung out in the green corral and waited for the race to start. As I started up my garmin, I saw a Front Runners team member next to me and I told her how I liked the hat we got for the race (which I happened to be wearing). I also expressed my happiness at the good news the previous evening. The corrals then collapsed and we got to hear the national anthem sung by a Broadway star. Finally, some real talent!!!!!

Shortly after that, we started the race, and since the collapse of the corrals got me close to the start, I crossed the start line within the first minute, and I was off! The first mile included Harlem Hill, but I was so full of energy that I got through it without a hitch. All of my splits were off as usual, but my first mile was done in 8:34 according to the watch. I managed to stay close to pace and keep steady for miles 2 and 3 at 8:40 oer mile. Even though mile 2 was hilly and mile 3 was mostly downhill, I think the times were the same because I used mile 3 to recover so that I could make it up the hill to come.

As I turned onto the 72nd street transverse, the sun suddenly came out in full force and I felt the heat. Cat Hill was extremely tough after a speedy 3 miles, and I knew I had slowed down big time. I ignored my Garmin at that point and concentrated on making it up the hill, but when I peeked and saw the pace go above 9mm, I forced myself to remember that even if I kept that slower pace, I would have a PR. Once I made it up the hill and completed mile 4, I forced myself to go all out for mile five. I even made myself run towards the middle of the course so that brightroom could get a good pic of me, but I had forgotten that they wouldn't be there. NYRR didn't catch me - at least I don't think - there is one that I think could have me but it's hard to tell for sure since its the back of my head and it's a small pic.

Mile five ended up being my fastest at 8:29, and according to Garmin, I did an extra 0.04 at 20 seconds. My unofficial time was 43:43, but I was happy to find out that my official time was 43:40. That's 8:44mm, and 1:58 faster than my previous PR!

I got to see Beth at the end of the race, as well as a few others from the beginning, and I hung out with Rebecca during the award ceremony and raffle. All in all, it was a great race, but we were told that there would be a misting station and there wasn't one. Also, my hair has gotten so long that my ponytail kept hitting my arm. Thankfully I'm getting my hair done next month. I did not win the trip to Vienna either. Other than these minor complaints, it was a fun race, and if my schedule allows it, I plan on doing it next year!

The next day, I biked almost 30 miles with my parents. That report will come within the next day or so!