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!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Rat Race!: The Corporate Challenge

This year, my company decided to sponsor the participation of over 100 employees in the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge. The cap was initially set at 100, but so many people expressed interest that more people were allowed to enter.

The challenge is held over a 2 day period in Central Park - if HSS had been assigned to the second day, I wouldn't have been able to participate at all due to my school schedule, but thankfully, luck was on my side. I had heard from various people that it was more of a crowded mess than a race, but I was curious to experience it firsthand.
My team had a picture taken outside the hospital beforehand, and we then proceeded to the park together as a group. Extra points if you can spot me in the picture! (I'm barely in it)

We arrived at the park and there was an overwhelming amount of people getting ready to race. We set our stuff down at our designated picnic table, and then I lined up for the restroom. Twenty minutes later, I finally got through the line and after we took a couple of more pictures, we headed towards the start line

We were asked to put down our predicted finish times when we signed up, so I assumed that things were more organized than previous years, but boy, was I wrong. To my surprise, I was put in the last corral of runners, even though I indicated that I would be doing under 9 minute miles. The corrals were not enforced, and there was no way for those who should have been in the faster corrals to get up front after a certain point. Also, several walkers were in the running corral, which shouldn't have happened. Apparently organizers enforced the other three running corrals, but didn't care about the last one. Lesson #1: Walk to the start an hour earlier.

After waiting at least ten minutes to start the race, I quickly learned that people overestimated how good shape they're in. I spent almost all of mile one dodging people who had no business starting in front of me. Also, some stupid biker decided to cross the West Drive in front of thousands of people, causing near collisions and possibly hurting people in the process. I spent so much energy trying to get around people that it probably cost me later on. My garmin said I finished mile 1 in 8:40, but thanks to lots of dodging, the splits are not accurate.

Mile two was slightly easier than mile one, although the heat was getting to me. Even though I carried my handheld, it was so warm out that the water was useless. The water tables looked so unorganized that I didn't even bother stopping. Garmin once again says 8:40, but I'm still off in terms of splits.

Mile three was much more difficult. Most of it was uphill and my legs started to feel heavy from the heat. It probably didn't help that I had raced a 10K four days earlier and had been running almost daily since. It was also very humid out, and as a morning runner, I wasn't used to running after a full day at the office. No matter what I did, I kept slowing down, and there wasn't much I could do. I couldn't really blame the crowds by this point as my running path was pretty clear. I think I spent most of that mile wondering why I was doing this. My manager had made his presence known at this point - we started out together, but he had lost me in the crowds. Apparently, he caught up to me 3/10 of a mile earlier, but didn't want to announce himself until he knew he could keep up with me. Mile three time was 9:06.

The last half a mile was all downhill, so I sped up the pace. My manager and I were neck and neck until the last 10 seconds or so, and he sprinted ahead of me. I stopped my watch after the first finish line as people were walking and I couldn't get past them anyways, and it said I finished 0.57 miles in 4:49 (8:31mm pace). My total watch time was 31:17. My official time ended up being 31:18 over 3.5 miles for a 8:57mm pace. To their credit, JPMorgan Chase offered a service that emailed, texted, or facebooked results to you instantly, and it worked!

Here is a funny end to the story - although my manager crossed slightly ahead of me, when the official results came out, we tied at 31:18. Either he didn't start his watch on time, or his bib didn't pick up after the first finish line. Oh well! I ended up being 11/81 females from HSS and tied for 23/115 overall from HSS. I finished 1932/14676 out of all of the females from both nights. Not too shabby!

After we finished, we gathered at our picnic table and had sandwiches. The chicken one was dry, so I took a vegetable and hummus sandwich which was decent. Overall, it was an enjoyable experience. Although I did not get the time I could have under better conditions (My best 4 mile time is barely two minutes faster than this), it was nice hanging out with my coworkers. To the left of this is a picture of me, my manager (left) and a few other coworkers before the race began. The HSS shirt was decent, but I should have gotten the extra small. This one was way too big on me, and I look 20 pounds heavier. A tank would have been nice as well, but apparently people complained about that two years ago.

Ultimately, upon reflection, this race was designed more for those who don't take running as seriously (unless you're one of the few people trying to win something). I could see how most people could have fun despite the disorganization. Although I would return again next year, I have a few suggestions for the organizers of the race:

1. People should have to give proof of time from a previous race - either from the challenge from the previous year, or another race within the past year. There should be a chart based on races from 5k - marathon times. If you can't prove your time, you should automatically be placed in the last running corral.
2. Have more than 4 running waves. It should probably be organized like NYRR and have it by minute miles (8-8:59mm would be one corral as an example). Each should have it's own color.
3. Enforce the corrals!!!!!! And keep a path clear so that people don't have to push past the back to get to their own corral (or not get there at all).

I might send an email to the organizers but I don't know how they'll receive it. Oh well! Looking forward to next year! Hopefully I'll get myself a better placement and at least do better than my manager! (Kidding! Mostly.)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Pippi Longstocking & the Mini for Grete: It's a RACE!!!!

I had been looking forward to this event for quite a long time. Not only was it my first all women's race, it was the first race I participated in that gave out medals. This race also held sentimental value because it was put on in memory of famous marathoner Grete Weitz, who died earlier this year (which is probably why we received the medals in the first place).

In addition, although I had a great 10K debut at Scotland, I still had a funny taste in my mouth after doing the Healthy Kidney 10K under the weather. Although 57:08 is not a bad time by any means, I wanted to redeem myself and at least do better than that this time around. But considering there was a high chance of thunderstorms and high humidity, I decided not to go into this race expecting anything.

On Friday afternoon, I went to pick up my bib and t-shirt from NYRR. To my complete surprise, I was in the yellow corral. I guess this is what happens when guys are not allowed to participate in the race!

I met up with some friends for dinner after bib pickup for Gary's birthday, including Gary, who's weight loss journey has been inspirational to me, Amy, who's doing the mini off of three weeks of being sidelined due to injury, Rachel, who I met at the NYRR 4 mile and who's blog I also follow, and Gal, who is way faster than I could ever hope to be. I enjoyed a spaghetti dish with seafood and a white wine sauce. We had an interesting discussion about race day expectations people put on themselves, but I'll discuss that in a separate blog post - to simply put it, the wide range of opinions on this were very illuminating and I learned a lot about my own perspective, and how I wanted to approach these races.

The next morning, we woke up at 6am and each had a half a bagel - she had hers with cream cheese and I had mine with peanut butter - and then proceeded to get ready. Rachel braided my hair in pigtails. See the picture on the top left? I looked sort of like that, and probably just as young!

We were going to do a warm-up jog, but it was so humid that we didn't want to risk being too tired for the race, so we took a downtown bus and walked towards the park from there. We get to baggage by 7:30am and checked our stuff in. As we walked towards everything, we saw some club teams meeting up, and they all seemed so tense. After using the porta potty, we walked towards the corral. Rachel met up with Amy there, and I met up with Abbey in our corral. I was a bit dissapoinated that more women didn't wear pigtails in Grete's honor, but I could understand if people didn't feel comfortable running in pigtails. Oh well!

I decided that since I was feeling good at the start, I would go for a 8:45mm and try to hang on as long as possible. If I had enough energy after I finished the hills, I would push the last two miles.

Unfortunately, my garmin chose not to pick up any signal until after about 1/4 of a mile, so my splits are really messed up. The first two miles went really well - they were run on Central Park West for the most part. We set out a little faster than I had intended and probably finished mile one close to 8:30. It was a bit faster than anticipated, and I knew that we would have to slow down in mile 2 if we wanted to get through Harlem Hills successfully.

As we continued through mile 2, I saw my parents on the corner of 86th and Central Park West. They took some nice pictures of the race, including the one on the left. As we entered the park midway through mile 2, the humidity hit us like a ton of bricks - there was over 95% humidity, but all of the trees in the park made it that much more noticeable. We finished mile 2 more slowly, but strong, and knew that the hills were coming up ahead.

We took the Harlem Hills of mile 3 far faster than I anticipated, but I felt like I was going strong throughout. Mile 4 was the hardest for me - after Harlem hill, the incline towards Engineer's Gate always seems unnecessary and painful. It's probably a psychological thing. During that mile though, I had a harder time keeping up with Abbey, and I found myself starting to get tired.

Sometime just after the mile 4 marker, Abbey took off, and while I really wanted to keep up with her, I just found myself unable to do so. With the knowledge that I still had a good chance of a PR (bad garmin splits made it hard to tell), I decided to try and hold an 8:45 pace for the rest of the race and hope for the best.

Mile 5 was the hardest for me psychologically because even though I was tired, the end was not in sight yet, so it was probably my slowest mile. But once I realized I only had about a mile to go, I picked up the pace and flew down Central Park South as fast as possible. I passed the 800m sign, the 400m sign, and after seemingly forever, the 6 mile marker. Although it was uphill at the end, I pushed the last 200m as fast as possible until I finally crossed the finish line.

As I finally crossed, I heard my name, and I saw my mother cheering for me at the finish line, which was a complete surprise. Apparently after she cheered me on, she ran some of the course, but crossed the park at 72nd street so that she could get to the finish line in time. She accompanied me to the baggage claim, where I found my friends after a few minutes of anxious searching. I got my medal and rose along the way (I managed to break two of them - mom got me a replacement for the first one but the other one broke after I left).

I had a few minutes of panic when the results were posted - initially, my name wasn't up there with my approximate time - and I worried that my first time with the B-tag would be a complete failure. I probably drove my RW friends nuts with my worrying - sorry about that! When the results were reposted, I finally saw my name - with a PR to boot! I finished in 54:26 - 29 seconds faster than my first 10K and much better than the Healthy Kidney race last month. I wanted to redeem myself after that race and it looks like I finally did.

My first 5K was a new 5K PR for me - I finished in 27:01, which was 8:41mm. My second 5K was slower at 27:25, 1 second faster than my time at Coogan's, for a 8:50mm. While I slowed down during the second half, I managed to maintain a 8:46mm, which was essentially my goal. Overall, I was extremely happy with my race, and I felt like I had a strong finish. All of my fellow NYC Runner's World forum buddies, along with the other people at the race that I knew, finished strong and had amazing times. I was especially proud of Amy, who was able to get out there and run the 10k even after 3 weeks of barely running. I don't know if I would have finished as strongly under the same circumstances.

After we left the raffle, in which I didn't win anything, a group of us from the NY Forum of Runners world went to Starbucks and hung out for a while. Since I didn't have much cash on me, I owe my friends a coffee next time around! :-) Afterwards, despite some nitwit couple stealing our cab, a few of us managed to get a taxi-ride back to the east side. It's amazing how many new, amazing, and inspiring people I have met over the last 6 months! You girls are all amazing!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

My Day in Israel!

Today was the first race that wasn't part of the 9+1 I needed for the 2012 NYC marathon. The Israel race was a new race this year, and it held a lot of sentimental value to me as a runner and as an Israeli citizen.

I went into this race not expecting a PR. I had been running slowly as part of my training plan for Queens all week, and this was to be my tempo run, but acclimating to the heat had been a challenge for me.

I woke up, had some fruit and a few crackers, and walked out the door shortly before 8am. I decided for the first time to incorporate a warm up mile, so I ran down the east drive towards the start and filled up my handheld water bottle. I thought that it was going to be more humid than it was, and I didn't want to stop at the water stations.

I met up with my friend Gary, and his wife Gail at baggage check. She took this very nice picture of us after I picked up a couple of temporary Israel flag tattoos. Too bad my bib didn't match the blue and white theme I was going for!

I met my friend Abbey on the way to the corral - she signed up last minute, and I was very happy to have someone to run with. It was my first time with a corral placement in the 3000s (and most likely the last since this race didn't have an extremely competitive field).

A cantor sang the Israeli national anthem, and another runner sang the American one, but unfortunately, neither of them could really sing. Sorry, but as a musician with perfect pitch I have high standards!

The race began, and my garmin was all set to go! I started out right behind Abbey, but within the first minute, she had shot off far ahead of me. At first I thought I was going really slow, but when I glanced at my garmin, it was indicating an 8:15 pace so I realized that she was just going really fast. My garmin was a bit early for mile one, so it said I finished in 8:11.

I don't have much to say about mile two. For some reason I always finish that one slightly slower even though its a downhill. Maybe after the excitement of Cat Hill I find the mile leading up to the transverse to be boring. I finished in about 8:20 or so.

I started feeling the humidity when I came around the transverse to the West Side Hills, plus there wasn't as much shade on the west drive, so I definitely slowed down big time despite my best efforts. During that time, I sipped from my water bottle a lot, and just hoped that I had enough in the tank to have a strong finishing mile. I finished the mile at 8:40 according to my garmin.

I passed the mile three marker just as I was finishing up the hills, and I sped up over the last mile, which was primarily downhill. Since I gained some speed back, I thought that I had a chance of PRing as I got closer to the finish line, but as I ran up the hill leading up to the finish on the transverse I knew it wasn't going to happen. I ended up finishing mile 4 in about 8:23 and having an unoffical time of 33:47 over 4.02 miles. (11 seconds for the last 0.02 miles). You can see my splits here. My official time was 33:44 with a 8:26 average pace per mile. I saw Mary W. at the finish line and blabbed on about how I saw her returning from a run. She must thing I'm nuts lol.

I met up with Abbey at the end, and it turns out that I made a wise decision in not trying to keep up with her - she had finished in 32:16, which is an incredible time, and I'm just not capable of going that fast yet. I probably would have bonked out over mile 3. Overall, I felt like I had a great race, and felt like I was in control the entire time.

Ran into a few people after the race - my manager, Chris, my friend, Clara, and my other friend and running buddy Gal. I saw Gary again as well, and he had a 3:30 minute PR!!! Unfortunately, I did not win the free trip to Israel, but overall, it was a really fun experience.

Here is my official time in my race history:
Gun Time: 35:47
Net Time: 33:44
Pace Per Mile: 8:26
Overall Place: 1943 / 5177
Gender Place: 447 / 2419
Age Place (25-29): 143 / 629
Performance: 57%

After I got home and showered, I wore my birthright t-shirt and walked over to the Israeli day parade and took some pictures and videos of the procession. It's days like this that makes me proud to be an honorary Israeli! It makes me wish that I actually knew how to speak Hebrew fluently, but that is a bucket list goal to be accomplish once I don't have other schoolwork to deal with!

L'Shanah haba'ah b'Yerushalayim?