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.