Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Week 10: Overcoming obstacles, making new friends & setting new personal bests

To directly continue where I last left off, after completing the Yonkers Half Marathon, I went to my parents' apartment to celebrate the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which would continue until Tuesday evening. Since my Grandma's birthday was around the corner, we had a surprise celebration for her as well. While we unfortunately weren't able to have my entire mother's side of the family there, we had some good representation. 

I had planned ahead meticulously. I knew that I would be spending all day Monday at my parents', and I brought a bag of running gear so that I could change right after synagogue and lunch and go on a nice mid-day run on what would be a gorgeous day. I went home, looking forward to two days of reflection and relaxation. 

When I woke up way too early with achy sinuses and the sniffles, I had a bad feeling, but took some theraflu and hoped for the best. I originally considered skipping synagogue, but I was feeling better after a while, so I got dressed and went crosstown. I felt fine in the beginning, but slowly, I started to feel worse and worse. The fact that the air conditioner was on full blast didn't help matters much. I gave up after the Torah Service and went home. I guess a beautiful midday run was not in the cards...

In fact, I slept for most of the day on and off, and I felt so miserable that I didn't even bother going home that night. I hoped that this would be a one day thing, and that I would be able to resume synagogue and running the next day...

...but unfortunately, that was not meant to be. I woke up early feeling groggy and unwell, and after about an hour, I went back to sleep. My parents didn't expect me to go to synagogue so they didn't wake me up. I got some of my appetite back and felt slightly better after taking a shower, but I knew that running was still not in the cards. I made it home that afternoon with lots of leftovers to sustain me, as well as my unopened bag of running gear. I have the best parents ever. While I missed my siblings, and while being sick was not fun, I still enjoyed seeing my family members. I went to bed early, hoping that things would turn around soon. 

This was really 9.35 miles, but as usual,
my garmin failed to get a signal for the first 1/2 mile
I felt much better when I woke up, so I decided to test the waters and go for a run. I wanted to make up 9 from the scheduled Tuesday run, but I decided to do it in two loops so that if I wasn't feeling great, I could always back out halfway.

The weather had cooled down, and it felt amazing. After the first loop, I felt pretty good, so I decided to keep going. At the time, it seemed like a good idea, but in hindsight, perhaps running wasn't the best idea that day. I started to feel exhausted midafternoon, but I don't know whether I would have felt the same way, better, or worse, if I hadn't run, so overall, I don't regret going out that day.

The first four miles were on the slower side, but after warming-up, and fueling midway, my paces ended up getting back towards normal.

I was going to try and get in my MLR for the week, but when I woke up, my body basically stated that it needed more sleep, so I decided to do a shorter run instead. I was happy that I made this decision, as the five miles felt very energetic. I was back at my usual paces and felt very happy about it. It was a real turning point as I really felt significantly better.

That night, I went to sleep in my running clothes to ensure that I would get out of the apartment as quickly and early as possible for my medium long run, as I could not delay it any longer since I had an 18 mile tune-up on Sunday. I plugged in my Garmin, and while it seemed frozen on one screen for a while, I thought nothing of it and went to sleep...

...which turned out to be a major mistake. I woke up to find that my Garmin was pretty much dead and useless, so I had to do my 12 miler by feel. I ended up doing 12.5 miles in 2:10 based on when I left and when I came back, but I did use the restroom and stopped to fuel, so overall, I probably came close to averaging ten minute miles. I felt good the whole way, and was happy that I made the decision to delay the run as long as I did. I just hope that it wouldn't hurt my tune-up a couple of days later.

I had originally considered signing up for the Fifth Avenue mile, but after much consideration, I decided not to do it this year. While I know plenty of people who do both this and the tune-up very successfully, I personally didn't want to risk trashing my legs over a mile race. Eyes on the prize! Besides, I knew that I was so close to breaking 7 minutes last year, so when I go back next year (I hope), I plan on smashing my mile PR.

Instead, I did an easy seven miler, and in a way, it was my tune-up for the tune-up since I ran one counter-clockwise loop, which is basically one third of the tune-up. It felt very easy, and I was happy with my paces.

I also got to spend time with both running and non-running friends that day. I ate lunch with Nicole, who I hadn't seen in a while, and afterwards, she accompanied me to NYRR to pick up my stuff for the tune-up. I was expecting them to be out of adult smalls, but what I was not expecting was for them to have large children's shirts. While I don't think that I can ever put my shirt in the dryer, it was certainly better than getting another "nightgown".

We then went to my apartment for a drinks and desserts party that my roommate threw. I made an instant marble cake, courtesey of Duncan Hines, and put frosting with mix in sprinkes on top. It turned out quite nicely despite my ineptitude in reading baking instructions after a long day of work (thanks Amy!)

I told Leiba and Jane that they'd get a piece of the royalties
I receive from this picture being posted. What's 33% of 0?
Later that night, I met two of my running friends whom I knew from Runner's World, but had never met in person. Leiba and Jane were both really great to get to know, and it didn't really feel awkward, as if I had known them for a while, which in a way, was sort of true. I was so wired up from meeting them and from all of the cake I ate that I didn't get to bed until way too late....

....and five hours later, my alarm went off. 5:30am is not an ideal time to wake up on a Sunday, but getting to NYRR races early is a necessity. I'm just grateful that I am less than 2 miles away from the start line.

I left not long after 6am, bought a granola bar, and ended up walking to the park and up the park drive. I usually try to eat a bagel before longer races, but I really wasn't that hungry. If it had been warmer, I would have rehearsed carrying what I would take for the marathon, but I needed a sweater and I didn't want to throw it away.

I ran into a few people before starting the race, and I got to meet Alex, another online friend, for the first time. He is nice, and very speedy - he would end up winning his age group at about 1:52:19. To put things in perspective, he ran 18 miles about 9 seconds faster than I ran my 13.1 personal record.

I was in the fourth corral, and ended up starting the race with Chris, a former Mt. Sinai coworker. I didn't have any goals for this run because I didn't want to have a race mind-set, but I estimated that I would finish in about three hours or so since I was expecting about a 10mm average.

To briefly explain the course, the 18 miles would include 3 counter-clockwise loops of the park. This means that we would encounter Harlem Hill, the West Side Hills, and Cat Hill three times today. To put things in perspective, it is NYRR's philosophy that if we are able to complete this, we will be able to complete the marathon. The course starts near the top of the East Side of the park, and loops around the top of the park before eventually going down the West side, around the bottom, and back up the East side once again. The first mile consists of a nice long downhill, then a brief stretch of flat running surface, which is the calm before the storm, when you hit Harlem Hill. It is approximately 0.6 miles of straight uphill, and there are a couple of points you think it's about to end, but it doesn't until finally you reach a stoplight at the top. Mile 1 ends just as you are finishing the nice downhill stretch that follows. Mile 2 consists of the West Side Hills, which are usually the bane of my existance during every NYRR 4 mile race I've ever done. There are three hills. The first is the steepest, the second is the longest, and the third is just kind of there. Mile 3 is all downhill as we run down the West Side of the Park, with the exception of a slight hill which is barely noticable since the downhill gives you so much momentum. Mile 3 ends just as you reach Tavern on the Green, which is where the NYCM marathon finish is, except that you approach it from the other direction in November.

During mile 4, you loop around the bottom part of the park and end up back on the East Drive. It's a net uphill, but it's not too bad. During mile 5, you run back up the east side and encounter Cat Hill, and while it's only about a quarter of a mile long, it is very steep. Several people training for the marathon use this and Harlem Hill for their hill repeats. The last mile of the loop is flat with a slight downhill slant, and it gives you a chance to mentally recooperate before getting back towards the top of the park. Are you still with me? Now, repeat this two times and you have the Tune-Up course.

I guess that explanation wasn't so brief after all. Whoops. It's totally not obvious that I run Central Park at least 4-5 days per week...

It took a couple of minutes to get past the start line. The crowding at the start was actually good for us since it helped us control our pace. The first mile was accomplished in about 10 minutes, and more or less lined up with the mile marker. However, none of the other mile markers came even close because of my lack of ability to run tangents, so whenever I passed an actual mile marker, I kept tabs of how far ahead or behind I was of what would be 10mm.

As you can see to the left, I didn't stick to 10mm all that long. It wasn't like I purposefully sped up. I felt relaxed the entire time, and the first loop went by pretty quickly. I lost Chris at mile 2, but after reflection, it was better that we each ran our own race so to speak.

On the other hand, at the beginning of the second loop, I found myself matching the pace of another woman, and somehow, we began chatting. Hooray for new running friends! Laura and I stuck out the second loop together, and we even had similar fueling strategies. Thanks to her company, the second loop also went by quickly. At the beginning of the third loop, she told me to go on ahead, so I did. I ended up chatting with someone else who had been going back and forth with me for a while. Another new running friend! Blossom was in the same running club as my friend Beth, and we had a nice time chatting for a bit. After a while, I knew that she was going to fast for me, so I let her go.

At some point, I realized that I had dipped significantly below marathon pace, and was in fact approaching my tempo run pace of 15K-HM pace. It still felt good, so I kept going. Sometime during the last couple of miles or so, I realized that I had a chance of breaking 2:45, so at that point, I decided to speed things up to see if that could happen. It was close, but I ended up finishing in 2:44:54. Thanks to a lot of stretching, my legs felt fine the next day.

I met up with Chris at the end, and did some stretching. I also ran into a few other people, including Laura, and someone I had met at the Yonkers half marathon. I caught the bus downtown, and happily spent the rest of the day lazing about.

Per the official results, I had a 9:10mm pace. If I did that for the entire marathon, I would be on the cusp of a sub-4 marathon. I plan on comparing the elevation charts, but I will still need to see how I do at the Staten Island half before I make any pacing decisions. However, I still had some fuel left in the tank, and this experience left me feeling more confident.

I was also thrilled when I realized that at the end of the day, despite being sick for some of the week, I managed to get a personal best mileage week of 52.5, thanks to the support of my family and various cold medicine products.

As usual, thanks for reading!

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