Monday, October 15, 2012

NYCM Week #13: From train wreck to finishing on a high note. Let the taper begin!

I'm going to be brutally honest. Most of last week sucked. Although I had been slightly apathetic during the week before Staten Island, it was like all of the motivation had been sapped out of me. The rigors of marathon training had finally caught up to me, and I just wasn't capable of being my usual peppy self. 

Monday was my rest day, and that evening, I had orchestra rehearsal. That was actually kind of fun and frustrating at the same time. It's fun to play music with other people. I was playing oboe and flute this past week, but since one of the flute players can't play the concert, I've been promoted to first flute and won't be playing oboe other than a few random measures of the second oboe part on flute.

But I digress. The next morning, rain was on the horizon, and even though I thought I had gotten plenty of sleep, I just had no motivation and allowed myself to use the remote possibility of rain as an excuse. I was supposed to run 9 miles that day. Well, thankfully I can shift things around. I can still get my mileage in right?

Wednesday morning, ironically, I didn't realize it was raining until I walked out the door. It wasn't raining hard, but it was noticeable. I just sighed and decided to suck it up, knowing that I would regret missing a run again.  

My plan was to do two four mile loops of Central Park, plus run there and back. However, plans changed in the middle of the first loop, when I got an awful pain in my side. It didn't go away no matter what I did. Earlier in the training cycle, I would have kept on going, but as I approached the end of the first loop, it was still raining, I was hurting, and I just didn't have it in me to keep going. So I went home, defeated, and four miles short of what I had planned. 

Well, so on my schedule, I was supposed to do a nine miler and a twelve miler. I went after work on Thursday, a bit nervous about potentially cramping up again. I wasn't sure about how many miles I would do, but when I saw that my easy paces weren't where they should be, I decided to attempt to get to nine miles. 

Towards the middle of my run, a group of runners zoomed right by me, and when one of them at the back of the pack said hi to me, I immediately recognized my former coworker from Mt. Sinai, Chris. I sped up and joined the group for a bit before they left the park and I kept going.

I kind of lost steam after that, but I managed to finish just over nine miles. Once again, my Garmin didn't record my run to the park. I even celebrated by ordering in sushi and viewing the VP debate. Joe Biden is amazing. 

I knew that I was supposed to do a short run Friday to make up some of my mileage, but I didn't want to get out of bed after staying up late for the debate. Where is the motivated girl I knew back in week 1?

I originally had a shorter run planned on Saturday, but decided to suck it up and do a medium long run instead. I had no idea what to wear - it was a cool day, and I wasn't used to it being colder. That being said, I settled for this. Now I have an outfit for St. Patrick's Day next year!


The run went very nicely overall. While I admit that I wasn't really into it at first, I had about an hour and a half to reflect on why I was feeling crappy the entire week, and I realized that I needed to stop being so hard on myself. I had started running to lose weight, and to find an activity that I enjoyed  - ok, and I was also lured in by the glamour of the marathon, particularly NYCM. Instead, I have turned it into one endless training cycle after another in my efforts to prepare for a dream almost two years in the making. Enough of this. I realized that after the marathon, I will need space to not train for a specific race, but to run on my terms without worrying about whether I get x workout on y day. I was getting something known as burn-out, and it didn't feel good. 

In addition to burn-out, I was having some personal non-running related issues. I was only three months into a new job, and my quarterly review was approaching. Thankfully, it went better than expected, but the new environment has been more stressful than I thought it would be, and has been taking up a lot of my energy. The review was the day that I had cramped up, so looking back, the cramp might have been stressed induced. 

I was also letting other people's inconsiderate behavior get to me much more than it should have. I had a running friend, or someone who I thought was a running friend, who was coming into town the weekend of Staten Island. We had planned on meeting up, but ultimately, this person completely blew me off. I was really hurt and baffled by this, especially since they were so nice to me online. I emailed the person and said something along the lines of "I'm sorry we missed each other, I hope you enjoyed NYC" but still, nothing. The insecure part of me wants to know what I did wrong, while the agressive New Yorker in me wants to give this person a verbal smack-down. But ultimately, neither will happen. 

A wise person told me that it's their problem, and not mine, but it's hard to get over when this person is fairly popular, and is so supportive of all of your online running friends except for you. I'm not going to say who it was, but it's not someone who was ever Facebook friends with me, so if you're reading this relax - it's probably not you. Objectively, this person was pretty much a stranger, and should have meant nothing to me, but emotionally, it feels like the popular kid singling me out even though I had done nothing wrong. However, I'm more annoyed at myself for letting this person get to me. 

Anyways, back to running. I was supposed to do the second "Three Bridges" run with the New York Flyers, and I had really enjoyed the first one. I figured that it would start close to the same time as the previous one, which had been at 7:35 for my pace group. This is why I accepted a babysitting job at my parents' neighbors' apartment. I asked them to be back by 11pm so that I would at least get 7 hours of sleep or so. However, a few days before, I got an email saying that everyone had to start earlier due to a NYRR HM in the park starting up at 10:30 that day. I still thought that I would be alright, but when the neighbors got back after midnight, I knew that I wouldn't be able to get enough sleep to function. 

So, the next morning, I ventured out to do my final twenty miler on my own. I figured that if it was going to suck, I might as well look awesome in all orange. 

After eating a granola bar, I ran towards Central Park and started off with doing Harlem Hill and the West Side hills. Since the park was crowded with a triathlon, and NYRR was setting up for Grete's, I didn't stay there for too long. I left the park on the West Side and ran towards the West Side running path. I figured that I would at least get one of the bridges under my belt. 

I wasn't really feeling motivated, but I kept on going. I fueled every few miles and felt a bit sluggish, but when I got close to the Brooklyn Bridge, I felt excited again. Even though the Brooklyn Bridge was crowded with tourists by that point, and my legs were tired, I still managed to get up fairly easily. On my way down the bridge towards the Brooklyn side, I was initially going to turn around and go back the way I came, but then decided to be a bit adventurous. 

I had never run in between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan bridge by myself, but I decided to be brave and give it a go. After looking at a tourist map briefly, I managed to find my way to the Pedestrian only lanes on the Manhattan bridge. Although the views aren't as nice, they have separate lanes for bikes, and less tourists walk across it, so it was a nicer run. I stopped here to take a picture of my view from the Manhattan bridge.

The view of the Brooklyn Bridge and downtown Manhattan
from the Manhattan bridge
After conquering two bridges, even if they weren't on the marathon course, I felt confident, but as soon I crossed into Manhattan, I realized that getting to the East River path to get back uptown was not as simple as I thought it would be. I was in Chinatown, and I felt completely lost and confused. After asking a couple of traffic control cops and failing, I saw a fellow runner go eastward and started to follow them. I lost them, but then looked at my phone once more and figured out a way to get there on my own. 

After I congratulated myself for finding my way, I started running up the path, and took a few pictures, including one of the Williamsburg bridge. I kind of felt like a tourist, or a brave explorer chartering new territory since I had never ran in that area before. 

A view of the Williamsburg Bridge from the
East River path. I did not run across this one. 

The East River Path. It's hard to see it at this size,
but the 59th Street Bridge can be seen in the distance
I fueled again at mile fifteen, and kept on going. At some point, I saw a business school classmate running the other direction, but it was too brief to get a chance to say hi. The East River path has some nice parts, but it is not as developed as the West Side path. As a result, there is a break in the path between the 30's and the 59th street bridge. Runners have to go to 1st avenue, run up on the sidewalks and run on the sidewalks for over a mile and a half before the pathway resumes. 

My peppy self came back briefly after one of these inclines. I was waiting for the light to turn green, and I turned to some tourists and I said something along the lines of "some hill huh?" They looked at me as if I was nuts. No, I didn't drink any coffee yet that morning!!!

For the first time, I appreciated how hilly first avenue really was. I passed by my office, and the UN, but shortly after that, there were two huge inclines that felt at least as steep as the Pulaski bridge that I would run to get to Queens during the marathon, so at least I got to get some sort of simulation of that bridge, even if I didn't get to run across it as planned with the group. 

I already had 18 miles under my belt by the time I reached the 59th Street Bridge, so I ran towards the midway point of the bridge so that I could experience the incline, then I ran back towards Manhattan. Here are some nice views from that bridge. 

Roosevelt Island

The Upper East Side. Cornell & HSS are featured
towards the top of the picture (it's hard to see at this scale)
I reconnected with the East Side path, and ran up there until the early 70's. At that point, I was in the middle of mile 19. I knew that I was going to get beyond 20, and wanted to try fueling there, but my body was telling me that I would need something a little sooner, so I took some more bloks. I'm glad I did that - I felt dizzy for a second, but then felt better. It didn't help that it had started to warm up. But whatever I had passed quickly. I then went onto York Avenue because the path has a flight of steps that connects the 70's and the 80's, and I wanted to avoid those. I ran into a Hebrew School friend on the street, and she was amazed that I had been running over three hours at that point. After a couple of moments of chatting, I continued on. I was going to get back on the East River path, but ultimately decided to stick to York Avenue before getting to my street.

I had decided in advance that I would automatically stop running once I hit 22 miles, but I didn't even come close. I got to my corner just as my Garmin hit the 21 miler marker, and I was done. I think my legs were ready to file for divorce at that point - now we're getting along better but the first few hours after that weren't pretty. I held a flute sectional with a fellow orchestra member when all I wanted to do was nap, but it made me feel more awake. 

Looking back, I realize that things turned out for the best. This was the first 20+ miler that I did on my own, which increased my mental toughness and gave me an encouraging boost. I also gave myself a harder course than I would have done with the group. The map and elevation of my route is below:

I do offer running tours of NYC to my online running friends. 
Maybe not quite as long though...
Look at that elevation profile!
However, I am now seriously doubting my time goals. Although I did not hit the wall at any point, I had a feeling that if I had run much longer, I would have. Maybe tapering and fresh legs will help with that, but a part of me is wondering what I got myself into. Although I have very supportive family and friends who believe in me, my doubts will probably not go away completely, and that's completely fine. Most first time marathoners are nervous, as they have a right to be. 

I will have a lot of thinking to do in terms of how aggressively I want to approach this race now that I have accomplished this run. Should I just take it easy and enjoy the experience, or start at sub-4 pace and hope that I don't blow up? I would be taking a calculated risk either way - while I want to enjoy my experience, a part of me would admittedly be upset if I didn't get the time I wanted. 

Ultimately, I got around 45 miles for the week, and although I was initially disappointed that I didn't get the 50 miles I originally wanted, but I quickly got over that after realizing what I have accomplished so far in my training cycle, including an HM PR, 3 20+ milers, and hitting almost every speed workout in my training schedule so far. 

Although this run went very well, I am happily ready to taper, and look forward to getting some rest and relaxation over the next few weeks. This week might have started out badly, but it ended on a positive note. As I ate dinner with my family that night, I realized how lucky I truly was. In any case, I can't believe that in less than three weeks, I will be a marathon finisher! 

Let the taper begin!!!!


  1. Based on your half PR you should easily run sub 4! Don't give up on your goal. Just don't start out too fast :)

  2. WOW, what an awesome LR! :D I love getting that touristy/adventurer feeling of exploring new running territory... it's so fun.