Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012 Year in Review & Goals for 2013

2013? Already?
It's hard to believe that my second full calendar year of running has passed by so quickly. It seems like only yesterday that I was setting my goals for 2012. Now, let's review these goals and see how they went.

2012 Goals / 2012 Stats*
*2012 Stats are estimated on the assumption that week 1 of marathon training will go as planned

Overall Mileage

  • Total Miles Run: 1500 / 1686
  • Average Miles Per Month: 125 / 140.51
  • Average Miles Per Week: 28.85 / 32.24
  • Average Miles Per Day:  4.10 / 4.61

Racing Goals*

  • 1 Mile:     6:59 / N/A
  • 5K:          23:59 / 23:55
  • 4 Miles:   31:59 / 31:31
  • 5 Miles:   41:59 / N/A
  • 10K:        52:xx / 50:45
  • 15K:        1:17:xx / N/A
  • HM:          1:49:xx / 1:48:16
  • Marathon: 4:29:xx / N/A

*N/A indicates that this distance was not raced in 2012

Miscellaneous Goals
Get over a 60% AG - accomplished in the 4 mile, HM & 5K distances
Get a NYRR bib time of 7:xx - improved bib time from 8:11 to 7:52 in April

Lessons Learned
But achievement is not just about the numbers. I learned some valuable lessons along the way

  • You can plan your runs around the weather all you want, but sometimes, running in extreme conditions is unavoidable, as long as it is within reason and safe. 
  • It is better to DNS a race and take a blow to your pride than to aggravate a potential injury serious enough to stop a goal race
  • It is ok to be sad over losing the opportunity to do you first marathon. But after a while, it is time to move on and pick a plan B.
Here are some lessons rehashed from my November blog entry
  • Don't be afraid to be a tourist in your own city, within reason of course. Establishing new running routes can be fun!
  • Although running with friends is fun, running long distances by yourself builds mental toughness far quicker
  • Life & Running doesn't always go as planned. Do what you can to make up for it, but risking injury is never worth it.
  • Getting out the door is always the hardest part of any run, especially when it's a warm bed vs. freezing temperatures. 
  • Make lots of running friends both through your local running club and online, as long as you're careful about it. Believe me, close friends and family, as much as they love you, will be completely bored after about two minutes of running conversation. You have to have someone to obsess with over every minute detail of the sport!
  • Apparently, fashion is just as important in the running world as it is in the professional world, and that some colors are faster than others. 
  • Find your ideal number of races and don't pressure yourself to do more than you're comfortable with. I've gotten to the point where I don't like signing up for events just to do the distance unless it has a purpose within a structured training plan, such as doing an MP pace half-marathon during marathon training. 

Not Running Related
I also had some amazing non-running related moments over the course of this year
  • Business School: In this calendar year, Zahava, Brooke & I not only competed in an academic competition, but we put together an amazing Capstone project that was very close to getting top honors. Also, we graduated with our MBAs this past June, and as wonderful as the whole experience was, I am very happy to finally be out of school.
  • Work: Shortly after graduating, I have started to move up the career ladder and moved up from a Staff Analyst at HSS to a Senior Financial Analyst at New York-Presbyterian. The work is more complex, and I feel like I have learned a great deal in the six months that I have been there
  • Music: As much as I have enjoyed playing in Wind Ensembles over the past year, I was happy to find an opportunity to play in an Orchestra. I got to play several pretty flute & piccolo solos in December, and now I have the opportunity to improve my orchestral oboe playing for the next concert. 
  • Personal: Two of my close friends, my brother, and my former manager all married this year, and it was a privilege to serve as a bridesmaid in three out of four of the weddings. I also got a new sister out of the deal, who has been a great new addition to our family. 

2013 Goals
Although not all of my goals are set in stone, I already have a few of them mapped out, and I hope that I will be able to achieve them in this coming year
  • Run 1750 miles this year
  • Run my first marathon - hopefully in under four hours - and my second marathon. With any luck, I will be running R&R DC on March 16th and NYCM on November 3rd. 
  • Run a sub-50 minute 10K and a sub-7 minute mile
  • Lower my NYRR bib time even further
  • Win an AG award. This will be very difficult to do. However, in a smaller race, this is a possibility considering I got 4th place this year.
With any luck, at least some of these goals will be achieved. I have scheduled in some tune-up races leading up to R&R DC. After that, other than NYCM 2013, I don't have anything set in stone other than the Fifth Avenue Mile. 

I also have some non-running related goals for this year, some of which will be harder to achieve than others
  • Take things one day at a time. Worrying about things several months down the line is useless
  • Learn as much as possible in my new job so that I can develop my career
  • Develop my oboe playing skills, as well as practicing my other instruments on a more consistent basis. 
  • Take further advantage of the gym membership which I shell out lots of money for, especially since I should be doing more cross training and weight lifting as a runner. 
  • Be the best daughter, sister, relative & friend that I can be. 
  • Learn to truly appreciate what I have, and not unnecessarily mourn what I lack. All things will come along in their own time

I would like to thank my supportive readers for keeping up with the blog this year. You all know who you are. I hope that you all have a happy and healthy 2013!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Marathon Training. Take 2.

This week marks the start of another marathon training cycle, something that I didn't think that I would be taking up again so soon. Then again, life sometimes turns out differently than planned. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, I will be embarking on what is known as the Pfitz 12/55 training plan. It's basically a twelve week torture devise combination of long runs, speedwork, and carefully paced tempo runs that will have a highest planned week of 55 miles, something which will hopefully result in an optimal marathon result in March. Tomorrow is the first day, but there will be no running involved - I will be attending a spin class at 6:45am. Since it's Christmas Eve, I wouldn't be surprised if the only two people to show up were the instructor and myself!

In other news, NYRR finally reached a resolution regarding the cancellation of NYCM 2012. Basically, all entrants have the option of either 1) receiving a refund for 2012 or 2) receiving guaranteed entry to one of the following races: 2013 NYCH or NYCM, 2014 NYCM, or 2015 NYCM. They would have to pay the entry fee again. 

However, everyone who completed the 9+1 for 2013, like myself, already have guaranteed entry to the 2013 marathon, so we have more options to choose from. I emailed NYRR, and they confirmed that if we did the 9+1, we can get the refund and still get guaranteed entry for 2013. So hopefully, if all goes well, I will get a second chance to do my first NYCM this coming November. Since I don't plan on doing NYCM in 2014 or 2015, I will happily take the refund offered. 

While I am very pleased with this resolution, NYRR has been dropping the ball this past year, and I find myself gravitating towards NYCRuns more and more, mainly because they are better communicators, and the fact that I've been gravitating towards smaller sized races. For the first time, I am currently registered for more NYCRuns races than I am for NYRR ones. However, NYRR is the organization that helped me get into running, and I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, so I will give them another year of membership to get their collective act together. 

That's all for now. Let the Games Begin!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Hot Chocolate 5K RR (aka the race distance that I love to hate)

It had been almost two years since I had done a 5K. It's not like I avoided the distance on purpose or anything. It's just that when I was a newer runner, I mostly did NYRR races since I got membership discounts, and they didn't offer more than two to three 5K races per year.

As I was training for NYCM, I decided to pick a race approximately one month after the marathon so that I could both have enough recovery time and capitalize on my improved fitness. NYCRuns had become a more prominent running club over the last couple of years, and when I realized that they had the Hot Chocolate 5K on December 16th, I knew that this would be the perfect opportunity to smash my PR from March 2011. 

Although the marathon was cancelled, and I didn't end up running much of November, I still hoped that I maintained at least most of my fitness from marathon training. When it came time to figure out a goal, I wasn't really sure what to aim for. Since my best 4 mile pace was 7:52, I figured that I would aim for approximately a 7:45 pace and see how that went. 

I knew that picking my race outfit would be of paramount importance. I wanted something that screamed "fast". After thinking about it for a few minutes, I settled with red shorts and the black tank top that I bought for the marathon. I had made the mistake of overdressing for my last 5K, which was held in similar weather conditions, and I didn't want history to repeat itself. 

The morning of the race, I get to Roosevelt Island really early, but it ended up being a good thing as I ran into my friend Leiba as we were getting off of the train. She & I were reverse twins that day. After picking up her race bib, we ran into my other friend, Sarah. Apparently NYCRuns recycles past bibs - Sarah was wearing one from the Brooklyn Marathon that was held less than a month before. 

Eventually, I check my bag, and of course, I'm freezing in my tank and shorts. There was a good chance of rain, but so far, it had not yet arrived other than a slight mist. We walk towards the start, and gather around the start line. A volunteer was nice enough to let me wear a spare sweater for a few minutes while we were waiting to line up. I told her that she was my new best friend for the day. 

The organizers pretty much told everyone who could run faster than a 9 minute mile to go up towards the front, and for everyone else to line up in the back. I lined up next to Leiba, and suddenly felt very nervous. But I didn't have much time to dwell on that thought - the horn went off, and instinctively, I took off. 

Not surprisingly, I probably started off the first mile way too fast. Sometime during the early part of the first mile, Leiba surged ahead of me, and I knew that I wouldn't be able to catch her without ruining my race. Instead, I made sure to use her as my "rabbit", and my goal was to not lose sight of her the entire time. A part of me wasn't surprised at that point, as I thought that she would finish way before I did.

My mile splits were slightly off, but my Garmin hit the first mile at 7:28. I knew that I wouldn't be able to maintain that pace, so I did my best to keep the pace as close to 7:45 as possible without dropping off too much. By the middle of the second mile, I was already hating myself for signing up, and at that point, it was pure race adrenaline that was getting me through this experience. 

Midway through the second mile, I managed to catch up with Leiba and pass her. I couldn't tell how far behind me she was, so instead I managed to focus in on a girl wearing pink in front of me. I had no way to know whether she was in my AG or not, but I decided to try and keep her within my sight for as long as possible. Mile two was done in 7:41, and at that point, I did my best to ensure that I wouldn't slow down even further. 

The course was altered slightly due to Hurricane damage, so some of the third mile was spent on a dirt path. Thankfully, since it wasn't raining, the course wasn't as muddy as I feared it would be. I just remember breathing very hard at this point, and counting down the tenths of a mile until I could finally stop running. I was relieved when I hit the mile three marker and that mile split was 7:47. 

I then forced myself to run the last tenth of a mile as fast as possible and ended up finishing the last 0.14 miles at a 7:02 pace. Just as I crossed the finishing line, I suddenly saw Leiba come up very quickly on my right and we ended up crossing the finish line at the exact same time. She told me afterwards that she had predicted that we would tie, and at the end, wanted to make that final surge so that could come true. We didn't know what our official times were, but we were both pretty confident that we each got sub-24

As for me? My first words to her were the following: "I hate 5Ks, and I am never doing one again!" That's not quite true however - I have signed up for the Coogan's 5K in March as a time trial for marathon training, but I know that I won't get a new PR - it's much hillier than Roosevelt Island, which is as flat as a pancake compared to Central Park. 

I eagerly waited the posting of the results. Although I knew that it was highly unlikely, a part of me hoped for an age group award. In NYRR races, I never would have stood a chance, but since this race had about 500 people, I knew that this would be my best opportunity in the near future. 

However, it was not meant to be. I was technically 6th in my age group (20-29), but the top two were overall winners. The next three people won the age group awards, while Leiba and I technically tied at 4th place with an official time of 23:55. However, since I must have beaten her by like a tenth of a second or something, I placed 4th and she placed 5th. Still, getting 4th was by far the closest I have ever come to receiving an AG award, and will probably be the closest I will get in the near future. 

Looking back at McMillan, however, I realized that according to my HM PR, I should have been able to race a 5K in 23:23. Oh well. It just goes to show you that I am still better at racing longer distances. The official results are below - I had to figure out my gender placement by counting the number of women in the race by adding up each age group. I also found a website for calculating my AG percentage. 

Previous PR: 27:26  @ 8:50mm
New PR: 23:55 @ 7:43mm
Overall Placement: 56/506
Gender Placement: 15/336
Age Place: 4/136
Age Graded Percentage: 60.32%

While I would have loved to get my first AG award, I am very happy that I finally broke my 5K PR, and got above a 60% AG for that distance. 

In hindsight, I realized that although the race itself is painful, the feeling of leaving nothing on the course can be very addicting. While I am still not in love with the distance, I can appreciate why others are obsessed with it. 

I think that NYCRuns does an amazing job of putting on races. They are well organized, and have the sense to keep races on the small side so that they course is not too overcrowded. I never felt that I was impeded from running my race in any way. I had a great time, and plan on doing more of their races in the future. 

Thanks for reading! 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Marathon Training is Quickly Approaching....

First of all, I would like to express my sympathy and deep sorrow for what the people of Newtown, CT went through yesterday. There are just not enough words to describe what a tragedy this is. I can't even imagine what it feels like to send a child to school, only to lose them in one of the places that was supposed to be safe for them. The entire town will be in my thoughts and prayers. 

I usually don't express political opinions in this blog, but it is pretty clear that action needs to be taken. Gun ownership needs to be more tightly regulated, and there needs to be a better system in place to help identify those who are mentally struggling before it's too late.  How many tragedies like this need to happen before the nation wakes up?

Time to get off my soapbox and get back to running. While last month was a wash, things are starting to change. 

It took a while, but it seems like I am finally getting back in the game, so to speak. Last week was the first time I ran over 30 miles since marathon training, and I will most likely accomplish the same thing this week. I realized that although I faced personal disappointment over the last couple of months, the year isn't over yet. 

I will be running my first 5K since March 2011, and to be honest, I am very nervous about it. I don't know the course, and the distance has become very foreign to me. While I expect to get a personal record by default, I know that I will still be disappointed in myself if I don't race to my full potential. I would love to average around a 7:45mm (or better) but we'll see what happens. 

On the bright side, I get this pretty mug. It's
nice not to get another shirt for a change!
I have also finalized my marathon training plan for R&R DC, which will include a few races either as marathon pace runs or tune-ups. I decided to use Pfitz's 12/55 week training plan. For those of you who don't know, this is a 12 week plan that peaks at 55 miles per week. I made slight modifications to the plan, mostly to change some of the long runs to Saturdays instead of Sundays, but otherwise it is very close to the original. I hope that I will be able to handle it. 

I hope to be able to write a positive race report tomorrow, but one will be written no matter what the outcome is. Even if I don't have the race I want, it will be a learning experience that will be worth analyzing. Thanks for reading!