Saturday, October 27, 2012

Week 15: Training milestones, new accessories, fame, and a new hair style!

Just over one week from today, all of us will be making our way across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to start our 26.2 mile journey. I had heard about an Asics sponsored exhibit in the Columbus Circle Station, and that there was a wall with the names of the marathon runners. I resolved to check it out sometime this week and get a picture. 

I didn't run Monday, and although I planned on running Tuesday, I should have known better than to schedule a run the day after orchestra rehearsal. I get back late from White Plains, and I am usually so wired up that it takes me forever to fall asleep. I wanted to go after work, but it just didn't happen. 

Wednesday I went out for an easy 5 mile run, and didn't bother with the Garmin. It's very uplifting to see the marathon route signs, and the bleachers by the finish line are now starting to be covered in orange. 

Thursday was my "dress rehearsal" so to speak. I wore my entire marathon outfit, down to the arm warmers, and did 6 miles with 2 @ goal marathon pace. 

Happily, miles 2 & 3 were on pace, and I ended up with 6.11 miles - as usual, the Garmin didn't catch a signal until I reached Central Park.

During Friday evening's run, I decided to take a detour into the Columbus Circle train station to look at the Asics marathon exhibit. This includes a wall that has all of the marathoners names on them (in theory). So, I look at the wall, and after a few minutes, look what I found.

I didn't have my phone with me, but a fellow first time marathoner was nice enough to take these pictures and email them to me. Thanks Tanya! I then ran up the West Side, and less than two miles name, I heard my name being shouted out. I turn around, stop, and see two figures racing towards me. It's my former co-workers from HSS, Jerry & Anny! What a pleasant surprise. We run a couple of miles together before they go to NYRR Headquarters to pick up their bibs for Sunday's race, which may or may not be cancelled for the second year in a row due to weather circumstances. Miles 5 & 6 were faster than planned because of this, but it was great to have the company. 

The next morning, I decided to stick to Central Park. I had considered taking another crack at the Queensborough bridge, but I didn't feel like carrying water with me. I ran as much of the race route as I could. I started off by running down the park drive towards Columbus Circle, then went onto Central Park South and back towards the finish line. After crossing the still not-set up finish line, I ran towards Harlem Hill, but I left the park after doing the first hill, I ran on Central Park North until I hit Fifth Avenue. 

Last weekend, I only hit Fifth Avenue at 96th street, but even a mile and a half made a huge difference in how I felt about that stretch. It felt far hillier than last time, and my thought was "geez this course is going to be HARD! Exactly why did I think that sub-4 was possible?" Then I told that voice in my head to shut up. 

Anyway, I finished just over 7.5 miles. Below are the Garmin stats and route I used. I was faster than expected, and I didn't eat anything, but I felt great almost the entire time. 

After finishing this run, I realized that I hit an extremely important milestone. At the end of last year, I made it my goal to run 1,500.76 miles this year, and as of today, I have achieved that goal by running an average of approximately 5 miles per day in 301 days....and it's not even the end of October yet. 

I celebrated this important milestone like any other girl with extremely unmanageable hair would do. I went to get the Keratin treatment done on my hair, and the results came out very nicely in my humble opinion.

I don't know how my hair matched the "blonde" swatch at the hair salon, but oddly enough, it did. I don't get it. 

My next mission was to get more orange bling for my outfit. After Thursday's dress rehearsal run, and after looking at the weather, I realized that it would be too warm for my orange arm warmers. I compensated by buying a headband and orange socks. There cannot be too much orange in my marathon outfit! 

Even the bloks are orange. No worries -
I plan on trying one before assuming
that I can take them with me next weekend.
After that, I didn't do much for the rest of the day, other than buy some non-perishables in case NYC loses power because of Hurricane Sandy. It's unlikely, but better safe than sorry. I still don't know whether the subways will be running Monday morning, and I won't be finding out until tomorrow. Even if the MTA isn't running, I still might have to go to work and take extra security measures to prevent my hair from getting wet. 

Since I can't wash it until Tuesday, and since the weather will be awful due to the storm, I won't be running tomorrow or Monday. I will call these days SHDs - scheduled hair days. 

Anyway, thanks for reading. Please keep an eye out for a spectator guide later this week, and I will be writing one other entry to cover my week 16 runs before the marathon. Thanks for reading!!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Intermezzo: Or why music & running are not so different after all

As I was sitting in orchestra rehearsal on Monday night, I started to realize how many similarities there truly are between being a musician and being a runner. While I had always known how music and math were linked, I never thought about the relationship between my two favorite past times. Here is a list of everything that I have thought of so far

1. Both activities are easier to begin at a young age. The older you get, the harder it is to learn how to read music, and the older you get, the harder it is to start running. There are exceptions to the rule, but had I started running at the same age I started playing the flute, odds are that I would probably be much better at it. 

2. In running, we call it base building and speed work. In music, we call it practicing scales, etudes, arpeggios, long tones, and music theory. There has to be that foundation before learning music before a concert, or before beginning a new training cycle for a race. 

3. At rehearsals or at a concert, it is easy to see who put in the work, and who didn't even look at their music. While this is not as easy to spot in a race, each individual knows whether they trained to the best of their ability

4. Confidence is key. No matter how much you prepare, you won't do nearly as well if you do not believe in yourself. This applies to both races and concert. Stage fright and taper madness are far more similar than one might believe. 

5. There is always something new to learn both in the running world and in the music world.  There are just as many interpretations of Mozart's "The Magic Flute" as there are books on running technique. No single way is entirely correct. It is up to the individual to determine what works best as each scenario is unique. 

6. Playing in groups is fun, but you have to have the confidence to stand on your own two feet. As a flute player, there are times when I play the same part as others, and there are times when I am playing the melody on my own, and I need the confidence to pull off solos since all eyes will be on me. In running, going with a group is fun, but ultimately, each person has to be able to run their own race. 

That's my ramble for today. On a different note, after considering my candidates, I have decided to give my triathlete entry to a high school friend who like me, is a musician and an athlete. Not only is he a talented trumpet player and athlete, he has devoted a lot of time and energy raising money for charity. Chris Coletti, I look forward to seeing what you're capable of in July 2013. 

Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

NYCM Week #14: The taper has begun!

Monday & Tuesday
To my intense relief, I was in better spirits this week. I took my usual SRD Monday, but my legs were still not 100% recovered from Sunday's 21 miler by the end of the day. So I decided to hold off my run until Tuesday night.

However, that didn't quite work out as planned. I had a meeting which involved going up to Columbia, and it was the first time that a business plan of mine was presented to the COO. That morning, I ended up being late for work because due to a stalled train, I had to get out of the subway at 59th street and figure out what to do. Thankfully, as a native New Yorker, I managed to get to the Second Avenue bus and I was only fifteen minutes late. Crisis averted! As for the meeting, it went as well as it could have, and I did my part, but a combination of nerves and all of the travelling involved to get up there combined with the stressful morning commute, tired me out, so when I got home, I just couldn't bring myself to go out. I felt car sick, even though I wasn't car sick when I was actually travelling. 

On the bright side, I had some face time with my little sister, and even got to meet her madre - we didn't get far past "hola, como esta" since my Spanish is a bit rusty, but she seemed really nice, and I look forward to meeting the family in person in November. Necesito practicar mi español antes de la vacación en Noviembre. Belle - did I say that right?

Wednesday & Thursday
I ran 6.14 miles on both Wednesday morning, and Thursday night. I decided to ditch the Garmin and just go by feel, and whatever the pace was, it felt pretty good. It was nice to just be outside, and enjoy the slow arrival of fall. The air felt crisp, and I was reminded of why I loved running so much. 

I had planned on running Friday, but after running Thursday night and staying up to watch the Presidential debate on DVR, I ended up skipping. Considering it was pouring in the morning, that was probably a good thing. That night, I went out to Koren BBQ with my friends Jen and Paul due to Paul's moving out of the city. He accepted a job in DC and will be there for the next couple of years. I didn't need another excuse to visit the capitol during Obama's second term *fingers crossed* but now I have one!

On Saturday, I put the Garmin back on to do my last 12 mile run before the marathon. At first, my only route idea was to go over the Queensborough bridge a couple of times and then go to Central Park, but then I got inspired.... 


I started off at my place and ran towards the East River path. On my way, I passed some runners going up first avenue, and that's when a thought began to form. I decided to run the Queensborough bridge twice, then simulate the marathon course and go up first avenue. Team in Training had a couple of pace groups on the bridge, but they were easy to get around, so they didn't bother me. 

Although there was a bike path on first avenue, I decided to stick on the sidewalks since they weren't crowded to avoid any possible bike incidents. Although I had to stop more than I wanted to, I was glad to get the experience of running the course. At 96th street, I pulled a Rosie Ruiz, cut upper Manhattan & the Bronx out and started heading west. What I had forgotten was how hilly that block was. It was a straight uphill for the next few avenues, but at least the elevation was similar to the Pulaski bridge. 

After that, I ran down Fifth Avenue like I would during the marathon, and entered the park at Engineer's Gate and noticed that orange signs saying "Marathon Course" had been posted in the park. I ran down the park drive, and exited the park, ran down Central Park South, then re-entered the park and ran to the finish. As I crossed where the finish line would be set up, I started to feel excited, especially when I saw the bleachers being set up. I then ran two more miles to get home. 

After I showered, I decided to go to lululemon to see whether I could find an outfit for NYCM. More details on that later in the post! That night, I went to my friend's bachelorette party, and while I had a great time, I ate a bit too much BBQ, which affected my run the next day...

...but thankfully, not too badly. I still had an enjoyable run in Central Park, even with an unhappy stomach. 

I noticed that they were setting up for a cancer walk, but I got out there early enough so that they didn't really start taking up most of the park drive until I was about to finish my run. It was kind of neat seeing people's enthusiasm, and seeing all of the pink, but I'm glad that I didn't have to deal with the crowds for too long. 

After my run, I went to meet up with my aunt Edie, Matt, and Erin for brunch on the west side. I was a little annoyed that the bus was nowhere to be found and I had to take a cab across town. Considering what happened on Tuesday, especially since the MTA wanted to raise prices, I was not too pleased by that. Still, my meal was worth it. 

Banana stuffed French Toast. Yes, you all should be
very, very jealous!
The Outfit
With NYCM two weeks away, I knew that I needed to figure out what to wear. My mother had ordered some things from Nike, but their tanks didn't fit me right, so I decided to go to lululemon and try some things on. 

Long story short, after trying on a few things, I found an outfit which I really loved and bought it. But after I bought orange arm warmers, I realized that I could do a complete orange theme. So, I had a very important decision to make between the following two combinations. Everything is the same except for the shorts/skort. The back of the skort had a really cute, pleated pattern. 


I was really torn, because while I though the skirt was adorable, I liked the idea of an all orange theme. However, my mind was made up after doing Sunday's 9 mile run with the skirt and the tank. I just felt so amazing and comfortable in a way that I hadn't felt in my running clothes in a long time. My decision was made.  An orange / blueish purple theme it is! Thanks Cheryl for helping me locate the gel pockets in my skirt - they're kind of hard to see if you don't know where to look the first time. In addition, I had a back pocket I could use. Maybe if I can wear an armband for my phone, I'll have a way to carry everything with the new NYCM luggage policy. 

I got the arm warmers at Super Runners along with these really cute gloves. They're both official NYCM marathon gear, but I just couldn't resist

For my Triathlete Friends
As promised, now it's time to discuss something very important. This past summer I volunteered for the NYC Olympic Triathlon in order to get guaranteed entry for next year's event. But after serious consideration, I realized that I'm not ready to tackle a triathlon at that distance, especially one at that size with the crazy logistics that any NYC race has. My running goals haven't been set for next year, and I don't want to compromise any dreams that I may have after NYCM.

So, as a result, I have one guaranteed entry to the triathlon to give away, but I am only going to give it to someone who I know personally, someone who I know will respect the distance, train properly for it, and will be able to finish it. Speed doesn't matter to me - this person could get last place for all I care - but I don't want this entry to go wasted. This race is one of the toughest Olympic triathlons to get into, and this person would be extremely lucky to get this opportunity. I would feel terrible if I gave away my entry, only to find out that the person has flaked out. 

You can find all of the information, including the date and registration costs, here. If you are still interested, feel free to either comment on my blog or send me a personal email. Time is of the essence as the person has to sign up by November 5. I will give everyone equal and fair consideration, but to be fair, if family applies, they will come first. Since I want to get this out of the way well before the marathon, you'll have to let me know by the end of Wednesday night. I know it's not a long time to think about this commitment, but if the worst case scenario happens and the entry goes back to the lottery pool, I'll be alright with that. However, I want to give my friends and loyal readers this opportunity first. 

Stay tuned for next week's entry discussing my goals, my timing, and other fun and entertaining topics. Thanks for reading! 

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!!!!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Week #12: The Staten Island Half Marathon, and what it means for NYCM (aka the power of orange!)

Short & Sweet Version
Previous PR: 1:52:28 
New PR: 1:48:16 @ 8:16 pace
Overall Placement: 1778/5798 
Gender Placement: 334/2559 
Adjusted Gender Placement: 277/2559 
Age Place: 102/657 
Age Graded Percentage: 60.81% 

Long & Detailed Version
(If you only look at the pictures, I'll understand)

The Best Laid Plans...
After the events of last year's Staten Island HM, I had no desire to do this race again. I remember being completely miserable for most of the race, and didn't have any intention of returning this year. In fact, I originally planned on doing the Boston Half Marathon, which took place the same day. 

However, plans changed when the Boston half sold out within an hour. I was in a meeting for work, and had I anticipated it selling out so quickly, I would have asked someone to sign up for me, but alas, it was not meant to be. So, after reviewing my options, I reluctantly signed up for Staten Island. 

The Mini-Taper
Originally, I had a 45 mile week planned. I figured that if I did most of the mileage early on, and gave myself a couple of days of rest, that would be fine. Then Rachel explained to me why that was a really stupid idea, and after a long discussion, I realized that I was afraid that I would lose fitness if I had one lower mileage week. I knew that she was absolutely right - if I didn't do my indicator half with fresh legs, then I wouldn't know where my fitness truly was.

So I did three shorter runs this week. In the interest of not making this longer than it needs to be, you can find the Garmin links here, here and here. I never took my watch off of auto-lap from the previous weekend, plus not all of the mileage was recorded, but you'll get the gist of it. 

This is the first time that I have done a half marathon in the middle of a marathon training cycle. Although this was not my ultimate goal race, and I didn't specifically train for it, my mileage was much higher, and I had two twenty milers under my belt at this point. I had done the Yonkers Half at 1:55, which felt easy to me, so I thought that I had a decent chance of at least getting a PR.

However, none of my short distance PRs even remotely indicated that I had a shot at a sub-1:50 half, so I knew that I was taking a risk when setting this goal. 

New Pre-Race Ritual
Some of my running friends wear bright colors to races, and paint their nails flashy colors, and this time, I wanted to join in. Since I had some unexpected free time on Saturday, I tried to shop for a bright orange sports tank, but alas, there wasn't one to be found. Instead, I re-laced my sneakers with orange laces, and painted my nails bright orange thanks to an impulse purchase at Duane Reade. I didn't do a half bad job considering my fine motor skills aren't always the greatest. My selected outfit was finalized. Oddly enough, I almost always PR when wearing this blue tank top. 

Getting to the Race
After ordering in some Italian, I went to sleep early. Last year, I caught the 7:30 Staten Island Ferry, but it ran late, some people got crowded out, and after using the restroom and checking baggage, I barely got to my corral in time. This year, they were offering both a 6:30 and a 7am ferry, but I decided to be overly cautious and catch the 6:30 ferry. This meant that I had to wake up at 5:15 and get to the subway by 5:45 to be on the safe side since the express train runs local that early in the morning. Thankfully, I caught the ferry without a hitch, and managed to get some nice views on the way. I have way too many pictures to post, but here are the best few. All of them will eventually be on Facebook.

We then arrived in Staten Island just before 7am, and I had plenty of time to do my business several times before checking my bag. I tried to avoid taking my sweater off as long as possible since it was freezing, but eventually, I checked my bag and gave it up so that I could do a warm-up. Before I did, I got a few more pictures in, including one of the Staten Island September 11th memorial. 

After finally taking off my sweater, I still had an hour left, so I decided to do a brief warm-up. I did my first half mile very slowly, the second half mile close to marathon pace, and then did a quarter of a mile at goal HM pace to see how the effort would feel so that I could get used to it. It felt alright, so I spent some more time stretching by my corral. 

The Bet
My friend and former co-worker walked by, and I was relieved to see him there. He is also in the process of training for his first marathon, but I was growing concerned about his training, or lack of. I wanted him to have a race experience that was longer than the distance of the Corporate Challenge, which is 3.5 miles, so I made a bet: whoever had the best time would be treated to a meal. Under normal circumstances, I would have been incredibly stupid to make that bet, as he ran the corporate challenge at a 7mm pace and I ran my best four mile race at a 7:52mm pace. However, since he hadn't been taking marathon training seriously, I figured that I at least had a shot. More importantly, I got him to agree to get this essential race experience under his belt, so already, it was a victory for both of us. 

He was assigned to a faster corral, so he would be starting before me. Since he used his corporate challenge pace when he signed up, he was in the red corral, which was two ahead of mine, while I was in my usual green corral. That way, both of us would not really know who won the bet until both of us crossed the finish line. 

Pre-Race Nutrition
I ate a luna bar on the ferry. I had brought another one along, but I didn't end up eating it. I planned on taking two shot bloks every 4-5 miles during the race, and hitting the water station approximately every two miles or so. 

The Race
After the usual National Anthem, and final race instructions, a water cannon went off, which was pretty cool, and we were off! Well, actually, the front of the pack was off. As usually, it took a couple of minutes for my corral to get moving, but soon enough we were on our way. 

I decided to manually split my laps since I knew that I would be terrible in running the tangents. My strategy would be to run by feel, and make sure that I wasn't going slower than 8:22, or much faster than 8:15, and for the most part, I either stuck to that or erred slightly on the fast side. 

As I ran the course, this thought came to my head: "where were the nightmarish hills that I remembered from last year?" For the most part, I thought the course was very easy, and the first 10K passed by really quickly. I took my bloks as planned around mile four, and the water tables weren't too difficult to navigate. I am still very ungraceful when it comes to drinking on the run, and my clothes probably drank as much as I did, but cie la vie! 

Since this was an out and back course, I got to see both the front of the pack, as well as the back of the pack. Being an MOP (middle of packer) is a good thing sometimes. At some point, I saw the winner come running by me going in the opposite direction. There was a 10K timing mat, and I hit it at 51:22. This was not a 10K PR for me, but it was just under 40 seconds slower. 

At this point, I was slowly growing more confident that I would meet my goal, but I knew that the hardest hill was still to come. Not too long before I reached the turn-around point, I saw Robert coming back, shouted out to him, and we waved to each other. It was then that I knew that I was probably going to lose the bet, as he was more than two minutes ahead of me by that point. I was upset for a moment, but decided to focus on my own race, as he still had plenty of opportunity to bonk after that major hill.

...and now, time for a quick chuckle
I'm pausing this race report for a funny moment, sponsored by another race participant. I remember approaching someone and saying to them that I liked what their shirt said (which I don't even remember at this point). We were chatting for a few moments when he asked me how much caffeine I had. Apparently I was way too perky for a half marathon this early in the morning. I doubt any of my running buddies are surprised in the least. 

...back to the action
I decided that I would fuel after the major hill to give myself a boost for the final few miles. The hill was just as brutal as I remembered. In reality, it was no more difficult than the hills of Central Park, but at race effort, it was certainly not easy. I ended up with an 8:30 mile, which was the one time I had a split above my goal pace. I wasn't happy about it, but I resolved to make it up over the next couple of miles. 

After I fueled, I remember thinking the following "now, you only have a 4 mile race left, and the elevation is even easier than the usual Central Park races. Now go finish it!". As I got faster, I started to be more certain that I hit my goal, but a small part of me remained paranoid throughout the race. 

At the ten mile marker, I knew that there was only a 5k left, and I put in every effort to finish strong. Other than one last hill towards the end, the rest of the course leading back to the start felt mostly easy, and I felt amazing. As I got closer to the finish, I looked at my watch, and realized that while I would miss getting sub-1:48, sub-1:49 was definitely mine for the taking. So I looked up, sprinted to the finish, and made sure to hold up my arms and smile as I ran through the finish line. In other words, this will look like every other finish line photo. 

Here are my Garmin splits. Keep in mind that the time column represents my real splits, not the average pace column since I used manual splits this time. 

My Garmin said 1:48:18, and the official time was 1:48:16. After getting my bag, I found Robert, who was easy to spot because he was wearing a bright green shirt. Although I reached my goal, Robert easily defeated me with a 1:38:26. However, his splits weren't as consistent, and he realized that he would have a really hard time at the marathon. Still, he did a great job, and I owe the guy a meal. We decided on all you can eat sushi at some point in the near future

We caught the 11am ferry back to Manhattan, and by that point, the rain was coming in very quickly. I didn't get pictures on the way back because it was too gloomy out. Thankfully, I caught the train quickly, and got myself a yummy, delicious, caloric Starbucks drink and relaxed for a long time before heading to my parents for dinner. 

My sister's Facebook status yesterday: "After I finished my 6 mile fast walk, Dahlia let me know that she just ran a half marathon in 1 hour and 48 minutes. Remember when I was the more athletic sister? The times have changed." I was very flattered, but for some reason, I still don't consider myself an athlete. I guess after going through periods of being overweight, my self image has yet to catch up with reality. 

Post Race Analysis
In hindsight, I was happy that I didn't travel all the way to Boston for a half. This was my first real race effort in four months, and I was thrilled that I was able to put the pedal to the metal when it counted. 

Staten Island redeemed itself as a course in my opinion. I think that the timing of Yom Kippur and the unusually high temperatures clouded my opinion, and everything seemed much harder than it really was. It's not the most scenic course, but I still enjoyed the overall experience, especially when I got some waterfront views. 

I was especially thrilled when I looked at my official results and saw that for only the second time ever, I broke the 60% barrier in terms of age graded percentage. The only other time I have done so was in a four mile race. When I plugged in my HM PR in McMillan, I realized that none of my shorter distance PRs were current. I have a lot to accomplish over the next year. 

Although I got my sub-1:50, and McMillan now predicts a sub-3:50 marathon,I know that it is no guarantee that I will get a sub-4 marathon, especially since my mileage is not extremely high. However, it gives me confidence that I at least have a fighting chance, but even as I type this, I know that it will be an uphill battle, especially since NYCM is a tough course, especially for a first time marathoner. 

Lastly, I would like to congratulate all of my friends who conquered their races this weekend, notably those who did Chicago. Also, I would like to thank Rachel once more for knocking some sense into me, and to congratulate her for breaking sub-2 in a half marathon!!! I knew that she could do it, and I am so proud of her! 

Thanks everyone for reading! There will be more pictures once they are posted online.