Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year In Review & 2015 Goals

This year hasn't been a big one for me in running, but looking back, this has been more of a maintenance year, and that's perfectly fine.  It was nice not having the pressure of training for a big race for once.

I ended up running a total of 1,263.81 miles for the year, which is an average of 105.32 miles per month and 24.58 miles per week. Since my goal was 2015K (1252.06 miles) for the year I was very pleased with that. 

That being said, the best things that have happened to me aren't directly related to any personal records. In no particular order, here is the list:

- Being able to turn my passion into running into a event day race timer job with NYCRuns. They are an amazing group of people to work with and I have learned a great deal so far
- Vacationing in Europe with my boyfriend, then finding a great place to move into early next year
- The arrival of my precious, adorable (insert every positive adjective here) niece. She has amazing parents and I can't wait to see her milestones in the coming year 
-  Reconnecting with Columbia Summer Winds & Manhattan Wind Ensemble, and catching up with old friends and making new ones
- Getting opportunities to play in pit orchestras once again, as well as in the CUMC & WCMC groups
- Watching my amazing sister deliver the commencement speech at her college graduation like a champ
- Other great things which are not coming to mind at this moment

I am grateful for all of the above, and the continuing health and happiness of my family and friends

But now it's time to put more focus on my running. Here are my goals for the upcoming year:

1. Run a sub-1:50 half again
2. Sub-4 marathon. NYCM & I have some unfinished business

They won't be easy, but hopefully they are doable. Thank you to everyone who has kept up with the blog this year! I will try to update more regularly in the future. 

Happy New Year!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Staten Island Half: A Redemption & Wake-Up Call Rolled Into One

Short Version:

Overall Place: 3,344 / 8,868 (top 38%)
Gender Place: 807 / 3,967 (top 21%)
Adjusted Gender Place: 1073 / 3,967 (top 27%)
Age Group Place: 227 / 1,031 (top 22%)

Long Version:

This past weekend, I ran the Staten Island Half Marathon. Although I didn't have a time goal attached, I was still very nervous going into it. I knew that my mileage and training going into this wasn't nearly good enough, and it was time to face the music. 

Usually, going into a half, I would do a twelve week training plan of sorts. This ideal training plan would have several long runs and weekly mileage consistently reaching the thirties. This is what actually happened:


After carb loading with Rachel & Diana the night before, I met Leiba at the Staten Island ferry and we made the 7am boat. We got there in good time, did the standard wait in the bathroom line at least twice, and checked our stuff into baggage. 

This year they had the finish line as well as race day central in the stadium of the Staten Island Yankees. In fact, the finish line would be right where home plate usually sits. It was kind of cool to see the runners take over the arena for the day. 

We then headed towards the corral. Initially Leiba and I were good NYRR citizens and stood at the borders of our respective corrals - her at the back of the 2xxxx yellow corral and me at the front of the 3xxx green corral - but when we saw the volunteer let someone with a 7xxx bib go through due to being a pretty female batting her eyes (as I rolled MY eyes) I decided to ignore that rule as well. 

It was chilly out so for once I was grateful that the corral was crowded enough for us to get body warmth. After the national anthem, we started the race, and within a couple of minutes we crossed the start line.  Unsurprisingly, Leiba shot out ahead of me and I was left to my own devices (I hope that someday I will be able to keep up, but today was clearly not that day). 

I decided not to look at my Garmin and do the entire race by feel. I had planned to fuel every five miles and drink water every two or so.  I had to make a quick change in strategy when I dropped one of my GUs early in the race. I tried to turn around, but after nearly running into someone, realized it was a lost cause and kept going. I knew that I would have to wait until half way through the race to eat my one remaining one.  Oh well!

For those first few miles, I felt like I was going really slowly, and figured that there was no way I was keeping a sub-2 hour pace. To my pleasant surprise however, the first couple of miles passed by more quickly than expected, and I realized that I was keeping up with a gun time of a 9mm pace. My new goal was to keep a 9mm gun pace and barring that, not get more than a minute or two behind that. Since I started a couple of minutes after the gun went off, I knew I had that cushion. 

The nice thing about an out and back course was the ability to see both the front and back of the pack. Somewhere during mile six I saw the lead men on the other side, and not long after that, I saw the lead female. I cheered for a while, but then saved my energy for my own race. Unfortunately, around the same time there was a runner down on the ground. Thanks to two fellow doctor runners and the medics, the guy made it, but it was still very scary to see. 

As I passed the 10K mat I was surprised that there wasn't a clock there so I looked at my Garmin just this once to see 53:23. Not bad!

On the way to the turn-around I saw one of my faster running friends, Karen, and on the way back I waved to Rachel & Meaghan. I knew plenty of other people on the course, Leiba included, but it's never possible to catch everyone with so many runners around. 

Although I was having a good time, my lack of training started to catch up to me around mile 9. To make matters worse, the big hill that had been at mile 7/8 in previous years was moved back to mile 10, and as I approached it, I had this feeling of dread. Although I powered through it took a few minutes to catch my breath as I ran downhill.

I had the energy to cheer on the back of the pack people, but I felt a little awkward doing it - it was hard to tell sometimes whether they were appreciative, or thought that we were somehow looking down on them. I hope they didn't think the worst! I felt particularly bad for those who were barely at mile 2 when I was past the mile 10 marker as they would have a long day ahead of them.

I definitely had to put more work into the last few miles to make sure I didn't slow down too much in the remaining leg of the race, but it definitely wasn't easy. My Garmin had been beeping way before the mile markers, so when I heard it when it thought I had hit mile 13 I felt relieved that I was getting closer. Despite being very tired, I was able to enjoy running into the stadium toward the finish. 

As I hit the mile 13 marker I was surprised to see that the clock read 1:56:xx. As I neared the finish line, I saw someone accidentally get tripped, so I ran with her a bit to make sure she was alright. As we approached the finish line, I told her to smile and hold her arms up. I followed my own advise and was gratefully relieved that it was FINALLY over. I stopped my Garmin and was pleasantly surprised to see that my time was approximately 1:54. 

Here are my Garmin splits. As usual, they were not completely accurate since I kept hitting the mile marker way earlier than the actual ones on the course. Considering I didn't look at my watch, my splits were surprisingly even other than miles 6 and 10, which covered running down and back up the same hill. I slowed down a little towards the end, but not as badly as I feared I would.

My baggage pick-up line was initially long as many people in my corral finished about the same time, but thankfully some volunteers were re-routed and I got out of there relatively quickly. After a bit of wandering around aimlessly, snacking, and saying hi to people, Leiba and I were able to make the 11am ferry and headed back. 

Race Experience Evaluation:

I thought that NYRR did an amazing job putting on this event. The longer I work for NYCRuns, the more I appreciate the amount of work that goes into what to a runner may seem like a deceptively simple thing to do. My one complaint would be that the race shirt needed to be gender specific - it's hardly accurate to call something "small" when two of me could fit into it. I ended up grabbing a medium at packet pick-up and passing it along to my boyfriend. 

My Running Performance:

Although I went into the race with the thought of running it easy, I should have known that there was a part of me that wouldn't allow that to happen. Race day adrenaline combined with internal pressure really motivated me to RACE this event, and not just do this for fun like I originally planned.  

My base fitness may have allowed me to garner a decent time, but despite this, I know I have a LOT of work to do in the coming year. If I want to get another sub-1:50 half marathon time, much less get a sub-4 hour marathon at NYCM 2015, I will have to put in a lot of time on my feet. The thought of running another marathon is definitely daunting, even more so than it was the first time now that I know what lies ahead, but this race only increased my determination to get the sub-4 marathon of my dreams. 

Thanks for reading!!!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hell Has Officially Frozen Over: Traveling to Brooklyn, Staten Island & Back Again

Why, might you ask? Because even though I still haven't beaten my 2012 5K PR, I won an age group award with NYCRuns, something I never thought would ever happen. 

Strictly speaking, this isn't my first EVER AG award - I was talked into doing a trail 10K and I got third place in my AG despite having an abysmal time (for me). But doesn't feel the same when you're not proud of your performance and didn't even realize that you were in the running for an award. This race was a completely different experience in that regard, and I will explain why momentarily. 

I initially signed up for this race to use it as an indicator for a goal half in September. My goal half is no longer in September, but I decided to race it all out anyway, even though I am not good at pacing at that distance. This should go well, right?

I have been to this course several times, but have never had the opportunity to run the 5K as I usually am called upon by NYCRuns to work as a timer. As you can see from the picture below, there is a good reason why I am NOT the race photographer.

Timer Selfie!
Anyway, since there wasn't packet pickup during the week, I knew I had to get to Shore Road around 7am to avoid the long packet pickup and toilet lines. So, after getting coffee, I got on a train just before 6am and headed down to Brooklyn. Thankfully, the MTA was running smoothly, and after a short warm-up jog from the train station, I got my number without any issues. I was even able to convince the owner of the diner near the train station to let me use their bathroom. 

After saying hi to the NYCRuns staff and volunteers, I waited around for the race to start. Since the 5K and 10K were running at the exact same time, it was difficult to tell who my competition actually was. It's also hard to know where the best place to line up is, but I lined up mid-front of the pack and hoped for the best. After a slight delay, I heard the starting horn and we were off!

I saw what seemed like a huge pack of people fly ahead of me pretty quickly, so I assumed that I probably wasn't going to win anything. Still, I was resolved to run as fast as I could. However, I didn't want to look at the Garmin, but to run by feel. I was determined to try and find a pace to run where I was pushing it, but at the same time, be able to keep going at that pace for longer than a mile. 

Spoiler Alert: Nope! Better luck next time!
My Garmin beeped exactly at the first mile marker, and to my surprise, I finished that mile in 7:38. At that point, I was thinking that a PR was within reach. As I reached the halfway point where the turnaround was, I started to scout the people running back towards me to see where I was in the overall scheme of things. To my pleasant surprise, I didn't see many women, and as I reached the turnaround, I realized that many of the people who had previously been ahead of me were competing in the 10K. 

This gave me some added confidence, and I started pushing as hard as I could, but it wasn't until the second mile marker until I realized that since I was now running against the wind, I had started to slow down and clocked in at almost 8 minutes. Whoops. 

Around this time, I was doing my best to catch up with an older lady in front of me, and was using her as a pace guide. During the third mile, I noticed that someone my age was slowly catching up to me, and I did my best to fend her off, but unfortunately, she passed me and my legs just didn't have it in them to catch up. For all I knew, I just lost my chance to get an AG award - I wasn't sure how many women passed me and I could have missed people. But as petty as this was, I was determined not to be outran by someone who was almost old enough to be my mother, so although it was a close one, I manage to out-kick her in the end.

Thanks Leiba & NYC Running Source!
I managed to catch up with the person who outran me, and congratulated her, and while I hoped she was a young looking 30 year old, alas, it was not meant to be. Still, it was her personal best, and I was happy for her. Although she crossed the line at 24:29, her chip time was over 10 seconds faster because she started towards the back of the pack, so it was not as close of a race as it looks below.

Distance makes my race pictures look more flattering!
After I finished, I drank some water, ate a few grapes, and checked the results. It's a good thing that I chatted with the person who finished in front of me, because I was listed as first in the 20-29 AG in error. Thankfully, I was able to help resolve this before the awards ceremony. I felt overwhelmed and shocked as I accepted my award, and congratulated the other girl when she received hers. 

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was 2nd place out of 34 in my AG (with the overall winner taken out) and 6th place overall female. Despite slowing down and not getting a PR, I was still able to finish in 24:31 at a 7:55mm average pace. 

As I stated earlier, while this wasn't my first AG award, this time felt fundamentally different because I was aware of possible award status during the race itself. My entire mindset shifted from just wanting to do my best to wanting to place as highly as possible. That has never happened to me before, especially not at NYRR races where it is a miracle if I get within the top 1000 finishers or so. It was the first time I really competed against another person, and although I lost that race, it was the first time that I had an age group win within reach, and that was an amazing feeling. 

I am still in shock
When I say that this is most likely the only time I will get one of these, it is not because I have low self esteem, or that I don't believe in myself. The fact is that as a middle of the pack runner, the only real way I would have a chance to win an age group award is if I ran a smaller race, and even then, it would entirely depend on who showed up on a particular day. When I ran my PR, I got a very distant fourth place in my age group, and that time was at least half a minute faster.

After two hours of traveling back and forth, all I wanted to do was nap, but I had another, longer journey in store. One of my good friends had a bridal shower in Staten Island, and I ended up commuting over 3 hours total. It was completely worth it and I had a great time with a good group of people. 

The beautiful Brooke and two of her stunning bridesmaids!
Why yes, I do own normal clothing!
I experienced a lot of firsts today, for not only was it my first time getting an age group award, but it was also my first time going to Staten Island for a non-running related event. I even took the Staten Island Railway for the first time. 

This will not be a recurring event, and no, I am not just talking about Brooke's bridal shower (I am pretty sure she's only getting married ONCE in this lifetime). However, even if I don't win another age group award in my life, I will always treasure this moment. 

Thanks for reading!!!!

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Long Overdue PR: Join the Voices 5M

Short Version
Previous PR: 43:40 @ 8:44 mm pace
New PR Time: 41:01 @ 8:13 mm pace
Overall Place: 1006/4551 (top 23%)
Gender Place: 197/2285 (top 9%)
Adjusted Gender Place: 305/2285 (top 14%)
Age Group Place: 46/543 (top 9%)
AG %: 59.01%

Long Version
June 25, 2011. This was the last time I ran a 5 mile race, and at the time, I was absolutely thrilled with what was then my PR. The rainbow pops were also pretty cool.

Fast forward to over three years later. I hadn't raced this distance for a variety of reasons, and in all honesty, I had no intention of doing another one. That distance just wasn't as important to me as the 5K, 10K, half, or even the marathon. 

I had my 9+1 for 2015 all set up - I had registered for my 9 races, plus I had my volunteer commitment set. However, due to scheduling concerns, I was no longer able to attend two of them and I knew that I had to find two replacements quickly. After a few minutes of looking at my calendar, I found two replacements, including yesterday's race. 

I went to packet pickup, and to my dissapointment, but not to my surprise, I got another cotton t-shirt which I will never wear. I don't even know why I bothered taking it home with me. Nevertheless I was delighted to see that I was in the third corral from the front.

Since I didn't have much time to run the day before, I figured that I would incorporate this race into the middle of a longer run. So I left extra early and ran 2.5 miles beforehand. This left me a bit unexcited and hesitant about this race since it was already incredibly humid out. Whose brilliant idea was it to start a summer race at 8:30am?????

As I lined up towards the back of my corral, the usual thoughts started going through my head. Why am I awake? It's too damn crowded. The announcer is a liar - this is NOT perfect race weather! . Yet, as always, when the gun goes off as I head towards the start line, the adrenaline starts surging and all of a sudden, I am eager to get going and see what I am capable of. 

I decided not to look at my watch for most of the first mile, figuring that I was going really slowly anyway. To my surprise, I finished the first mile in just under 8:15. Huh. Ok then. The second mile included Cat Hill, and it was my slowest in around 8:20ish or so. After that point, my legs seemed to realize that they were in the middle of a RACE and that it was time to speed up. 

It was so tempting to stop for water, but I knew that I would kick myself later on for those extra seconds on my time, so I just kept going. After finishing mile three in just over eight minutes, I knew that I would most likely PR. After doing what I call "race math" in my head, I realized that I had a shot at getting close to 41 minutes. 

When the fourth mile was barely slower even with the West Side hills, I knew I had an outside chance of getting sub-41 minutes, so I went for it. Although I got my fastest mile in at 7:58, plus a little extra Garmin distance at 7:21mm pace, I didn't quite hit that goal. Still, I wasn't going to complain about a 41:03 Garmin time! 

Hooray for negative splits!
 Later on, I saw that unofficial results were being tracked and noted my final time of 41:01, which was an 8:13mm average pace. I was especially thrilled about placing in the top 10% of my age group. Not too shabby considering I admittedly never do as much speedwork as I should (or any, as a matter of fact).

After my race, I ran 1.11 very slow recovery miles home to get a total mileage of just over 8.5 for the day. There were no race pictures of me - which is probably for the best as I probably looked like a hot mess when all was said and done.

Although I am proud of myself for what I accomplished yesterday, I know that I am capable of doing better at this distance, especially since my 10K PR is at a faster speed and even that is soft. In addition, my recent 4 mile PR is at a 7:44 pace. However, improving my 5 mile PR time is not a major priority for me at this time, so it will probably stay here for quite a while. 

Anyway, I am not sure what my next goal race is, but I am looking to break my almost 2 year old half-marathon PR, and that will be a tougher nut to crack because I haven't earned a sub-1:50 time since then. I am considering trying for either Staten Island in October or a spring half-marathon, which is TBD.

Thanks for reading! Until next time!  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Long Runs, Concerts & Pacers, Oh My!

Even though I have no intentions of running my second marathon this year, it is my goal to get in better shape and eventually earn another half-marathon PR, which is almost two years old at this point. So when I saw that NYRR's two long training runs were open for registration, I immediately jumped on board. 

Yesterday was the first of these two runs, and although getting out of bed at 5:50 am has never been ideal, it's something that one learns to deal with when running in the summer. After getting ready, I pinned on my bib and jogged 1.25 miles to the start. 

There were four loops to this run - the first loop was the entire six mile loop of the main drive, the second & third loops were five miles each, and the last loop was four miles. Each runner could run as much or as little as they wished. In addition, the runners split up into self-selected pace groups, and each one had a few volunteer leaders from a local running club.

Since I aimed to run around 13 miles that morning, I decided to run there, complete the first two loops and then jog home as a cool down. I initially planned on running with the 9:30 mm pace group, but then decided to challenge myself and see if I could do the 11 miles at marathon pace, which was 9:00 mm miles. I figured that if I couldn't keep up on the first loop, I would fall back and join the 9:30 group for the second loop. 

Since there were a lot of people lined up at that pace, we were split into two groups. I stayed back and started with the second group, and off we went! The first mile included Harlem Hill, so when my Garmin beeped 9:06, I was fine with that since I knew we would naturally speed up on the downhills. But I quickly realized that even with a couple of water stops, my pace group was going significantly faster than it should have been as miles 2-4 were finished at 15 seconds faster than we were supposed to go, and we were only speeding up from there. 

We slowed down significantly during the fifth mile due to Cat Hill, and finally had another mile close to pace at 8:56, but that did not last as we completed the loop almost 30 seconds too fast. Despite the pace, I was still feeling good, and once I took my GU and sipped some water, I decided to leave with the first nine minute pace group when they headed off. I had hoped that the pacers for this group would stay closer to pace. 

However, despite the fact that I was right on pace, the group was pulling ahead quickly and once I grabbed a sip of water, that was it. I ran quickly after them, but by the time I reached the bottom of the park the second time, the pace group was long gone. I was disappointed, discouraged, and even thought of quitting, but in the end my stubbornness won out. I ended up averaging an 8:52 pace over the 11.21 miles even though my pacers literally ran away from me. I hate to be harsh on the pacers, as they were gracious enough to volunteer their time and efforts, but considering the temperature and humidity, they should have been far more conservative than they were. 

Despite these difficulties, I was proud of my accomplishments. I did a cool-down mile, ate breakfast, then prepared for the next part of my day. While I usually take a mid-morning siesta, I didn't have time for that. 

My boyfriend & I play in a summer wind ensemble, and we had an early afternoon performance in the Bandshell at Central Park. I had played with Columbia Summer Winds five years ago, but business school schedules interfered, and after a long break, I decided to go back. 

As Paul & I walked over to the venue, it had started drizzling, which made me a bit nervous, but the rain eventually stopped and the weather cooperated with us. The theme of our concerts this year was "Americana", and we played several amazing works by Copeland, Ives, and several others. 

I admit that I  have high standards not only for myself, but for any group I play in, but when I realized how much our audiences appreciated our concerts, achieving perfection suddenly wasn't as much of a priority. But that certainly didn't mean our group wasn't up for the challenge. We pulled off an amazing concert, ending with myself and other flute players standing up and playing the famous piccolo solo in Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever. Once the concert was over, I finally gave into my hunger and ate a bunch of sushi thanks to a lovely lunch special at Haru that I enjoyed with Paul. Then, I took a two hour nap and finally started to feel a bit rested. 

Although it was a tiring day, I am continuously grateful to be able to stay active in both the running and the music world. Although I have been a musician far longer than I have been a runner, I can no longer imagine a life without both activities in them. It's a good thing that concerts & rehearsals never take place early in the morning!

That's all for now. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Reporting for Pacer Duty!: The Oakley Mini 10K

Within the past few months, I have convinced my friend Tatiana to start running regularly again. She ran high school track, but hadn't run as regularly since then. After getting to the point where she could run a few miles without stopping, I convinced her to sign up for NYRR's Mini 10K, which is an all-female race which I have participated in twice before.

In order to help prepare her for the race, I needed to prepare her for the hills of the course, so we ran them a few times as well as some hill repeats on Cat Hill. I also made sure that our training runs weren't too fast - while it's hard to believe, taking training runs at a slightly slower pace most of the time actually helps you perform faster in races. I learned that tidbit from Kathy and I have yet to be proven wrong, especially after getting injured from taking what was supposed to be a training run too fast. 

The day before the race, Tatiana and I went to NYRR headquarters to pick up our bibs. To my surprise, I actually liked the race tank we received, and in the spur of the moment, I decided that we should both wear it in a show of solidarity. After going out for pizza in the middle of a thunderstorm, we called it a night and got some sleep. 

The next morning, we decided to walk some of the way to the start, and jog the rest of it. When all was said and done, we ran just over a mile. I had a GU, and Tatiana ate a banana. While I didn't think it was substantial enough, she thought it was and I wasn't going to belabor the point. Tatiana thought that it was great weather to run in, but I just shook my head. She would realize the errors of that thought soon enough...

Once we arrived, we took our obligatory pre-race picture, and went to line up. Since we wanted to start together, we lined up further back than I would have if I were racing it on my own. After a bunch of pre-race speeches and announcements, the horn blew, and we were off!

Throughout the race, my goal was to make sure that we stayed between a 9:00mm - 9:30mm pace the entire time. We ran up Central Park West, which is very flat, for the first mile and a half or so, and although we were on the faster end of the range, I let it go since I knew that the upcoming hills would slow us down naturally. Well, at least that's what I thought would happen. 

The numbers clearly tell a different story...
The third and fourth miles were by far the most difficult since we had the Harlem Hills, plus a long, slow incline towards Engineer's Gate. To my surprise, we didn't slow down significantly, but by the time we ended mile 4, I knew that Tatiana was starting to get tired. It's common race wisdom that the mind gives up long before the body does, and I wanted to make sure that she didn't let herself get discouraged. 

So I spent the last two miles encouraging her and making sure that she stayed on pace for as long as possible. Towards the end, I thought that we had a chance at sub-57 minutes, but it was not to be. Our official time ended up being 57:07 @ 9:12 mm pace. But that didn't really bother us for too long - her goal had been under an hour and we had smashed it! Once the official results went up I found out that my amateur pacing efforts were pretty solid - the 5K splits were pretty much even. It turns out that I pace pretty well when I aim for marathon pace. Not too shabby! 

Although we had fantastic results, Tatiana found out the hard way that she needed more sodium in her pre-race food, and that a banana wasn't sufficient. I don't think any further detail is necessary. 

Now that we have this accomplishment under our collective belts, our next collective goal race will be the Staten Island Half in October! I am in the process of creating a training plan for her, and the 12 week clock will start ticking down before we know it! Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Playing Catch-Up: The United Kidney 10K & The Celebrate Israel Run 4M

I didn't really have anything interesting to say about either race, and I didn't PR, but I felt like I had to put something down on this blog for the record.

The only interesting statistic of note is that in the 10K, I managed to get even 5K splits of 26:08. That never happens.

United Kidney 10K
May 10, 2014
Time: 52:16

Overall Place: 2505 / 8053 (31%)
Gender Place: 585 / 3890 (15%)
Adjusted Gender Place: 780 / 3890 (20%)
Age Place: 185 / 1034 (18%)
AG Percentage: 58.04%

My first race as a 28 year old....

Celebrate Israel Run
June 1, 2014
Time: 32:07

Overall Place: 1417 / 5566 (25%)
Gender Place: 272 / 2731 (10%)
Adjusted Gender Place: 459 / 2731 (17%)
Age Place: 73 / 557 (13%)
AG Percentage: 59.91%

It's always a pleasure running a race in honor of Israel, my home away from home. My father is from there, and I always think of him as well as my family over there when participating in this event. 

Although these weren't my best times, I am happy to consistently be performing so close to the 60% AG mark. In fact, I'll just round that last one up, thank you very much!

I look forward to blogging about pacing my roommate to her first 10K coming up on Saturday!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April Showers Bring New PRs: CPF Run for the Parks

Short Version:

Previous PR: 31:31 @ 7:52 mm pace
New PR Time: 30:55 @ 7:43 mm pace
Overall Place: 1006/5542 (top 18%)
Gender Place: 168/2718 (top 6%)
Adjusted Gender Place: 287/2718 (top 11%)
Age Group Place: 51/599 (top 9%)
AG %: 62.22% (Highest Ever!) 

Long Version

I actually started this report a week ago, then I got busy with Passover and Vacation and never actually wrote anything beyond the short version. Whoops!

Running alongside Niagara Falls was amazing though! 
Anyway, I was not feeling optimistic going into this race. I hadn't achieved a short distance PR since December 2012, and my 4-mile PR was from April 2012 was even older. I guess I was so focused on the marathon that never happened in 2012, and after I got injured, I lost some of my confidence. 

But it was time to face the music (well, of the non-instrumental variety) and see where my fitness was. I signed up for this both as a fitness test and as a way to earn part of my 9+1 for the 2015 NYC Marathon in case I decided to do it. 

I usually wear a tank and shorts for my shorter distance races but since it was chilly, I took a different route and wore leggings and a long sleeved shirt. I left with plenty of time as I usually did, and ran just over a mile as a warm-up to get to the start line. I carried a bag so that I could check my jacket for after the race. 

As I waited for the race to start, I was pleasantly surprised to note that I could see the start line from the fourth coral. I could even hear the announcements at times. As I stood there shivering, the self doubt started to kick in. I wasn't in the best of shape, so why should I even hope for a PR? 

After the national anthem was beautifully sung though, I tried to set those negative thoughts aside. I figured that I would go for it, and if the worst case scenario was that I blew up, then so be it. I really didn't have anything to lose. As important as the result was to me, it certainly wouldn't play a role in determining the overall quality of my life. After all, only a few short years ago, running this distance, let alone racing it, would have been unthinkable. 

Then we were off! I decided not to obsessively look at my watch, but to go at what felt like short distance race pace. After a mile, I would check in and see what was a realistic goal. The trick was to establish a pace during the first mile, but not to the point where you can't maintain it for the other three. I barely noticed Cat Hill as I ran up it. It was a little difficult to get around people since these weekly races were getting so crowded, but I was able to run the race I intended to.

I looked down at my Garmin at the beep and I saw 7:38, so I knew that I must have crossed the actual mile marker at 7:xx. I knew that sub-30, which was my reach goal, was out of the question. However, when I clocked in the second mile at just under 7:40, I knew that I had a shot at both sub-31 and a PR, and was determined not to slow down too much over the west side hills. 
The third mile was always the hardest on this course, but when I only slowed down by 10 seconds or so, I was relieved, and resolved to push the last mile as hard as possible. As I was about to make the final turn towards the finish, I looked up just in time to see Leiba holding a camera and taking pictures, which turned out to be a good thing since MarathonFoto did not attend this event. I knew that a PR was in the bag so I said that to her as I was turning the corner. 
Thanks Leiba!
As I ran onto the transverse and into the closing stretch, I noticed that sub-31 was within reach, so I dug deep and went as fast as I could. I finished the last mile in approximately 7:40 and got an official time of 30:55!

You can see my splits below - they're not entirely accurate since my watch went off before the mile marker but the direction / splits are spot on.

Even if it was only by about 36 seconds, I was relieved that I finally got a short distance personal record, and that my NYRR bib pace had a slight improvement. I was even happier when I checked the results and discovered that not only did I break the 62% AG, but that I placed within the top 10% of my age group and not far from the top 1000 overall participants. 

Although I had already learned this lesson, this race reaffirmed that a positive attitude makes all of the difference. Well, that, and actually running regularly and training, but I think you all know what I mean. I find that when I stay positive, and not look at my watch every five seconds, I am able to focus more on the bigger picture to achieve the desired results. 

When plugging the new PR into the McMillan Calculator, I got these expected race times:
In theory, I should be able to do sub-50 at the 10K distance, and I am hoping to accomplish this at the Healthy Kidney 10K on May 10th, which will be my last race as a 27 year old runner. Hopefully the weather and everything else will fall into place that day. Tune in next time to see how everything turns out. 
Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

March Madness: My NYC Half Weekend

Short Version:

HM Time: 1:53:36 @ 8:41mm pace
Overall Place: 6849/20790 (top 33%)
Gender Place: 2189/11009 (top 20%)
Adjusted Gender Place: 2916/11009 (top 26%)
Age Group Place: 609/2616 (top 23%)

Long Version:


What do you call someone who runs a half-marathon, performs in a concert, then comes home and goes to an opera rehearsal for another 3 hours? If you guessed completely insane, you would be correct. Welcome to my world. 

As someone who has played the flute for almost twenty years, staying active in the music world has always been important to me. However, it is sometimes hard to get involved since there are so many other talented amateurs out there looking for the same thing. So when opportunity knocks, you do whatever it takes to answer the door. 

I was already signed up and training for the NYC Half Marathon when I found out that a community orchestra that I regularly play with was having not one, but two concerts in March, and the second one would be taking place the same day as the half. Well, the timing would be tight, but I would be able to get home, shower, and catch the metro-north to White Plains in time, so no biggie. I guess I'll survive without my post-half marathon nap just this once. 

Then, about a week before the race, I found out through a friend that they were looking for musicians to play in an opera orchestra the weekend after, and that rehearsals would start the same Sunday night. Although I knew that I already had a dress rehearsal and a concert the week after the half, I hadn't done a pit orchestra for over 5 years, and knew that I would regret missing this opportunity. Before I knew it, my Sunday was jam-packed, and what had started out as my goal race was only the beginning of a long and exciting day. 

Race Day

When I last ran this race, it was warm enough for me to wear shorts and a tank, but this time, it would be absolutely freezing at the start. I wore my warm running pants, a long sleeved tech, and my running jacket as well as my ear-warmer headband. After waking up early, getting dressed, and eating a quick bowl of cereal, I took the train down to 59th street. Due to tightened security protocols, runners were only allowed to enter at the bottom of the park. 

As I walked towards the corrals, I saw security officers handing out containers for people to put their keys and other metal items in before they went through a metal detector. For one awful moment, I completely freaked out because I thought that they were going to take my phone and keys away from me. However would I get back into my apartment after the race if I didn't have my keys? They have no right to take my phone!!! How can I sneak my items through this checkpoint?

Wait a minute. This is what happens when Dahlia doesn't have caffeine first thing. Obviously, everyone would be getting those items back after the security check, like they would in an airport. Oh yeah. Everything is fine now, move along. Nothing to see here!
Looking pretty cheerful for a coffee-less zombie...
Naturally, I get to my corral MUCH earlier than I needed to, so I spent a long time out there freezing my tail off. My friends Rachel & Diana were supposed to start in my corral with me, but they got there later so we didn't find each other. After what seemed like forever, wave 1 was finally starting. As I was about to cross the start, I thought I saw those two ahead of me, but I didn't have a clear enough view to know for certain. It shouldn't have surprised me that it still took a few minutes to cross the start, but what can you do?

Almost immediately, I decided that I didn't want to look at my watch. I knew I wasn't going to PR, especially in this weather, and I had no intention of putting any extra pressure on myself. The first 5K wasn't too difficult - the only major hill was Cat Hill and it was right at the beginning, so I almost didn't even notice it. Last time, we hit the 5K point as we were about to hit Harlem Hill, but this year, we did a small out and back on 110th street - that way, they could fit more people on the course and shorten the amount of time in Central Park. as I was running towards the turn-around, I saw Rachel briefly and we said a quick hello.  The out and back was ok, and I enjoyed the change of scenery, but running up and down 110th street wasn't THAT interesting. 

Since the next 5K had both Harlem and the West Side hills, I knew that it would be the most difficult part of the race. I kept mentally telling myself that it would all be easier once I left the part, and did my best to keep pace without completely wearing myself out. At mile 5 or so, I took my first GU, and things seemed to be going smoothly. 
Out of my way people! I have a concert to get to!
Now that the hardest parts of the race were out of the way, it was time to look forward to Times Square. Running that mile is always the most entertaining for me, but I knew that it would end all too soon. Shortly after that, we made our way onto the West Side Highway, where we would be for the next few miles. 

I started getting bored after the 15K mark, especially since it looked like some of the entertainment along the course left after the famous athletes came by, but I kept at it, knowing that it wouldn't be too long until I ran through the tunnel and finished the race on the streets near the South Street Seaport. After taking my last gel around mile 10, I was mentally prepared to get this over with. 

Since my Garmin was so far ahead of the mile markers, I was almost relieved when I knew that I would lose reception in the tunnel as it wouldn't record as much distance for that small interval. Speaking of the Battery Tunnel, it was longer than I remember it the previous time, and while it was enjoyable at first, it soon felt unnerving and I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. 
Spoiler alert: I made it out of the tunnel
Happily, I made it out, and knew that I was almost done. As I followed the clocks along the course, I estimated that I would finish faster than a 1:55, but I didn't know by how much, even if I was correct. As I crossed the finish, I finally glanced down at my watch and saw my time of 1:53:36, and although it wasn't a personal record, it was my best half-marathon time of 2014. Not too shabby. 

I seem to do much better when I don't look at my Garmin - I had a small negative split, and my 5K splits were almost dead even. 

Concert & Rehearsal

My concert after that went well, and I enjoyed my operatic pit orchestra experience tremendously. I may have been a runner for three years, but I have been a musician for over three times that long, and am thrilled that I continue to be able to keep my playing up.
Relax, guys, I've been doing this since I was nine. Of COURSE I know what I'm doing.

Overall, I ended up participating in five performances in the month of March, including two concerts with the Really Terrible Orchestra of Westchester (yes, that's their actual group name), one concert with the Weill Cornell Music & Medicine Initiative, and two performances of Der Freischutz with the Utopia Opera Company. I played flute and piccolo with Weill Cornell, and oboe for the other concerts. 

Tech rehearsal for Der Freischutz
Coming up next: My first short distance PR since 2012. Thanks for reading! 

Friday, March 7, 2014

NYCH Training Updates

My last blog entry was January 21st, and today is March 7th. So much for getting better about regular updates...

Anyway, when I began training for the NYC Half that will be on March 18th, I made up this whole detailed training plan, which included 16 mile runs and regular weeks in the 30-35 mile range. I had done this before, and would be confident that a repeat performance would not be a problem.

Then a polar vortex hit. Then another. And another. 

Since I was injured last winter, I had forgotten how hard it was to train during that time. To be fair though, when I last trained for the NYC Half in 2012, the winter wasn't nearly so terrible, and running outside wasn't nearly as big of a deal. But the two things factored together just took the wind out of my sails.

After a week or so at sub-par mileage, I eventually sucked it up and started hitting the treadmill, but I knew that I would not have the mental fortitude to do as much on a machine as I would have done outdoors. 

Despite the weather and motivational issues, up until last week, I managed to average approximately 24 miles per week, and even raised my treadmill tolerance level to a degree. I was able to run for 60 minutes straight without wanting to commit homicide, and these days, 6.5-6.7 can now feel easy on the treadmill on any given day. I can even do 7.5 mph (8mm pace) for a short length of time without flying off the treadmill! 

In addition, I did two half marathons as training runs since my last entry. The first one was the Fred Lebow Half Marathon on January 26th. It was absolutely freezing outside, and the course was not an easy one. Thankfully, I had excellent company the entire time once Wallis realized that she wasn't going to go for sub 1:50. We ended up running the entire thing together and finished in 1:57:02

This past weekend, I participated in the Frozen Penguin Half Marathon out on Shore Road, which is near the Brooklyn side of the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge. Initially I signed up for it as a final long training run before NYCH, but I almost considered attempting a PR. Ultimately, I decided to take it easy and see how things turned out. 

The last race I did there was the Festival of Lights 10K under pretty miserable conditions, but this time, the weather was much more favorable. Other than a small icy patch near mile 11 which made two way traffic between the people going and coming slightly difficult, the roads were easy to run on, and this time, there were no giant waves splashing me. My time for that race was ultimately 1:54:10 or so. 

The splits can be compared below - the one on the left was from Fred Lebow, and the one on the right was from the Frozen Penguin HM.

Although I technically had a better time at the Frozen Penguin HM, I felt that I had a better performance at Fred Lebow - there was only about a 10 second difference per mile when I had a harder course and harsher weather conditions during the first race. 

At first I felt discouraged, but I ended up learning things about myself as a runner by comparing the two sets of circumstances. As much as I love NYCRuns races, the fields are usually small to the point where most of the time, I didn't really feel the same race mentality that I would have in a field of thousands. In addition, whenever I run with another person, I usually end up going faster on race day than I would have otherwise. In addition, as much as I love the idea of flat half-marathons, in reality, I wasn't used to not having rolling hills in my races. It felt odd not having anything resembling Harlem or the West Side hills.

But what does this all mean for the NYC Half? Even though I got some decent training in, I don't think that I will be in PR shape by then. Despite this, I will race this to the best of my ability, and see what happens. If I could get a course PR of below 1:52:28 that would be great but time will tell how this pans out. 

Unfortunately, I have been sidelined by a cold and stomach issues this week. So much for setting a high mileage month for 2014. The bright side? At least this is happening during taper time. Hopefully I will be able to run both days this weekend.

Thanks for reading!