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!