Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Excuse the Dust!

Sorry all! I had to move around the blog back to my old blogspot address (http://www.nyc-runner.blogspot.com) because I needed to use nyc-runner.com to play host to a grad school project. Apparently you can't use blogger hosting AND your own self-hosting on the same domain. Who knew? It took me lots of frustrating phone calls to Go Daddy to figure that one out.

Anyways, hang tight, and everything should be back to normal soon. Now, to figure out what happened to all my "Disqus" comments with all the shuffling around...

Thanks for bearing with me!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Marathon Weekend/B.A.A. 5K Recap

This past weekend was the grandfather of all marathons, the Boston Marathon. Although I wasn't in town to run the actual marathon (I'm only 57 minutes over the qualifying time to enter the race..nbd), I was running the pre-marathon 5K.  The B.A.A. 5K is the first in a new three race series, the B.A.A. Distance Medley.  Mike's roommate from college, John, is from a suburb right outside of Boston.  Since he's a new runner himself, we both signed up for the whole series. It's a good way to keep him motivated, and an even better excuse for Mike and I to get to make a few trips up to Boston over the year. 

We hit the road early Saturday so we could be at John's place by the early afternoon. The drive was fairly uneventful, and we made great time.  We got settled in for a bit, and then headed right back out to the expo so we could grab our packets for the am.

Outside the expo
Once we reached the Seaport in South Boston, I got pretty excited. I've been so many expos over the years, but this one just felt different. After all, it's Boston.  Even if I wasn't there to run the actual marathon, it was still exciting to be in town for the weekend.

Marathon fever!
The first thing we did when we got there (other than me stopping to take pictures of every sign that read "Boston Marathon"....yes I'm that lame) was to head back to find the 5K pick up. After all, that's what we were there for, right? We kept following signs until we found the room where it was being held. I was a little disappointed that they were already out of xs shirts, but other than that, everything ran smoothly.
5K packet pickup
Afterwards we wondered around some of the booths. There weren't any vendors there that I haven't seen before, but it's rare to see them all in one spot. It even felt larger than the New York Marathon expo to me, but maybe it was because the space was unfamiliar to me.  I'll admit, I had to control myself from buying any B.A.A. marathon merch (after all, I wasn't running the race!) If I ever do get to run the actual marathon, I better start saving now, because if I do, I'm buying out the expo.

South Boston's waterfront
After the expo, John took us on a little tour of South Boston. We walked around a bit until we ended up at a bar in the South Market to catch the Bruins game. While I personally have zero interest in hockey, I was outnumbered by the boys.  Plus, I was absolutely interested in the delicious calamari and house-made chips and onion dips at the bar. What? Fried food and wine are not optimum pre-race fuels? Nonsense.

We eventually headed back out of the city to pick up bagels for the am and grab an easy dinner before our early wake-up call. Even though the race didn't start until 8 am, we had to leave his house at 6ish. Yuck. Waking up is definitely my least favorite part of racing.


Before I knew it, the alarm was going off for me to get out of bed. I got dressed, headed downstairs and hit the road.  Instead of driving directly into the city and dealing with the lack of parking the inevitable road closures, we drove to the nearest "t-station" (Boston's public transportation system) that was outside of the city, and trained in.

By the time we got to the race's start at Copley Square, it was almost 20 minutes to the gun time.  I had time for about a mile warm up, and then I wiggled my way to a decent starting spot. Close to the front, but not too close. Unlike most NYRR races where you are given your corral based on your past performance, you had to seed yourself. Supposedly there were signs for pace suggestions, but it was too crowded for me to see anything.

As I toed the line, I honestly had no idea what was going to happen. I haven't gotten in many quality workouts, due to my allergies ruining my life the past few weeks.  But I was in Boston during marathon weekend. I was going to give it my best shot.

The gun went of, and I quickly found my stride. The first half mile went by a little too fast - I looked at my Garmin and it read that I was under a 7:30 min/mile.  As much as I would of loved to hang onto that pace for the whole race, it was already feeling rather difficult. As the mile went on, I slipped to about a 8:15 min/mile.

Towards the end of the mile, I spotted a hill. What?! The website clearly said "flat and fast." I am from Miami. Flat and fast means f-l-a-t to me.  Clearly, that definition is more flexible in the northeast.  The hill must of rattled my pace, because I clicked off the first mile in 8:45.

Luckily, what comes up, must come down, and I was able to regain some speed in the beginning of the second mile.  It was tough to push through, but I tried to keep going.  I heard someone shout behind me "Oh, we're going at about a 8:30 mile pace" rather easily to his friend. Hmm, this pace was not conversational to me!

After what felt like eternity, the Garmin clicked off my second mile at 8:30 min/mile. One more mile, I told myself. Just keep going! The pace definitely felt uncomfortable to me, but I did my best to hang on.  Surprisingly, the Garmin seemed to hover at around a 8:20 min/mile.

Finally, we made the last turn onto Boylston  Street.  I don't know my way around Boston very well, but I do know the final stretch down Boylston Street meant the finish line was very close.  I saw the line in the distance, and thought for a split second I might be able to crack 26 minutes. Clearly,  the finish line was a bit deceptive, because as I ran harder and harder, the line didn't seem to get any closer.  I gave it one last push, and finally, I crossed! Final time: 26:50.

Yes, the 5K shared the same finish as the marathon
 I made my way through the crowd, and stopped before the finisher's tent to try and catch John. He didn't have his phone on him, so I was a little worried about how we would all find each other. Luckily, Mike had staked out a great spot right by the finish, and spotted him as he crossed. Since Mike was able to text me when he saw John finish, I was able to grab him right before the tent.

As we proceeded through the tent, we got a pre-packaged food bag and our medals (yes, medals for a 5K!).  Even though it was a short race, I thought it was a nice touch, especially for those who were racing for the first time.
Tech shit, bib, and medal
Once the three of us all re-grouped, we made our way out of the finisher's area as quickly as possible. It was still so early, so we decided to take advantage of the rest of the day to explore the rest of Boston.
Post-race at Boston Common
John was a great guide, and we did the touristy thing by checking out most of the stops on the Freedom Trail.  The last time I was in Boston I was about 17, so I only had vague memories of the sights. And since Mike is a social studies teacher, the history is never old to him.  While the weather was warm for running (sorry marathoners!) it was quite lovely to walk around in short sleeves, skirts, and sandals.

Before we knew it, it was after 3, and time to head back to the t-station. After all, Mike and I had a long drive ahead of us, and we had all been up since 5:30 am! I was sad we were not able to hang around for the actual marathon, but the real world was beckoning to us.

It was a fabulous weekend, and Boston is quite a lovely city. I can't wait to come back for the second race in the series, the 10K in a few months, and hopefully, one day, the actual marathon!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Running Through Spring Allergies

When I was training for the NYC Half, I often contemplated about trying for a late spring marathon. After all, I was almost there with 40+ miles per week and 16 mile long runs. All I would have to do is to keep up the miles, run some 18s and 20s. And viola! I would so be there.

And now, I remembered why I have always been weary about spring marathons.

Allergy season. Allergy season and its damn pollen count.
Trees in full bloom might look pretty, but they might just be my undoing.
I'm pretty allergic to mold, dust, pollen, grass, trees, cats, horses practically everything except food, so these past few weeks have been hell for me since the pollen count has been so high. I've been able to function fairly well thanks to lots of medication, but running has been pretty tough. Some days are better than others, but on the bad days, it literally feels like a brick is pressing on my lung. My easy pace feels like an all out sprint effort at times.  I've been trying to walk the fine line between knowing when to call it quits (i.e. letting a tempo run turn into an easy run or shaving a mile or 2 off a long run if I'm really having trouble) and having the mental toughness to plow through and still get my workouts in.
Tulips are a sure sign of spring. And, I think they are one of the few flowers I'm not allergic to. Hooray!
Usually hitting the pool is the bane of my existence.  But surprisingly enough, I have found swimming to be a great escape from my allergy hell. The chlorine must kill off all those allergens or something.  Between the allergy relief and my slow-but-steady improvement, I am actually starting to enjoy swimming. Who knew?

So why bother to try and run (and bike) during this time of year? Well,  I am currently signed up for an Olympic tri in less than three months and I'm a little unsure how everything is going to come together at this point.  But races aside, the sights of spring still make my suffering with it.  After all, how can a treadmill compare to this...
Doesn't this make you wish for bathing suit season?

only to encounter this less then 3 miles later?
Deer! How could I not stop to snap this photo?
Sometimes you just have to stop to appreciate the little things.

I'm sure I'm not the only one suffering from horrendous allergies this time of year. I wish I had more pearls of wisdom to share on surviving this season.  But clearly, the best advice I can give is to load up on meds and get through it the best you can. Sorry. But if you have any magic solutions, I would love to hear them!

Until then, I'll just be hiding in my bed with my tissues.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

NYC Half Marathon Recap: A PR is a PR Right?

Some alternative titles for this post:
NYC Half Marathon Recap: Almost Doesn't Count.
NYC Half Marathon Recap: I Hate the West Side Hills.
NYC Half Marathon Recap: Can't We Just Count my 20K Split as my HM Time and Call it a Day?

So, as you might have gathered, I did end up PRing at the NYC Half with a 2:02, but it was not quite the sub-2 time I was hoping for.  I wish I could blame on the weather (pretty perfect - high 40s, overcast and hardly any wind) or the race being over-sold (despite the race being expanded to 15,000 this year, I had my space - I was even able to run through water stations consistently) or any other factors out of my control, but that wouldn't be honest or fair.  The simple truth is, I just didn't have the fitness to hang on to my pace on this course for this particular day.


Race day started off with a lovely 5:15 am alarm at my friend Dahlia's place. The morning was pretty uneventful - until we were headed out the door, and the string on my plastic bag for baggage check broke! Luckily, I was able to stuff my warm clothes into Dahlia's bag.  The last thing I wanted to deal with was a broken bag and missing warm clothes post-race.

We headed out the door at around 6ish and grabbed a bus that dropped us fairly close to baggage area right outside the park. Since the baggage trucks closed at 6:45 am (and we didn't need to be in our corrals until 7), I was tempted to suggest skipping it. But the thought of chilly post-race temps quickly changed my mind. And then it was off to the corrals!

pre-race Central Park
We ended up in the corrals super early, but at least it gave ample time to hit the bathrooms. Dahila's number was 9xxx, and mine was 8xxx, but I decided to wait with her in her corral. We put down the same predicted time, so not sure why we were in different corrals to begin with.  We had about 45 minutes to kill before the race would start and when we would actually cross the line, so it was nice to have someone to chat with. I ended up bumping into another friend as well, so I was definitely glad I moved back.

The time passed much more quickly than if I was waiting by myself, and before I knew it, it was time to get going! I knew both my friends were going to be a bit faster than me, so I said my goodbye and planned to run my own race.

The first three miles were awesome. I was feeling great, and I was right on target. Cat Hill didn't seem to bother me at all, and I was in a groove. I hit Harlem Hill after the 5K point, and that was ok too. I felt a little more winded, but still hanging in there. Then, right after Harlem Hill came the West Side Hills right before mile 5, and that's where I started to fall off pace.  Unfortunately, right after those pesky hills, came time for my fuel break, and by the time I hit the 10K point, I was over 2 minutes behind pace.

Right after the 10K point, I got to leave the park and hit the streets of the city. I had about two miles on the city streets heading down Seventh Ave to 42nd Street, all the way to the West Side Highway.  I tried to soak up the energy, pick up the pace, and try to make up the time, but to no avail.  By the time I hit mile 8 on the West Side Highway, I kind of knew my sub-2 goal was probably not going to happen.

At this point I was starting to feel pretty dejected. After all, it's a pretty crappy feeling to know your goals aren't going to happen that day. My legs were also starting to feel heavy, too. As I passed by a water station, I was tempted to slow to walk. I felt like there was no real point in pushing the pace since I was going to miss my goal regardless.

Then, I yelled at myself to pull it together.  While I was not on pace to make sub-2, I was on pace to make a PR.  And after finishing 4 half marathons in boroughs all over the city (with insane wake-up calls) just to get a slot in the race, I was NOT in the business of giving up on this one.  And so I rallied, and continued running as hard as I could, which at that point was around a bit over a 9:20 min/mile.

Miles, 9, 10, and 11 clicked by uneventfully. I knew there would be some sort of underpass coming up, but I didn't know what to expect. Did I miss it?

A few minutes after I passed the mile 11 marker, we ran into a huge tunnel, and I thought clearly, this must be the underpass. The tunnel went on for the better part of the mile, and I found it a bit stuffy and reminiscent of the infamous Queensboro Bridge from the full marathon. But thankfully, there was less than a mile to go, not another 10!

Daylight finally broke through the tunnel. I climbed a rather uncomfortable incline (really? one more hill at this point in the race?), and sure enough, I was almost done. I passed the 800 meters to go sign, then 400, then 200, and the finally...the finish!

As I crossed the finish line, I thought "please God, let me at least have beaten my PR from last year!" When I saw my text with my 2:02 time, I just felt relief.

I made my way through an extremely crowded finisher chute to grab my heat sheet, medal and snack pouch and found Dahlia waiting for me. We walked down until we found a spot to change into our warm clothes.  I have never been so happy to have a warm fleece jacket and sweatpants waiting for me!
Post-race smiles...and medals!

After taking approximately 150 years to make it out of the packed downtown area and onto a subway to get back to the Upper East Side, we quickly showered and changed into normal-people clothing for a celebration brunch. After all, what's the point of racing if you can't celebrate with cocktails?

Cheers!
While I wish I ran a bit faster and broke 2 hours, at the end of the day, this race was a step in the right direction. After all, my previous 2:03 hm time was set in New Orleans (aka on a super flat course.) This PR is hopefully just a stepping stone.  And, I also have to take into account that I was pretty injured post-marathon and was out for a fair amount of weeks, too.

Now it's time to step up my game, work a little harder, and try to meet my goals at the next one!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Final Prep for NYC Half Marathon

Tomorrow is the big day! After months of hard work, the New York City Half Marathon is finally almost here. Now, all that's left to do is to sit back, rest up - and figure out what to wear!

The weather is throwing me for a bit of a loop.  It looks like great conditions - not too hot, but not too cold.  If this was a long, slow training run I would probably wear capris and and a light long-sleeved shirt. But this isn't a training run, it's a race! I know I will warm up much faster running at race pace than I would at training pace.
The latest weather.com predictions

I'm pretty sure I will go with shorts. But do I go with no sleeves/shorts (and show off my Gator pride during March Madness!)....

Gotta support my Gators in their March Madness run!

Or go with a very light weight long sleeved shirt, and shorts?
Outfit option #2

I'll bring both options with me - along with a pair of tights and capris.  Because you just never really know.

But at least my staples are consistent. Shoes, bras, socks - those never change and easy to pack.  I'm a huge fan of  Moving Comfort's "Fiona" bra lately. The straps are completely adjustable, and the back has a hook closure like a real bra. It has way more support than the standard compression bra. And we all know how much I love my Asics 2170s by now.



And of course, accessories! I love my number belt because it gives a place to stick my fuel, and I don't have to worry about safety pins leaving holes in my favorite shirt or shorts.  I also can't live without my trusty Garmin 610, sunglasses (on a sunny day), iPod, or fuel. I guess I'm not a very "minimalist" runner. C'est la vie.

All my accessories.
I'm also trying something new for this race.  As much as I love and depend on my Garmin for pacing, I also remember how I lost the signal when I was running in Manhattan during the full marathon.  I figure if I had trouble getting a signal running up First Ave, there is no way I'll get a signal on Seventh Ave in the middle of Times Square! So, I'm going to go old school with an old-fashioned pace band.

I found this great company, Races to Remember, who offers pace bands specific to your strategy/course.  Since we knock out most of the hills on this course before mile 6, I went with a negative split plan.  It will probably be tough to hit the exact paces on the band, but I figure it will be good way to gauge my pace overall by using the elapsed time.  I plan on using the 1:59 band, but my friend talked me into making a 1:57 band and a 1:55 band too just in case I end up feeling really good. We'll see!
Sub-2 looks so doable on paper...
I know I'm not the only one racing this weekend since there are so many other great races going on around the country.  I hope everyone who is racing has amazing races,  and I hope to report back with a great race report myself!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Visit to the NYC Half Marathon Expo

It's officially race week! As a concerned very anxious runner, I headed into the city the first day the expo opened. After all, I just feel better when I have my bib in my possession.

Shirt, bib, and d-tag










The expo was being held at the Metropolitan Pavilion, which is in a much more convenient location than where the full marathon expo is usually held. As I walked toward the site, I noticed a huge line outside. Really?  I didn't expect the crowds to be so heavy on the first day! Luckily, the line was for another event that was going on next door to the expo, and I was able to walk right in hassle-free.
 
Walking into the expo










The expo was pretty dead, and it only took about 5 minutes to grab my bib, and then my t-shirt and goodie bag. There were plenty of shirts in xs (yay!) but sadly, the shirt still looked a little big for me.

I couldn't believe how empty the booths were. 



After I picked up my stuff, I did a quick spin around to see the rest of the booths. Of course there was an official merch booth and a handful of other vendors as well. Although I was tempted by a pink 26.2  car sticker (I'm a sucker for anything pink), I behaved and didn't buy anything.

Race merchandise

 Two more days to go race day....bring it!









Monday, March 12, 2012

One Week to Go Until the NYC Half

I'm now just one week away from the New York City Half Marathon. After waiting a year to run this race, I'm very excited to have a chance to participate. So far the weather.com forecast is looking pretty good, too. I'm keeping my fingers crossed the weather report sticks!
(I know weather.com stalking a week a way is pretty pointless, but I can't help it)



All that's left now is to rest up and have a little faith in my training. I know I've worked pretty hard for this training cycle, especially considering how badly I was injured back in November.  My weeks consisted mostly of once-a-week tempo/speed intervals, a long run, and lots of easy miles.  I ended up peaking at 45 miles/week (well 44 and change - thanks dailymile for rounding up) and averaging about 36 miles/week for the cycle.
 
Mileage for the training cycle from dailymile.Don't ask me why the last week in Dec./first week in Jan. were split into two weeks.
I know some prefer to do their final long run one week out, but I'm definitely a fan of running my longest run two weeks out and starting to cut back my mileage from there.  Luckily,  there was a local racing series that was holding a 25K about 10 minutes from my front door.  A long run with built in support and company? Count me in!


I knew it was going to be a tough run when I realized a portion of the course was going to run through some of the roads where my marathon training group met over the summer.  I recruited my friend Dahlia from the city to come out and join me, and I knew it wasn't just me when she told me she would never complain about the hills in Central Park again!

But despite the tough course, I did feel stronger and faster than when I ran in the area over the summer. I was even able to pick it up for the last few miles at goal race pace.
Finishing the 25K. Clearly I had no idea there was going to be a camera.


I know all of this should be evidence that I am strong and ready-to-go for race day next weekend, but I am still so nervous. The last time I tried for a sub-2 half was last May, and that turned out to be an epic fail. I just hope all my hard work this training cycles pays off!

Any last minute tips leading up to race day (or cures for race day anxiety)?