Wednesday, January 17, 2018

2018 Running Predictions

While the new year has been in swing for a few weeks now, I feel like my year is still first starting.  I kicked off the new year running 4 races in 4 days in Disney as a part of the Dopey Challenge, and now I am taking some time off to recover from surgery.  Since I'm forced to take the extra time off (which is probably not the worst thing in the world, considering I finished Ironman 70.3 Maine in late August, Philly Marathon in late November, and now Dopey in early January), it's a great time to sit back and try and set some new goals for the coming year.

Marathon PR or ER

Guys, I was so close to this in 2017.  Currently, my marathon PR is 4:26 from 2013, but my half marathon PR of 1:56 is from last fall, so I know I can at least edge closer to the 4 hour mark.  When I was training for the Philly Marathon, I was using NYRR's Virtual Trainer program.  The selling point of this training plan to me is that the plan is dynamic, meaning as you input your training runs, the program adjusts your mileage, and predicts your marathon time.  At end of the program, it predicted a 4:05-4:10 finish for me.  While I thought that was a little ambitious the program was on drugs for thinking I can run a marathon that fast, I did feel confident that I would be able to smash my old PR.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans for me on race day.  Winds were gusting at over 50 mph, and I had to run into crazy headwinds for the majority of the race, which of course made the race that much more difficult. I finished in 4:29, which is still my second best marathon time, but not the time I thought i was capable of running.  I also managed to run the marathon during Dopey in 4:31 - which is my 3rd fastest time - which I think is pretty promising considering I ran a 5K, 10K, and half marathon consecutively the days before, plus walked an additional 8-10 miles a day in theme parks. 26.2 in 2018 - I am coming for you!
Ready to run Philly!

Get My Nutritional Act Together

From late 2014 until mid 2016, I sort of let my weight slowly get a bit out of control.  I would never say I was overweight per say, but my weight was the highest it's ever been in my life.   Most of my clothes did not fit well, my running was really suffering,  and I just did not feel good about myself.  Training for my first half 70.3 helped snapped me out of it that (have you seen how unforgiving those tri suits are?!) along with very diligently tracking my food using My Fitness Pal and cutting back on my wine.  I sort of let that slide in second half of 2017, and while i haven't gained back all the weight, I have gained back a decent amount.  I'm hoping to find that balance this year between not having to track every little crumb I eat on an app for the rest of my life, but still being able to look and feel good.

Right before Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City, where I felt best

Find a Strength Training Program I Can Stick With

Ask me to bike or run for 3 hours at a time - sure, no problem.  Ask me to lift a few weights for 20-30 minutes, and I can't seem to get it done.  Strength training is something I always seem to struggle with.  I generally do not enjoy it, I do not feel like I know what I am doing, and I don't think I am very good at it (although in full disclosure, I am not a great runner or triathlete either, and that hasn't seemed to stop me, either!) But I do understand the important of weight lifting for overall fitness and in maintaining my weight, so I need to figure something out.  I am hoping to find a class or two that I enjoy enough to be able to incorporate into my weekly routine.

What are you hoping to achieve this next year? I'm linking up with the lovely ladies on Tuesdays on The Run

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Life Update

Wow - it's been a long time since I last updated.  Last time I posted, I had just finished the first race of the BAA Distance Medley.  I am happy to report that while I did go on to finish the other two races (including my first sub 2 half at the final race), I've also run a ton of other races, too! Here's a quick synaposis of what's been going on the past years.

 I got married!  

This is probably why I fell off the blogging bandwagon to begin with - wedding planning is a ton of work! My now husband proposed not too long after aforementioned BAA 5K, and then my life became a whirlwind.  We got married on October 6th, 2013 at the Water's Edge in CT, and it was absolutely perfect.

Our wedding day

I became an actual triathlete!

While yes, at the time when I was first blogging, I was dabbling in triathlon.  I had completed the New York City Triathlon twice (once in 2012, and then once again in 2014) but truth be told, I had no clue what I was doing.  I was using regular running shoes on the bike, and relied on the super fast current of the Hudson to push me through the swim.  That all changed in late 2015, when Atlantic City announced they were hosting a new Ironman 70.3 race the following year. No hills on the bike? Sounded good to me! I learned how to become an actual cyclist (err - still working on that one...but hey, at least I can clip into my bike so I look like i know what I am doing) and learned how to swim for sport (errr...still working on that one too...but hey, I can make the swim cut offs!) and became an Ironman 70.3 finisher.  I would love to make the jump to a full Ironman one day, but in the meantime, I am doing my best to keep swimming and cycling in the mix, so I can complete one 70.3 a year in the summer in between marathon seasons.

Finishing my first 70.3 was as fulfilling as my first marathon

I ran all the races!

While I would love to to recap all the races I've run since I last started blogging, it is simply just out of control! When we first left off I was training for my third marathon.  Now, I just finished my 12th marathon last Sunday, during the Dopey Challenge (more on that later.).  My half marathon count has also gotten quite high - I hit 69 during Dopey last weekend. Although I haven't hit a new marathon PR since 2013, I did just run a half marathon PR in September (1:56), so I am hoping that elusive new marathon PR is on its way this year.
Four days, four races, 6 medals - definitely Dopey!

I lost my father.

Not exactly the happiest of updates, I know.  But, if you ever read my "about me" page, you know he is pretty much the reason why I started this whole crazy journey, so it would be negligent to not talk about this on my running blog.  He passed away very suddenly this past April, and it was by the far the hardest thing I ever had to face in my life.  Perhaps later on I will have the courage to write a more detailed post, but for now, I will just leave it as I am still missing him very much, every day.

The last race my dad ever ran, and we ran the whole thing together - the 2015 WDW Half Marathon


I underwent a septoplasty. 

 My most reason adventure has not been to a new finish line, but to the OR. For years I have been delaying with horrible congestion, partially because of allergies, and partially because I have a deviated septum.  I finally decided to do something about it, and opted to have it surgically correct this past week.  While it is too soon to say as I am still recovering, I am very much hoping it gives me a significant quality of life update (and if it helps me run a little faster, I won't complain, either!) 

Pre-operation in my hospital gown splendor

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?

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 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!