Sunday, October 30, 2011

Taper Madness...and a Snowstorm?

Getting ready for my last few training runs there are certain things that you expect - overly anxious nerves, self-doubt, maybe some changes in appetite with the decreased mileage.  Something I don't expect? A giant snowstorm before Halloween even officially arrives!

This past weekend was my last "long" run of 8 miles.  After months of my shortest long run being 13+ miles, it was a welcome relief.  My original plan was to knock it on Saturday, but when the weather predictions looked dicey for Saturday, I decided to get it done on Friday instead.

It was a chilly day - high 30s when I left my apartment - but still sunny and beautiful. It took me a mile or two for my lungs to get adjusted to the colder air, but eventually the burning sensation in my lungs subsided.  I tried to get into a groove, but marathon anxiety was starting to get the best of me - I kept constantly checking my Garmin for pace and was being hypersensitive about every tiny twinge I may or may not have felt in my legs.  In an effort to calm myself down, I tried to slow down and appericiate all the lovely sights I was running past.

Like the waterfront by the town's boat launch

Boat launch at Longshore Park

The public golf course that winds through my town's golf course
Golf course (and running paths!) in Longshore Park

The fall foilage that lined that neighborhood streets


One of the neighborhoods I run
 And as soon as I calmed down, my run ended up being quite enjoyable after all.  And with the sky being such a lovely blue,  it was hard to believe that the weather on Saturday was actually going to be any different.

The next morning I had planned on doing another short run. It was supposed to be an ugly day - cold with an icy rain, and some potential snow in the evening. But hey, it was October...I figured we wouldn't get much more than a dusting.  When I woke up the sky looked pretty gray and I really didn't feel like being caught in an cold rain, so I decided to eat a leisurely breakfast, run a few errands, and then hit the gym for an indoor run.

Yeah...this was my view from my treadmill at my apartment's gym. Does this look like rain to you?!


Yes, that white stuff, is snow.
Turned out the rain never really came, and we just got snow. all day. all night. So much for any sort of pre-Halloween festivities - or even a leisurely restaurant excursion.  The boyfriend and I basically hibernated in the apartment all weekend. But thankfully, we never lost power, although the majority of the state is out, and will be, for quite some time.   Apparently we are worse off than we were during Hurricane Irene...yikes!

But on the positive note, I did manage to get all my miles in despite the crazy weather. Now all that left is a few short runs, some packing, a train ride...and viola! It's marathon time!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thoughts on the New ING New York City Marathon Guaranteed Entry Guidelines

In case you've been living under a rock you haven't been following marathon news, NYRR recntly announced new guidelines for guaranteed entry into the marathon.  Basically they've a) eliminated the lose-the-lotto-three-times-and-you're-in rule b) tightened the time requirements to the 75% age grade for those speedy folks looking to qualify c) restricted deferrals to one year only d) stopped unlimited entries to the race if you have completed 15 previous NYCMs.

NYRR says if they do not make these changes now, they will not able to offer lotto spots starting in 2015 - craziness! But these new rules have left alot of folks unhappy. The out-of-staters are upset because they no longer have an automatic in after three lotto attempts, and the speedsters are upset because they believe the 75% age grade times are too restrictive.  Which then of course leads to the age-old debate: do faster marathoners deserve a slot over a slower or more casual runners?

Well obviously I'm a bit biased as a slower runner myself (my age graded times are usually in the 50% range), but I do believe we are all equal when we toe the starting line.  Speed and hard work are not mutually exclusively.  One runner might BQ on a standard 40-50 mile week plan on their first marathon attempt while another might barely crack 5 hours on their 10th marathon after running 70 miles/week.  And what about those who are facing huge hurdles? Some of the slowest marathoners are battling obesity, serious arthritis, even cancer - did they work any less than the rest of us?

And then there are those who run New York not for a fast time, but for the experience.  New York does not have an ideal course for a fast time to begin with - the crowds, the turns and the late hills can all add some significant minutes to your time.  And since travel costs are so high for the average tourist, I think alot of them consider it a "once in a lifetime" type marathon.  So rather than race through it, some might choose to take the race a little slower so they can take in all the sights and sounds the city has to offer.  While it's not my exactly my plan  (if I put in the training hours I want to get every last drop of speed out of my legs, I'm also lucky enough to consider New York my hometown race. But I think alot of us, especially those NYYRers who race in the city year round, tend to lose sight of the sheer awesomeness of the city.

Besides, if it wasn't for Fred Lebow, there might not be a New York Marathon for us to all clamor over spots for.  And Fred was considered one of the slower runners of his day!

And while I do sympathsize with those trying to get in via lotto, I think these rules will eventually make the lotto easier to get into.  Right now it seems like many runners throw their names into the lotto with no intentions of actually running the race this year and, hopefully the new rules will help to eliminate that.

What are your thoughts on the new rules? Do you think NYRR is favoring one type of a runner over another?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

It's Amazing What a Year Can Do

Two weeks, two events, two long runs...done!

Last weekend was the last NYRR's borough half marathon in Staten Island - the one I needed to complete the 4/5 borough races to qualify for the NYC Half Marathon in 2012.  My plan was to take it use it as a bit of a time trial for marathon pacing.

I spent the night at my friend Dahlia's place since we had to be on a 7:30 am ferry to make the race start at 8:30. Initially I thought she was being a little neurotic by leaving her place at 6:45 am, but it turns out, the ferry terminal was jammed packed when we got there. We found our friends Abbey and Nicole (and Nicole's sister-in-law and her friend, too) and luckily, we all made it on.

Nicole and I on our way to the race
 The ferry ended up docking a little after 8 - so it was a bit of a rush to make a bathroom stop, check our bags, and head to the corrals. Note to self: cutting it close on race day does produce anxiety!

I had planned to run the race on my own - but two minutes into the race, I found Dahlia on the course, and we ended up sticking together the rest of the way.  I was working on another 40+ mile week so my legs were a little almost completely dead, and Dahlia had just fasted the day before for Yom Kippur. It was rather warm out (mid-70s and completely sunny by the time we finished. not fun in October.) And, despite reports of a "flat course", it was definately not. Can't you just feel my enthusiasm for this race just radiating off this blog?

At the least the race provided amazing views of Manhattan
But nonetheless we finished, and I was pretty much able to maintain goal marathon pace, so I was overall pleased with how the race went.

And...I'm definitely IN for next year's NYC Half, so that is pretty exciting, too!


I was a little nervous about losing a recovery day the next week since the long run was on a Sunday instead of my usual Saturday slot, but thanks to a minor miracle, my legs actually loosened up over the course of the week.  Good thing too, because I had my final long run on Saturday via the ING Hartford Marathon Relay.


The Hartford Marathon was the goal race for most of those in my summer training group, so I wanted to at least be a part of the event. This year the marathon offered a relay split into 5 legs, and runners were allowed to do consecutive legs.  I signed up for the first 4 legs (about 20.4 miles) and my coach's husband took the last leg.  I figured it was a good opportunity to have a "dress rehearsal" for my marathon.

I spent most of the week freaking out about the weather, but thankfully it was for no reason - race day turned out to be gorgeous. Low 50s at the start, low 60s to finish. Some wind, but not hot. And "not hot" were the key words I was looking for.

After  last week's scramble to the start, I made sure to arrive with plenty of time to spare.  Although this was just a training run, it was hard to not get caught up the race day buzz.

 I spotted the pace groups lining up, and was tempted to join them, but at the end I decided not to, since I won't be using one in New York.
Pace groups gearing up for the run
After waiting in the bathroom lines, I headed to the corrals. Except for the elites and the seeded starts (sub 3:30 for the full, sub 1:45 for the half),  you lined yourself up by pace.  I longingly looked at this corral...
'
One day I will be this speedy. I hope.


And then chose a more realistic group. After all, it was just a training run!
It is a training run after all!
We had some welcoming words, the national anthem, and off we went!

The first mile or so was pretty crowded since we were mixed in with the half marathoners, but once we peeled them off a the split,  we had much more breathing room. I had to stop pretty early on for a bathroom break, but from then on out, it was pretty smooth sailing.

The early miles flew by, and I found my groove.  Even though I ran the half two years ago, which at the time shared much of the same course with the marathoners, I still was a bit unfamiliar with my surroundings. I recognized a few landmarks here and there - mainly the big amphitheater where my boyfriend and I have seen a number of concerts and some of the riverfront parks - but I'll be honest, I kind of had no idea where I was.

We eventually ended up in the neighborhoods of East Hartford and South Windsor, and then before I knew it, I hit the half marathon mark. I heard a volunteer remark "now this is where the race really begins" and I began to mentally prepare myself for some big struggles.

Except they never came. I mean sure, I was tired, and my body was hurting - but I was running for 3.5 hours, that's practically a given.  And, yes it was a bit mentally draining toward the end (are we there yet?!) but it was nothing I couldn't handle.  And sure, I was pretty happy to cross the relay point at around mile 20 and change - but if I honestly think if I had to keep going, I think I could of, and I don't think the wheels would of come off - at least not completely anyways. 

The dirty deets.
The post-race offerings were pretty minimal at the relay exchange - no food, no heat sheet, not even any sport drink. Luckily, I had planned for my boyfriend meet me with his car instead of taking the shuttle bus the race had provided to get you back to the finish.  Although traffic kind of sucked and it was a huge pain to get back into downtown Hartford to the finish area to claim my medal, I was still happy to sit in the temperature-controlled car and change into the warm clothes my boyfriend had waiting for me.
Hey, how often do you get a medal AND a tech shirt for a training run?!
Last year at this time I was seriously questioning how I would finish this marathon.  Two weeks out from my taper I ran a half marathon and my knee was screaming at me for almost the entire race.  The week after, I ran my first and only 20 miler, and it was so tough - I was ready to break down in tears toward the end of the run and could barely walk the next day.

But this year? I say bring it New York...I'm ready for you!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Just One More Hurdle Before Entry into the 2012 NYC Half

Getting into the New York City Half Marathon is not an easy feat. You either have to have an incredible stroke of luck to get in via lotto (if I did the math correctly, only about 12% of applicants got in from the tri-state area...ouch), be super speedy and qualify, fund raise at least $1,000 for charity - or complete 4 out of 5 NYRR's boroughs half marathon.

I opted to go the 4/5 route since qualifying is really not in the cards for me anytime in the near foreseeable future, and the financial commitments for the charity route are a bit intimidating to me.  Besides, how challenging could running 4 half marathons be when I was planning on training for a full marathon anyways?

Well the first race in Brooklyn didn't go so hot, when I unexpectedly got a bit sick on the course.  The second race in Queens wasn't a blast either when I was fighting the tail end of a nasty cold in 80+ degree weather...and later discovered I was battling iron-deficiency as well.  And the third race in the Bronx didn't even happen thanks to a brush with some tropical weather.

Here's hoping tomorrow's race goes much better!  While weather.com is calling for highs of 84, the actual hourly doesn't look too scary for the am at least.

weaher.com's forecast
My legs are feeling pretty cooked from piling on the miles in the past few weeks, but I'm hoping I can still manage to pull out a marathon pace - or at least close to marathon pace - workout for this run.

And at least I do have one factor on my side...

Fresh pair of my beloved Asics 2160s

New shoes!  These suckers only have about 30 miles on them from this week's workouts, so they should be nice and fresh for tomorrow.

This race will also be NYRR race #8 for me - so after this, I just have to run 1 more and I'm IN for the 2012 New York Marathon as well...


Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, that does involve running the 2011 New York Marathon.  But sshhh, we don't need to talk about that right now.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Grete's Great Gallop Race Report: 7 +13.1 = Tired Legs!

This past weekend was Grete's Great Gallop: a half marathon held by NYRR in Central Park.  The race was basically two loops of Central Park plus an extra mile to stretch it to the full 13.1 miles. I wasn't originally planning on running it, but when when I realized - a) I would have to run 20 miles when the rest of my group in CT would start tapering for their goal race and b) the race didn't start until 9 am - so plenty of time to add on miles beforehand c) I would be able to finish up my 9 qualifying races with the marathon if I did this one - it was a no-brainer. The race consisted of two clockwise loops of Central Park - starting from about East 72nd Street, and ending at the marathon finish line by Tavern on the Green by Central Park South.

Course map - three cheers for running circles in the park!
At the beginning of the week the weather looked very promising - high in the 60s and sunny. But as the weekend went on, it changed from cloudy, to 30% chance of rain, to 60% chance of rain.  The idea of being out in cold rain for 3+ hours was mildly intimating, and I spent the night before a little concerned basically freaking out about the weather.

Luckily, the weather gods were on my side, and the rain stopped about 20 minutes before I had to head out in the morning.  I got dressed, ate my usual half bagel and banana,  and was about to strap on my Garmin...when I realized the screen was dead!  I had a minor panic attack - but luckily my friend Dahlia, who I was staying with, graciously insisted that I take hers.

I headed over to the park around 7:40 or so, and started my 7 mile  pre-race "warm up."  My route was pretty unoriginal - a loop of the park, plus a little extra.   I wanted to keep the pace conservative since I knew I had a long way to go, but I had to make a conscious effort to tell myself to sllowww it down.  So many runners were out doing the same thing as I was, and there was just a happy-marathon-training buzz in the air...it's tough to not get excited!

I made it back to the corrals about 10-15 minutes before the race started, and met back up with Dahlia and our friend Wallis. Dahlia was using the race as a training run for her goal half marathon coming up later in the month, and Wallis had added on 5 miles beforehand and was also using it as a training run for the marathon as well.  Both seemed to agree that we should all stick together - but I was a little nervous about slowing everyone down.  My trusty McMillan pace calculator calls for my long runs to be in the 10:30-11:30 min/mile range (based off of my half marathon PR) and I didn't want to be much far out of that range. After all, even if it was a race setting...this was only a training run for me.

Soon the gun went off, and off we went.  The first few miles passed easily enough - I was feeling pretty good and enjoyed having some company to chat with after the first 7 solo miles.  Every so often when I would look down at the Garmin and saw were going a bit too fast I would ask to slow it down a bit.  At first I felt a bit guilty - but then as I would drift into a faster pace myself, Wallis would remind us to slow as well - so it seemed we were all on the same page.  About 2 miles in, we saw Dahlia's parents cheering us on, and it was a nice mental boost as we headed to hit Harlem Hill for my second time of the morning.

Dahlia's parents acted as photographers, too!

Harlem Hill passed relatively easily enough, and around mile 4 I started to get a bit excited - wahooo, almost done with the first loop! I was dreading the second loop a bit, but maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all. At some point we had also got passed by the lead runners. It's not very often that I have the chance to see such speedsters (the winner finished the course in 1:10) and I fed off their energy a bit.

Unfortunately, when we passed mile 6, and then the would-be finish line around mile 7, I started to lose steam a bit. It was mentally draining to past the finish line for 13.1 - knowing I already had 13.1 miles on my legs - but still having to finish another loop of the park.  As we made our way up the west side hills, Wallis called out to me "Just think - every hill you pass - it's the last time you have to do that this morning!"  I tried to keep that philosophy in mind to propel me up the hills - and I savored the downhills before the dreaded Harlem Hill. Again.

"I realize I run way bigger hills in CT....but that doesn't mean I won't whine about doing this one for the third time!" I called out on the way up.  At this point we had about 3.5 miles to go...and my legs were starting to really feel every little incline. But we made it the first half the hill, and I sighed a breath of relief as we hit the downhill.  Too bad there was still a second half  - but I dragged myself up it, and eventually made it to the top.

Thank goodness for these suckers...def helped me get through the last tough miles

As we passed the reservoir I called out "anyone up for a reservoir loop?!" for some laughs.  And then a few more blocks later another mile marker...thank goodness, only two more miles to go - and, they are mostly downhill, to boot!

Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling very enthusiastic.  "Hey Dahlia, want a slot to the marathon this year?" I joked with about 1.5 miles to go.  But I kept plugging along - one foot in front another, I kept telling myself - and before long, I saw the final mile marker. One to go!

I told Dahlia to go ahead and sprint to the finish if she wanted - but she said she would stick with me until we got to Central Park South. I really appreciated her encouragement, but at the same time, it was her run, too, and didn't want to hold her back. She insisted she was fine, and we kept plugging away. I tried not to think about the minutes, and just kept going.  I saw the finish line in the distance (deceptively close - it was really .70 miles away), and then the Hearst Tower (whenever I see it, I know that I'm getting there), and then finally...we were alongside Central Park South.  Just a little while longer until we hit the finish. Wallis sprinted ahead, and I told Dahlia to go on ahead if she wanted to, as well.  "I'm a one-speed-runner, now" I quipped.   But as my Garmin beeped off the final mile - I realized I did speed up a bit, and clocked my fastest mile of the run.  And then finally....

The Finish Line!

Dahlia had waited for me right after she crossed in the chute, but we sadly lost Wallis.  We grabbed post-race bagels and water, and on our way back to the finish line festival, we ran into one of Dahlia's co-workers, and then one of my friends as well.  We chatted for a bit and checked out the post-race festival and raffle (sadly, no one won) and then said our goodbyes and headed home to shower, rest and refuel.

My final time for the half marathon was 2:17, and then entire run clocked in at 3:30, with an average pace of 10:26 per mile.  And if you take a final look at the mile-by-mile breakdown, I didn't really crash as much as I felt like I was in the later miles - it was more mental than anything else...



I'm definitely relived to have my second 20 miler out of the way, and to be only two weeks away from tapering.  I'm also feeling a bit uncertain/nervous about nailing down an exact goal time for the marathon - I want to be realistic, but I don't want to sell myself short, either.  But regardless...here's hoping I'm on my way to smashing last year's time!