Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Excuse the Dust!

Sorry all! I had to move around the blog back to my old blogspot address ( because I needed to use 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.