Time flies when you are having fun

It’s only been a little over a month since my last update, but it feels like a lifetime. I’ve raced 3 more trail races and run a couple more training runs on trails. I signed up for 16.5 mile trail race and am about to sign up for two more trail half marathons. You may have noticed there has been a healthy amount of trails happening with more in the future. It’s probably safe to say that I am love with eating mountains for breakfast.

Trail runs 3 & 4

Back on March 22nd, my trail partner and I headed up to Bear Mountain to scout part of the North Face Endurance Challenge Series half marathon course. He was convinced that we should do the half marathon and I was apprehensive. It had snowed that week so we knew that there would likely be snow on the ground, but what we didn’t anticipate was for it to be iced over. We also didn’t anticipate some of the route that I mapped to be non-blazed roads which with the snow cover were difficult to track. We put in 6.85 tough miles, postholing for some to get back on route, and over breakfast at a nearby diner decided we should only do the North Face 10K. A week later I hit the trails of Wissahickon Park in Philadelphia. It was gravel road with rolling hills so much easier than the week before so picked up the pace and extended the distance. It was a great time.

Top of the Pines at Bear Mountain
Highest point on our Bear Mountain training run. The trail actually had us scramble up over these boulders.
Snowy tracks at Bear Mountain
It was iced over snow in most spots at Bear Mountain, but there were occasions where we had slight reprieve on melted spots.
Stream crossing at Bear Mountain
Caught my trail partner mid-jump during one of stream crossing at Bear Mountain.

Trail race 2: Van Cortlandt Track Club Urban Enviro Challenge 10K

Two weeks later on April 12th I raced my second trail race. It was in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. I didn’t really intend to try to race it hard, but once the horn was sounded I couldn’t help myself. I had run part of this course last year for a cross country race, but this course took us into another part of the park which had more technical trails (read: roots and rocks) and some single track (read: limited ability to pass). It was a nice hilly course that did a double loop with a nice flat, gravel road finish. There were lots of road team singlets and obviously fast runners who were being taken down by the hills–trying to run up them then having to walk at the top to catch breath and cautiously tiptoeing on technical descents–and I felt a bit of pride at my strategic approach to the race. I power-hiked up most hills and was able to keep pace with the runners ahead of me while not getting winded. On the second loop I was able to plan better to pass people before single track and technical descents and made up time by being more aggressive on those downhills. I hopped over logs others were climbing over on all fours and basically just felt like kind of a bad ass. And it all paid off when I ran through the finish in 1:10:35. I felt so great after that I came home and ran a 3 mile tempo run. Two days later my lower back hurt so bad that I needed to take some vitamin I for a few days. Bubble officially popped.

North Brooklyn Runners at Van Cortlandt Park.
Was surprised at how many of my road team showed up for this race. Didn’t see any over trail running group. Probably because of the short distance!

Trail race 3: Leatherman’s Loop 10K

Two weeks later on April 26th my trail partner and I headed out for Pound Ridge for the historic Leatherman’s Loop 10K. This race has been around for 29 years, refuses to take on sponsors, just recently moved to timing chips, and features mud flats with shin deep mud, multiple stream crossings, and a couple of sand hills. Needless to say, we were stoked. What we didn’t anticipate was the sheer volume of runners and the inevitable congestion on the trails. The first quarter mile is run across a grassy field then all 1000 runners bottleneck onto narrow, technical double track. Add to that some mud and streams and runners who for some reason are afraid to get their shoes wet or dirty and you have a recipe for frustration if you aren’t reminding myself about your zen place. After the first couple of miles it did thin out enough that you weren’t forced to walk because of people ahead of you making that choice. The mud flats were fun, but a little concerning–the mud had so much suction that I could feel it pulling off my shoes! Again though, I felt like a bad ass because I seemed to be one of the few okay with getting dirty. I wasn’t feeling 100% for this race because I had done a training run the day before, had a couple of mimosas with brunch after my training run, and didn’t sleep well the night before and only got about five and half hours of sleep. So I felt like I was really pushing myself through most of it, but not keeping my expected pace. I was able to pick it up a bit towards the end in The Pines and was flying through at 9-10:00 min mile which felt awesome. By the end I had made friends with an old dude wearing red pepper shorts and we ran through the finish together. Official time: 1:24:49. And I was officially pooped. Not much soreness after this race, though, which let me know my cross-training and form adjustments were paying off.

Sand hill at Leatherman's Loop
Climbing a sand hill at Leatherman’s Loop. Notice the guy in front of me on all fours. It was steep and slippery.
Mud flats at Leatherman's Loop
Mud flats at Leatherman’s Loop. I felt lucky to not lose a shoe.
Stream crossing at Leatherman's Loop
Final stream crossing at Leatherman’s Loop. Was still muddy after this!

You can see more photos from Leatherman’s Loop on The Distance Traveled on Facebook.

Trail junkie

As I mentioned at the start, at some point over the past month I also added myself to a wait list for 16.5 mile trail race that is taking place on the 4th of July and am eyeing two more trail half marathons–one two weeks after I run the Brooklyn half and one a month after the 16.5 mile race. After the Brooklyn Half I am planning to do all my weekend long runs on trails. At some point I will have to go back to road running for my NYC Marathon training, but in the meantime I am going to eek out every little bit of dirt pounding that I can. I have a shirt in my closet that says “Loyal to the road” that I bought at the 2013 NYC Marathon expo. It’s funny how things change.

Cold Feat 10K Race Report

Just a note, I am writing this three weeks after the race. For some reason I just haven’t found the motivation to write out a report for this one despite writing up a report for this past Saturday’s road race the same day. I think this pretty much epitomizes my attitude towards structure in regards to trails and why I am beginning to love them so much.

Props go to my trail running partner-in-crime, Stinkfoot & Chafe, for encouraging me (read: harassing me) into doing this race. At the time of registration, I had been on exactly one real trail run in the snow which happened two weeks prior and was as challenging as it was fun. I was reluctant to toe the line so early in my trail career (haha, I said career), but after viewing an entertaining video of the course about 10 times and ordering some legit trail shoes I decided I was in. My shoes arrived the day before the race after yet another eventful couple of days trying to actually receive my delivery (#nycproblems) and I was worried that they were going to be a little too big. Other than that, I felt pretty prepared for the 20 degree (12 with wind chill!) run in fresh snow.

 

New trail shoes
New trail shoes! Unfortunate that the turned out to be a full size too big. Anyone need a Women’s size 8?

 

The course was just off a golf course on Staten Island. We got there early so we could pick up our bibs and swag (fleece cap and NUTELLA!) and make a pit stop at the clubhouse. The one thing I really hate about winter races is how cold you are in the corrals at the start so I was very happy that we were able to hang out in the clubhouse until just before the start. We made friends with an older fellow who told us lots of interesting history about golf courses on Staten Island. When they announced five minutes to start we started out towards the start line for a course description and then wandered over to the start. No corrals, no colors or numbers dictating pace, just line up and then head out. In less than a minute, we had left the signs of civilization behind for the of the snowy woods.

 

Swag
Swag score! Embroidered fleece hat AND a jar of Nutella?! This is my kind of race!

 

The course was great. It was fairly packed single track and we had placed ourselves fairly well in the pack so not only were we not getting passed, but we didn’t do much passing throughout the duration of the race. Stinkfoot and I stayed pretty close throughout the course with him getting away from a few times which was expected as he is a faster runner. We eventually ended up behind an older gentleman who I nicknamed “Crazy Tights” because of his graphic print tights. We had picked up another in our small pack, a woman who easily and readily added to my and Stinkfoots meandering convo. At a certain point we all needed to pass Crazy Tights which became interesting as I think he may have been hard of hearing. This was made evident when overly excited snowshoer almost ran him over after making all kinds of witty remarks for him to move on his approach. I ended up finding a little run-off single track and we passed him without incident.

 

Jumping
I love snow running!

 

Approaching the half mark and only aid station, I knew I needed to do three things: Tighten my shoes, blow my nose, and eat a Honey Stinger. The aid station volunteers were super nice and luckily one of them had a tissue. She was kind enough to not only give me one, but shove a spare in my hydration vest while I fiddled with my laces. We continued our pause with a quick photo and Honey Stinger then started back on the course. It was around this time that I noticed that my water had was starting to freeze in my hydration pack tube! I tried to keep sipping regularly so it wouldn’t freeze completely.

 

Aid station
Looking good at the halfway point!

 

The second half of the race seemed more challenging than the first. The elevation profile didn’t change much, we picked up the pace by about a minute and my heart rate followed. By the time we got to 5 miles, I was feeling it but pushed through. We managed to pass a few people in the last mile or so of the race which felt oddly satisfying. By the time we got to the final stretch and saw our exit from the woods I was ready for the end, but also bummed it was almost over. The last stretch of the course was covered with patches of ice which made for a pretty anti-climatic finish excluding the man in a gorilla suit that was cheering us on and the other runners who were hanging out in the cold to cheer us in. After our finish we returned the favor for a few more runners.

 

Running the snowy course
Running the snowy course.

Splits   Elevation and pace

 

The finish was the same as the start so we were back by the clubhouse which was awesome. We were able to grab our bags from the car and get some warm gear on and have a beer in the clubhouse! After the beer we headed for our now traditional post-trail run diner breakfast. Hot food after a long, cold run is so amazing!
I ended up placing 7th in my age group out of 17th which translates to front half of pack which I have never been! Not bad for my trail race debut, if I do say so myself. But it’s not about placing or pace for me and it never has been. And that is part of the reason why I feel myself enjoying road racing less and less. It is awesome to do a supported, uninterrupted run in which I push myself for no other reason than to check my training progress, but all that goes along with that–the cost, the crowds (oh dear lord, the crowds), the PR-driven post-race chatter, all of it–is just so unappealing to me. My heart feels free and happy on the trails and the community is so, so wonderful. My “A” race for this year is the NYC Marathon so I will continue to focus on road through 2015, but I fully intend to keep sneaking out to the trails whenever possible!

Pi Day 3.14 Race Report

Well it was bound to happen and I am surprised it didn’t sooner — it rained on my race day. It was low 40s and rainy as I headed to Roosevelt Island for the Girls Prep Ultimate Pi Day 5K. I considered not going, but since there is always a chance it could rain on marathon day, I decided it was better to get the experience in now than then. So I suited up for the weather with a trucker hat and rain shell and headed out the door.

10311816_819932684739048_6543785620287436562_n
59th Street Bridge, Roosevelt Island Tramway, and Manhattan from the bib pick-up line on Roosevelt Island. Also a lovely shot of the Port-a-Potties. 😉

Pre-race

This was also the first time that I have done race day pick-up for a NYCruns race so I got there pretty early to ensure I would get everything done in time–bib and swag pickup, pit stop, stripping layers, dropping bag, and a warm-up. I overshot by about 30 minutes and spent those huddled under a covered sidewalk trying to stay warm and dry. I managed to at least stay dry. About 10 minutes before the race, I headed out into the rain for an easy warm-up.

11061662_819931361405847_5126944980670230541_n
Hanging out under the overhang in front of a building waiting for time to warm-up.

The race

The race started promptly at 9:26:53. I haven’t been doing any speed or threshold work since last October before my injury and Winter base training so I knew I wasn’t going to PR. I really just wanted to see what I could do, where I am at, without the top end training. I felt good for the first mile (10:27), a little less good the second mile (10:31), and was hurting by the third mile (10:30). I’ve never felt strained to push my finishing kick, but I certainly did at the end of this race. I managed to pull out a 7:54 pace for the last .14 of the race, though, which I am super proud of given I was struggling so much. My Garmin clocked me at 32:50 for the race, but chip time said 33:30. More on that in a bit. Garmin distance said 3.17 (actual race distance was 3.14) which I am sure was from all of the Frogger I was playing along with some GPS drift.

Post-race

After the race, I had some mid-back pain on my right side, but otherwise felt okay. I wandered over to the snack table and wasn’t surprised that I couldn’t eat anything on it. Headed over to grab my bag which had my own snacks in it then wandered back over to the covered sidewalk to change into dry clothes. Got stripped down to my bra and someone started yelling behind me for everyone to leave. I turned around it was some lady with a “Roosevelt Island Security” slicker on. She continued to yell and ridiculously harass all of the runners. I just kept changing clothes and eventually walked off when I finished. Stretched a bit on the platform then headed home. Coffee from my favorite shop on the way home has never tasted so good or so warm!

Thoughts on the race and road racing in general (Warning: Rant-y)

Okay, so back to the chip time and some more details about my feelings about the race. Back when I first started racing in 2011-2012, I loved NYCruns races. They were small, cheap, and there were plenty of back of the packers to keep me company. I didn’t care that there weren’t water stops or highly visible mile markers. I was slightly annoyed by the swag–mostly coffee cups (like I need more of those) or oversized shirts that I ended up not being able to wear. But as newbie runner, the races had everything I was looking for including not feeling like less-than because I was so slow and sometimes needed walk breaks.

Things are pretty much the same with NYCruns except now I have more race experience under my belt and I expect certain things for my money. Like, I had forgotten how freaking narrow the course is around Roosevelt Island. Aside from being relatively flat, it is kind of a horrible place to race. You run on roads part of the time, but a lot of the time you are running on a narrow walk path that circles the island. If you are running middle of pack, it is just way too cramped. Add to that water puddles and runners who act like a cartoon elephant that just saw a mouse, and you get some considerable frustration. My shoes are actually covered in mud because there were several times that I ran next to the sidewalk in the muddy grass because people kept stopping and getting jammed up. Another thing was the mile markers were the equivalent of a realty sign. So if you didn’t happen to be looking for them at the exact moment you were coming up on them or weren’t on the same side as they were placed, you missed them. It was cold and wet and having to pull my hand and wrist out of my jacket to check my mileage was annoying. And what is up with putting the only water/snacks for the entire race a gazillion feet from the finish?! I literally had to back track on the course and walk across a muddy lawn to get a drink. Add to all of this the fact that I now have yet another oversized tech tee that I will get little use of and the fact that their chip clocked me at 40 seconds longer than my Garmin did. There is absolutely no way my watch was 40 seconds off. I started it just before crossing the start line and a few seconds after crossing the finish (I was sprinting and slowed to a walk before hitting stop). There is no way I was off by almost a minute. The only explanation is that the start sensor caught my chip while I was waiting to start. All of this may seem like whining, but if I am going to pay to run a timed race with support and a souvenir I actually want those done properly. I mean, I could just run around Roosevelt Island in the rain my damn self with a water bottle and a shirt that actually fits and get an accurate time FOR FREE and without annoying people who for some reason feel the need to pass me within inches then run directly in front of me so close that I have to move because I may step on them. Anywho, long story short, I don’t think I will being doing any more NYCruns races and probably won’t be doing any other road races besides the two that I am already signed up for–Brooklyn Half Marathon and NYC Marathon. I just don’t see the benefit in them anymore. I’ll stick to enjoying the road by myself and in fun runs with friends. Definitely not upset about spending more time on the trails, either!

Race report: Ted Corbitt 15K

Before the race: Injury report

Took the entire week off of running after my race last Saturday. My injuries weren’t feeling horrible, but I could tell they were still recovering and I knew I had to get through this race. I did core work and lower body conditioning three nights this week in an effort to keep fit. On Thursday, I considered going out for 2 easy miles, but decided against it. Everything felt fine on Friday night and I thought I might even be able to run the entire distance albeit slowly. On Saturday I woke up and my calf had a little bit of pain and surprisingly, my IT band started giving me grief as I headed to the start. My IT band does tend to get cranky when it’s cold so I am going to assume that is what happened. At any rate, I headed to the start with calf strain, runner’s knee, and ITBS. Good times!

 

Flat Brandi
Flat Brandi reporting for duty

 

The race: Runners are the best

I met up at the start with an online teammate and her friend. They planned to take it easy and potentially run/walk as well. Last weekend’s race started to wear on my mentally around mile 3 so I was glad to have company for this 9.3 mile race. We started out faster than I had anticipated, but I felt fine. It wasn’t until around mile 3 that I needed to slow down. Funny thing happened around mile 1, one of the girls I was running with has been looking for a job and was talking about it and another runner overheard the conversation. She ended up chatting with her for awhile and eventually hopped off the course to call whoever it was after taking information down. Crazy awesome!

The weather was great once we warmed up and Central Park was absolutely stunning. If I hadn’t been having such a great time talking with the girls, I would have been snapping a bagillion photos! But I was having a great time and the miles just ticked off. After mile 4, I need to make a pit stop and they even slowed to a walk so that I could catch back up. I was so grateful for the company, and it was great company at that. After the halfway point, we walked more often. We laughed and thanked all the course marshals for their enthusiastic motivation cheers. I said to one of them, “Just need to finish this one!” At one point I joked about stopping at one of the park food carts to buy a coffee. We did have two different people yell to us about walking which was a little annoying. I almost hollered back, “I’M INJURED!” but let it go.

Before too long we were heading into our last two miles so we picked up the pace a little bit. We ran the entire last 1.3 miles picking up the pace as we got closer to the finish. As we headed through the finish, I threw up 9 fingers and was so happy it was done!

 

Post-race selfie
Me and the ladies post-race

 

The race: The stats

Official finish: 2:01:21
Pace: 13:02/mile

Weather: Clear, 36º, 55% humidity, 9mph wind

-Mile 1: 11:47
-Mile 2: 11:12
-Mile 3: 13:47
-Mile 4: 11:41
-Mile 5: 16:05
-Mile 6: 12:50
-Mile 7: 14:06
-Mile 8: 13:57
-Mile 9: 12:40
-Last .3: 9:51

Garmin distance: 9.48
Last comparable race (9/28/2014, 10mi): 48:42, 13:04 pace

After the race

After the race, we took a quick selfie then the girls headed to the train and I headed to bag check. Changed my top, got into my warm-ups, used the facilities then headed home. Ended up feeling pretty horrible on the train. Stopped and picked up some groceries then headed home to make some brunch and have a little celebratory prosecco. My legs felt okay immediately after the race, but weren’t feeling great after the long train ride. Definitely going to be taking some time off to fully recover! Hoping that 10 or so days will be enough for me to get back to some climbing. Plan to come back slow and easy to running over the winter with some base training.

 

9+1 guaranteed entry
It’s happening!

 

Race report: Jingle Bell Jog 4M

This is likely to be the most boring race report ever. As you are probably already well aware, I am injured. I am suffering from calf strain in my left leg and runner’s knee in my right. It’s swell. Really. My doctor has advised me not to run excluding my last two races for guaranteed entry and he has asked me to go as easy as I can in those.

Before the race

So preparation for this race was very light. I picked up my race packet on Thursday evening and then late Friday evening I packed my bag and set out my clothes for the next morning. I’ve ran 10 races since July so I kind of have prep down now. One thing I can say about doing so many races in a short time is that you stop worrying so much forgetting things. As long as you have your shoes on and your bib (and maybe fuel for longer races), you are pretty much good to go. The rest is just icing on the cake.

Race morning went pretty smoothly. Got out of bed on time, left early, caught the train I wanted. Had some GI distress on the train which was odd, but it cleared in time for the start. Got to the park 45 minutes before the race, made 2 pit stops, and dropped my bag. It was pretty warm and humid so I decided to run without my jacket. I had brought my water resistant jacket because there was chance of rain. It looked a little ominous, but I decided to risk it.

This race is more of fun run, in my opinion. Most everyone was in the striped socks that was our race swag. Many people were wearing red and green, holiday themed accessories, and some were even in full costume. I saw multiple Santas, a grinch in full face make-up, a snowman, and a gingerbread man. There were lots of selfies being taken and seemed like everyone had a running buddy or full on crew. It felt a bit like a holiday party. On the course there were plenty of people walking.

 

Festive feet
Race swag was these super sweet socks and bells for our shoes.
Before the race selfie
Before the race. Everyone seemed to be in the spirit.

 

The race

The race started around 9:30. I started off slow and trying to rein myself in. I thought a 12:00 minute mile pace would be reasonable with my injuries and wasn’t going to let myself go any faster that 11:30. It was difficult reining myself in for the first .75 miles until I forced myself to walk. I figured I would jog .75 miles and walk .25 for each mile. The first mile went well like that, but in the second mile I started to feel my calf and knee. I had forgotten to tape my knee or wear my brace for support and would definitely pay for that mistake. At 1.6 miles I slowed to a walk and walked to the 2 mile marker. Picked up the pace again at mile 2 until 2.5 miles. At this point, I was no longer just aware of my calf and knee–they were actually causing me pain. So I walked.

It was around this point that I gave myself a serious talking to. I was frustrated and a little deflated. I was just overwhelmed with thoughts and feeling like a failure. I was also super disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to sink that first race record. (This is the first race I ever ran. Way back in 2011!) My head was wanting to spiral out and I decided to refuse to let it. I reminded myself that this is all a part of something bigger and being upset was about my ego. I was doing the smart thing for walking and not further injuring myself. I was strong for reining myself in when I just wanted to push through the pain and run. No one was there asking me to speed up. No one cared if I ran that thing. And there were still plenty of runners behind me so I was in no risk of not finishing because of time. My desire to push and my feelings of failure were all my ego talking. I focused on the beauty of the park. I tuned into my music. I was jamming Black Sabbath because I didn’t get reception in the park and my race playlist isn’t synced to my phone. It seemed like a strange music choice at the start of the race, but at this point I was grateful. The music kept me calm and steady for that last two miles. Around 3.5 miles it really hit me that there is only one more race to go for guaranteed entry. My heart was happy.

At 3.75 miles I decided to jog the rest of the way in. I have to say, it is super strange to be trotting along at minimal effort while people are cheering for you. As I neared the finishing chute, I reminded myself that I didn’t need a kick. I needed to just trot through that finish line without further injury. So that’s what I did.

The race: The stats

Official finish: 55:15
Pace: 13:49/mile

Weather: Cloudy and wet, 48º, 81% humidity, 6mph wind

-Mile 1: 13:44
-Mile 2: 13:35
-Mile 3: 13:21
-Mile 4: 14:35

Garmin distance: 4.06
Last course record (12/10/2011, 3.7 mi): 48:42, 13:04 pace
Last 4M PR (11/23/2014): 41:47, 10:27 pace
Difference: +13:28

After the race

It started drizzling just after I crossed the finish. I had to make my way through the crowds to get my bag and by the time I was changing my top and putting on my jacket it was almost full on raining. Finding my way out of the park turned into a bit of challenge. There were lots of runners doubling back ON the course (not beside it which is totally annoying) and I didn’t want to do that and I don’t know Prospect Park very well. I ended up finding my way out, made a pit stop, and headed to the train. By the time I got off at my stop it was full blown raining. Really glad it held off for us this morning. Hoping next weekend’s weather is good for the 15k!

 

Prospect park
Prospect Park is not a bad place to get lost in. Even in the rain.

Race Report: Prospect Park 5M Turkey Trot

I have always wanted to do a turkey trot. Something about running on a holiday makes it feel like more of an accomplishment. On a holiday that is centered around gluttony and sloth, it not only feels like accomplishment, but like a smart life choice. Even so, I went back and forth on whether to add this one to my race schedule. Since I have been struggling with my knee, it seemed silly to add a 5 mile race. But a friend asked if I was registered and said that she and her girlfriend were going to run/walk it. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to mark this race off my bucket list, have a good time with friends, and earn a medal. As a bonus, the race swag was a sweet knit hat instead of a shirt!

 

Turkey trot race swag
Sweet hat!

 

Before the race

The night before the race was low stress since this was going to be a fun run. I did K tape my knee for the first time ever with the help of YouTube. It was horrible weather the entire day before the race, but was supposed to clear up over night so I had no worries when I headed to bed. Race morning was also pretty low stress aside from deciding on my commute. I ended up just taking the subway which was easy enough. I did manage to forget my heart rate monitor which was disappointing, but I wasn’t too concerned. Got the race a half hour early, used the facilities, dropped my bag, and headed to the start. Met up with the ladies a few minutes before the start.

 

K taped knee
K taped my knee the night before the race to add support.
Flat Brandi. Holiday Edition.
Flat Brandi. Holiday Edition. I made the arm warmers from holiday socks!

 

The Race

The start was interesting. There were 2500 runners and walkers, and no corrals. We all just kind of herded in and waited for the gun. The start wasn’t even marked. We only knew we were crossing it because of the timing mat. Just after the start we were at a pretty good jog when all of the sudden the race came to a halt. Runners were all bunched up and no one seemed to be moving. We slowed to a very slow walk. It wasn’t until I saw the huge puddle taking up half the roadway that I understood what was going on. Puddle bottleneck! Once we passed it and turned onto the outer loop of the park, the congestion cleared. As my watch alerted me at mile 1, I looked for a mile marker on the course but couldn’t find one. It wasn’t until mile 2 that we realized that there were small markers, low to the ground on the inside of the loop. This definitely wasn’t an NYRR production!

My friend’s girlfriend hadn’t run in awhile so my expectation was a pretty slow pace with plenty of walking. I was surprised when at mile 2 we were still running and at a pace a little bit faster than my typical easy (Z2) pace. Around mile 2.25 we started walking. For the past quarter mile it seemed like it was starting to rain or snow, but it was so light and sporadic we couldn’t figure it out. As we started walking, it started coming down more heavily and we realized it was a light snow. I really love running in snow, but am typically wearing a water-resistant jacket which I hadn’t worn. So the snow was landing on us and then melting and making our clothes wet. Not ideal in 36º weather, but it was all in good fun. We started running again around mile 2.75 and kept at a good clip until 3.2 and then walked to 3.3. After that brief walk break, the ladies picked up the pace to 10:00mm and continued to speed to 9:15mm to mile 4.1. We took short walk breaks between 4.1-4.3 and 4.5-4.6 then ran the last ~.5 mile around 10:00mm until our finishing kick. My watch clocked my finish at 6:52mm.

 

After the finish
Post-race selfie

 

The race: The stats

Official finish: 58:42
Pace: 11:44/mile

Weather: Cloudy with light snow, 37º, 75% humidity, 4mph wind

-Mile 1: 12:14
-Mile 2: 11:33
-Mile 3: 12:54
-Mile 4: 11:01
-Mile 5: 11:03

Garmin distance: 5.11
Last 5M PR (8/10/2014): 53:36
Difference: +5:06

After the race

After the race, we grabbed a water and took a photo with our medals before the ladies headed off to the train. I picked up my bag, used the facilities, changed out of my wet shirt and put on my warm-ups over my running clothes. I tried to grab a gatorade, but the machines were all sold out. Munched on my KIND bar and headed to the train. I was freezing, it was lightly snowing, it was an outdoor platform, and holiday service so it took awhile for the train to arrive. It was fun to look around the train on the way back and see all the turkey trot hats and medals. I always wonder what non-runners think of these scenes on the subway.

Injury report

We ran faster than I had assumed and on the way home I noticed my knee was hurting pretty badly. Going down stairs is definitely not my friend. Or up stairs, for that matter. Some yoga seemed to help, but I was definitely feeling my knee for the rest of the evening. Today it is hurting, but more so on the back of my knee than the front. I am wondering if the K tape just shifted the issue. At any rate, I will need to take it easy for a few days again and just try to maintain my fitness for my last two marathon guarantee races.

 

2014 Prospect Park 5M Turkey Trot
2014 Prospect Park 5M Turkey Trot

Race report: Race to Deliver 4M

As I mentioned a few days ago, I am still recovering from my injury. I believe now that what started out as overtraining before my last race turned into an actual injury during the race. As a result I have had to cut back a lot on my training. This week I was only able to get out for an easy 5 miles and took off the 4 days after that lead up to my race this morning.

Race week: Appreciating NY running history

Friday evening I headed to NYRR headquarters to pick up my race packet. It was my 8th trip there since the end of June and it has become quite familiar. There is something about turning on to Fred Lebow Place and then walking into that old (1902-built, Beaux-Art style) townhouse that Fred Lebow bought in 1981 as the first permanent home to the New York Road Runners. It is starting to feel a little empty since they plan to sell it soon, but there is still something magical about walking through the home base for New York running history. Or I was just feeling extra emotional that evening. Whatever it was, I felt a sense of appreciation and a little bit of sadness that NYRR is moving. I was, however, excited to see what color my bib would be since my last race set me in a new pace group! I’ve been rocking the pink bib (or brown for larger races) since 2011. I am now officially aqua corral! (Which totally matches my running gear better. Bonus!) The night before the race was pretty uneventful. Since I was just going to race to finish and try to take it easy because of my injury, it was very low stress. I had some spaghetti and got bed early after setting out everything I needed on race morning.

 

Race bib
New corral/bib color–Aqua!
Fred Lebow Place
Fred Lebow Place

 

Race morning: Preparing for a planned anti-climatic race

The morning of the race I got out of bed 10 minutes later than planned. Showered, dressed, ate, grabbed my bag, and was out the door on time. Stopped by the bodega for a coconut water. Got down to the platform on time, but I guess the train was early because I missed it. The next one was in 20 minutes. I felt a little stressed because I needed to drop my bag ahead of the race, but decided to dismiss it. If I had to, I could always run to bag check and the start. I used the time to finish dressing–putting on my arm warmers, Garmin, and SpiBelt–and to pack my drop bag then slide into my backpack for efficiency in dropping. (NYRR security requires you to use a clear bag and you can’t just slide your backpack into the clear bag. Contents have to be visible.) The commute was pretty smooth after finally getting on a train. I always enjoy the build of runners on the train. Where I get on in Brooklyn I rarely see other runners, but as I get in to Manhattan more and more hop on the train. By the time we get to the Museum of Natural History stop, it is a crowd of runners exiting the train and heading into Central Park. It’s a scene that I never tire of.

I got to the park at 8:00, dropped my bag at 8:10, used the porta-potties and was heading to the start line by 8:13. Side note: I will never understand why people don’t walk to the furthest porta-potties. Not only are they typically cleaner IMHO, but the lines are always shorter. The closest lines were 10 deep and the furthest was only 2. I was literally in and out in 2 minutes. Anywho, got to the start line and did the standard shifting around as girls flicked their ponytails, people flailed around seemingly unaware of those around them, and people stood uncomfortably close to me even though there was plenty of room for personal space. After about 10 minutes, the race was finally starting.

The race: Mile 1 and ditching the plan to run happy

So as I mentioned, my plan was to run super easy so I didn’t aggravate my injury. For the first half mile, I cruised along at 11:45 pace and took in the scenery–the remaining fall leaves, the Obelisk, The Met, The Guggenheim. I even stopped to snap a pic of the Fred Lebow statue. It seemed reasonable that I would I keep my pace around 11:30 for the entire race. Then something happened. I’m not sure what it was, but I just found it really difficult to run that easy. I kept looking down at my watch and I was running around a 10:30. My knee felt fine, but I kept telling myself to think about the long term goal. Run easy, play it safe. I still have two marathon qualifiers to run for my guaranteed entry. But it was a losing battle. Every time I looked down, I was running too fast even when I thought I had slowed down. I was getting frustrated. That’s when I decided to run by feel.

 

Fred Lebow statue in Central Park
Fred Lebow statue in Central Park

 

The race: Miles 2 and 3

My Garmin is always a little bit off when I race so I can’t really rely on my lap pace when it ticks off a mile because I am typically not at the mile marker yet. So in the miles after the first, I have to do math to figure it out. I decided that was frustrating, too, so I stopped doing it. I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was the perfect weather. Maybe it was that my knee wasn’t bothering me as much as I thought it was going to. Maybe it was that I can’t stand the thought of just finishing a race. Whatever the reason, miles 2 and 3 were around 10:30 pace. I felt good, the pace felt good, and I wasn’t stressed about pace or injury.

The race: The final mile

Around mile 4 I decided to let myself push a little harder. My knee felt okay and there was only a mile left so I figured why not. When I looked down at my Garmin, I was running a sub 9 minute mile. Now I know I probably shouldn’t have done what I did next, but I just couldn’t help myself. I was so excited about how good I felt and my pace that I raced that last mile. At a half mile to go, I was starting to feel it. (Pushing, not my injury.) When I got to the turn for the last .2 or so miles I was hurting, but the finishing chute was in sight and there was no way I was slowing to trot through that thing. I pushed even harder and finished that last mile at a 6:46 minute mile pace according to my Garmin. Final lap time was 8:45!

The race: The stats

Official finish: 41:47
Pace: 10:27/mile

Weather: Cloudy, 45º, 39% humidity, 7mph wind (Perfect!)

-Mile 1: 11:41
-Mile 2: 10:47
-Mile 3: 10:34
-Mile 4: 8:45

Garmin distance: 4.05
Last 4M PR (7/12/2014): 42:02
Improvement: 0:15

 

Race stats. Splits differ because of Garmin drift.
Race stats. Splits differ because of Garmin drift.

 

Post-race: Heading home

After the race I grabbed my bag, changed out of my sweaty shirt and arm warmers, added some layers and then sat for a bit. I was super light headed and hadn’t packed a snack. After about 5 minutes, I headed to the train still with a little bit of race brain. Heading down to the platform I had a funny exchange with some runners who were stretching on the stairs. I got to take the C train which is one of my favorites–they are the oldest still operating–and got to help some very thankful tourists with directions. Came home and made some yummy breakfast, relaxed, stretched, napped, and am feeling pretty good. I am optimistic that my knee may actually be okay, but I never know until the day or two after.

Just two more races now to complete my guaranteed entry to the 2015 NYC Marathon! It’s so crazy that in 20 days this thing I have been working on for 3 months (5 if you count from my first MQ) now will be done.

 

Post-race selfie
Two more qualifiers to go!

Race report: 2014 Dash to the Line 5K

This was my second time running this race. Last year I had a great time and finished in 31:51. This year I was hoping to run an official sub-30 5K. Doing so would be at least an almost 2 minute improvement and would bump me into a faster corral for all NYRR races.

Race week: The best intentions

I planned to lower my mileage this week by 25-30% and to do a 2.5 day taper. I ended up running back-to-backs on Tuesday and Wednesday because I was a bit fatigued from my weekend trip so I skipped my Monday run. Both weekday runs went well–even if I did push more than I had planned on Wednesday’s shakeout run with Bart Yasso–and I felt confident for the race. On Thursday, my right knee was sore and I could tell it wasn’t a muscle or tendon issue it was overtraining. I RICEd and tried to stay off it as much as possible, but commuting into work and back doesn’t make that easy. My commute home ended up being longer than usual and with weight, too. On Friday morning, I was hopeful as my knee seemed okay. But that afternoon as I made my way to the Javits Center for my 6 hour volunteer shift, I knew it was probably going to be an issue. After standing for 6 hours and the long commute back home, I RICEd and headed to bed.

Race morning: This is not how I planned it

Race morning I overslept by 10 minutes which was just enough to throw off my schedule. I got to the train late and ended up getting off a stop early for bag check to try to make up time as I didn’t want to wait for the transfer for one stop. Got to bag check a little before 8, dropped my bag, used the facilities, and started towards the start line which was almost two miles away a little after 8. I had intended to run to the start as a warm-up and had I been able to I would have arrived well before the 8:30 start. However, at this point it was obvious that my knee was pissed. It was painful to walk, much less run. I walked a mile then jogged the last .75 to the start.

When I got to the start, they were already collapsing corrals. Since I knew there would be a lot of walkers, I tried to get as close to the front as possible. I ended up next to a very tall Norwegian gentleman during the wait for the gun. He gave me updates about what was happening at the start as I happily answered questions about the race for him. At this point it had started to rain and without moving, it felt very cold in the 45º. We were all ready to get this thing started.

The Race: Mile 1

As I crossed through the start, my plan was to still try for my sub-30, but to be okay with letting it go if I needed to. The start was very, very congested so staying conservative wasn’t an issue. There were already many people walking and lots of slower runners. There were plenty of faster runners trying to cut around everyone and being a little dickish. I tried to stay to the outside and pass without cutting off too many people. By the time we were heading under the Grand Central viaduct, I was running as “free” as I would the entire race. My Garmin was clocking me right around 9:35mm which was on pace for sub-30. My knee hurt, but I felt like I was okay to push through.

It wasn’t until my Garmin buzzed with my mile 1 time that I realized how off it was from the course. I thought it strange that my pace had jumped to 8:41mm, but figured it was just because of the downhill. It was actually because the watch was off by about .2 miles. When I looked at my time when I hit the mile 1 course marker, I was just over a 10mm pace. Time to pick it up.

The Race: Mile 2

By this point I had started playing some pretty serious frogger with walkers, slower runners, and people stopped in the middle of the course to take selfies. Many runners were running five and six abreast and some were carrying flags stretched across multiple people. My shoes were pretty much soaked at this point, not because of me running through puddles, but from nearby runners tromping and splashing through them. I hoped my wool socks would protect me from blisters. By this point, I wasn’t noticing my knee as I was too busy trying to get around people and keep my pace while playing frogger. Around mile 1.25, I made my way around some flag runners and one had an untied shoe. I tapped him and let him know. As I turned back to the course, I literally hit a wall. It was a pedestrian wall. Some jerk had actually walked across the course and I ran right into him, full body, at ~9mm pace. I was having a hard time navigating the course while running with the flow, I am not sure how he got across it walking. I rolled off him, thought about yelling something obscene, but turned my focus back to the course.

As I got to the park, the crowd really started to thicken. I was racing with my NBR jersey so I was very aware of my behavior and tried not to bump anyone. Inevitably people would drift over into me as I passed, though. My Garmin ticked off two miles and another sub-9mm, but mile 2 was still a ways off. I glanced at my watch just passed the mile 2 course marker and it was 19 something. I couldn’t do the math to figure out my actual pace as I tried to focus on frogger, but I knew I would have to pick up the pace through the park–through the hills. As I turned the corner into the park, I got tangled up with a few runners and when I finally got clearance I was almost elbowed in the face. “Turn Down for What” started to play as I hit the Central Park loop and got some space. Game face engaged.

The Race: Mile 3 and The Finish

The Central Park portion was tough. By this time my heart rate was in zone 5 (+90% of max) and my knee was starting to hurt pretty badly again because of the hills and my speed. My legs were also becoming heavy because I was running in zone 5. I just kept pushing. By the time I got to the mile 26 marathon marker, I knew I only had .2 miles to go to the finish. But I was in pain. So much pain that I was fighting tears. I pushed. At some point I looked at my Garmin and it said 29 something. I looked at the finish. I looked at my watch. 29:49. Just 10 seconds to make my goal. It hurt. There were people in the way. I couldn’t just let it go, though. I pushed harder. I felt like crying, but didn’t let myself. I sucked it up. I finally crossed the finish. I checked my watch. 29:55. It was going to be close.

The Race: Statistics

Official finish: 29:49

Pace: 9:36/mile
Weather: Light rain, 45º, 76% humidity, 6mph wind
Unofficial splits (based on comparing course map to Garmin):
-Mile 1: 10:07
-Mile 2: 8:50
-Mile 3: 8:57
-Last .11: 8:10
Garmin distance: 3.37
2013 Official Finish: 31:51
2014 Improvement: 2:02!

Post Race: Sub-30 meetup and heading home

After the race, I headed straight to bag check. Grabbed my bag and changed out of my wet singlet and arm warmers. My socks were so wet that they were going squish squish when I walked, but I didn’t want to change into dry socks until I got out of the park. Two of my teammates a few minutes to make it over so I stretched. We waited awhile for a third, but didn’t hear anything. He had crossed the finish just before me so not hearing from him was strange. We wondered if maybe he decided to just head home. We were cold and it was raining so we decided to start walking to find food. He ended up texting and caught up with us in the park. I slipped on my warm-ups over my tights, but was still cold. We ended up at a diner at 55th and Broadway. I finally got to use the bathroom and change into dry socks. Steak and eggs and home fries and coffee. NOM NOM NOM. It was great catching up with my online teammates. After breakfast we headed down to the train together. I was limping along and ended up slipping on some stairs down to the train. Luckily I caught myself and just ended up in a pistol squat. The commute home was slow, but brightened by all of the supportive posts on FB that I finally got a chance to read. It is incredible to me just how supportive my friends are of my running. I know many runners who deal with lots of friends being annoyed by their running. I feel truly blessed.

3 races, 17.3 miles, 28 days

This week I was finally able to get back out there after a total of 10 days off of any type of exercise because of knee injury/overtraining. My much anticipated return was wonderful, but challenging.

The week in review

On Tuesday morning I headed out for an easy 3 mile run. I run with a heart rate monitor and was going to keep it in my zone 2 or below 70% max. It was a challenge not only to keep the heart rate that low, but to keep it consistent. My knee did okay, but did hurt a bit. All that being said, mentally it was wonderful. I definitely benefit from the mental aspect of running, that is for sure!

On Wednesday I noticed that in addition to slight knee pain, I had some foot pain on my opposite foot. It didn’t seem swollen and certainly didn’t hurt enough that I couldn’t walk on it, but I was bit concerned about what it might mean for next run. Thursday rolled around and the knee pain subsided, but the foot pain remained. I skipped my run on account of weather and my foot.

On Friday I really needed to get out the door for 4 miles. I decided to also make this an easy run as I am still working on my return to a normal training schedule. I felt my knee during most of the run, but my foot was fine. After my run though, as I was walking to join a friend for lunch, my foot started to hurt again in two different places. After dinner I headed home and RICEd both my knee and foot.

Striking the right balance

This morning I had hoped to join a group run and coffee, but ended up just making it to coffee. My foot felt a bit better, but my knee wasn’t having it. Over the course of the day, my knee has gotten gradually more upset with me so I have spent the day RICEing it. I am supposed to head out for an easy 5 miles tomorrow, but am now questioning it. Hopefully staying off of it tonight and getting a good night’s rest will allow me to run tomorrow. If I have to skip tomorrow’s run, I am concerned about my ability to properly train up before my last marathon qualifying race–a 15k in 4 weeks. I also have 2 other qualifiers before that final race, but they are only 4 milers. It is a delicate balancing act right now between getting enough miles in for the 15k while not pushing too hard so I can complete the 2 races before then. I can’t afford to be injured right now, but I also don’t want to go into the longer race without enough training.

Every challenge is an opportunity

To add to all of this, on Monday I woke up with odd swelling in my face. A walk-in clinic sent me home with a diagnosis of an allergic reaction something, but by Tuesday it was worse and I went to see my GP. As it turns out, I have an infection and was prescribed a pretty serious dose of antibiotics. It’s an unexpected complication on top of these other concerns.

A few weeks ago I joked with some teammates that I thrive when faced with a challenge (my RoadID even has engraved on it “In every difficulty lies opportunity.”) and I think the universe decided to test my theory. My goal for the next few weeks is to stay healthy by training smart and to knock out these last three races for guaranteed entry. Less than a month away from guaranteed entry to the 2015 New York City Marathon!

My first half marathon

Two weeks after running my first 10 mile race, my first half marathon was on deck and I wasn’t looking forward to it. When I decided to do my 9+1 guaranteed entry, I had left this one off the list because I didn’t think I would be trained enough for it. But after the whole qualifier debacle, I ended up needing it for my 9. And after the 10 miler, I was nervous.

Getting to the start

Two of my running pals were running the half and one offered to pick me up on race morning and give me a ride to the start line. This was a major solid as the only way to get to the start other than driving is by ferry. Without a ride, I would have to leave my apartment by 5:45am and do bag check which because of NYRR’s security standards can be a hassle. So she swung by around 7am, we grabbed coffee, and headed out on the expressway towards Staten Island. Once we were on Staten Island, we found parking fairly easily and pretty close to the start. It was chilly and little windy. I was wearing shorts, a singlet, arm warmers, and calf compression sleeves and was hopping around to keep warm. We made a quick pit stop in the Staten Island Yankees Stadium then headed to the corrals.

Corral the herd

The start seemed to take forever. It took so long for us to get moving and once we finally did, we had quite the shuffle to the start. I was just glad to get moving. Not only was I cold, but a girl standing in front of me had a crazy out of control pony tail that she kept flicking all over me and people had been pushing their way through the corrals instead of walking up the sides and stepping in. Once we got to the start, it wasn’t much better. It was crowded and people were aggressively passing. This always amazes me, by the way. I feel like for the first two miles of every race I am dealing with people fighting to pass and somehow during the last two miles I am always trying dodge zombies. The corral system is supposed to ensure runners of similar speeds are grouped together, but I think at my pace there are bunch of people that go out too fast and end up hurting in the end. Anywho, the first two miles of the race were much like those of all the rest and I spent a lot of time sticking to the side of the course and dodging people.

Keeping it conservative

My pace was on point at mile 3 and I was feeling good. I planned to race conservatively for the first 10 miles then really push the last 5k if I had it in me. I could tell already though that I was feeling better than I did in the 10 miler. Of course, I had prepared for the race two days in advance and the night before I made sure to get a good carb filled dinner in (GF cornbread and veggie chili! NOM!) and a fair amount of sleep. Still, I was surprised at how good I felt especially since after my 10 miler I had spent a week in Florida and fell of my training (and nutrition plan) a bit. Maybe the vacation helped or my two days of preparation were paying off. No matter what it was, I was no longer nervous.

I ran into a teammate on the course. We had never met in person so I introduced myself. We proceeded to slingshot each other for the rest of the race. This race was an out and back like the 10 miler so we got to see all the people ahead of us heading to the finish starting around mile 3 or 4. Once again I enjoyed cheering the super speedy runners as they headed towards a race win or placement. Around mile 4 I noticed some portapotties without a long line so I took the opportunity. Since I was just trying to finish I didn’t feel rushed, but I still wanted to try my best to reduce time stopped. I also took my first gel around mile 4.

Staten Island is a little bit of hilly course, but it gives you some relief between miles 5.5 and 9 when the course is relatively flat. By the time we hit the flat part of the course, I felt it was going to be a good day for me but still wanted to be cautious since I had never run longer than 10 miles. Around mile 7 I started looking for my friends who were also running and would be doubling back passed me. My friend who had driven me saw me and ran across to give me a high five. It was awesome to see a familiar face mid-run. I clicked off mile 7 then around mile 8 we passed an ambulance. Not long after that I saw the sweeper van on the other side of the course picking up those who were falling behind the 3 hour limit. Around mile 8 I took my second and last gel and was feeling strong. I really wanted to start pushing, but decided sticking with my plan was the best way to go. Besides, we were still on the flat part of the course and there were hills coming back up. It was around this time that I had the thought, “I can run a marathon.

Mile 9-9.5 is the major hill of the course. Once you get passed it, there are some rolling hills but that one is the beast. It was tough, but since I had been running conservatively I was able to run the entire way up while most everyone else was walking. I felt great. Around mile 10 I saw another set of portapotties without a line and decided to stop before my final push. I was running out the door before I had even gotten myself entirely straightened. I was ready to rock this course!

20141012-sihalf-06
All smiles, somewhere mid-race. Don’t worry, I am purchasing the photos. 😉

The last 5K

Around 10.5 miles there is an overpass you run under and they had a DJ playing. As we approached, I removed my earbuds and was totally pumped when he started playing “Blitzkreig Bop” by the Ramones. Fist in the air, I ran under the overpass singing along. I couldn’t believe how awesome I felt! Less than a 5K to go and I was feeling strong!

Miles 11 and 12 were interesting. I was feeling awesome and running at an impressive clip (for me), but I was surrounded by zombies. People were walking 3 and 4 people wide so I was having to play a lot of frogger. It was a little frustrating. During the last mile I lost my bearings a bit. I kept thinking I saw where we turned for the finish, but then would realize it was further up. It was probably around mile 12.5 that I started feeling it. I knew I had a little left in me, but didn’t want to push until I was sure where the finish line was exactly. Then finally I saw the turn… here we go… game face engaged.

Turning down the street to the stadium, I got crossed by a pedestrian who I almost took out. Luckily they had a quick enough reflex when yelled “WATCH OUT!” After that almost catastrophe, I continued down the street to what I thought was the entrance of the stadium. I was pushing. I turned the corner and no stadium entrance. WHERE THE HELL IS THE FINISH? At this point I had to be running a sub-8:00mm and I was just trying to keep it together. Finally, FINALLY we turned into the stadium and I could see the finishing chute. It was just a short stretch through the field. I checked my form, I checked my breathing. Mentally I slowed down while pushing my body even harder. And finally I crossed the finish line. I had just finished my first half marathon.

sihalf-animation
My friend took a bunch of photos of me running to the finish so I made an animated gif.

Ready for another 5K… or brunch

Right off the finish, my friend flagged me down. I was feeling a bit nauseous so we walked to get gatorade then to stretch and wait for our other friend. I couldn’t believe how fast I had run that last 5k! I felt great. I had my medal and I was proud, but it was different from the 10 miler. I didn’t feel like I had just gone through something really rough, I felt like I had conquered something with a smile. I had done it right. And I knew I could do it better.

After meeting up with our other friend we headed back to the car. I had registered for another race that day, a neighborhood 5k, before having to register for the half marathon. It didn’t start for another hour and a half I was seriously contemplating running it. In the end, the traffic too long and by the time we got back to the apartment we were all ready for brunch. I celebrated my accomplishment with a real beer, fries, and a burger with egg and bacon.

Later that night I discovered that I had run my fastest 5k ever at the end of the half marathon.

468672309940064
After the Staten Island half marathon.