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.

Ugh… I give up.

Seriously. I’m done. Running with an injury has sucked all of the joy out of it. To make matters worse, I now have a second injury. Well, technically it was my first, but who is counting.

This sad story starts back in October. Exactly a week and a half after my half marathon. I went out for a “race pace” run the day before heading down to Florida to see family. The run went well and I technically got a PR on the run. I felt good and was feeling confident for my 5K that was coming up in a week and a half. The next morning I woke up with a dull pain in my left calf. It didn’t hurt all too much so I didn’t give it much thought. I went out for a few more runs through the weekend and following week. The calf pain didn’t bother me while running and it was never painful enough to raise a red flag for me. A week later when my right knee started acting up my focus shifted. And as I decreased my mileage for my knee, the calf pain almost disappeared completely.

I am not sure whether it was my bump in mileage last week, my 6 mile long run, or the 3 climbing sessions, but yesterday I noticed the dull calf pain was back. Again, it wasn’t significant enough to alarm me, but I noticed it. Then this morning, it was worse and as I got into my commute which has plenty of stairs, it got even worse. My calf was so sore that it hurt to cross my legs. I made an appointment for lunch time to see a sports medicine doctor.

The doctor was fairly certain it wasn’t clot because of the location of the pain. Phew. As he poked around he thought it could be some kind of strain and said it would be best if I took some time off running. I immediately said, “That’s not going to happen.” To which he replied, “Are you psychologically addicted to running?” “That’s besides the point.” is what popped into my head, but instead I told him about my guaranteed entry plan and that I had two more races — a 4 miler this Sunday and 15K (9.3 miles) next Sunday. He was very concerned about the second race. He asked me to take it easy for both, run/walking for both, and to not run at all other than the races. He recommended RICE, a high dose of anti-inflammatories, and compression socks. He also told me that he wouldn’t be surprised if my right knee issue wasn’t being caused by my left calf issue. As any runner knows, an injury typically leads to your body compensating in an unusual way that can lead to other injuries.

As we were talking through, he rechecked my calf and he noticed it was swollen. And he looked a little concerned. He made a phone call and told me he was sending me for an ultrasound for my calf to rule out a blood clot. Great. He asked me to email him afterward (if it wasn’t a clot) and we would make a plan from there. Luckily, the almost 2 hour visit to the diagnostics lab did not find a clot. It means that we don’t exactly know what is wrong, though, and that I can’t run.

I emailed the doc to see whether it is okay to climb and do any other sports while in recovery and am still waiting to hear back. I have a feeling he is going to want me to lay off anything that will use my calf. In the meantime, I skipped climbing tonight, came home and pulled on my calf compression sleeve and have been RICEing my calf and knee. I also took some ibuprofen. From what Dr.Google has told me, a calf injury can take 7-10 days to heal if it isn’t a tear. If I don’t run until my 4 miler on Sunday, that will be 7 days. Hopefully that will allow me to heal enough that I don’t do more damage. I’ll take it easy and then take off next week until the 15k if I have to. I’m nervous about running 9.3 miles with practically 2 weeks off of running, but I also don’t want to risk a tear.

This is not how I wanted to this to go. Things went so well with my training this year. I’d be lying if I said these injuries haven’t made me think about marathon training next year. I just keep trying to remind myself how much I progressed from the end of April when I started training for my 5 mile race to the half marathon in mid-October. A total of 24 weeks of injury free training while increasing my weekly mileage by 300% and my race distance by almost the same. Nine races in five months with two to go in the next two weeks. I just need to get through these next two races without permanent damage and take a break to recover fully. Marathon training doesn’t start for another 7 months. This is not how I wanted this to go, but I should still be able to complete my guaranteed entry. And that is all that matters right now.

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!

Injury woes

And so it continues… my knee continues to be angry and I continue to try to train just enough to finish my last three marathon qualifiers safely. I got in two runs last week–a 3 miler and 4 miler. It’s my lowest mileage in months if you don’t count the 10 days I took off for recovery. On Tuesday of this week I headed out for an easy 5 miles. The knee was feeling okay before the run, during the run it was great, but after the run it felt horrible. My usual post-run yoga routine plus some foam rolling of my quad helped. (I think the rolling more than the yoga.) But by the time I had commuted in to work it was angry again. Yesterday it was bothering me even more. I RICEd it last night. Then today I broke out the old knee brace and wore it to work. This evening it continues to ache. I plan to do some conditioning exercises and roll out my quad again in addition to RICEing some more.

I ended up adjusting my training schedule earlier this week to be super conservative for the next few weeks. The plan was to get in the minimum miles that would make me feel confident for the 15k. I was supposed to run 2 miles today and decided it was better to postpone since I have a marathon qualifier on Sunday. I’d rather rest it and struggle a little during the race from deconditioning than go out and push the knee more and end up not able to run at all. It’s a delicate dance that I’m doing now between trying to stay conditioned enough to run these races while not injuring myself further.

I will definitely be taking time off after the 15k if my knee isn’t healed by then. It will be difficult mentally, but I can’t afford to have a perpetual injury going into the new year. In January I had planned to cut my mileage and focus on base building so taking time off shouldn’t be too big of a deal right now. Better now than going into marathon training already bashed up.

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.

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!

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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.

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After the Staten Island half marathon.

10 miles to a half marathon

After my successful training for the 5 mile race in June, I turned my focus to a 10 miler at the end of September–the NYRR Five-Borough Series: Bronx 10-Mile.  On race day for the 5 miler I had never even ran that far before–my longest training run for it was 4.5 miles. My weekly mileage had peaked at 10 miles with the last few weeks hovering around 9 miles. For 10 miler training, my longest run would be 9 miles and weekly mileage would peak at 18 miles. But I had a full 13 weeks to train from 5 miles to 10 so I was confident.

Training for the 10 miler went well. I especially enjoyed the longer runs. It went so well that 8 weeks in I decided to shoot for 9+1 guaranteed entry for the marathon. Then, just a week and half before the 10 miler, the whole guaranteed entry debacle happened and I had to add a half marathon just 2 weeks after my 10 mile race. Most of the beginner training plans I found for the half marathon peaked at 10 miles so while I was nervous, I was still confident. That is until I actually ran the 10 miler.

Preparation is key

Ahead of and directly after the race, there was a lot of coordination that needed to be done with several running friends and non-runners who were not only coming to the race, but would be gathering for brunch after. I also had an old friend in town and a dear friend was having a one night only art showing the night before the race. So my day before the race veered from the typical plan a bit. I ended up being up later than planned, didn’t get in a proper dinner, and even had a couple of drinks. I started my race day with just 5 hours of sleep. Luckily, commuting to the race went pretty smoothly. I met a runner friend at my transfer and we made the long trek to the Bronx together. I had fundraced for Back on My Feet and planned to meet the team before the race. After a few hellos and a pit stop, we met up with our running pals in the corrals. I had a perchance meeting with one of my online teammates in the corrals, too. Even with all of the good coordination though, I ended up racing alone. Not a huge deal since I do most of my running alone.

I was amazed by the support of my friends, family, and colleagues in my fundracing for Back on My Feet. <3
I was amazed by the support of my friends, family, and colleagues in my fundracing for Back on My Feet. ❤

Hills technically make it longer, right?

For the first couple of miles, I felt good and confident. Around mile 2, I felt a little misty-eyed with pride that I was taking on such a distance. There were actually people out and cheering which was really nice. I have only been to the Bronx once so the view was interesting, too. This course was an out-and-back which to some can be hard on the ego when you see the front of the pack heading to the finish before you even hit mile 3, but for me it was great. Hollering for fast teammates was fun and kept me energized. My only complaint would be Mr. Stinky. This guy smelled bad at mile 2 so I know it wasn’t from running. Evidently we were shooting for the same finish time though because I would encounter him several times on the course, always smelling him before I saw him. PU!

The Bronx is hilly. I knew this was a hilly course so I made sure to include plenty of bridge running in my training. But, after a few good hills, by mile 3 I was starting to feel it. Maybe it wasn’t all about the hills. After all, I had a few drinks the night before and hadn’t had a proper dinner then only got 5 hours of sleep. It was also a little warm. Whatever it was, I ended up taking my gel a little early around mile 3.5. I figured it was better to be proactive with the fuel and hydration than risk bonking later.

The next mile of the course was pretty flat and the mile after that was mostly downhill. By mile 6 we were circling back to retrace our steps to the start/finish. It was around the 10K mark that I really started to feel like it was a struggle. My body was tired and I knew what lie ahead in terms of hills because I had already run over them once on my way out. I decided to take my second and last gel and just try to stay as positive as possible. By mile 7, I was really surprised by how difficult this race seemed to be. I had trained well including bridges to account for the hilly course, the weather was good even if it was a little warm, and my hydration and fueling had been proactive. No matter, by mile 7 I was hitting a mental wall brought on by my fatigue. I knew I wouldn’t be able to push much harder in the last couple of miles of this race like I had planned and that bummed me out. I tried not to think about the fact that I had a half marathon looming in just two short weeks.

Friends can change everything

I had no idea where anyone would be on the course so I just tried to keep my eyes peeled as I got into mile 8. I ended up getting see friends in three different places which was awesome. Seeing my friends definitely gave me a boost and having them spread across the last mile and a half is exactly what I needed to turn my mental game around. As the finishing chute came in focus and I saw a dear (fast!) friend calling my name, my mental game completely refocused and I pushed for a strong finishing kick. Just after crossing the finish, I got my medal. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.

Bronx 10 mile
Seeing my friend just before the finish gave me an extra boost of energy.
Bronx 10 mile finish
Heading into the finish of the Bronx 10 mile

I’ll spare the details of the post-race shenanigans. Suffice it to say that trying to organize 10 people from 10 different locations on a course, half of which are runners in desperate need of different things, is much like wrangling a herd of kittens. After a brief stop at my friend’s place for a quick change of clothes, we all made it to our final destination–an all you can eat brunch buffet. Oh yes, we ate and we drank and we celebrated a successful race. Non-running friends got to experience many delightful and gross running tales. Running friends dined in their race medals and got to be encouraged to drink more mimosas and reminded to not talk about running, in the best way possible. We also happened to be celebrating my 38th birthday and I have to say that this was hands-down one of my top 5 birthdays. But I didn’t have long to bask in the accomplishment. In just two short weeks I would be tackling something even bigger. My first half marathon. The Staten Island Half.

Truly blessed to have such awesome friends. One of my best birthdays EVAR!
Truly blessed to have such awesome friends. One of my best birthdays EVAR!
Happy runners after the Bronx 10 mile (and an all you can eat buffet brunch!)
Happy runners after the Bronx 10 mile (and an all you can eat buffet brunch!)

On the injured list

For the first time since August 2013, I have been injured and not able to run for 7 days. My knee had been a little upset in the days leading up to last Saturday’s race (race report coming soon) and I pushed for and achieved a PR in that race. The day after the race was the NYC Marathon and I was on my feet walking or standing and cheering for about 6 hours. After I got home on Sunday evening I noticed my left quad was pretty sore from pulling the weight from my sad right knee. Needless to say, by Monday I was in pretty bad shape.

My commute in to work is 3 flights down, .6 mile walk, 2.5 flights down, 5 minute train ride, 1 flight up, a very tall escalator spanning 4-5 flights, another flight up, a walk down a long platform, 5 minute train ride, then 2 flights up, another even taller escalator (it has to be at least 6 flights), then a .25 mile walk to the office. The commute home is all of that in reverse. I stayed home on Monday and Tuesday to avoid all of the walking and stairs.

When I left the house on Wednesday I felt good for the first half of the commute in, but considered coming back home by my transfer point. I ended up going ahead and heading in and iced my knee a few times at work. I had hoped to run that evening, but by mid-day it was apparent that wasn’t going to happen. Such was the pattern for Thursday. By Friday I had resigned myself to just trying to get in my Saturday morning team run. I wasn’t feeling well today so a run was out of the question.

I am now hoping to get out the door tomorrow. I have a 15k (9.5 miles) on 12/14 and my longest run since the half marathon in mid-October has been 5 miles. I am a little nervous about being properly trained for the 15k. I don’t intend to race it for a PR or the other two 4M races before it, but I do have to finish all 3 races for my guaranteed entry to the 2015 NYC Marathon.

I had hoped that a week off wouldn’t mean too much of a loss of fitness, but my SportTracks is showing that my fitness level has dropped to lower than it has been in 4 months when I did the 5 mile race and started training for my 10 miler. I haven’t been doing anything this week–not just not running, but no yoga , climbing, or strength/PT exercises either. Hopefully getting back into my normal routine will get me back on track quickly!

 

SportTracks Training Load
SportTracks Training Load

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The marathon mindset

Better in the long run

When I started running back in 2011, I didn’t really have a goal other than being able to run a few miles at a time, a few times a week. My best friend was doing races like half marathons at that point, but as a new runner they were never a consideration. During the two years of the vicious cycle of slow progress and injury setback, a 5K seemed the only reasonable distance I would ever achieve so I never really considered anything more ambitious. But as my training started to build momentum over this past summer (2014) and I was training for my first 10 mile race, the idea of a longer distance started to percolate in my mind. I found I was really enjoying my long training runs on the weekend and since long runs are meant to be slow, they suited my pace. I was also really enjoying planning my long runs and would plan routes into Manhattan and back to keep them interesting. There was also all this marathon training talk going on at the time. Many of my friends were training for the NYC Marathon, my local running group–North Brooklyn Runners–was abuzz with marathon training chatter as was my online running team–The Sub-30 Club–as runners were preparing for Chicago, NYC, and Philly marathons. I found myself disappointed that I wasn’t able to join in on the even longer runs and the training chatter.

Summer Streets 2014
Running up Fifth Avenue during Summer Streets on my first 7 mile training run.
Bridge Run
On a 9 mile training run for my 10 miler. I planned to cross one bridge into Manhattan, run back to Brooklyn over another, then run back to my neighborhood. Two friends who were training for marathons joined me.
Bridge run - back to Brooklyn
Heading back to Brooklyn on our 9 mile training run. My friends were doing 10 and 12 miles that day for their marathon training.

Pulling the trigger, with a silencer

In addition to the consideration of longer distances and longing to join my friends in their training, I was contemplating the possibility of moving from NYC at some point in the next couple of years. Living in NYC I am able to participate in a guaranteed entry program for the marathon that requires you to complete 9 qualifying races and one volunteer shift. If I ever wanted to run NYC, this would be the “easiest” way to get guaranteed entry and therefore not have to leave my entry to chance through the lottery. It was late in the year though, almost September, and I had travel plans for two weekends in October. Were there enough qualifying races left? I had completed 3 races already–that first 5 miler, and two others that I had integrated into my 10 miler training plan–but with my travel two weekends in October, it would be close. I signed up for 4 races with the final race being on December 31st and also selected a volunteer shift handing out race bibs at the marathon expo. There were just three other qualifiers that I could have actually ran including a half marathon which I wanted to run, but didn’t think I would be ready for in time. For some reason I didn’t even think about throwing an extra race on as insurance.

Until it’s gone

I kept my 9+1 goal mostly to myself. I figured if I wasn’t ready by the time registration came around or by marathon time, I could defer to the following year. Not telling anyone would allow me to defer without peer pressure. Then one afternoon in September, for some reason, I decided to just confirm that all of my races were qualifiers. I am not quite sure why as I had studied each of the races before I registered for them.

That’s when I saw it. My last race was NOT a qualifier. I frantically looked at the race calendar to search for another race. There was just 1 left that I wasn’t registered for and could actually run because of my travel schedule. It was that dang half marathon. But was it available? The site said “Near Capacity.” I breathed a small sigh of relief and started my registration. For some reason the race wasn’t available for registration, though, even though it didn’t say “Sold Out.” I emailed the running club. Via email I was informed the race had sold out. I pleaded my case–the last race had been a qualifier, but then changed! Not so, they said. The site said the half marathon wasn’t sold out! It sold out while I was emailing. I was heartbroken. Then a glimmer… the person on the other end of the email told me that they tried to register me, but my credit card info on file was incorrect–could I correct it? COULD I?! I updated my information like my life depended on it. Then silence. I cried. I paced. I prayed. I chatted with a friend who despite all of her attempts to calm me with logic, failed. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I may vomit. Then I saw it. “NYRR Order Summary” was the subject line. I could finally breathe.

That afternoon I came to realize just how much this marathon thing meant to me. This wasn’t some casual thing that I was going to defer. The thought of having to wait another year to complete my guaranteed entry and pushing off the marathon to 2016 was scary. If I was that upset about the possibility of it slipping away for a year, it was big. And it was something that shouldn’t be a secret.

Facebook post
Declaring my intentions on Facebook.