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!

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: 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: 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!

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.

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!)

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.

For the love of running

Once upon a time

I ran a little cross country in the milers club in elementary school. I never really got into it seriously and I wasn’t particularly good at it. When my family moved to a different city in 5th grade, I didn’t pursue running or softball which I had played for many years. Instead my focus turned to dance and eventually digital arts. After high school, I didn’t do much stay active. By 2009, I was overweight and trying to slim down. I tried to run a few times in September of 2009, but quit because of chest pain. (Even though a cardiologist had told me I was fine to run with my slight arrhythmia.) I was finally able to drop the extra weight in 2010 with diet and moderate cardio.

Cross-Country in First Grade
That’s me with in the red shorts with the goofy stride. Form was obviously not my forte.
Weight Loss
Christmas 2009 and March 2013

In April of 2011 I moved to New York City. For the first few months of living in the city, I suffered from knee pain because of all the walking that had been added to my life. I was trim, but I wasn’t fit. As Summer started to turn to Fall that year, I started to toy with the idea of running again. My best friend was running and doing some pretty cool races and my knees seemed to have adapted to the walking. So on September 8th of 2011, I headed out for a run.

A vicious cycle

My first run was horrible. I wasn’t even fit enough to run a full block. I did almost 4 miles that day, though, in run/walk intervals. My best friend expressed her concern with my bold inaugural run and lack of proper shoes. So I bought a pair of Brooks Ghosts and started Couch to 5K. I also set a first goal race for December of that year. I won’t bore anyone with the details, but suffice it to say that I wasn’t ready for that race. It would take almost 16 months and three more races before I could run a full 5K. It was 16 months of a vicious cycle — slow progress and injury setback. It constantly felt like one step forward and two steps back. I could only run 2x a week, had to run super slow, had to wear a knee brace, and even that didn’t guarantee my knees wouldn’t act up. After the first 5K I was able to run the entire distance in March of 2013, I gave up running. My knees just didn’t seem to want to do it and I would be able to end on a high note. I was heartbroken, but resigned myself to the fact that being able to walk at 60 was more important than a hobby.

Jingle Bell Jog 2011
My first race in December 2011. I had to walk most of it, but ran through the finish. Obviously form was still not my forte.
Spring Fling 5K
After the first 5K I was able to run entirely. March 2013. I felt invincible. Until I tried to return to training and my knees disagreed.

A new love and old unite

Around the same time as that last 5K and me quitting running, I took up a new hobby–indoor rock climbing. For the next few months I was at the rock climbing gym several times a week. I was horrible at it, but I loved it. It was mental and physical and social and everything I wanted in a sport. But by mid-Summer, I was missing running. I decided to give it one last very conservative try. I restarted Couch to 5K on July 26th of 2013. I also signed up for a race at the end of September.

I was amazed at the difference this time around. Something had happened. My knees weren’t as angry. Eventually I was able to start running 3x a week albeit at very low mileage (<5mi/week). By September I felt good enough to sign up for a few more races. I wasn’t running fast, but I was running. And I started to put two-and-two together. My climbing had made me strong enough to run.

2013 Tunnel to Towers 5k
Feeling strong after the Tunnel to Towers race in September 2013. The race started in Brooklyn and ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to Lower Manhattan and ended at the World Trade Center.
2013 Get to the Point! 5K
At a neighborhood race a few weeks after the Tunnel to Towers race. It wasn’t long after this that I was able to run without my knee brace.

Finally, a runner

I continued to run through the end of the year, eventually ditching the knee brace. I picked up a Garmin watch and heart rate monitor in December (2013) and planned to do base training through the Winter. By Spring, I was running 3x week up to 2-3 miles at a time. My weekly mileage was still pretty low at 5-6 miles per week, but I wasn’t really training for anything either. So I signed up for a race–The Front Runner’s 5 mile Pride Run on June 28, 2014. The distance seemed out of reach, but I figured I could always run/walk to complete it.

I found a 10 week training plan and passionately focused on my new goal. I supplemented my running with rock climbing a few times a week and 20 minutes of yoga after every run. I had also incorporated some PT exercises for my knees. Again, I wasn’t running fast, but I was running. I was adding miles and staying healthy. I couldn’t believe it. I completed the race and for the first time, I felt like a REAL runner. After I got home from the race, I immediately signed up for a 10 mile race at the end of September.

2014 Bridge Run
Training for the 5 mile race with some bridge running.
2014 Front Runners 5M Pride Run
Before and after the 5 mile race. I ran well enough for the first 4 miles that I was able to really kick at the end.