2017 NYC Half Marathon weekend and race recap

As I have mentioned before The Sub-30 Club is like a family and races where there will be a good amount Subbers feel like a family reunion or party. This weekend was no different.

The expo and pre-race dinner

It all started on Saturday around noon when I headed to the race expo in the city. I met up with my girl, Jennie, and crossed paths with fellow Subber and NYRR coach, Daphne. We listened to Daphne give the course strategy talk a few times while other Subbers streamed in and out. Chelsea, Susan and her husband, Vinnie, and Nicole all stopped by to say hi and sign our black Sub-30 Club flag. It was about 2:30pm when my tummy reminded me that I hadn’t eaten yet and food became a mission. Jennie, Chelsea, and I headed out for a yummy brunch before parting ways for a few hours to run some errands. I hit Old Navy for a tossable sweatshirt, Jack Rabbits for some Honey Stingers, and Rite Aid to kill some time before heading over early to our dinner meet-up spot The Happiest Hour. Subber Sonyah was already there so I joined her at the bar. I typically don’t drink the day before a race, but since this was going to be a training run I decided to have just one. Jennie arrived and we joined Bill and Sandra at a big table. It wasn’t long before Nicole, Vinnie, and Chelsea joined us. We had a fun dinner and parted ways around 6. Somehow I had ended up spending the entire day in the city, didn’t get in my little 2 mile run, and when I got home I still had quite a bit to do to get ready for the next morning. I finally managed to get to bed around 11pm with an alarm set for 5:30am. It wasn’t an ideal amount of sleep, but again, this was only going to be a training run. NBD.

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Me and Jennie hanging out at the race expo
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Coach Daphne talking runners through the course at the race expo
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Pre-race dinner at the appropriately named “The Happiest Hour”

After an hour of being woken up every 10 minutes by the cats, around midnight I started to have some severe GI cramping and realized it was going to be a long night. After an hour and a half of pain, bathroom trips, and running out of toilet paper, my tummy finally decided to settle down for the night. It was around 2am by the time I was finally able to fall fully asleep.

Pre-race meet-up

The alarm at 5:30am came too soon after just 3.5 hours of sleep. My tummy seemed to be doing okay, but the thought of food was scary. I opted for a banana and protein bar that I have used before long runs. Out the door by 6:15am and at the Apple Store for our pre-race Subber meet-up and photo at 7am. It was cold out (in the 20s) and bag check was going to close an hour before our wave started so we were all dressed pretty interestingly. Kathy won best dressed in her robe for sure, though! A quick photo and hugs and then Erin and I headed off to drop our bags.

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Pre-race photo with the flag

Bag drop was a little bit of a walk, but quick as was getting through security. The porta-potty line was super long, but went by pretty quick. I did end up in one of the grossest ones I have ever been in and for the first time ever forgot to lock it and got walked in on! Our pit stop done, we made the long walk to our corral. On the way, Erin mentioned that she was going to try to run a PR. Even though the pace was faster than my typical long run pace, I knew it was a pace I could run comfortably so I offered to pace her. We devised a quick strategy: take it easy in the park and assess the timing when we hit Times Square then shift if we needed to. Erin felt pretty casual about it and was okay not hitting the time, but in my mind we were getting her that PR!

The race

After some shuffling of layers in the corrals, Erin losing a glove for the second time, and my bladder whining, it was finally time to start. I was a little sad to say good-bye to my super stylish layers, but I was optimistic the faster pace would warm me up quickly. The race starts right before Cat Hill so the warm-up was pretty quick! I was surprised how easy Cat Hill felt and a little sad to run past the bathrooms at The Boathouse. I definitely needed to go, but there was no way I was abandoning Erin so early so I just tried not think about it.

Miles 2-4 went by pretty quickly. We ran up East Drive north through Central Park past the Obelisk, Fred Lebow checking his watch, Engineer’s Gate, The Guggenheim, North Meadow, Lasker Rink, and finally out of the park for a series of out-and-backs that ran north, south, west, and east before finally heading south back into the park. Just before mile 4 we got our first water stop and we stopped to fuel. Then it was the long slog down the west side of the park, up and down the hills until we finally passed Tavern on the Green where the NYC Marathon course ends. As we hit the 10k mark and started to head out of Central Park and down 7th Avenue to Times Square we were feeling great and couldn’t believe we were practically half done!

Up until the point where we left Central Park, the course was super familiar. I’ve run Central Park so many times now for both races and training runs and while it IS my favorite place in the city, running it doesn’t feel super special. Like most other runners, the really exciting part of this course for me was running through Times Square. As soon as we exited the park and started seeing the lights of Times Square, it was amazing. There is something about being in the middle of 7th Avenue taking in that view that makes it feel even bigger. And the crowds were great. Nowhere near the crowds of the NYC Marathon, but plenty enough to make you feel like a rock star. There were also bands playing every few blocks so it had that same party atmosphere you get while running parts of the marathon course. It was a blast and we were feeling really good. We scoped out the photographers and did our best to get some good potential holiday card photos. 😉

As we turned and headed west onto 42nd Street, we talked a little bit about strategy again. Erin’s goal was still in reach, but we had a little time to make up. So the plan was to get past 8 and try to pick up the pace on the West Side Highway where we were hoping for a tail wind. We would reassess at mile 10 and if her goal wasn’t possible then I would find a porta-potty. My bladder was feeling quite full at this point, but I knew I could hold it since I did for 17 miles during my marathon. I wasn’t about to abandon her during this critical time in her race. Once we had a plan, we spent the run down 42nd Street having fun taking in the sights and waving and hollering “Good morning” to the cars stuck in traffic going the opposite way–which were close enough that we could high-five drivers. At the last aid station before mile 8 and our turn onto West Side Highway, Erin noticed there was no one waiting for the porta-potties, but I refused to leave her. She was getting that PR if I had anything to do with it!

As we hit the West Side Highway, a DJ played some familiar pop tune that I can’t recall, but we both knew the words and we sang aloud as we celebrated the fact that there was indeed going to be a tailwind for the next couple miles! Time to work the plan and knock off some of the time we had accumulated in the park at the beginning of the race.

During the course strategy they warned us that many runners find this part of the race boring. I’ve run along the Hudson River many times on long training runs and am familiar with the sights and didn’t think it would be so bad, but it did feel a little like a slog despite the flat course and tail wind. At this point, Erin was starting to feel some aches and I wasn’t going to tell her this, but I was starting to have some tightness in my right hammie. I also had to pee so bad that I really didn’t want to drink any more water, but I knew I had to. We would stop at every aid station to drink our water and let her stretch for a few seconds. I kept doing math in my head and had been letting her know where we were at every mile, but around mile 9 she let me know that she didn’t think she could keep the pace we needed. So I told her I wasn’t going to tell her anything about time anymore. The plan became she was going to push as much as she could and I would keep us moving and keep doing the math in my head. We would reassess at mile 10. At some point along the West Side Highway I started speeding up as we went into to the aid stations to bank a few seconds of time because I knew we would stop for a few seconds to drink and stretch. As I continued to monitor our pace, her breathing, and do the math in my head I knew the PR might be out of reach… but a second best finish was still a possibility.

When we hit mile 10, I gave her the news. We would need to make up 3 minutes over the course of the next 3.1 miles to make it a PR or we could try for the second best. She was giving all she had so the new plan was to shoot for second best, but I also really needed to pee. We ran what felt like forever (a little over a mile) before the next aid station. I told her I wouldn’t stop for water and would run ahead to the porta potty and try to find her after. So off I went at a slightly faster pace directly into a porta potty even worse than the one before the race. How you hover and get your BM all over the seat, I have no idea, but I was not waiting for another toilet. So I hovered cautiously and got out of there as quickly as possible which seemed impossible after 11 miles of holding it and hydrating every mile! Finally back on the course, I realized that I had to be at least a minute if not two behind Erin. How in the hell was I going to find her and catch up to her?!

Determined to catch up to Erin, I picked up the pace. I pushed for quite awhile questioning if I could even catch up to her when all the sudden I saw her little hat bopping in the distance. I tried to just keep the pace telling myself that as long as she was in my sights I would catch her eventually, but I lost my line of sight a few times for a few seconds and decided I was just going to push the pace until I caught her. My Garmin says that I was averaging ~8:50 for a half mile as I looked for her then chased her down. Definitely not long/training run pace! LOL. As I pulled up next to her casually, I was like “Hey girl, hey!” I couldn’t believe I made it back to her and I was excited to help her for the last miles.

The last mile

It felt like forever to get that second half of mile 12 done, but once we did I knew we were really close to sub-2:20 which would be her second fastest and a great little break of a time boundary. Most of the last mile is through a tunnel underpass around the southern tip of Manhattan. So we had a nice little decline going in and once we were down there, I picked up the pace and started weaving between runners. Erin stayed with me and I could hear her breathing shift. I knew she was working hard and I knew her body was in pain from the miles. I asked her if it was hurting right now and she could only nod. I told her that was good, she was giving it her all, and she was crushing this last mile and just needed to hold on a little longer. We were literally almost there.

Almost there, but not before what went down into the tunnel had to come back up out of it. Once we could literally see the light at the end of the tunnel and the incline out of it, I told her there was no hill. We were actually taking a ski lift up! There is no hill. There is no hill. There is no hill. You’re doing great! There is no hill. She kept pushing. She was crushing it. I was so excited I could scream. I just kept telling her how great she was and telling her follow me as I weaved us through runners. I would turn my head and holler behind me at her. Other runners would look over and I’d just smile. Yep, she has her own pacer and she is absolutely OWNING this finish!

We hit the 400m mark and I hollered it out to her. She hollered back, “Just one loop of the track!” That’s right! So let’s go! We turned a corner and could see the 200m mark… just one more turn to be able to see the finish. As we turned the last corner I swung wide out into the middle of the course and looked back to see her face. She was pushing it hard and the finish was in sight. I picked up the pace more and just kept hollering, “GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GO!” As we got close to the finish I reminded her to not hit her watch and SMILE through the finish for photo… HERE WE GO!

We sprinted right through the finish and after crossing the two timing mats hit the brakes abruptly to not hit the crowd of finishers. A volunteer was right in front us and told us we were awesome and as Erin caught her breath she hollered back to him, “YOU are awesome!” I told her our unofficial time–2:20:40–and took a mental photo of her face in the moment then gave her a big hug. She did it. Second best half marathon time. Official time: 2:20:23.

Post-race celebration

We walked through the finish area and I pulled up the tracker to check on our Subbers still out on the course. It looked like we had a little over an hour until they would finish so we decided to hit the post-race meetup spot to meet her husband who was already finished and to change into dry clothes. It was mid 30s and I was soaked! As we turned out of the finish area, our post-race meetup spot was not even a half block away. It was packed with runners, but I had made a reservation for 20 of us. We took turns hitting the bathroom and I ended up making multiple trips to change clothes.

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We did it!

One of my friends that I also coach had texted while I was out on the course that she had unexpectedly PRed by 2:34 so I was also texting with her and also sending texts to our Subbers still out on the course (including another of my athletes) encouraging them as I tried to get ready to head back out to cheer their finishes. But before I could head back out, other Subbers started to show up and after greeting them I checked the tracker and realized there was no way I could make it back down to the finish in time. (The finish areas for these big NYRR races are quite long.) So I shot a few more texts of encouragement and hollered out their finishes to the Subbers around me as they finished. As each of them streamed into the bar, they got group cheers and hugs and within a few minutes had a celebratory drink in their hands.

Somehow 3 hours passed in that place and it felt like 3 minutes. Subbers slowly trickled out and the final three–Sonyah, Chelsea, and myself–had one last round before heading back to the subway. Sonyah and I rode together to Union Square and I was so sad to give her a hug good-bye and head back to Brooklyn where my friends from inside my phone go back to living in my phone.

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Subber signatures on the black team flag

The Sub-30 Club: More than a club, a family

When I started running, it was a pretty solo endeavor. I did all of my training runs alone because I lived in a neighborhood in Brooklyn that was pretty far out and I didn’t know any other runners. When I moved to North Brooklyn, I joined a local running group, but unfortunately was too slow for most of their group runs. In August of 2014, I read an article in Runner’s World about an online running group that was focused on sub-30 minute 5k and immediately joined. I had no idea how much that one decision would impact my life.

Two and half years later, I have not only been to several club meet-ups but have organized a few and have developed close relationships with several Subbers (Sub-30 Club members). Many of the athletes that I coach are from the group. I have run Runner’s World Fest, Broad Street Run, Hood to Coast, and VIA Relay with Subbers. In May when I run the Grand Canyon 50k, at least 5 other members who I also consider dear friends will be with me.

Life at the Back of the Pack

The group has grown a lot since I  first joined and at our annual meet-up at Runner’s World Festival we are well known for our”Back of the Pack Party” and for our faster runners “running in” those who are on the course alone. “No Subber Left Behind” is a constant theme with the group as is “B.E.A.S.T.” which stands for “Be Awesome and Strong TOGETHER.” Because of this, it was no surprise to me when our executive director let us know that our group was being featured on The Runner’s World Show podcast. I highly recommend checking out the “Episode 36: Life at the Back of the Pack” podcast.

Coincidentally, I was also featured today in the group in their weekly “Spotlight On” series. Here is copy of my interview for the series!

Spotlight on Brandi Cole

1. Give us the basics: Age? Married? Kids? Job? Pets?
I’m 40, in a serious relationship with adventure, and have 2 furbabies (Tiny Destroyer of Worlds and Lulu Don’t Give a Damn). I consider my job to be an adventurer, knowledge seeker, and student of life, and am also a certified distance running coach, but I make my living as a Lead Designer at McKinsey & Company focused on User Experience.

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Tiny (Destroyer of Worlds) and Lulu (Don’t Give a Damn)

2. How did you get involved in Sub 30?
I joined in August 2014 when I was still chasing time goals. I have fluctuated from very active to almost leaving at points. Something magical happened at BSR 2016, though, and now I am stuck with a bunch of incredible friends–some I talk to multiple times a day.

3. How long have you been running?
I have been running consistently as an adult since September 2011. I ran as a very young kid and attempted to start again in 2010, but street harassment (in Florida) and a heart scare caused me to push pause for awhile.

4. How has running changed you?
It has helped me to recognize and in some cases amplify some of my better characteristics: tenacity, strength, and (surprisingly) discipline. I live for that moment when a run has been really tough and I get a surge of strength and push through stronger than before. I believe finding strength in adversity is really powerful.

5. Do you have a specialty/specific interest? What’s “your thing”? (roads, trails, triathlons, obstacle course racing, etc.)
I like to run long in the wilderness. In a perfect world, I would get to run trail most of the time, but living in NYC makes that a bit of a challenge. I’d never completely give up road, though, because running is my favorite way to explore a city!

6. What distance do you prefer, and would you like share your PR?
I like long distance. I don’t have a preference. The longer I can play outside, the better. I’m not really motivated by time PRs anymore. Why would I want to cut my time on the trail short?!

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New York City Marathon

7. Do you follow a training plan created by someone else or do you make your own or do you not follow a plan at all?
It depends. Now that I am a coach I find that I am less motivated to write plans for myself for some reason. I do tend to experiment on myself to confirm benefits of training before asking the same of my athletes.

8. Guilty pleasure after a long run/workout?
I have no guilt over pleasures. Post-run I will splurge on a beer even though I have a gluten allergy. (yes, it’s a legit allergy) This summer I started indulging in Coke with ice after a run.

9. Coolest place you ever ran? (bonus points if you can add a picture)
Paris! Running along the Seine with all of the landmarks was magical. Stateside I think DC is my favorite place to run aside from my home trail along the Palisades. Can’t wait to run in Berlin, India, and the Grand Canyon in 2017!

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Running in Paris
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Running along the Palisades with my trail team pals and my best running friend and fellow Subber, Jeremy

10. Who/ What inspires you?
People who push out of their comfort zone, tackle big challenges, or make a leap of faith or significant investment to follow their passion. And I mean that in a broad way–it could mean pushing yourself physically for a new PR, embarking on a journey to regain health, doing something adventure related like skydiving, moving to a new city, or telling someone that you love them. I feel strongly that life should be LIVED so anyone who is pushing themselves to do that regardless of actual or perceived limitations has my utmost respect.

11. When not running, what is your favorite thing to do?
A lot of my travel and vacation centers around running and I am also coach so there is still plenty of running stuff in my life outside of actually running. I love good food and a good bourbon especially in the company of my favorite people. (Even if they don’t really like bourbon. 😉 ) I also love music, singing, and dancing so live music, singing karaoke, or a spontaneous living room dance party tend to top my list of fun things to do.

12. Tell us something about you that we don’t already know.
I had never traveled out of the country until 2010 when I went to Mexico for a friend’s wedding. I was 34. On that trip I did an adventure day where I was blessed by a Mayan shaman, rappelled into and swam in a cenote, and climbed a few pyramids. That was the day that I decided to move to NYC. A little over 4 months later I was here. None of my loved ones believed it was happening at the time! Since then I have seen and done some pretty awesome things. It is never too late to change your life and follow your dreams!

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Adventuring in Mexico. From clockwise from top left: Blessed by a Mayan shaman, rappelling into a cenote, sitting on top of a pyramid, pyramid climbing

Broad Street Run #LAST weekend (not the race report)

All tails were twitching as the week progressed. We were all excited about getting to hug each other, finally meeting some of “the people in our phones”, and spending more time with friends that we don’t get to see often. Sixty four LAST (Low and Slow Team) teammates, many of which who had only interacted online, were all heading to Philadelphia to run Broad Street Run 10 miler as a part of our the American Cancer Society’s Determination fundraising team.

 

My ankle had been bothering me all week since Leatherman’s Loop 10K and I hadn’t run at all since then. I saw my acupuncturist right before leaving and he put more pins in me than I think he ever has and also stretched me out a bit. (He is wonderful and if you are in the New York City area, I highly recommend you go see Russ at Runner Clinic NYC.) The train ride was uneventful and I started to get really excited to hug my friend Jeremy who I had been chatting with for weeks about training, races, and all things running. By the time I hit the cab we were texting and as soon as I had checked in, he headed over to my hotel. (I ended up staying in a different hotel than the rest of the team.) He walked into the lobby with his orange sweatshirt on and I was so excited that I probably seemed like a crazy person. We decided to wander around and find somewhere to get some cider and fries.

 

We managed to find the loudest pub in Philly, I believe. We had a few drinks and fries and chatted. Before we knew it, it was nearing time to meet the team for dinner. I grabbed a jacket at my hotel and we headed to the team hotel to meet the team. I was really glad that I came in a day early when I saw the size of the group. It was only about 10-15 people for dinner, but I had only really talked to Jeremy before. As much as I seem like an outgoing extrovert, I actually teeter on the extrovert/introvert line and forced interactions with groups of strangers can be a little nerve-wracking for me.

At dinner I sat with Jeremy and a lovely couple, Teresa and Jeff. Jeff has similar food restrictions to me so that helped break the ice. I got to have some good conversations with Therese and Andy, too. And of course, Stephanie and Ed were so much fun. There were some moments after dinner when I felt a little awkward, but all-in-all it was a good time. After dinner, I left everyone after the first block to head back to my hotel. Day 1 done.

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#LAST at Friday night dinner

The next morning, Saturday, I was really excited to run to the museum steps. The team shakeout run was only 1-2 miles so I had made plans with Jeremy to do 3 miles out and back from his hotel. He is much faster than me, but we managed hit a good pace that was a little faster than usual for me and still comfortable. It was really nice to have company for the run. We ran to the top of the steps, snapped a selfie, ran to the Rocky statue, snapped a selfie then ran back to the hotel and decided to have breakfast. We went to Green Eggs — one of my favorites in Philly. YUM! Therese and Anneke stopped for a minute to say, “hi” too. After breakfast, we went back to our rooms and got ready for lunch.

 

There were quite a bit more people for lunch than dinner and I lost Jeremy almost immediately. I paired up with Michelle who has similar food restrictions. Sarah and Mindy joined us at our table. Luckily some of my teammates are much more outgoing than me (and my fuschia hair seemed to make me easily recognizable) so lunch was less stressful than anticipated. I had several good convos then headed to the expo with one of my favorites, Richie, his lovely wife, Danielle, and a soon to be favorite, Jeff. We wandered the expo, took some photos, and eventually bumped into the rest of the team. I got some more quality time in with Teresa before heading back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.

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#LAST at the DetermiNation team table at the BSR expo

Saturday night was our Determination team dinner. Again, I stuck close to Jeremy and Jeff ended up close, too. (#posse) There were lots of stories shared during the dinner as well as cheers for all the money that had been raised. There were post-dinner drinks, but it was already getting late so I opted to head back to my hotel. (And missed our team flag signing, unfortunately.) Spent almost an hour getting everything ready for the next morning, doing my PT exercises, rolling out, and finally got to bed by 10pm with an alarm set for 5am.

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Sub-30 Low and Slow DetermiNation Team

 

I’m going to skip over race morning as I will be posting a detailed race report. After getting showered after the race, I met my remaining teammates for lunch. I got to spend time with Richie, Jeff, Jeremy, and Michelle which made me so happy. As lunch wrapped, we took some photos and people headed out. I was so sad that the weekend was starting to wind down. Little did I know, there was still a lot of awesome to come!

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#LAST at post-race lunch

After almost everyone headed out, Sarah, Nicole, Pam, Michelle, and I hopped to a smaller table and hung out for hours drinking and talking. IT WAS AWESOME. Jeremy eventually made his way back, too. Eventually it was time to eat again and we ended up at Charlie Was A Sinner, an awesome vegan restaurant. Some of our teammates from smaller towns found the menu a little different, but luckily decided to be adventurous. The food was excellent! And I got to have a dessert which never happens! After dinner we made plans for a morning run and I again parted ways to head back to my hotel.

The next morning, Monday, I did NOT want to get out of bed. After several nights of less than usual sleep and several days of lots of activity, I was beat. But I really wanted to run with my friends so I sucked it up. We did the same route that I had done with Jeremy on Friday, took lots of selfies, and had an awesome time. When we got back to the hotel, Pam was the first to leave us. I wanted to cry. Nicole, Sarah, Jeremy, and I had breakfast in the hotel. Then Sarah headed upstairs. UGH. I hate goodbyes! Then it was a hug goodbye for Nicole. My heart was just flat out breaking at this point. And then it was time to hug Jeremy goodbye. He was my partner-in-crime all weekend. How was I supposed to go back to real life without him?! We hugged for a long, but not long enough time. I walked him to the elevator or he walked me halfway to the door–I don’t know. I think at this point we were just eeking out more seconds. As I walked back to my hotel, I felt like I might cry. What did these strangers do to me? ❤

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Epic Jer-Bear hug!

Runner’s World Festival Continued

Saturday evening after my race report I headed to bed ready to rest and optimistic that I would wake up on Sunday morning refreshed and ready to cheer my friends during the half marathon. I fell asleep for a couple of hours and then around midnight I woke up. I was sick. Food poisoning. It was horrible and it lasted all night. For the first few hours I was out of bed every 10-15 minutes. By 5am, I was able to sleep for 30-45 minutes at a time. At 9am, I walked to the lobby and asked if I could extend my reservation. I spent the next few hours until checking out at 1pm, sick, exhausted, sore, and very nervous about the drive back to NYC. My friend came to get me a little after 1 and I felt queasy the entire way back home. I was so happy to get home. I hadn’t eaten a meal since Saturday and it was after 5 when I got home. I was so happy to eat something and have it feel satisfying and not make me more sick. I was able to eat quite a bit and got 10+ hours of sleep last night. I’m still a little sore today, but I feel millions of times better!

Last night I was reflecting on the weekend. I didn’t get to do hardly anything that I wanted to do and the 10K was so traumatic that if you had asked me yesterday, I would tell you that I didn’t want to run the marathon. But there was light and success during the weekend. During the trail race, I started towards the front and held my position well until halfway through when I decided to back off out of fear of injury. I managed to finish 8th in my division, but still wondering how deep the field was there. The next morning for the 5K, I impressed myself with how easy the paces came. I was tired, felt sick, had run the day before on a challenging course plus some added mileage, I was on my 4th week of high mileage, 3rd weekend of tough runs (18 miler then the half marathon PR before this weekend), and somehow I managed to run that 5K easy at paces that I am not even sure I could run 4 months ago. The 10K was horrible and probably dumb, but I did finish and my pace without the bathroom break and pause before the finish (10:31 pace without breaks) was respectable given the circumstances. And even though I was sick for the next 36ish hours, I still managed to smile and joke with my friends on the way home which makes me proud that I didn’t let it get the best of me.

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Proud of my easy paces during the 5K
Post Five and Dime
After the Five and Dime on Saturday morning. Forced smile, freezing, and sick.

I also got to meet or see again several of people from one of my online running clubs, The Sub 30 Club. I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time with them as I had hoped, but it was so wonderful to finally get to hug a few people that have gone from people that I look forward to posting in the club, to Facebook friends that we share glimpses of our lives. I never used to be someone who would “friend” someone without meeting them in person, but think I made the proper exceptions in these cases. 😉 And as I said, it was great even to just get to hug them and hear their voice.

The Sub 30 Club
The Sub 30 Club before the trail race. Was great to meet some of the “friends in my phone.”

I also got to meet Deena Kastor! Saturday morning before heading to the start, she was hanging out on the stage with Bart. I just couldn’t let the opportunity pass to say hello to her and congratulate her on her U.S. Masters Record that she just set last weekend at the Chicago Marathon. She was so nice and Bart was nice enough to take a photo of us together. Maybe some of her speed and strength rubbed off on me for that 5K!

Deena Kastor
Deena Kastor!

I skipped my run yesterday for obvious reasons and may take my run tomorrow easy instead of doing the planned threshold workout. My body is definitely healing and I feel so much better this morning than I did yesterday in regards to soreness. I’m really looking forward to these two weeks of taper. I can’t wait to see how I feel with a well rested body!

Race report: Runner’s World Festival

Figured I could at least get a blog post written while I’m laid up in bed. It’s been a crazy 24 hours. 3 races and a total of over 17 miles including non-race mileage.

Friday was the 3.8 mile trail race in South Mountain Park. We decided to run to the start which we didn’t realize would be uphill the entire way. My watch clocked 525 gain over the 1.75 miles. PA is known for being hilly and rocky and this course was exactly that. I haven’t been on trail in about 4 months so it was both a ton of fun and tough. I started towards the front and held my position pretty well for the first half. The loose rocks posed a bit of a challenge and by half way I had tweaked my ankle a few times. Nothing serious, but enough to make me concerned about really rolling it. So I decided to back off and not risk and injury before the marathon. The finish was great, all downhill to a nice grassy shoot where there were some awesome cheerers. Started passing a girl in the chute during my kick so she fired up and we had a little race to the finish. People screamed and the announcer was all “WHOA!!!” as we ripped around the corner to the finish. I was 8th in my division, but still not sure how deep the field was there. After the race, we waited around to get our backpack with our jackets back from someone who locked it in their car. We were freezing for like an hour. They took so long to come back that we missed all our opportunities for rides down the hill and ended up having to run back to the room. It was getting dark and part of the way back didn’t have sidewalks or walkable shoulder and it was a busy road. That was pretty scary. But we made it and when we finally made it back we enjoyed some bourbon and showers before heading out for and awesome dinner and drinks. I hadn’t eaten a meal since 10am that morning (there was pizza at the trail race, but I can’t eat it) so food was definitely appreciated. After dinner, we were pooped and I had two races the next morning so we decided to skip the club happy hour. I got to bed at a reasonable time, but tossed and turned all night.

Saturday morning I got up and knew it was going to be a tough day. I was exhausted and felt sick. I jogged a mile down to the race start and picked up my race packet, got a photo with Deena Kastor (EEEEEE!!!), dropped my bag, then lined up. It was pretty cold and I wasn’t sure how I would get both races done. I decided to just take it one race at a time. I could always decide to not do the second. Once I got going, I felt pretty okay. Definitely wasn’t racing, but was running at a nice pace. I was happy with the run and felt pretty okay directly after, though a little hungry.

After the 5k, I cheered finishers and ran a club member in to the finish. One of the club members forced me to borrow a hoodie for my own good which was much appreciated. Cheered some more then started feeling really sick. Went to the bathroom then hung out in the expo center for a few minutes. I was feeling really horrible and I guess it was apparent because an expo worker asked me if I was okay and if I needed to sit down. I assured her that I would be fine and headed out to start the 10k. I was freezing, felt sick and dizzy, and had no idea how I was going to get this 6.2 miles done. I wondered if maybe I should just call it, but I am too stubborn. (And probably a little dumb.)

The 10k started and as soon as I started running, I started feeling a little better. I was still out of it a bit, but I felt like if I went slow enough I could get it done. This course was hillier than the 5k which added significantly to the challenge. I ended up having to stop to use the bathroom at some point and wondered if I should quit. I just kept telling myself that if I can get through this 6.2, I’ll be good for the end of the marathon. So I pushed on and by mile 5 I was chanting to myself under my breath. “You are okay.” “You CAN do this.” “One more mile.” There is a hill at mile 5.5 which was also at the end of the 5k so I knew it was there. I just kept pushing. One foot in front of the other. Constant forward motion.

Coming down the other side, I was feeling dizzy and like when I stopped I may fall over. I just kept telling myself to get to the finish. There are friends there and medical. Just keep going. Just before the mile 6 marker I drifted and grabbed onto a fence. I squatted down and put my head down. I was there for about a minute. Runners going by kept saying “you got this!” and “almost there!” and I so badly wanted someone to just ask if I was okay. (I would have told them yes, but the ask would have been comforting.) I snapped out of it and got to my feet. There was about .3 miles to go. Once the finish was in site, I wanted to push but I was scared I literally might fall over. I did manage a tiny kick just before the finish when I heard some yell my name then got across the finish and immediately pulled over to the side and squatted. Took a minute to collect myself then headed to get my medal. Then to get my bag. I sat down in the middle of the parking lot and layered on everything in my bag. I was so cold and tired and sick and dizzy and I wasn’t sure I could walk. I wanted someone that I knew to walk by, but no one did. I stayed there for a bit, but I was cold. I decided to skip picking up my race shirt, used the bathroom, and headed straight back to the room. That mile long walk uphill seemed to take longer than race.

I’ve spent the entire day in bed, resting and eating. My head feels better, but my body is pretty banged up. I don’t think I will be getting in my 4 miles tomorrow. I did get in some gentle yoga which seemed to help a bit. I missed all my afternoon events though and will miss dinner with my club.

I feel like a big dummy for not fueling better yesterday and drinking a few drinks last night. (I never drink before races or long runs!) That combined with a sleepless night set me up for a challenging morning. I also should have probably forced myself to eat more this morning (I had a banana and Justin’s nutella packet) and should have grabbed my bag with snacks between races. I probably should have slowed the pace in the 5k given I wasn’t feeling great. And of course, running the 10k was probably a really, really, horribly dumb idea. But what’s done is done and my body should recover in time for the marathon. I’m hoping I can get good sleep tonight, but I typically have a hard time sleeping after races and when I am traveling. My body needs good rest, though. It needs to heal.

Read about what happened after this post in my Monday morning follow-up.

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: 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.