Tuesday, January 25, 2011

DEALWATCH - Triathlon Camp at Chelsea Piers

For anyone who's in New York City or close enough to commute, Groupon is offering a great deal on a half day triathlon camp. For $50, you can attend a camp which would otherwise cost $150. Did I mention the facility is beautiful? Check out the deal here.

The available dates are:

  • Sat. Feb. 19, 9 a.m.–1 p.m.
  • Sun., Feb. 27, 12 p.m.–4 p.m.
  • Sat., Mar. 19, 9 a.m.–1 p.m.
  • Sun., Mar. 20, 12 p.m.–4 p.m.
  • Sat., Mar. 26, 9 a.m.–1 p.m.
  • Sun., Mar. 27, 12 p.m.–4 p.m.
For those who might be unfamiliar, Chelsea Piers is a massive sports complex located on the Hudson River between 17th and 23rd streets. They have facilities for all kinds of sports including (but probably not limited to) golf, softball, baseball, soccer, and basketball. It's also apparently a USAT certified training facility. So take a look, it seems like a great opportunity at a reasonable price.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Indoor Tri Results - Mixed News

Who has two thumbs, speaks limited Spanish, and didn't cry once yesterday? This mi. Extra points if you can name the 30 Rock episode it came from. And the results are in! The good news: I came in fourth place. The unfortunate caveat: my run was, in fact, recorded incorrectly. I actually ran somewhere between 2.25 and 2.3, but it was taken down as 2.6, which is a huge difference when it comes to the resulting score. I emailed the race director but haven't heard back about how it will impact the standings. I *think* I should still be 9th or 10th even once my score is corrected. Let's hope for the best.

As a side note, it appears that the field of swimmers was significantly more competitive this time around. Even though I improved my swim distance, I think my score was at least 10 points worse than last time. 

Asphalt Green Indoor Tri Summary

I wanted to wait until the results came and then lump these two together, but I figured it couldn't hurt to record my initial reaction to the race. While the last indoor tri consisted of three wave start blocks in the morning/early afternoon, this one began mid-afternoon and ended in the early evening yesterday. Since they're indoor races, the time of day probably has less of an impact than it would on an outdoor race. Still, it was an interesting change of pace since afternoon/evening races are pretty rare. There were three start options available: 3-4, 4-5, 5-6. 5-6 worked best for me, so that's what I chose.

When I arrived, I discovered that only one other person had signed up for the same time slot and she had arrived half an hour beforehand, so was put in an earlier heat. The race organizers were very apologetic about the fact that I would be the only person in my heat. While it was a little worrisome (competition always makes us better), I certainly didn't fault them for it and was okay with it. Fortunately for me, though, I jumped in the pool to begin my swim when the race director came down and told the lap counter to wait, because they'd gotten one more participant (woo hoo!). So it ended up being both of us in the last heat.

The swim went well. I improved by 1 length (18 total) so I can't complain. I'd obviously like to improve by more to make my swim score more competitive, but considering the last one was only two weeks ago and I haven't put enough time into swimming as might have been ideal, I was happy with the result. My lane buddy had a much lower score (11 lengths) though I came to find out later that the guy wasn't able to swim at all during the first tri, which occurred at the beginning of December. Kudos to him for improving that much.

The bike segment was stellar. I biked 18.08 miles in 30 minutes and could not have expected a better result. That's a 1.73 mile improvement over last time! I attribute part of it to the fact that I wore my cycling shoes this time and was able to clip into the pedals of the spin bike. The other part was that the other guy was ridiculous (19.64 miles - he set the bike record for the day) and since our bikes were adjacent to each other, it was much easier to constantly try to match his speed.

Finally, the run. It was the one area that I didn't improve. I'm not sure what my final distance was, though I think it might have been 2.28. Unfortunately, I have a sinking feeling that they recorded the incorrect distance. I'll have to wait for the results to know for sure, though. I didn't have my iPod for this one, and, while I admit that shouldn't have too much impact, I think it really did. Listening to music serves two purposes when I'm working out. First, it takes my mind off of a difficult workout and second, an uptempo song can set a faster pace than I might set for myself. I'll make a mental note to myself not to forget it next time.

Oh! And this one took place at Asphalt Green, which is located on the Upper East Side. I'd never been there before yesterday and am still not certain what it is exactly (if it's a city-run rec center or a privately owned facility). Anyway, official race results should come out later today. More to follow.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Manhattan Half Marathon Summary

It was my third year doing this race and it. was. freezing. Incidentally, though, it's only tied for the coldest of the three Manhattan halves that I've done so far. This year and in 2009 it was 14 degrees and last year it was gorgeous and 37. I guess it's a crapshoot. The ridiculous temperature was not helpful for what ended up being my pre-race number retrieval odyssey. I've done so many races at this point that I usually can't be bothered to make the trip all the way up to the Road Runners building at 89th and 5th. Instead, I usually pick up my number right before the race. Typically on the morning of, race numbers are distributed near the start line. If I had done even a little research, I would have realized this was not the case for this race. I read that I needed to pick up my number from the Road Runners building this morning (unusual) so assumed that the start would be somewhere nearby. Not the case.

I also ran from home to Road Runners because it's pretty inefficient to take the subway up there from where I am. It involves walking three crosstown blocks past 5th avenue, taking the 4, 5, or 6 up, walking back across the extraneous three crosstown blocks and then the same process on the way back. I thought I'd avoid the whole thing by simply running to Road Runners, collecting my number, and then casually going to the start line, which I assumed would be only blocks away. As it turns out the start was on the opposite end of the park and about thirty blocks down. Poor, poor planning on my part. By the time I reached the race start, I'd already run three miles!

The race itself was fine. It's two laps around Central Park. Not an easy run, but predictable if you've spent much time running in the park. It's generally a  little hilly but there are really only two challenging hills. One comes right after you pass the Boathouse and the other is Harlem Hill. I've always been of the opinion that Harlem Hill just sucks and that I'll never enjoy running it. Today, though, I think I might have. It wasn't nearly as difficult as I remembered it and even helped me warm up on the first lap. Plus we passed a bunch of people running it, which is always a good ego booster.

After that I had to run over to quidditch practice, which was not only cold but snow and ice ridden! And after all was said and done I had to take a warm-up nap. In fact, I should probably go to bed soon since the indoor tri is tomorrow. Night!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Back Into Circuits

Jared and I got back to circuits yesterday morning. I will say that we started light, though. We spent the first fifteen minutes repeating a four-part circuit which consisted of 25 push ups, 25 box jumps, a quarter mile sprint, a 250 meter rowing sprint. I haven't really done push ups since December, so it was challenging and my form deteriorated quickly.

Then we got down to serious business with the sprints. As you might remember, my new goal for the sprint triathlon coming up this Sunday is to run 2.5 miles in 20 minutes, which averages out to an 8 minute mile. In order to work toward this, Jared first had me run a mile under 8 minutes. I think I ended up doing it between 7:50 and 7:55 and it wasn't nearly as difficult as I anticipated. That's a good sign. Next, we traded off doing quarter and half mile repeats. One of us would run the quarter or half mile while the other walked briskly and then we'd switch.

That was yesterday's workout. Today's schedule will include a morning workout with Jared and then a long run with Vineet in the evening. I'm hoping to get in a solid 10. It might not be the wisest decision this close to the half, but the goal is just to finish. As long as we're not hurting come race time, we should be fine.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Something Strange and Wonderful

I don't know about you, but every once in awhile if I'm feeling particularly pensive, I'll decide to walk somewhere rather than take the subway. Or maybe instead of stopping at my destination, I'll walk a few blocks past and make a loop. We could be talking about 2 blocks or 80 blocks. The point is, sometimes walking gives me time to think about things. It might not even be anything of consequence. Daydreams can be enough to warrant the extra distance. Or a good song, though I admit that that probably happens more often while I'm driving. Have you ever been in the car, almost home, when one of your favorite songs comes on the radio and you take a slightly (and I emphasize slightly) more circuitous route than you might have otherwise just so you can hear one or two more verses? I have.

Today I set out to the YMCA to get in a swim. My plan was to swim 30 laps. When I arrived, I only intended to swim the 30 laps without any particular goal or strategy in mind. What I have failed to consider up to this point, is that swimming is much like running in that, if I plan to be able to swim any faster I need to approach training with some sort of strategy in mind. There are all kinds of running workouts, sprints, hills, intervals, fartleks (no joke), and the same is true of swimming. I just haven't explored those options. This evening, it took being passed by a couple of old ladies to make me consider swimming in a manner that might, at some point down the road, make me faster. So I altered the plan. The first 10 were simple, freestyle laps done at my normal, not quite leisurely pace. The next 20 went like this: sprint down, leisurely pace back. Was it amazingly effective? Who knows? Probably not, but at least I'm finally starting to think about it.

Even better, I had an epiphany on my last lap. I was about halfway back on the last length when I thought of a really good sketch idea. So good, in fact, that when I got to the end, I was actually disappointed that I didn't have any more uninterrupted time to think about it. And then it occurred to me that I really did. I could just keep swimming and make myself more sketch brainstorming time. I proceeded to swim another 10-15 laps. I lost count, but I swam an extra 20 minutes so it seems like a decent estimate. For the first time ever I wasn't thinking at all about my swimming technique or making sure I was breathing on every fourth stroke. I was just thinking and enjoying the ride. And it was excellent.

Some things are worth thinking about more than others. I just have to decide which are which and when to think about them. What do you think about when you're working out or out and about?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lovely Saturday

Well it's been an interesting week and I haven't spent nearly enough time training. Especially if I want to make the indoor tri championships on March 23rd! In order to achieve this, I need to improve my swim performance as much as possible. I'm not great at planning and executing swim workouts. Normally I just set myself a number of laps to complete and complete them, though I'm sure there's a more effective way to train. This will require some research. I'd also like to be able to do at least 2.5 miles in the given 20 minutes next time. That works out to an 8 minute mile and will be a challenge, but I don't think .15 miles more than last time is an unreasonable goal.

I would go into how to improve my bike, but focusing on the swim and run this time around will be plenty to do for this week, as the next tri is a week from today (and the day after a half marathon). In fact, I might really only have time to improve one of those.

Wednesday's snow run was glorious. The NYC snowstorm that took place on Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning was billed as "Snowmageddon 2" but it wasn't nearly as bad as everyone made it out to be. We met at 6am at the 72nd street entrance to the park and began the run by jogging up to the reservoir. Most of the snow around the loop had either been cleared or at least mostly packed down so there was minimal slogging. Running around the reservoir, however, was a completely different story. Snow around the path came to about mid-calf for me and it was not easy. Yet challenging though it was, there's something very satisfying about running through fresh snow.

Today we had quidditch practice, which was a challenge itself. I had no idea how much of the snow lingered from Wednesday. It was a good time, though, and a solid workout was had by all.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

BLT...And Not the Delicious Kind

It is Biggest Loser Tuesday once again. I have about an hour and a half before I need to get to the Y and set myself up on a treadmill. Some unfortunate news: no Empire State Building Run-Up this year. I got the email a few hours ago. I'll build up my running resume more this year and apply again for 2012. And who knows, it may have been a blessing in disguise. I haven't trained for it as much as I planned to and I did some stairs on Saturday that just about killed my legs. If you've ever done a marathon (or any distance much longer than you're used to running) and then tried going down stairs, you know what I mean.

I also got the indoor triathlon results yesterday and was pleasantly surprised to find that I ranked 16th out of 36 female competitors. That's not fantastic, but considering my swim was what it was, I was proud. There are 5 triathlons in the series and then a final championship tri which takes place on March 27th. The top 10 competitors from each race are invited to participate in the championships. If I can improve enough by the time the fifth one rolls around on March 6th, maybe I can sneak into the top 10. So that's a new short term goal of mine, which works out well since, in light of the ESBRU news, I'm down a goal! Here are the full standings for the tri:

As far as workouts go, yesterday I took a morning loop (6 miles) around the park with my friend Vineet. It was really cold. I think when we started it was 25 degrees, though I imagine it warmed up as the sun rose. Tomorrow morning I'll be doing a morning run with Team Lipstick. There's a snowball fight warm up involved, so obviously I'm all about it.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Indoor Triathlon Summary

Good race! Very interesting format and uniquely challenging. My heat had four people in it for the swim and I shared a lane with another guy. As expected, the swim didn't go swimmingly. Pun absolutely intended. The other two people in the heat each had their own lanes, but this was certainly fine for me since they were the faster ones in the group anyway. We had three whistles, one blown at 5 minutes, one at 2, and the final one to indicate the end of the swim. The race officials counted pool lengths rather than laps and if a racer was at least halfway done with a length when the final whistle blew, she received credit for a full length. My swim was pretty poor as I swam 17 lengths in 10 minutes. To give you an idea of what this means in relation to the other swimmers in my heat, my lane neighbor did 21 lengths and the swimmer in the next lane 29. Urgh. Of course, swimming in the pool as opposed to open water made the swim much easier than it would've been in a normal triathlon. Normally triathletes not only have to deal with currents, water temps, and swimming in a straight line, they also have to be concerned with taking hits and kicks to the face. Everywhere else, too, but most noticeably in the face.

The bike portion was much better. We had 15 minutes to move from swim to bike, which is an extremely generous transition allotment. I didn't have any bike or cycle computer glitches and managed to spin 16.15 miles in 30 minutes. Race officials gave us notices at 15, 9, and 5 minutes. Since everyone was in the same room and surrounded by mirrors, it was easy to stay motivated. I really wanted to gain ground on the girl who swam 29 lengths, so I made every effort to pedal faster than she appeared to be pedaling. I'm not sure if I accomplished this goal because I didn't hear her distance, but I'll be able to check tomorrow when results come out. We had three more people added to our heat in this stage. I believe they were actually in the heat before us but either couldn't get a spin bike because it was too crowded or had computer malfunctions. I felt bad for the person who had a malfunction because she did two bike sessions and I'm sure her second either didn't cover the same distance or did but required a lot more effort, thereby tiring her out for the run.

The run was good and I was happy with my result, even though I intend to get even faster this season. I averaged an 8:30min/mile for the 20 minutes we were allowed on the treadmill. My final distance was 2.35 miles. My archnemesis did 2.1. Take that, super swimmer. Even so, and even if I did bike farther, I'm sure the ridiculous lead she had from the swim was more than enough for a significantly higher score. But it's okay, there's another one in two weeks!

I forgot to take pictures of the running. Oops.

In related news, I got a wetsuit! I went to the JackRabbit store down the street after the race and was pleasantly surprised that their stock of wetsuits is currently 50% off. This was serendipitous development, since I forgot to take advantage of the Xterra sale I mentioned back in December. It's a Zoot Fuzion. After the 50% off, it came to $150. After lots of looking and pricing, I've determined that I couldn't have gotten it for very much cheaper. Especially considering it's a full wetsuit with sleeves (sleeveless tend to cost less, but also provide less in the way of buoyancy).

Indoor Triathlon - Update 1

Hello and welcome back to the McBurney YMCA for the second of four indoor triathlons in the JackRabbit Sports Indoor Triathlon Series!

That's what I imagine the announcer would say if this was one of those Sunday afternoon Obscure Sport Specials on NBC. Alas, there is no such fanfare. I arrived around 10:45 an was assigned to a heat beginning at 11:45 (in approximately 30 minutes). I then went on a tour of the facility and race procedure. FYI the McBurney Y looks like it might have the nicest facilities of the bunch. Note to self: start working out here.

So here's how it goes: at around 11:40 I enter the pool area all suited up (cap and goggles required). A race official will stand at the end of the lane and count my laps as well as those of my lane partner. When 10 minutes are up I receive my score and have 15 minutes to change and move to the spin room. I didn't know this, but the pedals on the bike can accommodate either regular shoes or cycling shoes with clips, so I'll have to bring my cycling shoes next time. Anyway, the race official starts spinners and we have 30 minutes to register the largest distance we can on the provided cycle computer. That distance is the score for the bike portion. After that I have 5 minutes to get to the treadmill. 20 minutes there to run as far as possible.

It's getting closer to my time and I'm getting nervous so I'll stop here. More later!

Friday, January 7, 2011

ESBRU - No News

Just back from a 6 miler at the gym. I've had a love/hate relationship with the treadmill since 8th grade that will probably (or hopefully) continue until the day I die. I'm currently in a love phase. Especially on Tuesdays when The Biggest Loser is on TV. Say what you will about that show, I love and exploit it for its motivational value. Also say what you will about the treadmill. Like anything else, it has its pros and cons. I myself can't do much more than 6 miles on it simply because I get bored. On the other hand, it's really good for sprints because I can control my speed and increase or decrease it gradually and predictably. I also did some assisted pull-ups using a machine kind of like this. Here's hoping I can do an unassisted one soon.

I was supposed to find out about the Empire State Building Run Up today, but no news yet. I did, however, officially sign up for the indoor triathlon that takes place this Sunday at the McBurney YMCA on 14th Street. That should be interesting. Hopefully I'll hear something tomorrow about the ESBRU.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Running Shoes - It's High Time

Various sources will say all kinds of things with regard to how long you should run in a particular pair of shoes. The rule I usually follow (even if I don't actually buy shoes when I'm due) is that you should replace your shoes every 300 miles. This website says 300-500 miles. A quick Google search shows that it's a relatively common rule of thumb. Obviously this is more of a guideline than a hard and fast rule, though. I often know I need new shoes when my knees start hurting after a long run (and incidentally heard the same thing from a friend in the last few weeks). I once got a brand new pair of Nike running shoes and, after running in them a few times, could not stand to run in them any longer and ended up giving them away. For whatever reason, they made my calves hurt. I was pretty annoyed by the whole situation since, as we all know, running shoes don't come cheap. I started thinking I'd probably have to bite the bullet and have my gait analyzed at a running store, where I'd be (or at least feel) obligated to buy shoes.

I haven't done this yet because I'm not ready to drop $130 on whatever pair of shoes they'd recommend at the store. With the exception of that pair of Nikes, the ones I've found have been bearable and cost much less. Still, my shoe replacement habits have been pretty arbitrary to this point. Let me review my shoe timeline:

January 2008: Decide to train for a 10k to increase fitness. Use a pair of shoes discovered in a box in house basement.

June 2008: Find a pair of Reebok Hatanas on sale for $36 in the clearance section at DSW.

January 2009: Spend $95 on Nike Shox at Academy to train for first marathon (April 2009).

April 2009: Invest in second pair of Shox. DUDS. Revert to Hatanas.

July 2010: Find New Balance 812 All Terrains (trail running shoes) on sale for $40 at Super Runners Shop.

As an epilogue, I've since gotten rid of the Reeboks but still have (and use) the Shox and trail runners. And so you see my shoe timeline makes little to no sense. I pretty much buy shoes when I find good deals and not before. Unfortunately, though, the time has come. For real. Let me show you why. Both pairs of shoes have undergone the same problem of extreme wear, but in the exact same place:

The fabric at the back of both right shoes has torn, exposing a relatively sharp plastic edge beneath. It used to just be a nuisance, but using them is beginning to result in cuts. I ran the NYE run in the Shox and am confident that it was the last race they'll ever see. On Tuesday I ran six miles in the trail shoes to almost the same effect, though not as severe. The results:

I've run many miles in both pairs, but their time has come. In future posts, I'll cover my shoe shopping odyssey. Do you have any favorites or suggestions? Let me know!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year!

Yes, folks, it is now 2011. I spent the beginning of New Year's Eve ferrying people from the streets to our apartment. We live within the Times Square security zone and I had no idea how large that is. It extends from 42nd to 59th streets and 6th to 8th avenues. That's 34 blocks of absolute crapshow on New Year's Eve. If you want to enter that large area, you have to provide a piece of ID or mail that proves you live there. Had we known this, we probably would have done some extra party planning. Once our guests were safely in, though, it was an interesting vantage point. The crowd gathered to watch the ball extends up 7th ave from 42nd nearly all the way to 59th. It's insane. And they're all corralled by barricades and swarms of policemen. This is what it looked like from our apartment window.

After some time at the party, Jeremy and I left for the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run. I maintain that it's the city's most underrated NYE celebration. They have a full-blown dance party at the Bandshell, complete with music, DJ, and light show. There's a costume contest at around 11pm. We didn't make the contest, but that was fine because we also didn't have costumes. I'll say about that what I say every time: maybe next year.

The race itself was nice, if a little crowded. The weather was perfectly chilly, no precipitation (frozen or otherwise) in sight. Since it is such a relaxed, fun experience, we had to do a lot of darting and dodging to go anywhere quickly. Unlike nearly all other Road Runners races, this one is not timed. Jeremy, however, thought to time it using an iPhone app called MapMyRun. We apparently ran it in 39:40ish, which isn't too bad considering the crowd. Volunteers were serving sparkling cider (champagne) at the race's water stop and we got to see a bunch of runners in great costumes. These included a puffer fish, Cookie Monster, The Flash, Batgirl, and many others. I think the best costume was a group of about 11 runners, the first pushing a baby stroller and the following 10 strung together like sled dogs. They were wearing a sign that read "The Urban Iditarod." If I had been judging the costume contest, I know which costume I would've picked! Jeremy and I at the start of the race:

We had a fantastic experience and I can't wait to run it again next year! We even had time to get back to the apartment for a rousing game of Kings. I hope everyone else had an equally fun-filled New Year's Eve. Next up for the blog: a guest writer profiles her own New Year's Day race, some workout summaries as well as major evidence that I need new running shoes.