Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Eaten Alive

At least, that's what it felt like. Apparently, it's mosquito season. Quidditch practice was lovely, as usual, except for this one, little detail. I'm not sure I've ever experienced such intense itching and am pretty convinced that I was getting bitten through my clothing. Fortunately, once I got out of the park and onto the pavement for my run, the problem resolved itself.

It's technically midweek long run day, but I decided to switch that with tomorrow because of quidditch. Honestly, I don't envision tomorrow being much  better because we have comedy rehearsal, but it'll have to be done. Today's run was supposed to be a 4 miler but I feel like it might have been a little longer. Let's see what mapmyrun has to say about it:

Okay, so closer to 5 miles. That's good to know. Like yesterday's, it was a nice little run and the evening was perfect for it.

So despite a little schedule juggling, I'm still on track. I need to get to bed early tonight so that I don't sleep too late again for tomorrow's training. Night, all.

Only 39.5 Years to Go

Today I was browsing the web to see what's been going on in the world when I stumbled across a wild running article. Take a read. It's another feature about a group of runners who are registered with whatever the streak registry is that I've mentioned here before. The ones on which this article focuses have been running at least a mile per day every day for at least 40 years. Apparently there are only 6 men in the world who have done this, which is not particularly shocking, especially when you read about all the crazy obstacles that have stood in their way.

My own streak is still alive and well, though I'm not sure if it would ever count for this. I didn't read what the definition was of a day (whether it's midnight to 11:59, or perhaps at least once every 24 hours, or maybe another hour to hour period) is. My streak means that I run at least one mile every day before I go to sleep. I discussed this with a coworker today, who didn't believe that these men have done what they claim. He thinks that, while these men have mostly run every day for however many years, it's highly unlikely that they've actually run every day. I disagree and it took everything in me not to say "SHOW SOME RESPECT" to his clear skepticism. Then I began to worry that our discussion of technicality in a streak would discourage me from continuing my own. In fact, it scared me.

If and when this streak ends, it damn well better be because something apocalyptic happened or I had a child or otherwise seriously injured myself. Does that sound crazy? Maybe a little. But the bottom line is that I do not want my streak to end simply because of mental surrender. Whatever the reason is, I better have tried my best and moved heaven and earth to make it happen. What scares me is the idea that the motivation to keep it going is like a switch in my head, and that, perhaps, that switch could simply be flipped and it would all be over because I wouldn't care or would give up. Is motivation as fleeting a phenomenon as I fear it is? I certainly hope not.

In more mundane and less frightening news, I'm back on schedule after Hurricane Irene. As I mentioned before, I got in a run right before the subways stopped running on Saturday and another one on Sunday night, after the storm was mostly over and everything had calmed down. It wasn't a long run, after all. I decided to continue with the schedule and run 17 next weekend instead of the half marathon that's on the schedule (which is likely what would have happened anyway, since the Bronx Half Marathon was supposed to be on Sunday). Maybe I'll even do one of my favorite courses, the Five Bridge run, which starts in Brooklyn crossing the Williamsburg bridge, goes from Manhattan back into Brooklyn on the Manhattan Bridge, back into Manhattan from Brooklyn on the Brooklyn bridge, up 1st avenue to 59th, where it crosses into Queens over the Queensborough Bridge, and finally over the Pulaski Bridge in Queens on the way down to Brooklyn. There's a lot of variety and it's a challenging run due to the fact that almost all of these bridges are essentially mile-long hills.

I also had another training session with Jared, in which we worked a lot with kettlebells. I was supposed to go this morning but woke up late, unfortunately. I'll be going back on Thursday and setting a few more alarms. Today's run was an easy 4-miler through the Upper East Side with a nice post-run reGen.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

She's Here!

Well, almost. After work last night, I spent a good while preparing for the storm. Going to the store, getting supplies, cleaning up, getting my run in, etc. This morning I woke up early just out of anticipation. I knew I needed to run early because I had to go to work around 11 and wasn't sure that the weather would permit me to go after work. Good thing, too!

NYRR cancelled this morning's Percy Sutton 5k because this storm is supposed to be such a doozy. I don't blame them. It does seem to be hitting pretty hard at this point. I have a bad feeling though, that this storm is going to get me off my game. I'll try really hard to do my long run early next week. Completing long runs always does a lot for my confidence even though they're tough.

And now, it's hurricane game time.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Irene's Wrath

I received the unfortunate news today that the Bronx Half Marathon has been canceled. But I supposed I should be more concerned about the reason it was canceled, Hurricane Irene. For anyone who's unaware, Irene is a behemoth storm that's currently barreling up the East Coast and is expected to hammer New York City and the surrounding area. Dramatic, no? That's what the rest of NYC is thinking as well. There are all kinds of emergency preparations underway. My day job involves Business Continuity Planning, so you can imagine that the day was hectic. But it was fine. I had many things to look forward to. My favorite food truck was parked outside the building, I had comedy rehearsal, and then a four-mile run, although I admit the last one was much less exciting once all was said and done and I was exhausted.

I'm going to keep this one short and sweet because I have my second training session with Jared at 6am. Just a rundown of a few things. First, like I said, the Bronx Half has been canceled. I'm disappointed because I'll have to figure out what to do about my long run on Sunday morning (assuming anything can be done and Irene hasn't already made her merry way up 6th avenue). So far, however, the Percy Sutton 5k in Harlem is still on, so that's something.

I got the 10k results from yesterday. My time was 55:59. Again, I wish it had been better, but it was good enough for 25th place out of 70 AND I was the 7th woman, which is the sort of placement that is very, very rare in my racing experience. As for today's run, I did four miles. I tried to do them easy since I had a hard 4 miles on Tuesday and 9 yesterday, but it felt faster than I anticipated. I thought there was one more thing but I can't remember what it was.

To anyone on the East Coast, stay safe. Keep some water, food, and an LED flashlight on hand. Get your weekend miles in, but not at the risk of your personal safety. You know the drill. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Surprise 10k

The blog streak continues (as does the regular streak). Today was my midweek long run day, which is currently 8 miles, up from 6 the first week. I wasn't particularly looking forward to it because I'm not a huge fan of long weeknight runs. But this morning, I thought back to the 5k I ran two weeks ago and the organization that puts it on, I visited the website and was reminded of the fact that they were holding their usual every-other-week run and, conveniently for me, it was a 10k rather than a 5k this week. This got me excited for a few of reasons.

1. It's in Riverside Park, which is also where quidditch practice is held (albeit at the same time)
2. It would give me company for 6.2 of the 8 miles I needed to run
3. It only cost $10

So I signed up. It was a good race. Not only did I have company, I also ran faster than I would have by myself. Not to mention the fact that Riverside Park is fantastic for hill training. I'd say a good mile of the 5k course (there were two loops) was hills. All hills, just one after the other. I counted five in that portion of the race alone. My time was okay, but not great. I think the clock read somewhere between 55 and 56 minutes when I crossed, giving me a little over 9:10 minutes per mile. I guess it wasn't so bad considering all the hills but I wish it had been better. I then stopped by quidditch practice, which had unfortunately just ended. It's getting a little harder to do that sort of thing now that it gets darker earlier.

After sticking around and talking to the team for a bit, I ran home to cover the rest of the mileage. The run home was about 2.86 miles, so I actually did 9 today! Who doesn't appreciate a bonus mile here and there? Once I got home, I drank a delicious reGen. It's good stuff. Give it a try. If you're in the area, I'd be happy to give you some, just let me know.

Next up: my first Ironman training session with Jared was on Monday! Even though it was more of an evaluation, I was still uber sore after. My right tricep hasn't been the same since (he had me do assisted dips, among other things). I warmed up on the rowing machine and then did a bunch of strength stuff, including, but not limited to, testing how many situps, pushups and squats I was able to do in two minutes. I think all three were in the 20's, which seemed low to me for situps. Ah, well. I guess there's plenty of time to improve. Another thing he had me do was swim on the floor. Or at least, go through the motions. He said that the Natural Movement (MovNat) group leader has mentioned ways to improve swimming form that way and that he'd look into it. Definitely something to look forward to since I swim super slow.

Alright, now I'm getting sleepy. Good night, all!

PS - Please vote in my poll!


Look at me, blogging multiple days in a row. First things first, I got my new shoes today. They're Saucony Kinvara 2s. When I walked into the store a few weeks ago and asked about my minimalist versus traditional shoe dilemma, I got some good advice. Ultimately, the guy recommended a traditional trainer but he also showed me a shoe that was more neutral. I took this into account and did some deliberating. While the idea of a neutral shoe was attractive, he mentioned that the sole on the neutral shoe was much less stiff and therefore less durable. A pair of those would have lasted me approximately 200 miles whereas the traditional shoe he showed me would have lasted closer to 350.

When I walked into the store at lunch on Friday, I fully expected to just try on the traditional ones, find my size, buy them and be on my merry way. But once I walked in and took a second look, I just thought they seemed really heavy. At the same time, I was still cognizant of the fact that the other shoes were significantly flimsier. So I browsed a little bit. After awhile, I saw one that caught my eye and I picked it up, intrigued that the top part of the shoe was very sheer. The sole seemed sturdy, but overall, the shoe was very light. I then pulled out my handy iPhone and googled the shoe to find some reviews. They were all very positive, and I learned that the shoe has a lower heel to toe ratio in terms of thickness. I like this because I think it encourages mid-foot striking.

Whether or not mid-foot striking is good or bad is a discussion of science that I'm unprepared to have. But I maintain that I've benefited from a change in my running form and/or stride. As a subdiscussion, let's talk about minimalist running shoes. There are lots of arguments for and against them and I think both camps make good points. In my experience, I've found that Vibrams are great for distances 5 miles or shorter. In my first four mile race after running in them for a few months, I maintained an 8:07 minute/mile pace. That's a full 1:10 minute/mile improvement over my previous best pace. This speaks well to their performance, but I won't deny that they have downsides. When I race in them, I tend to get very large blisters at the sides of my feet. Additionally, the tops of my feet begin to hurt occasionally, at which point I have to wear regular shoes for a week or so to let them recover. In fact, my friend Meghan recently suffered a stress fracture because she did too much running in her Vibrams (correct me if I'm wrong!). What's the bottom line here? While I don't intend to make Vibrams an integral part of my racing strategy, I do believe they've changed my stride and form for the better and I still plan to do the occasional short run in them.

So back to the original discussion. I like that I'm now more of a mid-foot striker than I was before and I wanted to maintain at least some of that even once I switched to regular running shoes. The Saucony Kinvara 2 model appeared to be a good candidate. As a sidenote, they're less than 2 ounces heavier than Vibrams (6.7 versus 4.8 ounces).

This was further proven today, when I went for my first run in them. I ran 4 miles in 31:38, a pace of 7:54 minutes per mile and the first time that I've recorded a pace faster than 8 min/mile. They felt amazing. It was like running on clouds. Alright, that's a little dramatic, but you get the idea. They were exactly what I was hoping for. This is what they look like:

Stay tuned for a summary of my first Ironman training session with Jared!

Monday, August 22, 2011

I Feel Like I'm Back in the Game

After months of training without enough direction, I feel like I'm finally back in the training game. Don't ask me why I've needed direction because I have a slew of unaccomplished goals listed in my "Goals" tab. You would think those might have been enough. Speaking of which, I need to update that. It's too late to accomplish some of them, but I can also replace a few obsolete ones with new ones.

I think overall, I've gotten complacent with my running. I can run long distances (not quickly) without hurting too much. I've started getting faster, but I haven't done a whole lot to keep making progress there. It seems like the challenge of the Ironman has breathed new life into my training. Suddenly, everything is new and nothing is certain. Without real changes to my training philosophy and strategy, I face the real possibility of failure and that terrifies me. Under the normal circumstances I create for myself, that terror could turn very counterproductive. The difference here, though, is that I've recognized the magnitude of what I've signed up for with plenty of time to turn the terror into a positive, motivational force. And with each step I take and adjustment I make to my normal routine, I feel the empowerment snowballing into something great.

I gave up drinking, and it was honestly easier than I expected. It was like flipping a switch. And once I'd done that, I felt like the commitment was real and it was time to go big or go home. On Friday, after months and months of saying I was going to get new shoes, I marched into that Super Runners Shop and found the ones that I felt would suit my needs and I ordered a pair (they were out of stock in my size and style). This may seem small, but it was big because it was something I've put some sort of mental block on doing for forever.

Yesterday, I did my 15 mile long run. The first 11 miles went perfectly and I kept up a 10 minute pace. After that, I needed to make a pit stop which wasn't good at all and the next four miles were a struggle. But still, it's good to be doing long runs again. They feel so great once they're done, and the feeling only contributed to my overall understanding that there's a larger purpose to my training. Suddenly, I'm back to a place where I make even small, day-to-day decisions with the Ironman in mind.

Maybe this all sounds over the top. What I know, though, is that I'm reminded more than ever of why and how I got addicted to running, triathlon, and racing in general and I love that.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Year of the Ironman

It's not really a big announcement because I've already mentioned it a couple of times, but earlier in the summer I signed up for the first ever Ironman US Championship on August 12th, 2012. First of all, I'm not sure why they're calling it a championship because I didn't have to qualify. I was under the impression that Lake Placid was an actual championship Ironman, but I was either mistaken or something has changed. Whatever. The point is I may or may not have done something very dumb by signing up. At the very least, though, I had that epic failure of a half Ironman last year and so have a better idea of what to expect.

So what is an Ironman? Well, it's a triathlon of epic proportions. It starts with a 2.4 mile swim. This particular swim will take place in the Hudson. I've heard that the current in the Hudson is extremely strong, so that will work to my advantage. After that, I'll embark upon a 112 mile bike ride through New York and New Jersey. The final leg consists of a full marathon, which will end in Riverside Park. I'll have 17 hours to complete this thing. My time constraints are as follows:

7:00am - Race starts (though I will probably be in a later wave)
9:20am - Swim closes. Athletes who haven't crossed the timing mat are disqualified.
5:30pm - Bike closes. Athletes still on the course are disqualified.
12:00am - Run closes. Athletes who have not finished are disqualified.

So there are my cutoff times. This is going to be a massive undertaking, and I understand that. The difference between training for this Ironman versus any event I've trained for in the past (marathons, most notably), is that succeeding at this endeavor is going to involve major life changes. I'm going to have to start working out in the morning AND the evening. I've tried to start paring down my other activities to make space for this because I'm going to need almost everything I have. One extreme preparation measure that I've taken is giving up alcohol. Now, I've done this for the past two NYC marathons, but the longest that period has been is four months. I'm giving up alcohol for a full year. This started last Saturday, by the way. My last day of drinking for the year was on Friday. I did decide to allow two days off for this. One is going to be my birthday and the other one hasn't been determined, but I'll be saving it for a special occasion.

I've been asked multiple times about the alcohol abstinence and whether or not it actually improves my performance. The truth is, I don't really know. Even if I was more observant about it, I probably couldn't pinpoint a worse or better performance to it alone simply because there are so many factors that go into race day preparation. What I do know, though, is that it can't hurt and it gives the whole effort a sort of discipline context. In my comedy classes I've learned about the strategy of "if this is true, what else can be true" for making something funnier. I think the same rule can be applied here (not for the purpose of being funnier, of course). If I can give up alcohol for a year, what else can I do?

Another thing I need to do that I've been talking about for months and months and months is buy a new bike. It's finally time to just bite the bullet and get something better than my current two-wheeled behemoth. That's the plan for Saturday. I'll go here and leave with a brand new bike that will get me through training for and racing this thing.

I'll also be purchasing new running shoes tomorrow from this place. I'd normally go to JackRabbit because I can get 10% off, but I stopped into a nearby Super Runners Shop during lunch a few weeks ago and one of the sales guys was very helpful. I said I'd be back later to actually buy shoes and I did mean it. I only wish I'd gotten the guy's name. Hopefully he'll be working tomorrow.

Yet another strategy I need to employ is making a concerted effort to lose weight. This isn't the main goal, but there's no question shedding 10 or 15 pounds would help. While weight loss is what got me started on all this in the first place, it isn't something I've actively tried to achieve for awhile, mostly because it's happened on its own very, very slowly as a result of constantly training for one thing or another. Also, I really like eating and drinking. But if I can achieve a higher level of efficiency by getting stronger and leaner, it's worth it. 17 hours is a long time to be carrying around extra of anything. I plan to work toward this through good, old-fashioned balanced eating and discipline.

My last thought about this for the evening is my training plan. I'm sure I can find one on the Internet, but I'm worried that I won't be able to stick with it. I'm starting to wonder if it wouldn't be worth looking into coaching of some sort. There's also Team Lipstick. I kind of wanted to do their fall program anyway, but I'm still looking into all the options. If anyone knows of a good coach, let me know. I leave you with this:

This is it. IT BEGINS.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Race Reports - Part 2

Now that I have regaled you with the tale of the NYRR Sprint Triathlon, if a little sleepily and incompletely, let me tell more race stories. First, there was the Achilles Hope and Possibility 5 Miler. This one took place on June 26th, so it's a little embarrassing that I never wrote about it. Now that it's been awhile, I don't remember what I had going on the night before, but as usual, I didn't get enough sleep or prepare. My biggest problem since I started racing has been my desire to not make too many sacrifices when it comes to social events. Shallow? Perhaps. But training can be a lonely endeavor. Now, of course, that needs to change. And I'm getting off topic.

Back to the race. I don't remember what I had going on the night before, but I didn't have more than a few hours of sleep. Typically, I go to bed very optimistic, even if it's very late and I know I'm in for a rough race morning. That's why I knew I was in trouble when I was already dreading the race even before going to sleep. I did my usual set my alarm an hour too early, snooze approximately fifty times and wake up after an hour of unsatisfying sleep routine. I woke up wondering why on Earth I'd signed up for this race, drank a reGen (yes, they're recovery beverages, but it was quick and I was running late) and stumbled out the door.

I arrived in the nick of time and got into the last corral just as it was beginning to move. As a side note, it was my first yellow bib race and I was very proud even though I knew that my race time that morning would not even approach the time on my bib. And it didn't, but I managed to stay just under a 9 minute mile, which was the goal I set for myself after taking all factors into account.

The next race I never wrote about was the Queens Half Marathon, which took place on the last weekend of July. Once again, I did not do a good job of getting to bed early. I think I feel asleep around 1am and had to get up around 5 to get to Queens by the 7am start time. To be fair, though, the day was beautiful. It was way better than the weekend before when I did the sprint tri. This race was also pretty cool because I had fantastic company the whole way.

It all started when my friend Jared mentioned to me that a client of his (he's got a new gig as a personal trainer, guys!) was also running the Queens Half. For those of you who have read previous entries of my blog, you may remember that Jared and I have done a number of long runs together and you might wonder why he wasn't doing this one himself. In answer to that, all I have to say is that conditions were much less pleasant last year and he's since vowed never to do the Queens Half ever again. So that's that. But he mentioned that his client was running it and that we might meet up beforehand. I didn't think much of it at first. Then, the night before the race I received a text from a strange number. It was Jared's client! FYI - her name is Geri and she's running her first NYC Marathon for charity. Check her out on twitter (@runlikeawoman). I thought it would be pretty cool to have company on the run. We texted back and forth and I discovered that her goal was to break 3 hours for her half. I was pretty excited about the prospect of running with her to get there. I felt like it was a way to pay forward all the times my friend Sharon (who, by the way, has qualified for Boston on multiple occasion) ran with me.

On race morning I had to take a different subway route since the 7 train was not running from Times Square, as it normally is. This sort of thing always makes me afraid of missing a race. Fortunately, though, I was in good company and had plenty of runners to follow. I got to Queens-Corona park around 6:30 and went to pick up my bib and drop off my bag before finding Geri. After exchanging another round of texts, I finally found her waiting in line to use the restroom. I had the pleasure of meeting both her and her boyfriend, Dan, before heading to the start. The race actually started about 10 minutes late, which is very unusual for NYRR and had us wondering what was going on. We never found out, but finally did get started running. I did my best to keep us on pace and keep Geri from thinking too much about the task at hand. Hopefully I succeeded at the last one. I took a leaf from Sharon's book and tried my best to think of all kinds of stories and interesting factoids. I think I could've won the Chatterbox Award. Between my talking and Dan catching us every time we made another pass at the middle of the park, Geri had some good distractions.

I am extremely proud to report that Geri not only finished in under 3 hours (2:54, to be exact), she also did it without any walking at all! I was very impressed. And the finish was beautiful. Here's a picture of the very end, before we rounded the last turn:

It was a great race. In my experience as a runner, I can't ask for much more than good weather and great company come race day, and I had plenty of both for this race.

Finally I come to my final late race report. Last Wednesday I ran a 5K in Riverside Park called the Bass Ackwards 5k. This is apparently a series they hold over the course of the summer, so I'm looking forward to the opportunity to do more of them. This race specifically, though, went pretty poorly. I was hoping to at least be near my eventual goal of 24 minutes, but I was nowhere close. First of all, the foot pain was still an issue. Second, I got lost! Third, the last mile was ALL hills. They weren't horrendous, Harlem-style hills, but there were enough of them that, by the time I hit the last couple I wanted to scream "COME ON!"

The clock read 29 minutes when I finally pulled in. It was very disappointing and I hope to get back into the swing of things very soon. Those are the kinds of races I like to avoid. But even with that, I learned a few valuable lessons. First, that I need to pay better attention to the course and second that I have a lot of hillwork to do.

And finally, my catchup race report comes to a close. This doesn't quite fulfill my update requirement because I have yet to even mention my big news, but I guess I'll do that now and write about it later. My big announcement is that approximately 1 year from now, on August 12th, 2012, I will be competing in the first Ironman race held in and around NYC. Yes, I've signed up for an Ironman. Not only that, but I'm going sober for the whole year prior. Further discussion to follow!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Some Overdue Race Reports

Good Thursday to all. I really need to get better about this. I don't know why I fell out of the habit, but I don't like it one bit. When I do post, there's too much to write about and I have to pick and choose so as to avoid boring everyone. Bad, bad.

Where to start? Well, I guess sort of where I left off on the 19th. That weekend I had the NYRR Sprint Triathlon. For New York City, it was really hot that weekend and the early start (7:00am) was barely any help at all. What exacerbated this problem was the fact that the swim takes place in a pool. Now, for the actual swim, this is great. But logistically speaking, it kind of sucks. There were 600 race participants and each one had to enter the pool 10 seconds behind the last person. You do the math. I didn't start until a full hour after the race had started and it was like a sauna in the pool area. Any benefit that should have been derived from the early start was almost gone by the time I got through the swim in a little over 11 minutes and onto the bike. The bike was 13 miles over two loops through Queens-Corona Park. It's a nice little area and there are lots of things to see. A Citi Field, a science center, wherever the US Open happens (clearly I'm not a big tennis fan). That went okay, though it's becoming more and more obvious that I need to get a new bike that I can count on to not lose a breakpad in the middle of a race. Then came the run, which went pretty decently. I think I improved on last year by four or five minutes, with my final pace being about a 9:30 mile.

I set out to complete the whole tri in under 90 minutes because the idea of being done and going home to take a nap was very appealing. To give more context, last year I did this race in 1;46. This year, I did it in 97 minutes, which is significantly higher than my goal but significantly lower than last year's time.

Alright well I'd hoped to put in a bunch of race reports but  now I'm getting sleepy. For another day!