Thursday, September 29, 2011

Conclusion to the Neverending Central Park Run

So a couple of days ago I left off talking about the 18 mile Marathon Tune-Up which took place in Central Park. I had just eaten the gel (vom, almost literally). But I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to recover from the strain of more difficult areas of the park like Harlem and Cat Hills. Cat Hill is the worst hill on the East Side. I've only recently come to know it by that name, which is strange since I've been running in the park for three years. I can only assume it's because of the panther (or some other wild cat) statue at the top of a rock wall there.

ANYWAY, the run ended great. I finished in 3:02 and change, which is a good 25 minutes faster than I've ever run this race in the past. I'm still convinced that it was mostly a mental thing. In past years, I've gotten in my head at later miles and taken walking breaks. I'm getting much better at keeping in mind that the more walking I do during a long run or marathon, the longer it will take and the longer it will be before I can eat the crap out of something. This time, I did not lose sight of my end goal.

What I will say about this race is that I ran into a few issues that I've had in the past, but were easier to isolate and identify here. The first was chafing. I should have known better than to wear new clothes on a run of such a long distance. In my defense, though, I thought I had worn this style of short in another long run. They're the Tempo 2 in 1 shorts, so there's a second, tight pair of shorts under the regular baggy ones. The older pair of these that I own are perfect. The inner layer comes down to just above my knee and so I didn't have an issue when I wore them on my long run previously. Unfortunately, these new ones had a much shorter inner layer. For this reason, they kept riding up and exposing my legs to a ginormous chafing hazard. I ran the whole first lap awkwardly pulling my shorts down and running with my toes pointed out just to find some relief. Fortunately, I thought ahead and visited the medical tent just after mile 6 for some Vaseline. That solved the problem (though it did leave me with greasy hands for the remaining 12 miles, but all things considered I can't complain). So that was lesson number 1.

Lesson number 2 may have been discovering the value of well-timed race nutrition. I can barely call it nutrition, because it was not nutritious at all. But the timing of its consumption, I think, was perfect. The night before the race I went to a couple of friends' birthday parties. I was in a rush to get ready and get down to the Lower East Side, so I skipped dinner. Naturally, by 11:40pm this situation needed to be remedied. I was on my way home when I spotted a wild Taco Bell! I know, you're probably all cringing right now because who would ever, EVER eat Taco Bell only hours before an 18 mile race. To that, I respond, "this idiot" and I would indicate myself with a judgmental finger wag. There, I said it. I ate Taco Bell at midnight the night before a huge run.

It was a terrible idea that I think may have helped me during the race. The thing is, normally I don't think at all about nutrition and fueling the day before a race; I only begin to think of that the morning of, when I'm grabbing something to eat while running out the door. Sometimes it's cereal, or reGen, or a bagel, if I do enough planning to have time to acquire one. Occasionally I don't eat anything at all. These poor decisions typically come back to haunt me later in the race because I find myself ravenous around mile 10. Ravenous and lethargic.

Sunday morning was no different. I consumed about 200 calories before the race. Maybe this is enough, but I'm not sure. I think it wasn't considering I didn't eat for the race on Saturday. And I did get hungry during the race, but the hunger faded quickly and I found that, in spite of it, I still had a good amount of energy. I'm starting to wonder if it isn't because I had Taco Bell as late as I did. Now, let me be clear. I am not under the impression that Taco Bell is good pre-race food. I am, however, more aware of just how large of an impact race nutrition can have on my performance. If was ever to repeat this, I would eat something much more wholesome around the same late night time. If that worked out, I might continue doing it. If not, I'd be very cognizant of my meals during the day before.

One bad thing I've been experiencing more often is stomach issues. "Gastric distress," as my friend, Kim, termed it before her wedding. I don't know why but I'm hopeful that it's always been something I've dealt with, only now I'm in tune enough with my body to recognize it.

And again, it's late and I'm tired. I didn't even write about the Team Lipstick run I had today. I guess I'll save it for another day. Good night, all.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

DEALWATCH: Cheap Running Shoes for Ladies

Per one of my favorite deal websites (, Kohl's is having a sale, and you could get some cheap shoes! Here you go.

A Half and Half Weekend

Whew. What a weekend. A lot of running, but a number of other things as well. But I'll start with the running since that's the point of this whole thing. Saturday was the 5th Avenue Mile, which I was very excited about. I'd practiced a couple of times on the treadmill with Jared with success, so was hoping I would be able to repeat at the race itself. On Friday night, though, I began to worry a little. How would I pace myself? I planned to go by quarter miles, but worried about going out too slow in the first quarter and then having to catch up for the rest of the race. I knew I would wear a watch, which would help me pace over the entire race, but I worried about that first quarter.

It was a valid concern, as it turns out. I ended up running the first quarter mile in 1:20, which was WAY too fast. Once I saw that, I panicked and pulled back, still hoping I'd be able to make it under 7. The second quarter must have been very significantly slower, because I remember being right on pace at the half but still feeling drained from the efforts of that first part. I think I was still either just on track or barely off after the fourth quarter, but by that point I could barely pay attention to my watch and do the math anymore.

As I crossed the finish line, I looked at my watch and read a few seconds over 7 minutes. It wasn't my official time, but since I'd started my watch right at the mat, I knew my official time wouldn't be more than a second different. Later in the day I checked back on the website and found that my official time was 7:05. I feel like it was partly poor pacing, as I already discussed, but also that I didn't have enough presence of mind to kick at the end. If I had just buckled down in the last 100 meters and pushed it, I think I would have made it. But I suppose I'll have to wait until next year to find out for sure (unless I find another timed mile somewhere in the city which, realistically, is probably not hard to do).

On the bright side, I went to post-race dim sum with my roommate Monica. We went to a place called Nom Wah Tea Parlor which is run by Wilson Tang, who is also a runner and triathlete! He'd done the race that morning as well and was wearing his race t-shirt! Also, dim sum was delicious. Highly recommended to anyone in the area or visiting.

Even though the race was only a mile, I was wiped out for the rest of the day. Not even a nap could make it much better. But I got myself up, out and about again for the evening and managed to make it back in around midnight to get to bed for the 18 mile Marathon Tune-Up that was taking place on Sunday. That might sound late, but I'm actually terrible about getting to bed at a decent hour before a race so it was an improvement, if only a slight one.

I woke up Sunday morning a little before 6 surprisingly refreshed even though I wasn't expecting much out of this race. First, I'd just been feeling more tired than usual. Second, I simply haven't done well at this race for the past two years. I typically start off strong and then reach a point somewhere around mile 12 or 13 where I begin to doubt myself, take too many walking breaks, etc.

Sunday was different. I started the race and decided to count down, taking it one mile at a time and finding a small victory every time I passed a mile marker. Not once did I lose hope or steam. Actually, that's not entirely true. I lost steam at points, but not for long. A big difference this time around was that my ups and downs continued through the whole race. Typically, once I'm at a certain level of fatigue I can't recover and my performance continues to slip. On Sunday, I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to recover each time from these bouts of tiredness. One in particular was my third trip up Harlem Hill (around mile 13). I'm not going to lie, it was hard. Way harder than a normal trip up that hill. I was probably doing a 13 minute mile at the top and I was concerned that I would only falter for the rest of that final lap (each one is 6 miles). I was wrong! Once I hit the downhill, I was back to my 10 minute/mile pace.

There was a water stop at every mile. I think I probably skipped about half of the stops altogether, ran through five or six of the other half, and walked through the last two or three. This worked surprisingly well. I never felt waterlogged and was always able to start up again after the ones I walked through. As for fuel, I had a gel (they had them at about mile 8). I didn't eat it until a few miles after grabbing it. I knew I needed to eat it, but it was about as unpleasant an experience as I anticipated. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to eat it at a water stop with Gatorade. Let me just say that I have not vomited in a long, long time but that's what I was reminded of when eating my "Double Latte" flavored gel. I made sure to wash it down with Gatorade immediately so that my stomach wouldn't have time to change its mind about the whole affair.

Alright, well there are still a few things I want to discuss, but I'm tired and I need to get up early to have my butt kicked by a Team Lipstick bike workout.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

More Things

Alright, so there are more things that I forgot about/aren't worth talking about anymore because they're outdated. For instance, last week I was debating about whether or not I should do the Running Company Sunday long run or doing the Yonkers Half Marathon + 7 instead. Clearly irrelevant now, though perhaps it is worth noting that I did neither because I overslept. I mean, I still did a long run, but it was a short long run. And now, the rest!

2. The Baltimore Marathon - Last week I got some very exciting news. The reGen team sent out an email saying that they had extra slots for the Baltimore Marathon and Hershey Half Marathon and that they were first come first served. Naturally I fired an email right off trying to get entry into either, though I expressed more interest in Baltimore (I love marathons). A couple days later I got the news that I get to race! Actually, speaking of which, I need to send in that form... Don't let me forget...

3. Team Lipstick - I finally made the big decision to rejoin the team. It's a little on the pricey side, but I'm concerned that I'll wait too long to get into the non-running parts of Ironman training if I don't have a higher level of accountability. I did the bike ride on Tuesday morning and it was really hard. I had a rough time and was behind pretty much the entire time. It was demoralizing, but I realize that if I'm ever going to get in shape on the bike, I'll need to go through those crappy stages of the process.

 At the end of my second loop around, I came upon an accident that had happened moments before. The riders both seemed to be seriously injured and it was frightening. I hope they're okay, I never found out for sure. First I stopped and helped block the road so that people wouldn't ride into it but then someone thought it would be a good idea for someone to go see if they could flag down a policeman, so I rode to the edge of the park and attempted to do that. I didn't see any police officers, but I was there when the ambulance arrived. Again, hopefully the two men are (or will be) okay.

4. 5th Avenue Mile - This race is taking place on Saturday morning along what is known as Museum Mile. If I remember correctly, it starts at 79th or 80th and runs down to the south end of Central Park at 59th street. It's a really great, fast race and I'm hoping to run it in under 7 minutes this year. On Friday, I trained with Jared. It was a mediocre workout at best because I was really tired and it was in the morning. On the bright side, however, I did manage a 6:57 mile on the treadmill AFTER the workout. That's a good sign, though I did need to hold onto the rails at times, which I clearly won't be able to do at the actual race. I have almost no doubt that I can do it physically. The hard part is all mental.

5. Marathon Tune-Up - This race is on Sunday. It's technically a race, but everyone basically uses it as a long training run. It's 18 miles in Central Park (vomit). This is the ONLY race for which I will do three six-mile loops of the park. Nothing against Central Park, it's a lovely place and I'm sure I'll miss it if or when I ever leave New York City. But it's another one of my mental things. After so many miles in Central Park, I feel like I just need to leave. Whatever my feelings about the course, though, it's a good opportunity to gauge where I am for the marathon. Plus, it's not often that there's a run that's so long AND supported.

6. Birthday Drinking - Yesterday I turned 25. Yayayay...I think? I don't really know. But if you'll remember, when I began my Ironman teetotaling I specified that I would allow two drinking days in the year. One undetermined, and the other my birthday. So, there it was. I made sure to try three different seasonal beers. Got myself a pumpkin ale (mmmm pumpkin ale) and two holiday darks. One was called Santa's Butt and the other Lump of Coal. Awesome, no?

It was a very good day. I enjoyed my beers and got to spend time with good friends. But most of all, I was once again reminded how lucky I am to have so many good people in my life.

Write All The Things!

Just FYI - I started writing this last Thursday and this is the first time I've been able to pick it back up. I even lost the sticky note that was supposed to remind me about all the things I was supposed to remember. I'm breaking it up so that this doesn't happen again.

So many things. They all popped up in the last couple of days. I feel like it might even be worth numbering them just so that I don't miss anything.

1. The Sunset and Suds 5K:

I mentioned this race in the blog a couple of days ago. It was sort of a last minute deal and I scrambled a little bit to get registered since registration happened in the Upper East Side. This would have been fine except that the store closes at 7, which is pretty early. That turned out fine. The day of the actual race, though, I was running even later and couldn't get a cab because it was raining. Rain makes hailing cabs in NYC nearly impossible because everyone and their mom is trying to do the same thing. Once I realized catching a cab would be impossible, I ran up a few blocks to Columbus Circle to catch the 1 train up to 103rd, near where the race would be starting.

I made it with 7 minutes to spare. My friend and race buddy Amortya beat me there. I got my race bib and chip and hurried to put both on. It was Amortya's first race and I could tell he was nervous. Once all was settled we ran over to the start line, and had approximately 2 minutes until race time. This was another small race and so there was no gun or horn, just someone yelling to go. We started out fast. I don't normally wear a watch, but I have an okay sense of pace and I estimated that we were doing an 8:30 right out of the gate. Morty commented that he was trying not to look at the other people around us because he knew it would make him run too fast. I was impressed with this insight, since I don't think it was something I was aware of when I started running.

We slowed down gradually. At the two mile mark we were just under a 10 minute mile and by the end of the race we were running a little over.We finished in 31:40. Afterward, Morty confessed that it was the longest distance he'd ever run! Pretty bold. Race souvenirs were pint glasses with the race name and sponsors printed on them. In a cool twist, runners got free beer served in those pint glasses after the race until 9pm! If I had been drinking it would have been a perfect arrangement. We did still stick around for a bit after so Morty was able to enjoy some post-race Blue Moon. He's already itching to do another 5K or even 10K.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

This Week's Training and a New Race

When it comes to foresight and any sort of advanced planning, I'm woefully inept. That's why I was impressed with myself for completing my 4 mile run yesterday in preparation for the fact that I had a comedy meeting this evening. Did I still have to do my streak run anyway? Yes. But pounding out 1.5 miles is much more manageable than 4 when dealing with time constraints. The run was a wild hybrid of the Phoebe Loop and my UWS 5k:

Yayay good for me blah blah blah and such. Or not. What I haven't yet mentioned is that I didn't do my long run this past weekend! It's true. And why not? The very same lack of planning that very often unnecessarily complicates things. You see, for the past three weeks, I haven't had my 6 hours of comedy class on Sunday afternoon due to Irene and Labor Day (and the Del Close Marathon a week prior to that). No comedy class means no homework, and no homework or comedy class means more flexibility to go on my long run when I want to. Unfortunately, I didn't take these things into account this weekend. I saved my homework for Sunday morning (massive no-no), left straight for class at noon and then didn't get back until close to 7pm.

There are two remedies for this. The first is to do my homework on Saturday (or any of the other 5 days in the week). The second is to do my run on Saturday instead of Sunday. Considering I recently found a very likable long run group for Sunday mornings, I'm going to try really hard to stick with the first strategy, which is to have my homework done and printed by Saturday night.

Enough about that. Tomorrow I'll try to stretch out my 9 to 12 or 13. That will be a proper short long run even though I was technically supposed to do a long long run. On Thursday, the New York Harriers are putting on a 5k (the Sunset and Suds 5k) at Riverside Park. That will be fun, I just need to remember to register myself and my friend Amortya (of City Boy fame) at Urban Athletics tomorrow before 7pm. If anyone reading this is interested in the race, let me know and we can get a whole party together.

Monday, September 12, 2011

DEALWATCH: Running Shoes for Cheap

I visited a little while ago. Behold!

Unfortunately my new favorite kind of shoes is not included, but maybe some of you out there have faves that are. Enjoy, and remember to vote in the poll.

Long Run - Part 2 - Also, New Poll -->

Where did we leave off? Oh, yes. I had set out on an ambitious long run with the Running Company crew and we were just about to conquer the Brooklyn Bridge. For anyone who hasn't been, the Brooklyn Bridge is amazingly scenic and really not a bad run. The bad part is that it's often overrun with tourists. I hate saying it like that, but it can be very frustrating trying to run around a family or other group of four or five tourists who decide to occupy the entire lane, especially since bikers often use the other side of the lane. I'm sure most runners would agree with me when I express my preference not to be hit by a bike. Anyway, tourists and bikers aside, it wasn't too bad. Halfway across, we ran into the two girls we'd lost earlier, coming in the opposite direction. One of them rejoined us while the other headed back to Manhattan. Once in Brooklyn, we made a relatively sharp turn to head right back toward the Manhattan Bridge. They're very close together. The Manhattan Bridge was a little more pleasant to run because it was much more protected from the sun and there was a nice breeze blowing.

The Williamsburg Bridge, though, was the toughest of those three. The pedestrian section of it is elevated off of the vehicle lanes, so that ascent requires a steeper hill climb than is initially apparent. And the hill seems ENDLESS. Maybe it's because the bridge was the last one in a pretty close series of three long bridges, but it really seemed interminable. And by the time we were on it, the sun was out in full force and there was no escape. Despite all this, though, the company and camaraderie remained reliable and steady. I was surprised at how well I was able to handle those hills. Normally I start huffing and puffing close to the beginning. For further evidence of this, read about my Riverside Park 5k exploits. This day was different. I found myself powering up all three hills with surprising stamina. I was in or close to the lead in all three (this would change in the last two bridges, but was definitely the case in the first three). I've started noticing that when I tackle hills, I get tunnel vision and all I can see is the top, the point beyond which I can see no further, presumably (and ever so hopefully) because the rest of it is a big, welcome stretch of downhill. Looking at hills this way has a funny way of propelling me forward. All I can see is that point and I want nothing more than to reach it as soon as possible.

Finally, the first group of bridges was done. And where did this leave us? About 14 miles in. We began running north, from Williamsburg into Queens along Berry Road. I had to scout for a water fountain because it was a hot morning and I don't carry hydration with me (something I'll need to remedy at some point). I found one and we all made a pit stop (we actually made a number of them throughout the run, for the very reason that water fountains along this route are few and far between).

We continued north to the Pulaski Bridge, which is much shorter and tamer than the the other four bridges. But by this point, I was getting tired. I started to lag toward the back on this hill and felt myself less able to keep the pace. It's not something I like to admit, but it was definitely true. Fortunately for me, we began to approach the Queensborough Bridge. The bad news about this, though, is that I began to psyche myself out. I know very well what the Queensborough Bridge is all about and I knew (or at least convinced myself) that it was the worst bridge of all. This may or may not be the case, but my attitude wasn't helping the overall effort. By the time we started on the bridge, I was full-on behind everyone else. The leader, Mat, was very nice and stuck with me for part of it, but continued on to check on the rest of the group. As I probably should have expected, it wasn't as bad as I imagined it would be. I reached my beloved hill apex sooner than I expected. Granted, I finished a couple of minutes behind the rest of the group, but they were nice enough to wait for me at the end of the bridge. Running 19 miles with someone (or a group of someones) fosters a sense of team, expected or not. From there, we only had to run across Manhattan along 59th street. Two members of our group headed home from there, but Mat and another girl planned to return to the store and I figured that I'd come that far, so I might as well do the same.

I ended up turning off to my apartment rather than running to the store, but I think it was about the same distance (1 crosstown block versus 5 downtown). All in all, it was very close to 20 miles. From there, I had to make a mad dash to quidditch tryouts and had no time to get any food. I got a little snappy with Jared out of extreme grumpiness, but once tryouts were over and I ate a turkey burger, I was in better spirits.

I noticed that I was barely sore the next day, which is interesting, because I definitely felt that my energy had begun to lag toward the end of the run. This makes me think that I may not have hydrated or fueled properly in preparation, as my muscles seemed to be just fine. I did drink a reGen as well, so perhaps that's just a miracle product.

Alright, well that run is all out there. Onto the rest of the week and into this coming one. Happy Monday to all!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Long Run, Good Company, and Some Bonus Miles - Part 1

You know what I've noticed? I tend to neglect the blog when I neglect my training. Maybe that's not something I should be sharing, but it's true. Very fortunately, this was not the case for this week's long run, which was fantastic and will be the primary topic of this post. But it was the case for the end of last week, when I should have run a couple of 8 mile days but really only did a couple per day. It was terrible, and I guess it makes sense that I wouldn't want to write about it. What's there to write, really? "Today I should have run a lot but I didn't because [insert reason]. Oops." This has gotten me in trouble before because if I lose momentum during a week of training, it's much more difficult to achieve what I need to AND get myself back to that level of motivation. Something to be aware of. For example, last week I did a 5 mile run on a day that called for a 4-miler and intended to my 8-miler the next day. What I should have done (and it was in the back of my mind, I just didn't commit) was just suck it up and run that extra 3 miles. That would have kept me satisfied with my training AND kept me covered for my 8 mile run. Then, I would have been more likely to stay on track with my Saturday run, as well.

Something I need to work on is letting things go. Rather than allowing something like this to impact the rest of my training, I need to learn to let it go. That doesn't mean being okay with slacking off, it means being as enthusiastic and optimistic at the middle and end of the week as at the beginning, regardless of what happens along the way. Easier said than done, but certainly something to keep in mind.

So now, onto the long run. Earlier last week I mentioned that I intended to do the 5 bridge route for my long run. As luck would have it, I received an email a couple of days later from a marathon training mailing list I'd signed up for a couple of weeks ago that said they were leading a group run along the exact same route. What a happy coincidence. If you know me well enough, you know that I have a strong preference for doing long runs (most runs, really) with company rather than by myself. While I was a little nervous since I'd never been to this group before, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to get in a good, efficiently (not sufficiently, although that applies as well) early run in before quidditch tryouts later in the day.

On Sunday morning I woke up around 6:45am and got ready to go. I headed out around 7:15 and walked over to the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, where The Running Company is located. I took the elevator up to the second floor but was confused that the glass double doors were closed and locked and wondered if I hadn't made a mistake. I walked to the hallway next door and spotted a sign on the door that said to knock! Woo hoo! While I admit there was a teensy little part of me that was disappointed I wouldn't be going back to bed, a good 97% of me was very happy about it.

After about 10 or 11 runners were present in the store, the leader, Mat, entered and we got ready to go. He pulled out a bike map to show us the route:

The email I received noted that the route should have been around 16 miles. As you can see above, it was a little more than that, but we'll get into that in a bit. I could tell that a number of runners in the group were daunted but I was excited to get started. We headed out the back door and down to the street, going west on 59th street toward the West Side Highway. After about a crosstown block of walking so that those with GPS watches could get a signal, we began running to the West side and South toward Battery Park.

In the first few miles of the run, a couple of women broke off from the pack and appeared to be running a decent bit faster. A little after that, I broke off with another woman and got a little ahead of the main group as well. I could tell she was older, but I later found out that she is, in fact, 71 years old and qualified for Boston. Not only that, she was going pretty fast considering we intended to do 16 or 17 miles. I was getting worried about it, actually, and had to tell myself that if she could do it I should be able to.

After awhile I started to see signs for the Brooklyn bridge, so we stopped and waited for the rest of the group to catch up (they were only about 30 seconds to a minute behind us). We were supposed to take a left at Canal and head straight to the bridge, but since the two faster women had continued straight, we did the same and ended up running around the tip of Manhattan (a large chunk of the extra 3-4 miles). By this point, we had lost the lead two and were about to cross the Brooklyn Bridge.

Alright, I actually have a lot more of this run to write about, but I don't want it to get too long and boring, so I'm going to break it up into pieces. Stay tuned to hear about miles 8-20, the aftermath, and the rest of my training week!