Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Race Report: Thanksgiving Fun Run at the T-Heads

After another lengthy period away from the blogosphere, I have returned! I visited my home state of Texas to see my family for Thanksgiving. On Thursday the 17th, I flew to Corpus Christi for the first leg of my journey.

Friends who have known me for awhile can attest to the fact that I like to take any opportunity to race in exotic (and by exotic, I mean different from home) locales. Although I haven't quite graduated to planning an actual runcation, I do like to search for races off the beaten path when I travel. This brings me to the Carroll Tiger Thanksgiving Fun Run at the T-Heads in Corpus Christi. What a name! What a town! What a race!

Too dramatic? Perhaps. To be fair, I was highly amused when I went to register and pick up my packet at the local Fleet Feet store. My dad and I waited in line for a few minutes while volunteers registered a couple of kids. Little kids. I don't think I thought anything of it at the time, but it would play into things later on. What I was especially amused about were the swag bags we got. Now don't get me wrong, I was impressed with the swag bag in general since it was such a small race, but one of the items in the bag was a beer koozie! That's right, a beer koozie for race swag. It was an entertaining first. Plus, the t-shirt was cute:

Race start time was 8:00am and it wasn't far from my dad's house, so we left at 7:30. I was obviously ALL decked out in my Team reGen gear. Once we arrived, I immediately began to scope out the competition. I've always maintained that if I ever win any age group awards, it'll be at a local race like this one. There are just too damn many runners in and around NYC. So naturally, I was trying to see who I needed to keep pace with to make this dream come true.

This is where my previous observation about the kids at Fleet Feet comes in. Most of the runners at this 5k were kids! They looked like they ranged in age from maybe 7 to 13. Corpus Christi and Texas in general has some issues when it comes to making an active lifestyle a priority. Judging from the number of kids eager to run this 5k, though, you wouldn't have guessed. The involvement of so many kids in the local running community was really impressive.

Along with small children, however, there were also high school kids on cross country teams. Those guys are usually very competitive. I wasn't terribly worried about them, though, because I knew they would be in a different age group. By the time we lined up at the start of the race, I had only spotted a couple of potential contenders and I was determined to start strong.

Unfortunately, starting strong is not the race strategy that works best for me. I always do best when I start slow, gain confidence, and start passing people. When I try to start strong, I typically start too strong and end up burning out and slowing way down halfway through the race.

Surprise! That's what happened here. The race course went down a boardwalk of sorts and veered off twice into what are called "t-heads" before a turnaround which took us back to the start. I've taken the liberty of creating a not-to-scale diagram of the race course below:

It was a tougher course than I expected, but I think mostly because I started off too fast. Those kids really raced out and I probably tried a little too hard to keep up. My dad started behind me but by the middle of the race had passed me. He ended up finishing in 23 and change and I crossed the finish at 25:34. I've been hoping to run a sub-25 5k so this was a little disappointing, but, hey, it was a good run. I really felt like I might have won an age group award, but they didn't end up announcing awards after all. So much for that. Guess I'll have to wait a little longer for my first age group award!

Another awkward photo gem!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

No Knickerbocker in 2011

Sad face. For the last two years I've done the Knickerbocker 60k, which takes place the weekend before Thanksgiving. In case you were wondering, the race course includes nine 4-mile loops around Central Park. It's a little grueling but something I've enjoyed incorporating into my holiday traditions over the last couple of years. Plus, it allows me to not give a crap about all the crap I eat on Thanksgiving Day.

But I don't want to give up on the idea of a pre-holiday ultramarathon altogether. Instead, I think I'll search for a good 50k (I'd say 60k but I feel that the distance is a little less common) to do before Christmas. I'd prefer that it not be a trail race but I might not have the option of being picky. Anyway, if anyone has a good race suggestion, please let me know! I'd love to find one sometime in December. Additionally, if anyone out there would be interested in running it too, shoot me an email.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Race Report: The ING NYC Marathon - Part 2

So there I was, conflicted about how to proceed and very fidgety. I couldn't stop scanning the crowd behind me in an attempt to calculate how long it might take for the group to catch me. Or alternatively, how slowly I should start in order to meet up with them. Neither conclusion seemed appealing, so I decided to wing it and hoped that I would be able to stay just in front of the group.

Another dilemma I had was what to do with my phone. It's recently been losing charge alarmingly fast and it became evident early in the morning that this would pose a problem. I woke up around 6 and the phone was at 100%. In an effort to conserve battery life, I turned off almost all background apps except for the clock and marathon tracking apps. I started listening to music on my way to the Subway but quickly turned it off because I realized it would drain the phone even faster! By the time I reached the start line at 10:40am, the phone was at 53%. I turned off everything in the background except for the tracking app and started the race without music. As a side note, I don't know if I'd ever raced without music. I certainly hadn't run an entire marathon without it, and yet that's what I found myself deciding to do.

The gun went off and the pack moved pretty quickly in comparison to other races I've done. It didn't take long at all to cross the start line. I found myself confronted with the majesty of the Verrazano Bridge. It might be the most breathtaking part of the race because you've just started, everything is exciting, the views are gorgeous, and all the runners around you are just as thrilled. I quickly lost the other woman with whom I'd been searching for the pace group. I suppose I should have taken that as a hint to go a little slower, but I did not. I could feel that I was running faster than I should but I was afraid of slowing down too much, so I decided to keep up my pace until I couldn't anymore. I'd learn later that I was actually very consistent over the first half of the race.

The first two miles of the marathon are the bridge and the next six go straight up 4th Avenue in Brooklyn. In the last two years, my friends Kim and Szymon lived in Bay Ridge and always came to cheer at the beginning of the 4th Avenue stretch. They've since moved, but I pretended they were there anyway! The next cheer spot I had to look forward to was 4th Avenue and 11th Street, where small contingent of Team Lipstick members led by Laura was waiting with signs and enthusiastic high fives. I made a game of counting down the blocks until that spot and I made every five or so a mini-milestone.

 Oh hey Kim!

After that, there were a few places where I knew people might be. Geri's boyfriend Dan was on the course too and she mentioned that he would be standing at the 8 mile turn. I took a very wide, slow turn to increase my chances of spotting him but still had no luck. The 5 or so miles between 4th Avenue and the Pulaski Bridge were pleasant. I saw a lot of clever signs, lots of cheering and music, even a couple dressed as a pair of running shoes! Also, I decided to turn my phone off altogether at this point. At around mile 10, my battery was at 29% and I knew it would be dead by the end of the race at that rate.

The Pulaski Bridge comes about halfway through and it was at this point that the 4:10 pace group caught and passed me. Admittedly, this made me nervous because I didn't think I had a 4:10 marathon in me. The fact that I'd kept up that pace for 13 miles worried me a little bit. Who knows? Maybe it was just a mental thing.

A couple miles up from the Pulaski, Jared was supposedly waiting to pace Geri for the last 10 miles of the race. I'd hoped to see him as I passed but must have missed him.

The Queensborough Bridge is a rough run in later miles of a race. It's a rough run in general, but even worse on already tired legs. Still, though, the view is beautiful, there's usually a good breeze blowing through, and lots of spirited yelling can be heard. Even better, the entrance into Manhattan is exhilarating. Intrepid spectators perch themselves on upper sections of the exit ramp where runners pour out and loop back onto 1st Avenue. The crowds are four and five people deep and their cheers are thunderous. I get a little emotional just thinking about it.

Upon reentering Manhattan, I turned my phone back on, not realizing that the tracking app wasn't working anyway. The entry onto 1st Avenue marks the beginning of a straight 3 and a half mile stretch to the Bronx. But again, I had friends to look forward to! Michelle, Jessica and Tom from my sketch comedy group (The Chupacabra Conspiracy, FYI) were cheering at a corner in the high 70's and 1st. I spotted them and, after a flurry of hugs and a quick picture, was back on my way. They were holding signs and I don't even remember what they said because I couldn't even think about it. Beyond the fact that they were there and I was really glad to see them, most details just weren't registering. I think I remember Tom saying "You are very sweaty" and trying to avoid my wet, stinky hug but he conceded in the end. Sorry, Tom!

My roommate Monica and her boyfriend Dirk said they might be at 90th and 1st, so I kept my eyes peeled there but didn't see them. After that, I had to do my best to ignore the fatigue and fight (myself, obviously) my way into the Bronx. And the Bronx, for the tiny amount of mileage it gets in the race, is awesome when it comes to cheering and overall good spirit. It was a short but excellent mile and I quickly found myself once again crossing over into Manhattan at mile 21.

Even though I only had five miles left, the going was getting tough. I was starting to get that deflated feeling in my upper body and I felt the pounding of every step in the balls of my feet. For whatever reason, my toe was also slamming against the front of my shoe. That was new and an unpleasant surprise, though it may result in my very first lost toenail (which I'm clearly too proud of)! It took everything, and I mean everything in me not to stop and walk for stretches at a time. I conceded to this urge once, but only as an approximately block-long extension of a water stop. I find that it gets easier and easier to stop and walk the more frequently I do it and I wanted desperately to avoid falling into this same trap that's gotten me the last two years.

Most of miles 21-24 are down Fifth Avenue and the crowds balloon once again and they are raucous, cheering anyone and everyone on to the finish, which is only 2.2 miles away once runners enter Central Park at the Engineer's Gate (90th and 5th). As it turns out, my roommate was in the park but I missed her! I kept running and doing my best to enjoy the presence of the crowds in the park and trying to feed off of the energy. But the truth was, I wanted to be finished and I knew I was close. I approached the Mile 25 water stop and considered the fact that it's operated largely by Cornell alums (I've gotten emails about volunteering for it before). Any other time, I might have looked for people I knew, but I was in no mood for it when I was passing through. I just wanted to be at the finish line!

At this time I'd also gotten a stitch in my side, which was making breathing and running painful. Near the exit of the park I got a call from my mom, who was sitting in the stands at the end of the race and had just witnessed someone be walked across the finish line. She was worried about me and I don't think I did anything to make her feel better since speaking was beginning to be painful and probably sounded labored and agonized. I wasn't worried, I knew I would be fine once I finished but that I needed to get there first. We agreed that I'd call just before I got to the right section so that she could see me cross the finish line.

Finally, I exited the park and found myself on 59th Street, which is the south end of Central Park and the true home stretch of the whole thing. Crowds line both sides of the barricades until Columbus Circle, where we turned back into the park for the last 800 meters. I called my mom and told her I'd be at the end momentarily and once I saw her section, I began waving at everyone! They were all very nice and waved back at me, but somehow I didn't see my mom. Although I hoped that she had at least seen me, a phone call after I crossed the finish line revealed that she had not! It was disappointing, but still. I'd finished the race in under four hours and thirty minutes! 4:28:25, to be exact.

I'll go into post-race activities in coming days because this post is already epic without them. Bottom line: marathon number six is in the books. I'm always elated after finishing a marathon and always want to sign up for my next one straightaway. But that, my friends, is also a discussion for a different day. For now, I hope I haven't bored you too much and I bid you good night.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Race Report: The ING NYC Marathon - Part 1

I didn't want to break this up into two posts but I realized it was already super long before I had even started talking about the race itself! So here we are discussing the race in the first of two installments. And what a race it was. This was my third New York City Marathon, and I can say with complete certainty that I love it more and more every year.

In the days preceding the race, I tried tweeting every article I could find about it because its history is long and storied. I won't opine on details too much because I'm relatively new to the scene. I can't speak to things like the marathon's first running, the first five-borough route, its significance after 9/11. As much as I enjoy reading about these events, I don't feel qualified to delve too deeply into them, so I won't. Maybe someday I'll do a history post after conducting some extensive research.

Let's start with the Expo and how I arrived there fifteen minutes before it closed. I know, I would have preferred to make it there earlier too, but it just worked out that way. The fact that bib pickup closed at 7 on both Thursday and Friday made it difficult for me to get to the Expo from work in time and I spent Saturday getting ready. My mom ended up meeting me there straight from the airport because we were concerned that it would close before we made it if we met up at my apartment first.

Things were wrapping up when I arrived, so I didn't have time to walk around and check out all the cool vendors and promotions. I really only had time to grab a pace team bib (4:30) before heading home and grabbing a nice pasta dinner from Cafe Metro, which was the same pre-marathon dinner I had last year. I went to bed around 11, which is later than I intended but still really not bad since Daylight Savings Time gave us an extra hour of sleep.

I woke up a few times throughout the night. It's not unusual for me on race eve, but this time I felt like the night would not end! I kept waking up and expecting that it would be time for me to jump out of bed and hop a train to South Ferry. 6am could not come fast enough. When it finally did, I heard shuffling about from outside my room and guessed correctly that it was Giri (my roommate's boyfriend) getting ready to leave himself. Giri is a speed demon and had a 9:40 start time, so left about ten minutes before I did.

Once I was up and about, I finished attaching bibs to my shirt. I mentioned in an earlier post that I intended to wear my name bib from Baltimore in lieu of writing my name on the shirt itself. Unfortunately, after I attached all three of my bibs, I felt that I was experiencing a potentially detrimental excess of bib. I removed the name bib and left my regular and pace team ones.

I chose my Team reGen jacket and newly discovered Cornell sweatpants as outerwear, said bye to my mom, and headed out into the early morning to get a bagel and banana from Cafe Metro. I walked over to the 50th Street 1 station and waited patiently for the train to South Ferry with a bunch of other runners. Not surprisingly, it took the train 10 or 15 minutes to arrive but once it did, the trip was uneventful. The ferry ride was similarly predictable, but I always find riding it to a race (the Staten Island Half or marathon) to be exciting. From there, runners were bused to Fort Wadsworth. I used my bus ride to take a nice nap. 

Once I arrived and got through security, I surveyed the scene. Dunkin Donuts gives out bagels (another thing I should have remembered since I bought my own), coffee, and awesome hats. I got myself some coffee and a hat and temporarily switched it with my reGen visor to keep my head warm. At the same time, I wanted to ease into the cold, so I took off my sweatpants while leaving my jacket on with the intent of acclimating to the cold a little bit before removing my jacket.

Speaking of outer clothes, I have yet to ditch a piece of clothing pre-race. Not that it shouldn't be done, but I haven't needed to. This year it was actually easier than last because it was warmer, so parting with my pants and jacket close to an hour before the start wasn't a big deal.

After drinking my coffee, removing my pants, and applying a lubricant sample I'd gotten from the Expo, I started looking for my friend, Geri (running on behalf of the Women's Sports Foundation) and we had some good marathon chat. I was also supposed to meet up with a fellow Team Lipstick member, but wasn't able to find her before I had to make a mad dash to go to the bathroom and check my bag. You'd think after a couple of years of doing this already I would know the drill.

While waiting for the bathroom, I also spotted Wilson! We were able to exchange quick hellos and wish each other luck before parting ways again. I went to the bathroom and checked my bag just in time. A little late, in fact. The truck for my corral had actually already closed and they had to put it into a later corral's truck. Once that was done, I started heading for the corrals, hoping to find the 4:30 pace team somewhere along the way.

Alas, I didn't find my pace team before lining up in the corral! Normally, the group leaders are very easy to spot because they carry signs with balloons attached stating which pace group they are leading. It wasn't until I had nearly reached the start line with a fellow lost pace team member that we realized the pace group was WAY behind us. I was concerned because I knew if I started first but waited for and ran with the pace team the entire way, I wouldn't finish under 4:30! Just as America the Beautiful rang out to the masses of runners, I was faced with a race strategy dilemma.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Cheap Triathlete Presents: Marathon Milestones

I briefly covered this in my post about the Baltimore Marathon, but here are the 6 milestones that I'll be looking out for tomorrow:

This is the reality check milestone. It's that time during the race when one might think to oneself "huzzah, I have run for nearly one full hour. I have but a mere four hours more of this race" if one thought very formally to oneself in a British accent. Okay, fine maybe I only imagined it in a British accent.

 This is my now-I'm-into-it mile. By this point, I have hit my stride and I'm ready to take on another 19 miles. Typically, the weather is good, the people are great, and I'm happy to be running.

I don't know who this guy is, but hopefully he doesn't mind being in my blog. Anyway, mile 10. I mean, come on. When is 10 NOT a milestone?

OMGMILE13IMHALFWAYDONE is a vague approximation of what goes through my head once I hit this mile marker. I mean sure, it's not quite halfway but it might as well be. And sometimes they throw a 13.1 mile marker in there for funsies anyway. PS - the Big Sur Marathon mentioned in the pic above is one that I've heard is beautiful. Hopefully someday I'll get out there to do it.

Pretend that the 17 mile marker isn't there because what I want you to focus on is mile 16. I got this one from my friend Sharon. While running with me during my very first marathon, she mentioned that mile 16 is where the remainder of the race is in single digits! It might be a convoluted milestone for some, but it's one of my favorites.

Another Big Sur sign. Mile 20 is the big one. It's the mile when the reality of your impending completion of a MARATHON starts to sink in. "Holy crap! I'm almost finished!" Interestingly enough, it also makes that last six miles feel longer than the previous 10 just because you're so close and so far.

After mile 20, it's all guts for me. Others might have a milestone between 20 and the end, but when I hit 20, I know it's time to stay strong and finish it out. Those last few miles can go by painfully slowly, especially 23-25. In New York City, however, that's also one of the most adrenaline-filled parts of the course because runners near the park, where there are wall to wall people behind the barricades. 

I'm so excited about tomorrow. No matter how I finish, it's going to be a great day.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Marathon Rage

I enjoy making rage comics (see Here is one I made that's inspired by my love of running. And attractive male runners.

Well Played, Cafe Metro, Well Played

The Cafe Metro in the ground floor of my building put this bad boy up last night. I couldn't help but get excited.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Things Are Getting Real

I meant to write yesterday and even took a bunch of notes at work about what to write so I wouldn't forget. It figures that I would forget the list of things I didn't want to forget.

One of the things that I wanted to write about and unfortunately was unable to attend after all, was a run with Ryan Hall and Bart Yasso! I'll give you a minute to get excited. As Bruce from Family Guy would say:

For those who don't know, Ryan Hall is arguably the best American marathoner today. Bart Yasso is the CRO (Chief Running Officer) at Runner's World and an icon. He's done all kinds of amazing things that I'm sure you'll read about on his website. Anyway, these guys were at Footlocker near Union Square and led a run at 6:30 this evening. Wouldn't you know I'd get caught up at work! To add insult to injury, I also missed the Team Lipstick run that happens every Wednesday at 7:00pm. Ah, well. 

The finish line went up today, as well (actually I think it may have gone up yesterday, but I can't remember). The blue line ceremony (they paint a blue line along the whole course!) was definitely today. The whole thing starts to feel very real once I see that finish line in the park. I'm noticing marathon tourists more and more, whether on their morning run or just walking around Midtown.

Another thing I'm starting to get excited about is all the people I'll see along the course! My roommates will be taking in the marathon from a bar somewhere along 1st ave. Additionally, my Chupacabras (of Chupacabra Conspiracy fame) will be congregating at 1st and 78th street! In Brooklyn I'll look forward to seeing CEO and founder of Team Lipstick, Laura Cozik and along the course I'll see other Team Lipstick members! And last, but most of all, my mom will be there too, all the way from Texas! 

There I go abusing the exclamation point again. Whatever. If there's an occasion that warrants it, it's the New York City Marathon.