Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Race Report: The NYRR Gridiron Classic

Funny story. In the few years I've been here and an active member of the New York Road Runners, I've always wanted to do this race because there's an associated football throw competition. Don't ask why I find this so exciting. I can't throw a football worth crap, but hey, it is what it is. At the end of last year, I signed up for this race finally intending to run it AND take part in the football throw.

Did it happen? Obviously not. I mean, the race happened and was okay, but not the football throw. I woke up too late for that and missed it. Even worse, I started the race almost twenty minutes late. Here's another mspaint creation to give you a play-by-play of the morning:

Yes. So that's a more succinct summary of what happened than I can provide in words. Plus, I'm already late for dinner (oh, the irony). It's not all bad, though. I finished with an average mile pace of 8:34.

Race Report: Mmmmanhattan Hot Chocolate 10k

When I last left off with the lunch blogging, I was juuust about to be caught up with my race reports. Due to a very fortunate (for my running, not so much for my blogging) turn of events, I fell behind again. So now I'm a few weeks behind on the race reports. Fortunately, though, I haven't run any races since then so I'm still only just as behind as I was before.

But that's all neither here nor there. This race report is about the NYCRUNS Mmmmanhattan Hot Chocolate 10k. As you may recall, I ran another race similar in nature to this one. There was hot chocolate and it was a 10k. The difference, though, is that this race took place in my home borough of Manhattan. You would think that since this race was significantly closer and in Manhattan versus Brooklyn, I would have gotten to the start in good time, right? Wrong. So, so wrong. Thus, lateness was the theme not only for this race, but for my entire weekend of racing (let's be serious, it's my theme for everything).

This was actually the less egregious of my two late starts. The race was set to begin at 10 and I think I left my apartment at 9:30ish. I'd like to give background to this situation by explaining that there are a number of ways to get to Riverside Park from my apartment. I should also note that, while this race was in Manhattan, it wasn't terribly close to me. Riverside Park is sandwiched between the West Side Highway on the west and city on the right. It stretches from 72nd street to about 125, but the race was taking place around 108. You know what would be a great way to convey this? A delightful mspaint creation:

I still had a long way to go. I had a few options, though: 1. Subway route involving the B and walking, 2. Subway route involving walking and the 1, and 3. a cab. I had just enough time to not need a cab, so I decided on subway option 2. I think I arrived at the 110th street station at around 9:59am. Naturally, I sprinted the one block over and two blocks down to the race start. Between that and getting directions from a bystander, I got to the start about four minutes into the race. Fortunately for me, the mats were still down so I crossed them and started, you guessed it, dead last.

Despite that, however, I gained ground on the back of the pack pretty quickly. I think I caught up to the first person about a quarter of a mile in, right after this really steep hill toward the back of Riverside Park. From that point on I only passed people, which is an interesting race perspective. I know the course well, as I did a series of NYCRUNS races last summer. It consists of two 5k loops around Riverside and is surprisingly scenic and hilly. The hills come at the beginning of the loop and, while they seemed much less daunting this time around, they were relentless during my first race there.

The scenic part comes about halfway through the loop, when runners follow a path down to a boardwalk that stretches down the Hudson River. The view is lovely and this section is an out-and-back, so runners get to enjoy it for a decent stretch of the loop.

I ran at a nice clip and passed a bunch of people, which was exciting. Unfortunately, I realized later that the start mats must have been switched off by the time I crossed because my gun time is the same as my chip time in the online results. Ah, well. Maybe some day I'll learn not to be late (stay tuned for another story about that bad habit). After the race, there was delicious hot chocolate. Props to NYCRUNS for another race well organized!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Race Report: The Brrrrrooklyn Hot Chocolate 10k

This was my first 10k and NYCRUNS race of the year. It's also the first time I've raced in Prospect Park in almost 3 years, the last time being the 2009 Brooklyn Half Marathon. As appears to be my MO this season, I began the morning by waking up late and rushing to grab my bib and reach the start line. At the very least, I did end up doing both before the race started, which is something at which I failed miserably for my races this past weekend (reports on those to come soon).

I found myself at the entrance of Prospect Park with about 10 minutes to spare, unaware that the start was nearly a mile away from me. I had the good fortune of running into a fellow racer who was in the middle of calling a friend to ask about the exact location of the start. Once we knew that bibs were at the Oriental Pavilion, we continued walking in the direction her friend had specified. Unfortunately, it became clear to me within a minute or two that we would never make it in time for the start of the race if we didn't run and my companion did not seem to have any intention of running, so I bade her good luck and began half sprinting to the Pavilion, hoping I'd make it to the start at least within a few minutes of the horn. I ran, and ran and then ran some more hoping that any minute the Pavilion would appear! It didn't for what seemed like a long time. I ran for a few minutes before approaching a small cluster of runners which turned out to be the start line. I thought that was a good sign and so kept going, running the opposite direction of the trickle of runners who were also approaching the start.

I was starting to get annoyed (not that I had any good reason, since I'm the one who woke up late) a few minutes after that when I STILL hadn't found the Pavilion. Finally, after rounding one more curve, it was there in front of me. I grabbed my bib, left the souvenir mug to pick up after the race (I didn't have a bag for it and I certainly didn't intend to race while holding it) and started pinning it to myself as I ran back toward the start.

Miraculously, I made it before they blew the horn. Prospect Park is known for being a little bit hilly but I tried not to think about that too much beforehand. My experience with Prospect Park during the Brooklyn Half had not been great and I didn't want to psych myself out. Besides, my best races have always been the ones I go into with no expectations. Is that a good thing? Probably not. It means that I get into my own head too easily. C'est la vie.

The race started on the biggest hill in Prospect Park. It was hard, but not too much. I've discovered that I'm decently prepared when it comes to hills and climbing them is a strength. I was befuddled for pretty much the entire race because, for once, I was passing people. I mean, people were passing me, too, but way fewer than usual.

Many people make a game of selecting someone ahead of them in a race and trying to pass them, picking off as many people as possible until the end. I've never been good at this game, again, because I get into my head and am bothered when I can't seem to catch someone. Not this time. I methodically passed a good number of people and was totally unfazed when I either didn't catch or was passed back by someone.

There was really only one guy I can remember having a long chase with. We passed each other a couple of times and I spent most of the race about 10 feet behind him before he broke away at the very end and probably finished a quarter mile or so ahead of me.

Also a pleasant surprise was my last mile, which I kept at a fast pace nearly the whole way. Take all these estimations with a grain of salt, as I didn't have a watch and therefore have no idea how fast I was actually going. I managed to finish strong and the clock read about 52:30 when I crossed. Sadly, the NYCRUNS timing equipment wasn't working, so the race wasn't scored and I didn't receive an official time. Too bad, because I thought I had a pretty good race and I think my pace would have been a little bit under 8:30mins/mile. 

That aside, it was a good race. Plus, NYCRUNS allowed anyone who ran it to also run the Mmmanhattan Hot Chocolate 10k this past weekend, which I did. Keep up the good work, NYCRUNS!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Race Report: JackRabbit Indoor Triathlon #2

Last year I did a thorough job of blogging these races. Unfortunately, this year's report is going to be much scantier and with fewer pictures. As you may know, this series takes place at various gyms around the city and involves a 10 minute pool swim, 30 minute spin session, and 20 minute run on the treadmill. Participants' scores depend not only on the distances completed, but also on the distances of their opponents. Therefore, if the field for a particular triathlon is more competitive overall, it would require higher distance  numbers to place the same as in a less competitive race.

I signed up for this one sort of last minute, as my friend Geri asked me if I'd be doing any of them and it occurred to me that there would be one that weekend. After mulling it over for a couple of days, I signed up for it the day before, which was shortly after the Manhattan Half. I'm not sure that completing the Manhattan Half had any impact on my performance. I didn't feel like it did and my numbers weren't too bad.

This race took place at Asphalt Green, which is a rec center located on the Upper East (far East) side of Manhattan. It's a pain getting up there and every time I go I underestimate transportation time. This day was no exception. I aimed to leave my apartment at 4 (giving myself an hour) and ended up leaving at 4:30. I arrived at 5:25, which was just in time for the very last heat.

My heat consisted of myself and some, ahem, attractive gentlemen. I feel like I made mention of this before but it's worth noting again. Also, I'm pretty sure I raced in the same heat with these guys last year. Anyway, they're really good. I'd be interested to know more about the distances in which they specialize and how they do in normal outdoor tris.

Swim: I wasn't expecting much. I just haven't put in enough time at the pool and my score showed it. I completed 16 lengths, which is around what I normally do and one length less than my personal best of 17 (achieved at last year's championships). This earned me a 23/100 score on the swim.

Bike: In this tri format, the bike may be my strongest leg. Since it's done on spin bikes, they're all set to no resistance and so there is no accounting for anyone's ability to bike terrain with definition. There's also only so fast you can pedal a bike with no resistance, in my opinion. At least, the effort to payoff ratio progression becomes way too steep at a certain point. So maybe it's not that it's my strongest, it's more that there's a limit to how well anyone can do it, from me to the best triathlete in the race. In any case, I biked 17.97 miles in 30 minutes, earning me a bike score of 74/100.

Run: Though I would like to have run an even 2.5 miles in 20 minutes, I was happy with my ultimate result of 2.46. If completing a half marathon in snow the day before had any impact on my race as a whole, this is where it would have shown. Maybe it did, maybe it didn't. What I do know is that I managed 2.46 in 20 minutes and honestly was left with too much at the end. I could have gone (and plan to go, next time) harder. Another victory here: I did it sans music. Score: 65/100.

Overall, my combined scores were good enough for a three-way tie for 8th place. This means I can compete in the championships on March 4th, which is approaching frighteningly quickly. My goal numbers for that race are swimming 18 lenghts, biking at least 18 miles, and running 2.5. The trifecta.

I'd also like to mention and give massive kudos to the winner of this race, who swam 34 lengths, biked 19.69 miles, and ran 3.08 miles. Those are monster numbers. She had a perfect 300 score and might have even been the overall winner of the race, based on a cursory review of the men's numbers.

Indoor Tri #3 happened yesterday and I believe Team Lipstick was set to race in that one. That can only mean that competition was really stiff. Good thing I got in when I did!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Race Report: NYRR Manhattan Half Marathon

I can’t believe I can be saying things like this now, but the 2012 Manhattan Half was my fourth. This particular race is interesting because the weather can vary quite a bit. In the four times I’ve run it, it’s been 13, 35ish, 13, and this year somewhere in the high twenties or low thirties. The biggest difference, though, between this time and any of the previous three years is that was snowing something fierce the entire time. Plus four or five hours beforehand. The weather got so bad that NYRR decided to turn it into a fun run and not time or score it. NYRR president Mary Wittenberg tweeted that the NYRR crew had been attempting to shovel for four hours before they decided to call it. I guess I could have seen this as a bad thing but I really didn’t. There were a few inches of snow on the ground for the whole race so I wouldn’t have PRed or even come close whether it was timed or not.

When all was said and done, it was a tough race but a pretty cool experience. Even though inclement weather never helps me accomplish any goals, it does create a unique running experience. The 2009 marathon tune-up, for example. It was raining all three and a half hours I was out there running. Chafing aside, it was kind of exhilarating. That’s sort of how I felt during this half marathon, though I would say I felt more badass than exhilarated. I found myself scraping snow/ice crust off my eyelashes every two miles or so. In my opinion, that’s a cool story no matter how you slice it.

I’d approximate my finishing time at 2:10-2:11. The mile markers didn’t have clocks nearby like they normally do, so it was quite difficult to gauge what was happening during the race. What I know is that the clock read 2:12 and change when I crossed the finish line and it did take a minute or two for me to cross the start. So I can only estimate from there.

Before knowing anything about what the weather conditions would look like, I’d hoped to run it right around 2 hours. Not under, but not more than a few minutes over, either. Did I accomplish this? No, no I did not. But all things considered, I’m happy with the result. If there’s anything to be learned from my history with this race, it is that I’ll be back for the 2013 Manhattan Half Marathon.