Monday, March 19, 2012

My NYC Half by The Numbers - Part II

This is a follow-up to Part I. So here's my big news, I finished the NYC Half in 1:51:39. I was shocked when I looked at my stopwatch at mile 12 and realized what was about to happen. It's also worth noting that this is the first time in over a year that I self-timed a race. Normally if I have access to this kind of information, it only serves to freak me out and ruin my race. So although I found my overall time to be of interest, I did not look at it until mile 12, when I knew the likelihood of me blowing it was slim to none and that I had just enough time to muster up a good kick.

The splits provided by NYRR include 5k, 10k, 15k, and 20k times. These are as follows:

From this information, I did two things. The first was to split my race up into 5 segments and take my average pace for each segment (sorry these are so small! Click on them to make them bigger):

The difference between this section and the one that will follow is that I calculated my average pace per mile for each segment independently. So my average for segment 3 did not take into account the first 6.2 miles, only miles 6.2-9.3. Finally, I calculated my overall average at the end of each segment:

Hopefully I didn't make this all too convoluted. Anyway, the trend that is apparent from both of these graphs is that I actually got much faster throughout the course of the race, with my first 3 or so miles averaging out to an almost 8:50/mile pace to my end pace of 8:31. This is exciting news.

What made this race different?

1. Speedwork - I've been doing two different kinds of speedwork. The first is Yasso 800s. Read up on them if you're unfamilar. The second is my lunch runs, during which I run for 26 minutes with the goal of beating whatever my current record is. This started out as just a game I made up for myself, but has turned out to be quite valuable, as I start off much slower (usually at an 8:13/mile pace) than I finish (a 6:50 or 7:00/mile pace).

2. More Miles - Ever since I've started doing the 2012 Miles in 2012 Challenge, the number of miles I run has increased tremendously. And when I take a rest day, I know I have a lot of ground to recover and this sometimes leads to lengthy (7-10 mile) weekday runs.

3. Form Improvement - I've been trying to read up more on form and have recently started looking at my cadence and how I carry my upper body. I'm sure there's a weaker relationship here than to the previous two, but it's still been progress.

So that's that. If you see any glaring errors here, please let me know. Congratulations to everyone who ran the NYC Half, LA Marathon, Rock n' Roll USA or any other race this weekend!

Race Report: The 2012 New York City Half Marathon - Part I

For better or worse, at this juncture in my life I am in love with two things: running and New York City. You can therefore imagine my delight when, yesterday, I had the opportunity to experience the best of both in the New York City Half Marathon.

After getting back from the Expo, Marilyn and I determined our plan for the morning. I spent the afternoon doing laundry, watching TV, and running. Maybe I shouldn’t have run, but I wanted to keep things as close to normal as possible. I get myself into trouble when I start doing pre-race things that I don’t normally do. They make me nervous, and rarely have a good effect on my race performance. So I did a six mile run the night before, trying to keep it slow (I could feel myself speeding up) so that I could preserve most of my energy for the race. Is it something I might have regretted? Perhaps. Ultimately, it came down to an understanding of my routine and current level of fitness to know that getting that six miles in would do more mental good than physical harm. I regret nothing!

Marilyn arrived at my apartment at about 6:15. In terms of attire, I decided to wear my Nike Tempo 2 in 1 shorts and a Nike sleeveless top. It looked like the temperature might reach the 70s during the day, so I thought I would prepare for that rather than dress warmly and be hot. I also wore the jacket I got at Multisport World to the start, where Marilyn and I walked from my place because the subways between those two points are a little inefficient.

I initially wasn’t sure whether or not to keep my jacket. It was cold for what I was wearing, but again, I was banking on the temperature rising significantly (it didn’t). So I took a risk, checked it, and then dealt with being cold for the hour or so between when we got into the corrals (~6:50) and when I crossed the start line (~7:50).

The Course
For the purpose of review and discussion, I’ll split the course into three parts: Central Park, 7th Avenue, West Side Highway. The race started out on the West Side just south of the 72nd street transverse. Predictably (15,000 participants!), it took a long time to start. I didn’t cross the line until a good 15-20 minutes after the gun went off.

The Central Park portion of the race consists of one full (6 mile) loop. While it’s certainly not mountainous, Central Park is also not flat. The first hill of note came around a mile in. It’s just past the Boathouse and is known as Cat Hill. Even worse than that, though, is Harlem Hill, which is at the very north end of the park. I knew the park loop would be more challenging than the rest of the race, so I did a good job of pacing, trying to make sure that I was doing just under 9 minute miles because I didn’t want to lose any ground early on. So I watched every mile marker, making sure the second digit of each time was at least one less than the last (27, 36, 45, 54, etc.). It required some math on the fly. But I like math, so it worked out.

Once we hit the final mile of the park, I was ready to break out onto 7th avenue. I knew it would be filled with cheering spectators, including my roommate Jeremy and his boyfriend, Giri, who were waiting for us outside our apartment building, which is conveniently right on the course. As we exited the park, I could feel myself speeding up. I couldn’t help it! The adrenaline was kicking in and my view of Times Square opened up. I was energized by the beautiful chaos that is my favorite city. We crossed 59th street, passed Carnegie Hall, my apartment (Jeremy took a nice picture of me coming in for a high-five), the Barclays (formerly Lehman) building, which is a point of interest since I used to work there. Then we entered the heart of Times Square and the crowds grew. People held signs and reached their hands out for high fives. Spectators read runners’ names off their shirts and cheered these total strangers on.

Before I knew it, we were turning onto 42nd street and beginning the journey over to the West Side Highway. From Central Park to the West Side Highway couldn’t have been more than a 2 mile stretch, but it was definitely my favorite part of the race. And by this point, I wasn’t even doing any math on the mile markers. I knew I was going fast and all I did was make sure I stayed at a pace I could maintain for the duration of the race.

Oh, also, as we ran along 42nd street between 7th Avenue and the West Side, I made my one and only Gatorade grab. It was a massive failure. I grabbed a cup that was only about a third full, drank 3 swallows, and promptly spilled the rest of it down my shirt. Remember, kids, it’s not a race until you slop water and/or Gatorade all over yourself.

I finally got to the West Side and was well into the second half of the race. This part is kind of a blur. I was still moving, but this section was more monotonous than the first two and certainly 7th Avenue. To its credit, though, the views of the waterside and Freedom Tower were nice and constant. We also passed the Javits Center, Chelsea Piers, and the Meatpacking District before moving toward Battery Park. The first half of the last mile went through the Battery Park Underpass, which was a surreal end to the race but also a source of much spirited hootin’ and hollerin’.

The last half mile or so was slightly east of the Seaport, in the Financial District. As we exited the underpass, there was a sign that read 800 meters. Even though I was enjoying myself and knew that I’d finish well, it was the longest 800 meters of my life. Crossing the finish line was exhilarating, and as I stopped the timer on my phone, I knew I’d killed it.

I’m working on an in-depth analysis of my time and splits. That’ll be in a separate post, coming soon!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

NYC Half Marathon Expo

Tomorrow marks the very first time in my New York City running career that I'll be racing at the NYC Half Marathon. Why? Well, a couple of reasons. First, it's kind of hard to get into and, until this year, there was no guaranteed entry option like there is for the marathon. Second, it's an expensive half! The five races in the Half Marathon Series each cost $30, I believe. The NYC Half costs $117! So that is a little hard to stomach. But I've heard good things about it, and last year I ran four of the five borough halves, and so accidentally qualified. I figured it was a sign that this was my year to run.

What also makes this exciting is that my friend Marilyn is running. She flew all the way from the Bay Area to visit and run! So hats off to her (and her boyfriend Amir) for making the trek.

This afternoon we went to the expo to pick up all our race materials. In retrospect, I wish I had taken some pictures to put up here. Alas. What I can do is put up a link to the course route. It's one counterclockwise loop of Central Park, a mile-ish stretch down 7th avenue and then about 5 miles down the West Side Highway before finishing at South Street Seaport.

If I have anything like a home course, this would be it. I run the West Side Highway on almost a daily basis and Central Park...well, it's Central Park. If you run and live in/around NYC, it's inevitable that you've run a considerable number of miles there.

I'm optimistic about tomorrow's race. Baseline goal: break two hours. Ideal goal: PR (under 1:58). Optimistic goal: I won't say, because I'm afraid I'll jinx it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Multisport World Expo 2012

Last weekend I had the rare opportunity to attend a triathlon expo. My first, in fact. The expo is/was called Multisport World 2012. It’s actually a series of three expos that take place in New York, Washington DC and Boston. I should have attended this last year but didn’t because it’s kind of a hike from where I am. After this year, I wish I had! I wasn’t expecting much more than a collection of vendors though honestly, that probably would have made it worth the trip for me.
Having a big group of vendors in one place was helpful and I found a couple of things I’ve been looking for. The first was a light, waterproof jacket for running in the rain. I found one that not only fit that bill, but was also reflective and had an abundance of pockets. Fun fact: I freakin’ love pockets. I also found a triathlon backpack. These are handy, since being a triathlete comes with carrying around an amount of gear that’s not insignificant. I currently use a large shoulder bag and I can tell you right now that trying to keep it from sliding off my back while riding a bike is a less than fun, mildly terrifying exercise.

In looking for these things online and in local stores, I probably could have gotten both for $170 at best. At the expo, I got both for $100. Remember, folks, despite the title of my blog, triathlon is not a cheap hobby. But I try to save where I can, and this was one of those opportunities.

Back to the expo. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it’s much more than a marketplace for sophisticated sporting goods. There were clinics, classes, and seminars running all day long. Not to mention a neat indoor triathlon and time trial that the organizers had set up. When I first started hearing about this event at the beginning of the year, I read about the indoor tri and was intrigued because participants would row, bike and swim. I didn’t sign up for it, but wish I had because it sold out.

Another interesting event was the bike time trial, sponsored by Toga Bikes (where I got my lovely bike in November). Each heat had anywhere from 2-6 participants and their progress was tracked on a large monitor which was visible to spectators. I wasn’t confident enough in my abilities as a cyclist to sign up for this, but it was very cool to watch. I only really followed one heat closely, but the conclusion I reached from my experience as a spectator was this: triathletes are machines.

I didn’t sign up for any of the clinics, though I’m sure they were very informative. What I did do was sit in for the Ironman-specific portion of the seminar schedule. The last hour or so of the schedule was dedicated to long course (Ironman aka 140.6 distance) races. If I remember, I’ll do another post on the specific things I learned. Overall, though, they covered topics ranging from the NYC Ironman that I’ll be doing in August, race nutrition and race planning. I felt that the most interesting part of the conversation had to do with the NYC race details. The most informative, however, was about nutrition. I have a lot to think about and plan going into race day.

Overall, Multisport World 2012 was a great success. I learned a lot, but even more importantly I truly felt like a triathlete and part of the triathlon community for the first time. This feeling inspired new vigor in my training and I've looked forward to every workout since. I can only hope I can carry on this new level of enthusiasm to August.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Race Report: JackRabbit Indoor Triathlon Championships

I have a really great post about New York City in the pipeline but am so far too self conscious about it to publish. I mean, it may or may not be great, but writing it made me almost cry. Anything that makes anyone almost cry in its creation has some inherent value.

But I digress. This is about the indoor triathlon that took place a little over a week ago. As usual, I really should have trained more for it than I did. Still, though, it turned out well and was probably my best indoor triathlon performance to date.

Let's start with the race itself. I really like the series, but one frustrating aspect about this one was that there seemed to be no benefit to arriving early to sign up for heats. I signed up for a slot between 4pm and 5pm, arrived at 3:20 and didn't start until 4:45. I mean, I don't have much to complain about here. I got a time slot that I registered for and I followed instructions to show up 40 minutes early. Unfortunately, I still had to wait an hour and a half. To be fair, it wasn't an unpleasant hour and a half. I walked around the complex, did some spectating, went across the street to an adorable grocery store/deli and ate a biscuit and had plenty of time to return and get ready. I even had a little time to sit poolside with other members of my heat. But let's get to the important stuff:

The Swim - I got a little overzealous in my warmup efforts. Instead of doing one lap, I tried to fit in two and by the time I realized I might be cutting it close, had only 10 seconds to get myself back to the wall before the race started. Oops. Oh well.

Another exciting and different thing about this swim is that I incorporated flipturns for the first time in a competitive setting! Not many of them, because my flipturns aren't wholly reliable. I think I did four or five of before I thought I should just focus on my technique. I also worked on my kick, which I felt was much stronger due to some kick and stroke-only pool drills I did. I'd like to think that the two of these together contributed to my 17-length performance. This is tied with my current indoor tri PR, although it's worth noting that it was also tied for the worst swim score in the entire women's field.

The Bike: I always do decently on the bike. Unfortunately I had some problems with my shoe coming unclipped from the pedals. This happened two times and it might not sound like that big a deal, but it necessitates a full bike stop and loss of all momentum. I probably lost close to a half mile just trying to recover from this issue. Still, though, I came out with a respectable 17.96.

Protip: A guy in my heat taught me and another girl that the red resistance dial on a spin bike also functionas a brake. Breaking news to me, and a preferable alternative to letting the bike slow to a stop, which can take FOREVER.

The Run: This is always my best score. And finally, finally I achieved last year's goal of running 2.5 miles in 20 minutes. No allowances for the fact that it takes the treadmill a little bit to reach target speed or that I missed out on about 3 seconds for what I can only assume is my slow response time to the official saying "start." No. 2.53 in 19:57. Done. It wasn't even hard. In retrospect, I probably could have done at least a tenth of a mile better.

I think I can attribute this largely to my lunch runs, which consist of running for 26 minutes in an attempt to break whatever my current distance record is. Right now, it's 3.3 miles. The important part is that I've accustomed my body to running this fast. Last year, this was a challenge. This year it's something I do on a regular basis.

So there you have it. That's about as concise a summary as I can provide. After scoring and all, I came out with 99 points, which put me in 16th place (out of 23). Not great, but considering it was extremely competitive, also not bad. Here's to even more improvement in 2013!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Keeping Up with 2012

Surprise! A not-race report. Now that I've gotten all caught up with those, I can move on to some worries that have been nagging at me. Namely, a lack of focus in my Ironman training. It really needs to improve. And I know it will get easier as I move into training plan time frames (20 or 18 weeks) because then I'll have schedule and a list of workouts to do. Still, though, it's been worrisome. I need to make a solid schedule with morning and evening (maybe even lunchtime) workouts for all three tri disciplines and I need to 1. stick to it and 2. restart my 2012 goal of going to bed and waking up early enough to get all these things done.

What's also not helping my Ironman or 2012 miles in 2012 ambitions is my comedy. Now, this isn't something that will change because I love doing it too much. But what it means is that I now have to plan around having two weekday evenings that are almost completely out when it comes to workouts (runs can be done late on Tuesday and occasionally on Thursday, but it's rough). Plus, since these end up being late nights, the following mornings are going to be difficult as well. And as we get into spring and summer, performances will be happening more regularly.

Bottom line? The same thing it always is. I need to improve my time management and probably just learn to do with less sleep. What are your strategies for integrating training and life?