Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Guest Race Report: The Read Write Run 5k

Amortya and me after his first half finish!
Name: Amortya Ray
Hometown: Jersey City, NJ
Runner Since: November 2011
Favorite Recovery Food: Greasy burgers
Favorite Recovery Drink: Vanilla shake

This was the Read, Write and Run 5k in Liberty State Park in Jersey City.

I misjudged how long it would take us to get there, and we barely made it to the park in time. It was a small race – no more than 300 people running it. And it was right by the river with spectacular views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. MP and I took the light rail to the park and then we had to walk another mile or so before we got to the start line. And it was a hot day. I was pretty dehydrated to begin with. Thankfully, I managed to get a sip of water just before the race.

The race begins. The first mile is easy. I don’t know what got into me. But I started off really quickly. BAD-BAD IDEA! I did mile 1 in 7 minutes 30 seconds. And that’s when the heat starts to kick in. I started cramping. But up until the 1.5 mile mark I was doing ok. Struggling but okay. I see MP catching up to me. But I was still mostly ahead. But I was also getting weaker by the second. He overtakes me at around 2 miles. I’m like crap! That can’t happen. (Random fun fact #1: I can get really competitive. Usually at board games like Taboo.) I’m like – it’s okay. I’ll overtake him in a minute. But then I see that my laces are untied! Wow.. this race just gets worse. So I spend a few seconds fixing my laces. And start going a little faster. I’m in pain. My chest hurts. I’m dying in the heat.

Last 0.5 miles: I have my eyes on the finish line. And I can see MP a few feet ahead of me. I start picturing that scene from Rocky 3 where Rocky is racing Apollo Creed on a beach. Creed is ahead all through. But Rocky is a fighter. He isn’t giving up and inches ahead at the very last second. AND THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED! I caught up to MP barely 2 feet from the finish line and managed to finish 0.9 seconds ahead of him!

2 seconds before finishing:

And then I practically collapsed on the grass. My chest was pounding hard. My heart rate was through the roof. I felt my chest would explode any second now! And after a few minutes of rest, I was fine. But dammit I felt like I owned the world for those few minutes! (Random fun fact #2: This happened to be my second ever 5k. And I bettered the last one (that I ran with Katie last September) by a solid 5 minutes!)

5 minutes after finishing:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Hardest Session Yet

A couple of weeks ago, I found my end-of-week training to be lackluster. My Wednesday long runs are so long at this point that I now do them on the weekend. But that particular week, I struggled with whether or not to keep it on Wednesday or move it to the weekend, which I worried would encourage me not to do it at all.

Surprise, surprise, I find myself on Sunday not having done it and with a 75 mile bike ride to complete. I was pretty down on myself because I'd created the situation. Interestingly enough, though, I do my best training when I'm down on myself. I'm not sure what to make of that, but the thing is that I had nothing to lose, I guess. Historically speaking, that has been really good motivation for me.

And you know what? There's something special about the bike. For the few years that I've been a triathlete, however casually, the bike has been what I loathe the most. I'm almost certain I'm in the minority on this, but it's true. That doesn't seem to be the case anymore. As I begin a bike ride or wake up on the day of a bike ride, the knowledge that I will spend 5+ hours riding doesn't faze me. Very interesting, considering the fact that I find long runs to be very intimidating. I see a curious evolution taking place.

But introspection aside, I began my bike ride as I had for the few weeks prior. That particular Sunday, I had 12 laps to do. I'm not sure how I don't find that more daunting. 12 laps of Central Park seems insane when I think about it in any context other than this. Also, I don't even have music! I'm sure I could work out music somehow, but I don't have nearly enough faith in my bike handling skills to believe that listening to music while riding wouldn't cause an accident or spill. What typically happens is I'll have two or three songs stuck in my head the entire time. This sounds like torture, but it's actually not that bad. I also daydream, which I consider to be multitasking since I do too much of that anyway.

The ride was fine. Not all that memorable except that it was my first time riding 75 miles. I got home, parked my bike in its usual spot next to my bedroom door, and sat on the couch. Then that uneasy feeling popped into my head again. It reminded me that I hadn't done my long run. Shockingly, my brain reacted positively and a thought popped into my head.

"Why don't I do it now?"

"It" being a long run and "now" being just after riding 75 miles for the first time. But you know what? I did it. Granted, it wasn't as long as it should have been (should have been ~15 miles), but it was still a half marathon. That's the biggest brick workout I've ever done in my life. By far. And volume-wise, yes it was difficult. But in terms of how I felt after, it wasn't. I was fine. Confidence for August 11th is building, my friends.
The view from the middle of my favorite long run route

Monday, June 25, 2012

Race Report: The JPMorgan Corporate Challenge 2012

A little over a week ago on 6/14, I ran the JPMorgan Corporate Challenge. It's a little hard to believe, but this was the third time I'd run this race. In 2010 I ran it with my old company and in the two years since I've run it with a company I joined last February. In fact, here's my race report about it from last year.

I'm proud to say that there's been a steady upward trend in my time since I first ran it in 2010, when I finished in 32:14. That works out to an average pace of 9:13min/mile, which was actually pretty good for the general pace I ran around that time.

Going into the race, I forgot my time from the year before (and, shockingly, did not look it up in preparation). I remembered my pace being just over 8 minutes per mile. When I considered that, I hoped to run a minimum of 8 minutes per mile this year. Upon signing up for the race in February, I actually wrote down an expected time of 25 minutes. Only after I'd finished the application did I do the math on that and realize it would be just over a 7 minute mile, which is definitely not where my pace is now and would require some serious training to achieve. What I knew was that I'd be slower than 25 but faster than 28 (the vague memory of last year's race time). So I settled right in the middle and hoped (increasingly optimistically) to run right around a 26:30.

The beauty of this year's race is that I started in an appropriate corral. It was the second from the front and probably even less crowded than your typical NYRR corral. Once we started, I did not have to fight crowds of walkers and slower runners for the entire race. Nor was I shoulder-checked by an obnoxious runner. And although it felt like it only took 10 or so seconds to cross the start, I'd learn later that it was actually about 40 seconds into the race when I ran across the mats.

I find this race to be very disorienting because it starts at a place in Central Park that's not typically a race start and also runs clockwise instead of counterclockwise. For better or worse, my ability to foresee what part of the park lay before me was severely limited until we reached the 102nd Street Transverse, at which point I gained my bearings.

I almost certainly did a better job this year of keeping my pace consistent. Although I'd hoped to use my MapMyRun app to keep better track of my pace, I messed something up and found myself running without any certainty as to what my pace was. And make no mistake, it felt fast even though I worried that it wasn't. My flawed (remember, I assumed the wrong start time) mile-by-mile calculations were telling me that I was not going to hit my goal. But I tried not to let that knowledge impact my race.

I crossed the finish as the clock read a few seconds under 28 minutes. I was disappointed, as I believed I had run only a few seconds better than in 2011. I was heartened to return to my company's area and find that I was one of the first ones back. And when I looked up my time later in the evening, I saw that I'd actually run a 27:19. That was well over my goal of 26:30, but still not bad. While I was at it, I looked up my time from last year and saw that it was 29:15. I'd improved by almost 2 minutes and run an average pace of 7:48 minutes per mile! I felt redeemed. And maybe next year I'll hit that 26:30. Hell, maybe even 25.

Our race site

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

National Running Day

Quick, unplanned post about National Running Day. I hope you're all enjoying it and finding some way to get out there and kick ass on this fine Wednesday afternoon. I'll be celebrating by doing my long run, as assigned by Brian. That'll be 1:50 of running and I'm hoping to do 12ish miles.

It was also a good day to come to an exciting realization. As I was registering for the Providence 70.3, one of the questions asked was something about athletic accomplishments. I wouldn't have bothered except it was required, so I figured I'd list my ultra, half, and marathon numbers. After doing some counting and lots of recounting, I realized that Brooklyn marked my 20th half marathon. Someday I hope to have my marathon numbers up around there, but for now I'm happy to have anything in the double digits.

How are you celebrating National Running Day and/or what's your favorite running accomplishment?

Change of Plans

Since early spring, I knew I wanted to race at least a couple of half distance tris in preparation for the Ironman. I did Bassman in early May and that went decently. My other two options (last weekend was, unfortunately, ruled out because of work) were the HITS triathlon at Bear Mountain coming up this weekend and the Amica Ironman 70.3 in Providence. That particular race is less convenient than the one at Bear Mountain. Plus, after meeting with Brian, I thought it conflicted with a crucial training camp he's doing the weekend of July 14th. Because of all this, I'd pretty much decided on the HITS tri.

However, I found out earlier today that the Providence half Iron is the weekend before the training camp! I can and now plan to do both! An added bonus: this is the race that I didn't finish in 2010. Two years later, you better believe I'll get my revenge.

I'm coming for you

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

June 2012 XTERRA Wetsuit Sale

It's been a long time since I got one of these coupon codes (or noticed that I got one). But here it is. Hopefully this will be helpful for anyone in the market for a wetsuit. Courtesy of Athlinks:

Don't click there to buy. Click here instead.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Dealing With Structure...And Digestive Issues

Having a coach and definitive training plan has been an enlightening experience. It's also been a little bit hard to get used to over the past week or so because it's meant adhering to a schedule. When I met with Brian, he said that one of the most important parts of training is consistency. This means getting accustomed to a relatively regular training schedule. For example, understanding that Mondays are swim days. And Wednesdays are long run days.

Last week this was especially difficult because it was probably the busiest week of the year at work. We had the single biggest event in our calendar year (a DR test, for anyone who might be familiar). This made sticking to the schedule tougher than I anticipated. Since I worked all Saturday, I wasn't able to get an open water swim in and ended up running instead.

Yet another adjustment is the fact that each run session now has a specific goal. I'm used to just getting out there for mileage and throwing in a sprint day about once per week. Now, there are tempo runs, intervals, and a long run that's supposed to be done at a specific pace. Since performance now matters in these workouts, I need to start planning pre-run nutrition. Last week, I was hit with major digestive issues during two different runs because I was trying to maintain an 8:30min/mile pace on relatively long runs (11.6 miles and a 10k). If I had been simply running those distances to finish, I'm confident I wouldn't have had any issues whatsoever. But the fact is, I was demanding more from my body than usual. If I'm going to continue to do so (and I fully intend to), I'll need to put a lot more thought into the rest of my habits.

On tap for today
Edit on 6/5/2012: Guys, this is how dedicated I was to that swim. Well, dedicated to the swim and lazy with the math. Anyway, the pool I use is 16 yards long and I did 100 laps. Yesssss.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Coney Island Field Trip

Yet another thing I’ve been meaning to do since early spring is go for an open-water swim. I know that there are tons of beaches in the area, the problem is accessibility. Fortunately, I did go for a swim with Team Lipstick a couple of years ago and so knew of at least one option: Coney Island.

The problem with Coney Island is that it’s far away by subway. Getting there can take anywhere from one to two hours because it’s the very last stop on the D line (or one of the last stops on the N or Q). Another issue is how much stuff to bring and where to keep it. But on Memorial Day, I finally bit the bullet and headed out there for a good swim.

I always mean to get there early but never do. This time, I left the apartment around 10am hoping to get there before noon. Rookie mistake: not bringing a watch or anything at all that would tell me the time. So I have only a vague idea of when everything happened. I think I did arrive at the Coney Island D stop around 11:30. It’s unfortunately far from the swimming spot (next time I’ll take the N or Q to Ocean Parkway, which drops off right in front of it).

I made the decision not to wear or even bring my wetsuit. This had an upside and a downside. The upside is that it was pretty hot on Monday (right around 90F, 32C), so I would have been boiling any time I wasn’t in the water, and that turned out to be more time than I expected. The downside is that the water is still a little chilly. The truth of the matter is that I’m probably a wimp, but as I was walking out into the water, I did regret not having the wetsuit just a little bit.

Once I began swimming, it wasn’t an issue at all. What was an issue was my terrible sighting. Let me draw you a little diagram of what took place:

Drawing not to scale

I was using the white building in the corner to sight but I must have done a really terrible job because I went way past the rock barrier. Not to mention the fact that I only wanted to do the half mile and back. I even thought maybe I’d do it a couple of times. But, no. I swam right past that. Once I got back to the beach I wasn’t even sure how far away I was and began the quest back to my stuff (which only consisted of a towel and book). Once I got my bearings, I returned to the water and swam the last half mile back. Hopefully future trips to Coney Island will have less getting lost and more awesome swimming. And corndogs.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Nice Jersey Ride

New York City has a robust community of cyclists and a number of cycling clubs and groups. One of the most open and accessible ones I’ve seen is New York Cycle Club. Every spring, this group does a free course for beginners called C-Sig. Though it probably would have been invaluable, I didn’t participate in this because tri bikes are not allowed, and I wanted most of my riding to be on my new (not so new anymore) triathlon bike.

However, my good friend Geri and her boyfriend Dan did! And thanks to their efforts and patience, I was able to go for a ride with them this weekend across the George Washington Bridge (of which I have a minor phobia) and into New Jersey for a challenging ride.

We met on the bike path in Riverside Park near 72nd Street and headed up toward the bridge from there. Once we got to the bridge, I was confronted with the dreaded entrance ramp. To my surprise, it wasn't nearly as difficult to navigate as I remember. Once I made it past that, I just had the bridge to cross and that is exhilarating. I highly recommend it if you've never done it.

The exit is straightforward and we took a left, riding further south into New Jersey. I realized that I'd actually done parts of this route before during an MS Bike event back in 2010 and remembered it surprisingly well. The most difficult part was the hills, which was really valuable since the hills in Central Park aren't that bad. If I can find a map of the route, I'll post it.

By the time we arrived back into the city, we'd done a little over 30 miles, which meant I still had 4 loops of Central Park to do before I was done. I said bye to Geri and Dan and headed over to the park, where those four loops were much more difficult than they should have been. Still, though, I was really proud to get such a great ride in. There really is something great about riding with people. I don't think I would have enjoyed it nearly as much if I hadn't been riding with Geri and Dan. Thanks, guys!