Monday, December 9, 2013

A Little Perspective

I often have nights where I stay up way too late for no particularly good reason. In fact, I'm having one right now. You can probably relate. Or maybe, could at some point. It's some sort of restlessness. I feel like I should be doing something (and often do) but am not sure what.

This evening (morning, at this point?), I looked over my weekly blog stats (don't judge) and saw three views on a post from 2011. This one, to be exact. It caught my attention because the title was simple and intriguing. I couldn't remember what I'd been writing about, but I was interested enough to click on the link and find out.

It was a post celebrating my first time breaking 2 hours in the half marathon. More important than the actual time, though, was the fact that I learned something deeper. I ran for a long time with no particular goal or vision for my future and one day, I realized I could have more than that. I could do more than that.

I confronted that truth in this post and decided I could either drift aimlessly along in running, maintaining the same love/hate relationship I'd had with it since I started. Or I could set concrete goals and work hard and smart to achieve them. This particular aspect of my drive is one I've long since begun to take for granted. When I think about running before I came to this conclusion, I have a hard time remembering why I stuck with it. Whatever my motivation was in my first three or so years of running, I'm glad I did.

Reading this reminded me that running is about the macro lessons (self reflection, relationships) as much as or more than the micro lessons (times, PRs, etc). I hope I'm still learning as much as I was two years ago. Two years from now, I hope I can say the same.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Race Report: Beach2Battleship - Part 4

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you spent it eating too much food with people you love. Second, I really need to get better at doing these in a timely fashion. The details fade so quickly. I guess at least I remember the important parts.

I grabbed my T2 bag and ran over to the second changing tent. Again, not really necessary in my case, but I still had minor changing to do. I pulled my bike shorts and tights off, switched my bike shoes with my running shoes, and put on my hat and sunglasses. I remember someone offering some sort of painkiller. I think I had a small headache developing, so I took it. Then, I exited the tent and handed off my T2 bag to a volunteer. Finally, I was off on the run.

They had us do a strange little out and back in the first loop, which I can only assume was the .2 of the marathon. It then came back past the finish line and through a pretty little downtown area that was full of spectators. By the time I was coming through, there was still a fair number of half iron athletes out on the course and I appreciated their enthusiasm, even if it wasn't specifically for me.

Guys, I was totally into this marathon. Normally, this would embarrass me, but I am totally comfortable saying that I crushed it. I can't claim all the credit, though, because the course was highly conducive to being crushed. With very few exceptions, it was flat. Plus, the temperature was nice (mostly, though I did find that it got cold later at night). Mentally, I was able to get in fast and deep. From almost the first mile, I took it step by step and resolved that I would not walk outside of aid stations. I'm proud to say that I didn't.

I had it in my head that I wasn't well-trained for this race. I think this still might be true, but in the sense that I didn't train to my full potential. That, however, is a discussion for a different day. Since I thought I was ill-prepared, my goal was to finish. Once I got to North Carolina and realized I might be better off than I thought, my new goal was to finish the marathon in 5 hours.

So heading out on the run, that was my goal. I was determined not to walk beyond the aid stations because walking breaks are such a slippery slope. I was probably 10 miles in when I realized I could not only break 5 hours on the marathon, but I had a really decent chance of breaking 14 hours for the whole thing. And that was my goal going into this year! There was a chance I'd accomplish one of my goals for the year! Game on.

The race course consisted of two 13 mile loops. I ran the whole thing strong because I felt good for approximately 25.2 of the miles. I was passed by very few people, particularly later in the race simply because I refused to walk. I took things one mile at a time and just ran from aid station to aid station (there was one at each mile). I started out the run wearing my bike jacket, but quickly found it to be too hot, so left it with one of the volunteers at the Mile 3 aid station, intending to return for it on the way back.

The volunteers were amazing, as were the rest of the athletes running. I saw an Everyday Triathlete on the course, which was awesome. Also, I saw my mom halfway through the run which was a big boost. I also made a couple of race friends. Sometime between the beginning of the race and halfway through, I realized there was one guy in particular that I'd keep passing and falling behind. While he was running, he'd pass me. When he'd start walking, I'd pass him. And so it went, for many miles. Sometime around the halfway point, we started talking and introduced ourselves. His name was Todd and we commiserated over both still being on the first lap. Todd stopped to get his special needs bag and I continued on, figuring I'd see him again and we would continue as we had for the first half of the race.

I really enjoyed my second trip past the finish line and the bulk of the spectators. My determination must have been showing through, because almost everyone said "hey, good pace!" as I ran by. That's what I like to think, though in all honesty it was probably just something they were saying to everyone. Still, though, it was hard not to feel happy and strong with all that encouragement. I was a little frustrated by the fact that I saw no mile markers between miles 12 and 15. Obviously, I knew approximately how far I'd gone because the finish line was basically the halfway point, but still.

Things got a little tougher around this point. It was pretty much dark and significantly colder. Adding to the darkness of night was the fact a couple of the street lamps went out, and I could see literally nothing in those short stretches.

Around mile 20, I met a man and we started running together and chatting. His name was Andy, and as luck would have it, he was trying to break 14 hours as well! I was happy to have a companion in my quest. After awhile, we even passed by Todd and invited him to come break 14 hours with us. He started running with us and we ran as a trio for a bit.

At about mile 23, though, Todd had fallen back a bit and Andy started cramping. He told me to go on ahead. I was conflicted, because I was hesitant to leave. I asked if he was sure and told him to catch up when he could, but did continue on. Maybe a mile later, though, I did a quick hip stretch and heard him call out behind me not to stop! Andy was back! Right around the 24 mile mark, we passed a bar and a bunch of drunk people who were very good at cheering. Once I got to the aid station, I grabbed my jacket and ran back to catch up with Andy for the home stretch.

After half a mile to a mile, though, I started hurting. It was some sort of abdominal cramp? I couldn't even really tell where it was, but it came quickly and hit me hard. At first, I was able to ignore it. Soon enough, though, it hurt too much to speak. I let Andy know what was happening with all the words I could manage (not many) but by this point, we were absolutely both dead set on breaking 14 hours. Even better, Todd found us once more. He ran up behind us and said something like "so, we breaking 14 hours, or what?" which I loved, even though I couldn't express it and could barely even acknowledge that he'd made it back.

We approached the finish line and Andy found his daughters, who ran into the finish chute to cross the finish line with him. And I saw my mom! Andy and his daughters crossed the line just a second or two before Todd and I did, but we all finished a solid couple minutes under 14 ours. I accomplished one more 2013 goal before the year was up! We gave hugs all around, and introductions were made. Andy thanked me for helping him break 14, but we helped each other. I don't remember if I did, but I hope I thanked him back.

Todd walked away before I really got a chance for thanks and congratulations, but we hugged before that. Afterward, I grabbed grub and a beer and cheersed Andy before heading back to the hotel.

This post has already run really long, but I want to hammer home the point that I had a really good race,  in spite of myself and all my worrying and anxiety. I didn't just race a good race, I also just enjoyed it. Beforehand, I worried that I'd forgotten how to triathlon since it was my first and only race of the year, but it was not true! I remembered how to do everything and was very comfortable. It was amazing and I was very glad to have shared the whole experience with my mom, and the crucial part of the marathon with Todd and Andy.

I didn't edit this, so I apologize for the length and mistakes.

A picture my mom took

Monday, November 18, 2013

Race Report: Beach2Battleship - Part 3

So there I was, running toward T1, wetsuit in hand. I ran through the entrance, picked up my clothes bag, and headed to the changing tent.

A word about the changing tent. The purpose of it is to house those who may or may not fully expose themselves as part of their transition. It was only offered for full distance triathletes. I, for one, never really need this because I don't fully change. I usually just pull on bike shorts over my tri shorts and go on my merry way. This time, I also had my last-minute tights to deal with. I pulled both on over my bike shorts (yes, that's three bottom layers for the bike) and then ran over to my bike, taking my bag with me. Remember, I set up some of my stuff at the transition. This ended up being very inefficient because I had to run it to my bike, finish changing, and run it back to the tent. Ideally, I would have gotten everything into the bag so I could hand it off before going to get my bike. Alas.

Another unusual issue I had was that I needed to use the bathroom in a pretty serious way. I'm not sure that's ever happened to me between the swim and the bike, but this time it was unavoidable. And there were only two port-a-potties in T1! So that turned out to be a 5-10 minute wait. My neck chafing was also stinging quite a bit and neither the fact that I was still wet nor that it was cold were helping me.
Lovely and fresh, as per my usual…or not.

Finally, I had everything in order and I ran my bike out of T1. Looking at my time later, I saw that this transition was 15 minutes. That is way too long for a transition. Live and learn.

The ride was nice. It was scenic and flat. I had very much looked forward to the flat ride, but it did make me realize that flat isn't necessarily good. Or maybe I understand a little more what people mean when they say a flat ride or run is "technical." I started to find the lack of definition boring and tiring. Hills give some variety in speed and position so I can use different muscles when I get up out of my saddle to climb or take it easy a little on a downhill. Flat rides offer none of that. It's the same muscles working at the same pace for almost the entire time. This began to impact me because my hamstring started to tighten up and I had to stop at a couple of the aid stations to stretch it out. During one of these pit stops, I had to pee also so used the port-a-potty once again.

I have two water bottle cages on my bike and started the ride with one bottle that was full of water. I didn't plan to drink much or any of my own water, but had it just in case. The reason for this is that the aid stations hand out full bottles of water and whatever electrolyte drink is on hand (Heed, in this case). I learned last year that it's easiest for me if I take one of these bottles at nearly every aid station and resolve to finish it before the next one, so I can ditch it and get a new bottle. It's worked pretty well as a system so far.

Often what helps me get through a long race is breaking it up into segments and dividing it into fractions. I break long rides up into 10-mile segments and I like to think of each one as a decade. Just like with marathons, I have some milestones for bike rides. 24 miles is the first one. I like to think of it as the "shit just got real" milestone. This is because some of my shorter training rides in Central Park consisted of 4 loops, which is about 24 miles. The next one is probably 40. "One more decade 'til halfway!" That's not even true because the ride is 112 miles, but I think of it as a century while it's happening because it's easier to swallow. 50 is obviously halfway. 60 is the beginning of serious miles. 75 is three quarters of the way done (again, with the idea that it's a century ride). 90 is one decade until 100. 100 is HOLY CRAP I'M ALMOST DONE. I'VE BEEN ON THIS BIKE FOR SIX AND A HALF HOURS WHAT'S ANOTHER FORTY FIVE MINUTES MY BUTT HURTS. Every mile between 100 and 112 is exhilarating. Painful, but exhilarating.

During the last 6 or so miles, I started a conversation with every person I passed (it wasn't very many people) out of sheer excitement for almost being done with the ride. In the last half mile or so, we rode over a bridge with a grated segment. Believe me when I say that falling on this grate would have ripped me up. I'm not sure I took a full breath as I rode over because…terror.

But finally, I approached the end of the ride. As I did, the race course became more populated with spectators and all of them were cheering. I rode my bike up to the dismount point, at which a volunteer took my bike to rack it and sent me to grab my T2 bag.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Race Report: Beach2Battleship - Part 2

When we last left off, our protagonist (me) was checking in on the beach and getting ready for the 2.4 mile swim. I did, though, forget to mention that on the way to the start, the shuttle driver got lost. Thought it was worth mentioning.

ANYWAY, we were all checked in and milling around the start line in our wetsuits and purple swim caps. Unlike any other half or full iron race, this was a mass start. My three half iron races were wave starts and the NY/NJ Ironman was somewhere in between, with four or five barges unloading onto the start line over time. So this was a first, and I was a little concerned that things would get crazy and elbows would be thrown and I'd be on the receiving end of some punches and kicks.

My worrying was for naught. After the national anthem was sung, the gun finally went off and we were all in the water. It was so cold outside that the 71 degree water temperature seemed downright balmy. Seriously, I do not exaggerate when I say that the entire swim entry was lovely. It was very likely the most pleasant swim start of my triathlon career. That's not to say blows weren't exchanged. I hit/kicked my share of people and got hit/kicked myself. But it was nothing I'd consider out of the ordinary.

About 10 minutes into the swim, I realized that I'd forgotten to lube up my neck. I can only guess that this is because I did it on the barge last minute last year, and thus never incorporated it into my pre-race routine. Alas. It only took another 10 minutes before I started realizing I'd have some serious wetsuit chafing around my neck.

The view of my chafing from the back

The crowd around me thinned quickly. At first, I attributed this to my terrible skills as a swimmer. I should really consider re-evaluating this perception, however. Over four years after my first triathlon, I have improved immensely. I may never be a "good" swimmer, but I'm certainly not a bad one at this point. I bring this all up because the crowd did not thin due to my lack of swim proficiency. It thinned because I was not swimming in a straight line and, unwittingly, had begun veering to the right. Unfortunately, this wouldn't become clear to me until I was more than halfway through.

Before coming to that realization, I found myself swimming mostly alone on the right side of the channel. Mid-stroke, I felt my foot come in contact with something that seemed like a person. As I try to do whenever I kick/punch someone accidentally, I picked my head up out of the water and looked around for my unfortunate victim so I could apologize. I looked behind and all around me and saw no one. I began to panic that I'd kicked someone under the water, so I popped my head under the surface, but I saw nothing. I was pretty freaked out that, somehow, somewhere, there was a drowning or dead person around me that I'd kicked. But I had no evidence to prove that was actually true! Plus, I thought it might be overly alarmist of me to call over someone on a paddleboard. Perhaps yelling something like, "HEY! HEY, YOU. YES, YOU. I THINK I FOUND A BODY OVER HERE."

With no evidence to corroborate my fear, I continued my swim, hoping to everything that I had encountered some algae and not a person in need. I kept swimming, and was finally close enough to the ride side of the channel that someone explicitly told me that the left turn was coming soon and I should make my way over to the other swimmers. After following instructions, I did indeed find a bunch of fellow swimmers. Unfortunately for me, I'd overcorrect my direction multiple times before the swim was over.

Finally, though, it was. I reached the dock where volunteers were standing waiting to help. I pulled myself up onto the platform and began running, unzipping and unstrapping the top part of my wetsuit. One of the volunteers came and helped me by pulling it off my legs. I then ran the remaining 400 meters to T1.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Race Report: Beach2Battleship - Part 1

The iron summaries tend to be long, so I decided to split it into a few. One for beforehand and one each for the swim, bike and run. I'll do my best not to spend a ton of time on the expo, since there will be enough to write about without going into that very much.

What I will mention about the expo is that's where I heard about the water temperature. See, the whole time I was training for this race, I was really worried it would be super, super cold. I was thinking it would be low 60's, and I'm not sure I've ever raced in water that cold. But as I stood waiting to pick up my packet at the expo, I heard someone say the water would be a whopping 71 degrees. 71! A full 10 degrees warmer than what I thought I'd have to deal with. So that made me feel better.

That was a fantastic thing to learn. The only problem was that I failed to really anticipate how cold the temperature would be for the rest of the race. It wasn't until we were there, in North Carolina on the night before the race that I began to grasp the idea that the temperature would be in the 30's and 40's with a chance it would reach the 50's during the middle of the day. That sounds great...for running. For biking, not so much.

Sure enough, I woke up to a temperature of 36 degrees. There was frost on the ground as we walked out to the rental van to drive to T1. At this point, I was much less nervous about the swim and more so about the bike. I did have a jacket, but was only wearing shorts. Thankfully, my mom suggested we go to the 24 hour grocery store to see if they offered anything in the way of tights or leggings that I might be able to wear. Despite my skepticism, they certainly did. I had the choice between capri and full length. After some thought, I settled on the full length tights with the logic that I could roll the longer ones up if necessary, but could not lengthen the shorter ones if it got too cold.

My mom dropped me off at T1 and I began setting up my station. I pretty quickly changed into my wetsuit because it was a great way to combat the cold. I put most (but not all...rookie mistake) of my clothes into my T1 bag and checked that in the designated area. I opted out of having special needs bags for either the bike or run and had already checked my T2 bag the day before. By the time I was all set up, the race organizers were calling for full distance athletes to board the shuttles to the beginning of the swim. They tried to coax us by promising that the shuttles were being warmed up.

And you know what? The idea of a warm shuttle bus was appealing. Unfortunately, upon boarding my shuttle I was dismayed to find that it had neither windows nor a discernible heat system. Well played, race organizers. Well played.

The other triathletes were a lot more intelligent than I about this part of the whole process. We arrived at the beach (the beach parking lot, to be specific) approximately an hour before the race was even supposed to start. I had on my wetsuit and no shoes. No shoes! Most other people had brought throwaway clothes to wear prior to the start. Not me. I therefore did my best to huddle around the one functional heat lamp that had been set up. People were pretty nice about it, and as they cleared out, I was able to move in a little closer. It was a unique and positive, if also cold, experience. I made sure to use a port-a-potty soon after my arrival.

Finally, 7:20 rolled around and it was time to "check in" aka step onto the beach and make our way to the start.

Stay tuned, as I describe the swim and how my movements in it very likely resembled a slow motion pinball.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Lot More Can Happen in a Year

Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of running my fourth New York City Marathon with my good friend Sharon. In the days prior, I thought a lot about all that's happened in the last year and the significance of this race. This Halloween, I was lucky enough to be running and enjoying the company of a bunch of awesome people. Halloween 2012 happened differently.

Halloween was on a Wednesday last year, a mere two days after Hurricane Sandy made landfall and downtown Manhattan was plunged into darkness. On that evening, after working until 9 or 10 at night, I decided to run home, as I so often do. I knew it would be a different experience, and that I'd see my city in a different light (literally and figuratively, I suppose) than I ever had before. I knew it might not even be a good idea. But I couldn't help myself. Between the couple of days I'd spend visiting family in Texas and the onslaught of Sandy, I hadn't run in four days. Four. It might as well have been forever. Plus, I had to see everything for myself. I felt like I had to be there and really understand.

Certainly, I couldn't truly understand because devastation in Manhattan itself was minimal compared to areas like the Rockaways and Staten Island, but it was a perspective I still needed to have. So I left work and headed toward the West Side Highway. There was not much unusual about that part of the run. Midtown was bustling and its power seemed to be mostly intact. It wasn't until I reached the west side, headed south, and approached 30th Street that things were very obviously different.

From one block to the next, the streets went from well-lit to pitch black. I tried to run slowly so as not to trip over anything. I was wearing a headlamp, but it was little better than a toy so I turned it off after awhile. Running through Chelsea, I observed large trucks there, pumping away the last of the water. The typically lit and enormous Chelsea Piers was completely dark, and the generators that had been placed there made the area smell like gasoline. Once I reached 14th Street, I turned east and began traversing the avenues. Everything was dark. People were out, but not many and I could tell those who were were being as cautious about it as I was. Warily observing, in case the dark wasn't the streets' only danger.

People seemed curious, attentive and solemn, but not angry. I sensed a mindset of "let's get through this together" more than one of unrest. And that made me feel safer. Intersections were manned by police and lit with dozens of flares. I reached Union Square and saw that a few enterprising street vendors had somehow managed to acquire and begin selling an impressive array of hurricane-related inventory including flashlights, lanterns and batteries.

I reached 1st Avenue and turned south, I started noticing a heartening phenomenon. Although a large majority of businesses were closed, some were open. Pizzerias and bars all down the avenue were open and operating by candle light. And patrons seemed happy to be there. I was happy to be there, running through my city as if everything was normal, yet understanding that it was profoundly different. I think we were all very much aware that things were not okay, but brightly optimistic that they would be eventually.

I started this entry believing I would be contrasting my Halloween experiences between last year and this year. In the end, though, I realize that they were less different than I thought. I was still running. And enjoying the company of a bunch of awesome people.

Edit: Meanwhile, the Philippines is currently dealing with the aftermath of one of the most powerful typhoons in recorded history. You can donate here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Lot Can Happen in a Month

For real. I'm notoriously bad at going back and writing things if they're more than a week or two old so I'm going to compress a few things here.

The first weekend of October brought my worst half marathon in two years. It was bad. Mentally, I was out of the race the entire time. Granted, my comedy group had a show the night before so maybe it's not that surprising. I remember waking up that morning and feeling like I simply did not have 13.1 8-minute miles in me. I sure didn't. I still had my cold, I had digestive issues. I was a mess. Maybe they're all crappy excuses but one thing is for sure, it was not a good day in my race career. Particularly when it comes to the half marathon, which is my favorite distance and at which I've been able to consistently perform. Normally if I start a bad race, I can salvage it by the end. This was highly abnormal in that the entire race was a train wreck. Let's move on.

Blech
The following weekend was the Staten Island half marathon, which was much, much better. I usually do pretty well at that race. It was all going swimmingly until the new running shoes I bought (I know, right?!) gave me a massive toe blister. PLEASE BE ADVISED: I'VE UPLOADED A GRAPHIC PICTURE HERE TO IMGUR IN CASE YOU ARE INTERESTED IN SEEING MY TOE BLISTER. That's the most graphic picture I've posted since the Blood Blister Incident of 2011 and I want you to be aware of what you're getting yourself into by clicking.

This was mostly no problem until about mile 8, when it started to be a really big problem. In the end, I finished in 1:51 and change. Considering the extenuating toe circumstances and that it was nearly 10 minutes better than my abysmal showing at Grete's (mentioned above), I was satisfied with that. I will, however, be running my next half marathon with a vengeance.

Another two awesome things happened at this race. The first was that Amortya came to cheer us on. The second is that it was my friend Jessica's very first half marathon! She rocked it, in case you were wondering.

I guess we can make this picture an annual tradition
Oh, let me back up to the day before this half marathon. On that Saturday, I went for my long bike ride and it did not go well. I got a replacement cycle computer (which I should have done last year, but go figure) and knew that I wasn't riding nearly as fast as I needed to. I was agonizing and agonizing and finally decided that maybe it would be best for me to do the half iron distance race. Once I'd made up my mind, I felt much more at ease than I had in the previous 4 or 5 weeks.

I wasn't happy about it really, but I'd made my peace with the fact that it was probably necessary. Then, my whole plan was turned on its head when I read on the website that my deadline for switching to the half was September 1 or until the half sold out. Both deadlines had long passed. I didn't know how to feel. I'd gotten so used to the pleasant ease that came with having decided to do the half that I didn't even have it in me to return to my panicked state. Instead, I dug up my athlete's guide and looked at all the cutoff times, trying to determine exactly what I could get away with.

As it turns out, quite a bit. After doing some specific calculations, I realized I probably could do it, no problem. I only had to maintain slightly less than 12.5 mph for the duration in order to make the cutoff. Even on my slowest rides, I managed that pace. So I decided I was going to stick it out and do whatever it took to finish. Not that I really had a choice, but I was comfortable with the thought that I could do it, even if it took me 17 hours.

So I went into my final weekend of training determined to do what I could. On Saturday, I went out for my ride. I got off to a late start and thought I'd probably be able to ride 60 miles before it was too dark. But you know, I kicked ass on that ride and I stuck it out for 100 miles because I was killing it in exactly the way I needed to for the race. In the end, I finished right around 7 hours. Perfect.

The next day, I followed up an 11 mile run with a swim at the Asphalt Green pool. I swam the full 2.4 miles in 1:40 minutes and knew finishing was completely within my grasp.

And you know what? I did it. On Saturday (10/26), I finished my second iron distance race in 13:58:01. It will definitely get its own race report but that will come on another day. For now, have a picture of my medal taken just after I finished.




Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Race Report: Bronx 10 Mile

This weekend was a little less productive than I'd hoped it would be because I've been fighting some sort of cold. Fortunately, I was able to do the Bronx 10 Mile that I signed up for a few months ago.

I'm trying to turn over a new leaf when it comes to race preparation. Actually, less turning over a new leaf and more getting tired of feeling like a dumbass. I therefore planned to arrive near the start at 7:00am. It was slightly chilly, but I only wore a long-sleeved t-shirt so that I had the option of not checking a bag (Please see this post for why it's a valuable option). As it turns out, Amortya was checking a bag anyway, so I just threw my shirt and phone into his because the line wasn't five miles long.

We met up with Allison, Jessica, and a few of their friends. Allison was nice enough to pick up my bib for me a few days prior to the race. I've found this to be a highly preferable strategy to morning-of pickup because shirt options are very limited once race day rolls around (Ma'am? Would you like an XL or XXL?). After we met up and I picked up my bib, we all began walking toward the corrals. I had a green bib, which was the fourth corral from the front and Amortya had a yellow bib, which was third. We split up, joined our respective corrals and waited for the race to start.

I really hoped to run under 8 minutes per mile for this race. If I have any hope of qualifying for Boston, I need to start pushing the pace much more aggressively than I have been. I did a decent job of this when the race started and I know this because I've started using my GPS watch again. I monitored the my pace closely for the entire race and for the first 6 or so miles, I was reliably under 8 minutes. The next few, however, were a different story.

Let me just begin this paragraph by saying that someone stated at the beginning of the race that the course was "mostly flat." I feel like I need to clear something up, and that is that nothing about this course was flat. It wasn't mountainous, but it certainly wasn't flat. There were rolling hills the entire way. I was fine with this up until about mile 6, when I began to have a much harder time recovering after every uphill. I knew I was in trouble when I spent a good half mile at an 8:33min/mile pace and it was at that moment that I began to come to terms with the idea that I might not achieve my goal.

I didn't. I finished the race at about 1:20:52 according to my watch and 1:20:40 according to NYRR. That's an 8:04 minute/mile pace. Not quite what I wanted, but close. I can deal with it for now but I will be working to bring that down during the post-season winter months.

Amortya finished in 1:11:12. I just looked at his results. Check this out:

As if it wasn't awesome enough that he finished in 1:11:12, take a look at his 5-mile split. It's 29:14. That's under a 6 minute/mile pace. I am in the presence of greatness.

Everyone else we met at the race did great as well, including Jessica, who finished her first 10 mile race! So, kudos to all on a fine run.

Take note, folks. This is the closest my bib will ever be to Morty's!

Black squirrel seen in the park near the race start

Friday, September 27, 2013

Birthday Weekend - Part 2 (Fifth Avenue Mile Race Report, News from Newport)

When we last left off, I'd thoroughly enjoyed some non-triathlon birthday festivities. I got home late-ish and was tired from the century ride, two hours of singing and two drinks. And lots of food. And cronuts. I fell asleep answering a text but fortunately woke up and was able to set my alarm for the 5th Avenue Mile on Sunday morning.

My heat started at 8:55, which is decently late for a race. I calculated that I needed to leave my apartment by 7:55 to get to the race with a little time to warmup and not be rushed. I'm sure it all seems very well planned out, the only problem is that I wasn't able to wake up until 7:47, 8 minutes prior to my predetermined departure time.

I'm sure it surprises no one to discover that changing into running clothes and walking Phoebe required more than 8 minutes. I, unfortunately, didn't leave home until 8:20. I sensed I would probably not arrive in time for my heat, but also remembered that there's some flexibility with which heats runners can join.

I arrived at 77th and Lexington at about 8:50 which is pretty shocking. I didn't expect for there to be any chance at all that I'd make it in time. If I'd been so motivated, I definitely could have jumped in just as the gun was going off and run with my proper heat. I was not inclined to do that and decided instead to run at 9:25 with the 30-39 women. In the meantime, I found Michelle and we cheered on the next heat.

At around 9:10, I walked over to the start and lined up. Even though I've run this race a number of times and had made peace with the fact that I (as usual) hadn't really trained for it, I started to get nervous. Although I had some awareness that I've improved (even if marginally) as a runner since last year, my only goal was to break 7 minutes. I therefore planned to run each quarter mile in 1:45.

After some introductory words, the gun finally went off. It took about 20 seconds to reach the start and at that point, I started weaving around slower runners. Finally, I settled into the far right side of 5th Avenue, where I knew Michelle was cheering. Once I passed her, I put on my dead face (no emotion, just staring straight ahead) and focused on the race and how I was feeling.

I finished the first quarter around 1:35. My arms had begun to hurt, but they usually do. It's probably a form thing I should work on. I finished the second, uphill quarter a couple seconds before 3:20, still putting me ahead of pace. Once I was there, I knew I could finish strong because I still felt really good.

Finished the third quarter a little after 5 minutes and tried to push the rest of the way. When I crossed the finish line, my watch read 6:50. By the time I finally fumbled around enough to properly press the Stop button on my watch, it had gotten to 6:52. It was a decent time, but I felt I could have done better.

Me and Michelle in our respective heats. Love that flying look. 
Upon looking at the results, I saw that I'd run a 6:47 and Michelle had run an 8:42, which is fantastic for her first time!

After the race, I texted Amortya to see how he'd fared at the Newport Half Marathon. Get this, he ran a 1:33. For those of you keeping track at home, that works out to a 7:09min/mile pace. This guy is a talented runner and I'm really looking forward to seeing how well he does in the rest of this season. I'm convinced that if he ever starts running outside of the NY/NJ area, he's going to start taking age group awards every time.

In other great news, my friend Allison also ran the Newport Half. It was her first half marathon and she did it in 2:12 and change! Amazing job, Allison!

Nice job, guys!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Birthday Weekend - Part 1 (Century Ride)


This weekend was my birthday weekend and now I am older. On paper, anyway. In reality everything is much the same. But the birthday festivities were great! It all started on Friday afternoon, when I went to birthday lunch with Amortya and ate way too much Indian food. Totally worth it. I'll go ahead and say it was intentional. Good fuel for my bike ride and all. Yes...that's what it was.
 
We also went for a run after work to NYRR so I could pick up bibs and shirts for myself and my friend Michelle, who was running her first 5th Avenue Mile (my fifth!). I would like to note that Amortya is now impossibly fast. More on that later.
 
Saturday morning, I woke up early in order to get to the Escape from New York ride hosted by the New York Cycling Club. Check in was supposed to be around 7am for century riders. Unsurprisingly, I got off to a slightly late start but managed to be up in Spanish Harlem around 7:20am. I thought it would be a simple task to head west and arrive in Sakura Park for the start. I was wrong. But at least I met someone with whom to share the saga. It was a guy named Armin (99% sure that's not how you spell it) and we rode and talked and got lost on our way to the start of the ride, which was not right on the water, but slightly east of Riverside Park. Live and learn.

We finally arrived and I got my cue sheet for the century. After I had coffee and a mini scone, I got my bike from "bike parking" and headed out. 

I can proudly say that after crossing the George Washington Bridge 5 or 6 times, I think I'm finally ready to go it alone and do my long rides on that side of the river. Good damn thing, because 15 laps of Central Park is a real bore. Anyway, I crossed the bridge with no problems and found a pack that I was able to stay with. The only problem was that they were doing the metric century (100k, 65 miles) and I intended to do the full century. This would not have been a problem if I was better able to follow directions, but alas. 

Each path was marked with colored arrows that were stuck to the asphalt in the street, so that riders would know where to turn. Unfortunately, I missed the very first turn off for the full century. Once I came to this realization, I had a decision to make: either turn around and try to navigate my way back to the century turn, or keep going with the pack I'd already settled into. 

I opted for the latter, figuring I could always swing into Central Park after the ride and finish up if I needed more mileage. Plus, by the time we got to the first rest stop I realized I'd only missed out on about 5 miles of the century. I therefore decided to begin following the century cues at that point.

The only problem was that I took them... in the wrong direction. Yes, I took them almost aaaalll the way back to the George Washington Bridge. Because I'm smart like that. Once I came to that realization, I turned around and sped back to the rest stop, figuring my best option at that point was to stick with the metric century riders for good. 

So, I did. The rest of the ride was very pretty and scenic. Plus, with the extra distance I'd accidentally done I finished up with about 80 miles instead of 65. That was nice, because I didn't have to make up for it with an insane number of laps around the park. 

Unfortunately, it took FOREVER and I didn't make it home until about 4:30. So...yeah. Next weekend I'm hoping to do a more continuous century (no rest stops, no finish celebration). I don't expect it to be very fast, but definitely faster than 8.5 hours. 

After the ride, I met up with friends for dinner in Tompkins Square Park. I got some birthday beer and may have been a little overzealous about it, since we only managed to finish three of the ones I brought between the seven of us. After dinner, we did karaoke because karaoke is one of my favorite things to do, ever. Also, my friend Jeremy got me cronuts! This involves waiting in line for many hours, so he's basically the world's best guy. And btw, they live up to the hype. It was everything I dreamed of, and more. 

5th Avenue Mile summary and more coming tomorrow!
This actually did happen

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Marathon Tuneup - Race (and Weekend) Report

Yesterday marked the fifth time that I've run the Marathon Tuneup. It's funny, because even though I've run it that many times, I still didn't manage to remember that it starts near the 102nd Street Transverse and not Columbus Circle. I guess, though, if you've read this or this, or even this, you may have noticed my tendency to perpetrate heinous acts of what-the-fuckery.

So, of course, I left my apartment late. I thought I might just have enough time to get to the subway and make it up where I needed to be. Like, JUST enough time. Running to the subway, however, I realized that I didn't have my wallet, so how the hell was I going to get on the subway?! I had to run back home and, once I emerged again, realized there was no way I'd make it in time. I wouldn't have been quite so concerned with getting there right on time, but I was meeting Amortya, who was nice enough to pick up my bib for me. Thus, I hailed a cab.

Cabs are expensive. The only redeeming part is that I was able to take a nap on the way to the race (also a dangerous thing to do. I'm probably excessively wary of cabbies taking overly circuitous routes).  I finally arrived at the Engineer's Gate at 90th and 5th because the 102nd Street entrance was closed (at least I read enough on the race site to know that!).

I had taken not five steps into the park before realizing I'd made a grave mistake. I brought a backpack with me to the race. You can't do that anymore and I knew that! All NYRR races now mandate that checked bags can only be standard issue plastic and that all belongings need to fit inside. I had a backpack full of clothing I planned to wear immediately after the race. For a wedding. A WEDDING.

Immediate panic. I only had 15 minutes before the official start of the race, which was also nearly a mile from where I was. I ran to Road Runners headquarters on 89th and grabbed a bag. Before I left, I made sure I could stuff my entire backpack in there (I could). I then ran like the wind out of the building, into the park, and toward the start to check my bag and meet Amortya.

I think I got there with approximately five minutes to spare. I'd been texting back and forth with Amortya to meet up, and he mentioned the line to check bags was long. Ugh. So I proceeded to run toward back check to see just how long this line was.

It was LONG. Like, if I'd known how long it was, I wouldn't have bothered going to the bag check area at all because it extended so far away. I have never seen a baggage line this long in my entire running career. We could see the looks of horror on other runners as they queued up behind us. After meeting Morty and getting my bib, I told him he didn't have to wait for me because the race start was imminent. But he is a champ, and he waited it out. I heard some guy say runners aren't allowed to have bags inside bags (although I've done this before) so I panicked and took all my wedding stuff (dress, heels, you get the picture) out of the backpack and put it into the plastic bag, trying to obscure the fact that there was an entire backpack in there, too. It must have worked because no one said anything and I felt very stealthy.

We ended up crossing the start at around 7:10. Amortya asked what pace I wanted to keep, and I responded with 9 minutes per mile. I thought even that was ambitious because lately I just have not been feeling speed. I'll have to explore that later. Anyway, we stayed together for the first lap until Morty finally blew by. As usual, I was surprised it went as quickly as it did. Also, I have something cool to show you. Check it out:

The fruits of my erratic labor
Amortya ran it in 2:26:15! That's an 8:08 average, folks. And the only reason it wasn't 2:20 or lower is that he spent 6 miles running at my turtley pace. 

Well, I said it would be a weekend report, too, but this is already too long. Suffice it to say I had a semi-successful long ride on Long Island on Saturday. This coming Saturday, I plan to celebrate my birthday by riding in the New York Cycling Club's Escape from New York ride. I'm just trying to get the miles in!


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

(Not) Finding Balance

Despite my best efforts at doing all the things I want to do, lately it seems like it's one thing or another that's falling by the wayside. Most recently, my triathlon training. I think we can all agree that, these days, neglecting any of swim, bike or run will result in a full-scale disaster.

So I tried to think about why it is that I've had such a hard time balancing everything. I came up with the following diagram:

I know, small font. Click on it for a better view.
I've made better flowcharts, but I'm proud of this one because it's a wonder I was able to follow it all the way through my train of thought.

You know what else I'm proud of? A dance my friends and I did last weekend at our friend's wedding. The whole weekend, actually. We traveled to Virginia Beach from Thursday to Sunday for wedding festivities and I managed to get both my long run and a swim done in one day! It wasn't as much as it would have been if I'd been home, but doing long runs early or on an irregular schedule is a feat for me.

Hopefully soon I'll have a little more time to get into detail on my lack of balance. What I know is that I'm now at the have-to-kick-ass stage of my training. 7 weeks. Now or never.

Here's the video!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

70 Minutes of Luck

Yesterday was one of those days. I got sucked into the hustle and bustle of Tuesday (perhaps the hustliest, bustliest day of the week). Went in to work, had a doctor's appointment, had to run over to New Jersey for some meetings and found myself uncertain of my workout schedule at the end of the day. It's become increasingly clear to me that I need to step up my game in the swimming and biking departments, if I want to finish this triathlon in October. Originally, I'd planned to hike all the way to Riverbank State Park to take advantage of their Olympic-sized pool. But, as some of you may know, it is a hike. It's all the way up around 145th Street and, while it is a beautiful facility, is quite a waste of time in terms of commute. I'm all about doing things efficiently, and swimming there would have been excessively inefficient.
But I'm getting desperate. Inefficient or not, I'm at the point where I need to bite the bullet. I have to swim where and when I can, so I seriously considered it before deciding to check out the city recreation center in Chelsea, which apparently also has a very nice pool. The website mentioned that swimmers have to register by 4pm, though, and by the time I was checking this out it was 5:30. I called the number and no answer. By this point, I was feeling flustered. This was a prime example of what's been happening all season with training. I keep telling myself I can fit it in, that it'll work out somehow. Only, it hasn't worked out enough so far and now it's crunch time, so I need to be more inistent.
Somehow, though, things worked out yesterday. After I got no answer at the Chelsea pool, I decided to take my chances at my gym. Now, don't get me wrong, I appreciate that the majority of my gym's locations have pools, but they have a couple of issues. The first is that they are tiny. TINY. 20 feet, maybe? And two (unshareable) lanes wide. I can deal with that, though. The major problem is that there's a 20 minute time limit if people are waiting for the pool. I get why this is a rule, but it doesn't make it any less frustrating.
Have a picture of Phoebe sleeping with her tongue out
I walked into the pool area and was delighted to find not a soul in there aside from the life guard. I thought there was a decent chance I'd get my full 20 minutes and then some, since there seemed to be little demand for the pool. 16 minutes passed, and still no one had come. "Awesome," I thought, as I continued, thinking I could probably squeeze a good half hour in. Then I was at 27. Then 43. Then 52. Then an hour. No one came! I still had the pool all to myself! I wondered if I could make it all the way to an hour and a half, which I thought would constitute a good, solid workout. 1:07. 1:13. Finally, at around an hour and twenty minutes into my swim, another guy arrived and hopped into the pool. He was faster than I am (no surprise there), so I spent the last ten minutes of my workout pushing a little harder.
I did it. Inexplicably, I spent a solitary hour and twenty minutes in that pool and then an extra ten minutes with a pool buddy. Who knows how long I could have gone if I'd wanted. I know I can't expect that every time I go to the gym, so I'm inspired to find a new way. This was encouraging, and my next course of action will be to start attending some coached swim workouts, hopefully starting next week. I can do this. With a happy combination of strategy, efficiency, hard work and dumb luck, I can definitely do this.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Race Report: My First Team Championship

I have not been great about posting recently and, as a result, haven't put out too many race reports, despite having done a fair number of interesting ones recently. I was inspired by Saturday's race, though, because it was the best race I've had in a really long time. Plus, I'm running for a team I really like for the first time.

The team I'm talking about is the Hudson Dusters. I've been running with them for a couple months now. I've done a few races with them now, starting with the all-women 10k back in May (or was it June? I don't remember), the Queens 10k, and now the Team Championships. I've volunteered at this race before, but I've never run it because it's for teams only. As a result, it's very small and very fast. Also, they split the race up into a men's race and a women's race.

I don't know why this one went as well as it did. I'm pretty much the worst when it comes to making smart pre-race decisions about sleep, food, planning, etc and this race was really no exception. I guess I got good sleep? That's something. But I also ate a cupcake for breakfast.

It was nice that the women's race started at 9:30 (the men started at 8:30) because it was a little bit later than usual so I was able to sleep for a good 7 or 8 hours. I made it a point to get there on time because, as usual, I waited until race morning to pick up my bib. No big deal, I got there with plenty of time and was even able to find the Dusters' area and cheer for the men.

Around 8:20, I walked over to the start at the 102nd Street Transverse with most of the other women on the team. I had a middle-of-the-pack bib number and color, which was also the same as 5 or 6 other Dusters. I knew there were also a few in the corrals ahead of us. The corrals were the least-crowded I've ever seen, which will be a definite plus in deciding to do this race in future years.

The race started and I went out fast, as I've started doing these days. It's kind of nice, to be comfortable enough to do that now. Starting fast used to freak me out, and I'd be afraid of burning out early in the race. At this point, though, I know enough to be able to start fast and feel out the pace I can maintain without worrying that I'll wear myself out too early.

I finally settled into something I thought was doable. As I passed the first mile marker, I calculated my mile time (remember, I'm not a huge fan of knowing my pace in real-time) and was shocked to see that it had to be 7:20-7:25. Not shocked enough to be concerned, but shocked that I was running that fast and still feeling good.

So I kept it up, but had it at the back of my mind that a Duster or two might blow by me mid-race, especially if I started to slow down. Maybe that was a motivator, because if I slowed down it wasn't very much. I was passing people pretty well through the end of the race and finished the last half mile or so strong. It was awesome passing by the guys on the team who were cheering. That was definitely a motivator in the early miles.

I crossed the finish line and had probably walked 10 feet before I thought to stop my watch. Once I did, my watch read 38:02. I knew there was a good possibility that I'd broken 38 minutes and I was very excited about that, since my goal had really only been to run sub-8 minute miles. When I checked the official results later, I saw that I'd run a 37:52, which works out to 7:35 minutes per mile! My fastest race pace by 20 seconds!

So, that's that. My first Team Championship was fantastic. I came in second place for the women on the team. The person who got first place is someone I've raced with before and is very fast. The people after me also had really good times and some of them are much older than I am!

In other news, the New York Now short play festival has been wonderful. We had shows last Wednesday through Sunday and are currently at the end of a two-day break. Tomorrow we pick back up for the last two performances on Wednesday and Thursday.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

B2B Training Ramping Up + Comedy!

Hi, all. Good to be back and I wish I had more time these days to reflect on running and triathlon. Someday soon, I will.

But let me reflect briefly to catch up. I last posted at the beginning of the month and since then have run one (right? Amortya, correct me if I'm wrong) race, which was the Queens 10k. It was a good race despite being a little bit hot. Oh, and one part at the beginning smelled like urine, but let's chalk that up to New York City charm. I ran it in 49:56, which was fine but not a PR.

I also recently signed up for my usual slew of fall races plus a new addition, which I'll be running for the first time next Saturday. This is the NYRR Team Championships, which is 5 miles around Central Park. I'll be running it for hash-associated running team known as the Hudson Dusters. For the first time, I'll even be rocking a team singlet!
Queens 10k. I look super grouchy. But also like I'm flying.
I've also been stepping up my tri training because, well, it's about that time. I've had a couple of long bike rides (50-70 miles) and an open water swim, along with the usual amount of running. Amortya and I started up our weekly long runs again after sticking to 6-8 miles for the past month or so. I'm still working out how to get in more time on the bike. I haven't come up with a solution, and I really need one because I'd like to be faster on the bike this year and I won't get that from long rides alone. Also, swimming. Another thing I could really stand to improve. Aside from the short mid-week swims, however, more dedicated swim time is going to have to wait another week or two.

On the comedy front, I've been doing my best to get out there and my efforts have yielded some results. Now, whether or not those results will mean anything for the future remains to be seen. First, I did that open mic I wrote about a couple weeks ago. It went well. You know what else? Most of my set was Ironman/running inspired. In fact, what I learned is that I should probably diversify my material a little bit. But just a little bit because I'm attached to my running and triathlon bits.

I also got what seems like a rare opportunity to write a play for a theater here in the city. It's a short play, but I still wrote it and it's still going up onstage. Even crazier, I'm directing and performing in it. To be honest, I didn't know I'd have to do those things when I signed on, and I'm nervous about them. However, I also can't help but believe that it's an amazing opportunity. Now I just have to hope that it goes over well. Also starting tomorrow is an improv class, something I haven't done in about a year and a half. And my final comedy activity: an internship at the PIT (People's Improv Theater).

As much as I hate being the person who's always saying "God, things have just been soooo crazy for me these past few weeks," it actually has been true recently. I get up, go to work, run home (sometimes literally), walk Phoebe, go to whatever comedy related thing is happening that night, run to the gym (always literally), run at the gym and/or do whatever workout is appropriate for that day, run home (sometimes literally), go to sleep. Run commutes have never been as valuable to my schedule as they are right now. It would be great if I could finally be good at working out in the morning, but that hasn't happened yet.

TL;DR - It's been busy but I'm managing just fine. Nothing the occasional Redbull won't help. Also, if you're interested in seeing my play in a larger short play festival, here's the info.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Yikes!

Holy crap. I can't believe it's been an entire month since I last posted. I'll admit, I am ashamed. I've been hard at work with not only running and triathlon, but also with comedy. Let me catch you up on some stuff:

Boston Training
Guys, I came to the disappointing conclusion that there's almost no way I'll be ready to run a Boston Qualifier by the fall. Perhaps this should have been obvious to me when I set out to accomplish it. If you've spent much time at all reading this blog, you well know that being prudent and realistic are two things at which I'm terrible. The effort and time involved for a Boston Qualifier are more than I currently have to give, considering the other things I'll mention shortly. In no way have I given up on qualifying, I'm just adjusting my schedule. It looks like a BQ will have to wait for 2014. In the meantime, I'll continue with my speedwork and healthy lifestyle efforts. It should be noted that I'm still very committed to those aspects of the plan. No beer 'til November!

Ironman Training
Underway. I have the running bit under control. Now I need to zero in on the bike and swim. Last weekend, I did my first long ride of this training cycle. I rode to the park, did 10 laps and rode home. I consider the trips home as warm up and cool down and the middle 60 miles took me 4 hours to complete. Slow and steady, but I can deal with that and improve on it through the coming months. A hurdle I need to overcome has mostly to do with scheduling. Last year, I rode with Brian and the WorkLiveTri crew on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. At the time, though, I lived a mere 5 blocks from the meeting point. Plus, I had a roommate who could help me take care of Phoebe. Now, I live significantly further away and have sole custody of the pup. I wish I could say that I'll be really amazing about getting to sleep early and waking up early (around 4:30am), but I'm not convinced. I'm therefore doing my weekday rides after work, instead.

Comedy
The biggest surprise of all. Over the last month, I've been committing a lot more to comedy in a number of ways. My sketch group, The Chupacabra Conspiracy, had a show in early June and I spent a period of time last month writing sketches like crazy. Although it looks like we might not be able to put on another live show in the next couple of months, I'm exploring other avenues for getting my stuff out there. I won't go into too much detail about that, though. The one thing I will say and that I'm extremely nervous and a little excited about, is an impending foray into standup comedy. I'm in the middle of writing a set, I've scoped out an open mic with a friend who does standup, and I'll probably hit one up myself in the next week or so.

I'm not going to lie, comedy and endurance sports are two interests that don't mix well. One necessitates late night commitment and the other early morning commitment. And that's just events! Nevermind actually writing and creating stuff, which I'll have to squeeze in around the rest and my job (can't forget about my job). No complaints here, just statements. You know I'm always up for a challenge.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

From the Bottom of the Pit

Right to the top.

Now that May is coming to a close and my spate of impulse races is over, it's time for me to start training with purpose again. I have two major events coming up this fall that require immediate attention. The first is my BQ attempt, which I've all but decided will be the Santa Rosa marathon in California at the end of August.

The second is Beach2Battleship, the iron-distance race I signed up for in December. The race takes place in North Carolina at the end of October. One of my goals for this year was to complete Beach2Battleship in under 14 hours.

Don't hold back.

I'm not at all convinced that I can qualify for Boston, and I know that if I have any hope of doing so, it's going to require an unprecedented amount of discipline, planning, and work. Probably some lifestyle adjustments as well, regarding diet and sleep.

Qualifying for Boston  and completeing a 14 hour Ironman are going to be extremely challenging. For the marathon alone, I'll need to maintain my current PR half marathon pace for an additional 13.1 miles. This seems like a daunting prospect and one that I can't allow to intimidate me. Here are some things I'm thinking about in my approach:

Boston Qualifier:
  1. Lots of speedwork including intervals, mile and half mile repeats
  2. Working with a group or coach. Nothing makes me faster than running with faster people.
  3. Eating better.
  4. Drinking less beer
  5. Sleeping more
14-Hour Ironman:

  1. Potential involvement with a masters swim team
  2. Losing my fear of the bike
  3. More morning workouts
  4. The last three of my Boston Qualifier initiatives

I think these will be my largest undertakings since last year's Ironman. I always look forward to a good challenge, but I'd be lying if I said I was confident in my ability to achieve both of these goals. Like every other part of my running/triathlon career, it will be quite a journey.

It's time to begin, isn't it?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Race Report - Bob Potts Marathon

On Sunday, I ran the Bob Potts Marathon. It was an interesting course and the most low-key marathon I've ever run. I signed up for it on the suggestion of my friend Eric, who was one of my ReGen teammates a couple of years ago. It's a fast, flat trail course that runs along railroad tracks in York, PA.

I woke up to get to the 6am race at 5:05 and immediately began to panic. For once in my life, though, I had planned just fine. I was very close to the race start and got there around 5:30 to pick up my bib and race materials (the fact that there was morning-of bib pickup was a major benefit to doing such a small race). That process took all of 5 minutes and it was cold, so I waited around inside for a bit before deciding to make a porta potty stop before the start.

The race was not chip timed. I think this is the second race I've done sans timing chip and definitely the only marathon. This means that any time it took for me to reach the start line was included in my time. Not really a big deal, since it was probably a maximum of 10 seconds.

We reached the trail within about a mile and a half of the start and from there to about mile 25, the run was along one stretch of trail. You might think this would have gotten boring, but you'd be wrong. It veered and wound around some beautiful countryside scenery and was mostly very shaded. I only had to wear my sunglasses occasionally but was able to leave them perched on my head for most of the race.

I used my usual race milestones to get me through. Miles 7, 10, 13, 16, 20, 23 and, of course, the end were key. I started out really strong, and I think I calculated that I was on pace to run a 3:55 at the half. I wasn't able to keep it up, though. Staying strong in the second half of a marathon is something I really need to improve upon. The course was an out-and-back, and the turnaround happened a little bit after the halfway point, somewhere between miles 13 and 14.

The water stops were lively and energetic. Each one had a large collection of volunteers and spectators. Between their energy and the beautiful weather and scenery, no part of this race seemed desolate. I was in good spirits for the whole thing, even though I was hurting a little bit by the end. The end, by the way, was on a track, which was really cool. My official finish time was 4:07:06. This seemed like a fast crowd. An announcement on the race website states that 25% of participants qualified for Boston, which seems incredible.

After the race ended, I sat down on the track infield and began stretching my ever-troublesome hamstring. I checked my phone and realized Eric was there at the race cheering. About the same time, he must have spotted me and yelled out my name. It was nice to see him and talk about upcoming races. He's trying to determine which marathon will be his first!

I've now done a marathon in 5 states and DC. I'm starting to think I really have no choice but to finish the rest of the states!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Race Report - Long Island Marathon

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the great running weekend I had. Between the last JackRabbit training run and the Long Island Marathon, I met enough awesome people and had enough experiences to remind me (as if I ever need reminding) why and how much I love running and the running community.

After I finished the training run in Prospect Park, I hopped onto the subway to Penn Station to catch a train out to Long Island. It was my turn to get them for Amortya and me, since he had bib duty at RnR USA. Admittedly, I as a little tired from the 12 mile run so I used the 43 minute train ride as nap time. Once I arrived in Westbury, I saw a few cabs and hopped in one that seemed to already be on its way to the expo. As I got in, I realized there were a couple other passengers. One was going to the expo as well, and we began talking to the driver about the marathon.

I learned that his name was Max, and he had stopped into the city on his way out of the country. He figured he'd run Long Island while he was in town. My kind of runner! While getting our bibs, we started chatting and talking about running and any number of other things. We were done at the expo relatively quickly and then headed back outside.

We decided to test the walk to the train station, in case cabs wouldn't be around in the morning. Good thing we did, because the walk took almost the entire hour! We got to the station only minutes before the train arrived. Max and I spent the entire train ride talking about running and what we loved about it. We exchanged contact information once we got to the city so we could keep in touch.

I had pasta for dinner that evening with Daniel and went to bed early(ish) so I could be up in time to catch the 5:25 train with Amortya. I woke up at 3:45 so that I had time to get ready and walk Phoebe before heading out.

I don't generally like to complain, but a few things about the beginning of this race did not go well. While waiting for the train, I felt a massive headache coming on so got some aspirin to head it off. At least I had the train ride to help sleep it off, but it lingered even after we got to Westbury.

As luck would have it, there were cabs there. Amortya, Max (who found us) and I got into one with a few others and rode as close as we could to the start. Race officials weren't letting anyone very close to the start line, since all race security has been heightened since Boston.

It was cold that morning! I was glad I'd brought the race shirt we got the day before because we had a couple hours to wait. Since we'd taken the earlier train, we were some of the first people there. While milling around, we watched as race officials set up the sound system. The first song that played, albeit poorly due to a sound system issue, was "It's Time" by Imagine Dragons.

Although my attire choice was good for much of the race, it absolutely was not for the beginning. It was freezing and I waited til the last possible second to drop my bag so I could keep my clothes on. Even after I dropped it, I seriously considered putting on a hoodie someone had discarded. I didn't, worried it hadn't actually been discarded, but it more than crossed my mind.

The race started, and it was a small one so I crossed the start line less than 2 minutes in. From the very beginning, though, I realized I had to use the restroom. I wrestled with whether or not to stop the entire race. So, guess what, didn't end up stopping. It was a pain in the butt. Literally and figuratively (TMI?).  I also just was not feeling it. I was having a hard time keeping my mile pace and I remember wondering between miles 2 and 3 how I was going to get through the other 9/10ths of the race. It was a rough few miles.

Eventually I did settle into the race. I really started enjoying myself around the time that the half marathoners split off around mile 10. As the split happened, I was running next to a woman who was doing the half marathon. We split off and she yelled "Go, girl!" at me. I yelled back at her to finish strong. Hopefully she heard. It was a nice race moment.

From that point on, the race was on totally unshaded highway. It wasn't a terrible thing, since the weather was cool. Coincidentally, Max and I kept a similar pace for much of the race. Although he pulled ahead for most of the last 8 miles, I did manage to finish just behind him, at a little under 4:14. This was a disappointing result, but not altogether unexpected. I did a poor job of keeping my fitness up after Rock 'n' Roll DC.

Another nice thing about the finish was getting to see Amortya (who did the half and waited for me after) and Daniel, who made the trip from the city to catch the end of the race. Before catching the train, we tried to do our Cinco de Mayo duty by eating Mexican food. Does it count if the food was terrible?

Anyway, great race. Best of all, I found a new running friend! Max wrote a piece on the Boston bombings, which you can find here.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

DEALWATCH: Xterra Wetsuit Sale - May 2013

I've noticed that a lot of traffic here comes from people looking for deals on Xterra wetsuits. I used to be a lot better about posting those coupon codes, but I'll admit I haven't paid much attention recently. Anyway, I found one in my email. Here, have a coupon code!


As you can probably see, the code is ACTFAST. This is the link. Offer ends May 27th, so take advantage, bargain hunters.

Race Report - Brooklyn Half Marathon

Look at me, posting things on time and stuff.

The race was great. Big, but great. I woke up at 4:30, showered, walked Phoebe and got my race bag ready. In retrospect, I didn't really need the bag. I'd originally planned to change into regular clothes but there wasn't much point in the end.

I headed to the subway around 5:20, which should have been plenty of time except for a couple of things. First, I had to wait for a train for 20-30 minutes. Second, I took the F instead of the D, which left me on the wrong corner of the park. I got off the subway around 6:05, a little nervous because I realized I was almost 1.5 miles away from bag check with only 15 minutes before it closed. I ran it and got my bag into the truck just as the doors were closing.

It was a pretty train ride

I scrambled to my corral as it closed, around 6:30. It was pretty standard from there. We stood around for the next half hour as various officials spoke to the crowd and a rousing rendition of the national anthem was sung. Finally, the race started and I crossed the mat around 12 minutes in.

So many people!

I started faster than I anticipated, with my first mile coming in just under 8 minutes. This wouldn't have necessarily been bad, I was just worried that I'd go out too fast too soon. Maybe I shouldn't have worried about it, but hindsight is 20/20. I did the first few miles around 8 minutes. The first 3 miles were around Prospect Park, the next 4 or so inside it. As we exited the park we crossed the 7 mile marker.
Post-race boardwalk

Most of the rest of the race was down Ocean Parkway, before finally ending on the Coney Island boardwalk. I struggled a little bit toward the end of the race, but still managed a decent time of 1:47:39. Not my best, but certainly not my worst. Afterward, I met up with Jeremy, Amortya, Giri, Hua and Russ (first half for both of them!) and a few other friends for beer. It was a great morning! Gotta hand it to NYRR for making this a superb race.

Also, Amortya ran a 1:39:53, Jeremy ran 1:41 and Giri 1:19. It's awesome to be in such great company.


Hardware

Still to come: Long Island Marathon recap and BQ plan. Have a great weekend, and congrats to everyone who finished!



Friday, May 17, 2013

On the Eve of the Brooklyn Half

2013 Edition

As usual, I'm behind on my posts. I decided to stay ahead of the curve with this one, though. Tomorrow is the Brooklyn Half Marathon, which is one of my very favorite races. This will be the third time I've run it, after 2009 and last year. 

I'm little bit uncertain about how I'd feel about the whole affair this year because the race is enormous. I think there are almost 40,000 people running it. It truly seems like most every runner in New York City is running this race. Normally I have no problem with large races, but something about the explosive growth of this one made me uncomfortable. 

My fears were slightly assuaged on Wednesday, when I went to pick up my bib. The "Pre-Race Party" (aka race expo) was in a neighborhood called Dumbo that's underneath the Brooklyn side of the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. I have to give NYRR a lot of credit, it was a great event. The expo itself had a number of cool activities and displays, not to mention the usual collection of gear for sale. Outside of that, though, they set up a legitimate beer garden, complete with food, live music, and of course, beer. 

I ran there after work and met Amortya. Hua and Russ rode their bikes and met us there not too long after. I saw three or four other people I know, which only served as further confirmation that this really is a very small community, numbers aside. 

So I suppose, until tomorrow, the jury is still out on whether or not this race can maintain its charm while accommodating tens of thousands of runners more than usual. If Wednesday was any indication, it might be a little bigger, but perhaps no less charming, intimate and enjoyable than ever.

My view from the Pre-Race Party

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Runners Are The Best Company

This weekend brought two occasions in which I had the pleasure of meeting and enjoying the fine company of several runners. I'll recount one here and save one as part of my Long Island Marathon race report.

Saturday, I attended the last JackRabbit long run in preparation for the Brooklyn Half coming up in a couple of weeks. The last two weekends, I've done (read: tried to do) these runs at a faster pace than I typically do long runs (8:00, 8:30 mins/mile).

For better or worse, my MO is to commit to as many non-conflicting events as possible in order to ensure that I'm motivated to get out and be productive. This life strategy can backfire sometimes (read: often). For example, this weekend, I knew I had the Long Island Marathon on Sunday. I think most people would avoid doing a long run prior to a marathon. I could be wrong, but I can also see how someone would make the case that it's common sense.

But you know what? I signed up for that long run and I intended to follow through. Plus, attendance at all three runs resulted in a free tech shirt. So whether because of principles or the allure of free crap, I saddled myself with two days of heavy running.

BUT...I did strategize a little bit and planned to run the 12 miles in Prospect Park at a 10 minute pace instead of 8:30 hoping it would have little or no impact on Sunday's marathon. I'll talk about that more in my Long Island Marathon race report. For now, I'll focus on my experience during the training run.

First, it was nice running at a slower pace because it's much easier to socialize. Before the group separated a bit, I was able to talk about races, marathons, people's experiences, hear what running clubs they belonged to. It was great.

After awhile, the group did spread out and I spent most of the run with two other women in the pace group. One was a pace group leader and the other was actually from a slower pace group who just caught up with us.  The pace group leader (marathon PR: 3:17) regaled us with stories of her time running high school track and cross country. I can say from experience that the best pace group leaders are entertaining AND precise with their timing. This was no exception.

Only on rare occasions do I remember 12 miles going as quickly as it did Saturday. Simply put, running with those two was a pleasure. We all had things to say and conversation flowed freely and in all directions. We talked about a broad spectrum of topics from running to traveling abroad and some as complex as cultural identity.

At the end of the run, I didn't get their contact information and I only vaguely remember their names. But even as I left and acknowledged this oversight, I wasn't too fazed. As a runner, I keep faith that I'll run into the friends I've made (no pun intended) somewhere along the way.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Spirit of the (Boston) Marathon

"If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon."
-Kathrine Switzer

Of all the things I've read and seen in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, this quote stands out a bit. For all the truth it conveyed before the horror that took place on April 15, Kathrine Switzer's message seems ever more meaningful and true now, as Boston and the rest of the world heal from this tragedy.

It's hard to even find words that adequately describe the impact the bombings have had. First and foremost, the memory of those lives lost in the tragedy, Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu, Sean Collier and Krystle Campbell will be forever mourned and cherished not only by their immediate family and friends, but by an entire nation. In addition, we hope and pray that those who were injured heal quickly, and we have faith that they'll recover better and stronger than ever before.

We've also seen incredible resilience, grace, and generosity in the city of Boston, the running community and humanity at large. From bystanders who rushed to help the injured to residents across Massachusetts offering all they could to help displaced runners in the aftermath, it's clear that the good in this world heavily outweighs the evil perpetrated by a few individuals and it always will.

Now, nearly two weeks later, Boston has begun picking up the pieces of a reality that was shattered by two cowards with little regard for human life. The pieces already coming together beautifully, into something new that's brilliant and strong, if more somber than before. Boston has opened up Boylston Avenue and a makeshift memorial has been erected. From what I can tell, it's a beautiful tribute to the victims of the attack and the city itself.

The cover of Boston Magazine's May issue
Next year's Boston Marathon will be the most beautiful, stirring display of human nature I can imagine. I get choked up over any marathon, so I can only surmise that one so filled with heart and meaning will not be something to be missed. Whether I participate by running or cheering, I don't intend to miss it.

#BostonStrong