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.


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.