Monday, January 22, 2007

Manhattan Half Marathon Recap

Hi all,

This was qualifying race number 2 (and race 3 for the year). We ran a double counter-clockwise loop (and then some) of Central Park (the loop is about 6 miles).

This was my first half marathon of the year (the first in the NYC Grand Prix) and my longest race/run since the marathon. It was so cold this morning when I woke up (20°F/-7°C) that I decided not to worry about time. I just decided to run between the water stations and hope that I didn’t hurt myself – it’s hard to feel what’s going on with your body when the temperature is so low.

I missed the train I’d meant to catch, but still got to the race with over a half hour to kill. I huddled in the lines for the portable toilets, then huddled next to the Met, trying to decide if I should put on the extra shirt I’d packed. I was shivering in my wool coat, so I decided to make the change. It involved taking off both the coat and my overshirt, which already had my number pinned to the front, but those few seconds bare-armed were worth the extra layer against the cold. My hands, though, were freezing. I waited an unbelievably long time to get my bag in to the truck. There was a lot of grumbling – the reason for the long lines was the volunteers’ insistence on organizing the bags in the truck, even though they’d be driving them up to the finish and unloading them into a separate baggage area. It took so long to get through the line that I had to jog up to the start (not complaining about that – I was freezing!!) and heard the start as I went. I ducked under the tape and joined my fellow runners as we shuffled to the start. We zoomed up the East Side and climbed Harlem Hill. Our first water station was on 110th Street and not only was the water frozen to the table and iced over, but the Gatorade was slushy!! And frozen to the table. After a couple of miles of running, I warmed up just about everywhere except my hands. My hands were so cold that they hurt! It was so bad that I didn’t think they’d warm up and after the first water station, I pulled my fingers out of my gloves and into the palms. After about 4 miles, though, my hands did start to feel better. When I took my gloves off after the race, my fingers were bright red! I tried not to run too hard and to just let my legs go at the pace they wanted. It wasn’t too difficult, because I couldn’t really feel them. The hardest part was the breathing. As some of you know, I run in winter against doctor’s orders. I had bundled up, wearing a hat, ear muffs, and a gaiter for my neck, plus 3 layers to cover my chest, but I still had trouble breathing. While I was able to make my goal of running between water stations, the water stations themselves hurt my breathing. I had to drink very cold liquids which made my chest cold, which made it more difficult to breathe. I ended up using my inhaler 3 times, including the pre-race puff. I made it through the first loop by telling myself it was only one more loop after that one. I made it through the second loop by telling myself that it was the last time around. That’s not really a lot to go on when the loop is 6+ miles, but it worked for me. I also went over the course (which I’ve run many times by now) in my head, reminding myself of the uphill, downhill or flat bit coming up. My favorite water station stop was the last one before the finish – there was a 2-inch block of ice in the cup!! I’d learned through the past 7 water stops to gently squeeze the bottom of the cup to break through the ice on top. This time, I was turning back to get another cup when the ice popped out of the cup, dropping to the ground which was littered with the usual cups and the disks of ice of varying sizes. It was pretty cool. That last water station was also the start of my final mile (and then some). When I started running again, I just let my legs go. I knew I was going to set a course PR, so I decided to set myself a goal of breaking my course PR (2:17:31) on the official clock and by finishing the 1.1 miles in less than 10 minutes. I’m happy to say that I crossed the finish line at 2:16 on the official clock and finished the last 1.1 miles in 9:52.

And now, a little word for the sponsors – in this case, the volunteers on the course. I spent a good part of the race marveling at the support we were getting – from the volunteers at the water stations to the volunteers along the course cheering us along and helping us stay on course. From the silent, seemingly sullen volunteers to the wildly enthusiastic volunteers who could be heard cheering before you could see them and long after you’ve passed them. We runners were able to stay somewhat warm as we ran, but they were staying in the same place throughout the race. The volunteers at the water stations were not only standing out there in the freezing cold, but they were getting their hands and feet wet while they did it. So, here’s a big THANK YOU to all of the volunteers who really showed their mettle today!!

And extra kudos for the man who was finishing the half marathon at 3:20 as I walked back across the Park to the subway home. Yes, he walked 13.1 miles in 3 hours and 20 minutes in sub-zero temperatures. That’s quite an accomplishment!!

Official stats: my race time was 2:12:33 (a course PR by 4:58) for a 10:07 pace over the 13.1 miles. I was 3426 out of 4391 total runners, putting me in the 22nd percentile. It was 21°F (-6°C) with a wind chill of 14°F (-10°C) and 32% humidity. My splits were: 9:25, 11:34, 9:26, 10:18, 10:16, 9:58, 10:22, 10:48, 9:35, 10:21, 10:34, 10:07, 8:55 and :57 for the last tenth of a mile.

Thanks for all your support!

P.S. Celebratory treats – a 7-Eleven Santa Fe Chicken Caesar Salad, apples with caramel dipping sauce (or dipping toss as my niece used to call it) and Italian hot chocolate, plus various treats from my Christmas stocking and some dark-chocolate-covered Ginger Altoids.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Fred Lebow Classic 4-Miler 1/7/07

Hi all,

Race 2 was the Fred Lebow Classic 5-Miler. The course was altered a bit, because of construction, so we started on the East Drive at about 99th Street, crossed on the 102nd Street Transverse, and looped around the bottom of the Park, finishing at about 97th Street (or thereabouts).

Goals: to keep running between water stations; to run a more even pace throughout the race; and to set a new PR (under 47:26).

Well, the day didn’t start off well. I had trouble sleeping – I think I woke up at least once every hour! But, I drank my tea and ate my Snickers Marathon bar and set off. I was supposed to meet Lana at the Road Runners office at 8:45, but the trains were running local and very infrequently so I was a bit late. I picked up my number, but when I tried to get my t-shirt, they’d run out of the event t-shirts and were giving out shirts that read “I Ran a New York Road Runners Race.” You can imagine my displeasure! I found Lana outside (I’d walked right past her on my way in) and we walked over to the race. On our way to drop off our bags, we ran into Lou, who recognized me by my braids. After struggling through the crowds, we waited out the usual announcements and then had to wait for the celebrity starter (a local weather person named Heidi something – I didn’t recognize the name or the person when I ran past the start) and the live telecast of the start, we were able to make our way onto the course and get started. I’m convinced that NYRR has been getting into trouble because of the competitors’ tendency to spread out over the road, inhibiting others (mostly cyclists) from using the roads. For the second race in a row, the beginning of the course, including a good deal of the 102nd Street Transverse, was roped off. We could barely move forward until we made it off the Transverse. Lana and I first got separated by other runners and then Lana just took off! I had told her that I was hoping to run between 45 and 47 (45 has been my 5-mile goal for quite some time now). She said she’d probably be running between 10- and 11-minute miles, because she’d run a 7-mile training run the day before. But she was really moving!! I stopped at the first water station, but she didn’t and, after a brief glimpse at the 2nd mile marker, I didn’t see her again until I finished the race. I really made an effort to run a little faster in the beginning miles, but I didn’t really push myself. I like to save a little for the finish, as you know. I came down the rolling hills on the West Drive, then rounded the bottom of the Park. Coming up onto the East Drive, we were cheered by kids in a horse-drawn carriage. Very cute! As I head up past the 72nd Street Transverse, I kept looking for Lana, but she was well and truly past me. I hit Cat Hill and would have powered up it, but I lost focus a few feet from the top of the hill and dropped my inhaler, so I had to go back and pick it up. It came apart and took a couple of seconds to pick up the two pieces, not to mention the person who must have been running with her eyes closed, because she ran right into me and seemed really startled. My legs screamed when I turned around to start running again, which startled me – I always walk through water stations, so they shouldn’t have been struggling after such a brief stop, but maybe it was the kneeling down that did it. Anyway, I made it up the rest of Cat Hill and, after a brief slowdown to get my legs back under me, took off. At the 4-mile marker, I knew I was going to be able to finish with a PR, even if I slowed to a 10-minute-mile pace. Woo Hoo!! I passed Fred Lebow’s statue at the Engineer’s Gate and started to move faster and faster. The finish caught me by surprise – I knew it was going to be ahead of 99th Street (the complete loop is just a little longer than 5 miles), but it came up really fast after the top of the reservoir. I poured on my sprint and beat my improvised goal of beating my PR on the official clock! :D I didn’t see Lana waiting for me, so I walked back a bit to see if I’d passed her without knowing it, but didn’t see her in the finisher’s chute, either. I headed over to the baggage area, where we’d agreed to meet, and found her there. She’d finished in 46:03!! Way to go, Lana!! We took some pictures, then headed over for hot chocolate and bagels (I looked for Lou again, but didn’t see him).

Official stats: my net time was 45:06 for a 9:01 pace – I set a new PR by 2:20! I was 2215 out of 4174 total runners, putting me in the 47th percentile. It was 44° with 55% humidity and 17 mph winds. My mile splits from my watch were: 10:14, 8:56, 8:55, 8:44, and 8:18.

Celebratory treats: After the race, I met my friends in Chinatown for dim sum, stopping on my way to the restaurant (Grand Harmony) for a taro bubble tea. For dessert, we headed up to Divalicious, where I had 3 vanilla-gelato filled cream puffs dunked in a fountain of “French Vanilla” chocolate. MMM On my way back to the subway, I stopped at Kee’s Chocolates (my favorite NYC chocolatier) and tried her new Thai Chili bon bon. It’s amazing! And, then, when I got home, I had a York Vanilla Mint Pattie – yummy!

Next up: The Manhattan Half Marathon on January 21st and the Gridiron Classic 4-Miler on February 4th.

Thank you for all your support!

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Emerald Nuts Midnight Run 2006-07

Hi all,

Race number 1 (or race number 42 of 2006) was the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run. The party started at 10, but the race started on the stroke of midnight, so you decide. It was a fun run, so it doesn’t count towards my 2008 marathon qualifying races.

Goals: to have fun and take some pictures and run well.

I got there at about 10:45. The party was in full swing and there was a much bigger crowd this year. Probably because it was in the mid-40s, I think. The announcer claimed there were over 5000 runners and there were loads of friends and family partying, too. I picked up my New Year’s tiara and glow sticks and headed over to the costume party contest. I couldn’t really see anything, but there are pictures on the New York Road Runner website: I dropped my bag and headed over to the start and stretched. By some miracle, Ernesto found me – he hadn’t been sure about running, but decided at the last minute that he might as well. So, we lined up, counted down, watched fireworks and then took off. This was a fun run, so no chips, but I used my watch to keep track of my splits. The first mile took us up past the 72nd Street Transverse and up Cat Hill along the East Drive. It was very crowded and the mile went fairly slowly. But, I reminded myself that I wasn’t being timed, so it didn’t matter. The second mile took us to all the way up to the 102nd Street Transverse and went by much quicker. I’d decided before the race that I was going to stop on the Transverse to take some pictures of the Champagne stop. Ernesto waited for me and we took off again after a bit of a drink (mine was champagne, but I think it was non-alcoholic). That stop cost us quite a bit of time, so our 3rd mile was even slower than the first. When we hit the 3rd mile marker, I started trash-talking, warning Ernesto that I was going to take off in the final mile and that, if he could keep up, we’d sprint as soon as we hit the 72nd Street Transverse. I did everything I said I would and Ernesto very kindly held back so that we could cross the finish line together. It was especially nice of him, because I really gave it my all! We hung out a bit after the finish, grabbing bagels and packages of Emerald Nuts Trail Mix (I took away loads of each – the volunteers told us to!) and then I headed home to try to get some sleep before having to get up early to take a train to LI.

Unofficial stats: my net time was 38:02 for a 9:31 pace. My mile splits from my watch were: 10:14, 9:02, 10:42 and 8:07.

Celebratory treats: Well, it was 1 am, so I had my treats the next day. I went to my parents’ house on Long Island and had the traditional New Year’s Day meal of black-eyed peas with rice and ham hocks. MMM Plus, a Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper and yummy Christmas cookies.

Next up: The Fred LeBow Classic 5-miler on January 7th and the Manhattan Half Marathon on January 21st.

Pictures are available at (view the slideshow for the commentary).