Sunday, February 25, 2007

Al Gordon Snowflake 4-miler 2.24.07

Hi all,

Race 6 was the Al Gordon Snowflake 4-Miler (my 5th marathon qualifier). We started on the East Drive at about 99th Street and completed the inner loop of Central Park. This race is segregated by gender, so the men ran at 8 and the women at 9. This made for an interesting start for the women, who had to line up in the same area where the men were finishing.

Goals: to keep running between water stations, to run 4 sub-9 miles, and to set a new PR (under 35:02). This was my first Lenten race. I’ve given up chocolate, caffeine (including Dr Pepper), and reading fiction; however, if I set a distance PR (course PRs don’t count), then I can have chocolate on the race day, if it’s a Sunday, or the first Sunday after the race. Last year, I only earned chocolate twice during Lent. Having just killed my 4-mile PR (should have planned that one out a little better, huh?), I’m going to work on it, but not expect any chocolates this year.

I don’t know what I was thinking, but I did everything wrong for this race. Maybe I was subconsciously trying to sabotage my PR attempt. Part of it wasn’t my fault. I waited for over an hour and a half at the doctor’s office and left with 4 people still ahead of me. So, I didn’t get to have lunch until nearly 3pm (I usually eat every 3 hours and lunch time is noon). When I got home, I couldn’t decide what to eat, so I ended up eating pretzel crisps with chipotle lime sour cream dip (from Whole Foods). I usually avoid dairy prior to a race. Then, for dessert, I had Garrett’s cheese popcorn ( It’s delicious, made from liquid, not powder, cheese, but, again, popcorn isn’t something I normally eat at all, much less before a race. Saturday is usually my recovery (from the week at work) and rest (from running) day, but today I had to get up and race. My neck and head were killing me when I got up and I couldn’t even bring myself to drink my usual cup of tea or eat my energy bar. I’d worn a ThermaCare lower back patch around my quad overnight and it was still warm, so I wrapped it around my neck to try to loosen it up and ease my headache. I also took an Aleve. I got a ride to the race from Sue, so I was there in plenty of time. I’d already decided to try something new this time – a warm-up, which Sue has been suggesting I try for a long time. I’d felt so bad when I got up and it was soooo cold, that I almost decided to skip the warm-up. But when we got there, I decided to go for it. The men were just beginning to come in to the finish, so I was able to run back to the 3-mile marker and cheer them on as they came towards me. I looked for Lou, but couldn’t find him. I got back to the start with about 15 minutes to go and felt pretty good. I looked around for my boss, but didn’t find her until after the race (she set a PR – Congratulations, Bonnie!!) Even though the number of runners was basically cut in half, there were still enough women running that we got caught up in “traffic” on the 102nd Street transverse. I was able to meet my first goal, though I had a longer stop at the second water station (in the 3rd mile). When I got there, a woman had removed her glove and was poking her finger into the cups, presumably looking for one that wasn’t frozen over (it was 20° - what did she expect?). I probably should have handled it better, but I said (very sharply, I’m afraid), “Quit sticking your finger into other people’s water. It’s disgusting.” She started and apologized and from her tone, I could tell that it hadn’t even occurred to her what she was effectively doing (i.e., sticking her finger into other people’s water). I should have shown her how to get the ice out of the cup (as my friend pointed out to me later), but I was so busy trying to find a cup she hadn’t poked her finger into, that it didn’t even occur to me. In any event, I doubt very much that she’ll do that again. Sue wants me to stop taking water breaks, but I think they’re helping me. In fact, after the first water break, I had to immediately head uphill and I just charged up – my legs felt soooo good. I paid for it later, when they tired, but I just told them (my legs, that is) that they’re not the boss of me and made them go faster. After scooting up Cat, I hit the 3-mile marker and had the satisfaction of knowing I’d already run that segment easily, but I also checked the time and realized that I couldn’t set a PR. I didn’t want to give up, so I just decided to see how close I could come. There wouldn’t be any chocolate treat, but I always have consolation treats when I don’t meet my goals. And, I’ll tell you right now, that I didn’t make the second goal. My first and third miles were both over 9 minutes. Back to mile 4 – I just kept going faster and faster and started thinking about my ability to run a sub-8 mile. I’ve run some low 8 miles during races, but my only sub-8s have been in the 2 1-mile races, when I ran all-out to get there. As I approached the finish, I took off, sprinting as hard as I could. I even had to angle myself between two women who were blocking me. I could see the 35 on the official clock, and I really wanted to try to get in before it turned over. I didn’t make it, but when I stopped my watch as I finished, I saw that I’d run the final mile (my 6th of the day) in 7:57!!!! My eyes were watering from the cold and the wind, but I don’t mind admitting that a few tears welled up, too. I got my chip clipped and headed back along the course to do my 2-mile cool-down (I’d decided to make this my long run) and tried to find Bonnie again, to run in with her, but didn’t see her. I took my tired legs back to the 3-mile marker and then came back to the finish again. I took two walk breaks, but only the distance between two of the marker cones.

Official stats: my net time was 34:59 for an 8:44 pace over the 4 miles – I set a new PR by 3 seconds, which means chocolate tomorrow! I was 755 out of 2249 female runners, putting me in the 66th percentile! It was 20°F (-7°C) with 44% humidity and windy. My mile splits from my watch were: 9:26, 8:35, 9:04, and 7:57 (!!). I’m still so excited about that sub-8!!

Celebratory treats: Today, for instant gratification, I stopped at Disc-o-Rama to buy FlyLeaf by Flyleaf, but it was out-of-stock, so I picked up Evanescence’s The Open Door, instead, and Chinese New Year peanut dumplings (thanks, Jolene!). Tomorrow, I will be having a Chocolate Peppermint Briquette from Hotel Chocolat. MMM It was only a 3-second PR, so I decided not to have solid chocolate this time.
Next up: Coogan’s Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks 5k on March 4th and the New York Colon Cancer Challenge 15k on March 11th.

Thank you for all your support!

Here is a link to some random pictures, including my Merchant’s House Museum visit, the last chocolate I ate before Lent, and today’s pictures: (as always, there’s commentary in the slideshow)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bronx Half Marathon 2.11.07

Hi all,

Race 5 was the Bronx Half Marathon (my 4th marathon qualifier). The course was altered slightly from last year, not to mention about 5 months early. The Bronx Half Marathon is usually run the weekend after July 4th, so I was wondering if running it in the cold would make it more enjoyable than running it in the blazing heat of summer. The course is a bit odd. The first loop goes out to the Moshulu Parkway from the Jerome Reservoir and back (about 6 miles), then we around, loop out along the Grand Concourse (about 4 miles), back around the Moshulu Parkway, then back to the reservoir for the finish. The finish this year was much better than the past couple of years. Instead of turning several corners to get to the finish, we ran a fairly long straightaway, from which the 13-mile marker was clearly visible for quite some time.

Goals: to keep running between water stations and to set a new course PR (2:23:26). I ran this one for my dad, who just had his hip replaced on Tuesday, so it was even more important for me to make both my goals today.

I was a bit worried about my knee. After a week of no heat and no hot water, my legs were tired from all the shivering and on Saturday, the sprained ligament in my knee started throbbing, throwing in the occasional sharp twinge to spice things up, but I wanted to get that course PR for my dad. Lana and I were planning to start this one together, just like the other races we’ve run together. We both had a little trouble getting there, but that just meant we didn’t have to wait around in the cold as long. It was well below freezing again and, no matter how many layers I have on - I’m afraid of overheating with too many layers, so I haven’t gone more than 4 shirts - but, I still get cold! No wave starts today – we lined up as usual by the 10-minute-mile marker. I’d forgotten my watch, so Lana kept time for us. We started out pretty well, with just about even 10-minute miles, and even skipped a water station on the Moshulu Parkway. It wouldn’t be the Bronx Half if there weren’t dead animals. The last two years it was a dead rat, but this time, we saw at least 3 dead squirrels – none too fresh! We stopped for gel when we got back to the start, then headed out for the second loop. I think the worst part of this race is the Grand Concourse, even though it’s only 4 miles. I thought the problems were the heat and the hills. But, now, I think the pavement is the real trouble. It’s a bit rough – I think there’s quite a bit of cement in the asphalt – and it’s full of furrows. Not speed-bumps across the road, but ruts and furrows in the same direction as the road. Very strange! We stopped for gel again in the 11th mile and skipped the last two water stations. We were doing very well, time-wise, so I added a third goal – to beat my course PR on the official clock. I stayed with Lana for most of the race, but on the uphills, my legs seemed to take on a mind of their own and I’d find myself a few feet ahead. I guess they like charging up the hills! And there was a particularly fun, swooping downhill that curved around from the Concourse back onto the Moshulu Parkway past the Tracey Towers, which I love for their truly funky shape (www.bridgeandtunnelclublcom/bigmap/bronx/bedfordpark/traceytowers/index.htm). I took that one as it came – no braking, just flying down the hill. I think that was my favorite part of the race, but it was only about 20 feet long, so. . . . As we approached the finish, I asked Lana if she wanted to sprint the last tenth of a mile. She said no, but that I could go ahead. I’d planned to stay with her until the 13 marker, but when I saw it ahead of me, I just couldn’t resist. I can’t speak for the other runners, but seeing that big blue sign with the 13 blazing out at us in white really spurred me on. I told Lana I was going to take off and I went for it!! I really love sprinting for the final, if I’ve got anything left in me. And the guy yelling at us to “leave it all on the road” certainly helped push me along!! After I finished, I waited for Lana, who wasn’t far behind me. We got in the bagel line, took some pictures, and had some hot chocolate. As we headed over to pick up our bags, we realized that our bib numbers contained all of the same digits, but in different orders. Pretty cool!

Official stats: my clock time was 2:21:30 and my net time was 2:18:55 for a 10:36 pace over the 13.1 miles – I set a course PR by 4:31. Lana and I both met all three of my goals!! I was 2457 out of 2821 total runners, putting me in the 18th percentile. It was 19°F (-7°C) with 52% humidity with a wind chill at about 10° (-12°C). My mile splits are from Lana’s watch (thanks, Lana!): 10:05, 9:23, 10:01, 10:38, 9:59, 11:34, 10:42, 10:44, 10:21, 11:02, 12:37, 10:40, and my last 1.1 was 11:20.

Celebratory treats: A hot roast beef and cheddar cheese sandwich as soon as I got home (to a cold apartment, but, luckily, a hot shower), a slushy Dr Pepper, Cadbury’s dark chocolate mint Fingers, and a roast nut bar from Paul A. Young. Plus, one of my best friends called and we had a great conversation! If I’d realized that Lent was going to be a week and a half after this race, I would have arranged much more elaborate treats. Now, I’m just going to gorge myself until Ash Wednesday!!

Next up: The Al Gordon Snowflake 4-Miler on February 24th and the NYC Marathon on Nov. 4th!!!! Okay, okay, there will be plenty of races between those two, but I signed up this week, so it’s official.

Thank you for all your support!

For an idea of what it’s like to prepare for a winter run, check out this video: For the non-runners reading this, you might find it amusing – I did!

Here's a picture of Lana and me after the race, plus a few from my visit to the Curious and Original Chocolate Shoppe:

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Gridiron Classic 4-miler 2.4.07

Hi all,

Race 4 was the Gridiron Classic 4-Miler (my 3rd marathon qualifier). The course was altered a bit, because of construction, so we started on the East Drive at about 68th Street, crossed on the 102nd Street Transverse, and finish at about 68th Street (or thereabouts).

Goals: to keep running between water stations and to finally set a new PR (under 35:48). I set it back in April 2005 and have been trying to get there ever since. The closest I’ve come so far has been 36:45 back in September ’06.

I made a deal with Roderick to go all out today to set a PR, but I will tell you now that I was scared. It was so cold that I was afraid I’d hurt myself without knowing it. I had bought new gloves just the night before in anticipation of the cold, but even with the hood over my fingers, I thought I was going to end up with frostbite. In spite of this, believe it or not, there were runners in shorts!! I was so cold that I didn't even take my coat off for the football throw and managed a meager 10 yards. The NYRR is experimenting with wave starts this year and today, of all days, was their first attempt. The elite/fast local runners started in the first corral and had special stickers to identify them. Then, it seemed to be a free-for-all for getting into the next corrals (500-750 runners per corral). I was in the second, luckily. We started 3 minutes after the 1st corral and each successive corral started 3 minutes after the corral ahead of them. There were at least 6 corrals, so you can imagine how cold the people at the back of the pack must have been. NYRR has a bit more work to do on this format. I decided to skip my warm-up, because I was afraid of getting sweaty, then cold, while I waited to start the race. When the horn sounded, I took off, hoping I could hold my pace through the 4 miles. I was pretty sure I was moving well, but not quite sure where I was. I did stop at each water station and warmed up pretty well about a mile into the race, but I had a lot of trouble breathing. In the third mile, I blew my first goal. I could not move another step, because I couldn’t breathe. I stepped off the course and fumbled my inhaler out of my jersey pocket (I was wearing a cycling jersey, so the pockets were across the small of my back). It took me more time getting the thing out of, and back into, my pocket than it did to use it! As soon as I had it secured again, I took off running and felt better, but I’d waited too long and struggled for the rest of the race. Just as I was approaching the 72nd Street Transverse, I heard a cowbell and was convinced that Denzil was about to pass me. It wasn’t he, but this guy takes the cowbell seriously – he was dressed as a cow, udder and all! That gave me a giggle and then, spying the finish line just past the Transverse, I poured on what little I had left in me and came across the finish line in 38:30. As soon as I stopped, I started heaving. Luckily, I hadn’t had anything since before I left home, so it was just retching and not all-out vomiting. I was directed to the medical tent, but was fine by the time I got there, so I just got my chip clipped, drank some water, grabbed my bag and headed home to begin treating myself!

Official stats: my net time was 35:02 for an 8:45 pace over the 4 miles – I set a new PR by 46 seconds! I was 1981 out of 4474 total runners, putting me in the 56th percentile. It was 14°F (-10°C) with 29% humidity and 16 mph winds, putting the wind chill at just below 0 (-18°C). My mile splits from my watch were: 8:54, 8:34, 9:08, and 8:30.

Celebratory treats: I’ve been working for this PR for almost 2 years now, so I definitely indulged today! I started with my last packet of Golden Syrup Oatso Simple with Lyle’s Golden Syrup and the last of my Hotel Chocolat Chocolate Gems, with Twinings hot chocolate and Williams-Sonoma chocolate marshmallows. I’m drinking my slushy Dr Pepper and have been snacking on Whole Foods Truffled Walnuts (mmm). Later, I’m having the last piece of my birthday cake (my mom’s home-made Tunnel of Fudge), which I’ve saved in the freezer for a special occasion. Hopefully, I’ll be eating that while the Colts are winning the SuperBowl!! Rest assured – if I had failed in my quest, I would still have treated myself, but would have limited myself to the hot chocolate with marshmallows, the slushy Dr Pepper and the Truffled Walnuts. I would still have expected the Colts to win!

Next up: The Bronx Half Marathon on February 11th and the Al Gordon Snowflake 4-Miler on February 24th.

Thank you for all your support!

Here is a link to some random pictures, including my Cooper Hewitt visit, the Millrose Games, and today’s pictures: I've also got some videos on YouTube from the Millrose Games (search for user RunnerNYNY).