Sunday, March 25, 2007

More Half Marathon 3.25.07

Hi all,

Race 10 was the More Half Marathon (my 9th marathon qualifier – I’m now guaranteed entry to the 2008 NYC Marathon). The Half Marathon and the Marathon both started at the same time. The Half Marathon was twice around the big loop clockwise, plus a mile or so to finish at Tavern on the Green. The Marathon Course was a bit of a nightmare (the half marathon course but continuing on to the 102nd Transverse, then twice the middle loop, then down around the bottom of the Park to finish at Tavern on the Green), so I’m glad I was only running the Half! The races were sponsored by More magazine, which is geared towards women 40 years of age or older, so this was a women’s only race and, in order to run the marathon, you had to be at least 40, and to run the half marathon, you had to be at least 40 or teamed with someone who is at least 40.

Goals: I wanted to run between water stations and not further damage my knee (I was diagnosed with bursitis this week and am limited to running 3 days a week with only swimming as a possible cross-training option). I deliberately did not look up my previous Grand Prix half marathon times to keep myself from working too hard, but I know that my distance PR is 2:03:55 from the Disneyland Half Marathon in flat-as-a-pancake Anaheim and that my New York PR is 2:08:49 (the NYC Half).

This event started, for me, at the expo. I went down at lunchtime on Friday, making sure to get there for the Meet-and-Greet with Katherine Switzer, Lynn Jennings, and Grete Waitz. I made my way around the expo, gathering the essentials (my race gear) and the goodies, then found myself at the More magazine booth. I got a 5-minute head, neck and shoulder massage (nice) and then met Katherine Switzer. She was sooooo nice!!! I told her that I wanted to thank her for what she did, because if she hadn’t, then we wouldn’t be here now and she hugged me and signed my bib. Then she called over Lynn Jennings to sign my bib and the three of us stood around chatting about the relative difficulties of the course, including which direction is more difficult. Then she introduced me to Grete Waitz and had her sign my bib as well. What a great experience!!

On race morning, it had been 2 days since I’d run or done any sort of exercise and I was worried about my legs. I got to the race about a half hour early and wandered around the booths. There was a stretch booth, but I decided to wait until after the race. I dropped my bag and headed over to the start. I stretched a little, then lined up by the 9-minute-mile marker. After some initial chatter and the National Anthem, we were off. Despite Peter Ciacia (sp?) announcing that walkers were to stay to the right to allow runners to pass on the left and to avoid walking two abreast, I was passing groups of walkers well into the first mile. I wasn’t sure what to expect from my knee, so I wanted to take it easy, especially knowing that we were going to be going up the rolling hills of the West Side within a couple of miles. The park is still pretty barren, but the difference between last week and this was incredible. Aside from a few patches of old snow up in the North hills, the snow and ice were all gone. Coming down the East side, I was happy to see that the cherry trees were budding, even blossoming, giving me hope that next week (if I run the Scotland 10k), the trees would be in full bloom and we’d have even lovelier scenery to run through. After the first couple of miles, I started to feel a bit better, though my legs were still a bit cranky. When I hit the rolling hills, I decided to give them all I have and take it all back on the downhill at the top of the Park. And that’s exactly what I did. When I came around to the East Side, I ran strong all the way down, stopping at the water station in the 6th mile to stretch a pinging Achilles tendon in my right heel. The stretching did a world of good – I didn’t feel my Achilles again for the rest of the race. I did a lot of math in my head this race, trying to figure out about what my time could be. When I hit the 6-mile marker, I was beginning to believe that I might actually set not only a course PR, but a New York half marathon PR as well. I swooped (9:05 pace) down around the bottom of the Park and headed back up past the finish-line, where I saw Katherine Switzer cheering us on. I called her name and she mid-fived me as I ran past. There were crowds of people cheering us on at almost every point along the course. It was really encouraging and I even saw my favorite cheerleader, the ex-Marine power-walker 3 times, getting a mid-five from him on my first loop around. At the water station in the 7th mile, my knee started screaming. It didn’t hurt at all while I was running, but when I stopped to walk through the water stations, the pain was unbelievable. Regardless, it didn’t hurt when I ran, so I just shortened my walk breaks. Coming up the West Side again, I decided to stick with my original plan, giving the hills all I had and taking back again on the way down. I tore down Harlem Hill, stopping for water and a caramel PowerBar gel on my way back up to the East side. I continued calculating in my head and when I hit the 10-mile marker, I knew that I had an excellent chance of breaking my New York PR and a faint chance of actually hitting a distance PR, which really surprised me. It was going to be a hard slog, though, if I was going to manage it. And lapping the walkers became a real problem here. Even though the volunteers were telling them to walk single file so the runners could pass, they were walking in groups of 3 and 4 abreast, forcing runners to pass them outside the rec. lane. The rest of the course was mostly flat and downhill, with just a few small hills (including the final hill up to Tavern on the Green), so I could push it a bit if I wanted. I hit the 11-mile marker in 8:34 and calculated that even if I slowed to a 10-minute mile, I could probably still break the distance PR. I hit the 12-mile marker in 8:53, and realized that running at my current pace would probably get me there in time, if I could get around the walkers. There were several points along this final mile where the walkers were taking up the entire rec. lane and the runners were either boxed in behind them or running outside the rec. lane to get around them. I ran around them, trying to maintain my pace. As I came up to the 13-mile marker, I realized that I was going to do it. I was beside myself! I had nothing left for a final sprint, but I didn’t need it. All I wanted to do was finish in under 2:05:55 on the official clock (I had started about 2 minutes after the race did, so if I finished in under 2:05:55, then my net time would be a PR) and I finished in 2:04:48. YAY!!!! I had to go to the medical tent afterwards, because my knee was completely wonky after the finish, but it was worth it!

Random Quotes (I’m putting the statements in quotes, but they’re almost definitely just the gist of what I heard):

“Walkers! Stay to the right and let runners pass on the left. Do not walk two abreast!” - Peter Ciacia (sp?) starting off the race

“Less gabbing and more running!” – one of the volunteers helping us stay within the rec. lane and cheering us on

“Enjoy the hill, ladies!” – the volunteer at the 102nd Street Transverse, which marks the start of the long, steep Harlem Hill

“You’re the best cheerleader!” – one of the racers to the ex-Marine on our third sighting of him along the course

Official stats: I finished in 2:02:42 for a 9:21 pace over the 13.1 miles, setting a distance PR by over a minute, an NYC PR by over 6 minutes, and a course PR by over 13 minutes!!!!! I was 700 out of 4200 runners, all female, putting me in the 83rd percentile (this isn’t as impressive as it looks – there were thousands of walkers) and 195th in my age group, putting me in the 80th percentile (or in the 74th percentile of the runners who finished in under 3 hours). It was 48°F (3°C) with 56% humidity and 7 mph winds. My mile splits from my watch were: 10:13, 10:01, 9:46, 9:28, 9:28, 9:43, 9:05, 9:41, 9:12, 9:19, 8:34, 8:53, 8:26, and :58 for the final tenth of a mile (9:40 pace).

Celebratory treats: I was caught unprepared for this one! I had no expectation of doing anything close to this time. I went to Whole Foods after the race, but, again, the treats I had eyed previously were not available. So, I decided to put something together from my (considerable) stash of chocolate at home. I drank Lorina Orangeade with lunch (yes, I tried to slush it up, but it wasn’t a particularly successful endeavor). My chocolate treats were my Cinnamon Kit Kat, which I’ve been hoarding since my friend Lisa gave it to m, and some dark-chocolate-covered hazelnut English toffee.

Next up: The Brooklyn Half Marathon on April 14th. I’m considering the Scotland 10k on April 1st, but haven’t committed yet. I’ll see how I feel after the next couple of days. It’ll depend on how well my knee has recovered. ‘Cuz you know I’ll be gunning for that 58:06 PR that I set in Irvine last year – another flat course!
Thank you for all your support!
Here is a link to some random pictures, including my race picture, some pictures from the expo and some food shots: (as always, there’s commentary in the slideshow).

Sunday, March 18, 2007

NYRR 8k Fun Run 3.17.07

Hi all,

Race 9 was the NYRR 8k (my 8th marathon qualifier). Due to the late winter storm that passed through NYC (dumping 5.5 inches of snow in Central Park), the NYRR postponed the Men’s Championship 8k to Sunday and changed the NYRR 8k race to a fun run. Anyone who registered for the race received credit towards the 2008 NYC marathon, whether or not they showed up. The course was the same – we started on the West Side at about 70th and ran clockwise around the Park, crossing at the 102nd Street Transverse and running all the way down around the bottom of the Park to finish at Tavern on the Green.

Goals: I had a set of goals in mind for this race, but, if the NYRR thinks the conditions are too bad to race in, I’m going to follow their lead and not race this one. So, if I ever find another 8k race, I’ll reapply my original goals. For this one, I just wanted to run between water stations and not fall down. Okay, I admit, I did have a revised time goal – I wanted to break 50:00.

I decided to run the lower loop twice before the 8k, so I got to Central Park early. It was still pretty dark out and the roads were not plowed. I dropped my bag at baggage claim and took off against the race route, trying to keep it to a slow pace so I wouldn’t get too tired. I finished up in just enough time to run up to the start, where I was happily surprised to find at least a couple of hundred people who were ready to have fun! My friend Emily was there with her boyfriend Tom and couldn’t believe that people were actually going to do this. This is only her second race, so we’re going to have to get some better weather in to keep her going. I looked for Mark, but wasn’t sure if he was going to be there. The gun sounded and we all took off. This was a multi-terrain race: some ice, some snow, some slush, some pavement. It wasn’t too bad and not slippery at all. The only slippery section I ran on was the 72nd Street Transverse during my warm-up and cool-down. There were two water stations: one on the 102nd Street Transverse and another on the East Drive just before we ran down Cat Hill. When I was coming around to the bottom of the Park, I could hear the music from the skating rink (which was apparently open, because I looked over and saw skaters). I laughed out loud – Billy Idol was singing “Hot in the City”!! Not this city, Billy, but thanks for the giggle! The DJ at the skating rink has an interesting sense of humor! I wasn’t sure how the finish line would be marked, but there were two cones on either side of the rec. lane and an NYRR staffer calling out the times. As soon as I finished, I turned around and ran the lower loop one more time for my cool-down. I ran against the race route so I could cheer people on. I passed Mark about a minute back and then Emily and Tom a short distance farther along. I finished the cool-down and there were very few people left. I grabbed my bag, threw on my coat, grabbed a handful of bagels and apples (they were fully stocked for the original number of runners and were offering the extras to everyone), and headed down to Penn Station to catch a train to go visit my parents on LI.

Rave Section: As I was walking toward 59th Street, the volunteers were working on breaking up the ice and snow and slush that covered the course in preparation for tomorrow’s race. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’m very impressed with the volunteers and staffers who come out for these winter races. They make sure we have fluids and encouragement and stay out there in the cold until we’re all done. I don’t think we’ve had a mild weekend this winter, but I have yet to run a race that wasn’t fully staffed (if not fully stocked). From what I’ve read, the Men’s 8k Championship was a success this morning, even though they had to change the course to multiple laps (the hard way) of the lower loop. Famiglietti won in 22:35 – that’s a 4:32 pace!!!

Unofficial stats: I finished in 49:12 for a 9:50 pace over the 4.97 miles, according to my sport watch and the NYRR staffer calling times at the finish line. It was 27°F (-3°C) with 74% humidity and 12 mph winds for a wind chill of 16° (-9°). My mile splits from my watch were: 10:04, 10:12, 9:53, 9:50, and 9:13 for the final .97 (9:30 pace).

Celebratory treats: My mom and I went to A&W and shared a cheeseburger and an order of cheese curds and downed them with (you guessed it) A&W root beers. And, after our St. Patty’s meal of corned beef, potatoes and cabbage, I had a green-and-white cookie for St. Patrick’s Day!

Next up: The More Half Marathon on March 25th and the Brooklyn Half Marathon on April 14th. I’m considering the Scotland 10k on April 1st, but haven’t committed yet. I’ll see how I feel after the More Half, which I think I will be running as a training run.

Thank you for all your support!

Here is a link to some random pictures, including my race picture, some pictures from the Park and at my parents’ place of the snow and ice from the storm, plus some food shots: (as always, there’s commentary in the slideshow).

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Colon Cancer Challenge 15k 3/11/07

Hi all,

Race 8 was the Colon Cancer Challenge 15k (my 7th marathon qualifier). This is a nice course: we start on the East Side, south of the 72nd Street Transverse, run counter-clockwise around the lower 5-mile loop (crossing at the 102nd Street Transverse), then run the middle 4-mile loop, finishing on the 72nd Street Transverse. The Colon Cancer Challenge offered a choice of a 4-mile or a 15k race, so I opted for the 15k, because I wanted to make it my long run, too.

Goals: to keep running between water stations, to run all of the miles at sub-10 pace, and to set a new PR (under 1:34:36 – a 10:10 pace). I was also hoping to break my 10-Mile pace of 9:48, which I set in January this year. The chocolate rule is still in effect. This was my 3rd 15k and the last one was over a year ago, so I wasn’t sure about strategy. I had also decided to wear my new Asics (I won a free pair in a contest at the Running Company). I’ve only worn them twice before and only on the treadmill, so this was going to be a real test for the shoes.

Daylight savings time came early this year, so I changed the time on my cell phone on Friday night, so I wouldn’t forget to change it the night before the race. I was up early anyway (I went to bed at 11 on my cell phone), so I headed down to Central Park to check out the Wellness fair before my run. I caught the finish of the 4-mile race – the leader came in at 20:05! My friend, Jany, was running the 4-mile race, too, so I tried to catch her finish, but I missed her (she finished 2nd in her age group!!). I caught up with her at the Wellness fair. It wasn’t much of a fair, but I did get a free book, The Colon Cancer Survivors’ Guide. I hope I don’t ever need it, either for myself or anyone I know. I dropped my bag and coat at the 15k bag check (running into Mayumi, another friend, who was also running the 15k, but much faster than I ever could), then headed out for my warm-up. I ran down the East side and around the bottom of the park, then turned around after about 11 minutes and ran back to the start of the race. I looked for Bonnie, but didn’t see her. I ran into Mark at the 9-mile marker and we hung out until the start of the race. I wasn’t sure how to pace this race, so I tried to run fairly easy. With the warm-up, my legs were feeling pretty good and I just let them go. The first mile went by pretty easily, but when I got to the second mile marker, my watch said I’d run the mile in 8:53 (and I’d walked through the water station and stopped to retie my tights, which were slipping down), so I decided to slow down a bit because I didn’t want to burn out early. Then, as I passed the 7-mile marker and saw that the 3-mile marker was much farther along than the 2-mile marker had been from the 6-mile marker, I realized that the 2nd mile was short and the third mile was long. I decided to not worry too much about the mile markers, since, obviously, NYRR was up to its usual efficient ways (more on this to come). I rounded the bottom of the Park, still moving easily, but getting tired. And you know what that means! Somehow, my mile splits starting picking up. Just after my second time up Cat, I heard my name and it was Paul, another friend. We ran together a little bit, but I was running out of air and walked through water station just after the 7-mile marker, using my inhaler when I’d finished my water. I put on the push and caught up with him as we headed up the flat section of the East Side (upper 80s to about 100th Street). We ran together to the next water station (he was running it slowly because of a hamstring injury, so I was able to keep up) and then he moved on again, while I walked through. As I came off the 102nd Street Transverse, I knew the next mile would be a little slower, because of the rolling hills, but hoped to pick it up again when I hit the 8-mile marker, where the course flattens out again. Just before the crest of a hill, I passed an ambulance in the middle of the rec. lane. Whatever had happened, everything was now inside the ambulance. I hope the person(s) involved is okay! At the next mile marker, I came within the length of the water station of catching Paul again, but then he picked up speed and I just couldn’t catch up (not to mention I walked through the water station, of course). I got through the 9th mile okay, but didn’t really have much left for a sprint. I finished on the transverse, hoping to beat my previous PR on the official clock. I did. I caught up with Paul after the finish and we got water and bagels, then headed up for baggage. I tried to see Bonnie finish, but was still getting my bag. We connected by cell phone and she had run a great race – sub-10 pace!

Rant section: If people know they’re going to be walking, they should start under the pace marker which reads “Walkers.” No-one should have to pass walkers in the first mile. Pedestrians who are not racing should find a better place to walk their dogs than in the race lane against the direction of the runners! There are two traffic lanes that we’re not supposed to be running in so that pedestrians can use the park while we’re racing – so use them!!! If pedestrians want to cross the race path, they should do it quickly and carefully, not start across the rec. lane and stop in the middle of the rec. lane. And, if the Parks Department insists that we stay in the recreation lane for our races, then I think they should be keeping the trucks out of the rec. lane when we’re racing. Yes, that’s right. At some point in the 9th mile, I had to run around a huge truck that was pulled out completely across the rec. lane. I don’t know how long he was stuck there, but I hope someone got him out of the way without hurting any of the runners. Another classic example of NYRR’s efficiency – Paul and I got bagels from the last bin of bagels. The bagels were given out by the 2s and 3s to the 4-milers (I know because I saw them walking around with bags of bagels after their finish), which meant that the 15k-racers didn’t all get bagels. Forget all of us, there were out of them shortly after I finished and there were still about 900 runners behind me! That’s just wrong!!!!!

Official stats: my net time was 1:26:25 for a 9:17 pace over the 9.3 miles – I set a new PR by over 8 minutes, which means chocolate for me! I was 1462 out of 2388 total runners, putting me in the 39th percentile. It was 43°F (6°C) with 74% humidity and 3 mph winds. My mile splits from my watch were: 9:31, 8:53, 10:06, 9:21, 9:31, 9:18, 9:06, 9:23, 8:37, and 2:43 for the final three-tenths of a mile.

Celebratory treats: Full on chocolate for an 8-minute PR! I went on a mini-shopping spree at Whole Foods on my way home. They didn’t have the chocolate treats I’d been eyeing all week, but I found something suitable: Pearl River 4-star Chocolate Supreme Cake (see pictures). It’s delicious, but not eating chocolate regularly is taking its toll on my chocolate stamina. I can only eat a few bites at a time. That’s okay – it’ll last that much longer! My treats also included some Zamarano cheese with a variety of Carr’s crackers and ice-cold Orangina.

Next up: The NYRR 8k on March 17th and the More Half Marathon on March 25th. Don’t look for chocolate treats on these two. I’ve never run an 8k before, so there’s no record to beat and my distance PR for the half marathon is 2:03:55, which I set in Anaheim, which is flat.
Thank you for all your support!
Here is a link to some random pictures, including today’s picture, some pictures I took at the reservoir and my treats: (as always, there’s commentary in the slideshow)

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Coogan's Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks 5k 3.4.07

Race 7 was the Coogan’s Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks 5k (my 6th marathon qualifier). We ran from 168th Street up Fort Washington Avenue to the turnaround in Fort Tryon Park and then back to the start.

Goals: to keep running between water stations, to run 3 sub-9 miles, and to set a new PR (under 28:34 – a 9:12 pace). I would have set a 5k PR in Prospect Park last year, but NYRR had set the course wrong and we ran 3.2, not 3.1. My pace for the race was 9:07, so I really wanted to beat a 9:07 pace, too. The chocolate rule is still in effect. There aren’t very many 5ks in NYC, so it’s been a while for me and I wasn’t sure how I’d do, but I was planning to give it my best (and not just for the chocolate, as I hope you all know).

This race is in my neighborhood (sort of), so I got to sleep in. Well, if I could have slept, I’d have been able to sleep in. I didn’t have to leave until 8 for a 9 am race and I could have left at 8:30, but I wanted to do a 2-mile warm-up first. As I headed around the armory, I (almost literally) bumped into Lou and we chatted briefly. I ran from the start to the 1-mile marker and back, calling thanks to the musicians setting up to play for us as we ran. I refrained from tearing down the hills, to conserve energy for the race. I’m glad I ran this warm-up – I’d forgotten just how bad the hills are. I stretched and lined up and bounced around waiting for the race to start. I couldn’t believe how happy I was when the gun sounded. I was very nervous about setting a PR this time. This is a difficult course, but a fun one. Among the musicians are bagpipers, a steel drum band, a pair of rockers (on guitar and sax), a folk group, a high school band, and, at the turnaround, a banjo player. In just 3.1 miles! Columbia’s cheerleaders and their mascot, Roaree Lion, were also on hand, but I went to Penn (Ivy League Champs) and Columbia is our biggest rival, so I didn’t pay much attention to them. There are always lots of local spectators, too, cheering us along on our run. The first mile is mostly uphill, first gradual, then pretty steep to a rounding curve over the top to a nice downhill, which I tore down, hoping to make up time I might lose later in the race. I skipped the first water station and tore down the hill to the turn-around. This section of the course faces the Cloisters – it’s an amazing view, but I refused to be tempted to slow down to enjoy it. I made a tight turn and headed back up the hill. This is where I lost it. I ran as hard as I could, but I was losing breath, coughing and wheezing. At the top of the hill, the Mother Cabrini High School band was playing “It’s a Small World” (my second favorite Disney song) and I stopped at the water station to try to catch my breath. I checked my watch and realized that I wouldn’t make a sub-9 if I didn’t get a move on, so I dropped my cup in the garbage and took off again. I missed it. I tried to make up the time in the last half mile, though. At the 3-mile marker, I passed Sue (cheering me on so much that I could still hear here a block away), and tried to sprint to the finish. I made it with a clear PR, just over 27 on the official clock, but I was wheezing and gasping the whole way (it was 3 hours before I could breathe normally). I found Sue, grabbed my bag, and we started off on our run home, with Otto. As we passed the bandstand, there were children dancing (maybe salsa). We passed the rockers again and Otto requested Black Sabbath. The sax player said, “Yeah, hold on. No, wait. Don’t hold on. Keep running” and we all laughed. I ran an extra 5 miles after the race to get my long run in for the week, giving me a total of 10 miles for the day. Sue took me through Fort Tryon Park again and then around the Dyckman Fields, which run right along the magnificent Hudson. It was a gorgeous run, especially when it started snowing towards the end! When the weather’s nicer, I’ll take a walk around there and post some pictures.

Official stats: my net time was 26:30 for an 8:32 pace over the 3.1 miles – I set a new PR by over 2 minutes, which means chocolate for me! I was 1186 out of 2873 total runners, putting me in the 59th percentile and 294 out of 1254 female runners, putting me in the 77th percentile by gender! I finished in the top quarter of women!! I also came in 35th in my age group (out of 136 – 74th percentile). It was 34°F (1°C) with 54% humidity and 16mph winds for a wind chill factor of 24°F (-4°C). My mile splits from my watch were: 8:55, 9:02, 7:59 and :46 for the final tenth of a mile (which equals a 7:40 pace!!). Another sub-8 mile – by just one second, but it still starts with a 7, and it came in the 5th mile of the day!

Celebratory treats: Full on chocolate for a 2-minute PR on a 3.1 mile course! I tempted fate by buying a treat ahead of the race, but, my friend, Jolene, had called dibs on any chocolate treats that I didn’t get to eat, so I knew they wouldn’t go to waste. I went to La Maison du Chocolat and bought 2 Cannele (cinnamon ganache – my favorite and La Maison makes the best), 1 Guayaquil (vanilla ganache) and 1 Garrigue (fennel ganache). I also had an ice-cold Orangina – not as a substitute for Dr Pepper, but because I really like it. I did not enjoy these together – that would have been gross. I drank the Orangina with my post-race meal and will be having the chocolates after dinner.

Next up: the New York Colon Cancer Challenge 15k on March 11th (my last real chance for a distance PR during Lent) I’m considering the NYRR 8k and the More Half Marathon, which I would run as a team with Lana.

Thank you for all your support!

Here is a link to some random pictures, including today’s picture, some pictures I took at the reservoir and my treats: (as always, there’s commentary in the slideshow)