Sunday, February 24, 2008

Al Gordon Snowflake 4-miler 2.23.08

Hi all,

Race number 5 was the Al Gordon* Snowflake 4-miler. We ran the center loop of Central Park. Because of the snow and rain on Friday, the NYRR cancelled the race and made it a fun run instead. Saturday morning dawned clear and gorgeous and the roads were completely cleared. Mary Wittenberg admitted that the race probably could have been run and I suspect next year they’ll wait until morning before making such momentous calls. This is a club points race for the local running clubs and is so popular that the race is split by gender. Because it was just a fun run, we all ran together.

Goals: I had prepared for a PR for this race, but, because it was a fun run and had been changed because of bad weather, I decided to run it as a training run and aimed for 1 minute per mile slower than my PR pace (34:59), hoping to hold back so I would finish in under 39.

I got there early in hopes that they’d changed their minds, but they hadn’t. I even walked to the finish line to see if the chip mats were up. They weren’t, so I dropped of my chip with a volunteer. I wandered around a bit, happy to see so many runners there, despite the cancellation of the race. I dropped off my bag and walked to the start with Lou. I took it very easy going into the run, hoping to keep my pace down. This was fairly easy for the first 3 miles, especially when I stopped for a long walk at the only water station on the course. The last mile it was a bit more difficult to hold back, because I’m so used to pushing in the final mile. I didn’t do such a great job, but, at least I didn’t race it.

Unofficial stats: according to my watch, I finished in 38:37 for a 9:37 pace. My splits were 10:07, 9:24, 10:10, and 8:57. It was 31°F with 82% humidity and 23 mph winds (gusting to 38 mph).

Celebratory treats: I tried to eat healthy snacks during the movies, but indulged in a TastyKake Butterscotch Crimpet today.

Next up: Coogan’s Salsa, Blues & Shamrock 5k Run (3/2), Colon Cancer Challenge (3/9), Central Park 8k Challenge (3/16)

Pictures are available at:

*Al Gordon (now 106 years old) is a founding member of the NYRR. For more information about him, click here:

Movie Madness: I scored a ticket to the AMC Best Picture Showcase and watched all 5 Best Picture Nominees back-to-back after the race. I enjoyed all of the movies, but am hoping that “Juno” gets award. We had about 20 minutes break between each movie (no previews!!) and just before each movie started, we were asked trivia questions and the people who guessed right received prizes. I hope they do this again next year! Twelve hours is a long time to sit in a movie theater, especially after a race, even just a fun run, but I got up between each movie and went up and down the stairs several times.

Long Run Sunday – I had expected to run a slower long run on Sunday, after racing on Saturday, but because Saturday ended up being a training run, I boosted it up and ended up running the 14 miles in 2:19:35 (9:58 pace). As always, I ran it as a ladder.

5-minute warm-up at 5.5 (10:30 pace)
55 minutes at 6 (10:00)
1 hour at 6.2 (9:40)
14:35 at 6.3 (9:30)
5-minute cool-down (1 minute at 4.5, 4 minutes at 4)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bronx Half Marathon 2.10.08

Hi all,

Race number 4 (3rd 2009 marathon-qualifying race and 2nd Grand Prix Half Marathon) was the BronxHalf Marathon. The course is an odd cloverleaf shape. The first loop goes out to the Moshulu Parkway from the Jerome Reservoir and back (about 6 miles). We turn just before we would cross the finish line from the wrong direction, looping around to the Grand Concourse, on which we run a 4-mile out-and-back, returning to the loop around the Moshulu Parkway, then back to the reservoir for the finish.

Goals: Because this was my 3rd half marathon in a 2-week period (well, 15 days, to be exact), I wanted to take it easy and avoid injury. I lost 3 minutes between the Manhattan Half Marathon and Surf City Half Marathon, so I hoped to not lose more than that again, which would be a 2:15 finish, but anything under 2:18:55 would be a course PR. My usual race “strategy” is to run between the water stations, but, under the circumstances, I had decided to just let my legs set the pace and try to get through the first half before taking additional walk breaks.

The forecast earlier this week was for the low to mid 20s, so I was happy to see that it was in the upper 30s when I got up. The windchill would still be in the 20s, but at least we weren’t starting from there. Instead of taking a car service, I decided to try public transportation. I am kicking myself! It took about a half hour. If I do this again, I will definitely go with public transportation. had indicated that it was a 45-minute trip, but I made every connection, so I ended up arriving an hour before the race. In that hour, the temperature must have dropped 5-10 degrees. The wind was not going to be fun. I ran into Lou and he commented on how tired I looked. I’m sure he was right, because I have been very tired lately. I just needed to get through another 2+ hours and I could rest (hopefully). I thought I saw Mark before the race, too, but when I called his name, he didn’t respond.

The race started with a lame joke by a Continental Airlines representative, who wished us all an “on-time arrival.” Bleah. Continental Airlines has become the official sponsor of the Grand Prix, so I’m hoping that means something besides a patch (for finishing at least 4) and a t-shirt (for finishing all 5) for the runners who complete it, especially because we are no longer guaranteed entry to the NYC Half Marathon, thanks to runners who complained. If you don’t want to put in the time and effort to finish the Grand Prix, don’t, but don’t take away the rewards from those who do!! And, I say that as someone who did not complete it last year, so I wouldn’t have been eligible this year, anyway.

Enough ranting – back to the race. As we headed out from the start, we passed a woman walking back towards us. I thought she was in the race, until I got closer and saw that she was wearing boots, jeans and a jacket. She was also gaping at the runners, so I don’t think she realized that a race was scheduled for that morning. It was over 2 miles to the first water station, which is a little long for me. I made it, but my legs were tired and needed the break. The front runners were running back towards me in the 3rd mile. It’s crazy and inspiring to see them moving so fast, seemingly effortlessly. I made it to the 5th mile before I needed an additional break. I knew there was still another mile before the next water station, so I just stopped and walked for a minute. I picked it up again, heading towards one of the few major hills on the course. The hills on this course tend to be steep uphills and long sloping downhills in one direction and long sloping uphills with steep downhills in the other. I prefer steep uphills and steep downhills, frankly. It was in the 6th mile that I saw the dead rat. I’ve run this race 4 years in a row now and each time, there’s been a dead rat on the course somewhere. As we came back to the initial straightaway on our way to the turn before the finish line, that same woman was still walking on the street, but had lost her jacket and was now wearing only a camisole top with her jeans and boots. She must have been freezing. This time, she was unfazed by our streaming past her.

After a loop around Bronx High School for Science, we hit the Grand Concourse. This is the worst part of the course. The wind was blowing in our faces the entire time and I had to stop and use my inhaler again. I cannot breathe at all when a cold wind is blowing in my face, whether or not I’m running. The best part of this section was seeing my friend, L.K., as he was running back towards me (he’s much faster than I am). I made it to the turn-back at the 9th mile and then had the wind at my back. My legs were so tired by this point that I was walking twice every mile. I took a Powergel at the 10-mile water station and calculated that I could still hit my goal if I ran 10-minute miles to the finish, which meant no more extraneous walk breaks. So, I sucked it up, hit the pavement and ran from water station to water station. When I left the 12-mile water station, my mantra was “Less than a mile.” I repeated that over and over until I passed a spectator telling us that we only had a half-mile to go. So, I changed my mantra to “Just a half a mile.” At last, I saw the 13-mile marker and then the clock at the finish line. I had nothing left for a sprint, but tried to maintain my pace. My calves were cramping the whole last mile, so I had also promised my legs that if they just got me to the finish in under 2:15, I would go straight to the medical tent, which I did. They stretched my calves and iced my knee and then I left, running into Mark and Athina. We took pictures, then went our separate ways.

Official stats: my official time was 2:13:55 for a 10:13 pace and a course PR by over 4 minutes. My splits were 9:53, 9:34, 10:19, 10:30, 10:22, 10:20, 10:12, 10:36, 10:14, 10:29: 10:15, 10:00, 10:16, and 1:01 for the last tenth of a mile. I was 3652 out of 4989 total runners, putting me in the 19th percentile (up 5% from last year and up 17% from my first attempt at this race). It was 41°F with 67% humidity and 23 mph winds (gusting to 38 mph).

Celebratory treats: Garrett’s CheeseCorn, Dancing Deer Molasses and Clove cookies and the last of my Peeps Peppermint Stars (which I saved for today)

Next up: I haven’t signed up for anything yet, but the Al Gordon Snowflake 4-miler is scheduled for February 23rd.

Pictures are available at: And I’ve fixed the Surf City album, so you should be able to view the pictures now

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Surf City Half Marathon 2.3.08

Hi all,

Race number 4 was the Surf City Half Marathon. It was an out-and-back course along the Pacific Coast Highway with a 3-mile loop back into the hills.

Goals: I’d just run the Manhattan Half Marathon the weekend before, so I wasn’t sure how my legs would feel, not to mention jet-lag, so I set the usual goal of running between the water stations and hoped I could manage a 2:10. This was the inaugural running (it used to be called the Pacific Shoreline, but the name and the course changed this year), so everyone set a course PR.

Expo day: Shayna had suggested that I run this event and when I decided to run it (to support my brother in his first half marathon), I thought I would surprise her by showing up at the expo. I arranged for her to meet my brother at the expo to introduce him to some Big Cats. As we were walking towards the expo, Shayna sent a message that she wasn’t going to make it, so I had to call her to tell her I was there. We arranged to meet before the race the next morning. Next time, I’ll do a better job setting up the surprise. I didn’t get to meet any of the other Big Cats, either, unfortunately.

Race day: It was raining, cold, and windy. On the way to race, I decided to reset my 2:10 goal to 2:15. We donned our black garbage bags, then dropped my sister off at the 5k start (she was walking it with a friend from work) and headed over to the marathon start to find Shayna and company. We huddled together for a while and then headed off to the start. My brother had planned to start at the back, because this was his first half marathon, but I’ve been following his training and knew that he was going to run faster than he expected, so I made him start in the third wave with me. We headed out together and I stayed to the left of the course, so I could find my sister in her 5k. As we passed the start area for the 5k, the announcer asked who was supporting the Giants. I cheered loudly, of course! Then, he asked who was supporting the Patriots. There were some boos, but not as many cheers as for the Giants. Then, he asked who would rather be sitting in a warm, dry living room watching the game and we all cheered!!

I missed the first mile marker while I was looking for my sister. I saw the second one and thought that would help me find them along the way. I was wrong. They were only on the right side of the course and the ones which didn’t get knocked down by the wind were barely head-high. Most of the clocks weren’t even working. In the third mile, we turned off the PCH and headed up into a hill for a brief break from the wind. The front runners were coming down out off the hill, so I stayed to the left in hopes of seeing some Big Cats. No luck! Coming down off the hill myself, I stayed to the left to see if I could find Shayna or Jenn, who I thought was jogging with a stroller (she wasn’t). No luck! Back onto the PCH, we passed oil pumps chugging away. I’m sure the scenery would have been lovely had the weather cooperated, but, as it was, I spent most of my time avoiding looking at the surf and trying to keep the water from washing the contact lenses out of my eyes. There were two chip mats along the course – one at 5k and one in the 8th mile. I wasn’t sure of the significance of that one, but I made sure to hit them both. Clif Shot Blox were supposed to be available along the PCH, but I didn’t get any until the 11th mile station. I took a long walk-break there, eating my Black Cherry Shot Blox (yum!), walking off the stiffness in my knee, and finally getting rid of the big black garbage bag, which was more of a hindrance at this point. There was never a moment when I didn’t feel cold and I had been soaked through before the start, so I might as well have not had it on!! Anyway, I was desperate to get off the course and try to get warm again, so I pushed as hard as I could to get to the finish. I couldn’t find anyone in the finishing chute, but finally caught up with my brother at the expo tents. We called my sister and she came over so we could all take pictures together.

Official stats: my official time was 2:12:19 for a 10:06 pace and a course PR. My splits were 20:28 (1&2), 10:20, 9:59, 10:09, 9:43, 20:51 (7&8), 20:30 (9&10), 10:12: 10:54, 9:42, 8:58, and :58 for the last tenth of a mile (pace). I was out of total runners, putting me in the percentile. It was 30°F with 75% humidity and 6 mph winds.

Celebratory treats: On the way home, we stopped at In and Out Burger for fries and exchanged congratulations with a lot of other Surf City runners who had the same idea. Then, we stopped at Rubio’s for a yummy fish taco. At home, I had a slushy Dr Pepper, lots of yummy SuperBowl snacks, a chocolate peppermint brownie, and a Chokolit truffle (thank you, Lisa!)

Next up: Bronx Half Marathon (2/10)

Thanks for all your support!!

Pictures are available at: