Chicago Marathon Recap: Running gains or pains?

@ Abbott Fitness Expo (Chicago Marathon’19)

Let me just start by saying this marathon course remains my favorite in all the cities I’ve run in the United States. From the start on Columbus Drive in the Grant Park area through its popular wide (I’m from New York) city streets and local districts just outside the city loop: Lincoln Park, University Village, Chinatown etc… and back to the finish in Grant Park it really is a beautiful course with all the trimmings of sights, sounds, and support. One couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day outside of the winds that picked up in the last few miles. No surprise there though, they don’t call it the windy city for nothing. Indeed, notwithstanding the wind, the weather was miles better than last year where it rained the entire time. This brought the fans out in their numbers along the route while sunshine littered the course. A good day for a marathon I’d say!

I’m afraid my back and knees wouldn’t agree. I mean, we had some fun out there during the first half. I enjoyed the crowd support, the pace was great, and so were the volunteers and fuel stations as per always. But man, it was hugely disappointing around mile 13 to feel my lower back caving to the pressure of the tempo pace I had been sticking to from miles 5 through 13. Up till then I had been ignoring the twinges in my right knee, hoping the other knee would remain silent. Unfortunately for me, with the start of those lower back pains, I had to yield to a slower pace and a couple bathroom breaks, which were more rest-my-back breaks, and slowly embrace the pains in both knees by this time, made much worse by my having to overcompensate for my lower back. By mile 18 I was in suck-it-up mode and was working on keeping a steady pace with minor interruptions for fuel – always sticking to the outside and picking it up close to the end of the line. I was aiming for no stops for two reasons: so as to minimize the pain and the length of time for which I was experiencing it, and yes, I was still keeping an eye on my pace. I figured finishing under 3:45 wouldn’t be so bad all things considering.

One thing I have learned over the years with racing and running marathons, and I think I’ve become good at, is adapting and adjusting a racing strategy. Experience has taught me that there’s a 50/50 chance on any given race day that I will actually run the race I had been training for. Because there are factors at play beyond my control such as the weather and, yes, God forbid injuries, one is always hoping and praying that all things being equal it will be a typical/ normal running day. However, if you know anything about typical/ normal these days, you’ve already realized that its no longer a thing. One must roll with the punches and play the hand you’re dealt to avoid being left somewhere at the side of the road eating the proverbial dust. Enough with the cliches, I’m sure you get the gist. That being said, I was prepared to let my body and how it felt that day determine the race I was going to run. Since I was well aware of my knee issues going in I figured I at least knew what, if any, my challenge would be. Imagine my surprise when the back issue popped out of seemingly no where. Only, on further thought – not while I was running but later on after the race, I remember the unfortunate instance of doing a round of heavy deadlifts at the gym the week prior, which had left me sore and pained. Days later the soreness and pain were gone and so was the unfortunate memory. But these things, left untreated, have a way of resurecting. And so that is just what happened.

At the end of the day, the why is less important than the how and the fact remains that because of my experience, training, and sheer determination I was able to suck it up and got to the finish line in a time I could live with. I often joke when asked “what if you don’t finish?” that it’s never a question of if, but when. I’ll endeavor to stay true to that philosophy and in the event I ever feel that I don’t have it within me anymore, I will bow out gracefully, 26.2 miles intact. For now, I can only hope these rolling hills of New York City will be gentler on me. I know what you’re thinking and in all probability you may be right – I’m hardly likely to fare much better here in NYC given the wide disparity in gradients of these two courses. Add to that my obvious disadvantage of being three weeks out from my last race with injuries and well it all seems to add up to one possible outcome right? The only thing is I’m sorta in the habit of defying odds 😉. Oh ye of little faith. 😊

Recapping the 2019 Boston Marathon: 26.2 miles that just won’t quit

“Wow It’s over!” That was the first thought I had last Monday at just around 2:20pm. Yep, that was about the time I crossed the finish line at Bolyston Street in Boston at the 123rd running of the Boston Marathon – my fourth and best one thus far. Oops! Did I just leave myself open to another one? I just may have at that. I can just hear you thinking now… hmm, it must’ve been a good one for her to come out thinking of going back yet again! Especially after I said this would more than likely be my last Boston providing I had a good race. Well now, let’s see what qualifies as a good race: weather – all over the place, pace – conservative and consistent, course – manageable, BAA event handling – a bit of room for improvement, and volunteer and spectator experience – exceptional. Were I then to rate the 2019 Boston Marathon, it would get a score of 7/10. Quite an improvement from the last three times and a bit of a quandary for me in terms of deciding on whether I should go back next year.

Let me just say that the only reason I would even consider this is because I got within my goal range of 3:30 – 3:35, which has led me to believe that a goal of 3:30 is attainable after all. But what is it about Boston though that has be coming back for more? Am I some sort of maschiost that enjoys the hurt on those Newton hills? Or is it as simple as loving the challenge of a good course, which Boston altogether certainly is. Like every other runner of this race, I resent those hills and maybe I, along with those who’ve done it multiple times, even more so because we know exactly when they’re up and what it takes to get through and over them. They are undoubtedly the most difficult aspect of the race and a common cause of many failures to accomplish goals. Can you ever really be prepared for them? I don’t know. I think you can devise a strategy and with experience and commitment pull it off but whether one can conquer those hills would be a good question for the elite runners. I’d love to watch them run that particular aspect of the course. In any event, I got through them with a slow, steady, and sure strategy. The plan was never to race those hills but to keep a sure and steady pace on the incline and I stuck to it like glue. No stopping, or faltering, or walking, which would kill one’s momentum faster than you could think it. Again, you learn by experience sometimes and while I have stopped a few times while racing, they’ve never been on hills. I plan on keeping it that way.

But let’s go back a bit. In the past I’ve said that the easiest portion of this race is the first sixteen miles and that did not change. It was made a bit more challenging obviously when the sun came out around mile five, but its been hotter before. From there it got pretty hot pretty fast and stayed that way for the duration of my run. To be fair, we were promised a break in the weather, which started off with heavy rains and thunderstorms earlier that morning up to and during the loading of the busses to Hopkington. This window was supposed to have been between 10am and 2pm when the rains would stop. It was spot on, leaving us to start under overcast skies. Everyone seemed pretty happy with that and I was ecstatic. Not so much about the muddy mess that was Athletes Village, and after my harrowing experience to get to a port-a-pottie, I didn’t hang around but got started on the long trek to the start line. I had a late start being in wave 3 and too much time to think but we eventually got going and were toe to toe for the first 3-4 miles after which it spaced out some as we entered Ashland. Not too long after that the sun came out amidst the bluest of skies, the heat soon followed, backed up by the wonderful crowds that were with us from the beginning to the end. It’s easy to see that Bostonians are a patriotic and loyal bunch. It was Patriot’s Day in Boston and they were out in their numbers to celebrate and support the marathon with all of the fervor and leftover zeal from the Red Sox game the evening before. I figure one out of three wasn’t bad given perfect doesn’t exist. Only, the heat just never let up and while I’ve run in hotter conditions, and in Boston too, it does wear on you and will always cost you some time as it generally means more hydration and getting in between other runners and the water/Gatorade stops. A few noteworthy mentions are: the Wall at Wellesley, always fun to see the college girls out cheering us on like their lives depended on it and with the most outrageous signs too. For me, the pleasure is watching the faces of first time runners as they bathe in the experience..priceless! The supporters on the hills at Newton – I do so appreciate that they had to find their way there and were prepared to stay for hours to cheer the runners on. God bless their hearts they were all over those hills screaming and urging us on. They kept at it, wouldn’t let up, and gave tremendous boosts of encouragement at the moments they were direly needed. Then there were the hydration stations – perfectly positioned every 2/3 miles, we didn’t want for fuel at any point, and given the heat, that was super important.

Of course we couldn’t have done it without the thousands of volunteers..they’re a steadfast and amazing lot and at every race I remain dumbfounded by their generosity of spirit in giving their time (sometimes the entire day and/ or weekend) to ensure we have an amazing experience. They’ll always hold a special place in my heart. And after heartbreak hill, I was even more beholden to them and to the crowds of spectators who did more than cheer. Everything under the sun (and many were begging for rain then) that one could think about was out for grabs: Vaseline (came in so handy as my tighs were chaffing badly), candy, water, beer, fruit, wet towels, water hoses., you name it, were all made available by those cherry folks. Little do they know the impact they have on runners at this point. Most of us are either struggling or revelling at miles 21-26 and in either case need this jubilant display of support and generosity to take us to the finish line. For my part, I was in the zone about then and was aware only peripherally of what was happening around me and could only manage a few palm touches for fear of losing my momentum. Mile 25 was surreal in that I kept zoning in and out and can clearly remember some parts of it and nothing of other parts. I recall stopping at the last water station and being grasped by someone and getting pulled along for a few yards particularly, but then I blank until the final 800 meters, which looked like a distant star on the horizon. I mean, I thought that run down Bolyston street would never end, and was probably what prompted the words I started this narrative with, “wow, it’s over,” when I finally crossed the finish line in a time of 3:34:15. Soon after the rains came down in all it’s might and windy fury. And just then was I ever so glad I didn’t get caught in that. It was indeed over for me.

13.1 Qualifying Miles at The Staten Island Half Marathon

A couple of Sundays ago I surprised myself by achieving a goal that till then had seemed unattainable, in a race that made it seem unlikely to happen in this lifetime. While I’m a fan of the persistence school of thought, I was almost prepared to let it go in this instance as I was getting pretty convinced that qualifying for the New York City Marathon was something I could have done four or five years ago.

Persistence, they say, pays off. Well, I’m happy to say, I remain a fan and I qualified. Goal check anyone! If you’ve been following, then you know that was one of my goals in addition to a hundred others. For the past two years, I’ve been trying assiduously to increase my half marathon time. I ran many races using different strategies in an attempt to meet the qualifying time of one hour and thirty-seven minutes; up till now it seemed to get further and further out of reach each passing year. Turns out, it was when I wasn’t too preoccupied with achieving this goal that it happened. Not that I wasn’t wanting to run the time I needed, only that I’d run this race last year with high expectations and ended up with blah results. Therefore, I decided this time around to temper my enthusiasm and be a bit more practical, and so opted to focus on having an open strategy to compensate for a tougher course – a mountain of a hill – and uncertain weather conditions – surprisingly no rain.

To be fair, the Staten Island Half Marathon has been my favorite half marathon since running in New York, which is well reflected in my previous races there. In fact, my best half marathon time happened in Staten Island five years ago. It is precisely for this reason I was ecstatic with this year’s result as I was within twenty-eight seconds of my half marathon PR. Broken down, that means I’m currently running at a pace comparable to five years back. At my age that makes me feel pretty good. Makes me think there maybe something to that “your best years are ahead of you” at forty saying.

One may be tempted to ask, what’s my secret? And in actuality someone did. The thing is if there is a secret it escapes me. I’m really a believer in believing in yourself, putting in the work for what you want to achieve, and trusting the process to deliver. For sure the stars won’t always align and things won’t always go the way you hope or plan but if each time you give one hundred percent and remain prepared for the eventuality, then when it does come around, and it will, you’ll be ready. As for me, I’ll try to keep that in mind as I head into the final week of prepping for Marathon Sunday. ✌

Rounding off the Summer in running style: A 50K, Speed Runs, and Views to Run for.

Selfie stop @ Vineyard Haven Harbour

It’s been a helluva busy last couple of weeks let me tell you. In fact, I’ve been stretched so thin ( no one’s doing but mine) that I haven’t found the time to get on here and post anything! Excuses, excuses, I know, but the truth is hellishly the same I’m afraid. I’ve run around trying to keep the end of summer at bay by trying to fit in one too many activities to tide me over once it’s well and truly gone. As it is, Labor Day has come and gone and as of this past weekend we’re heading into Fall territory. Ouch! What have I been up to then!

Smart Ass Trail Mix-Up – 50K – 5th Place

Well two weekends ago, I did some impromptu running and ended up with a 50 K trophy for 5th place after running a 31 miler. Yes, my very first ultra! And it happened so by the way that it’s not even funny. Turned out a few runners I know happened to have mentioned that there were two races: 30K and 50K happening in my neck of the woods and I felt challenged to give it a shot – just to see if I was capable of going beyond 26 miles. As it happened, my running was great for the 30K (ie. 18 miles) and got progressively worse as the miles advanced. It didn’t help that I started out with the idea to treat it as a long run – it’s marathon season after all – and I had never run more than 22 miles for a long run. In addition to which I did little to no race preparedness and got all of four hours sleep the night before. I figured this was just to see if it was possible, no big thing really..I wasn’t planning on racing or anything..and just wanted to gauge my ultra running potential. Big mistake of course but two lessons well learnt. I am never one to do laid back running in a competitive setting (or laid back anything for that matter) and trail running requires a different set of running prep – a different strategy for sure – and will not be as easy as road running just because I enjoy it more. It might have been the smarter thing to cut it off at 18 miles but who says I am (LOL), I actually made a decision then that I was going to finish no matter what. I ended up having to run/walk for a few miles, when common sense prevailed. But I did finish, though with a pretty slow time and way below what I would have ever expected to get a trophy for. I guess with just 100 entrants for the entire thing and with just about half of that choosing to go on to do the ultra that didn’t place me in any stellar field of athletes, but hell, in light of the circumstances, I was fine with that.

Part of our lulu run group

A day later I was back in the gym and the following week I joined up with my running group for some speed work in Central Park. I have a standing Wednesday group run with some fine folks at one of the athletic stores in the city and ideally we meet up once a week, twice bi-weekly during summer, to do some speed runs and drills. Ideally, because really I haven’t been fastidious about meeting up, though I have managed to make it count when I do. These speed runs help me work on my pace, running efficiency, and breathing technique as we vary workouts to include speed drills, hill repeats, 1-mile intervals, and Yasso 800s’ among others. Still, I would like to do more and up my training some. Between work, the gym, and getting about this summer, I may have run my lowest record of miles for the month of August.

Bike Trail to State Beach, Martha’s Vineyard

I’m jumping headlong into September though and already have a few runs down. It all started with a Labor Day weekend trip to the Cape where I spent a lovely 2 & 1/2 days on Martha’s Vineyard. A serene- picturesque-tiny-town-old-harbour-countryside feel. It was amazing and way too short. But, I managed to get a run in through the town of Vineyard Haven and along the water with amazing views of the sunrise, the marina, and the endless ocean. Found myself some hills too heading into some winding countryside of sorts and even shared them with a few other runners. We for went running on one of the days and opted to bike to the beach and explore a bit. Needless to say it was great and exhausting fun. It had been a while since I’d been on a bike for that long. When it was all over I felt even more in need of a holiday than I did before the trip had begun. But hey… memories and experiences cannot be bought only lived and enjoyed one day, or one run at a time. I like to say, I will rest when I die! 😁

Summer Runs – New York City

Summer Runs – Martha’s Vineyard

Summer Runs – Queens, NY

Racing in the rain vs Sunshine: A review of the Popular Brooklyn Half

An ideal spring race day would boast an average of 65° temps and be cool and overcast. Lovely right? Lovely and rare. Most runners know we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature on any given day; we can plan and strategize as much as we want, but when it comes down to it – when we stand at the start line of a race- our run is dictated primarily by the weather conditions with ability and efficiency coming in second. I’ve had three races so far this year that have left me in little doubt of that fact.

Last Saturday around 25,000 of us ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon to the tune of pouring rain. Now, I’ll be honest, this was my fourth time running this race and while the course was consistent in its wretchedness in the latter half, it was the first time I felt better able to deal with that part of it. All credit to the rains that never let up. Past races on this course have either been hot or humid, not true of this past one and I was only too glad. Seems, for running, I’m partial to cool weather conditions even if it’s wet as oppose to running with sunshine or in the heat, and please, never when it’s freezing rain.

Conditions at the start of the race were wet and hazy that Saturday morning and one couldn’t really be sure how things would progress. Granted, there was a lot of shivering going on, but it was manageable. We knew it would feel much better once we started to run and thankfully it did. What proved treacherous was navigating the puddles and oftentimes slippery roads. I soon gave up that fruitless struggle and committed to running with soaked and squishy shoes. The advantage of running in the rain is that because one need not be concerned with the perils of heat exhaustion, energy can be better utilized focusing on maximizing running efficiency, thus improving pace. And so, once I chuffed my preoccupation with soggy-less shoes, I was able to run and let the chips fall where they may. This strategy allowed me to really enjoy running in Prospect Park and have a really good first half, hills and all. Unfortunately, it didn’t last; though I did feel great up to mile 10. As usually happens with me on Ocean Parkway, the final stretch to Coney Island, I started to lose steam, and myself a bit, as it seemed that stretch would go on forever. With no end or variety in sight, it took all I had and then some to try to stay under an eight minute mile. I managed to do so to finish in 1:39 but I remain hugely disappointed that I couldn’t improve my time by two minutes.

I feel certain that this was the race to get the personal best I’ve been chasing since last year, except there’s something that I’m doing that’s not working. I’m committed to figuring out what the heck it is and so it stands to reason that I’m looking to my diet, sleep, and/or training to get the answers. I mean we had near-perfect running conditions yet I couldn’t deliver on the time. Meanwhile, after crossing the finish line, while I was a bit breathless, I was perfectly fine in under five minutes. I was neither in pain nor exhausted. I felt great. That begs the question, why then wasn’t I able to push more feeling as good as I was at the end? I’m not sure but it’s a question I mean to have answered.

March-ING on!

Source: pop sugar.com

Gotta say I’ve been ready for Spring since the ending of January. And now that March is here, I’m talking myself into its sights and sounds wherever I go. But darn it… the weather just won’t cooperate. I can do rain. What I can’t do is cold rain and the snow/sleet that accompanies it, along with the crazy wind we’ve been getting. One can only hope it’s on its way out. Meanwhile, there’s been lots of running so as to keep up with my first official race of the year – the NYC Half Marathon – happening this Sunday.

Ambivalence seems to be the order of the day as I’m not sure how to feel. Part of me is excited about the new course for this race – a new course is always a thrill – on the other hand, past experience has left me in chills. Literally. The timing of this race almost always ensures it’s a cold one. One can only hope for a miracle of sorts this time around. Weather projections aside however, there’s the usual pomp & excitement that comes with runners taking over the streets of NYC – running through Times Square never gets old, and now we get to explore different parts of the city as well. No more West Side Highway and Seaport or Financial District for me. I think many of us will not miss that too much, if at all, since running near the water is no one’s idea of a fun race on a cold day. That being said, I’m not sure if it’s wise to describe this as a fun run. Well..maybe so, maybe not, it all depends on perspective. Since I’d love to run a PR I’m not looking for too much of excitement. But hey, I’m not opposed to having a bit of fun out there on the course if time allows, which it probably won’t and that’s not the view of a pessimist. On the contrary, I’m always optimistic about my runs, maybe too much so some might say. In any and every event, I’m hoping for a good race and plan on spending this week relaxing the running, doing a bit more cross training, eating well, and getting to bed earlier. Notice I didn’t say early, because that’s near impossible, but earlier will ensure I get between 6-7 hours sleep per night in order to be able to execute a good race.

Race-preparedness means that I’d do well to look over the course, devise a running strategy and a few days before (like Thursday) go through my race checklist to make sure everything’s squared away and I’m ready to go. Most likely, I’ll enjoy a short, easy run on Saturday morning, about 3-5 miles – mainly because it’s become more of a tradition before my races, but also because it simply makes me feel better.

There really is no magic to this sport. You train, eat well, rest and allow the body to recover, and then just go out there on D-day and give it your best. At least that’s what I plan on doing. Wish me luck!

Ready, Set, Run-ning Gear

Running Shenanigans in D.C.

I ran..well rode..away to Washington last weekend amidst the snow here in New York to take part in a small half marathon on the trail along the Ohio – Chesapeake River canal in Georgetown. Turns out, I’ve done smarter things considering the proximity of our nation’s capital to New York. It snowed, turned slush, and ice, while temperatures stayed well below freezing. Yet still we ran. I think a case can be made for the ridiculous extreme some are willing to embrace in pursuit of a goal. I’d be the first to shout, “guilty!”

In any event, after an early pasta dinner the night before and 7 hours of sleep, I got up early, had breakfast at the hotel, which was 10 minutes away, and took a uber to the start. Not one for standing around waiting to run, much less in freezing weather, I was glad I didn’t get there too early as runners shivered through their warm ups while the Marathon and 7K took off. Soon after at around 8:30 am it was my turn in the half-marathon. I had enough time before the race started to second guess my decision to run without my gloves and phone. By start time, I decided I couldn’t do without them and wrapped in my heat sheet headed out.

Let me just say, trails I love; mud, water, and ice, not so much. From the get go it was a battle to stay sure-footed and not end up on my face. Trying to avoid slipping and sliding meant I had to pay careful attention to foot placement and try to keep to firmer ground, which was impossible for most of the run. Tried though I did, I couldn’t help slowing down in the muddy and wet areas and tried picking off runners and focusing on how pretty everything looked covered in snow, and not on the challenge of running faster and breather harder. Only at the mile 6 marker and turnaround did I get rid of the heat sheet – it took that long to warm up – and I immediately felt a bit lighter. It didn’t help too much overall though, as I still struggled to finish in the time I had hoped for, finally succumbing to a slower pace in miles 10, 11, and 12, only to finish faster on the last 1.1 mile. In retrospect, the miles where I slowed down were crucial to my goal and I should have sucked it up and forged ahead at my average (until that point) of 7:30 min p/mile. However, I dropped down to 7:43 and ended up in a sad 18th place out of 162.

One week later, and my last chance of 2018 gone, I remain extremely miffed with my performance that day and this year in general. I can only hope that the new year will bring greater opportunities and smarter and faster running as I’m in it for the long haul and remain committed to chasing PR dreams.

Chasing the elusive PR at Queens Half Marathon

Two Sundays ago I ran the Queens Half Marathon put on by NYC RUNS here in the borough of Queens in New York. It was only my second race with this organization, the first being a not-very-wow experience, but they offered a certified course to qualify for the NYC Marathon 2018 so I wasn’t averse to sucking it up to get my coveted entry. Two things happened that sorta surprised me – if that’s the right word. Firstly, the race was run way better than I expected, not by me, but by the organizers and amazing volunteers. And secondly, despite the great course, I was once again disappointed with my inability to PR and get the qualifying time I needed so badly. I have to say, this year has not been kind to me in the PR department, pun intended, I’ve had too many near-misses. Though, in all honesty, it hasn’t been all bad even though those good races haven’t amounted to much really. However, I was happy that this race was at least a good one, one I wouldn’t mine running again next year minus the cold.

Race morning dawned with frigid temperatures and had hundreds of us, who were brave enough to get out to the start in Flushing Meadows Park for a god-forsaken 5:30 am, shivering and wondering who the heck we had murdered to be deserving of such punishment. But in true out-of-our-minds runner’s style we sucked it up and passed the time trying to warm up and blowing out icy breaths. Properly corralled, we started out around 7:10 and pretty soon took to the streets of Queens. Because I’ve never raced in the Queens community before, I was really thrilled to be out among other runners embracing, what I consider, my home. Surprisingly, in spite of the chilly temps, there were quite a bit of supporters out cheering at various points throughout the course. We were also treated to random pop-up bands – small as they were – you really learn to appreciate all supporters when you’re out there slugging it out, and really incredible volunteers, who despite the cold, were out on the course at intervals handing out water, Gatorade, gels and tons of support. They were simply amazing, and helped to make sure that we had a fantastic run.

For my part, I felt I had a very strong race for the first nine miles after which things got a bit dicey. I had two hiccups with my gel falling around mile 9.5, after a few steps I missed it and had to run back, then the water cup slipped out of my hand at mile 11 and I stopped to grab another. On both occasions, I lost momentum and felt that the run got harder and my pace slower. The last mile saw me struggling to keep pace and I really feel it was then that I lost the battle for a 1:37:00 finish. Up till mile 9, I was able to lose myself in the new course and enjoy running though Queens neighborhood, parks, and around the cemetery and the botanical garden. It was when we entered Citi Field and had to meander our way through and back to the start that I had a more difficult time. As is more often the case than not, I fell short of a perfect run but managed to have a good time for the most part. The last 800 meters proved to be my fastest and most enjoyable coming into the finish area to the cheers of the crowds lining the path, marred only by my glace up to the clock, which indicated that my PR dream would not be realized that day after all. I was off by two minutes and six seconds.

We were met with food in the finish area after collecting our medals and really the only thing missing was hot drinks, since it felt even colder then and I felt like I’d have given up my medal for a hot chocolate at that point. Suffice to say, we had to settle for heat sheets and messed up as I was about my time I was in no mood to hang around and chit chat in the cold. Thus, I hustled off to collect my gear from the baggage area, change into something that wasn’t wet, and get the heck out of there to find some warmth. Eternal optimist that I am, I think it wasn’t too bad of a day’s run, after all there’s always tomorrow.

Back In the Game and training for a half-marathon PR

 

It’s been forever since I’ve trained for a half-marathon. So long in fact that this past week found me searching out advice on the best approach to training for a goal time come October 8. The chips are down and I’m back in training mode and ready to run. This is sure to be different from what I’ve become used as I’m now focusing on shorter tempo runs and speed work minus the famed long runs. Although, I’ll still be doing a bit of the long runs, only not as much, as I have another race–my yearly charity run–that same month. Double Yikes! I have never ran a half and full marathon in the same month before. Even so, my goal is centered on the half and so training is geared towards increasing speed and performance for 13.2 miles.

It’s incredible how quickly the year is flying by. My plea remains, “Why the rush?” I’m only just beginning to embrace Summer and all that it means. Never mind the temperate weather patterns we’ve been experiencing. I’d love to hang out here a bit in the sun, kicking the waves and dallying in the sand under the blue skies. Alas, that seems but a fleeting reality, which I’ll have to grab before it is but a distant memory. Pretty soon it’ll be August and then we’ll start counting down the weeks to race day. For now, I’ll hunker down in training and try to catch some waves on the weekend as much as I can–after training of course. Here’s a quick look at what my half-marathon training will look like:

  • Mon – 3 easy miles and cross training (body pump gym class)
  • Tues – 5 mile tempo run (increasing by 1 mile weekly)
  • Wed – 5.5 miles speed work (intervals or hills)
  • Thur – 6-8 miles (half-marathon pace on weeks where tempo run is on Sat otherwise off day)
  • Fri – cross training (cycling/yoga/rowing/abs workout/weights)
  • Sat – 10 mile tempo run (increasing every other week to accommodate for marathon training at marathon pace)
  • Sun – rest day
Naturally, a lot of this running is being done during late evenings on account of work as well as to escape the summer heat. It’s simply a bonus that I happen to enjoy night runs. Additionally, I have the added challenge of fitting in my cross fit training into this tight schedule. Since I’m fully committed to each of these projects, it’ll be interesting to see them all meld together into a perfect training plan that produces the results I’m striving for. I’ll admit my energy and anxiety levels are doing battle for prominence but this is my plan and I’m sticking to it.

Reviewing Ragnar Cape Cod: 200 miles in 24:11:56

Team ‘Merica

Last weekend I journeyed to The Cape for some Ragnar fun and found my inner wild and then some. Typically, these events take some planning and organizing and I’m grateful that our team had an amazing organizer for had it been left to me, I would have been too stressed with the logistics to run. As it is, our guy didn’t run but only because he was recovering from an injury. Thankfully, all I had to do was pitch in, show up, run and have fun; pretty easy stuff really and totally done.

A group of eleven of us split into two vans and left the city early Friday morning. Our intention was to make it to Nantasket Beach, where the race began, in time to check-in, grab a snack and get a few photos in before start time at 2pm. We did too, with just a few minutes to spare, and after an orientation video and a few pics, our first guy headed out amidst much fanfare for a short but fast 4.9 miles. We divided into two groups, whereby the first van held all the runners running the first leg, which was five of us, while van two held the second group. From then on we paced ourselves from point to point, to simultaneously meeting our runner while dropping off the next one as part of the relay. Van 2 went ahead to meet up at the first change-over for leg 2, and I suspected,  to get some food in.

I was next up and we were just able to make the change. Since this was my first time running this type of event, I had little idea what to expect and was pretty anxious and uncertain while running. Turned out it was much ado about nothing as save for my underlying anxiety, it was pretty routine running, just in uncharted territory, which made for an interesting run. I had a couple early kills (passing other runners) and made my 6.4 miles in about 46 minutes. Not bad for a rookie!

My most anxious moment came when it was my turn to run at 2am. Though we got decked out in lights, reflector vests and head lamps, I couldn’t help but be nervous about running under darkness. I will probably never forget it. There’s nothing quite like being able to hear yourself think. What started out as cold, about 40℉ soon warmed up as I concentrated on staying the course and not getting lost. It helped that I passed a few runners along the way and even got passed by one speedster, that way I was sure I was in the right track. Of course there were markers but the dead of night can play crazy tricks with you given that they’re not manned and there’s no one at all to question or to give directions. It’s not hard to figure that your senses would be hyper-alert as a result.

It’s crazy though, running in the dark: the utter stillness of the night, the darkness covers you like a blanket, the air smells sharp and crisp and one could be forgiven for thinking it all a dream. However the constant whisk of the wind as I sped on by was evidence enough that it was real alright. I recall peering into the darkness attempting to sift some shape out of well..nothing..but knowing that just beyond there was something, something worth seeing, but that darn it, I couldn’t make out a thing. Only the occasional bobbing headlight or flash of light from a fellow runner, or what I hoped was a runner, kept me from total isolation. In fact, that might have been among my fastest 4.7 miles, which ended on a high note.

I was up again at 7am for a double stretch of 11.9 miles total. Not my idea of a perfect run coming from what amounted to a few hours dozing in the van, but the idea was floated and I succumbed to treating it as a medium-long run of sorts. Not my smartest move without sleep and food (breakfast), so while the first half of the run was good, the second half was tough and not helped by the last two hilly miles. However, I survived, earned my bragging rights and wrapped up my mileage with around twenty-two miles.

For the rest of the race, I was cheerleader, supporter and even went back for a run with another team member to encourage one of our runners and help bring her home on a tough leg.

We wrapped up our two hundred miles around 2:25pm on Saturday in Provincetown and everyone was definitely happy to be finished and we’re ready for beers as we moved to meet our final leg runner, who had a really tough last leg of 9 miles. He killed it at a 6:25 p/min pace and was pretty much cooked at that point. We all celebrated with a run up the last stretch and headed into the Ragnar finish area for food, drinks and medals and spent a couple of hours doing photos and recon – talking about highs and lows as we ate.

It was the coolest thing to be a part of that running extravaganza and get to see all the teams that had finished – others were still running – and to swap stories and grab some swag. Eventually, we made it out of there and headed to crash for the night, at a local airbnb which consisted of more beers and wine and pizza and wings and showers and some pictionary and ultimately a movie. For my part, movie aside, my lights were out at 10:30pm; it had been a while since I had slept that early.

We were up at 6:30am next morning to showers for mother’s day and to cold pizza for a pre breakfast. True teamwork spirit in effect, we were out of there and in the car wash by 8am and heading back to New York soon after we stopped and grabbed some breakfast at a local breakfast shop; 200 miles accounted for.

Official Finish Photo
Team ‘Mercia

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