Gearing Up for Race Day

 

It’s been four years since I last ran the Staten Island Half Marathon and I remember it like it was yesterday. It’s easy to recall something that has made an impact on you, easier still if it had a PR attached to it and even easier if it happened with an injury. That race will forever go down as my most heartening run with the most beautiful, yet tough memories of what it means to run with heart. While I won’t venture beyond that, since it’s all in the past and has already been rehashed, what I will say is that I hope the lessons I took away serves me well this time around.

In the past few years I’m focused a lot on “the Marathon” and paid little attention to running or training for a half-marathon. For sure it’s a different race, and in fact all races deserve their own respect and therefore their own strategy and plan, which I’ve tried to follow to this point. The problem is that running two important, yet different, races two weeks apart poses a bit of a challenge when training. Since I’m doing just that, I’m left with the quandary of which to prioritize. This is more or less easily determined as I’m running the Half with specific goals in mind that supersedes those of the Marathon. That is not to say that it’s less important but only that my goals for the Marathon are less demanding. Still, I always try to run a good race so performing well is very important and has made my past twelve weeks of training interesting with varied runs and cross training targeting development and performance for both races. Only this past weekend had me doing a simulation run that saw me come up just short of my goal time. I’m trusting the real race will provide the missing positive factors that will influence the result I’m looking for. As it is, I’ve run two marathons back-to-back before, they were of the same distance and my strategy then was to simply treat the first as a long run and the second as a race. As I recall, it didn’t quite turn out that way and in hindsight I see now that I should have raced the first and just enjoyed the second. Suffice to say, I walked away lesson learnt.

On Sunday, which happens to be the same day of the Chicago Marathon – just throwing that in there – I will attempt to run in the shadow and wisdom of past races and hope to have an amazing time on my favorite half-marathon course in NYC. Although I’m told the course is slightly different from what I am used to – a bit more hilly – I can only hope it spurs me on to great things. Wish me luck as I carb-up this week and prepare to run my “race of the year.” The excitement just doesn’t get old around here! LOL.

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A 20 Mile Kickoff to Autumn

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, Central Park

On Saturday, I took to Central Park with good intentions of enjoying a glorious Fall day while grinding out my long training run – the longest of the season so far. Ah… if only things would have worked out the way I had planned. As it turned out, I ran smack into the middle of a circus, or rather, the global citizen concert that was on that day, which I would have known about if I had bothered to pay attention the whole of last week. Oh well, I consoled myself, a runner’s gotta do what a runner’s gotta do. Right?

To each his own, but I’m akin to a dog with a bone when I’m on a mission, and there was no way I was leaving the park without accomplishing what I set out to do – all 20 miles of it. I soon figured that with the crowds, the police, and the barricades, I would be better off sticking to the bridal path which was the only place left to run that wasn’t teeming with people, for the most part anyway. Turned out nowhere was sacred and it was being used as a parking lot, which provided me and – surprise – other runners with minimal running space. Seemed I wasn’t the only one clueless or maybe the others just didn’t care, their pace certainly not indicating any kind of urgency or purpose really. In any event, what saved the day and ensured some pluses for me was the fact that though I had gotten a late start – at the height of noonday, which is only possible during Fall, though I was still testing it as we were only into the second day of it – there was a slight coolness and breeze that ensured it wasn’t a humid eighty degrees. So while it was still hot and I perspired profusely, I was running on the inside trail and not the roadway and was therefore able to benefit from the shade from overhead trees and less impact to my knees. At certain points it was even possible to tune out the people factor and enjoy the music, which was certainly loud enough. Another plus was that the water fountains were still on to which I religiously succumbed, albeit unwisely.

If you’ve ever run in Central Park on a Saturday then you know it’s better suited to early am short runs. In spite of this, I was able to tolerate the tourists with their bikes and entourages – most New Yorker’s have little patience with their slow and wandering gait – and take in the beautiful spectacle that is Fall with its colorful trees and dropping leaves. In the strangest way that Autumn is wont to do, it was able to calm me, give me focus, inspire my thanks and appreciation and encourage my finish.

While I’ve been running for many years, I’m still learning or being reminded of things I learnt a while aback, some of which were (1) Avoid running at midday unless it’s in the dead of Winter. (2) Laps are never a good idea for 20 miles. (3) One or two sips of water is always better p/mile than gulps. (4) It’s always better to stick with a tried and true method; such as, if gels work for you then leave the bars alone, and (5) Never go for long runs in the park on a weekend if you can help it.

I finished, rather wearied and drained and called it a day about 2 hours and 45 minutes later. In all honesty it felt like the longest 2:45 ever and I was happy to get home and get horizontal; there I remained until the next morning hoping never for a repeat performance.

Saturday’s 12-Mile Training Run

Training runs are a necessary evil, evil because of the inflexibility associated with them. Well, you may say, isn’t it on the runner to decide if, when and where to run? And you’re right of course, it is, but is there really a choice at the point when it was already a forgone conclusion at the onset of training. See, the plan is in place so that a particular goal can be achieved, which necessitates the “evil” training run. This training run must then happen regardless of the weather, one’s feelings, and generally despite every circumstance save death and illness and even then if it’s not your own.

The New Jersey Skyline

In this vein, my training runs are in full swing and I have designated Saturdays as “evil Saturdays.” Of course I’m kidding, mostly anyway. I happen to enjoy running in nice weather and I love Saturdays so there’s not much evil there. However, when faced with unfriendly conditions things can become a bit dicey pretty quickly as was the case this past weekend.

View over the Hudson River

I got up this past Saturday morning to overcast skies and, what I felt was, perfect running conditions. Sadly, I couldn’t head right off to run as I had a volunteer gig early that morning. It took all of 10 minutes into volunteering to realize it wasn’t only overcast but windy and chilly as well. That didn’t stop droves of people from taking over the streets as usual and it didn’t stop me from running. Up till then I was undecided about where I would run, but as it happened I was on the lower west side and decided then and there that along the west side highway would make for a perfect run sans sunshine. I started off at W 30th street and soon realized that many runners had the same idea; thus, I wasn’t wanting for company only for the wind to chill. I ended up running up to Harlem and stopped beneath the George Washington Bridge around W 178th Street. A cool 10 miles or thereabout and took it about 2 miles back. One of the bad or good things about the “evil” training run is that despite the wind, and the fact that it tried its darndest to bring my pace to a crawl, which resulted in an 8:15/min/mile, I was heavily invested with sacrificing my time, effort, and sleep, therefore I was bound to prevail.

Side view of the George Washington Bridge

Nevertheless, I did better than prevail, I was able to run a negative split (a faster second half) and felt pretty good upon reaching the bridge and even stopped for a few pictures as the view over the water against the backdrop of New Jersey, the Palisades and the ominous skies was gorgeous.

I did it!

As it was, I finished in better spirits than when I started and so remain totally committed to my training runs. There is a bit of a cliché lesson here: things are definitely not always what they seem and if we but have the gumption to stick it out, we can come out better for it. And I’m not even talking my PR goal yet, we’ll get there.

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.

Taper Week Madness

@ Palisades Park Police PostHard to believe a year has gone by already and I’m heading to Boston again. After living (and running) through what was a much-anticipated race-turn-nightmare last year, I just didn’t think that I’d be going back so soon; I mean, how could I have known that my chance at redemption would be this quick? I couldn’t. Exactly six days to d-day and the 2017 Boston Marathon, and I can’t believe I’m here – doing this to myself once again – getting butterflies and all excited and sh**! During my two-week taper countdown, I’ve been trying my darnedest to slow down my mind along with training and while I’ve been successful with the latter, I’m finding it a bit more challenging to put my mind to rest. Nevertheless, forging ahead while assessing what I’ve accomplished and what’s left, I remain the eternal optimist and feel that I’m in a good place now after my last long run a week ago.

Along the course

Last Saturday I took off to New Jersey Palisades Park for my last long run. While I got off to a late start, it proved early enough to make it all the way from the George Washington bridge (178th Street Manhattan) to Palisades Police Post, 10 miles in. The entire run was 20 miles, my longest for the training season since last October, and a good one; away from everyone and everything I was able to lose myself in nature and just be.

Spring-time

Since escape is rare and I don’t often get the opportunity, I enjoyed it for the treat it was. I’ve run this course for three consecutive years, around this time of year and continue to find it a challenge as it rolls along the Hudson River.

View over the Hudson

I took it easy on the hills, kept a more or less steady 8 min/mile pace and even slowed down for a couple of pics. What can I say, sometimes a picture is really worth a thousand words.

Over the Hudson

I’ve run enough marathons to know that I shouldn’t be worried yet there’s this nagging bit of anxiety that I didn’t do enough. Needless to say, the time for debating – what if – is long gone, the race is on, pun intended. Being an optimist has its advantages, which leaves me pretty confident I’ll be fine, last year’s mishap notwithstanding. This is the time, I’m told, to exude confidence, optimism and hope, so here I am cultivating an environment of positivity, looking forward to a final taper week of minimal running, some core and cross training and focusing on storing up my carbs, hydration and getting some major snooze time in. I’m Boston bound, ready or not. Strike that..I’m ready and Boston bound in four days!

Powering through Pain: my long run debacle

img_20170218_121104_072I recently did a long run that would probably label me insane by a lot of people, maybe you’re already convinced I am, truth be told, we runners are a crazy lot. I know I’m not the average person anyhow. I’m what my daughter terms “extra” and what I know to be type-A in nature, so it’s hardly surprising that I would choose to hop a train out to Long Island for an impromptu long run, at the suggestion of a friend after suffering through a week of a mother of a toothache. Maybe it was the chance to break the cycle of pain, but I over-zealously grabbed on to it with both hands and jumped right in to a hell of my own making.

I got up early Saturday morning, ate, took my pain meds, and took off running to the train station. A few feet into it..my tooth made me aware that maybe, just maybe, this was not such a good idea after all. In all honesty, I thought about abdicating for all of two seconds and decided to hell with that, I’ll wing it. I loaded up on oral gel – it had to work – and we boarded the train and hello Wantah. We made it in under an hour and immediately took to the street, zig-zagging our way through traffic and sidewalks still packed with ice, from the snow storm last weekend, all the way to the Ceder Park.

img1487614898472Mindful of the cold air getting to my gum and the exposed nerve, I was pretty much mummified, which may have helped except that the pounding of my feet sent shards of glass shooting up the right side of my head. Duhh, you may say. Well, a girl could dream; dream of running fast and far enough that the pain would take flight, only it didn’t. I tried tailing my partner in the hopes that my pain wouldn’t jeopardise his run, I tried running alongside him & letting him chat it up to take focus away from the pain, I even tried running ahead, that lasted for all of one mile. In the end it proved rather difficult to pretend it away and I had to live with reducing my pace and keeping my mouth and much of my face covered.

Seven and a half miles in we came upon the beach area and I was able to appreciate something about the whole mess of a run. Turned out it was a view worth running for. The ocean seemed to beckon as its waves rushed forward invitingly, whereupon we succumbed to its temptation and ventured closer to touch its water. No surprise there, it was as cold as it looked, though we didn’t let that stop us from trying to capture the picturesque scene and peace surrounding us. A futile effort really, as the photograph would never quite capture the awesomeness of that moment.

imag1651While it was hell going, the return proved much easier even though my momentum was shot to hell. Thus, I was able to increase my pace somewhat and breathe easier as the air got warmer and I lost some of the covering over my mouth and face area. Physically, there was little I could do once reaching the beach, it was either Uber, swim or run. Since there was no chance of either of the former, it was down to make-up-a-mean-mind and get it done. And done I did..not in the time nor fashion I wanted, but hell, sometimes finishing just has to be enough.

Fourteen miles and some coconut water later, we were back on the train heading home. Did I end up worst off or further incapacitate myself as a result of running with a toothache, somewhat. I’ve been dealing with an ongoing runner’s knee issue and because I had to favor my right side to minimize the tooth pain, I ended up over-compensating, which flared up my knee pain and has me back to working to recover from that. Sometimes, we can be such fools. However, I promise you I spent the rest of the day as horizontal as I could and plan on having an easy week to help heal my mouth and a painful right knee. After all, April’s fast approaching.

img_20170218_121206_497

Jones Beach

 

Stay Inspired and Running this Winter

Source: Rush University Medica Center

Source: Rush University Medical Center

Winter has to be the hardest time to stay committed to a running plan. I mean, there are so many challenges facing the inspired-new-year-goal-oriented person. There are those brutally cold and snowy days: days when all you wish for are PJs all-day long. Then there is the issue of shorter days: less daylight hours means less time to run especially if you’re going solo. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s still the issue of getting all cloak and dagger like and layering up, which is such a bother really. Add to that much more extreme weather and/or a fluctuating weather pattern, which is uncertain at best, and your chances of catching the flu or a virus become highly probable. It really is the gift that keeps on giving.

There isn’t much more one can do but stay focused and committed. Sure there are a lot of hurdles weather-wise and many personal and physical adjustments to consider but this is one instance where the grass is really greener on the other side. During this time, more than anything, a runner needs to embrace his or her strengths and be flexible with the intent of adapting: time, effort, pace etc., to remaining on point for the duration. It can only help that lacing up and getting out is hell on the dreaded winter blues and puts runner’s joy on a whole new level.

As is often said, this too shall pass. Below is a video clip I discovered on YouTube by “Just Another Runner”  that explains why running is my happy place and may help to keep you inspired. Take a look.

Training Day: long-run Saturdays


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For the past four weeks or so, I’ve been in training mode preparing for the Boston Marathon in April. Seems I’m always in-training these days, though I did have a few weeks off last November. No matter, the important thing is to get it in so as to be up and ready when the big day comes. To this end, I’ve been paying mind to the necessary components of a good training plan, particularly the long run aspect. I should stress that all parts of a plan are important; however the long-run, for me, is of great significance because of two things: the opportunity to develop strength and endurance and, in the latter phase of training, the opportunity it presents to simulate your race day strategy.

Developing strength and endurance happens over time, it involves steadily increasing mileage and alternating workouts to encompass building speed, stamina aka endurance and running efficiency. Any good training plan, for the average runner concerned with running a marathon goal time, will include speedwork: interval training, some hill work, tempo runs and long runs and rest days. The long run builds slowly over weeks (between 16-22 weeks) of training up to two weeks before race day. During this period, the focus is on building endurance through getting the body accustomed to running for longer periods each week, gradually increasing mileage to the point where one can confidently and comfortably complete 20-22 miles. For example, in my training, my long runs may start at around week 8 with 12-13 miles (which is really a bit of a medium-long run) to which I will add-on a couple of miles each week.

From early on, it’s important to plan these days and decide on which works best for you. Turns out Saturdays are ideal for my long runs as I’m mostly off from work and I can choose to either rest longer in the am ( during winter anyhow) and run later in the day or get it in early and have the rest of the day off. Usually, I try to get to bed at a decent hour the night before so I’ll wake up rested and ready to go. Also, I try to eat my carbs and hydrate well leading up to Saturday; this is all to make sure I’m in the best place to accomplish my mileage without killing myself. Most times it works out great, I clear my schedule and leave my day open for running and I’m able to do just that.

As it gets closer to crunch time – by then I will have racked up the necessary mileage and developed the level of endurance I need – I’m able to use my remaining long runs to simulate race day. On these runs, the focus is on running efficiency: pace, hydration and strategy. The idea is to perfect a plan based on the above in as near to similar conditions as race day to help project performance on that day; this will help to build confidence and race preparedness. I’m under no illusion that mastering the long-run will ensure stellar performance on race day. On the contrary, there are no guarantees in running as so much is particular to that run and that day. What your training long-runs do is give you the ability to control what you can and give you the confidence – ammunition if you will –  to go out there on race day and do the best you can.

Life Happens; Incidentally there’s Training, Marathon Fever, Boston Registration and 9/11 Memorial Tributes

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blisstree.com

Last weekend after two weeks of endless pain from having oral surgery done, I ran away to Georgia. I’ve always been able to retreat to the peachy state to re-establish a measure of peace and some semblance of balance in my life. Why run? Well.. figuratively speaking of course, since it was all I could do to get my thoughts together and I was on the verge of freaking the hell out considering my Chicago run coming up early next month. I tell you, not being able to eat and run nor sleep is no fun, but especially sucks when you’re smack dab in the middle of training. So here I am freaking out, wasting away ( losing weight), and I take off to Georgia to primarily attend a wedding and get a run in during my short stay. Sunshine, peace and quiet, friends, big roads and less traffic, wide open spaces, the Savannah River and the blanket of nature provided the necessary salve to my aches and pain. Returning to New York I find myself in Marathon city in the thick of training, Boston registration looming and Sept 11 memorial tributes.

Not surprisingly I came back on the mend after discovering the miracle of wine – I’m of the view it preserved my sanity. Back home, back in running form, and really I just dive in, back to the gym and back to getting Chicago ready. I’m working on bumping up my diet even though my mouth is still tender and eating is such a pain; but a runner has to do what she has got to do. Quite a bit on my agenda in the next couple months, there’s the Chi marathon, registering for Boston 2017 and volunteering at NYC marathon and of course training doesn’t stop as.. hopefully Boston’s up. All this as the weather cools down and we enter the training period I like the least. I will try not to anticipate that at this time.

We’re sweltering a bit these days but I’m not complaining, I’m gonna squeeze as much sunshine as I can out of these last fall days with the hope that it’s not gonna be too bad moving forward. So steamy days aside, where I just hunker down at the gym, it’s good getting back in the game and enjoying the vibes of the city. This is Marathon season and no city does it like New York as New Yorkers prepare for the largest running event of the year. It’s an exciting time to be in the city and to be a part of the New York City Marathon. But before that, I run Chicago and past experience does not lie. It was a phenomenal run and I plan on making that happen again.

While Marathon fever is in the air, New Yorkers are very somber this weekend with remembering the attacks on the World Trade Center and the City of New York 15 years ago. It’s a sad but also strong time for the city that will go down in history as a time when the state of New York rallied together to foster hope, community and support to all those affected that tragic day. We remember and pay tribute to all those who lost their lives then and subsequently in relation to those events. While all this is going down this weekend, I have my long run planned for later, which I always do in remembrance of the victims of 9/11. I’m reminded that I have the opportunity to run, which is more than they will ever have. I am thankful.

Run Faster Still with Better Form

The Olympics games are over. Bummer of course, but life goes on as must we. As promised, taking up where we left off last week, here are some practical tricks/tips, if you will, to speed up your everyday runs and help with better form. As you will see not all of running is hard work, there are various ways we can tweak workouts to make allowances for a bit of fun.

1. Run Hills – whether as part of speed work training or as part of  your long run, at least once a week, hill repeats are bound to make you faster as it develops aerobic capacity, leg strength and running economy.

2. Sprints – weekly sprints can add variety and fun to your workouts while increasing stride power and running economy, even better if you can get on the tracks to do so.

3. Proper Arm Movements – can power your runs and ensure running efficiency. The forward and backward motion of the arms should remain short and to the side while running and should increase in power and momentum with increase in gradient and speed.

4. Core Exercises  – strengthens the core which allow runners to tap into more force and speed out on the road. Core work can also be fun and easy to do as it can be as easy as a crunches in front of the television or a Barre or Pilates class.

5. Good Breathing Technique – allows for better oxygen distribution through the body which ensures you’re able to run at aerobic capacity longer. As such, using the nose and mouth while inhaling and exhaling will get the maximum amount of oxygen to the muscles.

6. Staying Focus by Looking Ahead – staying in the zone by keeping your eyes ahead while running/ racing and giving oneself small goals to reach will keep you pushing the pace and elimate the chance of getting distracted.

7. A Hot Running Playlist: songs that make you sing out loud, shake and get your adrenaline flowing will add a boost to your step and some sparkles in your eyes maybe?

8. Forefront Running – runners who land on the forefront of their feet and not the heel has a faster step turnover which translates into a faster pace.

9. Stretching and Yoga – practicing good stretching techniques before and after runs guards against injuries but practicing specific yoga poses for runners increases flexibility and fluid, limber movement, which boosts speed and  has the added benefit of aiding recovery post workout.

10. Less is Better – when all is said and done running efficiency can be achieved with as little as possible in the way. Do away with all the extra layers and embrace the minimum in terms of running gear to get a faster time or pace.

I’m sure there are lots of other ideas on this topic so please take the time to share whatever has worked for you as we’re all in the business of getting better at our running game. And please, give some of these a go, you’ve got nothing to lose but time off your last run.

 

 

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