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.

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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.

Racing with the Snow

“Bid me run and I will strive with things impossible.” Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

I woke up this morning smack dab in the middle of winter! I exaggerate. Seems snow tends to make fools of us all since it’s been setting up like that for the past few days, and but for my head in the proverbial sand, I would have seen it coming. Oh mother of wisdom – to sign up for a race in this crazy weather. Oh well, deal with it, I’m told; that’s what runners do best anyway. So, here I am – well within my element I guess – if I could just get this ugh hair appointment out-of-the-way, get a cross-training class in and get on to the chilling out pre race day part. See, I have such great plans, they just have to work out that way.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m running a half-marathon tomorrow with which I hope to qualify for the New York City marathon next year. Since the qualifying window closes on Dec 31, it’s kind of do or die..well maybe not die, but close. I get no do overs, not this year at least. Am I ready? As much as I’ll ever be in this weather. I’ve been pretty constant with running and though I haven’t been in full-out training mode since October, I’ve maintained a minimum level, which I believe is enough to bring it home tomorrow. The unknown element remains the course and how it pans out after the snow and rain today.

In keeping with tradition, I’ve had the huge pasta dinner and after resting up some, I’m ready for bed. Pretty early for me, but again it’s all part of tradition and good sense. Wish me luck!

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