On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Monday, May 31, 2010

I'm on vacation

And you should be, too.

Vacation in Chi-town means one thing to me:

I'm off to have another one.  Happy holiday!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Week in Review

  • Friday:  rest
  • Saturday:  Brooklyn Half
  • Sunday:  rest.  I thought about going out for a run for all of like 2 seconds. And then I didn't go.
  • Monday: rested again...
  • Tuesday:  4.25m on the treadmill watching Glee.  All around tedious: the show, the run, the gym.
  • Wednesday:  4.5m with the Runner's World group.  In the 90 degree heat.  No acclimation period!
  • Thursday: 4.6m on the Prairie Path through Lombard and into Glen Ellyn.  Home in Chi-town.
Weekly total: 26.5m

Okay, this is ridic.  I'm hitting monthly mileage totals that read more like weekly totals.  This has got to end, now: either I'm a runner or I'm not, and I put that threshold somewhere in the vicinity of consistent weeks above 20mpw.  (Actually I would go with 30mpw, but I'll try to start with something reasonable.)  I'm only there this week because of the half.  Mondays and Wednesdays with the Runner's World people are a little challenging, as their group runs (so far rewarding) rarely call for more than 3.5m and I have my stuff with me, so I can't just run home.

Today is a rest day, and then tomorrow sees another long run - a race, in fact.  10m against my dad in Chicago.  Care to place a wager?  (Hint: odds are against the old guy with the hamstring injury.)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I am probably sleepy right now

One thing I always forget about running regularly is how much sleep I then require.

Before I started running in college, I was used to 4 hour nights of sleep.  Honestly, I don't know how I did it back then. I've always been overly sensitive to caffeine, and I don't like coffee, anyway, so it wasn't through stimulants.

The summer I started running, that changed. I went from getting 4-6 hours of sleep to needing 8-9 without fail. About 10pm, I would fall asleep on the couch no matter how hard I tried to stay awake.  I was the designated driver for all of my friends - on the rare nights I could stay up to go out, that is.

It's happening again. My typical schedule during the semester has been to get 5 or 6 hours of sleep the nights each week before I teach and then make it up slowly over the rest of the week (in actuality I never quite catch up). Not super healthy, but prepping classes is time consuming.  That schedule is not working anymore, though. My running body says, loudly, "Its bed time!" If I push through and stay up anyway, I regret it. I drag so hard in the morning that getting up for my alarm is impossible.

The last few weeks have been particularly bad in that regard, as I've been trying to finish up a few projects and the semester has just ended. On 5 hours of sleep I can barely function, let alone run.

I'm so glad this semester is over.  I gave my last final yesterday.  Now I have to grade all of the finals.  Through the magic of scheduled posting, I'm right now either on a plane or about to leave for Chicago in order to beat my dad in the Soldier Field 10m race and rush through all of my grading.  And then, finally...  summer vacation.  When I try to do all of the research I should have done but was too busy teaching to actually do this year.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The value of warming up

I've long been a huge opponent of the warm-up.  I know that sounds like a completely ridiculous thing to say, but at my speed, it's kind of all a warm-up.  At least that's been my take.  And yes, part of my naivete has come from being young and not injury prone, a situation that is most likely fleeting (the young part is already gone, and I suspect the not injury prone part is on its way, too).

Anyway, I was reviewing my Garmin data from my recent 5k, and I noticed something interesting.  For the first mile of the race, my heart rate was an average of 160, a max of 168.  Second mile: 171 average, 177 max.  Third mile: 181 average, 187 max.  (188/189 for the .1).

Well, well, well... it seems that warming up might actually be beneficial after all.  I can see it in my heart rate, and I wonder how hard I was having to work to get my heart rate up in the first mile when I could have been working on racing faster/better.  I can't help but wonder how my race would have been different if I had started with my heart rate elevated rather than at a resting rate.  I'm going to have to do some speedwork and see what the results are.

Also, while I'm data dumping, I was noticing my heart rate for the half, too.  Aside from the first mile, my heart rate was an average of 164 and, for most of the miles, a max of 169-171.  That's pretty solidly in my comfortable running heart rate range.  Should I have been pushing it more?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Matilda, the love of my life

This is Matilda, my wonderful dog and my BFF.

We've been together about two years now.  When I brought her home from the shelter, I was super-excited because she was exactly what I wanted: medium-sized, not too big for an apartment, but not too small for running.  She's a mutt, but she's at least part cattle dog and is appropriately energetic.

So, I bought a fancy harness/lead and read up on running with a dog.  We went out short distances, at first, half a mile, then a mile, then 1.5m after a few weeks.  She was easily distracted, but we stuck to the same paths, as I'd read you should, so that she could get used to the sights and smells.

When we moved to NYC, it was a slightly different ball game, but she adapted.  More sights, more smells, but she was a trouper.  We started upping the mileage, and I took her out for some 3m jaunts - only a few times a week, though, certainly not every day.  I got the impression that she wasn't too impressed with running, but she was showing no signs of any injuries and I figured she'd just get used to it.

One day, we went out for our usual 2m run and then I took her to the dog park later that afternoon.  She was in dog heaven, running around with the other dogs.  When she got home that evening, she promptly fell asleep and slept the sleep of the exhausted for hours and hours.

A few days later, it was run time again.  I got my clothes on, got her harness off the hook, and called her over.  By nature she's an obedient dog, so it was cute to see the look of consternation on her face as she looked at the harness, at me, at the harness, then back to me.  Not to ascribe human thoughts to a dog, but you could see her go back and forth between her need to obey and the fact that she didn't want to run.  Finally, tail between her legs, she made her decision.  She ran for her crate and wouldn't come out with any coaxing.

The next day, she got into the crate as soon as she saw my running shoes go on.  Since then, it's been the same: if she suspects that there will be running involved, she wants no part in it.  I've been able to trick her a few times by wearing the Vibrams instead of my running shoes, which she's actually okay with - we don't go more than half a mile those days.

No moral to this story; I just have a lazy dog.  Running's not for everyone, I guess, humans or animals alike.

Monday, May 24, 2010

NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon race report

It seems like I've reserved pretty much every Monday for a race report.  Believe it or not, I do look forward to a weekend (someday soon?) when I'm not racing.  Until then, I present you with the latest update from Tracy's Crazy Racing World.

I'm going to keep this one short.  I don't know what it is about my low-mileage training program that's working so well, but something's clicked.  I was 7 minutes faster than my March half for a time of 2:20:53.

The course was two 3.5m loops of Prospect Park with its infamous mile long hill, followed by a 6m straight shot down a highway to Coney Island.  The weather was nice but humid.  The race ended on the boardwalk at Coney Island, after which I took a brief dip in the ocean.  Sort of a glamorous Atlantic ice bath, if you will.

And then I had Thai food for lunch with my colleague and his wife, had some organic, locally made Root Beer flavored ice cream, bought a new skirt, and went home and took the best nap I've taken in years.  Wonderful, wonderful nap.  You don't care about any of that, though, do you?

I feel pretty good about this race.  The weather was in the low 60s at the start but humid - my shirt was drenched with sweat by the second mile.  This did cost me some time in that I took Gatorade and water at every water stop, walking for maybe 30 seconds with each.  Despite that, I managed a fairly consistent pace and never faltered.  I probably could have gone out a little harder, but I don't feel like I took it easy by any means.  I befriended a woman and her pacer friend on the course - they were totally fun, and they carried me through the last few miles.  When I finished, I felt like I truly could have run another 3 or 4 (at least) at that pace.  This bodes well for a fall marathon.

One last note: in the grand scheme of things, I wasn't that much faster this race than I was in March.  But in terms of my position in the crowds, I'm moving up.  There was a lot more congestion where I was now, in the 10:xx minute mile pace zone, than there was in the 11:xx minute mile pace zone.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Week in review

First off, I don't have many readers, so when I know that one of them is having a birthday I have to give a shout-out.  Yes, a shout-out.  As though it were 1991 again.  This shout-out goes out to my sister Mandy, who is turning an undisclosed age that's 3 years older than me today!  (Hint: she did not just enter a new age group.  Neither did I.)

Now, for my week in running.  Back in business.  Here we go.
  • Friday: rest
  • Saturday: 45 minute class at Flywheel
  • Sunday: NYPD Memorial Run 5k
  • Monday: 3.5m with the Foot Locker/Runner's World 10k training club.  More on that later.
  • Tuesday:  7am bus to Philly on 4 hours sleep - rest day.
  • Wednesday: 3.5m with the Runner's World peeps again.  I think I love this program - I averaged a 10 minute mile, flat, today.  Only slightly faster than Monday, and it didn't feel hard.
  • Thursday:  I came home from the library with the worst headache that I've had in years.  Like, stabbing pain above one eye.  Now, you know the drill: cue whining about not being able to take advil/aspirin because of the blood thinners.  Sad not to run, but also I wasn't supposed to be away from my phone as I was on-call at the rape crisis center.
Super, super low mileage at only 10m for the week, but they were all three good, quality runs at least.

Tomorrow is the Brooklyn Half Marathon.  I've been kind of on the DL about this one (down-low, not disabled list).  I registered on a lark months ago when I found out that registration was about to close and I thought that $25 for a half was too good of a deal to pass up.  Then, the NYRR changed the start time from 8am to 7am, a good idea for the heat but a bad idea for my commute.  Suddenly, I went from having to leave my house at 6:30am to 4:43am, thanks to the glories of off-peak travel on the MTA in the era of fierce budget cuts.  But a coworker and his wife have offered to host me in their conveniently-located Brooklyn apartment.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A serious question

Like, seriously serious.  Like, please leave a comment if you have a thought/suggestion/idea.

And here it is: should I be shortening my stride?

This month and last month's Runner's Worlds both made mention of the fact that shortening one's stride is an effective way of lowering your injury risk.  I can see how that would be, biomechanically, but then when I'm out there running, it's counterintuitive.  My body seems to want to lengthen my stride, especially as I go faster.

What gives?

Also, while you're commenting, I have to decide what shoes to wear for my half this weekend.  All of my beloved Asics now give me blisters in my arch, even the newest pair.  My Karhus, which I love for short distances, would probably be too light for the length.

That leaves:
a) the Brooks I wear tested (which I've only worn once and am still unsure of)
b) my black Nike LunarGlides (love them, but they're a half size too small)
c) my grey Nike LunarGlides (right size - brand spanking new)
d) other?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Well, well, well... what has arrived?

It's my new Brooks for testing!!

A photo essay.

The box arrives!!  Let's pretend that my desk is not a complete and total mess.  And that I was totally drinking water out of that Heineken bottle.

Opening the box...  what will be in it?  What color will they be?  Will I like them?  And who cares if I do or don't as they are FREE?

I don't like them, I love them!  But how do they fit?

So far, so good!  Stay tuned as I take them out for their first test run tonight...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

NYPD Memorial Run 5k

Sunday's race report.  A few days late.

Basically, I wanted to see if my Lincoln Tunnel sub-30 for the 5k was a fluke or if it was a harbinger of things to come (please, please the latter).  So I signed up on a lark.

While I was quesadilla-loading the night before - it's sort of like carb-loading, but with more cheese and fewer carbs - I looked up the results from a 10k in Central Park Saturday morning.  The winner finished in 27:42.  The first place woman came in at 33:09.  My 5k PR, set many, many years ago, is 25:40.  Meaning that even were I to knock this one out of the park, I would be twice as slow as these speed demons.  That's... demoralizing.  Luckily I'm used to the feeling.

Cut to the chase:  my time in the Lincoln Tunnel was not a fluke.  I finished this race in 28:33, a new (post-sickness) PR.  The race was a keeper, despite some chaos at the start over how to pick up one's race packet and where the start actually was.  They ran out of safety pins, but not t-shirts.  There were a lot of cops around - a lot.  A lot of "in memory of..." signs.  In fact, they were happy to print a personalized bib for you with your hero's name on it.  I saw a lot of "in memory of my partner/friend/husband" bibs, which made me sad.  Very sad.  There were also quite a few Daniel Faulkner t-shirts, and the race started at 10:13 (the radio code for "officer in distress").

Although there was d-tag timing, there was no mat at the start.  The race wasn't corralled/seeded, and I inadvertently lined up right at the start - I swear I didn't actually mean to, but there was some chaos about where the start exactly was, and by the time I figured out what was going on I was at the orange tape with 2000 runners/walkers behind me.  Being passed, consistently, for the first mile was kind of lame, but I stayed off to the side and chugged that one off in 9:20. 9:27 saw me hit mile 2, and I still had some (barely any) left to push through the last .1 after a sub 9-minute mile 3.  The race was an out-and-back on the miserable, miserable West Side Highway, which somehow manages to make it seem like the road is made of solid stone - it's so hard - and that it's 95 degrees out whenever you're in the sun no matter what the actual temp is.  I collected my memorial towel at the finish (a nice touch) and went to Barnes & Noble to buy "Circle of Six," which came highly recommended by one of the cops I met at the start.

All in all a successful race, and I can honestly say that I felt like I tried, hard, and ran well for it.  Of course, now it raises all sorts of questions for me...  Dare I try to improve even more?  It's so tempting to want to run short and fast, even though I know that my longterm goals fall into the long and slow category, and I can't do both at once.  But...  but...  but?  NO, Tracy, increasing my mileage is more important now.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Because everyone else is talking about it...

On Thursday/Friday, Scott Jurek - who I think might be part man, part machine - broke the American record for most distance covered in a 24-hour period.  He ran 165.7 miles in 24 hours at a the International Association of Ultrarunners race in France.

Now.  Let's consider that.

Jurek ran the equivalent of the distance between Providence, RI, and New York, NY.  Moreover, he ran this distance around a 1.25km loop.  KILOMETER, not mile, loop.  He ran that loop more than 213 times.

If I'm doing the math correctly, Jurek's pace for this race averaged out at 8:41 minutes/mile.  My modest marathon PR is 4:43, meaning that if I continued non-stop at my marathon pace for another 19 hours and 17 minutes, I would have completed 133 miles.  I'm including two pictures of me at the finish of that marathon.  Don't believe the smile - I barely made it to the grassy section to sit down.  You see that arm raise?  It's my attempt at a wave.  Hell - my 5K PR pace is 9:11.  I crossed the finish line, stumbled over to a bench, and silently sat, thinking about hurt legs and pain and whether I tried hard enough if I didn't feel like vomiting.  (I set that PR this weekend, btw.  More on that tomorrow.)

Granted, it's not a fair comparison, because I didn't train to run an ultra and I'm not a cyborg really awesome, naturally gifted athlete.  Jurek's also gotten some press for his diet, which is vegan. Runner's World profiled him a few issues ago, calling him an "alpha among alphas" in the ultra community and focusing on his personal life (sorry, ladies, he's taken).

Consider two other points:  1) The first woman to finish the race ran an impressive 148 miles, and 2) Jurek did not win the race.  That honor goes to Shingo Inoue of Japan.  Jurek was only (only!) the first American finisher.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

I don't only ever run, you know. Okay, mostly I only run.

A rare weekend post!

This morning, I had the good fortune of joining a class at a local spin studio, Flywheel.  A local fitness maven extraordinaire was gracious enough to host a free class, and I jumped at the chance.  I do take spinning classes at my gym a bit, but I know that the gulf between gym yoga and yoga at a studio is wide so I was curious to see how a spinning class should be in its own element.

First off, the studio is nice.  Very nice.  Very very nice, I dare say.  Free locker use (with keys), free water (which I was grateful for, although I'm kicking myself for taking a plastic bottle and not bringing a reusable one), the ability to reserve bikes in advance, and free shoe rental.  That alone was worth the early morning wake up call - I've never, ever ridden any sort of bike with clip in shoes, and I could feel the difference in pedaling acutely.

The bikes were tightly placed in the studio.  Not so tight that you ran any risk of hitting your neighbor, but it was crowded, which meant it got steamy in there.  The lights were off for most of the class, which made it an intense and surreal race against yourself.  I expected all of that and none of it bothered me.  The studio was tiered, which was kind of cool.  The bikes were much nicer than those at my gym (ahem, understatement).  They calculated your RPMs and the torque, giving a more precise ride than I'm used to (at my gym, it's this vague "turn the dial up a little, you should feel like you're at a 7 out of 10 exertion").

I'm sure it varies, but the music was much, much better than anything I've heard at the gym, ever.  Therein lies my one caveat, however: the music was loud.  As in, I had to cover my ears with my headband and I was still wincing in pain at some points.  If you go, take a bike far, far away from the speakers unless you cherish that "just left a rock concert" feeling.

The instructor, Erica, was amazing.  She was fit, she was motivating, she was energetic, she was encouraging.  I mention that she was fit because you'd be shocked at how many spin instructors at my gym are, well, not fit.  It's much more motivating to get through a workout knowing that someday you might look like the instructor when the instructor has gorgeously sculpted arms rather than a beer belly.

Speaking of arms, the workout incorporated some (very light) lifting, too, through use of weighted bars conveniently stored on the side of the bikes.  Nice touch.  Worth nearly $30 a class?  I'm not sure.  Since the studio is almost an hour from my apartment when the express train's not running (damn you, D train),  it's moot to me.  I'll have to settle for mediocre gym-spinning instead for now.

Verdict:  I loved it!  Thanks SO much to Jess for arranging this.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Week in review

So...  the birthday week concludes.
Actually I'm just joking.  You have a birthday, not week.

How did I spend the week?

Friday: Nothing.  Lazy.
Saturday: Nothing.  Resting in anticipation of...
Sunday: 13.6 wooded miles.
Monday:  My piriformis hurt.  Hamstrings were fine, quads were fine, but the right piriformis...  So I rested.
Tuesday:  Birthday rest.
Wednesday:  On the DL
Thursday:  Still on the DL

I was so excited about finally having a week that wasn't embarrassing, mileage-wise, but then... I fell off post-half.  The piriformis was legitimate for a day, as was the birthday.  And then...  on Wednesday I got injured, sort of.  I woke up Wednesday morning and packed my running clothes for the Lululemon run, but by the end of the day, I could barely put any pressure on my left foot.  Did I mention in my Bear Mtn report that I thought I may lose another toenail?  Well, now I can confirm that I probably won't lose it, but that it is in bad shape.  I won't go into graphic details, but walking/running/weight bearing hurts.  Sadly, I have time to go running but not to go to the doctor for the next few days (yes, I'll go if it gets worse).

No matter, as Wednesday I was just complete and total toast.  My last night staying up until 3am to prep my classes (only to wake up at 8am to teach them).  Of this semester.  But... the furlough was canceled!  Or blocked by a judge, anyway.  And I won an ipad in a drawing at work.  I celebrated by registering for a 5k.

I've also signed up for a 10k training program, sponsored by Foot Locker and Runner's World.  That's a distance I'd like to improve at (...can we say, sub-one hour?  a girl can dream!).  And a free running club, conveniently located for me?  Yes, please.  It may interfere with my Lululemon Running Club, but it's more convenient.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I left my Garmin behind, and it was marvelous!

I ran home from work a couple of weeks ago.  I surreptitiously closed my office door and changed into my running clothes (am I the only one who uses her office as a changing room?).  I put my shoes on.  I put my Garmin - wait, where's my Garmin?

Duh.  On the kitchen table, where I left it that morning.  I had a very, very momentary feeling of "Oh, crap, can I run anyway?" before laughing at myself.  I've been running for years sans Garmin, and suddenly I can't run without it?  On a course I've run dozens of times?

Being without it was kind of liberating.  Even though I wasn't sure of the Garmin at first (in fact, I hated it on my first run with it), and even though I don't use all of the data as effectively as I should, the Garmin is addicting.  Somehow it's put itself on the same level as my shoes in terms of equipment I don't go without.

I'm not sure if this addiction is a good thing or a bad thing.  For now, it's just a thing.  I don't stare at it while I'm running and I don't even use most of the data, but it's nice to know that it's there.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It's that time of the month...

...when Tracy has received her new issue of Running Times and feels compelled to blog about it.  If you don't subscribe, you should.  Maybe we'd have more to talk about if we were on the same page, hmm?

Anyway, things I found interesting:

-An article on safety when running alone (p. 16).  It didn't offer anything new, per se, and it used the case of Chelsea King to set the tone.  Evidently there was an 8:30am assault in Central Park not that long ago, too, so this is relevant to me.  It's good to be vigilant, sure, and I do sometimes allow my paranoia to derail my running (it's too dark out! I live in Harlem!).  But at the same time, I could get hit by a car or die in a plane crash or be raped and murdered when I'm just out walking (and not running).  When does vigilance become paranoia, and does running make us more vulnerable?

-An article on distance runners striving to become elites (p. 45ff).  This was an interesting article, bluntly profiling the lives of four talented athletes who are training full time (one couple struggled to pay a $300 medical bill after emergency surgery, another guy makes $12/hour at a copy shop to make ends meet).  The thing about this article that bothered me, greatly, is that they only profiled one woman - and she's the wife of one of the men being profiled.  Are there not any energizing up-and-coming women that they could have featured?

-Rachel Toor writes about doing a rim-to-rim-to-rim run of the Grand Canyon (p. 63ff).  The story itself is interesting and well-written; she uses her mother's death as a framing story to give the run meaning.  But it made me want to do something crazy like that.  Maybe I just have trail fever after this past weekend!

To liven the blog entry, here's a photo of my Converse and some bullets after I just loaded the magazines for the rifle I shot last night:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A lot of little nothing: random notes

Miscellany, but I can do that because it's my running blog and it's my BIRTHDAY!

***I kind of want to do this "race."  Pretty badly.  The NYT covered it last week, too.  Okay, I'll be honest: I really want the free tattoo.  Is that weird?  It's not like it's an Ironman or something where the tattoo would be a badge of pride.  Maybe I just want to get another tattoo and I'm cheap and indecisive.  But, this would be a tattoo I would want to keep hidden and there are only so many places on one's body that cannot be seen.  (The last tattoo is very small and tasteful and was a college graduation present from my sister.)  Otherwise I'm mixed on these "mud" races.  Some of them seem kind of cool and bad-ass, like they would help me fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a Navy SEAL.  Others of them seem kind of cheesy and ridiculously expensive.  Ultimately, something like this might be fun, but it's not a race, which is - of course - running and not obstacle-gimmicking.  Here's a review, if you're curious.

***This article in Runner's World is neither here nor there in terms of content, but its title is better online than in print.  Last month's cover screamed, "Real Runners Make Time for Running," or something like that.  Innocuous once you realized what they were getting at (true stories of non-professional runners), but given that I picked the magazine up at the end of a long day wherein I hadn't had a chance to run, I read it as "(If you were a) Real Runner (you would) Make Time for Running, TRACY YOU LAZY ASS."

***At last week's Lululemon run, I was freaking clocking.  It felt good to run a quick pace.  As I started the second lap, the coach suggested speeding up hills as a way of learning to play with one's pace and, she said, "If you learn to play with your pace enough, you'll start to see that you're getting faster overall!" That got me thinking: is that always the goal?  Further, faster, harder?  Yeah, probably.  I'm not going to overthink this one.

***The NY State Assembly just voted to furlough me and my colleagues.  A 20% pay cut until further notice.  I understand, intellectually, why this is, but it's still hard to accept when it's your own pay check.

***I'm SO going shooting to celebrate my birthday.  I've never touched a gun before, and I'm fascinated.

Monday, May 10, 2010

North Face Endurance Challenge Bear Mtn Half.

Let me tell you how not to taper:
The Thursday before your big Sunday race, do NOT go to a museum reception with a friend you haven't seen in ages and drink too much wine on an empty stomach.  The Friday before your big race, do NOT wake up semi-hungover and then go to a 9-5 meeting, followed by a boring lecture, followed by accidentally having even MORE drinks, even though you rarely have more than one drink in a night let alone a week.  Friday night's sleep is important, and you've blown it when you stumble into bed at 3am and wake up with a headache at 9.

Now, to leave the second person behind.
On top of all that drinking, I woke up Saturday morning to discover that it was raining.  Pouring.  Both in the city and on the mountain, evidently.  The rain was supposed to clear up by Sunday morning, only to leave the course muddy and to be replaced by 20-40mph winds.  This was not heartening news for someone who was afraid she wouldn't be meeting the time limits.

And then, I missed my train.  Originally, I was going to be driving up with my friend Stacey.  She had a slight change of plans mid-week that necessitated a schedule change, so we arranged for me to take the train and she'd pick me up at the Harriman train station.  We had a hotel for the night near there.  I missed the train, spent two hours in Penn Station, and met up with her, but things were inauspicious (to say the least).  She was upset from a harrowing day, I was anxious and watching the weather.  My rough Friday night meant that packing was a "throw it all in a bag" affair, and I had too many safety pins and gels and not enough, you know, clothes.  The weather - originally supposed to be pleasant and in the 60s - was rapidly cooling, and predictions were bleak.  Low 40s for most of the race with winds from 25-45mph.  Huh.  I bought a pair of knee socks and decided to wear both of my pairs of arm warmers with my t-shirt.

Race morning, it was cold.  Very, very cold.  And windy.  As I was standing at the start shivering, I made the game time decision to trade one pair of arm warmers for my Lululemon hoodie.  Good news: bag check was immediately next to the start, which meant dropping off my bag (and saying a sad farewell to my down coat) mere moments before the race.  I kept looking up and realizing... it was a mountain.

The crowd was energized, and the pre-race conversations were worth overhearing.  Experienced trail runners and people who had done this race before held court before those of us neophytes.  Things they told us (unverified) included: "Dean Karnazes did this race the first year and said that it was the hardest race he'd ever done."  "If you don't end the race bloody, something's wrong."  "If you roll your ankle, don't stop but just keep running - it's after you stop that it swells."  "You'll twist at least one or two ankles."  [I'd like to find the person who twisted three ankles...]

And... we're off!  The course was...  well, it was a trail race.  Here's their description:  "A serious, hardy test for trail runners of any level, The North Face Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain, NY, takes place on the western shores of the Hudson River, in the craggy foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Runners can expect technical terrain and rocky footing that cuts to the chase, with some trails heading steeply uphill rather than zig-zagging at a gentler grade. Descents end in wooded hollows before the next rapid climb ending with a breathtaking view. Make no mistake: this will be a tough test of off-road endurance."  Being sponsored by the North Face and Goretex made it an odd mix of well-organized/sanitized and super hardcore.  I don't have much to compare it to, but by all accounts the course was challenging.  And yet it was also very well marked and well-supported.

I could narrate the course for you, what I remember of it, but it was what it was.  We headed onto the trail after only maybe half a mile, and the relentless climb began.  It was technical.  There were some scary downhills and a fair number of scary uphills.  Much - but not all - of it was on fairly well tramped path (the benefit of being the fourth race to run through there in two days!).  There was only one short section of sheer rock to climb.  There were tree roots, there were stones, there were logs to jump over, there was mud.  I stopped at the first aid station to ask them for scissors to cut off my knee socks-cum-leg warmers, and the medics freaked out.  "Please, you must sit here.  I'm going to get my kit out of the car.  Wait right here."  I was like, "Dude, I'm just too lazy to take my shoes off!"

This race was awesome.  Awesome.  I would say that for at least half the time I was out there, there were no other runners in sight.  One of the advantages of being toward the back was the complete and total serenity.  I know it sounds cheesy, but there were points at which I was getting kind of choked up.  It was so beautiful.  This is why we run.  It was all very Walden: if I sped up or slowed down a little I could catch flashes of someone, but for the most part I was alone with my thoughts and with nature.  I saw a deer, people.  A DEER.

I'll admit it; I walked a lot of the course.  My biggest problem was more psychological than physical: I was terrified of falling.  I know, I know, you're sick of hearing me whining about my stupid blood thinners, but a simple knee skinning could have meant me dropping out of the race.  I bleed a lot.  Also, I was trying to do the whole "perceived effort" rather than pace thing.  I know that once my heart rate gets above 175, I'm toast, so I was trying to keep it as close to 160-170 as I could.  Garmin suggests I could have pushed myself a little harder as I mostly averaged in the 150s.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

I'm sad I didn't get pictures of the truly technical parts of the course.  Perhaps needless to say, I didn't have my phone out (or my wits about me) during those points. Afterwards, I got back to the city, ate some fried chicken, and slept on the couch for an hour.  Now I'm okay.  Wish I could say the same for my toenails, though...  I think at least one is a goner, bringing the total up to 3 missing just in time for sandal season.  Overall time: 3:39:20.  Even though everyone was slowed down (the winner, who through the wonders of cyberstalking I can say is a 2:15 marathoner, came in at 1:34 and my friend Stacey - who just ran Boston in 3:40-something - ran 2:40), I'm not proud of that.  I'll beat it next year.

Also, I just noticed something.  My Garmin said that the total mileage was 13.6.  I saw that and was a little confused - there weren't any tangents or anything, but I did get (mildly) lost once, but only for a few minutes.  But then, check this out:

13.6m for the half?  I can't get Garmin to give me the elevation chart, but as soon as I can, I'll update.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Week in review

Friday:  30 minute, sadistic, evil core class and a 3m run.
Saturday:  Rest day.  Woke up with sore, tired legs.
Sunday:  Mourning no Broad Street.  Riverdale Ramble +4 when I got home instead.
Monday: Rest day!
Tuesday:  Yeah, nothing.  Stayed at work until 10pm on Monday and just wasn't feeling it Tuesday.
Wednesday:  Um...  stayed up until 3am making revisions to the diss draft.  It's resubmitted but in poor form.
Thursday:  Um... stayed up until 3am doing nothing.  (And then went to an opening at the Brooklyn Museum with a friend from high school last night, Thursday night, and had too much wine, so today is a loss, also.  No biggie.  8:30am meeting means I would have had to get up at like 6 to run.  Ha ha ha.)

Total mileage:  13.4.  Meh.  Some weeks are like that.

This weekend: Bear Mtn North Face Endurance Half.  Nervous.  Excited.  Slightly scared (that I won't make the cut-off times).

I have very limited experience with trail races.  I did one, inadvertently, for my first half, and didn't realize how hard it was until afterwards when the race organizers were talking about it.  I just thought all races were done on hilly courses and narrow, single track trails.  Then I did another, the Cross Country Challenge in Gilberts, IL.  Hilly, sure.  Fun, yes.  But no snow or mud or anything even remotely treacherous.  The best was a trail race outside of Reading, PA.  Not too muddy that year but certainly a true, slow trail experience.

How will it go?  Details on Monday.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Is it possible to be jealous... of yourself?

I was contacted by Brooks the other day about the possibility of wear testing their shoes.  Either I've misled them about my skillz, or they're looking for chubby, slow runners to see how their shoes hold up.  WIN.

I don't have the shoes yet - although this email was the "you've been chosen" email (not the "we might, possibly, one day down the road consider choosing you" email that I got ages ago), they were still careful to specify that it was not certain that I would be wear testing, basically until the shoes arrive.  But they have already been shipped via FedEx...

I'm excited.  I could say that I'm excited about FREE SHOES, which is true, or about, you know, being part of a chance to offer crucial feedback that can be used to improve the shoes, blah blah blah.  But really I'm just excited because it's fun to be chosen and to be a part of something.  I like feeling lucky and special.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Spinning: is it worth it?

So, I have a bike.  But I get lazy about riding it.  It's not laziness so much as it is laziness tinged with fear.  New York cyclists are an insane breed of daredevils who talk about getting hit by cars as an inevitability, rather than a possibility.  I ride around on errands, but it's more of a thrill ride than it is exercise.

But, I need some form of crosstraining and I don't care for the elliptical.  And I want the benefits of cycling.  Also, I like guidance in my workouts.  Left on my own, I run the risk of not pushing myself and taking the easy way out.  I always thought that spinning classes were some sort of über-hip, super trendy fad.  Then I started taking them, and I'm still on the fence.  But I like the knowledge that when I enter the room, I will be moving for the next 45 minutes and a perky instructor will be yelling at me to work harder.  I hate the loud music, though, which I guess makes me an old person.

I've learned (the hard way) that I can both run and spin on the same day, only as long as there's a break in the middle.  Like running in the morning and spinning at night, or vice versa.  I'll never be a competitive duathlete, sadly - I can't shoot and my x-country skiing is out of practice.  (Does the duathlete/biathlete joke ever get old?)

Anyway, my most recent spin class was one for the ages.  Let me tell you the tale of the gentleman on the bike next to me, whom I shall call Annoying Spin Guy.  ASG looked normal, at first: sort of a cross between Anderson Cooper and Harrison Ford in unflatteringly tight shorts.  He came into class a few minutes late - no biggie, it was nearly empty - and he spent the first 10 minutes doing his own thing: elaborate stretches on the bike, warm up rides, adjusting and readjusting the bike, switching to a new bike, etc.

At this point, I was down with it.  Becoming a regular gym goer has taught me patience like nothing else.  I used to get annoyed at every person I saw doing something I deemed "wrong," but now I'm zen about it.  As long as I get my workout in, it's all good.  Or so I thought...  until this class.

ASG finally caught up with the class, and then the fun began.  First, he smelled.  I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt - could it be me that stank? - and that worked for a while.  Then he started grunting.  Every pedal was "uh, hunh, oof," etc., like he was playing in the USOpen - but louder.  Okay, weird.  But still, I wasn't too fazed.

And then...
And then he SPAT.  I kid you not.  Granted, he had a towel draped across his handlebars so he was technically spitting into his towel.  GROSS, sir, GROSS.

Just in case I was mistaken the first time, he proceeded to do it several more times throughout the workout.

And at the end, for a pièce de resistance, he belched.  Loudly.  Loudly enough that he said, "excuse me!" to the whole class.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

NYCM training

So, it's that time of blog again when I contemplate joining a training group/program.

I think I've narrowed it down to the program at Jack Rabbit Sports (in terms of what works for me).

Pro: time and location that work for me.
Con: I'll have to travel 20 minutes to meet the group (when I can just walk out my door and run from here).

Pro: spending money will motivate me to do all of those runs.
Con: that's... a lot... of money.

Pro: it will be nice to run with a group.
Con: running at 6:45pm on a hot August evening?  Blah!

Pro: meeting new people will help me through the long runs and give me confidence that I can make it to the finish line.
Con: ...so will the knowledge that I've already crossed the finish line of 5 marathons.

I guess the biggest problem I have is the cost.  I long ago abandoned the idealized notion that running is a cheap sport to participate in, but I already paid nearly $200 for my race registration, not to mention another $250 qualifying for my guaranteed entry.  Add the $300 of this training program, and that will put me at nearly $750 spent - to run a local race.  Not including shoes, gels, gear, etc...  I don't know...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Riverdale Y the Ramble? 10k race

Y the Ramble?  Good freaking question.  One that I asked myself for just over an hour yesterday morning.  I get that the name of this race is a play on the fact that it started and finished at a YMHA, but why?  Why?  Why?  This was a mean, sadistic, awesome race.

I decided to bail on Broad Street, definitively, shortly after receiving this email:
It is important that the runners must understand that the amount of cups provided are for the entire field of runners.  It is up to you to respect your fellow runners and only take one cup at a time at the water stations.  Those of you who feel the urge to take large amounts of water are only putting yourselves at risk for over-hydration and are depriving your fellow runners of much need water along the way.  Please realize that we have increased the calculations of our cup distribution and water supply to try to meet your needs.  However, we cannot control your personal actions on the race course.  You must be responsible for how you feel during the event.  Medical teams are on high alert and our volunteers have been instructed to rise to the challenge.
10 years ago this past weekend, the Broad Street Run became my first DNF.  I had run my first marathon the week before.  It wasn't my legs that kept me from completing the race, though: it was the unseasonably warm weather.  It was close to 80 degrees at the start, and by the time I got to the first water station at mile 2, I was suffering, badly.  I tried to stop for water, but the volunteers had run out of cups.  Same thing at the next two water stations.  Realizing this would be the case all along, I got on the subway, instead.

No worries, I quickly caught the tail end of advance registration for the Y the Ramble 10k instead.

Race morning, I took out a zipcar and headed up to the Bronx.  I'd never been to Riverdale before, and the area is impressive: beautiful, large houses with gorgeous river views overlooking northern Manhattan.  And hills.  And hills.  Crazy hills.

The race was refreshingly old school.  Notice anything missing in this photo?  No chip, no d-tag.  When there are fewer than 300 people at the start, chip timing's less relevant.  While New York is an amazing city to run in, it makes me sad how many runners here have never had the local race experience.  The NYRR favors 4m races, and I know super-talented runners who have never run a 5k, let alone a local race like this.  Keeping with the old school vibe, I went to turn my Garmin on a few minutes before the start and realized I'd left it at home.


So, the race itself.  First off, I was mad dehydrated.  We're having an unusual heat wave, and I hadn't slept well the night before on account of the heat.  At the 1m mark, the only thing that kept me from turning around was the realization that I would just have to walk back that same path I'd just taken.  Where the 5k and 10k split off, the only thing that kept me on the 10k path was telling myself that I wouldn't have to go back out and run 4 more (I'd promised myself 10 for the day) if I finished this race.  By the turnaround, I was 8 people from last and walking as much as I was running.  By 4m, I'd had to take my rings off because my hands were so swollen from dehydration.  Someone called out a time, and I realized I'd been doing 11 minute miles, so I set my goal as 1:10.

Actually, I set my secret goal as beating the annoying dude.  See, there was this guy running nearly neck-and-neck with me who kept doing that sprint-walk thing - you know the one.  He'd sprint to get ahead of me, then fall to a slow walk.  I tend to run my own race and not care about beating other people, but I understand the drive to pick others off.  That said, be sure you can maintain it.  I wouldn't have cared if he'd beat me, except for how obvious his tactics were.  He held on for about a mile before I left him behind for good.  (Link to photo.)

I barely eeked it in, finishing in 1:10:53.  The last mile was rough - not only was it all uphill, but a volunteer told me I had a mile left only about 3 minutes after another volunteer told me I was a quarter mile from the finish.  Then, like a mirage, about 5 minutes before the finish, a wonderful man came bounding along the course toward me to give me encouraging tips about form and run with me for several blocks.  That rocked.  At the finish, one of the race directors had a bullhorn and was yelling, "Young lady! You can do this!  Do NOT stop to walk! Let's see some good uphill form!!"  That... didn't rock.

One small vindication is that I did a 10k last summer in 1:10:46 - and that was a totally flat course.  So I've been improving.

Where on earth did this smile come from?  Oh, yes, I can see the finish from here!

Final thoughts:
1.  Those hills SUCKED.
2.  I must train on those hills.

And some more fun...:  A photo of the old school leaders board (I'm not on it, natch) and the elevation profile of the race are below.  Hm.  It really doesn't look that bad when I look at it here.  Hm.