Monday, March 22, 2010

Shamrockin' in VA Beach

The Shamrock Half Marathon
Virginia Beach
March 19-21, 2010

This past weekend was a blast! Way back in January I decided to join my brother and sister-in-law for their very first half marathon, and I paid for a charity spot to do so since the race had just sold out. It was worth the extra $$ because 100% of my registration fee was going to charity and one of the charities was United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation which raises $$ for research for the disease that killed my brother. Double win for me. A week or so after I registered my brother got word that his ship was being activated and going to Haiti for who-knows-how-long! Ahh. He might miss the race. (my Cornhusker blog post) ... fast forward to Friday the 19th (yes, 2 days before the race) when exhausted Captain Todd's ship returned home to Norfolk...

Mom and I had a heck of a day on Friday driving down to VA, it was sunny, warm and just overall beautiful. We broke up the drive with a ride on the Cape May- Lewes Ferry and sat outside on the deck in the sunshine, both in heaven. It was a fun ride, made more interesting by the Coast Guard running some anti-terrorism drills on our boat while en-route. Check out the gun on that little boat..

When we finally got to VA we headed right to
Todd's ship for dinner with the family. It was
delicious- they made alaskan king crab legs, shrimp, corn and kielbasa (not for me). I had never been on the ship so my nephews gave me the tour. Wow, its HUGE. The sunset was really nice and it was a nice end to a beautiful day.

From the stern of the SS Cornhusker State
(the crane pulleys look like hearts) :)
Looking out across from Captain's room

Getting the tour from the boys...

Todd's door, thats my big bro!!

Saturday morning we relaxed and just hung around, I went for a little 3 mile run with Simon (their awesome Standard Poodle). I goofed off with the boys and played until my sister-in-law Heather suggested I get on her bike to try out a real tri bike. I have never used clips before and was nervous, but I wanted to give it a try before going to a store to buy my new bike. Well... as I predicted, I fell over on my first try because I forgot I was clipped in and toppled right over. Ouch. I fell in the rocks at the bottom of the driveway and hurt my arm and cut up my knee. We laughed at my fall and as Heather turned around on her bike to help me, she also fell over. If only we had the video camera going for that one.
After the fall we all ventured down to VA beach to the expo and picked up our goodies. It was really well organized and we got a great tech tee and my bro was nice and bought me a Brooks shelter jacket in bright yellow, the one I've been eyeing for months!! I also got a free long sleeve tech shirt from a woman whose son also has a Mitochondrial disease. Very nice.

On to race day.... the exciting stuff.

The night before the race I did some prep and planned out my race.. I was not going to have a repeat of Coogan's where I miscalculated and missed my PR. I didn't want to worry about missing my splits because I forgot them either, so I just wrote them on my arm with a sharpie. My goal- a 1:43, that would be a 3+min PR from last year in Brooklyn. I knew I could do it, I just thought it was going to be tough.
I figured if I was on target at halfway (48mins) I would let myself pick up the pace and push it through the finish.

On the morning of the race it was chilly but the wind was at our backs at the start so it was comfortable in shorts and a tech tee. A lot of people were overdressed because it was still dark and they're wimps from the south. :) Many of them shed layers early on and I heard some regrets about losing good gear. The temp was actually warm (52 at the start) compared to my last few months of training so I knew to stay hydrated.
I relaxed at the start, excited and chilly but feeling really confident about the race ahead. I was in the first corral which was exciting for me, I'm usually in the 2nd corral at NYRR races. When the gun went off I took off with the crowd, determined NOT to take off too quickly. I let myself settle into a pace before checking the Garmin and thought "wow this feels easy, it must be around 8:00". I was shocked to see 7:43 flash before my eyes! It felt so easy. I made myself slow down a little, goal pace was 7:45-7:50. I tried to slow myself with thoughts of "you're going to kill yourself at this pace" but my legs and body wouldn't hear of it. I was feeling light and wonderful. I told myself that I could do this pace, it was FLAT.. no wonder I felt so good. At one point early on I looked down at my legs and thought "damn, I'm like Paula Radcliffe loping along!" No kidding, I compared myself to her. I was feeling awesome.
I breezed through the first half along shady Shore Dr that rolled through First Landing State Forest, hitting 6.2 just about 1 minute under goal time! Wow, good stuff, I thought. I knew I was going to kick out some negative splits for the second half and I latched onto a group of 3 other runners who were chatting and friendly. They were running right around 7:39 and that felt perfect! I was happy to have someone to chat with and even happier that I wasn't really out of breath at all. Weird.
It must have been around mile 9 that I noticed I was way ahead of pace and I began letting myself think about a 1:40 goal... was I really thinking about that??!!? I WAS! When I hit mile 10 nearly 2 mins ahead of pace I knew what I had to do. One of the girls from the group of 3 broke away with me and we stuck together until about 1.5 miles left to go when she started to slow and finally yelled "GO! I can't keep up!" I thanked her for the company and looked ahead, smiling because I was the one running ahead this time. I dug my heels in and gunned for that boardwalk. I hit mile 12 with minutes to spare on my goal pace and shed my reins. All during the race I had Josh's mantra in my head "there is no slower, only faster". I kicked out mile 13 at a blistering 7:14 despite turning onto the road with a big headwind and onto the hard concrete boardwalk with the wind blowing harder. I told myself "suck it up, there are no hills here, the wind is your hill..and you kick ass on hills." I had a guy near me that stuck close as we pushed through the final stretch but he pushed a little ahead so as I got close to the finish I was all alone! It was really cool because they had a d-tag mat a few meters before the finish line and were calling out the names of the finishers as they closed in on the finish... and since I was all alone with no one close behind he said "here comes Amy Cooper from New York, NY!" I threw up a little fist pump for the crowd and they loved it. hahaha. I saw the 1:40 on the clock as I crossed the finish and punched the air excitedly. WOW! a 6 minute PR!! No way!

What a race! I turned back after gathering my water, snacks (I told the cookie lady "oh I never turn down a cookie." she laughed) and finisher hat AND long sleeve tee and began to watch for Todd and Heather. I had no idea what to expect from them, but I expected to see them in under 2 hours despite 2 months on a ship in Haiti for Todd, 2 months home with 3 boys alone and a possible stress fracture in her foot for Heather. Sure enough, I heard their names called around 1:54!!! I was really excited for them! Here we are on the beach at the finish before getting a Yuengling and heading home.

Here we are hot-tubbing post-race back at their place.
Ohh that felt good.

And here are most of my goodies from the race! I definitely recommend this race for anyone who wants a flat, not too crowded, PR friendly half! It was well organized and beautiful.

And here are the numbers:
13.1 miles
1:40:26, avg pace 7:39
349 th overall/ 6205
83rd female/3756
26th in my age group, AG % 65.5

The splits are probably what I'm most proud of... consistent, consistent, consistent!! I've dubbed myself Pacemaster Jr (Elyssa is Pacemaster Sr.)

Monday, March 15, 2010

The North Face Challenge

After recently reading "Born to Run" I was not necessarily inspired to run barefoot (except on the beach or grass which I've always enjoyed) but I was inspired to volunteer at an ultra. I think its really important as runners to give back to the rest of the running community when possible. A friend in my running group Inwood Hill Runners mentioned an opportunity to get involved with the upcoming North Face Endurance Challenge up at Bear Mountain, NY and I thought- here's my chance! With the trail run comes many opportunities for helping out including trail marking AND volunteering on the day of the race. After discussing the options for vols with Jim Kerlin (vol coordinator) he suggested that if I got together a group of people we could all man an aid station together. The race is May 8-9 (there are various distances) at Bear Mountain, just an hour or so north of the city by car (which I will provide).

Now I know many of you are thinking "can't do it... I have a training run, etc etc" but don't forget- without volunteers at your upcoming marathon- there would be no race at all! So here are some details, including the perks of being a volunteer!
From Jim Kerlin:

We are looking for any and all folks interested in joining the awesome team of volunteers responsible for bringing the biggest and baddest trail running event to the northeast - The North Face Endurance Challenge on May 8th and 9th at Bear Mountain State Park in NY.

Want to be part of the excitement? Want to get an inside look into this world class event? Want to get into the action and give encouragement to all the hundreds of athletes participating in this epic test of endurance? Then come join our team.......

Contact Jim Kerlin at to volunteer or for more information...

Volunteer benefits include:

– Free The North Face Race Crew T-shirt ($20 value)
– Free ticket to The North Face Event Festival post-race meal ($15 value)
– E50 "green" water bottle ($19)
– Special volunteer "goodie bag"
– North Face Gift Cards (for certain key positions) *Harder to fill positions get more goodies*
– 10% Off all adventure trips at Outdoor Connections (
– Being a part of the excitement of the biggest and baddest trail running event in the Northeast
– Satisfaction of helping participants achieve their goals

This event would not take place without the help of our many hard-working and selfless volunteers. We sincerely appreciate the time, effort and sacrifice from the hundreds of people that help make The North Face® Endurance Challenge a series of world-class events. Thank you for being an important part of ensuring the Endurance Challenge athlete experience is second to none!

Jim Kerlin
TNF Volunteer Coordinator - NY

My plan for race weekend is to go up on Friday and help with trail marking, return to the city for the night and head up to the Mt again on Saturday to volunteer and also to help transport a friend who is running the 50K.

If you're at all interested, let me know and we can figure out the details!! It sounds like a blast, and trail marking is also a great workout/hike!

Shoot me an email if you'd like to join via comments or on twitter @RunAmyRun

Monday, March 8, 2010

Coogan's 5K Wrap Up

Every year there is one race I really look forward to- the Coogan's Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks 5K in Washington Heights. I love it because its on my home turf which means I get to sleep in a little and the journey home is nice and quick! In the past few years Coogan's has been FREEZING and the quick jog home was appreciated. 2010 was a whole new experience however, with 37 degrees at the start, very little wind and bright, glorious sunshine! There was definitely excitement in the air at the prospect of spring being just around the proverbial corner.
I had a goal time of 21:00 for this year, which would have been a 30 sec PR from last June and the whole goal time got me a bit frazzled and nervous both SAt night and Sun morning. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to race hard, and I was excited but still jittery. I had a few kids from my running team meeting me at the start so I headed down early, warming up with a nice 3/4mi jog which helped calm the nerves. An encouraging morning text from EG helped as well. :) Once the first of my 5 kids arrived, the rest of my jitters melted away and her bubbly chatter made me smile. All of the kids arrived on time, I pinned on their bibs, clipped on the D-tags and wished them all a great race (they run with parents or other coaches, etc).
Once in my corral I hardly had time to get nervous again before the horn went off. In my head I had worked out what I needed my pace to be for each mile in order to hit my goal, but as usual I forgot about the 0.1 and ...well, I've never been that good at math and I goofed.
I had a really strong race, I cruised up those hills like they weren't even there and felt powerful and free. Was it the sunshine, the bands along the way, the knowledge that my hubby was waiting near the top of the first hill and the last hill? It was all of the above.

Here are the numbers:
Mi 1: 7:08 (i held back thinking I'd make it up. This was the weak point in my plan.)
Mi 2: 6:56 (felt awesome)
Mi 3: 6:41 (ran hard!)
0.1: 6:22 pace

3.1 mi, 21:39, 6:59 avg pace. (My bib pace will change now! used to be 7:10)

NYRR says I was 101st female, 40th in my age group and 765 overall out of 5631. Oddly, I just double checked and now it says I was #102 female, 41 in my age group. Weird. Anyway, as bummed as I was for a whole 10 mins that I didn't PR, I felt like I raced smart, strong and felt great.

What came after my race was the truly awesome part of the day... as I stood shivering at the finish line waiting for my kids to cross, I was expecting to see 2 of my 3rd graders come in first until out of nowhere, one of my 2nd graders (7 yrs old!) came FLYING across at 31:53 with a HUGE grin on his face! He clocked a 10:17 pace after doing his last two races at a 14:40 pace!! Wow. I had to catch up to him after the finish because he'd run too fast for his mom to keep up. He was chattering uncontrollably about how awesome that was and how he flew past his mom and his teammates in mile 2! Man, that kid made everything I do so worth it. What a kid. His mom told me he's SO proud of himself and that he can't wait for the next race. He came to practice today with that smile still all over his face and pride beaming off of him like sunrays. I think I hooked one. Awesome. I'm the proudest coach in town today.

After the kids were finished, I headed back uptown to meet my hubby, MJ and SCL for a little brunch in our hood. We had a nice meal (pancakes, yum) and then took a stroll over to see the GWB in all of its glory. What a beautiful day on the Hudson.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Post-run bliss

Oh what a beautiful, rewarding day to be a runner in NYC. All around the neighborhood you can feel the buzz of people getting out and about with smiles on their sun-warmed faces. Its been a hard, cold winter for all of us, but especially for us runners. Everyone has been struggling with windburn on their cheeks (both sets) and frozen hair and just general "brrr" that comes with winter training. But today... today was a different feeling altogether. From the moment I stepped out the door into the blinding sun in my shorts I felt a change in the air. I think we MADE IT THROUGH!! The winter is a trying time for many people around here, bad weather sucks when you live in the city. As NM and I made our way up to Isham St to meet the group we pranced through Fort Tryon park which was closed to pedestrians last Saturday because of the heavy snow covered tree limbs, but this week it was full of chirping birds and sunshine.
It was another big day for the Inwood Hill Runners - two new members today! Wahoo. We had 10 people this morning and decided it was a good day for the "East-West" run that we did a few weeks ago in the bitter, bitter wind. In reality we did a "West-East" run though. We looped through Inwood Hill park and made our way to the Greenway at Dyckman St and followed it down to 155th St. The sun was out, the view was clear and beautiful and I was feelin good! We saw some tankers and cruise ships in the distance which is always kind of fun, those cruise ships are so enormous that they dwarf the buildings along the river. When we turned onto 155th coming off of the greenway, I felt like a million bucks! Last time we did that hill (its a good one!) it was about 25 degrees with 25mph winds coming at us and there were snow flurries pelting us in the face. It was craptastic. Not today though, the sun was in my face and I bounded to the top of the hill thinking about tomorrow's Coogans 5K.
I continued to play the contrast game in my head for another few miles, "last time there were near 40mph icy gusts as we headed up the Harlem River drive", "last time I wanted to die here" before I finally let it go and enjoyed the sun on my face and the breeze in my hair. I enjoyed watching the Columbia men's crew team out on the water, it brought back memories from my rowing days in college in icy NH. I don't miss rowing, it was a brutal sport on my body, but I miss being on the water sometimes. Knowing that they were rowing into a headwind made me happy to be on dry land running alongside. We took a little pride in ourselves for beating them up the river, since there were 8 of them and we were in a little cluster of 4 at the time.
As we finished back at Isham St, the farmers market underway we all stood and chatted in the warm sun and for the first time in months- no one was in a rush to get home or to keep moving because WE WEREN'T COLD! I browsed the Farmers Market, picking the best whole wheat sourdough I could find and leisurely strolled toward the subway.

With my runner's high in full effect and toasted sourdough in my belly, I am content, refreshed and all of the stress and grumpiness of the week is a distant memory. I really love my running group. Rock on Inwood Hill Runners and thanks for another great start to the weekend.

The numbers-
9.55 mi
Avg pace 8:51
Elevation gained: 1,135 ft
Elevation lost: 1,512 ft
Endorphins: Off the charts

:) Have a great weekend fellow runners. Its a perfect weekend to be a runner- live it up.