Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Queens Half Marathon

It has become sort of a trend this year for me to run the various borough 1/2 marathons with new friends and Queens was no exception. I ran Manhattan Half back in January with EG and AG where we ran with AG to his first sub-1:50 and I ended up running Brooklyn with Betsy who I bumped into a mile into the race. For my first Queens 1/2 the forecast was looking brutal, they used words like "oppressive heat" and "just fucking stay inside" to describe the day, so I was really glad to hook up with TK, MP, SP, and MH earlier in the week and make plans to run together.

The new Queens route advertised "free parking and easy train access" and since I live WAY too far to take the train for a 7am race, I opted to drive and brought along another fellow Upstate Manhattanite from the Inwood group. After a painless drive there, we took full advantage of the free parking and headed to the start in the already sweltering heat at 6am. As most other probably did, I adjusted my "race plan" when I woke up and saw that it was already 83 at 5:30 a.m. It went from attempting to just run a dignified sub-2:00 to simply finishing without passing out. Thank god for friends.

The race began in Flushing Meadows Corona Park which I'd never been to, but heard plenty about from the Queens contingent on twitter. It seemed like a large park with lots of bodies of water scattered throughout and lots of brown, thirsty grass. We started and ended with a loop around the World's Fair Globe which was huge and pretty neat. Apparently it is actually called the Unisphere... who knew? Unfortunately they had drained all of the water from the fountain around it and were painting when we ran by, providing a sort of "huffing" effect as we trotted by inhaling the fumes.

In general I can't say that I remember a ton about the course, which tells me that it was nothing impressive. I remember running past the stinky industrial park along College Point Blvd and then hearing about this later that weekend, we ran past that very station. I also recall running around the lake in the park and thinking "if it weren't so disgustingly hot, this might be a nice spot to sit." There were a few other things that ring a bell such as sniffing the air and asking "are we by the zoo?" (yup) but the rest of the run is lost in the haze of humidity and sweat that we trotted through all morning. The things I remember clearly though are the fire hoses spraying the crowd every 0.75mi or so near the water stops (ahhh so nice) and taking full cups of water and Gatorade at every single stop along the course. I hardly every drink Gatorade during races because it sloshes in my tummy and gives me cramps, but we were sweating it out so quickly that it never had a chance to bother me. We also took walk breaks at each water stop, with the breaks getting a little longer as the race progressed and no one wanting to make the first move to get us running again. We were having fun and just trying to get through it without dehydrating or overheating- I'm happy to report that we were VERY successful. None of us were able to stomach the idea of sucking down hot GU packets at any point during the run, so we survived on salt packets (for TK and MP) and Endurolyte tabs for me.

We trotted across the finish line in 2:04:09 looking cute and smiling (there's a brightroom video to prove it!) and just happy to have run a smart, respectable race. I never could have done that on my own, it would have been torture instead of the silly, fun, girl-fest that it was. I even managed a respectable 122 in my age group out of 737.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

First Stab at Olympic Distance

NYC Triathlon 2010

As I'd hoped, Sunday morning around 9:15 or so it was nothing but smiles from me! Somehow I managed to pull off what felt like the perfect race. Going into the NYC Triathlon I wasn't sure what to expect from my body. Sure, I had trained smart and hard and I knew I was up for the challenges ahead, but just like trying anything new I was just a touch unsure. It turns out, any doubts in the back of my head were unfounded and I walked away with a medal, a smile and a new passion.

The morning began early- 4am alarm followed by nervous munching of bagel with PB that never fails to taste like cardboard on race day. My darling hubby was sweet enough to get up and head to the start with me so we zombied our way out to the cab. In an annoying twist of NYC fate, we couldn't exit the West side highway at 79th (mental note: get off at 96th next year) because of the triathlon (I knew it was a possibility) so we had to fight the traffic around 56th st and turn and go uptown with all of the other confused cars because the WSH northbound was shut down for the race. Eeeeeeeek, sitting in traffic mere blocks from where I needed to be was making me anxious and finally I blurted out "let us out up here!" and we were on our way.

After a quick stop to arrange my shoes, hat, watch, and whatever else at the transition area, Hubs and I high-tailed it to the swim start over a mile away. Once there, I felt a little calmer, but in reality I should have been in the port-o-potty line much sooner and hustling instead of munching my banana and putting on body glide (which by the way, I've never used and will never use again because I see no point to it. I don't chafe. Go ahead, curse me.) After a frantic few mins in the port-o-potty line I ran to my corral for the swim start as it started to inch forward. Yikes, close one.

The Swim
I'm in the blue tank

I hopped right into the water and missed grabbing the infamous rope by an inch so I had to be rescued by fellow swimmers and pulled to the rope to prevent me from floating away in the current. Thanks ladies. The current was strong (in our favor) and the water was a nice temp, 75 I believe. As the horn blew, we took off in the usual frenzy of arms, caps, feet, neoprene smacks that accompany an open water swim. The difference between me and all of the other 25-29ers? I had no wetsuit. I felt freeeee and took off like a little fishy downstream. After about a minute or so of swimming I had a thought "Wow, I'm swimming in the Hudson River! This is so cool!" Contrary to VERY popular belief, the water was not disgusting or full of trash and bodies, but it was much like swimming in the ocean- salty, dark and you can't see very far ahead of you. I bumped into a few odd things and immediately thought "ack jellyfish!" but no, just my imagination. The swim was really, really great though. The tide assist made you feel like you were really cruising, but don't get me wrong- I was swimming hard. I gradually caught up to the wave of purple caps that had left ahead of us and was happy about that, but at the same time it was annoying because "back of the pack" swimmers are not the straightest swimmers and I got bumped into a bunch of times as I made my way through their pack. As promised, some buff lifeguard pulled me out of the water and onto the pontoon. My watch read 17:36, but with the trot up the ramp my official time was 17:52, good enough for 618th overall (they keep changing the # of actual finishers) which was 35th in my age group of 260 women. Sweet, but no time to stop and chat about it... I was off and running to the bike.

After a nearly 1/2 mi barefoot run to the transition area, I popped on my helmet, bike shoes and stuffed an extra bike tube and some GU chomps into my pockets and I was off.

The Bike

The NYC Tri crew gives everyone every scary details about the bike including phrases like "the bike route contains 5 VERY TECHNICAL turns and a steep hill at the start" which I can only imagine are to frighten the riders into being extra careful. On one hand I'm really glad they say that so people are prepared and (hopefully) hyper vigilant about the turns, but on the other hand- way to freak me out! Sheesh. The bike began on a narrow, busy path with the finished swimmers on one side and beginning bikers on the other, but everyone was moving slowly and cautiously. The first turn is maybe 100 degrees and starts with a mild uphill that gets steeper as you go along, but I'd left my bike in a nice, easy gear so I cruised up the hill with no problems. The next few turns were simple and before I knew it we were on the WSH and we were flying! I had prepared myself for a bigger crowd, but because of our early start the only spots that I encountered crowds was on the hills. I have found that being a strong hill runner does in fact translate a bit to being a strong hill cyclist and I worked somewhat hard, but really wasn't slowed down by the hills. My favorite parts were riding past my neighborhood (and next to my running path along the greenway!), through the tolls and across the Henry Hudson Bridge (how fun is it to RIDE through the toll booth?!). It was exhilarating and I enjoyed every minute of it, despite keeping up a solid effort. Somewhere just before the turnaround on Gun Hill Rd in the Bronx, a stray thought wandered into my head, "this race isn't nearly long enough, I can't believe we're about to turn around already!" Where did THAT come from? As expected, I managed a decent but not stellar bike portion and finished the 25 miles in 1:30, an avg speed of 16.4mph. I'd thought it was faster, but I think the entering and exiting of transition area was so slow that it brought me down, but whatever. 1:30 was my exact A-goal and I'm more than happy with it!

In T2 (which I've dubbed "the warzone") I did a quick shoe change while overhearing one woman explain to another that her crap was on the wrong side of the rack. The accused woman was clueless and said "yeah, but someone turned my bike around overnight" and another explained to her that "yes, that is because you had it facing the wrong way." It was all in a very friendly "I'm trying to help you understand this" manner and I got a good chuckle out of it between bites of PB&J and putting my visor on. I had experienced nothing but friendly, helpful chatter all day... I don't care what they say about triathletes, they're a nice bunch.

The Run

The initial 1/2 mile or so of the run was uphill, much like the bike. While it sucks that the run has to start uphill when you're already a little unsteady on your feet, that's just the only way out of Riverside park. I expected to feel like lead for the first 5 mins or so as I have in the past on brick runs, but instead I felt GOOD. Like, really good. It was tough, don't get me wrong but I wasn't feeling tight or heavy or like someone had put cement in my shoes like I did at Harriman. I did a "systems check" and felt that I'd hydrated really well on the bike, the PB&J + banana sandwich was making its way down smoothly and my legs were ready to move. It was almost like my legs were running away from me for most of the run. I was super excited going along 72nd St because of the crowds, but also because I knew that Elyssa and Hubs were waiting for me by CPW. I noticed that I had forgotten to take the GU chomps out of my shorts and I'd also forgotten to take the extra bike tube out of my pocket, so I tossed the chomps into a trashcan and held the tube until I saw E and hubs. They didn't understand why I had it and mistakenly thought it was an indication that I'd gotten a flat on the ride. Nope, just a Team Dork moment. I trotted past them and into the park where I proceeded to hunt down and pass a ton of people. At the risk of sounding completely self-absorbed, I passed EVERYONE that I encountered on the run. There was one elite looking dude that blew past me just after we entered the park, but otherwise I just chugged along smiling and practically dancing through the miles. It was HOT, hot, HOT so I stopped at every water station along the way and drank a cup of water and poured another cup over my head and body. The first 3 miles were in the shade, but as we turned the corner at the very top of the park and the sun began to beat down on me, it got hot. I never felt overheated or uncomfortably hot though, thanks to being soaked from cups of water and hoses along the way. I trotted along at an unbelievable 7:24 avg pace and cranked out the final mile at something like 7:14. To be honest, I don't know how I did it! I didn't look down at my watch more than twice and just pushed as hard as I could because I was so excited and happy because I knew I was going to make my goal time even if I slowed significantly. As I crossed the finish and looked down at my run time, I was shocked to realized that not only did I destroy my goal time for the tri (sub-3) but I'd PRed in the run by at least 2 minutes. The grins associated with that still haven't faded. It turns out I was 6th in my age group on the run and 197th overall.

As I floated through the crowded finish area with my ice-cold Toyota towel around my neck I collected my medal, some water, and other misc items like an orange and my checked bag from the start. As luck would have it, while collecting my checked bag the guy next to me had also grabbed too much water and fruit and was trying to free up a hand by sticking his banana into his tri shorts. I looked at him with wide eyes and an "I can't believe this is happening" look on my face and laughed. I managed to choke out "Is that I bana..... no, too easy.." before laughing again. He laughed and said "Oh we're beyond that at this point..." Ahh, a classic moment that was meant for my 8th grader sense of humor.

Happy Finisher

With a spring in my step I walked out to meet with E and hubs even though we hadn't established a meeting spot. Oops. Luckily for us, the race had set up signs indicating "Family reunion letters A-C" etc and we easily found each other. I probably chattered at them incoherently for a while before we went off to Popover cafe to devour some brunch. It was the ideal ending to a perfect morning.

The takeaway from Sunday- I love triathlons and am pretty durned good at them. Call it beginner's luck, but nothing went wrong and I actually feel great today (yesterday I was sore though) and I can't wait for the next tri. I really loved every minute of it and I enjoyed the people and atmosphere that accompanied the entire day. Thank you to everyone who supported me along the way- special shout outs to my hubby who put up with training and a 4am wakeup, Elyssa who is always there with advice and support and to Peter who generously gave me tidbits of advice that really made a huge difference in how smoothly my day went. And with that, my Oscar acceptance speech is over. ;)

Tossing my extra tube to E

I love this pic that E took, I look ripped :) hahaha.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

NYC Tri Results

Ok, I'm way too sleepy to blog about the race, but I'm too excited to wait on posting the results....

1.5K swim, 40K bike, 10K run
Total Finishers: 3,472

Overall place: 1169
Age Division F25-29: 42 out of 259
Female Div: 177 out of 1166

Swim: 17:52
613 out of 3,472 (wahooo)

T1(including nearly 1/2 mi barefoot run): 8:28

Bike: 1:30:40
2210 out of 3,472 (eh...decent, I'm happy with it)

T2: 3:43

Run: 45:52 (PR by 2+mins)
7:24 pace (whaaat?!)
193 out of 3,472

Total Time: 2:46:34

I am PUMPED! First time is always a PR!
I am truly touched by all of the love and support that I've received today, THANK YOU for inspiring me to swim faster, bike harder and run sweatier! I love the NYC (and beyond) running community and I'm so happy to be a part of it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The time has come...

My 2009 pics from volunteering:
That woman only has one leg, amazing! I nearly cried because I was so happy for her.
The guy in the red is a friend of mine doing his first tri. jump into the Hudson River! The jokes continue ("you're going to grow a 3rd eye from swimming in there") but the reality is that I'm going in on Sunday and plan to swim my little heart out. Then I'll bike my legs off and get off and run a loop of Central Park. The Nautica New York City Triathlon is HERE!

Well, training has been fun and time consuming, though not as bad as I thought it was going to be. The beginning was tough because of my time commitments to my regular job and my coaching job, but once coaching ended for the school year my time became less crunched. I got in some serious workouts upstate a few weeks ago and did a heck of a 40 mile ride this past weekend with a 2.5mi run afterwards "for fun". It actually felt great- the whole thing- the ride, the run, everything. I feel really comfortable on the bike and while I know the first bit of the run is going to feel stiff and like someone put cement in my shoes, I know it is going to get better and I'll be fine. I have big plans for the swim, I hope to come in between 17:00 and 18:00 because of the tidal assist and since I'm not wearing a wetsuit, my transition shouldn't be too tedious. I have all of my new "gear" including a Zoot tri tank, Sugoi Blast tri shorts (mmm spandex) some Endurolyte tabs and little CO2 cartridges in the event of an "incident" on the ride.

At this point, I can honestly say that I feel well trained, mentally prepared, gadget-ly prepared and really, really excited. I'm trying not to let myself get too hyped up yet (it is only Thursday!) because I want to stay calm, sleep well and be cool as a cucumber Sunday morning. I'm racing for Team Columbia in the Ivy League challenge which is fun because I believe they win pretty consistently (08, 09). In all fairness, the race is held in our home city, we have home turf advantage even though the only part of the race we could actually simulate is the run through CP since the rest is in the Hudson and on the West Side highway. In any event, GO COLUMBIA!

I'm not sure if luck will help me at this point, but it certainly is welcome. ;) I hope to be posting a race report next week with lots of big smiles and happy memories. Good luck to everyone else who is hopping in the Hudson on Sunday- have a great race and stay cool.

More Keyword Fun

And the fun with keyword searches that lead folks to my blog continues... I especially like this one-

Sing it, sistah!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Vacation/Training Camp

Looking ahead...

As the school year came to a close, I stacked my upcoming vacation with trips and tried to figure out how to squeeze my training in with them. The day before vacation began, I had a major day o' activity to start things off right. Thursday the 24th of June was the day my best friend NM was moving to Philly for a year-long residency, so we had to do a run to commemorate it. We always run together on big days including graduation from PT school, my wedding day, etc so this was no exception. We snuck in a very early, hilly 5mi or so before the rest of the city woke up. It was bittersweet, I'm terribly sad to see her leave NY, but excited for the opportunities ahead. After work I was able to come right home and begin the packing process before driving up to Van Cortlandt park for another of the 5K series, no muffin this time because I really held back and took it easy, finishing 1 min slower than last time at 24:08 or so. I didn't care that I had a 9:00 mi 2 because I was saving a lil energy for soccer! Yup, post 5K I trotted back to my car and went directly to a 50 min soccer in the sweltering heat. We won! When I arrived back home, my hubby was home from work so I told him to get his stuff together, he was coming with me to NJ for the night because we were leaving for Calgary, AB Canada in the morning and had to bring the cats down to Mom's house. That worked out nicely! Boy did I sleep good that night...

View from our hike to Grassi Lakes, it was unreal!

Canada was a blast, we spent much of the long weekend in the Canadian Rockies at a beautiful, picturesque lodge tucked away by a great big lake. I was really hoping to get in more training, like a trail run and open water swim, but the trails were too far from the lodge and the lake had leeches in it!! Eww, no thanks. I did manage one run though... But it was an adventure! I asked a nice Aboriginal man where to run and he told me the road (boring) so I asked if their was a path around the lake and he assured me that there was. He mentioned that it was "a bit uneven" and I waved him off. Pshhh, I thought. He neglected to mention the loads of bear poop, the disappearing trail, and the ancient, decrepit bridge that I made it halfway across before noticing that the other half was broken and under water. Sadly, I ended up on the road after all. Boo. I didn't notice the altitude too much, I think we were only at about 3,500ft or so. The hike we did was at about 5,400ft, yay for gorgeous mountains and crisp, blue glacier lakes. I was so relaxed and happy.

When we returned to the States, I took off to NJ for a beach day with Mom on Tuesday and got in a solid 5x1mi intervals workout before the heat crept in. It was fine to get up early on vacation to run because I was all mixed up in terms of my time zones. If it weren't for the heat, I think I could have gone even faster on my run, but I had 5 solid miles anyway. After a hot day at the beach with Mom, I ventured back to the city to spend one night at home before jetting off again. It happened to be the most gorgeous of nights, the humidity was gone and the night air was cool and fresh, it was a preview of the rest of my week.

Wed morning I did an hour of PT with some twins that I work with before hopping back into the (new and shiny) car for a 4hr drive upstate. My good friend SF has a wonderful and charming house in the Adirondacks where she spends the summers swimming in the gorgeous lakes and doing projects around her house. I drove up with my bike, swimsuits, caps, goggles and plenty of comfy clothes. It was going to be relaxing and yet a good training opportunity.
I spent Wed through Sat morning there and had a GREAT time, it sucked to come back home as it did last year also. I managed to swim 2mi each morning with SF across and back in Paradox Lake, consistently in around 50mins each time, despite the different conditions (wind, waves, temp) every day. On Thursday I ran the 3 very hilly miles there, swam, dried off and ran back on numb feet. Brr.

Friday we swam and then after breakfast (yum we had some amazing and fresh food) we ventured to Schroon Lake where I rode around the lake along the course of the Adirondack Marathon (wow, HILLS) for a 26.2 mi ride in 1:45 with a quick mile run after to make it a brick. Whew, the sandwiches we had after the ride/run were unreal too, and I don't think it was just because of my hungry bear state of mind.

Bike Course

We did one last swim on Sat morning with SF's bf paddling his kayak alongside us so we didn't have to bring along our little beachball-string-ankle strap contraptions along to make us visible for any boats on the lake. The beach balls were fun though, hehe especially on the first day when we had a tailwind on the way home and the ball kept smacking me in the head and arm because it was beating me. Anyhow, our last swim was great, I feel like I really got a good rhythm of breathing and sighting down, which is something I didn't feel like I had at the tri in Harriman. Sadly though I had to get in the car and head home to NYC and then on to Jersey for a wedding Sunday. Ahh, what a great way to spend the week though.. we ate delicious foods right from the garden and drank cold beer and even had to bundle up because it was so chilly at night. I wish I could bottle that feeling of relaxation, happiness and sleepiness from a good workout and really great company. I'm so lucky to have such great friends in my life.

I'm feeling pretty pumped for the upcoming NYC Tri... I did another 10 mi bike (much flatter!) and 3mi run Brick workout on Sunday morning just to get in some more time in the saddle and practice the bike to run transition. I realize that it is going to be difficult on race day, but I think I can still do really well. I guess we'll see... 13 days to go!