Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 Year in Review

A look back on a year in running, swimming and cycling.

2010 started with a bang as my husband, best friend and I all ran the New Year's Eve 4 miler to ring in the new year. All that I remember is a slow, slippery jog through the park with lots of excited folks. It was my only run with my husband all year long! It was an appropriate start to a year that topped out at 1300 miles last week before I came down with the plague and we got buried under 2.5 ft of snow in NJ.

We had a rough winter weather-wise, but I slogged through it with the help of many other great runners and new friends made via twitter.

January: The Manhattan half marathon in Central Park. I ran this one with Elyssa (Bridges Runner) and our friend Ansky who was looking for his first sub 1:50. The conditions were mild considering the date and we cruised in to a 1:48! This was the first of my 4 (out of a possible 5) Grand Prix races this year.
I also got in a fun training run in January with my brother and sister in law who came to NJ for a visit while training for their first half marathon. That was a first and it was great to have the company. They've since tackled half marathons, a full marathon and a few triathlons too!

February: This picture sums up Feb in a nutshell, lots of snow! We had the Snowpocalypse, the Snurricane and SnOMG. Through it all, I managed to get in a handful of quality runs to prepare for the "Run for Haiti" hosted in Central Park by the NYRR and also held virtually around the world. I was in NJ to get my car inspected that day, so I had to run it alone. Believe it or not: I set a new 4 mile PR on the nice square course near Mom's house. Was it the coffee?lack of crowds? I don't know but I came in at 28:27! 15 sec PR.

March: Looking back on my March blog posts I can see that the weather finally began to change because I am wearing shorts in all of my pictures. March was a good month this year, I'd been training pretty hard for the Shamrock 1/2 in VA Beach with a goal of 1:43 in mind. I had so much fun running that race and unleashing my new speed that thinking about it still makes me smile. I walked away with a 1:40 and a huge 6 minute PR. My brother and SIL rocked this race too, it was their first half and they are hooked! I'm not sure if this race is sold out yet, but if you're looking for a flat, fast half (or full) I recommend Shamrock!
Coogan's 5K is also in March, and it's one of my favorite races of the year! Passing by my apt and running "my hills" is always a blast. I made a math error this year, but I'm ready for it in 2011- I will get a new 5K PR!

April: This was a month of new things for me- I bought a road bike in April in preparation for the NYC Triathlon and I was hesitant but still pretty excited. I can still remember the nerves as I made my first ride around Fort Tryon park with my clipless pedals. I still have a lot to learn on the bike, but I have come a long, long way too. Hopefully 2011 will be the year that I get out of the middle of the pack on that bike.
April is the first time I considered a 70.3 Half Ironman, now I'm registered for one! I think it is safe to say that April was the beginning of an era: the triathlon was becoming a reality.

April brought yet another 4 mile PR, this time in Central Park with the crowds. This was my 4th "Run as One" for the Thomas G Labreque foundation and I went into it with no intention of racing, but the crowds got me excited and I took off, smoking those 4 miles in 27:48 which pushed my NYRR bib pace down into the 6:00's! Wow. I remember when I was running this race in 31:30 just a few years ago.

May: The Riverdale Ramble kicked off the month with a steamy, sweaty 10K on the crazy hills of the Bronx. It was worth it though because I came away with a 3rd place AG medal and a gift certificate from the raffle despite having Strep the week before. I'm looking forward to that race again this year, I'd like to kick some hilly butt.
Later in May I volunteered with a group of friends and one weird guy at the North Face endurance challenge 50 miler on Bear Mountain. It was so much fun that I may do it again this year, but I'll be sure that I don't have plans the day after because I was exhausted!!
The end of May brought warm weather and the start of the Van Cortlandt Track Club summer 5K series. I walked away with the first of many victory muffins!

June: My first triathlon!!!!! The NY Sprint Tri in Harriman State Park is where it all began! I
did really well (4th in my AG!) and most of all- I LOVED IT!! I can still remember smiling as I rode along the hilly bike course because I was riding with confidence and I was really looking forward to the run portion. It was during the run that I realized so many of the folks who smoked me on the bike were practically standing still on the run. Hmm, I was on to something here.
In mid-June I did another new type of race: a 12 person weekend relay in Vermont. The Green Mountain Relay was more fun than I could have imagined spending a weekend in a sweaty van could possibly be. I met some really fun people that have become good friends, both virtually and in real life. A 200 mile trek through the hills of Vermont can bring out the best in a group of runners, and thanks to TK we had a great bunch of people and a really smooth weekend. We aren't doing the relay this year, but I have a feeling we'll be back in 2012!

July: Early July was training intensive as I prepared for the big event: NYC Triathlon! I was really excited leading up to the race and it went exactly as planned, despite the wicked hot temps. With a killer swim in 17:52, a decent bike in 1:30 and a rockin' PR 10K run in 45:52 I crossed the finish line in 2:46:34 and I was thrilled with the results. Again I passed a lot of folks on the run and wondered why they were going so slow. I never realized that most triathletes aren't runners, who knew? They're all great on the bike and a lot of people struggle in the water, but I didn't realize until I started reading more about tri's that a lot of folks don't come from a strong running background! I'll be using this to my advantage in the future.
The sweaty, disgusting Queens Half Marathon was also in May, it was the 3rd of the Grand Prix races that I did this year. The trend continued and I ran the race with a couple of girlfriends which made it fun and bearable. Sadly, NYRR's attempt to revamp the Queens course just resulted in a windy, out and back boring course.

August: It was a quiet month after a busy July, I slowly started training for the NYC Marathon and tackled my last triathlon of the season. I went back to Harriman State Park with a little more experience under my belt and a hunger for better than 4th place. I raced hard again and walked away with this baby ----->
It was so exciting and fun, but I knew I had to buckle down and get training for the marathon and put my triathlon dreams on the shelf for the time being. I managed a few more VCTC 5K races and a few more muffins to finish off the season.

September: The Philly half was my goal race this month, but as you may remember it didn't go the way Elyssa and I hoped. In hindsight, perhaps it wasn't reasonable to expect a half marathon PR while training for a full when we both have pretty solid HM PRs. September was also the month that I stopped trying to fix my knee injury on my own and sought outside help. I found an excellent Physical Therapist who treats this type of injury on a regular basis who really helped me strengthen my knee so I was able to run pain free. If you're looking for a PT, be sure to check out Finish Line PT in Chelsea, they're excellent.
My husband and I also took a trip to Germany in late September for the wedding of one of my dearest friends, I was sad that I wasn't able to sneak in a run because of my knee pain, but we had such a wonderful trip and made memories that will really last forever. Marathon training marched on.

October: The best race of the Grand prix series takes place in September, the Staten Island half marathon, which was a lot of fun. It was my first time doing the SI Half and I think I'll do it again in the future. Elyssa and I had a really good race which we saw as an indication of readiness for the marathon. We finished in 1:48 and were thrilled with our steady, marathon pace run. Despite fighting a knee injury, I was finally getting excited for the marathon. I kept on logging the miles both on the road and in the pool in an attempt to keep out of the marathon training slump. My swimming partner returned from her house upstate after many months away and it was great to have her back. It was around this time that we started discussing a long distance swim in the spring or early summer next year. I started looking and found the Great Bay swim in June, a 4.4 mile swim between the spans of two bridges that cross from Annapolis to a small island. I entered the lottery and got accepted just before the marathon.
Husband and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary on Halloween and spent the weekend in Rockland County, NY which turned out to be beautiful and peaceful. We'll be back.

November: Finally, it was time to run the damn NYC Marathon! Everyone I knew was tired, mentally exhausted and just ready to get Nov 7th in the rearview mirror. There's a lot to say about the marathon, but I already said most of it here and here. In the end, I'm happy with a new marathon PR (3:46 from a previous 4:03) and another marathon under my belt. I had a great experience both training and running with Elyssa this year, I'm not sure I would have finished without her. I know now that the marathon isn't my passion and may never be. I'm ready to see what I can do in the triathlon next year at various distances. The remainder of Nov was recovery, swimming, trying new things at the gym and rehab. The knee remained stubborn and I ended up getting an MRI to see if there was anything significantly wrong with it. Luckily, there isn't.
December: I'm tired of writing, you're probably tired of reading (if you made it this far- kudos) and I only have one race to report on this month. Just like last year, I ran the Pete McArdle 15K in Central Park with TE from Inwood Hill Runners and Elyssa decided to join in the "fun" this year. In keeping with tradition, it was the shittiest possible weather and the wind was unbearable. Luckily we were armed with a secret weapon this year to prevent us from freezing to death again: my car. The weather being even worse than last year, I wasn't able to beat my time from 2009, but I had a great race and a lot of fun. Best of all, my wonderful hubby made us pancakes and tea after the race. A perfect ending to a great year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I know it's the first day of winter but...

I really love this photo that I took in early November and I am not yet ready to embrace winter. The new blog header photo will stay up until we get our first big snow of the season. I have some great photos from last winter, but I am also looking forward to snapping a few shots with our new camera this year. Damn George, you're a beauty.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Some more cold weather thoughts

This week on the New York Running Show we talked about cold weather running and what to wear, where to shop, how to stay safe. You should definitely check it out for some good ideas on staying warm:http://newyorkrunningshow.com

Upon listening to the show, I realized that no one mentioned running shoes for cold/icky weather. I personally make the switch to my Gore-Tex Asics Gel Trabuco trail shoes. They're toasty and really keep my feet dry in sloppy conditions. I wore them last year (and now this year!) at the Pete McArdle XC 15K in VCP in some muddy, wet and cold conditions and fared really well.

I think it is worth the cost for a warm pair of shoes that will last a while because you'll only want to wear them in crappy weather conditions since they don't breathe as well as regular running shoes. The North Face and Solomon also have a few Gore Tex options in their lines. It's worth it. Paired with a nice pair of Smartwool socks and you're in business! No more excuses for skipping your run because it is slushy or rainy or even snowy!

Deja Vu: Pete McArdle 15K

I didn't know that the second weekend in December was scheduled to be rainy and messy every year until I started running the Pete McArdle XC Classic 15K. Just like last year I woke up to pouring rain, mild-ish temps and wind. This year was a bit warmer but the wind was atrocious. The rain was about the same, on and off but never a heavy downpour except for 2 minutes before the starting gun.

For some reason, NYRR made the very odd decision to start us ON the grass for a very small 0.3 loop before beginning our 3 big loops of the 5K path. I can't imagine the parks dept was happy having all 165 runners thrashing across the very wet field they've spent months tending. It was a gross way to start because it meant our shoes were soaked right away. Or in some peoples cases, their socks. I was running alongside Bridges Runner when suddenly she disappeared. I looked back to see her hopping with one stocking foot held high in the air while TE, a fellow Inwood runner, rescued Elyssa's right shoe from the mud puddle where it had gotten stuck. I looked on in disbelief, then doubled over in laughter. We were a mere 0.2 miles into the race. We carried on, laughing as we pushed against a strong headwind from the south. There would be no advantage on the flats today.

The first loop went by pretty quickly and I felt really good. We were passing folks going up and down the hills and the wind was not a factor in the woods. The path was very muddy, but fun. We hit the windy flats and really dug in with our heads down. Wow, there would be no PR with this wind, I felt like we were standing still with sheets of rain stinging my face and legs. As we reached the southern tip of the flats and started to make the turn around the Tortise and Hare pole, E somehow lost control of her hat and it flew off into the mud. More laughing. We trudged through the muddy hills a second time and somewhere on the back hills E told me to go on without her. I wasn't going to leave her, but she slowed way down and waved me on. I carried on at a good pace with a few targets to pass ahead of me. I was feeling good and so was my knee. I hit the wall of wind again on the flats and really pushed to get south to the turnaround, I was definitely using a lot of energy just to make forward progress. The volunteers cheered me on and we laughed at my attempt as forward progress. The third lap came with an untied shoe just before hitting the woods again. 2 people passed me, but I managed to catch and pass them both. Whew. I ran a solid final lap, urging myself on with thoughts of finishing strong and getting in the warm car. I tried to sprint to the finish, but the wind was so strong that I could hardly run. I felt like I finished strong, but it may not be reflected in my time.

In the end I didn't beat my time, there was no way. I did finish 5th in my AG, 10th for women and 68th overall out of 168.

Final time: 1:22
Avg pace: 8:53 (ouch)

The splits were pretty even for each loop which made me happy.
I felt fantastic, had fun and I'm sore today so I can say I'm completely happy with the effort and the results. I know it may sound awful, cold, wet and mind numbing, but I really enjoy that race. I'm already looking forward to my next VCP race.

I've always enjoyed the neatness of the elevation profile for this race.

Enjoying post-race pancakes and hot beverages thanks to my wonderful hubby

My clothes and shoes are still drying

Friday, December 10, 2010

No pants Friday

Well the MRI was quick and painless. I took my pants off, got strapped in so I didn't wiggle my knee and we were off. Typical Friday morning really...
In the past I've had MRI's but only of my brain and spine so today I felt ass backwards going in feet first. I realized that today was either my 5th or 6th MRI, I can't remember if I got one or two when I had meningitis in '06. Either way, I'd say that's above average for someone who is only 27. Luckily for me, I find the clanging and banging to be soothing and I usually snooze. Today was quick and dirty and over before I could get in a proper nap. The tech was a nice guy who said I was a month late because usually the Marathoners come in November. :) He said he ran NCYM once as a "thing to do in his life" sort of thing. We agreed it was a party for New York and lots of fun. More fun than lying in a highly magnetic tube? Possibly.
Now we wait.
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

My secret weapon

Have I mentioned my new foam roller that I love/hate? I was using the Trigger Point foam roller at PT and seeing/feeling good results. When I took time off from PT for the marathon I missed this devil. Finally I went back to PT and bought my own. It made my plain old white foam roller feel like a gentle rub, so there was no looking back. The Trigger Point foam roll has bumps and ridges that dig into knots and it has a hollow core made from solid plastic that makes a big difference. If you have tightness anywhere, I highly recommend it. They have a whole line of trigger point stuff to make you scream at http://tptherapy.com (For the record, no one paid me to write this, I just love this thing!!)
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New York Running Show

Check out the NY Running Show at the new site: http://newyorkrunningshow.com/ and be sure to download it from iTunes. Tonight's topic was "cold weather running" with a special guest from North Dakota where they REALLY know cold. Also, I'm on the show.


With NYC marathon a full month in the rearview mirror, I'm having passing thoughts about the marathon in general. I mentioned to someone shortly after the event last month that one thing I learned through the training and race itself is the marathon is not my passion. I know plenty of folks who are always training for or dreaming about training for a marathon. They have oodles of races on a mental checklist and whether or not they "love" the training, they do it over and over. That isn't me. I can't see myself ever running more than one a year, maybe not even that many. I'm not sure if it's because my earlier training this year was tri training, but I found the marathon training especially tedious this time. I discovered the joys of varied training without feeling like you're "cheating on running" because your swim and bike workouts are just as important. If your ass is too sore to ride (it happens) today, you rearrange and swim instead of whatever. It is harder to do that with marathon training. I enjoyed that aspect of tri training and lot because I have a hard time with a rigid schedule.
That said, someone remind me to look back and read this when I'm wiped out from training for the 70.3 next year. :)

Things on the running front have been back and forth for me lately, I had 2 good runs last week and saw the Orthopedist who didn't have much to say. On Sunday I had a fun and beautiful run in West Philly with a good friend, but my knee started hurting and my quad got very tight. It eased up by the end of the run, but was very sore on Monday, even during my swim. Last night I did speedwork with the Inwood Hill Runners and felt ok. I foam rolled before and after and I think it helped because I'm tight but feel ok today. I'm going for the MRI Friday and I'm planning to run the Pete McArdle XC 15K in VCP on Sunday. If the MRI results show anything that requires some time off, I want to go out with a bang. :) I have no races planned after Sunday and feel reluctant to sign up for any others at this point. I'm in a weird place between training phases right now and everything I'm doing is either for fitness sake or for sanity or socializing. It's nice for now, but I know I can't last much longer without a plan.
Am I the only person in this position right now or are others also feeling like they're in limbo? December is a funny month that way, I think of it as the lame duck session of training.
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Thursday, December 2, 2010

What's up doc?

Well, I saw the orthopedist today for a very quick (but pricey) visit and he told me what I should have insisted he tell me over the phone: Go get the MRI. Damn it. What a pain, I schlepped over to the east side and all to be told what I originally asked for over the phone. Lesson learned: in the future insist upon talking to the doctor because he will more than likely just send you for the MRI. It helps that he knows I'm a PT and that I've been going to PT. That might not work for everyone.
Oh well, I'll continue to keep the mileage reasonable and keep the exercises up. I should be able to get in for an MRI pretty quickly. My fellow PT/runner friend and I tossed around more ideas tonight about what it could be and why it isn't getting better. I came up with a new theory that it might be tendonitis at the point of insertion on the distal patella rather than a chondral problem. I think it could be either, so we'll see what the MRI says. I've never had an MRI of a limb, only multiple ones of my head and spine, so this will be a backwards experience for me I think...
The good news is I can keep running for the time being.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

November in a nutshell

I'm terrible at doing these month recaps, but since I'm here and I was checking out the stats for my blog and they're good this month I decided to post them.

Blog readership is up 73.5% with 47% of them being new visits. Cool! My most popular post was my NYC marathon report, which is expected I suppose.

Running stats:
8 runs (including marathon and 10 days off following)
Total mileage: 63.87
Avg speed: 6.6 mph (was I asleep?)

I also swam 8 miles in November.
Not a high mileage month in any way, but a high recovery month for sure. I feel great.

Picking up speed

As the 26 day mark approaches (post-NYCM) I finally felt ready to take things up a notch and fully participate in Tuesday speedwork in Inwood Hill Park with the Inwood Hill Runners crew. The past few weeks I've been holding back to let myself fully recover from the stresses and microtears that occur during a 26.2 mile journey, but this week I felt ready to MOVE. Monday night I was plagued with an obnoxious achey, twingey, restless, uncomfortable feeling in my legs when I was supposed to be sleeping. It was so bad that I actually considered taking a few laps up and down the stairs in our building in my pj's to try to work it out, but in the end it was too cold to get up. I stretched my legs as well as I could, squirmed around a bit, then tossed and turned for a while longer. Obviously my legs were trying to tell me that I needed to get out and run! They were begging to be beat up and exhausted.

Tuesday night speedwork was a lot of fun, we have picked up a handful of new people in the last month and as runners tend to do, they fit right in. Last week and the week before we did some intervals around our 561 m track with about a 200 m recovery, but this week we switched it up and did a "ladder". Essentially it was running speedy intervals with "100 m" recovery. For the sake of sanity, we'll say the cones along the track were 100m apart, but really they were about 90m. We did 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, 600, 500, 400, 300, 200, 100 all with 100 m recovery jog between. From the second 600 on we ran in the opposite direction (we can do that, no one else was out there) which was a totally different experience because what was a tough uphill in the first half became a sweet downhill. I felt awesome, I was cranking out the intervals with solid effort and no knee pain whatsoever. A friend and I added on an extra 3.4 miles or so by running to and from the group including a nice haul up the stairs at 187th St to top it off. Whew, it was a great workout and good news- no creepy leg sensation last night! I slept like a log.

Despite feeling awesome last night, I still have to take a trip to the UES to see my knee doc tomorrow because my PT feels like we're at a standstill with my knee. Initially PT took my pain level down quite a bit, but then we hit a plateau and it won't fully heal. It is still sore to poke (I know, I know, don't poke it) and it still hurts going down stairs and getting up from the floor at work. Sigh. I suspect the doc will send me for an MRI as my PT recommended so that we can see exactly what is going on underneath my patella. I've been really lucky that it doesn't hurt when I run (most of the time) but I am concerned that running might be contributing to the damage. While I'm willing to take some time off if necessary, I'm dreading the possibility of the doc telling me to stop running, even for a short period of time.

So tomorrow I'm off to the doc to see what he has to say, and if he tells me to back off running I will be disappointed, but at least I'll have gone out with a strong run! I know I have other options too..swimming, biking, etc. which I enjoy, so I'll survive.