Thursday, March 31, 2011

Colon Cancer 15K

This is my third year doing the CC 15K in Central Park and it is a cause near and dear to my heart. In 2008 my cousin Ted died after a 5 year battle with Colon Cancer at the age of 39 with no family history and a healthy lifestyle. Raising awareness of the devastating effects of CC is a really worthy cause that can save lives, and I'm not being hyperbolic one bit. So if you're over 50 and reading this- get your ass checked. There is a lot of good info on the Colon Cancer Challenge Foundation website too.

The race Sunday was unusual in a couple of ways as far as NYRR races go, there were 3 events scheduled including a 4 mile run, a 1.7 mile walk and the 15K. Also, the race didn't even start until 11:15 because a biathlon run by NY Tri happened that same morning and the racers needed time to get out of the park. I will admit that the 11:15 start was a mixed blessing, on one hand I enjoyed not waking up in the dark but on the other hand I wasn't sure how to structure my morning. In the end I think it was fun but I'd rather not have NYRR make a habit of late races. I met up with a neighbor and friend @mwaldman for the ride down to Central Park and we left ourselves plenty of time to get there, it being Sunday and all. Of course we arrived in record time and spent nearly an hour freezing our toes off in the park! At least it was sunny and I had good company.

Ahh the race:

On Saturday night I peeked at my old 15K time from 2009 to try to establish a goal for the race and I decided trying to beat my previous record of 1:10 was lofty but I was going to shoot for it anyway. I had no idea if I'd be able to hold a sub-7:35 pace for 9.3 miles, but I was willing to try. I snuck in a pre-race warm up with fellow Inwood Hill Runner Jonathan who was racing for the first time in his shiny new VCTC singlet. We lined up together in the blue corral (the first one, eee!) for my first time in that corral. I assumed this meant there were about 35 people running the race, but the announcer told us that the runners were lined up all the way to the bottom of the park! It was really a bit of a rush to be in the front corral and I took it as a good sign but also as a challenge. I was going to have to step it up and prove that I belong there.

The start was quick and painless and I just left myself go with the flow for the first few minutes, not caring that I might be swept into a faster pace than I intended. I like that initial first rush at the start of a race and I wanted to savor it, so I took off and got right into a groove. A few minutes into the race I did a systems check and all felt good, even that cranky left hamstring that had been irking me all week, so I carried on at a nice fast pace. I cruised through mile 1 in 7:26.

Mile 2 is that nice flat portion on the east side of the park where life is good and I clocked a 7:15, hmm. I was feeling really great, but that little voice reminded me that the east side is the EASY side and I should save a little for the west side hills. "okay, okay" I told myself. I literally felt like I had to pull in my own reins to slow myself down but I knew it was a good move. Mile 3 came in at 7:29 and I was happy. That mile FLEW by, I couldn't believe when I turned the corner and saw the mile 3 sign. As we made our way down the west side I set my sights on a woman that I'd left pass me in mile 3, she was wearing a Hell Gate singlet and I wanted to let her go ahead but I had plans to catch her later. I just got the sense that she was going out too hard and I wanted to run a smarter race than that. I let myself enjoy the downhills of mile 4 and brought it in at 7:12. Oops, that was probably too fast but it felt really good. I couldn't believe how easy and steady the sub-7:30's were feeling. I knew I had to really keep holding back until at least mile 6 or so, so I clocked mile 5 at 7:26 and mile 6 at a 7:33. I took a GU at the water stop before the mile 6 marker, right at the top of Cat Hill, and I spotted my friend in the Hell Gate singlet again. Ahhh, I'd caught her without even trying. For the next half mile or so we actually ran shoulder to shoulder (ok, shoulder to tricep because she was pretty tall) and as we made our way towards the 102nd St transverse again I looked over at her and said "deja vu, huh?" All I got in return was a confused look mixed with some strain. I knew that if I was able to chat at that pace I could totally beat her, my new nemesis. I pulled away slowly at first, not wanting to blow it too early in the race, but I could tell that she was fading quickly. I peeked back at one point as we made the turn back to the West Drive and she wasn't in sight. Excellent. Mile 7 in 7:20. I needed a little motivation to stay strong as we hit the hills again and I noticed a guy in a fleece vest next to me who I'd seen back when Hell Gate and I were side by side. We pushed each other up the west side hills as I thought more and more about Ted. At some point I felt a blister on my left foot swell up like a water balloon, ouch. It could have slowed me down as I finished mile 8 (7:31) but I kept telling myself "you may have a blister, but Ted had chemo. Many, many rounds of chemo and he NEVER slowed down." It worked, I let myself pick it up and pick off a few runners around me as I reeled in mile 9 in 7:08. Many thanks to the guys around me who decided they wanted to race that last mile. Booya, that was for you Ted.

I pushed the final 0.3 at a 6:33 pace to catch a woman ahead of me (every place counts, right?)
I had a big smile on my face as I crossed the line Sunday, not just because I killed my PR by 2+ minutes, but because I knew Ted would have been proud. He was such a passionate guy when it came to everything and while he thought my running was a little nutty, just like the rest of my family, he was always happy to support someone's passion. 2 weeks before Ted died I ran my first marathon and I sent him my medal, he deserved it more than I did for his marathon fight against Colon Cancer. Even though he couldn't outrun it, I'm just glad that I can run this race every year in his memory. He'd have been proud of these numbers too, I know I am:

9.3 miles in 1:08:30, a 7:21 pace
Overall 256/ 2768
Gender place 23/1486
Age Place 7/ 494
I've never made the top 10 list in a non-XC NYRR race before! Woohoo!
Good enough for 67.4% AG

I'm stoked with the results, especially because this race was the last race I trained for before making the switch over to swim training for the Great Bay swim in June. Way to go out with a bang! Of course in the back of my mind now is a voice saying "think how fast you could run a half marathon at that pace...." Someday legs, someday.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Running weekend

On a normal weekend I tend to run Saturday morning with the Inwood Crew and Sunday morning hubby and I sleep in, read the paper, sip some tea and relax. So far March has consisted of 2 "abnormal" weekends with runs on Sunday morning on top of running on Saturday. Coogan's dragged me out of bed 2 weeks ago and this past weekend there was the important business of an overnight visit from Nancy from Philly and Elyssa trekking uptown to join us for a Heights Run. Mental note: I must return the favor soon and make the trip downtown to Brooklyn with E.
Saturday was a windy but sunny day which made for an excellent day with the Inwood bunch. Despite the southwest wind coming off of the river, we pushed our way down the Hudson path to Riverbank State park and turned back to head North. The wind at our backs on the run towards home felt great, it pushed us along at a nice clip, rounding the run out for me at 9 miles in 1:24. Thanks to Inwood Runner JS for the company and motivation to pick up the pace.
I spent the rest of Saturday wandering around the Multisport World expo at Columbia where I met some great people and potential coaches for the upcoming TRI season. I had a great time walking around the expo and listening to the lectures, but what I enjoyed the most was walking around the neighborhood where I spent lots of time exploring and studying when I was in grad school. Morningside has a really special place in my New York heart. I enjoyed an amazing sandwich at my old fav, Panino Sportivo on Amsterdam & 120th before heading home. It was a perfect early spring afternoon full of running, swimming and biking...or at least talking about it.
Sunday morning came and thanks to Daylight Savings Time making us "Spring Forward", we lost an hour of sleep and had a somewhat lazy morning before our run. We planned for a nice 7 mile run around the uptown area including a loop around the new Yankee Stadium (and its sign boasting 18 days til opening day!)and a trip over the Macomb's Dam Bridge. We looped back around the northeastern side of the Heights (sometimes known as Fort George), around George Washington High School with its accompanying hills and Yeshiva University which were both quiet and empty on a Sunday morning. It was a fun jaunt around the area and a great way to catch up with friends, we finished up with 7.6 miles in 1:11. It's no wonder I couldn't stop eating Sunday night... 16.6 miles for the weekend.
In addition to lots of fun with the girls, I got a belated birthday gift that is going to REALLY come in handy this upcoming year... an AWESOME tri-bag to schlep all of my goodies around to my upcoming races! I can hardly wait to use it later this season. Check it out- it's even in my favorite color!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Coogan's 5K Recap

I never know what to expect the first weekend in March each year, the weather changes drastically from year to year and so does my fitness depending upon where I am in a training cycle. This year called for light rain, temps around 50 degrees and "in a lull" fitness-wise. I was okay with all of those things, though I could have done without the rain. You won't hear me complaining though, I've nearly frozen my toes off many years in a row at Coogan's so I'd take this cool drizzle ANY DAY.
I have no real reasons for why I didn't race today in my favorite race of the year, I could have told you 6 weeks ago that I wouldn't be racing, I just am not at a "race ready" point in training. That is OKAY too because I have a really big year ahead and I cannot get started this early and expect to last until October 2nd (see here my plans for that day). All that aside, here's how today went:
I love Coogan's for one reason: I can roll out of bed and trot down to the start on foot in less than 10 minutes. This morning I had company for the first time, EG spent the night at my apt (we're practically a B&B) and we trotted down together to pick up our race goodies. I knew that Coogan's was going to be a BIG race this year because it is the first race of the NYRR club points series, but I think I was in denial about how crowded it would be. In '06 when I started doing this race there were ~2700 people in the race but this year there were 5370. Wow, big change. I know if I'd wanted to race today I would have been fine by moving to the front of the red corral, but instead I just ducked in somewhere nearish to the start and hoped for the best. It was crowded but I was ready for that and had no intentions of weaving my way through the crowds so I settled into a comfortable pace and trotted along, waving to my husband and good friend SF along the way. I avoided big puddles as well as I could and stayed steady up the first round of hills. This was my turf, I know these hills like the back of my hand. The course runs by my apartment twice so it is fair to say I would have had "home field advantage" had I chosen to race.

Mile 1 flashed on my watch at 8:46 and I gently chided myself for slacking off as much as I was (My PR is at a sub-7 pace in the 5K) and I decided it might be fun to do a little progression run today. I entered the park and got distracted looking for Joe, Julie, Robert and anyone else I knew. I spotted my friend Kevin S-S from VCTC who looked really strong, as usual and I finally spotted Joe as well, shouting out some encouragement to them both. I scanned the crowd for Julie, but couldn't see her and gave up as the crowd of returning runners got thicker. I thought I saw a friend up ahead and picked up my pace to catch him, but as I pulled up next to him I realized that it was a doppelganger. Oh well, I figured I might as well keep up the quicker pace and I started to look for other friends as we finished the loop around the Cloisters. I spotted LW and her crew as well as a few other familiar faces, but I missed most of the people I was looking for. I continued my progression run as I hit 8:01 for mile 2. Perfect, nice and easy. I waved again to SF and hubby along Fort Washington as we headed back down to the finish and hubby snapped a few quick photos of me smiling and waving. I brought it home with a 7:46 final mile and would have kept on running right to baggage if it weren't for the crowds. I ran into a few friends that I went to grad school with at Columbia as well as Inwood Runner JS who was getting ready to cheer on his daughter in the 4-yr old race. In the end, it turned out to be a rather social day. Oh and I ran a 25:15 or so and while that's nowhere near a PR for me, it felt great and I had fun!

After the race EG and I ran back to my apartment (yep, back up the hills) which helped us stay warm and we went out for a nice little brunch with the Inwood Hill crew. What a great day in the Heights. The heavy rain held off until later the day when I was home, curled up on the couch with a few cats and my Kindle.

Be sure to catch the NY Running Show tonight live at 8pm where we'll definitely be chatting about Coogan's and other NYC running tidbits.

Cats make great handwarmers after a wet,cool race. They're thrilled about it too..

Waking up from Winter

I haven't written in weeks and it isn't because I had too much going on, it's because I had nothing going on and there wasn't much worth writing about. February was a really difficult month for my family and while I usually hate to see my birthday month end, I was happy this year to put it behind me. I had some good training in the first half of February including some good swimming and running, then we took off on vacation to Mexico for a whole week. Ahh that was good stuff: sun, sand, SCUBA diving and good old fashioned relaxing. I needed that and I decided that I'll be taking a February vacation someplace relaxing and warm every year. I did a little beach and sightseeing running while we were down there, but we left really early for dives and it was too hot to run later in the day, so I just relaxed! It felt good too and by the time we got back, I was refreshed and ready to jump back in.

This first week back didn't go exactly as planned, but I got in some speedwork Tuesday night up in Inwood (brr, chilly) and that felt so good. My legs complained a little the next day, but I think they were mostly happy too. Wed I was sick but got in my morning swim anyway, hoping it would help shake whatever was wrong with my guts but I ended up resting on Thursday night and getting in a make-up run on Friday afternoon including some of the Coogan's course which I knew I'd be running on Sunday morning. I didn't feel great on that run but it felt really, really good to just get outside.

The weekend brought with it the threat of icky weather and the urge to stay in bed. I got out early on Saturday and met up with my friend LW to meet the Inwood Hill Runners for the first time in WEEKS for a Sat run. I was excited, but my legs were cranky and I was afraid I was out of shape. LW and I decided we'd cap the run at around 6 miles if possible since we had the race Sun morning and we set off heading north. The group decided on a West side- East Side loop of upper Manhattan/Harlem and we took off. I was struggling somewhere between mile 3 and mile 4 and actually pictured myself writing a blog post titled "struggling" or something else equally creative. LW and I shared this sentiment and considered the idea of hopping on the train once we crossed from W 155th over to E155th St instead of running up the East side back to Inwood, but when we got there we both felt good enough to keep going. That was a huge mental victory for me and I was happy that I kept going because I felt good and the sun was making a surprise appearance. Our plan to cap our run at 6 miles sort of flaked and we thought we'd be finishing up around 8 miles, but I may have miscalculated the route forgetting that we'd run an extra 1.6 miles from home to meet the group. Whoooops. Oh well, in the end we clocked 9.3 miles in around 1:25 with lots of hills, running along the railroad tracks and the sketchy trail south of Dyckman St. I was really, really happy with myself for finishing that run. With my avg HR in the 150's I also got a boost knowing that I haven't lost as much fitness as I let myself think.

I think the combination of sun and sweat on that long run was me shaking off my Old Man Winter coat and waking up for what I hope will become a really great spring. Heck, baseball players aren't the only ones who get Spring Training!

Coogan's recap coming very, very soon. :) (like in the next half hour).