Tuesday, December 10, 2013

2014 excitement and The Sports Gene

Planning for 2014 just went from "oh, we'll see..." right to "It's ON" in a short period of time. I got accepted via lottery to the NYC Tri in August a few weeks ago and a few days ago IRONMAN announced a new 70.3 race in Princeton, NJ for next September. The buzz started slowly with a text from a friend in NJ that simply stated "Princeton half ironman in Sept". I thought "oh, maybe" but let it slip into the back of my mind. Then a conversation among tri friends on twitter sprung up with my name attached. I thought briefly about it again, but that was all for a few days. Then the email from Ryan's Quest came yesterday and I read it twice. Were they really offering a charity spot for this race with no minimum fundraising requirement?? I let it settle all day on Monday, it was a busy day and sometime during my hour with my personal trainer in the evening it occurred to me that this is a great opportunity. It's a half ironman within an hour of my mom's house in NJ and probably really flat. I mentioned it to my trainer and she gave me a "sure, you crazy person" look (she's a 200&400m sprinter so 70+ miles... Well, yeah). On the way home I composed a quick email to RQ, a charity dedicated to funding research for Duchennes Muscular Dystrophy, who I've raced and fundraised for in the past in conjunction with the NJ State Tri. They're an incredible group of people who came together to help a family with an adorable son who has DMD. I'll be psyched to have the opportunity to race with them if I can. I will probably know tonight if I responded quickly enough to get a spot, but in the meantime I'm all aflutter at the idea. I love racing, I love triathlons and thinking about next season has me so excited that I can hardly sleep. I have a feeling 2014 is going to be a big year for fast times for me.
Oh, and the good book I mentioned- The Sports Gene by David Epstein. I started this book a few months ago and have gone back to it between book club books, but this time I'm completely hooked. It's so nerdy and packed with stories of incredible athletes and their amazing genetic makeups, I can't stop reading. The idea that certain people are "gifted" is actually so, so, so complex and reading about it has me all pumped to figure out my own potential. If you're at all inclined towards the sciences and athletics, I recommend you give it a read. It's tough in spots, especially if you don't have an understanding of genetics, but I don't think those parts are completely essential to understanding the underlying concepts. It's a long book but there are parts that are so interesting that I'm almost willing to miss my subway stop to keep reading.

Here's a blurb from the Amazon review:

The debate is as old as physical competition. Are stars like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams genetic freaks put on Earth to dominate their respective sports? Or are they simply normal people who overcame their biological limits through sheer force of will and obsessive training?The truth is far messier than a simple dichotomy between nature and nurture. In the decade since the sequencing of the human genome, researchers have slowly begun to uncover how the relationship between biological endowments and a competitor’s training environment affects athleticism. Sports scientists have gradually entered the era of modern genetic research.In this controversial and engaging exploration of athletic success, Sports Illustrated senior writer David Epstein tackles the great nature vs. nurture debate and traces how far science has come in solving this great riddle. He investigates the so-called 10,000-hour rule to uncover whether rigorous and consistent practice from a young age is the only route to athletic excellence.Along the way, Epstein dispels many of our perceptions about why top athletes excel. He shows why some skills that we assume are innate, like the bullet-fast reactions of a baseball or cricket batter, are not, and why other characteristics that we assume are entirely voluntary, like an athlete’s will to train, might in fact have important genetic components.This subject necessarily involves digging deep into sensitive topics like race and gender. Epstein explores controversial questions such as:
  • Are black athletes genetically predetermined to dominate both sprinting and distance running, and are their abilities influenced by Africa’s geography?
  • Are there genetic reasons to separate male and female athletes in competition?
  • Should we test the genes of young children to determine if they are destined for stardom?
  • Can genetic testing determine who is at risk of injury, brain damage, or even death on the field?
How can you resist?!
photo credit: npr.org

posted from Bloggeroid

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Holiday Run Streak and Hot Chocolate 10K

We're going streaking!!!
Okay, not that kind of streaking. I'm doing the 2013 Runner's World  Holiday Running Streak as a way to stay active, fit and sane during the busiest time of the year. I generally have no trouble staying active when I'm home, but we're going away for Christmas this year to Mexico and I tend to get very comfortable with frolicking on the beach and swimming and forget to run when on vacation. I thought this would also be a good way to bump up my mileage, something I've been wanting to do but was having a hard time scheduling. With the streak, I hope to find new chunks of time in each day to fit in a little run and hopefully I'll carry some of them over into the new year. I'm already enjoying getting outside in the evening when I'd otherwise be getting comfy on the couch with some tea because it is dark outside at 5pm here.
For anyone who has never heard of a "running streak" the rules are simple:
Run every day between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day
Run at least 1 mile each day

My streak started out innocent enough, I got up and braved the cold, windy morning in NJ for a progressive 5 miles through the neighborhood. I saw FIVE other runners out there, a record high for the area. I was so excited to see other people layered up out there, working up an appetite for Thanksgiving dinner! Day 1: 5.01 mi, 8:09 avg pace.

Day 2 brought company- my husband joined me for a walk around the neighborhood on a beautiful, sunny morning. He walked along while I ran ahead, clocking a quick 7:54 mile in the middle of our almost 3 mile walk. Dave has agreed to join me for the streak, but his goal isn't running 1 mile, it is walking at least 30 mins or hitting the gym. I'm excited for company and a buddy to help with motivation.

Day 3 brought my first little moment of "wahh, I don't feel like running" which I quickly pushed aside when I realized it was barely 5:00pm and I had no other plans for the evening and would be loafing around for the next 5 hrs. I threw on the same clothes from my Friday run/walk (they barely got sweaty) and threw on a headlamp and vest to fight the cold and wind. It turned out to be a beautiful, sparkly run around my neighborhood. My goal was really to loosen up enough to be able to stretch well when I got home, so I kept going until I hit 2 miles and really felt warmed up. 2.02 miles at 9:04 pace - welcome back home to the hills of Washington Heights. Dave went out for a walk at the same time and was enjoying himself so much that he stayed out for an hour!

Day 4- I didn't even have to think about the streak today because I had my last race of the season all planned. Today was the Hot Chocolate 10K in Riverside Park by NYCRuns. I couldn't pass up a race in Riverside park in Morningside Heights, so close to home that I got there on the 1 train in 15 mins. NYCRuns puts on a great race and I was excited to get in a 10K this year to see if I could top my 10K PR (45:52) which was set during the NYC Triathlon in 2010- ridiculous, right? Who has a run PR from a 100 degree triathlon? Clearly it was time to run a 10K again. It was chilly today, but about 15 degrees warmer than last weekend in VCP and there were no 40mph wind gusts to contend with- excellent. I wore shorts because the temp was around 40, but I think they were too short and my ass was frozen within minutes of my starting to warm up. Capris next time, got it. Anyway, it was a beautiful morning in Riverside park with leaves on the ground and sun streaming through the buildings up on Riverside Drive. I arrived in time to see the 5K runners rolling over the hills as they headed south. The 10 would be 2 loops of the 5K course, which I'm pretty familiar with from my days coaching Young Runners on 110th and Broadway, just up the hill, so I thought I knew what I was in for. Of course, I stopped coaching like 3 years ago and haven't run there too much since, so I had a rude reminder of how much the west side rolls. Anyway, I made some buddies during the race and we lamented not signing up for the 5K as we battled the hills between miles 2-3. There weren't many other women around (there were only 2 ahead of me) so I worked hard to stay with the boys who were no doubt vying for a age group awards. It was a really fun race, I knew I needed to stay around 7:15-7:20 in order to PR, but I also had the added pressure of being in the top 3 women through the entire race. No way was I letting that slip away and the out and back course is great for eyeing up the competition behind you. I enjoyed this aspect of the race, but I also really enjoyed the cheers from my friends at NYC Runs who were yelling and hollering as I entered my second loop and as I neared the finish- thanks Wallis and David! I also spotted a fellow Inwood Hill Runner, Jennifer, posted as a volunteer at the top of the nastiest hill and I was grateful for her cheering and motivation each time I passed. When I passed her for the last time, I was going into the downhill and flat last half mile or so and I picked up some speed. I was running hard to keep up with the guys around me and enjoyed the back and forth as we made our way toward the finish. I was stoked to cross the finish line in a new PR (45:09 according to the clock!) and in 3rd place for women. My goal had been to get sub 45:00, but I think I should save that for a flat course!
The numbers:
6.2miles, 45:09, 7:17 pace
3rd female overall, 12th overall out of 236 runners
1st in my age group, meaning I was beat by 2 women in their 20's. Bastards. ;)
Damn you, hilly mile 4. 
There was delicious hot chocolate (I used my new mug!), apples and bagels at the finish and people stuck around for the awards and mingled. It was a really nice day and once I got my long pants back on over my shorts, I was able to enjoy myself a bit more.