Posts tagged ‘NYC Half’

March 16, 2015

A Good Day for Mollies…

Okay, so all that yammering I did last week about my cold, time off for the stress fracture, and whether I’d be able to handle an 8-minute pace?  Poppycock.  Whether it was race day magic, the perfect conditions, or my new and improved core and leg strength, the NYC Half was a dream.

As is my habit, I spent about an hour on Saturday studying the course and elevation map and constructing the perfect playlist.  I have long been a believer in the motivational power of music (which is also backed up by science), but race day playlists are something special.  I just don’t believe in Pandora or even those podcasts that target specific cadences.  Race tunes need to be hand-selected, and the playlist carefully crafted.  When it’s done well it sets the tone and the pace for the race, gives you an extra boost when you need it, and even lets you know if you’re on target for time goals.  I suppose in some ways it’s kind of the last stand of the mix tape, and my grand theory of running playlists is something like Rob’s in High Fidelity.

For me, the first section is all about starting big and setting the tone.  It has to start strong with a song that really gets me excited.  From there, you have to maintain the momentum, but really lock in the pace with the next couple of songs.  This is where your race can run away with you, so those first three or four songs is where I really pay attention to cadence.  The next section is really course-specific.  This is where I choreograph uphill and downhill efforts, and any other course features that I really want the soundtrack to reflect.  In anything longer than a 5K, I always feel like there’s a no-man’s land somewhere around two-thirds of the way through the race, which I think of as the Loneliness-of-the-Long-Distance-Runner phase.  For this stretch I want good music that will hold my attention a little more, but is relaxed and just rolls along.  (Jesus, Etc by Wilco is always my go-to to kick that section off.)  After that, I start building to a hard finish, again dusting in anything course-specific that I might need.  I also make sure I have a good hard finish song for both my A-goal time and my B-goal, because there’s nothing more depressing than missing your time goal and having that point further driven home when your playlist starts over.  Since my very first half-marathon, the A-goal kick song has been and always will be Shipping Up to Boston by the Dropkick Murphys.  A girl can dream.

On Sunday, I arrived at Central Park with my earbuds in, already listening to some chill music to calm the pre-race nerves.  The Park Lane Hotel across from the Simon Bolivar entrance to the park was being incredibly nice about letting runners congregate and stay warm in their lobby, and I chatted with people about races and courses while we waited to use their lavish marble bathrooms.  Ah, the luxury of flush toilets before a race!  I enjoyed the warmth in the lobby as long as I could and then warm-up jogged to the start about 10 minutes before the corrals closed.  I had been kind of bummed because I missed getting a Wave 1 start by 5 seconds on my splits, but I ended up in the first corral of Wave 2, which was probably better positioning anyway.   The first few miles were the usual dodging and weaving, but at least the crowds were fast and I split an 8:05 first mile.  It seemed like we got to the lollipop turn-around in Harlem in no time, and then it was up and down the Harlem Hills.  I dialed the pace back a bit on the uphills, but pushed to low 7’s on the downs.  I was a little worried I was going to pay for the faster pace later, but I felt comfortable and in control and decided just to go with it.  My splits through the park were all hitting right around 8 minutes, and soon we were exiting at 59th St. for the run to Times Square.  I had structured the playlist for 8’s, and I knew I was right on target when we turned onto 7th Ave and Empire State of Mind started on cue.  Once again, my Garmin lost satellites for the full stretch through Midtown, so I tried just to lock in the pace and keep up with the runners I’d been seeing for the last few miles.  When I finally turned onto the West Side Highway I got telemetry back, and I was still on pace with high 7’s.  That was my Loneliness-of-the-Long-Distance-Runner section, and I managed to pretty completely turn my brain off and just run.  I actually wasn’t checking the watch much either, but when I did I was clocking in slightly ahead of pace.  The whole stretch seemed much more downhill than it usually does, and I just kept my eyes on the Freedom Tower up ahead and focused on getting there.

The strangest part of the NYC Half course is the tunnel into Battery Park City, and I was totally unprepared for it last year.  This time I made sure I had turned off the auto-stop on my watch so that at least the clock wouldn’t pause when I lost satellites.  The tunnel is probably three or four-tenths of a mile long and curves, so you really can’t see the light at the end until you’re almost out.  The good part is that once you come up a steep little hill out of it, you’re just over half a mile from the finish.  Again, I had no pace info from the time I got into the tunnel until just before the finish line, but I knew from the overall time that I was tracking to come in under 1:45.  (I highly recommend trying to run splits with even numbers–the low-blood-sugar math is much easier.)  NYRR is great about putting up markers at the 800m-, 400m-, and 200m-to-go points, and I hammered as hard as I could.  I came in at 1:43:29, which was sub-8 (!) splits and a PR of more than 6 minutes.  I honestly never in my life expected to run a half marathon with a 7 handle on the pace.  I texted Long Run Buddy as soon as I cleared the chutes and he told me that Molly Huddle had become the first American to win the women’s title.  (I get a little fan girl about her and Shalane…)

I’m still recalibrating my season goals and trying to decide if this was a freak of weather or not.  When I think that less than two years ago I was struggling to break two hours, I’m amazed at how far I’ve come. I can’t believe I’m saying this publicly, but I think if I squint hard I might be able to see Boston from here.

March 13, 2015

I need a plan.

The New York Half is in two days and somehow I still have no game plan.  Despite the countless demi-marathons I’ve run over the years and having run the race last year, I just don’t have a  good feel for Sunday.  The fact that I’m returning from injury and have only been training for 5 weeks with limited mileage is the first question mark.  I’ve been hitting my paces on the intervals and tempos, but I do feel like my speed over distance suffered a bit with the time off for the stress fracture.  I’ve been putting in more training hours in the past few months than I ever have, but the bulk have been swimming, biking, and strength training.  Post-injury I’m still limiting my mileage only to the ‘quality runs,’ so my monthly totals are looking more like my weeklies were last year.   I feel like the change in training approach along with the added strength sessions has definitely made me leaner and given me more power in my legs, but the past few weeks have been almost like getting used to running in new body.

To top all of that off, I got hit with a cold this week, so my running didn’t so much taper as drop off a steep cliff.  I’ve been (for once) erring on the side of extra rest, so I did a short interval session Tuesday morning before the cold really set in, a brisk 3 miles Wednesday night in an attempt to shake the congestion loose, and another easy 3 on Thursday morning.  My last strength session was Monday and I’ve done no swimming or cycling this week.  I’m still feeling a little stuffy, but my five pronged defense of hot tea, Echinacea, vitamin C, bone broth, and frequent use of the neti pot seems to be working.

Still, the pacing question remains.  My last long run was an 8-miler, which I ran at 8:15 pace.  It felt quick, but not bad.  The half marathon A goal this season is sub 1:45, which basically means running 8 flats.  My gut tells me that’s probably a little too fast to sustain right now, but part of me wants to just go out like a Kenyan and let the chips fall where they may.  The course is fast—all the hills are in the first 5-6 miles through Central Park, and then it’s pretty much a gradual downhill to Battery Park.  That said, if I plan to negative split I’ll need to allow a little extra time for the terrain at the beginning and then really book it at sub-8 pace for the second half.  The Central Park hills aren’t that bad, but I know from experience that they can take their toll if you go out too fast.  My worry is that if I get caught up in the moment and take off at near 8’s through the park I’ll end up nursing a side stitch for the rest of the race.

So the real question is, how much can I actually handle right now? How fast is too fast in the park?  To add to the fun, thanks to my Garmin’s altoceloraphobia, last year I lost satellites for most of the stretch through Midtown, so I can’t really plan on reliable pacing once I hit the flat anyway.  In the end this race may be more of an exercise in just going with the flow.  Given the head cold and that it’s my first real race back since my injury, I think I’d be happy to run close to a PR (1:50:44), and then gun for 1:45 next month in the Women’s Half.  Still, the weather is looking pretty ideal—mid 40’s with some clouds, and I want to do my best and start the season on a high note.  This should be my first run in ages not done on tired legs, so maybe there’s still hope for some race day magic.

March 4, 2015

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

I’m late in posting, but this week has felt largely like a rehash of last week.  It’s been pretty much run, bike, swim, snow, ice, slush,  repeat.

To further the déjà vu, last Thursday’s tempo run was the same as the previous week–1 easy, 5 at 7:49 pace, 1 easy–with no evening workout.  Friday was a cardio rest day, but I did strength training in the morning.  Saturday I usually do an easy run for my morning workout, but was eager to get back in the pool to continue working the drills from this week’s swim class.  After 45 minutes in the pool my stroke was feeling great, and I believe I also isolated the cause of my swimming endurance problem.  It’s a minor detail, but it seems that I’m not actually inhaling in any meaningful way when I breathe.  I’m not really sure what to do about it yet, but acceptance is the first step, right?

After Saturday’s swim I had a light lunch and then hit the trainer for my first aerobic-targeted workout on Trainer Road.  It was 90 minutes of easy-ish spinning, and other than getting a bit saddle sore, it really wasn’t bad.  I had some errands to run and a pile of laundry to do, so the rest of the afternoon was quickly consumed with that.  I went to the Murder By Death concert Saturday evening with Long Run Buddy, which was super fun, but also had us out way too late.  LRB had a 5K in the morning and I needed to get the Caveboy off to the airport and then bang out a 15-mile run.  5:30 AM came around much too early.  For the run I planned to run a loop of Central Park, then cut west to the Hudson River path and run south, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and back home.  It was the closest I could approximate the NYC Half course without the street closures, and I figured having the bridge climb at the end of the run would be a good challenge.  Per my training schedule I was aiming for 8:30 pace, which was faster than I’d run any of my long runs so far, and 15 miles was the longest I had run since the Brooklyn Marathon back in November, so I was a teensy bit very nervous about this one.    I’d checked the weather the day before and it showed pretty perfect coditions–clear skies and a high of 40, so I threw on tights, a long sleeved race shirt, my Ice Breaker hoodie (love!), gloves, and my sunglasses and hopped on the subway to Central Park.

InconceivablePB

The park definitely felt colder than 40 degrees and the sky looked a bit ominous, but I was undaunted.  I started out the run feeling great.  I was light and fast and it was inconceivable I would ever get tired.  My pace slowed on the Harlem Hills more than I would have liked—and I say “my pace slowed” and not “I slowed my pace” because I felt like I was still running fast.  It’s just that I wasn’t.  Still, I cruised down the back side of the hills and pushed through the rolling stretch that makes up the north west section of the loop.  By the time I exited the park at Columbus Circle and headed for the Hudson River path it had started to snow and I was having to stay focused to maintain the 8:30’s.  The river path is flat and I hoped that once I dialed the pace in it wouldn’t be too hard to maintain.  Other than stopping for a few quick photo ops of the frozen Hudson I did manage to cruise along, roughly on pace.  I knew I’d lose some time and momentum when I cut across the island to the bridge though, and predictably, the climb there felt hard.  What I had not predicted was the ½” of snow that had fallen in the time it took me to get from Central Park to the bridge.  The pedestrian section of the bridge is basically a wooden boardwalk, so in addition to dodging oblivious tourists taking selfies I was also slipping on every step.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see a concrete running surface as when I reached solid ground on the Brooklyn side.  Happily, the downhill stretch (or proximity to home) gave me a second wind, and I was able to bring in the last couple of flat miles at 8:15’s.  It was a welcome surprise when I checked the Garmin and saw my average pace was an 8:34.  I arrived back home cold, chapped, and wind burned, and was grateful for a hot shower.

Photo Op.

Photo Op.

I cleaned up, made lunch, and was feeling good until my digestive system suddenly decided to go on strike.  I don’t think it had anything to do with the run necessarily—my stomach had felt fine the whole time I was out.  I curled up on the couch for an hour, but I still had a bunch of chores to get done before I was back to work on Monday.  Other than a headache and the tummy troubles I didn’t actually feel terrible, so I decided just to power through it as much as I could.  Of course, the problem was that I needed to get some calories and hydration back into me, and that was proving to be a challenge.   After several hours, lots of tea, and a couple of yogurt and kefir cocktails, I felt a bit better.  I got the important stuff on my to-do list done and did manage to eat a small dinner without repercussions.  I probably only ended up at net 500 calories on the day, if that, and went to bed at 9.

I woke up Monday morning tired, hungry, and fighting what I used to refer to in college as my “tired sore throat.”  I would get it without fail if I pulled a couple of all-nighters during finals, and now it’s become my red flag that I’m overtraining and getting run down.  Once again, I skipped my Monday morning strength training in favor of more sleep.   Tuesday I felt much better and the 5×1000 intervals went off without a hitch, so I’m chalking up the Monday fail to lack of sleep and calories.  We had yet another snow/freezing rain/regular rain event yesterday, so getting to swim class was a bit of a swim in itself.  Class was mostly kick drills and one-arm pulling, which felt weird and awkward and I kept forgetting to breathe (more so than usual).  Then I’d remember about the breathing when my lungs started screaming and completely forget that I was supposed to be paying attention to my arm position, which was unfortunate since that was the whole point of the awkward endeavor.  This morning I upgraded myself to the medium lane and still ran into feet, so something must be working.

February 10, 2015

The Trials of Miles

 

Norm!

So I realized this morning that I really do have a place where everybody knows my name, and that place is Starbucks.  I may need to consider taking a week off caffeine again soon.

It seems like everyone from Running Boston and Beyond to The Athletarian was writing about their mile repeats last week, and I had my first set in ages today.  It was 3×1600 @ 6:59 (and that counts as sub-7, baby!), and it was brutal.  Since my foot *seems* to be all-systems go, I switched my focus  this week from the 4-miler on the 21st to the NYC Half in March.  I’m still trying to gauge where my fitness is now, but it feels like the time off as cost me more endurance than speed.  I need to come up with a training strategy and set some realistic goals for my spring races, so this weekend’s 10-miler was a big test.  It was my first run longer than 7 miles since Thanksgiving, and I was targeting an 8:30 pace.  I ran my usual to-, from-, and two laps of Prospect route and clocked in at 8:31’s, which was a HUGE confidence boost.
Before the stress fracture in the fall I was aiming for a 1:45 spring half, and based on the 10-miler and my miscalculated tempo the other day, I decided to proceed as planned.  That’s ambitious for mid-March, as I only have four training weeks to get ready, but if the foot holds, I have my eye on the NYRR women’s half in April.  I am ready to put in a lot of hard work, but I’ll be on high alert for any indications of overtraining or that my stress fracture acting up.  Right now my plan is to continue with running only on my structured workout days and substitute biking and swimming on what would be easy days.

On the subject of Tri, I’ve christened my bike Tzippi and spent some quality trainer time with her this week, though  I still haven’t gotten her calibrated with the pseudo power meter. I’m definitely lacking in bike training experience and I’ve been worried that I’m inadvertently spending a lot of time in the training black hole, so it will be good to get some real(ish) data soon.  I am, however, loving my new Cat Eye Strada Smart.  It’s fully Bluetooth, which means there are no wires to clip to the frame, and the workouts automatically sync with my phone.  Now if only I could find a good method for counting swim laps I’d be all set.  I generally count strokes/breaths and I find it impossible to maintain an accurate lap count in my head as well.  I could try the old Garmin-in-ziploc-in-swimcap trick, which is probably what I’ll do for racing, but I’m not convinced of its accuracy over 25 yards.  Does anyone have any good tips for keeping track?  The best I’ve come up with so far is a poolside abacus, which seems less than ideal…