Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The World of PRs or 'I think I did'

So as a beginning runner (can I still call myself that after two years?) I am not concerned with breaking any world records. Occasionally, I find myself breaking my personal records, and I have to say it feels pretty great.

Lately, I've had a string of personal records (PRs) that have excited me in different ways.

I never reported on my Brooklyn Half -Marathon which was definitely a PR as far as half marathons go. I took almost 17 minutes off my time, dropping my pace from an 11:35 to a 10:20.  I consider this an amazing accomplishment since it was both something I set my mind on and a glimmer of hope that I could finish the Marathon in under 5 hours.  Dream big, right?

Not to say Brooklyn was easy, but I think I can still get better. Of course, that's a story for another day.

My other two PRs happened this past month during two New York Road Runner's races. The NYRR Dash 10k and the Gay Pride Run 5M.

For the Dash I ran almost the entire race with my girlfriend.  We typically start out all races together, some we finish together and others I take off on my own later in the race.  For the Dash we stayed together for a lot of it. It was hot and humid and was a bit of a tough race.  Near the end, maybe that dang Cat Hill, my girlfriend started to waver and she sent me on ahead. I stepped on the gas but there really wasn't that much left in the tank. To be honest I usually push it a bit too hard when she sends me on ahead, however I finished the race with a 10:24 pace - 4 seconds slower than my half marathon pace. My girlfriend finished a little behind me and we were both disappointed with our run.  But when we checked our results against our previous 10k races we had each made a PR.  Best 10k! And that's pretty cool when you can make a PR and know that you can do better. Future PRs to look forward to!

Finally, the Gay Pride Run was a chance to really test my mettle. I decide to go for my best pace in a race and try to get a different color bib for my next race.  I ran the first mile with the Girlfriend at about a 10:20 pace then I wished her a good race and started maneuvering through the large crowd. I pushed myself hard and started to get worried, at around mile 4 with Cat Hill coming up, that I might tucker out, have to walk. So I slowed down a little and steeled myself against the impending hill to come.  Well, apparently I spent most of Cat Hill preparing to not give up on it because I suddenly found myself nearing the finish line without ever having run Cat Hill (to my immediate knowledge). Suddenly I was in a down hill push with the crowd cheering and my mind amazed.  How did I get here without running that dreaded hill?  

Sometimes preparing for something is enough to get you through.  When I looked up the time later online I found out I ran the 5 mile race with a 9:08 min/mile.  My fastest race pace over a mile!

I have to tell you it feels great.  When you start running, just happy to get yourself moving, it's these little victories that keep you going. These tiny realizations that your body is responding to the work you are putting into it. Your body telling you, 'you're on the right track!'  This is why you do it. 

For a little running whip cream, Saturday was supposed to be a long run, so we ran another 2 miles after we finished the race. We took a long break, but it was the first time we ran after a race. You know those crazy people who wear numbered bibs in colors you can only dream about, who cheer you on while running the opposite direction, as you struggle to finish the race they finished 10 minutes ago? It was the first time I got a glimpse into their world.

Hmm. Someday

Friday, June 26, 2009

Some days...

I wanted to get my long run out of the way this week, but circumstances beyond my control (insomnia) prevented me from getting up on time on Thursday, and I knew I would over sleep today, which I did. So, the long run is still out there, taunting me like an over due bill or an America's Next Top Model marathon.

Today I did hit the park intending on running five miles (I did) while listening to the "Thriller" album in honor of Michael Jackson (I did not. Instead, I made the horrible discovery that, sin of sins, I do not have "Thriller" on my iPod.) So, I started in my usual spot at the south west end of the park and headed east, cranking TV on the Radio's "Dancing Choose". It was thick this morning. Did anyone else experience the wall of wet? I was thinking about the humidity when I ran into Mariana who was listening to her shuffle. We decided to run together, which was a lovely surprise. However, Mariana and I run at a faster pace when we're together and, once my music was off, the pace along with the wet was a not-so-great combo. I was seriously uncomfortable. Now, Mariana is the one who gave me the best advice I've ever gotten about running and working on speed which is don't be afraid to be uncomfortable. That was my motto last year and is definitely my motto this year as I'm serious about getting a BQ at Chicago. But this morning was brutal. Mariana seemed fine so I didn't want to ruin her run, but as soon as we parted at 85th street I had to walk for about five blocks. (Oh, and during the run, before we parted it started to rain which was what needed to happen. It was a huge relief.) I started running again around 81st street, sans music, and made it to the end just fine.

Now I've got to figure out when I'm going to do that long run. Sigh.

Ouch! What the Hell?

Hello, Newbies! With four weeks left in my training, it was time to run 7.25 miles of the 6.2 miles we will be running in the race. In the process I seemed to have injured my knee. I noticed the injury the next day when I was walking down the stairs of the subway with my team mate after our 1 million lap swim practice. I started complaining about it, and my teammate, who in order to protect her identity and for the sake of argument we'll call Alison, told me with a horrified expression that it was without a doubt the deadly IT Band injury. It's the plague apparently more athletes die from because Alison's eyes told the whole story, I was either going to have to go all Terry Fox on my leg (running joke) or I was to be taken to the barn and shot---- first Old Yeller and Barbaro and now me...

But then I was saved by an angel who we will call Dr. Erica, who told me to not panic and get some ice put it directly on the plagued area. STAT! and I'm happy to say that ice works- It has saved my life and I'm quickly on the road to recovery. The world nor my training has stopped which is a relief since I only have four weeks until the triathlon. I am hoping that I can do the BRICK tomorrow which consists of 5 miles of running and 2 hrs of biking- excuse me, cycling- they get so mad when you call it biking- oh, and while we're at it- don't call it a bike seat- it's a saddle- and one more thing-- having a basket on bike- oh, you can call it a bike- you don't have to call it a cycle- so, having a basket on your bike is not recommended... or a bell... or those tassels... yeah they frown on that, too.

So, my question, since I'm new at this and because I find ice really cold, does anyone else have other quick remedies for the deadly IT Band injury? And will such an injury stunt my growth?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ask the Coach: Abs of Steel

ABsolutely fabulous ABS! Some basic abdominal exercises for all to enjoy. If you have mobility issues with your back (too tight), the bottom two are not for you...yet. Ootherwise, go nuts!

A strong core means you will stand up straighter when you run, your knees will come up higher, and your stride will be stronger (all with less effort than before!). Give these a go 3 times a week and make sure you pay attention to your form.

Run hard!
Coach Abby

Monday, June 15, 2009

10K Dash (no Splash)

Ah, those Road Runners folks had us all geared up for the annual Dash & Splash this past Saturday, only to realize too late that there would be no splash due to the fact that the pool is empty until July. Oh well, I never splash anyway, though it sure would have been nice as the 10K Dash was a humid one. I went out all by my lonesome, taking a cab up to the start at 102 at the East Drive of Central Park. Though I appreciate the start of this race because it's not my typical route, it does mean Cat Hill is at miles 4 & 5, so I knew I was in for a challenge. My goal was to race, hit a pr of 52 minutes, and be uncomfortable most of the way through. I accomplished two out of three.

Out of the gate I started at a good pace; I decided to find a faster runner and trail her as long as I could. But, the faster runner I chose slowed down a bit going up the Harlem Hill, so I passed her and looked for another runner to trail. At the mile one marker I looked at my watch and hit 9 minutes exactly. Feeling good I decided to pick it up a bit. Meanwhile, a girl in pink shorts was ahead of me; I tried to keep up with her, but realized quickly that she was going too fast and I'd never make it if I tried to go at her pace. So, I ran with myself for the next mile and at mile 2 I was at an 8:40 pace.

I passed a drink station just past mile 2; it was definitely humid, but I was feeling ok and decided not to fight the crowd. So, I'm moving along, feeling good...until I realize that I actually forgot to drink water before the start of the race. My mind traveled back to my morning. OK, I was in the kitchen, I made coffee, ate half a banana, took Phoebe out, drank my coffee, damn I'm running late, put Phoebe in her crate, dashed out the door to catch a cab...nope, no water. My mind comes back to the race and I start to have a mild panic attack, which clearly has a great affect on my pace because at mile 3 I was just below 8:40 and looking for water and gatorade, which I find just beyond the clock. As I grab both, drinking some of the water and pouring the rest over my head, then sipping some of the gatorade, I notice a short runner in a NY Flyers tank. She's got short hair and she's running at a good pace and she reminds me of my friend Nancy, so I decide to follow her, which I do pretty successfully. We're going at the same pace, and every time I start to slow down she's just a bit ahead, which motivates me to pick it up. It's getting harder, though. I'm sure I didn't eat enough (half a banana and coffee?) and I'm starting to feel my energy lessen. Plus, there's Cat Hill straight ahead and I am not feeling it. My NY Flyer woman is plugging along so I stay with her. Just as we're hitting the incline, though, NY Flyer disappears. I look back. She's walking. I look ahead of me and decide I don't want to walk, so I dig in to the hill. I know my posture is horrible at this point and pray there are no Brightroom paparazzi lurking. As I get to the top NY Flyer woman is back. She comes right up next to me and says "You're running at an even pace", to which I reply "I've been trying to stay with you", and she says "I've been trying to stay with you", and I say "Good". So for the last two miles NY Flyer and I help each other to the finish. I look at my watch and see that somewhere along the way, probably on Cat Hill, I've lost some time. It doesn't look like I'm going to make 52 minutes, but 53 is still a possibility. I try to speed up, but I'm struggling. By mile 5 3/4 NY Flyer has picked up the pace and is in a mild sprint, which I try to copy, but it's not happening. We loose each other at the last .2 and I cross the finish line at --- 54:20. How did that happen? Did I really loose that much time the last 1/2 of the race? I'm disappointed, so I start berating myself for not eating enough, not drinking enough, not pushing harder...until I see the volunteers are passing out popsicles, some of which are coconut flavored. Suddenly, I don't care about my time anymore; I just want a coconut popsicle. Phoebe and I are very much alike in this way. Our troubles are easily comforted by delicious treats.

I decide to take the bus home, another thing I don't do very often, but something I enjoy after a race that starts on 102nd Street. It's so easy to catch the bus. And, this time is no exception. Lots of runners are on the bus, too. One guy asks me how things went. I tell him great. He says he started out too fast. I say Cat Hill got me. He gets off the bus.

When I get home I let Phoebe lick my legs. She doesn't care about my time; she's just happy for the salt and the attention.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ask the Coach: Back o' my neck gettin' dirty and gritty

Woooo-weee! I don't know about you, but I am feelin' the humidity. I know that we've been under a rain cloud here in NYC for a week, but I have been sweatin' like it's August. Hot town, summer in the city! If this is any indication of what we have in store for us this summer, then this question will be incredibly helpful for all of you:

Q: Why do I get sooooo overheated when it's humid and how can I help get through my workout without keeling over?

A: The scientific answer to overheating in the humid weather is this: sweating is a way for your body to release heat, an internal cooling system, if you will. Normally when you sweat, the water evaporates off of your body and, voila!, your body has succeeded in lowering it's core temperature. Well, when there's an increase of moisture in the air, the sweat doesn't evaporate nearly as fast or at all. So, the sweat that is supposed to evaporate, leaving you cooler and dryer, now sits on top of your pores and acts like a blanket, thus causing you to overheat even more.

No good.

The solution? Well, I sweat like it's my job and more than any other girl I know and I've found a couple of things to be helpful:

-Dumping cold water on my head: Cools me down, cleans off the sweat and is mildly refreshing for a minute or so.

(followed by...)

-Carrying hankerchief with me when I run to wipe my face and neck. Tissues fall apart, my shirt is never dry past mile 3, and it's incredibly easy to hold onto while running. This helps to keep my internal A/C from getting overworked and protects me from overheating.

-Take my shirt off. I dry much faster when my wet tank top isn't sitting right on top of my skin, also working as a blanket. Now, I'm no Serena Williams and I've got a little extra cushioning around my middle, but I am not going to let a little vanity prevent me from finishing a run. No, sir!

-Run early. The air is typically cooler in the early morning and asphalt isn't nearly as hot.

-Hydrate and eat. When you sweat, you lose precious water, electrolytes and sodium from your body. If you don't replenish these in the form of sports drinks, water and Shot Block type running food, your body cannot rehydrate properly and you will bonk in a really bad way.

Heat exhaustion is not pretty, trust me. My personal recipe for heat exhaustion went something like this: Minnesota, July, 98 degrees and sunny. Professional athletes have died from the heat. Don't be a hero and kill yourself to finish a run. If you don't have the right stuff available, best to save it for another day.

The heat is no joke, people, and this summer isn't going to be any different. If you are training for a Fall marathon you will find lots of your longest runs happen in August. Please, please, please be safe out there. Make sure you have identification on you, someone knows where you are and when you should be expected to return and you should always be prepared with some cab money in case you start to feel unwell.

What are your stay-cool summer secrets?? Feel free to share them with us!

Run strong, friends. And stay cool!

Coach Abby

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Good Times & Bad

It's corny to say that running is always there for you, but everyone says it -- because it's true. I'm not always there for running, unfortunately. Lately I've had some tough races, and it's no secret I hate the heat and humidity that comes to NY this time of year. But the shoes, the road, and, if you're as lucky as I've been, the running partners are there.

The Mini 10K last weekend (nothing mini about it!) started strong and ended on my last gasp, and on the way I noticed so many things to be grateful for. The race itself, for one -- in the midst of my current worries about finding a new apartment, which is really just an annoyingly real metaphor for moving on to the next stage of my life, I was lucky to have 6.2 miles to forget and just be (panting) in the moment. My husband had kindly stayed "asleep" that morning so I could sneak out of the house and not talk about how nervous I was. The 5,000 women who'd also shown up on that beautiful Sunday morning reminded me I'm not alone; everyone struggles over hills, literally and figuratively. One of those women gave me a smile and an encouraging word when I faltered in mile 5.  And my friend Erica stuck with me, when I was charging over the Harlem hills and when I hit a wall in the second half. And then another wall ... and in the last mile, not slowing her down further was the only thing that kept me going at all.

I wish I could always be enjoying good times, that I could always show up for my running partners and the road itself the way they always show up for me. I hope I'll have a chance to return all the amazing support I've received. In the meantime, I'm counting my blessings, and heading back to the park as soon as possible.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

More Brooklyn Half

This is what I looked like at mile 12. I am the sad little one in yellow looking like my life is about to end.
Look at the girl in red. She looks strong. She's standing up straight.
From here on out I promise to stand up straight if it kills me. Those brightroom photographers are everywhere you don't want them to be.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

National Running Day

Alright, people, get off your butts, put on your sneakers, and go run around your town tomorrow because it is National Running Day! What is National Running Day? I have no idea; every day is National Running Day for me. But, you can find out by checking out the website.
If you've been looking for an excuse to start running now is your chance!

Image ripped from the National Running Day website.

Helpful Hints for the Newbie

So I’m new to all this. I have no expertise. I have no past to draw upon. I am in the now, as they say. All I can share with you is what I’m learning at the present time. My training for the NYC Triathlon has been incredible. It's given me a confidence in myself that I thought I misplaced. The good news is this is my first one, so I will not devalue my own experience by comparing this year’s Triathlon to last year’s like some world traveler who incorporates the phrase “the time I spent in Bulgaria” into every conversation as if to illustrate that other opinions are insignificant poo.

So, here's what I’ve learned so far in my NYC Triathlon training:

1. When in doubt, stretch your calves.
2. For all those athletes who pass you- there are twice as many who are behind you.
3. A “Brick” is a combination of biking and running. Not doing them at the same time as one might think, but doing them one right after another.
4. Eating bananas are great for relieving leg cramps.
5. Swimming a mile in the pool in 30 minutes is not only doable but extremely boring.
6. Central Park is the greatest park in the midtown.
7. To other runners, chatting with a buddy while running is like talking on your cell phone in the quiet car of the train.
8. Chatting with a buddy while swimming is hard.
9. Running 6.2 miles is more a mental block than a physical one.
10. I fart more often than I ever have. I blame the bananas.
11. It doesn’t matter how aerodynamic your bike looks or how cool you dress; everyone looks ridiculous wearing a bike helmet.
12. Do not wear shorts in thirty-degree weather.
13. The generosity of those friends and family members who have donated money to my TNT cancer research cause has been amazing. Here’s the link.
14. Sharing running stories are just as exciting as listening to them.
15. To everyone’s shock, George enlisted in the army, but died from saving a girl getting hit by a bus; however, he still joined Izzy on the elevator to heaven dressed in his army uniform.
16. The word triathlon is French for “sports with no balls." (that’s not a euphemism)
17. Vanilla goo tastes better than chocolate goo. (that’s not a euphemism)
18. Do not run with your bike helmet on (THAT’S a euphemism)
19. I haven’t been in this great of shape since the time I spent in Bulgaria.

Until next time… assuming there’s a next time... support your local brunch.