Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Guest Blogger: Nikki's new 3:07 PR at The Rehoboth Beach Marathon! 12/5/15

I have featured a race report by Nikki before, but I could not resist asking her to please share her experience at Rehoboth. If there was ever an example of how to run a race with control and confidence, here it is.  People have great races that often surprise them.  But that is not what happened here.  Nikki showed up with a plan and then stuck to it. That is one of the hardest things for a marathoner to do. It takes complete discipline and control. It takes letting other pull away and not drag you past your redline…  It takes knowing yourself and what you want to do despite everything happening around you.  But once a marathoner understands that it is possible for him or her to negative split the marathon, limitations are annihilated and massive personal records can be set.

Congratulations Nikki!  Almost 20 minutes off your marathon PR in just 7 months!  You work so very hard and it shows!  I am happy to see how wonderful you are doing! Thank you for sharing your experience here and letting me be a part of your journey!
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I’m cruising down Rehoboth Avenue in the low 6s… slow down. Half marathoners and marathoners alike start to pass me from all sides. I love running a race where the marathon and half marathon start together because the half marathoners go out SO fast. It’s fun to be part of but it is tempting to press the paces early when you run with half marathoners… 640s, still too fast so I continue to pump the brakes as we weave through town. Somewhere around 7:05 pace I decided I had probably slowed down enough over the last few tenths of a mile to find “marathon pace” so I settled in… First mile, 7:08.

Over the next two miles as we kept to the streets of Rehoboth I focused on my breath. This had been a really good indicator of things to come at the Liberty Half Marathon. I was cautiously optimistic… breathing was easy and I was feeling much better than I had at Wineglass at this point but it was so early. So much could go wrong. And what is with all this headwind? (Miles 2 and 3, 7:14 and 7:19)

We entered the first trail portion of the race around mile 3. I thought I was going to hate this, but with the trail came a break from the wind so for the moment I felt relieved. The spectators were few and far between and for me trail running is a pace killer, but it was on the trail that the marathon broke from the half marathon and it was so peaceful and scenic. I was surprised to see a 7:13 on my watch at mile 4. Maybe trail running wasn’t so bad.

My ride on the trail running bandwagon ended a mere mile later with my slowest mile of the race. Mile 5 in 7:28. I tried not to panic, but I could feel my turnover slowing a bit. Was I already falling apart? I pressed a little bit to try and get back to my goal pace of between 7:15 and 7:20. Mile 6 and 7 were perfect but they felt harder than they should and I was starting to hate this trail running thing again. (7:17 and 7:20). We hit a fairly steep decline during mile 8 so I decided to seize the opportunity to pick up a little time and try and kick start my legs again. It totally worked! I came through mile 8 at 6:56 feeling rejuvenated and confident. Mile 8 was where I knew things were going to go awry at Wineglass so I did another body check. I felt incredible. Like holy cow incredible… but again, it was still so early and there was so much race left. I settled back into my prescribed pace. Mile 9 and 10 in 7:17 and 7:20. Chronotrack had set up a 10 mile split. I didn’t have the exact number in my head at the time but per the website I came through this marker at 1:12:49. (7:17 average pace).

Back on the road I moved from third female to fourth female when the eventual second place female finisher came up on my right shoulder. I told her if she kept this up she would be well under 3:10 pace. I asked if that had been her goal… she said she didn’t really have a goal except to finish as this was her first marathon… WOW. Just wow. I let her go, knowing I’d never see her again. She had pulled me through mile 11 at 7:09 pace… too fast for this point in the race so I let her go and I settled back into a 7:16 pace for mile 12. This was an exciting part of the race because we had hit the turnaround of
the first out and back. There were also some spectators along this part of the course which was awesome given the trail miles were almost entirely without human contact.

A few tenths of a mile before I went back onto the trail a very nice cyclist pulled alongside me to see how I was doing. He wanted to know if I was leading the women’s race. No way, man I wasn’t even close. He offered up some words of encouragement, asked if I needed anything and off he went. Mile 13 (7:10) finished back on the trail and I was gearing up for another body check at the half. I came through the half in 1:34:44 dropping 3 seconds per mile from my average pace in just 3.1 miles. Excitement was starting to build, but I knew mile 14 was going to be a little tough and that is where Wineglass had crushed my spirits so I did my best to bury the excitement and stay focused. Mile 14, 7:09.

Something happened after mile 14. When I crested the small incline within that mile and didn’t want to simply die, I felt incredible. I realized that MAYBE, if I could hold on, I was going to break 3:10. Mile 15, 7:01. I told myself to slow down but I couldn’t… it was as though muscle memory was kicking in from all those progressions and my body said, “screw you I got this.” But mentally I was still very unsure of myself. Anything could happen it was way too early to be confident or certain of ANYTHING.

Jeff was waiting for me at mile 16. (7:02) I was surprised to see him so soon and so I just said the first thing that came into my head. “I’m going for it. I’m going under 3:10.” Yikes… was I really going under 3:10? Could I seriously manage to not fall apart at the end of a marathon??

I was back on the road and cruising along. Mile 17, 7:03. Maybe I should back off if I was to attempt a progression beginning at mile 18. Mile 18, 7:09. It was here that the cyclist I had seen up north met me for another body check. (Who is this man? Is he some sort of marathon guardian angel?) He rode along with me for a little while, offered some final words of encouragement and sent me on my way. Mile 19, 6:58.

It was right around here that we met up with the half marathoners again. They were the greatest! As I turned for the second out and back of the course, the runners on their way to the finish offered up TONS of encouragement and support. It was awesome. Mile 20, 7:00.

That incredible high was met with a crushing blow of more trail. This trail portion of the race was brutal because of the loose rocks and because I knew any chance I had of hitting the progression I had originally planned was lost. But I had less than 10K to go so I pushed on: mile 21 (7:06), mile 22 (6:59), and mile 23 (7:06).

I was starting to do a lot of math on those late trail miles. If I fall apart now I will finish at this time, and if I keep it together but slow a little from fatigue I can still hit that time… I had started picking off other runners a few miles back but this runner I came up on somewhere between 23 and 24 was one of the only ones I chatted with beyond a few pleasantries. I told him if we could keep it together we were going to come in under 3:10. “Well under,” he said. “You are going under 3:08.” STOPPIT, there is just no way. I mean maybe somewhere in the 3:08 – 3:09 range but 3:07? I don’t know I was feeling pretty tired. But with less than 3 miles to go, I could survive tired… maybe. Mile 24, 6:58. Mile 25, 6:54.

We were now back on the road and headed for home. All I had to do was hold on. It was not until this point in the race that I was absolutely certain I’d come in under 3:10. I kept thinking I could fall apart at any moment and lose 3:10 altogether. I didn’t even check my split at mile 26 (6:53). All I could do now was run as hard as I possibly could. I kicked down to a 6:43 pace through the finish. The time clock was off to the left and obstructed so I had no idea what I’d be coming in at. I caught the clock right before I crossed the line… 3:07:51 (7:11 average pace).

I hunched over, put my head in my hands, cried my eyes out for a second, and then pulled it together. I was done, and it was amazing.

I have two regrets in this race. The first is that I didn’t listen to the woman that yelled to me about how close the girl in third was. If this race had been 400 meters longer I’d have had a shot at third. I thought she was talking about a half marathoner that she mistook for a marathoner. Another pitfall of running with half marathoners I guess.

The other is that I didn’t stay for the post-race festivities. This was a fantastic race. It was well organized and super easy logistically. The spectators though few and far between in some spots were always fantastic and there was even more water stops than advertised. PLUS, the race photos were free this year! The town is adorable and I really wish we could have stayed to celebrate with the rest of the field. Next year :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Jump Rope To Improve Running Form

Here is a copy of an article I submitted to the Clifton Road Runners Monthly Newsletter!

If you reside in New Jersey and would like to become a member of Clifton Road Runners, please visit this website for more information about how you can join my team: 
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Jump Rope To Improve Running Form
Shannon McGinn, Certified Running Coach, USATF, RRCA, NFHS
September 2015

One key component to efficient running form is good posture. Those who run with their posture out of alignment will waist energy trying to maintain an inefficient position.

To run our best, we want to run tall with a slight lean from the ankles. We want our feet to land under our center of mass, not out in front of us. If viewing from the side, we should be able to draw an imaginary line from our head, down our spine, through our hips to where our foot lands under our hips.

Momentum, from pushing off the ground with our back foot, carries our body forward over our planted foot. The back foot comes forward, traveling directly under our level hips and lands beneath our center of mass. Optimal cadence is approximately 180 steps per minute. Over-striding heel-strikers often have a hard time achieving this 180 step tempo, most due to the center of mass being behind the foot as it lands too far forward.

Jumping Rope:
One of the best reasons to jump rope as a runner is it reinforces efficient running form. Jump rope with poor form and you will not be able to sustain the rhythm and pace needed to jump continuously. Jump with proper form and you will find your flow. It just so happens that proper form for jumping rope mirrors ideal posture for running efficiently. To successful jump rope, the feet must land under the center of mass, directly under the hips, while the spine is held straight and tall. Slouching results in failed jumps. To practice ideal running form, consider adding jumping rope as a warm up, cool down, or cross-training activity.

How to get started:
Initially I assumed that since children can jump rope, getting started would be easy. I quickly learned that I had many questions: What type of rope? How long should it be? Where should I jump? How should I jump? To help me get the answers I needed I consulted Michael Schwartz, an experienced Crossfitter. He helped me figure out everything I needed to get started!

What Type of Rope: There are many types of ropes available, included beaded and weighted ropes. Schwartz explained that as an athlete I should consider a speed rope, which is a lightweight cable coated with plastic. These ropes are built to turn fast enough to sustain the paces needed for an adequate workout. He recommended I look at ropes from http://www.rxsmartgear.comGear. Another highly recommended site for quality jump ropes is http://www.roguefitness.com.

Correct Rope Size: Some ropes may be adjustable while others require you to purchase the appropriate length of cable. To find the proper length of rope for you, the simplest method is to add three feet to your height. However, jumpers under 5 foot 6 inches and more efficient jumpers may find that three feet is a bit too long for them.

A second method is to use a measuring tape (or the actual jump rope cable, if you need to cut it down). Line up the starting end of the tape or cable with the base of your pectoralis major muscle. Step on the tape or cable with one foot. Bring the remaining length of tape or cable back up to meet the starting end, at the base of your pectoralis major muscle. If you are measuring from your armpit you are measuring too high. The distance of this entire round-trip measurement should be very close to your height plus three feet. Cut the cable or make note of the length. Choose to cut the rope too long over too short if you are not sure. You may find that some further adjustments may be needed to find your optimal length rope, but this should get you started.

Where to Jump: Schwartz recommended that I not jump directly on the concrete pavers in my yard, as this will quickly degrade my rope. Instead, he suggested that I get a 4ft x 4ft piece of plywood and place it over the grass to create a supportive, shock-absorbing surface for my workout. Other suggestions include jumping on a matt or cardboard to protect the rope from breakage. When selecting where to jump, make sure that the mat, cardboard, or plywood surface is large enough to not catch the rope.

My Very Simple Jump Rope Routine: 
When I first got started, I tried few different methods of jumping. Eventually, I decided that I needed to keep it simple. This routine makes a good warm up, emphasizes good running form, and can be lengthened to become an additional workout.

(1) Double Hop (2 jumps per turn of rope) x 30 jumps, recover 5-20 seconds
(2) Single Hop (1 jump per turn) x 30 jumps, recover 5-20 seconds
(3) Left Leg, single hop x 30 jumps, recover 5-20 seconds
(4) Right Leg, single hop x 30 jumps, recover 5-20 seconds
(5) Running Step (Alternating Left Foot - Right Foot in a running motion) x 60 jumps (if counting each foot plant as 1 jump), recover at least 20 seconds before starting set over.

Repeat at least 3 times. Takes between 5-10 minutes to complete
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I recommend easing into jumping rope by doing this routine only 3 days per week. Expect muscle groups that have not been used regularly to feel stressed, tired, and sore. Once you are acclimated this routine can be done daily. Advanced jumpers can reduce the recovery between jumps all the way down to 0 seconds and/or repeat this series more than 3 times. Eventually, you will become proficient enough to add more challenging jump steps to the set, such as Double-unders, where the rope must pass under the feet twice per jump.

Efficient running form and jumping rope both require good posture. A great way to train the body to hold efficient running form is by adding jump-rope to your training plan. I hope this article helps you get on your way to becoming a more efficient runner.


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Shannon McGinn is an USTAF, RRCA, and NFHS Certified Distance Running Coach and the owner of Creating Momentum, LLC.  She is pursuing a Master of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in Sports Psychology. She is a life-long runner, becoming more involved in racing after surviving cancer.  She considers herself a marathon and ultramarathon specialist, earning several USATF National Championship top 10 or better placements in the 50k and 50M distances. She has not missed a day of running since December 2011.  Please send questions  about this article to shanmcginn@gmail.com

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ashenfelter 8k, Glen Ridge NJ, 11/26/15

Photo by Mark Nyhan.

Today I ran the A8K. This was my first serious race back since a very long frustrating period of back pack.  After ruling out serious problems and backing down training for long enough to manage the pain, I am ready to start over.  I have not run a fast, short race since Aug 22.  I stopped racing seriously after the intermittent pain became so debilitating in races and training that it stopped me from enjoying the experience of running.

I saw several doctors. I ruled out major concerns.  I then set up my office to allow me to sit for long periods of time in a much more supported position (which I believe is the cause of all this pain… 20+ extra hours of sitting per week while I write paper for school).  I am starting to focus a little more flexibility and strengthening as well, to help rehab the area I need to work on.

Today, I was not sure what I could do. My volume has been low. I have not done speed work.  But I have been running enough to justify going.  I did run 20 miles at Bucks on Nov 15th most at a 9:00 pace.  I knew I could cover 5 miles. But I had so many questions?  How fast could I run?  How much fitness have I lost?  Would I blow up on the course and end up walking?  Would the pain return and stop me in my tracks? 

I almost didn't go to the race. I woke up  thinking I had made a big mistake.  I should have just run a few miles with Sidney and dog, gone into work for a few hours and then headed to my parents house for Thanksgiving Dinner.  But instead I felt like I was setting myself up to run right into a burning building. 

The beauty of a Check-In race is that you cannot fail.  It is a test of baseline fitness and it is what it is.  So after a really nice mile warm up with Nikki, who ran amazing today, I lined up and hoped for the best.  I really just wanted to run without back pain shutting me down. 

Gun Goes Off
I had already used my inhaler before the start, so I was a little surprised that I was having a lot of trouble breathing almost immediately.  But really, I wasn't that surprised.  I have not run this fast in a long time.  One of the odd symptoms I have had, in addition to back pain, has been shortness of breath at rest. It has been a long time since I had this much trouble.  But the breathing trouble slowed me down and helped me find that Red-Line pace that allowed me to pushed up against the entire way.  M1 7:11

I really used the rolling nature of the course to maintain my pace, working the downs, slowing on the ups.  I tried to never let my breath get completely lost. Throughout M2, I started to feel a very sharp pins and needles type pain in the bottom of my left foot. "Oh Great! I am going to tear my plantar fascia today. I knew I should have stayed home!" Throughout the mile it did not get worse, but it was starting to impact my foot plant. I decided to wait a bit longer to see how it changed. I was already in this thing and not ready to step off the course at 1.5 miles.  If the pain got worse I would stop.  M2 7:14

Through the third mile the plantar fascia pain subsided completely, which made me happy. I am not sure what that was about but I am glad it was not significant. I tried to find my rhythm.  I cannot say that felt any more tired than mile 2 and I was feeling like I really could finishing this off at this speed.  Esly passed me and encouraged me to come with him, but I just waived him on to go without me. I really didn't want to push too hard right now. I felt that this was all I had and I wanted to make it to the finish.  I wanted to save a little something for the end! M3 7:10

At this point I had noticed my back starting to feel like it was getting irritated.  Not painful.  But rather just very fatigued.  Not the pain that has been shutting me down for month.  This was more like a feeling like I am simply too week to hold my spine stable.  I could feel myself twisting and I did my best to find a comfortable position to finish off the race. The fatigue slowly got worse throughout the rest of the race, but there was really just one mile left and I knew I could do it. M4 7:12

After the short steep hill that felt like a mountain, we started our trek to the finish. As much as I believed at mile 3, that I could kick in the final stretch, I didn't have any other gears to tap into.  I felt tired, but not fully spent. I felt out of race-shape, but not as bad as I thought I wold be.  My back was tired but not in pain like in May-Oct. Last .97 7:04 

Overall, I took this race very cautiously. I was not interested in reversing all the healing that has occurred from reducing my mileage.  I did not feel like I needed to or should dig for a big finish, even if I could. Since I couldn't kick even if I wanted to, this did not really matter much. 

At the end of this run, I can say I am happy that I don't feel broken.  I just feel out of shape.  I can fix "out of shape."  This is what I do. 

Stats
Time: 35:4
AG 12th
Gender 88/ 1529
OA 448/3497

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bucks County Marathon, Back Pain, and “Rebuilding the Car”, Washington Crossing State Park, PA, 11/15/15

Photo by Byran's wife.  Kim, Rich, me, Bryan, and Gary
About Bucks.
I ran 20.65 miles. 19.5 of those were pain free. This makes me happy. As soon as my back started to feel a little off, I shut it down and got out of the race. Right now, I am not trained to run very far and had no business expecting to finish a marathon.

So why even go? Because I had six athletes entered in this race. I wanted to be present to witness their success or to provide support and perspective if needed. I also wanted to give myself the chance to run as far as could with Kim and Gary at a sub-4 pace before I stepped off the course. I wanted to be helpful. I wanted to feel like myself again. I also wanted to try out a pair of new shoes, Adidas Adios Boosts (breaking all the rules). I wanted to see how far I could run before the pain started so I would have an idea of where I stood. I never expected to finish. I never expected to get 20 miles!

Bucks County is a really nice race, especially for those who enjoy running on dirt. I would do this race again, but not as a goal race. In my opinion the course is slow but the dirt does minimize impact. I felt that I was working too hard to hold the pace we needed to have a chance at breaking 4 hours. But I am out of peak shape, so I was not surprised to find 9:00 per miles tiring for me. I also feel it ended up being a very warm day that started off cold. Many people were over dressed. I was extremely dehydrated during the race despite drinking often.

I am happy I went. I had a great time. I enjoyed running just to run. I feel disappointed that I did not finish, but not really. The reason I can race well is because I train hard. I felt I hit a wall at 18-19 miles and it Felt GREAT to hit that wall. There is something amazing about running until you are out of fuel. This is how to stimulate change. I was feeling amazing at 13 miles. By 15 the work was getting harder. By 18, my legs were exhausted and by 20 I was done. I am sure it did not help that I gave away one of my 2 gels to a lady trying to BQ, but I had a feeling she might need it more than me.

I always have fun with Kim and I wanted to start the race with her. We found Gary just before the start. I have trained Gary for months but never met him in person.I really love my job. I can build relationships with people through cyberspace. Then we meet in person, feeling like we know each other so well. It was nice to see Rich and Antonio out on the course and Kirsten there for support. It also was great to finally meet Bryan (and his wife) in person, who is one of my newest runners working on a Spring goal.


About Back Pain.
What can I say.... I have back pain and no one knows why. The best news is that no one knows why I have back pain, so I can rule out anything really serious or really scary. I can go on and on, but it doesn't matter what is wrong. What matters is that I focus my efforts on making things right. 


About Rebuilding the Car. 
Now that I feel much more confident that I can get through this, I will use what I know about training in a healthy and safe way to rehab myself. If I stumble along the way, I will seek out guidance from medical experts. However, if my pain is a result of strength and flexibilty imbalances (caused by me adding A LOT more sitting to my life) then I can work through that on my own.

I like Anthony. He makes me crazy, but he is one of the most honest, genuine, kind people I know. He too is working on recovery. It is a struggle. He posted a great photo with the caption: "Time to rebuild the car." I like that!  
Anthony, let's rebuild together! 



My plan is simply to do what I know how to do in a slow, realistic, and systematic way. I expect this process to take months. I plan to race more as I rebuild. I am starting with a decent residual base so I feel that I am in a good place.  I hope to share my progress here.

At the very least I would like to show how proper training and self-care can help people reach goals that often seem impossibly out of reach. And if I cant get through this pain, then I hope to demonstrate what graceful acceptance of limitations look like. I will plan for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Please, follow me along as I attempt to rebuild and return to a sport that makes me feel complete.



Friday, October 16, 2015

Guest Blogger: Rich Timlen's CHICAGO MARATHON Race Report

I met Rich through our running club, Clifton Road Runners.  I remember when he was training for Wineglass.  I ended up running a few miles of a long run with him.  I couldn't help but recognize how strong of a runner he was. He has just so much potential!

Often we ended up side-by-side in races and always had a lot of fun! I was thrilled when he asked me to coach him.  I knew we could do great work together.  I have known Rich for awhile now and I am so invested in seeing him run his best. When he runs well I feel like I ran well too!  I ran Steamtown the same day Rich ran Chicago.  The first thing I wanted to do when I finished the race was try to figure out what Rich's results were.

Here is Rich's Report from that day!

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CHICAGO MARATHON


Rich Timlen (6th from left) with his running partners


Runners began to shed their throw-away sweatshirts, double and triple-tie their laces and make sure their GPS watches were fully charged and ready to record every step of the 26.2-mile journey through the Windy City.

With a mix of anxiety and excitement, I waited inside Corral B for the start of the Chicago Marathon. But this morning, Chicago was once again going to be relegated to Second City status. The only city on my mind – Boston.

For the past year, I have been obsessed with qualifying for the Boston Marathon. My coach, Shannon McGinn, had me in BQ shape for my May marathon (Pocono Run for the Red), but drenching humidity slowed my effort and I missed my 3:15 cutoff time by a little more than three minutes.

I was confident that Chicago, with its flat course and deafening support from the masses, would provide me with a chance to get even with the Marathon Gods.

As she always does, Shannon provided an extremely detailed plan of what I would need to do, from what to eat and when to eat it (sorry, I didn’t listen and had the deep dish pizza) to what paces I would need to hit to reach my goal. In this case, that pace was 7:27 per mile, but realistically it would have to be below 7:25 since marathons always run longer than advertised.

Before the start, I was concerned that I would get caught up in the excitement of the first mile and go way too fast. Turns out, I did the exact opposite and I believe that set the tone for the entire race. First mile – 7:42. Yikes! Way too slow, I thought.

Right after that, however, I settled into Shannon’s prescribed paces perfectly – 7:13, 7:18, 7:20, 7:16, 7:20, 7:28, 7:14, 7:24, 7:15, 7:13 and 7:21. I take pride in the nickname – The Metronome - given to me by my running partner, Nikki Drader, for my ability to stay on pace. And I wasn’t about to sabotage my goal by starting too quickly.

I crossed the half marathon mark in 1:37:11, which made me a little nervous knowing that I would almost have to negative split to reach my BQ goal. Instead of panicking, however, I listened to Shannon’s advice and didn’t start thinking of picking up the pace until mile 20, when the marathon really begins.

The miles ticked by – 7:16, 7:14, 7:14, 6:52 (ok, maybe I panicked a bit), 7:10, 7:27, 7:26, 7:28. At that point, mile 21, I became a little bit concerned since my pace was going in the wrong direction a tiny bit and I heard the announcer behind me welcome the 3:15 pacing group.

Crap!

Well, that must have lit a fire under my ass. Mile 22 was 7:16, 7:05, 7:24, 7:12 and mile 26 at 7:17. I made the turn toward the finish line and I could see the clock at the 3:13 mark. I knew every second matters when it comes to getting into the Boston Marathon. I used up every last ounce of energy I had (6:30 pace for the last .20), heard the announcer butcher my name (Rich Tilllllman coming to the line) and stepped across the finish in 3:13:48 – Boston qualifying effort.

Being the pessimist that I am, my first thought was “damn, that’s not enough of a cushion to get into Boston.” But I quickly put those negative thoughts aside and focused on what I had just accomplished – a five-minute PR and a BQ.

I took this journey by myself, but I couldn’t have reached these goals without my incredible teammates from the Clifton Roadrunners and my coach, Shannon. Oh, and the deep dish pizza.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Newport Liberty Half Marathon, Jersey City, NJ. 9/20/15

"Do it for the Cannoli" ~ Anthony DiFiore
Oh boy. What a day.  I didn't have high expectations as my back has been in intermittent severe pain, which has been getting worse over the last 4 months.  It started slow, a spasm once every two weeks. Then one day per week, then twice per week. Usually I could stop stretch it out and keep running. It worked it way up to spasming almost daily and several times per run.  Every once in a while I would run pain free.

In August I made the first appointment I could find with doctor who seemed qualified to help me. That appointment was mid-Septemeber and I knew nothing would be figured out or resolved by the time I ran this race.

Kim and I wanted to run 20 miles. We also wanted to be present for this Team Championship. In the event that my back felt ok, I might be able to help the team score some points.  Kim had some unfinished business here so she wanted to return as well.

Photo by Becky Wiechman
We arrived at 6:30 to run 5 miles prior to getting ourselves organized and allowing some time to socialize. During this warm-up, my back was already in severe spasm. I had run 10 miles the day prior and it was one of the worst days for back pain I had so far.  Today would beat that. At 2.5 miles into our warm-up, there was so much pressure in my back I felt paralyzed by pain. I was able to lean forward to loosen up whatever was happening inside me.  After a few minutes of leaning forward and waiting, I could feel my back pain start to subside some. I was then able to run again. 2.5 more miles and the severe pain returned, but we were almost ready to start racing, so I just tried my best to loosen it up again.

Kim and I get into the corral. I move up front, finding Rich and Nikki, who were both racing very closely in pace and had similar race goals. I remind them to not go out like banshees and to save it for the end.  This race is windy and the sections along the water are usually bad.  Between 6 and 8.5 we usually fight the wind. By 8.5 it is usually much better as we move away from the water.  I remind them to not worry if their pace fall during that section. I also explain that despite my back pain, I am only starting up front so I can yell at them to slow down during Mile 1.

Gun goes off.  My back is a little loose. Usually after I stop running, the spasms settle so just standing around for a few minutes helped.  I also found that running faster sometimes hurts less than running slower, so I decide to just go out relatively fast to see what happened.  I hit M1 at a 7:05 pace. And for a moment I think, "Oh this feels good. Maybe this race will go better than I thought!" (LOL!)

Photo by Elaine Acosta
The for the next 2 miles everything started to deteriorate. By Mile 3, my back pain was back and my breathing was difficult, so I used my inhaler and it seemed to help.  It did not make the pain go away, but it did make it so I did not have to stop running.  I am not sure the connection but I did run the entire 13 mile race.

Between Mile 2 and Mile 10 my pace slowed from low 7:00's to 8:40 per mile.  I was simply trying to find a place where I could feel the least amount of hurt.  As I clenched my side, pressing my thumb into my back, trying to find a way to provide support or relieve, runners blew past me sharing their sympathy.

I was given lots of great advice, like how I should not go out so hard next time, or if I keep on training the side-stitches would eventually go away as I got fitter. I was also running, at one point, behind a woman taking selfies repeatedly which made me laugh.

I was overcome with emotion at that point.  Not because I could not run like I was running last year, but out of sincere fear that I may not ever be able to run fast again. If in just a few months time, I have deteriorated this far.  The initial diagnosis was that I have Scoliosis and that is all.  There is not explanation for why NOW did the scoliosis start to hurt me.  I was told to do some sit-ups and stretch. It that was my cure, I had little faith this would resolve my pain.  Since it is not clear what is going on, it just may be a matter of time before the obvious solution is suggested: "If it only hurts when you run, then don't run!"

I started to feel grateful that I could run an 8:40 pace. An 8:40 pace is not too shabby, especially when considering that some people can't run at all and soon I may be one of them if this back pain doesn't resolve.

Photo by Elaine Acosta
Somewhere between mile 7-8, Anthony runs up to me and says he is feeling good.  I was happy for him.  He has worked so very hard this training cycle, despite a setback that left him feeling like he needed to scale back his goal. I convinced him to give me some time and I could help him get back.  He made it through his struggle and got his training fully back on track. I really enjoy training Anthony because his heart for this sport is huge and he really thrives with some guidance.  He always equals or surpasses my goals for him.  He runs a minute with me, but I tell him to "Go on ahead. I am slowing you down." He makes a joke to help me feel better and tells me "Do it for the Cannoli!" or something like that.  :)

In Mile 9, Liz caught up with me and asked if I was ok. I said "No."  It was clear I was not. We start taking and as we chat I start to feel slightly better.  She mentions that Anthony has asked her to try to break 1:45. Our average pace was 8:08 and we were approaching 10 miles.  For some reason, as my back starts to loosen, I start to focus on trying to help her reach that goal. I am pretty sure Liz really didn't want or need my help (and the next time I see her I will apologize for offering unsolicited advice to her in the middle of her race).  I suggest that we just try to slowly pass people one at a time and not focus on how we feel.  We talk and when I tell her we have already passed the 10 mile mark and are almost to 10.5 she seems happy to have passed almost a mile quickly.  But she tells me to go ahead.  I wasn't ready. We had dropped our pace from an 8:40 to an 8:08 by the time we reached Mile 11 and I wasn't sure if I could go faster.

But then I suddenly begin to feel like myself again.  The back pain resolves and I can open my stride. I am pain free, completely.  It took 16 miles of "warm up" to get my back to be on my side.  I can't believe how good I feel, I don't know how long it will last, so I kick.  I feel like I am flying.  M12 - 7:15

I havent run a 7:15 mile in a long time, but it doesn't even faze me.  I keep pushing and see Anthony up ahead.  I yell out "Where's my Cannoli?!" Anthony glances back and starts dropping the pace.  I try to catch him, but he is fast! M13 - 7:05

The last .25 (long course) miles is intense. Anthony is about 20 seconds ahead of me, and he won't let up.  I try to dig and I can't get any ground on him.  He is digging too.  We are really moving.  Anthony holds me off, but it was awesome.  Last .25 6:19 pace.

Time: 1:45:15 (8:02 pace)
AG: 9th 
I was happy to find out later that I actually did score for the team, so all that pain wasn't for nothing.

After all was said and done, Anthony officially challenged me to race him in November. Winner gets a cannoli.  I better get this back thing figured out soon!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Guest Blogger: Nikki Drader, Sub-1:29 at the Newport Liberty Half Marathon, Jersey City, NJ. 9/20/15

For the last several months, I have been fortunate to have some fantastic runners training with me.  Even though my own training and racing has been hampered by some medical issues right now, it means a lot to me to still be able to experience the joy of racing through my ambitious athletes.  

Nikki Drader is one of the most talented runners I have been able to work with since I began coaching. I have no doubt that in the months and years to come, Nikki will continue to chip away at her PRs, rising to the podium in any race she chooses to select as a goal.  I am honored to be able to share this Race Report written by Nikki about her recent half marathon PR. The best part about this report is that this half marathon wasn't even her goal race for this season!  

***************************

Photo by Becky Wiechman

Race Report: Newport Liberty Half Marathon 
by Nikki Drader

I lined up at the start of the Newport Liberty Half Marathon with my training partner, Rich Timlen, and our Clifton Roadrunner teammates Rich Rubino, Nick Joannidis, and Frank Cunha. All of us were hoping to run around 1:30:00 so we planned to race as a pack. Shannon found us just before the start to talk race strategy. We received our instructions: hold back in the beginning of the race and hope to negative split. Expect headwind in the park and don’t be nervous if the pace began to fade as a result of it. I felt really calm, which is unusual for me when the race conditions are good.

I am never nervous for a race when the weather is horrible. Everyone’s expectations for your race are lower when the weather is bad. But when the conditions are good and expectations are high (this was my marathon predictor race after all) I am usually a head case. Not today. Today my legs felt great and my head was clear. Today I was keeping things light and fun.

Knowing that the first four turns of the race were lefts, we lined up on the left-hand side of the street a few rows back from the Start line. The gun sounded and off we went. I shot out onto the course like I always do and, like always, Rich reigned me back in with a pace check. We were running way too fast. We eased off the pace a bit, the guys took the lead, we were breathing easy, and the pack settled in. First mile, 6:35. 

It was somewhere between miles 1 and 2 that Rich assured me we were going under 1:30:00. He was certain, and you could see it in his running style. A confident Rich takes the lead, which I love because the guy is a human metronome. I settled in behind him and Rubino. Mile 2, 6:43. Still ahead of our goal.

We cruised through the first aid station. I wanted to practice my cup grabbing skills for the marathon so at every station I went for both water (offered first) and Gatorade, took a sip or two of each and tossed the rest. It was shortly after the first aide station that we ran up on Sergio Cano, another teammate of ours. We exchanged some encouraging words, we took a right up Grand, and the pack powered on. Mile 3, 6:52. 

I remember feeling a little nervous here because we had been steadily dropping pace, but there was a very small climb up Grand and once the terrain leveled out we settled back into a quicker tempo. I remember Nick’s reassuring words, “Nice and smooth” as we picked back up. Mile 4, 6:46.

As we turned toward the park after mile 4, I took the lead in our pack for the first time in the race. It was my turn to do the work for a while. Nick joined me. I think it was at the next aide station that I knocked three cups out of the hands of volunteers before I got hold of one. (I apologized to Rich for basically screwing him out of any water) Mile 5, 6:47.

Things get a little fuzzy in the park, primarily because all I can remember is the endless headwind and because I knew we would run a few miles here so I tried to tune out and focus on nothing but my rhythm and my breathing. Mile 6, 6:47. 

It was somewhere around here that Rich came up on my shoulder and said “remember your progression”. “Want to start now??”, I said, half joking. I remember feeling good despite the headwind, but cautious to push too hard this early and against so much resistance as we ran over the water. Mile 7, 6:44. 

I took my second Gu right before we came into the aide station at around mile 7.5. I also knew I was about to hit the turnaround and head right back into the wind so I held steady and waited for the gel to work its magic. Mile 8: 6:51. 

It was time to pick up the pace. There were five miles left and I was feeling very strong and well fueled. I also knew some tough terrain was coming from mile 9.5 to 10.5 (more on that later). I saw Rubino ahead of me and I focused on reeling him in. I thought about Shannon and how she did this all the time in races. Mile 9, 6:38. 

I saw two women ahead of me. “Take your time and reel them in”, I thought. Just like Shannon. By now I was running north up the most poorly paved path of all time. Mile 10, 6:36. 

The footing was awful, but I work in the area and run in the park all the time so I knew what to expect. Arland, who I had met with the pack as we entered the park, was ahead of me. We ran side by side for a while. I complained about the terrible pavement. (Really I mean how could it be THAT bad??) As I came out of the park and onto Jersey Avenue a spectator yelled to me… “Ninth female!” What??? I couldn’t believe it. I felt myself surge. Arland came with me. Mile 11, 6:33. 

2.1 miles to go and I was intent on keeping myself in the top ten so I pressed… hard! My favorite spectator on the course was waiting for me at around mile 11.5. Jim Olivola was not racing that day because he was recovering from an injury. If you know Jim, he is one of the most enthusiastic racing fans I know and it always makes me really happy to make him proud. When I saw him, the wheels came off. He assured me I was well under 1:30:00 pace and seeing him made me feel, well, rejuvenated! I saw him again as I rounded the corner onto the waterfront. I had about a mile and a half to go and there wasn’t another woman in sight. Mile 12, 6:22. 

I was starting to hurt a little, and with no other woman in my front or rearview I decided to back off a little bit. All I had to do now was hang on. I was almost home. At this point I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to come in under 1:29:00. My watch was telling me I had an extra quarter mile on the 13.1 mile course so I wasn’t sure if I would make it. It didn’t matter; I was back in Newport and about to finish this race in the top ten. Mile 13, 6:32. 

According to my ancient Garmin 305, I ran a 6:30 pace through the finish. I didn’t look at the clock until I hit the line… I’d bested my goal time by over a minute and my previous PR by over 5 minutes!

My last half was essentially a reverse progression run. Most of the longer races I ran went this way… it wasn’t until I started training with Shannon that I learned proper pacing. Thanks to her, this race goes down as the most fun race I’ve run to date. This was the first time I’ve raced in a pack and the first time I negative split any race over a 10K. 


Chip time: 1:28:40
9th female overall 
2nd woman in my age group

It took me a little while to get the hang of it, but now I know… trust the plan! :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

USATF XC 5k, Natirar Park, 8/30… and the first appointment with a Sports Medicine Specialist.

Short Report: USATF-NJ 5k

After running the Self-Transcendence Marathon with surprisingly little back pain, 5 days later I attended the USATF-NJ 5k XC Championship.  Kim, Steve, and I met early to use the race as hill workout. We ran 8 miles before the race, on the rolling hilly course and then lined up in the heat/humid to race the last 3.1 of our day's mileage.  

Throughout the warm up, I felt my back getting bothersome. I took any opportunity I could to stretch in the only way the brings me relief by leaning forward until whatever hurts just decides to stop hurting.   I was still a little hopeful that the race might be painless, as I just managed to run a marathon so I should be able to run 3 miles.

Turns out that was not the case.  I did not run a terrible race. I found a pace that allowed me to run without needing to stop.

I average 7:33 per mile. It wasn't my best experience. The pain is intermittent while running.  I do have some pain free moments still.  But I knew I would need to see a doctor.

The very next Monday I called to make an appointment with a sports medicine and spine specialist.  I wasn't able to get an appointment for 10 days from when I called.  Until then, I continued to run because that is what I do for myself and with clients (while monitoring pain and trying to identify triggers, to no avail).


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence Marathon, Rockland Lake State Park, NY, August 25, 2015.

It is about time I ran another marathon. I like this race.  But it is not an easy event. It is late August. It is 9 laps.  Some parts of the course are very open in the hot sun.  It starts at 7 am so the first hour is ok, but after that it just gets hotter and hotter.

The race is small, maybe only 300-400 runners. The event is directed by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team.  This is the same group responsible for the World's Longest Race (3100 miles around 1 half mile block in Queens) and the 6/10 days races.  Despite its small size, runners from all over the world attend it.

Here is some information about Sri Chinmoy:
"Chinmoy Kumar Ghose, better known as Sri Chinmoy (27 August 1931 – 11 October 2007), was an Indian spiritual master who taught meditation in the West after moving to New York City in 1964. Chinmoy established his first meditation center in Queens, New York, and eventually had thousands of students in 60 countries. A prolific author, artist, poet, and musician, he also held public events such as concerts and meditations on the theme of inner peace. Chinmoy also advocated athleticism to achieve spiritual enlightenment, including distance running, swimming, and weightlifting. He organized marathons and other races, and was an active runner and, following a knee injury, weightlifter."(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Chinmoy).
This year was special for few reasons. This would be Kim's second marathon ever and this time she was running it only as a long run (with the option to stop at 20-22 miles) as part of a bigger training cycle.  It is really a wonderful thing to be so fit that you run marathons just for fun! :)  Alanna was back again this year. She was the person who reminded me about the event.  But most impressively, to me at least, was that Elizabeth was coming along. First, I can't believe she got up at 3 am for this! She only recently became motivated to run long distance. The amount of dedication she has demonstrated, despite some major obstacles is impressive.  None of us had grandiose goals. No one expected an August marathon to yield fast times, but we all just wanted to see what we could do and have fun.

I started towards the front. I wasn't sure if I could even finish this, seeing my back has been giving me a lot of problems lately.  But I was able to race a 5k well, just a few days prior, so I thought I had a chance.  If not, I would like to get as far as I could, at a decent pace, and count this as a good marathon training Long Run.  

photo by Elizabeth Jimenez
As we reach the first bridge, I hear someone say "You're first female!" But of course I think he is either mistaken or talking to someone else.  As I cross the bridge a tall thin man jumps on his bike and starts riding along the edge of the runners.

The park is open to the public so people can do anything they want out there.  I believe it is our job as runners to be courteous and share the path. I expected him to ride in the wave of runners until the path opened up for him and then he would be gone and out of the foot traffic.  But he didn't take off.  He stayed just a few yards ahead of me. It took me few minutes to realize that he was for me!  In all of my races, I have never been behind the guy on the bike!

I was a little shocked because I was not running very fast, as far as lead runner pace goes, maybe a 7:30 pace at this point.  I felt great but I did not think I would hold 7:30s for the entire race. I was sure some other female could.  I picked up my pace slightly, and he looked back. I asked him "Are you for me?"  He smiled.  I said "I think I might cry."

He said, "You never won one?" I have won ultras, and podiumed at marathons, but off the top of my head I cant recall winning a marathon.  In ultras, you don't get a bike escort and usually, it seems, in marathons, the race leader only (usually a guy) has a bike escort.  This made me like this race even more.

I said "No, I have never won one. And I won't today. But I will enjoy this while it lasts!" I led for just over 4 miles before she pulled past me, allowing me to finally relax my pace a bit and settle into my long run.

And then a bee flew under the strap of my sports bra, (a bizarrely timed incident that would unlikely ever happen again) and stung me.   I started spewing profanities and then realized others were near me, so I started apologizing. This event has a very spiritual feel to it, so cursing like a drunken sailor seem to be in bad form.

But I was a bit panicked about this. My father is very allergic to bees, needing resuscitation twice from stings. I passed Eliot and he said "Hey, you are in second place!"  I replied like a crazy person,  "ELIOT!!!!  I GOT STUNG BY A BEEEEEEE!!!!"and then I ran on as I heard him ask "Are you ok?" I called back "If you see me passed out, that's why!"

The loop was small, I knew that stopping would not get me to the med tent faster. If I had trouble there were people everywhere to help me.  I could stop at an aid station. Someone would tell me to sit down and stop running.  I watched the area for swelling.  There was a little.

After a few miles, I seemed fine. A few laps later, I saw Eliot again and he asked if I was doing better.  He is a very nice man.  I told him he was looking good out there and that I was ok now.

Fortunately the bee distracted for much of the first 10 miles.  The weather was warming up, I had settled into a 8:15 pace and felt very comfortable there.  My average pace was still sub-8 as I has a great first 4 miles.  I passed the half way mark at 1:43 and felt like I could hold on for another 13.

I was very surprised to not have yet been passed by another female.  But the race was young and the sun was getting hotter.  Heat crushes my soul.  As I finished that lap, I realized I had "Only 4 more laps to go!"  This seemed not too bad.  

I was drinking at every aid station and pouring water over me.  I had pinned some salt to my shorts, but did not anticipate running while soaking wet.  All the packet had fallen off at some point.  No sodium for me today.  I could have used a little, but it wasn't the end of the world.

As I came around again, I realized ok "Three More Laps to go"  Only in marathon running can "Three Lap to Go!"can seem longer and more difficult to do accomplish than "Four Laps to Go!"  But it does.  At four laps to go, a good race seemed possible, but at three laps to go I was not so sure.

The asphalt path was heating up. The sun was strong. The shade was humid.  My fingers were swelling. My arms were swelling. I wish I had some salt.  I loosened my watch a notch because it was starting to feel too tight.

As I ran, glanced at the ground under my feet and said to myself "I will only need to see you two more times and then we are done here!"  I was working three to go, but thinking about 2 more laps only helped.  Even thought tired, I still had a sense that I could pick up the pace in the last 6 miles.

At 7 mile to go, I could not believe how ok I still felt.  I was not running anywhere near my best pace, but as a training run, I felt awesome.  It was hot, I was tired, I was swollen, but I was running still about 8:15 without a fade.  I was confident I could hammer home something descent.

But then at 6 miles to go, everything suddenly changed. Without warning, I started getting dizzy.  Whoa, where did that come from.  I wondered about the bee sting.  Nah, that happened hours ago.  As soon as I saw the 21 mile mark, I broke stride and walked. Ugh! So close.  I was so close to a good run, but now I am falling apart

As I reached an aid station, I grabbed a slice of watermelon and just walked.  This is just training.  It doesnt matter that much.  I looked around me and most of us were zombies.  I wasn't alone.  It was August. It was hot.

A man in an orange T-shirt connected with me with saying anything.  This happens.  Side by side we commiserated.  He walked near by.  When he decided to run again, he motioned to me to come along.  I did.

For the next 5 miles we alternated run with some walking and pulled each other along. Sometimes I would start the run park… other times he did.  I wasn't sure what I was going to do at "One lap to go".  I wasn't sure I could go on.

photo by Elizabeth Jimenez
How can "ONE... LAP... TO... GO…" feel like an impossible task when just ran 8 laps?  I stopped looking at my watch.  I was sure I was walking backwards in time.  But once I started that final lap,  I knew I would finish.

As I made that final lap, saying good-bye to the hot asphalt beneath my feet and thanked it all for holding me up for the duration, it occurred to me that I had not yet been passed by another female. Could it be possible that I am still in second?  I was not certain and if it was not true, I would not be surprised, but I should have noticed if I was passed.

photo by Elizabeth Jimenez
As the man in orange and I reached a half mile to go, he told me to "Finish it off!" I encouraged him to come. I was so very happy to see that grass shoot to the finish line!  I had no kick.  I did not care.  I was just so proud that I did not drop out!

Elizabeth was at the finish line, taking photos.  I immediate told her that I wanted to see the med tent people for some benedryl.  I have this weird idea that the adrenaline from running might have kept the bee sting from affecting me but now that I stopped I would have a reaction.

I was over heating and feeling woozy again.  At the med tent I meet a lovely women who advised me the my whole world would change for the better if I got in the big green garbage can of cold water, and I believed her.  And she was right!

The event was wonderful for all of us. Elizabeth ran the longest run of 15km.  Kim managed to finish a marathon as a training run with an actual kick.  Alanna was close behind with a strong finish in the heat.  We stayed for some Vegetarian food and left after the awards ceremony.

Stats:
Time 3:43
Gender place 2nd
Back Pain - NONE.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Belmar Chase 5k, August 22, Belmar NJ.

photo by Mark Nyhan (thank you Mark!)
I have not raced in a long time because my back has been bothering me a lot, mostly when running, and I did not want to waist the money.  There was a marathon I wanted to run on Aug 25 as a glorified LR. Before I made the trip out there, I needed to test out how my back felt in a race.   

Back Pain: The pain is odd.  It takes about 10-20 minutes of running and then my back gets tight, starting subtly on my lower left side and radiating all the way up my left side to just below my shoulder blade.  The muscles get so tight that I cannot inhale or move.  I feel frozen in place as soon as I stop running when the pain gets worse before it gets better.  Once I stop running, I have to slowly coax my spine into allowing me to roll forward.  When I get my head all the way forward, the muscle spasm stops, and the pain resolves.  I can start running again.  It may happen all over again, several times in a row, or not.  Usually I have more trouble with shorter easier running?  Faster running hurts less.  Long Runs will happen as long as I stop to stretch it out in the early miles, because the pain come mostly during the first 9-10 miles and then it seems to get better for the second half.  Hill work is ok, even though much our warm up is slow and it usually does not hurt during slower running. Sometimes the same pace I am run on Fridays for a shorter run will hurt a lot, but not on a Sunday, when the distance is 2x as far?  I find that Friday and Saturdays tend to be my worst days, which makes me wonder if the chairs I sit in at work are part of the problem since I tend to sit longer on Thursdays and Fridays. The longer I sit the day before the worse I suspect my back will feel.  I tried many adjustments.  I use a foot stool.  I saw a chiropractor.  I also feel my drivers seat is not helping my back. I have not found a comfortable setting. And then every once in while I might wake up at night in pain, but this is rare. So right now I am just training when I can and resting when I need to.  This has been going on since May. 

Belmar 5k and Meb.  OMG, he is going to be at the race! 
I like Belmar.  Kim and I train there regularly.  It is a wonderful location for a Long Run.  

Because I registered last minute and then read the entire pre-race email quickly the night before apparently in a daze.  Maybe I read every other word because I was pretty sure that Meb was going to be talking at 7:30 after the kids races.  I told Kim that parking would like be crazy and I wanted to get there by 7 am.  If Meb was talking I wanted to be there! I was sure parking was going to be a train wreck.  Kim and I have trouble finding parking on the weekends just for long runs.  With a big race happening it had to be bad.  We parked almost a mile a way, at the location where the post-race party was supposed to take place.  We used our run/walk from the car to the starting area as our warm up.  I was so confused to not see some huge crowd of runners gathering at the finish area at 7:30.  And then we learned that I cannot read.  Meb was there "virtually"…  the night before … at 7:30 pm after the kid's races… not this morning.  LOL!   

Friends.
Racing is more than just about running for me.  I realized that by not racing, I have been missing seeing a lot of people.  It was good to spend some time in person with people I talk with often through technology.   It felt nice to not be in a rush to get work done and to be able to make time to just hang out after the race. 

Rich,  Kim, Elizabeth, me, and Anthony
 
The Race.
I must admit I was very anxious about Belmar.  How far would I get before my back quit on me?  

As I lined up to start,  I noticed the flags. We would have a tail wind on the way out and head wind on the way back.  I decided to take advantage of the wind assisted start and get out fast.  This way maybe I could be closer to finishing if my back quit on me.  M1 6:19

Ok, that was faster than I thought I could run. I was surprised that I felt so good.  Much better than I have ever felt at this pace.  This could turn out to be a great race!  I settled down a little, hoping to save something for the final mile into the wind. M2: 6:26

As we turn into the final mile, I realize I am in trouble.  I am starting to get tired and I can't find another gear. Oh boy, there is just nothing!  At 2.4 miles, I start to feel the dull ache start in my lower back.  I can feel the wind the we are running into working against me. I am not well as well trained as I was at this time last year. I have not used a final gear in a long time. My back feels tired but it is really not holding me back.  I simply just ran out of steam and faded in to the finish. M3 6:54 with 48 seconds for the last .12.  

This was not my best performance, but I was really there to test my back out and it felt a millions times better than I thought it would! So despite the final mile not going as well as I had hoped it would, I am very happy with this race. 

Stats
Time: 20:28
OA: 161/1147
Gender:  26?
Age: 2/59

Sunday, August 23, 2015

July and August Update

It has been a while since I last posted a race report.  It bothers me to not write race reports after each race. This is the first time since I started racing again in 2006, that I haven't written reports afterwards.

In July I raced 3 times. First there was the Woodbridge Run for Pizza where I was 3rd OA Female on a hot humid mid-July night.  It was about one million percent humidity, give or take.  Mark H. raced with me.  We purposely tried to use this race as an exercise in pacing evenly.  LOL! We decided to target 27:00 and hoped to break it.  Unfortunately, we did not reach our goal.  It was simply too hot/humid.  But we did well and both won awards so that made it fun! I finished in 27:44. 

In mid-July, I also ran one of my most favorite races in NJ, Running with the Devil 6 hour.  However this was by far my worst showing at this event.  Running with the Devil starts inside a ski lodge and then we run 5k loops up and down a ski slope.  It is the hardest race I run.  With the exception of meeting John and running with him for many miles and enjoying our chat, I would have said that this race experience was heartbreaking for me.  But I had a good excuse for logging only 12 miles during this 6 hour mountain event before going home early.  I had no idea what place I was in when I left.  But what I do know is just prior to starting Rick asked me if I wanted to go after the CR.  I said something like..."Sure, if I feel good I might be able to try... but I need to finish the first lap in under 45 minutes to have a chance."  Just before  I left, I ask Rick if he had any idea when I discovered the CR was out of reach?  He guessed "The end of lap 1?"  I said "Oh no" and I pointed to the first incline we could see from the lodge.  "Right there, Rick… Right there"  That first incline let me know that I was out of my mind for thinking I had a shot at it. I love this race, but I will never be fast there.

In mid-July, I also started something I had wanted to do for a really long time, return to Graduate School to get a Master of Science degree in Kinesiology (the study of human movement) with a concentration in Sports Psychology. I started with a research class and the work takes a lot of time.  I am so genuinely interested in the subject that often I would rather do nothing else than pull research and learn as much as I can while I have the chance.  I should have never attended Running with the Devil, but I don't think I have ever missed one.  I had a paper to write and not enough time to do it.  Running for 6 hours was not going to help me get my work done, so I left the race early.

A few days later I ran the Westfield Pizza Run.  Clearly I have a thing for Pizza.  Really, I love pizza.  I had low expectations for this event. 12 miles at Running with the Devil took a lot out of me.  This race was Wednesday night.  But once I saw Jim O. my spirits lifted.  I really enjoy racing with Jim.  His love of the sport is amazing and I appreciate how he pays equal attention to the leaders of both the men's and women's races.  If I see Jim en route, he is sure to give he helpful information about my placement and my competition. Jim and I have spent many miles racing each other and I always enjoy running with him.  I did much better than I expected at Westfield.   I was 9th female at this very large race of over 2100 runners in 20:32 (6:39 pace). 

So that is the quick and dirty on why I have not been posting and what I have done.  Basically every weekend, I now scramble to complete training plans and research assignments before Sunday night. It is always a close race.

Now that I am caught up here with and with my school work, I will take some time to draft an appropriate Race Report for the Belmar Chase 5k. Stay tuned ;)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lager Run 5k, Glen Ridge, NJ 6/28/15

Photo by Rich Timlen
When I work up the morning of this race,  I felt an odd sensation in my hip, butt, lower back that concerned me.  I ran 16.2 the day before and didn't notice anything but fatigue.  But Sunday morning I felt twinges of sharp pain when I bent forward.  At first I thought it was my hip joint and panicked a bit. But later I realized it was more likely that something was inflamed or pinched and I was having nerve tingling rather than pain. I really hope this passes soon.  I am not used to having pain.

My last race went better than I expected and I was very happy.  I have been working to get back in shape. I feel like I am seeing good results.  I am back to Long Runs, a little Speed Work, Progressions with a lot of easier paced running.   I am just building my system and my volume first and soon I will add back in some intensity.  The short races, right now, are giving me that element.

As I stood at the starting line, just like I do at the start of almost every 5k, I just wanted it to be over.  5ks are not my best race in comparison to my race times for my age.  They hurt and I can never run as fast with ease as I wish I could.  I am sure I write this same sentence in every 5k race report.

But I know this course well.  I feel like nothing about it will be a surprise to me and this helps me prepare mentally for my approach.  Knowing the course is almost as important as being prepared to run it.

I set out fast because I know 1M lends it self to a naturally fast start. I also know that mile 2 is slower. I take advantage of any descents it the first mile.  I am feeling a little floored by how many women are hauling.  I have no idea how many are in front of me but it is a lot.  I look at my watch and the pace is low 6 and I still can't believe how fast the pack is moving.  I try to settle down to my target pace but still come through M1 a little fast: M1 6:17

In an ideal race I would attempt a 6:20, 6:35, 6:20 and kick hard hoping to sneak in sub-20. I am a little fast here but it is ok.  I feel much better than I thought I would and now I work on staying focused through Mile 2.  I start passing people on the uphill even with the pace slowing. The slower pace is a product of the incline and not a reflection of the effort at all.  The hill starts at the start of M2 and does not last the whole mile.  But it can feel soul crushing after a fast mile 1.  I know we get a reprieve soon and I am just trying to hold it together until the descent. M2 6:38  

We have already started to descend and most of Mile 3 is downhill.  I am running as fast as I can and I can start to feel the wheels coming off.  But I am running fast so this is ok.  My pace is dropping.  I feel like I am getting a side-stitch.  It has been a long time since I have gotten that.  I believe stitches happen to me when I am running faster than my fitness supports.  Today this seemed to be true.  I am passing people and running hard. It feels awesome! I glance at my watch and my average pace is 6:27.  I feel like if I can just run a little harder I might break 20. I know there is track finish.  I am hoping I have a kick today!  M3 6:28 

Rich is at the M3 mark. I remember last year watching Rich from a distance break 20.  I would like to do that today.  But I saw the time on the clock and I was sure I did not have enough time or not.  I decide that slowing down won't get me to sub-20 so if I want a chance I had to sprint.  I feel a person running me down. I don't now if this runners is male of female.  I am sprinting as fast as I can. I know I will get passed despite my effort.  Just as I am getting passed I am relieved to see this runner was a guy.  I can see the clock ticking from a distance .. 19:58… 59… 20:00…20:01…etc.  I am not there yet. I am  too late.   Last .1 in 43 seconds. 

I finish this race and feel a bit shocked it went so well.  I am a little ahead of where I expected to be.  But Lager is one of the fastest courses of the series.

After a few months of down time, where I feared that I might not be able to get my speed and endurance back,  I am very happy to see that my training is working well, at least for now.

Stats:
Time: 20:07 (6:27)
OA place 101
Gender 11th F
10 yr AG 5th 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sunset Classic 5 Miler, Bloomfield NJ 6/22/15

I cannot say enough about how much I enjoyed racing this race.  I was so happy to meet up with Anthony because he make things fun!  He has great energy and such a love for our sport!

My biggest stress before the start, and most likely Anthony's as well, was the fact that I needed to find a bathroom at 10 minutes to gun time.  We knew the port-o-potty line was going to be too long.  I decided to just skip it and hope everything would be ok… but with 8 minutes until the gun, we were warming up and passed a Quickcheck. I decided to see if I could make a quick pit stop.  I am certain Anthony was thinking "OMG, really… we don't have time for this!!!"  But I was quick and we made it to the start with plenty of time to stand around and chat with others.  Thank you Anthony for being patient with me :)

The last time I raced Sunset was 2013 and I was in good shape.  Right now, I am starting to feel really good again!  My training volume is up with out being forced. I met Anthony for Speed Work last week and got to open up the stride for some fast 300's.  I ran 21 miles on Sat and then another 14 on Sunday without excessive fatigue and no soreness. I logged 75 miles last week.  My immune system feels strong. My fingernails are no longer brittle (which has been a reliable signal to me about how healthy I am:  No fingernails = racing is bad… Healthy fingernails = racing is good).

Last Monday I raced President Cup.  I used that race to run hard but to focused on Pacing myself and sticking to a plan.  I ran 6:50 pace with control, but I did suffer a hard fade in Mile 3.  I felt like I hit a wall and was not able to dig there for anything more.  But after a week, I felt stronger.

Today's plan was to target 7:00 pace or better, with the ultimate goal to conserve on the Mile 2 hill so that I could really find a Kick this time.

M1: Gun goes off and I try to count ladies to have a sense of where I am.  I see at least 3 ahead of me.  Over the course of the first mile, I am passed by 3 more. I figure I am 7th. I am remembering my good pace work from President's Cup and I settle in to just sub-7:00 pace.  I am a little concerned because this effort doesn't actually feel as easy as I had hoped it would.  I was concerned that I would fall about after 3M where I hit the wall last Monday.

I know we make a left turn and CLIMB in mile two. This concerned me.  I look to my left and notice these houses are sitting on top of lawns the consist of steep down hills. I make a comment, "OMG, those lawns are so steep they must be impossible to mow. I would just grow MOSS!"… that makes runner near me LOL.  My comment about the lawn was really more about me knowing that those steep lawns represent the exact grade of the hill we are about to run up.  I settle down and mentally prepare to climb.  M1 6:57

M2: We turn left just after Mile 1 and the pain starts.  I let people go.  I feel tired.  I know I don't want to leave it all on the hill.  I think about Anthony and how I told him he should sit back in mile 2 and let people go.  I told him to plan for a 20 second fade. I follow my own advise to him because I believe it is the smartest way to handle this course.  I pass one lady just over the crest. I suspect I am 6th now. M2 7:20

M3: Just like what I told Anthony… as soon as we crest the hill we need to work to get out paces back down to our goal average pace over M3 and M4 and but plan to be ready to CRUSH mile 5 to make up for Mile 2.  I had forgotten that that climb we survived at the start of M2, comes back to us as a descent at 2.6 miles…  This is the place where everything started to go right for me!  A small pack was ahead of me, 2 ladies were in there.  Runners were somewhat conservative on the descent.  I decide to so the opposite and just let go. I run as fast as I possibly can using gravity in my favor, flailing my arms like a maniac!  If my quads hate me then so be it.  This move was amazing and I FLY past at least 6 runners on this short descent. I suspect I am in 4th.  M3 6:44

M4:  I didn't feel like that blazing descent too took much from me at all.  I think, hmmm, maybe downhill racing is my thing? ;)…  Mile 4 is simply not as fast as Mile 3. There is a little inclining along the way that slows pace in the early part of the mile. This mile is hard.  I focus on a few people I know run well that I can see ahead of me and I try to reel them in.  There is one more female in my sight and I want to be able to get ahead of her before the sharp turn on the way to mile 5. I want to be out of her sight at some point so that there isn't a target on me during the fast final mile.  I am not looking back so I don't know if any other ladies are coming for me.  Just before the drop off at about 4.5M, I pass her and again blaze downhill to put some distance on those I am passing. I am hoping this moves me to 3rdM4 6:52 

M5:  I am already up to speed since the very last part of Mile 4 starts us off with a short steep descent.  The final mile is mild downhill to the track.  I feel really strong. I am reeling in men now.  There are no women in sight, but I am afraid to look back… but I want to look so bad!  I am hoping the cheers from spectators can help me know if there are ladies behind me running me down. I won't turn to look.  Where is Jim O when I need him?  He always gives me the information I need to race hard.

I just run as hard as I can and turn on to the track… 3/4 of a lap and I can stop.  I feel good and then with 150 meters to go, right on my right shoulder I see her in my peripheral vision… she was like a running ninja… silent and sneaking up to kick past me with 100 to go… I didn't even her her breathing.  I only knew she was on me once she was there.

I remember the last 100 meter of the final 300 meters I ran with Anthony on the track when we ran a 1:01 300 meter split.  I had to dig hard to pull up on him and it was the fastest my legs had moved in a long time.  I also remember telling Kim during our final kick of our long runs that leaning forward is like pressing the gas, lean in, drive arm, lift knee and the speed will happen…. I do it all and I find that I do have another gear!  Yes! I pull away and she doesn't come with me. I am running as if it was 100 meter dash and I feel awesome!  M5 6:34  

This is the best race I have had since October and I really needed this to start to feel like myself again!  Thank you Anthony for reminding about Sunset. I am so glad I went!

Stats:
Time 34:39 (6:56 pace)
OA place: 27
Gender: 3rd (by 2 seconds)