Sunday, September 23, 2012

Newport Liberty Half Marathon, USATF-NJ Half Championship, Jersey City, NJ. 9/23/12

So I talked John P. into signing up for this race by making him a bet that he could run a 10 minute PR and if he did not I would pay him $10.

I had just run my lifetime best half PR last weekend at the RnR Half.  There, I ran a beautifully paced race on a great course with no weather issue to contend this.

Today's race started equally beautiful, except for the wind which was going to be an issue, especially for all those sections along and over the water.  I was torn up about what to do.  It took me three years to get this new half PR.  I never run fast in JC and I am not sure why. Usually there is a lot of rain when I run this race but not this year.  So maybe I could run fast.  I only run PRs in Philly and I just did so what am I doing here? Oh Boy!

I thought about pacing John.  I have my goal race next week so racing hard is not be necessary. However, I also felt that it would be better for John to crush this course on his own.  He doesn't need a baby-sitter and I knew he could run fast without anyone's help. He has learned to train well, he is fast, and he is strong.  He has gotten his volume up to his lifetime highest.  He is ready. He told me he wouldn't mind a pacer but he wouldn't mind if I ran hard for me as well.

Finally, I thought about my Do Runners team.  I wasn't sure who had showed up for our women's team.  There was about 2500 runners so it was not easy to find everyone. I would feel bad if I showed up to a Championship Team race, and then ran a slower time that I could have if I ran hard.   So I told John I would go out at my goal pace and if I find that I am struggling and it isn't working out, I may decide to hook up with him for some pacing.

The gun goes off and we are crammed into the street heading to the first turn around.  It was a slow start, but then I was running easily. I saw I was hovering about 6:50-7:00 once I got settled into to a run pace.  The weather felt great and I took advantage of any down hill I could find.  The course was very flat, but there was some undulation to play with.  M1 7:10

I ran behind a few ladies for a mile or two who are generally around me in races.  I thought about sitting behind them for a while, since we were all running about 7:00.  M2 7:03. However, I felt like I could pick it up a bit through the city streets before we hit the windy park.  I new the park miles were going to be tough, so I took advantage.  M3 6:56, M4 6:59, M5 6:58.

At this point, I felt great and knew I was running a little faster than last weekend. I would glance down at my watch and see 6:40s and make an effort to get back to the 6:50's since it was very early still.  I was hoping to have something left to give to the last 4 miles that might get me a new PR (if the wind wasn't too bad).

By now we were in the park running on a bike path.  There was some puddles that people avoided, which I ran straight through.  They weren't deep but my feet and the KT tape I use on my Plantar Fasciitis go wet.  I run on the balls of my feet and it works for me.  However, this race had more sharp turns and turn around than most races I run.  By mile 6, I could feel a blister forming on the ball of my foot.  I don't really have blister issues anymore, but they can become an issue at any time.  Today was that day.

Each step I could feel the hot spot getting bigger.  Every turn around a cone or corner resulted in pain and a sensation that I was tearing the skin off my foot.  Regardless, I just ran.  It hurts, but I can tolerate it, and that is that.  M6 6:59, M7 7:02, M8 7:03. 

By Mile 8 we had already run thought one very windy stretch over a unobstructed walkway over the water.  I felt like it was a good part of a mile before we got out of the wind.  I was happy I held my pace, there but I took a lot out of me to work harder for the same pace.   Now at mile 8 we were doing it all over again.  It helped to have the wind assist for part of the out, but it seemed to not be enough to compensate for the wind in my face for the back part of this stretch.  M9 7:08.

One off that walkway, I picked up the pace, but with each stride on my toes, my foot was getting more irritated.  I had to alter my gait completely and sit back on my heels.  It was ok.  It relieved the pain. My pace was fast enough and I felt like I was using fresh muscles.   M10 7:01

Miles10 through 11 was another windy section and I was getting so very tired of wind.  I was running as fast as I could and starting to feel like I was on the losing end of an ultimate fighting match.  I felt pummeled and beat up bad.  It was relentless and I needed a break from it. As we turned into the street I hoped we would get a rest.  Well, we didn't get a break from the wind, but we did get to run back up the one incline I was so happy to descend earlier. M11 7:10 

Ok, only two to go and I see that clock say 1:17.  So I figure I can hold 7's for 2 miles and kick for the last .1 I got a new PR.  I flip my watch to Average Pace mode to check to see if I have a chance at breaking 7:00 for the entire race.   It says 6:57, but I am long on distance, so I know I need to run about 6:55 pace to ensure a sub-7 race pace (once I take the race time and divide by 13.1... regardless of how sloppy I ran that race or whether it was measured long or both).

I try to pick it up and I feel no pleasant response.  I sense I already going as fast as I can maintain for the final 2 miles. It seems too soon to go faster.  I decide to get to 12 and then dig for a kick.  M12 6:58

Ok, here we go.  Last mile and we are along the water again.  I am trying my best but just hating the headwind. But, I am catching women, so I focus on placement.  After all, where you place matters in the USATF Grand Prix series.  I pass a two girls and see another one who usually just crushes me in 5k's.  I wondered what a battle in the last stretch would be like against her.  I know she has more speed than me, but maybe not if she is tired. I reflex on my yearly mileage, remind myself that I am strong.

I work my way up to her over the last half mile. I try set myself up to overtake her if can get just a little closer before the last 10th.  M13 6:55

I pull up on her side and she responds to my presence.  We are now racing. We have one last sharp turn  at a corner, that I know is going to tear up my foot now that I am back up on my toes.  I come off that turn, unfortunately on the outside of her since I could not get past and tuck in before it,.   I dig... hard... and I find what I need.  I am ahead by a nose and inching more. I have the edge now.  But I am afraid she has enough time to come back from my pass and take me back before the shoot... unless I can find just one more gear.

Last .15 (yeah garmin reads long here) in 38.9 second.  I have become a sprinter running the 50 meter dash.  I found that gear and she doesn't get me.  I held her off!

I look at my time and it makes me smile!

New PR: 1:32:07 (7:01 pace) for 13.1 miles!

A few minutes later, I see John P hauling towards the finish and I smile knowing that I have a $10 bill in my car that I will gladly hand over when we get back to the garage! :)
(he left before me, but he knows I am good for it)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

RNR Half Marathon, Phildelphia, PA. 9/16/12.

Woke up at 4:15 to drive  to Philly, feeling unsure.  A long time ago, I thought maybe this race could be a PR race.  After all, with the exception of my first half, I have set all my half marathon PR's on this course and nowhere else.

Some Race History:
The first time I walked into a corral at the Philly Half in 2007 (Philly Distance Run, PDR, back then), I stepped on the course as "Someone who likes to run." But after running a 20 minute PR (1:41:44 at only my second half and the very first time I ran 13.1 miles non-stop), I walked off as "A Runner!"

The next year I ran a new PR at 1:39:32 in 2008, then a 1:34:29 in 2009.  At this point I stopped running the PDR because it conflicted with the National 24 Hour Championship.

I also stopped running the PDR because I didn't want be disappointed. I was pretty proud of that 1:34.  I raced my friend Susanne and we were both on fire!  It was one of the most exciting races of my life.  We ran hard, pushing ourselves beyond what either one of us expected to be able to do at the time.  I think we both set PR's in every distance as we split them, from 4 miles, 5 mile, 10k, 15k, 10M, 20k through half marathon as we when along.  It was an amazing race!

So after a 2 year break, I decided to go back.  I was not set up for anything spectacular this time.  I ran 90.5 miles the seven days preceding this race.  I ran an easy paced 16.6 miler the day before.  I even raced a 3:27 marathon one week ago.

Today's Race:
Today's race was no longer the PDR, but now the Rock and Roll Half Marathon. It was the presence of Brooks Running as a sponsor of this race that inspired me to participate.  I was assigned to Corral 2, behind Corral 1, and behind the Elite Corral. Just before the start, a man dragged a rope in front of me and announced that he was dividing Corral 2 from Corral 3.  Wait? What?  I am in 2, but he just put me in 3.  However, I actually would prefer to start at the front of 3 than the back of 2 so I stayed.  Many others around me appeared to have felt cheated out of starting in their "more prestigious" or "faster" corral, seemed to frustrated and ducked the rope to get back in Corral 2.

The Gun goes off! And all the runners in the street in front of me move.  Overflow runners from the side of the corral file in and fill the empty spaces left from those now in motion.  When all those runners moved through the start, my new Corral 3 buddies start flipping out, yelling GO GO GO! Runners start jostling and many duck under the rope and start bolting towards Corral 2 runners who got those few seconds "head start."

As Corral 3 runners slip under the rope to my left and to my right, and the guys behind me continue to yell AT ME, to GO GO GO, I finally submit and duck under the rope as well. Just behind me I hear the guy in charge of the rope command the rest to "Just Wait!"

I wasnt about to turn back.  Within seconds, I was trapped in the wall of people, many of whom should have never ever lined up in the first wave.

As I watch my Garmin throw fits between buildings, reporting 9 min miles, then 5 min miles, I just ran how I felt.  I hit M1 in 7:20.  Oh boy.  I remember my best PDR, where  I called out our mile 1, mile 2, and mile 3 splits as all sub-7.  Today's 7:20 start did not put me a good place to run the best half of my life.

The next mile was more roomy and I was able to make up some time.  M2 clocked in at 6:50.   Knowing that I was at least sub-7:12 (my old PR pace) helped.  But having only 2 seconds per mile was not enough considering how I faded to a 1:34:29 when at my best.

At this point I began to notice a man sticking to me like glue.  If I cross the street to hug a turn he was right at my side.  If I crossed back, so did he.  We were both seeking out the tangents, so it made sense that he was running the same lines, but he was just so close.  I mis-split my watch at M3, so M3 and M4 were useless to me.  All I knew is this guy was hanging and we had found a steady rhythm together.  I was starting to get used to him.

By M5, M6, M7, M8 I knew I was hitting 7:10s within a second or two.  But at 8.8 we started to head towards the bridge and my guy faded back for a gel.  I pressed forward wondering where he went.  All this time, he was right at my side... So close... No eye contact... No words... and suddenly he was gone.  So sad....

As I crossed the bridge, I looked back and saw him.  I raised my hand, and called out "Get up here!"  He called back, "I'm coming!"  I was happy again!  LOL.

He caught me on the down hill and I said, "We are doing good together. Good energy!"  He said, "You sure can nail those 7:10's!"  I said, "I'm trying!" and then I introduced myself.  He told me his name was Patrick.  I then decided talking was tiring. "No more talking until we are done. 4 to go! Lets do this!"  He gave me a nod and we picked up the pace.  We used any decline, hugged the turns, found the best lines to get through clusters of people.  We moving better than almost everyone around us.

I felt good, but wondered if I would crumble at 10, 11, 12...  I wondered when Patrick would start his kick and if I could hang. I wanted to run hard through the finish. We hit M9, M10, M11 and the pace was 7:05 or better.  I felt good!

We hit M12 and I knew I had more to give.  I picked it up from the start of the mile and tried to hold it. I passed a woman who passed back.  She was just out of reach.  I was trying to get her.  It was like she had eyes behind her head and knew that I was trying and would not let me near her, but was not pulling away either.  I didn't have it in me to catch her.  I felt defeated, but I figured I likely started behind her, so technically I was probably beating her.  And then I saw the M13 and felt a new life in my legs.

There was an incline to the finish.  I felt strong, so I made one last push and passed her fast. My last 0.1 was at a 6:00 pace.  I was proud to not give up a place because I felt defeated.  I dug and there really was something there.  I had more when I thought I did not.

There is no better feeling than believing you are empty and finding a false bottom!

I hit stop as I crossed the line and saw my reward: 1:33:42. New Half Marathon PR.

Once home I got to see the beautiful results of my work today: my masterpiece of pacing --->

661 out of 15,116 OA
128 out of 8843 Women
10 out of 1528 in my AG

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Lehigh Valley Health Network Marathon, Allentown, PA. 9/9/12.

Sidney was supposed to come with me, but as to be expected Air Force changed his schedule the day before.  We are used to this and I decided to just go alone.

The 5k I ran yesterday was exactly half way between my house and the marathon.  It was nice to break the hour and a half drive in to two legs and get a race in along the way.   The expo was on my way to my hotel, so I was forced to stop by to get my bib, stinking and gross from the race I just left.

After a quick snack, I realized I had tons of time to kill and was bummed that Sid wasn't there.  However, this gave me plenty of time to chat and text with Jim Plant about the World Championship 24 hour race taking place in Poland. For the rest of the night, Jim kept me busy with updates, until I discovered I could get info on my ipad.

I was up until midnight watching Mike Morton crush the 24 hour American record.  Very inspiring.

Just before I went to sleep I checked where i was heading, again... double checking.  I was thrilled at first that the Lehigh Valley Hospital was 1 mile from my hotel... until I realized that I had to get to a different campus about 5 miles away.  No big deal. I caught it in time, I just wanted an address for my GPS and after searching around for an actual street address I found one, mapped it.

I woke up early and left for the race... to discover my GPS was not functioning.  I am always afraid of relying too much on technology, so I had scribble out the directions i looked up last night and tried to figure my way there... not too bad, except the route I had scribble out took me to a road where a bridge was out and I had to detour.  Oh boy.  Now I was starting to get stressed... and then the GPS starting working.

30 minutes to the start, I finally arrive.  The weather is cool at 60 degree and I am happy.  The race was well organized with a half marathon, and several relay divisions.  The gun goes off and we head downhill on the road.  The hill was so steep at times it was hard to run as fast as I wanted to.  I clocked a few 7:07's for the first few miles and it felt great.  Once we settled down, I got comfy in a 7:35-7:45 pace for a while.  However at 10 miles we hit the tow path and I was suprised to see my pace drop by about 10 seconds per mile just from the change in terrain.  I was happy to hit 13 miles in just under 1:39 and thought I had a great shot at a great race.

I felt a little wonky as I ran through 14 so I took some sodium and this seemed to help.

Early a girl was running on my butt for a while, just outside of my peripheral.  I thought about pushing the pace but decided I was running fast enough and did not need to drop her.  I could hear her breathing and she sounded like she was working to stay.  When we hit the tow path, I decided to complement her and ask her to join me for some miles.  It is nicer to run together then fight someone for the entire race.  From 8-19 we took turns leading in the single tire track sections of the tow path.  It was fun to work together.

I took the lead at 19 and she dropped back as usual.  However I stopped hearing her and got sad that she was not hanging with me for the whole race.  I suspected she would be back.

I caught up to a guy at mile 21 who pulled out his headphones and asked "How are you doing?".  I responded, "I am doing as to be expected as this point in the race." I was tired.  I wanted to stay positive.  I dont like to lie, so I did not want to say good.  I was bummed that my pace was dropping to 8:15's and my 3:20 was gone.

I was drenched in sweat.  I was extremely thristy.  I knew I was hurting and even thought it started 60's the temps had risen and the sun was warm. I am terrible in warm weather so I was just trying to feel comfortable.  My shoulder blades and the lengths of both arms were painful.  I felt like the blood was not circulating well... I dont know how else to explain it.   I just felt really uncomfortable in my arms, but my legs felt good.

The guy asked me, "I dont have a watch, what pace are you running".  I shared that we are going to break 3:30.  He got excited.  "How close to 3:25?  Maybe this old guy can BQ" he said I explained that we are on 3:25 pace right now as our average pace is 7:46, but our current pace is slower, so if he needs a 3:25 (with no extra 59 seconds), he needed to pick it up.

I told him he needed to push now and use all the downhills he finds.  He asked me if I needed anything he could provide, as he had a hydration pack and some gels.  I just finished my last gel and told him I was good, but that he needed to not think and just run.  I saw the course elevation last night and knew we were going to get a few uphills before the end.  He dug deep and pushed himself and pulled away.  I didn't think I could get back down to 7:46 at this point with my arms aching.  His push was admirable but just not fast enough to get him down to 7:46s again.

He pulled away but hovered for a few miles. And then we hit a very steep brief uphill. Bummer.  I caught back up to him and he asked me if we were on pace.  I felt bad sharing that we needed to be about 6 seconds faster per mile overall, so that means running sub-7:46 to have a shot.   We both had faded to 8:15 -8:25 for the last two miles.  I told him that he cant quit because my watch could be wrong, to the markers could be off, so he needed to just go for it anyway.  Again he pulled away, but I sensed it was futile.

A older man ran past me, reporting that I could walk it in and still BQ.  I told him I already did this year so I am uninspired since I am really dehydrated.  He bounded past me as he shared that he needs a 3:55 so he is all set :)  He looked good.

Finally I could hear people and knew the finish was near.  Up the ramp from the river and onto the road, I could see in the distance the finish line.  I thought I was hallucinating.  I was grabbing cups from every aid station along the way and they were plentiful, but I was so very thirsty.  My shorts were heavy with sweat to the point that it had become obnoxious.  I may need to switch to compression shorts in the heat.  I saw a woman ahead and passed her.  I ran hard to the end getting back down to 8:00 for the last 1.2.  I finished right behind the almost-BQ guy.  He was beaming.  He didn't make it but he ran a 9 min PR.  Awesome.

I was spent.  Grabbed some water and just sat down.  After some time, I saw the chick I ran the first 19 miles with walk by.  I didnt ask her about her time.  I just told her she was great and thanked her for her company and for sharing the work.  She said she faded a mile or two at 20, but felt she got it back together.

It was a good race.

I finished 12th Female in 3:27:12
101 AO
4th AG.

USATF-NJ 5k XC Championship, 9/8/12. Readington, NJ

Short and sweet... as I am whopped from two races this weekend.

This was the first of the two.  A shorty at 5k, but on course where I am usually quiet slow.  I seem to keep my feet low to the ground.  This is an asset to me in long paved ultras.  This is a hinderance in rocky or rooty trail races.   This also makes me feel miserable when running in grass.  As I joked at the race, I feel like every blade of grass is trying to grab me by the ankles.  

In addition to the grass, the 10 am late start in summer heat and humidity made me feel that this was just not going to be my day.  However, I was prepared to try my best and see what happens.

We line up in the field and face a cone way in the distance.  About 250 runners take off, trying to secure a good spot before entering the mowed section of grass bound by generally unrunnable field that would make up a large section of the first half mile of the race.

On the way to the cone, I noticed we were runnin 5:55, but as soon as we hit the bottle neck I was down to 7:00 and stuck behind a row of people.   As soon as I had an opening, I snuck through and finally got running.  I felt sluggish, but clocked M1: 6:38 pace. 

Ok, not too bad, but I was suffering now and feeling the humidity making my chest hurt.  Due to the location of mile two spanning the end of the loop where there was a noticeable hill, and the start of the loop (on lap 2), where we hit the early gradual uphill, I slowed and clocked M2: 7:14. 

Wow, I felt so good after M1 but now I was hoping to regroup for M3.  Knowing I got some decline time and only one short hill left, I just tried to drop some speed where I could and try to hold it together by the end.  M3.1: 7:25 (6:59 pace).

Boy I was glad to be done with that race.  I was drenched in sweat and could feel tightness in my chest that was not very comfortable.

Overall, I was very happy.  Averaging a 6:52 pace for the run made me proud.  I fully expected a 7:20-7:30 average in this race.

I hung around for the awards and then got back in my car to drive to Bethlehem Pa to get my bib for the marathon.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Jimmy D, 5k, New Brunswick NJ. 9/2/12

So I am half-assing the USATF-NJ Long Distance Running Grand Prix Racing Series.  I am sorry, but there is really no other way to describe my barely-there participation in this year long challenge.  The series is incredibly well done and I don't know if other states do such a wonderful job getting racing to be a statewide competition.  (In my defense, I am racing more marathons and ultras and trying to do well there, so I have a good reason... I think).

The way the series works is first you must join USATF and you are automatically entered in the competition.  Every month throughout the state there are many options for races that are part of the series.  Most races have 500 points, but only a few are championship races worth 700 points.

Races are divided into 3 categories. Shorter races I believe 4 miles and under.  Middle distance under 15k through over 4 miles.  Category 3 is 15k and up... (or something like that... what do you expect from me?  I already admitted to half-assing this).

You get to count your best three races in each category.  You can only count two 700 points races if you got 'em.  There are not a lot of 700 points races, so they tend to be big and competitive.  If you win a race you get the max points.  Otherwise there is some convoluted algorithm that counts of the number of each gender in the race and then divides the point evenly through out the field, keeping in consideration that the points have a floor... you can't earn less that 100 points.  Ok confused yet.  It is really not that hard... you just race every weekend, show up at all the 700 points races you can, run all difference distances, spend like $1200 on race fees and you are bound to do well in your category and earn back that $125 prize money ;)... or something like that.

To cherry pick a good series race, you want to run towards the front of the biggest races you can find, so you get the most points despite your placement.  A good plan is to have all you slower friends of the same gender as you show up and jog behind you ;)  A HUGE race could spread out fractions of points per placement, so you can place, for example, 5th and still get near maximum points.  A small race spread out the point in larger chunks, so a 5th place finish there will not be as valuable.  I used to be a really good cherrypicker :) but now I am lucky if I show up at a race I need.  Cherry picking is really an art and involves lots of research.  And despite it seeming shady to some, racing a well picked race is still racing and when a prize money (equally a fraction of the cost of your actual race fees) is involved I am going to use my feet and my brain to get to the top of my category whenever I can. :) All is fair is love and Grand Prix Racing ;)


Today was the Jimmy D Master's Team Championship worth 700 points in Cat 1.  I have three 500 points races in Category 1.  I did well in them, but without two 700 points races, I might as well have jogged them in.  I will never move up.  I showed up today hoping that I get some points.

However yesterday I ran 20 miles at 8:56 pace on a very warm humid day.  I lost a lot of weight and felt really odd after.  I rehydrated and decided this morning to get out the door and race. One mile at a time was my plan and we will see how it goes.

Gun goes off and the race starts off heading pretty much down hill.  Not a steep downhill, but enough to pick up some speed.  I looked down and realized I was sub-6.  I thought of John Phelan and our track practices ("Practice"- I got that right, right Jim O!?) and how we try to keep our intervals sub-6.  However, this was not track practice and I had a ways to go.  I settled down and tried to "rest" during this part by using gravity but not taking advantage too much.  I hit M1 in 6:29.

I was ok with that.  We were still headed downhill, on this long straight road. I could see the guys coming back towards me already.  The turn around was at the bottom of the "hill" (a decline which did have some flat parts, but seem primarily a decline).

I knew I was going to hate the return trip.

The gradual UP was not very steep, but it was gradually up or flat the entire way back.  I hit M2 in 6:49,  and could feel a female runner making a move on my shoulder.  She passed me.  I sat.  I was not thrilled with the idea of racing the last 1.1 mile up the inclined road drenched in sweat and overheating.  My asthma was killing me.  I was Whooping to clear my lungs, which just happens to help, but makes me sound like I am REALLY REALLY HAPPY to be racing a 5k!  People Whoop back at me often.  I tried to give them a fist pump when they do that. OMG, WTF and LOL all at the same time (Right, Jimbo Plant? ;) )

The runner made a great effort, but it was tough.  I keep pushing and crested one of the little peaks of up hill rollers and make a push on a flat ... to the best of my ability... which was really most like slow motion racing in a swamp of dampness.  I managed to move past her and wondered if she was sitting on me now? How long now until she blasts on by.

I was hurting by the time I had half mile to go.  My legs were dead and I had no kick.  My lungs were on fire.  I was all Whooped out.  What can I expect after a LR yesterday.  Truly, I was surprised I held it together this long!

We finished on the track and I was happy for a least a bit of flatness.  I tried to kick and I had nothing to give for a quarter mile.  I decided to wait.  I thought we had to go all the way around, then noticed that the finish was half way.  I kicked too late with whatever I could find.  Oops.  M3 and the .1 averaged 6:53 pace.  

Not too bad.  20:54 for the day.  One of my better 5k's.  I do NOT claim to be a good 5k runner.  I wish I could find more speed.  I keep looking, but I just can't find it.  I was a 61-64 second 400 meter runner in high school.  That suggests I might have more fast twitcher hiding somewhere, but they have rebelled, moved on, retired?  who knows?  Maybe they have been beaten down by my slow twitches. This leaves me standing at the start of every 5k more terrified than lining up for a 50k.  Maybe someday I will be less afraid and then I will run faster ... maybe not.

So the Stats:
87 Overall of 747 runners
10th Female of 315 runners
1 AG of 44 total (one being ahead of me in the top 3)