Friday, June 28, 2013

Sunset Classic 5 Mile, Bloomfield, NJ. 6/27/13

I was looking forward to running Sunset Classic 5 miler.  Besides that hill just after mile 1 (and this is a bona fide HILL), the rest of the course is pretty benign.  I needed a 500 pt Category II race to complete my scorecard for the Series, so this was perfect.

Prior to the start Tom Fleming was introduced to us and his running background shared.  Tom himself, did not say much. Tom used to be the RD of the Sunset Classic.  He also won the NYC marathon in 1973 and 1975 and was also the runner up at Boston twice, amongst many other running accomplishments. He lived in Bloomfield in his prime and he is a local legend.  The last legend I met at the Sunset Classic was Bill Rodgers.  He was such a sweet guy.  I always go back to the Sunset secretly hoping to see Bill Rodgers again. :)

Soon we were off.  I knew I wanted a fast start because the hill was going to kill my pace.  It was not incredibly long, but it was steep and tiring.   I settle into a 6:30 pace and feel that is just about right for now.

A few minutes into mile 1, Beau comes up on my side.  Beau, one of the fastest runners on our team, should not be running with me.  I see him and say "OMG, what are YOU doing?"(thinking maybe something was wrong).  Then I wonder if maybe I am running WAY too fast and say "Oh Wait, What I AM I doing?" (and then I check my garmin for pace and see it read 6:29)... Then I say "No, I am ok, are you ok?" The only thing Beau says is "Have you run this before?" I say, "Yes" and he says "So you know about the Hill?" I say "Yep" and he says "Ok" as he pulls away slowly.  Apparently my strategy of banking time before the hill was the opposite of Beau's of conserving energy for it.  The world made sense again and I watched Beau fade off into the crowd.

We then hit the Mile 1 clock which reads, "6:08" and now I convinced my Garmin is broken and I was really running way too fast and that is why Beau passed me when he did.   However, a glance down at my Garmin after I split it shows the marker was short at .94 (giving me an average pace of 6:31 for that mile).  Ok, that works. M1- 6:31 is fine.

Now to focus on the uphill.  Shortly into the hill, I see my pace fade into the 7's but I am ok with that.  I pass some people but I am sucking wind.  Humidity does not makes hills feel good.  I pass a female and I know I am in 4th place now.  I hope to settle into a good rhythm and save something for the finish, hoping maybe to reel in 3rd place.

As I crest the top of the hill, I glance down at my watch to see how far into mile 2 we were and read 0.94.  Ugh!  I hit Stop instead of Lap.  Rookie mistake! It is not like I just got this watch!

Well, it really doesnt make a difference because the instantaneous pace is still working and I usually dont review my splits until after the race anyway.  I may glance at my watch during races to see what I a doing, but I usually do not run to hit some pre-determined time.   I focus on those running around me and try to make an effort to run hard but under control.  I see the next clock and start my watch there.  M2 Clock-13:10

What? 13:10?...  that is 7:02 from the Mile 1 clock? Wow, that hill kicked my butt!  (Later Beau tells me that Mile 1 was short while Mile 2 made up the slack by being long).

I end up running almost the entire middle of the race with a small pack of guys, with all of us taking turns leading. It was a lot of fun!  The watch fiasco, although not really that important, only acted to make me feel uncertain about how well I was racing.  I decide to forget the clocks or the time.  I hit mile 3 and split my watch.  I dont even look at the clock or my watch.  I just run.  M3 - 6:44

I try to run a strong mile 4 while having something to drop in mile 5.  I am no where near the top 3 ladies anymore.  I can't see them as we roll and turn through the neighborhood streets.  We hit a slight incline in this mile, but I keep thinking about running a Fast Last mile!  I see the one mile clock on the way in across the street, realizing that it is actually the official 4 mile clock.  I split my watch but I don't look at the time. M4 - 6:49

I can see a woman in pink in the distance, but I just don't think I have enough speed or enough time to catch her.  Soon we are directed into Foley Field for our final lap.

OMG, the track is amazing. The cushy spring of this track just makes me want to sprint.  I have no idea if any ladies are behind me. When I had opportunity to see those close behind, I did not see any women, but you never know.  I hear breathing behind me.  I know someone is trying to run me down.  I see the girl in pink on the back stretch as I round the first turn toward the back stretch.  I am moving faster than her.  I dont think I have enough time, but I dont want the guy behind me to pass me so I kick.  The track is responding back, almost encouraging me, all of us, to run FASTER!, so I do.  So does the guy behind me. I am pulling up on the girl, but as I start off the final straightway, she is almost done.  I cant take her. But I don't get passed either which for me is small victory.  I see the finish line clock just turning over to 33:00.  I come across in about 33:15... M5 - 6:35.

I happen to see Beau again (he is just everywhere I am today!) and check in.  He tells me the finish clock is wrong.  What?  Which direction?  He says he has a watch time of 40-ish seconds slower.  Oh, man, really?  My Garmin is off a mile but when I add 7 minutes watch time I get a time about 45 seconds slower than the finish line clock.

I find Jim O. I ask him to cool down with me. We run 2 easy miles around the cushy track and gorgeous new football field lit up by the lights since it was now dark.  It simply looked surreal, like we were in a movie.

Official Time: 34:00
Overall Place: 45 out of 531
Gender: 4 out of 199
Age Division: 1st
Award: $25 gift card (to be retrieved later).

Jim and I cool down while waiting for the awards. As soon as I hit stop on my watch, it starts to rain.  It then rains so hard that all the runners hide under the few canopies still set up to wait it out. It is a deluge. There is some lightning.  We are all in a field.  Oh boy.  An announcement gets made that no awards would be given out.  CCR plays "Who'll Stop the Rain" (which I always hear in my head as Who'll stop Lorraine, as I am reminded of a lady I once worked for). The rain slows up and I safely jog back to my car.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Fitzgerald Lager 5k Run, Glen Ridge, NJ. 6/23/13

Right now my focus is to build volume safely over the next many many weeks.  I have not been working on speed, with the exception of that first silly mile at the 5k this past Thursday.   I was hoping to log about 30 miles this weekend before I got to the Lager Run.  Logging the miles were more important to me than running fast.  I actually only managed 27+ miles between Sat and today, which is close enough.

Today, I ran my first run late in the morning abt 10:30 am, after we took Enzo swimming before it got too hot for him.  It was about 88 degrees when Sid and I ran our 6.5.  It was slow, about 10 minutes per mile.  I was starving after, so I ate and waited a bit before I rounded out my mileage to 10 by running another 3.5, also easy.  After running some errands, I made my way up to the Lager run.

I find running in hot weather really hard on my body (as many people likely do) and during my 1 mile warm up, I could feel how tired my legs were.  5k's terrify me because I get about 3 minutes of running before the suffering starts.  I knew the course was fast, so at least I knew the suffering would be as "good" as it gets.  I was hoping for some rain to cool things down, but no such luck.  South Jersey was getting the weather and I was racing north.

This race is huge. 1148 runners lines up at the start.  I looked for "my people", the runners I tend to end up running with (lately it has been Karl L., Ben T., Jim O. Jamie B. ) and I seeded myself near Karl.

Photo by Mark Nyhan
The Gun Goes Off.
I heard mile 1 was declined, then mile 2 was rolling mostly uphill, followed by a mostly declined mile 3,  ending with about half a lap on the track to finish it.  The course is basically flat with some mild rollers.  Regardless of the road part of the course, I just love Track finishes!

I tried to not make the same mistake as I did on Thursday, by pummeling myself in the first declined mile.  I watch the pace on my Garmin and we are all sub-6. (LOL!)  I try to slow it down and find it very hard to hold back while watching people I run with or that I am faster than pulling away.  I think about being disciplined and I ease off the pace.  M1: 6:20  

As soon as we hit the 1 mile clock we start to go through the rolling mile. The course is not significantly hilly by any means, but mile 2 seemed to have most of the up hills.  I try to stay steady while keeping something in the tank for mile 3.  If mile 3 is fast, I want to use it.

I also want to have something left to use on the track!  There is nothing better than pretending to be in a track meet and running as fast as possible.  I like to imagine I am back in high school running the 400 meters, when I used to run so hard that I would black out at the end.

Photo by Mark Nyhan
I am feeling a little weak and tired in mile 2.  I try to tell myself that it because of the inclines and I will be fine once over them.  I can see two ladies that I would like to be in front of since this is a 700 pts race.  I start to think about my strategy.  They have some distance on me and I know I will be working to get to them.  They are running together.  Based upon the way I feel to have a shot at beating them, I have two choices.  I either have to pass them with authority or I need to get up there, sit behind them, hope I can hang on, and if I can then try to kick past on the track.   As I think about it,  I focus on trying to run a bit more relaxed (since I catch a glimpse of my shadow and it does not look pretty). I hit M2 6:41.

My two mile time is 13:06, which is 6 seconds slower than my 2 mile time from Thursday, where I ran 21:00.  I knew this finish was faster than Thursday's last mile, so as we hit some declines, I pick up the pace. I was told there was an incline again before the track so as I approach the two ladies, I know I need to put distance between us before the incline for me to have a shot at holding my position on the track.  I go for it.  I manage to pass both ladies by about 2.6 miles and now I am running scared, which is kind of inspiring! :)

I hit the track and I can't tell if they are coming on me.  I don't need to look back because I know I am running hard.  Once on the track, we hit the M3 6:27.  

I hear Elaine A. cheer me on.  This is special because I am already in "make-believe-I-am-in -high school-running-the-400 meters" mode and Elaine was my 4x400 meter relay buddy. So hearing Elaine cheer track side was just perfect!

With one tenth to go I run right up on two guys running side-by-side around the back stretch turn.  I have been taught to hug the turns and it goes against my everything in my being to try to run out in lane 2 to pass two guys running the same speed as me. They are pushing the pace so I don't think I actually can pass them and that would leave me out in lane 2 for no reason, but don't know if the ladies are coming up on me or not.   So I start calling out "Go. Go. Go." to the guys I am behind and we all run harder!

Photo by Karl Leitz
From there it is all a blur.  I recall running down the back stretch stride-for-stride with one guy in white as the other pulled away. I believe the guy in white finds another gear at the very end that I don't have and he beats me in. The kick was awesome!  Final .11 in 36 seconds (a 5:27 pace)

As soon I stop, I cant catch my breath. Someone hands me a towel soaked in ice water and it feels great!  But I feel dizzy, I still cant catch my breath, and I feel incredible unsteady. The med tent guy decides I need to be walked over to the tent where I can sit down.  I put up no objection.  I get to the med tent and someone pours two bottles of ice cold water over my head, which helped a lot.  A few short minutes of sitting and I was up, able to breathe and back out onto the track to cheer!

Time: 20:12
Overall Place: 125 out of 1148
Gender Place: 7 out of 500
Age Group: 2 out of 140 
AG Award:  A hefty beer mug. :)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Flag Day 5k, Basking Ridge, NJ. 6/20/13

I havent raced for almost 3 weeks.  I wasn't feeling well, suspecting my immune system was a little tired.  Then I lost my voice completely for almost 4 days. I decided to take some rest.   My next big push for fast races will not be until the Fall/Winter, so now seemed like a good time to relax a bit.

This 5k race was the first race on the calendar for my Veteran's Running Group.  In May, I started a running group that is open to all Veterans.  Each Friday we train together, set weekly training goals, and they train on their own the rest of the week.  On race day, 6 guys showed up ready to race.  We discussed before hand whether they wanted to run as a team or every man at their own speed and they decided that people should go at their own pace.

Because I have done no fast running in 3 weeks and my mileage was lower than usual, I knew I was not going to set a PR.  However, I knew it was important for me to run well, just so my guys know that I can actually run a decent pace and trust my training advice.  Training Vets is hard because the mindset is to push through everything and never accept backing down as an option or a good idea.  Even though a good coach doesn't need to be a good runner, I think it helps me to earn my runner's trust when they see that I can practice what I preach and demonstrate how running easy sometimes actually allows me to run faster on race day.

This race was also special because I would get to run with a co-worker who is an Olympic Marathon Trials level runner.  She usually wins this race, beating all men and women, but today she said she is just doing a tempo run.  I briefly thought, "maybe I can run with her!"... until I realize she tempo's in the 18's. LOL!!!  She did her workout, won the ladies race, and took second OA.  Our staff and my guys all signed up for the same team, so it was a great experience for my runners to get to be invited onto the Staff team for the day.  (My running group is really about stress relief and management, health and wellness, and and about assimilation through group, community, social, recreational activities, since many Vets report feeling like they don't fit in to civilian life very comfortably after becoming a soldier.)

The Race:
The weather was not incredibly hot, but it was warm and very humid.  Humidity is just so tough on race day.

The race itself is an out-and-back.  We run downhill out (nothing extreme) until just before the turn around where then we reach a short steeper incline before we head back towards the long gradual uphill on the way in.  The first mile is quite fast and even though I was warned to go out easy, I knew I wanted to take advantage of the decline to see what I had left in my for the uphill.    M1: 6:08

As we approached mile 1, I noticed one of my guys up ahead of me. I was both surprised and happy to see him running a sub-6 minute mile (granted we had the down hill assist). I wasn't sure how long he would hold on.  We had both begun to fade as we came up on the steeper part of the course just before the turn around.

At that point, I was running next to a guy and my asthma was kicking in (humidity triggers my asthma).  He hit mile one and he asked me if I was going to hold that pace.  I laughed as I told him I definitely would not.  He then started to try to help me by telling me how to breathe.  I just said "I have Asthma, it just sounds bad." Then he looked up and saw the uphill part and said "Holy Crap!"  It was really not that bad, but in comparison to the down hill, it seemed bigger.  Now I ended up helping him by telling him that he could do it, that it was not that bad, and if he slows his pace to get over it, we then get to run right back down it.  He slowed a bit and I decided to gradually try to reel in my guy.   Just as we came upon Mile 2, I caught my runner and told him he was awesome. M2: 6:55

My runner he wants to push the pace, but I tell him to try save a little for the up hill we will cover on the way back in.  The incline is not extremely steep, but it is very long.  As we go up it, he fades more than me.  I try to hold steady as I hear footsteps behind me and I wait for him to catch me.  I glance back when he doesn't and I see it is not actually him behind me.  My guy had decided to slow up a little. I cruise it in since I am tired. M3: 7:06 

The last .14 is down hill into the parking lot.  I pick it up and make up some speed.  Then my shoe becomes untied and too lose to kick in the finish without kicking off my shoe! I just finish it off, coming in just as the clock shifted to 21:00.

I wait at the finish for my guys to finish strong and they do.  I was happy to be a part of their first 5k race. Even the ones that had a hard time out there still want to do it again.  I hope to get them out to a few more in the future.

Time: 21:00 (6:46)
Place: 11th OA
Gender: 2nd Female

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Flight Report: The first ever official "Sidney's Freedom Flight"

(Some Photos: Photos by Liz.  More to come)

Even before we found Enzo, Sidney has talked about rescuing dogs.  Lately, he was becoming a bit obsessed.  If you look at Sid's FB page, it is all photos of dogs in need of homes. There are no pictures of places he happens to be or things he is about to eat.  He doesn't rant about how decaf tea tastes like medicine.  He definitely doesn't post up the miles he ran.  He keeps it simple.  Sid loves dogs. 

I love running and Sid gives me all the support I need to race my heart out.  In return, I wanted to give him the support he needs to do what he loves.  So one day while he slept, I registered for a Go Fund Me page, wrote up a little message explaining how much he loves dogs and how, as a pilot, he can rescue them if we could raise some money to help with the cost of the flights.  I created a FB group to help share our simple idea of how a bunch of small donations can save discarded dogs from being put down.

On May 8th 2013,  Sidney's Freedom Flights was born.  By the time Sidney woke up, a few hours later, we had already accumulated $450 in donations.  Before he even knew what happened, I told him he needed to get to work planning a rescue flight.  In two weeks we had almost $1000 and he was ready to save some dogs!

Sid coordinated with his contacts and was able to locate dogs that needed a flight to freedom.  By June 2, we were officially scheduled to head down to Lumberton, NC to pick up a momma dog and her 9 babies.

Liz our tireless helper ...
It takes a lot of coordination and some good fortune to make sure all the elements for a trip fall into place.  But Sidney worked with  Jim B. (a very experienced dog saving pilot) and Laurie (a tireless volunteer from the Dillon Shelter in South Carolina) to arrange to get dogs from a kill shelter to an airport in North Carolina.

and our official photographer!
By Friday, Sidney confirmed the details and somehow instead of 1 dog and her 9 babies,  we were going for 11.  Then it was 12 and by Friday night we were going for 14!   It is my understanding that all these dogs were scheduled to be euthanized on Saturday June 1st, but because of the coordinated efforts of Jim and Laurie and Sidney and probably many other volunteers, these dogs were given an extra day and chance for a good life.

Friday night I sent out a request for crates and within minutes, I had two medium sized crates made available to me from Janet D'Angelo Moley and Liz Jimenez.  Although we know we can contact Pilots and Paws and have them ship us loaner crates or we can borrow crates from our local shelter for our trips, there was not enough time to get all we needed. We also decided to purchase an extra crate just in case we ran into issues.

"Is this not the flimsiest step stool ever!" LOL
Not only is Liz my very good friend, she generous with her time, a fellow dog lover,  and a darn good photographer.  I asked her to join us and to bring her camera.  She was ready to go with a day's notice!  Thank you Liz!

The Trip!
At 4:00 am Sunday, Sidney and I awoke to begin our day. We had to take care of last minute prep and get Enzo down to my parent house and hour away and fortunately in the same town as the airport we were departing from.  Once Enzo was settled in, we headed over to the airport so Sid could start his pre-flight check and we can load the plane.

Liz arrived at 7:00 and by 7:21 we started the engine.  I posted a link to Flight Aware in our FB group with our tail number so if anyone did wish to track our flight, they could do so with Live Flight Tracking! It would take about 3 hours each way, with about an hour or more time on the ground to refuel, file for the return trip home, and load dogs.

Once in flight, things were looking good until the GPS stopped working. The weather was clear so we were able "fly the airways" as Sid kept requesting when we were handed off between air traffic controllers along the way.   As long as bad weather did not crop up, we would be just fine to continue as planned.

With about an hour to go, Sid checked the weather and saw some trouble ahead.  The last available weather update at our destination indicated conditions that required the aid of our GPS to navigate the landing.  Sidney started planning to land at our alternate,  the nearest clear weather airport where we would need to rent a car to go pick up the dogs.

However, as we got closer, the updated weather report indicated that skies had cleared up and we were good to land as initially planned!  Phew!  Once we reached Lumberton, we met Laurie.  She was very patient with us as we usurped much of her Sunday morning scrambling about trying to figure out the logistics of handling so many dogs.

Puppies waiting in the Shade of the Magnolia Tree
We could not load them up too early because the airplane gets very hot when not moving.  We needed to give Sid some time to do his pilot stuff like refuel the plane and file for our return trip.  While Sid did his thing, I asked about walking the dogs and realized that the dogs did not have leashes or even collars.  (Rookie mistake on our part... next time we will bring leashes!  In fact I plan to order a bunch of these slip leads before our next trip.)

Kelly, Koon, Judy, and Kadie loaded in the plane 
All the pups looked a little hot so I went to get some water for the dogs while we tried to figure this the how to walk dogs without leashes.  By the time I returned, someone from the airport had gone off to find us some rope.  With the make-shift leashes on the dogs, we learned that the puppies clearly lacked leash walking skills and decided that playing in the grass was more important than peeing.

It was so incredibly beautiful to watch the puppies, who were scheduled to be euthanized yesterday, playing with utter joy today.

As a group of dogs, they made our work easy.  They all got along with each other.  The mom (Shelly) was mellow and not upset if her puppies were handled. The 2-3 month old puppies (Judy, Kadie, Koon, and Kelly) were adorable and once they warmed up to us all they wanted to do was play and give kisses.

In over an hour, we had loaded the puppies into the plane, and we were taxing for our return trip.  The four puppies were placed in the cargo area in one crate and all were fast asleep.  Mom and her babies was in a second crate on the passengers seat next to Liz.  We were packed so tight that we could not fit another thing in that plane!

As we made the return trip, we started contemplating our wish list for next time, when suddenly the cabin was filled with the most horrific smell ever.... baby puppy poop. OMG! With no windows to open it was hilariously horrendous.  One at a time, 9 puppies were taking turns torturing us and all we could do was laugh while trying to not to throw up.  As we got closer and started to descend, the hot cabin stunk so bad I truly thought I was going to puke, but it didn't matter one bit!  LOL

Once we landed at Toms River, NJ, I saw a couple standing outside the gate.  As I stepped out of the plane and walked over, the gentlemen looked as me and said "Woof! Woof!", which I thought was hilarious because had I not been part of this rescue trip that greeting would have been very bizarre!

I tried to answer Jim, but since Friday I had suffered almost 100% loss of my voice and I could not speak.  In fact, I had been writing notes all day when I wanted to say something or I had to force speech when I could not write notes.

As we got Jim and his girlfriend over to the plane, I noticed my parents had stopped by as well.  They tracked us on Flight Aware and knew we had landed.  We took the puppies for a walk in the grass and to play a little bit before we had to say goodbye.

We got them into Jim car and off they went for their final trip to Buddy's Precious Angels Rescue
in Albany, where they will be placed for adoption.

After picking Enzo back up and heading home, we finally settled in by 6:00 pm.  It was a long amazing day.

The hand off to Jim B.!
We sincerely thank everyone who donated to our flight costs (Sidney's Freedom Flights) and thank those who already started to donate to our next flight.  With the collective efforts of those who donated and those who volunteered their time, 14 dogs were saved (an unusually high number for one flight).

Thank you!