Monday, September 23, 2013

Newport Liberty Half Marathon USATF-NJ Championship, Jersey City, NJ. 9/22/13

Photo by Elaine Acosta
Today I ran the Newport Liberty Half.  It is a 700 pt USATF-NJ Race series Championship event.  It has prize money and many fast runners show up.  The top male runner won it in 1:08.  The top female ran a 1:20.  To have a shot at breaking into the top 10 as a female, you have to be able to run a 1:28.  I am not quite that fast.

My thoughts about the Course:
First I love how fast the course is.  If you are looking for a flat and fast race, this is one.  If you are looking for scenic, this one has some really wonderful skyline views and a phenomenal view of the Statue of Liberty worth seeing.  However, with the first 3 miles and the final miles being routed through Jersey city streets, under overpasses, over train tracks, etc.,  I don't believe the views are incredibly special.  In addition, the twist and turns as we wind through both street and the park roads in Liberty State Park can add mileage if your tangents stink. I did ok today, only tacking on about .2

Water stops are plentiful, but Gatorade (which I like) is provided only in the middle miles.  Unlike the RnR Half, which had gatorade starting at mile 3, this one started Gatorade at mile 6, then again at 8 and about 10, I believe.  If you are the type of person who needs sports drink early on, you may want to carry something with you.  If not, the amount provide seemed sufficient.

The Weather Trends - Expect Wind
Despite the weather being a factor no one can control, I find that knowing what to expect helps me mentally prepare.  For some reason, it always seems to be rainy or very windy.  The rain may be avoided if Mother Nature is in a good mood, but I don't believe this race is every going to be wind free. Several sections of this run are along the water on a waterfront walkway, where wind is just ever-present and always against us.  In the streets, the buildings block it on the way out,  but in the park and along the water, it is a real factor on the way back. I would like to say that the wind works both ways and we get an assist, but it really doesn't seem to be the case.  There may be a stretch along one short out and back part in mile 8 that is on the water where we get to run with the wind prior to running around a cone and then directly back into it for much longer. This break comes after a very long stretch  where we are running into the wind for what feels like forever.   If the wind isn't horrible, it may not slow pace, but it just adds work.

Besides the prize money for the leaders, this race does offer long sleeve tech shirts, and holds a raffle at the end worth staying for.  Three of us won gift cards of $25 -$50 for restaurants today.

My Training the Day before The Race:
Yesterday, I trained with a TNT runner who was running her first 20 miler.  As an assistant coach for TNT, it is my job to run with our runners, give advice, answer questions, pace them, encourage them.  Well, Kim, the runner I partnered up with was just awesome and we clocked her first ever 20 mile in about 10:10 pace with a negative split.  That is not a "fast" training pace for me, but it is a lot of time on my feet.  As soon as we finished, Coach Sue, Kim, Jess, and I all ran into the ocean for a wonderful cool soaking of our legs, then refueled at Dunkin Donuts.

Because I have been doing depletion training for my long runs, I took in 0 calories and only water as needed during the entire 20 miles with Kim. However, I did want to refuel for the half as soon as I was done.  Bagel, OJ, Coffee and I was good.

The Race:
I arrived about 7:20 for a 8:30 start but somehow still found myself standing in the longest portapotty line on the face of the earth at 8:20.   Last weekend I raced with 18000 people and manage to find a potty with 0 wait.  This weekend I race with 3000 people and all apparently were on line before me!

At 8:28 am, omg, yes 8:28 am, I finally get in and out of the potty, but still have to run to the start.  This is a Championship race and points are assigned by GUN time. This means I better get as far up front as I can.  I am basically running along the fringe of the crowd of racers hoping to make it to the front before the gun.

Just as I get to the front, about 2 rows back, I see Martin and give him a hug... and we are immediately off!

Because we are running through city streets, my Garmin is confused.  It doesnt know it we are running a 5:51 or a 7:48... oh boy.   But this is a local race, and despite its size I know who my "regulars" are and see those who normally run my speed around me.  I feel like I am running fast, but go with it because it feels good and I wonder what will happen with a more aggressive start.  M1- 6:45

We wind through the streets and I feel like I am ok.  In addition to the long run yesterday,  I also ran a PR half marathon last Sunday and everyday in between.  Today I needed to push for points, and to assist my Team, but I was not sure how long I could hold a fast pace today.  Part of me wondered if banking a little time early could help me later when I lose it or whether banking time would ensure I fall apart.  I know I am not ready for a half a 6:45 pace. I settle down and stop running like an idiot.  M2 - 6:59 

Ok that's better.  If I can hold 7:00s for a while, and finish strong then technically I should be sub-7 for the entire deal, right? That sounds like a plan.  I try to sit just around 7's to see how long until my body rebels.  M3 - 6:57

I am trying to pay attention to my competition. After all, I need to beat as many women as possible today to improve my score in the Grand Prix series.  Currently, I am leading the women in this statewide, year long, series but I know that is a product of me racing a lot and I will not hold that position once all those better than me fill up their scorecards.  However, I don't want to make it easy to be passed so I know I don't want to blow up today.  I try to find a comfortable pace and sit there as we wind through the end of the streets. M4-7:02

As we enter the park, I must have been fading as I am suddenly being overtaken by a small group of runners. This race does not have pace groups. There were  about 4-5 people all moving well.  It is extremely early for aggressive moves. The group is mostly men, but there is one female in the pack.  They are not moving much faster than me, so I decide to go with them.  The guy leading the charge hears my breathing and asks me if I am ok.  I hate this part about asthma.  I sound like crap when running hard.  I am used to it, but others often try to tell how to breathe. It is very hard to breathe when your bronchial tubes are constricted.  I manage ok and really the only way to sound better is to slow down and that is not an option. M5: 6:58

As we approach mile 6, the chick in the group asks me my age.  I tell her and she is relieved we are not in the same age group.  She comments that we can help each other.  I love this because, first I really dont mind helping anyone, but there is this incredibly competitive side of me that wanted to remind her that in this entire pack that the only person I am actually racing was her! LOL. But I don't say that out loud because even thought I think it would be funny, it would sound very unfriendly.  But the truth is I LOVE racing and therefore I think it is great to be in a great head to head race with an actual competitor, rather then race guys who are not actually my competition.  She is sweet.  I hoped she would stick around and make me work.  M6 - 6:54

Ok so now the hard part begins. First, I really dislike wind. Constant wind mentally exhausts me as much as it does physically. For the next several miles we will be running along the water.  The view of the Statue of Liberty is amazing and incredibly inspiring.  But soon we get slapped in the face by Mother Nature and her nasty wind. It was not an incredibly strong wind, but it was noticeably and constant and we are going to be running into it for almost 4 -5 miles between now and the end of this race!

We turn on to the walkway at the water's edge and the woman from out pack drops out. We pick up a few others briefly.  I tuck in to the middle of the pack.  An older gentleman, also named Martin, comments... "That's what you gotta do, tuck in behind the big guys" and then he tucks in behind me and comments "Why can you be bigger?!"  LOL.  This stretch is just rough, not impossible, just rough. Our group is alternating leaders, and the one leading the group comments about how the wind sucks.  The rest of us concur.  I know we have to deal with this for most of the rest of the race.  I was ready for this and I work hard to stay on pace.  M7 - 6:55.  

I feel wiped from the effort it took to run into the wind and I am grateful that part of mile 8 does have us backtrack with a wind assist.  However, that is much shorter stretch than the stretch we had to deal with between 6 and 7 and we also have to turn back and double back into again after rounding a cone.  M8-7:00

Once past the 8 mile clock we continue running into the wind along the water for almost another mile.  It is just miles of headwind with nothing we can do about it.  I am just grateful it was not stronger than it was. It was obnoxious, but it was manageable and it was something that could be fought through. M9-6:56

At this point last week, I was just starting to pick up my pace to start my attack on the finish line.  Today, the wind has beaten me down so much, I decided to take another mile of "rest" before I make any effort to try to pick it up, if I even could. My group was now 4 of us.  M10 - 7:02  

As we hit 10, hear someone in my group say, "If we want to break 1:30 we have to move!" I looked at the clock at 10 and unless my math was wrong, I was pretty sure 1:31-1:32 was more likely than 1:29.  I notice Sergio running close enough ahead now for me to reach him.  I never run with Sergio.  He must not have been having a great day, but I decide to make that move the guys were discussing back at the clock.  I assume they will come with me.

I catch up to Sergio and his reaction is just utter joy and amazement.  He is a very lovely person who is always so genuinely happy to see me run well.  When I caught up to him he said with such happiness, "You are going doing so great! You are going to beat me today!" as he started to pick his pace back up.  I responded with "I think I can PR.  Run with me!"  Sergio was up for the challenge.  I also think a part of him really wanted a good reason to pick up his pace and me asking for him to run with me seemed to perk him up.  He picked up his pace, faster than I could go and he called out, "Lets Go"!  I was pushing so hard, but I had not much more to offer.  I kept him in range, just a few seconds ahead of me.  M11- 6:53

We are back in the streets for part of the last 5k.  I don't like this part because just after you are beat down from the wind, there is an incline for most of the first half mile of 11 that feels like a challenge!  LOL  A chick is walking.  I tell her to "come on! let's go" and she starts hauling.  She passes me and I try to stay with her.  I hope she pulls me.  We get to the top of the incline and she start walking again. I feel grateful she was there to challenge me.  Then once again we are running along the waterfront. Wind, Again. Come on!  I am just so tired of the water and the wind. My chest hurts. I am wheezing loud.  Serge is pulling away. I am trying to stay with him.  Together Serge and I are passing lots of people. I feel like I am in a movie.  My legs feel wobbly.  I feel like I might fall down.  I am pushing my pace but the wind is pushing back a little. M12: 6:59

One mile to go and I am ready to be done.  We have to get back out into the street and finally we are out of the wind. Here I feel like my pace matches my effort.  Serge is ahead, I am trying to catch up. He would glance back for me periodically in this last 5k, I knew he was trying to pull me.  I feel like we are in our own race and no one else knows to go with us.  It is an amazing way to finish a half.  I have no idea how much further. I glance at my watch and it says 1:30. I can't imagine having 2 minute left of running. I am sure I will get a new PR but by how much.  (6:44 pace for the Last 1.17)

Finally I see the turn, I sprint. Serge does too. He is fast! We pass several runners on the final kick and we are done!  He was 4 second ahead.  I give him a huge hug at the finish! I am just so happy I PR'd after a hard week, a PR last week, and a 20 miler yesterday.

This race was much harder than last weeks simply because of all that wind.  Without focusing on chasing Sergio, I could have easily crumbled in the last 5k, but I didn't.  It wasn't as pretty as last week's PR, but I ran hard and I am very pleased with my result.

Time: 1:31:25
OA Place: 166/2696
Female: 17/1242
AG: 2/203
Award: Metal
Bonus: Stayed for the Raffle and won a $25 gift card.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Rock N Roll Philadelphia 1/2 Marathon, Philly, PA. 9/15/13

First, I must thank Brooks for comping my entry into this race.  It means a lot to get perks like this as a member of the Brooks ID team.  This does not happen often, so I would like to make sure Brooks knows how appreciative I am.   However, I just was not sure how I felt going into this race.

Last Week:
Last weekend I missed a marathon. Like every marathoner's nightmare,  my cell phone froze in the middle of the night and my alarm didn't go off.  I did jump out of bed at 4:45 with possibly enough time to barely make the start out in PA.  However, I had run an easy-paced 20 miles the day before (I am working on Back to Back LR now) and at the very end of that run I experienced a sharp pain in my left foot.  As I hustled around the house like a crazy chicken without a head, I could feel the residual soreness in the tendons.  Realizing that if it hurts, even mildly, to walk on it then running a marathon surely is a bad idea.  So crawled back into bed and enjoyed the first morning I did not have to get up and go somewhere right away in a long time.  I still got up 2 hours later and when Sidney wanted to take Enzo for a short 4 miler.  My foot did feel irritated during that run and although it was not terrible I knew I made a good decision.  

Missing that marathon, which was really just a long training run, rocked my confidence a bit.  Not only was I now concerned about my foot, I also felt sluggish from taking a lighter week of mileage (60.2 miles vs the 87 miles I had the two weeks prior and the 100 before that). 

Sometimes when I back off, I feel more stiff and achy.  This week my calf and achilles were tight and sore all week.  Very low level irritation, but definitely not 100%.  Because I rested more in the start of week, with lower mileage runs, most of those 60 miles were accumulated from Wednesday onward.   One thing I have learned a long time ago is that if I catch an issue early, when it is just starting to act up, and take 3-4 easy days of running 1-4 miles as tolerated, I usually feel a lot better and can resume training. 

Yesterday (day before the half):
Yesterday, I had only planned to run about 10-12 miles but when the weather is perfect the miles come easy.  I logged 17 miles with TNT, before deciding it was time to go home.  I also needed to take Enzo for his run so that added 3 more easy miles to my day. The rest of the day was spend running errands.  I ended the day fighting my printer to give me a usable copy of all my paperwork for this RNR race day packet pick up, so by the time I got to bed it was 11:30 pm.  I had a 4:30 am alarm set. I was so concerned about it not going off, again. Consequently, I woke up each hour worried I had over slept.  

Today (race day):
In my effort to try to eek out every last minute of sleep possible, I ended up leaving the house 20 minutes behind schedule. The drive was easy but I was incredibly concerned that the lot I always park in would be full.  I like my lot.  It is .75 miles from the starting area. I have to jog up there to get my bib, jog back to my car to get ready to race and jog back to the start and then I usually get a final cool down jog back to the car.  As I approached it, at 6:50 am, it looked ominous but there were a few spots left when I got in there! Phew.  Next time I need to leave earlier! 

(Super Secret porto-potty tip - shhhh! dont tell anyone!):
Once parked, I ran off to get my packet... hoping to find a bathroom with a short line on the way.  I was so late, that the lines were already too long.  It takes a few minutes to get to the Oval.  To get a race-day bib pick up means you have to go to the three different booths (One to check your ID and get a sheet of paper. One to collect your your bib. And one more to get your T-shirt and bag... AND they are not all next to each other!).   When collecting my bib, the volunteer handing me mine was Sarah, who has been a virtual teammate of my on my Tramps team!  What a great surprise! The Tramps started out as a Beginners Running Group where we played a game online logging miles as a team in competition between other teams.  We no longer compete as a team, but we stay in touch via a FB group.  Some runners on that team have reached impressive levels of success! It is really nice to say in touch and was wonderful to see Sarah!

I was worried about time. But one secret tip... everyone waits at the first bathrooms they find.  Keep on going all the up to the info booth and beyond.  Walk all the way into the staging area and continue walking in the Oval and you will find tons of port-o-potties with 0 lines.  Year after year I remember this and never have I had to wait longer than 1 person for a clean bathroom with plenty of TP.   

By the time I had gotten all my stuff, it was 7:15 am.  I still had to jog back to my car, change and get organized, then jog back. I was starting to get stressed out that I was cutting it close. In addition I had to pee again (nerves, I am sure).  Lucky for me there was a port-o-potty in my parking with no line, so I was all set.  I was back at my corral by 7:45.

I knew Susanne was coming to this race.  Back in 2009, I remember walking into the Corral and she was standing right there.  I know her from a running group.  That half in 2009 was a break through race for us both.  We pushed and pulled each other to a 1:34 with us both being around 1:39-1:40 half marathoner prior to that morning!  

I lined up in my corral, today, and watched the entrance.  I was hoping she would walk in and this time see me standing there. I didn't tell her I was coming.  I don't like to clutter my race day mornings with meeting and greeting people when I am trying to focus.  I am usually running late and I have no time to chit chat pre-race.  I prefer to socialize after.  But I hoped she was assigned to Corral 1 and would pop in at the last minute!  I imagined a repeat of 2009 where we would join forces and energy and do something potentially amazing... or blow up trying.  But, not this year.  We were about to start. I was on my own. 

The Race:
Weather: 52-60 degrees, clear. 
Running Gear:  Sports bra, shorts, T-7s. 

Gun goes off! 
I start my watch as I cross the start mat. I get a good start... There is not a lot of traffic in Corral 1. Some people are clearly in the wrong corral, but hey that is part of racing.  I avoid being blocked in, but my tangents are a mess.  My Garmin is going crazy and the data is not helping...I am either running a 5:54 mile or a 9:35???  Mile one comes as my Garmin read 1.05 Miles... But this is irrelevant and the mile markers on the course are the only miles that count. I split my watch at the first official mile marker. M1: 7:09

I am cruising but honestly I dont feel awesome.  My shoulders feel tired, like my arm are just too heavy to carry. I shake them out, but it really doesnt help much. I worry that 20 miles yesterday is going to catch up with me, but when?! I try to focus on one mile at a time.  The crowds help.  I feel like I am in a herd of cattle.  M2 also reads long by .05, again. "Man I must stink at tangents today!" M2: 7:05

By mile 3 I am starting to ponder my split personality of racing.  Sometimes, I show up and run an impressive (for me) race.  Sometimes I show up and just can't perform well at all.  The problem is, I just never know which version of myself will show up on race day.  I would like to think I have some way of predicting this, like on the days I run 20 miles the day before and then try to race a half, things will go crappy and other times tapering will allow me to shine.  BUT it rarely works like that for me.  Some of best races come at the end of a 100 mile training weeks or the day after a Long Run.  Some of worst after a taper... BUT not always. There is simply not a clear pattern. Sometimes I know when my immune system is struggling I just cant run fast no matter what kind of training I have done. But sometimes my race day success is simply random and this suggests that part of my issues are psychological.  So I decide today to not let the weak version come out and play.  At least not now.  Each mile, I battle my internal quitter.  M3: 7:05  

I notice my 5k split is just over 22:0x minutes.  As I approach the start of Mile 4, I hear my name and it Bill W., a runner and coach from TNT!  This gives me a boost.  The downhill part of 4 is also helpful.  M4: 6:58

By mile 5 I am starting to feel tired. I am trying to hug every turn, but the course winds and weaves so I am just all over the place. Split continue to read long.  M5: 7:06

I try to convince myself just staying under 7:10 is good.  However, I don't like fading this early. Some of this is due to the gently rolling nature of the course.  I start doing math and know if I get to the 10k in 44:00 or better I am speeding up.  M6: 7:05.  I hit the 10k mark just as my watch flips to 44:00.  I know I was only a second or two faster, but I will take it.   

Now I start setting goals.  If I can get to 15k in under 66 minutes then I will be negative splitting and only have about 4 miles left and a chance at a PR. I know there is some incline coming as we approach Falls Bridge, but it is not too steep.  I focus on even effort for the next two miles, planning to unlock something as I hit 9 miles.  M7: 7:04, M8: 7:03.

I grab a gel at 8.8.  As soon as we cross the bridge we get a gorgeous down hill to use. I take full advantage and watch the pace on my Garmin fall, but we level out and roll a little.  My mile 9 is not as fast as I hoped it would be, but I am finding renewed strength. M9: 7:01

I dig.  I know I have a shot for a PR. My best was run the week after this race last year at the Newport Liberty half with my chip time being 1:32:07.  I do the math and know that I may be able to break 1:32, but just barely.  It all depends on how far under 88 minutes I am at the 20k.  I dig a little more and then actually taste some of that gel coming back up.  Awesome.  You know you are running hard when you throw up a little along the way. M10: 6:51

Five K to go! I am running well. I am passing people left and right.  This is the perk of a big race!  But I am also being passed as well. I am truly digging and the course is fast here if you have something to give. I fight hard and try not to puke. M11: 6:54 

I pass an older guy and he says, "My legs are telling me I am old".  I tell him, "Your legs are telling you you are awesome and you are almost done!"  A young kid says "Just 2.1 to go!" and then apparently hits his turbo boost, takes off into the sunset and I never see him again! Where do I get speed like that!

A woman in black comes up on my side and says "You are doing a great job!" and then she get a few steps on me.  My inner psychologist picks this apart. I always have odd feelings about telling people I am passing things like "You are doing great!" as I pass them. It seems a little condescending,  like the subliminal message is "You are doing great for YOU but I am simply better." So I try to save the "Great work" comments for those how are passing me (since they are clearly doing better). I try to either invite people I pass to "You look great! Come with me! Let's do this together!" which to me sends more of a positive message. But the reality is I usually simply just say nothing as I pass people. We are all racing. And when I am racing hard I am not both racing and cheering-leading.  I can only do one thing well at a time.  I am not saying there is something wrong with being supportive, but sometimes it is just odd. 

I do recognize her positive spirit and return her compliment, telling her she is doing great too!  She comments back just one more hard mile to go and then the crowds will carry us home.  We hit M12: 6:50 and I push past her!

I thought she was going to come with me, but she did not. I am sure she was close, but I was more focused on those ahead of me.  I hug all the tangents I can because my watch is already reading .18 long and that could mean I am just giving away time.  I work for mile 13 but I feel myself struggling. 
M13: 6:48

Finally, the last tenth or so.  I just want this to be over. I don't look at my watch but I believe I have a real shot a breaking 1:32 for a new PR. I kick as hard as I can and finish the Last .12: 044 (6:23 pace).
Garmin reads a lovely 13.29 (6:55 pace) giving me hope that I can actually run faster in a smaller race.  I also know that Negative Split this entire race, running each 5k faster than the 5k before it and I proud!

As I am walking through the finisher area, I hear my name.  It is Susanne. :)   She just ran a great race as well! If we had started together, we would have likely run the entire race together again.  We find out that we parked on the same street and walk to our cars.

Time 1:32:00 (7:02 pace).  
OA: 676 / 18068
Gender: 144/ 11024
AG: 18/1846

Thursday, September 12, 2013

In Pursuit of My Perfect Handheld... Part Two

Back in July, I started testing out a variety of bottles/hydration systems to try to find one I really love.

All the products were bought by me and I have no financial interest in any of this. I just want to not hate my run while carrying fluids when I have to carry my own.  Here is the original post:

My results.

Quick Shot
First my Nathan's Quick Shot is still, by far, my favorite handheld bottle. NOTE:  NOT the one with the pocket. I dislike the way bottles feel in my hand when they have pockets.  But this pocket free version is the best. It feels like nothing in my hand... because at 10 oz it actually is barely nothing.  However, at my smaller size and the fact that I do well on less food/drink than most people either actually need or believe they need, I find a 10 oz bottle very effective for the training runs I do on loop courses or in race where aid is a few miles apart. By drinking up and then carrying 10 more ounces with me, I am usually covered by the time I have the opportunity to refill.

On longer loops, I may use hydration pack in training (or not and figure out how not to die of dehydration), but don't wear my pack in races so I wanted to try a larger bottle or a smaller pack.

In consideration of how much I liked the smaller Nathan's bottle, I tried the Nathan's Vapor Draw Bottle.  Ugh. The shape of the bottle looks, um, interesting.  It looks like it has some well-thought out ergonomic design that might make holding a larger bottle in my smaller hands actually work for me.  Uh, No. No. No. It. Did. Not.  In fact, I have no clue what the heck the designers of that bottle were thinking because the bizarre shape actually renders the hand-strap effective, at least for me.

That weird hook shaped thingy, that I imagined would rest in the space above my thumb did not rest there but rather simply holds the strap out in space in the place exactly where you would want it to be snug... and do to the odd shape of the bottle you can't twist the hand-strap material into any position that makes sense and still stays on the bottle. I have never wanted throw a bottle during a run just to get it away from me before, but this one was on the verge at being pelted just to get its annoying-ness off my person. It has since been sitting on my
kitchen counter taunting me with its fanciness, but I know better than to take it back out with me.  I may find some purple flowers to plant in there. They would look nice against that crazy yellow.  Honestly, maybe a person with much larger hands can make this work, but I have little tiny child-sized hands so this is clearly not for me.

Next, I tried the UltrApire 16 oz.  I had high hopes for this one.  The fact is most bottles are over 20 oz and often I like them best when filled 3/4 or under. This suggested a 16 oz bottle may be perfect for me. But the bottle was shaped like a rectangle?!  This was pretty much the complete opposite of the fancy, ergonomically shaped fancy-pants Vapor Draw.

Why would anyone want to run around with a rectangle in their hand?  Why because it feels awesome! That is why!  However, I am sure this bottle only feels great because I have finagled the hand strap to mirror the Nathan's Quick Shot, so that it has a glove-like fit. You see, the Nathan's quick shot has an opening to slip your thumb through and the bottle rests in the palm of your hand, whether or not your hand is opened or closed.  If I keep the hand strap very loose on the UltrAspire, I can slip my thumb up through the space between the neck and the hand strap, mimicking the glove fit.  However, anyone with regular adult-sized hands can not replicate this magical feat and therefore the bottle does not seem to be so awesome to them.  I know this because I make everyone I run with try it and no one else can do this.

One negative about this bottle is the mouth piece.  It is obnoxious.  It is a twist top with a rubber cover over plastic. The twist is not easy to grip to twist when it gets wet or with sweaty hand.  I end up needing to grab it with my teeth. Somehow, on the first run, I put a hole into the rubber. I apparently have a super sharp canine tooth. That is scary.  All I want to know is where is that tooth when trying to open a freakin gel at mile 18!  The bottle is still functional with the tiny hole, but I am not a fan of the constant open, close, open, close action that I need to use my teeth to accomplish. In some cases the red rubber cover twists, but the actual spout does not open... ugh.

In comparison, the Quick shot has the perfect valve system on the mouthpiece which keeps fluid in when running, but with gentle pressure on the bottle, it shoots a stream of liquid wherever you aim it... sometimes (often) I aim it at John P. when he is being a smartass... or I just punch him in the arm.

UltrAspire 16oz
The only problem with the Quick Shot is when you attempt to fill it with anything carbonated... yes sometimes, I have a brilliant craving for Mountain Dew in the middle of race and try to fill my handheld with it AND then I start running creating a Mountain Dew volcano that erupts relentlessly and excessively out the hopeless valve.  Sometimes I futilely attempt to stop it by plugging the hole with my finger.  That just really makes everything worse!  Regardless of the Quick Shots failure to install a Mountain Dew Saftey Lock, I still attempted to cannibalize one quick shot bottle and tried to cram the mouth piece onto my UltrAspire bottle, hoping to create one Frankenstein-esque perfect bottle... It was quiet close but no luck. It is almost like these companies do this crap on purpose and make it impossible to swap parts! :)

Finally, I tried my Minimist Vest.  It is a really nice product.  The fit was great. The weight was lighter than my Intensity. However the design is a bit odd. The large pocket to hold gear is against our back while the bladder sits in a pouch outside that pocket.  It seems that the bladder should be closest to the body while the gear pocket be outside for easy access, but on second thought if you plan to refill that bladder quick assess may be better.  However, at 1.5 liters, I can go quite far on one filling.

In addition to the external pocket that does not actually seal shut to hold the bladder, the bladder seems to be missing any hook to hang it.  As a result, it just awkwardly slouches into the pouch it gets dropped in.  There IS an odd shaped plastic rectangular piece that could be used like a hook, but it is not an effective hook, on top of the bladder.  There is only a loop of fabric on the pack which would be the exact place to hang something from.  I discover that if I twist the loop, then stick the fabric loop around that plastic psuedo-hook thingy, it will stay put.  But really, WTF?  Just put an hook on it!

Next, if you dont really snug down the entire pack, the bladder will bounce incessantly.  But, with just some attention to snugging up the adjustable straps helps to resolve this. What is great about this pack it the two front closures not one.  It makes it stay in place much better than the older race vest (which I doctored up by adding laces to an additional front closure).

There is not a lot of storage in this pack on the front.  The other Nathans race vest or hydration pack have ample room to store a lot of things.  This pack has one stretchy zip pocket up front, that could hold gels, or a phone, etc...Then it has a small pouch that does not close where you can put stuff you would like to fling haphazardly about the trail, and possibly lose completely when falling down like I do often.  I like to put my keys in there when I am feeling dangerous. Just Kidding. Actually I do stink my inhaler in there and so far it have never fallen out. There are some other teeny tiny pockets for things like magic fairy dust or microscopic but yet important enough things that will save the day hours into a trail run while lost in the woods... I am not sure what I will put in them, but I am sure those who rely a lot on pills will like them.

Out of all the systems I like the Minimist vest the best for training.  I could possibly wear it in a race if really needed, but I would rather not.  I dont like racing with a ton of stuff on me.  It makes me feel heavy and hot.  At the present, I would choose the UltrAspire for racing if aid stations are too far apart for my Nathan's Quick Shot to handle. How far apart is that?  I am not sure.  Depends on the weather.

I am just going to hold my breath and hope Nathans makes the Quick Shot in a 12 -16 oz version.  I dont understand why they can't use the exact same simple design but add a bottle just a few oz larger.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Jimmy D 5k, New Brunswick, NJ. 9/1/13

When I left the house the weather report predicted about 76 degrees (not too bad) but with 93% humidity (OMG!) for this 5k.  This is just horrid!

I was pretty tired from running 21 miles yesterday, even though it was an easy pace (just around 10 minutes per mile). Yesterday was just as bad as today with the humidity building all morning and made those miles tough.

Today's race, starting at 9 am, was oppressively stifling.  It was so humid that I had to take off my calve sleeves because even just that extra layer was making me very very uncomfortable.  I met Martin J. and we warmed up a bit.  I only ran just over a mile before I lined up to start.

This was a USATF-NJ Open Women's Championship race.  I knew I would be lucky to be in the top 10 and would be pleased if I was in the top 20.  The race had 760 runners with 351 female.  Some of the fastest women in the state travel for this race and I never was and will never be a great 5k runner.  Still, with this race being chip timed at the finish but lacking a start mat, that meant it was basically a gun-timed race and that meant I needed to lined up towards the front.  I was about 3 or 4 rows back.

I knew this course from last year and I am not truly in love with it. We start on a mildly rolling descent out... until we hit a turnaround, then return on a somehow super hilly return trip.  ;)  Yes, it is the same road but on the way out the downhills are noticeable, but after running hard for 1.5 miles, the rolling incline becomes tough on the way back.  BUT then we get to finish the last tenth or so on the track.  I do love track finishes!

After the cannon start, I tried to find a fast pace that would allow me to use that downhill but not get me working so hard that I would blow up on the way back up.  I let a lot of people go, hoping they would tire and I could pass some on the return trip. M1 - 6:15

I was happy with that split.  I didn't feel like it was really that fast so I hoped maybe I could hold myself together in the second half.  As we made our way around the turn around, I grabbed two cups of water and it felt so go to just douse myself with one.  I don't care what anyone says about dumping water on yourself in a race being a bad idea, for me it just gives me such a boost.

Immediately after the water stop we start to go back up the rolling uphill and almost immediately I start passing people.  I reflect on my last week's 100 miles of training and realize that already I can tell the hard work is helping me to run stronger.  I know I will fade as I continue on because there is nothing I can do about going uphill, but I just don't want to be passed by any women and I am not.  M2 - 6:28

This last mile would be all elevation gain back to the track and I knew it was going to hurt. My asthma, triggered by humidity and made worse by hills, is killing my chest requiring me to make involuntary whooping noises periodically which seems to open up my airways (while making me sound ridiculous).  I am fading but trying to hold myself together, just waiting to drop a fast kick on the track.  I am still passing people as I approach mile 3, except for the one man who blows past me.  That's ok, he not a chick so good for him!  M3 - 6:46  

As soon as we get through the gate to the track I catch up to Joe and we both launch into an all out sprint to the finish.  I cant recall the last time I sprinted that hard at the end of a race and neither of us gave up. It was photo finish and I wasn't actually sure who won.  According tot he results, I just edged him but I suspect he let me have it since I know he is faster than me.  Last .11 - 38 second (5:39 pace).  

It took me a long time to catch my breath, which is really hard to do when drooling and dry heaving at the same time.  TMI?  LOL.  After I got to my senses I realized that I had just run my second fastest 5k of my life in horrible humidity after a 21 mile run the day before.  I have only broken 20 minutes one time. I will never be a great 5k runner, but I usually need it to be cold for me to run fast for me.

I am really happy with this race.

Time: 20:09 (6:29 pace)
Overall: 50/760
Gender: 14/351
AG: 3/41