Thursday, August 25, 2016

Bald Eagle Half Marathon, Callicoon, NY, 8/20/16

We (Kim and I, as usual) planned to run the Half Full in Philly on August 14th, but the race director canceled the Half due to excessive heat. I searched for another half, but in August longer races (unless you are looking for an ultra) become hard to find. On my first pass of the calendar I dismissed the Bald Eagle Half believing Callicoon, NY must be in the middle of nowhere and likely too many hours away to make it realistic. But when I looked again, I realized it was only 2 hrs and 20 minutes away with an 8:00 am start. We could drive there race day morning and that is what we did. 

I found the Certified course map and plugged it in to "Map My Run" and got an idea of the elevation chart. It looked good, like it could be a fast course (mostly incline out to turn around, decline back). Even with this chart, it was difficult to guesstimate how much incline we would face, so I wrote the RD. I was told it was a "false flat"on the way out. I assumed that meant the incline was not very steep and would not really be that noticeable.  

I looked at NOAA to see what the weather would be like in Callicoon, NY. I found out it would be a little better than what we were getting in NJ. This was great news!  The Universe want us to go to this race! 

Unfortunately, on Friday, once I arrived at the park to meet Alanna I noticed I was breaking out in a pressure rash. I wasn't sure how this was going to impact my running.  I decided to cut my training run short at 5.5 miles to get home to take some Benadryl.  I was really looking forward to racing and now something is really going wrong. 

If I had not convinced Kim that we HAD to go to this race, I would have never gone. She had to get up at 3.30am to get to my house by 4:55. We had hoped to arrive by 7:15 for the 8:00 am start. With three GPS's on to be safe :), but with all saying different things it is amazing we got there at all. We drove part of the course on our way to the start and I can say with confidence that "false flat" is another term for rolling inclines.  It wasn't mountainous by any means, but I have run much flatter courses. Some of the inclines would be steep enough to impact pace.

We arrived with 12 minutes to spare, (12 MINUTES, LOL!) and parked right next to the start/finish. We got our bibs, found a bathroom, and literally jogged a 1 minute to warm up before we lined up to start.   I was concerned about my pressure race, but I had to put it out of my mind. No turning back now. 

This race was tiny. Somewhere between 30-40 people only. No one wanted to line up near the front. I decided to move up and when the go signal was given I ended up taking the pace (out a little fast). I settled down. There were just two people with me. We quickly pulled away from the rest. 

We 3 ended up taking top 3 spots.

By the first mile, the woman took over the lead and pulled ahead. The guy eventually moved ahead of me too. I let them go. There would be value in having company to make it feel more like a race and less like a solo tempo, but they were moving too fast for my pace plan. I wanted to just run my own race.

After my recent PR 5k, I set my goal half pace at 6:50. I wanted to sit 10 seconds plus or minus that pace. M1- 6:42. 

The first two miles had most of the elevation changes and turns but after M2 we just settled in for a mildly rolling climb to all the way out to the 6.55M turn around. It wasn't steep but I knew I was climbing. I could feel it in my thighs. I watched the lead lady pull further and further away.  M2- 6:36

In the third mile I passed the guy and ran the rest of the race alone. Small races are mentally challenging. We need to find a reason to keep the pace up when no other runner are even in sight. M3- 6:50

As I start mile 4 I question myself. I was falling to the slower side of my pace plan and my legs were feeling so very heavy. Oh boy, this is way too soon for this to happen. I had a gel pinned to the waist band of my shorts and it was irritating me so I pulled of off, opened the tab. I planned to take it somewhere between 6.5M and 8M. Mile 4 was too soon, but I needed to try anything if I wanted a chance at a good race. I sipped a little and then folded over the top. I carried it until just before the turn around. M4- 6:49

M5 and M6 were steadily inclining and I struggled to stay sub-7. But I stayed positive, knowing this was temporary and I would get a better course on the way home.M5- 6:56. 

At the start at Mile 6 my watch read 7:27. This lit a fire under me. And that was the moment I knew that I need to try my heart out to break 1:30 today.  

The only chance I had to run PR was to use all the descents, run with fluid form, and push hard on the way back. I repeated to myself. "Every downhill is a gift" and "Fast Form."

I have been working a lot on trying to remember to carry my upper body with better form. Less hunching. Less high arms. Less scrunching at the shoulders. It feels unnatural to me to run with better form, but this is really Running 101 stuff. By running smoother my back feels better and even though I feel like I am moving slower because it takes a lot of focus, I am really moving faster. I take off after the turn-around and think. "Ok. 3 miles of tempo. Then 3 miles of progression and I am done." I don't think I can catch the leader. She is so far out in the distance I can't tell which is her and which are runners coming towards me. M6 - 6:59

I pass Kim as she runs towards the turn around while I am on my way back. She looks awesome. In the split second we pass she says "40 seconds!" and I know exactly what she is telling me. I also knew by her upbeat tone that she believes I have a chance to catch her. However, I was not so sure. I was running as fast as I could and it didn't seem like I was making up pavement. M7 - 6:56

I took the race mile-by-mile. We ran passed all the mile markers, so I would multiple the mileage that remained by 7 minutes and add that to my total (to allow for some fade if it happened). At M8, I was happy to see that add up to 1:29:xx (but this is still too close to 1:30 to feel confident I was going under it). M8 - 6:26

As I look ahead at the leader, I swear she is starting to get bigger. But that may just be wishful thinking. I just ran a 6:26, possibly made up some ground, but not even enough to be sure. It seems this may be her day to win the race. But I want a PR so I am not letting up. 

Every downhill is a gift. 
Fast form. 
Watch the arms. 

I hit M9 and I am right at my Red Line, but not really suffering. My feet are starting to get torn up a little from my super light racing flats (NB RC500s) that I have only worn once. But I don't care. I can't let up. I feel like I have invested a lot of effort to set myself up to go sub-1:30 so it has to happen today. I hit mile 9 and my split looks good. M9 - 6:31

Less than a minute later I pass the 4 mile mark and add 28 minutes (7:00 x 4M) to my time at the 9.1M mark (61 minutes) and see I am still sub1:30. But I am not running 7:00s. I am running 6:30s and I feel like I can hold the pace. I also notice the leader has gotten a little bigger. I am reeling her in. This was like a shot of adrenaline! 

I make up a narrative to motivate me. I imagine that she has been running he entire race under stress about losing the lead. I decide she must be exhausted from being out there alone wondering if she will get passed. I think about Desi in the Olympics, running so many miles solo trying to reel in the leaders. I feel like Desi. Working alone. Running as fast as I can with no one nearby, but not letting up. I push the pace. She gets bigger still. It is getting hot. Where there is shade I am happy to have it. M10 6:32

I get lost in internal dialogue for the last 5k.

... I feel strong!  
... Fast form. Dont Forget this. 
... Drop the arms. 
... Feet hurt... badly. Really badly!  Serious hot spots!
... Forget the feet, they will be fine
... Don't think. Just run. 
... You're making up ground. You have a chance. Believe in you, like Kim does. 
... "40 seconds!!!" meant she thought I had a shot... But I didn't believe her then. But now I do. I can do this! 

M11 6:24

When to pass? Not too soon. Don't give her time to regroup and come back hard. Don't plan to hold the lead for any longer than needed. Don't pass too soon and not be able to do it with authority.  Never look back. Pass with a burst. But how long can I burst for. A quarter mile?  Half mile?  The rest of the way in? Can I get far enough away to win even if I fade?  ... Forget all that. There she is. Just pass now. Dont... Look... Back..

 11.9M I pass and drop my pace hoping she does not come with me. 12M - 6.25

Dig! Lift the legs. Push! Is she coming? Don't look back. Don't you dare even think about looking back right now. Can I hold her off? Feet are burning. Just Run. Omg which way do I go? I have no idea how to run this fast and not have someone to follow. What if I miss a turn?  Phew, I have a police escort. The Sherif is leading me. He is leading ME! This is amazing!  I hope I can do this. I don't want to lose this now.  

I glance at my watch. Lap pace. 6:09. Nice! Keep pushing. I don't hear her. I need to cross the street. It is not closed to traffic. This is my chance to check where she is because I have to look back anyway.  I know she isn't on my heels. I see cars letting me pass. I don't she her. 

Only .3 to go. Come on finish line. Where are you?! 

M13 - 6:07

I have not checked my watch since I passed her. I know I am breaking 1:30 but not by how much. I turn the corner. I can see the finish. I can see the clock. 1:27. 

Omg. O.M.G. There is the finish mat. I did it. I broke 1:30... I broke 1:29 and 1:28 too!

And I won the whole thing! I don't care that this race was tiny. Really tiny. I didn't win a tiny race with a slow time. I raced my heart out against competition who pushed me so hard I set a new half marathon PR by over 3 minutes. I ran more than a 2:00 minute negative split.  My last mile was a 6:07. My last .1 (.17 on my watch) was at 5:52 pace. I ran a sub-20 5k for the last 5k. I worked for this. 

I still can't believe this is my new half PR. 


1:27:21 (6:39 pace)

First place Overall 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Toys for Tots 5k, Colonia, NJ, 8/4/16

Yesterday was a good day. Well not 11 years ago, but yesterday it was. This morning while running through the woods with Alanna I realized that yesterday was my 11 year “anniversary” of the day I was diagnosed with cancer.  In hindsight, this made yesterday so much sweeter for me.

Yesterday was also my hill repeat day. I started early with Kim and we ran 8 Miles with 10 x 0.2 mile up and 0.2 down hills repeats (4 miles of hills) on a very very steep park road. I pushed myself hard, negative split the workout, and ran the fastest set of hill repeats I have since we started training the cycle.  I did my XTing as soon as I got home.  
I felt good, but I was tired

Wednesday I got a few new pairs of shoes in the mail. Two were trail shoes and one was the lightest road racing flats I have ever owned, NB RC5000. They are about 3 oz.  It is like putting on some sturdy socks with some grip in the bottom.  I have a half marathon coming up soon and I wasn't sure if those “race slippers” would be appropriate.  

Wednesday night I pulled up the race calendar to see if I could find a 5k to test them out this weekend.  Instead I found a 5k 3 miles from my house that started at 7 pm for Thursday.  I had planned to run a double on Thursday, but my second run was supposed to be more relaxed.  I thought about it more throughout the day, realized the price was low, the race was close, and the temperature was cooler this week than it was last week when I ran a PR in 92 degrees and 1 billion percent humidity. I decided to break some “rules” and run two back-to-back hard works on the same day while wearing racing shoes right out of the box. Hey a double worked for me last weekend so I knew I had a shot at running well. I just didn't know how tired my legs would feel after those hills.

I arrive with about 30 minutes to spare. I see Nuno and force him to warm up with me :)  He accepts without having much of a choice and runs about a mile with me. I see Angela as I finished up my warm up and she gives me the low-down on who is fast. I love how in tune she is with the local racing scene!  She tells me that a fast runner who won this last year is back (Chelsea) and she is very good.  I see a woman who looks very speedy and I ask who she is. Angela tells me she is Amy and she was second last year.  Angela also informs me that there is younger blond girl who looks like she may be pretty fast too. 
What I find amazing is that here on a Thursday night, in the middle of Colonia, with a race of maybe 200 runners, there seems to be an awful lot of speedy ladies. 

We line up in the street. The street that recently had the blacktop stripped down because it was being paved. The surface was uneven and I knew the start would be slow because of that. This would be a good thing.  Slow start, Fast Finish.

I line up next to Amy and she introduces herself, says she remembers me from Westfield and we talk a bit. The lead runner from last year lines up next to us. Amy asks about my goal and I tell her that since I ran a 6:18 pace for the 5k last week, I wanted to start with that pace as my first mile (knowing the course was basically flat).  From there I hoped to speed up, if possible, but if my legs feel shot I may have to shut things down. I encourage to come work the race with me.  She points out Chelsea and lets me know that Chelsea is very fast, tends to starts slow and has a very strong finish. That is good to know. We should do that too ;) 

Half the street is has a mat with a corral, but the racers line up across the entire road.  We find out that they want us all to funnel over the starting mat when we are sent off.  That is going to be tight.  I am one row back I am worried about jostling, but it works out just fine. 

From Toys for Tots Central Jersey Facebook Page
The Marine who was responsible for sending us off after making a speech about how this race raises money for Toys for Tots, gives the Go signal and we funnel over the start mat. I start my watch at "Go" and then I split my watch at the mat to get my Gun/Chip time split as well as a more accurate pace for M1.  I was 1.7 second behind the mat. 

I sit behind Chelsea who takes out the pace comfortably  Amy is right behind me and the younger girl pulls up along side.  We made a small pack in Mile 1 and it felt really awesome.  The pace did not feel too fast.  Our pack of ladies starts slowly reeling in an picking off the guys who all started faster and are settling down. I had to use my will power to not pick it up and to just wait. I checked my watch and I was running exactly where I wanted to be.  M1 6:18 

There are moments in Mile 2 where I get ahead of Chelsea. I know I am running faster than at Westfield. I feel great and I don’t want to get ahead of myself.  She passes me back and I am ok with this.  She is not pulling away from me.  

I spend this mile watching her fluid form and thinking about my own. I need to do better. I have been making an effort lately to try to run with much better upper body form. I put a mirror in front ( well, caddy-cornered) of my treadmill, where I can see what my body looks like when I run.  I force my upper body to relax and get my arm swing to look most efficient. I have spent a lot of miles trying to learn what I FEEL like when I LOOK efficient. Then I look away and my form goes back to "normal" where my shoulders are up and the angle of my elbow is much too acute.  The problem is when I run with form that looks better, I actually FEEL slower and it feels harder to hold (but I am actually moving faster). I try to remember this…. I may FEEL like it is slower and harder but that is because this is  actually EASIER to run with better form so I am moving faster as a result and moving faster is harder. 

I spend mile 2 really focused on releasing the tightness and dropping my arms. I catch myself often and make corrections. I wait patiently for Chelsea to drop her kick and pull away, but she does not.  M2 6:14.

I feel phenomenal. Sure, I am tired. My legs are a little jello-y, but I am not toasted. I have another gear.  With a mile to go I open it up. I pass her and I focus on the guy carrying the flag running a 6 minute pace!  I don’t look back.  I pass him too. I focus ahead.  I can feel that she is still with me but the sound of her foot steps are fading. I try to make an authoritative move now and pull ahead further. Open the gap.  I look at my pace. 5:59. It doesn’t feel like 5:59 so I am going to try to hold it. 

Drop those Arms!  

I may actually have a chance to run my first sub-6 mile in a 5k and it will be in the 3rd MILE of the race… That would make my day! I try to hold this pace and hope that my effort to run as fast as I can is enough to hold the lead. 

But as the mile grows on my legs are getting fatigued fast. I stop looking at my pace and just try to focus on form.  

Fast Form. Fast Arms. Relax the shoulders.   

My legs are giving out.  I cant lift them as easily, but I am still ahead and moving.  I am not sure how much race course is left. I am not looking at my watch, but I think we need to make on more turn. I don’t know why I think that. I cant see clearly. My eyes are tearing up. 

I hear foot steps behind me.  

Please be a dude … 

I am so close.. I think.  I don’t know where that finish is because every thing looks blurry.  

The footsteps get louder and I can tell they are little feet… 

Please be a little dude … 

We start going up the unpaved terrible road to the finish… and there she blasts past me. I have nothing to counter with.  I cant even kick.  I have been kicking for the last 6 minutes…. 

She take the lead and pulls away and that is when I realize the finish was not actually around the corner, but just a little further ahead. Heart-breaking, but not really b/c I just ran the fastest 5k of my life and in the smartest way possible and I had nothing left anyway.  

I am thrilled!  M3 - 6:04, Last 0.1 - 6:03

Amy B (3rd OA Female) and Me 
Time: 19:20, 6:13 pace New 5k Lifetime PR
Gender 2nd Female
Award: Actual Prize Money!  No way!

Not a bad way to spend my 11th year anniversary of Survivorship. :) 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Westfield Pizza Extravaganza, 5k, Westfield, NJ, 7/27/16

It was hot. 92 degrees as I drove over to Westfield. I stepped out of my car and it was incredibly humid. I was not terribly rushed, for once in my life, so I sat in my car a bit before starting my warm up.  I had run a 7 mile tempo with Kirsten in the morning. I didn't have high expectations, but I knew I was planning to try my best.   

The last 5K I ran was at Teterboro, which is pancake flat and on the tarmac of an airport. Teterboro was hot, but not as hot as this race. This race also has some hills that roll through it, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

I ran Teterboro all wrong, but on purpose. I wanted to got out really hard to see how it felt to just push from the start.  I faded in Mile 2 and 3 there, but I still ran a PR in 19:40.  My average pace was 6:19.

At Westfield I wanted to pace better using my average pace from Teterboro as my starting pace with a hope that I could negative split at then end if I could hold it. I had forgotten how hilly Westfield feels when running hard.  Maybe I was just tired from the morning, but it felt hilly to me. I tried hard to get my pace down to 6:19, but I just could not hold it comfortably.  I stopped looking at my watch when the first incline had me much slower than I hoped to be and ran by feel.  I pushed my pace on the descents. I tried to stay in control on the inclines.  M1 6:23

I was running hard, but I knew I had one more gear to dig into. I also knew that shift would not last me 2 full miles, but I hoped it could last me one. I tried to slowly pass anyone I could or stay with anyone moving a little faster than I would move if running alone. I felt great, really strong in some ways, but getting tired. M2 6:23

There was one younger girl in front me. I was going to try to reel her in. I had over a mile to do it. I was ready to go. I shifted to whatever I had left and made up some ground. I had a chance. The last mile felt like the longest mile of my life.  My legs were feeling like jello. Someone call out her name and warned her I was coming up from behind her. She responded strong. I was running so hard I could no longer see my watch. I had no idea how fast I was moving and had no time to figure it out. M3 6:11

The race is big and the crowd is loud. The finish of this race feels like a big event. The spectators are corralled off from the course. As we turn towards the finish, the crowd cheers. It is truly a lot of fun.  

I see the clock. It reads 19:36…19:37… 19:38…. I think “I know That’s not right!”  I can’t see my watch because my vision is so blurred. I feel great! I finish behind the girl I chased, and immediately and uncontrollably YELL at her “Thank you! That was awesome! I don’t know why I am yelling! I am sorry!”  Last 0.1 = 5:50 pace.

At some point I stop my watch and look down and it says 19:55. I believe that time seem accurate. I ask a few people if the finish like clock was off and I am told “Yes!” but in the wrong direction. Those people may have been failing to consider gun vs chip time. 

I scroll through my watch and see I started 3 second after the gun (b/c I hit start at the gun and then lap at the start). I discovered that I also hit “Lap” when I reached the finish line and then “Stop” after I finished yelling like a crazy person at the girl. There was a 15 second lap between those splits.  

No Way! There was a 15 second gap!!!  The finish line clock was correct!  I wasn't sure what I ran but it was going to be really close to a new PR. offers 
which allows you to pull up your race results immediately. But of course my phone won’t allow me to log on to the internet when I needed to. Something was not working and I could not figure it out.  So I jog my cool down and then I try again. I get online and I am thrilled.  

19:36 (New 5k PR) (6:18 pace)
1st in AG