Tuesday, February 24, 2009


This past Sunday was the first long run for the half-marathon training program. I was to complete six miles, with my split times averaging 8 minutes 23 seconds per split. I was not worried about the mileage, but I was a bit doubtful about my split times. On a treadmill, this would be very easy to control. But, as you all know my hatred for treadmills, I always do long runs outside. I almost always run an average split of 8 minutes and 34 seconds on these runs, it's my "I feel like I could run forever" pace. Knocking-off 11 seconds per mile seemed a bit daunting.

I slept in a little later than normal on Sunday and, quite honestly, had to drag myself out of bed. The last thing I wanted to do was run. My body felt worn-down from the past week and my stomach was churning with the anxiety of an unsettled argument with Mike. The bleakness of the sky certainly wasn't helping matters.

The first mile to Central Park was tough. The air felt almost as heavy as my legs; I had overdressed for the run and felt clammy. I kept thinking about the argument. All my thoughts and things I hadn't said seemed to collect as a large lump in my throat.

With mile one completed, I turned left into Central Park. It began to drizzle. For some, this would have been cause to turn around and forget their run, but I have always loved running in the rain. And today, with the cool, soft rain drops kissing my cheeks, it felt extra special. It was mimicking my mood and, in a city that can often leave you feeling a bit lonely, it was nice to have the company.

The lump in my throat began to melt away and suddenly I didn't even feel like I was running anymore. My mind was lifted to place where it didn't need to encourage my legs to keep moving. Somehow, my body was moving effortlessly, affording my mind the opportunity to escape to some other place entirely.

I wish I could say things were perfectly clear at the end of those six miles and I had thought of the perfect way to communicate why I was upset. In all truthfulness, things still seemed a bit hazy and it still took some time to put everything into words. What those six miles did was give me the confidence and energy I was lacking in tackling a problem.

They made me realize that maybe Mike wasn't just being a dense-pain-in-the-butt, but maybe I hadn't made my point clear enough. This time, everything was put on the table, and some things were presented in new ways. My effort was validated with a "Eureka!" moment, where I swear I saw a cartoon light-bulb glow above Mike's head. Argument solved.

Oh, I finished the six miles in 50 minutes and 23 seconds. Average splits? 8 minutes and 23 seconds. Maybe I all I really needed was a little bit of faith.

Monday, February 16, 2009

10 Weeks and Counting

Today marked the beginning of my half-marathon training program. I have spent the last few weeks researching and evaluating training programs in attempts to find one that would fit into my schedule perfectly - not an easy request by any means.

But, I believe I have found a winner, a training program which closely mimics the running schedule I have been keeping for the past few months. There are only three runs per week: speedwork on Tuesday, tempo run on Thursday and long run on Sunday. While the pace you are expected to complete these various workouts is faster than most other programs, it allows for such a schedule where you do not have to run every day of the week.

I know myself fairly well by now and I knew a program that required me to run 5-6 days a week wouldn't last very long. The first few weeks would have been fine, but then I would become bored and burned-out. When it comes to working out, I have found I need variety in order to keep me going. With the program I have chosen, I can cross-train 2-3 times a week, which will not only keep me interested, but also place more value on each of the three runs throughout the week.

Today, being Tuesday, was a speedwork day. Unfortunately, both runs on Tuesday and Thursday will have to be on a treadmill, at least until the sun stays up past 5:30 PM. So I completed the prescribed session - 4 x 400m at 6:37 pace with a 2 minute recovery jog in between - during my lunch hour. After the first 400, I wasn't quite positive I would be able to complete the remaining three sprints, but my body settled into the faster pace and I was back at my desk before I knew it.

I am looking forward to the next ten weeks. I am anxious to discover what I will learn about myself both as a runner and an individual. At the end of the ten weeks, I will have not only completed a half-marathon, but I also will have begun the pastry program and the cold months of winter will be a distant thought. I'm happy to have you all along for the ride.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Spring Fever

I have been looking forward to Sunday for the past week, in anticipation of the warm weather promised in the midst of a cold winter. I had purposely saved my long run for Sunday and my patience was rewarded - I awoke at 8:30 this morning to a gorgeous 54 degree, sunny morning. After spending a few minutes trying to remember what was actually appropriate running gear for such warm temperatures, I settled on a pair of running shorts (!) and a long sleeved t-shirt.

The warm, breezy air greeted me as I stepped-out onto 79th Street. My legs rejoiced as the sun ray's beamed down on them, reflecting their winter whiteness, "Freedom!" they seemed to cry. My plan was to run the full Central Park loop (6.03 miles), combined with a mile each way from my apartment to the Park, I would complete a long run just over 8 miles. I made my way towards Central Park, each step taking me closer to completing my longest run to date.

The runner's loop was absolutely packed when I entered at 90th Street! I had grown somewhat accustom to the solitude that usually greets me on weekend runs in the park. Usually when the loop is crowded, every one's face and attitude reflects that of any other New Yorker - surly and annoyed. But not this morning. Today, people were genuinely happy to be outdoors, soaking up a part of the morning to call their own.

In order to complete the full loop, I passed my usual left turn onto the 102nd transverse. This part of the loop was noticeably less crowded and I began observing my surroundings, as I had never explored this one mile stretch of the loop. I was surprised to discover a stretch of this road resembling my favorite trail run in Williamsburg - I was surrounded by trees and boulders, barley able to make out the buildings beyond the tops of the trees. It was peaceful.

And then I realized why most runners chose to skip this part of the loop - the half-mile uphill climb. It wasn't a steady, sloping climb; it was a steep climb with no relief. At the end of it, my quads throbbed with disgust. I silently apologized to them as I continued along. The hilly West Side part of the loop awaited.

The hills were tough, but my legs and breathing were stronger. I began thinking of the upcoming week; I had some things which I had been avoiding thinking about. Valentine's Day was coming up and all of my ideas, to this point, had fallen flat. I was frustrated, but reminded myself it would work out. I was annoyed the start date of the pastry program had been pushed back until April, as the current program had to be extended due to inclement weather closings.

I allowed myself to admit I was worried about my seeing the doctor on Monday about my shoulder and scared about losing my job in the rumored upcoming layoffs. By mile six, all of my emotions had been examined and acknowledged. I was ready to face the week; just as soon as I finished these last two miles.

My body began to make it well known that it was ready to call it quits. My shoulder was screaming in pain, my left knee and lower back were sore from the impact of the pavement and the bottoms of both feet were beyond blistered. Ouch. I began to seriously doubt all the reports I had read about your body only being able to recognize one pain at a time. But I finished all eight miles in 1 hour 8 minutes and 33 seconds (average split of 8 minutes 34 seconds).

After stretching, showering and eating breakfast, I opened all the windows in the apartment to let in the fresh air and sunshine. After a successful run, I spent the rest of the afternoon baking and decorating cookies in anticipation of Valentine's Day. I adored the color palette - raspberry red, baby pink and white - and thought Elle Woods would be very happy with my choices. Mike walked in and carefully examined each cookie. After calculating the average amount of time spent decorating each cookie (10 minutes) and deciding which was the best decorated, he announced the colors reminded him of Candy Land. Either way, the finished cookies were quite cute and the colors made me smile. I will share photos a bit later in the week.

Around eight o'clock this evening, it was time to shut the windows, as the warm air had turned chilly. It was a treat to be able to enjoy a spring day in the middle of winter. How I am dreading having to wear my winter coat again tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Gridiron Classic 4M

Sunday's race did not go how I planned. It would be tough to say I was unhappy with the results, because I did post a new personal record. I finished in 31 minutes and 29 seconds, giving me an average split time of 7 minutes 52 seconds per mile (1 second faster than my previous PR). But for some reason, the race was particularly tough for me, which is something I had not expected.

I never felt like I really got in a rhythm during the race; my body was completely out of sync. Halfway into the first mile, I developed a terrible stitch on my right side. I used to get these quite often before I started building my core strength, but have not had one in the past few months. I felt like my running tights were tied too tightly at the waist; my left shoe was too loose, my right shoe was too tight.

My glutes and legs felt like cement and my arms absolutely refused to move in a fluid manner. Even my music didn't help, the only thing I could hear was the broken record of my thoughts "Just run...Keep going...Oh God, another hill...Push the pace." The entire four miles was a battle, and while the results were encouraging, it left me feeling completely defeated.

After the unexpected success of last month's race, I quickly realized why runners are such a superstitious breed. It's simple: when something works, you don't mess with it. There are some things have always been constants in my races: the safety pins for my bib have to be gold (champions do not wear silver), the timing chip has to be on my right foot, and two hours before the race I eat a banana with peanut butter and drink 4 ounces of water (any more and it's coming back up). But these things had been superstitions long before last month.

So, I tried to do everything the same as I had in January. My training had gone very well leading up to the race. In fact, I can't recall having one bad or disappointing workout. On my tempo workouts, I was posting splits under 7 minutes and 30 seconds. I had worked up to running seven miles on the weekend and I always felt like I could run longer.

The night before the race, I ate the same dinner, pasta with spinach sauce, as I had in January. But this time, I had dinner after a very heavy, late lunch. I also had dessert; perhaps the heaviness in my lower body was due more to the chocolate pudding than to cement. My stomach felt miserable when I woke up Sunday morning - too much food and too much garlic.

Then I thought about things I had changed about my workouts. I added a spinning class to cross-train once or twice a week. I stopped strength training because of the pain in my shoulder and arm; I was afraid of making the pain worse and then not being able to run. I had also not done the core workout the week leading up to this race. There was not a good reason for this - I was just lazy.

The biggest mystery from Sunday was why my legs felt so heavy during the race. My legs felt like this during my spin class on Wednesday, but were fine for my tempo run on Thursday. I rested on Friday and Saturday, with the intention of having fresh legs on Sunday.

All-in-all, I've driven myself crazy the last few days trying to figure out what went wrong. I know its a combination of things, some which I know and some that I never will. Sometimes, you just have a bad running day. But, it's just usually much easier to accept when it's not a race.

So, I am officially done with trying to piece together what when wrong/what went right with my last race. I posted a PR and I finished 19th in my age group (females aged 20 to 24). Instead of focusing on how hard the battle was, perhaps I should allow it to make the results all the more sweeter.

Finish Time: 31 minutes 29 seconds (PR)
Average Split Time: 7 minutes 52 seconds (PR)
Age Place: 19 out of 196
Gender Place: 201 out of 2504
Overall Place: 1158 out of 5269
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