Monday, November 9, 2015

NYC Marathon race recap

New York City knows how to host a marathon.  The entire weekend was an incredible experience and unforgettable in so many ways.   I think if we let New York City run the world, we just might get world peace...they seem to have things figured out. 

The days leading up to the race, the weekend, and the race had so much packed into it, it's hard to know where to start.  I'm sure this will be long, but I don't really think "succinct" and "NYCM race recap" go together. 


I flew out early Saturday morning, met my parents at our hotel, and we made our way to the expo.  The expo was mobbed, but everything was well managed and things moved efficiently.  Obviously it's not ideal to hit an expo of this size up the day before the race...but I happened to be there when all official race gear got marked down to 50% off, so it had its perks :)  

One of my best friends, Kate, came in from Atlanta and we met up with her and her crew for a late lunch, sat and chatted with them for awhile, and then made our way back to our hotel.  I picked a hotel on the Upper West Side to be close to the finish line and it was so convenient for all of the race events - the expo, the ferry, the finish line, and the marathon pavilion on Monday.  We were all pretty full from lunch and didn't need a big dinner, so we got some take-out and I got to bed early.  

Getting to the start line is kind of a full day in and of itself.  You have the choice of taking the bus or ferry to Staten Island, I opted for the ferry.  As with everything else, the organization is impressive and seamless, but it is time-consuming - I left my hotel at 6:00 and got to my corral around 9:00 for a 10:15 start time.  Our hotel was next door to a Starbucks, so I grabbed a coffee, bagel, and water before getting on the subway.

The Start Village is big, but well stocked with volunteers, directional signs, and bathrooms....all of the necessities.  I felt as if I got there with the right amount of time before the start.  It was enough time that I wasn't worried about not finding my corral before it closed or having time to use the bathroom, but not too much time that I was waiting for too long.  I got to use the bathroom three times and never had a line with more than a few people in it.  It was already in the 60s and I didn't need all of the layers I brought.  I shed my sweats before we started the walk to the start, but kept my arm warmers and gloves just in case....I think it was wishful thinking on my part that it wasn't as warm as if felt already.


Staten Island & Brooklyn
We heard the Anthem, Frank Sinatra's New York, New York, and then we were on our way up the Verranzano Bridge.  I tossed both my gloves and arm warmers (I just cut the toe off of tube socks) within a few minutes.  The first mile is almost all uphill and I was happy about this.  One of my big goals for the race was to start slow, warm-up, and take my time getting to my goal pace...and I knew a big hill to kick things off would help accomplish that.  I am never one to remember a play-by-play of each mile during a race, but I remember a few things about the first mile: (1) This is happening!  This is the NYCM and I have been waiting months (years really) to run this.  (2) Pick your head up and look around.  (3) I'm already sweating and it's pretty warm out for this early in the race.  (3) I already feel tired....I'm in the first mile and I feel tired.  This can't be good.  (4)  Think positive things, no more negative thoughts!

I  held back coming down the other side of the bridge and let everyone pass me.  I wanted to know I could hold back and focused on banking energy instead of banking time.  And then we were in Brooklyn and the party on the streets was already going strong.   The course was crowded and that was to be expected, but one thing I did not expect was how crowded the aid stations would be.  They were surprisingly short so you ran into a huge mass of people every mile and it was impossible not to get slowed down by them.  They were so short that I missed the Gatorade cups a few times until I learned that I had to grab one right away to get one.  

I started to feel really good and focused on maintaining an even effort.  I checked my watch to make sure I wasn't going too fast and was usually hovering just above 8:35 - this was exactly what I wanted for this part of the race.  Some of my splits were slower due to getting caught up in an aid station just before the mile marker or because of rolling hills.   That was relatively short-lived though and maintaining the same effort started to become more difficult and my paces began to slip as I neared the half-way point. 

Miles 1-13: 9:28, 8:43, 8:56, 8:44, 8:38, 8:47, 8:38, 8:52, 9:15, 8:39, 8:56, 8:53, 9:29
Queens, First Ave, & the Bronx

As I was going over the Queensboro bridge and onto First Ave, I knew I was losing steam and the race was slipping away from me....and I was actually okay with it.  Maybe the race was predetermined by my mindset, but I had prepared myself to run this race for the experience and not for a goal time.  I did not want to get too fixed on a goal that I would miss the experience if it wasn't my day to run my goal time.  I knew my friend Kate would be on First Ave and I would see her shortly after the 16 mile marker.  The crowds were so deep and I was worried about missing her that I was solely focused on searching the crowds for her and it took my mind off the was awesome.  I haven't had someone to look for or cheer for me during a race since my first marathon in this was just beyond amazing.  I got so excited when I saw her and it was a huge boost for me.  

Then things really went downhill, I knew I was fading, and I stopped looking at my watch or thinking about finish times.  I knew I had to get to the Bronx, then back to Manhattan, and that my parents would be I focused on that.  

Miles 14-20: 9:18, 10:09, 9:56, 9:45, 9:45, 10:20, 10:39

Manhattan & Central Park

I had to stop for the bathroom after mile 20.  I was so hoping to get through this race without a bathroom stop, but no such luck.  All of my focus during the Bronx and coming back into Manhattan was on seeing my parents.  I wasn't even paying attention to the miles, only to the street numbers so I knew how close I was to seeing them.  I was pushing back tears at this point and I knew my parents would be in a place where the crowds were thin, so I figured I'd be able to stop and talk to them.  I had two thoughts: give them my water bottle and tell them to text Brian to let him know I was okay (I knew Brian would be tracking me and would be worried that I had fallen so far off my goal pace).
"There they are! Take my water bottle!"
"Oh it feels good to stop."
"What?  I have to go back out there?"

 My dad was the one taking pictures and told me later he only sent Brian half the pictures because if he sent the others, he didn't think Brian wouldn't believe that I was okay. Brian said he was correct :)

After I saw them, I wanted to get to Central Park.  Kate was going to be around mile 25 and I knew it was a sign that the end was near.  My pace was completely getting away from me, but I didn't let myself walk.  I knew if I let myself walk, things would completely unravel.

Having someone at the end of a marathon is gold.  I wasn't positive where Kate would be since I didn't know what cross streets I was near so I just focused on searching the crowds for her while I put one foot in front of another.  It took my mind off of how much further I had to run and it was wonderful.

Everyone said how bad the hills in Central Park were....I honestly didn't think they were that bad.  I remember a downhill stretch and actually didn't notice any significant uphills.  I'm not sure if it's because I built it up more in my head or if it was because I was clocking 11:00 minute miles, but the end wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  And then I saw the finish line!  Finally. 

I think this sums up how I felt about's obviously a keeper :-)
Miles 21-26.2: 12:11 (bathroom stop), 11:01, 11:12, 11:11, 10:59, 10:31, 4:36 (9:26 pace)

The stats....


I was a mix of emotions once the race was over.  Half of me didn't care that my time was so far off from anything I had imagined and the other half of me was fighting back tears.  I had my phone in a spibelt and somehow it was on during the race (the 2 dozen pictures and 3 videos of the inside of my spibelt were keepsakes) and the battery was dead.  Fortunately I had planned to meet my parents at a Starbucks near where I would get out of the park so I didn't need to call them.  At first I was disappointed that I couldn't call or text anyone and I couldn't look up times for myself or anyone else I was tracking.....but then it was kind of nice that I could just process my thoughts by myself as I made the slow shuffle through the finisher area and could wait to connect with everyone else later.

I finally shuffled my way out of the finisher area with my nice, warm poncho and met up with my parents.   They had spotted a place nearby to eat and had a change of clothes for me.  We finally got back to our hotel, I charged my phone while I showered, and then I caught up on all of the texts and social media messages that had come in since I started the race that morning and was truly overwhlemed.  I honestly cannot thank everyone enough for all of the support, encouragement, and thoughtful messages.


The race didn't go as planned for me.  It actually went far worse than even my worse-case scenario.  Obviously that's a little disappointing, but I was prepared to throw my goals out and focus on the experience if it didn't look like it was my day and that's what I did.  I have no regrets and didn't let my finish time....or the 11:00 minute miles....take away from the weekend.  I trust my training, I know I have a better time in me, and it just gave me more time to really soak in the race experience :)  In a way my finish time made me realize how far I have come.  There was a time several years ago where I had a goal of running between a 4:10 and 4:20 and now that time hadn't even been on my radar for this race even if my entire race plan fell completely apart.  

I think several things contribute to why I was so far off my goal.  Many of them have to do with the race itself.  The NYCM is an amazing race, but I would find it hard to believe that anyone (aside from the elites) can run their potential at this race.  Runners may have a great race, but I would bet they have a better time in them under other conditions.  In my opinion, the NYCM is best run for the experience and without hard goals.

The logistics of the race are a huge factor.  I had three hours of travel to get to the start line.  That is obviously part of the race and part of the experience, but it has to have a toll.  I also got in the day before and was on my feet most of the day between the travel, the expo, and being in NYC.  The race was so crowded.  SO CROWDED.  Especially at the aid stations and fighting those crowds is exhausting.  Finally, I think runners spend significant mental energy on the stimulation of the race, the spectators, fighting the crowd, etc.  I never even really noticed the difficulty of the course because I think I was so focused on so much else. 

It also may not have been my day to run a PR.  I came down with a cold Thursday night and woke up on Friday feeling awful.  My doctor gave me something that kicked in by Saturday so I felt better quickly, but I was a mess on Friday.  As I mentioned, I felt tired in the first mile....who knows if that was the effect of how busy Saturday was and that I had already been up for 5 hours or if I wasn't ready for my best race.  I was happy that I held back in the first few miles and fell into my goal pace pretty easily....for a few miles :)  I was also happy that I was able to keep running and didn't stop to walk.

All in all, the whole race experience was incredible and it was such a memorable weekend.  I felt fortunate to be able to be a part of it and to have the opportunity to run it.  I was also so touched by the support I got from so many friends, family, and readers.  Marathon #10 is in the books!

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Monday, October 26, 2015

NYC: training recap & goals

It's finally (almost!) here!  When I found out months ago that I got into the NYC marathon, I was so excited....but it still felt like a long ways away.  And now it's happening.  I still get chills when I think about it and am so giddy inside.   I've visited friends in the city many times and had the luxury of them leading the way, but I no longer have any friends there so I'm going to spend this week mapping out my plans, figuring out my transportation, and lining up yummy places to eat at.....please feel free to send along any and all suggestions :)

Every training cycle teaches us things and has its hurdles and this one was no exception.  But, overall, this one was a big success.  It was the first time I worked with a coach and Kristy was awesome.  Even though I love creating training plans for my runners and managing the day-to-day things that come up in their lives, it was really nice to outsource that for myself this time.  Kristy was incredibly patient with me, entertained all of my questions, scheduled (and re-scheduled) around "life" stuff, and provided endless support and motivation.  However, one of the biggest things she did was help me nail a nutrition plan that will (hopefully) keep me from having to make any bathroom stops.  I never had the patience to be as systematic as she was about tracking what I ate before and during and making small changes till we got something that worked.  For this alone, I will be forever grateful to her!

Since I didn't get around to posting regular training updates, I figured I would give you a glimpse into my nerdy numbers side that loves data and recap my training cycle with stats:
  • 16 week training cycle (preceded by a base-building period following my recovery from the Bayshore marathon)
  • Long runs ranging from 13-20 miles
  • Weekly mileage ranging from 25-56 miles with 5 weeks of 50+ and an average of 41 miles per week
    • My peak of 56 was an all-time high!  I was scheduled to peak at 60, but my body started telling me otherwise when I got to the mid-50s.
    • The week of 25 miles was a week where I missed two runs, one of which was a long run; otherwise my drop-down weeks went down to a low of 35 miles
  • Over 650 miles by race day 
  • 133 miles at goal pace with 28 of those miles at the end of long runs plus speed work miles
  • 7 weeks of speed workouts
  • 7 runs that didn't go as planned:
    • 4 scheduled runs missed:
      • 2 runs missed early on in the cycle due to travel complications 
      • 2 runs missed later in the cycle for small pains where we opted for rest....and it worked :)
    • 1 run cut short when my babysitter over-slept while Brian was away
    • 2 runs where I didn't complete the workout as intended because it just wasn't my day (one speed workout and one fast finish long run)
  • 14 runs on the treadmill (5 due to travel and the others due to having to fit my run in before the boys woke up and Brian being gone)
Going through all of my training data and picking it apart really opened my eyes and gave me a huge confidence boost.  I would recommend doing a version of this to anyone before race day.  My mind held onto the goal pace miles when I didn't hit my goal, the runs when my effort felt harder than I thought it should, and the harder runs.  Yet, when I went through all of my runs, looked at the splits of my goal pace miles, and analyzed each week of my training cycle......I realized my training cycle went so much better than what was in my head and that I had really nailed most of my goal pace miles!

How I spend my free time :)

My biggest goal for next Sunday is to have fun, soak in the experience, and enjoy the race.  I know it sounds a little cliche, but I'm really committed to this.  There is a really good chance that this is the only time I'll run the NYC marathon, a lot of people are putting themselves out to support my trip and the race (thanks Brian!), and it's the New.York.City.Marathon.....I don't want to be so focused on a goal and miss the experience of running NYC if it isn't my day when I get out there.  

Having said that, my training has been built around a goal of 3:45 and, if I fall short of that, running a PR (beating 3:49:13) would be a great day!!!

Any recommendations for places to eat at - specifically for places that would be good to meet up at post-race and within about a mile of the finish area?

Do you like to go through all of your training before a race?
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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

NYC: checking in half-way there

Oh hello!  It seems as if I've done a poor job of keeping up with my weekly recaps...or anything remotely related to blogging the past few months.  I got my recap of week 1 up, started my recap of week 2....that turned into a recap of weeks 2 and 3.....and here I am checking in 7 weeks later.

I am still running NYC (booked my flights last week!) and have been training.  One thing I realized is that I've never really trained hard during the summer.  I've obviously run when it was hot outside, but not week after week of long runs, speed work, tempo runs, and daily runs in the heat and humidity.  I ran Chicago last year, but we were in northern Michigan for July and most of August where the temps were cooler and the humidity was low.  Then I had to take some time off due to a hip injury when we got back to Arkansas and didn't start running again until it had cooled off here.  The year before that, we got the boys and I wasn't training for anything specific or doing speed work or long runs.  And beyond that, my training intensity was pretty low.

So what does all of that mean?  It means that this training cycle has been tough and it is probably the hardest training cycle I have had since I increased the intensity of my training (but maybe once you do that, every training cycle feels like the hardest one yet?).  We were at the Jersey shore for July and most of August where it was great beach weather, but there were some hot and humid runs...and some of the earliest runs I've ever done outside.  Then we got back to Arkansas and, well, it's Arkansas....I'm sure fall weather is on its way, but it hasn't gotten here yet and it's HOT.   It hasn't been the most confidence-boosting training cycle and I've had times when I feared that I lost speed and when I had to work harder to find the motivation to complete the harder workouts.  But I continuously remind myself that it's the effect of the heat and humidity and that pushing through it will help me push through things when it gets tough on race day....and that the weather will (hopefully) be much better on race day.  And if that didn't work, I would just snuggle with my favorite little people.

I'm really happy to have moved on from speed work to the marathon specific phase where I'm doing a lot of work at my marathon goal pace.  I normally enjoy speed work, but it simply was not enjoyable for me this time around and the fact that I normally enjoy it and see success in it made it more frustrating.   My goal pace runs go take more effort than it should at times, but I remind myself that I'm doing it on tired legs and in the heat - neither of which will be present on race day.  When I look back over the last 12 months, it's by far the most consistent I've ever been.

There are a few other good things occurring in this training cycle.  I just finished my second consecutive week of 50+ miles and am slated to peak at a higher weekly mileage than I hit in my last cycle.  I ran my first 20 miler this past weekend after running 8 miles with 6 at goal pace the day before and felt surprisingly good for an easy 5 miles the following day.   Working with Kristy has also been really good for me.  There have definitely been times when I would've moved things around or justified skipping a run, but being accountable to someone else has kept me honest :)  It has also been really valuable to have an outsider's insight.

8 weeks down, 8 weeks to go!

Who else is training for a fall race and how has your training been affected by the weather?

Would you rather train through a hot summer or a cold winter? (I'd take a cold winter!) 

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