Race Report: NYRR Manhattan Half Marathon

I went into this race with no expectations and goals that were on the casual side. No time goals, loose pace goals — basically a race strategy predicated on this concept: run as hard as you can for 13+ miles.

I had my usual terrible night’s sleep before the race, about six hours and two Rozerem pills. I woke up groggy and sporting big suitcases under my eyes. My thighs ached a bit, I had a stiff left achilles tendon, and basically didn’t feel that great. Experience tells me to ignore such things as predictors of race performance. I’ve had days when I’ve felt great and have run like crap. And vice versa. So I ignored how I felt, banished all negativity from my mind, and went in with as good an attitude as was possible in wind chills of around 5 degrees F.

Jonathan decided to run this race, despite his better judgment. He has about 9% body fat and practically gets hypothermic if he so much as watches “Touching the Void.” His hands are especially susceptible to cold and we’ve spent the last couple of years searching for the perfect hand warming solution (and finally found it in the form of Primaloft mittens, insulated liners and disposable chemical hand warmers).

But, enough about cold hands. What about the race?

We got there later than I’d wanted to, as I was scheduled to do four miles of easy running, worked around the race. With a PA system blaring threats of tardy runners being forced to start in the back , I did a truncated warmup of a little over a mile. Then spent 10 minutes trying to locate Jonathan at Baggage — critical since not only did he have the bag with my costume change, but also my racing bib. Found him, changed into my minimal running outfit — thin tights, tech tee, light fleece, thin gloves and thin hat. I retain heat like a wood stove (which is probably why I race so horribly in the summer), so I can get away with very little clothing, and usually end up shedding the hat and gloves after a few miles.

Then, the dreaded potty break. I got in line at a women’s room and it took 10 minutes to get a stall. Women really need to get more efficient at dropping their drawers and getting things done quickly. By the time I got to the start, the race had begun a good six minutes earlier. So I was stuck in a mass of slower runners  and for the first six miles I had deja vu of the Bronx Half last year, when I started 10 minutes late and spent the entire race blowing past people.

So the first half was a drag. I was running wide around the crowd (and getting yelled at constantly by race marshalls for not staying inside the cones). Things cleared out on the second loop of the park and I had room around me.

Despite feeling like warmed over dog food this morning, with the exception of one bad patch after mile 10 when I felt queasy, I felt great during the race and enjoyed running fast. I spent the entire race passing people (always an advantage to starting late). In fact, I passed Mary Wittenberg (NYRR’s president) — finally, finally beating her in a NYRR race by 30 seconds. It’s stupid, I know, because she’s older than I am and, as such, is actually fitter than I am. But she always beats me, so it was fun to pass that milestone today.

Official time: 1:36:06. Not my best time, but I suspect it’s my strongest performance in a half so far, given the course and crowds. I was 9th in my AG, “top 10” rankings becoming a pattern for me, and 52nd woman overall.

Jonathan managed to get second in his AG despite not having trained for this. He ran it as a fitness evaluation race, since he’s been focused on coming back from a tendon injury sustained over the summer. But he was on the verge of hypothermia when we met up and has vowed to not run any more races in the extreme cold (which may mean I’m on my own for the some of the training run races coming up in Connecticut). He’s also officially decided that he hates running in Central Park for the exact same reason that I love it — the constant ups and downs — and so will not run any more races there.

Today’s race fun fact: The women’s race was won by Arien O’Connell in 1:23 flat. Regular readers of this blog will remember her as being at the center of the Nike Women’s Marathon maelstrom a few months back. Her half is equivalent to a full slightly faster than what she ran in San Francisco — with Central Park being an arguably harder course. So she’s getting faster…

Marathon stats

And yet more stats to pore over: 2008 stats for the top men’s and women’s marathon performances in this country. These are provided courtesy of TheProfessor on the RunningTimes forum.

Next month, MarathonGuide.com publishes its annual review of statistics for marathons in this country, the USA Marathon Report, covering 2008. Here’s a link to the 2007 edition so you can see what’s coming.

BQ stats, plus a handy reference

Jim2 has updated his excellent statistical examination of Boston Qualifying races and times to include 2008 figures.

And for those of you looking for easy award pickings, this handy chart showing winning times (open and by age group) for the 226 US marathons included in his study can help you plan your next smackdown.

Who knows? With just a little more training, maybe you could be the next Kelly Jaske.

The week so far

Just a little post, since it feels odd not to post something.

Today I am celebrating:

  • The swift, smart policy actions our new President has taken already, less than 48 hours since taking his oath of office.
  • Having finally, and successfully, presented a project proposal to some execs at Large Anonymous Corporation (where I contract as a web editorial content yeoman and quartermaster, and now it seems, web metrics maven as well) — a meeting that has been cancelled multiple times and thus has been hanging over my head (and haunting my dreams) for the past month.
  • It’s Thursday! And that’s so much better than Wednesday!
  • Two days of forecasts above freezing and no precipitation on the near horizon. Perhaps our running path and track will actually be clear next week.
  • A weight loss of 4 lbs. since New Year’s Day including a 0.5%  fat loss. I’ll blow it somewhat this weekend, as it’s Jonathan’s birthday, which includes plans for cake, ice cream, wine, beer and tequila(!). But I’ll be back on the wagon next week.
  • The return to training (and, soon, racing) of Joe Garland. I barely know Joe, but I am looking forward to seeing him again on the roads and at races.

I’ve been stuck inside on the treadmill so far this week. But that’s been fine. It’s a recovery week, so I’ve spent most of those miles zoned out in front of a movie at recovery or easy pace. I did a fast finish easy run on Tuesday that felt a little too easy. This morning I’m doing a longer easy run again with two intervals of 1 mile at 6:40 pace with a 3:00 rest. I’ll see if that feels easy (ha ha).

Sunday is my first real race since the Steamtown Marathon: The Manhattan Half Marathon in Central Park. I had a good race there last year and, weather permitting, I hope to do well again this year. I don’t have time goals yet, and I may even just run this by heart rate.

Either way, I don’t want to waste the opportunity to race all out. I’ll be running three more races in the coming couple of months, but those will be training runs. The next actual race is in late March, a 30K in Connecticut, nine weeks after Sunday’s half. It should be very interesting to compare relative performances between the two.

Winter Basebuilding: Week 9

09spr-base-09Just nine short weeks ago I was 80 pounds overweight, battling high blood pressure, impotence and halitosis — and look at me now!

Okay — none of that is true. But I was certainly not as fit as I am today. I was also a coaching ingenue, a wee runner wet behind the ears, a doe-eyed street urchin in a poorly state and desperately in need of guidance.

This morning I took my resting heart rate and — get out of town! — it was a mere 42. In most hospitals and doctor’s offices in this country, that would indicate a serious medical issue. Couple that with this morning’s blood pressure reading of 103 over 68 and I’d be declared legally dead in most American medical circles.

The last time I had a checkup, around three years ago, I’d just started racing. But after a few years of running, I already had award-winning cholesterol and triglyceride numbers. I’ve decided that I’ll go for another workup in two or three months, when I’ve got more strenuous training under my belt. Just to see how much more of a superwoman I’ve become.

Anyway, on to the week’s report. Like last week, the target was 90 miles, which I was just a bit shy of owing to a long run today that was a half mile short (I had a mild  brain fart while figuring out the route en route). I was trapped inside on the treadmill Monday through Friday. It was just too treacherous to try to run outside, and there was no way I’d be able to come close to the speedier times I needed to hit. So I suffered inside.

Things went pretty well overall. I managed 25 minutes at tempo-y pace on Tuesday, although it was a bit slower than I wanted. I think I was still tired from last Sunday’s long run opus. I took all the recovery runs nice and slow so I could put out a good effort on Friday. In contrast to Tuesday, Friday’s speedier bits felt too easy. But I suspect that’s because I was comparing the effort of running at a 7:00ish minute mile for 150 seconds to running at the same speed for 25 long minutes. Since the first few felt so easy, I ran the remaining ones 10-15 seconds faster. Because I am an overachiever.

I took Saturday’s recovery run outside and awoke this morning to more Nightmare in New England weather: yet more snow, coming down like gangbusters this morning. After employing every possible delay tactic, I managed to finally drag myself out the door at close to 10AM. Much later than I wanted to start, but I went to bed at midnight (since The Dark Knight was so freaking — and unnecessarily — long).

I had a bad feeling about the running path, so I drove up to Scarsdale, resigned to the prospect of running my 6ish mile residential loop multiple times. The first couple of miles sucked, frankly, because they hadn’t been plowed. This surprised me, since I was running on a major roadway. I had no traction and was putting out quite a bit of effort for a 9:30 pace. I decided I’d run the whole loop at least once. If it was going to be such arduous going for the whole way, I’d bag the remaining loops and finish up the remaining 14 at home on the treadmill.

Fortunately, other roads were salted and plowed. It was still slushy, icy going, but as the weather warmed up and the salters and plowers did their work, conditions improved, as did my pace. I ended up with 19.5 miles at an average pace of around 8:30, which really is not bad considering the crap I was running in.

It was tiring work, but I enjoyed it. My feet were wet and I was hungry enough to eat the steering wheel by the time I got back to the car, but I’m glad I made the effort to run this one outside. A bonus was running into Jonathan in White Plains as he did his own 16 mile penance today. He gave me a great compliment after we got home. He said he spotted me and thought, “Hey, there’s a real runner out here.” By that he meant I didn’t look like a hobby jogger. I had good form, a runner’s body and I was moving fast. Then he recognized me as the nice woman who provides hot tea and pancakes on Sundays and I can only hope that this was also a bonus for him.

My company on the run consisted of The Mamas & The Papas, Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach and Edvard Grieg’s Greatest Hits (really — that was the name of the album!). I forgot how well produced the TM&TP’s stuff is. Plus it was recorded way back before Auto-Tune started making everyone sound like a singing robot. Singers had to actually be able to sing properly; you know, “carry a tune”?

The Yo-Yo Ma Bach recording (it’s his famous 80s album of unaccompanied pieces) was good for about 20 minutes and then everything started to sound exactly the same, always a danger with anything Baroque. I found myself wondering if anyone ever actually listens to the entire 2-disc set. I moved on to the Romantic period and finished up with Grieg and, man, could that guy write a tune. It was perfect music for a wintry run and I knew I’d made the right choice when I ran by a mansion in Scarsdale with a huge Norwegian flag hanging over the entrance; in the hall of the mountain king, indeed.

Tomorrow kicks off the first week of training proper. It’s not terribly different than what I’ve been doing except now there are actual times/paces attached to the faster workouts. Squee!

Oh, for fuck’s sake

It’s snowing again this morning. Serious snow, not just the dusting that was predicted. There’s 1.5 inches on the ground now and it’s coming down heavily.

I am suiting up for a 20 miler through the streets of Scarsdale and White Plains again. I’m not sure if I’ll drive up and run 3+ loops or just run up there along the path, do a couple of shorter loops, and head back. At least the cold snap has, uh, snapped (Oh! Snap!). But the jet stream has been noticeably lost for the past week.

I could always run inside on the treadmill instead. I could also drink Draino.

Whooee, it’s cold!

But I don’t care. I got to run outside for the first time in a week and I hope to do it again tomorrow. Seven degrees with the windchill? No problem! I’ve got thermal running pants and all manner of layering from Patagonia, Craft, Smartwool and UnderArmour, plus Little Hotties for my hands. I am a moving billboard of adverts for foul weather clothiers.

I did 11 miles on a slightly altered version of my six mile loop that winds through Scarsdale and White Plains. Tomorrow, weather permitting, I’ll do 20 there again. We’re slated to get some days above freezing next week. Let’s hope that between that and some sun the layer(s) of ice that cover my usual running path will go away.

I got my training schedule for the next 12 weeks and it’s impressive. To cope with it, I think of it in the abstract, as though someone else will be following it, although that’s going to have to stop starting on Monday. As I’d anticipated, I’ll be back up to 100 mile weeks, and doing longer intervals, plus lots more longer running at or near marathon pace. I registered for the series of races in Connecticut and Central Park that will, with little exception, serve as Mpace training runs. I’ll race a couple of them, though.

Overall, my trepidation is outweighed by my excitement and eagerness to get rolling. I just hope my body plays nice with my brain.