Monday, May 16, 2011

Friends help friends PR (a.k.a SuperHero Half Marathon Race Report)

Having just attempted my "A" race two weeks before (the Long Branch Half Marathon), and having had a fairly high mileage week (for me at least) the week prior, I didn't have much in the way of expectations going into this Half. Coupled with some awful weather on race day (forecasted 60 degree temps and %70 chance of rain/thunder), I had relegated this race to little more than another long training run. I packed my bag and hoped for good weather.

Picked up Sam and headed on our way to the race. We passed through some HEAVY downpours on Rt 80, and started to think about what we would do if this weather greeted us out on the race course. Trip to the race was uneventful, as was parking and making our way to the start (a start comparison to my last Half Marathon). The lines at the port-o-potties were quite lengthy, so we missed the gun, and started a couple minutes after the main pack (only about 1800 runners in total).

The weather was muggy, but at least it wasn't raining. This was definitely one of those races where you start to sweat, then just wear your sweat for the remainder of the race. We ran the first few miles at around a 9:20 - 9:30 pace, and just settled in. Some time in the early miles, Sam remarked that she could potentially PR if she kept up that pace - so I made it my mission to attempt to pace her to that PR.

I thought back to being paced to my 5k PR by Ansky, or seeing Eissa pace Elyssa for her recent Half Marathon PR attempt, and decided that today was going to be the day that I paid it forward to another runner.

Towards the end of the first loop, we passed a few older women making their way on the course. I noticed their ragged breathing, and the gaspy conversation, so I thought I'd turn around and offer some encouragement. I looked over my shoulder and said, "Lookin good, Ladies!" as I passed them and continued running. Sam passed them as they were saying to each other, "Look at that guy in the blue shirt, he makes it look so easy, just gliding along efortlessly", and Sam realized that they were talking about ME. For those of you that have run with me before, you'll appreciate it when I say that I never really expected anyone to say something like that about ME! I envision myself more as a loping, plodding Clydesdale - who somehow manages to keep moving forward, and finishing half marathons, even the occasional marathon. If they had BMI graded scores, vs. Age Graded scores, I'd be in the top percentile, I'm sure.

Either way, I realized that it's all relative. I'm faster than some people, slower than others, but what we all have in common is our desire to train, to improve ourselves and to have fun in the process.

Back to the race - unfortunately, the humidity and a couple of strategically placed hills to their toll on Sam. We tried for the HM PR and didn't hit it, so we tried to keep the time under 2:10 - but eventually, a really rough hill at mile 10 took that from us as well. Finally, we settled in for the run to the finish, and our only goal became to enjoy the race, and make the best of the day. We both crossed the finish somewhere around 2:12:00 with smiles on our faces, collected our finisher medals, and made our way to the car.

All in all, it was a nice race - and definitely a change of pace from the crowded and hectic NYRR races. Just another good day out of NYC with a fellow runner.

Friday, May 13, 2011

NJ Half Recap (and catching up)

For whatever reason, I haven't been terribly motivated to blog these last few months. It's not for a lack of races (see Scott's Tough Mudder recap), but for whatever reason, I haven't been in a writing mood lately.

On 5/1, I ran the Long Branch Half Marathon. Several of the local NY Crowd were racing the half (Baker, Elyssa, Eissa) or the full (Neal and Sharon), and this was supposed to be my spring "A" race. After a solid showing in the NYRR Colon Cancer 15k, I felt that an appropriate goal for me would be to break 2 hours for the half (something I haven't done since the NYC Half back in March 2010). Remember, 2011 is my "year of recovery", so while my goal wasn't to PR the half - I just wanted to put up a time that was achievable, yet a good effort on my part.

Heading down to the race was a giant clusterf**k in itself. Traffic was horrendous, and the logistics of getting the car parked, and to the starting line were a nightmare. Despite having left more than enough time, we barely managed to swoop into the corrals before the start.

After waiting nearly 15 minutes from the race start to reach the starting line, I finally took off. The first few miles were very crowded, and I found myself pushing and jostling my way past walkers and slow runners. How they decided to line up so close to the front is just beyond me. After about 3 - 4 miles, I settled into a nice groove. I was battling an upset stomach most of the way, but I did my best, and kept a consistent pace, sufficient to hit the 2 hour milestone.

By mile 10, the heat started to get to me. I wasn't drinking much (for fear of throwing up), and the temps had increased substantially. I took a brief walk break, and started up again. Miles 11 - 13 saw consistent improvements in my pace, but by then, the damage had been done.

Turning onto the boardwalk (around mile 12), I looked at my watch and thought "I can still salvage this". I dug as deep as I could, but my watch clicked over the 2 hour mark some time between mile 13 and 13.1. I felt like I just wanted to sit down, and not even finish - but I loped the few remaining steps over the line.

I don't know why I am so bothered by missing my goal by 38 measly seconds. I ran a good race, put in a good effort, and missed a completely arbitrary goal by less than a minute. To put it into perspective, the best half marathon I was capable of (while struggling with heart issues) last year was > 2:30:00. To think that I beat my last few halfs by over 1/2 hour should be enough of a triumph to me. Considering that, I am grateful for my health, my ability to run, and my desire to continue improving this year.

In other news, it has been about a month and a half since I signed on with Team PRSFit. The workouts have been challenging, and have done a great job of pushing the envelope for me. My training plan has also gotten me back in the pool for cross training, something I haven't done in a LONG time. I am feeling really good about my training so far, and am starting to see my hard work pay off already. I am really optimistic as we head into the warmer summer months, and my training for NYCM starts to kick into high gear.

Stay tuned for what I am confident will be a great year!