Saturday, December 31, 2011

UltrAspire Spry - Gear Review

For Christmas, my husband and daughter decided to give me this wonderful new Brooks tech shirt and matching shorts from the Running Warehouse.  I love the shirt and shorts, but I had to exchange it for something else that caught my eye! From time to time I get this email from the Running Warehouse about sales and stuff.  I never really pay much attention since I have all the gear I could possibly need--well, for now, that is.   I try to avoid going to the RW it's pure temptation. But the email I received, lured me in. Thank goodness my Hubby gets me.  He knows that I am hard to shop for, I am very picky.  So my returning the running tee and shorts was okay with him.

Lately, I've been running with a hand-held 20 ounce bottle.  It's good for up to 12 miles of long run. Any longer than that, I would normally get a re-fill from a gas station or a water fountain. Luckily with the 14 miler last weekend, there's a supermarket perfectly situated by my Turri Road loop. For longer than 14 miles, I would usually wear the belt with four-flasks of 8 oz, which gives me a total of 32 oz. With the weight, sometimes it rubs me in spots that while running I can't really feel, but during a shower with hot water--let's just say I can't ignore it. Chaffing is not my thing. The extra pocket of the belt for gels is a plus. I can squeeze in my phone if I want to take pictures for my blog.  The thing that annoys me however is having to reach for stuff in the back while running. It messes up my gait and form and slows me down--not that I am running at an incredible rate of speed or anything like that, but at my glacial pace, seconds matter to me--most especially if I'm doing a pace run or tempo run. The other annoyance of mine is the way that my forearm would hit the top of the flasks or my water bottle. I can't totally blame the bottles, but with my short frame, I tend to hit it on my sides. It doesn't help to rotate it a bit since there are 4 bottles evenly space around me. I just learned to settle with it over time.

What do you think? Is it a keeper?

How do I look?
Now I have a choice.  Here's where the UltrAspire Spry comes in the picture.  It is a vest where everything is at your fingertips. It allows you freedom of movement, where all the action takes place in the front. I took it for a spin on my 5 mile pace run today. It would have been nicer if I didn't dilly dallied and waited until the sun was high. It also would be great as an extra layer for warmth on a cool day. After all it is a vest.
Hello running vest you and I will pal around in 2012!

I decided on the blue. It comes in purple and red. But RW didn't carry red and since there was only 1 left in blue and a ton in purple, I opted for the blue.  It's more like a bluish-greenish tint. It's pretty.  The Spry comes with 5 pockets in the front with two loops by the shoulder harness for something I haven't thought of.  But I know its going to come in handy.
I forgot to mention the reflective strips on the back

The back has one big pocket for bigger items such as a jacket.  I would use that big pocket for arm warmers and gloves or even extra bottle of water. One nice thing about the closure is that it is held by a magnet.  It's not a chinsy magnet, this one is strong. I hate the Velcro closures because it seems to always scratch me especially when I am in a hurry. Usually I am in a hurry. I'm just jamming stuff in so I can get back into running. Not only does it scratch me, it's guaranteed that the Velcro would snag my more high end tech shirts. Yes I am always bummed when I discover new snags!
This is where my smart phone is going.

Gu gel pouch perhaps?
The back side pocket is a perfect size.  Now the front is what I love.  Everything is right at my fingertips.  On the left side harness/shoulder strap, there's a zippered pouch where I keep my smart phone. I carry my phone for safety and also for pictures now that I have a 5 MP camera. It fits perfectly with more room to stuff more items in it. In front of the zippered pocket is another pouch which has a slanted opening for easy access. A Gu gel would go in there perfectly. Above the zippered pouch is another pocket. This one is slimmer and flatter. I envision putting a Gu gel in there or my pepper spray when I run the trails of Montana de Oro. (I've yet to come across a mama wild boar.) Above that slim pocket is another strap.  I know it's handy for something but I haven't thought of any at the moment. 
Don't let this pouch fool you, it can fit a water bottle in it

Magnetic pocket for electrolyte tabs

Hook closure, so small and unobtrusive

The front closure is held by diminutive metal loop that hooks on to the other side.  It is not like the usual clip, where my skin sometimes gets caught if I was too hasty. Ouch! Tightening and loosening takes seconds. There's two harnesses that connects the front and back, one on the left and one on the right. Again the tightening and loosening mechanism is quick.

I ran for 5 miles and it worked great.  I practiced taking my smart phone out to take pictures and it was a cinch.  (Here's a bonus picture for you from my Baywood run. You can see Morro Bay's Morro Rock through the tree.)
 Morro Rock through the trees 

The pockets are perfectly placed where I can get my gels in and out. My water bottle was the perk.  I didn't expect to fit it, but it did. I was going to run with it on my hand but for short runs like this, I am able to run free. This means I can have another 8 ounce of water on me in addition to the hand-held 24 ounce for longer runs up to 18 miles.
I must say this vest was made for people who like hand-helds.  I know I am going to like it for the simple fact that I won't have to set it down on the ground when I use the porta-potties unlike my Fuel belt.   You know what I am talking about.
The Nathan HPL #28 Running Vest

Krissy Moehl, the ultra runner superstar likes to run with her hydration vest without the bladder.  She likes the vest because she can get to her nutrition quickly.  Nathan Sports made a vest specific to Krissy's liking with a slimmer pouch on the back. It is called Nathan HPL #028 Running Vest. They stopped making it for several years then Nathan Sports brought it back--it might have been this past year. I've had my eyes out for it, Zombierunner carries it and I am so glad that I waited.  I like the Spry's magnetic closure a lot. This will save my tech tees from snags. Good things comes to those who wait...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Napa Valley Marathon Training Week 11

It has been a while since I have posted.  Sandwiched between the holidays, my little girl’s 12th b-day came barreling at me in awesome speed. I barely had time to get my runs in, but I did manage to get them in.  I just have been doing a poor job logging in my miles. It’s because I had unknowingly wiped out my calendar clean.  I had been logging my morning heart rate and weight first thing in the morning and my miles on my ipad calendar.  When I synched my ipad to my computer, it told me that I had the option to update to OS 5.00.  The sound of getting something new always gets me giddy.  I put off downloading the new software and rightfully so since the cause of my hesitation was the fact that the little message came on that said, some of my stuff would be erased.  Well it said it in much more flowery language and being the idiot that I am pushed yes! So it did, I have now overhauled my system to the updated one sans my NYC training data!  I wanted to crawl in a small space and cry.  But the good news is my entry in the Daily Mile would save me. It’s just a lot of work having to transfer every single day in manually!  I wished there was an exporting device that I could use.

I have been formulating my training plan for Napa 2012. As you can tell, I don’t have the luxury of training 18 weeks using Hal Higdon’s Plan. After CIM, I merely have 13 weeks, and one of those weeks is technically my recovery week.  I have to condense 18 weeks of training into 12 and hope that it will be enough.   The tricky part is finding that balance between rest and hard work.  I finally devised a plan. And I hope it works.

I just finished Week 12 with roughly 25 miles:

Mon – Rest

Tuesday – Easy (4.41mi)
I ran with the Running Divas. I could only go for 1 mile with them, then puttered out. They are like gazelles.  I love running with them.

Wed – 5x200m hill repeats (3.1 mi)
Hill kicked my butt. I went back to Lizzie Hill for some tastes of steepness. I knew I would need some rest come Thursday.

Thursday – Rest

Fri – Fast (5.71 mi)
I forgot to set my Garmin. I ran with my other morning running buddy, Mora. It felt like we ran faster than normal.

Sat – Rest
Sun – Long Run (12 mi)
I ran one loop of Turri Road. This was awesome. I’ve incorporated back one minute walk breaks per 10 minutes of running. Jeff Galloway would be so proud. Including the walk breaks my pace was 9:45 for a hilly route.

It was an awesome week, on the whole.  A little low on the miles, but I am not worried about it. I wanted to make sure that I eased back into the mileage. I’ve learned to be patient. It was around this time last year that I injured myself doing too much.
Happy Running!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

CIM 2011 Race recap

What a whirlwind of a weekend! The 29th annual race from Folsom to the State Capitol did not disappoint. Running in near-perfect marathon conditions that included temps in the upper 30s and 40s, clear blue skies and virtually no wind, CIM featured 6,000 starters with 5,750 eventual finishers. An additional 3,600 runners took part in the four-person relay, with 2,000 more participating in the 2.62-mile "maraFUNrun".  It was a well-run race—kudos to the wonderful volunteers and race organizers.  Long touted as the fastest course in the West, this was not an easy course. The course is deceptively difficult even with the “net” drop in elevation. Without further ado, here’s my race recap for marathon #23, CIM 2011.

Heidi and I drove up to the Expo on Saturday. The walk from the parking lot to the convention center was windy.  That worried me. The forecast said the winds would die down by Saturday, but there we were.  I thought of having to adjust the pacing and I just filed that in the back of my mind. At the Expo, we picked up our bibs, safety pins, tech-shirts, timing chip, and sweat bag full of useless coupons and advertisements.  It was a no-hassle pick-up, everything was organized according to last name alphabetically. Lines were minimal. Signs were easy to spot.
I was next

No lines on Saturday

On and off the announcement came which gave updates about the weather for race day: 37 degrees at the start and sunny skies.  They assured that winds were not going to be a factor. I got a little relief upon hearing that.  We walked around for a bit and said hello to my morning running buddy, Aron of Running (Aron ran the 8K Masters exhibition this June in Hayward Field in Oregon at the USA Track and Field Championships).    She looked great and their booth looked awesome.

The marathon shirts are wonderful. We got to pick long sleeve or short sleeves.  I love long sleeves and it was from Greenlight Apparel. The tech tee is a little more substantial than say the normal tech tees I’ve gotten recently from NY or Napa.  This shirt is perfect to run in cooler temps. And best yet, the small fits perfect! It is a true to size. I can’t tell you how dissapointed I get when the marathon shirt fits too big or too small.  They get an A+ for the marathon shirt.

Thank you for the great marathon shirt CIM!

There's more of a greenish tinge in real life.

After we’ve looked around we were out of the Expo in an hour. I am happy to report that I didn’t buy anything new. No shirt, no socks, jacket, or even gels. I must be getting better.

Heidi did get away with a running headband!
For a split second, I thought of buying a running tutu. You might think it is silly. But it would be perfect way for your loved ones to identify you on the course from a mile away. I can’t tell you how many times, hubby almost missed spotting me on the course.  One such day, long before the age of digital cameras, hubby had one shot left on the film in our camera. He took the shot, but as the subject came closer to him, and he realized, “Oops, that’s not my wife.” He kept it to himself until the picture was developed. It was a wonderful surprised when I finally saw it, “This isn’t me!”  He knew it at the time too and didn’t tell me. Anyway, back to the running tutu. It’s cute and girly and it looks awfully silly, but unique.  If he can’t pick me from the crowd, I don’t know what.
All done, time to get the timing chip.  Sorry for the unsteady hands, must be my excitement

We drove back to Elk Grove, about 15 minutes outside of Sacramento, to meet my friends, Leon and Vicky who hosted our stay overnight. (Vicky and I have been friends since Jr. High). We had dinner take out at Macaroni Grill and the pasta feed was on. My friends insisted on a dress rehearsal so we did.

Took a few photos and called it a night, after Heidi set up our breakfast on the counter: Oatmeal, banana and bagels. Leon set up his espresso machine.  I had a good night sleep all week and the night before was no exception. I had my phone alarm set to go off at 3:30.  I woke up three times in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.  This time I didn’t bother looking at the clock, because that would stress me out counting down how much more time I could sleep.  Ignorance was bliss. Before I knew it, it went off.  Heidi likes to sleep as much as she can, so I let her be. I ate my breakfast and put on my running gear and throw away sweats.  The plan was to leave the house at 4:50 to be at the Sheraton Grand Hotel by 5:20 am.  Leon dropped us off and the buses and the lines formed were already blocks long.
The yellow school buses which would take us to Folsom.

Yeah, we're moving.
Keeping warm with my throw-away sweats from Goodwill.

It was cold at 37 degrees.  We got on the yellow school buses and left for the start at Folsom about 5:35 am, on time.

Upon relaxing on the bus, I realized that I had forgotten to pack my banana and bagel in my sweat bag. Rats! I felt like my breakfast was already wearing out. My plan was to eat the rest of my breakfast on the bus.  All I had to eat at 3:35 am was oatmeal, ½ of a roll of bread and a shot of expresso. The only thing I had in my bag was a my apple pie Larabar for after the race. So I ate that to top off my reserves. Mistake #1. There  was nothing I could do about it, it was not enough.

The bus ride took less than an hour. We were entertained to rocking disco music the whole way. We got to Folsom at 6:25am and the first order of business was porta potties!  When I saw the long lines of porta potties it was as if angelic voices sung “Hallejuhah”.
Gazillion porta-potties. This brings tears of joy to my eyes.
Taking care of business.  Sun is starting to come up.

We warmed up and did some static stretching and 10 minutes before the race started we hunted down our bag trucks for our sweat bags, then we took off for the starting lines. We looked for the 4:00 pacers and as soon as we found them the National Anthem was being sung.  The singer sounded like Leann Rimes.  But it probably wasn’t.  I guessed we were about 2 and a half minutes away from the start.  And just like that we were off!

Little blurry, but that's the start with the two blue arches.

It has been 3 years since I last ran CIM.  The first time was 2004, and then I waited until 2008 to return. Each time I came back with a small PR of 4:19 and 4:17, respectively.  Although I love earning those PR, it is a very difficult course. That’s probably why I gave it a few years before doing it again. The first 20 miles is pretty much rollers and if you’ve pace yourself correctly, you will have something for the final assault in the last 6 miles of gradual downhill.   If you didn’t—well it can feel like a death march.

Miles 1 – 5:
9:32/9:10/8:42/8:51 (Gu) /8:56

Mile 1 was downhill and Mile 2 was a slight up.  We were feeling pretty good, staying well on pace.  Heidi was running evenly behind me. We tried to hang to our pacing group as close as we could. It was crowded and jockeying for position sometimes can easily throw you out of whack. I was darting in and out of people that I had to be careful.  Since I am so short, I could get an elbow right on my face if I wasn’t paying attention.  Oh the perils of being short! In the early miles, we were surprised to see the 4:15 pacer on top of the 4:00 pacer, Heidi noticed it and I reassured her that we were fine. We didn’t need to increase our speed. Clearly the 4:15 pacer was going way too fast. She figured it out and finally pulled back a bit after she realized that her pacing group was ahh…behind her—duh!  Pacing is truly an art form!
I might have pulled away from the 4:00 pacers just a bit after the third mile. I wanted a little bit of cushion just in case for pit-stop—story of my life. Then I can catch back up. That was my rationale anyway.

Miles 6  – 13.1:
8:45/8:56/9:03/9:09 (Gu) /8:52/9:03/9:08/9:19

I was ahead of the pacers by a minute and a half or two.  Miles 6 to 9.55 had a bunch of rollers and I was trying my best not to fall off pace. If you’re going to mess up this is the place to do it. I met up with a fellow Marathon Maniac with that familiar goldenrod singlet. I ran with him for a few miles and felt great and in the groove up until crossing the 13th mile.  Then all of a sudden it hit me like a ton of bricks, I was slowing down to look for places to go to the bathroom.  I thought of one area at first and then decided it was not good enough cover.

Miles 14 – 19:

At Mile 14, I was already feeling the distance. The rollers from Miles 6-9 took its toll on me. In hindsight, maybe I should have dropped back 15 seconds rather than keeping the 9:09 pace.  I thought “uh-oh” this was not good. I pulled out my salt packet. My hands were stiff from the cold and trying to get it out of the zip-lock baggies was a nightmare. Seconds were ticking away as I fumbled through the plastic bag. I accidentally dropped it near a wet spot at an aide station and thankfully it didn’t get wet.  I also took 2 Advils for the leg pains that was about to come on.  The salt/Advil mile took 10:17 from me. Yikes! I was a bit cutting it too close. I pressed on. I caught back up with the 4:00 group and catching back up with them threw my pacing a little. I hitched a ride with them for as long as I could.  I kept looking at the ground and the feet that were marching effortlessly in front of me.  “Stay with them. You’re not tired” I convinced myself. Then the devil won.  I let them go.  By Mile 15, I felt the urge to really go. I kept my eyes peeled for the green porta pots.  Found then and lined up.  Realizing that there was no progress after a few seconds, I decided to run again. At Mile 15.5, I found my spot behind a bush and a car, well- hidden. Perfect. After that it was a relief, I managed to pick up the pace and kept it in the 9:30s. By this time, even the 9:30s felt like a bigger effort to keep up. It was downhill from then on. At mile 17, a felt a friendly tap on the shoulder. Ah sight for sore eyes, it was Heidi! She looked strong and steady.  I told her I felt like “$&*t”. She said “No, we’re looking good.” I think she misunderstood the gravity of my statement. I tucked in behind her for a few more miles.  Then I told her to go ahead and stay strong, I was cramping. She told me to hydrate well on the next aide station.  That was good advice but it may have been a little too late. I had already tossed my water bottle with the GU Brew.  On this section and from here on out, I had to rely on the nasty Ultima drink they served.  It tasted like Grandpa’s cough medicine. It had vitamins, but who needs vitamins during a race? What I needed was electrolytes! I was so glad I had brought my own salt packets. Otherwise I would have been in worse shape.  In addition to that drink, the cups were dental Dixie cups that held 3 oz. of fluids.  One or two of those cups sure wasn’t enough.

Miles 20 – 26.2:
10:08 Gu /10:19 Gu /1039 Gu /1032/10:48/10:35/10:42/2:47

I kept behind Heidi for 3 miles but it was time to let her go. As soon as we crossed the dreaded “Wall” arch, I slowed my pace and there she went. I said “Good-bye Heidi and see you at the finish.” She couldn’t hear me. I trudge on, one foot in front of the other.   At Miles 20 to 22 I felt an incredible hunger. I squeezed in a Gu gel at every mile for 3 straight miles to keep the hunger at bay. This wasn’t a good sign. I knew I was running on empty and the Gu was not even making a dent.   Then the oddest thing happened on Mile 22 or it might have been on 21—I can’t remember for sure.  I needed it to chase down my Gu. I reached for a cup not paying attention to who was handing it out.  I noticed the bubbles and I thought great, finally an apple juice. I took a swig and spit it out. Beer! Argh! Not what I was expecting, it left a bad taste in my mouth. A older couple laughed at my expense as they saw me cringed.  I was glad I can make somebody smile.

I pushed the pace but my calves started to cramp. My legs would not let me do under 10:30 minute pace. It was a matter of survival. Gone were my dreams of subbing a 4:00 hour marathon.  That went away from the halfway mark. This was not my day, I’ve come to grips with that. I lowered my expectations and thought I would be very happy if I could do under 4:15 or even 4:12 and match my 2010 NY time.  On the other hand, it could have been much worse. There were runners on the sides who were stretching and obviously nursing some bad leg cramps. That could have easily been me.  I was just glad I was still moving, however glacial pace it may be.

At this point, I stopped looking at my Garmin. What was going in my head in this last 10K? Three months from this day, I would be running 2012 Napa Valley Marathon. I was sorry I mailed in my Napa registration. I wonder how receptive they would be if I lied and called them up and said I have no money in the bank, and not to cash my check?”  I hit a rough patch that, I even swore I will never run another marathon again. It was like a death march. Runners were now passing me left and right. At Mile 24 the 4:10 pacing group passed me running as strong as ever.  I wished I had done the walk breaks, that would have delayed the fatigue maybe?  All the “what ifs”, the “shouldas” and “couldas” were swimming in my head.

As we neared downtown Sacto, the fall colors of the trees lifted my spirits up. What a beautiful sight. The autumn colors of the trees reminded me of the East Coast.  For a split second, it erased my hurt. I just wished the finish would have been closer—a lot closer. I kept watching for the mile markers. Each time I saw that familiar blue flag which bore the mile markers, it signified that I was getting closer to the finish.  I knew two sharp left turns would be just up ahead.  There were two finish chutes: one for the men and one for the women. Finally I saw runners up ahead making that first left—“Thank you Jesus”. We’re here.  Then came my last left turn, I picked it up and the cramps gripped even stronger. No final kick for me today, “Just hold it steady and you’ll cross it.” I saw the clock barely turned over to 4:14.  Really? That meant I was right at my 2010 NY time—if I hurried. My Garmin read 4:11 and since it took me 2 ½ to cross the start, I knew it could be close. This might be my second best time! How sweet would that be! Then it happened. I finally crossed and official time was 4:12:06 and my Garmin time, identical at 4:12:06.
Surprisingly vertical after 26.2 miles

I got my handsome medal, my space blanket, took my after-photo shot, got my drink and chocolate milk.  I hobbled around for a bit trying to see if I could spot my red-headed friend! I got my sweat bag and headed into the changing tent.  Heidi and I agreed to find each other by the changing tent. This was a good plan. She found me and tears of joy were exchanged.  She PR’ed at 4:07:39 and beat her 2010 NY best of 4:08:08!
All done!
My good friend Vicky and I

One nice thing about CIM that I haven’t seen other marathons do is have a changing tent right there at the finish.  It gets cold with the running gear and it just feels 100% more comfortable if we could change into dry clothes as soon as it is over. Thank you CIM for having this!

My 2011 marathon season ended with CIM.  I couldn’t have been anymore happier than what I’ve been able to accomplish this past year with 5 marathons in 10 months. It wasn’t easy. Struggling with injuries in the beginning of the year and finally capping the year off with my second best time ever, can a girl ask for anything more?  I am forever thankful for someone above who keeps me safe and lets me keep doing what I love to do.

May you run long and happy!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thoughts about CIM 2011

Sorry for the radio silence. It’s been a while since I’ve last posted. I have been laying low. It seems like my attitude towards this last 3 weeks of training is a little subdued. It was such a huge high leading up to NY then came the holidays, mashed that with recovery/mini build-up/taper. Basically I took more time to rest. It’s probably better to be more rested than over trained. So to bring you up to speed, here it goes…
Since NYC Marathon, I have repeated the last 3 weeks of the training in preparation for CIM. I only had 4 weeks in between these two “A” races. It was imperative that I get the proper rest before jumping back into the same workout. I’ve done marathons as close as 3 weeks apart (Napa and Oakland both in 2010 and 2011). But the difference was, Napa, the first marathon was my “A” race and the second marathon was a hilly, “fun” marathon, where I didn’t expect to PR. I ran Oakland because it was my hometown hosting it. Unlike NYC and CIM, where both are my “A” races back to back. It’s where I had my personal best—all 4 times that I’ve ran them. So my expectations are rather high. At the same time, I cannot be sad if I don’t pull off another PR this soon. For one thing, I am piggy-backing on the training from NY for CIM.
I had great results with Hal Higdon’s Program. Training 18 weeks for NY, for CIM, I am basically riding on the coattails of NY. I hope I still have something left in the tank. On one hand, CIM’s course is easier than NY’s course. There is only one short bridge at mile 22. However short it is, mind you it is still an incline and it is aptly place on mile 22. That’s when the wheels typically fall off for me which will be a challenge in itself. That’s not to minimize the undulating course of CIM. From my recollection having race this in 2004 and 2008, the rollers kept coming and going up until mile 20. The worst was the first half, then the rest were gentle but enough to take out a lot from me. After mile 20 it is pretty much downhill. But this is the hard part. You’re pretty much dead and spent that it feels like a death march to the finish. A vision that is so clear in my mind is it that it feels like you're amongst zombies as you get to the finish line. Runners have lost their shuffles and reduced to dragging their feet as in the TV show "The Walking Dead".
As you can gather from my description above CIM is a hilly course. It is tauted as the fastest course in the west. People flock to this marathon because it is a BQ course. Sure it is, but the operative word is “net” downhill. A lot of folks mistake it to be easy due to the downs. But you got to respect the hills, where there's downs there are ups for sure. My strategy for CIM is to not to take the hills too aggressively. I am going to back off and press on the down a bit to make up some time. But I know I cannot recoup what I’ve lost on the ups. That’s just how it goes. Back in '04 and '08, I was a bit slower and had no hill training, that’s probably what helped me PR because I took it easy on the hills. Now that I am better at hill climbing, the name of the game is to back off a bit and save some for the downs. One nice thing to look forward to is that the rollers give your leg muscles a little change. If it were all flat or all down, that would be extremely hard since you would be using the same muscles over and over again. That’s a different kind of tired and I fear that the most.
CIM has absolutely great pacers. I am on the fence whether I would use them or not. In 2008, I was using the Jeff Galloway run-walk method and at the start I saw the 4:05 pacer. An idea came to mind. I didn’t know what to do, join the pacer or stick to my plan. I did both and it backfired. I lost valuable time trying to play catch up. I would walk for a minute and I would lose them. By the time I caught up to them, it was time for my minute walk break again. Then it cycled like so for a couple of miles and then they finally left me. I was kicking myself for changing plans during the race. I lived and I learned.
I don’t even know how I managed to PR in 2004 and 2008 on a training that was minimal at best. The training I had was a hodge-podge of programs that I’ve managed to string along. I only had one 20 miler, no speed, no tempo. It was barely a program if you can call it that. I am curious to see what I can pull this time around. I’ve done three 20 milers, ran at night in the dark, on the trails, against the wind, and on undulating terrain of Turri Road. I’ve incorporated tempo work, Yasso and hill repeats, and middle of the week long runs. I’ve peaked at 55 and 62 mile weeks. The training difference between then and now is night and day. I also don’t want to get ahead of myself and expect huge returns. I have 3 goals: one is to match my time in NY. Another one is to break four hours and a third one, I cannot say because I don’t want to jinx myself. After the race I will talk about it.
In preparation for CIM, the week after the marathon I took 4 straight days off—no running. By Friday Nov 11, I ran 4 miles to shake out the legs. I felt great. No lingering soreness, I was running at 9:00 pace. I was happy to see this, because I was back on my GP. I took a rest on Saturday and Sunday I ran 8 miles at 9:22 pace. I had a great pace although at the end it felt labored.
Two weeks after the marathon: I rested Monday and Tuesday I ran for 6 at 8:57 pace. This one surprised me because I’ve never ran a Tuesday workout sub 9 first thing in the morning when the legs are just warming up. I was elated by this workout. Wednesday was a rest day. Thursday was a hill repeat workout using a very steep hill at 12% grade. My paces were 8:10/8:35/9:02/9:31/9:34 at 50 seconds each 5x. It was a tough workout and I was glad I was able to finish in the heat of the afternoon. Friday was a 6-miler on Johnson Ave at 9:03. Again I was happy that this was under goal pace. Saturday, I ran another 6 miles at 8:59 pace on LOVR with a negative split. Sunday, I ran my longest long run for CIM at 12 miles. I ran it at 9:33 pace. It rained the whole way and my thoughts were: I was going to be okay with at 10:00 pace. But it turned out better than that because my pace for the whole run, soaked and all was 9:33 with a negative split to boot.
Three weeks after the marathon: This turned out to be the taper of tapers. I only ran 3 days: Tuesday tempo with 6 miles, an 8-mile race on Thursday and a quick run for 6 on Sunday. Tempo pace was 8:24, Thanksgiving Hunger run was 8:32, Sunday run was 9:23 pace.
Marathon week: 3 days of running. Tuesday was a speed-workout for 4x400 and a two-miler on Thursday and Saturday rounds out the week. The 400 laps turned out great. Although my pace was 6:41 average for the 400s, it felt a little labored. It was not as easy as four weeks ago when I ran it in the predawn hours in the dark. Maybe the time of day had something to do with it. It was a little warmer at 8:40 am as opposed to 6am.
Looking at my last 3 weeks of training for CIM, the 9 crucial runs averaged out to be 9:02 pace. That tells me that a sub 4 is in the cards for me on Sunday, barring a meteor shower, hail storm the size of golf balls and wind and rain. I’m all in!   I’m ready to close out 2011 with a bang.
CIM here I come! Wish me luck!J

Happy Running!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Race Reflections on NY 2011

After all the dust has settled, the congratulatory welcome has faded, it's time to assess the race.
New York was a wonderful experience. The crowd was amazing. I had a fabulous time. New Yorkers were warm and welcoming. For one day, it was a time where runners and spectators alike shared a unique experience. It was a total celebration of life. There's nothing quite like it.
It was an honest race for me. I gave it my best shot, however I still feel a little bit of disappointment. I said I was proud of my time, I am. But lurking behind my mind, is the fact that, I could have done better, if only—.
  • ...I retired earlier, 2 nights before the race and had gotten better rest. How do you balance this? I was in New York and there were so many sights to see. I was visiting a long time friend, we had a lot of catching up to do. Before we knew it, it was past our bedtime.
  • ...I remembered to take my gel at mile 5 so the body didn't have to adjust to something new. The marathon is already hard as it is. I practice the timing for nutrition in my training runs. My body expected food at every 45 minutes increment in the duration of the race. But I threw it off when I forgot.
  • ...I used my water belt at all and saved time dilly-dallying at the stops. What was the point of lugging the belt around with an extra 5 lbs of weight on my waist if I wasn't going to use it? I don't know, I guess I didn't use my noggin.
  • ...Instead of taking my time to the water stops, if only I learned to drink “on the run”. This is hard to practice. The week before the marathon I was reading an article, marathon tip on how to grab and drink on the run. I should have paid attention to it. Pinch the cup on one side, hold your breath and swallow, toss the cup and run. What do you say? That might take 7 seconds tops? Right? Yes, but not the way I did it. Walked to the table, swallow, continue walking, second gulp, walked some more and third gulp and ran. It took 30 seconds X 25 times, do the math. I don't want to think about the total time I could have saved!
  • ...I stopped taking pictures. It was hard not to, this was one of those once in a lifetime moments. Plus, my blog would look boring without pictures.
  • ...I remembered to put on my “go to pump me up music” when I needed it on mile 24, when the wheels fell off. If you only knew the countless hours I must have spent perfecting my playlists for long runs, for tempo work, for easy days, for strides, for times I need a power boost! I have a "go to" playlist just for that rough patch, and I didn't even use it.
  • ...I used my mantra at mile 24, when I finally blew up. “Lighter, softer, faster, stronger like a ninja.” Go ahead and laugh!
  • ...I dug deeper instead of focusing on the negative, on what hurts. I had no calf, thigh or leg cramps the whole race. But what I had was fatigue and timber legs. I knew what this was from-I didn't hydrate enough.
  • ...I had that extra fight in me in the last 2 miles. I can't explain this one. Compared to my experience last year, at the very same spot I was feeling much stronger. I felt like I was more alert. This time, I felt like I was in a fog, ready to throw in the towel. I don't even know how I managed to keep a 10:40 pace at this mile because it sure felt like I was going in slow motion.
  • ...I had hydrated. On the plane, I was holding off on drinking. I was always seated by the windows (SLO, LAX and Houston flights) and I felt like I was a nuisance if I had to keep getting up to go to the bathroom. So I compromised my plan to limit my water intake. I thought I would make up for it when I landed. Friday and Saturday was no better. I was on the go and I worried that I wouldn't be able to located a RR since I am not from the area. Well, this backfired, and this was why my legs were timber. Next time, I won't do this ever. So what if I had to keep getting up—I was running a marathon. I can't believe I sacrificed all the 18 weeks of training and hold out on water the very last minute! Clearly I was not thinking.
They say hindsight is 2020. This was one of those, I guess. I am keeping notes. This will be good to work on in my next training cycle. Don't get me wrong, there were things that went right. For instance, I remembered to take salt at the halfway point which led to no cramping at all. I have no blue toenails, nor blisters. I owe it all to the wider toe box of the Nike Pegasus 27. Best of all, there were no surprise-burning-chaffing once I hit the shower! I guess I did a good job lubing up those problematic sports bra areas. You know what I'm talking about ladies. Recovery was quick, by Thursday I was ready to run, but to be on the safe side, I waited until Friday to resume training for Cal International Marathon. I really have nothing to complain about.

Asics Ad of 2011 finisher's names at Columbus Circle Train Station, picture courtesy of Maria's daughter, Arielle. Thank you Arielle!

After 18 weeks, 662.26 miles, 2 pairs of Nikes, I am done with the training for marathon #22. This training cycle was a huge success, no matter what I said above. I can proudly say that with this cycle, I didn't take any shortcuts. I stayed true to the core of Hal Higdon's marathon training program. I may have missed a few days here and there and took recovery days when the body clamored for more rest. But the intrinsic value of the pace runs, the intervals, hill repeats, tempo work, the middle of the week long run and of course, the meat and potato, the Sunday long run, all meshed perfectly together to mold me into into a better runner. I've come a long way to mess this up. Maybe there's another shot at redemption at CIM—in two weeks.
May you run long and happy...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Race Recap - NYC Marathon 2011

The before picture...just a blank slate...
Why do I run marathons? Sometimes I fumble for the answer. “I run for health” is an easy one. “The training is therapeutic”—is another answer and the other more personal answer is, it’s my “ME” time. If ever I am in a bad mood, running “resets” me. But this time, after running NYC, my response is because running a marathon is always an adventure—a journey into the unknown. You never know how it is going to pan out. Even if you’ve trained well, the weather was great, there are a host of other variables that can throw things out of alignment. 

More importantly, the adventure lies into the soul. It’s not so much about just covering the distance, it’s about finding what you’re made of once the going gets tough—once you’re faced with the proverbial wall. How do you adjust with a missed gel at mile 4 and mile 23? How do you deal with the consequences of pushing the pace too early and risking the last 10k for a crawl in the park? How do  you move forward without thinking about the mistakes made along the way? All these gave me glimpse of my inner strength. The marathon is only a tool that allows me to measure and test my patience—to reveal what I’m capable of, as I would find out in the ING NYC Marathon 2011.

Marathon day was a magnificent day.  Just seven days before the race, a freak storm hit the East Coast with downed trees, rain and snow.  Fortunately, the running gods listened to 47,438 starters and blessed us with perfect running conditions of 54 degrees and 49 degrees at the start—cool enough for a short sleeve shirt, shorts and arm and leg sleeves. There was hardly any wind. My missing 4 minutes of my goal time cannot be blamed at all on the weather. Heck, the weather was so perfect that the first, second and third place finishers on the men’s division all decimated the course record!  The 2009 winner Meb Keflezighi had a personal best but it was only good for 6th place!

The ExpoJacob Javits Convention Center
Although I’ve run NYC last year, 2011 is a whole new adventure because this was the first time that I’ve traveled on my own. Traveling across the country all by myself from CA to NY, I had a little bit of trepidation.  I was encouraged however by the fact that I remembered my way around the City. Last year’s memories were still fresh on my mind.   
I arrived on a Thursday and I stayed with my dear friend, Cece, whom I’ve known since Jr. High School in Oakland, CA.  Friday was reserved for the Expo where I picked up my bib and all my race day goodies.

I walked from Penn Station to the Expo while eating a bagel and drinking coffee: I was running late and I wanted to beat the crowd.

What a beautiful building...Getting closer...
...Aw shucks too late, the line was already long, but it moved swiftly.
More lines, but we're getting closer to getting in to register...

I was too excited to complain about the line...Everyone was so friendly and excited to be here. The most asked question by a fellow runners, "Have you run New York before?"
While she was checking my ID, she's mouthing "Are you seriously taking my picture?"
I seriously am.

I was trying to capture the immensity of this place.

24-000? Yes, that's me. I'm in the right line. 

They wonderful Volunteers: They gave me my T-Shirt in Women's XSmall, (I scored) and my bib! Thank you volunteers!

And they took my picture too, grinning from ear to ear, I'm actually here.

Fellow SLDC member Alec Briones who finished in an amazing 3:19

On the other side of the wall was where the ING merchandise were--where the Asics jacket awaited me.

I did splurged on an Asics Storm Shelter Jacket which cost me $125.  I picked up some souvenirs for family and got the heck out of dodge. It got so busy and I felt claustrophobic. The longer I stayed at the Expo, the more dangerous it got for my wallet. The highlight of the day was meeting Dean Karnazes, the ultramarathon man. His face lit up when I said I was from San Luis Obispo. He said, “I went to school at Cal Poly!” "Errr" I was a bumbling idiot. I was so star-struck I didn’t know what to say after that. 
It's me and Dean, Ultramarathon Man, 50 Marathons in 50 Days

What am I thinking? Damn this guys is all muscle.

...and yes he was going to run the marathon the next day...

I also met Hal Higdon, whose training program I followed for NYC Marathon.  I made sure I thanked him in advance for my PR.  I told him I knew his program is going to lead me into a new PR, but by how much was the question. He chuckled.
It's me and the man himself, Hal Higdon.
I thanked him in advance for the PR that I was going to do..

You can't get in with any other bag in Fort Wadsworth. Got to use this bag.

The clear UPS bag that they want us to use for our post-race change up clothes.

My loot unbagged: my second favorite piece is the survivor buff in yellow:
Could be used as a pony tail, head band, neck gaiter, tube top, do-rag, and best of all snot-rag.

For $180 entrance fee, this is what I got: Bib#, ING NYC buff, water, race shirt, eyeglass cleaner, nylon bag, sweat band, trail mix, plus lots more of useless coupons, advertisements

This is one of my favorite items inside the goody bag. After the race, you peel off your time and whoala! A magnet with your time.

The perfect race shirt! Finally a women's XS, V-neck and long sleeves. I could tell I will be reaching for this shirt more than any other in my drawer.

The color from the computer is off: It's more a teal green than grey

After the Expo and examining my loot, I was famished.  I should have carbo-loaded. Suma Sushi this delivered to our front door! Wow only in New York.

Marathon Eve
I'm on the subway, notice the sign? No, I was not excited...
Cece and I had carbo loaded in Greenwich Village in a restaurant called Elephant & Castle. This was Cece’s favorite Italian Restaurant and the pasta was delicious.  Incidentally, this was my fourth pasta meal. (Sorry no picture for that one.)  The night before we ate at an Italian restaurant two blocks from CeCe’s apartment in Harlem. I’ve been carbo-loading since Tuesday. We retired about 10:30 and forced myself to sleep.
Cece and I on the subway to Carbo-load at Elephant & Castle.

Pasta load #3 for the week: Linguine with clams from Gran Piatto Doro in Harlem.  One of the best pastas I've had. Sorry the picture is blurry, I couldn't steady my hand, as I was ready to dive into this.

Race Morning
My alarm clock sounded at 3 a.m. Race day coincided with daylight savings time. I was sure my phone was “smart” enough to change on its own, but I still worried.  It was my friend, Cece’s reassurance, from the oven clock that it was indeed 3 am, because the oven read 4 am.  Great, that meant I had 3 hours of full sleep, I tossed and turned all night, I laid in bed awake with my eyes closed. I was too excited and worried that I was still awake.  The Benadryl didn’t help put me to sleep. I avoided my evening coffee on top of that. That too didn’t help.  The last thing I remembered was when Cece said, “It’s past 1 o’clock and you’re still awake?”  I also remembered thinking “and in two hours my alarm will sound!” Oh this comes with the territory. The night before a big race I don’t really get a good night’s sleep.
Am I excited? Nov 6 finally arrived...been waiting for it since I got into the lottery.

Got my race clothes on before I slapped on my throw-away sweats

I ate breakfast shortly after getting up.  I had oatmeal, banana and a swig of Gatorade.  I knew the village would have Dunkin Donut’s coffee, so I held out, plus I didn’t want to risk the urge of needing to go to the bathroom en route there. I've had too many white-knuckle trips to the start. I wanted to enjoy the bus ride to Staten Island. I checked the weather to make sure I didn’t overdress or under-dress. It was going to be perfect.  But the early wait at the staging area would be cold—we were going to be by the water so wind was always a factor.  I packed a gaiter and gloves. My throw away sweats and clothes were perfect. 
By 4:45 a.m. I had already gone to the bathroom at least half a dozen times, topped my glycogen reserves, all dressed up and ready to go. I had my UPS clear plastic bag with me bib # for the post race clothes.  Cece arranged a cab pickup for me at 5 a.m.  Mr. Rodney was waiting for me as soon as I got down to the street.  The concierge wished me luck. Everyone I met in Harlem was so friendly. Mr. Rodney said that after he drops me off at the NY Public Library, he would have one more pick up for La Guardia and that he was done for the day.  He said the traffic is always so congested on Marathon day that he avoids it every year.  I felt lucky that Cece hooked me up. I could have taken the subway to the library for $2.25 but that would have been stressful. I didn’t want to take the risk.  Mr. Rodney was delighted with $24.00 plus I got there in less than 20 minutes. 
All bundled up just before going to my cab, where Mr. Rodney awaits.
Getting to the StartNY Public Library Marathon Buses
When we drove to Mid-town Manhattan, the street lights illuminated the sky.  We were hitting all green lights. The city was so beautiful as if ornamented with Christmas lights. 

Marathon Buses to Fort Wadsworth Staten Island
Once we got about 3 blocks from the library, a series of first-class buses lined the streets with “Marathon” marquee on it.  I felt goose bumps. It was still dark when Mr. Rodney dropped me off at 5:20 a.m.   The instructions were called out on the megaphones over and over again, “Runner’s only, keep moving!” Runners were moving fast, because it was cold and also they were rushing to get inside the warm buses. There was a feeling of excitement in the air. People are funny. Once they see camera lens, or obvious video, they start smiling, waving their hands in the air, and acting foolish. Everyone was giddy with excitement, it was infectious. People were smiling, greeting each other with a simple nod. As if like a brotherhood and sisterhood with unspoken word and you know what you’re in for.  While I was mesmerized by the whole spectacle of it all, I stood by the side and waited to meet for the first time a fellow subscriber to my blog, MMV.  When we connected, she was only minutes away on the Queensboro Bridge.  I told her I would wait for her so that we can board the bus together. Moments later we found each other. We boarded the bus and chit chatted until we got to the start. I was sad to find out that we would be separated once we got to the village. She was green with a 10:40 start and I was blue with 10:10 start. This was a short meeting. After months of blogging and getting to know her and exchanging ideas it was great to finally put a face to the name. It was nice to meet someone across country and exchange ideas, running tips and such.  If you know me, I can talk about running forever.  She was fun to talk to. We enjoyed talking so much that I didn’t get a chance to see the way to Staten Island. We got there in no time.    
The Staging AreaFort Wadsworth, Staten Island   
We got to the start about 6:25 give or take. There were lots of runners all clad up in warm clothes. With thousands of runners, it never ceases to amaze me how organized the NYC Marathon is. Runners hurried towards their respective villages—Blue, Green, and Orange.  Security checked our bib numbers and UPS bags. Big signs were posted to inform runners of the different times to drop bags off at the UPS trucks, to get into the corral, when it opens or closes.   MMV and I wished each other good luck and we went towards our respective villages.   I was a little sad when she walked away…I’m not very good with goodbyes.

Got there just in time. Still dark yet, but folks are starting to roll in. In a few hours we would be on that bridge.
Blue arrows pointing to the Blue Village, my home for the next 4 hours.

There it was, my UPS truck where I would need to drop off my post race bag. Sweet, no line.

Every Village had this posted for runner's information where it shows you where you need to be at what time.
It was already too crowded inside the tents when I arrived.

Walking towards the Blue Village brought back memories from last year when I didn’t know where to go, I was just following people. Now I feel very much like a pro. I walked right to the Dunkin Donuts coffee, found the line for the bagels, and the power bars.  There were no bananas this time, good thing I brought my own. Then I noticed a commotion over the side and had to find out what was going on. They were handing out Dunkin Donut beanies. It was orange and pink.  I grabbed one, for sure my daughter would like it.
Got here a little early, no line for my first cup of java.  The second time was a bit longer.

It was fun to watch people while killing time.

As I soon as I had my two cups of coffee, Power Bars and bagel I picked up a warm spot to park. Of course I forgot one thing: my cardboard box to sit on and a lawn bag for cover up for post race. How ironic it was because I made this super long list of what to bring and even blogged about it. Thankfully, MMV had an extra lawn bag which she gave me. I had a tiny cardboard that I picked up but it was too small—beggars can’t be choosers at this stage. As I ate my 2nd breakfast for the day, I happened to sit next to a 20-something gal from Chicago.  She had a box of tissues and blowing her nose incessantly.  Should have been a clue right? As I would find out, she got sick with the flu on Friday and spent Saturday in bed all day.  I didn’t want to be rude and move away, although I could have. But I stayed and chatted with her for a while. We were sitting by a storage bin which shielded us from the wind. This was her first NY marathon and I of course wanted to share her some tips.  She was a bit lethargic at first.  But the more I talked about the race, the more she got out of the funk she was in.  I was happy to see that.

Gal with flu on the right, I wonder how she did.

There was nothing to do but wait and watch runners who walked by.  It was the same as last year. The village had a huge tent but it was all full when I peeked in.  Folks were either sleeping or eating.  Every spot on the ground was taken.  They were huddled like refugees trying to keep warm.  There were lots of funny costumes. Runners brought sleeping bags, yoga mats, blankets, bathrobes whatever they could bring to keep warm. Multi-lingual instructions replayed over and over again on the loudspeaker informing of runners the times for closure for the UPS bag trucks and the corral gates.  There were religious services available too.

One thing I love about this marathon is the thousands of porta potties, 1,700 in fact. The line was almost non-existent. If there was a line, it moved swiftly. I played it safe by grabbing several wads just in case we ran out of toilet paper like last year. I kept it in my pocket if I ever needed it. Glad I did it, because it came in handy.
The French Connection: They are dressed to impress.

If you look closely, by the ambulance, there's a couple inside the cardboard boxes asleep.

The huddled masses, trying to keep warm at 38 degrees!

My Fellow Blue Villagers, figuring out the times to drop off bags and corral opening and closing.

People heading off to their corrals, Wave 1 folks are now stirring.
Did you catch Napoleon? Bummer, he walked to0 fast...

Brit guy must be freezing his buns off.

...and I'm just chillin', having a good ol' time waiting. Gal with flu on my right, your left.

I had a long wait, but I savored every moment. As I sat and waited I had plenty of time to reflect on what it took me to get here and what I needed to do. My first day of training was July 4th and it was Independence Day.  I missed the very first day of training because I wanted to race a 5k in Pozo. From there it was 18 weeks with Hal Higdon's program. It was a tough program and I was glad I was fit enough to stick with it with no injuries. That was my biggest concern.

The CorralWave 2
After downing my last gulp of Gatorade and packet of salt, at around 9:15 a.m., I hurried over to the UPS trucks to dump my post race bag.  The trucks matched the bibs # so it as easy.  Then I scuttled over to the front of the line for my corral. I was ready to go. Some 1st wavers were begging the corral keepers to let them in.  They refused them because they missed the cut-off time. They had to wait and run in Wave 2 instead.  As soon as the corral keeper lifted the tape to let us in, we were off. People ran to the last rows of porta-potties inside the corral. I was almost going to make a bee line for it too, when at the corner of my eye, I saw some folks running.  Not really thinking I followed. Maybe the corral start is up ahead and wouldn’t it be nice to be near the front of Wave 2 instead of the middle—and even more important, more porta-potties up ahead, I had hoped.  At the end of the corral gates, there were two police officers waving in the “runners” to hurry up, I sprinted too! When I turned the corner, what I saw was enough to make me spew obscenities like Debra Morgan from Dexter. Holy s@#t!  This is effing Wave 1! WTF am I doing here?  I informed a fellow “run-away” couple that we were in Wave 1.  They both looked at me and said, “So?”  Their response sort of made me feel better, but I was still in awe that I was at the tail end of Wave 1! I couldn’t believe it. Wave 1 was waiting to get going. I had already discarded my throwaway jacket so my bib # was exposed. One fellow warming up with trunk twists gazed his eyes on my on my bib. I didn't know if he was able to read my bib, but that was enough for me to put the jacket back on. I didn't want to cause any commotion.  I looked at everyone’s bib and noticed a lot of Wave 2s. I was among many who were mistakenly allowed in.   After my initial shock wore off, I needed to take care of business, decided to water some plants over by the side of the bridge. Since there were no more porta-potties at this point.   There were lots of folks watering plants. While Sinatra was playing I adjusted my Garmin.  Then I realized my breakfast was wearing off.  I took one gel.  I didn’t want to use up my coconut water, so I picked up an unopened water bottle that runners from Wave 1 discarded and took a swig.  With 5 minutes to start, I took off my jacket and warm sweats and put them on the side. I was sad to leave them because they kept me warm. It was all going to a good home. I saw the guys collect them in a big plastic bag. “Good bye clothes for keeping me warm and toasty.
Before I could pull out my camera, the guys in yellow already swept up the clearing to get ready for Wave 2.
They had just swept up all the clothes that littered the ground.

Officer on top of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge Toll Booth.  Notice the throw away sweats still to be picked up.

The tail end of the Wave 1. Runners getting ready to rock and roll. Notice the top of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge?

They don't mess around. They swept off the area in 2 minutes.  I am literally on the tail end of Wave 1.
Getting ready.

Guy on the right better not be staring at my bib#, turn around, man.

What's happening right now? Sinatra's singing in the background. He's spreading the news...

See I'm really in the back and I picked up my jacket that I already discarded for fear of being thrown out. Guy in the back don't give a sh#$.

I don't belong here...

Here we go! 47,438 runners are going to take to the streets of New York and I was one of them! I could not believe this day was finally here.  I waited for this day for a year. I was overcome with fear, excitement and sadness all at the same time.   The second go-around of the Sinatra song I could see that we were inches away from moving. It took me over 4 minutes to step on the starting line.

(Following is my 2011 mile per mile splits followed by 2010 splits in parenthesis)

Mile 1 Verrazano Narrows Bridge 10:04 (11:08)
The first mile was uphill, the highest elevation gain of the whole course at 274 feet above sea level. I hardly felt the incline because it was so congested running with more than 15K+ runners in wave 1, I was  forced to slow down anyway. I paid attention to my pace and tried to stick to a slower pace. One thing that stood out for me right at the get-go was the men who relieved themselves on the side of the bridge.  I had to hop on the river that was flowing towards me because the camber of the bridges bed was sloped towards the middle. I don’t recall seeing this last year.
...Start spreading the news....

I'm doing it....I'm finally running...

Look at these fast feet. I'm trying to hold back, it's uphill for 1 mile on the bridge.

Runners are going fast! Wave 1 is fast!

Still trying to hold back.

Mile 2 Verrazano Narrows Bridge 8:29 (9:12)
This was the first steep downhill. Lots of runners pushed the pace here.  It was hard to slow down.

The one mile downhill section of the bridge...notice how far they have pulled away?! My 8:29 pace for the 2nd mile must have been tortoise-like compared to these guys and gals. See you all in Central Park!

Mile 3 Fourth Avenue – Brooklyn 8:48 (9:16)
The elevation levels off starting from mile 3 and the 5-mile long straight-away down Fourth Ave begins. We’re now in the 2nd Borough, Brooklyn. We would be in Brooklyn until mile 14.
Oh, what's this I see?



Nice! Muscle Man! I wonder how he did.

Mile 4 Fourth Avenue – Brooklyn 8:46 (9:10)
We are still on Fourth Ave and it is flat.

Mile 5 Fourth Avenue – Brooklyn 8:53 (11:02 pit-stop)
Still on flat ground and was enjoying the crowd of spectators that I forgot to take my gel.

Mile 6 Fourth Avenue – Brooklyn 8:49 (8:48)
We are half-way through the Brooklyn leg of the course.
There I go bottom of the screen, still standing...

Mile 7 Fourth Avenue – Brooklyn 8:51 (8:38)
Still flat.  I was trying to keep in the middle, but when I saw a line of outstretched small hands on the right side, I couldn't help it.  I ran towards them and hi fived them all!  I needed that.
Mile 8 Lafayette Avenue – Brooklyn 9:30 (8:59)
The terrain is up and rolling on for this mile.  Upon remembering that I skipped a gel some 3 miles ago, I immediately took it.  Now I have to adjust the times that I will take them. The next one would be mile 13 at the half way point.  Also at this point, all runners converged—Blue, Green and Orange. The landmark was the 512’ tall Williamsburg Savings Bank, the second-tallest building in Brooklyn.  This was also where I decided to make a pit stop—story of my life, right? I saw that there was no line so I took advantage of that. At the most I only lost 30 seconds.

But here's what I was thinking in this stretch. Ignorance is bliss. Last year, it was all new to me, the course, the scenery, the elevation—I had no idea of what to expect. Now that I've experienced all that. I'm more aware of landmarks and mile markers. In my head, I was anticipating seeing the familiar things that I knew that was associated with the distance. For instance I was waiting for this clock tower and it took forever to get there.

The Williamsburg Savings Bank marks the 8th mile.

Mile 9 Bedford Avenue – Brooklyn 8:51 (9:32)
Half way through this mile it flattened out, I felt some minor rollers but none too bad. Still feeling strong.

Mile 10 Bedford – Brooklyn 9:02 (8:31)
This was pretty flat mile. Quite interesting fact, the Williamsburg neighborhood became a magnet for Hasidic Jews displaced from Europe, also home to large communities of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Italians and Germans.   I heard people cheering Puerto Rico when they saw a Puerto Rican runner passed by. All kinds of nationalities were being yelled by the spectators who were cheering runners from different countries. Some runners were running with their flags.

Mile 11 Bedford – Brooklyn 9:00 (9:13)
There were some slight uphill in this mile, but it was hardly noticeable. I felt like the miles are coming too fast.  It seemed as if I blinked and now I was almost halfway done.  I really didn’t want this run to end.

Mile 12 Bedford Ave – Brooklyn 9:05 (9:10)
This mile was flat and I was just enjoying the Brooklyn crowd.  I stayed mostly in the middle to conserve my energy instead of hooting and hollering and high-fiving folks.  I was mentally preparing for the Bridges to come in the next few miles. 

Mile 13 Manhattan – Brooklyn 9:10 (9:29)
I was anticipating taking my gel in this mile so as soon as I stepped on the timing mat which recorded my time, I took my 2nd gel. I walked for about 30 seconds to take water in. It was uphill for the first ¼ of the mile. We were now leaving Brooklyn. Next stop would be: Queens.

Really I was smiling? Half way there.

Mile 14 Pulaski Bridge – Brooklyn 9:17 (9:28)
2nd Bridge--Pulaski Bridge, heading to Long Island City, Queens, the 3rd Borough. This bridge was alright. It was not that bad.

Mile 15 44th Dr to Queens Blvd– Queens 9:49 (10:02)
The ascent up the Bridge from mile 14.75 to mile 15.5 was taking its toll. The pace felt harder to maintain. It felt as if I was slowed down to 10 minute pace.  But the training paid off because it only felt like so. In reality I was holding a much better pace than I realized.

Mile 16 Queensborro – Queens 9:46 (9:43)
I didn’t want to look at my Garmin. I thought, the ascent was only ¾ mile long. If it took this long to crest it, so be it. I wasn’t going to worry about how much I was slowing down. Just as long as I was moving it was progress. When we got off the bridge it dipped to a downhill. I was careful not go overzealous. I was still a long way to the finish.

Mile 17 First Ave – Manhattan 8:56 (10:43)
It was flat for the first mile and dipped down from 17.5 mile to 18th mile. We were now entering the 4th Borough, Manhattan. The crowd was super thick and super loud. Usually I start to feel the miles right around here.  Fatigue was starting to knock and I tried block it out of my mind. I was anxiously waiting for the next mile marker to take my gel. 

The wonderful thousands of volunteers...Thank you so much!
The first trek up First Avenue! This was a long stretch...and notice all the gatorade cups? It was sticky running through this.

Mile 18 First Ave – Manhattan 8:43 (9:13)
This time I remembered to take my 3rd gel. This was a good slight downhill mile.  I love those especially when I was starting to get tired.  I stopped taking pictures from here on out.  Time to  focus more on running. I can hear my hubby, "Stop taking pictures, more running!"

Mile 19 First Avenue – Manhattan 9:11 (9:59)
It was flat up until 19.5 mile then it started to roll.  I was feeling the stronger fatigue coming on. I was walking longer to the water stops and taking my time more. I forget that this happens when I am tired and I should have been more alert to recognize this.

Mile 20 Willis Avenue Bridge- Bronx 9:27 (11:05 pit-stop last year)
Seeing the ascent to the Bridge was making me tired, but knowing that it was only 1/8 of the way up, I picked myself up. This was the 4th bridge. One more left and finally done with the bridges.

Mile 21 Madison Avenue Bridge/138th St Bridge Harlem Bronx 9:21 (9:31)
This was the 5th and last bridge it was only uphill for 1/8 of the mile, then it flattened out. I remembered to look out for Cece in the next mile. I told her I would be up there between 1:20 and 1:30.

Mile 22 Fifth Avenue Harlem - Manhattan 9:24 (9:09)
This was a fairly flat section, but I was already feeling the distance for the first time, fatigue has settled in for good. I was still trying to keep it together, but it felt harder to maintain whatever pace I was holding. We're in Harlem and back to Manhattan. Just as I lifted my head up, I heard my name called out and the familiar voice—it was Cece!  I wanted to stop and say hi, but I knew if I did might not be able to hold on to the same pathetic pace whatever it was.  I refused to see what my Garmin said, all I was paying attention to was the pace right in this mile. If I did look, it would have played games with my head.

Mile 23 Fifth Avenue - Manhattan 9:08 (9:14)
I was supposed to take my 4th gel but missed it. I should have taken it here in this mile because the next mile I hit the wall. The saying the wall is like "a monkey jumping on your back" made perfect sense to me. My legs felt like timber and it heavy to lift it, as if I was carrying 300 lbs. 

Mile 24 Entering Central Park - Manhattan 10:40 (10:01)
This was my rough patch--there's always one. It was uphill the whole mile on 5th Avenue.  When I felt like walking and losing focus, it triggered the time to take my 4th gel. I was surprised that my glycogen stores were depleted so fast considering I've had 4 pasta meals in this past week.  I had to walk for more than a minute.  I took my time with the water station. My legs were stiffening up fast. Lots of people were walking now.  As soon as I started running again, it was a challenge to keep a strong pace.  For one thing my legs were stiff, I felt like I was running like the tin man, my form was bad and to top it off, the runners turned-walkers were now the cause for a traffic jam.  I had to now bob and weave around the walkers. I knew I was adding more mileage to the 26.2 miles. But there was nothing I could do.  Even at my sloth like pace, I was now catching up to the fast starters who were paying the price at the end.  Running with the first wave seemed like it never got sparse throughout.  Now the end was even more crowded.

Mile 25 East Drive - Central Park Manhattan 9:22 (9:00)
The course elevation leveled up and dipped down on East Drive, where we enter Central Park. I have been waiting for Central Park, it seemed like an eternity before Mile 25 came into focus. The gel was now starting to work and I’ve picked up the pace just a bit. People were calling out my name and I had no more energy to say “thank you” or acknowledge with a weak “whoo hoo!”  I had nothing left for a high-five and whatever little I had, I wanted to save it for any kick at all for that hilly last fifth of a mile.

When the 40K banner appeared, again, I didn't know how much more I needed to go (as was my experience from last year), but I kept going, dragging that foot in front of the other.  It seemed endless. My legs demanded a walk, but I ignored them. I already gave them more than a minute walk at mile 24.

Mile 26 East Drive Central Park 9:31 (8:47)
I was losing focus, all I can think of was to look for that familiar Columbus Circle. Once I saw that familiar sight, I knew the end was near. I struggled to keep pace against the rolling hills of this last mile.  Someone starting seeing “Come On Eileen” and I was happy to hear it, but so tired I couldn’t even raise my hand in "thank you."

Mile 26.2 4:28 (3:31)
Finally the Jumbo-tron on Columbus Circle just before mile 26 appeared. This was sight for sore eyes because it signified that the finish was close. However, this last fifth of a mile was all uphill! It was a cruel joke.  The crowd was loud and encouraging. I wanted to touch them and be hi-fived, but I didn't even have the energy left to bring my hands out. I was that spent.  I finally approached the banner that read "800 meters". That meant two laps at the track on Wed nights. That’s one Yasso, you can do it.  Then I came across a banner that read "600 meters", then 400—That’s one lap and you’re done. Come on pick up the pace! The legs were not happy, they wanted to stop running, they were stiff as a board. I felt like I was a zombie dragging my feet on the ground. When I saw the finish line appear amongst the Central Park trees, I had nothing left. The urge to walk since the 40K banner was getting stronger. I pushed that out of my mind.  In training, I envisioned myself with a final kick with a killer surge at the end at the sight of the finish banner. Not this time. I was trying to keep it together from fading and maintain whatever sloth like pace I had left. And then, just like that—it was over. All that I've worked hard for 18 weeks was finally done. It was anti-climactic. I'm embarrassed to admit that I was overcome with sadness. I truly and deeply enjoyed this journey. I couldn't wait for the finish line, but at the same time, I didn't want this moment to end.   This was indeed an incredible adventure.

Where's the exit?

The caped crusaders...
The finish chute was uneventful. There was no melodramatic finishes. No one kissed the ground or weep uncontrollably. What I saw was a mass of fatigue marathoners who limped their way out of the park.  We were ushered like herds of cattle to keep moving and not block traffic, "Oh but hey congratulations, you guys are amazing, keep moving!"  Volunteers in succession, moved us along the chute. They hung medals around our necks, took our celebratory photos, wrapped us up in Mylar blankets, taped our blankets in place and handed us our orange bag of post race replenishment and nutrition.  Then we were escorted to our corresponding UPS trucks to retrieve our post race bags. While I was looking for my UPS truck, I've had time to call my hubby to verify my finish time. I knew I was off by four minutes from the clock because it took me that long to cross the starting mat in Staten Island. Invariably because of the jockeying I had to do, I made the course longer by running 1/4 of a mile more.  Unfortunately my hubby wasn't able to track me at all. My next call was my running partner, Heidi. She and her husband was able to track me and delivered the good news! Relieved, I got dressed on the side somewhere, where tons of folks were dressing up too.  Shortly, volunteers berated us for getting dressed on the spot. They didn't want us to block the walkway. But runners are hard-headed.  Finally I found my exit out of the park which took a good hour.  I walked for 2 miles to get out, but it was good walk since it helped clear the lactic acid in my muscles.   While waiting for Cece, I sat at a park bench outside Central Park West for a minute or two and stared at my medal that hung around my neck. I finally had a moment to digest this whole experience. So this was how it felt to run a 04:04:21. I was beat and I left everything on the course.  I was off by 4:22—I still had a personal best and a course record. I was proud and satisfied with my finish time. I was close and now I know what to work on next.  New York has been yet another wonderful experience. It didn’t disappoint.  Here’s to 2012!
Excuse me Mr. Italy, you almost blocked my shot!

 A juicy burger will do...

Juicy Burger from Five Napkin Burger in Manhattan
After walking 2 1/2 miles, I found Cece and we ate the biggest juiciest burger we could find in Manhattan. I’ve been craving burger for 2 weeks now! This was my treat.

...and after