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Running in brownstone Brooklyn

stuck inside

Posted by Heather on February 18, 2010

I’m still going back on forth with myself over whether or not I’ll run a marathon this fall. If I do, it’s going to be Philly. Because if I do it again, I definitely want to run it faster. And Philly is sure to be a faster race than NYC, with fewer, smaller hills and more manageable crowds. Additionally, I can wait until June to make my decision about it.

So what’s going on right now . . . I’ve been stuck inside, running on the treadmill for a month straight. First, it was insanely cold. And then it snowed. And snowed again. And again. Running on slippery, icy, uneven sidewalks is a recipe for disaster for me. I don’t do it. Instead I suffer through the boredom of running inside the gym.

Honestly, running intervals on the treadmill is just fine. Tempo runs are rough. And long runs make me want to shoot myself. As a result, my long runs are currently capped at 8 miles. I just can’t stand anything longer than that on the treadmill.

I’m back to the 3-times a week, FIRST approach. I’m also lifting weights three times a week. I’m hoping to build up my speed and strength through the spring. Then I may switch to a more mileage-heavy program and ease up on the speedwork a bit while I increase my endurance. But that’s all kind of vague right now. I’m definitely NOT sticking to that 52-week plan that I worked out right after the NYC marathon.

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Posted by Heather on January 25, 2010

I know that I have been grossly negligent with respect to this blog.  I have been only marginally more conscientious when it comes to running.

I logged a TOTAL of 35 miles in December, barely running at all in the second half of the month.

January has been slightly better.  I’ve got 42 miles down and the month isn’t over yet.

My lack of motivation has come from two sources.  First, the weather has been unseasonably cold and snowy.  My tendency to fall and land on my face makes me reluctant to run in those conditions.  Second, I just couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do with the year and without a goal . . . well, sleeping-in become increasingly more attractive.

But.  But!  I think I’ve finally figured out what I’m going to do.  And the weather should start gradually improving soon.

I’m not going to run the NYC marathon this year.  I would eventually like to do it again, but when I think about the training . . . well, I’m just not so inclined to run 18-20 miles every single weekend all summer long.  I’ve got other things to do.

Instead, I’m going to focus on speed.  I’m targeting a spring 10K for a new PR.  And a fall half-marathon.  I’ll probably do a few other races, just for fun.

And maybe next year, if I’m feeling marathony, I’ll do the Philly marathon and CRUSH my current snail-like marathon PR.

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Back to the routine

Posted by Heather on November 29, 2009

My first two weeks of post-marathon running have gone well.

I’m running five times a week, various distances, with no prescribed pace.  If I feel like taking it easy, I do.  If I feel like running fast, I run fast.  It’s been nice to have short runs back in the mix.  I had missed my little three or four mile jaunts out to the Brooklyn Promenade.

I covered 21 miles last week and 23 miles this week.  Both times, my average pace for the week was 10:14.

So far, I’m comfortable with the five-day schedule, but my shins are starting to get a little bit sensitive.  Hopefully, they won’t graduate to “painful”

I’m toying with the idea of doing a couple of January races . . . a 5M and a half-marathon, both in Central Park.  I’m feeling kind of wishy-washy about both.  I’m far more certain about my February race plans.  (Two.  A 5K and a 4M.)

I’m also undecided about the 2010 NYC Marathon.  Yes, 2009 went very badly.  And yes, I do kind of want a do-over.  But right now, it is SO NICE not to have to do those long runs.  I don’t really enjoy running for 18 or 20 miles every damn Saturday.  I believe that I have until early March to decide.  I’ll probably do it.  At least one more time.  Just so I don’t have to live with 4:55 as my best marathon time.  I know that I am capable of a far better performance than that.



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Recovery and 2010 Plans

Posted by Heather on November 16, 2009

It took about three days for my limp to go away.  And an entire week for my back to completely stop hurting.  On Thursday after the marathon, I ran across a street and was shocked by the pain it caused.  Very worrisome.

I left for a much needed vacation.  One whole week of scuba diving in the Caribbean.  On the first day, my back still felt a bit wonky, but by day two, it was fine.  It was nice to get a bit of exercise and my legs were definitely getting a workout on the days when the currents were strong. 

Yesterday, exactly two weeks post-marathon, I tried running again.  I was nervous, worried that my back was going to hurt.  I did three SLOW miles and I was hyper-aware of my back the entire time.  Happily, there was no pain.  Today, I’m still paying too much attention to the state of my lower back, but I think that what I perceive as back fatigue is really just psychosomatic.  I’m so worried about it that I’m over-analyzing all sensation.

I’m going to get back in to yoga in an effort to strengthen my back and abdominal muscles.  Yoga is a nice compliment to running anyway and I know that it’s something that I enjoy.  I’ll probably throw in an occasional bit of post-run core work as well.

My training schedule for the next year is all worked out.  I’m doing a month or so of recovery, building back up to 30 miles per week.  Then I have 15 weeks of speedwork.  Following that, I have three months of base training (April – June, 30 mpw).  I’ll knock out most of my 9 marathon-qualifier races during this time.  And I’ll start marathon training again in early July.  I’m going to follow Hal Higdon’s Intermediate-II plan.

The biggest change from the pattern I followed in 2009 is that I’ll be running 5 days per week, rather than three.  The total weekly mileage for the 2010 plan isn’t much greater though.  And only the “speed” phase includes intervals.  “Speed” will also have me running six days a week.  The base phase has a single mid-length tempo run the day before my long run.  And the “marathon” phase has a tempo run only on alternating weeks.

That’s the plan, at least.  Naturally, it is all subject to change depending on how things are going.

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NYC Marthon – Postmortem

Posted by Heather on November 4, 2009

The marathon really shouldn’t have taken such a drastic turn for the worse as early as it did.  During my training, I completed eleven runs that were 15 miles or longer.  Three of those were 20 miles long.  And I was not in significant pain durning any of those.  I wasn’t even dramatically sore the day after!  So, the intense back pain I experienced beginning at mile 15 was completely unexpected. 

My initial reaction in the hours afterward was one of disappointment and frustration.  I told anyone who asked, that I had just run my LAST marathon.  I declared myself a half-marathon girl.  I told Andrew that I’d have to lose 20 pounds and get a whole hell of a lot faster before I’d even consider doing another marathon.

By the following day, I had started to appreciate my own determination.  While I didn’t even come close to my “A” goal of 4:30, I did meet my “C” goal of finishing in under five hours.  And I most definitely did perservere through adversity.  So, I am definitely proud of the effort.  Also, I realized that the marathon is much much more than a single day.  I worked hard for months leading up to it.  Realizing that made me much more gracious when people expressed amazement at my accomplishment.

I was also thrilled by how much the whole thing inspired my friends.  Jen announced that she wants to try a half-marathon.  Isaac signed up for the 2010 NYC Marathon lottery!  Andrew even said that HE wants to do it!  I love it when people find the joy and excitement of running.  I’m a total pusher in that way. 

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what went wrong on Sunday.  And I think I’ve figured it out.  On Friday night, I had a nightmare that jolted me from sleep quite suddenly.  I recoiled from whatever it was that scared me so violently that I twisted my hip pretty badly.  It hurt for the rest of that night, so much so that I didn’t sleep well.  On Saturday, it was still a little out of whack for most of the day, but by evening I’d forgotten about it.  And it felt fine on Sunday.  But I think that it must have changed my gait slightly, causing me to favor my right side and thus fatiguing my back.  Even now, when the muscle soreness has begun to fade, my left leg still hurts far more than my right . . . another clue that something was off-balance.  A stupid nightmare on Friday night ruined my marathon.

On Monday, my friend Michele, who has run the NYC marathon five times, told me that I’d change my mind about that being my last one.  I laughed at her.  But by Monday night, I was looking at training plans.  And by yesterday afternoon, I was sketching out a rough plan of a few weeks recovery, 35 mpw base building through the winter, spring speedwork, and the a brand new marathon training plan starting in July. 

I am officially a masochist.

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NYC Marathon – The Second Half

Posted by Heather on November 4, 2009

We left Brooklyn, running over the Pulaski Bridge into Queens.  I was starting to grow tired.  

The Black Sabbath cover band made me laugh.  I may have been the last time I laughed.

The Queensboro Bridge was looming.  We started up the incline and my back started to hurt.  A lot.  Each step sent a shock of pain into my lower back.  A mile later, we finally hit the downhill side of the bridge.  I could hear the cheering from First Ave in Manhattan, but I couldn’t run faster.  The decline was even more painful to my back than the incline had been.

25K at 2:47.  Pace fell again to 10:44.

And the pain didn’t lessen.  I was at 59th St.  Andrew was supposed to be waiting at 96th.  I counted off the blocks but when I got to 96th, he was no where to be seen.  I checked my phone and saw a text from him saying that he wasn’t going to be there in time to see me.  It was a little demoralizing.

30K at 3:23.  Pace down to 10:52.

First Ave was basically a blur.  I wasn’t feeling encouraged by the spectators.  In fact, I was mostly just miserable and wallowing in my pain.  On the bridge into the Bronx, I texted Andrew, “I am falling apart.”

There was some salsa playing in the Bronx, I think.  My memory grows a bit hazy here.  Also, at this point, I started walking through the water stops, whether I was drinking or not.  The problem with this approach was that the transition from walking to running was excruciating.  I literally cried out in pain each time.  I tried pressing my hands into my back, HARD when I started running again, and that helped a bit.  There was a huge jumbotron screen in the Bronx that was sort of impressive just for the sheer size of the thing.  I couldn’t bring myself to wave.  Also, I got passed by the 5 hour pace group at that point.  It wasn’t looking good.

Over another bridge and back in to Manhattan.  The crowd was sparse that far up on 5th Ave, but I do remember another gospel singer.  I trudged on.

35K:  4:01.  Another drop in pace to 10:52.

As we went around Marcus Garvey Park, I started hearing people yell out “Blues Brothers!!!”  but I didn’t have the energy to turn around and look.  I later saw pictures.  Two guys in costume.  Cute.

Starting at 110th St, 5th Ave has a gradual incline all the way to where the race enters the park at 86th.  Perhaps the only positive aspect of my back pain was the fact that it greatly overshadowed the torture of that uphill stretch.  It also made the pain in my left ankle and left foot seem trivial.

I saw my crew again at 93rd.  I gave them a double thumbs down and said, “I hate this!”  Andrew put his arm around my shoulder and ran with me.  He said, “You’re going great!” Tears welled up in my eyes and I said, “I don’t know if I can keep going. My back hurts so much.”  He squeezed me and said, “Yes.  You can.  It’s three pussy miles.  You can run three miles.  You are almost done!!”  I thanked him, told him that I love him and kept moving.

The miles in the park seemed endless.  I kept looking at my watch in disbelief.  I couldn’t believe how long it was taking to get to each mile marker.

40K:  4:39; average pace: 11:14

I kept talking myself through each mile.  Breaking the distance down into familiar, easy chunks.  Like, “Two miles left.  That’s just to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and back.  You’ve done that a million times.  You can do it now.”  Or “One mile.  One fucking mile.  You can deal with this for another ten minutes.”, “Four hundred meters.  Two avenues.  Just two avenues!”

Then I could see the finish and a minute or so later, I was done.  I crossed the finish line and then I cried.  4:54:41.  Average pace:  11:15.

Someone gave me a medal and someone else handed me one of those weird silvery blankets and taped it closed.  I trudged forward.  I got my picture taken.  A bag of crappy food, water and gatorade was handed to me.

And still we moved forward.  Barely.  The finishers area was jam packed.  Standing still hurt my back.  Taking a step hurt my back.  My legs were shaky and weak.  I was shivering and cold and so tired.  But we couldn’t leave the park until 77th St, half a mile from the finish.

Finally, I hit the exit and I sort of shuffled another two block to the bar where Andrew and Jen were waiting for me, a bar that was below street level.  I laughed out loud when I saw the stairs leading down to the door.  No wonder that place wasn’t crowded.  At that point, stairs were my worst enemy.

At the bar, there were hugs and many kind words, delicious beer and loads of pretzels.

Every part of my body hurt.  My legs, my hips, MY BACK, my abs, my shoulders, my arms, my neck.  Seriously.  EVERYTHING.

Andrew said something about me running again next year and I laughed out loud, saying, “No fucking way.  That was my last marathon.”

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NYC Marathon – The First Half

Posted by Heather on November 4, 2009

The day before the marathon, I packed a support bag for my husband to carry. He had a change of clothes for me, a jacket, a bunch of Gu, Advil, Body Glide, bandaids and my most comfortable flip-flops. In my own bag, I packed an old jacket, my arm-warmers, a headband, my running hat, a trash bag, another Body Glide, a few LaraBars and a bottle of water. I printed out a 4:30, incline-adjusted pace band and carefully wrapped it in clear packing tape. We ate spaghetti with marinara and garlic bread for dinner and I went to bed early.

In the morning, my alarm went off at 5:30. I hopped out of bed and dressed in my capris, and my blue sleeveless top. I put an old sweatshirt on over that. I ate a LaraBar, drank some water and messed around on the internet for a bit.

At 6:45, Andrew walked me to the subway. On the way there, I realized that I had forgotten my pace band. But I wasn’t terribly upset about it. I just figured I’d try to keep my pace between 10:15 and 10:20 and not really worry about it too much. The subway ride and the 7:30 ferry to Staten Island all went smoothly. As did the shuttle bus to the start area.

At the start, I gawked at the thousands and thousands of runners around me, all in various states of dress from shorts and tank tops, to multiple layers of old mismatched clothes. I got in line for the toilet and listened to the announcements telling Wave1 runners to go get into their corrals. (There were three waves. 9:40, 10:00 and 10:20.) I lubed up with a bit more glide and nibbled on a really crappy bagel. Then I tossed my bag and walked over to the corrals. It was a mass of chaos and confusion. I was supposed to be wave2 (10:00) green start (there were three colors), corral G (the last one). I entered the corral and was pretty sure I was in the right place. From the chatter around me, everyone else seemed to also be wave2, corral G.

So, at 9:40, the cannons went off and we saw the lead runners head over the bridge. We cheered and waved. I threw my sweatshirt off to the side and pulled on my arm warmers. The cannons for wave 2 went off right on time. And we didn’t move. The runners on the bridge dwindled down to nothing and we didn’t move. So, apparently, I was now in wave3. I texted Andrew to tell him that I’d be at least 20 minutes behind schedule for all of our planned meeting spots.

Finally, the cannons blasted for a third time and we made it across the starting line. The Verrazano Bridge was INCREDIBLY windy and really really cold. And sort of boring. I was on the lower level, so there really wasn’t much to see. I dodged around people walking three abreast (HATE THAT) and felt completely comfortable running at my planned pace.

I ran the first 5K(3.1 mi) in 32 minutes. A 10:16 mi/hr pace.

Just after mile three, we hit Fourth Ave and the crowd there was amazing. I’ve been a spectator at the marathon before, but seeing it from a runner’s perspective was really just awe-inspiring. There were thousands and thousands of people out there cheering and yelling out encouragement, waving signs and playing music and dancing and handing out paper towels and swedish fish and oranges and water. I was so blown away by the show of support from my neighbors. I have never ever felt such pride in my fellow new yorkers. It was really moving. I ate a Gu at mile 5 and continued smiling and laughing my way up Fourth Ave.

At 10K, my time was 1:04 and my pace had fallen a bit to 10:20. By that point, I wasn’t really paying any attention to my watch. I was too busy having a great time to care about it.

I came within a few blocks of my apartment at the 8 mile point. I looked around for Jeff, he had told me that he’d be out there, but I didn’t see him. We turned on to Lafayette Ave and headed through Clinton Hill, which, again, awed me with it’s incredibly party atmosphere. I passed a high school band that plays the Rocky theme song every year for FIVE HOURS STRAIGHT. And ran past a church with an entire gospel choir standing on the steps singing. I saw house parties and DJs and little kids holding their hands out hoping to high-five a runner. I saw blind runners and people in wheel chairs who do the whole course moving backwards and pushing off with their legs. There was a woman on crutches and an amputee who had one of those super cool running prosthesis. There were people dressed in costumes and people wearing shirts for many different countries. I was still in awe.

I hit 15K 1:37. Pace was down to 10:23.

We made a left on to Bedford Ave. Crowd support thinned a bit. I passed two guys watching from the side of the road. One yelled, “Welcome to Brooklyn!” The other said, “This isn’t Brooklyn. It’s the ‘hood. Welcome to the ‘hood!!” That made me chuckle. We passed rather quietly through the Hasidic neighborhood. Very few spectators there. I guess the Hasidim don’t like to watch the marathon. Probably because of the scantily clad women. The neighborhood transitioned into hipster williamsburg. I finally saw Andrew for the first time just before mile 12. My friend Jen was with him. She had come up from NJ to surprise me. I screamed and stopped to hug them. I told them all how much fun I was having. My face hurt from smiling so much. I applied more body glide, even to my groin where my underwear was chafing a bit. I have no shame. I got a few more packets of Gu from Andrew and continued on my way.

I passed 20K at 2:11 and the half-way point at 2:19.

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The last few miles and winter plans

Posted by Heather on October 28, 2009

I dodged another prediction of rain on Sunday.  I had planned to tough it out and do my ten miles in the rain, but there was not a single drop.  I’m not complaining though.  I tried to run at an easy pace.  I tried.  But I finished 10 miles in 1:40:48 for a 10:05 pace.  So maybe that IS my easy pace now?

Yesterday, I did 6 quarter-mile intervals on the treadmill.

Tomorrow, I will do a REALLY EASY three-mile jog.  I’m going to watch my pace carefully to make sure I don’t go any faster than 10:30.

I’m also heading over to the marathon expo tomorrow to pick up my number.  I am giddy with excitement.  I really am.

I’ve been obsessing about the weather.  Predictions have gone from cold to warm to perfect to wind to rainy.  Really, as long as there isn’t steady rain, or an early downpour, I’ll be perfectly happy.

A few days after the marathon, I’ll be flying down to Dominica for a week-long scuba trip.  When I get home, it’ll be time to lace up the sneakers again.  So I’ve been trying to come up with a winter plan.  I’ll probably do a few races for fun.  Maybe I’ll PR at the Manhattan Half-Marathon.  But it might be super cold, and it’s a tough course, so maybe not.  I think I’ll stick to the three-days-of-running approach.  Varied lengths of intervals on the treadmill on Tuesday.  A 6-mile, outside if possible, on Thursday, maybe with some fast miles thrown in if I feel like it, and a long run of 10-15 miles on Saturday or Sunday.  Basically, I’m just looking to maintain my current speed.  When Spring rolls around, I’ll challenge myself a bit in the hopes of getting faster.

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Tapering is tough.

Posted by Heather on October 20, 2009

I’m having a hard time with the taper.  I keep running much faster than I should.

Last weekend, I was supposed to run 13 miles at marathon pace, which is about 10:30, I guess.  Instead, I blazed through it, finishing in about 2:06.  Extrapolating just a bit to estimate the comparable time for 13.1 miles . . . I WOULD HAVE SET A NEW HALF-MARATHON PR!!!!  During a regular old training run!  This is amazing. 

But I must slow down because the real race is still a week and a half away.

That said, I’m beginning to think that perhaps my initial best-case-scenario time estimate is a bit conservative.  However, as my dad likes to tell me, not matter what I do on November 1st, it’ll be a personal record.  And I really do want to enjoy the race.  I don’t want to smash into the proverbial wall and I don’t want to feel as though I’d rather be dead.  So I’m not going to try to exceed a 10:30 pace.  It will be a challenge to stick to that in the early miles since I’m sure adrenaline will make me want to RUN, but I’m going to hold back.  And then, if by some miracle, I’m not totally wiped out at 20 miles, I’ll reconsider my pace.   If I want to run with a specific time goal, I can do so at some other marathon in the future.

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The hard work is over.

Posted by Heather on October 11, 2009

Thursday’s run was great.  Just like on Tuesday, I felt strong.  And fast.  My plan told me to run 8 miles at marathon pace.  But I ended up coming much closer to my long-tempo pace instead.  I ran 8 miles in 1:16 with an average pace of about 9:30.  Not bad at all.

On Saturday, I did my last twenty-mile run of the season.  I ran down Fifth Ave, past Greenwood Cemetary, then over to Fourth Ave.  I followed the marathon course, through Brooklyn, Queens and Harlem.  The wind was intense on the bridges and it rained while I ran over the Pulaski Bridge.  When I hit 11oth St, I ran over to the park and continued along the marathon route to the finish line.  This actually turned out to be my slowest 20-miler.  Odd.  I ran for three hours and forty minutes.

I feel confident about race day.  I’m familiar with the course.  My hydration is good.  I’m comfortable eating vanilla Gu every 5 miles.  I know what I’m going to wear. I know where I’m going to see my husband.  I know what time I’m going to get up and what I’ll eat for breakfast.  I even feel like my “A” goal might be a real possibility.  I am so looking forward to this.

But the race is still three weeks away.  So now I taper.  Although, my taper really isn’t so dramatic.  It just means that my long runs get sorter for the next couple of weeks.  And honestly, I’ll be glad to be done with the four hour runs for now.

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