Thursday, December 4, 2014

NYC Marathon 2:45:46 - shy of my goal but SO HAPPY!

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There it is…2:45:46. 2 minutes 47 seconds shy of my goal and I am 99% proud of that. 1% of me is disappointed I could not get the job done but my NYC backyard is not an easy one and gave me a very honest race. All my focus was on a 2:42 in NYC. Every ounce of my running mind was repeating the 6:10 mile mantra. My training was 100% there. My mind was 100% there so what happened? Ok, here’s my excuses: wind, solo running from mile 1-26 and everyone’s favorite topic – my period (sucks). Three things I couldn’t control. The opinion the night before the race was that maybe I should save my 2:42 effort for an easier, flatter, less windy day race i.e. CIM on Dec.6 – that WAS ABSOLUTELY NOT an option. I had trained specifically for one of the greatest races in the world and damn’t, I was running as hard as I could from start to finish in New York City. And -- I did that despite a not so perfect day.

There are 2 things that had me shaking my head when I woke up on race morning and that was the wind warnings and the fabulous timing of my period. I know, periods, a topic that is rarely discussed though it should be talked about more because it can have a major impact on race day not only with how you feel (crap, hell in a handbag) but also considering it is when a women’s estrogen is lowest during her cycle meaning fueling strategy changes a bit (may need 1-2 more gels), endurance effected (scientific stuff here, I know). Ideally, a women would want her biggest race to fall within 2 weeks after her period when estrogen is highest. One bit of advice on this for the lady runners – DIVA CUPS for racing! A lifesaver and actually stay put unlike tampons. Moving on…

I snapped myself out of my woe is me attitude and decided to change the mindset to RACE BRAVE, YOU ARE READY and enjoy the day. That was it. I didn’t even feel nervous. I was ready. Excited. Happy. The greatest feeling before a race. I also felt honored to be starting as a professional and wanted to make my city proud! I could get extremely detailed about the entire race but to be honest, it was pretty darn straightforward. I mean, the race was electric, the crowds beyond anything I have ever experienced. What I experienced was an almost perfectly executed race. There weren’t any low points besides one when I crawled up the Queensboro Bridge. It felt like something out of a sci-fi movie as there was no one (and I mean no one) around. It was absolute stillness which unfortunately added to my mile time dropping to 20 minute pace…ok not quite but felt really really ridiculously slow. I kept telling myself I needed (HAD TO!) to rebound on the descent and soak in the crowds to get me moving back on track. Speedy road descents I can handle so luckily that hideously slow climb didn’t throw my entire race. Towards the last 9 miles, I began passing a few girls that had fallen off the chase pack. I suffered a bit up 5th avenue – I mean, who doesn’t?! But once I turned into Central Park, on the roads I run every single day, I got my mile times to 6:10 once again. Also helped that the lead guys sprinted past me with all their motorcars and cameras. I took that energy in. I was laughing because so many people were yelling “do not let those guys pass you, stay with them!” Haha, right but I kept moving and was actually thrilled to see a 2:45 and a TOP 20 (aka 20th). Once again, amazing.

Running an entire marathon solo has been a great fear of mine. You are running at such a great effort and having someone, if only for 5 miles, takes a bit of the pressure off and mental out of it BUT at NYC I was alone. When I felt my pace struggling, I ran near the crowds even gave a high five or two. I completely soaked them in and they totally lifted my spirits (and pace!). Wasn’t too shabby having my name on my bib as that led to chatting of KATE all along the course. Amazing. Amazing. If I had to choose one word to describe NYC it would be happiness. I was doing what I loved, performing to my ability and had friends and family cheering me from start to finish. It was electric. Struggle makes us feel alive and also makes us appreciate what we have. I was so thankful that day so there was no way I could be sad at that finish line…NO WAY.

With all that said, I have determined I must go after another marathon, soon – HOUSTON January 18. I know it is a quick turnaround but not as quick as December 6 CIM which was the initial plan (body was not having a 5-week turn around). Ideally I wouldn’t race another marathon until the spring or even fall but I have bigger plans for the spring and must carry my fitness a few more weeks to squeeze out that sub-2:43. It is such a massive achievement and even though I know NYC was a great race, marathons are a lot about time and I have a low 2:40 in me. Onward to Houston!!!

What I did for NYC:

Ok, what have I done? Everything. Tempos have been a twice weekly occurrence...TWICE! My coach is mad (me). She pushed all my limits (me). My coach can be a bit sadistic (me). Yes, yes I am my own coach and I'm smart as hell so I said, what went wrong last year? what went right? Took some advice. Actually listened to some outside feedback and came up with a pretty darn good plan. Below is a list of training staples I added into my weekly workouts since June:

1. 20+ mile run (occasionally running the last 3 miles around 6min pace)

2. 15-18 mile run with race pace (or faster) running in between

3. Long interval workout -- I call these on/offs something like 3min fast, 3 min steady

4. Double Thursdays 8-10mi in morning and HARD team workout at night (another 8-10miles)

5. Fast 4-6 miler every week usually in the form of a race

6. MEGA workout once every 2-3 weeks -- these are usually long, hard and fast

7. Core work 3-4x a week

8. Powercranks 3-4x a week

9. Consistent mileage since June between 80-95 miles every single week, no miss

10. A lot of runs with hills, no structured hill work but hard runs on tough terrain

Above is the basics of my training. Since I have been pushing the workouts, my recovery runs are EASY, SLOW. I mean, I'm talking 8:40 - 9 minute pace slow. That is the only way I can accomplish 3x workouts a week. It works. The difference of pace between my hard days and slow days can be almost 3minutes per mile! While it seems a lot, my body is responding. All my times have gotten faster. Not every single recovery run is 9min miles but sometimes it is necessary. I like a slow shuffle or sometimes it is simply forced upon me because my legs hurt. Anyways, September was wild with training and racing. I raced 5 races in 4 weeks! Of course, I didn't taper. Took each race on with a plan in hand and went at it with a very 'training' run focused mindset otherwise it just would not work. Below are my races and my plan for each:

September 14 - NYRR 18 miler: The race is 3 x 6 mile loops around Central Park so a perfect opportunity to run descending loops. I think it ended up something like 1st loop 6:40, 2nd loop 6:20s, 3rd loop 5:50s…comes out to about 18 miles at 6:26/mi.

September 20 – Cheshire 10k: The goal was to run as hard as possible on high mileage legs. Course was TOUGH! 36:17

September 21 – Goodwin Forest trail 30k: I wanted to run a very strong 18 miles without breaking an ankle. Technical rocky terrain but nice to run a hard effort without completely crushing the legs.

September 28 – Vermont 50k: Well, I was supposed to simply run the entire thing relaxed. This is one of my favorite races and the absolute smartest thing to do was save the body and run easy. I managed easy running until about mile 23 when I realized I felt amazing and was in 4th place. I hate 4th place so put the burners on for the next 7-8miles (it was said to be about 32 miles this year). It was pretty awesome to blaze through the last part of the course and work my way to 1st in 4:29! Yay!

October 5 – NYRR Grete’s 13.1: The goal was to run faster than marathon race pace on tired legs but again, not all out. I said maybe a 1:19 but ran a 1:18 and felt great. Added some mile before and after to get in a big day and was able to run 15 miles the next day so that made me happy and really feel I could pull off something special in NYC.

So, after those 5 races, I decided I didn’t want to touch a start line until NYC. Even though I held myself back in the races, they are still races and challenging efforts so needed to just train until November 2. I wouldn’t have changed a thing before NYC. Everything came together perfectly, training wise.