Family trip to Washington DC and Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap

3 days post marathon, I am sitting on my couch right foot propped up with frozen cherries on a swollen ankle, replaying the race in my head mile by mile.  Fortunately, much of the swelling has already gone down and I can finally walk without a limp.   The aftermath of chasing a sub-4:00 finish which I proudly achieved!  Let me backtrack to the day when we arrived in DC. Continue reading “Family trip to Washington DC and Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap”

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Flashback : Race recap and training tidbits

Yikes, 5 months without a post!  Only 4 weeks left until Marine Corps Marathon.  I regret not writing as often as I would like but after spring break, the dynamics in my home changed when my husband went out of town for a month for work.  My girls, especially the eldest terribly missed her dad and at times affected her behavior, therefore each day was an emotional roller coaster that left me completely drained.  The last thing on my mind was to sit in front of a computer. Unfortunately, the one month without writing has crept up to five, and I missed posting about a couple of the races I ran and most of my marathon training.

April:  La Jolla Half marathon – the first time I ran this race after living in San Diego for nearly 8 years.  Guess I avoided this race because of its hilly route, especially the Torrey Pines Hill about a mile climb up to approx 400 ft!  The entertainment portion of the race was lacking as I noticed it was quiet throughout most of the race, but the ocean views were truly remarkable.

La Jolla Half elevation profile

I finished in a little under 1:55.  My goal was 2hrs and stayed with the pace group until the last few miles when I knew I had enough energy left to pick up the pace. The long downhill at mile 10 helped tremendously.  I was happy with my performance and will most likely run this race again.

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In May, I took a couple of weeks off for recovery and in preparation for my 20 week marathon training plan that started in June.  The plan included 4-days of running (Tues speed session) and 1-day strength/crosstrain, 2 to 3 20mi long runs and build-up close to 50mi prior to taper.  It’s been tweaked a few times, but I’ve managed to accomplish the training so far without any major injuries.  There was a month when my right ankle/foot was bothersome but not to the point where I had to stop running.  Actually, replacing it with brand new shoes seemed to have solved the issue.

July: I participated in 2 races – Footloose Freedom Mile run in Mammoth on 4th of July and Chicago Rock n Roll Half at the end of the month.  The mile run in Mammoth was impromptu.  My husband spotted a flyer when we checked in to our condo and I said “Why not? It’s only a mile right!?”

This is a race hosted by the Mammoth Track Club which starts 30min prior to their 4th of July parade so the street was filled with plenty of spectators.  It was an awesome race except the part when I was gasping for air (hello altitude!) with maybe a quarter mile to go.  I finished with a respectable time of 7:33 actually placing 3rd in my age group!  Can’t remember the last time I placed and had no idea until recently when I looked up my race results on athlinks.  Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention I met one of the best female elite distance runners, Deena Kastor who was there to run with her daughter.  A starstruck moment for me!

Rock n Roll Chicago Half Marathon: The race that brought together old college friends whom I haven’t seen in years.  Back in college, we would have never predicted meeting in Chicago to run a half marathon!

A summertime race on the east coast meant hot and humid weather. The heat I can take but not the humidity.  Hydration and a relaxed pace was the key to the finish line which is exactly what we accomplished.  Despite the heat, Chicago was an awesome city to explore and the race was an excellent opportunity to tour it.  The best part of it was sharing the experience with my dear friends. 

This week is the final one prior to taper. Yesterday was a 20miler-regrettably I ran the first 5 miles at a very fast pace to keep up with a group and paid for it at the end.  A great reminder to avoid the same mistake at the marathon.

Run SMART

My usual mistakes when I run a race:

1) Starting out too fast

2) Dodging runners left and right to pass them (because I started out too fast)

Both are culprits to draining energy early in the race and by the time I reach the halfway point, my pace painfully slows down to a point when I start to question “Why, why, why did I run faster than my planned pace those first several miles!?…”

However, I did not suffer this fate at my first 10K race this year, the Super Run 10K.  I had my eyes set on a PR but I was nowhere near achieving a 7:30/mi pace.  I knew though it was possible to beat my time last year and even the time I ran it two years ago, so I decided on an 8:00/mi as my pace goal.

Lining up at a race is critical to maintaining a goal pace.  If I lined up with the Speedsters way up front, I would be forced to try to keep up with them.  On the contrary, being with the much slower-paced runners would place me behind my goal then I have to resort to weave in and out of people (another reason for mistake #2).  Because most of the runners were from the San Diego Track Club, I had an idea which runners would run my pace and chose to line up behind them.  It was almost near perfect as I only had to dodge a few people to get settled into my groove and my pace.

The course started at South Shores Park, east of Seaworld where it followed the path past the Seaworld parking lot, up and down two bridges towards Crown Point and back.  The slight inclines on the bridges and on the way back towards Ingraham St from Crown Point were the toughest parts, but I managed to buy back some of the time lost during the downhills.  Overall I felt strong throughout the entire race, except for my arms (Lesson learned: Don’t weight train two days before a race!) which were still sore from my workout.

My finish time was 48:51 –  3min faster than last year and 1:30min faster than in 2012! I wanted a negative split race but my 5K time was only about 30secs faster than the second half of the race which is probably the closest I’ve ever been with achieving a negative split race.  Quite an accomplishment and I’m proud of it 🙂

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My NYC Marathon Experience

BEST. RACE. EVER. It’s been a few days since the marathon – my body aches already gone but the runner’s high still lingering. What a phenomenal experience! Being surrounded by thousands of amazing runners, volunteers, spectators , and fabulous entertainment was so exhilirating, it made me ignore the occasional 30mph winds blowing me in every direction. The course through the 5 boroughs was a delightful journey of various sights and sounds. When I crossed the finish line in Central Park it gave me such an emotional high, I did not want the race experience to end. I didn’t PR nor did I reach my 4 hour goal time finish, but I ran the best I can and pushed my body to perform beyond its limits. This was my comeback marathon after a 5 year break (2 kids later) and I could have not asked for a better race.

Weekend Recap:
My plane landed at JFK on a Halloween afternoon. Unfortunately I had to gate check my oversized backpack and those bags didn’t find their way to baggage claim until 45 min after the flight arrived. But while I was waiting, I spotted an elite marathoner, Shalane Flanagan who didn’t run the race but was probably there to support the rest of the runners. She was not difficult to spot wearing bright blue leggings and a green neon Nike backpack. I wished I had the guts to stop her for a pic but she probably just wanted to get out of the airport.  I was even more excited to be in NY after seeing her.  By the time I picked up my backpack, it was already 4:30pm – I knew it was an hour’s worth to take the AirTrain then the Metro to midtown Manhattan.  Originally, I planned to go to the expo on Saturday but I reconsidered thinking it would be less of a crowd if I went later that night.  7pm was the cutoff time for bib pickup and the expo was open until 8pm.  Fortunately, with the Iphone’s assist, I navigated my way to the hotel using public transportation without a hitch.  It was actually simple which eased the built-up anxiety I had beforehand with having to travel alone.  I checked in at my hotel to be greeted by an awesome view of the Chrysler building from the balcony of my room so I sat there for awhile to relax before going to the expo.

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Balcony view from my room

One of the perks for running NYC is the convenience of a shuttle ride to the expo from various points in Manhattan.  I stayed in a hotel near Grand Central Terminal which was a pickup/drop off location for the shuttle.  It was already 6:15pm when I boarded the bus.  Even with traffic, it was only a 15-20 min ride to the convention center.  I made the right choice to go to the expo Fri night – no crowds to be seen.  It took me 5 min to pick up my bib, shirt and goodie bag and spent only 30 min browsing through the different vendors.  I was quite exhausted from the flight and wanted a good night sleep.  Without the kids around, I intended to sleep in until my body was ready to get up.  Unfortunately, as they say NY never sleeps and even though I had a great view, the door to the balcony welcomed the outside noise which meant car horns and police sirens. Eventually, I settled into a deep slumber and didn’t wake up until around 9am – the latest I’ve slept in years.

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At the expo

Saturday was an uneventful, rainy day.  I jogged less than a mile to a breakfast joint to see how my body was feeling since I only managed to run on Tuesday with the track club.  No pain and I felt good.  Spent the afternoon shopping for souvenirs/gifts for my girls, my hubby and my in-laws who visited to help watch the girls while my husband was at work.  I’m blessed to have a supportive family.  And surprisingly, I also received a text from my mom to tell me she and my dad will be taking a bus to NYC to watch me run.  Such great news.  By dinnertime, I was tired yet again. I had an early dinner with a mom from San Diego whom I met via email through a mutual friend.  Almost like a blind date!  But it was a nice dinner and great conversation so I’m glad I had that opportunity to hang out with someone else who was running the marathon.  However, the rest of night is a story of its own.  In my attempt to save money, I decided to book a room at the military hotel with the condition of having to share a room with others.  I was under the impression it would be only one other person or no one at all, but unfortunately, I had to share it with two other females.  Let’s just say, I had zero sleep and 0530 did not come soon enough.  I was desperate to get out of the room, I wanted to leave by 0330!

RACE DAY Sunday 🙂  Brrrr, windy and cold.  I had a long sleeve shirt under my SDTC singlet, shorts, leg compression sleeves, a beanie hat and my armwarmers.  My top layer was a hooded sweatshirt with another thicker sweatshirt over it and sweatpants.  My breakfast was a store-bought individual bowl of apples and cinnamon quaker oatmeal.  The hotel lobby had a microwave so I consumed the entire bowl at 0600 with the intention of eating another bowl 2 hours later since my wave start was at 1030.  I’ve also been drinking a bottle of water mixed with Nuun tablet.  On my way to the metro, I stopped for coffee and a bagel at DD.  Arrived at Staten Island Ferry terminal around 0700 and my scheduled ferry was at 0730.  Guess it didn’t really matter what time you took the ferry since no one even checked the time on my bib.  There were a lot of people just hanging out inside to stay warm.   As I was waiting I had a banana and finished my coffee.  I didn’t have any more room for another bowl of oatmeal or  a bagel.  At 0715, I decided to board the ferry – didn’t really feel like waiting.  The ferry ride offered great views of the city.  I’ve been to NYC before and have had the pleasure of viewing it from a boat so it wasn’t a first for me.  Still the NYC skyline is a wondrous sight.

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The ferry dropped us off at St. George terminal where we hop on a bus to the start line at Fort Wadsworth.  There were hundreds of runners inside the terminal just hanging out – standing, sitting, laying on the floor or waiting in the line for the restroom where I decided to go instead of standing in line outside in the freezing cold for a port-a-potty.  Still had 2 hours to burn so I was not in a hurry.  As I waited in line, I heard the race volunteers urge the runners to head outside for the bus since the terminal was becoming too crowded.  So when I had my turn in the restroom, I braved the cold and went outside to join the herd of people making their way to the buses.  I made the wrong choice of boarding a full bus so instead of being comfortable in a seat, I was the one of the unlucky ones standing.  A gentleman did offer me his seat but I figured it would only be a short drive so I refused, but eventually I did take his seat when he offered it again since the bus ride took more time than expected.  Truly appreciated the kind gesture.

By the time I arrived at Fort Wadsworth, it was already 0945, only 45 min left until Wave 3 start.  First order of business though was to use the restroom again and hopefully for the final time.  Luckily, there were port-a-potties galore available and I made my way to the shortest line.  I heard the announcement that the orange corral for Wave 3 was open at 10am so I made my way to that area.  Due to the massive amount of runners (50k+) , the start area is divided to three different corrals (blue, orange, green) and 4 waves of various start times.  You can easily get lost in the sea of runners but there were plenty of volunteers to direct you to the correct corral.  I immediately spotted the 4hr pace runner so I stood right next to her only to lose her as we exited the corral to walk to the start line which was at the base of the Verrazano-Narrows bridge.  Yeah well, I have my trusty-GPS to keep my pace in check.  As I peeled my thr0w-away clothes, I felt the chill in the air but was too excited to really care.  My fingers were starting to feel numb (forgot my gloves) so I had my armwarmer wrapped around each hand while one carried my Iphone.  I intended to take plenty of pictures but in the midst of the run, I didn’t want to fumble with my phone too much.

START LINE

The orchestration of the race was fantastic.  Race started on the dot at 1030 after “God Bless America” was sung by a lady who sounded like an opera singer.  Ready, Set, cannon blast to signal GO!  With New York, New York playing in the background, it was a glorious start to one amazing race.

5K:  mi1 9:18   mi2  8:17  mi3  9:02

I spotted the pacer on the bridge with a group of runners behind her.  In hopes of being shielded from 30mph winds, I tried to tuck in between that group but the wind was inescapable.  So my focus was to reach the top of the bridge and enjoy the scenery.  Mile 2 was a nice easy downhill hence the faster mile pace.

10K: mi4  8:54  mi5  8:59  mi6 8:56

Warmed up and was hitting a comfortable pace, but quicker than my goal pace of 9:07.  I should have probably backed off at this point but I wanted to hang out with the 4hr pace group.

15K: mi7 8:39  mi8  8:59  mi9 8:58

Loved the spirit of Brooklyn.  Got lost in the never-ending cheers of the spectators.  Oh boy, my mile splits were still too fast than goal pace.   I really needed to slow down.

20K: mi10 8:41 mi11 9:06  mi12 9:00

Finally let go of the pace group.  Mi10 was another downhill so I went where my body wanted to go.  Although at this point, I started to feel tension in my right glute, right hamstring and right foot.

25K:  mi13  9:23 mi14 9:17 mi15 10:13

Halfway point 13.1  1:57:41  Hit the half marathon marker 2min faster than my goal finish.  With the way I was feeling at the halfway marker, I knew I was going to cross the finish line a little slower than planned.  I stopped checking my watch and listened to the way my body felt at every mile.

Mile 15 is when the race started to become a challenge.  This is when we entered the Queensboro bridge.  Without spectators, it was just the runners and the view of Manhattan.  I felt myself slowing especially during the ascent.  My lower body from my hips down to my feet were tight, but I told myself to never stop running.  I told my parents to watch me from 68th St and 1st Ave around  mi16-17 so this thought pushed me to keep on chugging.

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Queensboro Bridge

30K:  mi16 12:50  mi17 9:13  mi18  9:33

As soon as we exited the bridge was our first glimpse of Manhattan.  By far, this was my favorite part of the race.  The welcoming cheers were incredible.  New Yorkers surely knew how to make you feel like a glamorous rock star!  I wore a San Diego Track Club singlet and I heard people shouting “San Diego” along the course.  It was exactly what my mind needed especially when my body started to feel like shutting down.  Plus I was fortunate to spot my parents despite the hundreds of spectators lined up on the street.  I quickly stopped to give them both a hug.  A couple of miles on this course certainly made all of my discomfort disappear.  If only I didn’t have another 8 miles to go.

35K: mi19 9:59 mi20 9:51  mi21 10:04

Anxiety loomed as I approached mile 20.  It made me think about the WALL.  I recalled a phrase I read maybe in Runners World about the WALL being a state of mind.  My upper body still felt good – my energy level was up, by this time I’ve taken at least 4 GUs and very well-hydrated.  So I told myself to take it mile by mile.  Also at this point, many of the other runners are feeling the same way I felt of which some have decided to walk.  I really had to dig deep inside me to keep running no matter how much discomfort I was feeling at the time.

40K: mi22 9:32  mi23  9:59  mi24  9:53

Entering 5th Ave, still had several miles to go but feeling quite positive about the outcome.  I can see the final uphill down along the course.  Not much of an elevation but definitely quite a challenge at mile 24. 

 
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 mi25  9:49  mi 26 9:32  Inside Central Park.  Nothing can stop me now,

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Absolutely filled with positive emotions!  FINISH LINE!!!! 4:07:08

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Mastering a Slow Start (Race Recap)

Going to today’s race, the Rock and Roll San Diego half marathon, I had two specific goals: To finish in 1:50 and accomplish it with a negative split.   Hooray, I finished just several seconds under 1:50!!!…..but Ouch as I struggled through the final miles and failed to reach my other goal 😦

My unofficial race results:

My 5k time was not captured but according to my Garmin, it was approximately 8:15.

Prior to the race and at the start line, I repeated to myself to “Start slow at an easy pace and no dodging around other runners”. Much easier said than done!  During the first mile, I allowed my body to dictate the pace which felt like an easy conservative pace until I checked my Garmin showing an avg 8:24/mi.  Definitely not in accordance with my planned pace (approx 8:45/mi).  I continuously told myself to “Slow down; Take it easy; Stay with this person, she’s at a a good pace”, yet each time I checked my watch, my pace was faster than my goal.

And as expected, even though I accomplished my goal time, the final couple of miles were not as enjoyable.  My legs started to feel heavy and sluggish.  I consciously moved my arms more quickly to force my legs to follow.   However, knowing the last few miles of the course was mostly downhill helped me mentally and I allowed for the force of gravity to push me as fast as my body can handle. My slowest mile was the last mile in at 8:54/mi.  I felt completely drained but could not quite give up yet as I knew I can still make it under my goal time.  The energy of the spectators’ cheers and the surrounding runners sprinting to the end provided me with enough boost to propel to the finish line with a few seconds to spare.

I have ran plenty of races but still need to work on finishing with a negative split.  Guess I have to work harder to train my body to do it right the next time!

This was my first long distance race of the year, 8 months after giving birth to my second daughter.  My training began 20 weeks ago in January with the San Diego Track Club marathon/half marathon training program.  I was fortunate enough to have my husband home to watch the kids while I ran track intervals/tempo on Tuesdays and long run on Saturdays.  The rest of the week, I ran on the treadmill or pushed the stroller with a 15lb baby.  My weekly mileage was considerably low (average 20-25mi) with a max mileage of 30mi prior to taper.  Longest run was around 14mi.  My time goal of 1:50 felt achievable to me although I became doubtful since I logged very few miles during the taper.  However, the stars aligned for me on race day – I got enough sleep the night before by going to bed extra early with my 3 year old and baby only waking up once;  Baby woke up at the right time to breastfeed (engorgement is never fun while on a run) before I had to wake and get ready;  Found a parking spot close to the start line (worried about it the night before); and even though it was already a little warm at 0645 when the race started, the clouds hung around until after I finished the race.

Next up, NYC Marathon!  (and a few tune-up races in between)