Monday, October 27, 2014

My first weekend off! And a head shaving....

This weekend was my first weekend that I actually stayed HOME and slept in... since the week before Labor Day Weekend!

Quite literally, every weekend for eight straight weekends, I have had some sort of running event:
Victory Headstand after a 22 mile
Long Run out in the Hamptons...
with my custom-made (and edible)
flagel medal!
But it starts up again next week.  I'm working the 2014 TCS NYC Marathon, so those of you who are running, find me after the finish line, at Family Reunions!  I'm supervising a group of volunteers who are manning the entrances to the family reunions area along Broadway between 62nd and 65th Streets. I'll be wearing my commemorative NYC Marathon blue and yellow Asics supervisors' hooded jacket!  Yesterday, I got to participate in the general orientation session for all volunteer coordinators at the Marathon Pavilion, getting briefed from the New York Road Runners staff on what to expect on race day.

And then...the next three weeks will be crazy busy yet again!  Look out for more race reports from me over the next few weeks!  I have 7 half-marathons down already in 2014... I'm looking to finish 7 more before the end of the year, to have 14 in 2014! (Thanks Kimberly Markey for the inspiration of that goal!)  Running will take me from NYC to places such as Savannah, Georgia; Las Vegas, Nevada; Annapolis, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and San Antonio, Texas!

Crowns up for #TeamTing!
One last thing... I shaved my head yesterday!  My good friend, Amanda Ting, is undergoing 4-5 months of chemotherapy treatment at the moment for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) in her right breast, which will be followed by a double-mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in Winter/Spring 2015.  Many of her friends and I have joined in to support her through her fight, forming "Team Ting;" accompanying her to treatment sessions, and wearing our shirts at various events to raise awareness and promote our support for her!  Some of us even took another step of solidarity by shaving our heads.  I told Amanda that if I PR anytime at all over the next month, it's all because of my new aerodynamics, hehe!  My races for the whole month of November are dedicated to Amanda and to #TeamTing! (Update: Today, 10/27/14, Amanda goes in for an ultrasound to check if her tumor, which she calls "Felisha," as in #BYEFELISHA, is shrinking.  Prayers and positive vibes are requested!)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Race Report: 2014 Rock 'n' Roll St. Louis Half Marathon

Rock 'n' Roll Series' "Midwest Best"
It was at the expo for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon back in July that the distance running cognoscenti (hah, I’ve always wanted to use that word in my writing!) was informed that finishers of any of the races they offered at Chicago plus either St. Louis or Cleveland would be eligible to receive a new limited edition medal they were dubbing “Midwest Best.” It would be a massive medal in the shape of an eagle wearing black sunglasses and a pair of red running shoes around its neck, joined by a ribbon connected to its wings. As with most of the Rock ‘n’ Roll series medals, it doubled as a bottle opener, but this one could also be mounted to the wall! Cleveland was out of the question, because it was the day before the Chicago Marathon (and it would end up being cancelled in September anyway, due to low registration) and I was highly doubting that St. Louis could even be considered (the week afterward) because I predicted I’d still be sore from my efforts at the marathon.

Even so, my cousin Kristine and my new friend Donna, were quick to coerce me into signing up for St. Louis. After my Ragnar race, when I was in the midst of marathon training, I decided, “why the heck not… yeah, I’ll probably be sore, but I’ll walk it when I need to, and take it easy. It’ll be a shake out run, despite the distance.  It’s gonna be all about that medal.”  So I found a cheap ticket there and back (thank goodness for Amex rewards points), and added it to my plans for “Rock ‘n’ Roll [series] domination,” as a Tourpass holder for as many of the remaining races I could get into.
Boy, that arch really makes a good
photo op...
I flew into St. Louis early Saturday morning, the day after the Front Runners New York variety show.  Luckily, my bags were already packed from Chicago the week before, so I just replaced a few items here and there.  I took the MetroLink train from the airport to the Convention Center station downtown to go directly to the expo at America’s Center to pick up my bib.  It was a nice expo – not too big, not too small – medium sized is the best way to describe it; with your RnR booth mainstays, plus some local running companies and organizations looking to promote their services.  Still a better expo than what was at RnR Montréal.  A local physical therapists office was providing stretching for runners, so I took advantage, having one of their PT’s work on my calves.  I also went to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Series booth to wax poetic on the multiple RnR races I’ve run and the several I’m still slated to run for the remainder of the year. I made friends with one of the staff, Amy, who let me in on the exciting (secret?) news that Brooklyn was slated to return to the schedule in 2015!

It's like PeeWee's playhouse. But so
much metal, make sure you get
your tetanus shots...
After the expo, I got some pasta (to start some carb loading) at a nearby restaurant, Stefano’s, and had my first taste Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale, a local brew.  I took a cab to my Airbnb in Lafayette Square and got settled before I decided to go on a little walk along the last mile of the race route back downtown.  I headed to the City Museum, a St. Louis landmark consisting largely of repurposed architectural and industrial objects, housed in the former International Shoe building, as well as an "eclectic mixture of children's playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel," as the museum bills itself as.  The building is basically like an adult and children’s Discovery Zone (remember those entertainment facilities back in the 90’s?), but on steroids.  There are a number of tunnels that run across the floor and across the ceiling, some even hiding under fiberglass insulation cut to give the impression of icicles, old refrigerating coils that can be climbed into giant hollowed out treehouses.  There’s even an area where visitors can climb up elaborate “caves” all the way up to the tenth floor, and then ride a slide ten stories down.  Outside, there’s a massive maze of “not your ordinary” playground equipment!  I only had an hour here, and didn’t wear the best clothes to be able to explore like other visitors (hello, skinny jeans…), but it was still a blast.

Running kit laid out
for the early morning!
Shortly thereafter, I met up with Donna, who had just flown in from Baltimore (after traversing the globe from a two week vacation in Australia, where she ran the Melbourne Marathon the same day I ran Chicago, running the Baltimore Half Marathon on Saturday, and then getting on a plane to St. Louis to run a half there!) and new friend Andrew, who drove in from central Illinois (and had also run Chicago the week before).  We ate (more) pasta at the Old Spaghetti Factory at Laclede’s Landing near the arch, and then they dropped me off back at my Airbnb for the night.

The Start Line, just before we were
off to start our 13.1 mile "jaunt!"
A vision in turquoise and orange.
Donna joked that I glowed in the
pre-sunrise darkness.
Bright and early the next morning, they picked me up and we made our way downtown to the startline of the race.  It was a CHILLY morning. We were off by 7am, making our way around the gently rolling hills of downtown, passing by Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals play, and then traversing across downtown toward St. Louis University, passing by The Fabulous Fox Theatre on Grand Boulevard. It was between the fourth and fifth mile, where we made our way eastward for about half a mile on Laclede Avenue, where we encountered our first major hill of the course.  And it was a doozy… at first, you could only see the very top of the arch.  As you got to Grand Boulevard (again), you turned right and headed downhill toward the I-64 underpass, and then uphill again, as you went over the MetroLink and industrial train tracks.

Appreciating the pretty architecture
of Lafayette Square
The course continues through the Tower Grove and Botanical Heights area, through Shaw and the pretty homes of Compton Heights.  It makes its way through Lafayette Square before heading back toward downtown, passing St. Louis Union Station, and then a final push along two blocks of Chestnut Street to the finish line, just a block away from the start.  The deceivingly hilly route was actually quite well laid out, and there was decent crowd support especially in the more residential areas of the latter part of the half marathon route. The marathoners were running the same first half and then split off just before mile 11, to St. Louis’ Carondelet Park on the southern fringe of the city, before making the return trip back toward Lafayette Square toward downtown.  The aid stations were decently spread out, and I took advantage of water and Gatorade along the route (though a supposed GU stop after mile 7 never actually happened, which Rock ‘n’ Roll has acknowledged was due to their oversight of not arranging proper delivery.)

Wearing ALL of the bling.
In the end, I managed to eclipse my previous “second best” half marathon time, which I had set the previous week on the flat first half of the Chicago Marathon, a 2:10:53 effort.  I finished in a time of 2:05:29, only four minutes off of my PR, which I had set in the RnR Chicago race in July.  To heck with a shake out run – and it didn’t feel hard!  This will definitely make me ready for my November test of four halfs within a fifteen day period.  I met up with Andrew and Donna afterward (Andrew finished in a blazing fast 1:29:42, good enough for 58th place out of 6000+ finishers!), did my victory headstand photo (with my well-deserved Midwest Best medal and St. Louis finishers’ medal, which all three of us got – and Andrew was able to pick up his “Rock Star” medal for his fifth RnR race), and then had a great lunch at a really awesome burger and shake restaurant downtown, Baileys’ Range, where everything was made from scratch!  We were all super tired, and Andrew drove Donna and I to the airport for our afternoon flights back to NYC.  I proudly wore my medals on the flight home!

Victory Headstand!

Bye, St. Louis!!!  Thanks for an awesome race!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Race Report: 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon

I'd like to think I did.  FIRST MARATHON, BABY! 
I'm sitting at LaGuardia Airport right now, about 40 minutes away from boarding a flight to St. Louis, where I plan to run the Rock 'n' Roll St. Louis Half Marathon tomorrow morning. Yes, I may be a little bit crazy, attempting to do 13.1 miles only a week after finishing 26.2. But I feel I'll be able to manage :)

Chicago at night, from the plane.
Probably one of my most
favorite Instagram photos
ever!  #nofilter
Anyway, back to the original point of this post... My race report for my first ever marathon, the Chicago Marathon! I arrived Friday evening, after having a five hour work day...flight out was a little harrowing - I had to connect in Cincinnati and upon landing, realized my flight to Chicago would be delayed two hours and I wouldn't get into O'Hare until 10:30pm. Luckily, my travelers savvy won out and I got myself onto standby for another O'Hare flight that was also delayed, getting me in earlier - actually, even earlier than my original flight if it was on time! (Basically, I should be on The Amazing Race... CBS, I'm waiting for my call! LOL...)

My cousin Kristine picked me up from the airport and we proceeded down to the southern suburbs to Lemont to see my parents who were staying with my aunt and uncle. Had some dinner, played with the kids of another cousin who were also there, and then went back to her house in Oak Lawn for a good night's rest since tomorrow we'd be in the city to get our bibs at the expo and just prepare for Sunday morning.

Our accommodations were just
two blocks away from the John
Hancock Building!
The following morning we made our way into the city (with a stop at Salvation Army to pick up some throwaway sweats to wear in the hour before the race) and to our accommodations for the weekend. Kristine is a nurse and the doctor she works for was nice enough to lend us her downtown condo along Lake Shore Drive (WITH a spectacular 25th floor view of Lake Michigan, too!) after dropping our stuff off, we made our way to the Health and Fitness Expo at McCormick Place.

With American Ultra Marathon
Record Holder, Scott Jurek 
Typical expo photo ops!
The expo was MASSIVE. So massive, that we ended up spending four hours there... Probably not the wisest decision to be on our feet for that long.  Spent a little too much money (compression sleeves, some commemorative shirts since the participant tee that everyone got was plain and boring, Clif SHOT Bloks, a FlipBelt, among other things...) and got to meet some luminaries in the running world, including ultra marathoner Scott Jurek and Olympic track athlete Nick Symmonds. And Kristine even won a free race entry to the 2015 Puerto Rico Marathon or Half Marathon spinning the wheel at that marathon's expo booth. We made our way back to the condo to drop stuff off and then went off to Edgewater for a proper carb loading with Frontrunners/Frontwalkers Chicago. After dinner, we made our way back to the condo to prep our running kits and bags for the next morning and a good nights sleep.

Selfie while in line for the port-a-potty
The alarm clock rang at 5 for Kristine, 5:30 for me.  We got ourselves dressed and out the door and took the Red Line down to Jackson to get to our start corrals. The anticipation was electric. It was a chilly morning, but not too cold.  We had our thrift store purchases on to keep warm (super smart idea!!) and after going through packed security clearance, we finally got inside Grant Park, quickly dropped off our bags, and then lined up at the port-a-potties.  And this is where I started to get nervous.  It was 7:30, our corral was set to close at 7:45... and we were to be off by 8.  We got through the line and to the corral, and started to move along slowly.  We actually didn't even cross the start line until about 8:17... and then we were off.

The calm before the storm. Kristine
and I waiting in our start corrals!
I tried to keep in my head to not go out too fast. The first mile brought us down the lower level of the multi-level Columbus Drive.  Immediately, men were going off to the side and peeing.  Supposedly this happens a lot at marathons - the immediate need to pee just as the race starts.  Heh.  We approached the first bridge crossing over the Chicago River, and for the marathon, they lay out carpets on top of the bumpy grates that look through down over the water.  I witnessed a girl trip over her feet on the carpet within the first mile and end up on her hands and knees... rough start for her :(

One of my favorite signs on the course.
Thankfully all my toenails stayed intact.
The crowd support was just awesome. Everywhere along the route, there were people cheering us on.  They really kept me going - and it helped that I had my name in big letters on a custom bib I had made on my chest.  Some of the signs were really great, too... it seems like every race I see some new signs that make me chuckle along the route.  I was trying really hard to be wise about my tangents too, having really scoured the course map and knowing how the turns would be.

I only hope I looked this good
through the great first half of the race.
My Garmin REALLY doesn't
like Chicago's tall buildings.
The first half of the race went by really fast.  I remember the long few miles up LaSalle Drive, and then the turn into Lincoln Park along its pathways where we approached the 10k mark - but those minutes just seemed to whiz by.  I had a lot of fun making the turns back south through Lakeview and Boystown at mile 8 (Thank you Mike Terry!) and seeing everyone decked out in pageant garb.  We came back downtown and approached the Sears Tower (ugh, I don't want to call it the Willis Tower, that's just too weird), and that's when my Garmin decided to go haywire.  This was only my second race in Chicago, but both times, my GPS watch hates being surrounded by tall buildings, and it throws my pace and distance way out of whack.  The official times list me crossing the halfway point at 2:10:53, which would be my second best half-marathon time if I ended right then and there (a 9:59 per mile average pace.)  It started to get warm, so I decided to strip off the gloves and the compression sleeves right around mile 15.

The loop westward near the United Center was not easy.  I finally started to eat some of my shotbloks at this point, and even took some snacks from spectators giving out baggies of pretzels, and even butterscotch candy to suck on.  Immediately after crossing the halfway mark, my pace slowed down considerably.  What was 9:30-10:00 mile paces started to slow down to 10:30, 11:00 pace.  I started to walk at times just to shake out my legs a bit - but it would only be for a maximum 30 seconds before I'd run again for about 15-20 minutes.  Never really stopped to stretch on the course - it was just go forward, one foot in front of the other, which is a mentality that I think helped me get to the finish line in one piece.

Looking tired and sad
at mile 21 in Chinatown.
Where are my parents?!
We went through Little Italy, the UIC campus, and Pilsen, and this is where I started getting antsy.  Mile 18... Mile 19... Mile 20.  In my head, I knew that after Mile 21, I'd be approaching Chinatown, and that at Cermak and Wentworth, I had arranged for my parents, aunt, and cousin to be there, where I needed them.  I looked everywhere on the left side, but they were not there.  Tears started to form... where the heck could they be?  We left Chinatown and made our way further south, alongside the Dan Ryan Expressway and away from downtown - a truly difficult trek, going further from the finish line.  We made a turn and hit mile 23, crossing the bridge over the expressway and I officially had run my longest I had ever run continuously.  Just a little more south, past IIT and a turn near the Vandercook College of Music, and a photographers area (really, right there, where we probably look exhausted and awful?!?), and then we were finally on Michigan Avenue headed back north.

Trying to look decent at
the photographers area.
Devil horns suffice.
There was a second spot that my family was to meet us, just down the street from the Chinatown stop, at Cermak and Michigan.  This was just before mile 25.  Yet again though, searching the left side of the crowd I didn't find them.  More tears.  But I trudged along and just inched my way further and further up Michigan Avenue, slowly, yet surely.  My pace had debilitated down to an 11:30 mile - my feet were definitely just shuffling along.  This stretch was ROUGH.  I ended up spotting a fellow Front Runner, JJ, on the course.  We connected, and encouraged each other onward - there was only a little over a mile left to go!  The crowd support down this last stretch was just amazing, and as soon as you make the turn onto the Roosevelt Avenue Bridge where you hit mile 26, you know you're almost home.  The tank was almost empty, but I barreled on through.  Right after the mile 26 marker, on the bridge (which, frustratingly, is the only significant elevation change in the entire course - you can call this the marathon's only "hill"), a guy directly in front of me keeled over and started vomiting and medics were rushing over.  I curved around and just kept going, knowing I just needed to get to that damn finish line.

#VictoryHeadstand in front of Buckingham Fountain.
I am a marathoner!
I made the left turn onto Columbus, and there it was.  I crossed the finish.  4:45:46.  And then the tears started flowing.  They wouldn't stop for a good ten minutes.  I retrieved my medal, a power bar, banana, bagel, everything they could give me.  Hell, I was so excited for the Goose Island 312 Urban Pale Ale that I got even before heading to the Post-Race Party in Grant Park's Butler Field - I mean, I had taken a little two-week alcohol cleanse just to be in tip top shape for my first marathon.  As I slowly got my bag check, texted my parents (who apparently were watching at the corner of Roosevelt and Michigan just before the mile 26 point, and didn't even see me...) and realized I had just finished a freakin' marathon, I made my way near Buckingham Fountain, and got a chance to do my victory headstand photo.  Despite it being on hard ground, it was so worth it.

We did it!  2014 Chicago Marathon
Finishers!! #cousinswhorun
I made it into the Post-Race Party and reunited with my family.  Kristine would finish about a half hour later, unfortunately hitting the wall at around the mile 17 point - but she finished as well!  Both of us, super tired, headed back toward the condo with a stop at Cheesecake Factory for a well-deserved meal, which included our ritual post-race burger and fries combo!  And alcohol, 'cuz #duh.  We headed back to the condo, and Kristine packed up her things to head back down to the suburbs while I stayed, since the downtown location would be more convenient for me when I left the following day.  I immediately showered and got into bed to get some much needed rest.  ...well, for a few hours, at least - tired legs be damned, I still felt social, and met up with Front Runners JJ and Ricci for a nightcap (at 9pm, haha) at The Gage, a cute little bar just across the street from Millennium Park.

Deep dish pizza from Gino's East.
It was effing delicious.
My 2014 Chicago Marathon medal
with the Monday edition of
the Chicago Sun-Times
Recovery was a bit rough the next morning.  I took nearly half an hour to just get myself out of bed and moving around.  Legs were sooooo stiff.  There's an unwritten rule that the day after a marathon, one should run a mile, to help the lactic acid break up - I didn't really do that, because I didn't quite have the ability to "run" in me - but I did walk (briskly... and brusquely -- I am a New Yorker, after all...) quite a bit to make up for it.  Made my way to the Nike store and was able to get a finishers half zip pullover, and finished off my trip with a great deep dish pizza from Chicago's iconic Gino's East.  Even brought a slice back home with me on the plane as leftovers for lunch the next day.  My flight got delayed (surprise!) another couple hours, so I stayed downtown for a little while before heading to O'Hare.  I proudly wore my medal on the plane and made my way back to NYC, landing just before midnight.  Still went to work the next day... wearing my medal. Heck - I wore my medal the entire week!  Legs were back to normal by Wednesday, which I'm super happy about - shows my body recovers pretty quickly now and is getting used to these distances!  All in all, it was a blast of a trip, and sadistically, I look forward to my next marathon!

But in actuality, I look forward to my next half marathon.... which would be the following weekend in St. Louis!  Yep, I'm a crazy one.  And a report of that race to come soon! :)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Summarizing my Summer Running Season (part 2)

Post RnR Virginia Beach
When I last left off, I developed a bit of an injury that kept me from running for two weeks.  It was basically a case of runner's knee, also known as PFS or Patello-Femoral Syndrome, an overuse injury caused by an imbalance of two critical heads of the quadriceps muscles, which subsequently cause the patella to track abnormally. Those two weeks off were short, because I was already signed up to run the Rock 'n' Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon over Labor Day weekend.  With much trepidation, I toed the line not having had any significant mileage under my feet since my 20 mile long run.  And Virginia Beach was HOT.   With temperatures approaching 80 degrees and humidity well over 90% at 7am (and over the course of the morning, increasing to as much as 97%), I managed to finish the race in 2:17:53.  The travel time back to NYC was rough, having sat in a cramped bus for nine hours (thank God for Advil) but with taking the week off afterward, I sought out some other recovery options that could help me get back into racing shape.

Just before running my
first leg of Ragnar DC
I approached my friend Chad Pearson, an acupuncturist with his own practice, Ghostpoint Acupuncture.  Let me tell you - I am such a wuss when it comes to needles.  But it definitely works.  Chad performed traditional acupuncture on me, with some acupressure and trigger point release, as well as some electrical stimulation or eStim in problem spots specifically around my knee.  Within a matter of days, I was able to do a nice 4 mile tempo run along the Hudson River.  And it was important to get better because I was about to embark on a race that would test my endurance.  Over the second weekend of September, I met up with eleven other runners, most of whom I only had correspondence with on Facebook.  We were each going to contribute toward completing a 200 mile relay race, known as the Ragnar Relay, from Cumberland, Maryland to the National Harbor in Washington, D.C.  

Just one of the many spectacular views in western
Maryland for Ragnar DC (photo by Andrew Bartholomew)
Each of us was responsible for three legs, each of varying terrain, elevation changes, mileage, and difficulty.  And with it being a 200-mile relay, there was no question that we would be running under cover of darkness at some point in the race.  As runner in position #2, I covered 6.3 miles, 4.5 miles, and 2.8 miles, for a total of 13.6 miles.  The first leg I ran, at 8:48am, was going to be my hardest - two miles going uphill with an elevation change of approximately 700 feet, and then the last 4.3 miles downhill with an elevation change of approximately 1000 feet.  And I went HARD on that downhill, clocking two 8 minute miles and two sub-9 minute miles. My quads worked in overdrive, and I was in a bit of pain for the rest of the day, coming into my second leg, which occurred almost 12 hours later.  That 2nd leg was pitch black at night on country roads - the only thing lighting my way was my headlamp.  I was able to pass several other racers, though, recording "kills" as they are called in Ragnar-speak.  The next morning I finished my last "easy" 2.8 mile leg, but I was hurting bad.  You see... living in a van for 30+ hours will do interesting things to your muscles.   As a team, we finished the course in just over 32 hours, at a highly respectable 9:37/mi pace average especially for a team consisting of runners of various ability levels.

Reaching the Town of
Montauk on my 22-mile run! 
Team "I Ran I Cramped I Drank"
at the Ragnar DC Finish Line!
A week after Ragnar, I came into my longest run yet - a 22 miler mapped out from my friend Caitlin's home in Springs (East Hampton), NY on Long Island all the way out to Montauk Point on the very eastern tip of the island.  Mind you, this was three weeks out from the Chicago Marathon.  The deceivingly hilly course took me about five hours to complete (I was still a bit bogged down by the runner's knee, and ran at a super-conservative 11-12 minute per mile pace with frequent stops).  The amount of distance also brought about some soreness in the lateral part of my right foot, which scared me a bit - so the following week, I sought out Chad again for another acupuncture session; thankfully, he was able to sort out the issues there!

Thousands upon thousands of
people prepping to start
the RnR Montréal!

A week passed, and I headed up to Montréal to bang out half-marathon #6 at the Rock 'n' Roll Oasis de Montréal Demi-Marathon.  That was a fun one -- 20,000+ starters for the full and half marathons on the Pont Jacques-Cartier running in 64 degree temps with 77% humidity; the route was interesting, running around the La Ronde amusement park on Île Sainte-Hélène, and the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve Formula 1 racetrack on Île Notre-Dame before heading into the city through an area of malting silos along the more industrial part of the waterfront, and then toward the Vieux-Port. A few deceiving hills (one at mile 10 at Place Jacques-Cartier while passing right by Montréal City Hall/Hôtel de Ville, and one at mile 12 along the Rue Berri underpass under Rue Sherbrooke) laid along the route, where I took my time and walked a bit, since I didn't want to overdo it with only two weeks left before Chicago.  So far, it's had one of the most electric finish lines for a half marathon that I've encountered -- the cheering and le applaudisement surrounding the last half mile of the course had throngs of spectators as much as five people deep! It was a wonderful way for me to start my taper two weeks before Chicago!

My first age-group award at the
Bay Head Shark Run 5K!
Finally, in the week before Chicago, I went down to Bay Head, New Jersey, and ran in a small community 5K, the Bay Head Shark Run 5K, benefiting the Bay Head School.  I clocked a respectable 27:22 5K, not my fastest, but still enough to land me my first ever age-group award!  I earned third place in the male 30-34 age group - not bad for a new runner!  This race was great to bring me into my final week of taper before Chicago.


Summarizing my Summer Running Season (part 1)

Al Goldstein 5K Speed Series - even
in the midst of a downpour!
This past Sunday was the culmination of a four month long training regimen, my first running of the marathon distance at the 37th Annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon.  Since I didn’t qualify with 9+1 in 2014 (the completion of nine New York Road Runners (NYRR) races and volunteering at one event in one calendar year for NYRR members to qualify for the following year’s NYC Marathon) for New York City this year, and didn’t get in via lottery, I tried my luck with Chicago’s lottery in March and got news in mid-April that I got in.  I began my training regimen after joining Front Runners New York in June, and was able to get some coaching advice from Coach Mike Keohane and used his marathon training calendar to get me started.

My 14 mile long run route
to the Rockaways
I trained for the most part on my own, and also began to increase my weekly mileage in June.  I ran in a bi-weekly 5K series in Prospect Park, hosted by the Prospect Park Track Club (where I ended up setting PR’s at every subsequent race!) and also took a 10-week session of running classes with New York Road Runners, which helped to Improve my running economy, form, muscular strength, endurance, and speed.  By this time, I had already scheduled a few races in the early fall, so I tweaked my training calendar to my racing schedule.

My first #victoryheadstand photo,
after RnR Chicago
I also arranged my long runs – 14 miles, 16 miles, 18, 20, and 22 at various points throughout my training.  Being one to not really enjoy multiple loops of Central Park since New York City racing is pretty much held there week in and week out, I sought out some fun and potentially scenic routes to do my training.  My 14 miler happened just after July 4th weekend, and I got my pal Josie, who I had reconnected with running into her at baggage check for the Brooklyn Half in May, to join me on a run from the Aqueduct Race Track in Queens down Cross Bay Boulevard through the neighborhoods of Howard Beach and Broad Channel into the Rockaways, where we would continue along Beach Channel Drive and Rockaway Point Boulevard to Fort Tilden and Jacob Riis Park.  It was my first running of a “further than a half marathon” distance where I didn’t get a medal at the end L.  In mid-July I did my first back-to-back races, a 5K on Saturday and a half on Sunday (where I PR’d, see the mention in the previous post), in Chicago as part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll series;.  It also gave me a bit of a preview for the “lay of the land” for the Chicago Marathon.  I also treated it as a 16 mile long run, since my recovery time between races was pretty short. Not necessarily advisable, but I was at that time, running every other day, and strength training in between.

My 20 mile route from Greenwich, CT
to City Island in the Bronx
In August, I did a true 16 mile long run, running from my apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens, down Northern Boulevard across the Queensboro Bridge and into Central Park, where I did two loops – I was joined on the second loop of Central Park by new friends Hilary and Cory, who would later participate in the Ragnar Relay DC with me.  Mind you, this was the day after my fastest loop of Central Park, where I was able to complete the NYRR Team Championships 5 Miler in 42:20, just about an 8:28 per mile pace.  I ended up skipping my 18 mile run, since I had done back to back mileage adding up to 21 miles. A few weeks later, I ran my 20 mile long run, and this was a fun one.  I took the Metro North up to Greenwich, CT, and mapped out a route down the old Boston Post Road, an old system of mail-delivery routes between Boston and NYC that evolved into some of the first major highways in the US, through towns along Long Island Sound all the way down to City Island in the Bronx.
Bike and running paths through
Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx
This was where trouble began to brew.  I ran that 20 miler in a conservative 10:38 per mile moving pace (not counting stops along the way for stretching and a 10 minute break at the halfway point at a Starbucks in Mamaroneck).  I reached City Island at about sunset, and settled down for a delicious seafood dinner at Sammy’s Crab Shack.  As I was finishing the run, right around mile 18, I started to experience a little tinge of pain on the inside of my knees. After sitting for two hours eating dinner, I immediately felt a more throbbing pain in both knees. As I was getting back up to head back to Queens via public transportation, it started to feel a bit worse.  Over the course of the next couple weeks, there was a bit of "popping" with dull pain (eventually progressing to slight or no pain) right at the outside of my knee joint; after about a week I was able to walk fine, but felt like I was definitely compensating for the issues in my right leg if I tried to run. I took a solid two weeks off of running and consulted with two physical therapists for some different sorts of treatment….

[to be continued!!]

My first post!

My first race - the Rock 'n' Roll
Brooklyn 10K!
It’s been a long time coming, but I’m finally getting started on an oft-requested running blog.  I’ve been running for just over a year, and have been participating in races quite frequently since starting. I’ve increased my distance and endurance a bit quickly in those twelve months.  My first race was a 10K in October of 2013 (quite a hefty distance for someone who had only laced on running shoes – albeit very old and decrepit New Balances from the 90s – for the first time since the much reviled “required” one-mile runs on the track in middle school P.E.), and through a series of winter New York Road Runners races in Central Park, I made my way up in distance toward my first half marathon race – the New York City Half – in March 2014.  Since then, I’ve done six half marathons, and began training in June for my first marathon, this past Sunday’s Chicago Marathon.  So it’s fitting that my first “race report” post which you’ll see shortly, is of the marathon!

And you’re probably wondering – why “Victory Headstand Runner?”  In July, I completed my fourth half marathon, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half, and PR’d by 13 minutes (also very close to finishing sub-2 hours.)  After finishing the race and waiting for my cousin to finish shortly thereafter, I decided to pose with my medals dangling from my running shoes as I went into an unassisted headstand, something I only within the past couple years have become capable of doing.  And so began a tradition of me posing with my finisher’s medal (or other medals – in some cases, such as the Rock ‘n’ Roll series, when multiple medals are possible) in a headstand pose!

So, welcome to my new blog, and I hope you enjoy reading all of my entries!