Monday, November 8, 2010

Race Report: 2010 New York City Marathon

Thank God (and the government) for Daylight Savings Time! My alarm went off at 4:30 which felt like 5:30. I had everything packed so really all I needed to do was get my usual bagel and PB ready and put on my race-day outfit. I was assigned to a 5:30 bus from Bryant Park so rather than hassle with the subway I opted for a cab—amazingly there was one right in front of my building!*

I got to Bryant Park where the buses were being load like a well-oiled machine and by 5:30 I was off towards Staten Island. We got there sometime around 6:15 and then it was time to play the waiting game. I claimed a spot along the fence so I had something to lean against.

It was freezing even though I was bundled up. I passed the time talking with a woman from Scotland, a guy from Boston, another from NoVa, and one from Florida (he really enjoyed the chilly weather).

At 8:10 it was time to check my bag and bid farewell to my coat and phone. I made my way to the corral (which had port-a-potties too, score!) where there was more waiting and fence leaning. At 8:55 they shut the corral and gradually over the next 30 minutes they move us onto the bridge just past the tollbooths (I’m omitting a lot of the peeing that was going around me during this wait). I was in the blue group which was great because that’s the same group as the elites which means I could see all the speakers, TV cameras, etc. As the time approached, Mary Wittenberg, Mayor Bloomberg, Meb, Deena, and and the Chilean miner all spoke within a stone’s throw of where I was standing. Finally, it was time.

And They're Off!

A cannon shot off and the sounds of Sinatra’s “New York, New York filled the air.” We started slowly up the Verrazano Bridge—the biggest hill of the whole course. I was shooting for a sub-3:05 and my Greg Maclin Pace band had my first mile at 7:44. I was so excited that I did it in 7:24. There were helicopters overhead and beautiful views of the harbor off either side of the bridge. Good-bye Staten Island!

Mile 2 was all downhill to Brooklyn and trying to take advantage of the incline I ran a 6:20 mile, a lot faster than my goal 6:54 time. A nice runner alerted me to a sharp left-then-right so I took advantage of my first tangent as we turned onto 4th Avenue where miles 3 through 8 happen. Brooklyn was out in full force to cheer us on with music, signs, and lots of noise. Thus I did what should have been a 7:00 mile 3 in 6:46! Green runners merged with us around this point, but it didn’t seem to be much of a problem.

Mile 4 I did in 6:48, closer to my goal of 6:54. I was now in familiar territory from my long runs, but it was completely different running with thousands of other people and screaming spectators. I swear I almost had tears of joy.  Mile 5 was practically dead on in 6:51.  And right by mile 6 I saw some of friends from Georgetown which was awesome. They cheered me onto a 6:46 mile (should have been 6:55). I deliberately slowed down as we got closer to downtown Brooklyn. Here the crowds were slightly reduced and I did mile 7 in 6:58 (instead of my paceband 6:51). I knew my mom, stepsister, and aunt were waiting near mile 8 so even with a very sharp turn onto Lafayette, I did a 6:55 for mile 8.

At his point we were in Clinton Hill which has lovely brownstones and is quite different from the 4 to 6 lanes of 4th Ave. The crowds were still out in force which is good because there was a noticeable uphill for a half mile or so. I did this mile 9 in 6:52, 4 seconds ahead of my goal. I was still feeling awesome. We continued generally downhill as we turned onto Bedford and headed towards Williamsburg. There was some good hip hop along this stretch and I did mile 10 fast in 6:50. Once we passed into the Hassidic section, the atmosphere changed noticeable. The Hassidim weren’t happy to see us. There was no cheering, just sober faces and blurs as they rushed across the street between runners. I’d been warned about this, but it was still quite startling. Perhaps this is why I did mile 11 in 7:05, 9 seconds slow.

As we crossed under the Williamsburg Bridge, things livened up—we were now in the hipster part of Williamsburg. The road was extremely narrow, but there were tons of people out and many of them cheered my name as I went by! I did mile 12 in 6:55 as we passed through McCarren Park into Greenpoint. I still felt solid and knew that Queens wasn’t far off. I ran the tangents just as I’d practiced as we turned towards the Pulaski Bridge and mile 13 in 6:53. The bridge was noticeable but not awful and I passed the half in  1:30:23. I really thought I had a chance of breaking 3 (or at least coming close to it).

Queens, Where You Make It or Break It

Hunter’s Point in Long Island City was almost a total blur because all I could think of was the fact that the Queensboro Bridge was coming up. I’ve run this bridge many times before, but in the marathon, it has a reputation for being the make-or-break-you point. Mile 14 I did in 7:00, just 3 seconds slow. I could see the Citibank building ahead (it dominates the LIC skyline) and knew that it marked the turn to the bridge. Just before mile 15, which I did in a slow 7:14, we started onto the bridge. The incline looked as though it stretched on forever and everyone slowed noticeable. There were maybe 8 spectators on the whole bridge and the subways continued to rumble by on the right. Somehow I still did mile 16 in 7:10, 2 seconds fast.

The Island at the Center of the World...and Center of the Race

I stayed to the left as we began the descent into Manhattan and the incline became steeper. Well before we got to 1st Ave you could hear the crowds roaring in excitement. A quick loop and a hairpin turn dumped us onto 1st where the crowds were 6 deep on each side. Although I got a nice boost when I saw Footloose from the Boston forum with his HTFU sign, I did mile 17 in 7:03, which was slow for what should have been the fastest mile of the race according to Maclin. 1st Ave was full of energy but I was not. This is where the race started to become more mental than physical.

I knew my family was waiting at near Mile 19 so that kept me going strong, 14:08 for miles 18 and 19 (I forgot to hit the lap button) which was slow, but still put on pace for a sub-3:05. Seeing my family gave me some extra juice as we headed into the Bronx. I knew if I could hold on until we turned back into Manhattan, I’d be okay.

The Bronx and Harlem

There was far more energy in the Bronx than I expected, but all I could muster was a 7:20 mile 20 and a 7:15 Mile 21. As I entered Harlem, I just kept telling myself that as long as I kept upright, a PR was still a possibility. It helped that none of the spectators wanted to see anyone quit. As I headed down 5th and around Mt Morris Park, the thought of my family up ahead gave me a 7:17 mile 22.

The Final Miles

Now Central Park was in sight. I’ve run this portion of the course so many times that every dip was ingrained in my head; that didn’t matter. There was very little left in my legs. My breathing was fine. My upper body felt great, but there was only lead down below. The infamous 5th Avenue hill (which goes on for nearly a mile) was a case of mind-over-matter. I did mile 23 in 7:23, but was spent. As we entered the park, it was like coming home after a long journey. My law school friends cheered me on just before Mile 24, but all I could give was a 7:43. I managed to take a little advantage on the downhill on the rolling hills of the next mile and did a 7:23, but I barely remember anything about this part except that I took a Gatorade at two waters. We passed Mile 25 into the home stretch. There’s a nice downhill at this point, but I couldn’t appreciate it anymore. I turned onto Central Park South, which looks flat on a normal day, but is actually uphill. Thank God for spectators because I really felt like walking. I counted the Avenues as we approached Columbus Circle and the turn into the park. I passed mile 26 in 7:43 and could hear the finish area. I stayed left (the shortest distance) and felt like I was crawling until I saw I had fewer than 200 meters. Then I gave it all I had, which wasn’t much, and heard the announcer say “DAVID” as I crossed, the final .2 in 1:39, an 8:15 pace! I didn’t care, I had finished, PR’d with a 3:06:14 and had the time of my life. Too bad I had 20+ minutes of walking to the baggage truck.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

2010 Sleepy Hollow 10k Race Report

I've got NYC coming up in two weeks, so today's 10K was really just a tune-up race. I want to go hard--which is why I picked such a short distance--so I could see where I'm at overall for deciding my pacing strategy.

The race began in Tarrytown which is a small town in Westchester about 30 minutes from NYC by train. My friend and I got there at 8:10 for the 9am start. As we were walking from the train station to the start, a volunteer pulled over in her car to make sure we knew how to get there. Super friendly!

Pick-up was in the center of town in the school parking lot and getting numbers and t-shirts was super easy, though there was a bit of a line for the bathroom with only two port-o-potties. There were good tunes blasting and everyone seemed to know each other. Some people were in costume and it just had a really good community vibe. The course map is a good example of how hometown the whole thing was:

When it was almost time to start I did a couple quick strides and lined up. It's always hard to tell where to stand at these things because you never know who is fast, and who just thinks he's fast. When they sounded the horn, I realized I was stuck behind a lot of people. We did a little loop that helped me get around some slower runners and then we passed the start line again and started down a sharp downhill.

This race was all hills! Ups and downs, but lots of them.

Around mile 1, when we were turning a corner, a moving car got in the way! I turned to the guy behind me and said "Kind of hard to run the tangents with moving vehicles!" He laughed.

After the first mile or so we headed into Sleepy Hollow (we'd been in Tarrytown) and the course got a lot more scenic, though the hills go tougher. We ran past several beautiful parks and there were families out on their front lawns cheering on the runners. Lots of the houses were decorated for Halloween too! Around Mile 3 this guy caught up with me and we ran together for a while. He warned me about some of the more savage hills coming up. On one of them, he fell back a little as I surged forward.

I hadn't seen any mile markers and I had no idea how many people were ahead of me since I could only see two runners because of how winding the course was. The first mile marker I saw was Mile 5, at that point my watch said 31:08.

I ran mile 6 in 6:08, but the final .2 was straight up a steep hill. There was no sprinting up this one, though as soon as it started to level (with maybe 200 yards to go) I gave my best kick and crossed the finish line in 7th place at 38:43. Less than 20 seconds from my PR which was on my home turf in Central Park.

Girl scouts were handing out water as I made my way over to my bag and I got a doughnut from a volunteer. I'm not sure what kind it was, but it was the BEST doughnut ever! She said something about "buttermilk" and "homemade;" I just know I devoured it!

After putting on pants and long sleeves, I headed back to the finish to watch others cross. I saw my friend Lisa cross looking good (if tired) a few minutes later. She hasn't run in quite a while so I was super-proud of her for finishing. Anyway, to keep it short, we spent the rest of the morning exploring Sleepy Hollow and getting in the Halloween spirit.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Race Report: 2010 Jersey Shore Half-Marathon

Let me start off by saying that I now realize how spoiled I am! Most of the time I race in Central Park and can get away with leaving the house 45 minutes before starting time. No so today. such luck today!!! I woke up this morning at 4:45, went over my checklist for the millionth time, did my usual race morning routine, grabbed my bagel with pb and out the door to Penn Station by 5:30. I was on the 6:07 Jersey Coastline and let me tell you, there were some fun faces--tons of kids who had clearly spent the night partying in the City and were still going strong. After a scenic ride of about an hour, I got off the train and found Betina--very easy to spot in her red MCM jacket, with her fire engine red car!

It always great to go to race with someone. We chatted it up on our way to the race after we picked up Bet’s friend who was a half-marathon neophyte. On the way we scoped out the Dunkin’ Donuts situation for the way back--it pays to think ahead. We got to the race about an hour early which was great because we all had to use the bathroom and the lines were long. It was windy too, so we stayed in our warm clothes as long as possible, but when 8:45 rolled around, it was time to strip. I wasn’t sure a singlet and split shorts had been the best idea, but there was no going back.

The starting area had no corrals or anything, it was just a mass of people sorting themselves out. The three of us split up at this point and I head towards the front. There were some speedy looking people, but it was way less intimidating than the average NYRR race where I know on any given day there are at least a dozen sub-elites racing. After the national anthem, performed by a trumpet and drum--crowd sing-a-long encouraged, we were off.

I tried to start our conservative--the race was a double out-and-back (with the first out-and-back being 7.1 and the second being 6)--and I wanted to save myself for the second half. I was a ways from the leaders and for a while was running behind a couple people, and the first mile went by in 6:22. Mile 2 was about the same at 6:23, but then I started to edge up. I realized I was just following the pace of the people around me instead of setting my own pace. Mile 3 went by in 6:15 and I was running by myself, the leaders were far ahead, but there was no one right behind me. I knew the first turn around was coming and that definitely helped my speed. At this point we went by some barracks (there’s an army base on Sandy Hook) which were pretty cool to look at.

At the turn around the 15 mile-an-hour wind that had been in my face was not at my back which meant I stopped noticing it as I cruised through Mile 4 in 6:10 (I think this is where I first saw Bettina and we yelled to each other) and Mile 5 in 6:03 where I met up with a couple guys who were running together. They seemed to be going at the perfect pace so I stuck with them. We had a nice chat and they told me they ran together a lot because only one of them had a Garmin. The best was when the younger one said to me, “Your breathing too easy, the least you could do is fake it.” Ha!

At this point, either there were some mile markers missing, or I just got sloppy because I have no more splits on my watch. We got to the turn-around for the second mile and I was still feeling great but my two new friends started going a little faster and with 6 miles to go I stayed back a little. The second half seemed to go by in a blur though around Mile 10 I caught with a guy in a red beanie who’d been out ahead for quite a while. We each complemented the other but he was starting to slow so I didn’t talk to him for too long. As mile 11 passed I knew I was in the home stretch and that a PR was possible and more importantly that a guaranteed entry into next year’s NYCM was possible (sub-1:23 for my age group). Around this point a guy passed me who had been behind me the whole race. I was ready to go all out yet but I complemented him on his kick and kept at it. At Mile 12 I started counting down the minutes. Once I realized that I was within 800 yards of the finish I started to pick it up and when someone yelled 400 I started my kick. I felt great as I crossed the finish line--the guy who passed me between 11 and 12? He threw up right in front of me!!! Oops. I’m still smiling from ear to ear with my 1:22:12.28 (13th place, no vomit).

After some water, and I bagel I head back to wait for Betina. When I saw her approaching I let out my loudest “GO BET!” and scared the people around me. She had a really strong finish. I would not want to mess with Bet on the race course--super tough! I’m just grateful she let me cross the finish line ahead of her. Next time she might not be so courteous! We then got to watch her friend finish her first half! She did a phenomenal job too, though she said there were definitely no marathons in her future. All in all, it was a wonderful day at the Jersey Shore.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Race Report: 2010 Lawyer's Have Heart

I was probably better prepared to wake up early for this race than any other since my new running schedule has been to get up at 5:30 every day. Anyway, I woke up Saturday at 5:45 and had my usual bagel and peanut butter. The bagel sucked by the way—Safeway—but it was just about the carbs after all. I listened to some tunes and then at 7 am I was out the door. I hopped the bus, although I could have walked since the start was so close (it was at the Georgetown Waterfront, K and 31st).
My friend Brian and I were supposed to meet at 7:30 so when I got there with 15 minutes to spare, I made a beeline to the port-o-potties. Good thing too, because the lines go long fast! After TCB (taking care of business) I met Brian at our designated spot. He hooked me up with my number and goody bag and we headed to baggage check. We chatted it up the whole time and marveled at the huge number of people (this is the largest 10k in DC with about 4800 people). With about 10 minutes to go time we went our separate ways but arranged to rendez-vous post-race at the same spot.

I made my way to the “corrals.” They were super-unofficial—just people holding signs—so I knew it might be chaotic. I headed for the 6 min/mile corral and couldn’t believe how many people had lined up in the 5 minute group; I could tell by the number of people that not everyone was being honest… After the Ms. DC-Galaxy-Universe-International-Somebody-or-Rather sang the national anthem it was go time. I mean that almost literally since instead of firing a gun they just said “Go!”

The first little bit headed out on K Street and then took a sharp turn in the opposite direction onto the Whitehurst Freeway. This was the only real uphill so I tried to conserve some energy. As soon as we got on the freeway I started picking people off who had gone out too fast. The sun was bright but it wasn’t too hot yet. Just as we got to M Street I passed Mile 1 (6:08).

The race then continued along Canal Road which was nicely shaded. At this point it had started to thin out some too. There were no spectators here since the road has no side walks so this was really just me and the road. I guess I focused a little too much on the road because I missed the marker for Mile 2. I knew I’d passed it and just hoped that I was on pace. When I saw people coming in the opposite direction (it was an out-and-back course) I knew I was almost at the turn around. Just before I hit the turn around I saw Mile 3 (12:15 for Miles 2 and 3). I had made really good time but now I was starting to feel the heat and I hadn’t hit a single water stop yet.

The second half was ever-so-slightly downhill for a while—Thank God! Even so, I was slowing in the heat. Mile 4 was slower (6:15). Seeing Diz and some other friends running in the other direction perked up my spirits, if not my pace. At some point around there they were handing out cold sponges, they made me feel better, but couldn’t counteract the heat and humidity as I hit mile 5 on M Street (6:20). Now there would be no shade and probably no PR but I wanted to have a respectable finish for the team. On the Whitehurst everyone seemed to disappear and I could really feel the sun. As I turned back onto K (dang that hairpin turn!!!) I passed Mile 6 (6:25). I could see the finish now so I did that thing where you dig deep and ran the final .2 miles in 1:12!

As soon as I got my bag and camera I went to wait for Brian by the finish. With my bad luck I saw him, but not in time to snap a photo so I went and waited for him at our meeting spot. After we’d both taken in the finish festival sights it was off to brunch with the good people of Dewey & LeBoeuf, the firm we were both running “for.”

I have to say, this was an awesome race! It was really fun meeting Brian and running with him, even if we didn’t actually run together. It’s so seldom I have friends at races with me so this was a real treat!

The other great thing was that, while I missed a PR by 13 seconds with my 38:37, I came in 48 Overall, 3rd in my Age Group, and 2nd in the Law Student category! I’ve never placed so well in such a big race! Well, I will stop rambling now and go back to running.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Race Report: 2010 Bolder Boulder

Ah, the BolderBOULDER, where to begin? Let’s start with a little background…

I got to Colorado on Tuesday the 25th, almost a week before the race, so that I could acclimatize to the high altitude. It was a very relaxed week. Thankfully the family I was staying with was a family of runners and former runners, all of whom had done the race many times before so they were very helpful. They made sure I got in a good run every day and that there was plenty of healthy food too! The whole week, whenever we went anywhere my friend would introduce me by saying, “This is my friend Dave; he’s here to run the BolderBOULDER.”

On Thursday I did my test run of the course. This race is a pretty big deal (it has nearly 55,000 participants and brings in $10 million to Boulder each year!) so I wanted to do the test run before the weekend crowds descended on the scenic foothill town. They have directional signs for the course up year-round so it was easy to find my way. On Sunday, for my shakeout, I ran the middle two miles again since that’s where the race’s highest point is. That night, my friend had to go to a wedding so her parents ordered homemade pasta from an Italian place (it’s so great staying with experienced runners who understand carbs!) and by 8:30 I was in bed (though I kept the light on until I had finished the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

At 4:45 my alarm went off. Because this race is so big, the first wave (my wave) starts at 7 am, with the last wave going around 9:20. There are 88 waves!!! I had my usual bagel with peanut butter, sat around nervously, and then jogged (yes, I’m using the verb jog) to the start with my friend’s dad who was also running, though he was a few waves behind me. The start was crazy! It was extremely well organized (you have to be with so many people) but it seemed to stretch on forever. I made my way to the front and passed people who looked like they were in amazing shape—I decided to start at the back of my corral. A few minutes before the gun security people swept through to make sure our bibs actually said “A.” The bugle sounded, letting us know there were 30 seconds to go, and then suddenly the gun went off and the flood gates opened.

The first mile is almost entirely downhill (about -1%) so things started fast. I wanted to be conservative at the beginning. I’d been told that this was not a PR course and that most people did about 2 minutes slower than their PR so I wanted to save my energy and my breath (literally—the air is thinner). I heard a guy with a Garmin say we were going 5:40 pace so I slowed down a little and did the first mile in 6:06 (definitely too fast since my PR average had been 6:11).

As we turned shortly after Mile 1, we entered a more residential neighorhood. There were some bands playing along the street and some spectators, but it was clear that most people were either in the race or still in bed. Mile 2 is a bit more uphill so I slowed to 6:20. My goal pace was around 6:25, so this was fine by me.  I could feel myself breathing harder than usual though my legs still felt great.

Mile 3 was probably the most residential of all and it has some serious turns and backtracks clearly thrown in just to make the proper distance. As such, it was the slowest mile at 6:38. When we passed the mile marker, people were shouting “You’re halfway there!!!” I guess they didn’t realize that the .2 miles can actually make or break you. As the course turned at the real halfway point, it brought me within a few blocks of my friends house. I could certainly see why her mom used to joke about pulling off the course there!

Mile 4 ended just before the Casey Hill, the highest point of the course. It had taken 6:29.

As I crested the hill, I found myself wishing there was a flat stretch of road. I needed a moment to recoup my energy and hated wasting the downhill when I was feeling so sluggish. As the course moved downhill, it entered “downtown” Boulder. I passed the office of my friend’s parents, but missed here mom who was trying to cheer me on. As we turned onto Pearl, the main commercial drag, we passed a large stage with a band that was still tuning up. No love for the early runners! My friend was out there, however, to cheer me on! The course began snaking towards the finish as I passed Mile 5 (6:23).

With the second to last turn, the race continued on a normally busy commercial strip leading to CU. Here there were some spectators cheering and you could feel the fact that you were in the home stretch. We passed km 9 and I knew with just 1k to go, I would meet my goal but that didn’t make the final hill any easier. The race ends in Folsom field, home of the CU Buffs, but to get there you have to climb a steep hill. I passed mile 6 (6:33) and wondered if I had any breath left to give. Finally we turned into the stadium and all the sudden, the adrenalin seriously kicked in. I hauled some butt as I saw the finish approaching and crossed in 39:53.

Definitely not a PR, but it felt like one.

After I picked up my water, snack bag, and free beer, I met my friend in the stands. The way they had it set up, you could watch runners crossing on the field and on the Jumbotron so we waited and watched for her dad. This had to be one of the coolest set-ups. You could see just how many people had come out to race. Once her dad found us, we set off back to their house walking along the course. There were still thousands of runners on the streets of Boulder so we cheered along the way. This is another cool part about the wave start—we even saw a mom who had clearly run in an earlier wave and was now running with her kids.

After watching the elites (their race starts at 11:20) and having a big breakfast, my friend and I went to Avery Brewing for a tour and some serious samples—the perfect way to follow a race.