June 27, 2012

A Handful of Races & some Pride

I've run 4 races since the LI Half on May 6th and I haven't recapped any of them. Honestly, I didn't know what I wanted to write. Each race felt really difficult and I hate admitting that running has gotten so difficult for me lately.

I missed my goal of a sub 2 half at in LI by just 1:20 and walked away encouraged that I could easily make that happen at my next Half. I also walked away promising myself to maintain a healthy weekly mileage, including a longish Sunday run every week until marathon training begins. So I put 6 to 8 to 10 mile runs on my calendar and actually ran each of them until recently.

Three weeks after LI was the AHA Wall Street Run, a Thursday night 3 miler I like to compare to the running of the bulls. Last year, I ran this race at an 8:37 pace and it felt amazing. This year, I ran it at 8:08 according to my Garmin but barely ran it sub 9 according to official results due to all my weaving in & out. A poor race strategy perhaps, but the goal was to have fun. Still, I walked away feeling disappointed that it was fun but felt so hard.

Next was the Celebrate Israel Race, a 4 miler just 4 days later. Maybe it wasn't the smartest idea to race 4 days apart but I loved the Israel Race last year and wanted a repeat.  Last year I ran it in 35:38, and 8:54 pace. This year, I struggled for 4 miles and completed it in 35:36. Sounds ok, right? Would be if I hadn't been running 10 milers at 8:45 just a few weeks earlier. I decided to add another 3 miles on so I could tackle the Harlem Hills in preparation for my next race and was encouraged that they went so well. Once I pushed up that last hill and my Garmin hit 7 miles for the day, I jogged home and talked myself into feeling ok with the morning's challenges.

Then was the Mini 10k on June 9th, 6 days after the Israel race. What was I thinking? I have no idea. The race was PACKED, I could hardly fit into my corral, and I spent the first 1+ mile just trying to find the space to run faster than a 10 minute mile. It was frustrating but I approached the Harlem Hills and remembered what I was able to accomplish the week early. I powered up, completed them and all of a sudden, I just didn't feel like running anymore. It was actually sort of strange. So I kept giving myself goals "Erica, make it to Engineer's Gate and then you can take a 15 second walk break" and then "Hello? you just made it to Engineer's Gate and you survived, you can make it to the Boathouse".  Eventually, I did stop for a walk or two. It was the only thing I could do to prevent myself from completely walking off the course and laying in the grass at the Sheep's Meadow. But it wasn't fun. As I approached the finish line with just 400 meters to go, my legs grew really heavy and my tank started emptying quickly. Then I spotted Jess & Jess who cheered for me and I could hardly muster up a wave because 1)I was so tired and 2)I thought I might poop in my running shorts. Yes, I just wrote that.  I really had to go and was using all my energy to hold it in; I didn't want to be that girl who had to run off the course seconds before the finish line! Final Results: 58:28, 9:25 pace. BLERGH.
Hanging with Lora & Abbe before the NYRR Mini 10k
My next race was the Front Runners NY Lesbian & Gay Pride Run, a 5 miler on June 23rd. Based on all my lackluster performances in my last few races, I was determined to rock this one. I did everything right. My nutrition for the week was almost spot on (except for partying way too hard Thursday night and still suffering from it the morning of the race. lesson learned), I got plenty of sleep that week, and I didn't work out for 2 days prior to the race. I stretched, foam rolled... I did it all. I ate a carbolicious pasta dish the day before, hydrated like crazy, and set my alarm to give me plenty of time for race morning rituals before heading to the park to pick up my bib.
Carbolicious Meal: Gluten Free Pasta with goat cheese, peas, arugula, lemon zest & freshly ground black pepper. YUM.
... and then I overslept. Yup. I haven't been able to sleep past 5 am for months (as I write this, I'm up because I couldn't sleep past 4 am this morning) but on race morning, I slept until the time I was supposed to head to the park. I dashed out of bed, got dressed and headed to the park, all the while tired and wondering if I should just sit this one out & show up to cheer on my friends instead. Memories of the past few weeks kept popping in my head & I was psyching myself out. I knew this would be a tough race. Harlem Hills during the first mile, followed by the rolling West Side Hills and then I'd have to conquer Cat Hill towards the end. I can honestly say I felt like giving up. But then I recalled this article I read about Lauren Fleshman the night before. Amazing. I first heard of Lauren when she rocked at NYCM 2011 and I had the honor of engraving this necklace for her to commemorate her achievement. Lauren's view on Olympic trials total inspired me and I decided to run this race and be happy with it, no matter how I did. What right did I have to give up? I'd only be letting myself down and the only way to get better is to keep at it. I rushed out of my apartment without eating or hitting the bathroom (as any runner knows, this is a very scary move) and made it to the start line just in time to take on Central Park. I also bumped into my buddy Kevin and told him what I'd been thinking about not even running it and he reminded me I'd have to fit a run in anyway, might as well make it the race. Smart dude.

I took the race really easy, making it more of a fun run than anything else. I didn't look at my pace, listened to my body and stopped at every single water station for a rest and a few sips. I have never ever done that before. But it was HOT out there and I saw no point in dehydrating myself. There was a moment during those miles when I thought about the Boston Marathoners and how they must have felt in this type of heat during the first few miles, knowing that they 26.2 in total to go. It was a great reminder of what, as runners, we can accomplish if we stay focus and trust out training.

A favorite part of racing is seeing your friends out there too. Maura, who I happen to run next to at some point during every single race, wasn't running but showed up on Cat Hill to support. I'm pretty sure that her cheers got me up that hill on Sunday. Then I saw Kevin again with less than a half mile to go. I stuck out my tongue, made a face & gave him the thumbs down but he yelled at me to smile so I did. It's amazing what a little smile can do to turn this around. Seconds later I saw Abbe who cheered something at me but I couldn't hear what. I didn't matter; it gave me the boost I needed to complete those last few meters to the finish and I threw both hands up in "C"s when I did. And then I ate popsicles :)
possibly the most delicious popsicle I have ever had
Post race, I headed down to Engineer's Gate to meet up with a bunch of friends for this colorful group shot.
Even though my physical performance during the race wasn't up to par, my mental performance was spot on, so much so that I couldn't stop smiling and was just happy to have fun with my running peeps.
Jess & I post race. See? Running is FUN!
So that's where I am now. Completed what felt like too many races in just over a month and getting my head in the game to take on NYC Marathon training that begins in 2 weeks. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. The last few weeks have been so difficult and I feel like I'm back at square one. I have a lot of work to do.

So, who else is gearing up to train for NYCM and how are you feeling? Anyone else feel like they're not quite ready?


P.S. Lauren kicked ass & advanced to the finals. AMAZING courage. Throw up some "C"s for her peeps!
Lauren Fleshman at mile 24 of the NYC Marathon 2011. She placed 6th woman!

1 comment :

  1. Take some time for yourself, remember how strong you are, don't plan anymore races right now, take one workout at a time, and you'll get that mojo back!!