Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Racing Fun

Although there has been a lack of blogging about my NYC Marathon training, that doesn't mean I haven't been working my butt off (literally) with the team! This season has shown incredible progress and confidence boosting for everyone involved. My training runs with Team in Training have often been the highlights of my weeks - from hill workouts, to exploring new terrain on long runs, to exciting early morning races, to enjoying a sweaty, after practice drink and carb fest with my friends.

There is no denying that the beginning of the summer was brutal weatherwise. We stomached some intense heat, and I think that made us stronger now. Pair that with early hill workouts to build strength and high mileage to build confidence, and our season is as strong as I've ever seen team in training! It feels REALLY good to see improvement in my running and strength in general. I haven't seen PRs in races in over a year- and being able to obtain them effortlessly not only feels incredible, but natural.

I have run two races with New York Road Runners (and team in training) in the past month: The "Run for Central Park" 4-miler on July 17th (which I ran with an 8:16 min/mile pace- not bad for the beginning of the season), and the "Bronx Half Marathon" on August 15th. Lately, I have been questioning my love for endurance running. I really love running fast and hard, and you can't really do that during a marathon. Why do I run marathons then? For the mental aspect. The feeling of accomplishment in running a long distance or finishing an endurance event with confidence does so much for your mind and soul. As I've mentioned before in this blog: "Marathoning is a microcosm of your life- the strength and effort you use to push through this achievement is the same willpower used to fight through hard situations in life." The amount of struggle and speed doesn't reaallly matter so much- the point is that the person who begins a marathon is NOT the same person who ends one. Without fail.

That being said, it is a bit more fun when the run is easy. For the first time in a year and a half, I PR'd (PR=personal record) in a half marathon. I ran the Bronx in 1:55:15, which is an 8:45 min/mile pace and a 7 1/2 minute PR from the last Bronx half marathon in February of 2009. I think that is an impressive improvement, but it is even more impressive when you look at the time of my most recent half marathon: the Staten Island Half Marathon in October of 2009: 3:09:36, with a 14.28 min/mile pace. Wow.

Yes, it is nice to see improvement. However, I kind of just want to run fast all the time. We have been focusing our Tuesday night workouts on hills for the past month and a half. I cannot begin to express the joy I feel running REALLY HARD up a hill for a short amount of time. Running fast is fun and satisfying! It is impossible to run a half marathon or marathon at a sprint, or anywhere close to a sprint. I hope to get my marathon and half marathon times faster, but I don't expect to ever get that out of control "being chased by a wild animal" feeling when running an endurance event. Maybe for the last half mile (which is definitely fun!), but not throughout the race.

Which is why I would like to start focusing on adding some shorter races to my race diet. I signed up for the "5th Avenue Mile" on September 25th. That race is known for vomit inducing fast times, and I'm nervous and excited to see how much I can push my body! Sprinting is hard- and a mile is NOT a short distance to sprint.

I will also be running the Fitness Games 4-miler on September 11th- I am using it as a "test" - to see how much I can push my body at the end of a long run (I will be running do a 12-14 mile "long slow distance" previous to the 10AM race).

It is fun pushing my body. I am excited to see where this adventure takes me!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Ahh, we made it to July in NYC. It seems to be much hotter than last year, considering I made it through the entire summer without air conditioning last summer, and this summer I turned it on when it barely hit June.

The heat and humidity really affects a runner's happiness and stamina. It is so important to stay hydrated and cool. However, it is amazing what the human body can become accustomed to by pushing it to new limits!

On Sunday the 27th, Team in Training participated in one of the central park races- the "Achilles Hope and Possibility" 5-miler. It is a very inspiring and rewarding race because we run alongside disabled runners- it is truly amazing what they can do. 5 miles is a long run! Especially in extreme humidity!

This was Team in Training's first race of the season, so there were many first-time racers. Nervers were in the air, and so was heat and humidity. It was a pretty tough run, but my inner monologue was surprisingly calm. I remember looking back to past races, thinking that I wasn't going to make it, even in a silly 4 miler. This time, I just went with the flow. I didn't watch the clock, I didn't even wear a watch. I just ran. I feel like I could have pushed it more throughout the race, and especially at the end, but that's okay. Next time I'll be ready to bring it!

I ended up PRing (personal recording) in my 5 mile run with an 8:34 pace. This isn't completely accurate, because my PR in the 8000M (4.9 miles) is 8:17...but TECHNICALLY I PRed in the 5-miler. Yay!

Lauren and I ran a sweaty 8/10 miler on July 4th along the Hudson River on the West Side Highway Path. I'm so glad I brought a hat this time because my eyeballs definitely would have melted. Running on the westside highway the morning of July 4th has become kind of a tradition for us (2 years in a row)...hopefully we'll keep it up for 2011!

We have another TNT workout in the park tonight. It is supposed to be a high of 100 today. Ouch. Here is our workout from Coach Christine:

Pyramid speed workout: You'll be doing the upper 5 mile loop (72nd transverse to the north end of the park). Warm up from Cherry Hill heading east across the transverse, make a left to head north, continuing to warm up to E. 82nd (behind the Met). After your warm up, pick up the pace to your 5K race pace for 1 lamppost, then recover for 1 lamppost. Keep adding one lamppost to your 5K pace interval and your recovery interval (2 lampposts 5K, 2 lampposts recover, 3 lampposts 5K, 3 lampposts recover, etc.) until you reach 5 lampposts. After 5 lampposts, go back to 4 lampposts 5K, 4 lampposts recovery, and work your way back down the pyramid. Once you get back to one, start the pattern over again. Your 5K pace interval should feel like a hard effort – about 85% effort. Your breathing should get accelerated, but not totally out of control. Continue this pattern of running hard/recovering until you get to W. 81st St. (Delacorte Theater). From there, cool down back to Cherry Hill (don't miss the turn onto the 72nd St. transverse).

Stay Cool Everyone!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sun and Rain

Training is back in full swing! I am back for season number 3 with Team in Training, running the NYC Marathon! I am very excited, especially since I get to be a mentor for the program again :)

So far, we have mainly been doing fun, "get to know the park" runs. I have met some amazing people who have made these runs much easier and more interesting.

Considering how much time we have to train for the NYC marathon (november 7th), it's really crazy to jump into intense training this soon. I was reading "Runner's World" yesterday (I know, I'm a geek), and according to their training calendar, people training for NYC shouldn't begin until July 17th! I guess this extra training cushion is a good thing, as long as you don't over-do it.

Our last three practices have consisted of a 5 mile tempo run, a long run on the Hudson, and a 5 mile interval run.

Last Tuesday (6/15) the advanced group did a 5 mile tempo run. The other groups were working on form, mainly upper body control. These are Coach Christine's tips on upper body form:

Keep your arms bent at a 90 degree angle.
Your arms should swing back and forth from your shoulder joint, not your elbow joint.
Arms should swing from the hip to chest high.
Keep your shoulders low (to prevent tightness of the neck area), back (not hunched forward), and relaxed (to open the chest area to facilitate breathing).
Keep your wrists relaxed. Your hands should be in a loose fist (as if you're holding an egg and don't want to break it.)
Avoid side-to-side arm swinging. Your arms should never cross the center of chest area.
Keep your posture tall and upright with a slight forward lean coming from the ankles, not your hips.
Keep your head up, looking in the same direction you're running (not looking down towards the ground or at your feet). Look forward in front of you approximately 10-20 meters.

I feel like after two seasons of TNT, I am pretty confident with my upper body form. So I went all out for the advanced group! This was our workout:

If you're not already familiar with them, tempo runs are important workouts in marathon training, especially if you're aiming for a specific time. A tempo run is a "comfortably hard" run. We run tempo runs at just slightly above our lactate threshold (when lactic acid starts to accumulate, causing our aerobic system to work harder). Doing regular tempo runs (properly) pushes our lactate threshold higher, helping us run faster and longer.
Course: 5 mile lower loop. From W. 62nd St., head north to the 102nd St. transverse. Make a right onto the 102nd St. transverse. Once you cross the transverse, make a right to head south on East Drive. Run all the way down East Drive, along the south end of the park. Come back up West Drive back to W. 62nd.

How to run it: Warm up (easy running) from W. 62nd St to W. 81nd (look for the lamppost or Delacorte Theater). From there, you'll start your tempo run. Continue tempo run across the 102nd St. transverse, down to E. 72nd (at the end of the 72nd St. transverse). From there, cool down (easy running) back to W. 62nd. Your tempo run pace should be a hard but controlled effort. If you've run a 10K recently, run about 15 seconds slower than your average pace. If you don’t have a 10K pace, run at about 80-85% effort. You should feel like you're working, but not racing. The effort should basically make you think, "It would feel pretty good to stop right now, but I can maintain this for longer." If you're able to maintain the same effort and close to an even pace throughout the 3 mile tempo, you did it right. If you're really struggling during the last tempo mile, you went too fast.

This run went surprisingly well. The trick is to not push it too hard in the beginning, which is something I (and most runners) make the mistake of doing. If you leave some energy in the tank for later in your run, you can run fast at the end! It is hard for our minds to trust and believe that, but it is true. A big part of our training consists of learning to trust that "negative split"- having a faster end than beginning.

ANYWAY, the point is I took it out easy, and ended strong. It felt good to run fast. Maybe I was pushing it too hard for the beginning of the season. Whatever, I don't care. It felt so good.

Our next practice was Saturday, June 19th. Instead of our usual run in Central Park, we were branching out to the West Side Highway, a gorgeous (and flat!) run along the Hudson. When I was preparing for my run, I was impressed with and proud of myself for remembering my "Body Glide" (for anti-chafing) and my sunglasses for my sensative eyes.

Lauren (my running buddy) and I decided on seven miles, which would take us from 72nd street to Charles street and back. A nice flat, slow run (We build up these long Saturday runs until we eventually get to 20 miles by the end of the season- yuck!). I didn't realize how incredibly sunny it would be. I have VERY sensative eyes. I had to keep them closed for at least three miles of this run. Luckily the path wasn't too crowded...I would have run into everybody! Even with my sunglasses, my eyeballs were sweating like crazy. I guess next time I'll need a visor! I think we are looking at a very hot summer...

Our most recent practice was last night, Tuesday June 22nd. I ran with the advanced group again for two reasons- because the other groups were doing the same workout as last week, and because Lauren made me. My stomach was feeling a little funny so I didn't want to push it, but she knew that I would feel better after I did.

This was our workout:

Advanced workout: We're assuming again that you don't need to work on your form (but feel free to join the other groups if you want to), so you're going to do a speed workout. You'll be doing the upper 5 mile loop (72nd transverse to the north end of the park). Warm up from Cherry Hill heading east across the transverse, make a left to head north, continuing to warm up to E. 82nd (behind the Met). After your warm up, pick up the pace to your 5K race pace for 2 minutes, then recover for 2 minutes. Your 5K pace interval should feel like a hard effort – about 85% effort. Your breathing should get accelerated, but not completely out of control. Continue this pattern of running hard/recovering until you get to W. 81st St. (Delacorte Theater). From there, cool down back to Cherry Hill (don't miss the turn onto the 72nd St. transverse). Make sure you have a watch to time your intervals!

This workout involved the upper five mile loop- which is scary because of all the hills! the top of the park involves "Harlem Hill"- a nemesis for most of the NYC runners I know. I'm sure Harlem Hill and I will become much more friendly later in the season when we get some hill repeat practices in :)

It was a hard, hard run. I love intervals, and when you say "two minutes" I will run really fast for two minutes. It was much easier to do that in the beginning. Once we got to the hill and beyond, it got a little rough and nauseating. The weather was disgusting- very hot and VERY humid. We got through the run though, just in time to exit the park and walk home during the torrential downpour. I have never been so soaked in my life. Ahh, the runner's life :)

And we ended with a 9:07 average pace for the 5 miles! Not so bad considering we took walk breaks during the off intervals....

This weekend: My brother's graduation from high school (and 18th birthday! wow!), and the 5-mile "Achilles Hope and Possibility" Race in the park on Sunday.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Here we go again...

After the tough (yet rewarding!) training season last summer/fall, I was definitely ready to take a hiatus from running. The biggest mistake I made between my first and second marathons was the lack of rest. I did not take a break after running the Disney World marathon in January of 2009. It made sense- I had an amazing experience training for and running the Disney Marathon. I didn't want the season to end, so naturally, I kept it going in the only way I knew how- I signed up for countless races and kept running with my running buddies. I ran the Manhattan Half marathon 2 weeks after running Disney, which may seem crazy to most, but why not take advantage of the amazing running shape I was in? Besides, I wanted to get my "special prize" that you get from running all five of the Grand Prix borough half marathons in one year. (OK the special prize is just a patch- but it's the honor that counts!)

Needless to say, I unnecessarily over trained for no reason whatsoever. I had no big events coming up, and there was no reason for me to continue to do long training runs (except to keep my friend Lauren, who was training for a May marathon, company. I had to keep up with the gossip!).

Throughout my second marathon season, my race paces for every distance steadily got slower and slower. Running became emotionally and physically draining, and the only thing I wanted to was be injured so I could just quit. In a way, I was injured- mentally injured. Running was not fun. I couldn't keep up with the people I used to love to run with all the time. I was in desperate need of rest, and as soon as I crossed that finish line in San Francisco, I vowed that I would take a REAL break this time.

And I did! I took a short break from working out, and when I started again, I focused on easy strength training, yoga, and long NYC walks. When I eventually started running again, I would not go longer than two miles- at a very slow pace on the treadmill. If I was struggling to get through a workout, that was okay. I would try again next time.

All those factors got me back on track. Now I strength/cross about four days a week, and this has made running SO much easier. While I haven't really increased my mileage too much (generally won't run longer than a 5K), my speed has improved dramatically. I give full credit to the increased amount of strength/cross training, and intense interval runs.

I alternate between a few different interval workouts on the treadmill. I have stolen them all from the crossfit website, and even though they are simple and short, they can be hard! With interval training, the length of the workout is not as important as making sure are getting a killer ass-kicking. After these workouts, it takes an hour or two to get my face back to its normal color. And I sweat like crazy. It's pretty embarassing actually :)

The interval workout I started with is a .25 sprint alternated with a 90 second walk repeated 8 times.

.25 mile sprint

90 second walk

.25 mile sprint

90 second walk

.25 mile sprint

90 second walk

.25 mile sprint

90 second walk

.25 mile sprint

90 second walk

.25 mile sprint

90 second walk

.25 mile sprint

90 second walk

.25 mile sprint


1/4th mile may not seem like a long distance, but if you really push yourself (which is the point of this exercise), it will hurt! (in a good way)

The second interval workout I use is slightly more interesting.

1 mile sprint

rest 3 minutes

.75 mile sprint

rest 2 minutes

.50 mile sprint

rest 1 minute

.25 mile sprint


obviously, the goal is to get faster and faster with each shorter distance. and it is hard to push out a mile as fast as you can when you are not warmed up! This reminds me of our mile repeats we do with Team in Training- 1 mile as fast as you can alternated with a recovery mile- three times. The goal with that workout is to make the 3rd repeat your fastest. This almost never happens :) That workout will come later in the season, and I will keep you posted!

The most recent interval workout I have incorporated uses half mile sprints.

.5 mile sprint

2 minute walk

.5 mile sprint

2 minute walk

.5 mile sprint

2 minute walk

.5 mile sprint


For some reason this one has become the hardest one. I think this is because I try to run the half miles at the same speed I would run a 1/4 mile. Whatever the reason, I don't really care.

These workouts really work, and none of them will ever take longer than 25 minutes. Intervals always work if you push yourself hard enough. They will make you faster and stronger in every aspect of your life. I have watched my regular 5K workouts get easier and faster without any tears and stress.

I have just begun training for the New York City Marathon with Team in Training (my 3rd season!). So far I have been taking it easy, and not doing to much too soon. I am very interested in seeing how my new attitude and workout regime affects this season.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Back on my feet

I must admit, the last month and a half of my workouts have not been terribly exciting. I am back on the treadmill, and due to the most recent weather shift in NYC, I'm also back in the park! (I give much credit to my running buddy Lauren for getting me out there!)

I have been experimenting with a few interval workouts on the treadmill. I was looking for something with high intensity that would get my heartrate up but not scare me away from running again. The first model I used was the "5, 4, 3, 2, 1" workout. This is a 30 minute interval run where you begin at a moderate speed for 5 minutes and increase the speed by .5mph for 4 minutes, increase by .5 for 3 minutes, etc. For example:

6MPH 5 min
6.5MPH 4 min
7MPH 3 min
7.5 MPH 2 min
8 MPH 1 min

This was a great way to ease my body back into high speeds again. And it DID make me go faster. On days that I wouldn't have much time on the treadmill, I would turn it into a 4, 3, 2, 1 workout. Eventually, I would forgo the 5 altogether and do 3 sets of 4, 3, 2, 1. I was also able to increase the inital speeds and inclines once I became more comfortable.

Unfortunately, I had done just that. Become TOO comfortable with these workouts. Coach Ramon used to tell us that "pain is weakness leaving the body." You need to feel that pain in your training in order to see results. So I went searching for another workout.

I found a workout on the Crossfit website last week that I decided to experiment with.

8 rounds of:
Run 400 meters
Rest 90 seconds

Post total time to comments not including 8th rest.

I was a little skeptical about having such long periods of rest (90 seconds). Isn't resting for the weak? I don't need a break that often! And it's true, I didn't need breaks that long. BUT the 90 seconds of of rest (My rest was a 3.0 MPH pace) every .25 miles allowed my heart rate to slow down enough so my next interval really packed a punch. Extreme changes in heartrate and intensity will warrent the most extreme results, which is why someone doing fast intervals will usually be in better shape than a strictly endurance athlete.

Also, the rest periods allowed me to get to some pretty fast speeds: 10 MPH and faster!

I think these new interval workouts really impacted the success of my race on Sunday. THis Sunday morning, March 7th, I ran the Coogans 5K. This is one of my favorite races, A) because it is only a 5K (a short distance to race) and B) because the race takes place mere steps outside my apartment. Despite all that, I would have been very ready to forgo the race had it not been for my friend, Lauren, who's race number I'd promised to pick up. I had spent the previous night dancing, drinking, AND carb-loading with a slice of pizza at 4AM. By race time, I was running on 2 1/2 hours of sleep with vodka running through my veins.

All these factors led to one of the most successful and enjoyable races of my running career. I don't know if it was because there was zero pressure for me to succeed, or if I had discovered the magic race combination of Vodka + pizza - sleep; but regardless, I am not going to overthink it. For the first time in about a year, I had a truly great run that will hopefully boost my confidence for future runs.

Also, I REALLY enjoyed racing to my "In the Heights" soundtrack. Very appropriate for the neighborhood :)

In other news...

Believe it or not, it is almost time for fall marathon season! I went to a team in training meeting on MOnday night, and now am full force into Team in Training marathon mode. I am very excited to start training again (for the NYC marathon!) in May.

I hope you all enjoy the rest of the beautiful weather!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Crossfit NYC

Happy New Year!

The beginning of each year (decade in this case!) always brings many hopeful resolutions, and therefore, an increased number of gym-goers. I don't think I have ever kept a new years resolution- the motivation of "it's a new year" is simply not enough for me to change my set habits and mindsets. Generally, I do not like to do things on my own. I am lazy. When I wanted to get in shape, I got a personal trainer. When I impulsively decided to run a marathon, I joined the group "Team in Training." Now that I have neither, I have joined a new group to get me to the next fitness level: Crossfit.

I have reviewed Crossfit on this blog before (a free beginners class to let you know what the workout is all about). It is known about being the most intense and efficient workout you can do. I have recently completed the "elements workout" (a series of 6 small classes spread out over 3 weeks), which taught me how to safely and efficiently do the crossfit workouts correctly. Crossfit has a different "workout of the day" (WOD) each day which is meant to be a total body challenge for everyone and anyone- no matter how "fit" you are. The creators of crossfit wanted a functional and intense workout to lead to the most efficient results possible. With successful completion of the elements workout, I received 2 weeks of unlimited "WODs" (which are small classes supervised by qualified crossfit trainers). I am embarrassed to admit that I have not taken full advantage of those unlimited two weeks. Because this is the fastest way to get in shape, it is inevitable that the people who work out here are VERY in shape. It is intimdating. and HARD. It is really hard to make yourself workout somewhere when it is a) out of your way b) really painful and c) you're the worst one there! Fortunately, all the trainers and members create a very close knit and supportive group I feel like I could become a part of. I just need to force myself to step past my boundaries and do something really good for my body. I will definitely renew my contract when my 2 weeks are over and go more often!

The trainers at crossfit also encourage the "paleo diet." The concept is to eat like the cavemen ate- before the agricultural revolution. So no grains, no legumes, no dairy, no sweets. Lots of lean meat and veggies. The maximum amount of nutrients for the least amount of calories.

According to Crossfit, this is Fitness in 100 Words 2.0
Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Sprint and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Sprint, jump and compete hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Lift heavy weights often. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and dominate a sport.

Again, sorry for the infrequent posting! I will be more attentive, I promise :-)