Race Recap: NYRR Retro 4Miler

On Sunday, June 5th, I earned my 5th race towards my 2017 NYC Marathon 9+1 entry and ran the NYRR Retro 4 Miler in Central Park!

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Full disclosure: I almost skipped this race. After hanging out with sick people the weekend before, I came down with a nasty throat infection and a cough that kept me up 3 nights in a row. The medicine I started on Thursday helped almost immediately, but I was left with wheezing and coughing that wouldn’t go away. I wasn’t quite ready for my first DNS though, and decided I’d walk the damn thing if I needed – I wanted that 9+1 credit!

Happily, Sunday morning I woke feeling pretty good. Three days of meds and 12+ hours of sleep a night really did the trick, and while I still felt tightness in my chest, my legs were itching to run after 3 days off. So I geared up with my new Pro Compression Neon Waves and Skirt Sports Ambassador trucker hat and we headed into the city for a warm, rainy race.

The forecast called for thunderstorms later in the day, and it was overcast from the start, which kept us from overheating. After getting there super early and bibbing up (that’s a thing, right?), I made my way back to the corral and stretched for a bit. This was a fun race that I’ve wanted to do for a while: NYRR gets into the whole “retro running heyday” theme by blasting 60’s and 70’s music, encouraging people to run in vintage tube socks and sweat bands, and time-callers on ladders at every mile marker barking out the race time from their stop watches. It was a cool vibe, if I may borrow a retro turn of phrase! [omg I’m so sorry that was so lame. I’ll see myself out.]

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color-coordinated cheeseball

After the gun went off, we made our way around the 4 mile inner loop of the park in a thick pack. I really love running NYRR races – the corrals are packed all the way to the end and it’s just a totally different experience when you’re surrounded by other runners at the same pace and have the opportunity to pass people. It’s so much more motivational!

As we shuffled along, I kept an eye on my pace – to keep from coughing, I aimed to go SLOW, but my body was not having it. I was averaging 10:30 through the first 3/4 mile! Also, I was pleased to realize that running kept my cough at bay. Finally at the end of Mile 1, we rolled up on my favorite terraces and I couldn’t help but stop and smile.

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I had to take a picture – this was the first time this year I saw my favorite spot in Manhattan all covered in lush greenery, and the sight of that balcony breaking through the trees really made my heart swell. I had to remember that moment 🙂

As we coasted through into Mile 2, I was surprised at my first mile split: 11:07 even with the photo stop! And it felt effortless! Even as the skies opened up and it started raining, my new music was jammin’, the crowds around me were flowing – I even picked off a few people and kept them in the rearview the whole way just to challenge myself. Briefly I thought: wouldn’t it be cool to nab a new 4M PR, even while sick? I did some mental math: I’d need to run sub 11’s the whole way, but shoot – the first mile felt like nothing, why shouldn’t I try??

So try I did. And Mile 2 FLEW by at 10:30 (!!) – I was pumped! So pumped, in fact, that I burnt out [insert sad trombone music]. Hahaha – I had to know it was too good to be true. There was a pretty killer hill around the 5K mark that I charged through at full speed, using my arms to pump and build momentum. As this is something I rarely do, my whole body was on fire by the time I got to the top of the hill, and my breathing never got back to normal. Oh well. That’s what I get for being ambitious after coming off a sick break!

I walked a bit through the last water stop & watched my pace creep back down into the 11:30 range. At mile 3.5, I figured what the hell and took off again. I could do anything for a half mile, right? So I dropped the hammer and rounded the corner to the finish, passing two particularly obnoxious friends who had been walk/running and throwing their arms dramatically out to the sides for the past mile (WHY? There are PEOPLE around you, sweethearts!) and sprinted into the finish for a 45:42 finish at an 11:26 pace.

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Garmin time is always better, dammit.

Once I crossed the line, I slowed to a stop and almost immediately started coughing and wheezing. There was a moment of panic there when I couldn’t catch my breath without coughing even more, so I slowed my breathing, walked carefully, and briefly glanced at the medical tent. But after a few more yards and a big ol’ cup of water (thank you, soaking wet volunteer, for manning a water table in the rain!) I was fine. I grabbed a cinnamon raisin bagel and an apple, found Mike, got my shirt, and we headed home.

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All in all I did much better than I expected to –  my 4M PR is 44:13, so I came pretty dang close – and for a fun themed race, I’ll definitely look to do this one again next year.

UAE Healthy Kidney 10K Race Recap

Alternate Title: You Can’t Get the Post-Race Blues If You Don’t Stop Racing!

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At least that’s what I’m telling myself!

After running a 15 minute PR at the New Jersey Half Marathon earlier this month, I didn’t have much time to let the post-race blues settle in: I ran the NYRR UAE Healthy Kidney 10K just two weeks later. I had registered months earlier to keep the momentum going after the big race and while it was kind of a drag to “have to” keep training, it turned out to be the perfect setup for a new 10K PR!

On race morning we woke up nice and early, then headed into the city on the usual 5:37AM train. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day: mid 70’s, sunny, and clear. My previous 10K PR (1:16:22, 12:17/mile) was set at the Trenton 10K in November, and I’d just blown that pace out of the water at the NJ Half (11:51/mile) two weeks earlier. My daily runs post-half were in the 10’s and 11’s, so it was entirely possible to PR. I decided to bear with the heat, push as hard as I could (within reason) and leave it all on those Central Park Hills.

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Before the race we hung out at the party sponsored by the United Arab Emirates and the Healthy Kidney Foundation – an odd combo, but where else are you going to get to hang out with sheikhs and Sidney the Kidney? I met up with my sis-in-law Mere who was running that day too, and we couldn’t resist having some fun with Sidney and his photo booth props:

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After some good luck hugs, we squeezed into the corrals just as the national anthems wrapped up. And right before we started moving towards the start, fellow Mermaid Club gal Lizzie texted me – she was right outside the corral! Luckily we managed to connect, I got another good luck hug, she took off for the second half of her training run (hooray for her not being injured anymore!), and we crossed the starting line with cheers and fist pumping.

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I kept a good 11:30 pace through the first two miles, sipping from the bottle of Cocogo I carried with me when I needed and powering over the rolling hills. The only downside to it finally being a gorgeous day: it was HOT. I’m talking stifling. When you’ve only run in cooler temps, rain, and snow for 6 months, 72 degrees is like running through soup. But I motored along and clocked in the 5K at just under 36 minutes. Not my best, but considering I was only halfway done, I still had plenty in the tank, so woohoo.

Fun fact: The day before, the internet was abuzz with news of the cast of the next Star Wars film landing in Ireland for some intense filming that weekend. So instead of getting lost in my usual “what is life” thoughts, I entertained myself as I ran by imagining what they were doing at that exact moment. Hey, it’s my brain, I can daydream about what I want!

The loop we ran took us in the opposite direction I’d enjoyed during the past few Central Park races I’ve run, so that kept it interesting at least. But at around mile 4, I started to flag – the heat was really intense when we moved into a full-sun area. It was funny watching the crowd of runners slowly shift from one side of the path to the other to stay in the shade. I was grateful I’d decided to bring my bottle with me at the last minute – once I finished the Cocogo, I stopped at every water station and filled the bottle back up with 2 cups of water and left with a cup to sip on as I re-charged with some walking.

I wasn’t too concerned with my pace at that point – my watch had me at about 11:51/mile by mile 5, and I figured I could push through the final 1.2 even a tiny bit slower without missing the PR. For the second time in two weeks I was running relaxed, knowing I had a good PR in the bag. After working for 3 years to get faster, it’s a strange feeling, let me tell you!

At about 5.3, we came up a hill and I spotted a familiar sight pinned to the back of a fellow runner: The Skirt Sports Ambassador logo!

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I took out an earbud, came up alongside her, and said, “Skirt Sports Ambassador?” She smiled, “Yes!!” I was so excited – “Me too!!” I shouted. As it turns out, my “new” friend Jillian was a fellow Skirt Sports ambassador who lived in the area and decided to laminate our logo to help folks identify her on the course! I love that idea by the way, nice one Jillian 🙂 We kept each other company for the next half mile or so, chatting about how we got connected with Skirt Sports and where our running journeys had taken us recently. When she heard I was so close to a PR, she told me to go ahead at around mile 5.8, so I wished her luck and tore off for the finish.

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I glanced down at my watch – this would definitely be a PR, I was so stoked! Two PRs in two weeks, I never thought it was possible. As I spotted the finish line, gave Mike a wave as he snapped my picture, and crossed the line officially at 1:13:30, 11:50/mile.

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All smiles, I accepted my medal, found Mike, found Jillian in the finisher’s chute and snapped some pictures with her, and after saying goodbye to Jillian we all made our way back to the pre-race party area for the finisher’s festival (and to get my snazzy green tech shirt).

When we got there, I re-connected with Lizzie who had finished her training run and joined us for our new post-race tradition of coffee and pastries at the Columbus Circle Starbucks!

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Medium Roast & Raspberry Swirl Loaf: to die for

After we all said our goodbyes, we couldn’t pass up a gorgeous day in the city. So I changed out of my sweaty gear and we headed back downtown to check out the new ThinkGeek store on 33rd & Broadway, had some celebratory pub grub at the Cock & Bull, then made our way back to the train station 10 miles later where I sat down and refused to get up until the train arrived. 16 total miles for the day is no joke, ya’ll!

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Thanks for the edit, Carlos the Runner!

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It was a LONG day, but ultimately I ended it knowing that I’d run another PR just a few weeks after nailing my best half ever. Even with the heat and hills! I’m excited as ever to see what else I’m capable of next, and can’t wait to have you along with me for the ride!

Race Recap: NYRR Run for the Parks 4 Miler

In my journey to complete my NYRR 9+1 I headed to my third Central Park race of the year on April 10th – the Run for the Parks 4 Miler. In all the pictures of past races, people are smiling in tank tops, happily jumping through the air and gamboling about like bunnies in the fresh buds blooming all around the park. This year? Not so much.

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I’ve run some cold races in my life. Frozen hail, snow, pouring rain, driving winds. But even though the sun was out for this race, I felt like I was never going to get warm again, ever.

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Maybe because I  had to wake up at 4:30 for a 5:37 train after running 10 miles on a treadmill the day before.

Either way, we made it into the city bright and early, and headed uptown on the subway to the start at around 70th street. While it was super cold, I will say that this race is going down in history as the biggest surprise of my life: after toiling away at my pace for months, all the hard work has paid off and the NYRR finally bumped me up out of the last corral!!

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No more L for “Last”! Finally! K for “Kickass”!

Just like the consistent improvements I’ve seen in my times, I’m sure this was a fluke and I’ll be dropped back down to L in my next race (because this race’s time wasn’t too hot), but with the race bib above, I can definitively state, with photographic proof, that I was NOT last in at least one NYRR race in my life.

After jumping up and down and squealing over my shiny new K for a bit, we headed to the corral. I kept my big fluffy coat on as long as possible, but once I got behind the corral fence and had to hand the coat off to my hubby, I froze *instantly*. I had layered with a longsleeve and my cold weather insulated Brooks jacket (and a hat and gloves!) but it just wasn’t enough. I usually warm up after the first half mile or so, but not today. My toes and fingers were so cold they ached.

Once the gun went off, my frozen feet even affected my running! They were so numb that I had to change my gait for the first mile, which wasn’t fun. NBD though: I had gone into the race aiming just to finish – having done my long run on the treadmill the day before, my legs were aching to begin with, and I wasn’t about to push too hard so close to race day.

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The funny thing about running 10 miles the day before a 4 mile race: 4 miles seems like NOTHING! Seriously – once I heard the first mile click by on my watch, the second mile felt like it flew by even faster. I finally warmed up to a comfortable temperature by mile 2, and I was even picking some folks off as I cruised along at around 11:50. I hadn’t expected to go that fast!

Mile 3 came and went, and once I hit 3.25 I started to pick up the pace. The arches of my feet were angry at the hills I’d taken so soon after pounding them on a treadmill for 2 hours, but I kept telling myself it was almost over. And once I saw that finish line, I sprinted – finishing in 46:58, avg. 11:46/mile!

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To make things even more exciting, I had a friend waiting for me at the finish line: Lizzie, a fellow member of The Mermaid Club, who lives a few blocks away from the park, came out to cheer me on and warm up with coffee after the race! She snapped all these great pics you see up there 🙂 We all met up at the finish and walked over to a nearby Starbucks where we BS’d about work, life, running, and all that other fun stuff for a while before heading back home to a warm shower and a nap.

Overall while this wasn’t my best NYRR race, my performance after a long run the day before surprised me and I’m pretty excited about checking another race off my 9+1 list too!

Playing Hooky

Last week was one of those weeks that had me screaming for mercy by Tuesday.

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Seriously, my run Tuesday night wasn’t about training; it was running off the crazy. Thank god my Spring Moves app gave me a nice boost by randomly playing a Pumpkins song at the start. I’m really digging this app – not only is it music I like, it’s also timed to match the pace of my running (even angry running like this)! Check it out for free for a month by texting JESSRUNSHAPPY to 41411 🙂

So long story short, I ended up doing some unexpected speedwork: I burned out with a super-angry 9:50 first mile and fizzled out with a killer headache by the 5K mark. But thanks to the angry mile, that final pace? #killinit! After that, Wednesday turned out to be a beautiful new day. No, for real: it was like 75 degrees out.

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Actual footage of me on Wednesday.

When I learned that Thursday would be more of the same, I focused REALLY hard on Wednesday to take care of everything at work, and played hooky Thursday! Well not really – I had some family stuff I needed to take care of in the morning anyway. So I asked my boss, checked with my coworkers to not leave anyone in the lurch, and submitted the day off to HR, and I was OFF. Destination: Manhattan!

I had been itching to run in Central Park on my own since I started racing there last year, but I honestly didn’t think I had it in me. How was I going to carry all my stuff with me? What if I got too hot or too cold? Where would I run?

I finally realized that the only thing keeping me from this adventure was ME. So I took care of my business Thursday morning, loaded up my running pack with a clean change of clothes, ran the mile from our house to the train station, and got into Manhattan around noon. My goal was to do 4 miles around the park loosely following the path I’d run in recent races, so after a quick subway ride to 81st street I got out at the museum and took off across Central Park to the East side where I found my landmark: 1040 Fifth Avenue.

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When I see those terraces I just feel peace. Don’t know why, but I’ll take it.

It was a beautiful day: a little warm and muggy at 70-ish degrees, but overcast so not too hot. There were tons of people everywhere, laying on blankets in the grass, running, biking, taking pictures, juggling, singing, so it felt like a party everywhere I went. I even ran through a CBS shoot of Limitless, so keep an eye out on future episodes for me wandering through the shot in my little blue backpack.

I stayed more or less on the main path but went off on little side paths that seemed interesting, like up on the Reservoir Running path, or around the statue of the King of Poland on horseback. Rocking along to my music and taking in the sights – this is what running is all about. Going into the city was easy, I thought, why didn’t I do this sooner??

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After about 40 minutes or so I’d hit 3 miles (with all the stopping for pics and what not), and my knees were screaming. A quick check of my health app showed that I’d done more than 8 miles already with all the extra walking – no wonder I was tired! I also hadn’t eaten or drank anything, so I stopped at a little pretzel cart for water, took a gel, and decided to call my run at 3 miles.

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Well, my body had other plans. Once I got out of the park and saw the straight shot of Central Park West ahead of me, I thought, “Let’s try for 3.5.” Within minutes, 3.5 miles turned into almost 4, and I was COASTING at an even faster pace with nothing in my way to stop me. Turns out that little fueling stop was just what I needed, because I finally made it back downtown to Columbus Circle at 4 miles UNDER 11:00/mile!

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I was so psyched! The last mile just blinked by, and that pace? As I hobbled down the subway steps at 59th street to get back to Penn Station, while my knees were killing me, I still felt invincible.

After inhaling a turkey sandwich and picking up a brownie to split with the Mister later that night, I smiled to myself the whole train ride home. It just goes to show; sometimes you need to switch things up and go for it, even if “it” seems impossible. I’ve learned the anxiety I feel about something is almost always scarier and more paralyzing than the actual thing itself, whether it’s a big race or a solo adventure in Manhattan. Once I’m in the thick of things I almost always say to myself, “THIS is what you were afraid of?”

How about you – have you gone out of your comfort zone lately? What happened? Tell me all about it!

Running Stairs & Summer in the City

Happy Friday everyone! I don’t know how it is by you, but here in NJ we are a few days into a heatwave, but I am NOT complaining after the brutally cold, snowy winter we had!

On Wednesday night I took my last run before the Oakley Mini 10K this weekend, and while it was about 80+ degrees in the shade even at 8PM, I still had a great time. I decided to take my run over to my old neighborhood and elementary school, where I haven’t run in years.

IMG_6187Running up and down the streets I used to ride my bike on as a middle-schooler made for a nice little nostalgic trip. I managed 4 slow miles before the sunset and I had to go back home for dinner – which was pretty much how my evenings would end when I lived there too!

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I also added some stair running into my workout too. I discovered a whole new housing development in my old hood that I found by taking this series of 3-4 steep staircases they built into the woods behind the school:

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After a few flights and a whole bottle of G2, I called it quits – my legs were starting to go rubbery and I didn’t want to risk twisting my already achy knees (thanks, humidity!). But afterwards I felt those hills in places I forgot I had, so that’s got to be a good thing!

Then yesterday my cousin and I went into NYC to pick up our bibs at the New York Road Runners Headquarters, and let me tell you: it was a scorcher!  At 97 degrees and full sun, what was supposed to be a fun stroll through the city turned into a race to beat the heat.

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We hopped on the local train to get into Penn Station and spared ourselves the heat by jumping on the C train to W86th.

IMG_6204It wouldn’t be an adventure without me making an ass of myself on a subway platform.

The subway spit us out right at the entrance to the Reservoir Running Track, which ran straight across to the East side of the park (where we needed to go). We were blown away at its beauty  – after walking/running through the park so many times, neither of us had ever seen this path and vowed to come back when we weren’t, you know, melting. There was even a fun prancerciser galloping along the track to keep us entertained!

IMG_6212After we made it through the park we just had to walk 3 blocks north, which is much easier said than done when it’s almost 100 degrees out. Once we hit the sidewalk we promptly burst into flames. OK not really, but you know what I mean.

One saving grace of these three blocks were the countless sidewalk chalk drawings done by the local kids – one piece really spoke to me, I’m not sure why…

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At 89th we crossed the street and I snapped this pic of the iconic Fred Lebow street sign:

IMG_6216And then we finally arrived at the NYRR Headquarters, which was blissfully air conditioned and full of smiling runner-friendly faces.

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Seriously, if you live in the tri-state area and you haven’t experienced a NYRR race, register for one right now. They are the most well-organized, friendly, inclusive, and enthusiastic running club I’ve ever seen, and everything about their races is second to none. The aid stations are perfectly organized and always stocked well, the people that both work for and volunteer with them are always kind and helpful, and you will simply not experience anything like it at a race in your life. OK, love letter to NYRR over.

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Once we picked up our bibs and tanks and chatted with some Oakley ladies (I am obsessed with their Feedback aviators and my birthday is coming up and I prefer them in rose gold, kthnxbai), we made our way back to the train station in the ridiculous heat. Thank god my cousin brought grapes for us to snack on or they would have found us in the park sometime next week, all shriveled and delirious from dehydration, babbling about sunglasses and prancercisers.

At Penn Station, we picked up some Auntie Anne’s cinnamon pretzels and peach lemonade (not pictured because I devoured them both almost instantly), and our Manhattan adventure was over! Honestly I’m looking forward to a fun race tomorrow – even though I know it’s going to be warm so I’m hydrating like crazy today and hope to get lots of sleep before my 4AM wake up call.

Who else is racing this weekend? How do you deal with the heat? Whatever your plans, have a great weekend!