Worst Race Prep Ever

bug_001This year has not been good when it comes to race preparation. Training for both of the Spring half’s that I competed in was interrupted or cut short by injury, and the lead up to this month’s half in Philadelphia has been a catastrophe of comedic proportions. A recurrence of my knee injury, a busy work schedule, and a severe bout of food poisoning rendered me incapacitated for a lengthy period. At one point I had dreams of a PR attempt in this race, but I have not even had a sniff of a run in the last two weeks. Certainly not the best preparation for a half marathon, and completed destroying any hope a new best time.

Countdown to the NYC Half

nychalf_2013Only a few days to go to the 2013 NYC Half-Marathon. I’m pretty excited about this race. Last year’s version was my first ever half-marathon and I managed to finish it well within my two hour target time. I would like to achieve a personal best this time around too, but am hesitant to set such a target for myself while nursing an injury. I’m afraid that if I go out too hard I’ll do serious damage to my knee and possibly fail to complete the course. It goes without saying, but I would rather finish in a slower than expected time and get the race credit, than not finish at all.

Since my last race, the Al Gordon Classic in Prospect Park, I have done almost no training. I intended to continue with the bike and weights routine I had gotten into, but my knee was acting up in the days following the race and I chose to rest rather than run. It’s a strange position to be in – having not trained for a 13 mile race, and yet still feeling relatively confident that I can turn in a decent time. I really enjoy the half-marathon distance, it’s a god test of mental strength and physical stamina without the monotony of a full marathon. I’ve run three half’s up to know and have had one DNF due to freezing weather. Here’s hoping that this is my fourth success, with or without a personal best time.

I’m Not In

not_in001Yesterday was the big NYC Marathon Opening Day event, the day when all of us lottery entrants hope that our names are drawn and we can start planning those long and arduous months of training. Like the many thousands of other non-guaranteed lottery entrants, I attempted to open the road runners site around noon only to discover that it was offline. What followed was a somewhat painful wait for confirmation filled with repeated clicks of the browser’s refresh button. Later that evening, when I was finally able to access my marathon profile, I received the unfortunate news that I was not one of those lucky few selected to participate.

I’m disappointed that I didn’t get in because the date of the race has a certain significance to me and it would have been nice to run my first marathon on that day. I’m generally not a sentimental person, but in this case it was particularly disappointing to miss out. However, like any good scout I had planned ahead and am happy to say that I will take part in the Philadelphia Marathon on November 18. A couple of months ago, when details of the Philly event were release, I booked a hotel room for the weekend and marked the first day of registrations in my calendar. With that task completed in early April, it was just a case of confirming one or the other.Even though it would have been nice to have run my first marathon at home in NYC, I’m delighted to have Philadelphia as an alternative. My sister and her family live nearby, so we will certainly make plans to meet up and I have heard from others that it’s a really nice course along the Schuylkill river.

As for the NYC marathon, I will most certainly be in next year. Thanks to my diligence and competitive streak, I have already racked up 4 qualifying races this year with two more to come in May – well on my way to completing the requirements for guaranteed entry to next years NYC marathon via the 9+1 program.

Race Day Routine

race_day_routine_001Every runner has their own race day routine – a very personal, but essential process of preparing for a run that they have developed over a long period of time. Like most runners, I learned over time how to best prepare for a race. For my first race, I arrived at the start late and barely had time to register and warm up before the starters gun sounded. These days, I plan ahead and leave enough time to get the start and stretch.

For my second race, I forgot my running socks and ended the race with some serious chaffing on my undercarriage. After months of training and numerous different running outfits, I settled on one that I feel most comfortable in and now I set that aside a few days in advance. On race day, I know where my gear is and I know it’s clean – I don’t have to stress over my preparations and I know I will be comfortable during the run.

Some runners suffer from chub rub, the result of the thighs rubbing against each other throughout a long run. I use compression shorts to avoid that unpleasant experience, but that has actually led to another problem. Chaffing on that part of the undercarriage between the front plumbing and the back plumbing. The first time it happened to me I didn’t notice until I got home and stood under a hot shower – the stinging pain shot through me like a hot knife and it was quite painful to sit for a couple of hours. Vaseline has become an essential part of my running kit now, and before a long run of competitive race I rub a generous amount in that area to help keep my sensitive regions in good shape.

One of my most challenging aspects of the race day routine is ensuring regularity and managing my bowel movements. Sure, it’s not a glamorous topic and one that many people will avoid talking about – but a friend and I happened to get into it recently when we both had similar experiences of running with a full load. It seems like there’s no single way to ensure the timing of a bathroom visit pre-race, but there are common runners tricks that you can try. For instance, I am now in the habit of getting up 90 minutes before a run and drinking a cup of coffee first thing. After 20/30 minutes getting ready, I am ready to visit the bathroom. I also drink a lot of water the night before, and again during the night when I wake up and have to pee. The regular hydration encourages bowel movements. In addition, I have started using pepto-bismol or tums to settle my stomach and avoid a bathroom break during the race.

One last thing … two Aleve before I leave my place helps to keep the knee pains at bay.

My Number’s Up

On the off-chance that I would actually make it, and seeing as how I tend to do better when I have an actual goal, I applied for the New York City Half-Marathon. I was not entirely sure that I would get into the race, given my newbie status and the fact that I had to rely on the luck of the draw rather than qualifying through time or any of the other means that the Roadrunners provide.

Imagine my surprise then, when I checked my email the other day and saw a note confirming my entry number. The distance is somewhat daunting when I consider that the longest I have ever run is five miles. But, I have done some research and devised an appropriate training plan that should provide the right level of conditioning to help me meet my goal of completing the run in less than two hours.

First things first though … I have a 10K race to run this weekend!

The Next Step

nextstep_001I upped my distance this week, covering five miles for most of my runs. I did a couple of five mile runs back in November, stretch goals while averaging four miles per session.

However, this most recent change was a concerted effort to take my training to the next level. I had been hitting my distance and time targets consistently and wanted to avoid getting too comfortable or reducing the effects of my runs. This was also a conscious effort to get my body used to covering longer distances ahead of the Kleinerman 10K on January 7th. I have never run that far before, so need to get a couple of longer runs in beforehand if I am going to last the distance and not come out the other side with any injuries. The next couple of weeks are also tricky, with Christmas and holiday travels throwing off my regular training schedule. It’s going to take a little more effort and motivation than usual to get some training runs between Christmas and New Years – testing my physical and mental strength abilities at the same time. So far there have been no ill effects, combined with my new stretching routine my body is taking less time to recover between runs.

Race Route

race_route_001Earlier today I was reviewing the route map for Saturday’s run. I have only biked in Prospect Park, so was only remotely familiar with the park layout and grade. I put the route map into the Runkeeper application and discovered what most of you who have gone around the park already know – the entire east side is uphill – and the very last leg is especially steep.

The race starts with a nice downhill stretch but just before the first mile marker, the grade turns up and continues to rise all the way to about 2.5 miles. The next mile or so is undulating but nothing too severe, with a good downhill approach to finish line that should suit me if I have any energy reserves for a final burst of speed.

Ouch! In this case perhaps ignorance was bliss.

Pre-Race Preparations

pre-race_001Old habits are hard to break! I totally bailed on this morning’s run – after a freezing cold night of howling wind and rain, I opted to stay in bed for an extra hour rather than facing the brutally cold dawn. I have to admit that I did feel a bit guilty, especially with this weekends run so close. This was really my last chance to get in a practice, while still allowing myself time to recover before Saturday morning. Inevitably, I gave in to the guilt and hit the treadmill for my final preparation run in the few minutes between work and play. I dispensed with crunches, weights, and jump ropes and focused solely on the run. My legs, which had felt a little stiff the day before we back to normal and I felt pretty good the rest of the evening. I’ll take it easy tomorrow, do some stretches in the morning and evening, and go to bed early – but not before spending some quality time with Jess at the new Muppet movie.

Jingle Bell Jitters

jbj_001Tomorrow morning (6AM) is my final preparation run before Saturday’s Jingle Bell Jog in Prospect Park. I’m actually looking forward to running outside and away from the treadmill for the first time in months, although also suffering from a mild dose of performance anxiety at the same time. Although I typically run in the evenings, I switched to early morning runs at the beginning of last week to get used to waking up early and putting my body under that much stress at the beginning of the day. In truth, once I get started I find it easier to run first thing in the morning … but getting out of bed … probably a bigger challenge than beginning the day with a four mile run.