NYRR Fred Lebow Half Marathon 2019

Because I am a much happier person when I am diving, when I get too sad to live, I must take myself on a dive trip.  Not that this is such a terrible thing to do, you understand.  Little did I know that I was getting in some practice for race day conditions: my first day of diving, it poured nonstop.  It is quite uncomfortable for a normal wetsuit-clad person to be on a boat on a windy, chilly day that isn’t sunny; for someone like me, it meant that my lips and nails turned blue.  (That I am willing to do this is a testament to how much diving improves my mental state.)

With Monday being a legal holiday, it seemed silly to me to go to work on Friday after getting back to town on Thursday, so I made an appointment to have my hair colored instead.

It takes a couple of weeks for the color to fully set.  Which meant that since this race was going to take place in yet another pouring rain, I had to somehow find a way to keep my hair dry.

Bring on the shower cap!

Apparently some people do this regularly, but I felt idiotic, so I kept my hood on over all that.  Not that I was tempted to take it off, anyway; it was cold!  Cold and windy and raining… does this sound familiar?  It was basically a carbon copy of last year’s Boston Marathon.

Which is why I chose these shoes (Boston 7, Boston Marathon edition).  I didn’t think much about this because I was in denial that the weather would be as bad as it was, and I didn’t plan on racing it, anyway, so it’s not like it mattered.  Though I shouldn’t have been in denial about the weather: my previously broken ankle was killing me, and I was really hoping it was weather-related.

Look at these crazy people.  We could have been warm and cozy in bed.  I had even bought race insurance, so it’s not like I’d have to eat the fee!  (I did need to do it for another reason, though, which shall hopefully be aired at a later date.)

I cannot even remember the last time I ran in Central Park, it’s been so long.  Maybe last year’s NYC Half?  I did recall that I don’t like it, though, since contrary to the laws of physics, what goes up in Central Park never seems to come down!  Multiple times up Cat Hill, Harlem Hill, and the West Side hills??  Talk about masochistic.

This is not actually mile 9; it is a bit past mile 4, just after Harlem Hill.  Which, naturally, was the Cheer Everywhere spot!  I did consider removing the poncho, since it was “only” a half marathon… but then I realized just how cold my arms were where my sleeves were soaked, and decided against it.  It’s not like I had a particular time goal, so I didn’t really care about the parachute effect slowing me down a little.

I ran with Missy and Brian for a bit; because I said I had no time goal when she asked, Missy decided we were going to run marathon pace.  Which sounded like a reasonable idea, except her marathon pace is faster than mine, and I was already running a bit faster than that.  Or at least, that’s what I thought; it was hard to see my watch, given how many raindrops were splattered on the screen.

This is mile 9.  I have no idea why I look so deliriously joyful, because I certainly wasn’t having a great time, given how much I hate being cold and wet and my ITB was starting to bitch at me.  But I did choose a goal a mile later: with 5K to go, I decided that it was totally possible to finish under 1:40.  It might not matter, but it just looks so much nicer to run 1:3x than 1:4x.

Mission accomplished!  And the splits are pretty consistent, too, which is always nice.

Garmin recorded 13.28 miles in 1:38:30, 7:25/mi.

Officially, 1:38:25, 7:31/mi.  326/3725 OA, 40/1368 F, and 10/233 F30-34.

The funniest thing about all this (which isn’t funny so much as it is pathetic) is that I’m not displeased with my time, given that I wasn’t trying to race it; but I have a feeling that I would not have run much faster if I had tried to race it.  Really, I was mostly just relieved that my ankle appeared unbroken.  (Can’t say as much for my scapula; not that I think it’s actually broken, that would be beyond bizarre even for me, but it’s been hurting for days and is starting to get very annoying.  You wouldn’t think you need it to run, but you really do.  It interferes with your arm swing when moving your elbow too far back sends shooting pains stabbing up your neck.)

At least we could finally go dry off and get warm.

And this year’s medal is so cute!  I’m not sure what it says about our collective sanity level that we’d be willing to subject ourselves to the elements for the sake of what is basically a nicely-shaped trinket, but sanity is overrated anyhow.

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Harry’s Handicap 2019

A few months back, we learned that the pre- and post-race venue for Harry’s Handicap would not be KoC for 2019.  I was all but delirious with joy at the thought that I might actually not have to stand outside and freeze my ass off while waiting for the start.

Joke’s on me, because it turns out the new location was Shepherd’s Hall… at the back of Holy Name of Jesus Church.  Yeah, that’s not going to work for me.

So I set about looking for a different New Year’s Day race, but I couldn’t find one that was a distance I wanted to run and that also didn’t require a stupid long drive and/or toll, and that’s before we even factor in the price of the race itself.  And it would also make it all but impossible for me to participate in the Polar Bear Plunge.

It all worked out okay in the end… Eric was kind enough to give me my handicap the night before, so that I knew what time I had to show up at the start instead of waiting outside in the cold to find out.  Not that it was that cold, really, especially compared with last year.  I wore a jacket to run to the park, when I really didn’t need one; and tights, when shorts would have sufficed.  This was because I knew I’d appreciate having those after the plunge, to which we were headed straightaway post-race.

These are heavy shoes.  They are not the best choice if you want to run fast.  But I had predicted 25:00 as my finish, taking into account my absolutely abysmal running in 2018, so it’s not like I needed to be particularly fleet of foot.  I was pretty resigned to not besting my Harry’s PR (officially 24:41, from last year).

And then there was the part where my heel/ankle hurt.  It started on the morning of New Year’s Eve, and it freaked. me. out.  Granted, this is the heel and the ankle with healed fractures, and it did rain that day, but I can’t remember the weather ever making it so bad.  There is also the fact that when I don’t eat enough, I tend to break, and the last few months have just worn me down so much that I can’t bring myself to fight to eat more, even though I know that this is spiting no one but myself.  I don’t believe I’d be faster if I were thinner, so it’s not like I’m trying to fix how much I’ve sucked at running of late; but I can’t deny that I’ve been hating what I see in the mirror for a long time.  It’s easier to accept that when I’m running well and I’m not hurt, but … being depressed and running like crap is more than enough, I just can’t handle having to stuff my face too.

Even though I didn’t plan to race this thing (I never really do), my digestive system apparently got a memo that I did, and went appropriately haywire.  I didn’t make it out the door until 10:27 (my start time was 11:00), whereupon my Mk1 took forever to acquire a GPS signal.  About ninety seconds after I started running, I looked down and saw that the same nonsense was happening as has happened once before: the timer was working, but the pace and distance fields were blank.  Great.  I turned it off and then it wouldn’t turn on again, so I had to run back home to plug it in to start it.  By then it was after 10:30, and I did not have time for this, so I grabbed my 620 to use in case the Mk1 refused to work again.  (Always keep a backup GPS charged and ready to go, people.)

I made it to BPS with about three minutes to spare.  That was far more excitement and drama than I needed.  And I didn’t trust my Mk1 to not pull a similar trick again, so I lined up for the start of my handicap (sixty minutes?!) with the 620 in my hand as a backup.

Photo by PaFoua Hang

This is pretty much the worst starting point if you want to run a loop of the park fast.

It’s a downhill, then flattish, then an uphill, and a kind of downhill to the finish.  Since I anticipated running an absolutely terrible time, I decided that my only goal should be to finish ahead of the people in my handicap.  (Spoiler: I did.)  Which is why I set off like a bat out of hell on my way to Positive Split Central.

Andy had said he was going to pass five people; at the time, my heel hurt something fierce and I doubted I’d even make it to the start in one piece, so I just said six.  Which, once I had passed six people, morphed into multiples of six in my crazy mind, so then I had to pass twelve, and then eighteen.  I was homing it on 36 when someone passed me, but then I passed him back, and then he passed me close to the finish, so now my count is all messed up and I don’t know what the final tally was.  Tragic.

Photo by Larry Sillen

Just, like… la la la.  I don’t look super thrilled because I didn’t run the smartest race in the world, but I figured that if my foot was broken, I’d have known it by that point, so I was glad about that.

Photo by PaFoua Hang

And look at the clock!  Since I had a sixty-minute handicap, that means I ran under 24:00.  A  PR is a PR, no matter how terribly you get there.

3.35 miles, 23:43; 7:05/mi.

Yep, Positive Split City.  And my VO2 max went down, according to my Garmin, because the whole day started off so … flustered.  (Yes, the Mk1 worked.  Still carried the 620 all the way.)

Unlike last year, my official time basically matches what my watch said, so it’s 23:42, 7:05/mi… PR by 59 seconds.  Too complex for me to parse all the placement stats, given that it’s a handicap race, but I was one of the first five females across the finish line, which means I get a medal.  Except I don’t have it yet, because Andy and I left for Coney Island pretty soon after I finished.  Not that I would have been able to go to the post-race festivities, anyway, so this was a better option all-around.

Even though I just ran a loop of the park at slower than 10 mile pace, I can’t help but be relieved that I appear to be unbroken.  You would think that dodging a bullet like that would give me a kick in the ass to suck it up and eat even if I don’t want to, but you’d be wrong.  Partly, anyway, because I am trying, to minimal effect; it just takes so much effort and energy and I just… can’t.  Because I am a psycho.

Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge 2019

After being inaugurated into this crazy thing last year, when it was beyond frigid, this year should have been no big deal, right?  It was about 35 degrees warmer, and sunny.  Also windy, which kind of negated the warming effect of the sun.

Because I was planning to run to Prospect Park for Harry’s Handicap and then head straight down to Coney Island from there with Andy, I packed a bag and drove to Marine Park for the NYRR Open Run on Sunday so that I could dump said bag in his car.

Gallivanting about in a swimsuit in public is one of the more horrifying things I can think of to do, and so of course I had to agonize over the choice of suit to try and minimize that discomfort.  I ended up throwing two suits in the bag, because I just couldn’t make up my mind.  And then stewed over it for a couple more days.  (Ended up going with the one-piece, because let’s be real, there is no way in hell I’m wearing a two-piece unless there’s a wetsuit over it.)

Also in the bag: my TG-5 in the underwater housing, so Andy could play photographer in the water.  Even though I tried to explain that once in there, the main prerogative would be to get the hell out, not stage a photo shoot!

I started my watch when we were running down to the water.  It was cold, particularly when the wind kicked up, but it had to have felt better than last year.  (I think I’ve blocked it from my memory.)

Waiting to head on in… trying to remember whose brilliant idea this was.  Oh, yeah.  It was mine.  Because I’m an idiot.

But I’m an idiot in a sea of idiots!  (No pun intended.)

This is me shrieking like a little girl because it was so. damn. cold. in there, it hurt to breathe.  And I couldn’t feel my feet.  But I was determined to dunk my whole body, because I kind of regretted not having done that last year.

The thing about windy weather is that it tends to cause rather large waves.  One of which grabbed hold of me and turned me head over heels, taking care of the immersion aspect of things.

It was so fun to have people stomping on me for a few seconds while I struggled to get upright again.

And then, even though I was right and all we wanted to do was get out of there, we managed to get a few shots of one of the images we’d envisioned.  And it actually worked!  Only once, but that’s all we needed.

It’s prettier when it’s cropped.  So pretend it is.

And then we ran for our lives.

Do we look like we were freezing to death?  Because we felt like we were freezing to death.

But we got certificates.  Which made it totally worth it.

And then we met a bunch of PPTC people on our way out — they were just arriving.

Can’t say I was jealous that they still had an ice bath ahead of them.  I did love it and absolutely want to do it again, but I think I’m okay with waiting until next year.

2018: I Can Do Nothing

I did not set concrete goals for this year, except for having to run Boston so that I didn’t need to qualify all over again.  While I did run Boston, and am thankful for it, I ran such a poor race that I was rejected from 2019 and had to re-qualify anyway in order to avenge the course in 2020.  But this is just typical of the year I’ve experienced… dominated by the longest major depressive episode I’ve ever had, and which is still ongoing, making every single thing I try to do a massive struggle.  In light of that, it’s not surprising I’ve had a crappy year running-wise.  It’s maybe even a bit miraculous that I scraped together what PRs I did.

Mile: 6:00 -> 5:58
5K: 20:24
3.35 miles: 24:49 -> 24:41
4 miles: 28:04
5 miles: 34:46
10K: 44:45
15K: 1:13:12
10 miles: 1:12:41 -> 1:10:20
Half marathon: 1:34:56
30K: 2:24:01 *auto PR
Marathon: 3:29:40 -> 3:19:34

There are so many things I want to accomplish in 2019 that I didn’t get to do in 2018 (though thank heaven that sub-6:00 monster is finally off my back), but unless I suddenly wake up one day with all vestiges of depression gone, there’s really not even any point in thinking about them, because I can’t do it.  I can’t do anything.  In fact, everything seems so futile that while it’s been a year blessedly free of stress fractures (so far, there are still a few days to go, knock on wood), this depression is making it all but impossible for me to eat enough so that I can stay at the point where I am somewhat protected from that horror.  Which is… not great.  And I know I care about this, a whole hell of a lot, but I’m just so tired that I… can’t.

At least I accomplished what I set out to do from a diving perspective: I completed my Master Scuba Diver rating!  I went diving a lot this year, earning my Rescue Diver certification and several specialties.  Which is great because I’m generally happier when I’m diving, but not so great because that gets really expensive, really fast.  Evidently my plan is to bankrupt myself chasing after these brief spurts of relative happiness, and then somehow figure out how to drop dead once I run out of money.

Sounds like as good a plan as any.

QDR Toy Drive 5 Miler 2018

This was one final attempt at ending 2018 with a PR… even though for the most part, this whole year has been riddled with instances of me failing to do things I should be able to accomplish without a great deal of difficulty.

Maybe that’s because I’ve spent most of it in a very bad mental space.  Dysthymic me can run well.  Apparently, major depressive me cannot.  Which makes sense, I guess.  How the hell am I supposed to run fast when I don’t even have the energy to make it through a workday without pleading for mercy in the form of a very long nap??

And yet I still signed up for this race.  On Friday, so I knew the weather was going to be just like Boston: cold and wet and windy.  I figured that would at least give me an external excuse for failure.  I did look up last year’s results, and if nobody faster showed up, I could potentially place first… which is exciting since I don’t ever win races that use finish line tape, and this one does.

I chose a pair of shoes that were already dirty from having been used in unfavorable conditions (though you can’t really tell from the photo), and that I know have fairly decent traction on wet pavement.  No faceplants desired, thank you.

Two loops, 2.5 miles each.  This course is relatively flat, and since my Strava GAP at the Turkey Trot was consistently 6:55, I figured I would try for that and see what happened.  I had already pinpointed at least one woman who would beat me, maybe two (and I am eerily good at that kind of thing), so I knew I wasn’t going to win.

Within the first half mile, I found myself as the third place female — with, sure enough, the two women I’d picked to beat me ahead of me.  Since the real point of this race was to PR, I decided to focus on that instead.  All I needed to do was run two laps under 17:23 each.

first lap

The first mile was pretty much right on target, pace-wise.  But since I’m too exhausted to be alive, I slipped off a little, and it was depressing, but I was perplexed to pass the clock after the first loop in just over 17:04.  And at less than 2.5 miles on my watch.  I thought maybe my GPS was just lagging; it’s been known to do that.

Not too far into the second lap, I passed the second-place female.  I wasn’t necessarily trying to beat her, but staying behind her when I felt like I could run faster, just because I’d decided that she was going to finish ahead of me, would have been dumb.  Not that I never do dumb things.

By the time I reached the fourth mile marker, I knew the course was definitely going to be short.  Unless, that is, that marker was misplaced, which was what I was hoping, and I didn’t stop to verify that suspicion once I saw the finish line clock, because I had to speed it up a little since that’s what I do when I see a finish line.

coming up on the finish line

I crossed over the mats and pressed the stop button on my Garmin, and I didn’t recall having heard it beep for the fifth mile.  I was hoping that was just due to the noise of the wind, but, nope.

The course was about a tenth of a mile short.  It turns out that a part of the course was flooded, and rerouting around that section meant we ran less than five miles.

So, according to my Garmin, I ran 4.87 miles in 33:58, 6:59/mi.  That pace would not have netted me a PR.  If you add on another .13 mile at the 6:53 pace I was running (actually, it was probably faster by that point, there was a finish line in sight), it’s roughly another 53 seconds.

My official result is 33:55, 6:47/mi (well, for five miles, which this wasn’t) — if I tack on another 53 seconds, I end up with 34:48.  Which is a couple of seconds short of my 5 mile PR from last year’s Turkey Trot.  So I don’t really feel like I can call this a PR, unless I add a couple of big fat asterisks after it.

At least I managed to negative split.  Somehow.  Because I feel like I have an anvil hanging from my neck, no matter what pace I’m running.  It is hard to exist on this level of exhaustion.  And yet, despite any desire I may have to the contrary, I still keep doing it.

Passaic Chanukah 5K 2018

Since you race who shows up on a given particular day, it is not so terribly unusual that even someone like me can scrape up a win occasionally.  This is how I found myself the victor of two races last year: the Sri Chinmoy 1 & 4 Mile Race Around “The World” and the Passaic Chanukah 5K.  Which, because of the way Chanukah fell out, were both on the same day this year, and so I had to choose one.  (I don’t actually like being the “defending champion” of a race… pressure and I don’t get along.)

Even though it meant going to New Jersey and paying a toll, I chose the 5K.  Not to sound too sappy, but it just felt closer to my heart.

I decided to give the 4% another chance.  The Turkey Trot indicated that it isn’t the case, but I was hoping the endless stream of crappy races might have ended with the Suffolk County Marathon, and that the Turkey Trot was just awful because of how cold it was.

Not that it wasn’t cold for this race!  But I dressed appropriately — it’s a lot easier to not overdress when your car is essentially parked right on the course, enabling the ditching of any layers moments before you start running and immediate access to them when you’re done.

This year, I knew where I was going.  I did a warmup loop to ensure that I remembered the course, though leading wouldn’t be an issue since the men and women would be running together.  There was a patch of ice near the playground, and some small piles of salt on the road, but overall it wasn’t too bad.  I did the warmup in my race shoes for some reason, and I was not used to that bounciness.  It was weird.  But, you know, supposedly this helps people run faster, so…

Photo by Jeffrey Ruttner

This is completely overstating the obvious, but I am not like other people.  This is a fast course… except not for me.  That patch of ice slowed me down a little every time I passed it, but not that much; and there are a lot of turns, but they were there last year too.  Maybe it would have helped if I’d had direct competition for first place, but I don’t think so.  I think I would have come in second.

Thirteen seconds slower than last year.  And I’m lost about how to fix the utter disaster that is me, because this isn’t something I can train away; it’s not a physical barrier.  I went into this race expecting to suck at it, because that’s what’s happened in pretty much every race I’ve run this year, and my expectations were fulfilled.

These splits are almost identical to last year’s.  The bulk of the time difference came in the last tenth of a mile; there was someone hot on my tail in 2017, so I had to kick it in to beat her, and I didn’t have to do that this time.  Though, again… it probably would not have mattered.

Garmin recorded 3.15 miles in 21:19, 6:46/mi.

I could swear to it that the clock read 21:18 when I crossed the finish line, but I guess that rounds up, because officially, I ran 3.1 miles in 21:19, 6:52/mi.  13/61 OA, 1/18 F, and 1/4 F30-39.  The second place woman was nearly two and a half minutes behind me.

I switched to the Boston 7s for a couple of cool-down miles, and all I could think was, I should have raced in these.

At least I won something better than a recycled trophy for this race, I guess.

I’m not even disappointed with my result.  I’m too damn tired for that.  I briefly entertained the notion of doing the PPTC Speed Sessions (for which I originally joined the team in, um… 2013, and have still never done), but then I realized that they take place on an indoor track in the winter, and my ITB is pissed enough as it is, so I’ll have to wait until spring.

Which means another season of being my same old fat worthless self.  Maybe the reason I’m not disappointed with this race is because I can’t tell the difference since my status quo now is just utter self-contempt anyway.

It’s not a fun life.

Prospect Park Track Club 5M Turkey Trot 2018

Most of the race I’ve run this year have done nothing but prove to me how worthless I am.  A couple broke the mold.  One of those (Bronx 10 Mile) predicted 33:36 for a 5-mile race.  Which is hilarious because I pathetically struggled to even hit that pace in a 5K all year, but fine, let’s call 33:33 my goal, because it looks cool, though it’s all irrelevant if it’s not going to happen anyway.  I would have been satisfied with anything 34:45 or faster, because while a terrible marathon would have destroyed any tiny shred of self-confidence I may have had left, the fact that it wasn’t an utter disaster doesn’t mean I’m not useless, it just means I got lucky by some bizarre fluke.  I suppose the marathon is the ideal distance to choose for something like that to happen, but still.

Last year, I ran a huge negative split in this race, finishing with two miles at 5K PR pace.  (That was back in the day when I could still run a 5K PR, because I wasn’t quite this fat and slow.)  I knew there was no way in hell I’d be able to finish that fast, but if I didn’t go out at “eh, whatever, let’s just tempo this” pace, I should be able to eke out a PR.  (Actually, I think five miles at my supposed “tempo pace” would be a PR.  But since I suck…)

Except that this entire year has consisted of me failing, repeatedly, at things I “should” be able to do.

Lovely.  Just lovely.  I overdressed.  I knew I was overdressed, and I even considered taking off a layer once I got to the park, but that would have involved taking off my sunglasses and beanie and it was all just too much to deal with, and I prefer being too warm over being too cold, so whatever.

Spoiler that’s not really a spoiler because it’s old news that I suck: the shoes that can run a mile PR and a marathon PR cannot run a 5-mile PR.  The strength of my worthlessness is that strong.  Yippee.

I woke up way early because if I want to eat before a race when I’m running to the start, I need to leave enough time to digest.  This meant I had time to do a load of laundry.  As I leaned against the sink waiting for the machine to finish its cycle, I realized that the last person to use the sink had left water all over the counter, and now the seat of my pants was all wet.  Changing was too difficult (it’s amazing I manage to get dressed at all, some days), so I set out with a wet butt.  Distraction from my pissed-off leg, I guess.

The last two miles really are the fastest.  Of course, I couldn’t maintain the pace I really wanted to (because, well, I suck), but I ran the first three miles five, one, and eleven seconds faster than last year, respectively.  Which meant I had roughly seventeen seconds of wiggle room for the last two miles: instead of running 6:33 and 6:36, I could run 6:41 and 6:44.  That felt impossible, not because I was overdressed (I was, like I knew I would be), but because the air was so damn cold, it hurt to breathe.  Can’t breathe when it’s hot, can’t breathe when it’s cold… it’s only too bad I ever breathe at all!

Photo: Luke Redmond

Since there aren’t that many people around, I’d venture to say this is in the last mile.  Does my face look like that of someone who’s completely given up?  Because I pretty much had.  For good reason.

That is my slowest Turkey Trot since 2014.  I will concede that it’s better than 2015, when I had to DNS because of a calcaneal stress fracture.  But the fact that it can be much worse does little to assuage the self-enmity that comes at me in droves all day, every day.

There’s nothing really wrong with these splits.  Once upon a time, I would have been over the moon about them.  But that was years ago, and now, they just don’t pass muster.  (Much like me, come to think of it — once a somewhat acceptable human, now nothing more than a waste of oxygen.)

At least my Garmin did me the courtesy of saying I ran a sub-7 pace.  Which, like, hello… I did that for ten miles a couple of months ago, so this is kind of pathetic, but that’s me.  5.04 miles in 35:10, 6:59/mi.

Officially, 35:08, 7:02/mi.  86/1851 OA, 15/1060 F, and 5/206 F30-34.  Lest we go blaming the weather, I’ll point out that my placements were all lower than last year, and there were fewer participants.  There’s no way to put a positive spin on what is, once more, a blandly mediocre performance.  (Yes, I know that I should be grateful I can run at all, and I am.  But, again: not mutually exclusive.)

It’s pretty safe to say that any meager amount of confidence I gained from the marathon is now effectively depleted.  Maybe I put too much stock in running when it comes to my self-valuation, but rest assured I’m pretty worthless in basically every area of life, so I have to take it where I can get it.  It’s a catch-22: unless I miraculously manage to have a streak of great races that lasts as long as this crummy streak has, which can’t happen because, oh yeah, I’m fat and slow and useless … nothing is ever going to change.

Or I could just drop dead tomorrow and then none of this will matter anymore!  Admittedly, I’ve always felt that way, but it’s been an increasingly appealing notion this year.  Because I can’t take much more of being myself, and I don’t think anyone else can either.