Sri Chinmoy 1 & 4-Mile Race Around “The World” 2017

Last year, I did this because of the mile.  As I’ve given up on that particular carrot for the moment (it’s just too frustrating), never mind that it’s a sucky course… I’m not really sure why I wanted to do it.  But I did.  Partly because in 2016, it was a week after these races that I stress fractured my ankle, and I feel all paranoid and superstitious, so why not make it worse?

The price of a good race is high, if you’re me.  Which is why my PR on Thanksgiving was followed by debilitating right knee pain that came from out of nowhere during a weekend trail run.  Naturally, this happened at the farthest possible point from the car, and that’s not even counting the extra distance we covered because we got lost.

This was my good knee. Which was my “bad” knee prior to 2014, because it’s the one that’s more prone to ITBS, but that wasn’t the issue here. No, it felt exactly like my left knee felt three and a half years ago, and the only advice my doctor offered was, “It’s fine to run so long as you can stand the pain.”  I stood it for four months before getting a cortisone shot, the effects of which were miraculous and only lasted ten days.  Cortisone is more effective before a problem becomes chronic.  Even Dathan Ritzenhein says so, and he’d know.  So I got a cortisone shot the very next day.  And then I waited.

I tried running on the AlterG on Thursday.  It went okay.  I tried running outside on Friday.  It started to hurt a little after a few miles, but after I was done running, it didn’t feel too terrible, so I registered for these races.  For no discernible reason.

Shockingly, despite the road construction, I didn’t get lost once on my way to Flushing Meadows Park.  And I even managed to park on the right side of the lake this time, so that I was literally right next to the finish line area.  Quite convenient!

I kept my warmup short — if there are only a few miles in my knee per run, I don’t want to waste them on a warmup rather than the race.  And the one-mile was first, which I didn’t plan on racing anyway, so it isn’t like it mattered, right?

Lined up to race this lovely (um, not) course.

I used my mile race watch settings so that I’d have quarter mile splits, but I didn’t look at it once because I did not care at all about my pace.  I knew I wasn’t going to PR, and a PR is the only reason I’d bother to pay attention.

Except that there was a woman next to me, and I spent the first quarter shaking her off, so there was that.

Finished in 6:23 (10/69 OA), eight seconds slower than last year, but still first female.  I guess it’s supposed to be somewhat encouraging that I knew I wasn’t running hard enough for a mile race, whereas last year, it felt like more of an effort.  Meh.

After dumping my medal in the car (I thought I was only meant to get one, after the second race), I stood around for a bit until we were called to the start for the second race.

The course is a little different.  Which turned out to be a good thing for me, since last year, I missed a PR by a couple of seconds, and my watch measured over a tenth of a mile long.

None of which should have mattered to me, since I didn’t actually intend to attempt a PR.  I just wanted to finish in one piece and be done with it.

Except that the same woman who was on my tail at the start of the mile race was there.  Along with a second one.  Who ran next to me for the first couple of miles, once I caught up to her after not blasting out way too fast.  This time, I did look at my watch — because even though she hadn’t run the mile race, and I could still win the 1+4 Challenge if she finished ahead of me, I would rather cross first.  It made it easier to tell myself I could do that if I looked at my watch and saw that I had, in fact, previously run that pace for a longer distance.

I didn’t let myself start trying to drop her until we had nearly completed the first two-mile loop — right around the Unisphere.  I passed her, and then a guy ahead of both of us, and for the rest of the race, I heard his footsteps behind me.  I refused to look over my shoulder to verify that it was really him, and not her; it didn’t sound like her, and I just had to trust that.

And thanks to that, I did PR — by twelve seconds.  28:04, 7:01/mi; 6/93 OA, and first female.

Which, of course, means I was also first female in the 1+4 Challenge, with a combined time of 34:27 — that’s faster than my combined time last year, so yay?  6/43 OA for the Challenge.

SO MUCH BLING.

I did get a second medal, but I gave one back, because I was right — I wasn’t supposed to get two, and there were people from the four-mile race who didn’t get any.

Before the awards ceremony, I wanted to get in a couple of cooldown miles… except my knee started to bark a bit after one, so I stopped there instead of pushing my luck.

I really, really, really hope the cortisone lasts longer this time.

And that I could stop being so scared of history repeating itself.  Because I am a crazy person, and this is terrifying me.

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Prospect Park Track Club 5M Turkey Trot 2017

The first time I ran this race was in 2012 — I had not yet seen the light and joined PPTC.  (That happened the following summer.)  With the exception of 2015, when I missed it because of a calcaneal stress fracture, I’ve run this every year and always came away with a PR.

I was a bit dubious about whether that streak would continue today.  Because I think part of the reason the Coney Island Turkey Trot was so low on the pain scale is due to the fact that it is a flat course.  Prospect Park is not flat.  Nevertheless, I still went with the Hokas, and decided to hope for the best.  My “race plan,” if you can call it that, was to try and run PR pace (really, just sub-7:00 would do it), but if I didn’t have it in me, I wasn’t going to push myself for something that felt too impossible.

It. Was. Cold!!  The people who dress up as turkeys or whatever have the right idea, because they get extra layers to keep them warm, whereas I get to stand around and freeze my ass off.  I really don’t like winter.

(But I would rather stand at the starting line freezing my ass off than curl up in bed with a stress fracture like I did in 2015.  So it’s really the lesser of two evils, if you think about it.)

The start was a little squishy.  It’s self-seeded, so there’s always a little bit of maneuvering going on.

We started out going up the hill in Center Drive, and, I am proud to say, I did not go out too fast.  This may or may not be related to the fact that I was so cold, it’s a miracle I could move at all.

Things cleared up rather quickly.  There was even a brief moment when I was running alone, which was bizarre, because this race has a pretty big field relative to the Al Goldstein races, and I’m never running alone in those!  I hit the first mile in right around seven minutes, and the second one slower than that.  With Zoo Hill coming up, I figured it didn’t matter if I had some nice downhills after that — I didn’t think there was any way I’d be able to make up for lost time, so I decided to turn the rest of the race into a tempo run, and ran the third mile even slower than the previous two.

At the third mile marker, I calculated that I technically could PR… if I ran the last two miles at, or a bit faster than, my 5K PR pace.  I laughed a little to myself at the thought, because that?  Is not happening.

Except that a couple of minutes later, I realized that a personal nemesis of mine was coming back to me.  He was maybe thirty yards ahead, and I could still hear his labored breathing.  I turned it into my mission to reel him in, and caught up to him at around 3.5 miles.  He passed me back.  I passed him back.  And then, rather than choosing to run right ahead of or behind me, he decided to run right next to me.  Which is fine.  Except that in so doing, he kept edging to his right, elbowing me into the bike lane.  I have no desire to get hit by a bike.  After I sped up a couple of times to get away from him, only to have him do the same and keep pushing me farther out, I wasted precious energy to yell at him and tell him to stop doing that, which, of course, was ineffective.  Like, whatever, fine, you’re a guy, not my direct competition, just get away from me.  I let him go.

Little interlude: I am severely emetophobic.  It’s been nearly twenty years since I vomited, and I will do anything to avoid it, or to avoid being around it.

Less than a quarter of a mile from the finish, this guy spewed chunks.  While I will never allow myself to run hard enough so that I puke (see: emetophobic), I understand that it happens.  But for the love of all that is holy, pull over to the side!!  It’s weirdly impressive that you can puke and run simultaneously, but there are people behind you who will now have to step in the puddles of vomit you left smack in the middle of the road.

And that was when I zoomed past him.  Because I wasn’t busy upchucking.  And I needed to get away from the horror of someone who was.

As an added bonus, there was suddenly a woman on the race course, so I sprinted my little heart out to ensure I finished ahead of her.

She isn’t even wearing a bib.  (I thought maybe it was covered, but I couldn’t find any women in the results with a gun time that close to mine.  I’m not sure why she’s running inside the delimiters, but I guess it’s a good thing she did, because she’s the reason I had such a strong finishing kick.)

Those splits look hideous.  But I think it helped me a little bit that earlier this week, I went for a run in which my first mile was really, really slow — that’s just how it happened, I don’t look at my watch during easy runs — and my overall pace wound up being nearly a minute per mile faster.  For some reason, that made me think that running a cumulative 35 seconds slower than my goal pace over the course of two miles wasn’t such a big deal.  Maybe.

Garmin: 5.03 miles in 34:48, 6:56/mi.

Officially, 5 miles in 34:46, 6:57/mi.  77/2202 OA, 10/1251 F, and 2/259 F30-34.  And, because I do this when I PR, and that’s a nine-second PR… 69.75% AG.

Possibly the best part of all: my legs didn’t hurt!  It’s normal for adrenaline to mask that during a race, I guess, but even after the fact, they just ache a little.  Nothing like the excruciating pain I had in early October.

(Photo credits to Noah Devereaux and Adam Iannazzone!)

Coney Island 5K Turkey Trot 2017

For some reason, I can’t let go of the notion of qualifying for Run Brooklyn this year.  It’s a lot harder than it sounds… I’ve registered for at least half a dozen Brooklyn races that my body did not allow me to actually run.  And that’s excluding those for which I had the foresight to avoid pre-registration.

There were only two options left by this weekend that aren’t on Saturdays: the PPTC Turkey Trot, for which I am registered, and this one.  Which is why I showed up on race day to register, even though the forecast looked like this.

I registered, got my bib and hoodie (it’s deliciously warm and cozy and I love it even if it has a turkey splashed across the front), and then went back to the relative warmth of the car, which was being buffeted by the wind as I sat inside.  Kind of too late to back out at this point, so… onward.  I bravely crawled out of there to do a warmup.

In brand-new shoes.  A brand and model I’ve never tried before, because my stupid legs seem to hurt less with low- or zero-drop these days, and pretty much all of the shoes I own in that category are very minimal.  I wanted something with a bit more cushion.  I never dreamed I’d wear Hokas, but their “racing” shoes aren’t as marshmallowy as the trainers and don’t make me feel unstable, so I gave it a shot.  (Spoiler: maybe it was coincidence, but my legs hardly hurt at all during the race.  So I’m pleased with the shoes so far!)

My fervent hope was that the wind would be behind us during the second half of the out-and-back course, but during my warmup, I realized this was not meant to be.  I was preparing for a race that would A. definitely be a positive split, and B. require checking my ego at the door.

Whatever weather service Garmin uses here, it is wrong.  The wind was as least twice as strong as that!

Going out with the intention of a positive split was a weird experience.  But I knew that I’d be slowed down in the second half regardless, and going out conservatively would just mean a slower overall finishing time, which made no sense.

It also made no sense to go out at a PR pace, because that definitely wouldn’t be happening.  While I pretty much always go out way too fast, I’m also good about pulling back almost right away.  I fell in as the third female (as far as I could tell), and that didn’t change for most of the race.

At the turnaround point, I saw that I was, indeed, running in third place.  Second was close enough for me to catch, maybe; fourth was close enough to catch  me.  And now I’m the one being buffeted by the wind, not the car.  Super fun!

Around mile 2.75, I passed the second-place woman.  Within thirty seconds, she had passed me back, along with the woman who had been behind me.

This was not okay with me — one of you can finish ahead of me, and I don’t care which one of you that is, but not both!  I waited until just before I hit three miles to pick it up — I wound up catching the woman who had been ahead of me for almost the whole race, and let the other one go.

A finishing kick is really, really hard when the wind is pushing you backwards.  But I did my valiant best.  It was highly motivating to know that someone was hot on my tail.

Positive split.  As expected.  But it’s not my slowest 5K in years, so technically, I ran it faster than I thought I would!  My Garmin is nice, and says I ran 3.13 miles in 21:43, 6:56/mi.

The official results robbed me of that sub-7:00 pace.  No chip timing, but even though I started in the front and I could have sworn the clock read 21:39 when I passed it, my official time is 21:41.84, 7:00/mi.  16/208 OA, third female (ten seconds behind #2 and seven seconds ahead of #4).

No idea why I look like a giant here… the juxtaposition of the parachute jump??  Though that should really make me look shorter, not taller.  I was really thrilled because my legs didn’t hate me too much after this!  (My coccyx, oddly, is a different story.  WTF?)

Sun Capital Boca PAL Half Marathon 2017

Let’s skip the whole backstory of how I came to be doing this, given my well-documented “I don’t travel for races” policy.  But I really didn’t… I came to dive.  And that was amazing.

one of my favorite things

Anyway, after a couple of days of diving, I had all day Saturday to get cabin fever in my hotel room.  And be alternately nervous and excited that maybe, just maybe, I would finally get to run a half marathon again.  (The “maybe” is because on the two runs I did in an attempt to acclimate to the heat and humidity, my legs weren’t very happy.)

Nevertheless, I headed out in the early-morning darkness on Sunday.  I had zero expectations regarding my finish time: I just wanted to run the damn thing.  And no, my lack of a specific goal did not reduce the pre-race anxiety the tiniest bit.  Multiple bathroom trips ensued, and then I made my way to the start.

There was no timing mat at said start.  I knew from checking out the previous years’ results that I probably ought to be relatively close to the front, but I’m not into shoving people out of my way, so I started a few rows back.

peek-a-boo

I wasn’t thrilled about losing those few seconds, but since I didn’t have a specific goal, it’s not like it really mattered that much.

The temperature wasn’t too bad; but oh, the humidity.  HOLY HUMIDITY.  I’ve always said that I’m okay with heat, but humidity slays me.  And I will admit that I totally underestimated that here.

Even so, I was grinning like an idiot because I was just so damn happy to be running a half marathon again.  And this was still pretty early — just before the four-mile mark.  I may have looked slightly less thrilled later on, once the sun came up and broke through the clouds and began baking me alive.  But I’d still take that over being unable to run.

The course was kind of like an out-and-back (twice: long and short), but there were all those little diversionary turns that made it hard to tell how many people were ahead of me.

Looking at my splits, it seems that I ran a very well-paced race, given that it was a flat course and said splits are relatively even.  But it didn’t feel that way at all.  Before I even reached the halfway point, I was struggling mentally and thinking that I hadn’t done this for so long, I might have lost the ability to do it.  Which is ridiculous, because I have run 13.1 miles plenty of times over the past year, just not in a race situation.  That shouldn’t matter since I didn’t officially care about my time, but still, I didn’t want to slow down hugely in the second half.  So I was keeping an eye on my watch, and every time my mile pace dipped too close to 8:00, I’d fartlek it back to 7:4x.  So the whole second half of the race was basically me doing that, and picking off people ahead of me to reel in.  This was especially satisfying considering that in so doing, I passed more women than men.

I was pretty sure that I’d be finishing in the low 1:40s if I could just hold on.  Which I had no choice but to do, since the pack had spread out an awful lot by the time I entered Spanish River Park for the final mile and change, and there was only one person ahead of me that I could see — if I didn’t keep him in sight, I probably would have gotten lost.

TO THE FINISH!

I’m not the type who exhibits a huge emotional display at a finish line… but inside, I was turning somersaults and crying with joy, because I finally, finally, finally finished a half marathon.

Garmin: 13.2 miles in 1:41:53, 7:43/mi.

Officially, since the only timing mat was at the finish: 1:41:52, 7:46/mi.  27/278 OA, 8/149 F, and 1/17 F30-34.  That last one really shocked me — I didn’t think there were so few women ahead of me, or that none of them were in my AG!  (Turns out that the next woman in my category was more than ten minutes behind me.)

This might be a big draw to some people — not to me, obviously — but every finisher in the race received half a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

I passed on that.

But I did stick around for the awards ceremony, despite having to catch a flight home in a few hours.

Now I have another duffel bag to add to my collection!  Also, those car keys?  There was no bag check, so I had to run with them.  I tied them to the drawstring in my shorts.  My stomach did not appreciate having those keys digging into it for 13.1 miles.  Ow.

But that’s an “ow” I’ll accept, if it means the “ow” in my legs and misbehaving knee don’t get any worse.

Run the Farm 2017

Before saying anything else, a little overview of this leg that caused me to DNF my last two races: I did not know what exactly was wrong with it, because “it really ****ing hurts” is not actually a medical diagnosis.  Obviously, I tend to think everything is a stress fracture, and it kind of made sense given that it hurt to walk and hop on that leg, but I didn’t have a hot spot and the pain wasn’t exactly localized, so I wasn’t sure.  Which led to opinions being bandied about.

The first one was exertional compartment syndrome.  Except that I didn’t really buy into that either, because if that was it, my leg would stop hurting when I stopped exercising, and after I did a short trainer ride instead of Paine to Pain, I literally could not walk for three days, so that didn’t seem right.

And then a miracle happened, and I was actually able to get an appointment at Finish Line instead of just languishing on a wait list (hey, it’s marathon season), and I came away from that with something that actually makes sense.  I mean, it doesn’t make sense that it would hurt that much, but… apparently my calf muscles were really, really tight, and because they were pulling on the periosteum of the tibia, I felt it in the front of my leg.  (And in the side.  Sometimes.  Traveling sensations are so much fun.)

Anyway.  The end result here is that I do not have a stress fracture right now, and there are not enough words in the English language that would allow me to adequately express how incredibly happy and relieved I am about this.

Nevertheless, I decided to hold off on registering for Run the Farm, because I’d be an idiot if I didn’t just do it on race day when there isn’t even a price increase.  And I wasn’t sure how my leg would feel… though doing a five-mile trail race would actually mean I’d end up running fewer miles, and more slowly, than if left to my own devices.

Luckily, my leg did not exceed 2/10 on the pain scale, which meant I was allowed to do the race!  So Murray drove by early Sunday, and I hopped into the car.  It was a little chilly, but that makes for good running weather.

Except that we were in Brooklyn.  And it was a lot colder in Katonah.  I was very, very under-dressed for temperatures in the 40s, so Murray gave me a survival wrap.

nice and toasty

I really do not like the cold.  But I was delighted to be at Muscoot Farm instead of being relegated to my warm bed!

It had warmed up a bit by the time the race started.  Not enough that I wasn’t still shivering, but still.  My teeth chattered through a call and response poem (that was a little odd), and then finally we started to run.

A woman in front of me almost tripped before two seconds had even elapsed.  This was a good reminder to me that the primary goal in a trail race is do not fall and get hurt.

The course was harder than I was expecting.  I’m sure it didn’t help that I had just taken two weeks off, but even so… it was quite hilly, and in trail races, I don’t make up any of the time I lose on the climbs because I’m scared to go too fast on the descents since falling while running downhill fast is not something I want to do.  There was also pretty heavy leaf cover on the ground, so it was hard to see where exactly your feet would land, and I turned my ankles a few times.  People can pass me in trail races — even women who seem like they’re in my age group — and I do not care.  I was not looking at my watch at all, because even if it was accurate on trails (it’s not), I’m not going to risk tripping to look at my watch.

A few people went down, including a woman right ahead of me at the halfway point.  And then, less than half a mile later, it was my turn.

I got lucky: it wasn’t bad at all.  My knee got a bit dirty, but that’s it — I popped right back up, determined everything still worked, and kept running.  For about thirty seconds, at which point I faced a monster hill up which everyone was walking, and I had no choice but to follow suit, which I probably would have done in any case.  And after falling, I felt doubly fortunate to have escaped unscathed, so I slowed down to be even more careful and ensure it didn’t happen again!

This meant I actually got to notice some things around me.  Like the bagpiper on the course (Murray snapped a photo of him):

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, tree, child, outdoor and nature

Nothing like musical accompaniment during a trail race!  (I feel like there was another spot with someone playing an instrument, but that was on a more technical portion of the trail, so I didn’t dare lift my gaze from the ground to take a closer look.)

I was finally able to speed up a bit in the last mile and pass a few people, even though I had to hold back a little bit until we got out of the grassy field — I don’t need to step into a divot, thank you very much.  It was nice to get back onto solid ground, because it always feels good to pass a bunch of people right before the finish!  I crossed with the clock reading 46:30, which was much, much slower than I would have expected, but oh well.

Not sure how accurate it is, but here are the splits anyway.

I did not, however, show up in the official race results.  It should be fixed, eventually, but I can’t even extrapolate my placement from the preliminary results already listed because apparently it’s not uncommon for people’s chips to not be read, and I’m not the only one who will be added… but I’d guess it would be roughly 120/450 OA, and 13/60 F30-39.  Or something like that.

Every finisher got five dollars in farm bucks to spend at the farmer’s market.  That’s what Murray is showcasing.  I had already spent mine, so instead you can see the ambercup squash I “bought.”  (And roasted up later that night.  It was delicious.)

Since I registered on race day, I didn’t get to have a custom name/nickname on my bib; I got some randomly generated one.  It said “Tractor.”  Ergo… I needed a photo with my namesake.  It was so much warmer at this point, it was lovely!

At some point, there should be race photos posted… but given my propensity to elude the click of the camera shutter, I’m not holding out for those!

I would have expected to be annoyed with myself for running such a slow race (slow being relative, of course), but I’m really not.  Just, like… I’m a fairly tightly-wound person in general, regardless of external situations, and if I’m able to run, I can loosen up enough so that I can actually breathe.  Whenever I can do that, I feel like I’ve gotten away with something, and that next time I might not be lucky enough to dodge the bullet.  But I’m still immensely thankful every time I do… while simultaneously being terrified because one day the other shoe will drop.

Brooklyn Greenway 5K — DNS ∞

Two years ago, I missed this race because of a calcaneal stress fracture.

This year, when the temperature will be what I consider ideal for racing, I predict that the first-place female will probably run 23:xx or some other time I could easily beat… because why should something be merely painful when it could be excruciating?  No, it isn’t enough for me to miss another race.  I need to miss a race I could have won, this year due to what I suspect is a tibial stress fracture.  And it’s going to remain a suspicion, because I am hanging on by the thinnest of possible threads, and confirmation of my worst nightmare is going to make that snap.

Tolstoy had it right: everyone is unique in their own unhappiness.  So no, unless you’ve already been through a dozen stress fractures, and you face the prospect of having a huge part of the foundation of your world being pulled out from under you for the third year in a row, you don’t actually know what it’s like.  Believe me when I say that the poison of my own existence is far more troublesome to me than it is to anyone else, because I can never, ever get away from it.

It is impossible for me to conceive of a reality in which I am glad to be alive.  The horror of it fills me with a despair so all-encompassing that it feels physical — there is just no room in me for anything else.

Does it help the situation if I don’t eat?  Probably not.

Do I care?  Also not.

Caring is what got me into trouble in the first place.  Caring is what makes things hurt.

Paine to Pain… OH WAIT

Never mind that this race hasn’t happened yet; for me it may as well have done. Because I dared have the audacity to look forward to it, and as happens again and again and again, my expectations are only met with crushing disappointment.

The constant failure of my body is of interest to nobody but me. I am perfectly well aware of the fact that nobody cares, as much as I am aware how stupid it is for me to twist a knife in an open wound and stick around on social media to see how many people get to do the one thing I most want to do and rarely can. Which is why I stay away from it.

But apparently that does me no good, because when any attempts to medicate myself to sleep fail and my head turns itself into an Instagram feed of photos of an event that hasn’t even happened yet, but that will happen without me… I’m not sure why I bother.

I’m not the type of person who generally runs for bling. But the Paine to Pain medal this year is just lovely, and I really want one. Running when it hurts to walk, just because I want a medal, is probably not a wise choice.

Not that making wise choices has ever helped me. It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not I am conservative and make “sensible training decisions” — my stupid fat shit of a body reliably lets me down. And every single time, it breaks my fucking heart.