Race Day Recap: Oxy HP

A PR is a PR, no matter how small.

I’ve always told myself that I won’t be upset when the result is a PR.  If I’m lowering my times and showing progress, I shouldn’t be complaining.  So I’m not upset, and I’m not complaining.  But after my race at the Oxy High Performance meet this past weekend, I do know that I can be even better next time.

I tried to remember what I’ve learned from past races.  I couldn’t be afraid of high level competition and let myself get shot out the back.  I also couldn’t get too anxious and waste energy fighting the mess of the pack.  So when the gun went off this time I tried to put myself in it and stay calm.  It was going to be fast and I was going along for the ride.  I’ve watched the video of my race since and it turns out that I did end up in the back, but I never felt like I was being pushed out.  I waited while I watched some competitive shoving and tripping in front of me.  I might have waited too long.  I had a strong finish, which is good, but I might have had a little too much left.  Not enough like a sprinter to go faster for the last 100M, but more strength.  I could have gone a little sooner.  But a PR is a PR.  Lesson learned and it showed me I’m capable of more.

Los Angeles was really hot!  For the three days we were there, I’m pretty sure the temperature reached the triple digits.  I did my shake out run on a treadmill in the gym the morning of the race instead of taking the risk of melting.  Nevertheless, I worked hard to hydrate and stay cool, and once the sun went down it was much more bearable.  I even warmed up in my track attack pants, true #flystyle.  It was great seeing all of the other birds who raced matching in our warm ups as well.  As always, it was awesome having all of that support there.  I also had my dad and my cousins there cheering for me, and my mom and my boyfriend stayed up very late to watch me from the east coast.  I’m a pretty lucky lady!  Thank you everyone.

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Race Day Recap: Payton Jordan

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photo credit @oiselle_sally and @flotrack video

Patience, trust, and strength.  I’ve been trying to think of what to write about my race at the Payton Jordan Invitational this past Sunday and these are the three words that come to mind.  I learned a lot about myself and racing.  This weekend’s lesson: push myself out of my comfort zone. 

Going into the weekend I knew this would be a highly competitive race.  That’s why you go all the way across the country to a great facility like the track at Stanford University.  I was ready for a big PR and this was the perfect opportunity to do it.  My previous 5k time was 15:56 and I had the 15:40 barrier on my mind.  If I ran 75 second laps (5:00 miles) I could run a 15:37.  And then I heard that the rabbit was going to take the race in 72-73 second laps.  Though Ashley, Nicol, Amanda, and I were sure we would have a group at our pace in the race anyway, I was still nervous about the start being faster than I was ready for.  I had my race from the Stanford Invitational two years ago stuck in my head, when I felt pretty amazing for 5-6 laps at a faster place than planned, and then hit the biggest metaphorical wall I have ever seen.  I couldn’t let that happen again, but I knew that being afraid of the pace wasn’t good either.

Patience.  When the gun went off, I put myself in it but continued to remind myself not to get too anxious.  This was really hard for me.  Not that I always go right to the front of races, but it usually goes one of two ways: anxiously on the shoulder of someone closer to the front, or completely shot out the back (and that’s when you know from the start it’s bad).  After watching the race, I can see that I was very much so in the back, but this time it was different.  I didn’t know at the time that I was the very back, and I felt more like I was relaxing and being patient than panicking while trying to stay in the race.  I also let myself get closer to the rail and go for the ride instead of wasting energy on the outside to be on someone’s shoulder.

Trust.  About half way through a race is usually make or break time for me.  Between 2k and 3k I just barely started to think about that wall from two years ago, but quickly changed my mantra from relax, be patient to stay tough, you can handle this.  Gaps were starting to form.  Packs were breaking apart.  It was time to put my head up and start moving up.

Strength.  Okay 1200 to go.  We do repeats at this pace all the time!  You’re strong, you’re strong, you’re strong.  Just finish it strong.  And I did.  15:30.33. New PR 🙂

Of course I can never help being critical of my races either.  After my excitement died down a little bit, my first thought was if I could go that far under 15:40, where were those last 4 seconds for the A standard?  Could I have started pushing myself a little sooner?  But I’ll always have those thoughts after races.  They fuel me for the next one.

So despite some travel issues with my bag getting lost both on the way to and from San Francisco, I had a pretty good trip.  Traveling with Coach Gag and my NJNYTC teammates was really awesome and Palo Alto is a beautiful place.  And I’ve always loved being able to race with my teammates.   Congrats to them on big PRs as well!  I also got to spend a good amount of time catching up with the Syracuse team. Finally, west coast races often mean a large contingent of bird supporters!  So in addition to Gags on one end of the track, I could hear a great Oiselle group cheering each lap at the other end.  

No Watch, New Shoes, a Little Rain, and a Lovely Run

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My Oiselle bio says that the piece of running equipment I cannot live without is my watch.  For years I pretty much never took it off.  The only exceptions were super fancy occasions, when I had to replace it with some bracelet that would stay right in the exact spot to cover up the insane tan line that became a permanent eye sore around my wrist.  And then this winter I got a GPS watch for Christmas.  I didn’t want to wear it all of the time and become overly obsessed with pace on all of my runs, but it’s really helpful for tempo days and long runs.  So now I had to remember to change my watch for different runs.  Somehow this transitioned to only putting a watch, one or the other, on for runs, and taking it off when I was done.

Last week at practice the inevitable happened.  I forgot my watch.  At first I hated it.  I felt naked and vulnerable, wondering how I was going to keep track of my workout.  But then I realized how ridiculous that was.  I train with a team.  We do the same warm up loop for every workout, all of our intervals are paced and timed by the coaches, and everyone else has a watch so if I really need to know I can just ask.  Not having a watch was actually kind of nice.

Nice as it was, I know that a workout is not really the time you want to ditch the watch.  Being able to hit certain times is actually pretty important for this sport.  But when so much of what you’re doing is focused on times and paces, it’s too easy to get caught up in the numbers and forget to listen to your body and enjoy what you’re doing.  I’m guilty of it.  I know that training means there’s mileage to hit and paces to maintain, but I’ve lived here long enough to know the loops I have to do to get the mileage in, and my body knows the pace it needs to recover from a workout without doing a run full of junk miles.

So today I intentionally ditched the watch and ran naked, and it felt pretty good!  I should also partially credit the good feeling to a new pair of shoes and my Oiselle Lesley Knickers and Flyer Jacket for keeping me warm and dry despite the wind and drizzly rain.  Maybe if I do this a few times when the sun is out I can even get rid of the permanent pale bracelet I’ve been wearing. 

Speaking of sun, next up for me is a trip to Palo Alto for the Payton Jordan Invitational 5k!  Check out an awesome meet for some NJNYTC and Oiselle action!

Race Recap: Redhook Crit 5k and a Start to Spring

I haven’t taken the time to write much lately and my blog has become completely dedicated to race recaps.  I want to try to be better about writing things down when they come to me and/or reflecting on my running, but for now the Redhook Crit 5k marked the beginning of the spring season.

I found out about this race when I met Pavel Marosin, the race director, at the NYRR Night at the Races.  All I knew was that it was a four lap 5k, which meant it got a lot of spectators and was an all around good time.  About a week before the race, an info e-mail was sent out with the schedule for the day and I found out the 5k was between qualifying and final rounds of a bike race.  Between putting the pieces together from what I could observe at the race, a little Wikipedia research, and talking to my cousin (who happened to be visiting from California and is very involved in cycling), I learned a little bit about a different kind of race than I’m used to:

Crit is short for Criterium.  It’s a type of bike race held on a short course, usually less than a mile (in this case, 1300M), on blocked off city streets.  The race is run in laps and there are often prizes throughout the races for lap times and/or leading certain laps.

It was at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, overlooking the East River and the Statue of Liberty.  The plan for the event was to have the qualifying rounds for the Crit first, then the 5ks, then the finals of the Crit.  So on a gorgeous day, cycling fans would be able to enjoy the view and stick around to watch the 5k, even if it was just while they waited for the Crit finals.  Saturday was far from gorgeous.  It was the kind of day that makes me want to stay in my pajamas and read books with hot chocolate while I watch the rain pour down.  Early in the day the decision was made to push the 5k back after the Crit final because the rain was supposed to get worse the later it got and that was more dangerous for the bikes.  It was dangerous regardless of the schedule change because the 5ks got pushed back farther after a crash in the women’s final.  All things considered, I was impressed with the number of spectators who stuck around anyway.  Nat was a really good sport and stayed with me the whole time getting drenched to cheer and and hold my sweats.

We finally got to the line, soaking wet and ready to run.  Once we got going and I got more used to the dark road with huge puddles, it was actually a really fun race.  There was bonus money in leading the first lap, but I had my mind on the overall results so I sat back a little while keeping the leaders in sight.  Then on the second lap I focused on slowly reeling them in.  For the second half of the race I was in a small group of three, working but feeling comfortable enough.  The laps made it interesting because at one end of the loop was a tight turn around.  At the same time, I got to hear Nat and a Oiselle fan who braved the weather (thank you!) every time I came around.  I was in front going into the last lap and I wasn’t sure if the two women near me were drafting or getting tired.  By the second half of that last lap I was ready to move.  I felt great finishing and it was the first time I’ve ever gotten to run through the ribbon!

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photo credit top: Nat, bottom: Redhook 5k

I did my cool down and put on dry clothes as quickly as I possibly could, but my muscles can tell that I had been wet and shivering a bit.  Nevertheless, time to get back at it because spring is here!  I’ve updated my tentative race schedule and I’m looking forward to a great outdoor season.

Race Day Recaps: BU Valentines and Millrose Games

Since coming home from Texas/Seattle I’ve been really busy getting back to work, both at Rutgers and with running, and traveling to more races.  That’s why I got so delayed on my race recaps.  Now I have some time to take a small step back and reflect on the last few weeks…

The biggest thing I’ve learned since starting this new phase in my running career is that not everything goes as planned and that’s okay. If preparations went perfectly, I would have slept well after my 3k in Seattle, not gotten sick the next Tuesday and been able to do a workout with my team to get ready for the mile in Boston.  I would have known exactly what and where I was racing the week after Boston, but neither was the case. In hindsight I feel a little funny thinking about the fact that I almost didn’t go to Boston. Yes, racing when you’re not feeling well is terrible and a bad idea when your next race is a week away. I didn’t want to run poorly and then make myself even more sick by traveling. But after sleeping for 12 hours that night, I woke up Wednesday feeling like a new person. My only hesitation then was that I had missed the workout. What if I wasn’t sharp enough to race? It definitely made me nervous, but I couldn’t miss a chance at a good race and a big PR.  I’ve always loved racing in Boston, and this time was no different.  Kate Grace took us out perfectly, again, and I owe her a lot of thanks for another PR.  Before I got on the line, Gag told me not to leave any gaps, which is something I remember Coach Fox always saying as well.  Both of them were there watching and I could hear them cheering, but I watched the Flotrack video of the race, I could see myself fall back half of a step and then get right back on where I know they were both in my head.  I was thrilled with a 6 second PR (4:31.3) and to be able to see my teammate, Amanda Winslow, run the third fasted time in the world just ahead of me (4:26.28).

The week that followed was a mess of confusion.  The plan was to fly out to Iowa and run another 3k.  We tried to get into the Millrose 3k, but the heat was over full so even waiting to see if someone scratched wasn’t an option.  And then Mother Nature attacked New Jersey again.  My flight was canceled and there were no other flights going out in enough time for me to get to Iowa and prepare for my race properly.  My indoor season was over and it was time to gear up for spring…until another curve ball was thrown at me.  Flights getting into New Jersey were being canceled as well, which meant that a spot opened up in the Millrose Wanamaker Mile.  I owe an I’m sorry/thank you to Katie Mackey, who couldn’t make it out of Seattle, and a big thank you to David Monti of NYRR for making me a last minute addition.

So I found out on my way to a workout Friday morning that in a day and a half I would be in one of the biggest, most watched races.  The number of times I had to wrap my mind around racing and not racing and racing again throughout the week was making me a little dizzy.  I told Gag that I was mentally overwhelmed and he responded with “Ha! That’s a good one. You’ll be fine.”  And then, though still nervous, I started to get pretty excited.  Nat sent me the quote,

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

  He’s right; it doesn’t matter if I knew all along or if I found out when I did.  I’ve been training hard and racing well and I was presented with an amazing opportunity.

I wish I could say that I took the quote and ran with it (see what I did there?), and had the most incredible race of my life, but it didn’t quite go that way.  No one went with the rabbit and it turned into a jumbled mess until 800 and I just didn’t have the same strength or speed to go from there.  I felt tired and flat.  The crazy thing is that if I hadn’t run in Boston the week before, the 4:35 that I’m disappointed with would have been my new PR.  I also know that it was really great for me to have that experience.  Actual racing like that is different from time a time trial-type race and I needed that experience on a big stage.  Now I need to work on having the courage to be the one that pushes the pace when the rest of the field doesn’t, and/or put myself in a better position to go.

Full of new experiences from the past month and a half in Texas, Seattle, Boston, and NYC, I’m ready to reboot for the spring season. I can never seem to say thank you enough for all of the support via all forms of social media. More good things to come!

Race Day Recap: UW Invite–Birds Fly Home

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I’m writing from the hallway outside my hotel room at 2:00 AM with a bad case of post-race insomnia.  I kind of forgot that this happens when I have night races (sometimes worse than others), though this was more of an afternoon race.  I think my body is totally confused.  On the one hand this makes sense.  My legs and my heart are feeling a bit jittery from all of the excitement, and I did drink I small cup of coffee on my way to dinner to make sure I survived the evening.  But on the other hand I should be exhausted!  We’ve had so many awesome events planned this weekend all leading up to a great effort on the track and an amazing team dinner.  After the flurry of activity and a little bit of wine, I would think my body would just relax.  Instead I tossed and turned for a couple hours before deciding to give this a try…

Ending #springtraining by flying to Oiselle City (aka Seattle) and kicking off the 2014 season was such an awesome idea.  I had run the 3k at the Dempsey twice before and both times were PRs and great trips, but doing it in flystyle was pretty special.  I had really been looking forward to meeting the Little Wing women and getting to know them.  We first met up with them Thursday morning when we got to act like models and do a photo shoot in some new Oiselle duds.  Then Amanda, Kate, and I headed to the track for our pre-race workout.

I’m running out of adjectives to describe how I’ve felt for our activities.  Everything was just AWESOME!  On Friday I got to see the Oiselle HQ for the first time.  It’s very cool spot just a short walk away from where we did yoga with Jasyoga founder and head coach Erin.  I have been following all of her posts on the Oiselle blog page in my quest to get into yoga this year.  Normally I’m not one for trying something I have never done before a race, and yoga has certainly never been part of my race prep.  I went into it with the plan of hanging out with my legs up on the wall if there was anything I didn’t want to do.  But I ended up doing the whole thing.  It was all very light and relaxing.  Every so often Erin reminded us not to visualize the race, but to think about and take in the feelings that we experience when we have accomplished our goals.  I really liked that exercise and it’s something that I can keep in mind when prepping mentally for all of my races. 

Then yesterday was go time.  I stuck to my trusted race day routine; shake out jog, breakfast (though I took a risk and had oatmeal instead of pancakes) while watching ESPN College Game Day (GO CUSE!), hang out in the room watching Netflix, go for a walk and get a sandwich, shower, and have some coffee as I head to the track.  I could feel myself getting a little nervous.  I raced on the roads a couple times this fall, but this was my pro track debut.  I knew I wanted to break 9:00 but sometimes I have trouble saying my exact goals out loud.  It’s like I need to protect myself in case it doesn’t happen.  Instead I told myself it would be good to PR and great to break 9:00, but I knew the whole time I wouldn’t be totally satisfied if I saw a 9:01.  We got on the line and Kate Grace was announced as our rabbit.  She did a really awesome job; the race felt so smooth.  I felt really strong and we got the wheels going a little for that last lap.  That feeling that Erin had us embody the day before was all there, plus some.  Amanda and I went 1-2, respectively, each with big PRs of 8:56.37 and 8:56.44.  I felt so proud to be part of Oiselle and NJNYTC.  And to be a Syracuse alum!  By the time I cooled down, Cuse had taken care of business in the Dome with Duke.

As I said before, we finished off the night with a celebratory team dinner.  Heading back to New Jersey (which seems like the Antarctica after spring training in San Antonio all month) tomorrow night.  All kidding about the weather aside, it’ll be good to be home.  More work to do!

#NJNYtakesTX: Winding Down

January is coming to an end, which means so is our trip to San Antonio. I’ve had a really great time bonding with some teammates and learning a lot along the way. Without realizing it, I was getting into a rhythm at home planning what I had to do each day and I started to feel like I was going through the motions. I think getting away from every day life with work and whatever else to train has helped me to take a step back and enjoy the hard work that goes into what I’m trying to do. I know that going home means going back to work and every day things that require a bit more scheduling again, but I don’t think I’ll feel like I’m going through motions anymore, “fitting in” my run or gym time. Why did I feel like there was such a rush before just to get it done? Sometimes I need to remember to enjoy the process, and this trip was a great reminder.

At the same time, I’ve learned that the life of a full time runner is tough.  I mean, I am a full time runner in New Jersey too; it’s not like I switch to part time at home and do half the running, half the eating healthy, half the strength training, but I also have a part time job that keeps my mind off of running.  Something I’ve learned while here is that I like having that distraction.  Don’t get me wrong, I have been having a BLAST in San Antonio.  As I’ve said before, I appreciate the opportunity to train in a new, warm place, and I know it’s something that’s good for me and I would like to continue doing each year.  But non-training projects stop me from obsessing and dwelling.  I was way too excited to get my work schedule emailed to me last week so I could write it in my planner and start working on student questionnaires.  I’m also trying to take on an extra project.  Not many details yet, but we have been talking a lot about ways that NJNY can become more involved in our local running community.  Anyway, I know I can’t take on too much and training comes first, but it’s definitely nice to have something to work on.

That being said, we did come out here to put in some good hard work and that is pretty tiring.  Although we (or at least I) lack the energy to go on big Texas adventures every day, we have been taking advantage of the trip.  Quick recap: we took a mini road trip to Austin, ventured downtown and saw the Alamo and the River Walk (from what I was told before coming down here, the trip would not have been complete without it), I explored the natural bridge caverns when my brother came to visit from Houston, and we got to know some of the awesome local runners through the grand opening of We Run San Antonio running store. Most importantly, we did some serious quality training. Success.

On to the next adventure: 2014 Indoor Season. Get ready Seattle, we’re on our way.

#NJNYtakesTX: Namaste

Hello 2014! Getting into yoga and working on my flexibility was one of my main New Year’s resolutions.  As I said in my New Year post, I was very self conscious about my lack of flexibility and yoga novice and started with some basic poses from a morning flow YouTube video.  Well, I have now taken the next step to becoming more serious about my resolution.  Ashley Higginson showed me a basic sequence that I worked on when we first got down here.  That was really good for just getting started and opening up a bit.  This was a big step for me because it was the first time I did any sort of yoga in front of other people besides those who may or may not have seen me through the sliding glass doors at my apartment.  Then Kate Grace found a class today at the Gold’s Gym we have been working out at while in San Antonio, and at the last minute I decided to join her.  Once the instructor suggested we get the other mats that didn’t squeak on the floor so much, it was really great.  The instructor was good with modeling the poses and also helping everyone get in the correct positions.  I skipped out on some poses like the head stand because it was my first time and because I have a workout tomorrow and a race in a couple weeks that I would rather not hurt myself for.  I was very proud of myself though…not only can I touch my toes, I can stand on my hands and have my legs straight! I can stand up straight on my right leg and hold my left leg out to the side by my toes! (kind of) I’ve got a good amount of work to do, but I feel a whole lot better about going to classes.

When I start things or try to get into something, I end up planning it in my routine, looking into the best way to make it a regular thing, and researching to the point where I seem a bit obsessive.  I started looking into yoga places at home and their hours and classes offered.  I found that I have plenty of options and I can’t wait to continue.  Through my obsessive research I also found something pretty cool and useful for someone who travels and finds themselves in need of a place to workout or a class to attend.  MindBody Connect is an app for android (maybe iPhone? I don’t know) that allows you to search specific businesses or by key word in whatever location, check out their schedules, and even register and pay in advance for classes.  Maybe I’m totally behind and everyone does this already, but I think it’s pretty cool and it will come in handy with a lot the traveling we do!

Maybe someday…
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#NJNYtakesTX: Keep Austin Weird

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A hop, skip, and a jump from San Antonio is the capital of Texas, live music, and Flotrack.  Saturday morning, we piled in the VW and took a mini road trip singing “Life is a Highway” to enjoy Austin.  Thanks to the hospitality of Flotrack’s Ryan and Mitch, it was a pretty awesome trip.  The day started with a long run around Town Lake, a loop that was the perfect long run distance and a soft surface.  The path was pretty crowded at the start of the run, which was a little difficult for a group of six to maneuver, but it’s nice to see a city that is so fit and active.  It was clear we were from out of town when we stripped down to sports bras to soak in the sun while most other people were aware that it was January and wore tights and long sleeves.

After the long run, I found out that breakfast tacos are my new favorite food. Torchy’s Tacos (tag line: Damn Good) is a food truck that I highly recommend if you get the chance. Then I went to a Whole Foods that had a live band playing inside. Yes, a live band in a grocery store. Amanda, Kate, and I also had the opportunity to meet up with a fellow bird, Sarah Stevens. It was nice to spend the afternoon with Sarah and her daughter taking some pictures and checking out S. Congress Street. Austin really is a unique place.

I’ve been in Texas for a week now and I feel like I’ve already gotten so much out of it. If you get the chance to escape the cold and have a change of pace in a new area, I highly recommend it.  I’m definitely focused when I’m at home; I know what I’m trying to do and what it takes.  But coming to a new place with the sole purpose of getting a solid month of serious, hard work in is refreshing.  Getting to travel and experience new cities is an added bonus that running has given me and I’m extremely grateful to have these opportunities.  More to come in the next three weeks.

#NJNYtakesTX: Hill Country

Finding hills in San Antonio is no problem at all. My brother lives in Houston and when I told him I would be training here he said everyone calls it hill country, but I took it with a grain of salt because I know that where he lives you can see for miles with absolutely no change in elevation. Relatively speaking, “hill country” didn’t hold much value. I’ve quickly learned that he (or his San Antonio sources) were correct. There are hills. I only wish there was a little less fog this morning so that we could have been rewarded for our climb to the top of a trail with a view.

Yesterday was a new experience for me.  After our pace run, I went for a massage at a neuromuscular pain and nutrition center and was worked on by Savitri Frizzell. I have never even seen a chiropractor before and this fall was my first time seeing a massage therapist.  It was a great session.  I took anatomy in high school, but studying social sciences for the past five years distanced me from knowledge of the muscles, nerves, and bones. I know the basics, but I feel like I should know more. I always appreciate it when whoever is working on my explains what is happening, and that is exactly what she did. What everything seems to boil down to is that my right leg is longer than my left, which throws everything off balance.  The way she was able to find areas in my legs and hips that were feeling tension, massage somewhere, and immediately release the tension was really awesome.  Needless to say, I learned a lot and I have some great exercises to add to my daily routine! And she has an office in New Jersey…

Some more running inspiration (Pinterest credit to Jenn Ennis aka @runnderlust):
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