Sunday, April 26, 2015

It’s spring, I think

Mother Nature has been very indecisive lately.  For a while Philadelphia had gorgeous weather, then it was cold and snowy again, then it was rainy, then it was beautiful, then it was windy (and still is).  But it’s finally spring, I think.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting a recap of the Run for Babies 5k, but for now I’ll say that I’m pretty pleased with my overall performance, although I did learn a lot about 5k strategy and pacing (the 5k has been and will continue to be my trickiest race distance).

With the exception of my 5k today and some intense hill work on Tuesday (my body is not used to hill repeats anymore!  I have a lot to work on before the fall race season), I’ve been keeping it chill.    This past week ended up being an unintentional taper for Broad Street—I only ran 10 miles total.  Yikes!  After Broad Street I’ll be increasing my mileage and working on speed (ugh) and more hills, so I’m enjoying the rest while it lasts.

I’m not stressing at all.  I am just happy to have the chance to run Broad Street again and to run it in good health.  Anything more than that is icing on the cake.

Since there hasn’t been loads of running, I’ve been filling my hours with the usual work work and housework, and I’ve been reveling in all the seasonal excitement in the Philly area.

Last weekend I marveled at the beautiful cherry blossoms and other flowering trees on Penn’s campus and along the Schuylkill River Trail…

And this weekend I made it to my very first Penn Relays!  I am ashamed of myself for never going before, but I will certainly be attending in future years.  I was only at the meet for a few short hours, but I had a blast, especially watching the Masters runners.  I hope I’m as lithe and energetic when I grow up as those athletes are!

Yesterday I made it back out to one of my favorite Philly places, Valley Forge.  I am a city girl, but I LOVE seeing countryside.  My friend D. and I had quite the hike out there: 7.5+ miles, and my Fitbit credited me with 113 flights of stairs!  Translation: we had some major elevation gain, y’all.

This week I’ll be prepping for Broad Street, which means getting more sleep and more food.

What do you have on tap for the end of the month?

~Tomato Face

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Hershey 10k 2015 Recap

I should have known: in a race where I had no goals or expectations, when I was coming off of a period of very lax training, I ended up setting my best overall PR.  

I’ve been pretty chill about my running (or lack thereof) this past winter.  Sure, I lamented not being able to get in the miles, but I also relished my physical laziness (and things like packing, decorating and working in a new job/career kept me distracted).

With such a late start to my race season, I should have had time to think about my pace goals or competitive strategies (or at the very least, my race wardrobe!).  Instead, I shoved some clothes in my suitcase the night before I traveled back to the midstate, and I gave hardly a thought to race logistics.  I assumed I could beat my 10k PR from 2013, but beyond that, I had not a clue or a care: I just wanted to get outside, run, and enjoy myself.

The 2015 Hershey 10k was a little strange in that it occurred on a Saturday.  The change in race day meant that I missed packet pickup (thankfully my mom was willing to collect my t-shirt and bib on my behalf) and the normal pregaming (although we did eat some really rad spinach mozzarella ravioli at home on Friday night).

On race morning, I arrived insanely early at the start area, even though I awoke close to the same time as past years (5:20 am wakeup call, 6:40 arrival).  I was dismayed to see that the Hershey organizers had replicated the cockamamie system from the 2014 Hershey Half Marathon: no bags at all allowed inside the Hersheypark Stadium (a spectator and participant area) or in the runners only holding zone.  That meant that you couldn’t carry any bags (or, as one particularly strict security guard insisted, no wallets either) to the restrooms or porta potties (although there was a bag check just outside of the stadium).  What amounted to being a nuisance for my family was even worse for families with children: who with young kids or special needs family members wants to make a special trek to the faraway car for anything that can’t be stowed in a jacket pocket?

*I recognize that this system is for security purposes.  However, having run races of 40,000+ participants in cities where terrorist threats/natural disasters/large-scale emergencies pose a legitimate risk, I think there are better ways of handling the bag check and corral system.

Since the 10k consisted of a smaller participant crowd than the half, this system didn’t turn out to be as horrible as it did for that race.  It was aggravating, however, that runners only had one gate through which to enter the start area—this was especially troublesome for runners who did not park in the Entertainment Complex parking area.

So I rolled my eyes and grumbled at the poor vision of the race organizers, but I made it to the start line just fine.  It was supposed to be warm all of race weekend, but we runners were caught in a fearful windstorm that morning that left us shivering from the cold.  The wind made me anxious to get moving!

Thankfully, without any delay we were off, and I, older and wiser this time around, positioned myself towards the front of the crowd so as to avoid slow walkers and joggers, who always seem to be in abundance at Hershey races.  I was mindful of my breathing during those first few miles: I didn’t intend to set any PRs, so I wanted to make sure I had enough energy to finish. 

We cruised through the Entertainment Complex parking lots before turning onto Hersheypark Drive, a strong headwind pushing against us.  It was around both mile 1 and 2 that I noticed the line of runners in front of me was relatively spaced out: I’m used to seeing a steady stream of faster participants stretch out for kilometers ahead.  I had decided not to pay too much attention to my GPS during the race, but I was shocked when I looked down at the beep of the first few splits: 8:40, 8:31 and 8:18.

The pack along Hersheypark Drive.

Huh, I thought to myself.  I could totally fade in the second 5k and still do pretty well!

I shrugged off the notion—after all, I just wanted to run with no pressure that morning—and continued onward.

Our course was mildly hilly, winding past the backside of the Hershey Outlets and into Hersheypark.  Per usual, the park part of the course was the most exciting, and I amused myself looking at the new construction, as well as familiar sights like my old internship office.  As we wove our way through the Boardwalk area of the park, “I Want it That Way” by the Backstreet Boys blasted out of the speakers, and I knew for sure that this was a good day.

The last stretch of the race flew by, and even though I was tiring just outside of the Stadium, I summoned all my strength and speed to do my signature sprint to the finish (I also wisely stuck to the tangents during this entire race and was lucky/smart enough to hug the inside corner going into the Stadium.  A security guard positioned just inside the Stadium was wildly enthusiastic about this choice.  “Yeah, that’s right, you take that corner!” she screamed.  I have never felt so awesome.).

Within seconds I had stepped over the timing map, and my 10k was over.  The final time: 52:37, an average page of 8:30 minutes/mile.  Woohoo!!!

I finished in the top 500 of runners (top 20%) and top 10% of females, which was quite a thrilling accomplishment.  The winds during the race were sustained at 20 mph, and I’m not quite sure how I was able to do so well with those conditions, but boy, did I have fun!

Here’s to hoping I keep this momentum for Broad Street!

~Tomato Face

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

I Got a Golden Ticket!

Remember how I was telling you that I didn’t get into Broad Street this year?  Well, as luck would have it, I just won entry into 2015’s race courtesy of Dunkin’ Donuts’s Team Dunkin’!   

I am so excited to have been given this second chance at running Broad Street.  In all honesty, I was crushed when I received the “you have not been selected” e-mail.  Before opening that message, I had taken it for granted that I would get in through the lottery—after all, the race organizers like to promote the (surely outdated) statistic that 80% of lottery entrants win a bib.  So to be part of that unfortunate 20% was a big downer.

Now that I’m actually in, I am pumped to continue with my training.  Spring may not be getting here/staying here anytime soon (it’s supposed to snow flurry tonight, be in the 70s on Friday and rain all of next week), but at least I have the promise of two upcoming races.  Hurray!

Increased activity means I have an increased appetite, and as the weather changes, so do my cravings.  Currently I am once again infatuated with Nutella and berry waffles, and my go-to easy meal is now a bowl of pierogis, peppers, pearl onions and turkey bacon.  Yum.

I come from Slavic roots, and thus pierogis are way better than pasta in my mind (and belly).
So how did the training go this past week?  I ran just under 15 miles: four of those hills, three easy, and over 7 for the long run.  I managed to reassure myself of my abilities for my upcoming 10k and 10 miler by reviewing last year’s running log: it turns out, I was running the same monthly distance and the same paces (if not slower) in March of last year.  Even with a lethargic winter, I may have a shot yet at a PR or two!

Things are looking up in the Philly running circuit as well.  There are club runs and events galore coming up in April, including the first ever Nightshift run.  New Balance is opening an outpost in Center City tomorrow, and Christopher McDougall of Born to Run fame is leading a fun run and celebration on April 23.

Now, in honor of April Fool’s Day, I await the opening of registration for the Philadelphia Marathon.  I jest not—I actually planning on signing up for my second marathon.  Let’s see if I have fast enough fingers to be one of the first 500 participants (read: the early bird gets the discount)!

~Tomato Face