Archive for April, 2013


Galloway E-coach: Round 2

Registration opened this week for the 2013 NYC Marathon. There are basically 4 ways to get to run this famous event. !. You can qualify with a fast time. 2. You can run 9 New York Road Runner events and volunteer at 1 NYRR event in the year preceding the race you intend to run. This “automatically” qualifies you to run. 3. You can enter the lottery and be one of the lucky names chosen. 4. You can run for a charity and meet their minimum fund-raising requirements.
Since I started running 3+ years ago, the NYC Marathon was a vague goal of mine. I entered the lottery last year and wasn’t picked (just as well since the race was canceled). While I do run a few NYRR events every year, it would be a hardship on my husband and children to commit to 10 weekend days in NYC for running events. Especially when you consider that I’m “on call” every 3rd weekend and my husband is “on call” every 4th weekend. I’m not likely to run fast enough to qualify for another few decades. Which leaves the charity route. The idea of fundraising for charity has always scared me. Most of the charities require a $2500-$3500 minimum. I’ve always hated the idea of asking people for money and while I want to run NYC, it isn’t worth paying $2500 out of pocket to do so. And yet, I’m about 98% sure I’m going to be running the NYC Marathon in 2013 as a charity runner.
I haven’t worked out the details yet. The complete list of eligible charities has not been released so it’s hard to know which organization I will choose. Which means I haven’t officially registered for the race yet. I figure if I’m going to ask everyone I know to contribute to a cause so I can run a race, it had better be a cause that I strongly endorse. I’m hoping the official list is released soon because I want to secure my spot in the race and I want to begin the process of fundraising ASAP.
And so now my upcoming race schedule looks like this: June 8th NYRR Mini 10k, October 6th Diva Half Marathon (Long Island), November 3rd NYC Marathon, January 10th Disney 10k, January 12th Disney Full Marathon.
You may notice that there are now TWO full marathons on my calendar and they are about 2 months apart. How on Earth am I going to train for and finish these races while staying healthy? Time to call my favorite running coach for a training plan!
One of the things I loved most about e-coaching with Jeff Galloway when I was training for the Goofy is having a concrete plan for each and every run. And I loved the weekly interaction with Jeff. As strange as it sounds, I looked forward to getting my weekly email response from him. I registered for e-coaching on Friday morning and by Friday afternoon I had my training plan. Every Monday I will email Jeff with a Weekend Update (I’ve been reading Tina Fey’s book so I’m using an intentional SNL reference). He will comment and make suggestions. Tuesdays are speed work and Thursdays are hills. I will do half mile repeats on Tuesdays and one mile repeats sometimes on Saturdays as I work to get faster. He did warn me that course crowding is a problem at both the NYC Marathon and at Disney so I need to temper my finish goals with that knowledge. And obviously race day weather can change a time goal pretty quickly.
So what’s the net result of this? Somehow this weekend’s long run has increased from my intended 9 miles up to 12 miles. I guess tomorrow will be starting pretty darn early! I have some concerns about training for a time goal since it’s much more time consuming than just training to finish but I’m also excited with the possible time goal he has for me (it will be fluid as we see how my training goes). My husband has been incredibly supportive of this plan and I honestly can’t wait to start!

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On Sunday, April 14th – one day before the horror of Boston – I ran my 8th half marathon. Although a lot of my training had occurred on a treadmill since I’m a wimp when it comes to running in the cold and dark (plus the kids prefer me in the basement on the treadmill where they can come bother me), I felt I was reasonably well prepared. I could have run some more hill repeats since this would be a hilly course but overall I thought I had a decent shot at a PR. Looking back on my previous 2 half marathons (excluding the half marathon that was part of the Goofy), I finished both races feeling strong and with negative splits. After I finished the Princess Half Marathon, I walked at least 10 more miles in Disney World while pushing a stroller. The data suggested that I was capable of a faster finish time but it would require a faster start.
I’m always a little worried about starting too fast and hitting the wall. Earlier in my (short) running career this had happened to me, most notably during my first full marathon where I crashed and burned. While I managed to finish the race it was anything but pretty and taught me a powerful lesson. Since that time I’ve tended to finish faster than I start – which is good to a point – but this has left me wondering if I could have been faster. My strategy for this race was to start around my target race pace (in this case 11:15 min/mile) and try to hold it until the end.
The day before the race was hardly an ideal pre-race experience. I brought my 7 year old daughter into NYC to help me pick up my race bib. We took the train into the City and hopped on the subway. We walked cross-town to the race expo (which was only ok but not great). After getting my bib, shirt, and goody bag, we grabbed some pizza. We planned to meet a friend in Time Square but I mistakenly took the East Side subway which then had us walking forever across town. The meet up was a huge success (thanks Beth!) and then we headed for our special girls’ trip to the American Girl Cafe for afternoon tea.
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We had walked at least 5 miles and I did a poor job of pre-hydrating. Once home I made some pasta for dinner and encouraged an early bedtime.
Race day dawned cool and clear. I was up and dressed in no time. I had decided to drive into the City and try my luck with parking. Luck was on my side and I quickly found a space on Columbus close to the race start. I was ready by 7am and the race start wasn’t until 8am. Luckily I had an OR gown with me to stay warm (and received many compliments on my good choice). I looked for a few friends before the start but missed them in the crowd.
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The National Anthem played and we were ready to start!
I chose a run 40 sec/walk 20 sec ratio and stuck with it for the entire race. The run interval was short enough that even on the big hills I was able to maintain my run interval without any additional walk breaks. I started right on pace and really felt good for the whole race. The weather was perfect – 50-ish at the start and around 60-ish at the finish. I never really ran out of steam although I did have some right shin pain near the end. Around mile 12 I saw a Disney friend of mine who was cheering and I have to credit her for helping me kick it up a notch for the last mile or so. My finish time was 2:25:32 or a 4+ minute PR. Average pace was around 11:07 min/mile.
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I was very pleased with my performance and I’m now training to increase my pace for the NYRR Mini 10k in June…

I’ll confess that I’m still in shock and disbelief. I was riding the high from PR’ing the MORE Magazine Half Marathon on Sunday. As I sat in conference on Monday morning, I was obsessively following the Boston Marathon start via my Twitter feed. I was cheering on my current running heroes – Shalane and Kara – as they finished 4th and 6th in the Women’s race. And was excited to follow the progress of the slightly more human but still Rock Star friends who were running the race, including the 2 runners whose charitable fundraising efforts we supported. Between seeing patients in the office I would stop to check on Social Media for any updates from the people I knew. I was hardly prepared for 2 missed phone calls from people checking up on me because of the inconceivable news coming from the finish line.

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To me the Boston Marathon is the pinnacle of running. While technically there are events like the Olympics where mere mortals will never run, Boston represents something potentially achievable. It also represents what makes running so different from most other sports. Your amateur 40 year old weekend warrior soccer player will never play in the World Cup. Even most professional baseball players will never play in the World Series. But amateur runners can run Boston, if they’re fast enough to qualify. For a slower runner like me Boston is a dream. It’s far enough from my current capabilities to be a pedestal while still being imaginable. The first half marathon I ran was 12:32 min/mile pace. My last (and fastest) race was at 11:07 min/mile pace. To qualify for Boston (at my age), I need to run 8:30 min/mile pace.

There is another way to run Boston if you aren’t fast enough (or even if you are). About 10% of the race bibs for Boston are reserved for runners who are fundraising for charity. There are about two dozen charities that are given spots. The catch is that the minimum amount raised must be $4000. That is not a cheap race entry fee! One of the many tragedies of yesterday’s bombing is that, as a group, the charity runners are not required to meet the time standards of the Boston Marathon. Since about 2/3rds of the runners had already finished, one must imagine that several of the runners in the vicinity were people running on behalf of a charity. (And don’t get me started on killing and injuring spectators…)

In the wake of this senseless violence, I have been heartened by the solidarity and kindness of the running community. I have also been amazed by the incredible support shown to me by my non-running family and friends. I’ve had many people checking on me to make sure I’m safe just because they know I like to run races (as if I’d be able to qualify for Boston but it’s gratifying to feel the love). It surprises me a bit when the World considers me a runner because I’m just starting to see myself that way but it’s clear that I am now a Runner. And I am SO proud to be a part of the running community!

I’m also proud to be part of the medical community at a time like this. Although I am obviously not able to directly help the injured in Boston, my colleagues are certainly making me proud. Being a surgeon is an amazing gift and it’s nice to be reminded sometimes that my profession is valuable.

So I am sad. And angry. And a little bit worried about how this will change racing and spectating.

But I’m also proud to be a runner and proud to be a surgeon. And I can see that Good is triumphing over Evil once again. We can’t erase evil from the world but we can certainly shine brighter with kindness.

My heart breaks for the lives lost and damaged by this act of evil. My prayers are with the people who were directly impacted this but also with all runners who continue to experience this is our hearts and souls.

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So although I would have said a few weeks ago that running the Boston Marathon has never really been a goal of mine, I feel differently now. I MUST run Boston some day (most likely for a charity although I’ll try my best to get fast enough to qualify). And I want to run the Boston Marathon to prove that light will always cast out darkness and that evil can never win.

Today I picked up my race packet for tomorrow’s More Magazine Women’s Half Marathon in Central Park. This will be half marathon #8 for me and my 3rd time running this particular Half Marathon. This run is organized by New York Road Runners (NYRR) and like all other NYRR races that I’ve done, a corral system is used. NYRR divides corrals by color with Blue bibs starting first followed by red, yellow, green, orange, aqua, pink, purple, grey and then brown. Once again, I will be starting WAY in the back with the rest of the Brown Corral. I have never started a NYRR race in anything but the last corral.
runDisney also uses a corral system. Instead of color-coding the corrals runDisney uses a letter system. Corral A is for the fastest runners with progressively slower runners to follow. As with NYRR the number of corrals depends on the size of the race. Unlike NYRR, however, I have never started in the back corral for a runDisney event. In fact for two of my runDisney races I started in Corral B (and based on their anticipated finish time guidelines, that is where I actually belonged).
The reason for such a huge discrepancy between NYRR and runDisney is pretty obvious. runDisney appeals to new runners. Many people – including me – have gotten themselves off the proverbial couch because of the running events that Disney offers. At a runDisney event I tend to finish mid-pack (at least) whereas I’m usually much further back at NYRR. Also NYRR seems to cater a bit to the faster runners. I’m anticipating a 2:30 half marathon tomorrow. I’m grouped in a corral with people anticipating a 4 hour half marathon (which is the time limit). In a runDisney event the widest range of finish times is actually in Corral A where you can get anyone from a 1:30 half marathon to a 2 or even 2:15 half marathon. Complaints about course crowding at runDisney events has led to some anticipated changes in the corral system in upcoming races but that will likely still mostly spread out the back of the pack and not the front.
The bigger question is this, “Should I care that I’m starting at the back of the race?” “Does your corral placement really matter?” This is much discussed amongst runDisney participants. Since many new runners are worried about Disney’s 3:30 half marathon time limit, and runDisney staggers the corral starts by at least 5 minutes, there is a benefit to starting further forward if you think you might not maintain the pace. More experienced runners will tell you that starting too far forward is dangerous because it disrupts the flow of the race (faster runners can knock you over as the try to pass you on a narrow course). The new corral system may prevent this type of corral hopping. I am fortunate in that I have never really worried about the time limit. Even my slowest half marathon (the first day of the Goofy) was nearly 30 minutes faster than the limit and I walked most of the race. My issue is being placed correctly so that I don’t have to pass people.
The bigger issues is one of ego. It definitely hurts my pride that I am starting in the back of the pack. With NYRR they take your fastest pace per mile in any race over 3 miles. My shortest NYRR race was a 10k on a hot and humid day with an 11:40 min/mile pace. My fastest pace ever is an 11:25 min/mile half marathon (not through NYRR). I haven’t ever run a timed 5k to get a faster pace. I try to limit my NYRR races because it puts a burden on my family for me to disappear all morning on a weekend day where there are lots of activities. I guess because this is my 4th NYRR race starting in the back, I’ve gotten so used to being in the last corral that I don’t mind anymore. Or I’ve learned to expect to be in the back.
Ultimately my goal is to get fast enough that I am moved further forward. Let’s see if I can start by running a good race tomorrow!!!

I’ve been so caught up in the excitement surrounding the announcement of runDisney’s new Dopey Challenge, that it’s easy to forget that I’m running my next Half Marathon in less than a week. This will be my 3rd trip to the start line of the More Magazine Women’s Half Marathon in Central Park. This was my first non-Disney race and it has been a really good experience the previous 2 times I’ve run the race. My training has gone pretty well, despite more treadmill runs than I wanted, and I’ve been thinking about how to approach this race. It’s times like these that I miss my e-coaching experience with Jeff Galloway (although I am planning to sign up again!).
At the Princess Half Marathon in February I missed my PR by about 2:30 minutes. (My PR is 2:29:39 and my Princess finish was 2:32:10.) I attribute that to several factors including the warmer than expected temperatures combined with Florida humidity after training in a cold climate. On the other hand I felt that I had juice at the end of the race – enough left in the tank that I was able to push a stroller around Disney World all day and add an additional 10+ miles of walking (according to my fitbit step counter). So maybe I *could* have PR’ed the Princess if I had a different race strategy. (Let’s set aside a few issues with my theory, including course crowding, inadequate pre-race hydration, the fact that I knew I would be walking around Disney all day after the race, etc.).
I chose to start the Princess at a slower than PR pace and then build up speed if I felt good enough. Unfortunately I “waited” too long to speed up and then realized that I wouldn’t be able to run the last 3 miles fast enough to make up the difference. There were several problems with my pre-race strategy. The first 5k of the Princess tends to be more open than the second 5k (which includes the part through the Magic Kingdom). Then there is the long stretch through Cone Alley where it is difficult to pass people. Starting faster and giving myself a little extra time margin at the beginning may have made up for any slowing at narrow portions of the course.
My biggest fear with starting a little faster is, of course, running out of steam at the end. I don’t really know if I can maintain 11:15 min/mile for the entire 13.1 miles of the race. Today I ran 3.1 miles at that pace on a hilly course in my neighborhood. It was the first warm day of the year and I definitely felt that a bit. But I’ve done a few tempo runs recently and seemed ok. For shorter distances at least. I really don’t want a death march for the last 5k!
I think my plan for now is to start the race around 11:30 min/mile pace using a very forgiving run 30sec/walk 30 sec ratio. After the halfway point if I’m feeling strong, I’ll move to a run 40 sec/walk 20 sec ratio which I used in my PR half marathon in October. I’ll have to speed up a bit after the first 5k in order to achieve my goal pace. Not sure I’ll be able to hold the pace on the big hills in the race. I guess only time will tell.
The advanced forecast for this weekend is looking good. Lows in the mid-40’s with highs in the mid-50’s. As of right now they are not predicting rain on Sunday. Hopefully this will help me achieve my goal.
My thoughts leading up to Race Day have to do with this: Is it better to start a bit faster and know that I’m either going to PR or crash and burn? Or should I start more conservatively and know that I’ll finish strong but might miss my PR?
As a general assessment of myself, I think I’ve tended to underachieve with my running because I haven’t pushed myself as hard as I could – both in training and in races. So maybe I should just go for it and see what I can achieve??? Start at an 11 min/mile pace and hope I can hold it for all 13.1 miles….

The complete title of this post should be “Why I am NOT running the Dopey even though part of me wants to do it.” Because even though I’m not going to run the Dopey, I am a little bit jealous of those who are receiving 2 inaugural medals in one weekend.
To most sane people the question wouldn’t be “Why shouldn’t I run the Dopey?” but rather “Why on Earth would anybody choose to run 48.6 miles over a 4 day period?” I mean it is pretty crazy. Then again, I’m obviously not completely sane because I ran the Goofy just a few months ago – a half marathon on Saturday with a full marathon on Sunday. If I can finish 39.3 miles in 2 days, what’s an extra 5k + 10k? (Yes, I know, it’s 9.3 additional miles.) I almost feel that by offering a more challenging event for Marathon Weekend, runDisney has somehow diminished my accomplishment of finishing the Goofy. And if I’m being honest with myself, that’s part of the appeal of the Dopey (did I mention 2 inaugural medals with a grand total of 6 medals for the weekend?).
After finishing this year’s Goofy, I thought that I would probably sit out the 2014 Marathon Weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Marathon Weekend. It’s one of those rare times when you can go to Disney World and the parks are filled with athletes. Everywhere you go there are people wearing running shirts or showing off their hard-earned medals. There’s an incredible sense of camaraderie around the parks. And in an era where obesity is a growing epidemic, especially among children, how refreshing is it to see Disney World taken over by runners. What a fabulous example this sets! (And please trust me that runners come in ALL shapes and sizes which is even more inspiring!) For me, personally, Marathon Weekend is the anniversary of my very first race.
But life being what it is I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it in 2014. Last year I was invited to teach at a medical review course for my specialty. And the course is held Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend every year. Which happens to be the weekend after Marathon Weekend. Traditionally the course has been held in Phoenix (although I’ve heard early rumors that it might change to Miami). This means that if I run Marathon Weekend, I’m away 2 weekends in a row. Which is tough for work and, more importantly, super hard on my family. I had started to consider running Rock n Roll Phoenix which happens to take place the day after the course ends. Until runDisney announced their new races which included a 10k and the Dopey.
My first objection to the Dopey is the time commitment. First there’s the training. I knew that even if I went for Marathon Weekend in 2014, I wouldn’t run the Goofy. Not that I can’t but I found the back-to-back long runs to be really hard to schedule. The bigger issue is that I’d have to get to Orlando no later than mid-day on Wednesday to pick up my race packet. Which means missing 3 days of work (Wed, Thurs, Fri) and 5 days away from home. And then there’s the race start times. To do the Goofy meant waking up at 2:30am two days in a row. The Dopey would mean waking up at 4:30am for the 5k, and then probably 2:30am for the next 3 days (not sure what time the 10k starts so maybe that would be another 4:30am day). That’s a vacation???? There would be no time for enjoying Disney if I had to get up in the middle of the night and run long distances.
The next issue is cost. Registration for the Dopey is $500. If you do Race Retreat, it goes up to $700+ (I think I read it was $720). Yes it’s 4 races and 6 medals but is that worth $500??? I’m not sure. Then you have to add the extra hotel stay into the picture. And the missed day(s) at work. Pretty pricey!
Let’s talk about injuries. Training for the Goofy wasn’t easy for me. Every time I did a weekend back-to-back long run, I had an injury. Some were more minor and some were more long-lasting. The metatarsal injury that I had sustained in early December (possible stress fracture), still nags me. It’s not painful so much as I’m aware of it sometimes when I run. So I don’t know that it’s in my best interest to sign up for more miles right now.
The final – and most important – reason that I’m not running the Dopey has to do with performance. I’m pretty certain that barring injury or race-day mishap I could finish the Dopey. But I don’t think I could finish the Dopey with respectable finish times. For anyone who read my pre-Princess dissertation on running for time vs. running for fun, you know that I care about how I do. I don’t care if I place 1st or last. I care that I performed to the best of my ability. And before the Dopey was announced I had already decided that I wanted to run the full marathon for time. When I finally sat down and thought through the implications of the Dopey, I realized that I care more about improving my marathon time than about having the most medals. I feel that I’ve underperformed on the full marathon – due in part to warm weather 2 years in a row but also because I did the half marathon one day before the full this year. My half marathon PR predicts a marathon finish in the low 5 hour range and yet my best marathon time is closer to 6 hours than to 5 hours. I want to see what I can do when the marathon is the focus of my training.
My neighbor is a fast runner. He’s in the 60-65 age group and often places, or even wins, his age group division. He’s a super friendly runner and loves talking to me about running. I told him about the Dopey and his response helped me form my answer. He said, “I don’t think I would enjoy that at all. I like to run my best and I would hate to have to sacrifice my performance in either the half or the full.” I found that talking to him really helped me focus on what matters for me and I think for Marathon Weekend 2014 I’d like to run my best.
For the record… I will still get an inaugural medal as I am hoping to pace my husband across the finish line for his first 10k. And then – 2 days later – I hope to PR the Mickey Marathon.
I won’t lie. As social media and discussion boards filled with people reporting that they were going Dopey, I had some pangs on uncertainty. But I really think that I want to improve my running before I try to become Dopey.