Archive for June, 2013

Team for Kids

There are many people – more selfless than I am – who always run major events as fundraisers for worthy charities.  While I have always admired the idea of running for charity, I was honestly afraid of it.  Training for a marathon is quite time consuming without adding the additional time commitment of asking others to donate money to a cause. This year, however, I knew that I needed to run the NYC Marathon.  I’ve certainly discussed the whys – remembering my mom, fighting back after the Boston Marathon bombing – but I want to spend some time discussing the how.

As running has become increasingly popular, it has become increasingly difficult to secure a spot in big races.  Many well-known marathons sell out in hours.  Disney announced a new Glass Slipper Challenge – a 10k on Saturday and 1/2 marathon on Sunday – and the 2-race event sold out the same day that registration opened.  And registration opened a full 8 months before the actual race! As races sell out quickly and often many months before the actual event, it can be frustrating to sign up for the races you want.  I would have loved to run the Glass Slipper Challenge but with the NYC Marathon in November, the Disney Marathon in January, and a Thanksgiving trip to Hawaii, I couldn’t commit to the race by the time registration reached capacity. (It’s just as well since we recently bought a Disney timeshare and the agreement was that we’d stay home for February break to save money.)

When I decided that running NYC in 2013 was super important, I turned to the one option that I knew would guarantee me a spot – agree to raise money for a charity.  I spent a lot of time looking over the various options and finally decided that Team for Kids was my choice.  As one of THE partner charity for New York Road Runners (the organization responsible for the NYC Marathon), there are many perks to being part of their team.  But more importantly this is a charity that spoke to me.

Team for Kids establishes running programs in Inner Cities (and Africa).  These program take place in areas where physical education is minimal or non-existant.  Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic in this country and disproportionately affects children from poorer socioeconomics backgrounds.  Let’s me honest here.  My children go to an elementary school where childhood obesity is a non-entity.  You would be hard-pressed to find an overweight child at their school.  But spend a single day in my Bronx office seeing patients and you are inundated by childhood obesity.  We are actually involved in research to look at the impact of childhood obesity on our practice.

This week I had the opportunity to go to the Team for Kids headquarters in NYC and listen to some talks about Marathon Basics.  We learned about nutrition, equipment, and scheduling.  Having run 2 previous marathons, most of this was old hat.  But I met several of the running coaches who were fantastic.  And I was amazed by the support they give to the runners.  Although I will miss many of the group runs, I felt that I could get help if I need it.  Of course, doing e-coaching with Jeff Galloway gives me a lot of extra help anyway!

As I happily clicked on the links to sign up with Team for Kids, I felt very optimistic about fund-raising.  I figured people would support a great charity in memory of my mother and to help me get to the starting line of the NYC Marathon.  Fundraising has gone reasonably well and I’ve been blown away by the generosity of friends – both actual and virtual.  I’ve also been surprised by how much work it can be.  Somehow posting a link on Facebook isn’t nearly good enough and I’m buckling down to send individual emails to possible contributors. (In case anyone feels inspired, here’s the link to my fundraising page!)

Ultimately, I’m super-excited to run the NYC Marathon and I’m also excited to learn about how to fundraise.  I do believe in the cause and hope I can convince others to believe, too.  I’m already realizing that I would gladly run for charity again.  It certainly puts some more meaning into those long training miles…

Today was race day #6 for 2013.  I ran the NYRR Mini 10k for the 2nd year in a row.  Last year was the 40th anniversary of this historic race – the oldest women’s road race in the country.

In the days leading up to this race, I was actually considering a DNS (DNS = Did Not Start).  The advanced weather reports were abysmal – Tropical Storm Andrea was expected and likely to make race day conditions unpleasant.  Added to that was the fact that I had 16 miles on my training schedule for today and Jeff Galloway really encouraged me to get my miles done, even if it had to be in divided segments.  The “urgency” of sticking to my training plan was worsened by the fact that I skipped my 14 miler two weekends ago when I was visiting Disney.  To add to my stress I’m on call this weekend for my hospital and while I didn’t need to see any in-patients today, I did need my phone readily accessible in case of emergency.

Two days before the race my husband announced that we had to attend the Annual Meeting of the Westchester County Medical Society.  While not a black-tie gala, I certainly wasn’t prepared for a buffet dinner in black dress and heels the night before a race.  And I wanted to scoot into NYC on Friday afternoon to pick up my race packet – in the worst of Tropical Storm Andrea! – so I wouldn’t have to worry about it on race day.  Luckily my subway ride to NYRR’s headquarters was quick and easy (not dry and not uncrowded) and the race shirts are quite cute and worth being wet.  The dinner meeting was great networking and while the food wasn’t my preferred pre-race meal, there was enough stuff for me to eat that I was fine.

Jeff Galloway wanted me to walk 5 miles (slowly) to start my 16 total miles today.  My plan was to get up at 5am and walk on the treadmill until it was time to head to Central Park.  Unfortunately my early alarm woke up my 5 year old son (who ended up waking up the entire house by the time I left for the race).  I dressed in my race gear and headed to the treadmill.  Unfortunately I only managed 4 miles before it was time to pick up my work partner for the race.  Amazingly the sun was finally coming out after torrential rain all night and the weather looked promising. We got stuck in terrible traffic due to flooding on the West Side Highway and I dropped her off at 72nd Street to pick up her race packet while I searched for a parking garage.  Boy was I glad that I had braved the storm on Friday!!! I had hoped to get a few more miles in before the race but the traffic delays made that impossible.  I found a “real” bathroom with indoor plumbing for my last minute pee and headed to the start line.  My work partner was starting in a front corral and I didn’t see her again.

I did talk to some nice women while waiting to start and even ran into one of our former anesthesiology residents who started right next to me! That was an auspicious beginning to this race.  I decided to start on the far left of the starting corral.  I worry a lot about doing short run/walk intervals during crowded races and try to start near the outside whenever possible.  I picked a run 40 sec/walk 20 sec ratio since that’s what I’ve been using for my race rehearsal segments.  I was figuring I should try for 12 min/mile pace since I’d have close to 6 additional miles to go after I finished the race.

The race starts on Central Park West and heads North for well over a mile before turning into the Park.  There was some crowd support on the street at the beginning.  Even some doormen waved and cheered as we ran by.  My first mile was at 11:13 min/mile pace and I realized that I should probably slow down.  I did just that and the 2nd mile was – more appropriately – 11:38 min/mile pace.  The next part of the race is where some of the real hills began but I maintain 11:31 min/mile pace for mile 3.  Mile 4 was my worst of the race.  Many women were walking the hills and I was a bit trapped behind people.  I was trying not to weave excessively as it adds so much distance.  So my pace was 11:59 min/mile although only because of a few fast run segments at the end of the mile.

I was definitely feeling the 4 miles that I walked this morning by now and the heat and humidity were starting to affect me a bit.  Around mile 4.5 I saw a spectator wearing an Iowa Hawkeyes shirt.  My mom was a Hawkeye and so was my Aunt and several of my cousins.  I yelled over to her “Go Hawkeyes” and she smiled and cheered.  It may sound stupid but I sort of felt that it was a sign that my mom was watching me run.  Stupid or not it kept me going and mile 5 was at 11:00 min/mile pace.  Another motivating factor happened just after mile 5.  I was on one of my regularly scheduled walk breaks and 2 guys (one spectator and one volunteer) were cheering for the runners.  As I approached them my Galloway beeper went off and it was time to run.  They clearly thought that their cheers motivated me to start running and they both gave me high 5’s as I went by.  It was very sweet and definitely helped me keep going.  Mile 6 was 11:09 pace and the last 0.2 miles (or 0.31 as my final distance was 6.31 miles) was at 10:20 min/mile pace.

My final Garmin time was 1:11:41 or 11:34 min/mile.  Surprisingly this is a 10k PR for me (helped by the fact that last year’s race was even hotter and more humid).  Sadly my official time is not my chip time but actually clock time (based on when the very first runner crossed the starting line).  There is a 2+ minute difference between the 2 times.  While 11:34 min/mile pace is NOT my fastest NYRR pace, the 2+ minute differences in finish times matters as to whether or not my race today is a PR.  Not truly important but important enough that I emailed NYRR to try to get it fixed.

After the race I walked the final mile of my schedule 5 mile walk before driving back home.  Once I got home I refilled my water bottle and headed to my treadmill to finish my final 5.69 miles.  I used a run 20 sec/walk 40 sec ratio and went VERY slowly.  It wasn’t pretty but I completely all 16 miles, including my 10k PR.  Not bad at all!

What did I learn from today? I learned how much faster I am as a runner.  Despite all of my recent whining about motivation, I could truly see that I’m a much better runner than I was a year ago.  If my only goal for today was this race, I easily could have gone much faster.  I think it’s realistic to think that I could eventually run a 10k with 10:30 min/mile or faster.  I’m starting to see that I can set loftier goals for myself and – as long as I stay consistent with my training – I can continue to get faster and stronger.  Overall I’m very pleased with my running today – both my race and the rest of the mileage that I completed.

Re-booting the system

I’m imagining that I’m not alone in experiencing certain ebbs and flows in my running career. The beginning of 2013 was a robust time for my running. I finished the Goofy with a full marathon PR. About a month later I came close to a PR at the Princess Half Marathon. And then in April I PR’ed the More Magazine Half Marathon. A pretty good first quarter. And then May came.
I started the month of May with a work trip to San Diego. I managed to run a virtual 5k while I was there and kept up with my running pretty well. Returning to New York brought more jet lag than I expected. And maybe something beyond jet lag. It brought the blahs. Throughout May I’ve felt exhausted and unmotivated. Maybe it was the travel to the West Coast. Maybe it was allergies. Or the persistent yucky weather that went from too cold to too hot overnight. I managed the bare minimum of training and even signed up to run the NYC Marathon as a charity runner in the hopes that it would inspire me. I also signed up for another round of e-coaching with Jeff Galloway to provide some accountability.
The week leading up to Memorial Day brought another interesting problem. A friend offered me her expiring timeshare points over Memorial Day weekend. They were at Disney World. I had 24 hours to decide if I could take 3 young children to Disney World by myself (my poor husband was on call for the holiday weekend and couldn’t go). As a certified (certifiable?) Disney fanatic, there was only one logical answer. YES. And we certainly had a fantastic and highly memorable time. Which was incredibly exhausting.
My very last minute trip to Disney created a huge training problem. That weekend I was scheduled to run 14.5 miles and on Tuesday I was supposed to run 45-60 minutes. How would it be possible to run for 3 straight hours while supervising 3 children (ages 9, 7, and 5) at Disney? The answer, of course, is that it can’t be done without hiring a babysitter. Since the whole point of this trip was to spend quality time with my children, I had to give up my long run and my Tuesday short run. (And I was so exhausted from the trip that I slept through my Thursday morning run, too.)
In an act of desperation, I tried jogging in place on our hotel balcony for 40 minutes one morning. My fitbit (step counter) measured about 2.5-3 miles worth of steps. And with a full day at Epcot, my final step count was over 11 miles. But it still wouldn’t count as a long run.
I emailed Jeff Galloway on Memorial Day and confessed my crimes. His response was lovely – Don’t worry about it and enjoy Disney with your children. He wants me to resume my regular schedule except to walk the first 5 miles of my next long run. This is why I pay for e-coaching. When I emailed him my update today, I confessed that I’ve been having trouble with motivation – likely due to a combination of travel exhaustion (this past weekend we traveled for my 20th college reunion!) and the hot weather that has suddenly arrived. Again he was helpful in saying that this type of motivational problem is common when the weather changes and I just need to plod on. I also think the absence of a compelling race on my upcoming schedule is an issue for me. I’ve always needed a deadline!
Saturday during my reunion weekend I managed my 4 miles at 12:30 pace. And today I did close to 4 miles with my 1/2 mile “race rehearsal” segments at intended race pace. I felt better today than I have but the temperature also cooled off a bit today.
I’m hoping that a lack of upcoming travel combined with feeling a little better will lead to a renewed motivation for running. I also know that seeing family and friends donate money to my charitable cause makes it very difficult to skip my training.
This weekend presents an interesting challenge. I’m schedule to run a 10k in Central Park BUT I have 16 miles on the schedule. My current plan is to get up early and try to walk the first 5 miles at home (maybe on the treadmill if necessary). Then I drive into NYC and run 6.2 (which will likely be more like 6.5 or more by Garmin distance) and then try to finish out the 16 miles. To make it all better I’m also on call and may have to abandon the race at any time if there’s an emergency. I can already tell that this isn’t going to be my fastest time…
I’d love to hear how everyone else stays motivated when life is making it hard!