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My First Ultra

19 Nov

My husband, son, and I made our way into the city at 630am Saturday morning.  I stopped at NYRR’s office to pick up my race bib and t-shirt and was able to sit in the car with them only 100 feet from the start line until 15 min before the race started.  This allowed me to stay warm, keep my mind off the race, and best of all, nurse my son one last time before saying goodbye – a necessity since I would be away from him for the next 6 hours. (And yes, you can totally train for an ultra AND be a nursing mom at the same time!)

I made my way to the “baggage check” – it wasn’t a typical baggage check at a NYRR’s race located a distance from the start/finish.  This was actually along the course – which was awesome since it enabled me to quickly organize my gels, energy bites, and other snacks I may need during the race. It was a chilly 35 degrees  – my initial plan was to wear shorts, tank top, arm warmers, gloves, and headband, but at the last minute, I added a long-sleeve shirt to wear for the first 1.5 miles. It was windy (10-15 mph winds) and I wanted to ensure that I was properly dressed until I warmed up. I also decided to run with my camelbak.  This was to ensure I was able to drink when I was thirsty (and not wait every 2 miles to hydrate) as well as carry some gels and my cell phone in the pocket. 

I met up with a fellow blogger, Brooklyn Beast, a runner/cyclist from Brooklyn at the baggage check…we chatted for the next 10 min while getting dressed and making list minute preparations (I took a power gel at this point and drank a 1/2 bottle of water).  I learned about the Furnace Creek 508 – a bike race covering 508 miles in the Mojave Desert and through Death Valley.  He completed it last year in 41 hours and is hoping to compete in it again next year.  A 508 mile bike race made what we were getting ready to attempt seem like a sprint.  I was glad for the company and the distraction – even for just a few minutes! 

Before I knew it the 430 or so runners were called to the start line.  As much as I love the large and popular races I’ve competed in (NYC and Boston Marathon, Army Ten-Miler), there is something SO comfortable, intimate, and special about participating in a small, local race. There’s no jockeying for position at the start line or standing in corrals for 30-60 minutes before the race starts.  Someone yells that the race is starting, you meander over, and start running. 

You can find my pre-run goals for the race here -> 60k goals

Lap # (Lap distance: Lap time: Lap pace — Total distance: Total time: Total Pace)

Lap 1 (1.46m: 14:20: 9:50 pace) 
I ran the out and back stretch with a runner from Brooklyn (never got his name). This was also his first ultra and we chatted about our training and preparation for the race as we let our bodies warm up.  
As I crossed the start line, I stopped to take off my long-sleeve shirt (and put back on my camelbak)
Lap 2 (3.98m: 33:35: 8:26 pace — 5.44m: 47:54: 8:48 pace)
I was immediately amazed at the support that NYRR had provided along the course.  Every 400 meters or so, there were volunteers ensuring that runners in Central Park stayed out of our lane and that the 60k runners were staying on course. But more importantly, they were little cheer sections for us – smiling faces holding signs, waving, and offering words of encouragement.  This was true from mile 1 to mile 37. 
I started to warm up a bit more during this lap. My legs felt great and I felt I was running a comfortable pace to start. 
Within a few miles of the run, I decided to abandon the goal of maintaining an 8:20 pace for the first 28 miles.  I wanted to be comfortable and did not want to be out of breath or feel like I was pushing myself to maintain a certain pace.  It seemed that 8:30 was the pace I kept gravitating towards. An extra 10 seconds a mile equates to less than 5 minutes over 28 miles, so I decided the increase in time was definitely worth my comfort and sanity! 
I ran into my girlfriend, Stephanie, who was manning a checkpoint/cheer area along the west side at 95th Street.  I have known her and her wonderful family since I was 5 years old!  Seeing her smiling face – and knowing I would see her for the next several hours – was a good feeling…She managed to take a picture of me coming down one of the hills  on my first full loop of the park –  —  —  —- >
Lap 3 (3.98m: 33:23: 8:23 pace — 9.42m: 1:21:17: 8:38 pace)
I maintained the same pace for the next loop and felt great. I continued drinking water every 1/2 mile or so on my own and taking one cup of water at the water/gatorade stations (located at 2 points along the course).  After having some stomach cramps during the NYC Marathon, I decided to stick with just water and forego the gatorade during the race.
I took a second power gel at the 7 mile mark.  Even though I felt like I didn’t need it, I was trying to stay ahead of my caloric needs and ensure I was getting an appropriate amount of calories to sustain me for later on in the race.
Lap 4 (3.98m: 32:56: 8:16 pace — 13.4m: 1:54:17: 8:32 pace)
The 3rd full loop around the park was the most comfortable for me.  I was enjoying the run and the pace felt easy and relaxed.  I slowed down a bit going up and down the hills but felt strong on the straightaways.  
I took a third power gel just before the water station at the end of the 4th lap.  
By this point, Central Park was becoming more crowded – it was around 9:30am when I started this loop – and there were many runners, bikers, and tourists out.  I was surprised at the amount of attention and cheering we received from the early morning exercisers. 
Lap 5 (3.98m: 33:22: 8:23 pace — 17.38m: 2:27:35: 8:29 pace)
Another comfortable loop. It seemed most runners had settled into their pace – there wasn’t much passing during this lap or the one prior.  It was starting to warm up a bit more – I debated taking off my arm warmers, but was concerned of the areas in the shade.
I got lapped by at least 3 of the lead runners during this loop – although I knew I would be lapped at least once, it was not exactly the best motivation at this point in the run for me. But knowing that I was approaching the halfway point made it much more manageable.  
Lap 6 (3.98m: 33:49: 8:29 pace — 21.36m: 3:01:24: 8:30 pace)
About a mile into the loop – along the 72nd St transverse, I saw my husband and son (who was sleeping peacefully in his stroller).  I didn’t want to stop to say hi as I was feeling great and find that I often have a hard time starting after I stop.  I gave a quick wave and continued on my way. 
Took a fourth (and what would be my final) power gel at  mile 19 (just before a water point).  
At the start of each loop, I did a quick mental check of my body and how I was feeling.  My only issue was my left calf – it seemed to be tightening up and was beginning to hurt going up the hills.  I still had water left in my camelbak and felt that I was properly hydrated.  

Is this guy seriously videotaping me?

Lap 7 (3.98m: 34:32: 8:41 pace — 25.34m: 3:35:55: 8:31 pace)
I started the 6th full loop of the park knowing that I it was the last loop that I wanted to try to maintain around an 8:30 pace.  I still felt great and was on track for that pace – but ended up running alongside and chatting with another runner from mile 22 to 23 (pace was 9:05 that mile). It was a welcomed distraction and I did not mind losing a little time on my target pace.
My legs were continuing to tighten up, but overall, felt pretty good. I had no stomach issues (drinking only water must have been paying off) and still seemed to have a good amount of energy – especially going up hills. 
I ran by my husband again, but did not see him – he had changed location and I was zoned out listening to my music. 

The lap passed by quickly.  I was excited to see that I would get to 26.2 in around 3:43 – faster than I ran the NYC Marathon 2 weeks ago (click HERE for the race recap).  
Lap 8 (3.98: 41:53: 10:31 pace — 29.32: 4:17:47: 8:48 pace)
Do you know the phrase “The wheels came off”?  That is an understatement when describing what happened to me sometime around mile 26.  Right after I finished Lap 7, I stopped (for the first time) at my bag that I left on the side of the road. I had run out of power gels and had planned on taking one at miles 27 and 33.  Unfortunately, the moment I stopped, my body cramped up and seemed to want to quit.  Standing still for the first time in 3 1/2 hours felt SO GOOD.  
This was one of the toughest parts of the whole race for me.  I knew I still had 3 loops left (12 miles).  And all I could think about was sitting down.  I realized that my stomach had started growling – so instead of the power gels (note: I stuck 2 in my sports bra just in case), I opted for a few energy bites.  I love energy bites – but they are extremely difficult to chew – so rather than try to run and eat them, I decided to walk for a couple of minutes and ensure I was properly fueled. 
When I started running again (after a 5 min break), my body felt completely different.  I couldn’t get into the comfortable rhythm I was in just a few minutes prior.  Every step became a struggle and I quickly started looking at my garmin every minute or so – hoping that the miles would just disappear.  

My son and best friend – it was SO hard to keep running after seeing them!

I ran into my husband, son, best friend, and her boyfriend at mile 27.  I stopped running when I saw them – and experienced the same I don’t want to continue feelings that I had just a mile before.  I was SO tempted to just stop and stay with them.  I even remember saying Oh my gosh, this SUCKS to my husband. 
I managed to run at a 9 min pace for the remainder of the loop.  But, I realized that never factored in the stop time in my goal of 9 min/miles for the last three loops.  So although I was running at the pace I had wanted, it took me almost 6 min longer than I anticipated.  

This picture sums up what I was feeling…”Ummmm…I really don’t want to run anymore!”

Lap 9 (3.98: 40:35: 10:12 pace — 33.3: 4:58:21: 8:58 pace)
I stopped at the baggage area at the start of the lap to grab some more energy bites and drop my camelbak (which was now empty).  I immediately started walking and found it was slightly easier to start running again from a walk then a standstill.  I maintained the same pace during this lap, but found that I had to walk up 5 of the bigger hills.  My legs were shot and I knew that it made more sense to conserve energy on the uphills and run on the downhills and flat areas.  
My husband met up with me at mile 31 and ran with me to the finish. Knowing he was beside me – not to talk or push me – but just to be there was a comforting feeling. 
Lap 10 (3.98: 43:07: 10:50 pace — 37.28: 5:41:28: 9:10 pace)
By far, the slowest lap for me.  We finished lap 9 and I had to stop myself from breaking down.  There were a handful of runners already finished (about 15) and seeing them stop and rest was  soul crushing.  I only had 4 miles left – which was small compared to what I already completed – but it was still 4 long, slow miles to run/walk.  
I maintained the same tactic as the previous lap.  Run on the downhills and easy areas and walk going up the hills.  I think I walked less than the previous lap, but couldn’t get my pace to anything less than 9:30-9:45.  I just kept telling myself to NEVER STOP.  Never stop moving – even if it meant I had to walk the last few miles.  
I ran the last loop half in a daze.  At mile 35, we passed a good friend, her mom and her son, who were waving and shouting for us.  I didn’t realize that I knew them until we were passing them by (I even knew they were in town and were going to be along the course!). 
The last mile passed by quicker than the previous few miles.  I looked up to see we were in the last straightaway before the finish area and started crying – partially from joy that I was about to finish my first ultra, partially from happiness that I could stop moving and rest, but mostly from pure exhaustion and pain.  

Final Stats:
37.28: 5:41:28: 9:10 pace 
8th place female
53rd overall

After walking a bit after the race, we took a cab to the west side to my sister’s apartment where my son and sister were staying warm.  I showered, nursed my son, and was able to kick up my feet and finally relax!!  
The final few laps and the remainder of Saturday were filled with me vowing to never run an ultra again.  But, as is often the case, I am quickly forgetting the pain – and am already thinking of my next one!

Never Stop!!

“You have to forget your last (ultra) marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.”
Frank Shorter

Goals for Knickerbocker 60k

18 Nov

Tomorrow is my first ultra.  I am competing in the Knickerbocker 60k in Central Park.  The course includes a short out and back (totaling 1.5 miles) and then 9x 4-mile loops of the park’s inner loop (thankfully, it does NOT include the arduous upper or lower portions of the park).
Here is a link of the course.

I had a long debate with myself about whether or not this course was the best for my first ultra.  There are definitely some disadvantages. First, Central park is notoriously hilly.  And although the upper section is eliminated, there are still sections that can kill your legs after repeated visits. Second, 9x loops will be a HUGE mental obstacle, especially since we will be passing the start/finish line each time. I’m fully anticipating to experience the temptation of wanting to stop each time I pass it, especially in the later miles. Third, it’s only 2 weeks after the NYC Marathon, so I was worried I would not be fully rested for the long distance.

But, I’m trying to remain positive and remember the advantages of this race:
Refuel and hydration will be easy since we will be passing the water/snack station every 2 miles.
My supporters (husband, son, and one of my sisters) can see me run by more than any other race before.
My husband (and possibly a girlfriend) plan to jump in for a loop or two to push and pace me during the later miles.
The course allows me to concentrate on getting through 4 miles at a time.  From what I have experienced in my training and learned from other ultra runners, you need to break the race into manageable segments.  So I can’t start out thinking that I have 9, 8, or 7 loops to go…it will be crush me.
There will be a professional photographer taking our race pictures –> that means LOTS of opportunity for running pictures since we will be passing him nine times! =)
The weather forecast looks PERFECT for tomorrow – 40 degrees at race start and close to 50 by race end. Light winds and sunny.


I wasn’t going to write an entry regarding my time goal for tomorrow’s race.  I’m extremely nervous about my first attempt at this mileage and didn’t want to make my goals public in case I failed.
Anything could happen in a race this long. You always hear elites saying that anything could happen in a marathon – and this is 11 miles longer!
My stomach might not cooperate, my legs may decide they are not up to the distance, or I may just have an off day of running(which happens at least once a week!).
I usually keep my goals secret (I sometimes don’t even tell my husband or family) because I don’t like failing.
But then I wonder – if I don’t run this race in the time I want, am I a failure?
I think back to where I was last year at this time.  7+ months pregnant, carrying much more weight on my body then I am now, waddling on my daily runs, and nervous that I would not get back into the running shape I had been in prior to getting pregnant.
I read a post from Mile Posts, a blogger I love, on a similiar subject and realized that no matter what the time clock says when I cross the finish line, I will have succeeded – purely for trying and pushing myself to the limit. And at the end of the day, I will have a new PR to put on my blog tomorrow!!

Running the SI Half-Marathon @ 27 weeks pregnant

So, my first goal is to finish.  To say I am an ultrarunner.
My second goal is to complete the race in under 5 hrs 25 min (around an 8:45 min/mi pace).  My last long training run was a 30 miler which I completed at a relaxed and comfortable 8:34 pace.
Out and back portion: 8:30 (roughly 12 min, 45 sec)
Lap 1-6: 8:20 (3 hours 20 min)
Lap 7-9: 9:00 (1 hour 50 min)
Total time: 5:22:45

I’m not being more ambitious with the pace because I’m most concerned about how my legs will react to the hills.  Most of my training takes place on the Staten Island boardwalk – a gorgeous out and back route along the eastern portion of my hometown.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t give me much practice with running up hills since it’s flat as a pancake.

Gorgeous view on my morning runs!
No hills!

On long runs, I often repeat NEVER STOP, NEVER STOP (running) when I start to feel tired and want to quit.  Never Stop means SO many things to me and has become my mantra in recent months. I plan to NEVER STOP TRYING tomorrow!!