Broad Street Run 2015 Race Recap

1-1 expo welcome

Race: Independence Blue Cross Broad Street Run
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Distance: 16.0 km (10 miles)
Date/Start Time: 3 May 2015, 8:00am
Distance Travelled to Compete: 11.6 km (7.2 miles)
Weather conditions: Started high 50s and gradually rose into the 80s by post-race.
Course conditions: The course is mostly downhill leading into Girard and Fairmount but increases slightly and then another drop after City Hall. Starts at Olney/Broad and Somerville Streets and the Albert Einstein Hospital and finishes at Broad and Farragut Streets, at the Navy Yard.
Preview: My experience in 2012 was mostly negative with the registration process and the crowd control. However, as this is my last year living in Philly, this is also the last opportunity I will have to run Broad Street and with everyone I knew running it. Since 2012, the crowd has swelled to excess of 40,000 people, which has made the pre-race and post-race conditions very difficult.

1 cover - welcome

Better late than never! Between life, work-related travel and illness, I’ve been off the grid a bit, but once I’m recovered, things will be back to normal on the blog and hopefully on the pavement! That said, long overdue…

Registration

Registration was done by lottery. I registered on February 1st and was notified on the 17th that I had gotten in. Seamless and easy and at $43 per person, it’s not a horribly priced race at all. I had found out by email and once it was confirmed, zing, I worked Broad Street into my training plan and saved the date. Only thing I know many runners had their gripes about was the seemingly incessant emails from or regarding their advertisers. There were several quips on Facebook about this

The Expo

Unlike the 2012 expo, this year’s expo was hosted at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. For those not living in the city, parking, as usual, is a bit of a problem. Most people who work in the city attempt to make a dash during work hours otherwise, it’s a jaunt in traffic. This year though the race gave runners the option to ship their packet to them for an extra fee which per the feedback on Facebook, a number of people took advantage of.

Expo doors were open on Friday from 11am to 7pm and Saturday from 9am to 5pm. I had gone first thing on Friday and I was greeted with THIS queue:

3 queue

Thankfully the queue moved quickly and before I knew it kit and bib pickup was quite seamless. An array of food and race vendors were present which I had taken the time to check out. The expo was quite expansive though for a race of 41000 runners, I would have expected more food vendors or products to try out. Maybe that was me. But otherwise, the expo was well laid out.

4 vendors

For me, highlights included the Temple station, being a proud MBA grad from last year I just had to take a snap:

5 Temple station 1

Selfie time!

6 selfie tu

And of course before I forget, the race shirt:

2 race shirt

I wasn’t as fond of this year’s design as I was 2012, largely because this year’s shirt was white (blah) and the 2012 shirt was blue. Also the City Hall silhouette…well it was appropriate but sort of meh.

7 string band

The Race

One major change with this race was the shift in start time to 8am (instead of 8:30am as in past years) because of the TV coverage. Instead of leaving at 6:45am, this go, it was at least half an hour earlier. I think I boarded the subway at around 6:15am.

In spite of taking the express train from Center City, it still took us north of 30 minutes, almost 40 minutes to reach Olney. Once we filed out and up from the subway station, our next order of business was to find the schoolbuses to check in our bags.

Then we checked in our bags, they gave us a tag on our bib and the corresponding tag for our bus number and luggage number both on our wrist and on the bag itself.

It was then I started warming up as the crowds started to increase. People were just everywhere strewn at Einstein Hospital.

8 start line

9 scene at 7am or so

And in just half an hour, the pre-game crowd control was yet another reminder of why I sat out the last few years of this race. Too tight, and too many runners in the wrong corrals. This was probably the part of Broad Street that I hated the most. Unfortunately in our corrals we were sandwiched like sardines and unable to move, watched in some disgust as runners of any speed unable to make it into their corrals found themselves pouring in the Somerville Avenue, getting right behind the green corral, which unfortunately happened to be the corral right before mine.

10 pre-race 30

11 pre-race 20

This proved to be an issue largely because of the long start time (we didn’t leave the start line until 8:40am!!!) a concern of mine was the sunlight and the resulting heat – the weather was expected to rise into the high 70s.

Eventually we were off – and I would find that very soon, I would be overtaking everyone well on the way to a respectable time.

Mile 1: Olney That Rocky theme song. Admittedly being bored (and worse) with Philly, the song only grates my ears, forget being inspirational. But I guess having done so many Philly races, I’ve just never found the song to pump me up. Not like some of the rally songs that have done so at many of my non-Philly races. Once we were off, I veered to the sharp left overtaking people well heading to the Temple School of Medicine, the site of my graduate school final project. So many memories from last year with my MBA project group, quite fitting that I would have one more trip by the building that ultimately was the place of conclusion for my graduate school experience.

I paced myself normally, just wanted to finish in one piece and knowing about the heat, didn’t want to kill myself too early.

The road dipped slightly before a slight incline – no issues here. Passed a DJ and a drummer group. It was awesome getting to see North Philly residents cheering us on, a neighbourhood or two that I never had been through in several years now.

Mile 2: Tioga Another uphill and a downhill. And pretty soon, I caught sight of a runner that had fallen down and collapsed, surrounded by other runners directing us away from the fray and a medic trying to revive him. Oh goodness. Seeing that would always give me the chills, and I said a silent prayer for him. I would later hear that medics saved this person’s life, but I feared that despite my good health, that such a thing could happen to me despite all the precautions I would take. The second mile I attempted to stay in the shade of many buildings as by 9am the sun started beating down on the route. Ugh.

Mile 3: Allegheny We continued downward. First water station, first Gatorade. With the heat increasing, I had increased my intake of fluid so unsurprisingly took in more water and Gatorade in the water bottle I was carrying on my person. Again, tried to veer as far left as I could to avoid the sun.

Mile 4: Temple University Temple University. More memories. Graduate School Association. More classes on Main Campus, Liacouras Center, the site of graduation and the basketball games I’d attended. Crazy. The band played loudly and cheerleaders egged us on as did a slew of students presumably in their final exams period.

These positive memories helped me keep up the pace well into the midway point.

Mile 5: Fairmount The masses of crowds were picking up and at this point the cheers were becoming even louder. Bands were playing a variety of music as we passed Brown Street, then Fairmount Avenue, then Green Street, then further south. I then saw another water stop. More water, more Gatorade. I looked in vain for people that I recognised but to no avail.

We continued down to City Hall where we made a right around the loop, closer to Suburban Station and then back left towards the Ritz-Carlton, and then continued south.

Mile 6: Theatre District/Rittenhouse This is the part of the course where the crowds are the loudest and it wasn’t any different from 2012. I was tempted to take a selfie of some sorts once I’d passed City Hall but seeing I was well ahead of time for a PR, I decided to let the mood and my body carry me along. Loads of spectators lined the Theatre District and through Fitler Square as well as spectators standing on the dividers. Still no sign of any supporters I knew. One of my friends had mentioned to me she’d be waiting at Washington Avenue, except I missed her as she stood on the far right of the street, and of course I was on the far left. Le sigh.

Miles 7 and 8: South Philadelphia We proceeded deeper in the course, with the crowds staying relatively populated through South Philly. At Federal Street, I ran into one of my friends from City Sports, Nick, who is a rep at 2XU. Saw many people I knew as I gave them all high fives. It was an uplifting feeling compared to 2012 as I tried to get memories of South Philly out of my mind having broken up with an ex. But those memories have since been replaced with much more positive ones.

The deeper we got into South Philly, the crowds began to thicken again…and even worse, so did the heat. Ugh.

Mile 9: Sports Complex By the time we hit Mile 9, my body was beginning to feel the effects of a long spring term, to the point I was talking to myself. Hang in there Charlene, hang in there, I kept telling myself. I wasn’t delirious but mentally I was just happy to be approaching offseason.

But it wasn’t before another unsettling incident. Off to the left, I saw another girl who had fallen and couldn’t get up. A policeman was trying to call for assistance to help. It was another shocking feeling for me that we were all vulnerable and that with all the miles I’ve done in the heat I have been extremely lucky to not have problems of any sort.

We hit FDR Park, and I took in my last few cups of water. At this point, my muscles were quite tight and I knew that any sudden stop and I wouldn’t be able to pick it up again. I kept pace, well on track for a good PR but I knew not to overdo it given the long trek it would be to the post-game party.

Mile 10: Finish at the Navy Yard This was it, the final mile. “YOU’RE ALMOST THERE!”

I think I heard this phrase endlessly. The Navy Yard gates, I knew it was still 1/4 mile or so to go, and I made sure that mentally I wasn’t going to mess with my mind into oblivion.

The crowds grew louder and we went through the two underpasses adjacent to the sports complex.

The road was narrowing and then, finally, the grandstand. I saw the finish line, the sponsors’ signs and the finish.

Six minute PR, in the bag.

After the Finish Line

My brutal honest opinion here – the post-race scene was just scary. The first thing I thought seeing all the crowds was just getting the hell out of there. Too many people, most of the people I would know would be at the post-race party held by Philadelphia Runner.

We funneled through the finishers’ chute and through the food tent, relatively in an orderly fashion. Volunteers were everywhere, handing out the medals, and they were distributing bags in the food tent. In the food bag were the typical Philly treats, not my cup of tea for a post-race snack admittedly, but still all gravy nonetheless. Two Tastykake fruit bars, a pair of Goldenberg candy chews, an orange, a banana, a bottle of water, and volunteers were handing out a large pretzel from Philly Pretzel Company.

It took me a ridiculous amount of time to find a stack of the medals but they were in the middle of the crowd. No signage. The initial volunteers that had given out medals ran out of them so we were left to fend and find the medal rack. That was just brilliant. Not.

13 medal

I wanted to queue up for the bathroom, but realising the queues were entirely too long, managed to force myself out to the busses where I picked up my bag, swapped shirts (my race shirt was soooooo icky and sweaty) and trudged around to find the exit to the Navy Yard to get on with things and head to the Philadelphia Runner tailgate.

16 party signage

I ran into fellow Philly runner @MalindaAnnHill from @TwinsRun!

14 Twins Run

After which I settled for a few good grilled cheese sandwiches, and tomato pie. I skipped the beer admittedly as I’m not a fan of Yards beer and dehydration was a bit of a problem for me during the race. Not to mention the queue for the beer was stupidly long.

15 grill

And of course, who can forget the view of the lake.

12 bbq view

Overall, I have no complaints about everything BESIDES the pre- and post-race experience. Ultimately though, this is my last year in Philly and most likely my last year being able to do this race. I do hope for the sake of the Philly running community that Broad Street organisers will do what they can to improve the pre- and post-race experience because even if I was still staying in the area, my experience there would really disincline me to participate in future years, even in spite of how affordable the race is. Better signage and organisation of runners in starting corrals would go a very long way.

Temple Alumni Weekend 5k Recap

cheerleaders

Race: Temple Alumni Weekend 5k
Location: Temple University, Main Campus, Philadelphia
Distance: 5 km (3.1 miles)
Date/Start Time: 26 April 2014, 9:30am
Distance Travelled to Compete: 4.8km/3.0 miles
Weather conditions: Moderate temperatures, 50-60s, no humidity.
Course conditions: A few inclinations but nothing big, looped course around campus.
Preview: The Temple Alumni Association runs a 5k run and 1 mile walk every Alumni Weekend, which is the last weekend in April. In my final semester at school, I wanted to make the most of this experience, as students were able to run for free, and even not as a student, the deal is very solid for $10 when you play at least twice that for most area 5km runs.

hooter

Preview

Normally I never do a race on a whim, and especially not during offseason. Except I’d been training once per week with the City Sports run crew once the Love Run ended, mainly to keep myself in shape getting through the last throes of my final semester of graduate school. It was through a classmate that I’d heard about the Alumni Weekend 5k and the fact that it was free of charge (save the subway fare of course) to get up there and run, and realising I’d never have another chance likely to run a timed 5k free again – welp I wasn’t missing the chance, was I?

The Race

Registration started promptly at 8:30am and signup tables were set up along 13th Street. For those who were alumni, or community members, they had to pay a $10 fee and people who could did register in advance, presumably through the alumni association. For those of us that were students, we had to walk up and as long as we showed our student IDs, we were in.

I walked across the street to pick up my kit, which I was also pleasantly surprised to get for a 5k – they didn’t have any small sizes left so I took a medium. Ah well. Can’t complain about the kit – yet another Temple pride piece of clothing I could wear.

kit

Eileen Bradley is a local who has been helping out with Temple-run races for 26-odd years. Insane. The director acknowledged her presence over the years and renamed the race itself after her. Remarkable.

annoucements

The walkers walked their mile and lo and behold, it was our turn. Three loops around campus. Oy. The students groaned in union, but once Eileen gave the signal, we were off.

The first loop was straightforward. Incline up 13th Street, around Diamond Street, and then left on Broad Street, a preview for those to come who would run Broad Street. It was Mile 3 or so on that course. Broad Street at that point was downhill. And to our pleasant surprise, the band played as we were headed down Broad Street, the same spot they would play for Broad Street Runners.

We closed in on Cecil B Moore and hung a left at that corner. I noticed myself overtaking some students and being overtaken by others. Another left on 13th and we were back to where we started. First loop split? 8:40. Wow.

Second loop proved to be annoying with that hill, I was pushing hard enough because to be frank I don’t run 8:40s and definitely not in offseason. I had to take a few breaths and water on Diamond Street but cruised down again past the band. That lap was a bit slower, and the winner actually overtook us in a blue suit covering his entire body – instead of the little green man, it was the little blue man.

Third lap was uplifting knowing it was the final lap. Overtook a few of the locals who were sauntering through the 5k, but overall, I had no complaints. Busted my tail and finished in about 27:50 or so. The sun had come out, and thankfully I had a water bottle on me to see me through.

floorsign

Aftermath

After crossing the finish line, an official took the tag off my bib for ranking purposes and I queued up to get myself water, a pretzel, and other refreshments. Seriously there was a lot of stuff and I have no complaints.

stuff

As the race is coupled with Alumni Weekend, it is a great scene to get out with fellow students or with family and enjoy the rest of the attractions in the courtyard off Polett Walk. Overall I’d recommend the race – great for a speed test, generally decent weather, low (or no!) cost. If you are hydration-sensitive, I would take on a small water bottle with you – there are zero actual water stops and supplies are only post-race. Not a problem for most runners, but just good to know on the few that do need it.

fair

One thing I will mention in general is that many colleges and universities out there, particularly medium to larger sized schools, will host 5k runs as part of their homecoming or alumni weekend. For students and alumni alike, this is a great low-cost option if you are hurting for cash or on your typical student budget, and most schools will not charge their own students, unless money is being raised for charity, which in most cases, does not happen.

Finally if you’re a student who finds himself or herself too busy for their own good, running these races gives an attainable way to do something fun with other classmates and keep in shape. Case in point as I was joined by several other grad students who also wanted to take advantage of running a free 5k.

No regrets on this one, time was slowish, but again given the cycle for me, it was to be expected. And that will get better, once I become an alumni, free of the schoolwork!

Biding My Time

Clocking up the miles, taking in the protein and pumping some iron, all one day at a time. It’s like clockwork, and not much different from my routine in the past eight years. There’s not a whole lot to look forward to right now until the Philly Half, so I am trying to keep my mind on the little things that do spice things up.

I’ve been counting down the days a lot particularly as school has been dominating my time. I have however, been keeping up with my mileage (save last Saturday’s long run, a disaster due to excessive humidity) for the most part, and with temperatures dropping even further, it looks ripe for me to come alive as I ramp up the mileage. I’m due for 12-14 this weekend en route to my first of two 20-milers.

As I near Walt Disney World Marathon, I’m focusing on weight training once a week, twice if I have the time for my abs and arms. So far there’s no sign yet that I should back down but I’m not overly aggressive with my training to begin with.

I’m trying to learn the art of the protein shake. Two years ago, I did an old-fashioned rice/almond milk and peanut butter shake, but it’s not nearly enough protein needed for my long long runs, anything over 15 and I need the whey. I’ll blog more on this end later.

I’ve been relying on both my pairs of compression socks, one Zensah and one ProCompression, both of which I was fortunate enough to win in giveaways. A graduate student on a tighter budget, I found it hard to swallow to spend $50 on a pair. Admittedly though, they have been helping a lot, although I know long term, further strengthening of the quads is really the way to go. For now, and for the time I lack, these will do.
socks

Right now running is my only break. After my capstone introductory meeting a few weeks ago, and being told that we’d have to sacrifice everything next semester, I honestly had to sit there wondering how much worse (read: empty) my life could really be. Seated amongst 10-15 of my peers, we were cautioned that we’d have to miss baby showers and that deadlines would come up last minute.

Gee, I thought. I ran late for two weddings before; in both situations, it was caused by final exams on weekends (PA public schools do run exams on weekends) in which the professors could not move the time or I had to be there for a final presentation.

Could it really be any worse?

If we had significant others we’d have to tell that yet again that school and our projects come first.

Now, I didn’t have that particular “problem”, but I know that for me, it would be more back and forth with the parents as to why I don’t visit them more often. It also gave more validation to all the guys who have told me in the last year they won’t date graduate students largely because students will lack the time for them.

Damn.

Some things I can live with, just for a little longer. Or well, I have no choice, do I? But others I cannot. And that’s where I appreciate the flexibility in running.

I’m already committed to the Love Run 30 March. That is before the worst part of capstone, and training for a half can be done more easily. The Walt Disney full in January will be over with before I return to school, thankfully. But I already suffered greatly from not exercising and taking care of myself. I’m not going to repeat the same mistake again, and with morning workouts and dreadmill dates, I can still make it happen, quite easily. Fall 2011 was insanely busy but I still pulled 2 halfs, a full, a full-time job and a relationship that lasted halfway through the semester (although ended for reasons related to religion, and not due to lack of time).

I’ve done it before. I can do it again, or as it would appear, less.

15 May 2014. It is the day I walk a free woman, at 10am. That’s my graduation date, and if I recall the time correctly, that’s when commencement starts.

It will be the day I can really pick up life where I left it.

But for now, until then, I will keep on running.

Late Summer Blues

Second summer session of grad school is quite painful with an accelerated project management class. The material itself is not difficult at all, it’s just there’s LOADS – and I mean LOADS – of homework. I’m particularly not fond of writing papers at all – I’ve always been a numbers lady, give me math problems all day, but I go insane writing papers. That’s just me, though, and I know many for which it’s the other way around.

To keep myself sane I’ve been serving on our graduate student board and organizing social, networking and other happy hour events with other students. With school largely the reason for the destruction of my social life over many years, I am trying to make new friends or at least meet new faces and just overall put myself out there. It’s one thing to sacrifice a social life for a few years, but the problem with me is that it’s been eight years. Still I aim to repair that damage, thinking (delusionally?) it’s not too late.

That said, I took in a knee sprain which has kept me out since the 1st of August, but I’m hoping to be back in action starting Thursday, knock on wood. Run club has been going along swimmingly, hanging out with the crew on Thursday nights. No complaints. Another way to meet people and keep on track with my training schedule.

Unfortunately last month due to the excessive heat, 20in24 was indefinitely postponed at the order of Philadelphia’s mayor Michael Nutter. It’s unclear whether they or when they will hold the event, but I was slated to volunteer that event. Hopefully if later in the fall I’ll be able to still help out.

But yes, I’ve been trucking along, and steadily working and working out and overall biding my time. Unfortunately I’ve not been able to do a whole lot with the exception of a 4th of July camping trip that I hope to blog on a little soon. In the end, I’m trucking along, trying to stay positive with life (admittedly that is getting harder, but I keep trying), trying to keep myself fit and raring for my next race, 40 days away. All of a sudden, my Nike race experience seems ages ago. My how time flies.

Resolutions and Goals: On and Off the Pavement

If you don’t like something, change it.

Through my efforts, I gain the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Whether concerning running or other aspects of life, there’s a lot I’ve learned from 2012. On the upside, the personal drama was at a minimum compared to 2011. I earned a promotion at work and gained more challenging assignments which I embraced. Socially, I met more friends through running and after the dissolution of my last relationship, realised I needed to spend more time with my friends in general.

Setbacks? The big one was school. My academic performance is fine, however, the amount of work required of me in my second year tripled. Last year I felt I was able to juggle so much more on the same credit load but this year I learnt the very harsh lesson that not every credit unit is created equal. The combination of classes (comprising a schedule which I was forced into due to my work travel) required a disproportionate amount of time that forced me to cut back on the training I could devote as well as the amount of sleep. Between ridiculous lack of sleep (averaging 3 hours or less) and stress overload, I wound up in the ER and later contracted a lung infection that had me sick and off the pavement most of October.

I managed to rebound just in time to roll light training and recover to run the Philadelphia Half Marathon, which was a sort of victory. I was supposed to run – and registered for – the full marathon but illness had me questioned whether I could do anything at all in November.

This year Problem #1 for me is to get school under control by looking for more flexible, weekend only strategic management classes and knocking out finance so that I am not stuck taking it in the summer. I took corporate finance last summer and the pace of the class nearly burnt me out. I need the full 15 week semester to properly absorb what I need to learn, and I can learn the strategic management (generally more qualitative, although some of the classes stress financial and mathematical nous) quickly and on the fly. I feel I’ve taken that first step through the way I’ve staggered my classes. Two accelerated classes in January and only one in early April. That frees up the ability to take one finance class during the week, international financial markets. I could have pushed for private equity but I backed off, as I was more interested in portfolio management and derivatives, both of which are only taught in the fall. Plus 5 classes might have been suicide.

This leads to my second resolution: Stick to a more disciplined running schedule, namely, more sprints, hills and weighttraining. Realistically, I need to start with the weighttraining before I put all that stress on my legs/quads/knees. I want to drop my time but the muscle buildup needs to occur. Diet is mostly under control, and alcohol at this point is slim to none. (Case in point: number of drinks downed on New Year’s? Zero. Dead serious.) Now with the class situation a little more in my favour, the open time frame also helps with my running and training as I don’t have to formally train for the NWM13 half until the end of January, after that second accelerated class will have finished. So during January, I can focus more on offseason conditioning, with maintenance runs of 3-4 miles and a greater focus on sprints and weighttraining. If I can moderate my runs with 2x/week strength training I should be well on my way, but even once per week is much more than what I’ve done all of last year.

The key is I need to be patient and that I’m not going to drop fat and my times right away. The muscle needs to build and I need time.

Now the second major issue to tackle that was a problem the last few years is my social and personal life: namely, being able to forge and maintain relationships. After life in the trenches for the six years after university, running has allowed me to meet people and train for events with other people. However, a revolving travel schedule for work combined with part-time graduate school often forces me more to train on my own and that was painfully evident this past semester. Any gatherings with my non-runner friends has really taken a hit more so as every single one of them are coupled up (meaning weekend outings are generally out of the question) and we generally can only meet for potluck dinners during the week. Unfortunately some dinners were scheduled during class nights or I was unlucky on the weeks I was forced to travel. And while I love my career, I also get the sense that those that might not put as much emphasis on their career are getting frustrated with me.

On another front, I have joined my school’s Graduate Student Association to increase my social opportunities through school, but I am also finding out that the part-time students are very fragmented from the full-time students and even amongst each other. On the upside, being the liaison for the part-time students has allowed me to connect to students and connect students with each other in getting more events through to everyone. Meeting people through this group is probably going to take more time.

On a separate front, a number of people are trying to push the concept of dating on me but regardless of what others are doing out there, this is clearly one thing that will cause me more stress than it’s worth, at least whilst I’m in graduate school. If I was in school for another 5 years, it would be a serious problem, but since I graduate in May 2014, this is an area where I can wait because knowing my limits, I would be biting off more than I can chew. If I randomly meet someone appealing, I’ll figure something out, but I’m not going to actively seek someone out or get myself on online dating sites, for example.

The way that looks more feasible for now to maintain my relationships is to focus on the ones where there’s the most in common in terms of values, whether the friends live in Philadelphia or in other cities. If out of town, just keep pounding away those texts and plan getaway trips around where people live (particularly in the case of NYC and Boston). As work will be sending me back to some of these cities, I will also use opportunities off the clock to meet up as well. (And this illustrates a way I will make my travel schedule work for me!) For everyone else, simply I’m going to cross my fingers and see if I get lucky. The harsh reality is that I can only do so much.

Continued communication with immediate and extended family. Not only is this to prevent any of the disasters that occurred in 2011 and prior to then but also to keep in touch with cousins who also share higher career aspirations and their love of travel as they are also goals and values I share.

So to recap, things I need to improve on:

1 Manage school more effectively (in progress)
2 More ambitious training schedule which includes weightlifting and strength training
3 Focused relationships
4 Continued communication with family

I think if I can work on #1 and #3, then I can enjoy life a little more personally. But the above four are all sustainable, realistic and attainable and I just need to focus on the things I love and value most. In some cases I can kill two birds with one stone so I will use any advantage I have.

What are your New Year’s resolutions (running-related or not)?

Looking Forward: The Nike Women’s Half Marathon

With my San Diego trip in the air due to more cross-country travel pending for work, I’m even more glad that I had been able to sign up for the Nike Women’s Half in DC this April. At the very worst I have ONE race that I am doing this spring and I know I can make the time to train.

At this point registration for the random drawing is now closed. I had entered myself via the college program only ($125 through 6 December, $160 after) and to register for the lottery it was $160 through the 3rd. My friends had given me a shout to join their group but seeing as I wanted the student rate saving some money I had tried to get a student slot not realising at the time that a student slot was guaranteed. I complained to Vee saying my card was charged right away:

…until I read the rules again…

All which made me all the happier to be in grad school despite all the pain (physical and psychological) I have been through as a result. Can’t say though I’m not all the stronger for it…not to mention I have had much worse outside school.

I had chatted with Vee on the 6th to see if she’d gotten in but she had informed me the lottery was pushed back to the 10th. Uh oh.

It reminded me of the fiasco with the Broad Street Run, even though I had come out unscathed from that one. The reviews from their San Francisco race (typically in the fall) were mostly positive and there were no problems from what I saw with the registration. So I’m hoping things go off without a hitch. My card remains charged and I still have my confirmation so I know I haven’t been booted ha.

Although they recently did update their course map.

nikemap by OneFootThere

Hopefully my friends got in. I also met another student runner who also got in via guarantee:

My hotel is already booked and I’m set for late April. Hopefully my friends will be joining me. Love running in DC and the Tiffany finisher’s necklace is awesome to boot (and now I can say I actually have something from Tiffany which means something haha). The Expo (or what they call an Expotique) will be in the southern flank of Georgetown though I’m utterly confused how the whole Nike+ circuit works.

Guess I’ll learn soon. Here’s hoping for my friends! Fingers crossed for you guys!

Of Vacations and Setbacks

So this past month I finally learnt what it is like to bite off more than you can chew. I suffered the worst effects early through mid-October, with the languishing health effects putting a rather serious damper on my marathon training. Obviously Hurricane Sandy the last week of October has helped me to put everything in perspective as things out of one’s control can wipe out everything you have.

Even in the thick of things though, there are times when you wonder when the light at the end of the tunnel is going to occur.

For years upon years I’ve been screaming for a vacation, particularly one lasting more than a week, one where I am supposed to “shut off” and recharge myself, one with as little drama as possible where I can go somewhere and try something new, go to a place I’ve never been before, try new cuisine and whatnot. Squeezing a race is a bonus, it’s not mandatory for me or necessary, if it happens, it happens, but everything else also has to fall in place. Granted, although my parents have lambasted me for suggesting a race during a vacation or mini-getaway (vacation is meant to rest they say, the discrepancy runs as they define rest more so physically and myself more so mentally) thankfully I have managed to meet them in the middle when it comes to the beach and beach races. Virginia Beach in March 2011 went off without too much of a hitch. They can rest, I can run, simple as, right?

Since my university years, I’ve spent most of that time working and balancing night school, between post-bac studying, and then getting my CPA, and graduate school starting two years ago. Basically since university, if I’m not working, I’ve been stuck studying, and when I go out, the first question on my mind is whether my homework has been finished, whether I’m ready to go for the next exam. My mind wanders to the last vacation I had taken.

Exactly seven years ago, and being out of college, it was the first time I could spend my own money on a trip that I wanted. Was it tight? Yes, but I had never been able to take a vacation on my own. My best friend Mike from school wanted me to vacation with him at his parents’ home in Orlando, and for the first time in my life I saw Disneyworld. I remember being 9 and 10 and such, and other students I was with growing up all would take vacations every year or often enough. I could only imagine what it was like, and often found myself being unable to relate with many of my peers even today on experiences they had, which I lacked. Back then, with money tight, I remember being proud of being able to snag a $99 round trip fare on AirTran to Orlando (!!!) in August. (I imagine that would have to be unthinkable now.)

Admittedly, even out of university, money WAS tight for me as I paid back my student loans, paid rent (moving back home was not an option for many reasons – lack of job opportunities in the sciences for one and continued tensions with family), paid tuition for post-bac. I kept telling myself that there would be an end to this, even if it took years. That I could not put a price tag on being at peace with myself, going to work and loving it every day, but yet that time would not come until I had put in my dues at the beginning.

Of course money does not solve all problems. Even when I secured a post with significantly better pay and had some more funds to go somewhere, I struggled with the problem of lack of money being replaced with lack of time. As a result, I made the best I could with business trips, trying to get whatever sightseeing I could off the clock. I cannot complain about my trips to San Antonio, endless forays to DC, Boston, Chicago, and such. But soon, the start of graduate school even forced me to cut back on venturing out on the road and while I held the line for my first year of school, balancing a relationship, a full load of classes, full-blown travel, and training for the Marine Corps Marathon, this year, the school work – despite the same number of credits – proved to be unbearable.

One big problem: complete lack of sleep. Last year, even on the road I would manage 6-7 hours of sleep; this year I was lucky, VERY lucky with 3-4 hours. Massive problem. My classes this year required not one, but multiple deliverables per class, two of which were accelerated. Last year I would have one deliverable at most, I made sure with quantitative classes to keep up with the problems, but even this year’s normal pace (15 week) economics class, I am still having econ problem sets on top of a report and a presentation. The sheer irony is that even with illness and such setting in or even on rest days where I don’t spend the additional hour running or training, I am still up until 2-3am squeezing in studying and homework. Even on weekends I am staying up horrifically late, it’s not because I am partying with friends. And that relationship last year? Long gone (thankfully, although that’s another story).

To be blunt, I can count the number of times I have actually hung out with friends since the semester started: 3. And that’s between two entirely different groups of friends. On the upside this is where running becomes critical: one of the groups is comprised of runners and I have trained with them day in and day out, that is one way I do stay in contact with some of my friends. (And non-runners don’t seem to grasp this part.) Number of times I’ve actually been out? Until last Sunday, when I bussed out to NYC to see friends: zero.

Dropping classes is not an option for reasons related to work and travel and of course the fact that you don’t get your tuition back depending on when you drop a course. In the professional services world, you travel more over time, making it more difficult to complete my degree. In some fields, particularly accounting, there is the so-called busy season, making school nearly impossible for the spring semester for those that go through it. So unfortunately I have to bite the bullet.

In mid-October the bottom fell out. With severe lack of sleep, I became more and more heavily reliant on caffeine. It was one Wednesday where I had gone to bed at around 4am. Started work the next day at 7:30am (you read that right). Well I had 3 cups of premium coffee, followed by copious amounts of tea throughout the day. Normally upon drinking that amount of caffeine, I usually stop myself from running or undertaking exercise. Well, this go around, it slipped my mind. I ran the 6 miles or so that night and only when I finished did I realize how much caffeine I had.

The palpitations ensued and I wound up in the ER that night as I found myself drinking copious bottles of water. I needed a few days just to get my body back from breaking down underneath all that stress and to top it off I caught some nasty cold that I got from exposure in the cold outside or from the ER. All in all, I had to take the next two weeks off to get things back in order. Only after then, I have managed to run up to 10 miles or so, going up to a half marathon would be feasible for me given how I’ve been feeling as of late. A full? Probably not this year. I mulled withdrawing from the Philly Marathon, but I’ve decided to run the half instead. Finally I’ve decided to stick to halfs until I finish school. From what I can tell school will become more painful and after this semester I still have another three left.

Even Sergio warned me that the amount of time needed to properly train for a full was significant when piling on work and a ridiculous load of classes. He did agree that the strategy of sticking to halfs was feasible though particularly since I do train reliably year-round.

It’s been a painful lesson this fall, but I’ve learnt from it, and lately I’ve gotten more sleep and back on the pavement. The important thing is that I’ve been feeling better and hopefully I can move forward a happier and healthier person.

In the meantime, I’m planning my vacation next summer. San Diego, and hopefully snagging a spot in the Rock n Roll Half there in early June to boot.