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Posts Tagged ‘long island road runners club’

Duck Trot 8k

When I was a little girl, Thanksgiving would be spent at my Nana’s house on Long Island. She’d line up two or three tables in the living room and feed nearly 20 guests. When we numbered more than 20 people, she’d set up the tables in the basement and the ladies would get a good quad workout marching serving dishes up and down the stairs all day. My Nana took such pride in her Thanksgiving hostessing skills that she would cook doubles of everything—turkey, stuffing, vegetables—so that every guest could take home a heaping plate of leftovers.

As if the fracas of relatives and tryptophan-induced stupor weren’t enough good times, each year my little brother and I spent Thanksgiving weekend with Nana and PopPop. We loved staying with them because they’d take us to the movies and to the beach, and keep us occupied with crafts. If we were lucky we’d get pastina and butter as a midnight snack, and for fun Nana would shoot Redi-Whip from the can straight into our mouths. The crafts were the best. Strict Aunt Tessie would come over and teach us how to make Santa faces using bleach bottles, felt and cotton balls. Or we’d twist pinecones onto wire frames to make wreaths, or stick plastic seagulls onto pieces of driftwood with florist’s moss and beach glass for our own interpretive dioramas of Jones Beach. These things would become the gifts we’d give to family members; we’d even wrap them up Thanksgiving weekend and tote them home in boxes, ready to be put under the tree for aunts and uncles.

But the best part of the whole weekend was when the Hicksville Fire Department would come roaring by in two trucks loaded up with firemen, sirens wailing and lights flashing. We’d rush outside to the sidewalk and jump up and down, waving our arms, waiting for the fireman dressed as Santa to throw us a popcorn ball. That was all they did, driving through the neighborhoods chucking balls of caramel corn, but we loved it—the noise, the fancy trucks, the treats, the flick attention we got from these cool guys. It officially marked the start of Christmas for us, even more than the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, or the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center.

This year, my Thanksgiving involved none of that. Yes, I spent it with my family, but we were all in Colorado at my brother’s house, Nana’s days of hosting crowds at her dinner table long gone. New traditions (which basically means no traditions apart from turkey, stuffing, etc.) have risen to fill the place of those three-day weekends, and I am grateful to still have my family to gather with. For a few years I made my own tradition of running over the 59th Street Bridge on Thanksgiving morning, but this year let that go since I was in Colorado. I ran the Coal Creek Trail with my brother instead, which was pleasant but vaguely awkward; it sure as hell didn’t feel like a Thanksgiving run. So, today’s Duck Trot 8k was my irreverent nod to tradition (“Duck” instead of “Turkey” because the race is staged by the Long Island Road Runners Club, and Long Island is historically known for its duck farms).

Also, I really wanted to PR. Bad.

The Duck Trot is the race I won two years ago. Based on last year’s finishing times for the women, I didn’t think I could win it this year, but I was hoping for an age group award. In order to PR I needed to average an 8-minute pace or better. I have been feeling really strong in my training, and my running in Colorado confirmed I was fitter than the last time I’d run at altitude, but I still wasn’t sure how the 8k would turn out. The last race I ran, on Roosevelt Island, didn’t give me much confidence that I could sustain that pace or better for nearly 5 miles. I was nervous.

In what turned out to be a great cosmic assist, I could not locate the parking lot for the race and burned 10 minutes before the start driving up and down Park Drive in Eisenhower State Park trying to sight the starting line. Although this keyed me up and had me running a 7-minute-per-mile pace for the first quarter mile, the up side was getting lost(-ish) prevented me from standing around obsessing about the race I would soon be running.

Once I got to the start, I sized up the competition. There were two women who I thought might be faster than I was, one because she had on shorts that were very nearly bumhuggers, and the other because she was extraordinarily skinny. Clearly, my criteria for picking out these women are arbitrary but flawless: these two would turn out to be the only two women who finished ahead of me. I was frantically pinning my bib on and tying up my pigtails when SCL magically appeared on my left with a “Hi TK!” We shared a wish and a promise (Have a great race! See you at the finish!) before the gun sounded.

I hate how my pulse flails wildly out of control in the beginning. Excitement, nervousness, adrenaline, and the lack of a warm-up all conspire to make me think I’m a running heart attack. In the first half mile, I was passed by Bumhugger, Extraskinny, and an older chick with a blonde ponytail wearing tights. I let the first two go since I suspected if I tried to hang with them I would bonk, but I stayed right on the tail of Blonde Ponytail. She was running 7:55, and that was the pace I wanted for the first two miles. Soon after the first mile mark I felt her fading, heard her raspy breath. Poor thing. Passed! After that, a few guys ran by me, but by the time I crossed the finish line I’d passed most of them back. In fact, only 8 men finished ahead of me.

During Mile 1 and 2, despite better advice from JT, I looked constantly at my watch to make sure I was keeping the pace a few seconds under 8 minutes. Those splits clicked at 7:50 and 7:56. At the very beginning of Mile 3, there was a decline leading into an incline. I decided to rev it up on the downhill so I didn’t slow down pace on the uphill. Well, I didn’t actually ever slow down from the rev-up, so Mile 3 was a 7:44. I passed a few folks in that mile, including a man who groaned “Uuh!” with every exhale. Runners NB: if you make weird noises as you run, have an audible tread, or a beeping heart rate monitor, you’re just begging for me to pass you, if only to get away from the irritating sounds!

At the beginning of Mile 3, I caught a glimpse of Extraskinny. It was like I was a shark who whiffed a trace of blood in the water. I had thought she was so far ahead of me that I’d never catch her; I’d resigned to racing myself, and all those nice things us mid-pack runners tell ourselves so we still feel like a winner when we finish a race. But when I saw her I thought, Hhmm let me see just how close I can get. I could tell that she wasn’t working extraordinarily hard; her form was relaxed, she had her iPod in (translation: I probably wouldn’t pass her but I might get close enough to make her nervous). She certainly didn’t seem to expect me to catch her. I decided to very deliberately do another rev-up; nothing drastic that would leave me gasping and leaden in the final mile, but something steady and focused.

Well, thank God for Extraskinny. Bit by bit, I reeled her in, and her ever-decreasing lead kept me working at a consistently hard effort. My last two miles were 7:34 and 7:20. I’m pretty sure Extraskinny put on the jets the last mile (or, .96 of a mile, since this was an 8k), since I had to work harder to maintain the gap. Also, I saw her look over her shoulder a few times, to see where I was. That was kind of cool. If someone had been close enough to play the theme from Jaws for her, I’m sure I could have psyched her out completely. CHOMP! I’m not sure what her original lead on me was, but I couldn’t even see her for a while, so I’m stoked just to have closed the gap as much as I did (she finished 11 seconds ahead of me). 

Yeah, I never did get to gnaw on her third-place leg. Instead, I finished third out of all women, 1:32 behind Bumhugger, with an official time/pace of 38:25/7:44. This is 3 seconds slower per mile than the pace I ran at the Roosevelt Island 5k this October. I was 11th overall, which makes me disproportionately happy. Oh, and that’s a PR by like MINUTES. I got a nifty age grouper medal, and chatted with SCL for half an hour after the race, which was a treat. I wasn’t expecting any other New Yorkers to make it out for this suburban gem, and it’s always great to get face time with my Twitter pals.

Afterwards, I headed over to my Nana’s house to spend some time with her and share about my Thanksgiving with her great-grandchildren. She was lively, alert, and grateful for the unseasonably warm weather since it meant a few more days she could comfortably sit out on her stoop. She had her Thanksgiving dinner with her live-in nurse. My Nana is on an oxygen tank and largely housebound; she shuffles from her bedroom to the kitchen table with her walker a few times a day.

I left her a little after 11 AM, and set out walking to the train station (it’s about a 20 minute walk). As I walked, I heard sirens screeching in the background. I walked several more blocks, and saw kids on every front lawn hopping up and down and glancing about in excitement. It dawned on me: the firemen were coming to chuck popcorn balls! I stopped walking. I got my camera ready. I watched the kids; I waved at the firemen; I remembered my childhood with a goofy grin on my face. Then, Santa laughed and hurled a popcorn ball at me. It hit me right in the chest and bounced onto someone’s lawn; I scrambled after it, laughing with a non-age-appropriate glee.

A few minutes later, contentedly chomping on my popcorn ball as if it were an apple, I realized how I must have seemed to the firemen. Two fluffy pigtails, sneakers, athletic jacket and track pants. I was walking to my destination (no shiny SUV for me), with a backpack strapped over both shoulders. Not to mention, I made no attempt to catch the popcorn ball, just watched it arc towards me, mesmerized, until it hit me, bonk! I must have looked like I was out on a day pass from a supervised home for special needs adults. He threw it right to me, and I stood there laughing like a big spaz.

If only those firemen had seen me race. Maybe next year.

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Wednesday night I headed out to Eisenhower State Park on Long Island to race the penultimate 5k in the Long Island Road Runners Club Summer Series for three reasons. First, I wanted to finally pick up my trophy for being the first female finisher at the Duck Trot last November. (I’d emailed with Fred, the club president , who told me that the next time I raced with them to just let him know and he’d give me my award.) Second, I wanted to get a benchmark race time in the distance to help me come up with a PR goal. And third, I was using the race as my speed workout for the week.

I made it to the park just in time to register before the cutoff, but had to ask my Twitter friend ET (who came to the race with her husband) spot me the $9 entry fee because I had no cash on me. Apart from her $9, it was a pleasure to catch up with her before and after the race–she works right near by.

The race started right at 7pm. I clicked Little G and sped off, having no other plan in mind aside from beating my last PR at the distance (28:22, a 9:09 average pace, from 2002) and running as hard as I could to get a starting point for my training. The course was two flat loops, and I remembered it vaguely from the Duck Trot. There were a lot of younger runners, including one team composed of little girls. They were adorable in their blue and white uniforms, and they had a designated cheerleaders at each mile marker, plus their coach was shouting out tips. I loved participating with them, having them on the course made me happy. I didn’t let them distract me too much, though. I paid close attention to my breathing, deliberately let people pass me during Mile 1. I know from the Media Challenges that many of the runners who get away from me in the beginning I can burn around Mile 2.5 or so. I was focused, my body felt good and loose. During Mile 2, I thought I heard someone shout out, “You’re towards the front! Push it!” I had no idea if they were talking to me, but the field was small and I realized I might be able to place in my age group if I hustled. So I ran a little faster. In the final mile I could feel my legs getting a heavy but I wasn’t in nearly as much pain as I was during the Wall Street Run back in June. And, just as expected, I passed a lot of people who were gasping, moaning, and basically looking like they were in a world of hurt during Mile 3.  One young woman I passed was gorgeous, she had a perfect tushy and was wearing bum huggers–it was a fine target for me to  chase–except the 2″ long clothing tag of her shorts was hanging out the waistband and flapping behind her, ruining an otherwise pretty picture. As I ran by her, I said to her, The tag is hanging out of your shorts, if you want to tuck it in. She didn’t even turn to look at me, just grimaced in pain and licked the sweat off her upper lip.  Should I not have said anything? I was just trying to be helpful. (Do you all believe me? No? Well, you may be right.)

My splits shook out beautifully — 7:57; 7:52; 7:51, with the last bit taking me 53 seconds, for an average pace of 7:55.  I ran as hard as I could for the last tenth of a mile, and it felt so awesome to just open it up and kick it out. As soon as I finished, I knew I could have been faster, that even though I gave a good effort I could have in fact run harder.  If this had been a goal race, I would have been frustrated with that knowledge, but this time it came as a welcome realization. It is one more piece of information that will help me set the time for, and then achieve, my ultimate 5k PR.

As I caught my breath, I went back around to the finish line and cheered as ET and her husband came across the line. Then we stood around and waited for the awards and raffles.  Turns out, my official finishing time of 24:34 got me not only a new 5k PR (for the time being) but also a 3rd Place Age Group ribbon! ET and her man each won something from the raffles, so we all came away with something to show for our races.Once Fred had given out all of his items, I approached him for my Duck Trot award. I was expecting an actual trophy, like the overall winners of the 5k had just received, but instead he handed me a 1st Place Medal. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, but I vowed to myself right there that I would return to the Duck Trot this year and defend my championship title, to try to get a trophy for real this November.

Overall, I came away from this race motivated and energized. I am excited to pull together a training plan that will take me through the Fall and lead me to strong times in the 5 and 10k distances. I don’t feel like I am missing out on a thing by not training for a marathon even as all my friends are tweeting their long runs and gearing up for Chicago, New York, or other Fall classics. I wonder instead, How fast can I get? How much pain can I endure during a race? With what will I surprise myself? I cannot wait to create the answers to those questions over the next several months.

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Duck Trot 8k

As Woody Harrelson says to Jesse Eisenberg in Zombieland, “Enjoy the Little Things,” (Rule #32) and even though my city is not overrun with a plague of Zombie Virus, I am still going to enjoy this little thing. This little thing being: I won the Duck Trot* today! (And I set a PR.)

Many caveats:

  1. I was the first female finisher.
  2. I was the 15th finisher overall. (The guy who finished 14th? Yeah he was 65 years old.)
  3. There were 48 total competitors, and only 15 other females.
  4. This is the first time I’ve ever run an 8k so no matter what it was gonna be a PR.
  5. 8 kilometers equals 4.97096954 miles

But who cares! I still won! Whoo hoo! How did I do it? I ran as fast as I effing could. Which turned out to be 39:55, an average 8:02 pace. (That’s the official score. Little G gave me 39:54 over 4.94 miles for an 8:05 average pace. I did run the tangents well.)

These Long Island Road Runners Club races are a super casual thing. There are some middle-aged guys who organize the events, and a couple of nice ladies who collect the money (registration is on-site right before the race–$7 for non-members! What a bargain!), bunched around. Then they don orange “Race Official” vests a few minutes before the start, and make announcements. My favorite: “We just bought a chip timing system!”

And we were off. The pack was small and I could start right up very close to the line, I had to remind myself to take it easy, not to dart out with all the fast guys right away. This resulted in the first mile being my slowest (8:20). From the start I was one of the leading women in the race, but I thought for sure there were others behind me just picking up steam; I tried to conserve some energy so as not to be the dumb outsider who burns up in the first few miles. Somewhere in Mile 2 (8:04) I passed the only other woman I thought was ahead of me, and focused on holding form and maintaining pace in the event that I needed to kick at the end. In Mile 3 (8:00), I picked off a few guys, and decided I llloved the pancake-flat course. Zippityzip, no hills to slow me down. By Mile 4 (8:06), it was just me, my panting, and the back of the older gentleman ahead of me. I kept my eyes pinned on him (he had a good lead on me) and even though I knew I wasn’t going to catch him, I didn’t want him to get any further ahead. My legs were getting heavy, but I knew it was nearly over. I liked the set up–two laps of the same crazy eight’s shaped loop; I could see the progress I was making by landmarks as well as by Little G’s calibrations. I decided to rev it up for the last 0.94 miles of the race (7:23), and sped up as much as I could. I felt my heart hammering in my chest (the minute the race started my heart rate monitor strap promptly slipped off from my ribcage so I ran with it around my waist the entire way). I crossed the finish line alone, with one of the race officials saying softly, “Huh. The first female finisher.” Talk about low-key!

I had no idea what the proper etiquette was as winner and didn’t know what to do next. So I just kind of got some water, walked in circles to catch my breath, and then begun stretching. One of the race officials posted the first batch of results–there was my name, #15 overall and #1 among women. Small smile to myself. I chatted with a few of the other racers, and then headed to my car. Called my dad and woke him up, told him about my win (paternal pride). Drove to my Nana’s house, told her about the win (she thought I was joking). Went to my friend DT’s house (we ran the Arizona Marathon together), told her about the win (high five). Tweeted the win, received lots of happy at-replies. Got home, told Husband. Big hug, then he came back from walking the dog and surprised me with a bouquet of flowers and a soy chai latte.

Everything is relative, and I am completely aware that today’s performance in a NYRR race wouldn’t even get me an age group award. I’ll worry about that some other day. Today, I’m savoring this little thing. Who knew victory tastes like a soy chai latte?

*The LIRRC calls this a Duck Trot instead of a Turkey Trot because Long Island’s unofficial mascot is the duck, which goes back to the region’s historical fame for their duck farms.

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