This week, I navigated through a hamstring strain and ran the NYC Half Marathon, an amazing experience, finishing with a 3 1/2 minute personal best.
Monday – 7.7 miles easy/recovery pace (9:10/140 bpm) in Central Park in pouring rain. Ran up the steep side of Harlem Hill twice for Boston practice. Strength work: core work on Swiss ball and unicycle, 3×20 push ups, single leg toe touches. Hamstring hurt after this run, likely from hills, so spent the day which I had off lounging, resting it and trying not to stress about worst case scenario.
Tuesday – 8.3 miles easy (9:14/145 bpm), mostly on CP reservoir and dirt bridle path. Ran first two miles extemely easy to baby hamstring, which felt much better but pretty sure has a mild strain in an area I have injured in the past. Felt generally okay and much better than after Monday’s run. Strength work: 3×15 weighted goblet squats, single leg toe touches.
Wednesday- 11 miles easy, mostly on Chicago’s Lakeshore trail (8:59/152 bpm). Morning stress score was on the high side of good, where it usually is after a marathon length hard workout or after drinking the night before – travel is hard on the body and I am pretty sure I would have struggled to hit speed paces. But my legs felt good, did not feel hamstring during run and felt worshipful watching the light come up over Lake Michigan, even in the wind and rain. Strength work – one set push ups and planks (sore abs???), donkey kicks, single leg toe touches.
Thursday – 11.4 happy, easy miles (8:51/150 bpm) mostly along Chicago Lakeshore Drive at sunrise while listening to “Joyful, Joyful” and other hymns. Lower stress score and could run faster with less effort than yesterday, though still not low enough for a workout. Felt hamstring when I woke up but felt great during the run. Strength work: goblet squats, deadlift 3200#, single leg toe touches.
Friday – 10.2 miles easy (8:38/151 bpm) mostly on CP dirt bridle path amidst spring daffodils and blooms while listening to Napoleon. 8:42/144 bpm first mile. Awoke at home and finally with low stress score (17); hope I can keep it low despite nervousness about approaching race. Hamstring feeling better! Strength work: 3 min 15 secs planks, single leg toe touches.
Saturday – 5.3 miles very easy (9:17/140 bpm) on CT trails with Deena doggie. Good, low stress score (17). Annoyed to feel hammy before and after (but not during) run – think it may be scar tissue so applies trigger point pressure with tennis ball. Strength work: 2×30 weighted eccentric heel drops, 3×15 single leg goblet squats, 29 reps hamstring exercise with lighter than usual weight, single leg toe touches.
Sunday – 15.3 miles, including 13.3 miles running NYC Half Marathon in 1:40 (7:34/178 bpm average), a 3 1/2 min PR! Also, top 4% in my age group and top 5% of women overall and 69.5% AG, not too shabby for me, in a highly competitive race with about 20,000 finishers.
Body going into the race: Got almost seven hours sleep on Saturday night and woke with 19 stress score. Not bad for race morning. Determined on Friday that proper effort level for me to race a half marathon is 178-188 bpm (for me, 5 beats per minute translates to about 15 seconds per mile). Decided to target the low end of the range, 178 bpm, to be conservative in light of hamstring strain, overlap with my proper marathon effort (175-183 bpm), and permit sooner resumption of training for Boston, my “A” goal race. Still felt the hamstring at rest, so knew I needed to be cautious.
Learning to race: I am still learning how to race and rarely run hard enough that my breath is audible. Toward the end of our time in Central Park, miles 5-7, I started to hear myself breathing hard and wanted to quit as my heart rate climbed to 180-181. I hung in there, and finally realized that I could run for a long time at this effort level and that being able to hear myself breathe did not necessarily mean that I would blow up and need to stop running. I felt much better during miles 9-12.5, speeded up to the fastest 5k leg of the race, and did not consider stopping, even though my heart rate averaged 181-182. I realized I could tolerate this effort level; that it was an effort but not painful and not so hard that I would need to stop.
The course: enter this race if you ever get the chance!! The first 5-7 miles are hard and hilly, including Harlem Hill in mile 4 that rivals Heartbreak Hill, BUT running through Times Square and down the West Side Highway along the water, with Freedom Tower in full view, in the middle of a sea of people is an amazing experience. Bands and spectators, even on a windy, cold day, made us feel like rock stars. It is also a great course to learn how to run a negative split if one starts conservatively, because the last five miles are mostly down hill or flat.
Mental stamina: I persevered through a period of wanting to quit, myself I might not get the chance to run this fabulous course ever again and to savor every moment rather than wishing it away. I tried to enjoy the view of every city building and the sea of racers in front of me. I told myself “I do hard things” (thanks, Catnip!) and “Boston.” I thought about Desi grinding out the miles. I ran without headphones and kept my concentration on my pace, body and heart rate. Ultimately, I embraced the effort and loved it. I finished in 1:40, a 3 1/2 minute PR.
Celebration: spent the rest of the morning at a great Irish bar, the Dead Rabbit, warming up with hot Whisky Punch and full Irish breakfast with fellow New York Flyers and my 22 year-old son.
Lessons learned: Some important lessons that I realized during the race and will carry with me through Boston are that I will feel satisfied with myself if I am running at an appropriate effort level and within my fitness (hard enough, but not overreaching where I end up blowing myself up). Thinking about this took away the pressure of worrying about or being disappointed by any particular split. Also, to the extent I am able to “enjoy” the effort I will also be able to push a bit harder and run a bit faster. Finally, I realized that my body took this as a tempo run rather than a race, with low stress scores and runs that went well on the two mornings following the race. So I plan to target only 5-6 seconds slower than that, around 7:40, for my marathon paced runs between now and Boston.
Weekly total: 69 miles