2011 Men’s Health Urbanathalon & Inaugural Brooklyn Marathon

Several years ago, I came across this race and petitioned all of my friends to get on board with me.  And then I balked at the $100 registration fee and backed out myselfThen, the following year, they weren’t doing it in New York again!  The next year, again, no New York.  Finally, this year, 2011, it was back!  And I was ready!  I signed up for the Urbanathalon and the Brooklyn Marathon straight away because I wasn’t about to let the opportunity slip through my fingers again and I had a loose plan to use these races to raise money for the school in Nepal I had helped!  So, there I was, all signed up and ready to go!  That’s the crucial first step necessary to commit yourself and get the ball rolling, not unlike booking the plane ticket of a trip.  I operate on a “Bite off more than you can swallow, and then trust that God will help you chew” mentality.  And so, not having ever done anything like this or having the proper running gear or having the time to train did not phase me in the least.  All I knew was that I wanted to do this and so, I took it one step at a time.  Just like when you’re driving, you never see the whole road, but as long as you have headlights lighting the first few feet of your path, you know that eventually, you’ll get to California! And so, my next steps included training, therapy, and gear! TRAINING: A combination of the NIKE Running Club, the NY Running Company, the iMapMyRun App for my Droid phone, Hal Higdon’s book, Marathon, and just general surveying and researching were responsible for building a strong training regimen for me.  I knew that most marathoners followed marathon training schedules and so I decided that this would be the best way to structure my training.  And since the Urbanathalon would take place in the midst of my marathon training, I was killing two birds with one training regimen!  The week I returned from Nepal, I had already begun running w/ the NY Running Company just to get in the mix with the right people, information, etc.  I ran with this club and the NIKE running club, simply to give me more scheduling options.  Someone put me on to Hal Higdon’s book Marathon and in here, I found my marathon schedule!  I inputted all the runs into my calendar and was looking at three weekday runs (5-8 miles each) and one Saturday run (13-20 miles) every week.  The long runs are the ones in which running partners are so necessary.  It’s physically and mentally so helpful to be flanked by runners when you get to those double digit mileages. It stuns me when I think about running an average of 13-16 miles on Saturday mornings during the course of my training.  I remember the first time I hit 16 miles, I thought that my legs were going to give out.  The girl I was running with was going for 18 and I was gung-ho, ready to rev, right behind her.  But I was all bark and no bite, as I started waning after 13 miles, whining by the 14th mile, sputtering at 15, and literally limping by the time I stopped at mile 16.  I told her to keep going, save herself, as I needed to recover and walk the last two miles.  It took two miles for my legs to feel again and I suddenly understood the concept of training your feet and legs to simply endure such impact.  The second time I hit 16.5 miles, it was part of a 19 mile run and I just couldn’t do it anymore, once again!  My legs were jelly as I rounded the 16th mile and I just had to walk.  The funny thing is that I had an appointment scheduled for when I estimated that I would be done running.  So, in order to maintain that time, I had to take a taxi back to Niketown, the start and finish point!  I always laugh about people carrying metrocards w/ them when they run, just in case, but now, I get it! My life really started changing once I was well into my training.  I started thinking about running as a means of transportation.  When running 8 miles on a regular basis, so many places suddenly fall within the circumference of your running regimen.  I don’t remember how it began exactly, but I started combining my training run with appointments for that day.  For example. I ran to Hoboken to meet girlfriends for pizza.  One day, I ran from 42nd St to 34th St to get my nails done and then ran to Mott St to get a facial and then ran to 21st St to take a spin class.  With my little pocket on the back of my pants to hold my credit card and metrocard, I was unstoppable!  The craziest undertaking was when I ran to Hackensack to get my hair cut…9 miles away!  I arrived to all these places sweaty, but not stinky, and giddy off of the unorthodox intersection that I had found between life and training! Another reason why long runs are important are simply to learn what works for you through trial-and-error.  Every detail counts when you’re going to be at something for 26.2 miles!  For me, I learned that my must-haves are: an ipod shuffle, proper running pants (w/ a pocket in the groove of your lower back), proper sneakers (love my Nikes), gloves (w/ a key holder are great), a mile-tracker (my Droid works, a watch is better), a headband (since I had bangs), and if running to a specific and unfamiliar address, the navigation function of GoogleMaps. THERAPY: I tore ligaments in my ankle two years ago.  I hate to admit it, but it’s true when people say that your body’s “never the same” after certain injuries.  I wasn’t going to let that stop me from signing up for these races, but I also had to be smart and manage my limitations.  I started visiting the physical therapy office in my gym when I felt pain after an 8-mile run one day.  Andre instructed me to stop running for a week and even entertained the thought of my not running the Urbanathalon.  I rejected that notion violently, but agreed to pause running for one week.  After reassessing the situation, we settled on a regimen of daily ankle-strengthening exercises and weekly physical therapy visits, concluding with Andre wrapping my ankle in preparation for my next-day long-run.  I was grateful for the graciousness and attention that I received from West Sides Sports Med.  They were truly instrumental in my success, physically and mentally.  I was wailing during a portion of all my visits, as Andre would massage deep into the scar tissue on my ankle, but coming from Chinese descent, part of me took solace in the belief that the pain signaled progress! It’s so important to be verbal about something that you want to glean information for.  I must have spoken about needing therapy or recovery and lo and behold, someone recommended the reflexology spa that would soon be responsible for helping me recover after my long runs and both races!  While I was putting my body through all this trauma, it really helped, both mentally and physically, to have someone tend to the resulting inconsistencies and imbalances.  Again, I was in serious pain during this time.  I would be squirming as the massage therapist would knead the pressure points in my foot that corresponded to muscles in my back, hips, legs, etc.  I had white-knuckle grips on that chair, but it was good, it was all good! GEAR: I knew that I needed a the right gear.  And I knew it wasn’t going to be cheap.  But being Chinese and a creative, I didn’t exactly have the money or the mentality to throw all my money into this personal project.  I bought gear on a need-to basis little by little, but can say with confidence, that there is value in the right gear.  Pockets in your pants, pants that support your legs, gloves that keep your hands warm, underarmour that keeps your body warm, the right hat that keeps your head warm, sneakers that become an extension of your body…all of these things make a difference in the comfort of your run.  If you are tugging at your pants, have no tunes in your ears, have cold fingers, have cold air seeping under your hat, you are going to be miserable.  You want to get these things squared away so that your energy can be economized for the important thoughts…like running!  I am grateful to my friend who hooked me up with the pair of Nikes I used for everything.  I am grateful to my roommate to took me shopping for my prize pants on the eve of the Urbanathalon.  I am grateful to all the salespeople who helped me buy my gloves, hat, etc that made all the difference in my run and are not must-haves in my running ensemble. THE URBANATHLON: I came in 2nd place in my category, female women from 30-35!  I was in great shape for this run.  I remember flying past so many people and just feeling like I was on fire, it was incredible!  The adrenaline rush was nonstop and the energy was electric amongst all the runners in Queens on that forboding Saturday morning (it was raining and by the end of the race, snowing!)  I was definitely giddy from the beginning and you can tell in my video as I interviewed friends pre-race. I know for a fact now that I’m someone who loves doing these adrenaline-charged events.  This year will surely bring more races, another Urbanathalon, perhaps a triathalon, and perhaps one of those mud runs!  I was literally fist-pumping my way through many parts of the 9-mile run because I was comfortable and my music was good!  The obstacles were a challenge for me and I’m grateful that fellow competitors were so gracious as to give me a boost and help me over every one of those walls I had to climb over!  The monkey bars required three attempts for me and even on the last one, the supervisor just let me scoot past after having completed most of it.  The stairs at Citifield were fine, save for the bottleneck effect of all the runners squeezing into the skinny aisles between the bleachers.  There is a lot of upper-body training that I need to do for the next Urbanathalon and strategies that I can employ for certain obstacles.  But I was running safely, staying conscious of my ankle, and I made up for any deficit accrued during the obstacles during the running portions.  All-in-all, an awesome, awesome experience that I can’t wait to do again!  Especially since I’ve qualified to be in the first wave of runners next time!  woohoo! THE BROOKLYN MARATHON: With the Urbanathalon behind me, I couldn’t rest just yet.  I still had to continue my marathon training as the Brooklyn Marathon was less than a month away.  What was so great, however, was that I was confident now about the marathon.  I now thought of myself as real runner, a real athlete, a competitor who could hold a candle next to other competitors!  This was new for me, as I had only run cross-country in high school and a few races here and there prior to this.  Of course, I consider myself a fit individual, but I never quite considered myself a “runner”…until now!  I remember that I only had one opportunity to hit the 20-mile mark during my long run and I never did it.  It’s recommended that every runner run up to 20 miles before embarking on a marathon.  This is considered the perfect mileage in order to train adequately without over-training.  The adrenaline of race day will easily close the 6-mile gap between your training and your goal.  For me, however, due to scheduling constraints and a lack of running partners, I went into the marathon with only 16.5 miles under my belt.  It was nerve-wracking! As I mentioned before, one motivation for my running these races was to raise money for a school in Nepal!  This is what I did the night before the marathon.  It took a lot of time and effort, but it was the vision that I had for this marathon, so I’m glad that I followed through.  What’s great is that somewhere between Temples In Training and Run for Nepal and future races, I believe that this effort doesn’t have to end with me!  So even though I only raised $200, which will grant two students tuition, more money can be raised upon this platform! So, the Brooklyn Marathon, in short, was not the greatest experience.  I finished, but it took me about 5 hours and I overshot the finish and ran about a mile extra, which was mentally defeating and frustrating.  I also shot out of the gate way to fast, dooming myself by mile 7 for a painful remaining 19 miles.  It was definitely not what I had bargained for.  What I took away from this is that I have to learn to pace myself to run at reasonable pace from start to finish and also have to complete more miles during training in order to prepare my legs and feet for such extensive running.  I also realize that a marathon is not such a cardiovascular challenge for me, as I’m running slow enough to carry on full conversations.  So for the next one, the ING New York City Marathon, I would definitely like a group or partner to just keep myself occupied, as boredom is actually an issue for 4 hours!  My goal, in 2012 is to either qualify for the ING Marathon via lottery or charity or run 9 races in order to qualify for the 2013 ING Marathon.  And then, I will run it under 4 hours!  Mark my words!

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