What a week of racing! With just three weeks left till the Boston Marathon, I have been putting out some of the best racing I've ever done, and I'm feeling really strong and very excited for April 18th.
This past Saturday was the Wurtsboro Mountain 30k. You guys might remember that I ran it last year, and had a terrible, terrible race. The night before was Koach Kelsey's birthday party, and some of us continued the festivities well into the night. I had about two and a half hours of sleep before the race. It was miserable. I vowed that this year would be different.
So Friday night I was good. I stayed in and even made a delicious pasta dinner to carb up for the 18.6 miles the next morning. I was inspired by this article in Runners World to make a delicious and simple salmon pasta. I've been trying to incorporate more Omega-3 fish into my diet, and canned salmon is an easy way to do it. Most brands use wild salmon, and the canning process softens up the bones so you can eat them for some fun texture and added calcium. I sauteed a bunch of broccoli rabe and added a pound of cooked pasta, and just dumped in a can of salmon and a can of peas. Then the zest and juice of a lemon (I have an continual source of organic lemons from my parent's tree, which my mom mails to me every few weeks). And voila, a healthy simple pasta dish in about 10 minutes!
Although I've done the Wurtsboro Mountain 30k twice before, this was the first year that Front Runners New York was supporting it as an "official" out-of-town race--which meant we got free transportation to the race start, in Wurtsboro, NY, about 90 miles north. So we had something like 37 Front Runners doing the race! In a small-town race that only had 138 finishers, FRNY definitely made a presence!
My goal for the race was to run under a 7:30 pace. My first time running it in 2008, I did it in 2:17:08, or 7:21 pace. Last year was 2:38:40 (8:30 pace...ugh). I didn't necessarily want to beat my 2008 time, but I did want to get something respectable to make up for last year.
As soon as the race started, the uphills began. The first 4.5 miles are pretty much all uphill and cover about 1000 feet in vertical gain. Unexpectedly, I found myself running on my own at the very start. I didn't really think it through, but I kind of assumed I would be in small group with other FRs my pace, like Mikey B and Jeff. But they hung back, which made me a little nervous. Was I going out too fast? I couldn't tell. Meanwhile, the only people ahead of me in the first mile were Sanderson, Jonathan, Waldon and Beganics (all much, much faster than me). I struggled with trying to decide if I should slow down or not. But I kept going. It felt good, and my Garmin (which I wore for the first time since Reach the Beach in September) said I was going at about an 8 minute pace, not exactly speedy.
Around mile 3 or 4, I caught up to Steve. I told him that I felt like I was doing something really wrong if I had caught up to him. He said he was just doing a fun run, not racing, so it made me feel better. Still, I was nervous about whether I could maintain the speed. I decided to stick with him, keeping about a step behind him; there was no reason to get carried away and outrun him at this early point in the race. We stayed together for the next several miles.
Because I was running with Steve, and because I had been similarly tailing another guy for the first 3 miles (I hope I didn't annoy him), the uphill 4.5 miles at the beginning seemed to go by really quickly. Some memorable points were a sharp, steep left turn at around mile three that I felt like I had to walk up. And after mile 4, when, after a brief downhill section, when you think it might all be over, there's another damn hill. Ugh. But all in all, it wasn't as bad as I feared. I finished the first 4.5 miles in 35:37, or 7:55 pace.
Then came the downhills, and they were steep! For a moment around mile 5, I was going so fast that I started pulling away in front of Steve, but then I reeled myself in after realizing that there was still a half-marathon to go. There were other parts that were so steep that I had to slow myself down since it was scary to go that fast. Mile 10 was about a 6:27.
Mile 11 was when I started to get nervous. I knew that after one more mile, the course would level off. It's easy to go fast if I had gravity pulling me down. But could I really go another 6 or 7 miles if I had to propel myself on my own? I wasn't quite certain.
And sure 'nuff, as soon as mile 12 came, and the course wasn't downhill anymore, Steve started pulling ahead of me. I took my second gel hoping it would give me the energy to push through the last 10k. But I just saw him get further and further away. I had slowed down to about a 7:40 pace. And I remembered what I had completely forgotten about the course--that the last 10k was hilly as well! No, it wasn't like climbing the mountain for the first 4.5 miles, but the hills were still like Cat Hill and the Westside Hills in Central Park. After taking 13 miles of pounding on my legs, even small hills seemed brutal to me.
There was nothing that I could do but keep pushing on. I kept Steve in my sights. One thing that helped was that at this point there were quite a few Front Runners on the course who had gone out at the early start, 30 minutes before me. As I passed them, we encouraged each other, and pushed each other along. But those last few miles were just brutal. I kept waiting for my Garmin to beep at me every half mile.
The last 2 or 3 miles, my mind started wandering. I started getting nervous, thinking that I had slowed down so much that people were going to pass me. I didn't want to waste all that great running I had the first 15 miles only to fall apart for the last three. I focused myself, and just headed forward as best as I could. I tried to make up time on the short downhill stretches by lengthening my stride and leaning forward a little. I told myself only 20 minutes to go, then 15, then 10. About a quarter mile from the finish, I saw Jonathan waiting at the side of the course. He started running with me towards the finish line. I couldn't muster up even an ounce of energy to say a single word to him, but it was so good to have him there. He helped give me the push that I needed to finish strong. Off in the distance I saw the finish line, and then Megan was there cheering, yelling, "You got it, Dave." And then I did it! 2:15:19! A 7:16 pace! For a brutal, brutal, brutal course, I was one of the first people to cross the finish line, I raced the best that I could, and got a time that I was proud of! What a great day. THANK YOU to Steve, for letting me tag along with him for 8 or 9 miles. And thanks to everyone along the way!
And guess what?!?! My time of 2:15:19 made me the 4th fastest person in the 30-39 age group. But since the overall winner of the race was 37 and doesn't get two awards, I got bumped up to 3rd. Yayyyy, I got a medal!!! What a great race, with the best of friends, and I even got a little shiny piece of hardware to show for it! Overall, just an excellent day!
My Half-Mile Splits
Mile Time Mile Time
0.5 3:53.28 10.5 3:20.61
1.0 4:03.77 11.0 3:17.42
1.5 4:22.87 11.5 3:22.33
1.0 4:03.77 11.0 3:17.42
1.5 4:22.87 11.5 3:22.33
2.0 4:06.34 12.0 3:33.07
2.5 4:06.22 12.5 3:32.74
3.0 3:54.99 13.0 3:42.76
3.5 3:57.14 13.5 3:38.28
4.0 3:36.37 14.0 3:52.26
4.5 3:35.90 14.5 3:43.39
5.0 3:24.05 15.0 3:50.23
5.5 3:28.31 15.5 3:38.31
6.0 3:18.71 16.0 3:49.53
6.5 3:22.49 16.5 3:35.75
7.0 3:18.69 17.0 3:42.27
7.5 3:25.55 17.5 3:42.92
8.0 3:14.56 18.0 3:43.01
8.5 3:17.31 18.5 3:37.52
9.0 3:18.14 18.7 1:20.00
1st 10k: 47:09 (7:36 pace)
2nd 10k: 41:31 (6:42 pace)
3rd 10k: 46:39 (7:31 pace)
TOTAL: 2:15:19 (7:16 pace)
If you are interested in seeing entirely too much data about this run, I uploaded my Garmin info HERE.
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Another big piece of running news for me was that last week I participated in the 12th Annual Front Runners New York Track Meet at the Armory. Some of you might remember reading about my experience running at the track meet last year, when I did the Distance Medley Relay with fellow gaysian Front Runners Da, Anthony and Tsing (Team Joy Luck Club!). The Joy Luck Club was back this year.
But before I did the relay, I also decided to race the mile. The last time I raced the mile was at the NYRR Thursday Night at the Races in February, when I got a 5:44. And the only other time I raced a mile in my life was the FRNY Track Meet in 2008--a 5:33.42. I seeded myself as a 5:40, hoping to shave a few seconds off the mile I did a month ago, but knowing that my three-year old time was unobtainable. It turned out that my heat was almost all Front Runners, so that made things a little more interesting. And I was seeded right between Spencer and Mikey B.
I don't remember a lot about the race anymore, but for the first 5 laps or so, I was right behind Spencer. We were averaging about 41 seconds per 200, so about 5:28 pace. Then in the last two laps I kind of fell apart. Spencer got further and further ahead of me, and I couldn't close the gap between us. Then Mikey passed me on the very last lap. And I felt myself just giving up. Mikey had a really strong kick to the finish, and I was disappointed that I couldn't keep up. He ended up beating me by a pretty wide margin; about 5 seconds, which I thought was huge considering he only passed me about half a lap from the finish.
I definitely had mixed emotions, though. I ended up beating my goal by 6 seconds, and beating my mile from just a month prior by a whopping 10 seconds. But alas, my official time of 5:34.02 was six tenths of a second too slow to be a new PR. I could have made up that fraction of a second by not giving up at the end, and I was annoyed at myself for doing so. In the end, it would be a good run, but not one that I'm particularly happy about.
About an hour later, I was back on the track again. I was running the 1600, the final leg of the DMR, with the gaysians. It was tough. My legs were like jello, and I had just gone through the rather trying emotional trauma of racing a mile where I started strong and faded hard.
And so I ran my eight laps. People watching said later that they could see the misery on my face. I don't know how people run multiple events at the track in the same night, because neither my legs nor my head were working as well as I needed them to.
I think I probably did run a pretty decent 1600--maybe mid-5:40s, I wasn't really paying that much attention. But it felt awful, and as soon as I started, I couldn't wait for it to end.
The good thing, though, (as is seemingly all Front Runner events at the track) was that there were a ton of Front Runners all around the track cheering me on. I couldn't have done it without them and my Joy Luck Club teammates. But next year, I might just do one event.
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I had another meeting of my Secret Front Runner Recipe Exchange Society. The theme ingredients this month were cheese or lemons/limes. I picked lemons and limes.
I've been on a tartare kick lately, ever since I had the Koi Soi at Lotus of Siam in the Village a couple of months ago. The Koi Soi was a spicy raw beef salad with cilantro, scallions, lime juice, fresh and dried chilis, and it was delicious! I've never really been a fan of raw or even rare beef, but this was honestly one of the best dishes I've ever had. This other blog has some pictures and a nice mouth-watering description of Lotus of Siam's Koi Soi in their original Las Vegas restaurant.
So I decided to try to recreate that dish for the Secret Recipe Society. Because Rachel keeps a Kosher kitchen, I had to use tuna. And I made a separate lentil version of my tuna tartare for her since she doesn't eat fish or meat.
In an effort to emphasize the theme ingredient, I used three lime components, the zest and juice, and the leaves of the kaffir lime. Kaffir lime leaves are a key ingredient in Southeast Asian cooking, and adds a distinctive citrus-y, flower-like flavor. I got them at Bangkok Center Grocery, my favorite Thai grocery store in Chinatown. It's on Mosco Street, conveniently next to a dollar dumpling place and across from the Chinese cupcake bakery. Yum.
For the tuna, I just used chunks of frozen ahi tuna that Trader Joe's sells for $2.99 a pound. Mike Terry told me originally that he would be afraid to eat raw tuna from TJ's because it would be somehow inferior, farm-raised or made gross from being frozen. But, I don't think there's any such thing as farm-raised tuna, and almost all fish at sushi restaurants, even at fancy places like Nobu and Sushi Yasuda, is previously frozen (a federal regulation requires it).
The night before our big dinner, I made a practice run with my tuna tartare. I chopped the tuna, and mixed it with lime juice and the other ingredients. Within minutes, the acid in the lime juice started cooking the tuna, and turned it a gross grey color. I remembered a similar thing happened on an episode of Top Chef. In the episode, Eric Ripert said that the tuna should be cut up at the last possible moment, and can be coated with oil to prevent it from turning grey. So that's what I did. (The picture below still makes it look grey, but it was beautiful and pink when I served it, I swear!)
A lot of recipes I looked at suggested adding chopped up avocados to the tuna tartare. But I thought that was a little too predictable, and also too much of the same soft/mushy texture. So I added some diced zucchini for some interesting crunch. I think that worked well.
Finally, people were all very impressed by how I plated it. I just used a clean tomato sauce can and made a little circle of tuna tartare on each plate. If I had some extra time, I would have fried up some wonton skins or something crunchy for scooping up the tartare, but some Pringles substituted in a pinch. It turned out to be a big hit!
1 pound tuna (I used yellowfin (ahi) tuna... you can use bluefin if you want to be fancy); may be substituted with 1/2 pound cooked lentils
2 scallions, chopped fine
1/2 a zucchini, diced into 1/4" cubes
Olive oil (about 2 Tbsp)
Grated zest + Juice of 2-3 limes
Grated zest + Juice of 1 lemon
Sugar (about 2 tsps)
Sesame oil (about 1/2 tsp...a little goes a long way)
Red chili oil (about 1/2 tsp)
Wasabi powder (about 1 tsp), reconstituted with 1 tsp water and let sit for 5 minutes
6-8 kaffir lime leaves, center vein removed and minced finely
Make the dressing first. Taste it constantly. Add just enough sugar to counteract the sourness of the lime/lemon juice; it shouldn't be sweet.
Chop up the tuna into about 1/4" pieces. Immediately mix in the olive oil. Add zucchini and scallions, salt and pepper. Add enough of the dressing to dress the tuna but not too much that it gets soupy. Plate with circle mold or a small can. Garnish with sesame seeds and Pringles. Makes 6-8 servings.
Note: do not make more than 15 minutes in advance or lime/lemon juice will cook the tuna.