Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wurtsboro Mountain 30K; FRNY Track Meet; Tuna Tartare

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
      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
      9.5   3:18.60
      10.0  3:12.81

10k Splits

      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!

Tuna Tartare

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)
Sesame seeds

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.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Asbury Park Half Marathon! 1:29:28!! New PR!!!

I did it!!! After years of trying, and then putting my attempts on hold due to injury, I've FINALLY met my half marathon goal!!! At this past Sunday's Asbury Park Half Marathon, I not only got a new Personal Record, but I got my very first sub-1:30 half marathon!!! 1:29:28! Hoorray!!!

And I didn't even know what I was doing until well into the race... I woke up Sunday morning not knowing if I was going for a training run or actually "racing" it. I had thought, being five weeks out from Boston, it would be nice to have a good race under my belt before the marathon.  But I also thought that it would be a big confidence-crusher if I tried to do well and couldn't (like my 1:42 Manhattan Half in January...  It was such a total disappointment that I didn't even mention it in my blog because I just wanted the whole experience to go away).

So at the starting line, I decided that I would run a couple of miles, and if I felt good, I would try to get a good time. If not, then I would enjoy a nice 13.1 mile training run. I was thinking, if everything went well, I would run around 7:00-7:15 miles, ending up with a 1:32 or 1:33.

A bunch of Front Runners either ran the half or did the relay. Mike Terry, Jonathan, Rachel, Alison, Audra and Steve all did the half, and Peter, Derek, Gabby and Tyler were a four-person relay. So at the start, I was lined up with Mikey, Jonathan and Peter. They made me stand with them, way in the front. I didn't think that was a good idea, since they're all so much faster than me, but there was a race photographer up there and I wanted to get in some pictures with the boys. So there I was, way in front when they sounded the horn.  And Peter and Jonathan took off. They were leading the whole field... 500 or so runners, and FRNY had the #1 and #2 spots. Mikey wasn't far behind, either. But I tried to keep my distance. 13.1 miles was a long way to go, and I didn't want to get sucked into their pace at the beginning and crash and burn a few miles later.  But it was tough.  People were going out so fast. And before I knew it, I hit Mile 1: 6:37. Yikes! That's way too fast! I knew I needed to slow down... This was only 11 seconds slower than my 5k pace two weeks ago; there'd be no way I could sustain that for the whole race.

So I tried to slow down. But then this girl, #545 ("Glenna") started running right by me.  And she was running about what I was running. For some reason, I couldn't break loose from her, even though I knew it was a tad faster than what I should have been going. So I stuck with her for a little while. I missed the second mile marker, so I had no idea how fast I was going... then mile 3 came and I saw that my split was 13:12. Eeck... that meant my second and third miles were at 6:36 pace.  I forced myself to break off from Glenna, but there was no one else to pace off of. So for Mile 4, I was mostly on my own.

I started to get worried about my pacing. Luckily, though, this was my favorite part of the course. The race consisted of four loops of about 3.3 miles each, about half of which is an out and back on the Asbury Park Boardwalk. The part of the run on the Boardwalk meant a lot of opportunities to see the other Front Runners, both running along the two out-and-backs, and running through Convention Hall, where the relay transition was.  All the other Front Runners cheered for me, as I did for them. It was great to see so many on the course.

Mile 4 was 6:54. I wasn't tiring too much, but I knew I still had almost 3 laps to go. At this point, I thought that a sub-1:30 was out of the question (not that I ever really thought I going to do it), since mile 4 was 6:54 and I needed a 6:52 average to make sub-1:30. But I still stuck with it, thinking maybe I could still beat my PR of 1:31:30 (6:59 pace, set at the 2008 NYC Half).

The part of the course that included Miles 4-5 was by far the hardest part. Not that the course itself was difficult but there was a brutal headwind coming from the West, so running West on Sunset Ave meant we were heading directly into it. On the first loop, I hardly noticed it, since the adrenaline of Mile 1 caused me to barrel through. But it was definitely tougher on the second loop.

Mile 5 was 6:52. This was when I started getting excited.  I realized that not only was a PR quite possible, but I could maybe--just maybe--also get under 1:30. The headwind in Miles 4-5 slowed me down a little, but I could make it up going back towards the boardwalk.

I was in a zone during Miles 6-8.  I don't remember much except seeing Jonathan, Derek and Mike as I went towards the turnaround in Ocean Grove, and then seeing Audra, Alison, Rachel and Steve on the way back. Ugh, and the crazy headwind at Mile 8. It got stronger and I felt it was pushing me back so hard. I remember staring down at the ground because I didn't want to know how much more I had left to go on Sunset Ave before I got out of the wind. I completely forgot to get my splits during this time, until Mile 8: 20:44.  This was when I started doing math. 20:44 was 7 minute miles, minus 16 seconds, divided by three, whch was three seconds more than 6:52, and I banked 45 seconds in my first three miles... Hmmm, maybe a sub 1:30 was actually possible. I was getting excited.

Miles 9-10 were more of me in the zone. Most of those two miles were on the boardwalk, except for the first half-mile, which had a tailwind. 6:50 and 6:55, right on sub-1:30 pace!

Mile 11 was the most miserable mile of the whole race. It consisted of the entire stretch on Sunset Ave into the headwind. I felt like I was barely able to do anything faster than a walk. Each step was a struggle against the wind tunnel, and there was no one to draft off of or hide behind. Time? 7:15. WTF?!? How did I slow down 20 seconds in one mile?! I was so angry. I almost gave up. But I knew I still had a few seconds in the bank. If I could just crank out a couple more 6:52s, I'd be all set.

I had the nice tailwind pushing me through Mile 12, so I lengthened my stride a bit going across 5th Ave.  It felt like I was flying! And then, when I turned onto the boardwalk again for the last time, I knew I was almost home. I saw Rachel, who looked like she was enjoying the race, and then Jonathan, Tyler and Mike pushing hard in their last mile. I looked at my watch at Mile 12 and I saw 6:50... with a total elapsed time of 1:22:13! I knew I was on my way towards a huge PR. I had 7:47 to run my last 1.1 mile and still be under 1:30.

So in that last 1.1, I made my move. I sped up my turnover, and focused on the finish. I picked people off and passed them, which was easy to do since many people were still on their 3rd lap. The last half mile or so before Convention Hall seemed to take forever. I was pushing hard, and as I passed Mile 13 right before entering Convention Hall, I saw that I ran it in 6:33--my fastest mile of the day! And I had over a minute to finish the last tenth! I knew I was definitely under 1:30! And as I exited the other end of Convention Hall, I could see the finish line ahead of me. And right next to the finish line were all of the Front Runner boys cheering and screaming for me. I pumped my arms as hard as I could and barreled toward the finish and I saw... 1:29:28!! A TWO MINUTE PR!!!  My first sub-1:30 and I crushed it!!! Holy Crap!!

OMG, I had no idea I had that in me. My head just started swelling up with emotions. In a way, this was even more emotional than when I qualified for Boston because I've spent the past year and a half dealing with my butt/hamstring injury, thinking I would maybe never run fast again. The finisher in front of me congratulated and and I gave him a hug, I was just so overcome with everything. THANK YOU to everyone who came with me on the trip to Asbury Park, to all of you who cheered for me along the course, and to everyone who supported and encouraged me on the way through my injury and training.  I'm now really excited for what April 18th holds for me.

        Mile 1:   6:37
        Mile 2-3: 6:36 avg
        Mile 4:   6:54
        Mile 5:   6:52
        Mile 6-8: 6:55 avg
        Mile 9:   6:50
        Mile 10:  6:55
        Mile 11:  7:15
        Mile 12:  6:50
        Mile 13:  6:33
        Last 0.1: 0:41  
        FINAL     1:29:28

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Coogan's, Club Night, Neeps and Tatties

I had a busy but good week this past week!

The biggest running news of the week was that I ran the Coogan's Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks 5K in Washington Heights on Sunday.  It's the first club points race of the year, and it's always one of the more popular races of the year.  I had been looking forward to this race for quite some time, mainly because it was my chance to get a fast pace in a short race so I could keep my blue starting bib.  My current bib time of 6:13 is from a 5K I ran in Prospect Park two years ago in a race that doesn't even exist anymore, and that time should have expired long ago.

Because the race was on Sunday, I decided not to do my long run of the week on Saturday, but to do it on Friday instead.  It was a 20-miler that I ran with Patrick and Paul, and it was a lot tougher than I expected it to be.  I'm pretty sure we were going well under a 7:45 pace, whereas usually my long runs are around 8-minute miles.  The last three miles I was struggling quite a bit, and ended up finishing about a minute after Paul and Patrick.  In my defense, though, I was the only one racing Coogan's on Sunday, so maybe I was holding back a little.

Coogan's 5K Elevation Profile

Anyways, fast forward to Sunday, my legs were still a bit sore when I woke up.  (On Saturday, I could barely walk, and ended up doing a slllooooowwww 3-mile jog at the fun run.)  So I didn't know if this was going to be a good race or not.  To top it off, it was a little drizzly the whole race, and I was concerned that the wet ground would slow me down.  Nonetheless, I stuck with the two goals I had for the race: an "A" goal of sub 6:20 miles, and a "B" goal of sub-20 minutes for the race (6:26 pace).

The start was very crowded.  It took about a quarter mile just to be able to have some space around me.  Then I realized that Mikey was running right next to me.  He had mentioned earlier that he had a goal of sub-20 minutes for the race too, so I decided to stick with him.  My first mile was 6:26.  So, exactly on pace for a 20-minute race, but probably off my "A" goal, considering I hadn't even gotten to the big climb yet.

On the downhill part of the second mile, I ended up passing Mikey.  I knew my lead wasn't goin to last, though, since having done a million hill workouts with Mikey, I know that he's much stronger than me on the uphills.  And sure enough, a half mile later, after the turnaround as we were going back up the hill, he passed me back.  He actually opened up quite a big lead, too.  So much so that I didn't know if I should just let him go or try to reel him back in.  Mile 2 was 6:31.  Ugh.  There goes my "A" goal and possibly also my "B" goal...

On the cab ride up to Washington Heights that morning, Kelsey told me that this race was made or broken in the last mile.  If you saved your legs a bit for mile 2, you would have it in you for a good strong kick to finish the last, mostly downhill, mile 3.  So as I got over the last hump of mile three, I kicked it up a bit, and tried to charge down that hill.  I kept telling myself that it was just 3-4 laps around the track left.  Mile 3: 6:27.  WTF?!?!  I was so pissed.  It looked like I wasn't even going to make 20 minutes.  So in the last tenth of a mile, I booked it so friggin fast, pumping my arms as hard as I could, widening my stride, leaning forward, trying to get to the finish line.  And then I saw...  19:57!!!  I just made it by 3 seconds!  And my last 0.1 mile was in 33 seconds (5:30 pace).

BTW, I beat 1293, just in case you're wondering.

Whew!  What a relief.  It was a great feeling to reach my goal.  After almost 20 minutes of slowly seeing my goal almost escape my grasp, I was able to pull it back in in the last half mile or so and accomplish what I had set out to do.  I felt really good.  Of course, it would have been better if I had broken 6:20 pace, but I'll save that for my next 5K.  At this point, I'm thrilled with my 19:57.

One reason Coogan's is such a popular race for the Front Runners is that every year, Patrick and Johnny host a fabulous post-race brunch at their apartment not far from the finish line.  They always put out quite a beautiful and tasty spread for us, which this year included various kinds of quiche, deviled eggs, and a delicious homemade potato salad.  Here's a sampling of the great food:

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And later that afternoon, it was another Computrainer session.  Only, this one was MUCH much different from before.  Out of seven bikers, I came in THIRD place!!!  Woohooo, it looks like I'm getting better!!!

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Last Thursday, I attended the Annual New York Road Runners Club Night, an evening that honors the achievements of the city's various running clubs.  I'm very proud to report that Front Runners New York was one of the clubs nominated for the first ever Team Spirit Award!!!  It's such an honor to be recognized among the NYC running community, because I know first hand that FRNY really does have the best team spirit out there.  It's always amazing to me that we can regularly get 100+ runners out to a race, and have dozens of other members on the course cheering or volunteering.  As a runner, every time I see another Front Runner, I get a boost of energy that helps propel me to the finish line.  And as someone who also cheers for our runners, I'm so happy to show my teammates and the NYC running community how much Front Runners rock.  While we didn't win the award this year (that honor went to the North Brooklyn Runners), we all knew that the love we all had for our club, and the pride that we have as members of FRNY, is just unparalleled anywhere else.  Yayyy Front Runners!

Oh, here's a picture of me and Ginnie, the Age Group winner for the women's 75-79 category.  For a number of reasons, she's somewhat of a legend in the NYC running community.  She so graciously agreed to pose for a picture with me.  What a gal!

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I want to report a very successful track workout the other day.  We did 5 x mile repeats.  Here are my times:
1.  6:28
2.  6:18
3.  6:08
4:  6:12 (ok, this one could have been a bit faster, but I started my kick a little too late).

And then, after having already done four solid mile repeats, I decided to try to stick with the front group in my last mile -- Steve, Kevin and Andrew.  My first few laps were 45 seconds on the dot.  I started wondering if it was a bad idea to start out so fast.  My first 800 was 3 minutes exactly.  I didn't know if I could keep that pace up, but I pushed through.  After 1200, I was at 4:28...  Only two more laps to go, and I was under a six minute pace!  Chris, the timekeeper, was yelling at me, encouraging me to go for it.  I could tell people on the side were watching me, seeing me almost keep pace with Andrew (who had been running a lot faster than me all night).  At that point, I knew I had to go for it.  Those last two laps were HARD . . . the straightaways seemed to go on forever!  And at 5:12 for my 1400, with just one lap to go, I knew I was gonna do it, even if I slowed down.  But I didn't let myself cruise.  Instead, I picked it up, focused myself hard, and ran as fast as I could.  And there we had it: 5:55 for the finish!!!  My fastest mile in a track workout!  My first time running under 6 minutes in a workout.  It was so cool!  What an awesome feeling!

I feel like I'm really making some progress now.  I have to say, after a year and a half of being injured, and running disappointing races, and being afraid to push myself, I feel like I'm starting to get my running legs back.  This is coming at a great time for me, being less than six weeks away from running the Boston Marathon.  I'm getting really excited about the marathon, and I'm starting to think that I can have a really successful run.  This past year and a half have been quite difficult for me, as I saw myself steadily losing both speed and endurance.  But as I start to enter my peak training weeks for Boston, I'm thinking that it's really good to be back.

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One last note.  A few weeks back, Dan and Dave invited some of us runners out to a Scottish Burns Night dinner, a night to celebrate Scottish food and heritage, and to commemorate the great Scottish poet Robert Burns.  I ate, for the first time in my life, traditional Scottish Haggis, which is a dish containing sheep's "pluck" (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours.  It was, uh, interesting.  Much more to my liking were the "neeps and tatties," or mashed turnips and potatoes, and a beef and mushroom pastry.

The best part of the night, though, was being able to play dress up and enjoy some fun Scottish dancing!