Hurdles

A good, creative runner can always find an excuse not to train – this weather is too hot, this weather is too cold, my friend Goldilocks has been eaten by bears – but the excuses I’ve encountered these last few weeks have started to get ridiculous.

First I couldn’t run because of recurring knee pain that I self-diagnosed as runner’s knee because I have an MD in googling symptoms. When that pain subsided, I planned to make up a missed long-run before work – but slept through it because my 5:00 a.m. iphone alarm was set to silent (Tim Cook: Why is that even an option!?) So I planned to do it the next morning instead – and woke up with a bout of apparent pink eye, making contact-use impossible. Add on top of that two lovely weddings in as many days this weekend that have left me in a mild state of hangover for 36 hours straight, and it’s starting to feel a little like the big running coach in the sky secretly wants me to toe the starting line in Staten Island two months from tomorrow woefully unprepared.

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But champagne is good for your fast-twitch fibers, right?

Luckily, this isn’t my first rodeo, so I know what I’m supposed to do: Even though my training has been derailed on and off for several weeks, I should in the words of the infallible Ms. Swift shake it off and throw myself right back into my workout schedule as of today. A week of missed long runs and hill repeats isn’t ideal, but a few sessions off won’t kill me, as long as I lace up today and train this week in earnest. The course of action I should take: I should put the past behind me. I should recommit myself to my marathon goal. I should just get out there and run.

That’s what I should do – but I’m not going to. Why, you ask? Because I also should be boarding a flight to Greece in 9 hours for a week of rest, relaxation and running.

Good bye, marathon training recovery. Hello, spanakopita.

Of course, I’m not going to arrive in the birthplace of the marathon without my running shoes in hand, and I’m hoping to stick to my training schedule as close to possible while summering in the Hellenic Republic. But with so many seaside beaches and bottles of wine already calling my name, something tells me this isn’t going to be the most industrious week of this marathon training cycle. Ah well. Pheidippides probably would have wanted it that way.

How do you keep your marathon training on track while simultaneously stuffing your face with feta and grape leaves? All advice appreciated.

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Summer Reading

Keats and Eliot may get some readers’ hearts a flutter, but my favorite poet has always been the brilliant children’s lyricist Jack Prelutsky. Classic ’90s verse Something Big Has Been Here holds a special place, but the poem that really gets me is a 24-word ode to a penguin-relative, the auk.

“An auk in flight is sheer delight, it soars above the sea. An auk on land is not so grand — an auk walks aukwardly.”

Change a few words, and that clever couplet can also describe runners and the stark differences between when we’re healthy and when we’re not.

“A runner on a run is loads of fun, she glides up the park toward home. A runner at rest is not her best – she’s godawful at sitting still and just letting her sore old muscles heal on their own.”

(You’ll be shocked to learn I didn’t win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for that little ditty.)

It’s true though. When I’m feeling limber and light and healthy and strong, running is an absolute pleasure that leaves me feeling wholeheartedly in my element. At my very best, I can log an entire Central Park loop and feel like I’m flying.

But when I’m sidelined with an injury – like with this recurring knee pain during the past two weeks – I become downright aukward. Suddenly unsure of my abilities, I start to second guess every decision I make: Can I still cross train? Am I icing too much or too little? Will these two weeks of scaled back training detail my marathon?

And the clincher: What do I do with all this free time?

I was confronted with that question this past week, and luckily, I found something to keep me entertained and off my achy legs: a wonderful book. (Of course, some of my extra hours spent prone on the couch this past week also went to binge watching the gloriously ridiculous Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp because I am a human with needs.)

The book was Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a thoughtful and powerful novel that got me recognizing my prejudices about race in America in a new way. Every sentence was a joy and – thankfully for my rested and now healed knee caps – I was able to spend all the hours I might have mistakenly spent on my feet curled up reading instead. There’s nothing like a good book to force you to recover.

In case you’re injured too as marathon season approaches and looking for some reading material, here are a few other picks from the last several years that I found entertaining enough to keep me holed up and off my recovering legs:

  • Euphoria by Lily King: Read it in Book Club, loved every second, and not just because I’m secretly harboring a wish to go back in time and become a 1920s anthropologist.
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: I’m sure you’ve all read this by now, but I’d be remiss to leave it off because it’s so, so beautiful.
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt: An oldie but goodie, especially if you went to college in New England (and secretly murdered one of your classmates, Imeanwhat?)
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson: This, and the sister book released this summer, God in Ruins, tugged at my heartstrings. Hmm. Maybe I should see a doctor and have those tied up.
  • The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker: Also a few years old, but a coming of age book I never stop thinking about.
  • Rules of Civility by Amor Towles: A step between fine modern fiction and beach-reading smut. It’s a load of fun.

Read all of those and loved them? Shoot me a message and I’ll send some other ideas your way. Read all of those and hated them? To each his own. Can’t read? Then I am very impressed by you getting all the way to the bottom of this post. You are a gentleman and a scholar.

What are you reading this summer that I should put on my next recovery list?

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One Step Behind

  • Joni Mitchel says you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.
  • Passenger says you only miss the sun when it starts to snow.
  • I say you don’t realize how many gosh-darn flights of stairs you walk a day until you develop a bout of runner’s knee and each subsequent descent results in a throbbing stab of torture.

(I’m not sure why my version hasn’t been turned into a pop song yet. I think it’s just as catchy as Joni’s.)

The pain in my right knee started last Tuesday after a particularly grueling 6-mile tempo run and a squat-heavy Body Pump class teamed up to ensure that my knee cap burns like fire every time I move.

Once I realized it was more than run-of-the-mill strain, I did everything I was supposed to do in subsequent days — dialed back my training, upped my stretching, singlehandedly kept the NSAID and Tiger Balm industries in business, road tripped to Indiana — but I still returned to New York City from a long weekend to discover that flights of stairs are no longer my friends.

Sole Exception: When this buffoon is sitting on them.

Sole Exception: When this buffoon is sitting on them.

Unfortunately, for the New Yorker without the luxury of an elevator building, stairs are totally unavoidable. Don’t believe me? Let’s play a fun game called guess how many flights Anne walks up and down in a typical day.

6 a.m. At the sound of my alarm, walk downstairs from our upstairs bedroom to the apartment’s main floor.

(Flights: down 1)

6:15 a.m. Head from the 5th floor to street level for a workout.

(Flights: down 4)

(Flights: down 4)

7:15 a.m. Return to apartment, return to upstairs bedroom, then turn around and do it all over again as I head to work.

I realize these photos will start to look a little repetitive, so here's a good looking doodle pic instead. You're welcome. (Flights: up 5, down 5)

I realize these photos will start to look repetitive quickly, so here’s a good looking doodle pic instead. You’re welcome. (Flights: up 5, down 5)

7:30 a.m. At departing subway station, downstairs to the express train.

(Flights: down 4)

(Flights: down 4)

7:40 a.m. At arriving subway station, back up to the main level.

(Flights: up 6)

7:45 a.m. At work, two flights down to my desk, then dozens of flights up and down throughout the day in order to grab snacks off the main level. I’ve gotten so spoiled I won’t travel for chocolate covered almonds anymore, but yesterday was free astronaut ice-cream day, and that definitely enticed me to hobble my way upstairs.

I've recently learned I'm not supposed to post photos of inside my office building, so here's Keira waiting for a cab. (Flights: down 2)

I’ve recently learned I’m not supposed to post photos of inside my office building, so here’s Keira waiting for a cab. (Flights: down 2, up 2, down 2, up 2, until I’m full, which is never.)

6 p.m. Back home again.

(Flights: down 6 to train, up 4 to street, up 5 to bedroom, down 1 when I realize I want a bedtime snack, up 1 to bed. Down and up 1 more if I have to pee in the middle of the night. The duplex apartment seemed like a good idea at the time.)

That’s more than 50 flights a day, and that’s the bare minimum. If I drop off recycling in the basement, that’s up and down an extra flight. Head out for errands? Tack on a cumulative 10 more. Watch Channing Tatum dance his way to love in 2006 teen film “Step Up” and follow along? I haven’t actually seen that movie, but I can imagine the stepping is endless.

Unfortunately, there’s not much I can do to avoid it. So I’m doing what marathon runners do best: wrapping and icing my injuries, eating protein-rich peanut butter by the quart to stimulate muscle repair, and counting down the days until I can head out for a run without giving my knees even the slightest of thought.

If I keep this up, I imagine I’ll have to get better. Come on, healing. STEP ON IT!

Have you entered August marathon training unscathed?

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A Blog By Any Other Name

My early summer trip to North Carolina was memorable for a whole bunch of reasons: seven friends, free flowing wine, and a photo shoot to capture the perfect shot ahead of L, C and my triple birthday party this November. You’ll never guess how old we’re turning.

You'll also never guess how many takes it took to get this right.

You’ll also never guess how many takes it took to get this right.

But of all the lovely moments that I’ll remember about my Memorial Day trip, one in particular has stuck with me: a beach-side conversation with one friend about the changes we could make in our lives to be really, truly happy.

Now don’t get me wrong: we’re both happy. We’re both with wonderful men in exciting cities with loving families, successful careers, and — after that sun-soaked conversation — killer tans. But as good as things are, there are always steps we can take to get even closer to our dream life, and as she and I sat on the beach, we challenged each other:

What steps could you take right this instant to get closer to your definition of happy?

It was an interesting exercise, since most of my goals aren’t the kinds of things I can put into motion at the drop of a hat. Get a dog? Not unless my hours change. Summer in Maine? Not unless I inherit a large sum of money. Capture the perfect goldendoodle selfie? Not until this floozy niece of mine stops smooching everyone in sight.

Coming in for the kill.

Coming in for the kill.

As we sat there discussing our goals, one stood out that felt more within my reach: find a way to take my blog a little bit more seriously.

Now I don’t mean more seriously like fewer dog photos or Star Wars jokes.

"Oh no! Those WERE the droids we were looking for!"

“Oh no! Those WERE the droids we were looking for!”

I mean taking my blog more seriously by trying to actually get it out there. Other bloggers I know are active on twitter, go to blogger conferences, attend sponsored events, review new workout products and pitch stories to national fitness magazines to grow their exposure. What do I do? I post to wordpress and facebook, and then go MIA for two weeks at a time because marathon training and, you know, writing for a paid living, push blogging to the back burner.

To be honest, I don’t know how much more time I could realistically carve out for this extracurricular passion of mine at this point in my life. But there is one thing I can do right this second to get closer to that end goal: I can finally buy http://www.rileduprunner.com.

So I did. For $26 a year — or about the cost of a late-night cab ride from the East Village to my apartment — I have bought a grown-up domain name to replace the much longer auto-generated wordpress one that I’ve used since I started this blog in 2012.

Was buying a domain name a giant leap forward toward my happiness-project goals? No, not really. But the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Also, with a small town girl living in a lonely world. #journeyjokes

What change could you make to your life today to get your closer to your goals?

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Saving My Own Skin

Running as a pastime has made me comfortable in my own skin. Unfortunately, my skin itself may not be so comfortable with running.

Although running has done excellent things for my overall complexion — from fewer breakouts to better blood flow to decreased signs of aging — all that extra time spent outdoors has one major consequence: it significantly ups my risk for melanoma.

I don’t usually discuss serious subjects on this blog like skin disease or the looming avocado shortage, but considering this is a health and fitness blog, I should probably address the ways in which my fitness could be damaging my health. Also, I just visited the no-compromise-about-it Angela Merkel of dermatology, and she scared the living daylights out of me. (“Nein! Do not use the vord daylights vithout vearing a hat!”)

When I visited her office for the first time last week, she took one glance at my skin and knew I was a runner. Even though I mostly run at 6 a.m. before the sun is at full blast and spend most of my time lapping the partially shaded reservoir, the hours I spend hitting the pavement are apparent, she said. And then she dropped the C word (“cancer,” come on, guys) and warned me my risk was elevated. Fortunately, no suspicious moles or markings this trip, but the Chancellor certainly got my attention.

Some of her recommendations seemed over the top — run in long sleeves, buy a hat that covers the back of my neck, look like a total nerd on the race course — but her message certainly hit home. Prone to overheating, I usually run in as little clothing as I can, and I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally slathered on sunscreen before a race. So I did what any modern woman would do: I went to Amazon, and I went wild.

I started by buying myself a running hat, and then (to my boyfriend’s humiliation) a sweet visor. Then I purchased some running sunglasses, a two-pack of good sunscreen and a summer fedora for gallivanting around town. Sure, hats are for hipsters, but they are also for the health-conscious, and it was high time I stopped borrowing Ben’s. (Just kidding, Ben, I’ll never stop. P.S. Can I borrow your superior fedora Saturday? K thanks love you bye.)

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My haul. I think the sunglasses like wearing the hat.

Will this newfound appreciation for skincare make a difference going forward and undo some of the damage I’ve done? I guess time will tell. But at least when it comes to proper sun protection, I can finally say I’ve got some skin in the game.

How do you protect your skin while training for a marathon?

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Celery-brate Good Times

I spent the first several years of my adult life largely avoiding the vegetable aisle, and not just because I had an innate fear of Jim Henson’s singing produce.

Source: http://blogs.disney.com/ and my nightmares

Source: http://blogs.disney.com/ and my nightmares

Raised in a typical American household of the late 80s and early 90s, my earliest memories of vegetables were microwaved broccoli florets, steamed lima beans and frozen peas – nutritional powerhouses, no doubt, but not the kind of introduction to plant-based sustenance that kindles a passion. Sure, I relished helping my mom grow a backyard garden each summer and loved a buttery ear of corn as much as the next kid, but it’s no surprise that one of my earliest memories involved sneaking away from the kitchen table to spit out a mouthful of dilled-carrots that my four-year-old self simply wasn’t having.

Throughout childhood, I mostly filled my five-a-day fruit and vegetable quota with fruits, and that general apathy toward the green stuff continued into college. Every evening at the dining hall, I’d build a side salad to accompany my carby-cheesy entre, but I’d rarely do more than pick the croutons (read: goldfish) off the top before retiring to the sundae bar. The trend continued during my early years as a New Yorker, where stir-fried eggplant from my favorite the Chinese take-out spot was the only crop to make it past my lips. Well, that and the garnishes to my bloody marys. What? It was an indulgent time.

I spent about 23 years of my life actively evading vegetables. And then, one day, that all changed, and I know exactly the dish that changed it for me: a plate of roasted Brussels sprouts prepared by my favorite cousin for a meeting of our book club at my first New York apartment. The preparation was simple — the sprouts were quartered, tossed with olive oil and sea salt, and baked until crisp in a high-temperature oven – but the outcome was sheer decadence. That momentous Monday I realized vegetables could be delicious, and thankfully, I’ve never looked back.

In the years since, my appreciation of vegetables and the sheer diversity of flavors they offer has grown and grown. As a first step, I started shopping the outside aisles at the grocery store. Two summers later, I enrolled in a CSA to get delivered farm-fresh vegetables twice a month. Today, Ben and I grow herbs and tomatoes in our very own outdoor mini-garden. And of course, I still order 38-ounce bloody marys. You know, for the antioxidants.

My brother knows what's up.

My brother knows what’s up.

But of all the ways I’ve found to bring fresh vegetables into my life, my favorite is still the original: the farmers’ market.

If you live in New York City, the odds are good you have a Greenmarket within 10 blocks of your apartment at least one day a week. The odds are also good that you should be buying pretty much all of your produce here, rather than at the grocery store.

Why, you ask? First and foremost, farmers’ markets only sell seasonal food that was likely harvested within the last 24 hours, meaning whatever you take home will be higher in nutrients and in flavor than grocery store items that have been in transit for days. Likewise, less travel time means a lower carbon footprint, plus if you have questions about how something was cultivated, you can ask the farmer right on the spot. In my experience, farmers’ market vegetables are less expensive, and since the carrots and beets often come with the tops still on, you basically get two vegetables for the price of one. Most importantly, farmers’ markets make for amazing Instagram photos.

photo 1 (76)

Hashtag blessed.

Today,  I arrived at my neighborhood market with $18 in Sacagaweas (thanks, gatorade vending machine, for making the second half of my nine-mile run today much heavier by only dispensing solid metal change) and left with two giant bunches of beets, tri-colored carrots, a giant zucchini, four ears of corn and a loaf of whole wheat sourdough bread, because, come on, I’m human.

That list of vegetables didn’t get your mouth a’watering, you say? What if I show you what I made with them?

The beets I sliced thin on a mandolin, tossed with oil and sea salt, and roasted in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes to make beet chips.

photo 4 (47)

The zucchini I grated and mixed with a half cup whole wheat flour, half a red onion, an egg, 2 tsp baking powder, a half cup shredded Parmesan, red pepper flakes and salt/pepper, then pan fried and ate with greek yogurt and a squirt of lemon. It was adapted from this Food & Wine recipe, except the brilliant addition of cheese was all my idea.

photo 3 (64)

The carrots I roasted with olive oil and sea salt until browned, then tossed with pesto made out of the carrot tops themselves. Doesn’t look like much, but this is probably the tastiest thing I’ve ever created.

photo 1 (77)

It’s not yet dinner time, and I’ve already consumed two pounds of zucchini, four beets, and a cup of carrots — quantities of vegetables that would have seemed comical to my earlier self. Come to think of it, I’ve even so many vegetables today, I forgot to have any fruit. Ah well. There’s always dessert.

What creative and delicious ways have you worked more vegetables into your diet?

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The Final Word

I’m an editor by trade, so I spend a lot of time thinking about word choice.

In my professional life, the word I’ve been thinking the most about is but.

(No, not butts, but ask me again after I see Magic Mike XXL this weekend. What up, homonym joke!)

Somewhere along my career development, the word “but” started slipping into more and more of my conversations and e-mails, and I know why — because it seems like a way to soften bad news with a sympathetic acknowledgement that it’s not what they wanted to hear. “I know you needed this by today, but it’s unfortunately not going to be ready.” “This is a good start, but you need to do some more work.” “I respect you having your own style, but we wear pants in the workplace.”

(Unless you’re Channing Tatum in the aforementioned highly anticipated movie sequel, in which case, proceed.)

I had thought my use of the word was doing everyone a favor, until a colleague in a leadership training class suggested something that had never before crossed my mind: Try replacing “but” with “and” to make statements more direct and positive.

It sounded crazy. But I decided to give it a try the next time I went to write an e-mail, and sure thing, once I got over the initial hesitation, it made so much sense.

“It’s clear you put a lot of work into this story, but let’s work on it some more” vs. “It’s clear you put a lot of work into this story, and let’s work on it some more” is like night and day when it comes out of your boss’s mouth. I may not catch myself 100% of the time, but and when I do, I know it’s worthwhile.

Why am I sharing this professional anecdote on my running blog, you ask? Because now that I’ve explained the power of word choice, I want to alert all my athlete friends to another word I’d like worked out of our communal fitness lexicon:

Should.

Why should “should” be banned? Let me use it in a sentence for you:

“I can’t hang out tonight. I should go for a run.”

Also bad: “have to,” “got to,” and “man cave.” That last one has nothing to do with running; I just hate it.

That sentence — variations of which I say on a near daily basis — implies that working out is a chore. And sure, some days it feels like it, but for the most part, I train for marathons because I LIKE training for marathons. There’s nothing “should” about it.

That fact became particularly clear to me this past weekend when I ran the 2015 Achilles Hope and Possibility 5-miler in Central Park. This race, sponsored by amazing non-profit Achilles International, is a chance for athletes with disabilities to race alongside able-bodied athletes in a celebration of the sport. When I lined up Sunday, I was surrounded by all sorts of athletes: amputees wearing Pistorius-style racing blades, wheelchair participants, autistic teenagers, blind runners with guides. Normally as I jostle my way through a crowded field, I find myself overcome with rage as other entrants block my way, but on Sunday, I found myself overcome instead with pride watching so many different athletes of different abilities come out on a drizzling, gray morning to run.

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As I logged mile after mile with these extraordinary athletes, it became increasingly clear to me that my go-to word choice is all wrong. It’s not that I’m going for a run tonight because I SHOULD. I’m going for a run tonight because I want to. More than that, I’m going for a run tonight because I can.

So next time I turn down plans for a workout, I’m going to try to get my lexicon in check. No more “I can’t hang out tonight. I should go for a run.” Here on out, expect to hear these just-so-slightly different words out of mouth:

“I can’t hang out tonight. I get to go for a run.”

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

photo 1

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