No Means No: The Brooklyn Half Story

I’m not going to sugar coat it for you: At least 70 percent of being a runner is talking yourself into doing things you don’t want to do.

  • I don’t want to run 4 miles before work, but I’m going to make myself.
  • I don’t want to cut happy hour short, but I’m going to make myself.
  • I don’t want to coat my entire body in Vaseline pre-marathon, but I’m going to make myself.
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And by coat myself, I mean coat the inside of my belly by eating the entire jar, lid and all. On a side note, this internet-shamed dog is going to be feeling pretty lousy in a few hours’ time.

With so many hours spent every single week talking myself into fitness, today felt like a major divergence. Why, you ask? Because today, registration opened for the illustrious Brooklyn Half Marathon. And instead of trying to talk myself into running it, I spent all 52 minutes before the race sold out trying to talk myself out of it.

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(Don’t really click there to register. This is a screen grab.)

You might be asking: Why would I want to talk myself out of joining this iconic New York City road race, which is both the largest half marathon in the country and the site of my last (gulp: last ever?PR? The Brooklyn Half has so many things going for it: the course is fairly flat and ends on a multi-mile downhill, the t-shirts are always top notch swag, and, given the race’s Coney Island finish, you can chase down your victory with a classic Nathan’s hot dog.

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Assuming they don’t mind you paying with sweat-soaked currency. I’m the worst.

Plus, I’m already training for the New York City half in March, so it’s not like I’d be starting from square one fitness-wise. I could just maintain for two months between the NYC Half and the Brooklyn Half, I thought as I opened the registration window. Half marathon training for five months straight never killed anyone, I thought as I fingered the edge of my credit card. I don’t have much else to do this spring, I thought as I rounded the corner to check out.

And then I remembered: I actually DO have a lot to do this spring. Not only am I working long days and trying to get to strength training classes at least twice a week, but I’m also cooking 80 percent of my meals at home, trying to read more books, targeting more hours of sleep, and, oh yeah, planning a freaking wedding for 180 of my closest friends (read: giant Irish family) this fall. Half marathon training is a lot of things, but one thing it isn’t is easy to fold into an already crammed schedule.

Which is why, against all odds, I successfully talked myself out of registering today. And when I signed back on to check the site tonight, this is what I found:

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Maybe I’ll come to regret the decision on May 21 — or maybe I’ll be laying on a sandy beach that day eternally grateful not to be queuing up for a porta potty before the 7 a.m. starting gun. As a runner and — well, a human — it’s important to know my limits, and I think joining this road race would have pushed me to the end of mine.

And if a few weeks roll around and I really begin to regret my decision not to do a second half marathon this spring, there’s always the MORE/SHAPE Women’s Half-Marathon in Central Park in April, which still has a wide open roster ready for registrants. I’ve run that one at least two times, and I could be persuaded to do it again, but only if my running buddy were to join me for a third year in a row.

What do you say, mama bear? I’m only partially kidding.

 

 

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My Name Is Jonas/I’m Ruining Your Health

If you’re one of the tens of millions of people impacted by this weekend’s  nor’easter aka Snowzilla aka David Snowie, this post is for you. 

Hello, roofdeck. Goodbye, tomatoes that somehow produced fruit straight through Epiphany.

 
If you’re my brother and his wife avoiding this whole mess in Hawaiian paradise, you’re lucky I kind of still like you. 

You sun-drenched jerks, you.

For the rest of us, today gives us many things: the first major snowfall of the year, dozens of instagramable moments, proof that it’s somehow still interesting to watch the weather report on repeat for seven hours straight. Unfortunately, a snow day also has a way of offering something else: the uncanny ability to help us pack back on those holiday pounds we’ve been working to shed all January long. 

Of course, I certainly understand how it happens: Not only is it too snowy to get to the gym, but there’s also nothing like a blizzard to make a person crave comfort food. It’s so wonder the papers have been reporting that rather than bread and milk, the first items to sell out at east coast grocery stores were familiar, delicious items like frozen pizza, cookie dough and spicy cheez-its. 

If you have the metabolism of a Hemsworth, or you’ve been outside shoveling all day, by all means treat ‘yo self to some DiGiorno. But if you’re like me and training for a spring half marathon where every extra pound of body weight is going to make it tougher to cross that finish line in under two hours, you may not want to enter the weekend four pounds heavier than you went into it on account off some inconsiderate blizzard. So in this weather, what’s a health-conscious girl to do? I don’t have all the answers, but here are some tips from one snowed in runner to another:

  • Eat slow food. It’s tempting to down a bag of goldfish in weather like this, but heavily processed and ready-made products aren’t going to leave you feeling satisfied for long. Instead, take advantage of being stuck inside by braising a stew in your crockpot all day (I made this one) or baking some homemade whole-wheat bread.  You might still eat yourself sick by somehow finishing 1.5 of the 2 loaves before sundown, but at least you know the ingredients in it are nutritious and filling. 
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This photo might look better with a filter, says everyone.

  • Get moving, a little. You’re not going to knock it out of the park today fitness wise, but going a whole day without so much as getting off the coach will leave restless and uncomfortable come bedtime. You can get your heart rate up lots of ways: shoveling snow, vacuuming your apartment, doing squats or lunges anytime the newscaster says “record year.” I chose to do this 45-minute yoga for runners routine from the comfort of my bedroom, and it definitely wore me out enough to enjoy my extended shavasana aka post-yoga nap. 

Remind us to register for towel racks.

  • Enjoy a day of rest.  Runners are good at a lot of things — bagel consumption, porta-potty etiquette, talking about our sport with anyone who’ll listen — but we are notoriously terrible at taking a day off. We tend to think more miles = better athletes … And then we’re always surprised when we end up nursing shin splints and stress fractures with each training cycle. Recovery is key to improved performance, so allow yourself to enjoy this forced day of relaxation. Sleep in, take a nap, read a book, run a bath, open some red wine, watch a movie, or cuddle up with your sweetheart after coming in from the storm. Keira certainly did. 

 

Just kidding. Keira only cuddles with me.

 
So that’s my advice for maintaining until the snow melts. What other strategies are you using?

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The Resolution Will Be Televised

People in this world tend to fall clearly into one of two camps. They’re either morning people or late-night people. They either love olives or hate them. They’re dog or cat fans, introverts or extroverts, team Chris or Liam Hemsworth, and appalled by the GOP front runners or not paying attention.

They either believe in the value of New Year’s resolutions or they don’t, and they either feel Jan. 9 is too late to publish a resolution-themed post or they forgive me for living an insanely busy first two weeks of 2016.

If you’re already resolutioned-out, best to skip this post entirely and scroll directly to the wet goldendoodle photo I promise to paste at the end of this entry, because, that’s right folks, today we’re talking about New Year’s resolutions, deadlines be damned. So what if it’s already Epiphany?

Let’s start with those of you who fall into the “no resolutions for me” camp. Believe me, you’re in good company. About 50 percent of the population doesn’t make resolutions on Jan. 1, and, sure, I can understand some of the arguments why. It’s an arbitrary day to make a massive life change. It’s also a day many Americans wake up hungover and aren’t itching to get to the gym or eat anything other than a fried egg sandwich. Most of all, it can be demoralizing to set a goal, particularly a dramatic one, and see it fail in a matter of days when it was supposed to last 365. For those of you swimming against the resolution tide, you think it’s better to maintain an even keel than try to blow it out of the water during the coldest, darkest time of the year, and a part of me can totally understand that.

Heck, I kept successfully resolution free for the first 25 years of my life, and for the most part, life was good. I had great fun, I had great friends, I had a great bowl-shaped haircut that practically guaranteed I wasn’t going to get a boyfriend until college.

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I’m that feminine angel in the blue.

But in December 2010, after seeing dozens of unflattering photos of myself at one of my closest friend’s weddings, I finally decided it was time to rip off the no-resolutions band aid and dive head first into the new year. I decided that starting Jan. 1, I was going to count my calories, I was going to lose 30 pounds, I was going to run the 10-mile Broad Street Run in Philadelphia in May, and I was going to get my 20s back on track. And  — humblebrag, or maybe just regular brag — I did.

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I also learned how to use illustrator programs more sophisticated that Microsoft Paint. Just kidding!

Coming off of my successful 2011 resolution, I set another lofty set of 2012 resolutions: start this blog, run a marathon, and floss. And I did that, too. (True story: Almost every night before bed, I try to negotiate my way out of flossing, and then I remind myself that if I ran a four-hour long road race four times, I can surely muster the strength to run a piece of plastic against my gums. But I don’t care what Dan Savage says about flossing: it never gets better.)

But in the years since those dynamite back-to-back years of successful resolutions, I’ve fallen back off the bandwagon. In 2013, I kind of resolved to cook more meals at home and rediscover yoga, which I kind of did, but not to any degree that is memorable. In 2014, I kind of resolved to train smarter, with at least one tempo run, one long run, and one speed workout each week, and I kind of did that too, but only when I was officially training for an event. By 2015, I was so disillusioned by those unsatisfactory performances that I returned to my pre-2010 ways: I didn’t make a resolution at all.

So this year, this was the great debate: make a new year’s resolution that might yet again go semi-unfulfilled, or skip the practice altogether?

Turns out, I compromised. I set two big goals for myself at the start of the year — attend BodyPump weight lifting class at least once a week and stay off Facebook when I’m laying in bed trying to go to sleep — and sure enough, one of these goals has already been annihilated. (I don’t even LIKE facebook anymore, but it won’t release me from its meme-filled clutches!) But I refuse to give up so easily on my second goal, and so far, I haven’t — it’s only Jan. 9, and I’ve already taken two BodyPump classes in 2016. Sure, this goal could still go by the wayside, but given my stubborn refusal to fail on both fronts this year, something tells me I’m going to pump my way through all of 2016.

Besides, my arms have to look good in a wedding dress in short order. Wouldn’t want Keira to be disappointed in me.

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I told you I’d deliver.

Did you make a resolution this year? How is it going so far?

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You Don’t Know the Half of It

There are certain things in life that have eluded me with such frequency that I’ve come to understand they’ll simply never happen to me. For example:

  • I’ve accepted the fact I’ll never be on the kiss cam at a professional sporting event.
  • I’ve accepted the fact I’ll never qualify for the Boston Marathon.
  • I’ve accepted the fact* that I have to give back my niece on Thursday and haven’t successfully converted her to a permanent New York City resident, despite all my best efforts these past eight days.

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*Note: I have not really accepted this fact.

There’s one more unwavering truth I’ve learned to internalize during the past half a decade: I’ve accepted the fact that I will never get to run the NYC Half Marathon.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve run several half marathons in New York City in the five years since I took up running. But despite having raced seven 13.1-mile events in my adopted home town, I’ve never actually run the New York Road Runner’s coveted NYC Half Marathon, an iconic March road race that shuts down the streets and takes runners from Central Park through Times Square all the way to the South Street Seaport. I mean, I’ve TRIED to run it, entering the lottery year after year after year, but every year the same message applies in my inbox (and the same $5 application fee is taken from my bank account): “Thank you for applying for the United Airlines NYC Half. Unfortunately, your name was not selected. Try again next year, you sucker.”

So when I yet again applied to the race this fall, I did it …

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… knowing I’d never get in. Because that’s my thing: Applying to the NYC Half Marathon and not getting in. Also, semi scandalous doodle photos.

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“Paint me like one of your French girls.”

So imagine my irritation when, earlier this week, the New York Road Runners had the gall to spam me with a link to their website selling official NYC Half Marathon training gear. I felt like they were just rubbing it in my face.

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“NO I don’t want to pre-order your fancy gear for your fancy race that you never let me into!” I shouted into the scruff of my temporary Chewbacca-like roommate. And then I remembered: I’d cleaned up my gmail inbox the week before, furiously marking thousands of e-mails as read so the bottom of my iphone stopped embarrassingly telling people I had 14,000 unread messages. And it turns out one of those messages I marked as read without actually opening was none other than this welcome surprise:

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Don’t I feel sheepish.

Speaking of sheepish:
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So what do you know? After years and years of rejection, the city’s most famous 13.1 mile race finally wants me. That means a lot of things: It means I have to start training again with earnest, it means I have to resume speedwork for the first time since the NYC marathon, it means I have to structure my weekends again around long-runs and recovery. But it also means something else: maybe I shouldn’t give up my kiss cam dream just yet either.

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Santa Claus Is Running to Town

Some people are hard to buy gifts for — the girl who has everything, monks who forgo all possessions, my dad — but don’t worry: runners aren’t one of them.

Whether we’re spending 15 miles a week hitting the pavement or 150, us runners tend to go through apparel at a rapid clip, and there’s nothing we’d like to find inside our stockings more than, well, stockings themselves. (Ok, fine, they’re called tights. I was trying to be clever here.) Also at the top of any runner’s wish list: new shoes that match the model and size of our favorite pair, wicking tops, headbands, hats, gloves, and let’s not forget the gold standard of gift-giving: industrial-sized tubes of Body Glide.

If gifting wearables isn’t your thing, fear not: Santa’s Workshop is brimming with other runner-friendly presents as well. From yoga DVDs and SPIbelts to cookbooks and NUUN, the possibilities are endless. What can I say? We’re easy to shop for. You’re welcome.

You’re also welcome for this adorable action shot of my brother’s ring bearer making her mid-ceremony delivery.

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But back to the gifts. What if you have a runner in your life but your funding’s running a little thin this holiday season? Here’s a suggestion: Embrace your inner 7-year-old and make a coupon book full of redeemables only a runner would appreciate. Some suggested gems below:

  • This coupon is good for 15 uninterrupted minutes of listening you talk about your upcoming marathon, yawn-free.
  • This coupon is good for one personalized sign at your next road race, so long as it’s scheduled to start after 9 a.m.
  • This coupon allows you to take up more than half of the closet floor with your running shoes.
  • This coupon is a guarantee that there will always be bananas, avocados and peanut butter in stock at the apartment.
  • This coupon is either good for one foot rub or one year’s worth of you never commenting once on how deformed your feet have become. Dealer’s choice.

Print ’em off, laminate them if you’re fancy, and I say you’ve got yourself one heck of a holiday gift.

What coupons would YOU want to see, runner friends?

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Running in a Winter Wonderland

Christmas used to be celebrated as a 24-hour affair. You’d wake up, open presents, eat yourself silly and roll into bed. Then one show-off with a thing for pear trees dragged it out for 12 straight days, and the art of the ever-expanding holiday season was born.

You know what I’m talking about. Thanksgiving doorbuster sales. Christmas carols in October. Your company setting up its massive 19-tree holiday display while the temperature is still in the 50s.

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(To be fair, that’s more global warming’s fault.)

Now don’t get me wrong. I love the holidays, and I mostly love that they’ve swelled from a one-day celebration into weeks of festivities. I love the family time. I love the music. I love the smooches under the mistletoe.

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Sing along, folks: “I saw mommy kissing her future mother-in-law’s former dentist’s westie!”

What I don’t love, however, is the indolence and indulgence that tend to accompany the holiday season. Or let me put it another way: I don’t love the fact that every year I have to ask for expandable elastic-waist pants from Santa.

Between all the cookie exchanges and latke-fests, the hot chocolate and buttered rum, the holiday season can work havoc on your waistline. Add on top of that a surprise engagement that has everyone busting out the bubbly, and this December is going to be a very delicious — and caloric — month indeed.

Now some fitness bloggers might tell you to simply shore up your defenses to prevent those holiday delicacies from ever passing through your lips. And sure, there’s some good advice to be had there: don’t go to a party famished, try not to get too sloshed, skip the everyday snacks like potato chips and pretzels in favor of the holiday specialties that only appear this time of year.

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Like pecan pie while traversing the New Jersey Turnpike.

Sure, it’s good to have some holiday eating strategies in mind, but let’s be honest: I don’t particularly WANT to deny my decadence this December. At the same time, I don’t want to jelly roll my way into January, so I’m going to try to curb my calorie count a different way this holiday season: not with less food, but with more with exercise. More specifically, with a running streak.

A running streak, or a commitment to run at least a mile every single day for a predetermined period of time, is a great way to hold yourself accountable and motivated during a long holiday season. Streaks can be fun any time of year, but they’re especially useful to bridge that gap between marathon season and spring training when some runners (I’m looking at you, mirror), let all athleticism go by the wayside.

Runner’s World recommends starting your holiday streak on Thanksgiving and maintaining straight through the New Year, but considering I haven’t started yet, it looks like mine will be a “25 Days of Christmas” streak instead. Enjoy the free advertising, ABC Family, but only if you play “Holiday in Handcuffs” on repeat ’til Epiphany.

So that’s the plan: at least a mile a day every day between today and Christmas morning. These miles can be slow miles, they can be treadmill miles, they can even be hungover miles, but they can’t be one thing: postponed til after the holidays. I may grow to regret this decision on the first snowy day of December, but as of Dec. 1, I’m excited to have a goal once again on my radar.

 

You could say it lights a fire under me.

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And behind me!

Twenty five days to go. Who’s with me?

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Clickbait: My Former Boyfriend

There’s an old adage made popular by both Woody Allen and my father that if you want to make God laugh, you tell him your plans.

I’m a strong believer that the big guy is also a fan of low-grade puns – “How does Moses make his coffee? Hebrews it.” – but I digress.

It’s true though: You can plan, prime and plot all you want, but when it comes time to put said preparations into practice (Editor’s Note: This sentence brought to you by the letter P), the outcome is often out of our hands. A few examples:

  • You plan to run a sub-4:00 marathon, but race day leaves you winded and you end up crossing the finish line at 4:15 instead.
  • You plan to order the fall beet salad, but when everyone around you orders the burger, you cave – and add bacon to boot.
  • You plan to spend the afternoon of your 30th birthday relaxing at home writing a blog post about how transformative your 20s were, but it turns out your boyfriend* had his own plans to get down on one knee in the Garden Court at the Frick, ask you to marry him, and spend the next two hours driving around town in a limousine drinking champagne and calling your friends and family to tell them the big news.

*fiancé

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We forgot to take any photos inside the limo except this close-up of our hands, our bubbly and my lap. Just call me Annie Leibovitz.

I’m usually the kind of person who lives and breathes by my google calendar, and a disruption of my well-planned out day was once enough to throw me into a tizzy. But if Wednesday taught me anything, it’s that stepping out of preparation mode and letting someone else do the planning is not only freeing – it can be downright magical.

Of course, while I wasn’t involved in the planning of Wednesday’s surprise engagement, that doesn’t mean I’m off off the hook when it comes to the next stage of planning, i.e. the wedding. We have an awful lot to figure out — venue, date, whether gathering all 25 of my first cousins in one room will make it explode with Irishness — but we’re not worried about it all yet. We’ve decided to enjoy the holiday season and not begin wedding planning in earnest until the New Year. With so many other things on the calendar in the weeks ahead — a celebration of my grandfather’s very long life, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years — waiting until January to think about colors and flowers is a plan I can get behind.

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Celebrating our engagement at Monkey Bar. It’s going to take me a few days to remember the ring is supposed to be in the photo, too.

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