Contests Races

Your Golden Ticket into the Marine Corps Marathon

This whole blogging thing is a bit of a parasitic relationship: I, as the blogger, situate myself on a digital soapbox and you, as the reader, are forced to read my narcissistic ramblings/unsuspectingly click on dangerously adorable photos.

But the time has come to change all that. In an attempt to enter a more symbiotic era, I’m going to use this space today to give one lucky reader something slightly more tangible than unsolicited running advice (and significantly less tangible than a bar of gold.)

I’m giving away a Golden Ticket into the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon.

Don’t fret – I haven’t backtracked on my previously announced plans to log 26.2 miles this October in my first-ever marathon. Indeed, within minutes of returning to my parents’ house after securing my own Golden Ticket on March 17, Ethan Hunt and I hijacked a laptop and used my secret entry code to register for the sold-out race. (Too obscure of a reference? No? Good.)

But I wasn’t the only member of my immediate family to cross that 10K finish line and land a coveted Golden Ticket entry code: my sweatily wonderful mother was along for the ride, too.

And despite her clearly non-hereditary affinity for 5 a.m. Body Pump classes, she’s decided a marathon isn’t in the cards for her this busy year, giving me the opportunity to offer her entry code to one lucky reader: YOU. (Or maybe someone else.)

The daughter of lawyers, I should probably mention that winning this code doesn’t offer free entry into the race, but it does give you one of a handful of remaining $92 slots in this highly sought-after event. Golden Ticket registration only lasts through March 31, so let’s get started.

Here’s how this works. There are three ways to enter, and feel free to do all three for three chances:

  1. Leave a comment with a question you want me to answer in an upcoming blog entry (yes, I am actively looking for new ideas. No, I’m not ashamed.)
  2. Tweet this: “@rileduprunner is giving away a Golden Ticket to the sold-out Marine Corps Marathon!” And then leave me a comment telling me you shared it. (Yes, I am on Twitter. Yes, I am ashamed).
  3. Bake me a pie. And then leave me a comment telling me you did it. And then deliver said pie to my inbox (i.e. mouth).

I’ll use a random number generator to select the winning commenter at 5 p.m. Friday. May the odds be ever in your favor!

Running Travel

Well Played, Pittsburgh

Hello from surprisingly photogenic Pittsburgh!


There are admittedly a lot of things I don’t like about the City of Bridges, from its touchy-feely quarterback to its stupid yellow towels. But after going on a scenic sunrise run along the Allegheny River Trail this morning, this industrial skeleton of a town has won my heart. And this is why:


No, loyal readers, your eyes doth not deceive you. That is, in fact, a functioning public water fountain along a major running route in March. Check out the plaque if you don’t believe me:


New York is better at so many things, from winning Superbowls to keeping our Greek salads french-fry free (I mean seriously, Pittsburgh?). But for all our undisputed greatness, we somehow haven’t yet figured out how to keep our delicious tap water flowing in Central Park year-round. I never thought I’d say it, but Steel City: I salute you.

Another cool thing about Pittsburgh? Its airport has a full shopping mall, complete with a Nine West shoe store, making flight delays infinitely less excruciating. And sometimes the lady who works at the airport GAP tells you that you look like ‘the pinnacle of health’ and must be a tennis star and stares in disbelief when you tell her you weighed 35 pounds more just 15 short months earlier. Thanks for the ego boost, GAP lady. I salute you, too.

Where have your travels taken you recently?

Races Running

Luck of the Irish Sprinter

On most race mornings, I roll out of bed an hour before the start time, lace up my Asics and hightail it over to a Central Park starting line, basking in the unrivaled ease and carbon neutrality of my eight-block commute.

On this race morning (and in the 12 hours proceeding it), I took a taxi to New York Penn Station, a train to Baltimore Penn Station, woke up at 4 a.m., drove to a Quantico park n’ ride, boarded a shuttle bus and hightailed it over to a Prince William Forest Park starting line, basking in exhaustion as I tried to dig my way out of a carbon footprint the size of Texas.

But sheer ridiculousness of my commute aside, running in this morning’s Marine Corps Irish Sprint 10K was undeniably worth it. That’s because besides Gatorade and turkey noodle soup and a box of the best post-race snack foods I’ve ever received, all runners to cross this morning’s finish line were handed something even more significant:

This Golden Ticket may not earn me a really creepy afternoon with Gene Wilder and/or Johnny Depp, but it does guarantee me something even more coveted: a spot in the sold-out 2012 Marine Corps Marathon in October! While other would-be marathoners were hitting refresh over and over last week in an attempt to secure one of 30,000 available online slots in the 2 hours and 41 minutes before it sold out, I was sitting idly by, waiting for my St. Patrick’s Day race to do all the hard work for me. 

Or so I thought. Turns out, running this morning’s “easy, little 10K” wasn’t the walk in the park I was expecting. Although the course map came complete with comforting phrases like “mostly flat” and “downhill on asphalt” and “free petting zoo at Mile 4,” the vast majority of the route turned out to be a muddy, narrow, uphill trail, complete with rapid mountain lions and strategically placed ninja assassins (perhaps an exaggeration.)

Seriously though: I never before knew roads could go up forever without coming down. Apparently Quantico, Virginia, defies the laws of physics.

Panting and cursing and fending off ninja attacks, I somehow powered through, but I was pretty positive there was no way I was logging a new PR on this challenging course. So imagine my disbelief when I somehow stumbled my way across the finish line as the clock chimed 52:47, a 50-second improvement from my last 10K! I don’t know whether it was the promise of a Golden Ticket and/or green beer at the finish line that kept me going, or whether it was the knowledge that my speedy mother was right on my tail, but I plowed through for a surprisingly strong finish. Or maybe it was just some good old fashioned Irish-heritage luck!

Of course, my chiseled mother crossed the finish line, too, meaning my family now has not one but two Golden Tickets to its name. She says the Marine Corps Marathon isn’t on her schedule this fall, but take one look at this photo and just try tell me she isn’t at least toying with the idea:

I’m now off to downtown Baltimore for another kind of marathon: an Irishwoman’s St. Patrick’s Day bachelorette party. In case I don’t make it out alive, thank you all for your loyal readership.

How are you celebrating your 1/16th Irish bloodline tonight?

Travel Weight Loss

Vacationing on Vieques

I’ve been home from Vieques, Puerto Rico, for nearly 18 hours, but I’ve been putting off writing the following recap because to do so would be to concede that I am no longer on vacation. (Other telltale signs that my Caribbean escape has come to a close? I’m dressed in layers and there’s not a poolboy name Saúl refilling my boyfriend’s empty pint glass.)

It’s not just a tropical paradise that has been snatched from my cold, dead warm, bronzed fingers. A diehard practitioner of the one-two punch, the world has also cruelly taken a precious hour from me this daylight savings morning as it looks to thrust me kicking and screaming back into non-vacation mode.

But I won’t have it. There are 14 more glorious hours ahead before my scheduled Monday morning alarm, and I intend to live every last one of them like I’m still on vacation (that is, I’ll be sleeping for 10 of them and lounging in a supine position for the remainder.)

But before I make my way back to the sun-drenched couch, I figured I’d give you a quick summary of how I made do with my five pre-trip goals.

  • Spend some quality time with my boyfriend. Check. Whether it involved kayaking together in Vieques’ bioluminescent bay, flushing away our life savings on a swanky couples massage, watching old movies during an afternoon downpour or gorging ourselves silly on surf and turf combos, we spent hours and hours simply enjoying each other’s company, which sure beats our usual pastime of recapping the workday. This photo may be fuzzy, but I think it sums up our somber mood during the duration of the trip:

  • Maintain my 10K training plan. Check. It’s tempting to forgo the gym in favor of an extra hour of sleep wherever you are, and it’s no different when you’re residing at a tropical resort. I’m not going to lie: the idea of doing a 50-minute tempo run on an inside treadmill during sunset/happy hour Thursday evening did not have me teeming with excitement. But once I manned up, walked to the gym and completed six fairly grueling miles at an 8:30 pace –vacation and all – I was filled with both a gratifying feeling of accomplishment and a physical hunger that totally justified my back-to-back pork chops at dinner that night. Seriously, check out this graph. Twenty-seven+ miles is not bad for a week during which I needed only walk 15 feet from our patio to the pool bar.
  • Get a tan. Check. I may be the palest of my mother’s children, but I’m the tannest in my relationship, so that’s got to be worth something.

  • Enjoy the local culinary fare without breaking the bank calorically. Check-ish. I made a handful of poor nutritional decisions this week, including eating two giant cheeseburgers, two sides of fries and the most delicious plate of pancakes I’ve ever consumed. These aren’t things I frequently allow myself in New York, but I caved to the vacation mindset and upped my calorie intake exponentially during a couple of meals. Fortunately, I made better decisions at the majority of other mealtimes. For example, most days, I ate for breakfast a granola bar from home and a free apple from the W Hotel gym, setting me back a total of 300 calories and filling me with fiber and nutrients, instead of hitting up the $28 breakfast buffet that would have undoubtedly seen me stuff my pockets with high-cal cured meats just to feel like I was getting my money’s worth. I also opted for side salads over fries during three out of five lunches and forwent sugar-tastic piña coladas for light beer or red wine. I certainly didn’t return home to find myself leaner than when I left, but remaining cognizant of (most of) my culinary choices left me with few regrets.
  • Learn how to fold towels into the shapes of all my favorite animals. A big negative on this one. Turns out upscale hideaways like the W Retreat & Spa don’t fold their towels into anything other than the oh-so-overdone folded towel shape. Vacation 2013 – Disney World, here we come!

What are your tricks for a healthy-ish getaway? And more importantly, why isn’t this my everyday view?

Running Travel

Maintaining Fitness in Margaritaville

This morning, my boyfriend and I are off to the island of Puerto Rico, which I can only assume in Spanish means “more fried plantains, please.” I’ve been to Puerto Rico twice before — in 2008 for the spring break of a lifetime with the creepiest friends I know and just last year for a pre-cruise romp in glorious Old San Juan — but I’ve never before been to the Puerto Rico sub-island of Vieques. Fun fact: Vieques is backdrop to both The Bachelor on ABC and my next blog post. Stay tuned.

My goals for this trip are five-fold:

  • Spend some quality time with my boyfriend when we aren’t frazzled from long days at the office.
  • Maintain my 10K training plan, complete with a 50 minute tempo run in the W Hotel fitness center and an unorthodox cross-training session wearing a snorkle. Vacation fitness may not be the easiest, but at least I won’t be logging 30 loops of the Carnival cruise “track o’ seasickness” again this year.
  • Get a tan. (Hey, I’m allowed to be a little shallow here.)
  • Enjoy the local culinary fare without breaking the bank calorically. This primarily means aiming for five fruits and veggies a day, including at least one order of non-fried plantains (oh, the humanity!)
  • Learn how to fold towels into the shapes of all my favorite animals. This one really should be at the top of the list.

How are you spending the first week of March?

Races Running

The 5K Wins this Round

No offense Hunger Games, but a lot of terrible things begin with the letter H. Hurricane Irene? Ruined an epic bachelorette party for my girl Sarah. Hippos? Kill dozens of African bathers a year. Hitler? Perhaps this one speaks for itself.

But today, boys and girls, the evil H-word of the day is HILLS. And HUBRIS. Oh yeah, and HANGOVER.

This morning, I raced my first 5K since high school (not counting the non-competitive Turkey Trot my brother ran in combat boots and khakis this fall) and going in, I don’t think I gave the distance due deference.

3.1 miles? I smirked as I threw back another $8 beer at a friend’s charity rock concert last night at Tammany Hall. In January, I ran a 5K – and 10 more miles on top of it – in whiteout conditions during the Manhattan Half. I can handle 3.1 miles.

Ancient Greek antiheroes were usually rewarded generously for their charming hubristic qualities (*not true), so I was shocked to find myself in poor shape this morning as I rolled out of bed at 7 a.m. Fortunately, I had the good sense to stop after two beers – and fend off every round of tequila making its way in my direction – but I simply can’t stay up late or metabolize alcohol like I used to, and my aching, dehydrated body this morning was proof. (Hey, other 26 year olds: please, oh please, tell me this maturing thing is happening to you, too.)

It wasn’t bad enough to warrant throwing in the metaphorical towel, however, so I downed my body weight in water, laced up and made my way to Washington Heights for the NYRR Coogan’s Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks 5K.

According to the online description, this “festive” course was supposed to take us under the George Washington Bridge, into Fort Tyron Park, past a breathtaking Hudson River overlook and back down Fort Washington Ave. to the finish line as dozens of local musicians kept time on the sidelines. What the description neglected to add was that this race takes a slight right-turn detour over the Himalayas.

A Central Park runner, I’ve sprinted up my fair share of hills, but nothing prepared me for the long, slow inclines of today’s race. As soon as I’d catch my breath from one mountainous climb, I’d have to start preparing myself for the next hill looming in the not-so-far distance. I heard someone say we ran to the highest natural point in Manhattan and back, and I confirmed it on Wikipedia before posting it here. Seriously. This was one hilly mother of a race.

Going in with a slight hangover – and concluding with a massive hillover (perhaps not a word) – I knew there was no way I was breaking any records on this race. And I didn’t. I finished in 24:45, maintaining an average 7:59 pace. I’m still proud to have broken 8:00, since that time wasn’t even in my lexicon a year ago, but after logging 7:54 miles in a longer race earlier this season, I know I can do better. Ah well.  Next time I’ll skip the Heinekens and carb load in the more traditional sense.

What would you do differently if you could start this weekend over?


Run-Commuting Home

I freaking love multitasking.

As managing editor of a daily paper with a bad running habit and a pesky need to sleep, I somehow never seem to find enough hours in the day if I’m only completing one task at a time.

Por ejemplo: Squats? Lame. Brushing teeth? Tedious (and arguably unnecessary. Back me up here, dentists.) Doing squats while brushing my teeth? Multitasking my way to oral/quad health.

See also: calling my parents while cabbing it down the FDR, arranging workout dates with long-lost friends and drinking in the shower during college. Oh, how I wish that hadn’t stopped being acceptable after I turned 22.

So when one of the bloggers I idolize casually follow mentioned that she logged nearly 40 miles last week on her commutes to work alone, I knew run-commuting (runnuting?) was going to be finding its way into my life. (Note: if you clicked the above link to her blog, New York State law requires you make me a batch of her Oreo Cheesecake Cookies. Sorry. Cuomo’s rule, not mine.)

Although I’m unequivocally a morning runner, I neither have access to a gym near my office nor hate my colleagues enough to inflict my post-sweat aroma on them all workday, so a morning runnute (work with me here, people) was unfortunately out. But with a little advanced planning, an evening commute seemed feasible, so I penciled in Tuesday night and set about with preparations.

Preparation 1: Deciding what I needed to bring with me to work. Packing running shoes, a sports bra, shorts, a long-sleeved t-shirt, socks and my running belt were the easy part; whittling down the rest of my life to the bare necessities was excruciatingly painful. Knowing I’d be leaving everything not on my person in a locked desk drawer overnight, I only wanted to bring the vitals, but an ardent follower of the huge-purse-means-never-having-to-go-without-anything-ever religion, I really struggled here. I ended up forgoing my Kindle in favor of a Metro card, keys, my phone, a credit card, my ID and some petty cash. And Chapstick. Always Chapstick.

Preparation 2: Plotting a route. I had 5.5 miles on the schedule, but the distance from my apartment to my office is only 4 miles, so I planned a path that took me straight up 3rd Ave and then added some extra loops. Lexington would have given me a more straight shot home, but 3rd Ave presented the illusion of fewer tourists and less congestion. (More on the shattering of that dream later.)

Preparation 3: Awkwardly getting changed at work. Once we’d put the issue to bed, I snuck into the conference room, drew the shades, hoped they weren’t as translucent as they appeared, shimmied into some Spandex and made my way to street level.

Advocates of run-commuting hail the activity as a fresh way to avoid the bustle of rush hour, allowing one to complete his run and shake off the day’s stress.

Advocates of run-commuting are idiots.

Don’t get me wrong – I loved that when I arrived home at 8 p.m., I’d completed both my commute and my daily workout, effectively killing two birds with one stone and allowing me to eat dinner all the sooner/save a stone. But if anyone tries to tell you running home in Manhattan is a relaxing pastime, they’ve got something else coming.

As much as I love this city, running up 3rd Ave at rush hour this week reinforced everything I hate about this godforsaken place. Walking four abreast? Bikes on the sidewalk?! Dog owners on cell phones whose absentminded canines create invisible trip lines with their diamond-studded leashes?! No thank you. Can we all agree that new residents have to sign a statement with their leases here on out promising not to do these things? In exchange, I’ll sign an affidavit stipulating I won’t annoyingly jog in place at red lights mid-runnute. I think that’s a fair deal.

By the time I made it home, I had muttered exponentially more “JesusChristGetOutOfMyWay”s than on a normal commute and had somehow run 5.8 miles on the 5.5-mile course I’d pre-plotted. That’s right, folks: 0.3 additional miles for crowd-weaving alone. Relaxing, my butt.

For fear this post is getting too whiney, I’ll end with something awesome:

A picture of a boxer in a captain’s hat. AmIRight?

Have you ever run-commuted to work? Would you do it again? (Will I? Place your bets in the comments section. Odds are 60:40.)