Categories
Races Running Travel

Negativity for the Win

The official race results are in, and while I’m pleased as heck to have knocked a full six minutes off my half marathon PR on what was undeniably the hilliest course of my life, the results show me something else that makes me even prouder: I negative split the course.

For all you non-runners out there, negative splitting — the less delicious cousin of banana splitting — is racing the second half of a course faster than the first.

As American Olympian Jeff Galloway writes in this Runner’s World column:

“Anyone can and should run negative splits. Unfortunately, most runners don’t. Instead, they start in a near sprint, hang on through the middle and resort to a survivor’s shuffle at the end. In contrast, those who opt for negative splits patiently run a bit slower for the first third of a run, pick up the pace in the middle and finish with strength and speed.”

Trust me when I say I know this so-called “survivor’s shuffle well.”

That is, I did until Sunday’s race. Don’t get me wrong: I wanted to go out sprinting, and even went so far as to begin my characteristic surge-weave tactics during the first half mile in proper novice style. But fortunately, I was not running this particular race alone, and my much smarter veteran running friend urged me to save my energy for when I’d really need it (i.e. climbing the incline of the Golden Gate Bridge, twice.) Eat your heart out Oakland: she’s beautiful AND wise.

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But negative splitting wasn’t the only thing I learned during my four-day stint in the Bay Area. Here’s a brief selection of some other life lessons I internalized while on West Coast time:

1. All beer is made from four main ingredients. And all visitors to the Pyramid Brewery in Berkeley have to wear hairnets under their hardhats. Hot.

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2. The Full House house is not, in fact, one of the official Painted Ladies. Also, Jesse and the Rippers are apparently not still on tour in the Bay Area.

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3. Shirtless men in ram heads make any pre-race expo a memorable one.

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4. Camden Yards is still the very best ballpark, but the views from AT&T aren’t too shabby. The black and orange uniforms don’t hurt for this O’s fan, either.

5. Going out for ice cream immediately after breakfast is totally acceptable when you’re still on East Coast time.

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6. Brooklyn is to Manhattan 10 years ago as Oakland is to SanFran now. My investment advice: buy property in Oakland today and watch the neighborhood transform into Park Slope before your eyes. Don’t believe me? Believe this Brooklyn-esk cocktail bar — complete with indoor bocce — on Telegraph. Hello, Union Hall.

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7. I tell the world’s funniest jokes, judging by this photo.

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8. I need to make it back to the Bay Area stat.

What did you learn this weekend? “Redeye flights are the worst” totally counts, she wrote at 6 a.m. fresh off the plane

Categories
Races Running Travel

Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair

You know what I hate? When you show up at a party and some bitch is wearing the same exact outfit.

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Of course, by hate, I mean love. And by party, I mean half marathon. And by bitch, I mean best friend for almost 21 years. So basically, that whole sentence was completely incorrect. Like a former high school classmate of mine, English isn’t really my strong suit.

This morning, my lifelong friend Meredith and I woke up at the totally normal hour of 3:30 a.m., dressed in matching t-shirts, and made our way from Oakland to downtown San Francisco for our race‘s 5:30 a.m. wave start. Why? Because we are masochistic human beings and sleep deprivation sounded like the best way to spend my West Coast vacation. And because wearing matching outfits makes holding hands as you sprint across the finish line totally acceptable as 26-year-old women.

No? Moving on then.

This morning’s race was my third half marathon to date (and Mere’s ninth. No big deal.) The course took us out and back across the Golden Gate Bridge, making it 1. iconically gorgeous and 2. one hilly mother of a climb. Seriously, why doesn’t anyone ever tell you this city isn’t flat?

Despite our lack of sleep, the mountainous cliffs and my devastating loss of a jolly roger hair ribbon mid-course, we ended up finishing in under 1:55 (still waiting on the official results), meaning a new PR for me! (And just a jaunt in the park – literally – for my girl Meredith over here.)

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I was feeling super proud of myself – that is, until a college classmate of mine who I didn’t even know was registered had to go and WIN the full marathon. It’s cool, Nate. I’m sure I taught you everything you know about running and marathons and stuff. If you need help spending your cash prize, I could chip in there, too.

Easing the pain of defeat? The Irish coffee being distributed at the finish line. Whiskey at 7:30 a.m. truly is the San Francisco treat.

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We’re now fed, showered and back in bed, storing up enough energy to hit up a brewery tour in Berkley this afternoon. And by brewery, I definitely mean brewery.

Anyone else PR this weekend? Nate and/or Michael Phelps, I’m talking to you.

Categories
Travel

Summertime and the Livin’s Freebie

Don’t let my recent expedition to the Hamptons fool you: a born and raised penny-pincher, I’m a sucker for a good deal.

A wine-tasting groupon? No question. NYC Restaurant Week? Twice a year like clockwork. A three-pack of grand pianos? Count me in.

Fortunately, Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs in the summertime are a prime place to put my intrinsic frugality to good use. That’s because – despite what the Kardashian sisters* may lead you to believe – you can fill your social calendar to the brim in this city without spending a dime.

*inserted for SEO purposes.

Any New Yorker worth his weight in cab fare has spent an evening picnicking at the New York Philharmonic’s free summer concert series, but did you know classical music under the stars is just one of hundreds of low- or no-cost events hosted by Bloomberg and friends each year?

Don’t get me wrong: I love Tchaikovsky and condoned outdoor drinking as much as the next kid, but you know what else I love? 1995-era Paul Rudd. That’s right, folks. If you live in the city of New York, you can watch Clueless on the big screen at the Brooklyn Bridge Park tonight for absolutely free. (Unless you publicly tear up when Tai and Travis get together, in which case, it will cost you something: your dignity.)

And that’s just one night at one park in one borough. For a full list of city-sanctioned freebie activities, check out this helpful list compiled by our friends at NYC.gov. Or if clicking a link is too challenging, check out my compilation of highlights below:

  • Thursday, August 2: Watch Wet Hot American Summer at Brooklyn Bridge Park at sundown. What’s that? You’re already young-Paul-Rudded out for the summer? Shame on you.
  • Friday, August 3: Watch Jurassic Park on the deck of the Intrepid. Jump out of your seat in terror when the Dilophosaurus has her big scene.
  • Monday, August 20: Watch Raiders of the Lost Ark on the Bryant Park lawn during the HBO Summer Film Festival. In case you’re reading this, Harrison, know that you’ll always have my heart.

But – despite my apparent selection bias – it’s not just outdoor movies that make up the bulk of the city’s free summer events. This summer, my intra-city travels have taken me all over. Two highlights that you should be sure to check out:

Books Beneath the Bridge, an outdoor literature series featuring a New York author reading an excerpt from his book, answering questions and posing for awkward photos with book clubs.

Amor Towles, author of super lovely “Rules Of Civility,” is always cool around the ladies.
  • Smorgasburg, a Saturday afternoon culinary “flea market” on the Williamsburg waterfront.
This look says: “I may be a badass helicopter pilot, but I get angry when some hipster puts fermented fruit peel in my lemonade.”

Alright, New Yorkers: when it comes to must-do free summer activies, what am I missing?

Categories
Travel

Murphy’s Law

You know those weekends when everything that could possibly go wrong does?

Like you wake up early for your 11-mile long run and it’s excruciatingly hot out?

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Or a surprise Nor’easter forces you inside for two straight days?

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Or the friends you’re traveling with turn out to be absolutely no fun whatsoever?

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Yes, you know those kinds of weekends? Well, I’m sorry to hear that. Because I don’t. The only bad thing about this weekend was that it had to come to an end. Seriously, the hardest choices we had to make in the Hamptons were whether to lay by the ocean or the pool (correct answer: both), how many kinds of meat to grill at dinner Saturday night (correct answer: five) and which version of ‘Call Me Maybe’ to get irreversibly stuck in our heads for 36 consecutive hours (correct answer: the one feat. Cookie Monster).

Oh, I guess there was one downside to my weekend in Amagansett with two of my best friends ever: none of us were able to get even remotely tan, you know, because of the terrible weather and everything.

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Really though: Next weekend is going to have a tough act to follow. Luckily, something tells me this girl is up for the challenge. Bring it, SanFran.

How’d you make the most of your weekend? And can we all agree that “You, cookie-showing, and me hunger growing. Let’s get skim milk flowing. We’ll start this snack going baby.’ is even catchier than the original? Yes? Good. I knew I liked you.

Categories
Races Running

Save the Date

I’ve always been a planner. When I was in grade school, I’d spend all day Friday planning my evening TGIF snack. (Let it be known that my nuclear family may have singlehandedly kept Klondike Bars in business from 1990 through 1996).

When I was in six grade, I’d spend entire school weeks planning my Friday free-dress-day outfit. (Let it be known that when you’re a 5’10”+ 11-year-old, pretty much anything you select is destined to be comically awkward.)

When I was five, I’d spend contemplative afternoons planning my dream wedding to Michelangelo of mutant turtle fame, which – oh yeah – actually transpired with a stuffed animal version of my betrothed in spring 1991 before a number of camera-bearing witnesses.

The blushing bride. Really though – where did I get a wedding dress in 1991?

(Let it be known that we’ve never technically filed for divorce, so sorry boys and/or Rafael: I guess I’m off the market.)

But while forward thinking has always been a part of my life, I’ve never before planned out a major life event a full 16+ months in advance. That is, until now.

I may be in my fourth week of training for the Marine Corps Marathon in October, but my sights are actually set on another race even further in the distance: the ING New York City Marathon.

But isn’t the NYC Marathon the weekend directly after the MCM? How are your aching legs ever going to survive two back-to-back 26.2 milers? And why are you pretending to write from your readers’ point of view? Is this some kind of lame literary device? Stop it. You aren’t Jim Gaffigan.

Let me clarify. The big race on my radar is the ING New York City Marathon – in 2013.

The idea of devising a race plan more than a full year in advance may sound like crazy talk, but to any other resident New York runner, the concept is a familiar one: run nine NYRR-scored races and volunteer at one during the course of a calendar year and gain automatic entry into the NYC Marathon the following year. The 9+1 program is a staple in most New York runners’ bag of tricks.

I’ve already completed my nine races for the year (show off), and on Saturday, I woke up at 6 a.m. to volunteer at the Central Park Conservancy Run for Central Park 4-miler. My friend Leigh-Ann serendipitously happened to be in the same volunteer group, and we happen to look killer in neon orange vests, making it a successful morning all around.

But more importantly, as of Saturday morning, I’ve fulfilled my 9+1 requirements. That’s right, folks. That means:

Categories
Running Training

From the Horse’s Mouth

This weekend, I finished reading the 2001 New York Times Bestseller Seabiscuit: An American Legend. Yes, I realize I’m 11 years late to the table with this one. I’m also still listening to Napster and investing in Enron.

A captivating read about a knobby-kneed racehorse that was transformed into an icon of the American Dream during the Great Depression, Seabiscuit is also chockfull of lessons for the non-equine athlete. So without further ado, I bring you the much-anticipated special report, “Everything I Know about Running I Could Have Learned from a Horse.”

The importance of speed training

I hate speed training like the rest of us, preferring to log controversially named “junk” miles at an 8:45 clip instead of tempo runs at race pace. But if “The Biscuit” and/or every running article I’ve ever read has taught me anything, it’s that the only way to get faster is to—shockingly—train faster. Trotting may cut it during recovery runs, but every athlete with an eye on improvement really needs a good, hard gallop once a week to keep in top shape. When it comes to improving your VO2 max, pace runs, hill workouts, fartleks and pulling a Central Park carriage all count.

Take your recovery seriously

No athlete likes to be sidelined with an injury, but toe the starting line with anything more than normal aches and pains and you may find yourself out of the running for the entire season. Take a page of out Seabiscuit’s book: any time his gait betrayed even an inkling of strain, he was scratched from his scheduled races in favor of compression bandages and weeks of rest. I’ve decided to follow in his very wise, four-legged footsteps. Feeling the early stages of plantar fasciitis after my Saturday long run, I swapped out hard cross training yesterday in favor of an afternoon at the Central Park Zoo. I’ll choose bear watching over the elliptical any day.

Make time for friends

As I approach my first 40-mile week, I’m finding it harder and harder to squeeze in time with friends. But if I’m going to survive a summer of marathon training, my mental health demands I find a way. Any time Seabiscuit arrived at a new racetrack for an event, his handlers knocked down the wall between two adjacent stalls so his best horse friend, two dogs and a spider monkey had room to roost and keep him company. Most of my friends aren’t spider monkeys, but they do wear obnoxiously bold 80s outfits, and I intend to see them, looming marathon or not.

I may not win in a road race against War Admiral, but I think these are some rules I can live by, especially if I’m rewarded at the finish line with a carrot. Or carrot cake.

I like to finish my posts with thought-provoking questions to generate dialogue and community, but today, I just want to generate new book recommendations for myself, because I’m very, very selfish. So now that I’ve finished Seabiscuit, what should I pick up next?

Categories
Uncategorized

Unsolicited Shameless Plug for a Modest Friend

I write a blog exclusively about myself. I have two full-sized mirrors in my 150-square-foot bedroom. I started every sentence in this paragraph with the word “I.”

In the words of Jack Donaghy, “The song ‘You’re So Vain’ was, in fact, written – by me.”

If I didn’t know better, I’d think I was a textbook narcissist.

Fortunately, I know that’s not actually the case, as anyone spending a super lame afternoon with me and my self-deprecating self could easily confirm. But in an effort to prove that I’m not as self-absorbed as publicly documenting every step of my four-month marathon training would suggest, I’m going to use this space today to – for once – sing the praises of someone other than myself.

Enter my friend Davy, stage left.

Davy is 45-feet tall and about to destroy Manhattan.

A talented musician with solid comedic timing and a propensity to write rhymes about zoo animals, Davy has just released his second album of children’s songs and/or made Christmas shopping for your pre-school aged cousins a cinch. And when I say pre-school aged cousins, I clearly mean 26-year-old cousins, because I listen to this album on a daily basis.

A lot of the songs are quality, but this one is obviously the best, and not just because I join in for the chorus. (Actually, that’s exactly why.)  Here’s hoping these embedded clips don’t look like a garbled mess.

 

Seriously, go on iTunes and download this thing. It’s the greatest. But don’t just take my word for it.

 

Don’t worry, folks. Tomorrow, we’ll return to our regularly sheduled programming of me writing exclusively about myself. And about the two ShakeShack visits I made in as many days this week, including a pre-noon breakfast burger on the 4th of July. And about my imminent heart palpitations, no doubt.

How was your 4th?