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Races Running

A Year in Review

There are probably ten or twelve movies that – if unwittingly stumbled across while channel surfing on my couch – require I watch them through to the credits, despite having seen them dozens of times before. A mismatched mix of sappy rom-coms, 90s blockbusters and Tom Hanks’ entire cinemagraphic repertoire, these films pull me in time after time again, offering me the chance to quote entire Bill Pullman monologues and threatening to rob me of my precious free time for 90 minutes to three hours in a single sitting.

While the elitist in me wishes I were about to rattle off a list of Oscar contenders and foreign language masterpieces, my list of feel-good films are all from a simpler time when Russell Casse always gets past the alien shields, Alan Parrish always rolls a three and every Tom Hanks protagonist – from Josh Baskin to Sam Baldwin to Joe Fox – always gets the girl.

In honor of that last film – which was You’ve Got Mail, but I’m sure you knew that – I’d like to post a throwback to my own dial-up AOL days, from the meticulously crafted, quote-laden profiles to the loosely concealed declarations of love in every AIM away message.

And let’s not forget the e-mail surveys.  Oh, how I loved the e-mail surveys.

But what does this have to do with running, you ask?

You caught me: Very little. Basically, I’d like to fill in this 2012 running survey making its rounds across the blogosphere, and – like BuzzFeed – am physically unable to post anything without making an obscure 90s reference.

So after a very long and unnecessary lead-in, I bring you a recap of my year in running.

Best race experience? The Marine Corps Marathon, hands down. Big shocker here, I know. But I’ve never before trained so hard for something, or had so many friends and family come out to cheer me on, or high-fived so many strangers or, you know, run 26.2 miles at a time. I’m already counting down the days until I get to do it again on Nov. 3.

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Best run? My pre-marathon 20-miler. I’d done a 17-miler, an 18-miler and a 19-miler in the months preceding the MCM, but something about hitting that 20-mile milestone gave me the confidence to know I’d be A-OK come race day. To be honest, it wasn’t my smartest run, since I zoomed through 10 sub-8:00 miles with a speedy friend before eating anything that morning, but it was monumental nonetheless.

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Best new piece of gear? My Garmin Forerunner 210. Sure, it stinks to wait in the cold while it locates satellites and yes, it’s sometimes nice to forgo all technology and just get out there and run, but knowing my distance and pace and all that jazz has been pretty instrumental. Runner up: this (partially obscured) medal from a Texas 5K, that I actually won for placing. That doesn’t happen in Central Park.

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Best piece of running advice you received? Don’t try anything new on race day. Unless it’s puffy-painting your name on your marathon shirt, which is an absolute must. Twitter handle optional.

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Most inspirational runner? Everyone who raised thousands of dollars for charities to run the 2012 New York City marathon, and – when canceled last minute due to Hurricane Sandy – opted to still run 26.2 miles on their own to honor all the wonderful organizations they had signed on to support. I wholeheartedly stand behind the decision to cancel the organized race, particularly when parts of the course are still today in dire straits, but the backlash against those “selfish” runners who chose to honor their charity sponsors anyways by running four Central Park loops sans water stations and spectators was wholly unfounded. She thinks so, too.

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If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? Unremarkable in the overall scheme of things, but pretty darn impressive for me.

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How was your running year? Feel free to steal this survey for your own recap. If you don’t, you’ll have bad luck forever, or something.

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Thank You Notes

As I boarded the train at New York Penn Station tonight en route to Baltimore Penn Station via Newark Penn Station and – oh yeah – the entire state of Pennsylvania – I was fully prepared to use this space to complain.

About what, you ask? For one, about the throbbing ache in my left glute that forced me to cut yesterday’s long run short and forgo today’s workout altogether. Secondly, about how I seem to have lost all motivation to push myself athletically now that my years-in-the-making marathon goal has come to an end. And, of course, about how there are entirely too many Penn Stations along the northeast corridor. I mean, seriously guys. Would it have killed you to use a thesaurus?

But while the Amtrak quiet car isn’t entirely quiet tonight and the world may or may not be coming to an end in a few short hours (two inconveniences of equal importance in my book), I simply refuse to sit here griping as I speed my way toward the Mason-Dixon Line.

Why, you ask? Because – especially after all the heartbreaking tragedy of this past week – I can unequivocally say that I am pretty darn lucky when it comes to my lot in life, glute ache and all.

So without further ado, I will take a page from AliOnTheRun‘s book and bring you my very first installment of Thankful Things Thursday. Why? Because I’m feeling very thankful these days. And because I love alliteration.

I’m thankful that my immediate family – including two members of the military, one Peace Corps veteran and one ballsy power boater who has probably had more near-death experiences than the rest of them combined – are all safe and healthy and converging on Baltimore this weekend. And that they all intend to make me waffles in bed tomorrow, or so I assume.

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I’m thankful for my network of unconditionally supportive friends, from those I met in the church nursery or at afternoon kindergarten to those I met rocking out on the soccer field or blasting Billy Joel at a social house party. And let’s not forget those best of friends whose parents and my parents grew up together.

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I’m thankful that as much as I bemoan the long hours and the building’s comically cold year-round ambient temperature, I generally like my industry, my job and – despite what this photo would lead you to believe – the people I work with.

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I’m thankful that I’ve so fully enjoyed the New York holiday season this year, from baking cookies and sampling the Brooklyn Brewery’s entire winter collection to visiting the Rockefeller Center tree and spending a wonderfully childish evening with the Rockettes and friends. And by friends, I mean Santa.

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I’m thankful that my body was strong enough to push me through four months of marathon training this summer and that my mind was strong enough to push me through four hours of marathon running this fall.

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I’m thankful that six months of private tutoring have finally paid off and that my brother’s dog can now read.

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What are you thankful for?

Categories
Races Running

Fatigue is Not a Dirty Word

When somebody asks me what it is that I love about racing, I have a dozen and one answers up my sleeve – as well as the ability to tailor which one I pull out based on who, specifically, is behind the question.

  • Athletic friend: Why do you love racing, champ?
  • Me: My competitive side comes out in a way it doesn’t on my meditative morning runs, driving me to push harder, stride wider and end stronger.
  • Fratty friend: Why do you love racing, bro?
  • Me: One 15K race burns 10 Bud Light Lime’s worth of calories.
  • Latino friend: ¿Porqúe te gusta correr?
  • Me: Repítalo más despacio, por favor.

The truth is it’s downright difficult to reduce my feeling about racing into a single answer. I love so many things about race day, from the respectful calm that comes over the previously buzzing crowd during the pre-gun national anthem to that final ditch-effort sprint over the finish line. In a city that generally advises against interactions with strangers, I love high-fiving spectators along the race course, chatting with other runners about their performance as we bundle-up in baggage and forcing sweaty friends to pose in sweaty post-race photos.

Not only did I achieve a new 15K PR on Sunday (1:15.40), but I was reminded once again to try to remember to take photos before the race next time.
Not only did I achieve a new 15K PR on Sunday (1:15.40), but I was reminded – once again – to try to remember to take photos before the race next time. Hello, tantalizing sweat stains.

And let’s not forget the post-race pancakes. I love post-race pancakes.

But while it’s hard to pinpoint a single characteristic about road racing that keeps me coming back event after event, there is one thing in particular that I relish, although it’s something I never even remember until some two hours after I cross the finish line: that indescribable sensation of complete and utter exhaustion that follows a hard race.

Now don’t get me wrong. As a single 27-year-old woman working a full-time editorial job while training for marathons and singlehandedly keeping a half dozen New York burger joints in business,  exhaustion is a sensation with which I am intimately aware.

But the kind of exhaustion that follows a road race is something else entirely – rather than a demoralizing and frazzled kind of exhaustion that postdates pretty much every day of my adult life, this post-race exhaustion is serene and fulfilling and all-encompassing in a way I can only equate with swaddling (back me up here, baby Jesus.) I like napping in general, but falling into a comatose slumber in the hours following a hard effort on the race course is a sensation approaching nirvana (back me up here, Kurt Cobain).

Racing means a lot of things to me – a workout, a challenge, another cotton t-shirt to force into my overflowing dresser drawers – but perhaps most importantly, it means glorious post-race fatigue. And that’s worth a $25 registration fee any day of the week.

Any other runners love that feeling of exhaustion that follows a hard effort? Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something gloriously satisfying about being dog-tired. 

"...and the cop goes: 'I don't know, sir, but the pope is his driver!"
(Back me up here, Keira.)
Categories
Races Running

Back in the Game

As I laced up my racing shoes this past weekend for my first timed trial since the Marine Corps Marathon, all signs were pointing to a terrible performance:

  • My much faster racing partner who was going to pace me to a new PR had to bow out Sunday morning because of a massive hangover to save some orphans from a tree.
  • We were out of bananas, so I subbed my traditional pre-race breakfast of toast, peanut butter and banana slices for toast, peanut butter and butter. Begins with the same letter but arguably less nutritiously dense.
  • Running late, I had to jog to the park, plow through baggage and sprint my way to my corral. Warming up is one thing, but starting a 5-miler panting may not be sound coaching advice.

Heck, even the skyline looked ominous.

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I spy with my little eye Gozer the Gozarian.

I don’t usually believe in signs – unless you’re talking the 2002 M. Night Shyamalan evangelical alien thriller, which I totally believe in, hence my decision to keep a full glass of water by my bed at all times – but Sunday morning’s omens seemed suspiciously foreboding.

And why wouldn’t they? After taking more than a month off speed work, proper nutrition and overall decency as a human being following my first 26.2, I assumed I’d arrive at the starting line with sluggish muscles, an unhappy digestive tract and little motivation to push myself to a new PR.  I mean, come on people, I’m tired. I just ran a freaking marathon.

What I failed to remember was that – oh yeah – I just ran a freaking marathon. My recent lack of interval training and carbo-loading aside, I’m still in arguably the best shape of my life, and Sunday’s Join the Voices 5-miler reminded me of that. I felt solid, I felt strong, I felt fast and – more importantly – I felt three full minutes melt off my 5M personal best. Finishing in 38:46 might not have been fast enough to earn me a medal from race MC Tony Danza, but did serve to remind me that 1. I still love racing and 2. Tony Danza hasn’t aged a day.

Hold me close, young Tony Danza.
Hold me close, young Tony Danza.

But I’m not the only one back in the game. Sunday’s race also marked the return of my speedy girl Leigh-Ann, who is significantly faster than me when not recovering from massive foot surgery.  Welcome back, kiddo. Central Park has missed you.

This will probably be our engagement photo. Watch your mailbox for a save the date.
This will probably be our engagement photo. Watch your mailbox for a save the date.

Finally, Sunday’s race allowed me to knock the first goal off my three-pronged year-end resolution list:

  • Achieve a new PR.
  • Eat more homemade food.
  • Steal this dog.

My other two goals are significantly more challenging, especially since “eating less processed food” and “sitting within arm’s length of your co-workers’ Combos” are pretty much mutually exclusive.  Ah well. Puppynapping it is.

Has anyone else who ran a fall marathon returned to racing? How’d it go for you?