Races Training

The Lies We Tell

No matter how moral or honest or candid you are as a human being, the chances are good you routinely say things you don’t really mean.

  • I’m not trying to PR on Sunday. I just want to finish.
  • Of course he’ll call!
  • No, no, you take the last slice of pizza.
  • I’m not mad at you, I swear.
  • I’ve thought it through. A 60-pound dog would totally thrive in my New York City apartment.
She just has to sleep on the couch.
She just has to sleep on the couch.

Time to add one more to the list:

  • I’m going to race a triathlon on July 28th!

As you may recall, I announced in mid-May plans to train for a sprint triathlon along the scenic Rhode Island coast this summer in an effort to diversify my workout routine and enter marathon training stronger, fitter and less injury prone than I would have been had I spent the past eight weeks running nothing but reservoir loops.

“The spice of life!” I’d said. Turns out, the only thing in my pantry is wonder bread.

The truth is, I initially had full intentions of running/swimming/biking this weekend’s race and even went so far as to put in the preparatory work. For nearly two months, I supplemented my running routine with freestyle laps and harrowing Brooklyn bike rides, and were I being chased today by a bear along a quarter-mile waterway, an 11-mile bike course and a 3.1-mile roadway, there’s no doubt in my mind I could cross the finish line unscathed (unless that bear is riding a Schwinn five-speed, in which case, God help us all).

But there’s more to racing an event than physical preparation. In order to enjoy yourself during a sustained period of athleticism/dehydration/bear-drifting, you not only have to have built up the stamina and muscle mass to perform, but you need the right mental mindset as well. And I simply wasn’t going to have it.

Call me Debbie Downer, but after traveling out of the city for three straight July weekends, the idea of commuting up to Rhode Island for another excursion away sounded more depleting than refreshing, even if the people I was set to visit are among my favorite in the world. Throw into the mix the fact that I’m starting a new job bright and early Monday morning, and I knew I wouldn’t have been able to fully enjoy myself racing on Sunday in a whole different state. With my thoughts undoubtedly set to be elsewhere, the event didn’t quite seem worth the $85 registration fee, even if it came complete with a sweet neon swim cap. 

But while I won’t be throwing myself into the Atlantic Ocean this weekend with 500 of my closest friends, I in no way regret my summer of mock triathlon training. At this time last year, I could hardly sit down for fear of snapping in half my aching IT bands; this summer, I’ve swum and biked my way to a level of overall fitness that can’t be beat. And as I transition out of multi-sport training into 40-mile running weeks, that extra base of fitness is going to be a welcome buffer indeed.

So here’s to the second half of summer 2013. No looking back! Only looking forward here on out – as well as lovingly into a certain pooch’s adoring gaze.

Yes, Elton, I CAN feel the love tonight.
Yes, Elton, I CAN feel the love tonight.

What curve balls has the summer thrown your training plans? Matt Harvey, this one’s for you.


Hot Diggity Dog

I’ve just returned from back-to-back weekends in Baltimore, and you know what that means: time to post a series of snapshots of an adolescent canine under the thinly veiled guise of offering legitimate running advice. Alright, team. Let the charade begin.

Today, in honor of New York City’s sustained triple-digit thermometric reading, I’d like to discuss strategies for maintaining fitness during summer’s hottest days. And what better spokeswoman for the impact of heat than a fur-covered quadruped unable to regulate her own internal body temperature? Enter Keira, stage left.

photo 4 (10)

Running in the summer is hard for a whole host of reasons—the ambient heat speeds up your heart rate, triggers dehydration and makes it difficult to keep your core temperature down, not to mention makes post-work happy hours all the more appealing—but with most of the major marathons slated for autumn, forgoing workouts simply because the federal government has issued a weather state of emergency is unfortunately not an option.

However, with some careful planning and a little creativity, it’s possible to keep your fitness levels elevated even when the mercury is on the rise. Below are some strategies as depicted by Anne’s best friend.

Wake up early. Tell your friends you’re training for a marathon and they’ll wonder if you’re crazy. Tell them you wake up at 5 a.m. on the weekends for your long runs and you’ll remove all doubt. Still, if you’re planning to log more than 10 miles at a time on a hot summer day, rising alongside the sun is a foolproof way to beat the heat. The aim is to finish your workout while your shadow is still two-times the length of your body. Returning to bed when you’re finished is a totally acceptable post-run recovery plan.

Wake up early, like Keira.
Wake up early, like Keira.

Dress well. It seems like just yesterday I was advising on winter running gear, but choosing the correct summer duds is just as key. Invest in good wicking shorts and tank tops, sweat-proof sunscreen, a face-shading visor (better than a hat, which won’t allow heat to escape) and enough anti-chaffing body glide to coat a small nation.

Dress well, like Keira.
Dress well, like Keira.

Stay hydrated. This one is simply non-negotiable. Last Saturday, I met my girl Meredith for a long-run in Baltimore and–having  grown so used to Central Park’s abundance of fountains–didn’t think to bring my own fluids. Big mistake. Although we successfully tracked down one water fountain around mile 6, by mile 9 of my 10-miler, I was too light-headed to make it up a hill. For the first time ever, I had to slow to a walk mid-long run and regain my balance before pressing on. Don’t let it happen to you. Carry water with you, get a hydration belt, plot your route around fountains or plan to stop half-way and buy a bottle. Also, make sure you go into your run well-hydrated and replace both the water—and the salt—as soon as you’re home. Gatorade or seawater are both appropriate options.

Stay hydrated, like Keira.
Stay hydrated, like Keira.

Stay inside. If the weather truly becomes too hot to handle, there’s no shame in moving your workout indoors. I hate treadmills as much as the next guy, but as I also hate heatstroke, sometimes the machine is the lesser of evils. Can’t bear the electric belt? Jump on the elliptical or take a zumba class or practice your strokes in an indoor pool—whatever gets your heart a’thumpin. Or split up a long run and do five miles outside followed by five miles on the treadmill in rapid succession. You can’t sub out a scheduled run every single day and properly train for a marathon, but a few indoor substitutions on the hottest of days never hurt anyone.

Stay inside, like Keira.
Stay inside, like Keira.

How do you maintain fitness all July long? “By constantly photographing a moving model” is a totally acceptable response.


A Call to Mindfulness

If you’ve asked me this summer how I’m feeling, you probably got an answer that sounded something like this:

-I’m tired. I’ve had plans every work night for three solid weeks.

-I’m exhausted. I haven’t spent a single weekend in the city all month.

-I’m beat. I completed a swim drill, a bike ride and two runs in the last 24 hours alone.

-I’m spent. In addition to triathlon prep, I’m also three weeks into marathon training.

-I’m haggard. Using a thesaurus is hard work.

And I’m not the only one who’s spent the last month dogtired.

Just let me be.
Just let me be.

The truth is, it’s been a tiring few weeks for a whole host of reasons: heavy workouts, a jam-packed travel schedule, 90-degree running weather, a shortage of sleep. Throw into the mix the fact that my professional life is about to make a 180 as I’ve tendered my resignation at the wonderful publication that kickstarted my career, and it’s easy to find myself getting worn out as the summer’s dog days take hold.

Whomp whomp.
Whomp whomp.

Or at least, I’ve started to get worn out by the sheer pace of my daily routine.

But then I stop. Or at least, I’m getting better at stymieing those negative thoughts.

How, you ask? By making a concerted effort to focus on the positives every day when all I really want to do is complain louder than the next guy. For example, when I’m feeling down about logging less mileage this summer than at the same point last year, I reflect on the fact that all the swimming and biking I’m doing instead has undoubtedly helped keep me injury free. When I’m lamenting leaving behind my talented reporting staff to join a new company, I remember I’m going to be surrounded with and challenged by equally brilliant newshounds at my next employer. When I want to strangle the woman in front of me for talking on her cell phone in the quiet car, well … no positive spin there. Probably best you don’t read tomorrow’s Amtrak obituaries.

I mean it: forcing yourself to look for the positive when you’re feeling downright negative can be hard, but I think it’s a worthy exercise – and I mean exercise. Just like speed work and hill sprints and negative splitting, mindfulness is a skill that can be practiced and strengthened if you’re willing to put in the miles.

The experts – of which I am not – will tell you there are a lot of ways to do it: keeping a journal, meditating, working up a sweat. What’s been key for me these past few weeks is jotting down three things I’m grateful for each night before bed. I got the idea here, and I think it’s a video worth watching:

Will being a more positive person make me a better runner? Maybe not. But if I can leave the office at 8 p.m. and – rather than bemoan the long workday – take pleasure in stumbling across Manhattanhenge at the most serendipitously perfect moment instead, well, then that can’t be bad for my health, now can it?


How do you practice mindfulness? Not to be confused with wine-full-ness, which is scheduled for Saturday night to celebrate a certain defector’s East Coast homecoming. You know who you are.