Categories
Running

Naked Ambition

I’ve made a lot of questionable wardrobe choices since launching my running career, from cat ears to tutus to goldendoodle handbags.

But there’s at least one growing workout trend I’ve yet to try: Streaking.

 

“And it’s going to stay that way, young lady!” I hear my father saying now as he replaces the flattering spandex gear I requested for Christmas with ankle-covering, Mormon-approved, streak-free racing get-ups.

No, silly old bear, I don’t mean streaking streaking. I mean completing a running streak: or committing to run at least one mile every single day for a predetermined period of time — and then actually following through, regardless of weather, aches or professional obligations. If you ask me, this kind of streaking seems far more terrifying than the kind of the nudist variety.

I’ve heard about running streaks before — usually in the context of “Old Man Marley killed his family with a snow shovel and has run every day for the last six months! Six months!” — but I only started to consider doing one myself upon reading Marc Parent’s column in December’s issue of Runner’s World magazine.

The piece, which you can read in full here, chronicles his first running streak, in which he logged miles every single day between Thanksgiving and Christmas after a crazy neighbor talked him into it. “I’ll do it,” he recalls saying out loud to no one in the room. “A running streak is a deal you make with only yourself.”

And for Marc, the experience proved fruitful, particularly considering the lack of fruits — or plethora of fruitcakes — we all tend to devour in this month-long period each year.

“You do almost anything every day for four weeks and you start to get good at it. I no longer got tired on a run. I found out legs don’t hurt on days off when you never take a day off. You never feel guilty about the run you don’t take when you take them all. You don’t have favorite running clothes—you have whatever is clean and whatever works, which is whatever you happen to grab when you reach into the drawer. Individual runs are not important, but running as a whole feels more so. One morning I completed a long run without ever breathing faster than a resting pace. Once I came home after an exceptionally cold run and looked in the mirror at the icicles on my eyelashes and thought, I am officially as crazy a runner as anyone I’ve ever made fun of. Then I took a hot shower and dressed up and looped a belt around my waist and hooked the buckle on the smallest hole — a new hole on a belt I’ve had for more than 10 years.”

His column spoke to me, especially since after crossing that marathon finish line earlier this month, I’ve found getting out the door in the mornings to be a major challenge. Part of that is my self-diagnosed runner’s knee that’s transforming each hard run recovery into an agonizing nightmare, and part of that is my new earlier start time at work, but I’m positive a not minor component of my post-race lethargy is just good old-fashioned letdown after the thrill of the race.

Don’t believe me? Just check out my November running log. Looks embarrassingly like Kansas.

run

The truth is, a running streak may be a terrible idea for me this December, since I know my work days are going to be jam-packed and my park precariously icy. On the other hand, a running streak may be just the kick I need to get my mind back in the game and body ready for the new year.

Either way, I’m definitely kicking off the holiday season with a 5K Turkey Trot in Maryland tomorrow, so I’ve already got one day covered. Here’s hoping I can pry myself out of bed on Friday morning, too — and for the next 40 days. It’s just like Lent, but colder, and without the promise of Cadbury Creme Eggs at the end. (Remind me why I’m doing this again?)

Ah well, it’s in writing, so I guess I’m committed. Let the fully clothed streaking begin! Who’s with me?

Categories
Running

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

I don’t know much about orbits – unless you’re talking about the 1990s fad soda that I so desperately wanted to drink/chew – but my limited planetary background tells me the world has started spinning faster.

From take-out dinners edging out home-cooked meals to online holiday shopping replacing an entire day at the mall to each subsequent Vin Diesel/Paul Walker masterpiece, everything in our accelerating modern environment appears to be happening ever faster. And, in the case of the latter, furiouser.

Of course, that’s not always a bad thing. Speed has a definite place in our lives, from plowing through Times Square at rush hour to clocking a new PR in a road race to fast-forwarding through that eternally painful Laura Linney/Karl-our-enigmatic-chief-designer make-out scene in Love Actually. No thank you, Richard Curtis. I’ll just skip ahead to the Portuguese proposal scene, thankyouverymuch.

But while speed has its advantages, there are at least a handful of situations where it’s worthwhile to slow down. New relationships, for example, or learning to drive, or when participating in Pamplona’s annual running of the goldendoodles. That’s one stampede where it pays to get caught.

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Tag, you’re it!

Slowing down is also crucial on the long-distance race course, as you may recall from volume two of things I wish I’d done differently during the NYC marathon.

But it’s equally – if not more – important in the days, weeks and even months after crossing that finish line.

If you’re anything like me, you took your marathon training pretty seriously for four solid months, from the tame Friday nights to the Saturday long runs to the daily all-you-can-eat bagel extravaganzas. Oh, that’s not supposed to be part of training until the final week? Whoops.

But while I was shockingly disciplined in the months leading up to my race, I can’t say the same about recovery. By some coaches’ accounts, runners should plan one day of rest for each mile covered, meaning 26 days without a hard workout after crossing that finish line. Other experts go further still, recommending a day off for each kilometer, or 42 straight days of low-impact fitness post-race. Both sounded a bit extreme to me – heck, some people run back-to-back marathons each week – so I laced up three days after the race in an attempt to log a couple of miles and get my running back on track. I figured I’d run a few miles Wednesday, a few more Friday, and that I’d be back to double digits by Sunday afternoon.

Still in race mindset, I felt fully prepared to go out fast when it came to my recovery. My body, however, had different plans. Primarily, converting my knee caps into burning orbs of pain.

As I retuned home from those first four post-race miles and found myself suddenly unable to make it up my stairs without howling in agony, I quickly realized that I was not, in fact, immune to the strain that a marathon reportedly puts your muscles and joints through. That first run post-marathon left my knees reeling, and with ice and ibuprofen doing little to ease the pain, I was forced to do the one thing my barely recovered body was so desperately seeking: I slowed down. And not just for a day. These aching legs took off a solid week for the first time since 2011.

Forcing ourselves to slow down in today’s fast-paced world is always hard, and hanging up my running shoes during the first week of crisp fall weather was even crueler still. But I knew a week completely off running was what I needed to get back on track, so all belly-aching aside, I did it. And just in case I might be tempted to change my mind and sneak in a few miles, I hopped a plane to the most indulgent, run-free city on this side of the Mississippi: New Orleans.

I’m not going to lie – I packed running gear – but I never even laid hands on it the entire weekend in the Big Easy. The only running I did all trip long was up to the counter to pick up my beignets.

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Just kidding. They delivered them straight to my table.

My birthday trip to New Orleans was lazy and slothful and downright gluttonous, but it was also something else: just what my knees needed. I arrived back in the city yesterday with the hankering to run, and it felt just like it’s supposed to: pain-free, joyful and beignet-fueled.

It took a week away to know it for sure, but I’m finally starting to feel like I’m back.

How is your fall race recovery going? And more importantly, who is buying me this shirt for Christmas?

Categories
Running

It’s Gonna Take Time/A Whole Lot of Precious Time

Any journalist worth her weight in ink knows clichés have no place in quality prose, but there’s a reason these overused phrases have such staying power: they oftentimes ring true.

  • Ever come on too strong and scared a would-be suitor away? Remember that absence makes the heart grow fonder.
  • Felt let down after your plans fell through? Shouldn’t have counted your chickens before they hatched.
  • Found yourself slimed by an unruly goldendoodle after sneaking up on her mid-slumber? Best to let sleeping dogs lie.
These jokes write themselves.
These jokes write themselves.

The one that most rings true for me is from Clichés 101: Time heals all wounds. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case for shark bites or gangrene — seriously, Civil War surfer, you should get that checked out — but it certainly carries weight when it comes to love and marathons.

Let’s start with love, shall we? Because everybody loves a lover, and love makes the world go round, and it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Why yes, I do still have the webpage of most common clichés open on my browser. What gave it away?

For anyone who’s ever been through heartbreak — and that’s everyone, in one form or another — you know that while the beginning of a crush or romance or relationship is full of promise, the end is downright ruthless. No matter how amicably something may conclude, there’s no way around the fact that break-ups are about as fun as wrestling a pack of bears.

Which, actually, sounds pretty adorable to me. Let’s rephrase. No matter how amicably something may conclude, there’s no way around the fact that break-ups are about as fun as cats.

How do I know, you ask? Because 2012, may it live in infamy, encompassed for me two break-ups in as many seasons. Also, because cats are no fun.

When those relationships came to an end, I did all the things I was supposed to do — I got sleep, saw friends, ate ShakeShack, worked out — but the real elixir, I found, was none other than time herself. Watching a special friend go through the very same thing this week, I know I can throw all the ice-cream and wine her way I want (food fight!) but that there’s no magic cure to heartbreak save for the inevitable passing of days.

Fortunately, days pass quickly in the city that never sleeps, and I know she’ll be on her feet again by the time our trees are bare.

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God, New York’s hideous in the fall.

Before she knows it, someone new and exceptional will be filling that void — inspiring her, grounding her, and smooching her sweaty post-marathon face — and the only thing between him and her is a little, silly thing called time. Trust me on that one: 2013 has been much kinder to me.

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“You smell terrible, darling.”

The tincture of time is also a powerful anecdote in another area near and dear to my heart – running. Physiologically, of course, it takes time after a marathon for your body to rebuild and recover, and these knees still haven’t forgiven me for putting them through 3:58.34 of agony a week ago today.

But more importantly, time is a crucial element psychologically when it comes to post-race recovery. The evening following my marathon, I called my sister to give her the play by play and asked her to remind me that I never, ever wanted to run another marathon again. No way, no how. I was through.

Three days later as the aches subsided, I told a colleague I was looking forward to taking off the 2014 marathon season and enjoying a real honest to god summer but might consider racing again in 2015.

Today, a friend asked if I was doing the New York Road Runner’s 9+1 again to secure guaranteed entry to next year’s New York City marathon, and the question gave me pause. The program, which lets local runners race nine city events and volunteer at one in a calendar year to gain guaranteed entry into the next year’s marathon, is how I secured my spot in this year’s race. I’ve only done seven races — I told her –– and I don’t think I have time to get in two more and a volunteer session before year-end.

But maybe I shouldn’t rule it out just yet.

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And just like that, I’m starting to think about the New York City marathon again.

Olympic champion Frank Shorter once said: “You’re not ready to run another marathon until you’ve forgotten the last one.”

Turns out my short-term memory lasts one week exactly.

How is time on your side these days?

 

Categories
Races Running

City Love

Yesterday I ran a little local New York City road race and came within 50 seconds of a new PR.

Anne!

You came within 50 seconds of your 3:51:51 Marine Corps Marathon PR despite New York City’s infamously challenging hills and last week’s illness? That’s wonderful! You may be thinking. Even Meb had to walk!

Oh, um, no, I came within 50 seconds of my half marathon PR yesterday during the first half of the race. Which, in case you’d forgotten, was a full marathon.

Or, in other words, I exploded out of the gate, zoomed over the Verrazano Bridge, hightailed it through Brooklyn and crossed the 13.1-mile marker in Greenpoint at an impressive 1:50:52 chip time, or just seconds slower than my half marathon PR recorded earlier this fall in Central Park.

When I passed my friends and family at the base of the Pulaski Bridge, I was positively flying.

Anne run! (1)

Unfortunately, Newton’s first law apparently does not apply to marathon runners, and this object in motion was unable to maintain the sub-8:30 pace during the second half of the race that had propelled me from Staten Island to Queens in the first. In all my excitement high-fiving strangers and tearing with emotion and WOOing at every spectator who yelled my name in those first three boroughs, pacing myself kind of went by the wayside. That is, until I hit the brutal ascent of the 59th Street Bridge and realized there was nothing – and I mean nothing – left in the tank. Don’t believe me? Just check out this brutally telling graph of my race pace. Ouch.

speed

Hello, I’m a textbook example of how not to run a road race. Nice to meet you.

But let’s backtrack a little. The morning started with a 5 a.m. alarm (or 6 a.m. alarm, thankyouverymuch daylight savings) and a train-ferry-bus ride to the starting villages at the base of the Verrazano Bridge. Donned in my coolest throw-away warm-up gear, I made friends with a fellow first-time NYC marathoner and we passed the pre-race hours waiting in porta-potty lines and admiring the veteran runners’ ingenuity. Runner using a pool float as a mattress, I salute you.

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By 9:30, I was ushered into my corral, and at 10:05, my wave was making our way across the starting line as New York, New York blared over the PA system and the skyline herself towered in the distance. I’m not usually one to cry at sentimental things like when Simba realizes his father lives on in him or when Forrest sees Lt. Dan’s magic legs for the first time (cue waterworks), but I may have teared up as I stepped onto that bridge and knew I was on my way to completing an event that’s been at the top of my bucket list since 2011. I can’t wait to see MarathonFoto’s attractive snapshots of my frozen face contorted in happy sobs at Mile 1. That’s bound to be one for the scrapbook.

The bridge itself was uneventful save for a brutal side cramp, two circling helicopters and the most breathtaking views of the city you’ve ever seen (ok, fine, it was eventful), but the real fun started when we took those first steps onto solid land. “Welcome to Brooklyn!” the spectators’ banners cried. “Run like you stole something!”

If you’ve ever looked at an NYC subway map, you might think Brooklyn is a quaint little borough spanning about the same area as Central Park. Listen up, kids, it’s time someone told you the truth: the MTA lies. Brooklyn is vast, and the next 12 miles all took place within this wonderfully boisterous and diverse collection of neighborhoods. From the church ladies in Bay Ridge to the Park Slope Yuppies, the streets of my favorite borough were packed several bodies deep and the excitement was palpable. I knew I should have been keeping myself at the 8:45 to 9:00 pace I’d been targeting for the first few miles, but as I high-fived hands and blew kisses like a celebrity, I was simply unable to rein in the energy. Miles 1 through 7 flew by, and before I knew it, I was in front of the 3:45 pace group. Whoops.

That should have been a sign to slow down, since I was targeting more of a 3:55 pace, but the roar of the crowds and the knowledge that my people were waiting at Brooklyn’s last corner propelled me forward at a dangerously unsustainable clip. I tore through Williamsburg, turned down Greenpoint Ave., spotted my crowd and barreled through like a rockstar.

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Ten minutes and two bridge-climbs later, I hit a wall.

Previously when I’d pictured myself running the NYC marathon, I imagined I’d come off the 59th St. Bridge into Manhattan and feel the swell of energy that would push me through to the end. But while I was excited to see a friendly face (and dog) around mile 17 and was doubly excited for the energy gels they were giving away at mile 18, I’d lost my exhilaration – and stamina – by the time I’d landed in my home borough. I realize the signs along the race course were true: “No one said it would be easy; they said it would be worth it” and “If a marathon was easy, they’d call it your mom,” but as I entered Manhattan, I couldn’t help feeling how HARD the whole thing suddenly seemed. One sign in particular rang true: “I bet this seemed like a good idea four months ago.”

I never doubted I’d finish the race, especially after doing some self-inventorying and deciding that none of my foot pain or soreness was debilitating, but I knew 3:50 to 3:55 was probably off the table (and the 3:45 pace group was well out of sight). However, I thought a sub-4:00 might still be in the cards, especially given all the time I’d (foolishly) banked at the beginning. So I hunkered down, ate anything I could get my hands on, guzzled Gatorade and pushed myself through the Bronx, up that brutal Fifth Avenue climb and into Central Park.

Where – surprise! – my spectators had popped up for an unexpected hello!

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I wonder if I would have ran faster with my eyes open.

At this point, I had only two miles to go and I was back on my home turf – the park loop – so I knew I had it in the bag. I plowed ahead, sprinted down 59th Street, turned back into the park and crossed the finish line as the clock struck 3:58:34. I was then ushered down a finishers’ shoot, wrapped in a heat sheet, adorned with a medal, given a bag of food and forced to walk a full mile north before being allowed to exit the park. Great planning, ING. Marathoners love walking the full length of the city after a four-hour jog.

I finally maneuvered my way out of the park, collected my sweet post-race cape and located my parents, roommate and boyfriend in Columbus Circle, where they all kindly hugged me before pointing out how gross my salt-streaked face was. One BLT, two poptarts and a bagel later, I was passed out before 8 p.m. in the city that never sleeps.

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Everyone’s been texting and e-mailing to find out about the race, so here’s the recap: When it comes to NYC 2013, I went out too fast, positive split, broke all the rules of a successful run and didn’t even come close to recording a new PR. And if that’s not enough, today I feel like I was hit by a freight train.

So was it worth it?

This bad boy says hell yes.

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New Yorkers, how was your race day? Spectators, thanks so much for coming out. Runners, I feel your pain. Literally. And Meb, I love you more than ever, man. 2014’s your year. And maybe mine.

Categories
Races Running

On Your Mark

I’ve never doubted the caliber of my friends, but in case I needed some sort of reaffirmation, the outflowing of support following my Thursday night blog post undoubtedly sealed the proverbial deal.

“Just reading your blog,” one texted me later that night. “Haven’t gotten to the end (is there a happy ending?) but I am very worried about your head. Darling, are you ok? Anything I can do?

I’ve been thinking about you all week  –  sending positive thoughts your way,” e-mailed another. “I hope you are feeling better, or maybe took the day off work to rest. Wishing you lots of good luck and energy.”

The thought of you not racing Sunday breaks my furry heart,” said a third. “On a side note, do you think your constant anthropomorphism of me is borderline unhealthy? No? Ok then. As you were.

photo 2 (27)
“Am I a man, or am I muppet?”

From my grandmother to my godmother to three best friends and – separately – their wonderful mothers, friends and family coast to coast have been checking in continuously on my status these last few days, and it’s left me feeling all warm and fuzzy and loved inside.

But that’s not all I’m feeling. In addition to feeling cared for and supported, I also woke up this morning feeling something else.

Better.

For the past 48 hours, I’ve been gorging on carbs, sleep and vitamin C, and I woke up this morning after 10 glorious hours with a renewed bounce in my step. It could just be excitement that my parents are en route to the city or the knowledge that I’m allowed to start wearing all my obnoxious marathon finisher gear in 27 short hours, but I really, truly feel like I’m on the mend.

I intend to become a Never-Nude in these awesome shorts.
I intend to become a Never-Nude in these awesome shorts.

And you know what that means. Tomorrow, we race!

I may not be as fast or as healthy as I want to be, but I’m going to be brushing elbows with the elites, honoring Boston and competing in one of the greatest marathons of all time in the city I love, and, heck, that sounds like a pretty good time to me regardless of what that clock says.

Of course, PR or no PR, the clock will still play an important role for me tomorrow, and that’s knowing what time I can expect to see my personal spectators along the course. New York Road Runners recommends downloading the free 2013 ING New York City Marathon Mobile App and tracking me that way (Bib No. 21-701), but I’ve also put together this little cheat sheet to help you out. The three columns represent my estimated time at each mile marker if I ran my goal pace (left), my medium pace (middle) or my likely pace (right). May I recommend downloading it, making a paper airplane and throwing it at me as I hobble past?

race

So there we have it. Thanks for all your warm wishes and support, and next time you hear from me, I expect to be a two-time marathon finisher! I also expect to be eating a cheeseburger. I don’t know which excites me more.

Good luck to all the other runners out there! How are managing these final hours?