Races Running Training

Raring to Go

If you’ve asked me any time in the past few weeks whether I’m excited about tomorrow’s marathon, I probably told you no. I may have said I’m not excited because of my recurring shin pain, or I’m not excited because I doubt I’ll finish in under 4 hours, or I’m not excited because I’ve been training for too damn long, or I’m not excited because – let’s be honest — it’s not the epic November 2015 event that I’m most excited about this month. This is:

Yes, they’re invitation magnets. No, the three of us aren’t engaged. Though we probably should be. Sorry, Keirnan.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been decidedly not excited for anything related to this road race save for the prospect of it being over. But then something started to change, and in such small, incremental ways that I hardly noticed it at first.

  • I stepped out onto 1st Avenue to discover they’d hung the infamous Marathon Route banners on the lampposts, and it made me smile.
Photo courtesy of Leigh-Anns instagam because I forgot to take one myself.
Photo courtesy of Leigh-Ann’s instagam because I forgot to take one myself.
  • I went to an early birthday dinner with my cousin slash bestie who pointed out how much I’ve changed from the beginning of my 20s to the end of them, and it made me proud that I’m capping off this defining decade with a marathon.

Wine = my pre-race beverage of choice.

  • I popped into the race expo to pick up my bib, and when the volunteer working the 20,000-25,000 booth wished me luck this Sunday, it for the first time hit me that this elusive event that’s been on my calendar for SO DARN LONG is finally here.


  • I treated myself to a pair of awesome stained glass inspired leggings at said expo, and for the first time in ages, it made me want to get outside and run in them. Not ‘til after the race, of course; no new leggings on race day, as amazing as they may be.

IMG_0017 (1)

  • I woke up to discover good luck flowers from my supportive boyfriend and a note wishing me luck this weekend, which is the sweetest, considering he’s been forced to wake up to my 5:30 a.m. running alarm all summer long, too.

  • I stopped by the marathon pavilion at the site of the finish line yesterday to hear my physical therapist friend Leigh-Ann give an awesome presentation on post-race recovery, which made me super excited about that BLT I already know I’m going to eat in my ice bath in exactly 31 hours.

All of these events – plus the well wishes flowing in from friends and family in e-mails, texts and cards – would have probably been enough to successfully propel me out of my funk and get me excited about the fast-approaching big day. But just in case I needed one more thing to get me excited about tomorrow’s 26.2-mile event, guess who else I met at the marathon pavilion yesterday.

❤ ❤ ❤

For those of you who don’t know (shame!), this is Meb Keflezighi, an Olympic silver medalist, the winner of the 2009 New York City Marathon, and — famously — the winner of the 2014 Boston Marathon one year after the bombing when it felt so symbolic that an American distance runner took home the title for the first time in more than 30 years. He’s a hero of mine, and hearing him wish me luck out there (and asking me not to beat him if I can help it — oh Meb, you jokester, you) got me more pumped than I ever could have imagined.

It may have taken me several months to feel this way, but now that the butterflies are here in my stomach, I don’t think they’re going anywhere until I step onto the Verrazzano Bridge in 24 short hours. The goal now is to get myself calm enough that I can sleep through the night, hold down some breakfast, and make it to the ferry on time.

After that, it’s all up to my legs. See you in Central Park, folks.


Island Fever … Well, Tendinitis

New York City’s Randall’s Island is not just home to two psychiatric hospitals, a water treatment plant and several homeless shelters. This small landmass in the middle of the East River has also been the backdrop to some of my finest moments as a New York City resident — and several of my worst.

  • The Good: This surprisingly lush park-strewn island plays host to the Governor’s Ball music festival each year, which is my favorite kind of music festival — the kind where you get to walk home to your own shower and bed after the festivities close down at a reasonable hour.
  • The Bad: Randall’s Island was where I spent the better part of four terrifying seasons pretending I understood that handballs in soccer were a bad thing. Given my dribbling skills, it’s amazing we ever made the playoffs.
  • The Ugly: It was on Randall’s Island at this year’s company picnic that I ate too much delicious free food and ended up tossing my cookies on the ferry-ride home. And by cookies, I mean moon pies. What a waste of moon pie.

With Randall’s Island carrying such a variety of memories for me, it shouldn’t come as a surprise the gamut of emotions that transpired there for me on Saturday. It started good: I was signed up for a local 5K that I thought would be a good chance to practice running marathon goal pace one week before the big day. Then it turned bad: I planned to do the 5K as the middle miles of my final 8-mile long run, and by the time I arrived at race check-in, my left shin was acting up. And then it turned ugly: Post-race, I could hardly walk, and no amount of icing or stretching or pumpkin pudding seemed to relieve the pain. To be fair, pumpkin pudding isn’t famous for being a pain reliever, but I thought it wise to do experiments anyways. You know, for science.

Damn you, supposedly easy fun run. (Source: Randall's Island Facebook Page, because islands also like social media.)
Damn you, supposedly easy fun run. (Source: Randall’s Island Facebook Page, because islands also like social media.)
Unfortunately, the pain persisted, so I did what any runner does the week before the marathon: I panicked. I started googling symptoms. I convinced myself I had a stress fracture. I debated skipping NYC altogether and registering for the Philly marathon in late November in order to give myself time to heal properly before putting my body through that strain. I cried.

Fortunately, I was smart enough to solicit a second opinion, which came from a licensed physical therapist friend who knows more than google. She examined me in her lovely apartment, diagnosed some mild tendinitis, taped me up and prescribed a stringent regimen of ice, ibuprofen, rest and supportive shoes. I may not like wearing sneakers in the workplace — Silicon Valley chic, as I’ve dubbed today’s output — but I have to admit I’m walking much better with the help of their support.

The hardest part of her prescribed treatment? An entire week off running. Normally the week before a marathon, I’ll log a few 3 to 4 mile runs just to keep myself same and keep my head in the game, but I’ve been instructed to stay off of my feet as much as I possibly can. If you thought my taper crazies were bad in past years, imagine the withdrawal I’m feeling ramping down to 0 with just five days to go. It’s maddening.  Might as well write me into a Brontë novel and lock me in the attic.

The good news is it’s starting to feel a whole lot better — so good, in fact, that I’m still expecting to toe the starting line at Sunday’s race. My legs might be heavy for not having exercised all week, but at least they’ll function. And whats race week anyways if not a chance for everything to go terribly wrong all at the same time? Builds character, right?

Here’s hoping. Four days.

How is your taper going?


Oh, Canada

I have a history of unabashedly recommending things that I myself have only done once before — a weekend trip to Austin, lunch at Duck Fat in Portland, dipping birthday cake in ranch dressing — so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’m about to make yet another hardly tested declarative statement:

Ottawa is a runner’s paradise.

I say this after having only logged one single 5-mile run in the Canadian capital on what was arguably the mildest autumn evening the far north has ever seen. Were I to revisit this statement in, say, February, I might feel differently, but as of this moment, I can confidently say that 100% of my Ottawa-based workouts have been perfection indeed. Why, you ask? Because this Ontario city ticks off every single one of the “Three Fs” (patent pending) I’m looking for in a training route: flat, friendly and fair. 

  • Flat: There’s something to be said for cities built along waterways, and this quiet metropolis of less than 1 million people has two: a river and a canal. I chose to run along the canal, and literally the only time I encountered elevation was when I stepped up the curb to re-enter my hotel. What a welcome change from mountainous Central Park.  
  • Friendly: About two miles into my workout, I was startled to hear a voice coming up on my left. “Gorgeous night for a run, eh?” I looked all around me, assuming she was talking up her running partner or into a blue tooth. But there was no one else there — this Canadian runner was making weather-related small talk with me! To those of you reading this outside of New York, this may not seem unusual, but for those of us training in Manhattan, there’s some unspoken rule that conversation between stranger runners is supposed to stay, well, unspoken. Only after she started to pull ahead did I realize her observation warranted a response, so I stammered off something barely intelligible, tacking on my own “eh” in a futile effort to blend in. I then spent the rest of my evening giving in to my natural born inclination to acknowledge other runners as they passed and, my god, I felt humanized in a way NYC had almost made me forget.   
  • Fair: By fair here, I really mean gorgeous, but “The Two Fs and one G” of running routes doesn’t really have the same ring. And gorgeous Ottawa was. Old architecture, picturesque bridges, clean sidewalks and ample nature were the mainstays of my canalside run last night. Don’t get me wrong – Central Park is beautiful in places, especially when the cherry trees bloom in April and the leaves turn colors in fall. But I’ve run that loop hundreds of times this year, while this Ottawa landscape was something new altogether. For this mentally fatigued runner in the final weeks of marathon training, that change of scenery was just what the doctor ordered.   

But fear not: great running routes (and handsome new prime minister) aside, I will not be staying northside indefinitely. While Central Park no longer gets me excited after 20 weeks of marathon training, there are plenty of other wonderful things in the big apple enticing me back. So thanks, Canada, for the welcome breather, and now I bid you a warm farewell!

Running Training

The Big Day

This past weekend marked a significant milestone that’s been enthusiastically circled on my calendar for months.

No, I’m not talking about watching my little brother marry the woman he loves.

 (though, yes, that was awesome.)
(Though, yes, that was awesome.)

And no, I’m not talking about getting the angels back together.

(Though, yes, my mom, sister and I totally won the photo booth contest.)
(Though, yes, my mom, sister and I totally won the photo booth contest.)

And no, I’m not talking about spending 48 hours with the cutest ring bearer around.

(Though, yes, I secretly spent most of the wedding weekend devising ways to keep her from moving to Hawaii next year. I mean, what?)
(Though, yes, I secretly spent most of the wedding weekend devising ways to keep her from moving to Hawaii next year. I mean, what?)

I’m talking about the other, non-wedding related milestone that transpired during the first full week of October. Something not just near and dear to my family’s heart, but a date that’s been looming on the calendar for some 50,000 people worldwide for months and months and months.

That’s right, folks: Tapering for the NYC Marathon has begun.

Tapering, or the three weeks of gradually reduced mileage in the weeks leading up to a big race, is a crucial part of any training plan. But with my marathon training starting way back in springtime, I started to think it would never arrive.

Fortunately, it did, and not a second too soon. After months of structured workouts, I was nearly at that point that I never wanted to see a pair of running shoes again. Add to that the fact that my final 20-miler on Thursday left me nursing a swollen ankle that I [over-dramatically] self-diagnosed as a possible stress fracture, and I entered the wedding weekend not wanting to run again for a very long time.

Thank you Amtrak stranger, or maybe Ben, for letting me elevate on you en route to the wedding.

Three weeks ago, taking off a long weekend from training would have meant a huge step backwards in terms of my fitness, but now that tapering is in full gear, I gave myself permission to take it easy all weekend long, only making it to my feet for important events like walking down the aisle and dancing to Footloose. Ok, and Taylor Swift. Ok, and Shout. (Jeez, Tom, I’d be way more well rested if your wedding band had stunk.)

Sure, the first week of tapering isn’t supposed to be so dramatic — you’re supposed to reduce mileage by 20 percent, not 100 percent — but a wedding-inspired reprieve was just the break I needed to get my ankle and head back in the game. Kick-starting my taper with so much rest allowed me to return to running this week with a new bounce in my step, and good thing, too: I’ve got just two and a half weeks to go!

How is your tapering going? If you’re fueling it with champagne and wedding cake, probably a lot like mine.

Running Training

Good and Ready

When I tell people I’m training for the New York City Marathon, I get one of four responses.

  1. Cool. Is this your first? (Nope, it’s my second NYC and my fourth overall. Please don’t let your face drop in disappointment when I reveal I’ve done this before: I’m still excited like a butterball turkey who makes it to see Black Friday. Be excited with me, even if I’m a repeat offender.)
  2. Wow. I could never do that. (Yes, you could. If you start incrementally and build up, your body could do this, too, but only if you want it to. Running a marathon isn’t the only sign of physical fitness, and as long as you’re getting out and moving in some way, shape or form, you’re doing just fine. We all need to stop comparing ourselves to each other, myself included.)
  3. Neat! Are you going to win? (Either you’ve never heard of Kenya or you’re a real jokester. Hey, here’s a little joke I just wrote for you: Knock knock! [Who’s there?] Kenya! [Kenya who?] Kenya picture me beating defending 2014 champion Mary Keitany’s 2:25:07 finishing time on Nov. 1? Thank you folks, I’m here all night.)

The fourth response I sometimes get when I announce I’m running the marathon is this: Woah. Are you ready?

Maybe I’m reading into it, but this question always feels a bit loaded to me. You’re seriously asking me if I’m ready for the marathon? Do you know how many things I had to do in order to secure a spot in this coveted race? Last year, I had to run at least nine New York Road Runner races, and then stand outside volunteering at a tenth one at an ungodly hour on a Sunday morning. Next, I had to pay $216 to turn that guaranteed spot into an actual registration, and to top it all off, I’ve woken up before the sun six out of seven days of the week for the last four months to work my body into good enough shape to make it through all five boroughs on the first Sunday in November without my legs giving out. I’m working my butt off over here, folks. How dare you imply I might not be ready?

Luckily, before I say all of that out loud, I usually realize they meant well and I’m just projecting. Because, if I’m really honest with myself, despite all the time I’ve put into this, it’s certainly possible I’m not actually ready. Let’s be honest here: I haven’t gotten down to my goal weight where I know I’ll race my fastest. I’ve barely done any speed or strength work in the months since my training began. My knees are still achy, my hip flexors are still tight, and I somehow still can’t make it up to my fifth floor walkup without huffing and puffing. And let’s not forget the amazing family wedding fast approaching next weekend that I know will see me throw all caution to the wind and trade in my training regimen for mimosas and mini gyros. (You DID choose the mini gyros Tom, didn’t you? DIDN’T YOU?!)

These periods of pre-marathon self-doubt nearly always rear their ugly heads during the final few weeks of training. Fortunately, this year, I think I’ve devised the perfect defense: I’m only focusing on the positives. And, oh boy, have there been a lot of positives these last few weeks:

  • I raced the eternally boring 18-mile New York Road Runner’s marathon tune-up in late September – three unending, monotonous loops around Central Park – and finished just 10 seconds slower than I did in 2012, the year I ran my fastest marathon ever.

    I'm going to pretend I didn't screenshot this photo unauthorized.
    I’m going to pretend I didn’t screenshot this photo unauthorized.
  • I did my first 20 miler last week, during which I ran four city bridges in both directions, and at mile 8 – no big deal – spotted the pope.

    photo 16
    Note: This is a photo of a bridge, not of a pope.
  • I ran Grete’s Great Gallop half marathon this morning – it’s amazing how two laps of the park feels like a gift from the pontiff himself after doing three just two weeks before – and maintained my marathon goal pace of 8:35 a mile. It wasn’t my fastest half marathon, but I also wasn’t aiming for it to be. It was a chance to practice my hydration strategy, do some race-pace speed work, hone my weaving skills and make sure I’m ready for the marathon that’s just four weeks away.

    photo 4 (52)
    I was ready for a raisin bagel, that’s for sure.

And you know what? After these three semi-major accomplishments, I think I can finally answer that question the way I want to. Am I ready for this thing? You betcha. Let’s do this, New York.