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Races Recipes Running

Choose Your Battles

I tend to have a pretty low bar when signing up for road races. Sure, I’ll consider the crucial things, like whether I can actually run that distance or if I’m physically out of town. But mostly I’ll register for anything that crosses my path, especially if 1. The swag is good (see this weekend’s upcoming 5K) or 2. My running coach demands it.

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A little more petting, a little less stretching, please.

So when I first learned about the Fall Foliage Half Marathon in Rhinebeck that took place this past Sunday, the only race research I did was checking my calendar. Even though I wasn’t in half marathon shape when I signed up in May, I figured I could get there by October, so I filled in my info, forked over $75 and started the slow but rewarding process of remembering how to run. I trained all summer, then made my way upstate this weekend for what I assumed would be a walk in the park, considering I’d successfully run 12 half marathons before.

Turns out, I should have done a little more research.

Although this race was ultimately a success for me — I didn’t turn back at mile 3 in tears like I was very, very tempted to do — Sunday’s event was really tough, and it’s mostly my own fault: I didn’t pick the right half marathon for me. Choosing a race simply based on whether it’s close by and the calendar’s free neglects all the other important factors that can help you decide if a specific event is right — or wrong — for your individual needs.

Here are some race factors I wish I’d considered before picking the Fall Foliage Half as my flagship fall race:

  • Start Time. Nearly every race I’ve ever done (save for some NYC marathon waves because 50,000 is a lot of people) starts at the normal hour of 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. or mayyybe 9 a.m. That timing works for me because it’s the same time I do my own training runs, meaning I’ve already figured out what to eat, what to drink and how many port-a-pot trips I need to start the race feeling my very best. I hadn’t realized it when I signed up, but Sunday’s race began at 10 a.m. to allow time for NYC or Albany runners to get into town. While some runners might have appreciated sleeping in, the late start time threw me way off. I didn’t know whether to drink coffee or eat a full meal, or whether my Saturday carbs were still enough to power me through. Even worse: finishing a half marathon under the powerful noon sun is not fun.
  • Course elevation. A race along the Hudson River certainly sounds flat, but my god, this half was anything but. The rolling hills of the first few miles I could manage, but the mountainous out-and-back into a ravine was positively soul crushing, and had I known it would be so hilly, I might have passed on this particular event. I spend a decent amount of time running the Queensboro Bridge, so I thought I was hill-primed, but I was wrong and Sunday’s road did NOT rise up to meet me like all those Irish blessings promised.
  • Spectator Density. I pretend I run races for the BLTs I get to eat afterwards, but it’s really waving at strangers and high-fiving little kids that powers me through. The 2015 NYC marathon left me clutching my side in tears on the race course, but believe you me I’ll never forget the roar of the crowd. I know this about myself — I like races where people come out to watch — so signing up for a small race in a small town probably wasn’t the right move for me. Fortunately, my family knows me well and they were camped out at mile 2.5 with blasting music and a “You Run Better Than the Government” billboard. Flying past then was rejuvenating, but it made for a very lonely rest of the course.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad race — the foliage was lovely, the fellow runners were nice, the course wasn’t packed and the BLT was delicious at the end — and I managed to eke out another sub-two hour time despite some tough middle miles there. But I still struggled Sunday, and let that be a reminder to all of us: when it comes to choosing races, you do you.

Me?
Categories
Races Running

Hot Mess: The Bronx 10 Miler

Say what you want about climate change* but it’s having a pretty horrendous impact on polar bears, Puerto Rico and my racing times.

*As long as what you want to say is “Wow, this is really terrible. What can I do to mitigate my carbon footprint?” and not “Huh? What’s climate change?”

The first two are hands down significantly more important (heck, I even covered polar-bear extinction for my college paper about a million years ago in what probably should have won a Pulitzer), but I’m going to write about the third one because 1. This is a running blog and 2. See reason No. 1.

For those of you living on the eastern seaboard, you probably noticed September was a little hotter than usual. How hot, you ask? In a month that’s usually a harbinger of cozy scarves and pumpkin spice and all the decorate gourds you could fancy, this September brought “super anomalous” temperatures that pushed the mercury into the 90s for several days running in what experts could only refer to as “extreme” heat.

Now that unusual weather’s great if you’re spending your morning on a leisurely hike in a shady Maryland state park with your dog’s aunt and uncle (previously known as my siblings), like I did last Saturday.

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“Um, Mom, is the bridge supposed to be swinging?!”

But when the heat hadn’t broken come Sunday — the day of the legendary Bronx 10 Miler, run exclusively on black pavement on not particularly tree-lined streets — all of us runners lining up at the starting line knew we were in for some pain.

Any runner worth her weight in salt (that’s soon to be sweated out) knows that working out when the weather’s hot is tough. That’s because excess sweating can lead to faster-than-expected dehydration, your heart has to work harder to cool down your body and, let’s be honest, most of us just mentally lose the will to live.

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“I give up.” Alternate caption: Keira returns!

So when the temperature rises, you do what you can to push through safely — drink at every water station, consume extra electrolytes to refill the ones you’re sweating out, take your turns wide in order to spend some extra time in the coveted shade and, sadly, slow your pace to run based on exertion, not time. Those kinds of responses help make sure you finish in one piece without landing in one of the course-side ambulances, but they sure don’t make for a stellar finish.

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I have bitchy running face but the blurry guy in front looks quite pleased.

Don’t believe me? Check my racing times. Even though this year I should be in better shape than last year, seeing as I’m spending more time running and less time planning a little thing called a (giant Irish) wedding, it took me 1:27:53 to cross the finish line, several minutes longer than in 2016 when temperatures were normal for this time of year.

That’s not unusual, since it’s generally recognized that higher temps mean slower times, but DANG it’s annoying. Ahh well, too bad there’s absolutely nothing we can do about climate change* impacting our race times and are just destined to get slower and slower as the earth warms.

How’d you fare in your hottest race of the season?

*Wait a second

Categories
Races Running

All Fun and Games

I’ve signed up for road races for a lot of good reasons (and probably some bad ones): for the chance to PR, for the opportunity to tackle a new distance, for the sake of peer pressure, for a free tech tank and the promise of an epic bagel spread.

But funnily enough, I not sure I’ve ever signed up for a race for that most basic of human motivators: for fun.

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“Did someone say fun?”

Without meaning to, I somehow turned every race in the last six years into something calculable and serious — and always with a goal in mind. Originally, it was to lose weight. Then it was to get faster. Then it was to tackle 26.2 miles. Again and again and again. Oftentimes the races ended up being fun, but that was never the primary objective.

In racing, I always had a different target in mind, which isn’t necessarily a bad way to live, since it kept me motivated and accountable. But it didn’t allow for a lot of leeway. After meeting goal after goal for several seasons in a row, I erroneously came to believe I’d get faster forever, so when I had my first real terrible race, it was downright devastating.

With that win-or-don’t-try attitude, it’s no surprise that my last marathon was, well, my last one.

If I’m really honest with myself, that’s one of the reasons I’ve put racing on the backburner: I’m too busy with work and life and dog-ownership to run consistently, and as I get less and less fit, I know it would be too disappointing to attempt a race and come in at the bottom of the pack. I realize that’s not a very positive attitude, but I’m human.

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And part dog, most likely.

So I packed up my shoes after the NYC Half in March and barely ran a block for a month. I even heard a family member at Easter tell people I was “retired” and didn’t correct them.

But that next week while dusting my huge collection of race medals doing something normal, it hit me: while everyone in my life knows I’m a runner, not a single person knows — or cares about — my times. And while I may not like seeing my speed slow, I LOVE collecting race swag and high-fiving spectators and using my last ounce of oomph to sprint to the finish line. Slowing down shouldn’t mean giving up.

So I did something I’ve never done before: I signed up for a 5K with a friend exclusively for fun. And it was perfect. Instead of spending the whole time calculating my splits or weaving past the walkers, we spent a delightful 25 minutes and 59 seconds chatting and enjoying the Brooklyn scenery and not caring for one second (ok, maybe for one second) that I wasn’t going to beat my 23:58 PR. I was sweating and smiling and justifying the bagel I was about to inhale, and that was enough.

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CHAMPIONS! ish

Who knew running for fun could be so rewarding? (Especially when the rewards come in the form of ice-cream cones, like at this ice-cream social 10K happening in NYC in July.) Fun run, anyone?

Speaking of doing things just for fun, that’s probably a good practice to apply to other areas of your life, too. Bake a plum tart just for fun. Take an acro yoga class just for fun. Dress your dog in people clothes just for fun.

Or if you’re my friend from the road race, write a super impressive Nationals fight song just for fun. And maybe, dear readers, forward it to your friend who plays the baseball organ at the stadium just for fun. #letsmakedavyfamous

The world is a stinky place these days. Let’s all have more fun together. 

Categories
Races

Songs of Good Cheer

News flash: On Saturday morning, I won the Rhinebeck Hudson Valley Half Marathon.

Don’t misunderstand me: I didn’t run it or anything. But I stood on my front stoop in the rain, blasted Bob Seger’s “Against the Wind,” called affirmations to every athlete passing by and — most importantly — had the best-looking sidekick this side of Poughkeepsie. I think we can all agree that’s #winning.

Best friends always color coordinate. 


I hadn’t expected to enjoy myself so much spectating the event. In fact, just three weeks before, I’d cursed that very same race when I realized 1. It was passing right by my house and 2. I wasn’t in good enough shape to join it.

I’ve largely let running go by the wayside since the NYC Half Marathon in March, and while I usually pride myself in being able to churn out a sub-2 half with little to no extra training, I knew deep in my soul I wasn’t in good enough shape to finish this weekend’s race and feel good doing it.

Actually, for a brief minute, I tricked myself into thinking I could: I pictured hustling back into shape, wrote down actual workouts in my google calendar, devised ways to replace rest days with extra long runs, and ran an impromptu seven-miler after a month on the couch just to show myself I still had it.

And — ooooh — the punishment shin splints have been relentless. Never go from zero to seven, people, NEVER.

So I quickly scrapped that plan (and have been wearing sneakers every day since waiting for the shin pain to subside…) and decided to reimagine myself cheering alongside the race course instead.

And I’m so glad I did. I’m not sure about the other 13.1 miles (or 26.2 miles for the simultaneous full), but I was the only spectator as far as the eye could see on my stretch of road. And having been on the other side, I know just how good a “looking good, runner!” can feel when you’re powering up a hill in the rain counting down the miles til the finish line.

Plus a bernese wrapped in a beach towel makes everyone laugh.

“I could catch you if I wanted to.”


So what did I learn this past weekend? That cheering at a race can be just as fun as running one, without any of the pesky recovery time. And that telling an environmentally friendly runner she can toss her empty gel in your yard elicits so much gratitude. And that Lucille and I wear the same size raincoat but she refuses to be seen outside in it.

“Mom, you’re embarrassing me.”


But most of all, Saturday taught me when the area’s October half marathon rolls through town, I’m gonna be ready this time. Don’t believe me? I already registered.

Who’s with me?

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Races

Lordy, Lordy: I Did 40

If someone told me they were planning to run a marathon with zero training save for a handful of 5Ks, I’d put the emergency room on speed dial ahead of their inevitable crash and burn.

So as I laced up Sunday for New York City’s 40-mile Five Boro Bike Tour — on training literally limited to cycling to an ice-cream shop to meet a friend in April — I was bracing for the worst.

“I’ll make it to Queens and then head home at the halfway mark,” I told myself. “There’s no shame in stopping early. Only a fool would try for 40 miles on about 6 miles — and one soft-serve — of total training.”

Did someone say soft serve?

That’s the funny thing about preparing for the worst: sometimes it doesn’t pan out. Or in other words: sometimes you finish the entire 40-mile tour, feel awesome doing it, and can’t remember for the life of you why you were so darned nervous in the first place.

We are the champions! Us and those other 39,996 people.

The Five Boro Bike Tour — not a race, as the organizers are sure to remind you — reminds me a lot of the NYC marathon: it leads you all around the city, it has spectacular views, and it forces you to go to Staten Island against your better judgment. But unlike the marathon, I finished Sunday’s event with zero pain and woke up Monday feeling fresh, not like my knees were going to crumble under me like I do after running 26.2 miles.

Seriously, if anyone had told me years ago biking doesn’t destroy your will to live like marathoning does, I would have traded in my Asics for a 21-speeder years ago.

Don’t get me wrong: biking events won’t totally replace running as my cardio of choice. But based on my limited experience, it does bring some key benefits:

  • It’s lower impact, meaning you hurt less afterwards.
  • You get a built-in rest on the down hills.
  • It’s kosher to ring a loud bell at jerks about to step in your path.
  • There’s no shame in carrying an entire backpack of food with you for the entire event, which doesn’t quite work when you’re traveling on foot.

Of course, everything has its cons. For the bike tour, it was mostly related to congestion: get 40,000 bikes on one course and you’re bound to come to a standstill once or twice or what felt like 37 times. As someone with a need for speed, I found this particularly frustrating.

Grumble grumble.

Still, it was all-in-all a positive experience, and a good reminder that while I feel like my fitness levels have long since plateaued, I still have some endurance in me. Huzzah!

Have you ever tried your hand at a new sport?

Categories
Races

Hitting Pause (Hitting Paws?)

There are some beautiful words in other languages that capture a sentiment we can’t quite put our finger on in English. The Danish Hygge — or a feeling of pleasant, charming coziness — has been the buzzword of 2017, but there are so many more that manage to express in a single beat things us Anglophones need an entire sentence to explain.

Some of my favorites:

  • Kummerspeck (German): Weight gain from emotional eating
  • Zeg (Georgian): The day after tomorrow
  • Tartle (Scottish): The stuttering hesitation that comes when you introduce someone whose name you can’t quite recall

But the word I wish existed is one the captures the bittersweet feeling of fond nostalgia for something that isn’t yet over, but clearly nearing its end. You know: that feeling you got those final days of the school year. Or taking a nice vacation with someone you know you won’t date forever. Or starting the final season of a Netflix show realizing, in 10 short hours, you’ll be out of episodes to stream.

Or, for me, running the New York City half marathon last Sunday with the near certainty that it might be my last road race in a very long time.

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No, I’m not dying. But I do feel like my relationship with running is on life support. I’ve been running for about seven years, and I’ve had ups and downs with the sport before, but never has my dedication been so tested as it has been these last few months. My work schedule has become too unpredictable to train after work. My sleep’s too precious to log miles before sun-up. My four-legged running partner’s the slowest pacer I know.

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My 40 pound mixed breed can do 2.5 miles at a 12:30 pace.

Add those things together, and an activity I used to love has begun to feel like a chore. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I arrived at the New York City half marathon starting line last weekend untrained, unexcited, and unbelievably surprised I didn’t hit the snooze button and sleep through the 7:30 a.m. starting gun like I’d been tempted to do. As I froze my buns off for 30 minutes in my ice-cold corral, I grumbled to myself: “I don’t want to be here.”

And then something extraordinary happened: the race began, and I suddenly remembered why I once loved this sport. I love rounding a corner to find a big cheering squad. I love pointing to a volunteer at a water station to tell him I’m coming for the cup in his hand. I love feeling the strength in my quads as I power up a hill, love doing some quick math and realizing I’m going to cross my 12th (!) half-marathon finish line in under 2 hours, love wearing my medal and heat sheet on the subway ride home and confusing tourists who think I’m a crazy person dressed as a super hero.

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Canines in this photo are smaller than they appear.

But I also love my sanity, and that’s why — despite the ear-to-ear grin I had across my face all race day long — I’m sticking to my guns and putting racing on hiatus for the time being. Last Sunday’s event was the perfect reminder of why racing was once my all-time favorite pastime, but it was also a reminder that favorite pastimes can change, and it’s OK to take some time off. Training doesn’t quite fit into my life right now, and maybe by the time it does again, I’ll be ready for it.

I’ll see you again some day, finish line.

Categories
Races Recipes

Guest Post: Felix, I’m Telling You, I See the Irony

Note from the real RiledUpRunner:

Below is a guest blog post from a family friend Vaughan, who has forgotten more marathons than I’ll ever run and who writes the best race recaps this runner has ever read. Vaughan came and cheered me on at the Philadelphia Marathon in 2014, but he’s actually been my cheerleader for 31 years, as evidenced by the following photo. 

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Cool hipster glasses, bro.

I hope you like reading about his recent marathon success as much as I did. Enjoy!


“Hyphenated.  Non-hyphenated.  There’s irony for you.” -Anonymous.

There’s irony as well in an over-60, injury-prone, junk-food fixated runner (who not six months ago ran a marathon in Anchorage without a watch because he’d left his Garmin behind at his step-children’s house) presuming to give tips on injury prevention, diet and logistics to what I imagine is an overwhelmingly young, healthy, food-conscious and cognitively focused readership.

That said, a grateful shout-out to RiledUpRunner for having entrusted her blog to my tender care during a portion of her South Seas honeymoon sojourn. I’ll make sure it behaves, takes its vitamins, keeps its room clean, etc. And while I won’t pretend to be as up-to-speed as Anne on the proper nutritional do’s and don’ts of running, let me insert my two cents’ worth (and give you a ha’penny change): Try to avoid the foods shown here, because what’s known as the “dense nutrition” factor is a little suspect:

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I borrowed these props from a friend. No kidding, really. (Wow, never thought living in a post-truth world would be this easy!)

I want to tell you the story of my most recent marathon, the San Antonio Rock’n’Roll on Dec. 4, but to do so, I first need to explain to you a science program I watched on C-Span the day before the race, something with Neil deGrasse Tyson and a panel discussing black holes. (Stick with me: this relates to the race.) One of his guests used the image of a spacecraft orbiting near the event horizon and then getting pulled in while trying to send out a final message: “Things are nnnnnnnnnnnn………..” It represents an attempt to broadcast a final message that things are not going at all well, but the transmission is caught in the gravitational pull and essentially frozen in time. That’s how I describe my lucky thirteenth marathon – one long keening vibrating anguished wail trying, through the boundless Einsteinian loop of space-time, to make it out of my throat and past the gate of my clenched teeth.

Fortunately for you and me both, the strictures of editorial space-time mean you’ll get the highly abbreviated version of my race recap.

After having wrapped up my first injury-free training cycle in three years, with a strong long run just prior to taper, I figured I’d have no natural enemies this time unless the weather decided to act up. I hate it when I’m right. It was a cold, wet, altogether grim weekend, but by early Sunday morning the rain had stopped. That reprieve lasted until just a few minutes before the starting gun, when the sprinkle started up again. I had my watch this time, but I thought it the better part of valor to attach myself to the 4:00 pace group and trust someone else’s skills on that score. The 4:00 pacer being a no-show, Plan B was to run with one of my class buddies there in Corral 5 for as long as I could keep up with him. About half a mile out, someone came up to us and asked if we knew how long it had been since the starting gun – he turned out to be the 4:00 pacer — and then, as if on cue, came the deluge.

It lasted close to two hours – the cold rain, that is; the flooded streets and the run/wade biathlon lasted the entire race. At Mile 18, I dropped out of the pace group and went into a 10-minute-pace survival mode, which soon degraded further into a run/walk. By Mile 25, I was really, seriously wishing that Phidippides had just e-mailed that damn battle report to the Athenian council and had done with it.

Then, up ahead, I saw my class trainer, Coach Tina, waving and calling out to me. (It turns out she had just run a 1:51 half, through the worst of that soggy muck, and had stuck around to help pull in her lost lambs who were doing the full.) She ran with me the last segment, talking about heart and not giving up and stuff. About a couple of hundred yards out she said, “There’s the chute – this is as far as I can go. You can DO IT!!” And then Coach T – who weighed maybe a hundred pounds after absorbing all that rain – put her left hand on my back and the next thing I remember was a Saturn V thruster shoving me toward, into and past the finish line. Gravity? We don’t need no stinking gravity!

The moral of the story, nieces and nephews, is two-fold. First, infinity has an end. So did this marathon. The next one will be infinite too, of course, until it ends, and so too the one after that; there will be rest for the weary, but be ready to wear yourself out again.

The second part of the moral is that readiness involves listening to people who actually know what they’re talking about. Get your nutritional advice from somebody like Anne, who knows this stuff because she does it and lives it – do NOT listen to a guy who even knows where to find Cheetos and Blue Bell ice cream. (OK, maybe the “Cereal Girl” thing is a bit counter-intuitive, but I still trust her judgment.)

What I can do for you while she’s away – even though I’ve no goldendoodle to call my own – is share a shot of two of the three members of my own four-legged cheering section. They’re no substitute for Keira, I know, but they’re my own blond baby-direwolves:

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(l to r) Daisy and her older sister Shemp, the latter named more after my “Legalize Shemp” poster than after the Stooge himself.

Has the concept of infinite space-time ever messed with your head during a long race?

Categories
Races

Giving Thanks: A Full Fall

Happy Thanksgiving, you gorgeous land mermaids, you.

Who is this, you ask? I’m the runner who used to blog in this space but have accidentally been MIA for more than a month now. Surprise! I didn’t die! Even if Nov. 8 brought me precipitously close…

Why have I gone missing, only to resurface on the most delicious and decadent day of the year? Well, you could say I’ve been a little busy since early October.

I bought a house. 

I raced a half marathon. 

I sampled every wine on the north fork and lived to tell the tale.  

And I feel like there was something else competing for my time this month but I just can’t put my (bejeweled) finger on it…

From bridal showers and bachelorette parties to barre classes and Baltimore trips, this season (brought to you by the letter B) has been busy indeed.

I wouldn’t have traded it for anything, but the only way I survived was by finally admitting to myself I couldn’t, in fact, have it all. I could plan a great wedding, but I had to give up the DIY Pinterest fantasy. I could race a 1:51 half marathon my wedding week, but I had to let go of my PR dreams. I could get eight hours of sleep a night all autumn long, but I had to allow this blog to go eerily quiet for quite some time.

Being ok with not having it all is the antithesis of my entire existence, but it was also a useful reminder about what’s important in life: slowing down, choosing battles, prioritizing friends and family, and always saying yes to champagne.

In fact, I even got to put that newly minted lesson to good use at this morning’s local turkey trot. The old “gotta have it all” Anne would have gone out sprinting in an effort to score a new PR, but the new me knew I couldn’t vie for a medal AND spend some quality time on Thanksgiving morning with my mother and brother. So even though I started off strong at a 7:45 pace, when I came upon my friends handing out turkey-day mimosas at mile 2, I did the once unthinkable: I stopped, I hugged everyone, and I waited for my family to round the corner so we could finish the race together.

I expect once my life settles down, I’ll resume blogging with some frequency, but if I don’t, know it’s because I’m off prioritizing other things for the time being, and that’s ok, too. We can’t always have it all — except when we’re talking about Thanksgiving Day pie — in which case, I demand you have it all, or at least a sliver of every option.

See you all when we’re seven pounds heavier. xo

Categories
Races

Country Living

I think “adulting” is a silly concept, but even I’ll admit I’ve done a lot of really grown up things these past 12 months. I got engaged. I bought renters insurance. I learned de-scaling a coffee maker is a thing and I did it — once — but hey, it’s a start.

And yesterday, I did the most adult thing I could possibly imagine: my fiancé and I bought a house.

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SOLD!
The place, a two-bedroom charmer in the Hudson Valley, is everything we’d been looking for: close enough to a train that we could in theory commute to work, small enough that renovations hopefully won’t cost an arm and a leg, old enough that Martin Van Buren — the eighth president of the United States for you non-American readers  — could have popped in for a cup of tea during the final days of his term. (I didn’t say it was a new house.)  We closed Friday afternoon, treated ourselves to a diner dinner and a grocery store run (my Friday nights as a 30 year old > my Friday nights as a 20 year old, just saying), and then passed out on an air mattress in what will eventually be our dining room.

And today, we set about getting to know our new community. Now, some people would do that by window shopping along the main street (which we’ll do), or by exploring the historical sites (which we’ll do) or by frequenting the neighborhood bar (which we’ll definitely do.) But for those of you who like me never go anywhere without your running shoes, we know the very best way to explore a new city is to get out there on foot. So pouring rain and all, I laced up this morning and hit the pavement to get to know my new town.

I had five race-pace miles on my running schedule, and I initially thought I’d do an out and back along the main drive just to get a feel for the geography. But a little googling had told me there was a 5K race happening at the local high school this morning, so I decided to jog in that direction just in case. I got there — soaked to the bone, mind you — five minutes before the race was scheduled to start, and on an impulse, I registered. Besides, the money went to a good cause.

The turn-out was slim, as you’d expect on such a dreary day, but the energy was palpable among the crowd of neighbors. We lined up at the starting line, exchanged pleasantries about how we’d probably all look like prunes forever, and then we were off. The cross-country course, mostly on grass fields and paths, took us around the high school, around the middle school, and through the neighborhoods that I may eventually come to know well. With such a small field of runners, I spent part of my first mile in the elusive front position, but since I was struggling to find and follow the spray-painted arrows, I gladly relinquished top spot and instead followed on the heals of another runner who seemed to have at least an idea of where he was going.

We wove our way around the waterlogged course at a pretty modest clip, trying not to twist our ankles on the slippery leaves. I wasn’t pushing at my fastest pace, but I still noticed as I neared mile 3 that there wasn’t another female runner in sight. I’ve placed in local races before as first in my age group, but never as first female runner overall. As I rounded the final lap, I realized I was going to take home the gold. And by gold, I mean a stuffed lemur (did I mention it was a lemur themed race?) and a sweet engraved medal. I’ll take it!

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Winner, winner, chicken dinner. (Why is that a thing people say? And where do I collect my chicken dinner?)
Now, there are hundreds of reasons to consider buying a getaway in a small town — escape the bustle of city life, get some fresh air, grow a garden, see the stars — but for all you runners out there, here’s another: win a race! I’m never the fastest runner in eight-million-strong New York City, but on a rainy day in Rhinebeck, N.Y., I just might be.

Readers, what’s your favorite way to explore a new place?

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Races Running

A Most Violent Year

I was signed up for the Run10Feed10 10K race on the West Side Highway this morning, and if I’m completely honest, I knew as a crawled into bed at 8:30 p.m. there was already a slight chance I wouldn’t make it to the starting line.

There would have been lots of plausible excuses to justify skipping the event:

  1. The 7 a.m. race start on the far side of Manhattan meant I had to be up and ready to go by 5:30 a.m.
  2. The weather was forecast to be muggy and wet.
  3. My training schedule wanted me to run 8 miles so I was going to have to tack on two brutal extra post-race.
  4. My fiancé was at his bachelor party so I had the entire glorious bed to myself.
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Dramatic re-enactment.

Still, the night before I pinned on my bib, laid out my race gear, charged my watch and tucked myself in at an ungodly early hour, prepared to rise with the sun (or an hour before it, no big deal) and complete a fun race with world-famous swag that I’ve been looking forward to for weeks.

I was up at 5 a.m. and, like the Millennial I am, checked social media before my feet even touched the ground. And that’s when I saw it: a friend had posted that she’d been a block from the explosion and was alerting everyone that she was ok.

My mind started racing. What explosion? What had happened in my city between the hours I stopped looking at my phone Saturday night to when I awoke to my alarm Sunday morning? In this terrible 2016 where bad things never seem to stop, what was it this time?

I quickly found out, as you all now know too, that it was a homemade bomb that detonated on Saturday night in western Manhattan, injuring 29 and fortunately killing no one. A second device was located and removed several blocks away. This came on the heels of a different explosion along a racecourse of a 5K charity event in New Jersey earlier that day. I realize it’s what the people who commit these acts of violence want, but I can’t lie: These three events together had me wondering if I should really be leaving the relative safety of my Queens apartment and heading toward the direction of the previous night’s horror. It was only 5:30 in the morning, but I was already spooked. Terror, 1; Anne, 0.

I nervously messaged a runner friend who was racing the much more impressive Marathon Tune-Up in Central Park that morning, and she said she wasn’t backing out. In fact, the New York Road Runners, who put on that grueling 18-mile event, had already put a notice on their website overnight announcing the race was still on and that security would be on high alert. As much as I lambaste the Road Runners for their crowded race courses, they certainly know how to calm their runners’ nerves in challenging times.

But I wasn’t running that race. I was running a race put on by … Macy’s and Women’s Health magazine? And my event’s organizers didn’t feel the need to reach out to participants to let them know if the previous night’s events – which transpired just a neighborhood away from the race start – meant anything had changed. Like was the race still on? Were they canceling bag check? Were trains and buses to the starting line still operating? Would there still be powerbars at the finish line or had the terrorists ruined snack time, too?

I went to the Run10Feed10 website – and found nothing. I checked to see if they’d e-mailed race participants – and saw nothing. I took my questions to Twitter – nothing.

At this point, it wasn’t so much fear of further acts of violence so much as fear that I’d travel all the way to Pier 84 to find out the race had been delayed or postponed and no one bothered telling me. I didn’t need coddling post-explosion but I needed information, and I didn’t feel like the race organizers were giving it. So I did something I’ve only done once before – I untied my running shoes and crawled back into bed. In today’s race, I wasn’t even a DNF. I was a DNS. #shame

When I awoke again at 8 a.m., I saw that the race had, in fact, gone off without a hitch, and later saw the organizers did finally announce on Twitter 39 minutes before the starting gun that the race was still on – thought that wouldn’t have been enough time for me or hundreds of other Long Island runners to make it in. Hear, hear, Jess PhD!

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So instead of vying for a new PR today, I slept in, made some coffee, ate breakfast, and turned on the news: where I immediately encountered a former FBI agent telling New Yorkers the best way they could respond to the explosion was to keep living their lives: whether that’s going to a movie, walking the dog or going for a run. Alright, TV man, I said: I won’t hide out here all day.

So I laced back up – number and all – and went out for my 8 miles.

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And they were glorious, humidity and all. You know why? Because this city is glorious, and its running paths are glorious, and its water fountains are glorious and its resilience is glorious. I may not have made it to my 10K race today, but not because I’m giving in. We New Yorkers never give in.

How did you celebrate NYC this morning?