Back Up Plans

Every runner I’ve ever met has a mantra that loops on repeat in their heads as they tackle the toughest parts of training. Something encouraging to calm their minds, reset their focus and push themselves through a challenging segment. Phrases like:

  • One mile at a time.
  • You’re tougher than the rest.
  • Everything is temporary, including this haircut.
“Please don’t post this nude photo of me on your blog.”

For me, the mantra that helps me dig deep when the going gets tough is this one: They didn’t say it would be easy; they said it would be worth it.

From the last six miles of a marathon to every time I climb Harlem Hill, those 14 words keep me pushing myself forward toward my goals, even if I’d rather throw in the towel and quit.

I had that idea in mind — that tough things are worth it, especially in fitness — when I decided last week to register for the Prospect Park Track Club Cherry Tree 10-Miler, scheduled to take place this morning in Brooklyn’s slightly smaller and more inferior version of Central Park (I realize them’s fighting words.)


Sure, it was supposed to get cold this weekend, but with the NYC Half Marathon just five short weeks away, I thought forcing myself to race 10 miles on a cold Valentine’s Day morning would be just the challenge I needed to get myself in half marathon racing shape, mentally and physically. They didn’t say it would be easy, I thought to myself as I handed over my credit card and completed registration; they said it would be worth it.

And then I woke up this morning to find this:


Part of me wanted to bundle up anyways, make the hour-long commute to Brooklyn, race that 10-miler [climate-be-damned] and prove that even -19 degree windchill wasn’t enough to get me down. It wasn’t going to be easy; it was going to be worth it. But then I thought about it, and I realized there’s a big difference between pushing through a challenging workout when you’d rather lay out the couch and doing something reckless and dangerous just to be stubborn. They didn’t say it would be easy; they said you’ll get frostbite.

A big part of being a successful athlete is knowing your own limits, and for me, negative double digit temperatures fall into that category. But that doesn’t mean I just stayed on the couch. No, sir. I fell back onto another of my mantras instead: Choose your battles.

In this case, the battle I chose was to skip the race entirely and do a self-inflicted indoor triathlon at beautiful Yorkville gym Asphalt Green with my friend Leigh-Ann instead.

Sure, there were no bib numbers and no timers and no high-speed transitions and no water stations, but we still went through the motions of doing all three workouts back to back to back.

First, we swam laps for 30 minutes in a pool that’s fancier than even my wedding dress is going to be.


Then, we took a spin class, and I even turned the dial (a little).


Then we hopped on side-by-side treadmills for a speedy 5K (and a progress check on the neighborhood’s new Garbage Transfer Station. Fine craftsmanship.)


By skipping the 10-miler and doing our alternate triathlon instead, that means we didn’t get medals or bagels or t-shirt or anything. But we did complete a 2-hour long cross-training workout before noon, burn off the chocolate hearts we’re sure to eat later, and prove that flexibility is key when it comes to working out, and hey, that’s not a bad lesson for this rigid schedule-follower to remember on a cold, February morning.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, EVERYONE! How are you taking care of your heart?


Races Running Travel

Philadelphia for the Win

The City of Brotherly Love sometimes gets a bad rap. For example: If you’ve seen Philadelphia, you watched a young Tom Hanks ousted from his homophobic law firm for contracting AIDS. If you’ve seen The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, you witnessed a couple of guys who were up to no good start making trouble in the neighborhood. If you’ve seen Rocky, you learned its art museum has entirely too many stairs.

But Philadelphia, despite your poor decision to locate all four sports stadiums in the same logistical nightmare of a complex and your infamously sweltering summer of 1776, I salute you.

That’s because you throw the best, darn 10-mile race on this side of the Mississippi. Or maybe on both sides. I’m going to have to check with California and get back to you on that.

You also house three of my favorite people in the entire history of the United States.

Yes, this was taken at the top of the Rocky stairs. No, we did not walk up them. Don’t judge us.

I’d gladly travel to the Quaker City any day of the week to see these brilliant friends of mine, but this weekend’s visit was centered around one event in particular that’s near and dear to my heart: the Blue Cross Broad Street Run. As you may recall, the 2011 Broad Street Run was my first racing experience as a fledgling athlete, and while my initial participation was at best reluctant and at worst coerced, my eventual five-month training and 1:33.23 race time instilled in me a surprise love for the sport that’s still burning strong today.

Anxious to relive the excitement of last year’s festivities and measure how far I’ve come in the course of a year, I registered again for this year’s run, booked a round-trip ticket to The City that Loves You Back* and arrived on Carrie and Keirnan’s doorstep Friday night primed for a weekend of mayhem and/or extreme physical fitness.

*Listed as a nickname for Philadelphia on Wikipedia. May or may not be accurate, but we’re going with it.

And it was glorious. Although a solid two-thirds of the weekend was spent waiting in lines – queuing up behind 1,000s of runners at the Saturday morning expo, queuing up behind 100s of art enthusiasts at a killer van Gogh exhibit, queuing up all alone to snuggle with Laura on a comically large bean bag chair – the time spent in single file was time spent with friends, and I wouldn’t have traded it for the world and/or more boxed wine.

But as much fun as we had Friday and Saturday, the main event this morning really took the cake.

It’s been a hard couple of weeks for a whole host of reasons – not the least of which has been my unbridled envy surrounding my brother’s adoption of the best looking mutt I’ve ever seen – so when I toed the starting line this morning, I had big plans to harvest that emotion, go out hard and leave it all on the race course. (Your strategy was to run fast? How novel.)

Turns out, that’s a strategy for success. But don’t just believe me. Ask the 16 minutes I shaved off between last year and today.

I had been targeting a 82-minute finish – which would have been an 11-minute year-over-year improvement and certainly nothing to scoff at – but as the starting gun went off, I felt strong and quick and ready to really push myself. So I did. And it freaking paid off. It also justified the giant soft pretzel waiting for me at the finish line. It probably should have been a cheesesteak, but I’m not complaining (much).

Where did your weekend take you? Answers can be literal (i.e. to Philadelphia) or figurative (i.e. to a state of utter exhaustion and contentment, likely culminating in an hour-long massage. Right. About. Now.)