Running Training

Party Like It’s 1997

I might be biased by the fact that I was a very impressionable twelve years old, but 1997 was a true golden age of music.

The world gave us so many hits that year: Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping, the Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony and Backstreet Boys’ Quit Playing Games (With My Heart), to name a few. We got P. Diddy’s I’ll Be Missing You, Third Eye Blind’s Semi-Charmed Life and Hanson’s MMMBop, and yes, I’ve seen two out of three of those musical acts in concert (and no, one of them wasn’t Sean Combs.)  And let’s not forget that five minute and eleven second long soundtrack version of My Heart Will Go On that graced airwaves, my family’s communal CD player and pre-teen piano music recitals for months on end as we imagined life aboard the Titanic and debated why Leo didn’t try at least one more time to get on that extremely buoyant door.

I believe I’m 11 in this photo, not 12, but 1. you get the picture and 2. what I wouldn’t give to still own that amazing velvet, pink headband.

But while billboard-topping hits including Spice Girl’s Wannabe and R. Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly Aqua’s Barbie Girl still sometimes find their way onto my upstate dance party play lists, the piece of 1997 poetry that I probably think about most often is that hypothetical commencement speech Wear Sunscreen.

Written as an essay for the Chicago Tribune in 1997 and recorded two years later as a spoken-word radio hit produced by none other than Romeo+Juliet director Baz Luhrmann, it gave listeners unsolicited advice like “do one thing every day that scares you” and “keep your old love letters; throw away your old bank statements.”

It’s chock full of wisdom, but the line that pops into my head on a nearly daily basis is this one: “Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.” Last spring, when I was considering applying for a job that would require a cross-country move (to Southern California, but still), I wondered quite a bit whether my more than a decade in NYC had made me, as they say, “hard.”

It’s certainly made me an excellent photographer.

And in some ways, I it has: I have no patience for families walking three-abreast down a city street, I jaywalk like it’s my job and I secretly plot to destroy anyone standing still on the left side of an escalator. I’m not a monster: I’ll always try to help a perplexed tourist reading a subway map upside down. But I also once mashed a baby cockroach with my bare fist while drunkenly making post-bar grilled cheese in my cousin’s Brooklyn apartment, so yeah, you could say I’ve toughened up.

That is, I THOUGHT I’d toughened up. And then the temperature dropped to negative 9 degrees this past week, and I realized just how soft I really am.

Normally, Mongolian-like winter temperatures wouldn’t be a big deal: bundle up, stay indoors and binge watch Sex Education, which is so, so good but (public service announcement) too full of nudity to watch on an airplane or with your dad. But I made the mistake last fall of entering a game of chance I never expected to win — the NYC Half Marathon lottery – and accidentally secured myself a spot in the March 17 event.


Or in other words, not running in this frigid, cruel February isn’t really an option, at least not if I want to try for my 14th (?) sub-2:00 finish.

So I’ve made myself a deal: when it’s so cold that frostbite is a real possibility, I’m doing the unthinkable and churning out my workout on my robot nemesis, the treadmill. But when it’s 25 degrees and up, I’m layering on the Spandex, channeling my inner Bernese mountain dog, and getting outside for my miles, icicles and all.

“The Bernese mountain dogs of the world have voted and we’re never coming inside again. Please leave our kibbles in the snow.”

And yes, I’m wearing sunscreen while I do it.

How is your arctic training going?

Running Travel

Mowgli Never Ran a Marathon

My healthy lifestyle­­ mantra traditionally centers round five core tenets: drink plenty of water, eat more fresh produce, get lots of sleep, limit my alcohol intake and exercise daily.

My routine in India also centered around five core tenets, but with some minor tweaks: don’t drink the water, avoid all produce, stay up ’til dawn, accept every beer and exercise no restraint, except when it comes to actual exercising, in which case, restrain away.

You caught me: India was terrible for my health and fitness. During my two weeks on the subcontinent, I stayed up until sunrise half a dozen times, didn’t touch my running shoes once and ate more white rice and refined flour than I did in all of 2012. And let’s not forget the Kingfisher. I think we drank that brewery dry.

Health Tip: Brushing your teeth with bottled Kingfisher instead of tap water is strongly recommended by the CDC. It’s a fact.

Fortunately, health isn’t strictly physical. I’ll be the first to admit that while my two weeks in India wrecked havoc on my bodily self, they had the opposite effect on my mental wellbeing. India may have destroyed my accumulated muscle mass and shattered my hopes of a new PR at next month’s Fitness Magazine Women’s Half Marathon, but I’d argue the trip simultaneously worked wonders for my soul.

And how couldn’t it? For 13 straight days, I was surrounded by good friends, delicious food, welcoming hosts, gorgeous scenery and all the elephants a woman could ask for.

(That’s a lie. I could never reach my preferred elephant quota.)
(Just kidding. I could never reach my preferred elephant quota.)

Back in the states now for three days, I know my stamina is no longer where it should be. Wednesday’s 3-miler felt like a punishment, yesterday’s tempo run clocked in closer to my marathon goal pace and I nearly fell off the elliptical this morning after my jet-lagged knees forgot how to pump.

But that’s ok. Because sometimes, crossing a finish line last is worth it when you get this in exchange:

I love you, Arabian Sea.

When’s the last time your running shoes took a 14-day vacation?

Races Running Travel

Coming Soon to a City Near You

As Woody Allen once famously said: “A running career is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And then all you have on your hands is a dead shark.”

Oh wait. Maybe he said that about relationships, not running. It’s hard to be sure. Mr. Allen is clearly an expert in both.

Either way, I have decided to take this minced idiom to heart and shake things up in the months ahead. While that could mean adding more hill work or upping my interval training, I’m taking the “movement” piece a bit more literally: I’m taking my racing schedule on the road.

I’ve run a handful of miles this spring in such far-flung locales as Virginia and Rhode Island, going so far as to even log a few terrifying laps in the sidewalk-free wonder that is Alabama. But I’ve yet to toe an official race course in any time zone outside the Eastern Standard one, and for fear of repeating yet another loop of Central Park and/or killing a metaphorical shark, I’ve decided it’s about time to take my Asics westward.

First up is Denton, Texas, home to both my favorite older sibling and the world famous 3rd Annual DATCU Dash. (DATCU stands for the Denton-Area Teachers Credit Union, but I’m sure you knew that, considering how world famous its annual 5K race is and everything.) My sister isn’t convinced an 8 a.m. road race is the best way to begin our first weekend together since Christmas, but I figure it’s 1. A good way to see her new community and 2. Justification for the slab of BBQ ribs I plan to have consumed by 8:35 a.m.

Next on the tour is the Pacific Coast, where I’ve registered to run a half marathon with one of my best friends ever in the famously flat city of San Francisco. At least the late morning start time will allow us to enjoy a leisurely morning in the Bay Area before pinning on our bibs… oh wait – never mind – the first wave begins at 5:30 a.m. That’s it. I’m calling in sick. (Just kidding, Mere. I’m psyched. Mostly for post-race Napa Valley, but also to run 13.1 miles holding your hand.)

And third on my cross-continental race schedule is – your town! I haven’t yet decided where else my travels will take me this summer, so if you’re running an event and need a partner to help you carb load and keep your couch company, let me know. My traveling shoes are already laced up.

Where else should I race this summer?  Let the bidding begin!

Food Running

Let There Be Carbs

I’m 48 hours out from the Manhattan Half Marathon, and contemporary science and/or this Runner’s World article say I should be upping my carbohydrate consumption considerably to replenish my glycogen stores. Gone are the days when a simple spaghetti dinner constituted proper pre-race preparation. Instead, modern research now suggests runners should start carb loading two or three days before their half or full marathons, eating as many as four grams of carbs for every pound of body weight – or about 2,400 calories of carbs a day for a 150 pound individual.  (Thanks, Runner’s World, for doing that math for me in your article. I’m totally not going to fact check it, so here’s hoping your editors are good with a calculator.)

A daily intake of 2,400 calories of carbohydrates may sound scone-full and delicious, but it’s also significantly harder than you’d think. The above mentioned article says a full 85- to 95-percent of my calories should be coming from carbs in these crucial pre-race days. I don’t know if you know much about percentages, but 95 percent is a huge share. (Fun fact: It is also the statistical likelihood I’d steal a polar bear if left unsupervised in the Bronx Zoo overnight.)

To test just how difficult it would be, I dusted off my knowledge of the scientific method last week and conducted a little experiment: I recorded an entire day’s worth of dietary decisions on an iPhone app to see just how close my normal eating patterns got me to the 85+ percentage point threshold.

Behold failure.

Although I actually went out of my way to up my daily carb consumption – trading my usual greek yogurt for Cheerios at breakfast, ordering a sweet potato with lunch, downing a wheat beer at happy hour (all in the name of science) – I still only achieved a subpar 54 percent. It leaves me wondering: save for shot-gunning a bag of all-purpose flour for dinner tonight, how the hell am I going to reach that range over the next two days?

(It also left me wondering why we don’t use more pie charts in daily adult life. Pie charts are arguably the best form of chart out there, because–honestly–aren’t most things shaped like pies superior? For example: pies. See also: pizza pies. And the number 3.14.)

What’s your best pre-race eating advice? And how did athletes prepare for long runs during the Atkins craze? Bacon-loading? Mmm.


Home Cooked Meals

After a weekend of football-fueled dietary indulgence – including peanut butter flavored chicken wings because apparently I have the nondiscriminatory palate of a Labrador – I woke up from my slothful Sunday afternoon nap ready for a detox. Don’t get me wrong: nothing refuels after a long run like a 100-ounce beer tube from 123-Burger-Shot-Beer (a Danny Meyer establishment, no doubt.) But man cannot live by bar food alone, so once my boy Ed Reed was done clinching Baltimore’s spot in next Sunday’s title game, I put down my waffle fries and vowed to seek out some sustenance.

In a city that delivers 24/7 from an iPhone app that doesn’t demand human interaction, it’s tempting to order in every single meal. But in the spirit of both waist- and wallet-slimming initiatives, I took a page from a more established fitness blogger and on Sunday night cooked my own dinner instead. (That shouldn’t be such a novel concept for the Food Network’s No. 1 fan, but life and/or the pizza place between the 4/5/6 and my apartment always seem to get in the way.)

Fortunately, once I got going on my make-it-myself kick, I couldn’t stop. I whipped up a healthy-ish chicken pot pie for dinner to a chorus of oohs and ahhs from the boyfriend and woke up feeling so much lighter than the morning before that I opted to keep it going and traded my delivery bagel for some home-scrambled eggs. After my three-mile recovery run that morning, I even threw back a green monster for good measure, because anything this ugly in a cup has got to be good for you. (Fortunately, non-ugly things can also come in cups. Case in point.)

(Note: The second half of this post is being written a solid 25 minutes after the first half, because that’s how long it took to pull myself away from googling puppy-in-cup photos. I didn’t know that was a thing, but I’m glad to learn it is.)

Now that my eating habits are once again on track – at least until Ray Lewis works his (allegedly) homicidal magic again next weekend – I can start preparing myself for Friday’s pre-race carb loading session. Bagel-chip lasagna, here I come.

How do you get back on track after a meal – or three – of indulgent eating? And can I justify starting my carb loading on Tuesday? This whole wheat muffin says yes.

Running Training

Over the River and Through the… Brooklyn

Most things in life are better in dozens. Hey, man, I made you a dozen cupcakes! Surprise, honey, I bought you a dozen roses! Way to go, Jesus, you have a dozen friends!

I’m not sure the same can be said for miles. I logged a dozen miles this morning as my last long run of this half-marathon training cycle, and – my god – that’s a lot of miles.  So many miles, in fact, that they couldn’t all be run in Manhattan.  Yes, people, it’s as bad as you think – this morning, I had to run in Brooklyn.

To be fair, many of my first and fondest memories of this city were made in the Brooklyn borough. While I may bemoan its sparse taxi population and unreliable express train service, I’m actually quite fond of its ironic eye-glass emporiums and flash artisinal cheese markets. But while there may be a secret Brooklynphile lurking below this hard Manhattan shell, the idea of running there – and back – at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning into the 20 m.p.h. January wind wasn’t necessarily at the top of my list. (“Rolling in a pile of puppies” holds that coveted spot.)

Nonetheless, I mustered some inner strength, bundled up and made my way out of the building for my first dual-borough run. And to be honest, I enjoyed the change of scenery. Although I’ve logged miles in some far-flung cities, from Baltimore to Paris, a startling 100-percent of my runs completed in the Empire State up until today have taken place on the 22.96-square-mile island of Manhattan. It was time for that to change.

My route took me from Murray Hill to the East River Promenade, through Chinatown, over the Manhattan Bridge, around Brooklyn Heights, over the Brooklyn Bridge, into a Gatorade-selling bodega and back up the East River to a hot shower and delivery bagels. About half of my energy was exerted dodging fish heads on the Chinatown sidewalk (Who throws away a perfectly good fish head?  Honestly.), but the other half was free to enjoy the views. Not bad, Williamsburg Bridge, not bad at all.

With 12 miles down before 10 a.m., I was fully prepared to rub my productivity superiority in my boyfriend’s face all day long – until he decided to one-up me by building his own computer from scratch today.  Touché, boyfriend.

What are you doing to stay active this three-day weekend? (Lifting steins of beer during the Ravens game totally counts. Stay tuned for more on that scheduled workout tomorrow.)