Categories
Running

January Firsts

The year 2013 brought a lot of firsts for me.

I traveled to India.

And experienced my first Indian-wedding-caliber hangover.
And experienced my first Indian-wedding-caliber hangover.

I started a new job.

The view from my new building is the pits.
The view from my new building is the pits.

I taught a goldendoodle the ways of the force.

Er, taught a goldendoodle the ways of the force I did.
Er, taught a goldendoodle the ways of the force did I.

I went to my first NBA game, ran my first color run, went on my first pirate booze cruise and marched in my first New York City parade. And let’s not forget that epic birthday weekend in New Orleans, a city I visited this year for the first time since my conception. Thanks for that piece of information, Mom and Dad. Really made the trip special for me.

Unfortunately, 2013 also marked another first for me: It was the first time in recent history I failed to achieve my New Year’s resolutions.

I’m sure there were plenty of years in the not-too-distant past when my January resolutions also went unfulfilled, from that time I resolved to meet Harrison Ford to that time I resolved to marry Harrison Ford to that time I resolved to have my restraining order lifted by Harrison Ford, not to mention every single year prior to 2011 when I resolved to lose weight in the year ahead — and failed.

Not keeping my resolutions is nothing new for me in the long term, but at least during the past few years, I’ve been on a bit of a successful streak. In 2011, I resolved to lose 30 pounds and did; the following year, I wanted to run a marathon and accomplished that, too. I also vowed to floss in 2012, and — against all odds — have managed to keep that dream alive.

It helps when your niece goes in to get whatever you missed. Wait, was that joke too gross? Yes? Ok, delete it from your memory.
It helps when your niece goes in to get whatever food particles you missed. Wait, that joke was gross. Let’s forget I said anything.

But 2013 was different. Although I never actually put in writing  my New Year’s resolutions, I know what I wanted to achieve in 2013: a marathon PR in New York City. And not just any PR. I wanted to finish in 3:45.

Looking back now, I realize how silly that resolution really was. I’d finished my first marathon in just over 3:51, and while shaving 6 minutes off a multi-hour race may not sound like much, finishing in 3:45 would have required me to maintain an 8:35 pace the entire race — or almost 20 seconds per mile faster than my first marathon in October 2012. Add to that the fact that I trained less this year, with fewer long runs, virtually no speed training and a couple extra pounds on my frame, and hitting that elusive — and very arbitrary — 3:45 mark was simply not in the cards.

This. Is. As. Fast. As. I. Go.
This. Is. As. Fast. As. I. Go.

So with last year’s unresolved resolution in mind, I’m setting my sights on more achievable and measurable goals in 2014. Rather than setting up one lofty target for the new year, I’m going to target a series of self-improvements that I should be able to squeeze in even with my more demanding work hours and my rediscovered passion for sloth.

So without further ado, here’s what I’m aiming for in 2014:

Run a new PR. It doesn’t have to be a marathon or a half marathon or even a double-digit race. It could be a new 5K or 5 miler, or even a new distance or type of race altogether. Takes some of the pressure off each individual event if I have 12 whole months to achieve this.

Attend one group fitness class a week. Ideally, this would be yoga, but if I can’t get out of work in time, any strength training or even cardio class will fit the bill. This should help keep my cross training alive during racing season and make my $80 a month gym membership feel slightly less like a farce.

Eat five fruits or veggies a day. Let’s be honest, all five are probably going to be fruit. Chocolate-covered doesn’t count.

Stop ripping tags out of clothes instead of walking three steps to get the scissors. I mean, seriously. How many holes do I have to rip in new pairs of underwear before I realize my lazyman’s approach to tag-removal should probably be retired?

Go to at least one cultural event a month. Despite the plethora of museums and shows and art in this city, it’s easy to spend your entire weekend at the gym, at the bar or, let’s be honest, in bed with your sister’s Netflix account. At least once I month in 2014 — and hopefully more — I’ll step out of my comfort zone with a gallery visit or Broadway performance or musical act. It doesn’t have to be highbrow, as evidenced by my January activity that’s already lined up: bull riding. Stay classy, New York City.

What are your 2014 resolutions?

 

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.

20131120-221239.jpg
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.

photo (88)
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.

photo 3 (25)
“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.

9

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.

photo 1 (23)

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.

photo 3 (24)

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!

photo (85)
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.

photo 4 (20)

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.

photo (87)

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?

 

Categories
Races Running Training

Ill-Timing

I woke up this morning prepared to tell you how – despite all my training hiccups and anxieties and fears – I was finally excited for the marathon.

I was going to tell you how I ran eight well-rested miles Monday and felt like I was flying.

I was going to tell you how I entered the park this morning along the marathon route and saw the Conservatory had hung a giant “Welcome to Central Park!” banner, making my heart skip and my eyes tear up with emotion.

I was going to tell you how I received the most amazing brunch invitation in my inbox, which – despite not being able to attend but for a brief run by – makes me feel all warm and special and pancake-filled inside.

photo 5 (14)

I was going to tell you all these things in what I expected to be an upbeat and optimistic and golden-doodle-filled post.

And then 10 a.m. hit, and I was suddenly harboring the most excruciating headache of my young adult life. A headache that hasn’t yet gone away. A headache accompanied with chills. A headache that brought me to my knees, or more accurately, to my company’s in-house nurse’s office, where they gave me a double-dose of Excedrin but no lollypop. And here I was thinking Obamacare meant more free lollypops. No wonder Ted Cruz was angry.

As the work day progressed and I felt worse and worse, this blog post started to evolve in my mind.

Instead of telling you how excited I was, I was going to tell you how I am afraid I’m getting sick, since I only get headaches from hangovers and colds, and this goal-oriented body hasn’t touched a drink all week.

And then instead of telling you how excited I was, I was going to tell you that a handful of coworkers went home sick this week, and that someone sneezed on me on the 4/5 train, and that my sick-looking boyfriend last night told me he “wasn’t sick,” he was just exhausted “from staying up coughing all night.” End quote.

And then instead of telling you how excited I was, I was going to tell you how my four months of training feel like a big waste and I should probably throw in the towel and give up now and not even pick up my bib number after work at the marathon expo.

"Harrumph."
“Harrumph.”

I somehow managed to relegate that last thought to the back burner for about 30 seconds, or just long enough to hail a cab to the Javits Center, where I was funneled into a security line and then instructed to show ID and then pushed to the number check in before I even had time to think.

There, a lady gave me my bib number, four safety pins and the four words I’d apparently been needing to hear all day: “You’ve got this, Anne.”

And just in case I wasn’t going to take some stranger’s word for it, I came home to my mailbox 30 minutes later to find the most appropriately timed motivational card of my life from a very special friend whose favorite smell happens to be skunk and whose name both begins and ends with the letter Z.

photo 4 (19)

So there we have it. I’m still feeling sick, and might be sicker tomorrow, and could feel even worse come race day. But you know what? I can also be excited. These two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

What will be will be, but for tonight at least — I’m excited.

photo 3 (23)

 

How are you managing these last few days? With less neuroticism than me? No? Oh good. That makes me feel so much better.

 

Categories
Running Training

A Time to Every Purpose Under Heaven

I imagine autumn used to be considered a season of hard work and preparation, but with the onset of the industrial revolution and the invention of pumpkin-spiced coffee, it seems all that has changed.

Once a time for reaping the harvest, canning vegetables and chopping firewood in anticipation of the impending snowfall, fall has evolved into a much more sedentary season, full of rigorous, heart-racing activities like tailgating at football games and watching leaves die.

I think we can all agree New England is hideous in the fall.
I think we can all agree New England is hideous in the fall.

Don’t get me wrong – I love fall and the romanticism and lethargy it has simultaneously come to evoke in recent generations.

  • I love taste-testing two dozen pumpkin beers with a handful of friends and using such insightful descriptors as “has a slight pumpkin flavor” and “tasted wet.”
something
It’s funny how an afternoon of drinking sounds significantly less alcoholic when you call it taste-testing. Experience the power of words.
  • I love visiting a pumpkin patch and apple orchard with my handsome boyfriend and buying only a family-pack of donuts to share.
sdf
Fact: Ben closes one eye faster when he’s excited.
  • I love knifing produce.
 dfs
“Make me a pie, woman. Literally.”

And that’s not all. I love lazy Saturday afternoons when the Notre Dame game is on. I love curling up in front of the fireplace on a crisp autumn evening. I love that I no longer sweat off my make-up at 7 a.m. waiting for the 4/5 train. See you in June, attractive upper lip sweat. (Eat your heart out, boys.)

But while for many city residents, fall has come to mean slowing down and resting up and taking some crucial me-time time after the whirlwind of summer, there’s at least one group of people who don’t get to sit back and relax all autumn long.

And that’s the marathoners. And political candidates in election years. And the apple orchard migrant workers, come to think of it.

Ok, so there are at least three groups of people who don’t get to sit back and relax all autumn long. But seeing as I only fall into one of those categories, we’re going to focus on that one.

Although a handful of the world’s most famous marathons land outside of the traditional fall racing season, like Tokyo in February and Boston and London in April, nearly every elite world event takes place during the September-November time period. From Chicago and Berlin to the Nike Women’s Marathon in SanFran and the Marine Corps in DC, nearly every major race is crammed into the autumn months, and New York City is no exception.

Source: http://nutritionsuccess.org/, which is silly, since I could walk three blocks and take this identical picture myself.
Source: http://nutritionsuccess.org/, which is silly, since I could walk three blocks and take this identical picture myself.

The fall racing schedule makes sense — the weather should be cool and dry, athletes have been able to train during the long summer days, it lets me justify the three servings of stuffing I’m already planning to eat at Thanksgiving — but it also means that for millions of runners, fall simply can’t be a season of indolence. Even once the tapering begins, a marathoner’s October days are still filled with workouts and stretching and nutrition and goals. Until we cross the finish line, fall remains a period of discipline and preparation, structure and hard work. In that sense, I guess marathoners are actually still a lot like our forefathers, working hard throughout the fall to reach a goal. In fact, I guess you could call our fall behavior vintage. Marathoners = the original hipsters.

Luckily, I only have seven more days of this necessary single-mindedness, and as of 2:00 p.m. next Sunday, I’ll finally be free to begin my season of idleness, better late than never. And I’m fully prepared to make up for lost time. I’ll be putting away my running shoes for at least a week after crossing that Central Park finish line. I’ll be taking off Monday following the race to lay prone in front of the TV. I’ll be buttering up my very nice boyfriend in an attempt to crash at his ground-level apartment instead of my fifth floor walk up for possibly forever.

But just in case that’s not enough indolence, I’ll also be flying to New Orleans in mid-November for a birthday weekend in the Big Easy. And if that’s not the place for leisure, I don’t know what is.

Seasonal lethargy is just around the corner. To quote the terrifying little girl from The Ring: SEVEN DAYS.

How are you making the most of your fall?

Categories
Races Running Training

The Final Countdown

A lot can change in a month.

One month is enough time for the moon to orbit the entire Earth, or so my advanced degree in astrophysics has led me to believe.

One month is enough time for — count ’em — eleven magazines to pile up next to my bed in the vain hope I’ll read more than the Approval Matrix this time around.

One month is enough time to refill your prescriptions, mail your rent check, visit your parole officer and check in with all your werewolf friends.

Heck, just one month ago, the sun was setting at 7:30 p.m., the Orioles still had a shot at the playoffs and this heartbreaker was begging me to relocate her to New York City post-beach trip.

Really! You won't even notice me! I'll be waiting in your suitcase!
Really! You won’t even notice me! I’ll be waiting in your suitcase!

This picture was taken one month ago exactly. One month from today will be a completely different story.

One month from today, I’ll have completed the ING New York City Marathon.

When I first signed up for the race on April 24th, November 3rd was an elusive goal in the far-off future. With the marathon two seasons away, I knew I had all the time in the world to prepare for a record-breaking PR. I’ll get caught up on sleep closer to the race, I told myself all summer long. I’ll do speedwork come autumn. I promise to start strength training and do yoga and eat quinoa and save orphans but not yet. There’s still plenty of time.

And now I’m 30 days away, and — my god — I feel woefully unprepared.

I haven’t said these numbers outloud yet because I didn’t want to jinx myself, but what do I have to lose? I’d originally hoped to cross the finish line at 3:45 this year, shaving a challenging but achievable six minutes off my previous PR. As the summer progressed but my fitness did not, I revised that goal to matching — not exceeding — my 3:51 personal best. But as I struggled to hold even a 9:00 pace during last night’s 8-mile tempo run, I wondered whether I need to temper my November 3rd expectations further still. Maybe I should be targeting a more realistic 4:00 time. Maybe I should be aiming only to finish. Maybe I should forgo the race altogether and attend the mid-marathon brunch that’s being held in my honor instead. Mimosa race, anyone? Bloody Mary-thon?

That, my friends, was a RiledUpRunner original. RiledUp … Punner original? And I’m done.

The truth is, it shouldn’t matter what time I cross the finish line in one month’s time. But I’ve been training for this specific event so long that the extended build-up has allowed me to put entirely too much importance on this single race’s outcome. I officially started marathon training July 1, but I preceded that with eight weeks of base-building triathlon training, an April half and ten thousand climbs to my fifth-floor apartment. I feel like I’ve been in training mode since the day I left India.

Fact: This elephant also asked to come home in my suitcase.
Fact: This elephant also asked to come home in my suitcase.

That means for all intents and purposes I’ve been training for this goddamn race for six+ entire months. That’s six+ months of missed happy hours, six+ months of Saturday morning alarm clocks, six+ months of steady complaining (sorry, Ben.) As a result, I’ll feel like those six+ months of sacrifice will have been wasted if I don’t perform to the best of my abilities come race day, especially because I’m not wholly sure if I have it in me to do it all again.

Yes, I love running, but do I love running enough to dedicate a third straight summer to marathon training? At this very second, I’d say no.

But who knows how I’ll feel come November 3rd? A lot can change in a month.

And just in case it turns out I do, in fact, want to compete in a third marathon, I’ve just taken my girl Meredith’s suggestion and entered the highly unlikely lottery for the Berlin 2014 marathon. Because while it’s true a lot can change in a month, something tells me even more can change in a year. Twelve times more, to be precise, which I, as an astrophysicist, always am.

What are your fall race goals and how optimistic are you you’ll meet them?

Categories
Running Training

Running on Empty

If you’ve ever seen a Tom Hanks film, you’ve probably come to believe that all the best things in life happen when you’re supposed to be sleeping.

(If you haven’t seen a Tom Hanks film, sign offline immediately, rent BIG, hop the NQR to 59th St. to play the giant piano, and then we’ll talk.)

Case in point:

  • If you’re Joe Fox, all the best e-mails from your dial-up pen pal arrive when your soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend is sleeping in the next room.
  • If you’re Forrest Gump, the only time it stops raining in Vietnam is after the stars come out.
  • If you’re Sam Baldwin, well, I’m not sure on this one. I think something transpires during a bout of insomnia in Seattle, but I couldn’t be sure.

Tom, as he’s asked me to call him, isn’t the only one romanticizing sleepless nights. “We stayed up all night talking” has become a telltale description of the perfect first date. Ask a friend what he did last night and he’ll tell you he stayed out ’til dawn like it’s a badge of honor. Spend a month in a coma as Peter Gallagher and watch your possible future wife fall in love with Bill Pullman right before your (closed) eyes.

What’s that? You haven’t seen While You Were Sleeping either? That’s it. Get out.

But while rom-coms coast to coast may be idealizing sleeplessness, the truth is a good night’s rest is just as key to marathon training as your weekly long runs. How do I know, you ask? Because, until this weekend, I hadn’t had one in a long, long time.

Is it naptime yet?
Is it naptime yet?

As I’ve mentioned once or twice in recent pity party posts, I’ve had a busy summer, complete with 30-mile weeks, a new job and so much travel I can almost justify having not yet unpacked my suitcase – from June. It’s been a blast, but it’s also been exhausting, and one of the first things to go this season was my coveted eight-hour sleep cycles. “It’s fine.” I told myself. “Seven is totally the new eight.”

Unfortunately, seven is not quite enough for my body’s needs, nor is six and a half, which seven usually becomes by the time I finish trolling the internet for lists of top 25 camels in rollerblades. Every hour I save not sleeping is another hour I can get things done, I thought, but instead, I find myself groggy, unfocused and shorter than usual with the people I love. My running has suffered, too, with my tired self crossing the finish line at last month’s Battle for Brooklyn at 1:23.07 – not a shameful finish by any means, especially considering my fatigued mind had left my Garmin watch at home, but nowhere near my 10-miler PR of 1:17.45 logged in Philly last spring.

It turns out, Runner’s World is right: “Sleep isn’t a luxury – it’s a training tool. Running on empty won’t get you far.”

But running isn’t the only thing that suffers when you push back your bedtime. Your eating habits also go by the wayside, according to both this unfortunately factual New York Times article and my chocolate consumption this past week.

The research showed that depriving people of sleep for one night created pronounced changes in the way their brains responded to high-calorie junk foods. On days when the subjects had not had proper sleep, fattening foods like potato chips and sweets stimulated stronger responses in a part of the brain that helps govern the motivation to eat. But at the same time, the subjects experienced a sharp reduction in activity in the frontal cortex, a higher-level part of the brain where consequences are weighed and rational decisions are made. … A sleepy brain appears to not only respond more strongly to junk food, but also has less ability to rein that impulse in.

Or in other words, a lack of shuteye can cause even the most rational individual to eat everything in sight.

I'm getting some nutty undertones.
I’m getting some nutty undertones.

I’ve set a lot of goals for myself this year – get a new job (done), set a new marathon PR (in progress), wake up just once without crumbs in my bed (it’s best we don’t address this one) – but here’s one more to add to the mix: work harder at prioritizing sleep. Starting right now. Or, more likely, starting right after reading “10 Llamas Who Wish They Were Models.”

How do you find sleep – or lack thereof – impacts your performance?

Categories
Running Training

Heavy Weights

I’ve done a lot of reading on the inception of running, and while the etymology of the word jog is reportedly unknown, this much I know to be true:

When distance running came into fashion in the 1970s, much conventional wisdom surrounding the sport was misguided, sexist or downright wrong.

Take a quick glance back through the past five decades of casual and competitive road racing—fine, I’ll do it for you—and it becomes painfully clear that in the 70s, sports science related to my favorite pastime was still in its infancy. Also in their infancy in 1970? Current forty-three year olds, if my math serves me, the odds of which, uh, requires more math.

Take, for example, the following popular misconceptions of the early running boom. These since-refuted claims—while not held by everyone—were oft repeated nonetheless in the literature of the time, or so this non-time-traveling 1985 baby has read:

  • Marathon running causes sterility in women.
  • It’s best not to hydrate at all during a 26.2-mile race.
  • Weight lifting has no place in a runner’s training schedule.

The first two have been overwhelmingly refuted in both scientific study and anecdotal evidence in the generation since, but the third—that weight training and running are mutually exclusive—has somehow persisted.

Many runners—including this one—shy away from strength training even in today’s day and age because:

  1. We don’t want to gain bulk that will weigh us down come race day.
  2. We don’t want to injure ourselves or increase muscle and joint soreness.
  3. We don’t want to waste precious time in the weight room when general consensus says the best way to run better is to simply run more.
  4. We can’t do a push-up. Oh? What’s that you say, other runners? Huh. Well, good for you. I guess that’s just me then.

Or in other words, for the last two years of race training, every time my schedule read this:

schedule

I saw this:

schedule2

(I could upgrade to Photoshop, sure, but the rebellious teenager in me would miss Paint’s spray paint tool too much.)

Skipping strength training (and, let’s be honest, stretching as well) didn’t seem to do me much harm as I trained for my first marathon, having little goal in mind except to finish. But with my race times having since plateaued, I’m starting to think running alone isn’t going to cut it for me anymore as I look to improve. Enter strength training.

Although common knowledge used to dictate strength training was detrimental to the distance runner, science now suggests the addition of some lean muscle can actually improve a runner’s VO2 max, strengthen joints and connective tissue, ward off injury and prevent muscle imbalances, particularly when it comes to the smaller stabilizer muscles that are often underutilized when logging flat mile after flat mile. With that in mind, I rolled up to a group strength training class at my gym last week, and while the bicep curls left my forearms screaming, I’m optimistic the net benefit will be well worth the strain.

Weight training scares me, sure, but just like corralling up at the Verrazano Bridge this November 3 isn’t going to make me sterile, I think pumping some light iron on a weekly basis can only serve to improve my overall fitness, making me a better runner at the end of the day. Yes, it might leave me aching, but I think given the reported benefits, I should just grin and bear it.

Smile.
Grinning and bearing.

Do you supplement your running with weight training? Have you seen improvement and/or been elected California governor as a result?