Categories
Uncategorized

Wedding Planning’s the New Marathon

Whenever I catch up with friends and family this year, I’m asked one of the following questions:

  • How is wedding planning going?
  • Are you and Ben liking the new Queens apartment?
  • Why did your dog move to Hawaii without you?
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The Big Reveal: She’s not my dog.

And then there’s the follow-up question everyone who reads this blog inevitably asks next: Will you be running a marathon this year?

My standard response, while a bit canned, has gone a little something like this: “I’m planning a wedding this fall. THAT’s my marathon this year!”

I started saying it as a joke, but the closer I get to the big day, the clearer it becomes that this response is dripping with truth.

In fact, wedding planning and marathon training have an awful lot in common, from the frustrations and pitfalls to the anticipation and excitement. So without further ado, here’s my list of how planning to run 26.2 miles is a heck of a lot like planning to marry your better half.

Planning ahead is key. Show up at the starting line without having trained and you’ll have a miserable eight-hour slog ahead of you. Show up at your wedding day unprepared and you may be toasting with Starbucks lattes instead of the champagne you forgot to order. Both marathon training and wedding planning go much smoother when you’re organized and ready. For both events, put the big date on your calendar and work backwards to set achievable milestones (like racing a half or booking a DJ).

Oh, the gear you’ll buy. I didn’t think I would buy into the consumerism portion of wedding planning… and then I saw a “shed for the wed” workout shirt and I caved. And — I’m ashamed to admit — it’s not even the only bride-inspired piece of clothing I own. Likewise, just try to walk through a marathon expo without purchasing some new gear you don’t need. That’s why I’m going to someday name my autobiography “Too Many Tank-Tops: The RiledUpRunner Story.”

You may want to tweak your diet. Runners need to up their carbs substantially in the weeks leading up to the big day. Brides and grooms may find themselves doing the opposite. While some versions of wedding weight-loss are unhealthy and dangerous, wanting to clean up your diet in the months before your wedding can have a great impact on your complexion, your sleep and your mood. I’m even considering a return to Whole30 for the final weeks, since it left me with so much energy… though only if I can make an exception for non-paleo bachelorette-party wine. #nonnegotiable

You’ll find yourself talking about it all the time. You’ve heard Ben’s joke before: “How do you know someone is running a marathon? They tell you!” Even if you try to talk about other things, a runner’s upcoming race always seems to sneak back into the conversation. Same thing with wedding planning. I don’t TRY to talk about it all the time, but since it’s consuming so much of my time, it can’t help but find its way back to the forefront. After November, I’ll know about current events again, I swear.

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Right now, I know mostly about bridal showers.

But while marathon training and wedding planning have a lot in common, they’re different in one key way. They say for marathoning, the 16-weeks of training is the real achievement and the race itself is just the victory lap. But while a race ends the second you cross that finish line, the wedding isn’t a conclusion: it’s a beginning. Instead of putting your feet up and retiring your shoes for the winter like you do after a race, a wedding means the beginning of a marriage, and that’s where I’m told the real work/fun begins.

And I can’t wait to find that out for myself. Seventy days!

But who’s counting?

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Categories
Running Training

The Big Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Food

The Land of Milk and Honey

I used to think my favorite food was butter.

As a small child, I vividly remember sitting in front of an open refrigerator with my hand in the Land O’ Lakes, scooping palm full after palm full into my open mouth. And you wonder how I became a husky 5th grader.

It’s true though. Sweet and salty and creamy all at once, butter was the perfect food, and I melted it onto everything from the age of two forward: cinnamon toast, air-popped popcorn, microwaved mushrooms, spoons. I was a regular Andy Dwyer.

But now that I’m a grown-up with some concept of nutrition and caloric intake, I can proudly say that my culinary tastes have evolved. Although I will always have a soft spot for it in my heart — a soft spot that it undoubtedly helped cause — butter is no longer my favorite food. (Don’t worry, folks, I’m not going to jump on the 2013 hipster bandwagon and tell you my favorite food is kale, although roasted, sea-salted kale IS freaking delicious.)

It’s honey.

I love you, honeybear.
I love you, honeybear.
I know, I know, not the nutritional powerhouse you were expecting, considering honey is at first glance little more than glorified table sugar. But it’s so much more than that. As far as sweeteners go, it’s the least processed one, and unlike white sugar, it contains trace minerals and antibiotic properties. (Take that, Domino!). More importantly for this seasonal sufferer, honey made from local bees can reportedly help fight allergies, which is one major perk of purchasing at the farmers’ market instead of the grocery store.

About 75 percent of my honey intake comes in the form of food: drizzled over yogurt or stirred into herbal tea or whisked into salad dressings, and let’s not forget honey-filled baklava, which I clearly didn’t eat enough of this month in Greece.

Take me back.
Take me back.
But many people don’t realize honey also has non-food uses. Because of those antibiotic properties, it also makes an effective on-the-spot face cream, according to a(n arguably hippy) dermatologist I saw earlier this year who suggested Manuka honey face masks for particularly problematic skin. It sounded like wacky advice, but swapping out harsh chemicals for antibiotic-rich Manuka honey (available at vitamin and specialty stories) has weirdly made a difference in my skin. Between that and the coconut oil I used to wash it off, and my face routine is the most delicious concoction out there.

You knew you were going to look in my medicine cabinet at that dinner party anyways. I've just saved you a step.
You were going to look in my medicine cabinet at that dinner party anyways. I’ve just saved you a step.
With honey such an integral part of my nutritional as well as beauty routine, it only seems right to integrate it into my running as well. So when I went to JackRabbit Sports to purchase some new mid-run nutrition last week ahead of my planned 17 miler and stumbled upon Honey Stinger sports waffles (yes, you heard me right, Leslie Knope), I leapt with joy. Instead of throwing back energy gels of corn syrup or whatever other processed sugars they must be filled with to maintain by carbohydrates during marathon training, why not swallow ounces of the golden nectar itself?

So I bought a honey waffle and brought it with me on my last long run, and while it was delicious, it wasn’t the easiest-to-consume mid-run snack I’ve ever carried. It was essentially two thin cookies held together by honey, and as I tried to throw it back halfway up the West Side Highway after having carried it for the better part of two hours, I lost at least 1/6 of my crumbled snack to the pull of gravity. Still, I like the concept, and I’m planning on going back to try some of the brand’s other honey-filled, less awkward to consume products. I’ll report back.

Until then, I’ll keep doing my part to keep the world’s bee population (and diabetes doctors) in paychecks. Thanks, honey!

What’s your favorite food? Rare steak, caesar salad and peach cobbler are also appropriate answers, since, let’s be honest, they all tie with honey for me. [But you can’t eat a steak during a marathon. Or can you? Calling Ron Swanson! P.S. I’ve been watching a lot of Parks and Rec, if you can’t tell.]

Categories
Running

Ever So Much More Than Twenty

At the risk of sounding like a Buzzfeed listicle, the signs that I’m no longer in my early- or even mid-20s are frightfully abundant.

  • I get excited when people cancel plans so I can be in bed by 9:30 p.m.
  • Those rare nights I do stay out late drinking (also known as weddings), I stick to white wine and my hangovers still last two days.
  • I spend exponentially more on work and workout clothes than going out clothes.
  • I’m up at 7 a.m. on Saturday mornings, whether there’s a long run on my calendar or not, because my body and the sun have apparently made some kind of cruel friends-for-life pact.
  • I voluntarily add things like flax seed to my morning smoothies.
  • I drink morning smoothies.
    (And they're green.)
    (And they’re green.)

    One more sign my body isn’t as young and hardy as it used to be? For three years and counting, it wasn’t until my 18-mile long run that my immune system finally gave up and saddled me with my first fall cold of the marathon season. (Proof in 2012 and proof in 2013. Not sure if I wrote about it in 2014, but I know it to be true.)

    This year, it only took 17 miles. That’s it, folks. The end is nigh.

    While moderate running and exercise are great defenses against cold and flu season, as soon as I start logging [very] long runs in the final weeks of pre-taper training, my body simply gives up the will to live. An hour of running is fine, but run for three straight hours as the marathon approaches and like clockwork my throat goes raw, my sinuses fill and boyfriend finds any excuse he can to move to the downstairs couch. In other words, I catch a nasty mid-September cold.

    And it’s not just me. According to this Runner’s World article, “long, slow runs (90 minutes or more) use slow-twitch muscle fibers, which feed on simple sugars, the same fuel as the immune system,” said Michael Ross, M.D., medical director of The Performance Lab in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. “It sets up a resource battle between the exercising muscles and the immune system, with the immune system losing out,” he told the magazine.

    While that’s always been the case — long runs inhibit your ability to ward off colds — it only used to happen for me at 18 miles, not 17. To me, that shortened timeline is a sign that my body is just a little less willing to cooperate this time around than in past marathon training cycles. It’s a sign I’m getting older and less resilient.  It’s a sign that my last marathon of my 20s should maybe be my last marathon of my life.

    Or maybe it’s just a sign I took an international fight last week with a lot of coughing passengers. That’s the price you pay to spend a week lounging beachside here:

    Photo credit: Ben
    Photo cred: Ben

    Either way, it’s a soup and tea and dialed back training week for me as I wait for this rhinovirus to work its way out of my blood stream. Guess that means I’ll be doing the one thing 29-year-olds hate most: Going to bed at 9 p.m. tonight as I work toward recovery. Darn.

    How is your immune system holding up as your fall race comes into focus?

Categories
Travel

Greece Is the Word, Is the Word That You Heard

Ask any marathon training coach and she’ll tell you the same thing: running is just one part of the preparation equation. Diet, cross training and rest also play a crucial role in the 20 weeks leading up to the big race, and in true Captain Planet style, only by their powers combined is a marathoner made ready.

At least, that’s what I’m telling myself as justification for going an entire six days last week without so much as unpacking my running shoes, even though the NYC marathon is just eight weeks away.

Call me undisciplined, uncommitted, or unfocused if you want, but I’m going to choose another word to describe myself during my restful and relaxing past week along the Aegean Sea: tan.

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(Also in need of a better arm workout.)

My trip to Greece may not have been the most training-focused vacation I’ve ever mustered, seeing as I only logged a single beachside run during my entire week in Nea Moudania, but to be fair, I pretty much nailed the other parts of marathon training: diet, cross training and rest.

  • Diet: I started each day with a protein-rich European breakfast of full-fat Greek yogurt, watermelon and honey (fine, and Nutella by the jarful), which kept me satiated until a late, late afternoon lunch. At around 4 p.m. each day, we’d dry ourselves off and gather at a waterside table for course after course of the freshest, cleanest food you can imagine: tomato and feta salads, grilled octopus, steamed mussels, and enough tzatziki to feed a small army. We’d then eat and eat for hours on end, but with almost none of the food processed or fried, we never left the table feeling too full to function. Given Greece’s seafood-, good fat- and veggie-rich diet, it’s no wonder they won all the ancient Olympic Games.
"Keep the head on and, uh, find out if it had a nickname." - Jim Gaffigan
“Keep the head on and, uh, find out if it had a nickname.” – Jim Gaffigan
  • Cross training: This one is a bit more of a stretch, considering 45 percent of each day was spent prone in a beach chair, but I did manage to work a few muscles besides my chewing ones. For example, one day I sidestroked my way to this very far away rock, then elementary backstroked my way home. Did I work up a sweat? Maybe, maybe not. But I certainly stretched out some muscles that had laid dormant as I’ve been busy logging 40 miles a week.
That rock is very far away.
Thank god I didn’t see any yellow and purple Greek jellyfish until the following day or I might still be living on that rock.
  • Rest: Sleep til 10, nap on the beach, sleep on a floating raft in the crystal clear water, sit for a 3-hour meal overlooking the sea and then polish the night off with a few glasses of delicious Greek wine? Yeah, I got the rest part of it down to a science.
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You’d be amazed at how many courses they can fit on a table this size.

So what if I spent a week in Greece and only have one 8-mile run to show for it? I am now well fed, well rested and, well, ready to dive back into my training full force. As proof, I logged a quick 3 miles during a layover in Vienna, and yesterday, I put my jetlag to good use and ran 8 humid Central Park miles before work. Today’s jetlag, which had me up at 4 a.m., has resulted in this blog post and soon, 5 more sweaty miles.

I may still be on Greece time, but for all intents and purposes, I’m back, folks. Let the marathon countdown begin.

Categories
Travel

Hurdles

A good, creative runner can always find an excuse not to train – this weather is too hot, this weather is too cold, my friend Goldilocks has been eaten by bears – but the excuses I’ve encountered these last few weeks have started to get ridiculous.

First I couldn’t run because of recurring knee pain that I self-diagnosed as runner’s knee because I have an MD in googling symptoms. When that pain subsided, I planned to make up a missed long-run before work – but slept through it because my 5:00 a.m. iphone alarm was set to silent (Tim Cook: Why is that even an option!?) So I planned to do it the next morning instead – and woke up with a bout of apparent pink eye, making contact-use impossible. Add on top of that two lovely weddings in as many days this weekend that have left me in a mild state of hangover for 36 hours straight, and it’s starting to feel a little like the big running coach in the sky secretly wants me to toe the starting line in Staten Island two months from tomorrow woefully unprepared.

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But champagne is good for your fast-twitch fibers, right?

Luckily, this isn’t my first rodeo, so I know what I’m supposed to do: Even though my training has been derailed on and off for several weeks, I should in the words of the infallible Ms. Swift shake it off and throw myself right back into my workout schedule as of today. A week of missed long runs and hill repeats isn’t ideal, but a few sessions off won’t kill me, as long as I lace up today and train this week in earnest. The course of action I should take: I should put the past behind me. I should recommit myself to my marathon goal. I should just get out there and run.

That’s what I should do – but I’m not going to. Why, you ask? Because I also should be boarding a flight to Greece in 9 hours for a week of rest, relaxation and running.

Good bye, marathon training recovery. Hello, spanakopita.

Of course, I’m not going to arrive in the birthplace of the marathon without my running shoes in hand, and I’m hoping to stick to my training schedule as close to possible while summering in the Hellenic Republic. But with so many seaside beaches and bottles of wine already calling my name, something tells me this isn’t going to be the most industrious week of this marathon training cycle. Ah well. Pheidippides probably would have wanted it that way.

How do you keep your marathon training on track while simultaneously stuffing your face with feta and grape leaves? All advice appreciated.

Categories
Running Training Uncategorized

At Rest

Some experts say that following a marathon, you should rest one full day for every mile you ran, meaning 26 days of recovery.

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Others say you should rest one full day for every kilometer you ran, meaning 42 days of recovery.

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I say you should rest one full day for every dog photo you snapped at Thanksgiving the week after the marathon, meaning — let’s be honest here — I’ll be in recovery mode until Malia Obama’s in the White House.

Might as well get comfortable.

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In truth, I’d expected to be significantly more active in the nearly three weeks since I crossed that Philadelphia finish line. I thought I’d run a few easy miles that first week to shake out my legs. I imagined I’d do a 5- to 6-miler over the Thanksgiving weekend to burn off my pie gut.  I pictured myself back at yoga, back in the pool, back on the elliptical and back doing all the other glorious cross training I gave up in July to focus on my lone goal these last five months: the marathon.

Heck, I was so optimistic in my recovery, I even packed multiple pairs of running clothes for my post-Thanksgiving vacation in St. Martin.

Oh, how wrong I was. After not even looking at my athletic shoes for our entire four-day stretch in the tropics, I can assure you that said luggage space would have been much better spent on literally any other travel necessity — particularly corkscrews.

and diamond rings.
…and diamond rings.

Why haven’t I been out there getting back in the game? Plenty of reasons, really. It’s been cold. I’ve been enjoying sleeping in to 7 a.m. I’m still mentally fried after that major race. And let’s not forget that fact that since Philadelphia, my knees soooometimes feel like they aren’t in the right socket. No big deal, right, doctors?

But not running also brings its downsides. I’m more irritable, I’m not sleeping as well and I’ve been watching my weight creep up on that cruel bathroom scale. Most importantly, the identity I have come to build for myself — Anne the runner — doesn’t make all that much sense when I’m sitting around wondering if I should give the Seamless delivery guy a key so I don’t have to get off the couch every time he buzzes.

So without further ado, I hereby determine 18 days of recovery is enough for this once and future runner. I’m going to get back out there tomorrow and put a few more miles between me and the New Year. They aren’t going to be pretty, or fast, or maybe even forward, but they’re going to be miles.

And that, my friends, is the only real road to recovery.

How are you getting back into the swing of things after your fall marathon?

Categories
Races

City of Brotherly Run

American gold medalist Frank Shorter once said that you’re not ready to run another marathon until you’ve forgotten the last one.

If the Internet had existed in the 70s, he also would have said that you’re not ready to write your marathon recap blog post until you’re once again able to walk down stairs, so it’s Wednesday after the big day, and here I am.

I apologize if my radio silence these past four days has led any of you to believe I collapsed somewhere along the Schuylkill River and was taken hostage by the Manayunkans. Despite my severe bout of chest congestion, fever and debilitating self-doubt in the days leading up to this past weekend’s event, I did, I fact, finish the Philadelphia Marathon in one piece.

Well, that’s not completely true. Running Sunday’s event, I did lose something: 5 minutes off my New York City marathon race time. Bam.

photo 4 (30)

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I went down to Philadelphia on Saturday with two NYC friends who were running the half and my lovely boyfriend, who impressively matched me bagel for bagel in the carb-loading phase of my training. We checked into our hotel and went to the expo, then gathered with friends at their gorgeous Philadelphia apartment to roast veggies, boil pasta and curse the day we chose to register for long-distance running events.

I was the only runner at our dinner party doing the full marathon, so while everyone else probably could have stayed up a little later, I made my exit at 8 p.m. and headed to the hotel room with my running roommate in tow to prep for the race and its cruel 5:30 a.m. suggested arrival time. There, I realized I’d lost my bib safety pins and maaaaay have crumbled into a minor panic attack that involved sprinting back to the (already closed) expo before raiding every sewing kit in the Sheraton, but, let’s be honest, that level of mental breakdown is pretty run-of-the-mill during the final 10 hours before a marathon. We all go a little crazy before lacing up to run the seriously insane distance of 26.2 miles.

I was in bed by 9 p.m., having left my boyfriend under the care and supervision of my much more sociable Philly friends, but I tossed and turned until nearly 3 a.m. before finally catching about 90 minutes of pre-race shuteye. Fortunately, I’ve read that two days before a race is really the time to bank sleep, so I didn’t let my insomnia stress me out. Ok, that’s a lie: I was stressed. But after the safety pin incident heard ‘round the world, running a marathon on only a nap’s worth of slumber didn’t really seem like the end of the world.

You know what did feel like the end of the world? My alarm going off at 4:45 a.m. Woof.

We got dressed, packed our clear checkable race bags and met in the lobby to walk over to the staging area. It was early. It was cold. It was dark.

It was the perfect time for a photo shoot.
It was the perfect time for a photo shoot.

Unlike NYC-marathon staging, where you arrive on the ferry about four hours before your starting wave, I only found myself with about 30 extra minutes milling around the art museum on Sunday. It was just enough time to check my baggage, discard my sweatshirt and start to wonder whether I was really in good enough shape to complete this thing in one piece. I didn’t get to wonder for long – within minutes, the welcomes were over, the anthem was sung and, before I knew it, we were off.

The first several miles of the course weaved around downtown Philly, and while the crowds were thin given the 7 a.m. starting gun, the weather was dry, the roads were flat and the temptation to go out flying was hard to resist. Fortunately, the memories of NYC – going out too fast and crashing around mile 16 – were still fresh on my mind, so I reined in my enthusiasm and kept above an 8:30 pace. “Just maintain,” I told myself as I passed city hall. “The real race begins at mile 20.”

About 45 minutes in, I was rewarded with a sighting of my parents, who had driven in from Maryland to cheer me to victory. A half mile later, I saw several more familiar faces – one of whom I may have given a big sweaty kiss as I sprinted past. Ok, you caught me. It was Carrie.

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And then the race got a whole lot harder. We crossed into University City and the flat terrain I’d come to love was replaced with rolling hills. Then we neared the zoo and the rolling hills I’d come to endure were replaced with a misplaced Himalaya. Then we rounded mile 13 and the course decided to do the cruelest thing yet: it split. “Half marathoners to the right to the finish line!” the signs overhanging the race course read. “Full marathoners to the left … to your death.” Or at least that’s how it felt to me. Thirteen miles at an 8:40 pace felt downright wonderful. Thirteen more of the same ahead? What was I thinking?

Sure enough, the second half of the course was infinitesimally harder. I know what you’re thinking – of course the second half of a marathon race course is harder – you’re tired. Sure, that’s part of it, but it was so much more: The scenery was unchanging. The course was out and back. The crowds had disappeared. And worst of all, I wasn’t expecting to see any of my people again until at least mile 26.1. With each step during the second half of the course, I grew more and more despondent. Also, more and more slow.

And then something glorious happened: my sister popped up for a surprise hello at mile 24. How she got to the side of such a desolate road between a river and a cemetery, I have no idea, but hearing her call my name gave me the last bit of motivation I needed to push through. As the finish line came back into focus, I spotted my people a final time, gave one last high-five, and barreled my way to the soft pretzels I knew were waiting for me at mile 26.3.

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When it came down to it, I finished the Philadelphia Marathon in 3:53:48, or at an average pace of 8:56 minute miles. Or if you want more numbers, I was the 3,409th overall marathon finisher, or the 972nd woman, or the 249th 25-to-29-year-old female runner in my division.

In terms of cheerleaders, though, I took home the gold.

photo 3 (43)

Categories
Running Training

Out of My Hands

I’m what you might call the kind of person who likes to be in control. I like to make game plans. I like to set schedules. I like to analyze progress, meet milestones and prepare for every possible outcome so I’m never flying blind.

That’s why tapering for a marathon is so gosh darn difficult for me. After 20 weeks of dedicated training, the outcome of Sunday’s race is no longer in my control.

That’s right: whether or not I’m fast enough to break four hours again on the race course isn’t predicated on my mileage count this week, or how fast I do my strides tomorrow or even necessarily the weather come race day. The success of my 26.2-mile effort on Sunday is instead built on feats already come and gone: the seven road races I ran this summer, the brutal two-a-days I completed throughout the fall, the October 20-miler that took me around all of Manhattan, and the hundreds of other hours I’ve spent on my feet since starting this program in July.

race anne
I’m not blurry because I snagged this from a pay-to-download photo site, I swear-ish.

There’s something terrifying about the outcome of this race being already largely set in stone based on my actions over the last several months.

But there’s also something kind of freeing about it. In the words Lady Macbeth, for whom things always worked out well: what’s done is done.

Of course, while about 90 percent of my race day result has already been decided, there are still a few small areas where I have some control. I’m not sure any of these have the power to make up for the two 8-milers I skipped last week while I nursed a head cold, but I’ll take whatever edge I can get in these final few days. The areas this weekend where I can maybe still get a leg-up:

  • I can control my diet. I can’t undo the 16-ounce prime rib I ate on my birthday Tuesday or the wine I accepted over Monday night cake, but I can make sure the bulk of the calories I’m taking in today and tomorrow are starchy, sugary, glorious carbohydrates. Don’t mourn for me, protein eaters. From smoothies to pizza bagels to enough pasta to feed a small nation, I’m doing just fine.
  • I can control my sleep schedule. Maybe I can’t force when I’ll actually doze off, but it’s 7 p.m. on a Friday night and I’m already in my pajamas. The final days before a marathon, the best thing you can do is stay off your feet, and with my flannel sheets upstairs already calling my name, I don’t think this one will be a problem either.
  • I can control my anxiety. I’m sure I’ll have butterflies when I toe the starting line Sunday regardless, but there are small things I can do today to clear my mind for race day. I can set out all my racing clothes (and inclement-weather backups) for an inventory check. I can charge my Garmin. I can print my Amtrak tickets, study the course map and make plans with friends so I’m not juggling come race day. Most importantly, I can plan which cheesesteak to order after I round that corner and the art museum comes into view. Pat’s? Geno’s? Both?

Will I be disappointed if it turns out my last five months of training don’t yield the result I want in Philadelphia? Maybe. But thinking back on these last 20 weeks reminds me of just how much I’ve accomplished this training cycle, from winning a 10K to pushing my limits to running with friends. Even if I bomb the main event, I can honestly say this marathon cycle has been a success. In the words of someone more eloquent than Lady Macbeth and me:

The journey is the reward; the marathon is the victory lap.

Bring it, city of brotherly love. I’m ready for you.

Categories
Running Training

Ill Will

I’ve run my 20-miler. I’ve finished my final track workout. I’ve bought my train ticket, booked my hotel room and selected my outfit for the Philadelphia marathon. Only one more thing to check off my list before the big morning just 10 days away: catch a debilitating head cold.

Check.

That’s right, folks. With less than two weeks to go, I woke up Monday morning to clogged sinuses, plugged ears, a pounding headache and a throat so red it would have made Stalin blush. Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised: If history tells me anything, it’s that my immune system always gives up, without fail, the second I start tapering. It happened in 2012. It happened in 2013. And here we are in 2014, and I’m singlehandedly keeping the Sudafed family in business.

And the dog photography business.
I’m also keeping this model in business.

It’s downright miserable sitting at home feeling sick, but in terms of timing, I have to admit it couldn’t be better. No one is great at tapering – or paring back mileage to rest up for race day – and far too many runners push too hard in the final leg of training with mistaken hopes that they’ll be able to make up for lost time by logging a few extra workouts. Very little actual fitness is gained in the final few weeks of a marathon training program, and pushing too hard during the final countdown can leave you sluggish or worse, injured, when it comes time to lace up.

Luckily, there’s zero percent chance of that happening to me. You know why? Because all the things you’re supposed to do to taper are exactly the things you to do to treat a cold. For example to treat a cold you:

  • Take it easy. Done and done. I’ve run just three of the 28 miles I was supposed to log this week, which in and of itself is impressive considering I didn’t leave the apartment for a 48-hour block.
  • Fuel your healing body with nutrient-rich foods. From orange juice to chicken noodle soup, the foodstuff entering my system has been nothing but gold.
  • Avoid alcohol. Easy, unless you count the Robitussin I’ve been downing by the plastic dosing cup-full.

So there you have it. Although I’m achy and cold and all around miserable, I’m trying to appreciate the fact that this cold came at the best possible time in the scheme of things. If this thing persists into next week, I’ll start to get worried but assuming I keep taking care of myself in the days ahead, I should still be in working order come race day. And boy, will my legs be rested.

How is your taper going?