Races Recipes

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

Note from the real RiledUpRunner:

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

Cool hipster glasses, bro.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Races Running Training

Raring to Go

If you’ve asked me any time in the past few weeks whether I’m excited about tomorrow’s marathon, I probably told you no. I may have said I’m not excited because of my recurring shin pain, or I’m not excited because I doubt I’ll finish in under 4 hours, or I’m not excited because I’ve been training for too damn long, or I’m not excited because – let’s be honest — it’s not the epic November 2015 event that I’m most excited about this month. This is:

Yes, they’re invitation magnets. No, the three of us aren’t engaged. Though we probably should be. Sorry, Keirnan.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been decidedly not excited for anything related to this road race save for the prospect of it being over. But then something started to change, and in such small, incremental ways that I hardly noticed it at first.

  • I stepped out onto 1st Avenue to discover they’d hung the infamous Marathon Route banners on the lampposts, and it made me smile.
Photo courtesy of Leigh-Anns instagam because I forgot to take one myself.
Photo courtesy of Leigh-Ann’s instagam because I forgot to take one myself.
  • I went to an early birthday dinner with my cousin slash bestie who pointed out how much I’ve changed from the beginning of my 20s to the end of them, and it made me proud that I’m capping off this defining decade with a marathon.

Wine = my pre-race beverage of choice.

  • I popped into the race expo to pick up my bib, and when the volunteer working the 20,000-25,000 booth wished me luck this Sunday, it for the first time hit me that this elusive event that’s been on my calendar for SO DARN LONG is finally here.


  • I treated myself to a pair of awesome stained glass inspired leggings at said expo, and for the first time in ages, it made me want to get outside and run in them. Not ‘til after the race, of course; no new leggings on race day, as amazing as they may be.

IMG_0017 (1)

  • I woke up to discover good luck flowers from my supportive boyfriend and a note wishing me luck this weekend, which is the sweetest, considering he’s been forced to wake up to my 5:30 a.m. running alarm all summer long, too.

  • I stopped by the marathon pavilion at the site of the finish line yesterday to hear my physical therapist friend Leigh-Ann give an awesome presentation on post-race recovery, which made me super excited about that BLT I already know I’m going to eat in my ice bath in exactly 31 hours.

All of these events – plus the well wishes flowing in from friends and family in e-mails, texts and cards – would have probably been enough to successfully propel me out of my funk and get me excited about the fast-approaching big day. But just in case I needed one more thing to get me excited about tomorrow’s 26.2-mile event, guess who else I met at the marathon pavilion yesterday.

❤ ❤ ❤

For those of you who don’t know (shame!), this is Meb Keflezighi, an Olympic silver medalist, the winner of the 2009 New York City Marathon, and — famously — the winner of the 2014 Boston Marathon one year after the bombing when it felt so symbolic that an American distance runner took home the title for the first time in more than 30 years. He’s a hero of mine, and hearing him wish me luck out there (and asking me not to beat him if I can help it — oh Meb, you jokester, you) got me more pumped than I ever could have imagined.

It may have taken me several months to feel this way, but now that the butterflies are here in my stomach, I don’t think they’re going anywhere until I step onto the Verrazzano Bridge in 24 short hours. The goal now is to get myself calm enough that I can sleep through the night, hold down some breakfast, and make it to the ferry on time.

After that, it’s all up to my legs. See you in Central Park, folks.


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?


The Final Word

I’m an editor by trade, so I spend a lot of time thinking about word choice.

In my professional life, the word I’ve been thinking the most about is but.

(No, not butts, but ask me again after I see Magic Mike XXL this weekend. What up, homonym joke!)

Somewhere along my career development, the word “but” started slipping into more and more of my conversations and e-mails, and I know why — because it seems like a way to soften bad news with a sympathetic acknowledgement that it’s not what they wanted to hear. “I know you needed this by today, but it’s unfortunately not going to be ready.” “This is a good start, but you need to do some more work.” “I respect you having your own style, but we wear pants in the workplace.”

(Unless you’re Channing Tatum in the aforementioned highly anticipated movie sequel, in which case, proceed.)

I had thought my use of the word was doing everyone a favor, until a colleague in a leadership training class suggested something that had never before crossed my mind: Try replacing “but” with “and” to make statements more direct and positive.

It sounded crazy. But I decided to give it a try the next time I went to write an e-mail, and sure thing, once I got over the initial hesitation, it made so much sense.

“It’s clear you put a lot of work into this story, but let’s work on it some more” vs. “It’s clear you put a lot of work into this story, and let’s work on it some more” is like night and day when it comes out of your boss’s mouth. I may not catch myself 100% of the time, but and when I do, I know it’s worthwhile.

Why am I sharing this professional anecdote on my running blog, you ask? Because now that I’ve explained the power of word choice, I want to alert all my athlete friends to another word I’d like worked out of our communal fitness lexicon:


Why should “should” be banned? Let me use it in a sentence for you:

“I can’t hang out tonight. I should go for a run.”

Also bad: “have to,” “got to,” and “man cave.” That last one has nothing to do with running; I just hate it.

That sentence — variations of which I say on a near daily basis — implies that working out is a chore. And sure, some days it feels like it, but for the most part, I train for marathons because I LIKE training for marathons. There’s nothing “should” about it.

That fact became particularly clear to me this past weekend when I ran the 2015 Achilles Hope and Possibility 5-miler in Central Park. This race, sponsored by amazing non-profit Achilles International, is a chance for athletes with disabilities to race alongside able-bodied athletes in a celebration of the sport. When I lined up Sunday, I was surrounded by all sorts of athletes: amputees wearing Pistorius-style racing blades, wheelchair participants, autistic teenagers, blind runners with guides. Normally as I jostle my way through a crowded field, I find myself overcome with rage as other entrants block my way, but on Sunday, I found myself overcome instead with pride watching so many different athletes of different abilities come out on a drizzling, gray morning to run.

photo 2

As I logged mile after mile with these extraordinary athletes, it became increasingly clear to me that my go-to word choice is all wrong. It’s not that I’m going for a run tonight because I SHOULD. I’m going for a run tonight because I want to. More than that, I’m going for a run tonight because I can.

So next time I turn down plans for a workout, I’m going to try to get my lexicon in check. No more “I can’t hang out tonight. I should go for a run.” Here on out, expect to hear these just-so-slightly different words out of mouth:

“I can’t hang out tonight. I get to go for a run.”

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

photo 1

Running Training

Six Days a Week

A lot of good things come in sixes: players on a hockey team, muffins in a muffin tin, geese-a-laying, beer. Six is the motivation behind everyone’s ab workout, the number of good Star Wars films once December rolls around and the roll in obscure 1980s board game Race to the Roof that lets you pull an object card and potentially take home the gold.

I hope it's the top hat! Alternate caption: my friends and I are really cool on vacation.
“I hope it’s the top hat!” Alternate caption: my friends and I are really cool on vacation.

One area the number six shouldn’t have a place? The number of running workouts I do a week. Or in other words, my marathon training plan currently has me running a whopping six out of seven days a week, and, my god, I’m. So. Tired.

I’m a runner (clearly, welcome to this blog), so I know my training schedules are going to have me, well, running quite a bit. But given the choice, I prefer schedules with a more reasonable 4-5 days of required running a week. Fewer days pounding the pavement means more time for other cross training activities, like yoga and stretching and sleep, plus it makes every morning jog feel like a gift, rather than a chore.

Which is why my signing myself up to follow Hal Higdon’s “personal best” marathon training plan for the fall 2015 racing season may have been a foolish idea. And by may have been, I mean was definitely a foolish idea. Because I still have 18 weeks of training ahead of me, and I never want to see my Asics again.

According to my pal Hal, the plan was intended for experienced runners who have completed two or three marathons and would like to PR. He was practically pointing at me. The schedule is actually a combination of his 12-week Intermediate Spring Training Program with his 18-week Intermediate 1 Marathon Training Program, meaning the first half is intended to get runners in speedy, light racing shape with hill workouts and interval training, while the second half builds the necessary mileage to complete a grueling 26.2. I didn’t even do the first six or seven weeks since I only started this after the Brooklyn Half, and even these past five weeks of six-day-a-week runs have taken their toll.

How so, you ask? Well, yesterday I only did 4 miles instead of the scheduled 6. And today I’m planning on doing the unthinkable: I’m planning to skip my scheduled run altogether. Usually, I don’t lose my drive like that until tapering, or at least until the day after I eat a really big meal.

Nom nom nom.

At six days a week, I’m about ready to 86 running altogether. Luckily, this upcoming Monday is going to bring a welcome reprieve: the start of Part 2 of the training plan, which replaces my Monday run with a day of cross training. I’m hoping that by scaling down to five runs a week, plus taking off a few buffer days off in the interim, will be just the kickstart I need to get excited about training again.

That, or the next 18 weeks will be torture. Here’s hoping for the former.

How do you keep motivated when you’ve — quite literally, to quote Chris Traeger — run out of motivation?


Nine Months

I’m considering making a monumental decision that will overhaul my lifestyle, change my eating/sleeping habits and have a major physical impact on my body for the next nine months.

No, I’m not talking about having a baby. (Sorry Mom and Dad. Your granddoodle is going to have to hold down the fort for the time being.)

"I'm not all that happy about it, either."
“I’m not all that happy about it, either.”

I’m talking about running the New York City marathon.

Last year at this time, I was all gung-ho about the prospect of running this iconic five-borough road race a second time. After crossing that finish line in 2013, I pledged to run nine local races and volunteer at one in 2014 to gain my guaranteed spot in the 2015 event — and I did it. By clocking those 4M, 5M and 10Ks all year long, I gained myself a coveted lottery-free golden ticket into this year’s November event.

marathon 9.1

But now that it’s actually time to fill out that (not cheap) registration form, I’m starting to get cold feet. Do I really want to dedicate 30-40 hours a week to marathon training again this summer? Can I mentally withstand another season of pre-dawn workouts? Do I want to subject myself to the pain and torture that is the 59th Street bridge incline? Is it better to take a year off big races and focus on the shorter distances I know and love?

A big part of me says yes, but part of me is brimming with all sorts of different questions as well.

Will the crowds be deep and deafening again this year? Will the view from the Verrazzano Bridge take my breath away? Will a goal this big encourage me to get back in shape? Will Meb be running in the same exact road race? Will I treat myself to a giant BLT platter after I cross that finish line?

I only have until Feb. 15 to decide, and I could use your input. My head is leaning in one direction, but my heart is leaning in another. Maybe I just need to listen to my gut — which has certainly expanded in the months since I ended my last marathon cycle.


In the edited words of my favorite Alderaan princess: help me [blog readers], you’re my only hope!

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.

photo 3 (46)

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

photo 2 (53)

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.

photo 1 (57)

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?


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.


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.

photo 2 (51)

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)


The Heat Is On

If you looked up to DJ Tanner as much as I did circa 1992, you know that doing something just because everyone else is doing it can never end well. Case in point: you shouldn’t cut school just because everyone else is doing it. You shouldn’t stairmaster until you faint just because everyone else is doing it. You shouldn’t execute a Chinese fire drill in Kimmy Gibbler’s sweet ride on a San Francisco incline just because everyone else is doing it.

The lessons of my childhood continue to offer sound advice today. I shouldn’t skip a workout just because everyone else is skipping it. I shouldn’t drink tequila just because everyone else is drinking it. I shouldn’t get a haircut just because everyone else is getting it.

Yes I should.

So why, oh why, when I see other runners bundling head to toe to counter this week’s inaugural fall weather do I get the urge to jump on the bandwagon and do exactly the same thing, even though I know I’m a much more hot-blooded runner than 98 percent of the population? Because DJ Tanner taught me nothing, apparently. And because I’m a glutton for sweaty, blistering, uncomfortable punishment.

If you ran Central Park this morning as the temperatures grazed 40 degrees for the first time, you probably saw hundreds of exercisers in layers and sweats and gloves and caps and Tauntauns trying to stave off the early chill. And I can understand why. After a positively balmy October to date (if only there were some science to explain this strange rise in temperatures…), waking to an honest-to-god autumn climate probably shocked some runners into hauling out their winter gear.

Heck, even Runner’s World’s interactive “what to wear” guide suggested I don tights, gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, a light jacket and a winter cap for today’s 5-mile easy run in 40-degree air. They even drew a picture.

Why yes, I DO have a ponytail, you smart machine, you.
Why yes, I DO have a ponytail, you brilliant machine, you.

I didn’t go that far, but I did trade in my usual shorts for long pants and layer a compression Under Armour jacket over my tank.

And my god, I was miserable. Sure, the first five minutes were toasty warm and a nice counter to the 5:50 a.m. chill. But by the time I got to the park, I had practically sweated through my winter gear, making my two loops of the reservoir hot, stuffy and uncomfortable indeed. After 2.5 marathon training cycles and thousands of miles on my feet, I know that I prefer to run in too little clothing than too much. So why did I choose to bulk up just because everyone else was doing it?

Luckily, today’s unpleasantness only lasted 45 minutes, but it’s a good lesson as the marathon fast approaches. On Nov. 23, I need to remember not to overdress just because everyone else is doing. I need to remember not to start out sprinting just because everyone else is doing it. I need to remember not to skip the water stations just because everyone else is doing it.

In short, I need to run my marathon, not anybody else’s. If I can do that, I know I’ll make Uncle Jesse proud.

What are you targeting as your fall marathon nears?

Running Training

Slim Chance

I recently mentioned to my boyfriend that I was aiming to lose a few pounds to get down to racing weight before the Philadelphia Marathon on November 23.

“Well, that’s pretty inevitable, isn’t it?” he said. “How can you train for a marathon and not lose weight?

Oh Ben, you beautiful, naïve, sophisticated newborn baby.

Weight loss during marathon training is about as likely as getting your niece to return your phone calls after forcing her to complete the #icebucketchallenge against her will.

dog goggles
Hashbrown: plotting revenge.

But how’s that possible? Weight loss during marathon training is supposed to be easy. Like taking candy from babies. And interviewing central bank governors.

Spoiler alert: I did one of those things today. Next goal: Taking candy from a central bank governor.

It may seem unlikely that upping your mileage so dramatically in the months leading up to a marathon doesn’t give you free reign to snack with abandon or always have dessert or order the porterhouse for two for one.

Who’s to blame for this sad reality? Math. Blame math.

Let’s break it down. Running upwards of 40 miles a week burns about 4,000 calories every seven days, which averages out to about 571.4 extra calories you can consume a day — but that’s only if you’re trying to maintain your current weight.

Since it takes cutting out 3,500 calories a week to lose a pound, that means you can only eat an additional 500 calories a week during marathon training if you’re trying to slim down before race day. Five hundred calories a week divided by seven days, and that’s 71 extra calories a day – or the equivalent a smallish apple NOT dipped in peanut butter. (Gross.) Or half a Bud Light. Or one solitary lick of this New England lobster roll.

photo 1 (53)
I still can’t believe they asked if we wanted butter.

Trying not to overeat is always hard, but curbing your calorie intake after running seven miles before work? Downright impossible. Which is why, despite my best intentions, I had a chocolate croissant for breakfast today and why, despite valuing my intestinal health, ate at a $9 all-you-can-eat Indian buffet for lunch. Good thing Ben’s out of town.

I know I wanted to shed a few pounds between now and November, but marathon training is hard enough as it is — physically, socially, emotionally — that I just don’t have it in me to also count calories so closely. Sure, I’ll try during the next 11 weeks of training to maintain my regular healthy eating habits (five fruits/veggies a day, cooking at home, only putting ice cream on my cereal on the weekends), but if I go over my daily count, I’m not going to beat myself up.

I’m going to have my 71-calorie apple every day — and I’m going to dip it in peanut butter.

Have you ever lost weight during training?