Categories
Races Running

All Fun and Games

I’ve signed up for road races for a lot of good reasons (and probably some bad ones): for the chance to PR, for the opportunity to tackle a new distance, for the sake of peer pressure, for a free tech tank and the promise of an epic bagel spread.

But funnily enough, I not sure I’ve ever signed up for a race for that most basic of human motivators: for fun.

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“Did someone say fun?”

Without meaning to, I somehow turned every race in the last six years into something calculable and serious — and always with a goal in mind. Originally, it was to lose weight. Then it was to get faster. Then it was to tackle 26.2 miles. Again and again and again. Oftentimes the races ended up being fun, but that was never the primary objective.

In racing, I always had a different target in mind, which isn’t necessarily a bad way to live, since it kept me motivated and accountable. But it didn’t allow for a lot of leeway. After meeting goal after goal for several seasons in a row, I erroneously came to believe I’d get faster forever, so when I had my first real terrible race, it was downright devastating.

With that win-or-don’t-try attitude, it’s no surprise that my last marathon was, well, my last one.

If I’m really honest with myself, that’s one of the reasons I’ve put racing on the backburner: I’m too busy with work and life and dog-ownership to run consistently, and as I get less and less fit, I know it would be too disappointing to attempt a race and come in at the bottom of the pack. I realize that’s not a very positive attitude, but I’m human.

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And part dog, most likely.

So I packed up my shoes after the NYC Half in March and barely ran a block for a month. I even heard a family member at Easter tell people I was “retired” and didn’t correct them.

But that next week while dusting my huge collection of race medals doing something normal, it hit me: while everyone in my life knows I’m a runner, not a single person knows — or cares about — my times. And while I may not like seeing my speed slow, I LOVE collecting race swag and high-fiving spectators and using my last ounce of oomph to sprint to the finish line. Slowing down shouldn’t mean giving up.

So I did something I’ve never done before: I signed up for a 5K with a friend exclusively for fun. And it was perfect. Instead of spending the whole time calculating my splits or weaving past the walkers, we spent a delightful 25 minutes and 59 seconds chatting and enjoying the Brooklyn scenery and not caring for one second (ok, maybe for one second) that I wasn’t going to beat my 23:58 PR. I was sweating and smiling and justifying the bagel I was about to inhale, and that was enough.

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CHAMPIONS! ish

Who knew running for fun could be so rewarding? (Especially when the rewards come in the form of ice-cream cones, like at this ice-cream social 10K happening in NYC in July.) Fun run, anyone?

Speaking of doing things just for fun, that’s probably a good practice to apply to other areas of your life, too. Bake a plum tart just for fun. Take an acro yoga class just for fun. Dress your dog in people clothes just for fun.

Or if you’re my friend from the road race, write a super impressive Nationals fight song just for fun. And maybe, dear readers, forward it to your friend who plays the baseball organ at the stadium just for fun. #letsmakedavyfamous

The world is a stinky place these days. Let’s all have more fun together. 

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Uncategorized

With a Ten-Foot Pole

There are few sports that elicit more awe in me than the parallel bars at the summer Olympics. As gymnasts combat gravity to fling themselves around the horizontal poles and through the air, it’s immediately clear how strong and flexible and coordinated they are, and no one would doubt for a second that they’re athletes.

So when a friend asked me to join her at a parallel-bar fitness class earlier this month, why did I find myself scoffing that it was hardly a sport?

Oh, that’s right: because these bars were vertical, not horizontal. Or let me put it another way: because this was a pole-dancing workout class. And pole-dancing — a practice many associate with seedy bars and dollar bills — sure didn’t sound like an athletic pastime to me.

My aching muscles the following day begged to differ, but we’ll get there.

For those of you not in the know, like me just a few short weeks ago, pole dancing comes in three forms: sexy (i.e. strippers), artsy (i.e. Cirque du Soleil) and sport (i.e. me!) Pole-dancing — or “pole” as die-hards call it — requires a dancer to support and control her own bodyweight while hanging from, climbing up or spinning around a metal support, and believe you me, it’s not as easy as it looks.

This isn’t the kind of workout I’d usually seek out, but I’m trying to exercise more socially to maximize the day’s short hours, so when a friend found a 2-pack Groupon in Koreatown, I couldn’t say no. We booked our sessions, donned our least sexy workout gear and showed up at Femme Body Fitness on a recent Friday evening for our first pole-dancing class.

And it was nearly my last: I stepped into the studio and came face-to-face with this wall of rentable stilettos, and almost hightailed it right out of there.

 

These aren’t Asics.

 

But the front-desk lady said those are for the more advanced classes and assured me socks or bare feet were fine. So I swallowed my pride, headed onto the dimly lit dance floor, snagged an empty spot as close to the corner as possible and started plotting the demise of my friend who talked me into this mess stretching.

The hour-long session was broken down into three sections: a mat-based warmup that was basically a mini yoga class, 40 minutes of learning and practicing different tricks (like jumping up and holding onto the pole with your thighs like a monkey, or spinning around with one leg up like a firefighter looking to impress) and a final “free-style” dance session with the overhead lights completely off and the disco ball on.

When I first heard we’d be ending with a dance party, I planned to duck out early — there was no way I’d be celebrating what I expected to be the most embarrassing workout of my life. But after nearly an hour of gripping and sweating and spinning — and even trying an inversion with the help of the instructor — I felt surprisingly confident. So I used the final song as a chance to try all my moves in sequence, and it was off-rhythm and messy and unpolished and … well … kind of fun.

 

Rogan’s a natural.

 

It was also a killer workout. I’ve been sore before, but my back and shoulders have never ached like they did the day after this workout class. Aerial fitness is no joke, even if this same studio teaches “twerking classes” on Tuesdays.

But you know what the best thing about the class was? It was full of women of all body types, and some of the curviest were hands-down the strongest. We get force fed this idea that skinny is fit, but watching these women of all shapes and sizes flip and spin and defy gravity in a way I couldn’t even comprehend was a welcome wake-up call: I can be strong even without six-pack abs.

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Hanging in there.

I don’t think I’ll be signing up for any more of these classes anytime soon, but I did go back for my second Groupon session, so I think I’ll call that a success in stepping (spinning?) out of my comfort zone.

Would you try pole dancing as a workout?

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Uncategorized

Surprise! It’s Bike to Work Day

Do you value your safety and personal well-being? No? Well then, have I got a holiday for you:

Today’s National Bike to Work Day!

Situated smack in the middle of National Bike to Work Month, today’s holiday is meant to raise awareness about the soaring numbers of bike commuters choosing to forgo the carpool or subway for their own two wheels — and living to tell the tale.

According to the League of American Bicyclists — which is consequently a super cool band name — 40 percent of all car trips in the U.S. are less than two miles long, meaning trading your classic combustion engine for a human-powered bike is a reasonable alternative. It’s emission-free, cheap and healthy, and swapping your car for a cycle ride from time to time can be a little way to make a big difference to both your fitness and the environment.

With all this in mind, I decided earlier this month to put my fears behind me and try my very first bike-to-work commute. And, believe you me, I learned some things in the process. If you’re thinking about joining the ranks of office-bound cyclists today, here are some helpful tips from someone who learned a few things the hard way:

  • Do a trial run. I didn’t get a lot of things about bike commuting right, but I DID have the foresight to practice on a Saturday to make sure the bike lanes connected where I thought they did. Turns out though Saturday mornings in Manhattan offer much emptier roads than weekday rush hour, so the trial run wasn’t a true stand-in, but at least I got a feel for it on a day I wasn’t racing in to punch the clock.
  • Wear bike-friendly clothing. The day you choose to bike to work is not a morning to test out your new pencil skirt. If you have a long commute and somewhere to shower/change, I’d recommend workout clothes. My commute was less than two miles, so I wore regular work pants and a t-shirt I could swap out for a more business-casual shirt in the newsroom bathroom. I probably should have packed wet-wipes, too, but I’m a gross colleague.
  • Choose a cycle-friendly bag. If you lug around as much stuff as I do (i.e. lunch, back-up shoes, seven pounds of stray Bernese Mountain Dog hair that somehow sticks to everything I own), you’ll want to swap our your normal purse for a cross-body bag or backpack that’s easy to wield on a cycle.
  • Roll up a pant leg. I don’t quite understand the science of this, but seems all the cool kids do it.
  • Wear a helmet. Even if your route has bike lanes, cars are going to be going out of their way to kill you, at least in my experience. Watch for both right turns into your lane and absent-minded drivers flinging open their doors into your path. Practice ringing your bike bell while simultaneously yelling “hey a$$hole, I’m biking here!”
  • Check the weather. I chose what I though was a beautiful morning to bike-commute to work for the first time. Turns out, I should have given this little cloud cover a little more thought.

It started pouring when I was halfway in, and I arrived at work semi-drenched — but at least I had a dry shirt in my bag. And I’m fortunate enough to have a secure indoor spot to store my bike, so I chose to leave it at work overnight and ride it home the next day when the storm had passed. So technically I biked only to work that day, not from it, but that’s what I call baby steps.

Speaking of baby steps, look who got brave enough to enter our (very scary!) back porch this past weekend … before leaping into my lap in terror at the sound of the wind blowing.

Baby steps.


Are you biking to work today?

Categories
Races

Lordy, Lordy: I Did 40

If someone told me they were planning to run a marathon with zero training save for a handful of 5Ks, I’d put the emergency room on speed dial ahead of their inevitable crash and burn.

So as I laced up Sunday for New York City’s 40-mile Five Boro Bike Tour — on training literally limited to cycling to an ice-cream shop to meet a friend in April — I was bracing for the worst.

“I’ll make it to Queens and then head home at the halfway mark,” I told myself. “There’s no shame in stopping early. Only a fool would try for 40 miles on about 6 miles — and one soft-serve — of total training.”

Did someone say soft serve?

That’s the funny thing about preparing for the worst: sometimes it doesn’t pan out. Or in other words: sometimes you finish the entire 40-mile tour, feel awesome doing it, and can’t remember for the life of you why you were so darned nervous in the first place.

We are the champions! Us and those other 39,996 people.

The Five Boro Bike Tour — not a race, as the organizers are sure to remind you — reminds me a lot of the NYC marathon: it leads you all around the city, it has spectacular views, and it forces you to go to Staten Island against your better judgment. But unlike the marathon, I finished Sunday’s event with zero pain and woke up Monday feeling fresh, not like my knees were going to crumble under me like I do after running 26.2 miles.

Seriously, if anyone had told me years ago biking doesn’t destroy your will to live like marathoning does, I would have traded in my Asics for a 21-speeder years ago.

Don’t get me wrong: biking events won’t totally replace running as my cardio of choice. But based on my limited experience, it does bring some key benefits:

  • It’s lower impact, meaning you hurt less afterwards.
  • You get a built-in rest on the down hills.
  • It’s kosher to ring a loud bell at jerks about to step in your path.
  • There’s no shame in carrying an entire backpack of food with you for the entire event, which doesn’t quite work when you’re traveling on foot.

Of course, everything has its cons. For the bike tour, it was mostly related to congestion: get 40,000 bikes on one course and you’re bound to come to a standstill once or twice or what felt like 37 times. As someone with a need for speed, I found this particularly frustrating.

Grumble grumble.

Still, it was all-in-all a positive experience, and a good reminder that while I feel like my fitness levels have long since plateaued, I still have some endurance in me. Huzzah!

Have you ever tried your hand at a new sport?

Categories
Races Running

A Most Violent Year

I was signed up for the Run10Feed10 10K race on the West Side Highway this morning, and if I’m completely honest, I knew as a crawled into bed at 8:30 p.m. there was already a slight chance I wouldn’t make it to the starting line.

There would have been lots of plausible excuses to justify skipping the event:

  1. The 7 a.m. race start on the far side of Manhattan meant I had to be up and ready to go by 5:30 a.m.
  2. The weather was forecast to be muggy and wet.
  3. My training schedule wanted me to run 8 miles so I was going to have to tack on two brutal extra post-race.
  4. My fiancé was at his bachelor party so I had the entire glorious bed to myself.
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Dramatic re-enactment.

Still, the night before I pinned on my bib, laid out my race gear, charged my watch and tucked myself in at an ungodly early hour, prepared to rise with the sun (or an hour before it, no big deal) and complete a fun race with world-famous swag that I’ve been looking forward to for weeks.

I was up at 5 a.m. and, like the Millennial I am, checked social media before my feet even touched the ground. And that’s when I saw it: a friend had posted that she’d been a block from the explosion and was alerting everyone that she was ok.

My mind started racing. What explosion? What had happened in my city between the hours I stopped looking at my phone Saturday night to when I awoke to my alarm Sunday morning? In this terrible 2016 where bad things never seem to stop, what was it this time?

I quickly found out, as you all now know too, that it was a homemade bomb that detonated on Saturday night in western Manhattan, injuring 29 and fortunately killing no one. A second device was located and removed several blocks away. This came on the heels of a different explosion along a racecourse of a 5K charity event in New Jersey earlier that day. I realize it’s what the people who commit these acts of violence want, but I can’t lie: These three events together had me wondering if I should really be leaving the relative safety of my Queens apartment and heading toward the direction of the previous night’s horror. It was only 5:30 in the morning, but I was already spooked. Terror, 1; Anne, 0.

I nervously messaged a runner friend who was racing the much more impressive Marathon Tune-Up in Central Park that morning, and she said she wasn’t backing out. In fact, the New York Road Runners, who put on that grueling 18-mile event, had already put a notice on their website overnight announcing the race was still on and that security would be on high alert. As much as I lambaste the Road Runners for their crowded race courses, they certainly know how to calm their runners’ nerves in challenging times.

But I wasn’t running that race. I was running a race put on by … Macy’s and Women’s Health magazine? And my event’s organizers didn’t feel the need to reach out to participants to let them know if the previous night’s events – which transpired just a neighborhood away from the race start – meant anything had changed. Like was the race still on? Were they canceling bag check? Were trains and buses to the starting line still operating? Would there still be powerbars at the finish line or had the terrorists ruined snack time, too?

I went to the Run10Feed10 website – and found nothing. I checked to see if they’d e-mailed race participants – and saw nothing. I took my questions to Twitter – nothing.

At this point, it wasn’t so much fear of further acts of violence so much as fear that I’d travel all the way to Pier 84 to find out the race had been delayed or postponed and no one bothered telling me. I didn’t need coddling post-explosion but I needed information, and I didn’t feel like the race organizers were giving it. So I did something I’ve only done once before – I untied my running shoes and crawled back into bed. In today’s race, I wasn’t even a DNF. I was a DNS. #shame

When I awoke again at 8 a.m., I saw that the race had, in fact, gone off without a hitch, and later saw the organizers did finally announce on Twitter 39 minutes before the starting gun that the race was still on – thought that wouldn’t have been enough time for me or hundreds of other Long Island runners to make it in. Hear, hear, Jess PhD!

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So instead of vying for a new PR today, I slept in, made some coffee, ate breakfast, and turned on the news: where I immediately encountered a former FBI agent telling New Yorkers the best way they could respond to the explosion was to keep living their lives: whether that’s going to a movie, walking the dog or going for a run. Alright, TV man, I said: I won’t hide out here all day.

So I laced back up – number and all – and went out for my 8 miles.

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And they were glorious, humidity and all. You know why? Because this city is glorious, and its running paths are glorious, and its water fountains are glorious and its resilience is glorious. I may not have made it to my 10K race today, but not because I’m giving in. We New Yorkers never give in.

How did you celebrate NYC this morning?

 

Categories
Running Training

Joining the Mile High Club (Well, Kind Of)

New York City may a hotbed of chic, on-trend fitness classes, but you’d be hard pressed to find me at any of them. While the masses may be flocking to SoulCycle or FlyWheel or some other combination of two fancy words without a space, I’ve largely avoided them, and for plenty of reasons:

  • These classes tend to be full of beautiful, flexible people in swanky outfits and I spend all 55 minutes unhealthily comparing myself to them
  • The flashing lights and electronica dance music are hellish on my country-western-trained ears
  • The idea of spending $30+ for a single class seems obscene to me when I already have A) a monthly gym membership and B) two legs that can run for free

That said, every now and then I stumble across a promo code for a free class, and usually my experience goes a little something like this: 1. I attend for free because who doesn’t like free things, 2. I suffer through an excoriating workout, and 3. I ultimately solidify my belief that everything I thought was terrible about chichi NYC studios is, in fact, terrible.

So that’s exactly what I expected to happen at Mile High Run Club last week when I signed up for a free group workout using the promo code RUNRIGHT, which may or may not still be usable (good luck). For those of you unfamiliar, Mile High Run Club is a treadmill-based running class where dozens of runners, all facing the same direction, work their way through intervals of speed work and hill training from the comfort of their own machine. In case that doesn’t sound elegant enough to you, I’ll note that the studios, located in annoying named neighborhoods NOHO and NOMAD, sport Ionized Kangen water filling stations or bottles of water for sale. Hello, fancy.

I signed up with two friends to HIGH 45, an endurance class that said it was good for any skill level. We booked treadmills in the very back in hopes that we wouldn’t be seen as we suffered through, changed into our gear in a comically small locker room and prepared for the worst.

But the worst never came.

In fact, this group workout class was downright delightful. Ohmygod, who have I become? (Someone who wants this shirt, that’s who.)

The thing that makes this workout so great is that everyone sets their own treadmill speeds based on their perceived levels of “easy” and “hard.” Unlike in other workout classes, where it’s obvious to the whole room if you can’t do a shoulder stand, here everyone is really, truly free to go at their own speed. Between hard sessions, some of us slowed to a jog and others came down to a walk, and the room wasn’t dripping with judgment as a result. I also liked that 1. It forced me to do speedwork I might not otherwise want to do, 2. I never got to a point that I felt like giving up because I couldn’t do it and 3. The instructor, Scott, didn’t shy away from the country music. Yeehaw.

I also liked that my friends and I went out for a class of wine afterwards under the Flatioron Building, but I’m not sure that’s mandatory practice.

Heck, I’m even playing with the idea of buying a 5-class series for the weeks leading up to the Bronx 10-miler. I know I could do free speed work at my home gym instead, but I’m much more likely to actually do it if I’ve paid $26 a class to attend. I guess that’s the same argument SoulCyclers use to justify their addiction. Ah well: call me converted.

Have you tried a group treadmill class?

Categories
Races Running

Exorcising (Exercising?) My Demons

I’ve reached an age* where nearly everything can make me cry.

*Just kidding, I’ve always been like this.

Seriously though, it doesn’t matter whether the event is big or small, happy or sad. Practically any wave of emotion will turn on the waterworks, and the variety of experiences that can set me off is downright embarrassing. Saying goodbye to my brother and sister-in-law as they left for their deployment. Dropping my sandwich. Asking my best friends to be bridesmaids. That sappy Christmas commercial where a man ties an engagement ring to a puppy’s collar. Finishing a good book. The final scene of While You Were Sleeping. Every dog I’ve ever met that I can’t keep.

Aloha.
Aloha.

In November, I experienced something new that could bring me to tears: an utterly disappointing performance at the New York City Marathon. I crossed that finish line on Nov. 1 in involuntary sobs after missing my goal time by more than 25 minutes, and vowed right then and there to never put myself in that situation again. I was never again going to put so much weight on the outcome of a single event that it left me shattered. I was never again going to let my emotions get the best of me on the race course. I was never again going to have a run leave me crying at the finish line.

Me. Crying. But also smiling. It's like when it rains and the sun's out.
Me crying post-marathon. (But also smiling. It’s like when it rains and the sun’s out.)

Turns out, that was a promise I couldn’t keep. Today, I ran the NYC Half Marathon – my first race since that god-forsaken marathon – and as I crossed the finish line, my face contorted into uncontrollable sobs once more. But this time it wasn’t due to disappointment.

It was because I FREAKING KNOCKED IT OUT OF THE PARK.

HEAT-SHEETED LIKE A CHAMPION!
HEAT-SHEETED LIKE A CHAMPION!

That’s right, folks: today, I shaved almost 2 minutes off my half marathon PR, felt strong all race long, smiled ear to ear for 13.1 miles straight and, most importantly, finally feel like the ghost of my 26.2 mile slog in November is behind me.

Why was it such a good race, freezing cold (but not snowy!) start and all? Lots of reasons: the first 6 miles were in my home park, so I knew exactly how to tackle those hills; miles 7-8 took us through the closed-down streets of Times Square, a neighborhood I’d never visit willingly but is pretty great when you’re barreling through it; miles 9-13 were straight down the wide, flat West Side Highway with a welcome tailwind at our backs, and, most importantly, I knew the sooner I finished, the sooner I could head home and warm up.

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And drink all the liquids my lovely fiance left for me. Swoon.

But above all, the best part of the day was approaching mile 11, doing the math, and realizing I could beat my previous PR of 1:49.12 if I could just maintain pace for two more miles without losing steam. During the last two miles of November’s marathon, I could hardly lift my legs, but today, maintaining didn’t seem so challenging. In fact, I felt so good, I actually picked up the pace.

Those last two miles of today’s race, I found myself getting faster and faster, with more fuel left in the tank than I’d ever expected. As I tore through the Battery Park Underpass, took the final corners and sprinted my way toward the finish line, I knew I made the right decision not throwing in the racing towel after the marathon like I was tempted to. I was reminded just how great a great race feels, and that’s a feeling I didn’t know if I’d ever feel again. And that level of emotion, well, brought tears to my eyes.

Thank you, New York City Half – I feel redeemed.

How did your race go?

Categories
Running

“Wendy, Michael, John! Tinkerbelle, c’mon!”

If you were to ask me why I run, I could give you any number of predictable and entirely true answers.

  • I run because it helps keep my weight in check.
  • I run because it allows me to work through my anxiety in a healthy way.
  • I run because it grants me precious alone time in an otherwise bumbling metropolis.
  • I run because it gives me the feeling of control when life can be at times overwhelming.
  • I run because they sometimes give out free bagels at the end.

I imagine if you ask any runner in the world that question, they would spout off some combination of this same answer: we run because it helps keep our physical and mental selves in balance. Certainly if I were to tell you that’s why I run, I would be telling you the truth – at least, 95% of it.

The other 5% of the reason I run is something entirely different. I don’t know if this is a universal runner thing, like our love of bagels, or if – as I suspect – this is something a little more unique to me. It’s not something I share regularly, because it all sounds a little whimsical and childish, but I’ll go ahead and lay it out there anyways:

I run because every now and then, when the conditions are just right, running can feel like flying.

Now, I’ve wanted to fly ever since I was a two year old in tights mouthing every word to Mary Martin’s Peter Pan. I was captivated with the idea of weightlessness, dreamt about it constantly, and scraped many a knee jumping off staircases and out windows during Ronald Reagan’s second term. It was only my love of all things Neverland that persuaded me to keep a pixie cut for several Olympic Games past the time period where it was socially acceptable.

Luckily, I'll still cute here. I wasn't as a third grader.
Luckily, I’ll still cute here. I wasn’t as a third grader.
As I grew older, my desire to fly diminished, largely driven by an intense fear of heights solidified at years of summer camps ropes courses.  I had become a regular Peter Banning – afraid of heights and carrying a giant flip phone – and thought flying had been taken off my bucket list once and for all.

And then I became a runner, and all that changed. Now don’t get me wrong – not every run gives me the feeling of flying. In fact, only a small percentage do, and even then, it’s never for the entire workout. The conditions have to be perfect – I’m warmed up but not tired, the weather is just right, my gait feels long, my feet feel light – and then, if I’m lucky, I’ll experience it. Every now and then, when all those stars align, it feels for a few magic strides like I’m soaring. I felt it during the NYC Marathon this past November as I entered the streets of Brooklyn. I felt it during my last Central Park race as I rounded the curve by the Central Park Zoo. I felt it during today’s 10-miler in Riverside Park where the path curves and there’s a garden – which, consequently, is also where Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks get together in their third (and best) feature length film together.

Sometimes whole months go by and I never get that feeling – I may be too out of shape, or too tired, or too distracted – but on those rare occasions it hits, the feeling of flying in my running shoes is even more uplifting than pixie dust. I can only describe it as feeling like you’re in the exact right place at the exact right time, and it’s at least 5% of what keeps me coming back to this sport again and again.

Does anyone else ever feel on top of the world – or even hovering slightly above it – when a segment of a run feels just perfectly right?

Categories
Uncategorized

Clickbait: My Former Boyfriend

There’s an old adage made popular by both Woody Allen and my father that if you want to make God laugh, you tell him your plans.

I’m a strong believer that the big guy is also a fan of low-grade puns – “How does Moses make his coffee? Hebrews it.” – but I digress.

It’s true though: You can plan, prime and plot all you want, but when it comes time to put said preparations into practice (Editor’s Note: This sentence brought to you by the letter P), the outcome is often out of our hands. A few examples:

  • You plan to run a sub-4:00 marathon, but race day leaves you winded and you end up crossing the finish line at 4:15 instead.
  • You plan to order the fall beet salad, but when everyone around you orders the burger, you cave – and add bacon to boot.
  • You plan to spend the afternoon of your 30th birthday relaxing at home writing a blog post about how transformative your 20s were, but it turns out your boyfriend* had his own plans to get down on one knee in the Garden Court at the Frick, ask you to marry him, and spend the next two hours driving around town in a limousine drinking champagne and calling your friends and family to tell them the big news.

*fiancé

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We forgot to take any photos inside the limo except this close-up of our hands, our bubbly and my lap. Just call me Annie Leibovitz.

I’m usually the kind of person who lives and breathes by my google calendar, and a disruption of my well-planned out day was once enough to throw me into a tizzy. But if Wednesday taught me anything, it’s that stepping out of preparation mode and letting someone else do the planning is not only freeing – it can be downright magical.

Of course, while I wasn’t involved in the planning of Wednesday’s surprise engagement, that doesn’t mean I’m off off the hook when it comes to the next stage of planning, i.e. the wedding. We have an awful lot to figure out — venue, date, whether gathering all 25 of my first cousins in one room will make it explode with Irishness — but we’re not worried about it all yet. We’ve decided to enjoy the holiday season and not begin wedding planning in earnest until the New Year. With so many other things on the calendar in the weeks ahead — a celebration of my grandfather’s very long life, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years — waiting until January to think about colors and flowers is a plan I can get behind.

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Celebrating our engagement at Monkey Bar. It’s going to take me a few days to remember the ring is supposed to be in the photo, too.
Categories
Running Training

Making Time

When people ask me how I make time for marathon training between my 12-hour workdays, active social life and inconvenient need to sleep, I usually tell them what more experienced athletes have told me:

“We make time for the things that are important to us.”

As I’ve already preached on these very pages, it’s simply impossible to have it all during peak marathon training, and some tier-two interests – in my case: television, mid-week happy hours, recipes with more than three ingredients – have been temporarily relegated to the backburner as I focus on the more important things in my life. Indeed, if you’d asked me earlier this summer how I’m able to fit it all in, I would have told you things like:

  • set your priorities and be willing to give up some small-scale time-guzzlers (good-bye Food Network marathons)
  • master the art of social fitness (hello long runs with friends)
  • be kind to yourself trainingwise when you fall off the wagon (and/or drown fording the river. Seriously, what were you doing on a wagon?)

You’re going to have to make some changes,” I would have told you. “But don’t worry. We make time for the things that are important to us.

That’s what I would have told you.

I would have been lying. Or at least not telling you the entire truth.

Now, I’m not saying the above lifestyle tweaks aren’t essential in marathon training; they unquestionably are. Resetting your priorities so you choose an evening tempo run over a midtown open bar is a crucial first step to reaching all 26.2 of your goals this marathon season. But these kinds of lifestyle tweaks – scheduling, prioritizing, multitasking – will only get you part of the way there, and pretending they’re enough to push you through to the finish line is doing us all a disservice because it leaves us feeling inadequate when the rest of us can’t, in fact, squeeze in all our top-tier priorities.

“Making time for the things that are important” only works if your list of important things is very brief indeed: running, eating, sleeping, a spattering of friends. On top of that, I’ve even managed to fit in a weekly date night, a phone call with my sister and the occasional weekend brunch. Looks like I’m winning.

But you know what hasn’t made the cut? A lot of other things that are also very important to me. Reading books. Cross-training. Sleeping more than 6.5 hours a night. Shopping at the farmer’s market. Baking. Spending more than 90 minutes a workweek with my boyfriend. Blogging well, as evidenced by my latest post. Sorry if it felt like it was written on 4 hours of sleep. It was.

Also gone? Some less tangible features I once enjoyed. The ability to be spontaneous. That wonderful feeling where you wake up in the morning refreshed. Getting to answer the question: “What’d you do this weekend?” with a big ‘ol: “Nothing.”

If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you know this is the point where I usually like to step back, offer a solution to my conundrum and make some kind of broad-sweeping resolution to myself so each entry ends on a conclusive note. I’m not feeling strong enough? I resolve to start lifting! I’m not racing fast enough? I resolve to do more speed work! I’m not blogging creatively enough? I resolve to include more complex camera angles in all future goldendoodle graphics.

Objects in the mirror are slobberier than they appear.
Objects in the mirror are slobberier than they appear.

But the truth is, I don’t have a solution. Until at least November 3, my training is going to keep being intense, my workdays are going to keep being long and my social calendar is going to keep being double-booked. But maybe it’s that one glossed-over phrase – “until at least November 3” – that’s crucial here. Maybe there isn’t actually a solution to this feeling of being in pulled in too many directions other than good old time herself. Maybe waiting it out is the only answer.

As Solomon or English poet Edward Fitzgerald or Abraham Lincoln (make up your mind, Wikipedia) once said, “This too shall pass.” Or as Avenue Q (consequently Lincoln’s favorite play after Our American Cousin) puts it:

Nothing lasts
Life goes on
Full of surprises.
You’ll be faced with problems of all shapes and sizes.
You’re going to have to make a few compromises…
For now.
But only for now.

 

Ten weeks until the marathon. And go.

Runners, how do you make time for the important stuff when there’s too much important stuff and not enough time?