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?


Country Living

I think “adulting” is a silly concept, but even I’ll admit I’ve done a lot of really grown up things these past 12 months. I got engaged. I bought renters insurance. I learned de-scaling a coffee maker is a thing and I did it — once — but hey, it’s a start.

And yesterday, I did the most adult thing I could possibly imagine: my fiancé and I bought a house.

The place, a two-bedroom charmer in the Hudson Valley, is everything we’d been looking for: close enough to a train that we could in theory commute to work, small enough that renovations hopefully won’t cost an arm and a leg, old enough that Martin Van Buren — the eighth president of the United States for you non-American readers  — could have popped in for a cup of tea during the final days of his term. (I didn’t say it was a new house.)  We closed Friday afternoon, treated ourselves to a diner dinner and a grocery store run (my Friday nights as a 30 year old > my Friday nights as a 20 year old, just saying), and then passed out on an air mattress in what will eventually be our dining room.

And today, we set about getting to know our new community. Now, some people would do that by window shopping along the main street (which we’ll do), or by exploring the historical sites (which we’ll do) or by frequenting the neighborhood bar (which we’ll definitely do.) But for those of you who like me never go anywhere without your running shoes, we know the very best way to explore a new city is to get out there on foot. So pouring rain and all, I laced up this morning and hit the pavement to get to know my new town.

I had five race-pace miles on my running schedule, and I initially thought I’d do an out and back along the main drive just to get a feel for the geography. But a little googling had told me there was a 5K race happening at the local high school this morning, so I decided to jog in that direction just in case. I got there — soaked to the bone, mind you — five minutes before the race was scheduled to start, and on an impulse, I registered. Besides, the money went to a good cause.

The turn-out was slim, as you’d expect on such a dreary day, but the energy was palpable among the crowd of neighbors. We lined up at the starting line, exchanged pleasantries about how we’d probably all look like prunes forever, and then we were off. The cross-country course, mostly on grass fields and paths, took us around the high school, around the middle school, and through the neighborhoods that I may eventually come to know well. With such a small field of runners, I spent part of my first mile in the elusive front position, but since I was struggling to find and follow the spray-painted arrows, I gladly relinquished top spot and instead followed on the heals of another runner who seemed to have at least an idea of where he was going.

We wove our way around the waterlogged course at a pretty modest clip, trying not to twist our ankles on the slippery leaves. I wasn’t pushing at my fastest pace, but I still noticed as I neared mile 3 that there wasn’t another female runner in sight. I’ve placed in local races before as first in my age group, but never as first female runner overall. As I rounded the final lap, I realized I was going to take home the gold. And by gold, I mean a stuffed lemur (did I mention it was a lemur themed race?) and a sweet engraved medal. I’ll take it!

Winner, winner, chicken dinner. (Why is that a thing people say? And where do I collect my chicken dinner?)
Now, there are hundreds of reasons to consider buying a getaway in a small town — escape the bustle of city life, get some fresh air, grow a garden, see the stars — but for all you runners out there, here’s another: win a race! I’m never the fastest runner in eight-million-strong New York City, but on a rainy day in Rhinebeck, N.Y., I just might be.

Readers, what’s your favorite way to explore a new place?






Races Running

Brooklyn is the New Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Half Marathon didn’t start until 7 a.m. last Saturday, but in the hours leading up to it, my mind was already racing:

  • Am I going to make it to the Prospect Park starting line before bag check closes at the ungodly hour of 6:10 a.m.?
  • Is it going to start pouring mid-race like this ominous cloud cover suggests?
  • Is a 9 a.m. hot dog on Coney Island a socially acceptable recovery snack?
Spoiler Alert: It was.
Spoiler Alert: It was.

But for all the pre-race thoughts and anxieties filling my head, there was one question notably absent from my stream of conscious in the days and hours leading up to my second half marathon of the year:

Will I PR?

For every past race, I’d always checked my previous PR — or personal record — before the starting gun so I’d know just how fast I’d have to run in order to beat my earlier efforts. As a middle of the pack runner, I’m rarely going to beat the other participants, but if I can shave off a few seconds from a previous race time of the same distance, it shows my hard work is paying off. A new PR isn’t the only sign of a good race, but it’s certainly a rewarding one.

For the Brooklyn Half, however, I didn’t even bother looking up my previous half marathon PR before entering my corral. Why not, you ask? Plenty of reasons. I knew I logged it in 2013 when I was in better shape. I remembered it happened when I was running with my fast friend Adam. I recalled it was a sub 1:50 time, which is at least three minutes faster than my performance in the MORE/FITNESS/SHAPE Women’s Half Marathon just one month ago, and my training since then has been anything but stellar.

The odds of PRing weren’t in my favor.

Flash forward to race day. I was up at 4 a.m. to meet my friends Z-Z and Leigh-Ann (and Leigh-Ann’s brilliant hired van) at 5:15 a.m. to get to bag check before 6:10 a.m. to get in corrals by 6:40 a.m. before the 7:00 a.m. start. Thank god I’m a morning person.

Who needs coffee? (Just kidding. We both do.)
Who needs coffee? (Just kidding. We both do.)

I started to talk with my corral mates to pass the time, and I quickly discovered I was surrounded by some really fast individuals. “I’m trying for a 1:30,” said Kevin, the chatty stretcher by the railing. “I’m taking it easy after qualifying for Boston last week,” said approachable Alan in line for the john. “I am Meb Keflezighi,” said Meb Keflezighi as he smacked me with his Olympic silver. I could be exaggerating on that last point, but I can’t be sure. I was clearly in the wrong corral.

Knowing I was surrounded by greats, I made an important decision as the starting gun went off: I wasn’t going to go out sprinting with them. I was going to run my own race.

So I did. Miles 1-4, I kept myself at a steady 8:30 pace, even though my legs were itching to keep up. Mile 5, I was passed by a speedy friend who I decided not to chase down because I wasn’t yet ready to drop the hammer. Mile 7, we exited Prospect Park and even though the crowds were roaring, I simply maintained.

And then we hit Ocean Parkway — the 6.1-mile stretch that would take us due south to the finish line — and I let it have it.

Sure, my quads were starting to ache and my calloused feet were barking, but with more than half of the race under my belt, I felt like I still had more gas in the tank, so I started to push my speed. For the next few miles, I threw back every cup of Gatorade I could get my hands on, ate my Honey Stinger energy chews and counted down the alphabetical avenues from A to Z. At mile 11, the sky opened up to a torrential downpour, so I put my head down and cranked up the effort. As I approached mile 12, I started to do the math and realized that if I could maintain an 8 minute mile for just 8 more minutes, I might be able to finish under the 1:50 mark. So I squared my shoulders, widened by stride and tore my way down the boardwalk and over that finish line at 1:49:12.

I collected my medal and heat sheet, gathered my baggage, unabashedly stripped out of my wet clothes in the minor league baseball parking lot (sorry, mom), and met my friends for a beer and dog at Nathan’s. It was only when I was in the van headed home that I got the idea to check my existing half marathon PR just for hell of it.

And what do you know? It was a 1:49:47. With no expectation whatsoever, I’d just knocked 35 seconds off.

And who says Brooklyn is all played out?

Thanks, Brooklyn!

I was just one of 26,482 finishers, so I know some of you did it do. How’d your race go?

Races Running

Against the Wind

I’ve spent all week preparing for my upcoming marathon in every way I know how.

I’ve been carb-loading. (“Why yes, deli man, I will top my bagel with a slice of French toast.”)

I’ve been staying off my legs. (“Sorry, pregnant lady, I kind of need this subway seat myself.”)

I’ve been memorizing the course route, foam-rolling my IT bands and teaching my 86-going-on-30-year-old grandmother how to sign up for text alerts.

Oh right. And I’ve been puff-painting. Like it’s my job.

Yes, I’m 12.

But despite all my well-intended preparation as Sunday’s event quickly approaches, nothing could have prepared me for this:

(Photo: NOAA National Hurricane Center)

That’s right, folks. As if running 26.2 miles weren’t challenging enough, the storm gods of Washington, D.C., are considering throwing in some heavy rains, coastal flooding and peak sustained winds of between 50 and 70 mph just for kicks.

Or, in the always uplifting words of Storm4 chief meteorologist Doug Kammerer:

“It could be kind of tough for race day.”

But an eternal optimist, I will not be discouraged. Sure, it’s possible flooding of up to 8 inches will make sections of the race course impassable and expected crowds on the sidelines thin to none. But,  it’s also possible these hurricane-force gusts will always be at my – and every other Irish descendant’s – back, upping my race pace and helping all 30,000 of us quality for Boston to boot.

Another bonus to running four hours through a category 2 cloudburst? No one sees you sweat. (And my stock in anti-chaffing Body Glide is sure to go through the roof.)

Hey, other runners – I apologize for the terrible pun that follows – let’s take this race by storm! What’s your contingency plan?