Categories
Running

A Runner Returns

I moved to New York City fresh out of college, but it wasn’t until January 16, 2012 – at the ripe old age of 26 and two months – that I finally felt like an adult.

That night – instead of searching out free happy hours, discount chicken wings and the poor life decisions of a 20-something enjoying independence and a paycheck at the same time – I tagged along to a Kathleen Edwards concert at Tarrytown Music Hall with some of my older/wiser/more cultured friends. There were no cheap beers, no sparkly tops and no next-day hangovers, and it felt like the most respectable, grown-up outing I’d attended since relocating to (and quickly adopting the mantra of) the city that never sleeps.

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In fact, here I am at a boozy costume party just months before with two random co-workers, one of whom I would eventually marry. 

My friends Beth and Karsten probably remember the evening in Tarrytown for the great music, the fantastic company and the fact that Edwards cursed so fervently between sets that the radio station hosting the event feared it wouldn’t get enough material to string together a PG-13 show.

But what has stuck with me most these last eight (8!) years was something else entirely: a seemingly inconsequential conversation with my friend Karsten on the drive to Westchester County. I don’t know why it’s so seared into my memory, but I vividly recall him asking as we left Manhattan what I’d done that day.

“Oh nothing,” I remember telling him. “I just ran four miles.”

“Four miles isn’t nothing,” he insisted. He was adamant that my Central Park loop was an impressive distance and something worth celebrating.

I disagreed. I was gearing up for my first marathon, regularly clocking 12-milers before breakfast, and I knew he couldn’t possibly mean it. Four miles was child’s play, I remember thinking. Four miles was embarrassing. Four miles was n-o-t-h-i-n-g. I spent so much time obsessing over distance running in my mid 20s – reading blogs, tracking mileage, comparing my training logs to strangers’ – that I truly, honestly thought four miles of running didn’t. even. count.

Oh, how wrong I was. But it took a life changing year to understand it.

Also a life-changing year for concert-goers Beth and Karsten, turns out.

After almost a decade of running, I stopped cold turkey last spring when I got pregnant. My doctor didn’t make me, but I felt heavy and tired and bloated, and my favorite sport simply didn’t appeal anymore. And after an entire year off, getting back into the swing of things with a new body has been tougher than I ever imagined.

Last month, after getting the post-partum clear from my doctor, I went out for a crawling 15-minute jog – and was subsequently sidelined for the next week with searing pain near my C-section scar. When I finally worked up the courage to try again, I only made it a mile then walked back home. I asked my doctor’s office whether there was a solution to my running-related abdominal pain, and the nurse’s response was a slap in the face: “Well, maybe you just shouldn’t run then.”

So I took off a few more weeks, focusing instead on stretching and strength and recovery. And eventually, I made it on a full 1-mile run, without pain. Then I did a 2-mile run. Earlier this week, I notched it up to a 3-mile run.

And today, pulling off a feat that seemed impossible just a month ago, I hit that elusive 4-mile mark.

Coach Lucille checks the splits.

I don’t care about my pace — all I know is that did it. And you know what, Karsten? You’re right. It’s not nothing after all.

It’s something.

Categories
babies Running

My 2019 Marathon

The phrase “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” may be one of the most overused cliché expressions in the world, alongside the cringeworthy “everything happens for a reason,” the phony “I hope you’re well,” and the totally deceitful “I don’t want fries – I’ll just have one of yours.” Sure, pal. One.

Don’t get me wrong: Advising a friend to think like a marathoner and not a sprinter makes sense in theory – take it slow, make a plan, think long term, etc. But when the idiom pops up everywhere from PR pitches to HR trainings to boozy nights out, it starts to feel a bit stale. Case in point: Having run four 26.2-mile events and attended countless bachelorette parties – both of which are said to be marathons, not sprints – I can assure you they have very little in common besides a desperate need for Gatorade the following morning. And the clever t-shirts. And the high-fiving strangers. And the inevitable post-event cheeseburger. Ok, fine, I guess they’re the same thing after all.

Still, I was surprised when I after nine months of waiting, I arrived at the hospital in mid-December and everyone kept telling me I was actually there for a marathon – which I guess is overused idiom-speak for a baby. (Did I mention I was having a baby?)

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Reluctant big sister.

First, the nurse in triage suggested I get some sleep because the birth process isn’t a sprint. Then one in the delivery room ordered rest for the very same reason as my contractions hit the 12-hour mark. After a third offered identical advice as I took some of my first post-delivery steps, I started to wonder if I was hallucinating all the blatant repetition (those epidurals ARE magical after all.)

But the more I think about it, maybe they were right. I mean, no one gave me a medal or a poncho at the end of this particular “marathon,” but I did get to shuffle home in excruciating pain with a memento to help me remember it all (in this case, our son), so I guess there’s some overlap there after all. And maybe that’s not all. Behold: why having a baby is like running a marathon, written by a poorly rested new mother, so please be kind:

  1. You’ll spend months preparing for the big day but that doesn’t mean it will go according to plan. Much like a marathon, you’ll want to go into childbirth with several tiers of goals. For races, I usually have an A goal (a new PR), a B goal (a sub-4-hour finish) and a C goal (smile at a bunch of strangers and try not to die.) Same for labor. My A goal was to have a baby in just four hours like my mom had me (fail) and B goal was to deliver a healthy baby with no weird complications (also fail). Luckily, I achieved my C goal, which, consequently, was the same for both events – smile at a bunch of strangers and try not to die. Success!
  2. Recovery is no joke. Marathoning wreaks havoc on your body, and apparently so does having a 9+ pound child sliced from your womb. Give yourself time to heal and be patient with your progress.
  3. In both races and childbirth, someone entrepreneurial will take advantage of your weakened state and try to sell you overpriced photos after the fact – and you’ll cave because you don’t feel like photoshopping the watermark out of the free teaser images.
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Honestly, what do I need with all these professional photos of tiny feet?

But the main reason labor is basically channeling your inner Pheidippides? Because they say you aren’t ready to run a marathon again until you’ve forgotten the last one, and boy, do I have a lot of forgetting time left! 🙂

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Uncategorized

Summer Reading

Keats and Eliot may get some readers’ hearts a flutter, but my favorite poet has always been the brilliant children’s lyricist Jack Prelutsky. Classic ’90s verse Something Big Has Been Here holds a special place, but the poem that really gets me is a 24-word ode to a penguin-relative, the auk.

“An auk in flight is sheer delight, it soars above the sea. An auk on land is not so grand — an auk walks aukwardly.”

Change a few words, and that clever couplet can also describe runners and the stark differences between when we’re healthy and when we’re not.

“A runner on a run is loads of fun, she glides up the park toward home. A runner at rest is not her best – she’s godawful at sitting still and just letting her sore old muscles heal on their own.”

(You’ll be shocked to learn I didn’t win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for that little ditty.)

It’s true though. When I’m feeling limber and light and healthy and strong, running is an absolute pleasure that leaves me feeling wholeheartedly in my element. At my very best, I can log an entire Central Park loop and feel like I’m flying.

But when I’m sidelined with an injury – like with this recurring knee pain during the past two weeks – I become downright aukward. Suddenly unsure of my abilities, I start to second guess every decision I make: Can I still cross train? Am I icing too much or too little? Will these two weeks of scaled back training detail my marathon?

And the clincher: What do I do with all this free time?

I was confronted with that question this past week, and luckily, I found something to keep me entertained and off my achy legs: a wonderful book. (Of course, some of my extra hours spent prone on the couch this past week also went to binge watching the gloriously ridiculous Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp because I am a human with needs.)

The book was Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a thoughtful and powerful novel that got me recognizing my prejudices about race in America in a new way. Every sentence was a joy and – thankfully for my rested and now healed knee caps – I was able to spend all the hours I might have mistakenly spent on my feet curled up reading instead. There’s nothing like a good book to force you to recover.

In case you’re injured too as marathon season approaches and looking for some reading material, here are a few other picks from the last several years that I found entertaining enough to keep me holed up and off my recovering legs:

  • Euphoria by Lily King: Read it in Book Club, loved every second, and not just because I’m secretly harboring a wish to go back in time and become a 1920s anthropologist.
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: I’m sure you’ve all read this by now, but I’d be remiss to leave it off because it’s so, so beautiful.
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt: An oldie but goodie, especially if you went to college in New England (and secretly murdered one of your classmates, Imeanwhat?)
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson: This, and the sister book released this summer, God in Ruins, tugged at my heartstrings. Hmm. Maybe I should see a doctor and have those tied up.
  • The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker: Also a few years old, but a coming of age book I never stop thinking about.
  • Rules of Civility by Amor Towles: A step between fine modern fiction and beach-reading smut. It’s a load of fun.

Read all of those and loved them? Shoot me a message and I’ll send some other ideas your way. Read all of those and hated them? To each his own. Can’t read? Then I am very impressed by you getting all the way to the bottom of this post. You are a gentleman and a scholar.

What are you reading this summer that I should put on my next recovery list?

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
Running

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

I don’t know much about orbits – unless you’re talking about the 1990s fad soda that I so desperately wanted to drink/chew – but my limited planetary background tells me the world has started spinning faster.

From take-out dinners edging out home-cooked meals to online holiday shopping replacing an entire day at the mall to each subsequent Vin Diesel/Paul Walker masterpiece, everything in our accelerating modern environment appears to be happening ever faster. And, in the case of the latter, furiouser.

Of course, that’s not always a bad thing. Speed has a definite place in our lives, from plowing through Times Square at rush hour to clocking a new PR in a road race to fast-forwarding through that eternally painful Laura Linney/Karl-our-enigmatic-chief-designer make-out scene in Love Actually. No thank you, Richard Curtis. I’ll just skip ahead to the Portuguese proposal scene, thankyouverymuch.

But while speed has its advantages, there are at least a handful of situations where it’s worthwhile to slow down. New relationships, for example, or learning to drive, or when participating in Pamplona’s annual running of the goldendoodles. That’s one stampede where it pays to get caught.

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Tag, you’re it!

Slowing down is also crucial on the long-distance race course, as you may recall from volume two of things I wish I’d done differently during the NYC marathon.

But it’s equally – if not more – important in the days, weeks and even months after crossing that finish line.

If you’re anything like me, you took your marathon training pretty seriously for four solid months, from the tame Friday nights to the Saturday long runs to the daily all-you-can-eat bagel extravaganzas. Oh, that’s not supposed to be part of training until the final week? Whoops.

But while I was shockingly disciplined in the months leading up to my race, I can’t say the same about recovery. By some coaches’ accounts, runners should plan one day of rest for each mile covered, meaning 26 days without a hard workout after crossing that finish line. Other experts go further still, recommending a day off for each kilometer, or 42 straight days of low-impact fitness post-race. Both sounded a bit extreme to me – heck, some people run back-to-back marathons each week – so I laced up three days after the race in an attempt to log a couple of miles and get my running back on track. I figured I’d run a few miles Wednesday, a few more Friday, and that I’d be back to double digits by Sunday afternoon.

Still in race mindset, I felt fully prepared to go out fast when it came to my recovery. My body, however, had different plans. Primarily, converting my knee caps into burning orbs of pain.

As I retuned home from those first four post-race miles and found myself suddenly unable to make it up my stairs without howling in agony, I quickly realized that I was not, in fact, immune to the strain that a marathon reportedly puts your muscles and joints through. That first run post-marathon left my knees reeling, and with ice and ibuprofen doing little to ease the pain, I was forced to do the one thing my barely recovered body was so desperately seeking: I slowed down. And not just for a day. These aching legs took off a solid week for the first time since 2011.

Forcing ourselves to slow down in today’s fast-paced world is always hard, and hanging up my running shoes during the first week of crisp fall weather was even crueler still. But I knew a week completely off running was what I needed to get back on track, so all belly-aching aside, I did it. And just in case I might be tempted to change my mind and sneak in a few miles, I hopped a plane to the most indulgent, run-free city on this side of the Mississippi: New Orleans.

I’m not going to lie – I packed running gear – but I never even laid hands on it the entire weekend in the Big Easy. The only running I did all trip long was up to the counter to pick up my beignets.

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Just kidding. They delivered them straight to my table.

My birthday trip to New Orleans was lazy and slothful and downright gluttonous, but it was also something else: just what my knees needed. I arrived back in the city yesterday with the hankering to run, and it felt just like it’s supposed to: pain-free, joyful and beignet-fueled.

It took a week away to know it for sure, but I’m finally starting to feel like I’m back.

How is your fall race recovery going? And more importantly, who is buying me this shirt for Christmas?

Categories
Running

Welcome Insignificance

After completing my inaugural marathon last fall, you may recall I found myself struggling to generate canine-free copy to fill this space. Following months of long runs and speed work and unbridled excitement, this running blogger suddenly found herself out of the running circuit, giving me all the time in the world to write but few topic ideas of substance and even less motivation to flesh them out. After spending one-third of my year training for and blogging about the lead up to the most exciting 3 hours and 51 minutes of my adult life, nothing in my post-marathon lifestyle seemed big enough to document.

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Fact: This actually says “bug” if you only consider my arms.

Fast forward to the weeks following the Boston Marathon and suddenly my ramblings seemed more immaterial than ever.

I certainly haven’t meant to disappear from the blogging world these past few weeks. In fact, I’ve been snapping photos left and right in hopes that something would inspire me to re-engage with the online running community. In recent weeks, I raced a 4-miler, spotted Alec Baldwin and finally met (the always lovely) @DCRunster face to face, but in the wake of Marathon Monday and my subsequent responses, nothing since has felt nearly noteworthy enough to warrant your time or the use of this space.

Hence the radio silence. This is a radio I’m writing on, right? Good, just checking. Technology, amIright?

But the truth is, whether or not I have anything material to say, I miss this (occasionally thought-provoking but more often silly) part of my life. Sure, my recent afternoon with my brother’s goldendoodle may be exponentially less important than Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s ongoing interrogation, but today it hit me: in the aftermath of last month’s events, my small but loyal community of running blog readers could probably use a little lighthearted triviality right about now.

And what better way than via a pictorial re-enactment of Ludwig Bemelmans’ 1939 classic, Madeline? Bring it on.

Last Sunday, Keira and I smiled at the good.

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And frowned at the bad.

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And sometimes she was very sad.

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Insignificant? Sure. But if if my ability to post the above photo series means that nothing so terrible has transpired that I have to forgo my usual buffoonery and blog about fatalities and terror and heartbreak instead, then that’s fine by me. I’ve learned this month that trivality can be a blessing, and it’s one that this re-awakened blogger is very happy for indeed.

What silliness brought a smile to you this week?

Categories
Running Training

You’re as Cold as Ice

Most everything that begins with the word ‘ice’ is A-OK in my book. Ice cream? Yes, please. An ice cold beer? Hook me up. 90s hip hop classic ‘Ice Ice Baby?’ Two times the fun.

The newest addition to the list: post-run ice baths.

Ice baths get mixed reviews from the distance running community, with advocates hailing their healing power and doubters claiming they do more damage than good.

I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty good at googling, so I’ve learned a thing or two about cryotherapy, or cold treatment. According to its supporters and this Runner’s World article, taking an ice bath after a heavy workout constricts one’s blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, thereby reducing inflammation and tissue damage, resulting in a faster recovery time. According to its opponents, the science of ice baths is wonky at best and sitting in a bath of ice cubes can cause hypothermia. It didn’t work out well for Jack Dawson, they argue, and it probably won’t work out for you.

I’d been hesitant to buy into the ice bath hype, mostly because 1. sitting in a frigid tub is not my idea of a fun time and 2. I don’t think I really need a No. 2. But after running 19 miles in late September and finding myself unable to traverse stairs for the better part of the following week, I knew I had to at least try something new on the recovery front after this weekend’s 20 miler.

(Yes, I ran 20 miles on Friday instead of going to work. You know, because that’s a totally normal way to spend a vacation day. Have I mentioned lately that I’m a masochist?)

My friend James was in town, so we did a 10-mile loop of Central Park before he left me to shuffle through the second half alone. Fact: Running 10 miles with a friend flies by. Fiction: Running a second 10 miles after your friend leaves is just as fun. If not more.

It wasn’t pretty, but I managed to make it through all 20 miles and back home
to my corner store, where I picked up a bag of ice. I then crawled my way up five flights, filled the tub 10 inches high with cold water, put on a wool sweater, dumped the ice and hunkered down for 10 to 15 minutes of torture.

Turns out, it wasn’t that bad. I brought some reading material, drank a cup of coffee and watched as the ice cubes melted around my aching legs.

More importantly, I awoke from my afternoon nap virtually pain-free and, by Saturday, felt like I was moving on fresh legs again. One ice bath does not a convert make, but since 100% of my ice bath experiences have thus far been positive ones, you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be taking the plunge again after my upcoming marathon.

I may have to take one today, too, to induce recovery after having been beaten up by my niece, Keira. Roundhouse kick to the face? Well played, pup.

Are you in the pro ice bath camp? Why or why not?