Saturday, April 3, 2010

If marathoning were easy, anyone would do it

So I've officially dropped off the face of the running-blog planet.


I would like to claim that I am back, however I've been sidelined by an injury. I was running a Ragnar Relay in Prescott, Arizona in February with a group of people from my office. There I was, sprinting through a six mile run in the middle of the desert at 9:30 at night when my entire knee exploded into a series of internal flames.


Since then, I've been a lame duck, pooing around in spinning class and yoga, trying to burn calories walking up and down stairs. I thought "low-impact" activities would be good for me so I've been golfing a little since the weather has turned nice. Apparently, golfing also includes pretty significant weight shifting and for my left knee, searing pain. *SIgh*. All marathons are off until my April 6 doctor's appointment. Let's hope for the best.

Monday, November 2, 2009

NYC Marathon: Spectator Report

Okay, I have a much longer spectator report, but I have to get through the best part first:

Brian Sell waved to me.

I know, right?! I shrieked like a 11 year old girl at a Jonas Brothers Concert. Perhaps it was because, while there were some pathetic claps up and down the Mile 12 water stop (where I was volunteering), I screamed at the top of my girly lungs "LET'S GO BRIAN WOOOOOO". Whatever, I don't care. His beautiful, mustached face looked in my direction while he raised his right hand in recognition of my geeky fandom.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Run Fail

Since I'm going for 3 marathons this fall (and the coveted yellow Marathon Maniacs singlet), I've been pseudo following Hal Higdon's Running Multiple Marathons Plan, with 4 weeks between each of my fall marathons (I didn't follow it at all after Rochester and so was extremely disappointed at my 4:35:24 time at Nike Women's Marathon last Sunday). Hopefully, with a flatter course, I can once again stay below four hours again in the Rehoboth Beach Marathon, and get one final push before I take a little bit of a break in December.

Sunday's run called for 2 hours, which I estimated at around 12 - 14 miles, depending on how my legs felt. Long story longer, I barely made it to 5 before turning around in Prospect Park at walking. It was completely mental....I had a cramp, my legs were tired, my body was tired, I wasn't hydrated. I guess I could have pushed through run-walking for another few miles but at that point I was so fed up I just turned around, walked to Fulton Street and got myself a little coffee and read the paper. I was still massively disappointed with myself however. Come on, I just ran a marathon and I couldn't even do an easy 12 miles?

Recently, I've been trying to not be so hard on myself when I don't feel like running. Yet, I have this big crazy goal to qualify for Boston which, unless I start putting in some serious work, I don't know how feasible it is going to be in the spring. Then I think about all those stories of hardcore, dedicated runners who run everyday just because their bodies are used to it. So if it takes 21 days to form a habit, does that mean if I run for 21 days straight I won't feel so debilitated when I try to go long like I did this past Sunday?

Goal Setting: Taking a cue from Lululemon

Recently, I've found myself feeling anxious about my life. Not my actual, present life in the day-to-day things that I do (though my anxiety does often spill over, rendering me unable to relax for a few days, and thus jam-packing my life with so-called "life enriching events". Good thing I live in New York City where it is impossible to not find on any given day at any given time a "life enriching event".) but my overall "life path". My sister says this is what is called a quarter-life crisis, then feels it is appropriate to tell me that at least I don't have babies to deal with while having said quarter-life crisis (see, so the life lesson in here is don't have babies).

Naturally, what do I do when I need to figure out how to handle something? Google it, duh (really, you don't know how many problems I've solved in my life via Google. I think I've self-diagnosed pneumonia. I may have even successfully created world peace from a few Google hits...I mean, I'm just sayin'). What I found, post-Google search, was the blog of a somewhat-well-known-company-at-least-in-the-fitness-world called Lululemon. Lululemon is a yoga apparel company, and while they have received a lot of flack from the serious, zentastic, want-free yoga community for selling $100 yoga pants whose unofficial claim to fame is that "they make your ass look great" (they do. Indubitably.), they have really done a stellar job of targeting the sector of the market who actually funds the current yoga movement (women who have enough disposable income to justify expensive yoga apparel...they're like the Neimen Marcus of female workout clothes). All kidding aside, I fell for their marketing strategy hook, line, and sinker, and while I can't justify buying their clothes, I read the blog (frequently) and see if anything on the website is on sale (never).

One thing I will say about Lululemon is that they really tap into the female psyche, specifically the need for many women to "better" themselves. Their company culture is based around this concept, eschewing little mantras like "drink water every day" to "the pursuit of happiness is the root of all unhappiness" (one of my favorites, because it sort of allows slackers like me to believe that if I am content with my momentary life, then I shouldn't be worried about the proverbial "next step" which is sort of lame-o because I'm 24 of course I'm always worried about where my life is going....hence this post.). Mantras aside, throughout their website, they highlight the concept of constant goal-setting, which I am in love with because they have a fun web application that allows you to archive and track your goals (they set arbitrary timelines of 1 year, 3 years, and 10 years and define the categories as Health, Personal, and Career). So taking a page out of their yoga journal, I've set some short term goals to keep me on track...and since this is a running blog, we'll keep them running/fitness related.

-Complete 5 marathons a year for the next 6 years (duh, I wouldn't have a blog if this goal wasn't already premeditated).
-Qualify for Boston. I'd like to try and do it in the spring, but who knows what winter training will be like. If not, Fall 2010 it is. I have to cut 18 minutes off my PR, and if I put in serious work with my running club I think I can do it.
-Attend at least one North Brooklyn Runners run a week. I'm sort of an anti-social runner, but I know that training with other runners, especially ones that are faster than me, will only help me.
-Cross train more effectively by doing yoga 5 days a week and spinning once or twice. This is also a stretch, but hey, nobody said goals were easy right?
-Learn to surf. I'm already headed to surf camp in May, so hopefully that will push me over the beginner hump into the intermediate level. I'd like to at least be able to get up 50% of the time and not have to be pushed into waves.
-Get certified to be a yoga teacher (really this is just an excuse to do an intensive yoga program in Hawaii for 3 weeks)
-Complete a triathlon in 2010. My brother is really into biking, so he'll probably strong arm me into one anyway.

I'll keep you posted on how these goals are going (especially during the winter when my sense of urgency to run dwindles significantly).

Friday, October 23, 2009

Marathon #3: Nike Women's Marathon

Pat on the back: I am now 1/10th of the way through my 30 marathons by 30 years old goal. That sounds a lot more discouraging than it actually should.

The weekend started off pretty well. I went into work at 7am the Friday morning before the marathon so that I could leave at 2pm and still make it to the airport for my flight to San Francisco on time. However, after staying up late on Thursday night making sure I was all packed and my room was put together, I really had nothing to do before my 6:30 flight. I generally take the train to and from the airport, so I was going to be REALLY early if I left straight from work. So, in typical New Yorker fashion, I needed to find an active way to kill some time (even if we have an hour to kill, New Yorkers are always worried about how they can "productively" spend that hour which, in New York City, is a complete farce since it takes you 25 minutes to get anywhere anyway). I took the A train up to Columbus Circle and dropped into the Borders at the Time Warner Center, where I proceeded to walk around for at least 30 minutes touching books, reading jacket covers, making mental lists of books I want to read, and buying nothing. Productive, to say the least.

From there, I hopped on the E train out to JFK, still making it with at least 2 hours before the flight even boarded. No worries though, because Jet Blue's T5 is probably my favorite terminal on earth. It's like a small city within JFK and, if they had a gym in the terminal, I would probably get to the airport hours before my flight left (I fly a lot and I still love the airport). I sat in the main cafeteria, munched on a Luna Bar and some sushi, and read from my "Teach Yourself Dutch!" workbook (really, there's an exclamation point...Dutch is that exciting). Boarding the plane, I popped some Advil (I always get headaches when I fly) and curled up with my book. Upon arrival, Charnella, my roommate from college, picked me up at the airport and we went back to her house to chat. It was too late to do anything so we just kicked it on her couch, put in a DVD and went to sleep.

Saturday, we woke up and headed down to packet pick-up in San Francisco's Union Square. The expo was pretty exciting, although they weren't actually selling any gear at the expo (they were however selling it at Niketown, right across the street). I'm not a big fan of expos, so I grabbed my stuff, got some free Luna bars and a smoothie, and peaced out. It wasn't until we were back at Charnella's house that I realized I had been given a half-marathon bib. BLAST! I jumped in a cab and headed back downtown. Due to everything being electronic, the switch was actually not a problem at all, and I was on my way in less than 5 minutes. However, I DID stop by the NikeTown wall that had all the names of the marathoners and take some sweet pictures (which I will post once I remember to do it).

By the time I got back to Char's place, she was already gearing up for the Treasure Island Music Festival that we were going to later that day. Though I didn't participate in the pre-concert festivities, I did take some sweet pictures and chug a WHOLE LOT of water. We headed to Treasuse Island, did the concert thing (none of which included anything running related so I will skip that part for now) and I left around 7:30, missing MGMT (blast again!) but still managing to see Brazilian Girls (who I love) and the Streets (who I now love after the concert).

After getting back to Char's, I grabbed my stuff and headed to my friend Lenore's house. She was running the marathon too, so I figured it would just make more sense for me to go with her and not to make Charnella wake up at the butt crack of dawn to drive me into the most crowded area of San Francisco at 6:30am. I had grabbed a pre-race dinner of salmon over salad (which took me like 20 minutes of walking to find! I forget most cities aren't like New York and you can't just grab something from the deli every other block) so by the time I got to Lenore's I was pretty ready for some sleep. I laid out my clothes, jumped in bed, and passed out. It was the most ready for sleep that I've ever been before a marathon. The combination of jetlag, early morning, time changes, and music festivals had drained me of any energy...I barely wondered if this would bode well for me the next day.

Race morning, Lenore and I woke up (slightly tardy) and dressed quickly. By the time we got to Union Square it was only 15 minutes for the gun went off, and boy were we not alone. There were over 20,000 people (mostly women, this IS the Nike WOMEN'S Marathon after all) waiting for their chance at marathon glory. Lenore and I didn't start until at least 15 minutes AFTER the gun went off, and then spent the first 3 miles AT LEAST dodging slower runners and walkers. We were well under a 9 min/mile pace, and by the time we settled in we were still elbow to elbow with a lot of women.

Everything was going okay, except that my legs were so dead from racing so much the past month, so I already wasn't making the splits I wanted to make to try for 4 hours again. Oh well, I thought, at least the scenery was phenomenal. Really, this was the most scenic marathon I've done hands down. At around mile 6 though, there was a not even a hill, it was pretty much a mountain. I really try not to walk, but this hill was so steep and so long that mentally I couldn't even fathom running the whole thing. This hill made the hills in Central Park look like speed bumps. However, after this hill, the rest of the course was beautiful and after the first 13 miles it was relatively flat. After that first big hill I had kind of resigned myself to not finish under four hours so I just sat back and enjoyed the beautiful views of San Francisco.

Since this was my third marathon, I kind of knew mentally where the difficult spots were going to be, so I wasn't terribly surprised when around Mile 18 I wanted to stop and be driven to the finish, and at Mile 20 when I thought "oooh only an hour left of running!". The one thing I still can't seem to get past is the stiffness that sets into my legs at Mile 18. Maybe I need to train harder or eat more (I tend not to eat many calories before marathons because I have a weirdly sensitive stomach), or run more marathons. This particular marathon especially made it difficult for me to power through. Since, in Rochester, I had already beat my goal of running sub four hours, I sort of relaxed this marathon and didn't beat myself up when I didn't make my mile splits. This also meant that I was more lenient on my body, allowing myself to walk through aid stations, stretch a lot, and run pretty slowly overall. I think I was mentally exhausted for this race, after training hard for Rochester and then racing the three successive weekends, with two weekends being half-marathons, and one a PR, I was pretty spent for this marathon. All that mattered to me as I crossed the finish line and received my Tiffany's necklace (WAY cooler than a race medal) was that I had successfully checked California off my list. Three states down, 47 to go, and only 27 more marathons to go before I hit my goal.

Side note: Since the marathon, I have been receiving astonished looks from people when I tell them that my weekend plans included flying across the country, completing a marathon, and then flying back for work on Monday morning. I guess we all have different definitions of "a productive weekend."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fact: I am tired and other observations from Grete's Gallop

I like to do this thing every now and then where I get really into racing and then just race multiple weeks in a row. This happened last April in the weekends prior to my May 3rd marathon, and, while shorter distances (15k, 10k, two 5ks), really wore me out. It wore me out so much that after my marathon I didn't race again until the last weekend in August. However, after such a drought, I forgot how fun it was and kind of went overboard this past time, racing the past 4 weekends in a row. Needless to say, after a marathon, a half-marathon, and a 5k in 3 straight weekends, this weekend's half-marathon was a little.... excruciating.

However, despite my plus 9 minute mile pace and my slowest half-marathon finish in a year, there were a few really awesome things about this race.

Awesome thing #1: Grete Waitz high-fiving me. Yea, she won the NYC marathon 9 times and has an entire New York Road Runners race devoted to her. No big deal except I contemplated not washing my hand for at least a few hours.

Awesome thing #2: Mary Wittenberg handing me a Gatorade at the last rest stop. I wasn't even thirsty, I just wanted to say that Mary Wittenberg hydrated me. I even saved the cup and took a picture (wow, I am a really big dork).

Awesome thing #3: The third place male finisher and I clipped elbows. For some reason the lead bike wasn't leading the second pack where the third place runner was and so when he was breaking away from his pack, he was stuck in the crowd of runners still completing their first lap. I guess he wasn't sure if he was supposed to be following someone, so all of a sudden he decided to cross over right in front of me and enter the finisher's chute, clipping my left elbow as he blew past me (seriously, it was like the guy hadn't just run 6 more miles than I had). At any rate, it was sort of exciting because I don't think anyone else noticed that he was the third place guy except me.

Awesome thing #4: Long-sleeved race shirts. I don't know why this is so exciting to me, but every time I sign up for a race and get a long-sleeved shirt I feel like it's Christmas. I even did a skip out of the NYRR building after I picked up my race packet.

Awesome thing #5: 97% humidity. Okay, just kidding; that was actually horrible.

It was a really fun race, despite the fact that my legs were tired from the first mile. I guess that gives me license to take a break this week, which is fine with me since I have the Nike Women's Marathon two weeks from today. I kind of disappeared from my friends, but today I had a football game down at Brooklyn Tech. We lost (well actually we technically recorded a 'W', since the real team we were supposed to play didn't show up, but then we played pickup with another team that had their own screen printed jerseys and argued every call in our not-really-a-league-game-scrimmage. Really guys? It's touch football. Re-lax.), but what we lacked in football catching and running skills (me, on both counts) we made up for in Category flip cup skills at the bar (me, again). All in all a good weekend in New York, and now only 1 more race for guaranteed entry in the New York City Marathon for 2010.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Queens Half-Marathon: Really?

My favorite SNL skit in the world is "Really?! With Seth and Amy". I basically use the phrase "Really?" on a daily basis. Most recently it pertains to my thought process, as I was waking up at 4am for the Queens Half-Marathon two Sundays ago. As in "Really? I'm up at the ass-crack of dawn to schlep my quote-unquote still recovering from a marathon seven days ago butt to the armpit of queens? Really?" Or perhaps, "Really? After running a marathon last Sunday where my knees swelled to balloon size and I almost cried at mile 18, 13 miles is an appropriate distance to race a week later? Really?"

At that point I was still 3 races short of the 9 required New York Road Runner races for guaranteed entry into the 2010 NYC Marathon (Really, Paula Radcliffe? Really?). So I REALLY thought I could just get another one out of the way while the weather was still fairly warm (If you think it's hard to drag your butt outta bed at 4am on a Sunday in September, think about how awesome it will be in December. Balls.). Yea, half-marathon half-schmarathon, whatever. Yea, apparently I forgot to invite my legs to the running party because it was without a doubt the hilliest course I've ever done (a close second the Rochester Spring Forward Distance Run, a 15k held in my hometown in April, but it's only 2/3 the distance). I was lucky that over the summer I trained mostly in Central Park, which is notoriously a hilly course, but there were times during this race that I distinctly remember pushing myself up hills and feeling the top of my head tingle like I was about to pass out.

The race itself was really well organized and the weather was absolutely perfect. And, despite my grumbling, I actually PRed this race, which I was extremely happy about since a) I had just run a marathon the week before at a faster pace than I thought I could maintain and b) it was was hillier than the other half-marathons I've done. The only gripe I really had about it (despite the really early start time....7am wtf?) was that the mile marker between miles 8 and 9 and 9 and 10 were so off it was excruciating. I had been averaging about 8:30 - 8:40 minute miles up until that point and on my eighth mile I clocked an 9:45. I was really mentally defeated because I was on pace for a PR and then I ran almost a minute slower than my previous mile. However, at mile 10 I clocked a 7:46, which I doubted was due to any great elevation change, and decided that someone had come back from partying the night before and put the 9 mile marker in the wrong location. Either way, when I crossed the finish line my legs felt like soup and I knew I needed to take some time off. The bonus was that it was only 9am when I finished which means I got home around 10:30, napped, showered and changed before half of my friends had even woken up. Kind of a nice kickstart to a Sunday no?

Next up is Grete's Gallop tomorrow morning at 9am (ugh another half-marathon...but BONUS I only have one more race after Grete's and one to volunteer at before I complete my qualification for NYC 2010! Woot!)