Back on my Feet

I missed racing. 

It’s been a long time since I ran in a race and even longer since I ran with a time goal in mind.  This past weekend I had an opportunity to scratch that itch at the Run as One 4 mile race and 36 hours later I am still riding the high. 
On Saturday, I was texting with my friend Beth and I said that I wanted to break 45 minutes in the 4 mile. Based on the fact that I really only run once a week these days and those runs are more for stress relief than training, I thought an 11 (and change) mile pace was realistic. Beth suggested that I might surprise myself. We agreed to run together and I am so glad we did. 
Getting to the race was easy. Living so close to the start really took a lot of the stress of transportation and timing out of the way. I met Beth and we walked two avenues to the park and then over to the start area by the East Drive, where we saw Jenny and slipped into the corral to wait with her. A few minutes later we were crossing the start line. 
As we ran the first mile, which included Cat Hill I knew I was going to have to push myself to keep up this pace. I was definitely out of my comfort zone and knew I would be there for awhile. But interestingly enough, it felt good (at least mentally). 
By mile 2 I was in a little more of a groove as we turned onto the transverse at 101st. The uphills were not as severe and I relished the downhills as we made our way down the west side of the park. We reached the three mile marker and I was shocked that I was still keeping up with Beth. Then I ran up behind a father-son duo who were just not opening up the way for me to pass them; every time I sped up to pass, they sped up as well. There was no opening on the other side, so I just stayed behind them, losing Beth in the process. I was on my own for the rest of the race. 
Old Me might have slowed down and taken it easy for the rest of the course but I decided I had not come this far to lose my pace in the last 10 minutes, so I kept running. Soon enough I saw the 72nd street transverse in the distance, where we would be greeted with a quick uphill to finish the race. 
It felt so good to push myself to the end where hundreds of people stood waiting and cheering us into the finish line. I later found out that I ran a 42:19, two minutes more than my 4 mile PR. The runners high was back. 

After a post race bialy and iced coffee with my running buddies, I went home, fired up the computer and started searching for my next race. I didn’t have to look too far: I signed up for the Healthy Kidney 10K at the end of May. Once again, the start is right down the street. This race has the added bonus of benefiting a cause close to my heart. Anyone want to come run with me? 

Welcome 2015!

Happy New Year!

I had some time off this week and have been thinking a lot about the past year and the one to come. As I have mentioned in some of my prior posts, I’ve had an exciting, yet stressful 2014. I planned a wedding, got married, ran two half marathons, spent a lot of time at PT, spent a lot of time at the beach (ok, not so stressful), worked a lot and worked out a lot. I am absolutely ready to hit the reset button and start over for 2015.

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Over the weekend, I went for a 4 or 5 mile run in Central Park. It was one of those head clearing runs that reminded me why I love to do this. I entered the park feeling kind of lost and I left with a plan. Enter my 2015 goals:

1. Lose weight. Eat healthier.
I’ve put on some lbs in the last few months. I went on a exercise kick in the months before my wedding. Then after I was married, I basically gave myself a free pass to eat whatever I wanted for the rest of the year. I ate like I was training for a marathon when I wasn’t. Predictably, it is showing in the waistlines of my pants.
I need to rectify this situation. I don’t feel well and I hate the way I look. Interestingly enough, my husband is complaining about the same thing (for himself) and even our little dog was topping the scale at her last visit to the vet. So for our family, 2015 is the year of getting fit, eating well and getting healthy. I have already started by drastically reducing my caffeine intake and drinking more water. Next, we will work on our diet. More to come on this.

2. Practice yoga
Towards the end of the year, my doctor recommended a yoga teacher who has great restorative class at a studio around the corner from where I live. I pulled out (and dusted off) the old yoga mat and gave the class a try a couple weeks ago. It has been such a wonderful way to stretch out, de-stress and refocus after a long week (the class takes place on Friday). I will definitely continue this weekly practice in the new year.

3. Stay fit
As far as running goes, I am going to take some time off from races and just run on the weekend to enjoy the sport. I may join a local gym with my husband and get back to running on the treadmill at night after work (if we can find a reasonably priced yet nice gym in the hood– so far the pickins are slim). I will continue to strength train, which means continuing weekly Refine Method classes. Oh and more long Central Park walks with my dog.

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These goals seem easy enough, right? Ok, maybe I have my work cut out for me. I have some other not-for-the-internet professional and personal goals that I am working on as well, so it will be a busy year.

What are your health and fitness goals for the new year?

Wishing a Happy and Healthy 2015 to you and yours!!!

Cape Cod Marathon Half 2014 Recap

On Saturday October 25, I ran in the Cape Cod Marathon Half in Falmouth, Massachusetts; a great local race that was part of a larger race weekend which included a relay and a full marathon on Sunday.

Yes, I’m aware that this recap is way overdue, but once I was back home, life took over pretty quickly and it took a few days to gather my thoughts. Then everyone was posting about other huge races like the NYC Marathon and all of a sudden, my little 13.1 miles seemed to pale in comparison. Well, I am finally ready to share my experience—almost a month later.

My husband and I started the weekend with a 180 mile drive from New York to Falmouth on Friday evening. My friend Allison (who was also running) and her husband graciously hosted us at their house in Cape Cod for the weekend. Due to traffic and a couple stops for bathroom breaks and food, what was expected to be a 4 hour ride took us 6 hours and we arrived weary and tired at 10:00 PM.

The half was starting at 7:30, so we were up and at ‘em at 5:45 AM. Not knowing what the parking and pre-race situation would be, we left early (around 6:30) to give ourselves some wiggle room. As it turned out, we really didn’t need too much lead time because we encountered no traffic and easy parking in the municipal lot across the street from the start.

When we arrived, the pre-race area and port-a potties were still being set up. We had plenty of time to stretch, use the facilities and people watch. It might have been the lowest key start I had ever encountered and it was refreshing. As it turns out, the race was capped at 1200 runners and this was the fourth running of the half (the full has been run for many more years). Oh and since my husband was at the start line with us, we were able to wear our warm clothes up until the very start and give them to him to hold on to.

The weather was really perfect for a fall half marathon: sunny, clear, not too windy and not too hot or cold at around 50 degrees.

Race Start

Low key race starting line at dawn

At around 7:25, they gathered us near the start—no corrals needed. They asked for the faster runners to head toward the front and everyone else just fell into place. Someone sang the national anthem, a cannon (yes, a real cannon) went off and the race began!

The first couple of miles took us out of downtown Falmouth and through some residential neighborhoods. I ran with Allison, who usually runs faster than me but had decided to take it easy (which meant she ran at her slow pace while I somehow managed to keep up with her). The first 4 miles went by really quickly and I kept up with Allison at a 10.15 pace. After we went over hill number 1 between miles 4 and 5, I started to slow down and I was clearly slowing Allison down, so before we hit mile 5, I told her to go ahead without me, which she reluctantly did.

My left knee, which has been giving me some trouble, was starting to hurt and my stomach was feeling a little funny (the rest-stop food from the night before was coming back to haunt me). I walked a bit when I reached mile 5, then I picked up the pace—but not nearly as fast as I had been running with Allison.  When I saw a port-a potty at around mile 6, I stopped. I probably lost a few minutes, but I needed the stop and the few minutes of not running.

Gorgeous Cape Cod scenery

Gorgeous Cape Cod scenery

After that, I kind of took it easy for the rest of the race, walking when I needed to and stopping to take pictures. I knew I wasn’t going to be breaking any records, so I decided to have as much fun as possible.  My run mix on my iPod was great company as I made my way through the rest of the beautiful course. My watch lost its power at mile 10 (because I forgot to charge it fully the night before) so I was using the timing of the songs to help me understand where I was in each mile for the last three miles of the race.

More amazing views

More amazing views

CC6

The last few slow miles were good despite my body breaking down a bit. I expected this though. There hadn’t been much weekday running for me this training cycle. I had been only doing long runs during the weekends where I allowed myself to stop, stretch out my hips and calves and keep a slow pace. I’ve been going to PT weekly for my various issues and Refine for strength training too but just not getting the run training in that I needed.  I knew this. I didn’t beat myself up over it. I was just going to be happy to finish the race in one piece.

Advantage to taking it easy: race selfie!

Advantage of taking it easy: race selfie!

Mile 12 was kind of a drag as we went back through the residential neighborhood and it wasn’t clear when the race was going to end. My body was really breaking down by this point and I just wanted to be finished. I was on what I was hoping would be the last song of the race when I saw someone a few feet ahead of me raise his hands over his head in celebration that the race was almost over.

The last leg

The last leg

There was a large red sign at mile 13 and then a quick turn (so quick that I needed to ask to make sure I was going in the right direction) to the finish, where Allison and my husband were waiting for me, cheering me through the end.  I ran back through the chute where we started, got my medal, my Cape Cod potato chips and cranberry juice (when in Rome…) and a couple of celebratory pics before we headed into town for some breakfast.

Happy Finisher!

Happy Finisher!

Running buddies are the best!

Running buddies are the best!

What I liked about the race:

  • It was small, homey and very New England. It was the perfect time of year with the leaves at peak foliage and small enough where it really felt like we just blended right into the town, rather than taking over
  • The volunteers were great. There were ample water and candy (!) stops and plenty of bathrooms along the course route
  • We really lucked out with the weather. With beachfront races, you are taking a gamble. Wind and/or rain can make for a really unenjoyable race. But the conditions were perfect and if anything, I was slightly overdressed in a long sleeve top and capris

What I didn’t like:

  • The roads were not closed for the race. There wasn’t a lot of traffic trying to get by, but there were a couple times that I feared getting run over. This wasn’t much of an issue at the beginning of the race since it started so early, but as it neared 9:00, people in their cars started coming through and the road runners had to be careful
  • It would have been nice if the staging area was ready when we arrived 30 minutes before the race began. As I mentioned, they were still setting up the start line and the bathrooms when we arrived
  • For my own race: my training was suboptimal, my fueling the night prior was downright dismal, and the 6 hour car ride up there was an avoidable mistake. Fail to plan = plan to fail. While I don’t consider my race a failure by any means, I could have had a more comfortable race had I thought ahead just a little bit. Plus, I could have really hurt myself running a race I wasn’t properly trained for

So what’s next for me?  Well, I am excited to run in the Manasquan (NJ) Turkey Run/Trot this weekend. The laid back 5 mile race will take me through my adopted beach town and the course runs right in front of our summer home, which means built in cheerleaders! Plus, I know a bunch of people running and there will be Bloody Marys and bagels waiting for me at home when I am finished. It’s a huge Manasquan tradition that I am excited to take part in this year.  If I can remember any of it (haha), I will definitely blog about it next week.

After that, I will enjoy the offseason, see what life brings me in 2015 and figure out my race schedule from there. I will keep going to Refine Method and continue to enjoy my head-clearing, sanity inducing weekend loops in Central Park.

What are your running plans for the rest of 2014?  Is anyone else running in the Manasquan Turkey Run/Trot?

What happens when you get sick during training?

Last weekend, I prepared to welcome the upcoming Autumnal Equinox by baking banana bread, drinking pumpkin spice coffee, trying pumpkin beer and breaking out the fall candles.

Pumpkin Beer, Banana Bread and Fall Harvest Yankee Candle

Pumpkin Beer, Banana Bread and Fall Harvest Yankee Candle

On Tuesday, the first full day of fall welcomed me with a raging sore throat, headache and fever. Yippee!

Tissues, liquid and vitamin C

Tissues, liquid and vitamin C

When I write my last post on Monday, I was pumped. I felt ready to tackle the last weeks of training with a plan. That plan is already falling apart.  I haven’t run, mainly due to the fact that I can only breathe out of half of my nose at any given time and my throat feels like sandpaper. I already cancelled my weekly Refine class because although sweating it out sounds like a good plan, I don’t want to get a class full of exercise peers sick.

I am hoping to be somewhat better by Friday so I can fit in a short run and maybe another short run on Saturday and a long run on Sunday.

This post is a plea to my fellow runners for advice.  What do you do when you are training for a race but feeling too sick to run (and of course I don’t mean really sick—I mean a cold, mild flu or even incessant allergies)???

Cape Cod Marathon Half Training Update

It’s been about a month since I signed up for the Cape Cod Marathon Half. My training has had its ups and downs, but I am fairly confident that I will be able to pull this off.  Let’s recap, shall we?

I’ve been trying to run at least twice during the week, attend a Refine Method class for strength once a week and long run once a week. I am on point with the Refine and the long runs, but not very consistent with the during-the-week runs, which has been making my last couple of long runs kind of tiresome.

During these tedious long runs, I’ve been experiencing pain/strain in my calf muscles, which have left me somewhat frustrated and having to stop often. After an especially painful run last weekend (which ended a mile and a half earlier than planned), I went to visit my friends at Finish Line Physical Therapy, who confirmed my suspicions: my calves are ridiculously tight and therefore strained.  As Michael, my PT expertly (i.e.—painfully) kneaded into my lower legs, he asked me a few questions about my current training regimen:

  • Are you drinking lots of water? (Not really)
  • Are you drinking lots of caffeine? (Kinda)
  • Are you wearing compression socks on your runs? (Nope)
  • Are you foam rolling or stretching before and after your runs? (Oh yeah…I forgot I needed to do that)

Well duh, of course I am having issues!! (It’s not Michael’s M.O. to lecture, so he let me come to that conclusion all on my own.)

So I was prescribed some calf and hip stretches, foam rolling and weekly PT until my race. Armed with a plan, I prepared for my long run this weekend by stretching, rolling, hydrating, and donning my compression socks, before and during my seven miles in Central Park. As a result, my calves felt much better. While my body was more comfortable, my mindset was a little off due to a ridiculously humid day, but it was definitely a good start to the rest of my training and it left me somewhat enthusiastic for the rest of my training cycle.

So my training plan for the next month looks like this:

  1. I MUST get my two not-so-long runs in during the week. If this means treadmill city at lunch at my boring work gym, early morning or after work runs, then so be it. But this needs to be done or I will bonk around mile 3 of my race.
  2. Weekly PT appointments through the end of October and stretches before, after and during my runs and classes.
  3. Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate!!! I need to get the water flowing through my body in order for it to work properly. (And this may mean cutting down on the coffee and wine… eek!!)
Water Water Water

Water Water Water

How is your training going this fall?  Have you had any setbacks that have caused you to re-evaluate your plan?

Back in the Saddle: Cape Cod Half

I haven’t made it a secret that I have been in no mood to run since the New York City Half Marathon. There have been some obvious (to me) reasons for this: wanting to spend time with my husband, lots of summer activity (travel, social etc.), not being a morning person, being too tired at night to do anything besides sit on the couch, yadda yadda yadda.

It's a tough job but somebody's got to do it.

It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it.

But during the last couple of weeks, something switched in my brain and made me question: Is my lack of activity making me not want to be active? Am I falling down the rabbit hole of laziness? My overall attitude, feeling and sense of being would suggest the answer is yes. The waistlines of my pants would firmly agree.  In my last post, I discussed living in the moment and doing things as they felt right, not because I felt I had to or because everyone else was doing it. Well, I finally feel like it is the right time to get out there and run again.

I travelled to Cape Cod last weekend with Beth and Ashley to visit our dear friend Allison and cheer as my friends ran the Falmouth Road Race. As I cheered from the sidelines at mile 6.75 of a seven mile course as runners were coming down the last hill of the race, I saw so many emotions pass over their faces—elation, determination, hard earned fatigue and endorphin filled happiness.

I will fully admit that I was envious of every single smiling runner as they rounded the bend and passed us on their way to the finish. I wished that I hadn’t (accidently) missed the lottery deadline. I wanted to be out there sharing the experience with the 11,000 runners I was cheering for. I wanted to have earned the hamburger, pasta salad, Cape Cod chips and wine I scarfed down at the barbecue Allison hosted after the race.

I came home and started researching races for the fall. I knew I would need some lead time to train as I am starting my training from scratch, so September was out of the question. Even early October was pushing it. But then I found what might just be the perfect race: The Cape Cod Marathon Half (not a typo) in Falmouth, Massachusetts on October 25.

Cape Cod Pic

The timing is right. I have 9-10 weeks to train if I start this week (which I sort of did).  I love the fall in New England and since the race is on a Saturday morning we can make a leaf peeping, apple and pumpkin picking weekend out of it. Plus, it’s in the new hometown of my running buddy (who may or may not be running it too).

A few tweets and text messages between Allison and me and I was signed up. So, now it’s time to train. I’m not doing anything fancy, just 2-3 short runs during the week, a long run on the weekend and a Refine class in between for some strength. I will keep everyone posted on my progress.

Are you signed up for a Fall race? Which one? What made you choose it?

Living in the Moment

For the first time in at least a couple years, I am not training for a race, looking for a race to train for or preparing for a training cycle. And I’m ok with that.

One might say I’ve had a great year so far. I got engaged at the end of 2013 and married the love of my life in April. I became an Aunt again. I’ve remained gainfully employed in a job I (mostly) love. I’ve settled into a new apartment and neighborhood and have begun planning for the future with my new husband.

But in addition to all of these wonderful things, I’ve encountered some unexpected challenges, which have turned me into quite the stress-ball, and I realize this is not healthy for me or anyone around me. In what should be the happiest time of my life, I have been riddled with anxiety and worry about the past and the future — things I have little power over.

I recently remembered an article I read in a magazine a couple years back about living in the moment or mindfulness; focusing your attention on the here and now, accepting life as how it is and avoiding extensive focus on the past or the future, especially when that focus becomes negative. I remember that at first this sounded like new-age gobbledygook to me. But as I read further, I realized this way of thinking could really help me through stressful times in my life.

It isn’t just a switch I can turn on and off and I won’t pretend I have or plan to become fully “mindful”.  But taking some little steps toward living in the moment seems to be helping me to better accept and enjoy life. Because let’s face it, we only get one go at this.

So for now, I am making a conscious effort to live for today. What does this mean?

  • If I want to wake up early and go for a run, I will. If I want to go the gym at lunch, I will. But I won’t beat myself up for not doing so if I don’t feel like it. I will not worry about what others might say or think if I don’t join them for a run and I won’t look at the multitude of pictures of Central Park at sunrise on Twitter/Instagram every morning and feel guilty about not being there. If I put on a couple pounds as a result, I won’t freak out or compare myself to my friends who are working hard and seeing results.
  • I won’t wish my weeks away waiting for the weekend. I won’t stress myself out on the weekends thinking about the pile of work on my desk on Monday. (Although, I can’t promise that at 3:30 every day I won’t be pining away for 5:00.)
  • I will fix the things within my control, like saving money, changing my last name and eating right. For the things outside of my control like my commute, the weather and what others think or feel, I will try not to dwell.
  • I will spend less time playing solitaire and bejeweled on my iPad, watching mindless TV (except Big Brother of course) and engaging in other time sucking brain candy during my spare time and focus instead on reading, cooking, exercise and being with friends and family.
Beach

In the Moment

 

Does this sense of living in the moment resonate with you?  Do you practice living in a mindful state?  What tips do you have?