NYC Marathon Race Recap

You guys.

I have some news:

I RAN A MARATHON!

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I know, I know – I ran it like two stinking weeks ago, I’m a bad blogger! But hey, I’m back, and I’m blogging about it, and I’m a FREAKIN’ MARATHONER!

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So let’s jump right to it, shall we??

On race morning, I woke up after actually managing to get a good night’s sleep, and Mere (who was also running) and Damian came and picked us up at about 4:15am.

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Just look at those crazy eyes I’ve got. Those are the eyes of a terrified woman.

We planned on taking the NYRR-provided NJ Bus, and had the smoothest morning. Seriously: after a 30 minute drive, we rolled up to the Meadowlands, kissed the boys goodbye, walked 50 feet to a waiting bus, and were on our way within seconds! Bravo, NYRR.

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Sure, we got the last 2 seats on the bus and couldn’t sit together, but it was OK, we made it work 😉

After a quick bus ride, we arrived at Fort Wadsworth while it was still dark, and breezed through security and into the Starters Village.

 

After checking out our individual colored corral areas, Mere was sweet enough to come over to my area in Orange and hung out with me while we waited for her wave to start.

 

I even got to meet Alissa while we waited (nice job on your BQ, girl!!)

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After saying goodbye to Mere, I hung out with the NYRR therapy dogs. No, seriously:

 

It was so nice to give some pets to Tugboat the Frenchie, Lass the Labrador, and WLLY the… poof? Man-bun? Whatever he was, he was my favorite and required a selfie.

 

Arun came over to say hey, and after he said goodbye to go back to his area, I met Amanda and Gregg, and we watched the start of the race from our spot at the base of the bridge.

Amanda and Gregg and I became fast friends – Gregg also gave us some sage advice about how you can only run the race with what you’ve got in the tank. To pass the last hour before we started, the three of us ate our breakfasts and chatted about our previous races, our taste in music, and how we prepped for the race. Secret reveal: Gregg and I both have the Moana soundtrack on our marathon playlists. Shhhhh! 😉

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After Greg took off for his start in Wave 3, Amanda and I were left behind to nervously chat while we made quick port-a-potty stops, de-layered, and strapped on our running bags before heading over to the corrals of Wave 4. I was so grateful to have her there with me – if you’re reading this, thank you, Amanda!

We said goodbye just as the corrals were closing, and I was able to take a quick video before they closed the gate:

I will admit: I was super nervous up until I heard New York, New York blaring over the loudspeakers, and then a kind of calm came over me. Once the cannon went off, I was ready:

Within another few seconds, we were walking up the incline to the start, ran over the mat, and the marathon had begun. And, forgive my language, but holy shit, it was amazing.

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I knew the first 1.5 miles was uphill on the bridge, but honestly as we ran it, I didn’t notice the incline. All I felt was incredible energy: from the people running around me, the police on the bridge, the people that worked on the bridge, the AIR… everything was electric and perfect.

The only issue I was faced with was worrying about my phone in the rain. I had made the decision to run with my phone in my hand so that I could easily take photos and videos, but the constant drizzle ended up covering my phone in water before the first mile. But it turned out okay in the end.

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Once we began mile 2 and entered Brooklyn, I quickly discovered what everyone meant when they told me this would truly be a race unlike any other I’d ever run. Even in the rain, people of every race and shape and size and color lined both sides of the street and screamed and clapped and rang bells and shouted our names – for miles and miles and miles. It was like running through a block party that never ended!

I ordered a personalized name bib from Races2Remember and I’m so glad I did. Every 10 seconds or so, there was a new person yelling for me, cheering me on, making songs about my name… my favorite was “No one better mess with Jess!” It was incredible.

For the first 6-7 miles, I honestly felt so good that I didn’t even notice I was running. The music, the spectator high-fives, the sights – it all carried me. I ran from one side of the street to the other to get all the high fives I could!

At mile 3 a swing band on the sidewalk was blasting music and made 2 runners stop and break into a full-on choreographed swing dance in the street. At mile 5 a full gospel choir sang for us on the steps of their church. At mile 7 NYPD officers danced with us in the streets.

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At one point near mile 9, the crowds were so thick I couldn’t tell where the runners ended and the spectators began. Groups of friends spilled out of the bars with drinks in hand, cheering for us and dancing to the music that bumped from inside the bars.

I put my headphones in but rarely used them – I was too busy singing along with the music on the course!

By mile 11, I knew I should be feeling some fatigue, but I still felt great. My miles were around the 12:00 range, and while that was a bit faster than I wanted, I thought maybe I’d have some luck and that energy would keep carrying me.

Well, I was a bit wrong.

Mile 13 was a bit slower – I walked/ran for the next few miles, saving my strength for the Queensboro Bridge I knew was coming up between 15 & 16.

The crowds were a little more sparse here so I cranked up my music, and almost as soon as we got onto the QB, my iPod died. I had expected this after it died during long training runs, so I’d packed a backup iPod (no, really, I NEED my music), and walked a bit on the bridge to swap them out and recover.

Once I got a boost from fresh music, I put my head down and barreled through some crowds of walkers, keeping a steady pace. But after about a full uphill mile of that, I realized the mistake I’d made. My legs burned. I knew that Manhattan was next so I was counting on that energy, but what I wasn’t counting on was the rain really picking up as soon as we got off the bridge and turned onto First Avenue.

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If the first 13-15 miles were easy as pie, 15-22 was where I actually had to put in work.

I asked 26 of my closest friends and running buddies to give me a song each for a Power Playlist, and this is when I turned it on.

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A few of the songs really charged me up, but when one particular song my mom picked came on, I started weeping. It’s the song that my mom and dad walked me down the aisle to on my wedding day. While I tried not to cry too hard, I took some time at this point to be grateful. Even though I was in pain, I knew I was going to finish this thing. All the work, the endless hours, they were going to pay off. It was emotional.

Finally we entered the Bronx – and were greeted by so many more spectators that I got a little boost.

I danced a little with people who were still out in the rain cheering for us, and one woman even stopped herself before she could give me a high five and instead threw her arms around me and said, “Girl, you don’t need a high five you need a hug, you’re going to finish this!!” I think maybe she was an angel.

Once we looped back into Manhattan at mile 21, I got excited – this was the home stretch, so to speak.

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I’d arranged to have Mike and the crew cheering for me at the same spot we’d spectated at last year, and knew I was getting close. So I shuffled along and kept up the pace, looking for them the whole time. But our spot came and went, and they weren’t there. I’d made a deal with myself before I even started: there’d be a chance I would miss them, and I had to accept that. So instead of getting upset, I shuffled up Fifth Avenue because the pain was too great to run constantly now, and I chatted here and there with the runners around me as we put one foot in front of the other. This was great because it took my mind off things, and before I knew it, the sun was just about to disappear and we were entering Central Park!

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I HAD to take a picture of my favorite spot in the city ❤

During training, I envisioned coasting up and down those Central Park hills at this point, riding a wave of adrenaline that would carry me to a strong finish.

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The reality could not have been farther from that vision: my ankles were wobbly and kept giving out, my calves burned, my lower back burned, my right glute was on fire, and every time I tried to move faster than a weak shuffle my entire body screamed. I couldn’t help but grunt and groan every time I tried.

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By the time we exited the park for that quick jaunt across Central Park South, the sun was gone and I knew I’d be walking it in… until I spotted Mike and Mere and Damian!

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When I saw them I broke into a run and stopped for a quick hug and kiss from everyone – but if I stayed any longer than that I knew I wouldn’t be able to move again!

So I took off with them screaming behind me, giving me my final power-up.

After grabbing a hug from Peter Ciaccia himself at the entrance to the park, I ran straight through, stopping only to get one last picture:

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I could hear the screaming and cowbells of the finish line, and turned it on for a final kick. The pain was still there but all I could focus on was getting up that final hill and crossing that line.

When I finally saw the finish line, I couldn’t help but start crying. It was happening. I honestly can’t remember if I heard them say my name, but I know I glanced around behind me to make sure I wouldn’t hit anyone, threw my arms in the air, and closed my eyes as I crossed the finish line and finally became a marathoner.

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It took a few seconds after I crossed for it to truly hit me, but when it did, I immediately started sobbing. And hyperventilating. The horrible wheezing sound I made caused a few volunteers to ask me if I was OK and I nodded, willing myself to calm down; there’d be no good finish line picture if I passed out before I could even get my medal!

So I staggered to a medal volunteer and sobbed again as she put the medal around my neck. She kept saying “bless you, bless you” and I thanked her with everything I had left. I asked her to take my picture and she obliged:

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As I staggered through the chute to get my poncho and exit the park, the pain finally had a chance to sink in, and it was intense. I cannot begin to describe it – it was shooting, throbbing, aching, burning… it was all the pain at once, everywhere. It physically took my breath away to do anything but stagger ahead with the flow of people in the same shape as me.

After I got my poncho and texted with my crew to confirm our meetup area, I was never so relieved to see my husband and our family. And as a bonus, I even got a huge finish line hug from Lizzie, who had volunteered at the race, too! ❤

To celebrate our finishes (congrats on your course PR, Mere!), we toasted with some wine at dinner and that was the most delicious red I’ve ever had.

And while the walk back to the subway was unbelievably painful (and hysterical), I made it down the subway steps in time to catch our train and we were home before 11pm.

I could easily write another 2,000 words about it, but I’ll cap myself now by leaving you with this: the NYC Marathon was incredible. It was awe-inspiring. It took my breath away, more times than I could count. I saw things that I never thought I’d see on a race course. If you ever have the chance to run it, DO IT. You will never regret it.

They say NYC is a race unlike any other, but you truly have no idea what that means until you experience it.

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T-Minus 5 Days

When they told me training for a marathon would take a lot of my time, I didn’t realize just HOW MUCH of my time that meant. On top of a very busy season at my day job, running for 2+ hours after work and 3-4+ hours on the weekend leaves me with little time to do things like blog, hang out with friends, and keep up with laundry at home.

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…and painting Star Wars pumpkins for Halloween!

Thankfully, since I hit 20 miles a few weeks ago and began my 3-week taper, my mileage has slowly decreased and allowed me more time to catch up on things.

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PS – 20 miles?? HOLY HELL

Sure, I mostly just end up sleeping instead of doing the things I should be catching up on, but sleep is just as important as running in marathon training (or so I’ve been told).

One thing I’ve been grateful for these past few weeks is that I’ve got sponsors backing me up on this journey. It may seem silly or trivial, but having the support of Altra Running and Poland Spring Brand Water means I can focus less on my sneakers and my hydration plans and more on getting the most out of my training.

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When it comes to my sneakers, I’ve been a die hard Altra fan since I discovered them a year ago, so it’s fitting that I get to rep them as an ambassador. They truly saved my running career after I developed plantar fasciitis along with numbness, burning and pain in my toes. I suffered through the Rock n Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon in severe pain and nearly considered taking a break for a few months. After that race, the pain was nearly constant, no matter what sneakers or shoes I wore. But when I slipped into my Altras – seriously, within MINUTES of slipping into them – the pain subsided, the numbness faded, and I was walking without pain for the first time in weeks, if not months.

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and they’re cute, too!

So I joined the Altra cult and haven’t looked back. I’ve been training exclusively in them and have already broken in and marked up my NYC pair. I’ve been remarkably lucky this entire training cycle to not have any issues with my sneakers like I’ve seen other runners go through. I guess the old saying is true: when you know, you just know.

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And with Poland Spring Brand, I really lucked out: as a major sponsor of the NYC Marathon, they reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in partnering, to which I said sure. While I’m rarely seen without my refillable water bottle, I usually have a big flip-top bottle of Poland Spring Brand on hand for my runs because it’s easier to drink from while running. But, just like I mentioned earlier, refilling my bottles and buying more after I ran out usually ended up at the bottom of my marathon training checklist and I would wind up just filling my reusable bottle with whatever I had on hand, usually the office tap water.

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Enter Poland Spring Brand, with a nearly endless supply of water to help me throughout marathon training. No, really. I have 24-packs everywhere to ensure I never run out: in my car, under my desk at work, in the fridge at home – I’m talking everywhere. These guys have kept me running with fresh tasting water for the past month, and will even be there on race day, at every water stop along the 26.2 mile journey through the 5 boroughs of NYC.

And they haven’t just been there to help me while I’m running; I’ve also been able to up my pre-run hydration game thanks to them, and as a result have seen a huge improvement in my long runs. In the past, I’d heard folks talk about hydrating the day before a long run and thought “I drink water, I’m good.” But once I started keeping track of my hydration and forced myself to drink 2-3 extra bottles a day before a long run, I found myself going faster and farther without fatigue during my long runs. Sure, I also pay attention to what I eat and get lots of sleep and do all the other things they say you need to do, but the hydration makes a huge difference.

See those paces up there? Yeah, I’m shocked too.

So now here I am, having finished my last long run of 8 miles on Sunday (at 11:47/mile!), I’ve got 3 on the calendar today, and I’m ready to take on that marathon. I’ve followed the plan nearly to the letter, I’ve fueled the right way, paid attention to my body and rested when I needed it, and now it’s time to rest and prepare for the victory lap around NYC in 6 days.

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Bring it on, NYC!

NYC Marathon Training Update

Because “I ran, I ran, and I ran some more” gets boring awfully fast – and because I now have a few months of training under my belt and monthly updates are easier – here’s a look by month of how my training has been going!

August

If July was when I built my base, August was when I started to get serious. My training plan had me logging 3 runs between Monday and Friday, and this was the month where I found the right balance. The plan as it’s published has these runs back to back to back, but my body just isn’t built like that. So after a few weeks of burning out and a skipped run or two, I realized I needed to shift some things around to maximize my training time. The result was a solid month of miles – and the end of the piriformis/hip flexor pain I started out with! Total August Miles: 86

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September

In September, my mileage steadily grew to the point where my mid-week runs were up to 9 miles. NINE! Before this whole marathon training thing started, 9 miles used to require a few days of psych-up time and a full Sunday. Now, I bang them out under 2 hours after a full day of work and call it a Wednesday. That fact will never not impress me!

This month I also learned the importance of stretching and strength training. Sure, the hours and hours of running I do each week take up a lot of time, but I’ve learned the hard way that stretching and strength training are non-negotiables. With this being my highest-mileage month EVER, I finished September feeling strong and ready to take on the home stretch. Final September Mileage: 121 miles

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October

While we’re only 11 days into it, October has already started off with a bang, with my highest mileage week ever from 10/1-7 (37 miles). I kicked off the month with an 18 mile run and felt incredibly strong. This weekend I take on my longest run ever, a 20-miler. October will be my hardest month in terms of mileage, but I know the payoff will be worth it!

Training Notes

In general, I’ve hit my training stride. Through trial and error, I’ve figured out the magic formula that works best for me:

  • Sunday long run
  • Monday rest
  • Tuesday first short run
  • Wednesday long mid-week run
  • Thursday rest/cross train
  • Friday 2nd short run
  • Saturday cross train
  • Repeat!

That’s not to say that I haven’t felt the burnout that comes with any training cycle. I’ve only experienced it before in half marathon training, but this is a whole other beast.

There was a moment a few weeks back when things were getting tough. We all have lives outside of running, and mine weighed heavily on me. I broke down one night and wanted to quit everything. I was tired of running, my body hurt. I was over-scheduled and under-rested, and mentally shredded. After mentioning my struggles to my friend Liz, she surprised me a few days later with a beautiful gift that – of course – made me cry:

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It’s crazy what running has brought into my life. The emotions, the friendships, the pride, the tears; sometimes when you’re in the thick of it, it’s easy to lose sight of why you’re doing this. That end goal is pretty hard to see when you’ve got to drag your ass out of bed before the sun for a long run to fit in the rest of your day’s plans, or when you’re at mile 4 of a 9 miler at 7:30pm on a Wednesday and would rather do ANYTHING but spend another hour on that treadmill. I’m running this marathon for a whole bunch of reasons that I forgot in that moment, but I’m grateful for being reminded in the sweetest way possible.

I’m in the thick of Peak Week at the moment, with 10 miles on the schedule tonight. And while it sounds crazy, I look forward to it. It turns out, pushing my body to do things I never thought possible comes with a whole new sense of accomplishment I’ve never felt before. And I know that while this feels pretty incredible, it’ll be nothing compared to how I’ll feel when I finally cross that finish line on November 5th.

The Last Jedi Trailer is Here!!

So unless you live under a rock (or maybe you’re just a more well-balanced human who pays attention to the real world and not a galaxy far, far away), you probably know that the Star Wars fandom is currently ON FIRE thanks to the release of the full Last Jedi trailer last night:

Now. It’s been nearly 24 hours since the trailer went live, so I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten the majority of my feels out of my system.

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POOOOOOORG!!!!!

Ahem. Excuse me. Sorry, just had to get that out.

So yeah – this is 2+ minutes of incredible footage that reveals a LOT about this new film, while revealing very little. A lot of folks are claiming this is a case of classic misdirection and slick editing – while we’re being shown this footage, what are we NOT being shown? Sure these characters are speaking but they may not be speaking to each other. Who is Luke talking about when he says he’s seen this terrifying power before? Who is Rey asking for belonging from? WHO IS KYLO REACHING OUT TO?

Now, I know the answers I want. And I know the answers my husband wants, which are entirely opposite of mine. But he’s just a jealous nelly who is envious of Kylo Ren’s magnificent hair and puppy dog eyes and HE DESERVES A REDEMPTION ARC, DO NOT EVEN TRY TELLING ME OTHERWISE, I WILL DIE ON THIS HILL I SWEAR TO GOD.

Ahem.

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OK. Back to the point of the post.

When The Force Awakens opened, I discovered the wonderful world of Trailer Reaction Videos and fell in love. If you haven’t seen these, it goes like this: people apparently record themselves watching something for the very first time and share their reactions with the community, much to the delight of all involved. I found the emotions these people shared to be so raw and so real, and I loved it. Seriously, just try NOT to cry when a whole slew of people SCREAM WITH JOY when Han Solo shows up in this one (it happens around 1:23 and I cry every time):

So back in April, I recorded myself watching the Teaser Trailer for kicks and never really did much with it. Although I did learn something about myself: when I’m truly surprised, I make the exact same faces as this guy.

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Don’t believe me? See for yourself (pressed for time? scrub to 1:40 for my facial gymnastics):

You’re welcome.

So anyway, in keeping with my tradition of recording reaction videos, I hit record when the trailer started last night, and this is what we get:

Note: I did edit the end of the video a bit tight; apparently my emotions were running SO high that I turned and spewed a whole litany of “I told you so”-type expletives at my husband that are definitely NSFW, so there you go.

So what do you think about the trailer? Did you even know it came out? It’s okay if you didn’t, we can still be friends. 

Newport Half Marathon Race Recap

After a great experience as a Blog Partner with the Newport 10K in May, I was invited to run the the Newport Half Marathon in September and jumped at the opportunity. Sunday started out muggy and warmer than expected; Mere was running this race with me (well, she finished like 90 minutes before me but you know what I mean) and as we headed into Jersey City we prayed the sun would stay behind the clouds for our race to keep the temps low.

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Spoiler alert: it did!

A note about parking: a big factor in my race decisions is how easy it is to get to. My nerves are already shot enough on race morning, I’m not about to drive myself insane circling a city for a parking spot or navigating a bunch of detours. Anyone who’s driven in northern NJ will tell you that it’s a bitch and a half, so I was skeptical about a race IN Jersey City. But these folks are total pros, and even though we rolled up to the race area a bit later than I wanted, we still managed to get a parking spot in the huge deck very easily thanks to the clearly labeled streets and tons of race volunteers. A++ for that, Newport Half Race Team!

After parking, we stopped at the porta-potties (again, plenty of clean options available, another A+ for the event crew), hung out for a bit, and waited for the start.

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Full disclosure: while waiting, I had a bit of a panic attack. The craziness of the pre-race crowds two days in a row, combined with the lack of sleep and extra physical pressure I had been putting on myself all came to a head and I just wanted out. I didn’t want to be there. I felt itchy all over. My skin burned and my insides churned. I couldn’t catch my breath and I felt like crying. So I sat on the curb while everyone around me chatted and took a few deep breaths to work through it.

I didn’t plan to wait until World Mental Health Day to publish this post, but it’s fitting that I share it now. Anxiety doesn’t always look like hysterical tears or someone hugging themselves and rocking; sometimes it’s a quiet, forced smile or a stoneface when everyone else is laughing. I’m not going to gloss over my mental health issues to paint an unrealistic picture. We need to break the stigma of talking about these things, and I want to help do that, one blog post at a time. So yes, I had a small panic attack before the start. After a few minutes I was able to pull it together and we went on with our morning, but if you ever feel overwhelmed and scared, just know that you’re not alone!

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Once we realized the crowd was moving to the start corrals we headed over with them and seeded ourselves. It was a smaller race so the corrals were about 50 feet apart, which was nice. Mere said farewell and headed to her corral and Mike stayed with me to send me off at the start, and away we went.

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Right away, the humidity was an issue. It was hard to breathe and my muscles were super tight from racing Seaside the day before. I took it slow because I still had the goal of adding miles at the end of the race. But by mile 3, my right calf and ankle felt like they were wrapped in super glue: tight, hot, and angry. So I pulled over to a curb and stretched for a good minute or two – clearly this was not going to be one of those “omg I am so strong!” races. I was OK with this.

After mile 3, I was feeling better, my ankle and calf had loosened up, and even though I was drenched in sweat already, I fell into a groove behind these two girls at my exact pace, who had to be twins – they had nearly identical builds and ponytails, even their gaits were similar.

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I took my first gel at the water stop near 4.5 and finally stopped for a bathroom break at about mile 6 in the park. Then we turned onto the waterfront path at 6.5 and came face to face with Lady Liberty and the NYC Skyline – and I kid you not – Taylor Swift’s Welcome to New York randomly came on my iPod and the run immediately took a turn for the better.

I sang, I danced, I pointed at the skyline – hell, I cried some happy tears – all while running straight for that beautiful city in front of me.

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I’m sure the folks around me thought I was insane, but I didn’t care. Seeing the city was just the refresher I needed to get me through the rest of the race. We curled through the park for another few miles, and about halfway through mile 9 we cruised through a water stop manned by a crew of teens who cheered us on with big smiles. I had to laugh though – as I took my second gel and walked through, one of the teens sitting on the curb nearby shouted to her friend across the course, “Oh my god, my legs are SO TIRED!” to which I replied without thinking, “YOUR legs are tired???” She immediately blushed and covered her face and laughed with everyone around her – “I’m sorry!! I mean I ran yesterday so I’m sore! But you’re running so much more than me, you’ve got this!!” It’s always fun to interact with the volunteers 🙂

Around mile 10.5 as we neared the city again, I started to feel some twinge-y pains in my left ankle, possibly from overcompensating for the sore right ankle earlier in the run? Either way, I slowed down a lot here, and even stopped to fish a rock out of my shoe at one point. Then just before mile 11, we turned the corner where a small group of spectators stood. A woman was there with an older woman and a younger guy, and she was holding a sign that said “Almost there!” Of course, I laughed and said with a smile, “You’re not allowed to say that until Mile 13!”

Well, apparently this woman had enough of being heckled by runners the whole race, because she immediately snapped back at me in a super-nasty tone: “IT’S AN INSIDE JOKE.”

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excuse me??

I laughed in her face and waved her off. Um, an inside joke with who? One of the thousands of runners out here on the course with me? How about if you don’t like the comments you’re getting, you put that sign down until this inside joker of yours passes by, and you keep that sourpuss to yourself, mmkay?

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ANYWAY, it was right about then that Formation came on my ipod and I kicked it into gear for the final 5K. I texted Mike to let him know I was about a half hour away and took off at my now slower pace to keep that tender ankle from rolling. At mile 12 we hit the waterfront and cruised along there for the final mile and a half, and I crossed the finish line at 13.5 miles in a semi-decent time for a training run on tired legs.

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Overall it was a perfect course and a well-organized race, just like the 10K. If you’re looking for a nice flat half marathon with pretty views (and a medal, too!), definitely check this one out.

Back to Back Race Weekend

Because they were both such awesome experiences, I’m going to write individual race recaps for each of the races I ran back in September, but first I want to talk about racing in back to back events in one weekend: in a word, it was challenging.

On Saturday the 16th, I headed down to Seaside, NJ for the 4th running of the Seaside Semper Five 5K. After what happened at the race last year, there was no way I was missing this one. Even though I had 16 miles on the training schedule the next day, I figured I’d go and walk it, just to participate.

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So we fought through the crowds and Mike and I met up with our friends Liz and Jess and Ed (Liz and Ed ran it, Jess hung back with Mike) and after BSing at the start for a bit, the gun went off. And of course my competitive streak came out and I ran. I mean RAN. It wasn’t my hardest effort, but I really pushed more than I probably should have.

The next day, I woke up again at about 4:30am for the Newport Half Marathon with the goal of adding 1.5 miles before and 1.5 miles after for my 16 NYC Marathon Training Miles.

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Well. Let’s just say that after my 2nd 4:30aM wakeup in a row, coupled with another crazy crowd of people, 90% humidity and tired legs all combined to make it not my best idea. I ended up having a minor anxiety attack before the start. I started out feeling OK but my right calf was super tight by mile 3. I really felt the burn by mile 10. At mile 12 this sharp pain in my left ankle caused me to slow down even more to avoid injury. By the time I finished, I was DONE with a capital D. Those other 3 miles were not happening.

And guess what? THE WORLD DIDN’T END.

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Shocking, right??

In the past, I’ve been so super strict with myself about THE PLAN that missing a few miles here or there would send me into a tailspin of anxiety and self-doubt. 13 miles instead of 16 means the next week’s 12 miler would be another shorter run and the next week I have to do 18 and jump from 13 to 18 and I CAN’T DO THAT!

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Once the crazy lady in my brain calmed down (and I got out of the ice bath after that half marathon), I realized: I still did a LOT that weekend. All told, I DID the 16 miles. Sure, I ran them over 24 hours, but I still ran them. And there’s always time to make up those miles. So I made the decision to listen to my exhausted body and mind, called it at 13 for the weekend and picked up at 16 the following weekend. And it was fine! I’m now at 18 miles and feeling groovy, ready for my 20 miler in a few weeks, and those 3 missing miles didn’t kill me!

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So yes, I ran back to back races in one weekend. No, I would not do it again. Or if I did, I’d be sure to take it super easy (I’m talking walking) during the pre-long run event. I’m simply not at the point in my fitness where I can race one day and go for 3+ hours at nearly 90% power the very next day. The marathon training process is teaching me a lot of things. I’ve learned that I’m capable of a lot of incredible things, like running 18 miles with a huge blister and not stopping. But it’s also teaching me what I’m not capable of, which is just as important.

Running and Doubt (and my NEW Longest Run Ever)

This past weekend, I had 15 miles on the calendar and BOY was I looking forward to it. I hydrated well in the days leading up to the run. I spent the day before walking and relaxing down in LBI. I got a lot of sleep that night. Because I wanted a change of scenery (and the boardwalk bathrooms are still open), I decided to take my run to a new venue down the shore. My plan was to park at my usual starting spot, go 5 miles in one direction, 5 back, then continue on for 2.5 then back for my 15 total.

So I got down to the shore and took off in one direction for about 4 miles… before I ran out of boardwalk. I’m sure I could have probably explored a little more and gone into town for a bit until I picked up the boardwalk in the next town, but instead, I ran up the side street for half a mile then back down to the boards again for my 5.

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Fun Fact: at Mile 5, I stopped for a stretch on the sidewalk. When I realized I’d shorted myself on this turnaround and I’d need to make up that extra .5 somewhere down the line, I let out a breath and f-bombed the frustration out in one long, loud groan. But when I stood up, that’s when I saw the tiny girl at her Hurricane Irma Relief Lemonade Stand staring at me from across the street in a perfect recreation of the wide-eyed-person emoji:

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She made the face. Then I made the face. And then I ran across the street and threw my five sweaty singles into her basket and thanked her for the awesome thing she was doing and basically bought her silence on the matter. And I didn’t even take any of her lemonade or cookies.

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Anyway, once I got back onto the boardwalk for miles 5-15, I found a BRUTAL headwind coming from the north. After about 2 miles, I started to flag. I walked a bit. My music wasn’t doing it for me anymore. I accidentally stopped my watch (!!!!) at like 6.16 miles and threw off my whole mileage count for the rest of the run. I tried doing mental math and said OK, start the watch again and just go 8.84. This is easier said than done when there are turnarounds involved.

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By the time I got to new mile 4 (really mile 10), I stopped at my car to refill my water and reapply sunscreen. Apparently that was the wrong thing to do, because the last 5 miles were THE WORST. With my new math, I’d told myself I just had to go until my watch said 6.5 and turn around. So I put my head down and went. I was so delirious that when I hit 5, I sighed in relief and thought OK, just a half left – but then I realized I’d said 6.5, and that was it – I started to cry.

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I pulled over, sat on a bench, and cried behind my sunglasses like a big baby. I said some mean things to myself. Discouraging, nasty things that I never would have said out loud to anyone else. A marathon is impossible, I have no right to claim I could even attempt that distance, etc. But after a few minutes of hating on myself, I knew I still had to finish the run, so I went about another half mile before I gave up entirely on that direction due to the crazy crowds, and turned around for the final 2.5 mile stretch.

While 2.5 miles seems like nothing right now, I couldn’t imagine going for that long. Not because my body couldn’t do it; the soles of my feet burned but other than that I was physically FINE. It was my mental game that had fallen apart, and there was no getting it back in order.

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I switched on my power playlist and took a bunch of walk breaks, shooting my pace to hell (in my mind). By the time I got to the car, I lapped the block I parked on over and over to get to 15, unlocked the car, got into the driver’s seat, and cried. And this time I didn’t try to hide it. I just put my head on the steering wheel and let it out. I was disappointed in myself, plain and simple.

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I posted some videos to my Instagram stories that day in the moment, and received a LOT of love from you guys there. I really appreciate that, truly. You have no idea how reassuring it is to know that I’m not the only one who’s had doubts and bad runs and all the negative stuff that comes with this process.

Upon reflection, I  know that I CAN RUN 15 MILES. I just ran 14 a few weeks ago and felt unstoppable. This is a fact, that I can physically take on these distances. But once I told myself I couldn’t do it, I knew it to be true in that moment. That Henry Ford quote really is true: “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”

While I’m disappointed in what a flop that run turned into, I’m determined to learn from it and grow. I’ve slightly increased my strength training to keep every part of me strong, not just my legs. Last night I ran the 4 on my schedule even though I was still sore and slow. This run was proof that I need to work on my mental game as much as the physical part of it, and I’m not going to fail in that.

Newport Half Marathon, Here I Come!

Because I have the NYC Marathon coming up in less than 8 weeks…

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… I’ve purposely kept my racing schedule down to a minimum. This time last year I’d run more than a handful of races in all distances while leading up to my October half marathon, but that was because adding shorter distances while training wasn’t too big of a deal for me then. What was a 5K the day after a 6 mile long run, right?

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Fast forward to this summer, when I realized my marathon training plan would have me doing double digits nearly every weekend from August-October, and suddenly the idea of adding a 5K or 10K before or after didn’t seem so appealing.

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That’s not to say I’m completely bereft of races from now through November 5th; I could never miss the Seaside Semper Five on September 16th (especially after what happened last year), so I’m running that.

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I was a little wary of adding anything more though, because the next day I have 16 on the calendar. It will be my longest run to date, and while I just had a super successful 14 miler a few weeks ago, the thought of doing 3.1 before it is a little scary.

But when the folks at the Newport Racing Series reached out to me to see if I wanted to run the Newport Half Marathon the next day on 9/17, I jumped at the opportunity: I had a fantastic time at the Newport 10K back in May, and knowing how well the race would be organized (and being familiar with at least half of the course!), I would be thrilled to use the half marathon as a training run in the lead up to my marathon. Thirteen point one miles of cheering spectators, beautiful views, and aid stations on my long run? Meaning I only have to run 3 miles on my own afterwards for my 16 total?

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Yes, please!

So I’m super stoked to be running the Newport Half Marathon and can’t wait to nail my mileage with the help of a few thousand friends and spectators. Plus I get a medal at the end of it; how many long training runs give you a medal? Uhm, none, I think. So yeah.

It will be kind of weird knowing that everyone else is out for blood during the race while I plod along at my marathon goal pace to keep my legs fresh. I’m definitely going to force myself to walk most of the 5K the day before to really give it my best shot and not show up to the starting line completely shredding, but I won’t be gunning for time or a new PR at this race at all. It’s fast, flat, and a beautiful course, and I plan on just enjoying every step of those 13 (er, 16) miles.

What do you think: Have you ever used a race as part of your training? Would you consider it? Let’s hear it in the comments!

Rest Day Round-Up: Non Running Fun

It’s time for another installment of Rest Day Round-Up! This week, let’s take a look at some of the things that I’ve done this summer that don’t involve running:

My birthday!

On July 31st, I turned 34 and celebrated with some of the best people in the galaxy. I decided to go all out and had everyone over for dinner and drinks and dancing and other shenanigans and as you can tell by my droopy eyes in the pictures, a great time was had by all. We even had an appearance by Tiny Jedi Phasma!

Our Wedding Anniversary

On August 20th, Mike and I celebrated 6 years married by going into the city for an absolutely bonkers meal at Robert, the restaurant on the top floor of the Museum of Art & Design. It was a last minute decision but I couldn’t have been happier with the food, the breathtaking views, and the company. We ate so much that I’m STILL recovering.

A lot of wine, pool, and beach time

Knowing that winter isn’t too far off, this summer I am all about enjoying every moment of nice weather we get, and that means hanging out by any pool or body of water I can get access to. I know I’m super lucky to have access to the ocean and the pools of my friends and their family, and I’m not about to squander those opportunities!

The Solar Eclipse!

Unless you live under a rock (or not in the contiguous US), you probably know that we had a pretty rad solar eclipse last week. While we weren’t in the path of totality at my office in NJ, we still had a little Eclipse Party, and it was a blast. With all of the ridiculousness happening in our country the past few weeks, I did get a weird Melancholia vibe from the whole “there’s a crazy celestial occurrence happening while our world falls apart around us” thing, but it was still really cool to see with my own eyes.

How about you? What’s going on in your non-running world? Did you get to check out the eclipse? When was the last time you threw yourself a themed birthday party? What’s your favorite cake flavor? 

My Longest Run Ever!

This weekend, I hit a huge milestone not just in my NYC Marathon training, but in my running career: I finally broke my half marathon “curse” and ran 14 miles, my longest distance ever!

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Let’s rewind and talk about how it went down.

Going into this past weekend, I knew I had 13 miles on the schedule, but I decided to go 13.5 to break through the 13.1 stigma. With the past few weeks of hip flexor and piriformis rehab I’ve been doing with my chiropractor, on top of strength training I’m doing 2-3x a week, I was ready to run my longest run ever.

Having learned from past mistakes, I prepped for this run like I would a race: I hydrated well, laid off dairy and cheese, and upped my carbs the few days before the run. And the day before, I stayed active and walked my 10,000 steps on a visit to the local “zoo”, but didn’t overdo it.

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goats and horses being friends ❤

I had my plain pasta with simple marinara sauce and grilled chicken and my one glass of wine for my pre-run dinner.

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I even treated myself to some popcorn at the movies that night (PS – go see Logan Lucky, it was hysterical!)

The morning of, I had decided to stick to the treadmill because of an iffy stomach (thanks, IBS) and headed out to the Y. Because this was going to be a half marathon, I decided to try something different and brought some pretzels in addition to my usual chocolate Honey Stinger gels. This turned out to be a fantastic idea that I’m going to be using in all of my long runs going forward!

Miles 1-5 were a breeze, thanks to a random assortment of new music and some idle mind wandering. I took 60-second walk breaks at miles 2 and 4 (with a gel at 4), then stopped the treadmill at mile 5 to stretch for a few seconds and refill my water bottle before starting again for miles 5-8. My average pace was in the 11:45 range, which was right on target to keep me from re-injuring my hip but staying confident and comfortable.

I checked my Instagram during one walk break and saw that my friends Tiffanie and Carlos had both rocked their awesome long runs (of 14 and 20 miles, respectively!) ALSO on treadmills, and decided then and there that I was going for the full 14 too. It was time to do big, scary things!

So I walked again at miles 6 and 7, then stopped the treadmill at 8 when I felt some burning on the arch of my right foot that I didn’t want to turn into a big honking blister. So I stopped, took my sock off and applied some anti-chafe gel, popped 3-4 pretzels, watered up and started once more for miles 8-11. My goal was to finish this 4 mile chunk with just about a 5k left, to mentally make it easier to handle. This strategy worked – and the pretzels worked so well as fuel that I didn’t need to take my second gel until my final stop at mile 11!

I switched from music to YouTube videos in the last few chunks, and let me tell you – video as a distraction is fanTAStic. I learned this in earnest last week when I had to do my long run of 9 miles on the treadmill after work on Monday and watched Moana on Netflix for the first time. I was shocked to see how easy it was to run while watching a movie I’d never seen before, especially one as entertaining as Moana. Although it’s hard to run while crying (damn that stingray spirit guide and soaring musical score)! For this long run, however, I opted for some more physically inspiring videos: here are some of my favorites.

Anyway, I rounded out the run with the final 3 miles and felt strong straight through til the final mile, where I cranked up the intensity to finish strong. By the time I finished though, I was so sweat-soaked that I had no moisture left for the happy tears I wanted to shed!

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I was shocked to see my average pace hovered near my best Half Marathon PR pace – although I stopped my watch for those treadmill refreshes, I probably only added about 5-6 minutes to my time total, which I’ll take.

All in all this was a huge confidence boosting run for me. I mean, I KNOW I’m running the NYC Marathon in November. But in the back of my mind, that teeny tiny little sesame seed of doubt lay dormant: you’ve never run more than 13.1 miles. You’ve tried this before and failed. You’ll fail again.

With yesterday’s strong performance, I proved to myself that I WON’T fail again; that I’m stronger both mentally and physically this time, and that I’m ready to take on the rest of my training and rock all 26.2 of those miles on November 5th.