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.