Is It a Training Update If I Don’t Have a Race Planned?

So I don’t have any big race coming up but I’ve still been working out pretty consistently and have been getting lots of questions on Instagram about what I’m doing so… is it a Training Update if I’m not actually “training” for something?

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I’m going to take the Regina George approach and say whatever. I’m calling it a Training Update and wishing I had cheese fries.

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I’ve been running lightly – not like on my tiptoes, but like, sparsely? Infrequently? You get the idea. The point is, the 6-week plan that I’m currently just about to wrap up Week 3 of is focused much more on strength and cross training, so I just don’t have the time to spend on running, writing, working, and running a house/marriage/social life at the same time. I would have thought the lack of mileage would turn me into a babbling lunatic, but on the contrary: the strength training has me feeling unstoppable.

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Also, this Laughlete shirt that I won from their Instagram contest is making every workout even more fun, so there’s that.

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But really, the daily, no-excuses, HIIT workouts of the Biggest Loser Last Chance Workout DVD kicked my ass at first, and are now helping me fit into clothes a little better and keeping me from getting winded when I take the stairs at the gym.

My logic behind this whole easy-on-the-running-but-heavy-on-everything-else plan was simple: lose weight, get stronger, get faster.

The expanded version of this thought process goes something like this: I have gained weight since 2018. It was a rough year both physically and mentally, and now that I’m 36, weight loss is harder to come by. But by making smarter decisions and really focusing on weight loss in the past month or so, I’m finally starting to see results, as I noticed yesterday when I got the dailies of my most recent on-camera work for my day job:

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Yay for weight loss AND a lighting upgrade, good lord.

So, with weight loss dialed in, next comes getting stronger. This is pure self preservation and wisdom imparted to me by my physical therapist who laughed at my pathetic attempts to engage my gluteus on day one of my therapy back in April.

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You see, since 2017, my #runallthemiles attitude landed me in physical therapy and/or the chiropractor’s office on 3 previous occasions with injuries to my piriformis, achilles and psoas, so perhaps it’s time I wise the f*ck up about my training. Meaning, stop JUST running and actually strengthen all the other muscles that running doesn’t use, especially if I’m not running AS much.

Combine that with the fact that there are only so many hours in the day, and a plan that involves 6 weeks comprised of 6 days of working out for 35-45 minutes per day MAX, and I was sold. “I can do anything for 6 weeks,” I told myself.

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Thanks, Kimmy.

And wouldn’t you know it, here I am halfway through Week 3, and I’m seeing it and feeling it. It’s extra motivating knowing that I’m only halfway through this and I can’t wait to see where it takes me. I also know from past experience that once I DO run consistently again, this weight loss and strength training/muscle building is all but guaranteed to have a positive impact on my running, so that’s even more exciting. I’m not planning on breaking a 7 minute mile or anything ridiculous, but I’m at least hoping things will feel a little easier with less weight on my joints and stronger leg and core muscles to support me while I run.

How is your training going? Are you training for nothing in particular? Have you ever done the Last Chance Workout or any other workout DVDs? Share in the comments!

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Behind the Instagram Curtain Part 2

A few years back I wrote a post that I probably enjoyed more than you readers did, where I broke down some of the more popular or entertaining shots on my Instagram feed and let you in on what it took to get the shot. Going through my own feed and remembering the lengths I went to – or what was just out of the frame that you couldn’t see – was pretty entertaining for me, so here it is: Behind the Insta-Curtain, Part 2:

Europe, I love you, but you’re bringing me down.
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This was taken on our first morning on the Channel Island of Jersey during our Eurotrip this past May. While Jersey was everything wonderful and Euro-chic – and we had an incredible time and can’t wait to go back, hopefully next year around the same time – do you see that little dark spot in the brown dirt just under and to the right of my bag?

Yeah that’s pee. A man had just taken a leak directly under an old WWII bunker that we were exploring and I had walked “in” on him. I asked Mike to take a picture of me, but this photo is of me actively saying, “Please don’t get the pee in the shot.”

It didn’t work.

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Sure, it’s an inspirational pic of a couple of friends showing off one’s new Momentum wrap. But in reality, we were hunched under our hoods as the skies opened up above us, and Liz’s coworkers (my ex-coworkers) watched us from the windows above us, wondering what the hell these two chicks were cackling like bog witches about.

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After this run, I took my stretch to the little dock in the center of the park, which is apparently a favorite spot for toddlers and toddler parents alike. Just out of frame to the right of this photo, a particularly inquisitive child was screaming to her mother behind her, “MOMMY, WHAT IS SHE DOING?” Right after this photo, I burst into laughter and the mother profusely apologized. The things we do for Insta.

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For my first Flat Runner in a while, I decided to take advantage of the light coming in through my front door, and laid my race shirt and bib out on the floor there. My cat, Sam, decided this meant I was making him a bed because he repeatedly tried walking into the shot and laying down on top of everything. He got so fixated on this shirt that I had to have my husband hold the cat out of frame just to get one picture.

And then I let him have the damn shirt, I’m not a monster.

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I did genuinely collapse on the floor when I walked in from one particularly hot run in this shot; that’s not made up. But even though we clean our floors semi-regularly, you don’t realize just how filthy a floor can get until you collapse on it in a sweaty heap.

So there you have it – a peek behind what goes on behind the scenes of my Instagram feed! If you want more ridiculousness like that, be sure to give me a follow there if you aren’t already. I promise, I sing badly to 70’s classics and complain about the weather at least 3x a week on my Insta-Stories, and you’ll get a lot more footage of my cat being obsessed with me, too. It’s a win-win.

Race Recap: 2019 Seaside Semper Five 5K

Every September I run the Seaside Semper Five 5K with the Marines down the shore in Seaside, NJ, and every year I have a blast. It’s my only legacy race, meaning I’ve run it every year it’s been held since 2014, and I hope to continue that tradition as long as my legs will carry me.

Clockwise from top left: 2014, 2016 (the year a bomb went off on the race course), 2018, 2017 and 2015. 

This year I went into the race with a good attitude; I’d just come off the high of crushing the Fifth Avenue Mile the week before and while I was a little sluggish from focusing on strength training in the week leading up to the race, I was ready to test myself out at this distance again.

We rolled up to the start area at the  boardwalk at about 7:45 after finding easy parking as usual in the streets along the beach, and met up with our crew to get our bibs and shirts and hang out. It seems every year our gang gets bigger – this year we had a total of 7 runners/walkers and 2 support crew.

Having had success with my pre-race fueling at the Fifth Avenue Mile the week prior, I tried to capture lightning in a bottle a second time and packed a half a PB&J for about a half hour before the start. Spoiler Alert: it didn’t go as well.

But it did make for a hysterical photo series that Liz should probably win some awards for. Pulitzer-level stuff, this is. 

We killed time before the start, then mashed into the boardwalk with everyone else. Liz continued to document the experience with her camera, and caught a moment she calls “WORDS”:

Clockwise from top left:

  1. Group selfie!
  2. John thinks there’s too much Jess. Remedies situation.
  3. Jess has some WORDS with John.
  4. “Go ahead, get in for another photo, I dare you.”

So we had like, zero fun while waiting, as you can see.

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Another fun fact: Ed here (left, with the race bib) and my husband Mike have this uncanny ability to unintentionally match, like… 90% of the time we all get together. I’m not kidding:

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It’s a game we play now. And the best part is, no matter what, we always win!

But back to the race…

The morning was cool, but the sun was blazing so by the time the gun was about to go off, we were all a little schvitzy.

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Mike also caught some fun candid shots of me doing… something?… while we waited. 

Where the pre-race PB&J worked for the mile the weekend before, the one I housed before the start of this race wasn’t sitting well, and once the gun went off, I developed a side stitch about a half mile in.

Through the years, I’ve gotten better at reading the signs my body throws me, and this morning, my body was telling me it wasn’t going to be one of those inspirational, kick-ass races like I’d had the week prior. The boardwalk was crowded with more than a thousand runners (yay for supporting a great cause but boo for overcrowding the race course) so it was tough to get a rhythm going, and my body felt heavy. No matter. Instead of letting it go to hell like I’d done in years past (see 2018), I still resolved to keep an eye on my watch and push as hard as I could.

The first 3/4 mile or so was on the boardwalk, and I ran until the only course water stop at around mile 1.5 on the road, where I took two cups – one to shotgun and the other to sip – as I walked for about a tenth of a mile or so. Having run the course twice already since they changed it in 2017, I knew there were some twisty turns before we hit the out and back turnaround at the farthest point, and I walked some more. It’s fun though, to see the groups of runners and Marines out on the course.

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At the turnaround, a large pack of Marines caught up to me, chanting as they marched – and their chanting was exactly at the same pace I would need to stick to for a 12:00 mile.

 

Oorah! So I decided to latch onto their group and shuffled ahead of them for about a half mile or so, until they picked up the pace and got onto the boardwalk for the final 3/4.

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I told myself to crank it up at the giant ice cream cone and did just that, powering past my friends for a solid finish-line sprint and a 39:58 finish.

 

Thanks, Liz, for being the best videographer and cheering squad leader on the course!

It was nowhere near my best time, but it was a solid effort. I pushed in places where I previously would have just said screw it, so I’ll take it as a win. And as usual, I can’t wait for next year!

Hitting the Reset Button

Running and I were not best friends there for nearly 2 years. We weren’t even like… friends you ask to pick you up from the airport or help you move a couch.

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But that’s because I was doing it for the wrong reasons.

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Is this wildly-popular-on-instagram sweatshirt one of those reasons? Maybe.

I was running because that was what I thought I should be doing, as a “runner”. And I’m not using quotes because I don’t consider myself a runner – I am. But that’s not all I am.

After the NYC Marathon, I took time off from running, lost my job, and then injured myself when I tried to get back into running just for the sake of running. I stopped paying attention to what I ate. I ran races I didn’t want to run, just because other people wanted me to. And by forcing myself to push through it and run all the miles for appearances’ sake, I neglected everything else and my body and mind paid the price. Instead of running to feel better, it made me feel worse.

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I ran from one Instagram-worthy photo to the next, while behind the scenes, my body and mind were being held together with duct tape and crossed fingers. And I can’t ignore the fact that I behaved the way I did in part because I felt the pressure of nearly 16,000 people on Instagram “watching” my feed. To ignore that would be irresponsible.

So instead of ignoring it – or imploding like I’ve seen others do – I quietly worked on myself. Behind the scenes, in fits and starts, for nearly a year now. I stopped taking photos and posting about every workout on social media. I ran. I didn’t run. I tried yoga. I gave up yoga. I turned off all social media notifications on my phone. I connected with therapists and people who could help me get stronger physically and mentally.

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With the false sense of wisdom that only time can provide, I’m comfortable saying the Fifth Avenue Mile was a turning point for me. It was the first time in a long time that I felt confident and ready, in mind and body, to race. My unexpectedly stellar performance is the proof I needed to know that my work is paying off.

Don’t get me wrong: the work to get back to 100% is ongoing, and always will be. I know that now. But this is the first time since the 2017 NYC Marathon that I’m enjoying the work. And while I don’t have any race plans on the horizon, I’ve got other plans.

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I’m currently 2 weeks into a 6-week program that is already paying dividends in terms of how I feel. I’m less bloated and have more energy. The goal is to get back down to my pre-marathon weight and strengthen my body top to bottom so that when I do race, I’ll be as strong as I can be in that moment. At age 36, that’s not an easy task, and 6 weeks is just the beginning. But it’s refreshing to think that you can always hit the Reset Button.

Race Recap: 2019 NYRR/NB Fifth Avenue Mile

It’s a wild idea: shut down one mile of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and let thousands of runners take it over. Invite world-famous athletes. Televise it. Magic.

I first ran the NYRR/NB Fifth Avenue Mile in 2015, where I nabbed my personal best mile time of an 8:51 and then ascended to Heaven when Meb himself was standing at the finish line, practically waiting for me to take this picture.

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I still believe that I actually died at the finish line after running, and this photo was taken in Heaven, and then they kicked me out, but that’s just conjecture.

In the past 3 years, I consistently missed the mile for one reason or another: conflicting races, travel, life, etc. Also, if I’m being honest, it’s a LOT to go into the city just to run one mile. The $27 train tickets ($54+ for me and my husband), on top of the subway costs and the 4AM wakeup time, just to run for like 15 minutes?

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Exactly, Mike.

This year, however, I’d toyed with the idea of doing the mile while I was in physical therapy for the nerve issues and Achilles tendinitis that forced me to DNS at the NJ Half Marathon back in April. One mile was just long enough to really push myself, and it would also give me a good baseline idea of where my fitness was if I really focused and trained for the weeks leading up to it.

So, with the blessing of my physical therapist (what up Dean), I convinced my running and injury recovery buddy Kevin to sign up with me and we headed into the city to see how fast we could run one whole mile down Fifth Avenue.

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Nearly head to to Altra Red Team gear *devil horns* Bonus: the race premium was a sweet pair of race-branded shorts!

Friday before the race, I came down with food poisoning that kept me up all night, and then Kevin and I and our friend Jess went into Manhattan on Saturday to pick up our bibs and check out the Camp exhibit at the Met, while I ran in and out of every bathroom that museum had to offer every half hour. Needless to say, by Sunday’s 5:37am train, we were already done with the day.

We managed to pull it together and look cute, cause that’s what we do. But we DID take a cab to the start though, because reasons.

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We did the usual pre-race stuff: warmed up by jogging up and down the closed off streets behind the start area, made friends in the line waiting to take the photo you see up there,  and fueled up while waiting for our heats to begin.

Because we wake up so early and travel so far for some of these races – sometimes upwards of 4 hours from wakeup/breakfast time to start – I get hungry before a race. And I don’t perform well on a completely empty stomach. So I tried something new with this race and ate half a PB&J at home before the train and packed the other half for the race, which I devoured on the sidelines while waiting for my heat to start.

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The results speak for themselves, just like the pic that Kevin snapped of me looking like an angry squirrel while I housed my half-sammich.

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There’s only so much space on Fifth Avenue for the runners, so they break down the race into heats based on age and gender, then let them go every 10-15 minutes. This meant that my start time was 8:10AM, followed immediately by Kevin’s heat at 8:25AM.

After polishing off my sandwich and sipping on some water, I wished Kevin good luck on his race and slipped into the corral for my wave.

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My previous performance here in 2015 was literally lightning in a bottle: I’d run some 10:3x’s during training and in a few really good 5K’s, but never cracked the sub-10 mark, so 8:51 was mind-blowing. Fast forward to 2019: nearly 2 years of on and off injuries and depression (that led to a roughly 20 lb weight gain that I’m slowly chipping away at) had me convinced that a 12:xx was more likely. I could consider an 11:xx a celebration-worthy finish. Little did I know.

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In the corral, this was the first race in months – maybe even since the marathon – where I actually felt like a live wire, twitching and ready to run. My whole body was primed for the gun to go off.

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the view from the starting line

I had prepped a race-specific playlist of just three songs at the same bpm of my sprinting pace to last the whole mile:

  • Bonfire – Childish Gambino
  • Apesh*t – The Carters
  • Ass Drop – Wiz Khalifa

I hit start just as the gun went off, and immediately knew it was going to be a great run. Everything just felt easy. The weather was perfectly cool, the folks cheering on the sidelines were super pumped, and my legs just kept moving.

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While it was a mile on Fifth Avenue, the course still had some slight elevation changes that I mentally prepared for. You start on a slight downhill, then hit a very slight uphill between 1/4 and 1/2, and peak just about 3/4 of the way through before finishing on another slight downhill. The elevation is really negligible – you only gain about a total of 7m – but when you’re staring straight down the barrel of the street and see that wave of runners rising in front of you, it helps to know it doesn’t last forever.

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So I glanced at my watch when I saw the incline coming, and saw that I was running 9:5x. Too fast. I kept moving my legs in time with my music, but eased off the gas ever so slightly for the uphill. By the time we hit the halfway point, the course clock read 5:xx and I laughed – I really was going faster than anticipated, but I still felt good. I kept an eye on my watch and when I hit .65, I turned my music up louder and said f*ck it. If I puke when I finish, I puke. I wanted to see how fast I could go.

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if you look closely you can see the 2 safety pins I used to make my shorts tighter since I picked a too-large size and couldn’t return them

The resulting sprint looked horrible in race photos, but damn if it didn’t feel incredible. It had been so long since I opened the gate and let loose for a finish. My legs were moving so fast at one point that I briefly thought I might trip, but I stayed upright and crossed the finish line at 10:53 by the course clock and 10:12 by watch time.

I was ecstatic. Even if my official time turned out to be more like 10:30 once I factored in the time it took me to cross the start mat and official results were posted, that was amazing, considering I had an A goal of 11 and B of 12.

It took a while to get my breathing under control, and I refused all food at the finish, but gulped down a cup of water and headed to the sidelines to cheer on Kevin as he absolutely CRUSHED his mile in 8:24!

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After we reconnected at the finish, we decided to wait for a pic with our official finish times and met up with my friend Jenny who is currently on her way to finishing the NYRR 9+1 Program for entry into the 2020 NYC Marathon. We killed time by catching up while the line moved, but everything stopped when I stepped up to the monitor and the race volunteer typed in my bib # for my official time to pop up on the screen:

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Fam, I cried. I cried big fat baby tears because I never expected to see 10:08. After hours  upon hours of physical therapy, crying in MRI tubes because I didn’t know why my legs would give out on me during long runs, and wondering if I should even keep running, 10:08 may as well have been 6:08.

I felt like I floated the whole walk back to the Tick Tock Diner for a post-race nosh before heading back to NJ – PS, get the avocado toast benedict, it’s TO DIE FOR.

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Now that I’ve continued to ride the wave after this race, I can see that it was a turning point for me and my running, and I’m excited to see where this momentum carries me into 2020!