NYRR/Front Runners Pride Run & NYC Pride March

For Throwback Tuesday (which is a thing now that I’ve just made it up), let’s take a little trip back to June, when I ran the NYRR/Front Runners Pride Run 5 Miler in Central Park with my friend Kevin – and then returned to Manhattan for the Pride March the following day!

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Kevin has been by my side for a lot of training this year, so I was stoked when he wanted to do this race with me. After having such a great experience last year, I really wanted to share it with someone, and while it wasn’t as… DRY as last year, it was even more fun because I ran with a friend.

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As we waited for our 5:32AM train, the rain started coming down hard. No worries, we thought – we’ve got like 3 more hours! It’ll pass by then. Hm. Well, two hours later when we emerged from the subway, it was still pouring. We ran across the street and into bib pickup, then hid under a tree with the thousands of other people who also weren’t prepared to hang around in pouring rain for an hour waiting for the race to start.

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The only pre-race photo I was able to take through the plastic bag I stashed my phone in!

It was kind of miserable – and because we were drenched to the bone, our cameras had to stay hidden too, so we don’t have many photos – but once it was time for us to line up in our corrals, the rain slowed to a drizzle and we were grateful for the cooling effect of running while wet.

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We went out to have fun with this one. It was Kevin’s first NYRR experience, and first time running in Central Park, so we played a fun game where he’d ask me what hill was coming up next and how long it was going to be, then he’d curse at me for not lying to him. Harlem Hill was especially fun. Sorry, Kevin!

But we hit a good rhythm of running and stopping for walk breaks when we needed them. This race is always a good time – everyone is so chatty and friendly on the course, and we made lots of “hi-bye” friends who shared in our uphill struggles and water-break euphoria. By the time we got to Mile 4, we realized the end was near and picked up the pace for a strong finish with blue skies.

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After we picked up our new race shirts, we snooped around for something to eat, realized we (okay, me) were chafing, and headed home. We needed our rest after all – we had been invited by our friend Stephen to ride on a float in the NYC Pride March the next day!

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Stephen – aka Lady Champagne Bubbles – is not just a fabulous performer. He’s also worked hard to earn a bunch of letters after his name (MSN, MBA, RN) and works at the NYU Langone Medical Center as Care Manager and co-chair of the LGBTQ+ Advisory Council. When he invited us to ride on the NYU float that he’d also be performing on, I strapped on my rainbow fanny pack and jumped aboard – and it was SO MUCH MORE EPIC than I ever could have imagined.

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My heart is still so full when I think back on it. The music was loud, the hugs were strong, the people were beautiful and the love was real. When this world gets dark, I will remember that day and know that love is love is love – and no narrow mind can change that.

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We partied through the streets for hours, waving our flags and singing along with the crowds that lined the sidewalks the whole way.

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By the time we entered the Village, the crowds were so thick and loud that I had nearly lost my voice screaming and cheering with them. When we passed the Stonewall Inn, I couldn’t help but get choked up.

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The LGBTQ Rights Movement has always been close to my heart, but participating in the March and sharing the love with everyone in NYC really took it to the next level. Seriously, I lost count of how many times I looked at Kevin or Stephen and just said “Thank you!” It was an incredible experience that I won’t ever forget.

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tired post-Pride subway riders ❤

NYC Marathon Training Update

I feel like every tenth post I write should start with an auto-disclaimer: I know I’m a terrible blogger and it’s been more than a month since my last post. But I promise I’ve got some good stuff to share and I’ll try to be more regular! 🙂

So when we last left off, I’d taken a nasty spill on the trail (ok, on the sidewalk getting TO the trail) and developed an infection as a result, which put me out of commission for 10 days. When I returned, I was worried that my lack of training would set me back in a big way, but I was wrong.

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I hit the trails on Day 10 and nailed an easy 5K in 10:57/mile and felt fantastic. Having to take 10 days off really made me appreciate being able to run, and I jumped right in with both feet.

The next day, Thursday, June 15th, I jumped in a bit TOO hard and raced the Corporate Fun Run 5K with my company for the second year in a row – and ran my very first sub-30 5K!

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I’ll admit that the course was a tad short, but there have been SO many times where I missed a PR because a course ran long, so I’m taking it.

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We had a great time – in addition to coworkers, the race directors invited family and friends and clients to participate, so Mere was able to run this one with u! She nailed 2nd Female Overall and helped us get First Female Team overall, too!

Unfortunately, after pounding the pavement 2 days in a row after taking so much time off (and REALLY pushing it in the final mile for that PR during the race), I woke up Friday with a very tender hip. This is a minor issue I developed back while I was training for the second Disney race weekend earlier this spring. I learned how to take care of it with lots of different stretches and foam rolling religiously, so after taking an extra few active rest days with biking and stretching and yoga, it felt better relatively quickly and I was able to continue NYC Marathon training in earnest.

Instead of being All Caps Abbi with every run (where my Broad City fam at?) I’m forcing myself to run a bit slower to avoid re-injuring it, and I’m feeling very strong as a result.

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My training plan has me doing three shorter runs Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday, taking off Friday, doing cross training and a shakeout mile on Saturday, then running long Sunday. The only time I ran into an issue was with my mental game during my first double digit run of this cycle:

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It was a tough 10 miler. A touch of food poisoning kept me up til 1am the night before, so I slept in and felt good when I got up, but by mile 6 my body (and mind) were ready to quit.

Too often I’ve quit early on long runs because my body felt tired and I don’t like seeing my pace suffer from walk breaks. But with marathon training I’ve made a deal with myself: it’s not about pace, it’s about distance. No matter how I have to cover the miles on those daunting long runs, I’m going to cover them, pace be damned.

So when I wanted to quit at mile 6 on this run, I pictured myself at mile 22 of the NYC Marathon and realized there’s no way I’d quit THAT race with just 4 miles to go. So I kept going. And while I walked a lot, I still finished all 10 miles (the final mile was the fastest!) and I strengthened my mental game at the same time. It was a great learning and growth opportunity, and I look forward to many more throughout this training cycle!

After that 10 miler, I’ve managed to stay consistent, and rocked a solid 9 miler over this weekend. My mid-week runs will start to grow in distance as of this week, and I’m especially looking forward to doing the NYRR Long Marathon Training Run this coming weekend – 2 loops around Central Park in July heat and humidity is going to be a real test, but I need some hill and outdoor training- and Mere is coming with me, yay!

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Sister-in-law running fun at the Spring Lake Five ❤

So now that we’re caught up on my training, I promise I’ll try to be more consistent – I’ve got a few races to recap, along with some other fun surprises in the works, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, tell me: How’s your training going? Do you have a latent hypercompetitive streak like me and All-Caps Abbi? 

Flashback Friday

Now that I’ve caught you up on all the great races I completed at the Disney Dark Side Challenge and the Newport 10K, let’s take a trip through the rest of my recent running (and non-running) adventures, through pictures, shall we?

My first workout after the Dark Side Challenge was a strong one, with a bunch of strength training, a solid bike ride, and a mile time trial in under 10 minutes!

The following week I celebrated May the Fourth by surprising my coworkers with a pop-up Tosche Snack Station, followed by a solid 4 miles and a night of Star-Wars themed painting and wine at Pinot’s Palette with my friend Jenny!

Following the Newport 10K, instead of jumping right back into training hardcore, I’ve been listening to my body and have taken it relatively easy. I even let myself go wild with a whole bag of popcorn to myself on Mother’s Day when me and mama celebrated by seeing Snatched together!

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hanging with our girls Goldie and Amy 😉

My “downtime” isn’t really much different from training, I just cut back on distance during the week and add some weight training to maintain my strength. This time around I’m also doing some slightly longer runs of 6+ to keep my legs conditioned for when I start back up on double digits.

This week I ramped things up with 3 workouts in a row from Tuesday-Thursday (run/Xtrain/run) and the downtime has apparently paid off: my 5K time Tuesday shocked me in a good way, and last night I crushed 5 miles unexpectedly at a solid negative split effort:

Now it’s Friday, my official Rest Day (TM) and I’m hydrating and looking forward to a bunch of happy miles on the trails and treadmill this weekend.

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How about you: what running plans do you have this weekend? Let’s hear it in the comments!

Warm Weather Running Tips

Between spring arriving with a bang here in NJ and running in the overwhelming heat and humidity of Florida last week at the Dark Side Challenge (recaps coming soon!), I’ve had to adjust my running strategies pretty drastically in the past week or so.

And now that I’m prepping for the Newport 10K on May 6th, I realize that I’m probably not the only one who’s had to adapt quickly. So today I’m sharing some of my tips for warm weather running as we take on these first few weeks of pre-summer heat!

giphy.gif…also this is the perfect opportunity to finally use this gif of a shirtless Adam Driver in tiny shorts. so. win-win. you’re welcome.

Tip #1: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

And I mean during AND before! Seriously. Upping your water intake and starting your run already properly hydrated makes a HUGE difference. Leading up to your long run or race – or even your regular outdoor runs! – be sure to take in extra water and stay away from caffeine and alcohol as those have more of a diuretic effect. Then while you run, make sure to keep those levels topped off. I’m no doctor but the rule of thumb is to check your urine: if it’s clear, you’re overhydrated. If it looks like iced tea, get ye to the water fountain STAT. Straw-colored is the goal here.

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But while you’re doing this hydrating thing, also be aware of hyponatremia, which is a deadly condition that occurs when you drink TOO MUCH water and your blood sodium levels drop to dangerous lows and cause  So yeah. It goes both ways, this hydration game!

For actual REAL expert advice on hydration, check out this article on Active.com. They’ve even got a handy guide for you there!

Tip #2: SUNSCREEN

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My god, sunscreen. Please, people. Don’t forget the sunscreen. I know we wear those uneven shorts and racerback tan lines as badges of honor, but burnt skin is damaged skin. Besides, a sunburn makes it more painful to run than it already is. When it’s 85+ degrees out there, why make running any more painful than necessary?

Tip #3: Slow Down!

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I know: it seems very counter productive. I’m racing, you’re thinking. The faster I go, the faster it’ll be over and I can cool off! Yeah, no. When the temperatures soar, you need to adjust your pace accordingly and run by perceived exertion, not by the pace you think you *should* be hitting on your watch.

Tip #4: Minimal, Loose Fitting Clothing

This is a lesson I learned late in the game: the less you wear when you run in the heat, the more comfortable you’re going to be. I used to run in capris all the time because I was afraid I’d scare passersby with my jiggly thighs. Until I ran a 10 miler in like 80 degrees in capris and nearly finished the run pantsless. Now, I rock the shorts, jiggle be damned.

Recently, on a solo run in my stifling hot office gym, I discovered the joys of being a part of the Sports Bra Squad and let me tell you: while I was petrified of someone coming in and seeing me wobbling all over the place, I also felt COOL.

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When it comes to running in the heat, run in what YOU’RE comfortable in. Try running in a sports bra. I was shocked to see how much more comfortable I was, and nailed my run even harder because I felt so badass. Now I’m looking forward to giving it my all this summer!

Tip #5: Maybe Don’t Run?

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What kind of running blogger am I, suggesting you NOT run?! Well I’m going to keep it real: if it’s TOO hot? You shouldn’t be running. I’ve seen some sites say skip the outdoor runs at 89, 90, or 92 degrees and up. But ultimately, you need to listen to your body. If you set out and immediately feel like your lungs are on fire and your skin is going to melt off your bones, maybe today just isn’t your day. It might feel badass, but you could do some real damage (heat stroke, anyone?). So when it gets TOO hot, consider moving your run to a treadmill. It won’t ruin all of the training you’re doing, I promise.

Do you have any hot weather running tips that you swear by? Share in the comments – and I’ll see you at the Newport 10K next week!

Spring Racing Season

While my summer and fall racing schedule is pretty barren (for good reason), I also left my spring wide open to accommodate the Dark Side Challenge in April. After running the Rebel Challenge in Anaheim in January, I learned how much training and recovery time I need around a 19.3 mile race weekend and didn’t want to overload myself too much with NYC on the horizon.

But now that the spring is nearly here – and I’m feeling stronger than ever before – I’ve added a few races to my calendar that I’m excited to talk about now.

The NYRR UAE Healthy Kidney 10K – April 9

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Having run this one last year, I was looking forward to it but didn’t know when the timing would shake out. Last year it was in late May, but a schedule change this year means it falls in early April – conveniently on a day when I need to run 12 miles! So I’ll head in to run 6.2 on the race course then add another 6 miles with my medal to complete my long run. I’m looking forward to returning to racing in Central Park as I haven’t been since the Marathon Kickoff in October – bring on that hill training!

The Dark Side Challenge 10K and Half Marathon – April 22 & 23

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I’ll be posting more about the prep I’ve been doing for this weekend soon, but a Spring Racing Calendar list would be incomplete without it.

The Newport 10K – May 6

This one I’m super excited about: I’ve heard of this race before but it’s almost always around the same time as the Asbury Park and NJ Half Marathons, so I was never able to make it. But thanks to my newly cleared calendar, this year when race organizers reached out to see if I’d be interested in becoming an Official Blog Partner, I jumped at the opportunity. So now I’m stoked to be taking on the “fastest course in the Tri-State area” on Saturday, May 6th, along the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway!

Now, I don’t know how quickly I’ll recover from racing 19.3 miles 2 weeks earlier (in January it took me a good two weeks), but I may even gun for a new 10K PR here. Based on what they say about the course being fast and flat, it sounds like I’ve got a good shot at it, so fingers crossed!

Front Runners New York LGBT Pride Run 5M

After running this one last year not too long after the attack in Orlando, I vowed to add it to my “never miss” list. It was one of the most supportive, meaningful experiences I’ve had at a race, and I’ll never turn down the opportunity to show my Pride.

So far that about wraps it up for my upcoming races – how about you, what does your Spring Calendar look like? Have you ever run any of these races before? Sound off in the comments!

Not My First Rodeo (er, Full Marathon)

Fact: I will be running my first marathon at the 2017 TCS NYC Marathon this November.

Fact: I will start training officially for this marathon sometime in May or June of this year.

Also fact: This is NOT the first time I’ve started training for a full marathon.

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I know. Shocker.

But it’s true: I signed up for the Atlantic City Marathon back in 2014 and had to drop down to the half after injuring myself during training and basically losing my mental toughness as a result of said injury.

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I’m not proud of this; in fact I don’t talk about it a lot because I’m still kind of upset by it. I’d be lying if I say that redemption isn’t like 80% of why I’m ready to attack NYC later this year.

But I’m writing about it today because it’s real. If we’re all honest with ourselves, I bet you’ve experienced something similar in your life. I want to share my story so you realize you’re not the only person to set a big scary goal and not achieve it. And just because you don’t achieve it on the first try doesn’t mean it will never happen.

[just imagine a fun “never say never” gif that DOESN’T involve Justin Bieber, because I didn’t realize that’s like his phrase now]

While scrolling through my archives, I found this post about training for my first full marathon, and at first I was upset – seeing my old posts about marathon training bum me out. They remind me that I set up a huge scary goal for myself and I failed at the goal. Runners knee in both knees, calf strains, failed long runs and a few illnesses along the way all caused me to postpone my goal and that hurt. I can still remember crying on the phone with my friend as I told her I couldn’t do it. But I ALSO remember the relief I felt in finally saying it out loud: I wasn’t going to run the marathon.

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And while I didn’t run 26.2 miles, I gained a LOT of knowledge about myself (which I went into in greater detail in this post). Long story short, I discovered that I should want to run the marathon for myself, not for other people. And in getting there, I learned how to listen to my body, how my anxiety affects my training, how to manage that anxiety, and so much more.

I wasn’t ready to cross that finish line in 2014 for a number of reasons, both physical and mental. But the training I DID accomplish, and the lessons I learned as a result, taught me how to prepare on all fronts.

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And now I’m ready: ready to train, ready to fight, ready to push myself, ready to be scared. But above all, I’m really ready to cross that finish line and accomplish a goal it’s taken me nearly 4 years to accomplish.

How about you: what have you learned in setting big scary goals for yourself? Have you ever had to defer your dream? Let’s talk!

How Bootcamp is Changing My Game

Since the reality finally hit me that I will be running 19.3 miles over 24 hours in less than 6 weeks (and 26.2 miles around the City of New York in less than 12 months!), I’ve decided to step up my fitness game, one month at a time.

This month, I joined Bulldog Strength and Conditioning for a month of bootcamp/ Crossfit-style classes, with the goal of upping my overall endurance and strength training game in the home stretch before my next half marathon and spring race season.

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My friend Kevin found this place about a month ago to get us ahead of the holiday weight gain by taking a drop-in class the Saturday after Thanksgiving with our friend Angela. I’ll admit: I was hesitant. I’ve done a few month-long boot camp style memberships at other gyms and while they were good workouts, I wasn’t a fan of their mentality and sometimes condescending attitudes. In some cases, the instructors cared more about socializing with the members than helping them get a good workout. Too often I’d see people sacrifice form for time and just flail around without the personal attention they should have been getting for $150+ a month – or worse, they’d get injured!

Having an injury-prone body to begin with, I like to focus on form and doing things the right way for the maximum benefit and to keep myself healthy. And it’s important to me that if I’m working with trainers, I make a personal connection with them about my fitness history and don’t feel too intimidated to ask them for help. So I went into this class with a grain of salt. But from the beginning, the owner Keith was super helpful – asking me about where we found him, what our goals were, what we were currently doing to stay active, etc. When I brought up running, he was psyched to hear about my plans for a half in January and asked me smart questions. Before we even started, I was impressed.

The class size was small; about 10 people, which was great – no crowding, plenty of time for personal interaction, and room to move. We kicked things off with a warm up that included 200M sprints, and Keith and his co-trainer were quick to point out that I should find this part easy, calling me out in front of the class – this was fun! After the warm up, they started cranking some old Alice in Chains and Nine Inch Nails music to get us into the groove, and we were off onto interval training, two workouts that we repeated two times each. The moves seemed simple at first, but after one minute on and only 15 seconds to move to the next workout, we were MOVING. My one friend had to tap out because it was so intense, and I don’t blame her – I had to pause a few times to keep my breakfast from coming up to make an appearance!

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After just over 40 minutes, we finished completely spent, sweaty and shaking, and I was hooked. I hadn’t pushed myself like that in months, and it felt great. I’ve been so scared of overdoing it and not being able to run that I’ve been shortchanging myself. No more.

On the spot I decided to commit to a month with Keith and his crew. But because he’s a smart businessman and a good trainer, he was open to discussion. He understood that I couldn’t commit to a full 5x/week schedule simply because the gym is 30+ minutes away and I need to spend more time running for now, and was able to work with me on a plan that fits my schedule and my budget.

Last night I took my first class of the month and I already can’t scratch my nose without that soreness in my arms and shoulders – and I screamed when a sneeze earlier this morning made my abs work unexpectedly. But I’m pumped to see where these workouts take me in my running. Tomorrow I’ve got 7 miles to run, and another class Sunday.

It’ll be a tough schedule to stick to this month to get all of my miles in AND reap the benefits of a month of bootcamp too, but I’m committed. If I’m going to do this 26.2 thing, I’ve got to do things I’ve never done before and work harder than I ever have in any training cycle – but I’m ready!

NYRR Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff 5M Race Recap

On the Sunday before Halloween, I headed into the city for the NYRR Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff 5M – my final 9+1 race to earn entry to the 2017 NYC Marathon!

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I was excited to take on this race for a number of reasons – the main one being the fact that it got me into the marathon! It was really cool seeing all of my hard work this year culminate in this final race, and the fact that it was a 5M sweetened the deal: this was the final distance I had yet to nab a PR in this year, and I wanted to be able to say I PR’d in every distance in 2016!

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The morning of the race was shockingly warm: temps were already in the 60’s by the time the sun came up, and rising quickly. I had layered up with the plan to ditch my sweats and sleeves before the start, but ended up shedding them pretty much as soon as we got to the park.

After hanging out in Mineral Spring for a bit we headed to the corrals where I made a quick port-a-potty stop, stretched out, and popped some Run Gum after the first gun went off and the faster corrals took off.

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This stuff really is the bomb – I’ve been using it before and during most of my races and runs for the past few weeks and notice a huge boost. Maybe it’s mental, maybe it’s just the caffeine,  but either way I’m loving it.

Once I crossed the start, I swear I caught a runner’s high within the first quarter mile. It was so incredible: the sun was shining, the crowds around me were pulsing with energy, my pace was on POINT at 9:50, my legs felt fantastic and fresh, and the city was humming. I tamed my inner speed demon a bit as we neared the first mile and I knew my favorite few was coming up fast.

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I mean, come on. Look at that. How can you see that and not be moved? I ran with my phone out just to snap this pic and a few runfies because I was feeling myself (sorry not sorry) and then put it away to focus on the task at hand: nabbing that PR.

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Miles 2 and 3 went by relatively easily – the usual Central Park hills had me pushing a bit harder than expected, and the heat caused me to stop for water more than I anticipated, so I was averaging about a 10:30/mile pace. I was bummed – I was giving it my all but needed to break 10:19 to PR. By the end of Mile 3 I passed a photographer and thought if I’m not going to PR I may as well have a frickin blast! So have a blast I did:

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But a funny thing happened at the start of the final mile – we went downhill. I always forget about that downhill, even though I’ve run that same 4-5-6 mile route around the park more than a dozen times this year and go the same direction every time! And when we went downhill, my pace picked up. A lot. So much so that by the time I made it to 4.5, I was cranking at about a 9:45/mile pace and my average pace had gone down to 10:19.

The rational side of my brain was screaming to slow down; there was no way I’d be able to push even faster for another half mile. But the balls-out competitor in me told that rational part to shut up and run; I’d hate myself if I missed that PR by a second per mile just because I wimped out in the final kick.

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The crowds were thick, so I had to weave around a lot of people. A girl that had been keeping pace next to me must have had the same idea to drop the hammer, because she took off like a shot and nudged her way through the crowds we were stuck in. I was so grateful – she was much shorter than me so she essentially parted the sea of people and I followed in her wake until we turned the corner before the finish line.

Her pace was a LOT faster than I was ready for – I saw 8:45 at one point! – but when I neared the finish and saw my 10:16 average, I left it all out on the course and crossed at 52:45 (Garmin time) with a new unofficial PR.

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Walking through the finisher’s chute was tough on shredded legs – I was wobbly and I couldn’t catch my breath, but it felt incredible. This is racing, I thought. This is why I do this. To chase my former self and prove to myself that I can do things I never thought possible.

Even though I didn’t PR officially by the gun time, I can honestly say I gave it everything I had and my watch says I did it. So I’m counting it 😉 And with that, I’m on my way to the 2017 NYC Marathon!!

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How to Prepare for a Half Marathon (or any race, really)

When I first started running I had NO idea what I was doing. I showed up way too early to my first 5K in a cotton tank top and shoes I bought because I liked the colors, I didn’t eat enough before the race, and I had a miserable time. Ask my husband: after that race, I said “I don’t think racing is for me.”

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Clearly, I AM A LYING LIAR WHO LIES.

Fast forward 6 years and here I am nearly 9 half marathons and countless 5Ks, 10Ks, and other distances later, and a lot smarter about how to prepare for race day. Whether you’ve run one race or 1,000, here are a few lessons I’ve learned that will hopefully help you get to the finish line with a smile:

1. Make a list

I am super Type A. I love order and planning and preparedness and lists. I will legit write something I’ve already done on my to-do list just to cross it off and get that feeling of accomplishment. Should I probably see someone about that? Perhaps. BUT, this character trait (flaw?) has served me well in my 6 years of racing, and it’ll help you too.

Make a list of everything you will possibly need for race day – and I mean EVERYTHING – like a week in advance, and start gathering it in one space like the dining room table or a box in the corner of the bedroom. Check the list often. And while you’ve probably got a handful of your own things that you know you’ll need on race day, here’s a list to get you started:

  • sneakers
  • socks (no cotton – spend the money on good running socks and your feet will thank you!)
  • top (tank, tee, longsleeve, layers, in tech fabrics – no cotton!)
  • sports bra
  • bottoms (capris, shorts, tights – same tech fabrics)
  • underwear (if you don’t run commando)
  • headband/hat/ponytail holder/bobby pins/any hair/head gear you usually need
  • headphones & music player (if your race allows them)
  • GPS watch or phone
  • anti-chafing gel or vaseline
  • lip balm
  • deodorant
  • sunblock
  • sunglasses
  • race belt
  • extra safety pins
  • fuel (Gu, energy gels, etc – 2x what you normally need just in case)
  • race number (if you already picked it up)
  • toss away water bottle
  • toss away top layer (if it’s going to be cold at the start)
  • garbage bag (if it’s rainy)
  • phone holder
  • any good luck charms or jewelry (I’ve always got to have my MARSOC Foundation bracelet and an inspirational wrap)
  • dry top & bottoms (and underthings) for post-race
  • flip flops or a second pair of sneakers & socks for post-race (because trust me, you will NOT want to put the ones you ran in back on after you take them off)

I love to lay out a Flat Runner the night before to keep track of all my gear and double check that I’m ready – and it helps to post on social media so that folks at the race know who to look for and can cheer you on in the comments, too!

2. Figure out your race day fuel plan early

Depending on your speed, fitness level, what your stomach can handle & what you prefer, race day fueling strategies vary from runner to runner. My best advice is to treat your long runs like race day and figure out what works for you by testing out your options every run.

It took me a while to perfect my plan, but on race morning I have a slice of whole wheat bread with chunky peanut butter and a banana, and half a cup of coffee. Then I’ll take a chocolate Honey Stinger gel about 10 minutes before the race start with a few sips of water. During the race I’ll drink water as I feel I need it (every 1-2 miles depending on the weather), and take a gel every 5 miles or 50-55 minutes with a cup of water. For some people that’s overkill, and for others it’s not enough.

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Not a wise choice: fueling entirely on Reeses. Although I’ve  never tried it…. brb, eating 5 lbs of Reeses and running a half marathon, will let you know how it goes.

It’s worth noting that I can’t take other gel brands – even other flavors of Honey Stinger! – without getting stomach cramps, so don’t give up on something if it doesn’t work the first time. I used to think that ALL gels gave me cramps, but after experimenting with different flavors and brands, I figured out what works for me and you will too.

3. Fuel your body right ahead of time

I’m the first to admit I’m not the best role model when it comes to food. I don’t deny myself wine and cake if I’m craving them, but I also do it all in moderation too. So what works for me might not work for you.

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And I love pizza. Did I mention pizza?

But the week before a race, I cut back on cheese and greasy foods and load up on water and carbs – not pasta twice a day every day, but just a little more than usual. And the night before a race my go-to meal is a serving or two of regular pasta with plain tomato sauce and simple grilled chicken.

Just like you should use your long runs to find day of fuel, treat the day before your longer runs like the day before a race: drink lots of water throughout the day, find a pre-race meal that keeps you satisfied and doesn’t weigh you down – and get PLENTY of sleep!

4. Pace yourself

This may seem like common sense, but for me – and many others that I’ve talked to about it – it bears repeating: throughout your training, be honest with yourself about your pace and know what to expect on race day. You can’t run at a solid 12:00/mile for most of your training and expect to run a sub-2 hour half.

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Not unless your name is Meb and you were phoning it in your ENTIRE training cycle. But I doubt you’d be reading this if you were.

It’s also easy to get caught up in the excitement of race morning and take off at an 7:30/mile pace with the folks around you at the sound of the gun, only to burn out like a tenth of a mile in because your usual pace is almost double that.

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This is important especially if you’re just starting out. In addition to your GPS watch or tracking app, whatever you prefer to run with to track your pace, they make these neat little wristbands or tattoos that you can wear on race day. They’re a great way to stay on target and save yourself a bunch of mental math out on the course. I’ve used them at a few of my races and really like them!

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5. Get there early, have fun and smile!

 

On race day, things get hectic very quickly. Plan to get to the start at least 45 minutes before you need to be there (or before your corral closes). It may seem like overkill, but the last thing you want to do is stress yourself out by running late. And once you’re there, remember that the hard part is over! You’ve already done all the work. Now you get to celebrate your hard work on the course with thousands of your fellow runners – and you’ll probably get a medal at the end of it!

Have fun, make small talk with the folks around you (if they want to), soak in the atmosphere, high five spectators on the course for extra energy (I pretend every high five is like a Super Mario Super Star), and enjoy the ride. Keep an eye out for photographers and throw up the devil horns or peace signs or wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care, and cross that finish line with a smile – you did it!

 

There’s plenty of stuff I’ve probably missed and could write more posts about, but do you have any other advice to add here? Let me hear it in the comments!

Love to Run Giveaway!

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, why not treat yourself to a little something? Well my speedy sis-in-law, Meredith, and I are hosting a giveaway so you can do just that!

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That’s right: when you enter to win our Love to Run Prize Pack, one lucky person will win a whole bunch of goodies: one Cocogo water bottle & 3 Flavor Variety Pack, one Greecie Girl tank top, and one pair of Saucony arm warmers!

Enter HERE!

Click on over to enter now – there are tons of ways to earn entries, and you’ve got until 12AM on Valentine’s Day to enter! Please note: this contest is open to US residents only.

After you’ve entered, click over to Cocogo to treat yourself to some all natural hydration at an even steeper discount! They’re bumping up our promo codes throughout the giveaway to a full 20% off your order at their online store – simply enter JESSRUNSHAPPY or MERETHERUNNER14 (all caps) for 20% off your entire order.

So what are you waiting for? Enter our giveaway now, share the link and spread the love – and we can’t wait to see who the lucky winner is!