NYC Marathon Race Recap

You guys.

I have some news:

I RAN A MARATHON!

IMG_6104.JPG

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!

734311_267443005_XLarge

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.

IMG_5862

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.

IMG_5864.JPG

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!!)

819167_1002_0020

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! 😉

IMG_5927

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.

IMG_5968.JPG

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.

IMG_5975

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.

IMG_6002

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.

IMG_6034

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.

IMG_6039

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.

IMG_6046

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!

IMG_6053

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.

819203_1398_0002.jpg

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.

IMG_6063

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!

IMG_6147.JPG

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:

IMG_6084

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.

819249_1258_0016

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:

IMG_6104

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.

IMG_6136

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

IMG_3502.JPG

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

IMG_4459.JPG

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:

IMG_4401.JPG

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.

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!

IMG_3302.JPG

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.

IMG_3285.JPG

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.

IMG_3289.JPG

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!

IMG_3305.JPG

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.

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!

19532569_1457149307676083_630147409_o.jpg

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.

IMG_0173.JPG

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.

IMG_0176.JPG

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.

IMG_0180.JPG

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.

IMG_0188.JPG

IMG_0190.JPG

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!

Capture.JPG

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.

IMG_0229.JPG

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.

19264609_10100945442118499_8967704272927693514_o.jpg

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

19250865_10100945442273189_8322353623293590897_o.jpg

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.

19441843_10100945442547639_3017541032902571384_o.jpg

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.

19442005_10100945443720289_984096079681526256_o.jpg

tired post-Pride subway riders ❤

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.

kitty.gif

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.

giphy.gif

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.

giphy.gif

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.

alan

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!

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!

IMG_9406.JPG

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!

IMG_9423.JPG

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.

IMG_9526.JPG

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.

IMG_9458.JPG

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.

img_9465

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:

img_9659

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.

IMG_9660.JPG

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.

IMG_9481.JPG

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!!

IMG_9486.JPG

NYC Triathlon Recap

Oh my goodness what a long strange month it’s been! Sorry for the lack of updates – its basically been non stop running, training, and racing every day for the last 4 weeks, but let’s take a look back and recap the fun, starting with July 24th, when two friends and I took on the NYC Triathlon in a relay team! Let’s see if I can cram two jam-packed days into one post. Ready? GO!

Announcements had been made earlier in the week that the run course was shortened from 10K to 8K due to the heat, and I could see why when we arrived in the city Saturday morning: it was like a blast furnace outside. After we got to the hotel and checked in, we found Alex & Chris and headed up to the expo for our pre-event briefing and packet pickup. The crowds were stifling – but if you cram 4,000+ people into any place you’re going to run into bottlenecks, I suppose. The layout forced us into very narrow walkways and I got stuck behind a thick crowd of people a few times. Plus the briefing and packet pickup was upstairs and expo/tshirt/swag bag pickup was downstairs. It all made for an uncomfortable expo experience, I won’t sugar coat it.

To get it over asap, we sat thru the briefing, got our hands stamped so we could get our packets (at the Pro & Relay check-in table, thanks for lumping us all in together!), asked a few questions of the helpful volunteers there, then walked downstairs to fight thru the expo crowd for our shirts and swag bags, then hoofed it across town to drop off Chris’ bike and check out the transition area.

IMG_3604

That turned out to be super helpful – just seeing the transition area and the in and out spots helped put our minds at ease. Plus we got a sneak peek at the sarcastic tags they used to mark off our areas:

After Chris left his baby on the rack, we ended the day with a quick Uber (my first Uber ride!! I felt so millennial! ) to meet back up with Mike at the Cock & Bull for dinner and drinks.

IMG_3631.JPG

4 people, 9 beverages. We take our pre-race hydration very seriously.

After parting ways (Chris and Alex stayed at a hotel much closer to the start), Mike and I sat outside for a bit to enjoy the sunset and people watch, then headed back to the hotel to relax and prep for the the next morning.

I have to take a moment to shout out the true MVP of the weekend (aside from my husband of course): that little backpack up there. It not only held everything I needed for a night in the city, but it also held Mike’s overnight stuff, ALL my race gear AND my expo swag bag so Mike only had to carry one bag while I raced. Brilliant, right? Round of applause for the little backpack that could.

OK, so after managing to get about 3.5 net hours of sleep, I woke up before the alarm at 3:45AM.

This was the most nerve-wracking part of the whole weekend. I miscalculated how long it would take me to get ready and the leisurely pre-race time I usually have ended up as a frantic 3-minute last check to pack up all my hotel stuff (because Mike was checking out while I ran) and throw my race gear and breakfast into my clear transition bag (and prayed Chris would have room in his bag to carry the stuff I couldn’t run with). After a quick picture to show off my race tats, I sprinted out of the room and made it onto the shuttle bus only to hit every red light.

IMG_3664

I arrived at Red Transition at 4:55 when the transition areas closed at 5:15AM – and I still had to go a half mile to Yellow Transition to meet Chris and Alex before Alex left for the mile long walk to the swim start! My heart was pounding by the time I jogged into our area and found them, and we snapped one quick pic before our swimming phenom took off for her start a mile up the Hudson.

Thankfully, it all turned out to be smooth sailing from there on out. As the sun came up, Chris and I BS’d for an hour before the Elite and Pro people started coming in from the swim to the bike. We all cheered and stood in amazement – these folks were incredible!

Shortly after, we started checking the event tracking site to see when Alex jumped into the water – once we refreshed the page and saw she’d been swimming for 3 minutes, Chris gave his now famous announcement: “Shit just got real, son!” and took off for his bike. To keep the already crowded bike rack area clear, I had to wait outside. But I got to hang out with Alex’s towel and be her personal sherpa which was fun.

IMG_3688

Chris climbed into his bike shoes, got his helmet on and gave the paparazzi a smile just as Alex made her way in WAY sooner than anticipated (20:03 for a 1.5KM swim, 1:12/100 yds!) and our first transition was underway!

They traded the timing chip, Chris took off on his bike, and Alex met me with a big hug – she crushed it! She was covered in Hudson grit (some people came out entirely covered in gray and black, it was quite gross), but she was psyched and happy with her time. After toweling off and talking for a few minutes, she wished me luck then headed back to their hotel to shower, check out, and meet us at the finish.

At that point it was just me – but it was one of my favorite parts  of the day. As an only child, I really value alone time. And even though I wasn’t really alone but surrounded by 150 other relay triathletes, the hour or so that I got before running was pure bliss.

IMG_3726

While I couldn’t race WITH my headphones, bringing them with me to transition for the wait turned out to be a great decision. Having my music helped me get in the zone and calm my nerves while waiting. I leafed through my magazine, ate my fuel (a Starbucks bagel and PB with a tiny bit of banana), hydrated, used the porta potty, and then returned to the steps for pre-race stretching. It also helped that this was my view for the whole hour:

IMG_3734

When my timer went off 75 minutes after Chris took off, I started to pack my things away and made one last bathroom stop. He had estimated his time to be around 1:45-2:00, but after seeing some other relay folks start to roll up, I didn’t want to chance not being ready for him in case he was early. It turns out I made the right decision there too: he crushed his time and came in at 1:38: 07 for an average of 15.2mph the whole 40KM!

13782077_10100686288135159_7050586550071724889_n

Chris, Crushing It (TM)

After he rolled in and racked his bike, he passed the chip along to me and I took off up the hill to 72nd street. After spending the whole morning in the shade by the water with a nice breeze, I was shocked to feel how hot it had gotten. Landing on the cookie sheet heat of 72nd street’s asphalt was a gut punch, but I felt good. Really good, actually, thanks to the unbelievable crowds of people lining the course. There were folks the entire mile from the transition to the entrance to Central Park with signs and cowbells, all cheering and clapping – one guy even yelled out my name after I passed and he saw it on the back of my singlet!

13775843_10100683661818319_1610241662930528155_n

This was my face the whole race, for real!

As I got to the entrance of the park, I spotted Alex yelling my  name, which gave me a nice boost. I cheered right back and gave her a fist pump then glanced at my watch as we entered the park. I was shocked to see I’d already run a mile – in 10:20! It felt like nothing!

13781824_10100684342359509_8603928187145042478_n

At the first water station I slowed to a walk and grabbed two cups – one to drink and one to dump over my head – and continued on my way. It was really cool being surrounded by FULL triathletes as I ran. Being passed by speedy people definitely had something to do with my great pace I’m sure. Mile 2 clicked by at 10:55 with the water stop, and I laughed, amazed at my speed.

Finally, around mile 3.5 I started to flag – there was now no relief from the sun and the hills were brutal. At the next to last water stop, volunteers were handing out baggies of ice and I grabbed one – what a brilliant idea! I alternated between running with the baggie at my neck and throat and wrists, and grabbed a few cubes out to chew on every few minutes too.

A little after mile 4, I was walking up a hill when a guy passed me: “Come on Jess, it’ll be over faster if you run,” he said as he whizzed by. Knowing my teammates and friends and family would be there at the finish, I glanced at my watch – just over 3/4 of a mile left. As good a time as any to drop the hammer, I figured. The crowds grew thicker and I could hear the roar at the finish line, so I downed the last cup of water I’d been carrying and took off.

13620264_10100684579409459_1218746301500072454_n

Note the serious face and airborne running form.

I pushed through the pain and focused on the people screaming on the sidelines.. My watched ticked to mile 5 and I groaned – the course was long, 8K was under 5! As we rounded the last few tight corners to get to the finish I went into a full out sprint and glanced at the crowds scanning for my people. Unfortunately, I was so overheated and focused on finishing that I didn’t see anyone. BUT that final extended kick managed to get me over the finish line at a freakin fantastic time: 56:29 for 5.22 miles (!) for an average of 10:50 per mile!!!

13781949_10100683909731499_1582875706112956834_n

I was so pumped – but also dehydrated and overheated. So I pounded some water, accepted an ice cold wet towel from a volunteer, grabbed the three medals our team earned, turned in my timing chip and headed for the Family Reunion area where I met up with Mike and my friend Lizzie (who had just finished TEN miles that morning for her training run!!)

Alex and Chris showed up shortly after with a crew of their friends, and we all hung out to bask in our post-race glow before heading out to celebratory brunch.

IMG_3781

Also, I will never forgive you for not putting the shirt on for the picture, Chris. Never. 

Capture1.JPG

2,000 words later, I’ll sum it up: this was a great event and we were super happy with our performances. Being fresh for each leg of the event makes a huge difference that I’m grateful for this time around: shortly after we finished they shortened the run to 1.2 miles and had people go right to the finish upon entering the park!

The logistics of it are huge and while the expo/packet pickup situation was a real stress-inducer, it was surprisingly well managed and all the volunteers were super helpful. I’d give it a solid A and would gladly do again as part of a relay team, possibly even on my own!

Peek a Boo!

Hey, strangers! I bet you thought I disappeared, didn’t you? Well, I’m still here, just a little busy, you know how life goes.

IMG_2500.JPG

Here’s a picture of a scenic lake to denote the ambiguity of life. Or because I thought it was pretty.

How have you been? The summer has been moving along quite quickly over here, with lots of exciting updates and races and training to talk about – so let’s jump right in, list style!

I’ve (re)started using My Fitness Pal

About a month ago, I had a wake-up call when I saw a photo someone had snapped of me after a BBQ. I could say it was a bad angle and I had just eaten my weight in delicious goodies (and had a few bloat-inducing beers), but it was proof of  what I’d been denying for weeks: I’d been slowly gaining the weight I lost at the beginning of the year. Even though I was working out like crazy and getting faster with each run, but my tighter clothes and the scale clearly indicated that something needed to change.

About 4 years ago I used My Fitness Pal to keep track of my food and exercise and found some success with it. But after 6 months I convinced myself that I didn’t need it any longer. “I’m a smart person, I know how many calories are in everything, no app needed!” Well that lasted for a while, but clearly things change (and so did I)!  At the suggestion of a friend, I fired up the app once more, started logging my food and exercise… and I was shocked at how grossly inaccurate I was at counting calories all this time!

IMG_2960

But I was grateful for the wake up call and kept at it, logging my meals, snacks, and workouts every day for about a month now, losing just about 5 lbs as of last week. I’m feeling stronger, things are fitting more easily, I’m not as bloated, and in general I’m glad to be back in the My Fitness Pal swing of things. Have you ever used it? What are your thoughts?

I booked my final NYRR 9+1 race!

That’s right, the 2017 TCS NYC Marathon is in my sights, and I’m not letting up.

Capture

I’m volunteering at a long run next month, registered for their weekday evening Fun Run, and decided to have the Marathon Kickoff 5 Miler be my final NYRR race of the year to earn my 9+1 for entry into the 2017 marathon!

Speaking of NYRR…

… I ran two Road Runner races in the last three weeks! I’ll have more pics and full recaps soon, but I finished both the FRNY Pride Run and the Run to Breathe, remembering halfway through each race why running in the middle of summer is a friggin nightmare.

We tried our hands (arms?) at kayaking – and survived!

My brother and sister-in-law like to go kayaking and because it’s something to do outside that looked like a pretty good workout, I wanted to get a piece of that action. So they took  us to one of their favorite spots and wouldn’t you know, we freakin loved it!

DCIM146GOPRO

DCIM146GOPRO

DCIM146GOPRO

It was a REAL workout – and not just for the upper body, either! I was shocked to find different parts of my body aching even 48 hours after – like my butt and hamstrings, from holding myself upright in the kayak! I never would have thought it could be so total body, but it was, and I loved it. Thanks for introducing us to a new adventure, Mere!

I completed ONE of my outfits for the Star Wars Rebel Challenge!

This one I’m really excited about, you guys. ICYMI, I got into the Rebel Challenge in Disneyland next January, which means I’m running a 10K on Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday, and both races are STAR WARS THEMED! I don’t think I have to elaborate on why this is pretty much the 2nd or 3rd coolest adventure I’ve ever embarked upon, next to marriage and maybe interning for the NJ Devils back in college.

A lot of thought went into this costume, too: because it’s a themed Disney race, I knew I HAD to go in costume. It’s all a part of the fun! But because this is my first challenge-style race with back to back mileage, I didn’t want to get too crazy with stuff I normally wouldn’t run in, especially for the half marathon. Which made it pretty easy to decide on who I’m going to run those 13.1 miles as:

IMG_3277

BB-8!

Because he’s fast and sarcastic and round (kind of like me), BB-8 was a natural choice.

giphy.gif

As for the 10K the day before, well – I’ve got some ideas for that costume, but I need to find AND test some gear out to see how feasible it would be to run in. I’m about 90% sold, because it’s a shorter distance and I can do anything for 6+ miles, especially since I plan on taking it easy and stopping for lots of pics during this race (so I won’t need to stop as much during the half). Stay tuned!

That about does it for me – I’ve got some other posts and recaps coming up this week too, but in the meantime, how’s it going by you? What have you been up to during these dog days of summer? Tell me!

Race Recap: NYRR Retro 4Miler

On Sunday, June 5th, I earned my 5th race towards my 2017 NYC Marathon 9+1 entry and ran the NYRR Retro 4 Miler in Central Park!

IMG_8817

Full disclosure: I almost skipped this race. After hanging out with sick people the weekend before, I came down with a nasty throat infection and a cough that kept me up 3 nights in a row. The medicine I started on Thursday helped almost immediately, but I was left with wheezing and coughing that wouldn’t go away. I wasn’t quite ready for my first DNS though, and decided I’d walk the damn thing if I needed – I wanted that 9+1 credit!

Happily, Sunday morning I woke feeling pretty good. Three days of meds and 12+ hours of sleep a night really did the trick, and while I still felt tightness in my chest, my legs were itching to run after 3 days off. So I geared up with my new Pro Compression Neon Waves and Skirt Sports Ambassador trucker hat and we headed into the city for a warm, rainy race.

The forecast called for thunderstorms later in the day, and it was overcast from the start, which kept us from overheating. After getting there super early and bibbing up (that’s a thing, right?), I made my way back to the corral and stretched for a bit. This was a fun race that I’ve wanted to do for a while: NYRR gets into the whole “retro running heyday” theme by blasting 60’s and 70’s music, encouraging people to run in vintage tube socks and sweat bands, and time-callers on ladders at every mile marker barking out the race time from their stop watches. It was a cool vibe, if I may borrow a retro turn of phrase! [omg I’m so sorry that was so lame. I’ll see myself out.]

IMG_8838

color-coordinated cheeseball

After the gun went off, we made our way around the 4 mile inner loop of the park in a thick pack. I really love running NYRR races – the corrals are packed all the way to the end and it’s just a totally different experience when you’re surrounded by other runners at the same pace and have the opportunity to pass people. It’s so much more motivational!

As we shuffled along, I kept an eye on my pace – to keep from coughing, I aimed to go SLOW, but my body was not having it. I was averaging 10:30 through the first 3/4 mile! Also, I was pleased to realize that running kept my cough at bay. Finally at the end of Mile 1, we rolled up on my favorite terraces and I couldn’t help but stop and smile.

IMG_8834

I had to take a picture – this was the first time this year I saw my favorite spot in Manhattan all covered in lush greenery, and the sight of that balcony breaking through the trees really made my heart swell. I had to remember that moment 🙂

As we coasted through into Mile 2, I was surprised at my first mile split: 11:07 even with the photo stop! And it felt effortless! Even as the skies opened up and it started raining, my new music was jammin’, the crowds around me were flowing – I even picked off a few people and kept them in the rearview the whole way just to challenge myself. Briefly I thought: wouldn’t it be cool to nab a new 4M PR, even while sick? I did some mental math: I’d need to run sub 11’s the whole way, but shoot – the first mile felt like nothing, why shouldn’t I try??

So try I did. And Mile 2 FLEW by at 10:30 (!!) – I was pumped! So pumped, in fact, that I burnt out [insert sad trombone music]. Hahaha – I had to know it was too good to be true. There was a pretty killer hill around the 5K mark that I charged through at full speed, using my arms to pump and build momentum. As this is something I rarely do, my whole body was on fire by the time I got to the top of the hill, and my breathing never got back to normal. Oh well. That’s what I get for being ambitious after coming off a sick break!

I walked a bit through the last water stop & watched my pace creep back down into the 11:30 range. At mile 3.5, I figured what the hell and took off again. I could do anything for a half mile, right? So I dropped the hammer and rounded the corner to the finish, passing two particularly obnoxious friends who had been walk/running and throwing their arms dramatically out to the sides for the past mile (WHY? There are PEOPLE around you, sweethearts!) and sprinted into the finish for a 45:42 finish at an 11:26 pace.

IMG_8842

IMG_8845

Garmin time is always better, dammit.

Once I crossed the line, I slowed to a stop and almost immediately started coughing and wheezing. There was a moment of panic there when I couldn’t catch my breath without coughing even more, so I slowed my breathing, walked carefully, and briefly glanced at the medical tent. But after a few more yards and a big ol’ cup of water (thank you, soaking wet volunteer, for manning a water table in the rain!) I was fine. I grabbed a cinnamon raisin bagel and an apple, found Mike, got my shirt, and we headed home.

IMG_8846

All in all I did much better than I expected to –  my 4M PR is 44:13, so I came pretty dang close – and for a fun themed race, I’ll definitely look to do this one again next year.

So Many Miles

I started to write a recap of the past 3 weeks of training and realized that “I ran, I biked, I ran, I lifted, I ran, I ate” would get pretty boring pretty fast. Let’s just sum it all up by saying that I ran SO MANY MILES and I’m super ready for this weekend’s race. Good?

If you want the long version, here are some highlights via lessons I’ve learned in the past few weeks of training – and a peek at my goals for this weekend’s race!

IMG_6153.JPG

My shorter runs keep getting faster and faster – and I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop! It sounds strange, but even though I’m nailing 4-5 miles 2x a week at 11:30/mile or less (even 10:xx’s!), I still expect to see my pace suddenly drop back down to 13:30’s, like this is some freak random spurt of speed that I’ll lose after eating one too many Trader Joe’s mini peanut butter cups.

IMG_5927.JPG

But I suppose the extra strength training, lower weight, and cross training are all working together and paying off just like they say they should!

Even when I twisted my knee a week or so ago (while making coffee, go freakin figure), I managed to baby it on my off day, bike a LOT to keep it moving on cross training day, and still pulled a great long run out of thin air that weekend.

Speaking of long runs, I’ve done more long runs (8+ miles) this training cycle than ever before, and it’s showing. With runs no shorter than 8 miles every weekend for the past 8 weekends (except for 2 races), and 4 solid double-digit runs including a 12 miler last weekend, I’m feeling as strong as I’ve ever felt the week before a race. Hungry, tired, mildly anxious, but strong. I managed to keep my paces under 12:00/mile for all single digit runs, and most of my double digits – this weekend during my 12 miler I treated the run like race day and didn’t stop my watch for water or fuel, just to get a more accurate idea of my finish time. And I was still pretty psyched at what I found:

IMG_6477.JPG

My goal for the NJ Half Marathon this weekend is to run at least a 2:49:59. At the pace above, I’d finish in 2:43. I definitely pushed HARD in the last training mile to run it at about 11:30 – too hard to keep up for another 1.1 miles – but knowing that, I’m confident I’ll be able to maintain that 12-12:15 pace for another mile come race day and still rip out that strong finish. I only hope my body (and the weather) cooperates!

IMG_6393.JPG

And on a fun semi-related side note: I was so honored to spend all day last Monday in NYC on a photo shoot for Brooks Running’s international social media campaigns! It was a true once in a lifetime experience – along with a team of other runners, we ran (and walked) almost 8 miles between Manhattan and Brooklyn and had a blast the whole time. I can’t even describe what it was like at the first set up between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, running along the water with the sun coming up and sparkling off the waves and the city bustling around us… so many times we looked at each other in disbelief and asked ourselves, “How cool is this??” I can’t wait to see how the pictures turn out and will definitely keep you guys posted as I get more info on when/where they’ll be showing up 🙂

That’s about it for me – How have things been by you guys? How’s your training going?