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!

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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.

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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:

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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!

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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?

Best. Weekend. EVER.

After a solid week of training last week, I took my rest day Friday pretty seriously:

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And drank WAY too much Merlot with some of my favorite ladies in the world. I regret NOTHING.

Once I washed the chlorine out of my hair on Saturday, I aimed for “active recovery” which meant movement but nothing too strenuous: perfect for a day wandering around NYC with hubby!

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This was a selfishly-planned trip on my part: we went in to see the Star Wars and the Power of Costume exhibit in Times Square, which I’d been silently fangirling over it since I clicked “Buy Tickets” earlier in the week.

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Me, since last Monday.

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If I was this excited over cardboard, you did NOT want to see me when I rounded a corner and came face to face with the real Chewy.

And BOY was I not disappointed:

GUYS I MET YODA. THE REAL YODA.

Okay. I’m better.

NO WAIT I’M NOT, I ALSO SELFIED WITH BB8:

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I may also be crying just a little bit in this picture.

Alright, I’m all good now.

After a few hours wandering around and snapping pictures, I had my fill of riding the emotional rollercoaster of seeing Carbonite Han, Amidala’s crazy get ups, Rey’s scavenger gear, and all the rest of it. To ease back into reality, we went for a nice early dinner at a British pub, complete with a Shirley Temple because I’m a big girl and I can order my own big girl drinks.

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Once we finished dinner we did a little shopping (and I may or may not have dragged Mike into the Disney store where I purchased Star Wars gear, #sorrynotsorry) and we made it back to Penn Station just in time for the 6PM train. I was a little worried that I’d burnt out my legs before the 9 miles I had scheduled for Sunday, but evidently those worries were all for nothing.

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Spoiler Alert: I nailed my best 10 mile run EVER.

I set out down in Asbury and ran right into Jenny who was just about to finish her 8 miles (what up, girl!!). I struggled through the first mile because I had overdressed: I had to peel off my extra arm warmers after half a mile and ran them back to my car so I didn’t have to hold them for 2 hours. It was kind of a mess.

But even with the stutter start I kept an eye on my pace and managed to stay under 12:00/mile the whole first half. I told myself I’d spin around at mile 5, around Spring Lake. It was nice to charge down the boards at a decent pace like that, and once I fell into a rhythm by mile 3 I felt pretty unstoppable. The St. Patty’s Day parade was happening in Belmar so it was fun seeing all the folks (and pups!) in their green gear – I even spied a few bagpipers!

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And the seashell mantras are back again too, hooray! Love spotting these random beauties along the route.

I was particularly impressed with my consistent pacing: between 11:20-11:55 basically the whole time! My only stop was at Mile 5 when I took my gel and finished the last of my water. I paused my watch and gave myself one full minute to stretch, but when I started up again I was hit directly in the face with a wall of freezing wind. GREAT, I thought, there goes my pace!

My too-warm (now super sweaty) shirt was COLD. For a half mile or so I thought I might be ruined, but after glancing at my pace and seeing a pretty effortless 11:55, I changed my mind. By Mile 6 I had warmed back up, the wind calmed, and my pace was still around 11:45. At Mile 7 I took inventory: everything felt surprisingly great, despite having run 7 miles at one of my best paces yet! Suddenly I thought: wouldn’t it be great to do 10 miles? I know the schedule says 9, but imagine the ego boost you’d get nailing a double digit run so early in your training! Let’s see how we feel at mile 8.

Well, as you can see by the Garmin shot up there I stuck it out for 10, and ended up NAILING my first double digit training run since October. My legs were ready to call it quits at around Mile 9, but I wasn’t experiencing the real pain and tightness in my hips, knees, and calves that I’d felt in previous training runs. So I pushed through that final mile on pure adrenaline really, and celebrated with some “boardwalk running” pics.

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It was so great – I stretched a little on the boardwalk and practically floated back to the car (well, hobbled, but you get the idea), then headed home for a quick lunch before heading over to a friend’s to meet her new baby and spend some quality time with her family.

By the time I got home at 7pm, I was ready for BED in a big way. This was one of my busiest but most fulfilling weekends yet, but I loved every second of it. How about you – how did your weekend go? Tell me all about it!

Race Recap: NYRR Gridiron 4 Miler

Over the weekend I had the privilege of returning to Central Park for another race – along virtually the same course as my favorite race ever, the Joe Kleinerman 10K! – and it was every bit as perfect as I’d hoped it would be.

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“Perfect” with a capital P.

I woke up at around 4am for a 5:30am drive in – my cousin Heather was running the race again with me and she offered to drive us in! Because it was so early, traffic was blissfully clear and we arrived at our trusty parking garage in Manhattan at around 6:15.

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And saw some sassy graffiti to boot.

After walking for about a mile or two, we decided to grab a cab to the start to save our legs, and after a short ride, we arrived at the starting line VERY early. I’m talking “toilet paper still wrapped up in the port-a-john” early. It kind of stunk because our toes had more time to freeze, BUT you can’t beat a clean port-a-john, amirite?

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also, being early gave me plenty of time to play around with the friends I brought into the park with me: Tiny Rey and Tiny Kylo Ren!

After about an hour of playing with different uses for Hand Warmers (pro-tip: they don’t work on your nose), we checked out the football toss and made one more quick stop at the bathroom, then we all headed over to the start.

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thanks, camera man Mike! ❤

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Once the gun went off, I took a gel (eating breakfast at 4:30AM really leaves you with a grumbly hungry tummy at the 9AM start!) and it took us 9 minutes to get from the last corral to the line.

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With an average speed of 1.7mph. Thanks for the reality check, Snapchat.

Once we crossed the starting line I turned on my music and everything fell into place.

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The sky was so blue and the air was crisp and cold and refreshing. I went into the race feeling confident and healthy, so I decided to aim for a PR. My previous 4 Mile PR was 45:06, set back in 2011. That average pace was something I’d only seen on my best training days in recent months, so I knew it’d be a stretch. But it was a challenge I was ready to take on, thanks to recently increased energy levels and extra training sessions I’ve been logging the past 4 weeks or so.

The first mile went by easily at 11:20 and I nodded to myself when I saw the pace – good. Not ideal, but better to go out slower and get faster as I went further, and burn out in the final half mile if I had to. So I cruised along, taking in the sunrise coming up over the high rises we ran past, dodging groups of people as I went. I lost count of how many people I passed, left and right as I charged through the packs. It was the first time I’ve felt like I was truly racing the folks around me, and it felt great. After Mile 2 clicked by at a similar pace, I knew I’d be in good shape for a PR.

The nice thing about this course is that it’s mostly downhills with one solid hill at around mile 2.5. Once we hit it I powered up, watching my pace the whole time – I told myself if I stuck to 11:10/mile the whole hill without walking, I’d make it up on the other side. Besides, I thought – I’d be running past one of my favorite spots in Manhattan at just past Mile 3, and would get a guaranteed energy boost when I saw it.

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And sure enough, there it was – my terrace. Up in that pic, can you see the little bushes on the terrace near the top of the tallest building? That’s my terrace. Well, not my terrace. But it’s the place I daydream about living in. Ever since spotting it during the Joe K 10K, I developed a crush on that building and concocted this alternate universe where I live in that apartment and have sunset views of the park and the whole city from my balcony. 1040 Fifth Avenue. I’m not one for Kennedy nostalgia, but I learned that Jackie O even lived in that penthouse terrace, a year after JFK was killed. Talk about classic sophistication.

Anyway, once I spotted it I had to snap a few pics while I ran. It was too perfect – the sun coming up, the crowds surging around me, my blood pumping… I don’t think I’ve ever had such a blissful moment during a race. That pic up there is now my phone background, because it gives me this immense feeling of peace when I see it. Whether or not I ever set foot in 1040 Fifth Avenue, I’ll always have that moment. And that’s just one of the countless unforgettable, life-enriching moments that running has given me.

Once we rounded the corner & took off along the final stretch, I charged forward at 10:45/minute. It was tough – for a moment at what I thought was about Mile 3.25 I thought I might not be able to sustain that pace and briefly considered slowing or stopping to walk to ensure a strong finish. But when I glanced at my watch and saw 3.76 (!!) I knew I couldn’t stop, even for a second. I was sprinting for the finish as fast as I could and I was going to PR if it meant I had to crawl over that line.

So I took off even faster, passing people left and right. At one point about 75 yards from the finish I ran into a wall of people – literally – and after slowing to keep pace behind them for about 10 seconds, I finally yelled out “Excuse me!!” I couldn’t take it – I wanted to be polite, but I REALLY wanted that PR! Ain’t nobody got time to be hanging out behind a bunch of people content to block the whole course!

Once I passed them I took off again and spotted the finish at the bottom of the hill near the same spot as the 10K. I just barely had enough time to flash a grin and a half thumbs-up at Mike as I passed him, and crossed the finish at 44:09!

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I think it was my happy stripey Pro Compression socks 😉

I’ll admit: after crossing the finish line, I was entirely shredded. I moved through the finisher’s chute trying to catch my breath. Between grabbing an apple, stopping my watch, turning off my music, and calling Mike to set a meeting spot, I realized I just might have PR’d. So I quickly logged into the NYRR’s live results site, checked my name, and…. YES! A PR by almost a full minute! 44:09 vs. 45:06 in 2011. My 5 year record was BUSTED! I jumped up and down all by myself for a few moments, fist pumping and snapping a celebratory selfie to remember the occasion by.

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Welcome to Cloud Nine, population ME!

Just like the last race, I munched on my apple as I wandered back to our meeting place where I spotted Heather, collected my hubby, and snapped another post-race pic.

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I’ve been taller than her since I was 8. It’s my cross to bear.

That’s when we loaded up into our coats once again and took off down Fifth Avenue to walk the looooong haul back to the parking deck.

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Not before I snapped a selfie with my terrace out on the corner of 85th & 5th! Penthouse Life, baby!

All told, we did about 11 miles that day, walking more than we ran, but it worth it. The sun eventually warmed us up and we had a great time in the city as usual, talking and laughing the whole way there and back, then capping off the day with naps galore and Super Bowl [commercial] madness. Rarely do I find myself smiling just thinking about a race – I even bought the finish line photos because it was such a great experience! – but this was another one for the record books. NYRR Gridiron 4 Miler: A+!

NYC Marathon Lottery & Acupuncture #2

This isn’t my usual kind of post, but because I’m so excited about my day, I had to share!

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Woo-hoo #1: At noon, I entered the NYC Marathon Lottery for the first time ever.

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You heard me: I threw my hat into the ring for a chance to run 26.2 miles around my favorite city in the world in about 10 months. Having never run more than 13.2 (ish) miles in my life, this is the most terrifying, exciting risk I’ve taken in a long time. I mean, my odds of actually getting in are astronomically low, but what the hell? Gotta be in it to win it.

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Me, when I find out they let me in.

Woo-hoo #2: I’ve got my second acupuncture appointment tonight!

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Having this to look forward to makes me so indescribably happy, I can’t even put it into words. I had an awesome experience my first time around, and 2 weeks later I’m still feeling the positive effects: hello, weight loss, decreased appetite, and finally feeling balance in my life once again!

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In addition to continuing to work on my existing issues that we started treating in session 1, we’re also going to be working on my knees today so I’m excited to see how that works out.

So that’s my Thursday in a nutshell! How about you? Are you entering the NYC Lotto? Have you tried acupuncture? Did you know it was possible to use nothing but Kristen Wiig GIF’s in one post?

Joe Kleinerman 10K Race Recap

After my surprisingly awesome acupuncture appointment the night before, I woke up at 3:50AM on the morning of the NYRR Joe Kleinerman 10K feeling refreshed, calm, and energized, even on 5 hours of sleep. This was a HUGE difference from pretty much every other early-morning race day wake up, where I usually feel anxious and exhausted. My calm was even tested when the jar of peanut butter slipped out of my hand while I was making breakfast and completely shattered the dish below it. Where I’d usually freak out and get angry or upset over my own clumsiness, I simply laughed and swept up the million pieces of ceramic and pulled out another dish. Score another point for acupuncture!

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The forecast called for overcast skies and a temp of about 44, but since we were driving into Manhattan, walking/cabbing the 3+ miles to the start, and waiting in Central Park for a total of almost 4 hours outdoors in 30-ish degrees, the word of the day was LAYERS. I went with a light longsleeve shirt under a Brooks lined jacket/windbreaker, along with Nike brushed interior full length tights with Pro Compression socks layered on top of them. And because I’m a maniac, I also wore a Brooks skull cap with a fun printed Greecie Girl headband over it. Because, matching.

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I also started my day with coffee from my spankin’ new Kylo Ren mug. Don’t be jealous. Join the Dark Side. We’ve got Guatemalan Blend and Stevia.

My cousin Heather had offered to drive us all in (thanks, Heck!) and so me, Mike, Meredith and Damian all piled into the newly-christened Kleinerman Kab a little after 5AM (nice naming, Mer!) for a quick ride into Manhattan. Traffic was light and we arrived at around 6AM, then started walking. It was COLD – thankfully because the guys came along, we got to wear winter coats over everything that they’d hold while we ran, but that wind was NO JOKE. After what felt like about 3 miles of warm-up walking, we finally caved and took a few cabs to the start at 102nd Street to spare another few miles. After our cab driver misunderstood me and we took a slight detour, we all arrived at packet pickup at about 7, still with a good hour to go before the start. More wind, more cold, but finally the sky grew lighter and the park got more and more crowded.

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After doing our own pre-race potty breaks, lace-tightening, and other random stuff, we said our goodbyes and headed to the corrals. The New York Road Runners recently switched from a color-coded bib assignment system (sayonara, “slow as crap” Brown bibs!) to an alphabet-based system. And of course that means that Heather and I were in Corral L. For Loser. Or Last.

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Corral L for “Lonely”. Or “Last”. Or “Loser”. Take your pick.

The corrals started filling up and we prepped for the start  – it was a good sized race of around 5,000 people, which looked really cool at the back of the pack and the top of a hill:

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Once the gun went off and we started shuffling through the corrals, it took us about 6 minutes to get to the starting line, but once we did it cleared out nicely. I started by rocking out to a new mix of music I had just downloaded a few days before – not my usual techno/rock/pop, but some fun differently paced stuff that actually helped take my mind off things and kept me entertained.

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Like this 4-legged mop being walked by his family.

I’ll be honest: the only word I can use to describe miles 1-3 (or the whole race for that matter) is Bliss. For real. I just ran. I smiled, took in the sights, got lost in the feeling of just pounding the pavement, and rolled up and down the hills of Central Park (mostly downhills too, what a great route this was!). Given that I’d just come out of a pretty dark place the past month or two (and hadn’t run that much AT ALL because of it), I was worried that I might be miserable. Those hills aren’t nothing, after all. I’m guessing the acupuncture the night before had something to do with my newfound peace, but who’s to say.

My average running pace was around 11:55, but with walk/water breaks at every aid station I managed to keep a pace of around 12:30 which was A-OK in my book. The total absence of running from my life in the week or two prior to the race wiped any time goals from my plan – I was in it for the experience. And that experience was the best. I took time to admire the skyscrapers that lined the park, focused on the ornate balconies at the very top, imagined hanging out there with a bottle of champagne and watching the race from above. The crowds around me stayed pretty thick (I love the great range of abilities and paces in NYRR races), and the park was starting to get crowded too, which made for good people watching.

That’s not to say I didn’t experience the usual mid-race issues: at Mile 2 I realized one lace was too tight because my foot was numb and cold so I stopped and loosened it. I also realized I’d overdressed by Mile 4 and had to roll my sleeves up. But I just kept on truckin’! By around mile 5 I started to feel a slight fatigue in my ankles and calves, so I took short walk breaks here and there, stretched, got water and took a gel, and felt a new surge of energy for the final mile and change. At 5.75 my new favorite power song randomly clicked on my iPod and I decided to go for it from there.

Who knew Adele could rock so hard??

I lip synced and fist pumped, rocking out with the tune up the final hill and past where we started, actually sad that the race was over. Where I’m usually dying in the final sprint of every race, this one had me legitimately sad that it was ending! Madness, I tell you.

But I pushed through, smiled at all the people cheering us on, coasted down the last hill and into the finish chute at a respectable 1:18:19 (avg 12:37/mile)!

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After finishing I walked through the chute and grabbed an apple from a super enthusiastic volunteer (just another reason I love NYRR races: the people are the best), and chomped on it as I scanned the crowd for my people.

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I prefer my Garmin time to the actual time, but what can you do? 😉

With one earbud still in my ear, I jammed out to my tunes and ate my apple, stretching out my legs and even doing a little dance here and there just because I felt so great. I smiled at the folks who walked past, they smiled back – one even did a little shimmy with me when he caught me dancing! – and I snapped a quick selfie to remember that moment:

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With chipmunk cheeks thanks to a mouthful of apple.

Finally after not seeing my group I texted them and we all met up shortly after, congratulated each other on our finishes, and started the long journey back to the car, talking and laughing and taking in more sights along the way!

All in all it was one of my favorite race experiences yet, in terms of how my mood affected everything and made it all better. The usual pre-race anxiety, mid-race “I suck at this” regret, and post-race rush to go go go just wasn’t there, and made me realize just how much my own mood affects my experiences from start to finish. While it’s easier said than done, I’m going to work harder at being more aware of my mindset, because it makes a huge difference!

Also, I am TOTALLY going back to Central Park to run that same loop just for fun – it was beautiful! 🙂

Running Stairs & Summer in the City

Happy Friday everyone! I don’t know how it is by you, but here in NJ we are a few days into a heatwave, but I am NOT complaining after the brutally cold, snowy winter we had!

On Wednesday night I took my last run before the Oakley Mini 10K this weekend, and while it was about 80+ degrees in the shade even at 8PM, I still had a great time. I decided to take my run over to my old neighborhood and elementary school, where I haven’t run in years.

IMG_6187Running up and down the streets I used to ride my bike on as a middle-schooler made for a nice little nostalgic trip. I managed 4 slow miles before the sunset and I had to go back home for dinner – which was pretty much how my evenings would end when I lived there too!

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I also added some stair running into my workout too. I discovered a whole new housing development in my old hood that I found by taking this series of 3-4 steep staircases they built into the woods behind the school:

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After a few flights and a whole bottle of G2, I called it quits – my legs were starting to go rubbery and I didn’t want to risk twisting my already achy knees (thanks, humidity!). But afterwards I felt those hills in places I forgot I had, so that’s got to be a good thing!

Then yesterday my cousin and I went into NYC to pick up our bibs at the New York Road Runners Headquarters, and let me tell you: it was a scorcher!  At 97 degrees and full sun, what was supposed to be a fun stroll through the city turned into a race to beat the heat.

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We hopped on the local train to get into Penn Station and spared ourselves the heat by jumping on the C train to W86th.

IMG_6204It wouldn’t be an adventure without me making an ass of myself on a subway platform.

The subway spit us out right at the entrance to the Reservoir Running Track, which ran straight across to the East side of the park (where we needed to go). We were blown away at its beauty  – after walking/running through the park so many times, neither of us had ever seen this path and vowed to come back when we weren’t, you know, melting. There was even a fun prancerciser galloping along the track to keep us entertained!

IMG_6212After we made it through the park we just had to walk 3 blocks north, which is much easier said than done when it’s almost 100 degrees out. Once we hit the sidewalk we promptly burst into flames. OK not really, but you know what I mean.

One saving grace of these three blocks were the countless sidewalk chalk drawings done by the local kids – one piece really spoke to me, I’m not sure why…

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At 89th we crossed the street and I snapped this pic of the iconic Fred Lebow street sign:

IMG_6216And then we finally arrived at the NYRR Headquarters, which was blissfully air conditioned and full of smiling runner-friendly faces.

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Seriously, if you live in the tri-state area and you haven’t experienced a NYRR race, register for one right now. They are the most well-organized, friendly, inclusive, and enthusiastic running club I’ve ever seen, and everything about their races is second to none. The aid stations are perfectly organized and always stocked well, the people that both work for and volunteer with them are always kind and helpful, and you will simply not experience anything like it at a race in your life. OK, love letter to NYRR over.

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Once we picked up our bibs and tanks and chatted with some Oakley ladies (I am obsessed with their Feedback aviators and my birthday is coming up and I prefer them in rose gold, kthnxbai), we made our way back to the train station in the ridiculous heat. Thank god my cousin brought grapes for us to snack on or they would have found us in the park sometime next week, all shriveled and delirious from dehydration, babbling about sunglasses and prancercisers.

At Penn Station, we picked up some Auntie Anne’s cinnamon pretzels and peach lemonade (not pictured because I devoured them both almost instantly), and our Manhattan adventure was over! Honestly I’m looking forward to a fun race tomorrow – even though I know it’s going to be warm so I’m hydrating like crazy today and hope to get lots of sleep before my 4AM wake up call.

Who else is racing this weekend? How do you deal with the heat? Whatever your plans, have a great weekend!