Back in February, I was SO excited to sign up for 4 New York Road Runner races in the spring and summer. I was fresh off of a health scare that had rattled me into a new outlook of sorts, so I was riding that motivational wave.
It helped that NYRR races are kind of my favorite things in the world. Others might think it sounds crazy, but there’s just something about getting up at the crack of dawn, rolling out to the train station, watching the sun come up from the train window, riding an empty subway, and jogging to the starting line to run a full loop or two around Central Park with 5,000 other people, then wandering the city for the rest of the day.
But, as luck would have it (can it still be called luck in this, the year of our lord, 2020?) ‘Rona showed up and made in-person racing a thing of the past. I held out hope for a few months that they’d be postponed, but the reality sunk in somewhere around June that nothing was going to go as planned this year, least of all racing in Central Park with thousands of other people.
Instead, virtual racing became the norm, and lots of people opted for running their races on their own time and in their own comfort zones – which usually meant alone.
I’m no stranger to virtual races, having done a handful of them when I first started racing, mainly for the bling and fundraising purposes. In my experience, these races were usually done as an honor system type of thing, where people ran the miles whenever they wanted, and there was no checks or balances of entering your time to be “counted” as participating. You were merely sent the medal/shirt/bib/whatever swag came with your registration, and that was that as far as the “race” organizers were concerned. As such, I didn’t necessarily view these types of virtual races as “real” – it doesn’t seem right when I’m not running on the same course in the same conditions as everyone else.
In 2020, however, now that the idea of virtual racing is basically all we have left to cling to as runners in terms of goal-setting, it seems as if the systems have been majorly upgraded. Runners enter their times in the digital race results portals of their races, and compete for real. I have only participated in two, both of them still very much like the previous virtual races I’ve done, with no such technological advances, but I know handfuls of people who have run them and loved them. Some have run virtual Boston, others are prepping for virtual NYC… heck, some have even won their virtual races!
I, on the other hand, ran my one notable virtual race on the treadmill, alone, put on the medal as I walked to the shower, then hung it up on my medal rack shortly after that and promptly forgot about it after the picture was posted to instagram.
As you can see, my virtual race experience through the pandemic isn’t necessarily a rousing success story – I only registered for one other race, back in early September, and still haven’t gotten any more information on it ($50 down the drain, possibly??), and I don’t have any desire to register for any more in the near future.
But that’s why I’m writing this post today: did any of your races get cancelled or turned into virtual races during the pandemic? How has your virtual race experience been? Tell me everything!
It’s a wild idea: shut down one mile of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and let thousands of runners take it over. Invite world-famous athletes. Televise it. Magic.
I first ran the NYRR/NB Fifth Avenue Mile in 2015, where I nabbed my personal best mile time of an 8:51 and then ascended to Heaven when Meb himself was standing at the finish line, practically waiting for me to take this picture.
I still believe that I actually died at the finish line after running, and this photo was taken in Heaven, and then they kicked me out, but that’s just conjecture.
In the past 3 years, I consistently missed the mile for one reason or another: conflicting races, travel, life, etc. Also, if I’m being honest, it’s a LOT to go into the city just to run one mile. The $27 train tickets ($54+ for me and my husband), on top of the subway costs and the 4AM wakeup time, just to run for like 15 minutes?
This year, however, I’d toyed with the idea of doing the mile while I was in physical therapy for the nerve issues and Achilles tendinitis that forced me to DNS at the NJ Half Marathon back in April. One mile was just long enough to really push myself, and it would also give me a good baseline idea of where my fitness was if I really focused and trained for the weeks leading up to it.
So, with the blessing of my physical therapist (what up Dean), I convinced my running and injury recovery buddy Kevin to sign up with me and we headed into the city to see how fast we could run one whole mile down Fifth Avenue.
Nearly head to to Altra Red Team gear *devil horns* Bonus: the race premium was a sweet pair of race-branded shorts!
Friday before the race, I came down with food poisoning that kept me up all night, and then Kevin and I and our friend Jess went into Manhattan on Saturday to pick up our bibs and check out the Camp exhibit at the Met, while I ran in and out of every bathroom that museum had to offer every half hour. Needless to say, by Sunday’s 5:37am train, we were already done with the day.
We managed to pull it together and look cute, cause that’s what we do. But we DID take a cab to the start though, because reasons.
We did the usual pre-race stuff: warmed up by jogging up and down the closed off streets behind the start area, made friends in the line waiting to take the photo you see up there, and fueled up while waiting for our heats to begin.
Because we wake up so early and travel so far for some of these races – sometimes upwards of 4 hours from wakeup/breakfast time to start – I get hungry before a race. And I don’t perform well on a completely empty stomach. So I tried something new with this race and ate half a PB&J at home before the train and packed the other half for the race, which I devoured on the sidelines while waiting for my heat to start.
The results speak for themselves, just like the pic that Kevin snapped of me looking like an angry squirrel while I housed my half-sammich.
There’s only so much space on Fifth Avenue for the runners, so they break down the race into heats based on age and gender, then let them go every 10-15 minutes. This meant that my start time was 8:10AM, followed immediately by Kevin’s heat at 8:25AM.
After polishing off my sandwich and sipping on some water, I wished Kevin good luck on his race and slipped into the corral for my wave.
My previous performance here in 2015 was literally lightning in a bottle: I’d run some 10:3x’s during training and in a few really good 5K’s, but never cracked the sub-10 mark, so 8:51 was mind-blowing. Fast forward to 2019: nearly 2 years of on and off injuries and depression (that led to a roughly 20 lb weight gain that I’m slowly chipping away at) had me convinced that a 12:xx was more likely. I could consider an 11:xx a celebration-worthy finish. Little did I know.
In the corral, this was the first race in months – maybe even since the marathon – where I actually felt like a live wire, twitching and ready to run. My whole body was primed for the gun to go off.
the view from the starting line
I had prepped a race-specific playlist of just three songs at the same bpm of my sprinting pace to last the whole mile:
Bonfire – Childish Gambino
Apesh*t – The Carters
Ass Drop – Wiz Khalifa
I hit start just as the gun went off, and immediately knew it was going to be a great run. Everything just felt easy. The weather was perfectly cool, the folks cheering on the sidelines were super pumped, and my legs just kept moving.
While it was a mile on Fifth Avenue, the course still had some slight elevation changes that I mentally prepared for. You start on a slight downhill, then hit a very slight uphill between 1/4 and 1/2, and peak just about 3/4 of the way through before finishing on another slight downhill. The elevation is really negligible – you only gain about a total of 7m – but when you’re staring straight down the barrel of the street and see that wave of runners rising in front of you, it helps to know it doesn’t last forever.
So I glanced at my watch when I saw the incline coming, and saw that I was running 9:5x. Too fast. I kept moving my legs in time with my music, but eased off the gas ever so slightly for the uphill. By the time we hit the halfway point, the course clock read 5:xx and I laughed – I really was going faster than anticipated, but I still felt good. I kept an eye on my watch and when I hit .65, I turned my music up louder and said f*ck it. If I puke when I finish, I puke. I wanted to see how fast I could go.
if you look closely you can see the 2 safety pins I used to make my shorts tighter since I picked a too-large size and couldn’t return them
The resulting sprint looked horrible in race photos, but damn if it didn’t feel incredible. It had been so long since I opened the gate and let loose for a finish. My legs were moving so fast at one point that I briefly thought I might trip, but I stayed upright and crossed the finish line at 10:53 by the course clock and 10:12 by watch time.
I was ecstatic. Even if my official time turned out to be more like 10:30 once I factored in the time it took me to cross the start mat and official results were posted, that was amazing, considering I had an A goal of 11 and B of 12.
It took a while to get my breathing under control, and I refused all food at the finish, but gulped down a cup of water and headed to the sidelines to cheer on Kevin as he absolutely CRUSHED his mile in 8:24!
After we reconnected at the finish, we decided to wait for a pic with our official finish times and met up with my friend Jenny who is currently on her way to finishing the NYRR 9+1 Program for entry into the 2020 NYC Marathon. We killed time by catching up while the line moved, but everything stopped when I stepped up to the monitor and the race volunteer typed in my bib # for my official time to pop up on the screen:
Fam, I cried. I cried big fat baby tears because I never expected to see 10:08. After hours upon hours of physical therapy, crying in MRI tubes because I didn’t know why my legs would give out on me during long runs, and wondering if I should even keep running, 10:08 may as well have been 6:08.
I felt like I floated the whole walk back to the Tick Tock Diner for a post-race nosh before heading back to NJ – PS, get the avocado toast benedict, it’s TO DIE FOR.
Now that I’ve continued to ride the wave after this race, I can see that it was a turning point for me and my running, and I’m excited to see where this momentum carries me into 2020!
Just like we’ve done in yearspast, my good friend Kevin and I hopped on the 5:37AM train into midtown for the FRNY/NYRR Pride Run 5 Miler and let me say before I go any further: I was SO unprepared.
Not unprepared in terms of forgetting sneakers or gels… I mean I had been in physical therapy since May for an Achilles issue and nerve problems that make my leg give out on me, and I’d only run about 4 miles in the lead up to this race.
Per my therapist’s orders, this was going to be a fun run (no sh*t), and it was also going to be my first run in the heat, which made for a pretty miserable time once I hit mile 2.5-3. BUT ANYWAY…
We arrived at the start area at around 7:30 or so and killed time by posing for photos and covering ourselves in sunscreen until our other running buddy, Stephen (aka Lady Champagne Bubbles), arrived.
We ran into a few other friends doing the race while we made our way into the corrals and hung out waiting for the starting gun, and the sweat we’d broken into before even starting the run should have told me what I had to look forward to. I say again: I was not prepared.
As we crossed the starting line, we took off at a pretty solid 12:00-ish/mile pace. Stephen cantered off ahead because he’s in MUCH better shape than me, but thankfully Kevin hung back and took it easy with me. Every quarter mile or so we’d catch up with Stephen who waited for us, but by about mile 2.5 I realized I had pretty much used up all I had in the tank.
It was a miserable feeling. I’d run these hills dozens of times before. In much worse conditions. Hell, I ran the goddamn 2017 NYC Marathon in rain for more than 6 hours!! I really should just listen to the universe and pack it in. Why should I bother when all I do is finish after all my friends and get injured anyway?
All those negative thoughts you get in the middle of a race? I had them.
I mentioned my insecurities to Kevin at one point and he talked me through them – saint that he is – but while he helped my mental game, my physical game was just too far gone. My therapy had been focused on isolating the muscles that were causing me pain, working them gently and slowly strengthening them. The lack of running while focusing on those smaller, foundational things really sucked a lot of conditioning out of me.
Thankfully, I wasn’t SO far gone, and we made it to mile 4 relatively soon. Kevin made deals with me to get to the next light post, the next stop sign, the next tree. It worked, sort of. There was a lot of walking. But once we got to the final half mile or so, I realized I’d done it. Kevin asked if I was OK with he and Stephen taking off and finishing strong, and I said go for it. The only thing that makes a miserable race worse is knowing you held people back.
So off they went and I hunkered down for the final sweaty, breathless half mile. The nice thing about the Pride Run is that in the final mile, all of the local running clubs come out to cheer you on in the final mile or so. And because it’s Pride, the music is bumping, the energy is high, and the love is on full blast. All I had to do was shift to the side of the course and hold my hand out as I ran, and I was rewarded with high fives and screams and cheerleaders galore.
All that excitement was just what I needed to get down the last hill and over the finish line – and for Kevin to snap this hysterical picture of me thanking the running gods that the damn thing was DONE:
Afterwards we all hung out for a bit eating the rainbow ice pops they handed out at the finish line and taking pics – of course I can’t let Stephen take a nice photo just one damn time – before heading home to recover in the air conditioning.
As always it was a great race that I highly recommend, especially for first-timers. It’s high-energy and a wonderful way to support a fantastic cause that is dear to my heart.
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!
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.
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.
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!!)
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! 😉
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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:
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.
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!
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
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
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!
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
Tuesday first short run
Wednesday long mid-week run
Thursday rest/cross train
Friday 2nd short run
Saturday cross train
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!!
So now that I’m properly caffeinated this morning – and I’ve had some time to unload the past 2 months of photos from my phone – I realize that it’s high time I update here! But because I’ve had a LITTLE too much coffee and not enough sleep, here’s a photo-heavy update on what I’ve been up to and what I’m looking forward to (in no particular order):
I ran another race in the city!
Back in July I ran an (uneventful, hence no recap yet) average 4 miler with NYRR at the Boomer’s Cystic Fibrosis Run to Breathe. This was smack in the middle of my “off” period between spring racing and pre-fall training, so I purposely went out just to run, take in the sights of Central Park in the summer, and earn another race in my 9+1 for the 2017 NYC Marathon. Speaking of:
I’m only one race away! On October 30th I’m taking on the Marathon Kickoff 5M to earn my final credit for entry into the marathon! My first full, my first NYC… it’s getting real.
Training for the Rock n Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon has ramped up.
With my next half now less than a month away, I’ve been killing it on the mileage front – and my paces just keep getting better too. All of my long runs have been under 12:00/mile and I’m even gunning for a 5K PR at one of my two races this coming weekend.
But it’s taken a lot of work. As a result, my weekday nights are filled with post-work crosstraining and treadmill runs (because it has been HOT in NJ this summer), meaning I’m not getting home until late most nights. And on the weekend when I’m running long, I spend one full day prepping for, doing, and recovering from my long runs.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m SO lucky that my husband supports me in all this ridiculousness and cooks and takes care of the house while I’m out running, because otherwise we would be eating a lot of dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets and pasta. I mean, we ARE eating that a lot, but if not for him, we’d be eating it ALL the time. Plus the lawn would be a jungle. Thanks, babe.
I got a new bike!
After struggling through two sprint triathlons last summer on my beat up old mountain bike, I finally caved and got myself a new, speedier bike. I noticed an IMMEDIATE difference – I’m so much faster and lighter, it takes virtually no effort to get going once I get on the bike. In my first tri on it, I shaved nearly 15 minutes off my time from last year to this year. And while I’m not 100% ready to make the jump from two legs to two wheels (I’m still Jess RUNS Happy, after all), this new toy has been an invaluable part of my training and fitness plans this summer.
I hung out with the Brooks team in NYC.
A few weeks ago I had the chance to participate in a fun little video shoot with the Brooks folks in NYC. While I can’t spill the beans about it just yet, I promise you guys are going to love what’s in store.
While this is just a quick peek (I still owe you guys a recap of my triathlon!), there’s how my summer has gone in a nutshell. How about you? Tell me everything!