Not My First Rodeo (er, Full Marathon)

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

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

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

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I know. Shocker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NYRR Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff 5M Race Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday Thoughts

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! 

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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:

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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!

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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.

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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!

NYRR & FRNY Pride Run Race Recap

On Saturday, June 25th, I ran the NYRR/FRNY Pride Run 5M and had – quite honestly – one of the best race experiences I’ve had in recent memory.

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This race was dear to my heart to begin with; I’ve been an ally in the LGBTQ community for as long as I’ve known what those letters stand for and take every opportunity I can to show my pride. The past few years I wasn’t able to race due to vacations or other plans, so this year, I registered as soon as it opened up.

Then just a few weeks before race day, the attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando rocked the community. But on race day, we came together to lift each other up and race as one, holding those 49 beautiful people and their families and loved ones in our hearts at every step.

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It was a perfectly sunny day, and as we got to the race site and milled around with the crowd, I hydrated and snapped pics on the way to the corral. I was SO HAPPY to run into my favorite running buddy Mr. Lu and finally snap a photo with him! This guy has run every NYRR race I’ve done, and our paces are roughly the same. He’s gotten me through quite a few difficult miles with his perfectly steady gait and the jingly bells he holds in his hands when he runs. Anyone else every run into him too?

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Once I got to the corral I hung out and caught up on social media then took my place and got ready to run. The crowds were thick, but everyone – and I mean everyone – was kind and happy and supportive. As I’m usually alone in the corral, I tend to put my headphones on and smile at runners around me, but don’t get a lot of smiles back. This time, everyone smiled and wished each other a great race, gave a thumbs up, something.

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Peter Ciaccia opened up the race with a speech that I managed to partially get on video and I’m so grateful I did:

I can’t lie – I shed some tears at those remarks, and still do watching them now. He’s right: the madness has to stop. I don’t care what your political leanings are and I’m not here to get into a debate – this is my blog, not the comments section of a Facebook post – but at the very least, we can all agree that what really matters is humanity and love and respect. And if you don’t agree, then you can take your opinions elsewhere and kindly unfollow me, thank you very much.

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After Peter’s remarks the horn went off and we were off for the 5 mile loop around the park, where I was quickly overwhelmed by the love and support coming from all angles. It was heartwarming. People on the sidelines screamed for every single person, offering high fives, wearing tutus and glitter and wigs, giving out gummy bears – and that was just in the first quarter mile!

Once we cleared the crowds, I choked up as I spotted the signs people were racing with – some had written the names of the victims of the Orlando shooting on their bibs, others held posters or made special shirts. I got especially emotional when I came up on one man wearing a laminated collage of the faces of all of the victims on his back. I cried as I passed him, giving him a thumbs up and a nod that he returned.

Beyond the scenery and the crowds and the amazing environment, the run itself was uneventful – I wasn’t gunning for a PR after taking some training time off in the weeks leading up to the race, so I ran my own race and took my time in the growing heat and full sun. I told myself as long as I stayed under 11:45/mile I’d be happy.

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In the final mile I saw that I had kept my promise to myself and was nearing an 11:3x/mile finish, so I gunned it and crossed the line officially at 57:37 (or an 11:32/mile pace).

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Garmin time is always better 😉

I was even MORE excited at the finish to find that not only did I finish fast enough to get a race shirt IN MY SIZE (they’re usually all gone by the time I finish), but they were handing out RAINBOW BAGELS!

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How can you not smile at rainbow bagels??

Because it was a hot day and we had plans that afternoon, we weren’t able to wander around the city like we’d wanted, but it was just as well because I was hot and sticky and needed to shower. And while the event was bittersweet and emotional and turned me into a big ol’ blubbery mess more than a few times, I had to smile when I hopped onto the subway and saw what the NYRR posted at the end of the race:

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A post-race proposal!

Love IS the only thing that matters, plain and simple.

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!

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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.]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Race Recap: NYRR Run for the Parks 4 Miler

In my journey to complete my NYRR 9+1 I headed to my third Central Park race of the year on April 10th – the Run for the Parks 4 Miler. In all the pictures of past races, people are smiling in tank tops, happily jumping through the air and gamboling about like bunnies in the fresh buds blooming all around the park. This year? Not so much.

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I’ve run some cold races in my life. Frozen hail, snow, pouring rain, driving winds. But even though the sun was out for this race, I felt like I was never going to get warm again, ever.

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Maybe because I  had to wake up at 4:30 for a 5:37 train after running 10 miles on a treadmill the day before.

Either way, we made it into the city bright and early, and headed uptown on the subway to the start at around 70th street. While it was super cold, I will say that this race is going down in history as the biggest surprise of my life: after toiling away at my pace for months, all the hard work has paid off and the NYRR finally bumped me up out of the last corral!!

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No more L for “Last”! Finally! K for “Kickass”!

Just like the consistent improvements I’ve seen in my times, I’m sure this was a fluke and I’ll be dropped back down to L in my next race (because this race’s time wasn’t too hot), but with the race bib above, I can definitively state, with photographic proof, that I was NOT last in at least one NYRR race in my life.

After jumping up and down and squealing over my shiny new K for a bit, we headed to the corral. I kept my big fluffy coat on as long as possible, but once I got behind the corral fence and had to hand the coat off to my hubby, I froze *instantly*. I had layered with a longsleeve and my cold weather insulated Brooks jacket (and a hat and gloves!) but it just wasn’t enough. I usually warm up after the first half mile or so, but not today. My toes and fingers were so cold they ached.

Once the gun went off, my frozen feet even affected my running! They were so numb that I had to change my gait for the first mile, which wasn’t fun. NBD though: I had gone into the race aiming just to finish – having done my long run on the treadmill the day before, my legs were aching to begin with, and I wasn’t about to push too hard so close to race day.

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The funny thing about running 10 miles the day before a 4 mile race: 4 miles seems like NOTHING! Seriously – once I heard the first mile click by on my watch, the second mile felt like it flew by even faster. I finally warmed up to a comfortable temperature by mile 2, and I was even picking some folks off as I cruised along at around 11:50. I hadn’t expected to go that fast!

Mile 3 came and went, and once I hit 3.25 I started to pick up the pace. The arches of my feet were angry at the hills I’d taken so soon after pounding them on a treadmill for 2 hours, but I kept telling myself it was almost over. And once I saw that finish line, I sprinted – finishing in 46:58, avg. 11:46/mile!

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To make things even more exciting, I had a friend waiting for me at the finish line: Lizzie, a fellow member of The Mermaid Club, who lives a few blocks away from the park, came out to cheer me on and warm up with coffee after the race! She snapped all these great pics you see up there 🙂 We all met up at the finish and walked over to a nearby Starbucks where we BS’d about work, life, running, and all that other fun stuff for a while before heading back home to a warm shower and a nap.

Overall while this wasn’t my best NYRR race, my performance after a long run the day before surprised me and I’m pretty excited about checking another race off my 9+1 list too!

Playing Hooky

Last week was one of those weeks that had me screaming for mercy by Tuesday.

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Seriously, my run Tuesday night wasn’t about training; it was running off the crazy. Thank god my Spring Moves app gave me a nice boost by randomly playing a Pumpkins song at the start. I’m really digging this app – not only is it music I like, it’s also timed to match the pace of my running (even angry running like this)! Check it out for free for a month by texting JESSRUNSHAPPY to 41411 🙂

So long story short, I ended up doing some unexpected speedwork: I burned out with a super-angry 9:50 first mile and fizzled out with a killer headache by the 5K mark. But thanks to the angry mile, that final pace? #killinit! After that, Wednesday turned out to be a beautiful new day. No, for real: it was like 75 degrees out.

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Actual footage of me on Wednesday.

When I learned that Thursday would be more of the same, I focused REALLY hard on Wednesday to take care of everything at work, and played hooky Thursday! Well not really – I had some family stuff I needed to take care of in the morning anyway. So I asked my boss, checked with my coworkers to not leave anyone in the lurch, and submitted the day off to HR, and I was OFF. Destination: Manhattan!

I had been itching to run in Central Park on my own since I started racing there last year, but I honestly didn’t think I had it in me. How was I going to carry all my stuff with me? What if I got too hot or too cold? Where would I run?

I finally realized that the only thing keeping me from this adventure was ME. So I took care of my business Thursday morning, loaded up my running pack with a clean change of clothes, ran the mile from our house to the train station, and got into Manhattan around noon. My goal was to do 4 miles around the park loosely following the path I’d run in recent races, so after a quick subway ride to 81st street I got out at the museum and took off across Central Park to the East side where I found my landmark: 1040 Fifth Avenue.

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When I see those terraces I just feel peace. Don’t know why, but I’ll take it.

It was a beautiful day: a little warm and muggy at 70-ish degrees, but overcast so not too hot. There were tons of people everywhere, laying on blankets in the grass, running, biking, taking pictures, juggling, singing, so it felt like a party everywhere I went. I even ran through a CBS shoot of Limitless, so keep an eye out on future episodes for me wandering through the shot in my little blue backpack.

I stayed more or less on the main path but went off on little side paths that seemed interesting, like up on the Reservoir Running path, or around the statue of the King of Poland on horseback. Rocking along to my music and taking in the sights – this is what running is all about. Going into the city was easy, I thought, why didn’t I do this sooner??

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After about 40 minutes or so I’d hit 3 miles (with all the stopping for pics and what not), and my knees were screaming. A quick check of my health app showed that I’d done more than 8 miles already with all the extra walking – no wonder I was tired! I also hadn’t eaten or drank anything, so I stopped at a little pretzel cart for water, took a gel, and decided to call my run at 3 miles.

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Well, my body had other plans. Once I got out of the park and saw the straight shot of Central Park West ahead of me, I thought, “Let’s try for 3.5.” Within minutes, 3.5 miles turned into almost 4, and I was COASTING at an even faster pace with nothing in my way to stop me. Turns out that little fueling stop was just what I needed, because I finally made it back downtown to Columbus Circle at 4 miles UNDER 11:00/mile!

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I was so psyched! The last mile just blinked by, and that pace? As I hobbled down the subway steps at 59th street to get back to Penn Station, while my knees were killing me, I still felt invincible.

After inhaling a turkey sandwich and picking up a brownie to split with the Mister later that night, I smiled to myself the whole train ride home. It just goes to show; sometimes you need to switch things up and go for it, even if “it” seems impossible. I’ve learned the anxiety I feel about something is almost always scarier and more paralyzing than the actual thing itself, whether it’s a big race or a solo adventure in Manhattan. Once I’m in the thick of things I almost always say to myself, “THIS is what you were afraid of?”

How about you – have you gone out of your comfort zone lately? What happened? Tell me all about it!

Is it Spring Yet?

I know, it’s only February 19th. But can we at least fast forward to like… April 1st? I’ve got SO many exciting races coming up and I want to RUN ALL THE RACES NOW!

Okay, that might be the coffee talking (and the fact that I just keep killing it in training, with sub 12-minute miles becoming the new norm). OR it could be the fact that my favorite running club of all time, the New York Road Runners, just opened up a slew of new spring race registrations and I kind of went on a bender yesterday.

No, for real. I registered for 4 races in one day:
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And if you think that’s nuts, my original list had 7 races! I only cut back because I had to be realistic. I have the April Fools 11K on 4/2, then I’ve got my goal race (the NJ Half) on May 1, so I swore off racing in the weeks before and immediately after that. The races I committed to are all far enough out from those dates that I’m confident I’ll be able to compete at top form. Also, there were a few races where signing up would have meant 3 or more racing weekends in a row, with multiple trips to Atlantic City and NYC. As much as I want to #runalltheraces, I’ve got a bank account and a family and adult responsibilities (dammit). So for now, this will have to suffice.

In short: My spring racing calendar went from “meh” to “whoa baby!” pretty quickly. And because I’m not 100% sure of my fall racing calendar, who knows what else I might add?

All I know is I’m keeping all my fingers and toes crossed for March 8th, when the NYC Marathon Lottery drawing happens. I want into that race so bad I can taste it!

How about you – have you locked down your racing calendar yet? If you could RUN ALL THE RACES what would your ideal list be? Any bucket list races in the works? 

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+!

NJ Half Marathon Training Week 0

Hey all! I’m currently in the middle of my first week of training for the New Jersey Half Marathon in May, and let’s just say I’m glad I added a few extra runs before the plan officially started:

I’m happy to say that the apocalypse you see up there is all but melted now, just over a week since it happened. Thank goodness, too, because I don’t think I could take trudging over a snow mound 4 feet high just to get to my front gate much longer.

To kick off my training a little early I did a few strength training + 1 mile run double workouts last week at the office gym just to get my body used to moving consistently again. I even surprised myself with a nice steady 3.5 mile run at what now feels like an “easy” pace – and on a treadmill to boot!

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Once the weekend hit, I went into high gear with an hour or so of strength training and cross training on Saturday, followed by my first “long” run on Sunday.

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The spinning, lifting, ab, and leg work I did on Saturday morning was made all the more intense thanks to those nifty little tights you see in the pic up there: Physiclo resistance tights. These babies have built-in resistance bands that add a little extra burn to every workout and make me sweat a little harder than I care to admit. That’s a good thing though, especially when I’m doing strength training!

Sunday morning I woke up to a delightfully sunny day, and did a happy dance when I realized it was almost 60 degrees. 60!! On the last day of January!! After babying a slightly pulled muscle in my back (thanks, over-zealous ab work and old mattress) all morning I decided to make the most of the weather and go for a run down the shore.

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I was so stoked! An hour or more all to myself with my new tunes and the ocean, what a great long run it was going to be! I went out thinking I’d aim for 5 miles, but if I did 4 that would be OK too. I’ve got the NYRR Gridiron 4 Miler next weekend in Central Park, which I plan on racing full out, so part of me is keeping things a little conservative this week.

Yeah, I was evidently SO stoked about this run that I left in a hurry and forgot my headphones at home.

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[sad trombone sound effect]

I had, however, driven more than a half hour to get to my running destination, so I had no choice but to go for it, sans music. Which I HATE. Yes, I know that running is all about connecting with your body and feeling the rhythm and getting into your own thoughts… yeah you know what? I’m kind of tired of my own thoughts. I’m an only child and have spent more time with my own thoughts than I care to admit. Sometimes I like just leaving the headphones at home and feeling it, but not this time.

To make things a LITTLE more bearable, I played a podcast by the hilarious Bill Burr on my iPhone speakers, just loud enough for me to hear, and took off on the boardwalk for my long run.

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It wasn’t exactly the head-clearing, zone-out for an hour and rock the groove kind of run I had hoped for, but it was good. I laughed at Burr’s ridiculousness – and had to turn the volume down when passing families with small children! – but after about 2 miles in one direction I started to feel the boredom creep in. This is usually where my tunes would kick in and carry me over the hump and into my second wind.

Instead of the refreshing boost I’d get with a new song, I instead just shut the podcast down and ran. It was not fun. I sang songs in my head. I bobbed and weaved through increasing crowds (who knew Asbury Park Beerfest was the same day?) and noticed that the lack of energy had affected my pace negatively – I was averaging about 11:49/mile at 3.5 and that made me angry. I knew I was capable of better!

So with the final half mile left before I got back to my car, I took off and breezed past everyone, leaping over crusty snow banks and splashing through puddles at around 9:xx/mile pace, loving the feel of the wind in my face and the cold breeze in my lungs. The sprinting paid off, and I finished at my car just over 4 miles at a much lower average pace, thankyouverymuch!

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I’ll call this Week 0 because while I’m more active than I’ve been in the off season, the workouts aren’t 100% on plan. Tonight is a rest night because I’ve got acupuncture appointment #3 (hooray!) and a run and strength workout scheduled for tomorrow, then a light shakeout run Friday to prep for Sunday’s race.

I’m really excited to see what Central Park has in store for me – my current 4M PR is 45:05 which will be hard to beat especially on those hills, but who knows? I plan on giving it 100% and seeing what I’m capable of.

How about you – how’s your training going? Any races coming up? Let me know in the comments!