Mile 26

Real Talk: The TCS New York City Marathon left me turned off about running. With having to put our cat to sleep the day after the race and dealing with injuries for months post-race, I never felt that post-marathon high.

I deleted almost all of the pictures from that day off my phone. But for some reason, I couldn’t delete this one: the Mile 26 marker.

I still remember how I felt when I snapped this picture. Every inch of my body hurt. It was dark and rainy, spectators had all gone home. When I saw Mile 26 I thought “Who cares. There’s no triumphant final push left in me, why should I take a picture?”

But I did, and every time I clean my camera roll, I still won’t delete it. It took me 7 months, but now I know why: because it was the lowest point I’d been at in months… BUT I KEPT GOING.

I got that medal. I pushed through a mental and physical hell I created for myself over 25+ miles through the five boroughs of NYC and I survived, just like I’ve survived every other “lowest” point in my life. It’s a reminder that there’s always something to look forward to, even if I have to go through just .2 more miles of hell to get to it.

When you get to your Mile 26, just keep going. I know it hurts. But it’ll be worth it.

NYC Marathon Race Recap

You guys.

I have some news:

I RAN A MARATHON!

IMG_6104.JPG

I know, I know – I ran it like two stinking weeks ago, I’m a bad blogger! But hey, I’m back, and I’m blogging about it, and I’m a FREAKIN’ MARATHONER!

734311_267443005_XLarge

So let’s jump right to it, shall we??

On race morning, I woke up after actually managing to get a good night’s sleep, and Mere (who was also running) and Damian came and picked us up at about 4:15am.

IMG_5862

Just look at those crazy eyes I’ve got. Those are the eyes of a terrified woman.

We planned on taking the NYRR-provided NJ Bus, and had the smoothest morning. Seriously: after a 30 minute drive, we rolled up to the Meadowlands, kissed the boys goodbye, walked 50 feet to a waiting bus, and were on our way within seconds! Bravo, NYRR.

IMG_5864.JPG

Sure, we got the last 2 seats on the bus and couldn’t sit together, but it was OK, we made it work 😉

After a quick bus ride, we arrived at Fort Wadsworth while it was still dark, and breezed through security and into the Starters Village.

 

After checking out our individual colored corral areas, Mere was sweet enough to come over to my area in Orange and hung out with me while we waited for her wave to start.

 

I even got to meet Alissa while we waited (nice job on your BQ, girl!!)

819167_1002_0020

After saying goodbye to Mere, I hung out with the NYRR therapy dogs. No, seriously:

 

It was so nice to give some pets to Tugboat the Frenchie, Lass the Labrador, and WLLY the… poof? Man-bun? Whatever he was, he was my favorite and required a selfie.

 

Arun came over to say hey, and after he said goodbye to go back to his area, I met Amanda and Gregg, and we watched the start of the race from our spot at the base of the bridge.

Amanda and Gregg and I became fast friends – Gregg also gave us some sage advice about how you can only run the race with what you’ve got in the tank. To pass the last hour before we started, the three of us ate our breakfasts and chatted about our previous races, our taste in music, and how we prepped for the race. Secret reveal: Gregg and I both have the Moana soundtrack on our marathon playlists. Shhhhh! 😉

IMG_5927

After Greg took off for his start in Wave 3, Amanda and I were left behind to nervously chat while we made quick port-a-potty stops, de-layered, and strapped on our running bags before heading over to the corrals of Wave 4. I was so grateful to have her there with me – if you’re reading this, thank you, Amanda!

We said goodbye just as the corrals were closing, and I was able to take a quick video before they closed the gate:

I will admit: I was super nervous up until I heard New York, New York blaring over the loudspeakers, and then a kind of calm came over me. Once the cannon went off, I was ready:

Within another few seconds, we were walking up the incline to the start, ran over the mat, and the marathon had begun. And, forgive my language, but holy shit, it was amazing.

IMG_5968.JPG

I knew the first 1.5 miles was uphill on the bridge, but honestly as we ran it, I didn’t notice the incline. All I felt was incredible energy: from the people running around me, the police on the bridge, the people that worked on the bridge, the AIR… everything was electric and perfect.

The only issue I was faced with was worrying about my phone in the rain. I had made the decision to run with my phone in my hand so that I could easily take photos and videos, but the constant drizzle ended up covering my phone in water before the first mile. But it turned out okay in the end.

IMG_5975

Once we began mile 2 and entered Brooklyn, I quickly discovered what everyone meant when they told me this would truly be a race unlike any other I’d ever run. Even in the rain, people of every race and shape and size and color lined both sides of the street and screamed and clapped and rang bells and shouted our names – for miles and miles and miles. It was like running through a block party that never ended!

I ordered a personalized name bib from Races2Remember and I’m so glad I did. Every 10 seconds or so, there was a new person yelling for me, cheering me on, making songs about my name… my favorite was “No one better mess with Jess!” It was incredible.

For the first 6-7 miles, I honestly felt so good that I didn’t even notice I was running. The music, the spectator high-fives, the sights – it all carried me. I ran from one side of the street to the other to get all the high fives I could!

At mile 3 a swing band on the sidewalk was blasting music and made 2 runners stop and break into a full-on choreographed swing dance in the street. At mile 5 a full gospel choir sang for us on the steps of their church. At mile 7 NYPD officers danced with us in the streets.

IMG_6002

At one point near mile 9, the crowds were so thick I couldn’t tell where the runners ended and the spectators began. Groups of friends spilled out of the bars with drinks in hand, cheering for us and dancing to the music that bumped from inside the bars.

I put my headphones in but rarely used them – I was too busy singing along with the music on the course!

By mile 11, I knew I should be feeling some fatigue, but I still felt great. My miles were around the 12:00 range, and while that was a bit faster than I wanted, I thought maybe I’d have some luck and that energy would keep carrying me.

Well, I was a bit wrong.

Mile 13 was a bit slower – I walked/ran for the next few miles, saving my strength for the Queensboro Bridge I knew was coming up between 15 & 16.

The crowds were a little more sparse here so I cranked up my music, and almost as soon as we got onto the QB, my iPod died. I had expected this after it died during long training runs, so I’d packed a backup iPod (no, really, I NEED my music), and walked a bit on the bridge to swap them out and recover.

Once I got a boost from fresh music, I put my head down and barreled through some crowds of walkers, keeping a steady pace. But after about a full uphill mile of that, I realized the mistake I’d made. My legs burned. I knew that Manhattan was next so I was counting on that energy, but what I wasn’t counting on was the rain really picking up as soon as we got off the bridge and turned onto First Avenue.

IMG_6034

If the first 13-15 miles were easy as pie, 15-22 was where I actually had to put in work.

I asked 26 of my closest friends and running buddies to give me a song each for a Power Playlist, and this is when I turned it on.

IMG_6039

A few of the songs really charged me up, but when one particular song my mom picked came on, I started weeping. It’s the song that my mom and dad walked me down the aisle to on my wedding day. While I tried not to cry too hard, I took some time at this point to be grateful. Even though I was in pain, I knew I was going to finish this thing. All the work, the endless hours, they were going to pay off. It was emotional.

Finally we entered the Bronx – and were greeted by so many more spectators that I got a little boost.

I danced a little with people who were still out in the rain cheering for us, and one woman even stopped herself before she could give me a high five and instead threw her arms around me and said, “Girl, you don’t need a high five you need a hug, you’re going to finish this!!” I think maybe she was an angel.

Once we looped back into Manhattan at mile 21, I got excited – this was the home stretch, so to speak.

IMG_6046

I’d arranged to have Mike and the crew cheering for me at the same spot we’d spectated at last year, and knew I was getting close. So I shuffled along and kept up the pace, looking for them the whole time. But our spot came and went, and they weren’t there. I’d made a deal with myself before I even started: there’d be a chance I would miss them, and I had to accept that. So instead of getting upset, I shuffled up Fifth Avenue because the pain was too great to run constantly now, and I chatted here and there with the runners around me as we put one foot in front of the other. This was great because it took my mind off things, and before I knew it, the sun was just about to disappear and we were entering Central Park!

IMG_6053

I HAD to take a picture of my favorite spot in the city ❤

During training, I envisioned coasting up and down those Central Park hills at this point, riding a wave of adrenaline that would carry me to a strong finish.

819203_1398_0002.jpg

The reality could not have been farther from that vision: my ankles were wobbly and kept giving out, my calves burned, my lower back burned, my right glute was on fire, and every time I tried to move faster than a weak shuffle my entire body screamed. I couldn’t help but grunt and groan every time I tried.

IMG_6063

By the time we exited the park for that quick jaunt across Central Park South, the sun was gone and I knew I’d be walking it in… until I spotted Mike and Mere and Damian!

IMG_6147.JPG

When I saw them I broke into a run and stopped for a quick hug and kiss from everyone – but if I stayed any longer than that I knew I wouldn’t be able to move again!

So I took off with them screaming behind me, giving me my final power-up.

After grabbing a hug from Peter Ciaccia himself at the entrance to the park, I ran straight through, stopping only to get one last picture:

IMG_6084

I could hear the screaming and cowbells of the finish line, and turned it on for a final kick. The pain was still there but all I could focus on was getting up that final hill and crossing that line.

When I finally saw the finish line, I couldn’t help but start crying. It was happening. I honestly can’t remember if I heard them say my name, but I know I glanced around behind me to make sure I wouldn’t hit anyone, threw my arms in the air, and closed my eyes as I crossed the finish line and finally became a marathoner.

819249_1258_0016

It took a few seconds after I crossed for it to truly hit me, but when it did, I immediately started sobbing. And hyperventilating. The horrible wheezing sound I made caused a few volunteers to ask me if I was OK and I nodded, willing myself to calm down; there’d be no good finish line picture if I passed out before I could even get my medal!

So I staggered to a medal volunteer and sobbed again as she put the medal around my neck. She kept saying “bless you, bless you” and I thanked her with everything I had left. I asked her to take my picture and she obliged:

IMG_6104

As I staggered through the chute to get my poncho and exit the park, the pain finally had a chance to sink in, and it was intense. I cannot begin to describe it – it was shooting, throbbing, aching, burning… it was all the pain at once, everywhere. It physically took my breath away to do anything but stagger ahead with the flow of people in the same shape as me.

After I got my poncho and texted with my crew to confirm our meetup area, I was never so relieved to see my husband and our family. And as a bonus, I even got a huge finish line hug from Lizzie, who had volunteered at the race, too! ❤

To celebrate our finishes (congrats on your course PR, Mere!), we toasted with some wine at dinner and that was the most delicious red I’ve ever had.

And while the walk back to the subway was unbelievably painful (and hysterical), I made it down the subway steps in time to catch our train and we were home before 11pm.

I could easily write another 2,000 words about it, but I’ll cap myself now by leaving you with this: the NYC Marathon was incredible. It was awe-inspiring. It took my breath away, more times than I could count. I saw things that I never thought I’d see on a race course. If you ever have the chance to run it, DO IT. You will never regret it.

They say NYC is a race unlike any other, but you truly have no idea what that means until you experience it.

IMG_6136

NYC Marathon Lottery & Acupuncture #2

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

giphy (3).gif

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

giphy (1).gif

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

giphy (4).gif

Me, when I find out they let me in.

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

giphy (2).gif

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

giphy (6).gif

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

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

Five Things That Happen During Every Race

If you’ve ever run a race, chances are you’ve experienced some of the standard race-day highs and lows that most runners can relate to: the bliss of a clean port-a-potty, the agony of missing a PR, that tingly-all-over feeling upon seeing the finish line…

But what about the things that no one really talks about? Those things that happen during a race more often than we care to admit? I’ve run my fair share of 5K’s, 10K’s, half marathons, and everything in between, and there are some things that have happened so consistently that I’m sharing them now: the five things that happen during every race.

1. The Faster Person

faster

Listen: we’re all running our own race. I get that. The only person you’re competing against is yourself and all that jazz. But it’s only natural to feel that surge of anger and adrenaline when someone who’s been pacing you for the last 5 miles suddenly sprints past you triumphantly in the final mile.

faster 2

It’s even more infuriating and ego-crushing when that person is wearing a giant banana costume. Or is dribbling basketballs. Or wearing a Tom Brady mask and juggling deflated footballs. Not that I know from experience.

2. The Bathroom Fake-Out

We’ve all been there. I don’t care how well-trained your colon might be. Even the most seasoned runner knows that bubbling, burning feeling that can only mean one thing:

bathroom

(and if you say you don’t, you’re lying.)

It always seems to hit at like mile 3 of a half marathon that you aim to PR in. But the worst part is when you sprint to the nearest port-a-potty for emergency relief…

bathroom 2

Only to have nothing happen. Nothing!! I’ve lost count of how many times this has happened to me. The intense pressure just seems to build and build with every step, but once I’m finally in a safe place, the urge just disappears as quickly as it hit. I think Kramer called that “missing the window“?

true.gif

3. Running Regret

This tends to happen later in a race. The endorphins of a strong start have worn off, you’re long past the last aid station and you’ve still got the final few miles staring you in the face and a blister the size of Texas growing on your big toe. That’s when you say to yourself: “Never again.”

regret 2

Even in a good race, this fleeting moment of regret is enough to make me seriously reconsider my own sanity. I paid to do this? To wake up at 4AM on my day off, drive an hour, stand in the cold with a bunch of people I know are faster than me, then run for 3 hours? That’s it. I’m retiring from racing and booking myself a rubber room to roll around in for the rest of my life.

steamroller

Bonus Points for knowing what movie this is from.

Until I cross that finish line and the taste of victory is so, so sweet, then I’m all like, “When’s the next one??”

4. Mental Math

math 2

You know exactly what I mean. “OK, so if I keep this 10:55 pace for the next 3 miles I’ll be at an 11:15/mile pace, but can I crank it up for the final 3 mile stretch? 3 miles is from my house to the park and back, that’s not so bad. But really I have 6 miles so it’s double that. That sucks. OK, 6 miles, that’s one loop around town, maybe that’s not so bad.”

Similarly, there’s the phenomenon (please tell me I’m not alone) where the mid-race mania causes all math knowledge to fly out of your brain. Like when my friend once met me at mile 6 of a half marathon and asked me how I was doing as she ran alongside me. “Not bad,” I shouted, “Only 4 more miles, I’m feeling good!”

math 1

She just patted me on the back and sent me on my way with, “It’s more like 7, but you’ve got this!”

I cried for the whole next mile.

5. The Single-Serve Friend

This could just be a back-of-the-packer experience, but I’m putting it on this list. In every race, I tend to make at least one single-serving friend. The “Hi new Bestie, I love your running skirt! OMG how did we never know each other before this moment? OK I’m heading off now so take care, bye-bye forever” friend.

best friends.gif

These are the folks that you meet in the starting corral, or out at mile 5, or in the final mile when you’re both hurting and walking and experiencing the regret I just talked about up there.

Case in point: in my last half marathon, I made a single serving friend with an elderly gentleman who had been pacing me from pretty much mile 6. Instead of feeling anger when he would shoot out ahead of me, I’d use it as fuel and pick up my pace slightly to catch him. Finally, after 6 miles of that as I passed him in the final turn, he caught up to me and thanked me for pushing him the whole race. I had no idea – I thought he’d been doing the same for me! I thanked HIM and we laughed and ran for a quarter mile together, and then I continued on my way. Sure, they’re “friends” in the most basic sense of the word, but Single Serving Friends are sometimes just what you need out there!

What do you think? What things do YOU experience in every race that I left off here? Share in the comments!

Preparing For Marathon Mania (When You’re Not a Marathon Runner)

I don’t know about you, but every fall, I find myself getting swept up in marathon madness. It seems like everyone and their mothers are training for and running marathons, while me and my bum knees are sitting over here like “I’m running 13 miles, wheeee!”

yyeah

I know, a half marathon is nothing to sneeze at. It’s a huge accomplishment, and I take it 100% seriously. Hell, it’s the longest distance I can [barely] manage, of course it’s awesome! But when you see those troopers out there clocking runs of 15, 18, 20+ miles, sometimes it’s hard not to feel all the (running-related) things.

Take me for example: having tried and failed training for a full marathon a few years back, I have a love/hate relationship with the marathon. As I scroll through my feeds and chat with full-running-friends, I flip flop almost hourly between runner envy (damn I wish my knees and my brain could let me run that far!) and runner schadenfreude (pfft, you won’t catch me running 20+ miles, that’s more than 5 hours!). But I know better than to say “never”, because I said that after my first 5K 4 years ago even though everyone told me I’d get hooked, and look at me now, with a blog about running and everything!

told-you-so-o

Anywho, suffice it to say that the fall racing season is always filled with lots of conflicting emotions for me. So this year, I’m doing a few things to curb the marathon mania before it hits me.

First, I’m loading up my calendar with lots of other races to get my fix while not putting my poor joints on overload. As of today, I’ve got shorter distance races on 9/6, 9/13, 9/19, 9/26, and 10/31, a triathlon on 9/20, and a half marathon 10/18, with more in the works in October. So believe me when I say it: I’ll be running plenty.

giphy

(you have NO IDEA how long I’ve been waiting to use this guy in a post. FINALLY!)

Secondly, I’m fully embracing the triathlon for the first time during marathon season. I’m competing in another triathlon on September 20th, which is taking up a lot of my training time but also gives me a new “mania” outlet. It’s a new (to me) sport and I’m fully in love with it! I’m not kidding. I still really love running and it’ll always be my favorite, but getting to switch it up with biking and swimming AND competing in those three things at the same time? It’s awesome.

love it

Lastly, I’ve set an unofficial goal for the last few months of 2015 to run 14 miles in one go. My motivation is simple: I need to prove to myself that I won’t turn into a pumpkin – or my knees won’t turn into jelly – once I break the magical 13.1 spell. So once I finish my goal race on 10/18 in Atlantic City, I aim to keep up with running long every other weekend just to see what I’m capable of. Who knows, with all the extra cross training thanks to my newfound love of the triathlon, I may surprise myself!

joey-shrug

How do you cope with marathon mania? Do you have envy like me or are you 100% sure you’re only half crazy? And those of you who ARE running those fall marathons: how is your training going? Sound off in the comments!

First Marathon Training Time

I’m about a week away from starting my first ever full marathon training plan, and – we’re friends right? Good. Then I feel no shame in telling you that I’m about ready to soil myself.

do not wantdo not want.

I can’t lie – there’s a lot of “why the hell did I ever say I’d do this in the first place?” going through my head right now. I’m an idiot. I watched one video about people finishing a marathon and suddenly I’m ready to take on 26.2 miles myself? Come on, 13.1 just became doable like a month ago!

But alas, I made a promise to myself (and paid the registration fee), so I can’t run away from this problem.

200although that sprint might be good training, so on second thought maybe I should?

So now I’m staring down a 16 week training plan that will basically change my life: I’m starting it just as a “runner”. If anything, I can call myself a half marathoner. But at the end of these 4 and a half months, I’m going to be a marathoner. Even thinking about it gives me chills!

Am I scared? Hell yeah. But I’m excited too. And I can’t wait to prove to myself that I can do it. I’m going to start a journey that I never thought I’d ever take on, and it’s going to consume a lot of my life. I’ll have to re-evaluate and shift my eating and drinking habits (oh god my drinking habits) for optimum performance. No more late nights – or late mornings, for that matter. I’ll live and die by the mileage. Whatever the number on the plan, I’m sticking to it and following through. Cross training will be for-realsies, too – biking, swimming, strength training; it’s all going down.

Because come October 19th, when I hit that boardwalk, I want to be as prepared and confident as possible. I will leave all of my doubts in my dust, and I’m going to crush it.

tumblr_static_dumbledorebasically I’m going to be Dumbledore

Now I want to hear from you – what are you ready to take on like Albus up there? Are you training for your first race? A 5k? Your first marathon? Tell me what’s going through your mind – I want to hear it all!