The Heat Is On

If you looked up to DJ Tanner as much as I did circa 1992, you know that doing something just because everyone else is doing it can never end well. Case in point: you shouldn’t cut school just because everyone else is doing it. You shouldn’t stairmaster until you faint just because everyone else is doing it. You shouldn’t execute a Chinese fire drill in Kimmy Gibbler’s sweet ride on a San Francisco incline just because everyone else is doing it.

The lessons of my childhood continue to offer sound advice today. I shouldn’t skip a workout just because everyone else is skipping it. I shouldn’t drink tequila just because everyone else is drinking it. I shouldn’t get a haircut just because everyone else is getting it.

photo

Yes I should.

So why, oh why, when I see other runners bundling head to toe to counter this week’s inaugural fall weather do I get the urge to jump on the bandwagon and do exactly the same thing, even though I know I’m a much more hot-blooded runner than 98 percent of the population? Because DJ Tanner taught me nothing, apparently. And because I’m a glutton for sweaty, blistering, uncomfortable punishment.

If you ran Central Park this morning as the temperatures grazed 40 degrees for the first time, you probably saw hundreds of exercisers in layers and sweats and gloves and caps and Tauntauns trying to stave off the early chill. And I can understand why. After a positively balmy October to date (if only there were some science to explain this strange rise in temperatures…), waking to an honest-to-god autumn climate probably shocked some runners into hauling out their winter gear.

Heck, even Runner’s World’s interactive “what to wear” guide suggested I don tights, gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, a light jacket and a winter cap for today’s 5-mile easy run in 40-degree air. They even drew a picture.

Why yes, I DO have a ponytail, you smart machine, you.

Why yes, I DO have a ponytail, you brilliant machine, you.

I didn’t go that far, but I did trade in my usual shorts for long pants and layer a compression Under Armour jacket over my tank.

And my god, I was miserable. Sure, the first five minutes were toasty warm and a nice counter to the 5:50 a.m. chill. But by the time I got to the park, I had practically sweated through my winter gear, making my two loops of the reservoir hot, stuffy and uncomfortable indeed. After 2.5 marathon training cycles and thousands of miles on my feet, I know that I prefer to run in too little clothing than too much. So why did I choose to bulk up just because everyone else was doing it?

Luckily, today’s unpleasantness only lasted 45 minutes, but it’s a good lesson as the marathon fast approaches. On Nov. 23, I need to remember not to overdress just because everyone else is doing. I need to remember not to start out sprinting just because everyone else is doing it. I need to remember not to skip the water stations just because everyone else is doing it.

In short, I need to run my marathon, not anybody else’s. If I can do that, I know I’ll make Uncle Jesse proud.

What are you targeting as your fall marathon nears?

Posted in Training | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bending the Rules

I’m not the most flexible woman in the world.

Hello, understatement of the century.

Let me rephrase. I’m probably the least flexible woman in the world when you really break it down. The last time I touched my toes, Balki Bartokomous was still on primetime. My range of movement caps out at the Cha Cha Slide. At yoga, my downward dog looks about as comfortable as Keira in a straw hat.

Fact: I wear the same hat to yoga.

Fact: I wear the same hat to yoga.

With long legs, short muscles and joints that surely have the consistency of cement, I have never had an ounce of flexibility in my body.

Which is why I’ve been extra proud of my marathon training so far this fall: in terms of flexibility, it’s been downright elastic. (I realize bodily flexibility and scheduling flexibility aren’t the same thing, but let’s just go with it for the sake of this post. Cool? Cool.)

In past marathon training cycles, I followed prescribed workouts to a T, afraid to reorder my scheduled workouts for fear I wouldn’t reach my 26.2-mile goal. But with two races that distance now under my belt, I trust myself to get flexible with my training and still cross that finish line. And good thing, too: in terms of scheduling, this fall has been a bonafide obstacle course.

I knew going into autumn that my schedule was going to be busy, with several planned weekends away and at least one Yorkville dog costume parade already on my calendar. (You’re welcome.)

But as that has spiraled into literally four weddings and a funeral (I don’t appreciate the reference, Richard Curtis), I’ve had to juggle my scheduled workouts more than ever before. From moving long runs to weekdays to logging miles at lunchtime to splitting workouts into pre- and post-work halves, I’ve been more creative than ever with my marathon scheduling this time around — and I’m so glad of it.

Why, you ask? Because instead of running a 12-miler scheduled for the last Saturday of September, I attended a gorgeous wedding in Upstate New York that culminated in me belting Little Mermaid lyrics on a school bus home (i.e. “the usual”). And because instead of running an 18-miler last Friday, I was able to sit back and toast a special woman with a martini she would have loved. And because instead of running a 15-miler this weekend, I’ll be watching my friend Fran walk down the aisle and then toasting my newly engaged brother and his fiancé during a weekend home in Baltimore.

Guess which of these ladies he's marrying. Nope, guess again.

Guess which of these ladies he’s marrying. Nope, guess again.

It’s not that I’m not doing the runs — I’m just doing them in my own order, when convenient, and not letting them get in the way of the things that matter even more than crossing that finish line in less than 4 hours. Sure, I’d love to clock another 3:50-something time come Nov. 23. But even more so, I’d like to finish these 20 weeks of training not feeling like I’ve missed out on my life.

So far so good.

How flexible are you in your marathon training?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Took All the Trees, Put ‘Em in a Tree Museum

As the Counting Crows once crooned to many a nostalgic listener: “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”

For some people, it’s love. For others, it’s health. For all of us, it’s classic Joni Mitchell songs not actually in need of a 2003 facelift feat. Vanessa Carlton.

For me, it’s the Central Park bridle path. I’d always known it was core to my daily routine, but it was only when it was brutally snatched from under my Asics that I realized just how much it meant to me.

bridle

Let’s just all pretend this photo is in season.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with New York’s Central Park, the bridle path is a 1.66-mile dirt running route that circles just outside the reservoir loop, a slightly smaller and more elevated 1.58-mile route. In my mind, the bridle path is superior to the reservoir loop for many reasons: it’s wider, it’s less congested, it has water fountains, it doesn’t flood as badly after storms, it’s near bathrooms, you can take the extension to 103rd St. and push your workout to 2.5 miles, and horses legally have the right of way. Anywhere where furry beasts reign supreme is a A-OK in my book.

Literally the only downside of the bridle path vs. the reservoir is you don’t get the same breathtaking views of the city skyline, since it sits slightly further downhill.

I mean, I guess it's not too ugly or anything.

I mean, I guess the reservoir isn’t too ugly or anything.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the reservoir loop, too, and considering its view is my blog’s permanent header, I can’t really knock it too hard. But for all its beauty, the reservoir comes hand in hand with something far less desirable: tourists.

Unless you’re running at 6 a.m., the reservoir is without fail full of camera-wielding, stop-and-go tourists walking against traffic and three abreast. I love that people visit our city and keep our service industry employed and patron our landmarks and share the good news of our delicious pizza abroad, but for the love of God, when you step onto a running path where hundreds of strangers are all moving counterclockwise, why oh why would you choose to do the opposite? Be warned, fair funner: Travel the reservoir and know you’ll be darting and weaving more than a loom.

So it was with great dismay that I arrived at the park earlier this month to find that a segment of the reservoir had been temporarily closed to allow for path maintenance.

 

t

Shadows? Chain-link? I’m a regular Ansel Adams, I tell ‘ya.

With the reservoir closed off from 90th St. to the north end of the loop, there was only one place to divert them. You guessed it.

Oh cruel world.

Oh cruel world.

Fortunately, the bridle path is wide enough that even with the new influx of traffic, you can still make your way around without too much fancy footwork. But for a loop that used to feel exclusively mine, it’s now jam-packed with bodies kicking up my dust, sharing my water fountains and disrupting my oh-so-coveted solitude. I’m a middle child. I’ve never been good at sharing.

tt

At least they’re going in the right direction.

Of course, I understand why the reservoir repair is taking place and pushing athletes and tourists alike onto my beloved bridle path. According to the park’s website, the reservoir running track was last repaired in 1999, helping explain the erosion, flooding and damage that I’ve witnessed on it after many-a-storm. The reservoir path is crucial to the park’s history — Madonna ran here, Jackie O ran here, Bill Clinton ran here — and even more importantly, some say jogging as a U.S. past time was pretty much initiated here. I can’t attest to that, but I can verify that at least one runner’s first steps — mine — took place around that 1.58-mile loop.

So while it’s no bridle path, the reservoir loop has it’s place in both the park’s history and mine, which is why I’m going to be donating today to it’s continued repair and maintenance. I want to ensure it stops flooding after thunderstorms. I want to keep it well lit. I want to fund more signs reminding people to follow the flow of traffic.

But let’s be honest. Most of all, I want the reservoir reopened so I can reclaim my beloved bridle path. I’m coming for you, old girl.

Has your favorite running route ever been taken from you?

Posted in Running | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Better Half

By most accounts, my weekend was a pretty uneventful one. Friday, I was in bed by 10 p.m. Saturday, I cooked a low-key dinner for my boyfriend. Today, I did a long run, hobbled to the loveseat and vowed never to stand up again. Speaking of which, hey, Ben, can you toss me a seltzer water? Great, thanks. If only we owned a chamber pot.

To the untrained eye, my weekend might appear unremarkable, prosaic or downright tame. But in fact, it was actually quite momentous.

Why, you ask? Let my friend Jon lay it out for you.

Tommy used to work on the docks. Union’s been on strike. He’s down on his luck. It’s tough, so tough.

Are you with me yet? No? Let’s continue then.

Gina works the diner all day. Working for her man, she brings home her pay for love, for love. She says, “We’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got. ‘Cause it doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not. We’ve got each other and that’s a lot for love; we’ll give it a shot.”

Oh good. Now we’re all on the same page. All together now:

Oohhhh, we’re halfway there! (Oh, oh, living on a prayer.)

That’s right, folks. Today’s long run wasn’t just any long run — it was the official halfway point of my 20-week marathon training cycle. In other words, ooooh, I’m halfway there! (Oh, oh, living on a prayer. Seriously, you try saying the first line without the second. It’s downright impossible. Damn you, Jon Bon Jovi, and your catchy show tunes.)

I’ve been marathon training since July 7, and in some ways, I’m kind of sad the first half is over. The first 10 weeks of training, your midweek workouts aren’t too arduous to tackle before work. Your weekend long runs aren’t so long you can’t recover in a day. Your friends aren’t yet tired of hearing: “Sorry, no wine for me tonight. I’m running in the morning.” You still have toenails.

The second half of a marathon training cycle is in many ways a lot tougher. The novelty will have worn off. I’ll be upping my mileage to 50 miles a week. I’ll be logging most of my miles in the pitch black. I’ll be celebrating my 29th birthday five whopping days before the big race. Hey everybody! O’Douls all around!

Of course, the second half of marathon training also brings some perks, like the satisfaction of completing a 20-mile training run and the promise of a taper and all the glory that is court-ordered carbo loading. And let’s not forget the most important part of the second half of marathon training: it culminates in the marathon itself.

That’s right — if the second half of training goes as well as the first, at this time in 10 short weeks, I’ll will be stuffing cheesesteak after cheesesteak down my throat having just finished the Philadelphia Marathon. After 20 weeks of dedication, that’s what I call a victory lap.

IMG_3047.JPG

How is your training progressing? In the illustrious words of JBJ: Take my hand, we’ll make it, I swear. (Oh, oh, living on a prayer.)

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Slim Chance

I recently mentioned to my boyfriend that I was aiming to lose a few pounds to get down to racing weight before the Philadelphia Marathon on November 23.

“Well, that’s pretty inevitable, isn’t it?” he said. “How can you train for a marathon and not lose weight?

Oh Ben, you beautiful, naïve, sophisticated newborn baby.

Weight loss during marathon training is about as likely as getting your niece to return your phone calls after forcing her to complete the #icebucketchallenge against her will.

dog goggles

Hashbrown: plotting revenge.

But how’s that possible? Weight loss during marathon training is supposed to be easy. Like taking candy from babies. And interviewing central bank governors.

Spoiler alert: I did one of those things today. Next goal: Taking candy from a central bank governor.

It may seem unlikely that upping your mileage so dramatically in the months leading up to a marathon doesn’t give you free reign to snack with abandon or always have dessert or order the porterhouse for two for one.

Who’s to blame for this sad reality? Math. Blame math.

Let’s break it down. Running upwards of 40 miles a week burns about 4,000 calories every seven days, which averages out to about 571.4 extra calories you can consume a day — but that’s only if you’re trying to maintain your current weight.

Since it takes cutting out 3,500 calories a week to lose a pound, that means you can only eat an additional 500 calories a week during marathon training if you’re trying to slim down before race day. Five hundred calories a week divided by seven days, and that’s 71 extra calories a day – or the equivalent a smallish apple NOT dipped in peanut butter. (Gross.) Or half a Bud Light. Or one solitary lick of this New England lobster roll.

photo 1 (53)

I still can’t believe they asked if we wanted butter.

Trying not to overeat is always hard, but curbing your calorie intake after running seven miles before work? Downright impossible. Which is why, despite my best intentions, I had a chocolate croissant for breakfast today and why, despite valuing my intestinal health, ate at a $9 all-you-can-eat Indian buffet for lunch. Good thing Ben’s out of town.

I know I wanted to shed a few pounds between now and November, but marathon training is hard enough as it is — physically, socially, emotionally — that I just don’t have it in me to also count calories so closely. Sure, I’ll try during the next 11 weeks of training to maintain my regular healthy eating habits (five fruits/veggies a day, cooking at home, only putting ice cream on my cereal on the weekends), but if I go over my daily count, I’m not going to beat myself up.

I’m going to have my 71-calorie apple every day — and I’m going to dip it in peanut butter.

Have you ever lost weight during training? 

 

 

Posted in Running, Training | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hair of the Dog

As I dragged myself from bed this morning after last night’s housewarming to purchase the largest iced coffee of my adult life and curse Dionysus himself, it occurred to me that all these “Life in Your Late 20s” buzzfeed listicles* have it right: bouncing back takes significantly longer as you approach the rightful age of 30.

(*Even though Oxford University Press now recognizes listicle as a word, my iPhone still underlines it with a red squiggly line and for that I am eternally grateful.)

In college, we could pregame with a bottle of “champagne,” drink some jug wine and host a social house party, and we’d be in perfect shape by the time we exited the next day’s brunch. No hangover was so severe it couldn’t be cured with a plate full of eggs and a fresh Maine lobster.

IMG_5699.JPG

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Knowing I had an early train this morning, I wasn’t even excessive last night — a few glasses of rosé, a sampling of whites, enough stromboli to fuel the Ravens — yet when my alarm went off in perfect synchronization with my nascent headache this morning, I heard that all-too-familiar refrain regardless: you just can’t drink like a 21-year-old anymore.

IMG_5698.JPG

You also can’t wear corduroy hats anymore. Oh, 21-year-old past me studying in Spain on your birthday, what were you thinking?

But alcohol isn’t the only thing my body doesn’t bounce back from as quickly now that I’m approaching the end of my third decade. It has also become painstakingly clear this summer that bouncing back from workouts is taking much longer than ever before.

Take, for example, my 10K race in Delaware earlier this month. I told you all last post that I happened to place first in my age group at that road racing event. What I didn’t tell you is I had to take off the next two days entirely as I iced my shin splits.

The following Saturday, I ran 12 miles along the Delaware coastline for my scheduled long run; the following two days, my right calf was so tight, I went down my apartment stairs on my butt.

Last Sunday, I raced a 10-miler in Prospect Park. The second half, I felt so sore and miserable that I nearly skipped the free ShakeShack at the end to wallow instead.

Key word: nearly.

IMG_5637.JPG

This newfangled notion that it takes several days instead of just an afternoon nap to recover from a hard running event is uncharted territory for me, and I’m still figuring out how best to manage it. The first few times this marathon training cycle I felt uncharacteristically sore, I followed the traditional RICE method of recovery: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. But mostly just rest.

IMG_5536.JPG

A few days off seemed to work for the shin splints, but when the injuries kept a’comin, I started to wonder if taking too many recovery days would do more harm than good and ultimately derail my marathon training plan.

So I tried something a bit unorthodox last week: when my legs were feeling excruciatingly tight, instead of staying in to rest them as I’d been doing all summer long, I laced up anyways and logged a few slow miles on a soft surface. The first lap of the bridle path was brutal, but with each quarter mile, my legs loosened up a little more, and by the time I’d covered a three-mile stretch, I felt like a new woman. So good, in fact, that I finished this weekend’s hilly Harlem 5K at a sub-8:00 clip. Not as speedy as I used to be, but moving once again in the right direction.

A little hair of the dog can work wonders sometimes. At least when it comes to fitness. Although if someone on this Amtrak wanted to buy me a Bloody Mary right now, I probably wouldn’t turn it down.

Do you believe in the hair of the dog fitness (or boozing) hangover cure?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Choice Words

Anything can sound impressive if you add enough adjectives.

Take my student newspaper, for example. We weren’t the oldest newspaper in the country. We weren’t the oldest college newspaper in the country. Heck, we weren’t even the oldest college newspaper published on a weekly basis in the country. But we were the oldest continuously-published college weekly in the country, not having missed an issue during wartime, and that long string of modifiers somehow made us sound impressive indeed.

Adjectives have a way of dressing up other things as well. “They make the city’s best pizza (north of 14th St.)” “He’s the best looking ninja turtle (if you don’t count Raf.)” “This is the only photo of Keira I’ve taken this weekend (that I’m including on today’s blog post.)”

20140803-212903.jpg

It’s with this caveat — that superfluous descriptions can make some things appear far more momentous than they actually are — that I share this next tidbit of information: this morning, I won first place in a road race.

20140803-213751.jpg

Of course, that statement needs a few key modifiers to put it in context. This morning, I won first place — in the 10K distance. Or more specifically, this morning, I won first place in the 10K distance — for my age group. Or most accurately, this morning, I won first place in the 10K distance for my age group — in which there were only seven 24-29 year-old women competing.

But if middle school grammar taught me anything, it’s that adjectives, while descriptive, don’t necessarily add to the basic understanding of the text. In other words, even if he is neither quick nor brown, it doesn’t change the fact that the fox has jumped over the (laziness-status-unclear) dog.

And that means that even though I was really only the fastest woman out of a small pool running a local 6.2-mile race while vacationing in Delaware, I’m still allowed to shout it from the rooftops: I placed first in this morning’s road race, adjectives be damned.

20140803-215324.jpg

What are you proud of this weekend?

Posted in Races | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments