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

And on the Seventh Day

Organized religion has had a lot of great ideas – loving thy neighbor, turning the other cheek, serving wine before noon on Sundays – but there’s one tenet in particular that appeals to believers and infidels alike: a weekly day of rest.

Whether you call it the Lord’s Day or the Sabbath or, heck, even a Sunday morning hangover, taking a day off once a week is not only a mandate from above; it’s also good for the mind, body and soul.

20140724-094415.jpg

Weekly rest is also a core tenet of marathon training. For all the tempo runs and long runs and intervals we complete in the 20 weeks leading up to the big event, many would argue the most important day of any training plan is the time each week we kick off our shoes, put up our feet and accidentally watch the entire third season of How I Met Your Mother in one sitting without pants on. Hello, my life. Goodbye, Stella.

In fact, my pseudo coach and probably best friend if we ever met in real life, 83-year-old online running expert Hal Higdon, writes on all his marathon training plans that rest is the most important component of his training programs, hands down.

“Scientists will tell you that it is during the rest period (the 24 to 72 hours between hard bouts of exercise) that the muscles actually regenerate and get stronger. Coaches also will tell you that you can’t run hard unless you are well rested. And it is hard running (such as the long runs) that allows you to improve. If you’re constantly fatigued, you will fail to reach your potential,” he writes. He can run. He can write. He can remember FDR’s first term in office. What can’t this man do?

I usually listen to Mr. Higdon as if his last name were Miyagi, but this marathon cycle, I’ve started to stray. Several weeks ago, I missed one of my scheduled 4-milers, and instead of just letting it go as he’d recommend, I vowed to make it up during my so-called rest day instead.

In the infamous words of Gob Bluth, I’ve made a huge mistake.

20140724-094524.jpg

For ten straight days, I’ve been lacing up and running the reservoir (and the East River, and Prospect Park, and to H&H Bagels, let’s be honest), and while I had thought that making up that skipped workout would make me a better marathoner, it’s done just the opposite: it’s left me sore and tired and mentally unwilling to log another mile. Turns out rest days aren’t just for your knees — they’re also a necessary respite for your sanity. All runs and no rest makes Anne a dull Shining reference, or something.

Fortunately, all that’s about to change. As I write this, I’m Amtraking my way up the Connecticut coast for a long weekend away in Rhode Island. I’ll be laying on the beach, eating clam cakes, and not so much as touching my Aisics today in an effort to log some much needed rest. Of course, I may have signed up for a 10-mile road race in Narragansett tomorrow night, but for 36 glorious hours between now and then, I’ll be off my feet and on the mend.

And then back to the races again!

How are you resting this weekend?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Land of the Free

This Fourth of July, Americans gathered around the world to celebrate a holiday that has come to mean different things at different points in our shared history.

20140706-192141.jpg

To our forefathers in 1776, Independence Day meant fighting for freedom from tyranny, oppression and persecution.

To Bill Pullman circa 1996, Independence Day meant fighting for freedom not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution — but from annihilation. Fighting for our right to live. To exist.

To my brother and me this past weekend, Independence Day meant fighting for our right to have beer delivered via crab net straight to our inflatable raft. Thomas Jefferson and/or Will Smith would have been proud.

20140706-184628.jpg

Beer delivery aside, the Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. As a kid, it was a chance to ride in the local parade, then catch chlorine-doomed goldfish from the neighborhood swimming pool. As a teenager, it was a chance to light sparklers and watch fireworks from my best friend’s front yard. (You know, ’cause we’ve totally outgrown that.) As an adult, it’s a chance to reflect on all the things that make this nation great, from freedom of the press and universal health care to country music and women’s rights, Hobby Lobby be damned. And with my marine cousin returning from Afghanistan this summer, it’s also an important chance to reflect on all those who serve our country to protect those freedoms we so enjoy.

But while millions of Americans around the world were celebrating July 4 for all the traditional reasons, several thousand people — U.S. citizens and foreigners alike — were acknowledging this past weekend for a different reason altogether. If you’re running the Philadelphia Marathon and following a 20-week training schedule like me, this weekend was our last weekend of flexibility, spontaneity and, you guessed it: independence. Fitting, huh?

I had originally planned to follow Hal Higdon’s 18-week Intermediate 1 marathon training plan, since his Novice 2 plan had successfully carried me through two 26.2 mile feats and I was looking for a new challenge. But when I opened my Runner’s World magazine this month to find a 20-week schedule laid out for me explaining this was a good plan for runners who had plateaued, I knew instantly it was the routine for me. Didn’t hurt that the layout included an infographic telling you what day to start the plan if you were running any of the big fall races, from Chicago to NYC to, you guessed it, Philly. July 7, and I didn’t even have to do the math myself. Thank you, Runner’s World.

20140706-191653.jpg

So with Monday officially marking the beginning of marathon training, I did what any good runner would do on her last weekend of freedom: I laid in the hammock. To be fair, I did a 7-miler on the 4th itself to make sure I was ready to tackle 8 miles during my first long run next Saturday and an easy 3-miler yesterday to take advantage of the glorious Baltimore weather, but when it came time today to lace up my running shoes, I opted to curl up with my trashy summer read instead. Between now and November 23, my opportunities to take a surprise day off are going to be far and few between, and on this glorious Independence Day weekend, I wasn’t going to miss a chance to be free.

How did you celebrate the holiday? This year, Fourth of July was also a chance to restock my Keira photo coffers. You’re welcome in advance.

20140706-184809.jpg

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Watch What Happens

If the new Transformers movie has taught us anything, it’s that technology is a terribly dangerous thing — primarily because it allows us to create more and more Transformers movies.*

*Full disclosure: I have not actually seen Transformers: Age of Extinction, but due to my firmly held conviction Mark Wahlberg may only play blue-color men with Boston accents and/or ape slaves with Boston accents, this Texas casting call is not at the top of my list.

Sure, penicillin and hot water heaters and World Cup streaming are wonderful things, but ever-expanding technology also has its dangerous side: it ruins our employability if we’ve ever posted questionable content, it keeps us working well after we’ve left the office and it cuts into our sleeping hours when we’ve accidentally stumbled on an obscure acquaintance’s 32 albums of must-see wedding photos.

Technology also encourages once-athletic canines to forgo the great outdoors in favor of a lazy morning spooning with the electric fan.

What? I'm helping dad study for the bar!

What? I’m helping dad study for the bar!

But while technology brings its fair share of challenges, there’s at least one place it’s been instrumental in my adult life: making me a runner.

At risk of sounding a bit like Holden Caulfield, I can pinpoint the exact moment I started feeling like an authentic runner instead of a phony. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t when I crossed my first finish line. It wasn’t when I placed in my first (fine, only) local race. It wasn’t when I learned the hard way that pre-race portapots are more often than not BYOTP.

The first time I felt like a bonafide runner was in summer 2012 when, after months of tech-free training, I went out and bought myself a running watch. A Garmin Forerunner 210, to be exact. It was big and clunky and took 10 solid minutes to locate satellites. I was in love. And out $250.

Now, I know one doesn’t NEED a fancy running watch to be deemed a real runner. Heck, some of the world’s greatest train without watches — or even shoes — in the hills of Kenya and the canyons of Mexico and the loops of Central Park (seriously though, barefoot dude, what’s up with that?)

But if you’re like me — results-driven and number-oriented and uninterested in running unless you can log exactly how far you’ve gone — a watch is a crucial accessory when it comes to setting your fitness goals and meeting them.

That’s why when my watch stopped charging over Easter, I found myself at a bit of a loss.

OH CRUEL WORLD.

OH CRUEL WORLD.

Also tough that week? Learning Keira had eaten the Easter bunny.

IMG_0441

I’m not averting your gaze because I’m guilty, I swear.

Without my Garmin, I no longer knew how far I was running if I went off the beaten track, so I started to stick exclusively to familiar routes with known mileages — a good trick for getting out the door without thinking but an easy to way to fall into a quick rut. I also gave up all speed work and interval training once my Garmin went the way of the Treasure Troll because 1. It seemed pointless to run fast without knowing just how fast that was and 2. I’ve been looking for an excuse to give up speed work for years. Let’s be honest here.

Needless to say, my training during Pentecost has been lazy indeed.

Lazy is not always a bad thing. My Garmin-free second quarter meant weeks of low-impact easy runs and carefree miles, but with marathon training just around the corner (well, weekend), I knew it was time to finally rectify the situation and get a new watch.

I’ve heard for years that Garmin customer support is superb, and unlike Ken Follett novels or New Years Eve plans, this one actually lived up to the hype. After the technician walked me through all sorts of failed restarts on my dead watch, she determined there was no saving it and offered to send me a new one for $89 — or a fraction of what a new Garmin would cost me at the store. It was going to take 6-8 weeks to arrive, which I said was just too long (you know, after I waited three whole months to call and complain…), so she offered to charge me double, expedite the order and reimburse the remaining $89 when my old watch arrived at their warehouse for processing.

Not only that, but when it arrived a few days later, it had a sweet green border on it. Lucky!

photo

Unfortunately, I tested it Sunday and learned that the 3-mile route I’d plotted from my new apartment was really only 2.5 miles, so Mr. Watch and I are already in a fight. But I’m expecting we’ll make up after spending the next four months together for upwards of 40 miles a week. Stockholm syndrome does great things for friendships.

How do you incorporate a running watch into your workout? Counting down minutes until you’re done totally counts.

 

 

 

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