Brooklyn is the New Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Half Marathon didn’t start until 7 a.m. last Saturday, but in the hours leading up to it, my mind was already racing:

  • Am I going to make it to the Prospect Park starting line before bag check closes at the ungodly hour of 6:10 a.m.?
  • Is it going to start pouring mid-race like this ominous cloud cover suggests?
  • Is a 9 a.m. hot dog on Coney Island a socially acceptable recovery snack?
Spoiler Alert: It was.

Spoiler Alert: It was.

But for all the pre-race thoughts and anxieties filling my head, there was one question notably absent from my stream of conscious in the days and hours leading up to my second half marathon of the year:

Will I PR?

For every past race, I’d always checked my previous PR — or personal record — before the starting gun so I’d know just how fast I’d have to run in order to beat my earlier efforts. As a middle of the pack runner, I’m rarely going to beat the other participants, but if I can shave off a few seconds from a previous race time of the same distance, it shows my hard work is paying off. A new PR isn’t the only sign of a good race, but it’s certainly a rewarding one.

For the Brooklyn Half, however, I didn’t even bother looking up my previous half marathon PR before entering my corral. Why not, you ask? Plenty of reasons. I knew I logged it in 2013 when I was in better shape. I remembered it happened when I was running with my fast friend Adam. I recalled it was a sub 1:50 time, which is at least three minutes faster than my performance in the MORE/FITNESS/SHAPE Women’s Half Marathon just one month ago, and my training since then has been anything but stellar.

The odds of PRing weren’t in my favor.

Flash forward to race day. I was up at 4 a.m. to meet my friends Z-Z and Leigh-Ann (and Leigh-Ann’s brilliant hired van) at 5:15 a.m. to get to bag check before 6:10 a.m. to get in corrals by 6:40 a.m. before the 7:00 a.m. start. Thank god I’m a morning person.

Who needs coffee? (Just kidding. We both do.)

Who needs coffee? (Just kidding. We both do.)

I started to talk with my corral mates to pass the time, and I quickly discovered I was surrounded by some really fast individuals. “I’m trying for a 1:30,” said Kevin, the chatty stretcher by the railing. “I’m taking it easy after qualifying for Boston last week,” said approachable Alan in line for the john. “I am Meb Keflezighi,” said Meb Keflezighi as he smacked me with his Olympic silver. I could be exaggerating on that last point, but I can’t be sure. I was clearly in the wrong corral.

Knowing I was surrounded by greats, I made an important decision as the starting gun went off: I wasn’t going to go out sprinting with them. I was going to run my own race.

So I did. Miles 1-4, I kept myself at a steady 8:30 pace, even though my legs were itching to keep up. Mile 5, I was passed by a speedy friend who I decided not to chase down because I wasn’t yet ready to drop the hammer. Mile 7, we exited Prospect Park and even though the crowds were roaring, I simply maintained.

And then we hit Ocean Parkway — the 6.1-mile stretch that would take us due south to the finish line — and I let it have it.

Sure, my quads were starting to ache and my calloused feet were barking, but with more than half of the race under my belt, I felt like I still had more gas in the tank, so I started to push my speed. For the next few miles, I threw back every cup of Gatorade I could get my hands on, ate my Honey Stinger energy chews and counted down the alphabetical avenues from A to Z. At mile 11, the sky opened up to a torrential downpour, so I put my head down and cranked up the effort. As I approached mile 12, I started to do the math and realized that if I could maintain an 8 minute mile for just 8 more minutes, I might be able to finish under the 1:50 mark. So I squared my shoulders, widened by stride and tore my way down the boardwalk and over that finish line at 1:49:12.

I collected my medal and heat sheet, gathered my baggage, unabashedly stripped out of my wet clothes in the minor league baseball parking lot (sorry, mom), and met my friends for a beer and dog at Nathan’s. It was only when I was in the van headed home that I got the idea to check my existing half marathon PR just for hell of it.

And what do you know? It was a 1:49:47. With no expectation whatsoever, I’d just knocked 35 seconds off.

And who says Brooklyn is all played out?

text

Thanks, Brooklyn!

I was just one of 26,482 finishers, so I know some of you did it do. How’d your race go?

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By Any Stretch of the Imagination

I recently found myself saying out loud nine words I never in my life thought I’d string together into a sentence.

  • No, it wasn’t “Think I’ll have peanut butter just one meal today.”
  • And it wasn’t “No thank you. I have enough golden doodle GIFs.”

Heck, it wasn’t even “I’ve filled my ‘You’ve Got Mail’ quota for 2015.”

The nine-word phrase that somehow escaped my lips was even more surprising, if you can believe it. It went a little something like this:

“This week, I practiced yoga at three different studios.”

(Fun fact: that’s also a haiku if you pronounce diff-er-ent as three syllables and channel your inner Barney Stinson to add “True story!” at the end.)

If you’ve ever seen me try to touch my toes but only get to about my belly button, you can appreciate how comical this is. But it’s not just my supreme inflexibility that makes my recently frequent yoga practice a surprise — it’s also the fact that I left the first yoga class I ever took convinced I’d never go back.

I had just moved to New York City, and as an inflexible and probably hung-over 22 year old, I decided to check out the small second-story yoga studio near my apartment on the Upper West Side. I didn’t really know what yoga was, but I knew I wanted to be fitter and I knew big city girls took yoga, so I paid the $20 class fee and went.

And it was horrible. Sitting Indian style (don’t worry, I can use that phrase, being 3/256ths Native American) was supremely uncomfortable for me, and no one thought to tell me to sit on a blanket or block. The instructor spoke in Sanskrit, not that I knew what what balasana (child’s pose) was in English, either. Worst of all, the teacher kept coming over to adjust me, which now I know can be extremely helpful, but as a frustrated and confused newbie, it just left me feeling embarrassed.

It’s no surprise I didn’t go back to another yoga class for seven years.

It was only last year that I decided to give it another try as I looked for ways to rein in potential injuries during the marathon off-season. And this time, I did it right. Instead of throwing myself right into an all-levels yoga class at some fancy studio with coconut-water on tap, I went to super basic “Intro to Yoga” in the basement utility room of the 92nd St. YMHA.

No frills. Also, no windows.

No frills. Also, no windows.

“Is this anyone’s first class?” the non-threatening instructor, Karen, asked as she introduced herself to the room. “Any sore spots I should know about?” “Does anyone not want to be touched or adjusted?”

She put me at ease, and as we moved slowly through the poses with ample guidance, I found I wasn’t just tensing up out of absolute fear and humiliation: I was really stretching. I left the 60-minute class with looser hamstrings, an understanding of downward dog, and a plan to come back every Tuesday until the marathon. And as much as I could, I did.

For about a year, I went to that 92Y intro class, but I was still too afraid to check out any more advanced classes at that gym or somewhere else. Shoulder stands? Headstands? Levitation? No thank you. I was content to stick with my basic poses and not push my comfort zone.

It was only when I received an e-mail from New York Road Runners this spring announcing its four-week Yoga for Runners series at Pure Yoga that I decided it was time to put my introductory practice to the test. I signed up for the course, arrived at the terrifyingly beautiful studio for my first session, and prepared to be humiliated again by a fancy teacher.

They have free Vogues available to read while you wait for class. FREE VOGUES.

They have free Vogues available to read while you wait for class at Pure Yoga. FREE VOGUES.

And you know what? I wasn’t. Sure, there were things I couldn’t do without a block or a blanket or a belt, but there were also poses that if I shook off my own “I can’t” attitude, I found I could actually do. Equally importantly, the class was full of other runners like me, so we ALL had tight hamstrings and hip flexors and an unhealthy competitive spirit. Those four weeks of practices flew by, and I left itching for the next time NYRR offers the series.

With that newfound confidence, when a friend recently suggested yoga and a brunch date in Union Square, I jumped on the opportunity. We went to Yoga Vida — where I’ve since learned Alec Baldwin’s wife teaches — and I survived something I never thought imaginable: a flow class. I didn’t know what it meant, but I now imagine it means something like “move positions so fast you’re always at risk of not keeping up.” Still, for the most part, my experience in the intro class had given me the skills I needed to follow along, and I left the class energized, proud and feeling like no one in the class had been watching me for comedic relief.

And for this stiff runner, that’s a win.

Have you ever revisited something you hated seven years ago to find your tastes have changed? Fancy wine not out of a box, I’m talking to you.

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So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu

Today marked the end of an era.

This is the part of my blog where I’d usually make some kind of joke about peanut butter, or about goldendoodles, or about Shawn Hunter, or about any number of my favorite things and/or TGIF crushes, but today is no laughing matter.

Today, Runner’s World permanently shut down its classic training log.

If we know it and love it, why are you taking it away from us?!

If we know it and love it, why are you taking it away from us?!

I’ve recorded my runs on this training log since November 2011, or just two weeks after I crossed the finish line at my first ever half marathon and decided right then and there I was going to commit to a lifetime of running.

I imagine there exist other online training logs full of bells and whistles, but a one-man band I am not, and the Runner’s World Training Log was exactly everything I needed as a semi-serious runner looking to measure her progress. It let me record the type of workout I was doing, from fartleks to races, so I could see whether I was getting enough speed work in. It helped me keep track of my ever rotating arsenal of Asics so I’d know when each pair was pushing 400 miles and was ready for retirement. It allowed me to reflect back on all three marathon cycles after the fact, and marvel and the peaks and troughs a year of training can bring.

4-21-2015 4-02-27 PM

I’d diligently recorded every mile on that log for more than three years, and I was fully prepared to continue using it — well — forever. Imagine looking back as an 85 year old woman on a lifetime of workouts. It would have been magnificent.

But Runner’s World just didn’t want to give me that satisfaction. Several weeks ago, I received an e-mail telling me the log was closing forever on May 11.

“In its place, Runner‘s World is building a free training app that will have features not available on the RW Training Log, including route tracking, running analysis, and training advice,” the editor’s wrote in the message. “The app, called Runner’s World Go, is due out this summer for iPhone and later this year for Android.”

Ok, I can live with that, I thought. I’ll have to learn a new technology, sure, but who am I to stand in the way of progress? They gave us two options: either import your data into a free TrainingPeaks account, or open a free MapMyRun account, which would be rolled over to the new Runner’s World app come summer. All seemed very civilized.

So I set up my free TrainingPeaks account, downloaded my data, loaded it into the system … and it’s the worst.

To be fair, it did carry over the individual runs and weekly mileage from the old site, so all is not lost, and I do appreciate them giving us a back-up plan. But it erased in the transition all record of what kinds of runs I did, which shoes I wore, and anything beyond a simple mileage count — which my Garmin watch could give. Maybe it exists on here, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to make charts, or record types of runs or do anything remotely interesting with the data. Heck, the program itself is so gray and monochromatic, it should have been cast alongside Dakota Johnson. (50 Shades joke, anyone?)

Welcome to Soviet Russia, I mean, TrainingPeaks.

Welcome to Soviet Russia, I mean, TrainingPeaks.

For now, I’ve continued to record my mileage in TrainingPeaks — sans workout or shoe details — because maybe someday I’ll still find something useful to do with this uninspiring replacement log. But part of me also wonders if this is the sign I needed to stop recording my distances, unplug, and just run for the sake of running, statistics and number crunching be damned. I’m not quite ready to make that call, but ask me again in 100 miles, when my shoes have worn out and I don’t yet know it.  That’s going to be a fun day.

Could someone from Runner’s World please explain the reasoning behind this decision? And maybe also mail me a box of gourmet pears? That would help ease this transition, too.

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Milk and Cereal

They say the most important meal of the day is breakfast.

I say the most important meal of the day is my office’s 3 p.m. champagne ration, but sure, breakfast is a close second.

(Just kidding. This is from that day we won a Pulitzer. Usually champagne’s at 4.)

I’ve been an advocate of breakfast for as long as I can remember, though it’s taken different forms with each passing decade. As a kid, breakfast meant the five of us squeezed around the kitchen table over Cap’n Crunch and the comics. As a college student, breakfast meant strawberry yogurt, Cracklin’ Oat Bran and the immediate dissipation of hangovers because 21-year-old bodies are resilient like that. When I moved to New York, breakfast meant bacon, egg & cheese sandwiches; homefries; bagels and – surprise surprise – what I like to refer to as the Manhattan 15.

Or the Manhattan 45. Semantics.

It was really only in January 2011 when I started to wise up to my unhealthy ways that I began to give some serious thought to my breakfast composition. I mean, I knew from body-conscious DJ Tanner I was supposed to eat breakfast every day, but I had never really stopped to think about whether a bowl of Fruit Loops was actually cutting it. As I began to learn more about energy, calories and the importance of nutrition, I swapped my kids cereals for what I was sure were more sensible varieties. You know, the brands with important things like fiber and fruits and whole grains and riboflavin. Mmm. Riboflavin.

I ate Special-K. I ate Kashi. I ate Bare Naked granola. I felt like a grown-up!

And then this winter, I decided to look at the nutrition label on my beloved granola.

granola

Adding a box of raisins and a cup of almond milk, and it brought me to a whopping 40 grams of sugar — or 74 percent of my daily intake — before 7 a.m. Eating granola every morning, I felt like a grown-up all right. One about to be diagnosed with diabetes.

With that realization, I decided this year to revamp my breakfast routine. After decades of carb-laden morning meals, I pledged at the ripe age of 29 to find creative ways to work more fruits, vegetables, legumes and protein into my a.m. routine., and I’ve (mostly) so far stuck with it. Don’t get me wrong: It’s not always easy to forgo free cereal at work, and I have been known to backslide into the delicious world of Basic 4 when the mood strikes. But planning ahead and packing my own nutrition-dense breakfast brings so many positives — from feeling fuller all morning long to giving my sore muscles the protein they need to recover — that I’ve mostly been able to justify the added prep work and planning it takes.

I’ve tried several morning combinations with a healthy make-up of protein, carbs and fat, and these are some of my favorites:

  • Half an avocado on whole wheat toast with two hard boiled eggs for 19 grams of protein and just 6 grams of sugar.

    photo 1 (71)

    Paas Easter egg dye optional.

  • A smoothie with peanut butter, banana, cashew milk and baby spinach for 7 grams of fiber, 10 grams of protein and two servings of fruits/veggies before sun-up.
photo 2 (65)

Why cashew milk? Because the full-page ads in Runner’s World clearly worked for me.

  • Chia seed pudding (chia soaked in dark chocolate soy milk) with a sliced pear for 18 grams fiber, 13 grams protein and one delightful day of finding chia seeds hidden in your teeth for hours on end. I ate it before I remembered to take a picture, so here’s a photo of a wheaten terrier — not Keira — I dogsat last weekend instead. You’re welcome.
She prefers dining on duck.

She prefers dining on duck.

Are there still going to be days I choose the buttered bagel or bowl of French Toast Crunch over the healthier options? Absolutely. But if I can swap out my sugar-filled breakfasts for something more wholesome at least three days a week, I know I’m making strides toward health.

And that’s worth toasting with a bloody mary.

What’s your breakfast routine?

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Mama Mia

What did you inherit from your mother?

  • Your affinity for peanut butter?
  • Your sun-kissed complexion?
  • Your entrepreneurial spirit?
photo (1)

Anne & Claire say DRINK THE KOOL-AID.

In my case, all of the above, plus something practically guaranteed to extend the length and quality of my adult life: my dedication to health.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t think I’d have been able to maintain the new healthy lifestyle I adopted in 2011 all these years if not for my mother’s influence. A woman who hits the gym several days a week, gets enough sleep, eats well and still understands the importance of a glass of wine, my mama is just the kind of balanced and sustainable fitness role model a young woman needs.

Of course, it took 25 years of me being out of shape to realize that, but better late than never, right?

At 60 years old, my mom is in the best shape of her life (and she was a leggy 16 year old), and I attribute her success to something most of us forget to prioritize in fitness: variation. That is, she doesn’t always go to the gym and always get on the same machine and always log the same 30 minute cardio routine. She shakes it up, from the elliptical to BodyPump, and her most recent routine shake-up was one particularly near and dear to my heart: she trained for and raced a half marathon.

Game time.

Game time.

The race, the More/Fitness/Shape Women’s Half Marathon, took place last Sunday in Central Park, and it was a mother-daughter success. I logged a 1:52:54 time, or exactly where I wanted to be given a winter off the race course, and my mom finished in 2:21:22, or ahead of more than 3,000 other runners who were surprised to see a speedy 60 year old runner picking them off one by one.

Bragging rights: My mom’s faster than your mom, unless you’re a Benoit Samuelson. Or one of my siblings.

As mother’s day fast approaches, how are you celebrating your mom this year?

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Leaving Your Mark

Hey there, injury prone comrades! Shout if you’ve ever had any of the following sidelining ailments:

  • The one where pain on the underside of the kneecap flares when sitting still or walking down stairs (i.e. runner’s knee)
  • The one where the ligaments along the arch of the foot feel tight and achy (i.e. plantar fasciitis)
  • The one where you appear to have a giant hickey for several weeks straight because your new long-sleeved running shirt rubs your collarbone in exactly the wrong spot?

Oh, that’s just me? Awesome.

photo 1 (70)

The culprit was a long-sleeved white running top that I treated myself to at Christmastime as part of my traditional “one gift for you, one gift for me…” purchasing pattern. The brand? None other than my pals over at Asics whose praises I just sang. I guess we all have bad days.

I’d worn the shirt once right after buying it for an easy 2-miler and thought the skin near the neckline felt kind of raw afterwards, but I shrugged it off as a one-time inconvenience that would disappear after I’d put it through the wash. I didn’t pull it out again until late March, when I needed something lightweight for an early morning 10K. I threw it on, pinned on my bib and shot out of the starting gate. It’s sunny, it’s crisp, it’s not that crowded, I thought to myself as I rounded mile 2. Nothing can stop me now.

And then the pain began. It’s amazing that something so minor — the slight, rubbing pull of a synthetic fiber against the collarbone for 51 minutes — could cause so much pain, but, my God, I would have sold out my own sister by the time I crossed that finish line to make it stop. I don’t think I’d hold up well in a hostage situation.

Sorry, Claire. I'm weak.

Sorry, Claire. I’m weak.

As anyone who has ever had a clothing-induced running injury knows, you only really know how bad it is once you get in the shower. The neighbors who heard me yelp can attest to the fact that it was bad. Over the next several days, the red chafing turned into a bloody scab, then a dark red splotch, and then a light red splotch, where it’s sat unchanged now for several days.

And all this time, it’s just looked like I’ve had a giant love bite on the side of my neck. I’m so glad I had meetings with the new editor in chief several times these last few weeks. First impression? I’m a lothario.

I was understandably ready to toss the offending shirt to the curb, but then some book club friends gave me the idea: why not torture it right back cut out the neckline using a pair of fabric scissors?

DIE, SHIRT!

DIE, SHIRT!

So I watched a video online about how to cut a neckline off a shirt (spoiler alert: If you know how to use scissors, you don’t need to watch this rather obvious video) and then went about hacking.

In the battle of Anne Vs. Shirt, Anne was won!

But I still have the hickey.

But I still have the hickey.

Have any of your running clothes ever left their mark on you?

Posted in gear, Running | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Gear Up

I’ve been off the grid blogwise for three weeks and counting, and I know I’ve left you with all sorts of unanswered questions. I’ll plow through them quickly, as I have something much more important to address.

  • Did we choose to renew our apartment lease? Yes.
  • Did we book our summer trip to Greece? Yes.
  • Did Ben find me weeping upstairs last night after I read the final pages of ‘Of Mice and Men’ because I so badly wanted Lennie to get to raise the rabbits? I’ll never tell.

And now onto the real purpose of today’s post, a subject near and dear to my heart: shoes.

No, I’m not talking about the shoe rack I so painstakingly organized last weekend in an exuberant bout of spring cleaning that I already instagrammed the hell out of and am clearly going to make you admire as well:

photo 1 (68)

All together now: “Ooh ahh.”

 

I’m talking about a shoe matter even more significant: the Asics Warehouse Sample Sale. You’re welcome, New York.

I learned about this sale — which goes through Sunday — when a running friend sent me a link suggesting it sounded right up my alley. And boy, was it. Asics trainers? Neon colors? Discount prices? Weird abandoned warehouses? What’s not to love?

photo 4 (40)

I stopped by the pop-up shop today in hopes I’d be able to find a new pair of Gel Cumulus 15s, my favorite shoe since the original Gel Neo 33s were retired. Unfortunately, no dice. Still, I wasn’t prepared to leave empty handed. Enticed by the $59 price tag and — let’s be honest, the vibrant colors — I decided to choose another unknown pair instead, the Gel Evate 2s.

I know, I know, that’s exactly how you’re not supposed to pick new running shoes. But I could tell they were multi-functional, neutral shoes with a similar weight to my existing line-up and by a brand I trust, so I figured I’d take the plunge. I googled the fit as soon as I got home to find out how the reviews hold up. The only con listed on RunRepeat? “The vibrant hues of the shoes may be too much for some runners who only want a simple style for running.”

I think I have chosen… wisely.

Of course, shoes weren’t the only items in stock. The sale was also full of leftover New York City marathon gear, from $30 zip-up jackets to $14 racer-back tees. I grabbed several, plus some socks for good form, and left with just $140 in damage. Not bad, considering the shoes alone cost $145 new.

photo 5 (24)

Behold: My haul.

I try not to overly covet earthly possessions, but these new pieces are going to be crucial as I race my two spring half marathons and gear up for November’s 26.2. Besides, I’m pretty sure the big guy’s a fan of neon running gear, too.

What’s on your gear wish list this spring? 

 

 

Posted in gear, Running | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments