Monday, September 29, 2014

A Killer & Portable Workout: The Deck

Let's go back in time. Wayyy back to a happy time. A time of joy and carefree wonder. A time where summer enveloped us like a warm blanket and it seemed all our worries and cares were a thing of the past. A time of bliss.

Let's go back....to six weeks ago.

The place was Fire Island where myself and nine lovely ladies spent a glorious weekend relaxing and laughing.

Lovely ladies relaxing. And laughing.

Now, when my friends and I are on vacation we do a few things really well. Those things -- in no  particular order -- are:

1) Eating
2) Drinking
3) Talking about eating and drinking
4) Sitting on the beach. While eating and drinking.


Wavy Lays greeting us in the window

Me on the beach...with a drink called a "Rocket Fuel" with my face literally immersed in cheetos. You're welcome, world!

Fire Island is many things, but good for a nice long run it is not due to it's lack of long unobstructed roads as well as its tendency to produce massive hangovers. With that in mind, on Day 2 of my 4-day Fire Island adventure, I knew I needed a good solid workout. 

But without equipment or a trainer, what's a girl to do?

With that, I introduce to you all the workout I invented slash found on the interwebs (it was a hybrid...mostly I stole it from the interwebs though) called the Deck of Cards.




Things that are brilliant about this workout:
1) Extremely portable. All you need for it...is literally a deck of cards. And maybe a mat. 
The premise is simple. Cards mean different things. You pull eight of hearts and you do eight of whatever hearts is assigned for. Six of spades? Six of the spade exercise. You'll get it in a second.

2) It is hard. Like...HARD.
When I invented this (slash stole it from the internet), I actually saw that maybe half a deck was good for first-timers. I scoffed, but then I sweated and swore. So it was good.

3) You could do it alone or with a group.
I myself completed my exercise alone on the deck of our house while a few girlfriends laughed at me coached me.

4) Customizable. If you want to heavy up on different body areas or on cardio or something it's up to you to design something that works. This can also be a negative if you're not a "self-starter," but -- oh, faithful reader -- I believe in you.


And so, without further ado, here is the workout I created in Fire Island that I call "Deck on a Deck"

  • Hearts = Push Ups
  • Spades = Sit Ups
  • Diamonds = Dips
  • Clubs = Burpees
  • Kings = 30 second plank
  • Queens = 10 mountain climbers
  • Jacks = 20 jumping jacks
  • Ace = WILDCARD that Betsy got to make up something crazy for me to do (or 20 bicycle sit-ups if you don't have a Betsy)



Betsy and me. Typical. And Marvelous. #NotImpressed #SaveTheDate

The workout was crazy for a few reasons. Firstly, I think I had a good little varietal. I'm not sure you were 'supposed' to assign face cards different things, but I did and it worked out splendidly. Secondly, what's crazy is that sometimes you'll pick -- for instance -- 6 of clubs. Six burpees. And then next card is 8 of clubs. Eight burpees! Fourteen burpees!

14 Burpees! Mwah ha ha ha.

It's not meant to be evenly spread out. It's meant to kick your butt. And that it does.

So, I loved it and I thought you might too.  I know I'm going to start carrying a deck of cards with me when I travel "just in case" from now on. If I don't get a workout in, I can always play Solitaire. Or Go Fish if I want to be social.




In closing, here are some potentially helpful links to other blogs and sites with ideas and demonstrations that I may or may not have used as basis for this workout that I "made up."

http://fitnowtraining.com/2011/01/deck-of-cards-workout/
http://pumpsandiron.com/workouts/deck-of-cards-workouts/
http://lifehacker.com/5849412/wednesday-deck-of-cards-workout


Happy Decking!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Mini Race Recap: Run To The Rock 2014


Last weekend I went home to Plymouth to run my 3rd annual Run To The Rock Half Marathon. It was my hometown race's 20th year, and included a 5K, 10K and the Half, all ending -- you guessed it -- at Plymouth Rock.

The course was the same as prior years in which I took great funny photos and had a blast despite very hilly terrain. There are no photographs this year, and that is for a reason: I was so, so, so sweaty.

Not "I am in the midst of running a half marathon and this is normal" sweaty. No. It was 80 degrees and super-duper humid this early September weekend. It was not okay.

Let me illustrate.

What I was not:

I was not glistening with a six-pack on what appears to be a trapeze swing. I was not this.

She has the illusion of sweaty, but it's done in a sexy way that somehow makes her prettier. And her mascara is not running. I was not this.
Halle Berry is sweating but I was not sweating like this.



I took no photos during the race because the sweat had overcome me. Just reaching into my spi-belt to get my phone and swipe felt like a feat no mortal man would be able to accomplish. I was like:



And while there were people around me running who seemed just a bit warm, I looked identical to this: 


See? No photos needed. You get the idea.

But I was being smart about it. There were 9 fluid stations, two of which had Gatorade. I drank multiple cups at each. I also had carried Electrolyte pill with me, which I took to combat the glowing.




I was not running the race for time anyways, but the heat ensured that it wouldn't be a PR day for the course for me (last year was 2:00 flat). I ended up finishing at 2:03:03 which is a 9:24 min/mile pace. Considering the hills and the heat? Not. Too. Shabby.

My cheering squad, as always, was ready and waiting and doing their duties (holding my banana peels and getting ready with the photography that will never be seen by the public respectively).


There were probably 30 total people cheering on the course. 8 of them were my parents at four different stops. I was definitely the cool kid in the race and everyone was jealous of me. I do love more and more these small races though. I always say I'm going to do them more as opposed to the NYRR races, but then it's so easy to just roll-on up to Central Park (like I will for the Grete's Gallop in a month!) There is just something so nice and fun about running with a few hundred people as opposed to tens of thousands. It's a different vibe. Not necessarily better or worse...just different. And cuter.

Now, despite the fact that I sweated out pounds of liquid, I actually felt pretty okay at the race end. The electrolyte pills are expensive little suckers, but if you are a heavy glower like me I do highly recommend you go to a running store and buy some for days like this. It honestly can't hurt and -- in my experience -- it really helps. I saw a few people being taken away by ambulances during the race because humidity and dehydration are no damn joke.

After the cute little barbecue the race organizers had at the end (benefiting the Boys and Girls Club as did proceeds for the race itself), my parents and I mozied through Brewster Gardens -- one of my Plymouth favorite spots -- towards the car. I looked more presentable so I allowed photographs at this time.

Proudly display my medal in my Boston Marathon shirt and Pan Mass Challenge hat! Myra is ADORBS.

All in all it was a great race, and I was excited just to have the opportunity to spend time afterwards with friends and family, knowing all the while that I had completed a ridiculous race that morning.


Before I leave you, I will leave you with a pretty photograph from one of my morning runs this week on the East River because it made me happy:

I know mornings are horrible...but once you make it work, it's worth it.

And finally, a few things I'm loving today on the interwebs:

1) This. It is epic and I heart it over and over. 

2) The greatest portrait ever taken. Of all time.

3) I know this happened forever ago, but I'm still obsessed with this badass female Ninja Warrior. Kacy Catanzaro is my hero. She makes me want to be fitter. Like, may to do a pull-up some day. Maybe. Something to work towards at least?





Question time: How did you enjoy that little last burst of summer we had last weekend?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What is this "November Project" that's all over your Facebook?

Great question, everyone I know. Thanks for asking!

I'll start with some of the most popular other questions I've received for a simple Q&A before I dive in:

Q: Are you in a cult?
A: I don't think so? Maybe? Kind of? Yes. Yes, I am. But you can join!!

Q: In the morning? Ugh.
A: Before you ugh, read on.

Q: How did you find out about this thing?
A: I had heard about this November Project thing that started in Boston from Runners World a ways back. And it sounded cool, but it was in Boston and I live in New York City. One day in March-ish I was running on the East River as I tend to do in the mornings and saw this group of maybe 20 crazy people. And they were yelling at me to join them. And I was a little scared so I ran away. But then I was intrigued so I went to the interwebs and turns out, November Project had just arrived here!

Q: How many people are in this thing?
A: SO many. So so so many. And it grows every week. The first time I came back in May I think there were 50 of us? Now, we regularly break 100. It's awesome.

Q: But what is it?

Ok, so I'll stop the Q&A format and just start writing from here. But first, for the formal answer to your query, I'll let the official website talk for me:
November Project™ is a FREE fitness movement that was born in Boston as a way to stay in shape during cold New England months. Now present in multiple cities in across four time zones in North America, the movement is using a simple sense of accountability (verbal) to motivate and encourage people of all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness levels to get out of their beds and get moving. Our members vary from Olympic medalists, professional athletes, marathoners, triathletes, current and former collegiate athletes all the way to complete fitness rookies and recent couch potatoes just looking to kickstart their healthy life choices. If you think that you’re not fit enough to join the group, stop thinking and come see what the fuss is all about.

In NYC, we meet on Wednesdays on the UES (near Gracie Mansion at 88th and the River) at 6:28am. Yep, 6:28. Fridays are same time, but at locations all over the city (announced that week via social media stuff).

At the group, we run. You do not have to be a crazy marathon person, but I would recommend being able to do a mile or two comfortably without stopping for you to enjoy yourself. We do more though.

We also burpee. We push-up. We dip. We dance. Workouts last usually about 30 minutes, but there is a bouncy warm-up before (you heard me) and a group photo after (yep, always!) and announcements, so plan on being there until 7:30 or so.

Photo credit: November Project

But you could get that type of work-out at a lot of places, or even on your own. What makes this special? And why am I so freaking obsessed?

Well I'll tell you.

So first off, it's freaking free. #FreeFitness, if you're into the lingo (which, obviously, I am). But let's stop being cheap for a moment and talk about the real reason that I love, love, love NP: THE COMMUNITY.

I hesitate to even tell you more about it, because the only test to if you will appreciate and understand and love this community as I do will be for you to #JustShowUp (yep, we like hashtags a lot). There is hugging. I am a heavy sweater and don't even like hugging that much (shhhh) but I still love it. It is at 6:28am. I am EAGER to get my ass out of bed. There is high-fiving. There is running so hard you want to barf. There are a gazillion burpees (my nemesis).

But there is also Facebook friending. And positivity abounding (there's even an award dedicated to positivity after every workout!) And smiles. And happiness. And you even get used to the pictures they take of you and kind of look forward to seeing yourself in the album later!

Photo credit: November Project
Photo credit: November Project

There are social events too. There is always someone in the group down for a happy hour or a group run or some sort of crazy shenanigan. And the organized social event that I participated in? Well, that was just pretty epic.

In that I ran in a cat mask 4 hours through the city with a group of other crazy people that ended at a bar. And it was something a previous version of me would have maybe made fun of me for. But this new, positive, open-minded me? Well I felt that it was EVERYTHING.

Purrrfect running buddy.

Oh, right. And the shirts. We have this thing called Grassroots Gear. If you show up, you too, can get some. For free.

And then you will look this bad ass:

Or at least CLOSE to this bad ass. I can't promise you'll be comparable.
When my alarm goes off before 6 am on Wednesdays I am excited. Because I know I'm about to get a solid workout with a group of some of the coolest, nicest, most amazing people ever. I've met so many wonderful new friends in the past few months, and I know it's just the beginning. And although this might sound cheesy, the positivity exuded is simply contagious. I leave every workout feeling brighter, feeling better, and feeling bad-ass-ier. I love it. I now crave it.

Ask any of my co-workers that see me Wednesday morning or my friends who I've talked to about this. I am truly in love with this group in a way that I think is kind of rare to find so quickly and seamlessly. I find it's adding not only to my physical fitness level, but also to my social life as well. It's been a wonderful addition to my life as of late, and it makes me happy.

I feel like I haven't truly answered your questions, but have I piqued your interested even a little bit?

GOOD.

I encourage you to follow the Facebook page or Twitter (@Nov_Project_NYC). If you want more, check out this from the NY Daily News or maybe this cool piece of cinematography.

Or, better yet? #JustShowUp. If you're not in NYC, you may just have a November Project tribe near you, so check it out. And visitors are always welcome.

What's the worst that could happen? You might just fall in love too.

Photo credit: Matt Powers, November Project




Sunday, August 3, 2014

Back in Action. #PorkBuns

Well, friends. It's been quite some time, hasn't it? I've taken a bit of a blogging break post-Boston to allow myself a bit of a re-boot.

Three marathons in 15 months justifies that, I think.

I also needed to spend some time being a little more introspective rather than....outro...spective?



This blog was started as a fundraising tool back in 2011, but also as a bit of an accountability tool. It was a, "Can Meredith actually do this?" exercise in writing. Three years later, we know the answer, and it is a resounding HELL YES, I CAN AND I DID! Which is awesome. But it does lend itself to a rather large dilemma when it comes to my little RunMeriGRun blog.

While I run a lot and do have a lot of experience with the running, I am not a running expert or coach. And while I take a lot of classes and always strive to get stronger and more in shape, I am not one to be doling out advice on the subject. And, my god, I am DECIDEDLY not an expert on healthy living (cue my lunch today: pork buns, nachos and bloody marys).



When I started running it was all, like, haha! This is hilarious! That girl thinks she can run marathons!

Now...welp...not so funny. Because it's happening. In real time.

Do people really want to read about my 16-mile runs again? And my marathon trainings and races again? I mean, maybe, sure, because I'm damn hilarious. But, god...sometimes I even gross myself out. And, even if you're not repelled by me, admittedly this whole thing becomes a bit repetitive to read once it becomes part of "normal" lifestyle (whatever "normal" is for a marathon runner). And that repetitiveness not only applies to the reader, but also to the writer.

So that's a very long-winded way for me to say: What the heck should I write about? And, if we go even deeper, should I even keep writing at all?

Well the answer to the second part is clear. Yes, I'd like to keep writing. I enjoy this little augmentation of my running world. I enjoy looking back and I enjoy the awkwardness that ensues when I see someone I haven't seen in decades who can say to me, "So...um...I'd ask how you are...but I think I read it? On your blog?" Delightfully weird.



But to the former question. I actually think I still have a lot to contribute in terms of my point of view. Running has profoundly changed me over the past five or so years. It's taught me more about myself than any other activity I have ever taken a part of. Running has bonded me closer to existing friends, and it has opened the doors to so many amazing wonderful new ones. It has provided me a social outlet. It's a therapy session. It's made me stronger so that I can do more and different activities that I may have never thought possible (considering that to the end of time I will think of myself as the chubby kid picked last in gym class). And, crucially, running now and forever the only way I have found to long-term sustain my pork buns and nachos lifestyle. Which I will defend to my death.

A lot has been going on in my fitness slash running world the past few months. I have signed up for my 15th and 16th Half Marathons this coming September and October. I have joined a new, wonderful, weird, amazing group called November Project that I'm sure you've seen all over my Facebook feed (and which will be the topic of an upcoming post to be sure...so STAY TUNED).




This is not a healthy living blog. (Unless to you, too, believe that "health" means your one serving of vegetables for the day came in the form of the celery dipped into your bloody mary?) This will never be a healthy living blog. I'm not sure if I even recommend everything I espouse and a nutritionist would have damn heart attack.



I work out a lot. I run all the damn time. I'm going to continue to do fun races. To fundraise (get what I did there?) for causes I believe in. I'm going to be weird. I'm going to post gifs (because they rule) and probably talk about my cat too much.




This blog is not just MeriG Running. This is now about how running has become one in the same with MeriG. It's now just part of my DNA in a way I honestly never, ever, in a million years would have said it would have. Just ask the kids who picked me last in gym class.

This is me.

Hope you still enjoy. :)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Race Recap Part 2: The 2014 Boston Marathon

We left off after my amazing Sunday with DFMC.  I slept soundly, feeling positive energy from my friends and family wishing me well through texts and online messages. The weather forecast was looking a bit warm, but good (a departure from rain predicted earlier in the week!)

I woke up Monday morning, April 21, 2014 bright and early. My gracious host Steve drove me to the Boston Common where buses were lined up by the dozens to load sleepy, nervous runners and be replaced by dozens more empty buses. 

We got on the Mass Pike and drove west. For a while. 

We're going to run back. Whoa.

Once I arrived in Hopkington, MA I didn't go with the masses to the runners' village. Instead my friend Abi and I walked 10 minutes towards the starting line to the Dana-Farber meeting area at a nearby church. 

Inside was a veritable marathon runner's heaven.

There were medical tables with band-aids, vaseline, IB profin, and sunscreen. There was an "arts and crafts" tent outside so you could decorate your race shirt. In the main area, runners buzzed around chatting nervously, taking photos, and drawing temporary tattoos on eachothers' arms. There were quiet rooms if you wanted to relish in silence. There was a TV room if you wanted to watch the pre-race coverage. A fuel table had bagels, donuts, pretzels, candy, water and Gatorade. Bathrooms and port-o-potties abounded. And amazing volunteers staffed it all.

I had been a bit concerned originally because my bus arrived around 8 and I didn't start until 10:30. But once I saw the oasis of amazingness at that church? All my fears completely vanished.

Me and Cassie
Abi and Me

The 25th Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team!

Surrounded by my New York DFMC friends and the amazing positive energy of my teammates, the hours flew by.  And suddenly, it was time for Wave 3 to head to the start.

The 700 Dana-Farber team members were nearly all together in the same starting corral, adding to the excitement. As we marched towards the starting line, the amazing residents of Hopkington and race volunteers cheered D-F as if we were already heroes. It was basically the best parade ever. And we hadn't. Even. Started.



And then...without much fanfare...we were off.

So how was the race? Everyone asks me. Well, to put it simply, it may have been the best 4 hours, 16 minutes, and 53 seconds of my life.


The course. The course is everything a runner who dreams of Boston dreams it will be. It's historic. The bars your read about are out in full force. The terrain is exactly as described, where you're downhill at the beginning and the suddenly after the halfway point...you're not. The Wellesley girls. The BC kids. Cleveland Circle. Kenmore Square. 

Heartbreak Hill. Oh, yes. The hill on it's own is actually not "that" bad (compared to, say, Harlem Hill in Central Park). But that bugger comes after the three prior Newton Hills torture you for miles leading up to it. At mile 20. It is worthy of it's name.

The course is very tough, especially in the bright, sunny day we experience in April. But the challenge is part of its history and its mystique. It's all there and it lives up to the legend. Just has it has done for 117 years before. 

And yet, thumbs up!

The crowds. Energy like I've never felt in my life. And probably will never feel again. Truly, for 26.2 miles -- without hardly a break at any point -- I felt that city completely focused towards us. Towards me. I high-fived dozens of kids with hands outstretched. I took fruit from strangers (only acceptable during a marathon). I smiled at the hundreds of thousands of people who were smiling. Right. At. Me.

They cheered until they lost their voices. They held signs that had me laughing out loud. They held signs that made me cry.

One read: What you're doing here today is IMPORTANT.

They cared. And whenever I reached those points where I felt pain, or I felt like I wanted to stop? Well, they cheered, and I didn't walk. Because I choose to run. And they choose to watch and cheer. And we were all in it together.


My Fans. 
Andrea, Val, Robb, Allison, Dan, Rachel Steve, Amy, Diana, Lindsay, Amy (yes, two Amys), Kim, Diane, Rachel (yes, two Rachels)...you are all amazing. Your presence was known, and it helped me more than I can say.

Mom and Dad were at the top of Heartbreak Hill. Some background info: My Dad finds my love of Indian cuisine to be amusing. He also knew the in the last couple of weeks before training I had abstained from such delights as to not tempt the gastronomic gods. So he had my mom holding this sign when I reached the top.



And then I took a much-needed quad stretch before it was all downhill -- literally -- to the finish (not as pleasant as it sounds!)


Thank you to all of you who viewed and supported me, in person and online (I know there was a lot of virtual tracking going on!) You were truly there with me every step of of the way.


The other runners. On the course that day were the most elite runners in the world. But I was also blessed to run alongside so many inspirational people. Every race shirt had a story to tell. She survived cancer. He was running for his friend killed in Iraq. She was running for her mother. He was running in honor of a victim of the 2013 bombing.

I'd feel pain and start grimacing. And then a man with no legs would run by me.

You choose to be here. Your pain is completely temporary.

I'd curse my decision to run. And then I'd see a blind woman running alongside her volunteer guide.

What do you have to complain about?

I was tired and overwhelmed. And then I passed Rick and Dick Hoyt, surrounded by team-members, applauded by the crowd and runners alike. 

You are running with heroes.

Photo credit Stephen Goldstein -- mile 23!



Dana-Farber. Boston loves Dana-Farber. I felt so much love from the sidelines and heard countless "thank yous" for having raised money for this organization. My team also had official cheering zones at miles 16 and 25. Those zones were amazing and gave me energy, inspiration, and courage to keep going.

Can you believe this is mile 25? I look DAMN GOOD!

Waving to the Dana-Farber cheering zone at mile 25!

Proudly displaying my Pacesetter badge (Photo Credit: Stephen Goldstein!)

It was a difficult 26.2 miles, but I was prepared. I had trained, I felt great mentally, and I had fueled and hydrated properly (Miami may have been good practice for the heat!) 

It was full of raw emotion, and I had to dig deep at many, many points. (Please keep in mind that I have posted a fraction of the photos taken of me...many are not so...flattering...)

I did my absolute best to soak in every moment and to remember that this was truly one of those experiences in life that you remember forever. This is something you tell your kids about. I knew as it was happening that I would cherish it all: The race of course, but also the fundraising and -- yes -- even the crazy winter training I pushed through. For the rest of my life.

And before I knew it, I saw the Citgo sign. And then I was running through Kenmore Square. And then I was taking a right on Hereford. And a left on Boylston. 

And then I was running on Boylston Street. And the crowd was going crazy. And I was running where it happened last year and I looked towards those spots and my heart burst. And I pushed harder than I've ever pushed before. I felt no pain. I felt no fatigue. I just felt a swell of emotion unlike anything I've ever experienced, and I was smiling through the tears in my eyes, and as I crossed that finish line I laughed and cried at the same time. 

Everyone was crying. And hugging. And laughing. 

Everything with my dad, and with last year and with me, it all came together into this one moment. It was truly beyond words. I was full of gratitude for the amazing people in my life. I felt blessed to have reached that moment. And I felt proud of myself for making it happen.. Ultimately, I guess it was just pure joy.

PRed by several minutes! 4:16:53!

And if I sound crazy or hyperbolic in any way? I assure you I am bit scratching the surface. It really was everything I'm telling you and so much more.

'


Dana-Farber volunteers collected us from the Finish Area and brought us back to the D-F home-base. There, we were greeted with cheers, food, beverages, changing areas, and volunteer masseuses. Truly a VIP Marathon experience. (Please know that we pay a large fee to participate in DFMC! All money donated went 100% to fund early research, and not to give me a massage! Just want you to know!) DFMC and their glorious volunteers put on a class-act show from beginning to end. As I've said before, it is a pleasure and an honor to run with them!

And after I cleaned up and ate and got a massage and then ate some more, I met up with my cheering squad.

Wearing their DFMC Fan Gear!


So what's next? Well, on the way home we stopped for Chinese Food (as I was craving lo mein with near desperation). And my fortune that night hopefully said it all:




Thank you, Reader, for being part of my journey!