Friday, November 14, 2014

The Official Announcement: We're Going For It Again!

It is with enormous pleasure that I officially post on Run, MeriG. Run. to announce that I've made the commitment to run with the 2015 Boston Marathon Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge (DFMC) team for a second year!

For those of you that have known me or read my blog over the past few years, you've known the journey that led me to running this past April with DFMC. It started with my dad's treatment at Dana-Farber and ended with what I can pretty much say with confidence was the most amazing day of my life.

A proud Dana-Farber patient and his daughter

Importantly, it led this to have happened:

$11,298. Awesome. Astounding. Amazing. (And A big thank you again!) The official tally of money raised through the 2014 DFMC team was $8,263,308.05. Over eight. million. dollars. Wow.

And so, I thought to myself: should this just be a one-time thing? Yes, I loved the training (even in the cold horrible winter!) And, yes, I loved the DFMC community. And, yes, I have never felt better about being able to feel like I was giving back to my world by being able to gather people to raise funding for a cause I truly believe in. And....yes. I loved, loved, loved that amazing marathon. But did I need to do it all again?

When the application came out for the 2015 team, these were the thoughts running through my head. Perhaps I should focus on a marathon that involved no fundraising. No commitment in that way. No effort outside of the one that will lead me to four months of training and 26.2 miles.

There are a lot of Marathons to run.

But then I got an email from DFMC that Darby had passed away. Darby spoke at the pasta dinner the night before the Boston Marathon this past April. I wrote about Darby last year because of the impact she had made on me. Dying of cancer, she stood up and she thanked us for what we were doing. She was eloquent, she was inspiring, and she was strong, but she couldn't beat her cancer.

The email had her speech from that dinner attached. I read it. And then I immediately filled out my application for the 2015 Boston Marathon team.

100% of funds raised through DFMC go to the Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research. This fund is one of the largest and most successful program of its kind, funding the brightest and most creative scientists making basic research discoveries that will transform cancer treatment. The program has funded numerous major breakthroughs, resulting in improved survival rates and quality of life for thousands of patients. To say I am passionate about this cause would be the understatement of the century.

Last year, I ran in honor of my father. This year, I run in honor of those currently undergoing treatment or who -- like Darby -- have lost their valiant battle. I have -- again -- pledged $10,000 for Dana-Farber this year.

The link to donate is I'll try not to annoy you too much as I embark on training once again, and I thank you in advance for your support. Any donation -- be it of your hard-earned money or of the time you take in passing this along to others -- is appreciated and valued. More to come on fun events and fundraising programs to make this year a little spicier!

In terms of the actual running...? I think I've got this (:::knocking on all the wood!!!:::). But I promise after today to keep keepin' things fun and to find shenanigans to make this blog interesting (?) as I embark officially on my training program after the New Year.

I'll leave you with an excerpt from Darby's pasta dinner speech this past April. Darby -- with a mere five more months of her life ahead of her -- heroically stood in front of that enormous ballroom and thanked us. She said:

So, the reason I am here today is to thank you all for what you are doing as part of the DFMC team: 
Thank you for training through this horrible weather this winter that most of you endured. It was cold, and  snowy, and icy—and those were the good training days. You all worked your way through injuries, aches, and pains to get here… And while I do look at marathon training with a little envy, even I was happy not to be out there for some of the group runs.
Thank you for the support of the DFMC team. Some of the most wonderful people I have ever met are part of this team. They have been by my side through this unenviable journey in ways I could never have imagined five years ago, and are some of my best friends. The broader DFMC community has also been amazing in its support through countless e-mails and texts, running for me, and showing up—at fundraisers, walks, and even chemo sessions. This means so much to me, and for all these reasons and more, DFMC holds a very special place in my heart. 
Thank you for running and representing the care provided at Dana-Farber. Some of you have experienced this firsthand and that is why you are here. For those of you who haven’t, Dana-Farber is very different from any other medical experience…and it is extraordinary. As a patient, I have known from day one that I am in the best hands. The entire institution—from the parking attendants to world renowned oncologists, like my doctor, Eric Winer—is organized to put the patients’ needs first, and this is something I feel consistently. This superlative care makes the experience so much more bearable, but, unfortunately, it does NOT cure cancer. 
And so, finally, and most importantly, I want to thank you for the $5.3 million dollars—or more!—you are raising to fund research. This is an incredible number, and it is SO needed. As Dr. Benz mentioned, it is more difficult to get public funding today than in the past—especially for investigators new in their careers.And research is yielding results at a faster pace than in the past. Since May, I have been on two FDA approved drugs that were not available at the turn of the century. And just this past Friday, I started on a clinical trial for a targeted therapy that hopefully will be effective for me. This has added almost a year to my life so far – all with drugs not available to my aunt who passed from the disease in the late ‘90s. The pipeline of research ideas is rich and promising; they just need funding. I am confident that by funding researchers—especially young investigators early in their careers—in the future, people in my position will live. How great will that be?

* * * * * * * 
With 156 days to go, we have raised $200 towards my $10,000 pledge 
for the 2015 Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge! 

To donate or learn more:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Classes I'm Loving Right Now

As you may know, Run MeriG Run is a big proponent of running lots, but not over-running. Even in my most crazy marathon training nutso weeks I do no more than 3 or 4 runs a week. In between, I'm a big fan of lots of cross-training mixed in with scattered rest days. Just call me Cross-Train MeriG. Cross-Train.

I've gotten into a good grove lately with a mixture of a few different classes that I thought I'd share with you. Of course I don't go to each one every week, but I try to mix it up and it keeps things interesting for me so I don't get bored with any one particular workout. If you'd ever like to give any of these a shot, let me know! I'm always happy to have a workout buddy!

Happy sweating...

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Exhale Core Fusion Yoga

Locations: Exhale has several locations around the city. Fusion Yoga is newish and I've only taken this at Central Park South location (which, along with the UES location are my favorites due to location, locker rooms, and lack of snooty-ness of crowd).

Cost: In the low $30s I believe...but I buy several 10-packs for $215 through Gilt or Rue La La throughout the year so I never pay full price.

Their Description:
Relax your mind and re-energize your body in this soulful and athletic practice that fuses flow yoga with intense core work for the ultimate mind body experience. Sun-salutations and warrior poses are woven with sequences of isolated thigh, arm, and ab work as you build the heat, then reward yourself with a cooling savasana finish. This uplifting class will unleash your inner warrior leaving you strengthened, stretched, and sweaty! Open to all levels.

My Take: I'm not gonna lie, I'm obsessed with this yoga class. (And you know that it takes a lot for me to be obsessed with yoga.) Why do I love it? Well, it is more workout than yoga, for starters. Do you want a lot of chanting and relaxation? Than this will certainly not be your jam. You want chataranga push-ups, planks for days, Warriors that turn into squats and chair poses that last for hours? Or an you want to end with a little core fusion ab workout? Than this is definitely for you.

The class I go to is 5:45pm Fridays at the Central Park locale and taught by Nicole. She is bubbly. She is sweet. She is supportive and non-judgmental. As promised in the description above, I absolutely left very sweaty. (But are you surprised?) Although they say all levels, I definitely would not recommend if you've never tried any yoga before, but you certainly need not be an expert.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Exhale Core Fusion Extreme
Locations: Extreme seems to only be offered at the Flatiron location. Note that there is currently NO SHOWER (I think they have plans to install...) I had an unfortunate Thursday morning when I did not know this.

Cost: Same as above

Their Description:
Abolish fat, rev your metabolism, and amplify strength as you move through power stations consisting of high intensity work followed by brief moments of active recovery. This hour of power will incorporate gliders, heavy hand weights, a plyo box, suspension training, cardio explosions and intense core work to push you to your fitness maximum. With a balance of restorative stretches at the finish, this functional, time-savvy, expertly tailored class will take you to the extreme. Sneakers required. For safety reasons, guests are not permitted to join class late.

My Take: So I do love this class, but I will warn you: This kicked my butt!! The class consists of a warm-up followed by five stations. Each station has two exercises. Each of these stations and each of these exercises are super-duper hard. Super. Duper. The way it works is that you do Exercise #1 at the station for 1 min followed by Exercised #2. Then you repeat and do #1 again and then #2 again. And then you move to the next station. There is no break in between and no rest. You do this whole circuit and then start over with each station now having reps shorter than a minute for each exercise. In between stations this second time you have 1-2 minutes of "active recovery" (i.e. more of super-duper hard exercises). This was a two-towel workout for me each of the times I've gone. Consider yourself either warned or pumped up, depending on how you like to roll. Extreme is not your typical core fusion class at all, and I loved it.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Exceed Row Plus
Where:  Exceed UES (They also have a Tribeca location, but have never been)
Cost: $32; Class size less than 8 people (so felt worth it to me!)

Their Description: EXCEED: Row Plus is a rowing intensive workout for the entire body. Workouts range from sort and powerful to long and strong, with every variation in between. Although mostly rowing, this class will include complementary movements off the concept2 that intensifies the workout and further develop various muscle groups. This class assists to improves form, endurance and power that will help rowers of all levels.

My Take: First of all, I chose this rowing picture from the internet because the guy just looks so happy and goofy on the rower! He's like, "yaaaaay." Anyways, I digress. When I read the description prior to attending this class the first time, I was confused because I didn't know that a "concept2" is not a type-o, but rather the type of rower used in class. So you are doing -- as they say -- mostly rowing but with complementary movements like kettleballs, TRX, push-ups and sit-ups in between.

What I loved is that it was a true full-body workout and intense cardio without running. I'm actually considering replacing a running day for my next marathon (teaser alert...) with rowing! The other thing I loved is that the instructor -- Shelly - is really great at improving your form and giving personal attention to everyone. Turns out I had been rowing incredibly wrong until I went to this class. I'd leave row workouts feeling my next, arms and back. If you're doing it right, it's truly an arms, back, abs, and leg workout that is comparable to a long-distance run. Classes UES are 6 am Tuesdays and 7 am Fridays right now and I can be found at either depending on the day and how crazy I feel. Locker rooms are decent with great products, so an excellent pre-work choice if you need to get ready.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

NYSC Body Pump
Where: Multiple NYSC locations around the city
Cost: Free with NYSC membership (of which I have)

Their Description:  BODYPUMP®, the original LES MILLS™ barbell class, quickly sculpts, tones and strengthens your entire body! Great bodies aren't born, they are transformed. BODYPUMP® uses the THE REP EFFECT™, a breakthrough resistance-training formula that leverages low-weight loads and high-repetition movements. The result is that you burn fat, gain strength and quickly build lean body muscle. By challenging all of your major muscle groups while you squat, press, lift and curl, BODYPUMP® is one of the world's fastest ways to get in shape. This class is great for all fitness levels because you choose a workout weight that's comfortable for you. To keep things fresh, the class is updated every three months with new choreography and chart-topping tunes. Get the results you've been looking for. Experience the highly trained instructors and THE GROUP EFFECT that is BODYPUMP®.
Photo credit: Preppy Runner's review
My Take: Ok, so before I went to this I was scared. Now I've been probably 15 times and it's not scary at all. The weird/interesting/cool thing about Pump is that there is one soundtrack and one "routine" that all instructors are using for a few months at a time until the next release comes out. Instructors generally do this with you in the front (rather than wandering around the rooms) so you always have someone to watch and guide you through. Each song is a muscle group (squats, biceps, shoulders, back, abs, etc). Most classes are 55 minutes, but you'll notice a few are 45 minutes and cut out two or so tracks. You're using a barball for most of the class, and you'll start with light weights on each side. As you keep building up with repeat visits -- or if you a muscle-y man or lady -- you can go heavier. In between tracks they'll tell you if you should increase or decrease weights for the next track so that you might, as an example, use a heavier weight for squats than for shoulders. I love that it is full-body. I love that it is muscle-building. I love that it is a break from heavy cardio for me. With the pre-programmed workouts it's hard to have a "bad" instructor (although admittedly some are better than others) so that is helpful with my NYSC Passport. I do get a bit tired of the soundtracks by the end of the few months, but it also gives me an opportunity to challenge myself and add on a bit more weight as the workouts become familiar. Overall an amazing complement to my more high-intensity classes.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

And, of course, I always have my Tuesday am Total Body Conditioning at the 76th St NYSC. I think I've been going to this for over three years. Crazy times!

What classes are you loving right now? How do you cross-train?

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 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 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."

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?


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