Sunday, September 23, 2012

Crisis Averted

Friday night, my friend Kelly come over to keep me company while I carbo loaded and geared up for my big, first 20 mile run early the next morning. I made a delicious pasta for us with a homemade sauce (canned tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, spices, mmmm) with a side of garlic bread. I started laying out my duffel bag of running and eating-related gear. We were telling stories and making fun of boys. It was delightful.

Until I realized. That my perfect running outfit -- the one so wonderful and great that I had just dedicated a full blog post to it -- was at the laundry place. That closed an hour prior.

It was 8:15pm and I had no shorts and a sub-par sports bra.

What I meant to say:
"This is not an ideal situation. I am a bit concerned and upset by how things have progressed this evening. I'm also feeling a bit foolish as there is no reason I couldn't pick up the clothes between work and now. I simply forgot, and this is quite unfortunate."

What I actually said:
"AHHHHHH!!! &%$* $^%( %%^*  (*&(*%$#  LAUNDRY! *@#%  $#%#^ ^%$%^ RUNNING! &()$% #%^%  %^$^**#!!!!!!!!!!!"

Kelly sprung into action and calmly suggested we get in a cab while she looked up Lululemons that were open until 9. There are two in the city, and neither was picking up their phone. We put our bets on the Columbus Circle and were off on our way. A Lululemon emergency was uponst us!

We get there, and lo and behold my favorite Dart n' Dash shorts are discontinued. $^%$&  #&^*&!!!!!!!!!!!

Luckily, the patient staff helped me find an alternative. One that is also on the verge of being done for the season, but I found one of the last ones (and it was on sale!)

So, I bought the Speed Squad Short and just prayed that they would blindly work for the longest run so far of my life.

The short is dual-layered with a base tight to the skin and a looser short over it. Great stretchy waist-band that is very maternity-pant-esque (but in a good way!) Great pocket space and overall quite comfy.

Turns out, I like these EVEN BETTER than the ones in the laundry. Who knew. It was fate! But this isn't about the outfit today; it's about the fact that I ran 20 god damn miles.

Not cool, cat. I'm gonna tell my story anyways.

So, Kelly handled the situation (the "situation" being having a HOT MESS of a friend), and then I tried to get some rest. After the Great Shorts Debacle I was quite restless and having a lot of trouble sleeping or more than an hour at a time. I also had some really weird dreams that seem to be loosely based off the new NBC show "Revolution." [Speaking of: If the power ever goes out like that, I'm literally going to just load up on as much canned food as I can and keep a can opener and a knife on me at all times. And find a gun. And learn how to shoot a gun. These were the things I was worried about during my dream, and they seem to be fair points now that I'm awake.]

Okay, so finally at 4:45 I awoke and started my prep work for the run. I put on the new outfit (with trepidation). I consumed my English Muffin and Almond Butter. And I had a duffel bag full of useful things that I will detail for you here:

* Banana (for subway ride down to run start)
* Water bottle (for before and after)
* My Fuel Belt with one 8oz bottle of water and one 8oz bottle of Gatorade (which I would refill up at fountains along the route)
* 4 Gus (I only needed 3, but an extra for good measure is solid practice)
* Luna Bar (for no reason, but thought it would be good to have one on me)
* Extra shirt for after (I get stinky)
* Money, Metrocard, ID
* Phone
* Muscle Milk (it's important to have a good mixture of protein/carbs within a half hour of running long distances ideally at a 2:1 ratio. Muscle Milk is actually a perfect ratio, doesn't need to be refrigerated, and is lactose free)
* Turkey Sandwich (I was leaving my apartment at 5:45, running 20 miles, and not getting back until noonish! I need me a sandwich!)
* Pretzels (for the Sweating)
* Gatorade for after

That's a lot of stuff and weirdly almost all necessary. This is getting expensive!!

So we started in Brooklyn near the Bridge at Cadman Plaza. I arrived around 6:30 am (I get nervous about subways that early) and the warm-up for our run started at 7. By about 7:30 we were on our way to run 20 miles.

The route took us over the Bridge, around lower Manhattan and up the west side of the Island all the way to the GW bridge (I think that's around 170th St.) which got us to about 15 miles. We then turned around and retraced our steps the final 5 to end at around 73rd St (where the group had transported our bags for us).

The first 13 miles or so was honestly fine. I had my fuel belt and my Gus, and my training has more than prepared me for this distance at this point. Plus my new shorts weren't creating any sort of weird torture devise, which is always a plus.

Miles 14-17...were a little tricky. The girls I was running with and I kept stopping for water, and the restarting at that distance was a bit like restarting a rusty old pickup truck. It ain't pretty and it was hard to get the momentum going. But we pressed on.

Miles 18-20. Hm. How do I put this.... You know what? I think I'm going to just illustrate it instead:

Yeah, I got a little cray. I was in pain. Near delirious from hunger and need for calories and protein. And honestly was feeling freaking amazing. I think I went a little mad, and not in the angry way. In the straight jacket, "girl, somethin' ain't right with you" way.

But I finished.

And then I stretched and had me a muscle milk (mmm...muscle milk) like a MAN and then I ate a turkey sandwich like a LADY who EATS like a man. And then I hobbled home.

That's a lie, I stopped by a bar where friends were watching a futbol game. But then I went home.

Not done with the story yet. Because I got home and took an ice bath (which I described to you last year Here). And that sucked. But you know what didn't suck? Archie falling into the ice bath after I was done in it.

Did I take a video when I knew what was about to happen instead of saving him? Yes. Did I laugh at him? Yes, yes I did. Call, ASPCA, I dare you.

But my recovery did not end with the animal abuse. No, I then put on these sexy compression socks and took a 3.5 hour nap:
God damn, that's hot.

I'm still not 100% clear on the science behind this, but these are tight socks some people run with and some people use just for recovery. Pushes the blood back into the rest of your body, or something. It's like giving your lower legs a big hug. For a few hours. They seemed to help, so I'm willing to keep using them through Marathon Sunday to make my legs feel like happy sausages.

Today I'm feeling amazing. It's not that I'm not in pain. I mean, watch me walk down a flight of stairs and just see the pure comedy. But mentally I know that I ran 20 miles yesterday. Twenty. Doce. And we can all align that that's pretty baller.

They say if you can do 20, you can do a marathon. So evidently, this is happening! 6 weeks until showtime. On deck is a 13 next Saturday (child's play, son!), then a 17, and then one final 20-22 (ugh) before I taper for a few weeks.

Save the Date for Sunday, November 4th. Why? Now I know I am near prepared and that:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Be Impressed

Was going for slightly more utilitarian as opposed to "funny" or "inspirational" today. I'm not your damn clown just here to amuse you!

She is not impressed.

And neither is McKayla (yes, I'm still on this awesome "meme").

But to the subject at hand: Training for a marathon is much more than just getting in your weekly mileage. I've learned that a good portion of the training needs to be about finding your routine and practicing for race day. For example:
  • What foods will agree with me? 
  • How much do I need to hydrate the day before?
  • How much should I hydrate before so I don't have to pee the entire time I'm running?
  • How many Gus should I eat? At which miles? In what flavors? (Espresso, Vanilla, and Chocolate, thank you very much!)
  • What the hell am I doing?

All important things, and I'm still continuing to work on them. But one of the elements which I will talk about today is the outfit. Head to toe, what am I going to wear that will be A) Comfortable   B) Weather-appropriate and   C) Non-chafing. :::shudder:::

I've experimented with a lot of different articles of clothing and accessories, and I think I've locked in -- finally -- my Marathon race-day outfit! It's full of brand-loyalty and is perhaps more expensive than you'd think. But I can't stress this point enough: Money is no object if it can prevent chafing.

Write that down.

Bra:  Lululemon "Energy" Bra

I'm pretty obsessed with this bra.
Key Features:
- Great fabric that doesn't get too stinky
- Fantastic fit: no red lines
- Amazing seams that leave absolutely no chafing.

I wore this for my 18 miles two weekends ago and for my 12 last weekend and it was absolutely flawless. There's also this little nifty pocket on the inside in case you wanted to tuck in a few dollars or something. I probably won't use it, but nice to have.

Also, for when I get my washboard abs (HA), this bra is fashionable enough to be worn on its own because of the cute back. Comes in a few cute colors, but I got it in black.

I kind of am diggin' the model in the photo above's Katniss hair. I think I wanna rock that more often.

Shorts: Lululemon "Dart and Dash" shorts
Was $58 (currently on sale online in limited styles for $44)
I got these in boring black (no fancy pink on the hip). Also have been wearing these for a few weeks, and there are some GREAT features on these shorts.

First, I love how long the inseam is, because they don't ride up and I don't have to worry about my butt comin' out. That said, because of the tightness, my ass does look pretty damn fabulous in them.

I keep 'em tight so they don't chafe. Trust me, chafe-age is something you really, really don't want to experience if you can help it. It's inevitable, but it's not super fun. And by that I mean, it is the WORST. And it's always in the most inopportune places. I'm going to go no further on this conversation stream, as no good will come of it.

Back to the shorts. These gems have some other great features too. Like most Lulu shorts, there are great pockets for gus, keys, money, etc. Really helpful. Also, you can see on the side it looks like there's some bling. But it's not for fashion. It's actually these little rubber-ish "grippies" so your shirt doesn't ride up! It's like, a slip mat in your bathtub.

I had to go up a size beyond what I thought I would be...but it eliminated "muffin top." Crucial.

Great material and great shorts. Very, very excited about this purchase.

Hat: Brooks "Infiniti" Running Hat
$24 online, also available at my favorite running store, Jack Rabbit.

A great hat. The mesh allows for "breathability" and the white makes it so you don't get too hot (I am not a fan of black hats in the sun, because it's like you're an ant under a mean neighborhood kid's magnifying glass). Inside is also a sweat band so you can handle your copious sweating.

Hats are great for me, because I don't like wearing sunglasses when I run. Some do, I just am not one of them. So this helps minimize glare and keep my own sweat from blinding me in an awkward, uncomfortable manner.

I may wear one of my fun headbands if it's not going to be super sunny. I don't know. Just so many options.

Fancy Lil' Belt: SpiBelt
$20 online (sometimes you can get discounts at running expos)

SpiBelts are fabulous. If you are considering getting into running, I would highly recommend a purchase. They tighten to your waist and stretch to hold items (scroll down for a pic of me and you can see my phone in it). I can get phone keys and gus into mine no problem, and it doesn't bump around as long as I position it in the "right" spot.

Caveat: I had to replace one after a couple of years because they will stretch. But it's $20. It's fine. Also, there are less expensive models, but I felt it was important to go for the water proof one since my iPhone will be jangling around in there sans case.

There are a lot of add-ons and gadgets you can do for the belt (add on gu pockets, etc.) but I have the regular one. When I train, I use this Amphipod Hydration belt that has a pouch for phone/gus and ability to hold up to four bottles (thanks for the gift, Sam!) But with water stops at every miles along the marathon route and lots of practice on how to drink water while running from other races, it won't be necessary.

Socks: Nike "Cushion No-Show Socks"
They're a little pricey, but good socks -- as I've learned -- are WORTH IT! I like that these have the dri-fit technology so they wick away sweat (well, as much as they can..I ain't comin' out of this dry, my friend). And the band at the bottom is a little bit of compression. Not sure if it works at all, but it feels pleasant so I go with it.

Great ankle height so I don't get any heel rubbing.

Shoes: Brooks Ghost 5
$110 online, also available (as of last week at least) on
First of all, they come in purple (can you tell I have a little affinity for that color?)

Second of all, these shoes are freaking fantastic. Love them. I used to wear the previous model (aptly named "Ghost 4") and those were lovely too. But these have some great upgrades that make them a lovely little ride for a runner like me who needs a good neutral shoe. They're lightweight, have great laces that stay tied, and have excellent arch support.

In these, I wear a size 8 1/2 despite being a 7 1/2 in most shoes (occasionally an 8). This Jack Rabbit recommendation to go up a side has been a life saver. I used to get chronic blisters and lose a lot of toenails (I know, it's unpleasant, but true). To date, my toenail count remains a solid 10. Although I really would advice keeping a comfortable distance from them, because they aren't necessarily the most lovely toenails you've ever laid eyes on at this stage of training. More importantly: NO BLISTERS.

:::Knocks on wood repeatedly:::

Now, I would recommend not buying these shoes just because I vouch for them. Or because Runner's World also named them an Editor's Choice. Or because they come in lovely purple! No, you should go to a store and get your gait analyzed like I did last year and again this year to adjust after injury  before making a purchase like this. Ask about the shoe though. You'll probably buy it.

Shirt: Team for Kids neon yellow running singlet
"Free" after finishing my fundraising commitment!

Head to toe, I will look like this, just as "practiced" at the Run to the Rock!
Check out this fancy lady (lady, right?) behind me posin' like a little diva. 

I'll need to start considering weather contingency plans (what if it, like, rains or snows? ughhhhh) And also have to consider what I'll be wearing that morning. That morning I need to be there very early despite my wave start time of 10:30am. So I'll need sweatpants, sweatshirts, etc. to keep me warm and then donate at the starting line. Eek.

Average lows are in the high 40s and highs in the low 60s, so a lot of room for error here. A bit concerned my outfit won't be appropriate for the high 40s working on that

Any suggestions for me on other things to consider? Arm warmers, perhaps? What did you (or your friends and family) do for past runs?

In other news, I got my official bib number this week! I'm starting in the Orange Corral at 10:30 am (as I mentioned) and am number 48487!

So even if this doesn't impress McKayla...

...I bet 48487 rockin' some fanny pack action an a neon shirt could.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Who Says You Can't Go Home? (Part Deux)

I wanted to think of a clever way to open this post, but there's just really no other way to say this: When I was home last weekend, I ran 18 miles.

Phew. Feels good to get that one off my chest! I ran 18. Freaking. Miles. It was my longest run ever and I am still alive. Sorry if I ruined the ending for you.

The manner in which I got to these 18 miles was somewhat unconventional and is what I would like to discuss today. In that I ran 5 miles around my parents' neighborhood and then got in a car and ran a half marathon. This half was the annual Run to the Rock race in my hometown. Wherein you run. To the rock.

I wasn't supposed to be home last weekend. I was supposed to do this longest run with my running friends in New York with my charity group. But, due to some very, very sad circumstances I was home and I still needed -- and wanted -- to get that run in. The half marathon seemed like the way to do it, so I entered, but with trepidation.

Before I go into what happened, let's first start out with what I was presented with the morning of the run. I had asked my mom, as I always do, for an English Muffin and Almond or Peanut Butter. And possibly a banana. This is what I found on the table the next day:

How CUTE is she!?!?!
And how much Almond and Peanut Butter did she think I was gonna eat? 
So then I did the 5 around the 'hood. NBD (that means "No Big Deal" for those of you who still like to spell out the English Language.) Then the fam loaded up in the car and we drove to the Miles Standish State Forest to the starting line.

Thumbs up at the start!
It was my very first non-New York Road Runners race and I was actually a little skeptical of this small-town run. Would there be water? Gatorade? Enough people running near me that it would actually feel race-like? The answer was yes, yes, yes for it all. There were about 500 people running the race -- a nice lil' crowd! Volunteers were out and about passing out water cups every couple of miles and a smattering of people along the way were cheering us on.

Miles 1-4 (i.e. 6-9 in MeriG's world...) were lovely.

Great scenery and very peaceful. Around the 9 mile marker I saw the family for the first time, being oh so cute!

My dad took a photo of me photographing my mom and sister.

Resulting photo

So great to see them. My Dad was snapping away and got some decent shots, as were some official race photographers that were scattered along the course to take photos for later purchase. Some of the results were super cute...
Mile 9! Thumbs up!!

And some...were not so cute. I am going to share a couple of those photos with you today because I, friends, am secure and I know that I am a beautiful person on the inside if not on the out.
Look at me glaring at the photographer. Get. Out. Of. My. Face.
Mile 12 of the Half = Mile 17 of my run. This is how you look when that is happening.

And there are more. I am considering nominating myself for this (hysterical) site:

The photographs aside, I was very lucky to have not only my parents and sister watching me, but to also have seen my dear family friends Val and Robb when I ran by their house at around mile 15. They held up a sign that said "Run Meri Run!" and it was so cute! Truly it kept me going, and I so appreciated it.

Pic taken near Val and Robb's house. Are we in Plymouth or in the midwest?! There were horses! HORSES!

At the finish line, my friend Emily and her husband Rich were waiting with their adorable puppy Sadie. They saw me end the race and were there to congratulate me while I waited to meet up with my family.

The whole experience that day was very powerful for me. It gave me the trust in myself that I can push my body beyond its previous limits. That I will push my body to that point and beyond in November.

It also showed me that a friendly face, a sign, a cheer, can make all the difference. Knowing my family would be there along the race and my friends at the end (and a surprise appearance from Val and Robb!) gave me something to focus on and something to look forward to.

I wrote in my last entry about the power of Home, and that power could not have rang truer last weekend when I was supported in this scary undertaking by my loved ones.

I've written many entries with tips about how to run a marathon. The steps you need to take. The foods, the actions and the gear. But ultimately -- and I know this next statement to be true -- you can NOT do this crazy thing without the full support of your family and friends. I know I have that through the actions of my family. But I also have it through the support of my faithful blog readers, through kind words and Facebook comments, and through the everyday support of the many wonderful people in my life.

It was very poignant to reach my longest marathon milestone at Home. To push beyond the ache in my muscles and the ache in my heart for the weekend.  It gave me a vehicle to see the true power of Home: unyielding love and support. And best yet, I can take that with me wherever I go.

Because if love isn't a sister waking up early on a Saturday to cheer you on, or a father printing out maps of his own town to ensure he doesn't miss you on the route or a mother buying two full jars of almond butter so that you will have your choice between chunky and creamy...what is?

And, the most important lesson of all...

I can still rock a photo after 18 miles.
Bring it, Marathon.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Who Says You Can't Go Home? (Part I)

Yep, we're doin' a two-parter. Because I have a lot to say, and I don't want to tire you out with all the awesome at one time. And because I know you have zero self-control in regards to my blog. So I'm pacing you. You're welcome.

As I've grown older I've learned that people tend to be brought together by occasions. Weddings, baby showers, graduation parties, high school reunions...these are the good things. We bitch and moan about having to buy the gifts and book the trains, but we get to see each other and we reminisce and we laugh.

And then there are other occasions. These ones bring us together as well. And -- perhaps -- even more so. 

For the better part of the past week and a half I've been back in my hometown. While I do go back to see my parents somewhat regularly, this trip was not your run-of-the-mill visit. I was there to say goodbye to an amazing man and to be there to provide comfort and solace to his family, in any small way I could. 

And so I went back to Plymouth, MA. My parents still live in the same house they have lived in for over thirty years. The same house I grew up in. The house that slowly evolves as the years past, with new siding, new chachkies, new electronics...but that largely remains the same. 

I haven't lived there for more then a couple months at a time for nearly 11 years. Since I left for Brandeis in the summer of 2005, I've always looked towards the "next thing." Towards moving further away from my past and more towards my future. College. New York. My MBA. Detour to Arkansas. Back to New York. Work. And now where to next? Single, no real estate, just Archie and me doin' our thing...the world is truly our oyster.

And meanwhile Plymouth has always just been there. The detour I took when visiting friends in Boston for long weekends. The holiday destination. The big, small town where I go because that's where my parents and some of my friends live. And then I'd go back "home" to New York, to the fast-paced excitement, to the drama, to the noise, and think how lucky I was to be away from Plymouth. Ugh. So boring. Never changes. 

But in the past year I've started to see Plymouth differently. Maybe it's because I've changed recently. I've become more sentimental or old-souled or something like that. Or because family circumstances have necessitated it. Or maybe it's because New York has -- finally -- lost a bit of its luster (don't worry, NY, I still heart you...) Or it's something many of us who have left the small town for the big city adventures start to see. 

Or maybe -- just maybe -- its a special connection with Plymouth and me. To the people there. The way I was raised and the town I grew up in but never saw until I had a decade's space.

But I went back these past two weekends and, oh, did I see it. 

I have friends from high school, from before high school even, that cut so much deeper than what I could write in words here. They know me. The pre-New York and "fancy" apartment me (joke for those of you who have actually seen the glamorous real estate I call home. The drama and band geek me. The scared and insecure and painfully quiet me. The "you are smoking crack if you think I'm running a mile" me. The me that made me the me I am today. (Getting deep, stay with me). 

I know their houses and their streets. Their stories and their history. And I know their families. And too many of them have experienced tragedies that have shaped the experience of us as a group of peers and friends.

And so here we were. Together again. Mourning the death and celebrating the life of one of the "good ones," who was taken from us far too soon in far too tragic of a manner to even still  truly comprehend. And we cried, and we laughed, and we drank, and we talked. And I ran.

I ran because I was training, of course. But I ran because I love to run. And we were celebrating Alan, who had so many hobbies and past-times of his own. Bocce, cribbage, cooking, TV (and -- yes -- I do believe TV should be considered a hobby and I will fight you on this subject if you want to get into a debate. And I will probably win.) And so I celebrated my new hobby. My new past-time. The thing they will say about me when, hopefully many years, it's my time: "She loved to run."

And while I ran I thought of Alan, and of his family, and of this town that he loved so much. So much that he would put his life at stake to defend it as one of its Firefighters. So much that he would live here his whole life. Why?.

There is a difference between when you drive from point A to point B in your town and when you walk it or run it. When you're on the ground, looking around and taking everything in, you can actually see the things that your eyes simply glanced at before. And I looked around. I mean, I really looked. 

And I saw the tourists, peering to see THE ROCK only to be more like...
Um...seriously...that's it?!
But I also saw why they might want to spend money coming across the country, or the world to see my little town. 

I saw the truly gorgeous Cape Cod views. 

I ran up our adorable little Main Street, actually look at the windows of the shops I formerly labeled as "boring" or "weird" and now have evolved to call "adorable" or "quirky."

I ran by the Jenney Grist Mill, a working reconstruction of the actual Grist Mill which was built in 1636 (thanks Wikipedia).
Could this be quainter? No. Impossible.

I ran through Brewster Gardens, and saw the "duckies" I hadn't really noticed since I was a kid.

I ran by my childhood temple's community center where I spent so much time as a kid. It's the place I went every week for Sunday School, where I spent every high holiday, and where my sister and I became Bat Mitzvah so many years ago. And I saw how very church-like it is. And the fact that it is one short block from the waterfront, a view that land-locked mid-western tourists pay top dollar to see.

I saw some things that struck me as amusing...
Damn. Had really wanted some smelt!

...and others that were just plain beautiful:
The Mayflower is yonder. In the haaahbah.

And -- near the end of my run - I saw a pair of beautiful swans swimming, together, in Jenney Pond, known to me as a kid (before they outlawed feeding the birds) as the "Duck Pond. Always a pair, and always living in Downtown Plymouth. Happily.

They are home. And, no matter where I end up in this world, no matter how far I run and how many new hobbies I take up or experiences I have... I realized that home to me will always be Plymouth. And I feel blessed to know I can always, always go back.