Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I'm in a New York State of Mind

Friends. This week, New York City experienced one of the worst natural disasters in many years. Certainly in my lifetime. It created unprecedented damage to the city's subway system, which is still as of tonight not up and running. Houses and apartments across the boroughs, New Jersey, upstate and Connecticut are flooded, damaged, or worse. Belongings gone forever. Lives were lost.

I am incredibly fortunate to live in Manhattan's Upper East Side which -- due to the topography of the neighborhood -- experienced very minimal damage, relatively speaking. We also have been incredibly lucky to sustain no loss of power, unlike our friends all across the lower portion of this Island. This week has had its challenges, but I can't complain.

Won't complain.

But will I lie and say the Marathon didn't cross my mind from the first news report of damage that aired (on the constant, unyielding, 24 news coverage that I couldn't peel my eyes from)? No, I will not tell that lie, sir. I was thinking about the Marathon day and night.

Bloomberg definitively, officially, announced today that the marathon would go on as planned for Sunday. And this has made me very, very happy along with all my team members and friends who have worked so hard over the past several months towards this very personal goal. Many of these team members and friends are battling their own personal issues due to Hurricane Sandy, but they ultimately want to run.

But I feel badly. Because there is a lot of controversy now surrounding this. There is a lot of work to be done to clear the course. A lot of resources to be used. And perhaps should/could those resources be put to better use? And the funds? The pure logistics alone?

I don't know. Maybe. I don't know all the details and can't fully assess. But here's what I do know: This marathon is very important to New York. The revenue it brings in, yes. But also because it's a major, major event that has been a critical part of the city's calendar, year after year. To the Running's The Event. The day. And to cancel it when something could be done would be a shame.

Over the past few nights when different sources were discussing cancellation scenarios and deferment scenarios, I was thinking about it. My heart has been -- and will be -- with everyone who has been affected by this horrible storm. And if there was anything, anything, that could be accomplished in a positive way if we cancelled, I would be for it.

But if I can be truly honest, I am so overjoyed that the Marathon is happening. Another year of waiting and training? I don't know if I have that in me.

Have I been eating well and not drinking this week? No, ma'am. There was a freaking hurricane. I'm not a superhero.

Have I been stretching as much as I could? No. Because I am lazy.

But -- if nothing else -- Hurricane Sandy has given me some perspective. If I have to walk this thing, hell crawl it, I will. Goal times be damned, this is bigger than that.

This is about me, fulfilling a dream of mine, while running across this amazing city that is cleaning up and moving on. And -- despite logistical challenges or issues that make the day less than "ideal" -- I am excited. Real excited.

I have decided that I am going to make this experience as positive as possible. The hurricane tried to put a wrench in that, but I'm not taking the bite. I've worked too damn hard to be upset, stressed, or worried. What will happen will happen. Life is short. Let's make this a happy few days and a glorious Marathon Sunday.

Friday I attend the Expo and pick up my number. Saturday I have a team breakfast with Team for Kids and then the family arrives from Massachusetts. And Sunday...we run.

Sidebar: I got this care package in the mail today from Diane alllll the way in Korea:

The contents include an oversized shirt of a cat dressed as a reindeer, a Korean candy bar, a cat manicure set, a cat fan, a monkey bag that says "Save Me!", a Korean sports bar, the book "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" (which I did want to read, Diane! well done!), and finally some "heart pills" that say they "contain your heart."

Well then.

I'd say with that package in hand, I'm ready to rock.

Would love to see you Sunday or -- if you'd like -- you can Track Me Here.

I wish all the best to all of you continuing to recover from the storm, and please know that all of us running on Sunday will be thinking of you and of this city. That's just the type of inspiration you need to keep going for 26.2 miles.

“The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald (Mile 16!)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Finally Losing My Mind. And you LIKE IT.

There is a significant chance I have finally lost my mind.

Allow me to explain.

Ever since my long run (now a week and a half ago) and into the first half of my taper I am more and more convinced that there is an inverse relationship between days left to marathon and amount of brain cells I have.

Example 1:
Remember that watch I was all excited about when I blogged about the Perfect running outfit and why you should be impressed by me?  Well, not only now have I had to replace the shorts, but now also my beloved watch has gone bye-bye.

Beloved Purple Garmin FR60

Namely, my watch.

Evidently after completing my longest run and being delirious I simply took off my watch in Central Park. And like, put it on a rock. Or just simply dropped it on the ground. Doesn't really matter, but the point is that I took off my watch for no reason and it never made it home. Fantastic. And they don't really sell the FR60 anymore. So I had to upgrade.
Aside from the unnecessary expenditure and the fact that it DOESN'T COME IN PURPLE (FAIL!), there are actually were some nice upgrades from the FR60 to the 70. The wrist band is weirdly softer and more comfy. It synced up to my footpod way quicker than my old model (coincidence or improvement? I don't know). The buttons on the sides were harder to press, but also ensured there was no unnecessary press-age, if you will.

All in all, a $105 investment purchased on Amazon. Only that "little" an amount because I already had the footpod, which is compatible to both my old and new model.

End of review.

Example 2:
I keep not connecting the words coming out of my mouth to my brain. For example, I might exclaim "Good morning!" to a friend at 6:30pm while standing in the dark waiting for practice to begin. I blame in on the constant teenage-boy like hunger I am experiencing at all times.

Example 3:
I have been talking to my cat. A lot. Like, I think last night we had a full-on conversation about how I do wish he would let me sleep past 6:15 am. Now that I'm not doing morning work-outs (realllly striving for a full 8 hours of sleep and therefore doing my now significantly shorter runs/cross-training in the afternoons when possible),

Net result: Archie has opted to continue waking me at 6:15am.

"I have considered your offer carefully, but upon further review, I will still require breakfast before dawn."

With 10 days to go, this whole "running a marathon thing" has become a battle of skill and wits between my brain...and me. My brain is like this:

But my craziness overpowers my rationale, once moderately intelligent brain and is like this:
Cats and Cake and Running. A direct relationship.

It's okay. People like my crazy. I think they find it endearing. In fact, I decided to steal from one of my new favorite blogs and note for y'all how people are finding me through "the interwebs." Here are the search terms which bring unsuspecting victims to my little online diary of mischief:

Here are some choice keywords that people used this past month:

* Cobra Pose Warrior. Ah yes. I did have a stint with The Yoga. Fully intend to go back to that after these shenanigans are over.

* Sad Cookie Monster: Month after month this brings visitors to me. Not sure why. But sad cookie monster is -- indeed -- a popular search term it turns out. Saris, Face-Punching and Sad Cookie Monster. Find it all Here.

* Barney Stinson. Obvi. Our awesomeness is correlated directly.

* And finally..."work out and be thin and sexy? no"  

Well then.

I guess that just says it all. This is how people are brought to Run, MeriG. Run. With the promise of not getting thinner or sexier. Brilliant.

I guess it's just my charm and wit then. Shall I end with a pun to solidify the non-sexiness of this blog? Sure thing:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Purple Arm-Warmers. The New Little Black Dress?

Last Saturday was the longest training run of the season, capping out at a whopping 20.6 miles. And -- yes -- the point 6 matters when you are running these types of distances. I want full credit.

The run started bright and early at 7 am, which is also about when sunrise hits. I arrived in the Park at the team's designated starting point about 20 minutes early to have time to pee and prep. It was pitch black and 37 degrees.

I was like this:

Although I wore a billion and a half layers to the start -- similar to what I will do on race day -- for the run itself which started in the morning's twilight (with the temp rising to a smoldering 40 or so) I just wore my shorts, TFK tank, and a new addition to the wardrobe: the purple arm warmers.

My pace group before the run. I am the one circled in yellow.

Don't answer that.

Wait, do. If the answer is: Super, Meredith. Super Sexy.

It's like sleeves without a shirt. Genius. The rationale is that I can have my jersey visible and not have to worry about taking clothes off and on while I'm running. And who doesn't like to show a little shoulder?

And we started, and it was great. The route was really cool. It went a little something like this:

We started in the park, ran to the East Side and down first until we could get on the FDR, around the tip of the Island and up the West Side Highway. From there we went through Riverside Park, cut across around 120th and then headed down into the North side of Central Park and back to where we started. Actually a really cool loop, and one I would highly, highly recommend for those who need future NY training runs.

I warmed up seriously after just about 1 mile. Gave a really good indication of what race-day will be like (the temps were pretty right on-par for average Nov. 4th) and why you see runners looking like they are wearing nothing but they seem fine. Because they are. Because they are running far.

I ran next to my friend Jazmin the entire way, as she is a perfect training partner for me. We are a really good pace for eachother, and we have plenty to chat about. There also were a lot of others near our pace (we ran an average of about a 10 minute mile for the run), and with plenty of water fountains along the way it was a nice lil' day.

J and I with our respective matching outfits: white hats, tanks, SAME Lulu shorts and warm warmers. TWINSIES!
The run was supposed to be either 20 or 22 miles (depending on what you wanted to do). I really did have every intention of doing 22 when I started...but then when we hit 20 POINT 6 the coaches were there and basically were like, "Meh, run it...don't run's up to you. Feel free to go down the road a bit and back." Um. I decline. Evidently at this stage of the game we have done all the training we are going to do. The extra mileage would have just been psychological and -- frankly -- I am A-OK.

So what does it feel like after you run that many miles?

At first you're kind of in a state of shock. Immediately after I basically dove into my duffel bag and chugged a muscle milk because your body is just dying to consume some calories. Dying. There is also a stiffness. The TFK coaches are great and they stretch you out after (which does immediately help for sure), and it's great to continue doing that at home and for the subsequent days after these runs. Because the aching and soreness can be quite, um, apparent. What else? Oh, yeah. Sometimes you've lost a toenail or you have a massive blister or an unfortunate chafing situation. That hurts. You take care of that as soon as possible.

But ultimately -- despite all of the above -- I actually was feeling pretty darn great! The emotional joy of accomplishing something that rationally your mind says "uh-uh, that seems improbable" is really cool. It's a mixture of elation and lunacy. I imagine it to be akin to childbirth. Everyone says after, "yes, it hurt...but it was so worth it! It's the good type of pain!"

They are liars and -- to be frank -- I probably am too.

Michele, Me and Jazmin: Lunatics All
So now, with 18 more days to go, what am I doing?

Well, as far as work-outs go, we are officially in the "taper" period. Meaning that I am running easy workouts and no more crazy weekend runs. I mean, I have one more 12 left. But that's not crazy anymore.

I just read that last paragraph again and I understand that I need to punch myself in the face for writing that. Aligned.

Okay, so this week I do a few runs, and then next week same. The week before the marathon I take it super duper easy leading up to race day.

What else? Okay, so lots of stretching and healthy eating (meh?) and staying away from sick people. Now is note the time for my body to become a wonderland of disease.

Also prepping for race day. I want to have every single little detail ironed out before that weekend. When am I going to go to the expo? What food exactly do I want at my home that morning and to pack with me? What clothes am I wearing that I will throw away? Where will my parents meet me? And the important question: WHERE IS THE AFTER PARTY? (More on that to come this week for those interested!)

I hope you, too, are getting as excited as I am! It's been a long road and I couldn't be more excited to see the light at the end of the tunnel! I'll be sending out an email soon to friends and family on tips/tricks on where and how to watch me on Sunday, November 4th. And where and how to enjoy a beer with me after.

Let's do this, ladies and gentlemen. It's taper time.

Friday, October 12, 2012

I'm Not Mad. Just Crazy.

I just finished my pasta and packed my bag for tomorrow. It's another Friday night in the world of MeriG running. But what makes this special, is that it's the last of these such Fridays (at least for a time). After I conquer tomorrow's 20-22 mile run (TBD based on how much I DIE), I officially begin the "tapering" portion of marathon training. Tapering, as Wikipedia would note, is the practice of reducing exercise in the days leading up to a competition.

And we are -- my faithful followers -- counting now in terms of days rather than weeks.

I have been training, officially, this year, for 20 weeks. 20. Long. Tough. Weeks. Of awesomeness. And it all boils down to the next three. In 22 days I will be running the NYC Marathon. Like a boss.

I do have to say though, for the record, that I'm feeling a bit nervous about tomorrow. Last week's 17 was probably the most delightfully, joyfully, NOT OKAY run I've ever had. Nothing in particular was wrong. Nothing was in pain (other than EVERYTHING). I just felt off. Like I wasn't able to complete the run. Like every mile was pushing me to my limit.

Not cool.

But then I went out to brunch with some of the girls I've been running with through TFK. And we got cheesy grits. And that was cool.

These are not the actual cheesy grits. This is a representation of cheesy grits. A reenactment of cheesy grits a la Rescue 911 or I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant.

So you can understand my concern about running 3-5 more miles just 7 days later. With no promise of cheesy grits at the end.

But persevere we must, because there is a higher goal at hand here. And we must not lose sight of that:

But aside from training for The Walking Dead to descend upon us, there is an additional reason I have done this to myself the past 20 weeks of my life (not including the half marathons before that...and last year's debacle..) And that is the fact that this motto rings no truer to any other:

True. That.

...or is it?

Running provides an outlet for me unparalleled to any other I've ever had. With the exception of nail biting. But my Mom says that's not as productive a hobby.

I am a stressed out person as a whole. Very A-type. Very particular. Very easily made to be nervous or anxious. And that's really never going to change. But running gives me something to not only neutralize the angst and even feel better. It provides clear, healthy goals for me to achieve and clear, healthy structure to my life. Allegedly (non-runners may claim that it's actually proof I should be locked up).

I'm not making this up. Other people say so too. But that's neither here nor there.

What is up for debate is the Running Is Cheaper Than Therapy motto itself.

This article from Runner's World is about interesting legal cases. And evidently one of them says that Running is NOT Cheaper Than Therapy! To quote:

Not necessarily, said an Illinois appellate court judge in February's landmark "American Psychological Association v. Cafe Press" decision. This claim rests on a number of dubious assumptions, the judge ruled, including a given runner's mental health insurance coverage and/or co-pay; the number and location of races that runner may enter in a typical year; and that runner's penchant for buying shoes and jackets and GPS watches beyond what he or she really needs. As a result, retailers peddling shirts, hoodies, or stickers emblazoned with this quote are on very thin ice.

And he just may be right. When I think about the cost of this little hobby, it can be...a little humbling. New shoes every 300 miles or so. Gear for many different weather types. Socks. Gu. Muscle Milks and Gatorades. Entry fees for races. And so on and so forth.

So maybe with proper insurance I would have been better off with a therapist and pint of Ben & Jerry's. Probably more efficient timewise as well. 


Well, shoulda, woulda, coulda. I'm off to bed now to prepare for tomorrow's session. I think we're making real progress.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Countdown Begins: T -30 Days!

My second-to-last looooong run is tomorrow (17 miles bright and early!) 

Tomorrow looks to be a gorgeous day, so I'm looking forward to getting my lil' jog in there. Please, please, please start putting in good vibes for Marathon Sunday weather. I'm, like, not into running in the sleet. Not into it at all.

Oh, also, I've already eaten two bagels today. Thought you should know. And in addition to my ultra-carbo-load, now the full day-before-long-run water chugging commences.

Happy Friday to all you crazy kids who are not running and still have a social life! I, on the other hand, am looking forward to laying out my clothes (no Major Mishaps for me this week!), packing my bag full of drinks and food, and having some cuddly TV couch-time with Archie. And then going to bed at the ripe old time of 9pm. 

If only the words of one Barney Stinson were true...

What am I going to do after training ends and I have to be a normal social human being again?!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ask MeriG: The Need for Speed

So, we all know I am running far. Established.

But what about the speed? My goal time is below 4:30 and stretch goal below 4:15. Based on my best half marathon time -- according to all sources of time estimates -- my marathon goal should be do-able.

Let's look back at a little history, shall we? When you sign up with races through major race organizers such as The New York Road Runners they will track your time so you can look back at historical records. They show the date, your age at the time, distance, total time, average time per mile, and other metrics such as your place overall, place within your age/gender bracket, etc.

Looking back at my past races we see the following (from most recent race to least:

Race Name Date
Distance Net Pace

(miles) Time per
Brooklyn Half-Marathon 19-May12
13.1 1:58:49 9:05
NYC Half 2012 18-Mar-12
13.1 2:03:07 9:24
NYRR New York Mini 10K 11-Jun-11
6.2 0:56:13 9:04
More/Fitness Half-Marathon 3-Apr-11
13.1 2:08:07 9:46
More/fitness Half-Marathon 25-Apr-10
13.1 2:10:07 9:55
Colon Cancer 15K Challenge 28-Mar-10
9.3 1:34:35 10:10
NYRR Half-Marathon  30-May09
13.1 2:11:39 10:02
Homecoming Scotland Run 10K 11-Apr-09
6.2 1:02:06 10:00
NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon 3-May-08
13.1 2:20:05 10:41

Take a look at the pace per mile. From 2008 when I start racing to today I have gotten faster to the point that now a 9:00 or 9:30 is far more comfortable than a 10:00 mile to me. But how? 

Great question.

Honestly, I want to say I followed diligently some plan and was, like, super devoted and crazy. Or that I have natural talent. But I would be lying very blatantly if I did so. 

No, before this year it honestly was just from experience. I knew more what to expect from races and I think years of made me better. Practice, if you will.

After my Super Sad Injury last year, though, I did a few things that definitely made me faster for the two halves I ran this year. They were:

1) I ran less distances. Because I had to. But it became a blessing in disguise because I focused on my form and my pace for those fewer miles. Less can be mo'. Fo sho.'

2) As I've chatted about many times before, I do other stuff. I swam laps and did Deep Water Running last winter. I had a brief stint with Yoga in the spring (been a bit delinquent with that recently too). Every Tuesday -- without fail -- I go to my kray kray Total Body Conditioning class at my gym at 6:30 in the am like a complete lunatic. Any and all of these things -- which ultimately help promote muscle tone, strength and flexibility -- are good. Running only? Baaaad.

3) I finally started doing interval training. If you look at sample training for race schedules (you can find them on the interwebs) the majority of reputable ones will have some sort of interval training wherein you do different speeds/distances in certain patterns. They're called different things and -- up until this year -- I was like, "eh. Nah."

But I think they work actually. These "running experts" might be on to something...

For interval training outside I think you need to either be with a group or coach or have a Garmin watch such as the one I have:

Garmin FR60
It doesn't have GPS, but I don't find I need it since I'm in the city and know where I am (generally). Plus I usually carry my iPhone. This watch will track distance and average pace, though. This really is the only way you'll know how fast you run and how fast you are running during your workouts. 

Also it comes in PURPLE. 

Word of warning though: Make sure it's calibrated and accurate before you get your heart set on your pace. I personally had thought I was running faster and longer than I was. And then I found out my watch was just wrong when I actually had it on during a race and it said I was at mile, like, 1.3 when I was at mile 1. And I was really slow after all. And sad.

The other thing you can do is what I honestly do most often, which is the treadmill. Other runners hate it so do what you will. It's your life. Whatevs.

An example of a 4 mile speed interval might be something like this:

* 0.5 Mile Warm-up job
* 0.25 At your goal time (so, if you normally run a 9:30 and want to be at a 9:00, as an example)
* 0.25 At :30 seconds slower than race goal (so in example above, a 10:00)
Repeat intervals until you reach 3.5 miles and then do a half mile cool-down jog.

Listen, I'm not a coach, and I'm not an expert (yet), so I highly recommend you do some research on this. But I'll also say this: I didn't do research and I am totally baller and getting faster. 

This image comes up first if one was to to Google "Awesome Cheetah", which is how I have equated myself.
And I would do again. Gladly.

In sum, worry about getting started before you worry about getting faster. Believe it or not, it will come naturally once you get more comfortable with running.

Once you are comfortable I recommend you either break your ankle in order to force change or follow a plan. The latter might be better, but I don't know. I'm no Doctor.

More credible source

Ultimately, I wouldn't worry. Not to be, like, mean or anything...but if you're asking me for advice? You're probably not going to win the race. So just get out there and enjoy it and don't worry about the speed. Unless you are crazy and competitive like me and then -- frankly - God save you.

So there you have it. Hope that helped. Until next time, friends!