Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Perfect Mind

So, I'm about to come clean to you here. I feel like I've been holding a little something back and it's time to just get real.

I am a total, utter freak.

For 79 weeks (yes, you heard me) I have tracked all of my workouts. All of them.

It started innocently in April last year to ensure I was not increasing my mileage by more than 10% each week (one of the culprits -- in my opinion -- of my downfall in training for the 2011 NYC Marathon. Seems reasonable.

It also helped with knowing when to change my shoes (every 300-400 miles for me and my delicate arches, for those counting). It also made sure that I added in enough cross-training which I also firmly stand by as an injury prevention tool.

Then...the hurricane.

As I was planning for Miami, I wanted to see what I had done that got me to a place where I felt marathon-ready despite, you know, not running the marathon. So I started using my past plan to design my future.

And then I brought the color coding into it as I began 2013 training. And that's where we stand today.

So, without further ado, would you like to see the schedule of a mad woman? Who is training for her 4th marathon in hopes of running her second? Here it is:


Let's walk through this together, shall we? Let's.

It started early July when my third NYC training adventure began (although if you'd like to see anything between then and April 2012, I can surely provide). Lavender means a "normal" run (and purple is my favorite color!). I try to do these at a good solid pace, but nothing crazy. Orange is strength-training and yellow is cross-training. Green is my [often unsuccessful] attempt at doing yoga once a week. Rest days are in a cleansing white. Red alert means "quality workouts" with hills or speed. That's something new I've added in this year versus the past to get stronger and faster. And they are hard. So red.

Total weekly mileage is totaled on the right so I can make sure I'm progressing in a good orderly fashion. Notes (such as the upcoming nuptials of my friend Mel) that I'll need to keep in mind that week are in the last column.

Upcoming runs are in grey and then I "actualize" weekly.

I'm really sorry, that must have scared you. I scared myself a little. But it feels good to get that off of my chest. I can get crazy.

However, on the other hand...

So, if you'd like to refer to my spreadsheet, you'll see I have 20 miles coming up this Saturday (with new shoes coming up the week after! Oh happy day!)

So how am I doing today? Aside from the obvious mental deficiencies which led me to the spreadsheet?

Well, after a crazy Total Body Conditioning class yesterday and a brutal hill repeat workout on Cat Hill in Central Park this morning I'm kind of like...

But I'm feeling like I'm dying in a normal, non-boot-needing type way. And knocking on wood every 30 seconds. And just really, really, really looking forward to [possibly] running the NYC Marathon this year on November 3rd.

Save the damn date. Because with a crazy mind like mine, you know there's really only one thing keeping me from running the 2013 NYC Marathon this year.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Gym Class Hierarchy

This morning, like all Tuesdays, I attended my Total Body Conditioning class at the 76th New York Sports Club at 6:30 am. You heard me. AM. Ante Meridien.

It's a crazy thing I've been doing for 3+ years to strengthen my muscles and get them primed for all the crazy running I've been doing. I had a sports doctor tell me that having strong arm, core and leg muscles is crucial for running, so basically I'm in a cycle of crazy.

Much like this.

So what makes this class so good, and why do I keep going back?

Well, unlike some of the other Total Body classes I've taken, I leave not only feeling like I worked all my muscle groups, but I'm also sweating to the bone. Although that second part isn't hard to do, considering I sweat during basic yoga. Or walking down the street. Or sitting by myself reading a book.

The instructor, Serena, runs the class almost like a boot camp. Sets of 2-3 different activities separated by jumping jacks, mountain climbers, planks, and other means of torture. All at 6:30am. Sounds horrible, but the music is great and the workout I get truly rivals those of the boutique studios in the area. You never stop moving, every class is different, and she pushes you to your max.

In all? I actually leave class feeling pretty grand and I feel myself getting stronger the more I take it. You know I'm a lunatic, is what it is.

So with that background, I would now like to describe a phenomenon which I would like to refer to as the "Hierarchy of the Morning Gym Class." It's a social status, a Game of Thrones-esque situation (if you will) within the class.

So what is the hierarchy then? Well I'll tell ya. When I started taking the class, I began in the back. Scared. Unable to do many of the exercises all the way through and using weights so light, they almost floated away. I couldn't do anything other than girl push-ups. You get the picture.

But the back of the class fills up quickly and is very crowded with other scared people. So within a few weeks I ventured to the middle. It's safe there. You have some breathing room...but you're not with the crazy people in the front.

But then I started getting stronger and wanting to see my form in front of the mirror. Because I'm vain. And people were all up in my view. And I need to see myself like this:

This is how I think I look when I take a gym class.

So then I was the second row. Non-committal. In front of me were who I will refer to as the "it" girls. Serena seemed to know them. She used them as examples and pushed them to use harder / heavier weights. They knew what they were doing so you could watch them to see what was up. They also knew each other and chit-chatted before class.

And then the "it" girls...over time...started to leave. One by one. Maybe a marriage. Maybe a neighborhood change. Maybe they just got bored.

But suddenly...there was no front row. My god...The second row IS the front row.

And then everything was different. No more girl push-ups and light weights for this girl. No more hiding in the back and skipping reps. I'm evidently in win it. And, between you and me? Sometimes people even (:::gasp:::) talk to me before class.

Holy. Cow.

After 3+ years of inadvertently political mind-gaming the situation, I had won a battle I did not know I had even entered. I am at the top of a pyramid that no one cares about. I'm like:

Even if I don't want to be...

And that, my friends, is the Hierarchy of the Gym Class.

   *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *     

Before I go, I'll leave you with photos of one of my top crushes right now: Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He's starring in the upcoming feature film Don Jon, which I want to see despite my somewhat irrational hatred of Scarlett Johansson.

Hey, girl.

He is 32, he is talented, single and HE IS JEWISH. That image you see above where I am typing now. Is of a Jewish man. Like...what....why...aren't....we married...

Oh hey

I'm not only talented and successful, but I'm also a fun guy to be around!

But damn, can I also get classy.

Also, can we just remember when he was on Third Rock From the Sun? And how good that show was?

Ah the 90s hair. You and JTT rocked it well.

That show was VCR-taping worthy. Almost as much as this one:

And, of course....47 days to go!!!!!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Party Like It's 1620

I went home last weekend to run my second (annual?) Run to the Rock Half Marathon. It held incredibly special significance for me because -- although I was running as part of training rather than to PR -- it was my 10th official Half Marathon.

The race began in Plymouth's Myles Standish State Forest where my fan club showed me off at the starting line.

There were 469 runners that completed the Run to the Rock -- definitely a different experience than the 25,000 or so that run the NYC or Brooklyn races.

The day could not have been more gorgeous. Perfect sunny weather (better to get sunburned by, my dear) and a lovely course route through America's Hometown.


Lovely, lovely.

Am I a photographer? Or a Marathoner? I DON'T KNOW ANYMORE.

After mile 4 we left the forest and I spotted my parents. See if you can do the same:

They were so cute! And I could tell the other runners really appreciated their cheering when the alternative was silence and only the sound of our pounding feet and breathing.

HI GUYS!!!!!

I personally loved that silence, though. I'm so often inundated with noise and stimulation in NY races and runs in general! I didn't put on my headphones once in this race. I just enjoyed being where I was, in the moment, feeling healthy and pretty awesome.

However, amongst the zen and the awesome I couldn't help but think..... OH MY GOD, THE HILLS! WHEN WILL THEY STOP!? Answer? Never. Not at all for 13 miles. It was an incredibly hilly run, but since I wasn't racing for time? And wasn't being insane like last year and adding 5 miles to the run? I wasn't concerned.

The course did get a bit "iffy" at points aside from the hills. Like a two mile stretch on a somewhat busy two-lane road where we had to stay right of these cones in the gutter of the road. Single file racing is a bit weird. And when you pass someone you took your life into your hands. Keeps things interesting I suppose.

Do you want to live? Or to win? Your choice.

Other parts (for most of the second part of the race) went through pretty residential areas. Decidedly not a New York City experience.

My Dad snapped some pretty good photos at their FOUR cheering spots that really captured how I was feeling, which was a perfect mixture of "YEEEHAAAWWWW" and "WOOO-EEEEEE!"

Lifelong cheerleaders Val and Rob were standing outside of their house in the back half of the race, holding a sign and cheering me on. It was so great to see them! My good friend Andrea was also with my parents their third race stop around mile 9.

There were just a smattering of spectators the entire route up until the final stretch to the finish, so it almost got awkward that my parents were there cheering incredibly loudly for me. Four times. And Val and Rob. And Andrea. Loudly. Shouting at me.

Almost awkward. But instead it was TOTALLY AWESOME. I had the biggest fan club ever and it was AMAZING! It made me smile like this:

I'm gonna run fast!!!

The route took us through forest and by a random farm. It took us on windy residential roads and hilly highways. I ran by the streets where my friends lived in high school and the streets where some of them live today. It wove past my favorite breakfast place and the hospital where I was born and where family members have been treated when sick.

The whole time I was running I kept thinking this is my house. Boom. I was running this Half Marathon through the town I grew up in! I knew those [incredibly hilly!] roads and I know the people that live here. I'm gonna run FAST. Big, multi-thousand person races are amazing and I do recommend them as a good experience for a runner. But this? This was something else.

I entered the downtown area around mile 12 and really turned it up as I approached the finish line. A.K.A. Plymouth Rock. The mystical stone where the Pilgrims landed. Which seems very counter-intuitive that they would aim for this small rock after sailing across the Atlantic. Instead of just going to shore like every other boat that ever has sailed to a beach.

Nonetheless, I turned onto the Waterfront (where the Rock lives) and sprinted to the finish. On the way I passed Diane (from last entry fame) and her mom, and my parents. 

I hadn't looked at my watch the whole way, and didn't set it to track my pace. Despite that, and despite the hills, I had beaten my time from the year before by 10 minutes and had gotten my 3rd best half marathon time ever at 2:00:10. 


Mom, Diane's Mom, Me and Diane at the Rock!

Hey. Cool rock.

No one knew you had running super powers, you crazy Rock. You can be my new mascot.

Add caption

The best, most supportive fan club in the whole wide world.

My town also had a free barbecue for runners (small donation for family) at the end, which was just so cute and nice! My Dad and I hung out there for a while after.
Add caption
All in all, an amazing day fueled by amazing friends and family. I felt so great after that I couldn't help but think:

Until next time...I leave you with the greatest running photo of all time:

Monday, September 2, 2013

Run, Eat, Drink. Repeat steps 2 and 3.

How was your Labor Day weekend? Are you as sad as I that it's over?

The weekend started for me with the last summer half-day Friday we get for work. :::Sigh::: It was fun while it lasted.

To enjoy the day, mourn the passing of summer, and celebrate the beginnings of fall (my favorite season!), Kelly and I sat outside our favorite neighborhood joint and enjoyed our first Sam Adams Octoberfests of the year.

Hello lovelies. You make it much easier to say goodbye to summer!

Now, Kelly brought up an excellent point. Should one be drinking beers when one has an 18-miler to run tomorrow?

The correct answer? Probably not. My answer? As long as you drink plenty of water with them (and while you run), you're good to go. 

Training is, has been, and will continue to be a very important part of my life. But it's not the only part. And I think with all these years and years of training, I'm learning more and more to balance the two and to have a bit more fun with it. Back in 2011 when I started training for these shenanigans, I would get incredibly nervous every single Friday for my Saturday runs. I'd really stress myself out! I still have my moments now and again where I get some butterflies before I start, but I've learned to make them more butterflies of excitement versus butterflies of terror and fear. 

So what do you need to be excited instead of scared? Here's the list:

1) A good route (that I know includes bathrooms and water fountains!)
2) My fuel belt, stocked with water, gatorade, more gus than I need, a credit card, my ID, money, my keys, and my cell phone (oh....just that?)
3) Good clothes that I know will work (i.e. not chafe me awkwardly and will hold up to the sweating)
4) A stellar running buddy

College roomie Jen is an excellent candidate for #4, and she did not disappoint for this, the longest run to-date of the NYC Marathon (Alleged) training season.

I had planned out that good route I mentioned which would bring us from my apartment, down the East River, over the Queensboro bridge, into Queens for a hot minute, over the bridge to Roosevelt Island, circle the island twice, and then back. Phew! It's a good route that is mostly flat except for being able to practice the dreaded Queensboro, which we will hit on Marathon Day (maybe) at mile 16-17 before entering Manhattan. It's a loooooong slow incline, which makes it a doosie!

View of the Queensboro bridge from Roosevelt island
The day was incredibly humid, but we muddled through by taking it slow and steady, having lots to catch up on to distract us, and stopping often for water refills (as I was loosing liquid at an impressive pace).

Hey, cool lighthouse!

Obligatory Roomie selfie (with my fancy PMC hat)

If you've never been to Roosevelt Island, it's worth a try! You can get there via the F train or the tram (or via running...) for those of you in NY.

I haven't been in over a year when I did this route for the first time with Team For Kids. Something new since I've been before is the FDR Four Freedoms Park which opened in October of last year.

This park resides on the southernmost tip of the small island (less than 4 miles to run around) and is a monument to FDR and the four freedoms he spoke to in his 1941 State of the Union address.

I thought it was a lovely park and I love the four freedoms ideal (as shown etched on the stone in the picture above) that the park stands for. We stopped a bit to be tourists, and Jen and I really enjoyed it as a fun, unexpected surprise.

After the run, I refueled on bagels and Gatorade, stretched, and took a long nap next while Archie looked on.

Enjoy your nap. I'll sit here and stare and wait. Don't mind me.

I weirdly woke up, 18 miles and 3+ hours done, feeling fine. Like, just slightly sore but not as incapacitated as I usually am for these types of endeavors.

Maybe it was the slower pace or the nice long nap or additional stretching...or maybe the fact that I know my childhood bff Diane was arriving any moment for a visit!

Diane and I on the 3rd of July this year in Boston. This is basically us in a nutshell.
While here, we did a lot of eating mostly in the Asian genres (she has lived in both Japan and Korea, so I look to her to expand my food horizons!) and maintained our tradition of late-night Karaoke singing along with some of my other pals.

I like to do the private room Karaoke with a small group because I will not sing in a public forum. I know I'm not necessarily the "greatest" singer of all time. Close. But not the greatest.

However, once I get in that little room and get that mic, I'm like:

And then I'm like...

We also did unlimited Sangria brunch on Sunday. So basically I ran and then we ate and drank and ate and drank and ate and drank....forever. 

Now I am watching one of the great movies of our time while I gear up for a short week ahead.

Next post will be after I run my 10th (Ah!!!!) Half Marathon in Plymouth next week. 

Archie and I (yes, he is a Jewish cat), wish a sweet and happy New Year to those celebrating! L'Shanah Tova!