Thursday, February 13, 2014

Holding Myself Back

I've started reaching the long mileage portion of my Boston Marathon training. This is now -- to be clear -- the fifth marathon I've trained for (count 'em...New York '11...New  York '12...Miami '13...New York '13...and now Boston). This should be old hat by now, right? 

I have two points I'd like to make about this:

1) It is never easy to run 14 or 16 or 26.2 miles. Never. This is not easier now, but rather perhaps just a bit less daunting? Perhaps a bit more familiar? But not easy. Nuh-uh.

2) This:

Outside is a disaster, and Archie is not impressed. 

During my New York and Miami training seasons I had my Team for Kid group or friends from the group that were there pretty consistently, not to mention running friends such as Kevin and Jen who made regular appearances in my training schedule. 

For this particular marathon training, my running friends have wisely gone into hibernation and I am out there on my own.

If you are a Les Mis fan, please do yourself a favor and watch Lea Salonga perform the greatest version of On My Own ever from the 10th Anniversary "Dream Cast." And then watch all the 10th Anniversary videos. You're welcome.

Two weekends ago I had done my normal Friday night spaghetti dinner and was readying myself for my normal early bedtime, and I was simply dreading the solo Saturday morning 12-miler I'd have to do. The idea of being out there in the cold for two hours alone was honestly the most demotivating feeling ever.

I was missing my running friends and the social aspect that I have come to associate so strongly with my long runs. I've gotten to know new people and I've gotten to make and spend time with some amazing friends. We commiserate, we cheer each other on, and we celebrate our mini-accomplishments. Without that camaraderie I'm just, like, running for hours. And that's decidedly not as fun.

Now, I've known for a while that running stores offer group runs. Nike, The Running Store, Lululemon and Jack Rabbit not only all offer runs, but I am actually on their mailing lists, following them on Facebook and on Twitter to see when these runs happen. And I've never gone. Not a once.

"That's....weird," you are saying to yourself. "You're very social and you're always up for meeting new people. Why haven't you been, MeriG? This seems like a no-brainer to me!"

Well, the short answer is: I didn't have the confidence to go. I was scared.

Here I am, just over 9 weeks away from running my third marathon. I have run 11 official Half Marathons. I now have a regular workout schedule that includes long runs, speed and hill shorter runs, yoga, and strength training. I eat poorly. (C'mon I can't be perfect!) But you would think that at this point after regularly running and working out for 6-ish years I would be somewhat confident in my abilities. Yes? 

In my mind I'm still the chubby kid getting picked last in gym class. (Damn you, Mr. Coffin! Damn you!) I'm still the girl who more sauntered the mile rather than ran it. I'm the nerd, not the athlete.

And so, I assumed I would be too slow to keep up with all the ammaaazzzingggg people who go to running clubs. I pictured them and I got scared.

My view of them

My view of me

On Saturday morning I woke up around 8 and while I was getting ready I couldn't stop thinking about Jack Rabbit. It's a store I've gone to for years and I knew they that had a 9am group run that was advertised to be 10-11 miles. I decided then and there that I would stop being so lame and stop thinking and just put on my big girl pants (in this case warm running tights) and go check it out. I put money and a metro card in my fuel belt in case I wanted to bail out midway through or in case they left me behind or in case I hated it....and I was on my way.

The group met at the store (UES location, 84th and Lex) where we stood in a circle and introduced ourselves to the group. Some people were clearly regulars, but there were a bunch of other newbies. We had an opportunity to drop off bags and coats, use the restroom, get some water or grab a free Gu, and we were on our way.

There was a group leader keeping tags of our little band of runners, and he led us on a route that took us up through Harlem and into Washington Heights on an out-and-back run that culminated in some amazing views and new terrain (although a bit icy for my taste...but I suppose that's unavoidable this year.)

Over the couple of hours that I was out there I not only saw some new sights, but I also got to talk to some really great people. And the time truly flew by. It was the type of training run I had learned to enjoy in the past and that I had really been missing.

There were people faster than me, and slower than me. Runners sped up, they slowed down, and they waited for each other after stoplights. I had absolutely nothing to be worried about, as I could more than keep up with the pack. 

In the past, I was so worried that I wouldn't be able to keep up or that I would hold the group back...that I never actually had tried. And that's really the shame of it all. I went back to Jack Rabbit last week for a second time and plan on checking out the Upper West Side location this weekend (assuming mother nature doesn't want to put a wrench in that plan!) I had no reason to think so negatively about myself and my abilities. No, I'll never be the fastest in a group. And, yes, there was a point I may have been the slowest. But either way, who cares!? We're all out there to have a good time and not to win a race. AND I CAN GET PICKED IN GYM. [Ahem, my apologies...I guess there's still some stuff deep in side of here...carry on.)

I notice that others are often more impressed of my accomplishments than I am. I finished the NYC Marathon in 4:24. To others, that's amazing. To me? I sometimes see the sub-4 that seems unattainable. Others are so impressed that I'd even fathom 12 miles in the cold, whereas I just saw the fact that I can't run faster than a 9-minute mile. 

I'm trying to stop comparing. I need to start viewing my accomplishments and my abilities more on their own merit. Because there's a lot of that merit! And honestly, there always was. Although I always want to improve, I need to recognize that I have the ability to keep up with the pack today. Doubt is the only thing keeping me back, and not my speed or my stamina.

I can't wait to see where my run takes me this week!

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I am running the Boston Marathon with the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge! I have raised $6,665 towards my goal of $10,000! Find our more or donate here:

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Race Recap: The Coldest Run. Ever.

Last week, I ran the Fred Lebow Manhattan Half Marathon in Central Park. It was my 11th official Half which I had signed up for as part of my Boston Marathon training (11 weeks to go!)

When I signed up to run Boston as part of the Dana-Farber team, I knew that I would need to do two things:
1) Raise money (and it's going great!)
2) Train in the winter (meh....)
I thought I knew what I was getting into with the winter running due to my brief training for Miami (exactly one year ago!) However, it turns out that last year was mild and that this winter is THE WORST THING EVER.

So I've been mostly cooped up inside, falling more in love with my treadmill by the day. But now that I am in the 12+ mileage zone for training, I can escape being outside no longer.

I woke up last Sunday morning to this:

With the wind, the real feel was solidly in the single digits. Wonderful.

Once I was out there? It honestly wasn't so bad. The hardest part of the experience is actually just having the mental ability to get out of your toasty bed and getting dressed.

Ever want to do something like this? Here's exactly what you need to do and wear step-by-step to to succeed:

STEP 1: Base Layer
* Thick Tights
* Thick wool socks (not the normal every day ones)
* TIGHT base layer made of hi-tech gear like the one I'm wearing from Craft
* Hat (in my opinion ear warmer alone won't cut it

STEP 2: Middle layer
* Warm Jacket (I'm wearing a Brooks jacket here that I love, love, love)
* Neck warmer thing that you can pull up to your nose ($26 from a running store)

STEP 3: Top Layer
Hood on over the hat, neck thingy pulled up
* Water-proof wind breaker jacket
* Thumbs up

STEP 4: Important Final Touches
* Sunglasses for glare or in case wind bother eyes
* Gloves (I recommend ones that have a windbreaker that you can pull over the fingertips to basically create mittens)
* Gu (obsessed with the new Salty Caramel flavor!)
* Headphones
* Hand Warmers
* Money, Credit Card and Metro Card (in case I need supplies or to bail!)
* Vaseline lip balm (SO helpful)

And that's how you run in single-digit weather. Simple, right? Right? Totally fine....

:::To be clear, I am rolling my eyes at myself right now:::

Once everything was on, I was officially sweating in my apartment, so I headed out towards the starting line (and by that, I mean I jumped immediately into a cab).

At first I was not into it at all. I wanted to direct the cab driver to turn back to my apartment, or perhaps to make a stop at a diner for some pancakes so we could forget the whole thing ever happened. 

I'm so cold, Jack...

Why would I do this to myself? I was tired. And cranky. And freezing. And I certainly didn't feel like doing two full loops of Central Park. Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

But then I looked around.

And I realized that the morning was gorgeous and that the people around me were electric with positive energy. I realized that I was pushing myself to do something I had never done before by running in these temperatures. I realized that I had invested a pretty penny in all the layers I was wearing and that I was totally safe. It was only my mind stopping me. Physically...I was actually going to be fine.

It was only about a 10 minute wait at the starting line (timed perfectly by a well worth it cab ride to the start rather than arriving early or late due to public transportation) and we were off.

I met up with a new friend from my Dana-Farber group at the start and we ran a good portion of the race together. Between the company and my blood starting to flow after less than a mile, pretty soon I truly wasn't cold any more. In fact, I had to throw away my hand warmers, lower my neck thingy to my neck off my face, and take off my hood.

It was....weirdly okay. Yeah, I know. Evidently the hundreds of dollars of merchandise from the running stores does pay off!

The NYRR had done a great job getting the roads clear, so there was no ice. This was crucial and I honestly would not have done the race if there was ice on the roads. With my injury prone ankles and my clumsy demeanor, the risk of injury simply wouldn't have been worth it.

Me on ice.

The volunteers were absolutely amazing. While the runners were just fine and dandy as we were moving and generating our own heat, there were tons of volunteers cheering us on and at water stations who must have been absolutely dying. They really were the impressive ones that day: not us! 

The most interesting thing to me about the sub-freezing race was that you'd get to a station and the water and Gatorade would be FROZEN. You had to actually crack your cup against the table before drinking it. Craziness!

I did one loop, and then the second. Uneventfully (in a good way!) I finished in just shy of 2:05. This to me was a great time considering I was running as a training run as opposed to a goal time and it was literally my coldest run ever! I was really proud of myself.

If I had it to do over again, the only thing I would do differently is actually run the mile home as opposed to walk it. I started walking and was fine, but suddenly I was nearly overcome with the cold.

The sweat and cold had caught up with me, and by then my legs had kind of seized up and I wasn't able to comfortably start running again. For the future? I'll take a cab the short mile or run. Lesson learned.

I arrived back home and took the most amazing hot shower of my life. Archie remained unimpressed.

That afternoon I got to celebrate my accomplishment by having Afternoon Tea at the Mandarin Oriental with my Mom and Aunt in honor of my Aunt's birthday! It was a wonderful afternoon and the perfect warming cap to a chilly day.

Two of the most wonderful women I know: My beautiful Aunt and Mom!!
Sandwiches! Scones! Tea! Yum all around.
What was really special about the day -- besides the wonderful company -- was the view! We had window seats overlooking the snowy park.

While we sipped hot tea and munched on little treats, I got to gaze out the window and see the park where I had just accomplished my 11th Half Marathon and coldest run of all time. It was an amazing vantage point to reflect on a new milestone (or perhaps a new level of crazy?) in the Run MeriG experience.

Winter running has its ups and it has its downs. I'm learning to love some things about it, and certainly am gaining some much needed perspective. Yesterday's 35 degree run, as an example, seemed downright balmy!

But as much as I'm learning to appreciate the cold-weather running more and more, there's one thing that remains certain:

Queen Elsa > Groundhog!!!!!!!!

* * * * * * * * * *

I am running the Boston Marathon with the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge! I have raised $6,320 towards my goal of $10,000! Find our more or donate here: