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:


  1. Hold the phone. There are SALTED CARAMEL GUS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? BRB... ordering a box on amazon.

  2. Also... I should probably sign up for some races so I have an excuse to eat that whole box. Bc we both know how much I love gu