Up Next: The Chicago Marathon

Marathon number 6 is fast approaching: the 2019 Chicago marathon

Even though I am a native New Yorker who frequently participates in NYRR events, my plans to complete their 9+1 program in 2018, to earn a guaranteed spot in the 2019 race were thwarted when my cousin Jen announced her wedding date – November 2, 2019. AKA the day before the marathon. Which would totally be ok, if the wedding was local… but Jen lives in Atlanta and, dare I say it, I love her more than marathons, and there was no way I could be fully present at her wedding the night before the race and then somehow catch a flight back to NYC and get my butt to the athletes village on Staten Island before 7:30 a.m. So, I bowed out of the NYC marathon for 2019, since there will always be another race, and started my search for an alternate fall marathon.

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The real bummer of this? I had already made a pact with Mike to run NYC 2019 with him as his first marathon, but thankfully he has forgiven my transgression, and we will make up for the missed shared finish line when we complete the 2020 Dopey challenge together – but I suppose that will be a story for another day.

So, I started clicking about the internet, looking for a new fall goal. Maybe I would aim to complete a half iron man in the fall? I played with this idea, but ultimately felt like I still have so much left to give to the marathon, and found two race options. The local Suffolk county full marathon at the end of October, or the Chicago full, which is in mid October. I entered the lottery for Chicago, crossing my fingers that I would get my chance to visit the windy city, and was pleasantly surprised when my name got pulled the day of the lotto: I would be taking on my second world marathon major!

I then began to consider the logistics: Who would go with me? Where would I stay? When would I head there?

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Well the who was easy – Dennis agreed to head to Chicago with me, as neither of us have been there before. I managed to earn a companion pass with southwest, so it made our flights a bit simpler as well. Thank God for points! The hotel I flip-flopped about a lot, looking at different websites, and eventually booking one through the Chicago marathon housing. I toyed with heading to Chicago a few days early so we would get a chance to take in all of the sights, but ultimately our work schedules lead to us deciding to pick a flight the morning before the race. So with travel plans all set, my next consideration was the really important one: the training plan.

In the past with marathons, I have followed different schedules – sometimes using the runners world plans, or the hal higdon ones available online. After a lot of reading, I ultimately decided to try something new this time around: Hanson’s marathon method. A big part of the Hanson method is the idea of cumulative fatigue, so there are higher mileage weekday runs, but the long weekend runs max out at 16 miles. If we are being honest, I see myself going beyond 16 miles for my own sanity, as that just doesn’t feel long enough mentally, but maybe by the time I work up to them in this training cycle I will have more trust in the method, which has brought success to so many runners.

So for now, my plan is simple. For the next month or so I am aiming to maintaining 25-35 miles of running a week, with regular biking and swimming mixed in. Once training officially begins in May, it is going to mean a lot of early mornings for me, but I like to think that I will be up to the challenge – after all, growth only happens outside of your comfort zone.

The 2018 Wineglass Marathon

Honestly, I am not sure where to start with this post. I feel like I should feel disappointed after a less-than-stellar marathon time at the Wineglass Marathon, but honestly, I’m not. I’m quite the opposite - I am elated, I am inspired, and I am ready to marathon again. And that is kind of exactly what I hoped I would get out of this weekend.

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So, I suppose we will start at the beginning, heading to Corning on Saturday morning. We live on Long Island, so it was going to be about a 5 hour drive north to Corning. We had a hotel booked in Bath, near the start area of the marathon. Dennis and I set our alarms for 5:45, and were out the door by 6:15. The first stop was at Emily’s house, to grab the last member of the race support crew, and then after a quick starbucks to meet our morning caffeine needs, we were on the road. We drove through the sunrise, crossing bridges and counting clouds as we went. When we hit about the halfway mark, we made a pit stop at McDonalds to grab breakfast, and were quickly back on the road. We made good time, and before we knew it we were pulling into the Museum of Glass in Corning, NY, where the race expo was set up.

It was around 11 am when we pulled into the museum, and we headed right to the expo when we got there, following the signs along the way. There was so much to look at as we walked through the building, that I nearly missed the bathroom that I so desperately needed to visit - by the time Dennis pointed it out, I had one foot on the escalador about to follow Emily to a lower level, when I quickly bailed. She looked at me with betrayal in her eyes as she considered running backwards up the escalator to not move on without us, but ultimately she took a full cycle down and then back up, meeting me on the main level again. I mean, she knew she was going to be chasing me around when she agreed to come along this weekend! Right Em?

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Anyway, once that was taken care of we made our way into the expo, and it was quick business to get my race gear. The swag for this race was great - a red, embroidered quarter zip, a stemless wine glass, a drawstring backpack, and a single serving bottle of champagne. The expo was on the tinier side, but we still took a lap around, checking out the various booths as we went. I picked up some new Gu flavors to try, and a spectator map for Emily and Dennis to follow the next day. I spent the most time in the “official race merchandise” area, deciding if I wanted to make any extra purchases. Ultimately I bought a travel mug, a normal mug, and a zip up performance jacket. I am a sucker for race jackets, and wanted one to commemorate the marathon. The marathon nerves settled in as I purchased the jacket, a superstitious part of me fearing that I wouldn’t earn it.

Once bib pick-up was complete, we decided to explore the museum of glass, as one of the race perks was reduced admission cost for runners and their guests - $10 a person for a two day pass, a great deal! We spent a few hours exploring the museum, seeing art made of glass, a live glass blowing demonstration, learning about the history of glass, and even saw a few optical illusions.

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When our stomachs started to call for lunch, we decided to check out the food court, and they had a surprisingly large selection. I was able to get a baked potato and some pasta for lunch, and get a few last minute carbs in. We had to be at the museum at 4:40 for a glass blowing workshop that we were signed up for, but I needed to run to a thrift store that was closing at 5 to pick up a throw away morning for the following day - the forecasted temperature had dropped throughout the week, so now it was looking like a warm layer would be necessary.

So, after eating we made a quick run to goodwill, which luckily was less than 10 minutes from the museum. I was able to find a coat for $4, that would ultimately be donated again the following day, but would do the job with keeping me warm. Did I walk up and down the aisles for 20 minutes making this choice? Yes. In retrospect, this doesn’t make much sense, as I re-donated the coat, but at the time I really felt like I had to assess all of my choices.

The final activity that we had planned for the day was a glass blowing class back at the museum, so we completed our circle journey and were all excited to try our hand at it. The project that we would be working on was wine glass tumblers. Once we were all checked in, we were handed safety gear - an apron, goggles, gloves, and sleeves, and told to pick the color that we wanted our glasses to be. Then we got a walk through with the instructors of the process that we would be going through, before trying out hand at it. Realistically, the instructors were doing the more complicated parts, with us acting as helpers, but it was awesome to see the process up close, and help in little ways. We each got to help shape our glasses, and the three came out different shapes, colors, and sizes, and are a really great reminder of the weekend we had together.

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Once that was done we finally made our way to Bath, and checked into our hotel - Vinehurst inn and suites, which was less than 10 minutes from the bus drop off spot for the following morning. We settled in, I set up all my gear for the next morning, I checked the weather for the hundredth time - low 40s at the start, cloudy day, high temp in the 50s.

Once we were all settled in, we turned our focus to dinner - our first choice was a local italian restaurant, that toted “make your own” pasta on the menu, but when we called to inquire about wait times, there was over a TWO HOUR wait. It’s like runners like carbs before a race, or something. So, we settled on a small restaurant called Timber Stone Grill. I had a corn and crab chowder, to help with my sore throat, and a chicken sandwich with mashed potatoes on the time. Did my nerves start to control my personality at this point? Yes. To a point where I was on edge, and I put Emily and Dennis on edge (sorry guys, my bad).

I tried to take some deep breaths, reminded myself that I had put in the mileage for this race, and decided before bed that tomorrow would be great.

My plan for race day was simple. I was going to start with the 4:20 pacer, who would have an average pace of 9:54, and just see how I felt as the race went on. A 4:20 would be a great finish time for me, but at the end of the day, I wanted to feel happy and accomplished at the end of this race, and I was really feeling like that wasn’t going to be a feeling that was tied to pace. It was either going to be a good day, or a bad one.

I managed to go to bed early enough, and woke up a few minutes before my alarm was set to go off. I was feeling congested, and checked my weather app as I laid in bed…. AND IT WAS RAINING.

Cool weather, cool. Thanks for the super accurate forecast, I appreciate it so much. But, it was only a 30% chance of rain, and it was only supposed to last until 8 am, so it should be done and over by the time the race started. So the hard part would be staying relatively dry until it was time to start running, but I was prepared, with a poncho loaded into my race day bag (thanks, Dad).

Once I was all dressed for the race Emily and Den were starting to get moving, so I slipped on my Vans and walked over to the hotel lobby, to grab tea for me and coffee for Em. I figured that I may as well try to keep my running shoes dry for as long as possible, and I had to go outside to get to the room that the hotel served breakfast in.

A short mile later we were all ready to go, and we loaded into my car and Den drove me to the bus drop off location, where I would hop on a bus and get a ride to the start area. They headed to get gas, and then find a spot between mile 2 and 3 to cheer at.

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I was layered up with my coat and all, lugging along assorted gear in the bag I planned to check at the start area. There were some porter potties at the bus area, and I decided to use the bathroom before getting on the bus, as the bathrooms at the start area would likely have a longer line. Only had to wait a minute, and as I stepped into the bathroom I looked down, and REALIZED I HAD NEVER CHANGED INTO MY RUNNING SHOES.

Yup, you read that right. I was waiting at a bus area to be taken to the start area of a marathon that I was meant to run, and I was wearing slip on Vans. And, incase you were wondering, I did not have running shoes in my checked bag. This was entirely unintentional, and I went into a full blown panic spiral, picturing myself trying to run in these no support, slip on shoes.

I immediately began calling Em and Dennis, and both of their phones went to voicemail. AAH. Thankfully, Em picked up on the second call attempt, and I panic-explained that I needed them to stop what they were doing and double back to the hotel ASAP to grab my running shoes, and bring them back to the bus area. It was a little after 7, and buses ran until 7:30, so we had a little time, but I sat there waiting, playing through the worst case scenarios in my head, and checking their progress on find my friends almost every minute. I texted Dad, panicking, how could I be this stupid?!

But then I took a step back. I had told myself I was going to practice positive self talk. What would I say to my best friend in this situation? What would my best friends say to me? Well, that was an easy question to answer - when I told Emily that I was so stupid for this, she responded “You are not stupid. You are a graceful honey bee.” And you know what Jennie reminded me? That something was bound to go wrong, and it was better to get the bad thing out of the way. Dad told me not to sweat it - because he knows I always worry a little too much. By the time I finished considering all of these things, Emily and Dennis were pulling up to Putney square and coming to my rescue, running shoes in tow. With just five minutes to spare, I was climbing onto the school bus at 7:25, crisis averted, changing into my running shoes as I finally made my way to the actual start area.

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On the short ride to the start line I pulled myself together. I changed into my running sneakers, Brooks ghost 10s, filled my SPI belt with Gu and my inhaler, stored my headphones in the pocket of my running jacket, and unfolded the poncho that I had in my race bag, and pulled it on.

The bus driver advised us that the tent right next to the start line was pretty full, so if we wanted to wait for the race start in a dry environment, we were better off heading to the bus shed that  was open, just a little further from the start line. I had to check my bag, so I headed in the direction of the crowded tent to get that out of the way. I managed to squeeze into the tent, which it turned out was heated too, and found that there were plenty of open chairs further away from the entrance. After 15 minutes or so of waiting around, I decided to try to squeeze in one more potty stop before race time, and headed over to the porter potties. The lines were quick moving, and I was in and out in no time.

I walked back towards the start line, and people were starting to gather, as the start time was less than 10 minutes away. I easily found the 4:20 pace group leader, Mike, and introduced myself. I chatted with a few other people who were planning to run in his group, as we waited for the race to begin.

Now we have gotten to the race, and I feel like even though it was only three days ago at this point, I am struggling to have a lot to say about the race itself. It is kind of just one big mush of positive emotions. I don’t know the area of Corning well, so it is hard for me to take you through the race step by step as I sometimes do. So once again, we will just have to start at the beginning.

The crowd started to shuffle ahead of me, and I quickly pulled off my throw away layer and made my way to the side of the crowd to drop it out of anyone’s way. The race was using the “raceJoy” app to track runners, so I crossed the start line holding my phone, and then spent the first few minutes of the race working on storing it away.

My legs were hesitant as the run first began, wanting to run faster to express their race day excitement. But I stuck to the plan, and stuck with the pacer. I spent the first few miles chatting with a runner who had also had an injury during her training cycle - she was doing box jumps and managed to rip her shin open, yikes! We commiserated about our marathon cycles not going exactly to plan, talked about why we started running, and were both just generally happy to have made it to the starting line. We lost each other at the first water stop around mile three, but it was nice to have someone to chat with for a bit. Emily and Dennis were waiting for me right around the third mile, and I smiled and waved, and threw them my jacket, which I was already too warm for. Down to a t-shirt, capris, gloves, a hat, and a buff after that, and I was ok for the most part.

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The first ten miles or so just flew by, at a steady pace thanks to Mike. He occasionally chatted with the group, regaling us with stories of some of the 60+ marathons he has run. It was still raining, and it seemed like it was going to keep raining for the rest of the race at that point. The views were beautiful despite the overcast skies, and while I had heard that this course was “net downhill,” it had its fair share of little rolling hills throughout.

Around mile 11 the pace that had felt comfortable rapidly started to feel taxing, and I could feel my heart rate climbing. I made it a point to start taking a little more water at the aid stations, thinking I just was not doing a great job of fueling. I knew Dennis and Emily would be around the halfway point, and started focusing on getting to see them again. Right around this point I also managed to drop my inhaler, and in my haste to pick it up and put it back together, had snapped it together in the wrong direction, such that it was not functional.

Thinking I may be able to pass it off to Den so he could pull it apart and then hand it back to me later in the race, I ran with it in my hand for a bit, until spotting them in one of the spectator areas. But alas, they were behind several layers of police tape that had live road between me and them, so I wasn’t going to risk trying to throw it and losing my inhaler.

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It was just after the 13.1 mile mark that I started to yo-yo with the 4:20 pace group. My IT band was starting to freak out a little, and I fell into a cycle of dropping back, and then surging to catch up to the group. But you know what? I didn’t beat myself up for it. My IT band hadn’t caused my any issues during my training cycle this time, but here it was being a nuisance. Over the course of the next two miles I eventually lost the group, so I pulled out my headphones and took my race day experience into my own hands, and just focusing on making it to the finish line, and feeling good about that.

So, I went onward and found my groove. It kept drizzling, but I wasn’t bothered by it. The hills kept rolling, and the views kept changing, and I was loving it. Don’t get me wrong - it wasn’t easy, and I was a little frustrated that my hip hurt, but I was moving forward, and closer to the finish line. Each mile got a little harder, but I moved with joy. I was going to finish my fourth marathon, and damn it, I was going to be happy.

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The on-course fuel was Gu, which was good for me. It meant that I had to carry less fuel on my person. The aid stations were set up well, and they were all paired with a water station. I had a new flavor of Gu with me - Birthday Cake! I had wanted to try this flavor, but did not want to commit to a whole box of it. Lucky for me, I had been able to pick some up at the expo, and I am happy to report that it tasted surprisingly like frosting, and I am a fan! I started to do some intervals as the run progressed, walking when my IT band started to hurt too much. I hate to admit that, but it was what I needed to do to keep moving forward. By the time I got to mile 21, where Dennis and Emily were spectating again, I was in the pain cave, and Em could see it on my face, and shouted our favorite Kasey quote at me -

“I am LITERALLY dying right now!”  (march 2018, Run rock n’roll washington D.C. Half)

I have to admit, this picked me up more than I expected it to, and moved onward chuckling. We Headed into a more residential area of the race for the last few miles, with spectators sprinkling the streets here and there, despite the rainy weather. I was struggling, but I was still so happy, to my own surprise. I had kept telling myself that my goal of this race was to fall in love with the marathon again - I was heartbroken and defeated after NY, and I wanted my groove back, and it was somehow happening, despite losing my pace.

When there were five miles to go, Jennie started sending me mile-by-mile countdowns, which I loved. Jen was encouraging me from GA. Dad was texting and reminding me that I could do this, the end was in sight. Mom was using the race joy app to send “cheers,” and sent me the song that my brother and I were obsessed with after it appeared in the power rangers movie when we were kids - “Kung Fu Fighting.” That one may have made me happy cry a little. Before I knew it, I was right by the museum of glass again, and I recognized the town that we had visited the day before. One final climb up a small bridge, and then I turned the last corner, and could see the finish line in the distance, and felt an indescribable amount of joy. The emotion that I feel in marathons is like nothing else, and as Jen and I often discuss, something that occasionally moves me to tears even when I am not running. Just thinking about it or reading about marathons sometimes makes me a little teary eyed.

The finish line got closer, the announcer even called my name, and I crossed that finish line. Marathon 4, complete in 4:44:37. I got my medal, I got my heat sheet, and I progressed through the finished chute with a full on post marathon shuffle. Hands full, heart full, head spinning, I eventually managed to plop into one of the seats they had set up just before the exit, and Emily and Dennis managed to find me there. They took the million things I was holding, and tolerated my slug pace as we began our trek back to the car. Did I have to stop and squat several times over the course of the walk back to the car? Yes. Was I stinky and sweaty and ready to get out of my rain soaked running clothes? Yes.

But guys, I was so, so happy. So happy to have my people, cheering near and far. So happy that I made it through my 26.2 mile journey with joy. So happy with my brand new glass medal. And so happy that I reclaimed the marathon on my terms.

This time, I am ready to go again - and that’s a good thing, as I’ve got the Disney Marathon on my calendar, just a few months away. So, here we go again!

Wineglass Marathon 2018: Week 7

Weekly Mileage: 43.3 miles

As we entered August, I was losing the summer battle of humidity, and turning to the treadmill for so much of my weekly mileage. I got outside a few times this week, but used the treadmill for most of my quality miles.

Since Mike and I plan to run the Walt Disney World half together in January, we have discussed at length our need to run together more, that way we get used to running together and can easily accommodate each other’s running style. We live less than two miles away from each other, so in theory this is an easy task to accomplish. But factor in wildly varying schedules, and regular runs together turn into the occasional NYRR race together that we schedule months in advance.

But on this particular Monday night the stars aligned, and we were both free so we decided to meet up for a 5ish mile run and a Yoga class. As we looped through the streets of the neighborhood, I couldn’t help but wonder if Mike was secretly running for congress or something, as it felt like once a block someone was shouting “Hi Mike!” Despite the humidity, we found a comfortable pace and chatted about race plans, goals, and life in general until the time approached to head for yoga. We were booked for an 8:00 class, AKA Vanessa’s hard class, and we made it there right on time. It was a challenging practice, but I was feeling so good by the time we made it to savasana…. And then my Abs felt not so good for the following three days, as Vanessa had given them quite the workout in class. I even texted Mike to see if he was on the same page, and we agreed that it was a good soreness at least.

Since Monday is usually an off day for me, I kept the Tuesday morning mileage short. Dad joined me on his bike for a little more than three miles, that wound up being slower than I had hoped. A combination of the air and lacking a rest day, I tried not to beat myself up about the pace too much – rest days are important. Work ran late on Tuesday so the usual strength training session got called off, and I headed to swim instead. The pool was in a long course configuration and we were doing repeats that were of higher distances, so I eventually wound up with flippers on. It was a good workout, but I was exhausted by the end of the session, and decided to do my Wednesday run at night instead of in the morning, and luckily Mike was free again, and we made plans to meet up at the gym.

In the spirit of me having poor time management skills, Wednesday night did not go exactly to plan. Dennis and I had to go pick out suits for the groomsmen, so we headed to the stores with the best man and my brother, and the process was painless enough, but took longer than anticipated. I had agreed to run a mile with Tommy, who is getting back into his running routine of the one mile loop near my parent’s house, so after shopping was done we headed out together. Once we had completed the loop, I headed to planet fitness, where Mike was waiting for me. We hopped on the treadmills, and got to work. I had a threshold run to complete, where my goal was to complete two sets of 2 miles at an 8:14 pace, with a 2 minute jog between sets. Knowing that last week I had a workout that was a four mile repeat at this pace, I wasn’t too worried about hitting this goal. Once we for the treadmills moving and the warmup mile was done, I popped on my headphones and with the help of some fast paced music, got through the miles, with only a slight struggle. I felt accomplished hitting the prescribed paces. Mike, I am still impressed that you kept a sweatshirt on for the duration of that run. Planet fitness felt like a fiery inferno and I’m pretty sure that I sweat out at least 16 oz of water, so Kudos to you man, and your tolerance that I do not possess.

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After finishing my Wednesday run late, I decided to continue this week’s trend of night time running on Thursday, to not squeeze too many miles into a short period. So, after work Desi and I headed to the gym, about 50 minutes on the treadmill. My training plan says that my “easy” pace should be around a 9:17, which I firmly believe is a lie, but I decided to set the treadmill to approximately that pace and stuck there for the five-mile run. We then got in a core workout and a short arm circuit before calling it a night.

Then it was at last Friday. I actually dragged my butt out of bed this morning and made it to swim, where there was a lighter crew than usual. We started the workout with 4 sets of 100m repeats, that alternated in varying orders between “fast” and “slow” 25 m segments. I was, invariably, the last person done every round. Once we got the tough stuff out of the way, we changed gears to longer reps, and at the end of the workouts I had gotten in over 2,000 m at a slightly faster pace than usual.

Mike and I broke an adult friendship record on Saturday and saw each other for the third time this week (we went to school together from 3-12th grade, so this didn’t used to be a particularly difficult feat). We met up at the gym around 9 am to get some miles in on the treadmill before heading to a yoga class. Guys, this run was ROUGH. My intention was to warm up and then start the workout with 800 m repeats at a 7:35 pace, then after three rounds run for 20 minutes at a 9:04 pace before doing it all again. Mike opted to do the same style of workout, but adjusting the paces to be more his speed. I made it through the warm up and the first set of 800 m repeats, but when I hit the 9:04 portion of the run, I just could not get my heart rate down – even though that is a pace that I hit pretty regularly, my heart rate was sitting at about 190, where it had been for the 7:35 repeats, and refusing to come down unless I was walking. Knowing that I had a long run to get through the next day, I opted to cut the run at 4 miles. We headed to a slow flow yoga class from there, and it took the better part of the hour before I was feeling better. Sometimes, all you need is a good yoga class.

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The long run this week was a doozy. It was the first time this year that I was planning to run 18 miles, so while I knew I had accomplished this mileage before, it was still an intimidating task. Dad agreed to accompany me for the journey, and picked the Cedar Creek to Jones Beach path as the path of the day. I got to his house a little after 7:30, and by 8:00 we were parked near Jones Beach Theatre and headed towards cedar creek. The first few miles felt good, all ringing in within a 9-something pace, but then I felt myself slowing down, as the sun rose in the sky, and the heat and humidity intensified. I took a gu at mile 4, hoping that I was just feeling a little fatigued. We hit cedar creek right around the 5 mile mark, and began the trot back to jones beach, where my feelings about this run rapidly declined, and I started to feel like I need a sip of water every quarter mile. This path has little to no shade, and by mile 8 I was starting to feel like an egg that was being fried. Drinking water was now making me nauseous, and when I took a second Gu it was everything I could do not to throw it back up. When we reached the car again at mile 10, I stopped at the bathroom at the beach, and was seriously tempted to lay down on the floor to feel the fan for a moment. I felt beyond overheated, and tried to cool myself down by splashing some water on my face. I was light headed, but the time out of the sun improved my conditions considerably. It was like as soon as I went inside I was questioning if it could really be THAT bad out there, where I had just been dreaming of an Icee on the beach boardwalk. When I came out of the bathroom I discussed the options with Dad, and ultimately decided to move the run onto a treadmill. Eighteen miles would have been a huge mental struggle on a treadmill, but I could do 8. I really wanted to just get them done outside, but the remainder of the path had even less shade than the portion that we had been on, and didn’t want to risk my health because of my stubbornness.

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So, as Dad drove back to the house I rallied the troops. Kasey was already going to the gym anyway, and Emily agreed to come keep me company on the treadmills for a bit. The prospect of this brightened my spirits, and I was ready to keep moving when I got to the gym. I loaded up the treadmills cupholders with my water bottler, inhalers, and running fuel, and accepted that I was just going to be that weirdo at the gym that was eating on the treadmill. You gotta do what you gotta do, right? By the time Emily headed out I was through five miles, and was beginning to bargain with myself, thinking of ways to trade off these final three miles for some other activity. But I reminded myself of the upcoming race, using sport beans as a reward for each mile that I got through. When the treadmill finally rolled into the end of the 8th mile, I was so relieved, and so ready for a nap. I got back to the apartment, took a shower, shoveled some pasta into my face, and promptly passed out. The sun had really done a number on me, and when I woke up an hour later I had a splitting headache. Despite all the water I had drank, I was certainly a little bit dehydrated. I dragged myself out of bed to get more water and food, and the pulled on some compression sleeves before resigning to the couch for the rest of the day. Sometimes I feel lazy when I spend my Sunday relaxing after a long run, but this week it was just so relaxing to hang out with Dennis and watch way too much arrested development, and then head to bed nice and early.

Also accomplished this week: I finally got some more running decorations up in the apartment!

There were moments that I was on the struggle bus, but I still got through my mileage, and for that reason I am happy. I hope that my runs bring me the same sense of accomplishment next week, and that this training continues to stay on track until race day. The next challenge? The 19.5 mile long run that sitting on my schedule for next weekend. Yikes!

Wineglass Marathon 2018: Week 1

Total Mileage: 33.8

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As I begin this new marathon training cycle, I feel like I have to start by saying I am sorry for every time I complained about the cold weather on my winter runs…. As I run into the summer, I miss the days of being layered up, back when there was no humidity. These days I am happiest when the weather blesses me with a light breeze and breathable air.

I often take Monday as a recovery day, either resting completely or doing a yoga class, and after a weekend full of travel I opted to take it as a complete rest day. Not the strongest start to a training plan, but rest is an important part of training, and I need to take care of myself if I want to make it through this whole training cycle injury free. Plus, the travel was so worth it – I had gone to Atlanta to be a part of my cousin Jen’s surprise engagement!

When Dad and I met up for a Run/Ride on Tuesday morning, my training mileage officially began. I recently moved out of my parent’s house, but the move only took me one town over so we can still meet up for our morning miles. When I stepped outside the morning chill was nice enough that I pulled on a long sleeve running top for the beginning of the run, which I eventually removed once I warmed up. We got in 6 miles, with some little hills throughout the run. I mean, its still the south shore of Long Island, but it’s more hills than my usual route near my parent’s house has. Dad loves to pick a route that makes me run in circles around the hills, directing me to turn one way or the other as we reach the end of a block.

After work on Tuesday I headed to planet fitness with a few co-workers to get in some strength training. We focused on arm and core workouts, with a routine that took us a little over an hour. We have been going to the gym together for about two months now, getting there twice a week after work. It has been really great to have the structure of going right from work to the gym, and having a workout partner makes it so that I can’t bail just because I am feeling a little tired after work – an excuse that I often find myself using when I rely on my own motivation to do strength training.

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The first swim of the week was on Wednesday morning, since I was too exhausted to get there on Monday. This called for a 5:30 AM wakeup, and a half-asleep trek to the aquatic center. The pool was set up in a long course configuration, which means that the lanes are set to 50 m per lap. Usually I dread long course configuration, as I find it more challenging, but I really hit a groove with it during this workout. Feeling good after the swim, I decided to ask the head coach, Lisa, about the open water swims that the team has now that the weather is nicer. When I told her that I had never done an open water swim, she insisted that I try one, and even offered to loan me her wetsuit. Well, that was exactly the motivation that I needed to bite the bullet, and agreed that I would attend one the following Wednesday night. Dad had taken his bike to the park, so he rode by as swim ended for a quick selfie. 

On Wednesday night, I flowed right from one workout into another. I headed into the neighborhood around work with my co-worker, making sure to run by the school that Dad works security at to say hello – just a quick fly by as we continued into some hills. To avoid busy roads, we eventually dipped into an area that was more residential, but equally hilly. My morning runs typically are about 12 ft of elevation. This run? 218 ft of elevation gain. Once we finished a three mile loop, we parted ways and I headed to the next event of the night: A Merrick Bicycles Tri Team track workout.

MBTT track night are lead by the team coach, Jackie, and she always has a challenging workout ready for us. Being a generally competitive person, I really push myself at these workouts, as I am always chasing after a faster runner. She kept us doing 5k and 10k pace repeats varying in distance, with a body weight exercise waiting for us between laps. Once my legs had been thoroughly thrashed by these repeats, she revealed the last workout of the night would be full on sprints, between the goal posts at the center of the track. By the time we were done, I was exhausted in the best pace, and super pleased with my moving pace – an average of 7:44 min/miles over the 5 miles we had logged.

While I was super pleased with myself on Wednesday night, my legs were dead when it came time to roll out of bed for my Thursday morning run with Dad. I may have overdone it just a little the day before with a swim and 8 miles of running – more than half of those being quality miles, but I was willing to pay the piper, in the form of a slightly torturous morning run. I only made it through 3 miles, each one progressively slower, before I declared that it was time for breakfast, and thus the run needed to come to an end before I passed out as a result of fatigue… yes, on a three-mile run. It was just one of those days.

But a slow run and sore legs didn’t keep me from heading to they gym after work. It was Thursday and I had a commitment to fulfill with my accountability buddies. We did a quick core routing consisting of hanging leg raises and dynamic movements like jumping squats, followed by a dumbbell arm circuit.

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The night was not yet over – the last activity of the day was a spin class with Jennie! We met up for a class at iSpin studio, and got in a great hour of spin.

Now, as I was going through all of these activities, did I feel like I was overdoing it? No. I felt like I was socializing and enjoying time with my friends, all while getting my workouts in. Looking back at it though, I feel like I was bound to hit the ground after putting in so much so fast – sometimes I forget that I’m not in peak condition at present, and workout as though I am at the pinnacle of marathon season, pushing through 20-milers on the weekend. As I write it all down though, I want a little bit to shake week one Kelly and tell her to chill – but being me, I of course pushed on, the calm before the storm.

Finally, it was Friday. The end of the week, and one more early morning between me and the weekend (not that I would get to sleep in on the weekend, but that’s a whole other can of worms). I groggily made my way to swim again, and was rewarded with a short course pool configuration. After a handful of various distance laps, we switched over to kicking drills to bring us through the second half of class. As we neared the end of the session Lisa arrived, with a wet-suit in tow for me to borrow. She had me try to get it on, but as I was soaking wet and had never worn a wetsuit before, I was less than successful. I put the wet-suit back onto its hanger after the two of us spent a few minutes struggling, and hoped that it would be less difficult next time.

At this point, I honestly can’t remember the last time I got to sleep in on a Saturday. I think it has been at least three months, and this Saturday would not be my day of reprieve. I like to start my training cycles off with a race, so that I can see where I am, and have something to compare to over as I put more work into my training. So, this Saturday I was heading to Flushing Meadows Corona park with Dad to participate in the New York Road Runner’s Queens 10k. I ran this race in 2017 as well, and was hoping to beat my time from last year. I got to my parent’s house around 6 am, and Dad and I got on the road to head to queens. We were at the park by 7, and headed to race day central to pick up my bib. We had gotten there early enough that it was easy to find parking, and Dad broke out his foldable bike so he could explore the park while I was running. Once I had my bib I took plenty of time to stretch out, feeling a little bit stiff from the week’s activities. At 8:30 I headed into my corral, and took a few minutes to make a race playlist on Spotify – not something I usually do, but I felt like I would need the extra push, remembering how hard this race has been for me the previous year. The announcers started to release the runners, I quickly took a GU, and we were off! Dad managed to find me at four points on the course, even if I did only see him three times – part of why I usually don’t wear headphones while races, it makes it tough to find m:y people! I felt good starting this race, and settled into a fast-for-me pace, logging the first mile at a 8:20 pace. I was wearing a new pair of sunglasses – Goodr ones – and I was having a lot of trouble with my peripheral vision. The glasses were so reflective, that I was second guessing every time I tried to weave through runners, and I reminded myself that this is why people say “nothing new on race day.”

I pushed on, being careful in the field of runners as I brought my pace closer to an 8:00 min/mi. Ideally I wanted to be at an average of 8:14 or better, as that would allow me to PR the race. I was able to hang on to the pace through mile 4, but at some point as I put one foot in front of the other, telling myself “DON’T STOP,” I realized that I was starting to get light headed, and that my arm was going a little but numb, so I allowed myself to back off the pace a little, and pulled into the next water stop to grab a drink. While my goal pace quickly slipped away, I was still moving forward, and managing to keep my pace below a 9:00 min/mi. By the time we were circling around the Unisphere I was so ready to be crossing the finish line, but I tried to smile as Dad grabbed a pic of me running by. Then the final descent through the park, the finish line in sight, and a final push to get through the end of the race. I crossed the finish line, slowing to a walk, keeping moving through the finishers chute, collecting my medal and recovery bag – which I immediately opened to get at the Gatorade.

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Now that the race was done, I went and collected my t-shirt and then found a shady spot to wait for Dad, who arrived a few minutes later. From there we headed to the car and made our way home. My average pace for the race wound up being an 8:25 min/mi, which was faster than the year before, even if it wasn’t quite a PR.

I had one run left for week one after the Queens 10k – the first long run of this cycle. Sunday was Father’s day, so naturally Dad and I made plans to go on an outing together. I had 10 miles on my schedule, and we headed to Bethpage state park to get the miles in. We stuck to a three mile loop of the trail that was half paved path and half in the woods, so it was nice to have some variation on the run. Plus, the part of the path that was in the woods was so serene that I looked forward to getting back to it every time I was on the pavement. It was a nice day, but I was grateful that most of the trail was in the shade, since every time I stepped into the sun I could feel the temperature rise and the air get thicker. As the miles went on my legs got heavier, reminding me of just how much I had asked from them throughout the week, slowing down a little as the run progressed. But honestly, I didn’t even mind the pace – I was just so happy to be starting this journey again. As I reached the end of the final loop Dad reminded me (several times) to pick up my feet more, find my stride. At long last, we came back to the car and packed up, heading home for the rest of the father’s day festivities, which for my family meant heading to Forrest Hills Stadium to see Roger Daultry perform The Who’s Tommy. It was a late night, full of less-than-healthy food choices, but I had such a great time taking it all in with my family.

Oh, and since this week was fathers day, I want to leave you with the following photos: My dad running the Long Island Half around 1989, and me running it in 2018.

On to the next goal: The 2018 Wineglass Marathon

As we progressed further into 2018, I started to get the Marathon itch. After running three in 2017, I was asking myself if I was really going to not run one this year. I had tried to run the Disney Marathon in January, but that dream had been squashed when my asthma flared up at the beginning of the year. Then I tossed around the idea of running the Long Island full, but as the race approached I found myself never really committing to a training plan, and ultimately decided to sign up for the half marathon. I thought, "Maybe this year I will just stick to halfs- work on improving my speed, and then bring the distance up again next year."

But then, a little holiday in the running community known as Marathon Monday happened. For most average runners like myself, the Boston marathon seems like an impossible dream, that only the “fast” runners manage to qualify for. I would be thrilled if I could manage to break the 4 hour mark in a marathon, and for my age the qualifying time is nearly a half hour faster than that. But as I followed the race day on social media, watching as runners braved awful weather and left all they had on the course, I knew that I needed another marathon to work towards, and that same day I found myself online, registering for the 2018 Wineglass marathon.

The Wineglass Marathon takes place on September 30, 2018 in Corning, NY. It is a point-to-point race in upstate NY, near the finger lakes. Being from NY, I have traveled to the area a few times, but I have never done any sort of running there – in fact, the last time I visited the area the focus was much more on wine than on any sort of wineglass marathon. Dennis and I did a little bit of hiking, and then spent a day checking out the local vineyards with some friends that live in Owego. It was a beautiful area, and I am hopeful that come fall it will be a run with some beautiful views.

So, what's my game plan here, and what have I been doing for the last two months, as this blog sat quietly? Well, in looking at my recent training, I have gotten better with cross training, usually logging 2 swims and 2 strength training sessions a week on top of running. I have been averaging about 20 mile weeks, mostly consisting of shorter mileage, as my weekends have been crazy busy for the last two months and not really allowed the time for long runs. The plan going forward is to start bringing my weekly mileage back up to around 35 miles a week, following a training plan from the Runners world “My Run Plan” app. After plugging all of my info into this app and allowing it access to my Strava so it could analyze all of my data, the plan that it spit out claims that I could run a marathon this fall in just under 3 hours and 50 minutes, running 4-5 days a week, with two days of swimming built in as cross training. I don't really believe that at this point that time is possible for me, so the “A” goal that I am setting is to break 4 hours – my current marathon goal is 4:13 and change, so while this is a little ambitious, I feel like it could be possible with the right training and a little bit of luck.

So, starting this Sunday weekly training recaps will be returning to the blog. You'll hear about familiar faces like my Dad and cousin Kasey (who currently is swearing she is never running more than three miles again), and a few new friends that have joined me during this journey. I will also have a few race recaps to post, as this year I have been loading up a little more than usual with shorter distance races. There may even be a few posts about (MAYBE) training for my first Triathalon, if I can manage to scrounge up a bike this summer.

You can follow my newest marathon journey on Instagram and Twitter, using the hashtag #KzrunsWGM, or just by following my account, @gokellyeli. As always, thanks for joining me on this run!

 

 

2017 TCS NYC Marathon

 

This is bound to be a long one folks, so grab your favorite carbs and buckle in:

The 2017 NYC Marathon

I suppose the place to start is the night before the race. I had been invited by my friend Sami, who is a fellow member of the Merrick Bicycles Tri Team, to stay with her the night before the race, as we were heading into Manhattan together on race morning. After a bunch of self-debate, I decided to stay with her as it would reduce my race morning stress. Plus, these days I keep hearing that the “good night sleep” you really need before a race is two days out anyway.

The pre-race dinner that Sami put together

The pre-race dinner that Sami put together

This meant that on Saturday I had to make sure I had everything that I would need for race day packed up and ready to go – from fueling needs to spare ponytails. The hardest part of this was deciding what to wear, as the weather predictions had been somewhat varied leading up to race day. I narrowed my choices down to two options: both would use the NYPD running club shirt I had picked up at the expo, and then either my CW-X compression tights or my new balance 2 in 1 shorts would be paired with the tank. Both pant options had their own pros and cons – in the shorts I felt freer when running, but risked chafing if it rained too hard. In the CW-X tights I had extra support built in, but would feel closed in if it got too warm. How I dressed for previous marathons did not help much, as I had worn the tights for the first and the shorts for the second, and both had worked well for me. Each outfit option was paired with a pair of PRO compression socks (knee highs for the shorts or no shows for the leggings), my SPI belt, and a hat that I regularly run in. In addition to my outfits I packed a race morning breakfast, some water bottles, my throw away layers (an old pair of pajamas), running gloves and a headband just in case the weather took a turn for the worst. I also assembled sandwich bags of extra fueling (some Gu and some sport beans) and gave one to Dad and one to Dennis in case something went wrong with the fuel I was carrying on race day.

Dennis had agreed to drive me to Sami’s house when he got out of work Saturday, so we headed out around 6:30. Of course, 15 minutes into the drive I realized I had left my headphones on the charger at home and we needed to turn around to grab them. After the near tragedy of heading into the race sans headphones, we were finally on the road and he was able to drop me off at Sami’s for the night.

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Sami is seriously the best host ever, and I could not ask for a better teammate. She had prepared an awesome carb filled dinner for us, and our teammate Talia joined us as well to chow down. They both have more experience with the NYC marathon than I do, so it was nice to get some race day advice and have my nerves calmed by two runners that had run the race before. Sami made an awesome, dinner spread with everything from pretzel bread and chicken to sweet potatoes and steak. And of course, lots of water.

After dinner I pulled out the outfits that I had packed and laid them out for the next morning. I pinned my bib to my tank top, and felt that I was as ready as I could be. This was real, the NYC marathon, after all these months, was one sleep away. I settled into the cot Sami had set up for me, and headed to sleep.

I managed to sleep better than I expected to, but even with the time change giving us a bonus hour of sleep 3:30 AM came too soon. After checking out the race day weather, I decided to go with the outfit consisting of shorts and compression socks with my tank top. I started picking at my bagel with peanut butter, not really sure how I should be fueling for a race that was still 7 hours away.

At 4:15 AM Mike and Denise, two more members of the tri team, arrived to pick us up. Denise was running the marathon too, and her husband Mike had agreed to drive us all to the subway in Queens. We had little idea of where exactly we were going, so Sami got the address from one of her friends that was meeting us there. After a little bit of confusion which included Sami sticking her head out of a window to “get her bearings,” a road that split confusingly in three directions, and a handful of shared laughs, we arrived at the subway around 5 AM to find the rest of the group that we were meeting.

We collected our stuff and headed underground. I had a metro card that was borrowed from a friend, and had the bad luck of it refusing to scan! Luckily, Denise had extra credit on her metro card and saved me, letting me into the subway. We waited for about a minute before the subway rolled in, and the settled down for the ride. We all chatted, lots of nervous energy between us.

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It was still dark out when the subway rolled into Manhattan, and we gathered our things and shuffled out. When we surfaced again there were plenty of runners about. We had about a mile to walk to get to John Jay college, where we would board the NYPD running club busses and head to Staten Island. It was a bit damp out during the walk, and in retrospect I probably should have brought a second pair of shoes to do all of my traveling in. When we got to John Jay we deposited all of our stuff in the lobby, and I headed to the bathroom line so I would have the chance to use a non porter-potty.

We had about a half hour wait at John Jay before they started boarding the buses. They were NYPD buses, and they lined the block when we stepped outside. We hopped onto one and began our journey along the waterfront of Manhattan to Staten Island. The buses all had their lights on, and it was awesome to see the line of lights ahead of us with every turn. Soon enough we crossed the bridge onto Staten Island, and got our first glance of the start village. The NYPD busses took us to a baseball field that had a tent set up, with the heat on and a breakfast spread out and waiting for us. Our little group set up a blanket city in the corner of the tent, and I grabbed a cinnamon bun and nibbled on that. When we got to Staten Island it was around 7:30 AM, so we still had plenty of time to kill. We hung out and relaxed for a few hours, the bag bus eventually collected our stuff, and as 9:30 rolled around we started our migration towards the main start village.

We had to go through security to get into the village, where they checked our start area bags (they had to be the designated clear bags) and scanned us with medal detectors. It was amazing the number of people that were mulling about. My assigned start time was 10:40 am with wave three, in corral A of the blue section. So that I could start with Sami I decided to move into the orange start area of that same wave, which just like the blue group would run over the top deck of the Verrazano Bridge at the start of the race. The start village is divided by the color group that you start with (blue, orange or green) so we all headed into the orange area and found an empty bit of sidewalk to hang out on until it was time for wave 3 to move into the start corrals. I made my final pre-race preparations, moving everything that I would be taking with me into my SPI belt and putting on some sunscreen.

Pre-race jitters were in full force at this point. Four months of preparation to get here. It was while we were waiting that it started to drizzle a little, a weather condition that would persist for the whole race. Once we heard the start of wave two, which was noted with fireworks, we started to make our way towards the start corrals. We headed into our corral, which was already packed with people and I started removing my throw away layer. As they collapsed the start corrals and we moved towards the start line itself I broke out my pre-race Gu and ate that as we moved along.

We passed by some NYPD officers as we moved up, and I was pleasantly surprised when I spotted one of my Dad’s old partners! It was a good feeling to see a familiar face pre-race, and we of course took a photo to send to Dad.

The national anthem was sung, the announcers wished us all luck, and “New York, New York” began playing through the speakers. And just like that, I crossed the start line and the NYC Marathon had begun. I started the race with Sami and her friend Allison, and we would spend the first 7 miles of the course running together. All of the miles kind of melted together as I travelled through the five boroughs by foot, so forgive me as some parts of the race description below are less than specific.

As you may know, the course starts on the Verrazano Bridge. We got to start the race on the upper level, and were immediately heading uphill. It was fairly quiet on the bridge aside from the odd chatter of runners here and there. I was surprised by how many people were stopping to climb up on the median dividers and grab a selfie with the bridge in the background. The sky was overcast, and looking out from the bridge there was fog out over the water. It was still drizzly, but not really “raining” at this point in the race. We took it easy for the first mile, and picked up a few seconds during the second mile when the course shifted to being downhill. Once we got off the bridge I got to experience the beginning of all of the NYC Marathon spectators, as the streets were lined with people cheering and holding signs, and so many kids with their hands out for high-fives from passing runners. The first seven miles breezed by, in a sea of cheering crowds, aid stations, and assorted chatter. I was ready to pick up my pace a little, so Sami encouraged me to run on, and we parted ways.

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Mentally, I broke the race down into where I knew I would find my people after this point. Merrick bicycles tri team would be at miles 8, 18, and 23. Dad, Grandpa and Kasey would be just passed Pulaski Bridge around mile 13. Mom, Dennis and Rachel would be right after the Queensboro Bridge at the beginning of First Avenue, right around mile 16. Remembering that I would get to see some of gave me a great push as I ran. Know that if you were one of my people out there, or even one of my virtual people who texted, snapchatted, or followed my journey through the NYC marathon app, your encouragement meant so much to me!

Cheering from afar: My cousin Jen made me this cheer card of her Dog, Lucy!

Cheering from afar: My cousin Jen made me this cheer card of her Dog, Lucy!

Spotted first was the tri team, along the street and full of energy as they cheered and held up signs, their cheering squad complete with a megaphone and monkey costumes – these guys went all out and it was so fun to see them. Their signs and massive numbers made them easy to spot, and after running by them I put my headphones in for the first time to get me through to mile 13, where I would see some of my family. The energy of the city was alive, and there were crowds everywhere but the bridges. I saw some of my favorite signs of the race along mile 11, where people went full force with “Stranger Things” references.

My basic fuel plan was a Gu before the race and then every 4-5 miles, depending on how I was feeling. I also had sport beans with me to use as a little pick-me-up as necessary. Early in the race I was cramping a little so I took my first on the run Gu at mile 4. Around mile 10 I failed at putting my sport beans back into my belt, and they plummeted onto the NYC streets. I texted Dad so that he was ready to pass me my back up bag of beans when I ran by.

When I got to the Pulaski Bridge I was super excited to get to see my family. Once I was in queens they were easy to spot, with Kasey and Dad both sporting signs that they had made for me, which was amazing. I was so happy to see them that I almost ran away without my beans, but they called me back to grab them just in time.

The weather continued to be very wet as I ran, although it never really rained. Just a constant drizzle that left puddles on the ground. I was glad that I had a running hat on to keep the water out of my face. Regardless of the weather, the crowds continued to be nonstop. As I headed over the Queensboro Bridge, it was the first moment of real silence that I had experienced for the whole race, the only noise being runner’s footsteps. But as the edge of the bridge approached, the spectators lining First Avenue could be heard long before they were seen! Even before I was off the bridge I paused my music so I could really take it all in, and right after turning onto first I could see Mom and her sign, cheering with Dennis and Rach, tucked into the crowds. Even two weeks post-race I tear up a little thinking about each moment that I got to see someone that came out to see me run this race, it just means the world to me. It felt like all of NYC was lining First Avenue after that bridge, it was just crazy.

The next spot I had to look for spectators was between mile markers 18 and 19, and I was still feeling good. As I headed there, texts came in from Mom and Dad that they would be in central park when I got there, just before mile 25. I read them on my Garmin and made a mental note to look for them. When I got to mile 18 I paused my music so that I could look out for the team, but I hit mile 19 without finding any of them. It was really disappointing to have missed them, and I had a more emotional response than I expected to not finding them. But I powered on, knowing that there were still plenty of miles to get through and more of my people ahead.

Mom with her sign

Mom with her sign

Around mile 20 I started having issues with my IT band, which had largely been cooperative throughout this training cycle, even though I had issues with it when I was training for the Long Island Marathon this past May and during that race. I had hoped that I would sneak through NY without any issues, since my long runs had all gone well, but my luck ran out around mile 20. It was bearable, just a slight annoyance at this point.

Early in the race, and I’m talking flashback to the first mile as we climbed the uphill of the Verrazano Bridge, we overhead a guy telling his friend that yes, this uphill was hard but it was the hardest hill of the race and would just get easier from there! Sami chimed in, asking if it was his first time running NY – it was not. She then promptly called him a liar, stating that the hill at mile 22 was worlds worse than the uphill of the bridge. I laughed at the statement and we ran onward, trying not to worry too much about what was ahead of us.

As I approached mile 22 I started to think of this hill, and knowing that it was coming I decided to stop and use the bathroom as I ran by a porter potty with no line, that way I would not be tempted to stop as the uphill got hard. I also had been warned that the finish line area took a long time to exit, so I didn’t want to be rushing through there to get to a bathroom.

After stopping for a minute, my IT band felt much better and I was able to pick up the pace a little. But soon after, my asthma started acting up and would continue to do so for the rest of the race. Thankfully I had my inhaler with me, but it caused me to slow my pace down by 1-2 minutes per mile which was beyond frustrating - because I knew that I was capable of a better pace. It didn’t help when the incline started at the end of mile 22, and continued for what felt like forever. I reminded myself that I would see some of the tri team during mile 23, and they did not disappoint. The team had spread out throughout the mile, which was awesome because I got to find people over and over again. First I saw Tara and her daughter with Talia, and jumped in for a hug because I could not contain my excitement when I saw them. Tara ran many of my long runs with me last winter when I was training for the Disney marathon, and Talia is a constant source of inspiration for me with her dedication to the sport and her speed! Next I saw a cluster of people covered in Team gear, and at the end of the mile, right as I was getting into my own head as I struggled with breathing, I heard Allison and Jeanine shouting and from up on a tall curb, and it was just the pick me up I needed!

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I headed into mile 24 knowing I would see Mom right before mile 25, and was excited to find them next, even though at this point every stride forward was a struggle full of frustration and feeling like I had failed because my breathing was just so off. I was still running, I was still in this race, but it was harder than any run I had done before as a made my way through central park, and inched closer to that finish line. I found Mom cheering with Dennis and Rachel right before mile 25, and was so happy to see them. I practically collapsed onto Dennis with a hug, and before starting to run again I asked where Dad was – I had assumed they would all be together from what I had read on my watch earlier, but Mom thought he was either a mile earlier or a mile later than them, she was not sure. Sadly, I later learned that Dad and Kasey were right before mile 24, and I had somehow missed them. When the texts had come in from Mom and Dad earlier, I thought that they were together and misread Dads.

I didn’t realize that I had missed them at the time, so I kept looking for them as I ran through mile 25 of the race to no avail. When I passed through the final group of cheering spectators out on 5th avenue and hadn’t found them before I headed back into central park for the final stretch, I realized that I must have missed them which was upsetting. But there was less than a mile between me and the finish line at that point. Breathing was still an issue, but I was still running. I was questioning why I run marathons, I was questioning how I ever found running fun, I was questioning if I could even really finish this race, despite the fact that there was less than a mile left. It was, without a doubt, the hardest mile I have ever run. I felt really disappointed in myself, even though asthma is something that is totally out of my control, like I had done something wrong or messed up in some way. Honestly, two weeks post-race I am still dealing with feeling like this, even though I have mostly come to terms with it. This feeling is part of why it took me so long to write this post. It took a few days post-race to emotionally recover from the race, before I could really even think about the race without feeling upset.

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I re-entered central park, and there were screens up reminding us that the finish line was just around the corner. Then I could see the grand stand seating, full of spectators. And just like that, the finish line was in view. I laid down everything that I had left as I ran towards it. As I ran by the last area of finish line seating I heard Mike, who had dropped me off at the subway early that morning, calling my name and cheering for me and it helped me with that last push. I crossed the finish line, and it was done. The NYC Marathon. I had finished the NYC Marathon. It had taken me 4 hours and 37 minutes, but it was done. Slower than Long Island, faster than Disney, more emotionally draining than either, and I had done it. I wanted to burst into tears as soon as I was over that line, but I could hardly breathe as it was. I focused on the shuffle forward. Inhale, exhale, deep breaths. A volunteer put a medal on me. I took a photo – I look happy, or maybe relieved? Someone handed me a Mylar blanket. I was warm but I knew that would pass since all of my clothing was soaked through, so I accepted it, and another volunteer taped it closed for me. Was I really finished? Was this happening? I kept moving forward, and someone spotted the NYPD running club shirt I was wearing, and directed me out of the main stream of traffic and to a side tent. A cadet was there to get me around the corner and to the NYPD tent. He asked if I was ok, and I nodded my head. If I spoke, hysterical tears would have erupted. Breathing was still all I could handle. Inhale, exhale, deep breaths. He asked if I needed to lean on him, but I was ok. I was moving forward, towards the tent. They gave me a poncho – possibly the worlds coziest, fleece lined poncho, and a recovery bag. Dad was calling, I found a bench and sat down at last. He asked where I was. I didn’t really know. I sent him a photo of where I was, and told him to use find my friends. My brain was reeling, that was all I could handle. Inhale, exhale, deep breaths.

After a few minutes of just sitting still on the bench I started to feel better. I took some Gatorade out of the recovery bag and started sipping it. My breathing started to return to normal. I took a minute to take it all in. It was still drizzling, the sky was overcast. I remembered that I needed to claim the bag that I checked with the NYPD running club, so I walked back to the tent to find out where I needed to go for that. They pointed me towards a group of runners loading into the back of a little cart, which drove us a few blocks over to where the vans were shuttling people over to John Jay, where some people were going to the NYPD running club after party. I sat down on a pillar on the corner and waited for Dad and Kasey to get there – I had called them to let them know I was moving from my previous location. Unfortunately, no one in the shuttle area knew where the finish line bags were, but luckily I ran into Denise who was heading to John Jay. She was able to ask someone there and let me know where to find the bus full of bags, which wound up being about a block away. By the time we found out where the bags were all of my people had found me at the finish line – Dad, Kasey, Mom, Dennis and Rachel. After grabbing my bag from the bus we headed towards the subway, which took us to Penn station, and then boarded the train which took us home to Long Island. I tried to eat some pretzels from the recovery bag, but my stomach was unhappy with me as we rode the train home, as sometimes happens to me after long runs. I was able to change out of my running clothes and into an outfit that Den had lugged into the city for me, which was nice and dry. Of course, I kept the NYRR poncho on because, as previously mentioned, it’s basically my new favorite accessory.

Post race photo of Dennis, me and Rachel

Post race photo of Dennis, me and Rachel

When I got home I showered to thaw myself out, and managed to eat a little bit of pasta before passing out. I would pay for not eating enough with a diminished mental capacity and general exhaustion for the following two days. Of course, I suppose that could also be attributed to running a marathon.

Overall, running the NYC marathon was an amazing experience, and I plan to run it again. The crowds were like no other that I have ever experienced, even if at times they made me feel like there was a lot of pressure on me. The changing views of the city and running over the bridges was a unique course, and I loved seeing so much of New York City in one day. The aid stations, like all aid stations I have experienced at New York Road Runner races, were great, with water and Gatorade clearly marked and always available.

I could not have asked for a better training cycle leading up to this race. I got all of my long runs in, hit the track at least once weekly, and managed to avoid any major injuries or illnesses. I think this great training cycle is the reason I feel a little disappointed in my results. I am proud that I finished, I am thankful for the experience, and I am humbled by this course, which was truly challenging. I just have to remind myself that my asthma is out of my control, and there was nothing that I could have done to avoid the breathing issues that I encountered. I was as prepared as I could be, running with my inhaler as I always do. While I have some lingering feelings of failure, the further I get from race day the more I feel like I learned a lot during this race, and the challenges I faced help me to grow both as a runner and as a person. They prepared me for the races and obstacles ahead of me.

So what is next?

I can’t say that I have another marathon on my schedule that I plan on running. I am technically signed up for Rock ‘n Roll D.C. in March of 2018, but as of now I am planning to run the half instead of the full, as I just don’t feel ready to commit to another training cycle for a full marathon. That will come in time I am sure, but after 3 marathons in 2017, I need a break before I dive in and give myself to this distance again.

Short term, I want to focus on improving my speed for shorter races – I haven’t raced a half marathon since November of 2016, and I would love to see what I can do now that I have a few fulls under my belt.

Long term? Well, I may or may not have entered the lottery for the 2018 Chicago marathon.