December 31, 2008

Another Year

In a year where nothing seemed to go right, today was a fitting end. The plan was to run the midnight race, a casual 4-miler in Central Park. We were running as an 80s hair metal band and would have had a good shot at winning the costume contest. But when we checked the forecast this morning, it called for 30-mile wind gust and windchills in the negatives so we had to rethink the evening. We're too old for that, even buzzed and in costume.

So we paid the ridiculous price and went to the local bar instead. While it seemed expensive, the price of entry allowed us to spend the evening with our good friends, the people we've spent just about every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday with this year. It was relaxed and fun with great food and just the right amount of people. I live in New York City, a place that can be incredibly anonymous and yet I have this place where I can go most days of the week and a friend will be there. What more could you ask for?

I did squeeze in a workout today to officially end my 2008 training. I went for a short swim that wasn't necessarily intended to be short, but I just wasn't feeling it. I did what I could and spent a moment thinking about the year I've had. It's been up and down for sure, but I have a feeling I'll land on top in 2009.

Happy New Year.

Distance - 1000 yards
Time - 19:31

December 30, 2008

Travel Hell

I must have angered the travel gods because I’ve had the worst luck lately. What started as a decent morning – caught a cab with the world’s nicest driver, had a traffic-free 15-minute ride to O’Hare, only 5 minutes to check in and less than 20 through security – swiftly turned to crap when they announced a 1.5 hour delay AFTER we had boarded the plane. I heard mumblings of a delay amongst the flight crew as I boarded so they clearly knew, yet chose to trap us like rats instead of allowing us to stay at the gate enjoying free wireless and plentiful Starbucks.

We stayed at the gate for 30 minutes before driving all over O’Hare to find a place to park. We waited an hour, then got the unhappy news of another 1.5 hour delay. Amazingly, no one was complaining. How could this be? We’d been on the plan for 2.5 hours already, stuck in the same tiny seat, unable to move.

Just moments after the pilot said he still didn’t have an update, he announced we’d been cleared to take off and within minutes we were airborne. We took off about 30 minutes after I was originally supposed to land.

I had such high hopes for a productive day but with the delays, I knew I’d be lucky to get anything done at all. I needed to get to Brooklyn to pick up the keys to my new apartment so that was my top priority. Anything after that would be a bonus.

By the time we landed, I was beyond exhausted so I accomplished the bare minimum. I wrote the day off as a loss and will start fresh tomorrow. While it was an abrupt end to a really nice vacation, everything worked out ok and it could always be worse. I’m just happy I had a good time with family and friends and made it home safely.

December 29, 2008

Holidays: Part 2

Last night marked the end of Part 1 of my holiday season. I had a great week with my family and am now headed back to NYC with a quick stop in Chicago. I'm definitely feeling the toll the season is taking on me and look forward to getting back to normal soon. But first I need to survive Part 2 of the season, which begins on New Year's Eve.

My sister and brother-in-law will arrive in New York that day to celebrate the New Year. We'll have dinner and drinks, but then instead of heading to a party, we'll be running a 4-mile race in Central Park at midnight. This is no ordinary race either. Almost all the runners will be in some sort of costume and the atmosphere is quite festive. There will be 4 of us running as an 80s hair metal band. We're aiming to win the costume contest this year.

As much as I'm looking forward to some normalcy, I'm looking forward to a bit more time celebrating with family and friends. 2009 promises to be a very busy year for me so I need to enjoy every bit of downtime I have.

December 27, 2008

Fat Floats

The silver lining of gaining 9 pounds this holiday season is that fat floats so swimming should be a breeze from now on. I find it very hard to believe I ate and drank enough to actually gain that many pounds so I'm hoping some of it is just temporary. The gluttonous living began with Amsterdam over Thanksgiving and has carried over the entire month. But I'm starting to see a light at the end of the holiday tunnel so hopefully things will be back to normal soon.

The ice turned to rain. Lots and lots of rain. I woke up to the sound of thunder, which is not something you expect to hear in the winter. I spent the morning relaxing with family and enjoying my baby nephew for a bit more before he left. The next time I see him he'll be completely different. After some lovely pancakes and bacon (thanks mom) I decided I really needed to get out and swim.

I went to the local aquatics center and the pool was quite nice. There were only three of us there, likely since it's a holiday weekend. I wanted to do the descending 1000 I've come to like so much but was too lethargic to start with 400 so I switched it and did 100, 200, 300 and 400 with rests in between. Since I haven't been swimming much, I didn't limit the rests and just waited for my heart rate to slow down before beginning the next set. After the 400, I flipped it and did 400, 300, 200 and 100. I felt a little heavy and slow in the water and had some breathing issues, but overall it was a good swim.

One of the fun things about swimming is observing the quirks of other swimmers. You see a lot of interesting stuff for sure. Today I was next to that guy who tries to race you and beat you even if it nearly kills him. We were starting our laps on opposite ends of the pool so he'd just hang out at the wall taking a nice break until I reached the wall to turn around. He'd take off at the same time and then do his best to beat me to the wall by one second. His turns were a bit faster than mine so he'd always beat me on the return. Now this is fine and I don't mind, however, it was slightly annoying that the guy never swam more than 100 without taking a break. So yeah, it's not hard to beat a girl - one recovering from a shoulder injury who barely swims and hasn't worked out in a week no less - who's on the 300th or 350th yard of her 400 yard set when you've just been chillin' at the wall drinking water. It's the swimming equivalent to the treadmill peeper guy at the gym who is obsessed with matching your speed throughout the entire run.

I had a small sandwich for lunch and am going to try very hard to limit my intake of fatty awful foods for the rest of the day. I still have a week of holiday debauchery to survive so I need to take it in moderation when I can.

Distance - 2,000 yards
Time - 39:21

December 26, 2008

Ice Ice Baby

The only thing worse than too much snow is too much ice. We've had our fair share of it in Michigan this week and it's leading to a major case of cabin fever. The ground has been covered and the temperatures pretty brutal. But yesterday I could finally take no more and after hours and hours of considering it, I finally got layered up and braved the cold for a run. It was 14 degrees and felt like 7 according to I felt relatively ok, but after about half a mile my butt and thighs went numb from the wind whipping through my tights. I had my compression sleeves over my tights so my calves were ok. Two pairs of socks kept my feet from turning to ice. Any exposed skin really took a beating. But it was so worth it. After days of being cooped up and dealing with my nagging ear issues it felt so good to be moving. I had to run right in the road and at some times, right along the yellow line to avoid huge patches of ice, but it was Christmas Day and the traffic was low. I've complained a lot about winter, but for that 25 minutes I truly loved it.

I went to bed looking forward to getting up for a swim since the aquatics center would finally be open. After sleeping in just enough, I went to get my coffee and noticed that the snow was particularly shiny. Then I realized all the cars were frozen. Great. There had been a big ice storm overnight and all the world was frozen. My parents live on a fairly steep hill so ice + hill = not going anywhere. My aunt and uncle were coming over to see my nephew and they ended up parking at the bottom and walking up, if you can call shuffling, slipping and sliding walking. My aunt actually fell at one point in this effort to make it to the house. No aquatics center for me.

Since the ground was a sheet of ice I couldn't run either. Between the inactivity and my horrible eating, I'm starting to feel like a lethargic blob. Since inactivity breeds inactivity, it's getting worse day by day. When will it end? I hear it will be 60 tomorrow. If that's even remotely true, I'm going for a longer run and hitting the aquatics center. If I eat salad and drink nothing but water I may feel semi-human again.

But who am I kidding. I may run and swim, but I'm sure I'll eat at least one piece of pie and at least one fatty, creamy holiday treat. 'Tis the season after all.

Running (12/25)
Distance - 3.11 miles
Time - 25:40

December 25, 2008

NYC Marathon Photos - Better Late Than Never

Seven weeks after doing my first sub-4 hour marathon, I'm finally posting the photos. The original blog about the day is here, in case you're dying for the blow by blow report to go with the photos.

Waiting for the 7am Staten Island Ferry. Nothing but runners:

Final view of Manhattan from the ferry:

Athlete's village on Staten Island, where 40,000 runners had to kill hours and hours before the race start:

One way to keep warm:

Larry the Lighthouse, this guy is insane:

Keeping warm with heat sheets. It was 38 degrees at the start:

View of the Verrazano Bridge from my start area:

Killing time with an official start photo:

And we're off - the famous Verrazano Bridge start:

4th Avenue in Brooklyn, mostly uphill. Ouch:

Must be somewhere in Brooklyn since I'm still smiling:

First glimpse of Manhattan from the 59th Street Bridge, my slowest mile in the race:

Somewhere along the 26.2, not sure where:

Gary, ruining my fun shot:

Somewhere in Central Park, the final three miles. I'm not smiling anymore:

Official finish time - 3:58:14. I was the happiest girl in the world:

Finisher photo:

Happy to be done and warming up:

And now for the most important thing - recovery:

Ho Ho Ho

Most of you know I've been light on the Christmas spirit this year. I just haven't been able to get into it no matter how hard I try. But just because I'm the Grinch doesn't mean I don't want everyone else to enjoy it, so Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

It's my baby nephew's first Christmas so it's been fun seeing him play with all his new toys. But since he's only 9 months old, he doesn't necessarily care if he gets an empty box wrapped in paper or if there's an actual toy in there. So far he seems to like playing with an old computer keyboard and some ribbons more than the toys. Ah the simplicity of childhood.

It's 20 degrees and rather icy but I'm tempted to get out there and try to run. I can't even fathom the calories I consumed yesterday and I'm feeling it today. The nonstop eating and drinking is definitely a reason to look forward to the end of the holiday season.

On that note, I'm off to bake a pecan pie for my family. Now that's healthy.

December 24, 2008

Things Left Undone

It's Christmas Eve, which is the day I've primarily celebrated Christmas as long as I can remember. Once we were old enough to know that Santa didn't exist, Christmas Day became so much less important. The weeks leading up to today were hectic, and not because I was busy putting up a tree or baking or shopping. There was none of that this year. It was hectic because of life. I was searching for a new apartment, trying to wrap up a freelance gig and preparing for an extended trip out of town. So in the madness that was my life for the past two weeks, a lot of things were left undone.

Even though there is still almost a week left in 2008 I'm already reflecting on the year behind me and thinking about the year ahead. I'm ending 2008 at a deficit in many ways, but nothing I can't make up for in 2009 with a little work. I've been slacking incredibly on my training and know that cannot continue with the heavy race season I have planned. My winter races are mostly just for fun - Manhattan Half Marathon on January 25 with my friend Beth, her first ever half; Hyannis Half Marathon with a group of friends all staying in a house together, we'll try to focus on the race; and a possible half marathon in the Chicago area in March. Then I have my first big race of the year on April 5, Ironman New Orleans 70.3.

This is the longest stretch I've gone without posting in the time I've had my blog. I've had a little training going on, but unfortunately not much to write about. But beyond the lack of new posts, I realized I've missed some important old posts. I never posted photos from my most recent races including the New York Marathon. I meant to post some photos from my Amsterdam trip. I've meant to do a lot of things that just continue to go undone.

So maybe my New Year's resolution will be to catch up on those little things in life that may not be that important, but drive you crazy knowing they are there waiting for attention. I have a couple more weeks of relative peace before my Ironman training kicks in so there is no time like the present. It would be a good way to close the book on 2008 and get ready for what 2009 may bring.

December 10, 2008

Catch Up

Do you ever feel you are so far behind on everything that you'll never catch up? That's how I feel right now. Work has been busy and my set schedule is no longer set so I've had to remain flexible, which has evaporated any free time I had. I'm squeezing my final races in for the marathon qualifier, I still haven't unpacked from Amsterdam and haven't even dreamed of packing for the move to Brooklyn. I also just realized I never posted NYC Marathon photos, even though they are all downloaded, sized and labeled. I have Amsterdam photos, too. And isn't Christmas soon?

I got a solid 8 hours of sleep last night after a few nights of 4-6. That was the best catching up of all. I went straight to the gym after work to swim so there would be no excuses. Not surprisingly, it was more crowded at 7pm, but I still only had one lane-mate. Unfortunately he was Mr. Splashy so every time I passed him I nearly got rolled over from the wave he created. And the guy was tiny. It was like open water swimming. We almost got a third swimmer at one point, but luckily someone else left just as she was getting ready to hop in. I'm definitely going to miss having whole lanes, and sometimes the whole pool to myself, but it's so much nicer to swim at the gym. I took only my swimsuit, cap, goggles and flip flops, which is a nice change from toting around a huge bag of stuff. It makes it easier and that matters more than anything else. Now if only all the other to-dos were easier.

Distance - 1350 yards
Time - 27:11

December 9, 2008

Final Finisher

Today was a long one. I left the hotel at 8 a.m., had meetings all day, and landed back in New York at 9:30 p.m. I picked up the new Triathlete magazine to read on the plane and immediately skipped to the Kona coverage. While the tales of Chrissie Wellington winning even after a 10-minute flat, and Craig Alexander taking the men's title were exciting, the story that literally brought me to tears (no joke - you should see me watching the TV coverage) was that of 34-year old Joe Marinucci, Kona's final finisher at 16:58:17. This wasn't his first Ironman, he has a PR of 12:47, but October 11 just wasn't his day.

It is a stark reminder that you can only prepare for so much in the Ironman and the rest is left to luck. I'd like to think I don't care when I finish. I watched the final finisher at IMWI this year and she had even less time to spare. Seeing that filled me with a flood of emotion. On one hand, I think we all just want to finish the race. But on the other hand, many of us are battling ourselves and have very specific goals. Do I even have the right to have goals? I've only done three triathlons. Ever. Yet I find myself wondering if 16:58:17 is enough for me. This athlete, Joe, said he wanted to quit, but then saw a plane take off and wondered what it would be like to be on his plane just 2 days later looking at the place where he had quit. So he pushed on and was the final finisher in Kona.

Stories like this make me believe I can and will finish. I can't wait to have the Ironman experience.

December 8, 2008

New Surroundings

While in Brooklyn on Saturday I decided to stop by the Equinox gym and check it out. It's in Brooklyn Heights, but only a 12-minute walk from my new apartment. I had already spoken to the sales person and thought I'd just have a quick look. I was sold the minute I walked through the door.

Twenty minutes later I was signing up even though it didn't seem sensible. I had decided I would primarily swim at the West Village location and work out in Brooklyn so I got an all access pass. I'm a triathlete - it has to be worth it, right?

While my membership doesn't start until December 31, they gave me a guest pass to use through the remainder of the year so I decided to take a dip in my new pool. I went around lunchtime, which I'm assuming is busier than other times. There are only 3 lanes and each had a swimmer so I joined the "slow" lane. Turns out I should have joined "medium," but I still tend to doubt my swimming abilities. I had a very short, very quick swim mostly to just get a feel for the new surroundings. I loved it.

This set up is only costing a bit more than what I paid for a pool and gym separately. And it's 100 times nicer. I'll spend more time there as a result so it's worth it.

I think I also found my Ironman coach today. We talked for an hour and I already feel like we're working together. It was just a natural fit, which is exactly what I was looking for. I need to figure a few things out, but hope to start with him in the new year.

I also had the pleasure of meeting another BTer today, a guy from Michigan temporarily living in NYC. I'm hoping he can run with me a bit and drive me to the sub-8 pace I'm so close to, but can't seem to achieve on my own.

Now I'm off to Cincinnati, my first business trip in a very long time.

Distance - 1100 yards
Time - 24:25

December 7, 2008

Personal Records

When you've been slow your whole life there's nowhere to go other than up. I was a 10:30/mile runner not too long ago and still remember the exhileration of dipping below 10. Before I knew it I was down to 9:30, then 9 and finally sub-9. My first sub-9 race pace was in the 2006 Wall Street Run, a race run entirely on the streets of NYC's financial district. I wasn't necessarily trying, but I pulled off an 8:26 pace and I still can't believe I didn't throw up at the end.

After a disappointing run in the 2007 Chicago Marathon I decided I was going to be faster. I cut almost a minute off my mile that winter.

I've had a year of personal records as a result. I set my 5K PR at my first-ever triathlon, my 10K PR at the NYC Tri and my sub-4 marathon PR at the NYC Marathon. I set a stand-alone 10K PR at the Marine Corps Marathon 10K as well, but finally beat both 10K records today with my 49:49 finish in the Kleinerman 10K. This wasn't an important race. I had to do it to get my final qualifiers in for the 2009 NYC Marathon. But for whatever reason it just seemed to be my day.

I barely slept last night, I'm guessing 4.5 hours in total. I had a busy Saturday that culminated with a few (too many) beers with my friends. I was meeting my friend Jonah an hour before the race so it was too early to really eat. So I had coffee and more coffee before starting this race in the freezing cold. I wasn't expecting much, but hit 8 minutes on the first mile, which included the hideous Harlem Hill. Suddenly I was motivated. But then I dipped to 8:14. I was able to get back to 8 or below for the remainder and in the last 2 miles I realized I could break 50 minutes if I really pushed. I gave it everything I had, running a 7:38 pace from miles 5-6, then a 7:07 for the final .2. I was thrilled. It was another unexpectedly good day in a season full of bad days. Days like today give me confidence and hope that I have a very exciting year ahead.

Distance - 6.2 Miles (Kleinerman 10K)
Time - 49:49

December 3, 2008

Swimming... Sort Of

It's funny how it takes so long to build up the ability to do something well, but takes only a fraction of that time to get knocked back to where you started. When you start running, a mile or two is absolute agony. Then eventually it takes that long just to get warmed up. You start seeing a 6 or 7 mile run as a daily thing. Swimming is the same. I used to be gasping at the wall after a few laps, then got to the point where I felt I could swim forever. Then my accident kept me out of the pool long enough to pretty much eliminate much of what I had been able to learn.

I've committed to swimming at least 16 times in the month of December as part of one of my BT challenges. I have the use of my left arm again, albeit uncomfortably, so there really are no more excuses. I swam a mile broken into a few sets - 200, 250, 450 and 900. It's always rough at the beginning and by the 450 I was feeling pretty comfortable. But my balance remains way off and I cannot swim straight no matter how hard I try. It's a good thing I wasn't sharing a lane. I'm that idiot that I used to curse back in the summer for swimming all over the place.

My pool has windows that face South and with the sun lower in the sky for winter, there was direct light shining right in the middle of the pool so in the middle of every length, I swam through this amazing beam of light. I really loved it and looked forward to swimming through it each time. It made the time fly by.

In addition to getting back into the water, I had another big first today - I rode a bike outside for the first time since my crash on August 10. I decided to ride to the pool to save time and took the old road bike out. It was in the low 30s so I bundled up as much as possible, but I still froze. How the heck to people ride in the winter? I was relieved that I felt comfortable on the bike and had absolutely no hesitation. I'm sure a longer ride at higher speeds will be a little intimidating, but I was out there in NYC traffic and felt completely at ease. It gave me hope.

Distance - 1,800 yards
Time - 38:58

December 2, 2008

Just in Case You Thought I Died...

I haven't posted in over a week so just in case anyone bothers to check - yes, I'm still alive. This of course assumes anyone actually reads this blog, so maybe no one has noticed. My dad's computer died, which means my one guaranteed daily reader is now gone. But I'll attempt to keep going.

I had a fun week in Amsterdam and meant to post, but just never got around to it. I would have had to log the beers I drank rather than activity so I decided to pass. I choose to go in November knowing the weather is less than favorable, but this year's weather was absolutely the worst. There was a huge snow storm on Sunday when I landed, the first I've ever seen like that in Amsterdam, and the sun only managed to peek out of the clouds once on Monday. Then never again the entire week. The weather report said it would warm up and instead, the temperature dropped to frigid levels I've never experienced there. I had a wool sweater, a thermal running jacket and a wool coat on and was still cold. Yikes.

I didn't get tons of use out of my Dutch bike as a result, but I went for a nice run and enjoyed the city as always. I'll be posting some photos to summarize my week. But I'll close with this: if you haven't been to Amsterdam, you really need to go to Amsterdam. It's the most misunderstood, underestimated city in the world. It's wonderful. And a lot of people have been there and missed the real Amsterdam. This was my 8th trip in 12 years and I feel like I could wander the city blindfolded. I'm thankful for that. It's a very special place and I've gotten to experience it more than any other place I've been.

November 22, 2008

Free Ride

There are few things in life for free so when something comes your way it's always a pleasant surprise. I am at JFK airport waiting to board my flight to Amsterdam. I didn't pay for my ticket, I used frequent flyer miles instead. I had a rather unattractive seat on an overbooked flight and was not looking forward to it. I flew business class last year (also on miles) and was reminiscing how comfortable it was.

Soon after I arrived in the gate area, they announced that the flight was oversold and they needed 8 volunteers to give up their seats. The price? A later flight to London (8:45pm vs. the 5:25pm direct flight) and then a short flight to Amsterdam in the morning. The arrival time was 2pm rather than 7:30am. They offered $400 in Delta flight credit, which would come in handy during an Ironman year. It sounded good, but I didn't move on it. Then minutes later, when I was just about to step onto the plane, they made the announcement again and this time I decided to go for it.

While the gate agent rebooked my flight, I asked if there was any chance for an upgrade. She didn't even hesitate, she typed a few things in and said she could do it for the JFK to Heathrow portion of the flight. So not only did I not pay for this flight, but Delta ended up paying me to fly business class.

Since I suddenly had time to kill, I stopped off at Duty Free and am now enjoying free drinks in the Delta lounge. This trip is off to a very nice start.

November 21, 2008

Off to Amsterdam

Every year I spend Thanksgiving in Amsterdam. It started as a layover on the way back from Africa and became an annual tradition. It's gotten so that I know the city so well and have so many friends there that it feels like a home away from home. I have a local bar where when I arrive, it feels like I never left. I eat at familiar restaurants and stay with friends. People ask why I don't go somewhere else, like Paris or London, but the thought has never crossed my mind.

Even though I'll be on vacation, I'll be a lot more active than I've been in New York lately. I'll have my Dutch bike to get around the city and do more walking than I've done all month. And that's a good thing. I'll need to counteract some the massive quantities of beer I'll be drinking and let's not even think about the Dutch pancakes.

Bon voyage!

November 18, 2008

The Day my Blog Died

When I started this blog, I thought I might post every few days. Then my type A self took over and I felt compelled to post every day. But I enjoyed it. I had the time and I actually looked forward to it.

Then I crashed my bike and post after post became an outlet for my frustration and disappointment. Then my training thinned out. But I still had the marathon.

Now that the marathon is over, I am sad to say that my blog has died. This is a temporary death since I have the Ironman coming up, but it's still a very disappointing death. This blog is not personal. It has never been about me - who I really am, what my "real" life is like, what I do outside of triathlon. It's a training blog. It's about what it has taken for me to go from lazy to triathlete, to sub-4 marathoner and hopefully, to Ironman. So when I hit the "off season" after achieving that sub-4, I no longer had content for the blog. And that's how it died.

I'm not training, but I am busy. Work is taking a lot of time and as a consultant, that is a good thing. And life is very full. I'm moving to Brooklyn after 11 years in Manhattan so in many ways, I'm discovering an entirely new way of living. That takes time, just like training for a triathlon or a marathon. And while I can't log that time, it's just as much work. Hopefully I'll be able to ease back into the training without too much protest from my inner lazy marathoner.

November 9, 2008

Bronx Bound

I got up this morning and took a long train ride to the Bronx, but not to race, to volunteer. I'm just barely going to complete 9 qualifying races this year for the guaranteed New York City Marathon entry in '09 and they now require a volunteer shift as well. Even though I'm not sure I'll do the race, it seems like a waste to come so close and not secure the entry. So I got up on a Sunday morning and headed up to Van Cortlandt Park for the Cross Country Championships.

I haven't been to the Bronx in awhile. The last time was to volunteer on Earth Day in 2007 and that was inHunt's Point, South Bronx, which is much, much closer. Van Cortlandt Park is pretty far up there, off the last stop on the 1 train. It took just over an hour on the train ride alone.

I actually ran the Cross Country Championships back in 2002 when it still counted as a marathon qualifier. Being new to running at the time, and not having read the information on the race, I was surprised that I had to run in the mud and through the woods, in some cases down steep hills with wet leaves. It was a fun race, but I'm surprised I didn't break an ankle. I haven't done a cross country race since. I stick with nice, safe road running where I'm less likely to trip and face plant.

I arrived late and still had to kill 45 minutes before they even told me where to be. I was a course marshal and they posted me at the finish to keep people off the course and keep the racers moving after crossing the line. I really didn't have to do much. They had tons of volunteers, all trying to get into the marathon, so there wasn't much work to be done. Our shift was until 1:00, but everyone signed out at noon when the race was over so I offered to stay if needed. I helped break down the finish area and pack everything up. It would have been nice to get a head start on the hour-long train ride home, but I needed to feel like I did something and after all, that's what I was there for.

After 2 more races in December, I'll have my guaranteed entry for 2009. I'm still figuring out what I want to do next fall. I'd like to run a marathon after the Ironman, but I need to see how the training goes and if my body can handle it. I'm hoping it can because after my experience this year, I'd really like to do the race again. I likely won't be able to do it as fast, but as I learned from my previous 4 marathons, finish time isn't everything.

November 7, 2008

Different Strokes

Since I'm still not running, I decided to give swimming another try. I wanted to sleep in, but needed to be in the pool no later than 9:20 since it closes at 10. Or so I thought. When they didn't kick us out at 10, I realized it's open until noon on Fridays. Oh well. At least I was up and would have a more productive day.

I was able to swim faster today and with minimal shoulder pain, but my stroke just isn't right. I'm not balanced properly and I can't get my left elbow up enough to avoid hitting the water with my palm on entry. And today my position was off, too. Some days I feel like I'm gliding effortlessly on the surface of the water (note: not very often) and other days I feel like I have the buoyancy of a rock. Today I was a rock.

But I'm not stressing over it. I'm just getting started again and it's going to take work and patience. If it doesn't start coming back to me after a month or so, I'll schedule a couple sessions with the coach again. For now I'll just keep trying and be thankful my arm works again.

Distance - 1800 yards
Time - 37:37

November 6, 2008

Distant Memory

It's only been 4 days and the marathon is already feeling like a distant memory. It's partly because I had to jump back into work and it ended up being another very busy week and partly because there are fewer opportunities to think about it or talk about it each day. When I went back to work on Monday, only two or three people even remembered I had done it. The rest probably thought I had fallen down some stairs or been hit by a truck over the weekend based on the way I was hobbling around.

The (thankfully) diminishing pain also makes the race feel more distant. I woke up finally feeling normal again and had planned my first run today. I wanted to get some sleep so I opted to run after work. Silly me. Have I learned nothing in the past 11 years? I worked until almost 9 p.m. so it was too late to run. So instead I walked. I walked across town along Central Park instead of taking the subway. As I strolled along Central Park South and looked at Columbus Circle ahead of me I got a little nostalgic. This was the stretch just past Mile 25 where I gave it my all and didn't know if I was going to make that sub-4 goal. Everything looks so different when you're running. Now, with several lanes of traffic crowding the street and the famous blue line almost completely faded away, you'd never know there were 38,000 runners living their dreams in that same place just a few days ago.

I was a little sad that all signs of the race seemed to be gone, but then I rounded the corner at Columbus Circle and saw it: the end of the blue line where we left the street and re-entered Central Park with about 400 yards to go. This was the place where I had to shout out for runners to clear the way, where I was so close to making my goal that nothing in the world could stop me. I paused for a moment to remember and I snapped this photo. It may be a distant memory for everyone else, but it will stick with me for a very long time.

November 5, 2008

Road to Recovery

I've had a pretty slow week, which is to be expected after a marathon. I woke up on Monday feeling pretty decent. I slept in my new 2XU compression tights so my legs didn't hurt as much as usual. I was able to walk down stairs comfortably and had a spring in my step. I saw a guy on the subway who could barely get UP the stairs let alone down. I was feeling rather smug.

But then I sat at work all day and my legs swelled up like balloons. I was so puffy by the end of the day that my ankles had ceased to exist. I couldn't wait to get home and get back into my tights. I was also on a steady diet of Aleve and Advil.

Tuesday was a bit better, but horribly painful. It's always a little worse the second day so I wasn't surprised. I decided to wear my compression socks to work so thank god for knee high boots. I threw on a dress, put some leggings over the socks, put on the boots and was on my way. Only I knew I was compressing all day.

Aside from walking and stretching, I haven't been able to do much this week. So today I decided to get moving again. My legs feel 90% better, almost back to normal except for some residual stiffness. I figured a swim would be a nice start so I made my first trip to the pool in a month. It was only the second time swimming with my bad arm and the first time was major frustration so I planned to just take it easy. It wasn't as bad as I expected. My balance is terrible and it's making it hard to maintain a good body position in the water, but my stroke seems to be OK. My shoulder protested after a half mile so I did the final set with some kicking mixed in to give it a break. I was able to do 1350 yards without gasping for air and having to take massive breaks so I was happy. Small steps.

I may attempt a run tomorrow. I feel like you're not fully recovered until you can start running again. Those first steps are never fun, but you have to get back out there eventually.

I'm planning to post some pictures over the next few days as well. Unfortunately I don't have any of me actually running the race, but I'm sure Brightroom caught a few. I'm hoping there will be at least one or two that aren't totally embarrassing, but as race photos tend to go, there are no guarantees.

Distance - 1,350 yards
Time - 30:33

November 2, 2008

NYC Marathon - A Perfect Day

I woke up at 5:30 this morning and realized it was time to get up and run a marathon. Every race morning I ask myself - what were you thinking? That was particularly true today. I still had no idea what to expect, but I felt as good as I could given the circumstances.

I had an english muffin, coffee and bundled up in multiple layers to brave the chilly wait at the start. I grabbed a cab to the Staten Island Ferry, my mode of transportation out of Manhattan. The station was filled with runners and there was energy in the air. I felt sorry for the two or three people who had to take the ferry and weren't doing the race. They looked confused, as if they'd stepped into some alternate universe by mistake.

The ride across the harbor was calming. I listened to music and thought about how far I'd come. I stood by a window on the Statue of Liberty side of the boat so I had inspiring views the entire time. I was as ready as I could be.

We had to take a bus to the start area, which was divided into villages by colored starts. I was in the orange village so I grabbed some water and found a patch of grass in the sun to set up shop. I had two big sheets of mylar to sit on and wrap up in. It was freezing, about 38 degrees when I arrived. I stayed huddled in my little makeshift tent for as long as possible. With 10 minutes before the cut-off time, I finally braved the cold, stripped down to shorts and a tank top, put my cozy warm clothes in a bag and checked it. I made a skirt out of one sheet of mylar and wrapped my upper body in the other. Using the porta potty like this required some serious skill.

They did wave starts this year for the first time and I was in wave 2 at 10:00. It was about 40-42 degrees and sunny when we started, just about perfect weather for a long run. Aside from the occasional brisk wind, I felt warmed up pretty quickly, although my hands were chilly the entire race.

Even with waves, the start was so congested it took me about 20 minutes to cross the start line. The first mile is spent weaving in and out of people on the Verrazano Bridge trying to find a comfortable place. People throw clothes down and people trip on them. People stop to take pictures and people run into them. You really have to stay alert, but you can't forget to enjoy the views: thousands of other runners on the bridge with you, Manhattan to the left and the Atlantic Ocean to the right. This was my third NYC Marathon and the view never gets old.

I hit a decent pace in the first mile, 9:19, but it was slower than the 9:00 or under I was hoping to average. I had recently reduced my goal from sub-4 to 4:15 to deal with the reality of my situation, but deep down I still wanted the sub-4 and a 9:00 pace would get me there. I enjoyed the downhill of the bridge and the gradual thinning of the runners to get to 8:05 on mile 2. I did the next 6 miles comfortably at an 8:45-8:59ish pace and was feeling good. The first 10 miles of this race are literally a blur. You pass through incredible Brooklyn neighborhoods with more spectators and music than you can imagine. Because I was watching my pace so intently, I had to remind myself to enjoy it. Regardless of my finish time, I wanted to have fun in this race.

I continued to maintain a sub-9:00 pace through the half-way point except for two miles at 9:09. I was well on track for a sub-4 finish with a little buffer even. I was feeling great. And then the bridges came. There is a bridge right at the half-way point that I don't remember sucking so much. But it made my legs tired. You get about two miles to recover, then hit the mother of all bridges, the 59th Street Bridge. To say this one sucks is an understatement. I went from cranking out sub-9s comfortably to a very humbling 11:00. The incline is a mile and it sucks the life out of you at a very critical time in the race. People start dropping like flies at that point. I was able to redeem myself with a fast downhill mile and the second you hear the roar of the crowd on First Avenue, you get a little kick in your step.

First Avenue is unreal. The crowd is several people deep and there are bands and cheering stations lining the entire stretch. It's like a massive block party only you're not invited, you're the entertainment. This is the last place on earth you want to be shuffling, walking or looking miserable. But it's also mostly uphill so you have to be smart. I stayed in the middle so I didn't feel compelled to interact with the crowds, but was still drawing energy from it.

My pace continued to be strong, but the pain was really setting in around mile 18. I was prepared for pain after 20, but not this early. It was unsettling. When I hit mile 20 I had slowed to a 9:38. I was able to rally a bit on the next two, but I was suffering. Miserably. My 6-minute buffer had dwindled away and a sub-4 was looking unlikely. Upon this realization, I took about 4 walking steps at a water station thinking I should go ahead and give my body a break. What was the point of pushing through so much pain if my goal wasn't possible? But after 4 steps something inside me said to get going again. It was too soon to give up.

The final stretch of 5th Avenue was unbelievably crowded due to the spectators squeezing the course into a tiny path. They mean well, but they have no idea how hard they make it for the runners. I had to push past runners and spectators to keep moving ahead. There were a lot of walkers at this point. A lot of defeat. The urge to stop and walk with them was overwhelming. But I kept pushing.

I hit mile 23 at 3:29:44 and did the math. I was in a world of hurt, but if I had enough left to keep up the pace and maybe pick it up a bit, I could make the sub-4. I got to 24 at 3:39:05 and 25 at 3:48:09. I had 12 minutes left to cover the final stretch. Under regular circumstances, this would be no problem. But at the end of a marathon, sometimes your body just won't do what your heart and mind want. I watched tons of people quit over the last 5 miles, people who trained and had goals as well. So I didn't feel it was a done deal. I still had a lot of ground to cover.

We hit Central Park South, the final stretch before the turn back into Central Park and the finish. At this point I was running faster than I had in the entire race, covering 25-26 in 8:22. The pain was gone and I could think of nothing else but that finish.

The turn into Central Park is a narrow path. Runners were stopping to take pictures and have fun with the crowd, but I was on a mission. I had to shout out for people to move and had to really push hard to get through. I had just minutes between me and my goal. When I reached the 200 yards to go sign, I knew it was mine. I screamed, jumped up in the air and had a little Usain Bolt-style moment of celebration before crossing the finish line. I got tons of support from the crowd because you'd have to be blind not to see how much it meant to me. I finished with 1 minute, 46 seconds to spare.

I felt surprisingly good at the finish. I was unable to eat or drink, but I was walking and talking comfortably. I think my elation over making this seemingly unreachable goal carried me through. I couldn't stop smiling.

I ran this race with less than perfect training, a slightly broken shoulder and a cold that kept me from taking a deep breath. And I had the best race I could possibly have asked for. Sometimes it all just comes together, and it seems it finally did for me.

I've always loved this race, it is by far one of the most incredible experiences you can imagine. But it will always be even more special to me since I did my first sub-4 and set a PR by 57:00. I'd say that makes up for much of the disappointment in the past few months. For a brief moment, I'll be on top of the world.

Running - New York City Marathon
Distance - 26.2 miles
Time - 3:58:14

November 1, 2008

18 Hours to Go

The day before a race is always interesting. It's sometimes stressful, sometimes busy and hectic, and other times it's just another day. I'll be running my fifth marathon tomorrow and my third in NYC so the race itself is not a new experience, but the conditions are. In many ways I'm more prepared than ever. I'm in better shape than I've ever been and I'm a much faster runner. But my accident stole 6 weeks of training so in many ways, I'm as unprepared as you can be.

I'm not sure how I feel. I'm almost indifferent. I'm definitely not nervous, but I can't stop wondering: Will the training I managed to do in recovery be enough? Will it go as well as my only 20-mile training run went and allow me to finish close to my original goal of 4 hours? Or will I fall apart at Mile 22 and have to drag myself to the finish? I'm also not sure how this cold is going to affect me. I was much sicker last weekend and was able to run my best at the MCM 10K so I'm hopeful.

But I'm not worried and I'm not nervous... yet. Maybe I will be later or tomorrow. Or maybe everything I've done this year has changed how I see a marathon. Yes, it's hard and it's going to beat up my body tremendously. I will be in a world of unrivaled pain from about Mile 20 on that will last for days. But it's still easier to prepare for than even a short triathlon. I get to wake up, get dressed and walk out the door. No bike, no wetsuit, no enormous bag of gear to worry about. I don't have to fret about a flat tire or jellyfish or crashing my bike. So in many ways, I feel much more at peace than I ever have before a race and it's a great feeling.

I'm resting and sipping Gatorade to make up for last night. In a bit I'm going to head out and buy some last-minute supplies:

  • Two sheets of mylar. One to sit on (the ground is freezing and inevitably wet and the 2+ hour wait requires being in a horizontal position) and one to wrap up in if it's brutally cold.
  • Several packets of tissues. I don't use tissues when I'm actually running (warning: do not run next to me), but I figured I'd be civilized and use them before the race. They also come in handy if the porta potty runs out of paper after 35,000 people have violated them.
  • Purell. 35,000 runners and 2+ hours of porta potty use. Enough said.
  • Aquaphor. Between the Aquaphor and Body Glide, I'll be slippery as can be. There isn't much I don't lube up for a marathon. Less is more does not apply here.

I ate the world's biggest breakfast at noon and am planning to eat an early, light dinner. I have no idea if I'll be tired enough to sleep tonight. I never sleep well before a race. I don't have to be up until about 5:30 so that's a relief and with Daylight Savings, I get an extra hour.

If all goes well, I'll be finished by this time tomorrow and heading to the local bar to celebrate with my friends. As I've said before, this marathon is an end and a beginning. It's the end of this year that's been filled with challenges and it's a chance for me to prove that the accident didn't get the best of me. And it's the beginning of my next phase of training, which includes my 11-month journey to my first Ironman. That makes me want to enjoy this rest day even more.

October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

I love Halloween. It's the one day a year where it's socially acceptable to make a total fool of yourself in public. I live in the West Village, Halloween Central of New York City, so more entertainment than you can possibly imagine is right outside my door.

Before the revelry began, I had to make a quick trip up to the marathon expo to check in for the race and pick up some odds and ends. But I made this trip lightning fast. I love a good expo, but this was my 6th of the year so I'm a little expo'd out. I got home, changed into my costume and headed out to my local bar.

I don't dress up every year, but when I do, I like to keep it simple and original. I'm not a big fan of fancy costume shop costumes and I don't use Halloween as an excuse to wear an outfit that shows more of my butt cheeks and boobs than anyone cares to see, unlike what seems to be about 95% of the female population. To each his own, I'm just saying it's not for me. So this year, I went as dry cleaning. The ultimate in cheap and easy costumes. Everything actually came from the dry cleaners except for the $1.99 headband used to hold the hanger on my head.

The costume was a big hit, but by the end of the night, I must have heard "can I hang you in my closet" 1,000 times. I got called laundry girl and hanger head a fair amount as well.

We spent a bit of time at the local and planned to walk some of the parade, but the crowds were unbearable so we decided to have dinner instead before heading to another local spot. The second bar was way better. Nearly everyone was in costume so it was much more fun. This is where I saw what was hands down the best costume of the night. His stained up wife beater said "Alaskins Four Palin," he had the mullet and redneck teeth, and drank his beer out of a bag. Hilarious!

Then my second favorite of the night walked in. I turned around and there was a guy in a bathrobe drinking a White Russian with a carton of milk in his pocket - The Dude from The Big Lebowski. After he finished the White Russian, he put his beer bottles in the milk carton.

I was out late, likely way more late than I should have been two nights before a marathon. But it's only a race and you only live once. I'll make up for it with a lot of rest and Gatorade on Saturday.

Lastly, I did my final run earlier today. My legs have been on and off all week so I decided to do a combination of running on the treadmill and the elliptical. At this point I'm not gaining much except for staying flexible, but I can certainly lose a lot. It also got me to 100% of my BT October Challenge goal so at least I didn't let another team down.

Distance - 5.12 miles
Time - 47:00

October 30, 2008

Course Preview

I have just 4-5 miles left to run before the marathon on Sunday. The plan was to get some of it out of the way today and then jog an easy 2-3 on Saturday, but I woke up dead tired again. My cold seems to have migrated north from my chest to my head, leaving me congested and with a huge headache. Two Advil Cold and Sinus's later, I finally felt semi-normal. I started work late and ended it late so it looks like my final run will be tomorrow. It's probably for the best. I am gaining an extra rest day and my body seems to need it.

A friend shared this video with me the other day. It's a high-speed look at the 26.2 miles I'll be running on Sunday. Of course everything will look completely different then.

Just a little over two days to go...

October 29, 2008

Stormy Weather

Wednesdays are one of my days off so I was planning to run when it got a little warmer outside. However, the forecast wasn't looking so promising so I decided to head out before physical therapy to make the most of my day. I knew it was cold and windy so I wore tights and my new Sugoi jacket I splurged on at the Ironman expo. Boy am I glad I did.

I stepped outside and realized it was raining. Fun. I immediately took off so I could keep warm while the Garmin slowly located a satellite signal. I got over to the Hudson River path and the wind hit me hard. It's days like today I question the sanity of running along a body of water in cold weather conditions.

I ran north for a mile and the wind was pretty strong, but I felt really good. I was keeping the pace relaxed and felt I was in that elusive happy place you sometimes find when running. I was so focused on the fall leaves on the ground and how good I felt that I barely noticed the rain. I turned around and headed south for two miles and the wind was much more tolerable. This seemed like the perfect run. The sun was even coming out a bit.

And then it hailed. Seriously, WTF? If you haven't run in hail for awhile, let me tell you - it hurts. My skin was already freezing so the little ice pellets hitting it felt like needles. It came down pretty hard at one point and all I could do was laugh. The sun went away and the hail subsided for a bit. I turned to head north for the final mile and the nasty headwind was back.

And then the freezing rain started. It was a sprinkle at first, then it poured. At this point, the other few runners crazy enough to be out there were also laughing. It continued until I made it home. I have never been more happy to get inside where it's warm.

I really love running. You never know what the day will bring. Some days you feel great and others you can barely move your legs. Sometimes the weather is beautiful, and other times it's anything but beautiful. At least it's never boring.

Distance - 4.12 miles
Time - 36:15

October 28, 2008

4 Days. 21 Hours. 17 Minutes.

As always, I'm getting reflective in this final week of marathon preparation. In my typical personal drama style, I'm not arriving at the start line as trained, healthy and prepared as I could be.

I had two blow-off marathons where I didn't really train, but I trained pretty hard for the past two years in Chicago and both were a total disaster. The first, 2006, included a 3-month battle with acute ITBS that I bounced back from only to get hit by a car on my bike 4 weeks before the race. Needless to say, it did not go well. The second, 2007, was perfect from a training standpoint and I felt confident and ready for the first time. Then it was 90 degrees and I actually finished slower than the hit-by-a-car year. It was a disappointment.

This year I should have been my best. Triathlon training allowed me to lose 20 pounds and get into the best shape I've ever been in. My pace increased, I seemed immune to overuse injuries and I was actually enjoying it. But then I missed almost 6 weeks of training after my bike accident and I've only done 3 really long runs - a 15, 18 and 20. And just when I thought I was in the home stretch, I caught a terrible cold.

I am resting and being incredibly careful this week to get as close to 100% healthy as possible. I'm staying off the new bike, I'm not putting in any extra miles, I'm not swimming at the advice of everyone (chest congestion + swimming = not good) and I'm planning to run my remaining miles slow and easy.

Will it be enough? All I can do is hope at this point. I hope the weather is good. I hope my legs are miraculously fresh. I hope my chest has cleared by Sunday. And I hope I've done enough to enjoy this race even if my finish time isn't what I planned for. This race was the only thing that survived my accident so it means more to me than just finishing. Even though it's the last big race of my season, in many ways it is actually a beginning. I can finally put the accident behind me, get on my new bike and learn to swim again. All of the troubles of the past year will be a distant memory soon.

October 23, 2008

Two For the Road

I almost always run alone. I can pretty much count the times I've run with someone else over the past couple years on one hand. While I actually enjoy running alone, I've often wished I could find someone who runs at my pace for occasional company. Because when you're running 35+ miles per week, it does tend to get a little boring.

When I was in Chicago, I got to run with my friend Tony. Both the new setting and having a running partner made it one of the best runs I've had lately. It also made me run a little faster. Then this morning, I met up with a BTer from my July TdF team for a chilly, early morning run. He was in town on business and the best thing to do when meeting up with other BTers is get together for a swim, bike or run. We had both been out the night before and we knew it was going to be cold so expectations were low. But it motivated me to get up and out the door by 7 a.m., something I rarely do on my own.

It was 40 degrees but felt like 34 according to The chill was largely due to the wind sweeping off the Hudson River. With my lungs still a bit congested, it was difficult to breathe at times. Regardless, I was able to keep up a pretty decent pace even if it was impossible to stay warm. It was nice to have someone to chat with to make the miles go by. Triathletes tend to get along instantly since we have so much common ground to start from.

We finished just before 8 and stopped at the first place possible for coffee. I wasn't sure if I wanted to drink it or pour it on my hands. It must have taken me 3 hours to warm up. I'm going to need to get used to this as I've got a long winter of training ahead. I can't use the cold as a reason to stay inside. I've got early season races and Ironman training to think about. Soon, that will be all I think about.

Distance - 4.76
Time - 39:59

October 22, 2008

Perfect Fit

Right after my bike crash, about 9 weeks ago, I bought a Cervelo P2C knowing I wouldn't be able to ride it for quite some time. I never even got to see it. But today, I finally got to have it fitted.

You may recall my struggle with the color choice. I bought the Ultegra build, which has a silver and black frame. I've always preferred this look, but then had too much time on my hands to obsess over it and began to wonder if the white and red color scheme on the Dura Ace build would be better. I had the opportunity to make a frame chance without upgrading to Dura Ace but ultimately decided to keep the one I bought. I'm so glad I did. The moment I saw it I knew I had made the right choice. It just seems more suited to me. Here is a shot of it during the fitting. It still needs gears, brakes and bar tape, but it already looks incredible to me.

The fitting was pretty cool. It wasn't all computerized and high tech the way I've heard some fittings are. Instead their lead coach and fitter spent 2.5 hours learning about my background and goals, assessing my strength, flexibility and symmetry and doing a serious of measurements both on and off the bike. I was on the bike over an hour and already love it. It felt like it was made for me.

I didn't get to bring it home yet, but it will be ready in a day or two. I've waited 9 weeks, I guess I can wait a few more days.

October 21, 2008

Season's Change

It's officially fall in New York. I love the changing of the seasons and fall is by far my favorite. October is my favorite month. It's the first time we have cooler weather, the leaves just begin to change and it's usually marathon season for me and the first time I enjoy running outside. I stepped out this morning and it hit me that summer is really over and that I never recovered fast enough to enjoy even the end of it.

But for the first time, I'm ok with that. I have finally had enough time to shift my focus and move on in many ways. I'm easing back ever so slowly into being a triathlete and so while one season may be finished, the next is just beginning and I have a lot of new and different things to look forward to.

I planned to run this morning and managed to sleep through my alarm and three snoozes. I'm not a morning person, but that is highly unlike me. When my feet hit the floor I immediately knew why. I was not feeling quite right - heavy, tired, weak, achy. I felt sick. I dragged myself out of bed and went to work, tucked myself away in my office with the door closed and drank gallons of tea and water. I canceled plans for the evening and came home and made chicken noodle soup instead. I never got that run in, but my body was telling me not to and for once I listened. I don't have much to gain at this point, but I have a lot to lose. I am taking it one day, one step at a time and I'm deciding what's right as I go along.

I'm hoping to feel better tomorrow. I'm hoping to run. But if I don't or can't, I'm hoping I can at least enjoy what I'm sure will be another beautiful Fall day in New York. Regardless of anything else going on, I don't want to miss it.

October 20, 2008

Let's Get Physical

I finally got back to physical therapy today after a one-week hiatus. I was out of town and then had an insane work schedule that kept me from making it in last week. I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't do the stretches or exercises on my own either. I know, it's disgraceful, especially for someone who claims to be focused on getting better and moving on. But I've admitted all along that I'm lazy and sometimes that side of me takes over. Luckily Jason, my therapist, didn't ask so I didn't have to tell.

I did my usual routine of a warm up, stretches and a series of strength moves that always hurt far more than I expect. Today I got a new exercise that involved rolling a small weighted ball against the wall with all my body weight. It actually made my shoulder burn. This was a step up from rolling a big ball on a trampoline thing last week. I must have graduated to a more complicated move.

While I was getting the electro stim and ice on my shoulder, Jason put ice on my right knee since it hurt from yesterday's run. He also checked it out to be sure my knee cap was ok and it turned out to be just basic swelling. While I sit there getting the stim I like to check out what other people have to do. There is this guy that has to do all sorts of odd things like a hopscotch-type skip and this awkward, sideways crab-type walk back and forth across the room with a resistence band around his knees. Apparently he broke his femur so his therapy is a little more intense than mine. Another woman sat there the entire time rolling a ball around in her hand and rotating her wrist with this tiny little weight that looked like it couldn't be more than .5 pounds. At least my routine is relatively painless and embarrassment-free. I chatted with a guy recovering from a broken collar bone and we commiserated a bit about the experience.

Jason still wants to take it slow and try to build my activity without causing me too much additional pain. He's a good therapist so I'll continue to be patient and take his advice. He's done a couple marathons and understands my goals so at least he isn't telling me to sit at home on the couch and rest. I'm hoping I'll get several bags of ice on my legs when I go in post-marathon.

October 19, 2008

Long. Painful.

Today was a big day. Because of my injury, I missed a critical time in my marathon training that included a few really long runs. When I started running again, I quickly increased the volume - maybe a little too quickly - so I could get back into the 13+ mile distances. However, my body fought back and I was forced to scale it back. I decreased a planned 20-miler to a 10 in order to prevent pain and injury. So today I finally did a 20-mile run, my first and only of the training season. Normally I'd like to do 2 or 3 so I had a lot riding on this run.

I was out a bit late last night exploring Brooklyn, where I'll be moving in the winter. It was important as well so I didn't want to cut it short. As a result, I slept until 9 and planned to start my run a little later. This worked out great since it was in the 40s this morning and by the time I hit the streets, around 12:30, it was in the mid-50s - perfect long run weather.

I ran up the Hudson to Central Park, then did a loop, a middle loop and multiple bridle path loops on the dirt to rest my legs. I was feeling pretty great except for minor aches and pains here and there. Because it was cold, I wasn't feeling thirsty so my hydrating was definitely at a deficit. I experimented with my race day outfit, a sleeveless top, shorts, compression socks (of course) and arm warmers. All seemed to be working well. Around mile 8 I noticed a blister forming on my left big toe. Ouch. My ITB hurt a bit around mile 12, but nothing I couldn't push through. The weather was perfect, the route I chose was beautiful and I was enjoying about 75% of what was coming up on the iPod. You can't ask for more.

The miles flew by for the most part, but at mile 15, I got a very painful side stitch that never let up. I tried putting my hands above my head, deep breathing, even holding my breath. Nothing worked. I had to push through. It unfortunately didn't end so I just kept running. I looked at my watch and realized I was going to finish in under 3 hours so I kept pushing. I ended up doing my last mile in under 8:30.

I finished well within my former marathon goal pace of a sub-9:00 mile. This would land me comfortably at a sub-4 race. But I let this goal go and I've adjusted it to 4:15 or less because I had a lot of struggles, a lot of aches and pains and another 6.2 miles is a lot. Everything could change. I'm going to give it my all in 2 weeks, but if I can make 4:15 I'll be happy. This will be 30 minutes better than my previous PR and that's a big accomplishment. I've had a lot of obstacles and I've fought a good fight, but there comes a point where sometimes it just isn't enough. I'm thankful to be where I am and I have no doubt after today that I'm going to have a great race on November 2. I just want to remember to keep my head up and take it all in rather than stressing over a time. Otherwise, why am I doing this?

Distance - 20 miles
Time - 2:58:52

October 18, 2008

Me Against the Water

As soon as the orthopedist told me yesterday I could swim again, I had a plan to get up and get straight to the pool. He told me not to overdo it so I took that advice to heart and planned to get to the pool during the last hour of lap swim to limit my time. I haven't been in the water for over 3 weeks. I had no idea what to expect, but I was excited.

I hopped in, hit the watch and started. The pain was surprisingly minimal and I felt like I had almost full use of my left arm. I felt the most pain on the extension so I definitely held back a bit. I did 100 yards to warm up and needed to stop for a break. Sad. The good news is that my 100 time was one of my best, 1:53. This is likely because of the strong kick I've developed while swimming with one arm. The bad news is that it totally winded me. The overdeveloped kick is not great for triathlon swimming.

I was a little disappointed in how this swim went. I ended up resting after every 200 yards for the first 900. My heart was pounding and I was exhausted. It's as though my swim fitness was totally gone and I was starting over. I could tell my stroke was all screwed up and my body felt low in the water. I used to feel graceful and smooth, now I feel like I'm attacking the water. It was frustrating to say the least.

I rested after 900 and decided to try the last 450 without stopping. By this point I was warmed up and feeling better. I was able to do the 450 in decent time and my form felt much more comfortable. I remembered back to June when I was learning to swim and hanging on the wall every length, wondering when it would click. Then one day it happened and I comfortably swam a mile. I know that day will come much more quickly this time so I'm not going to let the frustration get to me. It's been a long road back and I'm just happy to be back in the water. I'm going to take it one day at a time.

I hit the elliptical and the treadmill later to keep my legs loose for tomorrow's big 20-miler. Fingers crossed.

Distance - 1350 yards
Time - 27:39

Distance - 1.57 miles
Time - 15:00

Distance - 1.5 miles
Time - 13:15

October 12, 2008

Different Point of View

I went to my third Chicago Marathon today, only this time I wasn't running. I was supporting friends and was there just for fun, a totally different experience than my past two years at this race. I didn't have to worry about my horrible hydration and eating on Saturday or the fact that I'd gotten a sum total of 10 hours sleep in two days. I had as many drinks as I felt like the night before without feeling guilty. I was able to roll out of bed an hour before the race, get dressed and walk out the door without wondering if I'd had enough water, eaten early enough or forgotten anything. All I had to do was walk to the race, meet up with the group I was spectating with, memorize what the runners were wearing and remember the miles we promised to be at. Not hard at all.

A New York friend dropped out of the race so I was primarily there to support my friend Tony, who I met at Ironman Wisconsin, and some others from Beginner Triathlete. It was nice to have a group to watch the race with, especially since a couple are also doing Ironman Wisconsin next year. It was really humid and already getting warm at the start, but not nearly as bad as last year. Everyone looked good and seemed ready to go.

We walked up to mile 3.5 and found a good spot right at the curb on the left. Once we saw our runners, we planned to walk one block over to mile 11.5 to see them again, then split up for the various finishes. We grabbed coffee along the way and still had time to see the elites come through. They make it look so easy. We also got a laugh out of the water stations. After last year's debacle, they weren't taking any chances. The tables were stacked 5 high and they added several extra stations. There was no chance of a shortage this time.

We were scanning the crowd looking for Tony and Louis since they were expected first when I heard someone yell my name. They were already past us and we almost missed them. Turns out this spectating thing is actually harder than it looks. All of the runners looked the same to me. My eyes were burning from staring at thousands and thousands of people and I still managed to miss them.

I headed over to the next spot where we had about an hour to wait. We took the opportunity to sit on the curb for some rest. I'm embarrassed to say I was getting tired from all that standing! My back and feet were really aching. I suddenly had a new appreciation for my supporters over the years. About 15 minutes before we expected Tony to come by, I got up and found a spot along the course. Again, he and Louis ran by and had to get our attention, we missed them again. I realized then that I pretty much suck at marathon spectating. I wished them luck and said I'd see them at the finish.

I hung out for about another 1.5 hours with the group to watch the race. It was getting hot and the shade was rapidly disappearing. People were starting to slow down and it was such an early mile in the race. I couldn't help but think of last year. Then I realized we had not made a finish line meeting plan. Not very smart when there are over 35,000 runners and their friends and family all piled into a small area. I was carrying the keys to the condo, his cell phone and people's clothes. I figured if I couldn't make it to the finish, I could just walk to his apartment and wait there. He'd have to show up eventually, right?

But I used my New Yorkness to shove my way up to the fence along the finish line shoot, about 100 meters from the finish. What a great place to watch the race. I saw the 3:35 - 3:50 finishers and it was a wide variety of emotions. Some people looked great and seemed to be in good spirits others were totally defeated. One guy collapsed right in front of me and medics had to help him off to the side so he could hold himself up on the fence. He couldn't even stand let alone walk or run that last stretch. Then another runner came along, exchanged a few words and put his arm around his shoulder and started to jog with him. A total stranger gave up several seconds of his finish time to help another runner cross the line. There are a lot of great people in this sport.

A few shades of pink later - I was standing in the direct sun - I finally spotted Tony making the turn into the park. Of course he was in the middle so it was almost impossible to get his attention, but just as he was about to pass by he saw me. He looked good and was finishing in under 3:50.

It took me far longer to fight my way out of that crowd than it did to fight my way in, but I finally made it and miraculously found him right at the first runners exit. He wasn't feeling well from the heat so it was a long, slow walk home. I was reminded of what the marathon can do to you and I was finally glad I wasn't running. I have a few more weeks to prepare myself and I need all the time I can get.

October 10, 2008

Change of Scenery

As much as I love New York City, like most New Yorkers, I need to escape every so often. That's what I'm doing this weekend. I planned a very long weekend visit to Chicago to meet up with some friends doing the Chicago Marathon.

I was feeling a bit nostalgic about not doing the race this year and that hit me even moreso when I arrived. I love marathon weekend. There is energy everywhere and it makes you excited to be part of it. Plus the weather was beautiful so I couldn't help feeling a little cheated (again) about last year's scorching hot weather. But I was happy for those running the race.

I'm staying with a friend I met at Ironman Wisconsin and he happens to live just a few blocks from the hotel I've stayed at for the last two marathons I ran here. We went for a short run today along Lake Michigan. It was my first run since the Army 10 and thankfully nothing was hurting. He's faster than me so I ended up running a much quicker pace than usual, which is great for shorter distances. I tend to get a little lazy on my own. I wish I had a running partner in New York.

The run along the lake is really beautiful. It was crowded because it was a Friday afternoon, but it was still one of the best runs I've done lately. A change of scenery always makes running feel so much better.

I'm assuming Saturday will be slow in preparation for the race on Sunday. Even though I kind of wish I were running, I'm looking forward to supporting for once. It will be a nice change.

Distance - 5.44 miles
Time - 44:25

October 6, 2008

Army Strong

The Army 10-Miler on Sunday turned out to be one of the best races I've done yet, both from an experience standpoint and a performance standpoint. I wasn't sure how my foot and leg would hold up so I went with no expectations. I just wanted to enjoy it and finish.

We got up at 5 a.m. and were on the metro by 6:15. There were runners everywhere - on the platform, on the train and at every station we stopped at. Who else would want to be out that early on a Sunday morning? It was dark and we were all tired, but we were already having a good time. When we arrived at the Pentagon I was surprised by how huge the start/finish area was. I'm not sure what I expected, I knew there were 26,000 runners registered, but because it was just a 10-miler I was picturing it smaller. There were all sorts of things going on including guys jumping out of planes, a military helicopter flyover and a nice performance of the national anthem. It was also great to be doing a race with my sister.

There were 4 of us running and we were all in different start corrals so we picked a post-race meeting place and said our goodbyes. I settled into my start area and my foot started cramping. Great. I stretched and walked around a bit and it was hard to step on at times. After a few minutes I tried to jog and it seemed ok so I figured I would start out slow and see how it felt. I somehow (again) got placed in a slower wave than my pace so I went ahead and jumped in with one of the groups ahead of me. My leg and foot were feeling good, but I didn't want to celebrate too early so I tried to pay close attention and adjust my pace as needed. I did the first mile in 8:23 and worried I might be going too fast. The second mile was a few seconds faster so I deliberately slowed to 8:30 for the third.

But then I got stuck next to the heavy breather. And I'm not talking about normal heavy breathing I'm talking about loud, labored breathing with a very forceful exhale. I had a choice - either throw myself into the Potomac or drop the guy so I picked up the pace and tried to get away. It took me over a mile and I ended up dropping my time to just over 8:00. I was able to settle into an 8:13-8:19 pace pretty consistently for the remainder.

There was an incredibly positive feeling in this race and inspiration pretty much everywhere. There were a lot of amputees running, many who seemed to just be learning to run with prosthetics. All of them were way too young. There were tons of people running in honor of a friend or family member who is either still serving or who died serving and seeing the thousands of faces and names was very moving. And the energy level was unbeatable. Several Army band groups, other bands along the route and groups doing cadence calls all helped to keep up the momentum. It also didn't hurt to have the cute Army guys handing out water and Gatorade.

It was also fun to do a non-marathon race with such a huge field and adequate room along the course. I especially enjoyed a stretch along Independence Ave where the faster runners had made the turnaround and were running on the other side of the street. I desperately scanned the crowd for my sister but just couldn't find her. She was wearing a pink sleeveless top and so were about 5,000 other women.

I was somewhat amazed when I reached mile 8 and my legs and feet weren't giving out on me so I picked up the pace and pushed it to the end. The last couple miles covered the bridges we started on so there were some challenging hills. I was sure my pace had died off, but was surprised to see my 9th mile was just over 8:00 and my 10th was 7:59, my fastest of the race. I was thrilled with my finish time. I was in the top 10% of females overall and my age group, which is the best I've ever done in my 9 years of running.

My sister finished 15 minutes faster than she did last year so it was a great race all around. Everyone agreed that it couldn't have been better.

After a lot of coffee, a nice long nap and some wine in the backyard - the perfect lazy Sunday if you don't count the 10-mile run at the crack of dawn - we ended the day even more perfectly with dinner at Citronelle. My sister went to Citronelle a couple years ago and I've been dying to go ever since. We made the reservation back in June and I've been looking forward to it ever since. It was incredible from beginning to end, but even moreso because we ran a great race and had such a great day.

Distance - 10 miles
Time - 1:23:19

October 4, 2008

DC Fun

I got to my sister's place in DC last night around 12:45 a.m. after a 3.5-hour train ride and a short Metro ride. I love it here and haven't been since Memorial Day weekend when there was a huge backyard party involving a kiddie pool, bourbon and a 4 a.m. train ride back to NYC. This trip will most certainly be more tame considering I'm here to run the Army 10-Miler tomorrow. But that doesn't mean there won't be a small amount of DC Fun to be had. I snuck a bottle of wine on the train and then shared another upon arrival before going to bed at 2:30.

After sleeping in a bit, we drove down to Alexandria for breakfast at Jack's, our favorite local coffee shop where the service is slow as molasses to the point of being infuriating at times, but totally worth it since we had to pick up our race packets in Virginia anyway. We browsed the expo a bit and I got a much-needed new pair of shoes. My current shoes are pretty beat up and have around 500 miles on them. I did a short run in the new pair and was shocked by how white and clean they are compared to my old ones. That won't last long though.

This was my first run since Sunday's 18-miler so I half expected my legs to fall apart. But all went well so I'm hoping it's a good sign for tomorrow. I'd like to have a few hassle-free runs so I can regain my confidence for the marathon. I'm not sure how much I'll push the pace though given my recent setbacks, but I'm sure I'll be able to keep a similar pace as my race last week. If nothing else, this is the first big race I've ever done with my sister so I'm looking forward to it. I keep trying to convince her that we could run the Marine Corps Marathon together and she says I'm crazy. But she used to think a half-marathon was crazy as well and she just finished one. So I guess we'll see.

Distance - 3 miles
Time - 26:57

October 2, 2008

Few and Far Between

I seem to be keeping up the trend of barely posting these days. I meant to post on Sunday after my 18-mile race, but never got around to it. Then Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were a blur once again, so here I am on Thursday playing catch-up.

First of all, the race went far better than expected. The weather was a little unfavorable, upper 60s with 93% humidity and light rain on and off again, but my leg held up and that's all I could ask for. I tried to keep my pace conservative, especially in the first half of the race. I experienced some ITB pain around miles 4 and 5 and my pace during these miles showed it. But I was able to run through it and pick up the pace around mile 12 to make up for some of the slower earlier miles. This was a very challenging course - three counterclockwise loops around Central Park, which means three times up Harlem Hill and three times up Cat Hill, plus all the other smaller hills in the park. It was good for me to get out and run on some hills since I've been training mostly along the river where it's dead flat. The NYC Marathon isn't crazy hilly or anything, but it certainly isn't flat either.

I finished the race in 2:45:13 just slightly slower than my marathon goal pace. I really don't think I could have pushed it any faster, but it had me wondering if I could still make the sub-4 goal. I stretched and quickly went home to ice before everything swelled up. I put 20 pounds of ice in a tub of cold water and suffered in it for 20 minutes. This was one of the coldest ice baths I've ever taken and I was shaking the entire time even with a fleece top on. But it wasn't as bad as one I had last year after a 20-miler that actually made me cry. Yes, I'm a wimpy girl and I couldn't help it. I thought my feet were going to fall off. This is what 20 pounds of ice looks like on your legs:

I was feeling rather overconfident all day about my seemingly injury-free run and finally felt back on track. But then Monday morning I stepped out of bed and it all went downhill from there. My plantar fascia in my left foot was super tight and I could barely step on it. After some stretching it was better, but it cramped on and off all day. I had a swim planned that morning with my friend Louise, so I walked the mile down to Tribeca to meet her only to find out they closed the pool unannounced yet again. We decided to grab coffee instead and sat on a bench in Tribeca for 1.5 hours enjoying the nice morning. I have to say it was more fun than the swim would have been.

Since I missed the swim, PT was my only real activity for the day. It hurt again, but I can tell it is really going to help if I stick with it. I need to do some more stretching outside of my sessions because I'll admit, I've been slacking.

On a more fun note, I had a friend in town on business so I was able to forget about my foot, ITB, broken shoulder and lack of training for awhile and just go out like a normal person. The timing was perfect since I couldn't run anyway. Of course I now have no excuse and since everything is feeling better, I'll give running a try again tomorrow.

I'm off to DC tomorrow night for the Army 10-miler on Sunday, a race I was originally planning to add 10 miles to for a long training run. But given the latest setbacks, I've decided to just do the 10 and start my long run build up again the following week. I'll only get one 20-miler in this season and I'm sure I'll be cursing this decision at mile 23 of the marathon, but at least I should be able to make it to mile 23. With the way things were progressing, I was likely on track for a DNS. This may not end up being the race I had planned or hoped for, but I'd still like to be able to do it. So I've let go of my sub-4 goal and am now just hoping to cross the line by 4:15:00. I need to look ahead to my Ironman training and starting with an injury is not the way to go. There will be another marathon and another time for me to achieve the sub-4. And who knows, by then I may be able to just skip sub-4 and go straight for a Boston qualification.

Sunday - 9/28

Distance - 18 miles
Time - 2:45:13


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