Friday, May 1, 2015

Friday Feature


Does anyone know this man?

I find this story fascinating and terrifying all at the same time. Here's the run down: at the Boston Marathon, this runner's daughters dared her to turn the tables on the famed mile 13 scream tunnel through Wellesley College, where, for decades, students have lined the marathon route to give kisses to runners. Instead, Barbara Tatge was to find herself a good looking fan to smooch as she made her way through Wellesley.

Welp, she found one, and apparently sparks flew! Now she's looking to track him down.

Fascinating? Obviously. Terrifying?! YES! What if he has a wife? And what if she doesn't have a sense of humor? Or like her husband kissing on other ladies? Eek!

Anyhow, heart palpitations and raging anxiety aside, I kind of hope they fall in love.

What are your weekend plans? We have company coming into town this afternoon -- Nik's cousin who I've never met! -- and the weather is supposed to be gorgeous this weekend. Swimming lessons, the Kentucky Derby, running outside, and with any luck, a yoga for runners class in the city on Sunday.

Have a sun-filled, fun-filled, living-on-the-edge-kissing-strangers kind of weekend.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Slowing Down

When I got out of work last night, I was pleasantly surprised by the nice weather. I've referenced our beautiful weather a handful of times recently, but reality is, it's still not that nice. Even on days when the sun is out, it's wicked windy and cooler than usual for this time of year. Because of that, I think I sing the praises of sunny days even more and last night, we were definitely getting out for a walk.

Since I really hadn't trained thoroughly leading up to the NJ Half and because I felt some tweaks here and there during and after the race, I'm taking it really easy this week. I don't have any other races scheduled until the NYC Marathon November 1, so I have plenty of time to get my butt in gear. It's just not worth it to tweak my knee or aggravate my hip or be impatient with my quads for the sake of a sunny evening. Instead, I put Henry in our Beco carrier (we have the 'Stella' print and love it) and headed out for some fresh air.

Now, I know this isn't profound, but as I was walking (and chatting away with H), I thought about his little 15 pound body all snuggled up in the carrier, bopping along up in front of mama and was so struck by the fact that waltzing around like that was my 24/7 reality just seven or eight months ago. Each time I caught a look at my shadow -- bump out in front -- it just about bowled me over.

From the moment you find out you're expecting, to the baby's arrival, first smile, first laugh, you're looking forward. I can't wait until he gives me a hug... says Mama... follows me around the house. We look forward to those milestones and moments in anticipation. Last night, we slowed down. No stroller. No pace. No kick. Henry yammered on for awhile and we ran into a neighbor with her boys and then met another mom with a five-month old. I introduced myself and said hello. We walked on and I sang Old MacDonald softly, making H giggle.

Eventually Henry fell asleep, his head bouncing up and down on my chest with each step. It was slow, and simple, and sweet. For once, instead of looking ahead, shadow-glances made me remember the past, and we walked along together, just now.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

New Jersey Half Marathon Playlist

As I referenced yesterday, I had some great new tunes that helped me through the New Jersey Half Marathon this weekend. I downloaded a bunch of new stuff from iTunes last week and didn't listen to it much before race day, which meant even though I hadn't had a chance to put it in the exact order I wanted, everything was still fresh and new and wouldn't annoy me from having already been overplayed to death.

These didn't last the entire hour and 50 minutes (and 49 seconds), but I just went through twice, which was fine by me. I've already confessed myself as a creature of habit. When it comes to running, I like to know what's coming. I wouldn't want a list on repeat like this for any longer than a half marathon, but this weekend it worked well.

I'm also more inclined to chill, slower music than angry or high energy upbeat stuff, especially on long runs. I think it sets a more methodical, calm, enduring tone for me. On one of my best long runs ever I listened to exclusively Ben Harper. Not exactly pump-you-up kinda stuff, but it got me settled in for the long haul. I love me a good remix, but time and time again, I go back to a little more chilled out tunes.

How about you? Any favorites? Full disclosure: I have other playlists that include some hugely embarrassing tracks. Any embarrassing playlist confessions?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Race Recap: New Jersey Half Marathon

Buckle up, lovelies. Yesterday was my first race post-partum, the New Jersey Half Marathon near the town where I grew up and a lot of my family still lives. I've run the half marathon a couple of times and ran my marathon PR there, as well. Now, in a move that completely shocked me, it's home to my half marathon PR, too. 

The morning started early. I woke at 5:00, washed up and made a cup of tea. I woke and nursed the baby before sending him back to bed with Nik and getting up and dressed myself. After much debate, I wore capris and short sleeves to run, with the forecast calling for a high of 60 and sun. My sisters and I were out of the house and headed to the start at Monmouth Park Race Track just before 6:00

Getting to the race and parked was supremely easy (which I can't say of years past). We hung out in the car awhile, hit the porta-potties and headed inside to meet up with our cousin Leigh and some friends. We were lined up in the start corrals in no time, even though the race delayed five minutes because of heavy traffic getting into the start -- I guess we lucked out and missed it.

So, race strategy. I debated this one for a few days. Basically, should I go out with Leigh (who ran a recent 1:47) and hang on as long as I could, or run my own race, risk being alone start to finish and also risk never pushing myself? I lined up with Leigh. The strategy then became my usual for a half marathon: take it easy until miles 6-7... basically try to get there without noticing the miles click by. Then, miles 7-10, do the work. Don't quit. Keep it up. Be positive. Miles 10-13, focus and start reeling people in and picking them off. Kick to the finish. 

We went out a little ways behind the 1:50 half marathon pacer, just ahead of the 3:40 marathon pacer, and a a little ways in front of the 1:55 halfers. To be honest, I had no idea how this was going to play out. I figured keep the 1:50 within view until I couldn't, then hang on tight with the 1:55s. Solid race planning, I know.

I felt good out of the gate -- it started at a race track. See what I did there? The first few miles were easy and Leigh and I, along with another friend, Katie, were within a few strides of each other. We cruised, chatted here and there, but mostly just settled in. Instead of wearing a Garmin (which I forgot at home, but still) I used the Map My Run app on my phone so I'd get mile splits and total time, but not end up hung up on my pace. It worked out perfectly and even better and more vague because my splits weren't hitting the mile markers. I had a really good approximate the whole time and really only paid attention to my split pace. 

Around mile four I felt a tweak in my right hip flexor that actually made me kind of shout. It was quick but then mostly subsided. Luckily, it didn't bother me for the rest of the race (and only feels a bit tight now, 24-hours later). By mile six I knew to be looking out for our support crew and felt a little sluggish and distracted. As we approached the transition area (we had family members doing the half relay, too, so that's where our people were camped out), I was already talking myself into giving up a bit. You never planned to negative split, I caught myself thinking. It's only your first race back. Instantly, I buried the thoughts. No time for thinking like that, I told myself, almost sternly despite being in my head. Shut it

I was thrilled to see my parents, Nik, Henry, and cousins and had a great burst of energy going into mile seven. I also took my first Gu, sensing the negative thoughts were probably coming from depleted energy stores.

The middle miles of any distance race are always the toughest for me. The late teen miles of a marathon and the 7-9 range of a half get me every time. Negative self talk, sore legs, and knowing I've already gone a good distance, but have a good bit to go. Right around the halfway point in yesterday's race, I was plodding along with the 3:40 marathon pace group sort of cracking up to myself at the mere concept (granted I was going half the distance). They pulled away a bit and I resisted looking over my shoulder to see if the 1:55s were approaching. I could still see the 1:50 pace card bobbing up and down in the distance, so just hung in.

One of the games I had decided to employ when I thought about the race and had no good expectation for how it would go was making a new playlist to get me through and to think about a list of people I'd want to dedicate miles to, to keep my mind off how far there was to go or how badly I was feeling. Honestly, new music and having something else to think about was really effective this time around. I didn't let myself play the list to death in advance so it still felt fresh and distracting myself by thinking about friends and loved ones made mile markers pick up and move themselves closer together, I swear.

My Gu kicked in and I approached the ten mile mark. Leigh was still by my side, though early on in the race she confessed that her legs felt heavy and like they just weren't waking up (bad for her, good company for me). We can run three miles, I remarked, hoping to reframe what was left of the race.

The last three went quickly. The crowds got a bit better, encouraging me along. I loved the signs and children out cheering. SMILE! You paid to do this! was a personal favorite. Touch here for power! read another. At mile 11, I felt confident enough to start pushing, reeling people in. I wasn't sprinting around anyone, but methodically pulling them in. One guy with a little ponytail was next on the hit parade when at the marathon-half marathon split he stayed right for 26.2. Go for it, I thought to myself. No. Thank. You. 

Around this time I did some rough calculating and realized I might actually PR. I'm terrible about keeping track of my numbers and so I'm constantly missing personal bests by seconds. My marathon PR was a 4:07ish when I missed it by 10 seconds in Vermont. My half was a 1:51:something, I thought going into Sunday morning. When the course turns onto the ocean road for the last mile or so, I turned it on. Honestly -- and this is cheesy -- I felt so lucky to be out there and I reminded myself of it with each step. The sky was clear, the ocean alongside, my favorite new song came on at the exact right moment. 

You gave birth to a baby, I reminded myself with a laugh, you can finish this race

It's worth it.

There's no race tomorrow.


I buckled down and kept reeling people in, working to kick to the finish, a smile stuck on my face. I knew I must look ridiculous, but I couldn't help it. I felt so lucky to be running. I remembered how much I wished for that moment for the past year. 

The finish line came into view and I ran as fast as I could, with what felt like big, awkward steps. I don't care! I thought to myself. Get there as fast as you can! I crossed the line with my app recording 1:50:55 for 13.4 miles. I was certain it was a personal best.

The race was made even sweeter with Nik and Henry out on the course, plus my parents (who were living overseas last time I ran this race), and my cousins and sisters on the sidelines and running along with me. With absolutely perfect weather, it was a stunning morning.

My official finish time ended up being 1:50:49, a personal record by a minute and 14 seconds. Unbelievable. 50 seconds to go to reach my New Year's Resolution of the last two years. I'm ready to go.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Feature

Good morning! This week's gotten a little crazy, so I'm not as prepared for you today as I'd like to be. That said, I didn't want to abandon ship either, so I have a couple of Boston Marathon related stories to share.

Did you watch on TV by chance? Did you see the random dude leading for the first mile? You know, the NOT Kenyan/Ethiopian/Meb? Here's his story.

Not to be outdone, there were kickass women on the racecourse, too. How about running the Boston Marathon in 4:19:14... in crap conditions... at 34 weeks pregnant? I saw her in Wellesley and shouted Way to go, Mama! She looked like a million bucks. Amy Keil: hero.

Finally, is your best better than any of the people on this list? I love that Joannie is still killing it with a sub-3:00 at 57 years old. Geesh.

We're off to New Jersey this weekend for the Long Branch Half Marathon. When I signed up around this time last year I thought I'd be WAY farther along in my post-baby running blitz. Alas, we'll see how it goes.

Have a make-your-mark weekend.