Big Fat Scary Goals: My 2016 Race Plans

Just like a runner needs rest days, sometimes runners need a “rest year.” No, not necessarily taking the whole year off, but scaling back. in 2015 I scaled back, but 2016 is here (well, it’s been here for 2 months already) and I’m ready again for a Big Fat Scary Goal (BFSG).

While races aren’t the sole motivation for me to run, I’m very goal-oriented (teacher, yo) and when I can work bit by bit toward something I enjoy, such as racing, it’s the extra kick in the pants I need to make the training happen.

I’ve got all of my races planned (and most are paid for) for this year. One advantage of entering early is not only to put the goal on the calendar, but the race fees are cheaper! (Again, teacher, yo) Here are my races for 2016:

2/21/16: Big Chili 5k, Danbury, CT  I signed up for this in January, then later booked my daughter’s birthday party for the same morning. OOPSIE. There was no way I was going to skip her Star Wars/Peanuts/Shopkins-themed movie party. I was also needed to help put assemble the totally rando favor bags, which contained a Shopkin and a whoopee cushion. Take that, Pinterest suckas! Anyway, last year’s Big Chili was the one where I won an Age Group award because I showed up. While I wasn’t there to defend my “title”,  watching my daughter teach nine 2nd-grade girls how to use a whoopee cushion was totally worth it.

3/20/16: New York City Half Marathon, NY, NY  Back in December, my bank alerted me that this would be my spring running goal. How? Entry for this race was via lottery, and I’d forgotten I entered (what can I say? Mom Memory). Turns out I not only entered, but won a slot, when the alert from my bank app let me know that New York Road Runners charged me for the race. That’s what happens when you “put things out to the universe” and then forget about them.

This race will be an interesting experiment, as I had fairly major sinus surgery in January, and I’m not back to full fitness yet. I’m tempted to Galloway myself (run/walk intervals) through this race and aim for a sub 2:00-hour time. We shall see. Might be pie-in-the-sky. Another post on that later. I ran this race in 2013, and it’s in my “Top 5 Most Fun” races list (in my head). Before that 2013 race I was on the road to recovery from illness (pneumonia) and I vowed to have fun instead of gunning for a PR. I will most definitely have fun again this year. Here’s a pic from 2013:

NYC Half Marathon

Times Square

 

5/1/16: Redding Road Race/The Run For the Cows Half Marathon, Redding, CT  This race sells out every year, as it’s gaining in popularity because it’s super challenging/hilly and very well directed, with nice swag and prizes. Not to mention gorgeous scenery. Luckily, it’s just a 10 minute drive from my house, so I can train on those very same hills. Since NYC will be an experiment-slash-training run, this became my A-goal race. I’m not sure what my A-goal is at the moment, though. Stay tuned.

5/8/16: Run Like a Mother 5k (Volunteering) Ridgefield, CT This hometown race is just a hop, skip, and a jump from my house, too (sleep, yo). I’m volunteering again as  The Run Fairy: Coming In Last So You Don’t Have To. I get to see tons of friends (sometimes it’s their 1st race!) and cheer them on. It’s super fun and uplifting, and I’m very much looking forward to it. I’m going to up my costume game this year, too. PREPARE YOUR EYES. Here’s last year!

5k, mother's day, run like a mother

The start of the kids’ race. You can’t see the wings, but they’re there! (Photo by Lisa Cousins Photography)

 

6/5/16: Tri-Ridgefield Sprint Triathlon, Ridgefield, CT I can practically just roll out of bed and be there for this one (again, sleep, yo!) This will be my 3rd time racing Tri-Ridgefield, having done it in 2013 and 2014. I skipped 2015, as I did the Brooklyn Half Marathon around that time last year instead. This tri is an 800 yd (maybe meters? not sure) swim, 12.5 mile bike, and 5k run, because triathlons like to make life harder by measuring in both metric and US units. I’m looking forward to the (almost) annual triathlon date with my husband as the run course is out-and-back and we get to slap hands when we pass each other, how romantic. I’m not looking forward to potential freezing lake water (open water panic attacks) or potential high pollen counts (wheezing). But I’ll be there to kick off the triathlon part of my Year of the Big Fat Scary Goals.

wetsuit triathlon Ridgefield

This was 2014’s swim exit. Gotta dust off the ole ripplesuit, er, wetsuit. Oh the humanity.

So far, any of the races or distances I’ve listed, I’ve done before. Next I’m bracing myself for some new Big Fat Scary Goals (BFSG’s).

7/17/16: Litchfield Hills Olympic Triathlon, New Hartford, CT  An Olympic-length triathlon is just about double-length of a sprint: 0.9 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike ride, and a 10k (6.2 miles) run. This race will be at a nice, calm lake in central Connecticut, with rolling hills on the bike ride. But this is just a mere tune-up for the big enchilada…

9/4/16: Big George Half-Iron Distance Triathlon, Lake George, NY!!!!!   1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run! Logically, I can do this. I know I can run 13.1 miles. A couple of years ago, I worked up to a mile in the pool, so I can do that again. But 56 miles on the bike? Don’t tell my butt; it will freak out. Emotionally, I will focus on the positives and not the scaries: I purposely choose a fall tri so that I could train over the summer, when I have more time. My family and I are making a vacation weekend out of it. Lake George, NY is positively gorgeous, and no matter what happens, I get to do this race with one of my BRF’s, Lori. I can’t remember who roped who into this, but we’re in it together.

Big George Triathlon

WOWZA
(From their website)

Also on my radar:

I want volunteer for the NYC Marathon again this year, in early November. Last year I was a finish line marshal, and it was amazing. It was like riding along with others’ highs. If my schedule will allow I will volunteer again.

I feel like I need a late-fall goal, since Big George is pretty early in September. I’m thinking possibly the Richmond (Half) Marathon, as it’s a three-day weekend allowing for travel time, and my dear cousin lives there!

There you have my Big Fat Scary Goals for the year. Please tell me I’m not alone in my craziness of having BRSG’s, but they give me joy, anxiety (in a good way), and ultimately remind me that I am alive. Tell me your BFSG, right now. Even if it’s not endurance-related. Here’s to all of our BFSG’s in 2016!

 

 

 

The Importance of Showing Up

Last March, I had my first-ever Age Group win, at a snowy and slippery Big Chili 5k in nearby Danbury. Shortly thereafter, I posted this to Facebook:

FB quote after chili 5k

 

It is important to keep wise and sage people around you at all times. My husband, one of those wise and sage ones, said something to me like, “Don’t thank them, you earned it!”

While I was trying to be funny in that FB post, I was kind of diminishing own my hard work. It is absolutely true that many people (many typically faster than me) bailed due to the weather, and it is absolutely true that I probably wouldn’t have placed if they had shown up.

But they didn’t.

I earned it by showing up.

I earned it by skipping the easy thing (staying in my cozy bed) and doing the hard thing.

I earned it by pacing a negative split, so I’d have some gas at the end.

I earned it by treading quickly but carefully on the white fluff accumulating quickly on the roads.

I earned it by racing my butt off in the last mile and dueling it out with another woman in the last 800 yards (turns out she was in my age group).

The faster runners that stayed home did not do any of those things. To be quite honest, with the winter I was having last year, just showing up was actually very, very hard for me, mentally, a feat in and of itself.

Therefore, I cast my winning stoneware chili bowl high into the air and say, “Just show up, runners! Do the hard thing! You never know what spoils await you!”

 

What hard thing have you done lately?

 

 

 

 

 

Kissing 2015 Buh-Bye; Hello-ing 2016!

This runner did not write about any races this year. GASP! WHAT? A runner ran races and didn’t talk/write/blather about it! I am proof it can happen.

I had a lot going on. Some of it fell into the “extremely stressful” or even “awful” category. But once again, running was my respite. While it was somewhat accidental, I ran less weekly miles this year, but made every mile count. The result was 6 solid races, including my first sub-2-hour half marathon, and no injuries. I think I might be onto something here in the “less is more” camp. I learned something from each one, which I’ll save for future posts, as they are GEMS, I tell you!

So here’s my 6-in-1 race recap for 2015 in a nutshell. Or should I say in a #hashtag. (#lazyblogger)

March 1: The Big Chili 5k, Danbury, CT

Hashtags: #snow #slippery #PR #1stinagegroup #exclamationpoint

5k, Big chili, PR

As you can see the conditions were ideal. To you faster people who decided to sleep in, I won a chili bowl, and you did not.

 

April 26: NYRR Run as One for Lungevity Foundation 4M, New York, NY

Hashtags: #lungcancersucks

Lungevity, NYRR,

There was a giant whiteboard for notes at race central.

 

May 10: Run Like a Mother 5k, Ridgefield, CT

Hashtags: #runfairy #cameinlastsonooneelsehadto #fun

5k, mother's day, run like a mother

The start of the kids’ race. You can’t see the wings, but they’re there! (Photo by Lisa Cousins Photography)

 

May 16: NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon, Brooklyn, NY

Hashtags: #ran3daysaweek #fastandflat #shaved9minutesoffpriorPR #soakingrain

Brooklyn Half, half marathon

Before the start with my Ragnar friend Nikki. This race was a blast, besides getting drenched for most of it.

 

 

July 12: Mossman Sprint Triathlon, Norwalk, CT

Hashtags: #perfectconditions #solidoverall #didntdrown #didntcrash #didnttrip

This was my nerves freaking out and being photobombed by another triathlete.

This is my pre-race nerves face.

 

 

October 16: Inagural SONO Half Marathon, South Norwalk, CT

Hashtags: #nogps #nomusic #sub2hrsPR #tonsofexclamationpoints

Ah, the two faces of racing. This time, Im the one smiling instead of wanting to puke. Thats a sub-2:00 smile, by the way.

Ah, the two faces of racing. This time, I’m the one smiling instead of wanting to puke. Thats a sub-2:00 smile, by the way.

 

November 21: Mima’s Meatballs 1-miler for MSV (Predict Your Time Race)

Hashtags: #charity #predictyourtime #walkedwithDad #firstimeheeverworearacebib

My dad and I did this together. No words...

My dad and I did this together. No words…

It was a helluva year. I’m happy to kiss it goodbye and put it into the record books. 2016 is going to bring big challenges. Can you guess? Hashtag hint: #70.3

How did you feel about 2015? What challenges are you taking on in 2016? Do tell in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

There Will Always Be Someone Faster Than You

Raise your hand if you’ve heard/said/mumbled the following:

“I’m so slow!”

“I can’t run as fast as you.”

“I’m afraid I’ll come in last.”

Some use it as avoidance, or maybe you have a genuine fear of coming in last in a race. Well, I’ve got news for you.

THERE WILL ALWAYS BE SOMEONE FASTER THAN YOU.

Unless you are an elite badass runner, the above is TRUTH. And even the elite runners get their butts kicked at some point. But guess what?

They put in hard effort…YOU DO TOO.

They put in time…YOU DO TOO.

Sometimes they have great runs, sometimes they have sucky runs. YOU DO TOO.

They have goals. Big ones…YOU DO TOO.

And when you get the starting line of your race, all runners must cover the exact same ground as you. No matter what the race — a 5k, 10k, marathon —  they run the exact same course and distance that you will. (By the way, what other sport can say that? Little leagues don’t typically get to play at Yankee Stadium!)

Once you accept everything that you are, AND everything that you are not, it’s quite freeing. I will never be an elite runner. I may never break a 4-hour marathon. But I aim to get a little faster every year, avoid injury, and enjoy my running time. I’ve just accepted that in races, in training runs, and in life, there will always be someone with fleeter feet than mine. And I’m okay with that.

slow runner

If you find this funny, you’re in the right sport. Photo Credit: The T-Rex Runner

For the past few months, I was a long-run pace leader for the Saturday morning runs at our local run shop. When the runners gathered, we divided into pace groups. There were always 8:00/mile people, 9:00/mile people there. I was proud to represent the 10:00/mile peeps. When we took off on the run, it didn’t matter what the 8’s and 9’s were doing, it mattered what I was doing. Right now, my long-run sweet spot is that pace. Not too long ago I had an 12-13:00/mile pace. To get to this place (and pace) was MY journey, and mine alone. It’s MINE, MINE, MINE! No one can take that from me. That’s where I find my joy, my successes, my happy pace.

comparison-is-the-thief-of-joy

Once you truly accept that you are in charge of your running, then you can go about your business of training for your raceUnless you are on a relay team, you run against yourself. You run against your own clock. You run against the person you were yesterday.

Dont-Compare-Yourself-to-Others-battle can't win

Get out there and do it. You got this!

 

 

My Insanely Elaborate Blister Prevention System

I have something to celebrate: I came out of the TCS NYC Marathon with all of my toenails! Not only that, but NOT ONE BLISTER!

blister bitch bubbles

After last year’s Philly Marathon, my tootsies looked like someone had taken a hammer to them:

black toenails plantar plate tear toe drift

Martyr left 2nd toenail barely hanging on, 2nd right toe “drifting” toward big toe, blisters on the side of each big toe, unexpected and totally rando black toenail on 4th toe.

This year, I could be a foot model. Haha, just kidding. But I was shocked…shocked! to find zero damage after I peeled off my compression socks post-marathon this year.

To partake in my blister-free bliss, I’m going to share with you my Insanely Elaborate Blister Prevention System, because believe me, this blister-free life doesn’t come easy.

Disclaimer: Only guaranteed up to 26.2 miles. Anything over that, I cannot be held responsible. Really, I cannot be held responsible for any blisters you get, ever. Because you’re probably a runner and I’m a runner and runners do stupid things to their feet. Also, only guaranteed if you have my exact same foot shape, bunions and bunionettes, Morton’s Toe, a formerly damaged plantar plate tear, former plantar fasciitis, and callouses on the side of your big toes that never go away no matter how much the nail tech scrapes, scrubs, and grunts (true story). Basically, only if you have feet that are as anatomically messed-up as mine.

Start my making sure you have some grown-out nail polish that is halfway covering your hideous blackened toenails that you got from forgetting that when you run in the afternoons during the first week of school, your feet turn into balloons and you have to go up a 1/2 size.

marathon blister prevention

It’s not blurry. It’s soft-focus.

Next get out your arsenal.

marathon blister prevention

Not seen: Cheap nylon footies.

As a precautionary measure, I still tape down my cranky toe with waterproof tape on my right foot. I find that the generic tape doesn’t stick as well. Buy the J&J stuff.

marathon blister prevention

The taping holds my toe’s ligament in place. Also, who knew a big-toe callus could reflect so much light?

Now the blister prevention can begin.

First, I apply Body Glide stick to my usual hot spot areas – the insides of my feet.  The Body Glide “For Her” was the only thing in stock at the store at the time. It’s for when you want to feel more feminine while you lube up your bunions.

marathon blister prevention

Lube those puppies.

Then, I apply Mission 5-hour Anti-Chafe ON TOP of the Body Glide. Why? Two different viscosities = double protection. If one fails, there’s a backup. I also put some Mission on the tips of my toes and my heels out of an abundance of caution.

Next, I ready my footies. Nylon footie socks are KEY. Yes, the kind you can buy at Target, CVS, Walgreens, etc.

marathon blister prevention

The key to ending your misery.

Blisters form when 2 things (in this case your skin and your shoe) rub against each other. If you wear footies UNDER your running socks, your skin will not have direct contact with the part of your shoe that’s rubbing — it will rub against your sock instead, which is way more forgiving.

Before I put the footies on, I sprinkle in 2Tom’s Blister Prevention Powder, you know, because IT CAN’T HURT.

marathon blister prevention

I might as well throw a pinch of it over my shoulder, too.

IMG_0096

Once the footies are on, I put on my regular socks (for short runs) or compression socks (longer than 2 hour runs) over them. The easiest way to put on compression socks is to roll them down and out before you put them on, then, instead of having to slide them up (which is impossible), you just roll them up. Who am I kidding? They’re still a pain in the patootie to get on. But here’s my regular, mid-weight, wicking socks.

marathon blister prevention

My new favorite, from Wrightsocks.

Now you’re ready for shoes. In theory, if you have good fitting shoes, you won’t get blisters. However, if you’ve got gnarly feet like mine, you might have to make some modifications. Since my bout two years ago with plantar fasciitis, I had custom orthotics made, and they all but cured it. Since my toe injury one year ago, I added a metatarsal pad on the right side. I can’t say enough about what a godsend these things are.

marathon blister prevention

Worth it.

I have bunions on both the inside and the outside of my feet. The outside ones are more problematic for running. One day out of desperation, I grabbed a pair of scissors, took a deep breath, and poked 4 holes in my $160 Hokas; one on each side. It was the best thing I ever did. My feet were ecstatic!

marathon blister prevention

Oh yes I did poke a hole in my Hokas! This was the second pair I’ve hacked.

And there you have it. My Insanely Elaborate Blister Prevention System. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Do you get blisters? What do you use to prevent them? Do you have gnarly feet and just need to vent? Do so in the comments below!

 

 

The TCS New York City Marathon: Where the Wind Really Blows

My brain is still swimming in race day memories…I’ve been walking around in this post-event haze, replaying parts of the event in my mind. I want to jump back into those moments, not to necessarily change anything, but to savor the nuggets I missed. I tried to take it all in, but it just simply wasn’t possible. This recap will have to do.

I didn’t have a chance to write about this marathon’s goals. This race had been almost 4 years in the making, therefore my main goal was to soak it all in. Immerse myself in the experience. My other goal was to kick the time clock’s butt. I had a killer training cycle this year, running 94% of my prescribed miles from Coach Erin, (about 400 miles from July 1!) even tackling 3 successful 20-milers. Last year, I had a wonderful experience, and a PR, at the Philadelphia Marathon, and I wanted that again. I was trained, hopeful, and ready for a 4:15 marathon.

The universe had other plans for me that day on one of those goals.

The Morning Of: I woke up on race morning about 5:00 AM. Actually, the wind rattled my windows about 4:00 AM, and I laid awake for an hour, listening to it throw branches on our roof, debating my outfit, and hoping not to lose power. And daylight savings time that weekend meant one extra hour of insomnia, sweet! I opted not to spend the night in the city, as my wave didn’t start until 10:30, and because I’m in a cheapskate phase right now. So by 6:00 AM, I was in the car driving into the city, dodging downed branches along the way and nervously downing a banana, the first part of my breakfast.

TCS NYC Marathon

Flat Nancy’s Battle Armor: Hot pink tank: Kohl’s, Pearl Izumi black shrug, Skirt Sports skirt (with all the pockets!), 110% compresion socks, my beloved Hokas, and my Badass Mother Runner hat from Another Mother Runner.

I made a couple of last-minute changes to my outfit before I left. Earlier in the week I sewed snaps onto my running skirt, onto which I would snap my race number. But I scrapped that idea, fearing that the wind would rip it off. My Badass Mother Runner cap — with a photo of my mom and I taped inside the brim —  got switched out for my NYC Marathon beanie I bought at the expo the day before. I have a tiny, wimpy ponytail, and I feared that the cap would get blown off my head in the wind. I also added my 110% Play Harder buff (that I received during that crazy Ragnar weekend) around my neck to pop up over my mouth to breathe warm air. FORESHADOWING!

Trains, Buses, Boats, and Automobiles: I drove into the city and parked in a garage. Walked to the subway. Took the subway, packed with runners, to the Staten Island Ferry. I aimed for the 8:15 ferry, but due to the crowds I got the 8:30 instead.

NYC Marathon

Lotsa runnahs

Always enjoying “Working Girl” flashbacks while riding the ferry, I headed to the lower lever for more seating to spread out and finish the rest of my breakfast: a bagel with almond butter and tart dried cherries, greek yogurt, orange juice, and water spiked with Nuun.

NYC Marathon

Verrazano Bridge, I’m coming for you!

Once docked on the Staten Island side, runners had to take a shuttle bus to the start. This is where things got a little backlogged…I had to wait over 30 minutes outside to board a bus. Right on the edge of the island, I could see the whitecaps on the Hudson and started to shiver as wind slapped my cheeks. I wore 2 sweatshirts and a pair of sweatpants over my race outfit, and I carried a blanket around my shoulders, and I was still quite cold. I pulled my buff over my nose and mouth, glanced at the Statue of Liberty, and stood amongst the huddled masses yearning to be warm.

After finally boarding a bus, it got stuck in a logjam on the way to the start. I knew I’d be cutting it close to make my wave at 10:30. I took a glance at my hands, on which I had sharpie’d the day’s mantras:

NYC Marathon

The left hand is NSFW.

“I am here, now.” That is a mantra I got from Dimity McDowell, one of the creators of Another Mother Runner, and co-leader of that crazy Ragnar weekend. It’s a way of staying in the present, and not worrying about the next thing. It’s about experiencing and savoring the moment while staying grounded.

BAMR” stands for BadAss Mother Runner. Ever since that Ragnar weekend, my teammates and I have kept up our private Facebook group, friendships have grown, and cheering sections have exploded. I knew I wanted the collective power of the BAMR group with me on this day. It also reminds me of my mother. She may not be a runner, but she has fought stage 4 lung cancer for the past 2 years. Truly, the epitome of a badass mother.

CTFD” is like “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” only more profane…sorry I’m not sorry. You’re going to have to Google it, because I don’t want to type it, even with asterisks, here. I started using it over the summer in the middle of runs or races in order to stay calm and focus on the task/route/run/breath at hand. I used it quite a bit in my last triathlon. “Calm down” is just not strong enough. I mean, we’re racing, not saving lives here. So CTFD, already.

The Start Corrals: After being stuck in backlogged marathon traffic, my bus finally arrived at the start and let us off and for a security check (bag check, a dog sniff, and a wand) at 10:15. Decision time: I could either rush to get into my wave, or CTFD and get into the 10:55 wave. As I still needed to strip some layers, load my pockets, and use the porta-potty, I decided to CTFD and go with 10:55. That also meant that I could hop into the wave that goes over the upper level of the Verrazano…YES!

I got myself pocketed and pottied, stripped my outermost layers, and headed into a corral line, which unbeknownst to me was the last corral of the last wave. I had heard horror stories of long waits in the start villages, but being that I was late, I didn’t have any time to sit around and get nervous. Before I knew it, I heard the cannons go off and “New York, New York” start to play, and because we were in the back corral…we didn’t move. That song ended and another song started, THEN we started to move, I synced up my GPS watch, started power walking…

NYC Marathon

The buses were used to “corral” the herd.

…turned the corner to see the start…

NYC Marathon

Almost there…

…started a jog, dodging discarded clothing items that were being dropped every which way…

NYC Marathon

Hmph

…and was greeted by 2 little “start” kiosks and a rusty Verrazano arch. Where did the cannons go? Where’s the bus-mounted scaffolds? Where’s the FANFARE?? In the 5 short minutes it took for me to get to the start line, everyone at the start got the heck out of dodge. I had heard the organizers dismounted much of the start line earlier due to the winds. The whole scene was bizarre. FORESHADOWING! No time to dwell. It’s time to CTFD and get moving!

NYC Marathon

The discarded layers (to be gathered and given to Goodwill) were gathering like a snow drift.

The Race: Staten Island/Verrazano Bridge
Once I passed the bus conga line and the start mats…HOLY WHIPPING WIND! The gusts blew around my head and I thought, jeez, who pissed off Storm from X-Men? People were stopping by the edge to take photos and I thought hellz no, a swirl would take me right over the edge. The gusts were so bad that it started clipping my heels together and pulling me to the right. Whitecaps raged on the Hudson. I felt like I was in one of those ridiculous Weather Channel videos. Runners who stripped lightweight layers tried to toss them to the side only to have them tumbleweed back into the main lanes to become wrapped up in others’ feet. I saw caps fly right off several heads and was thankful for the beanie decision. I felt my pinned-on race bib pull from the strain and I held it protectively to my torso.

NYC Marathon

My favorite shot on downside.

I put the buff over my nose and mouth to try and breathe warm air. I struggled to maintain a 10:00/mile pace, even when my goal was 9:40/mile. I told myself it would get better in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn:

It was not better in Brooklyn.

While the wind continued to slap us around, the sun did come out, warming things up a tad. The crowds appeared, and there are no words to describe the vibe that came with them. People holding “Welcome to Brooklyn” signs, kids with noisemakers, signs everywhere, NYPD officers clapping and cheering from their posts…cheering for strangers! It was a little overwhelming, and I got a little teary. CTFD, I told myself, and save the tears for later. It was then I realized just how crowded this race was. I was under strict orders not to weave, but it was so packed, and I was so far back, it couldn’t be helped.

While I was having a hard time maintaining my goal pace, I was enjoying myself on that long, straight thoroughfare that is 4th Avenue. I prepared myself for my first personal spectator spotting around mile 6.5…my friend Kelly (whom I met through Lori) told me at what block and which side she’d be on. Lo and behold, just after 11st Street, I spied her! Actually, this sign was hard to miss:

NYC Marathon

Really, just the best.

HOW AWESOME IS THAT?? She even had her baby boy strapped to her chest, under a pile of blankets, waiting in the cold and wind, for me…WITH A SIGN. I kissed Kelly, kissed the babyhead through the blankets, took a photo, and carried on, completely buoyed by the pitstop.

It wasn’t long after that I think this photo was taken, by a photographer on a lift, dangling over the roadway:

NYC Marathon

Happy runner here!

The happys continued despite more heel-clipping, dodging of wind-born water cups, jumping over discarded clothing, and a slower-than-desired pace. The route took me near (but not quite through) my old ‘hood, Cobble Hill. Brooklyn looks NOTHING like it did in 1997. Except this cool building is still there.

nyc marathon

My favorite shot of the day. Love the cloud swirl.

Shortly thereafter, I got a text from my husband that he and the kiddos would be waiting for me in the next block, but he didn’t tell me which side to look. I stayed in the middle, scanning left to right like I was at a tennis match. At the last minute, I saw my son and called his name, and darted over to see them. Cheers! Joy! Calls of “Mommy! I was afraid we missed you! I was crying that I missed you!” After some kisses and hugs, I was on my way, still feeling pretty good.

It got a little warmer as it was now mid-day. I ditched my gloves somewhere in Greenpoint, and carried on. Brooklyn is a loooooooong borough. The smaller streets offered a slight buffer from the wind, and I was able to get my pace into the mid-9:00’s with some effort, but then the Pulaski Bridge happened:

nyc marathon

Sorry for the blur. This bridge is the halfway point.

The Halfway Point: Mile 13.1
On target and running about a 2:12-2:13 half marathon, I decided to use the bridge to stop and stretch my Achilles’ which were not bothersome but tend to tighten up in cold race pace conditions. As soon as I took the first step to start up again, I suddenly and sharply felt an acute, tight pain on the outside of my knee. OH MY GOD WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY KNEE?? I hobbled a bit. The more I hobbled, the more it loosened, but I was freaked out! I hadn’t had knee pain in fifteen years – and it was the other knee! I got up to a decent run, but I could feel the pain lingering.  Going down the other side of that bridge, I faced reality at that point. I knew I was not going to make my clock time I wanted. The effort needed to maintain even a 10:00/mile pace in this weather was not going to be sustainable, especially with this funky knee business. I glanced at my hand mantras and I tried to shift into a better headspace.

Queens:
Once over the bridge, I tried to troubleshoot what might be amiss with my knee. It occupied my thoughts for a while, and then I decided to put on my headphones and turned on my music. I tried to stay present…I AM HERE, NOW…and while my knee felt mostly better while I was running, Queens was a blur, and I don’t remember much of it. Mantra fail.

Just before the Queensboro Bridge to run into Manhattan, I slowed to a walk at a fluid station for water. I thought, “I’m okay, CTFD, it must have been a cramp.” I started to run again, and OH NO NO NO, the pain on the side of my knee was back like a gremlin. I had to run tip-toe and wincing, for about 30-40 steps before it started to subside. What the hell was happening? Was my knee going to completely crap out on me? Was I going to have to DNF (Did Not Finish) the race? I had time to think about this, as the Queensboro Bridge loomed ahead.

The bridge has the reputation as being one of the hardest parts of the race…a long, continual uphill and no spectators allowed.

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At the base, starting the climb. It was crowed like sardines. Running sardines.

I enjoyed the relative silence of the bridge, and being that we were on the lower level and somewhat buffered from the wind (turns out this was the ONLY point I remember feeling relief from it), I just put my head down, plodded along, and ate that hill for lunch. That made me feel better about my knee.

NYC Marathon

My photography skills were going downhill too, apparently.

Manhattan:
Coming off the bridge was way cool. The crowds enveloped us on either side, sometimes 3-4 people deep, all going nutzo! Calling my name! A stranger to them, running an insane distance, and they’re cheering for ME! For everyone!

NYC Marathon

The screaming was unreal.

I stopped to see Mary somewhere in the 80’s (I ditched my camera to her to lighten the load), and then Dan and the kids again shortly thereafter. Both times, I would walk and be fine, and then startup again to that horrible knee pain, which would mostly subside after about 30-40 steps. I dreaded stopping and starting up again, but I knew I had to, at least for fluid stations. I was only at mile 18! I was also tiring (not bonking, though) and taking longer walk breaks but dreading the start-ups, because I knew it would hurt again. The wind kept at it, and at large intersections would swirl and whirl around our bodies, again clipping our heels together as we all hunched and hunkered to try avoid debris in our eyes. I AM EFFING HERE, NOW! I thought-yelled to myself as I buried my face in the crook of my elbows.

The Bronx:
Around the Willis Ave Bridge, which is about mile 19 and heading into The Bronx, the wind was at its absolute worst. On the bridge, I stopped for another achilles stretch, and as I was fighting again with the knee upon start up, another huge trolling gust came though, the biggest one yet, and I almost collided with another runner beside me. The whole thing was so ridiculous, we just had to laugh. A split-second later, I saw the photographer in front of me, and did this:

NYC Marathon

“WHAT-EVAH!”

It was right then and there I decided to walk. I was going to give myself this mile.

While I was walking, I reevaluated. I wasn’t bonking or hitting “The Wall”, but my energy was waning. Every other part of my body felt just fine, even my feet, go figure! I was just wondering if my knee would make it, or if I would have to do the rest walking. I didn’t want to walk, even though I was prepared to do so. But it was quite chilly walking and I didn’t want 90+ more minutes of that cold nonsense. Between miles 20-21, I went in fits and starts, more walking than running, and I was starting to get mad and annoyed.

Back in Manhattan again:
Around mile 21, I looked up to notice a squadron of people passing me. It was the 5-hour pace group! I funneled my annoyance into motivation. I WAS GOING TO GO SUB-5, WHETHER MY KNEE WANTED TO OR NOT, DAMMIT. I did not want a 5:00+ marathon, especially after I was trained for 4:15. My slowest marathon prior to this was 4:58. Pushed by my pride, I was determined to keep them in my sights.

I was hydrated and fueled, so I knew that if I could just run those last 5 miles without stopping, I would be okay. I knew that if I stopped to walk again, that’d be it…those shoes would be made for a cold, hard walk the rest of the way. I put my headphones back on and focused only on the road in front of me. As if it knew, Under Pressure came on my music mix.

None of my hand-mantras were really appropriate for this clutch-time. Desperate times call for desperate mantras. I thought of my mom. As in Philly, I called on her from 500 miles away to push me forward. It’s been 26+ months since she’s been fighting the pain from her cancer. If she can fight for 26 months, I can fight for 26 miles. My mantra became “Fight for Mom, fight for Mom.” Over and over, like some record on repeat.

NYC Marathon

Clutch-time race-face. Central Park.

I don’t remember much after that…I was in a bizarre headspace and I just focused on the patch of pavement 10 feet in front of me, and my music. The bands and the crowds became sensory overload and I felt like my brain was turning inside out. Fight for Mom, fight for Mom. Dan and the kids were somewhere in Central Park, but I was so tuned out we missed each other. I vaguely remember people called my name (it was on my shirt) but I could focus on nothing but digging as deep as possible. Fight for Mom. Dig. Fight. Dig. Fight. I don’t think I’ve ever dug so deep in a race as I did in those last 5 miles, they seemed so long, yet they were ending in a flash.

Crowds roaring. Slight uphill. Finish line. I came out of my stupor. I raised my hands and smiled. I stopped my watch. 4:56:13. The fight was over. I was the victor.

TCS NYC Marathon

Hands in the air!

I started sobbing like a baby. I couldn’t believe something I’d planned for almost 4 years was over, and that I had persevered. More than one volunteer asked if I was okay. I nodded I was. A sweet lady put the medal around my neck and said, “Tears of joy, honey…let it out. You did it.” I cried harder.

NYC Marathon

Weeping-over-a-medal selfie

In my hypothermic haze after the finish line, I had a moment of mourning for the perfect sunny, temperate, fast, pain-free race I’d hoped for. But looking around at my heat-sheeted companions, shuffling toward the park exit, I had a realization. The clock didn’t matter today. What did matter was that I did not give up, even when I feared I might have to. It was the toughest race I’ve ever done, hands (legs) down.

Let’s see how long it takes for me to sign up for another one.

Epilogue: 

I went my chiropractor the day after. Turns out that my painful knee was classic IT band pain! I’ve never had that before. Nothing that a little rest and ice won’t fix. The doc thinks that it might have been due to tons of lateral movements. Between the throngs of runners, the clothing in the road, and the other obstacles like potholes and plates, I weaved and dodged more than I wanted to. There is no possible way to run straight on that course with that many people! Now, 10 days later, all is well. Onward.

Coming Soon: Random noticings (yes, that’s a word, because I say so) and insights from the race (that didn’t fit in this narrative)!

Mingoman Triathlon: Calm the Heck Down

This is a very tardy race report. Since school started in late-ish August, I’m busier than a mosquito at a nudist colony.

The Mingoman Triathlon was pretty great for an inaugural race – one could tell this company has put on other tris before. Just some tiny little tweaks I would change, but no major issues. You can read about my pre-race tri-anxiety here.

So how was it? Short version: Pretty darn good.

Pre-event: We had over an hour drive to get up to Delaware, OH, a cute little town just north of Columbus. Dan was doing the Olympic version of the tri, and my friend Janet was doing her first sprint tri.

The point-to-point course complicated things a bit. We drove to the swim/transition #1 and set up our bikes in the dark. Then we drove to the finish/transition #2 and parked, and took the shuttle back to the swim start. I know, I’m confused too.

Once we were back at the reservoir for the start, it was daylight (albeit overcast) and I entered the water to warm up a bit. The water was 68 degrees, which meant it was wetsuit legal. When I got in, the water clarity was so poor that I COULD NOT SEE MY HAND EXTENDED IN FRONT OF MY FACE. Talk about sensory deprivation! That could definitely set off an Open Water Panic Attack. I told myself to calm the heck down, and continued my half-blind warmup.

Swim: After a delayed start (the prior waves did not go off on time), I ran into the water, and a little voice inside me told me that today would be a good day to try and dolphin dive to gain momentum. I should’ve told that voice to shut up. I dove a couple of times, bumped into a few people because I couldn’t see a damn thing underwater, started to freestyle, and immediately lost my breathing rhythm. After a few sputters and head pop-ups, and a brief chat with myself to calm the heck down, I was able to get some momentum. I knew I had to get used to being under-water-blind. Normally I sight (sighting is popping your head up and forward on a breath to make sure you’re going where you want to go) every 12th stroke, but this time, I did every 8th. After a couple of hundred yards, I finally found a rhythm. I wasn’t ever fully “calm and smooth” like my mantra was in last year’s TriFitness race, and I about crashed into other swimmers many times, because I couldn’t even see their wake of bubbles until it was too late. I almost got smashed in the nose with a foot —again with the water blindness. I finally reached the shore, climbed out, and breathed my usual big sigh of relief.

Transition 1: Due to this being a point-to-point tri, I avoided the dreaded DERP DANCE of INDECISION, (which is when one is so adrenaline-fueled that you can’t remember what you need next), and I was able to strip out of my wetsuit, hop on my bike and go. I did, however, need to make sure that all of my swim stuff was packed into the provided race bag, as it would be transported back to the finish line for me. Lost a few seconds there. Trying to pack a wet wetsuit into a small plastic bag is hard and silly, but it had to be done. Off I go!

Bike: Flat road. Corn. Soybeans. Sang to myself. Found a zen place in my mind. More corn. Sun came out. More soybeans. Kept telling myself to calm the heck down and enjoy it. Saw my shadow and thought, Who the heck IS that person? Marty McFly performed wonderfully. It was a lovely ride – I think this was my favorite part of the race. 21 miles…done!

Transition 2: Easy-peasy. Rack bike, change shoes, eat a GU, and go.

Run: The first half mile was a decent-sized hill. The sun was out, and it was hot, but I managed to pass a few people. I was working pretty hard, harder than I wanted, and I was trying to save some for the last mile. So I calmed the heck down, dialed back my pace a little, and just tried to keep in motion. There were some rolling hills, playing the part of equalizers, as many central Ohio triathletes don’t have many hills to train on but back in Connecticut I sure do! The run course was in town, so there were quite a few spectators, and the Delaware High School cheering squads were out in full force. As I came into the last 1/2 mile, I passed Dan as he headed out on his second lap. I stepped on the gas…

mingoman triathlon

“Two thumbs up!” appears to be my new thing.

My lungs were burning, and after I crossed the finish line in 2:03:22, I received a finisher’s medal that quickly rose to up to being in my top 3 of race medals:

Mingoman triathlon

Clever!

That’s bike chain encircling it, folks. And, it’s not big and gaudy. LOVE IT.

I got to spectate and cheer for Dan and Janet when they came in. I’m so proud of Jan.

mingoman triathlon

You go girl!

mingoman triathlon

Me nd the hubs on yet another tri-date.

Sooooo…did I meet my goals?

Swim: A dreamy result would have been 18:00 or under. I hit 18:09! (It felt a little short, though, I have to admit. Or maybe I just swam straighter? I’ll take straighter.)

Bike: I had no idea what my goal should’ve been for this, as 21 miles is an odd distance. I had hoped for 1h 20m or less. With an average of 17.2 miles per hour, I smoked a 1:13:04!

Run: Was really hoping to break 26:00 on this one, but the heat got me and I’m happy with the 27:41 I was able to pull off.

I found out later that was good enough for second place in my age group! WAA-HOO!

mingoman triathlon

It’s real plaque that I can hang on my wall and lord over my minions. #lookatallthesportssayings

My husband won 1st in his age group for the Olympic distance. IT’S A FAMILY SWEEP! (Kinda.)

So much for keeping calm.

can-t-keep-calm-i-just-placed-in-my-age-group

NEXT: New York City Marathon training continues…stay tuned!