Marathon Training Week 3: A Sticky Bricky and Handstand Push Ups

I’m a week behind in my Marathon Training reports. Oopsie.

NYC Marathon Training Week 3 (with some triathlon training sprinkled in) totals:

  • 22 miles ran
  • 18 miles biked
  • 1/2 mile swam
  • 1 Crossfit Workout
  • 1 Softball Game

MONDAY: 1/2 mile open water swim. Our local bike club coordinates with the town beach to have lifeguards available on Monday evenings for Open Water Swim practice. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MUCH OPEN WATER SWIM practice. For me, that open water panic attack could rear its ugly, choking head any moment. The kids can’t go in the water during OWS, so I handed the camera to my daughter and this is what I got:

open water swim triathlon training

Calm and not panicking.

And these:

triathlon open water swim

If You Give a Kid a Camera…

TUESDAY: Softball! I’ve been playing (albeit inconsistenly due to my schedule) in a women’s softball league in another town. My friend Nancy, whom I got to know about 15 years ago when we were both on the Viacom softball team in NYC, roped me into it.

The Nancy Zone.

The Nancy Zone.

It’s great fun, and our team is called “Team Power Outage,” which could be intimidating or laughable, depending on your perspective.  I pitch, and I have a new malady which I’ve named “Pitcher’s Butt.” My left glute is S-O-R-E from constantly shifting my weight from left to right off the pitching rubber. Who could foresee that pitching would mess up my running game? I have to be foam rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ that cheek constantly to get it to calm the heck down.

WEDNESDAY: I had the blessed opportunity of time on Wednesday morning, so I headed over the rail trail for a brick workout, a bike + run. By the time I started, it was 10AM and getting very sticky. A STICKY BRICKY, yo. I got a breeze on the 18 mile bike ride, but the 3 mile run was kinda soupy. Despite the heat, I really surprised myself on this one. I somehow harnessed the energy to do some fast sprints on the bike, and my 3 mile pace was actually fairly fast, hovering around the 9:00/mile. (Coach Erin is cringing at that sentence, as my runs are supposed to be “easy” at this point. It seems I only have one speed when I get off the bike, brickteen-minutes per mile.)

triathlon training marathon brick

Do a brick, collapse on bricks. It’s that simple.

THURSDAY: Five miles of speedwork at the track. I was really looking forward to getting back on the track, it’s been over 7 months since I had a proper track workout. I did 8 X 400 repeats, with rest lap in between. I was moderately tired from yesterday’s Sticky Bricky, and I didn’t have a goal pace yet, so I just made sure the “fast” laps were faster than the “rest” laps. This felt hard, as it was again late morning and full sun. But, I got ‘er done.

marathon training speedwork track

Break line, indeed.

I brought along my son, who’s pretty good at hanging out by himself (he brought legos and ran with me a bit). A few minutes after I got there, another Mother Runner arrived with her kids in tow, one of which was my son’s age, carrying a soccer ball. After some initial minutes of shyness, the boys ended up kicking the ball around the field and having a grand ole’ time. Sport: The Universal Friend-Maker.

FRIDAY: This was me, at various times, on Friday:

lion sleeping


SATURDAY: A Crossfit Sandwich! I ran 2 miles to Crossfit, did the Crossfit workout, then ran 2 miles back to my car. That in and of itself felt hard and kind of badass, but to top it off I made a huge breakthrough in Crossfit: I can now attempt HSPU’s…Handstand Push-Ups!

Handstand PushUps from Nancy Barlow on Vimeo.

Who IS that?! No, really, WHO IS THAT PERSON? I have trouble recognizing myself sometimes. That person will turn 42 this fall and I’m all what the hell am I doing? I’m not supposed to be able to do that?! OR AM I? It’s never too late, folks. NEVER. TOO. LATE. Keep in mind it took me 7 months to work up to the HSPU’s, which makes them all the sweeter (sweatier?) . It just reaffirms to me that slow and steady is the way to go. And, that I NEED this shirt. This is my HSPU shirt


SUNDAY: Long, slow run with Lori, 10 miles. We started at the dawn of the dawn, and not even Starbucks was open that early.

marathon training long run

Up at dawn o’clock

Nothing notable, other than I got my FIRST BLISTER OF THE TRAINING CYCLE. Time to bust out the compression socks to combat my feet as they balloon in hot, humid, long runs. This run also required the FIRST ICE BATH OF THE SEASON.

ice bath marathon training

It works, it really works.

I feel like I should be earning a scouting badge when I reach these “milestones”. Next week, pershaps I should aim for the first black toenail of the season? (And WHAT WOULD that badge look like?) I felt like this was one of the most badass training weeks I’ve ever had. I felt strong, I felt like an athlete. I felt like I left my mark.

crossfit HSPU's crosstraining

How did you leave your mark this week? Did you have any badass moments (fitness or otherwise)? Do tell in the comments, you Badass you.




Freedom Is Running Across an Enormous Bridge

“I get to run.”

Not, “I have to run.” Change one little word, change the entire meaning. One sentence implies a burden, the other implies freedom.

I celebrated Independence Day by getting to run. And I got to run (and bike) at my Happy Place: Ocean City, New Jersey.

While OCNJ did get pummeled by Hurricane Sandy last fall, from a visitor’s perspective it felt mostly back to normal – though there are some remnants of that Frankenstorm: Some shuttered shops, giant random mounds of sand under buildings, a half-rebuilt dune system, and sights like this:


My brother-in-law and his wife are preparing to do that to their house in a few months. Whoa. They don’t be playin’ around.

So I GET to be in OC and I GET to run. Where should I go for my first long run – 9 miles – of marathon training? Let’s start with the boardwalk…

sunrise long run marathon training

Sunrise on the boardwalk.

I left at 6:00 AM to avoid the heat and the crowds. I took off at the south end and headed up. Already, there were quite a few runners out. The boardwalk is always a forgiving surface to run on (except when it’s snow covered) but I noticed the boards were a tad bit warped from Sandy. Walkers wouldn’t notice but I certainly did not want to give my brother-in-law cause for calling me “Tripsy McBleedsalot” as he did a year ago when I tripped and bled 0.3 miles from his house on a night run, so I made sure to pick up my big clodhoppers and tread carefully.

I ran about 2 miles, then cut across the island at 9th Street and headed to the brand-spanking new Route 52 Causeway/Bridge. It’s 2.2 miles across with a huge, lovely pedestrian walkway that makes it an attraction unto itself. It has two hill climbs, great views, a nice breeze, and that makes it a perfect spot for a run. The family and I had biked it the day before and I couldn’t wait to venture across it again.

I ran to the base of the bridge. I wish I could have taken a better picture, but the ascent is curved and moderately steep and it does look like you’ll launch yourself into the bay, Dukes of Hazard-style.

Route 52 causeway marathon training long run

Bye for now…

Getting to the top, though, YEE-HAW, the views are breathtaking!

route 52 causeway marathon training long run

At the top of the first span.

I’m so glad I dragged my arse out of bed to do this sunrise run! I’m about 3 miles in at this point, and I’m nice and warmed up. Here’s what’s in front of me, and it’s glorious:

route 52 causeway long run marathon training

The building in the middle of the causeway is the new OCNJ visitor’s center. Note: It has bathrooms (but not at 6:30 AM.)

Next, it’s a long downhill, then a long flat, and then and ascent/descent over the second span, which is very teeny in the distance. Stopping at the cluster of trees by the Visitor’s Center, if you’re a bit of bird-nerd you’ll spot some nesting Night Herons.

route 52 causeway night herons long run marathon training

Good morning, birdies!

I just kept moving right along at a safe 11:00 long-run pace. There were times I had to hold myself back from running too fast. Being that it was the first long run of the training cycle, I did not want to blow-out my feet.

I get to the top of the second span, and the view is just blissfully breathtaking. By this time, I had a serious runner’s high going, I felt like I was sweating unicorn tears and sprouting Pegasus wings, this view was JUST THAT GOOD.

long run marathon training route 52 causeway

Top of the second span and I can see from whence I came…

I got to the end, turned around and headed back over the same spans. The breeze was blowing, and there were many walkers/bikers/runners out, but not enough to make it crowded. It was PERFECT. Like riding a rainbow (again, it’s the endorphins talking here). I didn’t want it to end. My feet did, but I didn’t.

I left the span and headed back to the boardwalk to finish the last 2 miles. By this time, the boardwalk was getting crowded, but runners have their own cute little lanes.

marathon training long run boardway

Stay in your lane, lady!

As my run ended and the boardwalk narrowed, it became filthy with runners.

marathon training long run boardwalk

Runners everywhere. We are taking over.

I get to walk out the door, get to wear what I want, get to experience beautiful run, get to take dorky selfies, get to sweat unicorn tears, get to ice my feet, and I get to be a little bit sore. For that freedom, I am truly thankful.

The Atlantic City Half Marathon Kicked My Butt For My Birthday

Nothing says, “I’ve got something to prove” like running a half marathon for your 40th birthday. What was I trying to prove and to whom? Good question…

Dan, the kids and I headed down to Ocean City, NJ to spend the weekend at the beach with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, celebrate our milestone birthdays, and for us to run the Atlantic City Full Marathon (Dan) and Half Marathon (me).

Due to Dan’s back ailment, he had to defer his entry to next year, so I was running solo. This race, like the Ridgefield Half, was also a “tune up” race, as part of my taper to the NYC Marathon on November 4th. So nothing to go crazy with, but being that it’s fast, almost-flat course at the beach, and that it was my 40th birthday, I had something to prove to myself. Deep inside I wanted that Personal Record again.

The problem was, I had spent all week battling a cold and taking care of an ailing husband and daughter. I averaged about 5 hours sleep each night. I was congested and just plain dog tired. But I was going to run this thing. Just…keep…moving…forward…

We started in front of the Bally’s Casino on the Boardwalk.

marathon training long run

Blue skies are smilin’ at me.

The race had about 2500 entrants (full and half combined). It was a dry, cloudless, 50-degree fall day at the Jersey Shore. The port-a-potties were plentiful and the crowd was energized. Despite my lack of sleep, I think I fueled well. I ate clean-n-carby the night before (thanks to Karen, my S-I-L), and I stopped the fluids about 45 minutes before the race. Other than being in a zombie-like state, I was as ready as I could be.

Even though Dan didn’t run he was going to be my spectator. We left the kids in OC, so it was like a date, only with sweat and not actually being near each other for over 2 hours.


I handed the camera to him. I wanted to give myself a break from taking photos during a run. Not long after the race started, I was kind of sorry I didn’t have it with me.

The gun went off, and since we were a little sardine-ish in the corrals, we do the shuffle-shuffle-shuffle-run! up to the start. The course ran up the Boardwalk for a couple of miles, then onto the streets of AC. I can appreciate how far AC has come in the past 30 years, but the presence of casinos against a backdrop of (some) lingering urban blight is just bizarre. Like at one point we were running behind the Borgata – one of the schwankiest in AC – and I spied with my little eye a disheveled woman in extremely short shorts of the not-running kind, walking barefoot, carrying stiletto heels and smoking a cigarette. The brain cannot reconcile such things easily – but a long race gives you time to ruminate on such things.

I would say the course was relatively flat. There were some small climbs from road ramps – at the top of one of the ramps I got a sweeping view of the back bay and the electric wind turbines. We ran about 1/2 mile in a tunnel that went under the AC Expressway (feelin’ hot! hot! hot!) that had a long climb out of it. There were times when racers were on ramps and above/below each other so you could randomly shout and wave to the other runners above/below you. Not that I did that. (Yes, I did.)

I felt surprisingly good for the first 7-8 miles. Dare I say it even felt “easy”. I found myself pacing with a 50-ish guy with a beard and a khaki cap. We had been within a few yards of each other since the beginning. When I would slow down to take a water, after I started up again I would look for Mr. Khaki Cap, and catch up to him. He would fall behind, then I would see him out of the corner of my eye, sneaking up on me again. We did this little game for about 9 miles. When you pace with someone that long without talking to other (or even looking at each other), it’s like a little game of tag. It’s another Jedi mind-trick to get you through the race.

After mile 8, things…just…started…to…slow…down. Mr. Khaki Cap pulled ahead of me and I had trouble tracking him. The course went back up on the boardwalk, and south past the start/finish line. The Half Marathoners continued about 2 miles south, then we were do to a complete 180 degree turnaround and head back north to the finish. There were no “lanes” to run in, so things got kind of wacky, as I found myself dodging tourists and spectators, and half marathoners coming from the opposite direction.

I did see Dan once around mile 10.

long run marathon training

I don’t want to know what the store behind me is advertising.

I got a smile and a wave and a cheer! That perked me up a bit (I was also happy to see Dan standing up at that point – I was worried that his back problem would make him go jelly-legged that morning.).

But after that, it just got hard. I can’t say that it was one specific part of my body that hurt, but my energy was tanking. I did my normal fueling of a gel and some nibbles of Clif bar. It helped, but I was still struggling. I stopped looking at my Garmin back at mile 11 – I didn’t want to know. I was afraid my perceived effort didn’t match my real pace. I don’t normally need a mantra to repeat unless I’m climbing a hill, but I started thinking about my birthday, and then I started thinking about how far I’ve come as a runner. I started running when I was 37, so for some unknown reason I just kept repeating the numbers 37, 38, 39, 40 over and over again, like a lame trance. The song “Unwritten” came on my ipod, and I just repeated 37…38…39…40 in my head like a broken record, in time with the music.

I don’t remember ever turning so far inward during a race before. Usually I’m with Mary, or I’m watching the crowds, soaking in the atmosphere. This was completely different. I tuned out everything around me, listened to my breath, felt every footstep. I passed Dan close to the finish without even seeing him.

long run marathon training

Not even a glance…

He said he was yelling for me, but I didn’t hear him. He said he almost didn’t recognize me because I had my “race face” on. I’m guessing he means this face:

marathon training atlantic city

Now that’s a race face.

I am known for my smiley face race photos. This was not a smiley-face moment.

Shortly thereafter, I crossed the finish line. I remembered to stop my Garmin (I often forget) and was shocked, shocked! to see 2:09:05 – a new Personal Record by about 45 seconds! I always try not to linger in the woulda-shoulda-couldas of my mind, but I admit I did briefly wonder what I could have done had I actually been rested that weekend.

I did prove something to myself that day – that I could push through the hard parts to get to the good parts. Maybe it’s a metaphor for turning 40…I’ve pushed through the hard parts of 20’s and 30’s, so that my 40’s will be even sweeter. Or maybe more tiring. I can’t tell which yet.


Sporty Forty.

That Time I “Accidentally” Went 22 Miles (and Almost Killed My Friend)

I was supposed to do 20 miles, and ended up doing 22. Two friends were going to join me at different points along the run for support of a few miles. I almost killed one. God, I’m such an overachiever.

It all started in the pre-dawn hours of the Putnam County Trailway.

marathon training long run

In a dark, dark wood…

THE PLAN: Head north on the trail. Pick up friend Chris at mile 5, turnaround at mile 7 and head south. Drop of Chris at mile 9. Continue south, past my parking area, to mile 17, where I’d pickup Alison, turnaround, and head north back to my car for the last three miles. I run 20, Alison runs 3, and I drive her back to her car. Simple, right?

THE SCENE: It was raining (of course) and about 45 degrees. It was my first time on this part of the trail, so I had scouted the turnaround point via google maps. I ran in the dark at first, then dawn broke. I noticed how pretty this trail was. Like postcard-New-England-Fall pretty.

Pretty trees…

marathon training long run

Lovely! (Wow, that horizon point is a looooong way down there.)

Pretty bridges…

marathon training long run

My own bridge to nowhere.

Pretty rusted-out car hoods…

marathon training long run

A little bit of redneckishness in Connecticut. Keepin’ it real.

Huh? The rest of the trail was practically pristine, and then I come across this car hood propped up on the fence next to the trail. It was about that time that I was overheating in my windbreaker, so I decided to stash it behind the hood, hoping no one would want to haul it off for scrap in the next 2 hours. And hoping that I wouldn’t zone out and pass it by on the way back.

THE ASIDE: Speaking of wardrobe, this is the run in which you test out all of the marathon-day gear and clothing, to make sure it will work on race day with no rubbing, blisters, etc. Here’s my proposed outfit:

marathon training long run

Field hockey, here I come.

I have been nothing short of obsessing over my wardrobe, specifically my bottom half, for the better part of two months now. I’ve got the top half covered. But my worry over the bottom half has to do with what I need to carry with me:

  • ID
  • Hotel card key
  • Inhaler
  • 2 gels
  • 1 clif bar

The NY marathon isn’t giving out gels until about mile 18. I need gels before then. However, I have discovered (through trial and horrific error) that if I eat JUST gels as my race fuel, I will have, ahem, tummy troubles of the worst kind. If I carry a Clif bar and take some nibbles every so often, it gives me energy with just enough “heft” that my stomach can handle it.

I decided to try out a SPI (Small Personal Items) Belt. It’s gnarly, dude:

marathon training long run

The skulls give me extra fierce-ness points. Uh oh, I think I just lost those points by feeling like I had to point that out.

As you can see, that thing was packed. Whereas I’m not planning on having my phone with me for the marathon, I needed to have it with me on this run for safety reasons and to communicate with Chris and Alison. Verdict: SPI belts do not well overloaded. 22 miles of flapping up and down no matter how I cinched it. It gave me a small bruise on my lower back. I’m torn.

SPI-belt aside, my running skirt is quite utilitarian. It was a splurge from Lululemon. Whereas most run skirts, shorts, or capris have one puny pocket, it has not one, not two, but three pockets. But…I’ve now decided, that I don’t like the way it looks on me. It’s too short, it doesn’t look right with my proportions, and the back is pleated so it looks like I’m ready to play field hockey and/or be a parochial school Bad Girl.

The compression sleeves are a “go” since I believe they are slightly alleviating my scrunched toe problem by reducing swelling in my feet. Socks and shoes are all set.

Anyway, I spy with my little eye…Chris, and Erica, and Judah!

marathon training long run

Why, hello there!

Chris and Erica finished their first 5k just a few weeks ago, and Chris said he was game for four miles. (Erica and Judah were going to stroll behind for a bit while we ran.) Chris and I headed north – off we go.

THE FAIL: I can do math – except when I run. I got to Chris at about 4.85 miles. I my lame brain, I couldn’t calculate where the 2 mile marker point was, and while I was kind of keeping my eye out for our turnaround point, I missed it. Next thing I know, we are at the end of the trail, about one mile further than we had planned to go. Now we have to turn around and go back, adding another mile. I felt like the biggest dolt in the world. I didn’t want to make Chris run 6 miles, and he didn’t want to make me walk (we’re a little too nice to each other). Chris ended up pounding through the miles, though at one point I started to hear some heavy breathing and he declared to no one in particular, “I call the couch for the entire afternoon!” I was wondering if I should be remembering my first aid classes, but he kept saying he was ok.

And thank goodness he was…

marathon training long run


…or Erica would’ve (deservedly) killed me. Total for Chris: 5.85 miles. After that effort, you can totally round that puppy to SIX. Thank you, friend. Sorry about almost killing you.

THE BURN: Next, I went loco. I really don’t mind running by myself, and I know I’m going to have to run the 26.2 solo, but MY GOD, THE TREES…THE ENDLESS TREES. Oh look, there’s another. And another. I’m going to count the trees to make the time pass. One, two, three…ah, screw counting the trees! Where are the squirrels and the deer when you need them? Foxes? Coyotes? Hello? C’mon, Nature, give me some distractions! For the love of Pete, make the scenery change…

marathon training long run

I am never bored. But I am here.

Finally, a tunnel! Really, it’s an underpass, but for the sake of drama, it’s a tunnel.

marathon training long run


The mind-numbingly straight-and-pretty run finally comes to a pause as I reach my car (by the way, I did remember to pick up my windbreaker from behind the rusted hood. Take that, boredom!). I do a brief stretch and hydrate, and continue south, 3 more miles to meet Alison.

This three miles was not necessarily more pretty, but it was less boring. Highlights included laundry on a line, the Mahopac Fire Department’s gleaming vehicles, and a woman smoking a joint on her back porch. (Sorry, no photos of any of it.)

Miraculously, I was doing a steady pace, and feeling okay. Keep it all in perspective: I was feeling okay for running 19 miles, but make no mistake, my dogs were a-barkin’.

THE COMEBACK: But look who perked me up! When I met up with Alison at the turnaround point, she had three different drinks for me to choose from (coconut water rocks!) and swiftly sent me a bolt of her own energy that made me think: Yes, I can do three more miles. THREE.

marathon training long run

She’s a godess, and a godsend.

Luckily, Alison is psychological ninja when it comes to practicing The Art of Distraction. Not only did she push the pace, ever so slightly, so that I’d keep up but not keel over, but she was able to make the last three miles be over lickety-split. We talked about kids’ music lessons and invasive plant species. We probably talked about other things but it was over so fast that I don’t remember. Now that is a Master, Ladies and Gentlemen. I want her on my team, always!

When it was all said and done, I was tired and sore, but all essential parts were functioning, there was no chaffing, and I finished in a decent time. I earned some black(er) toenails and a blood blister on my big toe, but since it’s no longer sandal season, I don’t care, because…

…I did not twenty miles, but TWENTY-TWO, suckers! *drops microphone*

marathon training long run

Um, that’s not the muscles I used.

(And by “suckers” I mean the Doubts In My Head. Not you, dear readers. I luuurrrrrvvv you. XOXO)

Next week: The Atlantic City Half Marathon. (Preview: I turn 40 and it just about kicks my butt.)

My LitWorld Marathon Shirt Has Arrived!

Oh me, oh my this marathon thing is for real! (or for “realz” as the kids say these days)

The shirt that I will wear in support of LitWorld for 26.2 miles arrived – and it’s awesome. Check it:



I’m going to take it for a test run on my 20-mile training run in 2 weeks. (Gotta check for chaffing, you know.)

So. freaking. excited! Squeeeeeeeeee!

P.S. I’m almost at my goal! If I can run 26 miles, surely you can donate $26? Click here now!

12 Miles and Back In the Game

Last week the wheels came off the training plan.

This past weekend, I installed some spares and revved the engine.

Thank goodness for running friends. Mary, Amy and I went out early Saturday morning and I was able to crank out 12 miles. Somehow, those 12 felt way harder than the 16 I did the prior weekend.

This week, I hope to have a lighter week work-wise and sick-kid wise. My husband’s back is much better and he’s now useful to me (Kidding! Luv u lots, Dan.) I’ve reached 50% of my fundraising goal (!), I have each run this week planned out with no question marks. On par for this week:

  • 4 miles at the track with 400m repeats
  • 5 miles + 5 strides
  • 6 “easy” miles
  • 18 miles for the long ass run

After last weekend’s 12 miles, I had a good soaking the toes session:

marathon training long run

Icing the equipment. I photographed them in flattering soft focus, like Cybill Shepherd on Moonlighting.

and I realized that one bad week does not tank the plan. There will always be a better run in the future.

I’m ready!