All my love to Boston

I’ve spent a lot of time staring at my computer screen, trying to figure out what I could possibly write about the bombings at the Boston Marathon. It would feel so wrong to not write anything, but I can’t seem to find the words to do any of it justice. This isn’t going to be eloquent, and it probably won’t be coherent. I know it won’t capture everything I want to say, but I have to say something.

I thought about waiting to write until I had processed more. But then I realized that no matter how long I think about this, I will never fully process it. Nothing will ever make the tragedy at the finish line less shocking. This was a senseless, cowardly act. An incomprehensible violation and a cruel assault.

I wasn’t running on Monday, but as a runner in general, one of the worst things about the attack, to me, is that it was aimed at the spectators. The people watching the race are the most selfless, loving, and supportive group and while obviously no one should have to face the horrors of what happened on Monday, it was especially cruel to target the people who were there purely out of love. Spectators aren’t just there on race day; they provide support throughout entire training cycles. They deal with us when we are hungry or cranky. They listen to us talk enthusiastically about paces and goals, at best, or just as likely, blisters and dry heaving. They understand when we flake on plans because of long runs, or long naps, and they forgive us when we do show up – unshowered and in sweatpants. They put up with us at our worst. They wake up early to battle large crowds and long days in order to see us at the culmination of all our training. They carry us, physically and emotionally, past the finish line. Then, when the race is over, they do it all again. Training to run a marathon is an exercise in perseverance and testing limits, not just for the runners, but for entire networks of friends and families, and I won’t even try to pretend that running is the bigger challenge. Mixed in with all the overpowering emotions I’ve felt about Monday, the most haunting thought is that if I had been running, my parents would have been at that finish line waiting for me. The fact that that’s not a “what if”, but a reality for so many people breaks my heart and brings me to tears every time. Jezebel said it better than I can, but it’s the spectators that truly make running so special.

Despite the anguish and the pain that won’t ever truly heal, the Marathon will go on. Stronger than ever, scars and all. The running community is tight knit and strong; even as people compete there is an overwhelming sense of camaraderie and support. As for Boston as a city, I’ve spent most of my adult life here and there is a fierce hometown pride that comes along with that dirty water. Boston does not just sit back and let itself be defeated.

At the expo on Sunday, Kathrine Switzer said that the more we run, the more fearless we become. To me, fearlessness is not the absence of fear, but the acknowledgment of it, and the strength to act in spite of it. All the stories from the aftermath of the bombings highlight courage and selflessness and truly epitomize the collective fearlessness that will help us band together and heal as best we can. I am so proud of my sport and of my city and so thankful for, and uplifted by, the outpouring of support coming from other communities and cities worldwide. On Sunday, swept up in the energy and excitement of the Marathon expo, I told my family that I don’t care how much work it takes, I will run Boston someday. Despite everything that has happened this week (or maybe even because of it?), I absolutely stand by that. Training plans are pinned up on my cube wall; Active is basically my homepage.

Until I’m actually at that starting line, I’ll be sending all my love to the people who were there, to all the people at the finish, and all the people affected in any way by this monstrous attack.

Stay strong, Boston. Be Fearless.

My Hood to Coast Application

As I mentioned last week, I applied to be a part of Team Nuun at this year’s Hood to Coast relay. Despite the fact that my post talked specifically about Going Big this year, the link to my application was tiny and easily missed. Subtle, even.

“Subtlety” is not something I’m particularly known for.

So, I decided to repost my video here and share the Nuun love, in all its ‘glory’. I talk a little bit about why applying is a big, bold step for me in my other post, so I’ll spare you my usual wordiness today, and just let my video do the talking.

Nuun announces the teams on the 17th. Until then, I’ll be redirecting all my nervous energy into Boston Marathon excitement. Including, but not limited to, trying to figure out just how long I can loiter near the Nuun expo booth before I ruin my changes at being chosen…

Good luck to everyone else who applied!

My Week in Workouts

Monday (4/1) – 4 mile run, 90 minutes yoga

Tuesday – 35 minutes elliptical, 50 minutes spin

Wednesday – 2000 yard swim, 7 mile run

Thursday – Rest

Friday – Rest

Saturday – NYRR Scotland Run 10k (recap pending)

Sunday – Rest

Scotrun

A few thoughts about the week:

1. I’m just about back to what I would usually consider a “normal” week. This week will (hopefully) be about the same, and then next week I’ll start building on it. Time to get serious about this half ironman.*

...be daintier, Steph. Wow.

…be daintier, Steph. Wow.

*Admittedly the time to get serious was probably about two months ago. But I’m doing what I can with what I’ve got.

2. Another thing I want to get serious about is incorporating more speed work into my regular workouts. I’ve started easing in by treating my shortest run of the week, currently about 4 miles, as an interval workout. For now, that consists of me changing my pace on the treadmill every song, so song by song it looks something like: 7mph, 7.5mph, 7mph, 8mph, 7mph, 8.5mph, 7mph, 8mph, etc. I live in fear of the day my 12+ minute version of OAR’s Crazy Game of Poker comes on during an 8.5 segment. Fear with a side of excitement about how badass I’ll feel when I make it through.

3. I swear chlorine messes with me. One hour(ish) in the pool this week and I dressed for summer in 30 degree weather, forgot my shoes, and took the wrong exit on my regular commute. This is why I can’t judge a certain Olympic athlete who occasionally stumbles over language and is happy to tell the world what he would do in various life situations. If this is me after only 2000 yards, I can only imagine what would happen if I spent an Olympic level amount of time in a pool on a daily basis. I suspect it would not be pretty. Although I wouldn’t say no to the medals.

4. Boston is in less than a week. I’m in full on geek out mode. Anyone running? Spectating?

If you need me, I’ll be over here with my route map and cowbell.

 

 

DISCLAIMER: In case it’s not ridiculously clear, I’m not a coach, expert, doctor, or professional of any sort. I’m slowly figuring out what works for me in terms of triathlon training, speed work, and the time limit on being submerged in chlorinated water, but it’s a lot of trial and error. I’m sure I’m not working the most effective methods out there, but I guess I could be doing a lot worse. If you’re looking for advice on your own training, please don’t take anything I say as being backed by authority or expertise. Not that you would – I trust that y’all are smart – but worth mentioning, just the same.

Scotland Run 10k – Thoughts before the race

This weekend, I’m running the Scotland Run 10k in NYC, and I don’t know what to expect.

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The original Scotland run: My first Half Marathon in Edinburgh.

Kidding, mostly. I know what I can do if I really push myself, and I know what I’d like to do in ideal conditions, but my weekend is action packed and while I’m ready and excited for the run, it’s not my main priority; It’s just one part of Scotland Week (which is actually A Thing. Who knew?). This definitely isn’t my ‘A’ race of the season, so I’m keeping my goals/expectations reasonable for the sake of a good run/life balance.

Anyway, my goals:

A. Consistent pacing (BONUS: negative split) – I ran my first (ahem, only…) 10k last year, and I raced that much like I did the St. Pat’s 5k. I went out hard, panicked, pulled way back, crashed, and then finished at the pace I probably should have been racing all along. So my goal for this race is to keep things more even, or as even as possible, considering the Central Park hills.

 B. Don’t be scared of the hills – I ran them three weeks ago and I can run them again. This time I’ll be going in the opposite direction (clockwise), which I hear might be harder, but I’m not letting myself think about that. Remember last time when I triple knotted my shoelaces and was ready to take on the world? Yeah, I’ll be rocking the triple knots again, with all the associated attitude.

C. Run happy – This mostly refers to not getting wrapped up in my own little world and staying out of my head. I want to be aware of what’s going on around me, so I can soak it all in. NYC is full of energy and a little bit magic, after all.

So those are the things I want to focus on this race. As for specific pacing, ideally I’d like to try for 7:30 miles. If that’s not happening, I’d settle for half marathon pace, sub 8s, or sub 8:06 (my pace for that last 10k). And if I can’t hit any of those? That’s fine too. My ego may not be the happiest with that, but the rest of me is fine with it. This weekend is definitely more about the people than the run itself, so I’m not going to miss out on things to rest, and I’m not going to kill myself on the course if I think it will knock me out for the rest of the weekend. This weekend I’m staying positive, setting goals, but also embracing the life outside the run. Balance, and all that.

Anyone else running the Scotland Run this weekend?

My Week in Workouts

Someday I’ll get my workouts up before I’m well into the next week. Not this week, and probably not next week either, but someday.

Monday (3/24): 3 mile run, 90 minutes yoga

Tuesday: 45 minutes elliptical

Wednesday: 5 mile run

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 5 mile run

Saturday: 15 mile bike ride

Sunday: Casual egg hunting (aka: Rest)

This week I was excited. Not for anything in particular, but just a general kind of excitement about possibilities and potential. I was ready and anxious to get out there and do…whatever. I’m always really happy when the seasons change, so that might have had something to do with it. It could have also been the “excessive” amounts of Easter candy I consumed (I regret nothing), or maybe (hopefully?) this Zenned out attitude adjustment is really taking hold. I think it may have finally gone on long enough that I can no longer give all credit to the NYC runner’s high.

Anyway, this revamped attitude, and my decision to go BIG this year, called for some other big happenings this past week:

1. I took my bike out for the first ride of the season. Even better, it was my first ride with real, clip-in bike shoes and I loved it. General wisdom is that when using clip-in shoes you WILL fall at some point. My dad and his group of cycling buddies have decided that it takes two to three falls before you learn to pay attention when stopping. I, being terrified of falling (with visions of derailed race seasons, and memories of that [disastrous] time I bought a skateboard) paid SO MUCH ATTENTION and my first ride went off without a hitch. Yes, I know I will probably fall at some point, but I’m glad it wasn’t on my first ride. This first ride was bliss. Gorgeous, Spring-y, legit bike gear bliss.

Awkward angle, real love

Awkward angle, real love

2. I bought a wetsuit. I’ve always been a swimmer, so I’ve never been overly concerned with the swim portion of triathlons. Also, despite the fact that I’m always cold on land, somehow in the water I’m fine. Up to this point, I’ve mostly scheduled my triathlons during parts of the season when I can get away with not wearing a wetsuit. Fun, but limiting. And I don’t want to be limited by something that is SO easy to change. Also, I don’t love getting run over by people more buoyant than me. So I took the plunge (ha…) and got the suit.

Not a wetsuit

Not a wetsuit

3. This is The Big One: I applied to be on the Nuun team for the Hood to Coast relay this August. Aside from the obvious (it’s HOOD TO COAST. And NUUN. You get to run down a freakin’ mountain with THE gurus of hydration!), this is big because it involves putting myself further out there than I’m used to. The application was a video, so not only did I have to learn how to edit videos, but I also had to watch myself (over and over and over and over…) on video, something I used to HATE. Plus, in making and posting the video, I had to admit – out loud! – that this is something I really want. When I was training for my first marathon I barely told anybody, and I definitely didn’t talk about my time goals. If something went wrong, I wanted to be able to pretend it had never happened. I’m not saying that I want to start putting EVERYTHING out there for the world to see (for the world’s sake, as much as my own), but I don’t need to keep everything so quiet either. If I don’t hit every goal (and obviously, there will be goals I don’t hit – right away anyway!) the people in my life won’t think any less of me. Plus, in the spirit of the year, I’ve decided it’s better to go big, than to look like I’m not going at all. So anyway, I spent my weekend editing “scripts”, pictures, and videos and finally hit submit on Sunday night. This year’s Team Nuun will be announced on April 17th. I have no idea how I’m going to stay calm until then. I imagine re-reading race recaps from previous years is not particularly helpful, but I’m doing what I can with what I’ve got…

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Fingers crossed!

So that was my week: massive amounts of excitement, putting myself out there, and showing all my sports some love. I have high hopes for this week as well, not least of all because this sweet shirt is on its way to me, as a reminder of all these big things I want to do. I’ve got a 10k coming up this weekend, I’ve narrowed my options in The Big Fall Marathon Debate, and I still have some leftover candy.

Life is pretty good.

Complacency, Caution, and Confidence: An ongoing attitude adjustment

I was looking over my race recaps (putting together my brand new races page) and I realized that they all follow the same basic pattern. By the end of the post I’m satisfied (Hyannis), happy (St. Pat’s), or even elated (NYC!), but at the start they are full of doubt: “I wasn’t sure what to expect,” “I wasn’t exactly sure what my ‘strategy’ was going to be…I was at a total loss,” “I was in a weird place.” Wow. I know I joke about being a little bit clueless, but this is a bit much.

SO. In honor of my recent and ongoing runner’s high, I’m officially proclaiming an attitude adjustment and cutting back on the bullshit.

This is less about the obscene amount of food on my plate, and more about adopting the Happy Buddha Zen of my shirt.

This is less about the obscene amount of food on my plate, and more about adopting the Happy Buddha Zen of my shirt. (Photo courtesy of 8)

I know that relatively, I’m still pretty new to running, especially the longer distances. However, I’ve been doing it long enough, and have access to enough different resources, that I shouldn’t be totally unsure going into a race. Yes, I know that there will always be a level of uncertainty about racing; The weather, course conditions, and fellow runners are only three of the many external variables. And there are just as many, if not more, internal, personal variables that can change the outcome of a big race. But still, at the very least, I should be able to have an idea of my capabilities, assuming decent conditions.

I shouldn’t be surprised that I can hold sub-8 minute miles. I shouldn’t spend an average of two days pre-race panicking and stressing myself out, as well as stressing out the people around me. I was talking to a friend after NYC and he mentioned that he saw so many people strung out before the race started. I was shocked that those people could be so absorbed in their negative concerns that they were missing out on enjoying this great thing they were a part of. Then I realized that I WAS one of those people. Well, shit.

A big part of this is that I think I am still learning, and I’m sure I’ll be learning for many more years to come. I’m still figuring out how to best arrange my race schedule, how to balance recovery with improvement, how to pace myself, etc. Obviously, that, paired with the race day variables, will lead to me not knowing what to expect. But, my attitude adjustment comes in not making that my focus.

The other Buddha in my life. He found me in '08 and reminds me to check in with the Universe from time to time.

The other Buddha in my life. He found me in ’08 and reminds me to check in with the Universe from time to time.

I was talking to another friend and I said that 2013 seems like a good year to go big, to stretch myself, to try and achieve something crazy and maybe even a little bit impossible. In order to do this, I need to not care that I don’t know exactly how my race will play out. I need to just know that I’ve put in the training and that I can go beyond my “comfort” zone. I need to set big goals – not goals that I’m pretty sure I can achieve, but ones that will actually make me work for them.

I need to get over myself when it comes to hills, speedwork, and courses that don’t fit my ideal. Who cares if I keep PR-ing if I only register for flat courses that don’t include loops or out-and-backs?

I know this is all over the place, and maybe doesn’t make a lot of sense. But my point is that I want to work my butt off doing this thing I love, so that I’m more confident on the starting line. And if I’m “not sure what to expect” on race day, I want it to be because I’m pursuing something big, a reach goal. And even when that uncertainty is there, I don’t want it to be doubtful uncertainty; I want it to be able to embrace it as thrilling, exhilarating uncertainty. I want to start my race recaps saying that I went for it, with whether or not I got it being relatively irrelevant. Essentially, I want to combine the approach I took to running when I first started (13k with no training? No big deal. First half a week after my first triathlon? Whatever.) with the ability I’ve gained over the years.

I know, I know. I want a lot of things. But I think this is something worth pursuing. Not unlike that BQ I want to chase down. Bring it on, World. This year, I’m ready.

Boom. Attitude adjusted. And on the internet, for accountability. I’m going for it.

So totally in love with the Universe. No room for negativity here.

So totally in love with the Universe. No room for negativity here.

St. Pat’s 5k Recap

Only two weeks (…ish) late. That’s not bad, right? I thought about just letting it go, being a little baby 5k, and kind of anticlimactic after the NYC Half (which I’m still dancing around all excited about. Is there a limit on how long I can get away with that?). However, it was a good little race for me, so I think it deserves its moment in the spotlight.

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I wore this to work last week. I swear the matching nail polish was not intentional.

Plus, it’s far more interesting than my workouts this past week (Friday: 3000 yrd swim; Saturday: 60 minutes yoga), or the fact that I’m sick and living on crackers, grapes, and tea. Especially since only the tea is out of the ordinary.

Anyway.

In general, I don’t love 5ks. I look at them and see SUCH a short distance that it hardly seems worth it (which isn’t remotely valid, but there you are). And then I start running and remember that running fast (SO relative) is HARD. I don’t usually plan on racing 5ks when I sign up for them; they tend to end up being training runs with 2-3 miles tacked on at the beginning and end, so I really don’t have a great idea of what my 5k time actually is.

I mostly signed up for the St. Pat’s 5k because, being a week before St. Patrick’s Day, I thought this would allow me to celebrate St. Patrick’s Week and the race didn’t start until 11:15, so I could still sleep in. Score. On race morning, feeling festive and all, I got decked out in green, shamrocks, my Dublin finisher’s shirt, and even my old, 8th grade, bottle green gym skirt. And to think I couldn’t see the point in a gym skirt when I was 13. Little did I know…

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The race itself is part of a three race series, The Tour de Patrick, that takes place in the RI/MA area with each race happening right before the individual towns’ St. Patrick’s Day Parades, making full use of the people getting ready to watch the parade as course-side support. I got to the race early enough, and had no problem getting my bib and shirt. There was enough parking close to the start that I could walk back to the car (with my family dutifully following along), drop off my shirt, and still have time to listen to the band and check out the various costumes before pushing politely making my way through the hordes of people at the start.

I wasn’t exactly sure what my “strategy” was going to be. This was the week when I felt sort of injured, and really tired, and was single mindedly obsessed with New York, and since I have no concept of what makes a good 5k strategy anyway, I was at a total loss. So I decided to try and keep a pace slightly faster than my half goal pace, and go from there.

Standing in the start chute, I actually got kind of excited. Dropkick Murphys blasted over the speakers, which is excellent pump up music, being a Boston sports fan and all, and then the gun went off! We started on a slight uphill, but quickly crested it and got to fly down the other side. People were on the parade route, at least two little girls called out that they liked my skirt, and I was feeling good.

So good, in fact, that my first mile clocked in at 6:59. Way back in high school, I did a single semester of track, during which I ran the mile and the two mile. I only broke 7 minutes in the mile once, and I spent the rest of the day feeling like I was going to throw up. And here I was cruising in at sub-7 for the first mile of a 5k! Not sure exactly what to do with that, but there you are. I was pretty happy!

Mile 2 was hillier (as in: gradual uphill, gradual downhill, slightly more noticeable uphill. Providence is hardly mountainous.) and my pace slowed WAY down: 7:46. Umm, yikes. Although still at half goal pace, so there’s that? I think I didn’t quite remember that this was a shorter race, and so pulled myself way back, in the name of not going out to fast, before I remembered that I did not, in fact, have another 11 miles waiting for me.

So in Mile 3 I picked it up again. Nothing as crazy as Mile 1, but I came in at around 7:20. The last .1 I let loose and sprinted – it didn’t hurt that it was down a hill – and it felt WONDERFUL. I know I said that I rekindled my love of running in NYC, but I got a hint of that run happy feeling in Providence and I definitely think having that taste of it helped me in my half. Despite my all over the place pacing, I finished with an average pace of around 7:20 and a new PR of 22:49.

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RUN LOVE.

At the finish, I found my family, checked out some more costumes, and then took off. I was too cold to stay for the parade (continuing my streak of horrible Rhode Islander, since I didn’t even know there WAS a parade until this year), so instead we got some coffee, and made our way back home.

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Also, there was jumping.

I’m glad I decided to do this race, and I’m especially glad I went in just trying to get a sense of what actually running a 5k feels like. I know my time wasn’t fast by any means, but according to McMillan – my new best friend since he suggested that a BQ was not completely out of reach – it’s right where I’m expected to be. While I’d love to get faster, I think in terms of 5ks, I should work on more even pacing first, and then see if I can relive the high school glory days of 7 minute miles throughout.

In other news, this zero week has been good for me. As mentioned, I’m still riding the high of NYC, and I’m letting my body just crash and enjoy it (minus the being sick part, but whatever). By Thursday, I was definitely spending a ton of time cruising different race websites looking for the Next Big Thing (NBT) and getting excited for all the possibilities, and this is exactly how I want to be feeling!

This week I’ll start to ease my way back into things: hopefully get to cut back on the tea, get my voice back, and see if I can pin down some solid options for the NBT. Preferably one that lets me see just how accurate those McMillan numbers are… In the past month, I’ve conquered PRs and hills, and I’m starting to feel like I can do anything. And I can’t wait to put that to the test.

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My week in workouts

Monday (3/11): 90 minutes yoga

Tuesday: 40 minutes elliptical

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 3.14 mile run (Pi day! Please excuse me while I totally geek out.)

Friday: 2500 yard swim

Saturday: Rest/walking around Manhattan

Sunday: NYC Half Marathon aka The Greatest Day Ever

 

Last week I complained about not having a lot happening on a day to day basis. This week, looking back and looking at my out-of-nowhere-didn’t-think-it was-possible PR, I realize that maybe what I was doing was actually something like tapering successfully.

Given my history with taper, that would definitely explain all the crazy I’ve been dealing with recently as well.

After my last marathon, I didn’t give myself a lot of time to rest. I jumped straight back into running long. Some of it was definitely for the love of running, but I also had days where I had to force myself to get out the door, or panicked when I didn’t  And for what? There was the fear that if I stopped for too long, I’d lose too much. But I don’t want to be someone who runs out of fear (ya know, unless something big is chasing me, I guess?). 

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Marine Corps Marathon meets Jurassic Park?

I want to run because I enjoy it. Sure, some days will be tough, but that’s different than hating every step and feeling no satisfaction after. Tough is ok. That other possibility isn’t.

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Running happy

On Sunday, I recaptured my love of running, and I do NOT want to lose it again. I expect this current week will look even barer workout wise, but I’m ok with that. I’m giving myself a pass. I’ve got some little things coming up, but the next big thing on my race calendar is a Half Ironman in June, and I don’t want to struggle to train while staying one rest day ahead of a burnout. This week was my reminder that I can take time to give my body what it needs without sacrificing all the hard work I’ve put in. In fact, rest will actually allow me to get the benefits of all that hard work.

This is hardly some revolutionary concept. Some might call it “common sense” and those people would also be forgiven for saying “Welcome to the party, Steph, we were wondering when you’d finally show up.” Fair enough. But…better late than never?

So yeah, my point: This week, I plan on just basking in the glory of my ongoing high from Sunday. I might do some yoga. I might go skiing. I will definitely hit the pool. I may or may not do some running. And if I do? It will not be long running by any means. We’re talking something along the lines of Pi Day round 2.

It’s nice to know that I can stay strong (ish) during a borderline burnout, and accomplish some great things, but I don’t want that to be my default. I want to get faster, sure, but not if the process involves more mental lows than highs. This is going to be a week of minimal running, or running only when I really WANT to, in hopes that this will recharge me and get me ready for a long year of total run love. Until then, you can find me lounging around in my brand new compression socks (Pink! And Argyle!), most likely surrounded by Reese’s Eggs and talking to anyone who will listen about the glory that was the NYC Half. And I couldn’t be happier.

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Just relaxing with my race number. Normal.

The Magic of NYC

I was in a weird place going into Sunday’s NYC Half Marathon. I was thrilled with my Hyannis time, but still annoyed with my shoes, and those stupid four seconds. I was annoyed with myself for letting a few seconds, in horrible conditions, prevent me from enjoying what was actually a huge accomplishment. I was concerned about my hamstring, and unsure how to balance easing off and resting, with feeling ready and well prepared for NYC. I was too hungry or too full. I was tired, both physically and mentally. I didn’t feel like finishing my swim workout on Friday, so I didn’t. And I didn’t even care.

I was very aware of all the things that felt “off”, and that was stressing me out. I didn’t want to be tired, or stressed. I had heard from a friend that the NYC half course was The Best Course Ever, and I wanted to enjoy it. I wanted to go fast, but I didn’t want to hurt, and I was terrified that I would go into some weird zone, miss everything going on around me, and just not enjoy the race. Wah wah wah, panic, panic panic, rinse, repeat. Super fun, y’all. Sorry for that glimpse into the scary place that is my head. I swear it’s not usually that bad.

My parents were wonderful enough to drive me to NYC so they could watch me run, and by Saturday night, I think we were all tired of dealing with my mental spin cycle. We ate some carbs and they went to bed while I laid out my clothes for Sunday, gave my legs one more once over with my stick, painted my nails neon green and passed out.

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Up before the sun

Sunday morning came quick and COLD. 29 degrees cold. With a balmy 40 predicted as the high for the day. I BUNDLED up, and I was lucky enough to have my parents wake up for the super early start, so I could wear my warm clothes to my corral and not have to worry about checking them ahead of time. In the park, the energy was starting to build. Runners, volunteers, and spectators were everywhere. I made it to my corral and was the first person in the porta-potty. Call that overshare if you like, but I called it a sign that good things were happening.

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Normal amount of patterns

The sun came up, the corral filled, and music started playing. I was jumping around/dancing to stay warm and just felt good being at the start. I triple knotted my shoes – NO chances this time. We started moving towards the start, corral by corral, and I was ready – and excited! We crossed the line, Garmins beeped, and we were off!

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Happy Steph, running

Sort of. Of course there was the giant crush of people at the start. Finding paces, warming up, running four across… I didn’t want to weave and waste energy. Instead, I decided to be zen about this: take opportunities when they arise, and stay calm when they don’t. The hills were in the first half, so I could probably expect a slower pace to start anyway. I’d negative split. Make things up later. Stay positive.

And somehow, with that decision, my whole outlook shifted. It took me until well into mile 1, but I finally felt good. I felt calm, relaxed but excited, and ready to take on the course. My first mile beeped in at an 8:06 pace. I knew I needed to maintain an 8:00 or lower to break 1:45. I decided to let that be my last “slow” mile, saw a gap up ahead, and took it. I saw the first hill and I swear I actually thought “My shoes are triple knotted and I can do anything. Bring it, motherfucker.” which was SO ridiculous that I laughed out loud, but I ran up the hill, no problem.

The race kept getting better. I survived the hills, took the little opportunities to move up when I could, but kept my weaving to a minimum; my watch distance stayed right on track with the mile markers. I still felt like I was staying out of my head, and was able to enjoy everything happening in the park. There were dogs! Cowbells! Ponds? Pretty! SO SOON, we rounded a corner and I realized that I was seeing signs for corrals again. We were almost finished with the park and with that the first 6 miles. When did that happen? No time to wonder. We turned right onto 7th Ave and out into the streets of New York.

And that’s when my love of life, and all things running, turned into a full blown couldn’t bring me back to earth if you tried Runner’s High. I could see the lights of Times Square up ahead. The lights of Times Square! The road felt like it was moving in a decidedly downward direction, and my legs still felt fresh. There was something so magical about seeing no cars, buses, taxis – just runners filling up the streets. Bands played and the lights just kept getting closer and closer. I couldn’t stop smiling.

We turned down 42nd and made it to the West Side Highway. There was a little bit of wind, but what was wind after all those hills? I triple knotted my shoes; I’m ready to take on the world. As a side note, I love running along rivers. Give me a city with a river, and a pair of Brooks and I am one happy girl. I spent the summer of 2012 falling completely in love with New York and part of that was because every time I came into the city, I made time to run along the West Side bike path. So when we turned, I felt like I was on my home turf, and I couldn’t imagine a better place to be.

I passed mile 9, with my pace still holding strong. I was feeling good, but was a little worried; I was approaching the dreaded 10 mile mark. Those last 3 miles got me in Hyannis, and before that in Dublin. I didn’t want that to happen here. As I was telling myself that ALL I needed to do was maintain the pace I’d been keeping pretty consistently – easy right? – I looked up and saw one of my best friends, 8, and her parents up ahead. I knew they were going to try and be out on the course, but I also knew it was very cold and very early in the morning, so I would have understood if they had opted for a warmer, later start to their morning. But there they were! I waved and they whipped out their cameras while cheering super loudly (impressive multi-tasking). The people around them joined in. And just like that, I wasn’t worried about mile 10.

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Courtesy of 8

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Another one courtesy of Super Photographer 8

At mile 12, my mind thought perhaps I should have some sort of moment of doubt so that I wouldn’t start thinking this was easy, but at that moment I happened to be running past the 9/11 memorial, and there is no room for negativity in the shadow of the 9/11 memorial. Sorry brain, none of your crazy here. Not this race.

A good portion of the last mile (1/3? Maybe?) was in a tunnel. The energy was literally echoing and I knew we were almost there. I could pull a 10 minute mile and still PR (LIKE. HELL. was I going to let that happen, but it was nice to know, just the same). We passed a sign saying 800m to the finish. I was close enough to measure in meters! There was a little hill to get out of the tunnel, but no big deal, laces tied, whatever. 400m to go. I could see the 13 mile marker up ahead, and I picked up my pace a little bit. There was a turn right past the marker, so I took the right, and I kicked.

I made a point of not checking my watch right at the finish. Who really cares? I didn’t want to waste a minute focusing on anything but what was going on around me. When I finally did check, I couldn’t quite believe it. My time was a full three minutes off my Hyannis PR. I didn’t think that was possible, and I knew my Garmin got a bit confused in the tunnel but I wanted SO BADLY to believe it.

8 had been tracking me using the app, and by the time I got my phone back – after hurling myself at my mom and dad in the reunion area – she had already texted me my official time: 1:41.57. A brand new, unbelievable, PR.

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This is what happy looks like

This race was incredible. I had such a shaky start after weeks of weird issues, both physical and mental, but the NYC half captured all the best parts of running and reminded me why this is something I truly love. Yes, the PR was great (really great), but the fact that I managed to pull it off, after having decided that I didn’t care as much about the time as the run itself, was even better. I kept a consistent pace, faster than I thought I could (7.47). I felt fresh and ran mostly by feel; I didn’t let the numbers psych me out, and I just soaked in the awesome experience. I can’t even begin to describe how amazing it was having my family – and the people who are basically my second family – there. I’ve run a lot of races on my own, and that’s fine, but having people along the course and waiting at the end makes crossing the finish line that much sweeter.

As for the race itself, it was well run and organized. I am SO grateful for the volunteers and spectators who came out in the freezing cold (seriously, the water at the early stations froze) to cheer for and support the runners. The NYC Half is definitely a race you have to do at least once, and I know I’m going to do it as many times as I can. I swear the high from this year might just carry me to March 2014.

My week in workouts

And cupcakes.

Photo stolen from my best friend and fellow cupcake hoarder

I’ve never tracked my workouts. Not on paper, no spreadsheets, no journals, and definitely not online. Some cool runners I met recently tried to convince me to join Strava – which I did because I wanted cool runner friends – but they very quickly realized that me “joining” and me “participating” are two very different things. After a few gentle hints that I was doing it wrong, along the lines of ‘I usually upload my data the day I run’ and ‘I notice you haven’t uploaded lately – how’s running going?’ where I had to explain that I do in fact run, but that at any given time, my Garmin may or may be half charged and under my bed (if not accidentally in my laundry basket with my house keys and credit card…), I realized that I MIGHT not be cut out for this. Runner friend fail. Still, I know that actually being aware of workouts, in a way involving more specifics than vague half ideas is actually a good thing and helpful when trying to go further and get faster, so I’ll see if blog-as-record-keeping-platform is more my style.

Anyway. My week:

Monday (3/4): 15(ish) minutes on the elliptical, 90 minutes yoga

Tuesday: 30 minutes elliptical

Wednesday: 4 mile run

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 3000 yrd swim

Saturday: 5k (more about that later)

Sunday: 8 mile run

The downside to trying this “tracking” thing is that I can see, on paper(/screen) how unimpressive I look. I can’t promise that I’m ever actually more impressive, but my excuse for this sad attempt at being considered athletic is that last week was the post long run ‘Oh-my-god-is-that-hamstring-pain-I’ll-never-run-again-and-I-might-be-dying’ little pain that wasn’t. I tried to do something while easing off from the more extensive “somethings” I’d much rather be doing in favor of sensible recovery for this weekend’s half marathon. Effectiveness, of both that strategy and my attempt at record keeping, pending.

PS. It may or may not be worth mentioning that I make my living doing something that involves both “organization” and “knowing not to use run on sentences”. Do what you will with that.