26.2 Miles.

Well, I did it. It wasn’t easy. But I did it. And I have a whole, long writeup in the works but I can’t seem to find the time to truly bring it all together, so here I sit letting you know I am alive and well.

(Please forgive me for any grammar mistakes and/or spelling errors. The baby is taking one of his “flash naps”. If I get 30 minutes, I’ll be surprised.)

Let’s see. I survived the race injury free, which is pretty awesome. I was a good sore, but that only lasted for a few days. And every hour the aches lessened, I began to feel a touch more blue. There is a certain sorrow one feels after training for (and completing) a marathon that is difficult to describe. The only other time I felt anything similar was when I had postpartum depression. It’s kind of like you do all this work, spend all these months working toward something, anticipating one big event, then BAM! that something happens and you’re left thinking, “Cool. Ok, so now what?”

Yes, with one scenario you have a baby. With the other, you’re a marathoner. But something just feels… empty? That could possibly come off wrong to those who haven’t experienced postpartum depression. We love our babies. It’s just this inexplicably sad feeling. Anyway, a slice of that sorrow resurfaced after this race.

But enough about all that.

So back to marathon morning.

I woke up at 4:00 AM to get to the Meadowlands by five. Having gone to bed at 8:30 the night before, I was pretty well rested. It was a blustery cold morning. The wind gusts were insane.

How was I going to do this?

back of my NYC Marathon shirt

I arrived at the base of the bridge at around 5:45 AM. The sun had barely risen and the clouds were active and plump and deep shades of gray. The sky was unwelcoming, like summer and winter were refusing to give in and just let fall take over.

I made some oatmeal and sat down and tried my best to keep warm. Oh my goodness it was cold! I fantasized about a hot bath, the one I would take hours later after all this running nonsense was out of the way.

“If I survive.” I joked.

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My village (Green) was stationed near the Army building. And a few of us joked about going to war. Couple that with the sound of the helicopters hovering above, our nerves, and the canon blasts, and that comparison became darkly comical at times.

The more seasoned marathon runners wore trash bags, or those metallic wraps handed out after many long races. They had deli bags covering their shoes. Plus, they were able to sleep somehow. Then there were the crazy people wearing nothing more than a tshirt and shorts. Just looking at them made me feel colder. So I tried not to.

Hours went by. Canons roared. Waves of men and women hit the bridge. The excitement grew. I was so nervous. I was so cold. I took an extra long time in a porta-john. If you’ve ever seen a porta-john at a race, you know how desperate I was for warmth.

At 10:50 AM, it was finally time to start. While I was more nervous than I’d ever been in my life, and I worried my cold bones might shatter upon initial impact, I was ready to get moving.

They blared Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York”. Goosebumps covered my skin.

Wow. I am here. Finally. After years of spectating, clapping and screaming for runners until my hands hurt and my voice cracked. Dreaming of the day I would get to do it myself. Hoping it happens at all. Anticipating the reality of it. I am really here.

A canon blast! And we were off.

The wind was so strong on that bridge, my right foot kept blowing into my left foot, almost knocking me to the ground. An NYPD van drove by blasting the theme from Rocky over their loudspeaker, an event that would stand out as a favorite memory from that day. Wind slapped us from what seemed like every angle, but we kept moving.

Entering Brooklyn.

Hats came off, jackets, pants, shirts.

Things warmed up on the other side.

The crowds in Brooklyn were amazing. I wanted to stop and hug everyone. People handed out orange slices, water, tissues, leftover Halloween candy, smiles. Oh my goodness! The smiles! The laughs. All the words of strength and support and love. My faith in humanity grew immensely that day. I have been a spectator of the NYC Marathon for over a decade. But nothing compares to being on the inside. Now, I understand why it’s so important to get out there and cheer. The people made it easier. It’s true what they say: the specators carry you.

The last time I felt so close to so many New Yorkers–complete strangers, unknown faces in a crowd–was right after 9/11. And the juxtaposition of these two very different events, the fact that I was experiencing some of the same emotions, gave me great pause. So I let myself run with it. Sometimes carrying emotional baggage helps.

I was going steady for the first 10 miles. Things were looking good for me. I was on pace. I felt great. I had energy. Things were awesome. And then, just like that, things started to feel a little off. I started to feel uneasy. I stopped for a second, which was probably a big mistake. Because when I started up again, my guts started sending me messages, terrible messages.

Oh no.

I saw my family in Williamsburg, right around mile 11. I hugged them and chewed up an Imodium. Toby warned me that it would likely not do a damned thing until much, much later—probably after I was done with the race. But I had to try something. Because things were going south fast.

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I stopped at four different bathrooms between miles 11 and 16, waiting in line at each one. There went my steady time. There went the faith I had in my ability.

I became more and more disheartened as I continued on and I was ready to quit. But I couldn’t quit, and not because there was some internal voice imploring me to keep moving. No. I couldn’t quit because I had accidentally given my armband to my dad back at mile 11, the same armband that held my “ditch cash”, my lip balm and my Gu Gels. I had to laugh. Even if I decided to quit, I would have to walk. So that’s what I did. I walked. But I walked along the route in search of anything, something—a new set of guts.

Every time I tried to run again, I got sick. Every single time. The bouncing and jostling of my insides sent sharp pains throughout my entire abdomen.

I contemplated turning left off First Avenue and just walking myself back to the park to find my family. I considered trying to find a cab to where they were and letting them pay once I arrived. I tried calling Toby and my father via Siri (which I’d never used) and instead I ended up calling an old friend from Brooklyn who I haven’t spoken to in years. Oops.

Something didn’t want me to quit, even Siri.

Move.

Right as my guts were about to give out completely, I ran into my running guardian angel. Thank GOODNESS for my wonderful friend, Corie, who was right there waiting for me at mile 18, right where I needed her the most. She took the train in all the way from New Jersey and positioned herself where she knew from experience how difficult it would be.

I’ll be straight with you: there is no way I would have continued had it not been for Corie. She made me keep going. I told her I wanted to borrow subway money, she talked me into waiting until we hit the Bronx. She kept reminding why I was there, what I had been saying all along, which is that I just wanted to finish. She told me not to worry about my time. “In fact,” she said. “Don’t even look it up. Just finish. Do this for you. Screw your time.”

We made it through the Bronx and then back into Manhattan and at that point I simply couldn’t quit. It just didn’t seem right. I owed it to myself, to Corie and to my family to finish. Plus, Corie left without giving me any subway money. ;]

I still cry when I think about Corie. Joyful tears. What a remarkable thing to do for someone. (Thank you, Corie. Toby made a serious joke about cutting my medal in half and having your name engraved on it. Without you, it wouldn’t be mine.)

Corie left me at mile 22 and I knew then I’d finish and somehow I was actually able to jog again. My guts were ok. Finally.

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I jogged slowly down 5th Avenue and into the park. At mile 24, I started to cry for no reason. Nothing happened that sparked it. I wasn’t particularly emotional before the tears showed up. I guess my emotions took over. I was able to compose myself for a bit only to fall apart all over again at mile 26 when I saw a young woman holding a sign that read:

Someday you may not be able to do this. Today is not that day.

Thank you, sweet gal, for totally making me fall apart.

I was almost there. I could hear the crowd, the voice over the loudspeaker yelling out finisher names. I was almost done.

Wait, had I even started? I couldn’t remember starting anymore. What had I been doing all this time? I’d forgot to remember what I was even doing out there. Just like that, it was over. The longest, most physically difficult endeavor of my life (so far) was over so fast.

Why hadn’t I remembered not to forget?

Wait, what?

There are tears in my eyes, but you can’t tell.

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Training for and running this marathon was the second most difficult thing I have ever done. It was trying and emotionally insane. It was also truly remarkable. I am forever changed in ways I can’t even begin to write about. I am humbled, gracious, and thankful. And it’s true, what she said, that someday I won’t be able to do this. And that day could come at any time.

I am just so grateful I was given the chance and that I took it. I am grateful for Corie, for my family, and for the city I love best. I am just so grateful.

Thank you.

Long Training Run: Week 6

I ran 11.6 miles last Friday. It was a slow run due to the usual bullshit. Bellyaches started up 15 minutes in. I brought an Imodium with me and took half at that time. It didn’t stave anything off initially. But I think it may have helped overall. I walked almost an entire mile to get to the bathroom at the marina. But after that I was able to run solidly until mile 7 when I had to stop and walk to find yet another bathroom. Whatever. It is what it is. I’m getting used to this and even though it greatly messes with my overall run and therefore time, I deal with it. I have no choice.

But the real problem took place after I finished. I got a very painful, dull ache in my lower hide, almost like a contraction, radiating throughout my lower abdomen. I wish I could explain this sensation. I have no clue what it is. It’s happened before. It happened after I finished Disney’s Wine and Dine half marathon in 2012. I was in the fetal position in the middle of Epcot Center’s World Showcase. While many were celebrating their feat, drinking and eating plates full of fantastic food, I was on the ground in the fetal position, unable to move. (Granted, I wasn’t the only one sickened after that race. I haven’t ever seen so many people throw up after a race. It was almost comical.) Anyway, the pain goes away within an hour. But it is such an uncomfortable feeling. And I do wonder what causes it.

Friday’s run was also wonderful at times. I have to remember all the good stuff that takes place during each long run. Unfortunately, the gut issues are what I most discuss after I run. And that sucks. Because I can honestly say that there were many moments during my run where I felt absolutely amazing. I got the biggest runner’s high at mile 6. I felt completely euphoric. “THIS is why I run.” I had thought. “Remember this feeling.”

And you see, that’s the thing: I love running. I truly love it. It’s something I hope to do for the remainder of my life. I am left sometimes wondering what it is I’m doing right now, training for a marathon. And I’m starting to wonder if it’s a smart move. I very much would like to finish a marathon one day and the NYC marathon would be an amazing first one. But am I potentially ruining what it is I so dearly love by taking on so much so quickly? Why can’t I simply run every single day, enjoy it, and not try and do something so huge so soon after having a baby? I risk injury, burning out; hell, I got stung by a bee last night and nearly crashed from a panic attack wondering if I might be allergic. (I’m not. And I felt perfectly horrible for the bee who surely died after I pulled its butt and stinger from my skin.)

I don’t want to run a marathon because it’s on some bucket list. I simply love running. I want to run forever. The training for 26.2 miles is far more important to me than the actual event. I just love running.

So, what am I doing? That’s been my big question as of late.

I don’t know. But I do know that when I was pregnant and couldn’t run, I felt horrible. I envied runners. I sunk into depression. I missed it so much. I don’t want to burn myself out trying to train for a marathon. So, I’m going to keep going. But these thoughts started to trickle in. I don’t want to ruin doing what I love by doing what I love too much so quickly.

Anyway, I am rambling. I am going to continue training. I am to run 14 miles on Saturday, which I am looking forward to. This week, I will take half an Imodium the night before. I will carry the other half with me and hope for the best.

NOTES

Left the house at 9:37 AM. Temperature: 70s, overcast, then sunny and HOT.

Pre-run fuel: coffee with cream, yogurt with granola and strawberries, water.

Route: Forked River Run. Around lakes to marina, back to Rail Trail. Ran Rail Trail into Waretown, hit 6 miles out and headed back again.

Time and distance: Average 11:53 minute miles, a very, very slow one thanks to the usual bullshit. Total of 11.60 miles. Supposed to do 12.

Post-run recovery meal: Banana, homemade zucchini bread.

Personal Stuff: Gut issues. Still nursing. Hate the heat. But got high and I missed that euphoric feeling.

Pros: I love running in Forked River.

Cons: The usual. Belly issues. Plus, very hot and sunny for the last half of my run.

Upward and onward!

Mom It Down! Homemade Peppercorn Dressing

Forgive me for the long-winded lead-in, feel free to skip this and head straight for the recipe.

Cooking has always mystified me. I understand baking. I started baking when I was a kid. Nothing about baking makes me nervous, even making mistakes. But cooking? It’s just hard. I don’t know how people do it well (or at all up until recently). I remember trying to cook dinner right after Em was born. I was like the Swedish Chef. By the time Toby got home, I was stressed out, filthy and the dish wasn’t even all that great. So, I stopped trying.

Then I went to pastry school and things changed. I began to feel a great deal more confident and comfortable simply being in a kitchen. My knife skills improved. I understood flavor profiles a bit more. And then things really solidified while working for Mast Brothers. Every day someone had to make lunch for the entire staff. I was TERRIFIED when I learned this. I literally got the shakes whenever they nominated me for the first time. And while my meal didn’t end up being all that great, I did it. I did it and I felt pretty damn proud of myself for overcoming a huge fear and actually producing something edible. From that point on, I volunteered to help out as much as possible.

About six months ago, I started cooking a lot. Every day, first thing, I would plan a meal for that evening. I would hit the market, bringing Elliot along with me (Em was in school), and we’d shop together. I would then spend the rest of the day, here and there, prepping. And I’ve been having a blast. And since I like to try and use fresh, whole foods, I’ve been attempting to make the sauces and dressings from scratch as well.

I tend to be very conservative when it comes to baking. I don’t like to waste anything. When I make a swiss meringue buttercream, I’ll make a shortbread cookie dough (that freezes well) using the egg yolks. I don’t like waste. I think Americans waste far too much food.

Similarly, I like to know what goes into making the foods we consume. How much work is involved? What type of waste is produced by commercial foods? Is it possible for me to make almond milk from scratch AND use the almond pulp left behind?

These are two, HUGE sticking points for me: what goes into the things we consume; and what does one do with what’s leftover.

So, this philosophy (for lack of a better word) has led me to occasionally deconstruct the things I love to eat—such as peppercorn dressing. How hard could it actually be? Would it taste as good?

Yes!

What you will need

  • Blender

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • at least 1 tablespoon of peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic

Mom It Down!

Add everything to your blender.

Mix it up. You’re done! I KNOW!

Mom It Down! Homemade Almond Milk

I drink a lot of smoothies and I usually add a 1/2 cup of “milk” to each one. I use either soy or almond milk, but I much prefer the benefits of almond milk, especially for my post long runs.

As with most things I regularly consume, I started to wonder what went into making almond milk. More importantly, could I make it myself. Is the process horribly wasteful? How hard could it be to make almond milk from scratch? It is so not hard. In fact, it’s so easy, I’m kind of surprised it took me as long as it did.

What you will need

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup water (for soaking)
  • 2-3 dates (optional!)
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract (optional!)
  • 3 cups water

Mom It Down!

Pour a cup of almonds into a bowl. Add one cup of water and set it aside for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

After the almond soak, strain the excess water and add the almonds to a blender. Add your dates (if using).

Add the vanilla extract (if using).

Add 3 cups of water. And turn that puppy on. I use a combination of the “purée” function and the “liquify” function.

Strain your mixture. I do at least three strains. For the first one I use a pasta strainer, as the finer one takes a bit longer to drain. Below, is the pasta strainer. You will notice its holes are a lot larger than the the finer ones you’ll see later.

After I pass it through the pasta strainer once, I change to a finer one. I use a flour sifter to do this. You can use something similar, or, if you have one, use a cheesecloth. I do this step at least twice. Feel free to use your hand to gently push the moisture through. You want to get as much milk out of the pulp as possible.

You’re done!

It will last for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator. Although I wouldn’t recommend it, I have used mine after that.

Lastly, I loathe wasting food. I have a tendency to make whatever I can with leftovers. If I make a swiss merengue icing, I use the yolks to make shortbread cookies. If I make a key-lime pie, I will use my egg whites to make an angel food cake. All that to say, I save my pulp. I have made gluten-free, chocolate chip almond cookies using the pulp, which I will share with you at a later date. You can also use it for breads, rolls, and possibly even crust, although I haven’t tried that just yet. I will in time!

Overcoming Obstacles

This is so super easy, there really aren’t any. I think the only thing I can say is that if you don’t have a blender you can try using a food processor, although, I always have way too much leakage whenever I do. So, be aware of the food processor.

Variations

Flavor this as you wish. When I first started making it, I only added vanilla extract. I started adding dates whenever I realized I had a ton of dates on-hand and didn’t want to waste them. Since then, I’ve been adding dates to my milk. They so aren’t necessary. If you like sweater milk, add some sugar! I reckon a bit of maple syrup might taste good as well. Sky’s the limit, folks! Flavor it up.

Animals, Running, and a Favor From You.

Edited to add: There is a TL;DR at the bottom of this post.

I love animals. Everyone who knows me personally is aware of this. Those of you who have been reading this site for a while are also probably aware of it. And when it comes to donating money, I usually pick animal organizations. That’s not because I don’t love humans; I donate to human groups as well. It’s just that animals are terrible fundraisers.

I also love running. Running has changed my life in ways I can’t even begin to explain. The physical payoffs are obvious; I don’t need to remind everyone how important exercise is for the body. And it’s been instrumental in my weight-loss. But that’s not why I run. I run because it eases my anxiety, which is often quite high. It puts my personal problems into perspective; they don’t matter nearly as much during or after a run. It is, for lack of a better word, my antidepressant. It is physically impossible to feel badly about oneself after a run.

Anyway, I run a lot. And sometimes I try and run with something or someone in mind. Usually, I pull inspiration from my life and that makes those difficult miles—where I’m just not sure I can go on—a little easier to endure. I finished the NYC Half thanks to a newborn baby who was fighting for his life in the NICU. I thought about him at least a dozen times along the way and he gave me the power I needed to continue. I thought: if that little guy can fight so hard to stay alive (and survive, btw!) I could finish 13.1 miles for him. And I did.

Running the distance is often easier and more rewarding when you have someone or something bigger than yourself in mind.

So, when I received the email from NYRR stating that this year they paired up with CrowdRise making it possible for every single runner to raise money for an organization of his or her choice, I hit the ground running—literally!

I went out for a 6-miler and thought about which group I would like to choose. I knew I wanted it to be a local organization, and I knew I wanted it to be about animals.

It was so difficult to choose just one! There are dozens of organizations I support in some way or another. I wanted to pick them all. But in the end I chose City Critters (and Kitty Loft). City Critters cares for homeless animals, rescues animals from the city (kill) shelter system, and takes in animals abandoned by the public. Kitty Loft works tirelessly at TNR. (Trap, Neuter, Release.) Both are all-volunteer, non-profit organizations. Both have animal welfare in mind first.

So, here is where I ask you for 10 bucks. I could have probably just said as much from the get-go, but I tend to be a wordy one! If you’ve got it to spare, awesome. If you don’t, that’s awesome too. I have my goal set at $1,026.00 (actually, I had it set to 1,026.02, but they stripped my cents!) so every little bit counts.

Thanks for reading, friends! I can’t believe I am actually going to try and run a marathon. The idea of running 26.2 miles scares the shit out of me (hopefully not while running!).

P.S. You don’t have to give money to crowdrise. They have this automatic add-on at the end. If you don’t wish to give them a percent of your donation, just click the orange link next to that “processing fee” and hit zero. I am not sure why their default is to add money.

TL;DR: Wanna support me for the marathon and donate 10 bucks to City Critters? Click here.

Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon

I plan on writing more about this when time allows, but for now I would like to share three pictures.

Before the race:

During the race (mile 10):

Right after the race:

I ran a personal best but did not get the time I was aiming for. I have A LOT of excuses for that, of course.

For starters, this was a late night run (It ended after midnight. The party went until 4AM) so I am blaming my inability to reach my goal on the fact that I am a morning person. (Ha ha! Yeah, right.) Also, the month leading up to this race was a rough one and therefore my training schedule was all mucked up. (COME ON! YOU GOTTA BELIEVE ME!) Lastly, I ran into Darth Vader and I had to stop and get a picture with him because, I mean, how many times do you run into Darth Vader while out running? Not that often.

Nutshell: I had a great race. I will do it again. Disney knows how to run an event.

I will write more about this soon because there’s a lot to tell!

On Losing Weight.

According to RunKeeper, I have run (at least) 526 miles this year. I have completed two half marathons. I have burned (at least) 68,797 calories. And I did not lose an ounce of weight. I worked out at least 4 times each week, sometimes for two hours straight and I didn’t drop a pound. I worked hard, yet I actually gained weight. (A hearty appetite will do that!) Don’t get me wrong, I felt great. I’m definitely stronger. My cardiovascular system is thankful for it. But I didn’t shed a pound. This isn’t a complaint. I’m just pointing something out here, something a lot of people don’t want to admit.

(Or maybe just me?)

I have often complained about not being able to lose weight in spite of working out a lot. And usually it’s Toby Joe who will point out that running isn’t the best way for a person to lose weight, especially a woman. Weight lifting and cutting calories is the way to go.

Back up… I used to see this woman at the gym. She had a great body. She was there every time I was there, which means she was there all the time. With a body like that, she had to be. She was roughly my age, size and stature, without the extra weight, of course. One day I finally got up the nerve to ask her how she does it. What does she do? What’s her workout routine? Because she looks great and I wanted to try and emulate whatever it was that she was doing so well.

She told me she works out for at least an hour every other day. She does the bike, jogs, lifts weights. But after all that she said, “Honestly though? I never lost a pound until I started watching what I ate.”

I didn’t want to believe her. Certainly all that work would pay off, no? If I could just work out every other day, run a lot more, certainly I’d lose weight, right?

Nope.

On July 10th, while we were in Disney, I just got really fed up with the extra weight. I’m not obese; I’m far from it. I’m considered a healthy weight, average even. That’s fine. But I could stand to shed 10 pounds, 20 if you ask me. And it’s been that way for years. And I am sick of it. I am not happy about my extra 15-20 pounds. I used to be very thin, dangerously so. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for that again. But I’d like to be able to shop my closet.

I’m just sick of it.

So: I quit Weight Watchers. The new points system wasn’t doing it for me. And it was costly, $18.00 a month, if I recall correctly. Instead, I decided to count calories, keep a diary of what I consume and figure out what I should cut out, or eat more of. I downloaded MyNetDiary for the iPhone. I think it ran me 7 or 8 bucks, a one-time fee. I started keeping track. At first, loosely so. Then a bit more militantly. I got an idea of what an ounce of cheese looks like. I paid attention to portion size. I just kept track.

I’m quite pleased to say that I have lost 6 pounds since I started. I have 7 more to reach my goal. If I could get rid of five after that, I’d buy myself something really awesome.

I feel much better getting on the scale and my pants fit again, even the ones I’d hid way, way in the back of the closet. I feel better. Running is easier as well.

This has been an eyeopener for me. I had no idea how much shit I consume, how many empty calories I was eating day-in, day-out. It’s been enlightening, to say the least.

I’m writing this today to say that I hope in one month from right now, I can say I’m down another 5 pounds. And I hope that I’ll feel even better. I’d like to be done with this weight once and for all, and then just simply maintain it.

Veggie Sloppy Joe!

About a year ago, I was looking for healthy, vegetarian dinner ideas. This was one of the recipes I came up with. I am really excited to share it and I do hope folks give it a try, particularly meat eaters. You may be pleasantly surprised by this dish. It has a great deal of flavor, it’s super filling and it’s meat-free!

What you will need:

  • Skillet
  • Knife
  • Cutting board

You may notice I haven’t listed many quantities below. That’s because you don’t really need to measure anything. This dish has yet to fail. For example, I added too much vinegar today so I cut it with molasses. It evened everything out.

Man, I love this dish. And it’s great for those of you (like myself) who are dieting.

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • Some type of veggie crumble. I use Morning Star Crumbles
  • Peppers, both hot and bell, any type you want!
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • Molasses (maybe a tablespoon? I usually just pour some in.)
  • 12 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cupe ketchup
  • Splash of white vinegar
  • Salt

Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil. Heat onions, peppers and then crumbles. If the crumbles are frozen (mine usually are) just heat it until they no longer are.

Add everything else. Cover and let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. YOU ARE DONE.

And it is awesome.

Variations

I have omitted the ketchup. If you don’t have molasses, you can add another sweetener such as brown sugar. You simply can’t go wrong. Today I added cherry tomatoes for an extra pop. They were perfect. In the past we used to add a dollop of sour cream to the top as well as shredded cheddar cheese, but I’m counting calories these days, so I skipped the sour cream and added an ounce of cheese.

You can serve yours on a toasted bun if you wish.

Go forth and veggie! :]

The Brooklyn Half (and a request).

I ran the Brooklyn half last weekend. I really had no business running it. I was injured from running two races the weekend before. But I’m stubborn. Most runners are. So, I ran it. And I loved it. I’m proud of myself for finishing at all. Due to injury, I was betting against myself. And looking back, I do wish I’d run it better.

You see, I’d been excited about this particular course because, unlike the course in DC, you get the hills out of the way by mile 7 and then it’s super flat for the entire second half. In fact, when I signed up for it, I was pretty sure I’d get a “Personal Best”. I was wrong.

I started off solid. I started off steady. Everyone will tell you, “Never go out strong! Slow and steady wins the race!” Blah blah blah. They’re right. So I went out at my comfortable 10K pace (10 minutes per mile for hilly runs). And behold, I hit the 6-mile mark and felt great. I had the energy to continue! I was on pace. I was doing really well.

(Incidentally, I’ve no idea what’s up with my legs in this picture. They aren’t dented. Strange light? Weird.)

As I exited the park, the hills behind me once and for all, I spotted a little girl holding a sign that read, “Don’t stop running! People are watching you!” And I laughed out loud.

Laughter makes for great fuel.

Another guy had on a t-shirt on that read, “HALFWAY THERE!”

We were! We were halfway there! And I had the energy to finish!

As I merged onto Ocean Parkway, I ran over a dead rat. Perhaps it was a sign, because half mile later, I started to fall apart. First it was my right knee, then my left ankle and finally my right hip.

At mile 8, I saw a dead parrot, a fully intact, beautiful green parrot. Someone’s pet? This bummed me out a great deal. And of course I read meaning into it. Who wouldn’t?

Things got worse.

I stopped at a medical tent at mile 9 and grabbed a bag of ice. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the bag of ice, especially while running, but I had it.

I thought about quitting several times. I walked and held the ice against my knee. Things were getting uglier by the minute.

And then I started fighting with myself.

“You’re carrying ice, Michele! You look like a fool! You should stop. Just stop, Michele. Sit down. Just stop. You can stop. No one will care. You’re injured!

“I can’t stop.”

“Yes, you can. What if you’re so injured you can’t run at all anymore?”

“I can’t stop. This is Brooklyn. And if I stop I can’t wear the shirt. You know how I am about wearing shirts for unrun races. I want to wear the stupid shirt.”

“What are you going to do with this bag of ice? Carry it over the finish line? You’ll look ridiculous! You look ridiculous now, carrying a bag of ice during a half marathon. Just quit.”

Then I heard the sound of flesh hitting the pavement. I didn’t see it happen, but I heard her body hit the ground hard. Someone behind me had fallen. Another female runner stopped and waved over a NYRR volunteer who was on it immediately. The woman who’d fallen said she was fine. I was still fighting with myself while jogging. I was also still carrying the bag of ice. I had an idea. I stopped jogging and walked back to the woman who’d fallen. I touched her shoulder and said, “Ice?”

It was as though I’d offered her a ride. She lit up, “Oh my goodness! Yes!”

I gave her a quick rub on the back and jogged away.

“There! It’s gone! Now shut up about the ice and looking stupid!”

And that other voice, she didn’t say another word. She remained silent. (Or perhaps I’d left her behind.)

During both half marathons, I’ve lost consciousness. Not in the true sense of the word; I’m still blinking and breathing and alive; I’m still functioning. It’s more like my brain just stops thinking. It happened at mile 10 during both races. After mile 10, I simply can’t tell you what actually happened, or anything I thought about. It’s thoughtlessness, pure stupidity, beautiful brainless enlightenment. Simply put: it’s f*cking awesome. There’s no last minute. There’s no next minute. There aren’t minutes at all. There simply just is. There’s just a right now and even that’s gone right away. I LOVE that feeling. And even though I don’t usually know it’s happening while it’s happening, it’s the most profound, amazing feeling ever.

I think that’s why I run. I’m chasing nothingness.

And that feeling (or lack thereof) saw me to the Coney Island finish line. It also had me grinning like an imbecile.

I’m super proud of myself for finishing, but I sincerely wish I’d done better. I want better times. I want to be a better runner. That’s my new goal.

Stats and Boring Stuff

I’ll be honest, it’s hard to write on here lately because all I want to write about is running and I know that’s really boring. But I think I need to now because I want a record of what I’ve been doing. So, forgive me, but I’m going to ramble for a bit and document some stuff. I need to see progress eventually because I’ve been growing a little discouraged.

I’ve been beating myself up over my inability to beat a personal best for a 4-miler in Central Park, so I decided to look back over my stats on RunKeeper. In May of last year (3 months postpartum), I was running up to 2 miles at a 12-mile pace. Not great, but not too bad for just having had a baby.

In September, after running at most 2 times each week, I was able to finish a 4-mile run with NYRR in 38 minutes 45 seconds. That’s an average pace of 9 minutes, 41 seconds per mile. (I should mention I was also 10 pounds thinner than I am now thanks to an overactive thyroid.) I was VERY proud of my progress especially considering I was still just 7 months postpartum.

I ran here and there into the fall and winter, probably 8 to 10 times a month. I never did more than 2 to three miles unless I had a race. Running helped me clear my head. It was my alone time. That’s why I did it.

But I craved a bigger goal. So in November I signed up for the lottery to run the NYC half marathon. I told myself that if I got in, I’d train properly. I’d make a schedule and put my all into running. Finally.

On December 30th, I found out I didn’t make it into the half. I was heartbroken, frankly. But my brother came to the rescue suggesting I run the DC Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon scheduled the day before the NYC half. Perfect! I signed up.

I began my training on December 31st. From that day until the first week of March, I ran four times a week with one long run on Saturdays. I followed this schedule. I saw progress, but more importantly, I didn’t see injury.

I signed up for a bunch of NYRR races. They offer a 9+1 option. Basically, any member who finishes 9 races and volunteers for one during a calendar year is guaranteed a spot in the NYC ING Marathon for the following year. As testament to how much I’ve run since January, I finished my 9 last Saturday. So, should I ever decide I am actually able to run 26.2 miles, I have a chance to in 2013.

Anyway, on March 17th, I ran the DC half. And I was proud of myself and my time. So with Brooklyn, even though I was injured and betting against myself, I wanted to see progress. And I didn’t. I was a little bummed.

My brother tells me I’m running too much and I think he’s onto something. I’m doing too much, too soon. I started reading this book and they seem to think the same thing. Because I’m getting slower, not faster. While my 4-mile and 10K race paces are very consistent, anything more than that, I slow way, way down. My half marathon pace is SUPER slow—at around 2 hours, 30 minutes. This is partly due to injury, but it’s also that I simply slow down after 7 miles.

I want to finish faster. I want a new goal. I want to be faster and more efficient.

I’m 38. I won’t ever be a really fast runner. But I want to be steady and good at it. I don’t really have many regrets in life. But not running earlier—like, not sticking to it all those times in the past I’d start and then stop—well, that’s a huge regret of mine. Had I stuck with running at age 27, when I realized how much I enjoyed it, I might be pretty damn great at it by now.

Let’s wrap this up, shall we?

By November of this year, I would like to run the half in 2 hours, 10 minutes. Is that crazy? Can I do this? I’m not sure, but that’s my new goal. We’re running the Disney Wine and Dine half in November and I want to look back on this post and see a difference. I want to be really proud. I simply want to be faster.

Are There Any Runners Out There? A Moment of Your Time!

Are you a runner? I want to hear from you. When did you start running? How long did it take you to run 13 miles straight? What was your time? I think I’m looking to feel better about my terrible times. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself; maybe I’m not being hard enough on myself. But right now I just want to hear from others. So, if you’re reading this and you’re a distance runner, tell me about yourself. How long? How fast? Suggestions? Help? Anything goes, my friends. Rant, rave, brag. Show off. I want to learn from you.

Edited to add: The lovely Krissa had some great information about the dead parrot! And it made me feel better, so I wanted to share it with everyone. Read more about it here.

Look! I’m even SMILING!

I totally got suckered into buying this shot (the only shot) of me crossing the finish line in D.C. And naturally, it’s blurry. I couldn’t see that in the small version they sent to me online. Ah well. You don’t get a chance to go back and buy shots of yourself running your first ever half marathon.

Anyway, here it is! I’m smiling because I’m listening to the sickest song ever. And because the race is over! IT’S OVER!

Damn was that ever difficult. I can’t imagine running 26.2 miles. I am having trouble picturing the 13.1 I’m supposed to be running through Brooklyn in a few weeks.