Kiss Post-Marathon Blues Goodbye

I ran my first marathon in New York City. It was an amazing experience that I’ll always remember and cherish. I was so excited to have finished a marathon and to have done it in New York!

Me and my very first marathon medal the next morning. Yay!

But I also remember being seriously bummed out as the post-marathon high wore off. What the heck? Wasn’t I supposed to be walking on airs for at least a few weeks, basking in the glow of the finish line glory for all the world to see? Well, yes, buuuuuuut, that died down after about a week. People stopped asking about it and life, you know, moved on.

My high was gone and I was still in marathon recovery mode, so I couldn’t exactly just pick up and race again. So sad. I had reached my goal! Now what?

I eventually came out of my funk but it took a whole new experience to get me going again. That’s when I found Achilles International and started volunteering on Saturday mornings as a guide for disabled runners in Central Park. Running with these amazing athletes definitely helped me get my groove back and even gave me a goal for the next marathon season.

Me and my friend, Leol, who also finished the NYCM this year!

So what’s the key?

Do something else. Anything else. Maybe even do something besides running (gasp!) or do something running-related, like volunteering at a local race with kids or something cute like that. The Girls On the Run 5K is on December 10th, which I’m going to use as my post-marathon, holiday season, do-gooder, get-off-my-post-marathon-a** and do something new event.

But what gets YOU going after a marathon? A new challenge: triathlon, 30 day yoga challenge anyone? A new activity: indoor cycling/climbing/kickboxing? Something completely different: book club/rearrange your apartment furniture/clean out all your closets/volunteer at a homeless kitchen…what else?

Or maybe you caught the marathon bug and are already searching for your next race and a new training schedule to have an even better finish time. That’s what I’ve done after the past few marathons. I got to a place where my marathons didn’t leave me as spent as they did in the beginning (don’t get me wrong, I was TIRED and I worked HARD, but I recovered faster) so I decided to switch up my training schedule to accommodate two marathons a year instead of one.

The result was Jersey. Which…well, it wasn’t a success where time was concerned BUT it was a HUGE success where my training was concerned. I finished super-strong and on pace despite having a hideous middle eight miles. To me, that was the biggest success of my running career.

Yay! Proudest finisher at the NJ Marathon!

So, if you’re finding yourself down in the dumps post-marathon (or any other race/goal), set a new goal. Don’t have one? Sit down with a friend who motivates and encourages you and get the conversation going in the direction of a new goal.

I cannot stress enough to you how very real this problem can be. You’ve achieved a goal that many people never even consider attempting and that can be a very difficult high to come down from. This is the best way I have learned how to deal with the post-marathon blues. What are your tricks?

Tell me all about it and then go out and run!

Keep Calm and Carry On: DON’T PANIC

When I started this whole blogging thing, I had a few goals in mind. #1. To share my knowledge about running, exercise in general and the human body with others #2. To be the change I want to see in the (IBD) world #3. To inspire people to be healthy.

I didn’t want my blog to be all about me and my own fitness journey and my IBD. Rather, I wanted it to be a place where I use my experiences to paint a broader picture about how to be the best runner/athlete you can be. I am totally on that journey and I hope that you are, too. I guess I don’t do too bad a job at that since one reader commented on a post where I mentioned my Ulcerative Colitis, “I didn’t know you have UC!”

But today I can’t think about anything else but Philly. So, today is all about me Being the Change I Want To See In the World and being open about my struggles with Ulcerative Colitis. If it’s not your thing, sorry for the detour in the blog. I’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow!

Between the added stresses that life seems to be constantly throwing my way (and everyone else’s, I’m sure) and my continued flare-up, I’m totally panicking about Philly. I just want to run. I want to be able to show up to the corrals and to have my pace be the only thing I’m worried about, not how many POJs are out there on the course. I want to worry about my clothes and my hair and how I will look in my pictures (don’t lie, you worry about this, too), not how I can communicate with my husband if I’m in trouble out there on the course like I was in Jersey.

So, today I am doing my best to Keep Calm and Carry On.

Image courtesy of Amazon.com

Did you know that phrase has its origins in WWII Britain? Yeah, that certainly makes me pause when I start to panic. What’s a little bathroom trouble when you’re comparing it to being bombed by Nazis? Eeek.

There are lots of places I am looking to for perspective because, in the long run if things get really bad, I will just do the half. I mean, I’m not obsessed with times and places and I certainly don’t beat myself up if I have to drop down to shorter distance because of my chronic medical condition. It’s not like I’m quitting. I know I will finish and that’s really the most important thing to me.

I mean, in the end, finishing is all that really matters. Ask Maickel.

But I DO wish I could race it without a care in the world.

Dr. Boz and I have a Plan. Not that I want to have to use The Plan. It involves a not-so-pleasant day of not-so-pleasant things, although the result will be that I can run virtually worry-free where the POJs are concerned. But, still, I don’t want to have to use The Plan.

I guess I wish I wasn’t sick. Isn’t that what it comes down to? I wish I didn’t have to deal with all this crap (Ha! That never gets old). I’m not one to panic about working out. In fact, it’s usually the one place where I feel most at peace and relaxed but it’s now something I get anxiety about, especially if it’s in a group setting. Or a new place. Or not near a bathroom. Or something I have to do for work where people are counting on me/paying for my time. So frustrating.

Ugh. So, I’m Keeping Calm and Carrying On and reminding myself of Maickel’s courageous finish and others who are “running” other “marathons”, experiencing things much, much worse than anything I’ve gone through. Perspective.

I will cross the finish line no matter how long it takes me or how many miles I decide to cover, given how I’m feeling that day. I will have a picture like these to show you in a little over a week:

 

Keep Calm and Carry On, everybody.

Now go out and run!

Last 5 Tips for How To Run a Marathon

It is officially Marathon Week here in New York City. The bleachers are up in Central Park, the flags are starting to fly on the course, there are several hundred (probably thousand) Europeans running around the streets and parks and everyone is wearing sneakers. The excitement is almost tangible.

Everyone is excited, but I bet quite a few of you running the marathon are getting nervous. Before you get all crazy with carbo-loading and expo shopping, take a few minutes to read these tried and true tips from your favorite run blogger :)

Mind you, I am not the speediest runner (my PR is 3:46) but I have finished all of the nine marathons I’ve started, including during a crazy flare-up in NJ and running with 2 other guides and a blind athlete in New York. Here are the main things that have gotten me through each of those marathons. From me to you.

#1. Start slow. Don’t let the excitement of actually getting started get you all riled up. Too fast a start will absolutely ruin your chances of finishing strong. I recommend running your first and second mile about a minute slower than your normal pace.

#2. Eat breakfast. You’ll likely be awake at least two hours before your race’s start time, which is plenty of time to eat a solid breakfast before your head off to the start line. Get up early enough to fuel up properly for what is probably going to be the longest run of your life.

#3. Maintain a steady, even pace. Even if you feel like you can run faster in the first half of the marathon, hang onto that energy for the second half. Marathon PRs aren’t set in the first 13.1 miles, but the second. If you tend to take off out of the gates, stick with a pace group.

#4. Stay positive. When it gets hard out there, don’t succumb to the pain and start getting down on yourself. “I can do this” is the most powerful thing you can say to yourself when you start to doubt your ability to finish. Negativity will get you nowhere but curled up in a ball on the side of the street crying for your mom. Trust your training. You can do this.

#5. Visualize a familiar run. The first 15-18 are in the bag, really. You’ve done it before. When you get to 18/20, visualize what your regular 6-8 mile run looks like and then count down your miles. You know what 5 miles looks like, 4 miles, 3 miles, here’s the last 2. You can do this. Think of a regular ‘ol 5 miler and hang tight.

Enjoy the crowds, but don’t get too caught up with them. Enjoy the moment and take in everything around you. This will be a moment to remember. You never forget New York. I can’t wait to see all of you out there on 1st Avenue. Look for me on the left side at 125th Street and then on 5th Avenue on 125th Street. I’ll be the tall, curly-haired brunette with cowbells in each hand.

Rock on, runners. And try to relax. Race day will be here before you know it.

Now go out and run!

What are your tried and true trips to get through a marathon?

How To Find (& Use!) Your Perfect Fuel

Back in the early days of marathoning, there was water. That’s it. And sometimes, there was barely even that. You wonder why runners looked like this at the end of marathons:

Gabriela Andersen-Schiess staggers toward finish line of LA Marathon in 1984 (image courtesy of Paul Chinn, LA Herald-Examiner/LAPL)

Maybe there was something else going on with Ms. Andersen-Schiess, but certainly she could have benefitted from some sustenance at this point, no?

Gatorade® became the drink of choice for professional athletes in the late 70′s (had been around since 1969) and not long after, along came the Powerade® and Power Bar®, which looked like a poop log and didn’t taste much better. About a decade ago, we started hearingabout Gu® which looks and tastes just like it sounds. Not long after that, Clif Shot Bloks®, Sport Beans® and Nuun® tablets started making the scene and really making a go at being the fueling mechanism of choice for runners the world over.

I tried Gu®. Didn’t work for me. Made me gag and made my hands all sticky. I cannot cope with sticky hands during a race. It makes me nuts. I tried PB & J sandwiches, but they were too tough to get down in the later miles. I liked eating Rice Krispy Treats® for a while, but again with the sticky situation. Plus, all the chewing made me inhale air into my tummy. No good. I grabbed Sport Beans® from a very kind Marine Corps officer during my first Marine Corps Marathon in 2004. The consistency worked for me, but they were far too sweet for me. (Yes, I said too sweet for me. Don’t look so shocked)

What I’m saying is that there are a lot of fueling options out there and you have to find the one that’s right for you. It’s gotta be something easy that you can chomp down in a few seconds so you don’t waste time with wrappers and stuff. It’s gotta be tasty, or at least, it can’t make you gag. It’s gotta have some redeeming qualities: electrolytes are a must, caffeine is a bonus. There are just so many to choose from!

During my most recent Marine Corps Marathon training, I gave Clif Shot Bloks® a go and it’s been true love ever since.

The mid-miles may have sucked (me and the POJs were best friends), but I was STILL properly hydrated and fueled up for the big finish in New Jersey.

Once you find your magic fueling product, you have to know when and how to use it. Too little and you bonk, too much and you barf. Yuck. Here are some tips on how to fuel while running.

  • Practice. Practice. Practice. Treat your long runs like a dry-run for race day and figure out when you need refueling and how much. I know I need water with my Shot Bloks® and that I need to eat 2 about every 4-6 miles, so I plan ahead with water stations and pay attention to when I ate them last.
  • Start early. This helps to prevent the bonk. You don’t want to be playing catch-up with your fuel or your hydration. I start around mile 5/6 and stop at mile 23. After mile 23, it’s all fluids for me because my stomach is too upset. But figure out what works for you!
  • Stick to your schedule. Race day is not the day to abandon all practices and wing it. You will likely be nervous and excited on race day, so follow your training fuel schedule to make sure you don’t miss anything.
  • Accomodate for weather. Windy days will make you feel like you have dry mouth. Swirl and spit with water, don’t ingest at every single aid station. You will sweat more on hotter days, so Nuun® tablets or Enlyten® strips might be the way to go so that you’re not ingesting too many fluids or too much fuel, but you have plenty of electrolytes. Don’t ignore your hydration if it’s cold outside. You’re still sweating and burning crazy calories and you still need fuel.

Trust your training. Training with your fuel is just as important as training your body. Without it, you’ll likely not hit that sub-four hour/Boston qualifier/just finishing the damn race goal. Practice with your fuel. Figure out what works for you. Make a schedule to follow during your race. Pack enough to get through your race. Trust yourself. Trust your body. 

Now go out and run!

Tell me, what are you fueling with these days??? Hey, New York City Marathoners, what are you carrying with you in TWO WEEKS (yikes!)?


Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays: The Do-Over

Happy BTAT, everyone!

I don’t golf. I have tried. I hate it (sorry golf-lovers, it’s just not for me). My people are not a golfing people. Anyway, there is only one thing I love about golfing: the Mulligan. There are conflicting reports of where this time-honored tradition came from, but the long of the short of it is that a Mulligan is a Do-Over.

I’m a big fan of the Do-Over.

I love the idea that I can change my mind. And I do. Often. I mean, hellooooo? I am back in school in my thirties so that I can earn a degree in physical therapy and I am a good ten years plus older than everyone else in the room. Little late to the game? Sure. Better late than never, though. Big-time Do-Over.

I love having the freedom to try, screw up and try again. There was a great article in the New York Times recently that highlighted one principle’s theory that children need to learn that failure is ok and that it teaches them strength of character, a trait often missing in children and adults who have never ever failed. I can’t say that I love the feeling of failing, but when I try again and succeed, that success is so much more celebrated.

I love that forgiveness is in abundance in my life. I forget things, especially now that I have school brain, and the amazing people in my world are so incredibly forgiving when I completely flake out. Thanks for the endless amounts of Do-Overs, everyone!

I love that if I suck at something, I can always try again. I have the Philly Marathon in 5 weeks and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous. Running during my first serious colitis flare-up in New Jersey last May was such a terrible experience for me that I’m nervous Philly will be more of the same. I thought Jersey would be my PR and it was anything but. I guess the only way to wipe the slate clean is to attempt a Do-Over. Thankfully, Dr. Boz and I have a plan in place and new drugs doing there thing well in advance so that this attempt to PR Do-Over will be a successful one. If not, there’s always next spring. But isn’t it great that one crappy (haha! great pun) race doesn’t define my entire running career? Love it!

Whenever I think of Do-Overs, I think of City Slickers when Mitch (Billy Crystal) and Ed (Bruno Kirby, oh RIP) console Phil (Daniel Stern) by telling him that, although he married a monster and slept with the check-out girl at his father-in-law’s store, he can still have a Do-Over, just like when they were kids. Awwww. He just has to do it for himself. I love that. I couldn’t find that scene, but here’s another gem (PS. Did you know that’s the very hot Jake Gyllenhaal playing Billy Crystal’s son?!):

Anyway, life kind of is just one big Do-Over, if you think about it. We are constantly changing, or wanting to change, who we are, what we look like, how people see us. If you want to redefine yourself, your life DO IT. Don’t wait. Don’t care what people will say. Go with your gut.

And that’s why life is so much better than the alternative, because of the Do-Over. Hooray for a fresh start.

Now go out and run!

Have you had a life Do-Over? Where did it take you?