From A Newbie Marathoner

Tonight, I am shamelessly going to direct you to my blog friend Ali’s recap of her very first marathon that she completed on Saturday in the Hamptons. You might think, “oh, the Hamptons sounds like ann exciting place to run…maybe I’ll run right into J. Lo or Alec Baldwin.” Can I tell you, it is no small feat that Ali #1. completed her first marathon and #2. did it out in the Hamptons. The Hamptons is the boonies, people. I mean, farmland and deserted roads with scattered mansions along the beach. The season of everybody going out and partying in the Hamptons ended Labor Day weekend and that place is a ghost town these days. No small feat at all for her to have slogged through late miles with few crowds to cheer her on (though her family gets and A++ for cheerleading). It’s not like the New York Marathon where there are crowds everywhere. So, mad props on both fronts, Ali!

Ali’s journey to the marathon was part of the Run For The Rabbit campaign sponsored by my favorite running shoe store here in the city, JackRabbit Sports. Ali has Chron’s disease and her charity of choice was the Chron’s and Colitis Foundation of America. She finished second in her fundraising efforts (amazing!) and raised over $20,000 for CCFA. This charity is close to my heart, too, because I was diagnosed and am learning to live with Ulcerative Colitis. I’d like to thank Ali *very* publicly for all of her efforts to help researchers discover more about our collective diseases and work towards a cure. *sniff*

Marathons (or any races at all) always mean more to me when I’m running for someone besides myself. Don’t get me wrong, I run for me, too. But when I’m struggling through a tough part of the race, what gets me through is not my vanity or my desire to be a better runner, it’s the idea that I’m out there for people who can’t be out there for themselves. Ali ran for herself, but she ran for me, too. And I will never forget that. *sniff*sniff*

Imagine the impact you could have on someone’s life just by choosing run for a charity…

Consider this next time you sign up for a race. Did you know you can always raise money at any race for any charity? Just contact them and find out how to set up a donation page. Simple as that.

Anyway, her recap is worth reading. It made me cry, which is apparently not too hard to do today. Ali’s hard work and dedication to her training is both admirable and inspiring. She is also to blame for my current addiction to 16 Handles.

Now go out and run, friends!

Maybe share a little about who/what inspires you these days???

Hydration

I sweat. A LOT. Like, more than the average bear. You come out of spin class looking like that? I come out of Biology class looking like that in the summertime. It’s true. Ask Tweedy. I can’t help it. I come from a long line of sweaters and am happy to say I am not the only one in my family whose internal A/C goes into overdrive at the mere sight of the sun or a humid day or a flight of stairs. I am my father’s daughter in this way. Mrs. Obi-wan hardly every breaks a sweat. She glooooows.

What does this have to do with hydration?

I’m getting there.

Because I sweat a lot, I lose a lot of sodium as well. Sweat is not just water, people. It is a combination of water and sodium and other trace minerals. You can feel the salt if you let the sweat evaporate on your skin and don’t wash it away. If you reeeeally get your sweat on and it dries a little bit, you can see it on your clothes, too! (Wait, is that just me? Someone tell me it’s happened to them, too!)

Exhibit A The salt all over my face post-marathon:

The salt is everywhere, as is the hair.

So what does this have to do with hydration?

I’m getting there.

Because when you sweat you lose sodium and other minerals as well, you must replace those minerals in order to rehydrate. You’ve heard me say that water just isn’t enough for endurance sports and it isn’t because of this reason. When you lose too much sodium and the sodium-potassium-calcium balance is off in your blood plasma, bad things happen. If there isn’t just the right amount of sodium and the right amount of potassium to work the sodium-potassium pump, bad things like dehydration and over hydration (hyponatremia) happen.

Dehydration gets a lot of media attention, but I want to focus on balance and how not to overdo it on race day.

One of the very helpful things that happens when you’re nervous on race day is dry mouth. You’re at the start line or just barely getting going and you swear your mouth is as dry as the Sahara. Please, please, please read this next line and tell yourself this: You are not thirsty. You have dry mouth. Swirl and spit. It will pass.

If you chug a cup of water or Gatorade every time your mouth goes dry during a race, you are putting yourself at risk of over hydration (hyponatremia) which is just as dangerous as dehydration. Trust me, I learned this the hard way. My first marathon (NYC) was 80-something degrees in November and I panicked throughout the entire run. I drank WAY more than I ever did during my training runs and ended up with a sloshy tummy full of fluid, which I promptly vomited at the finish line and again in the shower, and I experienced some serious disorientation and weakness immediately upon finishing. It wasn’t pretty. Ask Mrs. Obi-wan and Kooshie. I will never forget them taking care of me.

The way to avoid this is to test yourself during your training runs and make a mental note of when you usually drink, how much you drink and what you like to drink. I carry Gatorade with me and drink water at water stations when I want only water. That way, I always have something with a little sugar, carbs, sodium and potassium with me in case I need them. Be wary of the coconut water craze. Not every brand is all it’s cracked up to be. I also always have a Shot Bloks for sustenance, but Rice Krispie treats are yummy, too.

Trust your training and do not detour from it. Don’t like what they’re serving at the hydration stations? Carry your own. Not sure if you’re thirsty or just have dry mouth? Swirl with some water and spit and see how you feel in another quarter mile. Worried because it’s hotter than usual? Hydrate throughout the race by taking small sips, not big gulps. Wondering how your hydration plan is going? Check your forehead to see if you’re still sweating. Sweat? Good! No sweat? No good.

If you fear that you are suffering from dehydration or over hydration, seek medical attention immediately. Dizziness, loss of consciousness (even for a moment), disorientation, loss of coordination, vomiting, and lack of sweat are all bad things and you should get yourself to a medic as soon as possible.

Test your hydration strategies on a day other than race day and you’ll be a hydration rock star during your race! This goes for all sports: cycling, spinning, yoga, swimming, rowing, everything where you’re breaking a sweat for longer than 30 minutes (for me, it means all damn day). I don’t want to hear that any of you passed out because you didn’t hydrate properly, ok? Ok.

Now go out and run!

Be The Change: Workout Buddies

When I was 10 years old and about to start 5th grade, I was all about the sports (not much has changed since then…) and at my school, everyone who was anyone played on the A Team for volleyball in the Fall. Our school was very sports-centric and doing well in sports pretty much guaranteed you’d be well-liked among your peers. It was the night before volleyball tryouts and I received a phone call from one of my girlfriends. She wanted to know if I’d be interested in going out for the cross-country team instead (everyone was automatically on the team, no cuts) instead of volleyball. I didn’t realize that as I sat in our kitchen while Mrs. Obi-wan was cooking dinner that I’d be making a decision that would forever change and shape my life. “Sure,” I said. And I did.

I ran competitively for the next 8 years both in junior high and high school. I was good, but not great, and kept up with running as I went off to college. Running stayed with me when I moved to New York City and became my “thing” as I started my personal training career in Brooklyn. Who knew? I once asked Obi-wan if I trained for a marathon if he’d pay for my entrance fee (they were expensive to this college student!). He said yes and that he’d be there to watch me run it. Several years later, he and Mrs. Obi-wan, along with my older sister and longtime friend watched me run my first ING NYC Marathon. Fast forward 8 years and as many marathons and here I am.

All this happened because of an invitation to run from a friend.

When was the last time you invited a non-runner/yogi/gym friend to join you for a workout? Having grown up working out with Obi-wan and going to the gym with him, I never found myself uncomfortable walking into the vast open spaces littered with tortuous-looking machines and (almost exclusively) older men. But, I know that the most intimidating part of getting started with a workout routine is in fact walking into the gym. Unsure of where to go, what to do and what not to do, people marry themselves to a treadmill or an elliptical and never experience all of what a gym has to offer.

You could be a mentor to someone else. Sure, it’s great to hit the pavement with someone who is a seasoned athlete who can offer you a harder workout at a faster pace, but you could also be that someone for a friend or family member. Sometimes all people need to get started is an invitation and a buddy. That’s all I needed and look where I am now. Not everyone is a joiner, but most people want to start working out, they just don’t know how to do it. You could show them. You could be that mentor. You could be that change in their life.

So, invite a friend to workout with you. You might be surprised by their willingness to join you in a good sweat, especially if there’s a promise of brunch afterwards 😉 What are you waiting for? Be the change you want to see in the world!

Now go out and run!

How did you get started working out? Was it via an invitation from someone else or were you the brave soul who hit the workouts solo and just rocked it? Tell me all about it!

Better Than The Alternative Tuesdays: People Who Kick Ass

This is an epic week for me and what better way to celebrate than with Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays? Mrs. Obi-wan has this cool necklace that really embodies all of her attributes and inspired today’s blog theme. Allow me to dedicate this blog to those people in my (and your) life who kick some serious ass. Because, I don’t know about you, but being around those people makes my life brighter.

The "Kick Ass" necklace from Dogeared (image courtesy of dogeared.com)

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while now know that I have a serious amount of kick-ass people in my world. I can’t help it, I’m drawn to them. Sometimes I’m related to them (even better, they can’t get away from me!). And sometimes I meet them for five minutes and the memory of their awesomeness is forever imbedded in my mind. I don’t know how I get so lucky, but it seems everyone around me just plain ‘ol kicks ass. I love it!

I like to celebrate those people as much as possible. Usually, it’s with cupcakes. I love a cupcake, especially SugarSweet Sunshine and Moxie Cupcake! I can’t help myself. But sometimes, a shout-out is better than a cupcake so today is all about sending a shout-out to those people in your life who kick ass (sometimes yours) and deserve to know they do.

*Blondie, you kick ass and are just incredible.

*Rainbow Bright, you kick ass for jumping to help a friend in need. Not everyone does that.

*Here’s to an awesome team of 3 from luluemon who are volunteering to guide Achilles athletes at this year’s ING NYC Marathon AND will be raising money for the charity Let All the Children Play in the process. You guys kick ass and I couldn’t be prouder or more inspired!

*Secret Agent Man and Bonkers, you kick ass for follow your dreams, which is always the most inspiring reason to leave any place.

*All the athletes out there who never give up, you kick ass. I see you. Keep going.

*My friends who are embarking on the final stretch to attaining their various medical licenses, you kick some major ass! You are all smarter than me and I am counting on you to fix me and my old bones in the future. I am in awe of your smartypants-ness.

*Anyone who is running for the first time today, tomorrow or last month: you kick ass! Starting is the hardest part and you totally kick ass for lacing up your sneaks and taking those first steps. Welcome.

With all of you kick-ass people in my life in mind, I’m going to head out into this beautiful day and go for a run. Join me, won’t you? Go out and run!

Wait! First tell me, who kicks ass in YOUR life?

Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

Newsflash: Running is not always what one would call comfortable.

Sometimes you go out for a run and it’s amazing and you feel like you’re floating on air and everything is falling into place and there’s no better sensation at that moment than running. And then there are those runs where you go out and it’s torture the entire time and you want to stop, sit down and crawl into the fetal position. I felt the latter during my first (and several other) marathons.

This is me around mile 21 during my very first marathon in New York City:

Don't let the smile fool you. I am hating ever minute of running down 5th Ave.

At this, and several other points during the marathon, I was jogging my brain for excuses to stop that wouldn’t bring shame upon me and my family. Mind you, it was 75° when we started on the Verazzano Bridge at 10:15am. By the time this photo was snapped, it was well into the high 80s and we were all suffering. But (ignore my terrible running attire and the 10 extra pounds), do I look comfortable? No. Was I feeling good? Not on your life.

I have had the experience of feeling relatively good during marathons, but never comfortable. I believe that to be a successful distance runner, or athlete for that matter, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Six year, six marathons later...Comfortable? No. Feeling good? You betchya!

Once you can accept that your feet are going to hurt, your arms are going to be tired, your hips are going to tighten, your calves are going to burn, your tummy is going to rumble (or, as mine does on occasion, quake) you can relax into all of those feelings of discomfort and focus on what you’re doing. Running a marathon is more mental than anything. You have to let yourself feel all of what you’re feeling and then let it go in order to have a good run. If you dwell in the pain, it will consume you and no good comes from that, I promise.

When you’re working it out in a speed/hill/tempo workout, you should be very uncomfortable. Working at an uncomfortably fast pace, pushing your lungs and your heart and your muscles, this is what will help you achieve new levels of speed. That is what conditions your body for those long runs and prepares your mind for the pain you will have to, on some level, ignore in order to get the job done.

P.Diddy is in pain, but he's getting the job done. It was the 1st marathon for both of us.

When you can zen out about the pain and set it aside as something that will just “BE”, you can move onto more important things like your form, your fueling, your stride, your pace. You have so many more important things to be thinking about out there, why clutter your mind with a little thing like, “My feet hurt.” You’re running a marathon/half-marathon/10K/whatever. Your feet are going to hurt. Instead, think about what inspires you. Think about why you are there and how amazing it is that you are doing it. Think about all you’ve accomplished just by showing up and toeing that start line. These are the things that get you past the pain. Your mind can only focus 100% on one thing at a time, why not make it something positive?

Listen, I’m not saying you should ignore serious pain, but don’t sweat the small stuff. Go out there and get uncomfortable. And then get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You can do it. And when you do, finishing is even sweeter.

You don't remember the pain, just the glory of the finish. First finishes are even more memorable.

Now go out and run!