What Marathon?

Hello from post-Sandy New York City! JB and I are just fine, have power and no flooding. In other words, we are the luckiest people on the island of Manhattan.

Just outside our apartment building.

Down the block.

As I walked around my part of town and surveyed the damage, I became even more appreciative of our good fortune. Many of my friends and classmates are without power, cell phones, and all the amenities that go along with that infrastructure. And there is no end in site for them, as Con Ed works to get the power back on.

Pumping out one of the basements in Stuy Town.

This was washed ashore A FULL CITY BLOCK and demolished a car. Thankfully, it wasn’t a person.

This storm was no joke. People were killed. People are now homeless. NYU Langone Medical Center lost power and had to transport more than 200 patients to other hospitals in the middle of the night last night. Thankfully, we have a massive team of First Responders here to help.

Ready to go.

Thankfully, we still have a President who believes FEMA is important enough to fund.

Our city is trying desperately to hold it together and help one another. Downtowners, come on uptown. We got you. Our beloved Central Park is being cleaned up. Our Rivers are still washing stuff onto running paths. We have a lot to do to bring our city back to normal.

The sirens have been going all day and night. I’m just glad they’re responding to emergencies.

Debris under the FDR.

The clean-up effort has already begun and is tremendous. I high-fived a sanitation worker over on Avenue C today who was kind enough to smile at me as I passed by his job site (a massive tree that had toppled over). The city services are out in force!

The scene from Broad St. into a below ground parking garage this afternoon.

One of the tunnels that merges with the FDR downtown.

But we have a long, long way to go before things are back to where they need to be in order for us to get back to school and work and life. You know what the last thing on my mind is?

The New York City Marathon.

Yes, I am part of the Medical Team. But right now, my efforts and energy are elsewhere.

Both Bloomberg & Wittenberg say the marathon will happen and I believe them. There is far too much money in it for them to cancel such a main event for the city. It will turn into some “enduring spirit of New York-ers” sort of PR event and the city will make lots and lots of money.

I don’t care.

I feel for you who have trained for it and would be so, so disappointed if it were cancelled. I do. I’ve been there. But you know what? Let’s put things into perspective and quit bombarding the {New York} Road Runners Facebook page and Twitter account with your panicked messages.

It’s going to happen. Come as planned. Quit your bitching.

Yada, yada, yada, the bleachers are up. Quit freaking out.

That’s two days in a row that I’ve sworn on my blog. I supposed hurricanes bring out my saucy side.

As for my New York neighbors, there are plenty of places to volunteer now that we are all out of work and school for a few days:

Our NYC Marathon Medical Team needs more volunteers since so many docs were pulled away because of Sandy. Email me: runstrongereveryday{at)gmail{dot)com if you are a medical professional or student who would like to volunteer on Marathon Sunday.

Please, give of your time, your talent, and your resources to help those who are in need and those who are helping to get our fairy city back on her feet. If anything, just be thankful it wasn’t you. And quit bitching about the marathon.

(There I go again…)

Now go out and run!

PS. I will see all of you at Flywheel Sports (11:30am @ JCC), luluelmon E 66th St., and the Javits Center tomorrow. Sweating, hugging, and volunteering. Hope to see some of you there! 

Did Not Fail

Ahhhhhh, Fall! For most of us runners, Fall = running season. Cooler mornings, a race every single weekend until Christmas, and the threat of holiday weight gain urging us to employ our running shoes more frequently.

For many runners, it also means having our sights set on the finish line at some marathon or another.

NYC Marathon Finish Line. Mecca, for a lot of us.

16 weeks of training (or more), weekend after weekend of long runs, the shame of having to wear compression socks to the grocery store on Saturday afternoons, and more attention to our glutes than most of us like to admit culminates with 26.2 miles of foot-stomping fun.

But sometimes it doesn’t.

Sometimes a runner’s dream is dashed only weeks before the Big Race. Tendonitis, pulled muscles, stress fractures, catch-all joint syndromes, and mystery pains can keep the most seasoned marathoner from toeing the line this Fall. The dreaded DNF.

DNF usually stands for Did Not Finish. I hate this acronym. There’s an innate sense of failure in the wording that brings about feelings of deep shame to the individual whose name bears these three little letters on the runner roster.

But DNF doesn’t tell the whole story, nor is it the final chapter in your running book.

It takes courage to defer or call it a day. When you know your body can’t take any more, that running further or for more weeks would only be detrimental to your long term health, DNF-ing or deferring is SMART. In fact, it takes a smarter, more seasoned runner who knows their limits to call it a day.

The smart runner knows when it’s over.

The smart runner knows that one race does not define them.

The smart runner knows there will be more.

The smart runner knows when to ask for help.

The smart runner knows the difference between good pain and bad pain.

The smart runner pushes the limits and is ok when, occasionally, they fail.

The stupid ones (yes, I called you stupid) push through the bad pain and force themselves on the course simply for their own ego. You know where ego gets you? The orthopedic surgeon’s office and then the PT’s clinic for months and months in excruciating pain. Sounds fun, right?

To all of you who have called it a season, despite having paid for a marathon entry this Fall, I salute you. You are smart and brave and I applaud you for taking care of yourself, knowing there will be other races for you to rock.

Have you ever deferred or had to DNF? How did you feel then? How do you feel now? Are you considering a deferment this year? Share with us!

Now go out and run!

Meet My Friends: Ali On the Run Rocks

Don’t you just love spring? It’s my favorite time of year. One, it was my birthday this week. Two, it was Justin’s birthday last month. Three, it signals the end of the spring semester of school and a *short * break til summer school starts.

Remember when I told you I’d be having some guests on the blog while I’m recouping?

First up, the very fabulous and popular Ali from Ali On the Run. I found Ali’s blog when she was chosen for Jackrabbit Sports’ Run For the Rabbit campaign last summer. I was so excited to see a fellow IBD-er running for the CCFA and sharing her journey through marathon training while battling Crohn’s disease. Then I randomly crashed Ali’s date with Brian at 16 Handles and totally fan-girled her. Happily, I didn’t scare Ali off and we have become allies in the never-ending search for open bathrooms in Central Park and the best way to style hair with moon face. Seriously, it’s been awesome having a runner friend with IBD who understands what it’s like to fight for your right to run. Ali is also hilarious. Enjoy getting to know her!

IBD runner heaven = plenty of POJs.

Name: Ali

Age (optional): 27  — I’m happily nestled comfortably in the 25–29 age group these days.

Occupation: Runner by 6 AM, Blogger in the 8 AM hour, Deputy Editor in Chief at Dance Spirit magazine by day and professional Cadbury Mini Egg eater 24/7. Only one of these jobs truly pays the bills, though.

Blog (if applicable): Ali On The Run http://www.aliontherunblog.com

Ali always has rockin’ leg warmers. Go Team CCFA!

How many years you’ve been running: I went for my first “real” run — a whopping six blocks — in 2008. It didn’t take long before I was hooked, and I toed the line at my first race, a 4-miler in Central Park, in September of that same year.

How you got into running: When I moved to NYC, after years as a dancer throughout high school and college, I found myself poor and living with a runner. Dance classes were too expensive, so I put on some clunky old Nikes, set out for the East River Promenade (Spanish Harlem all the way) and ran for a few blocks. My roommate taught me all about fancy things like “half marathons” and “running shoes.”

What is your most favorite race you’ve run? Everything aligned for me amazingly during last year’s National Half Marathon in Washington, DC. I didn’t go out with any fanfare. I didn’t have a pace plan — I just wanted to break 2 hours — and I didn’t over-think the race. I showed up at the start line on a gorgeous March day, took off on my own, felt incredible, took in the sights and just plowed my way through those 13.1 miles. No one was more surprised than I was when I crossed the finish line in 1:44:48. I was so proud of my time, but looking back I remember that race fondly because I ran happy and stress-free the entire time. I didn’t obsess over my splits, I didn’t stare at my Garmin and I didn’t care that I didn’t have spectators waiting for me at the finish. It was my race, and no one else’s. It was a perfect day.

What is your proudest running moment? You kind of have to say your first marathon here, right? I ran the Hamptons Marathon on September 24, 2011, and I did it for something so much bigger than myself. I trained with JackRabbit Sports through this huge campaign that I applied for and miraculously got selected to participate in. The whole experience was incredible. I got to work with Jonathan Cane, a professional running coach, and he taught me so much. He got me to the start and finish lines healthy, which he kept saying was his goal! Plus, I raised $20,000 for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation in the process. So when things started to really hurt and really suck at mile 22 of the race, I thought about all the people who donated and believed in me, and I got through those final miles.

Who/what inspires you to run? Just the fact that I can run makes me want to run. It’s truly something I enjoy doing because it makes me feel good. I love the fresh air of Central Park and the wicked runner’s high I ride for hours after a long run or successful speed work session. Over the past few years, my health has really been a little bitch, and there have been days — many days — when I physically couldn’t get out of bed (or, uh, out of the bathroom), let alone slip into my beloved Brooks for a run. So now, every day that I can run inspires me to get out there. Simple.

What training plan have you followed and had success with? Run when it feels good, rest when the body wants it and respect the recovery runs. Run hard a few times a week and run long on Saturday mornings. Clearly I should be a coach. But really it’s about pushing it and not expecting to magically improve. Run faster to get faster.

What is the one thing you’ve done that has made the most difference in your running (add/delete music, cross-train, run with a buddy, etc.)?

What is your favorite non-running way to sweat? Spinning! I get a total high from being in a dark, packed room spinning my guts out next to fellow riders. By the end of a 45-minute class, we’re all on the exact same spots on our stationary bikes, but we’ve been on one heck of a ride. The music, the sweat, the adrenaline — it’s so different from running, but it makes me giddy.

If you could run any race in the future, which one would it be? I had my sights set on the Eugene Marathon this April, but my body wasn’t on board. So I’d love to make my way out to Oregon next year to conquer a marathon that finishes on Hayward Field. I think a track finish is the coolest thing ever.

Do you run in the morning or at night? I’m a morning runner. I always say I do  my best work between 5 and 11 AM. After that I’m pretty much worthless. I can think of no better way than starting my day with a sunrise sweat. It sets the tone for the entire day, and it’s nice knowing that when 5 PM rolls around, your workout is done and your couch is waiting!

What keeps you going when you’re having a crappy run? Uh, having Crohn’s disease brings a whole new meaning to the term “crappy run.” You just have to get through them. It’s a mental battle. I think about how great I’ll feel when it’s over, and I remind myself that you have to get through the bad runs to appreciate the great ones. Every run won’t be perfect — and every run won’t suck!

Do you have a pre-race/pre-run ritual? Bathroom, bathroom, BodyGlide, bathroom. And a six-minute ab workout to help get things moving. Before longer races, I take a shower to warm up my muscles and wake up. And then I go to the bathroom again.

What song, if you heard it, would get you to run faster no matter how tired you are? “Brand New Day” from The Wiz. It was playing on my iPod when I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon and it still brings tears to my eyes when I hear it. I actually refuse to listen to it unless I’m running.

Jazz hands are always appropriate.

Why should someone (anyone) start running? Start running to get healthy. Keep running because it’s fun. Stop running when it stops being fun. Start running because Dry-Fit clothing is more flattering than cotton. Run to clear your head, or run for clarity. Run because seeing the sunrise is cooler when you’re sweating than when you’re commuting. Run because a runner’s high is better for your body and mind than a hangover. Run to get rid of your hangover. Run because a box of Tagalongs tastes better after a bunch of miles. Run because it’s awesome.

What is the best piece of advice you ever got about running and who gave it to you? “If you don’t appreciate the rest days, it’s because you’re not working hard enough on the run days.” My coach’s wife, Nicole, is my ever-present voice of reason. When I started training for my first marathon, I was gung-ho about exercising every single day. She told me that if I didn’t get to a point where I felt I needed a rest or recovery day, it was because I wasn’t pushing hard enough on the other days. Soon I found myself begging for a Friday in bed.

Hot as hell long run, oy. But awesome picture!

-Run alone or with others: Both! Ideally during a long run I’ll knock out a few miles on my own and then join up with friends midway through to cruise through the later miles together. It’s the best of both sweaty worlds! But if I had to pick one, I’d say I’m usually more of a solo runner.

-Favorite piece of running gear: Moving Comfort Juno sports bras. These bad boys saved my life, my boobs and my chafing.

-Run with or without music: With. I love bringing my friends on my runs with me. Britney, Rihanna, David Guetta — we work up our best sweats in tandem.

-Treadmill, love it or hate it: Hate it. Respect it, but man it’s tough.

-Race fuel: Happy thoughts. They digest better than Gu.

-Gatorade or water (or something else): Water.

-Dream PR (time & distance): I’m currently vying to break 4 hours in the marathon.

-Runner’s World or Running Times: Runner’s World. There’s usually at least one article per issue that unexpectedly brings me to tears.

-Favorite speed workout: I psych myself out a bit when it comes to mile repeats, but m an do I feel great afterward. I like a 2-mile warm-up, 4 miles of repeats with quarter-mile breaks in between, and a 2-mile cool-down to wrap it up. And then ice cream.

-Favorite running gear store: Lululemon.

-Favorite place to run: Central Park Reservoir. It’s flat, it’s beautiful and for one glorious week each spring it’s laid out under a never-ending canopy of cherry blossom trees.

-NYC Marathon or Boston Marathon: I’ve never run either, but as a current New Yorker, I’ve got a spot in my heart for NYCM. I had a blast spectating it last year and screaming for my friends (and strangers, and friends-to-be) — and I spent 2011 doing the New York Road Runners 9+1 guaranteed entry for the 2012 race, so on November 4 I’ll become a New York City Marathoner myself. I can’t wait!

Keep running, Ali!

We’ll be ready to cheer you on in the Fall as you take a bite outta the Big Apple, Ali! Thanks for sharing. 

Now go out and run!

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!)?