Friday, November 30, 2012

November in Review: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Here is November in a Nutshell....because it certainly didn't revolve around a turkey this year

The Good

The weekend after what should have been my first marathon, one of my best friends married her college sweetheart, and I got the privilege of being a bridesmaid for the third time this year, along with two other really close friends from within our group. I got to hang out in the bridal suite the night before, and I even managed to get on the treadmill the morning of before all of the craziness of getting ready closed in on me. It was a wonderful occasion, and this is now the second person of my close group of college friends to get married. 

As most of you know, my younger sister, Belle, has been studying abroad in Salamanca and travelling pretty much everywhere else in Europe. My parents and I went to visit her over Thanksgiving week, and we had an amazing time in Madrid, Salamanca, & Barcelona. I learned so much about the Spanish language, or more accurately, the surprising amount I actually retained, as well as about some of the architecture and history of the Spanish (and Catalan) peoples. 

I had three favorite parts - the Barcelona bike tour, going to the Madrid/Bilbao soccer game on the first night, and getting to meet the host mom (although the entire trip was pretty much fantastic). Living the Spanish lifestyle for a short while was a nice vacation from my own life, and it left me relaxed, and ready to get back into the swing of things, or so I thought. All of my pics (thanks to my amazing photographer dad) are on Facebook, but here are a few nice ones of me. 

 The Bad

Two Words: My Running. Or, more accurately, my complete lack of it, and in retrospect, it was all psychological. Since I didn't run a marathon, I shouldn't have had any problem getting back to my 30-40 per mile week schedule. The week after the marathon should have taken place, I had intended on getting back into my normal routine, but for some reason, it just got much harder to get out the door. Every time I got out there and ran, it felt great, and I never regretted it, but the part of my mind that made excuses was simply stronger. 

I thought that this week would be better since I was all relaxed from vacation, and so far, I have run 10 miles, but it still has been hard to motivate myself to get out there, especially since I originally planned on taking it easy the rest of the year. In retrospect, and after much thinking and discussion, I realized that the marathon cancellation affected me worse than I thought it would. While I was initially optomistic about getting back onto the saddle, there is a part of me deep down that asks this question:

"What's the point in working so hard, when the race can be taken away from you so easily?" 

While the hurricane was a fluke, there are a million other things that could happen along the line, and I'm worried that if I start really looking forward to my marathon, something bad is inevitable. It's not the healthiest way of thinking, but I guess I'm not as over the NYCM cancellation as much as I thought I was. 

All of this lead to my lowest month of running since I first started keeping track in November 2010: 49.36 miles. Although I was out of the country for ten days of this, I know that this is far lower than what I should have been capable of, especially since I didn't have to physically recover from a marathon. I can't help but feel ashamed of myself, and think that I probably lost some fitness this month, fitness that I worked really hard to earn during marathon training. However, I know that it's useless to beat myself up, even though I probably will at least for a day or two, so I'm going to try and make the best of a bad month, and to use it to motivate me to have a strong final month of 2012, and to build-up towards my next training cycle. I look forward to a fresh new start on December 1st. 

The Ugly

People have always reported losing toe nails through running. Two years after I started running, I finally lost some of a toe nail - however, it was because of dancing at the wedding. 

Thanks for reading everyone! Now it's time for me to find my mojo and start building up that mileage again. What inspires you to get back into running, and how do you convince yourself to get out the door on a daily basis?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Two Years & Still Enjoying the Ride

It's hard to believe that another year has passed. It seems like only yesterday that I wrote about my one year running anniversary

Coincidentally, I had my annual physical this morning, and to my pleasant surprise, I weighed almost 10 pounds less than I thought I did. Although it's possible this scale was not calibrated correctly, I was still very pleased by this information. Thankfully, everything else seemed normal for someone my age. 

I don't think I look any different from last year. The best comparison I could come up with was the Staten Island finishing photo last year (left) vs. this year (right). I just realized that I'm wearing the exact same shirt - it just looks a little different because of the lighting. 

I hit the 3,000 mile lifetime mark sometime in October as well. From January - October of last year, I averaged about 25mpw, and from January - October of this year, I averaged about 35mpw. 

Looking back at last year's entry, I realized that I accomplished several of my goals. Here is what they were, along with whether they were fulfilled or not

Year 2 Goals
1) Run my first marathon - ideally under 4:30 but I'll take making the NY Times - not accomplished due to cancellation - will hopefully be accomplished in 2013 (first marathon in March, and making the NY Times after NYCM 2013)
2) Beat my 2011 PRs - I beat my 2011 PRs for the HM, 10K & 4 miler, and will beat my 5K PR in December by default since it's so old
3) Run 1,500 miles for the year - done as of the end of October
4) Increase base mileage - I ran 1,298.04 miles during my first year, and 1,781.58 during my second year, so I can safely say that this was accomplished
5) Get an AG rating of 60% in at least one race this year - Did so for the 4 mile & HM distance, and barely missed it for the 10K distance
6) Get a NYRR bib time of 7:xx - My bib time became 7:52 as of April's 4 miler
7) Eat healthier and actually keep an accurate food log. I started to do that this year but I fell off track and never quite got back on - Didn't really happen

The following is basically the same as last year...

Long Term Goals
1) Sub-4 hour marathon on the way to...
2) BQ eventually....maybe....
3) Do the Clam Chowder Challenge in Cape Cod

I think the most disappointing part of this past year was not being able to say that I finished my first marathon just days before my two year anniversary, but like I discussed in my previous entry, things happen for a reason, and that the past 16 weeks will only be helpful in ensuring my success in March. 

I also learned (or reaffirmed) several things this year...

Lessons Learned
1) Don't be afraid to be a tourist in your own city, within reason of course. Establishing new running routes can be fun!
2) Although running with friends is fun, running long distances by yourself builds mental toughness far quicker
3) Life & Running doesn't always go as planned. Do what you can to make up for it, but risking injury is never worth it.
4) Getting out the door is always the hardest part of any run, especially when it's a warm bed vs. freezing temperatures. 
5) Make lots of running friends both through your local running club and online, as long as you're careful about it. Believe me, close friends and family, as much as they love you, will be completely bored after about two minutes of running conversation. You have to have someone to obsess with over every minute detail of the sport!
6) Apparently, fashion is just as important in the running world as it is in the professional world, and that some colors are faster than others. 
7) Find your ideal number of races and don't pressure yourself to do more than you're comfortable with. I've gotten to the point where I don't like signing up for events just to do the distance unless it has a purpose within a structured training plan, such as doing an MP pace half-marathon during marathon training. 

I don't have all of my goals for year three of running set in stone, but I do have a few ideas so far...

1) Run my first marathon, and get a sub-4 hour time
2) A sub-50 minute 10K
3) Run 1750 miles in 2013
4) Make sure that my enjoyment of running doesn't decrease, and that I don't pressure myself into doing anything that I do not really want to do. 

I would like to thank all of my family, friends & my running community for being there for me this year. You are all important to me, and each and every one of you contributed to my running success, whether it be through advice, encouragement, or just lending an ear. And now, here is one last picture as a token of my appreciation...

In case you didn't already think I was crazy,
I had just finished a half-marathon in a snowstorm
when I took this picture. But I think that most of
you already knew that

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Marathon Interrupted: A "Race Report" from this past weekend

As all of you probably know, I was supposed to run my first marathon this past Sunday. Although I had mixed feelings about whether it should go on, I resolved to make the best of it. On Thursday, I went to the expo, and picked up my bib and shirt. Apparently, as I found out later, mine must have been a mislabeled shirt - no x-small on the planet would be too big on me and fit my friend Rachel perfectly. It was probably a medium. Oh well! 

However, some things were not meant to be. The next day, I get a text with the following news:

At first, I couldn't believe it, so I called everyone I could think of to try and confirm it. Ultimately, the guy sitting in the pedicure chair next to me did so, and I saw it shortly after on the TV in the nail salon. 

Although in my heart I knew that cancelling the marathon was the right thing to do, I still needed to go through a mourning period, so to speak. I started running in late 2010 with the focus of taking two years to qualify, then train for, NYCM 2012. A person can't just be expected to get over something that they've been dreaming about for two years, no matter what the reason was. 

I spent Friday and most of Saturday in shock. On Saturday morning, I went out to run in Central Park, and in an attempt to cheer myself up, I decided to wear as much orange as possible. 

I don't know whether I was trying to put salt in the wound, but I deliberately routed my run so that I would pass mile markers 24, 25, 26, and the finish line. I hadn't planned on doing a full loop of the park, but the transverse I had planned on crossing was closed off, so I didn't have much of a choice. 

Later that morning, I had brunch with Warren, who flew into NYC for the marathon, and his wife Kristin. They were very nice people, and although we had never met in person, we had corresponded so much online that it felt like we were old friends. 

After spending some of the afternoon at my brother and sister in law's apartment looking at their wedding photos, I went home, and that night, my shock turned into anger and sorrow. I was angry at the mayor and NYRR for not doing the right thing three days earlier, and I was devastated that two years of building towards a dream was suddenly wiped out. I was in a bad place emotionally that night, and to make matters worse, I was feeling guilty for being upset, as thousands upon thousands of people were far worse off than I was. 

Shortly after the marathon was cancelled, I made plans with a few friends to run some of the marathon course together on Sunday. A huge group of runners went to help on Staten Island, while even more runners completed the marathon distance in Central Park. Both sounded like great ideas, but I personally didn't see the point of running 26.2 if it wasn't official, and I really needed to have a cheerful day of running with friends in hopes that I would get out of my mental funk.

I met Kathy, Wallis, Sarah and their friend Al on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge. After running across the Brooklyn bridge, we picked up the marathon course, and ran it all the way to Queens via the Pulaski bridge, then back across to Manhattan via the Queensborough bridge. Since Kathy's hip was acting up, I walked up the Pulaski bridge with her, and managed to get a couple of pictures in with the help of a tourist. 

I got about a total of close to ten and a half miles in, and I felt great the entire time.  After we finished our run, thanks to the handy navigation skills of Wallis, we found a diner near the Queensborough bridge to get coffee and brunch. I ate my weight in pancakes and bacon. 

To my surprise, Kathy presented homemade medals that her kids made for us after learning that the marathon had been cancelled. Mine says "faster than 3:59:59" on the front and "don't stop running on the back". Her kids are really the sweetest, and I can't wait to give them a big hug (or a hi five if they prefer it) when I see them. I think that this will be my favorite medal of all time!
Wallis, me, Kathy, and Sarah 
While all of my running friends have supported me in numerous ways, Wallis was the one who wrote my training plan, and while I never got the chance to see what I could do in a marathon today, I am sure that whatever I would have accomplished would have been largely due to her help in crafting what I jokingly call the "Wallis Pfitzglover" plan. It was a 16 week plan that peaked at 50 miles, which was essentially a tamer version of the Pfitz 18/55 plan. 

While I am disappointed to never know what would have happened if I ran in the marathon, the entire group run experience put things in perspective. I was so angry last night that I considered not even running NYCM, but after running some of the course, I started to feel excited again. 

I originally had wanted to cancel the party that my parents were throwing tonight, but they told me that the ice cream cake had already been ordered. Well, as talented as I am, eating a Haagen Daaz ice cream cake by myself is not happening, so we still had people over and ordered pizza and salads. 

There are tons of pictures which I plan on posting on Facebook soon, including pictures of the signs that my parents had made me in anticipation of the marathon, but here are a few favorites. 
Me & Amy - the roommate who got the brunt
of my taper / hurricane madness
Dad & Me. He takes much better pictures
than Brightroom
Mom & Me in front of one of the signs that
she worked so hard on
The source of my crazy running gene & me
Zahava, me & Lily. The hat that Zahava is wearing
says my name, then "NYC Marathon 2012". These
hats will be recycled for NYCM 2013
As my father put it, he used to joke that only an act of nature would prevent me from doing NYCM 2012. Although that actually happened, life goes on, and it's time to come up with a Plan B, which is why I registered for the Rock n' Roll DC Marathon on March 16, 2013. I didn't really want to wait another year to attempt my first marathon, and hopefully I can build upon the training for this one and use it to propel me into my second cycle. I may not be a marathoner in 2012, but nothing will stop me from being one in 2013! 

Thanks for reading! 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Week 16: There Are No Winners Here

On Sunday night, they shut down the entire NYC transportation system. At the time, I wasn't too worried – they had done the same thing for Irene and while there was damage, it was for the most part sustained outside of the city. I thought that perhaps we’d be back to normal pretty quickly.

But as the weekend unfolded, it was pretty clear that we would be facing a far direr situation. Since we were on the wrong side of the eye of the storm, we would be hit far worse than we were during Irene. I had considered walking the 2.7 miles to my office on Monday, but doing so would have been extremely dangerous, especially coming home. So I stayed indoors all day Monday, watching the news as more and more of Manhattan was losing power, wondering whether my neighborhood would be next.

I ended up being one of the lucky ones, and didn't lose power, but others were not so lucky. Manhattan lost power south of midtown, and there was a crane in the process of falling that forced thousands of people to evacuate. In the outer boroughs and New Jersey, some people lost power, while others lost their homes, and even their loved ones.

I haven’t been able to go to my office all week, as it lost power, and wasn't reassigned anywhere until Wednesday. While I’m grateful that I have not lost anything significant, I think that it’s incredibly unfair that I am being docked vacation for Monday and Tuesday, even though there was no way for me to get to work, and I wasn't informed of any alternatives at that time. It sucks, but as I said earlier, I was one of the lucky ones. My family and friends remained safe, and although a few lost power, they faced no significant damage as far as I know.

But the real controversy I’d like to address is the New York City Marathon. After I saw how bad the damage was, I had started to mentally prepare myself for the inevitable cancellation. They couldn’t possibly hold this marathon when our transportation is crippled, millions of people are without electricity, and there was so much repair work to be done, right? Although I would be heartbroken about losing my two year long dream, I knew that it could be necessary. Nothing a night or two of crying, eating ice cream, and drinking couldn't fix, right? Then obviously, I would go for a run, and start making up contingency plans like I usually do.

However, to my surprise, I found out that the marathon was going on as planned, with some minor adjustments. I felt relieved at first, but then wondered whether this was really the right decision. On the one hand, the city’s infrastructure was nowhere near completely recovered, but on the other hand, holding the marathon would bring economic relief into the city, and symbolize the determination and grit that us New Yorkers are famous for. It was a tough decision for the Mayor to make, and although I’m not certain that it was the right decision, it had been made nonetheless. I fully expected disagreement on this, but not only were people saying terrible things about the mayor and NYRR, but they were even insulting the runners, saying that their participation would be a slap in the face to those who had lost their lives, homes, and power, and were still waiting on aid.

This is beyond unacceptable. How dare someone suggest that I don’t care about the city that I have lived my entire life! Do people really think that I am not devastated at the losses that these people are suffering? I have donated money towards two different relief efforts, and I plan on donating blood next week and volunteering if possible.

 It is up to the individual runner to decide whether they would still like to participate in this year’s event. While I respect any and all decisions made, here is something to keep in mind: Boycotting will not change the fact that this event is being run, nor will it change the resources used that day. It certainly won’t undo the damage that has been done to the NYC metro area and beyond.
If you don’t want to support the runners, that is fine. Just do us all a favor and stay away. If you’re angry that this race is being run, that’s fine. Just don’t take your anger at Mayor Bloomberg and Mary Wittenberg out on the runners on the course. They didn't decide to hold this race, and it would be a slap in the face to the running community, especially to the locals who have decided to use this as an opportunity to raise money on behalf of the victims.

Either way, whether the right decision was made or not, the NYC Marathon will never be the same as it has been, and I don’t think that it will be looked on favorably by the community for a long time to come. As for me, I will still give it my all, but despite the support that I have received from my family and friends, finishing it will just not be as meaningful as it once was.