My Support System

Prior to getting pregnant and the birth of my almost-10 month old son, I was self-sufficient.  I had a training plan that I followed pretty closely.  I got up each morning, drank my coffee, got dressed, and went on my run.  Race days were like any other day except I would eat some breakfast before I headed out the door.  I would use the baggage claim during colder months and stash away my cell phone, some cash, and warm clothes for after the race.  When a family member would show interest in coming to the race, of course I would be ecstatic and gladly welcome their company.  But, I didn’t “need” or rely on anyone or anything. 
I am no longer self-sufficient.  As I count down the days until the NYC Marathon on Sunday, I am humbled knowing that I would not be as prepared as I am (we’ll find out how prepared I am come Sunday!!) let alone even able to participate in the marathon if I did not have an amazingly strong support system backing me up. 

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    NYC Marathon next Sunday!

    My afternoon run today took me through Fort Wadsworth.  Fort Wadsworth is located directly underneath the Verrazanno Narrows Bridge and is one of the oldest military sites in the US.  From various points on the installation, you have a direct view of NYC and her harbor – consequently, the fort guarded NYC for almost 200 years. Today, it is no longer an active military installation – it is open to the public as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area and is managed by the National Parks Services. 
    View of NYC from Fort Wadsworth

    On most days, I am greeted with quiet, desolate roads that I have come to love and look forward to.  
    Not today.  
    Instead, there were hundreds (maybe thousands?) of port-o-potties, rows of tents, fences, tables, and floodlights, and piles of sandbags occupying the streets and fields of grass. 

    For those who have run / are running the NYC marathon, Fort Wadsworth is known for one thing – the start!!

    There may not have been anyone standing in line waiting to use the port-o-potties or huddling under the tents trying to stay warm, but I immediately felt the excitement and anticipation of next Sunday.

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      Workouts before a Marathon

      I’m definitely not an expert at marathoning and racing.  But, from previous races and long runs, I’ve learned what works best for me and my body before a marathon.  Below are my workouts for the last week as well as what I will be doing the week prior to NYC Marathon.
      – Friday, Oct 21 – 30 miles – 8:34 pace– Saturday, Oct 22 – Rest – Sunday, Oct 23 – Rest– Monday, Oct 24 – 5 miles (44 min) – 8:45 pace– Tuesday, Oct 25 miles – 7 miles (59 min)- 2 mile warmup (8:45 pace), 5 miles @ 8:15 pace– Wednesday, Oct 26 – 5 miles (39 min) – 7:48 pace– Thursday, Oct 27 – Rest– Friday, Oct 28 – 7 miles (56 min)- 1x mile warm-up and cool-down – 8:45, 8:25, 7:57, 7:45, 7:42, 7:29, 7:52 – Saturday, Oct 29 – Rest – 60 min sport massage in the afternoon– Sunday, Oct 30 – Poland Spring Marathon Kick-off 5 miler (may run an additional 5 miles after)

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        Christmas came early for me!

        My marathon outfit!

        I received an early Christmas present in the mail this morning!  It was a box containing an Asics gym bag…FILLED to the top with Asics running clothes! The most exciting is what I will be wearing on marathon morning in just 10 days – a striped Foot Locker tank top and Foot Locker branded shorts.  

        I received the package because I am participating in the Foot Locker 5 Borough Challenge during the NYC Marathon on Nov 6.  Other items in the bag included (some of which are branded with the “Foot Locker 5 Borough Challenge” logo): – 2 long-sleeved shirts – 2 short-sleeved shirts – half-zip, long-sleeve shirt – 2 pairs of shorts – sports bra – visor – running shoes – warm-up outfit Thank you to Foot Locker an Asics for providing me with such an awesome gift!

          What are your goals?

          I have a long list of races that I want to complete.  Certain times that I want to run the marathon and half-marathon in.  Distances I want to run. 

          Yet, I have never told them to anyone – including my husband, family and closest friends. 

          Why have I not shared these lifetime goals with anyone?
          I think the answer is that I am scared of failing and not living up to the expectations I create if they are said aloud.  If I don’t say them, then I’m not accountable to anyone.  And if I don’t meet them, I could easily convince myself I never was serious about them – so I didn’t actual fail. 

          On this morning’s run, I realized I can’t go through life worried that I may not reach a certain goal.  I’ll never reach them if I don’t at least try. 

          Saying my goals aloud not only makes them real, but it will gain me support from friends and family.  For me, having support is necessary – whether it’s a call or text from a friend, a reply on a blog, my mom watching my son so I can go on a 3 hour run, or my husband rearranging his work schedule for the day so he can run with me the last few miles of a long run.  But how can I expect support in reaching my goals if nobody knows what I’m after?

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            Pacing lessons

            As I’ve stated in earlier posts, I’ve always had a problem with not pacing myself correctly on long runs or races.  I start too fast and then pay for it heavily at the end.  I had always believed that I could start fast and gain some “extra time” so that when I slow down towards the end, I’ll finish at the pace I want.  I am thankful to say that I have finally realized my theory is completely wrong.  After the SI Half a couple of weeks ago, it clicked that I REALLY need to slow down and pace myself (discussed in Rookie Mistake).  =&0=& to complete (not including 5x that I had to stop – once to fix my socks which had slipped beneath the back of my heel (I need to find socks that do not do this!), twice to pull out power gels that were in my camelbak, once to call Paul to tell him I needed more water, and once to drink the water/powerade that Paul had for me – the total time of “stopped time” was about 7 min) – Overall pace was 8:34 – I ran negative splits – the first 15 miwere covered in 129:13 (8:36 pace); second 15 mi were covered in 128:04 (8:32 pace) – My fastest miles were 8:19 (mile 19), 8:21 (mile 14), 8:23 (mile 23), and 8:24 (mile 30!)

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              Lived, Ran, and Learned

              My second attempt at my furthest distance to date went off (almost) without a hitch.  I plan on writing subsequent blogs on specific aspects of the long run (fueling and pacing), so this blog is more of a brief recap. 

              I started the run @ 520am.  It was around 48 degrees so I decided to wear shorts, a tank top, arm warmers, and gloves.  If you dress to be comfortable and warm for the start of the run, you will be hurting yourself for a few reasons:
              – The more clothes you put on your body, the more weight you will be carrying.  Doesn’t sound like much – but if you are doing a long run, an extra pound or two of clothes can – and will – make a difference
              – If you start before the sun comes up, the sunrise will only make it seem warmer (even if the actual temperature doesn’t increase)
              – Once you start running, your body will warm up on it’s own (usually about 10-15 min into a run).  If you are overdressed, you will quickly overheat and sweat more than you should be – which will lead to dehydration issues
              So although I was cold the first 20 min, I warmed up and was completely comfortable for the remainder of the run.
              * If you are unsure of what to wear on a long run, feel free to ask me!!  Or check out Runner’s World “What to Wear” tool that allows you to input the weather conditions and your comfort level for the cold – and will give you an idea of the appropriate level of laying:

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                Sometimes getting out of bed is the hardest part of my run

                Ever have a day when you just don’t want to run?  Either too tired from being up late, or legs are sore from a few days of hard running? Or you just aren’t in the mood to run?

                I’m not embarrassed to admit that I have days like that.  I like to think that I wake up every morning eager to go on my run, but there are definitely many mornings when I need to push myself to leave.  This morning was one of those days.  My alarm went off and I rolled out of bed with ZERO desire to head out the door.  My legs were a little sore from not taking any time off after Sunday’s 16 miler and I just felt exhausted!

                It didn’t help that it was pouring rain out.  Usually a good excuse for me to crawl back into bed.  But knowing that the marathon is only 17 days away (but who’s counting?) and that my first ultra is just 30 days away, I forced myself to get out the door.

                It’s funny what some wind and rain will do to what was supposed to an “easy” 8 miler that was on the schedule.  My easy runs are typically between an 8:35-8:50 pace (after my 1st mile warm-up).
                On mornings when I need a little extra motivation to push myself, I often turn the easy run into a progression run – once I complete a mile, I have to run the next mile faster then the last.  It’s much easier  to convince myself that I need to only run faster than the last mile, then to tell myself I’m going to run at an 8:00 pace for 8 miles.

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                  Live and Learn

                  My attempted 30 miler today did not go as planned.  I ran just over 16 miles before I decided to call it a day.  I am trying to remain positive and use my failed attempt as a learning tool for future long runs.

                  The whole day started out on the wrong foot.  I had a 645am photoshoot with the Daily News in Central Park – my plan was to start my run immediately upon finishing.  Unfortunately, although I was promised it would only take 15 min, the shoot actually lasted almost 2 hours – and about an hour of it consisted of me running up and down a hill – over and over and over again.  Because of the delay, I didn’t actually start my run until 945 – after being up over 5 hours and having only eaten a piece of whole wheat bread with peanut butter.  In addition, there were refueling issues, major crowding in the park due to a breast cancer walk, and strong winds – which only added to my lack of motivation to finish the run.  Here are my key takeaways from today:

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                    Celebrities Running the NYC Marathon!!

                    Seeing a celebrity on the streets of NYC is a common occurrence for most New Yorkers.  So it should come as no surprise that there are some pretty big names getting ready to step onto the Verrazano Bridge on November 6  to run in the NYC Marathon.
                    I am BEYOND excited to hear that Richard Blais – the winner of Top Chef All-Stars – is running this year! My husband, Paul, and I do not watch a ton of TV – but we never miss an episode of Top Chef.  We have been fans of Blais since he was on the show’s 4th season several years ago and were rooting for him throughout the entire All-Stars’ season.

                    When I read Paul the list of names, he almost fell off the couch when he heard that Edwin van der Sar, the recently retired Manchester United goalkeeper, is also one of the celebrities running the marathon this year.  I’m not a huge soccer fan, but according to Paul, van der Sar is one of the greatest goalkeepers in the history of the game.

                    Other celebrities I’m going to keep my eyes out for include:

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                      30 for 30

                      I am turning 30 next Friday.  Surprisingly, I am not having any anxiety or trepidation about this supposed momentous event in my life.  I think a lot has to do with the realization that I’m completely happy with my life and the family and friends I surround myself with these days.  I haven’t accomplished everything I thought I would by this age – I’m not holding down a powerful, high-paying job (I’m a stay-at-home mom), my family is not living in a huge house (we are in a 2-BR apt to save some $ to buy a home – hopefully in the next few months), and I often struggle to find the time and energy to head out the door each day to get a 45 min run in (nothing near my plans to have completed several ultras by this point)…But despite all of these “shortcomings”, I’ve never been so happy.  

                      I’ve decided to celebrate my 30th birthday by doing what else?  Running!!  What better way to start the new year – and new decade – then running?  And since 30 is a special year, I have decided to run my age in miles!!  

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                        Sparkly Soul!!!

                        Thin Headbands (3/8" in)

                        I would consider myself to be a (fairly) serious runner.  My running shoes, clothes, and accessories need to be functional.  No matter how cute that running skirt is, I’ll never justify wearing it if I’m going to be pulling it down every quarter of a mile (or worried that I’m showing more than I should be!!).  I’ve worn the same brand/model of shoes, socks, and shorts for the last 5 years.  Once I find something I like, I tend to stick with it.  

                        But that doesn’t mean that I can’t feel or look like a girl when I’m out running.  I admit – I put on mascara, I wear diamond stud earrings, and I color coordinate my outfit (down to matching hair ties and sports bras).  Doing these things do not take away from my running abilities.  

                        Up until recently, I had yet to find a headband that I was satisfied with.  I need a headband that:

                        – keeps my hair/bangs out of my face

                        – is tight enough to stay in place during a long run

                        – doesn’t give me a headache by the end of a run

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                          Rookie Mistake!

                          The SI Half Marathon couldn’t have been on a more beautiful day…temps in the low 60s, sunny skies, and a light wind.  Combine that with the 2 days off I decided to take before the race as well as this being my first race in about 18 months.
                          What do you get?
                          Me starting entirely WAY too fast.
                          Being patient in a race has never been my strong point.  I usually get frustrated with the huge crowds at the startline and consequently spend the first mile or so weaving in and out of the smallest gaps  between other runners I could find.  My fear during a race is that I start too slow the first few miles and then have to play catch up the rest of the race to get my pace down to what I want it to be.  So the result is that I usually overcompensate and go out faster than I should.
                          Yesterday was no exception.  I ran the first 3 miles in 7:07, 6:57, and 7:08, and the average for the first 6 miles was 7:13 – about 15-20 seconds faster per mile than my goal.  Also take into account that while the course is fairly flat, there are a few steep inclines over the final half of the race (it’s an out and back course).  So by the time I hit the first hill at mile 7.5, my legs were shot.  My 8th mile was an 8:04 pace!  Thankfully that was the worst of the hills, but I had a hard time finding a comfortable rhythm after that first hill.  I spent the rest of the race praying the miles would pass and that I could finally rest.

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                            Staten Island Half-Marathon

                            Even though I’m only racing a half-marathon tomorrow, I find myself getting more and more antsy as the night hours dwindle away.  I realized earlier today that this is the first real race I’m going to be competing in since March 2010.  While I did several races while I was pregnant, I had to keep my heart rate at a specified level as per my Dr’s guidance – I was not allowed to get too out of breath!

                            There’s a certain excitement in knowing that you will be pushing yourself as hard as you can the next day. No more time for training.  No more time for worrying.  The only things left for me to do is make sure I drink enough water and get a good night’s sleep.

                            I don’t expect to PR tomorrow; while I’ve put in enough miles to feel strong over the 13.1 miles, I know that I haven’t done enough speed or tempo work to PR.  But, if nothing else, it will show me where I am at, and hopefully I can adapt and focus on what I need to in time for the marathon.

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                              Who or what inspires you to run?

                              As part of the 5 Borough Challenge, my fellow participants and I were asked “Who or what inspires me to run?”.   At first I thought this would be an easy question to answer…I decided to use this morning’s run as time to think about my answer. Each morning that my alarm goes off, there is something different pulling me out the door.  My inspiration to run each day changes – depending on the day, the week, or my current life situation.  For example, when I was pregnant, my motivation was that I wanted to remain in running shape.  I can’t imagine how hard it would be to get back into running if I took months off during my pregnancy.  Knowing that running even a few miles each day (regardless of how slow I was moving) was a success and an accomplishment, was all the motivation I needed to head out for my run.  After I gave birth to my son, my inspiration quickly became to get back to my previous weight and running ability.   My motivation to run (and push myself when I’m already out running) increases when I am signed up for a big race; I find that knowing there is a race marked on the calendar gives me that little extra motivation to push myself those last few miles or last 30 seconds of mile repeats. Of course, there are mornings when the motivation to head out the door is simply that I probably shouldn’t have eaten that 3rd piece of pizza and most certainly shouldn’t have eaten the 4th the night before, or that I started – and finished – a pint of LaRocca’s Italian Ice.  Or it’s because later on that day we are going over my mom’s house for Sunday dinner with all of my sisters and their families/significant others.  In most families, this is a normal meal.  However, going over my mom’s for “Sunday macaroni” really equates to the average Thanksgiving dinner.  And that’s not even touching on the amount of dessert that inevitably appears (seemingly out of thin air)  on the table (see photo below – this was at a recent family get-together).  So my run in the morning is more of a precautionary measure for my waistline – and it allows me to eat all day guilt-free!! However, there are always two constants that serve as my inspiration – my newest and greatest is my son, AJ.   I want to be healthy and strong for him as he grows up; I want him to look at me and be proud that I ran while I was pregnant with him; I want him to come to races and be proud as he sees me cross the finish line…I want him to grow up seeing that daily running/exercise is normal and healthy.  My husband, Paul, and I already are astonished that at 9 months he is repeating things he sees us doing and we know that it’s only going to get more pronounced as he gets older.  We want him to look to us for examples of a healthy, active lifestyle. And second, at the very core of my inspiration to run is the simple fact that I love to run.  Running is who I am and who I will always be (God-willing that I’m physically capable!).  I have always enjoyed starting my day off with a run – no matter how short, easy, or slow that run is.  During these runs, I  think about the day – what chores  I need to get done, who I need to call or email, and what I am making for dinner.  It helps create order in my life and allows me to return home with an organized plan for the day.

                                Foot Locker 5 Borough Challenge!!

                                I recently found out that I was chosen to represent Staten Island in the Foot Locker 5 Borough Challenge at the 2011 NYC Marathon.  Each year, 5 runners (one from each borough) are selected to participate in the challenge – they are to run the first half of the marathon together and then race against one another in the second half.

                                Each year the challenge has a different “theme”.  The theme of this year’s challenge  is overcoming challenges.  If you are interested in reading about the other 4 runners (who have amazing stories!), please go to:

                                I am so excited for this amazing opportunity.  Not only do we get VIP treatment at the start and finish and great clothes to wear during the marathon, but we actually get to start the marathon before all of the other runners!  I am already getting goosebumps when I think of  running across the Verrazano with just 4 other runners!