2016 NYC Half Marathon Race Recap: 1:28:10

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Sunday’s race was truly one of the best racing experiences of my life. Of course a part of that is obviously because I PR’d (and set unofficial PRs in the 10k, 15k and 10 miles enroute). But a large part of it is because I followed the race plan and was able to negative split – for the first time ever! I was patient in the beginning of the race and then still had energy to fight hard the last few miles.

THESE are the races you dream of having. Not the ones where it feels like a death march the last few miles. But instead, where you are tired but still have that little bit of fight left. That last gear that you’ve been saving to shift to when it’s the right moment.

For me, that is the definition of a successful race. Paces won’t always be there. You can’t control weather. But having the strength (mentally) to keep fighting and pushing when you are getting tired is the way I dream about racing.

Race Morning
Sunday started off at 4am for my husband and I. He and the boys were dropping me off at the start and then after breakfast would be at the finish! The NYC Half is a point to point race – starting in Central Park and then after a loop, heading south through Times Square then over to the West Side Highway all the way to downtown NYC.

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1:28:10 Half Marathon PR!

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I am literally on cloud 9 this morning. Yesterday was one of the most amazing running days of my life. I will go into a full recap later this week, but wanted to pop in and share the good news (in case you don’t feel me on Instagram or Facebook!).

I went into the race with a 1:31:57 half marathon PR that was set 2.5 years ago at the 2013 Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia race.

I knew that I was more than trained for a PR. A 1:32 is ~7:00 min/mile pace. My long tempos (6-8 milers) have been closer to the 6:50 range – on tired legs – so I knew that if I ran smart, I had a chance to run that pace for 13 miles.

Coach’s race plan for me was to start conservatively in the park, pick up the pace through Times Square and West Side Highway and then hang on and finish strong. The course fits very well with the way I’ve been tackling tempos – most of my recent ones (last year or so) have been negative split tempos, so I knew that if I just stayed patient early on through the hills in the Park, it could be a good race.

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Things I’ve Learned Since Returning to Work

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So, I’ve been working outside the home for almost 6 months now. It’s definitely one of those weird time paradigms because it seems like I just started but I also can’t imagine my days/life without this job.

Things are going extremely well. I’ve settled into a good routine and I whole-heartedly enjoy what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis. I’m excited to start and build a career here. And it’s more than just a job for me now – it’s a social experience, too, which makes going to work enjoyable and even fun.

I wanted to share some of my thoughts – things I’m loving and not loving – about working.

Eliminate or cut back on the time sucks. This isn’t a nice to do, it’s a must do. I’ve cut back tremendously on the things that suck time out of my day – especially in the mornings when I’m rushing around and in the evening when I’m home and spending uninterrupted time with my boys. Prepping things like work and running clothes, coffee, lunch bags for the boys, lunch for me all save my husband and I a great amount of time in the mornings. I also don’t check social media or do much of anything on my phone until I am on the bus. It’s so easy to plan to check one thing and then 15 minutes later, the phone is still in your hand.

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Warming up during a run + NYC Half on Sunday

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Hello, hello!

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!! Our house had a little visitor last night!

This week has been a tough one. I find it odd since the previous two weeks were much more demanding at work and I was running higher mileage. This has been a bit of a taper (because of NYC Half on Sunday) and work has been more normal hours, but I’ve felt tired and just not thrilled with waking up early to run.

I’ve learned that Sunday evening into Monday sets the condition for the rest of the week. When I start the week off on not enough sleep, the rest of the week is tough because there’s no chance of making up the sleep until the following weekend. It’s like starting a marathon without being fully charged and rested.

The result was sleeping in on Tuesday (I reset the alarm to give me an two extra hours) and putting off a workout until Tuesday evening – which turned into a mostly easy run because I was just feeling too tired and “blah” after a day at work.

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2016 Boston Marathon Training (T-8, T-7, T-6)

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Three week update coming at you today. Life, family and a lot of work got in the way of the last two week’s updates. Work has been nuts. But in a really good, challenging and rewarding way. I’m filling in a good number of the responsibilities of a coworker while she is away on vacation – so the days have been packed and long. By the time I get home at the end of the day, spend some time with my boys, have dinner and put them to sleep, I’m ready for bed. I don’t even open my laptop during the week!

And the weekends have been filled with lots of family time. My entire family came over last Sunday for an informal dinner and then this past weekend we were in NJ both days – celebrating my mom’s birthday on Saturday at my sister’s home and then taking all the kids to see the Easter Bunny at the Menlo Mall on Sunday.

I’m at the point in training where things are clicking, the mileage and intensity feel tough but sustainable (for the short term) and I am experiencing some big fitness gains. My reaction is always to put my head down and keep working. It makes sense, right? But my coach had other plans for me two weeks ago. We skipped a long run in lieu of some extra down time. I think it worked well. I feel energized and rested the last couple of weeks and was ready to run hard for the 1 mile race. Only 4 weeks of hard training left.

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2016 Forest Avenue Mile -> 14 Sec PR!

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Last year was my first time racing (or even running) the Forest Avenue Mile. It’s a local one-mile race that takes place immediately before the Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day parade – a hugely popular parade the runs along Forest Avenue in Staten Island and attracts 50,000 spectators each year.

I ran a 5:42 last year in less-than-ideal racing weather. Headwind and almost-blizzard like conditions – but it was an automatic PR since it was the first time I had ever truly raced a mile.

Initially, we had planned on doing a long run this week – likely Thursday – and then a quick recovery in time for Sunday. But, after a successful cycle so far, coach and I decided to skip the long run and use this as a cut-back week in mileage. I had a 3×3 killer workout on the schedule anyway, so we upped the warmup and cooldown a bit to make it a touch longer in lieu of a long run.

I can’t predict the future, but I feel like this was the best decision we could have made. I didn’t need a cutback week (yet) BUT it’s a good way to stay ahead of peaking too soon or overtraining. I still have 6 weeks until Boston, so plenty of time to make some more gains in fitness before race day.

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2016 Boston Marathon Training (T-9) + Break from Marathons + Benefit of Long Tempo

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Last week was the second week in a row where I went 5-for-5 with early morning wakeups (before work). I feel like I’m in a good groove with the mom/work/running balance. I know it won’t always feel like this so I’m trying to make the most of it while things are working well.

I’ve begun to look ahead and think about fall racing plans. I am leaning towards skipping a fall marathon this year. There are many reasons for this. Truth is, usually about 6-8 weeks out from a marathon, I start feeling like I will take a break, but the excitement and happiness from race day is usually enough to have me signing up for the next one. So I know part of my current thought process is affected by my current feelings towards long runs and the amount of time I’ve been dedicating to Boston.

But one of the biggest reasons is that I (currently) do not want to dedicate Saturday mornings for long runs. Now that I’m working out of the home during the week, our weekends, especially during the warmer months, will be when we do things – go to beach, go on day-trips and so on. I don’t want my training to infringe on those plans.

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Social Media + Sponsored Posts + Things I’m Loving Lately

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Blogging has obviously taken a back seat lately. I haven’t written about anything except Boston training here. I’m finding that I can share more frequently via Instagram – photos with short blurbs of tips or lessons learned – that I’m able to do while commuting to or from work. It’s taken place of some of the blogging for the time being. (PS. Make sure you are following me – I’m doing an awesome giveaway later today!)

Prior to working out of the home, I was coaching and blogging as a means to help support my family. When my husband left his job at Hess in Dec 2014, we knew it was going to be a tough couple of years financially. We invested all of our savings into the company that he and his partner bought, he took a salary cut and there is no year-end bonus. So, obviously, I did what I could to bring in money for us. Returning to work was not something that made sense immediately since he was working long hours and traveling to Buffalo (where the company is physically located) very frequently (for a week at a time). It would have been hard to return to full-time work at that point.

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2016 Boston Marathon Training (T-10) + How to Do Speedwork on Treadmill

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I hope you all had an amazing Valentine’s Day with the ones you love! My guys and I got to spend the evening out – all dressed up. It was a great way to spend the holiday!

So we are 9 weeks out from race day. After a less-than-ideal couple of weeks of training, last week was a solid and strong week back. 63+ miles over 7 days of running. Coach and I have left one day mid-week as an optional rest day. Last week was the first week in months where I felt that I didn’t need it. I usually take it because I’m tired from not enough sleep. But, everything flowed so effortlessly last week that I didn’t feel exhausted or that I needed a morning to sleep in. So I skipped the rest day and did an easy run. I definitely think that if time or sleep were not an issue, I would be able to run 7 days a week for a stretch of time. My body responded well to that in the summer/fall. But the reality is that not every week will look and feel like last week did.

Here’s how the week broke down:

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2016 Boston Marathon Training (T-12, T-11)

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Well, after a solid week of training (T-12), last week was the training week that wasn’t. My whole family got hit with the Norovirus. It knocked us on our backs for days. And it wasn’t until Friday where I felt ready to run again.

My husband and I started having symptoms at almost the same time on Monday. He was working from home, I was at work in the city when we started texting each other. We both felt off from the early morning (I actually had dressed and intended to run. Ran to the end of my block and realized something wasn’t right, so came home), but attributed it to what we ate the day before. By lunch-time, my husband wasn’t keeping anything down.

By 4pm, I had gotten sick at work and was on my way home. I was hoping that I would be in the clear for a window of time. Unfortunately, that window only lasted about 45 minutes. I got sick on the packed bus, which will likely remain on my list of embarrassing life moments (thankful my coworker handed me a garbage bag as I was heading home). We spent the next 36 hours in bed, with the most intense stomach pains I’ve ever experienced.

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2016 Boston Marathon Training (T-13)

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Some weeks running and training are seamless and each run goes as planned. Other weeks it takes lots of moving of the puzzle pieces to get the runs in. And other weeks, those puzzle pieces may not fit so perfectly and something has to get tossed.

This past week was the 2nd. I got all the runs in that I planned to, but it took a bi t of finagling and shifting of when and where the runs happened.

6 days of running with a weekly mileage of 60 miles – highest since mid-September. The constant hunger has returned and so in case my mileage didn’t indicate the return to marathon training, the endless calories and meals are a good sign.

There was a lot of treadmill running this week. Not ideal or how I hoped to spend my weekend, but as always, I’m just grateful for the opportunity to still run even when the roads are less than ideal – or the child-watching situation makes it impossible.

As many of you, we got hit with a ton of snow Friday evening into Sunday morning. The last report I saw had Staten Island with the most in the tri-state area – at 31.7 inches. It was a lot. But life went back to normal on Monday – school for the boys and roads mostly open. Running outside is day-by-day right now depending on the temps. If it’s sub-freezing, then there’s too much ice on the shoulders for me to run. Here’s how the week broke down:

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Boston Marathon (2016) Training (T-14)

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Happy Tuesday! Another solid week of training is in the bank. It was a bit of a cutdown week, in regards to miles, but the intensity and effort was at or slightly higher than previous weeks.

But most importantly, my sister had a baby boy this week!! I am an aunt to a beautiful, happy, healthy little boy!!

5 total runs (1 planned rest day, 1 unplanned) for 49 miles. I’m two weeks in to long runs on Fridays – and so far, they are working. I’m still trying to figure out the logistics of longer long runs (for instance, this week I have 18-19 miles so I would need to start around 4am). Not sure about where I’m going to run the miles (maybe break up inside/outside), but I’ll have the details ironed out by the end of the week.

This Friday’s run required a 3:40am wakeup – which was tough because it’s at the tail end of a long work week, BUT, knowing that once it’s done, I get the entire weekend to sleep in and relax with my boys in the AM makes me energized to suck it up and get it done. I tell myself that I can deal with being tired one more morning – and the reward makes it worth it.

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Boston Marathon (2016) Training (T-15)

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Running tends to mirror other aspects of my life. If I have a stressful week, running typically doesn’t go well. If I’m having a good week, running usually adds to the happiness. This past week was filled with so much family, happiness and love – and I feel like my running really showed that.

6 total runs for 57 miles with one planned rest day. This was the first week where I made the decision at the start of the week to take a mid-week rest day – and man, did it feel GOOD. Sleeping in felt great but more importantly, I felt energized for Thursday and Friday’s morning runs, not exhausted or dreading them. So, for the time being, I’m sticking with a rest day (planned for Wednesday but staying flexible with the day).

Here’s how the week broke down:

Monday, Thursday, Saturday – easy miles in the bank
6, 8, 6 miles – all easy paced/recovery runs. Monday’s run was garmin-free and the other two were with my garmin (I averaged 8:18 and 8:20 paces for those two).

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Boston Marathon 2016 Training (T-16)

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Now that I’m formally training for Boston, I figured it was time to bring back my weekly training updates. I like typing them out here. It helps keep me accountable and affords me the opportunity to look back on my training – highlighting the good and bad – as a cycle comes to an end and then again, after the race. I take note of what worked so that I can repeat it and what didn’t work so I make some changes.

After about two months of “coaching” myself, I made the decision to return to Coach Mark Hadley. I had great success with his coaching the last 12 months. He helped me lower my marathon PR to 3:12 – and I know that I have a faster time in me – so I’m hopeful that with his guidance, I can get there.

We are 15+ weeks out from Boston Monday – still a load of time. But I also know how fast these weeks can start to fly by. My focus for the next few weeks is to find what is sustainable. I am so appreciative of all the feedback I received from last week’s post. I read every comment and email – and had some really great suggestions and ideas. In the end, I’ve decided to try the Friday long run for the time being. That, coupled with an optional rest day on Wednesdays and I’m hopeful that the plan is feasible.

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Juggling Priorities and Sacrifices

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Priorities and sacrifices often go hand in hand, especially when it comes to marathoning. If one of your priorities is the marathon, it’s likely that at some point during your training cycle you will have to sacrifice something. Whether that is skipping a party because of a long run the next day, passing on your favorite food because it’s race week or giving up lazy Saturday mornings in bed in order to get a run in before the day starts.

Everyone’s priorities and sacrifices are different. What may be a sacrifice for one runner may be something that means very little to someone else. And another runner may put running at the top of their list while another runner may have a ton of other things that out-prioritize running.

It’s a question of What are you willing to sacrifice in order to reach your goals? But it’s not simple and certainly not black and white. If you were to tell me that I needed to give up wine or chocolate in order to run a certain time, then that would be a major sacrifice for me (and quite honestly, one I’m not willing to give up). It’s also not sustainable for me – I could go maybe a couple of weeks but I enjoy them both too much to go much longer.

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Base Building + 17 Weeks til Boston!

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The period in between training cycles is always a hard time for me. It’s my nature to want to keep moving forward and pushing hard to improve. But, the reality is that although some people can keep up the intensity and mileage each week of the year, neither my body nor my mind can handle it. I need a bit of a break from the routine and following a training plan.

That’s not to say that I am not running or doing speed workouts or even running long. I am. Running makes me happy and it’s the best way for me to start the day and I’ve never been a fan of taking long periods of time off (I find I do much better with easy runs / lower mileage). Right now, it’s very unstructured. I decide what kind of speedwork I feel like doing when it’s time to start. I have a very wide range of miles I hope to hit for my long run (usually 4-6 miles). I allow myself to sleep in if I’m not feeling great, not feeling a run or if the weather is lousy. Rather than trying to get faster or run longer, my focus is more on just maintaining.

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My Army Days

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My army days were some of the most memorable and meaningful in my life.  For those reading that don’t know my background, I attended West Point from 1999-2003 and then served on active duty until July 2009. Ten amazing years, three deployments, countless lifelong friends and finding my husband were all because of serving.

I didn’t even know West Point existed until my sophomore year of high school. No one in my family had gone nor served in the military, so it wasn’t until my older sister started receiving college brochures that it appeared on my radar. I was instantly interested and began researching and looking into the requirements to attend. The summer going into senior year, I was accepted in early admissions, pending a physical fitness test, physical, congressional appointment and successful completion of my senior year.

I almost didn’t attend because I was medically disqualified for two reasons. First, my vision is pretty bad and I was told that it was not able to be corrected to 20/20 vision, even with glasses. Second, I had/have a heart murmur that “could limit” my physical fitness and ability. Thankfully, I went to follow-up doctors and was able to show that I could see 20/20 with glasses and that my heart murmur was benign and would not impact my physical ability.

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2015 NYC Trail Festival 25k

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For weeks, I envisioned myself setting a 5k PR this past weekend. I had found a great, flat 5k course relatively close to my home and with a few 4 and 5 mile tempo runs (during Wineglass training) that were pretty close to my 5k pace (~12 seconds/mile), felt that with the shorter distance, fresh legs and flat course, a 5k PR was well within grasp.

But a couple of weeks ago, the desire to race a 5k started to disappear. The logistics of the race were not as easy as I had anticipated plus I realized it fell on the same weekend as the NYC Trail Festival, a local trail race that I participated in four years ago. I LOVED the race, course and entire experience when I ran it in 2011 – and each year, keep it as a possibility on my race/training calendar. Two years ago, I was making a silly attempt at a marathon PR (in Rehoboth) the same weekend. Last year, my husband and I planned to run the 25k together, but the forecast called for rain the day before and on race day – and since neither of us spend a lot of time on the trails, we were both worried about the slippery leaves and the likely chance of an injury for one or both of us.

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How to Pick a Goal Marathon

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One of the most asked questions I receive via email is what marathon is the best for a first-timer. In my opinion, that is completely up to the individual runner. There are a lot of factors that will go into what makes a race a great race – for you – things like travel, family/friends at event, course, time of year to travel, etc.

Deciding to run a marathon is only a small part of the first step. One of the biggest and most important steps is choosing your goal race – which can be pretty overwhelming since the number of marathons grow each year.

So how do you go about choosing your goal race? There are a ton of factors that have gone into every marathon I have run. I’ve learned that it’s really hard to find a race that satisfies every single criteria I want. So, the order and importance of these factors typically change cycle to cycle. I’ll start with what is the most important to me for my next race and then begin eliminating from there. There have been instances where I want to pick a good course to chase down a PR (Wineglass) and others where I want the experience of the race (Boston) and other times I want a race close to home (NYC).

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Tips for Destination Races

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Last year, my sister and I traveld to Hawaii to run the Honolulu Marathon with the other members of the Saucony 26 Strong team. It was an amazing experience filled with good friends, relaxation, SUN and warmth! Even though it wasn’t a goal race for me, I was anxious and nervous about traveling 11+ hours only a day and a half prior to the start of the race. We flew out on a Friday morning, arrived that afternoon (Hawaii time) and ran the 26.2 miles early Sunday morning.

Between Hawaii, flying out to Los Angeles (~6 hours) for the LA Marathon two years ago and driving (~5 hours) to the Wineglass Marathon last month, I’ve had some experience with destination racing.

Destination races always sound so appealing when you are planning them, but if you are like me, reality sets in as the race approaches about how tough it can be on our bodies. Below are some of the things I did in the days leading up to and during the travel to Hawaii to ensure that I was as fresh and stretched out as possible. Many still apply if you will be traveling by car or other form of transportation.

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