Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Marathon Diaries, Vol II, Part 3: T - 7 Days!

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The marathon is a week from today! And that means today was my last 'long run'. But since I'm in taper mode, it wasn't very long - only 7 miles. 

I was registered for a run that's very special to me: the Poland Spring 5 Mile Marathon Kickoff. (I had to do another 2 miles after I finished) This particular event is special to me for a few reasons:

  • It finishes at the actual marathon finish line (they are already setting everything up in Central Park for next Sunday)
  • It was my first ever NYRR run, 4 years ago.
  • It was my first run where I had someone waiting for me at the finish line - a blog reader and her family who were visiting NYC (in 2012)
Normally I'm nervous before every one of my runs. But only recently I noticed I haven't been getting nervous. I just get ready and run. I never thought I'd get over those nerves but I hope they're gone for good. And it's almost strange without them, because this morning I kept thinking everything felt 'easy'. So much so that I was afraid I was forgetting something important, like my keys or my bike lock. But no, I had everything and I even left on time and got to the event with plenty of time to spare. I feel like I'm in a really good place mentally right now, when it comes to my runs, and I hope to keep that!

As usual, I rode my bike to the event - first taking in the sunrise as I crossed the Pulaski (Mile 13 of the NYC Marathon!)








Then over the spectacular 59th St Bridge (Mile 16 of the NYC Marathon!)






And I continue up 1st Ave (also part of the Marathon route!), turning onto 72nd Street to get to Central Park.


It was a stunningly beautiful morning in Central Park. The weather was absolutely *perfect*! It was sunny but cool and only a little windy. I hope we get lucky and have similar weather next Sunday.


As I was stretching and getting ready for my corral, I saw a familiar face. This is David, who always has a kind word. I asked him if he'd be in a photo for the blog :)




These are the bleachers set up by the finish line. These seats cost $75 if you want to see the finishers in the park next week -






I made my way to the starting corral 




and soon enough, it was time to begin!




It was an absolutely gorgeous morning to run in the park. And I knew at times it would be emotional for me. But the start was just business as usual.






When we reached the East side of the park, 90th Street at the engineer's gate, that's when I started to get nostalgic and emotional. This is Mile 23. 


I remembered just before entering this spot during the marathon, I ran into my friend Christina outside on Fifth Ave. I didn't expect to see anyone around there, so that was a treat since I was hurting pretty badly by then and very happy to see a familiar face to take my mind off how I was feeling.


This is a peek at that entrance, from today's run -




As I ran past it today, I remembered when I entered the park right there last year, that's when I used a port-o-pottie. And I remember the woman that offered to hold my heat sheet while I was in there. I thanked her several times. And I recall how she thanked ME for what I was doing. What I was doing? I wasn't doing anything. I wasn't helping humanity or saving the world. I was just running this crazy race to prove something to myself. Anyway, I remember how she made me feel like a superstar - just because I was there.


Then I looked up and I could see the Marathon Route flags hanging in this part of the park, since we were now on the same route we will be on next Sunday. That made me teary too. I remember how I felt last year at this point - mentally, physically and emotionally. And I hope to feel better this year when I reach this part - physically at least.




Then we ran past the spot last year where I saw my friend Marcus. He was volunteering with Front Runners at that water table. I remember telling him how awful I felt. He just flashed his dazzling smile he always has and gave me a hug and said he knows. He's such a great soul.


We continued on this morning, passing the cat perched on cat hill -




When I reached this spot last year it was darker than when I had entered the park just a few minutes earlier. I remember seeing that cat and thinking (possibly saying aloud) "mother fucking cat hill!".


Today I ran down cat hill, feeling great and strong!




As we rounded a turn (just past the Mile 24 marker), I remembered the woman that profoundly affected me last year - the woman in the wheelchair that was cheering for us, even though she couldn't walk. It was so dark by then that I couldn't get a photo of her but I will never forget her there or how she made me feel and how her enthusiasm for us, people with mobility, wasn't bitter at all, even though she didn't have that same mobility. This is that spot, as it looked today -




By this point we were at Mile 4 in the today's 5 Mile race. On my left, someone pulled up next to me and said hello. It was my new friend and girl crush, Laura! I was so happy to see her flying past me. I know she's had a terrible time training lately because of what she thought was an IT band issue. Turns out it was the shoes causing the problems. She had new shoes on and was running strong. I'm so happy for her! (you'll see her from the front later…)




Shortly after that I remembered another woman cheering for us last year around this point. It was on the service road we take out of the park to get to 57th Street. She was standing on the right and in the cold, dark night she was chanting to us "You! Are! Amazing!" over and over. She probably didn't know any of us, but she certainly made us feel amazing. And to this day, I say that chant in my head whenever I pass that part of the park. 

On our way towards the finish line I thought back to my first time I ran this event - in 2010. As I mentioned, it was my first ever NYRR event. And it was Halloween. I remember running in my cat woman costume. I also remember that my ankle was really bothering me and I was having a terrible time that day. I was in a very dark place emotionally and part of me wanted to walk off that course and get my bike and go home. But I knew it would take me just as long to get to my bike if I quit as it would if I kept going. So I kept going. Reluctantly. Probably crying. Out of nowhere, a friend named Jonscott pulled up next to me. He was training for the marathon (something I wouldn't even have considered a possibility for me back then!) He saw I was having a terrible time and he gave me some helpful and friendly advice, even though I was probably a jerk and tried to ignore him because I felt so awful. But somehow he got through to me and convinced me to finish, and even got me to stop walking and start running. And because of him, I made it to that finish line. I crossed it. And I'm thankful I did. So I thought about him a lot today, and how much he helped me 4 years ago. Thank you, Jonscott.


Of course when we got to the Columbus Circle entrance, I was back to thinking about last year's marathon - and next Sunday's marathon! I know how it feels to run in that entrance. And I can't wait to be there again and feel that again, knowing the finish is so close!


And before I knew it - the bleachers were in sight. 




And the finish line was just beyond them!




I crossed today's finish line beaming from ear to ear. And I thought about Allison and her family that came to see me finish right at this spot in 2012 - the day Hurricane Sandy was touching down on NYC. I'll never forget them being there for me! :)


After I finished, I found Laura. I want to tell you a little about her: I met Laura this summer at the 18 Mile marathon tune up run in September. If you follow me on Facebook, you may recall that was the day I was in very rough shape emotionally and I actually walked off the course after 13.5 miles. I didn't finish that run. I've never quit an event without finishing until that day. I was crying and just wanted to go home so badly. As I was walking to my bike, Laura passed me and told me she loved my blog. I always try to stop and talk to anyone that wants to talk to me but I remember just wanting to get out of there before I broke down in front of her or she saw my tears. I felt awful about it too. I remember that when I saw her face I thought "wow, she's pretty" but I was so distracted by my sadness I just had to get out of there, so I just thanked her and continued on. I was embarrassed and wanted to be alone.


Cut to - the Bronx 10 Mile run, 2 weeks later. Around mile 6 I saw her walking the course and was struck by the beauty of her face. I called out to her "You're so pretty!" She shot back some compliment to me and mentioned my blog. I couldn't believe she knew who I was (I still hadn't put it together)


Cut again to a lunch time run about a week later. Out of nowhere, as my mind was wandering all over the place, it came to me: "Laura! The pretty woman I met at the 18 mile run when I was crying was the same pretty woman from the Bronx run!" So anyway, that's Laura. And I think she's stunning. I got a photo with her after today's run -




After that I had to do 2 more miles to complete my 7, so I ran back through the park.




I exited at Columbus Circle -








I ran on 57th St towards the Plaza Hotel and took a shot of my favorite pigeons. There are always dozens of pigeons on this traffic light and pole. Always. (mark my words and see for yourself when you visit!)




Then I turned around and ran the last mile of the marathon route. Out on 57th St -




And back into the park at Columbus Circle, just like I will next Sunday!




And I ran for the final push to the finish line!




So that was today's event. It was a great 5 mile run followed by another 2 miles tracing the end of the marathon course. It was full of memories from past events and giddy anticipation for next week. 


Oh, and today's run pushed me over 100 miles for the month again! That's 3 months of 100+ miles in a row! And I still have 3 little runs this week… before the BIG one on Sunday!

I'm not nervous. I'm just excited - so excited - and I feel so ready to take on the NYC Marathon!


Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Marathon Diaries, Vol II, Part 3: T - 8 Days!

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My custom marathon shirt arrived last night. I modeled my outfit so you know what I will be wearing/look like on Marathon Sunday:

IMG_0154


IMG_0152


IMG_0147



I can't tell you how much it meant to me to see so many familiar faces last year - so many people excited to see me running through and cheering for me. If you live in the NYC area (or just plan to visit to cheer), please leave me a comment telling me where you will be so I can look for you. It gave me such an incredible feeling and kept me going. If you're going to be out there, give me either the mile marker, intersection or landmark you plan to cheer from. I will add you to my list to look for you when I'm running. 

Here is my approximate timeline, which I think should be pretty accurate:


TIME RANGE MILE MARKER BOROUGH NEIGHBORHOOD/INTERSECTION
1055 1100 Mile 0 Staten Island Starting Line, Green Wave, Corral 71, Bib 71-344
1107 1112 Mile 1 Staten Island Still on the Verrazano Bridge
1119 1124 Mile 2 Brooklyn Dyker Heights 95th St
1131 1136 Mile 3 Brooklyn Bay Ridge, 7th Ave bet 78th & Bay Ridge Pkwy
1143 1148 Mile 4 Brooklyn 4th Ave & 65th St (right side of 4th Ave)
1155 1200 Mile 5 Brooklyn Sunset Park, 4th Ave & 43rd St
1207 1212 Mile 6 Brooklyn South Slope, 4th Ave & 24th St
1219 1224 Mile 7 Brooklyn Park Slope, 4th St
1231 1236 Mile 8 Brooklyn Flatbush & Lafayette
1244 1249 Mile 9 Brooklyn Clinton Hill, Lafayette & Classon 
1256 1301 Mile 10 Brooklyn South Williamsburg, Bedford Ave bet Flushing & Lynch
1308 1313 Mile 11 Brooklyn North Williamsburg, Bedford Ave at the Williamsburg Bridge
1320 1325 Mile 12 Brooklyn GREENPOINT! Bedford & Lorimer
1335 1340 Mile 13 Brooklyn Greenpoint/LIC Border, on the Pulaski Bridge
1348 1353 Mile 14 Queens Long Island City, 44th Dr
1403 1408 Mile 15 Queens Long Island City, Queens Blvd & the Queensboro Bridge
1420 1425 Mile 16 Manhattan 59th St & 1st Ave
1434 1439 Mile 17 Manhattan Upper East Side, 77th St & 1st Ave
1448 1453 Mile 18 Manhattan 97th St & 1st Ave
1502 1507 Mile 19 Manhattan East Harlem, 117th St & 1st Ave
1516 1521 Mile 20 Bronx East 135th St
1530 1535 Mile 21 Bronx Bronx/Manhattan - Madison Ave Bridge
1545 1550 Mile 22 Manhattan 122nd St & 5th Ave
1600 1605 Mile 23 Manhattan 102nd St & 5th Ave
1615 1620 Mile 24 Manhattan Central Park: 84th St, east side
1630 1635 Mile 25 Manhattan Central Park: 66th St, east side
1645 1650 Mile 26 Manhattan Central Park: 61st St, west side
1648 1653 Mile 26.2 Manhattan Central Park: Finish line!

Here is a link to the course map, including transportation options nearby.

If you want to keep tabs on me (or anyone else) from somewhere other than the course, you can download the app and follow up to 10 runners. (Input my bib number: 71344)

You can watch it on TV in NYC or the rest of the country. (Details here) There is also a live stream online that morning if you don't have TV or live outside the country.

I will also be using my Runtastic app on my phone, which will send a link to Facebook (and I think twitter) when my run starts. That's one additional way you can follow along. You can add me as a friend.

So that should be everything you need to know for the big day.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Marathon Diaries, Vol II, Part 2: T - 10 Days

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As you already know, I'm in taper mode. I'm surprised that I'm not freaking out nearly as much as I did last year at this time. Yes, I'm avoiding all human contact. And yes, I've been wearing flat shoes since Sunday (no heels till after the marathon to give my calves a break). And yes, I'm avoiding all socializing. And though I hate to admit it, I have a cold right now. But I'm not freaking out at all like I was last year. I'm almost eerily calm. Maybe because I know what to expect better than I did last year when it was all new.

Tonight I walked to the track to pick up my NBR 2014 Marathon shirt. As I mentioned, I'm not doing the track workouts with them on Thursday nights any more. But on my walk there tonight, I couldn't help but remember my favorite track workout of all last year. It was a year ago tonight, when the marathon was 10 days away. And that workout was extra special to me because we ran around the 'nice' McCarren Park (not the track). I took a photo of it tonight as I was cutting through -



As I walked there tonight I remembered so much about that particular run. Little moments. I remembered overhearing two male runners talk about how "everyone becomes a hypochondriac 2 weeks before the marathon" and laughing, knowing I wasn't alone. I remember the stillness and darkness in the park and how beautiful it was despite the cold temperature. I remember how nostalgic I was - thinking about all the other times I had been in that park over the years. And I always remember seeing the leaves falling in front of me and how I reached out to catch one, but I missed. I remember how serene that run was, how I was so at peace that I wasn't even thinking about running, my body was just doing it. I don't think I can ever forget that run, it was so special.

I described that run as one where my body was on auto pilot, so I didn't have to think about running and my mind was free to enjoy other thoughts. Those runs are SO special. And I can barely believe this, but my last 5 or 6 runs have been like that. Running has been magical for me lately. I haven't had to stop and walk at all! In fact, I haven't even thought about stopping - not even on hills that I used to dread and then walk. It's like my body finally realized what it needs to do and it's doing it with very little input from me. It took me 14 weeks of running more than I've ever run in my life to get to this point, but it's been worth it. I can barely believe the improvement, really. And I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't bought that training plan. (I get no commission for talking about that plan, it just really helped me)

I've noticed on my recent runs that my heart rate is much more manageable - it hovers in the low 150s, a good 12-15 beats lower than it used to be for the same effort. This range is perfect for me. I don't feel like I'm dying/can't breathe at that number. And I think that's why I can run continuously now without stopping to walk. I think this means I improved my cardiovascular fitness (this is just a guess). Whatever I did, I'm thankful and I'm already trying to figure out how to keep all this progress even after the marathon. Because if I can run and feel the way I've been feeling lately, I actually want to run more. That's not something I ever thought I would say. I can honestly tell you at the start of this program that I hated running. I always hated running. Why did I run? I forced myself to run because 1) I was physically able to and wanted to prove it to myself and 2) It (almost always) filled me with pride and accomplishment when I was finished 3) I always hoped one day I wouldn't hate it. That day has come. I actually don't hate running. Every step isn't a painful horrible experience with my body begging me to stop like it did just 3 months ago. I actually enjoy it and look forward to it and don't want to have to start from scratch again, since it took me 14 weeks to get here.

My peak run was October 12th. I had to run 20 miles that day. I was TERRIFIED of this run. I even had nightmares the night before it - marathon nightmares - where I got to Central Park so late that I was the last person to start (note: it starts in Staten Island and finishes in Central Park). And when I finished there was no one there and no more medals. It was a horrible dream to wake up from!

This was my longest mileage training run and in some ways, to me, it was harder than the marathon, even though it's shorter. Because, for one thing, it's not the marathon. There aren't a million people cheering for me. And because it was broken up with a half marathon event (Staten Island Half) followed by a seven mile run I had to do on my own. Psychologically, that was very tough for me - to get through that half, cross the finish line, get a medal, and know I had to go on my own for another 7 miles. It was also my longest run of the year and a huge test of my training up to that point. It would give me a good indication how fit/ready I was - something I was afraid to find out.

I had a time goal in my head to get this 20 miles done - between 4 hours and 4 hours, 30 minutes. First, there was the half marathon, which I completed in 2 hours and 37 minutes - my fastest half of the year! Then my final 7 miles took me an even 1 hour and 30 minutes. That means my total time was 4 hours and 7 minutes - close to the low end of my goal!!

Much to my amazement I ran nearly the entire distance. I didn't take a single walk break other than when I stopped at tables to take water and then walked as I drank. I ran every hill. Every mile. All 20 of them. I was AMAZED and so proud! Not only of my time, but how I felt. I didn't feel terrible. I didn't feel like I ran 20 miles at all! In fact, one of my biggest tests after a long run is walking down the stairs. I had to do this shortly after I finished, to board the Staten Island ferry home. I was nervous how my legs would respond so I held my hand by the banister ready to grab it. But I was able to walk down the stairs with NO issue whatsoever. I almost exclaimed aloud "I CAN WALK DOWN STAIRS!!!" but I contained myself. Sometimes the soreness hits me pretty badly the next day, but it hadn't. I was only mildly sore. It was huge validation of all my training and I couldn't have been more excited about it.

So now that all the long runs are out of the way I can enjoy these last few little runs. I can savor the sights and sounds of nature and the city around me. I can enjoy the smell of Autumn and the beautifully colored leaves that are on the ground and falling from the trees. In fact, on my run this past Tuesday, I reached out as one was falling. And unlike last year, this time I caught it. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Marathon Diaries, Vol II, Part 1: Marathon Training Recap & Tapering

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Well, it's just 15 days away - my second marathon! NYC! My hometown! The excitement is in the air and the street signs are starting to go up along the route. I'm in taper mode, which means my longest runs are behind me and I get to take it a little easy running-wise for the next 2 weeks but it also means that while the physical aspect wanes, the mental and emotional aspect ramps up. For me at least. I know from last year's experience that I'll be an excited and nervous wreck. In a good way, of course.

side note: In case you never heard of the term "tapering", I grabbed this quote from the Wikipedia page -
Typically, tapering for relatively short endurance events takes as little as a week or less, but tapering for an event like the marathon takes at least two or three weeks. Bob Cooper, a veteran marathoner and contributing editor for Runner's World, points to medical studies as evidence that the final three weeks of any marathon-training program are the most critical stage of training; a review of fifty studies on tapering indicates that optimal levels of muscle glycogen, enzymes, antioxidants, and hormones, which are significantly depleted by intense endurance training, are achieved during a taper.  
What does tapering mean for me? Besides running a little less, it also means no heels, no french fries, no hanging out and NO HUMAN TOUCHING for the final two weeks while I work on staying healthy and injury free for the big day! (this is why I'm not riding the Tour de Bronx. It's one week before the marathon. I did it last year and regretted every minute of it)

As for how I trained this year, I did a few things differently than last year. Most significant is that I purchased the NYRR training plan. It was $50 for the 16 week plan. Because of that plan, I ran WAY more than I ran last year (more often and more miles overall). Sure, I shouldn't have to pay someone money to tell me to run more, but that's how I am. The plan helped me see the whole 16 weeks laid out ahead of time. Knowing what was expected and seeing it in print in a calendar form made it far less daunting for me. And receiving each email daily with that day's challenge was fun and motivated me to keep going. So if you're like me, and need structure, I think you'll enjoy the plan too. (they also offer a 10 week plan for half marathons)

Another change with this year's training was not doing speedwork/track workouts with my group (NBR). There were 2 reasons for this: first, typically I would only get to run about 3 - 3.5 miles with them since I'm so slow (they ran about 5 - 7 in the same time). The other reason is that after one run there this season, I realized just how much I hate the track. The monotony, the soccer balls, the kids, the cyclists (?!?!), and all the other inconsiderate people who use it. In fact, after a near breakdown on the track during one training run, I vowed I would *never* run on the track again. I hate every single second of it. And if it's not fun and I dread it, why do it? I'll get a better run around the neighborhood or over a bridge - something I enjoy. Long story short: no track workouts for me anymore.

So with all of that said, here is what I've run so far this marathon training season. This is every run I've completed, including mileage, pace and monthly totals. (if you can't read the numbers, you can click any of these images to see them a little larger on Flickr)


july


aug sept
october

I had 2 months with over 100 miles each! I couldn't even believe I reached that milestone - twice! Last year, my highest monthly total was 87. So that was a big jump for me mile-age wise. And if it wasn't for that training plan I assure you I would not have run the kind of mileage I did!


Now I'm going to answer some of your training related questions that you asked on Facebook earlier -

Katrina Meredith what do you think about when you're doing your training runs AND how do you stay so disciplined to stick to your training programme?

                As for what I'm thinking about, it varies wildly. It often starts with running related thoughts - what I have to do that day, how my body is feeling - the quicker I can get through those the better because then my mind gets to wander. I think about anything and everything. Sometimes memories (good or bad), things I have to do or sometimes I get distracted by my surroundings - thinking about someone in front of me, the place where I'm running, etc. There is no set thing I think about but I do my best not to think about anything that bothers me. Sometimes that's not so easy.

              As for how I stay so disciplined? I really don't know. Because deep down, I really don't think of myself that way. In regards to running especially, I'm really not disciplined at all. I say that because if I'm not training I can barely force myself to run at all! But because I am training, I bought that plan it helped me stay disciplined. And probably the most important thing is I do is make it a priority. If I have to run that day, I schedule it (literally, on my calendar). That means if something else comes up, I either don't do it or I do it after my run. I schedule around the running. But I don't mind doing this - it actually is fun to me, like a puzzle. Another thing I do is spend time making sure I have all the supplies I need (especially at work). There is so much planning involved that when it's time to do it, I just do it. I'm lucky in that I don't have a family or anyone that depends on me so my time is really my own. I realize that's a luxury and most people don't have that same opportunity. I also remind myself that the more work I do now, the better the event I'm training for will be. So again, I just do it.

Camilo Andres Atehortua Best way to avoid un wanted irritation due runing for extended periods of time


             Get ready to learn about a miracle product: VASELINE! I don't remember who recommended this to me on Facebook months ago but I must thank them. Before I put on my socks I smear vaseline all over my toes (top and bottom) and my arches (which have blistered in the past). I also use Vaseline under my heart rate monitor's chest strap (another spot that causes irritation and chafing) and when it's warm out and I'm sleeveless I use it on the back/fatty part of my upper arm - again, because it chafes. I haven't had a single problem in any of those areas, even on my longest runs. As long as I use Vaseline, I'm good to go!

Shay Na 1) how are the old pinky toes holding up?

            Ah those dreaded pinky toes of mine. Well, you all know I'm still holding out hope for pinky toe amputation but until then… since my Vaseline discovery (see above) I haven't had a *single* blood blister! I'm not sure if it's the Vaseline or my new long distance running shoes (Brooks Glycerins - good god they are reasonably priced now, I paid the obscene $150!) or a combination thereof, but I have had ZERO pinky toe problems during marathon training!

2) has the thought, "when the fuck can I stop running?" subsided? Have you gotten to that place where your legs just motor memory and run you forever?


            LOL YESSSSS! I think probably any runner - beginner or otherwise - has that thought on occasion. It's a terrible head space to be in, but sometimes that's just how it is. For me at least. Those of course are the worst runs (again, for me) because I have a hard time distracting myself with something more pleasant if that sets in. And it took me 12 weeks of training, but I noticed that week that my legs *finally* seemed to know what to do with far less input from me. That was a pretty great milestone and I'm hoping to keep at that level through November 2nd because it makes running so much more pleasurable.

3) please address peeing/pooping during a long run. If not for yourself, your observations of others. I gotta know.


            I'll just say I take care of nearly everything before the run. On a super long run I might have to stop and use a port-o-pottie once or twice but I really try not to. It's a tricky balance between being hydrated enough but not drinking too much that I have to pee often. 

Eden Casteel Do you do any cross training? (I guess bike riding counts, but anything else -- isolated muscle strengthening?)


            Though I rode my bike every single day, I never consider that exercise because I'm more of a commuting cyclist. I take my time and ride for transportation. I don't do laps or any sort of fast riding that burns real calories or challenges my muscles. So the only other activity I engaged in during marathon training was going to my spin class. But again, I don't do that aggressively either. I always consider spinning more of a 'recovery' exercise since it helps my quads feel better. It's also why I prefer to ride my bike to and from all my runs - it's a great post run activity. Anyway, since that's all I did, I'm not sure I did any cross training.

Esinath Sekayi Chihombori How do you stay motivated?

            Like I said above having the plan kept me disciplined and motivated. I was/am really just motivated by the end result - I want to have a great marathon experience. I want to finish feeling better than I did last year. I want to get sore and tired much later this time than I did last time. So I know that if I put in the work now, I'm helping myself later. That's what kept/keeps me motivated.

Do you have special food that you stick to before your runs?

           The night before long runs (10+ miles) I like at least 2 cups of macaroni (carbs) and a vegan sausage (protein & salt). The morning of a long run I usually have 2 frozen waffles, 2 small vegan breakfast links and sometimes even a banana and a bagel. Before a shorter run I really don't worry about my nutrition or do anything special.

Is there a certain brand of shoes that you use for your runs? 

            For my short runs I'm still using my Saucony Kinvaras. And for my long runs I only use the Brooks (mentioned above)

Hydration, do you use vests for hydration during your runs? 

            No, I never used a vest and it would make me INSANE to run with one of those things on my back. I don't like to feel anything moving/bouncing on me or I go crazy (hair/body parts/accessories). This is why I can't run with one of those hand held water bottles (I tried. 3 times. HATED IT!). This is also why I prefer to pay for a long training run - because I know water is provided on the course. If I'm running on my own I'll probably take 1 or 2 breaks to buy water at a bodega. On one of my long runs, I even stopped at a bar for a few glasses of free tap water (along with a beer I bought). Liquid carbs, right? ha-ha! 

How did you manage to improve your pace? Does your weight determine how fast you run?

            My pace improves with 2 things: running more and weighing less. It's that simple. So yes, my weight has an effect on not only my pace but how I *feel* when I'm running. I think it's not surprising to know that when I ran at my lower weight it was much more effortless and I was about a minute faster per mile.


Brianna Earle Do you start to get blisters on the bottoms of your toes on long runs? I always do around mile 10 in long runs. It sucks and it hurts.

            Yes, I used to get them - see my Vaseline recommendation above! 

Also, what do you do for hydration? Scientific formula or simple "drink when thirsty" method?

            If it's an event where water tables are provided, I usually drink at EVERY table. Occasionally I will skip one but for the most part I'm always thirsty so I usually take the water. Sometimes 2.


Karenne Gionet Saylor Where does the marathon route enter Central Park (street reference, please) and where is the finish line? When I go there in 5 weeks, I want to have an idea of where your big moment happened!


            It enters Central Park twice - first on Fifth Ave at 90th St (the Engineer's Gate). This is mile 23, I think. We run in the park and continue south, exit the park at 59th St, run west on 59th and return into the park a second time, entering at Columbus Circle (59th & Central Park West). The finish line is just slightly north of that, right by Tavern on the Green (66th St, on the west side of the park)



Is there a special landmark near the end of the marathon that has special significance for you? Example: you approach a certain lamp post or go past a particular tree in the park, etc.

            Yes, it's Columbus Circle. Ever since running into the park at last year's marathon, when I see that circle, it's all I can think about - that moment last year when I reached that point and was about to enter the park for the final time. That's when I knew - I KNEW! - how close I was. I knew that I had done it! I knew that every second of running I had ever done, that every training run and every sacrifice I had made for months had led up to this moment. I knew that I was about to cross that finish line and would be able to call myself a marathoner! I get teary eyed thinking about it (I just cried as I wrote that). I remember last year entering the park and seeing the bleachers lining both sides. I arrived late, and it was dark, so there was hardly anyone left in that area. But I knew hours earlier there were scores of people cheering the runners into the park. I was surprised it was empty but didn't really care because I was focused. I knew what I was about to do and that was all that mattered to me. I remember that I was still mostly walking, and that I was still wearing my heat sheet - the one I had picked up around Mile 21 on Fifth Ave in Harlem. I was *freezing*. But I knew there was no way I was going to cross that finish line with the heat sheet or walking. I remember discarding it to my left as I made my way up that final small hill in the park. I remember seeing the blue finish line area, the lights, and I remember that I was so focused. I don't even think I blinked. I remember that I ran as hard as I could towards that finish line (which wasn't very fast, I was beyond exhausted). And I remember that moment - THE MOMENT - that I crossed that finish line. It was like nothing I have ever experienced in my life. I would guess that if you've had a child you've had a similar experience of joy and relief and pride and amazement all at once, but I've never experienced all of that before. Every time I see the statue at Columbus Circle, that's what I remember. And I feel it all over again. I wouldn't trade that memory for anything in the world.


Nicole Fusco-Evans Are you going to win?


            Yes Nicole, I'm going to win! ;) In fact, in some ways I already did.



Thanks all for the questions, they were fun to answer. If you have any other training related questions, let me know. 

In about a week I'll post my Marathon Day details - including approximate timeline by mile marker and information so you can look out for me in NYC. (I'm just waiting on my custom shirt to arrive in the mail, that way I can also show you my outfit to help anyone spot me in the crowd that day.) I'll also tell you how you can keep track of my progress from around the world.