Sunday, August 19, 2012

Milestones: Long Marathon Training Run

Two years ago today was an important day in my personal history - it was not only the day before I turned 39, but it was also the first time I ever ran a mile without stopping. In fact, I managed to run 2 miles. And today, on the eve of my 41st birthday, I reached another incredible milestone in my fitness journey...

As you likely know, I'm in the middle of training for this year's NYC Marathon. My first ever full marathon - which is something I would have never wanted or even considered doing for most of my life. It's also something I couldn't even have even comprehended just a few years ago. But here I am. Training for the NYC Marathon!

Today I was registered for a long training run in Central Park with New York Road Runners. The run was a 20-miler, but it was up to each runner to pick their distance from 6 - 20 miles. Melanie helped me put together a training schedule based on my history/experience so far and taking into consideration all the other events I have scheduled between now and the marathon. This weekend she told me to run 14 miles. Or 15 if I felt good.

This may (or may not) be obvious, but marathon training is not just about running. Cross-training, being mentally and emotionally healthy, allowing for recovery, stretching, getting good sleep, and food/fuel and hydration are all important too - because they all help with the actual running part. So yesterday, the day before what would be my longest run to date, I drank a lot of water, thought positively about today and for dinner last night I had a few cups of whole wheat macaroni (carb loading!). I made no plans last night so I could be sure to get to bed early - giving myself 7 hours of sleep.

Everything I did yesterday in preparation seemed to work because I woke up at 5am and felt surprisingly good. I drank 2 glasses of water and for breakfast I had a protein shake (soy powder, hemp powder, water, frozen mango, flax seed oil and PB2 powdered peanut butter).

I ran around getting ready and left shortly after 6am. This is what I wore:
Vacation, day 3: long marathon training run in Central Park
I instagrammed my outfit
It was an absolutely beautiful day. It was around 70 degrees when I left the apartment and there was little to no humidity but the sun was beautiful and strong. I rode over the Pulaski as the sun was coming up. I'm only sorry this is a blurry shot.

sunrise from the Pulaski

I made it to the 59th Street Bridge in Queens in a record 9 minutes (my usual average is 14). There were very few people on it other than myself. Probably not surprising for 6:30am on a Sunday.

beautiful morning sunlight
I love the way the light looks this time of morning!
This is the longest span of any of the bridges I take regularly. And on some mornings when I take it to work I feel like I'm never going to get there. But on this particular morning my body felt really good. I didn't even notice the long climb.

self portrait over the 59th St Bridge
I rode fast when I got to Manhattan, riding north on 1st Ave all the way up to East Harlem. This run started at 102nd Street in Central Park.

I love this mural - somewhere in East Harlem (possibly 102nd St)
I got to Central Park right on time. Locked up. Went to baggage check. Sucked down a gel pack and stretched before beginning...

Stretching before the run
Note the holes in the pants - that's the "ventilator" factor. They definitely kept me cooler than the other CW-X tights I have. I love them! I didn't have sweaty thighs when I was done!
Here's the starting line. It's not marked because this run is not timed, so you don't see the electronic timing boards anywhere on the course. But this is a paid event, so they are still good enough to give you mile markers and water along the way.

Let's go!!!!!
I started my heart rate monitor, turned on my iPod and began running. I noticed immediately that my body felt really surprisingly good, better than it usually does at the start of the run or at 7am for that matter. I was off to a great start! We headed north in the park from 102nd St, which meant that pretty soon we were hit with that very steep and long hill at 110th St. I remember thinking to myself "Your mind is going to tell you to walk because it's a hill. Don't listen to that voice. Run it. Challenge yourself. You may slow down a little but you can make it to the top without walking this time" And I thought about the first (and only?) time I ran the full loop in Central Park with Elaine in February. I remember that I was able to run up the hill that time so I knew I could do it today.

Sure enough, I ran up that whole hill. To my surprise, I even passed a few people along the way. I accomplished my goal: I made it to the top without stopping! My first victory of the day!

Running DOWN that hill at a good clip!
Yep, my favorite building on Central Park West

After I made it both up and then down that hill, that was when I thought back to two years ago today - when I ran two miles without stopping for the first time ever. So that was my next goal: Make it to the 2 mile mark without stopping and walking.

Hey, what do you know? Another goal accomplished! I made it to Mile 2 and I was still running!

Mile 2
Around this time, I remember thinking to myself "My body feels perfect today!" and then I replied to myself (that's totally normal, right?) "That's because your body IS perfect. It's perfect just the way it is and it's perfectly capable of doing whatever you want it to" WOAH! Positive self talk ... from myself! Thanks, me!

Running strong!

Looking and feeling good!

As for hydration, I made sure to drink a cup of water at almost every water station. They were set up at nearly every mile mark.

I love water!
 Oh, a brief but welcome distraction - some very sexy cyclists. Good morning, gentlemen!


By this time I had already hit the southern most point in the park and we were headed north again towards 102nd St. And I hadn't stopped running yet! My next goal: complete the 6 mile loop without stopping to walk...

At Mile 5, I remember seeing an old man sitting on the perimeter. He was using a pocket knife to peel an orange. It made me cry because I thought about my Grandpa Frank, who passed away last July. He used to use his knife to peel apples and my Dad told me even pulled it out at a Chinese restaurant once to carve a coconut. He was such a character! (He was also a photographer and I think if I have a "good eye" with photography as people say, I got it from him.) It made me wish he had lived long enough to be around for my first marathon. But I know he'll be watching me that day. He's one of the people I'm going to be thinking about when I run.

Whew! Back to running... we continued north, which meant we were approaching another hill... Cat Hill!

Here kitty kitty!

Again, I did not let myself walk this hill. My body still felt surprisingly good and I knew I could survive this one. And I did. I ran all the way up cat hill! Another victory!

Not long after that I was back at the starting point which meant I had completed a full loop. I had done something amazing - I ran the entire 6 mile loop in Central Park without stopping!!!

One loop down, two to go!

Since my goal was to do 14 miles, I planned to do the full 6 mile loop, then do the 4 mile loop two times. I asked the volunteer how to do the 4 miler, he instructed me to turn west here, on 102nd St and follow the course. After making that left I took my one and only break - a very fast potty break - and consumed half a pack of running chews. Then I immediately continued running. (Note: One advantage from this point forward (for all runners) is that we weren't going any further north than 102nd St - That meant only one time on Harlem Hill and I already got that one over with *phew!)

After turning west on 102nd St, we headed south. And not long after that, there was Mile 7! This was my unofficial halfway point!

Mile 7 and still feeling good!
Now, I don't know about you, but when I'm running, there are few things I enjoy more than seeing a ton of hot, fast guys come around me from both sides and fly past me. Seriously. I think that's so sexy. Of course the only thing better than that is when they are shirtless and running *towards* me. Grrrrrr.... if they only knew the fantasies they induce :)

well hello guys! I'm sure you'll be lapping me again soon, and that's ok with me!
At some point I remember asking myself if anything was bothering me. Sometimes it's a loose shoelace or a chafing issue, or heat, a soreness or pain, usually it's my allergies - it could be anything. I like to do a little assessment like that every so often so I can make an adjustment if it will help me. I remember thinking everything was fine. I can't remember the last time everything was fine. In fact, I was barely even sweating. The weather was really perfect.

Then I remember something occurred to me: I wasn't fantasizing about anything. Normally when I run I'm either fantasizing about water, food, sex or simply NOT running. I didn't wish for any of those things. I was perfectly content in my moment and kept running! I even remember thinking at several points "Whose legs are these? Because they don't feel like mine!" It was like I didn't even need to think about what I was doing - my body was just doing it for me. It was incredible!

Before I knew it I was at Mile 8. I'm not even sure how that happened! And guess what? I was *still* running!


Action shots!

I actually look like a runner!

I should really remember to shave before I take these photos...
Wait.. what the what?! I'm back on Cat Hill! Already!  This means I'm nearly at the starting point again, which will be Mile 11 this time around.

Cat, you are no match for me today!
I ran up Cat Hill again, but noticed at around Mile 10 I began to feel a little sore in my legs. Not bad at all considering I had run 10 miles, mind you, but I noticed a difference from when I started. However, I was so close to finishing that second loop that I told myself not to stop and walk. I wanted to keep running. I was doing so well and didn't want to break my streak! I had another gu pack and kept running!


well helllllllo, handsome! lucky capturing you in my shot!

Mile 10
Though I slowed down a little after Mile 10, I tried to pace myself carefully enough that I could still continue running. I couldn't believe I had made it this far without walking and wanted to keep it that way!

still running!
pretty good self portrait!
As I approached 102nd St again I glanced over to make sure my bike was still there. It's hard to see her, but she is there safe and sound.

Hi Isabella!

I made it to the starting point again! This was now Mile 11! And I was *still* running! I'm not sure I ever ran 11 miles straight!!! Another huge victory!! (Note: I had planned to run a 4 mile loop but I don't know if I missed a turn or what because I had just run 5 miles. And I didn't have time to figure it out I just had to figure out how to finish my intended 14 miles...)

Next time I see this I will be DONE!

Now, at this point, I had 3 miles left to complete my 14. But because of how the course was set up, I had to figure out how I was going to do that. My options were 1) do another loop so I could finish at 102nd St, but that would be another 5 miles putting me at a total of 16. 2) Continue straight on the course for 3 miles, stopping at Mile 14, but that would put me on another side of the park and I'd have to walk or run back to get to my bag & bike. So I came up with a different plan -- Melanie had told me to run 14 *OR* 15 if I felt good. Despite slowing down a little, I still felt really good. So I decided to do 15 by running from Mile 11 to 13, then turning around and running back to Mile 11. That would be 4 additional miles, making my total 15 (I couldn't do this method for 14 because I'd have no way of knowing where Mile 12.5 was to turn around, since they half miles weren't marked. That's why I couldn't do 11 + 3)

I ran past the baggage area and the volunteers applauded for me. When I had checked my bag earlier I told them that today would be my longest run so far in my life and that it was a birthday present to myself. I also told them I'd be 41 tomorrow and this was (obviously, since I had never run 15 miles) my first marathon. One of them told me her first was at age 40. Good to know I'm not the only late bloomer!

Thanks for volunteering & cheering me on ladies!
This was the second time the guy on the right passed me. His shirt and shorts said Go Vegan! I was so excited the first time I saw him. I shouted "I'm vegan!" and he gave me a thumbs up.

Wow... I made it to Mile 12! And I was still running!!! At this point I thought to myself "Could I seriously finish this whole run without walking?! Is that possible????" Guess what my next goal was? Yep, making it to the finish without walking!


I passed this group making good use of the park benches by doing tricep dips. I love tricep dips!

tricep dips! nice!
Looking good!
The mile between 12 and 13 seemed to take FOREVER. I don't know why, but that mile was very rough. When I got to 13 I stopped to photograph my time since it's close to a half marathon...

I turned around at Mile 13 and ran back to Mile 11 to complete 15 miles
that's my average half marathon time!
Then I knew I had only 2 miles to go! I could totally do this!! I turned around and had to run the opposite way, back towards Mile 11...

I straddled the line between oncoming runners and oncoming cyclists
Back at Mile 12, which is now Mile 14 for me. I've never run further than a half marathon! (and I've only done that 4 times) That's when it hit me: I've just run further than I've ever run in a day! I just broke a personal record!

This is history right here
I knew I had only one mile to go. And there was NO WAY I was going to stop now! I told myself to keep running (and smiling)!!!

salmoning to the finish
I'm so close I can taste it!!! And it tastes like water and bananas!

sprinting to the finish!!

When I finally saw the turn back into 102nd St, that's when I started crying. And sprinting!

I ran past the baggage ladies and even saw a North Brooklyn Runner member who gave me a high 5. So many runners - total strangers - saw me and were saying "great job!" or "looking good". I was beaming from ear to ear smiling as I made my way back to the start, back to Mile 11, which was now Mile 15 for me, my finish line!

I took this photo, my unofficial finish line (below), stopped my heart rate monitor and just stood there and cried for a few minutes. I was in awe of what I had just done. I had run the furthest I had ever run in my life, and even more amazing to myself - I did it without stopping.

My finish line!
I did it! I ran 15 Miles!!!!
After that I collected my stuff from baggage. The ladies told me how good and strong I looked when I passed them. I broke down in tears telling them how proud and amazed I was at myself. They were genuinely happy for me. I think all runners understand that stuff - we all have a moment or experience that we can relate to when we hears stories like that from other runners.

you can't even tell I was crying. a lot!
I cried so much the tears were hanging off my chin. I can't believe you don't see any tears here
I left there and decided that before I went home I should go visit my Dad at work, so I could share this amazing story with him. Of course he was proud. He said "15 miles?! I can't even run 15 feet!" (Side note: I'm the only person in my family, on either side, who has ever run. No one has so much as run a mile!)

Me & Dad
Me & Dad
I caught up with Dad, drank some coffee, and ate a banana and tofu knish but didn't spend too much time there. My legs were starting to feel sore and fatigued. I had to get home to stretch.

waiting for a light
waiting for a light
leaving Manhattan
Headed for the 59th St Bridge again...
I got home, stretched, caught up on all your tweets and facebook comments, uploaded the day's photos and took a refreshing shower. But I didn't have any energy to do anything else (that's how I was able to post this blog!). In fact, I didn't even get to celebrate my victory. I summoned up all my energy to ride half a mile to my new favorite bar in the neighborhood - Lulu's - because they have my favorite Brooklyner Weisse on tap and free pizza with every beer purchase (I bring my own vegan cheese) but they had just opened weren't serving pizza yet, so I didn't have a beer. Instead I will wait for tomorrow, my 41st birthday, to have my beer and combination birthday/marathon training run celebration. It will - no doubt - be awesome. Just like me.

Here are my heart rate stats:

Bike ride to Central Park (7 miles):
40 minutes total
30 minutes in fitness zone
127 average heart rate
149 high heart rate
240 calories burned

Marathon Training Run in Central Park (15 miles):
182 minutes total
182 minutes in fitness zone
159 average heart rate
179 high heart rate
1808 calories burned

Bike ride to see Dad and then home (9 miles):
56 minutes total
54 minutes in fitness zone
130 average heart rate
154 high heart rate
361 calories burned

What a memorable and amazing way to spend my last day as a 40 year old. And what an incredible gift I gave to myself :)


  1. I am so so so proud of you. What a milestone, what an accomplishment. In all of it, one of the things I think is the most amazing is your positive self-talk. Even when we are blasting through hills and looking hot, it is still so easy to be negative inside. I remember when I finished my first marathon, I beat myself up over gaining a few pounds instead of being 100% proud of the fact that I completed the training and ran 26.2 miles.

    You go, you amazing woman!


  3. That is so fantastic! I am so happy for you!

    Being a fellow WW member, a fellow late bloomer runner (adult onset athlete), a fellow vegetarian (not yet vegan - working on it!), AND a fellow Leo who is 40 (I turn 41 on TUESDAY - you and I were born one day apart), I see so much of myself in your posts.

    My challenge is, I haven't gotten up the motivation to train for that first marathon (I have run NINE halfs - and my average is 2:39!).

    I wish I had the support of a running group like you do, but I am thinking that I have got to set a goal to do a full. I haven't yet ever ran 15 miles straight, you must be overwhelmed and thrilled!

    Happy Birthday and congratulations, Sheryl, you are a constant inspiration to me when I read your blog.


  4. AMAZING!!! What a great b-day present to yourself and motivation and inspiration to all of us!!

  5. Amazing amazing amaaaazing - when i did my first 5k i cried too !!! i know that feeling of overwhelming emotion because you just achieved something incredible, happy birthday hotness! you are such an inspiration to me xxx

  6. I am so excited for you: what an amazing way to ring in a new year of your life! xoxo

  7. Brilliant Sheryl, you past a milestone today!

  8. Great job. I ran NYC Marathon in 2002 and know the landmarks you describe. My longest run to date this year is 12 miles so I am inspired once again.

  9. That is an awesome run. You just kept going! I can only run for about 30 seconds at a time. But ...

    I've gone from 5 mins on the rowing machine to 4.74 kilometres in 30 mins today. I'd only done 30 mins once before, and I went a whole 0.5 km further today in the same time. Felt pretty good. Soon I'll get to my goal of 5 km in 30 mins.

    Happy birthday! 41 is a good age, and 42 isn't bad either, sofar.

  10. Massive well done Sheryl!!! I remember when i started reading your blog, you weren't a runner, still awesome, but not a runner - and now you are! An amazing runner, in fact. I'm still only cycling, which i adore, but running still terrifies me, so huge congrats on something i don't think I could ever summon the will power to do :D Have a truly wonderful birthday! You continue to inspire me daily.


  11. That is so awesome! And so freakin' far!! You go girl!!

  12. This is just so great. :) And I have to say this: from those photos, it looks like you've been very kind and generous to your body lately. Gorgeous. Congrats.

  13. What a great day! Thank you for sharing! you are so inspiring!

  14. You are an inspiration! I've run 5Ks before, but no matter what, I've always walked at least a little bit. Today I'm going to start inching toward a goal of running the entire 3 miles without walking. THANK YOU!

  15. Since it is now Monday August 20th Happy Birthday!!

  16. Paule AnneAugust 20, 2012

    YEAHHHHH!!! What an awesome accomplishment. Here's to your birthday and many more fab moments this year!

  17. Happy birthday to you! You are so awesome. What an inspiring post. Thank you for sharing your fabulous run with us.

  18. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! You are frigging awesome! I sooo love your positive self talk..since lately I have been telling my negative self talk voice to shut the F**k up and it's working. xo

  19. I'm so inspired by you! You make me want to get out there and run. I've only run 4 miles straight so far, and I can't seem to force myself to 5. Maybe some positive self talk is in order, since it seems to have done wonders for you!

    Amazing job, and happy birthday!

    You are frigging amazing!! I LOVE all of your positive self talk...since I have just started telling my negative talk voice to SHUT THE F**K UP!
    Keep up the great work of always taking such great care of yourself! You're worth it!

  21. Happy Birthday! What a fantastic way to are an inspiration!

  22. Wow congratulations Sheryl! I can't believe you were able to sprint at the end of mile 15. I was about to write I must try Lulu's but then ... I foggily remember going to a little bar in brooklyn where you received a complimentary small pizza with your beer. So maybe I have been there already!

  23. I can feel your enthusiam! I've never commented but the fact that you biked to your dad to share that experience with him had me choked up. How beautiful! Congratulations and happy birthday!

  24. "I actually look like a runner!" You ARE a runner!!! Happy Birthday.

  25. Incredible!! You are the self-talk master, I tell ya. And I love the way you described how you check in and make adjustments if needed during your run. I do that a bit, too, but I think I should make it even more of a habit. Great post, congrats to you, Sheryl! And happy birthday! <3

  26. Amazing!!! First of all, you look SO beautiful in your last photo. So beautiful. I'm in awe of the fact that you ride your bike to & from a run like this! I was tearing up just reading because I just finished my first post-injury & surgery run and I felt awesome. Just alternating walking and running but it felt so great. Happy Birthday!

    Hope you have a fantastic birthday are you having the week like previously done?
    Lisa in NZ

  28. Happy 41! And wow that is amazing! I am an interval trainer and hope to one day run straight. And a Full 26.2! I hope to complete one, one day but for now I will stick with the half! Rock on with ridding your bike to and from one top of that! You should def go for an Iron man, or at least some sprint Tri's after this! You will have the run and biking down ;)
    So I am not quite as glam as you but you are a girl after my own heart with that lipstick! I am a firm believer that lipstick and mascara can make a HUGE difference so you HAVE to tell me what brand of lipstick you were rocking in this picture because I need some before my race in 2 weeks! You look amazing and I am so impressed by your ability to capture your run! I am going to try to do that but I am not sure If I will be able to do it!

  29. Truly inspirational! Well done :-)

  30. I totally teared up. I love that feeling of accomplishing something or doing something you never dreamed would be possible.

  31. Even though it's a day late, Happy Birthday! You look absolutely amazing! Congrats on your distance PR!

  32. I am so proud of you lady!! You're amazing. I hope you had a fantastic birthday!!! xo

  33. What a run it must have been! I plan to sign up for a marathon like that soon. I wish I could last like you did with all the training I am putting myself through right now.

  34. WOW! You are soooooo amazing! Good for you and a really Happy Birthday to you!!!!!!!!!!!

  35. You, my friend, are awesome. I totally know what you must have been feeling. when i crossed the finish line at my first half marathon I cried my eyes out with glee!! and you are doing a full marathon!! YAY!!!!
    This October I will have finished three halfs, and I think you just inspired me to run a full next year.
    I cant wait to read about your race. XO

  36. Happy Birthday!!! I am so happy you posted this. You are so inspiring.

  37. Happy birthday!!!!! You are such an inspiration!!!!!

  38. Happy Birthday! What a gift; you rocked those miles! Keep on going!

  39. Happy Birthday, Sheryl! You rock :)

  40. @property_grlAugust 25, 2012

    Happy birthday!! Your journey over the years has inspired me on so many levels. I just signed up to my run very first half marathon in April. I've been feeling very hesitant and a bit overwhelmed when I think about training for it (I've done a few 5ks it that's it), but this post has me excited to push myself even further than ever. Thank you so much!!

  41. Wishing you a very happy birthday. You are such an inspiration to me...I've seen you at the Tuesday meetings a couple of times (wish I could make make that meeting every week -- I love Melanie!) and I love your blog. Your story helped me to take on new challenges and push myself physically in a way I hadn't in years. Seeing you do all of this for the first time and make such amazing progress is so beautiful. Congratulations on all of your achievements Sheryl and thank you for sharing them so generously.
    Wishing you another year full of love, good health, strength and happiness.

  42. Congrats! I just stumbled across this blog, and I am really enjoying it. Keep up the good work! The progress you have made as a runner is pretty amazing ...

  43. Hi, Sheryl! You are doing so well. Thanks for continuing to inspire me. :-)

    Here's a link to my latest blog entry, which includes a picture of you with my brother, Joel.

  44. WannabefitmumAugust 29, 2012

    What a fantastic and inspiring blog piece! Well done you! I'm running my first ever half marathon in 2.5 weeks' time, and fully expect to be crying with happiness by the end of it. Thank you for sharing your journey with us! xx

  45. You are SUCH an inspiration!!! You look gorgeous from start to finish as well. My gosh woman, what an inspiration...
    You are the picture of health, beauty and style.

  46. I'm so motivated by you! You create me want to get out there and run. I've only run 4 kilometers immediately so far, and I can't seem to power myself to 6 km. Maybe some good self discuss is to be able, since it seems to have done amazing things for you!

    Rutherford personal trainer

  47. hey Miss.. what an inspiration, i'm looking to get back into running and your'e the spark.. thanks once again..

  48. You've TOTALLY inspired me to add bike riding in addition to my normal gym visits AND I joined WW because of YOU. Im so excited about the positive hangers and want to thank you for igniting the fire in me.

  49. This is the first time I read your blog and I'm close to tears! You're amazing!! So proud of you! I am working at myself and hoping to run a half marathon in 2 years! I teared up at my first ever 5km run.. no one in my family is a runner either.. nor very athletic..

    Thank you for this! It made my day!!!

  50. I don't even know what to say! I stumbled on to your blog today thinking that this would just be another boring weight loss diary. It's anything but boring. Thanks for being so inspirational. Thanks for capturing your victories and sharing them with people who need to hear. I am one of those. I am 62 pounds into my 119 pound weight loss goal. Seeing you succeed it totally motivating!


  51. I have been following your blog and you are such an inspiration. I think that it is wonderful how you have taken control of your health and have maintained your weigh loss. I have struggled with my weight for most of my life and I too have lost weight and I am promoting a healthy lifestyle. I have become a fitness trainer! Keep up the excellent work!