Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Thankful Thanksgiving

Don't forget there's a Sweaty Bands giveaway going on until December 5th!

It was a bit of a somber Thanksgiving for my family this year.  My sister was unable to come home this year because of her job (pastry cooks never rest!), so it was just my parents and I in Miami.  We also found out our very close friend (she was practically family!) had passed away the day before the holiday due to metastatic breast cancer.

Not exactly the homecoming I was looking forward to, but I was glad to be there with my parents.

Nonetheless, we rallied to cook up a Thanksgiving feast. Well, ok, my mom cooked and I assisted.  But still, we had it all.

We roasted a turkey breast...
Our turkey breast
Complete with a side of fresh cranberry chutney.
Making the chuney. Did you know cranberries made a popping noise while they cooked?
We couldn't decide on what kinds of potatos. So we made the most logical decision.
Mashed potatoes - my personal favorite
Sweet potatoes

And made both sweet AND regular mashed potatoes. Obviously made with real cream.

But we at least made sure to have some greens, too.
Salad-in-the-making

The final product?
Our masterpiece.

And oh? Who can forget about dessert?
Fresh whipped cream.
Pumpkin and chocolate pecan pies. Yes, two pies are completely necessary for three people.

The meal was one of the most decedent meals I've had in a long time, but it was worth every morsel. After all, if this week's events had taught me anything, it's that you have to live in the moment. Besides, I am an athlete  - I can burn it off!

And speaking of my athletic endeavors, thank you all so much for your thoughtful comments about my knee.  I did have my first PT consult and it doesn't look like anything too major.  I have another visit scheduled for tomorrow and keeping my fingers crossed that I will be finally cleared to run.  But, more on that, soon!

PS - don't forget about the giveaway!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Giveaway Time: Sweaty Bands Headbands

As promised after I launched my new redesign, we have a new giveaway!

Thanks to the wonderful folks over at Sweaty Bands, I have not one, but two, fabulous guaranteed-no-slip sport headbands for two lucky readers!

Sweaty Bands headbands

Seriously, these headbands are awesome. I bought two of them on a whim last year at the Rock and Roll Mardi Gras Marathon Expo last year and have been addicted to them since. Believe me, if they hold back my thick, semi-curly, very-difficult-to-manage hair, they will hold back anyone's hair.

So here's the deal. You have from today, November 21st, until December 9th to enter (I'll give you guys until the end of the week since I know some will be traveling over the holidays and away from computers and blog-world.)  You can earn up to two entries/person by doing the following...
a) hitting "follow" on this blog using the Goggle Friend Connect widget on the right
b) leaving me a comment on this entry

Once the entry period closes, I'll draw two random names. Good luck and happy entering!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weekend Recap: Keeping Busy While Injured

Sadly, I am still on the injured list since my knee is bugging the heck out of me.  It's painful to walk for an extended period of time, and going down stairs is just torture. I have a PT appointment next week, so hopefully I will figure out what's going on with it soon.  In the meantime, I am trying to do my best to stay calm, ice, rest, and focus on other aspects of my life.

I still had a few running-related activities to keep me occupied this weekend however. First up was my big post-race marathon party for the Hartford Marathon Foundation's training groups on Friday. Even though the group's focus was the ING Hartford Marathon back in the beginning of October, there were a few others (like me!) who trained with the group and chose a different fall marathon. The organizers were kind enough to delay the party until this weekend so everyone could celebrate finishing their big goal races.

The group I trained with met in Wilton (a town about 15 minutes away from me) but the majority of the groups met in Glastonbury, a suburb of Hartford, where the foundation is based.   Since the Glastonbury group was much larger than our group, it made sense to hold the party there. 
Post Marathon Party at Bicycles East
It was great to catch up with my coaches and hear how everyone's race went.  Since I ran the relay as a training run, I didn't really have a chance to see anyone at the finish line.  I was so glad to hear that it seemed like everyone's hard work seemed to have paid off!   Having a training group to meet made such an difference this year and, I'm looking forward to training with everyone again next summer.

Me and Denise (another runner) and my awesome coaches Kerri and Danielle
I planned to spend Saturday afternoon sulking about not being able to do a long run relaxing and resting, but Mike had other plans for us. We stopped by a local winery, Gouveia Vineyards, and shared a picnic dinner and a bottle of wine.

I love local wineries
 And then we were off to the best part of the evening....

Dave and Tim (sorry for the bad picture quality!)
An acoustic evening with Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds at the Oakdale! Tickets were pretty impossible but, Mike managed to find us a pair via another friend of ours.  We've seen quite a few Dave Matthews Band/Dave Matthews and Friends/Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds shows together over the years,  so it's become a bit of a nostalgic thing for us.

My original plans for this morning included a 4 miler race in Central Park, but obviously that was not happening (but big congrats to my friends Dahlia and Gary for their big PRs!) Instead, I ran some errands and checked out two new stores around me.

My bike store, Trek Bicycle Store in Fairfield, recently opened up a Trek Women store right next door.  My bike is a Trek WSD (women specific design) so I was excited to check out their offerings.
Trek Women in Fairfield, CT
I was not disappointed.  Along with the whole line of Trek's WSD bikes, they had gear, apparel, accessories, all for women.  Most bike stores can be pretty intimating (as a new cyclist there's so much I need to learn) but this one had such a warm and friendly vibe.  I was chatting with the owner a bit, and she mentioned the store offered free yoga on Sunday mornings. Will definitely have to come back again soon...maybe for clips? (I'm so not ready to clip in yet, but I can dream!)

More of the Trek Women store
I was also super excited to check out the new Nike Running store in downtown Westport. I wasn't quite sure where the new store was exactly, but luckily it wasn't too hard to spot...

hmm, I wonder what store that is
I couldn't believe how huge the store was - I think it was one of the largest dedicated running stores I've seen. They had walls of technical apparel, shoes, accessories and "lifestyle" apparel for both men and women along with a live DJ.
Nike store in Westport

 The most exciting part, however, were the employees walking around with iPads to take down email addresses for runners interested in their run club.  I hate running in the dark by myself (I just don't feel safe) so I am very excited about the possibility of a running group meeting 10 minutes from my apartments (because I WILL run again, contrary to how I may be feeling now)

But in the meantime, it's back to my ice pack.   

How do you keep busy when you can't run? Anyone do anything exciting this weekend?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Not the Return I Hoped For

I might have mentioned you know, once or twice, on this blog that I recently ran the ING New York Marathon and scored a big PR.


OK, I know I mention it alot.  But it's a pretty big deal to me.

After taking the week off from running, first from muscle soreness and then from a cold, I was quite eager to hit the road again. Whenever I don't run for more than a day or two I start to get antsy, so you can only imagine what a week off was doing to me.

Since my Garmin is in Miami now (somehow my mom ended up with it post-race. I blame "marathon brain." It's a scientifically-proven condition), I headed out for my first run watch-less. I figured it was better that way, anyways.  No need to worry about pace at this point. It was a balmy 65 degrees outside, and I was ready to go.

The first steps felt great.  But sadly, it was all downhill from there.  First my body felt incredibly itchy, which usually happens to me after some time off. Once my skin calmed down after the first mile or so, my right knee (the one that was bothering me during the marathon) started talking to me.  By mile 2, my knee was screaming at me.  By mile 2.5, I was done.

So now it's back to this for a while.
I know, I live the glamorous life.

Luckily, I already I have a flight booked to go home next week for Thanksgiving, so I can see my physical therapist then.  In the meantime, I hope I can at least get in some more cross-training this week.  All this rest is starting to make me go stir crazy!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Revamp Time!

Since I'm still recovering from being sick/marathon, I took the time to roll out a fresh look for the blog (really, it's amazing how much free time one has on their hands when they are not running 40+ miles/week)

Hope you like!

PS - Stick around and make sure you are "following" - new giveaway coming soon to celebrate the new look!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Life After November 6th.

After months of long runs, early wake-up calls and endless amounts of pasta - marathon day came and went. I trained hard and ran hard to meet my big goals.  And speaking of meeting my big goals, thank you all for your kind words and support, it really does mean a ton to me.

But now what?

For the first few days after the marathon, my legs were incredibly sore. Like, please-don't-make-me-get-up-and-out-of-my-chair sore. I was hoping that that since that was my second marathon I wouldn't be quite as sore,  but clearly that was quite an optimistic view.

By Thursday late afternoon I was starting to feel more normal. I thought about running, but I knew I should stick to my plan of taking the week off.  Then I remembered this old thing...

Oh hello, bike. Have we met before?

I haven't been on my bike for weeks since I ended up switching to running 6 days/week for the last 6 weeks of marathon training.  Although I do think that was the right decision so I could run a strong marathon, it did make me a little sad inside to see my bike just sitting there unused.  So since I was feeling pretty good on Thursday, I decided to take it out for a spin. Besides, isn't light exercise supposed to help recovery, anyways?

The first few miles felt great - it was like I never stopped riding.  Bu towards the last miles my rear end was getting a little very sore, and my legs were screaming "Hey, remember us? we just carried you through 26.2 miles, dammit!" I guess I am still recovering, after all.

I was hoping for a triumphant return to the roads today, but instead, I woke up with my requisite post-marathon head cold. Just when I thought I had escaped it!  So instead I will spend my day in bed/on the couch with some few old friends...
Manischewitz is key to recovery.

Is there anything a tray of fresh chocolate chip cookies does not solve!?
A little wine never hurt.
Assuming I can kick this cold to the curb, I would like to start running again on Monday. But after being on such a strict schedule for 16 weeks, I am feeling a little lost.  What should my weekly mileage aim be? And how much cross training should I do? I'm torn between being nervous about doing too much, too soon and itching to get back out there and onto the next goal.  And next year's goals are pretty lofty - an "a goal" half marathon, an Olympic triathlon, and a fall full marathon - all in New York, of course.

At least I can admire my additions to my bling collection in the meantime.
Cheesy or not, I do love my medals.
How have you bounced back from a major race? Do you rush into setting a new goal, or do you take some down time?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Race of My Life.

Three days later, I am still in disbelief. I ran a marathon. Not "finished" a marathon. Not "ran-but bonked at the last 6 miles." And not just any marathon. The marathon I grew up watching my dad run, in the city that I always dreamed of living in one day.

I think I have been preparing for this race since last year when I "finished" my first marathon. I was under-trained and injured, and my injured knee came back to haunt me at mile 8. It's a long way to start hurting, believe me.  At first I wasn't sure I wanted to run New York again - but when I was able to secure a spot, I knew I had to avenge myself on that course.

I started the weekend off with a bang at the Asics pre-marathon party at the Empire Hotel. I got to mingle with some super star marathoners...
Oh hello, Ryan Hall.
What's up, Deena Kastor?!

I had actually met Deena at an Asics event last year, but more surprisingly, she had remembered me, too! She asked me about my training this year and my time goals, and told me I would totally rock it when I told her I had finished three 20 milers. So inspiring to hear that from such an accomplished athlete.

Friday morning I headed straight to the expo to pick up my number. I was worried about the crowds, but it was actually not terrible. I was able to walk right in and pick up my number, and, no problem snagging an xs shirt. I was even pleasantly surprised to find out that offered woman's cut shirts this year. Three cheers for race shirts that actually fit!
Number pickup at the expo

I spent the rest of the weekend in the city since my parents had come into town.  The timing was brilliant - Saturday was my mom's birthday, too!  Since my parents are in Miami and my sister's job does not give her alot of time off, it was really great to have some quality family time.  It had been at least 6 months until we were all together.
 
But finally it was race day! My alarm was set for 6 am - but I woke up in the middle the night, grabbed my phone and saw "6:30" - and totally freaked. I rushed out of bed to brush my teeth and wash my face...only to have my boyfriend grunt at me that it was actually 5:30 am. Damn Daylights Saving!

A half hour later, I got up at 6 am (for real), got dressed, and headed out to stop at a very specific deli for breakfast.
Family tradition is a good luck charm, right?
What makes this deli so much more special than the rest of the delis? Both my parents always stopped here for their pre-marathon bagels over there, so it's been a bit of a family tradition. And who am I to break tradition?

I hailed a cab and headed towards the ferry. The ferry terminal was incredibly packed, but since I was already there for the Staten Island Half Marathon a few weeks ago, I knew exactly where the doors opened, and was able to get on the 7:30 am ferry right away.

Chilling on the ferry

A quick ferry ride later, and I arrived on the island. Once we got out of the ferry, there was a huge line of buses waiting to take us to the start village. Very well organized.

As I walked to the start village, I started to get chills. This was finally it!  Last year I remember it being super freezing - but this year, the temperatures were fairly comfortable. Other than the fact I probably looked like a homeless person in xl pajama pants over my running shorts, fleece sweater, and hat covering most of my ears, but whatever.  Totally not a fashion show.
Walking into the start village

I dropped my bag off, went to the bathroom a million times, and headed to my corral assignment. I heard the cannon go off for wave 1 and got chills - soon it would be me running over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge starting my own marathon.

My corral
 And then before I knew it - I stripped out of my layers, marched off to the bridge...and off we went!

I started in the green section, so I was on the lower level of the bridge. While it was a little less scenic than the upper levels,  it didn't really bother me.  I was more concerned with finding my pace.  My Garmin kept telling me I was at a 13 min/mile - but I knew it was just being finicky because of the bridge, and tried to have faith in my instincts. 

When we dumped out into Brooklyn, I finally caught a decent GPS signal, and phew! I was right on target with a 10 min/mile.  The course was crowded (but, it's one of the largest marathoners, what do you expect?) and the roads were narrow and much hillier than I remembered, but I tried to focus on keeping my pace. The first 5k, and then 10k passed, and I was clipping along fairly easily, and took my first Cliff Shot Bloks in.

I spotted my friend Kathy cheering at around the 8.5 mile mark - and then passed the 15k point - and kinda really starting to need a bathroom. All the lines for the port-a-potties were ridiculously long, so I found a bakery and ran in. It ended up costing me around 5 minutes - which I knew would probably cost me a sub 4:30 marathon - but could you do?  I didn't really have an alternative.

After climbing yet another hill (seriously, did not remember these!), I finally made my way to the  Pulaski Bridge, took in a few more Shot Bloks, hit the half marathon point, and landed into Queens. I was still averaging a 10 min/mile (if you took out my bathroom break) but I was starting to get nervous. My right knee was beginning to throb a bit, and I knew the Queensboro Bridge would be coming up any mile now.

Sure enough - there was that bridge. My nemesis. Last year this was when I first starting walking and the race started to get very difficult for me.  I took a deep breath, ignored the pain in my knee, and kept marching on.  "No walking," I kept telling myself. Surprisingly, the uphill actually helped the pain in my knee disappear, temporarily at least. I hit mile 15, and then a few minutes (which felt like ages), hit the downhill of the bridge, and eventually mile 16.  A sign read "if 10 miles left is easier, welcome to easier." At this point I lost my Garmin signal again, so I was running by feel again - and using the clocks at the mile markers as a rough estimate.

Running up First Ave in Manhattan is one of the highlights of the New York Marathon - you can hear the roar of the crowds from almost a mile away and they are at least 5 rows deep. Last year I was so miserable I could barely appreciate it, so this year I was determined to enjoy it.  Plus I knew all I had to do as to hang on to my pace for two more miles, and I would get to spot my mom and sister! The problem was, my Garmin was just as useless in Manhattan as it was on the Queensboro Bridge.

I definitely felt the incline up First Ave, but I let the energy of the crowd take my mind off of it. I took in my third helping of Shot Bloks and watched the numbers on the street signs climb higher . "All you have to do is make it to the 90s," I told myself, "And you'll have your family."  And sure enough...I finally made it! I gave them a huge smile and passed by them.  I tried to ask them what my time was since I knew they were tracking me via the mobile app - but they said they didn't know. "Fabulous," I thought, "the tracking on the app wasn't working, either."

I made my way through Harlem, and then over the Willis Ave Bridge - and then I was in the Bronx, and mile 20.  Finally, my signal on my Garmin worked again - and it said I was around a 10:20 min/mile pace. "Hang on," I told myself. "Yes, you hurt, but this is what you trained for. Don't. Give. Up."

I tried to keep an even pace as I passed mile 21 and then up over Madison Ave Bridge and back into Manhattan (and, a failed GPS signal, of course) I heard a cop yell out "Last bridge! home stretch to Manhattan!" and I thought to myself, "thank the lord." But I was also smiling pretty broadly - I was still running, and I knew I could make it.

I passed mile 22, and knew after the next mile, I would be entering Central Park soon.  The incline up Fifth Ave was pretty brutal. It was all uphill, and so many people were bonking and walking, but I was determined to keep on going.  Right after I passed mile 23, I spotted my mom again and knew I was getting so close. Only 5k to go! And really, how many times have I run a 5k? I got this!

I entered the park again, and welcomed the downhill relief - except the downhill started to really bug my knee. But it did it matter? NO! Just keep on trucking.

I had a bunch of friends volunteering or watching at/around the mile 24 water station - but pretty much missed everyone.  I grabbed water and heard a "Rachel?!" from my friend Gary, but I was so out of it, I barely recognized him.

The signal on my Garmin picked up again, and I briefly saw I was at a 10:20-10:30ish mile. I was kind of confused because I thought I was running much harder, but after so many miles on my legs, I guess every stride seemed like double the effort.

Mile 24 seemed to take forever, but I finally made it through to mile 25. "Just exit the park, whip across Central Park South, and you're practically home," I told myself. At this point my right knee, and well pretty much everything else, was killing me, but I didn't care. I could see the buildings in Columbus Circle in my distance, and I just focused making it there.

And then finally - I saw the bleachers, the jumbotron, green, and then I was in the park....and at mile 26! So close!

I starting seeing the railings for the chute - but could not see the actual finish line for the life of me. I knew my dad and my boyfriend would be in the bleachers close to the finish line, so I started looking for them.  When I saw them - I knew how close I was, and I was home free.

I finally spotted the finish line - and I was ran through it, I started tearing up a bit.  I actually did it!!

I made my way through the infamous "death march" until I found my medal, food, bag check, and park exit.  My boyfriend and dad were waiting for me, and they helped me get back to the hotel, where we could start the post-race festivities.

My final time was 4:33:47, and I could not be happier. I ran the whole thing, I did not bonk out, and best of all....
Making the Times!

I made the New York Times!!!

I know I am not the fastest marathoner by any stretch of the imagination - but I proved to myself that I could run a marathon, and that means more to me than anything else.

And the best part of all? As soon as I crossed the finish line I finished my 9th qualifying race....so New York Marathon 2012, here I come!!

Is it bad that I'm already setting tentative time goals already?