Archives For Running

I’m a marathoner! It’s an exciting thing to say to someone who then in turn calls you full on crazy–Unless, of course, they are also a runner. The NYC marathon was my second marathon, both overall and this year. I know I’ve been a nonexistent blogger since January, but I’ve had a lot of things happen in life. And so, nearly 11 months after my last post, I bring you: my NYC marathon journey.

My journey to the NYC marathon was a challenging one. First, I gained my entry to the marathon not by being one of the lucky lottery winners or qualifiers, but by committing to run for charity (a charity I am a local coach for, no less) months before the lottery even closed. Hurdle number 1: raise $3,000.

Let’s just discuss the art of fundraising for a minute, considering I did sign myself up to raise money for Girls on the Run. Talk about a challenge! I’m an accountant–asking people for money is something I do only when I issue a negotiated invoice, never voluntarily. I had to figure out how to raise money, lots of money! I put a lot of effort (and credit card points) into an office building bake sale and two charity cocktail evenings and that STILL wasn’t enough. But I have some pretty amazing friends and family and after Girls on the Run posted a story about my “why”, the donations flooded in and I hit my goal. I was officially going to run the marathon because of their love & support! While difficult, I can also say it was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my lifetime–because as a coach, I know how the funds are allocated and how they truly impact the lives of the girls in the program. I’ve seen their faces as they cross the finish line of their own 5K each season and it has truly been life changing!

Second, there are stories after stories about how getting to the start line is harder than running an actual marathon. Two marathons in and I’ve fallen victim to running injuries both times. This injury far surpassed the first though and there was no recovering before race day, despite taking it easy for nearly six weeks leading up to the race.

Fast forward through weeks upon weeks of training and fundraising to race week.

I packed my bags; I decided I was running this race, if it meant I ended up walking half of it. (Keep this in the back of your mind as you read on.) I was prepared for rain, cold, or shine. I packed my hydration, my fuel, recovery, and even my own coffee! I took heed to the “do NOTHING different on race day” warnings.

Race day morning I woke up 5 minutes before the alarm. I met the Atlanta team on the subway at 6:40AM. At 7AM we are in line for the ferry. However, the crowds were large and we didn’t even get onto the ferry until 8AM. Then it was straight into the bathroom lines before waiting in line for the shuttle to take us to the start line. At 9:50AM the shuttle dropped us off and we’re left to hustle to our corrals before they close at 10:15AM. I will say, it’s a darn good thing I didn’t blow the girls off that morning because I thought they were crazy wanting to catch the subway FOUR hours before our wave started! Little did I know it would take as much time as it did…I get it now!

I’m finally in my corral by 10:15AM and I meet Barbara. She’s a nice lady, running her fifth marathon, and her talking to me keeps my nerves at bay. I have my “marathon plan” and I’m not going to go out too fast, no matter how many people are passing me!

Ready to Race

Green Wave Start Line

The gun goes off at 10:40AM and we surge forward. The race is officially on for me! The entire first mile and a half is uphill across the Verrazano Bridge–much like the Wednesday night runs I do with West Stride…I got this! I kept a nice, steady 11:30-12:00 ish pace. I was feeling good! Miles 1-4 FLEW by. Before I even blinked I was at mile 5 and thinking to myself “I can totally do this”!

Mile 6-13…I started thinking how much I really don’t like Brooklyn. It’s so boring. I’ve been on the same road for over an hour and a half at this point; I sure could use a change of scenery! The crowd turnout is great though, and the bands/support is helping me keep going.

Mile 14 – Bridge #2, an uphill battle into Queens, though not nearly as bad at Bridge #1. Everyone hits a wall, but not everyone hits it at mile 20. For me, that wall was during Mile 15. Mile 16 was also the start of the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan. Let’s talk about this beast for a minute. This is where I knew I had to walk if I had any hope of saving my knee. And so I joined the ranks of the walkers. However, this allowed me to stop for a photo op, which actually helped pull me out of my funk and helped me hurdle the wall.

Manhattan Skyline via Queensboro Bridge

I picked my feet up again on the descent as the mass of people rounded the corner onto First Ave. This is where everyone warned there would be a wall of noise. Perhaps the crowds were a bit burned out at this point, because I never even had to turn off my headphones. I was a little disappointed, if I’m being frank. (And there were A LOT of people in the crowds at this point)

Mile 17-19 was a pretty easy run along First Ave with the crowds surging me along. I was still on point with my 11 ish minute mile at this point and was feeling pretty good until about Mile 18. I felt the knee pain creep in, despite my repeated efforts encouraging my body to keep cooperating. I was fighting tears from Mile 18-19 but I was trying to stay mentally tough!

Mile 20, Bridge #4 into the Bronx – yet another hill. I actually heard a lady behind me say “I’m so over bridges at this point” and I don’t think I could’ve agreed more. However, I powered up this one and kept trucking along. The Bronx was actually one of my favorite parts of the race, despite it being a quick mile and a half. The bands were playing great music, the crowds were yelling/cheering/making noise – I guess they realized that is when most people do hit their wall! Thank you Bronx crowd!

Mile 21-23 is where things started falling apart for me. I pushed through Harlem, but as I neared Central Park, my right hip started cramping; it had been compensating for the left knee for nearly 5 miles at this point and started screaming no more. I was at 108th and 5th and I had a complete mental breakdown. I couldn’t control the tears at this point and by the time I found hubby at 103rd I was nearly inconsolable. The pain was over bearing and it’s all I could focus on. I was ready to quit. I kept sobbing on his shoulder “Tell me I can do this; tell me I can finish this!” The nice French lady standing beside him offered me a coke, and the ladies behind Joe kept encouraging me saying “You got this! It’s only 2.5 more miles. You’ll be ready to sign up for the next one before you know it!” I knew, no matter what, I had to cross that finish line; Quitting wasn’t an option at this point.

My brain was out of the game, as was my body, but at Mile 24.5, I breathed in new life as I was sobbing through Central Park. In this exact moment, I found the will to power through in my heart. I was extremely disappointed in myself for having run nearly an entire marathon only to end up walking the last 2.7 miles, but this sign was EVERYTHING. To the spectator holding them — you are my freaking hero!

Mile 24.5 Mantra

Despite my head & my legs, I crossed that finish line, with a time of 5:07:29 and it was 100% heart that carried me through.

Nearly a week later, I still can’t get over the disappointment, even though I know this is a HUGE accomplishment. I’ve heard every justification and positive word that could possibly be said…maybe in a week I’ll have a happier outlook. For now, I have my medal sitting on my desk and am just fortunate to have that.

NYC Marathon Finisher's Medal

There is no runner’s high; there is no great feeling about this one. To me, it is simply done. Are these feelings normal?

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2014 was supposed to be my marathon year. I was registered for the Dublin Marathon in October and training was in full swing as I ran the Dublin Race Series from June to September. Life ultimately had different plans for me, and I found myself back in the USA before I ever saw the end of September.

I attempted to keep running, in hopes I could find a marathon around the late October/early November timeframe that could replace the Dublin marathon I would be missing. Two VERY hilly runs around Atlanta later, I realized running a marathon in 2014 was simply impossible. You see, in Dublin, I was at sea level, with very few inclines or hills any where to be found in the city or along the routes I frequented. Atlanta, in stark contrast, is 320m above sea level (1,050 ft) and that my friends, is the highest elevation of any major city east of the Mississippi River. To say I struggled to adjust is a huge understatement.

It has taken me three solid months and struggles like you would not believe to get to a point where I feel like a runner again. I’ve had to pull my pace back, and I feel like a turtle again. I’ve also spent a lot time in the gym cross-training, you know, the keys to running don’t just involve a strong lower half…

Two weeks ago, I ran a 10 mile race. It was hilly, but not as bad as I expected, and that is the exact moment I had the realization that I had adjusted to the elevation and hills that are Atlanta. I was on sheer runner’s high as I crossed that finish line.

Monday Night Brewing

The race had several tents set up, one of which was the Georgia Marathon. Ten minutes later I was signed up to run the Publix Georgia Marathon on March 22, 2015.

I’m super pumped and scared for this journey all at the same time. I’ve never run more than 13.1 miles before. I have no idea how I’m going to do this — OK, that’s a lie because I’m going to do this on sheer will power and desire; because it’s what I want to accomplish as a runner this year!

Chase your dreams, then keep running

It’s going to hurt; it’s going to be a challenge, both mentally & physically; it’s going to consume all my free time (hello, I’m training for this during tax season!); it’s going to make me stronger. AND THAT IS GOING TO BE MY REWARD WHEN I CROSS THAT FINISH LINE IN MARCH!

Here's to 2015

This training will be both friend and foe, but, as Barney says in How I Met Your Mother, challenge accepted! Bring it on 2015!

Until next time, XOXO – K

A Mile is A Mile

I was out for a 15 mile run on Tuesday and somewhere around the 10 mile mark, it dawned on me just how far my running has come since I moved to Dublin. And so today, I want to focus my efforts on those things that have made me a better runner, in hopes that my sharing them with you will also help you to become a better runner for yourself.

1. Off days are OK, but you do have to power through them

You talk yourself up for your run all day; You get changed and lace up; And thirty seconds to a minute and a half into your run you think to yourself, “Oh. My. Gosh. Why am I doing this again?” It’s in stark contrast to those days that just seem effortless and easy, right? Trust me, this happens to everyone. And it’s utterly important that you keep going on those days because you have to teach your body that it can, and it will keep going.

2. Rain, heat, cold, or shine

Weather is a fickle creature, and I know all too well how easy it is to use the weather as an excuse to not go for a run. Strike that mentality. You HAVE to do it, and you know why? Because there is never a race-day weather guarantee.

Autumn Weather3. Set goals, and stick to them 

For me, it’s easier to keep myself motivated and running when I have an end-game in mind, and a financial commitment. And so, I run for races. If you can set goals for yourself and stick to them, you’ll see the improvements — they don’t always have to require a financial commitment of course.

4. Don’t forget your core! 

When I ran my first two half marathons, I relied solely on my lower half to get me through. It wasn’t until late last Autumn when I began a series of upper body & core workouts that I noticed HUGE strides in my running pace and endurance. You use your arms while running as much as your legs. You also rely on your core muscles to carry you along, so do yourself a solid and focus on the whole you, not just the legs.

Spiders

Yep, that’s me attempting spider push-ups. (I have wrist issues, so to combat that, I use yoga blocks for intense floor work)

 

5. You have to, and I mean absolutely HAVE to, cross-train your lower half.

As important as core strength is, your legs are what carry you through a race. All too often, runners think they can’t run because of their various problems. “Oh, my knees are bad” or “I get shin splints every time I run”. Did you know that most knee problems are due to weak hip flexors and IT bands? Did you also know that shin splints are generally a product of poor footwear or  running form? I have battled through these exact same issues — and I’ve come out ahead because I opted to begin cross-training. (Luckily, the at-home workouts I do for core, also focus on lower half strength.) IT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD and I simply cannot stress that enough.

6. Music matters

Running Playlist

Have a play list, and a power song. And make sure your power song is in your playlist a few times (depending on your race length). And train with this play list — so you can tweak and edit before race day. At some point in your race you won’t even be hearing words, just beats, so be picky with your songs and make sure your feet can run to those beats! You’ll be pleasantly surprised when your power song changes over time…I certainly have!

My current favorites?
Eminem – Lose Yourself
Kenny Loggins – Footloose
The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony

7. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

I all too often take hydration for granted. I’ve pushed myself a few times and can easily drink a pot of coffee then run 5-6 miles an hour later and be fine — but that’s not always been the case. And I certainly can’t push myself to run 12-15 miles without proper fluids. And even when I think I’ve had enough fluids, I land in bed with a migraine anyway. You need water. You need electrolytes. PERIOD.

8. Run with a friends.

You don’t realize how important running with a group of people is until you look down at your watch and you’ve run 5 miles without batting an eye because you were preoccupied with chatting. The best thing I ever did was find a group of people who pushed my limits, tested my endurance, and all around helped me become a faster runner simply by talking to me while we ran. Some days I didn’t think I’d make it through the runs, but those were the days my group mattered most (and goes hand in hand with #1 above)

Running Friends

9. Don’t fall victim to “carb loading”.

Don’t get me wrong, carbs are über important for runners, but you do not want to eat a heaping plate of pasta for lunch the day before a race and follow it with a large pizza for dinner. The carbs will process into sugar overnight and will leave you feeling sluggish on race day.

Consume your carbs evenly throughout the week of a race, and be sure you are eating the good carbs — sweet potatoes, whole grains, and legumes. I find quinoa is the absolute best before a race, as it is both a whole grain & protein packed. Stay away from processed and bleached carbs if possible.

10. Listen to your body.

I cannot stress the importance of this one enough. Your body knows best, so pay attention to what it is saying! If your ankle hurts, take a day off from running and try some yoga. If you are hungry, EAT. The longer and further you run, the more your metabolism kicks in and needs fuel to continue and repair muscles. You only get one body, so take care of it.

Race

These are all the things I’ve learned about myself as a runner over the last 18 months. You can do anything you put your mind to, and here’s my proof: In September of 2013 I was a 12-13 minute mile distance runner (10K +) and a 10 minute mile short distance runner (+/- 5K). Today, I am a 9 1/2 minute mile distance runner and a 7 1/2 minute mile short distance runner. And now you know my secrets.

Until next time,

XOXO – K

July 8, 2013 marked the official start of my Dublin half marathon training; at which point in time I could barely run a mile without stopping. After a 12 week training program, a lot of motivation from my running group, and loads of support from my friends, I was able to run a mile, easily. I certainly wasn’t fast, at an average 12 minute mile for the half and the best average I had on any training run (a short one!) was probably around 10:45.

Having been a gymnast and a sprinter, I never thought distance running was something I could physically do – at least not continuously for 13.1 miles. Now, I still haven’t continuously run 13.1 miles, but I’ve proven to myself time and time again that I CAN be a distance runner, because a mile is a mile, no matter how fast or slow.

And now, here we are a little over a year later, and I’ve surprised myself yet again! Now, not only am I a distance runner, I’m a distance runner who’s knocked crazy time off her runs – proving to myself that anything is possible with a little dedication and a lot of practice.

7 MilesYou know what? I can run a mile. I can run 7 miles in just over an hour. (My watch was being dumb and had issues finding satellites, so add approx 3.5 minutes and another .38 miles because I actually did just over 7 total that day)

This run was on a rather warm & sunny summer day in Dublin. I started from my office in Ballsbridge and ran down Merrion road to Booterstown Park. It was a simply gorgeous day and the Irish Sea happened to be in my favour!

Booterstown looking towards Dun LagohaireThere is nothing more motivating than running along the sea, with a little breeze at your back and the sun shining down on your face. It’s exceptional, and so very motivating.

At one point along the journey I realised how happy I was; how much energy I had; how amazing I felt. And that was around the five-mile mark! Who knew a year ago, when I started my journey that I wouldn’t hate myself after 5 miles; that I could still have energy and motivation to keep going, even on one of the hottest days of the year in the mid-day sun, sans water bottle!

This was about the same time I was headed back towards my office on the Sandymount Strand, when the random fog started rolling in. It was almost like it was raining it was so thick. And the wind was blowing something fierce and you could feel the sea and the salt in your hair and it was even more motivating! (The photo really doesn’t do it justice, but just ahead of me in the picture you can’t see ANYTHING. It really just looks like a cloudy day here….) 

Fog on the Sandymount Strand
 When I sat out on this run, my goal was actually only five miles. I ended up taking a wrong turn and making a rough 1.5 mile loop and ended the day just over 7 miles. And with the views that day, this is about as close to Seventh Heaven as you can possibly get! Keep on running friends. Runners’ High is a real and honest thing and I hope each and every one of you know what I’m talking about at some point in your life (be it after 1 mile or 15!).

Until next time: XOXO – K

**Sidebar: I’m not sure I deserve such amazing followers I just sat down in front of the computer to write for the first time in what I’m now realising has been almost 45 days. YIKES. And you are STILL reading my blog? Please, high-five yourselves right now. And do it again, just one more time. You are amazing. (No excuses, because the why’s are a topic for another day!)**

In the workplace, we’re required to set goals; from goals that align with the company’s business plan to goals that ultimately drive our career paths. All too often though, people forget that setting personal goals is just as important, because if you aren’t working towards something are you really working at all? I suppose most people would say their New Year’s resolutions are their goals, and if there are people out there that actually keep their resolutions, props to them!

I’ve spent the last six months compiling a list of the goals I have in mind for the next year of my life — those short term goals that I can just check off the list as I go along. Some of these will seem simple enough on the face, but others, not so much. A few of them are likely a bit vague on the surface, which is something a goal is not supposed to be, but vague or not, they are still my goals.

And so, join me on my journey over the next year, and help me succeed!

 30 Things I Want to Accomplish in My 30th Year

Run a marathon

Climb a mountain

Run a timed 5K race under 30 minutes

Take a baking/decorating course

Visit an Eastern European country

Read more books

Run a timed 10K race under 57 minutes

Take a photography course

Begin selling cupcakes

Take a cooking course

Attend a fashion week

Try a new, exotic food

Send more “just because” mail

Run a timed half marathon under 2 and a half hours

Travel more

Join a running club

Cycle 100K in a single day

Raise $1,000 for charity

Run a profitable business

Take a sewing course

Get 100 new blog followers

Keep in touch with friends more

✅ Learn to play tag rugby

Set aside at least $500/month to savings

Get five new Juice Plus customers

Keep a food diary for 30 straight days

Write an A-Z series blog post

Conquer a fear

Start a date night jar and use it frequently

In a year, I hope to look back on all the things I’ve accomplished in my 30th year and wonder why I hadn’t set goals like this before! Maybe I’ll start a trend! (Of course, I did get the idea from my friend Amy, so I can’t say the credit is mine at all….Thanks Amy!)

Do you set personal, yearly goals? Do you mark them off the list as you complete them?

Until next week (when thirty is just a thing of the past!), XOXO – K