Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ready, Set, Go

As anyone who has ever spent months upons months preparing for one big day, a few miniscule moments of life, knows, when the countdown can be kept in hours, rather than days, mixed feelings abound.

From food choices to my social calendar, for the last five months everything has been organized around a training regime. It started out as a chore. A chore whose results I desired, but whose tasks I did not enjoy nor really mind. It was simply a part of my life to be tolerated, much like brushing my teeth. But over time, toleration turned into adoration.

The logical assumption is that running thirty plus miles a week has flooded my body with so many endorphins that it was just a hangover from the "runner's high." Perhaps that is part of the answer, but the real cause of this love affair with running is this blog. Finally putting pen to paper (ehh, fingers to computer) and expressing all the crazy thoughts that come to me when running, turned out to be the x-factor in this marathon training plan. Just as much as I have enjoyed conquering each mile, I have loved sharing my experience.

But all good things must come to an end, and the marathon is right around the corner. After the marathon, I will post once more to recap the marathon and then I will plan on signing off until next marathon training season. But before I head out to Philadelphia for the experience of a lifetime, I wanted to share (once more) my favorite blog posts and the story of my blogging/running experience. Read through them once more and then lace up your shoes, and do something that you always wanted to do but never thought you could do.

Here's my first real blog post: Waking Up and Working Out. It's by no means the best one, but it's my first and thus that makes it special.

I had written Central Park Jogger long before I actually typed it out. Central Park brings so many runners together and those runners put all of my excuses out of business. If they can do it, so can I.

Mid-summer I changed jobs, and this inspired a story about quitting a run. Quitters is one of the first times I tried to draw a parallel between life and running. It's right around this post that I finally found my blogging voice and started to love the blogging as much as the running.

Is it hot in here or what? represents my second foray into drawing a parallel between life and running. This time I tried to show how running through the second hottest summer in New York helped me reconnect with my sixteen year old self. Corny? Maybe, but then again the heat makes me do crazy things.

By the end of September, my love affair with marathon training was in full swing and this post was my attempt at trying to get others to drink the Kool-aid. For the love of the run might be my favorite.

October brought some pre-marathon anxiety and worry, but these were quickly resolved when I volunteered to help at NYRR's Grete's Great Gallop Half Marathon and then I shared my story in Plus One, Minus One Wall.

And now, I'm off to Philadelphia to run twenty-six point two miles.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nine More Days Until My First Marathon!

Just nine more days until I run twenty-six point two miles! Of course, I'm scared and anxious. What if I didn't train enough? But as all those people who crossed the finish line in New York last week demonstrated, finishing the marathon is the ultimate accomplishment.

Just nine more days. Also, ten more days until I'm back home in Michigan!

Photo of the Liberty Bell by K. Ciappa for GPTMC
Photo of the Philadelphia Marathon by M. Kennedy for GPTMC

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Delayed Gratification

The first marathon is a scary event. That's why I'm trying to pad the experience with lots of good things as well. So that no matter how nervous I am or how bad the bonk is, that I will still be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

No more coffee. I quit coffee a few weeks ago, but have intermittently had a cup or two when extra tired or before a big run. I'm looking for that big burst in energy that a cup of coffee will provide after a two week caffiene detox.

Oldies but goodies. I frequently download new music before long runs. There is nothing like a new song to help me pick up the pace or run an extra mile. But now, I'm building up a collection of new songs to be listened to for the first time next Sunday. I'm already excited about this song.

I know it doesn't seem like much, but I love coffee and I'm missing it dearly. And the music, well I'm okay without new music, but man, oh man, am I excited to hear all my new songs. Hmmm, sounds like I'm trying to bribe myself a little?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How many plates of spaghetti?

I like to be able to quantify things. It gives me a sense of order in the world. The preparation for a marathon is the perfect numbers game. In order to make it twenty-six point two miles, training lasts eighteen weeks, and another fifteen weeks for the beginner. All training programs, should include one long run a week with a minimum-maximum distance of twenty miles.

When I found out that there is a calculator which calculates the carbohydrate caloric need to fuel a marathon at a specified pace, I was intrigued. The pre-race carbo loading has been a bit of an art this season. I started with the classic Italian pasta dinner before long runs, but as my mileage crept up, the overflowing plate of pasta went from fuel to a rock sitting in my stomach.

So then I decided that carbo-loading could be a two day event. I had read that Grete Waitz, the great NY Marathoner, never ate a big meal before a marathon, and I decided to try out her method. So two nights before the big run, I ate a big meal with some protein and little fat, and then I continued to eat carbohydrate heavy meals through lunchtime the next day. By carbohydrates, I don’t necessarily mean bread, pasta, and more bread. Vegetables and fruit have carbohydrates and so I mix those into my diet as well. The Friday night meal is just a big salad full of vegetables, croutons, and maybe a little cheese.

This combination has worked much more spectacularly than I anticipated, but sometimes it leaves me a little hungry mid-run. Hunger is preferable to feeling stuffed when running double-digit miles, but I would rather not feel it. So I plugged my stats into the endurance calculator and clicked “compute”.

What did that little magic calculator come up with? Well first of all, it told me my aggressive best marathon performance time – of 3:18! I’m still laughing over that one. Maybe in another lifetime. But it also said that I need to eat 1560 calories from carbohydrates to achieve my goal time of 5 hours. That’s almost a whole extra day of food. Now that’s a goal that I can wrap my mind around.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Some Great Stories about the NY Marathon

This past Sunday's marathon filled me with equal parts fear and hope. But rather than go into all the things that I'm worried about, I thought I'd share some of the great stories that came out of this weekend.

Haile Gebrselassie comes to NY for the first time and then didn't finish. But no matter, this 37 year old runner from Ethopia is the greatest in the sport and holds the world record.

This is the highlights reel of the marathon. Did you know Al Roker ran? In just over 7 hours? Also, a lady who has run 10 marathons in this year alone, plus our favorite, the Chilean miner and his escorts.

Nothing inspired me more than the story of Shalane Flanagan making her marathon debut (hey, so am I in Philly!) and also coming in second place, the first time an American woman has finished that high in over two decades.


It's Quiet Time

Week two of taper is here and the marathon is only twelve days away. Now it's really time for me to rest and relax.

Despite all the positive health benefits that running has brought to my life, marathon training has been tough. I'm starting to suffer from IT Band Syndrome, and I am plagued with phantom pains and aches like never before. I'm not sure if its my body or the human body but at some point this marathon training has become just about all that my body can handle.

The effects of training are starting to bleed into other areas of my life. I'm so tired that I can't stay up late anymore and I can't fit into a few pairs of my high heels because my feet have either grown or they are swollen all the time now.

But as much as I know that I need this rest, it gets boring after a while. I mean how many movies can I really watch? So I have some things planned to break up the monotony, including a trip to the spa and a day of painting pottery. I'm also going to spend some time cooking and baking.

Only twelve more days....

Saturday, November 6, 2010

It's just 12 miles

My taper started last weekend, but this week's training, though significantly less than the week before, is still pretty intense by non-marathon training standards. But after today's twelve miler, my training takes a significant dive into nothingness and then finally culminating with the Philadelphia Marathon on November 21.

I will miss these long runs and all the crazy rituals that go with them. What's to miss about spending a Friday night in and a Saturday morning exercising for hours and hours? Oh plenty.

There is the friday morning bagel, the West Side Green Way, the Brooklyn Bridge, and new music just to start. And then there's the feeling that something real was accomplished.

Speaking of New Music, here's what I downloaded for my run today. Some of it is happy and some is a bit more melancholic - reflecting perfectly my feelings about the end of the long run.

What's My Name? (Featuring Drake) by Rihanna & Drake

Cry When You Get Older by Robyn

Gone Too Far by Dragonette

Back to the Crib (Featuring Chris Brown) by Juelz Santana

Nantes by Beirut

Furr by Blitzen Trapper

Your Ex-Lover is Dead by Stars

Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe by Okkervil River

Fake Empire by National

Take Me to the Riot by Stars

Happy Saturday!

Friday, November 5, 2010

I'm basically screwed

As with many things in life, I've kept this qualifying for the NY Marathon to the 11th hour. There were plans, of course, to have qualified by now, but running a race every weekend - even if I don't even try to race them, is hard, and I missed two of them.

So now I'm staring down the last two months of 2010 and I have to run three more races with the New York Road Runners. Unfortunately for me, there are only 5 more races this year that I can run and I need to run three of them.

One starts in two hours but its pouring outside and I may have to sit in the rain for an hour because I need to pick up my bib by 7 a.m. and the race doesn't start until 8 a.m.

One is a 9.2 mile race one week before Christmas. I'm not sure I want to run 9 miles in twenty degree temperatures.

And one more is at midnight on New Years Eve. I have never been awake in my entire life at midnight and felt like a nice jog. So you can imagine how much this race is calling to me.

As you can see I have options AND excuses.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

New York Marathon Madness

As you know, I'm planning on running New York in 2011, and so I'm using this year, the year that I'm not full of nervous and pent up energy, to revel in the NY Marathon fever.

Today, the last two miles of my run are on the last two miles of the marathon course. I tried to make the most of the run and visualize that I was running the last two miles of my marathon, but I was hopped up on a cup of coffee and it did not work at all. Oh well, I tried.

Also on my agenda this week is the marathon expo and a five mile race.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wings at My Feet - The Marathon Racing Shoe

Marathon Taper time is here and aside from all the relaxation and meditation that I'm supposed to engage in, it's also SHOPPING TIME!

Ok, so it's really not shopping time, but it's time for me to get together all the gear that I need for the marathon, and if I don't have something, I would of course need to buy it. So this really isn't the fun, glamorous shopping we do on 5th Avenue, unless of course the running store makes you giddy, but with all the running stores and specialty sports stores in New York City, it's definitely not boring.

All year, I've been running in a pair of light Brooks running shoes, and a few months ago at the running store, I was introduced to a light pair of racing shoes called Launch from Brooks. They are pretty flimsy and only last 100-200 miles (in marathon training speak that would be two to five weeks), so I didn't buy them, but now that I'm tapering, I'm going to start rotating those shoes with my current, sturdier pair.

I've been dreaming about these new shoes for the last two months, and tonight, I finally get to realize this dream. I know what you are thinking. New shoes that weight only six ounces less are not going to help me out. But in the big, bad world of marathons every little thing counts. And six ounces after twenty miles can feel like sixty pounds.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Songs on Repeat for the Month of October

October was a crazy busy month for me. I logged around 120 miles of running, had to finalize a 10Q, ran a half-marathon and had an out of town visitor in for a weekend. In short, I could barely find time to breathe this month. But since the running goes on, no matter what else is going on in my life, so does my collection of music grow. Here's what I've been enjoying this past month:

Unless It's Kicks by Okkervil River

Come With Me by ceo

None of Dem by Robyn & Royksopp

Victory (Featuring Nas & John Legend) by DJ Khaled

Good Ol' Fashion Nightmare by Matt & Kim

Alive (Nightmare) (Featuring Ratatat) by Kid Cudi

I Fall In Love Everyday by Fake Money

Dog Days Are Over (Breakage Remix) by Florence + the Machine

Everlasting Light by the Black Keyes

Vaporize by Broken Bells

Got That Tonic by Fake Money

(Ha Ha) Slow Down (Featuring Young Jeezy) by Fat Joe

And because my friend Jennifer was in town, I went to see "In The Heights" this month and she was kind enough to share the soundtrack with me. So I've been listening to the music from that awesome show. Here's a link to their Tony Awards performance of the song "96000."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Today, I'm running my last long run.

The days you think are going to be big ones, they are never as big as you make them out to be in your head. It’s the regular days, the ones that start out normal, those are the days that end up being the biggest.

Today marks my last long run. It's the last weekend where I will have to start thinking about what I'm eating two whole days before the big workout. It's the last time that I will be "busy" one night of the weekend. Busy eating, sleeping and running, that is. It's the last weekend morning that I will wake up early and venture out into the city that never sleeps during her morning nap.

So naturally, I'm jumping for joy that I finally get that long run day back to myself. Not so much.

I'm not sure when these long runs went from chore to pleasure, but I suddenly love every inch of them from the waking-up-early-part to the cold-bath-part. Of course, those long runs aren't all cupcakes and sunshine. I usually hit one or two patches during the run when my mind becomes hyper-conscious of every footstep already taken and everyone footstep yet to come and the miles stretch out for days.

But it's awful and awesome all at the same time.

When I cross my "finishing line" and stumble to a bench to stretch out, I'm all smiles. In fact, before I even finish, as I shuffle down musuem mile past all the tourists taking pictures of the park and the museums, I'm smiling like a fool. I hope I'm doing my part to dispell the myth about angry New Yorkers.

That sense of accomplishment after a run is so huge and yet so singular and personal. During the run, it's all about the next step, but when it's over, and I stare down the miles past, I still cannot help but be surprised that I actually ran that far. I imagine that for someone who has been running their whole life - the Ryan Halls of the world - that this would just be another day. But to me, who only two summers ago I tackled my first run in Central Park by running barely a mile and a half, to me, it's almost a miracle.

I've definitely had periods in my life where I've been more fit than I was two years ago. In high school, I was borderline obsessed with swimming and trained year round, sometimes twice a day. During graduate school I picked up a six mile a day run habit. But when I moved to the Big Apple, working long hours and partying took precedence and my health fell to the wayside. And that was exactly how I envisioned my life unfolding in this city. After all, isn't that what we see on television and in the movies?

Life in this city is supposed to be a grand whirl of new restuarants and designer coctails, four inch high heels and jobs that require late hours and suits. Or it's about trying to make it for the love of your art, and discovering the awesome counter-culture that thrives in every corner of the city not overgrown with tourists. But instead of all of that glamour, I found my way, dirty and sweaty, on a run.

And that's why I will miss these long runs, because each time I finish a long run, it reminds me that things never turn out the way that I expect, and that good things come from the small and seemingly inconsequential decisions. They fill my weeks with a regular and grand sense of accomplishment that gives me the courage and the strength to try to tackle the impossible in other areas of my life. As the sports writer John Hanc put it, "I've learned that finishing a marathon isn't just an athletic achievement. It's a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible."

Quote from "What a Difference A Day Makes" of Grey's Anatomy.

Friday, October 29, 2010

23 Days Until Philadelphia Marathon!

Only three more weeks until the big day, and one more long run before finally, FINALLY, resting before the big race.

Photo of Marathon by G. Widman for GPTMC
Photo of Skyline by B. Krist for GPTMC

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Like any addict, I didn’t think this was going to happen to me. It started as a once in a while habit – a pick me up after a late night of cramming for exams. It wasn’t long though before I progressed to a daily fix, first laden with sugar and milk, and then as the addiction grew roots into my system, I craved it black and scalding hot. If I didn’t get my cup of coffee first thing in the morning , there was no hope for the day.

Though I was completely hooked on my daily cup, I had not reached junkie-status. A cup or two a day did the trick often enough. I probably would have continued on in this state for years, had I not decided to enter the world of marathons. Long
training runs and daily six a.m. workouts demanded that I start thinking about how I fueled my body immediately before and during strenuous exercise.

But instead of turning to whole foods, I followed popular training advice and decided to supplement with scientifically formulated options from the running store. Shot blocks, gels, sport beans, chomps – whatever you call them. They are small, sweet, portable snacks, no bigger than two tablespoons and contain the proper ratio of electrolytes and simple carbohydrates. To make the gels sexy, extra vitamins or herbs are added to the gels promising to help a runner go faster for longer. In plain English, they’re legal performance enhancers.

Being a coffee addict, I naturally scoffed at the super herbs and amino acids, and went straight for the extra caffeine. Between 60-70% of all the products contain some caffeine. The average is about 30 mg of caffeine which equates to 20-30% of an average cup of drip coffee. But, I’m trying to run a marathon here.

I need all the help I can get.

So I skipped right over the ones that said caffeine to the ones reading ‘2x caffeine.’ At first, I only took one ‘2x caffeine’ during the last 3-4 mile slug. But as my mileage creeped up, I switched over to only amped-up caffeine dosages, so that I was soon consuming the equivalent of 1-2 cups of coffee during the run. That’s in addition to the two cups that I downed with breakfast Then I discovered the espresso shot gel from Clif Bars. 100mg of pure caffeine right before the run to put me at around 5 cups of coffee on a long run day – all before noon. At that rate, I was going to need an IV from Starbucks on race day to feel any effects whatsoever.

Then I read this interesting book called “Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life” by Brendan Brazier. The book espouses an excellent theory about how to nourish your body while performing extreme exercise, and it also highlighted a rather obvious principle about the use of stimulants during exercise. (And no, it’s not the vegan meals that help you perform better either. Here’s a link to the No Meat Athlete’s blog post on the basic premise of his book if you are interested.)

There are two ways to get energy: directly from food consumed or stimulation. When I eat a banana and a granola bar, the carbohydrates, fat and protein in these items will help fuel my impending run. My body will literally digest the food and use it directly to power the run, as opposed to storing it for later (for fat) or for regular maintenance (cell regeneration). When I drink a cup of coffee, it will stimulate my body and only feel like I have increased energy. I’m buying energy on credit when I drink a cup of coffee, and I’m paying for energy with cash when I eat a banana. But when the workout is over, my body pays back that energy plus interest, leaving me exhausted for the remainder of the day.

In “Thrive” Brendan doesn’t discourage the use of caffeine to enhance workouts but he strongly advocates that it should be used sparingly and only during the most strenuous workouts or races. By only using caffeine sparingly, a true burst of energy and endurance is felt. Just like I plan to race my marathon in a lighter pair of Brooks running shoes than I’ve been training in, the idea that I would be able to actually feel a surge of energy from a cup of coffee seemed like it could be a huge physical (and psychological) advantage.

So I quit coffee. One day I woke up and just didn’t have my daily cup. I did the same the next day too, and the day after that. This was not a painless activity. The first day I felt lightheaded, the second day I had a pounding headache, and the third day I couldn’t focus. Note what I didn’t feel: tired, which is naturally what I assumed I would feel without my daily kick in the pants. Eventually, after less than a week’s time all withdrawal symptoms had passed. .

After abstaining from coffee for a whole week, I had my first cup of coffee right before a long run. Not only did I feel the coffee stimulate my body into overdrive, but I felt excited and even giddy about a four hour workout. Then when I set out on my run, that nervous energy dissipated into a cool, lightness which took me right through the eighteen mile hurdle. After failing to complete eighteen miles on two separate occasions, when I finally did conquer that distance, I felt that I had reached pre-run fueling nirvana – if such a thing exists.

I’m oddly very proud that I kicked my coffee habit, and super psyched about the new little boost that I can look forward to from a cup of coffee on race days. And that’s just the thing about running marathons. It takes me to places both literally and figuratively that I never before imagined. A year ago I would have acted as if giving up coffee was akin to going without air, but now after a few pages from some book, I’m off it.

To someone who hasn’t run a marathon, the greatest part of the whole exercise would seem to be crossing that finish line, but as I’m getting closer and closer to my big day, I have a sneaking suspicion that the race is just the cherry on top. More and more, the training seems to be the most magical part – from the way a fellow marathoner can become an instant friend to the surprise realization that I can get ready for work – including a shower – in under 15 minutes. But of course, I still haven’t actually run a marathon yet, so what do I know?

Eight and A Half Miles through Central Park and Riverside Park

I love Central Park. I really do. But when I run there every day, I need a change of pace. So here's my last long-short run route. I'm taking it out of the park and over to the West Side.

The course starts by the MET and follows Central Park Drive East to the 72nd Street Transverse. Then I'm taking 72nd Street to Riverside Park where I will run in the park up to 110th Street. At 110, I'll turn around but I'll run back on the Riverwalk path, by cutting under the West Side Highway to the path that runs on the boardwalk.

From there it's straight down to 65th Street, right behind the Trump Buildings and then running up the huge hill, and across to the Park. Once I reach Central Park, I'm going to jump on the Bridle Path and follow that north to the Reservoir. I'll run across the bottom of the Reservoir and back to the MET.

Voila! 8.45 miles all before work even starts.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New York City Marathon Resources

Maybe you are running the NYC Marathon. Maybe your sister or father or coworker is running New York for a charity to honor a loved one. Maybe you just want a quintessential New York City experience. Or maybe, like me, you're running New York in 2011 and you want to stare the beast in the eye before you finally take him on.

Either way, here's a bunch of resources to help you navigate the marathon and marathon week. (Yep, we make it a week long event here!)

Q: Where is a good spot to watch to watch the marathon?

A: Anywhere! There are fans cheering on every inch of the course, minus the bridges. Here's a link to the course map. Plus here's another map that shows the subway stops near the route.

Q: What time will the marathon runners reach 1st avenue? The finish line?

A: The fastest runners start at 9:40 a.m. and you can estimate 5 minute miles for the leaders. So you if you are stationed at 72nd and First Avenue, that's about mile 16.75, so you can expect to see runners at eleven in the morning.
But remember the slowest runners can start at 10:40 am and take upwards of 5 hours to run, so there will be people streaming through the city all afternoon.

Q: What famous people are running the marathon?

A: There is someone for everyone! For fashionistas, there is Rachel Roy and several models, for the foodies, Bobby Flay will be out there, and for the Subway fans, there's Jared. Here's a complete list.

Q: What is the New York Marathon course like?

A: This isn't the easiest marathon to run. It's certainly not the one where you get lots of space between you and the other forty thousand runners. But there are spectactors along the entire course - with things like gospel choirs in Harlem and views of the Manahattan skyline each time you cross a bridge (aka hill). Here's a three minute video of the course and here's a description of the course strategy for runners.

Q: I want some marathon running gear! Where can I buy some?

A: You can buy marthon gear at the expo in the days before the race. Or you can pop into any running store in the city and score a t-shirt or nice little fleece. My favorite running stores are Jack Rabbit at 85th and Lex and NYC Running Company in Columbus Circle.

Q: What fun things are there to do in the city for the spectators?

A: Check out the expo for lots of running and health gear if you are an aspiring marathoner or health nut. If you like to tailgate, then check out the Coors Light Refreshment stops along the course. If all the buzz has got you itching for a run, try the NYRR Five Mile race on the Friday before the run. Check out the fireworks on Marathon Eve in Central Park or scope out one of the many special events that NYRR's is offering this week.

Q: I need to eat some Italian food the night before the race. Any recommendations?

A: Yes, get your fix of Italian in a neighborhood less populated with tourists. Try the Upper East Side or Upper West Side, and make reservations before hand. I like UVA Wine Bar, Becco, and Tiramisu. Or if you are like me and your big meal before the race is going to be light, try the salad bar at Whole Foods in Union Square. I know it's not fancy, but you can make your own salad - either lettuce or a grain salad (pasta, quinoa, rice, wheat berries) and add the protein and oil that you need instead of giving the waitress a big headache.
Plus you can eat your salad in the cafe upstairs and enjoy pretty views of Union Square while you eat.

Q: I need more gels. I forgot my running socks. My iPod headphones broke. Help!

A: Chill out. This in New York City, not the middle of a corn field. Ask your hotel for the nearest running store, or use that smart phone and google it. If you need a specific brand, the largest running stores in the city are the Running Company stores so head to one of those. Also, the flagship Nike store on 57th street will probably have your Nike gear. You can get headphones, gatorade, batteries, and everything else at a drug store.

Q: I've never been to New York before. My knowledge of the city is based upon television and movies. What can I do to make the trip less stressful?

A: First, check out the course via the course bus tour. This will give you an idea of what to expect on race day. If you are looking for something to do that doesn't require too much walking or standing, try a Broadway show, a boat tour on the Water Taxi, or a Central Park tour in a pedi-cab. Most tourist attractions will require long periods of standing in lines, so skip those. And don't worry, because you'll get some awesome photos of the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan if you take the ferry to the starting line.

Q: How many people will run the marathon this year?

A: NYRR estimates that about 45,000 people will run, which is the most to run a marathon ever.

Good Luck to all and I'll see you at my watching spot - the Metropolitan Museum of Art!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Five Miles With a View

Here's a five mile route with views of the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, the United Nations, Roosevelt Island and midtown and Queens on the East River!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


There are only 39 more days until the Philadelphia Marathon on November 21, 2010. In running speak, that is 26 more workouts, 2 twenty mile runs, 1 five mile race, and one pair of shoes from now.

Staten Island Half Marathon

The Staten Island Half Marathon on Sunday was great this weekend. The course is mostly flat and though it goes through some industrial and suburban areas, it's filled with lots of pretty views of southern Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey.
Plus I had a personal best time of 2:19! Now, it's time to start counting down to the marathon. Only six more weeks to go.

Vegetarian Sources of Protein

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a hardcore vegetarian. I’ll have the occasional steak or sushi roll when the mood strikes me – mostly when I’m dining out or back home in Michigan. But by and large, I eat a vegetarian diet. These choices are motivated by health concerns: many cuts of meat are high in saturated fats and cholesterol. And by lifestyle choices: meat based meals provide almost no immediate running fuel. Meat is also harder to digest than plant products and therefore consumes more energy to extract nutrients.

My muscles still need their protein though, and tofu can get to be pretty boring. Not to mention the fact that there is conflicting information about whether or not excessive amounts of soy protein are beneficial or harmful. Thankfully, there are so many other sources of protein available these days and the health food store around the block from my apartment carries many of these options. Here’s a list of my main sources of protein – supplemented with the weekend treat of a steak.

Quinoa-Oh, how I love thee. I’ve already waxed and waned poetic about my love for quinoa and even shared a recipe on it. 1 cup cooked quinoa has 254 calories, 4 grams of fat, 47 grams of carbs, 9 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber.

Tempeh-A protein made out of fermented vegetables or grains, it has a chewy, hearty texture and it tastes mild but a little nutty. It’s good in stir-fries, or toasted up in a pan with a little oil and salt. It’s nutrional profile is pretty awesome which I why I tolerate it. Half of a package has 240 calories, 11 grams of fat, 16 grams of carbs, 20 grams of protein, and 9 grams of fiber.

Nuts-Walnuts, almonds, pecans, and cashews are my favorite and I get my fill by adding them to salads, pasta dishes or alone in trail mixes. One ounce of almonds (about 24 nuts) has 170 calories, 15 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbs, 6 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber.

Seeds-My favorites seeds are chia seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseeds and sunflower seeds. I eat them like nuts, except for chia seeds which I use in a whole different way. I add chia to smoothies, in baked good recipes, and I make chia gel and use it as a substitute for oil. One tablespoon of chia seeds has 69 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbs, 2 grams of protein, and 5.5 grams of fiber.

Peas-Cooked peas can only go so far in life. They taste delicious but with their distinct flavor cannot be used often. However, I am addicted to the Trader Joe’s Wasabi Peas. It’s a bit of a splurge, but the sharp wasabi flavor helps temper the appetite. One quarter cup of TJ’s Wasabi Peas has 120 calories, 3 grams of fat, 19 grams of carbs, 4 grams of protein, and 1 gram of fiber.

Seitan-A vegetarian protein made out of the gluten of wheat, it has a meat like texture and taste. It’s hard to make and so I never make it, but once in a while I get it at a restaurant. Three ounces of seitan has 130 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbs, 20 grams of protein, and no fiber.

Ancient grains-Wheat berries, farro, and spelt are ancient grains served still in their husks. They have a chewy texture and nutty taste that complement salads. You can now buy pastas, crackers, cookies and more baked goods made from these flours and providing a more attractive nutrition profile. Half a cup of farro has 200 calories, 2 grams of fat, 52 grams of carbs, 8 grams of protein, and 7 grams of fiber.

Hemp seeds
-My current protein powder of choice, the taste of hemp is nutty but a little bit off. It also is bright green and imparts this color on everything. That being said, it’s has Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s and is a great source of protein. Four tablespoons of hemp protein powder has 120 calories, 3 grams of fat, 14 grams of carbs, 11 grams of protein, and 14 grams of fiber.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Staten Island Half Marathon

Uh oh! I haven't worked out since Monday. What gives?

Well, the Staten Island Half-Marathon is this weekend, and I'm tapering for the race. What exactly does tapering mean?

Tapering means...

good sleep

eating lots of carbs (65%-75% of my calories)

mentally visualizing the race

making plans to get to Staten Island at 8am on a Sunday

resting my legs

taking a break from exercising

buying new running shoes

listening to inspirational music

getting excited about racing

Out of the park, away from the Upper East Side, and passing by the starting point for the New York Marathon, this race should be fun and inspirational. It's been over a year since I ran a half-marathon and in that time, I've trained so much more, and I would love the chance to tackle this distance again.

Also, Sunday is 10-10-10. Sounds like a good luck date to me!

Staten Island here I come!

Songs on Repeat the Week of October 4

This week is a very special week. It's quarter end, too many people have birthdays this week, and I'm tapering for the Staten Island Half Marathon.

As much as tapering is a phsyical break from all the training, it's a mental ramp up in motivation. Bring on the music with good vibes!

Everlasting Light by The Black Keys

On My Way by DJ Khaled

Ghost in the Machine by B.o.B.

Do It by Nelly Furtado

Hey World (Don't Give Up Version)by Michael Franti & Spearhead

Simple As... by Kid Cudi

My Life (Feat. Lil' Wayne) by The Game

Now all I have to do is work on my Staten Island dance moves...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Finally Legal - An 18 Mile Run

Here's my eighteen mile run route. Pretty much the same as 17, only this time I turned around at Chambers Street.

Oh man, do you know how happy I am to have finally conquered this beast? Took me three tries, but I made it!


Plus One, Minus One Wall

This marathon story isn’t ending in Philadelphia. That’s just the beginning.

In 2011, I will run the New York Marathon through the nine plus one program offered by New York Road Runners. Nine plus one, means that I must run nine New York Road Runners Races and then I must volunteer for one more race. So far, I’ve run six races and on Saturday, I took care of my “plus one.”

After a rainy and humid week, the last thing I wanted to do on the first cool and sunny day in a week was watch other people run. But I did it anyway, because I want to run New York more than I want to sleep. My primary responsibility was to keep the tourists, recreational runners and bicyclers from getting in the way of the race. My secondary responsibility was to cheer for the runners. I’m not kidding. That is actually what we are supposed to do.

The race was a half marathon and I was stationed at the five mile and eleven mile marks. I was so excited to be stationed at mile eleven. I couldn’t wait for the runners who would be feeling just like I felt at my half marathon last fall. I had big plans for them. When they came by, I wanted to yell and cheer them up and give them the hope they could finish the remaining two point one miles with strength and speed.

I waited and waited. I stood there for over two hours, but I never saw one person who looked like they were suffering. There were tired ones, sweaty ones, focused ones, ones who were bopping their heads to their music, and others with crazy costumes, but every single one of those crazy running fools looked like they were having a great time. Not one of those expressions read, I don’t want to be doing this.

I know exactly how it feels to run and to race. I know that pain that settles into your hamstrings and doesn’t leave. I know what it’s like to spend twenty seconds bending each knee after three hours of running. I know that certain pairs of my shoes just won’t fit after a run, and that I shouldn’t use my sea salt scrub because chafe marks that won’t show up for a few hours will sting instantly.

What I didn’t know: it doesn’t look as bad as it feels.

Seeing those marathoners reminded me that this crazy adventure is really about the strength of one little muscle: my brain. That’s why the best marathoners in the world aren’t twenty-two; they’re thirty-five. Maturity makes for a stronger mental fortitude. Physical strength and endurance is necessary but each time I’m out there putting the miles on feet, I am putting them on my mind too.

Now that I’ve figured out the magic ingredient, I finally have a response to those nagging doubts. More than another run or carbohydrate, I needed to believe that I can run a marathon. I’ve gotten so hung up on the pain and the threat of the wall that I’ve started to suffer from a serious case of self doubt. But if seven thousand runners don’t look like they are about to fall apart at the very moment that I felt that way, then the only real wall I need to be worried about is the one I’m building up in my head. And I can tear down that wall at anytime, because it’s only a figment of my imagination.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A 3.75 Mile Run in Central Park

Here's a nice 3.75 mile run in Central Park.

Start at the corner of 60th and 5th Avenue. Just west of the intersection is East Drive, a road which runs through the park. It's not the entrance way that is lined with pretty benches, the road is right next to this entrance.

Take East Drive north until you get to the light. At the light, veer right, staying on East Drive. You will probably see a bunch of runners and cyclers following this same route.

Stay on East Drive until you go past the MET. You should pass The Central Park Boathouse, go up on big, twisting hill, and the Obelisk.

As soon as you pass the MET, there will be a little path on the left side. Follow this path into the park, around the top and west side of the Great Lawn, until you get to the Delacorte Theater. Take the path that's north of the Delacorte Theater west towards the Hudson River. Make a left onto West Drive.

Now follow West Drive south past Tavern on the Green and the 72nd Street Transverse, around the bottom of the park and back to your starting point. That's almost four miles. If you want to an even four in, run from the traffic light to the park entrance and back one more time.

Songs on Repeat the Week of September 27

Music inspired by spinning class. Because it's raining and I'm sick of the treadmill, so I'm taking a spinning class instead of my run.

Only Girl (In The World) by Rihanna

Runnin' (Philippians Remix) by The Pharcyde

That's Not My Name (L.A. Riots Remix) by The Ting Tings

Tomorrow Can Wait by David Guetta & Chris Willis & El Tocadisco

We Walk by The Ting Tings

Teenage Dreams by Katy Perry

Karate (Fake Money Remix)by Kennedy

And for fun, here's a link to a free download of Karate. ENJOY!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

For the Love of the Run

My birthday may be in the summer and Christmas is in the winter, but my favorite time of year is the fall.

As I a child, a new school year begun each September, and there were new colored pencils, Halloween costumes, jumping in piles of leaves, carving pumpkins and trips to the apple orchard. In high school, there were swim meets, homecoming dances and parades, and back to school shopping. Later in college, there was football Saturdays in Ann Arbor. And every year, there were cool breezes, colorful trees, sweatshirts and jackets, chicken noodle soup, apples, zucchini bread, and the return of favorite television shows. It only gets sweeter in the city, with fashion week, a welcome lull in tourism, the cooling of the subway stations, and marathon season.

Training for this marathon has brought a whole new perspective on New York, and it has made me love this city even more. There are so many things you see when you are up and about the city at 6 am or when you dare to venture away from the avenues where you live and eat and work and play.

Despite what you might believe, anyone really can run a marathon. I know you don’t believe that right now, so instead of convincing you that you can, I’m just going to bribe you, brag a little, and basically get all sentimental about all the great things that running for long distances can bring to your life.

Cupcakes, cheeseburgers, macaroni and cheese, chocolate. Whatever food you turn to when you are celebrating or depressed, you can now eat without the worry of gaining weight. Yesterday, I had a giant cookie the size of my head. I literally had to use two hands to eat it. Do I feel guilty about it? Nope? Do I have to skip lunch to compensate for those calories? Nope. I already ran that cookie off this morning.

Sunsets and sunrises. Chances are that you will need to squeeze your runs in early in the morning before everyone is awake or at the end of day, and this means you will witness almost daily sunrises and sunsets. Trust me on this: you will never get sick of a sunrise.

Salt. You know how your doctors are always saying that you need to cut out the salt because it causes heart attacks and high blood pressure? Well, when you sweat profusely for four hours, you lose so much salt that you become in danger of either severe cramping or dehydration. Bring on the potato chips, french fries, and bacon!

Maybe it’s because I’m from the Great Lake State, but something about being by water just makes me happy. A lot of great running spots are along the shore, and there is something about the ability to see miles into the distance which helps to clear my head and focus on the future. Plus those cool breezes don’t hurt either.

Eating healthy. I know I already mentioned that you can eat whatever you want, but unless you have the stomach of a rat, you probably won’t be able to eat everything you want all the time. Not if you want to run after eating all that food. Even what I eat the night before a run matters significantly. And so I’ve learned to pick filling, tasty and healthy options before any run over 5 miles. It’s an amazing gift for me to finally understand that a cheeseburger can barely fuel me through a fiver, but whole wheat pasta and vegetables plus a salad with walnuts, blue cheese and apricots can carry me though seventeen.

Dessert for breakfast. Because after rough workouts, your bodies needs calories – and fast – to start repairing and rebuilding muscles, and the best way to refuel is with liquid meals. This morning, I had a strawberry, banana, and vanilla soymilk smoothie with some extra protein powder thrown in.

Discovery and exploration. You might have lived in the same town for twenty years, but when you start running for a marathon, you can’t just run the same three mile loop seven times to get a twenty-miler in. This year, I have run across the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and George Washington bridges. I’ve been through Riverside Park, Battery Park, and Central Park . I’ve seen the Statue of Liberty, run through the South Street Seaport, past the Intrepid Ship, through Columbia University’s campus and pretty much everywhere else in between.

Muscles. I have known about my biceps, quads, calves and a few other muscles well before I started running, but now that I’ve started running I’ve become aware of a whole new set of muscles. Plus all the old muscles I already knew about have become stronger and more ripped than I ever thought possible. Thankfully, running is a lady’s sport and it doesn’t impart big, bulky muscles – just small, hard ones.

Music. Rock, reggae, rap, classical, electronic, indie, emo, alternative, classic rock, country, Motown – whatever it is that moves you to shake your hips, or clap your hands or bop your head, will move you to run, faster, harder and longer than you ever thought possible. And for this, I love my music a million times more. It has become my running buddy, coach and personal cheerleader. I look forward to my long runs, when I always download a few new songs for motivation. Fuel to my fire, if you will.

Sweet dreams. Running exhausts me. Not in the, I’m-so-tired-all-day-that-I-can’t-do-anything way, but in the way that I am asleep minutes after my head hits the pillows. The quality of sleep is deeper and more fulfilling too. When I wake up in the morning, I feel rested and ready for a full day. A good night of sleep is like a weekend getaway, but a month’s worth of good sleep? Like the serenity of a yogi.

Lose yourself. I started running to lose weight, and over twenty pounds were lost. I haven’t missed them since. No matter what your shape, running will make your body look better. It might be better muscle tone in a few troublesome spots, or it might be inches melting off your body. When I set out to lose weight by running, the goal of losing weight became secondary to completing my half marathon. I was no longer obsessing over every bite of food, or worrying about getting in a minimum number of fat burning sessions per week. Everything became about the run, and in turn, I finally was able to lose the weight.

There are many days when I can barely drag myself out of bed to do my morning run. When the only thing that keeps me going is that fact that I’ve already run three miles away from my apartment, and I have no other way to get back home except to run. More than once, I’ve had to stop on the side of the road and have a little cry because the day’s run is so frustrating that I doubt my ability to complete a marathon.

But then there are the days when running is effortless and exhilarating, when my stores of energy seem endless and my strength is downright inhuman. It’s the moments when I’ve run clear across the airport with a huge piece of luggage in my arms and I am startled to realize that I’m not even slightly out of breath. Quite simply, it’s the feeling that anything might be possible and that is the beauty of running a marathon. Because if a slow-poke like myself can do it, who can't?
- Show quoted text -

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I'm stimulating the economy, okay?

I love shopping. And not just shopping for pretty things to adorn my body with, but also for delicious things to fill up my body. As unbelievable as it sounds, I like perusing the grocery store isles reading labels and discovering new foods. “Organic, natural, imported!” Like a magpie, I’m drawn to brightly colored labels declaring exotic flavors and healthful origins. The best part of “isle-shopping” is that unlike a trip to Bloomingdales, if I find something I must have, I can afford it.

Along with my weekly trips to the grocery store, I also take a weekly trip to the running store. But a trip to a running store isn’t like shopping on Fifth Avenue. The sales people could care less about commissions, but they definitely care about their shoppers. They want to know which race I am running and how many I have already finished. More often than not, their shopping advice is an excuse to boast about Boston Marathon qualifying times (right after buying shoes, of course).

Just last week, I got a lecture from a little pudgy sales guy (who has run five marathons, he told me in a voice reserved for bossy seven year olds) about how I need to carry a fuel belt on my marathon. I told him that the Gatorade and water provided by the marathon was just fine. That man gave a look like I was crazy, and said “You’re not supposed to have anything new on race day.” I just rolled my eyes and told the man I would consider it.

On the sports bra shopping adventure, which took me to several different stores, I got loads of advice – none of it solicited, all of it helpful. One woman, an obvious marathon veteran, recommended Champion seamless sports bras when running anything over ten miles. Another woman, after looking my body up and down, suggested that I go for the “Ta Ta Tamer” from Lululemon. At least this time, the men didn’t have anything to say on this topic.

When I bought sneakers, the sales woman suggested that my next pair be ultra-light racers from Brooks. Then she proceeded to give me a shoe rotation schedule so I could practice in them and also not wear them out too quickly. The woman at the check-out counter told me to watch out for the hill around mile eight at the Philly Marathon and she recommended sports beans from Jelly Belly (so good, I recommend them too…as candy.)

Though I’ve always had some form of an exercise routine, the usual supplies lying around my house just don’t work for marathon running. Almost everything that I run with, head to toe, has been accumulated especially for running super long distances. The only exception to this rule: my iPod.

I’ve assembled a list of the things I have acquired over time. Some of it is necessary and some it depends on the individual. Training environment matters. Since I run in NYC public parks there are drinking fountains, bodegas, and hot-dog carts along much of my routes, so I need to worry less about carrying water and Gatorade with me. But since I’m running a marathon in late November in Philadelphia, I worry a lot about what I should wear for the weather conditions.

Here’s the list so far…I’m sure I’ll add to it by November.

1. Running shoes: I go to the running store and have the sales people watch me run on a treadmill. Then they recommend a pair of shoes based upon how I run. This is the only way to buy running shoes.
2. Running shorts, shirts, sweatshirts, and pants with little pockets to hold stuff. Because I need to carry keys and an iPod on every run, and on longer ones I need money, gels, and chapstick.
3. A massage ball to roll on my feet when they are tired and sore.
4. Energy gels, like GU. I’ve experimented with most of the products out there and the good old fashioned gels work the best for me. The rest just don’t seem to get digested and make me feel ill. But the sports beans are delicious and taste like candy.
5. A belt with a pocket for carrying around extra gels, money, keys, perhaps a camera. Whatever, I think I may need that can’t fit in the pockets.
6. A fuel belt, which is a little belt with two holsters holding eight ounce bottles of water and one larger pocket. I use this for long training runs on new routes where I’m unsure of the water locations.
7. Running socks to prevent blisters and provide mild arch support.
8. Sweat-proof mini sunblock stick to carry with me on long runs. It can double as chap-stick and a lubricant for if I start to feel a piece of clothing is chafing.
9. Vaseline (alright I already have some of this) to rub on sports where chafing might occur, like around sport bra straps.
10. Sport sun-glasses to protect my eyes and prevent headaches caused by squinting.

Running is one of the most inexpensive sports around. I’ve probably only spent a few hundred dollars on it over the course of 2 years, and that includes about 4-5 pairs of shoes. It requires almost no supplies except a good pair of shoes. For once, quality and price are not directly correlated. The good running shoes are usually under $100. My weekly trips to the running store are for stocking up on gels and protein bars. And the best part about running is that you can do it anywhere and everywhere.

So if joining the gym is too expensive or if getting to the gym is just “too out of the way”, try taking a jog. It’s the most convenient and economic exercise available, and as I can personally attest, it’s quite fun too.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Two More Months Until the Philadelphia Marathon

It's only two more months until the Philadelphia marathon is here. That's nine more weeks of running and only six more weeks of longs runs.

I'm so excited and also scared out of mind for the marathon.

Some more recipes to come and also articles about the running store, coffee and smoothies.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


In my quest to eat healthier and increase protein, I’ve been experimenting with more obscure grains. Things like spelt, wheat berries, quinoa and amaranth. They taste like a cross been a pasta and rice, with more texture than plain old pasta. The most attractive aspect of these grains (and sometimes they aren’t even actually grains but seeds) is their rich nutrient profile.

One cup of cooked quinoa contains approximately 227 calories, 5 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein and 4 grams of fat. Best of all, it provides a complete protein because it contains all the essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are needed by the body but must be obtained through food. It is difficult to find complete proteins outside of animal foods, which makes quinoa even more special.

I love quinoa. The texture is slightly creamy but also a little crunchy, and it has a taste somewhere between whole wheat pasta and an almond. I’ve been trying to find new ways to eat quinoa and Quinoa with Tahini Dressing is my latest development. It blends the flavors of falafels with the nutrition of quinoa. I had it for lunch yesterday and the whole time I was eating, I was wishing my lunch would never end.

I adapted this recipe from and basically just trimmed the fat in the dressing and replaced cilantro with parsley. I bought the parsley by mistake because I was tired and in a rush at the grocery store, but it really enhanced the Middle Eastern flavors rocking this dish so I’m happy with my choice. Feel free to try either herb, depending on your preferences. Also, if you go with the parsley, I think tomatoes and cucumbers would complement the dish very nicely.

Quinoa with Tahini Dressing

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 can garbanzo beans, or dried equivalent
½ cup parsley, chopped
¼ onion, chopped

Tahini Dressing:
1 garlic clove, smashed and chopped
¼ cup tahini
Zest of ¼ lemon
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup hot water
Sea salt to taste

Fill pan with warm water and add quinoa to soak for about 8 minutes. Then rinse the quinoa in a fine-meshed strainer. In a medium saucepan heat the quinoa, sea salt and the 2 cups of water until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa fluffs up, about 15 minutes. Quinoa is done when you can see the curlique in each grain, and it is tender with a bit of pop to each bite. Drain any extra water and set aside.

While the quinoa is cooking make the dressing. Whisk together the garlic, tahini, lemon zest and juice, and water. Add the salt to taste.
Toss the cooked quinoa, beans, parsley, red onion, and half of the dressing. Add more dressing if you like and season with more salt to taste. Serve garnished with a bit of parsley.

Serves 4 as a side or 2 as a small meal.

Here's a link to the original recipe: Lemon-scented quinoa

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

From a Different Point of View

After my seventeen miler on Sunday, I felt amazing. Tired certainly, but amazing as well.

Today, I feel awful. I am sore. My quads, hamstrings, calves, hips and even my back ache. I can barely walk in my high heels at the office. I'm exhausted too. Last night, I fell asleep at 8:30.

At first, I assumed that this was a sign that my diet is deficient in certain nutrients. I've been scouring the Internet all morning looking for tips and advice with little success.

Then as I was hobbling around the office in my heels, trying not to walk too awkwardly, an idea came to me: Maybe it was just a really good, hard workout?

For now, I'm sticking to the hard workout story because it makes me feel better. Maybe I should give myself a little credit.

But I'm covering all the bases anyway, and so I'm stocking up on Vitamin-C (in case it's the flu), eating lots of protein (in case it's a nutrient deficiency), cutting out all refined and fried foods and going to sleep by ten...because I've got an eighteen mile race coming up this weekend.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Songs on Repeat the Week of September 5

I find new songs in all sorts of places. The radio, back ground music at a store or restaurant, television shows, and when I'm sick of my iPod, Pandora. These songs came to me courtesy of my Pandora station called "Chillin'" for the song by Wale featuring Lady Gaga.

Marching on by Timbaland featuring One Republic

Close Call by Rilo Kiley

Hiroshima (B B B Benny Hit His Head) by Ben Folds

Generation Lost by B.O.B. aka Bobby Ray

The Prayer by Kid Cudi

And finally, one more song not from Pandora. This song is great. Not epic, for sure, but what makes it so amazing is that it's made by a nine-year-old girl. Not just any girl either, but the daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett. Here is Whip My Hair by Willow Smith.