Tag Archives: Positive Thinking

THIS IS MY HAPPY PLACE: Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

The above picture truly captures me in my happy place: body mid-air, arms swaying strong, relaxed posture, music pumping, hint of grimace and determination on my face as I taste the finish line just ahead.  It was taken at mile 13 of the Staten Island Half Marathon last Sunday. 

Ironically, I was actually quite uncomfortable: my calves started cramping around mile 11 because I was lacking salt, I was sweating so much that my glasses were fogging, my toes were starting to get a little bit numb and my brain was trying to lure me into slowing down to a more comfortable breathing pace.  All that is not what was on my mind in the moment the picture happened.  It’s what was in the back of my mind, trying to takeover.  

What was front of mind is a very simple thought, “You are stronger than you think. The uncomfortable will pass.”  I kept saying these phrases over and over again and willing my legs to go a little bit faster, my knees to lift a little bit higher, my breathing to relax. I thought of my training runs where my coach would push me to run tempo pace for miles (a much faster pace) after an easy 10 miles. Even though I was uncomfortable I knew that eventually I’d settle down and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  

 

Since January 2013 I have run five Half Marathons (13.1 miles) and all within a finish time range of 2:10-2:14.  I finished the Staten Island Half in 2:04. Not a PR (Personal Record) or the sub-2 hours I so very much long to achieve and not my best Staten Island Half time (last year in 2012 I finished in 2:02) but I gave it my absolute hardest effort. Can’t ask for anything more of myself.

I realized after finishing the Staten Island Half that my legs have two marathons on them over the past year. Although I’d like to believe this fact makes me stronger, it can also make me plateau and face more muscle fatigue. (And oh have I: shins, plantar fascia, calf pains, hamstring tightening!) None of this matters. Comes with the training. I need to just stay relaxed, listen to my body, rest when I should rest during taper, believe in my strength and go as hard as I can for that finish line.

Although I’m not smiling in the above picture, a picture that truly captures my happy place, as soon as I rushed across the finish line, I was smiling ear to ear with immense satisfaction and pride.  I just LOVE that finish line!

946766_467941443286113_1502904462_n

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

One Month Until NYC Marathon 2013!

keep-calm-and-run-strong

This 2013 marathon training season has flown by.  I started phase 1 in late May and have been gradually building mileage and speed-work ever since.  Today I ran another 20 mile training run which tops off a total weekly mileage of 48.  My legs have been very fatigued and achy in odd spots. I know these aches.  They are the aches of marathon training.  Having already run 2 marathons this past year, I’ve learned how to listen to the moans of my body.  I know which sensations are muscle moans and which are yelps of pain that cannot be ignored.  I’ve complimented my training with bi-weekly physical therapy sessions.  Initially to treat plantar fasciatis (a painful tightening near the arch/heel of your foot) and now mainly for tune-ups… my left hamstring, my right ankle, my left shin, my right IT band…all runners have their list.

I also know when my brain is tired from building mental toughness.  Sometimes my runs are all just a long series of arguments with myself. It’s tired from arguing with me! My brain tries to coax me into modifying my training plan.  For example, it will tell me to slow down just a notch when I’m doing speed-work, or to make a  6 mile training run a 4 miler. Or it tells me to stop for 5 minutes to drink and stretch instead of pushing through the discomfort.  It will tell me not to run the hill or to stay in bed.

I’ve learned how to listen and decipher the nagging, negative voice.  I know when I need to shut it up and when it’s time to truly listen.  When I really do need that extra rest day and when I need to push harder and keep moving forward.  My technique is nothing fancy.  I simply tell myself at the start of a run that I WILL do this. I WILL finish.  (That Under Armor commercial was definitely created by an athlete!)  I think of this technique as being similar to when I turn on my internal alarm clock.  I can go to sleep and tell myself I must wake-up at 5:30am. It works every time. I am up just before the alarm sounds.  It’s the subconscious at work.

Yesterday I ran 8 easy miles.  I debated running just 4 but when I got to the park I hit 6 miles and decided to just go for it and squeeze out 8.  As my coach likes to say – money in the bank.  It wasn’t my best run, it certainly wasn’t my worse run but I still got it done. What did I expect? Why bother worrying? I still got it done.  Money in the bank.

Today’s 20 mile training run began at 7:00am in thick fog and high humidity. I train with an awesome group of runners. We pair off into various pace groups. I have a running partner who is a great conversationalist and a strong runner who helps make the time fly by.

We ran along the Staten Island boardwalk, starting at the Fishing Pier, went out to Miller Field, Cedar Beach and then turned around in the opposite direction and ran along the boardwalk towards Fort Wadsworth (which was closed due to the government shutdown) so we ran Lily Pond Avenue down to Bay Street, all along the water down to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, past Staten Island Yankee Stadium and the 9/11 Memorial, and further out to the promenade near Jersey Street, turned around and ran back to the boardwalk’s Fishing Pier.

It was extremely humid and we were soaking wet from head to toe.  My hair was as wet as if I had jumped in a pool.  By mile 16 we did a quick pit stop for water, I took an energy Gu and we decided to crank on our iPods and stepped up our pace for the last 4 miles.  It felt amazing!

I’m especially happy with the strength we had to finish strong.  This was one of those runs where I finished feeling like I could run not just another 6.2 Miles (Marathon) but easily 10 more miles! I could actually imagine myself running an Ultra Marathon!  This is the kind of thinking I had after finishing my very first Half Marathon (Brooklyn) in 2011. I was astounded that I had just run 13.1 miles and looked beyond the finish line thinking, hmmm, maybe I could run a marathon.  Maybe an Ultra is in my future?  Anything is possible.

Here are my splits:

Total Runtime: 3:28  Average Pace 10:24

Mile 1  10:35

Mile 2 10:21

Mile 3 10:30

Mile 4 10:36

Mile 5  10:22

Mile 6  10:42

Mile 7 10:41

Mile 8 9:24

Mile 9 11:00  – Stopped for water (2min break)

Mile 10  10:38

Mile 11  10:52

Mile 12  10:41

Mile 13  11:21 – Stopped for energy supplement (2min break)

Mile 14 10:41

Mile 15  10:25

Mile 16 11:19 – Stopped for water (2min break)

Mile 17  9:26

Mile 18  8:50

Mile 19  9:00

Mile 20 10:00

Always-remember-you-are-BRAVER-than-you-believe-STRONGER-than-you-seem-SMARTER-than-you-think-and-twice-as-BEAUTIFUL-as-you-had-ever-imagined-246

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Walt Disney World Marathon 2013: My 2nd Marathon in 8weeks

Disney Marathon 2013(20th Anniversary) Mickey Mouse the Runner

Disney Marathon 2013
(20th Anniversary)
Mickey Mouse the Runner

Somewhere around mile 18, clothes sticky and wet, hair dripping, sun beating on my burning skin, legs moving in a steady rhythm on cruise control, arms tucked at 90 degrees near my hips, breathing the thick air uncomfortably easy, surrounded by all shapes and styles of runners on the two-way section of the course, my mind deep in conversation with my body and spirit to make sure every part of me was fully engaged and connected, I looked around at the running course of a sprawling highway, built for automobiles not human legs, and realized how deeply I love to run and more so how profoundly I love to run marathons. I realized I had found myself in that moment. I am a marathoner.

Disney Marathon 2013 Course – 20th Anniversary

Another 26.2 miles on my legs and accomplished 8 weeks after my first marathon. Running a marathon as a marathoner is a very different experience! I knew what to expect, how it feels to start, to pass mile 6 (go fast but not too much, still a long way to go), mile 13 (halfway there, stay consistent), mile 20 (now is when the real work starts) and what it feels like at mile 24 (so close and yet so far).

The Disney marathon was on Sun Jan 13. I flew to Orlando on Thursday and stayed with family. There were heat advisories for the weekend with temperatures pushing up to 90 degrees. Last time I had trained in extreme heat was July/August. All my recent runs were done in NYC frigid cold and face-numbing winds.

Racing is as much mental as physical. I knew going into a January marathon in Florida that I was in for more challenges than just running the distance.  Last year I ran the Manhattan Half in a snow storm. I did it to prove to myself that weather cannot be an issue for finishing.

I had to acclimate to the heat and begin my nutrition/hydration preparations.  I guzzled what felt like an endless amount of water, coconut water, Gatorade, in that order, for 5 days straight. I increased my carbs and munched on pretzels for the extra salt.

My taper plan had me running 2 miles each day leading into the marathon. I used those easy runs to acclimate my body into the heat. I used them to clear my mind of any doubts and reassure myself I can do this marathon.

I felt relaxed, like the edge was gone.  I didn’t get butterflies thinking about the course or antsy to hit the race.  At the expo I didn’t feel a wince of anxiety or fear. When I received my bib I didn’t feel the need for a photo to remember the moment.  I decided my casual attitude would only serve me well in relaxing my muscles and mind, down to the core.

My cousin was running the Goofy Challenge that weekend (Half Marathon on Saturday, Marathon on Sunday for the coveted 39.3 mile honor!) and my sister came along to cheer me on and run as a pacer at a few mile markers.

The day before the marathon we stayed at the Hilton Bonnet Creek. It was fabulous. We sat by the lazy river pool and instead of frosty cocktails I continued to sip water, coconut water, Gatorade. After awhile it was too hot and I realized sweating was counter-productive to my hydration process so I went back to the room to use my foam-roller.

I went to bed by 8pm but couldn’t sleep. I just enjoyed the quiet time with my thoughts and the fact that my legs were being rested. Wake-up was for 3:30am. Start time 5:30am

If you just read 3:30am wake-up, gasped and made the abrupt assumption that you could never, ever wake-up at that hour and most certainly not to prepare to run 26.2 miles, I would like to take a moment to tell you that you are wrong and are just listening to the i can’t voice in your head.  you can.

Normally I never shower before a run. What’s the point? This time I tried changing my pre-race routine and instead took a hot-to-cold shower to relax, wake-up and keep my body temperature cool.

We drove to the start line in Epcot. At the corrals there were more runners dressed in Disney-themed costumes than running gear. It made for fun people watching throughout the race.  The temperature was pushing 70 degrees in the still of morning darkness yet participants were dressed in stifling full-body costumes.

As each corral was called up to the start line Mickey Mouse counted down and then fireworks were ignited in the pitch black morning sky.  I felt calm, focused and excited.

Despite the fireworks, the race began with little fanfare to jolt you out of the gate.  The course began along a highway that leads towards the Magic Kingdom. The only spectators out were the wonderful volunteers and workers.  I clicked my Garmin watch to ‘start’ and got to moving briskly.  

There were many slow runners that likely should have been in corrals further back. For the first 4 miles I was maneuvering around a lot of walkers. At times I ran miles along the grass in order to move away from packs of walkers.

If I wasn’t aggressive I would have been meandering along, boxed in around a gaggle of runners dressed as Disney characters who were more interested in taking pictures on their phones than racing.  I busted out the Kenyan stride technique, pushing quickly for :10 seconds  never to see them again.

At the first fluid station I activated my hydration plan: one cup of Gatorade (a few sips); 2 cups water (one to dump on head; one for a few sips).  The water was refreshing and soaked my shirt and leggings as though I had plunged into a pool. I should have tipped my head forward and dumped the water on my head.  I only figured out that technique around the 3rd fluid station into my run.

Disney characters were spread along the entire course. Many participants were stopping to take a picture with the character, waiting on lines at least 30 deep, and losing precious race time.  The only picture I was focused on getting was crossing the finish line.

Runners take note: This marathon is not for runners who love to race. My impression is that the Disney Marathon is like a fun run, 26.2 miles of magical, happy fun, especially for Disney fans. 

By mile 5 I was still passing many super slow joggers/walkers. I realized what was going on. They had put themselves in the front corrals in order to buy more time on the course to get pictures with the many characters.  The race is time-limited at 7 hours from when the last participant crosses the start line.

Approaching Magic Kingdom was very, well, magical.  It was still pitch black outside, and in the distance you could see Cinderella’s Castle lit up like a frosty, sparkly cake. I held a quick pace.  I wanted to knock out as many miles as possible in the darkness before the sun became a factor.

Disney 2

Disney Marathon 2013 – Approaching the Magic Kingdom – Mile 4

The sun was now starting to change the sky a burnt orange and the ground was smoking everywhere with fog.  The fog was a welcomed natural air-conditioning.  The scenery was picturesque, just like a Disney movie.

I had been warned that there tends to be a bottleneck of runners through the castle in order to capture their photo moment as they exit.  Fortunately this was not the case for me.  I spotted the photographer and made my standard racing pose – arms up like a champ – and probably photo bombed a few other’s photos.

Disney Marathon 2013 - Exiting Cinderella's CastleMile 5-6

Disney Marathon 2013 – Exiting Cinderella’s Castle
Mile 5-6

The run through Magic Kingdom was quick, dark and peppered with cheers from the workers.  Hitting Main Street USA was one of the only spots with a crowd of cheerers but it was over in less than a minute.  After a few quiet zig-zags through the empty park grounds (Tomorrow Land, Frontier Land) we worked our way through back roads of the park.

Along miles 7 – 8 I caught my sister among the cheerers and that was a welcome boost.

Disney 14

The next ten miles are a blur of highway, parking lots, passing walkers, glancing at Disney characters, hearing lots of Disney movie songs, taking GUs every 6 miles, wetting my head.

There was one incline on the highway that I suppose counts as a hill but after that I don’t recall any other true hills beyond a scattering of little bumps throughout the parks.

The run through Animal Kingdom had workers standing outside in what seemed like a private road for delivery trucks with an array of petting-zoo animals on display.  At another point we ran through the ESPN race car speedway.  Muscle cars and Disney’s Cars were on display around the entire track.  The drivers were sitting in folding chairs, sipping drinks and just staring at us as we trotted along in the piping hot sun on the black tar.

At another point on the course there was a sewage treatment/ water-processing plant that stunk worse than a port-o-potty at the end of a marathon.  That was definitely the lowest point of the course.  Even so, I grumbled for a moment to myself and then chuckled and enjoyed the craziness of the experience. No matter where the course leads, I loved every minute. And I realized that if you put me in a race, surrounded by other runners, I am going.

Mile 16 came fast. At mile 18 I felt enlightened. As I passed mile 20 I felt charged-up and ready for the hard-work.  These next 6 miles are the ones I had been training for.  I shifted my brain into another gear and moved into a quicker pace. I was soaking wet, with the exception of my feet, and I felt strong.

Disney Marathon 2013 - Mile 20

Disney Marathon 2013 – Mile 20

Suddenly by mile 22 the heat was getting to be uncomfortable. I had hopes of finishing faster than my time for Philadelphia but by mile 22 I was pacing to finish around 4:30, my Philadelphia Marathon time was 4:36.  Now I realized I was in a fight to match my time and not be slower. I had to keep moving and step it up. I thought about my training runs in the summer where I had to push faster and harder on the high miles. I can do this!

There were minimal spectators around to cheer the runners on.  Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, Mary Poppins and the creatures from Monster Inc. were not going to motivate me to move my ass!  This is where I missed the power of the crowds to push you along.  I had to cheer myself on. I turned up my music and blasted Louis Prima’s “Jump, Jive and Wail”. I sang the entire song as I chugged through the heat. The singing also helped to steady my breathing.

I briskly walked through each fluid station, drank water/Gatorade, dumped water on my head and kicked off again. The mile 22 fluid station offered fresh bananas. I took a few bites and enjoyed the sweetness as it settled in my stomach. It was a welcomed change in taste and texture to my energy gels and chomps.

At Mile 23 there was the last fluid station. As we moved beyond the water tables runners were still walking.  I was a good twenty feet past the station when I realized I needed to start running and stat! I couldn’t let my engine turn off.  I shouted to my legs and literally out loud not caring who heard me – Come on Tara. Move your legs. You. Must. Run. Do. Not. Walk. I moved my arms first and immediately my legs followed in rhythm.

The last 3 miles were brutal.  Runners were dropping like flies, walking, slowing down.  I kept pushing past but it was so tempting to want to walk too. More than once I had to tell that nagging voice in my head to shut-up about walking.

I focused on the fact that my sister was going to be somewhere up ahead before the finish line. I cranked up Cypress Hill’s “Insane In The Brain” as I thought it was a very appropriate soundtrack for what I was experiencing.

Disney Marathon 2013 - Mile 24, Epcot

Disney Marathon 2013 – Mile 24, Epcot

Mile 24 I’m in Epcot passing a surreal imitation of what is supposed to be a street in NYC.  I see the Epcot Globe off in the distance and I know the finish is somewhere way over there.  I still have 2.2 miles to run.  The park is open to the public but few of the visitors are cheering the runners. We were being routed throughout a very winding course in the park.

Disney Marathon 2013 - Mile 24

Disney Marathon 2013 – Mile 24

I don’t remember much of the sites.  There was an extremely steep and short ramp down into a cool dark tunnel where the costumes are created and then back up and out into the harsh sun.  A very narrow walkway around a lake where I had to again run on the grass in order to pass walkers.

My legs weren’t cramping but I was starting to feel some niggling sensations in my ankles.  So much of the course was on uneven, beveled ground that my ankles were getting quite the workout.

I was in a fight to get to the finish line under 4:36 hours.  I couldn’t afford to lose a minute.  I needed water but there were no more fluid stations.  Where is my sister? I come around a turn and finally I see my sister standing on the sidelines.  What a welcomed sight!

Disney Marathon 2013 - Mile 25 - I see my sister!

Disney Marathon 2013 – Mile 25 – I see my sister!

It was also messing with my head because I almost felt like I had finished when in actuality I had 1.2 miles to go. She was pep talking to me – You did it! You are done! It’s just up ahead! But I wasn’t done yet. I had to keep on moving and not waste a single second or step.

Disney Marathon 2013 - Mile 25

Disney Marathon 2013 – Mile 25

I could barely talk to her. I had been running for over four hours alone, nestled away inside my mind, staying focused on moving and piloting my body.  My sister started to burst forward with a quick run and I willed myself to move with the same spring and bounce.  I could keep up for a few steps and then my legs would resist.  I ripped off my iPod headphones and phone armband and threw it at her hoping the change of sensation would give me a much-needed boost. It helped.

Disney Marathon 2013 - Pushing through Mile 25

Disney Marathon 2013 – Pushing through Mile 25

I had just a mile to go and it felt endless.  We kept pushing around twists and turns, behind bathrooms, kiosks, gift stands, a Gospel choir, park goers who paid us no mind and that finish line was no where in site. My sister had said the finish was just around the corner.  But we went around at least 3 corners and it still wasn’t there.

Disney Marathon 2013 - Mile 25

Disney Marathon 2013 – Mile 25

Finally we come around another corner, up a tiny incline and there is the finish line and the only true cheerers I had seen on the race course for many miles.  My mom and aunt were on the sidelines hooting and hollering my name. We spotted them and I gave them a thumbs-up. I could not slow down or run over to the sidelines to give them extra attention. I needed to get this job done and quick.

Disney 5

Disney Marathon 2013 – Thumbs-up! Approaching Finish Line

Disney Marathon 2013 - Go, Go, Go to the Finish Line!

Disney Marathon 2013 – Go, Go, Go to the Finish Line!

As I came to the Disney Marathon finish line the emotions that ran through me were completely different from when I crossed my first marathon finish line.  A single thought came to mind as I approached – Now you are a marathoner and not someone who just ran A marathon. Go!

I saw Mickey Mouse giving high-fives and decided I’d give at least one Disney character some attention just as I crossed the finish line.

Disney Marathon 2013 - Finish Line - High-Five with Mickey Mouse!

Disney Marathon 2013 – Finish Line – High-Five with Mickey Mouse!

After crossing I started to walk.  The magnitude of the moment sank in and I let out a huge yell of relief and joy.  I finished within a minute of my Philadelphia Marathon time: 4:37.

Rankings/Stats: #255 out of 1751 Women in my Age Group; #1508 out of 10,619 Women; #4376 out of 20,680 Finishers.  There were 25,000 participants and almost 5,000 never finished.

Disney Marathon 2013 - SMILE ACROSS THE FINISH!

Disney Marathon 2013 – SMILE ACROSS THE FINISH!

We worked our way over to a cooling area with fans and misting water.  Now I realized just how hot my body was. My sister revealed to me that when she saw me at mile 25 I looked very pale. I turned off my engine (that inner-voice that repeats go, go, go, go) and felt my body sizzling in the heat. I could feel how hard I had worked and I loved the feeling. Someone put the big, chunky medal over my head and I gave thanks to God for my strength and endurance.

My ankles were throbbing, my calves were slightly cramping and my skin was roasting in the sun.  I slugged down two bottles of water. There was a massage tent  – $1 a minute – so I got a ten minute massage that felt like pure heaven!

I took a photo and the photographer commented with surprise at  my big smile after 26.2 miles and in such sweltering heat.  I laughed and said, “I live to smile across the finish!”

DisneyFinish1

Disney Marathon 2013

26.2 Car SwagPhiladelphia Marathon 2012, Disney Marathon 2013

26.2 Car Swag
Philadelphia Marathon 2012, Disney Marathon 2013

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

PUSH = Persist Until Something Happens

I'm a Distance Runner, I've been trained to keep going, even when it's hard, when it hurts, when it sucks, when i don't want to, I look past it, relentless forward progress to the finish. call what you want: stubbornness, Endurance, Determination, Guts. Deep down i don't know how to give up. [and it's always worth it at the end]

During an empowering, long, hot training run in July for the NYC Marathon I decided I didn’t want my marathon training to end after November. I couldn’t imagine just stopping after I finished my first marathon. All this hard-work to achieve marathon status; how could I quit? I wanted to keep going. I needed another goal, another marathon.  I signed-up for the Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando, FL for January 13.

How do you train to run a second marathon 8 weeks post your first marathon?  I looked at Hal Higdon’s Training Plan and it included a whopping 20miler in at the midway point of training.  After reviewing with my coach he modified my plan so that I focused on the quality of my runs and less on the LSD (Long Slow Distance) training runs.  Highest Sunday long run mileage was 16miles.  And my Saturday runs were 10miles at a quick pace.

The strategy behind this plan was to get me ready for the last 6.2 miles.  My legs would remember 20 miles.  It is those last 6.2 miles that are the hardest part of a marathon.

The first two weeks after the Philadelphia Marathon I tried to relax my mind and body and live like a runner without a cause.  I went for runs but only for fun and with little structure or training in mind.  I didn’t wake-up each morning with a determined amount of mileage or pace to hit. I just enjoyed running to my daily mood.

After two weeks, I began my training and got down to business. This is the plan I followed. It included spin classes and weight/core training at my gym.

Week 6 – Mon spin/weights, Tues 4m, Wed 4x 1m intervals/ 1/2m jogs (6m), Th spin/ core, Fri 4m, Sat 6m ascending tempo, Sun 16m = 36total

Week 5–  Mon spin/weights, Tues 4m, Wed Tempo 2 easy/2 5k pace/2 easy (6m), Th spin/ core, Fri 4m, Sat 10m @ 10:00 16m @10:40 = 40total

Week 4-  Mon spin/weights, Tues 4m, Wed 4x 1m intervals/ 1/2m jogs (6m), Th spin/ core, Fri 4m, Sat 10m @10:00, Sun 12m@10:40 = 36total

Week 3 – Mon spin/weights, Tues 4m, Wed Tempo 2 easy/2 5k pace/2 easy (6m), Th spin/ core, Fri 4m, Sat 10m @ 10:00 16m @10:40 = 40total

Week 2 – Mon spin/weights, Tues 4m, Wed 4x 1m intervals/ 1/2m jogs (6m), Th spin/ core, Fri OFF, Sat 8m @10:00, Sun 10m@10:40 = 28total

Week 1- Mon rest, Tues 2m, Wed 3m, Th and Fri, Sat 2m, Sun Marathon

Training was tough. I felt fatigued and like I had lost my mojo. I followed the plan but at times took an extra rest day or pulled back a mile on an easy run. I would never give myself a break while training for my first marathon and here I was giving myself subtle liberties off the training plan. It felt like I was trying to cheat.

I was reminded of my weight loss journey on Weight Watchers and how the first phase is known as the “honeymoon phase”.  Everything is wonderful and going the way you want. You’re motivated and focused and seeing results.  The next thing you know you’re trying to cheat and cut corners and then you hit a wall.

I was still nursing an injured left hip sprain. After the dust had settled from the Philadelphia Marathon my left hip started aching again. I did not want to take chances and went back to PT for a few weeks of sessions. The holiday season was buzzing with after-work parties and cocktails. I tried to resist as much as I could but also felt I deserved and even needed to relax a little.

By mid-December I was hitting my 16 mile long runs again. The first 16 miler I did was all alone on a freezing cold day. I didn’t pass a single runner or walker.  Not seeing any runners I realized December is an off-season and probably intended for rest. Marathon training starts again in January, for those May marathons.  It was very hard to keep my legs moving on those long runs but I still got the job done.

I kept on chugging along with my training plan even though my mind wasn’t focused and my heart was trying to hibernate. I had no choice but to just keep on pushing myself. The Disney Marathon was coming Jan 13 and not finishing was NOT an option.  Like it or not, I had to do my training runs.

With just 5 weeks to Disney, I needed to find a way to ignite my mojo engine.

PUSH = Persist Until Something Happens.  SOMETHING.

Okay. I will keep on pushing, persisting.  Something is bound to happen.  I tried to mix things up.  I enjoyed a few long Sunday runs with a running partner. That camaraderie helped motivate me. I took more spin classes to activate different leg muscles. I updated my iPod playlist. I bought a really cute new running jacket. I tried running at a different time of day.

I told myself be happy you signed-up for Disney Marathon. It allows you the chance to stay in shape over the holidaze. I tried to convince myself that by training in the off-season, when most others were home resting, would give me a competitive edge. Like all those folks who join the gym in June expecting to prepare for swimsuit season once it is already upon them.

I had moments of doubt that peaking my training with just 16m long runs instead of going up to 20miles wouldn’t get me across the finish. And then I had moments of enlightenment that it was all about the quality. I ran hard with my legs but even harder with my mind. I kept telling myself that this kind of training is part of how I will fight through those last 6 miles.  You want to stop, you want to take a break, a long rest, but you must keep on moving forward in order to get across the finish line.  

I don’t know how to give up.  I do know how to be positive.  I reflected on my accomplishments.  The fact that I can smack a snooze button off and get out for a run is a big deal!  I looked for the J-O-Y in JOURNEY and realized I will still smile across the finish.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Manhattan Half Marathon 2012: Running in a Beautiful Snowstorm

Last Saturday (Jan 21) I ran the NYRR Manhattan Half Marathon in the heart of a beautiful cold, slushy, icy snowstorm.  From a week out I was watching the weather reports and “Wintry Mix” kept appearing in the forecast. I knew I had a choice to make. I could either moan and groan and worry about all the discomfort and troubles that snow might cause or I could just accept it and make the absolute best of the situation.  I decided to accept it. To that point, I decided to fully take it on, embrace it as a wild adventure and truly enjoy the challenge of running in a snowstorm for 13.1 miles for the very first time.

Every time I looked at the weather forecast I automatically reacted with an enthusiastic ‘Yes, Snow! Bring it!’ and decided no matter what the scenario, I was going to finish this half marathon. Nothing was going to hold me back unless the NYRR organizers decided to cancel the run.

A few days before the Manhattan Half Marathon I started reading “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne.  (I’m a voracious reader because I spend a lot of time commuting for work.) I was deeply affected by the notion of the Law of Attraction and the tremendous power we have within our thoughts to project us onto various frequencies.

“Your thoughts are the primary cause of everything…You are the one who calls the law of attraction into action, and you do it through your thoughts.  You will attract everything that you require.
“If you’re feeling good, then you’re creating a future that’s on track with your desires. If you’re feeling bad, you’re creating a future that’s off track with your desires. As you go about your day, the law of attraction is working in every second. Everything we think and feel is creating our future. If you’re worried or in fear, then you’re bringing more of that into your life throughout the day.”  – Rhonda Byrne (The Secret)
Basically, the universe hears our thoughts and will attract to us what we think.  The key: Be Positive.  I’ve always been a generally positive person so a lot of what The Secret discusses naturally resonated with me.

In preparation of this race and throughout the actual run, I thought a lot about what The Secret teaches about how to think positive. Thinking in negative terms will not be heard by the universe.  For example, as a runner if you think – “I won’t fall on the snow. I won’t get hurt.” – the universe doesn’t hear the negatives, only the positives.  Your thoughts will be interpreted as “I fall on the snow. I get hurt.” and thus attracting those events to you.

The night before the race there was a lot of chatter on the NYRR Facebook page about whether the race will be cancelled. Would anyone run in the snow? And plenty of negative talk about hating to run in the snow.  I put up my mental shield, closed my eyes and went to bed visualizing myself running through the snow, around the loops of Central Park, gliding up and down the rolling hills and finally crossing the finish line. I even visualized sipping slushy water and Gatorade at fluid stations.  I ran the race before I even crossed the start line so I knew I could do it.

Early in the dark of morning, my husband, who is also a passionate runner and signed up for this race, was concerned about traveling into the city and whether we could run in a snowstorm without getting hurt or freezing cold.  I told him I was confident we could do it. We just need to dress warmly (we had all the right gear), take it very slowly and carefully. Make the event fun, not a nuisance. Don’t focus on achieving a specific time. Just finish.  As it turns out, the organizers had the same idea and decided to turn the race into a Fun Run with no scores or official times.

When we opened the door to our house and walked to the car the dark chill was invigorating.  I just kept repeating to myself, “I will finish this run.”  The ride into the city was slippery and slow.  When we came out of the Battery Tunnel and drove up the Westside Highway there wasn’t a runner, let alone a dog-walker, in sight.  My mind wanted to drift into negative-land but I concentrated on countering with positive thoughts.

As we drove along Central Park West, getting near 63rd street, I finally saw one runner with a bib prancing over the snow into the park.  I felt a little relief.  Then as we drove a block more I saw a handful more runners jogging across the snow-covered street.  And soon there were at least 20 runners heading into the park for the race.  I felt motivated and excited to join them as soon as possible. The party was on!

We parked the car and lightly trotted into the park to the baggage check-in area.  There were about 2 inches of snow on the ground and the storm was just getting started.  In case you were wondering, NO the paths were not plowed.  The streets had barely been touched. Who was going to take time to plow and salt the walking paths of Central Park before an 8am race?

I quickly get a crash course on how to run on snow.  Woah, was it slippery and slow!  But I was doing it and so were lots of others around me. No one fell or wiped out or crashed.  Everyone was bouncing gently across the packed-down snow that kept on sprinkling on our running gear.  Turns out that there were many runners who showed up (i don’t know actual count but at least a thousand based on the snaking trail of racers).   It was an awesome feeling to be in that charged environment.

Off we start to lots of cheers and shouts of encouragement. We work our way around the bottom loop of Central Park and then up the east side.  We had to run 2 counterclockwise loops.  It was a lot of work just to take a step that could project your body forward.  My entire posture had to be re-adjusted. At first my ankles were a bit wobbly.  I had to watch for ice patches and keep to the fresh powdery snow with good traction.

My eyes had to adjust to all the whiteness to avoid feeling nauseous.  My hat and jacket were getting covered in a nice coating of snow that I had to shake off every so often.  My eye-lashes were frozen icicles that I had to keep wiping.  My breathing was also impacted because the snowflakes kept being sucked up my nose or into my mouth causing me to choke and get a chill at the same time.  Some might find these obstacles a complete turn-off to running; I loved every single moment of being confronted with new challenges.

Running thru a snowstorm

For the first several miles I kept expecting my feet would get wet and chilled.  It never happened.  Throughout the entire race I was always comfortable and warm. My face was chilled but it felt wonderful.  My hands were warm.  My body felt strong and light. Most important, my feet were warm and dry!  God bless the inventor of the Brooks Pure Cadence sneakers and my WigWam Ironman Socks (yes, socks are equally important as sneakers to a runner.).  I was very curious to see how my sneakers held up in snow or rain.  They remained perfect the entire run.

As we passed mile 3 my husband and I looked at each other in wonder… ah, only mile 3?  We had worked extremely hard to push along the course.  Every step was a subtle slide back so that it sort of felt like running on a treadmill if you didn’t concentrate on projecting your body forward.  So many times I could have let negative thoughts sweep over me.  Like when we passed mile 5 and the snow was a good 4″inches and covering most of the mile marker sign.

Central Park covered in snow is a magical vision.  I lost my bearings often because there was nothing but a milky whiteness surrounding me, covering all the buildings and paths.  The park was also very quiet and still except for the gentle movements of the runners.

There are many reasons I wanted to do this half-marathon but mainly it was because I wanted to prove to myself I could do something I’ve never done before as long as I set my mind to it.  Amazing challenges have come my way throughout my life and I have conquered them, worked through them, feeling stronger and better for it. But the challenge of running a marathon I have yet to accomplish.  This half marathon was one goal I set to keep me on track towards achieving a marathon.

One fear that had been nagging at me for months was the weather on the day of the NYC Marathon.  What if it rains? What if it’s freezing cold? What if it snows? All of which are possible in early Nov for NYC.  How can I prepare?

The Manhattan Half Marathon was my test. Now I know that the weather will only help me to finish the marathon, not hinder me.  I do not have a real-time goal… 4:30 hours would be very nice though.  It’s going to be my first one so I will just focus on finishing.

Weather will not stand in my way and I’m learning how to keep my mind from getting in my way.  If you put your mind to it, you can do it.  All these phrases can sound cliche` if you never actually tried putting them to good use.  But I did use them to push me across the finish line of this race. The power of positive thinking is where true strength can be found!

We finished the race in 2:30 minutes which is a few minutes slower than our average half marathon finish time.  Our average pace hovered around the 11 min per mile range.  With double the energy it required to take each step this race was as much a strength training experience as it was cardio.

As I approached the last mile I felt sad to see it all come to an end.  Once again, I wanted more and felt strong enough to keep going if I had to.  Give me a blizzard and I was ready to run straight through it! I think that’s a great way to end a race when your longterm goal is to run a marathon.

At the Finish Line of the Manhattan Half Marathon 2012

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized