52 hours to Go

I am in New York City, staying Upper West Side this week prior to running the NYC Marathon. This 52-year-old has trained 52 weeks and has 52 hours left until the start of the race. I will try to add photos later, I am not on my own computer and it would be a little tricky for me to try to do so without my camera cable.

I tackled The Expo yesterday (yes, it deserves the caps). It is run like a well oiled machine, a HUGE well oiled machine at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center along the Hudson River. I volunteered there last year and, for some reason, it was a lot more attractive and seemingly well run this year. Granted I volunteered on a Friday, although yesterday was busy it didn’t have the massive crush I remembered from last year. So, like all the NYC Marathon tips say, GO TO THE EXPO EARLY. Choose the earliest day in the week you can and the earliest hour in that day.

Prior to being able to pick up my racing bib, I participated in a tour of the marathon course.For a fee, Marathon on a Motorcoach was offered. I almost blew it off so I could get more sleep (which I probably wouldn’t have slept in anyway). I sucked it up, timed walking to the exact subway station I will use on race morning and got there in time to get the seat I wanted in the front so I could see. Here is a big tip for those using the NYC subways to get to their preferred start line transportation, check on the MTA Planner to see if there are any service changes for the weekend. Better yet, go down at least the day before and read any posted signs in the station you are planning to leave from. I need to walk 10 extra blocks marathon morning (that’s a 1/2 mile) to get to an open station. I would have been really stressed to find that out the morning of. Now, I just budget in some extra time.

So, the Marathon on a Motorcoach was really worth it to me. It did take over 4 hours but had a nice little break in Brooklyn for us to get some coffee and stretch our legs. I learned so many neat tidbits about the neighborhoods and specific buildings that I am sure a few will come back to me as I run the course. Better yet, it demystified a few of the sections I had been worried about like Clinton Hill on Lafayette St. It’s a hill for sure but not as bad as the one I kept throwing in at the same point on my training runs. I was pretty happy to see that.

Here is tip three, if you are counting: pack some food to eat when you go to the expo. The food there is not the healthiest and you want to be eating well right before the marathon. Being vegan, I knew it was going to be slim pickings and packed a couple of hummus/apple/avocado wraps and was supremely happy that I didn’t have to stand in a long line at a Starbucks to purchase a billion dollar fruit cup and throw away the non-vegan things that come with it. Even on a Thursday, The Expo is buzzing with activity and I found myself distracted until I realized I needed food right away. It was great to reach into my back pack and be able to pull out some almonds to help fill the void.

At The Expo, if you are uncertain of anything, ask someone. They have volunteers who can help. If you do not speak English, look near their name tag for the flag of a country that represents the main language spoken there. Even if they only speak English, they can get you to whomever speaks your language. Not sure of where your bib number is to be picked up? Ask, it might be just around the corner if you can’t seem to find your number amongst the many booths. You have your bib and don’t know what’s next? Ask, they will point you to t-shirts. Not sure how the brand and cut t-shirt is going to fit this year? Ask, they have loads of volunteers with samples for you to slip on before you get your very own. Just keep asking and they will keep feeding you through the process in the right direction. The final step before shopping these past few years was to have your bib scanned to make certain the race course sensors are recording your information. They scanned mine under the sensor and my name, age, country and club affiliation came up properly.

Remember your registration print out and bring a photo ID. I was all set with my transportation to the start, no questions about baggage other than if it mattered which wrist I wore the “no baggage” wrist strap on (it doesn’t). I exited the process and it funneled into the shopping area. I returned to this much later because I had made it through in time to attend the 2014 inductions into the NYRR Hall of Fame. This year included legendary Kathrine Switzer and I was thrilled to cheer for her as she received her award.

THIS PARAGRAPH IS FOR YOU DAD! To attend the award ceremony, I needed a media day pass. It was pretty cool to be sitting with all of the press, photographers and amongst VIPs whom I knew were groundbreaking in making what the NYC Marathon is today. I was right beside a young photographer who was snapping like crazy with his highly priced digital camera. He was very vocal about making sure the semi-posed presenting of the award would turn to look our way. This was to my advantage as I would wait to take my photo, yes just one, when they responded to him. The ceremony ran long and the last inductee only very briefly looked our way. The fellow beside me turned to a colleague and quietly grumbled, “Only got two out of three.” I quietly said to the young man, “Imagine the challenge of getting that one shot before it was digital.” It reminded me of a story my Dad told me of how he would nail a “grip & grin” with one shot, being the envy of all the other photographers at press conferences and pleasantly surprising those who were getting tired of being photographed. Well Dad, of all the photographers and all the shots they snapped, guess whose they used on NYRR social media yesterday. Mine.

A related tip on photography for NYC Marathon runners, here is the map of where Marathon Photo is going to have their photographers along the course. They aren’t always at the first locations for the later waves as I have seen only Central Park shots of some of my back of pack friends.

I did return to The Expo and enjoyed walking around. I bought very little and got back in time to get my final four mile run done in Central Park. On my run last night, there was what looked like a huge group of kids some police and maybe arrests going on. Looking at the handcuffing of the one fellow, the lady cuffing him looked a little relaxed, she almost playfully batted his hands with one of hers as they were behind his back. When I got closer, he didn’t seem to be cuffed at all and a male officer was giving animated instructions on how to or not to approach during an arrest. I guess it was a mock arrest or training on the 102 St traverse. I was a tiny bit wigged out since there were no street lights on the traverse after that until I got East Side and it was around there the “central park jogger” was attacked years ago. All was fine though and I was able to run the final approach to the finish line.

The finish line was blocked off and that was fine with me. I think it is like wearing the race shirt until after you complete the race; bad mojo to actually cross the line until the race itself. I had ran with a pack and used my metro card to get back uptown, buy my traditional Pad Thai and get a late shower. NYC is certainly the city that never sleeps and that leads me to my final tip. Be careful in how much walking around you will need to do in New York and get some sleep! My nights go way long when I am here and I always end up needing to walk more than I planned on. I am backing off of what I am doing these last few days and am going to be fresh and ready to enjoy that race on Sunday!

I know that 52 hour mark has come and gone but it was true when I started writing. Time, it’s another thing that just seems to pass so quickly here in NYC. I am going to do my best to enjoy every hour, every minute of this process.

Full Circle

#52toNYCmarathon
Week 51/52 recap

5 easy – 5 easy – 8.6 easy

Exactly a year ago I posted Down Time and had to admit to being injured enough to take a break from running. It was before I started to try longer planks every day (“Planksgiving” last November), sacrificing form for endurance. That was even before I gimped my way to getting X-rays when I couldn’t walk a half a block without needing to stop.

My 52 week journey to running the NYC Marathon (#52toNYCmarathon) started with me in pretty bad shape. Even as I volunteered at the 2013 NYC Marathon I had to skip out early because the standing in one spot for 3 – 4 hours was excruciating on my lower back and piriformins. I then had a terrible time trying to walk after standing in the cold at the marathon to cheer my running friends. When my friend, Rosalie, ran up to me for a hug I accidentally dropped the Gatorade Chews that I had for her. It hurt so badly for me to bend over that I hesitated a split second, thinking she might bend over to get them. She had just run 18 miles and I was hoping that she might bend over to pick up something I dropped!

Knowing I had a guaranteed entry into this 2014 NYC Marathon, I knew I had to pull it together and that it was going to require a full year to do it. I remember the day of the marathon being really scared that I wasn’t going to have enough time to recover and train to that level. As I stood on 1st Ave I looked at Amy, who was cheering with me, and expressed real doubt about being able to run it in a year.

Folks with a solid running base can make good use of 16 week training plans to be marathon ready. It was a 16 week plan from Marathon Training Academy that I used in 2012 to train for my first, the Wineglass Marathon. It was a well paced plan for me with running 3 times a week and cross training. To get to the point of running those distances, let alone walking without pain, required a huge step back. When I posted that I was pressing a reset button on my running last October, I had no idea what that was going to take.

It took months of physical therapy during which I started with running 2 miles or less just a few times a week. The winter of the polar vortex attack had me at the indoor track running some laps then stretching out my psoas before running some more laps. The psoas and hip flexor stretching after a run has been a mainstay during my entire #52toNYCmarathon year. Now that it is getting colder on some of the mornings I have been running, I can feel the threat of those areas becoming problematic again. I remain vigilant.

With the exception of combining weeks 5 – 8 when I was so blue from not being able to run, I have faithfully logged this journey weekly. I am as proud of that as I am about being marathon ready. I disappoint myself when I waffle on commitments and although it looks like I may have been backing out of dedicating this year to getting to the NYC Marathon during that second month I wasn’t. I was working hard at not running and writing about a goal nearly a year away was real salt in an open wound. By the end of 2013, the holidays and all of their drama had passed and I saw there was hope for my ability to run again.

The year had it’s ups and downs. A cold set me back in January not because didn’t feel like running but the coughing made my back seize up again, my upper back that is. The old song “Them Bones” about the this-bone’s connected to the that-bone is true. I had to release my upper back to loosen my lower back to help my SI joint etc etc. I worked hard all year on keeping everything in working order.

Family emergencies took up a big part of the beginning of the year but my Dad is now still recovering at home. He is getting around really well and in better spirits than he has been for quite a while. About the time he was able to move home in the spring was when I got to the point of taking on my coach, Angie Spencer of Marathon Training Academy. I was still months out from the marathon but needed her support for every aspect of training. I told her straight up that I was a head case. It had been a rough few months prior, I needed more than just a 16 week training plan to get me to the start line. As soon as I graduated from weekly PT sessions, I started officially marathon training.

That brings me to the 6 days before I toe the start line. I promise to recap marathon week, my week 52 of #52toNYCmarathon. Big race aside, there are a few really exciting things I am looking forward to while I am in the city and I am relying on iCal to keep my whole week straight. I intend to be picking up my racing bib at the Javits Center at the same time Kathrine Switzer is being indicted into the NYRR Hall of Fame. I am wrapping up an interview an NYU student is doing on me and the day after the marathon I have been invited to a panel upon which Meb Keflezighi is speaking. I also intend to see a couple performances at Lincoln Center!

The weather forecast for Sunday looks perfect at this point. Cool and sunny would make for a fine day to run by that spot where I didn’t want to bend over to pick up Rosalie’s Gatorade Chews. I might not feel like bending over as I pass by the spot but I know I am going to make it to the end and bring this year long journey to a successful closure.

Taper Time

#52toNYCmarathon
Week 50/52 recap

5 easy – 5 hills (3:57/3:43/3:32/3:27) – 13.17 easy 2:22:00

I am starting to type this recap midweek because I am already feeling a little crazy. I have been so excited about the upcoming race and events leading up to it that I have lost hours of sleep. Taper madness? Not yet but I am getting there.

I was forced to do my cycling at the indoor gym today because of thunderstorm threat. I got that done early, came home, cut my hair and showered. Yeah, I cut my own hair. I should have scheduled to work today but I wasn’t sure how I would be feeling after the 20 miler last Sunday.

I keep joking that I will run the race holding mine.

I keep joking that I will run the race holding mine.

Is it just me or did they add a ponytail to a woman who, in reality, has short hair?

Is it just me or did they add a ponytail to a woman who, in reality, has short hair?

Something that got me, foolishly, all excited was an email telling me that the photos I had submitted landed me a free mini marathoner statuette. They were only available to NYC Marathon runners who are United States residents and could submit a series of high res photos in specific poses. I knew my photos had passed the vetting but the email telling me that I could pick the mini marathoner up at the expo sent me over the edge. All of my relief of having finished my last 20 mile training run, all of the excitement of the race yet to come was concentrated on the fact that I was getting a statuette. I attribute this to the onset of taper madness.

I have been scatter brained, mixing up weeks, forgetting when I was supposed to get together with friends, and forgetting to answer emails. I need to start writing things down because I keep remembering things I need to do before I leave but then almost immediately forget them.

bib:waveHere are a few things that have come my way this week in case you are interested. I got my wave/corral/bib assignment for the race. My start time is at 10:30 AM. It will feel like 11:30 because the clocks will have changed the night before. If it takes me 5 hours to finish, it will probably feel like I have running all day because in my mind it will be going on 5PM.

I will be starting wave three in the green running village. That means I will be starting on the lower level of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge hopefully not getting peed on by the blue and orange starting waves that run on the upper level. My bib number, for tracking, is 51475, I really like that number. The day of the race, you can track me at this live tracking page or a mobile app that is still “coming soon”, info here. The handbook has a lot of information too, with maps and stuff like that.

There is probably more I wanted to share and hopefully I will remember it later.

Determination & Discomfort

#52toNYCmarathon
Week 49/52 recap

9.5 Yassos (4:40/4:29/4:25/4:35/4:34/4:34/4:38/4:33/4:34/4:38) – 5.8 EZ – 20.38 mi (3 easy/ 2 mod. hard x4) 3:45:35

Some of my marathon training runs are harder than others and this week was packed with some of the most difficult. I tackled nine miles of speed work on the track on Tuesday and my last 20 mile long run on Sunday. To those who do not run it can sound crazy.

I have had people say to me, “Why do you run when if it hurts?” or “I would die if I tried to do that.” Granted, I have built up to these harder training runs. It takes quite a while for a non-runner to get to the point they can tackle hours of pounding. The body adapts, tendons get resilient and muscles get strong as week after week mileage and intensity is incrementally increased. My one friend recently said, “I had no idea there was such a science to it.” If you want less of a chance of serious injury, it is best to follow a well thought out training plan.

Another aspect is building mental toughness. Over time and with much practice I have learned to talk myself out of stopping when I am tired or starting to hurt. When I get so tired of running hard in tight circles on the track I think things like, “Why go on? Quit and write up a fake recap for Angie*.” I then keep going and bang out all of the required repeats because when I do a mental check of, “Are you injured?” I have to admit I am not. Then I remind myself, “You are only cheating yourself. No one is going to tough out those final miles for you.”

*Coach Angie Spencer of Marathon Training Academy to whom I could never lie.

Excerpted from “How to Think Like an Elite Runner,”Jim Afremow, Ph.D.;

Our society has conditioned us to believe that there should be no discomfort, to stop when we are uncomfortable. But the discomfort we feel when we’re doing a challenging workout is an important part of the strengthening process. Push through your down days when you’re not feeling your best (unless, of course, you are injured or ill). Dogged determination requires keeping your feet moving forward through inconveniences, discomfort, and insecurities to reach your goals.

It isn’t that I enjoy the discomfort. Heck, I could sit at home on the couch all day and get so stiff it would hurt to walk if I wanted to be in pain. It is the empowerment to overcome minor physical irritations, the determination to complete what I have started despite the physical challenges that arise. I don’t like sweating just to sweat but I know that its itchy gross feeling generally comes with the pay off of better physical fitness.

Convinced that my toes were raw and bleeding, I somehow managed a smile on the final mile of the 2012 Wineglass Marathon.

Convinced that my toes were raw and bleeding, I somehow managed a smile on the final mile of the 2012 Wineglass Marathon.

All of the long runs, speed work and time sacrificed away from other activities and indulgences that I really enjoy are inconveniences on a certain level. They are hard. It is hard to have to say “no” to friends who want to hike or letterbox or go out for beer because I really enjoy those things and miss them. I also know that my determination is paving the way for seeing me through to the finish line of this year-long endeavor of mine.

The 2012 Wineglass Marathon was an exciting new adventure at and completing it was an amazing experience. It also caught me by surprise at times. My feet hurt so much during the final 3 miles that I was certain my toes were bloody pulp and I had to fight off the urge to stop to take my shoes off. I told myself, “Ok, your feet are bleeding. Get to the end then take your shoes off.” When I finally took them off in the car I was shocked that my feet were fine. Not one damaged toenail, not a single blister.

The final miles of the NYC Marathon are going to be tough. I know it will be asking myself to do something I have only been able to accomplish once before. I am prepared for my mind to tell me things that just aren’t so. It will try to convince me to stop. I know I will think things like, “You need and deserve to walk a little. This hill is starting to hurt your legs. You need to stop for another cup of water and walk while you drink it.” Just like when I was a kid asking for a drink of water in the middle of the night, I won’t be thirsty but just looking for some comfort in those long difficult times. Hopefully all of my training and determination will be enough to not have those moments catch me by surprise and I can steel myself, be resolved and determinedly push my way through the discomfort.

Color Run & Trit-Trotting Around

photoHave you ever wanted to join me on a run… without running? You can do that by listening to my third recording of Run Pennsyltucky (a podcast about running in Central Pennsylvania).

Even better is the interview with my neighbor Jess who ran the Penn State Color Run. Listen to what a good time she had and consider signing up next year.

Lastly, I list a few local Turkey Trots that have a lot of character.

I’ll Bia Right Back!

#52toNYCmarathon
Week 48/52 recap

5.8 EZ – .4 test run with Bia – 4.9 hills 3:55/3:24/3:25/3:21 – CR (.3 mile 9% grade) – 10.6 EZ 1:54:492014-10-01 14.01.43-1

For anyone concerned about my delay in blogging, I recovered from my fall really well. My days are just filled with training and planning and regular household duties.I vacillate between being excited that the NYC Marathon is just a month away and being totally over it.

The very best part of training week #48/52 was my Bia Sport watch! I contacted the company and they replaced it within 3 days of my having cracked the screen! Seriously, 3 DAYS! I broke my watch on Sunday, emailed them and by Wednesday I was taking my new watch for a test run down the block. Check out the photo to the right. See the color of the metal loop that holds the watch band on? They offered me turquoise as a replacement if I wanted! YEAH! My new watch will now go with my whole NYC Marathon kit and I didn’t have to miss a day of training because even the cracked screen watch still worked (it hadn’t rained on it yet though).

2014-10-05 09.15.17Jim and I were both able to run together on Sunday. We both had 10 miles scheduled and just stayed local. The weather was a bit crisp early on so we were able to wait until later in the morning to start. The leaves were lovely and we passed the miles together joking and having crazy in depth discussions about Star Trek characters. After a mile of discussing Gul Damar, a Cardassian character on Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Jim looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “How many other runners do you think discuss Star Trek on their long runs?” I had to laugh and answered, “I don’t know but that is why I love running with you.”

Pausing to catch our breath on the uphill was like a commercial break to our Star Trek conversation. As the path moderated, we were right back on the topic of how easy it seemed just take a shuttle craft from the Enterprise on Star Trek The Next Generation. Laughing and running with my love, nothing beats it.

Broken & Bloodied

brokenBia#52toNYCmarathon
Week 47/52 recap

8 Yassos (4:37/4:25/4:21/4:17/4:20/4:20/4:24/4:23 )– 5.3 EZ – 18.2 EZ 3:25:39
Scratched and dirty, I stand before you with a smashed watch face. I took a tumble just as I hit 18 miles yesterday and, yes, off-leash dogs were involved.

The run went really well. I am slow but felt great. The idiots who had their dogs off leash were slowly responding to my shouts of, “Can you control your dogs?” I made it past them when the dogs started to run toward Jim. I had passed the 18 mile spot and checked my watch to see if I had recorded 18 miles yet as I heard Jim yelling arguments that their dogs were not in control if they ran up to people and BAM, I tripped an went flat down and cracked my watch face.

Today, I am a little sore from the run, a little sore from the fall and a little sad about my watch. NYC Marathon training week 47 of 52 is on the books, I will persevere.BiaBroke