Happy New Year!

Like many, I’m not a fan of resolutions. I don’t like putting too much pressure on milestone dates because I think life is a process and real change happens so slowly over time that it’s almost imperceptible. That said, I do think there are some benefits in setting an intention for the year. “Intention” may just be a dressed up version of “resolution” without all the cliche the latter carries. Still, I think having a guiding principle for the year can be a good thing.

I view resolutions as specific, non-negotiable goals for the year which are difficult for me because I think it’s too hard to predict what life will throw at you in a year, and I don’t like the inflexibility. Intentions are broad enough to be malleable. They can stretch to fit the situation and help keep me on track with my main focus for the year.

My intention for 2014 (though I don’t know if I realized it until about halfway through) was to take care of myself first. I’ve heard it called, the “oxygen mask theory.” You know how on a plane, the safety walkthrough (always pay attention to the safety walkthrough!) explains that in the event oxygen masks are needed, they will drop down from the ceiling; always put on your own mask before helping others. The metaphor is not subtle. You cannot be there for others in their time of need if you are struggling to breathe.

2014 was not the year of people pleasing. I made a lot of decisions that didn’t sit well with others. The most major event of my 2014 was, of course, planning a wedding. I can’t speak for everyone, but in my experience, you can’t make most any wedding decision without bothering someone. Our families were thrilled we decided to get married, and that was about all we could all agree on. But that’s really all that matters. Keeping that in mind made it easier to make a million small decisions that bothered someone. Easier, but not easy.

In the past, I would have totally buckled under the pressure of trying to please everybody. Once I realized that was impossible, I decided that if the only person I could please was myself (and my husband of course), then I should at least strive to do that. If I wasn’t happy and neither was anyone else, what was the point? I made the decisions I wanted, and our wedding was amazing. I loved it, and everyone else had a great time too. Six months later, our families still rave about it.

It wasn’t just the wedding though. Looking back I made a lot of decisions in 2014 that I wouldn’t have made in the past based on how others felt about them. I got a dog that really only I knew our family was ready for. She’s the perfect addition to our family, and everyone loves her now, but it wasn’t an easy adjustment. Her integration didn’t always go smoothly, and I wondered nearly every day if it was the right call. Almost a year later, I can’t imagine not having her, and neither can anyone else.

I lost a friend who just wasn’t a good fit for my life anymore. Ending that relationship wasn’t easy, but it was absolutely the right choice for me. I feel happy with my decision, and I’m glad I trusted my own moral compass above anything else. Once again, taking care of myself had a ripple effect on the rest of my life. I didn’t realize how much time and energy I was spending on an area of my life that was bearing no fruit. Walking away, opened up a reserve of energy I didn’t even know I had.

And then I ran a marathon. I spent 18 weeks on an inherently selfish pursuit. In the past, I would, and often did, shy aways from personal goals because they took up too much time that I could have been devoting to others. The marathon was the biggest eye opener in this year of taking care of myself first. Spending 18 weeks pursuing a goal that really only should have benefitted me, enhanced almost all my relationships. Accomplishing smaller goals every weekend in the form of longer and longer runs made me feel so fulfilled that each week was just happier. I found myself becoming more joyful and patient in my interactions with my friends and family. I wasn’t distracted by all the things I wanted to do but wasn’t doing. I was doing something great for me, and that made me more present for others.

Also, I found time I didn’t know existed. Being so busy forced me to focus on the things that mattered. It’s amazing how much time I have when I’m not wasting any of it. I actually spent more time with my husband, and the time we spent together felt more valuable.

Taken piece by piece, it seems silly. Getting married, getting a dog, ending a friendship, running a marathon. Those would have been an odd and disjointed list of resolutions. And honestly only the wedding was expected for the year on January 1, 2014. The rest just happened, but having an intention for the year guided my actions every time I had a difficult decision to make. I wanted to be able to look back on this year and feel like I really took care of myself first, and now I can honestly say I did.

I’m not yet sure exactly what 2015’s intention will be, but I think it’s time to fulfill the second half of the “oxygen mask theory.” I’ve helped myself, and now it’s time to help others. Making decisions that made me happy had the unexpected effect of making me better in my relationships, but I can do more. Sometimes, I find myself judging others based on my own insecurities, and that judgment can get in the way of a good relationship. I too often fall into the trap of thinking that another’s accomplishments are a reflection on my own failings, but it’s not a zero sum game. There is enough success in the world for everyone.

In 2014, I learned that it’s ok to be a little selfish when pursuing the things that make me happy. I want to keep doing that. I want to prioritize my own happiness, but this year, I want to rejoice in the happiness of others as well. I think the insecurity that leads to the judgement (and truthfully, toxic resentment) comes from thinking things like, “Wow I could never do that.” Or worse, “I guess I could do that, but I never would because how selfish!” It’s embarrassing to write these thoughts down, but it’s the truth.

2015 will be the year of letting go of my insecurities by continuing to do the things I’m scared to do. In letting go of those insecurities, I want to let go of the resentment that tags along. I will support my friends and family in their endeavors. I will rejoice in their successes and lift them up when they falter. I will be a better wife, sister, granddaughter, daughter and friend. I want to be a stronger member of the community, a better citizen. Lofty enough? Yeah I think so too.

Marathon Training Week 10

This week was about creative scheduling and just getting the runs done. Work was madness all week with a planned special team bonding outing on Thursday night and a happy hour on Friday. The team bonding ended up being rescheduled due to rain, but I didn’t find out until the day of. The weekend was devoted to a friend’s wedding, and I had to get over the half marathon hump with my first 15 miler.

My midweek runs were supposed to be 3-7-4 but there’s a perfect 3.5 mile loop by my house, so I switched it to 3.5-7-3.5 because I liked the symmetry.

The guy who helped fit me for my new shoes warned me to use the insoles sparingly at first because they would cause soreness. I decided to try them out during Monday’s shorter run. They felt exactly as you’d expect stiff plastic in your shoes would feel. They hurt. Hopefully, it’s a good “forcing your legs into alignment” hurt and not a bad one.

I can’t believe how dark it gets at 7:30 these days. I’m dreading setting the clocks back. I think. I still can’t figure out how that works. Anyway, it was a dark and spooky run. I ran the same path I always run and genuinely could not figure out where I was at points. That dark will get ya.

While I was out, Chris finished and addressed all our thank you cards, our last lingering to do from the wedding. I swear, if I wasn’t already married to that guy, I would have married him all over again. But then that would mean more thank you cards. Oh no.

Wednesday was a day we’d been preparing for at work for a month now. Not knowing what that day would bring, I decided to get my mid-week longer run out of the way on Tuesday. Gotta make hay while the sun shines, right? I ran in the new sneaks but without the new insoles, and my feet were still so sore. I did notice that my form was slightly better, so that’s something.

The 7 miles were tough mentally. I had to decide to keep running almost the entire time rather than just getting into a flow, but I kept on going and got it done. That’s a pretty good confidence boost on a Tuesday night.

Wednesday did end up being a later night so I was glad to have the longer run out of the way. I did my last 3.5 miler of the week with Chris whose foot is feeling better thankfully. I wore the new sneakers without the insoles, and my ankles were a little sore, but I think I’m adjusting.

I came home and did some strength training. I’m still trying to focus on strengthening my outer thigh muscles and abs whenever I can for the next 5-6 weeks before taper starts.

I didn’t have to run Thursday so I used my extra free time to clean our house top to bottom! I also did some arm weights and squats.

Friday, the panic over Saturday’s long run really started to settle in. So, I did the logical thing and went to happy hour. A coworker was leaving for a new job, and we all went out to celebrate. I had two glasses of wine which was probably one too many, but oh well.

Saturday I was up before the sun at 5:45 to eat and settle my stomach before heading out at 7. The first two miles were tough. I’ve had a lot of stuff on my mind lately, and the first two miles of a run are when all that stuff is forced to the surface, so my mental game was a little off. It actually took me until around 6 miles to hit my stride and get into this run.

I kind of hit the wall around 12 miles. I think I went out too fast. I tried to keep the same pace I’d had on last week’s 10 miler, but that proved too fast for the long haul. I stopped and walked for about a tenth of a mile which both helped and hurt. Mentally, it was nice to take a break. Physically it just highlighted how much everything hurt! I ran in my old shoes because I don’t think my feet have adjusted to the new ones, but my old ones are dead, and I felt it.

Luckily, I got a bit of a second wind once I turned around to head home and miles 13-15 weren’t too bad at all. I was so excited to run further than ever before it kept me going.

I’ve got fueling down on the run but I need to work on post run fueling. We had to rush out the door to the wedding as soon as I was showered, so I ate chips in the car as a refuel. Not the post 15 miler I was planning.

I walked around a fair bit Saturday afternoon so I was less sore than I anticipated, but I still spent some time foam rolling and stretching on Sunday.

I really loved this week of running. Instead of adding to the laundry list of other things I had to do, it really helped me clear my head and focus. I love when that happens.

M- 3.5 miles
Tu- 7 miles; foam rolled & stretched
W- 3.5 miles; legs & abs
Th- arms & squats
F- happy hour 🙂
Sa- 15 miles!!!
Su- foam rolled & stretched

Total miles: 29
Total so far: 193.1

Marathon Training Week 9

Last week’s half marathon really highlighted a lot of the muscle weaknesses I have as I wrap up the first half of training. It’s stuff I was already aware of, but feeling how bad it hurt at mile 10 and knowing I’ll have to go 16.2 miles further in 9 weeks sort of woke me up.

I spent Monday night doing some strength training and stretching to work on my hips, lower back and hamstrings. I actually felt a little less sore the next morning, and it only took me an hour, so this is definitely something I can commit to at least once a week.

Tuesday was the standard post work 3 miles. Chris joined me, and the weather was perfect, so this was a great run.

My mid-mid (mid-week, mid-distance) run went from 6 to 7 this week, and that freaked me out more than it probably should have. 6 is manageable. You can run it in an hour (you maybe, not I but still). It’s just two three milers. 7 is long. Despite my dread and some mild stomach issues, it ended up being a great run.

I broke it up into a 4 miler and a 3 miler and reset the treadmill in between. I walked for the first tenth of a mile at the start of the second part of the run, and that seemed to give me a second wind. I watched two episodes of Parenthood and was done by 8:15! Not bad. Plus, I felt awesome afterwards. Like, I was almost manic I was so energized, I even did some grocery shopping on my way home from the gym.

Unfortunately, I had no appetite after coming home and showering, so I had a few bites of pasta and a donut before falling asleep at 10. I think the mix of adrenaline and exhaustion (and sugar!) got to my brain because I had some wild dreams that night.

Thursday was a rest day. I had hoped to get a little strength work in, but we ran some errands in Westfield (including getting new running shoes!) and got back a little late.

Friday I had 4 miles on the schedule. Chris decided to join me for his first run back after (we think) spraining his foot during the half marathon. He thought it might be better by Friday, but it wasn’t, so about halfway through the run, he decided to walk (definitely the right call!). I walked back with him because it was late and dark and not generally a great time to be walking alone with a sore foot. I did some arms and abs and rolled and stretched some more when we got back.

This week was a cut back week on the plan, so I had 10 miles on the schedule for the weekend. It’s been getting cooler lately, so I decided to sleep in a bit before heading out around 10. It was probably a little too late as it was pretty hot when I finished, but I made it. I rolled and stretched again that night then again on Sunday! Look at me being responsible.

M- strength work and stretching
Tu- 3 miles
W- 7 miles
Th- rest
F- 2 mile; arms & abs
Sa- 10 miles
Su- rest with some stretching & rolling

Total miles: 22
Total so far: 164.1

NYCRuns Queens Half Marathon

My marathon training plan called for a half marathon at week 8, and I couldn’t make my usual Newport half. So I looked around for a race in the same timeframe and sort of stumbled upon the Queens Half. Chris has family out there we don’t visit enough, so I figured it’d be a two birds, one stone situation. The $50 price tag definitely didn’t hurt either, so I signed us both up.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but the race was a really great experience! They had three packet pickup options, two before the race in different locations and one on race morning. I love being able to grab my tee shirt and number in advance, so this was pretty nice, and I took advantage of it. I picked up both our packets on Friday after work at Jack Rabbit Union Square. The pickup was awkward as they had crammed everyone in the very back of the store which made it a little chaotic. I’ve never been to Jack Rabbit before and was hoping to do a little shopping, but after grabbing my packet I just wanted to get out of there. Luckily, that was the only snafu of the experience.

We were up before the sun on Sunday and out the door by 6:30. The drive was pretty easy because no one was really on the roads yet. We got to take in some pretty stunning views too.

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Chris drove, and I navigated (poorly). Everyone had warned us that the parking situation would be difficult, but public transportation would have taken us hours. Chris found a nearby garage, and it was well worth the $8 to park there and not have to worry about it. We had a bit of a walk to the start, but it wasn’t too long, and the neighborhood felt safe even at that early hour.

We made it to the race just before the 8am start only to find long bathroom lines. They had like 15 porta potties for almost 1000 runners, so it was a little busy. We sort of panicked because we thought those were the only bathrooms on the course so it was now or much later, but we also didn’t want to miss the start as pre-race emails warned it was starting at 8 on the dot. Thankfully, the race directors decided to push the start back to 8:15 to accommodate everyone waiting in line. That was so awesome of them. I’d never seen that outside of a hometown race before, so that was much appreciated.

The start was really calm and fun. Everyone was just hanging out talking waiting for the start, and just like that, we were off. The course itself was so much better than I was expecting. I knew going in that it would be two loops of Flushing Meadows Park, and figured that would be boring, but it really wasn’t. We passed so many iconic Queens landmarks like the USTA tennis center, Citi Field, the unisphere (big metal globe in the park) and the Queens museum, zoo and theater.

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We crossed a bride to get to the other half of the park which runs around some marsh land and was really beautiful. The course had flooded a bit due to Saturday’s rain, but we were redirected, and the new route was clear and easy to follow.

The course was pancake flat with the only “hill” being the climb up the bridge. The roadways were a little uneven which meant looking down and concentrating on picking up my feet in places, but it was manageable. The first place runner crossed in 1:15 if that gives an indication of the course.

Two loops meant we passed each water stop twice, and they were all stocked with water and Gatorade. It never felt like we went more than 2 miles in between water stops which was great because while the weather was pretty perfect (65 at the start), I did get hot in the sunny stretches. The sun was almost humorously abundant. We kept commenting on what a perfect day it was.

The standouts of the whole race though were the volunteers. They were all over the course and just as cheerful as you could imagine. Volunteers were dancing and clapping and encouraging each individual runner. This is really saying something too because we are not fast. If you’re still that peppy for the last quarter of the pack, you’re an awesome volunteer!

The finish line was run smoothly. We passed the timing mat (our bibs were chipped) and were handed nice medals and cups of water. To keep things moving, they had bagels and fruit farther down the chute. They had tons of food, and the bagels were real NYC bagels with butter and cream cheese! I’m so used to hard dry bagels that I just about cried when I saw the tub of butter. Why don’t more races provide bagel toppings?

Everyone we encountered was just so friendly. We ended up hanging out in the park a bit waiting for Donny to arrive, and I started to get chilly from the bay breeze. Chris asked a volunteer next to a box of extra tee shirts if she could spare one, and she gave him one right away. That was just so nice.

Overall, this was a great race. It was well organized with an interesting course and excellent volunteers. Compared to other races in the area, this was my favorite. It was much more organized than any Rock N Roll race I’ve done. Unlike RNR, this felt like a hometown race rather than a huge spectacle. NYRR races are also very well organized, but they’re so much bigger, which sort of necessitates a “no exceptions” type environment. I can’t see them delaying the start or handing out extra shirts, and those little details help make a race memorable.

On the drive out, I said I couldn’t see us driving to Queens for a race again, but I might seriously reconsider now.

Thanks for a great race day NYCRuns!

Marathon Training Week 8

I had to shift my runs up a day this week to accommodate Thursday night plans. Not used to running on Mondays I just wanted to get it over with, so I picked up my pace, and it felt good to stretch my tired legs out. I stopped wearing my Garmin during the week, and it’s made my runs a lot more enjoyable. If I feel like going faster, I go faster. If I’m beat up from work, I take it slow. I have no time goal for this marathon. I just want to finish, so hopefully this laid back attitude will fit the bill.

Tuesday was a surprisingly great run. I had a rough day at work and a very congested head all day and was not really looking forward to running for over an hour. The weather was very cool and lovely, and even though I ran in the gym, I think it just helped being cool all day and keeping the gym cool. I watched a couple episodes of Parenthood, and the only annoyance of the run was that the treadmill cut out just after an hour. I thought I had it going again, but I think it was just giving me “cool down” time. When I had just a quarter of a mile left, it totally shut off! Talk about momentum busting. Still, I powered that beast back up and did my last little lap. The run definitely felt better than last week’s 6 miler, so that’s progress!

Plus, my wonderful husband had Chinese food waiting for me when I got home, which was basically the most wonderful thing ever.

Wednesday was my last run before the half marathon, and I was ready to be done. Four days in a row is a lot for me, and I was starting to feel it. As always though, after the first mile, I felt a lot better and finished feeling glad I’d run.

My hips and IT bands are starting to get tight, so I spent some time stretching and foam rolling and really did feel better. Also, Dr. Google tells me I have weak abductor muscles (outer hip/thigh). It sounds so odd, but when I run the insides if my heels kick the insides if the opposite ankles. Mostly it happens when I’m tired, so I looked it up, and the internet seems to think it’s due to an imbalance between inner and outer hip muscles. My inner hip muscles are pulling my legs in and my outer muscles are too weak to compensate.

Thursday was my monthly night out with my book club, and I thoroughly enjoyed it with a cheeseburger and a Malbec. We read To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris. It was nothing at all like Amazon described it, but an interesting read. As Amazon describes it is about a man who gets his identity stolen, but it focuses much more on that man’s neuroses and a bizarre cult like religion. This would have been nice to know going in, but it did make for some interesting discussion.

My little cold or allergies or whatever it is is back. Maybe I’m allergic to being at work? Maybe I’m just tired from all this running. I don’t know but my head has felt about 50 lbs too heavy lately.

So I probably should have run some miles between Wednesday and Sunday or at least foam rolled, but I did not. I rested and carb loaded. Does that count?

Sunday we were up bright and early for the Queens Half Marathon by NYC Runs. Chris did all the driving. I did all the getting us lost. The weather was cool and perfect. It was chilly at the start but beautiful and full of sunshine. Perfect running weather. I’ll do a separate recap, but it was a very fun race and a great day. We ended up meeting up with our friend Donny (hi Donny!) who was in town just for the day and luckily right next to us at Citi Field for a Mets Game! We found out we were all in the same area thanks to Instagram so way to go social media!

We spent the rest of the afternoon with family in Astoria eating some of the best Greek food I’ve ever had. It was a perfect long run day.

M- 3 miles
Tu- 6 miles
W- 3 miles
Th- rest
F- rest
Sa- rest
Su- 13.1 miles

Total- 25.1
Total so far- 142.1

This was probably the best week of training this far. I was my usual tired self but the mid week six miles weren’t too bad, and the long run was obviously the most fun yet. I just felt happy and like maybe 26.2 miles is possible after all.

Marathon Training Week 7

This week did not start as planned. I had hoped to get my midweek longer run (6 miles) out of the way Monday since it was a holiday, so I had all day to run. Unfortunately, I kept telling myself Sunday that it was “only” 6 miles, so when I heard the siren call of sleeping in Monday, I didn’t resist. In my defense, the weather was predicted to be rainy and cooler. Imagine my surprise when it was 85 and 90% humidity by 9am. Chris headed out with me, and as we closed in on a mile and a half at like a 12:30 pace we just both decided it wasn’t gonna happen. We finished the 3.5 mile loop back to our house walking the last half a mile. It was just unbearable outside.

Tuesday was another super hot day, and an unusually high charge from Crunch reminded me that I do have a gym membership, so after many months, I headed over there with the intention of doing 3 treadmill miles. I’d been feeling sick all day and couldn’t decide if it was allergies or a cold, but I figured it was better to get my 6 miles out of the way in case I woke up sick the next day. That run took every trick in my book. I covered the clock. I watched Parenthood on my phone. I turned the treadmill off then back on after 3 miles to trick my brain into thinking I was running fewer miles. I stopped and walked once. I just was not feeling it. It wasn’t pretty, but it got done.

Wednesday wasn’t too much better. It was slightly cooler, and Chris wanted to run with me, so we ran outside. Again, though, I just couldn’t get into it. It just wasn’t my week for running, but I got it done.

Thursday was a bit better but I still felt lethargic. I started taking Claritin for the allergy symptoms I was having. I figured the meds were making me sleepy since non-drowsy really just means only-mildly-drowsing, but now I’m thinking I actually had a little cold. I just felt run down! The workouts were quickies I found on Pinterest and did in the basement. I think once this marathon is over, I might enlist a trainer to help me learn my way around the weight room and develop a routine. I did more weight stuff leading up to the wedding, and even unguided the results were pretty awesome. I’d definitely like to see more gains! For now, I’m just trying to strengthen my core to to support all these miles.

Friday was a total rest day in preparation for my long run Saturday. Only… the heat would not quit. I woke up at 7 after a sort of restless night and checked the weather on my phone while brushing my teeth… 80 freaking degrees! At 7:05. If it had been a shorter distance, I might have done it, but knowing I’d still be out there at 9:30 when the temps got up into the 90s, I decided to push it off a day. The rest of the day proved my decision right. It was insanely hot. I took my bike out for a quick 5 miles, and it was a total sweat fest. Gross.

Luckily, Sunday was so much better. Even though I woke up an hour later than I planned, the weather was perfect, and the miles got done. I felt much more motivated than I had all week. I don’t know if it was a cold or allergies still, but I’m glad to feel better. I focused a lot on my pace because I’ve been positive splitting something awful. I did feel like I was in slow motion for the first half of the run, but by the end I was so glad I went slow, and I did negative split! I worked a little on fueling too with some gels and lots of water. All in all, a successful long run!

M- 3 miles
Tu- 6 miles
W- 3 miles
Th- arms, abs & squats
F- rest
Sa- a little cycling around town
Su- 12 miles

Total miles: 24
Total so far: 117

Marathon Training Week 6

The theme of this week was HOT. The first real heat of August came this week, but I can’t even complain because it has been a seriously beautiful summer.

Chris and I took off work Monday to head to the beach for the first time this year. It’s been a busy summer, but we wanted to go at least once since it’s only an hour away. We got some ocean swimming in which I’m totally counting as cross training.

Tuesday and Wednesday felt so great. Having two full days of rest made such a difference and my 5th mile Wednesday was actually my fastest. Then Thursday came and I was just NOT FEELING IT. I don’t know why because it was about 15* cooler than the rest of the week and just perfect running weather, but I literally had to kick my own butt out the door. Some days, you just don’t feel it. I really love the structure of this running plan though. Doing all my midweek runs together leaves me slightly burnt out by Thursday, but I find myself willing to get it done knowing I have Friday off.

Saturday’s run was a nice treat because it was a step back week, and I got to run the whole thing with Chris. I even threw in an extra mile to sync up with his schedule. We left later than I usually do, and I couldn’t believe how much the heat took out of me. Still, having a companion made the miles fly by.

M- swimming in the ocean totally counts as cross training. Right?
Tu- 3 miles
W- 5 miles
Th- 3 miles
F- arms & abs workout
Sa- 8 miles
Su- rest
Total- 19 miles
Total so far- 93

I did have a scary realization this week. I looked ahead on my training plan (not advised) and realized this is my last week of a midweek 5 mile run. From here, I get into the 6-10 mile range. Midweek. It takes me over an hour to run six miles. Slow runner problems. My options at that point are either wake up at 4:30 to get the miles in or run until 9 at night. Neither option is really appealing, but I’m trying to stay committed, so I’ve been researching night time running gear. Oy. The good (?) news is despite canceling my gym membership in April, they never stopped billing me, so I guess there’s still that option. Unfortunately, that only works for night as they don’t open until 5am. We’ll see. I can’t believe I’m already one third of the way there! Let’s do this thing!