Tag Archives: Training

Tapering for NYC

The NYC Marathon finish line bleachers being set up today, with some fall color in the trees finally.

I’ve made it through 19 weeks of training and now I’m tapering for the NYC Marathon that’s in a little over a week!


In those 19 weeks of training, I’ve gone on 54 runs for a total of 336 miles.  That sounds like a lot until you divide it up and realize my weekly volume was only 18 miles/week and I only went on 3 runs per week, on average.  However, I did totally skip two weeks while on vacation in the Pacific Northwest (one of the best places to run, I know, ironic), and in the 10th week I ran only once because of travel to see the solar eclipse.  Also, while I’ve been plagued by knee pain since I’ve been running again (hello darkness my old friend), it’s gotten worse in the last two weeks, and has even cut short (and cancelled) a few of my runs.

The finish line pavilion is also coming along.

Encountering sharp knee pain during my taper has… not been great for my mental game.  After a successful 18 mile tune up and another 19 mile run on my own, I felt great.  My legs felt strong, I felt strong, heck, I even felt refreshed.  But then I started my taper, and suddenly I’m having this knee pain issue, and I can only shake my fist at the sky and shout, “why, God, why have you sent me knee pain when I’ve prudently built up a base and am resting even more now?”

A picture of the pavilion from October 19 (but with the carriages instead of the cars it looks like a few decades ago).

Of course, God doesn’t answer, either because he’s not real or he’s not a runner (do not try to tell me he ran in those sandals like a Tarahumara).  And so I look to a more trustworthy source, my PT.  He tells me to stretch and ice (and ice and ice) and he periodically inflicts searing pain works my knots out and tells me to rest and stretch and ice some more.  But even he doesn’t have the answer as to why my knees are hurting now more than ever.


So, I keep tapering.  I’m tapering hard.  So much taper.  And I’m still carbo-loading (since summer ’77)!  And I’m still dreaming of the expo and race morning prep and all the fun non-marathon things I’ll get to do after the race… But I’m not thinking much about the race itself anymore.  Maybe because it’s such an unknown again?  When training was going well, I was kicking myself for not signing up for another state and making progress on my 50 states goal.  I’ve never repeated a state!  But then I remember why I signed up for NYC – because if things go upside-down, I can easily pull the plug at any time with very little on the line.  No flight, no hotel, no missed state, no pressure.  And I might have to use that escape hatch after all.

The NYC Marathon app is now available for free in the app store, and lets you track runners and has helpful info like maps and more.

You can also use these amazingly cute NYC Marathon stickers in your texts (on updated iOS, for free in the app store).

My goals for this race are, in order of importance:  (1) to not injure myself (further), (2) to finish, (3) to get negative splits (even by sandbagging the first half), (4) to finish in 5:30 hours or less, and (5) to enjoy it?  I’ve already signed up for three more marathons next year, with plans to sign up for 5 more after that.  And then 18 more after that…  Plus I’d really like to run Tokyo… and Athens… and London… and Antartica…  I guess I’ll just have to keep praying to the PT Gods…


How much do you love/hate the taper?  What should my spending limit at the expo be?  Do you think the more frequently I check the weather forecast, the less likely there will be rain?  Share in the comments!

18 Mile Tune-Up – 18 Miles is a Lot of Miles – Sept 17, 2017

In the corral behind the 12:00 pacer – look at the hazy sky!

Yesterday I ran one of my favorite NYRR races – the NYRR 18 Mile Marathon Tune-Up in Central Park.  It’s three full 6-mile loops of the park and geared towards runners with fall marathons.


Although it’s supposed to be specifically timed for the NYC Marathon, because of my “beginner” training schedule it was 4 miles more than I was scheduled to run.  My trainer said it would be ok if I ran it, and that I could lower my mileage earlier that week and/or just bail after 14 miles and not finish the race if I didn’t feel like it.  “You’re the boss!” she wrote.


I tried to keep that in mind as my nerves got the best of me in the week before this race.  I’ve been having some left calf cramping issues (that’s the leg I broke last year which withered away) and I still can’t quite mentally believe I can run long distances after being a gimp for so long.  So my mantra heading into this race was “go slow, don’t step in a pothole, and you can always stop.”  Not very catchy but it was effective.


I stuffed my running belt and bra with Gu, gummies, and a last minute addition of candy corn pumpkins (which turned out to be really great since they were a tasty way to get sugar that didn’t stick in my teeth like the gummies always do!) and hopped in a cab to the upper east side.  I wasn’t going to exert any more energy than necessary that morning!


I lined up in the last corral so I wouldn’t feel pushed to run too fast at the start.  That strategy didn’t work as well as I had hoped, as many late, fast runners blew past me during the first mile or so.  But it wasn’t just the super fast runners blowing past me – for some reason my stupid calf decided to seize up right at the start of the race.  Maybe it was because the first thing we had to run was down the Harlem hills – not an ideal way to start any race.  Whatever it was, I had to walk and even stop and stretch my calf several times, being careful not to overstretch it and send it into a real spasm.  Eventually I felt like I could run a few steps on it, and a few steps evolved into a few more, and after about 1.5 miles it finally started to loosen up and feel almost normal.  By mile 4, I finally felt pretty good and was even cautiously optimistic about my chances of finishing the whole race.



It was a hot, humid day with a “real feel” of 86 degrees by the time I finished running.  It was so humid you couldn’t even see the skyline in midtown from the park!  At least it was overcast, and one could even argue the heat and humidity helped keep me honest and slow.  I would argue my out-of-shape body helped keep me slow, but whatever.  I plodded along mile after mile, sometimes hurting, sometimes feeling ok, but mostly thrilled that I was out there actually doing what seemed impossible only a few months ago.


A couple of random things I saw/heard on the course:

  • A man in a business suit on a Segway with giant tires, speeding up Cat Hill, with spectators laughing at him behind his back.
  • A runner so sweaty that his legs had soap bubbles all over them – maybe from the detergent still on his shorts?  It was unclear and I didn’t stop to ask.
  • At the start of my second loop, the announcer saying “That’s a big smile!  That is a… big smile…”


And just like that, I was finished.  Haha, no, just kidding, it was endless and took me almost four hours.  But yes, eventually I finished with a big smile still on my face and a bagel in my mouth.

So happy I found the finish!

Along the 6-mile looped course, they had water stops at every mile (aka 6 times), Gatorade twice, and PowerGel once (so you passed the Gel station three times during the race).  At the finish, however, they only offered cups of water and Gatorade, cut up bananas, and plain bagels.  Luckily I had a ton of food waiting for me at home (ground beef burrito for the win!), along with a massage and a lot of Netflix to catch up on.  Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.


In other news, the tech shirt for this race was quite a bit larger than the tech shirts earlier this year.  Maybe they got the memo that a woman’s extra large shouldn’t be skin tight on a size 10?  There’s no medal besides your aching legs.

The tech shirt for the race (front and back, women’s XL). It’s nice!

Today I have done a lot of nothing except realize that I have three NYRR races in three weeks – this one, the Bronx 10 Miler next Sunday, and Grete’s Great Gallop the Sunday after that.  Hope to see you out there!


Have your legs ever gotten soapy while running?  What’s your favorite thing to eat after a long run?  Have you ever tried the Trader Joe’s Pita Chips with Cinnamon & Sugar?  Share in the comments!

Couch to 5K – Finally “Running” Again

April showers bring April flowers.

11 months after breaking my ankle, I’ve finally started running again (for real this time, I hope, knock wood!).  The best part has been seeing all the beautiful spring flowers!

Last week I started the Couch to 5K program (using the free app).  The first week has you walk for 5 minutes, then run for 60 seconds and walk for 90 seconds for eight repetitions, followed by another 5 minutes of walking.  The entire workout is only 30 minutes, which I appreciated more than I’d like to admit.  The timer (a bell plus a woman’s voice telling you to “start running” or “begin walking“) keeps me honest as I ease back into this whole running thing again after so long.  I’m basically starting over as a runner, only this time I’m 13 years older and have a deep-seated fear of breaking my ankle again.  On the plus side I know which flavors of Gu I like and I have all sorts of gear.  I feel like such a poser heading out in my bright tights and fancy shoes and running belt for my 60 seconds of jogging!  Maybe bringing all the snacks is overkill?  Nah…


I’m doing the second week now, which has bumped me up to a full 90 seconds of running and 2 minutes of walking (but only six repetitions of each, so it’s still only 20 minutes long).  The saddest thing is that I really feel those additional 30 seconds of running.  If you saw me out there with my slow trot and constant starting and stopping, you’d be more likely to suggest I take up knitting than try running the NYC Marathon in 27 weeks.

Even this squirrel is skeptical.

I hope there are no more 11-month tapers in my future, and that running nonstop for 30 minutes doesn’t ever seem like an insurmountable goal again, because all this not running has really put a damper on my fun-times candy-consumption.  My Garmin also seems to have given up the ghost during this long time off.  Time to buy a new watch?


Do you have any GPS & heart rate watch recommendations?  Have you ever taken a year off from running?  Did you score any good deals on Easter candy?  Share in the comments!

Praise Cheeses!

I'm thankful for cheese and running.

Appropriate shirt for my first run back, as I’m thankful for both cheese and running.

I went for a run tonight for the first time in 13 1/2 weeks!!!  My PT ok’d it as long as I took it really easy – like run a block, walk a block, and don’t do anything that hurts.  So I picked the flattest, easiest, emptiest path in Riverside Park and tried jogging a few steps.  In the beginning, my ankle felt quite stiff and started to hurt after only 30 steps or so (at which time I immediately stopped to walk), but after a while it warmed up a bit and I was able to jog a block or two without stopping.  My average pace for the two miles I walked completed was 15:15 per mile, which is slower than my non-injured walking pace, and it was so hot and humid it felt like swimming on land, but I was still thrilled to be out there!


I’m going to keep taking it really easy and I’m not going to try running every day, but this is a HUGE step for me (no pun intended).  I’m finally a runner again!


How are you dealing with the summer heat?  Do you still cook in this weather?  What’s your favorite cheese?  Share in the comments!

Cadence of LSR LSD 16 mile terrible run

Last (Terrible) Long Run Before Chicago

Cadence of LSR LSD 16 mile terrible run

As you can see, I stopped to walk almost every 1/4 mile. Just horrible.

Today I covered 16 miles – my last long run before Chicago in 2 weeks.  I realize 16 miles is not really long enough for my longest run, nor is 2 weeks long enough for a taper, but I’m still operating with injury, so I’m just crossing my fingers for a finish in Chicago.


I hope both of my race theories are correct, because today’s long run was so miserably horrible I don’t even know what to say.  There was a never a moment during the entire 16 miles (which took 3 1/2 hours, mind you, which means I’ll be running just ahead of the sag wagon cutoff of 6 1/2 hours in Chicago) that I was happy to be running.  It was a beautiful day outside (sunny and low 80s) and all I could think about was how I hated this warm weather.  I never seemed able to catch my breath, and I sweat so much I was almost instantly covered in gritty salt crystals that I felt grind into my skin every time I brushed the sweat away.  The entire endeavor was an exercise in sheer willpower, and left me totally drained for the rest of the day, so I haven’t done anything besides order in delivery (too tired to grocery shop and I don’t have anything fresh since I haven’t been home for 1.5 weeks) and sorta watch TV while aimlessly reading the interwebs.


It’s rare when running seems like such a slog (especially on a beautiful day), but sometimes it does, and I think it’s part of running to recognize those moments when you just can’t enjoy being out there.  Sometimes we have bad days and bad runs and that’s ok.  I’m just hoping my aches and pains don’t get worse and I’ll be able to rest and recover now that I’m back home from Washington.  I promise to post the Blerch recap tomorrow – I just don’t have it in me today.


What do you do when you have a really bad run?  Are you enjoying this warm weather or do you wish fall would get here already?  Does the fact that my ivy plant bloomed while I was gone mean anything?  Share in the comments!

6 8 13 16 26.2

Race Theory #1 – 2, 4, 6, 8, What Do We Appreciate? Running!

6 8 13 16 26.2


I have a couple of weird race theories (literally two).  The first concerns the distance I need to be able to run to be able to finish a marathon.  It goes:  If I can run 6 miles, I can run 8.  If I can run 8, I can run 13.  If I can run 13, I can run 16.  And if I can run 16, I can finish a marathon.  Using the transitive property I learned in high school math, one can conclude that if I can run 6 miles I can run a marathon.


Ok, I don’t really believe that.  But I do feel like if I simply hit those target numbers in-between (8, 13, 16), I can finish a full marathon.  Emphasis on finish, since I’m not talking about speed or time goals or anything.  I never aim to only hit those numbers, and I don’t think I’ve ever actually only hit those numbers (e.g., I don’t think I’ve ever only done 4 weeks of training for a marathon), but those are my psychological milestones.  Eighteen miles is definitely the icing on the cake, but I don’t know if I’ll be hitting 18 this time, and I’ve run a couple of marathons without ever hitting 18 (but hitting 16 more than once).


Last week (actually this Tuesday morning) I ran 8 of the slowest, sweatiest miles of my life.  Today I ran 10 miles, almost as slowly but not as agonizingly hot.  That means that I think finishing the half at Beat the Blerch should be completely do-able, and Chicago is looking pretty good (knock wood).  Luckily, the next race on my book is the Pizza Run this Saturday, in which you run about 2 miles and eat 3 slices of pizza – my kind of race.  Unluckily, I suffered from some serious heartburn during my run today, which was really strange because I didn’t eat anything particularly unusual beforehand (multiple ice cream treats and chocolates is not unusual, ok?), and I never, ever get heartburn, so maybe it was just my body getting me ready for any potential problems at the Pizza Run.  I better practice eating pizza this week just in case.



I’ll share my second race theory tomorrow.



As always, never base your training on my terrible example, unless you’re using it as what not to do.  At any rate, how’s your training/recovery going?  Do you think we’ve reached the pinnacle of reality dating TV shows this summer?  Are you disturbed that the hottest weather we’ve gotten this year has been in September?  Share in the comments!

First Run in Over a Month!

Slush in NYC

That’s all slushy water at that crosswalk. Deep and delicious.

Today I went for my first run in over a month (breaking my “opposite run streak,” as it were).  It was only 2 miles, but it felt ok, so I’m pretty sure my marathon in a little over a week will be no problem.


Ok, not really.  The idea of going to Little Rock and covering 26.2 miles under my own power sounds insane.  After terrible pain after a short run in mid-January, I wanted to take some time off, but I didn’t think it would be this long, and I didn’t think I wouldn’t run a single step during my long trip out west.  I also didn’t think I’d gain even more weight during the cruise… Ok, I thought that was definitely possible, but those 3 extra pounds on top of the 10 extra pounds I’m already carrying do not fit into my marathon plans, much less my pants.


Luckily, I wear tights, not pants, when I run.  When I got back to NYC, I kept waiting for it to warm up enough so I could run outside and not crack my tailbone on black ice, or drown in a river of slush dammed up by mountains of dirty snow.  Today it finally hit 40, and after a rainy morning I headed out to Central Park.  I was about to run the carriage trail to the reservoir when I saw it was still fully covered in slushy white snow.  (I don’t know why I was expecting it to be clear.)  Instead of soaking my feet I ran the short, paved lower loop of the park.  Not surprisingly, it felt like I hadn’t run in over a month.


I still hope to get a longer (at least 6?  maybe 8?  even 10?) mile run/walk in this week before making the final decision on Little Rock, but all signs point to me flying out there and at least attempting to walk it.  The time limit is 6 hours for a normal start, which means I’d have to average 13:43 per mile, which sounds do-able until I realize I’ll be walking the majority of the race, and I can’t walk that fast, especially if I need to stop for any reason.


At any rate, it was nice to be able to run today, even if it was for only 2 miles, and I hope to get back into this whole bizarre running thing again.  And when it’s humid and 95 this summer, I will remember this terrible winter and be even more annoyed at the continuing bad weather.


How’s your training going?  Are you watching the TV show Opposite Worlds?  Did you think I was going to say I’d be ok with horribly hot weather because of the cold winter?  Share in the comments!

Where's the Finish Panda

Training page updated with resources

Wanted to let you all know that I updated my “Training” page with a lot more information, including a long list of free marathon training programs available online, ready and waiting for your next marathon adventure.


I also uploaded two PDFs I made – one of a running log you can use to keep track of your training, and another one-sheet of my interval training exercises (modified and expanded from the recent NY Times article citing research indicating that these simple body-weight exercises can improve cardiovascular fitness as much as longer bouts of steady-state exercise).  It’s the only at-home workout that I’ve actually stuck to, since (1) it doesn’t require setting up a video, remembering complicated exercises, or using any equipment, (2) it’s very quick (even when I throw in a couple extra exercises from the “additional” section it only takes me about 22 minutes to go through the entire cycle twice), and (3) it’s a legitimately good workout (I’m literally dripping sweat by the end – definitely do the exercises on a towel if you’re like me!).


To try to stay organized, I use a binder to hold photocopies of the running log (52 copies, one for each week of the year), and use the clear pocket on the cover of the binder to hold the list of interval training exercises so I can reference it with sweaty hands.  There are lots of free apps available to help you keep track of your intervals.  I use “Interval Timer – Timing for HIIT Training and Workouts” that’s free (with ads) for iPhones.  It can be set to sound a bell every 30 seconds, 10 seconds, 30 seconds, etc. so you don’t have to look at a clock or your watch.


I hope these resources help you get to the starting (and finish!) line of your next marathon!


In case you had me confused with someone else, I’m not a certified trainer or fitness professional.  Please consult a doctor before beginning any exercise plan.

NYRR Central Park 18 mile Tune Up 2013

18 Miles… Tomorrow?

NYRR Central Park 18 mile Tune Up 2013

I’m running 18 miles and all I get is this lousy t-shirt?

So I’m doing what now tomorrow?  18 miles you say?  You must be joking.  The idea of me running 18 miles (3 full loops of Central Park) right now is laughable.  It’s like a dog riding a bicycle, or a monkey making pancakes.  Maybe they could do it, but it’s gonna be messy and take a long time.


It’s times like these when I feel like the biggest long distance running fraud.  My friends and family think I’m a marathoner, a distance runner who laughs at anything less than 26 miles.  In reality I’m an out-of-shape, constantly injured couch potato who mostly surfs the interweb and eats candy.  How I got those medals I’ll never know.  Tomorrow’s “race” is actually called a “tune up,” as in, “after you run these 18 miles you’ll be all tuned up for your next marathon!”  How running 18 miles could make anyone feel tuned up for anything besides sitting on the couch eating burritos and binge-watching House of Cards is anyone’s guess.  But I guess that will be my reward tomorrow.  That and not having this dreadful race hanging over my head anymore.  This will be the fifth (!) time I’ve run the NYRR 18-mile Tune Up, and I can tell you that it’s an honor just to be nominated.  I hope I finish right next to that dog on a bicycle and eat some pancakes with that monkey.


Have you run the NYRR 18 Mile Tune Up?  Do you enjoy torturing yourself?  Share in the comments!

Where to Run in Westchester? Try Ward Pound Ridge Reservation!

Rocks galore at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation.  Mosquitos and biting flies not pictured.

Rocks galore at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. Mosquitos and biting flies not pictured.

I was exceedingly anxious about my LSR today in Westchester as I was heading into the unknown and running the trails at the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation.  I shouldn’t have been so nervous, because the thing that ultimately ended my run prematurely (only managed 6.5 miles instead of 15) was not the lack of facilities or even the incredibly rocky path but rather the mosquitos and biting flies.


The run started on a sour note because I had forgotten my Camelbak at home, so I had to carry a water bottle by hand.  I hate hand-carrying water, but I barely noticed the bottle during the run because there were about 5,000 other more annoying things occupying my attention.  The first, most obvious difference on this run compared to my cradle that is Central Park were the rocky trails.  They were rockier than I expected and I was unprepared both physically (as a road runner) and equipment-wise (my soft road shoes were equally not up for the challenge).  The rocks varied from large, softball sized rocks to smaller slippery, shale pebbles to giant, half-submerged boulders.  Oftentimes the trail was partially washed away, creating gullies and exposing yet more rocks.  Rocks are not kind on the knees.  Neither is having to dodge them and change direction, making sure not to roll an ankle or trip and fall.  After about 2 miles, I thought about turning around and calling it a day, but I pushed down my discomfort because today was my LSR, danggit, and I wanted to cover at least one 5.7 mile red-blazed loop.  When the bugs started fiercely attacking at mile 3, I realized I had made a huge mistake.


Typical scenery at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation.

Typical scenery at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation.

My knee started complaining more vociferously after mile 3 but every time I stopped to take a walk break the bugs would be whining right by my ears, sometimes actually landing inside my ears, and I’d flap my arms and swat at my head like a crazy person.  The rocks were relentless, the bugs equally so, and I still had 3 more miles (at about an 18:00 min/mile pace at this point) to go.  I tried to tell myself the experience would make me a better runner, but really it just made me re-think my romantic plans to hike the Appalachian Trail or even attempt any sort of trail race anytime soon.


The “Pound” in Ward Pound Ridge Reservation is derived from the animal pounds the Indians kept in the area – keeping deer “on the hoof” until they needed them for food.  I felt like a trapped deer myself, swatting at the ceaseless onslaught of insects.  The bug spray I applied before the run did nothing to keep them away, although it might have helped against the highly probable ticks in the area.


Here is the most scenic spot along the red loop in WPRR.  Enjoy it.

Here is the most scenic spot along the red loop in WPRR. The irony that it is a giant pile of rocks is not lost on me.

I stopped to take a few photos here and there, so you could see all the rocks and the non-beauty that I enjoyed.  There was one semi-scenic area along the red trail loop, and I made sure to get a photo of it to save you the bother of ever trying to see it yourself.  At some point the red/green trail I started on turned into red/yellow, and eventually I came upon a major fork in the road that clearly indicated red was to the left.  I double-checked the map I was carrying and headed to the left, thinking I was less than half a mile from the parking lot.


More rocks on the red and yellow trail at WPRR.

More rocks on the red and yellow trail at WPRR.

After heading along the yellow trail for a while I came across a group of hikers and asked them if the parking lot was just ahead.  The leader in the group told me that the parking lot was in the opposite direction!  He showed me where I was on my map, and the group agreed the navigation in the park “wasn’t intuitive.”  I thanked him and told him my run had been pretty miserable because of all of the biting flies.  He said, “Yeah, that’s funny because they all died off a couple of weeks ago, but they’re back now.”  I wanted to say, “you knew about the biting flies and yet you hike here anyway?!” but since he had just saved me from another fruitless three mile loop in the wrong direction, I just thanked him and trotted off.

Which direction is the red trail?  Yeah, actually opposite of that.

Which direction is the red trail? Yeah, actually opposite of that.

When I reached the signpost again I took a picture to document the red-trail left turn it indicated, then went the opposite direction and found the parking lot not more than 50 yards down the path.  I had never been so happy to hit a parking lot and felt like I had just survived a Bear Grylls challenge.


There’s no simple “equivalence” formula of a mile on a trail to a mile on the road, but it definitely felt like more than 6.5 miles on my legs.  I’m still disappointed I didn’t get in a solid 15 today, but at least this LSR wasn’t critical to my marathon training (versus, say, my 18-miler would be), so I’m trying not to sweat it.  Needless to say, I would not recommend WPRR as a running destination, although I did encounter about 5 other runners during my almost 2 hour slog through the woods, and none of them seemed as miserable as I was.  It was “interesting” to try the WPRR trails for the first time, but I’m going to give an extra big kiss and hug to Central Park when I return.


Do you run on trails?  Do you have problems with bugs?  Share in the comments!