Tag Archives: Running

Marathon Recap

Well it has taken me a while to sit down to write out my thoughts/feelings about Sunday’s race, but that’s partly because it took me a while to process such a huge experience.


Mom, me and Jay at the finishing area the day before the race

I was so much more relaxed going into this year’s marathon.  Jay was quite busy gearing up at work, but Mom was here making soup and cookies while I painted my nails purple.  It was all pretty chill until Saturday afternoon.  Then reality, excitement and fear started to settle in.

I didn’t sleep a wink Saturday night.  Jay got up at 3am to head into work and then to the start village where he’d be field-producing the pre-race coverage.  My alarm was set for 5am, at which point I got dressed, made my UCAN breakfast to drink later, looked over my checklist to be sure I didn’t forget anything, and kissed my mom goodbye.  I walked out the door to find an adorable poster attached to the “wet floor” sign in our hallway thanks to my wonderful neighbor.  I flagged a cab to Union Square where I met up with the rest of the Alzheimer’s team for a 5:45am team picture and a 6am departure.  Our friend Amy from out of town hitched a ride with the team, so I had someone to distract me on the ride over.  I ate my over-night oats and stared out the window.  Once in Staten Island, we had to go through several security checks.  One officer was concerned about the chia seeds in my water, saying it looked like metal balls floating in a bottle (because that’s what metal balls do… they float… right.)  We were not permitted to bring any opaque bags, which included trash bags to sit on, so I just had to hide mine in my pocket.  Really, the list of items you could or could not bring totally depended on the security guard that stopped you.

Once in, Amy and I walked over to where ABC was producing their coverage.  Amy used to work at the station, so she was just as eager to see the news crew as I was.  We got hugs of encouragement during a commercial break, and then it was back to business.  Amy left to find the blue section of the village, and I stayed by the ABC staging area because it happened to be in the green section of the village (and I was in Green Wave #1).  At one point I felt a jacket plop down on me from above and looked up to see Jay on the other side of the barrier, headset still on, mouthing ‘keep warm!’  It was pretty chilly and windy out there.


Amy, Kim, Jay and me at the WABC staging area in the start village

Right before my coral opened, I drank my UCAN and changed my shoes/socks, shedding a few layers and returning Jay’s jacket.  He mouthed from the stage, ‘I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!’ and we waved goodbye.  The corrals were lined with porto-potties and I made two stops for good measure.  Then it was time to line up.  It was cold, but time to strip down to the essentials.  I tried to throw my jacket over to the side of the crowd, but elbowed some woman in the head in the process.  I felt reeeeallly bad about that.

And then I heard, “On your marks, get set, go!”

I said, “That’s it??” and then slowly made my way with hundreds of runners to the start mats.  To my knowledge, there was no clock at the start mats–this proved problematic later.  I had no idea how much time had lapsed since the gun-time, so it was hard to gauge my pace.  The green wave runs on the lower level of the Verrazano Bridge, so I had no satellite reception to help me out.  People following me on their computers had a better sense of how I was running than I did.

I knew my first mile would be slow and my second mile would be fast.  I didn’t try to weave through people.  I just went with the flow and surged when I saw an opening.  It was actually less crowded than I imagined.  And despite rumors that runners on the lower level of the bridge get peed on, I did not see (or feel) any evidence to support the claim.

Coming off the bridge I felt the tongue of my left shoe putting pressure on the top of my foot.  I decided to pull over and adjust, thinking it would be better to lose a few seconds than run uncomfortably 24 miles more.

And then I just ran.  The miles went by quickly.  I was comfortable and kept reminding myself not to go out too fast.  My Garmin would say 8:00 or 7:55 pace, and I’d pull back.  I told myself to save it for Central Park.

Brooklyn gets the prize for best cheering.  The crowds were just awesome.  And the fact that I got to see my friends Becca, Bianca and Nick between miles 11 and 12 gave me something to look forward to and then carry with me.  Every few minutes I’d cross another timing mat and think, ‘Alright friends and family, now you know where I am…’ I especially wondered how Jay was feeling about my splits since he gets concerned as a husband but pushes me as a coach.

At one point I crossed Norman Street in Brooklyn–felt like Aimee was smiling down on me running around the streets of her favorite city.

And then it was time for the Queensboro Bridge.  It’s a beast.  I had run over it twice in the past several weeks, so I was mentally prepared.  Right as I reached the bridge a live band was playing “Eye of the Tiger” and that made me laugh as I started to ascend.  The bridges are the quietest part of the marathon–the only stretches where fans aren’t stacked 5 deep.  But then coming back down the Queensboro bridge, you begin to hear the 1st Ave crowds.  As I ran down the exit ramp, not yet seeing the crowds but hearing them cheer, I blurted out “Holy ****!” It’s that kind of moment.  On 1st Ave I knew my legs were starting to get tired, but also I knew I had less than 10 miles to go.  I started counting the streets as we headed north, knowing I’d see some familiar faces at 88th.

Suddenly my dear friend Tanya was running toward me.  I knew she planned to jump in at 88th, but I was still surprised when it happened.  She had a bib, but it’s just so easy to miss people when you are 1 of millions.  We waved to a bunch of teammates and took off.  Tanya told me my last 5k was a few seconds off pace, so we picked it up.  She filled me in on who had won and how some of our elite friends had fared.  And then she basically distracted, encouraged, and pushed me the rest of the race.  We dedicated miles to my family.  We dedicated miles to her family.  We dedicated miles to things I can’t repeat.  We talked about my Grandma Lucy who I was racing in memory of.  We talked about Tanya’s mother who had purple hair (though she thought it was red) like me.  And really when I say “we talked” I mean I listened to Tanya talk.  She ran ahead to get water or Gatorade for me.  She made me do crazy things like striders (to stretch my legs a bit) and butt kicks (to loosen my quads) and high knees (to make me look silly).  People running near us were probably like ‘who is the girl with so much energy?’ But they didn’t have to wonder for long because while others were slowing down, we were speeding up.

And this is where it gets tricky.  We slowed some on the 3/4 mile slight incline (feels less slight after 20 miles) that is 5th Ave.  Tanya helped me push through by giving me landmarks to strive toward.  Then we turned into the Engineers Gate entrance of Central Park and I knew I was almost home-free.  I run in the park several times a week.  I know every curve, straightaway, up and down.  I was in “lets-do-this” mode.  So Tanya started to pick it up.  It hurt.  But I thought, ‘I can do anything for 3 miles–the faster I run the sooner I’m done.’ And we just kept passing people left and right.  She stopped counting at 50.  At one point she said, “There’s a woman up there with wings on her shoes.”  I looked up and said, “That’s Carol–she’s awesome.”  Tanya ran up beside Carol and said, “I’m running with Lauren.  Come finish with us.”  I caught up and said, “Come with us Carol.”  She smiled and said, “Good job Lauren.”  And we went on.  I knew Carol’s goal was 3:30 and lots of people around us were wearing 3:30 pace bibs as well.  I think Tanya and I both thought we had a BQ in the bag at this point.  Her Garmin was reading sub-8 pace (mine was too, though I didn’t look at it until after the race).  I almost said to her, “We’ve got this, we can cruise in now.”  But I kept quiet and kept pushing.  And we kept getting faster.  We exited at 7th Ave to run along 59th and I could see Columbus Circle up ahead.  “You’re so strong, Lauren.  Give it everything you’ve got!” Tanya said.  We hung a right at the circle and re-entered the park for the home stretch.  I saw the sign for 400 meters, then 300, then 200 (where the shortest and hardest incline of the race is located), then 100… then with arms up in the air and a huge smile, I crossed the finish.  My hips were screaming at me, but I felt amazing.

I walked a few steps, remembered to stop my Garmin, and looked at the screen for the first time in 9 miles.  It said 3:35:11.  I turned to Tanya and said, “My watch has been all over the place, but it’s possible I didn’t break 3:35.”  She pulled out her phone to check my finishing time on the NYCM App… sure enough, 3:35:07.  I threw my arm over her shoulder and said, “Honestly, I didn’t have another 7 seconds in me–If that’s my time, I’m totally happy with it.”  And then she pretty much carried me for a mile of walking, which is impressive if you know how petite Tanya is.


Some non-creepy stranger took this pic of me leaning on Tanya at the finish

We found Jay, beaming with pride, and then my Mom jumping up and down.  I PR’d by over 16 minutes.  It was an amazing race. A-MAZ-ING.  Truly.

Jay, Mom and I swung by the Team Alzheimer’s after-party for an hour or so before I decided I needed to get off my feet and on the couch.  I soaked in the tub and we ordered take-out from Bare Burger.  The further I got from the race, the more obsessed I became with those 7 seconds.

Monday came and I was up early for class.  Mom had to catch her train back to VA and Jay had to head into work.  Before Jay left I said, “If there happen to be any marathons close by in the next few weeks…” He said, “My wheels are already turning.”

That night I went to the Team Alzheimer’s happy hour to celebrate all we had accomplished together–raising over $435,000 is pretty awesome!  I was especially eager to hear about the races for our several first-timers.  You only get one first marathon.

Talking to the team coaches, we all agreed that I ran a great race but probably went out too conservatively and had too much left in the tank at the finish.  One coach suggested I run the Rohoboth Beach marathon in 4 weeks and even offered to pace me since he’s running it (for fun) anyway.  I texted Jay as I left the bar: “DE in 4 weeks.” He responded, “I know.  Tanya and I talked about it.”  And then proceeded to tell me they’d both go and run with me if I wanted to do it.  With two beers and 3 sliders in my belly, I was feeling confident.  Walking home I pretty much decided my body could handle it, I’m healthy, and it’s sure as heck easier to run another in 4 weeks than it is to train countless hours for a race next year.  I told myself I’d wait till my massage the next day to see if Leslie thought my legs were up to the challenge.

But the next day I woke up and felt differently.  Instead of stewing over 7 seconds, I started to relish in the freedom of no training, no plan, and no goals.  I reflected again on how awesome my race was, how hard I pushed and how happy I was with the results.  I thought more about why the 7 seconds were nagging me and realized it had more to do with whether or not I was measuring up to my friends’ expectations and less to do with my own priorities and expectations.  And as soon as I realized that, I realized just how silly the notion was, knowing that 7 seconds wasn’t going to make a lick of difference to my friends, and those measurements were a figment of my imagination.  By the time Leslie told me my legs were in better shape than anyone she’d seen all week, it didn’t even matter.  I’d already made up my mind to stay thrilled with my race and leave the BQ behind.

Here’s what I know: I wanted to run a race that would make Grandma Lucy proud, and I did that.  I noticed things that made me laugh, I thought about things that gave me courage, I sung songs in my head that she would love.  I ran a huge PR, made new friends that are as passionate about ending Alzheimer’s as I am, and raised a lot of money with a lot of help.  I had a freakin’ blast doing it.  Nothing could top Sunday’s race.


A super happy runner after a super awesome race!

I also know I need to catch up on some reading before exams arrive.  I need to take a break from running so as not to burn out.  I have a big year ahead of me, full of transition and discernment.  And I have some other dreams to chase after.

I said Sunday that not qualifying for Boston meant I could hang up my marathoning shoes.  And that’s very true.  But while I meant “for good” when I said it, I know there’s a good chance I’ll run another some day.  And if I want to run Boston, I’ll do what I’ve always done and run for charity.  Some people need a BQ.  I need a cause.  It’s the cause that makes me lace up my shoes on days I want to sleep in, not the PR.  So who knows… the world isn’t going to run out of causes any time soon, so I won’t likely run out of miles.

Till then, it’s been real.  Thank you Team Alzheimer’s.  Thank you friends and strangers along the course.  Thank you friends, family and strangers who donated to end the disease that stole my Grandma.  Thank you UA coaches and teammates.  Thank you Brian and Glen for your wisdom and perspective.  Thanks SMST Church for the posters that I missed.  Thanks Keegan and Kaylee for the home videos of support.  Thank you Tanya for inspiring and pacing me in the race of a lifetime.  Thanks Mom for coming up, cooking, and keeping me calm the way only a mom can.  And thanks Jay for coaching me through a very difficult semester and loving me through it all–you’re my biggest cheer leader and I can’t wait to be yours again in April (slash every day of our lives).

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Marathon Pre-Cap

The butterflies have officially set in.  This time tomorrow I’m hoping to write a race re-cap, but thought it might be interesting to begin with a pre-cap so I have a benchmark of sorts. 

All week I’ve been comparing this year to last year…

Last year I was nervous about running 26.2 for the first time.  This year I know I can finish.  I feel like I trained harder last year, but that’s because training was so new.  This year I feel like I trained about the same amount, but I know I’m stronger and more comfortable.  Last year I was nursing hamstring tendonitis.  This year my body is healthy.  Last year I was mourning the very recent loss of a dear friend in whose memory I was running, so emotions were high.  This year I’m running in memory of my Grandmother, whose loss I have been grieving for years and years as Alzheimer’s stole her away slowly.  It’s different.  And perhaps most significantly, last year I ended up running a race two weeks later than the one I trained for.  This year I am on schedule and sleeping in my own bed with power, heat, and hot water, and no fear of angry bystanders throwing objects at me on the course. 

My goal is to run 3:34:50.  That would be a BQ for me.  The number sounds doable when I look at all my other races and workouts.  Mentally I know I should be able to do this.  BUT 3:34:50 means running 26.2 miles at 8:12 pace, and that sounds crazy.  I just can’t comprehend maintaining that pace–totally boggles the mind.  So I’ll try to focus on the finish time and not dwell on the pace.  Trust the training, trust my beloved coach (as well as my Team Alzheimer’s and UA coaches–I’ve got a lot of support!), trust the race-day magic.

Tomorrow’s main objective is to have fun and run a race that my Grandmother would be proud of.  I know she’d rather I take in the full NYC Marathon experience than beat myself up over pace, so I promise to honor her in that.  Team Alzheimer’s doesn’t take the idea of a “Run to Remember” lightly, and neither do I. 

Time for bed.  Early start to a long day awaits.  Tucking myself in with lots of prayers and love I am feeling from near and far.

Goodnight, and GodSPEED!

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Lucy’s Marathon

When my alarm went off this morning, I didn’t want to wake up. I thought of several reasons to stay in bed.  But one reason finally compelled me to get out of bed and lace up my shoes–my grandmother.

My grandma Lucy died the summer before I started seminary, just two months before Jay and I were married.  The quintessential church lady, grandma was a Sunday school teacher, Bible study leader, youth coordinator, president of the United Methodist Women, and was once given a Lay Pastoral Care Award.  So when grandma reminded us repeatedly that she prayed for each one of us by name every night, even after Alzheimer’s started to claim her brain, we believed her.  I remembered this right around mile 4 of my run this morning as the sun finally peaked through a series of sky scrapers in lower Manhattan, spilling light onto my path and my face.  Even after my grandmother’s death, I still feel her prayers.

Just as my grandmother’s prayers continue to touch my life, so does her legacy with Alzheimer’s disease.  When my grandmother was living, she shared with others the implications of her disease.  She participated in the Texas Alzheimer’s Research Consortium at Texas Tech University.  And in her death, she donated her brain to the Brain Bank program for further research. 

Yesterday I registered for the NYC Marathon… again. Last year I trained for the NYC Marathon while raising over $6,000 for the Colon Cancer Coalition in memory of my friend Aimee.  The marathon was cancelled when hurricane Sandy hit, so I ran the Charlotte Thunder Road Marathon in Aimee’s hometown instead.  It was amazing.  The love and support for Aimee and me carried me to the finish line and still brings tears to my eyes.  And yet, I didn’t get to run the marathon I’d trained for.  So when I was given the opportunity again to run the world’s biggest marathon, I knew that a) I would run it, and b) I’d run it for my grandma. 

I’ve teamed up with the Alzheimer’s Association to make this a “Run to Remember.”  My goal is to raise $100 for every mile, $2,620 all together.  You can join me in this cause by donating online or via snail mail, or by sharing this cause with friends and family.  100% of the funds raised will go to the Alzheimer’s Association advancing research, prevention, treatments, education and care. 
And if by chance we break $5,000 again this year, I’ll dye (part of) my hair purple leading up to the race. I know there are a lot of good causes out there, but if by chance you knew and loved my grandmother Lucy, or if you know someone else affected by this crippling disease, or if you just want to see what I look like with purple hair, please join us in this run to remember.  Your support changes lives. 

Join my team and learn more here: http://act.alz.org/goto/lauren-ingnyc

Thanks for your support!  Go team LUCY!

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when you can’t sleep, blog.

I got a call from one of my friends back in Lexington who writes for our local paper.  He was hoping I could answer some questions about the Boston Marathon, but I was in the “quiet car” on Amtrak and had to ignore his call.  I emailed him my account of Jay’s and my experience on Monday–writing about it helped.  So now I’m sharing the same with you, with some added reflections.

Jay finished the marathon 2 hours before the blasts. We had already gone back to our apartment to shower and were heading out the door for lunch when one of Jay’s friends called and said, “What’s going on?! There were two explosions at the finish!” Jay immediately called the station, but nothing had hit the wires yet. He started making his way to the scene to find out what was going on. People were flooding toward the Commons and he just started asking questions. “It sounded like a bomb.” “At first I thought maybe it was a cannon or fireworks.” “Lots of blood.” “People missing limbs.” “I can’t find my family.” etc. One of Jay’s journalist friends in Boston called him and said not to get any closer–and to tell the rest of us all to stay indoors. Jay was able to track down his chief meteorologist who had been cheering at mile 25 for his brother. Lee’s brother finished just before the explosions, and finally they were able to find each other–all safe. Jay ended up doing live hits from his iPhone, which is pretty amazing.

Meanwhile I had gone to an apartment of a friend who I knew was finishing around the time of the blast. She wasn’t back yet, but we got word she was ok. Then I went back to our apartment where family friends of ours were also staying. Our phones weren’t working well, so we were texting friends to make sure they were safe until we accounted for everyone. We texted family to let them know we were ok. Social media helped a lot. One of our friend’s husbands was in class at Harvard Law School, so we were very concerned about the news of explosions at JFK Library (later said not to be explosions). The friends at my apartment went back to their place in Cambridge, but I stayed in the apartment waiting for Jay. We were told to stay off the streets as news reported undetonated bombs had been located. This was later found to be untrue. Eventually I got antsy and decided it was safe for a walk. I walked through Boston Commons–it was quiet and peaceful, but police trucks lined Charles. I saw two women on a park bench still in their running clothes. They were stopped before they could finish the race, and now they couldn’t get into their hotel. A local woman asked if there was anything she could do to help them. I started walking to where Jay was working in South End. Ambulances lined Columbus–just waiting. Police and dogs were everywhere. It was eerie to look down Boylston–empty. I found Jay and we tried to grab a bite to eat, but half the places were closed and the other half were starting to run out of food. It was 9:45pm. Jay’s station had sent a satellite truck up by then, so he stayed to field produce the 11, and got home around 11:45. I don’t know how he ran a 2:37:55 marathon and then worked 9 hours. I think he’s just working off adrenaline right now. He’ll be there field producing for the next day or two, depending on how things unfold. I’m on my way home. It’s hard to leave him behind, but today is less scary–more confusing and sad.

As runners, we’re still in shock. The explosions occurred at the same time the average male marathoner finishes. I don’t know if the bomber knew that, but 4:10 is that average finish time. Running is such a positive sport of camaraderie and support. We cheer each other on–even the competition. Runners often run for a cause–for charity or to overcome an obstacle or to honor a loved one. Now we have one more cause to run for.

This was Jay’s 3rd Boston, 6th marathon. All marathons are special, but Boston certainly has a unique feel to it. Even I have inklings of qualifying someday just to experience the awe and the energy of the event. It’s just so unbelievable. We can’t help but be angry, confused and heartbroken.

Three things keep coming to mind:

1. Jay had to surpass many obstacles just to get to the start line this year.  He’s been battling hamstring tendonitis for 6 weeks, which he felt through the entire race.  He’s been unable to sleep for several weeks.  But I kept saying to him, “Monkey, you’re going to be fine.  There’s no way this race could be worse than last year.”  And really, I didn’t see how anything could be harder than his beast of a run at last year’s Boston Marathon in 90-degree heat.  I didn’t fathom the unfathomable.  I can’t believe I said that.

2. I was cheering on Boylston, not far from the second explosion.  I was there with my friends, including a friend’s young son in a stroller.  I just can’t believe we were standing there next to something so lethal, feeling nothing but celebration and elation.  People keep saying, “I’m so glad Jay is such a fast runner.  It’s so good to see you in one piece.”  I hear what they’re saying and I hear the love in it, but I don’t know how to feel about it.

3. When I saw Jay at mile 26, he looked awful.  He did give me a thumbs up to let me know he saw me (a first at Boston–he usually can’t hear/spot me in the crowd despite my loud self)… but he looked like he always does after 26 miles of speed and endurance–like he’s about to fall apart.  So after I screamed his name and waved my cowbell, I bolted to the bag check where I knew I’d find him.  It’s about a 7 minute run as you snake through crowds and loop around the barricades, and I can always feel my phone vibrating with text messages: “Is he ok? Is he pleased?”  But I ignored the texts until I ran to where I knew he’d be.  I just wanted to know he was ok.  I couldn’t help but feel a bit of panic in that 7-minute run to find my husband.  So I cannot imagine the panic and anguish people were feeling just two hours later, running every which direction, trying to locate loved ones.  The feeling is too big for me to bear.

So that’s our story according to me.  I am sure that Jay will have his own version which he will write eloquently about once he has time to decompress (if his work lets him).  It’s been a very hard 36 hours.  And it’s even harder to put into words. 

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Marathon Run-down (and up and down and up)

If you want to skip the full race recap, here’s the story: we finished the race (I say “we” because I had a lot of help) in 3:51:50 after raising $6,207 to fight colon cancer in Aimee’s honor.  In other words–WE WON!

And now, for the longer version…

I flew down to Charlotte Thursday night so that I could have Friday to rest up, carb up, and visit friends.  I was especially excited to be staying with my friends Sloan and Jamie and their baby girl Ruthie.  Babies change so fast!  So I spent a lot of time just watching Ruthie play, sleep, eat, and grow.

One day Ruthie will use this picture to argue her way into blue hair, I'm sure.

One day Ruthie will use this picture to argue her way into blue hair.

Friday morning Sloan and I were out the door at 9am, but the expo didn’t open until 10am, so we decided to drive the last 18 miles of the marathon course.  The first thing we noticed was a sign near mile 8 for some girl named “Lauren” to “kick butt.”  I decided to pretend it was for me–even if it wasn’t.

Driving the second half of the course was good because I was only familiar with the first half (which I ran in 2010), but it was a little overwhelming too.  Are we there yet?

Finally, at the expo, we picked up our gear.  Sloan stood in line for the half, I stood in line for the full.  My first full.  Sloan is the girl who got me to sign up for my first 10k after I insisted I could never run 6+ miles, so this was a bit of a role reversal.  I can tell you that Sloan will be running her own full marathon one day, and I hope to be there with her.

It’s no secret that the Thunder Road expo has been going down hill in a town where every race ends up hill.  What used to take up the whole of the convention center now takes up a conference room at a hotel.  It’s sad.  Charlotte has a great running community and beautiful streets to run on, but not much corporate backing or city support.  I bought a shirt that said “flat is for sissies” and we moved on… only to be charged $5 for parking as we left.  Seems the Queen City needs to work on her charm!

I hit up the weekly runners’ lunch at Burger Co. next.  Like I said, Charlotte has a great running community.  And the fact that I can show up at noon on any given Friday and find a table full of runners chowing down is proof of that.  It was good to catch up with some old faces and meet some new ones.

Next I dropped off “Team LAUREN & Aimee” t-shirts with Aimee’s husband John and daughter Katie.  John and Katie flew up to NYC two weeks ago for the marathon-that-wasn’t.  They caught 4 shows in 3 days, so it was a successful weekend despite the lack of marathoning.  It was a special treat to see them twice in 2 weeks.  Back in the day I would see Aimee every day at work, John every week at church, and the girls 1-2 times a week between church and weekly coffee dates.  You could say I miss them a lot.

Back at Sloan’s I finished off a muffin and took a little nap.  We played with Ruthie until it was time for her dinner, followed by bath time–babies love bath time!  Jay called while Ruth was bathing to see if I had eaten properly and to check on how I was feeling.  He said he was meeting up with a teammate at 6:15 the next morning to get his run in before the race start so he could track me online.  We were both pretty upset he couldn’t follow me in person.  Stupid work.

Once Ruthie was down, it was time to feast on fresh spinach pasta from my favorite local pasta spot.  I ate two servings.  Sloan and I decided we’d be safe drinking one glass of red wine.  I’m glad we did because it cut through the nerves and sent me straight to sleep.

I woke up 10 minutes before my 5:45am alarm went off.  I walked downstairs to see Sloan was already making coffee.  We ate some breakfast, took turns going to the bathroom “one more time,” put on our race duds, and hit the road.  Jay called, but was hurried on the phone, “Got to go run!  I’ll be back before you start!”  I turned to Sloan and said, “This is so hard on him.”

Sloan parked 1/2 mile from the start and we jogged over.  We spotted the Westin on the way and decided it would be much warmer to wait in there (not to mention real bathrooms!) until bag check.  Yes–NYRR–even our little marathon down in Charlotte has a bag check.

Then we huddled at the start and I kept seeing people I knew, hugging them, clapping, bouncing, checking to see if my garmin was ready, praying, thinking of Jay, talking to Sloan, finally: BANG.  Or maybe it was a BEEP.  I don’t remember, but we were off.  Sloan had said she wanted to run 9 minute pace, but I thought she could run faster.  I didn’t say so because I didn’t want to pressure her.  I was aiming for 8:47 pace to hit a 3:50 finish.  We knew the first mile was downhill.  We knew we needed to reign it in.  We felt like we were reigning it in.  We ran the first mile in 8:03.  Oops!  The next few miles were also fast: 8:29, 8:20, 8:24–Sloan stayed with me the whole time.  We saw Lori and Ashley at mile 2.  Miss Anne at 3.25, followed by Liza and her family.  At mile 3.5 we turned left onto Providence Road, right in front of Christ Church.  There we saw a crowd of people cheering, some holding posters that my kids at St. Matthew & St. Timothy had made.  I saw John and Katie, waved and “YAYed” at everyone, felt the love, and kept moving.  I heard John yell after me, “Kick butt Lauren!”  I gave a thumbs up.

Feeling pretty chipper at mile 2 with Sloanie!

Feeling pretty chipper at mile 2 with Sloanie!

Climbing the long gradual hill up Providence, we slowed to 8:52.  We saw Paul, Lisa, Emily and Sophie at the top before hanging a right.  We winded through Foxcroft, running 8:35, 8:49, 8:48.  During that stretch we saw Tom  and Anne Carol cheering and we crossed the 10k mat together.  Every time I saw a familiar face or heard my name being yelled out, I would turn, smile and wave.  Unbeknownst to Jay, I had sent out a plea to all our friends in Charlotte to send pictures, videos, and updates to Jay.  I wanted him to be inundated with images and words so that he would feel like he was right there.  When I crossed the 10k mat, I thought of Jay at home, looking at his computer, seeing that first split pop up.  I thought, ‘He’s either going to think I’m going too fast, or he’s going to hope I went out with the 3:45 pace group.’

As we exited Foxcroft, Sloan said she was going to hang back, and for me to go on.  She’d run over half her race under her pace, and I was pretty confident she’d finish faster than she thought–but I gave her a challenging nudge to make sure she didn’t lose steam.  She yelled out after me, “Special treat at mile 18!!”  I figured she was talking about the extra Gu’s she’d have to hand me at that point.  I also knew our friend Emily was going to hop in to keep me company at mile 18.  Next 10 miles were just me.

Or so I thought.  At mile 9 (8:31) I saw Jamie and Ruthie, taking pictures, cheering, eager to see their wife/mom Sloan.  I said, “She’s right behind me, she’s running great!” Next I saw Dexter, Eden, Carolyn, I can’t remember everyone.  Love all those friendly Charlotte faces.  Heading down Queens Road to mile 10 (8:38) I was taking in how beautiful the trees are on that familiar stretch… when I noticed a familiar figure wearing familiar orange shorts and a familiar orange hat, sporting a “Team Lauren & Aimee” shirt.  Jay.  All at once I thought, ‘What the HECK??’ and, ‘Well, of course he’s here.’  The crowds were going wild (at least it sounded that way to me) as Jay jumped into the race with me, matching my strides with a huge grin on his face.  Our friends Farrell, Lori, Ashley, Liza, Skye and others were all jumping up and down. The pictures are priceless (thanks to Lori).

Surprise!  Jay jumps in at mile 10.

Surprise! Jay jumps in at mile 10.

Jay said, “How are you doing?”

“Okay, a little ahead of pace.  How did you get here?”

“Tara is covering.”

And then Jay told me the whole story of how he and Tara were chatting Friday night while he was working.  She essentially said it’s ridiculous that he couldn’t be in Charlotte to cheer me on (Tara is a marathoner as well) and offered to take his Saturday shift.  So at 7pm Friday night, Jay booked a plane ticket for 6:15 the next morning.  It was a welcome surprise to us both–and most of Charlotte, for that matter, as people who had intended to snag pictures to send to Jay were instead yelling out, “Hey Jay!  You made it!!”  When it comes to the running community in Charlotte, I sometimes feel like I married a local celebrity.

My next few miles with Jay slowed to 8:39, 853, 8:53, 8:40.  At the time I figured I gave myself some slack for the climb up Morehead.  But I think I was also pulling back, worried that I would speed up with Jay (as I often do) and regret it later.  Just before the half-marathon mat, the 3:45 pace group came up from behind us.

Jay said, “You’re in front of the 3:45 pace group!”

“I know.”

“Listen–I want you to run with them Lauren.  If you feel like you can, I want you to match their pace…” and then he started listing off familiar names of people in the group.

“I’m going to stick to my own pace, Jay.  If it were mile 18, maybe.  But 13 is too early for me to chase after them and find I’ve got no gas in the tank later.”

“Ok.  That’s totally fine.”

At this point the group was surrounding us and Jay was chatting it up with everyone.  I hung back, which I think slowed my pace a bit that mile too–my deliberateness.  We saw my dad and Annabelle, waved and smiled, and then Jay dropped out at mile 14 so he could watch some friends finish and make it to various points on the course.

Miles 14-18 were on my own.  They were marked by several things.  First, the half-marthoners were no longer running with us, so the crowd thinned out considerably.  Second, I was actually relieved to have some time to myself since I had barely had two moments to think about what we were actually doing–running a race to honor Aimee’s memory and to fight the disease that killed her.  Third, it started getting really windy.  Like blow-you-over-sideways windy.  I thought, oh, this will pass.  But it didn’t.  The wind kept on coming and coming and coming.  At one point, my Get Your Rear In Gear hat blew off.  I turned to grab it, but it blew further away.  I kept on running.  Seconds later a teenage boy ran up beside me, “Is this your hat?”  I was glad to have it back.  I saw Jay with Tyler and Denise at mile 15 (8:36), Lori and Ashley at mile 16 (8:57), met another New York runner at mile 17 (8:43), and was met with loud cheers at mile 18 (8:48) where Sloan, Jamie, Ruthie, Jocelyn, Liza, and I don’t even know who else were cheering.  Sloan gave me the extra Gu’s I needed to finish the course.  This was apparently where she thought Jay would surprise me (hence her clue that I’d be getting a special treat at mile 18), but he had jumped the gun on that!

My friend Emily jumped in with me at this point, and I would have been lost without her.  Emily and I used to run together every Tuesday.  We have shared joys, sorrows, drama and life lessons over the years.  And I don’t mean that in a “she’s one of my closest friends” kind of way.  Emily and I don’t call each other up and share this stuff.  We only share it when running.  Emily is a running buddy–a special class of friends that all runners have.  Running buddies are people you probably wouldn’t know if you didn’t run together.  They are not just a matter of convenience, things are shared on runs that aren’t shared in other spaces.  There’s something to it, and it’s special.  But the low-maintenance nature of a running buddy relationship lends itself to picking up where you left off, even if you left off 3 months ago.  Emily is dating a really special guy now, one who has been in the picture for a while, so I was eager to hear all her updates while barely having the breath to respond as we fought the headwind on the back course.  We clicked off a 9:03, 8:53, but it was at mile 21 when we clicked a 9:24 that I knew I would not break 3:50.  And I was totally ok with it.  I turned to Em and said, “I feel like we’re running 8:30’s, but we’re at almost 9:30!”  She said, “I know.  You’ve got this.”  And I knew I would finish, even though I didn’t feel like I would finish, in part because Emily said so.

And this is where the marathon is a mental exercise.  This is where you have to be tough.  Because you’re not sure how you’re going to make it to the finish, but you know that you must.  I had some “do it for Aimee” moments in my head, but I otherwise found it hard to think about anything other than putting one foot in front of the other.  I handed off my arm warmers to Liza at mile 22 (9:15), Jay joined us on a bike at mile 23 (9:04).  I said, “Monkey, I’m not going to break 3:50.”  “It’s ok, you’re doing great.”  We ran up Hawthorn hill at mile 24 (9:17), which isn’t as bad as it looks.  At this point I was sick of Gu’s and was craving Gatorade instead–something I never drink on long runs.  We saw Lori and Ashley at mile 25 (9:16), “You’re there!  You did it!  You ran a marathon!”  (They were closer to mile 26 than I’m letting on, and they had also seen me at my worst around mile 22).  I smiled, but didn’t have the energy to wave or cheer, despite what we were about to accomplish.

Emily ducked out at mile 26 (8:13… I always speed up at the end) “It’s all you now.”  And I ran uphill to the finish, since every race in Charlotte must end on an incline, hearing my name, hearing so many voices I couldn’t pick them out… I did see Larry and even managed to give Kathy a weak “high five” as I passed.  But all I remember in those last few steps was watching the yellow leaves pass beneath my feet, thinking I just wanted to get to the finish as fast as I could, realizing why Jay never sees me cheering for him near the end of a marathon (total tunnel vision sets in), and at the last second remembering to throw my hands up as I crossed the mat.

TR finish

Finished! 3:51:50 chip time.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do or how I was going to feel after I finished, but I didn’t even have time to give it a thought.  As soon as I crossed my friend Caitlin was right beside me, “I just walked in through the barricade!  I just let myself in!  You can’t do that in New York!!” I leaned on her whether I needed to or not.  I just leaned, grateful she was right there in my moment of “what now?”

And then we all got together.  Jay, my dad and Annabelle, Sloan, Jamie and Ruthie, Caitlin and Garrett, and countless Charlotte Runners that have made the Queen City our home.  Jay put my pants on my legs the way I do when he finishes a marathon–the tables had turned.  We walked back toward the car half a mile away.  I called my mom as I walked.  Jay and Sloan kept looking back at my slow-going-wobble and laughed.

I have to say, as grand as finishing my first marathon was, I wasn’t overcome with emotion as I thought I would be.  I had visions of collapsing on the ground in tears.  Maybe that would have happened someplace else, but it was impossible in Charlotte.  I had people like Lori, who was always two weeks ahead of me in training for her first marathon, blazing the way, and then right there on the course (all over the course!) on my race day.  People like Farrell, who picked Jay up from the airport at the last moment, and then ran with her two little kids across the street to cheer me on in the last mile (thank goodness a cop was there stopping traffic!)  People of Christ Church, especially John and Katie, who will always have an Aimee-shaped void in their hearts, even as she continues to live through each of us.  People like Sloan, who are the personification of the ever-cheesy Bette Midler song “Wind Beneath My Wings” because she is always there without making any show of it.  And it wasn’t until I was soaking in Epsom salt after the race, a quiet moment to myself, that this wave of gratitude–for our friends in New York and our friends in Charlotte, my family and my coaches, my husband especially, the cloud of witnesses that brought me across the finish–finally washed over me.

We did it.

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Come Hell or High Water

What a week this has been.  This time last week, the winds of Sandy were just starting to really pick up, causing a branch the size of a tree to fall right next to the chapel.  I was lamenting the fact that I had missed my pre-marathon massage–something that had been on my training plan for months.  I had no idea how trivial and selfish my lament would seem just a few hours later, as I watched the Hudson River creep up past the West Side Highway, past 11th and 10th Avenues, nearing the gates of the seminary.  Oh.  Right.  This is big.  The lights went out in Chelsea (and all of Lower Manhattan) around 9pm.  They didn’t come back on for 4 days.  Some are still waiting in the dark.

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Meanwhile, Jay was working “wall-to-wall” as they say in the newsroom.  Because his work needed him to be accessible at all times, they reserved a block of rooms at a hotel across the street from the station.  We never knew what to expect from one day to the next, but I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude again and again for a warm bed, a hot shower, a charged phone, a meal shared with a friend, and an occasional siting of my sweet husband.  Not to mention our community back at the seminary caring for our dog–she is a warm snuggler when you’re living without heat!

Tuesday afternoon, we were waiting for a decision about the NYC Marathon.  Being all too aware of the devastation around us, Jay didn’t see how it could go on–but he seemed to think it would anyway.  Sure enough, the mayor announced that the marathon was a GO.  Alrighty then.  We’ll stick to the plan.

As days went on, it became abundantly clear that the marathon was pissing a good deal of people off.  I was unhealthily glued to facebook, taking every negative comment to heart.  I knew we were doing something good–heck, we raised over $6,000 to fight colon cancer!  But how was I supposed to feel good about starting a race with my back to the war zone of Staten Island?  And why were people taking out their anger on the runners?  Why weren’t they upset with the mayor for making a bad call?  People who think this sport is a narcissistic one should come to one of my speed workouts.  If anything, my experience of training for this marathon (and shorter races before it) has been a) humbling, and b) camaraderie building.  Narcissism is judging others for doing something you know nothing about.

Friday morning, John and Katie (the husband and youngest daughter of my friend Aimee who died of colon cancer in March) arrived to their hotel–ready to catch some shows and cheer me on.  Friday afternoon, my mom arrived with encouraging words, knowing I’d had nightmares about people protesting the race.  Friday night, NYRR announced the marathon was cancelled.  As much as I have have looked forward to running the legendary NYC Marathon, I breathed a sigh of relief when I received Jay’s text saying, “it’s cancelled.”  He knew I was on my way to church and would not be watching the announcement on TV.  He was steps away from Mary Wittenburg as she told the world that this race was meant to bring people together, not to divide them–and given the divisive nature of the controversy the marathon posed, it could not go on.

While I was in church with my mom for an All Saints service, remembering departed saints in our own lives as well as all who had lost their lives in Sandy’s wreckage, my husband and friends were already thinking of ways to support me, coming up with Plan B.  Jay emailed his contact at the Philly Marathon to see if he could switch his elite entry over to me–he was told no.  Our friends Tanya and Josh (the same two who ran in men’s underwear with me back in June to raise awareness for colon cancer) had found a marathon in PA set to take place on Nov. 4–same day NYC had been scheduled.  Jay immediately registered me for the race, worried it would fill up before I got out of church (it did).  He, Josh and Tanya were ready to drive me to PA and take turns running with me through the whole race.  I was touched when I met Jay for dinner and he told me the news.  But my heart had already decided on another race: Charlotte’s Thunder Road.

I’ve got to say, I never would have thought to sign up for Thunder Road as my “one” marathon to run.  (It’s looking less and less likely that I’ll only run one).  I’ve run the TR half-marathon, and loved it!  And I love Charlotte!  But I only started this journey after getting into NYC via the lottery.  Pure chance.  It’s like the decision wasn’t even mine.  Once it was made, I was stoked because of the cause that fueled me and the opportunity to run in the world’s largest (?) marathon.  2 million spectators are no small potatoes!  But now that my registration for TR is in the mail, and my plane ticket to CLT is purchased, I can honestly say I am as excited if not MORE excited to be running in Charlotte Nov. 17.

Our goal going into this race was to finish, have fun, and honor Aimee.  My training has been such that I’m a little faster than we anticipated, and it was fun to go into the NYC Marathon with a possibility of running 3:50 or faster.  My teammates thought I should be shooting for 3:45 or 3:40.  And maybe if everything on race day had been picture-perfect, I could have.  It won’t be the case in Charlotte.  I’m ready for the hills (thank God for all those Harlem hill workouts!!) but tapering, picking up my mileage, and then tapering again just isn’t ideal.  Jay’s concerned I’ll be more prone to injury.  So running TR brings my original goals back into focus–finish, have fun, honor Aimee.  We toasted Aimee Friday night after making the decision, shedding a few tears.

And that’s it!  I can’t imagine a more perfect place to finish this race than in Aimee’s town, surrounded by people who miss her as much as I do.  To run on the very streets she and I used to drive together–it was Aimee who first drove me around Charlotte, picking me up from the hotel when I interviewed at Christ Church.

There is a good chance Jay won’t be there since he is scheduled to work that weekend (and every weekend).  But Jay’s closest friends will be there, and I know I’ll feel him with me every step of the way.  Julie, Brian and Mom won’t be there, but their presence this weekend cheered Jay and I up (Pepper too) after a long and difficult week.

And as for NYC (and many other areas hit so hard), send us your prayers and your donations.  It’s a long road to recovery.  If Sunday is any indication, the running community will be a significant presence in restoration.  Thousands of runners went to Staten Island, Breezy Point, Rockaway, and Lower Manhattan to lend a hand.  Thousands of runners met in Central Park to donate goods and “Run Anyway” for the various causes they’d been supporting all along.  And thousands of non-running New Yorkers also met in Central Park to support those running–cheering for people, handing out water and Gatorade.

Despite the marathon being cancelled, or because of the marathon being cancelled, or because it just needed to happen, people are coming together.  “I sing a song of the saints of God… God help me to be one too.”

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learning endurance

I’ve had some interesting runs of late–none of them alike.  I keep meaning to blog about the highs and lows of my training, but I only ever write things in my head.  So–a brief recap of some notable runs:

Sunday Aug 19: I was pumped about running 16 miles at McAlpine with two Charlotte ladies.  One of the women coaches novice runners like myself, the other was a regular running mate from my CLT days. Running flat/wide trails for my longest distance yet was also appealing.  But Sunday morning came, and with it rain, thunder, lightening… both ladies had to bail.  Having never run McAlpine before, I bailed too.  No use in getting lost while running 16 solo.  The rest of the day was beautiful!  And every time I saw a runner, I felt a tinge of failure.  Jay reminded me I was on vacation and could run Monday instead.

Monday, Aug 20: Redemption day!  Met up with my friend Shenna at 5:30am for a 6 mile loop, did that same loop back on my own, and finished up the last 4 miles with my friend Sloan.  It was perfect because a) Shenna gave me the best excuse to get up early, b) it rained so I didn’t feel like a wuss for not running in the rain the day before, c) the in-between miles alone were especially inspiring as I considered the meaning of running along the same roads/sidewalks I used to share with my dear friend Aimee (in whose memory I am training for), d) Sloan helped me with a strong finish–the same girl that convince me to run my first 10k a few years back.

Thursday, Aug 23: Glad to be back at UA for a workout in Central Park.  We were slated for a 4.3 mile tempo, with splits given every 1387.5 meters.  My splits were 6:20, 6:25, 6:15 and 6:22.  This means my pace was pretty consistent… my last split was supposed to be the fastest, but I was trucking it up Cat Hill as fast as I could go.  The odd thing is that the per-mile pace for the workout was 7:20.  Wah?  I’ve never run 7:20’s in a 4-miler or even a 5k.  What the heck.  Part of me was like, wahoo!  Improvement!  But the other part of me was like, uh-oh… I pushed to hard.  Needless to say I was pretty sore the next couple of days.

Sunday, Aug 26: I was hugely relieved that UA scheduled a supported long-run the day I had to do 18.  Runners were supposed to run at “marathon pace” as opposed to “training pace.”  When I explained to Jerry (team coach) that my marathon pace was my training pace, he said, “That’s ok for today, but we need to change it.  The marathon is a race.”  “Not for me, it’s not!” I responded, “My goal is to have fun and finish comfortably.”  “Ok then,” he said hesitatingly.  One of the benefits to my husband coaching me through this race is that we’re on the same page.  Jerry is an awesome coach–he’s perfect for competitive runners like my husband… but not me, not this race!  I went out with the 9-min pace group, and we kept it just under 9’s.  My legs were still a little tired from Thursday’s tempo, but I was feeling good.  We split at mile 16 so everyone could finish their own mileage (16-20) at their own pace.  I knew my last miles were supposed to be the fastest, so I pushed through mile 17, feeling good, and then BAM.  Pain.  My left ankle hurt so badly, I thought maybe I had broken it.  But I was 90% sure it was muscular, so I ran through to 18.5.  The pain never stopped that last 1.5 miles.  Oh no.  Crap.  What’s going on.

Long story short–I rolled my ankle slightly at mile 5, and the gradual swelling from that combined with swelling from a unfortunately placed mosquito bite (smack dab on my tendon) resulted in substantial pain.  I limped through half of Monday until the bite subsided–and all was well!  I was relieved and embarrassed.  Stupid mosquito.

And that brings me up today.  I my legs are aching.  I know I did 18 on Sunday and a tough workout on Tuesday, but I did nothing but ice, rest, compress, soak and elevate on Monday!  And I ran easy on Wednesday and Thursday!  And I’m taking today off!  Most of my friends are suffering from soreness or sudden cramps/strains/pulls… I guess maybe we’re to the point in our training where the idea of “endurance” really comes to life.  It’s not just getting through the long runs, it’s getting through the days, weeks, months of training.  It’s getting through every-day tasks when you’re sore from last night’s workout.  Getting through the mental games you play with yourself over every hint of pain.  Getting through the weeks you feel awesome, and the weeks you feel like a hot mess.  It’s being surprised to find a spring in your step despite your aching muscles.  It’s new territory for me.

Tonight Jay and I will be carb-loading and going to bed early to gear up for an early half-marathon at Rockaway Beach.  Earlier in my training, we had this down as a race.  But with my hamstring injury last month, all my long runs got pushed back a week, making this a recovery week rather than a race week.  It’s still a race, and my goal is to PR.  But Jay reminds me that this is just a step toward the real goal, and not to go all-out.  The same goes for my hubby–tomorrow will be only the 2nd time he’s run 13 miles since April.  It’s a small field, and I know he’ll be tempted to push it.  But the goal is to recover from 4 months of injury, and this is just a step along the way for him.

So much learning, so much to endure, and one heck of a good reason to run through it all.

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love, runs, heartache and not-runs

Jay and I just returned from one glorious week in the real upstate, as we like to call it.  My third summer in the Finger Lakes did not disappoint.  Jay’s sister Julie gave us the perfect excuse to drop all the things stressing us out in NYC and escape to the countryside.  She got married.

Highlights of Julie’s wedding include: her attention to detail in making every moment personal and true to her style, Jay’s beautiful solo at the ceremony despite not performing music in years, the family I count myself blessed to be part of, and just the fun of it all–especially watching Jay and Julie’s dad cut a rug like we never knew he could!  Julie and her husband Brian have been together for seven years now, so this was one of those weddings where you just sit back, relax, and watch love unfold.  They are tried and true together.

While upstate, I got to run.  I ran 3 miles of trails near Jay’s house, 8 miles of rolling hills near the cottage at Port Bay (Jay borrowed a neighbor’s bike and rode beside me the whole time to keep me hydrated, safe, and entertained), 4 miles along that same road, and finally a 5k race at Sodus Bay.  The Lighthouse 5k is a 4th of July tradition in the Holder household.  Truthfully, I was dreading it a bit.  It’s a hot and hilly course that starts later than I’d like.  I failed to finish this same race 2 years ago and the “DNF” cloud was hanging heavy over my head Wednesday morning.  Add to that the fact that my last 2 races have been ably paced by friends–this time I’d be running solo.  In the end, I was pleased with the results.  I barely missed 3rd in my age group, but I was a top-ten female finisher–goals like these are reasonable in little races!

Jay’s running days are another story.  After over 2-months of IT Band Syndrome, he has seen 3 false-starts and little improvement.  This means he a) lacks a much needed release after working long hours at an extremely stressful job, b) misses the social outlet that his team provides, and c) struggles to feel like himself when so much of his identity is tied up in running.  After sober consideration and some soul searching, Jay made the difficult decision to back out of the Philadelphia marathon this November that he planned to run with all his Charlotte buddies.  He’ll still be there for the reunion and to give support, but competing is out of the question.  Needless to say, we’ve had some gloomy moments in the Holder household.

We celebrate and we pout.  Gladness and sorrow, sickness and health… at least we’re leaning into our vows.

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It’s a funny word, and therefore one I like to use.  Apparently it means “speed play” in Swedish, but it’s essentially geek-speak for a structured interval workout. 

Today was my first fartlek.  While I have run intervals before (speeding up to anaerobic pace during a run, then returning to normal aerobic pace), I can’t say I’ve ever run them with much structure.  Today’s run was supposed to be 4 miles with 6×300 meters thrown in the middle, but since the West Side Highway doesn’t have 300’s marked along the way, Jay told me to do 6x1min instead (based on my 150 and 200 meter times last week).  After warming up for a mile, I set the timer on my watch to beep at me after 1 minute.  I pressed “start” and then ran my heart out until it beeped, slowed my pace for 1 minute, and then ran my heart out again.  I lost count half way through and figured out later I added a 7th interval, but I still covered the same distance, so no worries. 

And there you have it.  My first fartlek.  Glad it was so cool at 5:45am, but bummed I had to do it solo.  I’ll start doing speed work with Jay’s team (I’m still hesitant to claim it for myself) when we return from Julie’s wedding.  I anticipate it will be more challenging AND more fun to work out with other people. 

All of this to ensure that I’m actually in shape enough to enjoy the marathon in November.  One step closer to my fundraising and distance goal. 

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pride and pampering

It’s Gay Pride month, and this weekend is the culmination of all things GAY in NYC.  There’s a lot to celebrate in NYC (marriage equality was legalized this past year) and there is need to celebrate too.  I think celebration leads to awareness, learning and togetherness–it’s why we celebrate birthdays every year and Eucharist every week (or every day in some cases)!


post-race recovery snack with gay sprinkles

In any case, I ran the 5-mile PRIDE race put on by the Front Runners (LGBT running club) and sponsored by Urban Athletics (the store Jay runs for and the team I’ll be joining shortly).  The course is said to be a fast one because the Harlem Hills are in the first mile so you get the worst out of the way early on.  Yesterday our friend/teammate Tanya offered to run with me.  Tanya is way faster than I am, but she was scheduled to do 50 minutes “easy” so it was a perfect match.  I took her up on her offer.

Before the start I told Tanya I was shooting for 8:05 to 8:10 pace.  I had run a 4-mile race with Tanya, her boyfriend Josh and Jay at 8:03 pace 2 weeks prior.  While I had two more weeks of training under my belt, this course was 1 mile longer.  8:05 seemed reasonable.

Just as we were about to cross the start mats, I looked at my Garmin to press start, but my screen changed at that very moment–I’d have to reconnect to satellites, etc.  Shoot.  Tanya said we’d just go by her watch instead, and she had set her “virtual partner” to 8:00 pace.  This was actually a God-send as I couldn’t keep checking my pace and instead had to go by feel and trust Tanya’s coaching.

Let me just say, Tanya is a rock star.  I learned so much running with her today.  In the first few minutes, she told me not to waste my energy weaving through runners trying to get ahead.  “You’ll make up time when it thins out and you’re running faster than you realize anyway.”  When it was time to weave some, she’d run ahead of me to clear the way.  She set goals for me, “See that rock?  That’s half way up the hill.”  She coached me on breathing, telling me not to work so hard on the down hills, but to let gravity do its job while I just concentrated on slower breathing to bring my heart-rate down.  She ran ahead of me at water stops to bring me water.  I was totally spoiled.  Add to that encouraging remarks along the way, as well as when to slow up a bit so I’d have gas in the tank for the end, when to pick it up in the last half mile, and when to go all out.  The end result was a perfect race at 7:54 pace and a sub-40 minute finish.  We were both pretty pumped.

Sadly, Jay missed my finish.  We were just too fast.

After the race, Jay and I discussed my ongoing training as we walked to the West side of Central Park.  My next race is a 5k at Sodus Point on July 4th.  It’s a Holder family tradition.  I confessed it would be hard to push myself on my own after being pampered with coaching and pacing help the past two races.  It’s a hot and hilly course.  But obviously Jay’s coaching (with help from friends) is paying off, so I’ll just keep rolling with it.  This is the most fun stage of training because you can see the results from week to week.  Soon I’ll plateau on speed and the excitement will be about reaching new mileage goals instead.  At least I hope that stage will be an exciting one!

For now, I’m a proud LGBT advocate and a pampered runner.

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