That time I ran 80 miles on a cruise

For the 4th straight year, Sam and I made our week-long pilgrimage to Miami for The Rockboat and a (very) welcome reprieve from the gross NYC winter. Since the cruise is typically held in February, I’m usually in the early part of training for a spring marathon, and so the week down south has been a low mileage (i.e., relaxing) one. Then came this year. The Rockboat was a month earlier than usual, and I decided to mix things up and run a marathon in late February, which meant that I had some serious miles to do while we were away. I was more than a little anxious about the trip – I had to run ALL of the miles, plus my right foot was sore (damn Plantar Fasciitis), and I’m a textbook introvert so the amount of auditory, visual, and social stimulation on the boat are enough to make me run for the hills… or at least a dark quiet room.

Sister Hazel’s sail away show. I think this picture was post-cruise-wide-free-tequila shots.

So, The Rockboat: it’s a floating music festival where beer is sold by the bucket and soft serve ice cream is considered a food group. Where spontaneous parties in the elevators are the norm and cruisers learn to appreciate the words “washy washy”. Where the music starts in the afternoon and goes until nearly sunrise. Where I learned from Edwin McCain (while sitting next to him at the Blackjack table. Naturally) and the dealers that he was big in the Philippines and is known down there as Manila Ice. Where I’ve had the chance to see big bands like Sister Hazel, Brandi Carlile, Barenaked LadiesReel Big Fish, and NEEDTOBREATHE. Where I’ve seen old favorites like Will HogeRed Wanting BlueTony Lucca, and the Alternate Routes. And where I’ve met new favorites like Brendan Jamesthe Roosevelts, and most recently, Andy Suzuki and the Method (pause. Can I please get an amen for best band name ever?).



Rock and Roll in the daytime. It’s a little weird, but if you’re going to have 10 hours of music each day, you gotta start early.

Since we left town just a few days after NYC got rocked with over 2 feet of snow, I had been doing a lot of miles on the treadmill and, despite my best efforts at rolling and stretching, my frikkin Plantar Fasciitis was acting up again. After a really rough (read: disgustingly sweaty and rocking – like, literally rocking) 6 miles on the treadmill on the ship, I half limped into the spa, desperate for a foot massage to loosen up the grittiness that had become the bottom of my foot. When I told the lady what I wanted, she said, “oh, no, you don’t want that! You want acupuncture!” Well, I had just won $150 playing blackjack the night before (Hit on 16. Double down. Split — but not 10s) and I figured the worst that could happen was that it didn’t work. I mean, I was getting acupuncture on a cruise ship…

Our first night on the boat and I already look exhausted. I had a long 5 days ahead of me.

Two 1 hour sessions, 35 needle sticks and a few naps later, I was symptom-free. Magic. It must have been magic. The western medicine-trained scientist in me was (and still is) completely baffled. Within hours, the swelling and soreness were gone. I don’t know how it worked, I don’t know why it worked, but it did. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit perturbed – normally I would have booked a few sessions with my Physical Therapist extraordinaire, taken a bucket of Advil, iced my foot religiously, and – let’s be honest – been more than a little cranky about it all.

Post acupuncture = happier Kelly

After the Miracle in the Spa, we docked at Costa Maya, Mexico, where Sam and I figured running outside the resort area probably wasn’t a great idea (the armed guards around the gates kind of gave it away), so we ended up doing a crap ton of laps around the track on the boat. How much is a “crap ton”? Well, if 5.5 laps is 1 mile, how many laps is 10 miles? 55. 55 freaking laps we did on that track.

Red Wanting Blue in the big auditorium (in other words, a seated venue. thank goodness).

The next day we did 14 miles up the West Bay of Grand Cayman, where the humidity was oppressive and a local dive shop owner put us to shame when she told us it was “cold” at 82 degrees. After nearly 2 hours of running and a few “oops” moments (surprise! The cars drive on the left side! Also, wild roosters. Lots of wild roosters), we made it back to port in one piece. Kelly and Sam: 1, Grand Cayman: 0. Huzzah!


The next couple of days brought more miles on the rolling treadmill, more laps around that damn track, and more sweaty clothes hung out to dry, making our sleeping quarters look – and smell – like a locker room (apologies to the room steward). After docking, we left the pouring rain of Florida only to land in the pouring rain of NYC.

A decent amount of dirty stinky laundry. 

All in all, it was a pretty good trip: I squeezed in 80 miles for the week, got converted to acupuncture, found my new favorite band, and spent a few days with some pretty cool people listening to some pretty rad music. If only I could have found time to sleep, the trip would have been perfect.

It’s always pretty from up here

A heavy topic (no pun intended)

This summer, I lost weight. I lost a lot of weight. Simply put, I was too sad to eat. After a few weeks of consuming nothing but a serving of greek yogurt and a pastry from Starbucks each day, I had to buy new clothes so I didn’t look like a little kid playing dress up in my mom’s clothes. After almost a month of this sudden, severe drop in caloric intake, I found myself standing in the dressing room at the Gap, in disbelief at the fact that I was trying on (and fitting into) shorts that were a 00. Having been teased for years because of my “bubble butt” and my “Kelly belly”, the size of my new clothes was very strange — I used to look at stuff that small and scoff — I did not think my bones could mange to arrange themselves such that they could fit into something so tiny.

My “Kelly Belly” nickname didn’t just come out of the blue…
          After a month or so of my new “eating” habits, family and friends noticed my weight loss and did their best to fill me with calories — sushi, wine, baked goods, bagels, they knew my weak spots. They did an amazing job of reminding me to eat, to take care of myself, and most importantly, to remember that I was loved.
They know my weak spots!
          By August, I was the skinniest I had ever been, 5’8″ (5’9″ with shoes on? maybe?) and hovering near 115 pounds. All the muscle I had worked so hard to build was being consumed for energy. I was depressed and broken-hearted, injured, poor, living in a new freaking borough (no offense Brooklyn. We’re cool now), about to start a new job (my first “grown-up” job!), and I was practically starving myself each day, yet all I could think of was that I was almost proud of the fact that I could fit into my 00 shorts. Because in a life where everything suddenly felt like it was out of my control, at least there was one thing I could control: what I ate.
          By the end of the summer, my world started to right itself and with my re-established “normal” life, came my normal appetite. This was all well and good, except after months of a serious caloric deficit, my metabolism had slowed to a crawl — when you consume a muffin and a glass (or two) of wine a day, your body thinks you’re starving and does everything it can to keep you going, including slowing down your metabolism.
ice cream
Always a sucker for dessert
After about two months of eating normally and exercising a little bit (there was an ultra marathon and an off-season in there somewhere), I felt like someone puffed me up with air. I looked in the mirror and was not pleased with what I saw. It felt like my regular eating habits and slowed metabolism were conspiring against me — everything I ingested was stored as fat because as far as my body was concerned, it never knew when I’d starve it again (really, can you blame it?). A little extra weight on most people might be tolerable, but when you put it on a competitive runner who has struggled with body image issues, it’s downright catastrophic. I’m not sure when or how or why I connected my self-esteem with my weight, but there is a definite inverse relationship: the more I weigh, the worse I feel.
          The fall brought larger pants and baggier sweaters, along with tearful talks with my boyfriend, and phone conversations with my sister. There were diatribes about unrealistic expectations society puts on women, restrictive eating habits when we were younger, and the fact that I swore my knees got fat (yes. really). Thankfully Sam is patient and supportive and knows how to filter out my hysterics to find the sadness underneath. And then there’s my sister — who happens to study this stuff for a living (true story) — who instructed me to work on focusing on how I feel, not on how I look. Who reminded me that I went through a pretty rough time this summer, and that the fall has been full of changes. That I’m being hard on myself, that no matter what, I’m marathoner, even if I feel like I have a butt that is large and in charge (my words, not hers). She told me that lifestyle transitions, shorter days, colder weather, and the calorie-laden holiday celebrations were all not helping. She reminded me to be kind to myself, that my body will work itself out, and I’ll start to feel better again.
          Of course, she was right (note: older sisters always know best). After more miles, more painful planks and wobbly jumping lunges, more restful nights, more deep breaths, and more time spent with family, I am feeling better. My anxiety about my appearance has calmed down, and (coincidentally?) my pants are fitting a little better. If I’ve learned anything this season, it’s that when I toe the start line at my next marathon, the first thing on my mind shouldn’t be what size my New Balance shorts are, but how fast they’ll help me run the next 26.2 miles.
Time to run another 26.2 miles.
Time to run another 26.2 miles.

Everything hurts, but I feel amazing.

My last 50 mile race was 2 years ago and it was on trails in early July in (mountainous) Ithaca, NY. It took me 10 hours and 40 minutes to complete, mostly because I had no idea what I was doing and took it very cautiously. This time, it was about 30 degrees cooler and the race — the Nashville Ultra — was on much less technical terrain. With the more favorable conditions, I wanted to see if I could maintain a 10 minute mile and finish between 8 and 9 hours.


          I lost a toenail the night before, and, like the crazy runner that I am, considered it a stroke of luck. When the race started the next morning, I was nervous, but was mentally okay with the fact that if my injuries started to bother me, the absolute worst case scenario was that I’d DNF. (And if that happened, I was really hoping I’d make it at least halfway.) The course was mostly on paved bike path, with a few miles on trails. It was 2 out-and-backs, the first was a 17.5 mile loop, then we came back to the start/finish area where we then went on a 32.5 mile loop in the opposite direction.
Here we go!
          For the first 10 miles or so, I was actually a little bored — I was running at a pace that’s 3 minutes slower than what I’m used to so I eventually got impatient and started passing a bunch of people, but since I’m a nervous Nellie, I was worried that I was going too fast and everyone would pass me again later in the race. I made quick stops at the mile 5.5 and 12.5 aid stations for a little Powerade and saw Sam at the start/finish at mile 17.5. He told me I needed to eat something and handed me a sandwich. Right. Calories. I forgot. I had been running for over 3 hours and the only thing I ate were some Honey Stinger energy chews. My bad. So, I (begrudgingly) ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich over the course of the next 3 miles, probably ingesting as much tin foil as bread.
Have sandwich, will travel (another 32.5 miles, to be exact)…
          Around mile 21, my energy dipped and I started to doubt myself — I knew I still had 29 more miles to go and at this rate, I realized it was going to be a long day. Thankfully, Sam surprised me at the mile 23.5 aid station where I got a hug, blew my nose and got snot all over my sunglasses (so classy), and had my first sip of flat soda. I don’t drink soda, but that Coke was delicious. Mmm sugar! I got an energy boost when he told me I was in 2nd place. Wait, what?! My goal was just to finish in one piece and now I might podium? The competitor in me woke up and I blew out of the aid station at 8:15min/mile. I kept trying to slow down, but I’d subconsciously keep speeding up. At that point, I had made it halfway, still feeling good, so I decided I would run at whatever pace I felt comfortable, after all, I “only” had 25 miles to go (ahh, the things that sound normal in the middle of an ultra). I kept up a faster-than-expected pace, making my way through downtown Nashville, having a quick “oh shit I’m lost moment” where I stopped for a few minutes, but calmed down and realized I was on course. Crisis averted.
          Pit stop at the mile 30 aid station — more Powerade, more Honey Stinger chews. I tried eating another sandwich, but just didn’t have the stomach for it, so it went the way of the garbage. As I was passing mile 32 on my way out to the turn around point, I saw the first place female on her way back in, at her mile 35. I calculated that she had about 25 minutes on me, so something drastic would have to happen for me to move into first. I just kept going at a pace that was comfortable, so happy that I was running so fast so late into the race. I hit the turn around point, a volunteer asked for a selfie, and then I headed back towards the start\finish. Met up with my personal pacer Sam at mile 37, took a swig of Coke, refused more food, and kept going.
          I breezed through the mile 40 aid station, feeling remarkably good. More tasty soda, more Powerade, and we were off. At mile 41, I passed a guy who said to me, “how can you be running so fast after 40 miles?!” I said I wasn’t really sure, and that was the honest truth. But after that, I started to think, “OH GOD. I JUST RAN 40 MILES.” At about mile 44 I said something to Sam about being amazed I was keeping up a sub 9min/mile pace, and then of course 10 minutes later came the inevitable mental crash. I knew I was almost done, but at the same time it felt like I still had so far to go. “I have to do this for another hour? UGH.” And since it was an out-and-back, I knew what portions of the course I still needed to cover, including a hill that in my mind had turned into a large mountain, when in reality, it was probably only slightly steeper than Cat Hill in Central Park. Sam was telling me all these great, inspiring things, but all I could do was grunt in response. I kept my head down, and just kept moving.
You guys, I’m gonna do it.
          With less than a half mile to go, Sam took off so he could make it to the finish before me to get pictures. I ran the last half mile by myself and cried. Goddamn. I did it. 50 miles. Under 8 hours (7 hours 51 minutes, to be exact).
I took the tangents. 🙂
          I wiped my eyes as I crossed the finish line, and felt remarkably okay. Last time I was so dizzy I had to lay down, this time I hung around the finish area and ate what tasted like the best donut I’ve ever had in my life. (Also, I learned that cold Domino’s Pizza is DELICIOUS after running 50 miles.) I changed my clothes, walked around, face timed with my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew, and spent the next three days in utter disbelief. It was a great day. I was relaxed, I felt good. I had a ton of fun. And then I ate all of the BBQ in Nashville.
I do not recommend trying a curtsy after running 50 miles. It hurts.
          It would be dishonest of me to make it seem like I crossed that finish line by myself. I had a team of amazing people that helped me get through the summer and fall: thanks to the fine folks at Honey Stinger for keeping me fueled. Super thanks to my family for checking in on me and keeping me laughing and full of food (and wine). Thanks to my coach John Hirsch for his help training both my mind and my body, and for always telling it to me straight. Thanks to my physical therapist Dan at DASH PT for the early morning Mets chatter and for working miracles on my IT band and tendinitis. Thank you to Sam for dealing with my pre-race jitters (AKA when I turn into a bitch), and for being there at mile 49.5. Thank you to my big sister Meghan, for her unyielding support and encouragement. Maylo, the life force is stronger with you around. 🙂

I’m so bad at being injured.

I haven’t been shy about the fact that the summer/fall has been a tough training cycle for me. It was one of those training periods where I felt like I could never get any momentum. Sure I had a few 80+ mile weeks, but in a 3 month span, I also got stitches in my toe, subsequently developed tendinitis, got rid of it, and cursed as it came back. I moved (twice!), started a new job, broke-up, and then made-up. I had some obnoxious IT band problems, a fibula that decided to rotate out of position, a seriously disgusting stomach virus, and was wrecked by a migraine or two. In between all these mini hurdles, I spent most of my days running. Running away from things, running towards things, running to feel better, running until it hurt. I ran the hills of Prospect Park, the flats of the west side bike path. I ran the Williamsburg bridge at sunrise, Central Park at sunset. I ran in beautiful Hawaii, humid Delaware, hilly Pennsylvania, and back home in the chaotic East Village. Most of all, though, I ran to get ready for what was supposed to be an exciting fall calendar. I was going to try to run sub 3:00 in the Hartford Marathon in mid-October and then PR at a 50 miler in Nashville in early November.

Walking boot. That thing can go to hell.
Walking boot. That thing can go to hell.
i certainly wasn't using my garmin for anything running-related, so I let my nephew use it.
I certainly wasn’t using my garmin for anything running-related, so I let my nephew gnaw on it for a little while.

Towards the end of a really kick ass (translation: ridiculously tough) hill workout early on a Saturday morning where Sam and I were serenaded by “kids” from a rooftop who were still up drinking from the night before, I developed serious knee pain. Shit. I hobbled home and then, like the intelligent runner that I am, tried going out later in the day for my second run. Why? Duh, “runner logic” said that since I had a marathon to train for, my knee pain would just magically go away. Right? Ha. About a mile into the run, I practically had a temper tantrum, the pain was so bad. Based on the location of the pain, I had a pretty good idea of what it was: the dreaded IT band syndrome. Ugh. If my diagnosis was correct (and we all know what a great idea it is to self-diagnose, ahem Webmd), Hartford probably wouldn’t happen, and my goal of running my second ultra might not happen, either. Why did I work so hard, only to end up injured? Or, as I asked a number of times this summer, “WTF?”

Displeased at the non-running that's happening
Displeased at the non-running that’s happening

Anyway, I digress. Back to the part where I was dry heaving on the east side path, having a nice little public breakdown. Let’s just say it wasn’t my finest moment. Still crying (thank goodness for dark sunglasses), I limped home, and immediately emailed my physical therapist. She worked magic on my foot 5 years ago when I had the brilliant idea to just “run through” Plantar Fasciitis (PS — don’t do that). I practically begged her for an appointment ASAP, and wanted to virtually hug her when she set me up with Dan, another therapist in the practice who had an appointment first thing Monday morning, He told me it would be a relatively easy fix (note: he didn’t say “quick”, he said “easy”. I learned there IS a difference), rolled up his sleeves, and got to work prying my IT band off of my quad/hamstring. Yes, apparently it’s a thing: your IT band can adhere to your muscles. And yes, the therapy is as much “fun” as it sounds. I never knew massage could be so painful. You know that scene in the movie the 40-Year Old Virgin where Steve Carell gets his chest waxed? That was me. Minus the bleeding.

A few weeks and many bruises later, Hartford came and went. After spending way too many hours watching Netflix, eating dumplings, drinking wine, and generally being a crabby human being, Dan gave me the green light to start running again. I did my first run on the treadmill, because I figured that if my knee still hurt and I felt the need to smash things, at least I would be in a relatively controlled environment. The run was… tentative. “Is that my IT band?” “Do I feel something?” “Am I ok?” “What happens if I go faster?” He told me to stick with just 2 miles. Of course I did 2.25 miles… and then asked him the next day if it would be a good idea to pace a friend doing a 100 mile race the next week. I believe his exact words were “stupid and crazy.”

Lounging after my last ultra.
I like ultras because it is perfectly acceptable to lay on the ground afterwards. And yes, my feet are completely covered in mud.

That was a few weeks ago. I’m still seeing Dan twice a week for some hurt-so-good PT (apparently your fibula can rotate out of alignment. Yep. Also a thing.) and am heading to Nashville tomorrow for an ultramarathon. I spent 4 hours on Sunday at miles 18 and 23 of the NYC Marathon cheering — and crying  — as thousands of inspiring people passed me en route to Tavern on the Green. After the role reversal of being cheerleader instead of runner, I’m more motivated than ever to conquer this training cycle and take a little 50 mile tour around Nashville. It’s going to be freaking awesome. And exhausting. And amazing.

And I’m totally going to cry.

Women's lead pack at mile 18 of the 2015 NYC Marathon
Women’s lead pack at mile 18 of the 2015 NYC Marathon. Definitely crying when they passed me.
Post-NYC Marathon.
Marathons give me all of the feelings.

I am not a #dnb

The past few weeks, Ronda Rousey’s name has been all over the news. Her last three 3 UFC fights collectively have taken less than 60 seconds. I’m definitely not a UFC fan — I REALLY hate watching any sort of hand-to-hand combat and cover my eyes during violent scenes on tv (case in point: I saw Fight Club, but I only actually “watched” about 47 seconds of it). Anyway, Ronda is a UFC fighter who also happens to be a woman. It kind of goes without saying that the lady definitely knows her way around a gym. And with all the publicity, there have been quite a few nay-sayers who say she’s too muscular and too manly-looking. In response, she recently put out this YouTube video where Ronda says, yes, she is a woman and yes, she is muscular, but this doesn’t make her any less feminine. In fact, this body of hers, where each muscle is developed to serve a purpose, makes her “femininely badass as f*ck” and, despite my aversion to watching people beat the shit out of each other, I’m now a Rousey fan.

           So why the girl crush on Ronda? No, she’s not a marathoner like other awesome ladies (tennis champ Caroline Wozniacki! Gold medal gymnast Kerri Strug!), but she is a strong voice (no pun intended) championing the body of the female athlete. A few weeks ago, a female runner friend wrote on Facebook that she was too self-conscious to run outside without her shirt on. I wanted to “like” her status 17 times. Girl, I feel you. I’ve been running for over 11 years and, no matter how hot or gross or nasty it got — and believe me, NYC in August is a special kind of disgusting — I had only run once sans shirt. After reading her status, I went out for a run and took off my shirt. She inspired me to run 8 miles wearing nothing but running shorts and a sports bra. It was surprisingly liberating. It was also a little scary because I’m such a nerd that I got so paranoid I was going to get a ticket for indecent exposure. And then I thought, wait a second. All these guys with ‘dad bods‘  walk around without their shirts, evidence of their 6 packs of Heinekens and BBQ wings hanging around their waists like basketballs from their weekend warrior game. If they can do it, why can’t I do the same, with my “evidence” being planks and crunches and those damn V-ups (that I would be happy being able to do just ONE where I don’t look like a total spaz)? And so, I’ve joined the no-shirt party. I’ve been listening to my inner “you go girl” and have been leaving the shirt at home. And I must admit, with this confidence about my body and acceptance that my “kellybelly” will always be here no matter how many crunches or flutter kicks I do, comes confidence about a lot of other things, too. Because, like my friend Ronda, I am not a #dnb.
Me and my Kellybelly as my cousin Jenna looks on in stunned silence.

During good weeks, I have all 10 toenails. I have calluses built up from years of cutting and jab-stepping on the basketball court.

I wasn’t kidding about the toenails/callouses/hideous feet. To be fair, this is after running a ridiculously muddy 50 mile ultramarathon. But still, those are feet only a mother could love.

I would never get a pedicure, and in fact should get a 20% discount (let’s just say I’m not operating with a full set). Some women go on shopping trips to find the perfect pair of jeans; my goal is to find the perfect sports bra (chafing = ouchie). I have a ridiculous watch tan line from wearing my trusty Garmin while logging hundreds of miles this summer. Two-a-day workouts mean my hair is always wet (even in the winter) and half the day I’m in some form of workout clothes (true story: after graduate school, I considered getting a job at Lululemon only for the employee discount). While at work on weekends, my lab mates would ask, “did you just come from a run?” To which I replied, “nope, this is just how I dress.” As a female athlete , it’s taken an embarrassingly long time for me to accept that I will never be one of those super skinny model-y girls who is always put together and looks like she’s on a steady diet of cigarettes and coffee. True, I’m often hungry (and never travel without at least one Honey Stinger bar) so the threat of getting hangry is never far, but I blame that on the workouts and not on calorie restriction.

ice cream
I want all of the ice cream. Forever.
          I guess what I’m trying to say is that I may wear pink shoes and a sparkly headband, but that’s not because I need to feel more feminine. It’s because I want to. And like my mom always said, “you always do what you wanna do.” Damn straight.
Competing with my cousin Jake about whose muscles are bigger. Jake won.

Island hopping

I stumbled off the plane, eyes bleary and head foggy from the 11 hour trip. It was 2pm on July 4. I made it: I was in Hawaii. After a particularly rough beginning to the summer (to put it mildly), I used up all my frequent flier miles and (impulsively? uncharacteristically? decisively?) booked an 8 day trip to Hawaii. Thanks to United Airlines, it cost a whopping $11.20 to fly direct from Newark to Honolulu. I called it my “eat pray love / wild” trip, but it turned out to be more of an “eat run love live laugh talk sleep cry smile swim” kind of week. I was going to visit my uncle who I hadn’t seen in probably 20 years (oh god, that I can even say that makes me feel so old). Sure, I was a little nervous — I mean, I hadn’t seen this man in 2 decades and I was going to spend 8 days with him in his house? Was I crazy? Maybe. I had a week in Kaneohe to find out…

A view of Kaneohe Bay from the plane

          The trip was everything I expected and nothing at all like I thought it would be: every morning I went for a run in hot, humid, hilly Hawaii, and I had take a second and convince myself that this was real.

Bringing a little bit of the Brooklyn Marathon to Hawaii

Thanks to the wonders of cortisone and a little bit of Noni, my ankle was feeling better and for the first time in two months, I was running regularly. Don’t get me wrong — those first few runs weren’t pretty — it took about 4 days for me not to feel like a drunken baby giraffe learning how to walk, but I think I finally got the hang of it. I was eating clean (very little dairy and sweets, and no meat, alcohol, or caffeine), snacking on papayas, mangoes, avocados, cherries, watermelon, and of course, my Honey Stinger bars. I was swimming (more like bobbing around) in the ocean and relaxing on the beach. I was talking to my uncle, getting to know a man I hadn’t had contact with for so long. IMG_2670We talked about everything from washing machines to reincarnation, along with a healthy dose of family, music, surfing, and science. Turns out, my uncle is a pretty cool dude. I mean, you can kind of guess that when you hear he’s lived in Hawaii for 30+ years and you see the surfboards hanging over his kitchen table. But, when you hear stories of how he sang backing vocals for Carly Simon at Carnegie Hall, or the shows he saw at The Bitter End and the Fillmore East, or the cross- country trips in his VW van, you gotta figure this guy is pretty awesome.

I grew up on the North Shore (of Long Island) and while I love Manhasset, it looks nothing like this.
          My Uncle Tom helped me get my head back on straight and, in our time together, taught me a little bit (ok, more like a lot of bit) about myself. He taught me about love, forgiveness, and the importance of family. About being kind to yourself and others. About having patience and having faith that everything will work out. And through all this, I was lucky enough to get back to doing what makes me happy: running. I like to think I’ll keep his lessons with me back in New York but if I need a little help remembering, I know the mango I have ripening on my counter will remind me of our trip to the North Shore, and the cherries in my fridge will remind me of the fireworks on the beach in Kailua. And if this doesn’t work, we’ll always have our selfies!
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“The saddest sight my eyes can see
Is that big ball of orange sinkin’ slyly down the trees”
Indigo Girls, Get out the Map

Silver Linings

Yesterday, I was supposed to race a marathon. It was going to be my 27th marathon and my second one this year. It was going to be my first international marathon, one that I had been targeting to podium, or — if I was having a good day — compete for an overall win. But, the universe and I have been in kind of in a big fight these past few weeks and instead of racing in Banff, Canada, I spent the weekend on Long Island in a walking boot nursing a sprained ankle and a wounded heart.

My crappy new accessory.
My crappy new accessory. But, thanks to some fancy technology, I am rocking “the shoes with the pumps” a la Todd Carey.
          Yikes. I didn’t mean for that to sound quite so dramatic. In all seriousness, though, the summer hasn’t exactly turned out the way I thought it would, but if a series of little (okay, more like, big Canadian Rockies-sized) bumps in the road have taught me anything, it’s that these days, I’m all about finding the silver linings — listening to my cousin sing “This is the New Year” instead of going to a concert at Bowery Ballroom, having my aunt take me to Bed Bed Bath and Beyond instead of buying new clothes at Lululemon and Banana Republic. It’s Friday night pizza and wine with family instead of late night dinner dates at home. And in the case of this weekend, it was celebrating my grandmother’s 90th birthday instead of racing 26.2 miles through the Canadian Rockies. Oh, and there was also an impromptu pool side dance party, a challenger league baseball game, Father’s Day dinner, and a little game called “Bean Boozled” where 4 of us dopes sat on my cousin’s bed in our pajamas and ate jellybeans flavored like rotten eggs, moldy cheese, barf, skunk, and boogers, just to name a few. We laughed (and gagged) so hard our eyes watered. And yes, there is evidence, but only in the form of video — physical evidence in the form of, well, actual vomit, has (hopefully?) been washed from my cousin’s shirt.
With the birthday girl. Note: her tiara says
With the birthday girl. Note: her tiara says “Happy 29th Birthday”
          This weekend, I didn’t get my typical pre-race jitters (or, less flatteringly referred to as “that time before a marathon where Kelly turns into a crazy lady”). I didn’t get to carbo load. I didn’t get the challenge of trying to convert my kilometer splits into mile times (as an enginerd, I was kind of looking forward to it). I didn’t hit the wall and then fight through it. I didn’t get to see my sherpa. I didn’t get that indescribable feeling that brings me to tears every time I cross a marathon finish line. And the fashion-inept engineer/scientist part of me is disappointed I didn’t get to wear my favorite post-race accessories: bright purple compression socks and brown crocs.
With Auntie M
With Auntie M
          But I did spend the weekend with my family. My family, who makes me smile so hard my face hurts, who cares so much my chest aches, and who insists on feeding me so much my kellybelly hurts. My family, who is reminding me how to be happy and how to laugh again. And if that’s not a silver lining, I don’t know what is.
Kisses from Connor!
Kisses from Connor!

This is my fight song…

          Alanis Morissette told us “I recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone.” Alanis, you be crazy. Okay, maybe we already knew she was a little crazy when she wrote a scathing breakup song about Uncle Joey, but nevertheless, I am not a fan of this heart trampling she speaks of. In fact, I would argue that it kinda sorta completely and totally sucks. Combine this feeling of heartbreak with moving out and having to find an apartment in NYC on a serious budget, and it’s nothing short of Kelly and the terrible horrible no good very bad… month.
          But now, I’m in a new place, in a new borough, writing this entry on my laptop feeling very Carrie Bradshaw… minus the cigarette and closet full of designer shoes (unless you count ASICS and New Balance as couture). Oh, there’s also the fact that this apartment is most definitely not rent controlled and that my desk happens to overlook an “Amp and Guitar Wellness Center” and not some tree-lined street off of Madison Ave. There’s no confusing the fact that Toto, we are definitely not in the upper east side. We are in Brooklyn.
          Since that whole heart trampling thing, I haven’t had any interest to run. I used to see people running and feel a twinge of jealousy: I want to run, too! Now, I look at them and think, “that’s nice. I remember when I used to do that.” Anyone that knows me, knows that this apathy is cause for concern (to put it mildly). I’ve gone running twice in the last two and a half weeks, both times with my coach. The second time we went to a beautiful facility up in Harlem where I saw stars and almost tasted synthetic track during a particularly tough 1200m repeat. Here’s a thought: lack of sleep + severe caloric deficit = bad news bears when it comes to speed work. But it’s all good — I recovered with a calorie-rich smoothie and a good cry. (Apologies to my fellow A train passengers. It was a rough morning.)
          In any case, I think I’m starting to get the running bug back, and I know that when I am feeling better, with calories replenished and my sleep bank back in the black (or more realistically, a little less in the red), I’ll be out there, doing as many loops of Prospect Park as my weary legs can handle. I have a marathon and a 50 mile ultramarathon left on my calendar for 2015, and now more than ever, I need running. I need to zone out for an hour (or four) each day, I need to be so tired I can’t go another step, and then run another mile. I need to remember the simple pleasures — the joy of a 6 mile recovery run, the welcome pain of 8 miles of hills, and the mind-clearing relaxation of an 18 mile long run. I need my legs to be sore, my brain to quiet down, and my heart to be whole. I need to fall in love again. I need to run.
July 4, on the Village Green, circa 1992.
July 4 on the Village Green, circa 1992.
“Fight Song” by Rachel Platten
This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

The 2015 Long Island Marathon

Ahh, the 5:15am alarm. I’m either traveling or racing a marathon, because those are the only 2 reasons I’d be up this early. Okay, time to get dressed, eat my bagel, use the bathroom (TMI, but for reals: it’s a MUST before a race. Trust me), then head out to Eisenhower Park for the Long Island Marathon. I won the race in 2013, then in 2014 did a much hillier, but very scenic, race in Southern Vermont where I came in second by 2 seconds. Yes. Two freaking seconds.
Anyway, I digress. I’m back at the 2015 LI race, but I almost didn’t make it to the start line: a few days before the race, I was talking to my aunt and she was asking me things like, when does the race start? What’s your bib number? In other words, all things I really should know. So, I look on the website. OK, race starts at 8am. Great. What’s my bib number? I search for my name in the list of registered entrants and it says, “You are registered for 0 events.” Aaaaand commence freak out. After a string of 4 letter expletives, I take a deep breath, and search my email. Apparently, I never registered for the race. FAIL KELLY. Thankfully I was able to register in person two days before the race, but holy cow, talk about high anxiety.
The weather for Sunday was supposed to be warm — a high of 76 — which, if you ask me, is about 25 degrees too warm for a marathon. Plus, with almost half the course being on the Wantagh Parkway, I knew I’d have to be careful with hydration and not wilting in the sun. I spent the first few miles trying to settle into a comfortable pace, as I didn’t want to go faster than 7:05-7:10 (memories, painful horrible memories, of going out too fast in the 2014 NYC marathon have scarred me for life).
Mile 3. Still pretty pumped.
Mile 3. Still pretty pumped.
At mile 10, we leave the side streets and turn onto the Wantagh Parkway where we’ll be until just past mile 22. I actually kind of love this part of the course because it’s wide, mostly flat, and quiet. This is where the race really started for me — I picked up the pace and was running 6:50s pretty consistently and felt great (probably also due to the fact that I just had my first Honey Stinger energy gel). I saw Sam and got a surprise visit from my aunt, uncle, and cousin around mile 13, where I found out I was in 4th place and the 2nd and 3rd place girls were about 60-90 seconds ahead of me. I asked how far ahead the first place woman was. Sam said, “just run. Just keep going.” HA. Translation: She’s FAR.
Around mile 14, I picked off the 3rd place girl, and then at the turnaround point at mile 16.5, I saw the first place woman make her hairpin turn and head back. By my watch, she still had a good 4 minutes on me. Bollocks. At mile 17, I caught up to the 2nd place woman and the strangest thing happened: as I passed her, she stopped running. Like, literally stopped in her tracks and started walking. I asked if she was okay and she said, “oh yea I’m fine.” Uhh, ok…
Now I’m in 2nd place, about 4 minutes back, and I was on a mission: I had to catch up to the leader. Open Honey Stinger gel #2 and keep on truckin. For the next few miles, I notice something: all the female spectators would say some form of “you go girl!” and other encouraging words, whereas the male spectators were yelling things like, “she’s only 2 minutes ahead of you and she looks TERRIBLE!” or, “you’re only 90 seconds back, and she looks AWFUL. Go get her!” Hmm, I might actually have a chance at this.
I pass Sam and my family at mile 20, they tell me the leader is 90 seconds ahead and is apparently not shy about the fact that she’s not doing so well. I open my Honey Stinger Energy Chews, I know I’ll need them. I keep my pace a steady 6:50 or so, and… MIRACLE! I see the lead bikers! At mile 22 I catch up to them and the woman and I exchange a few words, I say great job keep it up, she tells me how awful she feels. I’m feeling pretty shitty too, but I think I’m hiding it better than she is. I pass her, and have just over 5km to go. Less than 24 minutes. If I can just keep it together for 24 more minutes, I’m good.
Almost there!
The lead bikers escort me off the Wantagh Parkway, and we cover 2 of the longest miles ever, down some road whose name I don’t know in a town I don’t recall because I’m running part of the time with my eyes closed, willing the race to be over. I’m really feeling it now and am up to about a 7:10-7:15 per mile. I open my eyes wide enough and like a mirage, I think I see orange cones. YES. That means we’re going back into Eisenhower Park, the marathon is almost over, and I can eat ice cream and drink soda. Mile 25 comes and goes, I have no idea how close the girl is behind me, I start having paranoid thoughts that somehow she got a second wind. Mile 26, thank freaking god I’m almost finished, I make the last right turn, I see the finish line ahead, I wave frantically to my family. I manage not to trip over the tape. I did it!
Phew. I could really go for some ice cream.
But before I do, I have many people to thank: thank you to Coach John Hirsch for getting my legs and my brain ready, to New York Health and Racquet Club and their amazing staff for getting me strong, to Honey Stinger for keeping me fueled, and to my family and friends. Thank you for putting up with all this running nonsense. You all are amazing.
“don’t trip over the tape. don’t trip over the tape.”
Hip hip hooray!
Hip hip hooray!
The best cheerleaders!  Huge thanks to Steve, little man Connor, Aunt Susan, Jake, Danny, and Meghan for coming out and cheering me on.
The best cheerleaders! Huge thanks to Steve, little man Connor, Aunt Susan, Jake, Danny, and Meghan for coming out and cheering me on.
Thank you Honey Stinger for keeping me fueled. Love my caffeinated energy gels and energy chews
Thank you Honey Stinger for keeping me fueled. Love my caffeinated energy gels and energy chews
He says his muscles are bigger than mine. He's right.
We couldn’t find our car in the parking lot. So we started comparing whose muscles were bigger. Jake won.
My family knows me well. After a marathon, I require dessert. Lots of dessert.
My family knows me well. After a marathon, I require dessert. Lots of dessert.

For the love of the marathon

Last Monday marked my first year since 2004 that I wasn’t on the Boston Marathon start line Hopkinton. Every year, I made the pilgrimage to Boston, “carbo loading” at Mike’s Pastry and spending a paycheck or two on a hotel room. I ran the year of the Nor’easter, the year it was 85 degrees at the start. I was cresting Heartbreak Hill when spectators told us Meb won (!!!), I was in my hotel room behind Copley when I heard the sirens. This year, however, I spent Marathon Monday on my living room couch, watching the elite runners with my jaw hanging open, goosebumps running up my arms. Like many other runnerds, I was rooting for Meb to repeat, and for Shalane Flanagan to be the first woman to make that right on Hereford, left on Boylston. I was surprised and a little confused when Shalane lost contact with the lead pack around mile 16, and then when she fell further and further behind through the Newton Hills. Was she injured? Was she sick?

my first time running down boylston. i crossed the finish line and headed straight for a porta-potty. truth.
My first time running down Boylston. I crossed the finish line and headed straight for a porta-potty.

Nope. Turns out it just a “bad day at the office.” Wait a second. Someone can spend months (or years) training for this race, for these two (or three or four) hours, making countless sacrifices (glass of wine? No thanks. More dessert? Nope, I’ve got a long run tomorrow), only to crash and burn the day of the race, for no other reason than your body is just not that into it?

Welcome to the marathon.

Boston 2010. This year I'm a little happier, and a lot less sick.
Boston 2010. This year I’m a little happier, and a lot less sick.

26.2 miles. That’s a lot of freaking miles. Back when I had a car, I usually didn’t drive that many miles in a day, let alone RACE them. I’ve run almost 30 marathons (and a 50 mile ultra) and the thought of racing 26.2 miles still scares the crap out of me. And that’s why I love it.

Before the 2011 Brooklyn Marathon. This is my
Before the 2011 Brooklyn Marathon. This is my “what did i get myself into” face.

This training cycle, I’ve had more 80, 90, and 100 mile weeks than ever. I’ve had more 5:30am wake-up calls than I care to count. I’ve done more planking, squatting, and lunging than is considered normal… and to think it all might not work out the next time I embark on a 26.2 mile journey, is kind of a terrifying/amazing thing. But then again, there’s the chance it all will work out: I’ll be properly fueled and hydrated, the weather gods will bless us with cool temps and a tailwind, my head will be focused, my legs will work in sync with the rest of me. And that chance of having “the day”, will always bring me back.

Next week (ohmygod, next week?!), I’ll be racing the Long Island Marathon. I’ll be starting and finishing in Eisenhower Park and in between, will be spending a few hours out on the “scenic” Wantagh Parkway. I’ll try not to get choked up when I pass my 9 month old nephew with his three adorable teeth, when I see my sister and her husband (and their ex-racing greyhound!) cheering me on, when I see my aunt and cousin jumping up and down like lunatics, when I watch my boyfriend double fisting cameras to get a picture where I don’t look ridiculous/terrible/awkward. I’ll try not to lose my shit and start crying when I cross the finish line.

But I’m not making any promises.

2013 Long Island Marathon with my cheerleaders
2013 Long Island Marathon with my cheerleaders