I should have known that the day wasn’t off to a great start when my alarm went off at 5:45am. I jumped out of bed, got dressed, and then thought, “wait a second…” why was I planning on leaving the apartment at 6:40am for a race that didn’t start until 9am? Because I screwed up. I set my alarm and made my travel plans as if the race started at 8am. Mistake numero uno.
As I’ve made pretty clear, I’m not a big fan of winter these days. So, to escape the cold and — let’s face it — to become a much happier human, Sam and I spent a week in warmer weather. My conclusion? In January, Miami >> New York City. Truth.
My dad came along to support me, which was super cool, until the point in the trip where people were clearly confused as to whether we were husband and wife instead of father and daughter. Umm, ew. I was 27 and my dad was, like, 60. Miami: 1, Kelly: 0. To make it worse, the marathon was a rough race for me. My goal was to place in my age group, but (SPOILER!), it turns out training in the winter in New York and then going to race a marathon in warm humid Florida is not so smart (we won’t even discuss the 3:30am race-day wake up call). Nevertheless, I left it all out on the course. Literally. I “deposited” breakfast — and probably a little bit of dinner — in three different spots. Despite the mess, I came in under 3:40 (my then-qualifying time for Boston) and promptly decided I didn’t like Miami.
I’m just going to come right out and say it: I hate racing in the cold. Like, REALLY hate it. I ran the Boston Marathon the year of the nor-easter (our “reward” from the running gods was a rocking tailwind) and then again a few years later when it was 85 degrees at the start (our “reward” this time… umm… bragging rights?). Try and get me to race in the winter and I turn into a total wimp. But, since I want to PR in a spring marathon, I need to run fast in the winter. And there’s no better way to do that than to race! So, I signed up for a bunch of NYCRUNS races, and the first one came up WAY faster than the competitor and type A-athlete in me would have liked: the Hot Chocolate 10 miler in Central Park.
It was a double race weekend in our house, my boyfriend was running the NYRR Joe Kleinerman 10km on Saturday and I was racing on Sunday. Guys, Saturday was COLD. I’m talking warm-your-clothes-on-the-radiator cold. That morning I cheered on the thousands of brave souls running the NYRR race; I watched my boyfriend cross the finish line (way to go Sam!), and followed him through the chute as he drank ice water and gnawed on a frozen bagel, all while hurrying him along so that we could start our 6 mile jog home. All in all, I was only out for about 2 hours, but apparently that was enough to give me a wee bit of frostbite on my right big toe. The lazy girl in me thought this would be a good excuse not to race the next morning. The part of me that wants to run to run a sub 3 hour marathon said to shush. It’s only a toe. And it’s only 10 miles. It was time to put on my big girl pants.
Saturday afternoon we stopped by Tompkins Square Bagels to buy my morning carbo bomb (soapbox: shop local. Please. This place is amaze). I put out my clothes and set my alarm clock for bright and early… rather, dark and pre-sunrise. Sam and I took the subway part of the way up and jogged the remaining 1.5 miles as part of a warm-up/don’t freeze routine. At the start, I did a dance to stay not-cold (with moves curiously similar to those I make when I have to pee). Some quick instructions from race director extraordinaire Steve Lastoe, and we were off. Two 5 mile loops of Central Park. GO!
So, I’ve only been back to training for about 2 weeks and am only up to about 40-50 miles per week. And, as I realized during the race, I haven’t taken an off day in 10 days, so this wasn’t going to be a PR for me. My goal was to run a controlled race with a negative split, and I thought 7 min/mi was reasonable. And that’s pretty much what happened: I negative split by about 2 minutes and came in 5th overall, 1st in my age group, for a time of 1:10:23, a pace of 7:02 min/mile. After the race, I had some delicious hot chocolate (thanks to the awesome volunteers at NYCRUNS!), and Sam and I were on our way, 6 miles back home, for a total of 18 miles on the day. it wasn’t my best race, certainly not my worst, but a solid effort for so early in the training cycle. I’ll take it!
And now for the good stuff: I have a sponsor. Great googly moogly, I have a sponsor! And they make delicious stuff. And it’s healthy. And great before workouts, and during, and after. And sweet. And did I mention delicious? YAY for Honey Stinger!
I’m SO stoked to be a member of the Hive, I already got my first awesome package in the mail, I can’t wait to share these treats and use them to fuel and re-fuel, and everything in between. Also, I’m issuing a very public warning: if you come over for one of our dinner parties, I *might* serve some of these for dessert.
For some runners, going to altitude means one thing: training, and nothing but training. For me, however, my trip to altitude was a little different. I spent 9 days in the highlands of Guatemala and the only running I did was playing a ball game with local Guatemala kids that was some combination of monkey-in-the-middle and the three man weave. I packed my running clothes, fully intending to take advantage of the thin dry air, warm temps, blue skies, and hills (oh how I would have loved/hated to do some hill repeats). But after a few days, I knew there would be no repeats. This trip was about so much more than running…
My boyfriend and I left our New York City apartment at the ungodly hour of 4:15am and drove through the East Village en route to the airport. We felt old, as our neighborhood was still very much alive from the night before (apparently the wee morning hours are a great time to get pizza). A few hours and several naps later, we de-planed, bleary eyed and excited. We were in Guatemala City.
We went as part of an organization called the Music is Love Exchange (MILE). MILE is a group of artists, musicians, and music lovers, that work together to benefit the lives of underserved children, both in the US and abroad.
Every year, they organize a trip (“The Extra MILE”) which serves as an introduction to service for a group of lucky people from all over the US. We head down to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala to perform concerts for the locals, to carry out service projects, and to learn about Mayan and Guatemalan cultures and customs. But, as we would soon find out, the trip was not just about singing a few Christmas carols and carrying out a bit of manual labor.
As a textbook introvert, I was anxious (ok, very anxious) about spending so much “people” time with 29 others that I didn’t know that well, or at all. Thankfully, after a few jokes, heartfelt stories, and big hugs, my fears were gone. These guys were pretty rad. We eased into Guatemala time by spending a day hanging out on Lake Atitlan, and eating all the nachos and black bean puree our bellies could handle (two words: fresh guacamole!), but it was soon time to get to work.
After singing Christmas carols to the students, our first service experience was to improve the courtyard in a secondary school in Cerro de Oro.We painted the school, hauled rocks and dirt, and planted bushes. We turned a weed-filled courtyard into a green space, and we had FUN doing it.
During work breaks, we ate lunches and snacks provided by local women, bought scarves from nearby weavers, and played soccer with the kids. We took selfies, gave piggy back rides, and played ball games. It didn’t matter that I was operating on high school level Spanish, we were able to converse enough to trade some light-hearted and silly trash talk (turns out I’m just as bad trash talking in Spanish as I am in English).
The next day, a brave group went coffee picking high up on the mountain-side while the rest of us traveled to Hospitalito Atitlan where we learned all about the role of western medicine in an indigenous Mayan area (truly fascinating). After more Christmas carols, we got to work cleaning solar panels, clearing gardens, picking coffee, and cleaning and organizing the pharmacy.
We finished each day exhausted and dirty, but energized and spiritually alive. Dinners felt like big family gatherings and late night-music hangs had the familiarity of spontaneous performances in a dorm room down the hall. There were jokes, shared smiles, star gazes, and giggling fits. We had deep conversations and light-hearted exchanges, we shared our blankets and our wine, we sang along, we day-dreamed and we dozed.
After 9 days in Guatemala, it was time to come home. Goodbyes felt like we were leaving summer camp, promising to keep in touch and return the next year. I’m terrible at goodbyes, I get incredibly awkward and forget how to speak like a normal person — I couldn’t say goodbye thinking we’d never see each other again — in just 9 short days, these people that had once been strangers became not just friends, but also individuals with whom I shared a great secret: the spiritual experience that was Lake Atitlan. For days, my facebook feed was a flurry of activity — pictures, videos, and comments, all helping me feel like I was still at the Lake. After being home for almost a week, my mind was still swimming — I dreamt of the Lake, the students, the truck rides in the countryside, and the friendly faces that waved to us as we drove by (truth: I also fantasized about the avocadoes and the coffee). Once my mind settled, I thought of our service. I thought of how I could carry this feeling of giving back, of love exchange while home in New York City.
These days, I’m back in my routine, running, going to the gym, meeting friends, and spending time with family… but there’s a small part of me that’s still at the Lake, dirty after a day of hauling soil, eating nachos, watching the Hummingbirds, and looking forward to the evening’s concert.
Two days ago, I had a fun surprise in the mail: I received my award for winning the 2014 Brooklyn Marathon: a $1000 gift card to JackRabbit Sports. AMAZING. Do you know how many pairs of shoes this can buy?! A lot. And how many Sparkly Soul headbands and winter tights and bottles of WIN detergent I can get? Mucho.
Then, yesterday, I got a new box of these super tasty Amrita bars. And since I’m leaving in a few days for a service trip to Guatemala, you can bet these bad boys are coming with me.
And then today, Christmas came early in the form of a gift from one of my favorite retailers: City Sports.
It was full of beautiful bright clothes that are perfect for running in these shorter (gloomier) winter days. HUGE thank you to the awesome people at City Sports for being so generous and supportive of a local urban athlete. I can’t wait to get my workout on in these!
I haven’t gotten this many exciting things in the mail since I was applying to college, and even then, it wasn’t so much about exciting things as it was “oh god is that a thin envelope?” While I’m not expecting to get anything else today, I kind of feel like giving my mailman a hug, just to thank him for bringing all this awesomeness to my door.
This is a race report i’m excited to write!