I’d rather run a marathon than race a 5k

It’s 15 degrees and I’m in Riverside Park at 9:25am on a windy and gray Saturday morning, focusing on keeping my hot chocolate upright as I’m doubled over. Sam asks, “but you feel good, right?” The truth is that, no I feel like shit, but what I actually say is, “I have never felt good after one of these things.” It’s my first 5k race since 2012, and that’s partially because the thought of racing 3.1 miles makes my legs and lungs hurt. This time was no different. I’m not sure if I’m doing something right, or very wrong, but I usually feel like the race ends just in time — any longer or I’d dry heave my way across the finish line.
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Flashback to my last 5km, the CPTC Founder’s 5km in Prospect Park, July 2012.

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.

After taking the subway part of the way uptown, I jogged 2 miles to the start and saw exactly what we’d be dealing with: the course was hilly and covered in so much ice that it narrowed the path to single track (the race director actually said we might have to throw a few elbows on the out-and-back course). I just kept telling myself, “20 minutes. It will all be over in 20 minutes.”
The first half of the race, I thought I was in 4th, with the 2nd and 3rd place females no more than 15 seconds ahead of me. Just before the turn-around, I passed them both, thinking I was now in 2nd, with the 1st place woman far in front. I was feeling pretty yuck as we ascended a few hills, but knew it would all be over soon because I had mercifully passed the 2 mile marker. Just a few more minutes and the pain would be over. With 0.3 miles to go, we made a sharp left turn down a steep hill and you could just barely make out the finish line. Oh thank god, that means the torture is almost over. I was jolted from my happy place when I got passed by a girl (grr). I tried to keep up, willing my quads to go faster, but they were in no mood to cooperate. Okay, fine, if it was any consolation, I would still podium (mistake numero dos). I couldn’t keep up with her, and she finished 4 seconds ahead of me. I finished in just over 21 minutes, a disappointing time (aaand numero tres). Sam immediately came over and told me I came in fourth. FOURTH?! Ugg. You know what’s worse than coming in 4th? Coming in 4th thinking you were in 3rd the whole time. I grumbled for a few minutes (sorry Sam!), drank my hot chocolate (thank you NYCRUNS!), changed my shirt, and ran 11 miles home. I was pissed. I was cold. I was tired. I needed to declare a mulligan on the day. I got home, showered, took a short nap, and ate breakfast all over again.
I’m still a little grumpy about the morning, but am trying to use it as a learning experience. I need to get my speed up. I need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Also, I need to do another 5k. Preferably faster. And preferably in warmer weather. Until then, I’ve got some training to do.
comfort zone

It’s cold here, so I took my running shoes to South Beach…

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.

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Evidence. You don’t get this in NYC in January (or any other month, really).
For the past 3 years, we’ve been going on The Rockboat, a cruise that’s part music festival, part spring break for adults (picture a bunch of middle aged people carrying beer buckets around like security blankets, eating soft serve ice cream at 2am, all while losing their voices from singing along to Barenaked Ladies and Sister Hazel a little too enthusiastically).
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Green River Ordinance singing from the pool deck of the Norwegian Pearl. Photo credit: Sam Teichman Photo & Video
Anyway, since we were on a boat for a few days, I had to do some treadmill running. It’s not my favorite (note: I despite it), but if I’m doing it while overlooking the ocean, I suppose I can tolerate it for a few miles. 😉 What made the workout… interesting…  was that the gym on the ship was high up (deck 12 of 14), the water was rocky, and the treadmills were oriented perpendicular to the current. So, with each rise and fall of the ship, it felt like I was doing awkward sideways mini hill repeats. And then there were the planks. Try doing planks on a rocking boat. It’s like doing them on a moving stability ball. There was no way I was going to try jumping lunges — I can’t even do those on solid ground without looking like a drunken elephant, let alone on a rocking ship. Outside of all the gym work, I stuck with my training plan thanks to a really decent buffet: I had a steady diet of fresh greens, steamed vegetables, beans, fresh fruit, and late night veggie snacks (okay fine, I might have sneaked in a cookie. Or 3). After a 4 day cruise, I am proud to say that I still managed to fit into my shorts. Phew.
We got back to land and Sam and I took our running shoes and dirty clothes to South Beach for the rest of the week, because, duh. winter. The last time I was in South Beach was in 2010 to run the Miami Marathon.

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Post marathon score was Miami: 2, Kelly: 0.

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.

Anyway, I digress. It’s 2015 and the circumstances were slightly different. Poor Sam thought we were there to relax, but HA, I had other plans: each day brought 75 degrees, sunny skies… and 9+ miles. Sunset runs on the boardwalk, morning runs along the Venetian Causeway, and a mid-afternoon recovery run through the Everglades that turned into a fartlek because I got scared every time we passed an alligator.

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Imagine passing dozens of these guys on your run. You’d run fast, too.
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Ran through the Everglades and lived to tell about it!
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My family has had 4 retired racing greyhounds, so I insisted that Sam and I see them race. Holy cow those puppies can run.
Miami the second time around was a much better trip. There was no confusion about my relationship with my male traveling partner, but there was lots of good running, clean eating, and most importantly, warm weather! SoBe, maybe you’re not so bad after all.
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“Winter Hero, Season Zero” (Thanks, Coach!)

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.

Awesome race swag from NYCRUNS
Awesome race swag from NYCRUNS

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!

Honey Stinger
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.

YAY!
YAY!

Next up is the NYCRUNS Half Marathon in Central Park. Then a few shorter races, all leading up to the Long Island Marathon and my first international race, the Banff Marathon. Go go gadget legs!

I went to altitude… and the only running I did was when I played monkey-in-the-middle…

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…

View from Hotel y Restaurant Toliman
View from Hotel y Restaurant Toliman

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.

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Group of MILERs with the locals. We’re about to get to work beautifying their school yard!

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.

Me and Sam hanging out on the Lake
Me and Sam hanging out on the Lake

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.

before after

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).

Snack time!
Snack time!
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Time for some selfies
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This portion of the game is known as “keep away from Kelly”

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.

Singing Christmas carols in Hospitalito Atitlán.
Singing Christmas carols in Hospitalito Atitlán.
Cleaning solar panels at Hospitalito Atitlán
Cleaning solar panels at Hospitalito Atitlán
Picking coffee at Hospitalito Atitlán
Picking coffee at Hospitalito Atitlán

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.

late night hang

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.

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Squats with Brendan and Juan
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Pre ball-game strategizing
Resident Hummingbirds at Hotel Toliman
Resident Hummingbirds at Hotel Toliman
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Me and Sam in Antigua on our last day. sad face.

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.

lake pic

Awesome things coming in the mail these days!

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.

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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.

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No breakfast? No problem!

And then today, Christmas came early in the form of a gift from one of my favorite retailers: City Sports.

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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!

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I’ll take, “things that are pretty for $200 please Alex”

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.

Brooklyn Marathon race report

This is a race report i’m excited to write!

For my pre-race nutrition, I followed advice from my nutritionist Christine Lynch and I minimized veggie and dairy intake the day before, had brown rice pasta with red sauce and a little bit of chicken for dinner and then ate a bagel with peanut butter the morning of the race. Conclusion: no emergency bathroom trips. WIN.
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I won the Brooklyn Marathon in 2011, and it’s a special race for me because it was my first win and the first time I realized that I might actually be decent at this whole marathon thing. Fast forward a few years and this was my first time coming back to defend a title. I’m anxious and neurotic enough as it is before a race, so the added pressure didn’t make me an easier person to be around (sorry, Sam). There were no other previous female winners there so my main goal for this race was to work on pacing. I went out way too fast when I ran the NYC Marathon and I wanted to correct that mistake by running a negative split. Also, since I just ran NYC 2 weeks ago, I knew I really couldn’t afford to go out too fast — the consequences could be downright UGLY. I was tested right from the gun when 2 girls went out FAST. I watched them speed off, and thought, “if they’re that fast, good for them” and then thought maybe they’ll regret the quick start once we hit the hills. I reminded myself that it was a long race, with plenty of time for things to go wrong… or right. So, I stuck to my plan, and kept my pace at ~7-7:05 min/mile.
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Yep, still a whole bunch of miles to go
Sure enough, the hills got to them. I passed one girl to move into 2nd place around mile 8, just 1 mile after we crested the first hill. Around mile 13, Sam told me that the first place girl was about 3 minutes ahead and I chuckled and thought how tough it would be to make up all that time without crashing later on. It would be one thing to catch her, another thing to pass her, and a third thing to keep it up. As I passed other runners, I heard one say to the other “she’ll definitely catch up to the girl in first”. I’d be lying if this didn’t boost my confidence, but still knew it would be a challenge to make up that much time. I maintained my pace (ok, fine, maybe I sped up a tiny bit), heard from Sam that I was reeling her in, and got some encouragement from other runners (“she’s just ahead, go get her, you got it!”).
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Mile 18ish, just after moving into 1st place.
I passed her around mile 17. Phew. As I passed her, I said “good job, way to run” and she muttered something that I didn’t understand, so I knew if I could keep up my pace, I’d be good. But, while passing her, I was struggling to open my bag of Sport Beans — despite wearing mittens, my hands were so cold that my thumbs refused to work. So this is what it feels like not to have opposable thumbs (note: it kinda sucks). I couldn’t grasp the bag hard enough to open the seal. I was fumbling around with one bag and eventually dropped it. Crap. I got my final bag from my pocket and had Sam open it for me. After having a few beans, I picked up the pace a tiny bit, ran a negative split, and won the race! During my last loop around the park, my lead biker told me I was running my victory lap. I thought that meant I had a decent lead, but didn’t want to test things (I did that in the Shires of Vermont Marathon and ended up coming in 2nd place. That’s a mistake I won’t make again). So I kept pushing the pace. Turns out i was safe, as the second place female was 15 minutes behind me.
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Overall, this was an amazing way to end a season. I achieved my goal of controlling my pace, and ended up winning, and feeling REALLY good doing it. As expected, NYCRUNS put on a fabulous race, with an attentive and professional RD, awesome volunteers, and hilarious spectators. This more than made up for my negative energy from bonking hardcore in NYC.
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Top 3 female finishers.