Category Archives: Running

Getting Perspective in Lake Placid

About a month ago (yikes, I should’ve published this sooner), I packed as many synthetic socks, PowerBar gels, and Smashfestqueen cycling kits as possible into my backpack, vacated the Big Apple, and retreated north to Lake Placid for a triathlon training camp with the awesome Work Live Tri folks.

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Wheels up.  Lake Placid, here we come!

As a kid, I attended basketball, softball, and field-hockey camps during the summer, but I had yet to go off the grid and escape to this type of atmosphere as an adult. And I was so excited! Spending quality time swimming, biking, and running in paradise helped me regroup post-bike crash, refocus my tri training, and ultimately rediscover my motivation—in terms of triathlon and life.

Lake Placid will always be my happy place.

Long before I heard of triathlon, my high school basketball team traveled to this area of the Adirondacks for a holiday tournament. Unfortunately we didn’t win, but we made memories that we still talk about today—like that time we broke the hotel bed. My family has also made the trek up for a few daytrips, so my first impressions of Placid centered on quality time with friends and loved ones.

Fast-forward a few years to when I discovered the swim-bike-run world—and Ironman.

In 2013, I experienced this epic race weekend for the first time. They say if you watch an Ironman in-person, you’ll have one of two reactions: it’s either “yes, I am so doing this one day!” or “I will absolutely never do this, ever.” Training, volunteering, and spectating lit my 140.6 flame; even though I couldn’t (and still can’t) wrap my head around the 2.4-mi. swim, 112-mi. bike, and 26.2-mi. run, I knew then and there Lake Placid would be my Ironman. The atmosphere during race week was unlike anything I had witnessed, which says a lot coming from me as a former collegiate athlete. And training amongst trees, rivers, and mountains was also unlike anything I had experienced. Paradise had officially been found.

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View from my room:  home is where the lake is.

In 2014, I became even more familiar with Ironman training and Lake Placid itself when I functioned as a full-fledged Sherpa/emotional guardian. Everything that happened last year—watching the training, seeing the sacrifices, and becoming invested in the journey—highlighted just how inspiring it is to do an Ironman. And actually being there on race day—volunteering as a wetsuit peeler, getting swept up in the emotions, and celebrating the accomplishment—further solidified my desire to tackle Lake Placid one day.

Thanks to these memories, I could not wait for training camp.

The environment motivates me.

My bike crash resulted in some serious training funk, and I hoped retreating to my happy place would restore my spirits. And did it ever.

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Almost too beautiful to be real

Training camp centered on long-course athletes doing Lake Placid and Ironman Mont Tremblant, so I knew most, if not all, of my workouts would be logged solo. Aside from the first ride, I basically did my own thing and embraced the headspace.

Swimming in Mirror Lake and cycling through blink-and-you-miss-them towns was absolute bliss. Lately, I’ve been feeling uninspired by the NYC training grind, so I appreciated the sunshine, the clear skies, the mountains, and the breathtaking rivers even more. Finding inspiration in your surroundings is powerful: this is how training should be. This is why I love it.

The journey motivates me—and the feeling motivates me.

Each time I wiggled into my wetsuit and jumped into Mirror Lake, I found my groove quickly. Residual bike crash/rib flare-ups simply did not make themselves known. For the first time since wiping out, I felt natural in the water. I can’t believe it feels this easy—and this blissful. When I swim for distance, my mind wanders and eventually finds a zen space; and as I made my way to the other side of the lake, I felt grateful: to have the body and health that allow me to swim; to have supportive and genuine people in my life; and to physically be in such a gorgeous and peaceful place. Then I remembered where I was—physically, mentally, and emotionally—this time last year, and I was humbled by how much I’ve grown.

Each time I pumped up my tires and buckled my helmet, I felt excited and inspired to ride; these feelings have been missing since my crash. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect mentally during these solo rides, but Placid lifted whatever post-crash barrier was holding me back. I just rode and reacted to the course. I felt “at one” with the bike. My mojo returned!

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Signs of a successful smashfest.  Picture this setup on ten different bikes.

I didn’t think about the crash, but I spent a lot of time reflecting on last year’s training. For whatever reason, I was lucky enough where everything fell into place pretty perfectly. Although I knew it during the season, I didn’t truly realize how rare it is. It never happens like that. While out there on the course, I discovered an even greater sense of appreciation for last year, especially since transition has defined my training this year.

Basically, each time I thought about where I was at this point last year—in terms of training, work, and life—I felt incredibly humbled, grateful, and motivated. Even though I try to focus on the feeling during training, I definitely fell victim to the numbers game: chasing swim splits, becoming obsessed with power wattages, wanting faster run paces. If you’re looking to compete, this is part of the sport, but the trip to Placid reminded me I simply love the lifestyle: swimming, biking, and running. And really, that’s what it’s all about.

Teams and training groups have different vibes.

For the past two years, I logged essentially all of my triathlon training with a team, but I broke off and am currently doing my own thing. Because I have diversified my “triathlon arsenal”—it now includes folks from a masters swim team and my CompuTrainer studio—I’ve gotten to know, learn from, and train with new people, which has been beneficial for both my triathlon and “real” lives. And going to Lake Placid with a new-to-me group was an eye-opening experience. Prior to the long weekend, I knew only the coach and one other woman, but everyone welcomed me into the tribe with open arms. I’ve trained and become friendly with a lot of people in the triathlon community here over the years, and the Work Live Tri folks were absolutely top-notch individuals. (On a related note, this trip made me realize my old team dynamics/dysfunction is not normal, but that’s neither here nor there.)

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Also not normal:  having Podium Legs at your disposal.  I used them so frequently there was an inside joke about going through withdrawal.  I sort of did.

“There is comfort in that grind. I get solace and a sense of self out of that, but that’s not my life right now. And I’m OK with that. I’ve been nudged to do this kind of stuff, and I’m happy to do it, and I love it.” –Rich Roll

Overall, Placid reminded me that triathlon is about the journey, the progress, and the relentlessness to be better. “Unplugging” from power and swimming by feel highlighted how much I love this sport at its core. Although racing provides an opportunity to tangibly track progress, I don’t need to compete.

Aware of this front-of-mind perspective, I thought about Rich Roll’s recent podcast with Josh LaJaunie, specifically the abovementioned quotation. A lot of Rich’s ideas resonate with me, and when I listened to this statement, I felt like he had a birds eye view of everything that’s going on in my life. (Sidebar: Rich, will you be my life coach?) Even if I don’t have a race coming up, I’ll always find a strong sense of self when I swim, bike, and run, and it will always be an aspect of my lifestyle.

I say this because there’s an opportunity at work (#vagueblogging), and I want to immerse myself in it 150 percent. What’s on the horizon is reinvigorating my work life and giving me a strong sense of self and purpose. And honestly, I haven’t felt this excited and focused since … the only instance that comes close is Honors Week during college.

That’s not to say racing doesn’t matter any more, obviously. I definitely associate triathlon with who I am. But now, my #workflow also comprises my best, most authentic self (#fangirl).

“Congratulations, you’re a human being. It’s not going to be perfect.” –Rich Roll

In mid-June, Rich came to one of our stores for a social run and book signing, and he also hosted an informal Q-and-A session. As a self-professed fangirl, I took notes, and this quotation hit home.

Life brought a lot of changes this year—tri life, work life, and actual life—and coming off a nearly perfect 2014 training cycle, these transitions seemed even bumpier. My swimming, biking, and running essentially took a one-eighty, and although there were some who did not support this change, I know my current regiment is exactly what I need to be doing.

We’re still in the midst of a lot of work changes too. It’s cliché, but the focus and dedication that leads to solid swimming, biking, and running also sets up success at the office. All I can do is keep showing up, giving it my all, and trusting the process. Of course it will feel challenging and uncomfortable and maybe even impossible at points, but just like training, it’s about focusing on the task at hand and knowing the struggle is where the personal growth happens.

2015 Cherry Tree 10 Miler Recap

Another weekend, another race in Brooklyn. This past Sunday, I ran around Prospect Park not once, not twice, but three times for the Cherry Tree 10 Miler.

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Rabbits who run!

Originally scheduled for February, this “race for the hardcore” gets a great turnout thanks to its versatility: You can cover the 10 miles as a three-person relay (which I did last year) or as an individual. Also, the swag is solid. Last year, we received fleece-lined Buffs; a few weeks ago, we got singlets. Yes, for a winter race.

Far from wintery, though, the weather was perfect: sunny, around 45 degrees Fahrenheit, plus no snow, slush, or ice. And even though I thrive in the cold, these conditions were ideal—especially for executing my race plan. Coach Pat passed along my target splits, and our goal was to start off slightly fast, settle in for a few miles, then build the effort and finish strong. Unlike the four miler a few weeks ago, I wouldn’t be heading into the paincave until late in the race, and I knew this would be a challenge for me mentally: being disciplined enough to cruise, run easy, and stick to the plan, especially since as a short-course triathlete, I associate the good kind of discomfort with doing work; and that feeling wouldn’t surface until mile eight.

Another factor I sort of failed to consider centered on the course: three loops. Three mind-numbing loops of a short, three-ish mile route with one gradual hill. Granted, I was prepared to deal with the hill, but I underestimated how mentally taxing it would be to run in a circle three times. Case in point: During the third loop, I had to work harder to maintain focus and prevent those mental slip-ups.

Anyway, here’s the best way to break it down:

Miles 1 and 2 (7:46 and 8:10) – ‘Easy, Red. Ease into it.’

My primary focus during these opening miles was not to go out too fast (semi-accomplished?) and feel things out. My legs felt pretty good, and I knew a solid outing was feasible if I stuck to the plan …

Miles 3-5 (all 8:0X)‘Settle in. Discipline. Smooth and strong … and smart.’

… but then I hit mile three and was tempted to throw the plan out the window. ‘What if I hit my off-the-bike pace now? I feel good!’  To talk myself down, I added “and smart” to my mantra. Also, a friend/fellow EduRunner was doing the race, and told me he would be running easy. Our easy paces are not the same (read: I’m a bit faster), so I was confused when he passed me, and I was maintaining something between easy and steady for me. It became a mind game, and it took a lot of effort to keep my brain turned off and simply run my race.

Miles 6-8 (all 8:0X, except when I hit the hill for the third time; that was 8:13) – ‘Smooth and strong.’

I thought about taking off my long-sleeved Philadelphia Half-Marathon shirt, but ultimately decided I didn’t want to blink anyone with my paleness.

Miles 9-10 (7:30 and ?)‘Here we go! Smooth and strong off the bike!’

I tried not to look at my watch because honestly, seeing anything in the seven-minute ballpark still freaks me out. (I know, I know; don’t become emotionally attached to the numbers.) There was some pain, but there was also a strong finish, so I’ll take it!

Official time – 1:19:39 (7:58 min./mi.)

And I was that runner/triathlete who asked 30 seconds post-race if anyone wanted to swim.  Who am I?!  Oh yeah, #wannabeswimmer.

In all seriousness, though, these two Prospect Park races give me confidence heading into South Beach. For the four miler, I was able to run smart, hang tough, and execute the plan for the most part. And the same goes for this past weekend; I ran my race (slash solid training run), stuck to the plan, and finished feeling strong (and was back biking and running the next day).

What are your tricks for staying mentally focused?

My 2015 Triathlon/Race Schedule (So Far)

All right folks—let’s talk watts races. It’s no secret I’m a type-A person, and needless to say, my 2015 race schedule has been solidified for quite some time. I’ll be repeating a handful of favorite tris, and after talking with Coach Pat, I even registered for a few road races. As you’ll see, this calendar goes through August. I’d love to do another run-focused block and target a few fall half-marathons, but that will depend on how the tri season goes and how I’m feeling mid-August (hence the “so far” part of the title).

NYRR Al Gordon 4 Miler

Date: Saturday, Feb. 21

Distance: 4 miles

Priority: Uhhh

I finally, finally bit the bullet and became a member of New York Road Runners. (File this under “things that happen when you work at a running store.”) At first glance, this seems like a weird pick: four miles (as opposed to the more standard 5- and 10-K distance) in Brooklyn. But, I chose it strategically. At the South Beach Triathlon (see below), I’ll do the classic distance, which contains a four-mile run. Obviously the conditions will be different, but I want to use this race as an opportunity to see what I can piece together on a hilly-ish course. At the very least, it will give me a ballpark time to shoot for in SoBe.

NYRR 10-K Spring Melt Down

Date: Sunday, March 29

Distance: 10-K

Priority: Uhhh

Like the four miler, this 10-K will serve as a training check-in point; seeing how fast I can go will not only be a confidence boost, but it will also be a good gauge of what I can run off the bike as the tri racing season progresses.

South Beach Triathlon

Date: Sunday, April 19

Distance: Classic—0.5-mile ocean swim, 19-mile bike, 4-mile run

Priority: “C” race

I mean, obviously. Thanks to this race, I find myself excited to start training in January. Plus, this will also be the first tri where I race in my new age group (25-29), so I’m mentally prepared to be a small fish in a big pond and to get my butt handed to me. Goals may change come April, but right now, SoBe will serve as a training check-in point, specifically in terms of my bike and run fitness. I’d love to crush this course—smoke the bike and unload on the run—but we’ll see how training progresses. Plus, no one is trying to peak in April.

Mighty Montauk Triathlon

Date: Saturday, June 13

Distance: Olympic (1-mi. swim, 22-mi. bike, 6.2-mi. run)

Priority: “B” race

Mighty Montauk got nixed last year for Pat Griskus, a race I have no desire to ever do again (much like the NYC Tri). Anyway, I’m hoping to round up a group of teammates and turn this into a long weekend. And like SoBe, this will be another training check-in point in which running a solid 6.2 miles off a hilly bike will be the primary goal.

Stamford KIC It Triathlon

Date: Sunday, June 28

Distance: Olympic

Priority: “B” race

Again, this is a definite “duh.” I’ve done this race the past two years for a slew of reasons: it’s extremely organized and well-run; it’s only 45 minutes or so outside of the city; and it has the best volunteers and post-race food. I mean, there was iced coffee last year. Most likely, this will be my final tune-up before the Big Dance in August, so executing a solid, all-around race will be the goal.

USAT Age Group Nationals – Milwaukee

Date: Saturday, Aug. 8

Distance: Olympic

Priority: “A” race

Third time’s the charm! I cannot wait to take on this course with another year of training and experience. The unofficial motto is #Hammerfest2015. (Thanks, Victoria!) It’s a long way off, so no concrete goals have been made yet—except for going faster than last year, of course.

Cazenovia Triathlon

Date: Sunday, Aug. 23

Distance: Sprint—0.5-mi. swim, 14-mi. bike, 3.1-mi. run

Priority: “C” race

Unexpected, yes. Totally psyched, also yes. If you’ve been reading a while, then you may remember this was my first triathlon ever, a.k.a. the race that started it all. The past two years, it overlapped with Nationals, but not this time. I’m pumped to return to my hometown and take on the same course with three years of structured training. To me, this sport centers on relentless progress forward, and I cannot wait to see the improvement across the disciplines.

I also signed up for the Prospect Park Cherry Tree 10 Miler (Feb. 15) as a long run; Coach Pat says we’ll make it a “fun workout.” Other races on the radar include Rock the River 5-K (May 3), the bike-run-bike training day I’ve done for the past two years and Hopkins Vineyard Triathlon (July 18), which will be tough to swing because it’s the day before the NYC Triathlon. And after tri season ends, I’ll definitely do the Philadelphia Half (Nov. 22) again, and a few friends also signed up for the Wineglass Half (Oct. 4), so that’s on the table too.

Let’s do it big in 2015!

What does your race schedule look like so far?

My 2014 Running and Triathloning Recap

Happy New Year’s Eve, friends! Can you believe it’s that time again? Wowza, 2014 flew by. But before saying goodbye to this bittersweet year, I want to reflect on some awesome, pivotal, and memorable swimming, biking, and running moments.

Best race experience

Given the number of triathlons I did in 2014, this surprised me: The Philadelphia Half-Marathon.

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Pre-race cold temperatures and throwaway clothes. Good times with good friends.

Not only was it the actual race-day experience—feeling invincible for 12.5 miles, seeing a bunch of funny signs and cute spectators, hanging out with friends and family during the weekend—but it was also the pre-race preparation. I’ve talked about my running progression, but Coach Pat really dialed in the plan; I crushed key workouts, felt prepared, and simply exuded calm confidence. Above all, everything lined up on race day, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. And now I want to go 1:45 (let’s be real, 1:40), which speaks volumes: I want to run more and faster miles!

Best swim

Total no-brainer: swimming in Mirror Lake during Ironman Lake Placid weekend.

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The course, the atmosphere, everything that comprises Placid is magical. Being there always ends up being a highpoint of the triathlon season and overall year, and I’m already looking forward to going back for another Sherpa stint in 2015.

Best bike

Rather than wax and wane about nearly perfect training rides, I’ll simply say my bike split at Nationals best exemplifies progress: In 2013, I logged a 1:17; in 2014, I rode a 1:10. That’s seven minutes shaved off.

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I have no pictures of me doing work on the Slice. Womp, womp.

And yes, some of that time can be attributed to equipment upgrades (tri bike, race wheels, aero helmet), but most is sheer improvement. To me, that’s what this sport is all about.

Best run

Aside from the abovementioned 12.5 miles of bliss, one that sticks out is the 10-K I ran off the bike in Stamford.

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Hot outta T-2!

That’s my standalone and off-the-bike 10-K PR, and more importantly, I felt comfortably uncomfortable the entire time—and felt in control. I’ve also had some great training runs—both steady where I’ve pushed the pace a bit and long where I’ve chilled out—but that 6.2 miles off the bike is what I’ll be chasing in 2015: the split (I want to go faster!) and the feeling.

Best piece of new gear

Since I actually raced on it this year—my Slice! Yes, it’s all about the engine in endurance sports, but the tri bike set-up has been a game changer. I’ve been able to ride stronger and faster, plus run better off the bike. Now about that power meter …

Best piece of running/triathloning advice you received

Nothing newsworthy: trust your training, trust the process, listen to your body. But these messages resonated with me this year thanks to knowledgeable coaches (looking at you, Coach Pat!) and trustworthy teammates.

Most inspirational runner

I’m totally pulling the sap card: I train and work with some phenomenal people who also happen to run, and they inspire me to keep pushing, keep improving, and keep striving for that perfect race.

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be?

Memorable, nearly perfect.

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In terms of training and racing, I really couldn’t have asked for a better year. Sure, I powered through some not-so-great showings, but for the most part, I’m happy with how the cards fell. On the non-triathlon front, it was a challenging, yet rewarding year (#vagueblogging #sorryimnotsorry), and bottom line, I’m amped for 2015.

What is your best, most memorable moment from 2014?

My Thoughts on Running

Seeing as how I’ve been running all the (pain- and injury-free) miles this off-season, I finally gathered my thoughts and wrote about running all the (pain- and injury-free) miles. I’m always game to talk watts, but let’s talk … splits? Miles? Paces? Hey, I’m still learning.

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From Thanksgiving: A slow and snowy run back home.  On the bright side, the dicey conditions ensured I ran easy.

When my triathlon season ended in August, I took about a week off before I started making off-season moves. Hey, it’s the off-season not the soft season. Anyway, as I briefly mentioned in my Philadelphia Half-Marathon recap, I needed to tackle my run head-on. During the season, it was all about minimizing this Achilles heel—laying down a solid swim-bike combo so a blazing-fast run wouldn’t be necessary. But still, my run wasn’t where it needed to be, which became evident at Nationals. And I “age up” next year, which means stiffer competition—which also means a faster run is necessary.

Plus, not only did I need to shave off time, but I also needed to reformulate how I thought about the run. Biking became my favorite (watts, watts, watts!), and running suffered. I dreaded it, and my mentally further fueled this bias: ‘Why run when you can bike? … It’s fun to go fast! … you have to set yourself up on the bike, so I should bike more …’ You get the picture.

Aside from running more (than 12 miles a week, which is so low it’s not even funny), I had no idea how to structure my run-specific training. Sure, logging more miles was step one, but in terms of speedwork, tempo runs, those types of crucial sessions, I was totally lost. Obviously, it became clear improvement would go hand-in-hand with a coach, so I enlisted Patrick Hammond (the Great). We’re friends and coworkers, and he started Educated Running. Not to mention he has triathlon experience and wins races. Sign me up!

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Some coworkers “London Bridging” out of the store before Philly.  You can’t hear the cheering, but trust me–it was awesome.

Overall, since becoming an Educated Runner, every aspect of my run has improved: how I run, how I view the run, and how I think during the run. Every run has a purpose, and I’m getting better at executing workouts. This proved especially tough when I first started working with Coach Pat in September; as we built my base, I wanted to run faster than prescribed—but I trusted the process. This is common sense, but I’ve learned to take the easy days easy, and I’ve become comfortable with being uncomfortable on the tough days. After all, that’s where the magic happens. Along these lines, recovery and injury-prevention have an increased focus: I do dynamic stretches, I foam roll, and I get monthly sports massages. I’m a runner now!

Above all, I run with purpose. I look forward to running. I stay mentally focused—which has been huge. Running more means more experience working through those “character-building” outings and ultimately becoming strong enough to limit the mental breakdowns.

Triathlon training starts next month, which will shake things up a bit: Official team workouts will resume, but I will continue working with Coach Pat. I’ve improved so much during the past few months so it would be crazy to change that part of the equation. Honestly, I’m not totally sure how my workouts will be structured (read: balanced) in 2015; my current bike volume needs to increase, and I will be running more than 12 miles per week. And for the time being, I think swimming twice a week will be OK.

Bottom line, 2015 will be the year of the run—and hopefully, I can find the illusive balance to execute a solid bike-run combo in Milwaukee.

To paraphrase the words of Haruki Murakami, what do you think about when you think about running?

2014 Philadelphia Half-Marathon Recap

Any day you can run 13.1 miles is a good day. Any day you can do it faster than ever before is a great day. And any day where your friends and family are there is an awesome day. This past Sunday proved to be one awesome day.

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And when your coach gives you a shout out on Instagram … #nothingbutgood

Let’s backtrack a bit further first.

During my triathlon season, a pattern emerged during races: I’d rock the swim and bike and would simply hang on for the run. Bottom line, the off-season needed to address this weakness, but I had no idea where to start. (More detailed off-season running post to come!) So I enlisted Coach Pat to help me become a better runner—and hopefully, this translates to being a threat off the bike.

And here we are.

Even though it’s easy for me to dedicate myself to training, I become more invested when there’s a race on the schedule. As my weekly mileage increased, Coach Pat and I talked about doing the Philadelphia Half-Marathon as a long training run. Er, technically, I approached him, and he gave me the green light—and kept me on a tight leash. He broke the race into three sections (miles 1-7, 7-10, and 10-13.1) with specific paces. We hoped to negative split it and targeted a sub-1:50 finish. Basically, as a short-course triathlete, I would not be racing the Philly Half. It would not be a goal race, but it would be a training check-in point and opportunity to practice pace execution.

In the days leading up to the race, I felt zero pressure—which was a nice change from triathlons—but I was a tiny bit anxious: what would happen after mile 11? Even though I logged two, 11-mile runs, I didn’t know what my body would do past that point. But I did know this was hands down the best I’ve ever been running and the most prepared I’ve felt for a running race. What would happen between miles 11 and 13.1 would be what it would be; I trusted my training. And going sub-1:50 would be icing on the training cycle cake.

And unlike tris, I don’t have a detailed race breakdown. Sure, I could talk about the perfect, 37-degree weather, the PR-friendly course with only two hills at miles 7 and 10, and the delicious post-race soft pretzel and chicken broth, but I’m feeling a bullet-point format. So let’s run (get it?) with it.

My brain remained “off” during most of the race, but I did find myself repeating three phrases: “Slow the eff down, Red!” because the crowd made it way too easy to go too fast; “discipline” because I needed to stick to the plan; and “wow, that guy is cute!” because 98 percent of the male spectators were gorgeous. Walls of Dudes lined the streets, which was entirely welcomed because they were not riding two- or three-abreast like their usual triathlon congregation. And this phrase was usually followed by “slow the heck down!” because I’d get excited and run faster—and I didn’t want to tell Coach Pat I blew the race because cute guys made me run too fast at mile 6.  But really, Philly is doing something right. (And seriously, Philly gentlemen, come to NYC anytime!)

The fans were awesome. As if you didn’t know that from what I wrote above. The energy, the cheers, the LOL-inducing posters, even the drunk college bros, it all contributed to an unforgettable race experience. I will definitely do the Philly Half again–as in next year.

I smiled for 12.5 miles and felt invincible for 12.5 miles—no cramping, no GI issues, no negative thoughts. I’m finally getting more race experience and maturing as an endurance athlete, and it’s paying off. It’s rare when everything feels effortless, and I felt like that for the majority of the race.

2014-philadelphia-half-splits

Race plan: stay at 8:30s for miles 1-7, check; work to 8:20s for miles 7-10, check; see what’s left in the tank and unload for miles 10-13.1, check. It blew my mind to see 7:40-7:55 post-mile 10, but that means the engine is there.

Bottom line, I accomplished what I set out to do in Philly. I followed the plan, felt amazing, and secured the sub-1:50 finish. Sure, I rode the pain train for the last 0.6 miles, but I felt great overall and crossed the finish line feeling satisfied (and “amped and wired” according to my parents because I said something about running back to the hotel). Turns out I like running long. And you know what would make it even more fun? Going faster, yes—and biking beforehand. Maybe 56 miles or so. And I guess I could swim a bit too.

Woah, slow down, Red. Let’s leave the 70.3 distance out of the equation for a few more years.

It’s November?

Whew—marathon madness has finally ended, so I can finally come up for a breath. Throughout October and the first week of November, JackRabbit was firing on all cylinders: various events and group training runs, plus a pre-New York City Marathon party and race-day cheer zone. So many 26.2 activities!

full-throttle-whoa

Full Throttle Endurance says, “WHOA!”

Marathon week—plus Monday actually (because Meb Keflezighi had a book signing at our Upper West Side store)—centered on stress, semi-organized chaos, and tons of excitement. We live for this time of year and all it encompasses; for me, that meant making sure our Saucony pre-party and Brooklyn cheer zone were successful events.

nycm-saucony-pre-party-whoa-face

Behind the scenes–and mission accomplished!

And now, I’m embracing the work “off-season.” Thank GAWD. Here’s what’s going on:

Last week, my fam and I went to Florida to celebrate my dad’s birthday. My grandfather lives there, and my uncle flew in too, and it was great to spend some quality time with everyone. And it wouldn’t be a trip to Sanibel without plenty of beach time (where running, reading, and sunburning occurred).

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This weekend, I have my first “race” since Nationals in August: The Philadelphia Half-Marathon. Some of my teammates and (work) friends will be there, plus a few BoMFers and my family. I’m really excited! Not only is it an escape from the city, but it’s also an opportunity to test my training and gauge my progress. Coach Pat and I have talked race strategy, he things I can string together a solid 13.1 miles, race the thing, and shoot for a big PR. A few months ago, I planned to simply go out and run and see what happened; now, though, I feel confident pushing it. Speedwork is coming along, and my long runs have gone pretty well, and this is hands down the most prepared I’ve felt for a “straight up” road race. Fingers crossed I feel good on race day and can hop aboard the pain train for a while!

And then, it’s Thanksgiving, which means even more family time!

In other training news, I ended my 72-day swimming boycott and went to the pool. Honestly, I planned to wait until December, but several knowledgeable individuals—including but not limited to Coach Pat and my tri coach—said getting back in the water sooner may be a good idea. Specifically, “not swimming is totally going to bite you in the a** come January!” according to my tri coach. The race isn’t won during the swim, but one of my friends/Girls’ Club colleagues questioned: “How fast can you run if you’re last out of the water?”

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Talk about tough love—and a serious wake-up call.

So two weeks ago—about 12 hours after my endorphin-inducing 11 miler—I walked to the pool after work. On the way over, I visualized myself swimming, flip turning, and doing all the little things right, but I couldn’t shake the insecurity: what if I don’t remember anything? What do my arms do again? How does one execute a flip-turn?

As it turns out, swimming is a lot like riding a bike; you never forget how to do it. When my feet touched the water, I went on autopilot: adjusted my cap, put on my goggles, and just went. Sure, I felt semi-winded 200 yards in, but those 1,500 yards felt OK. And they felt slightly better—and faster—a week later.

To be honest, I’m not sure what will happen after Philly—in terms of training and life. It feels like I’m on the brink, like a breakthrough is right around the corner, but I don’t know what is it or what it will entail. But I just hope I’m ready.

I Mean …

Oomph. This has been the longest, strangest week. And it’s only Wednesday. Everything has seemed off—both at practice and at work. Are the tides changing?

Happy National Running Day!

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Just being a model (again) and hamming it up at work.

If using a crockpot during the summer is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

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Chicken has returned to the rotation thanks to this recipe. I made some swaps—chicken breasts instead of thighs, one can of black beans and one cup of quinoa instead of two cups of black beans, all the sweet potatoes, etc.—and I highly recommend this meal if you like Mexican/Latin flavors. So good.

Speaking of food, almond butter and jelly has been my, erm, jam. Before every bike workout, I toast a waffle and layer on this combo. I’m a little kid at heart.

… and I’m a little kid who can’t count. During swim workouts, I can keep track of laps up to 200 yards, but then all is lost. If the actual swimmers have any tips, then I’m all ears. #wannabeswimmer

Somehow, I end up in charge during workouts. Even though I got bumped up a cycling group, I’m definitely on the brink—meaning I’m the slowest and hanging on for dear life—but everyone turns to me: “Carrie, what’s the workout? Carrie, when do we attack? Carrie, should we be sitting or standing for these climbs?” It’s amusing because (1) I’m the youngest, and (2) I’m the least experienced. Yes, this happens during swim and run too, but who would’ve thought I’d be captaining my bike group? Certainly not me.

All I want is a maxi dress that actually touches the floor. I went shopping on Thursday and tried on all the clothes, but could not find one acceptable dress. You’re to blame, swimming shoulders and cycling legs.

I don’t blog about work a ton, but it’s going well. However, in recent weeks, I’ve been struggling to maintain a work/life balance. My schedule is unique (I’m off Thursdays and Sundays), which makes it tough to leave work at work, especially during the week. When I was the editor of my college’s newspaper, I trouble pressing “stop”—signing off email, taking a break from editing articles, and leaving the computer suite even though the InDesign layout wasn’t complete. I’m hardwired to work hard—if you’re going to do it, then really do it and give it 150 percent—and this is a blessing and a curse. I need to figure out how to “power down,” and I hope changing my work schedule will help.

How do you “unplug” after work?

2014 Escape to the Palisades 5-K Recap

What a solid training day! On Sunday, fifteen of my Full Throttle Endurance teammates and I completed a cross-state brick workout: We biked across the George Washington Bridge to New Jersey, ran the Escape to the Palisades 5-K, and then biked more before heading back to New York City.

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If you’ve been reading for a while, then you may remember we did the same race last year. Which means I knew exactly what to expect during the first quarter mile—a steep climb that makes you question your existence. With this in mind, I took time to warm up and do some dynamic stretches (unlike my Red Hook Crit pre-race routine). And since it was about 50 degrees, I raced sans baselayer, which proved to be a wise decision, especially because I run hot.

Escape to the Palisades offers three distances: 5-K, a new for this year 6-K trail run, and the half-marathon, which draws the most people. Roughly 200 people toed the 5-K start line, and even though I finished second female overall last year, I didn’t think about the possibility of placing. Honestly, I feel like you’re jinxing it if you go into a race with the expectation of winning—slash, I don’t feel comfortable with thinking that at this point. Anyway, I focused on my goals: holding a 7:10-7:15 pace after the hill and being mentally strong throughout.

When the race started, the FTE boys took off, and I tried to keep two in my sights. And I also took the lead right out of the gate. The pace I dialed into was hot (for me 6:45 min./mi.), but I wanted a cushion for the climb. As I hit the hill, I shorted my stride and focused on turning over my legs: shorter, shorter, quicker, quicker. At this point, one girl passed me. Hey, more power to her if she wants to surge up that hill. I maintained my pace, controlled my breathing, and ended up passing her back.

After climbing the hill, the course ran parallel to the Hudson River and took us through a wooded area; it felt very Zen and actually reminded me of running at home in Upstate New York. Not to mention it was an out-and-back course, so it was easy for me to shut off my brain and simply run. Aside from the occasional “shorter, shorter, quicker, quicker,” there were zero thoughts in my head. Basically, it seems like my mental game improves with each race.

With that being said, though, this was also the first race where strategy played a role. About a minute before the guys appeared from the turnaround point, the girl I dropped on the hill made a move—and I answered. Well, sort of. I stuck on her shoulder. Go ahead. Let her set the pace and do the work. Tactically, I think this was a smart move; I don’t have the speed yet where I could’ve surged and lost her for good, so I simply stuck with her. And it felt like my speedwork pace, so I knew it would be somewhat sustainable.

Anyway, when the guys came back, one of them yelled, “take her now, Carrie! Take her now!” And then she turned around and realized I was there. We ran together through the turnaround, but I knew this couldn’t continue. My kick isn’t where I want it to be, and plus, I had a hard time hammering the downhill last year. Cardiowise, I was fine, and my legs felt decent, so I made my move and hit the pain train. For a brief moment, I let myself entertain the thought of winning.  I knew it would hurt—and I knew I could tolerate it.

As I took the downhill, I thought my legs would fall off. I also thought about rolling down the hill instead. But I was doing it. I was finishing strong and holding the lead.

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Yes, these are d-baggy pictures to post, but I would be surprised if I ever break the tape again. I would like to point out the clear midfoot strike in the first picture. #runnerd

Official finishing time – 23:56 (7:43 min./mi.)

For what it’s worth, everyone who raced with a Garmin measured the course at 3.35 miles, which changes my average pace to 7:09. This run felt like a seven-and-change effort—definitely closer to a Red Hook Crit level of pain than South Beach.

Honestly, I felt very conflicted at the end of this race—happy, obviously, but also a bit unsettled. I’m still trying to figure out why, but here are my two main takeaways: First, I can string together three solid miles where I’m mentally strong. Two, I can run hard and smart; this race proved I’m getting better at allocating energy, managing efforts, and deciding when to push and when to maintain.

What goes through your head during a workout or race?

Red Hook Crit 5-K Recap

In news that still shocks me, I ran a race Saturday night:  the Red Hook Crit 5-K.

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This event started as an unsanctioned cycling race in which athletes rode multiple laps around a short, technical circuit on fixed-gear bikes.  Since then, the weekend expanded to include a 5-K running race on the same course.  When the Bronx Submariners said our team would compete, I half-jokingly asked if I could do the bike race instead—or, at the very least, I wanted to bring my bike and spin out for 45 minutes or so.  Spoiler alert:  neither of these things happened.

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So dangerous, but it looks like so much fun.

It’s safe to say I was freaking out feeling uneasy before this race.  The last “straight up” 5-K I did was on the 4th of July, and I haven’t raced one since Escape to the Palisades last May.  Plus, as a total type-A person, I worried about everything:  should I wear shorts or tights?  Should I wear a baselayer under my singlet?  Should I pin my bib to my singlet? (It turns out runners make fun of triathletes for using race belts.) Can I run without biking first?  What if I finish last?  Also, given the horrible weather—cold, rainy, and windy—running 3.1 miles at 8 p.m. did not sound like fun.  As you can tell, every factor possible was working against me.  Oh, and my Full Throttle Endurance teammates planned to come cheer, but their plans rightfully changed with the forecast.  So they were off drinking somewhere, and I was so tempted to skip the race and hang out with them.

But … I made it to Brooklyn and prepared to “race.”  I even watched part of the women’s cycling criterium, which totally blew me away.  Mad props to those girls!  Studying their form, seeing how they worked together in a peloton … sorry, not a bike race recap.

Anyway, since I skipped last Wednesday’s speedwork for this race, my coach expected a speedwork-like effort:  suffer for 22:30 or work to clock a 23:XX at the very least.  Like prior goals, these times seemed aggressive:  Sure, I can hold those paces for 800m’s coming off the bike, but can I dial in right off the bat?  Am I actually that fast?  There’s only one way to find out.

Luckily, I enlisted a BroSubs teammate to pace me.  That way, I just had to turn off my brain and stick with her.  Before the 8 p.m. start, we jogged around (for half a mile if that) and did some dynamic stretching.  Obviously, this was not the best warm-up, especially for a short race.  And at the last possible second, we went outside to the start line, and I had a USAT Nationals déjà vu moment:  I was a forward surrounded by pocket-friend guards. (That should be the title of my autobiography:  A Forward in A Pocket-Friend World—ha!)

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Front of the pack, so I’m obviously not there.

As a four-loop, out-and-back route, this course was easy to break up mentally and focus on the current lap.  Plus, since the men and women ran in different heats, my male teammates stationed themselves around the circuit, so there was always someone cheering for me, which was awesome.  Oh, and since it was 8 p.m., the course was dark, but partially lit at parts.  And it was windy and rainy.  And this combination made me feel like I was Katniss from The Hunger Games.  OK, maybe this won’t be so bad.

My teammate and I stuck together for the first mile, which we took out too fast. (I don’t remember the exactly split, but it was in the sub-7 ballpark.) This is when things got interesting:  she started to fade, and although I was working, I felt OK; I continued to push, and she dropped back.  She remained behind me for the rest of the race, and in the words of my coach, I turned off my brain and kept turning over my legs:  shorter, shorter, quicker, quicker.  Yes, it was only three miles, but I’m happy to report I had only one mental lapse 200m or so of the third lap.  I’m pleased my head stayed in the game race, and even though I did slip briefly, I didn’t let it affect me (a la Trial By Fire.)

Not going to lie, though, the last 100m hurt—plenty of pain and suffering.  But my final time was 22:24, which broke my coach’s goal, so it was worth it!  A handful of my male teammates commented after the race that I looked so strong the entire time—like I was cruising.  Maybe this means I could’ve pushed more, but it also suggests my form, technique, and body language remained consistent as the race progressed, which is awesome, especially because I had to dig during the fourth lap.

And above all, this race gives me confidence for South Beach.  I dug deep, stayed mentally engaged, and ran “fast” in less than ideal conditions.

Do you like running in the rain?