Big Girls Do Run….Marathons

The cold almost got me today, y’all. I didn’t want to get up early and go to the gym to run “only” 3 miles before work. So I slept in. And made plans to do it after work. Before burgers. Because Spurgeon :).

Anyways. The place we were meeting was closer to a Crunch on Wall Street and well, it was just easier to go to this crunch than walk over to one closer to my job to have to still travel and meet up on time. I figured I pay for access to all of the Crunch’s so why not?

Now, I’ve been a member since like 2012 and I have not ever been approached in the 4 other Crunch’s I frequent: 2 in Chelsea, 2 in Brooklyn. Maybe it was Bc I was one of the few brown girls in the gym who were not trainers? One of the few brown girls in the gym who wasn’t working out with a trainer (for real the trainer to client ratio was pretty high)…or maybe because I was–it’s true–one of the bigger girls in the gym, that the trainer took my asking where the (ONE) water fountain was as an invitation to small talk….and sales pitch. Went something like:

Me: excuse me, where is the water fountain? I don’t usually come to this gym.
T1: right this way…..so….you’re here for a class?
Me: no. To run.
T1: oh, that’s all you’re doing?”
Me: yes…I am still recovering from….THE MARATHON
T1: oh oh oh….you were….able to run the whole thing? I mean, how did you do? I had a friend who had to stop like….before brooklyn.
Me: exactly like I wanted and finished without stopping or without injury
T1: I’m running my first 5k next week
Me: oh, that’s nice…. (In the tune of:”that’s cute”)
T1: maybe we can work out next time you’re here.
Me: I don’t come here like that.

I couldn’t tell if it was part hitting on me or what. I thought if I said I ran a marathon he’d get off my back, and that didn’t work, then I thought if I flashed my wedding ring that he would step back. Not so much. Exhibit B:

I’m running on the treadmill. My plan for the 3 miles is to run it non stop. I’m rebuilding my legs post marathon, and so it’s not impossible but it’s a bit more of a challenge than during training. At this point I have been running for almost 30 minutes straight without walking–AS MUCH AS THE GUY NEXT TO ME AND THE WOMAN NEXT TO HIM–I slide into the treadmill next to the wall. A female trainer with locks (maybe she’s coming to say something about that?) comes into my peripheral vision. I’m jamming to Beyoncé, getting my groove on, and I see a hand in my face. At first I’m like: she is not trying to stop me. I AM RUNNING. I HAVE EARPHONES ON. I WAS WRONG.

T2: hi! I wanted to come introduce myself.
Me: (taking earphones out. Not slowing down at all.) hi.
T2: I saw you over here doing your thang! You were running like…..forever and not stopping!
Me: yeh, just…getting an easy run in (please note. I am still running and she is using up my precious oxygen!!)
T2: are you training for something? A race coming up like a 5k our something?
Me: no. Just recovering from THE MARATHON
T2: oh oh oh! That’s cool! (Here it comes) what was your time?
Me: I finished right where I wanted.
T2: that’s good I’m sure it was amazing. I want to do one. Everyone is doing one
Me: you should! Good luck. At which point I turn to face forward and try to put my earphones back in
T2: how are you doing over here? Do you have any incline on the treadmill?
Me: IM GOOD. JUST GETTING A RECOVERY RUN. (Back off, kid!)
T2: oh, ok I see I see! Keep doing your thang! Just wanted to say hello and introduce myself.

4 minutes go by during this transaction. SERIOUSLY?!?!?!?!?!??

I never saw her gasping at anyone else running on the treadmill or rushing to help them out! I never saw my boy harassing anyone else. Was it my size? Like I looked like I was hopelessly there to do some cardio and needed the help of the trainers lest I drift endlessly in a walking daze? (Cause clearly they watched to see if I was going to walk!). Do they not know that big girls do run…..MARATHONS. and I’m sorry, but like that trumps any lunge or dumbbell row you might ask me do do. ESPECIALLY if you haven’t run a 5k yourself, and you are coming to talk to me WHILE IM RUNNING to think I’m going to stop my run to talk to you.

I finish up. Old boy, T1 is giving me a head nod. I go to somewhere where folks ain’t creeping (because clearly they are if you know I’m running “mad long”) to stretch out and refill my water bottle.

T1 finds me and says that he is impressed that I’m “doing so much! Did you lift weights too?!?!?!?!” Granted, I didn’t, but…the surprise? I tell him no, I just ran

A 5k

And keep it moving towards the changing room.

Week 1 #WinterConditioning

It’s been two weeks since the marathon, and I’m still not tired of talking about it, though I feel like some of the glow is fading…I certainly do NOT miss chronically tight legs/bum hips, getting up SUPER EARLY to make sure I have enough time to get in 6 miles before work, constantly washing stinky running clothes.

I took a solid week off from running, and even though my legs felt “fine” on Thursday after the marathon, I didn’t try them until the Sunday–a week after the marathon. I had convinced my friend Charif to run with me, though I told him that it would depend on how my legs felt whether or not I would really run. I was prepared to bike a loop of Prospect Park instead.

Oh! My bike has been dusted off! I feel like I have a few more weeks before snow perpetually covers the ground, so I’m looping in real-life cycling (instead of spin classes) into my week by using it as a warm-up commute to Prospect Park. It takes about 20 minutes there, and 17 back (yay downhill!), so I get in some good spins.

I think I mentioned here, but I’m not jumping right back into marathon training for a spring marathon. Instead, I’m going to put my efforts into Brooklyn Half and getting fast and fit. I begged my running coach to set me up for that plan, and she happily obliged, and I’m still working with my nutritionist, and recruited a strength personal trainer to join my team. Last week we met up at his gym so he could see where I’m at currently to help him put together my plan. Here’s what my non-marathon training week looked like–ironically, the same amount of working out, but it didn’t feel nearly as crucial!

Here’s the week in numbers/pictoral form:

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  • 3 runs (4 if you count Sunday-to-Sunday)
  • 5 days total working out (6 if Sunday-to-Sunday)
  • 2 strength days
  • 3 bike rides!

SUNDAY (11/9): Bike 5, Run 3.5 with Charif

My legs were still “tender” I like to say, but it was a great run—we caught up on life, and got in a few unassuming miles along the way. Also, I saw some mile numbers I hadn’t ever seen before outside, so that was exciting to see faster times creeping up.

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TUESDAY: Strength–body weight exercises with Lean.Strong.Fast

This workout was tougher than I expected it to be! I warmed up for a few minutes on the treadmill, and then did a series of leg-work/body weight exercises to strengthen my running legs and core. As expected, core is weak, but I was happily surprised at my ability to do so many of the exercises–like full push-ups from the ground (!!) We finished the session and he stretched me out/massaged IT band & piriformis muslces and I squealed out of laughter (mad ticklish) and pain (SUPER TIGHT). Note to self: love up on that foam roller some more!

WEDNESDAY: Run 3.4 in park with Toni!

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I met Toni when she gave me the hug of life at the end of Staten Island Half. If you’ve run a few signature NYRR races, you’ve seen her smiley, beautiful face at the finish line to high-five you, hug you out, hold you if you’re crying, etc etc. :) She’s amazing and her energy is so contagious. We were basically insta-friends and made a date to go running together. Her son runs with Black Men Run, so we met up and waited for some more Black Men to show up–during that time, we had a photoshoot (see above!). We started out running and I think her energy was so contagious, that I caught it in my legs! My first mile was 10:xx and I had not ever seen that number for a mile this whole whole season. It felt effortless. I felt like I was flying. And we were talking and catching up. Then, I think I psyched myself out and my numbers came back down to the “numbers I know”—but the speed is there! It’s there! And I have Toni to thank for showing me it’s in those legs of mine.

THURSDAY: Strength–body weight exercises with Lean.Strong.Fast

This day was another tough one. I didn’t eat enough before hand (measly Lara Bar) and felt it definitely near the end when I had to do some jump rope. It had been too long since I jumped rope, but it was another good reminder of how strong I am, and how the body does remember! I need to incorporate more jumping into my routine! More core work, such as plank jacks, and lower-body work: squats and lunges and–what coach believes will become my favorite–one-legged stand up and sit down (controlled) from a weight bench. WITH A MEDICINE BALL. Yep.

FRIDAY: Glorious rest!  + Cocktails

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SATURDAY: Bike 5, Run 3.5

As you can see I’m trying to be social again with my running. It definitely helps the miles tick by so much faster, and instead of going out to drinks to catch up (hey, I do it!), I coerce my friends to come for a run! Charif tried to cancel on my at the last minute, but I coerced him to come out :) and so glad he did! We didn’t take a picture together, but he’s there in spirit. And it was a beautiful day to be out running.

Glorious Fall!

Glorious Fall!

SUNDAY: Walk 2, Run 3.6, Bike 5

Yesterday, C and I decided to grab breakfast in the neighborhood. I got chicken and waffles, and he got an omlet. We were both stuffed at the end, and so I asked to take the “long way” back, which meant doing an almost 2 mile walk in Bed Stuy. Score! I got home and changed and got ready to head out for my run.

Yesterday was also the start of my actual running plan that my coach set me up with. 4x week running, with my longest run of 6 miles not coming until Dec 20. I AM IN HEAVEN. :) Coach pushed me to use my easy runs as absolutely-no-walking runs, and I only had 3 miles on tap, but the park is 3.4-3.6 (depending on if you start at GAP or on the loop) so I did 3.1 miles without walking, then ran/walked the hill back to Grand Army Plaza (GAP). It was much chillier on the ride over than Saturday, however, I was prepared and was actually pretty hot by the time I biked and ran and got ready to bike back home! Check out my gear :)

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I swear that pink vest was the best thing I could have bought all season! It keeps me warm, it reminds me of the marathon (because I ran in it AND because it has the marathon logo!) and how strong I am, and it has pockets. Win Win Win.

Also: Who knew weekends could feel so long without a long run!

My Therapist….err….Nutritionist! (a rambling thought)

I still haven’t written the post about how I decided to drop $$ on building my team (as if everything else in marathon training isn’t expensive enough!)–running coach and nutritionist. And the life mantra I live by right now that led me to that decision, but it’s coming. I think it’s a bigger project/writing that I want to give a little more brain energy to than the few minutes I spend updating my blog.

However, I find that it’s no coincidence that my mental life is turning around/had turned around during marathon training, and I think that it’s no coincidence that several—several—times I was telling someone about my nutritionist, I said, “Therapist” first.

Let me back-track.

I come from a family that believes you should just—-get over—things. That, eventually, wehther you address it or not, things will go away, or fix themselves, or that the solution to big problems have small answers. That, to lose weight, you just….eat less. (There is a story about a family member telling me in middle school that it “wouldn’t hurt me to skip a meal” as a way to encourage me to lose weight. THAT HELPED!–NOT!) That, if you’re sad….you just, suck it up and deal. And maybe you’ll cry about it in a conversation, but you’ll stop as soon as you start and then you’ll move on to the next conversation, and as soon as you stop crying, that’s the healing process, right? It starts to work itself out, just like that.

In 2012, I started seeing a therapist because I was in this bad, dark place at work and I thought it had to do with how I was presenting and processing things and I wanted to be a better girlfriend (my unhappiness there was spilling over into my unhappiness at home). Now that I am drawing the timeline, I started therapy RIGHT when I stopped working out regularly, and RIGHT in the middle of my desire to transition into a new job.

I was skeptical–still am–of the process. I had some great moments in the room, and I am so thankful that the therapist worked with me when I transitioned jobs and my health insurance didn’t transfer. When I think about the timeline some more, I remember being *more* sad than before, and I remember my clothes started fitting differently….Sandy happened and I lost my groove and thought I could stand to keep that $ in my pocket, and so I stopped going.

Fast forward to 2013. I decided to get fit again. i was back in the gym, I was running miles a month (70, 80, 90) and it was almost effortless, and I was losing weight again, and then my grandmother died in February. I brought my running clothes down to SC and I continued to run, and I continued to support my family those 8 days, and I lost track of myself and my process of mourning. I didn’t grieve like I wanted to.

I came back from SC and maybe ran for another month before I stopped running all together. And turned to food. I ate my deep deep levels of grief. Obviously, I became more unhappy, and continued to eat, and continued to get more unhappy as more things didn’t fit me, or I would think about my grandmother, or as I would think about not running and how much I was eating, and would choose to eat some more. It went on this way until near the end of 2013. I got married not in the shape/weight that I wanted to be, but I have to accept it. A few months later, I went back to therapy, because now I wanted to be a better wife. I wanted to be…..happier.

It’s hard to explain, but I feel like, the person I saw had some other agenda. I wanted to go and I wanted her to help me be a better person to those people around me, to be more…present. I felt like, she didn’t feel satisfied with the session until she asked me a question that made me cry. And at the time, I thought THAT must be good therapy. She had the tissue right there, and we were talking about my grandmother and I was crying and I was…healing, right?

Fast forward to this past September when I got my act together and scheduled a meeting with a nutritionist. I had lost, about 16 lbs on my own just because of the sheer volume of running and cross training I was doing shed lbs. I got a little faster, and gained a little more confidence, and I didn’t have to go to a next round of wardrobe (I’m still holding on to that wardrobe from 2012. I should let it go, but I’m still holding on) that I was pushing the seams on….The nutritionist really helped me see food as FUEL to do hard things. Like, run 26.2 miles. Like, run 18 miles on Sunday, 15 miles throughout the week, and 20 miles the next Sunday. That Food, can fuel AND help you shed weight, if you put it in the right place.

And you know, I could have lied to my nutritionist (I swear I almost wrote therapist just now!) about how much I ate or when or why to save from her possibly judging or scolding me. But I choose to be honest: Don’t tell me to count calories. I won’t. I tell her: I need 4 snacks–throughout the day, how can we make that happen? We work together to give me…choice. I think in so many aspects of my life, I always felt like I didn’t have any choice for that happened to me, that things…weight gain, grief, healing from grief…just happened to me. She doesn’t tell me what I can’t have, she lets me choose things that could work better for me, and includes the things I might want (Dessert…Wine…Carbs) and tells me: choose 2. And I feel like, I have some power. I don’t feel powerless. I have gained some of my strength back.

And I think once I regulated my intake of food–I’m still working on it. I’m in the middle of a 7 day clean-eating detox right now and missing sugar and bread like WHOA–my mood increased. I felt more confident in my running ability. I shared with C my nutrition plan and he is on board. He doesn’t say, “you can’t have that” (except during this detox, which my nutritionist didn’t say I should do), instead, he has a plate of food that I can eat ready on my plate and joins me in this journey.

And my mood has been incredibly upbeat. It’s probably because there’s less junk in me clouding my judgment/feels. But, who knew that changing my diet…..being mindful of the things I put in my mouth…..help me see differently/feel differently. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I call her my therapist. Not to say that nutritionist=therapist, but I kept looking for some way to address all my ills, and food——-has been a way to touch on it.

The Power of Habit…and, So…What’s next?

OK. When I set out to try to run NYC Marathon back in June, I kept professing that if I just finished this, I would never run again.

At the time I said it, I had no faith in my ability to fall back in love with running, for running to hold a part of my life again. Honestly, I just wanted to make good on the promise I made myself back in 2012 when I qualified. I wanted to “see something through.”

It started when I kept making excuses for not running with Curtis. I was tired. I would do it later. One day, C was like, OK if I let you get away without exercising right now, I want photographic evidence that you worked out later. So I took a picture of the treadmill, and texted it to him. Then…I posted it on Instagram. And got some “likes”.

And then magic happened.

One of the books I read near the beginning of this training cycle was The Power of Habit, which goes through how we build habits into our lives, and how–if we want to make something a habit–to set things up for future success. So many things we do and do well are because we created a habit (that is: trigger, routine, reward) where getting through the three processes is seamless and your body/mind starts craving the reward.

The first habit was: Workout. Post on Instagram. Get a “Like”/some form of encouragement from people out there. The reward was the fact that people saw me doing something and encouraged me to keep on doing it. So I did.

To make getting to the Workout part (the hardest part honestly, is getting to the gym. IN THE MORNING. BEFORE WORK.), I set up myself for success. Each night, I packed my clothes in my gym bag and set out the clothes I would wear to the gym. I’d set my alarm clock, and go to bed. When my alarm clock would go off in the morning it was the trigger. The routine was simply: put on my sports bra, pants, shirt, etc, and grab my bag and get out the door. It really was that easy.

Then it became a series of rewards after the other: because I worked out and posted on instagram/facebook and got a whole bunch of likes, I felt good. Because I worked out, I was coasting on an endorphin high all day. Because I worked out, I could come home, eat dinner and get cozy in bed because I was going to work out in the morning again. When I added a coach to this routine, I had a personal cheerleader–someone to provide me the reward immediately upon finishing my work out.

So I had it from all angles: folks on the interwebs to “like” and congratulate me for getting out on the road or on the treadmill and make me feel like I’m doing something right. I had my coach who would tell me what to do once I got to the gym (also important is removing anything that would block me. For me, I didn’t want to think about what I had to do. All I wanted to do was get to the gym and follow directions), and then tell me what a great job I did once it was over. And then as soon as I crossed into miles 13.5+, the rewards became: finishing running distances I’ve never run before–in light of all of my challenges. So then I was hungry to try to get to the next level. And I had all of the other motivating factors behind me.

This then carried over into my eating—I had someone literally outline what I could eat and when and how much and what kind, and when I came back to meeting with her, I would get my reward: a lower number on the scale, a “great job!” when she saw my log.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say my success getting to the finish line wasn’t carefully orchestrated. And now that I don’t have that scaffolding to my day, and finally feeling like I can do things again (went for my first run on Sunday, one week after the marathon! and biked!), I’m trying to figure out what’s next.

In my immediate-post-marathon haze, I told my coach not to take me seriously for anything but I wanted to consider a Spring Marathon. I told her I probably would be talking out of my mouth, but not to entertain anything seriously until 11/15. I had sent her possible marathons. I thought I had found the perfect Spring marathon–the NJ marathon. And she was like, let’s wait until 11/15! That was too long to wait, but I finally came down on this decision: I will never ever have my first marathon experience again. HOWEVER. There is something unparalled about the local support I’m capable of having here. And while I raced a smart race, I raced it 30 lbs over weight, and I don’t know what it’s like to *really* run the marathon, and I want to try it. So I have a year to get into the shape I want to be to try NYC again next year. And I don’t want some marathon in between to sour my experience or use up any of my chances.

Not to mention, I think in my training for a marathon, I completely started to disrespect the Half Marathon distance. Because I ran races as part of my training and would run a half marathon and add miles before and after, I completely disrespect that Half Marathons can be hard and challenging as well. This happened today. I was meeting with a personal trainer (more on that) and had a T-shirt for a half marathon on. He goes, “Oh! How was this race?!” And I wave my hand and say, “Oh, it was a training run. I had to do 18 miles. So it was just all right.”

BUT IT WAS A HALF MARATHON!

So, I want to come back to respecting that distance, because 13 miles is a long ways, too. And 13 miles fast is a challenge. That’s my Spring Goal. To PR my half marathon distance. That is going to take a lot of discipline in every aspect of my life. But I can do it. My PR Half Marathon time is the Brooklyn Half. I ran it at 2:27 in 2012. There’s my baseline!

Then I’ll rest up and get ready for NYC again next year–I have my ultimate time goal in my head that I want to chase, but it’s too early to put that out there.

So in the meantime, I’m slimming down, getting fit, getting fast. I’m not done yet.

2014 TCS NEW YORK CITY MARATHON: The Final Stretch

Last update, I met up with my big brother, Spurgeon, who agreed to run with me from about 22-25–the critical miles of the marathon. My last 12 mile run, I decided to run the last 12 miles of the marathon (a common thing to do if you’re training for NYC marathon in NYC), and I also wanted to test out my pre-race fueling because I wouldn’t start running until 11:00am, but had to wake up at 6something am.

I wanted absolutely nothing to do with that run, if you’ll recall. Once I finally got on the road, I still wanted nothing to do with the run, and contemplated turning back as soon as I got off of Queensboro Bridge. Well, you know that I finally made it, and made it to the Bronx, just like I did on race day, but, coming from the Bronx into the park was a whole new level of hard for me, and I don’t know if it was because my fueling was off during the training run or what. But I dragged my feet then.

When I got home, I immediately texted Spurgeon, and said, “no matter what happens on Marathon Sunday during the portion of the run you’re with me, I love you.” LOL. Just prepping him.

I write this to tell you that it was THE EXACT OPPOSITE for me, especially once Spurgeon jumped in. I was still feeling good. He had a pumpkin munchkin that I stuffed in my face, and then tried to wash down with water—it is so hard to find enough saliva after you’ve been running 22.5 miles in a headwind, LOL.

Anyways, I felt my legs getting heavier, but nothing crazy. Spurgeon’s energy was soo contagious, I couldn’t help but smile. He said I looked good, and HE COULDN’T BELIEVE I’M A MARATHONER! And I’m like, whoa there, buddy. We still got 3 miles to go! :)

I asked Spurgeon to basically make me run and to tell me stories. That I was no longer really capable of thinking for myself. Honestly, if I was by msyelf–and I told him that–I would have walked more than I needed to, and still I think I convinced him to let me walk more than I needed to, but whatever. We finished Harlem, and made it to Central Park North and 5th Avenue aka HEART ATTACK HILL :) but somehow, we kept running. I knew Amy’s smily face was coming up at 103rd Street, and I was over due for a hug! Plus she would have some food :)

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That’s me running to my hug on 103rd street! With Spurgeon!

I also packed for Amy a few extra snacks so that I could have choices for the later miles. I told her, no matter what, give me the banana at 14.5 but everything else could be negotiable. She had: salted swedish fish, granola bar, salted apple slices, and orange slices.

When 103rd came (and it’s on the hill, if you’ll remember), I wanted the apples–they were THE BEST APPLES I’D EVER TASTED! And I told Spurgeon so. I got my hug and apples from Amy and we kept going.

But my high was short lived. My legs were getting a little heavier, and mentally….I was about to say the words, “I think this is my wall” RIGHT as my Coach was running up to us! :)

It was actually the first time we met in person (I left my phone at home at the Bronx 10 miler–a race we were both running, where we would meet up), and it was the boost I needed right at the right moment. Of course I didn’t want to look weak (even though, I was approaching mile 24!) in front of my coach! So, we chatted and jogged for a little bit, and–if you’ll remember–the police sirens were still behind us, getting closer, which also meant I was slowing down, LOL. We were finishing up the hill, and made it into the park, finally!! The sirens and its announcement stopped, but they were still creeping behind. My goal was to stay in front!

Once I got into the park, it was auto drive, for real, in a way I had never really experienced auto drive. My legs knew every twist and turn, and I knew that I could catch up some time on the downhill (Cat Hill), and just made my way towards it. I picked up my pace, and that was when I started passing people. Spurgeon and Abby were surprised, and Abby said, “It looks like you could have pushed a little harder earlier!” and it was probably true, but you know, I did what I could, so that I could start passing people in this moment, right now.

And it felt good.

We got to the top of the downhill, and I kicked it into gear. My legs felt strong, and at one point, I asked, “What is happening? Am I sprinting at mile 24+?!” And they said YES!!

Abby gave me a hug and congratulated me and dropped me off around 72nd Street transverse. I still had a little more time with Spurgeon to talk about how I was REALLY GOING TO FINISH THE MARATHON! I WAS GOING TO DO IT!

I WAS LESS THAN 2 MILES FROM FINISHING THE MARATHON.

Spurgeon said he would drop me off at 25 and let me take myself in to the finish line. We had a little bit of a downhill exiting the park, and I was scheduled to meet Amy at 59th Street.

I had told Amy to always meet on runner’s right, at each spot, but when I saw the gates up, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to see her, so I decided not to look for her and just kept running/walking.

Central Park South has a sneaky uphill, yall.

BUT I WAS FINISHING. I WAS FINISHING THE MARATHON, UP RIGHT, AND I WASN’T CRAWLING (remember when I said I was prepared to crawl?)

I jogged to Columbus Circle, where I saw the big jumbo tron, and folks were still lined up cheering people like me coming through in the dark.

I’ve come through this entrance so much, so much, that my legs just carried me even when my mind didn’t want to. Less than 400 meters–that’s one time around the track. THAT’S ALL THAT I HAD LEFT! JUST ONE TIME AROUND A STUPID TRACK.

I ran some more. I saw a friend who was cheering her partner on and was just behind me.

I ran up the hill, and I SAW THE FINISH LINE. THE FINISH LINE.

200 meters left, and there were about 6 or 7 people between me and the finish line. My legs said, “WE GOT THIS, JUST GO”

AND I DID.

I sprinted to the finish line!!!

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The photo on the bottom shows clearly my emotion right after I finished. I didn’t straight up cry, but, there were tears there (probably because I was dehydrated, haha). I texted C to tell him I had finished, and let Facebook know that I was officially a marathoner, then did the “Death Walk” to the family reunion.

For real, someone needs to shorten this thing.

Anyways, I made my way to Amy and Curtis!

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And Curtis and I celebrated our hard won victories!

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WE ARE MARATHONERS! Not a bad way to spend 1/2 of your first year together.

2014 TCS NEW YORK CITY MARATHON: UP TO THE BRONX & DOWN INTO HARLEM

When I left off last time, I had run to that banana that my dear friend Amy was holding at 14.5 miles, and I ate half of it, and saved the other half for after the bridge.

I don’t have any clever memories I don’t think from the point of entering the second half of the marathon, and trying to convince myself to run up the 59th Street Bridge. Of course, I haven’t mentioned it for some time yet, but please remember that there is a constant—CONSTANT–35MPH wind (probably closer to 40-50 on the bridge) whipping me in the face. So much so that as soon as I saw a medical tent in Manhattan, I grabbed a vaseline stick and smeared vaseline over my lips and my face around my mouth. Instant relief. Why didn’t I think of this earlier?

Anyways, I’m avoiding talking about the bridge. It was basically the same as Verrazano. I had run this part of the route (Queens side of the bridge to the finish line) two weeks earlier, and it was JUST AS WINDY, so I guess I was prepared, which is to say, I walked it. The whole incline, I walked. It was here that I saw my slowest mile. But I knew that 1st Ave was a cumulative downhill, and so I gave myself this walk, without guilt. I even took some pictures:

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MILES 16-20: 1st Avenue to the Bronx

Once I finalllyyyy made it to the downhill portion, I kicked it into gear and knew that I’d see Black Girls Run at mile 16, and my new running and shopping buddy, Toni near the end. I still had my banana (or did I finish it on the bridge? Yes, I finished it on the bridge–hey, why not? I was walking…) and didn’t need anything, but just grabbed some water, and spotted Toni, got a great hug, she asked me if I was OK or if I needed anything, I said I was good! And kept going–that was the love and push I needed to send me up 1st Avenue.

This is when it becomes evident that I’m a back-of-the-pack runner. There was no “wall of sound” upon turning into 1st Avenue. There were some drunk stragglers hanging out of the bars and screaming for the few of us on the road still, and it was nice, and I had some distractions, but mostly, I remember being a bit lonely from 59th street to 103rd street where I would meet up with Amy. Basically, I just went through my motions: one foot in front of the other, grab a water or gatorade, get a Power Gel at mile 18–I picked up the double caffeine one for more power, and only ate half of it. I knew that Amy had my granola bar waiting for me at 18.5 (103rd street), so I would wait for that.

I had asked her to meet me that far up because supposedly there were SO MANY CROWDS that it would make more sense. Now I know better. I really wished she was sooner, but it worked out for the best, especially since all she had to do was walk over to 5th Avenue for the next meet up (by design). When she handed me the granola bar, I was so thankful to be able to chew something again, and use water, and just felt like my stomach was thankful. It was.

What else was happening now that was changing my attitude a bit? In addition to the crowds peetering out, the police escort was zeroing in, and blasting: “THIS IS THE END OF THE POLICE ESCORT/PLEASE MOVE TO THE SIDEWALK AND USE CAUTION/THE ROADS WILL OPEN UP TO TRAFFIC”. This started at Mile 18.5, and would follow me until I entered the park (mile 23.75). It blasted on a continual loop. Obvsiously, my new motivation was to stay in front of that police car, but at the same time, it was just….demoralizing. Like, here I had done all this work, had executed a flawless marathon, and now I have my biggest fear–that I would have to complete the marathon without support, on the sidewalk, creeping up behind me, and never letting me forget its presence. I think it was THAT alone that brought my pace down, not the fact that I was really getting tired. I was just mentally exhausted that my whole marathon training experience had been running to finish before they pulled up the timing mat.

THE BRONX

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Eventually, I made it to Willis Avenue Bridge, and was brought to a walk again. I kept leap frogging with a woman who had done 25 (!!!!) marathons, well, 24 and this was #25, her last she said. She had hoped it would have “turned out better” and we walked the bridge together sad about the announcement on repeat behind us. She congratulated me on my first marathon, and talked about how great I must be because I went to NYU (I had on NYU Alumni shades, haha), and tried to keep my spirits up, even though she herself was sad. I am so thankful to her.

I didn’t get to experience the hype that everyone says is the Bronx. What I had really just sort of felt like my solo run two weeks prior, and I was OK with that. I knew what to expect, and I was feeling pretty good, despite having crossed into mile 20+ territory, and just checked in with my body. There were some drummers who were still out there for us, and I smiled and thanked them in my head.

You know though? I was expecting to feel some kind of way, I was expecting to feel like, “OK NOW THE CHALLENGE STARTS” But I had run such a smart race up to mile 20, and now 21, I just marveled at the fact that I was there, and I was still moving with generally the same effort as before. I texted my coach and said, OMG SO HARD! And it was–but I wasn’t dying. Mentally, my brain was just frustrated that the cops were behind me yelling at me, telling me how slow I was. I joked and said I would be prepared to crawl across the finish line during my training, but, on the Madison Avenue Bridge, crossing into Harlem—and beginning my countdown to meeting up with my big brother Spurgeon–I felt strong! That was something that I embraced: Each mile after 20 was a new territory, and that excited me. Even though I knew the route, and even though the spectator support died down, I knew I had my own support waiting for me still, and I could keep my excitement up myself by making it to miles 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26! And continue to be amazed at my abilities.

We cross into Harlem at 138th Street. Spurgeon said he would meet me at 120th and 5th. He would have munchkins! He would escort me to mile 25! I zoned out, and counted down the miles, and made my way around the bend of Marcus Garvey park and THERE HE WAS! HE WAS JUMPING UP AND DOWN!! I WAS JUMPING UP AND DOWN!! I HAD MADE IT ALIVE AND IN ONE PIECE TO MILE MARKER 22 AND BEYOND AND I WASN’T CRAWLING!!! I made it to the “bring it on home, boys” point of the marathon.

One last leg to go (and it gets so good, y’all!)!

2014 TCS NYC Marathon: Don’t stop til Brooklyn (Part 3)

OK, so, the last post talked about getting to the start, and the start. Really, it was moment to moment movement with the one slice of non movement in the Staten Island Ferry terminal and on the bus (which was still movement, technically). When I think back on it, everything moved so quickly.

OH! I had on my person a pacing bracelet for 6:27 Marathon; and I was ahead of it time wise until mile 15 when I saw it slowly slip away—-here’s a picture of my craftsmanship, though:

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MILES 1-7: WINDY CITY

I want to tell you that the Verrazano Bridge is magical, and running over it was one of my favorite parts of the marathon. But that would be a complete lie. I wasn’t sad that I would be starting on the lower deck, even before I heard about the gale-force winds, I know my fear of heights and distrust in the structural integrity of bridges as soon as I step on them (like, because I’m on a bridge is when it will decide to collapse), so for all intents and purposes, I wanted the Verrazano Bridge (miles 1-3 basically) to be OVER as soon as possible. I would have gladly run my fastest miles of the whole race if it meant that it would be over quicker.

Not so much.

I used up a lot of energy in the first .3 of a mile. Like, my legs were ice cold bricks, and no amount of adrenaline was going to speed me up past the 50MPH winds to warm up my body. After I got to about .5 of the FIRST MILE I decided that it was futile to fight the wind and that was beating us around like cornstalks. I couldn’t run straight. Many a hats went flying. SO MANY OF US were brought to walking so soon, and I thought: is this how my story is going to end? I just walked, and faced away from the wind until I got a downhill, then I worked with that to pick up some time in mile two. When we touched down on Brooklyn, the sun was out, the wind was calm-ish and we waded through the sea of discarded clothing on the other side of the Verrazano, and I dropped off my gray sweatshirt, and kept on.

The first few miles of Brooklyn were in a neighborhood, and I think that stopped the wind; we were winding around and finally made it to 4th avenue when we met back up with the folks who were running on the upper level of the bridge and it was just open road to Atlantic Avenue. There isn’t really much to report. I was getting my bearings, running a decent clip despite the wind, and convincing myself that the pace I was at was enough and it was too soon to speed up! I fueled like I was supposed to, and listened to the bands every 3 blocks and read the signs along the way and counted down the blocks to 4th Ave and 9th street where I would see my first spectators!

Running towards the Gummy Bears!

Running towards the Gummy Bears!

Once I saw Abba and Charif at Mile 7, I knew that the rest of the marathon would just be a series of getting to different friends along the route.  Abba had packed gum & gummy bears, and that was the perfect combination to keep my mouth from getting dry from the raging winds up 4th Avenue.

MILES 7-14: WILL RUN FOR BANANA

My next sighting came at a bit of a surprise—I figured in Fort Greene Brooklyn, I would see people I knew possibly, so I just scanned the crowds. As soon as I turned onto Lafayette Avenue in front of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, I saw my good friend Jessica, and she gave the best hug that boosted me up the Lafayette Avenue hill.

What was also great about the meeting point in Park Slope/Mile 7 is that every other part of the marathon (the remaining 19 miles!) I had run or biked before, and so it all just felt familiar, and it was just like I was running in my neighborhoods—I knew what Lafayette Avenue hill was like on a bike, and honestly, it felt so much easier on foot! When I got to the top of the hill, next to where Brooklyn Flea is usually held, the marching band was packing up. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad/upset, and I wondered how many more things would be gone by the time I got to them, but whatever, I was on familiar turf, I didn’t necessarily HAVE TO HAVE these things, because in the next mile, I’d see my in-laws! They were just at mile 9, and jumping up and down to see me and gave me a gatorade, and a hug and a kiss, and launched me through Bed Stuy–my turf, past where Curtis and I watched last year, and into Williamsburg.

This was my dead-man’s land. I didn’t have anyone around here waiting for me. But I knew this area–I’ve biked it and run it several times. I knew that around here the Orthodox Jews wouldn’t really be participating, but there were some bands/singers around, and just enough to kill the monotony. Once we passed into Greenpoint, the audiences picked up, and some folks were out on the course handing out candy, and drunk revelers were yelling encouraging things. I scanned looking for possibly my co-worker, but just kept trucking, knowing that I was coming up on the half-way point, and my second bridge of the Marathon.

I get to Pulaski, and during a walk break, decide to take a picture or two:

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All I knew was that once I put my phone away, I zeroed in on my mission: run to Amy in Queens holding my banana!! She would also be holding a sign for me, which was something I’ve always wanted, and got! It was so cute, to see her standing there, to run up and give her a hug, and to know that I’d see her at least two other times on the course before it was done! But I really wanted that banana. I strategically placed it before Queens Bridge to get me over the hump of half of the marathon (even though my coach rightfully told me not to think about it being “halfway done” until mile 16). I NEEDED that banana. It signified adding real food into my fueling pattern, and just gave me a mental boost at just the right time. I wish I could show you how cute she was on the path, but imagine her holding this at mile 14.5

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And then I make my way to the Bridge, which, if you’ll remember—IT’S BEEN WINDY STILL ALL THESE MILES!–and make my way to and through the mental half-way of the marathon.

Stay tuned!