If Running Were My Bread & Butter, Last Month I Would Have Starved

Running may have to be added to my “enjoyed in moderation” list—right under refined carbs and saturated fats.

I missed several days of running last month, making a huge mess of my beautifully laid out NYC marathon training plan. 45 percent of the blame lies in a seriously tough work schedule the first two weeks of September (those of you who have anything to do with NY Fashion Week can offer a knowing nod here) and the other 65 percent goes to an angry left hip. (Noticing my math skills? I’m sure I’m not the only person who gives 110% when training for a marathon…)

I had some incredibly positive long runs heading into September. My pacing was great, my body felt sound, and mentally I was flying high. Then a nagging little popping sensation showed up in my left hip and put a wrench in the whole thing. I had hoped the crazy work schedule—which prevented me from hitting my (almost) daily runs and forced me to skip a long run altogether, would give my hip a much needed break. But now that I’m attempting to build back up and finish out my long runs before the taper, I’m realizing a slow September didn’t offer much relief. My hip still hurts.

I’ve officially gone OTP (off the plan), and I don’t know if this new run-until-it hurts-then-stop  routine will get me to the start line on Staten Island on 4 November. At this point, I think I have two options:

  1. Forget my time goal and just run the marathon slow—walking if necessary to be kind to my hip. (And set my sights on next season.)
  2. Cancel my marathon plans altogether, so I don’t risk any more damage—physical or mental, because not finishing would be really depressing. (And set my sights on next season.)

What would you do if you were in my sneakers?

Boston Or Bust! (Hopefully, Not Bust.)

My suitcase is full and John Denver’s “Leaving On A Jet Plane” has been going through my head all morning. I’m off to Boston today! I’ll be spending the weekend with friends, family, and thousands of runners eager to see the dawn in Hopkinton for the start of the Boston Marathon on Monday.

I’ve been getting mixed messages about the course. One friend says Heartbreak Hill is nothing to laugh at and to prepare for the worst, and another says it’s really not that bad and that I may not even realize I’m on it when I get there. But they all agree with the race strategy I got from Coach Neil: “Keep your pace under control, hold back until you get to Route 128, and from there run with abandon.” Control and abandon are now my Boston Marathon power words.

Control. Control. Control. Abandon!

The next time you hear from me I will be a Boston finisher! I promise to feel every good thought you send my way on Monday—I’ll need them all to get through those tough 26.2 miles. I can’t wait to tell you about the experience!

Countdown to the Boston Marathon: 3 days!

Do you use power words to help you get through a tough workout? What are your big weekend plans?

Originally posted in Running With It on Shape.com.

Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream

I missed by bedtime last night because I was gabbing on the phone with a friend of mine who had spent the day giving birth (Baby Ashley, I’m so happy you’re finally here!). Not a bad reason to put off a date with Mr. Sandman. But when I did manage get under the covers, I had a really hard time falling asleep. The shut-eye came eventually and so did some very weird brain activity: I dreamt that my legs didn’t work.

In the dream, I was standing in a race corral wearing baby pink sneakers and a garbage bag, wondering if it was going to rain. I heard a gunshot and the people around me took off running. But I just stood there. I couldn’t move. I tried to lift my right foot, but it was unbelievably heavy. In a panic, I reached down and tried to tug it out in front of me. Then I tried the left, but it wouldn’t budge either. I looked up again and could see the other runners fading into the distance ahead.

I woke up in a pool of sweat.

Anxiety dreams during taper week are totally common—at least that’s what NYC running coach and former Olympian John Henwood once told me. He says his clients have all kinds of fears in the days leading up to a marathon: What if I forget how to run? What if I break my leg going down the subway stairs? I sneezed this morning; do I have pneumonia? As funny as they sound, they can really mess with your head.

When I stepped out of my apartment to run this morning, a touch of apprehension slipped in and I was concerned that my legs might feel like lead. What if the dream (nightmare!) had an ounce of reality? A few strides later I was breathing easy and laughing at myself. I really need to relax.

Countdown to the Boston Marathon: 6 days!

Have you ever had the dream where your legs don’t work? What do you do to ease anxiety?  

Originally posted in Running With It on Shape.com.

It’s Time To Be A Goal Setter

This morning I had coffee with Neil Cook, a running and triathlon coach at Asphalt Green in NYC. I wanted to pick his brain about Boston—he’s run it in the past and has coached several athletes to victory there. I also wanted him to tell me that I could finish in my original goal of 3:45. Instead, I came away with a caffeine buzz, a Starbuck’s napkin full of notes, and a head swimming with numbers. It’s time for me to smell the vanilla latte and be a lot more realistic.

I’ve had a few setbacks during training this season—the flu, shin splints, crazy winter storms—but I’m not going to make excuses. I haven’t put in the mileage or the effort to hope for such a speedy finishing time. Coach Neil wants me to create three new goals for myself: 1. The one I can hit only if the marathon gods are smiling upon me (perfect weather, my legs feel incredible, complete mental focus); 2. The time my current level of fitness and training predicts; and, 3. An at-all-costs number that I’m guaranteed to reach. Which means I’m looking at: 3:55, 4:06, and just plain finishing.

If I were the type of person who set the bar low, I could be happily surprised by how well things turn out when the outcome is better than anticipated. But I’m not; my expectations have always been too high—for racing and everything else in life. It’s going to be tough to accept something as practical as 4 hours. Still, it’s what I need to do.

Countdown To The Boston Marathon: 19 Days!

Do you set realistic goals for yourself? Or do you aim too high or low?

Originally posted in Running With It on Shape.com.