Monday, November 02, 2009

Highlights from the New York City Marathon

We were supportive, sometimes over zealous in our enthusiasm (Alison) at the New York City Marathon yesterday. Here are some friends we saw. (A note: there is a mistake on Ciara's video. Kirk thought she missed running it last year.)
We were sorry to miss Amye, Gina, Alan, & Maddy. Next year, right, guys? Hello? Hel-loo?
Happy Birthday, Ciara!

Ooorah!! Coach's Corner

Well, I have officially broken my own marathon record! I ran 3:46:55 at this year's Marine Corps Marathon. Woo-hoo!!!!!!! I have to tell you that this is a big deal for me. My goal is always to finish feeling good, but it is an added bonus that I also set a personal record. I felt great the entire race and kept an eerily consistent pace throughout. I don't know how I did it, but I felt better at mile 20 than I did at mile 8 and Crystal City (miles 23-24) flew by with my main squeeze at my side.

JB jumped in at mile 20 to run the last 6 (and get his workout for the day!) and it made all the difference. Miles 20-23 go over a long stretch of highway and parking lot near the Pentagon. Not exactly picturesque and far from crowd-friendly. It is usually where runners lose steam and motivation and begin to deteriorate physically. Not me! With his encouragement and chattiness, I was able to conquer those last 6 miles and maintain my awesome (for me) pace. It was great.

Team Fisher House is $6,000 away from our $250,000 goal this year. We hope that if anyone forgot to donate, that they will do so before December 1st so we can meet our goal. I was recognized at the team pasta dinner the night before as being the only team member to have repersented Team Fisher House every year since the team's inception four years ago. I am very proud of this and intend to continue my streak next year. I have met the people who have stayed in these houses and I will run until my legs fall off to continue to provide a place for these families. I thank you for your donations and hope that you will continue to support me next year and the year after and the year after that until we no longer need Fisher Houses.

If you or anyone you know is interested in donating to my web page, please feel free to do so:

To any of you who are interested in getting out there and starting a running program, this is the time of year to do it! The weather is extremely mild, there are tons of turkey trots and holiday runs to try and the world is a more runner-friendly place than ever. Get out there and give it a go. If you have any questions, just holler at me--that's what I'm here for!

Run hard, friends! And congratulations to all the 2009 marathoners! We had a great time cheering on our friends and man-candy at the NYC marathon yesterday. What a day it was! Well done, everyone. Keep running :)

Coach Abby

Monday, October 26, 2009

First Last Week

Now that I am in the last week, Marathon week, I am freaking out a little. Well, it turns out I am not alone. A friend of mine who runs a 3 hour marathon pointed out this article about the tapering freak out from Runner's World. It was a big help in making me not feel crazy.

I can't think of anything else right now. I am excited and nervous. I can't wait to see people that are coming to watch the race. It's getting so close!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chicago Marathon Part 3: More Videos

Here's some fun footage of flying clothes, miles 16 & 21, and what I had for breakfast.

Chicago Marathon Part 2: Videos

I am afraid of the cold. I am afraid of being cold. Extreme weather, either hot or cold, is not ideal on a typical day, but when asked my preference, nine times out of 10 I'm going to choose hot. I'm from Florida, and I don't like winter. On marathon day, however, I prefer colder. And, when I say "colder" I'm talking a balmy 60 degrees. 50 degrees at the NYC Marathon is bad enough.
It became very clear to me five days before the Chicago Marathon that the weather gods could care less about what I wanted. In fact, they like to mess with people like me, get people like me all freaked out so we'll spend more money at Niketown. Seven days before the race the forecast predicted highs in the mid-40's (that was the high!) with rain. Cold and rain. Five days before the race, the weather gods decided that cold and rain were not enough and added snow to the mix. Snow. I was a wreck. I like snow from my living room window, or in some romantic movie. I don't run in it. But, there was no backing out. A team of McGee's were flying to Chicago to see this race (and eat pizza), so I knew I was going to have to slog through, possibly literally, and I was going to have to figure out how.
Flying into rainy Chicago on Friday was not encouraging. By Saturday, though, the sun came out. It was cold, but it was sunny. Still terrified of not being properly dressed on race day, I anxiously asked the Nike saleslady (Nike set up a store in the official marathon hotel, the one we stayed at. Smart Nike. They made a bundle off me.) if they had 3/4 tights, recommended moments before by Abby, who I'd called in a panic. She lead me to the rack, and I picked up my size. No time to try them on. And, while I'm here I probably need some arm warmers, maybe another long sleeved shirt, and a head band. Can't leave without a head band.
The only thing that I thought maybe the cold would encourage was a 4:00:00 run from me. I was hoping to break my personal record of 4:04. If I matched it, great. If I came in slower...not so great. I knew I'd be comfortable with a time between 4:00 - 4:04. I also knew training hadn't gone so well for me this year. If my half marathon times were any indication of how I might do, well, I wasn't going to be breaking any records.
Geared up for some winter running, I was relieved to wake up on Sunday and see the sunny forecast. Not so thrilling was the 29 degrees / high of 44 flashing on the television.
I got to my corral by 7:15. Most people around me were in layers, but there were those tough running animals dressed in tank tops and shorts. Right before the start I started seeing clothes fly through the air. Unlike NY where racers gently remove their layers and throw them on the Verrazano Narrows, Chicago runners send theirs flying, like throwing caps at a high school graduation. I got hit in the face with a rather nice sweat shirt, which I considered keeping and giving to Kirk at mile 2. I had my own clothes to worry about, however, including my sweatpants, the ones I'd had since grad school. I knew we were about to say goodbye. I couldn't carry them with me -- I had a jacket and a long sleeved shirt to pass off -- so I had to make the decision to leave them at the starting line. Instead of throwing them, though, I placed them neatly along the side lines, hoping they'd end up with a nice woman, who'd want a comfortable pair of sweats to wear around her house.
The horn blared signaling the start of the race. As I started running I felt cold, but it wasn't unbearable. And, as the race went on (and on and on) I never got completely warm, but the cold was not my enemy and I was able, by mile 13, to kind of enjoy it. I high-fived little kids and big kids. I stopped for water, even walked through some of the water stops. I thanked the volunteers, who stood in front of the tables with cups of gatorade in their hands so we runners wouldn't have a mash up. I saw the city, the truly gorgeous, clean, well manicured city I remember from my childhood. And, I stopped thinking about breaking any records.
The cold did not help me run any faster, as you can see by my time, but it was a very beautiful day, and when I crossed the finish line 15 minutes slower than I'd wanted, I could see it had reached 44 degrees. Still not in my comfort zone, but a hell of a lot better than where I'd started.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tapering is Hard to Do

As a first time marathoner, this is the first time I am experiencing a lot of things, including my first real taper. Hearing other runners talk about tapering in the past, I never understood the real deal. Training tips are always telling us to follow the taper and only do what your training schedule says to do, no more! "Why," I thought, "would you ever do more?"
Yesterday, was my first long run after my tapering officially began. I had the best 12 mile run ever. In the history of running. Ok, maybe that's an over-statement but it felt so good. As I approached the end of the run, I thought briefly, "I wonder how fast I can do 13.1?" Woops. There it is. I felt great. It was cold, it was raining, I was strong, I was fast, I was consistent. I wanted to do more. I stopped myself. I ran just slightly more than 12 miles and then reminded myself that I am so close, yet if I injure myself or over-train, I will be so far away.
Less than 2 weeks. There is so much to do, including successfully following my tapering training schedule.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chicago Marathon: 4:15:40

We stayed right across the street from the start of the race. I walked to my corral 30 minutes before and only stood waiting for 15 minutes before the horn blared. What a wonderfully civilized way to begin a race versus getting on a boat or a bus two or three or even four hours before the the start! When I crossed the finish I was handed an aluminum wrap immediately, my medal was draped over my neck, and I was able to easily walk the mile to the family reunion area. The end of NY is always a nightmare. Congested; long walks to get to meeting areas and bag check; blocked off streets with no easy way out. And, the Chicago Marathon starts at 7:30a.m. I crossed the finish line and found my family by noon. In New York I'm not done until 2:00 or 3:00 so the rest of the day is shot.

The course is flat. There's a hill right at the end, which is mean, but other than that it is super flat. And, I did run it faster as a result -- until mile 14 when I made the decision to slow down. For the first 13 I thought of nothing but finding my family, how fast I was going, how much I had to pee, how cold it was (it was 29 degrees at the start!). I wasn't looking at the city or the course. And, I wasn't having fun. It was stressful until I decided at mile 14 to slow down and, literally, smell the freakin' roses. OK, there were no roses, so it was smell the city. After that I started to enjoy myself.

There will be more later in the week, but for now, here are a couple of pictures. Videos and more story to come.

Monday, October 12, 2009

20 miles down 26.2 to go

Long time reader, first time contributor...

I'm in the home stretch of my first attempt at a marathon. THE marathon. NYC. I'm so happy, scared, excited, energized, amazed, nervous that it is almost here (19 days 15 hours but who's counting).
My training has been long, as a first-timer I chose a 20 week training plan (The Beginner Marathon Program on Cool Running), and not without hiccups (I clumsily ran into the corner of a wooden box and injured my leg while goofing around. That took me out for over a week. Then I had to come back slowly. My first scheduled 20 mile run out of 2 was supposed to happen when I was in Hawaii and I only managed 10 because I was too busy being on vacation) but I feel like I am ready. After my 16 mile and 18 mile long runs I finally felt like this wasn't a crazy dream anymore but after my run on Saturday (slow as it was - Hey, I never said I was fast. I'm shooting for under 5 hours, under by seconds is fine.) I can really visualize myself doing it.
Of course, the minor annoyances continue. My shoes have more than 300 miles on them right now. Should I buy a new pair when the race is only 19 days away? And this morning my Nano died (thank goodness I had uploaded Saturday's run or I would probably have thrown myself off my balcony when the ipod died). Music is not essential but Nike+ has become my running lifeline, it's how I got to this point. So, it makes me nervous to think about going on without my running buddy recording my every step. At the very least I should buy that new Nano to save my running partner, TheMonkey, from my yammering. On our run this morning, without music to listen to, I didn't stop talking for a second.

So, what do you think? Going into the final days of my training, I have some expensive things to think about. Is it worth it to get that new ipod so I can go back to tracking my runs and striking up my power song when I need a little boost (Pump It by Black Eyed Peas)? Or should I get those new shoes tonight and start rotating them in , instead of waiting until after the big day and retiring the shoes I wore throughout training with a big sigh and thank you? Or suck it up, dig into my savings and do both?

For some side reading, see how I got here in my running posts on my personal blog. Bit of trivia: The bride in the first running post: Running Girl.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Barefoot in the Park

Amanda forwarded this great article in the NY Times about Christopher McDougall and barefoot running. I haven't tried it yet, but I've been inspired by "Born to Run". Plus, with my injury, I really should test it out. Maybe tomorrow morning I'll show up barefoot for my run with Mariana. That would totally freak her out.

By the way, Christopher McDougall commented on this blog. Check it out if you missed it. He also sent some great music, so take a listen. And, read the book!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blog Like A Runner

Oh shame! It's been well over a month since RLAG's last blog post and I, for one, am seriously embarrassed. What's the point of having a blog if no one is writing? A blog is only as good as it's bloggers. So, I am re-committing to blogging like a girl and getting you all the running news that's fit for the interwebs.

Chicago Marathon: October 11th. I. Am. Not. Ready. I feel under-prepared both mentally and physically. I'm waiting for the magic light of magical thinking to go off in my runner's brain, but it ain't happenin'. And, I leave one week from this Friday so I'm running (pun intended) out of time. Something's gotta click and soon or else I am in trouble.

In worse news, that pesky herniated disc of mine has reared it's ugly nerve tickling head. I did speed work yesterday morning on a left foot I could barely feel. I think that's bad. And, guess what, I don't have health insurance anymore! Not that my PT takes insurance, but at least I'd get reimbursed a little bit of money when I went three times a wallet busting week last year.

That's what's going on with me. Want to know what's up with Zola Budd? Oh, come on, you remember ol' barefoot South African runner chick who tripped Mary Decker. That incident made such an impression on me as a kid. I can't wait to read all about what Zola's up to now.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Run Like the Tarahumara

I've had some trouble with training this year. My brain is all cloudy, running feels like a chore, and I'm disconnected to the process. Basically, I'm not inspired. Last night, though, Jon Stewart had Christopher McDougall, journalist and now runner, on his show and, wow, I cannot wait to read his book Born To Run. It's all about the Tarahumara Indians who live in Mexico and run a lot for long distances. And they like it! There are some interviews on line with McDougall where he talks more in depth about his involvement with the Tarahumara and what lead him to them in the first place. The book sounds fascinating, and might have a big influence on how we run in the future. If, like me, you're having trouble finding that inner light, get the book and see if it doesn't make you want to run an ultra.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What if...(by Coach Abby) were on a run, headed for the East River Park, traversing through the Lower East Side and *BOOM* you suddenly find yourself tumbling head-over-feet-over-head and landing smack dab in the middle of Chrystie and Houston. Damn potholes! Battered and bruised, you pick yourself up (because no one has seemed to stop and help) and limp to the nearest Duane Reade for Band Aids and alcohol swabs.


You are running the last 3/4 of a mile of a 5 mile run and take a turn to run parallel to the elevated FDR Drive when *TWACK* a rouge pebble smacks you right between the eyes. Luckily, you are not bleeding, you are not dizzy and so you continue on your way home to check for massive bruising and a very ugly battle wound.

Friends, s#@* happens. It just does. Both of these scenarios happened to me in the last three months. I kid you not, that pebble came flying off the FDR and I never saw it, not even after it landed. Seriously. Lucky for me, I was never so seriously hurt that I couldn't attend to my own wounds. My clumsiness and bad luck aside, I am pretty sure that most of us have tripped, fallen, been knocked around by a bicyclist or a car, or had some such near death experience while running. It happens. In light of Runner Girl's post about the tremendous heat this past weekend, I thought it'd be a good time to bring up this topic.

When Trisha Meili, the Central Park Jogger, was found near death in the woods of Central Park they couldn't identify her. Her face was so severely beaten that she couldn't be identified through pictures. She was a single woman and no one knew she had gone out for a midnight run (A MIDNIGHT RUN-I SWEAR, IF I EVER HEAR OF ANY OF YOU LADIES DOING THIS I WILL CHASE YOU DOWN, HOG TIE YOU AND MAKE YOU WATCH PAULY SHORE MOVIES TIL YOU PROMISE TO ONLY RUN IN THE DAYLIGHT OR WITH SEVERAL PEOPLE!!!). For almost two weeks she went unidentified.

You may be thinking, "my husband/wife will know I've gone for a run" and you're probably right. But, where did you go? How long should you have been gone? When do they start to worry that you've been gone too long? And, if you live in a city like New York that has dozens of hospitals on the island of Manhattan alone, where might you be taken if you were hurt, injured or in need of medical attention and unable to speak for yourself? In the heat of the summer your body can turn on you in an instant and, before you know it or can do anything about it, you can develope heat exhaustion or heat stroke and pass out. Oh, wait, I had heat exhaustion, too. Yup--not fun, people, and very dangerous. What if, in the winter months, you go out for a run and find yourself semi-conscious after having fallen on a patch of black ice. I've never experienced frostbite but I hear it's not that enjoyable.

I am not endorsing this company and get no proceeds or anything from them, but I am buying an ID tag for myself and one for my hubby-to-be. It's got my name, my home city, three In Case of Emergency names and phone numbers, my blood type and a note than I am not allergic to any medications. They're $20 and some of the proceeds go to a charity that you choose. That's pretty cool. Here's the link:

You know why? Because it helps my partner to worry less when I'm gone. Because I'm O Negative and can't have any other blood than that. Because New York is a big city and when I decide Manhattan is too small for a long run and head to Brooklyn, I really am far away from home. Because I've fallen more than once while running. Because I've known people who could've used it in an emergency. Because I like to run for a long time and push myself and feel safe doing it. Because I don't love to run with my Drivers License in my pocket on account of I forget to take it back out and then I wash it and then it fades and then I have to buy a new Drivers License and it's a pain in the butt.

I'm not your Mom but let me tell it to you straight, s#@* happens. Get the ID tag or something like it. Seriously.

Run safe--
Coach Abby

Monday, August 17, 2009

NYC Half Marathon -- 13.1 Miles of Hell

It can't get much cooler than running the closed-to-traffic streets of NYC. When I signed up for the New York City Half back in March I was thrilled. I was so disappointed last year when I couldn't do it because of my injury. I'd had so much fun in 2006 and 2007, and I missed the course, which is a loop around Central Park, then out on to 7th Avenue, through Times Square, and down the West Side Highway to Battery Park. It's truly something, seeing NYC that way, runners on the streets instead of cars. Makes you look at the city in a whole different way.

My goal was to run it in under two hours. I'd been preparing both mentally and physically for months. And, I had Mariana, who is faster than me, pushing me along during runs. So, I thought I'd be more than ready on August 16th to cross the finish line between 1:50:00 - 1:55:00.

What I did not plan for was heat. And humidity. At 6:00a.m. when I set out to meet Mariana it was already 78 degrees. The two mile jog I took to get to her left me drenched with sweat. And, at the starting line we found out that there was a heat advisory. The announcer suggested that maybe this not be the race you strive to get a personal record. I heard him, and I was fully prepared to listen, but when the race started I felt my legs go a little faster than they should have been. My strategy is to run slower at the start and get progressively faster, but for some reason -- nerves, trying to keep up with Mariana, not being able to forget the goal -- I was too fast for the weather, so by mile three I was uncomfortable, and by mile four I was ready to go home. Overheated, I overcompensated by drinking too much water and Gatorade, so by mile five I had painful cramps. I begged Mariana to save herself and leave me to my misery, which she finally did at mile six.

On 7th Avenue things got a little better. The cramps went away, but I still felt terrible. My body just did not want to be there at all. At one point, as I was passing 57th Street, I thought to myself "What would happen if I didn't finish? Who would care?" I have never not completed a race, which in the past gave me a sense of pride. But, at this race I thought the sensible thing to do would be to quit. I kept going, though, and looked out for Kirk, Abby, Justin and Andy, whi were at mile eight. Their cheers and smiles disappeared upon catching sight of me, the ashen, beat up runner who was not happy at all.

Down the West Side Highway with less than four miles to go I tried to speed up, but it was no use. I pumped my arms the way Abby tells us to in class, but it didn't work. So, I decided if I can't change my body I can change my mind. My mom always says "Put a smile on your face and a song in your heart", so that's what I did. I sang to myself, told myself jokes, noted the runners around me who slogged through, kinda hating the ones who passed me. At mile 11ish I saw the gang again, but this time I put a big smile on my face. They said I looked better.

Finally, mile 12 and I was already past the two hour mark. At one point, I think mile 10, I had it in my head that maybe I'd still make my record of 2:00, but I got over that when at mile 11 I was at 1:52. Again, I tried to go a little faster, but who was I kidding? The dream was over; it was over at mile three! I crossed the finish in 2:12:something, disappointed, but happy to be done.

What is the lesson here? Well, for one, I've got to be flexible in my thinking. Once I knew the weather was going to be an issue I should have slowed way down. Second, I should not have overdone the water and Gatorade in the beginning of the race. That was a huge mistake. Third, I need to quit my job and hire a team of trainers so I can meet my 1:50 goal. I watched Paula Radcliffe run her 5:24 per mile pace in the same weather and she was fine. Clearly, I need to do what's she's doing!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Seems like they only get longer.

And I am not just talking about the lengths of time between my post. I am talking about Long runs. Tomorrow I will run (I hope) 16 miles. I am on week nine of my training, doing a Cool Running Beginner Marathon program.
And they say if you are running for speed or time on your first marathon then I should be running 18 miles and if I just want to finish I should run 14. So, I feel like I am somewhere in between on this. So, I am going to run 16. Two weeks ago Me and Zen (my girlfriend) ran 14 miles in the NYRR Training run. This was a great way to remind myself that running can cause pain.

Somehow, getting up five days a week, and running varied distances and stretching a lot after (You know what, I don't think I'll ever stretch before) you seem to get used to it, and your body doesn't go into shock every time you set out on an hour or more run. But then you run that first run over the half-marathon mark, and your body says, "hey, I thought we were cool. You don't bother me, I don't bother you. What happened?" And you tell your body, hey I was just pushing it okay, I'll try not to let it happen again. But then you realize you just lied to your body...dang. OK. Listen up body, this is the goal... "What?!!" yea, I know, but we can do it, stay with me okay. I am pretty sure it will feel amazing after. And if it doesn't, I'll give you two weeks off, at least! Well, alright, you can't give the body all the details right off the bat. The bat? hmmm.

Anyway, I've been feeling pretty good, overall. Trying to eat right and stay on track. Been a little more difficult to maintain a regular running schedule since I left Zen in NY and headed out to Minneapolis. I have been doing my runs but the timing has been a little bit off. So tomorrow I strike out on a 16 mile journey, presumably on my own, lest someone show up out of the blue.
Luckily I get to run around three lakes. Check it out.

Oh Technology. Well, wish me luck. Still to be discovered: Where do I hold my gels? Water? How do I get around Lake of the Isles?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Run and Raise Money

You wanted to run the New York City Marathon this year, but, for whatever reason, you didn't qualify. Now you're totally bummed, sitting on your sofa watching reruns of Seinfeld and eating cold pizza. Fret no longer. The Central Park Conservancy wants you! Here's the deal -- you raise money for their charity, they let you run 26.2 miles in the greatest city in the world. Sound like a fair trade? If so, check it all out here.
Worried you don't have enough time to train? You've still got about 12 weeks, and if you're already on a workout program you'll be just fine.

Good luck!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Beg to Defer

As some of you know, I've done two NYC marathons -- '07 and '08 -- and am qualified and signed up for '09. But as some of my very patient running friends also know, I've had zero enthusiasm for '09. No push, no drive, no go-get-em. To top it off, my long runs were kicking my ass, thanks to my extra particular hatred of July and August training.

After what felt like the millionth terrible attempt at building my distance, I finally started asking myself some questions. Why am I doing this again this year? What do I want? And perhaps most importantly, what's it going to feel like if I ... don't run the marathon?

A few half-jokes with running friends ("Will you still talk to me if I don't run this year?") plus a long phone call with my mother led me to spend a weekend as if I'd already deferred. Just to see how it felt.

It felt amazing. I was finally able to answer that first question with certainty: I'd planned to run again this year because I'd felt like a failure when I'd stopped to walk in those other two marathons. And that's crazy. Lots of people walk, and never in a MILLION YEARS would I call any one of them a failure. You cross the finish line, you did it.

And the second question got an answer, too: I want to feel good about running. I want to be strong, and happy, and, let's face it, 10 lbs lighter. I can get all of that at distances that make me happy, that suit my strengths. The marathon was actually never on my bucket list. You meet other runners and they inspire you to try new lengths and challenges, and that's awesome, that's the joy of the sport. But I've done the training -- twice -- and gotten myself from the Verrazano Bridge to Central Park -- twice -- and I need to feel good about that.

I definitely worry that I'm wimping out. But that's the beauty of deferral; if I show up to cheer on my super-speedy husband on November 1st and think, "Damn, I wish I were out there," I can gear up for 2010. For now, if anyone wants to go for a 5-mile loop and a margarita, you know where to find me!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Summer Streets!!!

Hey everyone!

Last year, Mayor Mike and the DOT closed down Park Ave from the Brooklyn Bridge to 72nd St (and 72nd to the Park) on three Saturdays in August to encourage people to get out and run, bike, walk, blade, whatever. They're doing it again this year and it starts this Saturday. The streets are closed to traffic from 7am til 1pm. It's an awesome route to use for your long run and you can incorporate the Bridge and the Park while taking advantage of the shade Park Avenue offers in the morning.

For more information, including a map, the scheduled events, bike share information and everything else you need to know, visit the website.

See you out there on Saturday morning!

Coach Abby

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"I'm A Fan" by Coach Abby

I gotta tell you, friends, I am a fan of running. I think maybe I missed my calling as a professional cheerleader, but I definitely work through that by cheering wildly on the sidelines of any friends' sporting event. Yankees games, football games, marathons, Little League, you name it and I'm there. Not shouting at the umpire, mind you (unless it's a catastrophically bad call), but cheering for anyone and everyone!

I really get so much joy out of watching other people compete and complete goals. It is one of my all-time favorite hobbies to go out and cheer for random strangers in a Central Park race or at a charity run. Some people ask me why I'm not running New York this year with my honey (who is running his first in our fair city!). Truth be told, I'd rather be his #1 Cheerleader and #1 Fan out there on the course. I know what it feels like to look forward to seeing friends and family after miles and miles of what seems to be an endless course and all you want to do is sit down and eat a cupcake. I love being that jolt of adrenaline for people.

So, if you happen to be competing sometime in the future, holler! I will be your fan (and annoyingly cheerful coach, as Kirk and Alison found out this weekend). I may just jump in for a few miles myself.

And if you've lost a little bit of the love to run or compete, try being a fan sometime. It can rejuvenate your spirit and give you the boost you need while giving others the energy to finish. Bonus? You don't have to get up as early as the athletes!

Keep running hard, friends. Go get 'em!

Coach Abby

Monday, July 27, 2009

My first Triathlon: Done!

I want to thank my wife, my family, Coach Abby, Amanda and Andy, Bill and Jody, and Dan and Ninon, and Rusty and Caroline for coming out and cheering me on during the NYC Triathlon yesterday.

So, yeah I did it.... my official time was 3 hours: 13 minutes: 24 seconds. And the only injury I have is this #$@%^ IT Band, which doesn't hurt any more or less than before the race, so that's good... i think.

I had an amazing time. I loved every minute of it, and once I put my experience on paper I will share it with you on the old blogger.

I will say there was only one surprise that caught me off guard. It was those fans who, through out the race, were cheering me to SMILE. Why on earth is that a good cheer to give someone? I understand that during the race, people were taking pictures and from a PR stand point I suppose the Triathlon wants happy competitors. However, have you seen the photos of people smiling while competing? They look constipated. And why? Because the last thing they are thinking about are smiling for photos.

And I get that there are those who cheer Smile because in their mind, if I'm smiling then I must be enjoying myself, as a result the fan can feel like they've turned my race around. Bullhooey! You want to turn my race around tell me to breathe, or use my arms more, or relax, or stay focused, or tell me I'm looking strong.

As a newby to all this, I'm just confused. Professional athletes aren't smiling when they are competing, right? There is no smiling, in any sport that I know of... Show me a photo of a football player smiling as he is tackling or being tackled. Hockey players aren't smiling, 90% of them have no teeth. Can you imagine: Three seconds on the clock, Lakers down by two. And as Kobe Bryant shoots the game-winning three pointer, the crowd chats: Smile!

I don't understand. I will say this... there was one gentleman I remember, who looked at me and chanted Smile just as I ran up a steep hill after riding 25 miles on my bike, Patches. And I responded with a deep breath "F#%$- off," which I admit resulted in a gratified smile if only briefly.

So, for those seasoned vets who came before me, what's the cheer that gets you angry?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

NYC Triathlon!

Okay, it's the day before. Here is a link to the greatest motivational speech ever.

Today all I have to remember is to pack and deliver my bike to the transition area. And review how to fix a flat tire. My legs are sore... I'm still recovering from an IT Band, but I feel pretty good. I am going through the race in my head... Swim: nice and relaxed for the first 1/2 mile to get comfortable, then pick it up for the last half. Run in bare feet to the bike, while stripping off the wet suit. Dry my feet and face. put my shoes and socks on. Gloves and helmet. and cycle my way for 25 miles. The distance doesn't bother me, it's the unknown course. We've been training in the park, not up and down the Henry Hudson Park way. We're biking through the Bronx, should I bring a gun? No, that'll weigh me and "Patches" (my bike) down.
Once we're done biking, back to the transition area. park the bike, take off my gloves and helmet. Please, God, let me remember to take off my helmet- drink some fluids and eat goo. wipe yourself off, and run like a girl, man, run like a girl!!

This is where I'll be nervous. I really believe that my IT Band has 90% recovered, but either way, I can't be scared of the pain. I have to finish this... I will! Thanks for the support..

I have to go.... now... people are coming over...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ask The Coach: Too Little Too Late???

As I re-enter PT for mild ITB Syndrome (damn shoes--well, damn me for not replacing them sooner), I am peppered with questions about doing too much. Most popular among them is the following:

Q: Should I scale back my leg work in the gym when I amp up my miles?

A: No. The secret to your success is the combination of long runs and your weekly (or bi-weekly if you reeeealllly mean it) leg workouts in the gym. One keeps you health so you can do the other! It's really that simple.

However, there is no need to go hog wild and kill your legs every single time you go to the gym. Adding 5 pounds to a leg exercise isn't going to make you so sore that you can't walk the next day and is an easy way to build strength without sabotaging your runs. You should be adding weight incrementally as you become more and more comfortable with your exercises and less sore from performing them.

The most important area that runners tend to ignore (and then complain about ad nauseum) is the glutes. Oh, your hips are sore. Oh, you can't sit down on your buns after a hill workout. Oh, your ITB is soooo tight. All butt problems, people. So many muscle groups attach at the hip/glute area that it seems insane that the vast majority of runners regularly scoff at the idea of performing simple lunges. Really?

Let me put it plain and simple for all of you out there who may be confused:

Running does not make your legs stronger. Period. Sorry to be the bearer of such frustrating news. I know, I was under the illusion that the more I ran, the stronger I would get. Not so. If you want to be strong, hit up the gym, my friends. If you don't know what to do, please reference my first post with all the exercises you need. If you're still confused, email me directly. I want to help you to be less afraid of the gym and leg exercises! Help me help you :)

In conclusion, dear runners, hit up the gym more, not less. Don't be afraid of the soreness or a little fatigue. You are in training for a very serious athletic event and you should expect all of this. Build in those mandatory rest days and get it done on the pavement and in the gym on the other days. Go forth and run!

Run hard!
Coach Abby

Monday, July 06, 2009

Testing One, Two, Three

Soundcheck is doing a show on the best running songs to keep you motivated through the height of marathon training. Check it out at 2:00 today on WNYC.

Meanwhile, take a listen to this great mix Amanda put together. I've been listening to it on those days when my feet need some extra help getting a move on:

Wake Up / Arcade Fire
Paper Planes / m.i.a
The Bucket / Kings of Leon
Know the Ledge / Eric B. & Rakim
Stronger / Kanye West
Lights Out / Santogold
Zero / Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The Obvious Child / Paul Simon
Live Your Life / T.I. & Rhianna
New York Groove / Ace Frehley
Glamorous / Fergie
Read My Mind / The Killers
Keep The Car Running / Arcade Fire
Float On / Modest Mouse
Anywhere Is / Enya
Family Tree / TV On The Radio

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The World of PRs or 'I think I did'

So as a beginning runner (can I still call myself that after two years?) I am not concerned with breaking any world records. Occasionally, I find myself breaking my personal records, and I have to say it feels pretty great.

Lately, I've had a string of personal records (PRs) that have excited me in different ways.

I never reported on my Brooklyn Half -Marathon which was definitely a PR as far as half marathons go. I took almost 17 minutes off my time, dropping my pace from an 11:35 to a 10:20.  I consider this an amazing accomplishment since it was both something I set my mind on and a glimmer of hope that I could finish the Marathon in under 5 hours.  Dream big, right?

Not to say Brooklyn was easy, but I think I can still get better. Of course, that's a story for another day.

My other two PRs happened this past month during two New York Road Runner's races. The NYRR Dash 10k and the Gay Pride Run 5M.

For the Dash I ran almost the entire race with my girlfriend.  We typically start out all races together, some we finish together and others I take off on my own later in the race.  For the Dash we stayed together for a lot of it. It was hot and humid and was a bit of a tough race.  Near the end, maybe that dang Cat Hill, my girlfriend started to waver and she sent me on ahead. I stepped on the gas but there really wasn't that much left in the tank. To be honest I usually push it a bit too hard when she sends me on ahead, however I finished the race with a 10:24 pace - 4 seconds slower than my half marathon pace. My girlfriend finished a little behind me and we were both disappointed with our run.  But when we checked our results against our previous 10k races we had each made a PR.  Best 10k! And that's pretty cool when you can make a PR and know that you can do better. Future PRs to look forward to!

Finally, the Gay Pride Run was a chance to really test my mettle. I decide to go for my best pace in a race and try to get a different color bib for my next race.  I ran the first mile with the Girlfriend at about a 10:20 pace then I wished her a good race and started maneuvering through the large crowd. I pushed myself hard and started to get worried, at around mile 4 with Cat Hill coming up, that I might tucker out, have to walk. So I slowed down a little and steeled myself against the impending hill to come.  Well, apparently I spent most of Cat Hill preparing to not give up on it because I suddenly found myself nearing the finish line without ever having run Cat Hill (to my immediate knowledge). Suddenly I was in a down hill push with the crowd cheering and my mind amazed.  How did I get here without running that dreaded hill?  

Sometimes preparing for something is enough to get you through.  When I looked up the time later online I found out I ran the 5 mile race with a 9:08 min/mile.  My fastest race pace over a mile!

I have to tell you it feels great.  When you start running, just happy to get yourself moving, it's these little victories that keep you going. These tiny realizations that your body is responding to the work you are putting into it. Your body telling you, 'you're on the right track!'  This is why you do it. 

For a little running whip cream, Saturday was supposed to be a long run, so we ran another 2 miles after we finished the race. We took a long break, but it was the first time we ran after a race. You know those crazy people who wear numbered bibs in colors you can only dream about, who cheer you on while running the opposite direction, as you struggle to finish the race they finished 10 minutes ago? It was the first time I got a glimpse into their world.

Hmm. Someday

Friday, June 26, 2009

Some days...

I wanted to get my long run out of the way this week, but circumstances beyond my control (insomnia) prevented me from getting up on time on Thursday, and I knew I would over sleep today, which I did. So, the long run is still out there, taunting me like an over due bill or an America's Next Top Model marathon.

Today I did hit the park intending on running five miles (I did) while listening to the "Thriller" album in honor of Michael Jackson (I did not. Instead, I made the horrible discovery that, sin of sins, I do not have "Thriller" on my iPod.) So, I started in my usual spot at the south west end of the park and headed east, cranking TV on the Radio's "Dancing Choose". It was thick this morning. Did anyone else experience the wall of wet? I was thinking about the humidity when I ran into Mariana who was listening to her shuffle. We decided to run together, which was a lovely surprise. However, Mariana and I run at a faster pace when we're together and, once my music was off, the pace along with the wet was a not-so-great combo. I was seriously uncomfortable. Now, Mariana is the one who gave me the best advice I've ever gotten about running and working on speed which is don't be afraid to be uncomfortable. That was my motto last year and is definitely my motto this year as I'm serious about getting a BQ at Chicago. But this morning was brutal. Mariana seemed fine so I didn't want to ruin her run, but as soon as we parted at 85th street I had to walk for about five blocks. (Oh, and during the run, before we parted it started to rain which was what needed to happen. It was a huge relief.) I started running again around 81st street, sans music, and made it to the end just fine.

Now I've got to figure out when I'm going to do that long run. Sigh.

Ouch! What the Hell?

Hello, Newbies! With four weeks left in my training, it was time to run 7.25 miles of the 6.2 miles we will be running in the race. In the process I seemed to have injured my knee. I noticed the injury the next day when I was walking down the stairs of the subway with my team mate after our 1 million lap swim practice. I started complaining about it, and my teammate, who in order to protect her identity and for the sake of argument we'll call Alison, told me with a horrified expression that it was without a doubt the deadly IT Band injury. It's the plague apparently more athletes die from because Alison's eyes told the whole story, I was either going to have to go all Terry Fox on my leg (running joke) or I was to be taken to the barn and shot---- first Old Yeller and Barbaro and now me...

But then I was saved by an angel who we will call Dr. Erica, who told me to not panic and get some ice put it directly on the plagued area. STAT! and I'm happy to say that ice works- It has saved my life and I'm quickly on the road to recovery. The world nor my training has stopped which is a relief since I only have four weeks until the triathlon. I am hoping that I can do the BRICK tomorrow which consists of 5 miles of running and 2 hrs of biking- excuse me, cycling- they get so mad when you call it biking- oh, and while we're at it- don't call it a bike seat- it's a saddle- and one more thing-- having a basket on bike- oh, you can call it a bike- you don't have to call it a cycle- so, having a basket on your bike is not recommended... or a bell... or those tassels... yeah they frown on that, too.

So, my question, since I'm new at this and because I find ice really cold, does anyone else have other quick remedies for the deadly IT Band injury? And will such an injury stunt my growth?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ask the Coach: Abs of Steel

ABsolutely fabulous ABS! Some basic abdominal exercises for all to enjoy. If you have mobility issues with your back (too tight), the bottom two are not for you...yet. Ootherwise, go nuts!

A strong core means you will stand up straighter when you run, your knees will come up higher, and your stride will be stronger (all with less effort than before!). Give these a go 3 times a week and make sure you pay attention to your form.

Run hard!
Coach Abby

Monday, June 15, 2009

10K Dash (no Splash)

Ah, those Road Runners folks had us all geared up for the annual Dash & Splash this past Saturday, only to realize too late that there would be no splash due to the fact that the pool is empty until July. Oh well, I never splash anyway, though it sure would have been nice as the 10K Dash was a humid one. I went out all by my lonesome, taking a cab up to the start at 102 at the East Drive of Central Park. Though I appreciate the start of this race because it's not my typical route, it does mean Cat Hill is at miles 4 & 5, so I knew I was in for a challenge. My goal was to race, hit a pr of 52 minutes, and be uncomfortable most of the way through. I accomplished two out of three.

Out of the gate I started at a good pace; I decided to find a faster runner and trail her as long as I could. But, the faster runner I chose slowed down a bit going up the Harlem Hill, so I passed her and looked for another runner to trail. At the mile one marker I looked at my watch and hit 9 minutes exactly. Feeling good I decided to pick it up a bit. Meanwhile, a girl in pink shorts was ahead of me; I tried to keep up with her, but realized quickly that she was going too fast and I'd never make it if I tried to go at her pace. So, I ran with myself for the next mile and at mile 2 I was at an 8:40 pace.

I passed a drink station just past mile 2; it was definitely humid, but I was feeling ok and decided not to fight the crowd. So, I'm moving along, feeling good...until I realize that I actually forgot to drink water before the start of the race. My mind traveled back to my morning. OK, I was in the kitchen, I made coffee, ate half a banana, took Phoebe out, drank my coffee, damn I'm running late, put Phoebe in her crate, dashed out the door to catch a cab...nope, no water. My mind comes back to the race and I start to have a mild panic attack, which clearly has a great affect on my pace because at mile 3 I was just below 8:40 and looking for water and gatorade, which I find just beyond the clock. As I grab both, drinking some of the water and pouring the rest over my head, then sipping some of the gatorade, I notice a short runner in a NY Flyers tank. She's got short hair and she's running at a good pace and she reminds me of my friend Nancy, so I decide to follow her, which I do pretty successfully. We're going at the same pace, and every time I start to slow down she's just a bit ahead, which motivates me to pick it up. It's getting harder, though. I'm sure I didn't eat enough (half a banana and coffee?) and I'm starting to feel my energy lessen. Plus, there's Cat Hill straight ahead and I am not feeling it. My NY Flyer woman is plugging along so I stay with her. Just as we're hitting the incline, though, NY Flyer disappears. I look back. She's walking. I look ahead of me and decide I don't want to walk, so I dig in to the hill. I know my posture is horrible at this point and pray there are no Brightroom paparazzi lurking. As I get to the top NY Flyer woman is back. She comes right up next to me and says "You're running at an even pace", to which I reply "I've been trying to stay with you", and she says "I've been trying to stay with you", and I say "Good". So for the last two miles NY Flyer and I help each other to the finish. I look at my watch and see that somewhere along the way, probably on Cat Hill, I've lost some time. It doesn't look like I'm going to make 52 minutes, but 53 is still a possibility. I try to speed up, but I'm struggling. By mile 5 3/4 NY Flyer has picked up the pace and is in a mild sprint, which I try to copy, but it's not happening. We loose each other at the last .2 and I cross the finish line at --- 54:20. How did that happen? Did I really loose that much time the last 1/2 of the race? I'm disappointed, so I start berating myself for not eating enough, not drinking enough, not pushing harder...until I see the volunteers are passing out popsicles, some of which are coconut flavored. Suddenly, I don't care about my time anymore; I just want a coconut popsicle. Phoebe and I are very much alike in this way. Our troubles are easily comforted by delicious treats.

I decide to take the bus home, another thing I don't do very often, but something I enjoy after a race that starts on 102nd Street. It's so easy to catch the bus. And, this time is no exception. Lots of runners are on the bus, too. One guy asks me how things went. I tell him great. He says he started out too fast. I say Cat Hill got me. He gets off the bus.

When I get home I let Phoebe lick my legs. She doesn't care about my time; she's just happy for the salt and the attention.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ask the Coach: Back o' my neck gettin' dirty and gritty

Woooo-weee! I don't know about you, but I am feelin' the humidity. I know that we've been under a rain cloud here in NYC for a week, but I have been sweatin' like it's August. Hot town, summer in the city! If this is any indication of what we have in store for us this summer, then this question will be incredibly helpful for all of you:

Q: Why do I get sooooo overheated when it's humid and how can I help get through my workout without keeling over?

A: The scientific answer to overheating in the humid weather is this: sweating is a way for your body to release heat, an internal cooling system, if you will. Normally when you sweat, the water evaporates off of your body and, voila!, your body has succeeded in lowering it's core temperature. Well, when there's an increase of moisture in the air, the sweat doesn't evaporate nearly as fast or at all. So, the sweat that is supposed to evaporate, leaving you cooler and dryer, now sits on top of your pores and acts like a blanket, thus causing you to overheat even more.

No good.

The solution? Well, I sweat like it's my job and more than any other girl I know and I've found a couple of things to be helpful:

-Dumping cold water on my head: Cools me down, cleans off the sweat and is mildly refreshing for a minute or so.

(followed by...)

-Carrying hankerchief with me when I run to wipe my face and neck. Tissues fall apart, my shirt is never dry past mile 3, and it's incredibly easy to hold onto while running. This helps to keep my internal A/C from getting overworked and protects me from overheating.

-Take my shirt off. I dry much faster when my wet tank top isn't sitting right on top of my skin, also working as a blanket. Now, I'm no Serena Williams and I've got a little extra cushioning around my middle, but I am not going to let a little vanity prevent me from finishing a run. No, sir!

-Run early. The air is typically cooler in the early morning and asphalt isn't nearly as hot.

-Hydrate and eat. When you sweat, you lose precious water, electrolytes and sodium from your body. If you don't replenish these in the form of sports drinks, water and Shot Block type running food, your body cannot rehydrate properly and you will bonk in a really bad way.

Heat exhaustion is not pretty, trust me. My personal recipe for heat exhaustion went something like this: Minnesota, July, 98 degrees and sunny. Professional athletes have died from the heat. Don't be a hero and kill yourself to finish a run. If you don't have the right stuff available, best to save it for another day.

The heat is no joke, people, and this summer isn't going to be any different. If you are training for a Fall marathon you will find lots of your longest runs happen in August. Please, please, please be safe out there. Make sure you have identification on you, someone knows where you are and when you should be expected to return and you should always be prepared with some cab money in case you start to feel unwell.

What are your stay-cool summer secrets?? Feel free to share them with us!

Run strong, friends. And stay cool!

Coach Abby

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Good Times & Bad

It's corny to say that running is always there for you, but everyone says it -- because it's true. I'm not always there for running, unfortunately. Lately I've had some tough races, and it's no secret I hate the heat and humidity that comes to NY this time of year. But the shoes, the road, and, if you're as lucky as I've been, the running partners are there.

The Mini 10K last weekend (nothing mini about it!) started strong and ended on my last gasp, and on the way I noticed so many things to be grateful for. The race itself, for one -- in the midst of my current worries about finding a new apartment, which is really just an annoyingly real metaphor for moving on to the next stage of my life, I was lucky to have 6.2 miles to forget and just be (panting) in the moment. My husband had kindly stayed "asleep" that morning so I could sneak out of the house and not talk about how nervous I was. The 5,000 women who'd also shown up on that beautiful Sunday morning reminded me I'm not alone; everyone struggles over hills, literally and figuratively. One of those women gave me a smile and an encouraging word when I faltered in mile 5.  And my friend Erica stuck with me, when I was charging over the Harlem hills and when I hit a wall in the second half. And then another wall ... and in the last mile, not slowing her down further was the only thing that kept me going at all.

I wish I could always be enjoying good times, that I could always show up for my running partners and the road itself the way they always show up for me. I hope I'll have a chance to return all the amazing support I've received. In the meantime, I'm counting my blessings, and heading back to the park as soon as possible.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

More Brooklyn Half

This is what I looked like at mile 12. I am the sad little one in yellow looking like my life is about to end.
Look at the girl in red. She looks strong. She's standing up straight.
From here on out I promise to stand up straight if it kills me. Those brightroom photographers are everywhere you don't want them to be.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

National Running Day

Alright, people, get off your butts, put on your sneakers, and go run around your town tomorrow because it is National Running Day! What is National Running Day? I have no idea; every day is National Running Day for me. But, you can find out by checking out the website.
If you've been looking for an excuse to start running now is your chance!

Image ripped from the National Running Day website.

Helpful Hints for the Newbie

So I’m new to all this. I have no expertise. I have no past to draw upon. I am in the now, as they say. All I can share with you is what I’m learning at the present time. My training for the NYC Triathlon has been incredible. It's given me a confidence in myself that I thought I misplaced. The good news is this is my first one, so I will not devalue my own experience by comparing this year’s Triathlon to last year’s like some world traveler who incorporates the phrase “the time I spent in Bulgaria” into every conversation as if to illustrate that other opinions are insignificant poo.

So, here's what I’ve learned so far in my NYC Triathlon training:

1. When in doubt, stretch your calves.
2. For all those athletes who pass you- there are twice as many who are behind you.
3. A “Brick” is a combination of biking and running. Not doing them at the same time as one might think, but doing them one right after another.
4. Eating bananas are great for relieving leg cramps.
5. Swimming a mile in the pool in 30 minutes is not only doable but extremely boring.
6. Central Park is the greatest park in the midtown.
7. To other runners, chatting with a buddy while running is like talking on your cell phone in the quiet car of the train.
8. Chatting with a buddy while swimming is hard.
9. Running 6.2 miles is more a mental block than a physical one.
10. I fart more often than I ever have. I blame the bananas.
11. It doesn’t matter how aerodynamic your bike looks or how cool you dress; everyone looks ridiculous wearing a bike helmet.
12. Do not wear shorts in thirty-degree weather.
13. The generosity of those friends and family members who have donated money to my TNT cancer research cause has been amazing. Here’s the link.
14. Sharing running stories are just as exciting as listening to them.
15. To everyone’s shock, George enlisted in the army, but died from saving a girl getting hit by a bus; however, he still joined Izzy on the elevator to heaven dressed in his army uniform.
16. The word triathlon is French for “sports with no balls." (that’s not a euphemism)
17. Vanilla goo tastes better than chocolate goo. (that’s not a euphemism)
18. Do not run with your bike helmet on (THAT’S a euphemism)
19. I haven’t been in this great of shape since the time I spent in Bulgaria.

Until next time… assuming there’s a next time... support your local brunch.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Second Half

So tomorrow is Brooklyn.
My second half marathon.

Yikes! I have been unusually calm about this one.
But nerves have begun to sneak up on me.

I did a 10 mile run, a 9 mile run and a 7 mile run, as well as 5, 4, and 3 mile runs leading up to
tomorrow. I hope I did that right.

Last September I felt a little panicky as I approached the Queens half marathon, and the Queens half turned out to be just as scary as one could imagine. Hot, Humid, Hilly.

I walked at least a mile straight.

I couldn't contemplate why I would ever want to run a full marathon after that.
Somehow that feeling faded.

I wasn't the only one who had a bad run. It was a rough day, and despite our strengths and training we are human and subject to the elements. At least, most of us are.

So here I am on the eve of my second half marathon, optimistic, excited, and remembering that anything can happen, and I can only do my best.

Here's hoping my best is at least 10- 15 minutes better than Queens.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ask the Coach: The Couple That Runs Together Stays Together...right?

Q: I've been a runner for a little while and my partner has expressed interest in joining me on some of my runs. Is this a good idea? I thought I could give some pointers since I'm a veteran runner. Thoughts?

A: I'm not a life coach or a therapist or anything but I feel pretty comfortable answering this question and others that relate to it since I have experienced this situation first-hand. Let me be clear: my partner is loving and wonderful and patient and kind and I'm not quite sure how he puts up with me at times. I love him very much and enjoy his company. We are both very athletic people with a love for all things active and outdoors. He is actually running his first marathon this Fall-hooray! Lucky him, right??, to have an excellent coach and trainer at his disposal...mmm hmmm...

I will probably not ever again in my life run another step with him. We've tried, God knoooows we've tried, but that just 'ain't gonna happen, folks. He's 6'2", I'm 5'9". My torso is as long as his and his legs go up to my ribs. I take 1.5 steps for every 1 of his. I have run 7 marathons, he's run mostly with the military on forced "humps." We are oil and water when it comes to running styles, too. I am a pace person. That is, I run a very consistent pace every single mile, with the exception of the last few miles when I try like hell to speed up a little bit. He, on the other hand, speeds up to pass the next person in front of him and then slows back down. He spots another person, speeds up to pass and then slows back down. He thinks I'm half-stepping him, I think he's holding back to amuse and patronize me.

The point is that we are excellent life partners, but lousy running buddies. We bicker about where to turn as we head to the Park, what route we should take, how far we should go, what exercises he's not doing to adequately maintain his running strength, our speed, our splits, and on and on and on and's just not for us. By the end of the run, we are snippy with one another and neither of us has had a very mentally or physically fulfilling workout. I envy the couples I see, jogging along in the Park together while discussing their dinner plans for later that evening. But I've come to grips with the fact that we are not that couple and never will be.

Give it a go, but be aware of the signs that you and your partner may not be "running-buddy compatible." If you find yourself compromising the majority of your runs in order to stay with your partner, be it going too slow or too fast, you may consider finding a partner who runs more at your pace. If you find that you or your partner puts on the I.K.E. (I Know Everything) Coach hat, maybe it's time to find a group to run with so as to avoid being "that guy" on every run. If your partner is constantly bombarding you with questions about how he/she should be training and you'd prefer a quieter run, go out by yourself more often. If you find yourself resenting your partner for going slower/faster, turning too late/too soon, speeding up and slowing down when it doesn't exactly suit your fancy, or if you are just plain nasty to one another during runs, please, for the health of your own relationship, seek out a different running partner.

If you are the couple that runs harmoniously in the Park, on the River and over the Bridges together, just know that I am jealous. I am jealous, but I am not insane. So, good for you and keep going and you're so lucky!, but I am not going to keep on trying to be you. I am going to run by myself, with a friend or in a group--far, far away from my amazing, attractive, selfless partner. I will meet him at the end with a Gatorade and a high-five.

Just because you aren't perfect running partners doesn't mean you aren't perfect life partners.

Run hard, friends! See you in Brooklyn (I'll be at Cortelyou Road-left side, cheering you on!)

Coach Abby

Friday, May 22, 2009

Run For Charity - Get A Spot in the Marathon

Want to run the 2009 NYC Marathon, but you didn't get your nine races in before the deadline?
Want to rescue a dog, but your partner is allergic?
Why don't you combine your love of running with your love of animals and sign up with Team Animal League? Organized by North Shore Animal League America, this is a great way to help out an amazing organization which is dedicated to saving animals and finding them good homes. If you don't have a spot in the marathon you can put your feet to good use by raising money and awareness while also accomplishing your own personal goals.
Want to help out but already have a spot in the race? Fortunately for you you can still register with Team Animal League if you pledge to raise $1500.00.

Photo taken from TAL website.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mantras II

Awhile back I did a post asking runner friends to list their "mantra", a few words or a phrase that helped motivate them before, during or after a run. Most of the responses were phrases and, while motivational, were probably not things those runners actually say to themselves in the midst of a long, hard run. At mile 20 my mind can barely string two words together let alone a phrase! In 2007 I had this great mantra ready, and I couldn't wait for the later half of the marathon to use it. Between miles 21 - 26.2 that great mantra turned into one word: "Down". That's all I could say to myself -- "down, down, down, down" -- to keep my feet hitting the ground and therefore, continue forward motion.

Anna's comment on "Pasadena Pain" reminded me of how personal and important mantras are, and how one or a few words can help you get through a tough run, can even change the condition of your body. I've been struggling with lower back pain and, instead of talking about it constantly, I say something similar to Anna and tell myself my body is healthy -- and the pain subsides. Now, please don't take this as permission to ignore pain. (I go to physical therapy for a specific lower back issue.) If you need to go see a doctor, go see a doctor. But, sometimes those little pains we get when we run are because we're running, which doesn't always feel good. And, sometimes, a few positive words can get us through that long 9 miler.

So, maybe we can try this mantra sharing one more time. If you've got a word or words you say to yourself to help you keep moving go ahead and leave them in the "comments" section. Mine lately is "I'm fast and healthy".

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pasadena Pain

I'm in to rhyme apparently.

I've been in California this past week on a sort of Business/Pleasure trip so it has made it difficult to keep to my running schedule (4-5 days a week). Additionally, having been extremely busy before I left has really sort of thrown off my training. It would not be so bad if I wasn't prematurely training for a half-marathon (Brooklyn) while easing into my marathon training.

I say prematurely because I had been off a regular running routine and was just getting back into a regular running schedule when my girlfriend and I decided to sign up for the Brooklyn Half Marathon. We debated whether or not it was too early, and after a brief motivational call with a running girl I know, decided why not.

So last week, I ran 10 miles as my long run. We had done a 7 mile run the week before which turned into an 8 mile for lack of planning. So, in a way, the progression was okay. The 10 miler was good. Girlfriend was sick so I ran the first 6 miles by myself and she joined me for the last 4 which was an amazing energy booster. Well, she and the gel I had when I picked her up. So that went okay, and I felt good about heading towards this half-marathon.

So this week I am out at my brother's house in Pasadena. I've been eating poorly, sleeping poorly and not quite staying on schedule. I decided I was going to do my 9 mile long run on Saturday at about 4pm, despite having been out the night before, despite preferring to run in the mornings, despite the high heat.

I started out slow, something that is sometimes difficult, but since I don't do any pre-run stretching it's very important. Early into my run my brother passed me in the van and told me my 6 year old nephew wanted me to come see him skate at a nearby park that was along my route. I found I was feeling discomfort in my knees pretty early in the run. My knees have been pretty good lately. But last year was a different story.

Last year as my girlfriend and I began easing our way towards our first Marathon, the 2009 NYC Marathon, and decided we would take a stab at the half marathon and ran the Queens half in September of last year. As we ramped up our mileage for that race, I ended up injuring my knee. An injury that we later decided was my IT band. A common running injury from not stretching enough and adding too many miles too fast.

So as I am beginning my 9 miles, these fears start to arrive, that I am not going to finish, that I will have to take time off again, that this half is too soon, and I am adding mileage too fast. I don't want that feeling I had last year. The feeling that I've blown a tire, that I can barely walk let alone run. So while I am feeling this pain in the same knee (right) I get a different pain in my left knee, I try to float my legs, try not to let them hit too hard. The pain floats in and out.

At two miles I stopped to see my brother and my nephew at the skate park. I take this time to stretch, I am already worried I won't be able to finish. I begin to negotiate with myself, 'why not make this a 4 mile run, and do the 9 tomorrow?' 'No, we can do this, tomorrow has no guarantees.' I get back on the road, I am glad that I have told people I will be back around 6, I am glad that my brother knows the basic route I am taking. I am hopeful that none of that will matter. That I will finish my run running, not limping.

It's about 3 miles to the Rose Bowl, which I've never been to, then 3 miles around and a little more than 3 miles back. As I get towards the Rose Bowl, I get a little confused from the map I had in my head. The confusion doesn't help, but I push through. The voices are there, 'if you feel pain, stop', 'don;t push too hard', 'time to walk'. But I can't stop, I keep going. The pain continues to cycle in and out.

Around mile 6 I am trying to figure out why the run is so hard. I don't have a lot of push, I am trying to keep up with my run, not control it. A little later I realize that while I have been sipping water at every mile, I never ate a gel, I don't have a gel, I am not prepared for this run. It's a hard run but it looks like I might make it.

It's over an hour later and I see that my brother and nephew are still at the park. I run up but I still have a run to finish and I feel like if I stop it will be over, my knee will give up, the van will carry me home. I see they are packing up, and I get back on the road, with no real stop, just some running in place. I have about a mile left and I see my brother has pulled over. He tells me that my nephew wants to skate home with me. And while I have to be conscious of him as I run and he skates along a busy street, have to keep a pace that is neither faster or slower than him, I am thankful for the company, I am glad for the distraction. And the pain fades away.

After the run I don't feel as sore, I stretch, and I think 'I am going to make it.'

I am going to make Brooklyn and I am going to make NYC.

I am going to finish my first marathon.

Friday, May 15, 2009

What, me worry?

So, the big ol' Brooklyn Half is coming up at the end of May. Since I've never run a race during marathon training outside Manhattan it's been one of my goals to do just that. Last year I couldn't pull it together to get to another borough as the disc injury prevented me from running until fairly late in the season. This year I have no excuse. Transportation is being taken care of so I can't use that; my back feels ok; and lots of friends are running, which is always motivation for me to do things I'm typically too lazy to do. The only problem is my long runs haven't been very long at all. The most I've done is a 15k and that was, what, seven weeks ago? To be fair I did run nine miles two weeks back, did a six miler while on vacation, and plan to run the 10K Healthy Kidney race tomorrow. That, combined with my regular runs and speed work class, should be enough. Not one to err on the side of caution, but definitely one to stress until after the race when I discover I have indeed survived, I will be at the Brooklyn Half. Hopefully in new Asics.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ask the Coach (cough...cough...sniff)

Ah, Spring! Those lovely sun-filled morning runs with the cool air breezing by your bare arms (finally-tank tops and shorts weather!). I just love this time of year for running. I think my Tuesday Morning Maniacs appreciated it, too, since they had some half-mile repeats in the Park at 6:30am this week. Those are just not fun once the humidity bears down on all of us in July. Something to look forward to...

...I digress. I was thinking about how much I love Spring and everything that goes along with it except for when all of my clients and runners get sick and bring their germs to our workouts to share with everyone else, namely ME. So, here's the question I get all the time:

Q. Should I run/workout when I'm sick?

A. Eh, if you feel up to it. A good rule of thumb for the common cold/flu is: If your symptoms have settled in the neck area or above and you feel up to it go ahead and take a nice, leisurely jog. Nothing crazy, but moving around might actually help make you feel better. Generally strength training isn't high on the list of priorities because anaerobic exercise requires so much more power and your body usually just doesn't have it to give when you're under the weather. If you're too pooped to make it through a full day of work, let alone more than a mile of running, don't force yourself. Here's the skinny on why you're so very tired when you are sick:

A virus attacks your immune system (fight like the dickens, little white blood cells, FIGHT!) and your body is working to battle off what you've got and build up an immunity to ever getting it again. This is precisely why your core temperature can be elevated. You have a fever and, no, cowbell won't help. However, rest will help. Your body cannot be expected to function at 100% strength and endurance levels when there is a war within. When in doubt, it's a good idea to give those little soldiers a rest and let your DVR do some work.

When to absolutely not run, workout or come in contact with humans other than your significant other (they are obliged to feed you during your time of peril) or roommate (not so much obliged to provide food as they are just in the line of fire):

-You have a significant fever (usually over 99 degrees) which may or may not be accompanied by the chills
-You haven't been able to keep regular amounts of food down
-You have problems with one end or another (you know what I'm talking about)
-You're too dizzy, short of breath, or nauseated to complete everyday activities
-Your doctor tells you to rest
-You are projectile coughing, sneezing or anything else-there are people out there who don't want to get what ever you got
-You are too tired to get off the couch and turn off the reruns of "90210" (which we can all agree is awesomely bad, but still BAD)

When in doubt, rest. I promise you won't lose all of the training you've done up until the H1N1 Virus took hold of your body. It may take you a week or so after being sick to feel normal during your workouts but give yourself a break and remember that viruses last a whoooooole lot longer when you push too far too soon.

Run hard, friends!!

Coach Abby

Saturday, May 09, 2009


Last night my friend threw herself a grad school graduation party, and while I had every intention of going to see and congratulate her, I fell asleep at 9:30 and missed it. Clearly I needed the sleep -- didn't wake up until after 8:30 this morning -- but it was an annoying reminder that I can't always have everything I want. I want to do speedwork, meet friends for a run (often) or drinks (once or twice a week), cross-train, eat well but have some treats too, and wake up ready for a long run on Saturday mornings. Oh, right, and go to work Monday-Friday. Is that so much to ask?

I guess so. But I'm insanely lucky that I do have most of that, most of the time. For now I'm blessed with (relative) youth and the lack of any real adult responsibilities -- you know, kids -- plus a supportive partner who almost always wants the same things and will wake up on those Saturdays with me. I'm lucky that I can show up for 8 miles of Prospect Park and only really be worried about the crushing humidity and getting up that stupid hill (twice! ha HA!). And now I'm off to another friend's party, this time in the afternoon. I just hope I can stay awake through it ... a nap is sounding awfully good right now ...

Friday, May 08, 2009

Why Do I Run (poem)


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Astoria Rain

So here is how I thought it would go.

One day I would get up and run 26 miles, um point something.

But then I found out that is not how it works. Apparently, before you can run 26+ miles you have to run 20 miles, and before that 18 miles, and 15 and 13.1 and so on and so on. Until one day months before you ever run 26 something miles, you find yourself running 4 miles in the rain a little after midnight just so you can run your pre-training training run.

Running after midnight isn't the worst. It's exciting in a way. In the way that it makes you feel like you are doing something wonderful, dangerous and super human. Also in the way that makes you think, 'I may not be ready to run a marathon yet, but if I can run in this crap then how bad can that 26 miler be?'

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Ask the Coach: So Many Workouts, So Little Time

Whether you are new or old to running (I am old, and I am okay with that) you may be asking yourself this question:

Q. How much should I be running and where does my cross training fit in?

A. By now, many of you have heard of the "Ultra-Marathon Man," Dean Karnazes, who claims that he is simply genetically gifted enough to run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days. What you might not get from that little sound bite is that he has a team of doctors that follow him every step of the way and that he trains every single day to build and maintain the strength to have his body perform at that level of activity. He, like Lance Armstrong and other fierce endurance athletes, has a genetically exceptional VO2 capacity and is just plain lucky that his body puts up with that kind of pounding. I promise you that this won't be the case forever. I know this because he is not Superman nor is he Wolverine, for that matter.

I tell you about Dean not to diminish his accomplishments or to discourage you from running great distances, rather to make a point. Running is not your job; it is a hobby. Most runners need not run more than 4 days a week. One tempo run, one speed/hill day, one moderate run, one long run. This is an age-old formula that is tried and true. If you are pressed for time and can only fit three days in, alternate the speed/hill day and tempo run every other week and keep your moderate run and long run every single week.

Your cross training (ie. lifting, yoga, biking, swimming) can be done on the same day as your moderate run or your tempo run or on an off day. You need not push your body further (provided you are doing a decent amount of distance or a challenging speed/hill workout) on the other days. You'll want to run first and cross train second on the days that you double-up your workout.

You will not gain anything by overtraining except a new relationship with your orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist. Don't get me wrong, I adore my PT but I'd really prefer not to see him during training season.

A note about weekly mileage: Mileage is slowly built over time in conjunction with a comprehensive strength training program. If you are strong, you can go for greater distances. That strength is built through weight-bearing exercise, not longer runs. Longer runs build cardiovascular endurance, not stronger legs. Strong muscles and a strong cardiovascular system are both complimentary and necessary in running.

So, next time you're considering following a running schedule that suggests you run 6 days a week to train for a marathon or any other race (I've seen them and couldn't believe my eyes!!), remind yourself that unless you have a coach, physical therapist, massage therapist, pilates instructor and nutritionist on retainer and you are running for money, IT'S JUST A HOBBY.

Run smart and run strong, friends.

Coach Abby

P.S. If you'd like me to tailor a running program to your needs, please feel free to leave a note in the "Comment" section of this blog and I'll get back to you.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Battle of Brooklyn

I figured I'd write my first post here after this week's long run, and here I am, still covered in salt (97% humidity? Is that really necessary?) and proud of myself for another tough trip to Brooklyn. 

My husband Andy and I are training for our fourth Brooklyn 1/2 Marathon, so we've been trying to get in a few trips to Prospect Park, home of my favorite hill, which I'm sure has a real name but which I call the Battle of Brooklyn. It is a CLIMB, and during this particular 9-miler it comes at mile 8. Which is not usually how I roll -- I like the hills low and early, thank you -- but I'm trying to be tougher. 

My brain was making a lot of noise this morning, telling me I was going to get overheated, that the Brooklyn Bridge was too long, the Battle was going to kick my ass, that the 1/2 marathon wasn't worth this, oh and also who the hell do I think I am for signing up for the NYC full marathon again this year? Clearly I needed to walk to the nearest subway station and go home.

It was a good day, though -- one of those days when your brain gets turned back around and you actually do get a little tougher. And it was the silliest thing -- a few minutes into the park, I noticed a guy walking up ahead and realized it was the actor who played Marlo on The Wire. So exciting! Hey, Andy, it's Marlo! He looks just like he did on the show! Should we say something? Nah ...

But after that, I got a little second wind. My brain started thinking about how well I was doing, what a good, steady pace I was keeping. How I needed to be patient -- the Battle was up ahead, but look at all these nice trees and other people in the meantime. And when the Battle came, my breathing got really heavy (97% humidity!!), but my thoughts were good. Keep going. Get angry. Get over. Yeah, it'd be nice to stop, but I'm not going to. I'm not stopping.

I made it over, I got through the last half-mile, I stretched and did my leg lifts (seriously, do not ignore Coach Abby), and we went to brunch at Dizzy's (yay, giant bowl of yogurt, granola, and fruit). So thanks, Marlow, I really did love you on that show! And though I'm not sure I'll ever be that tough, it's a great feeling to make it over another hill.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mix Tape

Some mornings the angel and devil in my head (I'll call them "Good Runner Girl" and "Bad Runner Girl") battle it out for dominance, the argument always over running vs. one more hour of sleep. "Good Runner Girl" always wins when she bribes "Bad Runner Girl" with the promise of music. "Bad Runner Girl" cannot resist, especially when she thinks about the latest mix "Good Runner Girl" made the night before: Viva La Vida (Coldplay), Run (Gnarls Barkley), Shut Up and Drive (Rhianna), Loose Control (Missy Elliot) Sexyback (Justin Timberlake), just to name the first five songs.

Running with music is a little treat I give myself when I'm lacking motivation. And, since most of my runs are with a friend or with my self, having music becomes something to look forward to. Now, just so we're clear, I am not advocating running with your music making device during a race; it's dangerous to you and those around you. But, adding some rhythmic beats to the beat of your shoes hitting the ground during a daily run can be therapeutic, fun, and can also help you move a little faster than you normally would so you burn more calories.

Personally, I'm in dire need of some new music. Nothings worse than putting together a new mix of songs you like, but, ultimately, are terrible on a run. I'll tell you right now The Shins do not making "move your body" music. List some of your favorite running songs in the comments section of this post so I can make a new running mix!

Coach Abby

Hi! I'm Coach Abby and I'm a personal trainer, a runner, a student and (now!) a Blogger :) I'm sort of new to all of this, but I'm going to give it a go and, God willing, I will not suck. This is where all that private school grammar kicks in...

I am going to be posting a weekly column called "Ask the Coach" that will address real questions that I've been asked by clients, friends, family and perfect strangers who ask for health and fitness advice from me in bars all over the tri-state area. If you have a question, feel free to leave it in the "comment" section of any of my posts and I'll do my best to get to it in a timely fashion.

Be aware that, as a personal trainer, I am not licensed prescribe any diet other than what the Food Pyramid designates. I will definitely talk about food and how it pertains to your running schedule and needs, but I cannot make individual diets for anyone. That's what licensed nutritionists and dieticians are for, my friends! Also, you should consult your physician before starting any fitness routine.

Disclaimers: done. Onto a recent question:

Q: Will lower body strength training make me bulky?

A: Short answer, no. Not unless you are consuming a serious amount of protein combined with lifting very heavy weight for very few repetitions and are also a man. Men have more testosterone than women and, thus, build muscle faster than women do. This also explains why men are generally faster and stronger than women where almost every sport is concerned.

So, if you are a female runner who is avoiding the weight training because you're frightened that you might end up looking something like Xena, Warrior Princess instead of Kara Goucher (she's had an impressive start to her marathon career!), have no fear, Coach Abby is here. Or, if you are a male runner who has legs that resemble a certain animal of the poultry variety that clucks, listen up!


Trust me, you'll thank me one day for insisting that you head to the gym once or twice a week for your 30 minute leg circuit. It goes something like this:

3 sets x 15 reps Leg Extension
3 sets x 15 reps Hamstring Curls
3 sets x 20 reps Leg Press (not squats)
3 sets x 20 reps Calf raises

Finish up with the Four-Sided Leg Lifts (a la Jane Fonda-ankle weights optional) Each of these exercises is performed for one minute straight. These are the most important, and difficult, exercises you will ever do...if you are doing them right.

-Lie flat on your back with one knee bent (that foot on the ground) and one leg straight. Lift your straight leg up and down. Switch legs.
-Lie completely straight on your side. Lift your top leg up and down, being careful to always keep your foot flexed (the opposite of point) and your toes turned forward, not up. Switch legs.
-Lying on your side, cross your top foot over and in front of your bottom leg. Lift and lower the straight bottom leg. Switch legs.
-Lie on your stomach, face down. Lift one straight leg up and down and focus on squeezing your glutes (aka. tushy, butt, rear end) and not using your lower back. Switch legs.

Weight gain aside, you may experience a change in the way that your bottoms fit. Your muscles will have more shape to them and certain areas (ie. your glutes) might be a little more lifted and so your pants may feel a little more snug up there. However, these simple exercises are the key to the overall health of your lower limbs and are not to be ignored!

Your homework is to write these exercises down and get 'em done once a week. If you don't know what they are, ask a trainer at your gym. It is their job to offer advice and show you how to use machines-at no additional cost to you! If you don't already belong to a gym, consider the YMCA's Summer Membership. Last summer is was $215/person or $245/family for Memorial Day to Labor Day. It's a great deal and comes at the perfect time for the running/marathon season.

Until next time, friends, run your best!

Coach Abby