Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Long Run Blues

Well, as a result of being stuck at work all day long on Saturday (AKA the most perfect NYC day for a long run ever), I was forced to push my long run to Sunday this past weekend. I knew it was supposed to be rainy and gross out all day, but sometimes you just don't really have a choice, you know? Once I finally got home on Saturday night, I sat down to a dinner of whole wheat penne pasta with home-made pesto (yes, my boyfriend does things like make home-made pesto for me). As I ate, I carefully searched for a few podcasts that would make for appropriate listening material on a rainy Sunday morning long run. All of a sudden, there it was . . . buzzzzz buzzzzz! My blackberry vibrated. With dread, I picked it up, typed in my password and soon thereafter came to the disheartening realization that I would not, in fact, have Sunday off as I had originally thought. No no, I would have to be in by 11:00 a.m. to supervise a couple of contract attorneys who had decided to come in. UGH.

I tried to be positive. "That's okay! It's about time I learn how to get my butt up early and get my long runs over with earlier in the day! Before too long, it will be so hot that I'll have to do it anyway. Might as well start getting into the habit now. Plus, think of all the gear you can buy with the six additional hours of double-time you'll make! Life is great!" I finished my dinner, mixed some gatorade, pulled out the clothing I wanted to wear the next day and set the coffee-maker to come on at the crack of dawn. I looked at the clock and realized it was somehow already approaching 10:30 p.m. It was time to hit the hay. I set the alarm for just before 6:00 a.m. and headed off to bed.

I waited . . . and I waited . . . and I waited for sleep to come to me. But it did not. You see, my body is clearly not used to going to bed so early. It was still in full-on multi-tasking hyper-functional mode. I did my taxes in my head. I made grocery lists for the next six weeks. I named my not-yet-conceived children. In short, I got everything accomplished but sleep itself. Ah well.

Finally, after hours and hours of restlessness, the alarm went off. I sat up and took a listen . . . rain, rain and more rain. Fabulous. I got up, poured a cup of eggnog-flavored coffee (yes, for some reason we still have eggnog-flavored coffee in our apartment) and made a PB & J sandwich. I went downstairs, hopped on the computer and checked accuweather. There was no getting around it; I was going to get wet.

I caught up on some blogs while eating, and then finally realized it was time to get dressed and head out. I was out the door by just after 7:00 a.m. Of course, my BFF, garmin, just HAD to be difficult, and refused to pick up a signal for a good ten minutes. I stood there in the rain just glaring at her, probably really confusing anyone who happened to drive by at that time. FINALLY, she picked up a signal. I reset her, started my podcast and away we went!

Right from the beginning, I could tell that it was not going to be one of my best runs ever. My legs felt heavy, and I just felt like I wasn't on top of my game, so to speak. Plus, I was super nervous about the timing of everything. I had only allowed myself a cushion of about 15 extra minutes, in an effort to get as much "sleep" as possible, and I was nervous that should anything come up, I'd have to either skip part of my run or be late to work.

Still, the run was young and I really had a lot of positives going for me as well. The rain was a blessing in disguise in that it made for some shockingly empty streets and sidewalks. As I'm sure you can imagine, that doesn't happen very often in Brooklyn; so when it does, it is certainly a treat. It was almost eerie . . . no cars, no pedestrians, nothing! I happened to be listening to Phedippidations Epidosde 55 (The Maine Woods of Thoreau), and it just seemed very fitting, for I was about as "one with nature" as you could possibly get in Brooklyn.

After the first fifteen minutes of my run, the rain slowed down to a drizzle. I was already soaked by this time, so in that respect, it didn't much matter how hard it rained . . . but still, it was nice to have a temporary reprieve from the steady downpour. At the 5-mile mark, I stopped to sip some water and eat some sports beans. I also worked on stretching out my hammies, which had started cramping up a bit. I swear, only I would suffer from cramps during the crappiest, rainiest day of the year. So typical! Anyway, I started another loop, and tried to ignore the pulling in the backs of both legs.

At the 7-mile mark, I realized I was starting to go insane. That's right . . . the combination of my cramp-tastic hamstrings and the Chinese Water Torture -like drizzle were literally driving me crazy. I grabbed another sip of water and debated the possibility of cutting the run short and swapping the following week's long run (a fall-back distance of 9-miles) with the current week (supposedly 14-miles). I tried pretty hard to convince myself to keep going, but I just knew . . . I was done.

I finished my loop of the park (all the while cramping up all over the place), checked my garmin as I exited the park (9.02--perfect!) and began walking the 2+ miles home (ugh). Now, considering I was wearing soaking wet shorts and a soaking wet long-sleeve shirt . . . and it was about 48 degrees outside, I was FREEZING. I contemplated jogging home, and actually went so far as to try to do so, but my hammies would seize up so badly every time I tried to run that I eventually gave up, and walked the entire 2.4 miles home. I cannot tell you how happy I was to finally turn onto my street!

I chugged some gatorade, took a HOT shower, drank a cup of coffee, hung out for a bit . . . and then it was off to work. Sigh. Not exactly the best Sunday I've ever had, but I suppose some of them need to be crappy so that you can truly appreciate the good ones!

Anyway, here are my splits from the run:

Mile-1: 9:47
Mile-2: 10:11 (what happened?!)
Mile-3: 9:42
Mile-4: 9:33
Mile-5: 9:40
Mile-6: 9:57
Mile-7: 9:32
Mile-8: 9:36
Mile-9: 9:36

So yeah . . . that adds up to a total of 9.02 miles in a time of 1:27:46 for a pace of 9:44.

No worries . . . I'll rock this coming weekend's long run, I promise!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Irish Masters The Tempo Run (but loses some skin in the process)

Well, folks, I'm back to inventing new methods of cross-training!

Monday was laundry day, and I'm pretty sure that doing laundry in NYC--where you have to lug your clothing several blocks to the nearest laundromat and back; then fold the five tons of running clothes you used in the past three weeks and attempt to jam it all back into your shoebox-sized closet--should count as cross-training.

Tuesday, the closest I came to cross-training was spectating at another Rangers game at Madison Square Garden (my last of the season, sadly) and working on my finger strength by doing a lot of blackberry typing. After missing two goals and a fight while answering obnoxious work emails (why do these people get paid?!), I almost went for some extra credit points by chucking my blackberry towards center ice (it would make a very nice puck, no?). But I somehow managed to control myself . . . and the Rangers pulled off the victory. Hooray!

Wednesday, it was time to get back to training. As I knew this was going to be a pretty rough week for me work-wise, I figured it might be best to get the more difficult of my two mid-week key runs out of the way first. Thus, I took a break from working around 8:30 p.m. and headed over to the gym to tackle 1 mile easy + 5 miles long tempo pace (8:33) + 1 mile easy.

Now, going into this run, I was a bit petrified to tell you the truth. If you will recall, the last time I attempted a similar workout, I got my ass kicked. Oh, and that run? Was at a 9:02 pace (marathon pace). Yikes! On top of my built-in fear of tempo runs, I had the following things go wrong for me leading up to my run:

Sign of Impending Doom No. 1: I forgot to bring real, actual running clothes and thus, had just my "cross-training" clothes with me (i.e. soccer shorts and a cotton tee). Not exactly the best running attire.

Sign of Impending Doom No. 2: I left my ipod at the office, meaning I would have to listen to myself hyperventilating all run long.

Sign of Impending Doom No. 3: I also managed to leave my pack of gum at the office. In case you didn't know, I MUST have gum to chew while doing speed work and/or tempo runs (it gives me hope knowing that I might choke and die; thus giving me a killer excuse for not having completed the run--kidding! Or am I?).

Sign of Impending Doom No. 4: The only available treadmill was next to my gym stalker (long story; please just know this dude is CREEPY!)

Nonetheless, I reminded myself that some of my best runs have occurred under less than ideal circumstances, and I insisted that this WOULD be one of those times. And? Shock of the century here, but it really was! I kicked that tempo run's ASS, you guys! Now, that's not to say that I didn't want to quit somewhere around 4 miles into the run . . . because I did (a little). But I had no problem whatsoever telling that part of my brain to f*ck off because I AM DOING THIS! And so I did. And I even kicked the 'mill up a notch for about the last half-mile of the tempo portion because I'm that awesome (or because I Just. Wanted. To. Be. Done. Already. But whatever). This bumped my overall pace up to 8:30/mile.

When the 5 miles of tempo running was over, I wanted more than anything to lay down and die. But I didn't. Instead, I opted to do the final "easy" mile just as the schedule had instructed me. And I have to say, the more tempo runs I complete, the more I love how cake "easy" pace feels when you've just completed 5 miles at over a minute/mile faster. It's just awesome.

I celebrated this momentous run by heading to the locker room and checking out my battle scars . . . chafing all over my thighs, belly button and even my right butt cheek. HOW DOES THAT EVEN HAPPEN? Who knows . . .

Yesterday, I gave my legs a little break and tackled a quick 3-mile easy run at a 9:45 pace. Nothing exciting to report there.

Tonight I've got some speed intervals planned. Can't wait for that! No, really. It's going to be great. I can't wait to have sweat pouring into my eyes as I fly off the back of the treadmill for all of the ellipticallers to see. I kid, I kid (I hope!).

Happy Friday, everyone :)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Weekend Roud-up

Let's see . . . where did I leave off? Thursday? Maybe? Yes, I do believe it was Thursday. My (adjusted) schedule called for a cross-training day on Thursday; thus, I completed 45 minutes on the rowing machine, covering 7,655 meters in that time (resistance: level 6 of 10); then I tackled 15 minutes of medicine ball core work. Now, the workout in and of itself isn't really that impressive . . . but what was HUGE was the fact that my maimed arm allowed me to complete that much of an arm-based workout. The last time I took on the rowing machine, I was only able to complete 15 minutes before my pain/discomfort level grew high enough that I was forced to quit. Hooray for a full 45 minutes of rowing!

Moving on . . . Friday called for 7 miles with 5 of them at marathon pace. Now, going into this run, I really thought that it would be "easy." I was all like, "puh-lease! Give me a real challenge! Enough of these sissy workouts!" Um, note to self . . . be careful what you wish for! I don't know what was wrong with me, but I seriously struggled through the entire thing and just BARELY got through it. But I did it. And as horrible a run as it was, I was elated that I fought my way through the (many) rough spots and got 'er done.

My splits for the run looked like this:

Mile-1 (easy): 9:49
Mile-2 (MP): 8:57
Mile-3 (MP): 9:02
Mile-4 (MP): 9:02
Mile-5 (MP): 9:02
Mile-6 (MP): 8:57
Mile-7 (easy): 9:49

Oh, and I should mention this for Chris. As if I wasn't suffering enough on this run, one of the gym employees came over and started wiping down the front of my treadmill while I was still on it!! I was so stunned, I didn't even know how to react! Why do these gym employees not get that a) that is seriously annoying/kind of dangerous, and b) it is counterproductive! I'm just going to sweat all over it again after you finish wiping it down! In fact, if I could have willed myself to sweat more, I would have (don't think I didn't try)! Ah well. It's not like I pay $95 a month to use their facilities without disturbance or anything! Oh wait . . .

Saturday, I ended up working from 10 a.m. until 6:15 p.m., essentially babysitting contract attorneys who were doing a document review in our office. This was frustrating, seeing as how the first-year who was supposed to be doing it told me I needed to cover for her because she was attending an "unlimited bloody Mary and mimosa brunch" for her friend's birthday. Oh, so you get paid $165,000 a year to overindulge in mimosas on the weekends, eh? I mean, c'mon . . . at least LIE if your excuse is that weak! These "millennials" are REALLY freaking me out, y'all! At least I made some extra OT, I guess.

Anyway, around 4:00 p.m., I spoke to Wilson and he reminded me that we had a Rangers game to attend at 7:00 p.m. Oops--I had totally forgotten about it! Suddenly, I realized my "long run eve" food options were going to be VERY limited. We got to the game and I was, of course, STARVING. I grabbed a Blue Moon (just one, I promise!) and some waffle fries to split with Wilson, figuring it would hold me over until I could make myself some pasta back at home. But, you guys . . . my stomach was HOWLING in hunger. I made it to the second intermission before I gave up and made Wilson grab me a hot dog. Weak, I know. I figured I'd still be hungry enough to eat a little pasta once we got home, considering marathon training has turned me into a human vacuum cleaner . . . but, of course, we got home and I realized that, for the first time ever, I was NOT AT ALL hungry. Uh oh . . . lack of proper fueling and/or hydration, much?

I went to sleep after watching some hoops, and woke up around 8:30 a.m. on Sunday morning feeling rather ravenous. I grabbed myself a granola bar, thinking it would be enough to get me up and out the door, but it just wasn't the case. I was still hungry. So I grabbed another cup of coffee and made some steel cut oats (with raisins!) for Wilson and I. I figured I'd let my breakfast digest while picking out some new podcasts, and then take off on my long run by 11:00 a.m. Well, it didn't take long for my stomach to let me know it was NOT down with that plan. I suppose it must have been the stadium food I'd consumed the night before, but my stomach was seriously so messed up, I just knew running at that point was NOT a good idea.

I caught up on some blog reading, watched some more hoops and finally decided to take some tums and nap for a bit. I, of course, assumed I'd wake up and my digestive problems would have magically fixed themselves (riiiight). Unfortunately, that's not so much what happened. I half-slept for about 45 minutes and woke up to find that my gut was still totally, completely pissed off. I decided I had no choice but to get out there and give it a shot. I just prayed I wouldn't lose anything out of either end in the process (TMI, I know)!

I grabbed my handheld water bottle, stuffed the attached pocket with sports beans . . . and off I went. The weather was awesome--mid-50s and partly sunny. It really felt like Spring, which of course meant the sidewalks were overflowing with people. Now, in case you've forgotten, I don't actually LIKE people. But still, my spirits were high and my stomach seemed to be cooperating. Life was good.

The first 5 miles flew by without a hitch. Just as I hit the 5-mile point, I decided to slow for a sports bean/water break. While I was chewing, I randomly decided to try the water fountain where I'd stopped . . . and, miracle of all miracles, it WORKED! The park fountains had been turned back on!! This was good news indeed. I decided to ditch my handheld bottle under a tree and continued on my merry way, ready to take on two 2-mile inner loops of the park. I started to fatigue a bit again just before mile-9, but told myself I just had to make it back to the area I'd ditched my handheld at, and then I could grab some more sports beans.

I dragged myself along, and FINALLY spotted the tree I needed. I slowed to grab my bottle . . . but it wasn't where I'd left it. WTF? Where the heck did I leave it? I could have SWORN it was right next to that tree right there. But no. My bottle was gone. And gone along with it were my remaining sports beans. I just couldn't believe it. Who would do such a thing?! I spent a good five minutes searching the vicinity, really wanting to believe that my handheld bottle hadn't been swiped . . . and that I was just forgetting where I had left it. But alas, I finally had to give up and carry on without my bottle or beans.

Luckily, I was so pissed off that someone had stolen my bottle, I didn't even NEED the sports beans. My adrenaline level sky-rocketed, and it was more than enough to carry me through the last 3 miles of the run. Okay, now seriously, who the hell does that? I'll tell you who . . . the punk ass kids loitering in the park, whose parents couldn't care less about where they are and/or what they're doing/who they're disturbing! The one thing I am seriously grateful for is that I didn't have my keys zipped into the pocket on my bottle. I almost always throw my keys in there, and for some reason, I held onto my keys yesterday. I can only imagine what type of ruckus would have ensued had I not been able to get back into my building after finishing up the run! I was NOT a happy camper!

At any rate, here are the numbers from my run:

12.01 miles in 1:53:42

Mile-1: 9:31
Mile-2: 9:23
Mile-3: 9:29
Mile-4: 9:32
Mile-5: 9:37
Mile-6: 9:39
Mile-7: 9:39
Mile-8: 9:25
Mile-9: 9:34
Mile-10: 9:29
Mile-11: 8:55 (where did that come from?!)
Mile-12: 9:28
Last .01: 5:40 pace ("allegedly," but uh yeah . . . probably not so much)

I'm actually very impressed with how even my splits were (even if they were a bit too fast), with the exception of mile-11. That never happens!

By the time I got home yesterday, I was BEYOND drained and exhausted, but I grabbed Wilson and we took a walk along the Brooklyn Promenade so that I could cool my legs down a bit. It was so lovely in the sun! When we got back home, I celebrated making it through my run by taking a long, hot shower and then indulging in some chips and guacamole while watching basketball. It was blissful!

Hope you all had fabulous weekends!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

One Bad-Ass Day of Training

Know what's awesome about slow periods at work (other than the all-encompassing fear that I'm soon going to be let go)? Why, the fact that my gym is a mere block away from the office, of course!

Monday night, I had the last soccer game of the season for my Winter Warriors league (this league, in general, was just a HORRIBLE idea--but that's another story for another post). Like every other game this season, we lost (go Cocktails & Dreams!) . . . unlike every other game this season, we actually played pretty well together and came quite close to pulling a victory off. If nothing else, it was fun to see just how in shape I am now compared to when we started (back when I was suffering from the bronchitis from hell). I felt like I could have run up and down that field forever!

Then on Tuesday, I was scheduled to do speed intervals, but woke up with a throbbing, pulsing nightmare of a headache that refused to budge, no matter how many tons of Advil Liqui-Gels I consumed. Thus, Tuesday turned into an involuntary rest day.

Yesterday, as I sat in my office, I became so bored I actually contemplated poking my eyes out with pencils . . . just so I wouldn't have to stare at that taunting sloth of a clock any longer. But then I came up with a fabulous idea instead . . . I would go to the gym and get my speed intervals out of the way; thus allowing me to leave work on time (5:30 p.m.) and go straight home, just like a real person! So that I did. Around 2:30, I grabbed my running gear, snuck out of the office to the gym and completed the following workout:

1 mile warm-up
4 x 800m (w/ 2 min. rest intervals)
10 minute cool-down

I completed the first three intervals at a 7:41 pace, and picked it up to a 7:35 pace for the last one. And? It felt pretty darn easy, I have to say. Perhaps the rest day did me some good.

When I was finished, I reluctantly showered, got dressed and headed back to my office for another 2 hours of complete and utter boredom. As I sat there staring out the window of the office across the hall, I began wishing I could go for another run. It was just the perfect day for an after-work run! Unable to contain my desire any longer, I sent Wilson an email:

"This is going to sound weird considering I just got back to work from the gym, where I completed my speed workout for the day . . . but would you feel at all like going for a slow recovery-ish run this evening? I'm planning on leaving here on time, and I just feel like it's too nice out not to!" (Not to mention, I don't really know what else to do with the extra free time when I leave work at a reasonable hour--it's so foreign to me!) Well, Wilson couldn't deny that the weather was beautiful (in the 60s!!!). He told me he was game for a run "assuming your legs are okay." Pssh! What am I? Some kind of frail, hunched-over elderly person?!

So once we arrived home, we changed into running gear, and ran over the Brooklyn Bridge and back for just under 4.5 miles at a 9:40 pace. My legs? Were not the happiest with me for subjecting them to the stupidly steep incline of the bridge (twice). And also? I seriously had to fight back the urge to punch every stupid, slow, meandering tourist I wove around right in the head. But somehow, it was still a fabulous run. I felt like I was flying on the descents and I just felt like my legs were stronger than ever on the ascents. And hey, I somehow managed to avoid the certain death of being clipped by a maniac biker while swerving around clueless tourists who repeatedly stepped out right in front of me; all in all, it was a great run!

We got back to the apartment, quickly showered and changed, and then headed out to one of our favorite restaurants, Pete's Waterfront Ale House. I had a Brooklyn Monster and some delicious beef brisket. Then? With my belly full of beer and brisket, I passed right out at 10:00 p.m. for a whopping 9 hours of sleep!! I could get used to this whole leaving work on time thing!

Monday, March 16, 2009

This is What a Slow Day at Work Leads To . . .

So Friday was an unusally slow day at work. One of the associates at my firm was getting married this past weekend in Maine . . . and, I swear, half the firm must have been invited. The place was DESERTED. Rather than take advantage of the rare opportunity for peace and quiet, and FINALLY attack my massive file-pile, I did this:

Exhibit A:

Registration: "Irish Cream"

Quantity:1 Rock 'n' Roll Seattle - Marathon
#508: 2009-Elite Racing Session
Class: 1
Course Time Limit: 7:00
Days: Sat
Starts: 06-27-2009 7:00AM-2:00PM
Ends: 06-27-2009 7:00AM-2:00PM

Exhibit B:

Registration Confirmation for:
Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Dear "Irish",
Congratulations! You are now registered for Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Please check the event's official website for updates:

Exhibit C:

Dear "Irish Cream":

Congratulations, you're officially registered for the 13th annual Long Branch Half Marathon (LBH) scheduled for Sunday, May 3, 2009.

And I wonder why there's no money in my bank account . . .

Sunday, March 15, 2009

And The Inventing of Forms of Cross-Training Begins . . .

Today was a cross-training day. After weighing my options, I finally decided on a Jillian Michaels "Making the Cut"-inspired workout. It went a little something like this:

50 squats
Hold plank pose 30 seconds
20 plank-ups
50 bicycle crunches
10 close-grip push-ups (also known as triangle push-ups)
50 basic lunges (25 each leg)
25 reverse crunches
15 scorpion push-ups
20 jump squats
25 bench dips
40 step-ups (20 each leg)
25 toe-touch crunches
50 basic lunges (25 each leg)

And then I got tired/sore and gave up.

Oh, and I can't forget to mention the vigorous pot-scrubbing I did today. It was probably more intense than all of the exercises above combined! Yay for crappy, over-priced NYC apartments without dishwashers!

Time for bed . . . it's already gotten way too late!! How does this always happen on Sunday night? Sweet dreams, y'all!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

1 Down, 14 To Go!

I have to say . . . if today's long run is any indication of how this training program is going to go, I am REALLY going to enjoy it!

Now, before I continue, I have a confession to make. You may or may not have noticed, but I never posted anything about my long run from last weekend. Um . . . well, that would be because it was a COMPLETE disaster. Right from the get-go, I just felt exhausted and completely out of sorts; it was as though I had 20-pound sandbags attached to each of my legs! Although I set out with a goal of covering 10-12 miles, I quickly found myself adjusting that goal to "at least 7". In the end, I BARELY eked out 8 miles . . . and that was with a LOT of walking and stopping to "stretch" (aka rest) in between. And you know how sometimes, in the middle of a really great running period, one run goes so badly that it causes you to question everything? Well . . . that was me last Saturday. BUT. That negative thinking is history! I AM strong and I WILL conquer this program and the marathon to boot! Moving on to a much happier run . . .

I had some AWESOME weather for my 10-mile long run today . . . mostly cloudy with temps in the high-40s/low-50s. Absolute PERFECTION. Although I am usually a die-hard fan of listening to music while running long, I tried something new today that I think REALLY helped me. Wilson has always tried to convince me that running to the sound of podcasts is way better than running to music, and while I have never at all believed him, I decided I might as well give it a try today (just to prove him wrong, obviously). I downloaded a couple of Phedippidations podcasts to keep me company during my run . . . episode numbers 33 (The Marathon Mystique) and 41 (The 110th Boston Marathon). THIS? Was the best idea ever! (Sorry, Wilson. You were right, I was wrong. Just this one time.)

Before I knew it, 5 miles had passed and I was halfway done with my run! I took a sports beans and water break and quickly started back up, all the while listening to Steve Runner's wonderfully distracting podcasts. Although I started to fatigue a little with about 3 miles to go, I still managed to push it up the BIG half-mile-long hill in Prospect Park. This was a huge victory for me, considering I spent all of my LA Marathon training walking up that hill (at the time, I told myself that I was "conserving energy" for the rest of my run . . . LAME!). I pushed it hard up that sucker, and finished the eighth mile in 9:35. Pleased that I'd kicked the hill's butt, I decided I really wanted to push the last two miles and teach my legs what it's like to work hard when tired.

I tried my hardest to push the ninth mile, but some bad Union Ave. sidewalk neighbors were making it REALLY hard to get through. At four separate times I was forced to slow to a walk behind these groups who, for some reason, found it necessary to spread all the way across the sidewalk (death to you all--okay, that's taking things a little far--but seriously, get the f*** out of the way!). As soon as I got the chance, I would make a run for it and speed past them, but it definitely slowed me down quite a bit. Such is life in the city, I suppose! I made it to within a mile of my apartment and told myself it was REALLY time to kick it up a notch. I finished that last mile in 8:51, knowing I could have kept running had I wanted to. It gave me SUCH a huge boost of confidence . . . I am so grateful to have head such an amazing first (official) long run!

I got back to my apartment and thought it would be nice to take a quick walk with Wilson to kind of wind down and loosen my tight legs up a bit. We headed down to the Brooklyn Promenade and walked along the water for about 30 minutes. It was a fantastic walk, and it made me really happy to see all of the people running. It really is a fantastic spot to run/walk . . . check out the view:

(this gorgeous photo is by Mossaiq on Flickr)

At any rate, here are the numbers from today's run.

I completed exactly 10 miles in 135:51 . . . or a 9:35/M pace.

My splits were as follows:

Mile 1 - 9:44
Mile 2 - 9:29
Mile 3 - 9:30
Mile 4 - 9:36
Mile 5 - 10:00
Mile 6 - 9:48
Mile 7 - 9:57
Mile 8 - 9:35
Mile 9 - 9:23
Mile 10 - 8:51

For all those keeping track at home? Them splits right there would be NEGATIVE SPLITS! I'm pretty sure that has NEVER happened to me before on a long run, so I'm very pleased.

Now, it's off to celebrate with a pint or two ;)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Training Update

First things first . . . Although I was originally going to be running the inaugural Rock n' Roll Seattle Marathon all by my lonesome, it looks like I'm now going to have company! Hooray! How did I swing this? Well, I randomly decided to e-mail a handful of my college friends who are also marathoners to lay out my training schedule for the year and see if any of them felt like joining me for any of my proposed races. Well, we must all be suffering from running fever because it just so happened that a couple of them had recently started talking themselves about tackling a summer marathon. They hadn't made any final decisions, but were thinking about running San Fran in July. After much debate, we finally decided on Seattle a few days ago. Actually, the email chain that went back and forth was rather hilarious . . . it went something like this.

Jeff: Ok, let's figure this out. Everybody vote for their top choice. Knowing our crew, we'll sit around emailing how we don't care, anything is fine, until the cows come home. I just want to know what we're doing. I vote SF, because I haven't been there. But I'm happy with either. If Seattle had its summer weather year round, everyone in the country would live in Washington state, and the state's university could have found a better football coach than tyrone.

Brent: I second Jeff's choice. I've never been to SF, but Seattle is awesome.

San Fran: 2, Seattle: 0

But I'm good with both.

Allan: I'm going to go against the grain and vote for Seattle for the same reason you guys voted for San Fran. I have never been to Seattle, but have been to San Francisco before. I think I may be a little bit more able to take off days around the end of June versus the end of July, but that is pure speculation at this point.

Jon: I'm with Allan. I've never been to Seattle, and the pictures on the website look pretty nice. It also looks like a less hilly course.

Jeff: Look folks, this democracy thing is only gonna work if the rest of you blindly go along with what Brent and I are saying. That is a joke of course. I would like the extra four weeks of training we'd get with SF, but I think either are doable.I assume the ladies prefer Seattle? If so, then I move to close the voting and start booking stuff for Seattle.

Irish: I am actually kind of torn . . . which is ridiculous considering I'm the one who was planning on doing Seattle from the get go. I know this is not helpful, but I cast one-half of a vote for Seattle and one-half for SF. I guess that leaves Ann to decide!! ;)

Jeff: Classic buck passing Bailey. Ever think of running for Congress? Ann and I may have to do some research as to whether votes are apportionable like that.

Irish: Looks like I've finally found my calling! In my defense, I was simply trying to avoid the inevitable tie-breaker (the details of which we failed to set forth ahead of the vote) . . . that's all ;)
Okay, fine. In anticipation of you and Ann lawyer-ing me, I guess I have to stick with Seattle . . .

Ann: The SF marathon is the weekend before I'll be taking the bar exam (assuming I get my application done!), so I won't make that one. However, I'm worried that an injury I had last fall might flare up and keep me from finishing training and I think I only deserve 1/2 vote.

So yeah...
SF: 2
Seattle: 3.5 (?)

Jeff: Why do the women get so many votes?Just think of all the legal issues you could consider at a marathon: torts (slip and fall runners), sovereign immunity defense by the government, easements in gross to short cut through neighbors yards, contract disputes about late withdrawals seeking refunds, the possibilities are endless.

Jeff: I stand corrected. I see that you were listing the total votes, and not how many you were casting for each city yourself. My bad.

Allan: And here I thought that you were just trying to end women's suffrage.

Jeff: End the sufferage! End it, I say. There's already enough sufferage in this ugly world.

Irish: Maybe Ann and I shouldn't have votes . . . I mean, as women, our uteruses just might fall out while attempting to run whichever marathon is chosen ;)

Jeff: good point. barefoot in kitchens for you two.......

Allan: Maybe you can just tag along to make us sandwiches and rear our children.

Brent: Without Bailey and Ann voting, I think that leaves us at 2 and 2. Since we're going back to 1800 voting, I say we go back to 1800 tiebreakers...DUELS. Jeff and I will be on one side, Allan and Jon on the other side. Pistols only. Last man standing decides where we run.

Jeff: I also believe I had the tie breaker vote of where to run the next race. I might be willing to trade that in for the superior pistol, but no one asked me.

Allan: I'll be your huckleberry.

Jeff: why allan ringo, you look like someone just walked all over your grave.

Ha, I love my friends! I cannot even begin to describe how much I am looking very forward to receiving emails like those above for the next 3 1/2 months!

Anywho, I promised a training update, so a training update you're going to get! Here's how it went down thus far this week . . .

Monday: Rest day (gotta start marathon training out right, eh?!)

Tuesday: Hill day. I found the hill work-out I completed a little over a year ago on some sort of training web page that I am now completely unable to find--luckily I wrote this one down way back when! It is titled as "Grete's Hill Workout", which I'm assuming is referring to Grete Waitz (just call me Sherlock Holmes!) . . . but anyway, it goes a little something like this:

Complete a 1-mile warm-up. Next, pick a pace 40-45 seconds slower than 10K pace and run at a 2% incline for one minute, followed by a 4% incline for one minute, followed by a 6% incline for one minute. Recover with a jog for 2-3 minutes at a 0% incline. Repeat 3-4 times. Finish up with a one-mile cool down.

I did 4 repeats of this work-out at an 8:49/M pace, and I am shocked to say that it wasn't too, too difficult. I was definitely tired by the end of it and felt like I got a great work-out in, but it was SO much easier than the last time I completed it (it's been nearly a year now!). Anyway, I definitely feel that this work-out will be a great addition to my training schedule considering I will face some rolling hills out in Seattle.

Wednesday: Cross-training/easy-run day. I opted for an easy 2.5-mile run at a 9:40/M pace . . . followed by some serious weight-training and core work. Ouch. I am feeling it today, that is for sure!

Which actually reminds me . . . do any of you use medicine balls to work your abs? I just started doing it, and good golly is it great! Last night I did Medicine Ball Leg Raises, Medicine Ball Crunches on an Exercise Ball and Medicine Ball Russian Twists. Yowsers! I highly recommend these exercises if you REALLY want to feel the burn :)

Up for tonight, I have a 6-mile run: 2 miles easy + 2 miles at short tempo pace (around 8:05) + 2 miles easy.

Oh, and that reminds me! I never shared my training plan with y'all! I'm using the "FIRST To The Finish" training plan, but tweaking it a bit. First of all, I'm replacing the 5(!) 20-mile runs (a bit excessive, don't you think?) with just 2. My long run schedule will look like this (I hope):

15 weeks out: 10 miles
14 weeks out: 12 miles
13 weeks out: 13 miles
12 weeks out: 9 miles
11 weeks out: 14 miles
10 weeks out: 15 miles
9 weeks out: 17 miles
8 weeks out: (Long Branch Half-Marathon)
7 weeks out: 18 miles
6 weeks out: 13 miles
5 weeks out: 20 miles
4 weeks out: 12 miles
3 weeks out: 20 miles
2 weeks out: 12 miles
1 week out: 8 miles

Besides that, I am replacing one of my key runs (alternating between speed intervals and tempo runs) every other week with hill training of some sort.

So there you have it!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Biggest Who?

Okay, so we all know that there has been quite a lot of hullabaloo surrounding the Biggest Loser lately. And while I've managed to stay out of it thus far, I finally feel compelled to share my own (not at all expert) feelings and impressions. It took a very thoughtful post by Emlit to get me thinking about the far-reaching influence of the show. She really brought up some interesting and valid points (I highly recommend y'all check her post out here). This morning, I started typing up a comment in response to her post . . . and I kept typing . . . and typing . . . and typing. Eventually I figured my response would probably work better in post format. So here goes . . .

First of all, I'm going to try to explore some of the negative aspects of the show. Why don't we start with the fact that the very premise of this "reality television show" is about as far removed from reality as you're going to get (this is just for the sake of argument; I do, in fact, realize that reality television seldom features much reality--I am a product of the film and television industry, after all. I know ALL of its secrets!). Contestants of the show leave behind their homes, families, jobs, responsibilities and temptations alike in order to focus solely and uninterruptedly on losing weight and getting healthy. They work out in state-of-the-art facilities with teams of nutrition, fitness and medical professionals supervising their every move. Oh, and have I mentioned the $250,000 incentive, awarded to the contestant who remains on the ranch until the finale and loses the most weight? 'Cuz there's that too. Not so much a realistic situation for most of us, now is it? For better or for worse, the contestants' experiences with weight loss are obviously very different from the average person's.

That being said, I have read many accounts of viewers who have been endlessly frustrated by their own "lack of progress" in comparison to the unrealistic weight loss achievements seen on the Biggest Loser. In all fairness, the show is pretty open about the fact that the results are atypical and not to be expected by those doing it on their own at home. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the show probably set out to address that disparity this season by changing things up a bit and sending one member of each pair home for a period of 30 days after the first week on campus.
As expected, these at-home contestants lost only a fraction of the weight that their on-campus counterparts shed during the same period of time. What I found to be interesting was that this little experiment only served to prove the frustration that the average viewer can fall victim to . . . just take a look at the disappointment on the faces of the at-home contestants upon returning to campus and weighing in--it is clear that they too have been affected by unrealistic expectations. Like it or not, the show portrays obese individuals losing weight at far more rapid paces than occur in normal, everyday life. But sometimes I wonder . . . would these same folks who end up giving up on weight loss have even tried had they not been motivated by the show in the first place? It's certainly something to ponder . . .

Next, I have to mention that I completely disagree with the way the show unnecessarily turns weight loss into a competition. Weight loss should never be about competition. Never. It should be about getting (and staying) healthy and improving one's quality of life. I know, I know. "It's entertainment, blah blah blah." "Nobody wants to watch a bunch of people lose just a couple pounds a week." "We want excitement and drama!!" Ugh. The truth of the matter is that, in the past, contestants have indeed given in to extreme behaviors all in the name of competition. While I know it's naive to think that the finalists would put their own health before a big ol' prize purse and the title of the "Biggest Loser", I really do think that it's a travesty that this stuff goes on. I guess that's the risk of staging the show as a competition (you can thank ratings fever for that one).

Thirdly, people often talk about how the Biggest Loser just up and abandons its contestants after the show has concluded. All I can say about this one is "shame on you, NBC!" Once again, I am probably wanting too much out of what is essentially just a money-making entertainment machine, but I just don't see why it would be that difficult to create some sort of a transition program for the contestants to help them re-acclimate to a healthier version of their at-home lives . . . you know, have them check in with a doctor/psychiatrist/trainer for the first couple of months after the show has ended? I know the contestants are of no use to NBC at that point in the game, but couldn't the network do it in the name of charity or something?

All that being said, I still think the benefits of the show outweigh the negatives. After all, awareness is key. Believe it or not, you guys, there are millions of Americans out there who don't know the first thing about nutrition and fitness. If you have ever seen one of the BL season premieres, you know that most of these contestants go into the show absolutely clueless about what they are doing to their bodies . . . and actually, not just what they are doing to their own bodies, but many times the bodies of their children and families as well. I am continually shocked at the lack of common knowledge expressed both by contestants on the show and individuals I interact with on a daily basis. As runners, I think we tend to take a lot of the nutrition and fitness knowledge we have collected for granted. But the fact is, most Americans are grossly under-informed about the importance of good nutrition and daily exercise.

If nothing else, I feel like the show teaches the contestants (at least those contestants who are in it to change their lives, rather than those who simply want to win the $250,000) the things they so desperately need to know. While on campus, they work with a whole team of professionals who instill in them many of the things we consider to be second nature. Along the way, viewers too are exposed to tips, facts and often a bit of motivation to make changes themselves. While I feel like most of the people I know who watch the show are athlete-types who don't really need the info nor the motivation, I'm positive there are people out there who have learned things and/or been motivated as a result of having watched the show.

And, honestly, you really can't underestimate the influence these contestants have on the viewing audience. People can relate to the contestants because they are average people just like us. As such, someone who has never been motivated to get healthy might just find that motivation by watching someone they relate to doing it successfully. In addition, the whole Biggest Loser enterprise (as commercially motivated as it may be) gives the masses a way to connect and to be a part of something bigger. The Biggest Loser Club could be just the support someone needs to shed excess pounds once and for all (especially if that person doesn't happen to possess the support of friends and family).

And finally, I know there have been contestants who have gone home from the ranch and gained back a lot of the weight they lost; but there are just as many contestants who have gone on to use the knowledge they learned on the ranch to do great things: participate in endurance sporting events, give motivational speeches, inspire family members and loved ones to get healthy, start health awareness non-profits and volunteer for exercise programs for kids, etc. I don't think anyone can trivialize the difference the show made in some of these contestants' lives. If nothing else, most of them admit that being on the show redefined for them just what is possible and what they are capable of when they put their minds to it. And besides, if the show helped even one contestant to get to the point of being happy and healthy, wasn't it worth it? I simply don't think that the possibility of failure is a good enough reason to NOT try and make a difference in the lives of overweight and obese Americans, you know what I mean? And as far as I can tell, the Biggest Loser's the best we've got at this point in time. Does that mean we should settle for what we have? Of course not. But I don't see why we can't use what we do have to build upon and continue working toward solving the obesity epidemic in this country.

I'd love to hear what y'all think about the show. Leave a comment with any thoughts!

Whew, that was a long one! Good thing I didn't leave that all as a comment, Emlit! It might just have crashed your new, pretty blog!! :)

Update on the training front tomorrow, I promise!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Okay, I'm too tired to form coherent thoughts right now . . . so I'm going to have to do this in list format.

1) If you're reading this post in your google reader, I'm going to have to beg you to check out my actual blog and tell me what you think of my crazy new layout (thanks,!)! I don't actually know how long I'll keep this particular layout . . . I had so much fun playing around with it, I might just have to do some more tinkering. Either way, I would love to hear what you think!

2) Last night I took serious advantage of the fact that I'm not officially in training (yet!). While I had originally planned on doing some speed intervals, my legs told me they just weren't feeling intervals. Instead, they opted for a six-mile easy run at a 10:00/mile pace. It's funny to think that my current "easy pace" used to be about the fastest I could muster. Anyway, it was a really great run . . . one of those runs that just feels totally effortless. I completed it on the treadmill (it was deathly cold here yesterday--winchill of like 0!) . . . which was actually a huge accomplishment for me, since I usually can't make it past the 3-mile point without dying of boredom. Yay, me!

3) I took today as a rest day since I feel like I'm getting sick again (please, NO!) . . . but I promise I'll be back at it tomorrow with a tempo run of 3-4 miles (we'll see how my legs feel about that one!).

4) Marathon training officially starts on Monday!! To say I'm excited is quite an understatement! Ready or not, Seattle RnR, here I come! :)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Coogan's Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks 5K Race Report

Well, first things first . . . we actually got up when the alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. on Sunday, so that was a nice change! I got up, looked out the window and rubbed my eyes in disbelief as I realized there was a thin layer of snow covering everything in sight. Fabulous. I sleepily stumbled my way to the bathroom, trying to ignore the moderate fatigue I was feeling in my legs. I took a quick shower and blow-dried my hair, then tried to figure out what to do about a strange cramping I was experiencing in my stomach. I have no idea where it came from, but it was very similar to the cramping I've had with food poisoning before--just without the being sick part. Odd . . .

I decided to put off eating for a bit, but did down a cup of coffee, thinking it might help to move things along (if you know what I mean). Luckily it worked, and the stomach cramps seemed to gradually ease up as I got myself ready to go. Oh, silly gut issues--will you never leave me alone?!

I checked my e-mail, got dressed, packed my gear bag, and off we headed (on time this time!) in the direction of the subway. We had quite a hike in store for us in order to get up to Washington Heights--according to, over an hour's worth of travel. As we waited ( . . . and waited) for the 2-train to show up, I took on the unpleasant task of forcing two chocolate chunk chewy granola bars down my throat. Now normally, I love those things . . . but I just wasn't loving the idea of food so early in the A.M. Somehow, I was able to force them down.

Our train finally showed up . . . and after a nice, long subway ride, we arrived at our final destination: the New Balance Track and Field Center at the Armory. Now, up until we got there, I had no idea this place even existed . . . but good word is it nice in there! Wilson and I thought they should hold a raffle, and the lucky winners of said raffle could run the 5K on the indoor track instead of outside in the frigid winter-y-ness! We should really be race directors, y'all . . . but I digress. Packet pick-up was a breeze, so we decided to kill the extra half-hour hanging out in the warmth of the track and field stands. I cannot begin to tell you how nice it was to have a warm place to hang out in before the race. Kudos to you NYRR--this was a lovely surprise!

With about 20 or so minutes to go, Wilson and I decided to head out into the cold and make our way to baggage check. Upon attempting to exit the Armory, however, we were met with a HUGE traffic jam. The building had just two doors--one was being used for people coming in, and one for people going out-- and this factor combined with the large number of lobby-area loiterers made it nearly impossible to get out. Finally, we somehow escaped into the frigid outdoors. I immediately turned on garmin, knowing we had been in a fight the day before and that she might need a little extra time to cool off. We dropped our bags off . . . no signal. We made our way to our starting corral . . . still no signal. 10 minutes to go . . . nothing. 5 minutes to go . . . nada. FINALLY, as they were starting the pre-race announcements, she forgave me and decided to pick up a signal. That garmin--what a crazy broad--she had me nervous there for a second (and by "a second," I mean "a full twenty minutes")!

The pre-race announcements were made, the national anthem was sung . . . and before I knew it, we were off! Almost immediately, I hit a human wall--there was somehow an endless mass of slower runners in front of me. We headed up a short hill, and I tried my best to weave around the crowd of people in front of me. But seriously? Running uphill AND trying to dodge hundreds of slower runners at the same time is kind of exhausting. I finally made the executive decision that I would just wait it out for the rest of the climb and then pick it up and start weaving once the course flattened out a bit.

I successfully crested the hill, and again commenced with the weaving. Unfortunately, it was still quite an issue . . . there were multiple times when I was literally just plain STUCK. Short of pushing and shoving (which I refuse to do), I was not going to get through the thicket of bodies. Finally, the course started downhill and I managed to sneak out of captivity . . . temporarily. I hit the 1-mile marker at a sloooow 8:16.

As I made my way down the never-ending downhill, all I could think was, "holy crap, this is an out-and-back course. we are SO going to have to run up this monster--and soon!" Sure enough, at about the 1.3-mile mark, we began a small loop which would ultimately lead us back up that ugly beast of a hill. I tried my best to power up the hill as I continued to weave around my neighbors, but again, it was just too much effort trying to do both at once. After I nearly slipped and fell on a wet sewer grate, I again gave up on the weaving and just began coasting at the pace of the runners in front of me. After what seemed like eons, we finally passed the mile-2 marker at 16:32. I wasn't looking at my garmin or thinking all that much about the clock, but in my heart, I kind of just knew that a PR was out of the question. Still, at the very least, I really wanted to finish strong and have a powerful kick at the end.

I picked the pace up a bit over the last mile, but I was REALLY starting to tire. Plus, I was STILL having to weave around a lot of runners. I know it's ridiculous, but once again, I was having some serious urges to walk . . . especially considering I knew my PR was shot. Luckily, I also knew that quitting was absolutely positively NOT an option. I hadn't gotten up at 5 a.m. and hiked all the way up to Washington Heights just to QUIT! I WOULD finish the race, and strong!

With maybe a half mile to go, we crested that crazy hill and started to descend downhill towards the finish-line. I could see it! We were almost there! I started passing people left and right . . . I pushed it with everything I had left and kicked it until I reached the finish line. I stopped my garmin and looked down at my unofficial time . . . 25:29. My heart sank. I had known there was virtually no way I had PR'd, but for some reason, seeing the actual proof really stung me.

Head down and pout planted firmly on my face, I made my way forward. I heard someone calling my name, and looked up to see Wilson standing in front of me. I probably wouldn't have seen him if he hadn't called out at me . . . that's how absorbed I was in my own little world of defeat. I told him I hadn't PR'd and then asked how he'd done . . . "I think it was somewhere around 21:06," he reported. WHAT?! That was a PR for him by THREE FREAKING MINUTES! Well, at least one of us had had a good day! This kind of brightened my mood (although, I must admit, I was a little jealous!). Then, all of a sudden, I remembered the prospect of free beer, and I couldn't help but crack a smile (we all know this is the way to Irish's heart!).

We grabbed our bags, threw on our sweats and headed over to Coogan's for some delicious brunch (scrambled eggs and shepherd's pie--yummy!), and the beers I'd been so looking forward to. Once there, we met up with the Running Laminator, and had a grand old time eating, drinking and storytelling (and also, trying to avoid being crushed by lots of thirsty runners!). All in all, it was a pretty great day despite my lack of a PR.

Thinking about the race now, I feel a little better about it than I did initially. There was a lot working against me--the crowds, the hills, the fact that my legs were tired from my long run the day before. I'm still a little disappointed, but I'm thinking I'll just bottle that disappointment up and use it as motivation. I'm still wondering what was up with the corrals on Sunday, though. Either people are being dishonest when registering for these races or the corrals just aren't being enforced very well. I guess it's probably a combination of the two. I seriously have to get out of NYC for some races this season. I would kill to see how I could really do without the crowds! Anyone have any suggestions for smaller, local races close-ish to NYC? I would LOVE to hear about them, if so!

Anyway, here were my splits for the race:

Mile-1: 8:16
Mile-2: 8:16
Mile-3: 8:03
Last .1: 7:03/pace

Sunday, March 1, 2009

How Irish Ate Her Way Through Texas: An Austin Marathon/Vacation Report (Finally!)

Let me just start by saying that, FOR REAL Y'ALL, Austin is just one of my favorite places ever. EVER! I love it so much that this is guaranteed to be the longest Race/Vacation Report of all time. So grab a bev and some snacks (and maybe a pillow and blanket) if you're in for the long haul, because I promise you that this is going to take FOREVER to read! ;)


Okay, so let's go WAY back to Thursday, February 12 . . . the night before we left for Austin. I ended up working until 10:30-ish, which meant I got home well after 11:00 p.m., and still had to eat dinner and pack. Oh, and did I mention that our flight was at 7-something a.m. out of Newark the next morning? Because it totally was. For some reason, I left Wilson was in charge of making our travel plans (I guess because I had been busy-busy), and he thought this was reasonable. I? Did not. But I digress. With our flight so darn early in the a.m., it meant we would have to get up at around 5 a.m. to make it to the airport in time.

I tried my best to pack, not really knowing what the Austin weather would have in store for us. Further complicating things was the fact that I hadn't 100% made up my mind whether or not I would be running the half-marathon, which I had signed up for prior to contracting my bronchitis from hell. Finally, around 1 a.m., I felt like I was good to go and we headed to bed for a whole FOUR HOURS of sleep. Ugh.


We woke up the next morning and turned on the television while we were getting ready. Now, keep in mind that I am sorta/kinda a superstitious person by nature . . . so I, of course, was quite unhappy that Wilson's stellar travel plans had us flying down to Austin on Friday the Thirteenth (dun dun dun . . . !). As if I wasn't worked up enough about that, plastered all over the early-morning news was a story about a Continental flight that crashed the night before in Buffalo, NY! We? Were also flying Continental. WE WERE DOOMED (too dramatic? Yeah okay, maybe just a little bit)!

We got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Since this pretty much NEVER happens, I started to think that our day might bring us reverse good luck instead of bad Friday the 13th luck. Well, our good luck continued when we realized there was a Dunkin Donuts across from our gate. SCORE! We sat and sipped our coffee and snacked on muffins, and then eventually headed to our gate, only to realize that our flight had begun boarding early. As someone who is very used to delayed flights, this was certainly a welcome sight! As an added bonus, when I opened my issue of Domino on the plane, the city they profiled for the month was Austin! Thus, I got to read all about the awesome places to shop and eat in the city. Talk about perfect timing!

I slept through most of the flight . . . and when we landed, I turned on my blackberry to find an email from Karen, a friend of my sister's. Now first of all, folks, Karen is a crazy fast marathoner. She's seriously just awesome. Second of all, she's a Notre Dame grad (woohoo!). Thirdly? I can't even believe how sweet and hospitable she was towards Wilson and I. She took the time to a) give me all kinds of awesome Austin recommendations and suggestions, b) give an awesome course description and some helpful race-day tips for Wilson, c) lay out a kick-ass plan for spectating on marathon day, and d) give me her phone number and tell me to call here if we needed anything at all. Honestly, people are just plain nice down there! None of this cranky-pants New Yorker stuff . . . everyone we met--from servers in restaurants to hotel people to the car rental dude to race volunteers and spectators--were just genuinely friendly, good people!

We picked up our rental car and headed to the hotel to check in. The front desk girl gave us a map and circled all of the fun, hip areas to hang out . . . and she seriously was just the nicest, cutest thing ever. She talked to us about the races and seemed genuinely interested in what we had to say about them! Ha, I'm sorry if I seemed shocked by this, but I HAVE been in NYC for five years now, and that stuff just doesn't happen (outside of the running community, who is--for the most part--really nice).

We vegged for an hour or so in the super-comfy hotel room until we both realized we were STARVING. We headed out to grab a bite and do some exploring. Our good luck only continued when one of the first places we passed downtown was a Jimmy Johns. Oh lordy. Let me just confess my love for Jimmy Johns . . . I know it's terrible for you, but it is SO darn good. Beach Club, how I love thee! Yum. We scarfed our food and then headed off to explore Austin.

We headed in the general direction of the Expo, but still had some time to kill before it opened. We decided a walk along Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail was in order. It was SO nice and peaceful. I would kill to run down there! The path goes on for miles and miles (I just looked it up . . . apparently it is 10.1 miles long). We were pretty pooped from our early wake-up call, so after a while we stopped and sat on a park bench, chatting and just enjoying the waterside views. Ah, bliss!

When it was time, we headed over to the expo, grabbed our packets and tees, and proceeded to laugh ourselves silly when we saw my bib. I had forgotten that I put down "Irish Cream" when it asked for a name on my bib during registration! After a good chuckle, we took some time to check out some of the expo booths. Being around all of the runners and the excitement of the expo came REALLY close to convincing me that I should run come Sunday (okay, fine, I admit it . . . I really just wanted to see people's reactions to my "name"). We eventually left the expo and walked back to the hotel, noting all of the fun and interesting looking watering holes on the way (seriously, Austin is just jam-packed with awesome bars, you guys!).

We returned back to the hotel and decided it was time to grab some more grub. We hit up Kerbey Lane, which came highly recommended by both my sister and her friend, Karen. I was shocked to learn that Kerbey Lane is actually a really veggie-/vegan-friendly place. For some reason, when I pictured Austin, I pictured all Tex-Mex/Barbecue. But there are really a lot of great healthy-ish options in Austin (I mean, Whole Foods originated there . . . that has to say something!). We started with the Kerbey Queso (Guacamole covered with queso and topped with pico de gallo, served with salsa and tortilla chips), which my sister had insisted we HAD to try. Um, thanks Mallory . . . I now have longing dreams about this stuff every night! I swear, it is like cheesy, liquid crack, you guys! SO GOOD. I followed that up with some avocado and black bean tacos . . . simple but absolutely delicious! With full bellies and HUGE smiles, Wilson and I headed back to the hotel and turned in for the night.


Okay, let me just preface this by saying that you will probably laugh your asses off at what I consider to be the best Valentine's Day ever. But it really was just an all-around great day. We slept in, then got up and lazed around with some television and coffee. We couldn't ignore our growling tummies for long, though, and thus began the search for something to eat. We first tried to hit up Juan in a Million (featured on an episode of Man vs. Food--one of my favorite shows! I seriously need to host a show like it!). But um . . . we kind of forgot about the fact that it was noon-ish on a Saturday (does anyone else totally lose track of what day it is when on vacation?). There was a HUGE crowd outside waiting to be seated. We opted instead to hit up Whole Foods; after all, we thought it might be cool to check out THE original Whole Foods. Um, WRONG. It was a ZOO! Now, first of all, this place was MONSTROUS . . . it even had its own parking garage in addition to the front-of-the-store ground level parking. As huge as it was, it took us nearly half an hour to find a parking spot! THAT is how packed it was! Luckily, our made-to-order sandwiches were totally delish and SO worth the trouble to find parking. Oh, and we were able to score Wilson's race day breakfast there too, which was definitely good news.

After scarfing our food down, we decided to drive the marathon course and get a good look at some of those hills. They were . . . well, kind of scary. Ha, I think that drive was the final nail in the coffin of my half-marathon plans (okay, the hills and the fact that I knew I'd be helping Wilson out a lot by focusing my attention on being his support person on race day . . . see, I am a good person sometimes!). The funny thing was that there were several other cars obviously driving the course at the same time we were. It was comforting to know that we aren't the only freaks who insist on driving the course before a marathon!! :)

We finished up with the course drive, and headed back to the hotel to change (it was COLD out!). Then came the coolest thing EVER. We headed out to see Spirit of the Marathon at the Alamo Drafthouse. Now, the Alamo Drafthouse is pretty much my favorite place ever. It's a movie theater where they have servers come around and serve you drinks. I was worried they would get in the way of the movie, but it actually worked really well somehow, and I hardly noticed the servers at all. I was pleased to see that we weren't the only runners imbibing alcoholic beverages during the screening (although, truth be told, I did raise my eyebrow at Wilson when he told me he was ordering a beer)! And I have to say, it was really cool to see the movie again after having actually run a marathon (the last time I saw it was a few weeks prior to my first marathon). Anyway, I am in love with the Alamo Drafthouse and am SERIOUSLY wishing there was a place like that near me!

After the movie, we headed to our dinner reservation at Taverna, a cozy and warm Italian place in the Second Street District. It was . . . SO good. I know the place has had mixed reviews, but seriously? My meal was just incredible. I had one of their specials that night: a butternut squash risotto with sea scallops. The scallops were perfectly cooked, and the risotto? To die for. Even the salad we ordered as a starter was really, really good. It was just a fantastic meal. After dinner, we walked hand in hand through the magically lit Second Street District and back to our hotel. This photo doesn't do it justice, but trust me, it was really pretty:

I got overly excited when someone stopped and asked us if we knew where this wine bar we'd once passed was . . . "Why yes, we do! Take a right on 2nd street, it's towards the end of the block." I really kind of liked pretending that I was an Austinite :) We made the 10-minute walk or so back to the hotel, with a soundtrack of live music blaring out of just about every joint we passed. It made me wonder how Austinites decide what band to go see on any given night, considering there are so darn many options! You could literally just wander around downtown and listen for something you liked . . . you would be guaranteed to find SOMETHING you liked, no matter how picky you are! We got back to the hotel, got our stuff ready for the big day awaiting us, and hit the sheets around 11:00 p.m.


After a restless night of sleep (I think I was more nervous than Wilson was!), I anxiously got up around 4:45 a.m. I (again) fought off the temptation to pin my bib on and run the half-marathon. Instead, I planned on walking to the start with Wilson, then meeting him at two different spots . . . mile 6 and mile 21. When I had asked my sister's friend for tips on spectating, she had given them to me with the assumption that I would use our rental car to get around. But no . . . that's just not my style. I planned to cover it all on foot!

We got ourselves ready and headed out the door at 6 a.m. (for a 7 a.m. race start). We arrived at the start area, and I couldn't help but get REALLY ridiculously excited! I just LOVE the energy at the start of a marathon . . . nothing compares to it. Standing in the middle of Congress Avenue, it would have been the perfect opportunity for a night-time photo of the Capitol Building. It was all lit up and was simply breathtaking! Sadly, I had forgotten to grab the camera before we left the hotel (what kind of spectator am I? Yes, a bad one). Ah well . . . maybe next year ;)

Wilson got on line for the porta-potties and I headed to the mile-6 point to "get a good spot" (ha). For some reason, I was really worried about getting the spot I'd pointed out to Wilson the day before. In my defense, though, mile-6 was super close to the start (just a few blocks away), and I figured tons of people would have the same plan I had in mind. I quickly made my way over there. And? I was the only idiot in sight. And also? I was FREEZING my arse off!! It was in the low-thirties at that point, and I had to get really creative in finding ways to stay warm (at least there was nobody out there to see me!) And what made matters worse was the fact that the race started about 15 minutes late, throwing in a little extra wait time. The one really cool thing, though, was that I could hear a really great blues-y gospel band playing from about a block away. It was certainly nice to have some music to jump around to! At long last, I heard the gun go off and saw the runners take off in the distance. Now, I just had to wait for Wilson to show up!

As I waited ( . . . and waited . . . and waited), a big crowd did indeed begin to form in my area, including a couple of mariachi bands and lots of kids and dogs. It was quite a lively spot! As much as I was enjoying it, I was still pretty chilled and could NOT wait until it was time for me to run! Finally, a minute or two after the 4:00 pace group had passed, I saw Wilson running towards me. I gave him a quick peck and told him to "Get going! I'll see you at 21!" Finally, the moment I had been waiting for! Time for me to run . . .

Now, it was starting to warm up a little by this time, and I had a bit of a run ahead of me (about 5 miles) to get to mile 21 (not to mention, I was planning on running Wilson in from that point to somewhere near-ish to the finish). Thus, I decided to make a stop at the hotel and change from tights into shorts. I filled up my water bottle, changed, used the bathroom . . . and I was off on the hike up Guadalupe. At first it was kind of fun because I got to run past the University of Texas. But soon? I was BORED STIFF. I don't know why, but I was just hating on that route. I think it had something to do with the fact that the cross-streets were climbing in number (my destination was Guadalupe and 47th street), but they were WAY farther apart than NYC city blocks! Not to mention, there were random named streets in between some of them, as well as half-number streets in some instances (i.e. 28th 1/2 st.). UGH. Finally, after what seemed like forever, I arrived at my spot (the UT Intramural Fields), just in time to see some of the leaders go by.

I picked a good, sunny spot and started cheering. Have I mentioned how exhausting cheering is? Because I was seriously pretty wiped by the time Wilson came by a couple hours later! He motioned for me to join him, and I gladly took off to run him in for the final 5-ish miles. I tried to talk to him and gauge how he was feeling, but he wasn't so much in the mood to chat. It seemed that he was doing pretty well, all things considered. As we ran, I tried my best to keep him motivated, especially with the hills we were facing. "You can do it, Wilson. It's just like the hill in Prospect Park . . . you've got it." I'm assuming he wasn't THAT annoyed with my little bits of encouragement, as he didn't bother to respond (whereas I would have been spouting obscenities had the situation been reversed).

At one point, with less than three miles to go, Wilson stopped to stretch, and I kind of didn't know what to do. I wasn't sure if he just wanted an excuse to stop or if he really needed to stretch. I let him stretch for a minute, but then told him that we should get going again . . . luckily, he didn't really put up much of a fight. We took off, and chugged on until we reached the monster of all hills at about mile 25.5. Who puts a huge, evil hill at that point in a marathon??! Wilson was REALLY slowing down, but I convinced him to just keep moving forward up the hill. After what seemed like forever, we finally crested that sucker. We trucked on for another half-mile or so until I had to duck out to avoid the barricades around mile 26. Wilson had been mumbling something that I couldn't at all understand (which I later found out was him just repeating where we would meet up), and I was a little worried, not knowing what he had said . . . but I'm telling you, once he saw those barricades, he REALLY picked it up . . . so much so that I could hardly keep up with him! As I veered off the course, I screamed at him, "Don't stop until you cross that line!"

And with that, I took a detour over to our meet-up spot. Before too incredibly long, there came Wilson wearing his medal and carrying his finisher's shirt. He had finished his first marathon in a very respectable 4:12:50. He immediately plopped himself down on a chair out front of the cafe where we met. I begged him not to sit down, knowing that I wouldn't likely be able to get him up anytime soon if he did. After a few minutes of resting in the chair, he agreed to get up and walk the half-mile or so back to the hotel.

Once we got there, we showered, ordered huge room-service cheeseburgers and fries, and then took a much needed nap. Amazingly, I woke up just in time to get us up and head over to the Austin Convention Center to see a roller derby bout between the Cherry Bombs and the Putas Del Fuego. We had tentatively penciled the 7:00 p.m. bout into our schedule, not knowing how Wilson would feel after the marathon. Luckily, he was feeling well enough to attend. And am I ever glad we did! I was a huge fan of the A&E show "Rollergirls," so it was really cool to get to see the TXRD live! We shared nachos and beer, and stayed for the entire bout, despite the fact that the Cherry Bombs were pummeling the Putas. Let me tell you, those girls are BADASS! And if you are ever in Austin, this is something you MUST check out! I know they have roller derbies elsewhere in the country (including NYC), but this is the REAL DEAL. It is not to be missed.

After the bout, we started to get REALLY hungry again, so we stopped by Sonic. Ah, Sonic! Let me just say that it is a good thing that I don't live within driving distance of a Sonic! We ordered way too much food, brought our chow back to the hotel and scarfed it down before promptly heading to bed after what was one of the LONGEST days ever!


This was our last full day in Austin, so we decided we would make the most of it food-wise. Our first stop was Juan In a Million (the place we had tried to hit up on Saturday morning), home of the Don Juan breakfast taco (of Man vs. Food fame), shown below (yummy!).

Luckily, it was only moderately crowded this time around, and we were able to get a table right away. Let me tell you, the food there was SO good. Wilson went for the monster Don Juan taco, as well as a chorizo and black bean taco. I opted for the chorizo y huevos breakfast plate. Yum! We left there seriously stuffed and decided we needed a serious walk to burn off our brunch! Off we headed to check out the University of Texas. Here are some of the photos we took while on campus:

Wilson with his Austin Marathon medal

Me and a longhorn statue (I wanted to meet Bevo, but had to settle for this one)


Why yes, that is a huge stuffed bear on the front porch! Ah, college.

After exploring the UT campus, we headed to SoCo to do some shopping. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this area. It is chalk full of all kinds of antique-y, quirky shops . . . my favorite of which is Uncommon Objects. We spent a good hour in this store, and we weren't even looking to buy anything! It's just full of so many treasures . . . it's like they collected all of the "junk" from a million different sets of grandparents' houses. There's everything from kitchenware to apparel to decorative items to jewelry to toys . . . I mean EVERTHING. When we finally left Uncommon Objects, we headed to Allens Boots, where I tried to convince Wilson to buy a pair. No dice. But it was really, really fun to get to see all of the beautiful cowboy boots!

After we hit up a few other stores, we decided it was time for snacks. Our plan was to hit up Amy's Ice Creams and to grab some cupcakes from Hey, Cupcake to eat the next day. Sadly, Hey, Cupcake is apparently closed on Mondays, unbeknownst to us :( But here's a picture of it (isn't it adorable?):

On to Amy's we went. I cannot explain why, but that stuff is SERIOUSLY addictive! It's just so creamy and delicious! I had the coffee ice cream (my weakness), and it was TO DIE FOR! Here's a photo of Wilson in front of the location on South Congress:

Next time I am SO trying the "shiner" flavor!

With that, we headed back to the hotel to relax a little before dinner. We watched some television and I answered some emails until it was time to head to the meal we'd been waiting the entire trip for: The Salt Lick (DROOL!). This was the barbecue place EVERYONE told us we had to try out while in Austin. It's actually in Driftwood, TX, about 20-something-ish miles outside of Austin. The drive out there was . . . well, dark and kind of scary for this city girl! But when we finally got there, the smell alone was WELL worth the drive! HEAVENLY!

So here's the deal . . . the best thing ever about The Salt Lick is their family-style all-you-can-eat barbecue deal. You pay $18.95 per person, and they literally will just keep bringing you plates of meat (brisket, pork ribs, sausage) until you tell them to stop. It also comes with sides--white bread, pickles, cole slaw, beans, potato salad and, of course, extra barbecue sauce. To. Die. For. See for yourself:

Wilson had to stop me from diving in there head first!

How can you not drool over this (assuming you aren't a vegetarian, that is)!

Good Stuff. Now, I am almost too embarassed to admit this . . . but due to the earlier events of our self-declared "Day of Gluttony," Wilson and I were only able to finish one measly plate of meat. I know. Simply shameful! I think our server was seriously confused when we told him that one plate was enough! Poor guy. At any rate, I have EVERY intention of heading back there some day, and doing the family-style deal justice! In fact, Wilson and I were talking . . . and we think we may have to get started on planning a marathon that starts in Austin and ends up at The Salt Lick. Then, we REALLY think we could get our money's worth (who's with us?)! Needless to say, we have to INSIST that you check this place out if you are ever in Austin (quick tip: this place is BYOB--so don't forget to bring your favorite brews with you!)

After dinner, we drove around and took some night-time photos of Austin, including these:

Texas State Capitol

If I was a dog, I would totally want to pee on this hydrant. (And no, I was not drunk . . . or well, I guess I might have been "drunk on barbecue." Mostly, I'm just really, unbelievably immature).

With that, our last night in Austin was officially over. It was back to the hotel to pack and get ready to head home to NYC the next morning (boo!).

So there you have it, folks! My loooooong race/vacay report has finally concluded. In case you couldn't tell, my heart is still aching a bit for Austin . . . I am in the process of trying to convince Wilson that we need to move down there. I think The Salt Lick alone may have him convinced, though, so we shall see! I'm definitely thinking at the very least that I will tackle the marathon next year. It's on Valentine's Day! And what better way to spend Valentine's Day than running a marathon and stuffing your face with plates and plates barbecue? I think none :)