Christmas List for Runners

3 Dec

Since the holiday season is upon us, I decided to do a Christmas Wish List for Runners – things that your runner friend, sister, husband might like for Christmas this year!  

Under $25
– Add a little sparkle to that special woman in your life this holiday without spending hundreds of dollars!  Sparkly Soul Headbands are a great accessory for any runner looking for a functional, yet flattering headband.   Check out my review on Sparkly Soul headbands.  Headbands cost $15-17 (depending on width). 

Nuun optimal hydration is an easy way to stay hydrated.  The tablets dissolve quickly in a glass of water, taste great, are low in calories, and contain a ton of electrolytes.  It costs $24 for one box (4 tubes=64 tablets), but if you order more than 1 box, each costs $22.  *Free shipping until Dec 9th

– My husband purchased a Road ID bracelet for me when I was pregnant – it was one of the best gifts I every received.  I now wear it on every run I go on.  It contains your vital information (name, who to contact, phone #s) that can be used in case of an emergency while you are out running.  They range between $15.99 (for the slim – pictured below) to $29.99 (for the elite version).

– Running Books / Running Magazines – a few of my favorites include:
     – Run Like a Mother
     – Running Times
     – Born to Run
     – Couple on the Run (haven’t read it yet, but plan to!)

– There’s always room on your Christmas list for some jewlery!  The Run Home is an amazing site for handcrafted sterling and nickel silver running inspired jewelry and ornaments.  Prices range from $18-31 and include the personalization of your item. *Free Shipping on all orders

Under $50

Wearing DryLete Arm Warmers
for the NYC  Marathon

Saucony running apparel offers a wide selection of running shorts, tees, winter gear, and accessories for both men and women. (Some of my apparel is Saucony so if you have any questions, please let me know).  Saucony has a great holiday gift guide on their site with gifts ranging from $25-150. Additionally, feel free to check out Mile-Posts blog – she has done a number of Saucony apparel reviews!  *Use the code “mileposts” to save 15% off your order. (Discount code courtesy of Mile-Posts).  Currently offering Free Shipping (until Dec 16th).

– One of the best gifts to give your runner is a pair of Yurbuds.  If your runner is like me, then they have likely shorted out entirely too many headphones to count due to excess sweat or rain.  Yurbuds have a twist lock technology that lock into place for a secure fit that never fails out and are both sweat and water resistant.  They range in price from $29.99-59.99 (although the most popular model is the Yurbuds Ironman Inspire ($49.99).  

Under $100 
– If you know of a specific race your loved one plans on running in 2012, a great gift is the race entry fee.  Fees can range from $5-10 for a local 5k to upwards of $150 for the larger, more popular marathons (NYC, Boston); however, most entry fees are typically under $100. 

If there is no budget (or if you are doing some holiday shopping for yourself!)
Nordic Trak offers a wide selection of treadmills, ellipticals, incline trainers, and bikes ranging from commercial through elite series.  The website already has many items on sale (some for 1/2 price) and free shipping.  *Use the code “anothermotherrunner” to save an additional 10% off your entire order – valid until Dec 31st.  (Discount code courtesy of Another Mother Runner)

Any other ideas for the holiday wishlist? Let me know in the comments!!

My Thanksgiving this year…unlike any other

28 Nov

My family and I flew to Texas to spend Thanksgiving with my husband’s parents and family.  My father-in-law was born and raised in Weslaco, Texas before moving to Alaska before my husband was born (over 30 years ago).  Most of his family (2 brothers + 2 sisters and their families) still live in or within a short drive of their south Texas hometown.

Because there were so many congregating for Thanksgiving (around 30), the Gonzalez family rented a 5,000 sq foot ranch in Smithville which would serve as the “home base” for the better part of the week.  I was extremely nervous, anxious, excited for the trip – I had yet to meet my father-in-law’s family (not a single person!).  My husband and I had a very small wedding ceremony (just parents and siblings and their families) and there hasn’t been a large family event that we’ve been able to attend since we started dating or were married, so the opportunity to meet them has been limited. 

Meeting a spouse’s extended family can be extremely nerve-wracking.  Throw in the fact that I am an Italian, New York City girl and was getting ready to spend a few days with a Mexican, South Texas family.  On the surface, it’s two completely different worlds. Although my husband and his dad have introduced me to many Mexican traditions and foods over the years, I knew this would be completely different than just having guacamole or chorizo. I was excited to experience a holiday with the Gonzalez family, but I was worried that I would stick out like a sore thumb and feel a bit out of place.

For most of my life, I’ve experienced a traditional Italian Thanksgiving.  Appetizers consisting of hot and dry sausage, fresh mozzarella, spinach squares, stromboli, rice balls and potato croquettes, a first course involving eggplant parmigiana and lasagna, turkey and ham course with an Italianized version of stuffing (rice with mozzarella and sausage) and breaded broccoli, and dessert including cheesecake, coffee crumb cake, seven layer cookies, assorted pastries and biscuits, and espresso. On top of the food, there’s a sense of comfort in knowing what to expect and how the day progresses – I grew up immersed in the Italian culture so holidays filled with Italian customs is all I’ve known.

This Thanksgiving (in addition to the turkey and ham), we had chips and homemade salsa, freshly made tomales, bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, and a whole table of traditional Mexican desserts including Mexican sweet bread (besos), Mexican wedding cookies (pan del polvo), and Mexican gingerbread cookies (marranitos). So the food was obviously different.  Part of the morning was spent feeding the Texas Longhorns and black cows that resided on the home’s property and the afternoon hours were occupied with skeet shooting.  Very different from my usual Thanksgiving day routine on Staten Island.  There was also strong accents, an occasional word, phrase, or sentence in Spanish, and a discussion about something relating to the Mexican culture that I could not relate to.   

Yet, despite all of these differences, there were points during the day when I forgot that I was in Texas, away from my family, and sharing a holiday with my Mexican family as opposed to my Italian family.  The things listed above are the obvious differences.  But, what amazed me was that there were so many little things that reminded me of my family and the culture I was accustomed to. 
Most of the early afternoon was spent gathered around the large island in the kitchen while various family members put the finishing touches on their contribution to the meal.  There was an endless amount of loud laughing and story-telling while appetizers were eaten and food was sampled. Later in the evening, the whole family congregated in the family room to watch the UT vs. Texas A&M football game (most of the family are UT fans, but there were quite a number of Aggie fans present).  The intensity of cheering and yelling reminded me of my family during a Yankees/Red Sox game.  On Friday, I was taken into the kitchen with several of the other females and learned how to make authentic, homemade tomales (something my husband is very happy about)!  I learned a recipe that has been passed down 4 or 5 generations!

Observing and taking copious notes!

My husband and I barely held our son during the week because there was always someone offering to follow him around the house as he explored or wanting to hold him or play with him.  It reminded me so much of how my family is with him – and as a mom, I feel we all want our children to be loved and given attention – especially when they are so young.  It made me so happy to see him happily get passed from one family member to the next.

It was obvious how important family is in the Gonzalez clan.  Someone in the family set up a table in the living room in memory of my husbands grandparents – the candles remained lit all weekend long.  

The entire family was there for the holiday and many days after – there was no place anyone had (or wanted) to be.  The remainder of the days were filled with playing board games, pool, soccer and football, swimming in the pool, singing, dancing, storytelling around the campfire, and eating.  

I left with priceless memories that I will cherish forever – and am anxiously looking forward to our next visit to Texas! 

Our lives are all different and yet the same
– Anne Frank

2012 Race Calendar

27 Nov

With only one month left of 2011, I finally had the opportunity to sit and write down all the races I’ve mentally signed up to run for 2012.  I’m not sure if it’s too ambitious. I haven’t done an Ironman (IM) before, so I don’t know what toll the training and race itself will take on my body. The priority and focus for 2012 is definitely the IM, so if I need to cancel a race or two because I haven’t fully recovered from the IM or need more training time before the race, I definitely will. .

The race calendar is not finalized yet – I still have to register for a few of the races and there are a few shorter races I’d like to add – but it’s a general idea of what I will be training for in the next 12 months!

Jan – Mar: my focus will be on running.  I am going to cross train with swimming and biking in preparation for the spring and summer triathlon events, but my priority will be working on my speed to decrease my marathon time.  My husband also plans to run this marathon and will be shooting for sub 3:05 so we will be able to do some training together! 
Ocean Drive Marathon – Cape May County, NJ – Mar 25, 2012
– Goal: Sub-3:10

Mar – Jun: Immediately after the marathon, my focus will shift to biking and swimming.  I hope to maintain the running shape I will be in and will begin adding to my endurance in the other 2 events. 
Rev 3 Quassy Half-Ironman – Middlebury, CT – Jun 3, 2012
– Goals: Sub-5:30 (Swim – 50 min, Bike – 3:00, Run – 1:40); Become comfortable competing in longer distance triathlons to prepare me for the full Ironman in August.

Jun – Aug: Based on the results of the Half Ironman, I will have an idea of which event(s) need(s) more attention.  The focus from June until Aug will be on getting my body used to swimming for 1:45, biking for 6:00, and running for 4:00.  Hopefully, my recent experience with ultras will help me since I will be running the marathon portion on tired legs. 
NYC Ironman – NYC, NY – Aug 11, 2012 (registered)
– Goals: Complete the race; Finish in under 12:30

Aug – Nov: After a rest and recovery period following the Ironman, my focus will shift back to running in preparation for the ultra I hope to do in November.   
JFK 50-miler – Boonsboro, MD – Nov 17, 2012 (registration opens in the spring)
– Goal: Sub-8:00 (based on this year’s results, that would place me 80th out of 941 finishers and 13th female)

*I’m throwing around the idea of the Army Ten-Miler on Oct 21st (my birthday).  I had decided this year that I would try to run my age on my birthdays from now on, so doing this race would prevent me from this.  I did a “30 for 30” run this year (you can read about my 30 mile birthday run in a couple of posts I wrote: Live, Ran, and Learned and Pacing Lessons). 

I also want to do a couple of 5k and 10k races throughout the year.  I usually don’t bother to sign up and run such short races, but hope that doing so will help me continually work on speedwork rather than just long distance.

I’m trying to achieve 3 of my goals this year (for a list of my lifetime goals, click here): marathon sub-3:10 in the marathon, 50m, IM.  I’m trying to cross off as many as I can before I become pregnant with baby #2 (hope to get pregnant right after the JFK 50-miler).  I know that my free time will decrease after each child – so I’m hopeful that I can use this 11-12 months to achieve some of my goals! 

Any recommendations on local 5k or 10ks?  I don’t want to drive more than an hour from Staten Island, NY and definitely do not want to spend a lot of $ on race registration.  And they need to be between January and June or September and November. 

Thanksgiving Day Run

26 Nov

My son, husband, and I flew to Austin, Texas on Monday to spend Thanksgiving with my husband’s parents and family.  The entire week was wonderful – lots of time to relax, eat delicious Mexican food, and spend valuable time with my in-laws and extended family.

One of the best parts of the whole trip was that my husband and I were able to sneak away for a beautiful 8-mile Thanksgiving Day run.  I can’t remember the last time we were able to run together (sans baby!).  Most mornings I run before my son wakes up and we alternate running and watching our son on the weekends.  

We were in Smithville, Texas, a small, rural town about an hour from Austin, and the site of numerous well known movies, including Hope Floats and The Tree of Life. I wasn’t sure what the road conditions and traffic would be like – but hoped that it would allow me to go on a couple of runs during our 3 day stay.

It could not have been more perfect.  The homes in the area were all situated on large plots of land – ranging from 54 acres (where we stayed) to over 300 acres – which helped keep the vehicle traffic to a minimum as the homes were few and far between.  The roads surrounding the home were a mix between gravel and pavement with light patches of grass along the edges (perfect for running).  The weather was amazing all week – sunny, mild temperatures, and minimal wind. 

Miles of empty road to run!
And though there wasn’t any company on the road, there was more than enough observing our workout from behind the barbed wire!!
We started the run around 930am.  It was already close to 60 degrees – perfect weather for a short, relaxing recovery run (this was my first run since my 60k on Saturday!).  We even had a little extra company for the first two miles as my husband’s cousin decided to join us to work up an appetite before the Thanksgiving Day feast.  

My body needed a couple of miles to loosen up, stretch out, and work through some of the kinks that seemed to have lingered from the 60k last Saturday.  But within 2-3 miles, I started feeling like my old self again and was able to zone out and enjoy the run.  I love running along the boardwalk in Staten Island, but there was something so special about running that close to nature on Thanksgiving.  
My favorite part of the run was seeing a mama Texas Longhorn nursing her baby (the simple beauty of it almost made me cry!) and Old Glory flying high at various wooden posts along the road. The two sights made me thankful for the family that I have – and grateful for those that are defending that very flag and what it stands for. 
It was a perfect way to spend Thanksgiving morning!  And a fantastic way to work up a hearty appetite for the feast that was to come later that afternoon!
Hope everyone had a happy, safe Thanksgiving filled with laughter, family, and lots of great food!!

What I’m Thankful for this year

23 Nov

“Life right now, in this very moment, is all anyone can be sure of. So live it well. ” – Chas Yousey

I find myself preoccupied and concerned with too many extraneous details (errands that need to be run or what others think of things I say or do), that I sometimes fail to stop to enjoy the moment.  I take for granted all that I have in my life – and realize I may not adequately express my thanks for those people and things that provide me happiness each day.

– My wonderful, sweet little boy, AJ.  He is a happy, healthy, vivacious 10 month old but I often forget that he’s so young.  I find myself expecting him to understand and listen to everything I tell him and get annoyed when he doesn’t.  There are nights when he wakes up at 2am and I get frustrated because he wants me to put him back to sleep.  I (embarrassingly) sometimes don’t have patience to sit with him for hours each day because he doesn’t want to play with his toys without me next to him.  I take for granted what a good boy he is and how lucky my husband and I are to have him in our lives.  I’m thankful that he has unconditional love for me, that he smiles at me when I greet him in the morning and that he looks to me when he’s hurt or tired. Thank you, AJ, for being the best unplanned gift mommy and daddy ever received.

– My amazing husband and family.  Without being too repetitive (since I did a post on them last month – My Support System), I could not imagine my life without them.  When I sit and think about it, I realize that I do not do a good job of expressing my gratitude on a regular basis to them – especially my husband and my mom.  I am not the easiest person to live with or love – I’m moody, I can be sarcastic and snippy, and I have very little patience.  Yet they are understanding, loving, and will do anything for me (and AJ).  Thank you to my wonderful husband, mom, sisters, and extended family who fill my life with nothing but support and love each and every day.

– God.  I am not an overly religious person, so I usually do not bring up the subject of God or religion in posts or in conversations.  However, I am beyond amazed at how much joy and happiness that has come into my life.  I’m not a perfect person – I’ve done some things that are less than stellar in my lifetime – and there was a time that I did not know if I deserved to have happiness in my life. But, this last year has been the best in my life – and I’m grateful for all that God has given me – a precious little boy, health and happiness for me and my entire family, amazing friends who remain my friends despite my inability to call or email as frequently as I would like, the prospect of owning our first house (on Staten Island – where my family lives), and the gift of running (both during and after pregnancy).

– Lastly, and most importantly, I remain thankful – each and every day – for those that continue to put their lives in danger for me and my family.  Without their sacrifice and dedication, I would not be able to sit down tomorrow and enjoy a peaceful and joyous Thanksgiving dinner with my extended family – free from fear or terror.  I know how difficult it was to say goodbye to my family each deployment – but can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to be away from your child for extended periods of time.  To all those that are serving – especially those who will be celebrating the holiday away from their loved ones – I say “Thank You” from the bottom of my heart.  And a special thank you to a fellow blogger who is getting ready to deploy and leave her family – Jess (from

Hope everyone has a Happy, Safe, and Beautiful Thanksgiving!!!

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?  Anything different or special?

My First Ultra

19 Nov

My husband, son, and I made our way into the city at 630am Saturday morning.  I stopped at NYRR’s office to pick up my race bib and t-shirt and was able to sit in the car with them only 100 feet from the start line until 15 min before the race started.  This allowed me to stay warm, keep my mind off the race, and best of all, nurse my son one last time before saying goodbye – a necessity since I would be away from him for the next 6 hours. (And yes, you can totally train for an ultra AND be a nursing mom at the same time!)

I made my way to the “baggage check” – it wasn’t a typical baggage check at a NYRR’s race located a distance from the start/finish.  This was actually along the course – which was awesome since it enabled me to quickly organize my gels, energy bites, and other snacks I may need during the race. It was a chilly 35 degrees  – my initial plan was to wear shorts, tank top, arm warmers, gloves, and headband, but at the last minute, I added a long-sleeve shirt to wear for the first 1.5 miles. It was windy (10-15 mph winds) and I wanted to ensure that I was properly dressed until I warmed up. I also decided to run with my camelbak.  This was to ensure I was able to drink when I was thirsty (and not wait every 2 miles to hydrate) as well as carry some gels and my cell phone in the pocket. 

I met up with a fellow blogger, Brooklyn Beast, a runner/cyclist from Brooklyn at the baggage check…we chatted for the next 10 min while getting dressed and making list minute preparations (I took a power gel at this point and drank a 1/2 bottle of water).  I learned about the Furnace Creek 508 – a bike race covering 508 miles in the Mojave Desert and through Death Valley.  He completed it last year in 41 hours and is hoping to compete in it again next year.  A 508 mile bike race made what we were getting ready to attempt seem like a sprint.  I was glad for the company and the distraction – even for just a few minutes! 

Before I knew it the 430 or so runners were called to the start line.  As much as I love the large and popular races I’ve competed in (NYC and Boston Marathon, Army Ten-Miler), there is something SO comfortable, intimate, and special about participating in a small, local race. There’s no jockeying for position at the start line or standing in corrals for 30-60 minutes before the race starts.  Someone yells that the race is starting, you meander over, and start running. 

You can find my pre-run goals for the race here -> 60k goals

Lap # (Lap distance: Lap time: Lap pace — Total distance: Total time: Total Pace)

Lap 1 (1.46m: 14:20: 9:50 pace) 
I ran the out and back stretch with a runner from Brooklyn (never got his name). This was also his first ultra and we chatted about our training and preparation for the race as we let our bodies warm up.  
As I crossed the start line, I stopped to take off my long-sleeve shirt (and put back on my camelbak)
Lap 2 (3.98m: 33:35: 8:26 pace — 5.44m: 47:54: 8:48 pace)
I was immediately amazed at the support that NYRR had provided along the course.  Every 400 meters or so, there were volunteers ensuring that runners in Central Park stayed out of our lane and that the 60k runners were staying on course. But more importantly, they were little cheer sections for us – smiling faces holding signs, waving, and offering words of encouragement.  This was true from mile 1 to mile 37. 
I started to warm up a bit more during this lap. My legs felt great and I felt I was running a comfortable pace to start. 
Within a few miles of the run, I decided to abandon the goal of maintaining an 8:20 pace for the first 28 miles.  I wanted to be comfortable and did not want to be out of breath or feel like I was pushing myself to maintain a certain pace.  It seemed that 8:30 was the pace I kept gravitating towards. An extra 10 seconds a mile equates to less than 5 minutes over 28 miles, so I decided the increase in time was definitely worth my comfort and sanity! 
I ran into my girlfriend, Stephanie, who was manning a checkpoint/cheer area along the west side at 95th Street.  I have known her and her wonderful family since I was 5 years old!  Seeing her smiling face – and knowing I would see her for the next several hours – was a good feeling…She managed to take a picture of me coming down one of the hills  on my first full loop of the park –  —  —  —- >
Lap 3 (3.98m: 33:23: 8:23 pace — 9.42m: 1:21:17: 8:38 pace)
I maintained the same pace for the next loop and felt great. I continued drinking water every 1/2 mile or so on my own and taking one cup of water at the water/gatorade stations (located at 2 points along the course).  After having some stomach cramps during the NYC Marathon, I decided to stick with just water and forego the gatorade during the race.
I took a second power gel at the 7 mile mark.  Even though I felt like I didn’t need it, I was trying to stay ahead of my caloric needs and ensure I was getting an appropriate amount of calories to sustain me for later on in the race.
Lap 4 (3.98m: 32:56: 8:16 pace — 13.4m: 1:54:17: 8:32 pace)
The 3rd full loop around the park was the most comfortable for me.  I was enjoying the run and the pace felt easy and relaxed.  I slowed down a bit going up and down the hills but felt strong on the straightaways.  
I took a third power gel just before the water station at the end of the 4th lap.  
By this point, Central Park was becoming more crowded – it was around 9:30am when I started this loop – and there were many runners, bikers, and tourists out.  I was surprised at the amount of attention and cheering we received from the early morning exercisers. 
Lap 5 (3.98m: 33:22: 8:23 pace — 17.38m: 2:27:35: 8:29 pace)
Another comfortable loop. It seemed most runners had settled into their pace – there wasn’t much passing during this lap or the one prior.  It was starting to warm up a bit more – I debated taking off my arm warmers, but was concerned of the areas in the shade.
I got lapped by at least 3 of the lead runners during this loop – although I knew I would be lapped at least once, it was not exactly the best motivation at this point in the run for me. But knowing that I was approaching the halfway point made it much more manageable.  
Lap 6 (3.98m: 33:49: 8:29 pace — 21.36m: 3:01:24: 8:30 pace)
About a mile into the loop – along the 72nd St transverse, I saw my husband and son (who was sleeping peacefully in his stroller).  I didn’t want to stop to say hi as I was feeling great and find that I often have a hard time starting after I stop.  I gave a quick wave and continued on my way. 
Took a fourth (and what would be my final) power gel at  mile 19 (just before a water point).  
At the start of each loop, I did a quick mental check of my body and how I was feeling.  My only issue was my left calf – it seemed to be tightening up and was beginning to hurt going up the hills.  I still had water left in my camelbak and felt that I was properly hydrated.  

Is this guy seriously videotaping me?

Lap 7 (3.98m: 34:32: 8:41 pace — 25.34m: 3:35:55: 8:31 pace)
I started the 6th full loop of the park knowing that I it was the last loop that I wanted to try to maintain around an 8:30 pace.  I still felt great and was on track for that pace – but ended up running alongside and chatting with another runner from mile 22 to 23 (pace was 9:05 that mile). It was a welcomed distraction and I did not mind losing a little time on my target pace.
My legs were continuing to tighten up, but overall, felt pretty good. I had no stomach issues (drinking only water must have been paying off) and still seemed to have a good amount of energy – especially going up hills. 
I ran by my husband again, but did not see him – he had changed location and I was zoned out listening to my music. 

The lap passed by quickly.  I was excited to see that I would get to 26.2 in around 3:43 – faster than I ran the NYC Marathon 2 weeks ago (click HERE for the race recap).  
Lap 8 (3.98: 41:53: 10:31 pace — 29.32: 4:17:47: 8:48 pace)
Do you know the phrase “The wheels came off”?  That is an understatement when describing what happened to me sometime around mile 26.  Right after I finished Lap 7, I stopped (for the first time) at my bag that I left on the side of the road. I had run out of power gels and had planned on taking one at miles 27 and 33.  Unfortunately, the moment I stopped, my body cramped up and seemed to want to quit.  Standing still for the first time in 3 1/2 hours felt SO GOOD.  
This was one of the toughest parts of the whole race for me.  I knew I still had 3 loops left (12 miles).  And all I could think about was sitting down.  I realized that my stomach had started growling – so instead of the power gels (note: I stuck 2 in my sports bra just in case), I opted for a few energy bites.  I love energy bites – but they are extremely difficult to chew – so rather than try to run and eat them, I decided to walk for a couple of minutes and ensure I was properly fueled. 
When I started running again (after a 5 min break), my body felt completely different.  I couldn’t get into the comfortable rhythm I was in just a few minutes prior.  Every step became a struggle and I quickly started looking at my garmin every minute or so – hoping that the miles would just disappear.  

My son and best friend – it was SO hard to keep running after seeing them!

I ran into my husband, son, best friend, and her boyfriend at mile 27.  I stopped running when I saw them – and experienced the same I don’t want to continue feelings that I had just a mile before.  I was SO tempted to just stop and stay with them.  I even remember saying Oh my gosh, this SUCKS to my husband. 
I managed to run at a 9 min pace for the remainder of the loop.  But, I realized that never factored in the stop time in my goal of 9 min/miles for the last three loops.  So although I was running at the pace I had wanted, it took me almost 6 min longer than I anticipated.  

This picture sums up what I was feeling…”Ummmm…I really don’t want to run anymore!”

Lap 9 (3.98: 40:35: 10:12 pace — 33.3: 4:58:21: 8:58 pace)
I stopped at the baggage area at the start of the lap to grab some more energy bites and drop my camelbak (which was now empty).  I immediately started walking and found it was slightly easier to start running again from a walk then a standstill.  I maintained the same pace during this lap, but found that I had to walk up 5 of the bigger hills.  My legs were shot and I knew that it made more sense to conserve energy on the uphills and run on the downhills and flat areas.  
My husband met up with me at mile 31 and ran with me to the finish. Knowing he was beside me – not to talk or push me – but just to be there was a comforting feeling. 
Lap 10 (3.98: 43:07: 10:50 pace — 37.28: 5:41:28: 9:10 pace)
By far, the slowest lap for me.  We finished lap 9 and I had to stop myself from breaking down.  There were a handful of runners already finished (about 15) and seeing them stop and rest was  soul crushing.  I only had 4 miles left – which was small compared to what I already completed – but it was still 4 long, slow miles to run/walk.  
I maintained the same tactic as the previous lap.  Run on the downhills and easy areas and walk going up the hills.  I think I walked less than the previous lap, but couldn’t get my pace to anything less than 9:30-9:45.  I just kept telling myself to NEVER STOP.  Never stop moving – even if it meant I had to walk the last few miles.  
I ran the last loop half in a daze.  At mile 35, we passed a good friend, her mom and her son, who were waving and shouting for us.  I didn’t realize that I knew them until we were passing them by (I even knew they were in town and were going to be along the course!). 
The last mile passed by quicker than the previous few miles.  I looked up to see we were in the last straightaway before the finish area and started crying – partially from joy that I was about to finish my first ultra, partially from happiness that I could stop moving and rest, but mostly from pure exhaustion and pain.  

Final Stats:
37.28: 5:41:28: 9:10 pace 
8th place female
53rd overall

After walking a bit after the race, we took a cab to the west side to my sister’s apartment where my son and sister were staying warm.  I showered, nursed my son, and was able to kick up my feet and finally relax!!  
The final few laps and the remainder of Saturday were filled with me vowing to never run an ultra again.  But, as is often the case, I am quickly forgetting the pain – and am already thinking of my next one!

Never Stop!!

“You have to forget your last (ultra) marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.”
Frank Shorter

Goals for Knickerbocker 60k

18 Nov

Tomorrow is my first ultra.  I am competing in the Knickerbocker 60k in Central Park.  The course includes a short out and back (totaling 1.5 miles) and then 9x 4-mile loops of the park’s inner loop (thankfully, it does NOT include the arduous upper or lower portions of the park).
Here is a link of the course.

I had a long debate with myself about whether or not this course was the best for my first ultra.  There are definitely some disadvantages. First, Central park is notoriously hilly.  And although the upper section is eliminated, there are still sections that can kill your legs after repeated visits. Second, 9x loops will be a HUGE mental obstacle, especially since we will be passing the start/finish line each time. I’m fully anticipating to experience the temptation of wanting to stop each time I pass it, especially in the later miles. Third, it’s only 2 weeks after the NYC Marathon, so I was worried I would not be fully rested for the long distance.

But, I’m trying to remain positive and remember the advantages of this race:
Refuel and hydration will be easy since we will be passing the water/snack station every 2 miles.
My supporters (husband, son, and one of my sisters) can see me run by more than any other race before.
My husband (and possibly a girlfriend) plan to jump in for a loop or two to push and pace me during the later miles.
The course allows me to concentrate on getting through 4 miles at a time.  From what I have experienced in my training and learned from other ultra runners, you need to break the race into manageable segments.  So I can’t start out thinking that I have 9, 8, or 7 loops to go…it will be crush me.
There will be a professional photographer taking our race pictures –> that means LOTS of opportunity for running pictures since we will be passing him nine times! =)
The weather forecast looks PERFECT for tomorrow – 40 degrees at race start and close to 50 by race end. Light winds and sunny.


I wasn’t going to write an entry regarding my time goal for tomorrow’s race.  I’m extremely nervous about my first attempt at this mileage and didn’t want to make my goals public in case I failed.
Anything could happen in a race this long. You always hear elites saying that anything could happen in a marathon – and this is 11 miles longer!
My stomach might not cooperate, my legs may decide they are not up to the distance, or I may just have an off day of running(which happens at least once a week!).
I usually keep my goals secret (I sometimes don’t even tell my husband or family) because I don’t like failing.
But then I wonder – if I don’t run this race in the time I want, am I a failure?
I think back to where I was last year at this time.  7+ months pregnant, carrying much more weight on my body then I am now, waddling on my daily runs, and nervous that I would not get back into the running shape I had been in prior to getting pregnant.
I read a post from Mile Posts, a blogger I love, on a similiar subject and realized that no matter what the time clock says when I cross the finish line, I will have succeeded – purely for trying and pushing myself to the limit. And at the end of the day, I will have a new PR to put on my blog tomorrow!!

Running the SI Half-Marathon @ 27 weeks pregnant

So, my first goal is to finish.  To say I am an ultrarunner.
My second goal is to complete the race in under 5 hrs 25 min (around an 8:45 min/mi pace).  My last long training run was a 30 miler which I completed at a relaxed and comfortable 8:34 pace.
Out and back portion: 8:30 (roughly 12 min, 45 sec)
Lap 1-6: 8:20 (3 hours 20 min)
Lap 7-9: 9:00 (1 hour 50 min)
Total time: 5:22:45

I’m not being more ambitious with the pace because I’m most concerned about how my legs will react to the hills.  Most of my training takes place on the Staten Island boardwalk – a gorgeous out and back route along the eastern portion of my hometown.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t give me much practice with running up hills since it’s flat as a pancake.

Gorgeous view on my morning runs!
No hills!

On long runs, I often repeat NEVER STOP, NEVER STOP (running) when I start to feel tired and want to quit.  Never Stop means SO many things to me and has become my mantra in recent months. I plan to NEVER STOP TRYING tomorrow!!

Running through Pregnancy – Part 2 – the 1st Trimester

15 Nov

In case you missed it, Part 1 can be found here.

The first trimester started off great. I was running 6x days/wk, anywhere from 4-10 mi/day and 45-50 mi/wk.  
But by week 8, I started to feel extremely tired, out of breath, and achy when I was running.  I constantly felt like I needed to stop and walk – so despite not wanting to, this is what I did.  I began doing a run/walk interval (running 1-2 miles, then walking 1/2 mile). I’ve never been a walker so I was surprised to find I actually enjoyed it! However, I was extremely discouraged – I really missed being able to run for more than 10-15 at a time and was worried that my plans to run throughout pregnancy were lost. 

Looking back, I think I was overly cautious with my running and exercise in the first few months.  Any time I was out of breath, I stopped and walked.  I never wanted to come close to being winded or tired. I didn’t want to do anything that I might regret down the road.  It was hard to convince myself that my baby was okay with all the jostling and movement he was experiencing…at the time, he was barely the size of a kidney bean! And, I felt that my body was trying to tell me something. Of course, there’s been plenty of studies and research done to prove that there is NO harm to your baby if you run – even early on when your baby is so tiny.  But, I couldn’t get the fact that I just didn’t feel “right” when I was running out of my head. 

It’s SO important to do whatever you are comfortable with.  Don’t feel pressure to keep up with those that may have been able to run their whole pregnancy. Everyone and every pregnancy is different!  Listen to your body!

I knew I wanted to run more than anything.  But, my baby’s health – and my piece of mind – meant even more. 

I gained a whooping 9 pounds from my first to second ob-gyn appointment!  I was astounded!!  How could I have gained that much weight? I really hadn’t consumed that many more calories than I had been. The astronomical weight gain scared me – I was on track to put on over 70 pounds!! My doctor assured me I shouldn’t panic – the weight gain was my body’s way of preparing itself for the next 7 months. 

So here I was – barely 2 months into pregnancy…I couldn’t push myself to run more than a couple of miles at a time and I had already gained close to 10 pounds.  Throw in the hormones, exhaustion, and stress of becoming a new mom soon and you get an idea of how out of it I was! I told myself to put it into perspective – the “rough” few months were mostly self-imposed – I was fine, my pregnancy was going well, and more importantly, my baby was growing and had no health issues. 

Thankfully, by the end of the first trimester, I found that my breathing was under control and was comfortable enough to begin increasing my mileage again.  It seemed to happen overnight and I was so thankful for the opportunity to just run!

The hardest transition for me during the first trimester was to LET GO on runs and not worry about my speed. It was difficult to know that every run was going to be slow – I no longer had runs where I pushed myself as hard as I could go or returned home covered in sweat.  When you have an “easy” day scheduled on your training plan, it’s welcomed and appreciated.  But, every day was basically an “easy” run for me. I quickly realized how much I missed being free to test my limits when I wanted to!

Tips and Suggestions
– I started running with a waterbottle in the first trimester.  Hydration is important throughout pregnancy, but especially in the first trimester. Quick medical jargon:Almost immediately after becoming pregnant, the volume of your entire circulatory system (heart, arteries, and veins) increases. But, there is not enough blood in circulation (yet) to fill up the expanded system.  So, your body goes through a series of actions and ultimately the kidneys decrease the excretion of water and salt to the rest of the body. 
– Pay attention to environmental conditions – humidity, heat, smoke, direct sunlight – that can cause your internal body temperature to rise and stay elevated for long stretches of time. 
– If you don’t feel right before a run, turn it into a walk or hop on the stationery bike or elliptical.  If you feel better after getting started, then try running.  Don’t push yourself and trust your first instinct. Even if you are “just walking”, you are still out there exercising – which is the best thing you can do for yourself and your baby. 
– Don’t ignore symptoms that could indicate a serious problem – pain (both localized and persistent), sudden change in well-being, and vaginal bleeding (according to Dr. James F. Clapp III) are all signs of a potential complication. Call your doctor if you are unsure. In the first few months, I called my ob-gyn no less then four times with questions regarding something I was feeling or seeing. 

I wore a lot of dresses early on because we didn’t share the baby news until I was in the 2nd trimester!

Running through Pregnancy – Part 1

14 Nov

This is the first in a series that I am writing dedicated to running during pregnancy.  They will discuss what I experienced and learned from my successful “run” through pregnancy, some tips and advice as you and your baby continue to grow, and clothing options (if you are like me and don’t want to spend a lot of $$ on running clothes you will only wear for a couple off months). 

First, a disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, nor do I have “expertise” when it comes to running during pregnancy.  So what am I basing these posts on?  
– I am currently in the process of receiving my certification as a Pre / Post-Natal Exercise Specialist.  
– I ran up until the day before I went into labor and ran my first mile only 5 days post-delivery.

Second, a word of caution: Running during pregnancy is NOT for everyone.  If you weren’t a runner before you got pregnant, now may not be the time to pick it up.  Stick with what you were doing and comfortable with prior to pregnancy.  And, if you decide you want to give it a try, definitely discuss your intentions with your obstetrician early on in your pregnancy.

When I found out I was pregnant in May 2010, I was training for a 24-hour race in July. My husband and I had planned on waiting a few more years before having our first child, so I didn’t attribute the symptoms I was experiencing to pregnancy – it was the furthest thing on my mind. 

In the weeks prior, I hadn’t felt “right”.  I am normally pretty in-tune with my body, so the sudden change in how I was feeling was extremely disconcerting. I was achy and exhausted.  I was out of breath on short runs (even had to stop running on a couple of runs).  I was quesy in the mornings. 

Of course, these are normal signs of pregnancy.  And I’ve watched TLC’s I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant and wondered how these women could not know!!  But, we were using contraceptive methods and I had assumed it was 100% effective, so the possibility of being pregnant never even crossed my mind.  

I assumed something was lacking in my diet and even scheduled an appointment with a nutritionist.  I had recently completed the longest run I had attempted (28 miles) and thought I could need more calories, protein, or carbs in my diet because of the increase in mileage.  

But, a few days after a failed 20+ miler (I was able to run 16 slow miles), I decided to take a pregnancy test…and then another…and another.  They all came back positive. I somehow managed to get pregnant!! 

Although not planned or expected, I couldn’t have been happier.  My running plans and ALL the races I had signed up in the coming 6+ months no longer mattered to me.  And, in a way, I felt lucky – I was starting my first pregnancy in the best running shape I had ever been in.  The night we found out I was pregnant, my husband and I went on a wonderful 8-mile run in Central Park. It was during this run that I made the decision to try to run throughout my entire pregnancy. I hadn’t given it much thought prior to this because I hadn’t planned on getting pregnant and starting our family for another few years!

I saw my ob-gyn the following week and discussed my running intentions with him.  Not only was he supportive of my plans to continue running, but he actually encouraged it.  He told me that not running would be far worse for me and my baby then continuing to run.  The reason for this is simple: I’ve been running for years.  My body is used to the miles, the exercise, the movement, the sweat.  If I were to go from running 55+ miles a week to absolutely NOTHING the following week (and continuing to not run for 8+ months), my body would likely react in a negative way. So that was it – I was going to NEVER STOP running!

Below are the guidelines I set for myself during my pregnancy:
– Mileage did not have to dramatically decrease (at least initially). I continued running around 45-50 miles a week early on and gradually decreased over time (each of the subsequent posts will deal with a trimester of running  in which I will discuss how much I was running, what I experienced, how I felt).  In my final week of pregnancy, I was averaging between 20-25 miles/week (running 5x days/week).

Getting ready for 4m race @23 weeks pregnant

– Right off the bat, the biggest change I had to make was the intensity of my runs. Monitoring a pregnant woman’s heart rate is not a practical method to measure the intensity – pregnancy naturally raises your resting heart rate. Instead, I kept all my runs at a pace where I could comfortably hold a conversation.  Anything harder than that was too fast and could cause a decrease of oxygen and other nutrients to my baby. I continued to do mile repeats, tempo runs, and other interval workouts – but the fast portion of each was significantly slower.

– I was still going to compete in a couple of races I had scheduled – but was not going to train to PR or follow a training schedule.  

– I deferred my guaranteed entry for the NYC Marathon until the following year (I would have been 30 weeks pregnant at race-time). The longest race I was comfortable participating in while I was pregnant was a half-marathon.  Based on my comfort-level and my opinion on the subject, I felt that anything longer than that would be foolish. (However, this is all based on what YOU are comfortable with). 

Running the Staten Island Half Marathon @ 28 weeks pregnant

– I promised myself (and my unborn child) that I would listen to my body more than I had ever before.  I didn’t follow a training plan or have a certain mileage I wanted to run each week.  Each run was based on how I felt.  There were days when I woke up not feeling 100% – and so I didn’t run those days.  Or days when I would be a couple of miles in to a run and just not feel right – so I would immediately stop and walk.  This was not the time to set records in pace, mileage, or toughness.  This was a time to stay fit, healthy, happy – but most importantly, to have a healthy baby.

I was often given strange looks in the later months when I was running – as though I were crazy or doing something that could hurt my unborn child (SO UNTRUE!). And I was constantly asked the same question: Why? Why do you need to keep running? 

THERE ARE SO MANY REASONS WHY. (I plan to dedicate an entire entry to this at some point). These are just a few:

– I’ve run my whole life. I couldn’t imagine going even a week without lacing up my sneakers and being outside. I enjoy – and look forward to – the daily exercise, sweat, endorphin-high, and time alone. 

Loving pregnancy @ 30 weeks pregnant

– At a time when my body was changing and I was constantly stressing and worrying about becoming a parent and all that entails, I needed something that was a constant – something that made me happy, cleared my mind, and caused me to relax. 

– I wanted to have as much energy as possible.  Sounds like an oxymoron. Especially since you often hear pregnant women complain about how tired and sluggish they feel. But, studies have shown that daily exercise while pregnant strengthens your cardiovascular system, so you actually don’t tire as easily. 

– The better shape I kept myself in, the stronger I would be for labor and delivery. It is believed that staying fit while pregnant helps decrease labor and delivery time. 

– I wanted to prevent excessive weight gain during the 9 month journey.  I knew I would gain upwards of 25 pounds.  But, I wanted to ensure that the weight gain was not from me lack of activity and poor eating habits. But instead from my growing baby, increased blood volume, and other necessary changes my body was making to prepare for the miracle of childbirth.

– I was anxious to start running postpartum – and knew that if I took excessive months off, it would be SO much harder to get back to the running shape I was in.

– “Exercise can improve the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to your baby, improve stamina, and are associted with positive birth outcomes” according to Ann Cowlin, author of Women’s Fitness Program Development.

Up next…Running Through Pregnancy – Part 2 – The 1st Trimester

Why don’t friends with kids have time?

12 Nov
When my 10 month old son was born, I didn’t talk on the phone (except brief conversations with my husband, mom, or sisters), browse the internet (Facebook), or watch TV when he was awake.  I wanted all of my time and attention to be devoted to him.  I left phone calls, tv shows, and chores for when he was napping or at the end of the day when he was asleep for the night.  I assumed the lack of personal time was temporary and kept telling myself that I would have more time when he got older and was more independent. 
Here I am, 10 months later…with even LESS free time and LESS opportunity to chat or email with friends and family.  While I couldn’t be happier with my son and our days together, I sometimes feel that I am SO separated from the outside world and know that I am extremely difficult to get a hold of these days. 
So when my girlfriend, Leah, sent me this article, I couldn’t help but smile.  It’s a relief to hear that other moms have the same issues I do.  It makes me feel better knowing that I’m not the only one who sometimes just wants an hour of “quiet” when my son naps! 

Hope all the moms (and dads) out there enjoy this article as much as I did!!