Friday, January 31, 2014


For the second week this month, I skipped a short run.  Even though they were no more than 5 miles, missing them still lowered my total weekly mileage.  It has been really difficult for me to muster up any kind of motivation to run in the cold weather.  Yes, I know there are people running in North Dakota and Canada (cuckoo...).  Did I mention that I have very low blood pressure?  Like 90/50.  After giving birth to my son in the hospital, my doctor was one beat away from zapping me with the defibrillator because my blood pressure was "not compatible with life" (I love the way she worded it!).  I drive with the heat on the "hell" setting and keep my hands on the vents unless I'm turning.  If you're going to be a passenger in my car, dress accordingly.  Layers.

 I also have been slowing most of my runs down to a 9 minute pace.  In the past, it was hard to keep pace without a Garmin.  I wound up running almost a minute faster per mile during what should have been slow, easy runs.  I was physically worn out by the end of my last training cycle.  The past couple of weeks I ran with Map My Run activated to help me regulate myself.  My 12 miler on Monday was run at a 9:08 pace, and yesterday's 11 miler was an 8:58 pace.  Tuesday I ran 10 miles, 5 of which were supposed to be run at half marathon pace (7:48).  For the life of me, I could not do it.  Despite what I thought was a hard effort, I could only get myself to an 8:06 and it only lasted 3 miles.  It was pretty cold out, my toes were frozen and breathing was difficult.  I hope the weather is to blame, rather than me falling apart.  I know there will be some point in my life where my running times will plateau.  I just hope it's much later.

Oh yeah, I also have been dealing with shin splints for the first time in my life.  The intermittent dull aching has been bugging me for about two months.  Have I been treating them?  Let's just say that rubbing ice on my legs in the middle of this polar vortex is the last thing on my to-do list (quite possibly the first thing on my to-don't).

Okay, I'm done whining.

How have you been able to run this winter?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Review: Spirit of the Marathon II: Rome

Wow, it's almost a week since my last post!  I haven't given up writing or running.  The time really just crept up on me.  The joys of getting older.  I blink and all of a sudden it's next week!

A few weeks ago someone from my running club posted an announcement about a movie showing on Facebook.  Spirit of the Marathon II: Rome had a one night only viewing at the AMC Loews on 19th Street in NYC on January 23rd.  I dragged my dear non-running friend, Rodger, with me.  There were about 50 people in the audience, I assume most of them were runners.  The start time was supposed to be 7:00, but the organizer waited until everyone arrived so it was closer to 8.

Rome holds a special place in my heart.  It is my favorite city in the world, maybe tied with New York.  My father (a Venice native who grew up all over Italy and moved to America after meeting my mother in Rome at the age of 25) worked for Alitalia for 25 years.   As  children, my brother and I were fortunate to have traveled to Europe (Italy and France) to visit relatives multiple times.  One year I brought my best friend along and another year my brother and I spent the entire summer in Sardegna.  At the time, I didn't realize how lucky I was.  Now that I am an adult with four children and no ties to any airlines, I am very aware of my past fortunes.

There is so much to love about the city: the food, the people, the attitude (la dolce vita!), the beautiful language, the art, and the history.  I am a mediocre artist so the first time I saw works by da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael up close and personal, I was mesmerized.  Seeing amazing stories played out on canvas in great detail just puts a child's imagination into overdrive.  In some ways, these masterpieces destroyed any hope for me to understand and appreciate modern art.  I mean, to see the Pieta in person at the Vatican and then to see a toilet bowl on display at the New Museum?  Really?  The latter is actually in the same category as the former?  Really?  And then there's the history.  Thousands of years of grandeur, poverty, power, innovation, government, war, and peace all in one place.  Amazing.  I could go on and on.  When the opportunity to watch a film that combines my love of Rome with my love of running arose, how could I say no?

The film is a documentary that follows seven runners from around the world as they prepare to run the marathon in Rome.  Two of the runners are cousins, Mimmo and Domenico, in their 70's who have been running for over forty years.  The third Italian in the film is a middle aged mother of two who opened a running store in her little village.  The Rome Marathon would be her first.  Two Americans are featured, as well.  An older gentleman from the northeast who runs to heal from a family tragedy, and a Masters woman who vowed to run 52 marathons in 52 weeks to raise awareness to pancreatic cancer after her father's death.  Finally, there are two elite runners.  A Ukrainian man who is trying to qualify for the Olympics and a Rwandan woman who is hoping to run the race in a mind boggling 2:34.  There were also interviews with the running gods throughout, including Grete Waitz, Haile Gebrselassie, Bill Rodgers,  and Jeff Galloway.

Of course, I loved the film!  That goes without saying.   It was incredible to see how the elite runners train.  In one scene, the Ukranian is running on the treadmill.  He increases the speed to an unfathomable 18.5.  Yes, they're kilometers, but it's still a 5 minute mile.  You get to know and care about all of the runners. When they're finally running the marathon, I held my breath and kept my fingers crossed in hopes that each would meet his goal.  Even my non-running (Italian loving) buddy was captivated.

I was so pumped up, the next day I watched the original Spirit of the Marathon: Chicago on Hulu for free.  Summary:  Not as good.

Official trailer to Spirit of the Marathon II: Rome

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Let It Snow!

I set out for my boring 16 miler Monday afternoon around 3pm.  I did two 8 mile loops around town.  I stopped halfway to use the bathroom at home.  I considered ending my run then, but that would have been inexcusably lame.  To spice it up a bit, I did my second loop the opposite direction (wild and crazy).  Ten of those miles were supposed to be at Marathon Race Pace.  I finished the run in 2:13:13, an 8:16 pace.  My pace for my last marathon (Mohawk Hudson River) was 8:17 so I'm thinking I did this last run overall too fast.  I need to slow it down a notch.

We had a little snowstorm yesterday on my day off.  Whoo hoo!  Oh, but today wasn't a day off... boo! I wore my Uniqlo heattech turtle neck, an Old Navy thermal shirt, my Avalanche pullover, my Mizuno leggings, and my Yaktrax over my sneaks.  I didn't bring my iPhone because it was 10 degrees out and I didn't want to break it.  It was chilly, but I warmed up after the first mile.  I ran on the streets if they were packed down with snow, otherwise I took to the sidewalks which were mostly shoveled.  Early on a man shoveling laughed when he saw me approach.  He shook his head and said, "You're crazy."  I agreed with him.  Around Mile 4 another man clapped and said "Die hard!  Nice!"  I would be lying if I said I didn't feel like a total bad ass.  I enjoyed listening to the crunch of snow under my feet with each footfall.  The scenery was a beautiful winter wonderland.  My only complaint was that my face felt frozen throughout.  I didn't see any other runners, which is unusual in my town.  I didn't incorporate the scheduled 10 x 100 speed work because of the ice.  I finished my 8 miles (no time) feeling completely invigorated.  Antarctica, here I come!  (wink wink) (not really)

Yaktrax:  Yes, I think I put my left one on inside out.
So what?!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Robert Moses 5k Review

FOREWARD (or Be Forewarned)

If someone tries to tell you that going out with friends and having a couple (I use that term loosely) of drinks the night before a race is a good idea, don't believe him.  He either a) hates you, b) thinks you're a functioning alcoholic, or c) thinks you're a much better runner than I actually am you actually are.  In this particular instance that I'm about to recount, the "someone" who told me it would be a good idea is me.  And the answer to the multiple choice is c).


The starting line for the Robert Moses 5k was in the parking lot of Field 2 of the state park.  The park is five miles of ocean beach.  Our family frequents this beach a lot during the summer.  It is not as crowded as Jones Beach and the walk from your car to the water is short, unlike many beaches on Long Island.  There's not much going on during the winter.  Today, it was only the race.  When my friend and I arrived, the parking lot was pretty crowded.  The Robert Moses 5k is the second race out of four in the popular Long Island State Parks Winter Run Series.  There were 852 runners total.

The race had a theme:  "crazy hats".  I love stuff like this so I happily wore a purple velvet hat that I picked up on the streets of Georgetown back in college.  It's pretty funky and retro, with a little hint of pimp.  L was not wearing a hat when she picked me up at the house (a sign).  When we arrived at the park and were walking to get our numbers, I realized there were about five of us out of 852 who were wearing "crazy hats".  Typical.  There were many a Halloween party I attended in my youth in which the party was thrown at a bar or club on the weekend because Halloween itself fell during the week.  I would convince my friends to dress up because after all, we were going to a HALLOWEEN PARTY!  I mean, duh.  And every time we did this, we would be the only ones in costumes.  Yup.  This trend has followed me into adulthood, apparently (Note:  If you ever attend "Pajama Storytime Night" at my son's elementary school, the pajamas are only meant to be worn by the children.  Even though, they wrote in the flyer that EVERYONE should come in their jammies.  99% of the parents interpreted "everyone" to mean "just the kids".  Again, I'm part of the 1%.  Why can't I be part of the 1% when it matters?  Like the 1% of billionaires in this country?!  I digress...)  

The concession area was transformed into the staging area for packet pickup and post-race snacks.  We stayed warm in here until about 10:45.  

I guess I was really happy to be warm.

There were pace markers at the start which was a good indication that this was going to be a large race for local standards.  L and I lined up between the 7 and 8:00 minute mile signs.  

(photo courtesy of M. Stroehlein)

The countdown began and the next thing you know, we were off.  The cones bottlenecked the runners until we made it out of the parking lot and onto the causeway.  My breathing was labored and I felt a dull nausea lurking between my stomach and my neck (see Forward).  I had my usual race urge to stop and walk back to the car, but this time it was accompanied by the urge to pass out.   I was exhausted.  I imagined what it would be like to have your heart explode.  Does this ever happen? Does it happen while running?  Short distances?  I passed the first mile marker where the clock read 9:07.  I figured it must be 7:07 judging by my effort.  My feelings of despair did not subside during the second mile, even as we turned around running back toward Field 2.  The Mile 2 clock read 9:15 (7:15?).  Who the hell knew?  Of course, I had forgotten to start my watch, so I really wasn't sure what was going on.  We passed Field 2 again early so I knew there was another turnaround in my future.  I could see the lead runners on the other side of the causeway.  I felt both awe and irritation towards them.  When I finally returned to the Field 2 parking lot, I debated whether it was too late in the race to quit.  By the time I came up with an answer, I passed the 3 mile clock whose time I did not take note of only because that last .1 seemed a  lot farther than a .1 should.  I crossed the finish at 23:52.  I hoped the clocks were still two minutes slow, but deep down knew I was grasping at straws.  They announced that the awards ceremony would be held at the next race of the series.  I didn't think I would be missing anything.  L and I met up.  Despite the chill and wind, she managed to PR.  I, on the other hand, was almost three minutes slower than my PR.  On the bright side, I didn't quit and I didn't hurl and I'm pretty sure the race photographer didn't catch any gagging (hopefully).

Even though I was miserable during the entire run due to my own poor judgment and the weather, the race organization was great.  Everything was well marked and the food, drink, and porta-potties were plentiful.  The organizers and fellow runners were friendly and helpful.  I saw the red Seldon Hills shirts out on the course which made me smile because I thought of my buddy, The Petite Pacer.  I recommend this race and would do it again.  Minus the hangover.  And minus the "crazy hat".

Thrilled to be done.


I finished 3rd in my age group and 82nd overall out of 852.  Maybe a hangover is not such a bad thing, after all.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Yesterday, we had on and off showers all day.  I procrastinated my run until my daughter got home from school.  She arrived, but by then I decided I was hungry and would rather eat than run.  I thought I might go when Pete got home at 7, but I had a borderline catastrophic (well, catastrophic to me) evening between a Sharpie masterpiece on the new couch in the den (courtesy of two year old), my two eldest kickboxing to the point of tears, and my son puking up his entire dinner while picking up #1 from soccer.  Running might have calmed my nerves, but by the time Pete came home, all I wanted to do was run away to Italy with my young, imaginary boyfriend Leonardo go to bed.   My 9 miler evaporated into thin air.

Today there were no excuses.  Pete shuffled me out the door a little after 9am.  It was very foggy, damp and 38 degrees.  I ran my first two miles at an 8:30 pace.  I figured this run was going to be slower than I planned.  The next five miles I picked up my speed to what I thought was half marathon pace.  It was tough.  I thought by my effort that I was dragging along.  It ended up being a 7:26 pace.  The last mile I cooled down.  I cut the run short because Pete had to get to work.  I finished 8 miles in 1:02:24, a 7:48 pace.  This actually really surprised me, but I'll take it!

I wanted to mention my friend, Lori King.  She is not a runner.  She is a swimmer.  Not just your ordinary run-of-the-mill swimmer.  She swims marathon open water events.  And she places overall (meaning above the guys).  You would never guess this upon meeting her.  She is adorable, tiny, self-depracating, and modest beyond belief.  Her next big adventure is swimming the Catalina Channel in August.  This is no easy feat.  It is 20 miles from the coast of California to Catalina Island and the water temperature is typically cold.  Part of her training consists of swimming in the ocean off Coney Island, Brooklyn in the middle of winter.  Yeah, crazy.  But dedicated.  The reason I mention her is because she is looking for corporate sponsorship.  If you're a swimmer (I know there are a bunch of triathletes out there!  Yeah, I'm talkin' to you!), know a swimmer, or know anyone in the swimming apparel/gear industry and think you'd like to help, please visit her site  She's pretty awesome.  (For the record, I'm a terrible swimmer and I dislike swimming in the ocean immensely.  And yes, I did sail across the Atlantic Ocean in a 44 foot catamaran as a lass.  Did I mention I'm a sucker for adventure?)

Hi Lori!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Sunday was my medium long run.  It was a sunny 45 degree morning at 11am.  I wore my gray long sleeve tech turtle neck with a pink long sleeve over it, black pants, my sunglasses, gloves, and my black wool army hat.  I set out for the north shore with one FRS chew and a couple of dollars in my pocket.

I ran north through Hempstead, Garden City, Mineola, New Hyde Park, Manhasset Hills, and then finally Manhasset.  The route is flat until Mile 8, the beginning of Shelter Rock Road.  I stopped at the 10 mile mark at the King Kullen supermarket on the corner of Northern Boulevard.  I ate my FRS chew (not as gross as I expected) and bought a Gatorade.  After fueling, I initiated Map My Run to clock the last five miles.  I ran through Plandome, Flower Hill, Munsey Park, and back to Flower Hill to my mother's house.  These last five miles were rolling hills, terrain my legs hadn't seen in months.  I was able to power through them, but I definitely felt rusty.

My run ended up being 15.49 miles in 2:16:30, an 8:51 pace.   To quoth the modern day classic Care Bears sports film ("The Great Race"), "Slow and steady wins the race."  Um, maybe I need to broaden my film library beyond the G rating... 

Did you have a long run this weekend?  Have you seen this Care Bears movie?  

Postscript:  I don't think the FRS chew had any effect on my energy level.  I will try two squares next time.  I also drank a large glass of skim milk with the Designer Whey protein drink as soon as I completed my run.  Other than the powder clumping at the top of the glass, it was okay.  If I notice any changes, either positive or negative, you'll be the first to know!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Fuel Hardy

I am a big fan of the status quo.  Change is not good in my book.  I am very suspicious of new things (okay, everything).  If I could have my way, I'd still be living at my parents' house on the north shore (sans parents, of course), riding my brother's Schwinn 10 speed bike from the mid-'80s, and listening to my new wave mixed tapes on my Sony walkman.  So switching running fuel and starting protein shakes is kind of big deal in my world.

I only fuel for runs longer than 14 miles.  I used to eat one gel during half marathons at the ten mile mark until one day I forgot it.  Forgetting made no difference whatsoever in my performance.  When I do a 20 miler, I'll have a gel at 10 miles and then one at 16. During a full marathon, I'll carry four: 1st at 10, 2nd at 14, 3rd at 18, 4th at 22.

I have been using Gu gels as fuel for long runs since my first marathon in 2004.  Originally, I started with chocolate (yum!) until I developed a full blown migraine during the Philadelphia Marathon, my first.  I had four gels in the first 13 miles (way too many), not realizing they contained caffeine.  Caffeine is a huge headache trigger for me.  I couldn't see and was one gag away from hurling on the half marathon marker.  Luckily, I was able to find Pete after being separated from him since Mile 6.  We then found a nearby ambulance.  The EMT gave me an ounce of aspirin and poof!  I was cured.  (Even with this emergency interruption, I still finished in 4:18.  Oh yeah!)  Since then, I made sure I only ate the caffeine free flavored Gus.  There aren't that many:  lemon lime and strawberry banana.  I carry the gels in a pocket on my shorts or pants or in my fuel belt.  To say a warm gel is gross is an understatement.  It's so gross, you almost would rather trudge through your run exhausted than have to suck down this warm, sugary, sticky, oozy substance.

In my search for alternatives, I found energy blocks.  I went to The Vitamin Shoppe and saw FRS Healthy Energy soft chews.  For about $15 you get a bag of 30 squares, a little larger than a Starburst.  The Vitamin Shoppe employee told me there was no caffeine in the chews.  I looked on the bag and I couldn't find caffeine in the nutritional information.  Only when I got home and searched on the internet did I see that there is naturally occurring caffeine from the green tea extract.  Hmmm, do I take the chance on tomorrow's 15 mile run?  Maybe I'll just take one.

My other Vitamin Shoppe purchase was the Designer Whey protein powder (Gourmet chocolate flavored, of course).  I keep reading that after a hard workout, you should consume protein within 20-30 minutes for muscle repair.  I never really did this.  Many times I would scarf down a bowl of Grape Nuts, only because I would be starving.  Other times, however, I wouldn't eat for at least an hour because I had been gone for so long, I would need to take care of whatever business needed taking care of.  The DesignerWhey powder has 18 grams of protein in each serving, 100 calories, and 3 grams of fiber.  I'm not looking to get Schwarzenegger big.  I just want to preserve what muscle I do have for my best performance.

I ran 4 miles on Thursday, 10 Friday at 4:30pm in the 40 degree mist, and took today off.

What kind of fuel do you use?  Do you drink protein shakes?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

8 Felt Gr8

I was going to go out this morning after I made the kids' lunches at 7am.  It was still dark and below 10 degrees.  My warm bed was a more enticing option I couldn't refuse.  As the day progressed, so did my laziness.  Finally at 3pm when my oldest got home from school, I ran out the door.  It was 21 degrees.  I was wearing a fleece hat, my sunglasses, my Mizuno cold weather tights, a tech turtle neck, and my Avalanche pullover jacket.  The run felt absolutely great.  I ran 8 miles in 1:04:01, an 8:00 per mile pace.  I incorporated 10 x100 strides.

Good to know the reflective zipper works 
like a charm!

Someone mentioned the Martha's Vineyard 20 miler on the Runner's World message boards.  I thought traveling to the race in the winter from Long Island would be more difficult than the actual race.  But when I thought about it some more, the more it became attractive.  We have friends who live on the Vineyard, one of whom is an avid, accomplished runner (5ks in the teens and marathons in the 3:teens).  He is actually a course marshall at the ten mile mark on this particular race.  He said the great thing about the 20 miler is that most participants are Boston bound and that I will likely find a nice group at any particular pace to chat up about the marathon.   Doesn't he know I don't like to talk to other people?  Especially during a race?!  Well, if I do decide to run this, it would be a training run.  It would be a nice change of scenery (I'm getting so bored of my routes!  Like, seriously.  Bored.).  The weather can be kind of iffy (the first ten miles are along the coast), but I think it will be worth it.  Looks like I already made up my mind.  Now to get the rest of the family on board!  

Monday, January 6, 2014


We thought it might be fun to go up to the Berkshires the last weekend of the kids' Christmas vacation.   We drove up Friday afternoon, the day after the "blizzard".  The major highways were all cleared and there was barely any traffic on I-95.  Yes, you read correctly.  No traffic on I-95.  We spend a lot of time in the Berkshires, usually at our friend's summer camp.  This trip we decided to stay at the Clarion Hotel in Northampton.  We've stayed at this hotel a handful of times over the years.  There's an indoor pool which is great for the kids in the winter, and it's a little less than a mile from the center of town.  Northampton is a bohemian college town.  There are trendy restaurants and funky boutiques all along Main Street.

I had two runs on schedule for this weekend, a 4 miler and a medium long run of 14 miles.  Because of the snow, I thought I was going to do my long run on the treadmill until I found out there was no hotel treadmill.  I had to make an "emergency" shopping trip to the local T.J. Maxx to pick up some cold weather running clothes.  Yay for me!  I found warm Layer 8 leggings, a lined gray turtle neck, and a lined gray Layer 8 zippered jacket.

Pete informed me that he was off on Monday so I decided to move my runs up a day. Sunday morning the temperature was around 10 degrees when I headed to the Manhan Rail Trail.  The Trail is almost exactly one mile east on Mount Tom Road from the hotel.  Mount Tom Road is right off of Interstate 91.  Cars go pretty fast.  Luckily, the shoulders weren't completely covered with snow and there was enough room to run.  I arrived at the entrance to the trail only to discover the paved path had not been plowed.  Plan B, I continued running on Mount Tom Road into Easthampton.   At the two mile mark, I turned around and headed back to the hotel.  I stopped at the Oxbow (an extension of the Connecticut River) to take a picture because it had frozen over,  It was a beautiful sight.  A couple of cars honked at me while I did this.  One, they thought I looked cute taking a picture of the Oxbow; or two, they thought I looked crazy taking a picture of the Oxbow on the side of a major road in the freezing cold.  Whatever the reason, it's extremely irritating.  Please creepy drivers, just keep your admiration/disdain to yourselves.  Don't honk.  I digress.  So after I snapped the picture, my phone quit working.  I remember The Petite Pacer  mentioned she sometimes had trouble with her phone in the cold weather.  I knew the mileage, but I could no longer time it.  I made it back to the hotel safe and warm.

Manhan Rail Trail

Frozen over Oxbow

I finally got my 14 miler in today at 3pm when the rain subsided.  I did my usual 8 mile loop and then my usual 6.38 mile loop.  The temperature rose to 43 so the snow and ice, thankfully had all but disappeared.  The run was pretty uneventful.  I passed the Molloy College men's something team running down one of the residential streets.  I'm not sure if they're on the track team or if a run is part of their warm up.  This is the second time I've seen them.  At mile 10 I saw a gorgeous sunset over one of the elementary schools.  The sun set pretty quickly because by the time I figured out my camera doesn't quite capture colors as it should, it was almost gone.

It was much prettier a minute before I snapped this.

A video clip from Mile 10: 
Starring Keyser Søze as The Sun
Chazz Palminteri as Me

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Hangover Run and the End of an Era

Yesterday morning I joined my blogger friends, The Emergining Runner and The Petite Pacer, for the Long Island Road Runners' Club Annual New Year's Day Hangover 5 Miler at Eisenhower Park.  Another running buddy, Leah, joined us as well.  The run is timed, but there are no chips.  It is a fun run.  I was debating beforehand whether or not I wanted to race.  I decided it would be more enjoyable to chat with friends, rather than go crazy for a time that will only exist in my head.

After the run, they had a table set up with lots of carby (yes, I just made that up) foods, most notably a delicious cake with lots o' frosting.  The coffee was all caffeinated so I had to pass and the hot chocolate was not so hot.  I suggested another Stabucks outing and my buddies happily agreed.  I'm thrilled to have this new group of friends since I usually run these local races solo.  Our next outing is a relay in February!  So psyched.

Today is the last day of my Runner's World Running Streak.  I ran 36 days consecutively since Thanksgiving.  On my regular days off, I would just run one mile.  These easy days were fun.  I'm happy it's over, though.  I've read about some people who claim to be streaking since the '70s (as in bell bottoms and KC & the Sunshine Band).  I find this hard to believe, but I guess anything is possible.

My last streak day was an 8 miler.  I ran it in 1:04:23, an 8:03 pace.  Four of the eight miles were supposed to be at half marathon pace (7:48), but I winged it and ran by feel.  It ended up being a 7:38 pace.  Cool.

TPP and ER

Leah, ER, TPP, and me
(Is my head three times the size as TPP's??)