November 25, 2015

That pesky knee

Most of you know or probably have observed that I've had some issues with my left knee for a while. I had a pretty serious knee injury in high school while I was swimming that resulted in surgery.  Basically the outcome was keep cross training and keep your quads strong. There were days that it bothered me and days that I forgot it had ever been an issue. Even throughout the training for my first half marathon, it stayed under the radar. Generally speaking, my knee wasn't really an issue until I started running more consistently.

Most of the time, it's simply been an inconvenience when I run. I would occasionally use kinesiology tape during a run and ice it after a run. I focused on staying strong and that was that. I've noticed that with both Richmond Marathon and my most recent Marine Corps Marathon, my knee started acting up close to race day and then hurt during the race. And after both races, it still seemed quite inflamed and took me some time to be able to run on it. 
My trusty old KT tape application
This time has been even worse...I haven't been able to run since Marine Corps Marathon simply because it hurts so much. It's a different kind of hurt...a sharp pain, not the dull ache to which I am accustomed. It scares me a bit to know what's really going on in the joint. I promised myself that I would make a visit to an orthopedist to get it checked out after we return from our honeymoon. 

So fellow running friends, how have you handled potential injuries or those that simply won't go away? Given that I don't have any races on the calendar anytime soon, I feel pretty relaxed about this but annoyed that running isn't in my workout repertoire these days.

November 24, 2015

New York City Marathon, why it was not a one and done

When I registered for the NYC Marathon last January 15th as a time qualifier, it was to check off a box on my bucket list of races.  To be specific, it was to check off a marathon major.  Now that I have spent the race weekend in New York City and run the marathon, my thoughts have changed entirely on the whole experience.  My prior opinion of NYC was just so so.  It was another large city, one where I had only spent small periods of time.  So this trip would be just another one of those long weekend adventures that included a little marathon race.

After arriving on Friday, we checked into our beautiful hotel on the upper west side of the city just a few blocks from Central Park.  It was absolutely gorgeous weather and our plan was to dump our suitcase and head to the race expo. Everything went like clockwork and we arrived at the Expo and quickly picked up bibs and enjoyed the whole experience other than the line to pay for official merchandise!

Saturday included a lovely shakeout run in Central Park and I have to say that while I knew there would be hills, it was more than expected and also a much bigger park than I remembered!  The views were spectacular and we enjoyed a lovely 3 miles to prepare for the big race the next day.  Plenty of other runners had the same idea and it is a great way to get out some of the nerves by seeing the finish line and parts of the course you would be running the next day.

Gorgeous views in Central Park

One of the things that made the trip and race such a wonderful experience was the support and enthusiasm of the locals who helped us in so many ways.  The waitresses who knew we were carb loading and offered suggestions of good meal choices, the elevator operator at Tiffany's who wished us a great race, and the list goes on and on.  My recollection of NYC was of a cold and unfriendly place.  Boy was my memory wrong!  There are so many things to do and see in New York which is another reason to love this race weekend. You can do as much or as little as you want depending on your race day goals.  While we did not attend a Broadway show, we knew runners who did. The parade of nations and fireworks display in Central Park on Friday night is another fun thing to do. We caught the fireworks and they were a first rate show with lots of oohing and ahhing from the crowd!  And of course NYC has a slew of wonderful museums and galleries to keep you occupied for hours.  The restaurants are plentiful and even without reservations, we had no trouble finding great places to eat within walking distance of our hotel.  Planning ahead can be helpful too, but Joanne and I enjoyed making choices while in the city and it all worked out fine.

.This race should be on the bucket list of everyone who runs marathons.  The experience of running with people of so many nationalities through all the boroughs of New York is very special.  In fact, so many of the girls in my running group are signing up for the lottery next year, that I just may have to try another NYC Marathon myself and join the fun.

My last visit to Central Park before heading to the airport

Have you run the NYC Marathon?  Was it a memorable experience for you?

November 20, 2015

Friday 5: Favorite Fall Drinks

I love anything seasonal so I can totally get on board with festive drinks. I have never been a devotee of the PSL...I know, I know, that totally voids any vision you had of me drinking a latte in my jeans, boots and vest didn't it? Well fear not, because there's another warm drink that I enjoy and especially like drinking when I'm wearing my monogrammed vest, so read on!

1. Coffee drink: Skinny Vanilla Latte with cinnamon. The cinnamon makes all the difference. Try it! You'll love it!

2. Warm non-coffee drink: Chai tea with a splash of milk or the Celestial Seasonings Cinnamon Apple tea

3. Brewsky: I am a SUCKER for pumpkin beers. Williamsburg Alewerks's Pumpkin Ale won our pumpkin beer tasting last year. It's pretty delicious...not too sweet or spicy...and it's local.

The results of our order of preference, left to right.
4. Cocktail: Last year Adam developed a cocktail that he refers to as "Long Winters Nap" which seems fitting. It's comprised of Apple Jack, lemon juice, simple syrup, and a cinnamon least I think that's what is in it. It's the perfect cocktail to sip after dinner while you sit by the fire or Christmas tree.

5. Vino: Like many, I tend to enjoy lighter white wines during the warm summer months and more substantial reds during the fall and winter months. This also lends itself to better food and wine pairing. So you can find Cab Franc and spicier Zinfandels hanging out in my kitchen this time of year.

Check out the other posts that are part of the DC Trifecta's (Mar, Cynthia, Courtney) blog linkup this week! Maybe you'll get some good ideas for the upcoming Thanksgiving feast!

November 17, 2015

Running with Team Fisher House

As you all know, I ran my fourth marathon as a member of Team Fisher House. I was eager to run a marathon with a charity team and Team Fisher House was a great fit for me.  While I recapped my experience at the Marine Corps Marathon race itself, I wanted to spend some time talking more specifically about my experience with Team Fisher House.

Why go the charity route? 
I've previously discussed my interest in Fisher House and my selection of this organization for my first marathon for charity. Fisher House spoke to me which was greatly advantageous when I was talking to friends and family about my fundraising efforts. It was easy for me to articulate the benefits of the organization and it helps that they have an extremely high rating on Charity Navigator.

Fundraising support 
Team Fisher House provided great support and resources from the day I signed on to their team to the week after the race. I was incredibly impressed with the level of engagement with their fundraisers. I received several phone calls from the TFH staff to check in with me and see how the fundraising and training was going. During each phone call, they were incredibly positive and expressed their appreciation for my fundraising efforts. In addition, they also were interested in hearing about what I needed whether it was information on the race, fundraising, training, or Fisher House. After each call, I always found myself smiling and feeling really excited for the race and participation with Team Fisher House.
Mile 24 sucked but I couldn't help but smile for the
Team Fisher House photographer on the course! 
We also received emails with training and fundraising tips, fundraising progress, and Fisher House stories. Leading up to the race, we received detailed communications with logistical information and everything you could need to be prepared.

A view of the resources provided to fundraisers! It was very helpful!

As a member of Team Fisher House, each participant was provided with a team jersey to wear on race day, a hat, and pin a few months before the race. In addition, you received a team bag when you checked in at the expo. Once you raised $600, you also received a team jacket when you checked in at the expo. At the expo, you also were presented with a Team Fisher House medal. While the presentation may have lacked the ceremony of receiving a medal at the finish line, I group this medal with the one I received from the Marine at the finish line...not only did I train for the physical part of this race, I also crossed the finish line of my fundraising.
Picking up my swag at the expo! I'm holding the team bag.
There were also prize incentives for fundraising. I heard mention of these when I signed up to be on Team Fisher House, but never really thought about them so imagine my surprise when I found out that I was a top 10 fundraiser! I received the Brooks Marine Corps Marathon jacket, Team Fisher House arm sleeves, and the 25th anniversary Fisher House book. Let's just say that Fisher House does a great job of motivating its fundraisers with prizes for their efforts!

Race Weekend Events
Team Fisher House had a HUGE booth at the Marine Corps Marathon expo which was a great place for everyone on the fundraising team to get their gear and meet others on the team. There were also plenty of things for spectators - cowbells, cow hats and signs.
A view of the Team Fisher House booth at the Marine Corps Marathon expo. 
Team Fisher House coordinated a visit and tour of the Fisher House at the Water Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, MD for its top fundraisers. Given our weekend plans, I simply couldn't make the logistics quite work to participate in this visit. But I thought it was an incredible opportunity and really neat for the fundraisers to have a chance to see the organization in action!

Like most fundraising teams, there was a a team dinner before the race. My parents, Adam, and I purchased tickets to attend. The dinner was very reasonable at $10 per person and there was ample pasta for the runners. We heard information about both the Fisher House and the race teams and the top individual and team fundraisers. The evening closed with a presentation from the Scott family who had stayed in a Fisher House. Let's just say there weren't many dry eyes during Lilly Scott's account of their experience at the San Antonio Fisher House. Her story was a great reminder of why we spent hours writing emails, making phone calls, posting to social media, and whatnot requesting donations. I appreciated hearing their account firsthand and was so humbled to run for them and hundreds of other Military families.
Leaving the team dinner, Champ the Cow wished me well! 

The tent on Charity Hill was fabulous for pre- and post-race festivities. The food was plentiful and there were plenty of places to sit. And it was wonderful to be able to check your bag there before the race and not have to meander through Rosslyn after the race to retrieve it! Before the race, there were bagels, donuts, bananas, water, and Gatorade. After the race, there was every option you could imagine - bagels, fruit, cookies, subs, wings, chips, etc. There were massage therapists in the tent to help work your aching muscles. Sadly, I never took advantage of this because I got a bit cold after the race and decided to head back the the hotel for a warm shower before my name was called. Regardless, the tent provided a great place to meet other team members and reunite with your family after the race. The volunteers were helpful and supportive.

While I haven't decided what my next race will be, I would consider running for Team Fisher House again in a heartbeat! It was a fantastic experience!

Have you ever run for a charity team? What was the best part?

November 16, 2015

London Marathon and the National Osteoporosis Society

Back in September, the plan was hatched for me to run the London Marathon April 26, 2016.  This would be my first time to be a fundraiser for a running race.  As I searched the list of charities that support runners with a bib for the London Marathon, one charity in particular caught my eye. While I love animals and could easily have chosen to apply for one of the many charity spots for organizations that support pets, and animals, the National Osteoporosis Society seemed like the perfect one for me.

                                Pamela, Welcome to the team!  

I was delighted to receive this acceptance in my email inbox after having an email interview with Claire who is in charge of the charity runners.  She was so encouraging to me and of course, I want to do everything possible to make a great contribution to the charity.

For the past 10 years, I have been dealing with first a diagnosis of Osteopenia and then Osteoporosis.  If you do not know what these ailments are, here is a simple explanation.  Osteopenia is the first diagnosis you can receive for loss of bone strength.  When I received this diagnosis, I was urged to do things such as weight bearing activity (I already did), healthy eating and little caffeine.  Okay, so I do eat a bit too much ice cream, but isn't calcium good for your bones?  A few years later as my bone density tests continued to deteriorate, I was given the diagnosis of Osteoporosis.  This was not at all unexpected according to my doctor and she and I made the decision together for me to not medicate for my situation.  Certain people are more likely to get Osteoporosis than others.  Here are some of the risk factors to consider:

  • Being a woman: Approximately 80% of those with Osteoporosis are women.
  • Having a small, thin build- While size does not exclude anyone, you are at much higher risk if you are a small person.
  • White, Asian or Latino people are more at risk, but as with the other risks, everyone is susceptible to the problem.
  • Aging: Most bone loss occurs as you age, but that does not mean if you are old you have Osteoporosis.  
  • Family History:  If you have family members with Osteoporosis you are at a higher risk to develop the problem.
My mother and sister both have Osteoporosis and so far none of us have suffered any broken bones. However, we are all conscious of our situation and try our best without medication to keep our bones at the strength they currently are with no more thinning.

Now here's the fun part.  Wouldn't you like to donate to my fundraising?  While I know this may seem selfish since I really want to run the race, I also plan to make a donation, or rather Tom will, so that I can be a strong fundraiser for the cause.  No amount is too small and I appreciate any support you can offer.

You can click on the link to my page here

Thanks for all the support! 

November 13, 2015

Friday Five: A potpourri of running stuff

Many thanks to Cynthia  at You signed up for what, Courtney at Eat, Pray Run DC and Mar at Mar on the Run for the Friday Five linkup.  The topic for the week is how to stay healthy during the holidays.

My favorite tips for how to stay on track during the holidays include signing up for a January Marathon, talking a local running friend into the same marathon and making sure you eat plenty of cookies and peppermint chocolate holiday candy to fuel your runs. Except I really don't mean the last one....okay, maybe I do just a little bit.  A few years ago, while training for the Goofy Challenge, I ate cookies during the middle of a long run and you know what?  They tasted great and made me smile as I completed the 22 mile run. This was a spur of the moment decision when I stopped at home to refill my water bottle and saw a big tin of cookies on the counter, and it was December 22nd and I thought I deserved a cookie or three!

This week, I was pretty inactive on social media since I was out of town and then came home from Florida with a really bad cold.  Yesterday, while spending the day in my pajamas, I came across a few things that really hit a nerve in a good way.

The last few weeks were big ones for the runners who qualified and earned a spot in the April 2016 Boston Marathon.  They received one of these cards in the mail, which is very exciting for any runner no matter how many times they have qualified and run Boston.  I remember fondly last year when I got this card and I danced around the kitchen!

There are plenty of runners who do not get the card, despite meeting the qualifying standard. This year, those with a time of less than 2.27 seconds under their qualifying time would not be lucky and get that precious card in the mail. Two people from my running team including one of the coaches did not get a spot.  Due to the vast number of runners vying for spots, not everyone is fortunate to make the cut.   Some of these runners will choose to run for a charity and if accepted, will be a fundraiser for between $5000 and $7000 for the charity.  Others will hope for a miracle spot from either a Boston Marathon Sponsor or a chance winning entry through a contest. While I have my opinion about these options for entry, they are what they are and no runner (s) will change the mind of the B.A.A. who puts on the race.

This week I read a blog post by Jesica from Runladylike.  Both Christine and I enjoy her blog because she is a straight shooter and she only writes about products that she uses and loves. She was offered a spot through a sponsor, but turned it down.  It was wonderful to read that a runner like Jesica who had qualified, but missed the cut, would not promote a product that she does not use and accept a free entry into the race.  While it would have been so easy for her to say yes, she showed integrity and self control by saying no thank you.  You can read her post here.

While reading the December issue of Runners World magazine, I was delighted to see that Robert Herjavec of Shark Tank fame is a serious runner. He  was interviewed for the back page column and here is a quote: "I want to qualify for Boston- I don't want to buy my way in (as in a charity runner).  I'll do that one of two ways, get faster, or just stay the same speed and get older so the standards get slower."  This impressed me so much since he could easily get a bib without making the effort to qualify.

This weekend I will hit the pavement for the first time since the NYC Marathon on November 1.  It will feel great to put on my running shoes and pound the pavement for a little while.  My next big race is on January 10th and it is time to get training again. Do you have fun plans for the weekend?

November 6, 2015

New York City Marathon Race Recap

November 1st was a good day, in fact a very good day in New York City for those runners participating in the marathon.  While the weather would not be considered ideal for running, it was not uncomfortably hot and we would not freeze in the athlete's village.

My morning started with a 4:30 am alarm followed by my usual jumping out of my bed saying "It's race day!". Mind you I had woken up at 3:30 and never quite gotten back to sleep due to race day excitement.  It was nice to have the extra hour from Daylight Savings so I still managed to get close to 7 hours of sleep.  After quickly getting dressed and eating my first breakfast of banana and an English Muffin with peanut butter, my roomie Joanne and I met our teammate Sam in the lobby of the hotel and went outside to hail a taxi or Uber car.  We got an Uber car quickly and proceeded to the first stop which was at the library where Sam and I would take the bus to Staten Island.  Joanne had chosen the ferry as her mode of transportation so she stayed in the car for the second drop off point.

After arrival at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, Sam and I made our way to the Runner's Village with 49, 998 other runners. After about a 1/2 mile walk, we entered the Blue wave area.  It was well organized with tents filled with volunteers serving bagels, Power Bars, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and water. Both of us brought our own food, but in hindsight, we would have been fine with the offerings at the village. At about 8:30 am, I ate my second breakfast of another banana and English Muffin with peanut butter with some Gatorade. There also were volunteers from Dunkin' Donuts handing out these really cute knit hats with the NYC 2015 logo.

Ebay image
Porta potties were plentiful and we found a tree to lean against for the next 3 hours.  Yes, you read that right, after arriving by bus at 6:15 am, we had more than 3 hours to wait until we would move into our corral.  With people watching and trying to stay warm, the time did go quickly and soon our Wave 2 start group was entering the corral area.  After a few minutes, the corral was closed and we started our walk to the start.  After passing the toll booths, we knew it was go time.

Miles 1-6:  Splits 10:43, 9:29, 10:11, 10:11, 10:08, 10:06  The race starts with a huge uphill climb for the first mile on the Verrazano Bridge.  I knew what to expect and told Sam goodbye as he sped up the hill and I kept an easy pace.  This was a long race and I knew conserving energy on this first challenge of the course was important.  As soon as we hit the top of the bridge, the downhill came and by my splits you can see how much faster I ran the second mile which was all downhill.  Going with my legs and staying comfortable we soon were in Brooklyn with crowds that were not only enthusiastic, but deafening at times.  One of my goals for this race was to smile alot and I don't think a smile left my face for the first 6-7 miles.  It was amazing to have so much crowd support going through so many different neighborhoods which started with Bay Ridge moving into Sunset Park. One of the things that stood out to me were the places of worship mixed in with stores and restaurants, with many spectators offering their hands in support of all the runners.

Miles 7-12: 9:58, 9:58, 9:59, 9:46, 10:16, 9:49  During this next neighborhood called Park Slope, there were some lovely Victorian homes with numerous families cheering with cowbells and their voices. Many times during this race I turned my music off so I could soak in the crowd and atmosphere.  These miles seemed to go by quickly with a slight downward slope and bands and spectators keeping the runners entertained.  One thing that bothered me during the race was the number of runners who seemed oblivious to the other runners on the course.  Between miles 7 and 8, I was given a "flat tire" by a foreign runner. She stepped hard on my heal removing my shoe and I was very fortunate not to take a header into the pavement.  Turning around quickly, a tall man was right behind me, but he was alert and missed me and I was able to grab my shoe and put it back on.  While I did receive an apology, she never stopped and continued to be consumed with the crowd and totally unaware of those around her, with the exception of her posse of 5 other runners.  Let's just say I was not pleased!  After mile 9, there seemed to be alot of turns on the course and this definitely reduces your speed.

Mile 13:  9:58  This mile marker was the one I was most excited about because I knew my niece Erica planned to be spectating here. I spotted her running along the road barrier and screamed as soon as I saw her.  I quickly turned around and she took this photo.  It is the only candid race photo I have other than those taken my Marathon Foto.
Big smile for Erica!
Halfway: 2:13.18 A marker on the Pulaski Bridge marked the middle of the course and I was very happy with the time on my watch.  I had conserved energy, but was still giving a strong effort.  I knew the hardest part of the course was coming, and the most challenging would be mile 16 that included another bridge, this time the Queensboro that takes you from Queens into Manhattan.

Miles 14-19: 10:11, 10:20, 11:03, 9:57, 10:20, 9:59  For some reason I struggled during this part of the marathon, and this was the area that Coach Sami said would be difficult.  The bridge was long and it seemed like we had a fair bit of wind.  I tried my best, but I knew my paces were lagging.  In every marathon most everyone experiences highs and lows and I think this was one of the times I was fighting those negative thoughts in my head. One huge surprise was after exiting the bridge onto 1st Street in Manhattan, I expected huge crowds and noise.  It was eerily quiet despite many people lining the streets.  This was quite strange and perhaps they were sick of cheering after being out there for many hours.  I kept raising my arms asking for some noise to get me going again!

Miles 19-24: 10:17, 10:07, 10:19, 10:10, 10:37  During these miles we covered two more bridges as we moved from Manhattan, to the Bronx and back to Manhattan.  When we crossed the 138th street bridge and moved back into Manhattan, I knew we were getting closer and I was excited to be arriving at 5th Avenue.  This street was the beginning of the end and despite the incline, I tried to pick it up a notch.  Fifth Avenue is on an incline and it has one section where you feel like you are climbing a mountain between miles 23 and 24. By the time I got to 24, I really wanted to walk the rest of the way.  I mean I really really wanted to walk.  But I kept myself focused and stayed with my planned intervals and finally got out of my mental hell.  At around mile 23, I was calculating in my head what I needed to run to finish under 4:30. Let me tell you that after running for nearly 4 hours, my brain took a very long time to figure out what I needed to do!

Miles 25-26.2:  10:08, 9:57, last .2 at 9:11 pace The last two miles included East Drive and the final turn into Central Park for the finish line. There were tons of runners in this congested area, but I kept on trucking and passed many during this last stretch.  When I turned into Central Park for the last time, I was so emotional that tears started to form in my eyes.  After getting food poisoning and finishing the Boston Marathon last April under not the best circumstances, I needed this race to get my marathon confidence restored.  As I crossed the finish line, tears brimmed from my eyes as my goal had been met.  This race gave me back the marathon!

Tears of joy
Other details just in case you are interested:  I ate a half banana that was given out around mile 15 on the course. (That could be incorrect mileage, but I am still suffering from marathon brain post race.)  My GU supply was ample and I took one starting at mile 4, but then ended up taking them a little closer together after mile 13. In all, I took 6 gels during the race, some with caffeine and some without. Water and Gatorade stops were plentiful, in fact more so than any other marathon I have run.  Due to the humidity, I took a drink at every station except one, when I missed the Gatorade and did not want water.

Official Results:
Time: 4:28:27
22875/49460 Overall
7052/20674 Female
67/409 Age Group Female 60-64