Post Marathon Recovery and Return

In the final weeks leading up to my race I spent less excitement on running my first marathon and more on the anticipated freedom from training. So much time for activities!

More than just the time training takes, it requires a lot of time thinking about training- planning when to run, when to eat, what to eat, how much recovery is needed, how early before work do I need to finish eating and showering to get there on time, etc.— it’s a lot.

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But, with everything being said and done, I found myself antsy to get back on the road a few days after my race. My head suddenly filled up with a mixture of starry-eyed thoughts about cool races to get under my belt and a creeping fear that I’d lose all my fitness and quickly turn into a useless slug if I didn’t immediately resume my 40 mile weeks. You can tell I’m a bit of a worrier.

However, I was relieved to hear I’m not the only one with these kinds of thoughts. They’ve even got a name for it!—PMS: Post Marathon Syndrome, ha. Although I haven’t been suffering one of the most common afflictions – regret about my performance (it was a PR, after all 😉 ) I do find myself imagining how much better I might be able to run my next race.

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So where does that leave me? My legs might be able to run a marathon but they’re not invincible — I’m still injury prone and probably tied to hip strengthening exercises for the rest of my life. Right now my focus is getting back to strength training (I missed it in those taper weeks!) and keeping my cardio between cycling and easy runs. I did find this  post marathon training plan by Runners World, which looks like a good start to getting back on track for a Spring race.

But maybe I’ll just do a half marathon this time around.

x

I ran a marathon! (Long Recap)

GUYS. I DID IT!! I ran the New York City Marathon!!!

If you’ve read my blog through the years, you know I’ve dealt with running related injury for the past 8 years. Knee surgery, chronic ITBS, strained hamstrings, tight hip flexors, sprained arches, Patellofemoral syndrome–you name it. I’ve been in and out of physical therapy and doctor’s offices countless times. There were moments when I worried that I might never be able to run more than a few miles at a time, let alone 26.2.

But I did it. And I didn’t get injured or die even though it felt like it at times. Here’s my recap of the race:

After some heavy carboloading (bagels, pasta, pizza throughout the day), I went to bed around 9 pm on Saturday night to be up for 4:15 the following day. I wasn’t feeling particularly anxious but I still didn’t get a very good sleep that night. Thank God for Daylight Savings giving me an extra hour.

We left Long Island at 4:45 and headed towards Manhattan. I chose the 6:30am Midtown bus as my transportation to the starting line. I was worried we were leaving too early but when I got to the pickup spot I couldn’t believe how many people were there and already in line.

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After being loaded on to the buses we made our way to the starter village on Staten Island.  I ate the chocolate chip muffin I brought with me and took a short nap. We got there around 7:30 and I was in the village by 8am.

I wasn’t scheduled to start until the last wave, around 11am so I had some time to kill. I grabbed some coffee, food and water and got in line for the bathrooms while I was waiting.

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When it was finally time for me to start, I shed my extra sweatshirt and sweatpants (to combat the early morning cold) and ate a pre-race guu. There was music blasting and all the volunteers/police were lining the start, cheering us on.

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Crossing the Verrazano Bridge was amazing. We had a clear, bright day and a spectacular view of the city. It was also cool because the Verrazano is closed to pedestrian access regularly so there really isn’t any other way I’d be able to cross is by foot.

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The bridge let us off in to Brooklyn, where there were crowds, music and camaraderie everywhere. I made sure to start my mid race fueling early. I brought a combinations of beans, gels, and chews with me and tried to take some every 12-15 minutes. Aid stations began at Mile 3 and I alternated between Gatorade and water at each one, skipping about 3 throughout the race.

For the first 9 miles, I felt stronger than I ever had before. I was worried I would make the same mistake as many other runners in heading out too strong/fast and burning out in the second half so I made sure to check my pace regularly and keep it at a conversational level.

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I had read that the crowds in Brooklyn tend to peter out and it can be a difficult stretch afterwards but I found there were pretty much crowds along the entire length of the course, except for bridges.

Miles 11-16 were where I hit my wall. My pace slowed by about 2-3 minutes per mile and I was feeling overwhelmed by the mileage ahead of me. I started taking walk breaks at each aid station but ran for the majority of the time until I reached the Queensboro bridge, around Mile 15.

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Great view, tough bridge.

It was definitely the most difficult bridge in my opinion and I, along with many people around me, walked  almost the entire incline. With 11ish miles left, I didn’t want to waste too much effort on it so I did my best to keep up a steady speed walk and ran the downhill.

Around Mile 17 my body was really starting to ache but I was buoyed by the closeness of Mile 20 and resigned myself to keeping a steady gait. There was also a pace team close behind me, which encouraged me to stay ahead of them. It was around this point that I became repulsed by the gels/chews I brought with me and had to force myself to keep consuming them.

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Mid marathon texts

Seeing the Mile 20 marker was euphoric and exhausting all in one, but I did pick up my pace until Mile 24, which, by the way, is pretty much a giant hill along Central Park. 23-26 was hillier than I expected and I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t start crying a little when I entered Central Park right before 25.

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Pushing through the final stretch

Once in the park, it was like a giant party full of people, music, lights, and nearby attractions. 25 to 26.2 felt like the longest running stretch of my life but I refused to stop running until I reached the finish line.

I was emotional, exhausted, and so excited to cross the finish. When the volunteer placed the medal around my neck, I was full on sobbing, haha.

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I grabbed my recovery bag, took a finish photo, and headed on a 15-20 minute hobble to the early exit/poncho pick up. I exited the course and met Chris nearby at the corner of Columbus and W 81st.

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Overall I can say that the experience was amazing, not what I expected, and not anything like my training. I honestly think I’ve never run a stronger 10 mile stretch than my run through Brooklyn and I’ve never had a more difficult time on miles 11-16 despite having covered that distance a number of times on long runs.

Another notable difference I found interesting was that while my cardiovascular ability felts strong throughout the whole race, my lower body hurt significantly, whereas in training it has always been the opposite. I never felt more than foot pain in my long runs.

Although I swore off running for the two post-race days during which I couldn’t walk properly, I’m already feeling antsy to get another goal/race set in the future. I’m giving myself a solid week before I start running again but I did do an easy half mile on the treadmill yesterday, just to make sure I still know how 🙂

In my next post I’ll talk about how I’m recovering and returning to normal life (so much free time!)

Happy Saturday x

 

 

 

 

Training, Nutrition & Tips for Healthy Eating

Temperatures are dropping, coats are coming out and Fall is finally here! Call me cliche if you must but autumn is my favorite season and October is my favorite month of the year.

One of the best things about October is the beautiful and *perfect* running weather. Sunny skies, cool breezes and leaves littering the trails makes getting myself off the couch and out for a run so much easier than in sweltering summer heat.

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Ok, I won’t totally give up sunset runs.

Another thing I love about fall (& the change of seasons in general) is the new produce available / the ability to use my oven. I love looking up recipes that use pomegranates, Brussels sprouts and all sorts of squashes.

With my race just a little more than a month away (it makes my stomach flip just writing that,) cooking and finding inspiration in new recipes is more important than ever. I’ll be honest, I haven’t been the most diligent this summer in making sure I was properly fueling my training. I regretfully admit that many times I used running as an excuse to eat like a garbage truck.

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I know that life works for some people – but I’m not one of them. Although I haven’t noticed any weight gain or dramatic consequences, I can definitely say poor nutrition has negatively affected my training. The biggest thing has to be energy levels. Training for a marathon can be draining on its own. Rest, as much as exercise, is crucial to getting through it. However, it has become very clear to me that eating the right stuff and eating enough of it is really important too.

On the days when I didn’t have enough fruits, veggies, and water, I came home from work starving and exhausted. In that state of being, I usually didn’t have the energy or appetite to whip together something healthy so I perpetuated the cycle of poor eating. It was only when I stayed healthy throughout the day that I found myself mentally and physically prepared for a strong run.

So how do I stay healthy? Let’s be real – it’s hard. So many people, myself included, struggle with healthy eating on a regular day to day basis. Layer heavy exercise on top of that, and you find yourself hungry all the time if you’re not dedicated to providing your body the correct nutrients.

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  1. One good thing I find with healthy eating is that I do actually crave junk food less if I eat healthy meals so it might just take an initial strong push to pull you out of a crappy cycle. Alternatively, sometimes when I find myself in a rut I try to make at least one meal a day really healthy. Usually that one meal makes it easier to make healthy choices at the next meal, and so on.
  2. Another way I stay healthy is by looking up recipes and meals on Pinterest/Youtube. I follow a number of people who inspire me and I watch their “what I eat in a day” videos to get a look at realistic meal plans. As much as I love a good food blog, I have a hard time believing that bloggers have carefully crafted, beautiful meals every time they sit down to eat. And I don’t have the time for that anyway.
  3. Although I could be better about this, it definitely helps to plan out meals on some level. I’ve never been one to mass produce food and separate it into color coded Tupperware (I do love those photos though.) However, picking a recipe or two and making enough to last me a few days does save me time and effort.
  4. Keep healthy food in the house. Whenever I go to the grocery store I make sure to keep my apartment stocked with a number of items I consider essential. I do my best to keep 2-3 kinds of fruit (enough to last me 3-5 days,) 2-3 different vegetables (kinds that I know I like and could easily throw into a recipe,) and basic items to glue recipes together – rice, pasta sauce, peanut butter, nondairy milk, etc. This helps the most on days when I don’t have anything planned and can throw together something simple and mostly healthy, like pasta and roasted veggies. 

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    Lunch today: a heaping plate of roasted veggies + lemony vegan alfredo
  5. Keep junk food in the house. –Okay, I know this seems like a contradiction and if you’re the type of person who swears by “out of sight out of mind” then keep doing what you’re doing. But if you’re like me and will go out and buy junk food when it pops into your head, this might be helpful to you. I usually keep one junk food item at a time in my house — for me it’s sweets. Sometimes it’s a bar of chocolate in the freezer or a package of cookies in the cupboard. That way, when I’m craving sweets I can satisfy that craving with a cookie or two without going out and demolishing a bag of mini donuts. It keeps me in check before I get out of hand.

I hope these help you & I’d love to hear how you guys stay healthy during training, or in general!

chelsea

 

AM vs PM Runs

Good afternoon lovies!

I’m enjoying a day off today and trying to decide when I should do the long run I’m scheduled for today.

There’s always a little voice in the back of my head telling me to just do it NOW. Whatever it is I’m thinking of, do it now and get it over with. It works for most things, but running is usually different.

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As many runners know, there are things to consider in choosing when to do a long run. Factors like fueling, safety, temperature and just fitting it in to the rest of your day are all important.

Personally, I prefer to run around dusk in the *summer* for a number of reasons. The sun has almost gone down and by then the temperature is dropping. It’s not too late so there are people around who will notice if you get kidnapped (seriously one of my biggest concerns running in the city). And in general, I find fueling easier because I’ve already been eating all day so I don’t need much to keep me going.

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Plus, Boston’s a beaut at night.

I do still worry about what time I start running because if the run is a few hours long, it gets dark and the usual safety issues return but if I start early enough, I can finish by the time people are going home after their happy hour drinks.

Sometimes though, it’s a struggle to hit the streets after I finally get home from work and relax. I know what you’re thinking – the obvious answer would be to start working out in the morning, before work.

I have tried time and time again to be a morning work out person and I always go back to my evening workouts. It’s not that I’m “not a morning person” or that I can’t get myself out of bed. I love being up early. The quiet morning before everyone is awake, is my favorite time of the day. However for me, it’s a time for peaceful reflection. I like to sit in the early sunlight with a cup of coffee and think about the rest of my day.

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On the occasions that I have pushed myself to work out in the morning, I forced down a quick breakfast (I can’t workout on an empty stomach and I’m never hungry when I first wake up,) and struggled, sleepily, to get pumped up for the work ahead of me.

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I like to start my day with fruit but when I have a workout following breakfast, I have to make sure to include heavier carbs. This is the breakfast I’ve been having lately – oats with maple syrup, chia seeds, cinnamon, dried coconut and fruit.

Although it felt awesome to get my workout out of the way in the morning and gave me a great energy boost for the rest of the day, I’ve found that I work harder and push myself further when I’ve been awake for a few hours before my work out. Maybe someday I’ll be an AM exerciser but for now, I’m sticking to my night runs.

When do you guys prefer to work out?

 

BAA 5K

On the 16th I ran the BAA 5k, which is the kick off race for the BAA distance medley, as well as the Boston Marathon weekend.

To be totally honest, I was nervous. I was training for the race and doing my best to run more regularly but since dropping out of the marathon last summer, I intentionally hadn’t done much running so that I could give my knee a rest.

I woke up early and had a cup of coffee and a few clementines for breakfast. I can’t usually eat when I first wake up but

I wanted to get some fuel in me so I kept it light. I hopped on the T and headed down to the Boston Common, where the race was held.

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It was a little chilly and there was a bite in the early morning air but the atmosphere was electric. If you’ve never been to Boston around the Boston Marathon, it really is an amazing time to be in the city. It’s hard to explain, but there’s an excitement that pulses through the air.

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All together, just under 9,000 runners who showed up for the race. I’m a total sap, but I always feel so inspired/emotional at races. I don’t know if it’s the communal sense of hard work and perseverance that gets me or the nerves/awe/excitement of running around the time of the Boston Marathon but I was feeling really proud of everyone around me.

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I wasn’t sure how my performance would be but my goal before the race was to take it at my pace, without pain, to the finish line. I had no other objective. But to my surprise, when I started running I felt really good. I was passing people around me and my legs felt great. I felt challenged but not in a way that was painful or draining. I haven’t run like that in a long time. And the best part? I set a new PR!

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Won’t be the last time I cross that finish line!

The post-race set up was easy to navigate and I didn’t have to wait long to retrieve my checked bag, shirt, or medal. I grabbed my swag bag and headed to meet Chris for breakfast at Trident Cafe on Newbury Street.

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New Balance takes over the Lenox Hotel for the marathon and they had this cool photo booth in the lobby. I look like the little boy from Up but I like this picture.

Even if it was only a 5K, it gave me a lot of hope for the future of my knees/time running. I’ve been putting in a lot of work to strengthen my legs and it was so satisfying to see an improvement. Maybe I’m not doomed after all.

Running & Not Running

Running is hard. Returning to running is really hard. That’s why I’m not doing it.

Not yet at least.

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I’ve trained for three different marathons in the past two years or so and injury has kept me from the finish line each time. I know what you’re thinking–I need to give up running. Every time the subject comes up, Chris tells me to get competitive with cycling or swimming or to try a triathalon. Finishing a marathon really isn’t worth running my legs into permanent knee damage, he says.

And he’s not wrong. But I don’t love anything like I love running. So here I am,taking a break from running with the hopes that someday I’ll be able finally finish that race.

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In the past I never really dedicated my time and energy to specifically strengthening my legs for running. I’d spend a few sessions doing leg lifts and ball squats and impatiently wait until my IT band stopped aching enough for me to bang out a few miles. Not a great  plan, I know.

However, lately I’ve been trying out the Bikini Body Guide by Kayla Itsines to push me out of my comfort zone and hopefully get my body to a place where it’s strong enough to run.

At first glance, I honestly thought it was going to be a piece of cake but let me tell you, I have never been more sore after a work out than after these. In fact, there’s not a time when I’ve done one of these work outs and I wasn’t sore afterwards. Despite this, I can definitely notice an improvement. I feel stronger. And it feels good.

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I love these stickers that came in my January Birchbox.

In the past working out was always about losing weight for me but I’m finally in a place where I’m happy with how I look. Now, I want to challenge myself to be stronger and healthier – and do so in a way that’s sustainable. It’s exciting and honestly a little nerve wracking to change focus but I’ve got some serious goals for this year. I can’t wait to see where this takes me.

chelsea

 

Holiday Festivities

Although this week has been a bit more tame compared to others, I was still able to squeeze in a few fun holiday activities.

On Sunday I ran in the Sam Adams Ugly Sweater Run at the Suffolk Downs race track.

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I didn’t have an ugly sweater so I tried to just wear festive colors and patterns but when I showed up I was impressed/shocked by the effort people put in to their race day outfits.

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It took a little while to get started but there seemed to be a good energy about the crowd–plus the promise of beer & unlimited hot chocolate after the race.

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If this isn’t the funniest/worst/most accurate picture of me running I don’t know what is. I actually really enjoyed the race although I was bummed when I got to the finish line and realized that it was only 2.6 miles long! C’mon guys, you can’t call it a 5K at 2.6 miles!

Regardless, it was a good time and I had fun.

On Monday my office had an outing where we got dinner and decorated gingerbread houses! If you’ve ever done PaintNite, it’s put on by the same people.

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They provided the pre-assembled gingerbread house, frosting, and candy for decorating. We did have to “glue” on the chimney, door, and awnings but it was super easy and most of the time was spent detailing the house. I loved seeing everyone’s houses and how they chose to decorate.

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The finished product!

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How are you guys getting in the holiday spirit?