Before I get into this post, I wanted to mention that I forgot to write about the best part of the Staten Island Half Marathon when I first posted my recap — I saw a person shortly after Mile 1 with a sign that said:
May the odds be EVER in your favor.
I got excited. Really excited to see a Hunger Games inspired sign. I yelled out to the person with the sign: “KATNISS!!!!!!!” He was impressed.
So, I’ve written a lot of really positive, upbeat posts about my marathon training runs lately. For the most part, my long runs were more successful — and not as hard — as I thought they’d be. But I only blog once a week and I choose what to share, so of course I share the best parts. And I think I made training for a marathon seem a little too easy. I don’t think I accurately portrayed just how hard and time-consuming training was, or how much I struggled and had to overcome to get to where I am right now: Five days away from running the ING NYC Marathon.
Of course, nothing is ever completely smooth for anyone during training, but here are some of the struggles I faced during the past five months of marathon training:
Hip injury - You might remember that last year I experienced a hip injury (read about it here and here) that was likely a labral tear. Also, a doctor told me I am too pale to run a marathon. I took six months off of running and went to physical therapy. My physical therapist did not think I would be able to run the marathon. Eventually I started running again, but when I took a new fitness class that irritated my hip and caused me to skip the NYRR Celebrate Israel Run in June, I doubted whether I’d be able to train for the marathon. Luckily, I didn’t seem to permanently re-injure my hip that day and by the time I started training it felt much better. I was wary, and expected the hip pain to return through training and possibly (even likely) prevent me from running the marathon
Drastic reduction in appetite – About three weeks before July 10 (the day I started training) I noticed my appetite was off. I was not nearly as hungry as I normally am, I felt overstuffed from eating a few bites and I started getting concerned about how I could train for a marathon when I could not eat the way I knew I should. This never happened to me before; in fact, one of the earliest signs of my illness was being constantly starving. A few weeks after I started training, I saw a doctor. She was not helpful (she said nothing was wrong and assigned me emotional exercises). I would go on a long run and feel no hunger afterwards at all. For some that is normal but for me, I am always ravenous after a long run. I saw a sports nutritionist who recommended I eat foods that I already know I can’t eat with my chronic GI illness. And after an expensive endoscopy that showed nothing was wrong, I eventually began to get my hunger back.
Unbearable GI pain - Despite the appetite issues, my training was going great. I had an incredible PR in the Queens Half Marathon, an amazing 14 mile run the week after and felt so strong. Then I began having some intense stomach pain that got so bad that I suffered through my City Streets long run, and cut the distance short. While I have had my GI illness for four years now, it has never affected my running so significantly. I took an entire week off of training. Even when I wasn’t in pain, I felt really weak. The thought of any exercise seemed like the torture. In fact, this was the first time since I started the Core Fusion Challenge on January 2, 2010 that I lost all interest in exercise. I couldn’t imagine feeling strong again. I couldn’t believe that just a couple of weeks before I PRd a half marathon and ran an immensely successful 14-mile PDR run. All I wanted to do was sleep. And for the first time since my hip got better, I began to doubt my ability to train for this marathon. I also found it ironic that I thought for so long that my hip pain would derail me, but never considered it my chronically ill stomach might be what did me in
The lowest part of the back of my leg pain - I don’t know what caused the pain that sprung up during the Staten Island Half Marathon. It hurt a little during the race, and when I tried to walk down the steps of the Staten Island Ferry terminal back in Manhattan, the pain was really intense. I was nervous, and even more so when it still hurt the next day at work. Going down stairs was the worst, but the pain was fairly constant. After some rest it went away, but came back during a short run. It went away again following another day of rest. The next weekend, I had my final 20 mile run — the peak of my training. I was worried about my leg but luckily the pain did not start until about the 10 mile point and it remained dull. The next day I had that fantastic-yet-painful sports massage and that massage HURT. I was tight. Really tight. But after, that pain behind the lowest part of my leg disappeared. Danielle DeMaio fixed it. It was like nothing was ever wrong — all my runs since then (shorter midweek runs and 12- and 8-mile long runs) were 100% pain free. It seems the pain was caused by muscle tightness because that massage cured me.
Stopping my favorite workouts - When I was looking into a marathon training plan, I put a tweet out there asking for a plan with three days a week of running that would let me keep time for Refine Method and Core Fusion Cardio. The wonderful Stacy of Stacy’s Bootcamp sent me a plan that looked perfect. Refine Method once a week, Core Fusion (Cardio or Yoga – my hip was not ready for regular) once a week, and I figured the two rest days seemed excessive and I could turn one into yoga sometimes. Ha! Because I cut back on class so much, after that one time a week I did take Refine, my legs would be sore after. I hadn’t been sore in forever because I worked out so often, so I didn’t realize that would become an issue. And that it would affect my running. One day, I was signed up for a Monday night Refine. That morning, I had a pit in my stomach. I knew I would be too sore and I was worried about my eight-miler the next day and my longer run over the weekend. I canceled class and I realized then that I would not be back until after the marathon.
I am not nearly as strong as I was when I filmed the Bing: Friends Matter video in June (when I felt my strongest), and I know that when I go back it will not be the same. The classes will be harder, and it will take work and time to get my strength back where I want it. I have to let go of my ego and remember that I won’t be at the “top of the class” anymore. As for the physical changes from cutting back, yes, I see them and I feel them. I don’t want to let this bother me more than it already is and when I get back to class, I don’t plan to go back to the same frequency I had been going before. My priorities changed.
A new relationship - Andy and I started dating at the end of March, so when things began getting more serious, it was right around the time my training was getting underway. I wanted to spend more time with him, which meant less time for non-running workouts. That meant that not only was Refine out, Core Fusion Cardio/Core Fusion Yoga was usually out too. I was able to do Core Fusion Cardio without any leg soreness because it’s easy to make that class all about the upper body, but I just didn’t have the time to physically get TO the class. Spending time with Andy came with spending time with cookies, so there’s that. We like cookies. Do I wish I cross-trained more? Yes. Do I regret my decision? Not at all.
All that said, marathon training has been as perfect as it can be. Training is not training if there are no struggles. I gave up my free time; I gave up brunch with my friends; I gave up drinks with Andy’s friends (they must think I am lame); I gave up my weekends and my mornings and I am so, so happy I had the chance to give this all up.
My very first NBC New York – GO Healthy New York post was called How I Got Into The Greatest Marathon In The World. When I wrote that, the marathon did not feel like a real thing. It was March. I was still 27. I was not working at my current job and I had not yet met my boyfriend. My life changed so much between that article and now. Writing about qualifying for the marathon and actually running it have a lifetime between them.
On that note, can someone please explain time to me? I don’t get how last year I volunteered at the expo and spectated the marathon, I screamed and cheered every single name I saw on the runners’ shirts, knowing it would be me the next year. The 2011 ING NYC Marathon race seemed so far away it was not real. I started training and the race still seemed so far away it was not real. Now the race is this weekend? How.
[Me and my friend Missy at last year's ING NYC Marathon Expo]
With that said. . . thank you for all your incredible support leading up to this weekend. It did not go unnoticed or unappreciated. You can follow my progress throughout the marathon (bib # 52322) with this this website, this iPhone app, this Android app (just be sure to enter my info) or, even better, on Twitter. Andy will be LIVE TWEETING the marathon from my account (thanks Ali for the idea!) — what he sees, what he thinks while he sees the things he sees, my progress, seeing me at two spots (hopefully) and his overall funny thoughts. I can guarantee a chuckle.
[My view last year]
I think I am most excited for running in the spot pictured above. I’ve lived in the same apartment for almost six years. How many people can say they ran a marathon on their own street, seeing the sights they’ve seen every single day for six years? I was just at Starbucks on 60th and 1st, right on the marathon route (you can actually see it in the photo) at 6:30 this morning. I just finished my 3 mile run and a guy in front of me asked if I am running on Sunday. “Yeah, I am.” “First time?” He asked. “Yep.” “Me too.”
Obviously we chatted about tapering, about this 16th-almost-17th mile and we wished each other luck. Does any other sport share such a camaraderie?
One last thing. If you are spectating on Sunday, my plan is to wear a black tank top with DORI printed in hot pink, over a gray long sleeved shirt. Gray crops, purple leg compression sleeves and a headband that is bright and swirly and extremely colorful. Look for me! Did I mention how nervous I am? Or that I’m having trouble sleeping and focusing? I’m excited too. But, wow. This week feels more intense than I thought. I started running in June 2009 as a way to exercise outside when it is nice out . . . I never expected a marathon to be the result of this idea.
I had a dream the other night that I ran the marathon in 4:52 (would be phenomenal if this turned out to be true) but had absolutely no memory of Brooklyn or First Avenues — the best parts.
Again, thank you. The next time you hear from me, I will have completed my first (and only) ING NYC Marathon!