Lessons Learned in Running

I had good intentions this morning. I planned to come here to Starbucks and study my little heart out. Even though I’m partial to Dunkin Donuts coffee, Starbucks has a better studying atmosphere and I had a gift card. So here I am.

I’m extremely antsy to take this certification exam and have been trying to overcome my lack of focus lately. My apartment has too many distractions.

Well…I made it to Starbucks. But unfortunately no studying has occurred. Unless you count the one page I read about body composition. Did you know that individuals with more weight on their trunk are at a “higher risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and coronary artery disease than individuals who are of equal weight but have more weight distributed on the extremities”?

(Citation: Thompson, Walter R.,PHD, FACSM. ACSM’s Resources for the Personal Trainer. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: American College of Sports Medicine, 2010. Print.)

Lovely. Great to know.

What have I been doing at Starbucks, you ask?

Obviously I’ve been on Garmin Connect, analyzing every split from every run I’ve ever recorded with my GPS watch.

I love you.

These runs go back to December 30th, 2009, mind you. I FINALLY found my little Garmin computer connector USB thing (yep that’s the official name) and uploaded a bunch of  more recent training runs I did for NYCM.

I made it!

Let’s start with my first “run” using my 2009 Christmas present. December 30th, 2009. It lasted :03.6 seconds for a whopping distance of 0.0 miles. Hmmm. Perhaps I was just testing it out.


My next run began six minutes later. Ten slow miles. Much better!

Let’s move forward to 2011, shall we?

When I was finally able to upload my information, I was mostly excited to compare three specific runs : my most favorite 18-miler run ever (also the one when I first felt my injury coming on, ironically), my first 18-miler ever, and of course, my New York City Marathon splits.

I also enjoyed looking back at some runs I did on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu while on a family vacation.

7 miles in paradise

I am posting this simply because I wanted an excuse to look through my tropical vacation photos again. And pretend I'm there.

Did I lose your attention? Are you dreaming you’re in Hawaii now too? Come back to reality and we can talk more about running. Okay? Okay.

I’ve never been one to discuss my splits with others. People ask me for my times and I say, “ohhh, I don’t know” (FALSE) or I mumble “I’m really slow” blah blah blah.

 Saturday, May 1st, 2010: Looking back at the times for my first 18-miler is painful enlightening. My average pace was 12:51. Sooooo slooooooow. This was while training for my first marathon, the Rock ‘n Roll San Diego Marathon. It took me 3:51:22. It was hot and hilly but I was at the point where every Saturday long run was a distance PR for me.I just wanted to finish.

Saturday, October 8th, 2011: My 18-mile training run for NYCM was much better. I ran with friends who pushed me just enough and I felt strong through the finish. I wanted to keep going and do 20 but erred on the side of caution as I didn’t want to make the mistake of increasing my mileage too quickly. Around mile 14 or so, I felt a sharp pain on the outside of my left knee, but brushed it off. I knew it wasn’t a normal “I’m just sore from running so much” feeling, but I’m stubborn and wasn’t going to quit when the rest of me felt so great.

I may not be super fast but I'm satisfied with my splits here. Even though they are seriously all over the place.

I’m slightly very anxious about posting these numbers. But you gotta face your fears right??

Mile one was through this forest full of rocks. Someone tripped and fell and was bleeding from the knee. No bueno.

I stopped for water breaks during miles 5, 8, 11, 13 and 16, and didn’t stop my watch because I always forget to start it up again.

The only problem with my “all over the place” splits is that I was running with different people and would start talking to one person, run with them, and then end up running with someone else later. So the paces definitely do differ quite a bit. And, again, I stopped for water for a few minutes without stopping my watch.

3:14:56. That, my friends, is about 36 minutes faster than my first 18 mile jaunt. I think. I’m bad at math. It may not be super speedy, but I was improving. Obviously I wasn’t doing it correctly, however – I slacked on warming up, I built up my mileage too quickly, and I ran faster without training my body to run faster. These factors all contributed to my injury and to the fact that I’m sitting at Starbucks writing about running instead of actually running.

LESSON LEARNED. More on my marathon splits later. I know you’re dying to hear about them.

What running lessons have you learned? Enjoy the week, friends!

Physical Therapy Part I

Yesterday I had my first ever physical therapy appointment, which may or may not have made me feel like a “real” runner .  (Hint: it did, just a little bit!). Why, you ask? I feel like being injured, while it is absolutely HORRIBLE,  means that, in a small way, you were working hard (not just over-training and being stupid, right? RIGHT?!)

Anyway, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve been running consistently since high school but have never had a serious injury. I scrambled around to find the cleanest socks and a workout outfit that says “Yes, I am a serious runner. I wear tech shirts and climate control running tights”. I made sure my shoes were clean. (I wanted to make a good first impression, okay!?)

Moving on…about a month ago I started feeling serious IT band pain. I rested, rested, foam rolled, rested some more, and then ran the NYC marathon (my second marathon). I know I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t bear the thought of missing it. I ended up having pain throughout the entire race, but somehow, mentally, I pushed through it. And got a PR! (Which, trust me, isn’t saying too much. My only goal for my first marathon in San Diego was to finish, and I wasn’t feeling great that day).

Running toward the finish. Legs wanting to fall off at this point.

After the first mile I decided it was warm enough to not need a jacket. So that was swishing around my waist bothering me. But, despite everything, I got the coveted finisher’s medal and hobbled through the “death march” as they call the post-finish line procession to meet my boyfriend’s parents who so graciously drove me back to NJ, even though they live in Westchester. AMAZING!

Where was I? Physical therapy. Yes. Sooo stupid me ran the marathon with an injury. And now, it’s not just IT band pain. It seems to have spread to hamstring, back of knee, both hips…pretty much the entire lower half of my body.

So I visited a PT who specializes in running at a direct entry facility (YES! No doctor’s appointment first). After looking at the insoles of each of my pairs of running shoes, my arches, my posture and form, poking at my muscles, she decided that my sacrum is tilted a little and that it needs to be corrected. I have some ridiculously silly looking corrective exercises to do (butt scoops anyone? – Yes, I’m sure that’s the technical term). But, I feel optimistic that it will all work out. I still feel pain just sitting and walking around, and a new, weird, back of the knee pain is bothering me too now. I just don’t get why I’m still in pain when I’ve been basically resting and stretching since last the marathon. Which, by the way, is absolute torture. I want to run again. I want to work toward another race!

Pretty medal. I want another one.

I will be diligently doing my corrective exercises twice a day for the next two weeks until my follow up appointment. I’ve also been cleared to do any cross training  that doesn’t hurt. (Which, right now, is pretty much nothing. FAIL). But I did purchase a ridiculously awesome deal on Living Social for a month of unlimited hot yoga classes.

Any other injured runners out there? How do you deal with not being able to run?

Shoe Collection

I came across this article today about a girl who collects running shoes to send to Ethiopia, a place that produces many outstanding marathoners like some of the top finishers in the NYC Marathon this year.  (5 minute miles!? I can’t even run a single mile in 5 minutes, let alone all 26.2. Amazingly impressive!)

So I visited the website Shoes for Sheba to learn more about how to donate gently used shoes for women runners in Ethiopia. I think it is such an amazing idea; promoting healthy living and finding an activity that makes you insanely happy is something I always advocate. What better than to provide talented Ethiopian runners the basic items they need to excel in a poverty-stricken environment?

At this point it seems that all of the collection boxes are located in California. I emailed Sara, the girl who created the program to find a way to send gently used shoes to her from locations further away.

Helping others is uplifting in many ways – why waste those shoes that maybe didn’t quite fit right, that you used for cross training, or that you put some miles on but are still in fairly good condition, when someone out there would benefit immensely from them?

You can mail running shoes to the following address:

San Clemente Girls X-Country
Attn:  Sara Kebede
700 Avenida Pico
San Clemente, CA 92673

If anyone is interested in starting a collection here in the NYC area, let me know!

NYC Marathon Recap 11/6/2011

New York City Marathon COMPLETED!!

I’m sitting here writing as a NYC Marathon finisher; with a happy heart and very sore legs. Sunday, 11/6/11 was one of the best days in my 26 years of life. From start to finish, everything by NYRR was well organized. My friends were able to track my progress online. The volunteers at the expo, start villages, and on the course were extremely friendly and helpful. Everyone I met inspired me.

I actually got a decent amount of sleep the night before the race.  Minus the inebriated couple fighting outside my window around 11pm. Before bed, I packed up pretty much everything in the house:

Always be prepared. Obviously I needed ALL of those seven bananas.

My lovely roommate, Ben, woke up like a champ at 4:45am after staying out until around 3am. What a trooper. He drove me to Metlife Stadium where I boarded a bus with thousands of other excited runners. When I arrived at my quaint little green village underneath the Verrazano Bridge, I grabbed half a bagel and settled in with my blanket, Gatorade, and 53,242 hand and foot warmers. I HATE to be cold.

Gooooood Morning, Staten Island! WE’RE HERE!

Wake up sleepy heads! 6am and ready to run!

I waited, met a couple people, stood in some lines, checked my bag, talked to some more people, stood in more lines, and then finally made it to the bridge. New York, New York began playing and we were off.

I ran. And ran and ran and ran. I stopped to stretch a lot. Borrowed “the stick” from some random guy. Then ran some more.

I’m still reflecting and taking everything in, feeling a little EXTREMELY sad that it’s all over. (What am I going to obsess over now?!)  Post-race sadness always gets to me. After so much training and dedication, the big event ends within a few hours. NOW WHAT!?

Shiny medal, I love you!

I was battling a minor injury toward the end of my training but I did all I could to take care of it leading up to the marathon. I would not miss out on something I’d dreamed of doing since my high school cross country days and I certainly didn’t want to let myself or anyone else down! Of course, the injury started hurting on the Verrazano Bridge, AKA within the first 1/2 mile, much to my dismay.  “Mental toughness” got me through the race by making up for any physical weaknesses.  Who would have thought, me, mentally tough!?

Was it right to keep pushing through injury? Maybe not. But I felt okay. I felt strong despite all that. I pushed though it because of the energy of the outstanding spectators (my favorite sign said “Worst Parade Ever!”) and because I refused to believe I couldn’t finish. It wasn’t an option I considered at any point.

I think my favorite borough was a surprising Brooklyn. Spectators lined the streets and I can’t remember any point in time where people weren’t cheering and high-fiving everyone. The smile never left my face, and I constantly found myself turning my music off just to take it all in.

As the race went on, I began telling myself…”I’m going to sprint the last 5k no matter how I feel. I want to PR. 5k is nothing.”

Then, it became “Okay, the last two miles is fine. I’m “sprinting” the last two.”

I think I forgot what running a marathon felt like.

Eventually I talked myself down, convinced that my sprint faster jogging would be the last mile. I stopped getting water at the hydration stations when I had three miles left because I was sure I was going to cross the finish line and promptly throw up. Smart move, Kara.

1/2 ended up being my magic number. With 1/2 mile left, I got my kick. The kick that never failed me in high school cross country, or any other race I’ve done. I always find an adrenaline-fueled run to the finish.

I took my headphones out of my ears, then picked it up and ran as fast as I could through the last half mile.  However, the main thing that kept me going through the entire race, step by step: I was inspired by thinking of a friend with cancer – his strength and generosity. I reminded myself that cancer patients go through chemotherapy and radiation and that doesn’t end. At least not in a day, or without a long, drawn out, exhausting fight. “THIS WILL END TODAY” I kept reminding myself. My race would be over, but so many people are fighting such a bigger battle that lasts a lifetime.

The most inspirational shirt I saw (right at the moment I needed it) said: “Though the body says stop, the spirit cries never”  (from the Rocky movie).  I don’t know what it was; maybe that despite the fact that my body was indeed saying “stop!”, it still reminded me that the marathon encompasses way more than that physical pain.

Because of my amazing friend, I am proud to say I ran the New York City marathon, and beat my first marathon time by 40 minutes. I left all I had on the streets of NYC.

 Blowing kisses to my adoring fans :)

I saw firefighters running with all of their gear, a man with one leg running with a crutch, a man with one arm running, cancer survivors, first-time marathoners, elite marathoners, birthday girls and boys, the old, the young, proposals, happiness, pain, anger, exhaustion, gratefulness, excitement, inspiration, motivation, toughness, strength, and kindness.

Congrats to all the finishers and a big thank you to all the spectators!! The support from all the boroughs of NYC was incredible.

Until next year, NYC marathon…