Sunday, January 30, 2011

Manhattan Half Marathon Race Recap

There is no good reason why I felt so attached and excited about the Manhattan Half Marathon. I waited all through November and then until early December until the date went live on NYRR. I made a vague effort towards training (okay, long runs, no speed work). And then, the weather gods decided to mess with our heads and make Saturday 22nd January the coldest day of the year. Of winter. So I spent most of this week freaking out that I was going to leave frozen body parts on the course. But unlike the last two races that I have signed up for, there was no backing out of this, not matter what. 

Friday night was spent eating a plate of spaghetti bolognese as big as my head, followed by mint chip ice cream. What is the point of running if we can't eat as much as humanely possible beforehand. I even managed to get to bed at around 10.30 which is earlier than I've been to bed in weeks and a total luxury. I slept like a total baby and was perfectly fine with my 6.30am alarm.

In a weird moment of organisation last night, I had even laid our my clothes the night before, so the morning of the race was a total breeze. Dress, make oatmeal, leave. I took a tupperware of oatmeal made with almond milk, blueberries, bananas, agave, and peanut butter on the subway. People, this is the best race food EVER. This is just delicious any day of the week. When I stepped out of the building I was literally smashed in the face with the fricking freezingess that 14 degrees really is. Holy crap. It's the sort of cold that makes your head hurt and breathing majorly challenging. 

When I got to 60th st there was an encouraging number of other runners who were clearly silly enough to be attempting to run 13 miles around the park with me. Everyone was wearing lots of layers (me included), but I started to doubt my "wear what I wear for 30F approach because it's a race and you'll be running harder" approach. I very nearly kept my extra jogging bottoms on and sleeveless puffa, but dumped them at the last minute. 

The corral system was rapidly dissolved, presumably in an effort to get everyone moving as quickly as possible. I guess if you were a yellow or red bibbed runner arriving at 7:55am it must have sucked, but for the rest of us it was great. I guess that the cold weather meant that turnout for the race was around 60-70% of who had signed up, but there were stlll a lot of runners. 

I use a little app on my phone to track my runs instead of a garmin. It works amazingly, but because I keep my phone in my back pocket, and I was wearing gloves, it meant that I decided to start it early and eat the first mile in time. Little did I know that I had done it 5 mins early, and my first pace update (a lovely lady tells me my distance, time, and average pace every 5 minutes) told me my average pace was 55 mins/mile!!! Things can only get better from here. 

The first two miles of this race were incredibly uncomfortable. My nose was frozen (and by that I mean my snot - GROSS!), and so were my fingers. I pulled my cuffins down (thanks Lululemon!) and sensation returned with vengeance in mile 2 - you know that painful defrosting feeling? YAY!). I did look ahead of me at some point and saw the most picturesque scene - hundreds of runners silhouetted against the morning sun with the steam of our breath rising. Beautiful. 

By mile 3 I finally relaxed into my stride and things started to feel fun. The Harlem Hills were just fine, for once. I remembered to take my gu's at mile 4, washing them down with the crunchy iced water that was laid out for us. My legs felt nice and strong, and I even started to worry that I had pushed myself too hard, too soon. However, my legs just kept going and going, feeling nice and good, and surprisingly, I was, well, not warm, but comfortable! 

I'll admit that from mile 4 until 11 it was all king of a blur. I remember after the second go around on the Harlem Hills sighing with relief that they were done, so that must have been at around mile 8. At mile 11 I did start getting tired and a little bored of running - the whole "I want this race to be over" feeling that we all get during a long one. At one point a guy started yelling that he wanted pancakes which at least made me laugh. I was feeling that I had a little bit more in me, so I tried to pick up the pace a little, which I was actually able to do - go legs!!! I pushed for the last 2 miles and brought myself home in a final time in 2:02:36 - a full 8 minutes faster than my last half marathon! Upon finishing my legs felt good, not winded or anything. It felt so good to finish strong and feel like my training and strength was in the right place. I then took off my headband and found it was frosted - funny!

Oh, and afterwards I ate a brioche, croissant, hot chocolate, berry cup, and orange juice in Pain Quotidien. Other diners literally stared at me. Hey! I ran 13 miles in freezing weather this morning!

Monday, January 17, 2011

New Year, New Goals

I have long given up making resolutions to be a fitter, stronger, nicer, tidier, more organized, less selfish, non-sugar-addicted person. Every single time those resolutions fall flat on their face and by January 4th I’m back on the Krispy Kreme high. So this year, instead I’m making public my goals and intentions for the year, hoping that this blog will motivate me into taking them further.

1.       Run a race with an 8:30min/mile pace, and run a sub 2hr half marathon. My fastest race time is currently an 8:54 min/mile for a 5m race, and my only half marathon time was 2:11. I have 5 attempts at the half marathon this year at least, so with a bit of luck and some sensible training, I firmly believe I can move my time downwards. Running faster is one of my motivations for getting outside when I really don’t feel like it; running faster will only happen if I actually train to do so.

2.       Lose my fear of inversions. Or rather, try to lose my fear of inversions. I’ve now been doing yoga for over 6 months, but everytime I’m in a class that attempts to send me upside down, I break out into the cold sweats. The thing is, I want to be confident. I literally want to go upside down, but I’m holding onto some fear. I won’t get over the fear unless I commit to keep working on that side of my practice.

3.       Cook more meals for myself. I really used to cook every single night when I lived in Edinburgh. Not every day was fun, but most days it was. In 2010, I probably cooked about 10 meals max. This has got to change. I subscribe to Bon Appetit for goodness sake! So this is the year that I’ll try to cook at least 4 meals a month. I know, I can hear some people laughing into their keyboards there, but I have to start somewhere.

4.       Visit a new place. Over the years, I have spent a lot of time travelling, and have been lucky enough to have visited 6 out of 7 continents. (Antarctica, I haven’t forgotten about you!). However, in recent years, I have been lazy in my travelling, and gone back to places that I know and trust, rather than go new places. This year, I commit to trying somewhere new. Weirdly, despite my having grown up in Europe, I’ve never been to Italy, so this year might be the year.

5.       Get a new job. This is a biggie. I actually even want to move into an entirely new field, which is even scarier, and I don’t know whether it will be possible.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2010 Was The Best Year of My Life - Here's Why

2010 was without a doubt, one of the best years of my life. Perhaps one of the most satisfying things about it being such a good year is that a lot of the great things that happened were down to decisions that I made. Let’s do a round-up.

1.       I discovered exercise. In fact, between July 2009 and April 2010, I had probably been on 1 run and no gym trips. So, what changed this year, and why has the habit stuck? I realize that this is probably worth an entire blog post on its own, but this is the year I discovered niche classes with great soundtracks and simple but effective moves (hello Physique 57 and later Core Fusion), that there were yoga classes for beginners and no one is looking whether you can touch your toes, and that running is so much more fun if you set goals like races and have data like Runkeeper and Daily Mile to keep you motivated. I even ran my first half marathon!

2.       My social life expanded. I have now been living in NYC for 2 years. During the first year, I was having fun, but it felt like my social circle was really small. For whatever reason this year, my social life really took off, and I now feel so lucky and blessed to have great friends and opportunities to drink too many cocktails. As a result of my social life becoming fuller, I’m much less shy and more inclined to be open to meeting new people.

3.       My marriage got better and better. This might sound like a sappy point, and it is, but my husband and I just keep having fun together, enjoying each other’s company, growing together, and picking each other up when the other is down. Our second anniversary is coming up, and I’m thrilled to be sharing it with him.

4.       My pup grew up and became even more fun. Puppies are adorably cute but can be incredibly frustrating in their inability to walk in straight lines, not impulsively dash across busy streets tripping people with their leads, chewing your Mulberry bag, and needing to go to the vet every 6 weeks for some other random puppy problem. Dogs on the other hand are slightly less impetuous in their need to sniff every single thing in the street, can be trusted off leash in Central Park, and are endlessly loving and understanding of your need to just sit and snuggle some days. Moose is just about the perfect dog.

5.       My buying patterns changed. I adore fashion, and spend far too much on it. I didn’t stop spending too much on it (unfortunately I may never!), but I did move away from disposable fashion from H&M and Forever 21 to pieces with a much longer lifetime and better quality. Today my weaknesses are preppy classics from J Crew and Kate Spade, with a mix of downtown cool from Rag & Bone and Alexander Wang, although only when they’re on sale! Although my new tastes are expensive, I shop much less and buy things that give me a genuine pleasure, rather than a slightly sick, too much food at the Chinese buffet feeling. With shopping less and less, I am also feeling myself needing to go shopping less as well, which pleases me as well.
6.       My job has improved. This time last year, I was practically crying after work. Now, I’m busy, confident, and respected in my role.

Not all my behaviors in 2010 were perfect though!

1.       I stopped blogging. I ran a beauty blog up until I went on vacation in September, and when I came back, I just didn’t feel like I had the time nor the inclination to start writing it again. Part of it was to do with not being able to find my voice, part of it was to do with feeling limited by talking about cosmetics, part of it was to do with the endless slog of taking photos, and part of it was to do with feeling shallow talking about lipstick. So I stopped. I don’t regret that so much as not taking the opportunity to redirect that energy into this blog, which I also neglected. One of the challenges that I find with blogging is that the best blogs are niche (fitness, food, make-up, books, fashion), whereas I am not a niche-person, and I want to be able to write about all of those things, but if I do, no one in their right mind would read it! Blogs which feature a book, then a recipe, then some pictures of me looking grumpy while wearing my new furry hat tend to have a hard time cultivating loyal readers unless a lot of time is spent on them. And unfortunately, time is something we all lack.
2.       I still can’t really walk in heels. I only wear heels when I’m heading out to dinner or drinks. I really wish I was one of those girls who can wear them every day.

3.       My diet is still 90% appalling, and sugar is still my best friend / dealer. A juice cleanse back in May did a reasonable job of breaking some bad habits, but they snuck their way back in. I just can’t imagine cooking or ordering whole wheat pasta ever, and snacking on almonds is anathema. Rewiring my mind and relationship with food requires some serious work. I did score a major deal on Gilt for Blue Print Cleanse so I'll have at least 2 juice cleanses this year which is fantastic. I just have to figure out how to hold onto those good habits!