Monday, January 19, 2015

19 Days Down. 90 To Go.

Greetings from the end of a chilly long-weekend. I am in week 3 of my Boston Marathon training plan and we are exactly three months from the starting line. Training for a fourth marathon in three years is interesting in a few ways (and -- please let's not forget -- this is the sixth marathon I have actually trained for...) It's interesting because I know what to do. So much of running any distance for me before it was something I did was the unknown. How will my body react? What should I eat? What should I wear?

It's these questions that I used to blog about over the years as I discovered my way through the answers to these questions. How will my body react? Questionably and sweatily. What should I eat? Lots of things. Things before, things during, and things after. Not so fast, dairy. What should I wear? All the clothes in the winter. None of the clothes in the summer. 

And I think because most of my running questions have been figured out and the kinks have been ironed out, somehow that translates to others as, "oh, this must be a piece of cake."

Sorry, kiddos. Cake it is not.

Mmmm. Cake.
Many aspects are easier with the information I've amassed about my body and what schedule works for me. And because I spend more money on my running clothes than on my clothes clothes, I'm actually quite comfy in most weather situations.

But running 10 miles is still running 10 miles. And running 16 miles is still running 16 miles. That's still happening and there's no amount of information or practice or uncertainty that shortens the distances. I think. Although Google Maps may be working on it. I don't know. I still haven't upgraded my iphone operating system, so I can't be sure.

So now I focus not on figuring out everything from scratch, but on what I can do to enjoy the experience more and to get just a little bit better. Fundraising is actually a big part of that, because knowing that I have the support of family and friends from all areas of my life truly provides a mental and emotional boost to get me through the tough training days. [And thank y'all, it's been going great!!]

Fixating on my cross-training as much as mileage has been a great physical boost. Because of the more muscles and the more flexibility. Turns out that despite squats being the worst, they make your legs stronger and evidently stronger legs make you run faster. Crazy. Who knew.

And finally, the biggest and most helpful and amazing addition to my running life....podcasts. You heard me. Podcasts.

Oh, how into podcasts I am!

I have been a podcast dabbler for some time now. I blogged about RadioLab as part of a Favorite Things post a million years ago, but now I'm in deep in terms of internet radio listening. Serial (duh). RadioLab (duh). But so many more. Pop Culture Happy Hour. Freakanomics. Ted Radio Hour. Stuff You Didn't Learn In History Class. Invisibilia (new and diggin' it). So basically while I run I also learn about everything in the world and become the smartest and most interesting person ever. It's a win win.

If you have suggestions of shows, please send them my way. I have many hours that I would rather spend hearing other people's thoughts than listening to my own. Trust me.

I feel like there's a life lesson in here somewhere with the marathon training becoming more comfortable over time. Something about the scariness of the unknown being more difficult than the actual task at hand. And how the thing you might dread or be totally scared of becomes something more routine and familiar and that makes you really happy. And you might learn a lot of things on the podcasts.

So you should also sign up for a race or a new hobby or try something new because...someday you might love it too. Yes. Yes that's it. Nailed it, MeriG.

I made a New Years Resolution a few weeks ago to enjoy the process of running. And 19 days in I hope you don't mind me saying that I believe I'm killing it in terms of this particular resolution.

I'm finding that I can relish the run or the workout even with I struggle to find that same positivity and presence in other areas of my life. I guess true balance would have that attitude spread throughout the world that is MeriG...and I'll work on that. But for now I'm just enjoying being "in the know" when it comes to my running, to sharing a bit of that knowledge with y'all, and just enjoying the run. Because even if I don't feel positive always myself (and can ya believe it... sometimes I don't!), I'm sure there is a Ted Radio Hour focusing on the subject. And that's close.

* * * * * * * * * *

I am running the 2015 Boston Marathon with the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge! I have raised $3,811 towards my goal of $10,000 for the 2nd year in a row! Find our more or donate here:

Monday, December 29, 2014

In With The New

It's been a while since I posted to announce that I'd be once again running with the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge and fundraising with a goal of raising $10K for cancer research. I'm pleased to announce that as of this morning, we have raised $3,291 already! How amazing! Thank you to my amazing friends and family who have helped reach this amazing milestone.

I officially kick-off my training schedule on January 1st, with 108 days to go before I hit the course in April! In honor of this milestone, please consider making a donation or passing my blog and message along:

Making my marathon training plan begin on the first day of a new year is fitting. Beginning a training plan -- whether it is for your first 5K or for your 4th marathon -- is a perfect example what it takes to successfully achieve any resolution. Embarking on training requires a goal. It requires you to make changes. And it requires you to plan ahead if you want to reach success.

Source: Reddit
Whether it's a Marathon or a Run/Walk 5K, I highly recommend considering adding in a goal like this into your life if you have even the smallest interest. It changed my life, and it could change yours...

So, now that I evidently run marathons all the damn time, my preparation is different from what it once was. Before I spent my time on research, on asking questions and on purchasing gear. Now that I am in a grove and have a closet full of all-weather training paraphernalia, I spend my energy and time focusing on what I'm going to get out of the experience. 

First and foremost, I'll be raising money for the cause I believe in passionately. I want to focus on planning events and "marketing" this cause to maximize my fundraising efforts (whilest hopefully not alienating and annoying those around me!)

In terms of my physical time goal, it would of course be great to PR. My Boston time last year is also my marathon PR of 4:16:53. And that's a great time for me (or for anyone, for that matter!) I don't want to fixate too much, because I find that this can lead to disappointment if for some reason I just have an "off" day. You can train and train and train with diligence and determination. But ultimately marathon day is a bit left to the gods to decide...

So, yes, I will train for a 4:15 or below and see what happens. But my main goal is to make the training experience one as positive as possible. I want to find joy in my runs. I want to be present in the runs I do alone and to enjoy the company of those I'll run and train with over the next 108 days. I want to revel in the challenge of speed training and hills rather than dread every moment. I want to accept and relish in my weekend nights spent in prepping or recovering rather than cursing them. I want to appreciate how well my body responds to lessening alcohol and fried food intake and how much more energy I have when I eat whole-ly and healthily. I will try, try, try not to cry when I can't eat cheese.

Holey. Not Whole-y.

At this point, let me take a moment to stop and acknowledge that this post has taken a turn dangerously close to a bad self-help book and I am aware of it. I want to scoff at myself and say, "Oh girl, stop. Just stop. Do what you do best: Make fun of yourself for heavy sweating and cats." Because I know, it's not like me to be so positive and uplifting. I'm struggling even as I type in this moment. And that's because it's so much easier to focus on the negative and the sarcastic (and frankly so much more fun to write and read about!)

This is more my speed. See more at:

Don't worry, I'm still the sarcastic cat-lady you know and love. I just think I could use some more gratitude to put pep in my step. That gratitude and positivity may lead to more grace and peace. Maybe it will lead to more happiness. Or maybe not. But what's the harm in trying?

It's a fresh new year. All the demons of the past can be put behind to focus on the future. Or, better yet, to focus on the here and the now.

What are your goals for the new year?

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Official Announcement: We're Going For It Again!

It is with enormous pleasure that I officially post on Run, MeriG. Run. to announce that I've made the commitment to run with the 2015 Boston Marathon Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge (DFMC) team for a second year!

For those of you that have known me or read my blog over the past few years, you've known the journey that led me to running this past April with DFMC. It started with my dad's treatment at Dana-Farber and ended with what I can pretty much say with confidence was the most amazing day of my life.

A proud Dana-Farber patient and his daughter

Importantly, it led this to have happened:

$11,298. Awesome. Astounding. Amazing. (And A big thank you again!) The official tally of money raised through the 2014 DFMC team was $8,263,308.05. Over eight. million. dollars. Wow.

And so, I thought to myself: should this just be a one-time thing? Yes, I loved the training (even in the cold horrible winter!) And, yes, I loved the DFMC community. And, yes, I have never felt better about being able to feel like I was giving back to my world by being able to gather people to raise funding for a cause I truly believe in. And....yes. I loved, loved, loved that amazing marathon. But did I need to do it all again?

When the application came out for the 2015 team, these were the thoughts running through my head. Perhaps I should focus on a marathon that involved no fundraising. No commitment in that way. No effort outside of the one that will lead me to four months of training and 26.2 miles.

There are a lot of Marathons to run.

But then I got an email from DFMC that Darby had passed away. Darby spoke at the pasta dinner the night before the Boston Marathon this past April. I wrote about Darby last year because of the impact she had made on me. Dying of cancer, she stood up and she thanked us for what we were doing. She was eloquent, she was inspiring, and she was strong, but she couldn't beat her cancer.

The email had her speech from that dinner attached. I read it. And then I immediately filled out my application for the 2015 Boston Marathon team.

100% of funds raised through DFMC go to the Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research. This fund is one of the largest and most successful program of its kind, funding the brightest and most creative scientists making basic research discoveries that will transform cancer treatment. The program has funded numerous major breakthroughs, resulting in improved survival rates and quality of life for thousands of patients. To say I am passionate about this cause would be the understatement of the century.

Last year, I ran in honor of my father. This year, I run in honor of those currently undergoing treatment or who -- like Darby -- have lost their valiant battle. I have -- again -- pledged $10,000 for Dana-Farber this year.

The link to donate is I'll try not to annoy you too much as I embark on training once again, and I thank you in advance for your support. Any donation -- be it of your hard-earned money or of the time you take in passing this along to others -- is appreciated and valued. More to come on fun events and fundraising programs to make this year a little spicier!

In terms of the actual running...? I think I've got this (:::knocking on all the wood!!!:::). But I promise after today to keep keepin' things fun and to find shenanigans to make this blog interesting (?) as I embark officially on my training program after the New Year.

I'll leave you with an excerpt from Darby's pasta dinner speech this past April. Darby -- with a mere five more months of her life ahead of her -- heroically stood in front of that enormous ballroom and thanked us. She said:

So, the reason I am here today is to thank you all for what you are doing as part of the DFMC team: 
Thank you for training through this horrible weather this winter that most of you endured. It was cold, and  snowy, and icy—and those were the good training days. You all worked your way through injuries, aches, and pains to get here… And while I do look at marathon training with a little envy, even I was happy not to be out there for some of the group runs.
Thank you for the support of the DFMC team. Some of the most wonderful people I have ever met are part of this team. They have been by my side through this unenviable journey in ways I could never have imagined five years ago, and are some of my best friends. The broader DFMC community has also been amazing in its support through countless e-mails and texts, running for me, and showing up—at fundraisers, walks, and even chemo sessions. This means so much to me, and for all these reasons and more, DFMC holds a very special place in my heart. 
Thank you for running and representing the care provided at Dana-Farber. Some of you have experienced this firsthand and that is why you are here. For those of you who haven’t, Dana-Farber is very different from any other medical experience…and it is extraordinary. As a patient, I have known from day one that I am in the best hands. The entire institution—from the parking attendants to world renowned oncologists, like my doctor, Eric Winer—is organized to put the patients’ needs first, and this is something I feel consistently. This superlative care makes the experience so much more bearable, but, unfortunately, it does NOT cure cancer. 
And so, finally, and most importantly, I want to thank you for the $5.3 million dollars—or more!—you are raising to fund research. This is an incredible number, and it is SO needed. As Dr. Benz mentioned, it is more difficult to get public funding today than in the past—especially for investigators new in their careers.And research is yielding results at a faster pace than in the past. Since May, I have been on two FDA approved drugs that were not available at the turn of the century. And just this past Friday, I started on a clinical trial for a targeted therapy that hopefully will be effective for me. This has added almost a year to my life so far – all with drugs not available to my aunt who passed from the disease in the late ‘90s. The pipeline of research ideas is rich and promising; they just need funding. I am confident that by funding researchers—especially young investigators early in their careers—in the future, people in my position will live. How great will that be?

* * * * * * * 
With 156 days to go, we have raised $200 towards my $10,000 pledge 
for the 2015 Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge! 

To donate or learn more:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Classes I'm Loving Right Now

As you may know, Run MeriG Run is a big proponent of running lots, but not over-running. Even in my most crazy marathon training nutso weeks I do no more than 3 or 4 runs a week. In between, I'm a big fan of lots of cross-training mixed in with scattered rest days. Just call me Cross-Train MeriG. Cross-Train.

I've gotten into a good grove lately with a mixture of a few different classes that I thought I'd share with you. Of course I don't go to each one every week, but I try to mix it up and it keeps things interesting for me so I don't get bored with any one particular workout. If you'd ever like to give any of these a shot, let me know! I'm always happy to have a workout buddy!

Happy sweating...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Exhale Core Fusion Yoga

Locations: Exhale has several locations around the city. Fusion Yoga is newish and I've only taken this at Central Park South location (which, along with the UES location are my favorites due to location, locker rooms, and lack of snooty-ness of crowd).

Cost: In the low $30s I believe...but I buy several 10-packs for $215 through Gilt or Rue La La throughout the year so I never pay full price.

Their Description:
Relax your mind and re-energize your body in this soulful and athletic practice that fuses flow yoga with intense core work for the ultimate mind body experience. Sun-salutations and warrior poses are woven with sequences of isolated thigh, arm, and ab work as you build the heat, then reward yourself with a cooling savasana finish. This uplifting class will unleash your inner warrior leaving you strengthened, stretched, and sweaty! Open to all levels.

My Take: I'm not gonna lie, I'm obsessed with this yoga class. (And you know that it takes a lot for me to be obsessed with yoga.) Why do I love it? Well, it is more workout than yoga, for starters. Do you want a lot of chanting and relaxation? Than this will certainly not be your jam. You want chataranga push-ups, planks for days, Warriors that turn into squats and chair poses that last for hours? Or an you want to end with a little core fusion ab workout? Than this is definitely for you.

The class I go to is 5:45pm Fridays at the Central Park locale and taught by Nicole. She is bubbly. She is sweet. She is supportive and non-judgmental. As promised in the description above, I absolutely left very sweaty. (But are you surprised?) Although they say all levels, I definitely would not recommend if you've never tried any yoga before, but you certainly need not be an expert.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Exhale Core Fusion Extreme
Locations: Extreme seems to only be offered at the Flatiron location. Note that there is currently NO SHOWER (I think they have plans to install...) I had an unfortunate Thursday morning when I did not know this.

Cost: Same as above

Their Description:
Abolish fat, rev your metabolism, and amplify strength as you move through power stations consisting of high intensity work followed by brief moments of active recovery. This hour of power will incorporate gliders, heavy hand weights, a plyo box, suspension training, cardio explosions and intense core work to push you to your fitness maximum. With a balance of restorative stretches at the finish, this functional, time-savvy, expertly tailored class will take you to the extreme. Sneakers required. For safety reasons, guests are not permitted to join class late.

My Take: So I do love this class, but I will warn you: This kicked my butt!! The class consists of a warm-up followed by five stations. Each station has two exercises. Each of these stations and each of these exercises are super-duper hard. Super. Duper. The way it works is that you do Exercise #1 at the station for 1 min followed by Exercised #2. Then you repeat and do #1 again and then #2 again. And then you move to the next station. There is no break in between and no rest. You do this whole circuit and then start over with each station now having reps shorter than a minute for each exercise. In between stations this second time you have 1-2 minutes of "active recovery" (i.e. more of super-duper hard exercises). This was a two-towel workout for me each of the times I've gone. Consider yourself either warned or pumped up, depending on how you like to roll. Extreme is not your typical core fusion class at all, and I loved it.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Exceed Row Plus
Where:  Exceed UES (They also have a Tribeca location, but have never been)
Cost: $32; Class size less than 8 people (so felt worth it to me!)

Their Description: EXCEED: Row Plus is a rowing intensive workout for the entire body. Workouts range from sort and powerful to long and strong, with every variation in between. Although mostly rowing, this class will include complementary movements off the concept2 that intensifies the workout and further develop various muscle groups. This class assists to improves form, endurance and power that will help rowers of all levels.

My Take: First of all, I chose this rowing picture from the internet because the guy just looks so happy and goofy on the rower! He's like, "yaaaaay." Anyways, I digress. When I read the description prior to attending this class the first time, I was confused because I didn't know that a "concept2" is not a type-o, but rather the type of rower used in class. So you are doing -- as they say -- mostly rowing but with complementary movements like kettleballs, TRX, push-ups and sit-ups in between.

What I loved is that it was a true full-body workout and intense cardio without running. I'm actually considering replacing a running day for my next marathon (teaser alert...) with rowing! The other thing I loved is that the instructor -- Shelly - is really great at improving your form and giving personal attention to everyone. Turns out I had been rowing incredibly wrong until I went to this class. I'd leave row workouts feeling my next, arms and back. If you're doing it right, it's truly an arms, back, abs, and leg workout that is comparable to a long-distance run. Classes UES are 6 am Tuesdays and 7 am Fridays right now and I can be found at either depending on the day and how crazy I feel. Locker rooms are decent with great products, so an excellent pre-work choice if you need to get ready.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

NYSC Body Pump
Where: Multiple NYSC locations around the city
Cost: Free with NYSC membership (of which I have)

Their Description:  BODYPUMP®, the original LES MILLS™ barbell class, quickly sculpts, tones and strengthens your entire body! Great bodies aren't born, they are transformed. BODYPUMP® uses the THE REP EFFECT™, a breakthrough resistance-training formula that leverages low-weight loads and high-repetition movements. The result is that you burn fat, gain strength and quickly build lean body muscle. By challenging all of your major muscle groups while you squat, press, lift and curl, BODYPUMP® is one of the world's fastest ways to get in shape. This class is great for all fitness levels because you choose a workout weight that's comfortable for you. To keep things fresh, the class is updated every three months with new choreography and chart-topping tunes. Get the results you've been looking for. Experience the highly trained instructors and THE GROUP EFFECT that is BODYPUMP®.
Photo credit: Preppy Runner's review
My Take: Ok, so before I went to this I was scared. Now I've been probably 15 times and it's not scary at all. The weird/interesting/cool thing about Pump is that there is one soundtrack and one "routine" that all instructors are using for a few months at a time until the next release comes out. Instructors generally do this with you in the front (rather than wandering around the rooms) so you always have someone to watch and guide you through. Each song is a muscle group (squats, biceps, shoulders, back, abs, etc). Most classes are 55 minutes, but you'll notice a few are 45 minutes and cut out two or so tracks. You're using a barball for most of the class, and you'll start with light weights on each side. As you keep building up with repeat visits -- or if you a muscle-y man or lady -- you can go heavier. In between tracks they'll tell you if you should increase or decrease weights for the next track so that you might, as an example, use a heavier weight for squats than for shoulders. I love that it is full-body. I love that it is muscle-building. I love that it is a break from heavy cardio for me. With the pre-programmed workouts it's hard to have a "bad" instructor (although admittedly some are better than others) so that is helpful with my NYSC Passport. I do get a bit tired of the soundtracks by the end of the few months, but it also gives me an opportunity to challenge myself and add on a bit more weight as the workouts become familiar. Overall an amazing complement to my more high-intensity classes.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

And, of course, I always have my Tuesday am Total Body Conditioning at the 76th St NYSC. I think I've been going to this for over three years. Crazy times!

What classes are you loving right now? How do you cross-train?

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Killer & Portable Workout: The Deck

Let's go back in time. Wayyy back to a happy time. A time of joy and carefree wonder. A time where summer enveloped us like a warm blanket and it seemed all our worries and cares were a thing of the past. A time of bliss.

Let's go six weeks ago.

The place was Fire Island where myself and nine lovely ladies spent a glorious weekend relaxing and laughing.

Lovely ladies relaxing. And laughing.

Now, when my friends and I are on vacation we do a few things really well. Those things -- in no  particular order -- are:

1) Eating
2) Drinking
3) Talking about eating and drinking
4) Sitting on the beach. While eating and drinking.

Wavy Lays greeting us in the window

Me on the beach...with a drink called a "Rocket Fuel" with my face literally immersed in cheetos. You're welcome, world!

Fire Island is many things, but good for a nice long run it is not due to it's lack of long unobstructed roads as well as its tendency to produce massive hangovers. With that in mind, on Day 2 of my 4-day Fire Island adventure, I knew I needed a good solid workout. 

But without equipment or a trainer, what's a girl to do?

With that, I introduce to you all the workout I invented slash found on the interwebs (it was a hybrid...mostly I stole it from the interwebs though) called the Deck of Cards.

Things that are brilliant about this workout:
1) Extremely portable. All you need for literally a deck of cards. And maybe a mat. 
The premise is simple. Cards mean different things. You pull eight of hearts and you do eight of whatever hearts is assigned for. Six of spades? Six of the spade exercise. You'll get it in a second.

2) It is hard. Like...HARD.
When I invented this (slash stole it from the internet), I actually saw that maybe half a deck was good for first-timers. I scoffed, but then I sweated and swore. So it was good.

3) You could do it alone or with a group.
I myself completed my exercise alone on the deck of our house while a few girlfriends laughed at me coached me.

4) Customizable. If you want to heavy up on different body areas or on cardio or something it's up to you to design something that works. This can also be a negative if you're not a "self-starter," but -- oh, faithful reader -- I believe in you.

And so, without further ado, here is the workout I created in Fire Island that I call "Deck on a Deck"

  • Hearts = Push Ups
  • Spades = Sit Ups
  • Diamonds = Dips
  • Clubs = Burpees
  • Kings = 30 second plank
  • Queens = 10 mountain climbers
  • Jacks = 20 jumping jacks
  • Ace = WILDCARD that Betsy got to make up something crazy for me to do (or 20 bicycle sit-ups if you don't have a Betsy)

Betsy and me. Typical. And Marvelous. #NotImpressed #SaveTheDate

The workout was crazy for a few reasons. Firstly, I think I had a good little varietal. I'm not sure you were 'supposed' to assign face cards different things, but I did and it worked out splendidly. Secondly, what's crazy is that sometimes you'll pick -- for instance -- 6 of clubs. Six burpees. And then next card is 8 of clubs. Eight burpees! Fourteen burpees!

14 Burpees! Mwah ha ha ha.

It's not meant to be evenly spread out. It's meant to kick your butt. And that it does.

So, I loved it and I thought you might too.  I know I'm going to start carrying a deck of cards with me when I travel "just in case" from now on. If I don't get a workout in, I can always play Solitaire. Or Go Fish if I want to be social.

In closing, here are some potentially helpful links to other blogs and sites with ideas and demonstrations that I may or may not have used as basis for this workout that I "made up."

Happy Decking!