Monday, February 16, 2015

Cuz You're Hot, Then You're Cold....

I hope everyone had a lovely Valentines Day / Galentines Day / Saturday this weekend. I know I had a delightful time with activities spanning from running 16 miles to having drunk brunch to singing showtunes at a piano bar to eating Wave Lays and crying to Steel Magnolias and Beaches in one afternoon. It's been a bold couple of days and I've loved basically every minute of it.

And about those 16 miles. Yep, I ran 'em. This spring marathon "situation" has kind of hit me full force. Despite the fact that I've trained for many a marathon before, 16-miles in sub-20 degrees never quite gives me the warm and fuzzies, so to speak.


But when I commit to a marathon, I commit real good and so 16 miles it was. I did a favorite route I figured out a couple of years back in which I run from my Upper East Side apartment down 1st Ave, cut over to the river, run down and around lower Manhattan and up the West Side Highway and into Riverside Park. I exit the West Side through the Boat Basin, cut through the park, and end up at my doorstop. Exactly 16. Boom.

Left Shark dances for me!
I have to admit that although it was cold yesterday and a bit windier than expected, I'm doing my absolute best to just appreciate....the fact that I'm not running in Boston right now. Or attempting to at least. Oy vey! Boston! Yikes!

Credit: WBUR.org
So many of my DFMC team-mates are in the Boston area and seem to be smiling through this situation (at least on the Facebooks). I'm in awe of that positivity and I try to glean some strength from it even when the wind is biting my face or the treadmill line is long.

Fundraising is also going great! I'm at $4,461 of my $10,000 goal with 62 days to go! Oh, you meant to donate but forgot, you say? Awesome! Here's the link! rundfmc.org/2015/merig 

As I ran my 16...cold...solo...Valentine's Day miles, I just kept thinking back to one thing:


And then after I listened to Lea Salonga KILL IT with the best rendition of "On My Own" ever from the dream cast [oh, never heard the 10th Anniversary dream cast? I suggest you go to the YouTubes and rectify this for the next two hours....] I then reminisced back to another time. And that time was three weeks ago.

That time I was back in Miami crashing Jen's family vacation. Jen loves to run but she also loooooves the yoga. Loves it. But she doesn't do the stretchy flow yoga, core fusion and power yogas I've become fond of at Exhale. Jen does hot yoga.

My feelings on hot yoga prior to Miami could be best described as this:



Because if you've learned nothing else about me from reading my blog over the years (I can only assume you are an obsessive-compulsive blog follower? yes?) then you know about my copious sweating. And you love that about me. It's adorable and endearing.



So when I found myself in Miami agreeing to buy a two-pack of hot yoga classes for the days after our races, I was skeptical at best...but also willing to give it a shot.

The studio we went to in Miami was small, but lovely when we arrived for our first class. I was super nervous and was fully expecting to have to walk out halfway through the class. It was about 90 degrees when we walked in and I was already like:


But then a miracle happened and no one else showed up other than Jen and I. What was great about this is that I could stop worrying about my sweating upsetting the other customers and just focus on my breathing and my practice. Also, when you're in Miami taking a private yoga class for under $20 with one of your best friends...it's pretty damn tough to complain.

Jen and I were able to explain to the teacher that we had just ran races and were sore, and he definitely took it "easy" on us and made a very approachable, stretch-heavy class that left me feeling invigorated and much better than when I walked in.




It was absolutely a very similar flow class to ones I had taken...but just not. I glanced over at the thermometer at one point and it was over 100 degrees. I was, like, super impressed by myself for handling that level of heat and not fully combusting. And I was also thinking, wow, I am basically a yoga master. But then Jen explained that classes can actually get a lot hotter than that, and that this was a good "introduction." Oh.


We went back again the next day and it was slightly hotter and had more people in the class. The instructor was different from the day before, but I liked her as well. Neither instructor was overaly "spiritual," focusing much more on the physical form than the mental -- which I appreciate much more personally (although I respect so much those who are able to truly focus during classes and find spirituality! I'm just not one of them...)

Hot yoga is challenging. Every move from "regular" yoga is just that much more difficult and requires that much more energy when you're hot. Plus, this teacher added in a lot of moves I'm familiar with from power and core fusion yoga, including chataranga push-ups, lots of chair pose work, and even some ab work at the end. I like doing all of that stuff, but never had done so in the fiery inferno of Hell's fury.

Halfway through I was dripping and actually had to take my shirt off exposing my midriff. And I never do that. Never. Ever. I've never been that girl.



And please keep in mind we were in Miami. People looked goooood (as compared to my white tummy that hasn't seen daylight or sit-ups in months...I glowed like a full moon!) But I was like, you know what? I'm hot. And not in a Mila Kunis way. Bur rather in a "I am burning alive" type way. My shirt had become basically a useless wet shred of cloth at this point. And I wanted to focus on class and not the grossness.

Bringin' it back to the blog title. Get it? See? SEE?!
And so, full moon midriff all abouts, I vinyassa-ed and I downward dogged and I warrior one and two-ed and I did all of these things while in a sauna.

For sure I was able to go deeper into stretches, and I do think that the heat kind of necessitates you taking yoga breathing seriously and focusing on that breathing. You know. To keep you alive. Because you are going to burst aflame if you don't.

I am glad I had a full cold bottle of water with me, and I needed to eat a protein smoothie immediately after. The only parallel feeling I've had after a workout recently was Barry's Bootcamp where you just depleted and fully worked out after the session. This is absolutely a draw for many who want a "good" workout and nor just a normal yoga flow, and I get that.

Would I run to go to hot yoga every day? Absolutely not. And I'd 100% want to make sure I was comfortable with the studio before trying again here in NYC. And I'd be very careful wearing the bestest wicking clothes ever. But I'm open to it, I suppose. I was able to touch my toes during hot yoga, which I normally can't do. And I assume the calorie burn was exquisite (although that's frankly not my main goal in yoga).

I'm glad I tried it, and I'm really glad that my first experiences were overall positive ones.

Do you do hot yoga? What do you think about it? 





Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Very Miami PR: Race Recap

A couple of weekends back I went to Miami with my friend Jen to root her on as she conquered the Miami Marathon. I did the Miami Half Marathon as part of my Boston training...but was also secretly trying to PR!

As faithful followers of MeriG will well-remember, Miami is where I #actually ran my first marathon. Rooted on by co-#1 fan Betsy, I conquered that race and was able to complete something that was an 18 month journey in the making.


Officially a marathoner!

I had always wanted to come back and do the half since -- quite frankly -- the first 13 miles of this race are far more exciting than the back half. The full has far fewer participants, and the course (which I'll describe in a moment) definitely peaks in the beginning leaving you a bit-lackluster when you need the motivation most.

What was great about going back to Miami this time was that I got to have the experience with Jen. I've written about "Roomie" Jen before. We were Freshman year roommates at Brandeis many moons ago and have been close friends ever since. Jen introduced me to health and fitness in many ways, and living with her was something that I will cherish forever. Today she is a doctor with a hubby and three kids, and our lives pretty much couldn't be more different. But our history and our mutual love of running keeps us connected. It's pretty beautiful, actually.

Jen's parents live in Miami, so I tagged onto their family vacation for this little race.

After arriving Friday night, Saturday was spent in race prep mode. Jen and I did a little shake-out run in the morning to get the muscles moving and then went to a yoga class at a random studio in her parent's neighborhood. I don't want to talk crap about the class....but actually I do. It was pretty bad. The teacher just obviously was not properly trained, and rather than a nice flow class (as advertised) he instead tried to have us hold awkward, random, and difficult poses without really leading up to them in any way. Not only was it not relaxing, it actually felt kind of downright dangerous. So Jen and I kind of stretched on our own to not risk injury and that was that. Afterwards, we headed to the expo to get our bibs.


Me and the Roomie. She's tall.

I love how you can personalize your bibs for this race!
After dinner with her family, we were off to bed as early as we could for our 3:30 am wake-up call. Oh, did I forget to mention that the race starts at 6:15 am? Yup. Miami gets hot, it turns out. So you want to start early. On this particularly day, however, we totally lucked out. The weather for the run was low 50s, sunny, and zero humidity. Pretty rare and pretty freaking amazing.

Although I tried to be cool about it, I had been craving a Miami PR. I've been doing a lot of strength and speed training, and I was ready to roll. However, once never knows what the race gods throw at you. So seeing that weather forecast made me nervous. Because with the combination of the stellar weather and the fact that Miami is a very flat course...I now knew that I had all the tools to make me capable of PR. If my legs (and tummy) would hold out...



We arrived at the start about 20 minutes before the gun went off. It was pretty cool. And by that I mean it was cold out but I was pretending to be warm because I am a NEW ENGLANDER AND I AM IN MIAMI. But for reals it was cold.




And then, we were off! I wished Jen well and then we parted ways so she could be Speedy Gonzalez for 26.2 and I could be...Speedy MeriG for 13.1.

Even though you have to wake up at an ungodly hour, there are benefits. The key benefit being sunrise over the long bridge to Miami Beach. I tried to snap some moving pics, but these truly don't do justice to the beauty of these miles.



Miles 3 through 10 are basically around Miami Beach. Very cool. And then you run back over bridges to Miami to finish near the starting line. The full marathon loops down south for several miles before coming back along the coast and back and forth over some causeways before finishing in the same spot.

I felt great for the first 10 miles and was totally on pace not only for a PR...but for a big PR. I was fighting against a 1:55:56 and I was pacing -- according to the math racing through my head -- to something like a 1:53 or 1:54. Nutty.

At mile 11 I felt a twinge in my knee. Ow.

And then my knee kind of seized up. Oyyyy.

But by this point I knew that even if I ran "just" 9ish minute miles I could still PR. I stopped for a few seconds and stretched, and then I said to myself, "girl. Do this. Do this now." And I was off.

My gait looked something like this:


And I wasn't sure I was going to make it without walking the last mile. But I focused on my breath, on my mantra (an uninspiring "You will be so pissed if you don't do this." Yep. That was my mantra), and on putting one foot in front of the other.

And then I saw the finish. And I looked at my watch. And I saw the finish. And I looked at my watch. And by golly...I was going to PR. I ran under the Finish Banner like this:


And my time was 1:54:40 -- a solid PR and with a busted knee! I was so, so happy and proud of myself for this accomplishment.


I recovered in the finish area and posted on the social medias and called my parents to brag (because  -- let's be real -- they would have thought I was pretty amazing if I had just stayed home and eaten a bagel). And then I was able to see Jen come in at an amazing 3:50 for her marathon. Here she is lookin' like, "hey! no big deal! 'bout to finish me a marathon!"



Before I leave you, I have a closing thought: Reader, please keep in mind that my first half marathon in Brooklyn in 2008 was a 2:22 finish. That's slightly under an 11-minute mile.

Over the course of seven years I have trained and tried and educated myself and really worked at this. And it's that effort that has brought me to 1:54:40, which is an 8:45 minute per mile average pace.

If that's not a gratifying stat? I don't know what is. 



Teaser for my next post: New things I'm trying. Hot yoga in Miami...and FlyWheel in NY. More to come!

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: http://www.runDFMC.org/2014/merig

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: rundfmc.org/2015/merig

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: http://www.despair.com/demotivators.html


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 www.rundfmc.org/2015/merig. 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: www.rundfmc.org/2015/merig