Back in August I wrote: I’m more than halfway through Hanson’s Half marathon plan with the goal of a sub-2 hour race on October 15th. Things are going okay but also they kind of suck and I kind of want to quit.
If you are following along on Strava you may have noticed that not only did I not run a half marathon on October 15th but I barely ran in October. After my labor day “tune-up” half marathon got cancelled I completely lost momentum. First, our trip to Bend was supposed to be a weekend of running and sunshine but it ended up being hazardous due to forest fires and we had to do short, boring runs on a treadmill. Upon my return to Seattle I tried to get back into it but had a funky week where my schedule got messed up due to a work retreat followed by a visit from my Mom. I’m not sure what happened but I’ll just chalk it up to overtraining and lack of motivation (and lack of cross-training and strength training). By mid-September I started having odd hip pains. Not when I was running and not even after I went for a run but on my rest days or in the middle of the night. That quickly followed with increasingly painful sciatica. I took off a week and tried to do some stretching and light yoga but the pain only got worse. So no half marathon for me. No PRs and really not much of anything.
And I still have sciatica. I just went to the doctor to rule out a stress fracture or a slipped disc. Nope. I’m pretty sure I have some muscle imbalances and piriformis syndrome (been there, done that once before). I’m being stubborn and not going to a PT for now.
I’m not terribly sad about it but a bit frustrated with myself. I think shooting for unrealistic* goals and not putting in all the work was THE BIG MISTAKE I made this year. I’m almost 49 and I am definitely noticing the effects that aging and menopause have on my running. I don’t recover as quickly. My stride is stiffer and creaky. My body has changed a lot in the last 2 years. It takes a lot more work to be an older, healthy runner. Work that I am maybe too lazy to do.
*I set my Hansons tempo pace at 8:46 and that was too ambitious. I can’t help but wonder if I’d only shot for 8:55… or 8:59, would I have stayed healthy and succeeded in a sub 2 hour half? I keep thinking that so many runners I know can run sub 2. Why can’t I? I suppose the first thing I need to quit doing is comparing myself to others. Especially to people who are younger than me. Duh.
2017 hasn’t really been bad, actually. There were quite a few things that I enjoyed about running this year. Bloomsday was a blast (and I earned a yellow bib)! I ran on beautiful trails in Bellingham and Snohomish. I PR’d my half marathon without even setting out to do so. I ran my first trail race. And I got to run in both Boston and NYC. I placed 2nd in my age group and I ran every freaking day in June.
For 2018, I don’t want to set any lofty goals. I want to get back to a fully healthy body (sure, I might have to cave and go see that PT…) and run many happy miles. Just before my hips started going downhill in September, I noticed that many of my runs weren’t fun anymore. I dreaded doing those tempos and I’m sure if someone saw me running they would have thought I looked like I was in a lot of pain. The truth is, I wasn’t in pain, but I also wasn’t having fun. I’ve seen other runners out on training runs looking totally miserable, pushing their pace, and I totally don’t want to be that runner. If it means no more PR’s, then I’m a-okay with that.
After drywalling went up things started happening really quickly. The mud/tape guy showed up and made the walls and ceilings smooth and pretty, the hardi-plank siding went up, the deck started coming together, and the hardwood floors were installed. It felt like we’d be done earlier than scheduled.
There were a few hiccups…
Just after the mud and taping happened I woke up at 4am and realized that the electrician hadn’t wired for the range hood and no one else had noticed. When I pointed this out to our project manager and carpenter they casually replied that they’d get the electrician back to fix it. (They were a bit embarrassed.) I pictured drywall being torn out but in the end it was a mostly simple job of feeding wire through a small hole in the drywall that would be re-covered by the vent (of course, not as simple as it would have been had they not missed it in the first place)!
The hardwoods were stained w/ 2 coats of low VOC finish and the pressure was on to make our final decision on paint colors and cabinet finishes because everything was scheduled to happen very quickly in the next 2 weeks. I ordered a handful of painting samples (and ended up going with my original pick – upper top left – Benjamin Moore Gray Owl) and we easily decided on Amerock’s Highland Ridge pulls and knobs in oil rubbed bronze.
And things did go very quickly at that point. The cabinets went in and the cabinet hardware was installed. It really started looking like a kitchen!
Also, just as things were coming along, our lead carpenter took a few days off without warning, removing all his equipment that he was actively using to install all the trim work (saws, tool belts, etc…) from inside the house. It was pretty frustrating to come home to nothing being done after weeks of daily progress! And then just like that, he showed up again and continued working. We suspect he had an emergency job he had to work on but who knows. Communication could have been better…
Our contractor picked the Bellmont 1600 line of cabinets for us (they sub-contracted a cabinet specialist to help us pick the specific layout and types of drawers and configurations and to take measurements and draw up the plans).
Another little hiccup involved the “oopsie” of not taking into account our upstairs landing. From pretty much day one, we’d mentioned that the cabinet to the left of the fridge would not be able to go up to the ceiling due to that landing. The contractor was informed, the project manager was informed, our carpenter who demo’d the kitchen was informed, and the cabinet sub-contractor was informed. And yet, still, in the cabinet plans, the cupboard went all the way up to the ceiling. It finally took an onsite visit from our contractor to notice the real issue and get the plans updated and approved by us. And that all happened after the cabinets had been ordered and were being built. Sigh.
Yet another hiccup! We specified glass in the dining room cabinets and as you can see below they are not glass. That little error wasn’t fixed until almost a month later…
Next up countertops and backplashes! We went with Caesarstone Quartz “Concrete” with the standard finish (we had considered “honed” but had heard that honed stains easier).
For the backsplash we kept it simple with white subway tile and “Pewter” grout color.
We also went with a Kraus single bowl 32″ undermount sink. I specifically went with the single bowl so I could soak large skillets w/ handles. I love it!
BTW, Houzz forums were great for helping me make decisions. We went to a few show rooms but I got much more information from online forums. Maybe that’s just how I deal with things but I think showrooms are kind of useless except for touching and seeing actual finishes.
The deck was slowly coming into place and our lead carpenter was doing a great job on it, but then he announced that his wife (whose due-date was the day before our scheduled finish date) was going to be induced early. I begged him to finish quickly!
The painters showed up and started working on the windows. For these, we chose Benjamin Moore Onyx. We were happy to hear that they had sub-contracted out the painters that we’d already hired to paint our house exterior. They did a great job!
And yet another hiccup. We opened up the entry between the living room and kitchen by a foot and the opening was to be finished with “drywall corners” vs. wood trim. However, the drywall guy was long gone at this point and the painters needed to continue working so we were forced to go with wood trim (which cost us more but in the end we’re very happy with).
That hiccup also almost cost us a weird alignment issue with the sink. Our carpenter was going to try to make sure the sink was lined up under the window, even though that would mean bringing the cabinets closer to the entryway trim but the project manager (whose previous job was a kitchen installer), made an executive decision without our approval to move it over a few inches to the right, screwing up the window/sink alignment. Fortunately, our super nice carpenter agreed that it wasn’t the best idea and he was able to readjust the cabinets back over to the left before everything else was permanently installed.
Notice in the photo above where the light switch is located. It’s on the other side of a heating duct (previously, it was located on the opposite side of the duct, next to the old room entryway). None of us ever considered putting it on the other side of the opening where it could be located close to the entryway… We’re used to it now but it was a bit weird at first.
So. Many. Hiccups. So. Little. Sleep.
We had one crazy day that reminded me of the movie The Money Pit. Where everyone was there all at once working on different projects and we had to be home that day for the appliance installation so we witnessed it all and I will say that was the most stressful day of the entire project.
First, our carpenter went on paternity leave (and without finishing our deck!).
Second, the new guy in charge was the project manager who has a bit of a different communication style and wasn’t there nearly as often (but in the end, got all the work done, and did it well).
Third, the electricians showed up before the project manager did so we let them in and they proceeded to install all the electrical finishes, asking us questions along the way (not our job). A few set screws were missing in the chandelier. One of the pendant globes was mishapen. Amazon replacement shipments to the rescue! (Anyone want our old rejects?)
Fourth, the appliance installers showed up and a) couldn’t install the dishwasher because the plumber hadn’t finished something, b) had to wait for the electrical guys to finish their work before installing the fridge, c) found out the the range we ordered required a different electrical outlet than the one the electrician had put in (we had them return it and we ordered a dual-fuel model that was $700 more), and d) couldn’t fit the hood into its spot until, finally, the project manager showed up and suggested they nudge a piece of wood in between the cabinets to widen the opening a speck (it worked).
Fifth, the painters were there, moving through all these other people, magically doing their thing with cutting in, paint matching, and not causing any problems.
In the end, we were basically done with the entire project!
Notice in the photo above the upper cabinet to the left of the fridge. That’s the weird stair landing issue we had. They ended up shortening the cabinet on-site. The fridge is a Liebherr. So lovely. So perfect. I bought some cilantro and 3 weeks later it was still crisp in there. A miracle!
Our dishwasher and range are KitchenAid and the faucet is a Grohe Minta with a Supersteel finish.
The butcher block counter top in the photo above was temporary. Even though we’d picked our butcher block way back in March or April (we picked a myrtlewood countertop salvaged from wood found in Southern Oregon), they didn’t coordinate the order and delivery until too late to have it finished by our end date (which ended up being about 10 days later than originally scheduled). We finally got it installed just after labor day.
We were able to occupy the space by mid-August, just in time to have a professional photoshoot for the Seattle Remodeled Homes Tour which takes place in October. After the photoshoot, the painters showed up again and finished up our exterior and by late August we were finally done. Let there be no more home improvement projects for, well, forever.
Exterior color: Benjamin Moore Asphalt.
And now we’re enjoying our space. We eat meals at the dinner table again! We have our weekend coffee at the peninsula while we discuss our cats. I’m getting back into the habit of cooking again! No regrets. So happy!
Our remodel is done and I hope to report with pretty pictures soon but first I want to write a little about the Hanson’s Half Marathon plan that I’m somehow managing to pull off!
TL:DR: I’m more than halfway through Hanson’s Half marathon plan with the goal of a sub-2 hour race on October 15th. Things are going okay but also they kind of suck and I kind of want to quit.
Backstory: I ran the Grateful Dad half marathon in June as a test to see where my fitness was. I had a decent base going in and I’d managed a few 10+ milers with tempos thrown in towards the end on tired legs and felt pretty good about my chances of running a decent race. My goal was to finish sub-2:10, but I was particularly shooting for a 2:07 finish based on my training paces and a few previous shorter races.
The day before the half, we drove down to Portland and met up with some friends and drank many beers and I finished the night with pizza and wine. I think I managed to get to bed by 11pm and set my alarm for 6am. I woke up around 2am with a headache. Oops. I popped a few aspirin and went back to bed.
The following morning the headache lingered but I didn’t feel too horrible. We picked up coffee, a bagel, and a banana and drove to the start (I’d convinced Robert to run it too). When the gun went off I expected the usual meh feeling I have for the first few miles of most of my runs but instead I felt really good and was easily running a 9 minute mile pace. I knew that I should slow way down (like to 9:45 pace) but I just couldn’t. I told myself I’d slow down around 4 or 5 miles but I never really got that tired. Finally, around mile 8 I was starting to feel like maybe that fast pace was a huge mistake. My legs were feeling fatigued. I sucked down some jelly beans (w/ caffeine) and willed myself to gut it out. At that point I was averaging around 9:20 pace. After the turn around a woman came up behind me and told me she wanted to run with me because she liked my pace. That’s a lot of pressure! I had my headphones on but I mumbled, “um, sure!” and she lingered just a step behind me for the rest of the race. I finished in 2:01:33! That was a shock. My previous PR is 2:01:50 but it was a really short course (12.7 miles) so this PR was for real. Had that woman not put the pressure on me I think I would have slowed down.
After that race I realized maybe I should try the Hanson’s Plan. I’ve had the book for over a year and it’s, well, intimidating. I’ve never run 6 days a week and I’ve never done more than one weekday workout (Hanson’s has 2). My main concern was would it work for a masters runner who is accident prone. Anyway, I dove right in. I started off on week 5 (because the “beginner” plan spends the first 4 weeks base-building) and I signed up for a tune-up race for Labor Day weekend (Sunriver Half, which I’ve run a handful of times, with the plan that Robert would pace me) and penciled in the Snohomish River Run half marathon on October 15th as my PR half.
To summarize Hanson’s beginner plan:
Tuesday: speed, and then later, strength (all track intervals)
Sunday: 10+ mile long runs with effort
3 days are SOS runs (something of substance) and 3 are easy. The tempo builds to 6 miles and the strength sessions build up to 2×3 miles at slightly slower than race pace. I’m already averaging 40mpw and the plan goes up to 48mpw. That’s a lot for me. That’s marathon training mpw for me. The idea is: ACCUMULATIVE FATIGUE
After week 2 I almost quit. My right knee was killing me when I climbed stairs, I was feeling really fatigued, and I was suffering from wildfire smoke induced asthma. I took a few days off to regroup and also to get back into the habit of foam rolling and stretching (quad stretch = happy knee). Somehow I managed to come through after that rest period feeling great. I only missed maybe one easy day after that and I foam rolled and recovered like a champ.
Even though I was feeling good I was also kind of getting tired of the training plan. It’s 18 weeks! Who trains that hard and long for a half? What’s the point? If I shave a minute off my time is it worth it? Waking up at 5am is annoying (because I wake up at 3am and remember that my alarm is going to go off at 5am so then I can’t fall back asleep). But. BUT. What if I ran a 1:55 half. That translates to a 3:58 full (on a perfect day, in a perfect scenario, with perfect training). Do you know what that means?
I would qualify for Boston. Yep. I’m aging up. Any sub 4 hour marathon I run after September is a BQ for 2019 because I will be 50 years old for Boston 2019.
That’s crazy talk. And that’s why I’m doing this crazy training plan.
Fast forward to now. My tune-up race was supposed to happen this weekend but they just postponed it due to air quality issues. I had hoped to race my ass off with Robert pacing me and if I failed at getting even close to 1:55 I was going to back off Hanson’s and just go back to a 25-30mpw base-building fall/winter happy place. Paint some rooms. Cook some food. Brush some cats.
Now I don’t have an excuse to stop doing the plan. I’m still feeling good. It’s now or never, right? Right? Wrong?
Ugh. (I’m lazy.)
BTW, we’re still going to Bend for the weekend. We’d also planned to attend a beerfest and now that I don’t have to race (and really can’t even run due to air quality, I’ma gonna drink all the beers). Cheers!
I think I’ve mentioned that we’re getting our kitchen remodeled but I haven’t gone into details. We’ve lived in our 1928 house for 15 years and the little nook in the photo below held our small dining table, refrigerator, and most of my small kitchen appliances and whatever else I couldn’t find room for in the kitchen. It was tight. When the kids were younger we ate dinner together at the table a lot but over the last decade we probably only ate together in that tiny space a few dozen times.
Other issues besides lack of space included the placement of the windows (not a fan of windows that butt up to the corner of the house), the location of the backdoor on our basement stair landing, and a very low ceiling inside (it’s really a converted porch). Anyway, I’d dreamt from day one of making it a better space. Finally, this year, I felt like we were ready to take the plunge.
The new design involved removing the old nook and making a new, well-made addition that doubled the space. While we were at it we decided it was worth it to update the rest of the kitchen. New flooring, appliances, cabinets, countertops. Everything. A pretty expensive endeavor that has caused me more than one sleepless night.
We hired a design-build team and they are taking care of everything. I love it. They made quick work of the little nook on day 1 (May 2):
Our backyard became a staging ground for construction materials (and our front yard holds a porta-potty and a large dumpster). They removed concrete, dug out the crawl space, built cement forms, poured concrete, put in a french drain, and framed the walls. We saw a lot of progress over the next 2 weeks (and meanwhile, we still had access to our kitchen, which was nice).
I kind of freaked out when they put up the roof. It swallowed most of our dormer (which we knew would happen but seeing it in real life was still a surprise). We might get around to converting it to a larger shed dormer in a few years (which would give me more closet space upstairs) but let’s see how our budget is doing before we commit …
We also got pretty new fiberglass (on the outside) and wood (on the inside) windows. They’re “ebony” and we’re going to have the house painters come in and paint the rest of our windows the same color to match.
They opened up the space between our living room and the kitchen by about a foot and it makes a huge difference. I’m not a huge fan of open concept floor plans but being able have a nice big view to the back of the house is really nice.
Next came electrical and plumbing. No photos because boring. We have 5 new can lights, plus wiring is in place for under cabinet lights, a dining room chandelier and 2 pendant lights for our peninsula. After everything passed inspection they insulated and put up drywall, plus started the back porch. That’s where we’re at today. New siding is being installed and mudding and taping are happening. The cats love it. Vespa inspects all the new things and Gus has jumped out into the backyard twice (once while we were out of town but luckily he’s a chicken cat and cried at our front door and our neighbor was able to rescue him).
Part 2 will be more fun. We’ll have hardwood floors, new cabinets (they’re white – I’m kind of nervous about them being white), new countertops and all the other pretty stuff. Hopefully less than 6 weeks to go!
Robert ran his 2nd Boston marathon a few weeks ago and just missed getting a PR in less than ideal conditions (hot!). His finish time was 3:16:57. Congrats to Bob! I like to tell people that of all the 50-54 year old men from Seattle (there were 5 of them), he ran the fastest time!!!
Next up, he’ll be running NYC in November. If the weather is nice I can’t imagine him not getting a PR there. It’s the perfect course for him.
Other Boston Shenanigans
I decided it would be fun to take videos vs photos of the elites at mile 24. I got the lead woman and lead man. Woo-hoo! And then I totally forgot how to take a video (you don’t hold down the video button!) I missed Jordan Hasay, Des Linden, Galen Rupp (I actually got a 1 sec. video of Galen), and Jared Ward. Finally I gave up and got a great photo of Meb.
After the elites went past I walked towards mile 23 and waited for Robert to come by (I figured I had over an hour to kill). I was tracking him via a Boston Marathon app and his Garmin. The app wasn’t giving me any updates and then I noticed that he’d stopped moving at mile 18 on the Garmin tracker. I was worried that something was wrong when his little dot stayed there for quite some time. I decided to close the tracker and open it again and when the map opened up he was already at mile 24. Argh! The tracker must have stalled out and he somehow snuck past me. Huge spectator fail. I walked back to our hotel and drank champagne (and then my Boston Marathon app finally started working — argh again!) 🙁
Robert arrived not long after, looking peppy, and drank a beer. That’s how he do.
Hello. I’m a lefty and I’m clumsy.
I sprained my ankle in Seattle just before we caught a Lyft to the airport. I’m not naming names but 2 someones might have contributed to me missing the bottom step of our steep stairway by a) putting their luggage at the bottom of the stairs, causing me to shift my balance while carrying my suitcase down, and b) running just under my foot, waving his fluffy butt at me, as he zoomed down the stairs. Hint: they are 2 of the 3 boys that live with me.
It was a loud and derpy fall (my suitcase went flying, etc…) but my ankle didn’t hurt that much so I wasn’t really concerned. But when we landed in Boston I could barely put my shoe on and the first several hours walking in the city were really painful. I’d signed up for the B.A.A. 5K which was on Saturday (we arrived Thursday morning) and I wasn’t at all confident that I could run.
When we went the race expo I took advantage of freebies to treat the injury — 5 minutes of TENs therapy and a free taping from a PT! And the more I walked, the better my ankle felt but I tried a few short jogs and had to stop due to pain.
By race morning I was about 75% sure I’d be walking the entire race so I self-seeded myself with the 10:00-10:59 group (originally I was going to start in the 8:00-8:59 group). The race is big (10,000 runners, I think) so by the time my group actually got to start running, the elites had already finished. I saw the male winner, Ben True (13:20 – an American record!) being interviewed as we shuffled toward the start line. Robert took great photos of Ben and Molly Huddle (2nd place female).
When I finally started running I was surprised that I didn’t have any pain. Adrenaline? Who knows. The problem was I wasn’t able to get up to my 5K goal pace until after mile one due to crowding and walkers so it ended up not being even close to the race I’d trained for (~8:40 pace). I ended up finishing in 29:00. In any case, I had a great time and was happy that I was running and not limping along. Halfway through the race I realized I was running right alongside the president of the New York City Road Runners, Peter Ciaccia. Later, I ran with Big Bird wearing Altras! My ankle hurt a bit and bruised more after the race but no real damage was done.
So, was it worth it to train 8 weeks for this 5K? I think so. My pace has steadily gone down gotten slower over the past 2 years and I really needed to train for speed after a year of injury and slow marathon training. By week 8, I was feeling much faster than I ever felt in 2016. In the end, I guess I don’t really care that much about my body slowing down a bit but it’s fun to experiment and I enjoy speedwork. Ultimately, running happy and healthy is still the most important thing to me.
On the other hand, how did I go from a 25:04 PR in 2015 (just after my Portland Marathon) to a very difficult 27:33 at Mercer Island (BAA doesn’t count due to the ankle) in 2017? Am I just getting old? Menopause? Am I too worried about my heart rate (my PR was just before I started heart rate training)? Am I sick*? Who knows.
*Here is where I get all negative nelly and woe is me: I saw my doctor last week because I had 2 scary incidents (one after speedwork at the track in March) where my chest hurt a bit and my left arm/neck hurt for a few hours. I was SURE that I’d had a heart attack both times (heh, even though I didn’t call 911). After bloodwork, an EKG, and an X-ray, I got “reassured” as follows: “You don’t have anemia, you don’t have a thyroid issue, your EKG was normal, your heart looks and sounds great, but your lungs are hyper-expanded, like COPD (they don’t fully exhale or something like that). But not to worry. It’s just due to your rigid, rounded ribcage (pectus carinatum) and crooked spine (scoliosis). Your lungs might hurt more after speedwork and your neck and arm are working hard to help your ribs during exhale so that can make them achey” Okay. So that’s how it is. I inefficiently breath and if I am to understand the situation correctly, this is probably why my heart rate is always so high and also why I will never be a Boston Qualifier and there’s nothing I can do to fix it. I’m getting a stress test with the cardiologist in a few weeks just to make sure nothing is up with my heart. I guess it’s better to be a healthy, deformed runner than a dead runner.
Seriously, just walking across a busy street in Brookline, looking grumpy.
If you follow me on Instagram then you know that while we were in Boston we drank a lot of beer. Our favorite breweries were Cambridge Brewing (bonus: they have amazing, healthy food), Trillium (despite their tasting room being in Canton which required a car to get to), and Lamp Lighter Brewing. And our favorite drinking place turned out to be just a mile from our hotel in Brookline, The Publick House. Vacation Jennifer had a lot of beer.
I got an Instant* Pot pressure cooker for Christmas. I got sucked in after reading an article on Serious Eats that compared the outcome of dishes cooked in 1) a pressure cooker, 2) a dutch oven, and 3) a slow cooker. I’ve used my slow cooker a lot and had no intention of giving it up, but now, after having my pressure cooker for a few months, I have decided that I don’t need my slow cooker anymore. Buh-bye. (I do, however, still need my rice cooker. More on that below.)
*There are a lot of Instant Pot fans on the internets that will brag about how you can make blah blah blah in just 10 minutes! but they often leave out that part where it takes around 10 minutes to come up to pressure and the part about often waiting 10-20 minutes after pressure to naturally release the pressure before you can open the lid. So, yes, it’s a faster way to cook some things. But, no, it’s not *ta-da* INSTANT.
A few Instant Pot terms you need to become familiar with if you’re going to drink the Instant Pot Kool-Aid:
natural release – With the pressure valve in the “closed” position, the time it takes to slowly release enough pressure after cooking before you can open the lid. Abbreviated below as NR.
quick release – (Carefully) moving the pressure valve to the “open” position as soon as cooking is complete. This prevents some things from over-cooking; it’s not great for most things (steamy, dangerous, possibly messy). Abbreviated below as QR.
sauté – Instant Pot comes with a bunch of buttons. Besides the “manual” button for timed pressure cooking, I’ve only used the “sauté” button. It generally works quite well at sautéing onions, sweating veggies, and browning meat.
Below is a random list of things I’ve made (and please forgive my instructions/methods; I’m not a recipe writer; I also noticed that I can’t break the habit of writing measurements in the style that my 8th grade Home Ec teacher taught me (ie: lb, C, T, t)):
Use any chicken bones you have (and roast them beforehand if you have time). I used some chicken necks and backs (Central Market sells them frozen and they’re about $1.50 at most) along with a few chicken feet (yes!) and onions (unpeeled, quartered), carrots (unpeeled, cut into thirds), celery (cut into thirds), 6 peppercorns, a bay leaf, some fresh, smashed ginger, 2.5-3 quarts filtered water, and 1/4 C apple cider vinegar (I like mine with “The Mother”). This is an easy one to crank out on a Sunday afternoon and I can have the broth cooled, skimmed, and separated into freezer containers way before bedtime.
Sauté a chopped onion in olive oil until soft. Stir in 2 C arborio rice* until translucent and just turning white again (a few minutes), then deglaze with a big splash of white wine.
*I used a spinach seasoned risotto mix from Central Market (basically dry seasonings tossed with arborio rice).
Stir in 4 C of veggie or chicken broth (I used some of my bone broth from the recipe above) and close the lid. Cook for 5 minutes, wait 1 minute, then perform a quick release. Remove lid when pressure is fully released and stir in parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.
I didn’t think I would like risotto in the pressure cooker after my fails with plain white rice and pilaf (see below) but risotto is a win for me. I was able to prep the rest of the meal while it cooked (instead of having to stir, stir, stir). It came out velvety and creamy.
Sauté 3 lbs of chicken thighs/legs (bone-in, skin on), along with 1 chopped white onion, 2-3 cloves of crushed garlic, 1 T cumin, 2 chopped poblano chiles, 3-4 fire-roasted hatch chiles, and 4-5 tomatillos, quartered. Amazingly, you don’t need any extra liquid for this recipe. The juice from the chicken and tomatillos is enough to create the perfect amount of pressure. (I could not believe how easily the chicken fell off the bone as I pulled the pieces out of the cooker.)
Use an immersion blender (or regular blender) to puree the peppers/onions/tomatillos (add fish sauce for seasoning) and then toss the chicken back in (de-boned, skin removed, shredded).
Serve with rice and a few corn tortillas and cilantro and lime for garnish. Plenty of delicious leftovers.
Cut a 4 lb boneless pork shoulder into 4 equal pieces and rub them in a little oil then rubbed them with salt, chili powder, and cinnamon. After resting for 30 minutes I browned them in the cooker then toss in 2 sliced onions, 8 crushed garlic cloves, 2 sliced habanero peppers, 1 C of brown beer and 1 T of apple cider vinegar.
After natural release, remove the pork pieces and allow them to cool enough to handle with a few forks for pull apart goodness. I HAVE NEVER SEEN PORK THIS TENDER.
We had some over nachos (with some added cotija cheese and pickled jalapeños) on Super Bowl Sunday. Plenty of leftovers for lunches and freezing.
Season a 2.5 lb roast with salt and pepper and brown in the cooker. Remove from cooker and added thinly sliced onions and sauté until soft. Add 1 clove of minced garlic and sauté until fragrant (about 1 minute). Deglaze pot with about 1/2 C red wine and then return the roast to the cooker along with 1.5 C of beef broth and a pho bouillon cube. Close the pot and manually cook for 30 minutes.
After natural release, remove the roast and allow it to slightly cool, then slice (I’d hoped it would slice more uniformly but it mostly shredded).
We made French dip sandwiches with our roast. Strain the broth for a lovely pho-hinted au jus. Toast French hoagie buns and layer them with beef, some of the onion slices strained off the broth, a few sprinkles of cilantro, and a slice of provolone. Dip. Eat. Repeat.
Chop a bunch of carrots up (at least 4 or 5), an onion, one green pepper, 2 celery sticks, and mince some garlic (about 2 cloves) and about an inch of ginger.
In the Instant Pot, sauté the onions, carrots, celery, and pepper for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and ginger until fragrant. Add 2 t each of Garam Masala curry, ground coriander, and ground cumin, plus 1 t of cayenne and stir until fragrant.
Finally, add 2 C veggie broth, 1 can chopped tomatoes, 1 can chick peas, 1 peeled and chopped sweet potato, a big handful of raisins or chopped dried apricot, 1/4 C peanut butter or other nut butter, and 4 big handfuls of chopped kale or spinach to the cooker and cook on manual for 8 minutes.
Allow a natural release. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over brown rice or couscous.
5 minute pressure
Place steamer basket on the tray that comes with your Instant Pot. Pour in 1 C of cold water and fill the steamer basket with eggs (I usually do 6-8). Set the cooker to 5 minutes. After the pot comes to pressure and cooks (this usually takes a total of 12 minutes or so) use the quick release setting and carefully remove the eggs and place in an ice bath for 5 minutes.
Melt 1 T butter on the sauté setting and add 1 C of steel cut oats. Stir for a few minutes, then add 1 chopped apple, 1 t of cinnamon, 1 T of brown sugar, 2.5 C of water. Cook on manual for 3 minutes and allow 10 minutes natural release before opening. Serve with chopped nuts, bananas, dried fruit, and some coconut milk + honey or extra brown sugar for sweetness.
I’ve also successfully made (but didn’t take notes):
black bean turkey chili
Things that I made that didn’t work (for me):
plain old rice (took just as long as my rice cooker and a bit mushy on my 2 trials)
To be fair, I tried making rice the first week I had the cooker and I wasn’t exactly sure how long to set things so I’ll probably try a few more times with a shorter pressure time or with less liquid.
pasta (way too messy to quick release and also took just as long as stove top)
There is no way to do a natural release with pasta (it will overcook) so you’re stuck with a starchy, spitting mess when doing a quick release. Having said that, the mac and cheese that I made was delicious (just add in chopped american cheese, grated cheddar, cayenne, dry mustard, and evaporated milk to the cooked pasta and let it slowly melt into creamy goodness).
Now that I’ve put together all these recipes, I’ll have to stow most of them away because I’m about to embark on a new adventure in mostly vegetarian/vegan eating (I haven’t decided whether or not to keep fish out of my diet and I am not fully committed to a no cheese/no yogurt lifestyle). Stay tuned!
Intellectual lectures? Why yes. The Boy and I are going to a UW lecture tomorrow night titled “Beyond and Within the Cuban Revolution” (part of the Worlds Turned Upside Down: Five Revolutions That Shaped our Times).
New thing #4:
A new kitchen. We are just starting the design phase of a major kitchen remodel. Daunting and scary and stressful but equally exciting. Getting to customize a kitchen for my cooking/entertaining style is going to be a once in a lifetime experience. We are really hoping to make our kitchen/dining nook more of a gathering place for family and friends (which also goes along with the Mediterranean diet’s “enjoy meals with family and friends” concept).
New thing #5:
Trail “running” – as in, I’ve got my running gear on and I’m attempting to move faster than a power walk on muddy trails at Carkeek Park. I’m trying to toss in non road-terrain at least once a week just to perk up dormant leg/feet muscles. Feeling good.
New thing #6:
New age. I turn 48 next Monday. Despite having a few annoying perimenopause symptoms, I am happier than ever with the age I am and the stage of life I’m at. Freedom to do what I want when I want it. Structure and balance. Which is why it’s time to toss in some new things, I think.
How about one final 2016 entry? I am so ready for 2017.
I got a few runs in last month after mostly recovering from the head cold from hell. I ran the Ballard Turkey Trot (lots of fun but I couldn’t really breath despite taking it pretty easy) and 2 more runs that progressively felt better on my lungs. Unfortunately, a few hours after running an easy 7 miler I felt a little twinge in my lower back after lifting a light bag of groceries. The next morning it really hurt to bend forward and by the next morning (after a sneeze in the shower) I had a blown out back (spasms, cursing, inability to move without screaming — aka hell).
This has happened once before a few years ago. I visited my doctor (mainly to refill my muscle spasm meds) and he told me some people are just susceptible to this kind of back issue and if I weren’t as physically fit as I was I’d probably get them more often (I believe this is true because Robert also has this issue but it hasn’t bugged him at all since he started running). In any case, more than 2 weeks later I still have a bit of pain and haven’t been running or doing anything more than a lot of walking. I actually don’t think it’s a disc or back problem at all but rather piriformis syndrome since my left glute/hip/hamstring has been hurting just as much as my lower back. For a short time, I was worried that I had a stress fracture but it really feels 90% better now and I can jump on it. I’m going to keep stretching it (cobra pose, cat/camel pose + other gentle yoga), add in some light strength training (bridges, planks) and hopefully I’ll be pain free soon. Running may or may not happen for a while. I’m in no hurry.
Apparently my body didn’t think having a big old cold was enough fun so it also decided to make a little cold sore on my lip. I’ve had cold sores all my life (maybe one every 2 years or so) but haven’t had a big problem with them since I’ve become a regular runner so I was bummed to get one again. Luckily, they now sell fancy new meds that work really well and I caught this one really quickly and it was gone within a few hours BUT a few days later I had this weird “zit” under my eye that looked suspiciously like the beginning of a cold sore or a chicken pox blister. I didn’t touch it at all and it faded after a few days. I figured I’d dodged a bullet but then my eye started to feel irritated and within a week it was clear it wasn’t getting better but getting VERY BAD.
In the end, I was diagnosed with herpes simplex keratitis. Don’t Google Image that. It will make your eyes hurt. It really is one of the most painful things I’ve ever had to deal with. I can handle 3 days of back spasms. I can handle childbirth and marathons. This? This was something else. Something horrible.
Thankfully I am on the mend. I’ve been to my eye doctor 4 times now and have one more visit next week before I’m all clear to start wearing contacts again and go off viroptic meds. There is some scarring so I’ll have to have my prescription updated (just in time for fancy new glasses) and am no longer a candidate for Lasik (which I wasn’t even considering anyway). Oh, and it might come back again. Just like cold sores on the lip. If this happens to me again, just shoot me.
Finally, after 6 weeks of misery and being home sick for so many days (I think I missed about 8 days of work, plus so many doctors visits) I feel 99% back to normal. Normal for me right now is about cooking all the good foods, hanging out with the family, kissing my cats, listening to cheesy holiday music, and drinking a few beers. Ho ho ho. Happy Holidays.
I just wanted to throw out a few more things about the NYC Marathon and then I’ll shut up about it.
Getting to the start-line issues:
I had mentioned how annoying/difficult it was to get to the start of the race but I can’t say this enough: Don’t let that deter you. The actual race makes up for any transportation or crowd issues. In spades (is that a phrase that I can use here?)! I doubt I’ll ever experience such an amazing marathon again in my life. Actually, I’m kind of worried about this, but I really don’t know how it can be topped. I would run it again in a heartbeat, flaws and all!
All along, I knew this would not be a race or PR attempt for me so I took that mentality into my training. I tossed out all the “but I ran such and such pace last year” thinking and let my heart rate tell me what to do. I think that in doing so, I built a strong aerobic base, and learned how to pace like a pro. The NYC Marathon app has a pace predictor tool and I plugged in my training stats a few days before the marathon and it spit out the following:
At first I was a little bummed that they were predicting a 5 hour finish but then again, it really did make sense based on the pace I was running most of my long runs. Also, McMillan predicted a 4:45 finish (and that’s what my pace bracelet was set at).
I let the idea of being a 5 hour marathoner settle in and it all worked out for me. I didn’t put any pressure on myself and I felt super relaxed* at the start of the race. Now that I’ve done it and succeeded in running a well-paced, good marathon I know that I can do much better. In fact, I know I could have run NYC just a bit faster and still finished strong.
*My heart rate was anything but relaxed at the start, which is why I used my pace band instead of HR. I don’t know if this happens to other people, but my heart is always pounding like a bunny when I’m in a new environment, surrounded by, oh, 51,000 people, preparing to do something incredibly wild and crazy.
Negative splitting is rewarding in and of itself but getting free stuff is a bonus. Strava officially acknowledged my successful completion of their Back Half Challenge. Now I just need to find a pair of shoes that I really like and will wear (I don’t run in NB shoes anymore).
And just a few clothing/gear details:
I forgot to mention an important new addition to my race gear: “Gu bands.” I’m too lazy to look up what they’re really called, but Robert lent me his 2 pocketed wrist bands. They hold gels, or whatever, and you can see in the photo above that I’m wearing one on each wrist. I was able to store 2 GUs in each band plus one in my bra (that I lost AND THEN FOUND, MIRACULOUSLY, at mile 22). Anyway, they’re great. I’m also wearing a SPIbelt, which held my phone, some cash, and an MTA pass. Headphone cables, per usual, are also shoved in my bra, which is probably why I temporarily lost my GU in there. Really, if you know me in real life, you know that I have a lot of spare room for things in my bra.
My whole clothing/gear set up, from top to bottom was very comfortable. We really lucked out with the weather (just under 60 degrees, and mostly sunny; there was rumor of wind gusts but I was around so many people I felt nothing except for on the bridges). I had no chafing or blisters, and I realized once I got back to my hotel that I really didn’t sweat, either. At least not that, “Gross, I’m covered in white salt” kind of sweat that happens during warmer races or poorly hydrated races. (Seriously, I smelled my hat and bra. Honest. I didn’t sweat.)
I am recovering from a whopper of a cold that hit me right after I got back from NYC. It started off pretty mild and I thought I was over the hump after a few days so I stupidly went out for an 8 mile run one week post-marathon. The run went okay (it was a little hard to take in deep breaths) but when I got home from the run I realized that I was completely wasted and what was a tiny thing became a huge coughing, phlegmy thing. I was completely out of commission for about 6 days and am finally starting to feel semi-normal. I have a bruised rib from so much coughing, and I still can’t hear out of my right ear or smell anything but I actually got some sleep over the last few nights and feel like I’m out of the woods. Let’s not ever do that again.
Fortunately, this all happened at the perfect time. I’d finished my marathon and I needed to rest, physically, and mentally, anyway, so I didn’t feel too bummed that I wasn’t able to get back to regular running right away. However, I am really anxious to get back out there now that I’m back amongst the living and I think that my lungs will be recovered enough within the next few days to go out for a little run. There’s a local turkey trot on Thanksgiving morning that I’m considering. It’s downhill and full of kids and dogs so it’d be an easy/fun little comeback.
As for running goals beyond just getting back out there, I want to maintain a base over winter but somehow avoid running in the dark. Currently, my plan is to run commute into work 2x/week and then run Sat/Sun, for an average of about 25 miles a week. I’m not signed up for anything in 2017 but that needs to change soon because I like having something to train for. Hopefully I’ll get something on my calendar within the next month. I think I’ll at least be running the B.A.A. 5K in April again since I’ll be there with Robert and maybe this time I’ll be uninjured and can actually race it. Half marathons are a distance that I really like so maybe I’ll try to work on that area a bit in 2017.
2016 has been a pretty good running year for me so far despite the nearly yearlong hamstring injury. I’ve run over 1000 miles, plenty with hills, and I’ve done hours of productive-for-running strength training and I’ve figured out some great yoga routines to keep my left hip in alignment. I don’t want to fall back to being an average, always-on-the-verge-of-being-injured runner. I may continue to run slower but I’ll be running stronger and happier.
black toenail but otherwise no physical isssues (a first!)
Now the long version (if you have the patience to read it I salute you).
11/3 – Thursday
Robert and I took a Lyft to our motel in Seatac and ate dinner at Dave’s Diner & Brew. It happened to be Aloha Thursday so I scarfed down a plate of pork katsu, mac salad, and white rice covered in soy sauce. Let the carb loading begin.
11/4 – Friday
We had an early flight so staying in an airport Hampton Inn made things a lot less stressful. Thankfully they serve breakfast starting at 5am so I ate a bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar, dried fruits, and nuts before heading out.
On the flight over we snacked on pretzels, jerky, cheese, and more pretzels. I also snuck in a glass of wine (my first one in 7 days).
Once we arrived in NYC we got settled in our hotel in the Financial District and then headed to Fraunces Tavern for a few beers and then dinner. I highly recommend the chicken pot pie (and I had another glass of wine). I was feeling pretty relaxed and confident and I figured a glass of wine wasn’t going to mess with an easy paced marathon. (I was right!)
11/5 – Saturday
Hotel coffee and a Picky Bar for breakfast and then I got in a quick 3 mile shake out run along the lower east side of Manhattan. I started getting butterflies thinking about the upcoming marathon. This was the first time I’ve run the day before a marathon and I felt great. I can’t say this enough: running easier has helped me to run more mileage, stay injury-free, and feel fully recovered soon after each run. I felt pretty burned out at the end of my previous marathon cycles. I don’t ever want to do that again.
Second breakfast was an Americano and a blueberry muffin, then we headed to the marathon expo. As I expected, it was packed and I didn’t want to spend too much time on my feet so I grabbed my bib and made a quick run through the vendor aisles. I happened to walk past both Kara Goucher and Meb Keflezghi just before we left.
We had lunch at Haymaker Bar which isn’t too far from the expo in Chelsea. I enjoyed a few sour beers and some excellent macaroni and cheese. I also started sipping on Gatorade Endurance (basically I’d have a drink of beer and then a swig of Gatorade; this is a winning combo, I swear).
Finally, we picked up some deli food from Whole Foods to take back to the hotel. I ended up with some basmati rice, garlic mashed potatoes, and braised chicken, plus some Coney Island beer.
Once back at the hotel, I started clothing prep. Robert went out to find sharpies to write my name (“b-kat”) on duct tape and to look for a few other items for me (a cheap blanket and socks to use as temporary arm warmers). He returned with empty hands. Who knew that Duane Reade closes at 6pm on a Saturday night. The financial district is a great place to get to the Staten Island ferry but it’s not ideal for shopping. Robert headed out again to a Target in Soho and returned with sharpies. (Fortunately, the weather was great (about 54 degrees at start time and very little wind) and I didn’t need the blanket or the socks after all.)
I had planned to wear my Oiselle shorts and Under Armor tank BUT Robert found out that Tracksmith was selling an NYC 16 singlet, and they were delivering to NYC hotels so we had it shipped to us (and we had a credit so we got it for $20). I couldn’t pass up wearing it with my matchy-matchy Tracksmith shorts. I know they say that you shouldn’t wear something new on race day but I was feeling pretty confident that it wouldn’t be an issue. I got all my stuff ready to go and got to bed by 10pm.
RACE DAY – 11/6 – Sunday
I woke at 6:45am. I slept pretty well despite there being some kind of bachelorette or wedding party across the hall from us (2am drunken loud talking) and a seemingly non-stop garbage truck pickup of 4,000 dumpsters just outside our window. We got a bonus hour of sleep due to the time change as well. Excellent.
I ate my overnight oats (w/ extra salt added) and had a banana, plus a cup of coffee and a tiny sip of water. My plan was to get to the Athlete’s Village and drink a little more water and maybe eat a bagel and maybe take a nap. At the last minute I tossed some Clif apple, cinnamon oatmeal into my start bag along with a small disposable bottle of Gatorade Endurance and we headed to the ferry terminal (Robert would accompany as far as the busses on Staten Island).
Ferry Terminal = MAYHEM.
We got in “line” with a large group of runners. There are 3 doors in the terminal for loading passengers and they were all closed and runners was waiting at each set of doors. We picked the wrong door, apparently, because after 5 or 10 minutes the door furthest from us opened and passengers started flowing through. We headed that direction only to see the door closing before we got there so we turned around and headed back to the door we were originally waiting at (assuming, since it had the most people waiting at it, it would be next to load). Again, a different door opened and we moved in its direction only to be shut out once again. The ferry comes every 15 minutes but we weren’t getting anywhere. We headed back to our original area and I refused to budge. Again, a far away door opened. People moved in its direction but we stayed put. People kept moving through the open door. A ferry employ came up to us and said “Go that way! There’s plenty of room.” Boy, I was going to punch him after we got shut out again. And… we got through. I have no idea what was going on but it wasn’t fun. When we finally got on the ferry we barely managed to find a seat. Little did I know I wouldn’t get to sit down again until 4:30pm. We got to watch one marathon runner eat an entire Subway sandwich and potato chips. I hoped that I wouldn’t be running anywhere near him when it all came up.
After exiting the ferry we stood in the terminal. And stood and stood and stood. We slowly moved forward, pressed in by bodies all around us. I told Robert that this so made me never want to run this race again. After what seemed like another half an hour we emerged from the terminal to the bus lines. Bus after bus pulled up to carry runners off to the start line and I figured I’d be settled in a seat in no time. Robert said good-bye and I waited in what looked like the worst airport security line ever. It snaked back and forth and maybe after 20 more minutes I was near the front but after attempting to get on one bus and being denied due to lack of room I got on another one only to find there were no more seats. I’d heard the bus ride was 20 minutes or so and I wasn’t too concerned about standing (even though I’d been standing already for at least 90 minutes in the terminals). I’m not sure if there was something unusual going on but our bus took over 40 minutes to get to the start and there was a lot of starting and stopping. It was also pretty hot on the bus and people were sweating and some were looking a bit car sick. My corral was supposed to open at 10:15am and close at 10:40am and our bus finally arrived around 10:30am. Argh!!!
They rushed us through security (almost as if they knew we’d been screwed by the bus ride) and I made my way to the port-a-potty line as I sucked down the Clif oatmeal I had thankfully thought to bring with me. There was no way I was going to start this race without a potty stop and I wasn’t really concerned about getting shut out of my corral. I was in the last corral, in the last wave. What were they doing to do? Make me go home? (Funny to think that I figured I could use the port-a-potty like 4 times + have time to read a few magazines or nap while I waited.)
Thankfully, the lines for the port-a-potty weren’t that long and, bonus, a woman tossed me some wet wipes. Woohoo! Just as I exited the port-a-potty they announced that my corral was closing in 8 minutes. I was directed to the orange group (not very far from the entrance, fortunately) and I madly tore off my toss away sweatpants and sweatshirt. Within minutes I was in my corral, standing around, waiting again. As we waited, a recorded voice over the loud speaker reminded us, in several languages, to not pee on the bridge. Amusing. Finally, after 11am, I heard a cannon go off and we started walking towards the Verrazano Bridge. I could hear the National Anthem being sung in the distance. As we walked, I chatted with a 73 year old runner who looked incredibly fit. She’d run 2 Boston marathons in the 90s and was shooting for a 6 hour marathon this time around, her 5th NYC marathon. I wished her luck and nearly missed hitting start on my Garmin as we casually walked over the start line. The race was on. I honestly don’t remember hearing Frank Sinatra singing “New York, New York.”
Miles 1-2: The Bridge
I had 2 strategies to chose from for this marathon: Follow heart rate or pace bracelet (customized for a 4:45 finish and a slight negative split). When I checked my heart rate before we started running it was already 138bpm. Hm. If it shot up above 150 when I started I’d switch to my pace bracelet.
I jogged slowly, dodging through people who were planning to walk the entire marathon, apparently, and checked my HR: 162bpm. Nope. Not gonna do it; so the pace bracelet it is.
My pace bracelet had a 12:37 first mile and I had no idea how’d I’d manage to achieve that pace. My watch read 13:30 for at least the first half mile and I knew I shouldn’t waste my energy on weaving so I tried to spot openings and dash through them. I finally managed to “speed” up a little and finished mile 1 in 12:32. Oops. A little too fast. (I know from experience that even 5 seconds off pace can screw with you later on.)
Mile 2 is a downhill and I tried my hardest to speed up but it was hard to do with the crowds. I was shooting for 10:08 but only hit 10:27. As I was running down the bridge I looked over at Manhattan, way off in the distance. I could see the Empire State building and the entire skyline. I looked up at a helicopter just hovering over us and waved. It was like a crazy, amazing dream. How is this my life!!?
Garmin Splits: 12:32, 10:27
Miles 3-8: Brooklyn
As all 3 color groups exited the bridge from top left, top right, and bottom, we reconnected in Brooklyn to the sounds of bands and incredibly excited crowds. I didn’t want to get too caught up with the crowds yet so I stayed on the inside of the road and focused on not tripping (fortunately most of the jackets and large items had been dropped in the first mile). I checked my pace bracelet at each mile and after a few miles I realized I was reading it wrong (I was confused and running based on the mile marker I’d just passed instead of the mile I was in). Oops. No wonder that last mile felt way too easy. No wonder this one feels too hard. I sorted that all out and figured I hadn’t done too much damage. The miles flew by and I felt great. Brooklyn, I heart you.
I held onto my little bottle of Gatorade Endurance until mile 5. I didn’t want to mess with the crowded water stations (at each mile starting at mile 3) so early on. That was a good call. It helped me make up a little time and get into the flow of things.
Guess who I saw just before mile 9? Robert! We’d planned a few meet up areas beforehand and this was the first one he was going to attempt to get to (he ran a lot to find me!!). I spotted him right away, in his Boston Marathon shirt, and was so happy see him. I ran up to him and gave him a hug and then he ran with me for a half block and then said he’d run up to the 10 mile marker if he could. Sure enough, I saw him once again at mile 10. Yay! As he took off again, running to mile 11 on the sidewalk, two orthodox Jews who were standing somewhat bewildered in their doorway looked at each other as if to say, Who is this guy? Is he lost?
The north part of Brooklyn on Bedford Avenue got really crowded to the point where it was almost impossible to run but it was really exciting too. Apparently Robert was there at mile 11 as well but we never saw each other. I continued on while he caught a subway to Manhattan. At mile 13 we crossed over into Queens. I checked my overall time at 13.1 (half marathon mark) and it was around 2:24 which was a minute slower than my goal time. Also, due to weaving, my watch was beeping in splits about .1 miles before the actual mile markers showed up. In the back of my head I stilled wanted to shoot for a negative split but after seeing how hard it was to move through the crowds, and messing up with my pace band, I didn’t have high hopes.
Also, I was starting to think I would need to stop for a port-a-potty at some point soon so I quit thinking about the negative split goal. My new goal was to continue feeling good.
My hamstring was doing pretty well, too, just a little tightness/cramping, and I thought about stretching it as we passed over the Pulaski Bridge but I put it off and then it loosened up and I didn’t notice it for the rest of the run. I’m going to say it’s 98% healed. I am so grateful that I was able to continue running/training during that injury.
I would never have guessed that this portion of the marathon would be so easy for me. We started up the Queensboro Bridge. This was supposed to be the dreaded “first hill” (mile 1 is really the first hill but that doesn’t count) but I had zero issues with it. And even better, it was a wide open bridge and I was able to easily run through the walkers to make up some time. On the downhill side of the bridge I opened up my stride and really made up some time. Unfortunately my GPS totally went haywire on the bridge (it reported between 6 minute pace and 18 minute pace throughout) so I don’t really know how fast I was running but, at least compared to others around me, I felt like I was on fire. I will never again complain about having to run on the hills in Seattle. Totally worth it.
Coming off the bridge to the “wall of sound” I saw my chance to duck into a port-a-potty. There were about 10 at the bottom of the bridge and I only saw 3 people waiting. I jumped in the first one available to me and only noticed just as I grabbed the door that I’d actually butted in front of another runner. Oops! Sorry. Too late. I was in and out in 30 seconds at the most. Feeling good.
I saw Robert again at mile 18. He asked how I was feeling and I replied that I was feeling good. No. Great! My hips were working! My glutes were happy! All those jump squats and jumping lunges worked! Strength training saved my butt, literally!
Miles 20-24: The Bronx, Harlem, 5th Avenue, and the beginning of the Music Miles
I put in my headphones at this point. I’d put together 7 playlists with songs provided by my friends and family to tick off each of the last 7 miles. The assumption was I’d be struggling at this point and the music would help me out. Surprisingly, I still felt really fresh. I did a whole body check and the only thing I noticed was my right big toe was a little sore from the downhill section of the bridge and the descent onto 1st Avenue.
Wyatt’s playlist was first up to get me to mile 20. I had to pause it for a bit just as I entered The Bronx because there was a Chinese drum band and it was so loud (and awesome) that I couldn’t really hear anything coming through my headphones. The stand out song from his song list was “Where is My Mind” by Maxence Cyrin (covering the Pixies). As I listened to it, I felt like I was floating instead of running. It was superb. Good one, Wyatt.
My daughter Zoe’s song list got me to mile 21. As I descended the Madison Avenue Bridge, leaving the Bronx, “Empire State of Mind” by JAY Z & Alicia Keys, played in my ear holes and all I could think about were all the things that Zoe has achieved this year and how happy I am for her.
I started up my son Sid’s playlist to get me to mile 22. The stand out song from his playlist was “Sabotage” by The Beastie Boys. At this point my Gu Roctane had kicked in and I was pumped! I was running in Harlem, listening the the Beastie Boys. How did I get here? I thought about Sid’s 4 years at NYU and knew that I wouldn’t be running this race if it weren’t for him and his love of NYC. I have a tiny hope that one day he’ll embrace running and maybe he’ll even run this very same route in some distant November.
As I rounded Marcus Garvey Park, I pictured the course map in my head and I couldn’t believe I’d come this far. It’s such a different experience to run a lonely 20 miler on a Sunday morning and drag your butt back to the house in just under 4 hours, feeling like you’d been out there all day compared to this experience where time flies and you kind of don’t want it to end. I was actually a little sad that things were happening so fast.
I saw Robert on 5th Avenue and he said he’d catch up with me once more at mile 24 in the park. He’s the winner for most meet-ups along the course!
I also realized at this point that I had it in me to speed up if I wanted to. I still didn’t think I was in the ballpark of negative splitting but I wanted to fly (ironic since I kind of didn’t want the race to end).
This marathon is like being on an amusement park ride. It’s thrilling and exciting and noisy and it goes by too quickly. I could not believe I was already heading into the home stretch, feeling like a super star. Who am I even?
As I continued along 5th Avenue, heading into mile 23, my friend Chris’s playlist started. His second song was the Fairytale of New York and I have always loved that song. It gives me a lot of feels. And right after it started, I looked up ahead of me. Autumn colored trees lined the Avenue on both sides. The crowds were 10 people deep, swaying and cheering, and then I looked to my right and there were the boys of NYPD standing right there (really! three of them!) and I lost it. Happy cries. Such happy cries. Thanks for that, Chris!
Next up, my BFF Stacey’s songs were gonna get me to mile 24, up 5th Avenue and entering into the park. I’d never even heard the first song on her list but those lyrics sent me into another fit of crying, blubbery happiness. I imagined Stacey running along with me to “Good Life” by OneRepublic:
Oh this has gotta be the good life
This has gotta be the good life
This could really be a good life, good life
It’s possible I was a little delirious at this point. I had had a gel every 45-50 minutes. I was so full of sugar and caffeine. Weeee!!!! There was supposed to be a hill in here somewhere that people struggle through but I didn’t even notice it.
Miles 24-26.3: Central Park and Columbus Circle. And THE END!
At the mile 24 marker I saw Robert one last time. He looked relieved to be done with his spectating duties! I waved goodbye and told him to get himself a beer.
My friend Alyssa’s playlist came up and when “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor started playing I had to chuckle because I was running down Cat Hill (and saw 2 people hovering up on the cat to cheer for us and 2 cops were running after them to shoo them off). Wow, how did I see all this? Oh, it must have been the sugar. Alyssa was my virtual companion on that mile. Someday I really do hope to run a marathon with her.
The final playlist came from Robert. I’d randomized people’s names for mile assignments and it was pretty appropriate to have his list come up last with its theme of misery and numbness:
AC/DC – Highway to Hell
Mountain Goats – This Year
Green Day – Give Me Novocaine
… and then …
… wait for it …
Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
As “Highway to Hell” faded away, I could see the park exit ahead. I moved to the left side of the course, next to the crowds along Central Park South in order to speed up (for some reason the slower runners and walkers were all sticking to the middle of the course). I high-fived anyone that would give me their hand while the Mountain Goats and Green Day pushed me forward. I couldn’t stop grinning. As I re-entered the park, “Comfortably Numb” started playing and I ran it in.
After getting my medal, snacks (pretzels, protein shake, an apple, water, gatorade), and a heat sheet, then meandering about a half mile through the park to the exit (and at that point I realized besides 2 quick port-a-potty stops and a ferry ride, I’d been standing for a very long time). I got my lovely fleece-lined poncho, took a selfie and met up with Robert on 76th and Columbus. We took a very crowded subway, full of runners and their buddies plus a lot of somewhat annoyed looking people, back to the hotel, showered, beered up,* and then grabbed dinner at an Irish pub downstairs from our hotel (shepherd’s pie and 2 glasses of wine FTW)!
*After a hard, long run, one MUST beer up. It’s required.
I woke up the next morning with very little soreness. Just a bit of tightness in my hip flexors, hamstrings (oddly my right one was more sore than my injured left one) and my lower back. Oh, and my right big toenail is a going to fall off. That’s the second time this year, both times wearing Altra Paradigms. I made sure to cut my toenails but it didn’t make a difference. It’s winter now so who cares. Who needs toenails, anyway?
My quads are usually beat up after a marathon but this time around they were all like, “Eh, that was nothing.” The NYC course surprised me. It was easy and pleasant and perfect.
p.s. Huge kudos to the volunteers all along the course. They were amazing. Full of smiles, supportive words, and pats on the back. Thank you!