Saturday, August 26, 2023

Continued Recovery and New Goals

Since my last post, I am happy to say the physical therapy has truly helped. It's been about six weeks since the pain began and two weeks since my first PT appointment and I'm back out running. I'm definitely taking it slower but I'm not giving up. 

My run and
cool-down walk.
Today, I ran/walked ten miles and then walked the last two miles to get home. I may have mis-judged the distance but I was feeling great for the first eight miles. As I started to slow down, I made excuses to stop and rest for a bit. First I stopped at the vet to grab Benny's prescription refill, then I stopped at Philly Runner to ask for a recommendation for a more cushioned sock. I am definitely going to feel this blister on the ball of my foot tomorrow. 

I left Philly Runner and went to restart my run when I realized I had ended it, not just pause. So knowing that I wasn't going to make the half marathon now, I decided to walk the final two miles. Could I have made it? Probably. Was I slightly short of the 13.1? Yes, but I also didn't take the final loop on Kelly Drive and went straight up the hill towards home.

This week, #TeamUltra challenged us to post our goals for the 2023 TCS New York City Marathon. Well, My goal has changed since I first learned I made Team Ultra again. When I started training back in May, my goal was to PR. 

Unfortunately after waking up that day in July with immense sciatica pain, I started to doubt that would happen. It has been almost five years since my last flare up and I called my doctor crying in pain. Oh course, she immediately made recommendations to handle the pain while I gave my back time to heal.

I took some time off from running and started going to physical therapy again. On my very first visit I explained to Danny, the physical therapist, that I was registered for the NYC Marathon and that I am not a quitter. After I explained my current symptoms and my goal of running the marathon on November 5th, he just looked at me and said "I think it's doable." It helps that he told me he is also a runner so he understands. 

Of course, physical therapy only works when you do the homework. Stretching once a week in his office wasn't going to help my back recover. Within two weeks of starting his stretching routine I met up with my running club on Thursday night. I did a very slow two miles, but I did it. That weekend, I went out to Valley Forge and ran the loop.

I was already a slow runner and right now I'm going about two minutes more per mile, but I'm doing it. Today for that ten miles I was much, much, slower. I added about four minutes per mile. But I did it. 

So what's the point of this long post? It's to explain why my NYC Marathon goal has changed in the last few months. I'm no longer aiming for a PR. I'm aiming for a medal. I don't care how slow I go, but I will finish. I will cross that finish line in Central Park. I will meet up with my Team Ultra family for the after race celebration. I know that while they might have already been partying for a few hours at that point, they will still be partying. I know that when I walk (crawl?) in they will celebrate my finish. Because whether you are an Olympian or the last to cross that finish line, marathoners are a unique family. 

I know that if anyone actually reads this, they will think I'm crazy that my goal is just to get a medal, but it's really more than that. That medal represents everything else. It represents how far I've come from the fat kid that would make any excuse to get out of gym class. How far I've come from the girl that wouldn't walk around the lake at camp with Cathy, the lake director, who was a seasoned marathoner.

When I started running, it was more of a fast walk, and it was with the goal of losing weight. But as I lost weight, I gained so much more. I gained strength, both physical and mental. I gained a community of neighbors who held me accountable. They never get annoyed that they're all waiting for me at the end to head to dinner. Instead, when they pass me after turning around they cheer me on. When I get back to the meeting location, we all walk together to dinner. I gained an outlet for my anxiety, sort of. I still avoid some running trails after incidents not involving myself were on the news because the thought of those incidents happening again do cause me some anxiety.

All that to say, my goal for the TCS NYC Marathon 2023 is to take in every moment. From crossing the Verrazano Bridge at the start to entering Central Park, I know the city will celebrate with me as I prove to myself that I can do it.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Back Pain and Physical Therapy

So the worst has happened, my back decided to flare up and cause me a lot of pain. After two weeks with minimal improvement, I finally got into a Physical Therapist to get professional help.

I immediately told him that I am registered and plan to run the NYC marathon on November 5th but also understand realistically that if I have to back out, my health is more important and I don't want to end up disabled or in chronic pain.

He gave me stretches to do daily, along with a recommendation for a lumbar pillow. We scheduled weekly visits through September and he said when I come back each time, we'll assess and add some strength training as the pain level goes down.

The hope is that my back will recover and while I will be running slower, and with less training leading up to it, I will still be able to do the marathon as planned. He said two months of marathon training is still doable and I want to believe him. I have been working too hard for a minor setback to derail me.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Broad Street Run 2023

Official Clock

And that's a wrap. My 7th time running the Broad Street Run. I never thought this would become an annual tradition for me. They claim that Broad Street Run is the largest 10 mile run in the country. I don't know if this is true but to put the size into perspective, the Boston Marathon was 30,000 participants in 2023 while the Broad Street Run has 37,000 participants.

6am Train
Since the finish line moved again due to the construction at the Navy Yard, I arrived early to make sure I could park. That was a mistake. Since I went where the security directed me to park I thought it was a great spot. However, when the run was over it took almost an hour to get out of the lot. I was farthest from the exit and it seems that rather than direct cars around the back of the stadiums they had everyone wait for Broad Street to reopen.

The nice thing about arriving early was that the train was almost empty. In past years, I've been standing shoulder to shoulder with other runners as people crapped in to fit as many people as possible for the ride to Olney Station. 

The weather stayed decent at the startline and didn't start raining until I reached around city hall. The second half of the race was a downpour so I was soaking wet by the time I crossed the finish line. 

Participating with Team Determination made the start of the race very relaxed. We had a tent at the start where they provided some breakfast items such as fruit and pastries, and juice. They also had a private bag check so when we got to the finish, our stuff was separated from the masses. The nice thing at the finish line was besides finding my bag with ease, they had changing tents setup so I could remove my extremely wet shirt and put on a warm hoodie that I packed.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Make Your Miles More Meaningful

Following the start of the Team Ultra competitions where March's theme is JOY, I decided to re-connect with Team Determination. This group of athletes dedicate their miles to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.

In 2020, I joined American Cancer Society's Team Determination to run the NYC Marathon. While fundraising, I went to a few group runs in Philadelphia with the local team.

While I don't need a bib from ACS for any of the upcoming races, I have decided to once again to fundraise for the American Cancer Society during the race season. My currently scheduled runs include:

  • March 25 - Phillies 5K
  • March 26 - Love Half Marathon (maybe)
  • April 1 - Hot Chocolate 5K
  • April 30 - Broad Street Run
  • May 21 - Sesame Place Classic
  • June 4 - Philly Runfest
  • September 17 - Philadelphia Distance Run
  • November 6 - NYC Marathon (Maybe)
  • November 11 - Rocky Run
  • November 18 - Rothman 8K

In exchange for fundraising, I will have a team to connect with at the events along with organized training runs between scheduled races. 

Hopefully a cure will be found during our lifetime. #MakeYourMilesMeaningful #WhoDoYouRunFor #CancerSucks

Please make a donation

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Do I have what it takes to mentor young runners?

 I've been thinking about it for a while, and last night I took the next step. Here in Philadelphia there is an amazing organization called Students Run Philly which partners adult mentors/coaches with student running groups. If you've participated in any run here in Philadelphia, you've probably seen the blue shirts on younger runners on the course.

While some of the runners look like track stars most look like normal teenagers trying something that they know is difficult. If you know my personal history with running, you know that I probably never even would have been convinced to try going to one of these community events. This is why I'm interested in becoming a mentor.

I still remember back to high school when I would milk a minor injury as long as doctors would extend the medical leave from gym class. Like the time I tripped over my dog's bone, fell down the stairs, cut my knee open (I still have the scar), and ended up in the ER thinking it needed stitches (it luckily didn't) but stayed out of gym for almost three weeks. Missed the mandatory mile and everything. Now, I have chronic pain but still go out and push harder than my doctor recommends. Seriously, after my first Broad Street Run she told me that my body wasn't designed for that type of abuse so I decided to sign up for a half marathon.

The point is, I know what it's like to be that awkward uncoordinated kid. I still am, just older and more stubborn. I am still probably one of the slowest runners out there. But I'm out there. I go at my own pace and I may be later to the finish line celebration but I'm still at the finish line celebration. I may have taken almost seven hours (six hours and fifty-nine minutes) to finish my first marathon, but I finished.

I have my good days and bad days. When my back flairs up I can barely get down the stairs to walk Benny but luckily those bad days are fewer and farther between now. They still happen, but I've learned from physical therapy how to reduce them.

The point of this long-winded narrative is to say I know what it's like to have adults think you can't do it and to think that about myself. I want to be the adult that I wish I had when I was younger. Not the gym teacher yelling at me for walking around the track. Not the doctors telling me to exercise more like it was the easiest thing in the world. I want to be the adult that says "let's walk for a bit. You've got this." and encourages a student to continue to the finish line, even if slow. You need to take a rest? Let's go grab a bottle of water and stretch it out a little. To celebrate the little victories. Because those little victories grow into larger victories. 

It's also why many people are chasing the PR not the BQ. I know I'll never qualify for Boston. I run a twelve minute mile on a good day but average closer to fifteen minutes on longer distances. But this year I knocked two minutes off my Rothman 8K. And next year, many I can knock another two minutes off. Those Personal Records are the ones to celebrate. Don't compare yourself to anyone but your former self. That's what I hope to help with if my schedule allows me to join the Students as a mentor.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Healthy Meal Plan

Over the years I have tried and canceled many meal plan services. Sometimes the ingredients would arrive but because of my schedule I didn't end up cooking it until a few days later when some fresh ingredients were no longer... fresh. And sometimes they would send me produce that was already turning. For the price of those meals, I never felt the convince was worth the cost.

Last week, I signed up for a free trial of eMeals and so far I really like it. If I end up keeping it, which I highly believe I will, it is $9.99 per month or $60 for the year ($5/month). They also have add-ons for additional fees if you want to add a breakfast and/or lunch menu to create a full meal plan.

Citrus Cod with
Mashed Cauliflower
So what's the difference between eMeals and those other programs? eMeals doesn't send you the ingredients. Instead, you look at the weekly menu and mark which meals you want to cook. It generates the shopping list for you and bookmarks the recipes for easy access. You then can either go to the grocery store yourself or eMeals can send your shopping list directly to tons of popular grocery delivery sites like Instacart, Amazon, and others. They have multiple menus to select but you can switch between them for more flexibility.

Screenshot of app
The first meal I tried was Citrus Cod with Mashed Cauliflower. This was a 30-minute meal and so the shopping list said "frozen mashed cauliflower" which was fine for me and it was super easy to prepare the cod. The longest part of prep was pre-heating the oven. Seriously, the fish was ready before the oven was at the correct temperature. 

With grocery prices continue to rise, this also will let you select meals based on weekly grocery sales as well to help you eat well while saving money.

On the website you can see all the menu options and there's an option to download PDFs but I think the app is where it's at. You have your shopping list right there and you can check things off as you go. You can also add additional items to the shopping list so everything is in one place. 

This post is not sponsored by eMeals but they do have a referral program. If you sign-up for eMeals from my link, we will both get $10 towards our meal plans.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Running Through My Childhood

Last week I started a new job. While I will be remaining in Philadelphia and working remotely, I went into their corporate office on Long Island for onboarding. If you didn't know, I grew up on Long Island and was there from the very beginning until I left for college.

I arrived on Sunday to start at 8am on Monday morning. Being that it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon when I arrived, I decided to tour my old memories. I started at the old house which I still refer to as "my house" even though I haven't lived there since my mom sold it in 2002. Then I drove past schools, dinners, the library, and other places I frequented as a child. I was surprised at the things that changed but also how many stayed the same.

Mini-golf was closed
for the season.
Before heading back to the hotel, I decided to take one more trip down memory lane and I went to Eisenhower Park, parking near the mini-golf course. It's still closed for the season but the park itself was obviously open. I changed into my running gear in a bathroom and then made sure my car was locked with everything of value hidden in the trunk. 

As a kid, I was always the one making excuses NOT to run so while this park has amazing paths I never used them. Now I've changed that. I ran 5K around the park and zig-zagged through different paths. I made many stops during my run to just take in the memories that came flooding back. I remembered the field where we would launch model rockets and the pond where we drove our remote-controlled boats. 

Outside Safety Town.
One memory that stuck out the most was Safety Town. This was something that I was honestly shocked still exists. Safety Town was a miniature town where school groups, scouts, and more could go to learn about... safety. During the program, students start in a classroom learning about how to cross the street without their parents (no more holding hands), signal while riding a bike, and more. Then they go out to the town and replicate conditions. Some drove go-carts, some walked, and some road bikes. Then they swapped. This allowed the kids to get practical experience using the skills they just discussed. As I said, I was shocked, nostalgic, and a little happy to see Safety Town still exists for the next generation. It may seem old fashion but these skills are still important and we've all seen how many people jay-walk not paying any attention as pedestrians.