8 Simple Rules for the Aspiring Marathoner, as Told by a New York City Marathon Finisher

8 Simple Rules for the Aspiring Marathoner, as Told by a New York City Marathon Finisher

Hi, Friends! Hope y’all are having a wonderful week.

Today’s post is guest-written my friend and fellow UC warrior, Lizzy! She’s a recent first-time marathoner, and in case you were thinking about signing up for 26.2 miles, you get to hear firsthand advice and race recaps from a finisher of the New York City [freakin] Marathon today! So from one friend to another, here’s Lizzy :).

Oh- and if you can’t get enough of her, be sure to check out her blog HERE!

Hello, Internet Friends! My name is Lizzy, and I ran the New York City Marathon on November 5th. What?! It still feels so crazy whenever I say that out loud. I’m comin’ atcha today with my experience, things I learned, and key takeaways for those of you crazy enough to consider doing 26.2.  Hopefully I can give y’all a little bit of a better idea about what to expect when training for a full marathon.  Let’s dive in, shall we?

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1. Why did you decide to run the NYC Marathon? 

One of the biggest responses I faced when telling people I just wanted to do a full marathon (knowing I’m a slower runner) was “Well, why even run a marathon if you’re going to be out on the course for that long?” Fair enough. I’m a slow-poke runner.  But, I actually chose to do the race for a special reason, that had nothing to do with my love for running.  In 2014 I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. The diagnosis came after almost a year of questions, miserable symptoms, an incorrect Crohn’s Disease diagnosis, and four different doctors and specialists. Stacey shares a similar diagnosis to me, which is how we met originally. Getting diagnosed with a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease is really tough on a number of levels, but one of the hardest pieces is it’s effects on your physical ability and energy. When you are flaring, you have close to zero energy. It is so, so hard to bring yourself to do anything physically challenging because your body is working so hard to keep itself healthy. I did not choose to run a marathon because I thought it would be a *fun* challenge. I chose to run a marathon to prove to myself that UC will not limit me in every aspect of my life.  This is why I originally started running 3 years ago; to show UC who’s boss.  The NYC Marathon was offered as a race through the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation’s Team Challenge program—where you fundraise for the Foundation and train for a marathon at the same time. I’ve done several half marathons with this organization before and they are a BLAST.  This felt like the perfect way to tackle my first 26.2!  I signed up and immediately hyperventilated.  I felt like I’d bit off way more than I could chew!

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2. What did your training schedule look like, and how long did you train? 

My training officially started in June of this year. I ran three days a week, cross-trained twice a week, did strength training one day a week, and took one solid rest day.  There are so many different training plans to follow, and I felt like three days of running was plenty for me.  My cross training consisted of low-impact activities (I usually flip-flopped between swimming/aqua jogging, the elliptical, and spinning), while my strength training was more focused on full-body movements that built up my core and lower body muscles.  For some context: I was returning to running after an injury I sustained last fall—so I needed the extra days of cross-training to make sure I didn’t re-injure myself. Thank goodness for my physical therapist. 

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3. What was the most difficult part of your training? 

The training itself was really, really tough. I felt like I turned down a lot of opportunities over the summer because I was so focused on my training schedule. Then, to add another layer to the crazy, I auditioned and got a part in a musical that was occurring in mid-November. Add weeknight rehearsals on top of marathon training, and I felt like I hadn’t seen my friends or live-in boyfriend in three months. Ack! The time-suck is easily the worst part of marathon training. You have to mindfully plan your time, and this can be kind of a buzz-kill. Spontaneity wasn’t something I could really afford myself this summer and fall. Training is really a part-time job. 

4. What were you most nervous about? Advice?

The day of the race was next-level. I was so, so nervous.  There was a lot of excitement, too. But mostly nerves. I knew I needed to trust my training, but I was feeling a bit discouraged because of what my time goal was. I wanted to finish around the six-hour mark. Listening to others at the start who’s goals were two hours shorter than mine was tough, I won’t lie to you. It messes with your head a bit and made me wonder if I was really cut out to do this.  But, I was excited to deliver a big “eff you” to Ulcerative Colitis and prove to myself that I could finish.  I’m happy I went in with that attitude, because the race exceeded my expectations. The crowds were so supportive, and it didn’t matter that I was running with the six-hour pacer. There were so many of us in the back of the pack! I wish that I had seen more stories about slower runners before I attempted this—there are a lot of us!  The energy was infectious and for the first 19 miles, it didn’t matter how slow or fast I was. I fed off the New York energy and felt like a total rockstar. Running these larger races can do that to you.  It also helped to see family and friends on the course. I would absolutely recommend bringing a hype squad with you, especially for your first race. 

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My mom and her sign on the course!

5. What was your least favorite part of the marathon? Best part?

I started to have a really tough time right after mile 19. For whatever reason, my hip gave out. I had done all my training runs, I felt healthy going in—it just goes to show that sometimes things don’t go as planned.  I tried to run a little bit, but I ended up having to slow down to a full walk (I had been doing a walk/run interval prior to slowing down) and that was really, really disheartening. It slowed my time down significantly, and put me finishing about 45 minutes after I thought I would. The last 7 miles were the worst for me mentally. After doing so well, having to slow down just as you’re about to hit the wall was not a fun feeling and I’m not going to lie—it was a struggle.  There were many tears and I considered just giving up.  But, all of this emotion was followed by one of my favorite parts of the whole race—at mile 22 a very nice lady in the Bronx offered me a slice of cheese pizza. It was exactly what I needed, and made me smile. I was able to stay positive for rest of the race. 

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6. Mental or physical- which did you rely on the most for this race?

What everyone says about the mental game of the marathon is true. It doesn’t matter how slow or fast you are, the most important thing is believing you can do this.  I bawled when I crossed the finish line. Physically, I was so tired. Mentally, I was spent. It was such a mix of relief/exhaustion/frustration/elation; it took me a while to fully process what I felt after finishing.  I was so glad to have finished, to have done it, to have shown my body that I could do it. No matter how hard it was, I did it.  UC limits me in a lot of ways, but it didn’t keep me from finishing my first marathon. And for that I was grateful.

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Me right after I finished, post-cry sesh!

7. Did you have a finish time goal in mind? If so, did you meet it?

Try to not have a set finish time in mind. Take it from someone who was told this—it is so, so hard to not go into something like this with a time goal. I had one, and I so wish I hadn’t. I think if I had gone in with the ONLY goal of finishing, I wouldn’t have beat myself up so much after I had to start walking at mile 19. I finished an effing marathon, and my concern for those last 7 miles wasn’t finishing—it was finishing quicker. That wasn’t fair to me, my emotional state, or my body at that point in the race. My biggest regret with this race is that I didn’t just try to enjoy the last couple of miles. I was positive, sure, but I was so anxious.  Besides the nice lady offering me pizza, I don’t remember a lot from the last 7 miles. I wish I had.

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THE BLING!

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8. What’s the best advice you can give to someone thinking of running a marathon? 

For those of you who are thinking of doing this, I have three pieces of advice: train well, stay healthy, and for the love of all that is holy, try not to go into your first race with an exact finish time in mind.  Train well so you feel confident going into the race. It’s ok to miss a run every now and then—I missed a long run about a month before my race and had to shorten it because of a bad cold.  This leads to my next piece of advice-STAY HEALTHY. You are not doing your training a favor if you run with the flu. Give your body a break. You know what’s best for you. I’m glad I shortened that longer run with a cold, because I was able to crush my 20-mile training run the following weekend since I wasn’t sick. 

Give yourself lots and lots of grace while training for a marathon. LOTS AND LOTS OF GRACE. This is a massive undertaking. Surround yourself by people who support you and encourage you. Make sure you take your full rest day each week.  When that’s all said and done, ENJOY THE HECK out of the race and wear your medal for as long as physically possible. I’ve carried mine with me the last week because I’m so proud of myself. Wear your finisher’s gear. Own that pride. You just finished a flippin’ marathon! Will I do another one? Heck yes. But for now, a half marathon is still my favorite distance, and I’m going to give myself a break. I want to focus on staying healthy with UC. I also want to treat myself to a big ole’ plate of cheese fries. Priorities.

-Lizzy

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HUGE shoutout to Lizzy, for not only taking the time to write this post, but also for making marathons sound far less intimidating and attainable, even for us mere mortal slow-pokes who just wanna make a difference. You are an actual badass.

And now, I’ll dream of that mile 22 New York style pizza all the live-long day…

 

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A Weekend in San Francisco

This past weekend Sydney, a close friend from back in the high school days, and I traveled to San Francisco to celebrate a wedding. We had zero plans after our plane landed, so we decided to take a drive across Golden Gate to Sausalito!

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I actually thought Sausalito was a sleepy little harbor town in a quiet dreamland, but after breakfast the town started to come alive. We really loved walking around and exploring this place!

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We found a coffee and breakfast nook called Cibo that I HIGHLY recommend if you’re ever in the Bay Area. I had a smoked salmon panini with black coffee that tasted nutty and strong, and the prices weren’t outrageous. I’d give them 5 stars!

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Then we walked along the harbor, hitched a Lyft, and journeyed to Muir Woods, down and around switchbacks that our driver navigated at brisk, daring speeds growing faster as the curves got steeper, and Sydney and I both ended up carsick…

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…But seeing this forest was well worth it!

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These trees were sacred. I mean it. I felt so incredibly enchanted and peaceful walking through their cool shade, looking up high into the sky to see their leaves while tripping over their strong, gigantic root systems in my tiny shoes, laughing at myself. I thanked God for this magical experience.

Just as I was thinking, “I am so small and insignificant” I ran into my roommate from Houston, Christy (and the world suddenly felt even smaller)!!! I had NO IDEA that we were going to be in San Francisco the same weekend, and we had ZERO cell reception in Muir Woods, so we honestly couldn’t have planned our reunion any better than fate.

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Remember when I said we had zero cell phone reception? That also means no Lyft or Uber…so after Muir Woods we called a (very expensive) taxi cab driver from the Muir Woods Visitor Center to take us back into Sausalito…where we ended up carsick (again).

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But nothing a glass two glasses of California Pino Noir couldn’t fix.

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Then we ferried back across The Bay for an affordable $12 and met Christy for dinner…

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…after coffee and bookstores, of course.

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They didn’t have Rupi Kaur’s new book that I was looking for, “The Sun and Her Flowers” *womp*

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The next morning we slept in and enjoyed the sun beaming in through our AirBnB before taking a walk under the warm sun in the cool, windy air to breakfast.

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We walked through a nice, beautiful neighborhood with large, manicured yards, which seems to be rare in SF. Sydney said these trees “looked like giant broccoli”- ha!

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We went to Cafe Antigua in Japantown where I was pumped to drink this almond chai, and it was delightful. But I made the mistake of ordering a breakfast taco (sorry guys, the Texan in me strikes again), which I’m pretty sure made me violently symptomatic…or maybe it was the chai. Who knows!
The rest of the day was spent napping/recovering while Sydney bossed an economics exam.

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Followed by ice cream from Cream

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And then the wedding! So beautiful. This was my first time at a Muslim Palestinian wedding, and if I’m being honest- I have never felt more alive at a wedding reception before in my life! From hours of dancing to live drums and tambourines to the food-I loved every soul I met- the families were so hospitable and accommodating “be sure to dance all night long!” and celebrating Waleed and Amany until late at night was a real treat.

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I got a pic with the King! Groom Waleed and I met while we were both working at a hospital in Houston. He was counting down the days until he and his roommate got to move back home to San Francisco, but in the meantime he adopted me as his little sister, and I am so thankful. I couldn’t be happier for he and his Bride- she is a true beauty inside and out. So much happiness!

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The next morning we said “Goodbye!” to our sweet, little bnb and headed back to the airport.

I missed Zack (and Jaxon) A TON, so it was great to return home.

Until next time, California 🙂


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The Ultimate Hot Messery in The Existence of Stacey: Friendship > Poop

The Ultimate Hot Messery in The Existence of Stacey: Friendship > Poop

Hi Friends!

Do I have any people aboard the hot mess express with me? Any sistas on the struggle bus? On rough days I refer to myself as “Struggle Pants Stacey.” Zack is a kind soul who believes that I’m not as much of a mess as I think I am. I hope he’s right. But really, I am a hot dang mess.

For instance:

-I recently lost my IPhone for the very first thirty-first time. I dropped it in a gutter while running through my parking lot to make it to the office without melting from the rain.

-I got an actual warning ticket from a police officer for jaywalking.

-I also got a speeding ticket in my car from a police officer on his bicycle in the same year.

So you get my drift. Hot.Dang. Mess.

And the worst instance of hot messery to date:  (Messery is a word; I just used it) 

This past weekend driving back to Houston from Oklahoma, I hit Dallas traffic hard. I’m FINALLY on I-45, when I just put my car in park. Everyone puts their car in park. I’m parked an overpass in the middle lane. I pass the mile marker that says, “1” and then I don’t pass anything else because I’m chillin’ on the interstate, with my deaf dog copilot in the passenger’s seat. But then, OH.NO. I start to have all the wrong symptoms. Clammy hands, metallic taste, dry lips. I can feel my face draining of color. I can actually hear my stomach. At first it’s low and nearly inaudible, but then the low growling crescendos into a full chorus of embarrassing, loud churning (even with my deaf dog as the only other being in my car, still humiliating). Nauseous, so nauseous. Blast that a/c! Open all the vents! Can my face actually fit into a vent? That should help. But my face doesn’t fit into a vent, and it doesn’t help. It’s not mind over matter. I’m about to explode. My car is still in park, and so is every other car in Dallas. There’s no exit in sight. OH LAWD. I text Lindsay, “I’m definitely about to sh*t in my car.” And then the unthinkable happens. And it gets worse. I can’t roll down my windows because it’s pouring down rain. Jaxon wakes from his napping copilot position and crawls into the floor board. Even my dog is ashamed of me. I blame Crohn’s, but I could blame Dallas truck drivers, just as well. PERFECT timing. I get a text from the hospital to confirm my infusion appointment for later this week. Actually, just about half an hour too late. I reply with three enthusiastic capital letter “A”s in a row instead of only one. I’m finally able to exit an hour later, meander through the scenic rough part of town near the Cowboy’s Stadium (not even worried at this point. Someone try to kidnap me. I dare you. I have [literal] sh*t you won’t even know how to deal with, because I don’t even know how to deal with it.) and finally find my way to Lindsay’s house, who cheerfully greets me with towels, laughter, a smile, a shower, and a washer/dryer.

I hope you all have a friend you can call when you’ve crapped your pants in the middle of the interstate who will still love you, or at least pretend to. If so, cherish them. Never let that person go. Lindsay is actually my sister, so she’s staying put. But her sisterhood could just as easily given her an easy out of this situation. I definitely could’ve made her childhood a lot more enjoyable than I did at times.

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All I’m saying is genuine friendship, even if found through family, is rare and special and should be  fully and completely appreciated. It’s not always picture-perfect and cute. Sometimes it’s grabbing towels and running through the rain to help a sister and her deaf dog out of a crappy situation. Lindsay is my person. And if she ever has to take a harsh break from girl bossing to explode her pants on the interstate, well. I’d gladly laugh about it with her later. Love the people who love you through all of your hot messes.

Friendship > Poop.
Friendship > Traffic.
Friendship> errything.

Keep moving forward 🙂