The Pace Pick Up

If you run in Central Park, you are not alone. A great feeling on cold, slippery winter mornings, but also hard to navigate on that first warm, sunny Saturday in spring. That being said, there’s bound to be someone just like you–same pace, same distance, maybe even the same Asics 2150s–somewhere along the 6.2 mile loop. And sometimes, you happen to cross paths with said person and make a new running friend.

Last week marked my new running friend No. 3 since moving to the Big Apple, including one who I still run with on a weekly basis. Not too shabby.

These experiences have helped me think twice before rolling my eyes when a stranger tries to strike up a conversation when I’m sweaty, out of breath, and half-asleep. Because, after all, running with people is fun, and runners in New York can be friendly!

Maybe it’s the endorphins, or could it be those fabulous lululemon pants I own? Either way, I welcome the company when I’m trying to sustain sub-7:30 pace (which does not happen every day). Not to mention, I admire the forwardness of my fellow runners who approach me with “Nice pace” or “Mind if I join?” It’s what I now refer to as the “Pace Pick-up Line.” Trashy? Nah. Acceptable? Yes, but only while wearing sneakers and running on public paths.

And my No. 1 Running Date Rule? Don’t race on the first date.

So what

..if it’s been nearly a month since I last posted? Lay off me, I’m starving! And I’m sure you’re hungry, too, but hopefully there’s no hard feelings. Fortunately, my lack of writing has not translated to a lack of running. February was short in days but not in distance.

I’ve finished a 15K in Florida with the fam, helped my sister train for a half marathon, and bought a pair of new kicks from a not-so-distant cousin who happens to be a rockin’ runner herself.

Now, for the official recap:

The 1st annual Kennedy family Gasparilla in Tampa, FL (after getting snowed in NY last year) was a success from start to finish (pun intended). From the on-time flights to the free schwag at the  expo (Pirate’s Booty, anyone?) to the PERFECT weather, it was a weekend to remember. Who knew running a race on “vacation” could be so fun? I PR-ed and made it into the paper for Top 50 women, Ian ran the farthest he has ever run, Liz and Jamie kicked butt as usual, and my dad finished faster than expected. Not to mention my mom was the best–and loudest–cheerleader on Bayshore Boulevard.

Beer never tasted so good. Carbs!

Lookin' pretty fine after a fiery 15K!

Cindy Lou-who? Cindy Lou the loudest cheerleader!

Cut to the next weekend when Liz and I traded the 80 degree weather and flat, waterfront course for the interminable hills of Central Park. We ran 11 long miles in preparation for Liz’s More Half Marathon in the park on April 3rd. Go, Liz!

It was some point during the 9.3 and 11 mile runs that I decided I needed a new pair of shoes. And I was going to get them the right way– at Jack Rabbit Sports. Not only did I pick the perfect pair of purple Asics 2160s after testing them out on the house treadmill, but I also met a distant family member of mine.

As it turns out, my dad’s cousin’s daughter (did you get that?) works at Jack Rabbit and is a seasoned runner and coach. She gave me tips on the best running groups in the city and invited me to join her on a run. If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I couldn’t ask for much more when it comes to running and camaderie. Well, maybe faster times, but who’s counting?

The Great Outdoors

Thursdays have long been defined (well at least since September) as an early wake up call and long run in the park with a great group of people. However, the past few weeks have left me hitting the snooze button due to the cold, snowy, icy winter we have been experiencing here in NYC. Even the tough athletes I run with don’t risk the conditions. To the spin bikes we went!

Alas, today brought new hope. Perhaps it was a 24th birthday present (a day late), or maybe just a little tease from Mother Nature. Either way, the ice melted and the air was crisp, and once again we met at 6:20 am at the Boathouse for 9 miles at 7:30 pace.  Just what I needed to relieve me of my cabin fever and prepare me for the Gasparilla 15K in Tampa in t-minus 16 days. Every Kennedy for themselves!

EIGHTn’t that enough?

It’s only February and us east-coasters have already been slammed with eight (8!!!) snow/ice/hail storms. This is not ok, for more than 8 reasons–two of which include my lack of motivation and my inability to run outside. I, like Jack Johnson, firmly believe that when it’s raining (or snowing or sleeting), there ain’t no need to go outside. Maybe we should all sleep in, make banana pancakes and pretend like it’s the weekend now.

Alas, the news never stops, and I picked the wrong industry to work in if I think there’s ever any hope of getting an adult snow day. Sigh…there are worse things in life.

In attempt to ward off the winter blues, I finally gave in and joined a gym. Fortunately, the snow banks aligned–the gym around the corner from my new digs offered a New Year’s membership deal and my parents decided to gift me a year of fitness for my birthday. Never one for the treadmill, I am still getting used to the idea of packing a bag with a padlock and headphones, rather than simply lacing up my Mizunos.

Surprisingly enough, it’s not so bad. I’ll run when I can, and when the weather gets in the way, I’ll take advantage of the spin classes, flatscreen TVs, and steam room my new gym has to offer. After all, I’ve got one more week until my 24th birthday, and I don’t plan on kicking off my 25th year of life with an extra hibernation layer.

We’ve all had enough of winter, and fortunately Mr. Groundhog did not see his shadow this morning, so with any luck, spring is right around the corner. Even more reason to get up and get moving! Those sundresses are waiting.

It’s about TIME

..To update you on the Manhattan half I ran last Saturday with my friend (and pacer!), Veronica. As you may remember, this race was my last chance to earn myself a spot in the New York City Marathon 2011. After all, why else would anyone voluntarily sign up to run 13.1 miles during the frigid winter months? Turns out, it was worth it.

Thanks to fleece-lined leggings, smart wool socks, neck  and hand warmers–not to mention a rockstar pacer and fan club–I finished in 1 hour, 35 minutes and 1 second. A whopping 1 minute and 59 seconds faster than the qualifying time.

I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t easy. And I doubted myself. A lot. Maintaining a 7:15 pace in 10 degree weather is not something I’m used to. “There’s always the charity option,” I told myself (and was told by others). But once I got past those mental blocks–and listened to Veronica’s encouraging mantras–I was in to win it (per se).

It goes without saying that you need to get your head in the right place in order to get your legs moving. And it helps when you’ve got a running partner who knows your pace and knows how to push you. Too often I slow down and hold back because I’m getting tired, when in reality it’s that I’m afraid of what “tired” really feels like.

I’m so glad I had that extra boost from an experienced runner who knew that I had what it takes to run that time. (Even if it means running a 7:48 mile when a cramp nearly sidelined me at mile 9) Now all I need is a little more edge to be able to keep up with her on November 8th!


A little too close for comfort

I must say, I am a creature of habit. I find comfort in my routine and feel uneasy if I fall out of it–whether it is not running because of early morning snow or traveling in a different time zone. But there is good reason people often advise to “get out of your comfort zone”–if you’re always holding back, you will never be able to adapt to change or grow as a person.

Last night, I had the privilege of sitting front and center at the New York Times’ Arts and Leisure Weekend, which featured an intimate interview between Times columnist Gail Collins and CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric. While discussing her big move from the Today show to her current post as the first ever solo woman anchor of an evening news broadcast, Couric emphasized the importance of taking risks, even if that means (gasp) moving out of your comfort zone. Couric recalled a valuable piece of advice from a producer, which helped push her career forward: “Boats are always safe in the harbor, but that’s not what they are built for.”

(Let’s be honest, I couldn’t imagine going on vacation to the St. Lawrence River in the summer and not taking out the boat!)

Not only did that resonate with me on a professional level (did I just refer to myself as a professional?), but also on an athletic level. I went to my friend Dave’s spin class this morning instead of running. About half way through the class, when I just wasn’t feeling the music, I got the push I needed to finish the workout: “Get out of your comfort zone. The song is only 190 seconds long.”

It’s true, people have a tendency to be afraid of pain–whether it’s due to a hard run or a job rejection–that they shy away from any potential causes. I am the perfect example. And I’m also working hard to get over that fear, and encourage you to, too. Try something new this weekend, workout a little harder than usual, and don’t ever back down on your dreams.

New running route

Last week my roommate Molly and I packed up our belongings and watched four very strong and very efficient men move us across town from one fifth floor walk-up to another. All in three hours work. Gotta love NYC!

Now that I’m on the east side, I’ve got a whole new approach to running in Central Park. The best part is I’m significantly closer to the meeting spot for my Thursday early morning running group. (Ten minutes extra snooze time, yes please!) And it must have made a difference, because this morning we were dropping 7-minute miles!

This may seem like very trivial business, but for me, it’s just the running refresher I needed. As much as I love to run, I  get bored of the same old circle day after day and need a new direction. Although it’s a bit of a tease now that my former home stretch is now my two mile marker.

Now it’s your turn to change up your routine–walk a new route to the subway, take the stairs (sorry, I had to) and invite your friends to join in your daily challenges. That’s my cheesy “can-do” fitness advice for the day. Go get ’em!

New year, time to blog!

It’s time to step up my game. Not only is it a new year, but my sister just informed me that she plans to launch a blog of her own about…wait for it…healthy living! I love her and all but can’t let her take me down just yet. After all, I have been living in her shadow for almost 24 years now (kidding, Liz).

That being said, I plan (yes, plan, not promise) to be more consistent with blogging in the new year. It’s been over a month since I’ve last posted and I feel like I need to fill that void that my lack of online presence has undoubtedly left in your life.

Heck, I’ve run in the recent snowpocalypse that hit NY, met a “famous” New York City marathoner while running post-storm, taken a few kick-ass spin classes, worked overtime, and even  moved across town! Yes, I’ve been busy.

So here’s to keeping my thoughts fresh, not letting work get in the way, and running to keep myself healthy and sane!

P.S. To anyone running the Manhattan Half Marathon in Central Park on Saturday, January 22nd–see you there!

It’s about that time

…that I write a blog post. In just a few hours, I’ll be on a Boeing 777 en route to the city of lights–Paris, France. It will be my second time there, the first being a high school trip during which I spent most of my time eating baguettes and nutella crepes, and falling behind the tour group. Add in a little more red wine this time around, and it sounds like round two to me.

Fortunately, for my waistline’s sake, I’ll only be there for five days, so hopefully I can keep things in check. And yes, I brought my running gear, and plan to fit in a jog or two around the Eiffel Tower. I’ve been told not many women run in Paris, so I’m anxious to see whether or not that is true. (What do you mean there’s no turkey trot?) I’m sure my freckles and lack of direction will warrant some looks no matter what.

I’ll be thinking of all of you (the fans) while I’m in Paris and hoping you’ll stay loyal despite my lack of updates and my inevitable pavement problems (aka running slow) post-Paris. Happy Thanksgiving! Stuff your face for me. You can run tomorrow!

Music makes the people run faster

Ever since joining the cross country team in college, I have distanced myself (no pun intended) from running with my iPod–except when I’m on the treadmill. Let’s be honest here, how can one possibly survive on that monotonous conveyor belt without some pump-up tunes?

I prefer to reserve the 45+ minutes a day I spend pounding the pavement to clear my head and just, well, run. Sometimes I’m fortunate enough to have company and can get lost in a conversation. Other times the Central Park people watching provides more than enough entertainment. And then there’s those days when I just want to clear my head and think about nothing. Oh, and my iPod broke approximately two years ago and bringing along my clunky iPhone means staying connected with the outside world (even though I know I could put it in airplane mode). Not an option.

That being said, I always do appreciate a good running playlist. Whether it’s playing on my laptop while I lace up my Mizunos or on the subway while I think about how running home would be a lot more pleasant and productive than riding the train, it’s always a good go-to when you need a little pick-me-up. Today I came across a 10K running playlist compiled by lululemon that I thought I’d share.

Unfortunately, it’s just a list and doesn’t include a $25 gift card on iTunes, but I’ll leave that up to you. And for those of you who have yet to experience Willow Smith’s (daughter of the Fresh Prince himself) “Whip My Hair,” you’re missing out.

Also I have to add that my latest inspirational tune of choice is India Arie’s “A Beautiful Day.” Total feel-good song without being too cheesy. Happy listening!