Sunday, January 26, 2014

Journey to BQ - The 1st Five Weeks

I am now 5 weeks in on my training for the NJ Marathon. With 13 weeks to go I am certainly looking forward to training in warmer weather, but I am proud of how I have stuck to my plan in spite of the seemingly never-ending snow, a hectic work schedule, and nagging head cold. 

I am using the "Own It" Plan from the book Train Like a Mother by Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell. This time last year I was using the "Finish It" plan from the same book to train for my first half marathon and during the summer of 2013 I used the marathon version of the "Finish It" plan to train for the NYC Marathon. Now that my goal is to qualify for Boston I have gravitated towards the plan which is designed for improving your time, aka, "owning" the marathon. Oh boy.

Here's the overview from my first 5 weeks of training:

Out of 24 scheduled runs, I completed 23. I skipped the run on New Years Eve day and while now I'm kicking myself a bit for it I hardly think that will be the blockade between me and a BQ, so I'm over it.

I have shuffled some runs on the schedule and once in awhile gone 1 or 2 miles less than the plan called for but I have also occasionally added some get up and go so I think it has all evened out. It's no exaggeration to say that I am already in the best shape of my life and that includes when I played sports in high school.

I live in New Jersey and my training started on December 23rd. The weather has not been my friend. I did 14 of my runs on the good old treadmill (mostly at the gym although occasionally on my rickety old one with a non-working display). Seven of my runs were on the road and 2 on the trail. My most hardcore run? Ten and a half miles on the towpath at sunrise on Sunday, January 19. The temperature at the end of my run was 25 degrees, but the sunrise was beautiful.
January 19, 2014 Sunrise Run along Towpath
I have run 156.34 miles in training at an average pace of 8'41" per mile.

My cross training of choice has been yoga - both at home and whenever possible at a class near my office. I have also been planking for several minutes almost every night to increase core strength.

I got some relief from the rough northeast winter when traveling to Florida for work and took full advantage of my time there by running every day. I was only sent to the treadmill by rain once and had another lovely sunrise reward for an early run.
On a 4-miler near my hotel in Boca Raton
Lest anyone think I am spoiled by my job, I have also spent some of my winter on projects in upstate New York and have made good friends with the treadmills there.

On my long run on January 12th I had my first encounter with a stray dog. I was running downhill at the end of my 2nd time around on a 5 1/2 mile loop and noticed a dog running around in the yard up ahead. I didn't think too much of it until I realized it was a pitbull and then I realized it was not fenced in and not on a leash. The dog started running towards me in the street and so I made a quick beeline to one of the neighbor's houses. I rang the doorbell and after a quick conversation determined that the dog didn't belong to anyone he knew on the street. While we were talking, the dog had turned to go the other way so I decided to return in the direction I had come (back up the hill) and complete my run in reverse. I'm sure the extra hill work didn't hurt, but it definitely left me a little hesitant to return to the route.

On Monday, January 20 I did a 4.85 mile run that put my total mileage run since August 2012 over 1,000. Watching my Nike+ app flip to 1,004 miles after that run was cool. So was thinking about all the places I could have run to with that mileage. Chicago. Nashville. Orlando. Montreal (and back). It's amazing to think that in just over a year I have run more than 1,000 miles, completing 4 half marathons, 1 full marathon and many other races along the way. It makes me that much hungrier for my next goal.

Week 5 was a 35 mile week on my plan. Week 6 will be 39 miles. I am  hoping that I will be able to do some of those miles outside - I'm especially praying that Mother Nature is kind for the 18 miles I have on tap for my long run on Saturday. While the treadmill certainly helps me to keep my pace regulated (read slow) on my long runs, it certainly doesn't help my mood. If I can end February with a 50/50 split between treadmill and outdoors, I will consider that a training victory.

As always it's my parents and my sister Karen who consistently make my running possible. For almost every run they are the ones watching my son and for that I am so thankful. I also have an incredible support network on Twitter and in real life so on those days when I would rather just skip a run I know exactly who to go to for a swift kick in the rear. It works every time. When I cross finish lines, it's with a whole host of people pushing me and I'm so conscious of that fact.

So, 5 down and 13 to go until April 27. So far away, yet so close.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Don't Stop Believin' - The Reprise

Prologue: On the first Sunday of 2013 I attended worship at Community Presbyterian Church and received an Epiphany star with a word on it as a part of the worship service. The idea was that it would be a word for us to consider in our life during 2013. When I returned home that Sunday, I taped the star to the top of the mirror in my bedroom so I would see it throughout the year and at the very least think about it. It became much more than just a word to think about though. In fact my word - BELIEF - became a central part of what God was doing in my life over the last 12 months. I wrote a blog post when I received the star and I think this post will, in many ways, bring the year full circle.
My "belief" star taped to my mirror
The Story: One of the most important things I have learned to do since Joe died is to pay attention to the people, places, and things around me, to do my absolute best to be present in my life. As I have done this I have discovered more and more moments of connection or as I simply like to think of them "signs". 

Sometimes it's as big as winning a contest for Opening Day Mets tickets (which happened last year) but sometimes it's as small as the perfect song coming on my random shuffle at the perfect time (which happened many times last year). To some, these things are simply coincidences. To me, they are a quiet whisper to "Don't Stop Believin'" and I love that the universe always seems to have a way to hit me with one just when I need it.

It's been a challenging two weeks for me. It started on Sunday, January 5th with this and never really stopped. This coming week won't be any easier, especially getting through it down one friend.

However, somewhere in the midst of it all, I have once again found a strength I didn't know I had and a peace I had never imagined. So much of that I owe to those moments of connection I have encountered along the way.

In the days immediately following January 5th there were countless calls, texts, tweets, comments, and messages of love from the many amazing people in my life. Time after time it seemed like just when I was about to crawl in my bed and pull the covers up or bang my head on my desk repeatedly, another one would come rolling in. I'm thankful for that. It gave me strength and it helped me to keep believing that things would get easier.

It didn't take long before the little signs started adding up to a flood of reassurance.

There was Avery Watts who tweeted about my December 5k in the 28 degree snowstorm.

Then there was the big news from The Afghan Whigs - almost as if Greg Dulli was responding directly to my tweet from that Monday. Just as I was getting ready for bed last Wednesday night came the notification on Facebook that The Afghan Whigs are playing at Coachella this year. I won't be going to that show, but the popularly held belief is that a Coachella appearance is only an indicator of more to come. Oh, what I would give for another Afghan Whigs tour right about now.
The Afghan Whigs play the 1st day of Coachella
Around lunchtime on Thursday, January 9th came the email that New York Road Runners was reopening the lottery for the NYC Half Marathon. One week later I received confirmation that I was accepted into the race.

Friday morning I got in my rental car to start my work day feeling the lowest I had all week. I had been in Florida for work since Wednesday morning. I was missing my son incredibly and couldn't stop thinking about my friend. It had been a rough week of work and all I wanted to do was go home. I plugged my iPhone into the USB and wouldn't you know it, the random shuffle came right upon Don't Stop Believin' - just what I needed.

My rough week of work got much better on Friday. My co-worker and I had a good day out in the field and I was able to stay focused enough to check a lot of items off my to do list. By the time the end of the day rolled around I was ready for a change of scenery.

I found myself drawn to CityPlace with its strong connection to Joe. It was there over drinks at Wet Willie's 8 years ago that I realized Joe and I would make it this second time around. I figured that I would have a drink at Wet Willie's and reminisce a bit before going to my friend's house for the night. My heart sank as I climbed the stairs to the bar only to realize it was no longer there. I almost broke down into tears and I almost turned around and left except that there was a guy playing some great live music outside at the B.B. King's Blues Club. I was drawn in so I found a seat with a good view of the music (& the spot where Wet Willie's used to be) and I ordered Joe's drink.

I spent a sweet hour there, remembering Joe and what it was like to share a true love that was until death parted us. It was a time of deep self-examination for me. Maybe it was the spot, maybe it was the music, maybe it was the gin and tonic - maybe it was the combination of all three - but it was also one of the few times over the last two years when I have actually felt Joe's presence and it couldn't have come at a better time. As I was paying my tab and getting ready to leave, I couldn't have asked for a better exit song.

I had one final moment at the PHL airport after flying home from Florida. I was walking out of the U.S. Airways terminal with too many memories swirling around in my mind. The tears were welling up in my eyes and I just started praying while I was walking. It went something like, "please God, my heart hurts and I want to find someone again who I can share my love with who will be able to love me back. Whoever that is and however that's going to come to be, I want it to happen." 

I kept walking out of baggage claim to wait for the parking company to bring my car around and I remember thinking that I already have so much love in my life. I thought about my son. And my family. And my friends. Yet even in that there is this space in me that knows how wonderful and full love with a partner can be and that longs for that again. Then, I reached the curb, set down my bags and saw this on the ground in front of me:

Some days you just need a little sign to get you through to the other side.

Epilogue: I called this post "The Reprise" for a reason. My first "Don't Stop Believin'" post was about my first ever 5k race and the meaning of that song for me after that race. It's hard to believe that was almost 2 years ago and that I have run 4 half marathons and a full marathon since then. The song has popped up at many key moments since then, most notably when I ran the NYC Marathon in November, but what stands out the most to me is how I never have a shortage of inspiring moments to pull me through my most challenging times. If there is one thing I've learned from having that star taped to my mirror all year, it's that no matter how bad things get I should indeed not stop believing because just around the corner...I'm likely to find another encouraging sign.

Monday, January 6, 2014

My Ultimate Destiny

Last night I had a tough conversation with one of my best friends. He and I have become close over the past year and a half and up until last night it seemed to me like things were moving in a romantic direction, although at a snail's pace. The details aren't important, but the bottom line is that I had fallen for him...hard. 

He was a part of many of my biggest moments from this past year and again, without belaboring the details, I had hoped he would be there for many more.

But, the time had come for us to have "the relationship talk" and so last night it happened. It went pretty much the way I suspected (and feared) it would. 

Just friends. No romantic feelings.

And I felt the heartbreak and the anger and the loss well up inside me. I had already made a decision for myself that if the conversation went anything like this it would be my cue to dial back from the relationship for awhile. I have no idea how long that will be, but given that we would interact pretty much daily it's a big change even if it's just for a few weeks. I'll need time to deal with my anger, heal my heart, and get my mind straight.

Who knows how long that will take. I guess that's the danger of falling for your best friend - you risk losing out on the friendship too when the romantic part doesn't work.

Thankfully, I have an amazing support network including my mom who was full of hugs and a comforting backrub and two girlfriends who texted back and forth with me last night until I found the strength to get to sleep.

In the morning, it was another exchange with my little guy that got me right in the gut. I went into his room to say good morning and as soon as I saw his sweet face I felt the tears welling up. He knows his mommy and, of course, he noticed. He asked me why I was sad and I tried to give him the 3 year old version.

Then, this:

LG: Let me see what I can offer blankie or my turtle?

Me: "I'll take your turtle."

I reach for it and give it a big hug. He pets the turtle and looks up into my eyes.

LG: "Can I have my turtle back?"

I give it back to him and we turn on the lights inside of it.

LG: "I can hold your hand for a little while, ok mommy?"

Yeah, buddy, you bet. Then, it was time for another Jake and the Pirates serenade. This kid knows what he's doing.

Today was hard, but I've done hard before. I know that somehow, at some point down the road, things will be alright. I always knew this relationship was a long shot for a lot of reasons and I don't regret a single minute of it. I can't say I understand the progression of what has happened, but I do know that I can't control other people, only myself. And I will not let this keep me from doing all that I can to live my life to its fullest. And I'm determined to not let it hold me back from opening myself up to a future relationship. My life has taught me there just isn't time for anything less.

So, at the point this afternoon when I was most feeling like I needed to just reach out to my best friend, I know there was a Higher Power at play, because up popped a Facebook notification. A special friend had written a response to my 13 in 2013 blog post. The part that gave me the reassurance I needed was this...

"I stumbled across this quote recently. It is certainly appropriate to post it here since you are LIVING this..... “It's not what's happening to you now or what has happened in your past that determines who you become. Rather, it's your decisions about what to focus on, what things mean to you, and what you're going to do about them that will determine your ultimate destiny.”

The quote is from Anthony Robbins and it had me in tears and set my heart at peace. I can't thank Marieke enough for posting it at that moment, even though she had no idea what I was going through today. No matter how difficult things feel right now, no matter how much I miss my friend and wish things could be different, it's my decisions about how to move forward that matter.

And while the song I can't get out of my head right now is "Can't Stop Lovin' You" by Van Halen, at some point, it will get easier. This is going to be a painful time, but I have things to focus on - marathon training, my church, my job, my family. I choose to do that and hope that it leads me eventually back to my friend because I already miss him.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

13 in 2013 aka How I Degenerate Into a Miserable Person When I Don't Run

At the end of 2012 I made a commitment for 2013 to run 13 races in 2013. I signed up as part of a group and agreed that I would run at least 13 races (of whatever length I could muster) at some point during the 12 months of 2013. I think I had completed four or five 5k races in 2012 so it seemed like a pretty big deal at the time.

The 13 in 2013 challenge has made it quite an incredible year for me. I ended up completing not only 13 races but a total of 17, including my 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th half marathons. I also ran my first full marathon and improved my 5k time by almost 5 minutes. In the process, I completed my first double digit run ever and logged more than 750 miles. (January 19, 2013 - @MamaDeak Ran my first ever 10 miler this morning. Aside from giving birth to my son, it's the most powerful I've ever felt. #TLAM2013 #MotherRunner)

I ran through grief and a little bit of heartache. I ran happy and with expectation for the future. I ran with friends and family. I ran with teammates and I ran alone. I ran up and down the east coast - from Buffalo to Boca Raton. I ran in the sweltering heat and in the freezing cold, with wind whipping in my face and snow sticking to my eyelashes. I jumped over snakes, dodged spiders and ate bugs. I'm on pair #3 and #4 of running shoes since I took up running 2 years ago and on the 3rd incarnation of my wardrobe given that I've lost 45 pounds in the last year.

Through my races and the training that has come with them, I have learned one incredibly important lesson about myself - I need to run.

After completing my first full marathon and following it up with my first Run Disney race less than a week later, I took a lot of time off. I went from November 9th until December 17th not running anything more than a couple of 5k races (literally it was two - a Turkey Trot and a Mistletoe race). I thought that I was doing the right thing in taking all that time off from running and maybe my body did need a big chunk of rest, but my mind and my soul needed to run.

November and December were incredibly difficult months for me - professionally and personally. You name it and I had it going on. Life was piling on and running was the one time when I would have had the clarity to make sense of it all...or just stew when I couldn't. Without running I become irritable, anxious, and increasingly sad. Not running during the dark yet busy months of November and December only made these things worse. I'm reminded of a quote from Dimity McDowell that I read earlier this year, "Because sometimes running is the only thing to do when you don't know what to do." For me, I know now that couldn't be more true.

I began training again Christmas week and by Day 2 I felt like a new person. I was thinking more clearly. I was embracing life in a new way. I was caring much less about what other people thought and much more about what was right for my own journey on this planet. It's amazing what a few good runs can do. After my first week back to marathon training - this round of training is with the goal of a BQ - I knew that I could never take that long off from running again. My body, mind, and soul just need it too much. So what did I do? Well, I signed up for 14 in 2014.

My 13 (17) in 2013

1. March 2 - Cupid's Chase 5k, Princeton, NJ, 28:16

2. March 9 - Allstate Miami Beach 13.1, Miami Beach, FL, 2:11:39 (

3. March 17 - Shamrocks for Sandy 10k, Manahawkin, NJ, 53:19

4. April 28 - Nike Women's Half Marathon, Washington, DC, 2:04:49 (

5. June 2 - YMCA Montclair 10k, Montclair, NJ, 1:01:28 (

6. June 22 - Go Dirty Girl Mud Run, Albrightsville, PA, Untimed 5k with obstacles

7. July 7 - Color Run, Brooklyn, NY, Untimed 5k

8. July 13 - All Star Game 5k, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY, 26:41 (

9. August 10 - Belmar Chase 5k, Belmar, NJ, 24:55
10. August 31 - Kentlands-Lakelands 5k, Gaithersburg, MD, 24:35

11. September 14 - Undy 5000 (5k), Philadelphia, PA, 23:29 PR! (

12. September 15 - Rock N Roll Half Marathon, Philadelphia, PA, 1:51:30 PR! (

13. October 13 - LBI 18 miler, Long Beach Island, NJ, 2:35:31

14. November 3 - ING NYC Marathon, New York, NY, 4:07:24 (

15. November 9 - Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon, Orlando, FL, 1:57:03

16. November 28 - Trinity Turkey Trot 5k, Princeton, NJ, 25:17

17. December 14 - Mistletoe 5k, Hamilton, NJ, 24:41 (

2013 was a great year. I ran some amazing races, met some awesome people, and had some of the most inspiring experiences of my life. Having already logged my first 6 training miles of 2014, I can't wait to see where this year takes me. I have no doubt it will be one heck of a ride.