First Marathon Story: Valerie

Happy Friday! I just got out of work, and I am SO excited for a long weekend.

Here’s another First Marathon Story, from another one of my gchat besties, Valerie. I will probably say this any time I post one of these, but I am SO excited for her.

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Zero to 26.2

Years running

I ran my first 5K in March 2011 and have been running on and off since then, but only regularly since June of this year.

Marathon training for

Walt Disney World Marathon in January 2013

Why I decided to run a marathon

Other than because I’ve lost my mind? It’s something I’d been thinking about for a few years, and becoming friends with a bunch of runners only made the voice in the back of my head stronger. I’ve never been particularly athletic, and it’s something I want to prove to myself that I can do.

My fiance Kevin and I went to Disney World with friends a couple years ago, and ever since we’ve thought it would be fun to do the marathon there if we ever made the commitment to do a long race. With the Disney marathon’s 20th anniversary in January (and my upcoming 30th birthday later this year) I figured this year was as good as any to do it!

How is marathon training measuring up to your expectations? What’s better or worse than you expected?

First of all, running is HARD. It’s just not something that comes naturally for me. I started out with a nearly 17 minute mile and over 10 weeks have gotten that down to just under 15 on a good day. Thankfully we still have 4.5 months to go for me to get stronger and faster.

One thing that’s definitely easier than I’d anticipated is just getting out there and running four times a week. We just missed our first run this past week, and that’s because we were up in New York and our feet were worn out from all the walking. It’s been really great to have Kevin as my training partner and to help keep me accountable. As for anything that’s harder than I expected, I honestly expected this to be kind of awful and, well, it hasn’t been! It’s hard during, of course, but I always feel better once I’ve finished a run. We’re only up to 5 .5 miles, though, so I expect my feelings may change once we approach double digit mileage.

Number of days running per week

Four. We’re following Hal Higdon’s Novice Supreme training plan to the letter, except that I need to get better about doing cross training.

What are you most excited about for the race?

Crossing the finish line and having the volunteers place the medal around my neck! I have several friends who are also running the marathon and half marathon that weekend, so I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone down there. We’re making a vacation out of the trip and will spend the four days after the race hobbling around the parks, and yes, I will wear my medal every single day.

What are you most terrified of?

The sweepers. Disney makes you maintain a 16 minute per mile pace, or they politely escort you to the loser van. The idea of spending 7 months training, trying your best and then not finishing makes me want to throw up.

Do you think you’ll ever run another marathon?

Let’s see how I do with the first one before deciding! I’ve heard they’ve addictive, but time will tell.

Number of black toenails so far

Zero and I hope to keep it that way! But I have an extensive nail polish collection should the need arise.

Running for Mike

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This morning, my schedule called for 8 miles of hills. I had plans to go to the Giants game tonight, so I had to knock it out this morning.

I was mostly adjusted to morning running, but my runs keep going and getting longer on me. Seven miles one day last week, runs of 8, 9 and 10 in upcoming weeks. Silly marathon. While those are technically “mid-distance” runs, they’re still pretty damn long for mid-week runs that need to be squeezed in with a full day of work and usually some sort of commitment after work.

I’m nervous about those long mid-week runs coming up in the next few weeks and how I’m going to get them in.

But I’m lucky. And I’m choosing to do this. Because I enjoy it, and because I know it will pay off on October 28.

Mike had surgery this morning. It’s worth it to him, he said, if he can run again after the surgery. He’ll be on crutches for a few weeks and then have some physical therapy after that.

So I ran for him this morning.

On sore, heavy, tired legs, telling myself to STFU and just run up to the park and get my hill training in.


Who do you run for?

First Marathon Story: Kimra

A bunch of my friends have decided to drink the marathon Kool-Aid and are training for their first marathons. I’m ridiculously excited for them—and everyone else training for their first marathons. I remember how excited I was for my first marathon and want to vicariously live through others’ first times, so I’m starting an Official Blog Series sharing the stories of those training for their first marathons. Are you training for your first marathon and want to be featured? Email me at theodora.blanchfield @ and I will feature you!

Today’s installment comes from another one of my gchat besties, Kimra!


Name: Kimra

Blog: Every Day is Another Dumb Adventure (

Years running: 5

Marathon training for: Berlin Marathon — September 30, 2012

Why I decided to run a marathon

Two years ago, when I was training for my first half-marathon, I learned that I loved longer distances. I spent three months out of town for work that year, and as my long runs got longer, I got to explore more of my temporary home on foot. I started researching marathons the day after I finished that half! But I also tend to get injured easily, and I was wary of committing to a big race that I might not be able to complete. What finally got me to take a chance was a combination of a great course and great timing.
Last year, I spent about 48 hours in Berlin and fell head-over-heels in love with the city. My husband and I went for a run there, through the Tiergarten and the Brandenburg gate, and I almost immediately started trying to figure out how we could do that again someday. When I saw the Berlin marathon course and realized it was a giant loop that would let me see 26.2 different miles of this city I loved, I was sold. And when I realized the timing worked out so that we could hop over to Munich for Oktoberfest a couple of days later, I knew that even if the worst case happened and I couldn’t race, I’d at least get a great vacation!
How is marathon training measuring up to your expectations? What’s better or worse than you expected
I feel like this is where the cool kids would complain about marathon training interfering with their social life, but I’m a homebody anyway and my husband is also running Berlin, so it’s not much of a hardship to stay in on Fridays to eat pasta and wake up early to run. (I did switch my long run to Saturday from Sunday though, so I can have one weekend night where I don’t have to worry about how what I’m doing will affect the next day’s training.)I honestly expected to be much more of a basket case about training. I got injured in January, and I spent a lot of time worrying about whether I’d be able to run Berlin at all.
Thanks largely to an awesome physical therapist, my training has actually gone really well, but that early stress gave me a “one day at a time” attitude about the marathon. The honeymoon phase where I’m excited to wake up and run has never really ended, knock on wood.In terms of what’s harder than I expected: I’ve definitely taken a bit of an ego hit on my speed.
Granted, I wasn’t exactly fast before marathon training, but it’s still been hard to watch my average pace drop lower as my runs have gotten longer. I don’t have any speedwork in this training plan, and I miss pushing myself on the track. It’s also held me back from making as many social running plans as I assumed I would, because the people I typically run with are running much faster than I am right now — and even if they wouldn’t mind slowing down, I’m still self-conscious about it.
Number of days running per week
Three, plus one day of deep-water running in the pool. When my physical therapist and I mapped out my “comeback” earlier this year, we ended up with a pretty conservative schedule. It’s lower-mileage than a lot of plans out there, and I think I’d want more miles under my belt if I had a really aggressive time goal, but I’m confident this will get me to the start (and the finish!).
What are you most excited about for the race?
So many things! I’m excited about the shakeout run the day before, where roughly half the marathon field jogs to Berlin’s Olympic stadium for breakfast. I’m excited about seeing my parents, who are coming to cheer, somewhere on the course. I’m excited about meeting people from all over the world who are coming to run this big race. And I’m excited to really test my limits and see if I can run strong for longer than I’ve ever run before. I’m also looking forward to lots of German beer after, let’s be honest.
What are you most terrified of?
I keep having dreams about packing, so I guess I’m afraid of forgetting something! I’m also afraid of getting injured before the race — less from running at this point than from something dumb like falling down the stairs or tripping on my cats’ food dishes. Actually, most of my fears are about logistics: What if my flight gets delayed and I miss the expo? What if my travel foam roller gets confiscated at customs? What if I’m jetlagged and sleep through my alarm on race morning?
Do you think you’ll ever run another marathon?
Absolutely. (Though ask me again on October 1!) I do think I’ll take a break and do something with lower mileage and more speedwork next, but I have a Google Doc with races I want to do someday, and the list of marathons on it keeps getting longer.
Number of black toenails so far
Zero! Though after several years of ballet as a teenager, I’m not sure mine could rightly be classified as “toenails” to begin with.
Leave Kimra some love, tips or tell me about your first time. Running a marathon, that is.

Chobani Dinner at EVOO

Just one more HLS post, promise.


After all the Official HLS stuff was over, I went up to Meghann’s room for a little cocktail hour with some ladies.


As the conference planner, she got a suite with a pretty sweet view.


Roomie love: Anne, me, Ashley and Gretchen


After our little cocktail hour, a group of us headed over to EVOO, an award-winning Cambridge restaurant.


Some of the lovely Chobani ladies were our hosts for the evening. Just a note here that I can’t tolerate a ton of dairy but I attended this dinner because I really like the Chobani brand and the ladies hosting the dinner.


Like the lovely Emily, their director of consumer engagement.


I also like wine. One of the wines they had to pair with the dinner was Sancerre, which I love.


Each course included Chobani in some creative way. The first course was an heirloom tomato salad with a yogurt gelee. The gelee texture made the yogurt taste almost like cheese.


The next course was a lobster succotash with vanilla Chobani. Lobster is one of my favorite foods by far, so I was really excited to see lobster on the menu, but I wasn’t crazy about any other part of this course.


What’s a blogger dinner without a little photo intermission? Oh hey Heather.


Our main course was Seared Yogurt and Spice Sous Vide Lamb Loin with Crisp Eggplant and Raita. The veal was really tender, and the eggplant was delicious. I don’t think I’ve met many fried foods I didn’t like, hence the reason I needed to start this blog…


We finished the meal with a nectarine-basil crisp with frozen berry yogurt. I’m typically way more of a savory person than a sweet person, but I finished this before Heather, sitting next to me, had barely made a dent in hers.

This was a special menu created for us by Chef Peter McCarthy, and I love that he did everything with such a light touch. The yogurt was never overwhelming in any of the dishes, but accented the other flavors in the dishes.


Thanks to Chobani and thanks to all these lovely ladies for such a fun dinner. (And thanks to Ashley for the photo.)

If you could eat a meal centered around one sort of food, what kind of food would you pick? OR if you could have one chef design a special menu, which chef? I’d pick Jose Andres; I was pretty obsessed with both Jaleo and Oyamel (long live their beef tongue tacos) in D.C.

MCM Training Week 5: Lessons in Flexibility

Along with becoming the kind of person who works out in the morning, I became the kind of person who can function during the week on six hours of sleep sometimes.

In the past, if it looked like a workout would compromise my eight hours of snooze time, I snoozed on the workout. Well, there’s no time for snoozing when you have an aggressive marathon goal to pursue, and so I’ve sacrificed blogging in favor of sleep. Hey, the less I blog, the more I have to blog about, right?

So let’s talk about my Week 5 of marathon training.

I give it a solid A-.

On paper, it was great. I got in every single mile, my five scheduled runs, a session with my new trainer and learned how to be flexible in my training.

Mentally, it wasn’t the best. Sticking 100% to my mileage meant a bit of a jump from previous weeks, and that definitely showed in my pace and how easy my runs felt. (Spoiler: not easy.)

Tuesday: Personal training session with Jaz + 4-mile run. My quads and glutes were SHOT from the training session, but they loosened up as I shuffled along.

Wednesday: I had 7 miles of hills on my schedule, but for myriad reasons—starting late, not wanting to completely drench the heart monitor in sweat, not wanting to go back up to the park—I did 5 miles tempo instead.

Thursday: Rest day on my plan, which is awesome, because I have an early meeting every Thursday.

Friday: My schedule called for 4 miles, with 2 at marathon goal pace, which is a scary 9:09. How the hell am I going to do that for 26.2 miles? I now completely understand the idea of MGP runs—it’s pretty hard to hold one pace consistently, but training my body to know what 9:09 feels like will help when I’m trying to stay around that pace for three hours and fifty-nine minutes. As I looked at my Garmin, the pace for the MGP miles kept bouncing anywhere between 8:40 and 9:20. So I have no idea what MGP feels like yet. I was also sick to my stomach for whatever reason and had to stop at the awesome Chelsea Piers bathroom both before and after those two miles. I don’t envy Ali’s life.

Saturday: Woke up too late, decided to swap my long run with Sunday’s run and did six. I had four on the schedule, but I did two miles to make up for Wednesday’s run. It was hot and I felt sluggish the entire time.

Sunday: 13 miles done in sunny, hilly Franklin Lakes, NJ. As Kimra and I discussed, running in a place you don’t usually run in requires a bit more alertness to figure out where to turn and face whatever changes in terrain may come, so I never really got “in the zone.” Unless that zone was at CVS and Starbucks, where I stopped to get water (at mile 4 and then at mile 11.) My pace (10:04) was a bit slower than it had been on previous runs, but it was hot and hilly, so that makes sense, frustrating as it may be.

So, this week’s lessons learned: even though sometimes you really need to sleep in (Saturday), don’t do it both days if you don’t want your runs to suck in the summer; strength training is good for you; flexibility is key in marathon training if you want to get all your damn miles in. That’s both the legs-that-aren’t-as-tight-as-rubber-bands flexibility and the juggling-things-around flexibility.

How is your training going? How do you fit your training in around a busy schedule?

BlogHer ‘12: What I Learned (About Myself)


Well hello there. Long time no chat. I’ve been busy having my picture taken with quilted toilet paper backgrounds.

The BlogHer whirlwind ended yesterday. It was two days of waking up earlier than I go to work, listening to sessions all day and then going out for long dinners with friends every night. Worth it, but exhausting.

I went into BlogHer being not completely sure of what to expect, other than massive amounts of swag and lots of people. Not being sure of what to expect—and researching the conference—has worked out just fine for other conferences I’ve gone to, but for BlogHer, you really need some kind of strategy. Ridiculous, I know.

Before BlogHer, I wish I’d realized you need to sign up for parties on EventBrite. I realized this on the "I’m Going to BlogHer" Facebook group a few days ago, but all of the parties were full. Really, this didn’t end up being a make-or-break thing—and I really enjoyed catching up with people I knew instead—but I wish I’d realized that earlier. I also wish I’d known about the Writing Lab beforehand, although I’m grateful to Caitlin for telling me about it.

As a social media professional working at a PR firm with a journalism background, I have a good background in most of the things discussed at blogging conferences, so it’s sometimes difficult for me to find sessions where I can learn something truly new.

I found myself gravitating to the writing-focused sessions: how to turn blog posts into publishable essays; the Writing Lab. I didn’t learn any new tactics or strategies in these sessions, but I learned about myself in these sessions. I reawakened my love for writing. Although my job has me coming up with social media strategy (and content) for brands, I still identify myself as a writer.

A theme in a lot of the panels was “if you don’t take yourself seriously, nobody else will.” Just because my day job isn’t being a journalist doesn’t mean I can’t still call myself a writer. A triple negative in a sentence might mean that, though.

The “this is what I did today, and it was awesome” posts aren’t fulfilling for me to write any more. (Although, were they ever?) I blog a little less these days not just because I’m busier, but because I want to make sure now that when I blog, I have something to say—that I’m not just throwing some more content into the Internet abyss just for the sake of it.


So what does this mean? Maybe not much for this blog, other than trying to take myself a little more seriously as a writer. But as a person? Never.

I want to slow down a bit and carve out some more time for myself for writing. And it’s time to get over the fear of rejection and finish my damn book proposal.

As for BlogHer, is there anything you especially do or don’t want to hear about? This won’t be the last post.

What have you learned about yourself lately? I have also learned that I’m ridiculously clumsy and that I can’t dart across the street as the walking man is turning from blinking to solid red without falling.

How Fast Can I Run One Mile?

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Today, my plan called for a one-mile time trial. I don’t think I’d run just one mile since huffing and puffing through the mile in middle school, so I was ridiculously excited to see what I could bust out for just one mile.

I don’t usually curse on my blog, and I don’t usually post pictures of my Garmin, but I think we can agree this is worth breaking both of those rules, right?


Because this? This is fucking awesome. If my plan is right, and as my fitness improves, my time will decrease, I would LOVE to break a 6-minute mile—which I NEVER would have thought possible.

BRB inputting this into as many race calculators as possible.

Saying Goodbye to the Gym

In 2004, my roommate at the time convinced me to join Washington Sports Club with her. We worked out every day, and it was great.

Minus me not losing any weight because I didn’t put any resistance on the elliptical and was wondering why she was drenched in sweat and I wasn’t. I told myself that even though I was overweight, I must still just be in good cardiovascular shape from high school sports. HA! (I used to be GREAT at denial.)

2005-2008: I make various attempts at being a gym rat. All fail.

2009: The year I got my shit together. When I moved to NYC, I transferred my WSC membership to New York Sports Club. I lived downtown at the time, so the club I frequented most was Wall Street. Which, as NYSCs go, is really nice. It’s where I met the trainer who helped me finally shed the weight I’d struggled with since college. For the entire year of 2009, it’s safe to say I was a gym rat.

2010: I think I stopped working out with Joel in early 2010, when I met my ultimate goal weight. After being a member of the Town Sports Gyms for so long, I was really bored with all of their classes, since New York and D.C. had very similar classes.


Summer 2010: I downgrade my cable bill to bare-bones and decide to use the extra money to try out that fancy Equinox I’d heard so much about. I got a decent (err, relatively) corporate rate and there was a location in my office building and on my walk home from the subway. I loved their classes, and—I’m not gonna lie—the super-fancy gym. It felt like a spa every time I walked in, with its inviting mood lighting, a nice change from NYSC’s fluorescent lights that felt too much like my office. Its classes were challenging and unique and seemed like those fancy boutique fitness classes I’d read so much about. I used these classes as cross-training as I trained for the Chicago Marathon, and I often hopped on the treadmill at lunch to bang out some miles.

June 2011 - November 2011: I got laid off but was still training for a triathlon. I briefly canceled my membership, but realized it was cheaper than therapy and a good, healthy way to fill my time between interviews, so I re-upped. It wasn’t convenient to my apartment—it had been convenient to my old job—but since I had lots of time, that was just fine. I spent a lot of time there. I also start attending a lot more classes to review or to take with blogger friends.

November 2011 - January 2012: I try to make it work, but since becoming a more devoted runner, I’m basically only interested in classes at the gym, and my new job makes it difficult to get to night classes, and I’m too lazy to make it to morning classes. (Also, I need to go home and walk my dog before work, so morning classes that aren’t really close are a huge pain in the ass.)

March 2012: I move much closer to an Equinox location, and think that will change things. Not a bit. At this point, the weather’s getting nice and I’m happy to run outside or meet up with friends at fun blogger events. I really would have canceled at this point if I could have, but I was locked into a contract, and their contracts are air-freaking-tight.

June 2012: submit my cancelation notice. Even though I know we’re not right for each other right now, I wonder if I’m really making the right decision to leave my lover, Equinox. I’ve wanted for a while to dabble in some of the boutique fitness classes—I like the accountability of the schedulers, the sometimes-better schedules in general and the flexibility of not needing a membership. Even if I take one fancy fitness class per week, it will still be cheaper than Equinox, but will be a far better use of my money. I’ll certainly miss the very lovely Equinox—especially its pool—but unless they unveil some a la carte option or add some earlier or later classes, it’s just not for me right now.

I mostly run as exercise, and I’m training for a marathon right now, so I’m not concerned about not getting exercise in, but it does seem weird—especially as a person who is into fitness—to not have a formal gym membership. I might revisit this after the marathon, and I’m thinking of trying the CrossFit cult then, but for now, it’s me, my sneaks and random classes whenever and wherever I feel like. Including occasionally on my laptop, in my apartment.

What about you? Do you belong to a formal gym? (By formal, I mean gym with classes, and stuff. Not a gym you have to dress up for.) If not, how do you get your exercise in?

A Surprise Party at Sorella

Next week, one of my good friends is turning 30. We met through our blogs, but became fast friends the first time we met.


Last night, her friend Kathleen organized a surprise dinner for her at Sorella, an Italian restaurant on the Lower East Side.

I know it looks like we were outside, but it was more like a covered patio.


I’d seen Emily the night before at wine book club, and was dying when someone else asked what she was doing for her birthday and she said she wasn’t sure. I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING!


We started with some breadsticks at the bar while waiting for Emily to show up. They were salty, carb-y wonderfulness.


Just before Emily was due to arrive, we moved to the back room. I wish I’d gotten a picture of her, because the look on her face was priceless, but soon after we moved back, Kathleen went to pretend she was waiting for Emily at the bar, and they were led back to “their table,” where we were all waiting.


They completely captured my sentiments on the menu.


We started with some meat and cheese. (I think I was too busy eating the cheese, though, to photograph it.)


We ate the rest of the meal tapas/family style. Above: broccoli fritto with pickled hot pepper aioli (which had an awesome kick), grana padano and basil. So, totally healthy, because there’s broccoli in there.


We also ordered all the pastas on the menu for the table. This one was gnocchi with cream sauce, brown butter pears and chives.


I have no idea which one this one was.


This one, the agnolotti with beef short rib, parmesan and sage butter was my favorite. Kathleen loved it, too, so we ordered another one for the table.

We also ordered Brussels sprouts with bacon, apple and some sort of sauce. I love Brussels with bacon, but the sauce made this a little too rich.


And what’s a birthday without cake? Kathleen brought some cake from Billy’s, one of Emily’s favorite bakeries. I love red velvet, so I expected for that one to be my favorite, but I ended up loving a rich chocolate one.


Happy birthday, friend!!!

In Which I Accidentally Become a Morning Runner

At some point over the past few months, I accidentally became a morning runner.

I’d been trying for a while, with no success. I mean, I do

But this spring, when I started skipping workouts because I was working later, I realized that had to change. I went to the gym a few times when I got out of work at 8, but it was usually miserable, and I couldn’t sleep well that night since I was so wide-awake.

I finally realized that if I was going to get my workouts in, I’d have to get them in in the morning. I’d read so many damn articles and blog posts about ways that I, too, could become a morning exerciser.

But just like I’d read 14 million articles about how to lose weight when I was overweight, and not internalized a damn thing until I was ready, I had to really want to become a morning runner.

It took a few days of workouts with friends visiting to finally give me the momentum I needed to make this a habit. I’ve since struggled on and off (getting sick, going away), but it finally just clicked for me: if I work out in the morning, I have more time to do stuff after work, and I don’t have to worry about working out at 9pm if I get stuck late at work.

I usually feel like this when I get up and get out, but it usually gets better. (Not always, not gonna sugarcoat this.)

I had 4 “easy” miles on my schedule today, and I ran on my buddy, the West Side Highway path, up to 42nd Street and turned around. I’m already starting to get a little bored with my usual waterside routes, which is great, because it’s not like I have another 15 weeks of training or anything. I usually run sans headphones, but I’ve had to for some of my shorter runs lately to combat boredom. I recently bought a pair of Philips sports headphones (aff link) that I like—they stay in place and I can use the control to change the song/volume on my iPhone without waking it back up.

The interesting thing about morning runs is that you are definitely not quite awake for that first mile, and then you wake up gradually. When I hit mile 3, heading back to my apartment from the West Side Highway, I was a little surprised I’d already run 3 miles.

This view doesn’t hurt though.

Each mile ended up getting faster as I woke up more, for a grand total of 4 miles in 37:27.

Are you a morning exerciser? Are you a morning person or a reluctant morning exerciser like me?

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