waiting my turn (because I want to)

New York City Marathon Weekend

Last weekend, I went to New York City to work the marathon expo, as I did last year. I was not particularly excited this time around, mostly because it took a lot of planning just to get there, and I was in the peak of training and I knew it would take at least a few days to recover from the physical and mental exhaustion of the event. Still, I remained positive as I put together this whole plan of packing, dropping everything off at work, running to work, staying at a friend’s house, storing extra stuff at work, and walking to the connecting train early Friday morning to take it to the main NJ Transit station, which would in turn take me to NYC. Phew. To make matters worse, it was raining and ridiculously windy, and an entire water bottle leaked in my bag before I set foot on the first train. By the time I got to the Javits Center with all my stuff for the weekend, I already wanted a shower. Heck, I wanted a shower before sunrise. A twelve hour day of working on my feet, bright lights, and talking was ahead of me though. Long story short: I will never be a candidate to commute to another city for work. I need hours to get myself together after a single trip, it seems…that’s not good.

A scene from the maze you now have to navigate through construction to get to the Dinky station in Princeton. Time: 7:05 AM (after I missed the first train and was brave enough to try finding my way to Wawa while waiting for the second...).

A scene from the maze you now have to navigate through construction to get to the Dinky station in Princeton. Time: 7:05 AM (after I missed the first train and was brave enough to try finding my way to Wawa while waiting for the second…).

Thus, my own mini-marathon began. On Friday, day two of the expo and day one for me, I was assigned to work with CEP, but we had so many staff there that we were actually blocking the product, so I moved over to Superfeet, where I got to see two of my favorite reps, Anna and Rich (they were at the RW expo too)! I also tried beef jerky for the FIRST TIME, which was mind-blowing. Perhaps I shouldn’t have tried expensive, gourmet, flavored beef jerky first…I’m probably going to expect all future beef jerky experiences to be just as good. It was KRAVE Jerky…I can’t even look at the pictures, I just can’t…linking it and exiting that window right now.

Seriously though…

(Enough said.)

(Enough said.)

Clearly, the beef jerky was a memorable event at this year’s expo for me. Moving on. I eventually found myself needed at the Brooks booth (yessss), where I was stationed in the apparel section and then on one of the registers for the remainder of the expo that day. A strange moment happened when I saw a man holding two basketballs and commented, “Basketballs? That’s the wrong sport!” He replied with, “Or the right one! You don’t know who I am?” Note: when someone says “you don’t know who I am?” take that as a

I ended up getting a picture with Doctor Dribble....

I ended up getting a picture with Doctor Dribble….

warning that you are a.) justified in not knowing who he/she is, and b.) you are about to get a lengthy explanation of who he/she is. Turns out he was “Doctor Dribble,” and dribbles two basketballs while running marathons to raise money for charity. Apparently he holds a Guinness World Record for dribbling during a marathon.

Eight o’clock finally came. After closing up the registers, warding off rumors that the expo was until nine, and convincing fellow female coworkers that we should request a departure for the hotel, I escaped to fresh air for the first time since before 9 AM. Expos give you a warped sense of things…NYC air becomes fresh air, etc.

Later that night, everyone who was anyone in the running industry found themselves on the lower level of Rosie O’Grady’s, like every year on NYCM weekend. I got to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in awhile as well as meet new people I had heard of but never met before. I saw Megan and Hannah, met an editor at Running Times, met some cool people from our corporate office, had a business-related chat with the founder of a successful chain of running specialty stores, possibly met Desi, and definitely lost my voice. It was an overwhelming runner’s paradise, complete with alcohol. I only wish it wasn’t so late and everyone could have stayed longer…but unfortunately everyone still had at least one work day ahead of them.

Rosie's is for runners.

Riley, Jacqui, Chris, me, Pat…. Rosie’s is for runners.

Saturday…I somehow held on surprisingly well after little sleep and general exhaustion. I worked at the Garmin booth all day, which was more exciting than I anticipated. I got to play around with the brand-new Forerunner 220 and 620! And let me tell you…they are awesome. You know when you see an old gadget and think of how it looks ancient compared to whatever is new? These watches made my 210 look old. No lie. I don’t wish I waited for the 220, since I got my watch in April and it has helped my training tremendously since then. However, if there was some sort of option to trade, I would do it in a second. The most notable improvements, in my opinion, are: 1.) weight and size: the 220 is as

Garmin Forerunner 620 and 220.

Garmin Forerunner 620 and 220.

sleek and light as an everyday watch, 2.) wireless uploading, and 3.) the buttons are much easier to press. The third reason may sound strange, but sometimes I have issues with the buttons on my 210…they aren’t the easiest things to find or press hard enough, especially while you’re running and wearing gloves, or during a hard speed workout when you really don’t want to expend your energy on pushing a darn button. Kudos, Garmin. Both models have increased $50, but for the improvements, it’s probably worth it. The black and blue 620 was so popular at the expo, we sold out of it early on Saturday.

I’m not going to go into detail about the extra time we spent after the expo technically closed at 5:00 PM on Saturday. We were there until after 9:00 PM, with the union workers, moving and carrying and stacking heavy boxes and not really knowing what was going on or how late we would be needed. I debated trying to get another night in the city out of my trip, but after going to one bar with a coworker for a quick drink while carrying two big bags, I decided to catch the next train back to Princeton from Penn Station. I ended up boarding one with three minutes to spare, not even realizing a train was leaving at that time, and then catching a free University bus back to town after that. I met up with some friends as soon as I was back, and they questioned my sanity for leaving New York after ten on a Saturday night. But you know what? I was so relieved. I felt so at home and so relaxed. I no longer was holding heavy bags, no longer felt rushed (I even wished I’d skipped the little bar and ran right to the train from Javits, honestly). I was happily exhausted and I couldn’t wait to go to sleep and then return to normal life. I will write more about this later, because this was a weekend that made me realize how much I love Princeton.

Princeton Half Marathon Morning

On Sunday, I awoke to the sound of cheering outside. I had thought about waking up early enough to catch the start of the inaugural half marathon, then go for my long run, and then go to work. Plan B was to wake up and start my long run way before the start, so I would arrive at the finish in time to see the fastest runners come through, then go to work. I decided on Plan C: do whatever the heck I felt like doing, and maybe the timing would match up and I would see part of the race. I ended up beginning my run at 9:00 AM, and the start had been at 7:30 AM, so I did see some people I knew heading down the final stretch to the finish. The first few miles of my run (my plan was 13 miles) was along the course; I ran on the other side of the road in the opposite direction. I saw plenty of people I knew, friends and customers alike, and cheered them on as I ran. It was a nice, distracting start to the run. I split from the course eventually, and entered a more quiet zone. I had expected this run to be quite the death march after the crazy weekend on my feet with very little sleep (and Halloween week before…just saying). It wasn’t so bad, though. I didn’t go out far enough for thirteen, and ended up doing some circling around downtown when I got back. In hindsight, I should have done an actual extra loop somewhere, but I didn’t…oops:

loops113A very interesting phenomenon occurred, during the entire run when there were people around, but particularly in the last couple miles when I was doing all this adding-on-distance nonsense to make 13 miles. People on the sidewalks seemed to think that if I was running, I should be running the half marathon. At least, that was the vibe I got from all the comments: “You’re running the wrong way!” “Why are you still running?” “Did you get a late start?” “You should’ve started earlier and done the half marathon” “Why aren’t you in this?” “Doing your own half marathon?” And the comments behind my back: “Why is she running now?” “Why didn’t she just run the race?” “Why is she running over here?” PEOPLE, CALM YOURSELVES. ALSO, YOU’RE NOT FUNNY. Just because I am running, and there is/was a half marathon within a few blocks of where I am right now, does not mean I cannot run through this town. I wasn’t really angry or frustrated by the comments, I was more amused by the number of people who just didn’t get it. Call me a running snob, I don’t care, I’ve probably earned it long ago and that’s cool with me if I’m speaking truths, but:

Running is not racing. I am training for the Philadelphia Half Marathon. I raced a ten miler and a 10k a few weeks ago and I am allotting the three Sundays in between those races and that race for quality long runs. I just worked the New York City Marathon expo and got back to NJ less than twelve hours ago; I spent twenty-four hours on my feet this weekend, with poor sleep and poor nutrition to boot. I am feeling run down from all of this, and I need to run thirteen miles easy today. Running thirteen miles at whatever pace I feel like running is what my body can handle. Racing a half marathon after all that, and two weeks out from my goal race? No. Why would I ever do that? If I ran the Princeton Half Marathon, with a bib number, I would race it. I would probably feel horrendous, yet still make myself run pretty fast, and then get sick, and sabotage my goal race. I might injure my calves, which were noticeably cramping up after not having much time to hydrate during the weekend.

To summarize: yes, I live in Princeton. Yes, I work at a running store in Princeton. Yes, I had thirteen miles to run on the same morning. Yes, I chose not to run the Princeton Half a long time ago because I knew my schedule and I knew that it didn’t have a good place in it, for smart reasons. I am happy with my decision. Some runners can run races, and work them into their schedules as long runs. I can’t. That’s just the runner I am, and honestly, I don’t have a desire to change that. Running may be racing to some people, and I respect those runners’ goals and perspectives. But, I am not one of those runners, and I can only hope my goals and perspectives can be respected too.

Anyway, I ended up running a semi-hilly 13.0 miler at 7:51 pace (I ranged from 7:20 to 8:20…), feeling much better when I finished than when I started. The marathon of a weekend continued, as I worked all day and tracked lots of people via the awesome NYCM tracking app on my phone and watched live coverage at the finish on our store iPad (yay for working technology!). The app allowed me to track up to ten runners…as each one finished, I added another – there were so many people I wanted to track! Congrats to everyone who ran (and a shout-out to fellow bloggers I follow, Susan and Hollie, my coworker Becca, and a member of my running group, Michelle, who finally got her sub-4)!

That weekend was very much about waiting my turn to race. I was absolutely fine with it.

Next up, the last couple weeks of training and Philadelphia Half Marathon goals, all that required stuff….

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2012 NYCM weekend: a look back

Sunday is the New York City Marathon!

I feel like this year especially, the vibe in the city is going to be amazing for all the runners, since the marathon didn’t happen last year and this part of the country was rather distracted by sad, discouraging things as a result of Hurricane Sandy. I am heading up on Friday morning to work at the expo all day Friday and Saturday (8 AM – 8 PM…bring on the insanity! Just kidding, I’m totally not mentally ready yet). The NYCM expo last year was a big week for me…if you’ve ever had a moment you define as a “turning point” in your life, you understand. I can’t pinpoint one thing that made it like this for me, but I came back to New Jersey feeling like there was “Before NYC” and “After NYC.” Or more accurately, “Before and After Sandy/NYC.” It wasn’t the first expo I had worked, but it was the first at which I felt truly immersed in the running industry community. This was strengthened by the fact that staff from other stores had flown in from across the country to work with us that weekend, and I was finally getting to meet them! At this time, I was still interested in pursuing job opportunities within the field (more on this later, but there’s a reason I avoid writing about it), so this was a “day-in-the-life” experience for me to the extreme. Not to mention the experience of being there when rumors were flying about the cancellation, people were being denied their bibs after cancellation (that didn’t last long…), and the official announcement was made. The run in Central Park among a sea of orange shirts, many runners speaking different languages, just solidified the entire weekend. A combination of all of these things – and an escape from my wind-beaten, electric-powerless town – made my first true NYCM expo experience like stepping into another life for five days. I can’t believe a year has passed…wait, I can…since this monumental weekend of meeting new friends and coworkers and witnessing the power and unity of the running community. I remember signing up for Twitter as soon as I got home (but not using it until February…) and asking a friend about how to start a blog. That’s how much I wanted to write and reflect on my mixed-emotion experiences that week. Here’s a look back on the 2012 NYCM weekend in pictures.

First, here’s the scene I left:sandy

 

...and here’s the world I entered in NYC:DSCN0293

The only time the moon shone brighter than the midtown/LES skyline.

The only time the moon shone brighter than the midtown/LES skyline.

Run Co group picture.

Run Co group picture.

The day I got to sell Brooks shoes all day (sometimes in French...) was awesome.

The day I got to sell Brooks shoes all day (sometimes in French…) was awesome.

DSCN0328

Jack O'Lanterns at Heartland...one of the best dinners of the weekend.

Jack O’Lanterns at Heartland…one of the best dinners of the weekend.

THE place.

THE place.

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Clearly, this post isn’t really about the marathon itself. Those posts can be saved for those of you who are actually racing this weekend! Good luck to everyone and relish in the energy. Someday I’ll run New York, but I’m not in a big rush. (I clearly need to get my priorities straight before committing to racing on a Halloween weekend…).

If you’ll be at the expo Friday or Saturday, I’m assigned to work with CEP allll day Friday (8 AM – 8 PM) and with Garmin alllll day Saturday (8 AM – 8 PM again). If you come and say hi, I would love it if you also gave me some free food. I know it’s around at the expo…but sometimes we can’t escape (and Gu Chomps do not agree with me for lunch!). Expos are hard work but they’re worth it because I get to see so many people I am acquainted with through running, all in one place.

Good luck if you’re running NYC! Visit me at the expo!

Week catchup: NYC, Admission, & crazy runner thoughts…

It’s been over a week since I wrote my half marathon recap, and with good reason! Lots of time to spend living life, not so much time to write about it. After the race I was understandably tired, but nothing was overly sore and I didn’t have pain anywhere. I took a day off and a day of swimming, and was already itching to run again come Wednesday! Our rep from The North Face, Helen, visited on Tuesday night to tell us all about Flashdry technology – really cool stuff, you should try Better Than Naked if you haven’t yet! Helen mentioned that she was heading up to our two New York stores the next morning, and I casually asked, “Can I come?” I was only half serious, but this query somehow landed me on the 9:04 train to NY Penn Station. Works for me.

NYC for the day

So, we went Running Company hopping. It is significantly less fun than bar hopping, but still mildly entertaining. It is always fun (for me…) to visit other stores and see what they are doing differently, or similarly, to us. Also, the New York stores always have wider clothing selections than us, so I tried on some apparel pieces we don’t carry just for fun…like the Oiselle Diamond Roga Short and The North Face Better Than Naked Jacket (love this). I also helped merchandise, because why not. One of our stores is in the Time Warner Center, the other on the Upper East Side, so we cut through Central Park on our walk over there. Note: this was not very efficient, but it was pretty. Especially if you pretend it was twenty degrees warmer than it actually was.

Central Park on the first day of spring! 48 degrees, nice and balmy....

Central Park on the first day of spring! 48 degrees, nice and balmy….

We ran into a strange sight on the way into the park, though…not totally unusual for NYC, but this was probably the creepiest thing I have witnessed. At first it was cute and confusing…and then it was creepy and confusing….

SO MANY BUNNIES! I think one of them is doing Gangnam Style?

One of them walked right up to me; his name tag said Uncle Bob. I was eating a banana and he seemed to want to make a comment about it. Helen almost gave him my other banana, but I’m glad she didn’t because it was quite literally all the food I had for the day.

IMG-20130320-01820One final shot before we ran away from the bunnies:

I fear for the life of that girl trying to weave through them.

I fear for the life of that girl trying to weave through them.

So, what was all this madness? I looked it up on the train ride home, and apparently it;s the Easter Bunny saying “sorry” for giving kids junky candy for all these years. When you don’t know about this campaign ahead of time…well, this bunny congregation is mad creepy.

The trip to NYC was very short, but before I left I got a chance to run for about an hour through Central Park from the Eastside store. I was hoping to run with my former coworker Matt, but they couldn’t spare a person to runch with me. 😦  I will spare the details of what happens when you run in shorts three days after major chafing from a race. It’s a messy subject, a lot of bandages were involved, and that’s all I’ll say about that (I am now fine, fortunately).

Admission

The movie Admission premiered on Friday, March 22. I had no idea this was the case, since I just consider going to see any movie in the theater out of my budget priorities right now. But on Thursday night, I happened to be on the street with two friends, ready to head home around 11:30pm, when I noticed a huge crowd outside the theater. We soon realized it was for Admission, the Tina Fey and Paul Rudd movie about Princeton. Students were offered free tickets to the premiere, but the one grad student who was with us at the time said he wasn’t there to pick one up, and they had “sold” out. We decided to go see what the deal was regardless. And…got on a waiting list! I was exhausted and would have never ordinarily opted to see a midnight showing of anything, but…we were here, so why not?

The line outside the theater.

The line outside the theater.

Princeton City-20130321-01830We ended up in the front row…there were freezing cold vents in front of us, and I had popcorn for dinner. I don’t even like popcorn. Other than all that, the movie was good! And free. Watching it among undergrads was an experience in itself – listening to the hoots and hollers when certain buildings were shown for the first time, or when statements were made about Princeton. I am definitely glad I did this, despite the sleep I lost! I’m not sure when I’ll see a midnight showing again, but probably not for awhile….

Crazy thoughts

So, I titled the last part of this post “crazy runner thoughts.” Let me elaborate. Have you ever accomplished something a step ahead of what you thought you might be capable of? Or even just raced a new distance and felt great? Every runner experiences a certain level of satisfaction, but it wears off, and it comes and goes in waves. Runners are ambitious people who enjoy a challenge like <insert clever pop culture analogy, I’m getting tired here>. My point is, we crave more. We also set goals, and not just write them on paper or tell a friend, but consciously or subconsciously live that wonderful future moment in our minds as we do so, and in our legs as we finish up any ordinary run. I’ve felt it before, dozens of times. Most recently: when I did the PI mile in 5:53 in December and it felt great, I immediately thought, how fast could I have ran a 3200 in if I had kept going? After a 5×1200 workout, would I be able to reach the 6k goal time I had set for myself in college right now if I ran a little slower and strung all those together? After the 30-minute tempo: How fast could I run a 5k right now if I just ran a 5k at the pace I actually raced in November? Things like that.  After the half marathon, it was only natural for me to think similar crazy thoughts. Like:

(Note the hill…now you understand.)

– What if I kept going and ran the whole thing over again for 26.2?

– How much longer could I have kept up an average pace of 7:08/09?

– What if I just doubled that whole race exactly and ran a 3:07 marathon? WHOAAAA that’s crazy to even think about (but I did).

– If I could have ran 4 more miles at that pace with some water in me (this is how I answered the second question), how much faster could I have ran the actual half marathon itself?

– Someday, could I run 1:30 on a flatter course? On this one?

– Someone (an experienced-marathoner someone, I mean) told me a good marathon prediction time is HM x 2 + 10…3:17? What if I actually could do that?

Just a snapshot of what popped into my head the few days after the race. One thing is certain: training doesn’t lie. If your training is going really well, like mine was and is, and there are no signs of nagging pain or impending injury, it is highly unlikely that you will suffer from horrible ailments during the race. The race is more likely than not going to go very similar to how your training went. This is a new concept to me, and I’m not sure why since when I think back, it was always true.

CR1So now that the race is over and I survived the week after just fine (though that NYC run was a killer – I was still so tired and had no idea until I started running), it’s time to take “what’s next” seriously. I have had a “secret plan” for a couple months now, and it is sneaking up on me really quickly. So quickly, in fact, that I’ll need to make a major decision about it within four days. I am currently 95% in favor of choosing yay over nay. An extra 5% may have come today from my friends Brennan and Selena, who registered for their first marathons today and GOT IN to the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon (despite horrible server issues, phew)!!!

My own announcement to come soon! As well as a post about my long run, which should go hand-in hand nicely…. 🙂

Expo-ing: the verb, the skill, the sport.

DSCI2476

Yeah, I moved that.

Most runners have experienced race expos dozens of times. Whether you are that person who is annoyed at the long lines to pick up your bib or that person who stops at every booth looking to score some good deals and sample products, the expo is a unique and ingenious creation. Being with the Running Company, we often reserve a booth at expos and partner with a vendor or two (or seven…) so we can gain experience selling products we sell in our stores. When I hear of a chance to work at an expo, I jump on it. Actually, when it came to Boston, I’m pretty sure I sent an email about it two months before anyone actually asked who wanted to work…needless to say, they let me. The Boston Marathon expo was my first big expo, attended or staffed. I called it “runnerd heaven,” and was in a state of euphoria for the first two days. Until, you know, I lost my voice and my calves had swelled an extra half inch (exaggeration). It was such a great experience, and I want to expand on it in its own post later. I more recently worked at the New York City Marathon expo, which ended up being about twice as fun.

Expo-ing is not actually a sport. It is a verb, because I said so. And it most certainly is a skill.  Here is why. The standard expo schedule:

Day One:

7 AM: leave in the truck/van/car for the destination city.

Car ride of x hours later: Arrive at expo venue. Unload truck/van immediately, and begin booth setup. This may involve heavy lifting, pushing, and navigating poorly loaded contraptions on wheels great distances. It also may involve assembling a metal shelf system from probably 1985.

8 or 9 PM: Hotel check-in and dinner, in either order. The food at this meal is always amazing, and you always look sub-par (setup is sweaty).

10 PM: Return to hotel, mentally prepare for the exhausting and fun day ahead.

10:30 PM: Decide that you might as well go out and explore!

1:30 AM: Decide you went to a bar entirely too far away! Return to hotel, pass out.

Days two and three:

5 AM: Wake up. Drag yourself out of the hotel for a run before the madness begins.

8 AM – 7 PM: Work at the expo! At some point, make note of all the booths you may want to buy things from…before they sell out of what you want. At another point entirely too late in the day, get lunch and chug water.

7 PM: Dinner! Multiple beers on the tab, since you are not paying for them!DSCN0329

9 PM: Out!

2 AM: Return to hotel, organize, drink water, SLEEP.

5 AM: Run!

8 AM – 7 PM: Expo! You are a little more tired than you were the day before.

7 PM: Dinner!

9 PM: Out…DSCI2514

2 AM: Sleep…

Day four:

7 AM: Wake up. Rest day…

8 AM – 7 PM: Expo and BOOTH BREAKDOWN: see day one for level of strenuousness required.

9 PM: Dinner! Out!

Day five:

Run, and watch the race!* You almost feel like you’re running it yourself, you’re so tired.

*that is, if the race actually happens.

And that, friends, demonstrates (hopefully, this was quite long) the skill required to work an expo. Gosh, it doesn’t do it justice. Perhaps my official expo recap stories will. As a Brooks rep told me in New York, “We train for this.”