I love running shoes. I never really loved shoes until I got into running. Then I REALLY got into shoes. Trying to find the just right shoe can be challenging, and involves a lot of trial and error. A good shoe sale makes it easier. I’m almost always looking at or looking for running shoes. Mostly looking for deals on ones I love, but also looking for new ones to love.
Around Memorial Day is one of the BEST times to shop, especially for running shoes. Memorial Day ushers in a lot of sales and the start of summer means new releases for most brands and sales on old inventory.
Why I love these: They’re soft, bouncy and have the Pegasus upper that I love. These do well on workouts and long runs, but I know people who also like them for recovery days due to how soft they are. I liked them so much, I bought a second pair. These can also be worn for races as they’re pretty lightweight. Most people go with a true “racing” shoe over these, but they’re very comfortable without being clunky.
Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit: $75-$110, link is men’s but women’s is on sale too and can be easily searched on their site!
Why I love these: Lightweight, durable, not quite the 4% but has a similar feel. These make for a great fast day training shoe or even some long runs. I’ve used them for runs up to 23 miles and they felt as fine as you could expect a shoe to feel at that point. At a market value of $160, the $75 is quite a steal!
Why I love these: Great workhorse, everyday shoe. These can handle a lot of mileage AND are fashionable enough to wear out which will save valuable packing space on your next trip. (I know, running shoes are for running only but I don’t have unlimited space in my carry-on so I tend to use my workhorse daily running shoes to walk around in.)
These I don’t have personal experience with, but if you’re a New Balance fan looking for a racing shoe these are worth a look or test trial (JackRabbit has a great return policy). They’re ~6 oz so you won’t be weighed down, but I’ve seen them worn for marathons and halfs so they have enough cushioning for distance (but this is obviously a personal preference and should be tested!)
Why I love it: This was my intro to fancy running watches. Previously I was rocking a hand-me-down Garmin or Apple Watch. Neither were particularly bad, but not great for the runner looking to analyze and improve their performance. This watch has all the fancy things you need (workouts, lap features, HR monitor) but none of the extra things that drive the price up. I love mine and have zero desire to replace it until the Forerunner 645 (same capabilities + music) comes down in price. Bonus! This is a massive discount from what I paid for mine a year ago.
Not on sale, but worth a plug anyways. Foam rolling is pain and difficult. This makes it easier and is more effective. I use mine almost daily and definitely notice a difference. It is best for the hamstrings, calves, glutes and IT Band. You can use it elsewhere, it just works exceptionally well for these muscles. I’ve had multiple hamstring issues, so I know how important it is to keep them loose – it’s not a muscle you want to mess around with.
What is your favorite running gear? What are your favorite places to look for deals?
It was a bold move to say I wanted more after the New Jersey half. Brooklyn and New Jersey were exactly 20 days apart and New Jersey was a respectable sized PR, on a flat course, with beautiful weather. Who was I to say, I can do it again and better despite hills and heat?
My splits for New Jersey were damn near perfect, I have a metronome like consistency. I had one slower mile due to a pit stop but other than that, I saw no room to shave off time. There was nowhere that I faltered or slowed or bonked; I had run my strongest race.
I buckled down and reminded myself that I was entitled to nothing. Just work hard for the sake of working hard; it would pay off in someway, somehow, sometime.
The week after New Jersey was peak week. Navigating this was tricky, but I knew with easy miles and “tempo” efforts, I’d be doing the best mix of intensity and volume possible without getting hurt. Tuesday I did a longer hill workout with some faster miles mixed in where I was feeling good (aka the downhills and then a little stretch in between bridges), then Thursday I did a shorter but more intense track workout. I skipped the 6 mile threshold run, attempted to move it to Saturday but by the time I got out to run it was far too hot so I split up the mileage slowed the pace a bit. I finished the longest training run I’d ever done for a half while cheering on my friends running the 5k. Four days of training later it was time to taper.
I haven’t tapered for a half, ever. This gave me a bit of confidence that I could chip off some time from my recent PR. My legs would be fresh for once.
The taper was rough. I went out for my dress rehearsal on Tuesday and it was a massive blow to my confidence. I barely managed a mile and a half at the pace I wanted to run a whole 13.1 miles at and it was a struggle. The proceeding half mile was even harder but the strides felt strong. I wasn’t sure what to think. I wasn’t sure if I needed to scrap my goal or what. Wednesday was a short, easy run; completely unmemorable. Thursday, I rested and Friday I did a hot hot hot shake out run in the middle of the day with a few strides.
Wednesday my mom flew in, she was also running but as a fun run. After work we went to the expo to grab our bibs, take a few photos and then get dinner with Joe. The expo was small and crowded but the location was amazing and I appreciate them removing all temptation for me to put extra steps on my feet. As per usual, my last best pace with NYRR was not my actual last best pace so with a recent race result I was able to be moved up a corral. This was super easy to do and I very much appreciated that they did this; now I was in the corral with a pacer for my moonshot goal time. I grabbed a pace band, I’m not sure why I felt so bold as to grab the 1:30 band but I did.
After enjoying the breeze off the river and views for a bit we headed out to dinner then home to sleep. I got up early, had coffee then off to work. After work we hung out at a patio on the river, got dinner then went home. I sat in the compression boots until I almost fell asleep.
Thursday night I was excited to get some quality sleep pre-race and have zero things to do the day before.
After a shake out, we attempted to get our nails done (apparently you need an appointment to do this on a Friday), decided that was not going to happen so we went to a boat bar on the river to kill some time before dinner.
This was the best choice and I want to make it a pre-race ritual to go there. Sitting on the deck with the boat gently rocking and in the sunshine was relaxing and a great way to de-stress. We got home around 7-7:30 and I spent the next 3 hours rolling out, relaxing, and getting my stuff together. I wasn’t worried that I wouldn’t be getting to bed fairly late since I knew I wouldn’t sleep much anyways. I spent about half an hour scrolling through my Instagram feed then shut it off and fell asleep.
I woke up frequently which I expected but I got 10 hours of sleep the night before so I felt fine. I had coffee plus a clif bar and rolled out a little. We left in an Uber for Brooklyn around 5 and got to the start around 5:30 AM. Knowing race day weather was looking quite toasty for racing, I hydrated a lot prior to race day and that morning. I got out of the car once we got close to the start and made a bee line for where I assumed there would be port-a-potties. I had hydrated a LOT. There were none before security/the starting corrals and I wasn’t ready to ditch my bag yet so I hunted down a semi-secluded tree.
I managed to find Joe and my mom again near the bag check, I changed shoes, grabbed my bag of food, gels, and biofreeze and checked my larger bag.
We went through security and we were in the corral area area by 6 AM-ish. We wanted to find a place to warm up but there was no room on the other side of the security area. I went straight for the porta potty; the coffee finally had kicked in. Afterwards I took half a dose of Imodium and sat on the curb with Joe for a bit. They had water just outside the corrals so I continued to hydrate. I finished munching on the cereal I brought and we attempted to warm up outside the corral a bit. There was not enough space for it and it was a little frustrating. I estimate that we got in about a mile in total. We hopped back in the porta potty lines and then squished up to the front as much as possible. By this point they had collapsed the corrals and I lost sight of the 1:30 pacer. I managed to squeeze up to the front a little further in my search for an open porta potty again. I had hydrated maybe a bit too much.
I started the race knowing I would have to make a quick pit stop. It wasn’t worth starting late and having to dodge too many people or not hydrating more given the temps. I spent around 20 seconds stopped between running over the porta potty and jumping back into the race. I also was in such a hurry that I didn’t quite get my shorts up before dashing out. Oh well, it saved 5 seconds.
I pushed a bit too hard trying to catch back up, my watch read 6:00-6:05 for longer than it should. I quickly reigned myself back in to reality. I had almost caught up to the pack from where I dropped off. Catching up took a lot of energy and once we entered the park and began climbing the hills, I could feel it. I could also feel the heat and humidity setting in a bit. I knew I’d need to grab water at every stop and even though this broke my pace a bit and required exerting a bit extra effort, had I not I would have bonked from the heat. I alternated Gatorade and water, being conscious of not taking in too much sugar to avoid any stomach cramping.
The first 5 miles really zoomed by. I couldn’t believe we were nearing the halfway point, the last and worst hill but also the last hill. This hill was rough. I focused on keeping pace with other people and not my watch. The girls around me looked competitive and so I assumed, correctly, that they’d be making efforts to hold on strong. As we exited the park, I saw a couple of friends and shouted out to them when they called my name. Seeing people I know always makes me so happy and gives me a massive boost. This was my fastest mile and it felt the best.
At this point I knew we were entering Ocean Parkway. Everyone complains about this section, it’s exposed, lonely and boring. It’s also flat so it was very welcome. There was a small incline, a good downhill and then we were on the steady stretch. Holding a steady and even pace is my strong suit. I am an absolute metronome and once I settle into a pace – I can and will hold it.
I started counting down the avenue blocks as check in points, every few letters I’d check in on my pace and how I was feeling. If I was feeling good, I’d reel in someone in front of me otherwise I’d focus on my form and maintaining what I was doing. At one point I felt like sub-90 was completely out and I decided I’d be fine with a New York City Marathon qualifying time but once I got to the 15k mark, I redid the math in my head and realized it was definitely not out of the question and I just needed to stay strong.
I kept counting down the avenues, I knew that once we got to Z we weren’t done, but we were in the home stretch and my friends were nearby at the cheer station! By mile 11 I was feeling amazing, I knew that the time I wanted was very much in reach and seeing them was that final boost I needed to keep it up.
Around mile 12, I was fading a little but the energy here was incredible. I saw the Strava final mile sign. I had clocked a 6:28 on a downhill mile earlier in the race so I knew this wasn’t really possible but I could maybe beat my 6:36 last mile from NJ. I focused on reeling people in. Once a pace felt comfortable, I pushed it a little more.
We turned a corner and I saw 800m to go. The first thing I did was check my watch. My best ever 800m was a 2:58 and not at the end of a half. I needed 3:30 or less to hit my goal. 3:15 was reasonable given some of my previous workouts and factoring in adrenaline.
By 400m I was feeling fired up, but so was my stomach. Either the heat or Gatorade was getting to me and I started to cough up a bit like I was going to lose my lunch so I did some quick mental math and reigned it in a bit.
At 200m, I don’t remember much except that I floored it. I knew my goal was within striking distance. I crossed the line in 1:29:46.
Somehow in the past 7 months, I’ve taken 11 minutes off of my half time. I worked hard through the winter, kept showing up, did whatever I could and had zero expectations. A lot of the workouts I did intimidated me or made me feel nervous about not being able to do them but at least trying made a difference. There was no special or fancy diet (though I did eat a LOT of beets, olives, hummus and nuts). Maybe one day I’ll cut back on my sugar intake but probably not any time soon.
1:31:13. 2:23 PR. New York City Marathon Qualifier.
In my usual fashion, I signed up for this race 1 day in advance. That tends to be when I do best. I’ve been doing the training since mid-January, and had logged 700 year to date miles leading up to NJ, so it wasn’t that crazy of a spur of the moment decision.
Despite the lack of taper (53 miles the week before ), I was feeling good enough, the weather was perfect, my friends were there and even though it runs a smidge long, it’s a GREAT course. And, unlike bigger races, you get to self-seed which meant I could line up with the pacer I needed versus dodging people.
Before races I’m usually anti-social. Joe and I usually get our own hotel and do our own pre-race dinner. For New Jersey we stayed in a beach house with 15 people, went to the expo with a packed car, did our shake out run with half a dozen people and loaded up a couple of cars to go eat dinner. Way outside my pre-race norm.
Why didn’t I do this every time? Before some races, it’s nice to have my own headspace but it’s also really nice to have friends there.
Saturday morning we slept in hung out a bit before doing our shakeout then headed to the expo. It was a smaller expo which was good since I usually walk around them and I was needing to save my feet and legs any extra expenditures. They had an area with free printed photos of you with your bib and race magnets. A+ on this one, New Jersey. The expo was on the beach and it was tempting to go walk around but we had a lot to get done before dinner and I needed to save my feet.
I dropped Joe off to finish his run then headed to the grocery store. This time around I tried a different diet strategy, lots of nuts, olives, beets and hummus leading up to the race. I read a Runner’s World article about the benefits of a Mediterranean diet on performance. I love these foods so it was a nice excuse to eat them!
Pre-race, I never, never, never share my goals. Usually Joe might know (not always – last marathon he didn’t even know I was training for one), but otherwise I keep them to myself. I even shut down my Strava or at least hide my workouts in the few weeks before a race. I have a lot of doubts about what I’ll be able to do and I’m one of the least confident people out there. But no one, literally no one, cares if I fail at my goal and no one is going to laugh at me for trying – we’ve all failed before.
Before dinner I went outside to enjoy the nice ocean air and had a really good conversation with one of my friends who asked what my goals were, I decided I didn’t care and I would just be honest, “I want to qualify for New York”. I said it several times. Something about saying it out loud was a relief. I knew I could it, I had practiced that pace, over and over and over. I memorized it and learned to feel comfortable with it.
Finding a spot for dinner was tough. Most places didn’t take reservations and we had a group of 10. Thankfully after a few phone calls we found a great place and I had my usually pre-race pasta.
After dinner I hung out downstairs for a bit. Massaging my achy calves and getting in a few last minute carbs, aka more beets.
Around 10 I laid out my flat runner and went to bed. Knowing I wouldn’t sleep much, I spent some time scrolling through Instagram looking at puppies, something mindless and happy to help me sleep.
I got around 4 hours of sleep before the race and woke up at 5 AM, ready to go. Joe, who should win a Nobel Peace Prize for this, also woke up at 5 AM and went downstairs to make me coffee.
Most of the house was awake at this time and downstairs eating breakfast, stretching and having coffee. I went with my usual clif bar and coffee breakfast and packed a bagel to munch on for the ride there.
We got to the race a little late and I ended up having to cut a guy off in the port-a-potty line (sorry – but I can’t pee in a bush as easily!) then dashed to my corral with a couple of minutes to spare. I lined up with the 3:05 marathon pacer to ensure I wouldn’t go out too fast as the next one down was the 1:30 half and 3:00 marathon. I saw a couple of my friends, we took a pre-race selfie then I pushed them ahead of me and I plugged in.
Since NJ is a mostly flat course (a few little bunny hills in the beginning, if you could even call it that) and I’m a very consistent metronome I decided even splits with surges where I felt good was the way to go. I started a bit ahead of the 3:05 group and got caught up a little bit with the faster people but quickly realized this and was able to back off. I felt great up until mile 5 when I had a strong urge to back off the pace, this was due to my stomach (AGAIN). At mile 6 I was not feeling hot and started scanning for a port-a-potty. I spotted one at the just right time and darted off to it. Absolute perfect timing. I was in and out in 38 seconds. A second best for me.
By this point the 3:05 group had passed me but was in sight and I knew I would see Joe soon which was enough excitement to push me a little faster. I spent this mile and the next slowly reeling them in. Shortly after my stop I saw Joe, then my friends about a quarter of a mile later.
I was starting to gain on the pace group but felt like I was struggling. I’m new to racing so that struggle feeling is uncomfortable and I end up backing off quickly unless I’m sufficiently distracted. Something I’m learning to do less of.
Once we were up the last hill I caught to them. I stayed with the pack for a bit not wanting to waste energy passing them just yet.
I took my first bit of “fuel” here. I opted to use honey stinger chews so I could just have one little piece at a time and not a whole gel full of sugar. These also taste fantastic so I “rewarded” myself every so often with one for keeping up the pace. I ended up eating about 5 total of these the whole race, not quite a serving and I was a bit hungry toward the end of the race.
Around mile 8 I broke off from the group. I was still feeling pretty decent here and knowing I only had about 35 minutes to go and that I’d be seeing Joe again very soon made this part go by quickly. Since I had broken off from the group I started looking for people to catch up to and run with for a bit. I still ended up running mostly alone but this helped mentally.
Just before mile 10 I missed Joe, but thanks to affinity for neon race attire, he spotted me easily and was able to snap some great shots. I saw my friends again which made me happy. Once I hit 10, I looked at my watch and allowed myself to start somewhat doing race math. But concentrating on my form and pace plus doing math was too much so I decided to just run instead.
The turn around was near, we went from a downtown area to a residential one and I saw the signs for the half split off and relay. There was a massive group cheering near the relay swap and this was quite a boost! As we turned off from the marathoners the group really thinned out. This was around mile 11. It was just me and a couple other around me. I focused on catching people and running hard. Mile 12 was a lot of headwind but thankfully it was short lived and at the end of the race were I was more focused. These mile were undoubtedly the strongest part of the race for me.
Once I hit mile 12, I knew I was in the home stretch – I had told myself earlier I could slow down at mile 11 (where I started to feel tired and hungry) and still hit my goal but adrenaline took over. I chased down everyone I could and didn’t even think about looking at my watch. I don’t remember what music was playing or even what I was thinking. When we hit the last stretch of the race, it was time to fly – I let myself push it as hard as I could. I did this a little early but seeing Joe again gave me that last little boost to fly to the finish and in the process complete the Strava last mile challenge.
The second I crossed the finish line and scooped up some pretzels (I was super hungry), I texted Joe and my mom then found a cozy little spot on the grass. About a minute later I received a text from Nike about their new racing shoes – it’s like they knew – perfect timing but I was unable to scoop up a pair (also $275 for racing shoes is insane). Once I met up with Joe I took my shoes off and we walked back to the car where I changed then then went back out to the finish area to cheer for our friends doing the marathon.
I’m still over the moon excited to see my hard work pay off. I spend an average of 8-11 hours in the gym or running each week and its not easy to always find or carve out the time. At the beginning of the year, I said my goal was to work hard for the love of the grind. That still holds true.
If you’re still with me, here’s a more technical break down of the race starting with splits:
What went right:
Mental attitude – I felt calm, prepared and no pressure going into this race. I was excited and just overall felt good. Being with a great group prior to the race was key.
Preparation – I had done a lot of races recently leading up to this one. Running hard in that type of environment prepared me well. Specifically the Cherry Blossom race where I ran the exact same pace for 10 miles and felt like I could have kept going. It was a perfect “training” run
Pre-race fueling – I never felt full or bloated and I felt really well hydrated. I drank nuun all day long a couple of days before. The morning of I had a clif bar when I woke up and ate about half a plain bagel in the care ride there
Pre-race recovery and stretching – we all spent a TON of time hanging out downstairs, during which I spent of a lot of time massaging and stretching problem areas. This made me feel so much fresher.
Factors outside of my control – the weather cooperated, the race was cool enough to not overheat but I did lose a lot of fluids
What could have been better:
GI pain – I’m altering my diet a bit more now and trying Imodium for races in hopes that it will keep certain things at bay. 38 seconds is a LOT of time in a race.
Race fueling – I didn’t have the packet of gummies ready to go and fumbled with it a good amount. This cost me about 10-15 seconds and a bit of frustration. I also likely needed a gel because I was actually hungry during the race.
Timing – We should have left earlier, I just assumed there would be more port-a-potties since I heard that there were a ton last year. I was a bit nervous in the line and had to be a jerk so I could pee pre-race. Next time I’ll bring a heat sheet so I can squat in a corner.
Pace – I could have pushed harder in the beginning. I didn’t know this at the time but seeing how the end of the race played out – I had a little more to give.
Taper – No fault of my own here, I didn’t taper at all for this because I wasn’t 100% sure I was going to race, but I think it would have been beneficial.