On Tap for Today

A fun loving, inspired living blog


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Today: Follow the signs.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]As I’ve mentioned once before, marathons aren’t easy.  That’s sort of the point.  This past weekend’s ING NYC Marathon nearly broke my foot (or maybe it did?  I haven’t made it under an X-ray device quite yet.), but New York City stole my heart.  It’s taken me a few days to recount the experience, as I’ve been at a bit of a loss for words.  Moans and groans?  Yes.  Thoughtful, coherent words?  Not quite.  Lots of sleeping? You better believe it.

And then this morning I had the chance to talk with someone about the quieter things.  We didn’t talk about how many hills there were, or those infernal bridges.  We didn’t talk about the medal, or how a Gu somehow exploded in my pocket before the race even started.  We talked about the little moments, each adding up to something so huge that it could push, carry or drag me across the finish line.

I’m not especially in tune with the Universe, but every now and then I look up from my iPhone or Sudoku puzzle, and I notice the smaller things.  The signs.  If there was any question that Sunday was going to be a day to remember, all I had to do was follow the signs.

I am proud of you.

Before I even entered the athletes villages at Fort Wadsworth, I saw an older woman, standing by the side of the road with a handmade cardboard sign.  “I am proud of you, complete stranger,” it read.  I had heard story after story about the incredible crowd support in New York, but if this woman was the only New Yorker I saw all day, she would have been enough.

After finding my way to the green village, I spread out my trash bag and hunkered down with a pre-made PB&J (which tasted like an old shoe), and waited to be overcome with nerves.  And waited.  And waited.  But somehow, amidst the buzzing of 45,000 other runners sampling random flavors of Power Bars (witnessing this gave me a second-hand stomach ache) and going through their pre-race rituals, all I felt was ready.  This, from the girl who usually becomes a hot mess before a walk to work or a friendly 5k.  I knew I had done the work.  I knew I had a plan.  I knew that this was my day (and, like, everybody else’s, too… fairly certain that’s bad grammar.).

Brooklyn loves marathoners.

As I took off running up and over the Verrazano Bridge, and Sinatra crooned over the speaker system, I felt invincible.  Coming down the backside of the bridge, I reminded myself to stay the course.  Slow and steady, not free-wheelin’ and crazy.  After peeling off my gloves and dealing with the aforementioned gu-tastrophe, I looked up to see a man holding a “Welcome to Brooklyn” sign.  Alongside him was the first of several “Brooklyn loves marathoners” signs.

And, man… do they know how to show marathoners the love.  I felt my heart swell with every word of encouragement, every high five, every smile, every nod.  I have never heard my name pronounced so many different ways.  I have never made non-awkward eye contact with so many strangers.  The crowds were dispersed perfectly– there were so many people out on the streets that the energy was constant, but not so many people that you couldn’t say thank you.

There was a rush of noise at the top of every hill, around every turn.  I fell in love with the New York Marathon in Brooklyn.  And fell out of love with it in Queens… just kidding… or am I?  In all seriousness, Brooklyn practically ran those 12 miles for me.  Sort of.

Beware.  Hipsters ahead.

I knew exactly which block my friend Meg would be standing on in Williamsburg, but at some point, I lost track of where that would be mileage-wise.  In an especially daft moment, I mistook the Harlem United cheering zone for our entry into Harlem.  10 miles too early (with no bridge yet crossed, nor 1st Avenue climbed).  When I looked up to see a sign warning us of hipsters ahead, I knew Williamsburg, and therefore Meg, wasn’t far away.  I picked up my pace just a bit, and registered the only bit of soreness I was experiencing: on my face… from smiling.

After hugging Meg and Sue over and over, I set off, feeling like this was going to be the run of my life.  Which was fitting, because I planned to never run again after Sunday.  Not for the T, not from a strange dog, not from a strange man, even.  I was going to crush New York and then hang it up for good.

I’m just trying to cross the street.

An especially cheeky fellow in Brooklyn held up a sign reading, “I’m just trying to cross the street.”  He was either joking, or he needed to make more of an effort.  Dude was just standing there.  He got me thinking, though, about how grateful I should be.  And, most of the time, I am.  I am amazed my body can do this.  But beyond that, some people really are just trying to cross the street, while I get to spend hours lost in thought.  Hours jamming out to Michael Jackson.  Hours running through the city, with only one task at hand: to keep running.  Running is a privilege.  It’s a luxury.

Though at points it sort of felt like I was being poked with a red-hot poker, no one was forcing me to run.  This was a choice I made.  And I am darn lucky to have choices.  Thank you, snarky spectator, for reminding me of this.

Hurry up so I can watch football.

As runners, we ask a lot of ourselves.  We also ask a lot of other people.  We need people to encourage us, to support us.  We need people to walk our dog when we’re out on long Saturday morning runs.  We need people to help us find the perfect shoe, and give us advice.  We expect people to put up with our overwhelming volume of laundry.  We need people to listen to us tell the same stupid marathon story six hundred times.  We need entire cities to shut down, just so we can live the dream.  Marathoners allegedly make up 1% of the world’s population.  The other 99% has better things to do. Like sleep outside South Station in tents and make broadcasts over the “people’s mic.”  Just kidding… kind of.

Thank you, kind sir in the Bronx, for the laugh.  And the reality check.

The body says, Stop.  The spirit cries, Never!

You know how I feel about boxing, so when I noticed that one spectator had borrowed a lyric from Survivor’s “Burning Heart” (yes, from Rocky IV), I just about fell to my knees.

In the warrior’s code

There’s no surrender

Though his body says, Stop.

His spirit cries, Never!

By the time I saw that sign, the race of my life was far behind me.  Shortly after texting Nick “I feel great!” I started to feel… not so great.  I pushed over the Queensboro Bridge, knowing that I would be coming around the bend onto 1st Avenue soon, where Nick, my sister Andrea, and my cousin Katie would be just blocks away.   By the time I reached Manhattan, that legendary “wall of sound” was more like a small row of shrubbery.  Or an old picket fence.  I didn’t mind much; my personal cheering section awaited.  I leaned over the barrier, and buried my head in Nick’s shoulder as one or two tears snuck out.  The three had a plan to see me again towards the finish, so I moved along with that to look forward to.

Thirty blocks later, I saw Kristine running towards me for a big hug.  Am I lucky or what?  I stopped to walk with her for a few minutes, and even sat down to stretch.  Just shy of mile 18, I felt some real concern creeping in.  My foot shouldn’t feel like this, I kept thinking.  Eleven minute miles became thirteen mile minutes.  Though I was still running, I was getting passed by people walking.  Hell, I even got passed by a joggler.

What started as a dull ache in my right foot around mile 16, soon became a sharp pain.  The last eight miles of the marathon were brutal.  I knew something was wrong.   I tried to focus on that sign, and the encouraging smile of the woman holding it, hoping it might carry me to the finish line.  I wanted to cross that last mat so badly, and felt my spirit crying Never! just as I felt my eyes, well, actually crying.  Good thing I’m not melodramatic, eh?

Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.

Several people advised me to have plenty left “in the tank” for the last few miles.  Despite the best of planning and intentions, I felt like I was trying to coast in on fumes… uphill.  I wasn’t expecting 5th Ave to be such a climb.  I also didn’t expect my iPod to time Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” so perfectly.  I sort of wanted to drop that thing down a storm drain.  But then I saw a solitary sign, left propped up against a tree.  A nod to Friday Night Lights: Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.  No matter how much it hurt, I wasn’t going to lose.  I couldn’t.  By the time I saw Nick, Andrea and Katie at Mile 25, I could barely put pressure on my foot without wincing.

With tears streaming down my face, I pushed and pushed and pushed through that last mile.  I thought about all of those people who stood along the Bay Ridge Parkway, 4th Avenue, Lafayette Avenue, Bedford Avenue, Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint Avenue and McGuinness Boulevard in Brooklyn.  I thought about the people on 11th Street, 48th Avenue, Vernon Boulevard, 10th Street, 44th Drive, Crescent Street, and Queens Boulevard in Queens.  I thought about everyone on Willis Avenue, E. 135th Street, 3rd Avenue, Morris Avenue, E. 138th Street, Rider Avenue, and 138th Street in the Bronx.  I thought about the people on 1st Avenue and 5th Avenue in Manhattan, and the people who stayed so late in the day to lend their support in Central Park.

I thought about that woman, by the side of the road, on Staten Island, who told me and 45,000 other people that she was proud of us.  I thanked God (and the people who actually put magic marker to poster board) for all of those signs.

In the final 800 meters, I saw the one sign I had been looking for all day.  I looked up.  It said, FINISH.

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s the best marathon sign you’ve ever seen?


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Today: The waiting game.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]I am pretty sure I have packed any and everything I could possibly need for this weekend.  And then some.  I’ve looked at the course map more times than I can count, and Googled “how to get to the Staten Island ferry” more times than I should admit (this is what happens when someone who is easily distracted multitasks). I stuck to my training plan over the past 18 weeks.  I got plenty of extra rest this week.  I have said my prayers.  My iPod is loaded up with Michael Jackson, Prince, and the Boss (though, from what I hear, New York will provide its own soundtrack).  There are two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches tucked into our mini-fridge.

And now, as I sit here on my hotel bed waiting for a bowl of plain pasta and six bottles of water to arrive, with a view of the sun setting over the Hudson, all that’s left to do is wait.  When I wake up tomorrow, however, all that will be left to do is run, baby, run.  Best of luck, fellow runners!

Also On Tap for Today:

Are you running or spectating tomorrow?  I’ll keep an eye out for you!


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Today: In a New York minute.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]One of my favorite things about New York is the undeniable character of its many neighborhoods.  Each is different, and it seems, inhabited by its own sort of people.  I spent the weekend visiting my friend Meg, enjoying a practically perfect two days in the city.  Having spent so many weekends at her Upper East Side apartment when we were younger (and better equipped to drink Orangina cocktails at O’Flanagans until 4 in the morning), I was happy to finally make the trip down to see her not-so-new-anymore place in Brooklyn.

As I stepped out of the taxi at her street corner in Williamsburg, I was instantly charmed.  I loved every minute of it.

Except for the minute during which a fellow yoga class participant peeled off his jeans in the lobby of Go Yoga, primed to down-dog in boxer briefs (holey ones, at that) and a hitched up flannel shirt.  Yes, really.  Meg and I stopped in for what was supposed to be a foundations class, but turned out to be  a class of die-hard regulars, some of whom may have invented yoga.  Or at least pretended to.  Despite being a bit more challenging than expected, it was a great class.  The instructor seemed very kind, and offered gentle corrections and modifications.  She massaged my back a little at one point, which was both welcomed and sort of weird.  I decided to embrace it.  Sort of.  If nothing else, it was a nice distraction from the underoos.

Earlier in the day, Meg and I headed over to the West Side to do something I haven’t done in, oh, fifteen years: ride a bike.  When Meg suggested renting from The Waterfront Bicycle Shop earlier in the week, I was both excited and terrified.  Would riding a bike be just like, well, riding a bike?  After stashing my giant Michael Kors in the basket and climbing onto the seat, I awkwardly fumbled for the pedals and pushed off.  It was a wobbly start, at best.  As we approached a stop sign ahead, I realized I didn’t remember how to break.  Gone are the days of back pedaling.

It didn’t take long to get into the rhythm of things, though, and soon I was smiling like a cheeseball, cruising along the Hudson River.  From high atop my bike seat (serious question– are those thing supposed to hurt?), I watched soccer games unfold, skyscrapers fly by, runners enjoy their Saturday long runs, and caught a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty on my right and Ground Zero on my left.  I was reminded that in a New York minute, as the song goes, anything can change.

After an hour’s ride (for a bargain: $11, including the awesome basket), Meg and I strolled through the West Village, looking for a place to grab a bite to eat.  We quickly settled on Spasso, located on a corner perfect for people watching.  I snacked on grilled bread with house-made ricotta, drizzled with honey and topped with shaved almonds.  It was divine, as was the weather.  To be eating outside in late October is really a gift from the above, likely sent to make up for underwear yoga man.

Just as our tea and coffee arrived, we heard a man yell “Learn to drive,” and looked up to see that he was yelling at… a student driver.  Brilliant.  I really do love New York.  And New Yorkers even more so.

Also On Tap for Today:

What is your favorite New York ‘hood?


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Today: There’s a first and last time for everything.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]For the past three years, my pals Kristine, Christie and I have run the Revlon Run/Walk for Women in New York.  Prior to the marathon, this was easily the biggest race I’d participated in, with tens of thousands of runners and walkers tackling the course from Times Square through Central Park.  There’s confetti and celebrity hosts, and the race raises critical funds in the fight against women’s cancers.

But I’m never doing it again.

After dodging packs of walkers, weaving to avoid backpacks and strollers, and finally reaching a point where most people were running, the race was over.  There was no Mile 3 marker, because there was no third mile.  The course organizers unceremoniously cut the course to 2.7 miles (or 2.9?  or 2.3? I heard a few versions) due to alleged construction.  Had this been announced before we crossed the finish line, it probably wouldn’t have bothered me.  But when you register for a 5k, you expect to get your money’s worth of pavement, even if it is for charity.

Next year, I’ll avoid the crowds and confusion and make a donation instead of running.  There’s a last time for everything.  And there’s a first time for everything too, including popovers.

After our faux 5k, Kristine suggested we visit Popover Cafe.  I’d never had a popover before, so when some sort of muffin-pastry the size of my car arrived, I wasn’t sure what to think.  I tend to avoid eggs, so it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but it’s always good to try something new.  Especially when you’re with pals.

Someone tweeted me Julia Child’s recipe; I’m tempted to try an eggless version (with ground flax, my usual substitute).  I have a feeling it won’t work (I think egg is required for the actual popping over part), but there’s only one way to find out.  Get out the safety goggles.

Also On Tap for Today:

Did you do anything for the first time this weekend?


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Today: I feel like I won the lottery.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]Because I did.  Seriously.  Except that it’s the kind of lottery that costs money when you win, and has the potential to break your legs and crush your soul.  But like the regular lottery, it can change your life.  By some miracle (or computer glitch), I was one of the lucky few to gain entry to the 2011 ING New York City Marathon.  And I am freaking out, man.

Secret identities rule!

At 12:30 this afternoon, I checked the selection website and then re-checked it and then re-re-checked it and then danced around my office to the point that I got a weird foot cramp.  And then I tweeted the good news, a bit worried of sounding like an insensitive braggart, and was overwhelmed by the encouragement I received.  I am so grateful, especially knowing that very few people were selected.  Unfortunately, it seems like everyone I know (Nick included) didn’t get in.  There’s really no rhyme or reason to it, and I am not sure how I got so lucky.

Mile 26: A great place to stop for a photo.

I do know this, though: I am going to make the most of this opportunity.  And I am going to run my little heart out.  I had no idea how badly I wanted this fresh shot  at 26.2 until I was almost certain I hadn’t been selected.  This time around, I’ll do a few things differently:

  • I will believe in myself, knowing that I am a marathoner, and that I am capable of crossing that finish line.
  • I will run my own training runs and race, and spend less energy worrying about being slower or weaker that my fellow runners.
  • I will not eat anything produced in a Walt Disney World kitchen (and subsequently star in MTV’s True Life: I ran a marathon with amoebic desentary).  For real.
  • I will train harder, but still sensibly.
And one (huge) thing I won’t change:

Oh, and I’ll still probably cry on my long runs.  Maybe I was chosen by the NYRR for sheer comedy?

Also On Tap for Today:

Have you been lucky lately?  If you had a chance to do something over, would you do anything differently? 


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Today: In a New York minute.

This weekend my friend Kristine and I completed our second Revlon/EIF Run for Women.  The event races money for research on and prevention of cancer in women.  With over 30,000 people participating, Times Square was a  sea of runners and walkers.  A few scenes from the pre-race festivities (and pre- the death of my camera battery).

The pre-race festivities included a performance by Trey Songz and appearances by the likes of Dr. Oz, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel and Jessica Alba.  We missed the Soul Tigers Marching Band (one of my favorite parts of last year’s race), though… but we’ll be back next year.

The course begins in Times Square and enters Central Park at 7th Avenue and ends with an expo and survivors’ ceremony for the courageous women (and men, I’m sure) who’ve participated in the event, and have battled cancer of one form or another.

I consumed more than my fair share of pop chips and between the two of us, Kristine and I sampled every flavor of hint water on the planet, and then we set off for a 5k stroll back to Port Authority.  Had we lingered just a few hours longer, we would’ve been in Times Square for the attempted car bombingIn a New York minute (oooh), anything can change.

Thank God for heroes.

Also On Tap for Today:

Are you big city or small town?