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    I'm a 20-something, recently married, runner who recently moved to New York City. Questions? Email therunnerwife (at) gmail (dot) com!

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First of all, I hope you’re all off to the start of a great week! I had the most wonderful time in the Hamptons last week/weekend and I actually have this week off too. I’m flying to Portland, Oregon to see family on Tuesday night so I’ve got two days to regroup, relax and catch up on everything I missed in the blog world while I was on the beach! At the top of my list was:

A tasty RAW wild rice recipe from the incomparable Gena

An awesome cross training workout compliments of sweet Melissa

A sad farewell to one of my favorite blogs

So much happened while I unplugged, but I love having some time today to ponder such things as raw rice, the elliptical machine and the reasons we blog.

The last point has made me think a great deal and it’s something I want to expand on for just a few minutes. I was sitting here reading and thinking I should have lunch soon (at 3:30pm). I then got nervous because I didn’t know what I wanted, and worse, why I couldn’t pinpoint a food. I wandered into the kitchen, thinking “what if I wait too long and I’m not hungry when it’s dinner time?” and “what if I just snack on some granola, or cheese, or a protein bar?” I could feel myself winding up tighter and tighter. I didn’t want to eat because I haven’t exercised today. I was ashamed that I haven’t done this week’s training run. And then, a little voice spoke up in my mind. Why on earth should I be ashamed? What is my true motivation for running? And why do I feel compelled to race?

I’m going to say something that I’d never let myself acknowledge until about 20 minutes ago. And it’s still rocking my world. I run to define myself. I’ve spent my whole life trying to fit in, to be part of a group. I’ve defined myself by what I do – I read, I run, I overeat, I study and get great grades. My entire ‘About’ page is a testament to my unquenchable thirst for a definition of who I am. Everything I do is to further define myself:

I run to…be part of the running world. I want to BE a runner because it is admirable and “good” and, I’ve always secretly hoped, will make me thin and desirable. I run to lose weight so I’ll accept myself more. I set time goals because I hope they’ll motivate me to eat better, weigh less and, again, make me thin and desirable.

I’ve been so afraid to lose my runner label because then what would I be? If I wasn’t a runner, I’d be out of shape, lazy, boring, average. Why do I have to be one or the other? Why can’t I just be a person? Why do I have to fit into some group? I have to stop running from the labels I had as a child – fat, nerd, geek, ugly. I’m not those things anymore. But I’m also not any one thing either. I’m no longer going to define myself. Instead, I’m just going to embrace all the things I love. These things bring me joy, but only because they make me smile right now. Not because they make me who I am.

I love running on a cool, crisp autumn day. I love the crunch of leaves under my shoes.

I love my husband, and his unfailing faith in me, and the Yankees.

I love turtlenecks because they make me feel cozy and comfortable.

I love hot apple cider, but am scared to make my own and fail.

I love listening to the same songs over and over…and over and over.

I love my eyes. Even though I need to lean about 4 inches from the mirror to see them, I love their color and depth.

I love reading books for hours at a time. There’s something sacred about the power of the written word, even if it’s in the form of a cheesy vampire story.

I love all these things, but they do not define me. I am not a runner, a skinny chick, a fat kid, a nerd, a failure or any other label out there. I am me. I am constantly evolving, learning, falling, failing, succeeding and, most importantly, loving.

What things do you love? Do you truly love them? Or do you embrace them because you feel you ought to, or that they make you who you are?

Habit Making vs. Habit Breaking

I’ve kept a food log pretty consistently for the past 4 years. It’s taken me down 20 pounds and back up almost as many. This boomerang trend proves I’ve developed some bad habits.

1. To lose the weight in 2006/07, I exercised compulsively and limited myself to 1200 nutrient-free calories per day. Talk about a sucker punch to my system! As I lost weight, my skin became dull, my hair was brittle and thin, and I was miserable.

2. I was weighing myself multiple times each day, weighing my food, and altering my meals to immediately affect the number on the scale.

3. I became overly sensitive about my meals and food choices. No way could you have a bite of my dinner! I’d carefully calculated those calories and they were mine!

4. And you better have gotten out of my way when it was dessert time. That ice cream/dark chocolate/bowl of trail mix may be 600 calories, but it was mine!! I’d allotted those calories and didn’t I deserve one enjoyable food? Except I wasn’t even enjoying dessert anymore. Scoops of ice cream were devoured in seconds so no one would notice how much I’d had, or ask for a bite (heaven forbid!).

When I started regaining weight, each and every binge was documented. At first, I got in the habit of beating myself up for my ‘failures’ every day. Then I started developing some healthier habits. I began reading other blogs, experimenting with healthier food choices, tried my first green monster and even got a juicer for my birthday!

Even though I haven’t lost any of the weight I regained last spring, my weight has been steady for about a year and I think it’s time to start tackling one of the few bad habits that remains from the beginning of my food journaling days: TOO MUCH DESSERT!

I’ve noticed that, like many people, my munchy time is after dinner. Whether I’m watching a movie, studying, or chatting on the phone, I like having a snack. And there’s only one thing I love more than snacks – dessert! Dessert is this perfect, planned excuse to snack on sweet, decadent treats. But do I really need to have dessert every day? Rather than something I’m entitled to, shouldn’t I see dessert as a true treat?

When reviewing my food log for the past two months, I saw I was eating progressively smaller (and certainly more hurried) dinners, just to get to dessert. That’s no way to live! I’m finally learning to make good dinners so I should be enjoying those too!

So, for the next 14 days, I’m going to pass on dessert in honor of appreciating what should be the last real meal of the day. And I’m going to keep logging my food to see if any changes occur naturally. Will I crave sweeter foods throughout the day? Will I lose my sweet tooth? At the very least, I’m hoping I’ll eat dessert a little more mindfully when I do reintroduce it. We’ll see!

Do you always eat dessert? If so, why?

7:35, what?

Now that I’m up and running again (ah, puns, love them. LOVE them.), I’ve been getting more acquainted with interval workouts. And even though, for the most part, it’s crazy hot here in NYC these days, I’ve tried to take a run or two out to the streets. But what’s a girl to do when her training plan demands she run a workout like this??

400m 7:35/mile
600m 7:40/mile
800m 7:45/mile
1200m 7:55/mile
800m 7:45/mile
600m 7:40/mile
400m 7:35/mile

First of all, let me just say I think these paces are absolutely absurd. Since when can I run at a 7:35/mile pace? Well, apparently I can. It’s not pretty, but I can do it!

Second, how am I supposed to gauge distance and pace when I’m outside? Several months ago, the Huz literally had to drag me away from the computer just seconds before I bought myself a Garmin. Um, hello, Katherine. You quit your full-time, cushy desk job back in April, remember? Let’s not go blowing hundreds of dollars on a watch, mmmkay? Truth be told, the money wasn’t the only issue. By all accounts, Garmins really aren’t great in NYC. Apparently the interference of all the skyscrapers and tall apartment buildings scrambles the GPS so it’s really only effective in Central Park, or along the rivers. And even then it can take a while to find signal. I don’t know about you, but when I’m staring at a training run like the one above, the extra 10 seconds I have to stand and wait for my watch to figure out where I am is more than enough time to turn me around and lead straight to the couch.

I could always just ignore the .75 miles to and from Central Park, but I have to say I like getting credit for ALL the running I’m doing. That mile and a half starts to add up after a while, too!

So, a Garmin was out of the question.

Suddenly I found myself on the hunt for a reputable running watch that tracked pace and time without GPS. I didn’t need a heart rate monitor or lots of bells and whistles. I just wanted something that would help me run that nasty interval workout without sneaking in extra seconds or, worse, extra distance! Sometimes I’m amazed by the power of the internet. In no time, I found Tech4o, a company that makes the exact watch I was looking for! And, even better, they agreed to send one to me to put through the training ringer. Hooray!!

Welcome home my beautiful, pink loveliness!

First off, I had to calibrate this watch. Similar to a basic pedometer, the watch needs to have a registered stride length. However, it records both a walking AND a running length, which is great for those of us who sometimes need to take a quick walk break (or have a rest interval between 400m dashes) and don’t want our pace or distance to be completely miscalculated. It also doesn’t require a foot pod or additional gear. I’ll admit, running and walking circles around the Central Park Reservoir ad nauseum didn’t really endear me to the watch, but it was a great excuse to get out and enjoy the scenery for about an hour. I can’t say how thankful I was for the meter and yard markers around the reservoir. Without a good track, the calibration would have been almost impossible!

I took this watch out for several easy runs and then decided to put it to the true test – a road race! The Mothers Day 4 miler seemed like the perfect opportunity so I strapped my iPhone around my arm, my Accelerator watch around my wrist and ticked off the miles marked along the course. Success!!

Official course distance: 4.0 miles
iPhone app recorded distance: 4.15 miles
Tech4o distance: 4.07 miles

I’ll take the .07 mile variation since I definitely wasn’t on the inside of the course for the duration.

Test #2 was the Japan Day 4 miler, a race with very different weather conditions and one that was run about three minutes slower.

Official course distance: 4.0 miles
iPhone app distance: 4.17 miles
Tech4o distance: 4.19 miles

Uh oh! I think this race demonstrated the limitations of a stride-based pacing watch. Because I was running so much slower (thank you 80% humidity), my stride was shorter. The watch still registered the movement as running, but assumed I was striding out to the length I usually ran. Oops! The good news is that I took my pink princess out for a repeat of the course later that week and ran it at my more natural stride and it was right back on track. It even properly tracked the 30-second walk I took to answer my phone while running.

Bolstered by the good results, I decided to take it out this week for an interval run. I’ve never used all the functions on a Garmin so I don’t know if the experience would be similar, but I found intervals to be so convenient with the Accelerator. I used the sequential timers and set the view to show my distance and pace, so I had no trouble knowing when to sprint and when I could collapse and recover and the screen was easy to read and uncluttered so I didn’t have too much information to confuse me. (Hey, it’s easy after 4 miles of hot, sweaty intervals!)

I guess the moral of the story is that nothing is perfect. However, if you run a pretty consistent pace and live in a major city, I would very strongly recommend you look at Tech4o’s products when considering your next watch purchase. I know Garmins are the hotness as far as running gear goes, but my watch is smaller, more feminine, more user-friendly and, most importantly, more accurate for city running! And the cheaper price tag is a nice perk too.

We Make Plans…

So, I ran in my new kicks a few times and decided it was time to start formulating a plan for my goal – a new half marathon PR. When I started plotting out my schedule, I talked to several other runners about training plans, race choices, and so on. As far as which race I would run, I had some pretty tough restrictions:

1. The race must be in October or November this year. I’d prefer to sign up for two, in case the first is a bust.
2. The race must be relatively local.
3. It must be on a Sunday, and allow day-of packet pick-up. I’ll have class on Saturdays so I can’t run races that require Saturday pick-up.
4. It must be a relatively flat course. Let’s face it. Shooting for a PR while climbing Everest is just sick. Give me flat and fast, please!

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that these limitations would be, well, limiting. At this point, I’ve decided to sign up for the Staten Island Half Marathon. It’s not particularly flat, but it does satisfy all my other requirements. Ah me, ah my. I suppose I should see Staten Island one of these days anyway, right? (Side note: I can’t believe how many NYers have never seen Staten Island. Ever. Totally blows my mind.)

Okay, race chosen. Now for a training plan. Lindsay is currently training for a full marathon, just a small stepping stone for her journey to a full Ironman. She said she was using the FIRST marathon training plan, which only requires three runs each week. A PR based on only three days of running/week? Yes please! I promptly took the half marathon plan, chopped out a few weeks to make it fit into the remaining weeks between now and 10.10.10 (love it!) and printed about a hundred copies to keep in every nook and cranny of my apartment, office and purses. No way I can lose motivation that way!

The plan I’ve created follows the FIRST method, which utilizes one interval/speed run, one tempo run, and one long run each week. I also do cross training 2-3 times each week and have one rest day. Oddly, the rest day is the day before my long run, rather than the day after. At first I was concerned about hopping on an elliptical machine right after a long run, but I really love feeling fresh to run long and having a reason to get moving the day after logging the big miles.

Well, now I’ve got the kicks, the date, and the plan. Nothing can go wrong right?

Fluff Reading (or, Why I Read the Twilight Series)

Everyone has guilty pleasures. Some are more open about theirs than others. Generally, I’m pretty private when matters of potential embarrassment are concerned. One thing I refused to be ashamed of was my fanatical obsession with Dawson’s Creek all through college. No joke, I ended a date early, once, because I insisted on going home to watch the new episode. (A fact The Huz is probably happy about, since I wasn’t on a date with him!)

While I certainly have other guilty pleasures, I’m only going to reveal one more here: Cheesy young adult books. LOVE them. Most recently, I finally finished the Twilight series. I know, I should be hanging my head in shame, but they were just so good! Ridiculous, obviously, but also so much fun! I bought and read the first book while living in Boston. I let a friend borrow it after raving about it and she returned it a day later and suggested I might want to have my head examined. I guess someone didn’t share my appreciation for overdramatic teen vampires. Sigh.

I waited until I’d moved to NYC to continue the saga and, in light of my new, more expensive surroundings, borrowed books two and three from a coworker. Well, from my coworker’s teenaged daughter, actually. I finished each book in less than a week and vowed to wait a few weeks for the last book. Then, I quit my job. Suddenly, my source for sappy teen drama had been cut off. I felt like an addict who’d lost contact with her supplier. I needed my fix!

Finally, as if this girl wasn’t already a complete goddess, I discovered book 4 on the shelf of one soapy, chocolatey Diana while shuffling through her truly awesome cookbook collection. Not only did I walk out of her new abode with a belly full of clafoutis and a handful of recipes, but I also had Breaking Dawn tucked into my bag and a guilty grin on my face.

True to form, I polished this book off in just over 5 days. Started on Sunday evening and finished at work on Friday, and I loved every single printed word of it. Was it cheesy? Of course. Was it predictable? Fairly. Was it a totally fantastic summer speed read? Without a doubt! And now I’m ready to revisit some of the more intense novels on my bookshelf!

What are some of your guilty pleasures?