Lessons I Learned This Weekend in D.C.

I’m a little shocked I survived the BoltBus ride back to NYC yesterday. The trip took an hour and a half longer than it should have, probably due to the fact that the bus was being violently pelted by raindrops the size of my face.

But now I’m back and life has returned to normal.

I miss D.C. though.

I learned a lot this weekend while shacking up with Emily and her lovely boyfriend.

Perhaps you read about our run-and-booze-filled excursions already. But there was more to the trip than just running until my legs nearly fell off and eating until my stomach was fully expanded.

Me and Emily, putting off the start of a 4-mile Sunday run

The weekend was such a whirlwind of running/eating/drinking/exploring the local Lululemon scene that I never really let it sink in that I ran 20 miles.

Oh I celebrated. Trust me, I celebrated.

See? I celebrated. By double fisting wine to the face.

Here are a few of the lessons I learned while traveling to D.C. this weekend with a handsome friend of mine:

1. No matter what the bus schedule says, you will not arrive at your destination on time. Even if you’re running 2 hours behind, the driver will still insist on making a rest stop. And then everyone will undoubtedly make a beeline for the McDonald’s or Burger King and return to the bus with the smelliest food possible.

2. Long running is better with friends. I split up my 20 mile run by dominating the first half with Ironman Emily and wrapping up the second half with my nice friend.

Rear view. Hello butts.

It definitely helped to have company, not only because I had no idea where I was going, but also because it kept my mind from counting down the miles and thinking other daunting 20-mile-esque thoughts.

I’d love to tell you that Emily was an amazing tour guide and that she answered all my questions along the way, but that was hardly the case.

I can’t believe she doesn’t know the exact height of Abe Lincoln, who sits atop his wondrous throne.

Posing in front of Abe. Handsome, Honest Abe.

She did, however, manage to point out the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and the Watergate Hotel…about half a mile after we had already run past them.

Strong work, tour guide. Really impressive.

3. I need to do some of my long runs alone. Yes, it’s nice to be able to rely on people to help keep my pace strong, to point out water fountains and to encourage me to throw more Gu Chomps down my gullet. But I fear I’m starting to depend a bit too much on my running buddies.

I won’t be running the Hamptons Marathon with a sweaty gal or handsome man by my side (unless, of course, either of you can make that happen, which would be fantastic).

I need to be confident covering major distances all by myself, since that’s what will go down on race day.

Running alone can be fun...right?

So I’m thinking my next 18 or 20-miler will be done alone. No counting on people. No moral support. Just me and my Brooks Adrenalines. Also, no stopping and taking photos.

4. Shake out runs are hilarious and fun. I love the day after a long run, when I get to run 4ish miles at an awesomely slow pace. There’s no pressure to be speedy and you have every excuse in the world (“I ran 20 miles yesterday”) to stop for water, puppy-petting or stretching.

Or, in yesterday’s case, photo shoots.

We did some dancing in front of the sad-because-it’s-under-construction National Mall/Reflecting Pool/place where Forrest Gump and Jenny had that special scene in the movie.

The graceful prep...
...and the stellar full-out jump

Emily’s hopes of getting cast in a third installment of Center Stage may have been slightly crushed yesterday.

Hm. That's interesting. I like it.

Seriously though, shake out runs are fantastic. Sometimes they feel hard as hell, but afterward I almost always feel better and sufficiently shaken out. I guess that’s the point.

5. There’s an Albert Einstein monument. Who knew?

Here we are with Einstein. Emily kindly pointed out that he is great because he's wearing sandals. I like that he's smart, but casual.

Well, apparently Emily knew. And she took me there. And it was awesome. I really like Einstein now. Thanks to the nice young gentlelad who took our photo and called me a tourist. Which I’m so obviously not…

6. If the man you are spending lots of wonderful time with gets along famously with the man your friend is dating, you will like him even more. This is a fact.

If you return to the apartment after your shakeout run to the find the two men drinking red wine at 10 am, that will not change the amount of like you have for them. It may even make you admire their breakfast of champions.

7. I need to take in more calories over the course of my long runs. I didn’t necessarily learn this, but I was told this. Emily scolded me in a very nice way. Instead of saying “You’re stupid and need to eat more or your body will collapse by mile 17,” she simply reminded me of her Ironman digestion/hydration/dehydration issues.

Noted. I will gladly take advice from an Ironman.

8. I need to practice eating my long run fuel while I’m running. I usually stop at a water fountain, rapidly chew the Chomps, snag some water and then continue on my merry way. But by race day, I want to have mastered the art of Running While Eating.

This skill will bode well for me if my dreams of a Half Marathon That Is Also An Eating Competition ever come true.

9. If you want someone to take your picture, just ask. Emily has mastered this skill. No one said no to snapping a few shots of us, despite our scary sexy sweat stains.

A total stranger took this for us. If he spoke English, I'm sure he would have had choice words for our pose of choice.

10. Sometimes a trip away can do wonders for your sanity. I was unbelievably stressed out last week. Like, couldn’t-fall-asleep-at-night-because-I-want-to-stare-at-my-To-Do-list stressed. In the midst of planning what turned out to be a wildly successful fundraiser, I wasn’t able to focus and was spastic all the time.

After spending a weekend out of NYC with three people I absolutely adore, I’m feeling rejuvenated, refocused and pretty darn happy.

See? Does that look like the face of a stressed out Ali? No. It does not. It looks like the face of a drunk, happy Ali!

11. I am ready for the Hamptons Marathon. OK, maybe I’m not totally ready. I still have a few weeks of training left until September 24 arrives. But physically I’m feeling strong and mentally I’m all “Game on, Hamptons, I’m going to crush you.”

It’s a great feeling.

TELL ME: What lessons did you learn this weekend? Maybe you learned how to make something delicious. Perhaps you learned that you can (and did) break your 2-hour half marathon goal. Or maybe you learned that you are in love. I don’t know. All good things though. Now share more with me. Please.



0 Responses

  1. Congrats on your 20!! I’m heading to Central Park for the NYRR long training run, won’t hit 20, probably 15, but that will be my longest distance ever!

    I learned this weekend that the relationship that I so badly wanted back just isn’t worth the time! FTW! Now onto bigger and better!

  2. This weekend I learned that I should not drink Johnny Walker Red and coca cola in excess. It makes me feel no bueno the next morning.

    But it sure made the wedding dancing fun! Heh, in all seriousness, I think your observations are good ones. Especially the decision to maybe do a long run alone. It’s definitely not as fun, but it will give you confidence for race day and it will allow you to go the exact pace you want to go. I love running with friends, but sometimes for long runs you want to run a very specific pace and that can be tough to coordinate. I am so proud of your 20-miler (is that weird?) and can’t wait for you to become a marathoner on September 24 🙂

  3. Yay, looks like you guys had so much fun this weekend! I knew you’d totally rock your 20 mile run. I love running with friends, especially when first getting in longer distances– chatting helps take your mind off the distance and makes it a bit more manageable. However, as you said, it’s so very important to get in a long run solo. It’s a huge mental confidence boost to know you can tackle 18-20 miles on the roads alone, and 26.2 with hundreds of other runners (and crowds cheering!!) will be no biggie. For long run/race nutrition, I also recommend Gu Gels…so much less work to take in than Chomps. I find I don’t *need* to take water with the Gels, but I definitely need to with Chomps.

    This weekend, I learned how freeing it is to run without my iPod. I didn’t want to risk it getting damaged in the rain on Sunday, and discovered I was using it as a distraction/crutch I didn’t really need. I am now trying to run without it in hopes to boost my mental stamina a bit, and really let my mind wander. A whole new challenge in itself!

  4. I learned that Riverside Park is unbelievably beautiful! And that I am hoping soon I will have the means to walk/jog/pretend to run on it!!!

  5. ooh, I totally agree on the running while eating. it’s really hard to eat some things while running (like shot bloks). And also agree on the running alone, even though it also makes me have a sad because I won’t be running with you! This weekend I learned that the mouse inhabiting my kitchen area is pretty ballsy and actually showed his face right before I started cooking. the nerve.

  6. i always take eastern bus to/from DC, which is one step below bolt. i am always the only white person. and at the rest stop, i swear to god EVERY SINGLE PERSON gets fried chicken. EVERY TIME.

    20 miles just sounds impossible to me. mad props, yo.

  7. Congrats on your 20 miler!!!

    This weekend, I learned that it’s okay to skip my scheduled swim workout to spend the day drinking champagne with the manfriend. Of course, I then learned that said workout will need to be made up tonight after work & PT, but it was worth it so I’m totally ok with that!

    I ran my first 18 miler alone and although it was difficult, it was also incredible. I spent a lot of the time thinking about how far I’d come and how I’d gotten there, and then pushed myself the last two miles without having to worry about anyone else’s pace. When my Garmin hit 18, I stopped, took a sip of water, and then burst out crying. I was so proud of myself and called my parents to tell them what I has just accomplished. Sometimes it’s nice to have those moments for yourself 🙂

  8. Looks like a fab weekend in DC! This weekend, I learned that I like tailgating and that I need to start taking advantage of more things NYC has to offer. Best of luck on your next long solo run!

  9. Love this post! This weekend I learned that I can push myself to run faster, longer than I ever thought. I ran my long run (14 miles) and my average pace was about a minute faster per mile than usual. I too need to figure out my food intake (stomach was not so happy after) but, I’ll work on that. 🙂

  10. What a sweatastic weekend! DC is one of my favorite cities to visit and you definitely explored the city in the best possible way – friends, sweat, and wine. Nice.

  11. This past weekend a learned a couple of things:

    1) I CAN run with other people! And running in a group, or with a friend, makes the run fly by!
    2) When I’m grumpy I take it out on my bf because he’s closest to me and it’s easy…I need to stop that
    3) I need to have more late nights of dancing and drinking with my girl friends 🙂

  12. Smart call to run some long runs alone – I do the same thing! It definitely helps during the race.

    My philosophy for fueling during long runs and marathons is: early and often! When you get to those late miles it can be really hard to choke down fuel, so make sure to practice your fueling strategy during your long runs, then it just comes natural race day 🙂

    I learned that I still know how to ride my road bike!

  13. Nice job on the awesome 20!

    I *was* supposed to try to break 2 hours in a half-marathon this weekend, but my knee injury prevented me from running it at all. I wrote a semi-angry post about that on my own blog on Friday night.

    Also, post pics of handsome friend now, please and thank you.

  14. I learned I could run 20 minutes at an under 9-min-mile pace…and still do my whole 1.5 hour run with hills! I’m shooting to break 2 hours for my half in October.

  15. Hi! I love this post! And I love all your lessons from the weekend. Sounds you guys had a blast!

    And now you’ve completed your twenty and you can really start to think about a goal time!!!

    Also, in regards to running with friends. I definitely rely on friends a lot more than I probably should but when I trained for NY, I would run ten with my friends and the last ten by myself for my twenty milers. I’m also a huge fan of running twenty mile races… like Lauren suggested. I’ve done that a couple times and it really gives you an accurate feeling of what you are capable of…. because the clock won’t stop if you have to tie your shoes or go to the bathroom just like how it is during the marathon.

    Anyway, I’m incredibly proud of you for knocking out a 20 miler at such a fabulous pace!!!

  16. I learned that to take a proper ice bath, you need a LOT of ice! I had a bag of store bought ice and still don’t think I had enough.

    I need to learn the art of eating/drinking on the run, too! Without spilling water all over myself, that is. Hoping to master this by Nov. 6. And I’m hoping to be on the gel train by Race Day…I’ve found that chomps/shot blocks just make me really thirsty and I don’t want to risk overhydrating. (I already drink SO much water on long runs!)

  17. Doing your next long run alone is a great idea even if you will have someone to run with during the marathon. You just never know what will happen and its good to have confidence in your ability to complete the distance alone. In terms of eating I totally understand why you stop to eat the GU chomps because it IS hard to eat and run at the same time (or chew at the same time). I think you might have mentioned you weren’t a fan of GU but it is a lot easier to eat on the run!

    I spent a lot of the weekend organizing things so they would be in order for my trip. I learned (was reminded) how much I hate the days before a big trip. I find it so stressful!

  18. It sounds like you had a fantastic weekend! One lesson I learned this weekend: If I get no sleep the night before I have to spend 10 hours in a car, I will undoubtedly start going insane and make up crazy stories with even crazier voices. Let’s just say I’m glad a camera wasn’t recording…

  19. i took the bolt bus from NYC back to boston yesterday – and ugh, the rain and traffic has us backed up for like 2 hours AND we still stopped at sbarro/roy rogers! gross!

    sounds like you ladies had a wonderful weekend of eating/drinking/running together.

  20. Looks like you guys had so much fun this weekend!

    I learned lots of the same lessons during marathon training last year.
    This weekend I learned that Triathlons are hard, but they’re SO fun!

  21. I might have died on the bus. To me – the worst smell in the world is fast food. I don’t eat it – but my boyfriend does. He can’t eat it in a car that I am in – and if he eats it in the house – I can’t be there and he has to open all the windows and air it out. Ugh. The smell alone makes me want to vomit!

  22. So fun reading about your weekend! Ali on the Run and Sweat Once a Day are two of my favorite blogs!! Thanks for sharing!
    I learned that I WILL be able to run strong in my Half Ironman after riding my bike 56 miles and that I may even be able to ride a little faster than I thought! I also learned that staying in my pajamas until 5 pm on a rest day is the best way to spend a Sunday!!

  23. I think these are great, important lessons. I think that doing runs with friends is awesome (like I mentioned in my last comment) and it can be a great way to tackle new distances because it can make them seem less overwhelming. But I do think that running solo on a couple of them is important, as is fueling as you run and not stopping for lots of picture breaks (this doesn’t mean not stopping to walk if you have to. But stopping dead and then starting back up again can really ruin your momentum and I actually think it can make things harder sometimes). Have you tried using GU or Powerbar gels? I don’t always LOVE them, but they’re a lot easier to take down when you’re running. I have a hard time with chomps because chewing + running isn’t a skill I’ve really mastered.

    Another thing you can do if you want the support is find a local race to do for training (if Coach Cane says it’s okay, of course! :)) For my last marathon, I found a 20 mile race to do in place of my last 20-miler and it was amazing! I ran it at my goal race pace, and it helps you run alone, but yet supported (with water stops, etc) and that simulates the race itself.

    Regardless, you are going to totally dominate your marathon! Seriously. I’m so excited to hear all about it!!

  24. What an awesome weekend – high five for the 20 miler! I loved reading your and Emily’s recaps. She sounds like such a great sweaty friend!

    This weekend, I learned that, at 18 weeks pregnant, running longish distances is still a possibility; I did 8 miles on the treadmill and felt absolutely awesome!

  25. This post makes me happy.

    This weekend I learned that my husband is even more awesome than I thought, that I’m ready for a comeback, and that I really am okay with my decision not to race 70.3 this year. It was a really good weekend.

  26. I think those are great lessons. 🙂 I learned that faith is essential and has life has a funny way of working things out, and that you have to follow your heart and get ‘er done, ya know? It’s more important than doing what you think is expected.

  27. You are definitely going to run your marathon in under 4 hours! You continue to amaze me. You look so pretty in that last photo, I love your hair! This weekend… I learned that I have some wonderful friends who come to my backyard with booze. I also learned that I need to not run when my stomach is in excruciating pain (again).

  28. I am SO PROUD of you for completing 20 miles!!! It’s so awesome. You are so badass. I ran two miles yesterday and was very proud of myself. It’s totally fine, 18 more to go. DC looked like fun! I want to meet this Sweaty Emily, she looks like a great time.

  29. You are correct to do the next 18-20 milers alone. It seems like you have the physical ability to run the marathon well trained at this point. You do however need to train the mental. 26.2 miles is a long time to run alone. Do not be afraid of it but definitely be prepared. 😉 Still kudos on your 20. I couldn’t even get my 13 miler in this weekend.

  30. If you can run 20 in a non-race situation, you can definitely run a marathon. If I wasn’t in a wedding on 9/24, I’d offer to come out to the Hamptons to pace you! I’ve done long runs with and without people and marathons with and without people. I like having people there for long runs. Its nice for the actual race, too, to make them get you water (muhahahaha), but I think your competitive side will help you when things get tough even if you’re alone.

    Hmm what did I learn this weekend? That my cleaning is getting OOC. Like why does standing water on a countertop freak me out? I don’t know either.

    I also learned that I’m a stronger runner than I think I am and I just need to get my mind on board. I did 14 miles with 4 at MP at those 4 actually ended up being faster than MP. And, I felt strong, totally mind-body connected, it was awesome. I just need to have a little more faith in my abilities rather than always doubting.

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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