Tuesday, September 19, 2017

RACE REVIEW:WILMINGTON 13.1

Yesterday I was scheduled to do one of my last hard workouts for this training cycle.  Along with a warmup and cool down, I needed to run 14 miles at my goal marathon pace, which is 6:50 per mile. (gulp)  We've had a string of hot and humid days up here in the Boston area and as of last week, Monday was looking no different.  Because of this, I was a little stressed about when and how I was going to get this puppy done.  Given the heat, I would likely need water.  On top of that, I wasn't sure where I could get 14 miles in straight through without having to cross streets and avoid cars but the dreadmill was out of the question.  Add to that my current level of exhaustion, which is at an all time high, and I really didn't think I could pull it off.  Once that doubt seeped in, I couldn't shake it.  But, at the same time, I had to get it done, because, you know, no excuses and stuff.  I needed to come up with a plan B.  Pronto.  So, I got online and googled half marathons in MA on September 9/17 and to my good fortune the 13th Annual Wilmington Half Marathon popped up.  I immediately emailed my coach to see if I could swap out my workout for this race, where I could essentially do the workout but in the company of runfriends and with water stops.  He told me he'd originally wanted me to get a tuneup in before my marathon anyway so this would work perfectly.  Done and done.  I can't put into words how relieved I was.  Races can be stressful and nerve-wracking but knowing that all I had to do was show up and run it as a workout and that I would be supported along the way was huge.  I'd be able knock this final MP workout off my list and carry on with my training.  On Saturday, I emailed my coach for a quick check in regarding my pace plan:
Hey Lowell,
I've been so tired this might not even be an option but, if I do have some extra energy can I push the pace on Sunday or should I stick with 6:50?
Thanks,
R
Rebecca,
Get a few miles in at 6:50 and see how you feel.  I'm not against you going faster but only if you are under control.
~Lowell
Stay in control.  Got it.  No problemo.  Let's do this.


As expected, it was hot and humid on Sunday morning.  But, unlike most race days, I wasn't stressed out about it since I wasn't going for broke.  I said goodbye to my family and headed over to Wilmington, which is a short 15 minute drive from our house.  Closest race ever.  Major bonus.  The race was set to go off at 10:00am so I left around 8:30, making it over to the start easily with plenty of time to deal.  I grabbed my bib and shirt and turned to throw my stuff into the car when I bumped right into my friend, Michelle, one of my Oiselle teammates from NH who was also using this race as a tune up for a marathon.  It was so nice to see a familiar face as I rarely go to races solo and felt a little weird being there without my training partner and wingman, Kirsten, who had family obligations over the weekend.  I headed off for my warmup just as the cars started flowing into the parking lot and the runners along with them.  When I got back I was totally soaked through.  It was at this point that I realized things could get ugly given the weather, but it was out of my control so I tried not to think about it.  I haven't raced in a while and even though I was under no pressure to perform, my nerves were still kicking into high gear.  I sent Kirsten a quick text knowing that she would likely help calm me down.  It's not a race - it's a training run, she said.  Yes, I know.  I responded.  I took a breath, shook it out and walked over to the line.  There were about 400 of us lined up at the start.  The 5K crew would go first and the half marathoners after them.  You can see in the photo below that I'd succeeded at calming down and was feeling nice and relaxed at the start.  Never happens.


THE RACE:
Miles 1-3 (6:47, 6:42, 6:41)
The sun was starting to bust through the haze just as we lined up so the temperature went up about 10 degrees as we waited to head off.  I laughed a little.  Turned up my music.  And then we were off.  I wanted to ease into goal pace and give it a few miles before I tried to switch gears.  My first mile was right on target (6:47) and I was feeling good.  I did my best to hold that pace without focusing too much on my watch.  Miles 2 and 3 were a little quicker than I had planned but I was hanging with a group of 3 other runners and felt like we were well matched so I just zoned out a bit and let them lead.
Miles 4-9 (6:27, 6:33, 6:24, 6:37, 6:43, 6:32)
For this next section I decided to push things a bit.  I knew the temp was only going to go up and figured I would bank some faster miles early if I could.  The course had some rolling hills so, again, I just focused on how I felt and didn't worry too much about mile pace.  I had my watch on average pace at this point and I was hovering right around 6:37, which felt good.  I was definitely feeling the heat and making sure to take water at each stop both to drink and to pour over my head.  We wove through a lot of small neighborhoods and had to follow cardboard signs with arrows on them as people weren't out at all the turns.  I did have a couple moments in here when I was solo and had to ask the people who were out on their lawns if I was still on the race course.  These smaller races can be tricky for that reason.


Miles 10-13.1 (6:45, 6:45, 6:47, 6:40, 6:09)
About halfway through mile 10, I was cruising along when I saw a construction worker walking up ahead.  He kept turning his head and looking back at me, which I thought was odd.  Finally, he stopped and said The race doesn't go in this direction.  You're running the wrong way.  To which I replied, OH, SHIT!!!!  I made a hard turn (see photo) and headed back and as I did I saw some of the racers taking the left that I had missed.  Mentally, this was a real blow.  I lost my flow and had to work to find my pace again which was really tough to do given how tired and, now, frustrated I was.  For the record, I would have kept running into the sunset by myself if that guy hadn't been there so I owe him, big time.  My only saving grace was that I now had less than three miles to go, so I told myself to just dig in and get it done.  I was having to focus really hard on the race signs from that point on as I was nervous that I would miss another turn.  That kind of sucked, too.  But, at the same time, it's good to have these challenges thrown at you because, as we all know, no race ever unfolds perfectly.  Finally, I turned to the finish and crossed the line in 1:28:24.

Note: My O top was given to me by my friend & #sisterhero, Sasha Gollish
I was trying hard to channel her awesomeness. Really, I just look like a dork.

The finish was a little anti-climatic for me after the chaos of the final 5K.  But, I was still happy to be done and to have run a decent time despite the situation.  I chatted with a very nice gentleman named Dave for a while and we ended up cooling down together.  Gotta love the running community and the insta-friend vibe.  At this point, it was hot as hell, I was wiped and I was ready to get out the hell out of dodge.  Before I took off I grabbed a quick photo with Michelle who I was happy to find and hang with in the finish area for a bit.


As I made my way over the parking lot I texted my coach to give him the play by play.  I let him know that I'd done what I'd hoped to accomplish but that the missed turn had really messed me up and to be honest, annoyed me.  His response was exactly what I needed to hear.

Rebecca,
If the splits tell the tale, then you probably left 30 seconds out there on the course with the wrong turn.  Maybe more.  Doesn't matter at this point, since you got the win and a good workout.  I think I have said this before, but anything faster than goal marathon pace when you are at this point in the training cycle is a good effort.

Right.  Eyes on the prize.  I'd run a good race.  I'd stayed in control until things got out of control.  I reigned it back in.  And I finished.  That's all that mattered.  There was no need for me to focus on this effort as my big race is yet to come.  So I went home and got ice cream with my family, easily moving on and more than ready to finish off this training cycle.  Three weeks to go.  Stay tuned.

Listen to this:
Wake Up by Fialta

Friday, September 8, 2017

EASY 8


For this particular training cycle which, as you probably know, has been a whopper, I've come to appreciate and even to look forward to the 8 mile recovery day.  It's my "easiest" day of the week and usually falls on Tuesday, after my long run and occasionally on a Saturday during a pull back week.  Regardless of what state I'm in, this workout is both mentally digestible and physical manageable. And given the intensity of the rest of my training lately, along with the typical chaos of my life as a mom and coach, it's one of the few days that I know I will have little to no problem getting through.  It's like a gift, really.  One that I no longer take for granted and happily milk for all it's worth, which as it turns out, is a lot.  Below is a list of all the amazing things associated with the easy 8 mile recovery day.  I'm already anticipating my next one....4 days, 2 hours and 38 minutes from now.

TOP 10 REASONS TO LOVE THE EASY 8 


1. The weather doesn't matter.  It can be hot, humid, snowing, or pouring rain.  They're all brutal but for an hour and change I can handle any of it.
2. I don't have to get up at the crack of dawn to make it work.  I can even take my time getting ready and enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee before I head out.  Added bonus, my girls are usually still sleeping when I get home which means no one needs me.  Yet.
3. There is zero planning involved.  I don't need to map out a route the night before, don't need to make sure I can get water along the way, don't need to create a new playlist for motivation.  Heck, I can even run without music for about an hour if necessary.  Not that I do.
4. It's the perfect mental break.  Just enough time to clear my mind or zone out but not enough to start questioning what I'm doing and why.  (you can imagine the conversations I have with myself on a 20+ miler)
5. It's the lowest amount of mileage I can comfortably do without needing food before I go.  Sounds ridiculous, but it's a nice bonus.  Goes back to #2 and the fact that I don't need to get up extra early and #3 in that I don't need to plan out a pre-workout breakfast the night before.
6. I can always get it done.  I can wake up sore and tired (happens often) and/or totally unmotivated (happens daily) and I still know that I can eek out an easy 8.  Knowing is half the battle.
7. There is no gear necessary.  I don't need anything beyond my shoes, to get through it.  Case in point, last Monday night I forgot to charge my watch.  Typically, this would result in a freak out if I have a hard workout or long day ahead of me.  For the easy 8, it doesn't matter as I can almost do this run with my eyes closed at this point.
8. I can function quite well for the rest of the day.  I'm able to shower (rarely happens right after a run), do a bunch of errands, maybe even eat a meal sitting down, then get through XC practice and make it home to my girls with enough energy to pretend like I'm normal.
9. Pace doesn't matter.  I can bring Clover along, I can stop and smell the flowers, heck, I can skip if I want to.  This objective of this run is to flush my legs from all the hard work of the day before or from the week in general.  That's it.  If you see me dancing on the road, it's probably a Tuesday.
10. I can drag almost anyone along with me.  My running partner, my sister-in-law, my dog, my daughter, my LHS athletes; someone is always up to joining me for a recovery day.  Maybe not for the whole thing, but easily for 4 or 5 miles.  And it's always nice to have company.

Train hard.  Dream big.  Run easy.  #EASY8

Listen to this:
WAIT! by Common Deer

Friday, September 1, 2017

PASSION, PURPOSE & MAGIC

"Believe in your heart that you're meant to live a life full of passion, purpose, magic and miracles.” 
~ Roy T. Bennett


In a less than six weeks I'll be running my 18th marathon.  I've thought a lot about what to write in this post.  Things like, never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd still be at it all these years later.  Which is true, but I probably started saying it around marathon #5 and have declared it every year since.  And things like, I've trained harder for this one than any of my others.  Also true, but I've definitely said this every time since marathon #12, maybe even before that.  I can't remember.  And it doesn't really matter.  When I ran my first marathon, it was to qualify for Boston.  When I ran my first Boston, it was to cross it off my bucket list.  When I ran my next three Bostons there was no real reason other than the fact that I had qualified and I live here and it's freaking awesome.  For my sixth marathon, Providence, I was ready to try something new.  I trained a little differently, or I should say, took it a little more seriously, and I got better results.  And I was thrilled.  I loved the feeling of racing stronger, of having more to give and of crossing the line with a whole new sense of accomplishment and pride.  After that, everything changed.  I decided to make training a bigger priority and to see where I could take it.  Every race has resulted in something different.  Joy, pain, sadness, doubt, anger; all these emotions and more have surfaced over and over again.  And here I am today, 9 years later, still at it because despite all the ups and downs, I love it.  I love the process, I love the races themselves, I love it all.  Yes, there are moments along the way that I hate it, that I want to quit, where I find myself wondering what the hell I'm doing.  But my passion for running and my love of racing always comes through in the end.  And until it doesn't, I'll stick with it.  In the fall of 2015, at age 40, I finished the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon in 3 hours and 4 minutes.  To say I was shocked is an understatement.  I checked and rechecked the results about 50 times because up until that point I did not believe that I was capable of anything close to this.  After this race, everything changed...again.  My goals shifted, my drive increased and my commitment to running and to achieving each goal went up to a whole new level.  The day of that race, I saw something in myself that I didn't know was there and I wanted to foster that strength and desire for as long as my body would allow.  I was ready and willing to go the distance.  I still am.  So, what's next?  At the moment, I'm chasing my dream of a sub-3 hour marathon.  I've attempted to hit it four times since Mohawk.  FOUR.  And, as you know, with marathons you don't just come close and then turn around and try it again 2 weeks later.  That would not be prudent.  Four attempts means four different training cycles, each with four, long months of training and hundreds of miles, many of them grueling.  This summer, I was talking with someone close to me about the process....my goal, the challenges, my progress, etc.  I told him that I would be pretty bummed if I crossed the line this October and didn't hit it after all this work and all of the attempts before them.  And you probably won't, he said very matter of factly.  Which sounds harsh and was a pretty significant blow at the moment.  What he meant, he explained, is that we create these goals that are potentially out of reach, if only just a bit, for a reason.  So we can keep chasing them.  Keep dreaming.  And keep pushing ourselves to get there.  Whether we do or not isn't necessarily the point.  It's the story behind it that builds who we are.  Not achieving the goal itself.  I understand what he meant.  And I agree with it to some extent.  But, I'm not ready to believe that my goal is unattainable.  And I will continue to work as though it is, in fact, within reach.  I'm going to have to reach beyond my comfort zone and maybe even pull a rabbit out of my hat.  But, I do that every day as a mom and coach, at least, the first part.  The rabbit?  I've never done it but I'm sure someone can teach me.  Here's to dreaming big.  And to all of you out there working hard to make it happen....never stop.

Listen to this:
Paper Son & Halima - Hotspice

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

CAMP FOSS & THE 100 MILE CHALLENGE

"I think I can"
~ The Little Engine That Could


So I decided to run 100 miles last week.  Or, at least, to try.  Why, you ask?  It's a fair question.  A little back story first.  The Lexington High School XC team has been going up to Foss Running Camp the week before their season starts for years.  I've been coaching at LHS for a while now and I'd always hear about it when they got home but had never gone myself.  Last summer, however, I was hired to work as a coach for the camp so in August I made my way up there to be with my team along with the other 230+ athletes who would be attending from other schools.  It was an amazing experience and I loved every second of it.  At the time, I was marathon training and logged about 70 miles for the week.  Solid, but nothing I hadn't done before and easy to get in when the kids were running once and often twice a day.  When I got back home, my friend and fellow coach, Aaron, who also works at Foss, casually threw out the following statement, Maybe you'll go for the 100 mile club next year, eh, Trax?   Meaning?  Very simply, run 100 miles during the week that we're there.  Ah ha ha, yeah right.  But, as you can guess, the seed was planted.  A year (and three marathons) later, I was once again preparing to head up to Camp Foss for the week.  And, yes, once again, I was marathon training.  Back in June, I'd sent my coach a note asking whether he thought it would work for me to run 100 miles while I was up there.  Because, who doesn't love a good challenge, right?  Our conversation went like this:
Me: Do you think it's nuts for me to try and get 100 in at Foss? We've talked about going that high, but if you think it's too much, be honest.  I want it to work with our plan.
Lowell: That might work.  Which week is Foss?  I am definitely not opposed to a pure volume century week.
Me: 8/14. And, yes, it's really hard to get workouts in up there bc of the hilly terrain so volume, whether it's 100 or not, is prob the way to go.
Lowell: Right. I remember you telling me about the run options from last year.  So, definitely might be a good plan.
Me: Do you think it's a wise decision based on my current mileage? (around 80 max)  Do you think it will make an impact in October?  And, more importantly, do you think I can handle it?
Lowell: There's a reason elite athletes log 100+ weeks during their marathon training.  Volume works wonders and I've no doubt it will make you stronger and make an overall difference on race day if your body can handle it.
Me: Well, I love the idea of it and I think I can make it work.  I can always aim for it and pull back if it's too much.
Lowell: Ok, let's go for it.  
Yes, I'm cuckoo.  Most runners are.  Fortunately, my coach gets it.  Game on.  The plan was pretty simple.  I'd do two 6-12 mile runs every day.  Then on Friday, when the kids were doing their long run (most of the LHS girls would be doing 11), I'd get one substantially longer run in (22 miles).  Overall, I'd be averaging about 17 miles per day.  Gulp.  All this said, when I'm up at Foss, I'm a coach and mentor first.  My main goal is to be accessible to the kids and to provide guidance, support and advice whenever possible.  Thus, my own training is not my top priority.  So, if I was going to make this happen, I'd have to weave it into their schedule without missing the important things throughout the day that I needed to be a part of.  No problemo.

SUGARLOAF SHOE DISPLAY

Things working in my favor:
~ All the LHS ladies, the gals in my cabin (Woburn High School) and the rest of the faculty and staff were fully supportive of my mission.
~ I had no shortage of running partners, because, well, it's a running camp.
~ Our camp agenda allowed for plenty of down time which gave me several windows throughout the day to re-charge.
~ One other nut-job runner besides myself, Brian Gags, was also doing the challenge so I had someone to commiserate and celebrate with daily.
~ In my 42 years, I've never done a 100 mile week so I was stupidly excited and ready and willing to go for it.

Things working against me:
~ High school kids don't get to bed until 10:30 at the earliest.
~ Wooden bunk beds are not comfortable, even with an egg crate and two mattresses on top.
~ In order to get the extra mileage I needed (usually double what they were doing) and fit the rest of the day together logistically, I had to be up and at 'em at 5:00am every day.
~ Several of my runs were done without music because I was on roads and trails that I was not familiar with.
~ I'm 42 years old.  Enough said.

I arrived up at Foss on Sunday, which happens to be my day off in regards to training.  I could have thrown an easy 3/4 mile run in to ease the load for the week ahead of me, but my legs needed a break from the week before.  So, I'd be starting this madness on Monday.  Which meant, if all went according to plan, I'd be getting the 100 miles in in 6 days rather than 7.  Again....gulp.

5:03AM Monday Morning

MONDAY: 
AM RUN-11
Despite the early wake up, this run was awesome.  I was fresh from my day off and excited to be up there and get going.  I had 10 on my schedule for the morning but ended up doing 11 because the girls went a little longer than planned.  And, really, what's an extra mile or two?

Cooling off w/ Anna, Haley & Alexandra after run #2 

PM RUN - 9
Still feeling pretty good at this point.  I'm used to doubling as my coach has me do it often during training.  The one thing I noticed was that my overall fatigue was pretty severe because I hadn't slept well the night before.  I tried not to think about the fact that this likely wouldn't change all week.

Post-run with Maya & Anna

TUESDAY 
AM RUN-10
Still feeling decent this morning.  The terrain up at Foss is mostly trail, which is great, and insanely hilly, which is not so great.  I could feel my quads flaring up a bit from Monday's mileage.  But I was also still excited about the challenge and just fired up to be at Foss in general, so all things were still good.

Post-run w/ Sophie, Anna, Michelle, Kesinia & Maya

PM RUN-6
The whole LHS gang was out for the PM run and I only had to get 6 in.  So, we did most of it together and, because of this and the fact that it was a shorter run, the miles flew by.

Slow and steady....er, just slow.

WEDNESDAY
AM RUN-12
This morning was rough.  I was so exhausted from lack of and crappy sleep.  My legs were on fire and my overall motivation was low.  Hump day to the max.  Somehow, I managed to eek it out, but it wasn't pretty.

DAY 3 complete w/ Alexandra

PM RUN-6
One of my biggest cheerleaders all week was Alexandra, a former LHS athlete who was working up at camp with us.  She checked in on me regularly and reminded me often that I could do it.  Bless her.  She got me going for my second run of the day and even though she turned around after a few miles, she'd managed to spark some untapped enthusiasm.  It ended up being a great run for me.


THURSDAY
AM RUN-11
I don't even have a photo from Thursday morning's run.  I honestly don't even remember it.  I'm sure it was slow and painful.  The above pic is with Brian, the other coach doing the 100 mile challenge with me.  I don't know how I was smiling.  We both felt the way Brian looked.  I was really grateful to have someone doing this with me.  The solo mission would have been beyond brutal.

HOP OFF THE STRUGGLE BUS

PM RUN-8.5
This was my first solo run of the week.  The kids had their long run the next day so most of them weren't doubling.  Pain.  Train.  I decided to explore a new route and ended up getting a little lost.  That sucked.  Brian snapped this photo when I was done.  I remember thinking, how the HELL am I going to get 22 miles in the next day??!!

PRE-RUN FUEL SESSION

FRIDAY
22 miles (11 solo, 11 with LHS gals)
I got up early and hit the road while the kids were eating breakfast.  The day before Caitlyn, one of the other counselors, had worked on my quads a bit with her magical, healing hands.  The difference was miraculous.  I got through this run mostly because of her.  Thank you doesn't cut it.  Hopefully, she knows this.  I finished my first 11 mile loop, grabbed some water and met up with the LHS gals for part 2.  Having company made a monumental difference.  I was tired and sore but the distraction was exactly what I needed to get through it.  It started raining as we finished and the chills set in immediately.  I bee-lined it up to the dining hall to grab coffee and food.  I can't express in words how happy I was to have made it through.  My mileage was now up to 95.5, which meant I only had to get 4.5 in the next morning.  I was so close I could taste it.  

BEST. COFFEE. EVER.

SATURDAY
4.5 MILES
I didn't have to wake up early for this one.  That was AWESOME.  Knowing it was a mere 4.5 mile run put me in an incredible mood from the get go.  I cruised through with Caitlyn for a mile and then set off to finish the rest solo.  I was smiling the whole way.  When I finished, Caitlyn was there to celebrate with me.  She rocks.

HIGH FIVE w/ CAITLYN

SUNDAY:
ZIP, ZERO, NADA

REST DAY BLISS

So, now what?  Well, I'm home and back in Mom mode.  Our XC season starts this week, so I'll be putting my coaching hat back on as well.  And my training?  Business as usual.  My marathon is in 7 weeks and my eyes are on the prize.  Was it worth it?  Hells, yea.  I pushed my body harder than ever before and to my good fortune, it responded well.  Once again, I'm reminded that we can do anything we put our minds to if we want it badly enough.  Within reason.  Sort of.

Listen to this:
I'll Believe In Anything - Wolf Parade