Friday, October 12, 2018

THE JOURNEY

"But of course the race itself is the smallest part of the story.  It is the journey that is important; the everyday, the day in, day out. Start and finish lines are just steps on that journey. The prize is not a position, or a time; instead the getting to know myself, the work and the training must be its own reward." 
~ Lizzy Hawker, 5-time UTMB winner


So next Sunday, October 21st, assuming I don't try any new gymnastics moves or run into any random doors, I'll be lining up for my 22nd marathon, the Baystate in Lowell, MA.  I'm pretty excited for this one for several reasons.  First, it's in my neck of the woods.  It's been a long time since I haven't had to travel via plane or a very long car ride for a marathon, a process that can be both stressful and exhausting.  Second, the weekend and race day logistics will likely be pretty manageable for a change.  I get to sleep in my own bed the night before, eat my own food all weekend, make my pre-race coffee the way I like it; basically many of the variables that can often be a question mark will, for the most part, be under my control.  And finally, I am coming full circle on this one.  Baystate was my first marathon back in 2007.  As far as marathoning goes, I was as green as Kermit.  I took very little fluids during the race, I didn't know what gels were and I'm not even sure I did a 20 miler beforehand.  Needless to say, the final eight miles were excruciating.  Despite the fact that it was eleven years ago, I remember that feeling of "bonking" and then the proverbial wheels falling off like it was yesterday.  I won't deny that anything can happen on race day, but I have to believe this time around will be a little different from my first rodeo.  Knock on wood.  I always train hard for each marathon that I tackle.  Most of us do.  But I definitely took it to a new level for this one.  More miles than ever.  Multiple double sessions every week.  Tougher and longer workouts.  You name it, my coach threw it at me.  Funny story, back on June 8th. I noticed the shift and sent him an email about it:

Hey Lowell,
Just curious....if we're already at 70 miles per week in June, where are we going to be in September??  Not that I'm not up for it.  But still. :)
Thx,
R

His response was this:

Rebecca,
It wasn't so long ago that you came to me peaking at 50mpw and a long 
run of 21 miles.  Despite some injury concerns over the years, for the 
most part you have handled a steady gradual increase in volume.  There 
is work to do and as long as you have time and the physical ability to 
tolerate the miles, I want to continue to nudge them up.  You good with 
that?
~ Lowell

Translation, trust me.  And, yes, we're doing this.  Perhaps he thought it best not to mention how far he planned to take my mileage at that point.  Probably a good call.  I had to laugh a little.  To be honest, though, at the time I wasn't sure if I would be able to get through it.  I did have some bleeps on the radar; some plantar fasciitis flare ups over the summer, a pulled hamstring and a few other, smaller but notable physical and mental hurdles.  But for the most part, I've made it to the end.  I have a little over a week to go.  The hay, as they say, is in the barn.  My friend Clarissa, also a marathoner and a total badass, posted the quote from the top on Instagram about a year ago.  I took a screenshot of it and save it in my photos.  It really resonated with me back then.  But it is hitting home even more so now.  The journey, the training and all that is wrapped up in it, is truly what it's all about.  I know this now.  I thrive on the day to day.  Crave it, actually.  The race will be over.  But the story will never end.  New day.  New chapter.  Same story.

MARATHON 22: THE BREAKDOWN IN NUMBERS


Weeks in this training cycle: 25 (May-October)
Total miles run: 1,611.5
Months w/ mileage over 300: 3* 
*July-September. June was 299 but clearly I didn't care enough to run the extra one.
Number of 20+ mile runs: 9*
*should have been 10 but I stupidly attempted a handstand in August.
Races since May: 5 (2 x 13.1, 1 relay, 2 x 8K)
Number of times it has been hot, rainy and/or humid on workout days: 
I can't remember when it wasn't.
Pairs of running shoes I've gone through: 4
Playlists created: 8* 
*one for each race, one for summer, one for a friend & an epic dance mix 
Tubes of NUUN: 16* 
*saved them for my girls who used them for storage & arts & crafts projects
Ice cream cones: too many to count
Cups of coffee: same as above
Live music shows: 3
*Imagine Dragons, Grace Vanderwaal, Fitness
Successful Handstands: NONE

Listen to this:
It's Just The Start - Royal Teeth

Friday, October 5, 2018

BIKEWAY MAGIC


Nature's gift to us,
Is what we take for granted,
Let us treasure it!
    – Aditi Subramanian, age 8

It's Tuesday at 8:15am.  Yesterday I ran 24 miles, my last long run of this training cycle.  Today, I'm so tired it hurts.  I've had coffee.  Doesn't matter.  My lids are so heavy.  I'm struggling to keep them open.  And my legs.  Oh, my legs.  I text my coach.  Is this normal?  Should I be worried?  I ask.  It's okay he says  Your legs will come back he reminds me.  Will they?  I have a second cup of coffee.  Better.  But still.  I need more help.  I call Kirsten.  She gets it.  She's there, too.  Get in your car and drive to your run today  she says.  You need to change locations, mix it up.  Go over to the bike path in Lexington.  Take the thought out of planning your route.  Put your music on and zone out.  Come on, Bec.  You got this.  Okay.  Yes, I nod in agreement.  I can do this.  One step.  Two steps.  A little more effort.  And a maybe a little magic. 














I am alone with many thoughts.  I take in all the elements.  I can fly, soar through the air.  Nothing can stop me now that I fly.  It's a wonderful break I've found from reality.  I feel good about myself.  I laugh and smile.  Do one more mile.  My forward path narrows.  I turn around.  My end has become my beginning.  This path has granted me peace.  I have caught bikeway magic.  Lucky me.

Listen to this:
Every Step That I Take - Tom Morello (feat. Portugal. The Man)

Friday, September 28, 2018

RACE REVIEW:WILMINGTON 13.1

"Remember this: no one cares about your running as much as you do. The training, the race results, the pressure, the expectation. It's all created within ourselves. I find that a freeing feeling in itself. Do what is needed to find success on your own path, not success as defined by others."
~ Stephanie Rothstein Bruce

Last week I ran 80 miles.  That included a 23 miler on Monday and a double on Wednesday.  Then, on Saturday, I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off at the Ocean State Invitational, borderline giddy as I watched the ladies on my high school XC team, 52 of them split up into three different races, run their hearts out.  Forgive the humble brag here, but when all was said and done, I was both proud to have gotten through it and more exhausted than I've been in a while as a result of it.  So, you can understand why, as I pulled into my driveway around 7pm on Saturday evening, I was feeling pretty anxious about running a half on Sunday morning.  Again, I was physically and mentally wiped.  On top of that, I hadn't raced since July and hadn't raced hard since my last marathon in April and I was almost a little scared to line up again.  My coach always says that fear is a good thing if you can channel it into positive energy on race day.  But, this felt different.  I had some worry and doubt sprinkled in, which is never a good thing.  My family was in CT for my daughter's soccer game on Sunday, so I did my best to relax and remind myself that this was just a tuneup for my upcoming October marathon.  Lots of talking out loud to myself on Saturday night.


On Sunday I woke up to a gorgeous morning; crisp, cool and clear.  It's been hot and humid here in the MA area for weeks, so this was such a pleasant surprise.  I was bright eyed and bushy tailed at 5:00am, not by choice but likely due to my nerves which were already in high gear.  For the first time in...well, maybe ever, I woke my dog up and got her out for a walk.  Not that she minded.  We started in the dark and finished as the sun came up, which I took a moment to appreciate.  The race wasn't starting until 10:07am, so I still had LOTS of time.  Thus, I planted myself on the porch and enjoyed a cup of coffee as Clover stood on squirrel patrol.


After that I had some breakfast, did some laundry, cleaned up the house a bit and then walked Clover over to my neighbors house for a little playdate.  Yes, the one time I had five hours to kill before a race, it was basically happening right next door.  The irony was not lost on me.  Finally, around 8:30 I gathered all my gear and loaded up the car to head over to Wilmington, a quick and easy 15 minute drive.  I parked right next to the start and went to grab my bib before making my way out for a warmup.  It was relatively chilly, so I tacked on an extra mile to make sure I was fully awake and (hopefully) firing on all cylinders by the start of the race.  


After two miles, I got back to my car, took off some layers, had some water, pinned my number on and changed my shoes.  I hadn't laced up in my "fast shoes" in such a long time and, as it usually does, the process got me fired up and helped me mentally shift into race mode, which was good because up until that point I hadn't really been feeling it.  Around 9:45, I walked over to the line and did some last minute dynamics and strides as I waited for the 5K runners to take off.  We would be taking off 7 minutes after them for the half, hence the odd 10:07 start time.  Right around here, I gave myself a little pep talk.  

Okay, Rebecca.  You are ready for this.  Let's run with courage and see what we've got.  Go ahead and take a risk today.  Trust yourself to lock into goal pace from the get go and see if you can hold on.  The only pressure today is your own.  You are running for time, not place.  To test your fitness and have fun.  Don't get caught up in the chaos and stress yourself out any more than you need to.

THE RACE:
By the time we were about to get going, I was excited.  Nervous as hell.  But, really pumped up.  I started my music, got my watch ready and, as promised, at 10:07 we were off.  I have an Apple Watch and it often takes a good half mile, sometimes longer, before I get an accurate read on pace.  Knowing this, I just found a group and settled in while I waited for the pace to sort itself out.  Mile 1 came quickly.  I checked my watch.  6:20.  Oh SHIT.  That was not the plan.  I pulled back from the group I'd been in and tried to reset.  But, my heart was racing and my head immediately started playing games.  Clearly, not a good way to start things off.  I cruised past mile two at 6:35.  Much better.  I was trying to hold steady between 6:30-6:40 for this, so I was back on track.  I calmed down and tried to find a fresh mental groove.  I did not check my watch at mile three.  I was trying to run by feel and wanted to stop stressing about time if I could.  This was a mistake.  At mile four my wheels started to fall off.  Mile FOUR.  What??  I have had plenty of race meltdowns, but it's rare that it happens this early on the course.  Things were bad.  I felt really off and my race demons were telling me to stop.  Literally.  I was thinking things like, I can't do this and I need to drop out and Why do I do this to myself???  Oh, and I'm pretty sure I had the classic I'm never doing another marathon again thought in there, too.  But this was a practice run.  It wasn't even the main rodeo.  I've been training since June for an October marathon.  This was a small piece of the puzzle.  A fitness test.  That was it.  Thankfully, a small part of my brain was still able to process this.  I convinced myself to calm down, which was much harder than it should have been.  Then I told myself that I needed to make it to mile 10.  I could ease up on pace if needed.  But I was not dropping out.  I also reminded myself that I needed a marathon pace workout regardless of the situation I was in so it was pay now or pay later.  I was flustered and my doubt was working against me, but I did not want to start this thing over again the next day.  So, I forged ahead.


Above you can see my splits.  If mile 3 is anywhere near accurate, then it's no wonder that I had a complete meltdown at mile 4.  I honestly didn't feel like I was running a 6:09, but I have no idea and clearly I can't trust my watch on pacing.


Why, you ask?  Because despite the fact that my watch shows an accurate finish time, the distance is completely off.  Which means my average pace is also totally off.  So, who knows what was going on.  I knew none of this at the time, mind you.  And just thought I was running slower than I'd planned given my average pace.  Somehow I was able to fight through my fear and doubt and get through miles 5-10.  But it was touch and go for a while in there.  I did have a gentleman next to me for much of this stretch and we often passed water between us and took turns leading, so that was a huge help.  When I got to mile 10, I knew I could finish.  As I mentioned, I thought my pace had dropped, so by now I had stopped looking at my watch all together.  I was bummed, as I'd really wanted to run well for this race and get a sense of how things stood as I head into my final month of training.  But, I also knew that fighting through that rough patch would serve me well down the line so as I was finishing my final 5K I was telling myself that the effort wasn't a complete throwaway.  Finally, I got to mile 12 and I was so freaking psyched to be done and put this mess behind me.  You can imagine my surprise, then, when I turned the corner and saw the clock at 1:25 and change.  What the HELL???  Yes, I knew that's what my watch said for time, but my distance was wrong and thus I thought for sure the clock time was also wrong.  Not so.  I crossed the line in 1:26:05 and had to double and then triple check the Racewire clocks to make sure I wasn't delusional.  


I was thrilled.  And completely shocked.  It was a great time for me.  And I really had thought I'd blown it.  I was also pissed, because I put myself through some serious torture that probably could have been avoided.  And had I known that I was running a good time all along, I think I would have finished stronger.  What a shit show.  There's no other way to break it down.  I just didn't get it figured out from the get go and never got it back together.  Obvisouly, I'm happy about the time.  But, the fight was so ugly that it's hard to not see it as a bit of a fail, too.  As he always does, my coach gave it to me straight.  First, and foremost, I have got to find a way to settle the nerves for the marathon.  That first mile probably cost me 20-30 seconds.  I won't have that time to spare on game day.  And it's definitely going to cost a lot more with a full 26.2 miles to run.  Second, his words here, I don't think I can let you call a half marathon PR and "off" day.  Yes, it was an awkward battle, but I'd managed to get it together and hold on.  And because of this, I should be confident in knowing I can carry out my goal plan for the marathon.  And last, but definitely not least, he suggested that I might need to get a new watch or borrow one from someone on race day as no pace data at all is better than wrong data.  Okay, so calm down, be sure of myself and get a new watch.  The watch is easy.  The other two are going to take some work.  Any thoughts are suggestions are welcome here.  But please make it quick!  I have less than four weeks to go.  GULP.

Listen to this:
THUNDERCLOUDS - LSD feat. Sia, Diplo, and Labrinth

Friday, September 21, 2018

WILL NOT/COULD NOT EVER

"...an important part of running, which I think is a very good skill to cultivate for life in general, is learning to rewrite the narrative that develops when you’re doing something challenging."
~ Jane Senko

We moved to Winchester back in 2007.  At the time, my older daughter, Rosie, was 2 and my younger daughter, Grace, was just 6 months.  Right after we settled in, I decided I wanted to qualify for Boston and started training for the Baystate Marathon.  With kids that young, I needed frequent help with coverage while I ran.  Thankfully, our neighbors, the Senkos, had three daughters ages 12-14 who were often free to keep an eye on the girls while I went out.  Rosie quickly began to idolize their youngest, Jane, and despite the age gap instantly considered her a "friend" (not a babysitter).  Jane, bless her, always rolled with it and willingly had "playdates" with Rosie and would come to her birthday parties despite the fact that she was 10 years older.

Rosie's 3rd Birthday*
*One or both of them might kill me for posting this. #worthit

Through the years, my passion for marathoning grew and Jane, while admittedly not a runner, would always take the time to ask me about it, curious perhaps or more likely just being nice, but definitely thinking I was borderline nuts each time I signed up for another one.  She has always a been a big yoga gal, but running was just not her thing.  Until now.  On Sunday, we had the following conversation via text:

Jane: I have been meaning to tell you - I signed up for a half marathon this October and have gotten so addicted to running (never thought this would happen).  I think I may try for a full!!
Me: YES!! That is amazing.
Jane: I'm so exited to have discovered the joy of running long distances - now I understand why you have never been able to stop!     
Me: Right?!  Life changer.  And now it's a whole new world for you.  I'm almost a little jealous.  :)
Jane: YES! It really feels that way.  In fact, today was my 13 mile run (the longest in my training cycle) and I kept going until 15 because I was just feeling SO GOOD.  And thus now I am searching for the next race.  Even though I haven't even done the half yet!  LOL.
Me: Welcome to my world.

This conversation makes me smile every time I read through it.  I can feel what she's feeling.  I've been there.  Lived it.  Am still living it.  And I love that she found it, too.  Afterwards, I asked if she would elaborate and share her story with us.  You don't often hear how people go from strongly disliking running to plotting out their first marathon like this but it's so refreshing to hear how it unfolds.  Fortunately, she was more than willing to elaborate.  So, here's Jane's story, one that is clearly just beginning.  I will be following along as the rest unfolds, living vicariously through her as she starts down this new road.  Best of luck, Janie.  Go get 'em!

FROM ZERO TO 13.1 & BEYOND

Hi! Thanks, Rebecca, for having me as a guest on your blog.  I am so honored to be featured.  A little backstory for your readers,  I live next door to the Trachsels and have spent a lot of time hanging out with Rosie and Grace. Through the past few years, I have followed Becca’s whole running journey from afar - from the inception of this RWM blog, to her training/participation in various races, to her adventures as a coach. A particular memory that stands out to me as I write this is when I saw her when she came home from the Boston Marathon last April - the one with the cold, rainy, treacherous weather - and said it was the hardest thing she had ever done.  I remember going home thinking to myself, I will not/could not EVER run a marathon.


A few months ago, my cousin Sofia told me she'd signed up for a half marathon in Oxford, England, this coming October and asked if I would consider doing it.  The mere suggestion is something I would have scoffed at a few years ago as I used to detest running, but I had been slowly building running into my workout routine (~3/4 miles a few times a week) this past spring/summer for some variety, and I figured the half was worth some consideration.  I researched half marathon training schedules and found one online that worked for me.  I saw that the maximum mileage for the first few weeks was 5 miles and I thought, I already know that I can make it to the third week of this training program, so I’ll sign up for the half and see what happens.  Even if I don’t end up finishing the race, it will be nice to have a little vacation in England this fall.

Jane as a newly Certified Yoga Teacher

Fast forward to this past Sunday, I ran a full 15 miles, despite the training schedule only requiring 13.  Oops!  I know you’re not supposed to increase your mileage too much right before a race, but I couldn’t help myself.  I am nine weeks into the training program and have absolutely fallen in love with running.  I think I had always stayed away from it before because truly I never really gave it a chance.  Over the past few months, I’ve realized that it takes me around 2-3 miles to sort of “settle in” to a run, and then around the 4th or 5th mile I really start to enjoy it as I find my pace and natural cadence.  Longer runs only get better as each mile passes.  I really cherish the feeling of being out in nature and breathing so much fresh air.  And, I assume everyone reading this blog can appreciate this, it is such a treat to go for a long run and get lost in whatever music you’re listening to.  You don’t have to think about anything at all!  Physical benefits aside, running gives you really great headspace.

Jane w/ her parents, both marathon runners

I am not, by any means, glossing over the fact that running is difficult.  And to long distance runners who have completed multiple marathons, it's probably laughable for ME to be talking about difficulty because I have only run a handful of 10+ mile runs.  But it is tough.  My feet are covered in blisters, and one of my toenails is black and blue and very close to falling off.  As great as it feels to finish a double-digit run, there are definitely times when you have to convince yourself to keep going.  I was talking about running with my hairdresser yesterday, who ran a marathon a few years ago and said it was the hardest thing she had ever done.  But she also said she felt the greatest she had ever felt right after it was done.  I agreed with her that the feeling of accomplishment you get right after finishing a run is amazing, but you do have to work to get there.  It is common knowledge that our brains will tell us to stop doing something before our body actually physically NEEDS to stop.  So an important part of running, which I think is a very good skill to cultivate for life in general, is learning to rewrite the narrative that develops when you’re doing something challenging.  The negative thoughts that arise when you’re really exerting yourself are inevitable, but you can (and must!) overpower them by drowning them out with encouragement from yourself.  My older sister, Grace, ran the New York City Marathon, and I remember talking to her right after she finished her first longer training run (I think it was 17 miles).  She said it was THE BEST, simply because of how proud she felt of herself when she completed it, because the whole time during it she wasn't sure if she'd be able to do so.

Doing SUP yoga
Because Jane doesn't have any race photos. Yet.  

Now that this half marathon is only three weeks away, I have found myself wondering what I will do when it’s over.  I will have followed this training program so stringently for the past twelve weeks that I’m not sure how it will feel when I don’t have something to train for…thus I have decided to sign up for my first full marathon (recommendations welcome!). And as I told Rebecca yesterday, now I can kind of understand why she has never been able to stop running.  And I say kind of, because twenty-something marathons is A LOT of marathons.  :)

Listen to this:
BOSS - The Carters (Jane's pick)