Tuesday, March 21, 2017

RACE REVIEW:NEW BEDFORD 13.1



"I think at the end of the day, what you really have to do, is you have to look fear in the face and you just have to smile.  Even if you can't see it. "

This past Sunday morning I tackled the New Bedford Half Marathon for the fourth year in a row.  I have a love-hate relationship with this race.  I like it because it's easy to get to, it's incredibly well run and it falls perfectly in between the start and finish of a spring marathon training cycle.  I'm not a fan because it's a challenging course and several miles are along a beach peninsula so its always windy.  All that said, I tend to come back each year and run it because I can test my fitness compared to the year before as well as get a sense for where I am in my current training.  This year our winter season in New England has been incredibly bizarre.  We had a mild-ish February and we are now in full-blown winter mode at the end of March.  Single digit temps, wind, snow storms, all of it.  The Saturday before the race the forecast was calling for snow and had the Cape Cod area on "gale watch."  No joke.  At the end of the day, the race director sent us a note claiming the following:

To Be Clear, the 2017 New Bedford Half Marathon WILL BE RUN on Sunday, March 19th at 11:00 am. We have had hours of rain here today and the race course, although slushy is clear. The pending snow this weekend, will not be enough to cancel the event, please dress accordingly. 

Okay, so a good time was now totally off the table.  Fine.  I could deal with that.  But running in wind and snow sounded a bit daunting and, call me a wuss, but I was worried about getting sick if I slogged through that for over an hour so I emailed my coach and asked him what he thought I should do.  For the record, I would normally just suck it up and race.  But, in addition to my May marathon, I've got the Boston marathon coming up with Joyce and TeamWithAVision and our high school spring track season just started and I just don't have time to get sick right now.  Lowell told me to play it by ear and make the call the morning of the race.  He agreed it was not worth risking it with all my other stuff going on.  So, that was the plan.  I conferred with Kirsten, my bud and running partner, who would be heading down with me and we decided to just see what unfolded.


Saturday night I went ahead and got everything ready and tried to mentally prepare myself for the worst.  The above outfit was one of about five options.  Shorts, pants, singlet, long sleeve, short sleeve, three quarters; I threw them all in my bag.  I really did want to race, to test my fitness and do something different than my typical long run.  After checking the forecast about 41 times and hour, it looked like the snow was moving out but the wind would still be in full force.  Awesome.  Sunday morning, Kirsten scooped me up at 8:15 and we made our way to New Bedford.  This was happening.  Game on.  We cruised down without incident and parked on the street near the race start. As we got ourselves organized I heard Kirsten say, "Oh my God, Rebecca.  Look at the woman's hair."  Not because it was strange or cool looking, mind you.  But because it was literally standing up on end due to the wind.  I wish I had a photo for you but that would have been a little akward.  Basically, it looked something like this. (no idea who this woman is btw)


All we could do was laugh and hope (pray) that some of it would be at our backs during the race.  We headed over the the YMCA to grab our bib and shirts.  This race is a big one for a couple reasons.  First, it's part of the USATF-New England Grand Prix Series, second, there's cash prizes for several different categories and third, it's the perfect Boston tune-up.  The crew who manages it has it all down to a science and it's run like well-oiled machine.  Very impressive.  We got everything we needed and walked back to the car to ditch some layers and get ready for a quick warm up.  At 10:20 we hit the streets.  At first the wind was in our face and we got a taste of what we were about to run in.  It was bad.  But, then we turned the corner and it died down a bit.  The temp was about 37, so without the wind, it didn't feel awful.  Maybe this wouldn't be too terrible, we thought.  I think we both knew it would be brutal but why not practice positive thinking, right?  We ran over to the start to find a spot and take our traditional pre-race pic.  And then we were off.


THE RACE
Miles 1-3 (6:57, 6:49, 6:40)
The beginning of this race is a challenge.  Starting around mile 2 you're basically climbing and dipping.  Between miles 2-3 there are a couple smaller hills.  Then at 3 there's a massive climb about a quarter mile long followed by a mellow downhill on the other side.  The wind was in our face for the first couple miles, which wasn't too bad because the crowd was still pretty big.  But once we got out of town and began to climb the wind died down substanstially, which was a blessing for that stretch of hills.  Given the weather and the difficulty of this course, my coach advised me to aim for marathon pace give or take 5 seconds, which meant I needed to try and stay around 6:50.  For this first section I was right on track and feeling okay about things.


Miles 4-9 (6:46, 6:37, 6:39, 6:33, 6:39, 6:32)
I really found my groove during this section.  The wind wasn't a factor.  My legs felt strong.  And the miles were flying by.  I was actually getting pretty excited as I had dropped my pace down but I was responded well to it.  So, I went with it.  Mile 9 was my fastest and I knew had another gear in me.  Maybe, I thought, just maybe.  I was on track for a solid PR at this point and then I turned left.


Miles 10-13.1 (7:38, 7:05, 6:50, 6:57, 5:49)
The above photo pretty much sums up what happened next.  Mile 10 is along the water and the wind just smacked us head on.  As soon as I turned into it my pace instantly dropped by a minute.  There were times during this mile where I felt as though I was either not moving or moving backwards.  All I could do was bear down and fight.  I might have laughed a little, too.  It was like nothing I've ever run in.  And it never really let up.  As we wove our way into town I thought we'd catch a break and it did ebb a bit, but not much.  It was still coming from all angles and when you add the tired factor into it from the first 9 miles, well, let's just say it wasn't pretty.  There's one final, very long hill at the end of this race beginning around mile 11.6.  Usually I'm angry and annoyed as I fight my way up this one.  But, this year, I found myself enjoying it because the wind wasn't as bad as it had been for the past couple miles.  There's some perspective for you.  Once I made the final turn I had some extra pep in my tank because the wind was virtually gone and I knew I was finally done.  Official finish time 1:29:32. 


I couldn't be disappointed with this time given the battle that had just unfolded for me.  Could I have executed differently?  Maybe.  Perhaps I should have taken a bigger risk in the beginning and banked some faster miles.  It's impossible to know whether that would have made a difference, positive or negative for that matter.  What I do know is that for those first 9 miles, I felt like a stronger runner than I have in quite some time.  I went into that race hoping for the best but also knowing that it was not my goal race and that it was more important to keep my eyes on the prize.  Anything can happen on race day, but if my stars align in May, I now feel confident that the outcome might actually be different than it has for my last few marathons.  And I'm pretty fired up about that.  Until then, I will continue to work my ass off so that I know when I get to the line, I've done my part of the job.   Beyond that, it's out of my control.  And as my coach always reminds me, if we could control the variables, everyone would be doing it.  In the end, the challenges, the unknowns, if you will...that's really what it's all about.  Well, that and the post-race coffee with friends.  That's pretty awesome, too.


Listen to this:
Turning the Screw by Generationals

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

RWR:MEET SASHA, PRO-RUNNER, ENGINEER & KID AT HEART


So, next week it's officially spring.  But not really.  Sorry, I'm annoyed.  Can't help it.  I can, however, give you a RUNNERSWHOROCK interview with one of the coolest cats I know.  Pretty fair trade as far as I'm concerned.  Seriously, I'm really fired up to introduce you to the great Sasha Gollish.  Sasha's a semi-professional middle distance runner who can rip through a 1500m on the track in 4 minutes and 7 seconds and a half marathon on the road  in 71 minutes.  What??!!  (check out all her race results here).  Her goal?  To become one of Canada's greatest distance runners of all time.  And today, at the young age of 35, she's well on her way to accomplishing this goal.  Honestly, you need to know this gal.  She's a Skechers Performance athlete, which is how I originally connected with her.  She also runs on Oiselle's elite team, which is another outlet that brought us together.  We got to know each other well this fall through social media, reaching out with support and cheers before races, offering running advice during challenging situations, Sasha often providing the voice of reason for me, and giving each other post-race shout outs after performances that warranted them (she had quite a few of these).  Then, to my good fortune, her racing schedule brought us even closer together when she had a track meet here in Boston and called to see if she could stay at my humble abode for the days leading up to the event.  Ummm, yes please.  My girls were beyond giddy that a professional runner would be staying at their house.  I was equally giddy.  Ok, maybe a little bit more.  She happened to arrive the day before we got pummeled by one of the biggest snowstorms of the season.

Post-blizzard high-five

We spent a LOT of quality time together given that we were basically stuck inside for 24 hours.  Although we did get out just enough to take some quality photos together.  Yes, she's a bit dorky just like yours truly.  She's also kind, witty and great with kids (she witnessed more than one meltdown while she was with us) and we had a freaking blast together.  I'm so honored to call this woman my teammate, my friend, and my sister-in-sport.  My advice to you?  Keep an eye on this one.  She's creating quite a stir in the running world and she's just getting started.  For now, let's meet Sasha, a runner who rocks.

RWR:SASHA GOLLISH

Name: Sasha Gollish
Where you're from: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Where you reside now: Toronto, though currently poolside in Tucson, AZ
Age: 35 going 20
Occupation: semi-pro athlete, phd student, engineer
Blog/website: www.sashagollish.com


2016 Canadian Cross Country Championships

RUNNING & MUSIC:
What do you love most about running? 
The freedom it brings you no matter where you go.
What do you love most about music? 
The memories it invokes.

SASHA'S FAVORITES:
Band (current, all time or both):
Today - Florence & The Machine 
All time - Dave Matthews Band
Album (current, all time or both):
Today - too much good stuff to pick just one
All time - Crash by Dave Matthews Band
Race venue: Pan Am Stadium, Toronto (I ran my first ever track race there and won my first international medal there)
Music venue: Molson Amphitheater
Race distance: 1500m
Show you've seen live: Janet Jackson (true story! Velvet Rope tour, circa ~1999?)
Ice cream flavor: Toasted Marshmallow



THIS OR THAT
Sweet or salty? Sweet
Live or recorded? Live
Coffee or tea? Coffee, duh!
Summer or winter? BOTH! Can’t pick one, both have so much fun associated with them. Though summer for outdoor concerts; you would freeze up in Canada at a winter outdoor show!



MORE MUSIC INFO:
Which band or artist would you go see tonight if you could? Metric
Which band or artist (wait...but no longer alive or playing together)
would you go see tonight if you could? The Beatles
Which band or artist would you like to have dinner with tonight if you could? Broken Social Scene
Which band or artist would you like to be playing alongside you during your next race (or long run)? LTJ Bukem


Broken Social Scene

LAST ONE:
Today, I feel like....(complete the sentence) A unicorn!




Top 5 Songs for running, dancing or both? 
Come On Feet - Quasimoto
Dirty Paws - Of Monsters and Men
The Best of What’s around - DMB
Safe and Sound - Capital Cities
Ahead by a Century - Tragically Hip



Last 5 Songs you listened to today? 
The wifi is so bad you cannot
actually stream by the pool. 
But DJ Mark Farina’s pod cast 
channel is usually on while working.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

SPRING FEVER

"Spring is nature's way of saying, 'Let's Party!'"
~ Robyn Williams


March is such a promising month here in New England.  The first few warmish days creep in (photo above was from 3/1) and the snows begins to clear out.  And despite the fact that we will continue to have a few crappy stretches of winter weather, (case in point, it was a balmy 10 degrees on 3/4) the light is truly at the end of the tunnel.  And it is shining bright.  Literally.  Daylight savings is right around the corner which means we will no longer be coming home from work in the dark and feeling like it's bedtime at 7:30pm. YES.  The kids in our hood start to play outside more and all the adults slowly come out of the hidey holes that we've been burrowed in all winter.  Signs of life are everywhere and this has a positive impact on everyone's mood whether they realize it or not.  Here's what I'm most excited about for spring.  What's on your list?

SPRING IS COMINGTOP 10 SIGNS 

1. Daylight savings.  Lighter later.  Enough said.
2. Boston Marathon.  Not just the race itself but the whole weekend is just so epic.  I'm giddy just thinking about it.
3. Spring track at LHS.  So much fun to get over to the track and start coaching again.
4. Less clothing.  I know my legs are pale but damn does it feel good to run in shorts!
5. Red Sox Baseball.  I'm a huge fan.  And while I shed a tear or two when Big Poppy retired last year, the current team has some solid potential for 2017.
6. Spring marathon season.  In addition to my own, many of my friends and teammates will be running spring marathons.  Always gets me even more fired up about running.  If that's even possible.
7. Spring flowers.  Not just the flowers, which are gorgeous, but the smells, the sounds, all of it.  You can just feel spring getting ready to burst through.
8. New music.  A lot of bands release new albums right around March/April.  Milky Chance, Sylvan Esso and Spoon are a few that I'm psyched to dive into.
9. Spring skiing.  There is nothing better then skiing with the sun on your face and with feeling in your fingers and toes.
10. Spring break.  My girls head down to Florida to visit my parents and my husband and I get a little staycation.  Added bonus...might even get some spring cleaning done, too.  I know.  Super fun.

Listen to this:
Feel It Still by Portugal. The Man

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

JAYBIRD SPORT HEADPHONES: REVIEW + SWAG GIVEAWAY

I have run with music since there was a portable listening device available to me.  I'll just go ahead and date myself here.  In junior high and high school, I used a Sony Walkman and listened to mixtapes, or what my friend Kirsten's son recently referred to as "small boxes with holes in them".  I also vaguely remember a brief stint where I attempted to run with my Discman, stepping gingerly to minimize the skipping.  That didn't last long.  After college, I was onto the original iPod.  OMG.  The fact that I could download and listen to all of my CDs on one device completely blew my mind.  It couldn't possibly get any better than this, I thought.  Funny, right?  Today, I use an iPod Nano and I love it.  It's light, fits in my pocket, holds a shit-ton of music and has even survived a session in my washing machine.  Why am I telling you all this?  Because through the years, as my music devices have evolved, my headphones have continuously been a complete pain in the ass.  I've honestly never been able find a pair that worked just right.  Ever.  And I've tried them all. (SEE RWM POST:PLEASE HELP, 2012)  Since they came onto the market, I'd been curious about trying a wireless option but I don't run with my phone and thought that was the only way to make those work.  Not so.  I recently discovered that my latest iPod Nano (this is my 3rd) has Bluetooth functionality which meant that I could expand my headphone options and finally update and enhance my running with music experience.  Enter Jaybird Sport.  A few weeks ago, I reached out to the Jaybird team and asked them about trying their product and potentially joining their team.  I'd heard and read about them on various sites and blogs and I knew one of my run-heros, the great Lauren Fleshmen, was sponsored by them so if they would take me, I wanted in.  I gave them a little backstory on myself,  describing both my passion for running and music as well as the fact that I'd yet to find a pair of headphones that met my all needs:
~ good, quality sound
~ perfect fit (I have child sized ears and struggle with earbuds falling out)
~ long battery life (over four hours)
~ wireless (it was time)

STOP THE MADNESS

I explained that I'd reached max level of frustration with my current headphones; that I'd tried multiple brands and styles and that too often I was dealing with stupid issues including:
~ constant tangles
~ earbuds falling out (particularly in the summer when sweat is a bigger factor)
~ losing the earbud covers completely
~ accidentally ripping them out of my ears while on the treadmill because I was tired and my arms were flailing out of control (this has happened on more than one occasion)   
I told them that I was running two marathons this spring, training like a madwoman and that I was desperate to find a product that would improve my running/music experience.  They patiently heard me out, agreed that I could use an upgrade and let me know that they were starting an ambassador program and that I could potentially work with them if the headphones worked for me.  To which I responded, I'LL MAKE THEM WORK FOR ME.  No, but really, that is the kicker here.  Jaybird Sport headphones are unique in the fact that you can't take them out of the box, throw them in your ears and go.  They are specifically designed for the individual user and require quite a bit of time and effort up front in regards to getting the perfect fit.  I started by trying out the Freedoms.  Each pair comes with two different styles of ear tips in three sizes and four pairs of silicone ear fins in four sizes.  


When you take it all out, it's a bit overwhelming.  And I'm not gonna lie, it took me a ridiculous amount of time to find the style and size that worked for me.  But true to their word, after trying multiple combos of tips and wings I landed on the fit that works perfectly for my mini-ears (smallest sizes of both).  After that, the setup was cake.  You just connect to Bluetooth on your music listening device and pair the headphones up.  Once their connected you're good to go.  Rather than give them a test drive with a shorter run, I opted to jump right in at full tilt and hope for the best.  The day after my Jaybirds arrived we were smacked with a blizzard (the second in 5 days) here in Boston and running outside was not an option.  So, I cruised to the gym, threw them on and settled in for an an 18 miler on the dreadmill.  


I brought my old headphones as a backup but I never used them.  From that first run, the Jaybirds were a dream.  They sit comfortably in my ears and the sound is phenomenal.  There is chord that wraps around the back of my head to attach the buds but it can be cinched up and I found that it was basically non-existent.  For the first time, I was running without a wire between my body and the treadmill and it was awesome.  I could jump back and forth between the TV and my iPod without missing a beat.  I could change the speed and grab water without worrying about ripping the chord out of the machine.  I was totally free.  And that, my friends, is all she wrote.  I have worn them every day since.  I'm a die hard fan.  And while I'll admit that they are an investment financially (the Freedoms retail for $149.99), they are worth every cent and then some.  Oh, how I wish I was like Oprah and could give all of you who are reading this post a pair of Jaybirds.  But, alas, this is not the case.  I can, however, give you an opportunity to win this fantastic prize pack from the folks at Jaybird.  Because they want you to try them as much as I do.  And you might as well look cool while you're doing it.  Here's the details.

JAYBIRD SPORT SWAG GIVEAWAY
#POWERYOURPASSION

The Jaybird crew sent me four prize packages to giveaway, two here on the RWM blog as well as two over at RWM on Instagram (@runningwmusic).  Feel free to enter on both.  Each has a unique Jaybird "RUN LIKE YOU STOLE IT" shirt, a water bottle and a spike bag.  To enter here, just comment below.  Tell us what your favorite running song is.  Tell us what your favorite dance move is.  Or just give us your name and tell us you want the Jaybird swag.  Though that's not nearly as fun.  Two readers will be picked via random.org both here and on Instagram on Monday, March 6th.  Thanks to the Jaybird Sport team for spreading the love with RWM.  Have fun and good luck!*

LISTEN TO THIS:
Hot Thoughts - Spoon

*note:contest is only available to US residents.  Sorry Sasha!