Tuesday, July 26, 2016

RACE REVIEW: FNL USATF 10,000M

"Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience."
~ Paulo Coelho

Back in June, I got an email from my friend and SISU teammate, Matt G., about the upcoming Friday Night Lights 10,000M Championship, a USATF race that would be happening right down the street from me in Cambridge on the track.  There would be an elite race, an open race and a Masters race (40+), so something for everyone.  My last race on the track was a 5K at Colgate University in 1996.  Yes, my friends, 20 years ago.  When I read the email, my initial reaction was, Oooh, this sounds fun and different, perhaps I should give it a go.  No, for real, I said that.  Out loud.  (insert head scratch)  I'm currently training for a fall marathon so I emailed my coach to see if we could work it into my training.  He was all for it, letting me know that we could used it as a second workout for that week and agreed it would probably be exciting.  Super!  I went ahead and registered and then put it on the back burner.  And then suddenly it was July.  About three days before the race, which I would be running as a member of both the SISU Project and Skechers Performance teams, I got an email with the final heat sheets and race instructions.  Curious to see how I stacked up against my competitors, I opened it up to assess.  I saw seed info for four different races, none of which were labeled MASTERS.  Then, upon further inspection, I saw my name in the Women's Elite race....look closely, I'm down there at the bottom...seeded 19th out of 21.


After a brief moment of panic, I sent a text to my friend and Skechers rep, Dave Ames, who had been the one to register our team.
Me: Dave - what happened to the Masters Race?
Dave: There weren't enough Masters signed up.  You're with the Women's Elite race instead.
Me: Ummmm.  That wasn't the plan.
Dave: Relax, Trax.  You'll be fine.
Me: But....
New plan.  Instead of jumping into a 10,000M race with a handful of 40+ women to test my fitness and give myself a solid workout, I would now be running with a bunch of young fasties who were out for the win.  Oh, wait....there would be one other Masters runner in my heat.....I'd be competing against Sheri Piers, Olympic trials qualifier and one of the top Masters runners in the country.  That made me feel so much better.  Note the sarcasm.


The day before the race, reality set in.  Within 24 hours I'd be running 10,000M (25 laps) on the track, in mad, crazy heat and humidity, at age 41, with no music, at 8:30 at night, against (Sheri, aside) people half my age.  Holy.  Shite.  So, because I tend to expose myself and my running plans (both smart and not so smart) on social media, I posted the above photo up on Instagram and explained the situation.  As expected, I got some great feedback.  Friends, teammates and fellow runners threw out all sorts of comments to lift my spirits, pump me up and calm me down.  Things like:
  • Trust yourself.  You've got this!!
  • Enjoy the pain train and that awesome feeling of crossing the finish line!
  • You will do fine.  Just run your race.  
  • It's just an opportunity to show your fitness.  Enjoy every step!
  • Go crush it champ.
Actually, there were 51 comments in total; many of them funny (which I love) and all of them positive.  People are always asking me why I throw it all out there for the world to see when it comes to running and racing.  Well, this pretty much sums it up.  The support I get from friends, fellow runners, even strangers, is so priceless.  I ended the day feeling more excited than scared and ready for a personal challenge thanks to everyone's feedback.


The next day, I was up before 6am.  Remember, the race was happening at 8:30pm.  Holy.  Long.  Day.  I grabbed my foam roller, a cup of coffee and a NUUN and headed outside for some time to myself (translation - 30 minutes without my daughter yelling MOOOOOOMMMM).  The rest of the day pretty much went like this: drink water, rest, read, help Rosie pack for camp, drink more water, eat, rest again, go to the post office, stress, drink again and so on.  Around 3:00pm I checked the weather, hoping the temps were not quite as oppressive as they'd been at noon.  No dice.  Still 100+.  Awesome.


Finally, it was 6:00pm, and I hopped in the car to head over to Cambridge.  The temp gauge read 99 degrees.  Oh good, I thought, the temp has gone down a bit.  Again, sarcasm.  Seriously, though, I did wonder what the hell I was doing for the umpteenth time.  For a brief moment I considered calling my coach to ask him if this was a bad decision.  Why, I thought, was I doing this death march given that my goal race was a marathon in October and there was absolutely no way this race was going to help me for that.  But, alas, I didn't make the call.  I was running for my teams, and damned if I wasn't going to be on that line.  I parked, found the track and my SISU teammates and threw my stuff down with theirs.  My Skechers teammates arrived shortly after me, the one bonus of the day being that I knew all four of these gals through social media but had yet to meet them in person, so it was fun to finally make the connection. 

THE WAIT 

There were two races before ours so we sat and waited (I'm not religious, but I might have said a few prayers, too).  The sun was going down, so that was good.  The breeze had picked up a bit, which felt lovely; a very small but welcome bonus.  But, the heat and humidity were still high and thick.  Around 7:20, our crew headed off to warm up.  I won't lie and tell you I didn't feel pretty badass running beside my teammates in a Skechers race kit.  All three of them are younger and significantly faster than me but I still felt pretty damn cool.  

Karen, Me, Dave, Kelly & Sara

When we got back to our spot, I took some time to chat with a few SISU peeps who were spectating.  I asked both of them why they weren't racing.  One of them was just there to cheer on her boyfriend.  The other, a lovely gal named Ellen, said something like, well, I did this last year and came in last.  That kind of sucked so I didn't really want to put myself through that again.  Oh Lordy.  Knowing full well that would likely be my situation for this race, the only response I could muster up was, Oh.  On the outside, I tried to remain calm, on the inside, my level of panic was at an all time high.

OMINOUS SKY

Around 8:15 we made our way over to the start.  I tapped one of my teammates and pointed to the sky.  It did not look good.  The rest of the runners began to notice it, too.  Something was definitely brewing, not that any of us thought we wouldn't be racing.  We're runners.  Come on.  As we waited on the line, the race directors discussed the weather.  They finally made the call to delay the race start for 20 minutes in hopes that the storm would pass through or dissipate.  They told us to stay warm (not a problem) and check back in 15 minutes.  A lot of moans and sighs, even a little laughter trickled throughout the group as we headed back to our spots to wait.  For me, the delay was tortuous as I had been so ready to get things moving (translation....over with) and the fact that I had to manage my nerves for another 20 minutes just about did me in.  As planned, we made our way back to the line at 8:45 and, despite the fact that the storm looked like it was staying put, the officials made the call to get going.  It was now 9:00pm.  The gun blew and we were off.

THE LINEUP

THE RACE:
My goal for this race, which I had discussed the day before with my coach, was to run a steady 6:20-6:30 pace the whole 10,000M, hopefully coming in right around 40 minutes if not a bit under.  This would be tough for me, but it was a pace I am used to holding in my workouts, so it was definitely doable.  I had done a long run on Sunday and some mile repeats on Monday so I wouldn't be totally fresh, but, he reminded me, my focus should be on my marathon and this is just another workout, so I shouldn't go too hard or overdo it.  Our plan, of course, was made prior to knowing that it would be the hottest day of the summer to date in Boston on race day and basically went out the window as soon as that became a reality.  Given my seed time, I knew I would be at the back of the pack, if not last for most, if not all of the race.  It was fine, I had accepted my fate.  What I didn't want to happen was to get caught up in the fast-paced madness of the start and to crash and burn halfway through.  That would suck.  My first mile went fine.  6:18.  Right on target.  And, yes, last place.  As I made my way into the second mile, my breathing got monumentally harder and the heat smacked me like a fly swatter.  There were volunteers handing out water and wet sponges on the track so I grabbed a sponge and squeezed it down my back.  I hung on for that second mile, but just barely.  Mile 2:6:37.  As I started my 9th lap, things began to fall apart.  I was very far off from the rest of the pack and my brain was telling me that I should quit, that it wasn't worth it to keep fighting.  And I was listening.  I seriously considered dropping out at some point during mile 3.  But, somehow (I have no idea how) I managed to hold on despite my slipping pace.  Mile 3: 6:43.  By now, I'd been lapped by the lead runners and I was just holding on.  I was still in a major mental battle with myself over whether or not to step off the track.  Mile 4 was ugly.  6:59.  But, I had gotten through 4 miles.  Sheri Piers passed me a second time at this point and said something like, 2 miles to go.  Come on!  Bless her.  It was exactly what I needed.  I was going to finish this damn race come hell or high water.  I can't tell you how hard it was to hear my lap counter shouting 11 and knowing that the leader runners only had 9 left.  But, my pride was now on the line and even if I had to run an entire lap on my own, I was going to make it happen.  Mile 5 was done.  7:03.  At this point, I knew I was going to finish.  A huge wave of relief washed over me.  I might have even smiled at my SISU teammates as I ran on my own, the rest of the pack all way ahead of me, the winner already finished.  Was I embarrassed?  A little.  But I did my best to stay focused and just get it done.  Mile 6 was over.  7:03 again.  Final push.  On my own.  Just me and the track.  I made it.  Official finish time: 42:17 (6:48 avg).

FINISHING SOLO ON THE TRACK

Coming in dead f***ing last is a tough pill to swallow.  But, I was oddly okay with it.  In fact, there have been races where I've ended up on the podium but been more disappointed than I was last night.  I had run with the big dogs for the first time since I started running competitively.  That was huge and, for me, a real honor.  I had stepped outside my comfort zone, and even though it hurt like hell, there is absolutely no doubt that it made me stronger.  But, the victory for me was the fact that I didn't step off that track mid-race despite the fact that I wanted to more than anything.  Afterwords, my husband asked me if I was happy.  No, I told him, not really.  But, I'm really proud of myself for finishing.  And because of that, I felt really good.  Would I do it again?   No chance.  That said, it was an experience like none other for me, both as a runner and in life itself, in quite some time and for that alone it was worth it.  Just once.  But still.  Onward.

Listen to this:
Cold Water - Major Lazer

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

PRODUCT REVIEW & GIVEAWAY:MAMMA CHIA


Recently, I was asked to test out a few goodies from the Mamma Chia line.  Before they reached out to me I'd heard of the company but had yet to try any of the specific items from their line.  That said, I was somewhat in the know on chia seeds and the powerful punch offered in each little kernel --- rich in omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, thiamine and niacin --- so I was more than willing to try out a product that likely tasted good and offered a nutritional boost.  Because I was headed out of town when the shipment was due to arrive, I passed the 'test and review' job over to my friend and running teammate, Kirsten, who was more than happy to give them a go.  Specifically, I was asked to try the Cherry Beet Chia Squeeze and the Chia & Greens beverages.  Below is some specific info about each product provided by MammaChia:


​Cherry Beet Chia Squeeze combines the sweetness of organic cherries with earthy beets.  Chia Squeeze offers delicious fruits and vegetables in a convenient, fun and tasty snack that provides 1200mg Omega-3s, four grams of fiber, and two grams of complete protein.


Mamma Chia Organic Chia & Greens offers the most nutrient-rich green beverages on the shelf.  With one of the lowest calorie counts from sugar in the category, each bottle delivers 2500mg of Omega-3s, seven grams of fiber, four grams of complete protein, 25% RDA of Vitamin A, and 95mg of calcium.


KIRSTEN'S REVIEW
As a runner, I’m always looking for that special something to help me recover, to replenish my body after any given workout and to put that pep back in my step.  Oh and hopefully it’ll taste good.  So when Rebecca offered me the opportunity to test out two products from a Mamma Chia, I jumped on it.

I checked out the literature that came with the samples.  Cool story!  Mamma Chia was started by Janie Hoffman who had some health issues and found that adding chia seeds to her diet helped improve her overall health.  The website states Mamma Chia products “increase vitality, energy and strength”…??!!  Ummm, yes please.

I got the goods and since they came to me in a cooler, I immediately stashed them in the fridge. The next day I came back from a hot and hilly 8 mile run and grabbed the Kale and Mint Grateful Greens.  The first thing I noticed was how refreshing it was!  I will say that if you are particular about texture, this drink may take a little getting used to.  It is chock full of chia seeds and they end up with a filmy coating when saturated with liquid.  For me, this wasn't an issue as the delicious flavor of the drink far outweighed the impact of the texture.  It didn't hurt that I felt insanely good about pumping my body with all that nutrition post-run.  So, first test - two thumbs up.

The next afternoon, this time several hours after my run, I grabbed a Cherry Beet Chia Squeeze as a mid-afternoon snack.  YUM!!  Again, very refreshing and tasty.  And the cherry flavor was the perfect amount of sweet for me - not too much, but just enough.  The content is basically the same, but in a smaller portion size and a squeezable delivery.  Perfect if you need a quick snack on the go or something easy to fuel up with pre-run.  Second test - again - two thumbs up.

Would I buy these Mamma Chia products?  Absolutely.  Now that I've tried the drinks and squeezers, I'm eager to sample the bars and granola, too.  I think it's safe to assume that the rest of the Mamma Chia treats are as good as the ones I tested and knowing how good they are for me, I can't see any reason not to make them a regular part of my routine.

Top 3 Things I Really Like about Mama Chia
1. Get your power greens in a tasty format.
2. Great price point for a recovery drink (or an anytime drink!).
3. Mamma Chia gives back as a member of the organization “1% for the Planet”.

THE GIVEAWAY
Want to try Mamma Chia for yourself?  Yea, you do.  The company has generously offered to send out a sample pack of Mamma Chia products to one lucky RWM reader.  To enter do any or all of the following things (credit for each separate entry):
~ Comment below.  Tell us...what's your favorite post-run recovery treat?  Or just tell us that you want to try Mamma Chia, though that's nowhere near as fun.
~ Post the following to Twitter: I want to fuel my run with run with @MammaChia and @runningwmusic!  #seedyoursoul
~ Shoot me an email with Mamma Chia in the subject line and then provide a good joke in the body of the email.  Kidding, no joke necessary.  Just a quick hello is fine.
Many thanks to crew over at Mamma Chia for providing this awesome treat.

*Note: contest is only open to US residents.  Retail value of sample package is around $50.  Winner will be picked via random.org on Sunday, July 24th at the end of the day and announced on Monday.  Good luck!

Listen to this:

Feels Right - Joceyln Alice

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

RWR:MEET PRO-RUNNER & AUTHOR BECKY WADE



"It is such a positive and kind and quirky group of people that share this one thing in common, but [running is] such a powerful thing that it fosters instant connection. "I'm just very proud to be a runner."
~ Becky Wade

Having just spent last week glued to my computer watching live footage of the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials, I feel it's only fitting to feature one of the young women who toed the line with the best of the best for this next RWR interview.  Fortunately, for all of us, the one and only Becky Wade has agreed to step up to the plate.  Perhaps you saw her run, jump and splash her way through through the first heat of the 3000M Steeplechase on July 4th, one of the most challenging events on the track, in my humble opinion.  Or, perhaps you know her from one the many other roles she's had to date - Rice University NCAA superstar, winner of the 2013 California  International Marathon with a blazing time of 2 hours and 30 minutes, and author of the recent book RUN THE WORLD: My 3,500-Mile Journey through Running Cultures around the Globe, all of which have made a very large impact on the running world and beyond.  Regardless, whether you know her or not, she has a pretty incredible story to tell and I have a feeling we'll be hearing her name pop up a lot more as she begins this next chapter of her life as a professional runner.  I could spend a lot of time telling you about all the amazing things this ultra cool gal has done leading up to this point in her life.  But, I'd prefer to let her publisher provide the intro so that I can take the time to get a bit more personal as I know you're all eager to know which tunes get this young firecracker pumped up and ready to rock.  Seriously, though, I just finished Becky's aforementioned book and learning all the details about her solo journey around the globe kind of blew me away.  Not only do you need to grab yourself a copy of the book and settle in (for the record, I finished it in one sitting), but you just need to know this woman, who she is and all that she has done.  The crazy thing here being that she's really just getting started.  Huge thanks to Becky for taking the time to contribute to RWM.  She is so clearly a RUNNER WHO ROCKS.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
Fresh off a successful collegiate running career—with multiple NCAA All-American honors and two Olympic Trials qualifying marks to her name—Becky Wade was no stranger to international competition. But after years spent safely sticking to the training methods she knew, Becky was curious about how her counterparts in other countries approached the sport to which she’d dedicated over half of her life. So in 2012, as a recipient of the Watson Fellowship, she packed four pairs of running shoes, cleared her schedule for the year, and took off on a journey to infiltrate diverse running communities around the world. What she encountered far exceeded her expectations and changed her outlook into the sport she loved.

Over the next twelve months—visiting 9 countries with unique and storied running histories, logging over 3,500 miles running over trails, tracks, sidewalks, and dirt roads—Becky explored the varied approaches of runners across the globe. Whether riding shotgun around the streets of London with Olympic champion sprinter Usain Bolt, climbing for an hour at daybreak to the top of Ethiopia’s Mount Entoto just to start her daily run, or getting lost jogging through the bustling streets of Tokyo, Becky’s unexpected adventures, keen insights, and landscape descriptions take the reader into the heartbeat of distance running around the world.

RUNNERSWHOROCK:BECKY WADE

Name: Becky Wade
Where you're from: Dallas, Texas
Where you reside now: Houston, Texas
Age: 27
Occupation: Professional runner for Asics and author of Run the World: My 3,500 Mile Journey 
through Running Cultures around the World (HarperCollins)

Becky at Rice University

RUNNING & MUSIC
What do you love most about running? 
I love running for the never-ending challenges, clarity of thought, disciplined lifestyle, and quick, meaningful connections.

What do you love most about music? 
Music, like running, is a big outlet for me.  I get a similar feeling of release when I play the piano, and I also use music to calm me down, pump me up, and put me in a good state of mind.

Becky, mid-flight

BECKY'S FAVORITES:
Band (current, all time or both): The Black Keys
Album (current, all time or both): (lately) Oh Wonder by Oh Wonder
Race venueRice University, my home track
Music venue: Belly Up in Aspen, Colorado
Race distance: Marathon
Show you've seen live? Dr. Dog at Warehouse Live in Houston
Ice cream flavor: Chocolate chip cookie dough




THIS OR THAT
Sweet or salty: Salty
Live or recorded: Live
Coffee or tea: Coffee
Summer or winter: Summer





MORE MUSIC INFO:
Which band or artist would you go see tonight if you could? Bon Iver
Which band or artist (wait...but no longer alive or playing together) would you go see tonight if you could? The Jackson 5
Which band or artist would you like to have dinner with tonight if you could? Ben Harper
Which band or artist would you like to be playing alongside you during your next race (or long run)? Kanye West

THE JACKSON 5

LAST ONE:
Today, I feel like (complete the sentence)….
I’m ready to set new goals and return to the roads.

Top 5 Songs for running, dancing or both?
Rumble and Sway - Jamie N. Commons
One Dance - Drake ft. Wizkid & Kyla
Falling Star r3k Remix - Kid Cudi & Florence and the Machine
Beggin - Madcon
Dougou Badia - Amadou & Mariam ft. Santigold
Last 5 Songs you listened to today?
Greek Tragedy - The Wombats
Wolf Like Me - Lera Lee
Fader - Temper Trap
There Will be Time - Mumford & Sons & Baaba Maal
Lampshades on Fire - Modest Mouse

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

RACE REVIEW:MURDICKS RUN THE CHOP


For me, running is about freedom.  I find that the freer I feel, the faster I am.
~ Jennifer Beals


Back on July 4th, as I've done for the last 8 or 9 years, I got up early and headed over to Vineyard Haven for the Murdicks Run the Chop Challenge.  Some years I've gone solo. Others, my husband has come along and brought the kids to watch.  This year, we left the girls at home with my parents so we both could race.  In addition to a trophy (which my kids used to care a great deal about when they were little) the first place male and female winners are rewarded with a pound of Murdick's Fudge.  Yes, a pound.  Having won this race a few times in years past, my girls and their cousins were very aware of what I might be bringing home as I prepared to leave in the morning.  "Run fast, Mom!!" and "Bring home the fudge, Aunt Rebecca" were a few of the cheers I got as I headed out the door.  The pressure was on.

Max & Rosie back in 2013

Typically, it's sunny and hot for this race and this year was no different as it was already 77 degrees at 7:30am.  The one upside being that there was no humidity which, as you know, always makes a monumental difference on your performance.  I'll take it.  Jeff and I arrived early and easily got a parking spot at the school where the race begins.  I'll be the first to admit that I'm all about getting to races ahead of time, and I often take a lot of crap about it from my family, none of whom are serious runners, but rolling in with ample time sure as hell beats fighting the crowds for a spot and potentially missing the start (which happens often at this race).  We signed up and grabbed our shirts and then I let Jeff know that I was going to head out for a warm up.  I asked him if he wanted to join me.  His response?  "No, Rebecca.  I don't run before I run."  Fair enough.  I took off for a couple easy miles and asked him to meet me back at the car around 8:30 to ditch my layers and change my shoes (yes, I do that, too).  When I finished, I was soaked.  Literally.  Not surprising and somewhat humorous.  We found a patch of shade to do some stretching. In that short 30 minute window I met a lovely woman named Theresa, a fellow Oiselle teammate from FL and got to catch up with Eliza, a friend of ours from Colgate who we tend to see about once a summer when we're on the island.  I love that about races.  At about 5 minutes to 9, we all headed over to the start.  Before we took off, we heard from Mike Schroeder, owner of Murdick's Fudge and one of the nicest and most generous guys out there.


He let us know that this year's race held the record number of participants at 609, which increased overall funds raised to an all-time high of $17,840, all of which will go to the MV Boys and Girls Club and the Rotary Club of MV!  Big round of applause for this.  After Mike's words, the race director asked us all to join in in the singing of the National Anthem.  I can't remember the last time I did this at a race, if ever, but I thought it was so cool and surprisingly, we sounded pretty good together.  Finally, Mike gave us a Ready, Set, Go and we were off.  The five mile course is hilly and between that and the heat, I always find it really challenging.  Here's how it unfolded for me.

Mile 1: 6:16 - This mile starts off downhill and between that and the fact that I'm fresh, it's always my fastest.
Mile 2: 6:25 - This mile has both a dip and a rise in it, but neither are very intense and I was still pretty frisky so I didn't lose too much time.
Mile 3: 6:35 - This mile is all uphill.  It's brutal.  That's all I need to say, really.
Mile 4: 6:42 - This one starts with a rise which is the tail end of mile 3, and continues to rise slightly before a pretty significant dip.  Between the hill and the heat, this one is always the hardest.
Mile 5: 6:37 - The final mile is level for the first have and then finishes on an incline.  Somehow I managed to dig deep and find some gas for the final push.

Right after we crossed the mat, the EMT crew from MV Hospital handed us cold towels from a cooler sitting at the finish line.  This was new and there are no words to describe both how good that towel felt on my face and how grateful I was to those volunteers.  We were also treated to Popsicles, the old school cherry, grape and orange ones on a stick.  Nothing tastes better than one of these bad boys after a hot race.  Nothing.  The fastest I've ever run this course was in 34:00 minutes, so I was beyond thrilled to learn that I'd finished in 32:45 this year.  I was also relieved to learn that I was the first female across the line and thus would not be going home empty handed!


In all seriousness, though, I haven't been more excited about my race results for quite some time.  I've been a runner for years, almost my whole life, but it means something different to me at this stage in the game.  I have changed my approach to running and racing because I know, despite the fact that I'm getting older, that I still have so much more that I want to accomplish.  Working hard, pushing myself to extremes, training for marathons, running for teams, all of it brings me such happiness and joy.   There are days when I question my choices, when I wonder if all the hours I'm putting in are worth it.  And then I have a race like this one.  Despite having started doing this race "for fun" at age 32, I ran my fastest time ever this year, at age 41.  So, yes, all that work is, indeed, paying off.  The trophy and the fudge, they're awesome.  But the feelings I had after this race; the satisfaction of knowing that everything I'm doing is for the right reasons, well, you can't put a price on that. 

Listen to this:
Now Or Never - Saltwater Sun