Tuesday, October 13, 2015


On Saturday afternoon, my good bud/running partner, Kirsten, and I headed down to Albany, NY for the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon.  I did this same race last year and it was one of my best marathon experiences, so I've been really fired up for round 2.  Kirsten had signed up to run it last year as well and then had to bow out due to a stress fracture in her foot which surfaced about a month before the race; after she'd done the majority of her training, of course.  That sucked.  So, this was going to be a big comeback for her and I've been as excited about that as I have for my own race.  Last year I ran a 3:11 on this course, my fastest time by 5 minutes.  My goals this year were A) Sub 3:10  B) Place top 3 in the Masters category (40+) and C) Just have fun and make the most of it.  In the beginning of this year, I decided, along with my coach, to ramp up my training with my A goal in mind.  On Saturday, I would be putting it all on the line after having worked my tail off for most of this year.  Needless to say, both Kirsten and I were nervous as hell.  We struggled to stay calm during our three hour drive down the MA pike.  Lucky for us, the fall foliage was at its peak and lovely to look at.  That was a bonus.


We arrived in Albany around 4:30pm and headed into the expo.  This is a small race, a little over 1000 runners, so we easily grabbed our numbers and shirts and then took a little stroll through the rest of the expo to see what was what.  About two minutes later, we were approached by some students of Albany Medical College who asked us to fill out a survey for a research project that they were doing on marathon runners.  Neither of us felt like we could say 'no' despite the fact that there were about five sheets of questions to answer and we didn't really want to deal in general.  But, we've been on the other side, having to ask for help for things like this in the past, so we decided to give them support.


After our surveys, we continued to stroll, looking at all the gear and collecting samples and cool giveaways (ie. rainbow highlighters) to bring home to the kids.  We made a quick stop over at Janji where we met and chatted with co-owner Dave Spandorfer.  I've actually done a couple blog posts and giveaways with these guys over the past few years.  It's a really cool company that does so much good for others and if you have the time, I'd recommend checking them out.  Kirsten bought a sweet t-shirt and Dave and I talked music.  And then we took a selfie.  I also ran into my friend and fellow Runner's World Loopster, John P. who would be running the half the next day as part of a training run.  He's coming back from an injury, too, so we talked turkey for a while and then wished each other good luck.


Shortly afterwards, Kirsten and I decided to head over to our hotel and settle in for the night.  We brought our dinner from home in fear of not finding a restaurant that would satisfy our needs.  So we dined on pasta, rice, potatoes and salad on our beds, while watching Iron Man and trying very hard to relax.  We eventually turned in around 8:30 as we had a 5:45am wake up the next morning and wanted to get as much sleep as possible.  If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that an 8:30pm bed time is not too far off from my norm, so I was sawing logs pretty quickly after we said good night.  At 5:15am, my lids popped open and my nerves kicked into high gear.  I started checking email just to keep myself busy while Kirsten slept a bit more.  Finally, we both got up and got ready to go.  Our hotel happened to have a Starbucks in the lobby which opened at 5:30am.  That was a HUGE perk.  We grabbed some coffee on our way out and then drove over to where we'd be getting on the bus to ride out to Schenectady, which is where the race was starting.  It was pitch black, very early, cold and damp, so we huddled into the seats together, sipping coffee, eating our bagels and working really hard to wake up.


The bus dropped us off around 7:15 and as we made our way over to the bag check area we were treated to the beautiful music of a bagpiper who happened to be playing next to a pond as the mist was rising up behind him.  That was pretty surreal.


As we always do, Kirsten and I used the bathroom about 5 times each.  We also did a little stretching and chatted as we waited.  Both of us had cold hands and feet and Kirsten generously donated her gloves when I let her know I couldn't feel my fingers.  She's the best.  Finally it was time to head over to the line.  We walked together, gave each other a few last words of encouragement, hugged and then lined up with our pace groups.  After the national anthem and a quick Ready, Set, Go we were off.  My plan, which I'd made with my coach the day before, was to tuck in with the 3:05 pace group for a few miles to see if I felt comfortable running at that speed and to hopefully get a sense of whether I could potentially stick with it.  Around mile 4, we made a turn to get on the bike path and the sun was just starting rise up over the Hudson.  The view was stunning and I took a moment to let it all soak in.  Funny, Kirsten, who runs with her phone, had noticed the same thing and took a picture while she was running.

(taken by Kirsten)

As I mentioned, I hopped in with the 3:05 pace group from the get go.  Our first mile was a 7:05, which was right on the nose.  But then the pacer picked it up to around 6:55 for the next few miles, which I didn't know at the time because I had decided to run by feel and not to look at my watch.  So much for that.  It definitely felt a little fast and for a while I wasn't sure if I could hold on with the group but I tried settle down and told myself to do what felt right and not worry about sticking with them if that didn't seem feasible.  I let them go and ran solo for a while, trying hard to just zone out.  I ate my first GU at mile 6 and got an immediate boost of energy, so I joined the group again and held tight.  The pacer was a very friendly and insanely energetic gentleman name Jamie.  He was pretty chatty at first, and despite his efforts, I couldn't really engage as I was too focused on maintaining my pace and focus.  He was incredibly supportive, often filling us in on our progress and helping us navigate the water stops.  I started to feel a certain level of comfort by running next to him and this worked in my favor for miles 6-12 which were all in the high 6s or low 7s.  Again, I didn't know this at the time, but checked my splits after the fact.  In hindsight, if I'd known I was pushing the pace, would I reigned it in?  I'm honestly not sure.  We hit the half at 1:31, which was a little faster than we needed for our 3:05 goal, but still pretty close.  Nice work, Jamie.  At this point, I'd just taken my second GU and my body was responding well, so I began to pick up the pace.  My thought was that I'd just go on without the group and fall back if it felt like it was too hard to hold on.  But, things were clicking really well and my miles were ticking off smoothly so I rolled with it.  The half is a little early to switch gears and in looking back, perhaps I unleashed too early, but it felt right and I decided at the time that the risk was worth it.  Miles 15-19 were all in the 6:40 range and by mile 20 I really started to feel it in my legs.  Holy shit they were heavy and each rotation felt monumentally harder than the next.  I began to worry that I wouldn't be able to hold steady for the last 10K.  This is when I started talking to myself.  I don't remember the specifics, but it was something like, there is NO way you've worked this hard to peter out now.  You can run a 10K in your sleep.  And you've held on for much longer than this in your workouts.  You need to dig in now, Rebecca and do what you know you are capable of.  I've never eaten more than two GUs during a marathon, but I was a little desperate for fuel so I grabbed a third at mile 22 and sucked it down.  That was hard as it didn't go down very smoothly.  I could sense that miles were getting slower at this point.  And even though I was holding steady in the low 7s, I felt like I was running 9s because of how tired and heavy my legs were feeling.  I refused to look at my watch and focused on trying to catch up to the people in front of me.  Miles 23 and 24 were brutal.  But, once I hit 25, I knew I had it locked in.  I caught up to a girl and passed her in the final mile, but she wasn't having any of it and came back and passed me in the final stretch.  Kudos to her!  I had nothing left in me to fight it out and I didn't care.  I was done.  My watch said 3:03.  I wanted to scream.  But, that would have been akward, so I didn't.  I made my way over to the bag check and grabbed my stuff.  I sought out my dear friend and Oiselle teammate, Mollie, who I knew had just run the half.  I found her nursing her 3 month old with a medal around her neck.  WHAT??  Yes, she's insane and such a badass.  I walked over to the results booth to get my official time.  I stood in front of the computer and read the screen which said 3:01:47.  Again, WHAT??  I didn't believe it.  I asked them to check again.  Same time.  I still didn't believe it.  I told Mollie I was going to try to track down the girl who came in right before me and check my time with hers, but I couldn't find her.  So, I went back to the results booth and stood in front of the computer again.  The people behind the table were like, weren't you just here?  I told them I wanted to see it again.  It was the same time.  The lady who was working the computer and now seemed a little annoyed, told me to take a picture so I wouldn't have to keep coming back, so I did.

(note: my final time has changed 3 times since I finished. Still waiting for the official result)

As you can imagine, I was FREAKING out.  Never in a million years did I think I could pull this off.  All my hard work over the past year had come to fruition.  I was totally beside myself.  I grabbed some chocolate milk and headed back over to Mollie to catch up with her and spend some time with baby Natalie.


Then I checked my watch and realized that Kirsten would probably be rolling in soon, so I made my way over to the finish line to see if I could catch her.  I found John P. again and chatted with him about his race, which he was pleased with given that it was 13 miles of a 16 mile training run.  And then shortly after we said goodbye I saw Kirsten cruising down the final stretch with a huge smile on her face.  She claims she doesn't remember smiling, but I happened to catch it on camera.


I grabbed her and hugged her.  I might have cried.  She'd done it.  Fought back from an injury and taken it down.  And she'd run a time that she was very pleased with, to boot.  Amazing.  We slowly ambled to grab her bag and chill out for a bit so she could recover.  I introduced her to Mollie and got to hold little Natalie for a while as Kirsten made some phone calls.  Then we just sat and soaked in the awesomeness of the moment.  Finally, once we were as ready as we could be after having just run 26.2 miles, we headed back to our car.  We took a quick photo by the river because we were both elated and it was just so damn gorgeous.


And then we headed home.  We made a few stops for food and bathroom breaks and we battled some bad traffic so it took a long time to get home.  In the beginning of the trip, it didn't matter because we were still so excited.  By the end, we were starting to lose it.  After 3+ hours in the car, we were itching to move and everything hurt.  I dropped her off around 5:00pm.  Her family was there to congratulate her and I got those warm, fuzzy feelings all over again.  There might have been another tear.  We said our goodbyes and I rolled over to my house.  My girls were down the street with my husband and some friends playing soccer, so I just sat on my front porch and did nothing but breath, relax, and smile.  It was a really nice moment.

The love and support that poured in from my teammates, my friends, and especially my family throughout this whole training cycle up to the race itself has been incredible.  My husband is the trooper of the year and my kids are close behind him.  I'm not paid to run, but it's something I need to do and even though my training takes up so much time, none of them question it.  Ever.  And that is such a gift.  Am I already thinking about my next race?  Hell yeah.  But, I'm also basking in the glory for a little while longer just because I can.  This.....among so many other reasons...is why I run.

Listen to this:
BELIEVE - MAPEI or listen w/  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Longest. Day. Ever.

So, I'm tapering.  And despite the fact that I'm this is my 12th marathon, the process remains as brutal as it was the first time around.  Even with 2 busy kids and a job, I have way too much time on my hands.  I'm also wound up like a top due to my lack of mileage.  I suppose this is the point of tapering.  And hopefully it will pay off on race day.  But still, I always forget how brutal it is to get through.  Take yesterday, for example.  It was excruciatingly long.  Here's how it played out.

5:15AM  Woke up (no, this is not normal.  It only happens when I'm nervous)
5:15-5:45  Willed myself back to sleep. (no dice)
5:45  Made coffee  (aka the nectar of the Gods)
6:00  Let the dogs out.

6:15  Went downstairs and cleaned the basement (long overdue)
6:45  Walked the dogs.  (no, they don't typically get 2 walks before breakfast.  At least someone benefits from this taper thing)
7:00  Watched a little news (Is Biden going to run or not??)
7:15  Made lunches. (didn't realize it at the time, but I accidentally put both sandwiches in Rosie's lunch.  Still hearing about it from Grace)
7:30  Woke Rosie & Grace up for school
----> keep in mind, I've now been up for over 2 hours.  My girls were like...Mom, what is UP with you?
7:30 - 8:00  Pushed through our standard morning chaos (which included, but wasn't limited to, breakfast, missing homework freakout, rainbow loom bracelet making, minor hair crisis, no clean socks, etc.)
8:15  Dropped girls at school.
8: 30 Headed over to my neighbor's house to use her washing machine bc it's bigger than mine and I had a huge comforter to wash. (also long overdue)
8:45  Stared longingly out the window as I checked email and mourned the fact that I didn't have a run on my schedule on quite possibly the most beautiful day ever.
9:00  Reorganized and updated my marathon playlist and wrote some letters to family and friends.  (no, really.  Actual handwritten letters)

9:30  Texted my bud/running partner, Kirsten, (who's also tapering) and told her I desperately needed something to do.  Thankfully, she understood and invited me over for lunch.  
---> So, I now had 2.5 hrs to kill.  What to do?
10:30  Headed to Toys "R" Us to buy a baby gate to put across our stairs so my 14 yr old lab doesn't try to come upstairs anymore bc it hurts her hips (Sniff. Sniff.  Have been putting this off for over a year)
11:00  Grabbed a few groceries and some sandwiches from Whole Foods.
12:00 - 1:00  Chatted, ate lunch, and hung with Kirsten.  Also bought some wrapping paper from her son, who is selling it for his school fundraiser.  
1:15 - 2:00  Reorganized my own and my daughters' closets.

2:05  Got guilted into buying MORE wrapping paper from my neighbor's daughter.  (yes, I am a sucker)
2:15  Grabbed another coffee from Peets.  Just because.

2:30  Headed to work.
3:00 - 5:00 XC practice.
5:30  Grabbed my clean comforter from my neighbor's machine.
6:00  Worked on XC lineups for our two upcoming meets and helped Rosie and Grace with homework.  (usually, these tasks are tedious.  Last night, I was more than happy to do them)
7:00  Enjoyed dinner with the family. (burgers and fries.  Mmmmm)
8:00  Watched an episode of the Last Man on Earth. (because 8:00pm was just too early to go to bed.  Not that I didn't consider it)
8:30  Read to the girls (we're finishing The Secret Garden.  Oldie but goodie)
9:00  Read some of my own book.
9:30  Lights out.  FINALLY

It was, hands down, the longest day ever.  And today?  Today I got to wake up and do it all over again.  Awesome.

Listen to this:
Quarterback - Kopecky  or listen w/

Monday, October 5, 2015


"I am still learning."
~ Michelangelo
at age 87

Next week, barring any issues, I'll be running my 12th marathon.  In many ways, I have this whole training thing down to a science.  It's typically a four month cycle and while I do make small tweaks here and there, I rarely deviate from my standard routine.  You know the saying....if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  My workouts are basically the same (long runs, intervals, hills, track), I tend to use the same fuel (Picky Bars, NUUN, chocolate milk, coffee), and I always wear the same clothes and shoes (Oiselle, Skechers, Feetures).  This week, however, I've been reflecting on my past race experiences and I'm realizing that while much of my training typically does stay the same, there have been quite a few changes over the years, too.  I started running marathons in 2007 when I was 32.  Back then, I was running just for the hell of it; because I thought the marathon was a bucket list item that I wanted to cross off and be done with.  Today, despite the fact that I'm 40 or maybe because of it, my passion for running and racing has increased tenfold.  My goals are a bit loftier and my commitment to the sport is stronger than ever.  At the same time, over the past 8 years my body and it's response to running has changed quite a bit, my kids have gotten older and so much busier and my life, in general, is significantly less predictable and more chaotic.  So, I continue to do what works.  And I do my best to recognize what doesn't and embrace whatever changes need to be made so that hopefully it can.  In the end, we learn from experience and every single one of my marathons has presented something new.  As long as I continue to do them, I'm guessing this will always be the case.  Thank goodness.


~ I need sleep. Lots of it.  And a hell of a lot more than I used to.  My 32 year old self could run, work, parent and then head out with friends for a night on the town.  My 40 year old self, not so much.  I can't train, much less function as a mom or coach when I'm running on fumes.  It's a recipe for disaster and a sure fire way to get sick.  

~ Recovery is critical.  I can no longer run 20 miles, jump in the shower and then throw some food in my mouth as I drive to work.  I need to allow time to cool down, stretch, roll, re-fuel and then do all the other stuff required of me.  If I don't, I pay.  Big time.

~ Food is my friend.  I absolutely have to eat breakfast and often a second breakfast before heading out for a hard workout or long run.  Coffee and a GU no longer does the trick.  If I don't get fuel in me, my body will literally shut down mid-run.  And that sucks.

~ It's okay to try new things while I'm training.  Case in point, I used to use vanilla GU only during my training and on the race course itself.  And if I didn't have it or couldn't get it, I would freak out.  This time around, I've tested at least 10 types of mid-run fuel.  GU, RunGum, Chews, Chomps, candy, all of it.  The beauty of this is that my stomach can now handle almost anything.  Thus, if I'm out of something at home (which happens a lot lately) or out for a run in a new location, I don't have to panic.  I can literally grab almost anything and I know it will work.

~ My kids are starting to get it.  At ages 10 and 8, they now understand, to some degree, why running is important to me.  Instead of giving me a hard time about leaving or not being able to make it to something because of a race, they send me off with good wishes, hugs and high fives.  When I come back, they ask how it went.  They're not always there in person.  I don't ask that of them or my husband these days.  But, they are there in spirit, as I am for them.  And that makes such a difference for me.

~ A long run is just a long run.  I used to dread the long run.  I built it up to this monumental hurdle that I couldn't possibly get over.  By the time it was time to head out, I'd be miserable before I even started.  In my last few training cycles, I've done multiple 20+ milers.  I wouldn't say I love them now, but I do get so much more out of them.  Because, really, when you break it down, the long run is just another run.  Sure, there are more miles to tackle, but the joy of running is still a big part of the run.  And when I look at it this way, I find myself looking forward to them which makes them a hell of a lot easier.  Sort of.

~ Just run the mile I'm in.   In the past, I would head out for a 10 mile tempo run and find myself thinking about miles 8,9, and 10 while I was running miles 1, 2 and 3.  As a result, some part of the workout would always suffer because of my lack of focus on the present.  This time around, I've learned to take each workout, break it up in pieces, and focus on the mile I'm in.  Because of this I've noticed the quality of work and my general enjoyment of each workout has increased dramatically.

And finally, I also learned that when my iPhone's camera lens is dirty because it has fallen on the ground and I have failed to take good care of it, it takes really cool photos. (see top photo of my glowing sneaks)  Who knew??  

Listen to this:
3AM - RAC (feat. Katie Herzig) or listen w/ 

Monday, September 28, 2015


Edgehill Running Club
Last year I started a running club for the girls in my neighborhood and their friends.  We meet down at the middle school track every Sunday during the fall and do a quick and easy workout together.  The girls range in age from 8 to 12, so their levels of ability and stamina are all over the map.  And this is totally fine.  Ultimately, what I'm trying to do is teach them to love the sport and all it has to offer physically, socially and emotionally.  I don't want them worried about their pace or what place they are in.  The goal is to build their strength over time while boosting their confidence along the way.  And, of course, to do it while having as much fun as possible.  As these girls start to enter into the middle and high school years, I know from experience that life starts to get significantly more intense and often overwhelming.  Running can be such a positive outlet for them during this time.  It definitely was for me and it's a big reason behind why I wanted to start the club.  My daughter, Grace, who is 8, is one of the younger girls in the group.  Last year, she kind of giggled and shuffled her way through practice each week, not really caring or paying attention.  Unless she was causing a distraction, I just let her do her own thing.  The fact that she was down there with us was enough.  This year is a bit different.  She's a little older, a little more into sports and a little more aware of her ability as an athlete.  She's still silly, often asking to do things like run her final lap karaoke style, but she's finishing the workouts and doing them right, even focusing a little, which is really nice to see.  But, while I know she loves being there with her friends, I can safely say she's not very into the whole running thing.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I signed the whole family up for the Glen Doherty Memorial 5K.  Doherty grew up in Winchester and, among many other things, served in the military as Navy SEAL.  Sadly, he was one of four Americans killed in a terror attack in Benghazi, Libya.  The charity was created to aid in providing current and former special operations professionals, from all branches of the government, the means necessary to transition and succeed in civilian life.  We explained it to our girls and told them it was something we felt good about being a part and that we wanted to do the race together as a family.  Grace grumbled and mumbled about it, telling us she didn't want to do it, that she couldn't run more than a mile, that she didn't even like running.  We nodded and told her we understood and that she was going to do it anyway.  True to our word, Sunday morning, we all headed downtown to the race....together.  Originally, the plan had been for me to run with Rosie and Jeff to walk/run with Grace.  When we got down there and started putting on our bibs, Grace decided she was going to run with me instead.  Really Grace?  You sure you want to do that?  Because if you're going with me, we're going to do the whole thing, no complaining.  Are you game for that?  Yeah, yeah. I'm sure, she claimed.  I didn't believe her, but I decided to roll with it, at least for the beginning.  We lined up at the start, listened to announcements and a very endearing version of the national anthem and then we took off.  Grace grabbed my hand, overwhelmed by the crowd, and started running.  It's definitely a bit tricky to hold hands and run, but shortly after the start, she let go and cruised ahead.  And then she kept cruising.  I didn't have my watch on, but I knew she was going too fast.  She was trying to keep up with Rosie and her friend Carly and they, too, had started off pretty fast.  Girls, I yelled, do you think you can hold this pace for the whole thing?  You might want to ease back a bit.  Not surprisingly, they ignored me and kept running.  Grace started to ask me when we would get to the first water stop.  She probably asked me about 10 times and I continuously told her it was "just up ahead".  I had a feeling that once we stopped for water, we'd be walking.  I was quietly hoping the complaining wouldn't start up at that point, too.   Just after mile 1, she grabbed some water, had a sip and poured the rest on her head and then she raced off again.  I was floored.  Wow, Grace.  You are rocking this.  I think you can run the whole thing.  Maybe you can even place in your age group.  I told her.  Now, I know this goes against what I said above about learning to simply love the sport and not focusing on whether you win or lose.  But this is a kid who admittedly doesn't like running and didn't want to race, so I thought it might be just the motivator she needed to push on to the finish.  She looked up at me with big eyes REALLY?? And then we had the following conversation for the next half mile or so:
Grace: Wait, Mom, have you seen a lot of other 8 yr olds running?
Me: I really haven't, Grace.  You are definitely one of the younger ones in the group.  You might even get a prize.  
Grace: If I win my AG will you buy me a toy giraffe?  
Me: No.  
Grace: Why not?  
Me: Because that is ridiculous.  
But a kid is a kid and I didn't want to completely burst her bubble so I offered her ice cream instead and she was happy with the compromise.  At this point we're almost to mile 2.  We grabbed more water, she took a sip and poured more on her head and then we were off again.  Meanwhile, I was thinking, holy crap, Grace has run 2 miles without stopping except for water.  And I'm trying very hard not to show how stupidly excited I am for her.  This is the home stretch, Grace.  We just have to run around the green and back to the town hall and we're golden.  You ready to finish strong?  To which she replied.  I can't be stronger.  My legs are too tired.  I chuckled.  Ok, Grace.  Let's just finish.  We can do it.  Finally, we rounded the corner and we could see the glittery pom poms of the Winchestser cheerleaders at the finish line.  Grace picked it up and bee lined it in, crossing the line in just under 30 minutes.  It was amazing.  I hugged her and told her, again, how fantastic she'd done and how proud I was of her.  She was tired, but she was smiling and I could tell she was really excited.   Rosie and her friend Carly rolled in shortly after Grace and me and we all grabbed snacks and drinks and then sat and relaxed in the shade, the post-race bagels and granola bars being almost as good as the race itself.  The girls were talking all about the race, how hot it had been and how their feet "felt like they were burning at the end".  My favorite line of the day came from Carly who claimed,  It was so cool.  At the end  of the race I felt like I was flying.  That gave me chills.  We eventually learned that Grace took 2nd in her age group which she was very pleased about.  We stayed until the end so she could grab her award which happened to be a pint glass.  It's a bit of an odd choice for a kid's prize but she didn't care.  She'd earned it.  Later that evening, during dinner, I asked her whether she was psyched to try racing again.  Her response?  No, mom.  It's way too tiring.  That made me smile.  But, as she drank her water from her prize winning pint glass, touching it every once in a while just because, I couldn't help but think that this was just the beginning.

Grace, age 8
Final time: 29:25

Listen to this:
Up Up Up - Waters or listen w/