Thursday, November 20, 2014

WHY NOT?

"A coach is someone who tells you what you don't want to hear, who has you see what you don't want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be."
~ Tom Landry


Back in 2007, when I started training for my first marathon I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.  I had never run longer than 12 miles, I'd never eaten or drank anything mid-run, and I was still wearing cotton tees and soccer shorts for workouts.  Somehow I'd missed the memo that explained how pretty much everything had changed since I'd run in college.  Upon completing my first marathon, I realized I had a (pardon my French) shitload to learn.  The single cup of coffee and half of a Pria Bar that I'd eaten the morning of the race lasted until about mile 16.  After that, I started hallucinating and hearing weird voices.  Lesson one, must eat more food on race day.  This spring, I'll be running my 11th marathon.  Holy crap!  Where did the time go??  Over the years, I've done a lot of research and tried several different training plans to both improve my performance and to make the whole experience from day one to race day more enjoyable or....um....doable.  With the knowledge I gained along with a boat load of training, I have been able to bring my marathon time down quite a bit.  Obviously, I'm thrilled about that.  But over these past few years, as I've ramped up both my effort and my mileage, I've started to feel the need for outside support, for tips beyond what the magazines offer and, to be totally honest, for some simple words of encouragement to help lift my spirits when the training gets rough.  Last year, I started working with a coach.  Up until that point, I had always figured that only elite runners had coaches.  I was a working mom and running was just something I did on the side.  Why would someone like me use a coach?  To which I now would answer, why not?

W/ THE LHS XC SQUAD

I coach both high school girls and grade school girls (ages 7-12).  Running, in particular, can be really hard.  Especially for the younger girls.  They don't say it, but I know these kids appreciate coming to practice and not having to think about what they are going to do.   They just want to go.  And having a coach enables them to do this.  I have also seen the impact a few words of encouragement can have.  It's powerful stuff.  So, why would I not give myself the same option if it was available to me?

W/ THE EDGEHILL RUNNING CLUB

After my 7th marathon, I started to poke around and see what my options were.  Turns out, there are tons of running coaches out there and they work with athletes of all ages and abilities.  So, I decided to go for it.  I chose to work with Lowell Ladd of 2L Coaching.  I liked the fact that he was an experienced and competitive runner but also a working dad with 2 kids.  My relationship with my coach is pretty basic.  I follow his training plan, I log my workouts so he can check them out, and once in a while I check in via email or phone if I have specific questions or concerns or for a pre or post race discussion.  It's the perfect system for me, given my schedule.  No, I'm not an elite athlete.  But, I take my running pretty seriously.  I find that I'm always in need of some help, both mentally and physically.  And my husband, bless him, can only do so much.  That's where Coach Ladd comes in.  Here are some key reasons I like working with him.  Along with my workouts, he provides:

~ encouragement
Way to rock the workout.  It would certainly seem that your body had a lot more in it than you realized.  Sometimes the mind helps and sometimes it gets in the way.

~ pre/post race support
After today’s miles, the hay is in the barn and all you have to do is go out and crank out 26.2 on Sunday.  Easy enough, right?  I am sure you will do great.  Just relax, get through the early miles with as little thought about it as possible, and buckle down the last 10K.  Good luck!

~ accountability
Have you done today’s tempo run yet? Just wondering how that goes/went.  I know you were chewed up early in the week, but hope that the day off Wednesday allowed your legs to spring back.

~ freak out management
I know you were not sure about getting in much running this week, but the two runs Tuesday and yesterday were a good way to make sure you won’t lose fitness this week.  I hope you are enjoying extra time with your girls.

~ reassurance
You really rolled a strong 15 today for having to do it in the hot weather.  It certainly seems like you are in a good groove with the marathon training especially for it being summer and far out from the race.  Let’s keep it rolling!

As a runner, I have changed a lot since I started working with Lowell.  I have a new appreciation for the sport and for my own body and what it can do.  I work hard because I can see the results every time I race, regardless of my place or time.  I want to push myself because I know someone other than myself is expecting me to.  I like that.  It works for me.  So, yeah, I have a coach.  Go team!

Listen to this:
Ride - TV on the Radio  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

THE 'OTHER' PLAYLIST


Every time I run a marathon, right around taper time, I try to stop listening to my music.  Wait, what? Ok, this is only partly true.  As you know, it's border-line torture for me to run any distance without music.  Do I lean too heavily on it?  Perhaps.  Do I care?  No, I do not.  So, no, I don't really stop listening all together.  But I do lay off my current favorites.  I call it my music starvation period.  It's pretty tough, but it's totally worth it as I know how good those babies are going to sound on race day.  Back in 2001, right after I got married, I was re-bitten by the running bug after having taken some time off post college.  Since then, I've run 10 marathons, 12 halves, and countless 5Ks.  I have playlists for all of them.  And while I am constantly creating new lists with each new race and (eh hmmm) year that goes by, I never delete the old ones.  Many of my favorite songs make it on every list from year to year.  However,  some of my 'go-to's from back then...well, they just don't get the juices flowing like they used to.  But, they're still great songs.  Enter the taper playlist.  This is a group of gems that I have compiled over the years that are not on any of my current running playlists.  They may have stopped getting the job done back then, but since I haven't heard them in a while, I find that they have a new kind of zestiness to them when I listen to them today.  And we all know zest is good during taper time.  I make a point to not listen to this one until I enter music starvation period, thereby keeping it fresh and fun and guaranteeing that it will be a much-needed distraction.  Yes, I am a bit of a musical mad scientist.  I didn't create the flow chart in the photo up top, but I might as well have as my own would be of a very similar nature.  Hey, at least I'm just obsessing about music.  It could be a lot worse.  I got such a kick out this group of songs during my last marathon taper that I decided it was worth sharing.  Remember, I started compiling these babies when I was a young lass of about 25 years.  So keep that in mind as scroll through the list.  Listen to them.  Share them.  Laugh at them.  Enjoy them.  Do what you will.  And if you find your own 'go-to' in there, well hot dog.   Enough talk.  Turn it up!

RUNNINGWITHMUSIC: TAPER ON

Black Tambourine - Beck
Break It Down Again - Tears for Fears
It's Love - Chris Knox
A Little Less Conversation (JXL Remix) - Elvis Presley
Jump (For My Love) - The Pointer Sisters
Smooth Criminal - Michael Jackson
Let's Go Crazy - Prince
Optimistic - Radiohead
White Knuckles - OK GO
Teardrop - Massive Attack
Hung Up - Madonna
Too Fake - Hockey
Annie You Save Me - Graffiti6
Colorful - Rocco DeLuca & The Burden
Sweet Dogs - Trolle Siebenhaar
Spaceman - The Killers
Sometimes I Rhyme Slow - Nice and Smooth
Sweet Black Angel - The Rolling Stones
Maps - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The Great Defector - BellX1
Harold T. Wilkins - Fanfarlo
Take On Me - a-ha
Intergalactic - The Beastie Boys
Slow Dog - Belly
St. Petersburg - Brazilian Girls
Love You Madly - Cake
Let's Go - Eurythmics
Gangster Trippin' - Fatboy Slim
Love - G. Love
Better - Regina Spektor
(Nothing But) Flowers - Talking Heads
Elevation - U2
Block Rockin' Beats - Chemical Brothers
Parallel Universe - Red Hot Chili Peppers

Listen to this:
TAPER ON is available for your listening pleasure
below & on spotify.com  Rock on!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

THEY ROCK


Want to know what my high school cross country runners listen to to get pumped up before their race?  Who wouldn't?  These girls have been racing like nobody's business lately and I, for one, have been itching to know what gets them fired up before they get on the line.  So, yesterday after practice we put a badass playlist together compiled of all of their 'go-to' race day songs.  These are the songs that help get them in the zone, the songs that help them block out all the pre-race jitters, the songs that take them to the next level.  These are some seriously powerful ditties.  Once we had our list, I thought it would be fun to add a team photo to go along with it.  Our biggest meet of the season is upon us and we are all a little giddy at the moment, so I suggested we ham it up, get creative, do something other than the traditional arm-in-arm pose.  True, the jump shot is not that crazy, but sometimes the picture itself can end up being pretty awesome.  We lined up, grabbed hands, and went for it.

READY....
SET....
JUMP!!
Okay, so that didn't really turn out as we'd hoped.  But we all got a really, really good laugh out of it, which made it totally worth the effort.  Our final State meet is this Saturday at Franklin Park in MA.  This is it.  The big kahuna.  The one we've been training for all season.  The girls are nervous, wired, excited, exhausted, etc.  I am all those things and more.  Thankfully, we all still have a sense of humor.  In the end, we went with the traditional arm-in-arm pose because we basically ran out of ideas and everyone was ready to go home.  My team rocks.  Here's what they rock out to.

LHS ALL-STATE PUMP UP PLAYLIST

Alex, El, Hannah, Steph, Me, Emma, Olivia, Hayley & Paige

Hannah: Ugly Heart - G.R.L. 
Steph: Fairytale - Milky Chance 
Hayley: Anna Sun - Walk the Moon 
Olivia: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor - Beethoven 
Paige: Sometime Around Midnight - The Airborne Toxic Event 
Alex: Hall of Fame  
Alex: Show Goes On - Lupe Fiasco
Emma: Holding On - Flume
Eleanor: 300 Violin Orchestra - Jorge Quintero 
Grace: Wildewoman  
Lance: Laughter Lines - Bastille  

Oh, and then Grace came late to practice.  But, she loves music and wanted to add her song to the mix.  So, we had our assistant coach, Lance, who took the above photos, jump in with her for the final shot.  Because they rock, too. GO LEX!!!

Grace & Lance

Listen to this, too
Seeing Stars - BØRNS

Monday, November 10, 2014

RACE REVIEW: EMASS DIVISIONALS

"The achievements of an organization are the results of the 
combined effort of each individual."
~ Vince Lombardi


Last month I ran my marathon PR.  It was, hands down, one of my brightest moments as a runner.  I basked in the awesomeness of it all for a few days.  And then, it was business as usual.  My 9 year old still has a boat load of homework, my 7 year old, well, I'm still trying to figure her out, and both of my kids are still ridiculously busy.  But, here's the cool thing.  I also happen to be a high school cross country coach.  Every day I get to head over to Lexington and surround myself with a gaggle of high school girls who love to run.  It is truly the ideal job for me, though, if I'm being honest, it's not always roses.  Anyone who works with kids, especially girls, ages 14-18 knows what I'm talking about.  It's a tricky age for them.  And it's a really hard age for the rest of us to figure out.  It's all good, though.  The challenge is part of the fun.  These girls are like a second family to me. Just like with family, you embrace the good and you work through the bad.  And with each little breakthrough, whether it be physical or mental or both, I am reminded how lucky I am that I get to do what I do.  On Saturday, we headed off to Wrenthem, MA to compete at the Eastern Mass Divisional Meet, one of the two biggest races of our season.  We needed to finish in the top 4 out of about 15 schools in order to keep going on to the State meet.  Our team, particularly our top 10, is ridiculously strong this year.  We all felt pretty good about making it through and sealing a spot for States.  Beyond that, anything was possible.

STAYING WARM, TUCKING IN & WAITING
As we always do, we arrived a couple hours early, got ourselves situated and then we waited.  The boys team was running before us so we had more time than usual to relax or stress, depending on who you asked.  It was cold.  Really cold.  So the girls bundled up in layers and blankets and then packed themselves under the tent like sardines.  Meanwhile, a couple of the guys who had come along but were not competing decided to spice things up for us.  How, you ask?  By donning their yellow and blue nylon suits and cutting a mean rug.  No, really.

YELLOW? CHECK. BLUE? CHECK. MUSIC? CHECK.
GO LEX!
Was this odd?  Maybe a little bit.  Did we care?  Not at all.  These kids were at the meet by choice.  They were representing LHS, making an insane effort to have a good time and reminding all of us not to take things so seriously.  There were a lot of strange looks from people who walked by.  But there were also a lot of smiles and a few good chuckles.  Some even got the urge to jump in and dance with them.  It was awesome.  Finally, at about 12:45, it was time to get ready.  Each girl has her own set of rituals in terms of their race prep.  Some like more time, some less.  Some want to use the bathroom before they start, others like to wait.  Some of them like to listen to music.  Others like to be off by themselves in silence.  In an ideal world, the girls would all warm up together, but I've learned that it just can't always work this way.  So, off they went to do what they needed to do.  The nerves were in high gear, my own included.  We headed over the line and huddled up.  In so many words, I told the girls that they were 100% prepared for this moment, that they needed to trust their training, and then, when they felt ready, they needed to just let go and race with their hearts.  It's a lot to ask of these girls; to put everything aside and focus on just one thing, while knowing that this one thing is going to be unbelievably challenging.  As it turns out, every single one of them was ready and willing to step up to the plate and throw it down.  They raced like never before, as a team and for each other.  They ran as though it was the last race they would ever run, pouring everything into it.  And then, when they had given it their all, they dug a little deeper.  As a coach, it was just incredible to watch.  Running a marathon PR?  That was indeed a shining moment for me.  But, this race took it to a whole other level.  I wasn't actually the runner.  But, I was part of the equation.  And in this case, I was in it for them, not for myself which is a totally different racing experience and, in truth, almost more rewarding.  The love that flowed after the race was almost tangible.  We all quickly found each other, hugged each other, leaned on each other, cried with each other, and then, when the dust had settled, we gathered around for a final huddle.  "Coach," one of them said, "I think we might have won."  To which I replied, "Girls, I honestly don't care what place we came in.  I could not be more proud of how hard you worked out there today.  I asked you to give it your all and you gave me more.  I could see it on your faces as you ran by.  I could almost feel it.  You are all amazing.  And I can't thank you enough."

POST RACE W/ MY LHS CREW
About a half hour later, we learned that we did, in fact, win our race which made us the Eastern Mass Division 1 Champions, a feat that hasn't been achieved for the LHS girls team since 2001.  All of us were, for lack of a better word, freaking out.  Our shining moment just continued to get brighter.  We packed up and headed over to the awards ceremony.  We listened and clapped as they announced the top 15 runners from each race.  And then it was our turn.  I handed my phone to one of my runners who had been at the meet cheering us on and asked them to snap a shot of us with the trophy.  And she did.  But not before taking this shot with her buds because, well, you know, she had my phone.

AWARDS ARE COOL.  SELFIES ARE COOL, TOO.
EMMA, CAROLINE & STEPH
We work hard.  We have good days and bad days.  And we have a really, really good time.  Over the past 4 years at this job, if I've learned one thing it's this: the races, the PRs, the awards, they're all great; but the joy of just being together is truly what makes this sport so amazing.

Listen to this:
Fly With You - Far East Movement