Monday, March 21, 2016


Last fall I joined the SISU Project, a local team of die hard, dedicated post-collegiate runners of all ages and abilities.  The cornerstone of their philosophy is positivity and their two main messages are your goal is mine and we are all in this together - yes and yes.  I am definitely one of the more seasoned runners in the crew (translation-older), but then, age is just a number and we are only as old as we feel, right?  My dear friend and fellow runner, Kelly, who turned me on to the team, let me know that from a racing perspective, while many of these cats compete pretty seriously throughout the year on both the track and the road, I could get as involved in as much or as little as I wanted depending on my own goals and how they fit in with the group.  Perfecto.  Shortly after I joined, I reached out to a Amanda and Sumner, two gals who live relatively close by, and asked if I could meet up with them for some easy running.  To my delight, we jumped right in, hitting Battle Road together in Lexington and getting to know each other as we cranked out the miles.  For lack of a better description, at least for me, it was love at first run.  These ladies are warm, friendly, smart, energetic and even though I'm over a decade older than them, they made me feel like I fit right in.  From our first day on the trail, I knew that joining SISU was the right call for me.

post-run with Amanda & Sumner

As a team, the SISU Project participates in most, if not all, of the 6-8 races in the USATF-New England Grand Prix series every year.  Again, I was relieved when Kelly told me that I could do as many or few as I liked, so there was no pressure for me to feel as though I had to make every event, which is good because, with kids and a job, it would never happen.  The New Bedford Half Marathon would be one of the early races in the series and since it was happening after the LA Marathon, which I would run February, I figured I could make it my first race with SISU.  Given that it was only four weeks post-LA, it was a bit sooner to race than perhaps I would have chosen, but I still couldn't resist the urge to start running and hanging with this group, so I signed up.  Not surprisingly, I roped my bud and running partner, Kirsten, into joining me as she was training for a May marathon and a March half was perfect timing for her for a tune-up effort.  But, mainly because I wanted a wingman.  As most of you know, my main focus from November thru February was training for LA.  And while Kirsten's training wasn't as ramped up as mine since her race was in May, she was still putting the miles in so we did a lot of running together.  We also drank a lot of coffee together.  They go hand in hand.

post long-run with Kirsten

Since LA, I have been dragging big time.  It's no big shocker.  I put it all on the line out there.  And as a result, it's taking me a little longer to bounce back, which is fine.  The only issue being that as New Bedford was approaching, I was starting to feel less and less prepared to get on the line.  Meanwhile, Kirsten is now in the throws of her training, with her mileage up substantially and her exhaustion levels at an all time high.  She, too, was not sure what to expect as she had run a 20 miler on Monday and a very hard workout on Wednesday before the race.  Regardless, Sunday came and there was no backing out so off we went to brave the unknown.  We woke up to a beautiful and very, very chilly morning.  We had an hour + drive ahead of us and both of us needed to get a warm up in, so we left with plenty of time to arrive and deal without any stress.  Fortunately, it was a non-eventful trip and we pulled into the parking garage with a stream of cars full of runners both in front and behind us, around 9:30am.  We bundled up and headed over to the YMCA to grab our numbers and hit the bathroom. New Bedford is on the water and the wind was in full force, slapping us in the face the second we got out of the garage.  I tried to stay positive and made a comment about how beautiful it was out but Kirsten was all about calling a spade a spade, noting that it was really damn cold and windy.  Fair enough.  We grabbed our bibs and headed back to the car to ditch some layers and hit the road for an easy mile warmup.  I called Sumner from SISU, who had arrived right around the same time as we had, and told her we'd scoop her up at the Y as she needed to get some miles in, too.  I had brought a small, cheap pink fleece blanket to bundle up with until the start and then eventually ditch.  I ended up wearing it around my neck for the warmup, which looked ridiculous, not that I cared.  Finally, all three of us went back to the car again to get rid of more layers and agreed to meet at the start.  Around 10:45 we lined up in the chute.  We stretched a little, jumped around to stay warm and took the pre-race selfie which has now become tradition for Kirsten and I.

w/ Kirsten and my pink blankie

Kirsten's goal for this race was to test her training, run strong and have fun.  Mine was to shake off the dust from LA, try to relax, run hard and also to have fun.  After the National Anthem, a hug and a high-five, we were off.  Sumner is also training for a May marathon, so I had asked if I could possibly pace myself with her which she very happily agreed to.  It's a big race, about 2,500 runners, so from the get go we were bumping and weaving to try and find a spot and settle in.  My coach had advised me to stay in the pace range of 6:45-6:55 per mile so I worked to find that groove.  Within the first mile, I could tell that Sumner was feeling spritely and itching to fly faster, so I bid her adieu and did my best to hang back and do my own thing.  

And then the hills hit.  Holy crap.  For some reason, I didn't get the memo about how hard this course was.  At mile 2 we were climbing.  At mile 3 were climbing even higher.  What the hell??  I decided it was better that I hadn't known, told myself to buck up, put my head down and dug in.  From the elevation map above, it looks as though we could sit back and regroup for miles 7 - 12.  Ha!  At mile 7 we turned to run along the beach.  Cue the wind.  The gusts were cold and big and hitting us in the face for every single one of those miles.  Good, good times.  I found myself laughing as it was all  I could do.  From the beginning of the race my legs were tired and I had absolutely no pep.  After the hills, it was worse.  Again, I had gave myself a little talking to while I tried to chill out and embrace the run for what it was - a reentry into racing after a very hard effort in LA.  This helped and I cruised along not looking at my watch and just running by feel, doing what I could without killing myself.  I actually did have a little fun at this point, grooving to my tunes, throwing in some dance moves, high-fiving the crowd (which was awesome) and soaking it all in.  Finally, I got to mile 12 which was a solid climb to the finish.  Good grief.  Again, I was smiling, just giving it what I had and reminding myself that I was almost done, thank the Lord!  I rolled in at 1:30:19, a time that I was totally fine with given the course, the weather, and the state of my post-marathon body.  I found Sumner and we cooled down together and then I jetted to my car to grab some clothes.  Kirsten and I had made a plan to meet back at YMCA after we'd both cooled down.  As I was trudging up the hill to the garage, I heard Bec, Bec, over here.  I turned around to see Kirsten running toward me with an ear to ear grin and right away I knew something big had happened.  With all those forces working against her - exhaustion from training, the weather, the course, she still managed to crush it, setting a personal record by over 3 minutes. Beyond amazing.  I threw my arms around her and then grabbed a stranger and asked her to take our picture to capture the moment.

Finally, we made our way over to the Green Bean Coffee Shop to meet up with the rest of the SISU crew and grab some much needed post-race food and coffee.  We ate, drank, relaxed, met a bunch of new people, ogled over Matt and Kaitlyn's adorable baby, both SISU members, and then decided we needed to head back.  We had started our morning at 8:00am.  It was now 2:00pm and we still had a our drive home ahead of us.  Holy long one.... totally worth it.  My race went fine, but it was Kirsten's day and I was thrilled for her.  If I'm being totally honest, I won't say I wasn't a little disappointed in my own effort once the dust settled.  In the back of my mind, I'd hoped that I had a faster time in me simply due to the fact that I've ramped up my training and gotten a lot stronger over the past few years in general.  I expressed these sentiments to my coach and he responded with, Rebecca, all of your races serve a different purpose.  Today you ran a half marathon at your marathon pace just four weeks after a very big race.  It is exactly where you should be.  I'm happy and you should be, too.  Big picture, yes.  Be proud.  Be grateful.  Be happy.  Today, and every day, I am reminding myself that running is as much about recognizing our own efforts as it is about supporting the efforts of our friends and teammates.  And, yes, I re-read my last post, too....this time, for myself.  #TEAMBACON #SISUP

Listen to this:
Always/Never - DE & The Great Lakes

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