Monday, October 16, 2017

RACE REVIEW:MOHAWK HUDSON 26.2



How did expectations get so high
Got a wicked thirst to feel alive
~ Sir Sly


On Sunday, October 8th, I ran the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon.  It was my 18th rodeo.  My main goal was to come in under 3 hours.  And, as many of you know, it's a goal I've been chasing for a few years, now.  My training for this one, while more intense than ever, went incredibly well.  The week before go time I was both physically and mentally ready.  My coach and I spoke over the phone on the Thursday before the race.  Yes, I was excited.  Yes, I was ready.  And, yes, despite all my efforts, I knew there was absolutely nothing I could do about the weather.  The forecast called for rain, heat and high humidity; quite possibly the worst conditions to race in.  As he always does, my coach gave it to me straight, Well, Rebecca, it's not looking good.  You might be able to squeak in under 3, but given the situation, particularly, with the humidity, which is just so tough to battle at full speed, it's not very likely.  I'm sorry.  We can control so many things going into these races.  But the weather is the one variable that is out of our hands.  I knew he was right.  But, I still had three days and a lot could happen with the weather in that time.  Spoiler alert....it didn't.  I did my best not to stress about it (very hard) and attempted to stay positive (even harder).  This would be my third time running the Mohawk Hudson.  I was headed back because it's an awesome race, it's easy to get to, it's a super fast course and, usually, it presents perfect fall weather.  Usually.  Kirsten, my good bud and running teammate, would be joining me as well.  Here's how it all unfolded.


Kirsten & I celebrating after our final long run.
(note the humidity)

On Saturday the 7th, I scooped Kirsten up around noon and we made our way down to Albany.  It's about a 3 hour drive and despite a bit of traffic, we made it to the expo without incident.  With only about 1200 runners, the Mohawk is a relatively small marathon and thus has a similarly small expo, which we actually appreciated since we were arriving pretty late.  We grabbed our numbers and shirts and then bee-lined it back to the car as we hadn't been 100% sure that our parking spot was legal.  From the expo we made our way over to the Hilton, which was the official marathon hotel.  As it turns out, the hotel workers union was on strike due to a contract dispute and many of the employees were picketing in front of the hotel.  Think megaphones and a giant blow up pig wearing a tuxedo and smoking a cigar (I guess this was "the man").   It was quite the scene.  We walked to the door and heard someone shout, Hi ladies.  Are you here for the race?  We nodded yes. Well, you should consider a different hotel as we will be picketing here all night and we don't plan to be quiet.  Awesome.  Clearly we had no other options at this point so we just went inside and prayed for thick walls.  As it turns out, the picketers would end up being the lesser of two evils.  Two weddings were taking place at the hotel and the wedding guests would be the ones who woke us up in the middle of the night.  Whatever.  It's always something.


We got into our room and set ourselves up for the night and the following morning.  If you remember from my last marathon, we had a bit of a coffee fiasco.  Never again.  Kirsten and I both brought our Bobble Presses (easily, the best invention since sliced bread) along with an electric kettle in order to make our coffee.  Only took me 10 years to figure this one out, but I finally nailed it.  We ate some dinner, which we had also brought from home, watched a movie (Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, random but funny) and did a little reading before turning off our light around 8:15.  Despite hoping and praying, the weather forecast hadn't changed.  I won't lie and tell you I wasn't bummed to know what we were heading into.  But, with Kirsten's help, I continued to try and stay upbeat about the situation.  As I mentioned, we were woken up around midnight by the wedding guests who were telling each other how much they loved each other multiple times.  Touching?  Yes.  Annoying?  Also, yes.  Then we were up for good at 5:15.  It was a really nice, stress free morning for a change.  We got changed, drank coffee, and took our time before heading down to the lobby.  When we opened the door to walk outside we were hit with a wall of warm air.  Added bonus?  It was windy.  Good, good times.  We hopped on the bus at 6:15 and headed out to Poughkeepsie, which is where we'd be starting.  We arrived with about an hour to spare and found a spot under a ledge to hang out as it had started to rain.  We started chatting with the couple next to us, Matt & Eliza, and ended up hanging out with them for a good half hour.  We dove right into conversation, learning about where everyone was from, where we grew up, our college experiences, our future travel plans and so on.  We all agreed it was one of the most mellow and enjoyable pre-race sessions that any of us had ever had.  Around 7:45, Kirsten and I said goodbye to our new friends and went to check our bags.  By now it was raining heavily and all we could do was laugh.  We took our traditional pre-race photo, hugged and wished each other good luck.  And finally, at 8:00am, we were off.
  

THE RACE
Miles 1-5 (6:50, 6:47, 6:35, 6:44, 6:44)
As I lined up, I was still hopeful, if only a little, that I could eek out a sub-3.  I was thinking we might get lucky and that the rain could potentially cool things off once it ended.  Miracles do happen.  My goal pace was 6:50/mile, but my coach had recommended that I go ahead and bank some faster miles in the beginning just in case the weather turned South as the day went on, which is what it was predicted to do.  Once we got going, I could feel the heat immediately and got pretty nervous.  But the rain on my skin was helping to keep things cool-ish, so I settled into 6:45 pace and just rolled with it.

How I felt I looked to the race spectators.

Miles 6-11 (6:43, 6:49, 6:44, 6:42, 6:44, 6:40)
For these next few miles, I was with two men who were holding steady at 6:45.  They seemed to know each other and were chatting comfortably, (damn them) so I just sat on their heels and held on, which they didn't seem to mind (bless them).  Around mile 8, a spectator told me I was the 7th woman.  There was a small pack in front of my group and I could see that 3 of those women were in that crew.  So, I decided to surge, see if I could catch them and potentially overtake them.  It was a risky move and I knew it.  But, I also knew that we were all likely to suffer down the line given the conditions.  So, I figured I might as well do what I could at the moment and then hope I could hold on after the fact.  By mile 11, I was alone and in front of both groups.  At this point, my music started going in and out because the rain was getting my iPod wet.  In fear of losing power, I took the iPod out of my pocket and held onto it in an attempt to keep it dry.  Within minutes, it slipped out of my hand and I had to stop, turn around and grab it, which totally sucked.  I also noticed that my shoe lace had come undone so I stopped again to deal with that.  During this madness, I was passed by 2 of the 3 gals that I had just overtaken, which was a bit of a blow.  I worked to re-gain my composure for the next couple minutes and then pushed myself to catch back up with them.

Just keep swimming

Miles 12-18 (6:50, 6:52, 6:50, 6:40, 6:41, 6:39, 6:36)
We a had slight uphill at mile 12, so I powered up it and was able to get back out in front of both packs a second time.  After that, I tried to stay calm and just hold on.  The rain had stopped by now and the temperature was steadily rising.  I could literally feel the heat on my skin.  I was taking 2-3 cups of water at each stop, but the stops were about two miles apart and I was really struggling during those stretches where there was no fluids available.  It was around this time that I realized that my goal pace was no longer in the cards for the remainder of the race.  The heat was oppressive and I knew that I had pushed the limit up front so there was a good chance I would have to slow down.  I could feel a shift in my breathing and my body was starting to ache from head to toe.  But, I was hoping that my early surge had given me enough of a gap to keep my second place position.  At mile 17, I crossed the train tracks and flew down hill to then turn onto the street and into the wind.

PAIN TRAIN

Miles 19-26 (7:03, 7:08, 7:23, 7:18, 7:39, 8:00, 8:10)
These miles were clearly the hardest to get through.  Miles 19-22 were directly into the wind and we were sharing the road with cars.  I was totally alone and my motivation to hold pace was slipping.  There was a lot of swearing here...at the wind, the heat, Mother Nature, my hair, which was sticking to my face.  Basically anything that I could curse, I did.  My thirst was unreal and my body was starting to fall apart because of it.  I couldn't take down any more gels in fear of throwing up.  But, I felt that I was in need of something, ANYTHING, to help keep me going.  It was touch and go for a while.  Finally, at mile 23, I wanted to stop so badly that I forced myself to slow down enough that I wouldn't have to.  While my mind was now playing tricks on me, I was lucid enough to know that stopping would be the kiss of death.  I was also sharp enough to realize that placing was still viable as long as I could hold on.  After the road section, I hopped back on the bike path for the final stretch.  People kept telling me I was still holding onto second, which was enough to keep me moving if only slowly.  During this section I saw both my Oiselle teammates, Erin & Rachel, and my Skechers Performance teammate, Karen B., who looked at me dead on and said Come on, Rebecca, you have half a mile.  Let's go.  I can not tell you how powerful her words were.  They were all I needed.  Well, that, and some water.  But, I finally could see the finish line and I was pretty sure I was coming in solo which meant I'd been able to hold onto second female.


It's kind of hard to tell but I was actually smiling when I crossed the finish line.  And it was definitely not because I was happy with my time. Oh, no.  I was way too out of it at that point to give a crap about my time or even know what it was.  I was smiling because never in my 10 years of marathoning, I have never been happier to be done with a race.  No joke.  The pain I felt from exhaustion and dehydration was like nothing I've experienced to date.  It was a complete and total breakdown during that last stretch.  Every step hurt.  Every mile felt like a million.  And, despite my burning desire to quit, I somehow managed to pull myself through.  So, yeah, that was why I was smiling.  That, and I might have still been laughing about the weather.  Who knows for sure.  


Shortly afterwards, Rachel found me sitting solo in the finish area.  She wrapped me up in a hug and told me how proud she was of my effort.  I've met this woman a handful of times but she's part of my #runfamily, if you will, so she knew what I'd been going for.  I was pretty emotional at the moment, so I was more than thrilled to see her and so appreciate of the hug.  I have since thanked her for being such an amazing, supportive teammate that day.  But, Rachel, if you're reading this, thanks again, you're the best.


I was very pleased to have earned a spot on the podium given the battle that I had fought.  It definitely made things easier to digest and added some unexpected joy to an otherwise tough day.


Just before the awards, Eliza and I had found each other and were hanging out together, commiserating a bit and laughing at the madness of it all.  She was trying to find Matt and I was looking for Kirsten, who, as it turns out, had also run into each other post-race and were hanging out in a different area.  We all agreed to keep in touch and try to visit if we were in each other's neck of the woods.  It was a real treat to hang with these guys both before and after the race.  I know I say this all the time but runners are just such good people.


An hour or so later, Kirsten and I finally got going, slowly making our way back to the hotel for a shower and a quick power nap before we had to hit the road.  On our way out, we stopped at Stacks Espresso, owned by my dear friend Erin, for iced mochas.  Oh my.... there are no words to describe that deliciousness.  Just, if you are in the upstate NY area, Stacks is a must.  Later in the day,  I got two messages that really resonated with me.  The first was from my friend and fellow coach, Bill Babcock, who said, A little advice from someone who focused on the marathon.  Every marathon you run from now on is going to shorten your competitive career.  Stop chasing the dragon and enjoy racing shorter races and racing more frequently.  The dragon here being the sub-3, obviously.  I understand where he's coming from.  At some point you have to think long and hard about whether it's still worth it to hold on to a dream that you may or may not reach at such a cost to your body.  Particularly if it brings you down physically and emotionally every time you try.  But, then, shortly after that I got a message from my friend Matt who said, You always remember the rough ones a little more fondly.  They really help develop grit for the next breakthrough.  Bill is wise and I will likely heed his advice at some point in the next couple years.  But, my dragon and I?  We've got one or two more breakthroughs ahead of us.  The chase won't last forever but we're both good for a few more rounds.  At least, I am.  To be continued....


Listen to this:
Shake the Fire - Sampson

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

RWR:MEET ANTHONY & THE MIGHTY

“Reimagining the music player for the streaming generation.”
~ Time Magazine

Last Sunday I ran my 18th marathon.  I'm still processing and not quite ready to share that story.  But, what I will tell you is that my iPod Nano cut out on me about 8 miles into the race because it was getting wet from the rain.  I took it out of my pocket and attempted to dry it off.  Then I decided to hold it from that point forward so I could try and keep it relatively dry.  Around mile 12, I dropped it and the on/off button broke.  No more music.  As I ran, I attempted a reset (holding down the play & on/off button at the same time).  I'm guessing I looked pretty odd as I held my iPod in both hands while rolling through the half marathon.  Thankfully, I got it going again, but the whole process put a serious ripple in my flow.  Today, I can no longer depress the on/off button.  I have no idea if it will work again but it's not looking good.  Which is why this post is both timely and fitting.  So, read on, my friends.  Because if you're a Nano or Shuffle user or you run with any type of music player, I'm a about to rock your world.


Recently, I learned that Apple would no longer be making the iPod Shuffle or Nano.  For years, the Nano has been my preferred music listening device, primarily because of its size but also, more recently, because of it's Bluetooth functionality.  So, as you'd imagine, I was slightly devastated to hear this news.  I'm not a fan or running with my phone.  For one, it's big and heavy.  And secondly, I like to disconnect from the world when I'm on the road, to feel unattached, if you will.  So, carrying a phone makes that tough.  Over the past couple months I've been doing some product testing over at Jaybird Sports.  After my latest round, I jokingly reached out to one of the development guys who works there and told him that I needed him to come up with a new Nano option that would work with my Freedoms.  To my surprise and delight, he got back to me right away with this.... Hi Rebecca, do you use Spotify? If you do you might wanna check out the Mighty.  Well, as it turns out, I do use Spotify.  EUREKA!!  This, I thought, could be the answer to all of my problems.  Or, at least, my running with music problems.  I immediately reached out to the folks over at Mighty and asked if I could give their little gizmo a go.  To my good fortune, they got back to me and let me know that I could, indeed, try it out, but also that they would be holding a killer running contest around the same time I'd be testing and that perhaps my readers might like to get in on the fun.  Yes and yes.


HOW IT WORKS
The Mighty comes with the player itself, a charging cable and a very simple set of instructions.  They really couldn't make it much easier if they tried.  First, you plug the Mighty in and let it charge for an hour.  After that, you'll need to download the Mighty app.  You'll also need to get Spotify Premium in order to download your playlists.  I already have this and if you don't, I highly recommend it as it's basically like having an entire music library at your fingertips for pennies.  For music lovers, it's a no brainer.  Once your Mighty is charged, you'll need to go through the set up process on your phone to both connect it to your network as well as download some of your favorite playlists.  After that, you're ready to rock.  As I mentioned, I run with Jaybird wireless headphones, which can also be synched up with the Mighty.  I took this little bad ass gizmo out for its first spin last week.  Like the Nano, it's light as a feather and fits easily into my pocket or clips on to my shorts.  I picked a playlist and took off.  I might have been smiling through my entire first mile, which I'm sure looked ridiculous.  I couldn't help it.  I was just so pumped to have found a new product to replace my Nano and the fact that it was so simple to set up and use kind of blew me away on the spot.  So, yeah, I'd highly recommend grabbing yourself this square of joy.  They come in orange, black or white (I went with orange), holds up to 1000 songs and has a 5 hour battery life.  The retail value is $85.99 but I'd pay a hell of a lot more for it.


RUNNERS WHO ROCK
Now that you know about the product, let's meet the chief gadget geek (his words) behind it all.  Very excited to introduce you to Anthony Mendelson, the Mighty founder and CEO.  He's a runner, a music lover and in my humble opinion, a game changer with this small but "mighty" device. Today, I can rest easy knowing that the Nano is no longer being made.  The Mighty has quickly moved in and taken it's place.  Once you've met and learned more about Anthony, read on for details about the insane giveaway that his company is hosting at the moment and click on the link to enter.  Okay, I think that about covers it all.  Let's meet Anthony, a RUNNER WHO ROCKS.

RWR:ANTHONY MENDELSON

Name: Anthony Mendelson
Where you're from: Napa, California
Where you reside now: Venice, California
Age: 33
Occupation: Gadget geek
Blog/website: www.bemighty.com

RUNNING & MUSIC:
What do you love most about running? 
The euphoric feeling when you really push yourself.  Running away from stress and being in nature.
What do you love most about music? 
It’s the most exciting and fun form of creative expression on earth.


Big Boi & André 3000 of OUTKAST

ANTHONY'S FAVORITES
Band (current, all time or both): Outkast
Album (current, all time or both): Aquemini
Race venue: Fog City 5K in San Francisco
Music venue: Fox Theatre in Oakland
Race distance: 5K
Show you've seen live? Wu-Tang in 1997
Ice cream flavor: Rocky Road






THIS OR THAT?
Sweet or salty? Sweet
Live or recorded? Recorded
Coffee or tea? Coffee...for sure
Summer or winter? Summer





MORE MUSIC INFO:
Which band or artist would you go see tonight if you could? Kid Cudi
Which band or artist (wait...but no longer alive or playing together) would you go see tonight if you could? Tupac
Which band or artist would you like to have dinner with tonight if you could? Bob Marley
Which band or artist would you like to be playing alongside you during your next race (or long run)? Outkast


The Legend, Bob Marley

LAST ONE:
Today, I feel like….(complete the sentence):
I need some DayQuil



Top 5 Songs for running, dancing or both?--> Running
Kanye West - Power
Mos Def - Ms. Fat Booty
Kendrick Lamar - Backseat Freestyle
Naughty By Nature - Hip Hop Hooray
Jay-Z - Public Service Announcement

Last 5 Songs you listened to today?
Travis Scott - Butterfly Effect
Roy Woods - Instinct
Neil Frances - Dumb Love
Theophilus London - Last Name London
Son Little - Your Love Will Blow Me Away




Listen to this:
Hip Hop Hooray - Naughty By Nature


** ENTER TO WIN A RUNNERS DREAM BUNDLE ** 

Mighty is currently hosting a killer running contest with a bunch of tried and true (and, in my case, well-loved) running companies.  The bundle includes a fresh pair of Saucony Liberty ISO shoes, CLIF Bar goodies, Jaybird Wireless X3 Headphones, a Mighty Spotify music player, stylish Goodr running glasses and a registration for a future Rock 'N Roll Marathon.  Total value is $700!  Click here to enter.*
*Note: this contest is not affiliated with RWM


**NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.
View complete Official Rules which govern this Giveaway.

Monday, October 2, 2017

GROUNDHOG DAY

"The idea that..."  Mr. Murray trailed off as he paused to collect his thoughts 
"The idea that we just have to try again.  We just have to try again.  
It's such a beautiful, powerful idea."
~ Bill Murray


Mohawk Hudson - 3:04:05
Los Angeles - 3:05:29
Wineglass - DNS
Philadelphia - 3:08:29
Sugarloaf - 3:00:16
Mohawk Hudson - TBD

Two years ago, I lined up in Albany, NY for my 13th marathon.  Everything changed after that race.  And yet, at the same time, a lot has stayed the same.  It changed because I saw something new in myself and in my ability as a runner.  Just a little flash; a small dose of "what if".  It stayed the same because my drive to keep going along with my desire to be better; those have never wavered.  This Sunday, I will try again.  I will run my 18th marathon.  I will try to hit my goal, to break 3 hours, for the 5th time.  Why?  Because there is something in me that craves the challenge.  Because years ago I told myself I couldn't do it and at that moment, I believed it.  Because each time I've gotten closer to making it happen, I've proved myself wrong.  Because I want, no, I need to show myself and anyone else who is interested or who might feel the same way that I did, that there are no limits and that there is always a way.  And because, no matter how hard it is, no matter how many times I want to quit, no matter how much I want to curse this crazy sport, I still f***ing love it.  Because, in the end, regardless of the outcome, trying again is such an incredibly beautiful and unbelievably powerful idea.

Listen to this:
Feed the Beast - ARIZONA

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

WHY I FLY


Back in 2012, I joined Oiselle because I'm a relatively competitive runner and I wanted to be a part of team.  My passion for running and racing was becoming a big part of my life and I was seeking out a group of people who could relate and who potentially shared similar goals.  At the time, we were a smallish group of about 50 women and my love for both the team and the company was instant.  Over the past few years, the Oiselle team, now called the Volée, has expanded and changed quite a bit.  There are over 1000 women on the team now and it is open to anyone out there regardless of pace, age, shape or size.  It's different, yes, but it's also fabulous in a new way.  And what I've come to realize is that my role on the team and my connection with my teammates has stayed strong and continued to grow regardless of the size of the team.  Today, five years later, I still find that being a part of this "bad ass lady gang" continues to fulfill my needs; first and foremost as a runner, but even more so as a mom, coach and woman in general.  My Oiselle teammates, both new and old, are some of my dearest friends.  I don't see a lot of them as often as I'd like, but my connection with them remains tight despite this.  The bottom line is this, when you join the Volée, you are joining a family, and regardless of whether you stay on the team or choose to move on, family is forever.  Back in August, owner Sally Bergesen, wrote a blog post on why one might want to become a member of the Volée (link here).  Her reasons make complete sense and I share a lot of them with her.  But, I have quite a few of my own, as well.  They may not be the reasons that drew me in, but they are undoubtedly the reasons that I continue to stay on year after year.  And sure, some day I'll probably move on, we all will, but what we've created here has impacted my life in a way that words can't describe.  And for that, I will be forever grateful.  #wingsout

10 'OTHER' REASONS TO JOIN THE VOLÉE

1. You don't need new running clothes, particularly hoodies and other such casual items. But you want them.  And you want to discuss this with others who feel the same way.  My friend, Richarda (second from left), and I have an ongoing chat about it.  Our categories are strongly thinking about it, need to see it on a friend first and no question, have to have it.  You can guess which one we land on the most. (Jay Ericson, if you are reading this, I'm sorry.)


2. You like to laugh out loud every, single day, and more often than not, at nothing in particular.  There are a few gals on the team who I can text at any given moment and, without fail, they will crack me up.  Jungle Chicken, Nicole F., Richarda, Beth, Ashley....to name a few.  But the list is long.


3. You have strange food cravings at 10 o'clock at night and want to discuss them with others.  Not only will your teammates appreciate your situation but more often than not they have been there themselves.


4. You're not sure whether you should keep a new item of clothing, Oiselle or non-Oiselle alike, and want feedback from anyone who has an opinion, good or bad.  Take the new sleeveless vest below, for example.  A little random and while Kara Goucher can pull it off, I was doubtful.  So, I threw it out there for others to decide.  Even Kara herself chimed in on this one.  For the record, I kept it.  I know, shocker.


5. You love an impromptu girls night out, coffee date or dance party.  I can pretty much drum up a group of three or four MA birds (there are 175 of us!!!) on any given night of the week for a burger and a beer.  Actually, Dana (far right) and I prefer to share a bowl of gnocchi, but you get the gist.


6. You like to be reminded that you're a badass, that you can do it, whatever "it" may be, and that no matter what happens, you still f***ing rock, on a regular basis.  Enough said.


7.  You’re weird and a little crazy and you’re proud of it.  This one really relates specifically to me.  But I know there are others out there who feel the same way.  Sasha Gollish and I made this connection instantly.


8. You're an avid couch surfer and/or you like opening your door to friends who do the same.  Though Ashley and I prefer to share a bed.  Always have.



9. You want your friends to reach their goals as much, if not more so, than you want to hit your own.  Because there is truly nothing better than seeing those you love succeed.  


10. Everywhere you go, you’re always looking for a wingman.  As a member of the Oiselle team, you are 100% guaranteed to find one.



#OISELLEMARI

Listen to this:
Running Away by Royal Foundry

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

RACE REVIEW:WILMINGTON 13.1

Yesterday I was scheduled to do one of my last hard workouts for this training cycle.  Along with a warmup and cool down, I needed to run 14 miles at my goal marathon pace, which is 6:50 per mile. (gulp)  We've had a string of hot and humid days up here in the Boston area and as of last week, Monday was looking no different.  Because of this, I was a little stressed about when and how I was going to get this puppy done.  Given the heat, I would likely need water.  On top of that, I wasn't sure where I could get 14 miles in straight through without having to cross streets and avoid cars but the dreadmill was out of the question.  Add to that my current level of exhaustion, which is at an all time high, and I really didn't think I could pull it off.  Once that doubt seeped in, I couldn't shake it.  But, at the same time, I had to get it done, because, you know, no excuses and stuff.  I needed to come up with a plan B.  Pronto.  So, I got online and googled half marathons in MA on September 9/17 and to my good fortune the 13th Annual Wilmington Half Marathon popped up.  I immediately emailed my coach to see if I could swap out my workout for this race, where I could essentially do the workout but in the company of runfriends and with water stops.  He told me he'd originally wanted me to get a tuneup in before my marathon anyway so this would work perfectly.  Done and done.  I can't put into words how relieved I was.  Races can be stressful and nerve-wracking but knowing that all I had to do was show up and run it as a workout and that I would be supported along the way was huge.  I'd be able knock this final MP workout off my list and carry on with my training.  On Saturday, I emailed my coach for a quick check in regarding my pace plan:
Hey Lowell,
I've been so tired this might not even be an option but, if I do have some extra energy can I push the pace on Sunday or should I stick with 6:50?
Thanks,
R
Rebecca,
Get a few miles in at 6:50 and see how you feel.  I'm not against you going faster but only if you are under control.
~Lowell
Stay in control.  Got it.  No problemo.  Let's do this.


As expected, it was hot and humid on Sunday morning.  But, unlike most race days, I wasn't stressed out about it since I wasn't going for broke.  I said goodbye to my family and headed over to Wilmington, which is a short 15 minute drive from our house.  Closest race ever.  Major bonus.  The race was set to go off at 10:00am so I left around 8:30, making it over to the start easily with plenty of time to deal.  I grabbed my bib and shirt and turned to throw my stuff into the car when I bumped right into my friend, Michelle, one of my Oiselle teammates from NH who was also using this race as a tune up for a marathon.  It was so nice to see a familiar face as I rarely go to races solo and felt a little weird being there without my training partner and wingman, Kirsten, who had family obligations over the weekend.  I headed off for my warmup just as the cars started flowing into the parking lot and the runners along with them.  When I got back I was totally soaked through.  It was at this point that I realized things could get ugly given the weather, but it was out of my control so I tried not to think about it.  I haven't raced in a while and even though I was under no pressure to perform, my nerves were still kicking into high gear.  I sent Kirsten a quick text knowing that she would likely help calm me down.  It's not a race - it's a training run, she said.  Yes, I know.  I responded.  I took a breath, shook it out and walked over to the line.  There were about 400 of us lined up at the start.  The 5K crew would go first and the half marathoners after them.  You can see in the photo below that I'd succeeded at calming down and was feeling nice and relaxed at the start.  Never happens.


THE RACE:
Miles 1-3 (6:47, 6:42, 6:41)
The sun was starting to bust through the haze just as we lined up so the temperature went up about 10 degrees as we waited to head off.  I laughed a little.  Turned up my music.  And then we were off.  I wanted to ease into goal pace and give it a few miles before I tried to switch gears.  My first mile was right on target (6:47) and I was feeling good.  I did my best to hold that pace without focusing too much on my watch.  Miles 2 and 3 were a little quicker than I had planned but I was hanging with a group of 3 other runners and felt like we were well matched so I just zoned out a bit and let them lead.
Miles 4-9 (6:27, 6:33, 6:24, 6:37, 6:43, 6:32)
For this next section I decided to push things a bit.  I knew the temp was only going to go up and figured I would bank some faster miles early if I could.  The course had some rolling hills so, again, I just focused on how I felt and didn't worry too much about mile pace.  I had my watch on average pace at this point and I was hovering right around 6:37, which felt good.  I was definitely feeling the heat and making sure to take water at each stop both to drink and to pour over my head.  We wove through a lot of small neighborhoods and had to follow cardboard signs with arrows on them as people weren't out at all the turns.  I did have a couple moments in here when I was solo and had to ask the people who were out on their lawns if I was still on the race course.  These smaller races can be tricky for that reason.


Miles 10-13.1 (6:45, 6:45, 6:47, 6:40, 6:09)
About halfway through mile 10, I was cruising along when I saw a construction worker walking up ahead.  He kept turning his head and looking back at me, which I thought was odd.  Finally, he stopped and said The race doesn't go in this direction.  You're running the wrong way.  To which I replied, OH, SHIT!!!!  I made a hard turn (see photo) and headed back and as I did I saw some of the racers taking the left that I had missed.  Mentally, this was a real blow.  I lost my flow and had to work to find my pace again which was really tough to do given how tired and, now, frustrated I was.  For the record, I would have kept running into the sunset by myself if that guy hadn't been there so I owe him, big time.  My only saving grace was that I now had less than three miles to go, so I told myself to just dig in and get it done.  I was having to focus really hard on the race signs from that point on as I was nervous that I would miss another turn.  That kind of sucked, too.  But, at the same time, it's good to have these challenges thrown at you because, as we all know, no race ever unfolds perfectly.  Finally, I turned to the finish and crossed the line in 1:28:24.

Note: My O top was given to me by my friend & #sisterhero, Sasha Gollish
I was trying hard to channel her awesomeness. Really, I just look like a dork.

The finish was a little anti-climatic for me after the chaos of the final 5K.  But, I was still happy to be done and to have run a decent time despite the situation.  I chatted with a very nice gentleman named Dave for a while and we ended up cooling down together.  Gotta love the running community and the insta-friend vibe.  At this point, it was hot as hell, I was wiped and I was ready to get out the hell out of dodge.  Before I took off I grabbed a quick photo with Michelle who I was happy to find and hang with in the finish area for a bit.


As I made my way over the parking lot I texted my coach to give him the play by play.  I let him know that I'd done what I'd hoped to accomplish but that the missed turn had really messed me up and to be honest, annoyed me.  His response was exactly what I needed to hear.

Rebecca,
If the splits tell the tale, then you probably left 30 seconds out there on the course with the wrong turn.  Maybe more.  Doesn't matter at this point, since you got the win and a good workout.  I think I have said this before, but anything faster than goal marathon pace when you are at this point in the training cycle is a good effort.

Right.  Eyes on the prize.  I'd run a good race.  I'd stayed in control until things got out of control.  I reigned it back in.  And I finished.  That's all that mattered.  There was no need for me to focus on this effort as my big race is yet to come.  So I went home and got ice cream with my family, easily moving on and more than ready to finish off this training cycle.  Three weeks to go.  Stay tuned.

Listen to this:
Wake Up by Fialta

Friday, September 8, 2017

EASY 8


For this particular training cycle which, as you probably know, has been a whopper, I've come to appreciate and even to look forward to the 8 mile recovery day.  It's my "easiest" day of the week and usually falls on Tuesday, after my long run and occasionally on a Saturday during a pull back week.  Regardless of what state I'm in, this workout is both mentally digestible and physical manageable. And given the intensity of the rest of my training lately, along with the typical chaos of my life as a mom and coach, it's one of the few days that I know I will have little to no problem getting through.  It's like a gift, really.  One that I no longer take for granted and happily milk for all it's worth, which as it turns out, is a lot.  Below is a list of all the amazing things associated with the easy 8 mile recovery day.  I'm already anticipating my next one....4 days, 2 hours and 38 minutes from now.

TOP 10 REASONS TO LOVE THE EASY 8 


1. The weather doesn't matter.  It can be hot, humid, snowing, or pouring rain.  They're all brutal but for an hour and change I can handle any of it.
2. I don't have to get up at the crack of dawn to make it work.  I can even take my time getting ready and enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee before I head out.  Added bonus, my girls are usually still sleeping when I get home which means no one needs me.  Yet.
3. There is zero planning involved.  I don't need to map out a route the night before, don't need to make sure I can get water along the way, don't need to create a new playlist for motivation.  Heck, I can even run without music for about an hour if necessary.  Not that I do.
4. It's the perfect mental break.  Just enough time to clear my mind or zone out but not enough to start questioning what I'm doing and why.  (you can imagine the conversations I have with myself on a 20+ miler)
5. It's the lowest amount of mileage I can comfortably do without needing food before I go.  Sounds ridiculous, but it's a nice bonus.  Goes back to #2 and the fact that I don't need to get up extra early and #3 in that I don't need to plan out a pre-workout breakfast the night before.
6. I can always get it done.  I can wake up sore and tired (happens often) and/or totally unmotivated (happens daily) and I still know that I can eek out an easy 8.  Knowing is half the battle.
7. There is no gear necessary.  I don't need anything beyond my shoes, to get through it.  Case in point, last Monday night I forgot to charge my watch.  Typically, this would result in a freak out if I have a hard workout or long day ahead of me.  For the easy 8, it doesn't matter as I can almost do this run with my eyes closed at this point.
8. I can function quite well for the rest of the day.  I'm able to shower (rarely happens right after a run), do a bunch of errands, maybe even eat a meal sitting down, then get through XC practice and make it home to my girls with enough energy to pretend like I'm normal.
9. Pace doesn't matter.  I can bring Clover along, I can stop and smell the flowers, heck, I can skip if I want to.  This objective of this run is to flush my legs from all the hard work of the day before or from the week in general.  That's it.  If you see me dancing on the road, it's probably a Tuesday.
10. I can drag almost anyone along with me.  My running partner, my sister-in-law, my dog, my daughter, my LHS athletes; someone is always up to joining me for a recovery day.  Maybe not for the whole thing, but easily for 4 or 5 miles.  And it's always nice to have company.

Train hard.  Dream big.  Run easy.  #EASY8

Listen to this:
WAIT! by Common Deer

Friday, September 1, 2017

PASSION, PURPOSE & MAGIC

"Believe in your heart that you're meant to live a life full of passion, purpose, magic and miracles.” 
~ Roy T. Bennett


In a less than six weeks I'll be running my 18th marathon.  I've thought a lot about what to write in this post.  Things like, never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd still be at it all these years later.  Which is true, but I probably started saying it around marathon #5 and have declared it every year since.  And things like, I've trained harder for this one than any of my others.  Also true, but I've definitely said this every time since marathon #12, maybe even before that.  I can't remember.  And it doesn't really matter.  When I ran my first marathon, it was to qualify for Boston.  When I ran my first Boston, it was to cross it off my bucket list.  When I ran my next three Bostons there was no real reason other than the fact that I had qualified and I live here and it's freaking awesome.  For my sixth marathon, Providence, I was ready to try something new.  I trained a little differently, or I should say, took it a little more seriously, and I got better results.  And I was thrilled.  I loved the feeling of racing stronger, of having more to give and of crossing the line with a whole new sense of accomplishment and pride.  After that, everything changed.  I decided to make training a bigger priority and to see where I could take it.  Every race has resulted in something different.  Joy, pain, sadness, doubt, anger; all these emotions and more have surfaced over and over again.  And here I am today, 9 years later, still at it because despite all the ups and downs, I love it.  I love the process, I love the races themselves, I love it all.  Yes, there are moments along the way that I hate it, that I want to quit, where I find myself wondering what the hell I'm doing.  But my passion for running and my love of racing always comes through in the end.  And until it doesn't, I'll stick with it.  In the fall of 2015, at age 40, I finished the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon in 3 hours and 4 minutes.  To say I was shocked is an understatement.  I checked and rechecked the results about 50 times because up until that point I did not believe that I was capable of anything close to this.  After this race, everything changed...again.  My goals shifted, my drive increased and my commitment to running and to achieving each goal went up to a whole new level.  The day of that race, I saw something in myself that I didn't know was there and I wanted to foster that strength and desire for as long as my body would allow.  I was ready and willing to go the distance.  I still am.  So, what's next?  At the moment, I'm chasing my dream of a sub-3 hour marathon.  I've attempted to hit it four times since Mohawk.  FOUR.  And, as you know, with marathons you don't just come close and then turn around and try it again 2 weeks later.  That would not be prudent.  Four attempts means four different training cycles, each with four, long months of training and hundreds of miles, many of them grueling.  This summer, I was talking with someone close to me about the process....my goal, the challenges, my progress, etc.  I told him that I would be pretty bummed if I crossed the line this October and didn't hit it after all this work and all of the attempts before them.  And you probably won't, he said very matter of factly.  Which sounds harsh and was a pretty significant blow at the moment.  What he meant, he explained, is that we create these goals that are potentially out of reach, if only just a bit, for a reason.  So we can keep chasing them.  Keep dreaming.  And keep pushing ourselves to get there.  Whether we do or not isn't necessarily the point.  It's the story behind it that builds who we are.  Not achieving the goal itself.  I understand what he meant.  And I agree with it to some extent.  But, I'm not ready to believe that my goal is unattainable.  And I will continue to work as though it is, in fact, within reach.  I'm going to have to reach beyond my comfort zone and maybe even pull a rabbit out of my hat.  But, I do that every day as a mom and coach, at least, the first part.  The rabbit?  I've never done it but I'm sure someone can teach me.  Here's to dreaming big.  And to all of you out there working hard to make it happen....never stop.

Listen to this:
Paper Son & Halima - Hotspice

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

CAMP FOSS & THE 100 MILE CHALLENGE

"I think I can"
~ The Little Engine That Could


So I decided to run 100 miles last week.  Or, at least, to try.  Why, you ask?  It's a fair question.  A little back story first.  The Lexington High School XC team has been going up to Foss Running Camp the week before their season starts for years.  I've been coaching at LHS for a while now and I'd always hear about it when they got home but had never gone myself.  Last summer, however, I was hired to work as a coach for the camp so in August I made my way up there to be with my team along with the other 230+ athletes who would be attending from other schools.  It was an amazing experience and I loved every second of it.  At the time, I was marathon training and logged about 70 miles for the week.  Solid, but nothing I hadn't done before and easy to get in when the kids were running once and often twice a day.  When I got back home, my friend and fellow coach, Aaron, who also works at Foss, casually threw out the following statement, Maybe you'll go for the 100 mile club next year, eh, Trax?   Meaning?  Very simply, run 100 miles during the week that we're there.  Ah ha ha, yeah right.  But, as you can guess, the seed was planted.  A year (and three marathons) later, I was once again preparing to head up to Camp Foss for the week.  And, yes, once again, I was marathon training.  Back in June, I'd sent my coach a note asking whether he thought it would work for me to run 100 miles while I was up there.  Because, who doesn't love a good challenge, right?  Our conversation went like this:
Me: Do you think it's nuts for me to try and get 100 in at Foss? We've talked about going that high, but if you think it's too much, be honest.  I want it to work with our plan.
Lowell: That might work.  Which week is Foss?  I am definitely not opposed to a pure volume century week.
Me: 8/14. And, yes, it's really hard to get workouts in up there bc of the hilly terrain so volume, whether it's 100 or not, is prob the way to go.
Lowell: Right. I remember you telling me about the run options from last year.  So, definitely might be a good plan.
Me: Do you think it's a wise decision based on my current mileage? (around 80 max)  Do you think it will make an impact in October?  And, more importantly, do you think I can handle it?
Lowell: There's a reason elite athletes log 100+ weeks during their marathon training.  Volume works wonders and I've no doubt it will make you stronger and make an overall difference on race day if your body can handle it.
Me: Well, I love the idea of it and I think I can make it work.  I can always aim for it and pull back if it's too much.
Lowell: Ok, let's go for it.  
Yes, I'm cuckoo.  Most runners are.  Fortunately, my coach gets it.  Game on.  The plan was pretty simple.  I'd do two 6-12 mile runs every day.  Then on Friday, when the kids were doing their long run (most of the LHS girls would be doing 11), I'd get one substantially longer run in (22 miles).  Overall, I'd be averaging about 17 miles per day.  Gulp.  All this said, when I'm up at Foss, I'm a coach and mentor first.  My main goal is to be accessible to the kids and to provide guidance, support and advice whenever possible.  Thus, my own training is not my top priority.  So, if I was going to make this happen, I'd have to weave it into their schedule without missing the important things throughout the day that I needed to be a part of.  No problemo.

SUGARLOAF SHOE DISPLAY

Things working in my favor:
~ All the LHS ladies, the gals in my cabin (Woburn High School) and the rest of the faculty and staff were fully supportive of my mission.
~ I had no shortage of running partners, because, well, it's a running camp.
~ Our camp agenda allowed for plenty of down time which gave me several windows throughout the day to re-charge.
~ One other nut-job runner besides myself, Brian Gags, was also doing the challenge so I had someone to commiserate and celebrate with daily.
~ In my 42 years, I've never done a 100 mile week so I was stupidly excited and ready and willing to go for it.

Things working against me:
~ High school kids don't get to bed until 10:30 at the earliest.
~ Wooden bunk beds are not comfortable, even with an egg crate and two mattresses on top.
~ In order to get the extra mileage I needed (usually double what they were doing) and fit the rest of the day together logistically, I had to be up and at 'em at 5:00am every day.
~ Several of my runs were done without music because I was on roads and trails that I was not familiar with.
~ I'm 42 years old.  Enough said.

I arrived up at Foss on Sunday, which happens to be my day off in regards to training.  I could have thrown an easy 3/4 mile run in to ease the load for the week ahead of me, but my legs needed a break from the week before.  So, I'd be starting this madness on Monday.  Which meant, if all went according to plan, I'd be getting the 100 miles in in 6 days rather than 7.  Again....gulp.

5:03AM Monday Morning

MONDAY: 
AM RUN-11
Despite the early wake up, this run was awesome.  I was fresh from my day off and excited to be up there and get going.  I had 10 on my schedule for the morning but ended up doing 11 because the girls went a little longer than planned.  And, really, what's an extra mile or two?

Cooling off w/ Anna, Haley & Alexandra after run #2 

PM RUN - 9
Still feeling pretty good at this point.  I'm used to doubling as my coach has me do it often during training.  The one thing I noticed was that my overall fatigue was pretty severe because I hadn't slept well the night before.  I tried not to think about the fact that this likely wouldn't change all week.

Post-run with Maya & Anna

TUESDAY 
AM RUN-10
Still feeling decent this morning.  The terrain up at Foss is mostly trail, which is great, and insanely hilly, which is not so great.  I could feel my quads flaring up a bit from Monday's mileage.  But I was also still excited about the challenge and just fired up to be at Foss in general, so all things were still good.

Post-run w/ Sophie, Anna, Michelle, Kesinia & Maya

PM RUN-6
The whole LHS gang was out for the PM run and I only had to get 6 in.  So, we did most of it together and, because of this and the fact that it was a shorter run, the miles flew by.

Slow and steady....er, just slow.

WEDNESDAY
AM RUN-12
This morning was rough.  I was so exhausted from lack of and crappy sleep.  My legs were on fire and my overall motivation was low.  Hump day to the max.  Somehow, I managed to eek it out, but it wasn't pretty.

DAY 3 complete w/ Alexandra

PM RUN-6
One of my biggest cheerleaders all week was Alexandra, a former LHS athlete who was working up at camp with us.  She checked in on me regularly and reminded me often that I could do it.  Bless her.  She got me going for my second run of the day and even though she turned around after a few miles, she'd managed to spark some untapped enthusiasm.  It ended up being a great run for me.


THURSDAY
AM RUN-11
I don't even have a photo from Thursday morning's run.  I honestly don't even remember it.  I'm sure it was slow and painful.  The above pic is with Brian, the other coach doing the 100 mile challenge with me.  I don't know how I was smiling.  We both felt the way Brian looked.  I was really grateful to have someone doing this with me.  The solo mission would have been beyond brutal.

HOP OFF THE STRUGGLE BUS

PM RUN-8.5
This was my first solo run of the week.  The kids had their long run the next day so most of them weren't doubling.  Pain.  Train.  I decided to explore a new route and ended up getting a little lost.  That sucked.  Brian snapped this photo when I was done.  I remember thinking, how the HELL am I going to get 22 miles in the next day??!!

PRE-RUN FUEL SESSION

FRIDAY
22 miles (11 solo, 11 with LHS gals)
I got up early and hit the road while the kids were eating breakfast.  The day before Caitlyn, one of the other counselors, had worked on my quads a bit with her magical, healing hands.  The difference was miraculous.  I got through this run mostly because of her.  Thank you doesn't cut it.  Hopefully, she knows this.  I finished my first 11 mile loop, grabbed some water and met up with the LHS gals for part 2.  Having company made a monumental difference.  I was tired and sore but the distraction was exactly what I needed to get through it.  It started raining as we finished and the chills set in immediately.  I bee-lined it up to the dining hall to grab coffee and food.  I can't express in words how happy I was to have made it through.  My mileage was now up to 95.5, which meant I only had to get 4.5 in the next morning.  I was so close I could taste it.  

BEST. COFFEE. EVER.

SATURDAY
4.5 MILES
I didn't have to wake up early for this one.  That was AWESOME.  Knowing it was a mere 4.5 mile run put me in an incredible mood from the get go.  I cruised through with Caitlyn for a mile and then set off to finish the rest solo.  I was smiling the whole way.  When I finished, Caitlyn was there to celebrate with me.  She rocks.

HIGH FIVE w/ CAITLYN

SUNDAY:
ZIP, ZERO, NADA

REST DAY BLISS

So, now what?  Well, I'm home and back in Mom mode.  Our XC season starts this week, so I'll be putting my coaching hat back on as well.  And my training?  Business as usual.  My marathon is in 7 weeks and my eyes are on the prize.  Was it worth it?  Hells, yea.  I pushed my body harder than ever before and to my good fortune, it responded well.  Once again, I'm reminded that we can do anything we put our minds to if we want it badly enough.  Within reason.  Sort of.

Listen to this:
I'll Believe In Anything - Wolf Parade