Friday, May 29, 2015


"The strength of the team is each individual member.  The strength of each member is the team."
~ Coach Phil Jackson

This Saturday, my high school track team will be competing at the Eastern Mass Divisional Championship meet up in Lowell.  It's a big meet and it's also one of the last in their season, which is mind-boggling to me given that it feels like only yesterday we were training in the snow.

These girls have worked their tails off to get to this point.  Countless miles in everything from those first bitter cold days to this past week's brutal humidity and heat.  Hours of stretching and rolling. Limitless amounts of dynamics and strides.  Hundreds of repeats of various distances at speeds that I can only dream about.  Throws and jumps, more throws and jumps and then even more on top of that.  Practice, practice, practice.  And every time they come to the track and get into deal mode, I am in awe of their drive, their determination and their desire.  

More often than not, these girls are fighting fatigue and stress; many of them juggling a number of additional activities beyond track, and all of them dealing with the rigors of a heavy academic workload.  It's not easy to fit it all in.  In fact, it's really damn hard.  I happen to feel the same way almost every single day in my own life.  Balancing family, work and my personal life, including my oft-crazy training regimen, tends to get incredibly overwhelming and sometimes unmanageable.  When I'm in the peak of marathon training, I regularly get so tired that I begin to lose my motivation and drive.  But, every time I get to the track and see these girls dealing with the same things, if only on a different level, I am re-motivated and re-inspired to buck up and get my game face on.  This is life.  It's what we choose.  We crave it.  It's who we are.  Okay.  Let's go.

Each time these girls run well or win a race, and maybe forget, if only for a brief moment, about all the hard work and sacrifices that went it to making it happen, I am reminded, once again, that it's worth it.  For that brief moment of joy and happiness.  Because there is nothing else like it.  And I've got to believe that it's one of the main reasons they keep coming back to the track day in and day out.  To push themselves, yes.  But, to push each other, too.  To laugh, to complain, to commiserate, to be silly and then to focus and work harder than they did day before.  This is what I see every day.  This is what it means to be on a team.  To be one and to be many at the same time.  And it will, undoubtedly, be an experience that they will all look back on continuously throughout their entire lives.  As a former high school athlete, I know I do.  As their coach, I know how lucky they are.  How lucky we are.  GO LEX!

Listen to this:
Scud Books - Hudson Mohawke 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


This past weekend, I was scheduled to run my last long run, a 23 miler, for my upcoming June marathon.  Holy.  Shite.  In all of my past training cycles, I’ve never tackled a run this long, typically peaking out at 20, maybe 21.  But, everything is new this time around; new goals, new workouts, new age bracket.  So, why not a new long run distance?  The issue, however, was that my family was headed to Cape Cod for the holiday week-end to spend time with cousins and grandparents and the thought of running for over 3 hours on one of my precious vacation days was, well, let’s just say I wasn’t thrilled.  To my good fortune, my running partner and good bud, Kirsten, was also going to be on the Cape with her family for the week-end and while she’s not currently training for a marathon, she’s always up for both a long run and a challenge.  I called her last Thursday and asked if she would join me for at least part of this dreaded long run on either Sunday or Monday morning.  “I have a better idea,” she said.  “Let’s run the Johnny Kelly Half Marathon on Sunday.  You can do a few miles before and after on your own and run the race with me.  I don’t want to go nuts, but I’d like to put in a decent effort.  You can be my rabbit."  (meaning, I could help keep her on goal pace throughout the race).  It was a brilliant idea.  23 miles alone?  BRUTAL.  23 miles broken up by 10 miles solo with a half marathon in between which I get to run with my bud?  AWESOME...well, relatively awesome, but still.

Sunset on Cape Cod
Friday night before race day

Saturday morning, I got up at 6:15am and headed out to scoop Kirsten up at 7:00.  The early start was less than ideal for both of us, but, at the same time, it's always good to get the day going early. About 30 minutes later, we got to Hyannis, parked and made our way over to the town green to grab our numbers.  We made a plan to meet at the start, near the back of the crowd and then I headed out to get a few miles under my belt before the race began.  It did feel a little odd to start cruising down the street with my bib on as other runners were pulling in for the race and then even more odd to get to the start fully sweating; not that anyone cared or even noticed.  Finally, at 8:15am, we were off.  We both had our music on, but could still hear each other talk.  As usual, our first mile was a little fast.  Knowing that Kirsten wanted to run a good time and finish strong, I suggested we pull back a bit.  We settled in nicely, still a little fast, but clearly comfortable for her so we went with it.  People were passing us left and right and I got the sense sense that she wanted to pick it up and go with the flow.  But, in my 10 marathons, I have gone out too fast in at least half of them and it never works, so I tried to hold steady and keep us in check, knowing that we could use that saved energy at the end of the race.  After a few miles we got to the beach.  We were running against the wind on a slight incline and our split for mile 5 reflected this as it was a bit slower.  She gave me a look of concern and I told her not to worry, that it would even out.  She nodded and I could see her relax a little.

We continued to cruise along, enjoying the scenery, chatting a little, checking in with each other and just zoning out.  Around mile 8, I paused my music so I could listen to Kirsten’s breathing.  I wanted to make sure our effort was still manageable if not comfortable and by having my music on I couldn’t really gauge this.  As we moved along, I just listened to our footsteps, which were often in synch, to her breathing, to my own breathing, to the crowd, to everything.  I rarely do this and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.  At mile 9, Kirsten took a drink and then slammed dunked it into the trash can, and shouted “2 POINTS” while smiling.  I laughed, knowing, at this stage that we were going to be good to go for the rest of the race.  As we pushed on, the sun beamed down on us and I could tell the heat was starting to become a factor.  Finally, we made it to mile 11.  “Okay, Kirst,"  I said "we’ve got 2 miles to go.  That’s like running from my house to yours and back.  You can do that in your sleep.  Let's do this.” To which she responded, "I'm tired."  Shit.  She’d hit the point when her head was starting to play games with her despite that fact that her body was undoubtedly still capable of powering through.  “I know you’re tired.  I am, too.  But we can do this.  Let’s go."  “Ok," she said.  "Just keep talking.” She needed the distraction.  So, I threw out everything I could think of, running- related or not, even fibbing a little about our pace, which was getting progressively faster, and how close we were to the finish, which was not quite as close as I told her (sorry, Kirst).  We finally rounded the curve for our last .1 and gave it our all to finish strong.  It was an awesome time for her and while she wasn’t feeling good at that particular moment, I knew she would be psyched eventually.  We eased over to the green and grabbed some waters.  There might have been a hug and a high five in there, too.  I don’t really remember and I don't think she would either.  When she was talking again and feeling good, I headed out for my final 7 miles.  Oh, right.  I had 7 more miles to tackle on my own.  Oof.  I was really, really tired.  But, I was also elated.  I was thrilled for Kirsten, who had run a really great race and time and I was pumped in general about how fun the whole experience had been for me.  I was floating on pure runner joy.  I took my bib off, cranked up my tunes and just let it roll.  I’m not going to lie, my legs started to get heavy pretty quickly.  But my head was so filled with good feelings that it didn’t matter.  That was pretty cool.  When I got back to the green, I found Kirsten chilling out in the grass with her feet up and a huge smile across her face.  I laid down next to her and neither said nor did anything for a few minutes.  She took a picture to document my 23 mile finish.

Shortly afterwards, Bekah S., a fellow Oiselle enthusiast, came over and introduced herself.  She’d seen us on the course and shot the above photo.  Kirsten doesn’t actually run on the team with me, but she might as well as she’s a huge fan and always sporting the duds.  We chatted for a while, learning that Bekah is nursing a foot injury (sucks), and that her husband, Paul, had run both the 5K and the half (impressive).  We bugged her for another photo and then headed off to get iced mochas, our traditional post-race treat.

Since Kirsten had had some time to recover while I kept running, she offered to drive my car home so I could put my feet up.  Bless her.  We made it back easily, she dropped herself off and I ambled slowly over to the driver side to get myself home.  Both of us were looking forward to enjoying the rest of the week-end.  Lazily, I might add.

I run for a lot of reasons.  I love to push myself.  I crave the mental release.  I enjoy the challenge of racing.  But, none of it is nearly as exciting or fulfilling without a buddy by your side.  Someone to run with, yes.  But, even more so, someone to get up early with, to commiserate with, to drive to and from races with, to enjoy post-race coffee with, to support when things don’t go as hoped and to celebrate with when they do.  Running is awesome.  Running with a bud is more awesome.  Thanks, K.

Listen to this:
1000 - Ben Khan

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Supposedly, if you want something bad enough, you'll do anything to get it.  In running, this could not be more true.  Runners will do almost anything to get their training and/or racing in.  It could be something as major as flying to Georgia for a marathon because the original marathon destination was getting pummeled by a blizzard or as minor as going to bed before your 8 year old.  I happen to be guilty of both of those things.  I've been running competitively for many years, but I really started to ramp up my level of intensity, excluding high school and college, around 2010.  I got my first taste of the 'Kool Aid' in the fall of that year after running the Bay State Half Marathon, where I ran a 1:37 and was the 28th woman across the finish line.  I'd felt really good throughout the entire race and finished strong, which was new for me.  Not surprisingly, I was fired up and ready to try again.  After that, I started to shift gears a bit; seeking out new training plans (Runner's World, McMillan, Jack Daniels) for various race distances and trying out new fuel and gear every chance I got.  Last October, five years, about 50 races (some good, many bad) and hundreds of miles later, along with the help of a coach, I ran my marathon PR of 3:11:05.  In that race, I ran the first 13.1 miles in 1:37 and the second half in 1:34; the former time one that I was beyond thrilled to run 5 years before for a half alone and the later one that I never dreamed I could pull off at that point in my life.  Once again, I was over the moon.  I felt like I could tackle anything I put my mind to and about 3 minutes after that race I was already thinking about my next move.  So, here I am today in May of 2015.  I'm 40 years old and I'm getting ready to run my 11th marathon.  What do I want now, you ask?  I want to prove to myself that there is still something left in these legs, regardless of the fact that I'm in a new age bracket.  I want to get to the starting line again and know that I have done everything I can to run a successful race.  And I want to feel that pure joy of running for yet another 26.2 miles.  It's a tall order.  Real tall.

As I always do when I train for a marathon, I have put in the time and the miles in for this one.  I have done the 20 milers - 4 to be exact with one more to go, and yes, I'm counting.  I have done the tempo runs, the track work, and the recovery runs.  Some of them have gone well.  Others have been a disaster.  But, for the past 4 months or so, I have done whatever it takes to get my training in.  This past week, I logged 65 miles with a 22 miler on Monday.  On top of that I had to coach 3 high school track meets which were a minimum of 3 hours long along with regular practices in between.  Oh, then there were my mom duties.  I had to fulfill those, too.  By the end of the week, I could barely keep my eyes open.  I honestly don't remember the last time I've felt that tired.  (Kirsten, I can feel your eyes rolling from afar).  But, seriously.  I was in rough shape.  On Saturday, my husband and I had our annual spring BBQ, a big party that we've held for the past 6 years that tends to go on into the wee hours of the night.  I don't usually train for marathons this far into the spring (stupid winter), so I typically manage to stay up and hang with my friends for this shindig.  But this year, not so much.  I was doing all right until I had to take my kids up and tuck them in.  It was around 10:30.  I said good night, shut their door, and then I made the mistake of looking at my own bed.  Oh, man, did I want to get in.  I could hear everyone downstairs, still chatting and hanging out by the fire pit.  I wanted to go back down.  I did.  But, my legs were not budging and my mind was already willing me to get in bed.  It just wasn't happening.

Marathon Training: Social Life: 0

Is it weird to hit the hay while your friends are still partying downstairs at your house?  Yea, kind of.  Am I taking this marathon thing a little too far?  Maybe.  Do I care?  No, I do not.  I am committed.  And, I will do whatever it takes.   Here's to good things.

Listen to this:
Places You Will Go - Patrick Watson  

Thursday, May 14, 2015


"Truth is the property of no individual but is the treasure of all men."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yesterday, my daughter's teacher shared two of her recent poems with me.  Both are short and sweet; one a Haiku, the other an acrostic.  Grace who's 8, is the younger of my two girls and do I put this...also the trickiest.  In a nutshell, she keeps me on my toes pretty much all the time.  So, both of these poems speak volumes to both who she is and how she views me as her mom.  The first that came through was the Haiku.

This one surprised me a bit and also made me laugh.  A lot.  According to Grace, not only am I bossy, but I make the rules AND I'm always bossing.  When I picked her up from gymnastics last night I asked her about it.  Grace, I said, Ashley sent me your poems today.  She smirked.  Do you really think I'm that bossy?  I feel a little sad that you just see me as the one who makes the rules and then tells you what do do.  Her response?  Well, at least I put the 'nice' part in there.  We both laughed.  When it comes down to it, she's kind of right.  I do make the rules and I do enforce them.  And lately, I've been having repeat myself several times to get through to her (ie. Grace, did you brush your teeth?  Grace, you still haven't brushed your teeth.  Grace, you need to get out of bed and brush your teeth.  GRACE!!!)  So, yeah, I guess that comes off as bossy.

Grace, did you do your homework?

But, again, at least she threw the 'nice' in there, too.  The second one was the acrostic poem.  

Early runner
Bare back

This one also had me laughing.  I got most of it - a cute, energetic runner who likes to cuddle and is, in her opinion, awesome.  I'll take it.  I did, however, have to get some clarification from her on the other two.  Turns out, early runner is just that.  I tend to go right after I drop her off from school, which she considers early.  But bare back?!?  She let me know it's because I'm often running in a tank top or sports bra so my back is bear.  Also, true.  A little odd that she put that in there over something like, I don't know, Bossy.  Ha ha.  Seriously, though, I love this.  She is saying so much with so little in this one.  I run a lot.  She sees that.  She even went so far as to comment on when I go and what I wear (or don't wear).  Makes total sense.  But, she also noted my energy.  I'm always worried that I don't save enough for my kids because I use so much of it for my training and coaching.  If she put it in there, it must mean I'm not always totally depleted when I'm with her.  That's a relief.  I'm also happy to know that she associates me with cuddling, which I try to do as much as possible with her.  My older daughter is not so into it, so Grace gets the extra dose.  I knew she liked it, but it's clearly on the forefront of her mind when she thinks of me.  That's cool.  And finally, cute and awesome.  I don't know about cute, but I'll take awesome any day.

Listen to this:
THE SHADE - Metric 

Monday, May 11, 2015


Still going.
It keeps going, and going, and
~ Energizer battery slogan

Last year, my running bud, Kirsten, and I signed up for the Maine Coast Marathon, which took place yesterday.  This post, however, is not a race review.  Sadly, neither one of us made it to the starting line.  Back in September, Kirsten got sidelined with a broken foot.  There would be no spring marathon for her.  But, since I had already signed up for the race and booked the hotel room, which was non-refundable, I decided to forge ahead with the training on my own.  I started to ramp up in early January, sticking with my tried and true four month plan.  And then, it started snowing.  And it kept snowing week after week.  Not just a little bit here and there.  Oh, no.  Huge-ass blizzards kept sweeping through the MA area; storms that would dump multiple feet of snow and shut the whole town down for days.  So, while I did what I could to train through each storm, running on the treadmill for hours or even outside with my ski gear on, by the end of February, I was still nowhere near where I needed to be from a mileage standpoint if I was going to run a decent marathon.  Thus, between the lack of necessary training and the fact that I would be making the trip up to Maine on my own, which in and of itself didn't sound very appealing, I finally decided that a May race just wasn't in the cards.  Kirsten had already deferred her entry until 2016, so I did the same and just ate the cost of the hotel room.  Shit happens.  Despite not being where I'd hoped to be at the end of February, I did have a pretty solid base and I didn't want to totally scrap the marathon idea all together.  So, I got on marathoneguide where I quickly learned that there is basically some kind of marathon (road, trail, super hero themed, beer chugging) being held every week-end of the year and even on some week days.  Lucky for me, I found a June race, the Walkway Marathon in Poughkeepsie, NY, which would give me another five weeks -  just enough time to catch up on my lost miles and hopefully get back on track.  Done and done.  The long and the short of it is, I now feel like I've been marathon training for eons.  It's been over four months since I started and I still have over a month to go until this new race.  The light at the end of the tunnel is there, but it is definitely not shining bright.  I love running. Training, even.  But this is getting kind of nuts.  I had a good chuckle over the week-end as I thought about the many ways I can tell that I've been marathon training for, perhaps, too long.  Here's what I came up with.


1. I'm hungry ALL the time.
2. I check the weather constantly to determine what to wear....for my run.
3. I call everything I eat 'fuel' and everything I drink 'fluids'.
4. I'm in bed by 9 pm every night. And sometimes earlier.
5. My running playlist is over 8 hours long.
6. My laundry is 80% running clothes and 20% other stuff.
7. My social life is pathetic.
8. My coffee intake has increased substantially.
9. My sock tan is in full force and it's not even summer yet. (see photo)
10. I'm on my third pair of running shoes since January.

It's 6:30 in the morning.  I'm on my second cup of coffee.  I have a 22 miler to tackle today.  And I'm really, really hungry.  Just another day in marathon training land.  Yes, it's definitely been too long.  #stillgoing

Listen to this:
Moony Eyed Walrus - Cayucas 

Monday, May 4, 2015


"There is a closeness about people who run together.  We become better friends, athletes & better women by the company we keep."
~ Kristin Armstrong

Back in March, my running bud, Kirsten, sent me an email about the Greenstride Earth, Rock, Run half marathon and asked if I might want to do it with her.  As I scanned the race info, I learned that all the entrants received a race tee AND a hoodie.  I wrote her back immediately to let her know that I was in.  Because, well, a free hoodie.  Seriously, though, the date of the race fell at a good spot in my marathon training schedule, and it would be fun to get to do it with Kirsten, who is coming back from an injury and hasn't raced with me since September.  Fast forward to yesterday.  We woke up to a bright, sunny and very warm morning.  Also, the first since September.  Kirsten picked me up and we headed out to Andover, which is about a 30 minute drive.  When we arrived, the scene was buzzing.  In addition to the Greenstride tents, where we picked up our bibs, shirts and hoodies, there were tons of other sponsor tents ie. Whole Foods, Zilco Water, & Stonyfield Farms.  We walked around and checked it all out, both agreeing that we were as fired up about the race as we were about the goodies we would be getting to sample afterwards.  Okay, truth, we might have been a little more excited about the goodies.  So, the race.  After throwing our stuff back in the car and using the port-o-pottys a minimum of five times each, we headed over to the start.
First, we took the obligatory selfie.  Neither of us could see anything because of the sun, so we just smiled and hoped for the best.  Then, as we always do, we began chatting with the people next to us.  We met a cute girl named Carrie who told us that she'd done this race last year and that the course was incredibly hilly, including a monster at mile 11.  Wait, what?!?!  Not that we could do anything about it at that point, but still.  Are they like, rollers? I asked her.  Um...well...not really, she laughed, they are hills and they are big and there are lots of them.  Kirsten and I looked at each other and chuckled nervously.  All righty then, we said, good to know.  Or maybe not good to know.  As I mentioned, it was Kirsten's first race back in months and for me, it was part of my marathon training, so I put my hand on her shoulder and said something to the effect of we're just here to have fun.  No pressure.  Let's just relax, enjoy the scenery and soak it all in.  She nodded in agreement, though I'm pretty sure there might have been a little smirk on her face, too.  With a few minutes until go time, we high-fived, turned on our tunes and got in the zone.  And then we were off.  The entire first mile was uphill.  That sucked.  It took a while to settle in after that, but I finally got into a groove by the third mile or so.  And then the hills started again.  They were steady up and down throughout the entire race; the biggest at mile 11, which was the worst possible time to have a mountain to contend with.

Kirsten ran w/ her phone & took shots of 
all the hills.  Just because.

To my surprise, my good friend, Kelly, who I met last year through running and happens to live in Andover, was at the top of the last hill and gave me some much needed motivation to make it to up and over.  That was awesome.  Needless to say, this was the hardest half I've tackled to date.  I crossed the line in 1:30:20, which is not my best time, but a time that I was very pleased with given the difficulty of the course.  I was very happy to learn that I won the Women's Master division (40+) which got me a spiffy little New Balance backpack.  This getting older thing is finally paying off. I was most excited, however, for Kirsten, who ran a great race and felt really good all the way through, something that hasn't happened for her in way too long.

Taken by our buddy, Carrie, who had warned us
about the hills pre-race.

We were both incredibly happy to be done and ready to treat ourselves to all the well-deserved snacks and beverages that were being offered.  After stocking up, we headed around back to chill out on the grass and enjoy the band and the nice weather for a little while.  We bumped into Gloria, an old friend who we'd run a previous Greenstride race with a few years back and got to catch up with her while we all sat and relaxed.  Once we were re-hydrated and well-rested we decided it was time to head home.  Aside from the brutal course, the race really was fantastic; incredibly organized and well run from start to finish.  I'm not sure I would put myself through those hills again, but I do have to give credit to the Greenstride crew, as they do such a great job with all of their events.  Kirsten and I have been running and racing together for about 6 years.  Since she broke her foot back in September, I've been doing most of my races solo.  Having her with me again made me realize both how much I'd missed her and how much better a race can be when you have a friend by your side.  Most of these experiences tend to be really intense.  Having someone to share them with, not just the race itself, but the whole process - from the early morning wake up to the exhuasted drive home - makes them so much more worthwhile.  Welcome back, Kirst.  GO TEAM BACON!

Listen to this:
Cornerstone - Kid Astray

Friday, May 1, 2015


Lexington, MA

Recently, one of the companies I represent asked a group of us to shoot a video of ourselves answering the question, WHY DO YOU RUN?  I think about the answer to this question just about every day.  Running plays so many different roles in my life and thus my answer tends to reflect what I am using it for at that particular moment.  Am I stressed?  Angry?  Sad?  Do I need a break?  Do I need to mull something over?  Or do I just need to move?  To be outside?  To lose myself for a little while?  Because in the end, regardless of how I feel when I start my run, I tend to finish feeling better.  Yesterday, I sat and thought about all of this as I was preparing to head out for my workout.  I had a tempo run on the schedule.  These are really, REALLY, hard for me.  Sandwiched between a warm up and a cool down, I would be aiming to run three miles at 6:35 per mile, a pace that's tough for me to hold.  Not impossible.  Just tough.  I was heading into the workout tired and a bit worn down from the hectic week I'd had so far.  I was itching to get it over with.  But, I was having a hard time motivating.  Because, truthfully, I was kind of dreading it.  So why do it?  Why not head out for an easy cruiser instead of the tempo run.  Or, better yet, just bail all together.  No one is going to punish me if I don't get it done.  Ah, but this lead me back to the original question.  Why run?  In yesterday's case, it turns out that I was craving the challenge.  I wanted to see what I was capable of.  I wanted to go beyond my comfort zone.  And I wanted a dose of that joyful feeling running often gives me.  Would I get it all from this one run?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But, it was worth the risk.  It always is.  The second I put on my music and headed out the door my entire attitude began to shift.  My body immediately reacted to the change and my legs began to flow.  Within a few minutes I was focused and ready to rock.  Okay, Rebecca, let's see what you've got today.  And then I was off.  Not every workout ends in success.  But, this one did.  And the rest of my day?  It was awesome.  So, yeah, that's why I run.

Listen to this: