Tuesday, August 22, 2017


"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.


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

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

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

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.

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

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.

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.


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??!!


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.  


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.




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

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


"Running is great, my friend."
~ E. Ward

I have this friend, let's call her Chicken.  We met back in 2015 at a Oiselle running camp.  Our friendship was instant and though we don't live in the same area, we talk and see each other enough that I've continued to grow closer to her year after year.  We have a lot in common.  We're both 42.  We're both marathoners, though Chicken is a quite a bit faster than me.  We're both competitive, mostly with ourselves.  And we're both ready and willing both to laugh at and make fun of ourselves, particularly in front of a crowd; this being one of the main things that brought us together in the first place. (see above pic)  Last time we hung out, at NEBirdcamp 2017 this past June, we tossed around the idea of running a marathon together at some point.  We have similar goals and we'd like to hit them sooner rather than later.  Why not go for it together?  But, then we're both stupidly busy and have totally different personal agendas and so on and so forth.  So, when we said our goodbyes we hadn't really landed on anything other than "let's think about it".  And that might take a while.  In the meantime, I suggested that we get some virtual training in together over the summer.  We couldn't actually do our long runs and workouts together, but we could check in with each other before and after for pep talks and assessments.  For this, she was in.  I sent her my training plan so she could get on the same track as me moving forward.  Weeks passed, maybe a month, and I hadn't heard from her.  Not a big deal, but I was eager to see if she'd started in on her summer training so we could compare notes.  I reached out last week to see what was up.  She apologized and in so many words told me she'd been under a rock in many different areas of her life lately and was struggling to catch up and, ultimately, to rise above it. I told her that an apology wasn't necessary, that life is unpredictable and that I'd just wanted to touch base because it had been a while.  So, we caught each other up on our lives, eventually landing on our running.  She asked me how my training was going, knowing that I'm gearing up for an October race.  Here's how our conversation unfolded:

ME: I'm starting to get nervous about all the training that's coming up.  So much f***ing mileage.  Do me a favor and remind me every once in a while that I can deal with it.  Sometimes I forget.

Chicken: You can do the mileage.  That's the damn easy part.  It's just the time.  The running itself is so great.

Me: True.  But motivation gets hard.  I keep coming back to your speech... (one she made at our last Birdcamp about training for the Olympic marathon trials qualifier)....and hearing your brother say, "she's working so hard.  What if she doesn't get it??!!"

Chicken: I love to run.  Sometimes I dislike it when life gets hard or I'm working a ton.  But running is great, my friend.

Me: Yes.  You're so right. But...

Chicken: Running is so fun, Trax.  Wish I could run with you right now.

Me: If only.  

Chicken: Here's the thing Trax:
If our fast running were to go to pieces....we'd still see each other dozens of times over the years.... we'd still be great friends....I'd still love and respect you....I'd still know how kind and smart you are...

Me: I'm actually a really good dancer, too.  You really haven't seen my moves yet.

We talked a lot more after that but this particular part of the conversation really stuck with me.  Maybe Chicken and I will run a marathon together.  Maybe we won't.  It doesn't matter, really.  Because in the end, running will still be awesome and we will still be friends.  Looking ahead to my next race, I might hit my goal and I'll be thrilled and life will be great.  But, I might not hit my goal and that will be a bummer and life will still be great.  My friends aren't going to like me less because I didn't hit my goal.  And regardless, I'll still be running.  Because it feels good and because it makes me happy.  And my times?  They have nothing to do with any of it.  It only took her three different attempts to get her point across.  But, I finally got it.  I get it.  You're the best, Chicken.

Listen to this:
Perspective - Until the Ribbon Breaks

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


Last Friday was NUTS.  I got up around 6:00am, made coffee and hustled out the door because I had to get the dog out for a decent walk before the day unfolded and she was potentially ignored.  Around 7:15, I woke my 10 year old up to get her ready for camp.  I had to get her fed, screened up and packed by 8:00 to get her off to the bus on time.  After seeing her off, I had to bang out a 10 miler, my first of two runs for the day.  An hour an a half later, I made a feeble attempt to stretch and then quickly washed my face before rushing out the door again.  I had to get over the post office to mail my 12 year old the shower caddy that she'd forgotten to pack.  I also had to go to CVS to grab her a fresh toothbrush and some soap, and, of course, I picked up a few odds and ends (stickers, hair ties, magazines) to throw in the package because I'd be a pretty lame mom if I mailed just the shower caddy with nothing else.  After that, I had to beeline it back home so I could shovel a couple pieces of cold pizza into mouth and attempt to digest them before gearing up for run #2.  Unfortunately, my window was shorter than I'd have liked (I probably spent too much time in the aisles of CVS, dammit), and therefore I had to gather all my stuff and get going again.  I had about an hour and a half before I needed to be at my younger daughter's Spirit Assembly, an event that I'd missed a good portion of the week before and for which I was given the hairy eyeball.  I decided to drive over to camp, park in the lot and run from there to eliminate any risk of being late.  Right after lunch and just before I was getting ready to leave I had a little moment where I kind of unraveled a bit.  My mother-in-law asked me if I was okay.

I responded with something like, Yes.  I'm fine, thanks.  Just tired.  I'd really hoped to take a nap at some point today but I just can't squeeze it in.  I really don't have much energy for this second run but I have to get going if I'm going to make it to Grace's assembly on time.

To which she responded, But it is your choice, Rebecca.  You don't have to do it.  You choose to do it.  Right?

I looked up and smiled.  Right, I said.  You're totally right.

Okay, so I'm going to re-phrase my entire blog post with this conversation in mind.  Here goes.

Last Friday was crazy but awesome.  I woke up at 6:00am, made some coffee and quietly slipped out the door to walk my dog.  I had about 45 minutes to soak up the morning before the rest of the day unfolded.  Around 7:15, I woke my 10 year old and helped her get ready for camp.  I sat and drank a second cup of coffee with her as she ate her breakfast, something I rarely get to do during the school year because we don't have enough time.  After I dropped her off, I hit the road for an easy 10 miler, my first of two runs for the day.  About an hour and a half later, I got home and stretched, washed my face and regrouped (showers are overrated) before heading back out to hit CVS and the post office.  My mother-in-law needed to go to both as well, so she joined me and we made a stop at the Hot Chocolate Sparrow for iced mochas (beyond insane) before starting our errands.  We both have a weird obsession with greeting cards and spent a little extra time in the Hallmark aisles of CVS laughing at all the funny, dumb, gross cards they had to offer (I bought three, she bought one).  After that, we made our way back home for some lunch, which we enjoyed together as we made plans for the rest of the day.  She was coming to Grace's spirit assembly with me but I needed to get a quick run in beforehand so we decided to take separate cars.  I opted to run from camp for a change of scenery and ended up on really nice, shaded, and gloriously flat rail trail for my six miler.  It was gorgeous and I was totally rejuvenated when I was done.  I toweled off and changed in my car before heading up to camp for the spirit assembly; on time to boot.  I caught Grace looking around and then breaking into a big smile as I made it over to her group for awards.  We listened to announcements and songs and then said our goodbyes to friends and went for ice cream, which I was equally excited about, maybe more so.  I was so pumped that I'd been able to make it all work and could relax and enjoy the rest of the day with Grace.

Shout out to my mother-in-law for reminding me that I do, in fact, make my own choices.  That I choose to do both what I need to do and what I want to do.  And that I'm ridiculously lucky that I can fit my own agenda in around all the other things in my life that are undeniably more important.

Listen to this:
Trippin' by Sir Sly