Wednesday, December 26, 2018

2018 YEAR IN REVIEW


Dear RWM Readers,
It has been yet another year full of awesome, crazy, intense, good, bad, ugly, beautiful and everything in between.  In terms of running, I ran....well, I started four marathons and completed three.  I had my first DNF down in Virginia Beach.  That was rough.  I guided for William Greer at Boston, hands down the hardest race of my life.  That was insane.  And I finally, FINALLY, after nine attempts, three of them within just seconds, broke three hours in the marathon this past fall at Baystate.  I also ran my fastest half marathon time this past spring, so both my half and full PRs have been at the spritely age of 43.  That's right, my friends.  I hate to sound cliché, but I am still working hard to prove that age is just a number and I think I'm doing a pretty good job if I don't say so myself.  In life beyond running, both my girls had an amazing year as well.  Grace had a huge breakthrough this past winter up in NH on her ski team, finally finding her groove after a few years of frustration.  On the flip side, literally, Rosie had a tough spring, not hitting her goals in the gym and has come back this fall guns blazing and crushing it, earning her highest score on floor (9.725) this past December down in the Bahamas.  Man, was that fun to watch.  Grace also stepped it up a notch with soccer this fall and, despite her very small size, we saw a new, aggressive, feisty player out there on the field.  That was really fun to watch, too.  I am so ridiculously proud of them and all they have accomplished.  And last, but not least, my LHS track and XC teams completely blew it out of the water.  In the spring, I coached both the girls and boys distance teams.  I had about 40 athletes in my crew and every single one of them improved; several of them by quite a bit.  Many of the ladies broke 6 minutes in the mile and quite a few of the guys broke the 5 minute barrier.  Huge accomplishments for both groups.  Not that I would know anything about time barriers and breakthroughs.  In XC this past fall, the ladies took the Middlesex League Championship title back from their rivals, won the EMASS Divisional Championship and came in 6th in at the MA State Meet.  They were a force to be reckoned with all season and such a joy to coach.  So, yeah, all in, a pretty unbelievable year.  If next year is anything like this one, I'm doing something right.  Thanks again to all of you for following along on this crazy journey of mine.  I love writing about my experiences and hearing your thoughts and feedback along the way.  I hope that you, too, had a year worth talking about and/or celebrating and that you are as exited as I am for what's to come.  Enjoy the rest of your holiday season and I'll see you in 2019!
All the best,



RUNNING WITH MUSIC 2018

JANUARY
ALBUM:HOLLY - SLEIGH BELLS
SONG:OUT OF MY HEAD - LOUD FOREST

FEBRUARY
Grace takes it to the next level up in NH
ALBUM:CRITICAL EQUATION - DR. DOG
SONG:RUN - PRONOUN

MARCH
The Cheap Marathon, my 8th (unsuccessful) sub-3 attempt
ALBUM:HERE COME THE RUNTS - AWOLNATION
SONG:LOST SONG - NONONO

APRIL
ALBUM:NATURAL RATTLE - LAYUP
SONG:FOLLOW YOUR FIRE - KODALINE

MAY
LHS Spring Track Season #DSQUAD
ALBUM:DIRTY COMPUTER - JANELLE MONAE
SONG:MATINEE - REYNA

JUNE
ALBUM:WHOLE NEW LEVEL - LAYUP
SONG:NEW COMPASSION-HAERTS

JULY
Lake Winnepesaukee
ALBUM:MOVIN' ON - GIVERS
SONG:SHADES - THE KNOCKS

AUGUST
ALBUM:KARATE - FITNESS
SONG:HIYA - ELEPHANT HEART

SEPTEMBER
Fall XC Season (Clipper Relays)
ALBUM:I DON'T WANT - SANTIGOLD
SONG:EGO - NONONO

OCTOBER
ALBUM:YUYI - ERIN MCCARLEY
SONG:IT'S JUST THE START - ROYAL TEETH

NOVEMBER
Jewett family on Thanksgiving
ALBUM:ART OF DOUBT - METRIC
SONG:MOUNTAINS - SIA

DECEMBER
WGA Gold Team - 1st Place All Around
ALBUM:SOMEONE OUT THERE - RAE MORRIS
SONG:EVERYTHING GOES (WOW)-BROODS

Listen to this:
RWM DAILY SONGS 2018

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

2018 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE & EPIC GIVEAWAY

🎶 It's the hap-happiest season of all 🎶


Well, it's December.  Mid-December, actually.  Man, that was fast.  Do I say that often?  It's easily one of my favorite times of the year.  Regardless of what, when or how you celebrate during the holiday season, it's typically a time of giving and receiving for most of us.  Love?  Yes.  Good tidings, comfort and cheer?  Of course.  But also, gifts.  As I do each year, I have gone out and done the research so that all you have to do is read through this post and then pick your favorites either to give or to put on your own wish list.  These products are ideal for runners or athletes of any kind.  That said, they will also appeal to the chocolate lover who listens to music and drinks coffee but has never run a day in his or her life.  Seriously, there is something on here for everyone.  Give any one of these items to family or friends and earn 'best gift giver' status instantly.  You're welcome.  Happy shopping.  And MERRY EVERYTHING!

RWM 2018 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE


Jaybird Sport #poweryourpassion

Jaybird's X4 Wireless Sport headphones are the perfect gift for anyone who leads an active lifestyle and takes their music on the go.  Impeccable sound and quality.  Custom fit.  Fully weatherproof.  And 8 hours of battery life.  I really can't say enough good things about these headphones.  Worth every penny.  
Retail price $129.99 on jaybirdsport.com.


Oiselle #headupwingsout

Oiselle's Festive Mile One Pullover meets everyone's needs for winter.  Run in it.  Sit by the fire in it.  Layer it on top for running or underneath for extra warmth at your kid's hockey game.  Made with 100% merino and one of the few fabrics that is soft, warm and lightweight.  In one word....delicious.  Retail price $98 on Oiselle.com.

Books by Kara Goucher & Deena Kastor

'Let Your Mind Run' by Deena Kastor & 'Strong' by Kara Goucher  Who doesn't love a good book to curl up with during the holiday break?  Both of the books above were total game changers for me both in terms of my running and in my life in general.  These women are two of the most inspirational in their sport.  Yes, they are both Olympic athletes and professional runners but their stories and the lessons within them can be truly applied to all areas of life, for both runners and non-runners alike.  Increasing mental strength and gaining confidence to be the best version of myself?  Please and thank you.  
Retail price for Kara Goucher's "Strong' $13.36 in Paperback & Retail price for Deena Kastor's 'Let Your Mind Run' $17.79 in Hard cover, both on Amazon.com.

Zensah #withoutlimitz

I am a huge fan of the Zensah Mini-crew for winter.  Their cupcake pattern is my current favorite.  I won't tell you how many pairs I have.  But I will tell you that I have lots of pairs in many different colors and patterns to choose from, several of them in the food category.  The design alone is reason enough to want these socks.  Then add to it the fact that they are graduated compression, anti-blister, have seamless toes, and are made with moisture-wicking and anti-odor fabric and we're done here.  You're ankles will thank you and your friends will think you're really cool.  Done and done.  Retail price $19.99 on Zensah.com.

Runangel #runloud

This device has changed my life.  No joke.  I do a lot of solo running and I'm often out in some remote areas on my long runs.  Wearing the RUNANGEL bracelet gives me peace of mind.  Hopefully, I never need to use it.  But if I do, it sets off an ear-piercing alarm and sends a signal to my husband with my location.  Runners, hikers, bikers, kids who walk home alone, I really can't think of anyone who couldn't benefit from having one of these bracelets.  
Retail price $90.00 on runangel.com 
*Note: Use code TRAX15 at checkout to save 15% off get an additional free strap

Stacks espresso

Rich, creamy, delicious coffee crafted by Stacks Espresso bar which is owned by my dear friend and Oiselle teammate Erin Wrightson.  Enough said.  Retail price $14.99 on stacksespresso.com

STOCKING STUFFERS


NUUN IMMUNITY - a quick, easy and tasty way to supercharge your immune system. Perfect for winter training and survival in general.
HONEYSTINGER - a chocolate cracker n' nut butter explosion of awesome in your mouth.  So good it's ridiculous.  
KOALA CLIP - the hands free solution to running with your phone.  Works very well with the wireless Jaybirds, I might add.
CLEMENTINES - the healthy snack that also happens to perfectly fill out the hole of the stocking.

********** THE RWM EPIC GIVEAWAY **********


Here it is, my friends.  This is my biggest and best giveaway in the history of RWM.  Several of the companies and individuals from the above gift guide have donated goodies as well as their time to this epic stash of loot that one of you lucky readers will win.  To enter, comment below.  Since the holidays are a time of giving and receiving, tell us who you will share this bundle with.  Because you're gonna share, right?  You can also jump over to RWM on Instagram and enter there.  Winner will be chose via random.org on 12/18.  Huge thanks to all of those who contributed to this package of love.  Good luck.  *US Residents only

Giveaway Includes:
A pair of Jaybird Sport X4 Wireless Headphones (Freedoms pictured here)
A signed copy of STRONG by Kara Goucher
A signed copy of Let Your Mind Run Deena Kastor
Oiselle Trucker Hat & Power On Mittens
4 Tubes of NUUN (2 Immunity & 2 Electrolytes) & Water bottle
$50 gift card for use on koalaclip.com
2 Lbs (Espresso & House blends) of coffee and a ceramic mug from Stacks Espresso
One pair of Zensah Cupcake mini-crew socks
Box of Honeystinger Dark Chocolate Cracker N' Nut Bars

Listen to this:
How You Feeling - Superfruit

Thursday, December 6, 2018

BE THE AVOCADO

"Mom, I left your daily note by your bed.  It didn't fit in your motivation box.  But I think you'll like it."
~ Grace, age 11


It's 8:15 am.  I've had coffee but my body doesn't seem to remember that I drank it.  Happens a lot lately.  I've got a tempo workout to tackle this morning; 10.5 miles total including a three mile warmup, four and a half miles at 6:35-6:40 pace and a three mile cool down.  It's a common one for me and yet I'm dreading it.  The temperature outside is in the twenties.  Sweet, sweet winter.  I decide to run inside.  If I'm being honest, and I might as well be since I'm sharing the inner demons today, I really want to go on the treadmill so I don't have to think about hitting pace.  I want to let the machine do it for me.  There, I said it.  Though, I really do hate doing workouts in the cold.  So, off to the gym I roll.  I park and walk slowly....shuffle, shuffle...to the front door of the Y.  I see my friend Pam.  She's running across the parking lot, clearly in a rush and maybe even excited to start her workout.  She does a double take as she sees me heading towards her.  "I'm kind of struggling",  I say.  "Not super motivated today."  She laughs.  I smile.  But I'm not laughing.  I'm wishing I could tap into her energy reserves because mine are depleted.  I don't tell her this.  No need to make things weird.  I throw my stuff in a locker and make sure I have everything I need.  Headphones, water bottles, phone, towel and two pairs of shoes. I'm a walking garage sale.  I grab a treadmill, set myself up and start my warmup.  My legs are heavy, but I knew they would be.  It's fine.  I set the pace slow and ease in.  After a few minutes, the running feels good, natural.  So, I relax and enjoy.  I finish the warmup and change my shoes because I want a something lighter for this work.  I start back up again at goal pace, the high end.  After one minute I stop.  It's not happening.  I change back into my trainers and decide to try one more time.  "Come on, Rebecca.  Be the avocado."  I smile.  Sweet Grace.  I increase the pace back up to 6:40 and try to find a groove.  To say it's hard doesn't even begin to describe it.  I can't get there.  I mean, I'm there, I'm doing it, but it's abnormally difficult.  How did I run 13.1 miles faster than this just three months ago, I wonder.  How am I going to run four and a half miles as this pace today?  I cover the screen with my towel and decide to do as much as I can without looking.  I know that this pace usually equals about 2 songs per mile, give or take.  I tell myself I am not allowed to check my mileage until I've heard six songs.  Instead, I stare out the window at the naked trees and the dead grass.  Sweet, sweet winter.  I sing, I dance, I air-box, (is that a thing?) I shake my hands out, I roll my arms in big circles.  Whatever I can do to move things along, I do it.  Six songs.  Finally.  I've run 3.3 miles.  I sigh with relief.  I'm hurting.  But I can power through 1.2 miles.  I know this.  Two more songs.  I tell myself not to look.  I look.  4.2 miles.  Sweet Lord above.  Make it end.  Finally I finish.  I slow to a walk.   I'm so happy to be done my sweat mixes with tears of joy.  Not really.  But maybe a little.  I putter on for another three miles.  It's a GD miracle that I was able to pull that off.  The struggle is so painfully real lately.  My head and my heart are not in it.  But there is beauty in the struggle.  I know this.  It's one of the reasons I started running in the first place.   It's a big part of what keeps me coming back.  Moving forward, I will take Grace's message to heart.  I will be strong on the outside.  And I will be loving on the inside.  Especially of myself.  Something I don't do often enough.  My heart....my pit, as some might say,....is so full.  Thank you, Grace.

Listen to this:
Dignity - Erin McCarley

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

RACE REVIEW:THANKSGIVING CLASSIC 13.1

Last week we flew down to Jacksonville to spend Thanksgiving with my parents and my sister and her family.  Having just run a marathon in October, I had no plans to do anything other than relax and enjoy myself over this break.  Sure, I was going to run, but the miles would be minimal and easy and just "for fun".  Oh, and prior to the trip I'd decided to sign up for a half marathon on Thanksgiving day, also "for fun".  Yes, it was a race, but it was mainly to get out of the house and do something active and somewhat strenuous before settling in with family and feasting for the rest of the day.  Okay, so now that I'm reading over this I realize I actually did have plans beyond relaxing and enjoying myself for this break.  Though, I suppose, as far as I'm concerned, mellow running and racing can slide into the category of "enjoying myself" these days.  At one point my husband and my younger daughter had thought about joining me and racing the 5K.  But, when I reminded them about the 7am start the day before the race, they both opted out.  Bummer for me but no surprise.


Wednesday was beautiful. We spent some time swimming, walking on the beach, reading, napping and just hanging around doing not much of anything for most of the day.  It was awesome.  The fact that the temps were in the single digits back in Boston was not lost on me.  Sorry.  Not sorry.  Wednesday night, my sister, her husband, Jeff and I we went out to dinner at the Palm Valley Fish Camp.  I ordered fish because, when in Rome....or Florida.  I enjoyed a glass of wine.  I had dessert.  Basically, I did everything I never do before a race.  Because, as my coach had reminded earlier in the week, I don't always have to live a monastic lifestyle and it's important to make the most of the times when I'm not in training simply because I can.


I won't lie and tell you I didn't consider bailing on the half all together while I was enjoying my coffee and dessert.  I did.  But, when I got home from dinner I laid my stuff out and set my alarm anyway.  I mean, who was I kidding?  I got a decent night's sleep and woke up 5:30 the next morning.  Oof, that came quick.  It was pitch black outside and it was a balmy 60 degrees, which I was thrilled about.  I hopped in my brother-in-law's car and made my way over to the race start.  For the record, he's not a runner.


I actually rolled in a bit later than usual, not at all on my usual pre-race game and not really sweating it.  I jogged over to the start to grab my number, this being my only window to get a warmup in.  I could not help but notice all the people wearing hats and gloves.  No joke.  Apparently 60s is pretty chilly for the locals.  I must have looked ridiculous in my shorts and tank.  I got my bib and shirt and ran back over to my car to ditch everything before making my way over to the line.  I'd spoken to my coach the day before the race and we'd landed on two goals; to run hard and to have fun.  He reminded me that I was still recovering from Baystate and that my body was not going to be super responsive because of that.  Basically, this was probably not going to be a PR day and I should not expect it.  It's always good to get this kind of reminder so I don't set myself up for disappointment.  Thus, I was going to just give it what I had and do my best to have a good time.


THE RACE:
The race director sent us off right on time at 7:00am.  As you know, Florida is pretty flat, so I knew it was going to be a relatively painless course, weaving mostly throughout the neighborhoods in the area.  I settled right into a pace that felt comfortable, turned up my music and zoned out.  Until mile 3 when I zoned back in.  On my big toe.  Which was throbbing.  Stupidly, I'd made a last minute switch to flats right before I'd headed to the line.  Really bad call.  My big toenail had suffered at Baystate and was now being pushed against my shoe with every step I took.  Oh my word, each time I lifted my foot I got a little shot of pain on the nail.  My first thought, thank goodness this wasn't a marathon.  At the very least, I knew I could grit it out for 10 more miles.  My pace was fine, hovering right around 6:45.  I tried to focus on my breathing and my rhythm, my music, the palm trees; anything other than my toe.  Since I was not at all stressed out during this race, I made an effort to thank the volunteers on the course and at the water stops.  I also tried to smile often as I've heard that helps trick your brain into thinking your having a good time, even when you're not because your toe hurts.  I wish I had a good story for you on this one, but really I just cruised through the miles, mildy suffering, but for the most part enjoying the scenery and the morning in general.  Miles 6,7 and 8 were pretty rough.  I could feel myself slowing down, and stepping on the outside of my right foot in order to adjust for my toe.  But, I was able to pick it back up for the last few miles simply because I was just eager to be done.


I finished in 1:28 and change which I was more than pleased with given how things had unfolded.  I should have eaten more carbs and less sugar the night before.  I should have stayed off my feet for a better portion of the day on Wednesday.  I should have hydrated better.  I should have gotten up earlier and given myself more time to warm up.  I should have cooled down.  Oh yeah, I didn't do that either because my toe hurt too much.  And for a different race, I would absolutey go back and do it differently.  For this one, I wouldn't change a thing.  I got exactly what I expected out of it.  And sometimes that's all we need.  In terms of running, that is.  As I said, for this trip, what I really needed was family time, good food and a lack of regimen.  And that, too, is exactly what I got.  

Hanging w/ Rosie & Grace

at Thanksgiving dinner w/ my sister and my dad

THE FAM

Listen to this:
We Got The World - Erin McCarley

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

"DIFFERENT" TRAINING

"Fall in love with taking care of yourself.  Fall in love with becoming the best version of yourself but with patience, with compassion and respect to your own journey."
~ S. McNutt


The week after my last marathon I did no running or exercise of any kind.  After all of those weeks (months, years) of training, I'd earned the right to relax and unwind and I was really craving the time off the road.  It was wonderful.  The next week (yes, a week) I eased back in with some short and easy runs.  Not surprisingly, my legs were heavy and my overall energy level was pretty low.  But I was fine with it as I knew it would take a few days to shake the dust off.  The third week out I was still taking it slow but, in regards to my body, things were finally starting to click back into place which felt good.  This week I began to pick up my mileage a bit because I have a half on Thanksgiving which I am running "for fun" and I want to feel decent if possible.  But I was still not doing any workouts because I wasn't ready and I really didn't want or need them yet.  By the fourth week out, from a running standpoint and, if I'm being honest here, just in general, I was feeling off kilter both mentally and physically and I was having a hard time dealing with it.  So there it is.  Four weeks.  I kind of knew they were coming, the post-marathon blues, but I guess I'd hoped I'd be able to embrace the post-race high a little longer this time around since I'd finally hit my goal.  No dice.  Right after Baystate, my coach and I made a game plan for my next phase of training.  We decided to focus on getting faster in the half with the eventual goal of running a faster marathon.  This meant racing multiple halves in the spring of 2019 and then we landed on Chicago for the following fall.  This also meant for the first time in six years I would not be training for a spring marathon.  As you may know, I've been nose to the grindstone for the past three years, consistently running 70-80 mile weeks with minimal breaks between marathons.  And as tough as that has been it is what I've gotten used to.  In a sick way, I have learned to love it.  I'm now on my fifth week out from the marathon and not only do I miss it, but I feel a little lost and unsure of myself as a runner.  It sounds a little ridiculous when I say it out loud.  But, it is what it is.  A couple days ago, I reached out to my close friend and teammate, Sasha Gollish, a pro-runner up in Canada.  I had a feeling she would not only understand what I was going through but would probably have some words of wisdom or encouragement for me.  I was right.  On all of it.  She's been there.  Done that.  Talked about it.  Worked through it.  Helped others through it.  And was ready and willing to hash it out with me.  I'm just going to go ahead and share our conversation for a couple reasons.  First, you'll likely be able to pluck some pieces of her wisdom and use them for yourself.  Second, maybe you're dealing with something similar and will find strength in numbers.  And finally, because in laying it all out there, I'm facing it and working through it myself.  I won't lie and tell you that I'm a little embarrassed and that I debated posting this because of how frivolous the issue sounds.  But, I'm human.  And so are you.  And we all have our demons.  Better to step up and fight them rather than pretend they're not there.  Or, at the very least, invite them in for coffee and see what happens.

Me: Question for you.  I feel heavy and off my game both mentally and physically.  Do you ever get this way after a long and/or brutal training cycle?

Sasha: I think that is the emotions playing with you.  You've been running so much your body comes to crave it.  So in attempt to get you out the door and running that much again it tricks you into feeling heavier and off.

Me: That makes sense.  I'm trying to allow myself to take the time to enjoy lower mileage and a low maintenance regimen but it's also hard for me after going at that level for so long.

Sasha: I know it's amazing what our minds do to us.  It was so hard for me, too. (post-Berlin marathon)  SO hard.  But I talked it out and try to manage my brain.

Me: I know this sounds nuts, but I feel guilty a lot in what I'm not doing.

Sasha: Oh, I know that feeling.  I find that when I write about it and talk it out, it goes away.  You're going through all the same emotions.  So next time you feel guilty just say, hey brain, we’re going back to training, just not yet.  It calmed down the voices in my head.

Me: Ya. I really need to try and relax. But I feel weird bc I do it to myself.  I train like a crazy person and have been doing it for so long to try and break the 3 hour barrier.  And now that's done. So when I'm out running easy and working so much less, it feels like I’m slacking, like I’m letting myself down.

Sasha: Ok, so these are the words that really are the root of your feelings, or at least I think so. 
SLACKING
1)  You’re not slacking. Actually taking the rest and doing the things you need to do takes courage and a lot of strength.  But because they are not the norm, both in our daily lives, and the societal norm of training we get tricked in to thinking rest is bad.
LETTING YOURSELF DOWN
2) Oh my gosh, this is the emotion I carried with me for 6 weeks post-Berlin. From food to training to life. I had to remind myself how important the down time was, the weight gain, the recovery.  I had to remind myself I’m not letting myself down.  This is the build up post-breakdown. So I flipped it.  I’m bringing myself up so I don’t let myself down when I go back to training.

Me: That’s such a great way to look at it.  In fighting the feelings, I am getting mentally stronger.  In not training, I am letting my body rebuild.  I think, honestly, that at my age I’m scared of losing my fitness.  I pound so hard.  I can’t believe my body hasn’t given out. So I know it’s good to take a break.  But I don’t like feeling “out of shape” which I know I'm not, but comparatively.  And I'm worried I won't get it back.

Sasha: I have called my recovery time training time. It’s worked wonders for my brain.  It’s just "different" training.  I find it useful to say, I’m out of sharpness not out of shape.

Me: Yes.  I love that.  And thank you. 

Here's my takeaway.  This recovery and downtime is all part of the process.  It's the "different" training.  And it's necessary.  I need to accept this challenge just like I would any other.  I also need to remember that there is a reason that I'm making these choices and that in the long run they are good for me and will help me reach my goals.  And finally, I need to work through the tricky stuff now because it's helping me gain the mental strength that I'm going to need as I head into this next chapter.  Oh, and one more thing.  Sasha?  She's the shit.

Listen to this:
Weight Lifting - Katie Herzig

Monday, November 12, 2018

YES. I AM THE COACH.

I've been the head coach of the Lexington High School Girls Cross Country team for seven years.  I started as the assistant with the intention of learning the ropes for a few years before trying to find a head position in Lexington or elsewhere.  After my first year as a volunteer, the previous coach, also a woman, unexpectedly quit and I happened to be in the right place at the right time.  Fortunately, the athletic director had enough confidence in me after having worked with the girls for only a year to give me the head coach job despite my lack of experience.  I was admittedly not quite ready to fill the shoes of the previous coach, but damned if I wasn't going to give it a shot.  I leaned heavily on the mens team's coach and his assistant as well as the coach for the middle school team, all of them men and all of whom have become and still remain peers and good friends of mine.  I dove into books, I picked other coach's brains and I did my best to figure things out as I went.  I made mistakes.  I learned from them.  And every year I came back with more knowledge and a better understanding of the sport and the mind of a high school athlete.  Since I became head coach, my team has been Middlesex League champions for five out of seven years.  They have been EMASS Divisional Champs for three.  And they have qualified for the MIAA All State Meet for all seven years.  Am I bragging?  Yes.  But, not about myself.  The girls do the work.  They put the miles in.  They toe the line.  And they are the ones who get the results.

EMASS DIVISION 1 CHAMPS 2018

I just guide them along the way and help them be their best when it matters.  In the world of coaching, specifically high school cross country, there are not a lot of women coaches.  Perhaps it's because the hours are tricky (after school and weekends).  Maybe it's because the pay isn't high enough and often requires holding two jobs to make it work.  Which then means she might have to find a job that's flexible enough to leave during the day in order to coach.  Whatever it is, you tend to see men coaching more than woman.  Does it bother me?  No.  Do I wish there were more female coaches?  Of course.  It's fun to work with like-minded peers.  I've got to believe that anyone, man or woman, would agree with that.

w/ fellow coach & friend Steve McKenna
Thankfully, I have felt very welcome in my field despite the fact that I'm one of the few women head coaches in my particular circle.  Over the weekend, my team attended the EMASS Divisional Meet out at Wrentham.  We go to this meet every year and thus this is my seventh year attending.  Seven times I've gone to this meet.  Many of the coaches know who I am, a lot of them know my name and several of them are now good friends of mine.  Bottom line, it's a pretty tight knit community.  So, when my team and I made our way up to the podium after having taken the win and the head coach of the runner up team, a man, went out of his way to shake my assistant's hand and congratulate him on our team's performance, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed he just hadn't seen me.  I made a point to stop and congratulate him myself, mainly because I was impressed with his team's race and also because I was proud of my role that day, as I'm sure he was, too.  He ignored me and kept walking.  I shrugged it off and went up to the podium with the girls wanting only to celebrate them and all of their hard work.  But, I can't lie and say I wasn't annoyed.  And not just for myself.  But for all the women coaches who have to endure similar situations on a regular basis.  And for all the women out there who have a job in a predominantly male field and don't get the credit or, hell, even just the basic recognition they deserve despite being good at what they do.  Nick Willis, an Olympic medalist in the 1500M is coached by his wife, Sierra.  In this article, he gives three good reasons as to why it's important to recognize his wife's role as a coach.  First, because women are scarce in the coaching world, particularly that of professional runners.  He believes this lack of diversity is detrimental to the sport and the athletes who compete in it.  Second, because "acknowledging Sierra's presence is important for future women considering coaching roles in a sport I care about greatly."  And last, and I really love this one, because he has two boys of his own and he doesn't want them to grow up seeing his wife, who is committed, passionate and incredibly talented, not get the credit she deserves.  He doesn't want to normalize the fact that her contributions are often attributed to someone else.  I really could not have summed this up any better. Hats off to this guy.

Post-race w/ KS

Back to our meet.  Later on that day, one of my friends and fellow coaches asked me about this specific experience, which I'd mentioned to him and several others.  I told him it bothered me.  He understood.  But he told me not to let it; that it wasn't worth it.  He was being supportive and I know what he meant.  It's not really worth the time and energy I was wasting on the situation.  And in some ways he's right.  I need to move on and pour my energy into my team right now.  So, I've put it on the back burner.  It's simmering there.  I suppose I don't really want to let it rest just yet.  Which is why I'm writing about it here.  Maybe that will be enough.  Maybe not.  Either way, it's something.  I love my job.  And it is such a privilege to get to do what you love.  If I'm doing it right, should it matter if I am a man or woman?  Do we really even need to ask that question?

w/ the LHS Outdoor Track coaching staff

Listen to this:
Battle - David Guetta

Friday, November 2, 2018

HALLOWEEN=MARATHON


Earlier this week I asked my daughter, Grace, if she might like to do a guest post for me.  What would I write about? she asked.  Well, I said, maybe you could write about your experiences as a soccer player and relate them to those of us who are runners.  She gave it some thought for a few minutes and then said, I know!!  I can write about Halloween.  Insert pause.  Ummm, yeah, I can see how that would be fun to write about, I told her, but I'm not sure how it relates to running.  It's a bit random, you know?  Without missing a beat she saidNot really.  I bet I feel the same way about Halloween as you do about your race day.  What do you mean? I asked.  So she explained.  And as her comparison unfolded, I realized she was right.  She feels almost exactly the same about Halloween as I do about the marathon.  Excited?  Yep.  Nervous?  Totally.  Impatient.  Definitely.  Then, on top of that, the planning that goes into the costume, all the work, including the ups and downs, the worries, the laughs, the crazies and then the final build up to the day itself, even the aftermath; it's all right on par with how it plays out for me.  Below is my attempt to break down her theory for you.  I turned on my phone microphone as we talked and have done my best to transcribe it word for word, though some of it was lost in translation.  I would have rather she written it herself, but she's 11 and she had much better things to do.  I get it.  It was a long shot.  Still, it's a comparison worth sharing.  If only to get a kick out of how much Grace truly loves this holiday.

Caroline & Grace

In her words...

Right when school starts in September, Caroline and I start thinking about Halloween, mostly what we're going to dress up as, but also just about the day itself.  It's definitely our favorite holiday.  As soon as we pick a costume, we start planning right away because it takes us months to put together a costume that's good.  And we want it to be really, really good, so we work really hard on it.  Our planning is just like your training.  We do a little bit of work every day.

List of items needed
(good that they included themselves on it)

We make lists.  We do research.  We draw diagrams.  We try lots of different things.  We do test runs.  We get frustrated and annoyed when it doesn't work out the way we want it to.  And then we try it again or come up with something new that does work.  So, yeah.  We prepare and practice like you do.  As we get closer to Halloween, even though we're pretty much done with our costumes, we add all the finishing touches; little tweaks to make sure everything feels good.  Just like when you start tapering, right?  You're pretty much done, but you just do a little running to make sure your legs are ready.  Then week before the "big day", Halloween for us and marathon day for you, we are always stressed, excited and nervous.  You always tell me that's how you feel before your race.  It's no different for us.  We go through all the pros and cons of our costume, overanalyzing things because we have too much time on our hands.

Potential Ups and Downs of the Jellyfish costume
(might, very rarely, look bad)

But, really, we know we're done and there's not much else we can do.  That's when we start counting down the days, hours and minutes until Halloween.  We get a little obsessed.  And the waiting is torture.  Sound familiar?

Written during a window of boredom

The night before, we lay everything out (I know you do this, Mom) and plan out our night to make sure everything goes the way we want it to.  Of course, you never know.  There are always going to be things that we can't control.  It might be raining, our lights might break, one of us might get sick.  But, we do the best with what we've got when the day comes.  And, finally, on Halloween night, we get dressed and head out for the biggest and best night of the year.


The 'Trick or Treating' for us is like running the race for you.  We get to show everyone our costumes and the neighbors are sort of like our fans cheering for us along the way.  We eat sugar all night...you know...to keep our energy up (wink, wink).  And it's just the best feeling ever.  That is, assuming it's all working the way we want it to.  Trust me, we've had some bad ones.  Those are never fun.  And then it's over.  And we're kind of sad.  Because we know we have to wait a whole year for the next Halloween.  Well, it's sad and it's happy.  Because...you know...candy.

WINNING

Bottom line here.  Find something that you love.  Commit to it fully.  Ride the ups and downs.  And on game day, go out there an execute.  And, most importantly, if you love it that much?  Never stop doing it.  I get it Grace.

Listen to this:
Mountains - Sia

Thursday, October 25, 2018

RACE REVIEW:BAYSTATE MARATHON

"Some days it just flows and I feel like I’m born to do this, other days it feels like I’m trudging through hell. Every day I make the choice to show up and see what I’ve got, and to try and be better.  My advice: keep showing up."
~ Des Linden

This past Saturday, I woke up early and headed over to LHS as our girls XC team would be racing at the Catholic Memorial Invitational at Franklin park later that morning.  The distraction was exactly what I needed as I would be lining up for my 22nd marathon the next day and I honestly didn't want to think (er...stress) about it if I didn't have to.  The Lex girls ran their brains out and completely crushed it, handily taking the win and far exceeding my expectations; something they've been doing a lot this season.  I was so proud of them and incredibly inspired by their performance, as I often am.  It was quite a boost for all of us and exactly the motivation I needed as I switched gears to focus on my marathon for the rest of the afternoon.

LHS LADIES

I got home around 1:30, quickly shoveled a sandwich into my mouth and then, as promised, made my way back out to take Grace, Rosie and their friend, Caroline to Party City so the girls could get the final pieces for their Halloween costumes.  Probably not the ideal pre-marathon agenda but Grace, in particular, likes to plan and wouldn't relax and until she had all the accessories she needed for her Jellyfish.  No rest for the weary, right?  As we pulled into the parking lot, Rosie mentioned that she'd like to shop for jeans and asked if she could hit Marshalls while we were in Party City.  My knee jerk reaction was...Really?  Jeans??  Today??  But, she, too, was goal oriented and, in fairness to her, she did need some additions to her wardrobe.  Okay so costumes, check....

Hmmm. Blue hair spray? Silver eyelashes?

and jeans, also check.  Three pairs actually. Yes, I am a sucker.  And I really just wanted to get out of there.  So, Rosie won.

Rosie's wearing my shorts.  Jeans clearly needed.

I dropped all the girls off around 3:00 and then turned around and went back out again, this time to Chelmsford to pick up my race bib so I wouldn't have to deal with it the next morning.  It was about an hour trip all in but totally worth it to help keep the stress at bay.  Then finally, around 4:30pm, I put my feet up and attempted to relax and get myself mentally prepared for the next day.

FLAT TRAX

I got in bed around 8:30 and read for a bit, trying to settle my nerves and praying for sleep to come.  Sunday morning, as I'd done all week, I woke up at a ridiculous hour - 4:45am - and couldn't get doze back off.  So, I got out of bed at 5:00 and started my traditional pre-race routine: make coffee, feed Clover, chill on front porch and zone out for a bit.  After having run several marathons these past few years in locations that have required planes, trains, automobiles and hotels, I can't tell you how nice it was to sleep in my own bed and wake up without an ounce of worry as to whether or not the guy who was supposed to be coming in early to make coffee would actually show up for his job.  Eh hmm.  That was at Sugarloaf and, no, he did not show up.  I will never forgive him.

Coffee for me. Rabbit patrol for Clover.

Given the time, it was basically pitch black out, but the temp was relatively mild and the fresh air felt good, so it didn't stop us from having our porch session.  After a walk and some last minute organization, I got in my car around 6:30 and drove out to Lowell where the race would be starting.  The race organizer had suggested we arrive 2 hours beforehand, which I thought was nuts.  But, then when I got there I had to wait in line to get into the parking garage, a line that was moving at a snail's pace, so I understood why he'd made that suggestion.  I didn't panic at this point, but I was grateful that I'd already dealt with my bib so I could just park and start my warm up.  

Surprise hug from Liz

Shortly after I walked out of the garage and started toward the arena I ran into my dear friend and Oiselle teammate, Liz.  It was so nice to see a familiar face as my nerves were officially in high gear and a hug was both welcome and appreciated.  Liz just ran a marathon, like a week ago, and decided to just "jump in" to Baystate to see how it would go.  She's crazy badass!  We said goodbye and I found an enclosed area to put my stuff down and do some drills.  The wind, which I hadn't thought would be a factor, was now picking up and very clearly going to be a factor.  Awesome.  At 7:45, I took off all my layers and handed my bag over to gear check.  Just as I set out to the start I realized I'd forgotten to pull my gels out of my bag before I checked it.  SHIT.  I ran back and asked them to dig it back up.  They were not thrilled as it was in a very big pile and my bag was a small, white plastic grocery bag.  Fortunately, they were able to find it and I thanked them profusely despite their eye rolls.  Okay, so up until this point the only two somewhat minor issues that I'd had to deal with were the line for parking and forgetting my fuel.  Overall, not too bad as I've dealt with a lot worse.  I walked over to the start and tried to find the 3:00 pacer, a new pace option this year.  A lot of people were trying to qualify for Boston with this race and the qualifications have gotten tougher, so they added a few extra pace groups at those faster times in order to help rabbit folks along.  Lucky for me.  The day before I'd talked to my coach, Lowell, about starting out with the 3 hour pace group so I didn't go out too fast or worry about my watch in the beginning and we decided it was a good strategy.  It was now very, very cold and the wind was in full force.  The gentleman next to me told me I looked freezing (I was) and offered me his hand warmers, which I happily accepted.  Bless the running community, you know?  Always ready and willing to help each other out.  I tucked those puppies into my palms and squeezed them tight for warmth.  About 5 minutes before the start I tossed my t-shirt, an oldie but goodie that I didn't think I'd need earlier that morning.  RIP purple Oiselle 'FLY' shirt.  Hope you go to a nice new home.  Finally, at 8:00am, it was go time.


THE RACE:
One of my goals, as you likely know if you've been reading this blog lately, was to run this marathon in under 3 hours.  But, it was also to run smart, try and place in the Masters category (40+) and have fun.  As I mentioned, Lowell (yes, my coach happens to have the same name as the host city of the marathon.  Odd, no?) and I had talked the day before.  In a nutshell he told me that I should not focus on my overall finish time when I lined up but just to take one mile at a time; to break it up into little pieces.  That, he told me, is what it is going to take for you to get the job done.  He also told me I was ready and I just needed to go out there an execute.  Cool.  No problem.  Just freaking do it.  Later that afternoon I texted him in a panic because the weather had turned and was showing wind and rain.  WTF???!!!  You can't control Mother Nature he said.  The training is in the bank and you have sub 3 fitness.  Tuck behind someone when the wind is in your face as much as you can but you are going to get this done.  Yes.  Okay.  Trust the Sensei.  We got this.

3 Hour Pace Group

Mile 1-6 (6:40, 6:42, 6:47, 6:59, 6:40, 6:51)
Shortly after the gun blew I sought out the 3 hour pacer as I'd seen him briefly before we got going but did not start directly behind him.  It took me a little effort to catch up to him which explains the fast-ish start but after a couple miles I settled into the group as planned.  At mile 4 I reached out for a cup of Gatorade and it fell out of my hands.  I'd seen the guy in front of me successfully take one, so I just went ahead and asked him if I could have a sip of his if he had any extra when he was done.  I've never done anything like this before.  But, I had my eyes on the prize and I needed those calories, dammit.  He took what he needed and then passed it back to me.  BLESS HIM.  I thanked him and took a sip and then the guy next to me reached out for it, so I gladly passed it over.  I mean...come on.  Does it get any better than that?  We were all in this together.  I felt the love.  

Cruising w/ Brian

Mile 7-13 (6:45, 6:53, 6:54, 6:50, 6:46, 6:49, 6:52)
I worked hard to zone in on a rhythm for these miles and tried not to pay attention the mile markers.  Our pack stayed together for a while and continued to help each other out at water stops, mainly moving out of the way when we'd gotten what we'd needed.  During this stretch I hooked up with my friend and fellow coach from Wilmington, Brian Schell (#470).  I've done a couple other races with him but he's often aiming for a 5K PR so I was surprised to see him out there.  He let me know he was shooting for a BQ and needed to run under 3 hours as well.  Perfecto.  We fell right into pace with each other and settled in.  I was feeling rock solid.  I was hitting the splits plus or minus 10 seconds depending on the wind and who was in front of me.  I was lucid and mentally on my game.  I was pretending that I was doing a tempo workout and that the race hadn't even begun yet.  I didn't want any false confidence at this point as I knew there was a lot of work to do.

Rollin' (Pacers in orange behind us)

Mile 13-22 (6:52, 6:47, 6:46, 6:54, 6:49, 7:00, 6:52, 6:47, 6:54, 6:49)
Brian and I were just rolling along now.  He actually knew I'd been chasing a sub-3 for a few years as we'd talked about our goals more than once.  I'm pretty sure this is why he would jump in front of me when the wind picked up to offer a little shield.  He's not much bigger than me but it made a monumental difference, probably as much mentally as physically.  I was thanking him repeatedly as we ran, just so incredibly grateful to have his help out there and to have a wingman in general.  Things were getting tough now.  I was still holding on well and felt strong but the wind on this stretch was a beast right up until we crossed the bridge at mile 17.  I wasn't super worried about it yet in regards to my time, but it was definitely on my mind and I knew it was starting to wear on me physically.  Just beyond the halfway point the guy who'd been pacing us passed the sign off to the woman next him who I then realized would be taking over for him for the rest of the race.  Brian and I ebbed and flowed in front of and behind the group with each mile.  We seemed to be steady and they seemed to be picking up and pulling back.  But, I felt that if we could just keep them in our sites we were good to go.  Around mile 20, Brian let me know that his hamstring was seizing and that he was going to have to pull back.  He told me to go ahead.  I felt awful for him and was sad that we wouldn't be finishing together.  I was also a little nervous to have to battle through the rest alone.  Therein lies the marathon, though.  You never know how things are going to go down and you have to be prepared for that.  We wished each other well and I continued on solo.


Miles 22-26.2 (6:49, 6:46, 6:55, 6:54, 7:13)
So here is where the race began.  And I was basically on my own.  My average pace was showing 6:48 which was exactly where I needed to be.  Close to my target with a little cushion.  I did a mental check here.  Yes, I was wiped.  Yes, my legs hurt.  But, I was still holding it together.  I had one last GU to take if needed and I had 4.2 measly miles to get done.  FOUR.  That was it.  I had done four mile runs in my sleep during training.  There was a lot self talk at this point.  Okay, Rebecca, time to dig in.  Time to get gritty.  No excuses.  Let's just get this thing done.  And so on.  I was starting to get nervous at this point because the pacer was slightly ahead of me and I couldn't reel her in.  I began to worry that my watch was wrong and that maybe I didn't have the buffer I thought I did.  But, at the same time, I knew she hadn't started pacing until the second half and wondered if maybe she was fresher and just running a bit faster than she needed to.  Talk about a mind f***.  I checked my watch at each mile and the distances were matching up, so I had to believe my time was right and just tried to focus on myself and not her.  She did throw out some words of encouragement which I appreciated though I think I would have been better off had she not been there at all as I was wasting energy on the situation and was annoyed with myself because of it.  Around mile 25 my overall average had jumped up to 6:49.  SHIT.  I was still well within range (2:59:59 is a 6:52 average), but I had absolutely no room for error now.  My legs were hurting so much.  I was willing them to move faster but they were telling me to F off.  Every step was torture; just picking up my feet was ridiculously difficult.  At mile 26 I saw my dear friend Kelly and she was screaming her head off, telling me I needed to get moving.  Yes, she also knew about my time goal.  I happened to look down to see a text on my watch from someone who was tracking me that said, YOU'VE GOT THIS, BUT YOU GOTTA GO NOW TRAX!!!  Sweet Pete.  I had nothing left in the tank and yet I had to find something.  I took the last turn and looked to see the time on my watch switch from 2:58 to 2:59.  Oh my....now I was freaking out.  I just threw down whatever I had left, which you can see from my last mile split was not much.  And then I saw it.  I saw the official clock.  And the finish line.  And I was pretty sure it was there.  A fat smile spread across my face.  And I lifted my hands up in joy.  HOLY CRAP. This was happening.

OMG!!!!

Wait...was it happening?  I had crossed the line but I wasn't 100% sure, hence the nervous expression on my face below.  I needed confirmation before I let the tears fly.

HOLD THE PHONE

and there it was.  I saw a 2 on the clock.  It was official.  I'd done it.  This was the day.  My day.  I'd run a sub 3 hour marathon.  Hallelujah.  Praise be.  And cue the water works.

SWEET RELIEF

The relief poured through me.  I couldn't believe it.  I was crying like an overtired toddler; snot flying and tears streaming.  One of the EMTs asked me if everything was okay.  Yes, I slobbered, I'm ok.  Just happy.  Three years and nine tries.  So much work.  Countless miles.  Heartbreak.  Doubt.  Injuries.  I've dealt with everything.  Tried everything.  And still, despite all that hadn't gone right, I kept lining up because I wanted it more than anything.  And it had finally all come together.  It was just the sweetest moment for me.  Worth every single day I'd given to this goal and then some.


I walked through the chute, quickly found Jeff and the girls and went in for a hug, my messy toddler crying starting all over again.  Rosie and Grace weren't quite sure how to respond as they've never seen me in this state, but Jeff got it.  He squeezed me so tight.  Probably as relieved as I was.  Probably more so.  There is no way to put into words the joy I felt here, just having achieved my goal and being surrounded by my family.  It was everything.  I threw on all my clothes and we all walked back to the garage where we'd parked.  Again, the beauty of a local race?  I got to jet home, take a hot shower and plant myself on the couch for the rest of the afternoon.  Please and thank you.


Shortly after I got back my friend, Cecille, dropped off this beauty; a gift from a group of my Oiselle teammates.  And, once again, cue the tears.  But seriously, this journey has been with them and with so many other people.  My friends, my family, everyone has been along for the ride in some way.  I'm guessing half of the GD running community is relived to know that I finally did it.  What I'll say is this, there is absolutely no way I could have reached this goal without the people who have been supporting me along the way.  You can't do this stuff alone.  It's just not possible.  You need others to pick you up when you're down, cheer you on, relate to your experiences, tell you it's worth when you're doubting it; remind you why you do it day in and day out.  In the words of the great Eliud Kipchoge,
"It’s really a circle.  You cannot train alone and expect to run a fast time.  There’s a formula:100% of me is nothing compared to 1% of the whole team.  And that’s teamwork.  That's what I value."
There is so much truth to this.  My husband, my kids, my coach, my LHS athletes, my co-workers, my friends, my teammates; even those who I've never met but with whom I've connected while on this journey.  They are my team.  And I am nothing without them.  My success on Sunday is as much theirs as it is mine.  I am forever in their debt for all they have done for me and the strength and love they have given me over the years.  I have learned a valuable lesson during this very, very long process.  I proved to myself and to anyone else out there who may have doubts about whether their big, scary goals are attainable, that there is almost always a way to get it done if you want it badly enough.  I hate to sound cliché but there is just no other way to lay it out there.  Yes, it may take longer.  Yes, you may have to get creative, work a little harder, sacrifice a little more, and, at times, trick yourself into believing the unbelievable.  But hell if I haven't made it clear to all of us that, again cliché, where there is a will, there is a way.  So, what now?  Well, I suppose this particular chapter is finally closed.  But the story?  That is still unfolding, my friends.  Stay tuned, there's definitely more to come.

Listen to this:
Moment - Mikky Ekko