Friday, May 25, 2018


"I'm lost again
but this time I'm fine with where I am"
~ Mating Ritual, 'I'm Just Alright'

I'm kind of "meh" on running right now.  I'm not complaining about it or feeling sorry for myself.  I've just lost my groove a little bit.  Maybe it's because I just ran five big races in a span of two months and I'm fried.  Maybe it's because I'm running to run right now with no specific agenda and nothing big on the horizon; my next marathon not being until October.  Maybe it's because the next few weeks of our high school spring track season, while intense and exciting, will also be our last which is so bittersweet.  Maybe it's because it's hot out.  Maybe it's because I haven't discovered any fresh running music in a while.  Maybe it's nothing.  Maybe, despite much thought, I won't be able to put a finger on it.  And maybe that's okay.  If I've learned anything over the past forty three years it's that mental cycle of running, much like life itself, consistently ebbs and flows.  That the emotional and physical impacts are often unpredictable.  The highs are high.  The lows can be really low.  And the in betweens are just that.  Time and space to stop, reflect, let go and, dare I say it, even lose the drive and desire for a while?  Being an admittedly driven individual, just thinking it feels wrong.  Like I'm cheating on a test and someone might catch me.  But as I write it, I realize it's probably a good thing. Or, if not good, perhaps necessary.  Part of the process, if you will.  Who knows, maybe tomorrow I'll lace up, get out on the road and feel like a million bucks, ready to fly.  Not likely.  But maybe.  And if not, I'll get the run in and then focus on the next day.  Bottom line?  I'm not going to stop running.  And I know this will change.  I don't know when.  But when it starts to shift, I'll feel it.  And, having gone through this before, I know that feeling, that shift, will get me excited about running again.  And the weather, the music, the workout; none of it will matter.  I'll just be ready to get after it again.  But until then, I'll accept it for what it is.  A moment, a phase, an unsolvable bleep on the radar.  Just...meh.

Listen to this:
I'm Just Alright - Mating Ritual

Thursday, May 17, 2018


The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best."
~ Epictetus

As I mentioned in my last post, this past weekend twelve us, along with our amazing crew, took on the Ragnar Reach the Beach Relay in Cape Cod as part of the recently launched Oiselle Podium Project.  Our one main goal, for obvious reasons, was to snag ourselves a spot on the podium, preferably first.  The outcome?  In a nutshell, mission accomplished.  Our team, otherwise known as BirdmachineCC, was the first women's open team across the line, finishing in blazing time of 20 hours and 26 minutes (average pace 6:41).  We also finished second overall out of the 462 teams that competed.  Pardon my French, but that is a shit ton of teams.  So, needless to say, we were pretty pleased with ourselves.  Today, I'm going to try to give you a sense of how things unfolded over those 24 hours.  It will undoubtedly be tough to put it all into words and I'll do my best to avoid going into too much detail.  Even still, it's a long one so you might want to grab a cup of coffee before you dive in.  Let's go ahead and start on Friday afternoon.  First stop, Hull, MA where the race was set to begin.  We had people fly and drive in from all over the country.  Seattle, Austin, Philly, Manhattan, and, of course, the Boston area.  Those of us who are local scooped up everyone who needed rides out to the start, all of us rolling in around 1:30 where we promptly grabbed coffee and food and then painted our vans.  Well, actually, if I'm being honest here, Julia painted our vans.  She's an artist and calligrapher and lots of other really cool things.  Her ability to decorate our vans far surpassed anything the rest of us could do so she just did the whole damn thing and we loved her for it.


After we got ourselves packed and our teams divided up into the two vans based on which leg we were running, we headed over to the race start for some administrative stuff.  Both teams had to have a number of safety vests, flashing lights and headlamps between them as no runner could be on the road at night without all of these items lit up and on their person.  We checked in with the staff as we had to physically show them our gear and then in return they gave us some safety flags for crossing the street and a bunch of other race related gear and promo swag.  I'm not going to lie and tell you I didn't feel pretty badass hanging with this group of strong, beautiful, fearless women who were all wearing the same thing, which was also incredibly badass (thank you, Oiselle).  Once we had the green light from the officials we did a team cheer and grabbed a photo and then lined up to wait as Kathleen, our first runner, got ready to go.  Finally, at 3:00pm, she was off and the rest of us hopped in the vans and got ready to rock.


I was assigned to the fourth leg and my first run would be an easy 4.1 miles.  I'd be grabbing the bracelet from the crazy fast Meg around 5:20pm.  Since this was my easiest of the three runs I was going to push the pace a bit, aiming to hover right around 6:45.  As expected, Meg came in hot and once she slapped the bracelet on my wrist I was off.  The weather was gorgeous, 60s and sunny, and I cruised along at goal pace, smiling both because I was running and more so because I was stupidly excited about the relay in general.  


I could see a guy in a blue shirt in the distance and focused on following him since the official Ragnar markers on the road for us were few and far between.  The first mile flew by and I finished mile 2 right one pace with a 6:46.  Shortly after the 2 mile marker there was a RTB sign up ahead that showed an arrow to the left.  I watched as the guy I had been following veered right.  SHIT.  Should I yell out, I wondered?  I got to the sign and turned left deciding he was too far away to hear me.  Bummer for him.  Then about 20 steps after my turn I started to panic.  Did I read the sign wrong?  Did it mean stay on the left side of the road?  SHIT. SHIT. SHIT. I turned around and went back to the sign which definitely said turn left.  So that guy was either running on his own and wondering what the hell was going on in his town or he was in the process of getting really, really lost.  Sadly, I lost some time on that third mile, rolling in at a 6:56 so I was determined to make up the time and cruised through my fourth mile in 6:36.  I was a bit winded by the time I got to the exchange zone and had a tough time passing the bracelet off to Colleen, hence the awkward situation below.    


Ok, so not what I'd hoped for, but not a complete fail either.  After my run I got back in the van and joined the rest of my team as they cheered for each runner at the next few handoffs, all of them successful.  Once our sixth runner, Sophia, finished up her first leg our van was done for a while as Van 2 took over for the next 6 legs.  We pulled off to grab dinner. (hmmm....what to eat when you've just raced and you'll be doing it again in less than 3 hours.  Always a tricky one) Then we cruised over to the next exchange area where we'd be hanging out until Van 2 was finished.  We attempted to get some sleep, some of us in the van and some outside on the grass.  None of us did very well and by the time we were gearing up to start again all of us could feel the exhaustion settling in.  I had to give myself a little talking to here.  Buck up, Rebecca.  You signed up for this.  


I started my second run at midnight.  Now, if you've been reading this blog for a while you know that I'm typically in bed by 9:00pm.  Thus, you can imagine how chipper I was after having already run earlier that day and gotten about one hour of sleep in the backseat of van which I shared with my teammate, Cait.  I was not chipper.  I have no photos of this run as I was a zombie before, during and after.  I had to fight tooth and nail to hold a 6:50 pace as I was running totally on my own with no music in the pitch black and in small Cape Cod neighborhoods full of potholes and unexpected twists and turns.  I got it done, but it was touch and go.  Not pretty at all.

Some point in the middle of the night

I slinked back into the van, put some warm clothes on and waited quietly until all of us were done and we could get to the next exchange area for some sleep.  You can see how sparkly our crew, Ania and Joan, were in the photo above.  Bless them.  They kept things rolling smoothly and always had smiles on their faces no matter what.  It is a job I never could take on.  You can also see how thrilled I look behind them.  Let's just say it's been a while since I've been that tired.  We rolled into the transition area around 3am and Cait and I grabbed our sleeping bags and headed over to the (wet) grass for a nap.  Cait says I slept as I was apparently breathing heavily but I don't ever remember actually falling asleep.  After what felt like five minutes our alarm went off and we slogged back over to the van in preparation for our third and final leg.  It was now around 5am and the sun was just starting to poke through.  It was pretty spectacular and as I looked out the van window I was able to appreciate the beauty of it as I attempted to summon up some untapped energy.


My final leg was my hardest for multiple reasons.  One, it was my longest at 7.5 miles.  Two, it had some gentle rollers in it.  Three, it was my third run in less than 24 hours.  And four I was running on fumes.  I've done three marathons and one half marathon in the past two months.  But, this 7.5 mile run felt significantly harder than all four of those races.  I had absolutely nothing left in the tank and I was having to dig deeper than I've had to go for a while in order to hold a sub-7 minute pace.  Again, I had to give myself a pep talk.  Come on, Rebecca.  It's 7 miles.  You do this all the time. Embrace the suck and just keep going.  I sporadically checked my pace to make sure I wasn't sliding but I did not check my distance figuring the less I knew the better.  


Finally, I could see the turn in for the transition area.  That last stretch might as well have been a 5k.  Everything hurt and I was almost crying tears of joy knowing that I was nearing the end.  Why do I do this again?  I'll get to that.  I crawled into the van and slinked back to the corner as I decompressed, borderline shocked that I'd been able to pull it all off.


Next up?  Breakfast.  We pulled into Provincetown and walked down to Lizzie's cafe for some hard-earned food and bottomless cups of Joe.  All of us were in a bit of daze.  Tired, hungry and just completely drained both physically and mentally.  Not much was said during this meal and there seemed to be a general understanding among us that it was enough to just sit and be together for the moment.  Around 10:30 we received word that Van 2 was done.  We also learned our official finish time which was significantly faster than we had predicted so we were thrilled.  We wouldn't know our final place until later that day as we had to wait for all the teams to finish before they could determine the results.  But, we felt pretty confident that we'd done what we'd set out to do based on the results that were tallied up until that point.  


We gathered at the finish area so we could wait for Nicole, our final runner and fearless leader, to come up the hill and we could then run her in.  All of us were a bit loco now as we were fully caffeinated and overtired which is always an interesting combo.  Van 2 met up with us 12:00 and we traded stories for the next few minutes as we waited for Nicole.  She booked up the hill around 12:30, so fast actually that none of us were prepared and had to make a serious effort to catch her so we could cross the line behind her.  She was going hard to the finish and taking no prisoners along the way.  Shout out to this woman who organized the whole shebang flawlessly.  She is such a freaking rock star.  


The race was now officially over and we had, for lack of a better phrase, crushed it.  We made our way over to the finish table to get our medals and then back to the line for a final team photo.  Then we ambled up to the food tent and got some snacks before rolling back down the hill to get ourselves re-organized and ready to head back to Hull.  And just like that it was over.  I knew it would go fast but, man, it just flew.  I suppose that's what happens when you're having fun and working your ass off at the same time.  As one of the more seasoned athletes on the team (translation...the oldest) I was a little worried that I'd have a hard time holding my own.  Particularly given the fact that I had been been burning the candle at both ends over the past couple months between my own training, my job and my mom duties.  I realized, though, that when something is important to you and you believe in it wholeheartedly, you can summon up strength and energy that you never knew you had to make it happen.

Photo Credit: JESS BARNARD

I love racing.  But racing with a team and supporting each other as we aimed for a common goal was whole new level of awesome.  It's one of the main reasons it was so important for me to be a part of this team.  Our bond was sealed before we even started and from the minute the race began we became a force to be reckoned with, something that simply can't be done on your own.  I'm a big believer in surrounding yourself with people you love who share similar goals and dreams.  Being able to do it for a full twenty four hours gave me a dose of amazing that will last me for many years to come.  If I'm being honest I did have some thoughts in that final leg.   Things like I don't know if I can do this again and I might be getting to old for this.  But as I came into that final transition area and saw my team cheering for me, all smiles, jumping up and down and then wrapping me up in a hug because I'd done it, my doubt faded as I remembered that I'd earned my spot among this incredible group of women.  I may have had to work a little harder to keep up, but so what.  I'd done my part.  And I knew, at that moment, that I'd do it again in a heartbeat if the opportunity was presented to me.  But    

Listen to this:
Collide by The Givers

Thursday, May 10, 2018


Tomorrow, sixteen of us will be headed to Hull, MA for the start of the Ragnar Cape Cod Reach the Beach Relay.  Our team, also known as Birdmachine Cape Cod, was one of the 6 Oiselle teams chosen to be a part of their Podium Projecta crazy, elaborate scheme that the company dreamed up this past year.  Our goal?  To win.  Or, at least, to make it to the podium.  But, hopefully, to win.  And we have some really fast women coming in from all over the country to make it happen.  I am both honored and ecstatic to be a member of this crew.  I'm guessing many of you know what the relay entails, but just in case you're not familiar with it, here's the low down.  All of us, 12 runners and 4 crew members, will be meeting out in Milton, MA where we will hop into our two rented vans and drive to the start of the race.  The race, which starts in Hull and ends in Provincetown, is about 200 miles total and has been divided up into twelve legs.  Each of the runners will take on one leg which consists of three runs total of varied distances and degrees of difficulty.  The whole thing will be run straight through from Friday to Saturday until we are done.  Sleep?  Maybe.  Sweat?  Lots.  Showers?  Nope.  Coffee?  Duh.  To most, it probably sounds like a total nightmare.  To us, it's the ultimate girls weekend and we are all chomping at the bit to get started.  Below, you'll meet the runners on our team and get to know a little bit about them before we take to the streets.  Feel free to follow along on Instagram where we'll posting with #BirdMachineCC.  I have no doubt that it's going to be a wild and crazy ride.  Stay tuned.


Name: Megan Foster
Age: 40
Favorite race distance: I love all distances, even the ones I hate! But really 26.2!!!!!
Favorite ice cream flavor: All of them!
Favorite movie: Running movie-Saint Ralph 
Favorite season: Summer
Go-to coffee order: Early Grey Tea
Favorite dance move: The Lawnmower
Current favorite running song: All the Way Up by Fat Joe Remy Ma
Today I feel like....(fill in the blank): I’m on autopilot…(super busy this month!!!)

Name: Nicole Freeman (aka Freebird) 
Age: 29
Favorite race distance: Mile or sprint triathlons
Favorite ice cream flavor: Mango sorbet
Favorite Movie: Oh this is hard. I don’t have a favorite movie— more like a top ten. But I'd say, Joy (David O Russell) 
Favorite season: Summer or fall 
Go-to coffee order: Black hot coffee. French press preferred. 
Favorite dance move: Sitting back down— no one needs to see that
Current fav running song: (a throwback to high school) I slept with someone from fall out boy and all I got was this stupid song about me by Fall Out Boy  
Today I feel like...(fill in the blank): I’m super jazzed about everything. I’m going to get a massage and watch Gilmore girls. I start a new job on Monday and I took this whole week off. After months of misery I’m really going in on #treatyoself 

Name: Colleen Moorman
Age: 32
Favorite race distance: Half marathon or marathon
Favorite ice cream: Ooh, tough question because this changes constantly.  Anything with chocolate is a good bet.  Maybe Ben & Jerry’s “The Tonight Dough” or just Cookie Dough in general.
Favorite movie: Depends on my mood, but “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Love Actually” never get old.
Favorite season: Spring and Fall - I love the crisp cool mornings, perfect for a run.
Go-to coffee order: Latte when it’s cold; Iced/cold brew/nitro coffee or iced latte when it’s hot.  And iced mocha as a special treat.
Favorite dance move: Hmm, I love dancing salsa and merengue, so anything with lots of spins.
Current favorite running song: Whatever It Takes by Imagine Dragons
Today I feel like... (fill in the blank): a bad ass, pumped and excited for this race.  But I can always go for more sleep!

Name: Ania Kozlowska
Age: 33
Favorite race distance: 10K
Favorite ice cream: Sweet cream
Favorite movie: Alien
Favorite season: Fall
Go-to coffee order: Oat milk latte
Favorite dance move: The Carlton
Current favorite running song: Get By by Talib Kweli
Today I feel like... (fill in the blank): I need a few more hours in the day. ALSO SO EXCITED FOR BIRDMACHINE!!

Name: Faye Hellman
Age: 34
Favorite race distance: Mile/5K
Favorite ice cream: Mint chocolate chip
Favorite movie: Just one?  Something Mel Brooks to feed my love for his comedic style such as Blazing Saddles, History of the World Part I, or Spaceballs.
Favorite season: Fall
Go-to coffee order: Wawa. 100% Colombian
Favorite dance move: I do a move with my shoulders that looks cool in my head but not in the eyes of anyone who witnesses said move.
Current favorite running song: Anything that makes me what to dance.  Currently Body by Loud Luxury
Today I feel like... (fill in the blank): Hopeful that the running gods will help me overcome a weird injury I've had this past week so I can race this weekend!

Name: Cait Campbell
Age: 29
Favorite race distance: 5k
Favorite ice cream: Cappuccino Crunch (with chocolate sprinkles!)
Favorite movie: Return of the Jedi
Favorite season: Fall
Go-to coffee order: Venti iced coffee, unsweetened, with a splash of soy milk
Favorite dance move: dramatically dabbing while jumping up and down
Current favorite running song: Green Light by Lorde
Today I feel like... (fill in the blank): I need to pack for Ragnar!!

Name: Rebecca Stanfield McCown
Age: 36
Favorite race distance: 13.1
Favorite ice cream: Coffee with sprinkles
Favorite movie: Does Gilmore Girls count? I don’t think I have a favorite
Favorite season: Fall
Go-to coffee order: Black (but if I'm feeling feisty an almond milk latte)
Favorite dance move: Anything that can be done in a soul train dance line
Current favorite running song:  I don’t run with music but this pops into my head on a regular basis- Love Runs Out by One Republic
Today I feel like... (fill in the blank): I’m being held together by spit and duck tape. Need coffee.

Name: Alison Heslin
Age: 30
Favorite race distance: Half-marathon, ultra marathon, or anything on trails
Favorite ice cream: Vegan mint chocolate chip
Favorite movie: I'm a sucker for Jane Austen films (the 6-hour mini-series versions)
Favorite season: Fall
Go-to coffee order: Black coffee, lots of it
Favorite dance move: Not a big dancer
Current favorite running song:  I don't ever run with music. *gasp*
Today I feel like... (fill in the blank): I'm ready to be done with work and running to Cape Cod! 

Name: Cate Barrett
Age: 28
Favorite race distance: I just started marathoning this year and I’m hooked. Eek!
Favorite ice cream: Strawberry or cookie dough
Favorite movie: Fantastic Mr Fox
Favorite season: For running, winter. For life, summer.
Go-to coffee order: 12 oz drip in my yeti highball 
Favorite dance move: Favorite and only* move is the running man
Current favorite running song:  Here Come the Runts by AWOLNATION
Today I feel like... (fill in the blank): I took a nap after my morning run, so definitely “need more sleep!”

Name: Rebecca Trachsel (aka Trax)
Age: 43 (the grandma of the team)
Favorite race distance: Marathon & half marathon
Favorite ice cream: Blueberry oat crumble 
Favorite movie: Rushmore
Favorite season: Summer
Go-to coffee order: Latte (hot or iced depending on the weather)
Favorite dance move: White Man's overbite
Current favorite running song:  Runnin by David Dallas
Today I feel like... (fill in the blank): Anything is possible.

Name: Kathleen Michaud
Age: 34
Favorite race distance: Half Marathon
Favorite ice cream flavor: Cake Batter
Favorite movie: Neighbors
Favorite season: Fall
Go-to coffee order: Cold brew is my current go to! 
Favorite dance move: Twerk?
Current favorite running song: Havana by Camila Cabello
oday I feel like...(fill in the blank): Pumped up!

Name: Jess Barnard
Age: 27
Favorite race distance: 800m
Favorite ice cream flavor: Vegan rocky road
Favorite movie: Love Actually (obviously)
Favorite season: Track season. Oh, and fall
Go-to coffee order: Black (I don't mess around)
Favorite dance move: Anything to embarrass whoever I am with... but my go-to is the moonwalk. *smooth af*
Current favorite running song: That's It (I'm Crazy) by Sofi Tucker
oday I feel like...(fill in the blank):  I REALLY NEED TO START PACKING FOR CAPE COD! 

Name: Ashley Reasey
Age: 30 (this weekend!)
Favorite race distance: 5k pain train
Favorite ice cream flavor: Vanilla with rainbow jimmies
Favorite movie: Angels in the Outfield
Favorite season: Fall
Go-to coffee order: Black coffee
Favorite dance move: A-B skip
Current favorite running song: Anthem by Superchick
Today I feel like...(fill in the blank): Ready to cheer on some amazing women!

Name: Christine Horby
Age: 41
Favorite race distance: Half marathon
Favorite ice cream flavor: Mocha chip
Favorite movie: Don't have a favorite movie
Favorite season: Fall
Go-to coffee order: Vanilla latte
Favorite dance move: no answer
Current favorite running song: Say Something by Justin Timberlake & Chris Stapleton
Today I feel like...(fill in the blank): I need more sleep

Name: Joan Baker
Age: 35
Favorite race distance: 10k
Favorite ice cream flavor: My first job was scooping ice cream, so I hold a special place in my heart for Graeter's Chocolate Chip
Favorite movie:  The last movie I loved was Columbus
Favorite season: Fall
Go-to coffee order: I feel like a heathen for admitting this in your presence, but I don't drink coffee. I can't handle that much caffeine, so I usually have green tea or kombucha
Favorite dance move: Very uncoordinated moonwalk
Current favorite running song: River by PANGEA
Today I feel like...(fill in the blank): I'm ready to get this relay started!!


Tuesday, May 1, 2018


 " gonna get lost to find yourself
Know you gonna hold on for something else
'Cause you got a life time to work it out
So you gonna get lost to find yourself."
~Bearson, 'Get Lost'

My husband is an admitted fair weather runner.  He tends to do about 2-3 races a year with me, usually in the summer, and more often then not a 5K or 5 miler at the most.  I always look forward to it as it's such a rare treat to have him as a wingman on race day.  He's run one half marathon, the Black Goose back in 2015, and this winter he decided he was ready to do another one.  I suggested the Greenstride Earth, Rock, Run, a race I've done for the past three years that's organized by my friend Eli Bailin who, along with his crew, always puts on a fantastic event mainly because his philosophy as a race director is runners come first.  Done and done.  I did have a March marathon on my schedule but figured I'd be fully recovered by late April.  I was also doing Boston as a guide for Team With A Vision (TWAV), and while, yes it's still a full marathon, I'd be doing it a very comfortable pace and thus it wouldn't take me out the way a marathon does when I put in a full effort.  So we signed up and forgot about it.  Then along came March.  I flew down to Virginia, ran 20 miles of the Shamrock Marathon and, much to my dismay, ended up having to drop out due to a calf strain.  After a few days off, I eased back into training and when things were feeling good again I decided to run another marathon to try and hit the goal that I'd set for myself at Shamrock.  To my good fortune, the Greenstride Cheap Marathon was taking place on Sunday, April 8th, which was exactly three weeks after Shamrock, so just enough time to build some mileage back up and then get a mini-taper in before lining up again.  The only minor issue was that I'd then be running Boston a mere two weeks after that, but I was so eager to save my spring training and hungry to race again that I figured it was worth it.  As I write this, I realize how borderline insane this sounds, but that's kind of the way I fly these days, so it's no big shocker.  After my Shamrock disaster, I successfully finished the Cheap Marathon, which I was thrilled about.  Then my TWAV partner, William Greer, and I also successfully swam, finished and survived Boston (that's a good story, but a long one, so read it when you have some time on your hands), and poof, it was time for the Earth, Rock, Run with Jeff.  I won't lie and tell you I wasn't a little worried about running a half after having done almost three marathons in a one month window.  I could tell my coach wasn't thrilled about the plan either.  At the same time, he also understood that it was something he wouldn't be able to talk me out of, so he agreed to it.  I believe his exact words were, I definitely don't want you racing it.  As we get closer, we can discuss whether it makes sense to do it as a workout or just float along and enjoy the scenery.  Which worked for me.  So now it was the week of April 23rd and I was running daily but that was it.  No workouts.  Just lots and lots of miles.  Actually, more miles than I expected given that I'd just run Boston.  And the Cheap Marathon.  And Shamrock.  Sixty one to be exact.  Part of me wondered if my coach was doing this on purpose so that I would go into the half feeling somewhat tired and thus be forced to hold back a little.  Yes, this also sounds crazy.  But, I wouldn't put it past him because he knows me really well and he also knows that runners, in general, have a really hard time "taking it easy" on race day.  Fast forward to race weekend.  On Saturday, I spent the entire day on my feet at the MA State Relay meet with my high school track team.


For the first time in months is was sunny and warm and we all baked out on the track throughout the day.  The upside to this situation, beyond the weather, was that I was distracted and not even remotely thinking about the race.  The downside being that by the time I got home around five, I was completely fried, literally and physically which didn't bode well for the next day.  But, again, I had no goals for this race other than to have fun so I really wasn't that stressed about it.  We got up around 6:00am on Sunday and had coffee while also getting our younger daughter ready for her 7am drop off for an 8am soccer game.  As usual, never a dull moment.

Clover and I had our traditional pre-race moment of peace before leaving but it was cut pretty short so I gave her a bone to alleviate my guilt both for that and because we were having to ditch her for the better part of the day.  Yes, I am a sucker.  Finally, around 7:15 we headed up to Amesbury which is about a 45 minute drive from our house.  It was a cool, cloudy day; perfect race conditions.  We arrived, parked and headed down to grab our bibs and race loot (a hat AND a hoodie).  We ran into Eli who was running around dealing with last minute details.  He always manages to do this with a smile on his face which I think is pretty amazing as there are clearly a million balls in the air and so many things that could go wrong at these events.  I suppose it's why he's good at what he does.

Hanging w/ Eli

Jeff and I went back up the car and he sat and chilled inside while I went for a quick warm up.  No warmup for Jeff.  When I got back we both ditched our layers and made our way down to the start.  I did manage to grab a quick pre-race shot with him.  He's not a fan of photos or social media in general, so he was a trooper for bearing with me and my ridiculous traditions.

Pre-race with Jeff

I remember the course being hilly from when I ran it the year before.  This year it would be the same route but we'd be running it in the opposite direction.  I think it was because the traffic situation was better this way, but not 100% sure.  Regardless, I knew we'd be tackling the same hills in reverse, but I was mentally prepared and not really sweating it.  Jeff and I wished each other good luck, we don't run together for these, and lined up separately.  It was sunny for a brief moment at the start but shortly after we got going at 9am the clouds rolled in and the rain started to fall.  If you read my Boston story or were even remotely clued into the weather we had to deal with during the marathon, you can understand why I am still emotionally traumatized and forever scarred by rain.  So, as we took off, all I could do was chuckle at the situation.  Fortunately, it wasn't nearly as cold, it wasn't coming down too hard and there was no wind, so it was actually quite nice.  Still funny though.  As you may also know, I don't trust my Apple Watch for pacing anymore so I wore my Garmin instead.  But, I made a game time decision to just track my run on Strava rather than use my watch for time.  My logic here being that Strava would give me my splits but I wouldn't be staring at my watch the whole time and thus I wouldn't be focused on my pace and could just run by feel.  For the first few miles I felt awesome.  My pace was hovering right around 6:40, which was a little faster than planned, but not much.  I stuck with it since my effort felt controlled and my legs were responding nicely.  I caught up to a gentleman, whose name I later learned is Paul, around mile 5 and we started to chat.

Paul: Great job.
Me: Thanks.  You, too.  But, I'm having Boston flashbacks.
Paul: Ha ha.  I did it the year it was 85 degrees. Not as bad as this past year. But still pretty bad.
Me: Yea.  Heat is a close second to what we ran in.  But, still, ours was worse!
Paul: I'm using this as a training run for Grandma's (marathon).
Me: Nice. Do you have a goal time?
Paul: I'd like to slide in just under 3 hours.  Maybe 2:55.
Me: Awesome.  That's right where I'm sitting right now.  I have a 3:00:04 and would like to go under 3 if I can.  But I'm worried my window of opportunity is closing.
Paul: I don't know.  I'm 59 and I haven't really slowed down that much.
Me: Wow. That is amazing.  Totally gives me hope.  I'm really inspired.
Paul: Thanks! I'm actually surprised your legs are bouncing back this quickly after Boston.
Me: Yea, well I'm just out here to have fun and go with the flow.
Paul: Well, you're flowing pretty well at the moment.
Me: Thanks.  Going to put my tunes back on now.
Paul: Okay.  Have a great race.
Me: Thanks again.  You're killing it.  Keep it up.

We ran together for a while, taking turns leading and then he scooted ahead of me around mile 8 which I was totally fine with.  I kept him in sight, but just did my own thing, my pace going down a bit on the uphills and then recovering nicely on the downs.  Having just done so many marathons, knowing I only had to tackle 13.1 miles was a huge mental relief for me.  And by the time I got to mile 10 and realized that I only had a mere 3 miles left I was almost giddy.  Mile 11 was a steady uphill climb, which was a bit brutal, but I knew I could fly down after that so I just dug in and held on.
(photo by Eli B.)

Finally, I could see the main center of town in front of me so I gave it some gas and pushed it into the finish.  The cop who was riding next to me let me know that I was the first woman, something I hadn't really been aware of and was really excited about.  I was also thrilled with how good I felt and just stupidly excited to be done in general. And the cool part?  I finished in 1:26:16; a personal best by about 25 seconds which is kind of nuts given how my spring has unfolded.  But here's the thing.  I have now run my fastest 5K and half marathons to date at races where I've lined up with zero expectations other than to have a good time.  Both happened after having run multiple marathons in a very short window, so at a time when I assumed my body had little or nothing to give.  And both times I have been completely floored by the outcome.  Should I be, though?  Take the time goal out, remove the stress and pressure of performing at a specific level and just run to run and look what happens.  I honestly ran this half with a smile on my face the entire time.  I was out there just enjoying myself and happy to be able to do what I love.  I reluctantly post the below photo because of how goofy I look.  But look at the smile on my face.  If that doesn't say it all, I don't know what does.  The lesson is pretty clear here.  Remember why you do it in the first place and free yourself mentally once in a while and magical things can happen.

Dorky finish photo

For the record, Jeff crushed it.  He also finished with a personal best and truly enjoyed being out there.  On the car ride home he told me he smiled the enter time.  No joke.  He admittedly had as much fun, maybe more so, than me.  It just goes to show that regardless of what kind of runner you are, running in general, along with the moods it can stir and the experiences that it provides can be pretty damn powerful.  And not a day goes by where I don't stop and realize how lucky I am that I get to do it.  It's also worth nothing that Paul, that guy I chatted with during the race, finished 2nd overall with a 1:25.  The guy who beat him was 32 years old.  On top of that, I came in 5th overall behind Paul, the winner and two other guys who were both in their twenties.  So, yea.  At this point I'm feeling pretty good about the fact that I'm a seasoned runner at age 43.  And that my goals, which I know are lofty, area still very within reach.  I'm excited, inspired and ready to rock.  Thank you, running.

Listen to this:
Get Lost by Bearson (feat. Ashe)