Wednesday, November 28, 2018


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 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


Listen to this:
We Got The World - Erin McCarley

Tuesday, November 20, 2018


"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. 
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.
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


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.


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


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 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. know...candy.


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