Friday, November 15, 2019


“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory.”
~ Dr. Suess

Last week, I asked my daughter, Grace (age 12) if she wanted to do a 5K with me.  Well, that's not totally true.  I kind of told her she was doing it.  Here's how our conversation went:
Me: Grace, want to do a 5K with me this Sunday?
Me again: Yeah, you do.
Grace: Okay, so do I have a choice?
Me: Not really. No.
Grace: Um. Sounds good?
Of course I wasn't going to force her to do it.  But I knew it wouldn't take much to get her to jump on board with me as she likes to run and she usually game for the occasional 5k.  Unless is starts at the crack of dawn.  Then it's a hard "no".  But this one, the Run For Our Heroes 5K, was starting at 9:00 and was only a few blocks away from our house.  So, really, a no brainer.  Personally, I've been itching to race some different and shorter distances since my last couple marathons and I much prefer to do these things with a buddy versus solo, so I was happy about the situation.  As we got closer to race, the weather forecast was looking pretty grim.  Cloudy, cold and windy.  Of course, I said nothing to Grace about this because if both of us were tempted to bail it would not end well.  Sunday morning when we got up it was in the high 30s.  Not warm, but not terrible.  We bundled up, hopped in the car (Grace was not interested in a warmup run over to the race despite my attempt to sell her on it) and made our way down to the start a little early because we needed to register.  As instructed, I put both of us on the same form.  The very friendly woman handed us two bibs and then Grace got back in the car to stay warm as I did a little run.  I came back and got her about fifteen minutes later and told her that she really needed to get out and do a some running so her legs warmed up a bit, to which she agreed.  As we walked back up to the road I noticed her shoes were knotted in a way I'd never seen before.

It's a technique she'd come up with herself, she told me.  She double knotted the bows and then double knotted all four of the bunny ears as well.  So, it ended up looking more like a lace ball, if you will.  Bottom line, those babies were not coming untied.  We jogged down the street a little and then after about two minutes Grace made it clear that that was all she needed.  She was good to go.  All righty then.  We stretched and did some dynamics in an attempt to stay warm but then eventually had to go back to the car to get Grace a pair of gloves because her hands were numb.

Right around 9:00 we were standing by the start line with about three other people which was odd because the race was supposed to start at 9:00.  Grace and I jogged back downhill to the beach to see what was up.  I asked a police man if the race was starting at 9:30; maybe I'd gotten it wrong.  But he was sure it was 9:00 and said things were just running behind.  Finally, we heard the National Anthem start playing and then the race director got on the mic to say a few words about her event before sending everyone back up the hill to get things going.  So much for our warm up.  I think it was about 9:20 when she finally sent us off.  I had asked Grace if she wanted to run with me but she ended up hooking up with her soccer buddy, Leila, so we decided to do our own things.  Good luck! Have fun! I screamed.  She smiled back and nodded.  I was probably embarrassing her.  Didn't care.  

Given the late start and unexpected GO! from the woman in charge, I was not at all prepared to get moving.  My music was not on and my watch was not on the right screen and I realized both of these too late, obviously.  So, during that first quarter mile, I attempted to start both up, successfully getting the music to play but not able to start my timer because the screen is tiny and my hands were frozen.  Oh well.  I decided to just run hard and see how things unfolded.  The start was uphill and I was very quickly uncomfortable.  I was either running too fast or just struggling with the fast pace in general, which is more likely the case.  I did my best to just settle in and fall in behind the people in front of me.  We cruised through the streets of Winchester in multiple amoeba like loops and I attempted to power up the hills and work the downs as there were a lot of them.  About 17 minutes later we were back on the road we'd started on and running down the final stretch.  I'm not a 5K fan due to the pain factor but I do love how quick they are over.  I had no idea what kind of time I was running since I hadn't had a watch going for the entire race but I could see the clock at the finish and ended up crossing right around 19:10 give or take a few seconds.  Honestly, I'm not 100% sure on my final time and I can't find the race results nor do I really care.  Leila's dad finished right in front of me and we exchanged thoughts as he thought the course might have been a little short.  Though, as others rolled in, I heard a gal tell her partner that she'd logged 5.1K on her watch (she'd been measuring distance in kilometers), so who knows?  And, again, who cares?  I rolled back down the street with Leila's dad to find Grace and Leila so we could cheer them on as they finished.  They were together and barreling down the final stretch, and I clapped and jumped up and down like an idiot as she finished.  She came in right around 24:00 which was so awesome.  Despite the cold, she'd worked up a sweat and when I got to her she was chugging water and inhaling a chocolatey granola bar.  Got to refuel pronto, right?  I never skip my cool down but for the first time, maybe ever, I knew there was no way it was happening.  Grace and I were freezing.  Coffee was calling.  And I saw it as my mom duty to get us out of the cold and into the coffee shop.  We did stop to check our times on the results page that was taped to the wall.  Turns out, Grace wasn't even registered.  She did have a number, but I'm guessing the timing company didn't see our two names on one sheet and overlooked her entry.  I asked her if she wanted me to go say something to them about it.  Nah, she said.  She had peppermint mocha on the brain.  I got it.

Leila's dad and I followed the girls back to our cars.  We talked running and he let me know that most of his races are 200 miles or over.  That's a not a typo.  He flies over to Europe and runs up and over Mont Blonc and through the Alps for multiple hours.  For fun.  And you thought I was crazy.  Grace and I went to Starbucks and got hot drinks and cake pops.  Well, she got the cake pop.  Yes, I am a total sucker.  

But, she'd just run a 5k with me.  And I wanted her to remember it, all of it, as a super fun experience so she'd do them with me more often.  And if that involved bribing her with post-race sugary treats, than so be it.  She was happy with sugar.  I was happy with caffeine.  We were happy to be together.  It was a win for both of us.

I was hopeful that I'd started a trend and that she'd join me next time I raced.  Yesterday, as she got out of the car for school, I asked her if she was down for round 2.  Here's how our conversation played out this time:
Me: Want to do another 5K with me in December?
Grace: December??!!  Is it indoor?
Grace: Sorry, Mom. I don't do cold.  This last one was pushing it.
Me: We can bundle up.
Grace: I'll do it again in the spring.  Promise
Alas, I might not have her as my partner in crime for a little while.  But I'll be holding on to this experience as it was a special one.  And the actual race itself had very little do with it.

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Friday, November 1, 2019


"I love running and I will always run."
~ Haile Gebrselassie

As you may know, I ran the Chicago Marathon back on October 13th.  It went pretty well all things considered.  But, not as well as I'd hoped; primarily due to some stomach issues.  When I got back to MA and the dust had settled a bit I couldn't help but feel like I needed a do-over.  Not necessarily to run a PR but to use the summer training I still had under my belt in order to run a marathon without any major issues with the goal being to feel strong from start to finish.  After a couple days off... literally...2 days, I was super amped about racing and eager to line up again.  I've done this before; the quick turnaround using the same training cycle.  It doesn't work for everyone but I've had good luck with it.  So, my coach wasn't at all surprised when I told him I wanted to get after it again.  He was, however, a little surprised with my request to do it just two weeks post-Chicago as I've never turned it around that quickly for a second attempt.  We talked it through together.  Yes, I had pushed hard in Chicago but I'd had to pull back around mile 20 due to lack of fuel, so I'd given it about 97% instead of the full one hundred.  Because of this, we agreed, I hadn't totally tapped the well, if you will, and could potentially run the race I wanted despite the very short window of recovery.  I did think about waiting it out and trying again six to eight weeks later rather than two.  But, a number of factors were making this choice less ideal including the fact that I really needed to be focused on my cross country team for the month of November which is the final peak of their season and that traveling to another race, between the logistics and the financial strain, was less than ideal for my family.  I did some research and landed on the Loco marathon (funny, right?) which was taking place a quick one hour drive from home.  I'd even be back in time to watch my daughter's soccer game.  It was kind of perfect.  Done and done.  Hats off to my coach who both understands and accepts my crazy.  Hats off to my family, too.  They don't really get it but they do accept it.  Or, maybe they're just used to it.  The only issue potentially working against me was the weather as it was looking to be rainy, cold and windy on race day.  Lowell and I both agreed it was not worth a fight in a shitstorm and that I would pass if that's what I was up against.  The beauty here being that I could make a game day decision as the race was so small they were allowing race day registration.  So, I ran and watched and ran and watched all week.  And by the time I got to Friday, it was looking like the rain might hold off until the afternoon, so I got myself in the mindset that it was going to happen and I was really freaking pumped about it.

Okay, I don't look so pumped here.  But it was 4:45am and my coffee hadn't kicked in yet.  I had to hit the road super early on Sunday because I needed to get there in time to park, take a shuttle to the start and register.  The weather was still looking iffy so I'd decided that I would run the first loop of the two loop course and if things were getting really bad, I'd just bail out at the half.  

I'm all for a good omen, 41 being my favorite number of course, but still. When I arrived to register, the woman asked me what race I was doing.  I told her I wasn't sure but that I was signing up for the marathon.  She said she understood and guessed that several would be dropping down to the half as well.  At this point, I was revved up and eager to run the full so I was crossing my fingers and praying to the weather gods that things would hold off until I was done.  

Usually, I set everything I need out the night before, but this was such a last minute decision that I had just thrown everything in my backpack and hoped that I'd remembered it all.  After I'd finished with registration, I had a good hour to kill so I sat down at one of the tables in the hall that we were allowed to wait in and laid everything out there.  Not that it would have mattered if I'd forgotten something as I would have basically been screwed.  I guess I just wanted to know either way.  Fortunately, I was in good shape, even a little over-prepared with two sets of Jaybirds.  I chatted with other runners about what to wear or not to wear (no on the raincoat, yes on shorts) and about the conditions in general which had all of us a little on edge.  I also did my stretching inside as it was way to cold to warm up outside.  Not ideal, but no point in starting off frozen.  Finally, around 7:45, we all made our way outside and to the line.  

About two minutes before we got going I looked up to see a guy looking my way as if he knew me.  It was a little awkward as I couldn't really see his face (yes, my prescription is out of date) and then he started walking toward me.  Then I laughed as I realized it was my former LHS athlete and now good buddy, Felix Cancre (far left, yellow poncho), who was there to get a fall marathon in because he hadn't done one in a while and wanted a updated time.  Felix and I have run many miles together over the years and I was totally psyched to see a familiar face before I headed into the unknown.  We wished each other good luck and at 8:00am we were off.  We were dealing with a very light drizzle but all things considered it wasn't too bad.  My goal was start off at 6:50 pace, run that through the half and then see what I had left for the second half, assuming I was going to run it.  From the get go I felt really good.  I settled right into pace, turned up my music and found my groove.  There were not a ton of people running this race but I had a small group around me and worked to stay near those who I could tell were holding a similar pace.  I can't tell you my splits because, unbeknownst to me at the time, my watch was not synched with my phone so I did not get my data afterwords.  But, just in looking at my time in the moment I knew I was right where I needed to be and the miles were rolling by quickly with no issues at all.  I gave a little sigh of relief once I'd cruised past mile 10 which is where I'd had to stop and use the bathroom in Chicago.  

The beginning of the course was gentle rollers and miles 10-13 on were on hard packed trail which was awesome.  I was running right behind a gentlemen, using his steps as a metronome and looking down at my feet to make sure I didn't hit a root or rock, many of which were marked with paint, which was great.  As we came off of the trail the guy I'd been following took a right to finish the half and I went left to finish the marathon.  I was a little sad to lose my guide and once I turned the corner I was totally by myself which was quite daunting.  The rain was now picking up and people were, as predicted, bowing out of the full.  But, I'd felt so good for the first half and knew I was running strong and had plenty in the tank for part two so I just went for it.  Thankfully, I knew the course at this point because there were several long stretches when I was solo and there were no water stations or spectators near me for miles at a time.  As I cruised along, I felt totally in control and was cautiously optimistic that I could run a decent time if not a PR if things continued to go well.  Miles 13-20 were solid, most clocking in between 6:45-50, which was right on target.  At mile 20, the rain was getting worse, but knowing I only had a 10K to go, I was okay with it.  Once I got back on the trail, though, things got a little dodgy as the dirt was turning to mud and I was having a harder time gaining purchase in some of the muddier areas.  This was a little disheartening as I was still feeling great, but could tell my pace was falling off a bit and there wasn't much I could do about it.  For a while, I thought I might be able to dip in under three hours if I was able to hold on, but as I got closer to the finish, I realized it was going to be tight.  Not that I gave up.  I fought tooth and nail until the very end and was excited to be the first woman across the finish line in three hours and one minute.  Close but no cigar.

So, yes, I was happy to have finished with a better time than I'd run in Chicago, if only by a minute.  But, at the same time, I couldn't help but wonder what I could have run if the stars had aligned for me two weeks earlier since I'd run almost the same time on tired legs and with no one around me.  My goal for Chicago had been 2:55 and I have to believe I would have been damn close to that if I'd had a good day.  Alas, we will never know.  I found Felix, who totally crushed it; easily taking the win with a time of two hours and thirty five minutes and we walked back into the banquet hall to put on dry clothes and collect our prizes.  I was freezing and soaked to the bone so it took me a while to change and get feeling in my fingers and toes again.  I collected a bag full of treats including an L.L. Bean gift card, some socks, a Paul Bunyan-esque hat, a pint glass, some chocolates, a pair of gloves, a book and a six pack of beer.  No complaints on any of that. 

Felix and I got a photo under the disco ball because....I mean...a disco ball, and, really, what the hell was going on?  It was comical.  And then we hopped on the shuttle that would take us back to our cars.  I was so ready to get home and get warm.  Before I took off, I texted Lowell and gave him the low down.  In so many words, I told him that I'd run well, was pleased, had felt strong from start to finish and had decided to go for it after the half.  Perhaps that wasn't the right decision, in regards to going for the PR, but I had wanted to try.  There is more in there, Rebecca, he said, and we will dig it out next time.  Now you need to take some time to recover.  So, I guess that means I won't be lining up for another marathon this year.  But you can be sure that I'll be raring to go come 2020 and Boston will be my next rodeo which I am totally thrilled about.  I honestly can not wait to give it another go.  But first....a little rest.  Just a little.

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