Friday, September 18, 2020

#RUN

We're on a night run
No telling who we're running from
In a world of secrets and demons and people hiding from the sun
Sending my message to everyone losing control
Better not stop 'til I get home
~ Night Running, Cage the Elephant & Beck


Not much has changed since my last post.  Still running a shit ton of miles.  Still not racing.  Still walking my dogs about seven times a day.  Still drinking more coffee than I should.  Still going to bed at 9:00pm.  And, if I'm being honest, I have to fight to make it that late.  I am a real winner, aren't I?  School did start this week but my girls are only in the building for two days a week.  Who knows how long that will last.  That said, I am beyond grateful that they now have something to do that doesn't involve me or the use of my vehicle.  And Grace is finally playing soccer again after six months off the field.  No heading, throw-ins, corner kicks or human contact of any kind and a mask has to be worn for the entire game.  But, hey, they're out there.  And she's just happy to have some social interaction with her teammates.  So what if they can't really hear each other.  Next week, my high school XC season kicks off.  There are about a thousand rules and the kids have to run with masks on.  Which is still one hundred percent worth it as far as I'm concerned.  Fingers crossed we can make it work.  So, yea.  Things are about the same with the addition of modified school and sports.  It's worth noting that I am currently registered for two ultras, one in October and one in December.  Whether or not they actually happen is still to be determined.  But I might as well train for them.  And it's fun to dream.  Ultimately what it comes down to is this.  My family is healthy.  We have what we need.  Fall is coming.  Life is weird and challenging and there's no end in site.  But we're doing okay.  And that's gotta be enough for right now.  No surprise that running continues to be my saving grace.  It's keeping me sane and healthy and relatively happy.  I get as excited about hitting the road as I do about my first cup of coffee.  Now that is saying something.  Seriously, I am running to live and living to run right now.  Below you'll find a playlist that I put together this summer.  All the songs have RUN in their title.  Now, I'm a big music fan and I love a good Bruce Springsteen song, but 'Born To Run' is not on this list because the classics just aren't cutting it for me lately.  These are a bit out there.  Hopefully there are a few new ones on here that you dig.  And maybe they'll get you fired up to run or cut a rug.  Regardless, they'll have to hold you over until my next post.  Which may or may not be a race review.  We shall see.  Rock on, my friends.

Listen to this:

#RUN

Friday, August 21, 2020

THE POWER OF PERSUASION

"Somewhere on the journey we all bound to get tired
When life get lower, we get higher
The roads all open, the views get wider
Live long, head strong, shoulders, lighter"
My Power by Chika


So, I met this guy.  He's a runner.  An ultra runner, actually.  His name is Brian.  The two of us were both running long on the Cape Cod Rail Trail a few weeks ago and we started chatting.  We threw out some of the typical runner questions like Are you training for something specific? and What's your preferred race distance?  Brian was training for the Ghost Train 100 miler which was originally happening in October but got canceled.  And I had planned to run Boston, first in the spring and then in the fall when it got moved but that, too, ended up getting canceled all together.  As it turns out, Brian has done quite a few ultras and is hoping to do the Massive 100 this fall.  Fingers crossed.  I mentioned that I'd started dabbling in the longer distances since Covid as I'm trying to mix things up and keep myself motivated by trying something new.  As of now, I told him, I'm hoping to run the Hamsterwheel Ultra in November and I'm shooting for the 12 hour race.  Again, fingers crossed.  I think.  Well lucky for me Brian was chock full of information on all things ultra like how to find local races (which I need because I'm not going to fly to a race any time soon), pacing strategies, preferred gear and fuel (I have never carried water on long runs before this summer. Note the new vest in the top photo), specific race suggestions for the newer ultra runner to start with and so much more.  We cruised along together for about four miles, exchanged info so I could reach out with more questions and said our goodbyes as we went our separate ways.  I mean I don't necessarily believe in the whole "it was meant to be" thing, but given where I am and what I'm trying to do as far as running goes I couldn't have gotten much luckier to have found this guy.  Two weeks later, Brian reached out to let me know he was headed back down to the Cape and to see if I wanted to join him for a long run.  Here's how our conversation played out:
Brian: We're coming down to the Cape this weekend.  I'll be doing long runs on Saturday and Sunday (he does back to back 20s) on the rail trail if you're interested.
Me:I'm actually doing the Falmouth Road Race, a virtual 7 miler.  I'm aiming for 6:30s.  You're welcome to join in if you want some speed work for a change.
Brian:Ha. I think I might die if I try that.  I was thinking 20+ around 8 minute pace.  I'm considering running the rail trail from start to finish.  I think it's 26ish.  I might register it for an FKT (Fastest Known Time).  I don't think anyone has done it yet.
Me:Bummer.  It would have been so nice to have some company for a long run.  But, I have to squeeze this in.  I mean, I paid for it so, you know.  
Brian:OR you could do your fast 7 on Saturday and then do 26 on Sunday.
Me:I knew that was coming.
Brian:Glad you're in....What time do you want to start on Sunday?
Me:Wow. You're good.  Okay.  I need to think about it.
In a matter of minutes I went from, No, I can't run long with you on Sunday because I'm racing on Saturday and will need to recover the next day to I guess there's no reason I can't do both so I might as well check in with my coach and see what he thinksWhich I did.  Obviously.  And we both agreed that given my new foray into the ultra world and the fact that I've been doing a shit ton of mileage these last couple months I could probably handle both the race and the long run.  He told me not to go all out on the 7 miler, maybe 95%, so I had a little in the tank for the next day. And then he reminded me that I'd be pretty wrecked for a few days after this double whammy.  And then, as you probably guessed, he gave me the green light to go for it.  And that's all she wrote.  


Fast forward two weeks.  It's 6:30am and I'm getting myself both mentally and physically ready to bust out a 7 mile race.  On my own.  Yes, I absolutely could have just run 7 miles easy, submitted it and called it a day, but what would have been the fun in that?  Honestly, I'm a big believer in pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and as much as I dislike the shorter race distances I know they are good for me to do every once in a while.  I considered pinning on my race bib but last time I did that I got a lot of baffled stares from those who were out and about and in hindsight it probably does look a little weird to have a number on when you're running solo.  It was about 70 degrees outside and a little humid so I made a note that my pace would probably not be as fast as I'd planned, though I was still going to give it a shot.  After a warmup, I was ready to rock.  I pumped up the tunes, got my game face on and took off.  First mile was a 6:30. Right on the nose.  Boom.  Mile two?  6:40.  Yikes.  Get it together, Rebecca.  Mile three was a 6:32.  Back on track.  Ok, I can do this.  Mile four was 6:35.  Good.  I'm still in.  Stay focused.  Mile five 6:49.  Oops.  Or don't stay focused?  Clearly not.  I don't know what happened but let's just say I was in la la land for that fifth mile.  Thoughts like, why am I doing this? and maybe I should just stop at five and oh look, there's a coffee shop started entering my mind and it pretty much went downhill from there.  The wheels didn't completely fall off but I never really managed to get myself back together or closer to my original goal pace.  I managed to run both the sixth and seventh miles right around 6:50 giving me an overall average of 6:42 for the full seven miles.  After which I concluded that I am never running another virtual race on my own as I just don't have the mindset to push hard when I'm not surrounded by other runners and pulsing with my typical race nerves.  Lesson learned.


Might as well go run a marathon the next day.  For fun.  Right?  The plan was for me to drive to the finish of our route and for Brian and his wife, Sayra, to meet me there so she could drive us up to the start.  Yes, she is a saint.  My alarm went off at 5:45 so I could make myself a cup of coffee and wake up a bit before hitting the road at 6:15.  


As I laced up I found myself, once again, wondering what the hell I was doing.  Don't think.  Just go.  That was the mantra for the day.  Note the Falmouth Road Race coffee mug in the photo.  I earned that puppy! And then I was off.  To meet up with a stranger and run a marathon.  I do realize how this sounds.  Not that I cared.  Sarah and Brian scooped me up at 6:45 and we made our way up to Wellfleet where we'd be starting this adventure.  Again, Sayra got up with her husband at the crack of dawn to drive him thirty minutes South to pick up a random woman and drive them an hour North so they could run for four plus hours.  I mean, if she doesn't get the medal for coolest wife ever, I don't know who does.  Okay, so we hopped out and took a quick photo.



I won't give you the play by play as that will take too long.  We got incredibly lucky with the weather as it was cloudy when we started and lightly drizzling as we finished.  We cruised comfortably at about an 8 minute pace.  We took one wrong turn and had to back track about a half mile.  And as we finished we realized that I parked my car a couple miles further than the official trail end which made those last miles a bit painful.  But we did it.  


We ended up running about 28 miles give or take a few point somethings.  We were totally drenched by the end.  And my legs were pretty angry with me.  But, hell, you only live once.  I dropped Brian off at home and drove myself back to my in-laws house. And I quietly thanked the running gods that it was raining which would make it easier for me to be somewhat lazy at home with my family without feeling too guilty.  The rest of that day is a bit of a blur.  I was dealing with a new level of exhaustion.  And it made me a little worried about my new goals as I couldn't help but wonder how I'd be able to push myself harder than I just had.  But, I suppose that's the point.  It's not supposed to be easy.  My coach tells me this all the time.  He also reminds me that we have to scratch what's itching.  The marathon isn't really doing it for me anymore.  I'm eager to wade out into uncharted waters and see what I'm capable of.  This weekend just gave me a little taste of what's to come. I'm pretty sure I like it.  Actually, I might have to get back to you on that after I've had a seat at the table for a while.  More on that soon.  Stay tuned. 
 

Listen to this:
My Power (from Project Power) by Chika

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

ALWAYS RUNNING

"There's something deeply human about a relationship with anything that can offer you the greatest joy in your life and also the greatest sorrow or pain.  Running grounds me toward that more viscerally perhaps than anything else.  It's a reason why I keep doing it."
~ Devin Kelly


I have logged 1,041 miles since March.  A lot  of them slow.  Some of them painful.  And most of them alone.  And I have loved every, single one of them.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  No joke.  Back in February I was sidelined with acute plantar fasciitis and a marrow edema in my left heel.  I had been planning to line up for Boston no matter how my foot was feeling.  Then Boston and every other spring race was canceled.  So, I took a full two weeks off and then slowly and gingerly eased myself back onto the road.  I was going to PT twice a week right up until the virus hit which was helping a ton. Between the time off in February, the PT and the lack of hard training sessions, my foot began to cooperate with me again.  Praise be.  Those first couple months, when we were staying inside for the majority of each day, were painfully long and mentally straining.  I know they were for most people and I'm guessing my situation was significantly more manageable than many others.  But still.  My girls were going to school virtually, my husband was working from home and I was no longer coaching because the high school track season was obviously canceled.  It was a lot of intense family time with not a lot of outlets.  One can only do so many puzzles before you start to lose your shit.  Running was my saving grace.  I'm sure it was for a lot of us.  Hell, even my 15 year old daughter started running and she admittedly hates it but just needed something to break up her day.  Seriously, though, I have never looked forward to lacing up and getting out the door more than I did during that stretch of time.  Ever.  In my life.  Every run was a gift and I wasn't taking any of them for granted.  It didn't matter how tired I was.  Or if my foot ached.  I didn't care.  I was going.  Usually, I got home and my mind was clear, my body was reenergized and I was ready to tackle anything.  Well, almost anything.  I couldn't help with Grace's algebra or Rosie's bio.  How quickly we forget.  In late May the country began to reopen a bit.  Not that it changed much.  But still, I ran.  I ran with my daughter.  I ran on trails. I did a virtual 50K.  I did a virtual 50 miler.  I just wanted to run, to be out there moving, and I had the time to do it.  In June I got on the phone with my coach to map out a training plan for summer and fall.  We knew racing for the rest of 2020 was likely not happening.  But I wanted to train.  I was ready to start working hard.  And I wanted something to work towards.  Understanding we are in a "wait and see" pattern with events for the rest of this year, we landed on the following goal: get fit, stay healthy and train for longer distances with the hope that I can line up for a 50 miler (or dare I say longer??) in 2021.  Maybe even a few?  I love the marathon.  But after twenty five of them and some solid time to marinate in my thoughts as far as running goes I've come to realize that I'm ready to try something different.  To scratch a new itch, as my coach likes to put it.  To chase new goals and face new challenges.  To go bigger.  Which brings me to now.  I'm running more miles.  Trying different workouts.  Taking less days off.  And still, I am loving it.  Every single mile.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  No joke.  Same story.  New chapter.  Always running.

Listen to this:
Big Love - Louis the Child (feat. Earthgang)

Friday, May 29, 2020

ASK YOURSELF

"The way I approach running, it's totally a joyous pursuit for me-which doesn't mean that every day is happy, but I do it because I love it and I feel good when I run, and the racing is just a fraction of it."
~ Katie Arnold

Boston, 2011

Well, it's official.  For the first time since 1897, the Boston Marathon will not be happening due to the Coronavirus pandemic.  Originally, the BAA moved the race from it's traditional start date in April to September 14th.  And those of us who were set to run this spring reset our training plans and crossed our fingers and toes.  But as the months have gone by it has become clear that hosting an event of this size, even in September, is simply too risky.  In the words of Mayor Marty Walsh, "There’s no way to hold this usual race format without bringing large numbers of people into close proximity", which, as we all know, is exactly what we shouldn't be doing.  Ok, so now what?  This leaves thousands of us in run-limbo, if you will.  With no races on the calendar to train for and no way to even guess when things will be "normal" enough for us to line up again it begs the question, what am I really running for?  The guys over at the Six Minute Mile recently referred to a great piece by DyeStat in which they have us give some thought to the following questions:

~ What am I actually trying to get out of my life as a runner?
~ How do I measure myself in this sport without numbers on a clock?
~ Is there a way for me to better myself without an actual race?
~ What am I grateful for as a runner?

I won't lie and say I'm not sad or frustrated that Boston, or all major races for that matter, have been canceled.  Marathon training is one of the things in my life that I truly love.  But what I've realized over the past few months is that it's the simple act of running in general that I am most passionate about.  And now, having not pinned on a bib since 2019 and or been training for anything in particular, I have learned that I don't need the race to find the joy in it.  Personally, running has been the only constant for me over these past three months.  It has kept me relatively sane and pretty grounded during a time when these feelings are often hard to come by.  So, what am I grateful for as a runner?  Today, it's just the simple fact that I can do it.  I can't answer all of the questions above at this particular moment.  So my goal is to take the next month or so to give it a shot.  A little self exploration never hurts, right?  I'm 45 years old.  I've been running for a long time.  For lots of different reasons.  Over the past couple of years it was mainly to push my limits.  Right now it's to cope.  But life will change again and running will serve a different purpose; perhaps a new one.  I guess it's time for me to figure out what I'd like that to be.

Listen to this:
The Optimist - Evie Irie

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

RACE REVIEW:TWAV VIRTUAL 50 MILER

As you may know, a couple weeks ago I ran the Aravaipa Strong virtual 50K for fun....said the runner with too much time on her hands.  It was the longest I had ever run and, as my coach put it, "my first time diving into the shallow end of the crazy ultra pool."  Well?  he asked, is it safe to call this experiment a success?  Yes, yes it is, I said.  So, it sounds like this might just be the beginning?  Uhhh, yeah.  But, I'm guessing you could have predicted this.  I am not surprised, he responded.  Seriously, though, I enjoyed it so much that I found myself reaching back out to him one, maybe two days afterwards and asking him if I could do a 50 miler two weeks later.  Too soon? I said, though we both knew it didn't really matter how he replied.  So, we weighed out all the pros and cons and, in the end, I decided to give it a shot.  A little bit of our logic for you.  Ultras in the summer are a hard 'no' because of the heat so if I wanted to do another, longer one spring was definitely the best time to go for it.  If I did it so soon after my 50K, I could use that 31 miles as my final long run without having to add another one in before the 50 miler.  And, most importantly, the pain in my foot from plantar fasciitis had been minimal lately on account of the easy miles I'd been doing so we weren't concerned about any further damage there.  It was kind of a no brainer.  But this time around, I didn't want to do it just for fun.  I mean, that was part of it.  But, I really wanted use my running as a way to give back to an organization that was in need of support during this difficult time.  For the past few years I have guided a visually impaired athlete at the Boston Marathon as a member of Team With A Vision (TWAV).

Guiding with Joyce Cron, 2016

In getting to know these incredible runners and more about the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI), I have learned quite a bit about the every day needs of those who live with vision loss.  About a month ago I read this article about Sassy Outwater-Wright, Executive Director of MABVI, who not only lives with vision loss but is also battling cancer.  In the midst of the pandemic, she explains, those who live with a disability such as vision loss and/or contend with a chronic illness are now at a double disadvantage.  People who are blind or visually impaired who rely so much on touch are now at risk every time they leave their house.  A task as simple as grocery shopping, which many could do on their own prior to the pandemic, was no longer feasible without help from a volunteer.  This story really struck a nerve with me and given my connection to TWAV, I decided to use my run as way to raise awareness and funds for the MAB COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, which was created specifically to ensure that the critical & changing needs of the MABVI programs and those who benefit from them are met during this national crisis.  Done and done.  To make it official, I signed up for the Ten Junk Miles Sugar Badger 50 miler so I could do my part to support a race organization as I know they're hurting right now, too.  For the two weeks between my 50K and my 50 miler I took it pretty easy, running light mileage with a day or two off each week to keep my legs well rested and ready to go come Mother's Day, which is when I was set to run.  Which brings us to May 10th.  50 miles.  Happy Mother's Day to me.


The night before my run I'd laid out both my gear and my fuel.  I posted both images to Instagram primarily so I could ask those who had done ultras before to chime in and let me know if I was forgetting anything.  Remember, this was new territory for me.  And running for seven to eight hours was a hell of a lot different from running for four hours and change.


I ended up getting some great advice including bringing a change of socks and multiple face coverings as they would likely get pretty gross.  It was also recommended that I bring more whole food like PBJ's and pretzels because fast fuel like gels and chews can get old quickly when you're out there for multiple hours.  More than one person told me to have a Coke ready for that final push; that the caffeine and sugar would be a very welcome treat at that point.  I wasn't taking any chances.  I packed it all.


Sunday morning I woke up at 5:00am to a beautiful albeit very chilly morning.  I had my traditional coffee with Clover, inside of course, as it was way too cold to sit on the porch.  I ate some waffles, stuffed my pockets with anything that would fit, double checked all my gear and put my music on.  Then I headed outside at 7:00am to say a prayer to the running gods before I got going.


Jeff took this photo right before I left.  As I said, I really had no idea what I would be dealing with and that was a good thing.  Someone had left this sign out for me the night before which was such an awesome surprise.  I still have no idea who made it.  But it was a great boost.  Ready or not it was go time.


My first loop was about seven miles.  It was a breeze.  There were not a lot of people out which was nice as I didn't have to cover my face except for the two miles that I was running on the trails at Horn Pond because, as it turns out, a lot of people get up to go birdwatching early in the morning.  I'd been told to fuel and hydrate every forty five minutes to an hour.  So Jeff, who had agreed to crew for me for this craziness, (bless him), met me with NUUN and food.  He also set out a chair which, fortunately, I didn't need yet.  


My second loop, miles seven to twelve, were also smooth sailing.  It was still pretty quiet out and I was just zoning out to my music and enjoying the scenery.  My legs were feeling good and my energy was solid, so I was cautiously optimistic.  Jeff met me again and I quickly refueled and took off as I wasn't super hungry or thirsty at this point.  Around mile thirteen I met up with my sweet friend and former LHS athlete, Maya B., who was planning to run my third loop with me.  I hadn't seen her since the fall and it was so nice both to catch up with her and to have her company in general as it totally took my mind off the miles.  We ran together through mile twenty at which point I stopped to fuel up and she kept going as she had a brunch to get to.  At this stop I actually sat down and ate a PBJ, changed my shirt as it was getting warm and swapped out my neckie for obvious reasons.  This would be my last stop with Jeff so I thanked him profusely, gave him a hug and headed back out.  I was three hours in now.  I had a long way to go and I was trying hard not to thing about it.


I ran about five miles and then scooped up my good bud and running partner, Steve McKenna, who would be joining me for the next nineteen miles.  Yes, he rocks.  He also has a pretty swift "easy" pace so I had to remind him that I'd already logged twenty five miles and that he was going to have to reign it in for me as best he could.  I know, I know, he said.  I still doubted it, but whatever.  We ran from his house over to the start of Battle Road, a beautiful hard packed trail that we would be taking until it ran out, which would be mile thirty one for me.  We stopped here for water and food which was provided by Pauline and Izzy, both LHS runners.  They also rock.  They'd made Steve and I daisy chains as they'd waited for us to arrive which we promptly put on for a photo.  We tried to run with them but they fell apart pretty quickly.  Didn't matter.  We felt the love.  


Pauline and Izzy met up with us again at mile thirty five with some more water.  This stop was pretty soon after our last but the next stretch was going to be a long one and we wouldn't have access to fluids so I forced it down even though I didn't really feel like I needed it.  My legs were starting to talk to me at this point.  They were getting notably heavy and a little sore.  I tried to massage them out a bit but I could tell the next fifteen miles were going to be tough on a whole new level.  I knew it was bad when we set off again and my first few steps were brutal. Just super rickety and tight (think Tin Man).  It took a mile or so to find my groove again, groove being a relative term at this point.  The nice part about these miles was that most of them were on trail, so my legs were not really taking a beating.  As soon as we popped back out onto the road to head back to McKenna's house I could feel the difference big time.  My quads were not happy to be back on pavement.  Steve doesn't do long runs on a regular basis so for these last few miles with him there wasn't much talking as both of us were riding the struggle bus.  Finally, we got back to Steve's house around mile forty three and change.  I won't lie and tell you I wasn't insanely jealous that he was done and could go inside and lie down.  But, then, I only had 6.7 miles left.  So close and yet so far.


I ate some food and took a few sips of Coke before thanking McKenna and starting back up for my final push.  Now everything hurt.  I could feel my toenails bruising with each step.  My gait had shortened to a stutter step.  I was just willing myself along.  My music helped but not much.  Even though I'd hydrated well throughout the last six hours, I still felt pretty depleted of fluid and could feel it in my upper body which was cramping.  I can only imagine what I looked like as I passed people on the bike path.  The simple task of lifting my face mask up felt ridiculously difficult.  But, I couldn't just leave it on as I needed to breathe the fresh air when there weren't people around.  It was a sad state of affairs.  At mile 49 I texted my husband and let him know that I'd be finishing sooner than I'd thought and could he please come pick me up as I would not be able to take one single step beyond 50 miles.


Jeff and the girls parked and they got out of the car to come get me.  Literally.  They had to hold me up at first because I was so loco at that point.  Yes, the girls each had on one roller blade.  It's just how they're rolling these days.  I slid into the car and breathed a heavy sigh of relief.  Shoes off.  Socks off.  Eyes closed.  Praise be.  I was done.


We got back to the house and I sat down in my kitchen and proceeded to eat a bag of chips while also chugging chocolate milk.  Both tasted better than anything I'd ever consumed, maybe in my life.  After that I went up to bed and didn't really move for the next few hours.  But, damned if I didn't bask in the glory of knowing that I'd successfully competed 50 MILES.  And I'd done it for those who need it the most right now which made the pain and exhaustion I was feeling totally worth it.  To those who supported my cause, I can't thank you enough.  I was able to raise $2,131 for the MAB Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund* and I would happily do it all over again if they asked me to.  I mean, I might need a couple days of rest and maybe a new pair of shoes, but I'm definitely game.  This was such a wild ride and I loved every second of it.  I am truly blessed with the ability to run.  It is such a gift and I never take it for granted.  But how great that I can use it to give to others as well.  I have no idea what's next but based on the last few weeks it will likely be something interesting.  Because life is crazy right now but running will always be open and the possibilities are endless.

*Note: Please click here to learn more about the MAB Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund and to make a donation.  Everything little bit helps.

Listen to this:
High - Fitness

Monday, April 27, 2020

RACE REVIEW:THE ARAVAIPA STRONG 50K

Back in February I was training for Boston.  I was also battling wicked plantar fasciitis in my left foot.  It's an unpredictable and incredibly annoying injury that plagues many of us and that, despite my many, many, assorted efforts, I can not seem to get rid of.  Naturally, I was training right through it because I'm stubborn and impatient and admittedly addicted to running.  There, I said it.  I feel it's worth noting here that I did cross train for a month to try and give it a break and when I eased back in to running it came right back.  If time off the road wasn't going to cure me then, screw it, back to training I would go.  I was, however, going to PT twice a week for some graston work, ultrasound and massage therapy and doing tons of mobility exercises on my own in an effort to minimize the pain.  With all this, things were actually going pretty well as I was stringing together a few runs in a row without major discomfort and operating under the assumption that I would be lining up in Hopkinton despite the situation.  Perhaps I wouldn't be able to run my best but damned if I wasn't going to give it a shot.  And then, due to the Corona Virus, everything changed.  All races were canceled.  Schools closed.  Businesses shut down.  Life, as we know it, was put on hold and moved inside.  For a couple weeks, at least from a running standpoint, it was business as usual for me.  I was doing my long runs.  I was doing my speed work.  I was taping, icing, stretching and rolling my foot, which still hurt but I didn't really care.  I just wanted to train.  I needed it.  For my sanity.  And for some normalcy in my life which was becoming less and less normal by the day.  And then it was April.  And my motivation to work hard was dwindling for obvious reasons.  I could feel myself spiraling down a bit mentally because I had no big goals on the horizon and no job to keep me distracted since our spring track season was now canceled.  It was not good.  By some struck of luck, or more realistically because I've been scrolling social media more often than usual these days, I stumbled on the Aravaipa Strong Virtual Race series.  So, I checked out the web site and I liked what I saw.  Registered participants could choose their race distance (5k-100 miles), pick a day within the required window to get it done and submit results to make it official all while supporting the Aravaipa race company, which I felt good about because they had to cancel all of there events this spring.  And on top of that, they would also be giving a percentage of the registration fees to Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund. This seemed like a no brainer to me.  But, if I was going to do it, I was going to go big.  No 5K for me.  I was going for the 50k.  Because it was time for something new.  And I needed to set some different goals.  And because why the hell not?  I instantly texted my coach.  Note - it was April 7th.

Me:Lowell! Can I sign up for a virtual 50K and be ready to run by April 26th?
Lowell:I need a little more info here.  What is the motivation?  Are you willing to drop quality work to make sure we keep you healthy enough?
Me:Sorry. A bit random.  I know.  My motivation is boredom and a desire to try something different.  And to have a goal that's new but not too stressful.  And did I mention I'm bored?  I don't know.  I just saw it and looked like a fun challenge.  But maybe it's too much?
Lowell:Doing any faster running this month and trying to run farther than ever is a recipe for disaster.  You can do one but not both.  What calls to you more?
Me:Well, I love the faster work but it really sets me back a few days due to the pain in my foot afterwords.  Maybe it makes sense to switch gears a bit.  That said, I don't want to lose all my speed.
Lowell: You don't lose it.  You just put it in hibernation.
Me:So can I do it and then have time to build back up in order to run fast again for Boston in the fall?
Lowell:Yes.  That is *IF* Boston happens.
Me:Do you think it's crazy/stupid/other?
Lowell:You aren't new to this sport, Rebecca. You've been training and racing hard for a long time. You have to chase goals that keep it interesting and exciting. Doing the same thing season after season because it's what you're used to is fine but only if that scratches you where you itch.
Me:Right.  Maybe I need a new itch to scratch right now.  I think I want to try it.
Lowell:Done. I will take a look at your plan and see what adjustments make sense.
Me: Go team.



Fast forward to this past Saturday.  For the two weeks leading up to it I'd managed to squeeze in a couple 20 milers along with a steady string of easy days with more "off days" than usual sprinkled in to give my foot some extra rest leading up to race day.  Ready or not I was going for it.  As always, I laid my gear out the night before mainly just to get fired up and make it all feel legit.  We've had a pretty crappy spring here in Boston with low temps and lots of rain but I woke up to a beautiful, sunny, dry day on Saturday.  Lucky me.


Again, as always, I got up early and sat and had coffee with Clover by my side.  It was only 35 degrees out, so we didn't sit on the porch as we usually do.  But, it still felt good to stick with tradition.  I felt a little bad as Clover thought we were getting ready for a walk, since I sit on the steps each morning before I take her.  Little did she know that I was leaving and would be gone for over four hours.


I ate a couple waffles, drank some NUUN, stuffed my toolbelt roga pockets with fuel, said goodbye to my husband (my girls weren't up yet), and headed outside.  And that's when it hit me that I was taking off for a thirty one mile run.  Wait...what?  This was new territory for me.  I've never run farther than a marathon.  I'm not going to lie, I was a little nervous about this undertaking.  But I was also really excited for the adventure and I knew it was what I needed to shake things up.  Yes, I wore my bib.  And, yes, I'm a total dork.  Don't care.


Not to worry, I'll spare you the thirty one mile play by play and try to stick with the highlights.  My first ten miles flew by.  Literally.  I was taking it nice and easy, just enjoying being outside and feeling very relieved that my body felt good and I wasn't feeling any pain in my foot.  I got started around 8:00am so there weren't many people out which was nice as I wasn't feeling stressed about needing to keep my distance.  I had to stop and take a photo of these kindness rocks around mile seven.  I don't believe anyone who says they can see this and it doesn't put a smile on their face.  The collection used to be about six rocks and has grown substantially over the past couple months.  I love the messages which include things like, BE BRAVE, BE WELL and most importantly, DON'T COUGH ON ME.


My husband met me at mile ten with water and more fuel in case I needed it later on.  He brought the dogs and I couldn't help but feel like they were cheering for me as I came in to the stop.  Clover could have cared less but Enzo is a mama's boy and was likely wondering where the hell I'd been and if he could get out of the car and come with me.


Fully hydrated and fueled, I thanked Jeff and headed back out.  My running bud, Steve, who I've been getting out with at a safe distance since this whole thing started, had agreed to join me for twelve miles or so which I knew would be a very welcome and much needed distraction for those middle miles.  We met up around mile thirteen and I was still feeling pretty good.  Though I always tend to forget that Steve only has one gear and it's not slow, so most of the miles in this section were a bit faster than I'd planned.  The benefit of his company far outweighed the fast pace, but I knew I'd be paying for it the next day.  I made a note when we hit 26.2 miles, first because I was pretty proud of my marathon time but also because from that point on I'd be embarking on this knew ultra journey which felt pretty damn cool.


Steve ran with me for about fourteen miles.  By the end we were flying, ticking off 7:20 miles.  I was doing my best to hold on knowing I'd be able to dial it back when I was on my own again.  I gave him shit about his inability to pace himself or me, for that matter, to which he responded, "Sorry, Trax.  It's just, when I can smell the finish I just can't help myself."  I mean, I get it.  But still.  Pace aside, I was super grateful that he had come along for a large section of my run.  I owe him big time.  We signed off with a virtual fist pump at mile twenty seven and with only four miles to go I knew my first ultra was in the bag.


I put my music back on and took off for the final stretch.  It was warmer at this point and I was coated in salt but, surprisingly, I still felt pretty decent all things considered.  I was so ready to be done that I maintained a nice, swift pace as I headed back toward home.  Swift for me, mind you.  Not McKenna swift.  A true 50K is 31.1 miles so I was actually done before I got to my house.  But, due to all of the extra dodging and weaving I'd had to do during the second half in order to avoid other people who were outside, I'd tacked on about a half mile which I still ran because I, too, could smell the finish.


And that, my friends, is the story of my first ultra.  Yes, I loved every minute of it.  And yes, this is likely the first of many.  Because I felt something different with this distance.  A new freedom in running just to run.  No strings attached.  I love marathon training and racing to get faster.  But I feel like, after twenty five marathons, I might be ready to embark on a new chapter of sorts.  Later that day my coach checked back in with me.

Lowell:BOOM! You feel good about delving into the shallow end of the crazy ultra pool?
Me: Yep. I might be hooked.
Lowell:Safe to call this experiment a success?  Sounds like this might be just the beginning....
Me: Yes. And yes. But, I'm guessing you predicted this.
Lowell: I am not at all surprised.

And so it begins.


Listen to this:
Radical - AWOLNATION

Thursday, April 16, 2020

RWR:SPECIAL EDITION:MEET TAMI & JACKIE

Sometimes mind > body.
~ Tami Mask

Today I am beyond thrilled to introduce you to two of my favorite people, Jackie Gruendel and Tami Mask.  To me, they are friends, teammates, running partners, dance partners and coffee buddies; among other things.  To all of us, at least in my humble opinion, they are and will forever remain the ultimate superheros.  Because in addition to running, working, and, in Jackie's case, being a mom, both of these ladies are currently fighting on the front line as medical professionals during this epic Covid-19 battle.  I am so grateful to both of them for taking time out of their busy schedules to tell us a little bit more about themselves and their love for running and music.  Not surprisingly, Jackie is a country girl at heart.  Tami, on the other hand, is all over the place with her musical taste, which I love.  They've run countless races of all distances from the mile to the marathon but I'm guessing none of those efforts have challenged them more than their daily battle with the virus.  I bow down to both of them and can't thank them enough for all that they do.  I've included their Twitter handles below so you, too, can give them a shout out if you so desire.  I'm sure it would give them a much needed boost; something they could both use right now.  Tami and Jackie, thank you honestly doesn't cut it.  Sending so much love and energy to you during this unbelievably trying time.  Okay enough from me, let's meet Tami and Jackie, two RUNNERS WHO ROCK.

RWR:MEET TAMI MASK

Name: Tami Mask 
Where you're from: Pembroke, Ontario (small town about an hour west of Ottawa) 
Where you reside now: Bahston
Age:46
Occupation: Travel Nurse, specialty is outpatient Oncology 
Blog/website: N/A
Twitter: @MaskTami

Tami, crushing 26.2 in NYC

ON RUNNING & MUSIC:TAMI
What do you love most about running?
All the feelings that can come over me on any run, at any time. Sometimes they are just our joy to be able to go out and run 2 miles. Sometimes it’s feeling defeated and feeling like I can’t do this at mile 22 of a marathon...and then the incredible happiness of finishing, knowing that I DID have it in me. Sometimes mind > body.
What do you love most about music?
I love music that I grew up listening to. So, the memories that songs can elicit!

RWR:MEET JACKIE GREUNDEL

Name: Jackie Gruendel
Where you're from: Alexandria, VA
Where you reside now: Clifton, VA
Age: 45
Occupation: Emergency Medicine - Physician Assistant 
Blog/website: ain't nobody got time for that---totally joking, I wish I did, hasn't been updated in like 100 years 
Twitter:@JackieGruendel

Jackie, crushing the mile in 5:13:31 at age 45

ON RUNNING & MUSIC:JACKIE
What do you love most about running?
Seeing how far I can push myself.
What do you love most about music?
It's makes me feel free. 


Tami w/ Kara Goucher at Birdcamp & 
Jackie & I getting 'tatted up' before Boston





THEIR FAVORITES:
TAMI:
Band:(current, all time or both) The Beatles 
Album:(current, all time or both) Alanis Morisette, Jagged Little Pill
Race venue:New York City 
Music venue:Hollywood Bowl
Race distance:26.2 
Show you've seen live?
Tom Petty, 2017 @ Hollywood Bowl 
Ice cream flavor:Anything 
coffee flavored 










JACKIE:
Band:(current, all time or both) - Bon Jovi
Album:(current, all time or both) - Garth Brooks, No Fences 
Race venue:Stanford, it's magical 
Music venue:Wolftrap
Race distance:Mile 
Show you've seen live:It's been so long, I can't even remember, that's bad 
Ice cream flavor:Coffee toffee Heath Bar Crunch







THIS OR THAT:
Sweet or salty?
Tami:Salty
Jackie:Sweet
Live or recorded?
Tami:Live
Jackie: Live
Coffee or tea?
Tami:Coffee. Always coffee! 
Jackie:Tea, without a doubt!
Summer or winter?
Tami:Summer. I could live in SoCal, easily 
Jackie:Summer





MORE MUSIC INFO:TAMI
Which band or artist would you go see tonight if you could? Goo Goo Dolls would be great
Which band or artist (wait...but no longer alive or playing together) would you go see tonight if you could? The Beatles
Which band or artist would you like to have dinner with tonight if you could? Brandi Carlisle
Which band or artist would you like to be playing alongside you during your next race (or long run)? Usher always makes me groove



MORE MUSIC INFO:JACKIE
Which band or artist would you go see tonight if you could? Garth Brooks 
Which band or artist (wait...but no longer alive or playing together) would you go see tonight if you could? Prince
Which band or artist would you like to have dinner with tonight if you could? Madonna 
Which band or artist would you like to be playing alongside you during your next race (or long run)? Rob Base 


LAST ONE:
Today, I feel like….(fill in the blank):
Tami:I could use more coffee, then a run~ it’s been awhile, so even 20-30 minutes is like a gift.
Jackie:I could use more sleep, I can always use more sleep, I can also use more hours in a day. 

LISTEN UP:MUSIC PICKS FOR RUNNING & DANCING


Top 5 Songs for running, dancing or both? 
TAMI:
1. Push It - Salt-N-Pepa
2. Shooting Stars - Bag Raiders
3. Pass that Dutch - Missy Elliott
4. Never Coming Down - Midnight Right
5. Thriving - Mary J Blige w/ Nas

JACKIE:
1. Mama Said Knock You Out - LL Cool J
2. It Takes Two - Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock
3. We Belong - Pat Benatar 
4. Eye of Tiger - Survivor
5. Livin' on a Prayer - Bon Jovi



Last 5 Songs you listened to today? 
TAMI
1) Closer to Fine - Indigo Girls 
2) Have You Ever Seen Rain - Bob Dylan
3) Best Friend - Sofi Tukker
4) Sound of Silence - Chromatics 
5) Lover - Taylor Swift

JACKIE:
1. Loved Her First
2. Where I'm From
3. Raised by Wolves
4. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star * 
5. Canon D major 
*Need to update my shuffle

Listen to these:
Thriving - Mary J Blige


Livin' On A Prayer - Bon Jovi