Monday, April 27, 2020


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:

Thursday, April 16, 2020


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.


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

Tami, crushing 26.2 in NYC

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!


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 

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

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

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 

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

Sweet or salty?
Live or recorded?
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 

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

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 

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. 


Top 5 Songs for running, dancing or both? 
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

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? 
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

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