Thursday, April 19, 2018

BOSTON MARATHON 2018

"Out of all of my marathons, that was my worst finish time by far.  But it is definitely the medal that I am most proud of."
~ William Greer

This past Monday I ran my seventh Boston Marathon.  The weekend on the whole has always been pretty epic and this one was no different.  But this time around the actual marathon itself was like no other race experience that I've had to date.  Ever.  As you may already know, for the past two years I've had the privilege of running as a guide for a visually impaired athlete and as a member of Team With A Vision and I was very excited to be doing the same again this year.  Back in March, I learned that I was paired up with William Greer who would be coming in from Texas.  It would be his nineteenth marathon and his second Boston, his last one back in 2013.  He didn't arrive in Boston until Friday which meant I wouldn't get to meet him in person or do a practice run with him until Saturday.  I was definitely a little nervous about the fact that we didn't have more time together before the race but there was clearly nothing we could do about it.  When I touched base with him on Friday afternoon he let me know that he normally got up at 4:30am and that he'd be happy to meet up with me any time after that.  I'm all for early, but not even I can get going at 3:30am.  So, I suggested we meet at 6:30 which meant I needed to be out my door by 6:00; still early but a bit more manageable.  Saturday was a gorgeous morning, sunny and relatively warm by New England standards, and driving in got me instantly fired up for all that lay ahead.  William met me in the lobby of his hotel and shortly after we got going for an easy shakeout.  The BAA 5K, which I typically do but would be skipping this year, was taking place later that morning and the city was already buzzing with people so we made our way toward the river and then out in the opposite direction of the race.  

SATURDAY MORNING

A little backstory on William here.  When he was in high school he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle.  He had an open skull wound that took most of his vision and some of his short term memory.  Basically, he had to re-learn how to do almost everything, which, when you think about it, is pretty incredible, both that he made it back to where he is now and that he's running marathons on top of that.  He sees enough that he doesn't need to be tethered to his guide when he runs though I did have to stay to the left as he has no peripheral vision on his right side.  We cruised comfortably, getting to know each other and discussing our game plan.  I asked a lot of questions to make sure I knew how he specifically needed help and by the time we finished our run I was feeling cautiously optimistic.

#TEAMGREER

After saying our goodbyes I headed back out for a few more miles, finishing over at the Boston Common where the 5K was taking place.  I was a little sad not to be participating but, from a running perspective, I've had a pretty intense spring with a weird calf injury and some heavy duty training and racing and I felt I needed to save all my energy for Monday rather push myself in a 5K and risk something happening that would prevent me from guiding.  I met up with my Oiselle teammates who were cheering and cowbelling their faces off and had a little love fest with that crew before making my way back over to my car.


From Boston I busted a move over to Lexington to catch my younger daughter's soccer game (they won) and then we grabbed some lunch and headed home to Winchester.  We only had a couple hours before Jeff and I would be going back into the city for the Team With A Vision 25th Anniversary dinner.  It was a pretty special night as they were celebrating their 25th birthday with all of those who have gotten involved through the years; the runners, the guides and anyone who has been a part of the team or the organization as a whole.  Not only were we going to meet up with William but I also got to see Joyce Cron who I had the pleasure of guiding the last two years.  I haven't seen her in too long so I was more than thrilled to give her a hug and to catch up with her and her husband.  

TWAV RUNNERS & GUIDES

Having left our girls at home solo, Jeff and I scooted out before the evening was over.  Not that we don't trust Rosie and Grace, but you never know, particularly when Rosie is in charge of dinner.  We got back around 9pm and I zipped up to bed as we had to be up early the next morning for a gymnastics meet.  Never a dull moment in the Trachsel household.  The meet was over by 10am after which I rushed straight to the grocery store to get some last minute items in preparation for the Oiselle team dinner that I was having later that afternoon.  I had about 40 people coming in for it but this was my fourth time hosting this event and I've got the logistics down to a science so my stress level was under control.  I was a little worried about how tired I was feeling and was trying to sit or rest whenever possible, but there wasn't as much time for that as I would have liked.  There never is.  Everyone started showing up for dinner around 5pm; racers, spectators, family, friends and we dove right into dinner as most of us had a big day ahead of us and needed to eat and dash.


It was such a fun night, exactly what I needed to take the edge off and so awesome to hang with old friends and meet new ones.  The major topic of conversation was the weather for race day which was looking really grim.  We threw out ideas on what to wear, how to layer up and suggested additional items that could be useful (ie. latex gloves, hand warmers and trash bags); all of us taking notes and figuring out how to get our hands on these extra items.  Thankfully, my dear friend Rebecca S-M brought a box of latex gloves which we all helped ourselves to.  Yes, it was going to be that bad.  Everyone was out by 8pm and I made my way upstairs shortly afterwards.  I got everything ready to go, said goodnight to my family and passed out within about 2 minutes.


RACE DAY
I was up at 6:00 on Monday morning and the rain was already coming down steadily.  Kirsten, who was also guiding with TWAV, and her husband Joe were scooping me up at 7:30 for a ride to Hopkinton.  I remember thinking that it didn't look too bad as we drove out.  It was grey and drizzly but not horrendous.  I also remember thinking that perhaps it wouldn't be as bad as they'd predicted.  At least I had that one little moment of optimism before the shit hit the fan.  We had to walk about a mile to the Vision Center where we would be waiting with our runners before the race started.  The center is a tiny, two-story house which in years past has been all that we needed as there was enough space out back to chill in the yard or on the porch.  This year, though, all 100+ of us were packed inside like sardines.  It was hot as hell and total chaos.  My outer layers were soaked by the time I got inside so I laid them out to dry (they didn't) as I changed and got ready in my race clothes.  In addition to my shorts and singlet, I'd be wearing the latex gloves, wool gloves, arm warmers, hand warmers, compression socks, a rain coat and a trash bag.  I figured I'd start with more layers and could always ditch things along the way.  For the record, I ditched nothing.


William and I went outside and took a quick photo before our final preparations.  I was nervous but also really pumped.  William told me he was nervous, too, but he seemed calm and collected and ready to go.  We were in Wave 2, which began at 10:50 so we left the house about 10 minutes before that and William did some dynamic stretching as we walked over to our corral.  As I mentioned, he doesn't use a tether to run, but given how bad the weather was and how crowded the scene was, I asked if I could guide him by his arm to the start which he happily agreed to.  At one point I told him to look out as there was a giant puddle in front of us.  I thought it would be good to try and avoid them for as long as possible.  We would realize within the first 10 steps of the race that the puddles were everywhere most of them huge and all of them totally unavoidable.  We found Coral 8, stepped inside and immediately began our slow trek to the start.  This was it.  Go time.

THE RACE
Again, this wasn't William's first rodeo, so he knew exactly what he was getting into.  Or, at least, he thought he did.  And at the time, I did, too.  Our plan was to take it nice and easy for the first half of the race holding steady around a 9 minute pace and then to pick it up for the second half if all was going well.  The rain was coming down hard now and the wind was starting to pick up.  It was nasty.  But, we were okay.  I told him to let me know how the pace felt as we got moving, and to tell me if and when he needed fluids along the way or anything else, for that matter, which he agreed to.  A few miles in he told me that he was having a little trouble breathing, most likely because of the weather. I'm sorry he said.  It'll probably be a little boring for a while.  But, the rain is making it hard for me to do anything beyond focus on my running.  I told him not to worry that I was fine to just cruise along and get us to the finish.  As we ran, the rain and wind got worse and the temperature dropped.  It was getting a little ridiculous.  At one point, William apologized for complaining.  I laughed and told him to vent away as he had every right to do it given our situation.  About halfway through the race one of the safety pins on his bib popped open and we had to stop and try to re-attach it.  I took off both pairs of my gloves and tried to get it re-hooked but I found that I couldn't move my hands.  Like, at all.  I tried multiple times but they just wouldn't go.  A policeman saw us and asked if everything was okay.  I told him what was going on and asked if he could give it a try.  Thankfully, he was able to get it done.  Oh my Lordy, the relief.  I wanted to hug him.  I didn't.  But, I probably should have.  We got going again and continued our battle, which it now was.  Every single mile was a small victory.  Our pace was still right around 9 minutes but the weather was just getting worse and worse and by the time we got to the hills, William decided he needed to take a break.  His strategy was to walk 100 steps and then jog 100 steps on and off for as long as he needed to.  He let me know that doing it this way would trick his legs into thinking they had more in them than they actually did.  Whatever works I said.  We did this through the hills, sometimes changing it to 400 running and then 100 or even 50 walking depending on how he was feeling.  He apologized, tell me that he was just really, really tired and was struggling to muster up the energy to keep at it. I told him not to think twice about it, that the weather was throwing a monkey wrench into all of our plans and that we were now in survival mode.  If I have to crawl to the finish line, I'm going to get there he told me.  I didn't doubt it.  But, at this point I was crying a little inside as I haven't been more cold and/or wet for as long as I can remember.  It was truly awful and no words do it justice.  I was now in head down, arms tucked in, feet shuffling, robot mode.  When William walked, I would sort of jog in place along with him, holding my arms in close to my chest like a T-Rex, basically doing whatever I could to stay warm.  After we got through the hills, I thought to myself that it couldn't possibly get any worse.  Then the rain started coming down so hard it almost felt like hail.  The drops were huge and heavy and the wind was now swirling from what felt like every direction.  The volunteers at the waters stations were singing, dancing and laughing out loud.  We were all going a little crazy.  The whole scene was beyond nuts.  


William continued his walk/jog strategy through the final 10K.  He apologized again, this time because he felt bad about our pace.  I told him to stop worrying about it.  That we were all in the same boat and that we would get to the finish line come hell or high water.  Pun intended.  Just before the turn onto Boylston Street, he asked if we could stop so he could stretch his legs out which felt super tight.  He did a few lunges and knee pulls and then I heard him swear underneath his breath.  He told me that he'd tweaked his hamstring and that it was buzzing with pain.  Shit.  I mean, we had less than a mile to go now and he was suffering so hard.  We stretched some more and finally got ourselves up to the home stretch.  I told him I could see the finish line and that we were going to do it.  Thankfully he was able to push through and we made it safely across the line in a pretty damn remarkable time of 4 hours and 41 minutes.


Now normally, you stop and hug and jump up and down after accomplishing such a feat.  But on Monday?  Hells no.  We bee-lined it to the medical tent both to have someone check out William's leg and to get warm.  We stripped off some layers and bundled up in the mylar blankets, grabbing two for William who was now shirtless.  The medics sent us on our way, suggesting William get a massage when he'd had a chance to change clothes and re-group.  So, we found our bags at the TWAV meeting area and then hopped on a warming bus (hats off to the BAA for thinking that one through) so I could change and then help him find his wife.  On the bus, he told me he didn't think he could walk so a very nice medic put him in a wheelchair and guided us out toward his hotel.  Fortunately, he was able to stand and shuffle the 50 feet or so to make it over there.  We got into the lobby and the hotel manager recognized William immediately.  Since we hadn't connected with his wife he didn't have a key, so the manager hooked him up and then made sure he got up to his room.  Much like the race itself, this was probably the strangest post-race experience to date as well.  But, we survived, and that was all that mattered.  I called my husband and asked (begged) him to come pick me up.  I was shivering so hard that you could hear my teeth chattering.  I went to Starbucks to get a coffee and was attempting to wrap both my mylar blanket and a fleece blanket around my body.  Two high-school aged girls were watching and I could tell they were wondering what the hell was going on.  I told them I was so cold it hurt and that I was trying hard to wrap myself back up but that I couldn't feel my fingers.  They laughed and sweetly offered to help me get it done.  Bless them.  Jeff scooped me up at the hotel around 4:00 and I almost cried tears of joy when I got inside the car and put on the heat seats.  A lot of crying this weekend.  When we got home, I hopped into the shower and didn't get out for...well, I have no idea.  Once the dust had settled, I gave William a call to make sure he was okay.  He told me that he was doing better, that his hamstring had loosened up and that he was finally thawing out.  Rebecca he said  Out of all of my marathons, that was my worst finish time by far.  But it is definitely the medal that I am most proud of.  William I responded,I could not agree more.  I let him know that I was so insanely proud of both of us for getting through what was easily one of the hardest things I've ever done.  He thanked me for guiding him, for sticking with him when things got tough.  I thanked him for letting me be his wing man and told him I was happy to do it any time.  He laughed and said he was pretty sure that he was done with Boston, that he had no desire to come back.  I laughed along with him and told him I got it.  


On Tuesday morning I woke up to a beautiful, crisp clear day.  Of course.  Marathons are hard for all sorts of reasons.  Weather often plays a key roll in how things unfold.  On Monday, it took center stage.  But then, they're not supposed to be easy, right?  If they were, everyone would be doing them.  The fact that William does them and others like him who have physical challenges, totally blows my mind.  Such warriors they are.  Monday was just one of the many battles that he has to face every day in life.  This just happened to be really, really big one.  We fought harder than we ever thought we'd have to and then we fought some more.  We did it together.  And we survived.  It's a story that will go down in the books for both of us.  The bragging rites are endless.  We did it.  We freaking did it.  And that is a beautiful thing.  Crazy.  But beautiful.

Listen to this:
Follow My Feet - The Unlikely Candidates

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

RACE REVIEW:CHEAP MARATHON

"The glass is not half full or half empty, you just haven't finished drinking it yet."
~ friend & fellow coach, A. Ladd

Three weeks ago I had to drop out of the Shamrock Marathon due to a calf strain.  As tough as this was, I knew from the moment I stepped off the course that it was the right decision.  The day after the race my coach and I got on the phone to discuss a new game plan.  The hope was that once the calf fully healed, and we really didn't know how long that would take, but if the window was short, perhaps I could regroup and try again instead of tossing out all my training completely.  We agreed that we would have to take it one day at a time and rather than map out a three or four week schedule, we would check in on a daily basis to see how things were going and whether we could ramp things back up or not.  So, after three days off, I eased back in very slowly and cautiously.  Of course I wanted to race again, but my overall health at this stage in the game is more important to me so I was willing to be both smart and honest with myself as I got back into it.  The first few days were hard.  My calf was tight and sore and the running didn't feel great.  Each day, however, got better and with ice, massage and compression the pain and tightness slowly subsided.  For every good day, I'd have a couple bad ones, which was tricky to navigate and making it almost impossible to predict how things were going to end up.  My long run, which I had to get in if I was going to run another marathon, was brutal.  No pain, but almost ridiculously slow as I could feel myself favoring my good leg and then attempting to readjust throughout the entire run.  I honestly almost hung it up after that.  I reached out to Lowell and told him how it had gone and that, with only two weeks to go, I was doubting whether I could pull this thing off.  His response,  "Don’t get caught up on the big picture, Rebecca. It’s not worth looking ahead at the moment. Let’s just focus on each day as it comes and see how things go. We’ll get you there. Trust me.”  So, I kept at it.  And while my confidence was not very high, I was getting the work in and my calf was doing just fine, which seemed to be enough for the time being.


The Tuesday before the race, which even then we still weren't sure about, I muscled my way through one more really challenging speed workout, the exact one I'd done a few weeks prior before the Shamrock marathon.  It was significantly harder to get through and while it wasn't pretty, I somehow managed to pull it off.  Doubt continued to hang over me heavily but my coach still had faith.  I let him know that I was concerned that I'd lost fitness and wouldn't be able to hold pace.  "Rebecca", he said "It doesn't matter whether you feel the edge when the race starts or even at the 5, 10, or 15 mile mark.  You know you can run well past half way at goal pace, right?  You don't know what is in the bottom of the well and you won't until you get all the water on top out of there.  Just approach it with a willingness to work hard and try, which I have no doubt you can do, and it will all be good."  I don't call him the Sensei for nothing.  By Friday, I was trying to adjust my mentality and to put myself into a more positive frame of mind.  I came home from my run feeling strong and, for the first time, excited.  So I went ahead and signed up for the Cheap Marathon thus making it official.  I would race.  Lowell and I got on the phone for one last pep-talk before Sunday.  I told him I was a crazy mix of emotions...excited, nervous, worried and yet totally chill all at the same time.  He told me not to overthink it.  Just to go into cruise control until mile 20 and from there my body would take over and do what it was capable of.  It's exactly what I needed to hear and from that point on I did my best to stop thinking about the "what ifs" and to relax, or at least to try.  The Saturday before the race flew by.  I had to coach at 8:00am, then I cruised over to my daughter's soccer game, then my husband and I did a bunch of things around the house and then, as I was sitting down to get off my feet, my girls asked me if they could have a double sleepover.  "Girls," I said "I have to get up at 4:45 in the morning for a marathon."  "It's fine Mom. We will sleep in the basement and we'll be really quiet."  Whatever.  Two girls, four girls, it's all the same thing.  Either way they'd be up late and as long as I was asleep by nine, it didn't matter to me.  For the record, that earned me 'Rock Star Mom' status from both the girls and their friends.  After dinner and a movie (I, Tonya...really good and incredibly depressing at the same time) I turned in for the night.  Then, after what felt like five minutes, I was up again, making coffee at 5:00am.  I had to be in Salisbury, MA at 6:30 and it was a 40 minute drive so I gave myself plenty of time to eat and get myself organized before I finally took off at 5:45.  I won't lie and tell you that I didn't have a what the f*** am I doing moment on the way.  I did.  Though it was obviously too late to turn back at that point.  I arrived at the Salisbury State Park at 6:25 and rushed over to get my bib.  It was a brisk 28 degrees and I ran with a blanket wrapped around me like a cape.  Then, I threw all my layers back in the car except my blanket and made my way over to the start.  As far as races go, this was about the most low maintenance event I had ever attended.  And that was the point.  It was cheap, easy to deal with, no shirts (unless you bought one), no awards, basically no frills at all.  They did, however, provide us with water and gatorade, thank goodness.  The course was a 7K(ish) loop that we would be running six times.  The downside being the repetitiveness but the upside being that there were people along the way the whole time.  I honestly never thought I'd do a race like this, particularly a marathon, but there is a first time for everything, right?


THE RACE:
If you read my Shamrock Marathon race review you'll remember that my Apple watch crapped out on me, giving me the wrong pace info, which was incredibly stressful.  But, I'd also worn my Garmin for the marathon I'd done prior to that one and it had timed out on me at a little over half a mile into the race.  So, in fear of either of those things happening again, I wore both watches for this one.  After a Ready, Set, Go from our race director we were off.  It was freezing, but the sun was shining and the vibe was mellow, so while I was cold, I wasn't super stressed out, which was a nice change.  Once I got going, my Apple watch told me I was running a 7:30 pace, which I knew was wrong.  Great.  I looked to my Garmin which said 6:25.  That seemed fast, but whatever.  Then, like clockwork, my Garmin shut down right after half a mile and I had to re-start it.  This is kind of laughable, I know.  I decided I would use the Garmin for pace and the Apple for mileage.  There were no mile markers so I was very happy to have worn both.  The first mile (also the 7th, 14th and 21st) was a straight shot along the water followed by a hairpin turn to come back in the other direction.  Miles 4, 5 and 6 zig zagged through the reservation including a second hairpin turn before finishing the full loop.  After one lap, I realized the intensity of the challenge I had in front of me.  The course was flat, yes.  But those turns were brutal and knowing I had to do them each time was a bit daunting.  Regardless, I settled into what I thought was goal race pace, somewhere between 6:45-6:50, and told myself to just zone out and focus on my music.  I felt good.  Really good.  There was no pain in my calf, which was awesome.  My legs felt springy and strong.  And while I had been unsure of what to expect just days before, I was now wondering if I would not only finish but maybe even dip under 3 hours for the first time.  It was right around the halfway point when the wind started to pick up.  I fought it for that mile out to the first turn, but then had it at my back and worked to make up the difference in my pace, attempting to keep things even.  Unfortunately, we had it working against us for a few more smaller strips on the other side of the course and while it wasn't terrible, it began to get harder to fight through as my legs got more and more tired.  By the fourth lap, the wind on that one mile stretch out was at full force.  My pace for that stretch was now dropping to 7, sometimes 7:15.  It was around here that I began to worry that I would no longer be able to make up the time when the wind was with me because I was getting too tired.  After finishing my 5th lap my time was 2 hours and 30 minutes.  Thus, I had 30 minutes to run 4.4ish miles if I was going to come in under 3 hours.  Maybe I can do this, I thought to myself.  But, as I headed out again on the final one mile stretch with the wind against me and saw my pace dropping again to the 7s I knew it was likely not going to happen.  Not that I didn't keep fighting.  Knowing I was this close to being done was enough to keep me grinding.  Around mile 24 I looked up and did a double take as I saw my family cheering for me up ahead.  After 19 marathons, they no longer come to my races, understandably.  So, to see them waving and hear them yelling my name was huge.  They'd even brought our dog, Clover, who looked like she was ready to jump in and finish with me.  As you'd imagine, I got a major boost and was able to pick up the pace as I plugged away to the finish.  Those last couple, smaller stretches against the wind just about did me in, but I dug deep and gave it everything I had.  I knew I wasn't going to get my sub-3 but I wanted to finish strong, which I did, coming in at 3:01:38.


Eli Bailin, the race director, found me and gave me a hug.  We've been friends for a while and he knew I had been trying for the sub-3.  He just shook his head.  "That wind.  It really picked up", he said.  "I'm sorry".  "I'd love to blame it on you, I said laughing, but it is what it is.  I just couldn't beat it.  And then I thanked him for a great event.  It was exactly what I'd expected and despite the weather, had gone as smoothly as it could have gone.


After that, I went over and hugged my husband and my girls.  I can't express in words how amazing it was to have them there.  I was this huge mix of emotions and just seeing their faces totally grounded me.  Grace asked me what I'd won.  I showed her my ribbon which said, I ran a full marathon and all I got was this lousy ribbon.  Well played, Eli.  I saw him over to the side and shouted, THIS IS IT?? THIS CRAPPY RIBBON??  


He shrugged as he laughed and said, "well...it's the Cheap Marathon.  All I can offer you is some cheap snacks."  Which my kids gladly accepted.  Then we wrapped it up and headed to the coffee shop to get some food for them and a coffee for me before making our way back home.  For a while, I just enjoyed being with my family and didn't think much about the race and how it had gone.  But as the day progressed I started to digest the experience and give it some thought.  I was really proud of myself for coming back from a DNF and putting myself back out there.  And I was truly happy with my performance.  But I was also disappointed and somewhat frustrated.  I have made so many attempts to break the 3 hour barrier and have come so close it's almost a joke.  I know it's in me.  But for the last few attempts, there has been a single outside factor, something out of my control that I couldn't necessarily prepare for (heat, stomach issues, injuries, wind) that has kept me from reaching my goal.  They aren't excuses.  I just couldn't get it done.  And I'm no dummy.  There are always going to be variables that I won't be able to control and there is not a damn thing I can do about it.  On Monday morning I chatted with my husband some more about it.

Me: I guess I just don't know where to go from here.  I've worked my ass off for years and I can't seem to get the time I want.  I just keep fighting and fighting but it's starting to feel like a losing battle.  

Jeff: I think you need to let go of the time goal and run for the joy of running again.  It doesn't mean it's not going to happen.  But, time probably shouldn't be your  main focus anymore.

And as I give it more thought, I'm realizing that he's right.  I've started to lose the joy of running and to forget why I do it in the first place.  Rather than celebrate what I've done, which is a lot, I'm just getting more and more down on myself.  I didn't think it was happening but I understand now this it was.  In less than a year I've run four marathons; the time for all of them falling somewhere between 3:00:04 and 3:04:41.  I was one of the top three overall females in all four of them.  Forgive me if I sound like I'm bragging.  But the point is despite all these pretty great achievements, I've never once given myself credit because I've been so focused on the fact that I didn't hit my goal time.  Which, when I think about it, is really kind of stupid.  My 43 year old body has been nothing short of a miracle for me as I've trained through all of these races.  And, what really matters here is that I truly love to train and race, not only to do well, but because I enjoy the process and the experience as a whole.  I've lost sight of that this past year and I'm realizing that I need to stop and reset or I'm going to start resenting running on the whole.  And that would suck.  Am I going to keep training for marathons?  Of course.  Do I want to improve?  Absolutely.  Do I believe I've hit my plateau.  I really don't.  But, my focus clearly needs to shift here if I'm going to stick with it.  So, that is what I'm working on now which may take a little time to figure out.  It's not necessarily a totally new story, I suppose.  Just a new chapter in the same one I've been telling for years, the one that centers not around a goal time but around my love for running.


Listen to this:
Follow My Feet - The Unlikely Candidates

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

TRIED & TRUE

Yesterday, I was in the athletic trainer's room at the high school where I coach with my legs in Normatec recovery sleeves, pulsing with and then releasing pressure; a high-powered massage, if you will.  They are a new discovery for me (thank you, Eamon) and as far as I can tell a complete game changer.  As I sat there, I couldn't help but smile as I thought back to what was available to me when I started running competitively in college.  Certainly nothing like this.  As a student athlete at Colgate we were issued "greys" for practice made by Champion.  This was a couple sets of shorts, shirts, sweatshirts and sweatpants, all cotton.  On so many levels ...just....wow.  It hurts to even think about the chafing we must have dealt with.  We were also given two pairs of shoes per season, a pair of trainers and a pair of spikes, which we selected and ordered from a catalog.  I always went with the Saucony Grid for my training shoe, not because they were recommended to me but because I liked the way they looked.  Obvs.  Back then, there was basically one type of "bar" available made by Powerbar.  The official flavor was Malt Nut but I vaguely remember it tasting like bark and being borderline impossible to chew.  And if it was cold out, which in upstate NY it usually was, forget it.  You'd break your jaw before getting through those things.


Most of us listened to music on our Sony Walkmen and we made mixtapes for each other on our stereos with the double cassette players.  Man, those took forever.  Now, granted, we didn't know what we didn't have, so it really didn't matter at the time.  But when I think of all the new tricks and tools available to me today, things that I use daily if not multiple times a day,  I'm almost dumbfounded by how things have evolved.  Compression socks?  Yes please.  Arm warmers?  So nice to have.  Back then, you just wore that big grey sweatshirt until you warmed up and the ran with it tied around your waist.  Not awkward at all.  Foam rollers and other various recovery gadgets?  I literally never leave home without them.  Again, twenty years ago, unless there was a person involved, which in college there usually wasn't because we couldn't afford an actual massage, the only rolling we were doing was with dice, hoping and praying that our injuries would magically go away on their own.  Oh and GPS?  That wasn’t even in the picture.  If we wanted to know how far we'd run we'd have to drive the route in our car or just guess our pace and do the math.  And yet still we somehow managed to get through each day, season and year somewhat successfully with our now antiquated system.  All that said, there are a lot of things about my running routine that are still to this day tried and true.  I started doing them all those years ago and today, I'm still doing the exact same thing.  Because as we all know, if it ain't broke don't fix it.  Bottom line, I'm so grateful for all that running has done for me, regardless of how it was done.  It is fun to look back and note the changes.  But it's also cool to note how much has stayed the same, at least for me.  Turns out we masters runners might still have a few tricks up our sleeves worth asking about.  Below are just a few of mine, which I wrote down while drinking coffee in my sweatshirt.  Because some things never change.  And never will.  Thank goodness.

TOP TRIED & TRUE RUNNING TIPS


~ Even back in college, turning on my coffee pot was the first thing I did in the morning.  Nothing has changed there except that I now have a second cup post-run.  And sometimes a third.  But, I no longer have the midnight cup so that I can stay up to study.  How did I DO THAT??

~ Regardless of what my physical or mental state is, I always get a little giddy when I'm lacing up my shoes.  And this has been the case for as long as I remember.  I can be in a bad mood, tired or totally unmotivated but once my mind gets in the zone, something comes over me.  It's a gift that I get to run.  I think my mind has always known this.

~ Music always has and continues to motivate me like almost nothing else can.  Put a pump up song on and I'm ready to roll without fail.

~ For as long as I've been running, one of the first things I do before I head out is to check the weather.  Every day I'm hoping for something good (which was rare at Colgate) and then willingly, if not begrudgingly, accepting the challenge if it's looking ugly (which was often).  It helps me get my mind in the game and to prepare my body for what lays ahead.

~ For all four years of college, my pre-race breakfast was a plain bagel and banana.  Still is today.  That will never change.

~ In that same light, as far as I'm concerned, a PB & J will forever remain the meal of champions.  It really has it all; carbs, sugars, and protein.  At school we at them because they were cheap and easy to make.  Today, I eat them because they are easy to digest and the perfect meal to take with me on the go, which I frequently am.  And, of course, they are delicious, so there is that.

~ As a college athlete, I would write mantras on my arm pre-race or before hard workouts.  Things like, 'SHUT UP AND GO' or 'LET'S DO THIS'.  Even the process itself got me fired up and helped me stay motivated and focused and looking down and seeing them while running got me freshly amped or helped me find the next gear.  I still do this today, my latest being 'REALAX. BREATHE. BELIEVE'.  And the effect is exactly the same.

~ I'm a big believer in a coach.  Obviously we had one working with us at school.  But, even today, at age 43, I'm still using one.  In my opinion, having that guidance and support from an outside source while trying to reach your goals is invaluable.  Doesn't matter what kind of athlete you are, nothing motivates you like a coach can.

~ And, last but certainly not least, I still love a good champion sweatshirt.  I Just don’t run in them anymore.

Listen to this:
FOLLOW YOUR FIRE - Kodaline

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

RWR:MEET STEPH, PRO-RUNNER, PICKY OWNER & MOM

"Stretch your limits....and then stretch a little more."
~ Steph Bruce


Today I'm really fired up to introduce you to Stephanie Rothstein Bruce.  She's a pro-runner for NAZElite and Hoka One One, a co-owner of Picky Bars, a mom to two little ones, a coach to athletes of all levels and a huge role model for me and so many others out there who follow her.  I had the pleasure of meeting and hanging with her last year in her home state of AZ when I was out for a Oiselle team meet up and to race the Phoenix Women's Half Marathon.  At first, she was super chill, pretty quiet and reserved.  In fairness, she was fighting a cold, so that likely had a lot to do with it.  But, as the weekend progressed, she did start to let her guard down a bit and eventually I got a little peak into her wilder side.  I have to give my friend Ashley some credit here as she was the deejay in our car throughout the weekend and her music choices often brought all of us, regardless of the state we were in, to a new level.  Think high volume and impromptu dance parties....in the car.


PERSONAL BESTS
Track
5000m: 15:49
10,0000m:32:24
Road
5k: 15:59
10k: 32:14
20k:67:59
Half Mar: 70:53
Marathon: 2:29:35

Steph has always been a fastie.  But unlike a lot of pros out there, she took a break in 2014 to start a family, having not one but two little ones before returning to the race circuit.  Her grittiness, determination and drive got her right back into it and eventually she was running times as fast, if not faster than she was pre-kids.  What I love about Steph is how honest and real she is.  Regardless of who she's talking to, she tells it like it is.  She shares a lot with her friends and followers on social media including the highs and lows of training and the challenges of balancing running and motherhood among many other things.  This woman is just such a rock star and I feel so fortunate to have gotten to meet and spend time with her in person.  Read more below and then follow her here.  Her journey up to this point has been pretty spectacular and as far as I can tell she's nowhere near done.  Go get 'em, Steph.

RWR:MEET STEPH BRUCE

Name: Stephanie Bruce
Where you're from: Born in New York
Where you reside now: Live and train in Flagstaff, AZ
Age: 34
Occupation: Professional Runner and mom
Website/blog: www.stephandbenbruce.com


RUNNING & MUSIC:
What do you love most about running?
I love that running is the only area in life where we can decide a lot of our fate. We get out how much we put in. We can choose to hurt more in a race if we want to test ourselves. Whereas in life you don't often get to choose how much you suffer or how much hurt gets thrown at you.

What do you love most about music?
Music can distract you and take you to a place mentally that can boot you physically.

STEPH'S FAVORITES:
Album: Yikes, I don't know. I'm a top 40s girl so I like anything currently pop.
Race venue: NYC
Race distance: Marathon
Show you've seen live show: Katy Perry
Ice Cream: Non-dairy cookie dough




THIS OR THAT
Sweet or salty? Sweet
Live or recorded? Recorded
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Summer or winter? Summer





MORE MUSIC INFO:
Which band or artist would you go see tonight if you could? Sam Smith
Which band or artist (wait...but no longer alive or playing together) would you go see tonight if you could? NSync
Which band or artist would you like to have dinner with tonight if you could? Keisha
Which band or artist would you like to be playing alongside you during your next race (or long run)? Anything from Rocky


LAST ONE:
Today, I feel like….(fill in the blank):
Surprisingly....a million bucks, like I need more coffee and I could sleep more.

Top 5 (or 1) Songs for running, dancing or both?
Turn Down for What - DJ Snake & Lil Jon
(note: Steph only listed one song here. So, she either listened to this one on repeat, which wouldn't surprise me, or she didn't see that I requested five, which is more likely.  Doesn't matter.  Either way, she's rockin' out.

Last 5 (or 4) Songs you listened to today? 
Silence: Marshmallow
Pray for Me: The weekend with Kendrick Lamar
Bad at Love: Halsey
Tell me you love me: Demi Lovato