Thursday, May 17, 2018

RACE REVIEW: CAPE COD REACH THE BEACH

The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best."
~ Epictetus


As I mentioned in my last post, this past weekend twelve us, along with our amazing crew, took on the Ragnar Reach the Beach Relay in Cape Cod as part of the recently launched Oiselle Podium Project.  Our one main goal, for obvious reasons, was to snag ourselves a spot on the podium, preferably first.  The outcome?  In a nutshell, mission accomplished.  Our team, otherwise known as BirdmachineCC, was the first women's open team across the line, finishing in blazing time of 20 hours and 26 minutes (average pace 6:41).  We also finished second overall out of the 462 teams that competed.  Pardon my French, but that is a shit ton of teams.  So, needless to say, we were pretty pleased with ourselves.  Today, I'm going to try to give you a sense of how things unfolded over those 24 hours.  It will undoubtedly be tough to put it all into words and I'll do my best to avoid going into too much detail.  Even still, it's a long one so you might want to grab a cup of coffee before you dive in.  Let's go ahead and start on Friday afternoon.  First stop, Hull, MA where the race was set to begin.  We had people fly and drive in from all over the country.  Seattle, Austin, Philly, Manhattan, and, of course, the Boston area.  Those of us who are local scooped up everyone who needed rides out to the start, all of us rolling in around 1:30 where we promptly grabbed coffee and food and then painted our vans.  Well, actually, if I'm being honest here, Julia painted our vans.  She's an artist and calligrapher and lots of other really cool things.  Her ability to decorate our vans far surpassed anything the rest of us could do so she just did the whole damn thing and we loved her for it.

VAN ART by JULIA

After we got ourselves packed and our teams divided up into the two vans based on which leg we were running, we headed over to the race start for some administrative stuff.  Both teams had to have a number of safety vests, flashing lights and headlamps between them as no runner could be on the road at night without all of these items lit up and on their person.  We checked in with the staff as we had to physically show them our gear and then in return they gave us some safety flags for crossing the street and a bunch of other race related gear and promo swag.  I'm not going to lie and tell you I didn't feel pretty badass hanging with this group of strong, beautiful, fearless women who were all wearing the same thing, which was also incredibly badass (thank you, Oiselle).  Once we had the green light from the officials we did a team cheer and grabbed a photo and then lined up to wait as Kathleen, our first runner, got ready to go.  Finally, at 3:00pm, she was off and the rest of us hopped in the vans and got ready to rock.

#BIRDMACHINECC

I was assigned to the fourth leg and my first run would be an easy 4.1 miles.  I'd be grabbing the bracelet from the crazy fast Meg around 5:20pm.  Since this was my easiest of the three runs I was going to push the pace a bit, aiming to hover right around 6:45.  As expected, Meg came in hot and once she slapped the bracelet on my wrist I was off.  The weather was gorgeous, 60s and sunny, and I cruised along at goal pace, smiling both because I was running and more so because I was stupidly excited about the relay in general.  

HANDOFF FROM MEG

I could see a guy in a blue shirt in the distance and focused on following him since the official Ragnar markers on the road for us were few and far between.  The first mile flew by and I finished mile 2 right one pace with a 6:46.  Shortly after the 2 mile marker there was a RTB sign up ahead that showed an arrow to the left.  I watched as the guy I had been following veered right.  SHIT.  Should I yell out, I wondered?  I got to the sign and turned left deciding he was too far away to hear me.  Bummer for him.  Then about 20 steps after my turn I started to panic.  Did I read the sign wrong?  Did it mean stay on the left side of the road?  SHIT. SHIT. SHIT. I turned around and went back to the sign which definitely said turn left.  So that guy was either running on his own and wondering what the hell was going on in his town or he was in the process of getting really, really lost.  Sadly, I lost some time on that third mile, rolling in at a 6:56 so I was determined to make up the time and cruised through my fourth mile in 6:36.  I was a bit winded by the time I got to the exchange zone and had a tough time passing the bracelet off to Colleen, hence the awkward situation below.    

HANDOFF TO COLLEEN

Ok, so not what I'd hoped for, but not a complete fail either.  After my run I got back in the van and joined the rest of my team as they cheered for each runner at the next few handoffs, all of them successful.  Once our sixth runner, Sophia, finished up her first leg our van was done for a while as Van 2 took over for the next 6 legs.  We pulled off to grab dinner. (hmmm....what to eat when you've just raced and you'll be doing it again in less than 3 hours.  Always a tricky one) Then we cruised over to the next exchange area where we'd be hanging out until Van 2 was finished.  We attempted to get some sleep, some of us in the van and some outside on the grass.  None of us did very well and by the time we were gearing up to start again all of us could feel the exhaustion settling in.  I had to give myself a little talking to here.  Buck up, Rebecca.  You signed up for this.  

VAN 2 AFTER THEIR FIRST ROUND

I started my second run at midnight.  Now, if you've been reading this blog for a while you know that I'm typically in bed by 9:00pm.  Thus, you can imagine how chipper I was after having already run earlier that day and gotten about one hour of sleep in the backseat of van which I shared with my teammate, Cait.  I was not chipper.  I have no photos of this run as I was a zombie before, during and after.  I had to fight tooth and nail to hold a 6:50 pace as I was running totally on my own with no music in the pitch black and in small Cape Cod neighborhoods full of potholes and unexpected twists and turns.  I got it done, but it was touch and go.  Not pretty at all.

Some point in the middle of the night

I slinked back into the van, put some warm clothes on and waited quietly until all of us were done and we could get to the next exchange area for some sleep.  You can see how sparkly our crew, Ania and Joan, were in the photo above.  Bless them.  They kept things rolling smoothly and always had smiles on their faces no matter what.  It is a job I never could take on.  You can also see how thrilled I look behind them.  Let's just say it's been a while since I've been that tired.  We rolled into the transition area around 3am and Cait and I grabbed our sleeping bags and headed over to the (wet) grass for a nap.  Cait says I slept as I was apparently breathing heavily but I don't ever remember actually falling asleep.  After what felt like five minutes our alarm went off and we slogged back over to the van in preparation for our third and final leg.  It was now around 5am and the sun was just starting to poke through.  It was pretty spectacular and as I looked out the van window I was able to appreciate the beauty of it as I attempted to summon up some untapped energy.

SUNRISE IN HARWICH

My final leg was my hardest for multiple reasons.  One, it was my longest at 7.5 miles.  Two, it had some gentle rollers in it.  Three, it was my third run in less than 24 hours.  And four I was running on fumes.  I've done three marathons and one half marathon in the past two months.  But, this 7.5 mile run felt significantly harder than all four of those races.  I had absolutely nothing left in the tank and I was having to dig deeper than I've had to go for a while in order to hold a sub-7 minute pace.  Again, I had to give myself a pep talk.  Come on, Rebecca.  It's 7 miles.  You do this all the time. Embrace the suck and just keep going.  I sporadically checked my pace to make sure I wasn't sliding but I did not check my distance figuring the less I knew the better.  

FINISHING LEG 3

Finally, I could see the turn in for the transition area.  That last stretch might as well have been a 5k.  Everything hurt and I was almost crying tears of joy knowing that I was nearing the end.  Why do I do this again?  I'll get to that.  I crawled into the van and slinked back to the corner as I decompressed, borderline shocked that I'd been able to pull it all off.

DONE

Next up?  Breakfast.  We pulled into Provincetown and walked down to Lizzie's cafe for some hard-earned food and bottomless cups of Joe.  All of us were in a bit of daze.  Tired, hungry and just completely drained both physically and mentally.  Not much was said during this meal and there seemed to be a general understanding among us that it was enough to just sit and be together for the moment.  Around 10:30 we received word that Van 2 was done.  We also learned our official finish time which was significantly faster than we had predicted so we were thrilled.  We wouldn't know our final place until later that day as we had to wait for all the teams to finish before they could determine the results.  But, we felt pretty confident that we'd done what we'd set out to do based on the results that were tallied up until that point.  

VAN 1
#RUNFAMILY

We gathered at the finish area so we could wait for Nicole, our final runner and fearless leader, to come up the hill and we could then run her in.  All of us were a bit loco now as we were fully caffeinated and overtired which is always an interesting combo.  Van 2 met up with us 12:00 and we traded stories for the next few minutes as we waited for Nicole.  She booked up the hill around 12:30, so fast actually that none of us were prepared and had to make a serious effort to catch her so we could cross the line behind her.  She was going hard to the finish and taking no prisoners along the way.  Shout out to this woman who organized the whole shebang flawlessly.  She is such a freaking rock star.  

NICOLE...DROP. MIC.

The race was now officially over and we had, for lack of a better phrase, crushed it.  We made our way over to the finish table to get our medals and then back to the line for a final team photo.  Then we ambled up to the food tent and got some snacks before rolling back down the hill to get ourselves re-organized and ready to head back to Hull.  And just like that it was over.  I knew it would go fast but, man, it just flew.  I suppose that's what happens when you're having fun and working your ass off at the same time.  As one of the more seasoned athletes on the team (translation...the oldest) I was a little worried that I'd have a hard time holding my own.  Particularly given the fact that I had been been burning the candle at both ends over the past couple months between my own training, my job and my mom duties.  I realized, though, that when something is important to you and you believe in it wholeheartedly, you can summon up strength and energy that you never knew you had to make it happen.

Photo Credit: JESS BARNARD

I love racing.  But racing with a team and supporting each other as we aimed for a common goal was whole new level of awesome.  It's one of the main reasons it was so important for me to be a part of this team.  Our bond was sealed before we even started and from the minute the race began we became a force to be reckoned with, something that simply can't be done on your own.  I'm a big believer in surrounding yourself with people you love who share similar goals and dreams.  Being able to do it for a full twenty four hours gave me a dose of amazing that will last me for many years to come.  If I'm being honest I did have some thoughts in that final leg.   Things like I don't know if I can do this again and I might be getting to old for this.  But as I came into that final transition area and saw my team cheering for me, all smiles, jumping up and down and then wrapping me up in a hug because I'd done it, my doubt faded as I remembered that I'd earned my spot among this incredible group of women.  I may have had to work a little harder to keep up, but so what.  I'd done my part.  And I knew, at that moment, that I'd do it again in a heartbeat if the opportunity was presented to me.  But first....coffee.    


Listen to this:
Collide by The Givers

Thursday, May 10, 2018

BIRDMACHINE CAPE COD:MEET THE TEAM


Tomorrow, sixteen of us will be headed to Hull, MA for the start of the Ragnar Cape Cod Reach the Beach Relay.  Our team, also known as Birdmachine Cape Cod, was one of the 6 Oiselle teams chosen to be a part of their Podium Projecta crazy, elaborate scheme that the company dreamed up this past year.  Our goal?  To win.  Or, at least, to make it to the podium.  But, hopefully, to win.  And we have some really fast women coming in from all over the country to make it happen.  I am both honored and ecstatic to be a member of this crew.  I'm guessing many of you know what the relay entails, but just in case you're not familiar with it, here's the low down.  All of us, 12 runners and 4 crew members, will be meeting out in Milton, MA where we will hop into our two rented vans and drive to the start of the race.  The race, which starts in Hull and ends in Provincetown, is about 200 miles total and has been divided up into twelve legs.  Each of the runners will take on one leg which consists of three runs total of varied distances and degrees of difficulty.  The whole thing will be run straight through from Friday to Saturday until we are done.  Sleep?  Maybe.  Sweat?  Lots.  Showers?  Nope.  Coffee?  Duh.  To most, it probably sounds like a total nightmare.  To us, it's the ultimate girls weekend and we are all chomping at the bit to get started.  Below, you'll meet the runners on our team and get to know a little bit about them before we take to the streets.  Feel free to follow along on Instagram where we'll posting with #BirdMachineCC.  I have no doubt that it's going to be a wild and crazy ride.  Stay tuned.

BIRDMACHINE CAPE COD


Name: Megan Foster
Age: 40
Favorite race distance: I love all distances, even the ones I hate! But really 26.2!!!!!
Favorite ice cream flavor: All of them!
Favorite movie: Running movie-Saint Ralph 
Favorite season: Summer
Go-to coffee order: Early Grey Tea
Favorite dance move: The Lawnmower
Current favorite running song: All the Way Up by Fat Joe Remy Ma
Today I feel like....(fill in the blank): I’m on autopilot…(super busy this month!!!)


Name: Nicole Freeman (aka Freebird) 
Age: 29
Favorite race distance: Mile or sprint triathlons
Favorite ice cream flavor: Mango sorbet
Favorite Movie: Oh this is hard. I don’t have a favorite movie— more like a top ten. But I'd say, Joy (David O Russell) 
Favorite season: Summer or fall 
Go-to coffee order: Black hot coffee. French press preferred. 
Favorite dance move: Sitting back down— no one needs to see that
Current fav running song: (a throwback to high school) I slept with someone from fall out boy and all I got was this stupid song about me by Fall Out Boy  
Today I feel like...(fill in the blank): I’m super jazzed about everything. I’m going to get a massage and watch Gilmore girls. I start a new job on Monday and I took this whole week off. After months of misery I’m really going in on #treatyoself 


Name: Colleen Moorman
Age: 32
Favorite race distance: Half marathon or marathon
Favorite ice cream: Ooh, tough question because this changes constantly.  Anything with chocolate is a good bet.  Maybe Ben & Jerry’s “The Tonight Dough” or just Cookie Dough in general.
Favorite movie: Depends on my mood, but “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Love Actually” never get old.
Favorite season: Spring and Fall - I love the crisp cool mornings, perfect for a run.
Go-to coffee order: Latte when it’s cold; Iced/cold brew/nitro coffee or iced latte when it’s hot.  And iced mocha as a special treat.
Favorite dance move: Hmm, I love dancing salsa and merengue, so anything with lots of spins.
Current favorite running song: Whatever It Takes by Imagine Dragons
Today I feel like... (fill in the blank): a bad ass, pumped and excited for this race.  But I can always go for more sleep!


Name: Ania Kozlowska
Age: 33
Favorite race distance: 10K
Favorite ice cream: Sweet cream
Favorite movie: Alien
Favorite season: Fall
Go-to coffee order: Oat milk latte
Favorite dance move: The Carlton
Current favorite running song: Get By by Talib Kweli
Today I feel like... (fill in the blank): I need a few more hours in the day. ALSO SO EXCITED FOR BIRDMACHINE!!


Name: Faye Hellman
Age: 34
Favorite race distance: Mile/5K
Favorite ice cream: Mint chocolate chip
Favorite movie: Just one?  Something Mel Brooks to feed my love for his comedic style such as Blazing Saddles, History of the World Part I, or Spaceballs.
Favorite season: Fall
Go-to coffee order: Wawa. 100% Colombian
Favorite dance move: I do a move with my shoulders that looks cool in my head but not in the eyes of anyone who witnesses said move.
Current favorite running song: Anything that makes me what to dance.  Currently Body by Loud Luxury
Today I feel like... (fill in the blank): Hopeful that the running gods will help me overcome a weird injury I've had this past week so I can race this weekend!


Name: Cait Campbell
Age: 29
Favorite race distance: 5k
Favorite ice cream: Cappuccino Crunch (with chocolate sprinkles!)
Favorite movie: Return of the Jedi
Favorite season: Fall
Go-to coffee order: Venti iced coffee, unsweetened, with a splash of soy milk
Favorite dance move: dramatically dabbing while jumping up and down
Current favorite running song: Green Light by Lorde
Today I feel like... (fill in the blank): I need to pack for Ragnar!!


Name: Rebecca Stanfield McCown
Age: 36
Favorite race distance: 13.1
Favorite ice cream: Coffee with sprinkles
Favorite movie: Does Gilmore Girls count? I don’t think I have a favorite
Favorite season: Fall
Go-to coffee order: Black (but if I'm feeling feisty an almond milk latte)
Favorite dance move: Anything that can be done in a soul train dance line
Current favorite running song:  I don’t run with music but this pops into my head on a regular basis- Love Runs Out by One Republic
Today I feel like... (fill in the blank): I’m being held together by spit and duck tape. Need coffee.


Name: Alison Heslin
Age: 30
Favorite race distance: Half-marathon, ultra marathon, or anything on trails
Favorite ice cream: Vegan mint chocolate chip
Favorite movie: I'm a sucker for Jane Austen films (the 6-hour mini-series versions)
Favorite season: Fall
Go-to coffee order: Black coffee, lots of it
Favorite dance move: Not a big dancer
Current favorite running song:  I don't ever run with music. *gasp*
Today I feel like... (fill in the blank): I'm ready to be done with work and running to Cape Cod! 


Name: Cate Barrett
Age: 28
Favorite race distance: I just started marathoning this year and I’m hooked. Eek!
Favorite ice cream: Strawberry or cookie dough
Favorite movie: Fantastic Mr Fox
Favorite season: For running, winter. For life, summer.
Go-to coffee order: 12 oz drip in my yeti highball 
Favorite dance move: Favorite and only* move is the running man
Current favorite running song:  Here Come the Runts by AWOLNATION
Today I feel like... (fill in the blank): I took a nap after my morning run, so definitely “need more sleep!”


Name: Rebecca Trachsel (aka Trax)
Age: 43 (the grandma of the team)
Favorite race distance: Marathon & half marathon
Favorite ice cream: Blueberry oat crumble 
Favorite movie: Rushmore
Favorite season: Summer
Go-to coffee order: Latte (hot or iced depending on the weather)
Favorite dance move: White Man's overbite
Current favorite running song:  Runnin by David Dallas
Today I feel like... (fill in the blank): Anything is possible.


Name: Kathleen Michaud
Age: 34
Favorite race distance: Half Marathon
Favorite ice cream flavor: Cake Batter
Favorite movie: Neighbors
Favorite season: Fall
Go-to coffee order: Cold brew is my current go to! 
Favorite dance move: Twerk?
Current favorite running song: Havana by Camila Cabello
oday I feel like...(fill in the blank): Pumped up!


Name: Jess Barnard
Age: 27
Favorite race distance: 800m
Favorite ice cream flavor: Vegan rocky road
Favorite movie: Love Actually (obviously)
Favorite season: Track season. Oh, and fall
Go-to coffee order: Black (I don't mess around)
Favorite dance move: Anything to embarrass whoever I am with... but my go-to is the moonwalk. *smooth af*
Current favorite running song: That's It (I'm Crazy) by Sofi Tucker
oday I feel like...(fill in the blank):  I REALLY NEED TO START PACKING FOR CAPE COD! 


Name: Ashley Reasey
Age: 30 (this weekend!)
Favorite race distance: 5k pain train
Favorite ice cream flavor: Vanilla with rainbow jimmies
Favorite movie: Angels in the Outfield
Favorite season: Fall
Go-to coffee order: Black coffee
Favorite dance move: A-B skip
Current favorite running song: Anthem by Superchick
Today I feel like...(fill in the blank): Ready to cheer on some amazing women!


Name: Christine Horby
Age: 41
Favorite race distance: Half marathon
Favorite ice cream flavor: Mocha chip
Favorite movie: Don't have a favorite movie
Favorite season: Fall
Go-to coffee order: Vanilla latte
Favorite dance move: no answer
Current favorite running song: Say Something by Justin Timberlake & Chris Stapleton
Today I feel like...(fill in the blank): I need more sleep



Name: Joan Baker
Age: 35
Favorite race distance: 10k
Favorite ice cream flavor: My first job was scooping ice cream, so I hold a special place in my heart for Graeter's Chocolate Chip
Favorite movie:  The last movie I loved was Columbus
Favorite season: Fall
Go-to coffee order: I feel like a heathen for admitting this in your presence, but I don't drink coffee. I can't handle that much caffeine, so I usually have green tea or kombucha
Favorite dance move: Very uncoordinated moonwalk
Current favorite running song: River by PANGEA
Today I feel like...(fill in the blank): I'm ready to get this relay started!!

LISTEN TO THIS:

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

RACE REVIEW:EARTH,ROCK,RUN 13.1

 "...you gonna get lost to find yourself
Know you gonna hold on for something else
'Cause you got a life time to work it out
So you gonna get lost to find yourself."
~Bearson, 'Get Lost'

My husband is an admitted fair weather runner.  He tends to do about 2-3 races a year with me, usually in the summer, and more often then not a 5K or 5 miler at the most.  I always look forward to it as it's such a rare treat to have him as a wingman on race day.  He's run one half marathon, the Black Goose back in 2015, and this winter he decided he was ready to do another one.  I suggested the Greenstride Earth, Rock, Run, a race I've done for the past three years that's organized by my friend Eli Bailin who, along with his crew, always puts on a fantastic event mainly because his philosophy as a race director is runners come first.  Done and done.  I did have a March marathon on my schedule but figured I'd be fully recovered by late April.  I was also doing Boston as a guide for Team With A Vision (TWAV), and while, yes it's still a full marathon, I'd be doing it a very comfortable pace and thus it wouldn't take me out the way a marathon does when I put in a full effort.  So we signed up and forgot about it.  Then along came March.  I flew down to Virginia, ran 20 miles of the Shamrock Marathon and, much to my dismay, ended up having to drop out due to a calf strain.  After a few days off, I eased back into training and when things were feeling good again I decided to run another marathon to try and hit the goal that I'd set for myself at Shamrock.  To my good fortune, the Greenstride Cheap Marathon was taking place on Sunday, April 8th, which was exactly three weeks after Shamrock, so just enough time to build some mileage back up and then get a mini-taper in before lining up again.  The only minor issue was that I'd then be running Boston a mere two weeks after that, but I was so eager to save my spring training and hungry to race again that I figured it was worth it.  As I write this, I realize how borderline insane this sounds, but that's kind of the way I fly these days, so it's no big shocker.  After my Shamrock disaster, I successfully finished the Cheap Marathon, which I was thrilled about.  Then my TWAV partner, William Greer, and I also successfully swam, finished and survived Boston (that's a good story, but a long one, so read it when you have some time on your hands), and poof, it was time for the Earth, Rock, Run with Jeff.  I won't lie and tell you I wasn't a little worried about running a half after having done almost three marathons in a one month window.  I could tell my coach wasn't thrilled about the plan either.  At the same time, he also understood that it was something he wouldn't be able to talk me out of, so he agreed to it.  I believe his exact words were, I definitely don't want you racing it.  As we get closer, we can discuss whether it makes sense to do it as a workout or just float along and enjoy the scenery.  Which worked for me.  So now it was the week of April 23rd and I was running daily but that was it.  No workouts.  Just lots and lots of miles.  Actually, more miles than I expected given that I'd just run Boston.  And the Cheap Marathon.  And Shamrock.  Sixty one to be exact.  Part of me wondered if my coach was doing this on purpose so that I would go into the half feeling somewhat tired and thus be forced to hold back a little.  Yes, this also sounds crazy.  But, I wouldn't put it past him because he knows me really well and he also knows that runners, in general, have a really hard time "taking it easy" on race day.  Fast forward to race weekend.  On Saturday, I spent the entire day on my feet at the MA State Relay meet with my high school track team.

LHS D-SQUAD

For the first time in months is was sunny and warm and we all baked out on the track throughout the day.  The upside to this situation, beyond the weather, was that I was distracted and not even remotely thinking about the race.  The downside being that by the time I got home around five, I was completely fried, literally and physically which didn't bode well for the next day.  But, again, I had no goals for this race other than to have fun so I really wasn't that stressed about it.  We got up around 6:00am on Sunday and had coffee while also getting our younger daughter ready for her 7am drop off for an 8am soccer game.  As usual, never a dull moment.


Clover and I had our traditional pre-race moment of peace before leaving but it was cut pretty short so I gave her a bone to alleviate my guilt both for that and because we were having to ditch her for the better part of the day.  Yes, I am a sucker.  Finally, around 7:15 we headed up to Amesbury which is about a 45 minute drive from our house.  It was a cool, cloudy day; perfect race conditions.  We arrived, parked and headed down to grab our bibs and race loot (a hat AND a hoodie).  We ran into Eli who was running around dealing with last minute details.  He always manages to do this with a smile on his face which I think is pretty amazing as there are clearly a million balls in the air and so many things that could go wrong at these events.  I suppose it's why he's good at what he does.

Hanging w/ Eli

Jeff and I went back up the car and he sat and chilled inside while I went for a quick warm up.  No warmup for Jeff.  When I got back we both ditched our layers and made our way down to the start.  I did manage to grab a quick pre-race shot with him.  He's not a fan of photos or social media in general, so he was a trooper for bearing with me and my ridiculous traditions.

Pre-race with Jeff

THE RACE
I remember the course being hilly from when I ran it the year before.  This year it would be the same route but we'd be running it in the opposite direction.  I think it was because the traffic situation was better this way, but not 100% sure.  Regardless, I knew we'd be tackling the same hills in reverse, but I was mentally prepared and not really sweating it.  Jeff and I wished each other good luck, we don't run together for these, and lined up separately.  It was sunny for a brief moment at the start but shortly after we got going at 9am the clouds rolled in and the rain started to fall.  If you read my Boston story or were even remotely clued into the weather we had to deal with during the marathon, you can understand why I am still emotionally traumatized and forever scarred by rain.  So, as we took off, all I could do was chuckle at the situation.  Fortunately, it wasn't nearly as cold, it wasn't coming down too hard and there was no wind, so it was actually quite nice.  Still funny though.  As you may also know, I don't trust my Apple Watch for pacing anymore so I wore my Garmin instead.  But, I made a game time decision to just track my run on Strava rather than use my watch for time.  My logic here being that Strava would give me my splits but I wouldn't be staring at my watch the whole time and thus I wouldn't be focused on my pace and could just run by feel.  For the first few miles I felt awesome.  My pace was hovering right around 6:40, which was a little faster than planned, but not much.  I stuck with it since my effort felt controlled and my legs were responding nicely.  I caught up to a gentleman, whose name I later learned is Paul, around mile 5 and we started to chat.

Paul: Great job.
Me: Thanks.  You, too.  But, I'm having Boston flashbacks.
Paul: Ha ha.  I did it the year it was 85 degrees. Not as bad as this past year. But still pretty bad.
Me: Yea.  Heat is a close second to what we ran in.  But, still, ours was worse!
Paul: I'm using this as a training run for Grandma's (marathon).
Me: Nice. Do you have a goal time?
Paul: I'd like to slide in just under 3 hours.  Maybe 2:55.
Me: Awesome.  That's right where I'm sitting right now.  I have a 3:00:04 and would like to go under 3 if I can.  But I'm worried my window of opportunity is closing.
Paul: I don't know.  I'm 59 and I haven't really slowed down that much.
Me: Wow. That is amazing.  Totally gives me hope.  I'm really inspired.
Paul: Thanks! I'm actually surprised your legs are bouncing back this quickly after Boston.
Me: Yea, well I'm just out here to have fun and go with the flow.
Paul: Well, you're flowing pretty well at the moment.
Me: Thanks.  Going to put my tunes back on now.
Paul: Okay.  Have a great race.
Me: Thanks again.  You're killing it.  Keep it up.

We ran together for a while, taking turns leading and then he scooted ahead of me around mile 8 which I was totally fine with.  I kept him in sight, but just did my own thing, my pace going down a bit on the uphills and then recovering nicely on the downs.  Having just done so many marathons, knowing I only had to tackle 13.1 miles was a huge mental relief for me.  And by the time I got to mile 10 and realized that I only had a mere 3 miles left I was almost giddy.  Mile 11 was a steady uphill climb, which was a bit brutal, but I knew I could fly down after that so I just dug in and held on.
FINAL STRETCH
(photo by Eli B.)

Finally, I could see the main center of town in front of me so I gave it some gas and pushed it into the finish.  The cop who was riding next to me let me know that I was the first woman, something I hadn't really been aware of and was really excited about.  I was also thrilled with how good I felt and just stupidly excited to be done in general. And the cool part?  I finished in 1:26:16; a personal best by about 25 seconds which is kind of nuts given how my spring has unfolded.  But here's the thing.  I have now run my fastest 5K and half marathons to date at races where I've lined up with zero expectations other than to have a good time.  Both happened after having run multiple marathons in a very short window, so at a time when I assumed my body had little or nothing to give.  And both times I have been completely floored by the outcome.  Should I be, though?  Take the time goal out, remove the stress and pressure of performing at a specific level and just run to run and look what happens.  I honestly ran this half with a smile on my face the entire time.  I was out there just enjoying myself and happy to be able to do what I love.  I reluctantly post the below photo because of how goofy I look.  But look at the smile on my face.  If that doesn't say it all, I don't know what does.  The lesson is pretty clear here.  Remember why you do it in the first place and free yourself mentally once in a while and magical things can happen.

Dorky finish photo

For the record, Jeff crushed it.  He also finished with a personal best and truly enjoyed being out there.  On the car ride home he told me he smiled the enter time.  No joke.  He admittedly had as much fun, maybe more so, than me.  It just goes to show that regardless of what kind of runner you are, running in general, along with the moods it can stir and the experiences that it provides can be pretty damn powerful.  And not a day goes by where I don't stop and realize how lucky I am that I get to do it.  It's also worth nothing that Paul, that guy I chatted with during the race, finished 2nd overall with a 1:25.  The guy who beat him was 32 years old.  On top of that, I came in 5th overall behind Paul, the winner and two other guys who were both in their twenties.  So, yea.  At this point I'm feeling pretty good about the fact that I'm a seasoned runner at age 43.  And that my goals, which I know are lofty, area still very within reach.  I'm excited, inspired and ready to rock.  Thank you, running.

Listen to this:
Get Lost by Bearson (feat. Ashe)

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.  

Elite Women in Wellesley

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