Wednesday, February 21, 2018

DRY RUN


My next marathon is now less than four weeks away.  When I think about it, my reaction is somewhere between 'holy crap' and 'finally'.  Last Sunday I had to tackle my final MP workout of this training cycle which consisted of a two mile warmup followed by eleven miles at goal marathon pace and then a one mile cool down.  My family and I are up in New Hampshire this week for our winter break which meant I had to squeeze this workout in around Rosie and Grace's training schedules and my own work schedule.  Always a bit tricky.  Unfortunately, I was also going to have to do it inside as the roads up in Lincoln are in pretty bad shape and the sidewalks are totally out of commission.  As you can imagine, I was not looking forward to fourteen mind-numbing miles on the belt.  But, at the same time, I wanted, no I needed to get myself fired up for this workout.  I knew if I went into it feeling the way I did...dreading it, if I'm being honest...that it would be significantly harder to get through.  So, I decided to use it as a dry run and treat it as an actual race.  Sure, the circumstances were a bit different and not ideal, but if I've learned anything over the years it's that race days are often unpredictable.  I haven't actually raced since December, which feels like forever ago, and since I won't be lining up until March I figured this was my one shot to practice both my pre and game day logistics including things like sleep, fuel and hydration.  It would also be a good way to get myself mentally and physically in the zone for the workout itself, the same way I would on race day.  Okay, so game on.  As I always do, I laid out my uniform the night before and made sure I had everything ready to go.


Was it going to be strange for me to run for over an hour in my race kit in a hotel gym?  Yes.  Yes it was.  Did I care?  No.  I did not.  Side note, as I've gotten older, I've found myself giving less and less thought to what others may think of me and my weird training habits.  It's incredibly freeing.  Not that I mind in the least if people laugh and point or stare in wonder.  I probably would have, too.  Sunday morning I woke up at 6:30 and got myself ready to rock.  As she always does, Clover followed me around the condo making sure I knew she was there at all times.  On regular race days, I like to sit and chill with her while enjoying a cup of coffee.  Not happening.  As I packed everything up (music, NUUN, towel, shoes), Clover basically gave me the stare down which translated to I see that you are getting ready to go somewhere and it better involve me.


Fair enough.  My standard pre-race chill session would have to be a half hour walk with my coffee on the go.  Not a terrible alternative.  So, Clover and I went out and did our thing.  Then when I got back, I had to wake Rosie up (takes about 5-6 attempts these days) and get her out the door and up to the mountain in time for her class.  Again, not what I'd normally be doing before a race, but I had no choice in the matter.  Honestly, it wasn't that big of a deal.  The downside, however, was that I couldn't really give much thought to my workout and by the time I got back and could focus on it I didn't feel as ready as I would have liked.  Oh well.  Finally, around 8:30 I threw my Jaybirds on and started my music in hopes of getting myself fired up and race ready.  But no.  This is actually what I hear....Power on.  Battery 20%.  SHIT!!!!!!!!  I realized that even though I'd charged my headphones all night I'd left them on from the last time I'd run with them.  You have to actually turn them off to power them down as they don't do it on their own.  I often forget to do it.  I had about 45 minutes of charge left for a two hour workout.  As you can imagine, I was really annoyed with myself.  But, this was good, too.  Now I knew to check and double check and there was no way in hell I would let this happen again next month.  I was now pretty amped up, but not really in the way I'd wanted to be.  I grabbed a back up pair of headphones and made my way downstairs.  I needed to stop thinking and just get this thing done.


I hopped on the treadmill and started my warmup.  I took a minute to just breath and settle down.  Running in place was going to be brutal, but a view of the mountains didn't hurt.  Plus, I told myself, this would be good practice for those mid-marathon miles (7-18ish) when the mind wanders and boredom sets in.  These are the miles that are tough to get through and when, if it's going to happen, the wheels might (often) start to fall off.  My goal was to stay sharp and focused while also relaxed from start to finish if possible.  After my warmup I restarted the machine and bumped the speed up to goal pace.  It was finally go time.  When I started the workout there was one other person in the gym lifting weights so it was just me, my music and the view.  I covered the display so I wouldn't be torturing myself watching the time and mileage tick by.  I was going to have to get through an hour (or nine miles) before I'd have to hop off and re-start as the treadmill automatically shuts down after an hour.  This was kind of a haze, but I've had to stop mid-race for lots of reasons (to tie my shoe, to pick up an iPod that I'd dropped, to get water, etc) so I figured I'd just treat it as such and try not to worry about it too much.  At this point in my training, unless I'm having a bad day, goal marathon pace should feel tough but, at the same time, pretty manageable.  When I bumped up my pace and started in on the workout, it's exactly how it felt, which was good.  For the first four or five miles I just focused on my rhythm and let my music distract me.  Around mile six, a couple came in and hopped on the treadmills next to me.  This was good.  I was happy to have people near me and pretended like they were racing along side me.  Not that I said anything.  I'm not that odd.  A couple more miles in and a mom hopped on with her son, who was maybe 7 or 8, running (playing?) next to her.  Great. Another distraction.  Not that I'm usually racing 8 year olds, but still.  The more the merrier.  I was getting tired and looking around was helping me push through.  Finally, at mile 9, as expected, the treadmill stopped.  I stepped off and grabbed some water and then quickly got things started up again.  For the record, I had made it the whole 9 miles without looking at my watch or the display.  I was pretty pleased about that.  Now, I just had two more miles to go which I knew I could power through.  I was really tired and my legs were hurting, but I did my best to stay in race mode.  With one mile left to go, I picked up the pace a little, as if I was finishing my last mile on the course.  I was breathing like nobody's business at this point and I felt like the people next to me were trying not to look, though I'm guessing they might have been concerned.  Finally, with a quarter of a mile left, I took the pace as fast as I could handle for the final stretch.  I didn't hold my hands up as I hit the finish, but I wanted to.  I slowed to a shuffle and composed myself for a few minutes before doing my cool down.


All things considered, things went really well.  I'd made the best of a weird and kind of painful situation and learned some valuable lessons that I will take into account for my upcoming race day including:
1. Don't forget to turn off AND charge my Jaybirds.
2. If there is an area where body glide might be needed, it is, in fact, definitely needed.
3. Staying focused is hard and music helps me a lot. But there are currently some songs on my playlist that aren't doing it.  Make sure to edit!
4. Be prepared but assume that anything can happen and be okay with that, too.

Listen to this:
Go Out Fighting - Dr. Dog

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

CRAZY

This is so much harder than I thought
But I will give them everything I've got
One day I am gonna prove them wrong
'Crazy' by Lost Frequencies


So, I'm getting ready for a March marathon.  Which I started training for about two weeks after my November marathon.  Which I hadn't planned on doing but added last minute after my October marathon didn't pan out the way I'd wanted it to.  It sounds legitimately nuts.  Because it is.  Not only the number of marathons I've been doing, but how quick my turnaround is between them.  As my coach often reminds me, I'm no spring chicken (43 this past Monday).  Well, he doesn't actually use that term, he says something less severe like..."age is just not on our side anymore".  Which doesn't offend me in the least because he's the same age as me and he's also doing his best to defy it.  And he's not saying it because he thinks we're old.  He's throwing it out there because the window of opportunity to reach my goals, which are pretty lofty, is not quite as wide as it would be if I was in my twenties.  I've run some great races and come painfully close to breaking three hours in the marathon, a goal of had for a while now.  And, unfortunately, I just can't afford to take the time I would or could have as a younger runner at this stage in the game.  Basically, it's now or never.  So, it's now.  And it's harder than it's ever been.  Which I probably say during every training cycle but this time I really mean it.  Because I want it more now than ever?  Maybe.  Because I'm older?  Perhaps.  Because I'm scared?  Sure.  It's all of that and more.  But, my heart is telling me the fight is still worth it.  Thus, my dukes are still up.  Which means I'm training for my next marathon in the dead of winter.  Something I swear to myself I will never do again after getting through it each winter.  Because, from a running perspective, it is basically my worst nightmare.  Give me heat and humidity any day over snow, wind and sub-zero temps.  And despite my best efforts, I am always forced inside at some point, primarily because the roads are a death trap.  Man, do I loathe the treadmill.  Yet, I don't have a choice.  Well, I do.  But, you know what I mean.  My mother-in-law once asked me if I've ever just not done what my coach told me to do.  My response?  Sure.  Once.  Or maybe twice.  Which made her laugh.  Because she simply can't wrap her head around why I put myself through this day after day, year after year.  And if I'm being fair, there are days when I ask myself the same question.  Particularly during the winter grind when getting through each workout, each long run, each double session, seems monumentally harder than usual.  Case in point.  Last Wednesday, I needed to run 10 miles in the morning and 6 miles in the afternoon.  Nothing unusual for me.  But, here's the kicker.  A winter storm was coming.  And while it was no problem to get my first run done at the usual time; which is around 9:00am, I wasn't sure how I was going to eek out a second run in a blizzard.  I sent my coach a panic text:


ME: Lowell....we have snow coming in like an hour and it's supposed to come down fast.  Is it weird to run ten miles at 9am and then turn around and run six more at 11?  Is that too close together?

Lowell: Sadly, I have done it myself.  As long as you eat after run #1 and rest it is ok.  Not ideal, but we make these things work since life doesn't always go on hold for our running.

Me: Winter is awesome.

Lowell: Winter is a bear.

After that, I ate a banana and a piece of toast.  I stretched a little.  There was no time for rest as the snow was getting heavier by the minute.  And then headed back out for another 6.  In the snow which was coming from all directions and accumulating on my eyelids.  Good times.  The upside?  I was done with both runs by noon, which felt oddly rewarding.  The downside?  After a quick cup of coffee and a sandwich I was out shoveling.  Because, in the end, Old Man Winter doesn't give a shit about my training.  And we all know there is no rest for the weary.  Or the crazy 43 year old marathoner.


Listen to this:
Crazy - Lost Frequencies

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

RWR:MEET KRISTINA, RUNNER, MOM, CREATOR OF KOALA CLIP

"I am not a professional seamstress, just a passionate runner looking for a better option to carry my phone while on the go." 
~ Kristina Powell
As many of you know, I've always run with some sort of music-listening device.  Up until about a year ago, it was my iPod Nano.  I probably went through about three or four of them (washed it, jumped into a pool with it, poured water on it during a marathon) before I was forced to finally let go as Apple stopped making them which meant I could no longer replace the ones I was breaking.  So, I sought out a different option as I've never been a fan of carrying my phone with me when I run.  I did find some good choices like the Mighty, a tiny little audio player that synchs up with Spotify.  It's an awesome device, but I still wasn't able to tap into all my music sources.  After a few months, I found myself frequently carrying the Mighty and my phone so I had more than one option, which I especially wanted for longer days when I was out on the road for 3+ hours.  What I soon realized during this window of running with music exploration, however, was that it wasn't that I didn't like having my phone, I just didn't like carrying my phone.  Not only was I using it for music from several different sources (Apple, Spotify, Pandora).  I was also using it for things like keeping tabs on my girls if I was running long and they were home alone.  I liked that they were able to reach me, if only just to tell me they couldn't find something (Rosie) or that I should hurry up and come home because she missed me (Grace).  Actually holding the phone, however, was out of the question as I like to have my hands free.  There were a few options out there like the waist belt or the arm band.  But, for some reason, they never really felt comfortable for me.  Lots of tights now have legit phone pockets but I've  found that the weight of the phone results in my pants slowly falling down (yes, even with the draw string) which results in my hiking them up every half mile or so which is very annoying.  Finally, my friend and Oiselle teammate, Kristina, introduced me to her Koala Clip and my run-music-phone dilimmna is now and will forever be resolved.


The Koala Clip is the first sports bra phone carrier that allows you to keep your phone secure and out of the way while running.  It's such a simple concept.  You just zip the phone into the pouch, slip it inside the back of your sports bra or onto the back of the waistband of your pants and secure it in place with the magnetic clip.  Kristina sent me one of these puppies just before I was running my last marathon.  I think I used it maybe twice before deciding to try it on race day; always a bit risky.  I clipped it in and totally forgot about it for the entire 26.2 miles.  The pouch is made with water resistant fabric so my non-stop sweating was not a factor during the race.  It's also made of technical fabric, so there was no chafing or rubbing at all.  I reached out to Kristina right after the race to thank her and to let her know that this little product was a total lifesaver.  For obvious reasons, I wanted to get to know her better and to spread the word about the Koala Clip.  Kristina is a mom to two little ones (a spunky three year old daughter, and an aspiring superhero five year old son).  When she's not chasing them around, you can find her on the roads training for road races from 5k to the half marathon (and hopefully a marathon in the next year), or dreaming up the next step for Koala ClipKoala Clip was created from her own tiresome experience of trying to bring her huge phone with her on a run without it annoying or bothering her.  Her motivation to solve this problem has now paid off for all of us.  I have two clips and I use them every, single day.  To sum it up, if you carry your phone when you run, the Koala Clip is a complete game changer.  So, first, head over to koalaclip.com, pick a color and style and then use code RWM10 at checkout to get your clip.  Then come back and learn more about Kristina, a RUNNER WHO ROCKS.

RWR:MEET KRISTINA POWELL

Name: Kristina Powell
Where you're from: Rural IL (a town of 1200 people in the middle of corn fields about 2.5 hours outside of Chicago).
Where you reside now: Rochester, NY
Age: 36
Occupation: Aspiring Entrepreneur (political fundraiser by day)
Blog/website: koalaclip.com


RUNNING & MUSIC:
What do you love most about running?
The freedom you get the moment you lace up your sneakers and hit the ground.  The world melts away expect you, your breathe, and the beat of your feet hitting the ground.
What do you love most about music?
Music has always been an emotional release for me.  Since becoming a mom, it’s taken a new meaning to introduce or change the mood in the room.  From dance parties to mellow music, it’s an important part of our home.

KRISTINA'S FAVORITES:
Band (current, all time or both): Alabama Shakes
Album (current, all time or both): Pink Floyd - The Dark Side of the Moon (I think it’s the nestalgia from high school and college that it evokes).
Race venue: LA Marathon (my first marathon)
Music venue: Orpheum Theatre in Boston
Race distance: Half Marathon
Show you've seen live?  When my husband and I started dating we saw Damien Rice and Alanis Morrisette at The Hatch Shell in Boston.  It was a gorgeous evening, amazing location, and one of those nights just etched in my mind forever.
Ice cream flavor: Cherry Garcia!





THIS OR THAT
Sweet or salty? Salty
Live or recorded? Live (but live shows don’t happen often anymore)
Coffee or tea? Coffee (is there anything else?)
Summer or winter?  Summer (please come soon!)





MORE MUSIC INFO:
Which band or artist would you go see tonight if you could? Alabama Shakes
Which band or artist (wait...but no longer alive or playing together) would you go see tonight if you could?  Janis Joplin
Which band or artist would you like to have dinner with tonight if you could? Lady Gaga
Which band or artist would you like to be playing alongside you during your next race (or long run)? Busta Rhymes


Alabama Shakes

LAST ONE:
Today, I feel like….(fill in the blank)
More coffee is very necessary.



Top 5 Songs for running, dancing or both?
Stronger - Kanye
Dancing on My Own - Robyn
Work - Rihanna
Hotline Bling - Drake
Run the World - Beyonce

Last 5 Songs you listened to today?*
Touch It - Busta Rhymes
DNA - Kendrick Lamar
Havana - Camila Cabello
Run Through the Jungle - CCR
River - Leon Bridges
*I have a very eclectic playlist in Spotify that I listen during the day while I’m working and these were the last five that played this morning.


Listen to this:
Touch It - Busta Rhymes


**PLEASE NOTE: $1 from every Koala Clip purchased goes to support Every Mother Counts, a non-profit that is working to make pregnancy and child birth safe for every mother.  Learn more about Every Mother Counts at everymothercounts.org 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

STRENGTH IN FEAR

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face."
~ Eleanor Roosevelt 


My daughter, Grace, skis with the Franconia Ski Club (FSC) up in NH during the winter.  She's turning 11 next month, has been skiing since she was 3 and started training with FSC at age 8.  She loves the training.  She does not, however, like to race.  Mainly because it scares her.  Definitely a bummer given that racing is kind of the main focus of the club.  Grace is a small kid and not the most aggressive in the bunch.  Both of these work against her in this sport where feistiness is key and having a willingness to get gritty and take risks gives you a leg up against the competition.  Don't get me wrong, she's feisty.


But put her on an ice-covered slalom course where faster is better and there is a very good chance that she'll wipe out regardless of whether or not she 'goes for it', and she's not quite as squirrelly as usual.  I didn't race when I was growing up.  But, I've stood at the top of the start and looked down and I've watched her teammates fly through the course, batting gates as they go.  It's really intense.  And, to be honest, I'd probably be scared, too.  So, in this case, I do have quite a bit of sympathy for her.  Last Sunday, she had her first race of the season.  As I tucked her in the night before, I tried to get a sense of how she was feeling.  Here's how our conversation played out:

Me:You feeling ready for tomorrow?
Grace: Not really.
Me: No?
Grace: Well, I'm ready.  I mean, I know what I'm doing.  I'm just not "ready".  I don't really feel like I'll ever be ready.  Does that make sense?
Me: Yea, it does.  I totally know how you feel.
Grace: You do?
Me: Sure.  I've watched you ski.  You're a great skier, Grace.  You're confident when you're not under too much pressure.  But, when it comes to having to step up and compete, it makes you nervous.  And, to be honest, most people who compete at something they're good at feel the same way on game day.  It happens to me all the time.  Like you, I love to run with friends and to train for races. But, I'm always nervous and even scared on race day.  Always.
Grace: You are?
Me: Yep.  I've done all this work and I'm worried I won't achieve what I've set out to do.  By the time it's race day I'm usually a wreck.  Even when I get on the line I'm still scared.  But you know what?  As hard as it is, facing our fears makes us stronger.  And each time we do it, whatever it is we're scared of gets a little bit easier.
Grace: No comment, just a blank stare and maybe a little nod of recognition, though it was hard to tell.
Me: A lot of things we do in life are scary.  And we may not love them all.  Fortunately, for me, I love to run so while I'm still scared on race day, I'm also really excited about it.  But it has taken me a long time to get to this point.  The thing that's most important is that you believe in yourself no matter what and that you have fun.  Don't compare yourself to your teammates.  Just get out there and do your thing.
Grace: Okay.  I'll try.



When she woke up the next morning she was quiet as she got ready to go.  She was still really nervous as far as I could tell.  I had to work up at Cannon for the day, so my husband was taking her over to the race.  As she was gathering her stuff and about to head out I gave her a hug and reminded her that, no matter what happened, I was proud of her.  I also reminded her that this other mountain she was going to had a waffle hut at the bottom of the hill.  Hot Belgium waffles with chocolate sauce??  It would have been enough incentive for me to get out there.  Jeff sent me text updates throughout the day.  He let me know that she'd looked good; not the swiftest, but she'd made it through both runs successfully.  Later that afternoon, I met back up with her at home and found her tired but smiling.  A good sign.

Me: Hey kiddo!! How'd did it go?
Grace: I don't know. I think I came in, like, 32nd place or something.
Me: I didn't ask what place you came in goof ball.  I don't care about that.  I just wanted to know how you felt?
Grace: Umm, pretty good, I guess.
Me: Did you have fun?
Grace: Yea, Mom. (small smile)  It was a good day.

Clearly, I was not getting much from her here.  Our condo complex has a pool and an arcade, so as far as she was concerned, the race was history.  As far as I was concerned, though, she'd gotten out there, faced her fears and accomplished what she'd set out to do.  She was not the fastest.  She probably never will be.  I don't even know if she'll ever be truly excited to race.  But, I do know that she came home a stronger and more confident kid from this one experience and the same will happen each time she lines up.  And for that alone, it was worth it.  Well, that, and the waffles.

Listen to this:
Out of My Head - Loote