Thursday, December 14, 2017

RACE REVIEW:WINTER CLASSIC 5K

Back on December 3rd, Kirsten and I (aka Team Bacon) tackled the Winter Classic 5K.  Kirsten has done a ridiculous number of marathons over the past 12 months; 5 or maybe 6, I've lost count.  I, myself, did four in 2017.  So, basically neither of us has trained for or even thought of a doing a 5K, unless we were using it as a marathon workout, in a really long time.  Thus, we were both heading into this with no expectations and only two goals...run hard and have fun.  Well, as much as you can have when you are racing a 5K, which in my case is minimal.  I'll just say right up front that it is incredibly freeing, both physically and mentally, to head into a race with absolutely zero pressure from a performance standpoint.  It's been a while since I've raced for fun (again, fun being a relative term here) and it was a good reminder that I should be doing it more often.  It was a beautiful, crisp, clear morning when I got up and despite the fact that it was pretty chilly, I still made my way out to the front porch for a cup of coffee and a moment of reflection with Clover, forever on squirrel patrol, by my side.


The race wasn't set to go off until 9:30am which, given that I tend to get up around 5:30, gave me a whole lot of time to stretch, roll and just chill out.  Kirsten and I have done this race a few times and we tend to see everything from elite runners to jokesters dressed in reindeer costumes.  I didn't have it in me to sport a pair of elf ears or an ugly sweater, but I did try to get in the holiday spirit with a red and green outfit.  At one point I thought I might sport a race singlet but when I felt the temperature I quickly put the kibosh on that plan.  I ended up going with red pants and a green shirt, which you'll see later on.  Despite my lack of stress, I did try to get in the zone just a bit by laying out my gear out and playing some good tunes.


Around 8:00am, I scooped Kirsten up and we made our way over to Cambridge which, on Sunday morning, tends to be a quick and easy ride.  Added bonus?  It's also pretty easy to find a parking spot and we slid right in across from Flour, our post-race brunch spot with coffee and egg sandwiches already on the brain.  Mmmm.....coffee.  Sorry.  Focus, Rebecca.  We walked over to the race start, grabbed our bibs and shirts, dropped everything back in the car and headed out for a warm-up, which we definitely needed given the temp.  We chatted strategy as we cruised along, agreeing that it made sense to start off easy, then to see what the legs had in them in the second mile and finally to go for it at the end.  We share the same coach and he had reminded both of us that this would just be a rust buster and a good test for the legs but that we'd both be pretty wiped from marathon training and that was okay.  It's hard to get on the line of a race and not set the bar too high, even when it's not your goal race, so we needed this reminder.  After shedding some layers, we ran over to the start and tried to keep moving to stay warm as we waited.  This race series is a popular one and the organizers are super dialed in, so without incident, they were ready to rock right on time at 9:30.  Kirsten and I hugged, took our team pic and then we were off.

TEAM BACON

THE RACE
Mile 1:6:13
Given that my marathon pace tends to hover around 6:45, I felt that starting off at 6:20 pace was reasonable and aimed for that as I settled into the first mile.  Well, I guess you don't really 'settle in' to a 5K, but you get my drift.  A lot of fasties run this race and many of them flew by me.  I worked hard to reign it in and told myself not to follow them.  As a marathoner, I don't have a lot of speed in my legs and, as you can sense by now, the 5K is basically torture for me.  I've been known to crash and burn by mile 2 often, so given that I was trying to "have fun" I really wanted to keep my cool if possible.  I rolled through the first mile in 6:13, which was a bit fast, but my breathing was controlled and my body felt good so I didn't panic.

Mile 2:6:09
The beauty of this race is that the course is flat and fast.  If you're going for a PR, this is the place to do it.  Not that I had a personal best on the brain, but you know, I'm just saying.  I was still feeling pretty solid at this point and decided to crank it up just a hair to see if my legs would respond.  As you can see, I didn't push too much, just enough to reach the next group of runners and then I worked to settle back in and get my heart rate back down.  Don't get me wrong, I was starting to feel the inevitable 5K pain.  My breathing was getting louder and because it was cold out I started to feel it in my lungs.  But, that said, I had less than 2 miles left and found myself saying, Come on, Rebecca.  It's two freaking miles.  Suck it up.  I might have said it out loud.  

Mile 3:6:03
Okay, so now I'm on the pain train.  Everything hurt from head to toe.  I was no longer looking at my watch as I didn't want to add that pressure in during this last mile.  I just did my best to focus on the runners ahead of me.  I thought for sure I was slowing down as it was taking so much effort to hold on.  But then I saw the 3 mile marker and looked at my watch which said 18:18.  HOLY SHITE.  My 5K PR up until this point was 19:02 and I was sharp enough at that moment to realize that a new one, even if only by a second or two, was within reach.  Pressure back on.  I was hurting so bad but when I turned the corner and saw how little I had left to go, I just went into overdrive and let her rip.  When I crossed and stopped my watch I knew I was close to 19 minutes flat but wasn't 100% sure and didn't want to get too excited until I saw official results.  In the end, I got it, sliding in just under 19 minutes, but I went a long time before realizing this, so I'll keep telling my story.


Okay, so back to the pain train.  Thankfully the ride was over but, man, was it rough.  I stood and caught my breath for a few minutes; legs throbbing and lungs burning.  I'm pretty sure I said that I would never do another 5K again unless I was forced.  I say this a lot.  I grabbed water and continued to walk it off.  Very shortly thereafter, I saw both Kirsten along with several of my Oiselle teammates rolling in and ran over to congratulate them as I knew they'd rocked it.  As usual, it was an instant love fest because runners in general are ridiculously supportive of each other.  Add the team element and the positive energy is almost tangible.  We chatted and hung out for a bit before breaking off for a cool down, agreeing to meet up again at Flour for our hard-earned breakfast.

#sistersinsport

Kirsten and I slowly made our way down the street, continuing to discuss our races and noting the fact that we really didn't want to be cooling down at all as our friends who were already enjoying their coffee.  Fortunately, as I mentioned, we both have the same coach and with the whole accountability thing we couldn't, or I should say, didn't bail.  Kudos to us.  Finally, we got over to Flour and ordered coffee and breakfast, which, to be honest, was the main reason I went to this rodeo in the first place.  I should note that I still didn't know my official time at this point.  My watch had said 19:03 when I'd stopped it, but I knew I hadn't gotten it right on the nose at the finish.  As we waited in line our race results were texted to us from Racewire.  I looked.  Then I looked again.  I may have even looked a third time.  Why?  Because the results said 18:59 and I didn't believe it.  I've been working to come in under 19 minutes for at least 5 years.  I haven't been able to focus on it too much because of my marathon training.  But I have been chipping away at it as I've been trying to get faster in the longer distances.  So, every time I've lined up for the 5K, I've had that sub-19 on the brain.  And there it was.  After running 2 fall marathons and having done more mileage leading up to those races than ever before, at the ripe old age of 42, I ran my 5K PR.  If there was a better way to close out this year from a running standpoint,  I don't know what it is.  I've made 5 attempts, 3 of them in this year alone, to break the 3 hour barrier in the marathon.  Twice I've ran 3:00:XX.  I mean, talk about madness.  While my time for this race was only a 3 second PR, breaking that 19 minute barrier was still pretty exciting for me and good sign that, while I don't always feel it, I am getting a little faster.  Icing on the cake, really; a cake that I'm still baking as I train for my next marathon.  But, still, it's nice to have a taste of the sweet stuff ahead of time.  


For the most part, I love running and racing.  Some days are hard.  Actually, most days are hard.  But, we runners tend take pleasure in the challenge.  It's a weird kind of high, but when things go right, it never fails to lift us up and ultimately keeps us going after it.  The beauty, though, is that regardless of the outcome on race day, hanging with friends post-race...processing, unwinding, celebrating or maybe even forgetting....just being together; there's nothing better.  That is a key part of the package and keeps me coming back for more.  There is an individual component to running, but the community and the love and support that we get from and give to friends and teammates, it's priceless.  We do what we love.  For me, this is it.

Listen to this:
Live In The Moment - Portugal the Man


*** NOTE: WINNER OF THE  RWM 2017 HOLIDAY GIVEAWAY is JESS MILIUS.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

2017 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE & GIVEAWAY


Tis' the season, my friends.  And regardless of what holiday you celebrate, you're likely giving (or hoping to receive) gifts.  I won't deny that I love this time of year.  Decorations and lights are out, parties are happening, my kids are permanently excited and my training is usually pretty mellow, which means I get to relax and and enjoy myself through it all.  Well, sort of.  Actually, who am I kidding?  Yes, it's a lot of fun, but there is always some stress involved.  Take, for example, the Elf on the Shelf.  You likely know who this little guy is if you're a parent.  I swore I wouldn't get one and then someone GAVE US ONE.  I literally just had to stop writing this post and run downstairs because I forgot to move him last night.  Always watching, he is.  Seriously, though, it's not always easy to think of and then actually find the perfect gift for friends and loved ones.  More often than not, I'm furiously browsing Amazon.com right up until December 24th and then thanking Jeff Bezos ten times over the creation of Amazon Prime.  Hopefully, I can simplify things for all of us with the list of suggestions below.  I tried to cast a wide-ish net and throw some things on there that will appeal to more than just the folks like myself who only wear running clothes and drink coffee.  Let's just say, I did my best.  That said, I do think there are some gems on this list that will work for almost anyone.  So take a look, do some shopping, enter the giveaway (see below) if you're so inclined and then go enjoy the rest of your holiday season.  Merry everything!

RWM 2017 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE

Price: $149.99
*Currently on Sale at Jaybird.com for $129.99

If you or someone you know are looking for a really good pair of headphones then look no further. The Jaybird Freedom 2 is incomparable to any other wireless option out there.  For runners, music lovers, and anyone else who is sporty and/or rocks out on the go, in my humble opinion, there is truly nothing better.  Yes, I run for these guys.  But, I have honestly tried them all.  I'm 42 and have run with music since I was 10, so yeah.  The Freedoms fit right (I have child-sized ears), they don't fall out, the sound quality is sharp, the connection is always solid and there are no freaking wires.   They are a bit pricey but they are worth every penny.  I easily spent as much, if not more, on a plethora of other brands that didn't pan out through the years.  I can't recommend these highly enough.  Give these as a gift and you will be the best mom/dad/wife/friend out there for life.


Price: $85.99
*Enter code: MIGHTYRWM for 10% off

This little gadget is a total game changer for music junkies.  Now that the Apple Nano and Shuffle are no longer available, the Mighty has quietly swooped right in and solved the running with music problem beautifully.  This tiny cube easily clips on your clothing and plays your Spotify music on-the-go without a phone.  Download the Mighty app and link it to your Spotify account and you're good to go.  It can also be paired with the wireless headphones that are now on your list.  For the price, it's a no brainer.  Again, get yourself "cool gift giver" status with this one.


Price:$34.99

Rainbows and compression.  Need I say more?  I'm a huge fan of compression for both during and post-workout.  And these socks by Zensah are simply amazing.  They are made with an ultra-breathable, moisture wicking fabric that draws sweat away from the body which keeps both you and the socks cool, dry, and light for hours on end.  Plus...rainbow socks!!!



OISELLE LUX EARBAND & GLOVES
Earband:$20
Gloves:$28

If there is a more perfect gift than winter accessories for someone who lives in a colder climate, I don't know what it is.  Hint, hint.  Whether you're outside running, biking or doing whatever it is you do, staying warm is key.  Oiselle Lux fabric is moisture-wicking, lightweight, durable and feels 'like buttah' against the skin.  The gloves are also touch screen compatible.  Total perfection.  

Whisper Espresso:$13.00/lb
*Use code events2017 to save 20% on the beans (or merch) of your choice.

Most of you know I'm a huge coffee fan.  And I'm an ever bigger fan of treating myself when I'm out and about.  But, I do brew at home and what I grind is important.  A guy at my local Whole Foods introduced me to New Harvest Coffee and it was love at first latte.  Based in Pawtucket, RI, these guys know how to roast a bean.  They have a wide variety of coffee and espresso which you can purchase on their web site or in a store near you that carries it.  Personally, my go-to is the Whisper Espresso, which is medium blend and insanely delicious.  

BOOKS
Going the Distance by Brandon Hudgins: $15.00
Only Dead On the Inside by James Breakwell: $11.36
(both available on Amazon.com)

Because who doesn't love a good book?  Going the Distance is your serious, heart-felt, motivational tear jerker and Only Dead on the Inside will have you laughing from the intro and maybe learning a thing or two about being a better parent along the way.  Both great reads to curl up with during your long winter break.

******************************************************************************
STOCKING STUFFERS


ANYTHING FROM TERRITORY RUN CO. Because they have tons of really cool options for the outdoor enthusiast in your life.  Trail running, climbing, hiking, skiing, drinking coffee outside (is that a sport??)...you name it, they've got the gear for it.


NUUN - Because we all need hydration over the holidays and NUUN is the good stuff.  Plus, if you order by 12/10 they'll throw in a free pint glass.  Booyah.


KOALA CLIP - Because, while I'm not a fan of running with my phone, sometimes it has to be done.  Thankfully, Koala Clip was created with this in mind.  It's made with sweat and water resistant material and allows you to run hands free.  Clips easily on your sports bra or waist band and comes in lots of fun colors.  Use code Trax10 to for 10% off your order.


HONEYSTINGER VANILLA WAFFLES - Because they provide instant (and organic) energy for anyone who leads an active life.  And my kids, who are constantly in motion, think they are dessert, so I'm always winning when I have them in stock.

*************** RWM HOLIDAY GIVEAWAY ***************



Now to the fun part. I've teamed up with a few of my favorite brands to put together two awesome prize packs; one for you and one for a friend.  Both will include a pair of Jaybird Freedom 2 headphones, a Territory Run Co. beanie, a sample pack of New Harvest coffee beans, a Vanilla Honeystinger Waffle, a NUUN water bottle and sample of NUUN Performance and one of two Oiselle Lux accessories (earband or gloves, both in blue).  The rest of the goodies you see here, a Koala Clip, a pair of Zensah compression socks, a Grit Bandana and a pair of Getaway socks from Territory Run Co. and a Jaybird buff, will be divided up equally between the two packs.  And, finally, one of you will get a coupon for half off a Mighty Audio player which the two of you will just have to Ro-Sham-Bo for. (that's rock, paper, scissors for all you youngsters)  To enter, submit a three page essay on the...kidding.  Just comment below.  Let me know who you want to share the love with and provide at least one email so I can contact you.  That's it.  Feel free to enter multiple times, just post each pair as a separate comment.  I will tally all the entries and pick a winner via random.org on Wednesday, December 13th.  Huge thanks to all of these awesome companies for donating the goods.  GOOD LUCK!

* NOTE:Contest is for US residents only.  Zensah socks, Koala clip and Mighty audio coupon will be coming directly from the company to the winners.  Some color and size info may be needed.

Listen to this:
Sunshine - Sia

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

RWR:MEET JAMES BREAKWELL (aka Xploding Unicorn)

James: Are you going to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade on TV?
5-year-old: No.
James: Why not?
5: It's just watching traffic.

A couple weeks ago, I was flipping through the most recent issue of Runner's World when I came upon an article about James Breakwell.  You might know of him on social media as @XplodingUnicorn.  After reading the story, my interest was piqued, so I got online and started scrolling through his Twitter feed.  I found myself laughing out loud at almost every post.  No joke.  I sent a quick text to one of my high school athletes asking her if she knew about this guy.  Her response, Obviously.  He's the funny dad, right??  He's great.  Did you know they have a pet pig?  Okay, so clearly I'm in the dark here.  No big surprise.  Not all of my other, (older?) and perhaps less socially in-tune friends know about this guy; particularly those of us who run around like chickens all day and don't have a lot of time to scroll through Twitter.  But we should.  So, I started sharing his feed with others, many of whom will undoubtedly appreciate his humor.  If you happen to fall in this category, you're welcome.

5-year-old: Every time I learn something new, I forget something old.
Me: What do you forget?
5: I don't remember.

As you may know, my morning routine consists of making and drinking coffee followed by everything else.  Now, it also includes getting online and checking to see what nugget of humor XplodingUnicorn has posted.  I do this for many reasons including, but not limited to,
a) I know it will likely make me laugh
b) As a mom, most of his content is relatable
and
c) Because his kids, his 7 year old in particular, remind me so much of my own daughter, Grace, who cracks me up daily.


So, who is this guy and what's his deal??  I went straight to the source and pulled the following information directly from his site:
James Breakwell is a professional comedy writer and amateur father of four girls, ages seven and under.  He is best known for his family humor Twitter account @XplodingUnicorn, which boasts more than 950,000 followers.  The account went viral In April 2016 and transformed James from a niche comedy writer into one of the most popular dads on social media.

Can we just discuss?  All four of his girls (yes, 4 girls) are under the age of 7.  And, yes, his family does has a pet pig.  Naturally.  Breakwell just published a book entitled Only Dead on the Inside which blends traditional parenting advice with zombie survival tips, because who doesn't need help in both of these categories?  A little bit more about his book, also from his web site:
This step-by-step manual teaches you how to raise happy, healthy children in a world overrun by the undead. Motivated moms and dads want it all, and that won’t change at the end of the world. There’s no reason you can’t be a zombie killing machine AND parent of the year, but you have to work for it. 

Personally, I can not wait to dive in.  In the meantime, I will continue to seek out Breakwell's humor on Twitter as I literally can't get enough and now consider myself a true fan.  Despite his busy schedule, James was kind enough to let me profile him for the RWR series.  I might have begged a little.  I'm not ashamed.  This guy is just so awesome.  I wanted to know more. You and me, both.  So, without further ado, let's meet James, a runner who rocks.

Me: Ready for some turkey?
5-year-old: I wish the pilgrims ate pizza.

RWR: JAMES BREAKWELL

Name: James Breakwell
Where you're from: Illinois
Where you reside now: Indianapolis
Age (if you're ok sharing): 32
Occupation: Professional comedy writer. Amateur father.


RUNNING & MUSIC
What do you love most about running? 
Outrunning my problems.
What do you love most about music? 
It's better than being alone with my thoughts.

JAMES' FAVORITES:
Band (current, all time or both): Cake. As a band, it's okay. As a food, it's great.
Album (current, all time or both): The Last of the Mohicans soundtrack. If I want to think of jokes while I run, I can't listen to anything with words. I'm too easily distracted. That limits me mostly to movie soundtracks and instrumental versions of popular songs. Needless to say I am very cool and have many friends.
Race venue: The golf course at Notre Dame. We traveled there for one cross country meet a year in college. It was a very pretty place to lose.
Music venue: My office when the door is closed and the music is loud enough to drown out my kids’ whining.
Race distance: 400 meters. The race is over before your brain realizes how much it hurts.
Show you've seen live? The only concert I've ever been to was Elton John. My wife won free tickets. I felt we paid the right admit.
Ice cream flavor: This isn't a question of opinion. It's a statement of fact. Chocolate for life.




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





MORE MUSIC INFO:
Which band or artist would you go see tonight if you could? I'm already in my comfy pants. No way I'm leaving the house.
Which band or artist (wait...but no longer alive or playing together) would you go see tonight if you could? The Beatles. That bootleg footage would sell for a lot.
Which band or artist would you like to have dinner with tonight if you could? None. More food for me.
Which band or artist would you like to be playing alongside you during your next race (or long run)? Cake, playing “Going the Distance” over and over again until I realize they're doing it sarcastically and I quit the race.

CAKE

LAST ONE: 
Today, I feel like….(fill in the blank)
I should have thought of better answers.

Top 5 Songs for running, dancing or both?
The ewok victory song from the end of Return of the Jedi
That YouTube video of a guy playing Sandstorm by Darude on a tiny plastic trumpet
Wreckingball by Miley Cyrus (don't ask)
Handlebars by Flobots, no matter how much my friends complain about it
America F*ck Yeah from Team America: World Police

Last 5 Songs you listened to today? 
I mostly just heard my kids screaming. Send help.


Listen to this:
Going the Distance - Cake

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

SO THANKFUL


I am so incredibly thankful for so many things.  My family, my friends, my teammates, my health, my job, having a roof over my head and food to eat....the list goes on and on.  Not a day goes by that I don't stop for a moment and recognize how lucky I am.  Tomorrow, our family is headed up to New Hampshire with my in-laws to celebrate Thanksgiving.  We will eat, stay up late, sleep late, hike, swim, run, eat more; just spend a lot of quality time together.  It hasn't even happened yet and I'm already thankful.  I'm also really thankful that I don't have to make my kids' school lunches for the rest of the week.  If that sounds ridiculous so be it.  Sometimes it's good to recognize and appreciate the little and somewhat random things in life that we are thankful for, as they tend to be the things that make a big impact on our regular routine.  More often than not, they are the simple things, the things that we look forward to and things that make us smile and keep us happy day in and day out.  And that, my friends, is often what it's all about.


TOP 10 'OTHER' THINGS THAT I'M REALLY THANKFUL FOR


1. HOT SHOWERS - I'll spare you the photo on this one.  But, oh man, a hot shower after a hard workout or a stressful day?  Nothing beats it.  The only downfall to a hot shower is having to get out and that's not the shower's fault.


2. FUN SOCKS - They always make me smile.  I can't not be in a good mood when I'm wearing them.  Get yourself a pair.  I think you'll feel the same way.


3. MOISTURE-WICKING FABRIC - The thought of doing a 22 miler in the pouring rain wearing cotton.  I can't even.


4. COFFEE - Yes, I love coffee because it wakes me up and gets me going.  But, it's also the great uniter.  What better way to connect with others than sitting down over a warm cup of Joe?


5. A GOOD BOOK - My perfect morning consists of coffee, a good book an no agenda.  Books help you escape, if only for a brief moment.  And a good story can move you like nothing else can.


6. HOODIES - Ok, I'll admit I am a hoodie addict.  But this single item of clothing can be worn year round, can be dressed up (No?  I beg to differ) or down and is essentially like wearing an acceptable blanket.  There's nothing cozier and/or more comfortable than a hoodie. Nothing.


7. ICE CREAM - Because ice cream.


8. MUSIC - It soothes, it heals, it excites, it motivates, it drives, it connects, it defines, it educates, it inspires, it moves, it pushes, it pulls, it frees.  There are not always words.  There is always music.


9. THE TREADMILL - I don't like the treadmill, per se.  But I am thankful for it.  Winter running can be brutal and while I do try and brave the elements, there are days when it simply can't happen.  There is no way I'd get all my training in for a spring marathon if I did't have this indoor option.  Add the tv component and...well...just, yeah.


10. NAPS - Reset, recharge, relief.  Enough said.

Listen to this:
LOST SONG - NONONO