Wednesday, June 28, 2017

THESE RUNS

"The beautiful part of living is to realize the joy of being alive."
~ Terry Mark


It's 4:45am.  I want more sleep.  I need it.  But it's not happening.  I'm up.  I head upstairs to make coffee.  My dog, who has no concept of time, hops up and greets me excitedly.  Always ready, she is.  I step outside.  It's cool, low 60s, sunny, dry.  Perfect.  I sip and relax.  Today is the first day in a several that I feel almost human.  Almost.  I've been fighting a cold/sinus/ear infection for weeks.  On Monday, I finally went to the doctor to get meds and quickly learned that I'm allergic to the antibiotics she prescribed me.  It was ugly and I'll spare you the details, but I was in fetal position for 24 hours as it worked its way through my system.  My last run was Saturday and, even then, I probably shouldn't have run.  So today, Wednesday, I'm back on my feet and I'm itching to go.  Can you crave a run?  Sometimes you crave what you need.  I need this.  I lace up and feel the caffeine kicking in as I continue to wake up.  I grab Clover and turn my music on, but I play it low and go with a mellow playlist for a change.  I don't need the extra boost at the moment.  I'm flowing, slowly, which is okay because it feels really good.  I'm not an early morning runner.  But, I understand the appeal.  It's peaceful, quiet, still.  The morning is mine.  Today is different.  I don't need to push myself.  I don't want to.  I'm not going for it.  I'm just going.  I'm so grateful that my body is responding; to be out here doing what I love.  Do things happen for a reason?  Who knows.  I work, I train, I race, I rarely take a break.  It was time.  I'd forgotten about these runs.  The runs where pace and distance are irrelevant.  The runs that keep me smiling for hours long after they're done.  The runs that remind me why I run.  These runs.  Yes.



Listen to this:
Maintain by Vilde

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

DIARY OF A RUNNER


Emails, texts, training log entries and ramblings between my coach and I over the past week and half:

FRIDAY, 6/9 (while up at Northeast Birdcamp)
Lowell,
Unfortunately, I've come down with something.  Have a sore throat and body aches.  I'm guessing it's because I'm run down from training and organizing camp.  I was supposed to do 7 this morning but stopped at 5 because I had nothing in the tank.  I'm going to play the rest of the weekend by ear.  Just keeping you in the loop.  Have I mentioned how much I HATE being sick?
Have a great week-end,
Rebecca

Rebecca,
Oh yuck, sorry to hear about the bug that got you.  I hope it passes quickly.  Do what you can this weekend but don't sweat missed miles.  This is about as good a time as any to miss some mileage.
~ Lowell

MONDAY, 6/12
Morning Lowell,
I successfully got 150 of us through Oiselle Birdcamp but, as you know, I paid the price.  I struggled the most on Saturday with a fever (sweats and chills....good times).  Sadly, I wasn't able to run for the rest of the weekend.  But, it happens.  I might try and get an easy 5 in today, but I'm still a bit off so will take it very slow.  More soon.
~ R

WEDNESDAY, 6/14
L-
Quick status for you.  Feeling better but still pretty wiped and can't breath out of my nose.  Not sure about this race on Sunday unless you feel like I should try and do it as a workout.  Also, I'm going to do my intervals tomorrow instead of today unless I hear otherwise.
Thx,
R

Rebecca,
I would definitely push the workout back and see how you feel on Friday.  Sunday's race is not important so I'm fine with you skipping it unless you feel a lot better going into it on Sunday morning.
~ Lowell

SATURDAY, 6/17
Morning Lowell,
Still not sure if I should race tomorrow or skip it and run long.  I feel a lot better but it's been a rough week.  I'm traveling Monday so I have to shuffle Monday and Tuesday's workouts either way.  I have time to run long tomorrow so perhaps I should take advantage of it?  Let me know what you think.
Thx,
R

Rebecca,
If you are 90% and have time to run long on Tuesday, I suggest racing.

SUNDAY, 6/18 (RACE DAY)
Hi L-
Pretty sub-par performance today.  Not really surprised, but always a little disheartening when I feel like I should be stronger than I am.  Heat/humidity were a big factor for me.  By the 3rd mile, I had nothing left and no will to fight.  It was a good workout.  That's about it.  Ugh.

Rebecca,
All I wanted out of this race was a good hard workout/effort.  I didn't expect a good time, so I am not disappointed in any way.  Onward and upwards, right?
~Lowell

MONDAY 6/19
Yes, onwards!  42 years later and I'm still hard on myself for underperforming, even when I know it's not necessary.  What I really could use is a gentle nudge from you the day before races like these reminding me that it's a workout, just to push hard and not worry about time, to relax and have fun.  Because I am never going to be able to say that to myself.  :)

Rebecca,
Yes, I can definitely give you that reminder before races.  I won't get this exactly right, but there is a quote by Arthur Lydiard that I really like.  It goes something like this when talking about big training cycles, "You will be running last when others are running in first.  But, when it matters most, you will be passing them."

Training cycles are a key component of a good training plan.  You can't be sharp and PR all the time.  Like many things in life, being 100% at one time or for one thing usually comes at the expense of something else.  You can't have your cake and eat it, too.  So, you have to pick the right spot to be 100% and accept that the times when you are not is a part of the process and journey.
Best,
Lowell

MY TAKEAWAYS:
1. Your body calls the shots. Listen to it.
2. Every race has a purpose and it's not always for the PR.
3. Training cycles are necessary and key.
4. Don't be so damn hard on yourself.
5. Trust your coach.

Listen to this:
62 Moons by Chaos by Invitation

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

NORTHEAST BIRDCAMP 2017

"You can do what I cannot do.  I can do what you cannot do.  
Together we can do great things."
~ Mother Teresa


Last week 150 women from the Oiselle team met up at Camp Foss in Strafford, NH for our 2nd Annual Northeast Birdcamp.  It was very similar to last year's camp; just a bit bigger with about 60 more people, more organized; because, being the ring leader, I knew what I was doing this time around, and a hell of a lot warmer (thank you, Mother Nature).  A lot of the gals were returning campers, but many were new and some were very recent additions to the team, which is a nation-wide crew of over 3000 women who love to run and to share that passion with those around them.  To an extrovert, our camp is a dream come true.  To an introvert, it's potentially their worst nightmare.  But, those of us who have been on the team for a while and who knew the camp drill, did our best to ease the minds of those who had trepidation about joining us before we made our way up there.  I didn't have a chance to talk to every single camper but the vibes I got were good and people seemed happy so hopefully everyone eventually settled in and by the end we all left as a new, bigger, better run-family, if you will.  Given that many of the women who came are active bloggers, I'm going to keep my post relatively short and sweet and give you the breakdown with photos.  Personally, I had a ball and have already started my countdown for next year.  In the meantime, I have the memories of all the amazing things we did together to keep me going.  It was incredibly bittersweet to say goodbye, but just knowing these women are out there and on my team is...well, it's powerful stuff and I'm insanely lucky to be a part of it.

NEBIRDCAMP 2017


we ran together,


we learned together, 


we swam together, 


we indulged together,


we flowed together,


we rolled together,


we caffeinated together,


we waited in line for that caffeine together,


we laughed together,


we ate good food together,


we reminisced together,


we bonded together,


we relaxed together,


we geeked out together,


and, in the end, we went our separate ways.  
But we will stay....always....together.

Listen to this:
The Gold - Manchester Orchestra

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

CELEBRATE RUNNING

GLOBAL RUNNING DAY


I RUN TO.... relieve stress, to think, to cope, to mourn, to celebrate, to clear my head, to unwind, to check in, to check out, to learn, to challenge myself, to stay sane, to be happy, to be healthy, to set an example for my kids, to set an example for my high school athletes, to connect, to reconnect, to strengthen bonds, to discover, to explore, to give back, to inspire, to be inspired, to defy age, to break boundaries, to set new ones, to rock out, to be a better mom, coach and friend.....TO LIVE.

******* RWM GRD GIVEAWAY ********


Global Running Day is a day for people around the world to celebrate the joys of running, share our passion for the sport and encourage runners of all levels to get moving.  Today I'm celebrating GRD with Nathan Sports, Skechers Performance and Jaybird Sport.  All of these companies support and encourage runners of all levels to get out there and be their best.  They also make products that enhance your overall running experience.  Which is why I'm partnering with them and sharing the love with you.  If you run, then you're a runner no matter why you go, how far or how fast.  So, hit the road.  And then enter the giveaway.  In whatever order works for you.  Happy trails!

THE GOODIES:
1. Nathan Running Box (includes)
~ Cool Ultra Cooling Towel - Cool off! This copper infused towel cools surface temperature by up to 30 degree when wet instantly and absorbs moisture on the spot!
~ Hipster - The #1 product across all categories of running essentials, the Hipster can hold it all (your keys, gels, ID, cash, lip balm, tissues, hair tie and sunglasses, too). This colorful line of sleek, stretchy training paks expand to fit much more than you think!
~ SpeedShot Plus Insulated - This insulated handheld keeps 12 ounces of fluids colder, longer, and has a pocket for running essentials.
~ Power Wash - Eco-friendly, pH neutral and fragrance free, our new detergent formulation is ready to combat your smelliest workout gear.

2. Skechers Performance VIP CARD
~ Purchase one pair of Skechers Performance Shoes at 50% off

3. Jaybird Sport Freedom Wireless Headphones
~ Freedoms (website winner)
~ X3s in new Road Rash Color (Instagram winner)

HOW TO ENTER:
Comment below.  In 5 words or less, tell us WHY YOU RUN.  Four winners will be picked on Wednesday, June 13th via random.org.  Contest for U.S. residents only.  Huge thanks to Skechers, Jaybird and Nathan for supplying the treats.  Good luck and happy running!
Note: Find RWM on Instagram (@runningwmusic) to enter again.

Listen to this:
Magic - Amy Stroup

Thursday, June 1, 2017

THE REST OF IT


A conversation with my 10 year old last Thursday:
Grace: Mom, are you running this week?
Me: Nope.
Grace: For real?
Me: For real.  I need a break.
Grace: How long has it been?
Me: Haven't gone since Sunday and won't start back up until next week.  
Grace: Oh my gosh, Mom.  Is that, like, the longest you've ever gone without running?
Me: Nah.  I've gone longer.  
Grace: Are you dying?
Me: (laughing) No, Grace.  Not dying.  Not yet.  
Grace: Do you miss it?
Me: (still laughing) It's only been 6 days, Grace.  And I'm enjoying the time off.  But I appreciate your concern.
Grace: (thinking) So....what did you DO all week if you weren't running??

THIS KID!!  But, seriously, it's a fair question.  In a nutshell, beyond my typical every-day stuff, I did a whole lot of this....

Hiking in NH with the fam

and this....

Coaching @ EMASS Divisonals
post-race w/ the LHS 4 x 800 relay team

and this...

Watching & cheering @ Grace's Memorial Day soccer tournament

and, best of all, this....

NADA!

....and at the end of the week, after some good, quality time with my family, my friends, my high school track team, my dog and my coffee maker....I sat down and had a reflective moment with myself.  Yes, I love to train and race and chase my goals.  But, I both appreciate and need the time off to reconnect with all the other elements of my life; with the people and things that make me happy and keep me fulfilled day in and day out.  I may not always be able to run.  But, I will always have the rest of it.  Lucky me.



Listen to this:
VACAY by Sunny & Gabe

Thursday, May 25, 2017

RACE REVIEW:SUGARLOAF MARATHON

"Don't run away from challenges.  Run over them."
~ Joan Benoit Samuelson

This past Sunday I ran the Sugarloaf Marathon, my 17th, up in Carrabassett Valley, ME.  It was an incredible day but it was also a little bittersweet.  And it has taken me a while to process the whole experience.  Here's the story.  Fair warning, it's a long one.  Before heading off to ME on Saturday, I had to get through my 10 year old's birthday party on Friday night, which involved a carnival followed by a four person sleepover.  Good, good times.  I have no idea what time they finally went to bed because I was out before them.  The next morning I watched as three of the four of them played in a soccer game; the fatigue from the night before very clearly visible.  Not that they cared.  Ahhhh, youth.  Around 12:30, I said my goodbyes to my family and made my way over to my friend/teammate/partner-in-crazy, Kirsten's, house as we would, once again, be going on this adventure together.  We had a 4 hour drive ahead of us, so we put on some tunes and settled in for the long haul, trying hard not to focus on how nervous we were.  A few hours into our trip, Waze notified us of some upcoming roadkill.  Sure enough, a half mile later we looked left and saw that a very large animal had just crossed it's last road, so we had a moment (and a chuckle) for the poor guy as we passed it.


Other than the roadkill, our drive was relatively uneventful and we pulled into the base of Sugarloaf Mountain around 4:30pm.  Side note here - Kirsten had had a minor freakout before we left because her headphones weren't working.  I'd dug up an extra pair for her but we talked about potentially grabbing her another set at the expo if they were available.  We walked into the lodge, picked up our bibs and shirts and then passed by the Maple Water table to head back outside.  We found our Oiselle teammate, Sarah (aka @feetfailmenot), and after meeting and catching up for a bit we asked her where the rest of the expo was.  What do you mean?  She asked.  Where's all the other vendors?  I said.  Um, this is it, she said.  Meaning, the check-in table and the Maple Water table.  So, yeah.  No headphones.  Or anything else, for that matter.  This is right about when when Kirsten and I both started praying that we hadn't forgotten anything.


We were staying at the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel, which was connected to the lodge, so we were already where we needed to be for the rest of the evening.  This couldn't have been more convenient and alleviated quite a bit of travel stress.  We grabbed our bags and checked in, asking first, where the buses would be picking us up in the morning, and second whether there would be coffee available.  The gal at the desk let us know that the buses would begin loading at 5:15am right outside the lobby and that there would be coffee brewing at 4:45.  All was set....or so we thought.  We headed up to the room and got ourselves settled in.  Both Kirsten and I have had issues eating food from random restaurants the night before races so a few marathons ago we started bringing our own dinner, just to be safe.  Our room had a fridge and microwave, which was fantastic as I was able to heat up my pasta for a change.  We sat and ate, trying to stay as relaxed as possible, which was very difficult for both of us.  


We got everything set up for the next morning and then watched the end of Good Will Hunting (great flick), finally calling it a night around 8:30.  Unfortunately, I did not sleep well.  The tempearture in our room was holding steady at 80 and the hotel did not have air conditioning.  Normally, this wound't be an issue, but when we tried sleeping with the windows open is was too noisy, so we had to settle with a fan, which really just blew the hot air around us.  I struggled to get comfortable and tossed and turned quite a bit.  Then, I nearly had a heart attack when my phone alarm went off a 5:00am.  I threw my stuff on and went downstairs to grab coffee.  You can predict how this is going to go, right?  I got out of the elevator and saw a table with cups, cream and sugar but no coffee.  Several runners were standing around the lobby, clearly there for the same reason.  Is the coffee coming?  I asked the person next to me.  She shrugged, said no one seemed to be around and that she didn't know what the deal was.  SHIT.  This was not good.  I went back upstairs, picked up the phone and called the front desk.  When will the coffee be ready?  I asked.  Well, he said, we had a guy scheduled to be in at 4:30 and he didn't show up so, I'm sorry, but there is no coffee yet.  FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, NO!!!!  Our room did have a small coffee maker so we brewed up some brown water and tried to make the best of it.  I might have cried a little, too.  For the record, I will never forgive the flake that didn't show up for work that morning.  We gathered all of our stuff and went down to the lobby around 5:30.  The buses were already lined up outside so we headed out and waited to get on the next available shuttle.  We were cruising along when we suddenly heard a strange beeping noise.  The driver pulled over and called the base.  He told them he wasn't sure what was going on and let them know that he was going to turn around and bring us back.  It was after 6:00, the race start was 7:00 and we were going back to the lodge.  Again, not good.  At first we were confused.  Then we started to get annoyed.  As the bus crept at a snail's pace back up the hill we closed our eyes and tried to take some deep breaths as there was nothing we could do but (try to) stay calm.

Caption 1: Hmmm
Caption 2: WTF??!!!
Caption 3: Breath in. Breath out.

We were let out at the hotel and stood waiting for the next shuttle, all of us clearly flustered by the situation.  About 5 minutes later we were back on a new bus and headed for the start.  It was now about 6:20 so this was cutting it really close.  We arrived and immediately got in line for the bathroom which was at least a half a mile long.  As we got closer to the front, the announcer let us know that we needed to pass our bags over to the gear check van if we wanted them at the finish, so we shed some layers and I ran them over and handed them off.  He also let us know that legendary runner, Joan Benoit Samuelson, would be running with us and asked us to give her a big group cheer.  Unfortunately, I couldn't really appreciate the awesomeness of this at the time.  We finally got over to the start with about 10 minutes to spare; just enough time to take our traditional pre-race photo.


And then, BOOM.  The gun went off.  No joke.  We had no idea it was coming as they gave us zero warning.  Both of us still had on our throw-away layers and were not quite in start mode, so it was a bit of a shit show.  Go, Bec, you need to go!!!! Kirsten said.  I snapped out of it, switched into deal mode, threw my clothes off, zipped over to the line and started my watch.  


After the fact, Kirsten told me I looked like the above photo when the gun blew, which I don't doubt as it was exactly how I felt. We'll be laughing about this one for a while, I'm sure.  Though I sure as hell wasn't laughing at the time.


COURSE PROFILE

Kirsten and I had talked to several people about this course before we signed up.  As you can see, it's a net down.  But, you have to do some serious work in the first 10.5 miles to earn the perk.  And, even still, there are some rollers in that final 16 miles, so by no means is it a gimme for a PR.  That said, many of the reviews had been positive and all of them claimed it was one of the most beautiful courses out there, which, coupled with the fact that it worked with our schedules, was how we ended up choosing this one.  I had two main goals for this race.  First, I wanted to run a PR (sub 3:04).  And second, I wanted to come in under 3 hours.  Both lofty, yes.  But, I had worked harder for this one than I had for any of my previous marathons, so I was ready and eager to go for it.  My coach and I had discussed strategy the Friday before the race.  The goal was to run between 6:45-6:55 for the majority of the race.  However, he warned me not to try and hold pace during the hill section as I would suffer too much on the back side.  For my last two marathons I'd gone out just a hair too fast and petered out in the final 10K.  So, I was not going to let that happen again.  The net-net was this - steady start for miles 1-5, stay strong in the hills, but don't push it, and then to let it fly for the final 16 miles.  No problemo.


THE RACE:
Miles 1-5 (6:55, 6:55, 6:51, 6:56, 6:54)
Aside from the hectic start, I got settled in pretty quickly.  I worked to find my goal pace and then to just hold steady until the hills.  The weather gods were in our favor as it was a cool, crisp morning and while I was cold for the first mile or so, I warmed up pretty quickly.  I had no issues staying within range and did my best to stay calm as I mentally prepared for the next section.

Miles 6-11 (6:59, 7:02, 7:03, 7:32, 7:13, 6:45)
It's pretty clear from my splits above what was unfolding for these miles.  There is no sugar coating it, it was a beast of a climb, mile 9 being the worst of it.  My mistake here was that I probably played it a bit too conservatively in fear of what might happen if I overdid it.  But, at the time, I was just trying to get through it successfully, so that thought didn't cross my mind.

Joan (far left) & me (the speck behind) working to keep her in sight

Mile 12-17 (6:47, 6:51, 6:47, 6:41, 6:24, 6:39)
Once I got through the hills, I knew I had to go for it if I was going to come in under 3 hours.  Honestly, I'd probably already lost my shot at this point but I clearly didn't know this at the time.  I had been running behind Joan Benoit Samuelson since mile 6 or so and I knew she was running a similar pace to mine, so I worked to keep her in view as much as possible.  At mile 14, I pulled up beside her.  She looked over and started chatting with me.  And, yes, I remember every, single word.

Joan: You're looking good.
Me: Thanks!
Joan: What's the time?
Me: I'm trying to break 3 hours (I thought she was asking my goal time here)
Joan: No, what's the time now? (Ohhhhh)
Me: 1 hour and 42 minutes
---> can we just pause here for a second. I still can not believe that I was chatting with Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic Gold medalist and one of the greatest female runners of our time, during the middle of my race.  It's almost as if it didn't happen it was so surreal.
Joan: Okay. And what was your time at the half?
Me: 1:30
Joan: Okay, good. You can do this.  You need to pick it up, though.  Just start reeling people in.  See that guy in the orange shirt?  Go get him next.  And then just keep at it until your done.  At mile 17, I'm out.
Me: You're out?? You're stopping??
Joan: No. I'm but I'm meeting up with Mike. So, I won't be running this pace anymore.  You're going to have to just go.
---> pause again. I don't know who Mike is.  But, Joan was literally coaching me at this point.  And I am border-line freaking out while trying to hold pace.  See that 6:24 at mile 16.  That was all Joan.  At mile 17, legendary runner, Mike Westphal, who I now know about, jumped in with her and she pulled back to stick with him.
Joan: Go get that sub-3 for me.
Me: Okay!  (yes, that's all I could come up with.  Super lame, I know.)


Mile 18-26.2 (6:42, 6:39, 6:45, 6:45, 6:43, 6:45, 6:53, 6:39, 6:42, 6:18)
After that, my spark was lit.  Joan had inspired me to fight for it and nothing was holding me back.  I was digging deep into the well of my training miles now.  You have to do this, Rebecca.  It's time.  You've worked your ass off.  And Joan said so.  Let's go.  There were some rollers in here, the worst one at mile 24, and those were playing with my head big time.  With one mile to go I was at 2 hours and 53 minutes.  I needed to run 1.2 miles in less seven minutes to go under 3 hours.  I knew it was close but I still thought I had a shot.  My legs were toast at this point, my quads in particular from the hills.  Who am I kidding?  Everything hurt.  I've never worked harder.  And finally, I could see the finish shoot.  My watch read 2:59 but I couldn't see the seconds or the clock from the race.  I was giving it all I had and there was nothing more I could do but hope...pray...and cross the line.

FINAL TIME: 3:00:16
Place: 3rd Female, 1st Master (40+)

Holy rush of emotions.  I was so happy to be done.  And beyond thrilled with the PR.  But, at the same time, I was so sad to have come that close.  And once the dust settled and I found a spot in the shade to regroup, I thought to myself well, maybe it's just not meant to be.  After a few minutes, I grabbed some fuel and went over to the finish to watch Kirsten come in.  She ran a strong race with a killer time, though, she too was not totally satisfied with her results.  But, that's her story to tell, so I'll leave it at that.  

We found a spot in the sun and put our legs up on a fence post, both of us physically and mentally drained and incapable of moving or talking for a while.  Eventually I got up because I wanted to find Joan and thank her for inspiring me.  She was hanging out with friends over by the awards ceremony so I made my way over there.  I hated to bug her but I just couldn't resist.

Me: Hey Joan.  I just wanted to thank you for guiding me during those miles we ran together.
Joan: Oh, yeah.  Hey.  How did it go??  Did you get the sub-3.
Me: No. I missed it by 16 seconds.
Joan: Oh bummer.  Sorry.  Now you know how Kipchoge felt when he missed his sub-2. 
Me: Yeah.  I'm guessing his experience was a bit more intense.  But, yes.  (both of us laughing)
Joan: Well, not to worry.  You'll get it next time.



We talked some more, took a pic and I thanked her again.  But her last comment stuck with me as I walked away and sit here now.  She didn't ask me if I was done chasing my goal.  She said, with certainty, You'll get it.  Joan is 60 years old and she is still out there setting new goals and breaking barriers.  She ran Sugarloaf with her dear friend, Mike, to raise awareness and funds for Team Fox.  This fall, she'll try and go under 3 hours at the Chicago marathon, the same race in which she ran an American record of 2:21:21 back in 1985.  And regardless of the outcome, I've no doubt that she'll keep going after it, whatever "it" may be for many years to come.  She's clearly nowhere near done.  I'm 42 years old.  I just ran my marathon PR.  And, as it turns out, I'm not done either.  Not even close.


LESSON LEARNED:
1. Never assume you'll be able to get anything you might need when you arrive at a race.  Bring it all. Even if you're not sure you'll need it, bring that, too.
2. ALWAYS bring your own coffee and coffee-making system. (How it has taken me 17 marathons to figure this out, I have no idea)
3. Never be afraid to go for it.
4. Never stop dreaming.

Listen to this:
As Far As I'm Concerned by Einar Stray Orchestra

Thursday, May 18, 2017

ALWAYS SHINE

Yes, I'm racing on Sunday.  And, yes I'd like to do well.  I've worked hard.  I've given up lots of things.  I've put myself first when, perhaps I shouldn't have.  But, what it really comes down to is this, I live to run.  It is my drug of choice.  It keeps me happy, sane, motivated, grounded.  It makes me a better mom, wife, coach, friend, sister, person.  Running hundreds of miles on a regular basis doesn't make sense to a lot of people.  I'm not a professional athlete.  No one is paying me to run or telling me to do it.  It's my choice.  And every day that I wake up knowing that I get to run is a gift for me; one that I never, ever take it for granted.  The process of training for a marathon is long and arduous and I love it, as much, if not more so than the race itself.  When it's all behind me, it's not just the race I look back on, but the memories from the four months leading up to it....the 22 miler in the snow, the workout that hurt so much I cried when it was over,  the post-run coffee with my training partner when we couldn't talk and that was okay, the 10 miler with Clover when she looked as though she was smiling the whole way.  Yes, I hope it goes well on Sunday.  But, regardless of the outcome, it was worth it.  It always is.


"Always go for a run even if it's raining.  Enjoy the journey, never forget to play and feel the joy of life. Jump for joy when you're happy.  Surround yourself with the people you love.  Live in the moment, have boundless energy.  Listen more than you talk, but when you do talk speak from the heart.  It's never too late to learn.  Look for the best in everyone and be loyal.  Love unconditionally.  And shine with all of your light, all of the time." *

Listen to this:
Right Place Right Time - A Little Nothing


* Thanks to my good friend, Tim Carter, for sharing this amazing story and for sparking this post.

Friday, May 12, 2017

STILL (ALWAYS) LEARNING

"Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets."
~ Leonardo DaVinci


In less than two weeks I'll be tackling my 17th marathon up at Sugarloaf Mountain in Carrabassett Valley, ME.  If you'd told me back in 2007 that 10 years later I'd still be at it, I would have laughed in your face.  Now I just laugh at myself.  As a runner, I'm always learning.  Way back when I started in on this madness, I learned never to say never and that has stuck with me through all of them.  After my 13th marathon, the Mohawk Hudson, where I ran my current PR of 3:04 at age 40, I learned that I had more in me than I ever thought possible.  At the same time, I wondered whether I had more to give.  And then I quickly learned that my coach, who I've been working with since 2013, had absolutely no doubt in his mind that this was the case.  So, I've kept at it.  Working as hard, if not harder every time.  For my next two marathons, I learned that shit happens and that I have to deal with whatever is thrown at me.  I learned that regardless of how well I train, I always have to expect the unexpected as there will undoubtedly be things out of my control (ie. metal doors and bad weather) every, single time.  I learned to reset, adjust the plan, stay positive and stick with it.  Which I did.  I also learned that I was still not satisfied and that I was ready and willing to do more to get what I wanted, which in this situation is a marathon PR.  During this particular training cycle, which began back in January, I learned to take the good days with the bad, to be realistic, to keep my head on, to be in the moment, to use humor whenever possible, to lean hard on my friends and teammates and, most importantly, to trust.  Trust myself, my body, my coach, the process; all of it.  And because of that, I've made it to this point.  Oh, and I've learned a few new and somewhat interesting things about both the training process and myself this time around that I hadn't realized until I shifted into this higher gear (see below).  I don't know what will happen next week, but I've learned to believe that anything is possible.

MARATHON #17:10 NEW THINGS I'VE LEARNED

1. I'm capable of napping anywhere, any time.  During a hair cut, in the waiting room while my daughter is having her teeth cleaned, in the car at soccer pick up.  Literally....anywhere.
2. Compression is my friend.  I only used to wear compression socks and tights once in a while.  Today I wear them almost daily as the support they provide my tired muscles is invaluable.
3. A new song or playlist can make or break a workout.  Music always gets me going but sometimes the same old thing is not enough.  A handful of fresh tunes can make a notable impact on performance.  It can also help me motivate to get out the door.
4. I'm now capable of eating a pretty substantial meal at noon and then going for a run less than an hour later.  It's not ideal, but I've had weekly doubles during this cycle and I was often short on time so it had to be done on a regular basis.  Random?  Yes. But a really good skill to have.
5. An epsom salt bath can be a border-line religious experience.  This one is pretty self explanatory.
6. Even when I'm not up for it, my dog is always ready and willing to go.  Snowing, raining, windy, hot...doesn't matter.  She's in.  She's also not afraid to give me the stare down when I'm procrastinating before my departure.  Dog coach?  Sort of.
7. I'm now able to have a cup of coffee at 3:00pm and still easily fall asleep at 9:00, if not earlier.  I used to avoid caffeine after noon in fear that it would keep me up at night.  This time around I've needed it more than usual to get through my days.  Thankfully, it hasn't impacted my sleep routine in the slightest.  Good and bad, I suppose.
8. Even when I'm 99% sure that I can't do it....I can.  My running partner often reminds me that my coach wouldn't have given me the workout if he didn't think I could do it.  She's always right.
9. More mileage and harder workouts means absolutely nothing to my children.  My exhaustion has been higher than ever this time around.  Not only do they not get it but they could care less.  As far at they're concerned, I'm just doing more of what I love.  Which I suppose is true.  Fortunately for me (and, really, for them, too), I've mastered lesson #1.
10. All the runs, regardless of pace or distance, add up and make an impact on the big picture.  There have been days over the past few months when I could barely muster a shuffle.  They all count and the harder they are to get through, the stronger I am become.

Listen to this:
Ultralife by Oh Wonder

Thursday, May 4, 2017

RACE REVIEW:EARTH, ROCK, RUN 13.1

Yes, it's yet another race review.  I apologize for the lack of creativity on post subjects lately.  But, as I continue on this quest for a marathon PR, the races are a big part of the story and I feel like it's important to share the details.  So, here we go.  I've done the Earth, Rock, Run half (ERR), part of the Greenstride series, for the last few years.  Eli Bailin, the race director, who has become a friend of mine, puts on an amazing event every time so I always look forward to it.  This year I was doing it as a final tuneup before the Sugarloaf Marathon, which I'll be running on May 21st and I was excited to test my fitness on this last long run in my training cycle.  If you recall, my running partner, Kirsten, and I ran the New Bedford half back in March, also as part of our training.  I won't re-hash that story but in a nutshell I'd felt like a rock star up until mile 10 and then I turned into the wind and felt like I was running in place for the final 3.1  Needless to say, it was not the time I'd hoped for but given how well I'd felt for the first two thirds of the race I was eager to run another half without the added battle with the wind so I could get a better sense of what I was truly capable of.  I knew the ERR fell right around the same time as my last long run for Sugarloaf so it worked out perfectly to give it another go at this particular race.  On Sunday night, the week before the race, I pulled up my training plan to see what my coach had in store for me for the days leading up to the race.  I've been putting in a lot of miles in preparation for the marathon, so I knew to expect that.  I didn't, however, anticipate seeing this:

WEEK OF APRIL 24th
Monday: 22 miles
Tuesday: 8 miles (AM)
               6 miles (PM)
Wednesday: 11 mile tempo run
Thursday: 10 miles (AM)
                  6 miles (PM)
Friday: 8 miles
Saturday:rest
Sunday: race
Total: 88 miles (w/ 71 of them before the race)

My knee-jerk reaction?  Holy. SHITE.  How the hell could I possibly run a solid race after churning out this much mileage?  So, I emailed the sensei himself and posed the question:
Hey Lowell,
Just curious....do you think it's possible to run 22 miles on Monday, do 2 doubles and do a tempo workout and then PR in the half?? I realize my eyes are on the prize (Sugarloaf), so I understand the logic.  But, I was hoping to bust out a good time for that race.  If it's not feasible, I want to set my expectations accordingly!

To which he responded:
Rebecca,
If you take all the miles except the tempo slow and don't cross the line and run too hard in the tempo, you can run a solid half.  We can't have you 100% for both the half and the marathon, but a 95-98% you should be good enough to PR in the half.

So, that was that.  New goal...95-98%.  I guess we'll see what that is for me at the moment, I thought to myself.  Then I put my head down and cranked out the miles leading up to Sunday.  And I did my best to trust my training and my coach, as I hoped (prayed) that I still had enough in the tank for a decent time on race day.

Fast forward to Sunday morning.  I woke up to a beautiful, clear, crisp, sunny day; which was a huge relief because it had been humid and in the 80s the day before.  One of my race day rituals is to get up a little earlier than I need to, make a (large) cup of coffee and, weather permitting, chill out with Clover on the front porch.  I've come to look forward to this little window of time as I attempt to do a little visualization and relaxation while Clover sits next to me on squirrel patrol.  The race start was 9:00am and it was taking place up in Amesbury, MA so around 7:15 I drove over to grab Kirsten, who was racing with me again, and together we headed North.  Kirsten had a similar agenda to mine for this one.  She, too, has been training for Sugarloaf and was planning to use this race a final hard push before the marathon.  I'll go ahead and say how grateful I am to have a friend and training partner who shares my passion for running and racing and is always up for the next adventure.  To have a wingman to share stories with, freak out with, commiserate with and laugh my ass off with is invaluable.  She keeps me honest and helps me stay motivated, which lately has been no easy task.  Bottom line, I'm very, very lucky.


We arrived without incident around 8:00am.  One of Eli's goals as a race director is to create a fun, easygoing atmosphere for runners, while keeping the logistics quick and easy to navigate and with the added bonus of providing killer race swag.  To date, he has never let us down and this race was no different.  We picked up our numbers, grabbed our race shirts and hoodies (that's right, every runner gets a hoodie) and made our way back to the car to drop our stuff and shed some layers before taking off for our warm up.  We chatted strategy and goals as we ran and after a couple of miles we were ready to rock.


When we got back to the car we could hear the familiar raspy, surfer-drawl of Michael Bernier, the race announcer, calling us all over to the start so we knew it was time.  



THE RACE
The race was in a different location this year and the course was substantially more challenging with several rolling hills, none of them terribly steep but most of them notably long.  I did not know the extent of it when I lined up and that was probably a good thing.  I'd reached out to Lowell the night before to discuss pacing and he told me to aim for a range of 6:35-6:40.  He also reminded me that my legs would be tired from the marathon training and warned me not to dip under 6:30 as this wasn't my goal race and I need to stay relatively fresh if I could.  Whatever you say, Boss.  As you can see from the profile above, the first mile was uphill and from where we stood we couldn't see the top.  Awesome.  I tend to have a hard time adjusting to the pace I'm shooting for in the beginning and this didn't help. I see-sawed between goal pace for the first few miles (6:43, 6:29, 6:44) until I landed at 6:35 for mile 4.  Then I told myself to settle in, focus on my breathing and chill the hell out.  I ran with one other gentleman for a few miles as he seemed to be running my pace and it was nice to have someone doing the work with me.  Miles 5-7 went smoothly (6:36, 6:36, 6:37) and by the time I hit mile 8 I was solo again.  Not good.  It's always tough for me to hold on to my target pace when I have no one near me and my body wants to slow down.  I was pretty off for these next few miles (6:22, 6:45, 6:41, 6:43) likely due to this and to a section of rollers that I was now dealing with on tired legs.  But, my watch shows average pace and I was holding steady at 6:37, so I knew I was still within range.  With two miles to go, my time was 1:10.  Fortunately, I had the mental capacity to do the math and realized that if I ran 2 more miles at 6:30, I had a shot at a PR (sub 1:27:24).  So, I bucked up and went for it.  I gave it everything I had for miles 11-13.1 (6:43, 6:30, 6:22).  Unfortunately, we had a couple more hills to duke it out with, so everything I had wasn't that much faster at first.  But, once I was in the home stretch, I knew I had a shot.  I continuously looked at my watch, something I never do during most races at the end, but knowing how close I was, I was going to be ticked off if I didn't check and then came in a couple seconds after my best time.  The last .1 was on a downhill so I just opened up and flew.  I saw the clock and a sense of relief washed over me as I knew I'd finally broken through and snagged the PR.  Not by a lot.  And that's okay.  Because it was just enough to remind me that the work is paying off and that, despite my doubts, it is definitely still worth it.


I was the first female to cross the line.  And that was awesome.  I was also the first master (40+), and on top of that, of the 8 men who came in before me, only one of them was in his forties.  I was incredibly proud to have been competitive with those young chickens at age 42.  Just last year I'd reached out to my coach after my 3rd, unsuccessful attempt at a marathon PR and asked him if he thought I had peaked in my ability and whether I should change my goals because of this.  His response?  Absolutely not.  I won't deny the fact that I had to work a lot harder to see these results, but just knowing that I'm capable of it is enough to keep me going.  


Shortly after I came in, Kirsten followed, also with a fantastic time.  We found Eli, thanked him for another great race, and let him know that we'd undoubtedly be back again.  Then we headed out for our cool down followed by our hard-earned coffees.  Which, in the end, aside from the challenge, the adventure and the love of the sport, is really what we do it for.  Kidding.  Sort of.

#teambacon

Listen to this:
Ultralife by Oh Wonder