Tips for Having Your Best Race Ever

nycmarathonlogo

I ran the NYC Marathon last week with 51,000+ of my nearest and dearest running friends and methinks I had the most fun I have EVER had in a marathon. Thought I’d share my secrets. If you’re looking to PR, these tips are not – I repeat, NOT – for you.  If you are Mr. Hanson, Higdon, Pfitzinger? Please look away.

Can’t exactly market the below as keys to “success,” but if you are looking to have The Best Time Ever During a Race, give them a try.

1. Choose a race that is a 26.2 mile party. NYC, Chicago, Marine Corps, Boston all have awesome crowds and crazy-good energy. I imagine the marathon through wine country in France would qualify. I’m sure there are many, many more. Avoid anything that is only for “serious runners” or has a boring course.

2. Put your name in the lottery sign-up, then promptly forget that you signed up. Make bold statements that you are NEVER running a fall marathon again even though you just threw your name into the lottery for one. Your name never comes up anyway.

3. Genuinely be surprised when you find out in March that you got a bib. Temper your excitement with the realization that you will now need to train through another hot summer and insanely busy September. Tuck that way back in the recesses of your mind and carry on with a fun spring. It all seems pretty far away, anyway.

4. Don’t train too hard. Not because you don’t want to (well, there is a part of you that doesn’t want to), but because you simply do not have the time. When did life get so busy?

5. Get your long runs in, even if some weeks that is – gulp –your only run of the week (it pains me to admit this, even now). They are key because they remind you that long runs are generally your favorite runs, and what is a marathon but a really long run? You can do this. Slowly, perhaps, but you can do it.

6. Do not – I repeat – do NOT keep a log of your “training.” It will only make you sad. And nervous. Maybe even a little horrified.

7. Step away from the internet. You don’t have time for that anyway (see #4). Do not keep up to date on the newest training plans and how fellow runners are doing with them. It will only scare you. Wish them the best, cheer them from afar and retreat into your bubble. (Do keep up with your Bestie’s training, because that is different and you love her. She is your bubble.)

8. Make sure your Bestie comes in with you for the marathon weekend. This is key. Maybe Tip #1.

9. Make fun plans after the race. It will give you something to focus on other than the race itself. A party hosted by one of your favorite people with an awesome group of friends, old and new, is ideal. All that separates you from it is a long run!

10. Order up great weather. 50’s and mostly sunny works.

11. Mill around athlete’s village and take it all in. It’s the biggest race on planet and a veritable melting pot. It’s awesome. Take mental notes and pictures. you don’t want to forget any of it.

12. Look around the start at your fellow runners, look over the bridge, look at the amazing skyline ahead and immediately decide to take off your Garmin. Put her in your pocket – you don’t need her today. Today is not going to be about PRs, fast miles or negative splits, whether you wear the Garmin or not. So let her go and just focus on the experience.

13. Enjoy every second. Thank every volunteer you can. Slap kids’ hands, laugh at the signs. Tear up at the many “Team Achilles” runners you see. Take in the different neighborhoods you pass through on your 5-borough run. Reminisce and feel a little emotional as you run through your old stomping grounds on First Avenue. Wow, you were young.

14. Catch sight of your Bestie – your biggest cheerleader – a moment before she yells “T-BONE” as you pass her less than ½ a mile from the finish. Her smile and energy makes you feel like you are running on air.

15. Feel exhilarated when you cross the finish. You did it. Not the way you usually do it, but that’s ok.

It’s more than okYou stepped waaaaay out of your comfort zone on this one.

And you are beaming.

What was your Best Race Ever? Was it a PR Race? Or just a great experience? Maybe you have one of each?

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New Beginnings

This is how I feel in spring. Just put a massive box of Kleenex in her hands.

This is how I feel in spring. Just put a massive box of Kleenex in her hands.

I love spring. Even a cold-ish, allergy filled, rainy spring like this one. Days are longer, sun is higher in the sky and every day something new pops up out of the ground. Had a CRAP week last week, but every morning I woke to daylight, birds chirping and things blooming all around. Even on tough day, it’s really hard not to feel hopeful when life is literally popping up all around you (and kicking the sh*t out of your sinuses while it does, BTW).

Like New Year’s, Spring (at least in the Northeast) is such a sign of new beginnings. It’s like a “new year” without anyone suggesting that you take stock of what you did during the last year and make resolutions for the coming one. Thank God. Even more reason to love it. A new beginning where your main focus is getting out and enjoying the world instead of reflecting on it. Yes, please!

Spring is a crazy busy time for us. Confirmations, graduations, sports schedules that require math exam type planning (If A needs to be at X field at 5 and B needs to be at Y field by 5:15, how likely is it that an SUV travelling at (somewhere in the vicinity of) the speed limit will make both drop offs, assuming no red lights?), end of schoolyear concerts, field days and assemblies. It’s a good thing that we have a winter of hibernation to gear up for the constant movement that is spring. What do people who live in warm weather climates do? Seriously – you warm weather people – WHAT THE HELL DO YOU DO? Do you just run ragged all year long??? I’m tired just thinking about it. I love Spring, but I can only take one per year. And only bookended by a cozy winter and a lazy summer, thank you.

In the vein of new beginnings, I tried a new class the other night, called the MELT method. It is NOT an exercise class. It is a “self-care” class that teaches you techniques to help relieve –and prevent- pain by manipulating fascia much like you would get in a massage session. You use squishy balls (for hands and feet) and a soft foam roller (for the rest of your body). I loved it. I have had a lot of back and shoulder pain lately and cannot seem to get rid of it even with rest days, stretching, etc. and an easy running schedule.

When I began the 1-hour class, I couldn’t lay on my back in the “assessment position” without discomfort in my lower back. By the time I left, I was completely free of aches and twinges. Amazing. I really felt like I do after a massage, possibly even better. Plus, the instructor was knowledgeable and funny- my favorite combo. The goal of the class is to teach you the method so you can use it at home. They say that 10 minutes a day is all you need to stay pain-free once you get the hang of it. I’ll take that!

Discovering MELT was perfect timing, as I want to re-align myself before starting to train for my next marathon. Oh the irony – after all my bitching and moaning about training for a fall marathon last summer, I finally got into the NYC marathon on my 4th? 5th? try. I threw my name in the lottery when it opened in December (perhaps still delusional and glowing from Colby’s and my Best Day Ever at the Baystate Marathon and conveniently forgetting that I hate summer training) and promptly forgot about it until I got the confirmation in my in-box that I was IN. After the shock wore off and the dread of intervals in August subsided,  I realized that I am really excited to get a chance to run NYC. And my husband is almost as excited about getting to experience another summer with me bitching about the heat and humidity and falling asleep at dinner, though he is hiding it nicely.

After NYC, I probably have a month or so before I will start training for Boston 2017, so it really, REALLY is time to rest, assess and get my body comfortable before absolutely beating the crap out it during back to back marathon training. Thank you, MELT Method. I think you will do just that.

If you want to learn more about MELT, here is the main website. https://www.meltmethod.com/

If are in the Fairfield County, CT area, my MELT instructor, Amanda Cizek, is fabulous and is also a trained masseuse. Her website is http://www.consistentfitness.com/ and a there is link to her very cool  “Be Awesome” blog right on the homepage. She wrote a great post last week about perceptions (misperceptions?) of what self-care means to us Type A fitness types. Check it out. Food for thought for all of us. I love her “Campaign of Awesome.” Shouldn’t we all strive to Be Awesome in our Bodies?

Have you ever tried MELT? Do you have a go-to activity like yoga, pilates or massage for balancing your running? Have you ever, like me, felt so tight and out of whack that you thought you might actually snap in half? Anyone running the NYC Marathon this year?

Baystate Marathon. The Recap. Part II.

Thank God Colby updated the world on our epic day at the Baystate Marathon in a timely manner. Had you waited for me, you might think we were still running it 2 1/2 weeks later.

It was a GREAT DAY. This is actually somewhat of an understatement. We were together this past weekend and talked about how it was such a wonderful day – from (oh, so early) start to finish.

First, the Baystate Marathon itself is terrific. I had never run a small marathon before. The race organizers and Expo volunteers could not have been nicer or more helpful. It definitely set the tone for the whole event. (PS – Baystate has continued to impress even after the event finished – we got an e-mail a few days after the race stating that because the race organizers were unhappy with the finish on our medals chipping, they are mailing every finisher a new medal sometime next month. Talk about customer service).

We got up bright and early on Sunday morning and were out the door by 5:30 AM. Had our first massive laugh of the day when we pulled into a Dunkin Donuts in a sketchy neighborhood on our way to the race. Colby and I first raised an eyebrow when we saw that there were “No Loitering” signs at each table that limited even paying customers to 20 minutes. Then, when she asked to use the bathroom, she needed to be buzzed in. Needless to say, once she was released from the custody of the bathroom, we decided to take our orders to go.

We parked – on the street – about 2 blocks from the start. I can’t even do that for local 5K’s. Or my local J Crew, for that matter. Awesome. Plenty of time to mill around and use one of the 8 zillion clean porta potties sprinkled around the area. Bag check took approximately 4 seconds, and there was a warm place to wait inside for the start.

Oh, did I mention it was cold? It was cold. Perfect running weather. Not perfect hanging around waiting to run weather. We were grateful for the warm place to wait.

We headed to the start around 20 minutes before start time but decided not to enter the almost empty corral because there would not be enough body heat there to keep us warm. I kid you not. Had Colby and I taken our places in the corral at that point, we probably could have toed the start line. Instead, we stood next to a building to break the wind and thought warm thoughts. I in particular had a really hard time staying warm, and Bestie that she is, Colby blew hot air into my back as I shivered waiting for the start. Friends don’t let friends freeze to death.

After a beautifully sung national anthem and a chaos free start, we were off. You may recall that I was nervous about this race because I didn’t have time to train properly. Another understatement. Most of my weeks had mileage in the 30-35 mile range. I had only one week where I topped 40. And some lower than 30. Yikes. By the time I got to “taper,” I didn’t know what to do because if I cut my mileage as per the normal guidelines, I would be below zero.

Well, next time I sign up for a marathon, I’m going to train by sitting on my couch and eating donuts, because I felt great in this race from start to finish.

The larger lesson, of course, is that you just never know how you will feel on race day. You can train perfectly and come down with a bug or an ache. The weather may be horrible, or you might get stuck in a bottleneck at the start that rattles you. You might even have a severe allergic reaction to something the night before the race that throws you off your game (Naaah. That never happens.)

I apparently trained “enough,” I guess, given that I had a solid base of training behind me from the two other marathons I ran in the past year, and the race conditions were perfect. Cold, only a little windy, and not too crowded. And the course, as advertised, is flat and fast.

The course was well marked, well supplied with water stations and had some really pretty sections along the Merrimack River. Spectators were strong in a few areas and spotty in most others, but that didn’t bother me at all. Nor did the fact that part of the course was a loop that you run twice. It was a huge loop and only partially overlapped. I definitely did not feel like I was running in circles.

There was not one part of this race where my stomach bothered me or I felt like I was going to hit a wall. I enjoyed myself every moment of this 26.2 mile run. What a gift.

I happily trucked along for the whole damn race.

I happily trucked along for the whole race. I look a little like I may have been speedwalking here – I swear, I wasn’t.

Somewhere around mile 20, I realized that I would likely PR this race. And once I hit mile 24, I let myself really think about it. By the time I saw the finish line, I was already celebrating in my head. And PR, I did!!! 3:42:11, beating my prior PR by over 5 minutes.

That look you get when you finish with a PR! You seriously would have thought we won the damn thing.

That look you get when you finish with a PR! You seriously would have thought we won the damn thing.

After being wrapped in mylar and medaled, I walked back to the finish because I knew Colby would be coming in any minute and I wanted to be there for The Moment. Because I knew in my bones that she would also PR. And BQ. And it would be A Moment.

A Colby approached the finish, the announcer called out, “And coming toward the finish, with a well-deserved smile on her face…” and I knew it had to be her. As you already know, she BQ’d. I thought, “Announcer Dude – you don’t even know. You don’t even know.”

It took me a few minutes to get to her because she was hugging her new Bestie – some random chick she met at the finish line (WTF?) – but when I finally peeled her away from her new buddy, we both started bawling. Loud enough that a race volunteer came over to check on us. And when she heard why we were crying, she started bawling too. We were messes, all of us. Colby, me, her new Bestie and our favorite race volunteer. A freaking spectacle.

Not sure what else can be said – this was the first marathon we ever ran together, we each had the race of our lives, and we got to spend the rest of the day basking in the glow – together.

Well earned.

Well earned.

It doesn’t get any better. It just doesn’t.

Baystate Marathon Pre-Cap

T-3 to Baystate and Colby and I are each in a our own state of chaos. Not about the race – just really crazy stuff going on for both of us. We are planning on buying some white flags and waving them. Wildly.

Thought I’d write one last post before this blog turns into “It’s a Bender AND a Nap (and a massage and a happy hour and a pedicure and whatever other forms of relaxation we find…”

Because we are TUCKERED.

Just gotta have enough gas in the tank to get through 26.2 and it’s officially rest time.

I don’t have a theme for this post, just some more ramblings before I start making a packing list…

I feel guilty because I have been so crabby about this race. I actually do care about races’ feelings, apparently. Such a loser.

So today on my run, I thought about how lucky I am to be running Baystate. I am healthy enough to run a marathon. It’s something I take for granted far too much. At the same time that Colby and I are running Baystate, there is a Breast Cancer walk in my town and I know several survivors and current patients who will be walking to raise funds and awareness. I am pretty damn lucky to be running a marathon for the heck of it on Sunday and I cannot let myself forget this. So my training was lame. Waaah, waah. I have a weekend away with my Bestie and get to see her kick butt in a race and see my family and enjoy the endorphin high of a marathon AND watch the Patriots while in Patriot Nation. I have NO complaints. None.

I like the vibe of the race already. As many of you know, Colby and I are matched with buddies through I Run 4 Michael.   I usually send the race director an e-mail ahead of time asking if I can have an extra medal or shirt for my buddy. I have always had a nice response to my requests, but I have never before received a reply from the actual director 20 minutes after my request telling me that it would be no problem and to come see him personally at the Expo. This is the smallest marathon I have run and I’m really liking the friendly and personal feel of it.

My 3 week old pair of shoes – On Cloudracers – got a hole in them last week (?!) so Road Runner Sports, with its amazing customer service, replaced them – overnight – but this means that I will be running in shoes on Sunday that have only been worn for around 26 miles so far. Not exactly broken in, but what can I do. It’s par for the course for this one, I tell you. I’m like a broken down barnacle barge. FYI, if anyone is looking into these shoes, Road Runner Sports said that this has not happened to other customers, and probably was a freak thing and not a problem with the make or model.

I’m sure everyone has been dying to know which new songs I ended up adding to my playlist after my request for suggestions. Sorry to leave you all in pained suspense. I added “Living Loving Maid” and “Land of 1000 Dances” because I have watched my 14 year old son play these in gigs recently (“killing” them, if I do say so). I added “Riptide” and “Want to Want Me” because my 12 year old daughter lays on her bed and listens to them just like I would have done if they came out in 1981. And I added “Sugar” by Maroon 5 because it’s my 10 year old’s current favorite karaoke song and I therefore have heard it so much it is already playing in my head all the time anyway. I figure that even if none of them puts a spring in my step, they will at least put a smile on my face since they remind me of my 3 stooges. I also plan to steal add some of the songs from Jessica @ Fit Talker’s spotify list – thank you, thank you, thank you!  What a great list!

You all undoubtedly have also been on the edge of your seats waiting to hear how I will fuel for this bad boy.  Winner Winner Chicken Dinner goes to Honey Stinger Fruit Smoothie Energy Gel. Tried before a run the other day when I already had a rough stomach and it felt great. Phew.

It’s definitely time for taper to end because I have been cleaning like a fiend and throwing so many things out that I’m afraid I might toss one of my kids by accident.

Weather forecast looks good for Sunday. Cold – low of 26, high of 48, and partly cloudy. We are thrilled. Fingers crossed that it doesn’t change!

I think that is all I got. Well, I got plenty more, but I’ve got miles to go before I sleep (figuratively) and have to make my list!

Does everyone get monkey mind like this in the days leading up to race day?  I feel like my brain is an LP playing at 78 rpm…

…and if you are too young to get this reference, please do not tell me.

Taper Thoughts

Well, it is officially Taper Time in Marathon and Sprint Land, and here are a few thoughts that have been buzzing around my head:

1. This is the weirdest freaking taper for both of us. For Colby, there is no taper. She doesn’t have time to get the taper crazies because she is too busy running “Hanson style.” All day, every day. On a treadmill, for Pete’s sake. For me, it doesn’t feel any different from earlier weeks. Other than a handful of long runs, the past 16 weeks weren’t sufficiently different from a taper for me to feel like I earned this. I think we both feel a bit robbed. (and I’m feeling a bit scared.)

2. Overnight, the forecast for Baystate (yes, I’m checking) went from cool temps and rain to a high of 59 and sunny. Thank God the rain went bye-bye. It better stay that way. After my hypothermic experiences at the 2014 PMC and 2015 Boston Marathon, I have started to feel like a bit of a jinx. Let me repeat, Mother Nature: Cold = Good! Rain = Bad! Sun= Meh! Clouds please! But more importantly, can we please keep the weather for this race to something that won’t leave me with blue lips? Philly weather was perfect (40’s and cloudy), but I’d like to skip the serious allergic reaction part, as well. So I’m ordering up cloudy, 40’s, hold the nuts. Am I asking too much? Let me know.

3. I may not be prepared for the race itself, but I’ve got plenty of plans for afterward. We are going to have a full-on Masshole celebration! Wahlburgers! Laughing in a Boston accent! Lil & Mike! Watching the Patriots Game! I’ll bring some Patriots gear for you to wear, too, Colby. Yes, we need to suit up even if only watching on TV.

4. Anyone have any tune suggestions? This is a double loop in a not-so-scenic area with varying crowd support. I’m thinking a few new songs might not be a bad idea.

5. Has anyone run a good marathon on crappy training? Please feel free to share your success story. Oh, and by “good” I don’t mean “win.” More like finish with dignity intact and not in a medical tent.

6. Even a lame taper motivates me to clean. What is it about the taper that brings out my inner OCD? And good god, my house is a mess. I am overwhelmed.

7. I still need to figure out what kind of fuel I think I can stomach (literally) during the race. Ugh. I need to get on it. Honey Stinger chews are the front runner but they are so bulky to carry. Any suggestions?

8. This will be my third marathon in an 11-month period and I am just plain tuckered. I know there are plenty of people who run multiple marathons every year but I don’t think I was intended to be one of them. I think I could actually run 3 marathons each year, no problem, as long as I didn’t have to train. It’s the lead up that kills me. Either I train hard and am exhausted, or train poorly and am mentally exhausted from beating myself up about not training well. Either way, it’s exhausting.

9. I know I’m officially sick of training for races, because it has been a sheer joy to go out for a run this past week and not worry about how fast or long it was when I am finished.

10. Colby is going to kick ass at this race and I am so glad I will be there to see it!!

Who else is tapering? What’s buzzing around in your mind? And GOOD LUCK to everyone racing Chicago and anywhere else this weekend!  

Running on Clouds – Part II

Cloudracers

Cloudracers

A few months ago, I started running in On Cloudsurfers. You can read about my love for them here.

I recently picked up a pair of  On Cloudracers– the racing version of my beloved Cloudsurfers.

I’m still feeling the love for my Cloudsurfers, but as part of working through my $@&#^%*! Rut, I wanted to try something new.

Because, you know, my running burnout has nothing to do with the fact that I am training for my 3rd marathon in 11 months while trying to pat my head and rub my stomach at the same time to keep home and work running and everything to do with my lack of new sneakers.

Ummm…yeah.

Anyhoo, regardless of my questionable reasons for buying them, I’m glad I did.

Took them for a 5 mile jaunt this morning and me likey. They are light – holy moly, light. Yet springy. I felt zippy. And they are almost entirely mesh on the top. It got a little warm by the end of my run but my feet still got a nice cross breeze and were able to breath. Even the tongue is some funky, light, aerated material.

I thought the Cloudsurfers were meshy and airy, but they ain’t got nothin’ on the Cloudracers.

See the pink , white and gray through the mesh? Those are my socks! These babies are LIGHT.

See the pink , white and gray through the mesh? Those are my socks! These babies are AIRY.

I have never worn racing flats. To someone who wears racing flats, these are probably kind of heavy because they have the cloud pods on the bottom. But they are the lightest shoes I have ever run in and I love them. I felt like I had nothing on my feet, yet the pods definitely provided cushioning.

Light.

Zippy.

Springy.

I haven’t felt that way on a run in a while. I’ll take ‘em.

What is your go-to running shoe? Do you use a different pair for training and for racing? Do you shop to get out of a rut????

Dear Fall Marathon: It’s Not You. It’s Me.

Based on some of the responses I got from my Rut post last week, it seems I’m not the only runner-in-training who’s in a bit of a funk right now.

Which got me thinking about the downsides of training for a fall marathon.

Sure, spring marathons have their own winter training challenges: ice, snow, polar vortexes, to name a few.

But training in the summer brings its own special sort of hell.

1. Heat. I know there are people who dream of running Badwater. I’m not one of them. I can barely stand to sit by a pool in the heat, let alone do something to raise my VO2 max threshold.

2. Humidity. Even worse than the heat. Truly. Lately, I may as well have been running on a treadmill in a steam room. While smoking.

3. Schedule. It’s been many moons since I last sat in a classroom, but there is still a part of me that sees “Summer” and wants to take a vacation from everything “Schedule.” Even if your training schedule is as half-assed as mine, it is still a schedule. Screw schedules. I want to be a Grasshopper in the summer, not an Ant.

4. Exhaustion. Summer training kills my sleep. If I want to get a solid run in on a weekday, I’m out the door as the raccoons are heading off to bed. I like to get up early, but there is a difference between getting up early and having coffee in bed vs. getting up early and doing intervals. No rest for the weary during summer marathon training.

5. Social Life. Because I have to be careful of what I eat and drink so I don’t puke on my hot, humid run at dawn, marathon training sure does put a damper in those Summer Nights. No midnight margaritas on the deck the night before a tempo run. If you have my stomach, there is also no: beer, wine, Mexican food, pizza, dairy, salad, anything spicy, or anything that ever touched a vegetable or fruit. I can stomach pancakes or scrambled eggs the night before a long or intense run. With water. Not exactly standard fare at summer soirees.

6. Chafing. When it is cool, I have an idea of where you will chafe, and can glide up properly before you head out. All bets are off when it is hot and humid. I can glide the hell out of every area that touches a waistband, bra strap, pocket – you name it – only to find (when I hop in the shower – Youch!)  that there was a random seam on my singlet that got soaked with sweat and chafed my shoulder blade. I developed a chafing rash on my sockline a few weeks ago. WTF? Short of gliding my entire damn body and slip-sliding all 19 miles, summer long runs are hard lessons in the odd places one can chafe.

7. Sandals. I’m not vain, but I also don’t like scaring people. Which is why I hate baring my marathon training feet to the world. Honest truth: every time I go to my local nail salon, they send a guy over. Apparently, my feet are a man’s job. (???) Nothing worse than putting on a cute pair of sandals and realizing that beneath the dainty straps, all you can see are callouses, healing blisters and missing toenails. At least in winter, no one knows what lurks beneath my Uggs.

8. Dehydration. I am either dehydrated, or recovering from being dehydrated, or worried about being dehydrated. All. The. Damn. Time. I am sick of carrying a water bottle everywhere I go. I am tired of Gatorade. I don’t want to add chia seeds to everything. I don’t want to check the color of my pee. I am still a little confused by salt pills. I want a beer. I want more beer.

9. Outdoor time. In the winter, running gives me a good reason to head outdoors. What other excuse do I have for getting some fresh air and Vitamin D when it is 8 degrees? In the summer I have lots of reasons to be outdoors, many of which involve shade, a cool drink and a book. I don’t need the lure of a 3 hour run through the rainforest to motivate me to leave my house.

10. Performance Depression. No matter how hard I run, how much water I drink, how well I fuel, if I look at my pace on my Garmin, I know I will not be impressed. I know, I know – training is more about effort than pace. Even Hanson says so. BUT, there’s something a little thankless about running your heart out only to find that you actually are moving at a snail’s pace.Almost backwards at times. Say what you will about cold temps, but they at least make you zippy.

Two of my bucket list marathons – New York and Chicago – are in the Fall, so I’m probably not done with the fall marathon yet. And the truth is, the fall is a GREAT time to race.

I just wish the summer was a good time to train.

How do you feel about training in the summer? The winter? Ever? Which races are on your bucket list?

Rut.

ChooseRut

I’m in a rut. A running rut. Or maybe just a racing rut. Or some other rut. I don’t know. Could be global.

Do I still like running? Yes. Unless it is 8000 degrees and 500% humidity.

Do I still like racing? I think so. But I’m not sure. Maybe yes, but not right now.

Do I still like training? I think the answer, at least for now, is no.

Do I still like blogging? Definitely yes, but given my recent rut-like existence, I just haven’t had much to say. Which is why I have been The Worst Co-Blogger Ever. Haven’t posted because I don’t want to harsh the blogosphere mellow. If Colby didn’t love me so much, she would have fired me months ago.

I do think a large part of my running rut has to do with my lack of a goal.

For the first time, I’m racing without a goal. None. Nil. Nada. And let me tell ya, it’s incredibly un-motivating.

For the Marine Corps Marathon, my goal was to finish, which I did.

I didn’t have a specific goal for the Philly marathon, but I wanted to do it as a “pre-training” of sorts for The Big One. Boston 2015. I didn’t want Boston to be my second marathon for some reason (?).  Despite my bizarre, allergy-ridden experience at Philly, I’m glad I did it because the snowy weather last winter was brutal, and if I was starting from scratch in my winter training for Boston I would have had a panic attack. Or ten.

Then came Boston. And, except for the weather, it was everything I hoped it would be. Everything. My goal for Boston was to experience running Boston. No Other Goal Needed.

Though I struggled with the weather during Boston, I BQ’d again. So I’ll be back in 2016. And for Boston, I think that just running Boston will always be enough of a goal for me. Now that I know what it is like to run that course, experience those crowds, and turn right on Hereford, left on Boylston, I’m pretty sure I’ll never need another motivator to run Boston.

But before Boston 2016 comes Baystate 2015. And I’m not sure what the hell I’m doing with it.

Fact: The only “goal” I can think of right now is a PR.

Fact: I have neither the time nor the energy to train for a marathon PR at this time. I’m split a lot of different ways and the piece of the pie available for racing right now is not big enough to train for a PR. I’m also dealing with some as-yet undiagnosed GI issues which will not help in that regard.

Fact: I find it hard to feel excited about training for a race when I have no goal. And that is what I have been dealing with this summer. I don’t mind the running  (except for the heat and humidity, which is always the case), but when I think about it in terms of “training,” and what I “should” do, the spark just isn’t there.

I can easily run a 5K with no goal. A half marathon is a little harder, but still doable, since I run enough that I don’t really have to train for a half anyway. Still, I ran the Fairfield Half in June: I was crabby going to it, meh during it, and didn’t even get an adrenaline rush after it. It was yet another race where I did fine but nothing new or exciting. I don’t even think I recapped it here, because I had nothing to say.

And now I’m training (and man oh man, I use that term loosely) for a race that is twice as long as the Fairfield Half. Oy. That’s an awfully long way to run without a spring in your step.

The Farmer’s Almanac predicts a cold & snowy winter this year, so working toward Baystate will give me a base for my Boston training. At least that is what I tell myself when I’m procrastinating before a 6 AM run.

And I still like running. I really do. But the time commitment and mental commitment for “training” is so different. Having to put in the time (and even there, I’ve been slacking)  without the mental investment is just not fun. Or inspiring. Or motivating.

Methinks I’m taking a racing break after this one, so I can just run without any sort of plan – even a half-assed one – and not worry about it. I can still do the running, but not have to think about the running, talk about the running, plan the running, track the running…

At least until January, when Boston training will start. Hopefully, I will have climbed out of the rut by then.

Have you ever been in a running rut? Or a racing rut? What the hell did you do to get out of it?

The Art of Racing in the Rain…

A rainy mile at the 2015 Boston Marathon

A rainy mile at the 2015 Boston Marathon

…is a really good book, but that isn’t what this post is about.

Nope. Today I’m talking about what to do when you train for a race – maybe even a really big race, say, maybe even The Boston Marathon, and wake up on race day to find that Mother Nature has decided to rain on your parade.

Kurt Cobain said it best – Nature is a whore.

I have run in the rain plenty of times, but it is totally different when you are racing in the rain –especially a distance race, like a half or a marathon. Or a 110 mile bike ride like Day 1 of the Pan Mass Challenge (that would be PMC 2014).

You can’t just change plans. Wait for it to stop. Immediately schedule a rest day.

Nope, you have to put on your big girl (waterproof) underwear and suck it up. For 2, 3, 4, 5, maybe more hours. Ugh. Fortunately, before the torrent that was the Boston Marathon 2015, I googled every tip I could on racing in the rain, tried most out during that wet and windy race, and now I’m gonna share them with you.

1. Don’t Panic. This should be Rule #1 for everything that doesn’t involve locusts or a mushroom cloud. Seriously, don’t panic. It’s rain. It probably will not improve your performance, but neither will freaking out. So take a deep breath, reassess and move forward.

2. Train in the rain. If you do a fair bit of racing, you will eventually have to run in the rain. And if you take your run indoors on a treadmill every time it rains, you will be even more freaked out if you have ugly conditions on raceday. Training in all kinds of weather will train you to race in all kinds of weather. It’s worth a little discomfort during the training cycle to be prepared. I can’t tell you how many of us in Boston’s Athlete’s Village consoled each other pre-race with “Don’t worry – you certainly trained in worse!” (for those outside of the northeast, it was a cold, snowy, icy, endless winter. And yes, we did indeed train in worse.)

3. Dress appropriately. Cannot be stressed enough. Cotton is not your friend. I repeat: Do Not Wear Cotton. Or anything that absorbs. Wear something with wicking properties. If it is cool and you need layers, make sure they are light and close-fitting – loose layers will only weigh you down once they get wet. Wear a hat or a visor with a brim to keep the rain off your face. If it is cold, wear tech gloves. If you have friends or family rooting you on somewhere on the course and it is cold, give them an extra hat, jacket and pair of gloves to switch into when you see them. If you have room in your pockets, at least put an extra pair of gloves in a ziploc and switch to the dry ones halfway through. Had I been able to swap out for dry gloves, jacket, etc. during Boston, I would have been a lot more comfortable and am pretty sure that I would have been able to finish with a faster time. Numb extremeties and a shivering body will not enhance your performance. Trust me.

4. Stay dry as long as you can. You really do not want to start the race wet. Wear something waterproof with a hood over your clothes to the start and ditch them at the last possible second. You can get a disposable rain poncho at most drug stores – pick one up at the first sign that race day could be rainy. Or pick up a garbage bag and shower cap – will work just as well. Bring an extra pair of shoes and socks to change into for the start, or if you can’t manage that, wear plastic bags over your sneakers until the start. You may also want to wear a garbage bag with armholes for the first part of the race. I did not do that for Boston because I thought I would feel claustrophobic. If I could do it over, I would start with a garbage bag over my clothes and just rip it off once I got hot. The longer you can stay dry, the better. Trust me.

5. Grease up like a pig at a county fair. You already know to use Glide for races to avoid chafing – goes double for rainy races. In addition to putting Glide on so-called “problem areas,” cover your feet with glide or aquaphor before putting on socks. I did this for Boston and despite running with soaking wet feet for almost the entire marathon, I emerged without one blister. Seriously – it was a Christmas miracle in April. If it is cold, cover all exposed skin (legs, arms) with aquaphor. It will repel the water and help keep you warm.

6. Adjust your expectations. Especially if it is windy. Rain won’t always slow you down, but a headwind will. You can try to draft with a group to help with the effects of the wind. Didn’t really work for me in Boston, because the wind was coming from multiple directions, but if it is just a headwind, drafting could help. Rain might slow you down and make things slippery. Be careful. A wipe out is never fun. You may be in PR shape but not have PR weather. It’s OK. Run the best you can run safely and keep a reasonable goal in mind.

7. But don’t give up. Many people had PR’s at Boston this year. Depending on the timing of their start, lots of people missed the worst of the wind, and the cool temps counteracted the slippery rain conditions, leading them to super fast PR times. I didn’t PR, but I also lost close to 10 minutes when my hands were so numb that I couldn’t get my gloves off to reach my Gu Chompers and a lovely volunteer had to help me deglove, rip open my Chompers, watch me eat them and then re-glove me. (God Bless Him – I’m not sure that was covered in the volunteer handbook.) Had I not lost the 10 minutes, I would have PR’d by around 5 minutes. No reason to give up on a PR just because it is raining. Go out and try your hardest despite what the meteorologists say. Just don’t beat yourself up if the conditions lead to a less than stellar race. You can’t control everything.

8. Hydrate. Just because you are wet on the outside doesn’t mean you are hydrated on the inside. Make sure to drink enough water regardless of how hard it is raining.

9. Pack dry clothes for the finish. Get out of your wet clothes and into dry ones as fast as you can. Including socks and sneakers. Even in relatively mild weather, you will feel very uncomfortable if you are still wet after cooling down after the race. And in cold weather, it can be downright dangerous. Once you stop, you need to get dry and warm as soon as possible. Once you are warm and dry, you can fully appreciate what a badass you are for running the distance in the rain.

10. Thank the volunteers. They likely were out there in the elements before you got there and stayed long after you passed them. Amazing. Make sure you let them know how much they are appreciated.

Any good racing in the rain stories? My toughest rainy day adventures were Pan Mass Challenge 2014 and Boston Marathon 2015. Here’s to hoping for better weather for PMC 2015 and Boston 2016…

Tempo Shmempo

Or…how NOT to do a tempo run.

I was inspired by a kick-ass speedwork session that Colby had yesterday morning. So inspired that I decided on the train home last night that I would try doing a “tempo” run this morning. My first. Plan was a 1 mile warm-up, 4 mile tempo, 1 mile cooldown (yes, Colby, I googled how to do a tempo run while on the train-are you impressed?).

Alas, I am the yang to Colby’s yin, and my tempo run did not go off quite as well as her speedwork. Here are some tips on how NOT to do a tempo run and general musings on my less-than-stellar experience…

Day before –

1. Make sure you have a busy day with lots of meetings and little time to hydrate. Well, plenty of time to hydrate, but feel self conscious about taking too many bathroom breaks for fear that colleagues think you have some weird condition, so drink water sparingly. Attend business lunch where you’re allergic to pretty much everything. Make do by eating only different kinds of salads, ancient grains and fruits. Studiously avoid anything that might be easy on the stomach.

2. Make sure you don’t get home until around 8:45. Make the mistake of mentioning “Dunkin Donuts” in front of your kids so that you are forced to watch, memorize and rap along with Big Papi and Gronk in the Dunkie’s commercial for 45 minutes (Cup Solo!) when all you want to do is floss, brush and collapse. BUT: Gronk! Big Papi!

Morning of-

1. Wake up around 4:20 thanks to a woodpecker. Give him the finger (he doesn’t care) and realize that you will never go back to sleep. Watch part of an episode of Real Housewives of Somewhere and then follow it with a bit of Burt Wolf’s “Travels and Traditions” on PBS so you feel better about yourself and your TV viewing habits.

2. Decide at 5 that you will get up and do your run early, before getting kids ready for school. Get out of bed and make the mistake of checking work e-mail. Spend next 40 minutes revising something for a client in London (those Brits have 5 hours on us!! Not fair!) that came in over night.

3. Drink a Vitamin Water Energy like it is your job. And it is, because you have to leave for your run by 6 and it’s the only fuel you are getting. The window for eating solid food passed around an hour earlier and you do not want to puke on your first tempo run. Or any run, for that matter.

4. See note on counter that today is Field Day at school and Stooge #1 has to bring a nut-free, fully disposable snack and lunch (preferably in recyclable packaging). Dammit! Now run has to be followed immediately by trip to deli to pick up food that meets the guidelines. All this house has to offer is PB&J. So much for post-run stretching. Realize you now have extra incentive to hit your tempo pace because you have not yet left the house and already are short on time.

Run-

1. Start off with an easy 1-mile warm up. Feel like you’re already working hard. Not good. Probably just hungry, dehydrated, sleep-deprived or stressed. Possibly all of the above.

2. Kick off the 4 mile tempo run. Mile 1: OK but working hard. Feels a little too hard for mile 1. Nervous.

3. Mile 2: not feeling strong and realize you have chosen a route with some hills. You’re a fool. A tired, dehydrated fool. Nervous and miserable. Wonder if you have undiagnosed asthma and that is why you are sucking wind. Know deep down that this is not the case.

4. Mile 3: – realize that you did the freaking math wrong and if you do 4 miles at tempo, the run will end at your house and you will not have any cool down before you jump in the car and head to local deli. Even you know that this is a Very Very Bad Idea. Decide on the fly that this will be a 3 mile tempo run so you can have a 1 mile cool down. Feel secretly happy that you only have to do 3 miles at this pace, because you are sucking wind and still 2 seconds above what Google told you should be your tempo pace (5K pace + 30 seconds). Miserable and bad at math. A winning combo.

5. Realize Google suggested you wear a heart monitor and you forgot. Figure it is for the best, because it probably would be sounding an alarm for a defibrillator right about now. This is not pleasant. Or as Google put it, “comfortably hard.”

6. Finish Mile 3 of tempo run. Actually end up making your goal pace, but know that it is because you raced the last half mile and that does not seem to be the right thing to do for a tempo run (Note: Check Google on this). Your first tempo run and you cheated. Who cares, you’re done and can run like a normal person now.

7. Enjoy cool down portion of the run – the grass seems greener, the sky seems bluer. Smile. Enjoy returning to regular breathing. Pass a house that smells like pancakes. Wonder who the hell is making pancakes at 6:45 AM on a Wednesday. Wonder if they wonder who the hell is running like a lunatic at 6:45 AM on a Wednesday. Wonder if your kids would rather have a mom who was home making pancakes instead of out running. Remember that you watched the damn Dunkie’s commercial 8000 times last night and even promised to buy them the big Gronk sunglasses and realize you don’t care if they wish you were home making pancakes. They can have pancakes on the weekend. After you run.

8. Get to the bottom of your street and realize that you actually could have done 4 miles at tempo and still gotten in a ½ mile cool down. You misjudged the route. Oh, well. {Thank God you are bad at both math and route planning. THANK GOD. Mile 4 may have killed you.}

9. Feel proud of yourself for trying something new and at the same time, wonder whether it would be best to go back to Tina Marathon Training 1.0, which generally involves the following: Run. Kinda a lot. Do some long runs. Make sure to rest sometimes. Repeat.

10. Start your day.

I think I will try a tempo run again. They are miserable enough that they must be good for you. Just not anytime soon. I need to forget this one first.

Who else does tempo runs? Any tips for how to do them? I think I have covered how not to do them pretty well, if I do say so.