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…

MMMbop. It’s Training Time!

ermahgerd hernserns mahtherd

How fitting that Marathon Training Kick Off week coincides with National Running Day! Or should I say MAHRERTHERN TRERNIN! EMG is right. I just got nauseous. That kinda snuck up on me. It’s time to get my Run Face on, lace up my Newton’s and get real. This time I mean business. This is the year I will give it all I’ve got. Yeah, I’m looking at you Boston. I’ve got my eye on qualifying.  And I’m mixing this shit up a lil’ bit. I’ve decided to use Hansons Marathon Method. Unorthodox, I know. Crazy? Maybe.

The Hansons Method eliminates the Uber-Long Run and the Uber High-Mileage weekend, two age old staples in marathon training. Training for a marathon without an 18, 20 or even 22 miler kinda makes me itch. It would really make me burst out in hives if this were my first marathon, but it’s not. It’s my 8th. And quite frankly, if I am focused on my goal of a running a Boston qualifying time, I need to re-focus my training plans. If I hadn’t seen how well my Other Half’s marathon training had gone using this method, I probably wouldn’t have considered it. He was super ballsy doing this plan for his first marathon. I was worried he would lack the pre-requisite mental confidence that is gained with a 20 mile run. (Uh, no. He didn’t.) Hold on to your butts, Poodles! Here are the cliff notes to the Hansons’ radical marathon training method!Jaw Drop Wreck It Ralph

  • No Weekly Long Run. You max out at 16 miles. Pick your jaw up off of the floor. It’s true.
  • No Back to Back Super Long Runs. That doesn’t mean you won’t be running your face off, your just not following your 20-miler with another doozy the next morning. ‘Cuz there’s no 20 miler. *Gasp!*
  • You will run 6 days a week. Consistency is key.  It’s about the quality of miles run and not necessarily the quantity of miles run. But believe me, you are RUNNING.
  • You will run speed, strength and tempo workouts that are focused on your goal pace. Goal pace is key with this plan. And if I want to run a particular qualifying time? Duh. It’s time to focus on my pace. No slacking, Colby. Strap on your Garmin. See this oval thing? It’s a track. You’re gonna remember how much you loved each other.
  • Other than prescribed workouts, your runs will be grouped into Easy Runs (1-2 minutes slower than goal pace) and Something Of Substance Runs (SOS). Keep your eyes glued towards the heavens. You will see me sending up SOS flares from time to time. I am sure of it. Gah.
  • Fresh Legs? Forget ‘em. You’re not going to have them. And that’s for a reason. This method’s focus is on the last 16 miles of the race. Bonking? What bonking? This plan emphasizes Active Recovery, hence your Easy Runs.

What does all this mean for you, Dear Reader? Fasten your 5-point harness, because you’re going to be getting Colby’s Hansons Training Updates with frequency! Aren’t you lucky!  I apologize in advance. But it’s true. At least they might make you giggle. I think I need to put ’em out there to keep me honest. I am locked and loaded. I’ve been running for years. Enough. It’s BQ Time.I run

I would be remiss if I didn’t say: Happy National Running Day! Remember to hug another runner! Why do you run? I run to overcome! I run because slapping people is frowned upon! I run because it keeps me whole! I run to experience The Thrill of the Done. Giving it all you have. During that run. On that day. In that moment. There is simply nothing better. Happy Running Friends! 🙂

God, I love running.

God, I love running.

 What marathon training method do you use? Would you be comfortable training for your next marathon WITHOUT The Long Run? Am I nuts?

Wrapped in Love

Only in Boston is the most revered running accessory one that you would never actually wear while running. Yup, thanks to the “Marathon Scarf Project,” a hand-knitted scarf is the most prized of all of the wonderful Boston Marathon items you can get during marathon weekend.

The Old South Church is only 100 feet away from the Boston Marathon finish line and was a place of aid, comfort and solace for many following the horrible events in 2013. The Old South Church Knitters Club decided in 2014 to knit scarves for the runners.

As the club says, “the thought was to wrap runners in marathon blue and yellow scarves knitted with love and courage.”

The idea went viral and over 7000 hand knitted scarves were sent from all over the world for the club to hand out to the runners over the 2014 marathon weekend. Volunteers stood outside the church and bestowed passing runners with a scarf and a blessing.

This year, the church did not run a formal project again, but many knitters still wanted to knit for the runners, and reached out in other ways to get scarves to runners. I was fortunate to see offers for scarves on the Boston Marathon Forum run by Runner’s World and was thrilled to get one. An angel from Los Angeles knitted the beautiful scarf I’m wearing in the picture below and mailed it to me so I would have it in time for Marathon Weekend.

Waiting for the 57 Bus to take me into the Expo...in my beautiful new scarf!

Waiting for the bus to take me in to the Expo…wearing my beautiful new scarf!

Don’t get me wrong – I love my medal. Oh, how I love my medal (and when I write about the race weather in my recap, you will see, Oh, how I earned my medal!), but it is not my favorite Boston Marathon neck accessory. Not by a longshot.

Here is the beautiful note that she sent along with the scarf.

ScarfNote

Katherine Switzer, the first woman to officially enter and run the Boston Marathon, once said, ‘If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” Thanks to the magic that is Boston, at this marathon your faith will be restored even before the first runner takes a single step.

Spring Training

So…who else is training for a spring marathon?

I know you’re out there. You’re the ones with the frozen hair and eyelashes. Chapped skin. Blue Lips. White fingertips. Permanent chills. Crazy eyes from looking around to make sure no cars are careening toward you. Yup, I’d know you anywhere.

This is my first time training for a spring marathon. (Colby is an old pro.)

It ain’t easy.

And it’s not the cold. I like running in the cold. I sometimes even love running in the cold. And I’ve even made my peace with running in the polar vortex/arctic blast/whatever those fools are calling the crazy bitter freezing cold these days.

It’s the damn snow and ice. IT IS KILLING ME.

And I feel bad complaining, with most of my family and many friends up in Boston, where they have gotten 70+ inches of snow in the past month. No joke. Maybe you have seen the memes below measuring the snow in ”Gronk’ s” and “Big Papi’s.”

After the next snowstorm, Gronk may be buried completely. Or at least too buried to spike a snowball.

After the next snowstorm, Gronk may be buried completely. Or at least too buried to spike a snowball. Sorry for poor image quality – it was the best I could find. You get the gist.

This was taken after the first snowstorm, when we thought there was a lot of snow. So young and naïve! I'm pretty sure Papi would be buried now.

This was taken after the first snowstorm, when we thought there was a lot of snow. So young and naïve! I’m pretty sure Papi would be just about buried now.

At approximately 3 and 3.5 apples tall, respectively, Colby and I would be fully buried. BURIED!

People have started joking that the snow will probably still be there for the Boston Marathon. But no one is laughing.

While the snow here isn’t as bad as Boston, it is here. And we have had 2 separate ice storms in the past few weeks, which is 10 times worse than snow. How the hell do you get a long run in when the days are short, the sidewalks are buried, and the roads are icy and narrow? Ugh. Yaktrax are great for traction, but even they don’t help if there is nowhere to use them.

What’s a runner to do? Improvise and strategize, I guess. I have seen some people taking their runs indoors.

That, my friends, I just can’t do.

Or won’t do.

I hate saying can’t.

BUT, running long on the treadmill might push me over the edge into complete insanity, and I don’t want that. I’m hovering on the edge as it is.

I was supposed to run 18 tomorrow, but the forecasted combo of subzero temps, wind gusts and snow squalls made me revise my game plan. Instead, I got up and made a last-minute decision to run 18 on Wednesday, with the first 10 miles being laps on my dead-end road to avoid having to run in morning traffic. That’s 5 complete loops of my road before the traffic died down and I headed out into the big, wide world. And if I had to do all 10 loops on my road to get my 18 in, I would have. Despite the strange looks I got from neighbors.

One silver lining is that I ran the Philly marathon in November, so I never really fell out of “long run” mode. If I ever run a spring marathon again, I will be sure to sign up for a marathon the fall before so I can build a good running base before winter fully hits.

Already being used to longer distances has kept me from completely freaking out. Emphasis on “completely.” Because, rest assured, I am still kind of freaking out. Oh, yes, I am. And did I mention that more snow is on the way?

Are you training for a spring race? How are you getting your runs in (Floridians need not answer)? How deep is the snow by you (Floridians, don’t you dare answer!)???

Reality Check: Running GPS vs. Course Length

I just uploaded months of running from my Garmin, including data from the Philadelphia Half Marathon. Call it a year end data dump. There I was, leopard jammies on, massive coffee in hand, excited to check out my stats from the past few races. So I looked. Then I squinted… Britney is ConfusedWhat the hell?

How does that happen? How does a half marathon turn into 13.33 miles instead of 13.1? Not that huge of a discrepancy, but it’s still not the advertised-sticker for your car-stinking-13.1 miles. What’s the damn deal?!?! My marathon was 26.5. COME ON. You train all those miles, sweat gallons, lose toenails, wind up in the damn ER (Oops. That’s just me.) and your Garmin shits the bed?!?!

Don’t blame it on your Garmin.

Our friends at the Rock-n-Roll Marathon Series shared this info graphic with Tina and I and it is our duty as Responsible Running Bloggers to share this with the Blog-o-sphere. It’s a good one, in my humble opinion. Your GPS device may not read the official length of the course.

Why not?

Because GPS devices are not as precise as certified course measurement which is done by bike. (YEAY! Bikes!) It simply takes a bicycle, a “Jones Oerth” counter and a few hours of time to ride the course. That was a new word for me, Jones Oerth. I plan on using it in a sentence at least once this week. “Certified” means a course has been measured to exacting standards and is at least the stated distance. Thats the key – standardized. So take a look at this graphic. And, don’t ditch the Garmin. :-).

Read more here!

Running GPS vs Course Length Infographic

Has this happened to you? Have you thrown your Garmin in disgust? Did you know how certified courses are measured? Not me. Until now. 🙂