Vermont City Marathon 2016: Feelin’ the Burn.

meme

I would like to preface this piece by stating straight on up front that the 2016 Vermont City Marathon and Relay was the hottest race I have ever run. EVER.

How hot?

It was soooooooo hot….

That they cancelled it. 

Yup. Cancelled it. Black flagged. As it was in progress. Done. Finished. Over. Stop, drop and melt.  Or, find a lovely Vermonter to hose you down and pad you with Popsicles whilst you wait for a school bus to drive your desiccated ass back to the finish. The news was trending on Twitter on Sunday. Vermont was trending on Twitter. How the hell often does that happen? That’s how hot it was. It was no joke.

It was the first time in Vermont City Marathon history that the race was halted. I ran the marathon as part of the 2-Person Relay and for those quoted with saying “it wasn’t THAT hot,” to you I say LIAR, LIAR, RUNNING SHORTS ON FIRE!!!  Because they goddamn were. You know it. I know it. We all know it. It was hotter than Hell. So unless you swiftly tucked your horns under your visor or jammed your forked tail into your running shorts, YOU, Overheated Devil Runner, are full of hot baked beans.

Brutal. All I kept thinking about as I watched the course warning move from moderate to HIGH, was that I felt like I was running a half marathon in a Bikram yoga class. Only add direct sun. There was no shade. No breeze. Nothing but heat. And it was radiating up from the lava field  we were running upon. There is a section called the Beltline which was easily the hottest spot in the North East that day. I can’t even explain how I felt. Cooked? Braised? Slow roasted?  All of the above!?!?  That was by mile 4. Within an hour, the warning had moved up to HIGH HEALTH RISK. I saw a runner down around mile 4. And from there until mile 13.1, I saw at least 5 more. It was horrible. The sounds of ambulances were becoming frighteningly common.  No bueno.

burlington free press image

Source: Burlington Free Press.

It was roughly 90 degrees by noon, which is not the only reason why the race was halted. There is something called the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature which I didn’t even know was a thing until I read about it on the Vermont City Marathon website. They did an outstanding job of keeping runners abreast of the heat situation via messaging and posting. Having run the full marathon a few years ago, albeit with a black eye, I can’t tell you enough how much I love this race. I’d run it every year. They do a great job. Besides, I love Burlington. And it’s vibe…and craft beer….and tacos…..and did I say beer?

A photo posted by Colby (@runcolbyrun) on May 28, 2016 at 3:17pm PDT

 

So. Back to the WBGT. The Wet Bulb Globe Temperature is a composite temperature determined by measuring ambient air temp, humidity, wind and solar radiation on humans.  It’s used by athletes and even the military, to determine a person’s exposure level to high temperature. On Sunday, the WBGT exceeded 82 at 3 consecutive readings along the course. Because of this, officials were forced to halt the marathon due to the extreme heat. Tough choice? You bet. But I believe it was a smart, responsible one made by the Race Director and folks at Run Vermont. Would I have thrown myself into Lake Champlain if I was this close to finishing and it stopped? You bet.

I would have had such conflicted emotions. That’s a lot of training and sacrifice lost. Such time and effort. But let’s be honest, even in the most perfect training conditions, anything can happen on race day. With regard to the weather, it’s a total crap shoot.  I’m not sure who was going to bust out a personal best in extreme temperatures in light of the complete lack of extreme temperatures in the week’s leading up to the race. At least in this part of the country. Other than an 80 degree shake out run the day before, I hadn’t run seriously in the heat since last summer. Expectations definitely needed to be tempered. Or, completely thrown out the window. Among the runners I chatted with, they certainly had altered their goals. I know I had. It was so unfortunate for them. I would have been devastated if I were running the full. No doubt. But at the end of the day, it was the right thing to do. They called off the race at roughly the 4 hour mark. My heart breaks for all those who didn’t finish. Darlin’ Rae especially. I feel you, Girl. 😦

And me? My race was a hot mess. Literally and figuratively. I am happy to say I finished with my all-time slowest half marathon time, chafing in places that will go unnamed and 2 serious heart palpitations that made me stop in my tracks and walk. What. The. F*ck. And I was salted, trained, hydrated and Skratch Lab’d up.  See why I think it was smart to stop it?  That’s scary stuff. Fortunately, I was absolutely fine. I was just overheating and overexerting myself like 1000s of runner’s that day. I am also happy to report that my running partner and I finished in under 4 hours. Right before the Black Flag unfurled. We were lucky. I’m proud of our run. I’m even more proud of the gracious Vermonters who stood out in that heat and cheered, hosed, iced, Popsicled and orange sliced their way into this hot runner’s heart. Thank you! It was a tough choice, but a safe one. One hot run does not a bad race make.  Run Vermont. I know I’ll be back. 🙂

A photo posted by Colby (@runcolbyrun) on May 29, 2016 at 1:24pm PDT

 

Have you ever run a race that was stopped due to weather? How would you have reacted? Hot weather runner or cold weather runner? GO!

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?

Humidity Killed My Tempo Run. 

Goodbye, Tempo Run.

You’ve heard it 10,000 times.

It’s not the heat! It’s the humidity!

And for 9,999 of those times, I would snort, roll my eyes and cock my head like a know-it-all 13 year old who can’t stop taking selfies.

Jyeah.

Until today, Poodles.

Humidity killed my Tempo Run. And it would have killed me if I hadn’t pulled the plug and switched to tomorrow’s work out which was an “easy” 7 miles. And even that was a Celebrity Death Match. Nothing was easy today. Not even breathing. I should have known when I checked this morning’s weather and saw “93% Humidity” at 6am that it was going to be a Sufferfest. Shouldn’t have it been raining at that point? Shouldn’t I have crawled back into bed and not flirt with heat exhaustion? The answer was YES.

5:30am. Shuffle out of bed and immediately trip over Drunk Otis. He follows me into bathroom, sits and stares at me. I try to put in my contact lenses, blind. I drop one. It is stuck to his nose. He is wagging his tail. I grab it, rinse and pop it in. Surely I will have pink eye.

5:40am. Drink large, steaming hot cup of delicious coffee. FAIL, COLBY.  I will pay for this cup of caffeinated goodness shortly, as it proceeds to braise me from the inside out during my first mile.

5:55am. I start my Garmin and head out. 2 mile “warm up”. 8 mile tempo. 2 mile “cool down.” Shit. It’s humid.

5:57am. Why didn’t I have a goddamn iced coffee? I’m cooking.  And I’m 2 minutes into my run. I’m running at a glacial pace. What the hell? Start to think this Tempo Run might not happen. Adjust my expectations

6:05am. Am I even sweating? I may spontaneously combust. My quads give me the finger for good measure. This Tempo Run is NOT happening. FAIL, COLBY.

6:30am. I slog along. My heart thinks this is a Tempo Run. It’s confused. She’s pounding. My breathing is uneven. I’m getting a side stitch. I keep going. FAIL, COLBY.

7:00am. Home. I’m nauseous. I have a headache. My skin is tingling. I am wiped out. At least I didn’t stop, I foolishly fist pump. FAIL, COLBY.

Dumb. Totally dumb. Running in super humid temps if you are not acclimated to it, is just plain STUPID. We have had a beautiful summer here in New England. While it’s been hot, we’ve been dodging the humidity bullet. That is until this week. Hello, Mid-August! Humidity matters to a runner because it stops the release of heat from our bodies, which causes our core body temp to go up. Since the air temperature isn’t cooling us, we try to cool ourselves by sweating.  Only the sweat can’t evaporate from our skin because it’s SO DAMN HUMID. Damn you, Humidity.

And on and on it goes.
{Cue Evil Humid Heat Exhaustion Cycle.}

 Humid Lessons Learned Today: 

  • Throw time based goals out the damn window.
  • Adjust expectations.
  • Hydrate x 10.
  • Run by feel instead pace.
  • Lay off piping hot beverages prior to a hot, 93% humid run, Genius.
  • It doesn’t matter how fit, strong or fast you are, humidity can cause heat stroke and/or heat exhaustion. You are not immune.
  • Take it inside. Or minimally to a shady road or breezy shoreline if you have one.

And for those of you Fools like me, who continue to run while on the brink of heat exhaustion?

STOP. Just STOP RUNNING if you feel awful. Nauseous. Tingly. Dizzy. Just quit it. This isn’t rocket science. It’s one damn run. I am not a doctor. I am a stubborn fool who had a very rough run this morning and should have known better. Heat exhaustion. It’s real y’all.

The Age Old Question: Heat, Humidity or Frigid Temps. Which do you prefer? Have you ever had heat stroke or heat exhaustion? How about pink eye?

The Joy of Almonds. Five Fun Facts!

Almonds

Well stuff my cheek pouches and call me Nutty! I am on a super almond kick lately. Like. Super. Now that I’m Little Miss Hansons Method and am ramping up marathon training, I find that they are the perfect snack to stash away in my purse, gym bag, car, desk, mailbox- wherever- for whenever a Serious Snack Attack strikes. Which for me lately, is practically every hour. I don’t have to tell you about Tina and nuts. Ever since that time she turned into Sherman Klump before running the Philadelphia Marathon, I’ve sort of forbid her to eat any nuts near me. Which means ALL THE NUTS for Colby. Now that’s a friend. 🙂  The happy folks over at nuts.com inspired us to write a piece on almonds. I couldn’t wait to chomp right down on it..

I guess they figured we were health nuts.
*pause*
{She’ll be here all night! Tip your server!}

I slay me.

Here are 5 Fun Facts About My Favorite Powerful Little Nut, The Almond!

  1. Peaches and almonds are cousins.  Shocker, right?!?!? Who knew! The nut that we eat (in my case, by the fist full) is the hard-shelled fruit of the almond tree. Think of it like a stone fruit. Cherry, plum, peach….ALMOND. Mind. Blown.
    Behold! Young almonds. Photo: Wikipedia

    Behold! Young almonds. Photo: Wikipedia

     Mature Almond. Photo: Wikipedia

    Behold! Mature Almond. Photo: Wikipedia

  2. Almonds are some of the lowest-calorie nuts around. YAHOO!  Almonds pack 160 calories, 9 grams of mono-unsaturated, heart-healthy fats, 6 grams of protein and 3.5 grams of fiber per 1 ounce serving. And, they’re LOADED with the antioxidant vitamin E.  That’s E for EXCELLENT. Go Almonds! They’re about neck and neck with pistachios and cashews in the calorie department. Eat ’em in moderation folks. They’re easy to binge on. RHOBH Brandy
  3. Almonds were used as a Fertility Charm.  In ancient Rome, newlyweds were showered with ‘em. LIGHTBULB. So THAT’S why at every single Italian baby shower or bridal shower I’ve ever gone to, there are little tulle pouches of almonds- Jordan Almonds specifically!!
    5 Jazzy Almonds. Photo: Pinterest.

    5 Jazzy Almonds. Photo: Pinterest.

    Total ah-ha! moment here! Traditionally, five Jordan Almonds are wrapped in tulle and tied with a ribbon.  And usually, at least in my Italian circles, there are usually 5 in a bag.  According to my very shallow internet reseach, the 5 almonds represent happiness, health, wealth, fertility and long life. They’re given in an odd number to represent the indivisibility of the marriage bond. Why fertility? Because those little guys are egg shaped. Awww. I once chipped my tooth biting into a Jordan Almond at a bridal shower. But. I still love them.

  4. Almonds are considered BRAINFOOD. Smarty pants! I’m guessing they’re considered healthy brain food because they are rich in healthy fats (omega-3 fatty acids), vitamin B6 and in the anti-oxidant, vitamin E. The 3 of which are thought to improve brain health.  Raw almonds are loaded with omega-3s. Eat up. And before you know it, you’ll be doing the New York Times crossword with a pen. (One of us does already. Hint: It’s Tina, not me.)

    Photo: Nuts.com

    Photo: Nuts.com

  5. Almonds are delicious. Duh. Especially in granola. And super especially if you make your own. Which is a snap. Just ask the Barefoot Contessa. I really dig this recipe- Cherry, Almond, Coconut, Oats, Honey…..DELISH. Use tart cherries and you’ll be rocking the whole Super Food Thing. Don’t like apricots?  Ditch ‘em. It’s your Almond Granola. You do you. That’s the beauty of homemade. Yum.
Photo: Food Network

Photo: Food Network

Homemade Granola. Courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 cups sliced almonds
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup good honey
  • 1 1/2 cups small diced dried apricots
  • 1 cup small diced dried figs
  • 1 cup dried (tart) cherries
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup roasted, unsalted cashews

 Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Toss the oats, coconut, and almonds together in a large bowl. Whisk together the oil and honey in a small bowl. Pour the liquids over the oat mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until all the oats and nuts are coated. Pour onto a 13 by 18 by 1-inch sheet pan. Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice, even, golden brown, about 45 minutes.
  •  Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. Add the apricots, figs, cherries, cranberries, and cashews. Store the cooled granola in an airtight container.
  •  (Inspired by Sarah Chase’s Open House Cookbook.)

What’s your favorite nut? How often do you snack while marathon training? Do you do the crossword puzzle with a pen?

The Hills are Alive…

With the sound of grown women crying.

Note to Self: when you sign up for a race that has “Hills” prominently displayed in the title, and markets itself as the 2nd toughest race in Connecticut, it’s not going to be a cakewalk.

Not that we thought that it was going to be easy. If you recall, we didn’t think anything at all because we forgot we were running the damn thing. But truth be told, had we given it thought, we wouldn’t have worried too much. We have suffered through the sufferfest that was the old Fairfield Half course, with hills you could ski down – but had to run up. (Even the new Fairfield course is hilly and it’s always 80 freaking degrees.) A little more than a month ago, I ran a hill named “Heartbreak Hill” and lived to tell. Colby runs trail races that end at the moon. So if we had prepared for the race, we would have thought, Hills. OK. So it won’t be a PR course, but we’ll be OK.

And those hills that knew we were ignoring them and not paying our proper respects? You know what they did? They kicked our disrespectful asses.

SAT AM: We start texting around 5:30 AM. Salt tablets? Address for race? Do we have the right date? Copious amounts of water? We’re ready. Kind of. I still don’t know where I am going, but fortunately, my GPS does. Call Colby from the car for pre-race giggles and nervous musings on the 66 degree, 97% humidity weather we are having (at 6 AM), and our call gets dropped twice. Even though we are less than 25 miles apart on the same damn road. Look for a post on cell phone rants coming soon.

We both arrive without incident. Colby is able to park within feet of the start line. God Bless the Small Race.

The joy before the misery.

The joy before the misery.

We are laughing because her number is 12. I’m 48. No, this is not because we are part of the elite team. It is because they assign numbers alphabetically. Still, it is cool to see her with “12” on her bib and I’m kinda wishing I married someone with an A last name so I could be in single digits.

We look around and can’t help but notice that some people look like they are heading to a Rocky Horror Picture Show or maybe the prom? We know this race was not marketed as a costume race and yet feel underdressed in our running shorts and singlets. For the Love of God. Please do not tell me that I am now expected to gussy up for a half. I can barely remember my Garmin and my Glide. Is there a memo I have missed? Stay tuned for a post on this topic.

Bib pickup starts at 7, race starts at 8. There are a few hundred people signed up for the race and there are 3 – count ’em – 3, porta potties. You do the math. The line takes up most of the 5K course. The race is delayed almost 20 minutes while we wait for the porta potty line to clear. We feel the temperature go up minute by minute and panic, quietly. The last visitor is cheered as he exits the stall.

And we’re off.

The first 2 miles are on a flat rail trail through the woods. Not too bad. To exit the rail trail to the rest of the course, though, we have to run up a wooden walkway that is narrow, steep and full of switchbacks and elderly people out for their morning constitutionals. The person in front of me almost took a gentleman out. This is weird.

Just after mile 2, our friend Patty and her daughter Grace were waiting to cheer us on. Grace even made a sign! Such a great surprise and made my morning.

I think it was around mile 3-ish where several miles of hills really started. Holy Crap. HOLY CRAP! For the next several miles, there was a total of 610 feet of vertical climb. That’s not hilly. That’s mountain-y. It’s also painful and at this point, I start thinking that I not only don’t like racing, I’m pretty sure I don’t even like running. I generally have at least one of these moments in any race where the mercury is above 70. Which it most certainly is at this point.

And it wasn’t just the big hills. The course is rolling almost the entire way after you get off the rail trail. Quads! Hammies! Calves! They all hate me at this point, as well as, I am assuming, Colby.

See, Colby was all ready to run a fun half in Branford that ended at a brewery on Sunday, but since I couldn’t make that one, she switched to this one. As all BRF’s do. 

But that doesn’t mean that she won’t beat me to a pulp at the end. And it would be well-deserved. This course is hard.

I spend miles 7-9 running a little faster, thinking of how Colby is going to kill me when she sees me at the finish. Should I just keep running after the finish line until I get to my car and high tail it home? I think she has a busy weekend – probably doesn’t have time to drive to my house and kill me. Will buy me at least another week.

The sun comes out and I think of the delayed start, and all that beautiful overcast sky that was wasted waiting for people to clear the porta-potties. I go from hot and uncomfortable to a hot mess. In seconds.

It’s an out and back course, so the rollers that were there from miles 3-7 on the way out are sadly still there on the way back. Fortunately, many of the bigger hills were uphills on the way out, so we get some – not enough – never enough – but some – nice downhills on the way back. Except at mile 10, where there is an endless uphill that makes me want to puke. Or cry. Or both.

When I see our personal booster club (Patty and Grace), I know that just that weird wooden walkway and the rail trail are all that separate me from a massive bottle of water and a lick of shade.

Once on the rail trail, I’m kind of alone. I can see two guys about ¼ mile ahead of me and there is someone around ¼ mile behind me, but no one right near me. I realize that I have never run a race this small before. Felt weird, but kind of cool. More weird than cool, though. City Girl likes crowds. I also like someone to chase for the last mile to keep me going. Here, it’s just me and a bunch of trees that all look alike.

The finish is nice – plenty of people hanging around to cheer, and the medal is cool. Lots of water.

My face and legs are covered in salt. So are Colby’s. We are officially disgusting, sweaty messes. We don’t love our times, but it turns out that it was more because of the tough course than us having tough races, because we both finish well in our divisions. I actually came in 2nd for our division and got a sweet pint glass with the name of the race and my place engraved on the back it. Hamden Glass We spent the next hour bitching about the race and agreeing that we are DEFINITELY doing it next year.

Did you ever doubt?

Sweaty, Miserable, Smiling Fools.

Sweaty, Miserable, Smiling Fools.

What’s Your Number?

winter running

So many of us are stuck in a deep freeze right now…

…except for Darling Colby, who has been in Sunny Florida for the past week! If I didn’t love her so much, I would hate her…

They’re calling this cold snap the “Arctic Blast.” I guess “Polar Vortex” is sooooo 2014, so someone came up with a new catchphrase. Whatever. “They” are calling it the Arctic Blast and “they” sure are talking about it a lot. Cold temps, wind chill, deep freeze, snow squalls…yeah, yeah, I get it. It’s cold. Once it’s cold, I don’t really want to hear or talk about the minutiae of the different ways in which it is cold, but it is hard to avoid the chatter.

The Arctic Blast got me thinking about my temperature limits for running outside. Figuring out what the magic number is that will force me inside on the ‘mill. Because I really, really, hate the ‘mill.

Before last year’s Peak Snowshoe challenge, I might have said 10. But after having snowshoed up a mountain in weather that was in low single digits at the base and lived to tell, I’m a little more flexible now. Today I ran 4 miles in low teens and was HOT. Sweating, even. It was sunny and despite all the talk about wind chills lately, I barely felt a breeze. I was not bundled up like a character in “A Christmas Story,” either: I wore running tights with thermals under them, wool socks, a turtleneck baselayer, my Bundle Me running jacket and hat and gloves. The only part of me that wasn’t warm was my nose, and it was not painfully cold. Just not warm. I think the sun made all the difference. I also find that any run is more comfortable if I don’t listen to the weather report first. Honestly, all the drama and talk are more annoying than the cold itself.

So, I’m going to go out on a ledge and say that my limit for a short- or –mid length run is zero, assuming no snow or crazy wind. I could definitely add layers to what I was wearing today and make it through some lower temps. And I would definitely prefer that to the treadmill.

It’s the other end of the temperature spectrum that kills me. Heat and humidity. Ugh. I’ll take a day like today over an August dog day anytime, anywhere. I think my heat limit for running is 80-85 degrees and you can be sure that I will bitch the whole way. And feel like crap afterward. In New England, if it is over 70, it is bound to be humid, so the heat & humidity are a package deal and any 80 degree run is going to feel like a jaunt through the rainforest. I’m uncomfortable just thinking about it. I have heard about this magical thing called dry heat, but it rarely visits Connecticut. Sigh. The cold can be uncomfortable, but to me, heat, and especially, humidity are downright intolerable. I see people running in the middle of the day during the summer and am just amazed. How do they do it without passing out?

Are you a hot weather runner or a cold weather runner? Do you have limits for when you will exercise outside? What’s your number?

Fairfield Half Recap

 

Last year’s Fairfield Half recaps were all about running on the surface of the sun. Well, the headline for this year’s Fairfield half is “We Didn’t Melt!” As Colby reported, it was the coolest weather this race has had. EVAH! Yippee! The race was good – amazing crowds, great course, incredibly well organized by JB Sports. I had a good, though not mind-blowing, time, and felt strong throughout. It was a fun and drama-free race, so I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow recap. But I will share a few thoughts…

  • You can run the same race every year and yet run a different race every year. This is the only race I have run 3 times, and it has never felt like the same race. At all. The first year, I had just gotten over Fifth’s Disease (given to me by one of my resident vectors) and thought I was going to need medical attention. I probably should have stopped and sought medical attention. But it was only my second half marathon, so I just figured that it was not uncommon to feel like you were dying while running a half. I now know that I was wrong and probably on the verge of heatstroke. Oh, well. Live and learn. Last year, I was healthy, but it was so freaking hot out, I kept thinking I had slipped onto the Badwater course by accident. This year, the temps were great (for June), the humidity low (for June), and I was free of childhood viruses. The race wasn’t a cakewalk -it was still 13.1 miles – but it was fun. Same race, yet a totally different race each time.
  • There is a fine line between running on air and running lightheaded. Around mile 9, I truly felt like I was running on air. It felt great. I’m in the clouds! I could run forever! Then I realized I was running on air but not in a good way –  in a dizzy, time-warping kind of way. Turns out my happy buzz was the product of dehydration and a desperate need for an energy boost. Grabbed 2 Gatorades at the next water stop and came back down to earth. Kind of reluctantly, but I knew it was for my own good.
  • I have to start races closer to the front, because no one else seems to line up based on pace. I thought that the unwritten rule of racing is that that people are supposed to line up generally by their pace, even when there aren’t markers. Maybe the rule needs to be written and repeated, because I started in the front third, and had to work my way around some walkers within the first half mile. I am not kidding. Walkers. At the front. And yes, they were walking three across. Yes, they were. I don’t even care about my time as much as not ending up in some kind of 5-runner collision. And yeah, I do care about my time a little, too. Yes, I do.
  • Almost a year into our relationship, my Garmin and I are still frenemies. I think my Garmin is embarrassed of me because I don’t know how to use it. I’m the worst Garmin user ever. I forgot to hit start when I crossed the starting line, and turned it on a few blocks later. Then I realized that was stupid, since I had no idea where I turned it on so couldn’t keep track of distance anyway, so I turned it off and then turned it on again at mile 2. For the remainder of the race, I had to do math every time I looked at my Garmin. I hate math. And yes, after running 8 miles in the sun, even counting by 2’s can be hard. Next time I think I’m leaving it at home. This is the 3rd race where I have forgotten to turn it on at the right time and I don’t think I have ever remembered to hit stop when I crossed the finish. And I swear I’m not usually a dingbat.
  • Running on hot pavement for 13 miles is killer on the feet. Dogs were seriously barking by the end.
  • Whether it’s your first race or fiftieth, a great race or a difficult one, long, short, hot, cold, there is nothing like the thrill and relief of crossing a finish line. Nothing!

Shout out to Spartan Shawna, who ran the Fairfield Half for her first half-marathon! In kids’ Nike Frees with no socks! And not much training!. Amazingly, Spartan Shawna finished with a good time and no injuries. Though she be but little, she is fierce!

(We will, of course, get her set up a little better before she tackles the Hartford Marathon in October A little training, here, grown up sneakers and socks, there – it’s all good. Fear not, Spartan Shawna, we’ll hook you up!)

And of course I have to give a shout out to the songs that motivated me most during the race:

1. Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” Yes it is overplayed. Seriously overplayed. And yes, we are all kind of over it and its bazillion memes. But it came on and of course, I thought about how happy I was. Happy that it was not too hot and humid. Happy that I am healthy and can run a half-marathon. Even happier that I was running a race on a gorgeous course with friends – old and new – and that we were all gathering afterward to hang out, share war stories, and bask in the thrill of the done. A wonderful way to spend a summer Sunday.

2. Led Zeppelin’s “Misty Mountain Hop.” At mile 9, it was time to get the Led out, and this is one of my favorite Led Zep songs. Given its psychedelic lyrics, it fit in nicely with my lightheadedness- I certainly was enjoying my own groovy trip along with the crowds of people in the song sitting there with flowers in their hair…. at least until I realized I needed a Gatorade and a Gu. Cue the end of the happy half marathon trip. So sad to see it go.

3. Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Because I will never get sick of hearing it. Ever. And Dave Grohl’s drumbeat is awesome and perfect for a run.

Tomorrow, “Where in the World is Colby?” heads to NYC and I’ll get to take Colby running in one of my favorite running spots in the world….Central Park!!!! Stay tuned…

MacGyver Would Have Made a Great Distance Runner

Courtesy of Celebremix

Courtesy of Celebremix

 

For all you young’uns out there, MacGyver was a 1980’s action-adventure TV character who was known for his ability to craft anything out of anything to solve his problems. As Wikipedia says, “Resourceful and possessed of an encyclopedic knowledge of the physical sciences, he solves complex problems with everyday materials he finds at hand, along with his ever-present duct tape and Swiss Army knife.” The Urban Dictionary defines a macgyver as “someone who can jump start a truck with a cactus.”

You get the picture.

I love tapping into my inner MacGyver and remember one vacation where we realized that our 8 month old needed his mobile (left at home, of course) to fall asleep, so I Macgyver’ed one out of a ceiling fan, a belt, a coat hanger and some stuffed animals.

Of course, that was my first kid. If it were my 3rd, I would have tossed “Go the F*ck to Sleep” at him and left the room. But I digress.

Distance runners channel their inner MacGyvers a lot. In fact, the first sports bra was actually 2 jock straps sewn together by Lisa Lindahl, Polly Smith, and Hinda Schreiber in 1977. Thus was born the “JogBra.” True Fact. Store it away in case you’re ever on Jeopardy.

If you look around any race, you’ll see all sorts of creative ways runners try to keep hair back, keep injuries at bay, avoid chafing, prevent blisters, stay hydrated…you name a runner’s ailment and someone, somewhere has figured out a creative way to address it.

When I complained about my painful callouses on my toes, my triathlete friend Laurie showed me this super-special way she laces her sneaks so that her feet stay firmly in place but her toes have plenty of room to move around. She competed in the Ironman World Championships, so she knows blisters and callouses. And when she hands out advice, I take copious notes. And pictures.

Laced up sneaks - Laurie Style

Laced up sneaks – Laurie Style

I haven’t tried it yet and my change in running shoes is doing the trick so far, but I have a feeling I’ll be lacing up “Laurie Style” by the time the real heat of the summer sets in.

My big find last week were the Band Aid Blister bandages. No, not for blisters. MacGyver wouldn’t use them for blisters. Too obvious. Last week I discovered that they work beautifully for those adorable love bites that sports bras leave in hot & sticky weather.

After the Heartbreak Hill half, the band on my sports bra attacked the skin on my back to the point where it was bleeding. Thanks to the heat & humidity, I think the Glide I applied melted off before we even started the race. So I finished a killer half and my quads, hamstrings, calves and even feet felt fine. Great, even. But I needed to take recovery days because there was no way I could get a sports bra on without popping a Vicodin first. Ridiculous.

By Wednesday, I was itchy to run again, so covered the wound with a non-stick steri pad with a bandaid over it. No good. It was rainy and the water soaked through the bandaid and steri pad, leaving me YELPING by the end of my run.

Thursday I was a little gun shy about running again, but then noticed my box of Bandaid Blister pads left over from a battle I lost with a pair of borrowed boots in our March Snowshoe Race. Threw one over the wound and headed out for another rainy run. Worked like a charm! The sticky part of those bandaids forms a seal, so no moisture gets in to the wound. Plus, they are padded and filled with a gel that protects against pressure discomfort. Finally, you can leave them on for days, to let the wound heal underneath while you keep it dry and protected. Love them and am buying more boxes. Can’t wait to see what else they are good for.

What are your MacGyver running tips?

And for the love of God, does anyone have a sports bra that doesn’t bite in humid weather?

Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon Recap

Headed up to Boston for the inaugural Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half & Festival, and I’m oh, so glad I did. The race started and ended at Boston College (my alma mater), and the entire race took place in Newton (my hometown). Plus, much of the course took place on a portion of the Boston Marathon route, which was cool (and hard). Once I heard about this race from Diva Cindi, there was no way I was not running it. Diva Cindi was able to run it with me (yay!), though, alas, Colby was not. Waah.

The festival was a 3-day celebration, with everything from a 5K to a 10K to a half (with a “hat trick’ option for the ambitious folks who wanted to run all 3) to a kids’ fun run and even a 2-mile doggie run hosted by Eukanuba. Diva Cindi and I signed up for the half marathon only, and honestly, it was plenty enough to tucker us out! I would have liked to visit the Expo on Saturday and participated in some of the non-racing events, but scheduling was not on our side, and by the time we got to Boston, the expo was closed.

You would never know that this was the first year of this race by how well it was run. I think the Runner’s World crew must have been trained by the Marines. Well run, well-marked, organized. Well-planned course with roads as “closed” as possible given that Commonwealth Ave is a major road, and plenty of water stations and porta-potties on the route. Love that the race had an early start time of 7:30 AM. Logistics were a piece of cake. Setting up on Boston College Campus was genius (and not just because it is gave me a chance to walk around my alma mater) – there was plenty of room for tents, porta-potties, food stations, people, bands, kids, dogs, you name it – and there was a huge parking garage right on campus. We got to the campus at around 6:15-6:30, had to park, pick up our bibs and visit the porta potties, and yet never felt rushed to make the 7:30 start. Smooth sailing the whole way.

The course was beautiful and, well, hilly. Shocking that the “Heartbreak Hill Half” was hilly, I know. Weather was hot & sunny. Certainly not as hot as it could be in June, and definitely not as humid as I had feared, but let’s face it – hot is hot and the sun was relentless. I saw a news report that said it was 72 at the start. I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time, since I thought it was cooler.

Shalane Flanagan led us out at the start and we were off (though, rest assured, I was nowhere near Shalane)! I love it when the starting corrals are not crazy-crowded and you can actually kinda-sorta run – or at least jog –  through the starting gate. The first mile was pretty fast for me despite running in a pack of people– around 7:19. Didn’t expect that, but then again, the first mile was flat or downhill, so I enjoyed it as much as I could. By mile 2 we were heading uphill. I slowed a little and the crowd thinned a lot, which made it easier to sneak into pockets of shade. A lifesaver.

By mile 3, we were back out on Comm Ave and started running Heartbreak Hill and the rest of the Newton Hills of the Boston Marathon course backwards, so there was plenty of downhill action. Of course, with an out-and-back route, what goes down must come up, and I don’t think there was a runner in the race who wasn’t thinking about how not-fun it would be to run back up those hills from miles 9-13.

Probably the most surprising aspect of the course to everyone (including me, and I have been running these hills for years), is that the entire course is hilly. It’s not just Heartbreak Hill or even the stretch of all of the Newton Hills. The entire freaking course is rolling – on the way out, you are mostly heading downhill, but there are definite rollers. On the way back, there are rollers but you most certainly are heading mostly uphill, and your hamstrings will not let you forget it.

Here’s an elevation chart for the course. Plan to do a little hamstring stretch after you review it. You’ll want to.

It looks like an EKG readout. And not in a good way.

It looks like an EKG readout. And not in a good way.

Miles 3-5, as always, stunk for me. Why do I always feel miserable during miles 3-5 (or 4-6) in every half I run? That is the point where I feel like I will never be able to finish. My mind goes nuts. What if I get sick? Or pass out? Or just can’t make it! It’s like Debbie Downer takes over my head. Crazy talk. I might as well worry about getting mugged during  the race. I always finish and barring an injury on the course, I will always finish, even if I have to walk. I have also never gotten sick or passed out in a race. And if I did, I’d deal with it.  Yet I can’t stop myself from fretting for almost 2 miles on a gorgeous Sunday morning. Ridiculous.

My running partner for miles 3-5. Not fun. Photo: courtesy of NBC

My running partner for miles 3-5. Not fun.
Photo: courtesy of NBC

By the time I passed mile 5 and headed into mile 6, I got into my happy place. The miles started to click by and I was reminding of how much I love half marathons and distance running. It’s like another person (a much happier, more confident person) took over my body. I love when she shows up and kicks Debbie out.

Just after mile 8, we turned onto Route 16, which officially brought us onto the Boston Marathon course, heading in the right direction this time. So freaking exciting. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I will get to run it again in April. Yahoo!!!!

Just before mile 9, we took a right onto Comm Ave, and all that separated me from the finish was 4.1 miles of hills. Yup. That’s all {insert sarcasm}.It was at this point, just after I decided that I was feeling pretty good and wasn’t going to risk stomach upset by eating some sports beans, that I swallowed a bug. So disgusting. And I wish I could say that it was the first time it happened to me, but I can’t. Yuck.

I run hills all the time, and my M.O. is not to look too far ahead. I focus on a tree, pole, car, whatever I can see a short distance ahead and not on the entire hill itself. Anything to take the focus off of whatever Mount Everest lies before me. Little by little, I conquered each hill. When I saw the man in the Gorilla suit slapping hands at mile 12, I knew we were in the homestretch.

Despite the hills, and despite the fact that my time was nowhere near a PR, I don’t ever remember feeling so good at a half marathon finish. Especially in the heat. I ran the last half mile at an average pace of 7:36, so there was definitely still fuel in the tank. I was able to sprint to the finish line and felt fine right after I stopped. All of this suggests that I did not push myself hard enough during the race, but I never felt like I was holding back at any point. It’s just as if I started to gain energy during the last few miles instead of lose it. Even though my pace times were undoubtedly slower on the hills, my body and energy levels felt  great. Huh. Whatever the reason, it was nice to finish and not feel wrecked.

I finished with a time of 1:51:23. Almost 8 minutes slower than my “Best Time Evah” at Boston’s Run to Remember last year, but given the heat and the hills, I’ll take it. Happily. It was a challenging race and I’m a happy, happy runner. Plus, I got a very cool medal.

Medal Photo courtesy of Diva Cindi

Medal Photo courtesy of Diva Cindi

It’s always funny to me how even though my playlist doesn’t change that often (i.e., I pretty much listen to the same damn 200 songs throughout the course of a running year), in each race there are different songs that really motivate me. Here are my top 3 from yesterday:

1. “Longview” by Green Day. My son just performed this in a School of Rock show, so I’ve been hearing it a lot lately. A lot may even be an understatement. So, I’ve heard it a lot and still love it – sign of a great song. Happened to come on at the start and got me moving right out of the gate.

2. “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” by Counting Crows. Not an obvious choice for a running playlist, but then again, I have some Grateful Dead on my playlist, so there you go. It has a steady beat, a pretty quick pace and it is my favorite Counting Crows song. Plus, it is great on a distance run – at nearly 8 minutes long, I just zone out to it and realize when it is over that I have covered some decent distance.

3. “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen. Queued up when I started up Heartbreak Hill. Perfect. There is no stopping on Heartbreak Hill. There. Is. No. Stopping. On. Heartbreak. Hill. Freddie Mercury agrees.

No question I’ll be back for more next year. And next time, Diva Cindi and I are bringing Colby with us (yes, Diva Cindi, I have all but signed you up again for next year). Can’t wait!

Pan Mass Challenge Training Ride #5

pmc-badge

A little over a week ago, I took my 5th “long” training ride for the Pan Mass Challenge. This ride was my longest ride – 63 miles. And it was a particularly hilly route. The vast majority of roads I traveled had the word “hill” in their name – Kellogg Hill, Good Hill, Sport Hill, Hill Farm, Steep Hill, HIllspoint, Fanton Hill….you get the point. I’d love to take a long ride in an area with road names like “Endless Plains” and “Long Flats,” but they don’t seem to exist around here. Perhaps next year I’ll do my training in Kansas.

The ride was hot – I took it 2 days before the heatwave broke, so it was hot & steamy the whole way. I drank 40 ounces of water & sports drink before I left, consumed an additional 68 ounces of water & sports drink on my ride, and returned home thirsty. Didn’t even have to stop to use a bathroom once (TMI, I know. Sorry. But it says a lot.). That’s hot.

I gotta say, though, biking in the heat is a whole different animal from running in the heat. No matter how hot or tired I was on my ride, I never had the feeling that I couldn’t keep going. The breeze generated by my very riding was enough to make me feel ok throughout. Running, on the other hand – ugh. If I attempt a long run in the kind of heatwave we were suffering, I would have felt dizzy, weak and probably would have hallucinated about crawling under a bush for a nap. If this adventure has taught me nothing else, it has certainly cemented cycling as my “go-to” exercise when it is hot and sticky out.

This ride was dedicated to my long-time friend, Jodi. Jodi was one of the law firm associates who mentored my husband (then boyfriend) during a summer internship 18 years ago. They hit it off, we hit it off, and we have been friends ever since. I feel so lucky that we met him. He truly is one of a kind.

Last year, Jodi was diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer. I’m intentionally going light on the details here, because I am not confident that I know or understand all of them, and I’d rather omit than write something inaccurate. What I do know is that he has been in intense treatment since last fall, hoping to shrink a tumor enough so that they can surgically remove it and then continue treatment on from there. I know that it has been a rough, difficult and sometimes disheartening road for him so far. I also know that he has continued on through the process with the grace, dignity and positive outlook that I have seen in him since I met him in 1995.

Jodi is one of the nicest people I know. And that is saying something, because I like to think I know a lot of nice people. I feel like he is the type of man that “they don’t make anymore.” Or at least make enough of. He is smart and generous. He is a wonderful friend, husband and father. He works hard – and has even continued to work hard throughout his treatment, and unlike 90% of the lawyers I know, he never complains about work. He has better stuff to talk about.

I have one memory that tells a lot about Jodi. When he was a single twentysomething, his college roommate and his wife had a baby. A very, very colicky baby. They were the first in their group to have a baby, so I’m sure they did not have a long list of people to call for advice on how to handle a baby that cried and cried and cried. And cried. All. The. Time. Jodi didn’t have a girlfriend at that point, let alone a child. And yet, he knew what to do. He went to their house for a visit one Saturday (after putting in a 60 hour workweek, I’m sure) and told them to leave. Without the baby. He stayed with the crying, colicky baby for several hours while they went out into the world that they had missed so much and got a break. Jodi intuitively knew what a new parent of a difficult baby needs and gave it to them, even though I’m sure it wasn’t easy on him. That’s Jodi. Thoughtful, generous, selfless, kind. I feel so lucky to know him.

So, this difficult ride was for someone who continues to be on a difficult journey. Jodi, I am so glad that you are here and continue to pray for you. I wish I was able to write this dedication to you as a survivor, not a patient. And next year, I plan to do exactly that.