Posted in boston, health & fitness, running

Second Half Marathon. Second Year On The Blue Carpet.

While most people were grilling and enjoying the 80 degree weather this Memorial Day Weekend, I hit the streets again with my running partner, Ali, to run in the Boston Run To Remember Half Marathon. What I really do enjoy about this race is that it honors Massachusetts Law Enforcement Officers killed in the line of duty by celebrating their lives and giving back to the community. If that’s not enough to keep you going to the finish line, I’m not sure what else is!

The race starts at 7:00 am, just enough time for the weather to remain fairly cool before the summer-like temperatures start to creep in. Sunday morning was really chilly, about 43 degrees around 6:00 am, which made us both keep our zip-ups on before race time. After parking, finding a suitable bathroom (avoiding porta-potties is key), and renting a locker for our post-race junk, we had about 10 minutes before the race began. We both could not believe how much time had gone by and realized we were a bit too casual with our arrival time. Before we knew it, we were in a cluster of people and had little time to stretch and mentally prepare.

pre
We look exhausted before it started!

Due to the large crowd and I mean, about 10,000 people strong, we were forced in¬†the 11:00 min/mile section which for us, was not ideal. A lot of times when you are in those areas, you are surrounded by slower runners and even walkers and you end up getting held up for at least the first few miles of the race. This year, they ended up doing two different wave starts which was something new. We were able to be up in the front of the starting line which was the second wave. I almost wanted to take a photo because it felt like this would be the only time in any race that I would be ahead of the pack ūüôā

start
The cluster of a starting line

Finally, they let us go after about 10 additional minutes of standing around and we were off over the bridge towards the New England Aquarium. The first few miles felt really good and easy for the most part as it usually takes me a mile or two to feel settled. Ali and I were able to continue chatting and try to think of anything that we remembered from last year. Unfortunately we could only recall bits and pieces because honestly, runs make you black out! One thing I did remember from last year was the lining of the police cars along the course and there they were again to cheer us on. It is amazing to be able to give them a high-five and thank them for their service while they are thanking us for running. What a great way to actually honor Memorial Day!

citgo

Things weren’t always so happy and go-lucky after the mid-point of the race. Around Mile 7/8, my legs started to get really tight, specifically my hamstrings. I never felt this tightness before in any type of run and it significantly slowed me down for the rest of the race. There are a few bridges and inclines that we encountered on the course, so I did not find those so welcoming but I stuck it out and continued on.

I would have to say, along with other runners on the course, as well as Ali, that Mile 11 to Mile 12 was about the hardest part of the race, mentally. It seemed to be the longest stretch of the course and it felt like it would never come. I even came to the point of stopping to stretch (something I never do) because my legs were not having any more of this long mile to nowhere nonsense. Ali was great as well and knew I was feeling some pain, so she stopped with me for a quick stretch and we were off again.

We FINALLY turned on Seaport Boulevard and could hear the crowds begin to perk up. Since the race is in the middle of Downtown Boston early in the morning, you don’t see too many spectators so it’s a nice little pick-me-up to get you to the finish line. Up the incline, over the bridge we went and set our sights on the finish line that seemed to not exist. In this moment, all I could think about was that soft blue carpet inside the World Trade Center and how desperately I wanted to lay down and collapse on it.

After a sprint from both of us (where the heck did that come from?) we made it to the end and were both eager to seek out that blue carpet. This race was harder for me this year and I’m not even sure why. Was it the temperature? Maybe the lack of stretching or hydrating before the race started. It could be a number of things but it definitely taught me that race prep is most important. We finished just over 2 hours which was about the same time we finished last year. I was a bit disappointed that I was unable to beat that time because I felt so confident in my training that I could do it! All in all, I was happy that we finished and that I could spend the next 30 minutes sprawled out on that carpet!

end

What did get me through this race was a number of things but three really stick out. 1.) James Wilson’s 123 Grow program really helped me build up muscle this winter and feel strong throughout my training and the race. 2) The Greater Boston Running Company/Club-this was my first experience with a running club and I really enjoyed it. The variation of training was excellent and our leader, Trish, was a valuable resource in motivating and getting us through our runs. 3.) Ali. Yup, that’s right. Ali with a period after her name. She was the driving force behind me doing this Half Marathon again and I could not have done it without her. It’s great to accomplish something like a Half Marathon but you feel such greater success completing it with someone you cherish so much as a friend. We went through training together, venting, sharing bathroom stories, and planning our race day without any hesitation or argument. I cannot wait for our next running adventure…maybe and just maybe….it will be the Boston Marathon 2016!

blue
Blue Carpet at your service!

I’ll be resting my legs until then!

Posted in running

Half-Marathon Mental Check-Up

run

In about two and half weeks, I will be running my second half marathon and hopefully will cross the finish line faster than I did last year. As you have read from my other posts, it has been a very long, cold, and wintry winter season in the Boston area. I am still amazed at how people trained for the Boston Marathon during this time since their training begins a lot earlier than mine. Although the weather may have put a damper on my outdoor training, it has forced me to take a much different approach then I did last year and I hope that it will pave the way for some improvement in this upcoming race. Last year, I was nervous because it was the first time I ever exceeded mileage over 7. I mean, unless you are hardcore, why else would you want to go out and run just a friendly, fun 13 miles? Not me! Since last year was my first introduction to long distance running, I stuck very close to a four day running plan and upped my long day mileage each Saturday. By the time I hit week 8 or 9 of the 12 week program, I was burned out. This year, I decided to jump into the training plan 8 weeks out instead of 12 and although it was a bit difficult to start with a 7 mile long run that week, it was good to know I still had time to work up to it. My workout regime this winter also changed (you can see this in my previous post here) which I hope will help power me through the finish line.

My focus right now is to continue to finish out these last two training weeks strong and build up my confidence that I can accomplish crossing that finishing line once again and exceed my goal of beating last year’s overall time.

Posted in boston, inspiration, life, running, thoughts

Who Is #BostonStrong?

It has been a week since the Boston Marathon and with the Tsarnaev¬†trial still going on in Boston, it’s hard to let what happened two years ago slip back into your mind. If you live in the Boston area or have been following this case closely, you know that victims and witnesses were called to the stand just a few weeks ago and explained the horror they endured two Marathon Mondays ago. I still find myself on the brink of tears at the mention of Martin Richard and¬†how his mother clung to his lifeless body begging him to wake up. Or when I see innocent people who now have to navigate life with prosthetic legs because a cowardly act reshaped their lives forever. Then there are the times where I am inspired by that same family and those same people, that¬†after two years, are still fighting with all of their might to remain strong. Boston Strong is what most call it. I believe the phrase #BostonStrong brought the small community of Boston together because after the chaos that shook our city, we needed something to lift us up. After two years though, the phrase that may have saved us all has now taken on a new identity, MARKETING.

boston

I was driving to work the other day and couldn’t help but make a face at a billboard selling protein shakes. I believe the phrase was similar to “in order to finish strong, you have to be Boston Strong,” with Boston and Strong highlighted in a different color. So what exactly do we have here? A marketing ploy¬†for all of those marathon or wishful marathon runners to drink their product because hey, it will make you strong and we know how much you people like the phrase #BostonStrong. It may or may not have been their full intention but the vibe I received was not a good one. After two years, I strongly believe that the #BostonStrong phrase, hashtag, printed word, or t-shirt should be reserved for those who are the faces of Boston’s strongest, the survivors. Instead of the Richard¬†family being known as the one’s who¬†lost the youngest victim or Rebecca Gregory for being THAT girl that lost her leg, let #BostonStrong remain theirs and only theirs. It was their strength and determination to continue was what has and what will carry this city through and to the end of the finish line, not an artificial product.

Posted in health & fitness, review, running

So You Want The Perfect Body?

OK it’s been FOREVER since I actually complained about something, so now there is no better time than the present to let it all out.

Aside from working constantly this winter and shoveling every weekend (see previous posts!), I have done something different with my fitness/workout routine that I have never done before. I cut out CARDIO! GASP! Someone of us out there are absolute cardio bunnies, trust me I was one of them, and the thought of removing 30 minutes on a machine from my daily routine is in the area of heart-attackville. OK..I’ll admit it, I didn’t completely remove cardio. I did keep one day for short runs because as most runners know, you don’t ever want to lose that base but I did cut out everything else. The reason being was after years of playing a cat and mouse game of losing weight and building muscle, I finally woke up and realized you cannot do both. Ultimately I had to pick one and muscle building was it!

In order to do this, I enlisted the help of James Wilson, who is a certified trainer that has a number of programs available to help people meet their fitness goals. 123..Grow was the program that I committed myself to for 12 weeks and at the end, although fluffier, I was a lot stronger! It really helped me get passed the mental part about letting go of cardio because I could see a lot of changes just from lifting.

Two year progress. I remember thinking I had a lot of muscle in the picture on the right.
Two year progress. I remember thinking I had a lot of muscle in the picture on the right.

With the 12 weeks completed, spring had started to slowly show itself and¬†I was faced with a tough decision to either repeat the program and continue to grow or sign up for the same half marathon I did last year. “You’ll lose muscle and strength” others that have done the program preached in the group Facebook page. “You need to decide what your goals are,” they said.

For a while, I was absolutely stuck with my decision on what to do. Yes, it would be nice to run again and shed some of this extra fluff from the winter. Yes, it would be great to continue to the program and see how much stronger I can get. What do I do? Well I finally figured that I needed to do what was best for me. I decided to train for the half and also keep lifting with the understanding that I won’t get the same desired results as I did before all the running. This plan will be give and take. I’ll only run 3 days a week and lift heavy the other days while making sure I am eating enough.

The quest for a somewhat perfect body will always be there and most likely not attainable but I have set goals and will continue to achieve them. What’s next? Beating my last year half marathon time in May and then returning to the 123..Grow Program. You have to live for you and no one else!

Posted in life, running

True To Life Running Thoughts

I LOVE reading blogs by¬†other runners because they are so insightful, motivating, and really humanize the act of completing a marathon! I very much have a love/hate relationship with running. Love it because I guess I experience the “runner’s high” and think it is a great workout. Hate it because well… you just have to get your butt off the couch and go somewhere! Well ready or not, it’s prime race season and with a few on the horizon, I figured it was the best time to share what often goes through my head during these races. Now as some running blogs will state how excited and happy they were during each mile, I’m about to break it down..the real down and dirty of what it is like to be in any race!¬†

facebook

1.) OK! This is it! The race when I get a PR, finally. I can feel it. Great weather and I have some good energy. Bring it on!

2.) God this starting line is crowded. Crap! The gun just went off. Time to bob and weave my way through these people. Don’t stress on the clock at the finish line because you didn’t reach the start line right as the gun went off. I’d say it was around 5 minutes later.¬†

3.) This is a nice view. Great! I’ll keep looking at the pretty trees and water and it will distract me….30 seconds later… My God! I’m so winded, what is wrong with me? Sweet, here comes a cramp!

4.) Only one mile in? OK. I’ll pick it up at the halfway point, I swear!

5.) Why didn’t I pee one last time before lining up? Now I have to think about holding it for the rest of the way. No, I’m not going to stop for a porta-potty either. Be strong!

6.) Well, well, well, there goes Mr. Dad with the double stroller just gliding on by me. I’ll catch up to him at some point; showoff!

7.) Where the heck am I? I’ve listened to three songs on my iPod, I have to be close to the end.

8.) Totally ignoring those time clocks on the course. I started like 5 minutes after the gun went off. 

9.) Oh look, a Chipotle! I’m totally getting a burrito bowl after this, I’ve earned it!

10.) Simmer down girl in front of me with the tight purple spandex. I pass you, you pass me. This game will end soon when I make sure I pass you. Note to self: be sure to pass her, you slacker!

11.) I totally forgot my iPod was on. Where is the hardcore rap song about running fast to pump me up? I’m exhausted!

12.) What a great looking hill! Long strides will get you up faster. There has to be a downhill on the other side, right? That’s your reward for hoofing up this hill. Just get up there!

13.) No downhill..frig!

14.) Maybe I won’t PR in THIS race but I will definitely do it at the next one. Yea, that one is flatter, later in the morning, and will have better weather conditions. WAAAYYY better than this course!

15.) Well there goes an 8 year old sprinting by me. I hate you!

16.) Hello finish line, where are you? I can see all the jerks that have finished and they are either running the course again (because they are jerky like that) or rubbing it in my face that they are done. Can I be one of them?

17.) There it is! Try not to flare your nostrils too much for the finish line photo.

18.) That can’t be my time. I’ll wait for the official results online. I’m so much faster than that.

19.) Where is the free water? I’m dying!

20.) Gets official time: indicates that I started 15 seconds after the gun…frig!

 

Happy Running Friends!

Posted in boston, health & fitness, running

Signed, Sealed, Delivered..I’m Done!

So if you have been sitting on pins and needles waiting for my half marathon recap (I’m sure you have been), here it goes….

I always thought those 13.1 and 26.2 stickers on the back of cars were cheesy..we get it, you can run far! After completing my first half marathon, I now understand why people have those. It’s not proof that you have finished, it’s the pride in knowing that you have. The Boston Run To Remember Half Marathon is one of the many races I am proud of completing, not only for crossing the finish line but for actually putting in the work to¬†get there.

Image

It is amazing how a race course in the middle of the city can calm and clear your mind. Each road and overpass is typically filled with bumper to bumper traffic and the hustle and bustle of city sounds but on Sunday morning, it was still. It took me a moment to realize I was running down the middle of Mass Ave, something no one could ever really do. The sounds of trains and buses were non-existent, leaving me to take notice of the pounding footsteps around me and Ali, my running partner, next to me. During our training sessions, we didn’t use music to get us through the long runs, instead, we talked to each other. This was a strategy that we stuck with during the race and it really paid off. As we got further into the course and the crowd began to loosen up, our breathing started to settle and we were able to take our minds off of the mile markers. I had never run a race without music before but this time, I felt like I was really living in the moment and the miles!

Image

I will say as a first time half marathoner, I did see things that I did not expect to encounter even though I was warned by other experienced runners. To keep it clean here, let’s just say some of the runners stomachs and bowels were not cooperating and it was evident throughout the course. I remember looking over to Ali at one point and saying how grateful I was that we stuck to our training otherwise we could have been among those who weren’t having a great physical experience. Although this was after we shared some¬†horrifying commentary! I was also surprised by the amount of “brave” spectators who thought it would be intelligent to make a mad dash in front of runners to get across the street. I would like to take the time to give a shout-out to the redheaded woman on the red bicycle with the bell. She cut me and the other cluster I was running with off TWICE but I guess it was OK because she rang that damn bell of hers. To this woman, YOU SUCK!

Aside from bowel movements (I wanted to keep it real), the other encounters I had on the course were uplifting. Since this race was in support of families who lost police officers in the line of duty, parts of the course were lined with officers cheering us on and thanking us for participating. Imagine that? Thanking us! I don’t think we thank them enough for all that they do but it was really motivating to know we had them behind us and supporting the runners together. It really moved me to see servicemen and women running on behalf of those who have fallen especially for Officer Sean Collier. Just being aware of the sacrifices these people make every day, was enough for me to carry through each mile. I must say the crowd signs along the route were the best I have seen in a while¬†(Ryan Gosling’s “Hey Girl” was a winner in my book) and ¬†the cheers from spectators helped move us along.

Image

Then there was Mile 10.

I think Mile 10 was the most mental part of the race for me. I remember thinking and possibly saying to Ali, “We have a 5K left, that’s it!” A slow 5K maybe but it was easier to put myself in that frame of mind to power through the last few miles. Mile 10 also changed the comfort we once shared during the first nine. The conversations had not only stopped between us but also with the people around us. It was time to power through and focus on the finish line without holding anything back. Finally, after clearing the last hill, Mile 13 and the finish line were in our sites. I felt like I was running in slow motion and that I would never get there but the crowds got deeper and the cheers grew louder, so I put in the last bit of gas I had left to get to the end.

We did it.

Image

Yes, WE did it. Together. Ali and I set out three months ago with a crazy idea to run a half marathon with the goal not only to finish but to finish together. Did we care about our final time? No! We were excited to make it across and know we gave it all we had to give. It’s an amazing feeling to set a goal, complete it, and know it was you the whole time making it happen. Although a full marathon may not be in the cards for me, I think Boston’s Run to Remember will see my entry again next year with a new goal of finishing with a faster time.

Until then, I’ll continue to run for me whether that’s 2 miles or 10 (but let’s me real, most likely 5 at the most!) and remember that distance is only a number and I can conquer it if I put the work into it.

Image

Posted in health & fitness, running

What Did I Get Myself Into?

In four days I’ll finally be faced with one of the many feats remaining on my invisible bucket list, 13.1 miles. This is it, go time and there isn’t any turning back. Of course, I’ve come too far to punk out now! Three months of training in this crazy New England weather has been hard but also helped prove that I can handle this; well at least I hope so!

Image
I was smiling because it was over!

During this training, a lot of my runs have been solo which is something I’m used to. I crank up a playlist to either heavy rap songs or Backstreet Boys (Nick Carter just got married…sigh!) and show the pavement what I’m made of. Some runs have been awesome and others, not so much. I remember running 7 then 8 then 9 then 10 and saying out-loud, what the hell did I get myself into? How will I ever finish 13? Ah, and don’t forget that pesky .1, that’s a mental killer during any race.

I won’t punk out.

Why? My training partner won’t let me!

As I mentioned, a lot of my runs were just me and my music but my long weekend morning runs were with one of my¬†closest friends, Ali (Hopefully she won’t kill me for this shout-out ūüėČ ). This past Saturday, we reached 12 miles through downpours, mugginess, and a 6:45 am start time. We caught up on life, our favorite shows, and our fears and excitement about the upcoming race. I’ve never ran this amount of miles by myself or with a partner before but I must say, it has made this journey that much more enjoyable. It’s fulfilling¬†to have someone to keep you accountable and push you when all you want to do is stop. Through all the course planning, the experimentation with gels, and purchasing the coolest running gear (yes, we got ourselves some fancy tanks!), I am confident that we will make it through.

So what did I get myself into?

An opportunity to prove to myself that I can accomplish what I set out to do. A chance to build an even greater friendship and bond with wonderful person. To overcome my fear of running a crap ton of miles. The ability to donate to a worthy organization. To say I did it!

So here’s to you Boston’s Run To Remember, I’m ready and can’t wait to cross that finish line on Sunday.

Oh.. and if I’m still alive, expect a recap next week!