Year in Running: 2014

The funny thing about this post is that while I don’t post here as often as I used to, I’ve drafted bits and pieces of this specific post in my head on many a run since I did this same “survey” last year. This was a weird year in running for me…or maybe it’s actually the opposite: maybe last year’s consistency and constant running high was the anomaly and this year is actually the norm? At any rate, I like having this little recap to look back at from last year so much that I’m putting it together again this year…and hopefully for many years to come. Without further ado: my 2014 in running.

Run to Remember Half Marathon
Best race experience? Run to Remember Half Marathon. I’ll spare the additional words, because you can read all about it in my recap if you haven’t already. Runners up: Hingham Fourth of July Road Race (see here and here and below), Finish at the 50 10k (see here here here and here).

Hingham 4th of July Road Race 

Best run? No one single run jumps out in my mind this year, but I really did love a lot of those runches I had last winter – especially the snowy ones! I don’t have the flexibility to work from home anymore, and the inability to runch is the number one reason I’m angry about that. See here here here here here here and below.

runch 

Best new piece of gear? Pro compression calf sleeves! My calves are chronically tight and painful, and I’m not as diligent about stretching and rolling them as I should be. I have compression socks and they work, but I put off buying sleeves because I already had socks and why spend the money and blah blah blah…eventually I caved and bought a grab bag of sleeves and I couldn’t be happier. For one thing, I loved all the colors they sent me (white, purple, AHB lime green). For another, they fit way more comfortably than I expected – I’m considering tossing my socks all together. That extra comfort means I wear them more, which means my cranky calves are significantly less cranky these days.

Best piece of running advice you received? This is the hardest question for me to answer (as it was last year). I read a lot about running and training and racing, and I talk about it with friends and running buddies a lot and the result is that I don’t ever remember where the advice or information I got came from…and honestly, this wasn’t a great “year in running” for me in general. I will say this: having Alicia coach me through half marathon training was the best thing I did for my running this year. Having the accountability of that Google doc to update with my workouts (and my comments which ranged from “I just wanted to be done, go home, and eat pizza” to “should I be surprised when my long run feels good” to “I’m very good at resting. Nailed it!” and a number of threats to homeowners who don’t shovel their sidewalks LIKE CITY LAWS REQUIRE THEM TO) kept me, more or less, on track and consistent with both my running and my workouts. That is something that’s invaluable to a lazy runner like me, and I’m sure that my half would have been significantly less enjoyable if it weren’t for Alicia. Also, she made me come up with a time goal and challenged me with workout that led me to realize that I am can be a lot faster than I realized.

 

Most inspirational runner? This is hard. Can I reuse my answer from last year? To be honest, my answer hasn’t changed. I’m still finding heaps of inspiration by the runners I’m lucky to have surrounded myself with. The same ones who continue to accomplish amazing firsts, fight hard to chase down big scary goals, and stay positive and consistent through setbacks. 

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? Front loaded. Inconsistent. Slump.

And what roundup would be complete without the summary on my race tracker spreadsheet?

Year in Running: 2014 Race Summary

Here’s to 2015 – hopefully a year that is summed up in slightly more positive words than 2014 was!

Spring 2014, Number 1 (Part 2): Run a Half Marathon

When last we were talking about this half marathon thing, I was twelve days away from running Boston’s Run to Remember. My final long run was over and I had nearly two weeks to take it easy (workout wise), wrap my mind around racing thirteen (point one) miles, and worry about how likely it was that I would poop my pants mid-race.

I think most distance runners will tell you that taper weeks might actually be the hardest two weeks of your training – even harder than your highest mileage week. These races tend to be far more mental than physical, and that’s especially true in my case. I mentioned in my previous post that I knew with the proper training I could run a half marathon, and I was definitely properly trained.

Before we go any further, let me interrupt for a mini-commercial:  if you want to be properly trained, too, you should call Alicia at A Healthy Balance. She doesn’t pay me to say awesome things about her, but I will proclaim loudly and often how great both the bootcamps at A Health Balance and training with Alicia for my half have been for my running! And, you know, my general fitness and health. CALL HER. And Alicia doesn’t pay me to say good things about her, but you can totally buy me Starbucks to say thank you for giving you awesome advice. (iced grande soy chai, thanks!)

Also before we go any further, you all know I talk a lot so you should probably make sure you have a beverage and possibly a snack before you keep reading. We might will certainly be here a while.

Back to where we were…I knew I was properly trained and that I could run thirteen miles, but I also knew the hardest part of the actual race would be mental. For one, of course it was five days out from the race that the arthritis in my left knee flared up. It was, thankfully, significantly less painful and shorter lived than previous flare ups, but it’s not what I wanted to happen during my taper. I also woke up three days before the race with a completely out of the blue migraine – the first (out of the blue, anyway) since February. I’m sure somewhere in my head I knew that would be over and done and I’d be fine for the race, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t spend all of that day feeling horrible and worrying that it would affect my half. These, my friends, are called the taper crazies.

In addition to the taper crazies, and with more free time than I usually find myself with since I was skipping bootcamps because of my knee, I also got to spend a lot of time thinking and worrying about how to run the race itself.

What’s that saying? Eyes closed, head first, can’t lose!

Wait, that’s not it.

Clear eyes

I haven’t checked with Alicia, but I suspect she likes the Dillon Panthers version better. I also suspected it would take more than just a catchy motivational saying to get me through this.

This was where I had to convince myself that I was going to nail this race, knowing that I would end up doubting myself or wanting to give up on my time goal and take it easy during the race. I was totally confident that I was physically capable of running a half marathon, but I had done all but one of my long runs with friends, and even that “solo” run wasn’t truly solo because I had company for the first ~5 miles (of 12). I knew a lot of people who were also running Run to Remember (we had 10 Running Dawgs running either the half or the 5-miler!), but I hadn’t talked with any of them about their goal times and assumed that I would maybe start with some of them, and possibly see some of them along the route, but I would be mostly on my own.

It turns out I got super lucky…my friend Natasha (below in the hat) was planning to run her race at a pace that was almost exactly what I needed to do to hit my goal time, and my friend Breann (below in white) was hoping to finish about five minutes faster than us so planned to start with us, see how things went, and maybe take off at some point. I’m still disgruntled about how the race organizers decided to start both the half marathon and the 5-miler at the same time this year, so there were 12,000 runners in a non-corralled start…turning from very wide roads to very narrow roads and causing 2-3 bottlenecks in the first 2 miles, but whatever. It kept me from going out too fast, and gave me time to take a quick selfie while we were still feeling all caffeinated from our pre-race coffees!

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It turns out, that when you design great t-shirts for your running club and have tall running club members, they’re easy to spot in a crowd of 12,000 runners! Somewhere in the middle of the second mile, we saw another Running Dawg from across three lanes of the road and realized our buddy Richard was about 50 feet in front of us…so of course we started weaving our way across and up to him. He thought we were nuts, and I thought we needed another selfie to document that we had found him.

2014-05-25 07.37.49-1

Richard stuck with us for another few miles, and the four of us did a pretty awesome job of entertaining ourselves, keeping our pace, and not losing each other when some or all of us stopped at water stops. I won’t lie, I was impressed with our ability to stick together being solid mid-packers in an 8,000 person race (we dropped 4,000 runners who split off around mile 2.5ish for the 5-miler). Eventually, we were watching the lead runners come back towards us from the turn around, so we made our way to the middle of the road and started scanning the crowd for two of our speedier Running Dawgs…despite having them text a photo pre-race, I screwed up who was wearing what color and we only spotted – and of course screamed at – one of them (race spectating tip: get a photo of your runner pre-race so you know exactly what they’re wearing and can double-check it while you watch for them if needed! This makes it a thousand times easier to find them in the crowd).

I think the turn-around, which was around mile eight I think, was where I would have poked my eyes out due to boredom if I had been alone. We did spot – and cheer for – Richard, who had fallen behind us a few miles earlier, but after that it was just about getting back across the river to the last few miles of the course and being done already. This is what I’m talking about when people are shocked I don’t want to run more half marathons…eight miles is about my 1:20 mark time-wise, and I’m kind of over running at that point. Can I keep doing it? Sure. Do I want to? Not especially. Around mile nine was when Breann got ahead of us at a water stop and went on to run her own race. Around mile nine and a half was where I was really starting to feel over it and I plugged in an earphone.

Let’s rewind a minute and talk about my play list for a second. Hockey Mike will not condone this behavior, but I usually listen to music during my races. I often have only one earphone in, but I like having the music there. Last week, I got my final instructions from Alicia which outlined my plan for pacing this race to hit my goal and then I sat on my couch and crafted an amazing playlist that had songs worked out nearly perfectly timed to my pace plan…a few slower songs to start for the crowded miles when I wouldn’t have much control over my pace, then a block of slightly faster songs for my next few miles, then a bigger block of even faster songs for the bulk of my race, and then wrapping up with some overly speedy songs to get me through my last few miles – when I was supposed to be giving it whatever I had left. I crafted this playlist and knew I needed to start it at the race start even if I wasn’t planning to listen to it until later in the race, because otherwise it would throw off my pace instead of helping it. I also only made this playlist two hours and twenty minutes long, so if I totally blew my goal (2:15) I was going to run out of music just when I needed it most, so I really needed to not blow my goal.

2014-05-27 10.10.24
So around mile nine and a half, I plugged one earphone in. I really wanted to stop and go to the bathroom, but I wasn’t willing to wait in line and I wasn’t yet (overly) concerned about pooping my pants despite my stomach being not thrilled since around mile five. It wasn’t long before I decided I needed to plug in the other earphone and get serious about getting to a port-a-potty sooner rather than later…if that meant finishing, then I wanted to be done with it, but I would be happier if it meant there was a port-a-potty without a line somewhere before that.

For the entire race, I was intentionally not looking at the clocks at every mile. I can barely do math on a good day, you can imagine what happens when I try to do math mid-race! Looking at those clocks and trying to figure out how many minutes to take off because I crossed the start a few minutes behind the gun, and then trying to figure out how many minutes I had left to hit my goal, and then to take those minutes and divide them into mile splits. I knew if I started doing that, I would screw myself up. I had my watch set to show me distance, heart rate, and pace for the full race. I heard it beep for most of my mile splits and knew I was pretty close to the plan…all I wanted to do for the entire race was see my splits on there, know they were where they should be, and do that thirteen times over. At one point, Natasha started to say “we’re at 1:4…” and I interrupted her and was like “DON’T SAY IT!” I knew 2:15 was totally within reach – which was her point – but I didn’t want to start over thinking it and cause myself to either a) panic, speed up, burn out, and blow it or, equally possible, b) think I had more time than I did, get too comfortable, and blow it.

By the time we crossed back over the river, just about mile ten, I was singularly focused on getting to a line-free port-a-potty, so I (sorry Natasha) plugged in my other earphone, buckled down, and started to pull ahead of Natasha. If I was going to stop I wanted to make up some time before then so I would have less to make up between my pit stop and the finish, because I suspected I could make a pit stop and still hit my 2:15 goal. Lucky for me, there were line free port-a-potties in mile 10. Not lucky for me, my clothes were soaked through with sweat because despite the cool weather, it was pretty humid (moist, if you will), and it’s tricky to do a quick pit stop when you’re already soaked and sticky with sweat and then you step into a plastic box with very limited space and no air circulation. Regardless, I got in and out as quickly as possible and got back on my way.

My music, at this point, was prepped to get me to a much faster pace and it was working. There were a few spectators along the Public Gardens with signs for me (well…for someone named Sarah, so I mentally claimed them as mine – thanks strangers!), and it wasn’t long before we were winding through Downtown Crossing and the Financial District. A lot of folks complain about the number of turns on the Run to Remember course, but the part of this course with all the turns, that runs through the heart of the city is what I love about this race (I think the 5-miler course is perfect, it’s hands down my favorite city course). It’s early on the Sunday morning of a holiday weekend and the streets are closed to traffic…it’s you, 7,999 running buddies, and a few dozen spectators…and you OWN the city for the hours you’re running this race. That’s why I ran the 5-miler again last year despite the early start time. It’s why I was willing to make this my half this year. It’s why I’ll probably run the 5-miler again and again despite the early start and even though I’m fed up with the security and start logistics of the race. So this point? This was where I was ready to get down to it and race.

I sped up, slowly but surely, and wound my way through the turns. I kind of loved running around my office, and getting to run straight down the middle of the streets I’m usually dodging cars and MBTA buses on while I’m out getting coffee or lunch in the middle of the day. The course was a bit different from past years, so there were a few turns that threw me for a loop, but soon enough we were on Atlantic Ave and turning down Seaport Blvd. This is the tricky bit, as there’s an incline on the bridge over the channel that isn’t huge, but is significant when you’re trying to figure out exactly how far away from the finish you are and exactly how fast you can go right then without burning out before you get to that line. I heart me some hills, though, so I smiled and dodged around a few Air Force guys with a little “see ya, sucker!” in my head as I passed them. Not long after the bridge I saw Natasha’s yellow hat ahead of me, and I chased her down. I had to weave around folks and ended up on the other side of the road from her, and I didn’t have the energy to cross back and get her attention. And then it was just me and the finish line, and a clock that I didn’t read closely, but I knew was pretty dang close to my 2:15.

I won’t lie, the finish felt a bit anti-climactic and as I turned into the World Trade Center to get water/food/whatever, I was blasted with heat and forced to a slow walk (and near stop) because of the crowd. There was definitely a second there when the heat and the lack of moving were too much and I knew I needed to get something to drink and get the hell out of there before I passed out…so that’s basically what I did. It was easy to find my other Running Dawgs (seriously…I designed awesome shirts, if I do say so myself) and got to catch up on how everyone’s race went. Oh, and get one last picture.

2014-05-25 09.51.35-1

I don’t remember what point it was that I finally got my official results, but here they are….13 seconds away from hitting my 2:15 goal, and I’m totally happy with it!

Run to Remember Results

You’re now 2,500+ words into this little “race recap” (if you’re still here…thanks for sticking around!), if you can call it that, but I’m not sure I’m done talking about it yet. You just may come back here soon and find a little “things I don’t want to forget” post. Plus…supposedly official race photos come tomorrow, and if the historic trend continues there are sure to be some ridiculous ones to share!

Spring 2014, Number 1 (Part 1): Run a Half Marathon

2014-04-20 09.38.51-1

View from the run

I talked last year about our running club and the awesome people in it, but I haven’t talked about my personal history with running. Here’s the short version:

I played soccer as a kid, but when I got to high school was forced to give it up (blood clotting disorders and contact sports don’t mix…I still miss you, soccer!). I was told I had to pick a fall sport and there were two non-contact sports to choose from: Swimming and cross country. I knew how to swim, but not well enough to compete in it so I ended up on the cross country team. Which led to the indoor track team. Which led to the spring track team. And so I spent four years running in circles (lots of them! I ran the mile and two-mile). When I got to college I had no interest in continuing to run in circles, but I ran on and off with friends. Post-college I was “too busy” to run, but continued to stop and start a running habit for a few years. Eventually I stopped stopping, and that was due to signing up for the frequent 5k/5-miler/10k races that I run: putting down money and committing to a race is the motivation I need to maintain my base fitness.

The end.

Just kidding, not really the end! This is just where we stop talking about my running history and start talking about my addiction racing and how I ended up registered for a half marathon.

It’s become a joke among my running friends: I mention an upcoming race, they ask if they need to have an intervention about my race registration habit. I wasn’t intentionally running one race per month, but I was pretty close to hitting that average. Last year I thought (as any good daughter in a math/numbers obsessed family would) “13 races in ’13? Sounds fun!” and so that became the goal. As you saw in my Year in Running: 2013 post, I ended up doing a few more than thirteen…and spending more money than I realized on entry fees! I swore to myself that I would cut back and really try to do only 14 in ’14. Until I added a 2014 tab to my race tracking spreadsheet, started looking at the calendar, and spent some time thinking about which races I wanted to run again. Umm…it was never going to be only 14 in ’14. I’m already registered for fourteen races this year (and one next year!) and there are seven more on my radar.

When people hear how frequently I run races they expect that some of them are endurance events – half or full marathons – but that’s not the case. I’m a relatively pokey runner. It takes me nearly an hour to run a 10k, and why should/would I spend more than an hour running? That’s enough to make me feel like I accomplished something and get plenty sweaty! For years running friends have been telling me “You’ll run a half, then you’ll run a marathon. It’s a slippery slope!”. I’ve always countered that it would take me almost two and half hours to run a half marathon, and do you know what else takes two and a half hours but is much more enjoyable? Dinner and a movie! Three and a half episodes of Party of Five! A NAP.

Then I ran the Falmouth Road Race last year – at seven miles it was the longest I had ever raced, on a challenging course during less-than-ideal weather…and I loved it, and thought to myself both during and after the race “I could totally run a half marathon if it were like this”. Finishing a race...and a long runBy “like this” I meant that it had heaps of crowd support – it would be another “party on the run”. I ignored that thought for months, and in January decided I was going to do it. Once, and probably never again. I spent months training the two years I walked the Breast Cancer 3-Day and I still remember the time it took and the impact it had on every other aspect of my life. While I recognize that training for a half marathon, and even a marathon, doesn’t eat up as much time as training for a 3-Day, I have zero desire to repeat that experience (to be clear: the experience of training. The 3-Day itself was one of the most amazing experiences of my life). But I can train for a half once for the experience…so I changed my registration for Boston’s Run to Remember from the 5-miler to the half marathon, and I promptly enlisted help.

And now here I am! Twelve days from running my first half marathon! The training has been fine. Actually, it’s been good and I’m just whiney. I am annoyed to spend time each week matching up my training plan and my personal calendarLong run supplies. I’m annoyed to have to put extra thought and time into prepping for my Sunday runs instead of just meeting up with the Running Dawgs and running an easy, familiar route. But the reality is that neither of those annoyances take much time, and they’re small inconveniences! I’m just tired of thinking so much about running instead of just going and doing it. Honestly, the differences between my training plan and my usual routine are minimal – I run four days each week instead of three, and my Sunday run is longer than our usual 5-6 miles. I really should not complain, especially given that none of my fears have been realized (yet? Knock on wood!): I have not reacted badly to mid-run fuel and pooped my pants (seriously! This is, hands down, my biggest fear*), I have avoided injury so far, and my exercise-induced migraines have been more manageable than I imagined they would be.

 

 

* This fear of pooping my pants is not unfounded: when you spend long enough running your body starts to divert blood flow from “less essential” things, like your GI tract, to “more essential” things, like the muscles you’re using to run. This often leads to GI distress for folks training for and participating in endurance events. I’ve heard the horror stories…I don’t want to be one of them.

100 Happy Days

I don’t remember where or how I first came across the 100 Happy Days hashtag, but whatever I saw had me intrigued enough to look into it and discover the site behind it. I had been planning to do some kind of “photo a day” project over the winter, and coming across 100 Happy days mid-January fit perfectly…so I dove in. I ended up with 96 photos, two videos, and two days missed. Honestly, I’m shocked that I only missed two days!!

If we’re friends on Instagram you’ve already seen these over the last few months. For the rest of you (or if you want to see them as a collection/in order) I pulled the photos into an album on Flickr so head over there to see all of my 100 Happy Days in the same place, and check out some of my favorites below!

 

100 Happy Days Snapshot

Year in Running: 2013

I promise you this blog isn’t turning into all-running-all-the-time, but since I do spend a lot of time running, you have to deal with hearing about it periodically. I came across this survey on a few blogs that I read and really liked the idea of sitting down to figure out how I would answer, so here you go: my year in running.

  • Best race experience? Falmouth, hands down. Falmouth was totally unexpected – I didn’t even attempt to get a number in the lottery, but a got a bib through a friend of a friend who works for the race organizer. I was super nervous about this race because, at seven miles, it was the longest distance I’ve ever raced. The course is known to have a number of challenging hills. It’s also in August, on Cape Cod when humidity and heat are an Year in Running: 2013 | My Monotonous Lifeincredibly real threat, and those are my least ideal running conditions (they guarantee a post-race migraine). Oh, and at 13,000 runners, it’s the largest race I’ve ever run, which means all kinds of crazy logistics….but it’s Falmouth! Falmouth is a “bucket list” race for runners from around the world, and I was lucky enough to have a bib fall into my lap, so there was no backing out. I planned to run with the friend who had finagled me a bib, and as she was coming off a back injury our plan was to just take it easy. We dubbed it a “seven mile party on the run”, and that’s exactly what we did (with heaps of goofy race photos to prove it!). We zigged and zagged across the street and PRed in running under hoses and sprinklers. We high-fived every little kid we saw with an outstretched hand. We sang along to the music being played by both live bands and folks with huge speaker set-ups on the sidelines (the crowd support for this race is, with no hyperbole, legendary). We laughed a lot, and we ran my slowest race ever, and it was AWESOME. Before Pete and I had even driven out of Falmouth to head home after the race, I was plotting to buy a house there in order to guarantee me a race bib every year (donations towards this goal are accepted and earn you visiting rights). Runners up: Firefighters 10k and Edaville Rain Run – Pete’s first race!

Year in Running: 2013 | My Monotonous Life

  • Best run? Running in the Hamptons in March. Pete and Mark went on ahead of me and I had a tough, exhausting run that ended up including a lot of walking. Despite that, it was also a beautiful run through a state park and with a stretch along the beach, and maybe I spent part of that run worried that I was lost and never going to find Pete and Mark again and so would die in the woods….but it’s definitely the first run that comes to mind when I think of great runs this year. Runners up: my Philly run in October, running the Tan in Melbourne with Ros,  and (surprisingly) my super hilly training runs for Falmouth.Year in Running: 2013 | My Monotonous Life
  • Best new piece of gear? I’m not a huge gear person (at least I don’t think I am?), but I finally bought a pair of insulated running tights in an effort to do more running this winter than I did last winter, and I la-la-love them. I’m waiting to find another pair on super-sale to snatch up, because I would like to own a pair for every day of the week.
  • Best piece of running advice you received? I’m really not sure how to answer this one, because there isn’t one specific thing that I heard or read that clicked and changed things. I guess the best advice (that I didn’t get from anyone in particular but had the biggest impact on my running this year) was to really embrace strength training – and to do it consistently. The impact on my running was huge! I set PRs in every distance I race in numerous times this year (10k in April and again October, 5 miler in May and again in November, 5k in August). I’ve also been more comfortable running for longer distances than I have been since I was running three seasons of track in high school. The impact on my life wasn’t exactly small, either! My goal this year was simply to get strong, but I was hoping that “get strong” would lead to “get back to my pre-desk job weight”…I’m not there (yet?), but I did lose six stubborn pounds and I am back at my pre-desk job clothing size despite the extra few pounds. I dropped ~3% body fat, too. The mental perks have been great, and I picked up a bunch of bootcamp buddies along the way.
  • Most inspirational runner? This is hard! I am ridiculously lucky to have a lot of inspiring running friends. One of them survived three months in a coma, came out of it barely able to walkYear in Running: 2013 | My Monotonous Life, and is now running half marathons on the regular…and has taught me to appreciate every. freaking. day. (even a bad day is a good day) and every. freaking. run (even a bad run is a good run). One of them survived cancer as a child and is winning age-group medals at races. One of them has dropped heaps of weight and came out of it with a truly inspiring attitude. One of them set amazing goals and wasn’t afraid to talk honestly about the struggles of training and the disappointment of not reaching a goal, yet never gave up. Sorry! I can’t pick just one.
  • If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? PR city! Strong. SO MUCH FUN.

And last, but not least, here’s the recap from my race tracker spreadsheet for 2013…two races left before I’m done for the year (fun ones! Girls Night Out this weekend and the Ugly Sweater Run the following).

Year in Running: 2013 | My Monotonous Life