if at first you don’t succeed….

First, let me start off by saying I will rarely write blog posts immediately after whatever it is I’m writing about. This is just the way it is, if you haven’t figured that out already. The good news is, I have a ridiculous memory and can recount events in my life like they were yesterday…complete with their theme songs. Because all life events have a soundtrack. I should move on before risking sounding crazy.

Last Tuesday, I was all set to do the Michigan workout with Princeton Intervals. More than set, actually, really excited and well prepared! This was going to be my last really hard effort before the marathon, and I was looking forward to tackling it for the first time since spring 2011. Given that in 2011 I was unable to finish due to it being the final straw in the abrupt development of my pelvic stress fracture, I should have known it wouldn’t go too smoothly. This is a great workout, for anyone taking notes for ideas. I suppose it originated from Michigan’s track program, but I discovered it from my own college coach. It was the longest and most anticipated feared workout each cross country and track season, and it goes like this:

michiganOn my warmup, I knew I might have a problem. It was a problem I have had several times before, but I had managed to keep under control for the past few months, mostly due to fear the problem would arise. The culprit: acid reflux. It gets exacerbated by running, and creeps up based on no identifiable reason. It only happens when I have eaten something during the day, so I’ve never had an issue in the morning. But, it was a 6:30pm workout and there was no way I could have Gu and only Gu all day. The food I ate was normal, not heavy, and not acidic, so I was surprised this feeling overtook me just in time for this workout. (To be honest, I think this time it was mainly caused by being anxious and stressed about something non-running related.)  It basically feels like my lungs are being strained, making my pace automatically slow. It’s purely chest pain, no stomach distress, despite what people think when I tell them “acid reflux.” I felt like I was taking part in some intense beer mile. It was awful. However, since I was so  excited for this workout and everyone was depending on my instructions, I showed up and attempted to do it, hoping the awful feeling would go away. It didn’t. I think my 1600 was 6:35 (goal = ~ 6:10), and my tempo mile was over 7:00. The 1200 was actually 1066 meters, adapted to our workout location, and that was pretty slow too. After the second tempo mile, during which I stopped because I thought I was going to vomit, I gave up on the workout. I literally could not run without feeling nauseated and overcome by chest pain, and it was simply not worth it if I wasn’t hitting any times I wanted to hit. I knew what this feeling was, and I knew it would not get better until the next day.

So what did I do? I got up the next day and tried again. A redemption workout. One workout I have been curious about for awhile is Yasso 800s. I first read about the famed workout in an old Runner’s World article here, and after reading many “it doesn’t really work” articles subsequently, plus discussing it with my aunt, I decided I wanted to try it, with some modifications. On Wednesday, I planned on doing the 800s with 200 meters of jogging recovery between each. I wanted to definitely hit under 3:30 for each. That sounded really easy, given that it’s 7:00 pace on a track, so I thought I’d be happier if they were all closer to 3:20 than 3:30…but I had no idea how the workout would feel, so I would just see what happened! I would aim for 10, as the full workout calls for, but because I did do 3.5+ miles of harder effort the night before (even if it was an epic fail) I would be satisfied with cutting it to 6, or even in half.

My results: 3:17 (1:04), 3:24 (1:14), 3:25 (1:15), 3:21 (1:10), 3:20 (1:16), 3:22 (1:11), 3:23 (1:15), 3:15. Average = 3:20.8 

I was pleased with this. First, because I was going to stop after 5…then 6. Then 7. But I stopped after 8, mostly because I had to head in to work soon and wanted time to cool down. After that eighth, I was wiped. This was mostly because I was still sore from the previous Friday’s crazy warm long run, I think, plus the run Sunday night and the previous night’s failed workout. Basically, all I was thinking in my head on the last 800 was, I can taper after this. Words I have never before had a chance to earn the right to say. And how great it was that I am looking forward to this! This means that a.) I probably trained hard enough, and b.) I’ll probably listen to my body and be rested on race day. (Yes, I added those “probablies” after I typed that potentially overconfident couple of statements…) Thoughts on the Yasso 800 workout itself: I don’t think it’s a definite indication of what you can do in the marathon, but it is a good workout when you don’t take much rest! Do I expect to run a 3:20? Not exactly. It would be pretty sweet, but the workout taught me some things other than that, and that is perfectly fine.

Also, REDEMPTION. Who has time for ill-timed acid reflux? Not me and my training schedule, thank you very much.

Have you ever had a redemption run/workout? A day when you just had to say “let me try this again tomorrow…”? Re: Yasso 800s – tell me your stories! What were your Yasso 800 times vs. your marathon times? Just curious….


Blogger/running buddy spotlight: Brennan!

The person most responsible for the outlook I have had on running thus far in 2013 is Brennan. I met her in the fall as she was training for her first half marathon and seeking shoe advice at the store. Our first run together happened when I really wanted company on an eight-miler and thought I should ask her to join me! From then on we’ve been great running buddies! Side note: I’m not sure how to feel about the fact that her first blog post mentioning me also includes an entire paragraph dedicated to goose poop (complete with statistical evidence). 

Meet Brennan…

Shortly after I started running, I started running distance races on my high school track team. That was a long time ago….Brennan just started racing last fall, and it is really cool to witness the contagious spark she has as a “new” runner. I also have her to thank for getting me more involved in running in the “real world,” or, after being a part of a team, as well as the blog world.  A self-proclaimed “half marathon addict,” she is racing her seventh half marathon this coming weekend, the Nike Women’s Half in DC! I know some of you reading are running; check out Brennan’s blog, Yum Run, and maybe you guys can connect! I am so excited for Brennan and her shiny new PR at Unite on Sunday…I think big things are to come this weekend though, so make sure you head over to her blog next week to see how things went! 🙂

The art of cowbelling

On Sunday morning, I had the pleasure of taking the short drive up to New Brunswick to watch several friends run the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon. Runners: the only breed who will wake up early on a Sunday when they are not even racing to watch a race….My experience ended up being just as rewarding as if I had actually ran the race, however.

You see, I decided I would bring a cowbell. Not just any old cowbell, but the one I had newunitetmpicked up at mile 18 on the course in Boston and rang for everyone at mile 21 less than a week before. Everyone at Unite was running to show their support for Boston, so I thought I’d bring a little piece of the crowd support at Boston to this race. Emphasis on “little,” as there is nothing quite like Boston. Speaking of showing support for Boston: it was kind of funny to see all the messages that had been communicated throughout the week on what to wear for the race. It definitely increased our sales at the store Saturday, as runners were told to wear: blue and yellow for B.A.A., purple for peace, green for Boston (?), and red for Rutgers…or the Red Sox…or America, I don’t really know. Either way, it was a sea of colors one might normally find at a race, and it was, regardless of unity or lack thereof, nice to see.

I got to the race after it started, but that was okay. Parking was easy, and I wanted to situate myself at a location where the race was tough, as in, the final miles. I happened to have my bike in the car, because that is typical of me, so I rode out to mile 11 across the river. I ended up arriving just as Martin was passing, and thus began my cowbelling. At first it was really carefree, really innocent and fun. But then, friends, things got intense.

The scene.

I saw Brennan, and Amy, and many others who I yelled for and cowbelled like crazy. They were all doing so well! As it turned out, the spot I was in was just after music and spectators in Johnson Park, during a gradual uphill, and before more crowds in Buccleuch Park. I stopped cowbelling for a second after Brennan went by, and that’s when it hit me. I was the only one here. In this awful, mentally tough stretch of the half marathon, at mile eleven, which from my limited experience is where the going gets rough, I was the only one here making any noise. I knew what I had to do. I had to KEEP COWBELLING. Never before had I felt such responsibility, such an obligation to the runners in this race! How could I stop cowbelling and live with the complaints and stares of the runners headed my way as I turned and left?! There was no other choice but to cowbell on.

I saw dozens of people I knew, including the girl who I had sold a red top as the last cowbelltransaction of the day the night before, who recognized me. Runners would approach the stretch of road where I stood, clearly feeling the effects of the race so far, and suddenly smile at the sound of my cowbell. I yelled things like, “up and over!”, “power up!”, “two to go, two is a small number!” – things that would have helped me at that point in the race. Many people yelled, “thank you!” as I rang the cowbell, others raised their hands up and called out, “more cowbell!” to which I rang it higher and louder. Some people laughed, happy to see me there making noise. It was a glorious feeling, to in some small way make so many people smile heading into the eleventh mile! Brennan called to tell me she had finished and got a PR! I held the cowbell in one hand and the phone in the other, explaining that I would love to meet her at the finish but I couldn’t stop cowbelling yet! This was hard work.

At one point a woman walked by (this did not happen often) and said, “you must have a strong arm!” It was at that point when I realized my arm was getting quite tired…but I was in a rhythm now and could deal with any pain that might surface. I would not stop. I cowbelled until people who passed were walking up the hill. I decided I would be okay making my getaway when people passed who seemed to be okay with walking up the hill, and had probably been walking most of the race. I still felt bad, but I left to go meet up with Brennan and Amy for a post-race celebration! I admit I did tie the cowbell to my bike and swerve a lot to make it clang on the way to the car in some effort to keep cowbelling.

The results:

The stars represent the precise locations of the blisters you will develop if you cowbell for 75 straight minutes like I did sans gloves. THIS IS YOUR WARNING!

It was strange to spectate a race like this one and not be sitting out due to injury, but rather just because I didn’t plan on running this race. I felt a little left out, but I’m glad I didn’t run it. I have quite the beast to tackle in less than two weeks, and that is what my mind is on right now. Everyone who ran did awesome – Brennan, Anne, Craig, Zophia, and Melissa all got PRs. Possibly others I don’t know about as well. And, my friend Bill ran his first half marathon ever and is now addicted. I sold him a Garmin the day before and he told me how much it helped, which made me happy. This day was a reminder of why I love what I do, and why it feels so awesome to help other people, and I would not have rather been anywhere else but at mile eleven getting some odd blisters from a cowbell. 🙂

Sitting pretty after a hard day's work.
Sitting pretty after a hard day’s work.
Amy, me, and Brennan (stolen from Amy...).
Amy, me, and Brennan (stolen from Amy…).

My long run with Summer…

Last week, I got this revelation that I should do my long run on Friday. It seemed perfect: I would be recovered for the PI workout on Tuesday, everyone seemed to be running the Rutgers Unite Half on Sunday so I would have no company any day, I had off work but had work all day Saturday, I could do it any time of the day, etc., etc. And of course, it’s Friday.  Anything difficult you accomplish before the weekend is a good thing; heck, I might even have a chance at being like a normal person this weekend! Not so fast. I did do my long

Note: 1:12 PM. Sleeping in = NOT WORTH IT when it’s 77 degrees!

run Friday. But it was HOT. I somehow did  not think that I’d have to worry about what time I started running in April…but summer said hello last Friday, and it started laughing in my face around mile 11. Looking back at the observed temperature, it was “only” 77 degrees, but the humidity was surprisingly sneaky and very much apparent. I chose a fun loop from my house, which put me at the store just after the eleventh mile, where I planned on picking up an 8 oz. handheld water bottle and an extra Gu. In the race, there will be Vanilla Bean Gu, so I took that on the run. I only had one during the 20 miler, and I knew in the race I would want more…so I took along an extra to see how my stomach responded.

Ever since Boston, my motivation has somewhat declined. I don’t really know why this is or if “motivation” is the right word here. It seems that for everyone else, the weekend is fueling a lifetime of motivated running. People who have never ran before are deciding to enter Boston 2014 for charities. But those last five miles of the 18 on Friday were ridiculously mentally difficult. At least, compared to my normal level of motivation, which is probably abnormally high. I admit it was most likely due to the heat, that day. I’m just being a bit hard on myself, My legs felt fine and I clicked off sub-8:00 splits the entire run, except for some tough hills around mile 7. I even dropped to sub-7:45 for a few miles here and there and felt totally fine. When I reached my house at last, my watch read 17.8. And I stopped. I had a mental battle with myself when I realized I would come up short on mileage. But end of story – I stopped at 17.8. And life went on. I was caked in salt and craving Nuun.

The aftermath: my calves were shot. Just really tired and sore, like I just ran a race. On Sunday afternoon, it seemed like resting caused more harm than good, because it stiffened up my muscles even more. So, I went out for a nice, easy 7 mile run on mostly trails, which did what I intended it to, at least immediately. It was one of those runs you do because you love running…not necessarily because it was scheduled. Sometimes those are just what you need; the run is the only escape from rambling thoughts, and you return not always with a revelation or a decision, but just with a sense of being a little more calm and empowered than you were before.

So true.


IMG-20130402-01867This is such a dream come true! It is so awesome to work really hard for something I want and get the reward as well…it’s been awhile! Like I said, I had so much fun making my video application. I jump at any opportunity to be creative, and this was a new and exciting form of creativity that I ended up having tons of fun with. Thank you SO MUCH  to Nuun for liking my video and selecting me to their Hood to Coast team!

If you missed my video, you can watch it here!

As I have been working nonstop and catching up on sleep and other things post-Boston, I have gotten lots of new Twitter and blog followers, was invited to the Nuun HTC Facebook group, and received comments and messages I haven’t had a chance to respond to yet! I am really excited to go watch every single video and read the blogs of the other ladies on the team, who sound awesome. The relay might not be until August, but there’s a lot of blogging to be done until then, and a lot more doors in the running and blogging community to open!

On another note, what do you think of the new Cherry Limeade??? I’m a fan, especially of the words “caffeine enhanced”…..CL-tube-382x369

Next up: 18-miler and its effects…plus an inside look on the coveted skill of cowbelling. Spoiler: I have a cowbell blister. You don’t want to miss this.

Boston 2013: my experience + the response of the running community

DSCI1756 (2)It has been quite a few days since I last blogged, and since I returned from Boston. I have told and retold the story of my experience numerous times, to friends in person, via text messages, Facebook, and over the phone. Each time it feels the same; the facts are still the same, the outcome was still the same, it is still as horrible as it was the day it happened. Being so involved in the running community, even at work, means there isn’t an hour that passes during which it isn’t brought up, either in my mind or out loud. I’ve read some other bloggers’ accounts of the afternoon; here is mine.

I woke up excited as ever to spectate my aunt and friends. I had stayed at the Sheraton the night before, and so I checked my bags downstairs and headed out with all my cheering essentials: water, Nuun, camera, phone, money for the T if I chose to ride it. I walked down Boylston to view the finish line, and snapped some photos of the colorful flags flapping in the early morning breeze. Having walked down to Brookline to cheer on Commonwealth last year, I decided to switch it up and ride the T out to a farther spot. First, I rode out to mile 18, miscommunicating with Nick and thinking he was headed there. He was actually at Boston College, but my stop at mile 18 wasn’t for nothing – I was able to snag a couple free cowbells, watch part of the “erg marathon” that was happening, and get pumped up from the music coming from the big PowerBar station. I was getting into the mood; it was going to be a great day to be in Boston.

I found Nick and his friend at Heartbreak Hill. It was my first time ever seeing such an

Elite women after Heartbreak Hill.

iconic landmark of the course. I must say, that stretch of road is beautiful.  If it wasn’t at such a painful part of the race I’m sure it would make for a great section of an ordinary run!   Then…I went camera crazy. I was looking out for a lot of people, and I hardly managed to take photos of the people I actually knew.  My logic was that I would look at all the photos later to get excited for my own marathon, and to motivate myself to get here next year. I cheered for everyone from runners I knew, to runners I sort of knew of, to complete strangers with writing on their shirts. I discovered this wile spectating last year: even when you’re all alone, you never use the words “awkward,” or “embarrassing” in the context of cheering on runners in a race. Definitely not Boston. You scream your heart out against those metal barriers, all you want to do is make the runners hear you and keep going, maybe even smile. In my right hand I had my cowbell, and I was addicted to ringing it. To supplying a small fraction of that energy found nowhere else but the streets of the Boston Marathon on Patriot’s Day.

I eventually left my spot and headed back to the T, where I hopped on and rode with hundreds of other spectators (and eventually, Red Sox fans) back to the finish area. When we were almost back, I started discussing which stop at which to get off with a father who was with his kids. We were both aiming to get to the family meeting area; it seemed like he was meeting his wife there. Initially, he asked me, “Are you from here?” wondering if the Boston-20130415-01921Copley station was closed today (it was). We soon realized that it hardly mattered. Everyone was from Boston today; that is just what this city does to you on this particular Monday. Deciding on Hynes, we departed the train and I headed up Boylston through a packed crowd. I called my aunt to congratulate her on her 3:30 finish, which was probably fifteen minutes before at that point. She likes to run marathons and then literally jump in the car and drive hours home – not my kind of post-race ritual, but on a day like this, I was very grateful she held true to this and was shortly thereafter ready to leave the meeting area. I asked where the car was, so I would know whether or not to get my bag at the hotel before seeing her. She told me she didn’t know, just go get my bag now, and hurry. So, I turned around and went back through the crowd, escaping down a side street to the Sheraton.

[Side note: I had mentioned it was pouring on my way to Boston. Well, I ended up taking along hour trusty store umbrella. The old thing was left by a customer years ago, and has been a lifesaver several times when it randomly pours when I get out of work. It’s bigger than my carry-on suitcase, so I knew I would regret taking it at some point on the trip. But, it kept me dry. It is so big, in fact, that I needed to check it separately from my suitcase at the hotel. Moving on….]

I could tell my aunt was in a big rush, so I tried to hurry towards Beacon Street, where she was headed, as quickly as possible. There was no way I was wheeling a suitcase down Boylston, so I took Huntington, which ran parallel and was less crowded. There were still people everywhere, most of whom seemed to be trying to meet up with family, etc. I was walking on the left side of the street, on the sidewalk near Shaw’s at Huntington and Exeter when I heard it. There was a loud “boom” that echoed off the buildings, coming from the direction I was heading. Everyone around me looked around, confused. I heard a lot of

“what was that?” but for the most most everyone kept going where they were going before. It could be anything, everyone was sure it was nothing….Then it happened again, and this one was louder. I stopped in my tracks and a flood of panic came over me. “That sounded bad,” one person said. “Do you know what that was?” I frantically asked a woman next to me. “No idea,” she said. There was a look of terror in people’s eyes, and everyone started pulling out their phones. I didn’t want to keep walking that way. I turned around and started running. I called my aunt and asked if she had heard it, and if she was okay. She seemed to just be concerned at the fact that I wasn’t there yet and she wanted to leave. I was relieved to hear that; she must be far enough away to be out of harm’s way. If this was in fact something bad. “It sounded like a bomb,” someone said. It was the words we were all thinking and not saying. That’s something more often used as a simile. Not in real life. It

View from where I ran to, on the far side of the Common. My first glimpse of the smoke.

couldn’t literally be a bomb. Then hoards of ambulances sped by in the direction of the sounds, and everyone began to really panic. Runners in mylar blankets who hadn’t met up with friends and family yet, and vice versa, started bursting into tears on every corner. People started hugging each other. I was numb, I didn’t know what was happening and couldn’t let myself think about what it was. What if it happened again? Right here in front of me? What if this is the last day of my life, and everyone’s lives around me? Is Boston getting bombed? Nothing really can describe that it is like to hear two bombs go off on a city street, especially when the second is louder and closer. I threw the stupid umbrella against a building on the ground (sorry, Boston police) and continued running. I had called my mom right after my aunt, to let her know that if she “hears anything on the news,” I am okay. This was a good move, because in my phone’s typical fashion, it died right after. I heard someone say, “don’t go that way, there’s smoke.” That scared me. I found some quiet walkway and ran with my wheeled suitcase down it. I ran all through Boston Common. People looked at me running with my bags and seemed confused. Well, I was confused as to why they were playing catch? The next hour or so was a blur of stress and phone complications. Long story short: I did find my aunt, by staying put at the City Hall Starbucks and using a nice girl’s phone to call my mom to have her tell my aunt where to find me. Meanwhile, someone grabbed my aunt’s arm and told her to just leave the city, because they were closing the bridges and tunnels. When she panicked about not being able to find me, the man said, “I’ll help you find her!” Sure enough, the two of them did find me outside Starbucks, where the nice girl, Lucy, was staying with me until I found my aunt.   We left Boston immediately and stayed in the car all the way until New Jersey, listening to the horror unfold on the car radio, calling people (except not me because my phone wouldn’t turn on…), and just staring blankly as the city of Boston grew smaller behind us.

My aunt and me at the expo.

What a great day turned so, so, so bad. I’ve had some time to process my thoughts, though I still am very disturbed and not quite myself. Initially, there was fear. Even at home in New Jersey. Fear that this kind of evil exists in the world. At the same time, giving in to fear is the worst thing we can do. Runners are unique in the sense that we don’t take fear as an option. If we let fear overcome us, we wouldn’t run. Runners are also special people because we are all friends. No, we might not become friends with every runner we meet, but when we pass each other on the street or on the trail, or run alongside one another in a race, there is this mutual understanding, this unspoken recognition, that we are friends. That we would help each other if we needed help. Comfort each other if we needed comforting. Hug each other if we needed a hug. This is just who we are and always have been. Rarely do you find such a large population of people sharing a common interest who don’t even need to campaign, rally, or organize anything to show their support for others; we simply need to come together, be together, run together. And just like that, the whole country is now running for Boston. It doesn’t make the horrific events of this long week any better in the least, but it somehow makes me believe I can find solace in the community I identify with most, the running community. DSCN1101

en route to Boston…

(Written yesterday…)

Greetings from Boltbus, in the middle of Connecticut! This is my first post via my Blackberry, so we’ll see how this goes. I was planning on getting a (free…) Ride up to Boston with Kate and Nick tomorrow morning, but then my weekend took an unexpected turn and I needed to head up early to do something before working the expo! The day started off disastrous, missing my first bus from Princeton because I didn’t know where exactly it picked me up…in hindsight I totally saw it stop down the street. Oops. Oh, and it’s downpouring and windy. I’m going to take over the Hynes Convention Center bathroom and spruce myself up as soon as I arrive…I may dry my shoes as well.

A running update: I skipped the PI workout this week since it was two days after my twenty miler, and that was a good choice. my Achilles got pretty tight and left me paranoid. I ran yesterday and it felt better, but not good enough to not decide to take two days off before my next long run. Which, by the way, I’m hoping will be fit in pre-expo Sunday, probably in the five and six o’clock hours. We’ll see.

What I’m digging this week: these shorts. Let’s see if this photo actually shows up, I’m rather confused. Spoiler: it’s the Brooks Epiphany Stretch Short in the Special Edition print, dots!