Wednesday, May 26, 2010

summer running

It's baaaaack! Heat and humidity. Ugh! My least favorite running weather has emerged. Right now I'm not following a marathon training program so I'm only doing 3 miles runs, which are bearable in this horrible heat and humidity. But going any farther is going to be tough. When I hit those 18-20+ milers, I'll be doing what I hate to do: getting up early to run. It's the only way I can tolerate running in the heat and humidity. I want to try and find one of those things you can wrap around your neck to keep you cool. I remember years ago seeing them for tennis. I assume they sell them for runners, too? I'll be on a quest to find something like that. In the meantime, plenty of hydration, both before and during running. And I'll be popping electrolyte tablets like crazy during runs.

Friday, May 21, 2010

cross training

I bought a new bike! It's a hybrid, a Specialized Globe Vienna 2, and it's brand spanking new. Yeah! Time for some cross training. I owned a road bike many years ago but it passed away and I never replaced it. I used to enjoy rides along Route 1A in New Hampshire. Now I can get back out there again! I think I will take it out this weekend for its maiden voyage, maybe along the Minuteman Bike Trail in the Lexington, MA area. I'm a little nervous because I don't know much about how to take care of a bike, and I wouldn't know what to do if it broke down. But that's what cell phones are for, right? :)

Biking is excellent cross-training for running. Hal Higdon, whose marathon raining schedules I follow, says that tennis is not so great for cross-training due to the lateral movement. I am an avid tennis player, but I have definitely held back a little bit on tennis now that I have gotten into marathons. I took a tennis clinic at lunch today and I realized that I have gotten very tentative when I play. I think it's because I am so afraid of injuring myself for running. Right now I'm trying to figure out if I should just "go for it" in tennis and not worry about getting injured? It's a tough call. But I guess I shouldn't live my life in fear. Perhaps next time on the court I'll just give it my all and think positively!

Monday, May 17, 2010

a new outlook

Yesterday I completed a 5K race. Due to some digestive issues (I'll spare you the details), I decided to walk the race. Once I started though, I turned it into a slow jog. I felt comfortable the whole way and never felt I really pushed myself. And I did not look at my watch once! Somehow I managed to run faster than my last 5K race. Keep in my mind that in my world "faster" is relative, as I am normally in the back of the pack due to my slower pace. But it was a sub-10 minute pace and that is always good for me!

The lesson of the story for me is this: don't worry about your finish time, or about always pushing yourself. Sometimes it's just about the journey. I have said this many times before but yesterday I really *felt* it. It was quite wonderful to approach the finish line, see the time on the clock..and know that I had enjoyed the race, hadn't pushed myself too hard, and felt good.

It's a lesson I need to carry forward from here on out. As Ben & Jerry have said: "If it's not fun, why do it?" I will now make running more fun. And maybe somehow I'll be able to squeeze in a decent pace, too!

Friday, May 14, 2010


My motivation for running always varies, but I find that when I am not training for anything in particular, my motivation bottoms out. Training for my next set of marathons does not begin until June, and on April 25th I ran my 2nd of 2 marathons of 2 months. I have only run 4 times since then, and I'm finding it hard to get motivated. For the first two weeks after the April marathon, I purposely didn't run. I felt that my body needed a rest. In addition, I wanted to enjoy some free time! No more squeezing in a run before a night out with friends, or lugging my running clothes around every day, or having to take 2 or 3 showers in a day due to running. It was a nice break!

But I figured I should keep my muscles active and start running again a few times a week, perhaps just 3 miles at a time. This might sound easy to a marathon runner, but for me right now it's not. It's not that I dread running. It's that I just feel tired and unenergized. So far I have run each of the days I committed myself to, so I guess I am not totally defeated. But it has taken me a lot to get myself out there. I guess I shouldn't worry about it. In June I won't really have a choice (okay, yes, I have a choice. But if I want to do 2 marathons in 1 month in the fall I really need to do the training!). Maybe I should just take the month of May for what it is: a time to enjoy life (both with and WITHOUT running) and just do the best I can!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Gasparilla Marathon, Tampa FL (2/28/10)

My brother and his family moved from Boston to Florida in 2009, so I thought that the 2010 Gasparilla Marathon in Tampa, FL was a perfect excuse for a visit. Soon after I registered for the marathon I learned that 2010 would be their last marathon (they are keeping the 5K, 15K, and half marathon). I am very glad it all worked out, as this was an amazing marathon and I am glad I didn’t miss it. It really is a shame that they are retiring the marathon! I talked to some of the folks representing the Gasparilla Marathon at the Boston Marathon Expo, and they said to “stay tuned” so maybe the marathon is not gone after all!!!

This was my first flight alone in 20 years, and I had only taken 2 trips between 1990 and 2008, so the flight itself was my biggest worry. I had completed my marathon training program so I knew I would finish the marathon somehow. Getting through the flight was another thing. Much to my surprise, I did really well on the flight. I didn’t even need to utilize all of my tricks and rituals. I must say, though, that the medication I takes makes all the difference!!

I arrived early Friday afternoon, and my sister-in-law picked me up and took me to the expo. It was quite a large expo for a smaller marathon, and I was very impressed. What I had learned earlier that week was that Bart Yasso was going to be at the expo! Bart works for Runner’s World magazine and has been called the “mayor of running in the USA.” He has run over 1,000 races, hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro, run the Death Valley race, and so many other crazy things. Needless to say, he’s one of my heroes! I first met Bart in November of 2009 at the NYC Marathon Expo, where I bought his book “Life on the Run” and he signed it. The same day I met him, I “friended” him on Facebook, and we are now Facebook buddies. So this would be my second time seeing Bart in person. We couldn’t stay long at the expo on Friday as we had to get back to pick up my nephew from school, but I knew I’d see Bart the next day.

On Saturday, my brother drove me to Tampa. I checked in at the hotel and then headed over to the expo. I knew Bart was giving a seminar at a particular time. I got a chance to talk to him briefly before his seminar, and got another picture taken with him (first one was in NYC). And I had him add “Gasparilla 2010” underneath his signature on his book. I figure that every time I see him at a marathon I will have him add the location of the marathon. I can’t wait to see how many times I get to see him! (the 3rd time ended up being in Boston in April).

My biggest concern for my Florida marathon was the weather; I had been afraid that after training in the cold New England winter I would face a hot and sunny day. In fact, I took 8 weeks’ worth of hot yoga classes just to acclimate to exercising in the heat! Turns out my worst fear did not come true. We started at 6:00am (yes, in the morning!!) and it was in the upper 40s. I don’t think it even got into the 60s by the time I finished. It did get a bit sunny, but there were a few clouds, too. I lucked out big time!!!

I was also a little concerned (though not really worried) about starting at 6:00 in the morning, as I am NOT a morning person. However, the interesting thing about starting in the dark was that we got to see an awesome view of the moon. And we got to see the sun rise! However, I still wouldn’t choose such an early start. But I tried to make the most of it.

I ran relatively conservatively for the first half, which is usually my strategy. The first half was somewhat crowded as we had about 8,000 half marathoners running along with us. Once they split off, it was much more manageable. I met up with a bunch of runners from the Bradenton Running Club (which is where my brother now lives) and ran with them for several miles. One of them included a 70+ year old man and I was having trouble keeping up with him.  I eventually let them go when I slowed down at a water stop and they plowed ahead. Soon after this I noticed that I was not far behind the 5 hour pacing group. I usually finish my marathons in just under 5 hours, so I figured if I could stick with them I was doing okay. Eventually, somewhere in a park around mile 18-ish, I was able to pass them. I wasn’t intentionally trying to pass them but I felt good so it just kind of happened.

There were a fair number of spectators along the course, especially the last 4 miles or so, as we were on a fairly major road along the ocean. I could see and hear a huge group of people in white shirts at mile 24. Turns out that they were an organized group from a local school or community center. THEY ROCKED! They were so loud and so energetic, and they really kept me going.

I noticed on my watch that I would have no problem getting in under 5 hours. In fact, around mile 24 or 25 I realized that it was remotely possible that I’d get a personal record (PR). My PR was 4:52-something in 2008 at the Clarence DeMar Marathon in Keene, NH. I pushed as hard as I could in Tampa and finished in 4:53-something. Just a minute off my PR! Surely I could have made up that time somewhere, but no worries. I was really happy with my effort and very surprised that I did so well in Florida.

My brother, sister-in-law and nephew were there for me along the course. We had pre-arranged where they would be, and the “first stop” was around mile 14. I saw my brother and sister-in-law as I approached, and they she disappeared. She went to get my nephew in the car. When I got to that spot I saw her trying to get my nephew out of the car. He wouldn’t budge! I kept calling his name and she finally told me he wasn’t getting out (I later told my nephew that if I had not wasted so much time waiting for him to get out of the car I would have had a PR!). At the next stop, he was visible, and was wearing his pajama bottoms and a sweatshirt. Clearly he had gotten up extra early to make it to Tampa. I was glad he was there, even if he was a little grumpy. 

I got to see them as I entered a park around mile 18 and then when I exited the park around mile 20. That was really cool! They were kind enough to carry some of the supplies I needed, like salt pills and GU packets. When I run a marathon alone I have to carry all of this stuff with me so it’s definitely nice to have someone there to hand me my supplies. I saw my family one more time towards the end, but that part is a bit of a blur as my brain always turns to mush at the end of a marathon.

When I finished I saw that they had run out of the REALLY cool medals with a wildly colorful ribbon. One high-school aged volunteer kindly took me to a secret stash after I expressed my disappointment and I was extremely grateful. Then the official photographer asked me to pose with my medal. Believe it or not, this was the first marathon I’d run where they did that. It turned out to by one of my best pictures of the bunch; my smile was a mile long!

The post-race food was excellent (salad, rice, fruit, bread, etc.). While I was waiting in the food line, two women in front of me asked me to take their picture with their phone. My brain was so mushy that I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Many long distance runners can probably relate to me. When I finish a marathon, my brain is completely drained as I used all of my mental energy on the marathon. I often can’t answer simple questions or even process what people are saying.

I walked to get my bag and then asked a stranger to take a couple of pictures of me. I walked back to the hotel, where I had arranged a late check-out. There I put my legs in the cool pool water and then took a shower. My brother and his family then arrived to pick me up. We took a family photo in front of the hotel, and then when we got back to their house in Bradenton I put my legs in the pool again.

Marathon #10 and state #8 down! I loved this race!!!!! I am so lucky that almost all of my marathons have been awesome races! It would be so hard for me to rank them, as there were so many pros and cons to each of them. If absolutely forced, I would say:

Boston (in a class by itself; can’t rank it)
1. Steamtown (Scranton, PA)
2. Gasparilla (Tampa, FL)
3. Vermont City (Burlington, VT)
4. Clarence DeMar (Keene, NH)
5. Amica Breakers (Newport, RI)
6. Mystic (Mystic, CT)
7. New Jersey Marathon (Long Branch, NJ)
8. Hartford (Hartford, CT)

Since the Gasparilla I have run the Earth Day Challenge and I’d probably put it in between Gasparilla and Vermont City.

P.S. I forgot to mention the AWESOME swag we got at the Gasparilla Marathon: turquoise long-sleeved coolmax shirt with embroidery on upper back (skull/cross bones), towel, hat, tote bag, another bag from Publix, and tattoos. Woo hoo!