Boston Fever

Boston has been hit with marathon fever!

Every April, the city begins to develop a certain buzz around the famous marathon. Television channels have been running commercials about their upcoming marathon coverage, blog posts and articles are showing up in the local papers, and my neighborhood is FILLED with runners every weekend mornings.

Every year, I seem to miss the marathon for various reasons. The Boston Marathon always falls on Patriot’s Day, a Massachusetts state holiday that commemorates the first battles of the Revolutionary War. Schools are closed, city businesses are closed, and some offices are closed. When I was in college, we always had Patriot’s Day off. I always wanted to spend it by making my way to Copley Square to watch the race, but I never made it. School work, part time jobs, and other things always got in my way.

There’s something about the marathon that’s really special to the city. The marathon is such a storied race with a rich history of marathon stories – it’s the world’s oldest annual race, the challenges of Heartbreak Hill, the “scream tunnel” at Wellesley College, team Hoyt (who actually ran the New Bedford Half with me – and I saw them!!), Rosie Ruiz, and much more. It’s awe inspiring to watch the runners push themselves to the limit, both mentally and physically.

This year, my roommate Steph and I are going to watch the marathon for the first time ever! We’ll be watching from the Brookline area of the race. I feel like it’s the perfect location. The runners will have just finished going through Heartbreak Hill, and at the Brookline point of the race, they have about 4 miles left. The runners are going to need all the support that they can get – and we’re going to give it to them!

Steph and I are also running the B.A.A 5k the day before the race and will be attending the Marathon race expo. I’m super excited!! Running races always gets me super pumped about running more, and I can’t wait to be inspired to keep running.

Another story that is part of the famous Boston lore is the story of the first female runner ever to enter the marathon: Kathrine Switzer. In 1967, Kathrine entered the race using the name K.V. Switzer. Not realizing the name was that of a woman, no one noticed and Kathrine ran the race and finished. I saw this NPR quick story and video about Kathrine and learned something I had never known – she was almost physically pushed off the course by a race organizer. Check it out – it’s a pretty amazing story. It’s hard to believe that it’s only been 40 or so years since women were allowed to run marathons. It seems that women dominate at running races as much as men these days – it’s definitely an equalizing sport and I love it!

 

Are you running Boston this year or know someone who is? Would you ever want to run Boston?  Have you ever watched the marathon in person? What do you find most inspiring about running?

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What I Learned from Half-Marathon Training

Happy Spring everyone! There’s really nothing better than some fresh flowers on the first day of Spring.

I’m still basking in the glow of my first half-marathon this past Sunday. Over the last couple of days, as people have asked me “so how was it?”, I’ve describe it as, “The most physically and mentally demanding thing I’ve ever done in my life.” I honestly was prepared for the physical demand of the race, but the mental demand of the race was something that I was not quite as prepared for. There was a point in the race where I just wanted to quit. I wanted to walk off the course, find one of the many cops lining the edge of the course and say, “that’s it. I’m done.”

But I didn’t.

I pushed through. I got through these rough moments by thinking about Bernie and my parents and friends waiting for me at the finish line. I knew they would be there, with funny signs in hand, and cheering loudly. I couldn’t let them down. I worked too hard to not make it all the way.

Immediately after finishing, I knew that half-marathons were for me. I’m so ready to do another one! There’s a half in Boston in October that I plan on doing, and I’m looking forward to start training again. I’m already looking up training plans to help me shed my time. 2:12 is a good base, and I want to improve upon it.

As with everything in life, training was definitely a learning experience. I had never really trained diligently for a race before, so this was the first time. A few things I learned while training for my first half-marathon include:

  • PB/banana toast is my go-to pre-run fuel. There’s a reason a lot of people eat it before running, it works.
  • Fruit flavored Gu’s are WAYYYY better than the other non-fruit Gu’s.
  • Chomps don’t always sit well with my stomach. Use with caution.
  • My fuel belt was the best $40 I’ve ever spent.
  • When in doubt, go to the chiropractor. When my lower back/hips were hurting, the chiropractor fixed it and taught me at-home exercises that I could do to make them stronger. I’m officially a chiro convert.
  • There’s a really nice bathroom in the Boston Common. It came in handy many times.
  • My body can do amazing things. I learned that my body is so much stronger than I thought it was. I can push it harder than I ever thought I could. I need to trust it more.
  • Self confidence and body love. I haven’t always had the best love affair with my body, but after running the marathon, I am in awe of what it can do. I will no longer take it for granted and will appreciate every muscle.
  • Compression shorts are the JAM! I won a pair of Aspaeris compression shorts on Julie’s blog (I was shocked – I never win anything) and they are the greatest invention known to man. I wore them the nights leading up to the race, and immediately after the race, and over the last two nights post-race. It’s now 2 days after the race and I have no muscle soreness. If you often have hip pain after running long runs, invest in some high-quality compression shorts for recovery. I swear to you – they’re miraculous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Running really is for me. Some people run a big race like a half-marathon and realize that running is just not for them. After my experience on Sunday, my love for running has been reaffirmed. Running is definitely for me.

I’m already looking forward to my next race – the B.A.A 5k the day before the Boston Marathon. Steph and I are running the race, and then will spend the next day cheering on the Boston runners! It’s going to be a blast!

Until next time; readers – have you ever experienced similar mental blocks during a race like I did? How did you overcome them? What has running taught you? Share!

Tapering Like a Champ

Happy Friday everyone! It’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend!

This past week, I began the part of half-marathon training that everyone looks forward to; TAPER WEEK!

my thoughts exactly. Taper week=scary.

So far, I’m not really enjoying taper week. I feel anxious. I feel like I should be out running and doing other various crazy things. Here’s what my week has looked like so far:

  • Sunday: Lovely 8.5 mile run with Steph. Last long run! We high-fived afterward.
  • Monday: Gym, jump rope circuit and too many squats. Ouch.
  • Tuesday: 4 mile run outside, which sucked. My hips were super sore from previously stated squats. Stupid Sarah.
  • Wednesday: 60 min spin class with my favorite spin instructor who is 1 week away from her due date. She’s so pregnant it’s insane. Felt amazing to spin. Slept in my compression shorts.
  • Thursday: I was scheduled to run an easy 2 miles, but my stomach was NOT feeling too great throughout the afternoon, so I decided against it. I foam rolled my IT bands until I was bruised. Slept in my compression shorts again.

Today I plan on doing nothing, again. ‘Rest’ is the operative word this week. There are a lot of theories about how long one should taper for certain distance races, and how much activity is too much. I found a pretty great article with tips or first-time marathoners from an old Runner’s World “Ask Coach Jenny” blog. Some of my favorite tips include:

Have faith in your preparation, especially during the taper. Something mystical happens when you begin to taper your mileage to rest up for the race. It’s a little like taking away Linus’s blanket as there is comfort in training because you are actively moving towards your target race. As you reduce the mileage, the nervousness sets in. Remember that tapering allows your body time to rest and accumulate energy at the rate of a slow simmer so that on race day you are fresh and ready to rumble. Review your training log to remind yourself of the base you have going into the race and visualize a strong run during the season. You are well prepared and that is the best insurance against earning that medal.

I found myself reading over my training log today. My first ‘long run’ was 5 miles. Within 7 weeks, I doubled that and ran 11.5 miles for my final long run. That’s insanity! I’ve come a long way in a pretty short period of time. Over the course of training, I’ve gone from hating running, to being absolutely head-over-heels in love with it. My overall love for running has increased and I’m surprised how much I enjoyed my slow and easy long runs.

Warn your family and friends that you’ll have the stability of a 3-year-old child on race day. I’ve borrowed this line from my husband John Bingham, and it’s true. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned veteran, making even the smallest decisions like what to eat and what to wear will feel like life changing moments during race week. Ask your support team for extra patience, because they’ll need it. Anticipate this temporary state of immaturity and lay out your clothes the night before the race. It helps to try on everything you plan to wear (bib number, chip on shoe…) The more prepared you are the night before, the better.

Bernie is probably already so sick of hearing about running, he could scream. It’s become my entire life, especially over the last couple weeks. I don’t know what will happen on race day on Sunday, but I might cry. We’ll see.

Run the tangents! It took me several years to learn this nugget of information and I shaved minutes off my time once I did. When a race course is measured (and certified) it follows the tangents to the curves. A tangent is a straight line just outside the curve (or as close to the curve while still on the road). For example, Sandra the runner sees a curve on the course and runs a straight line (tangent to) the inside of the curve. Beth (who is not paying attention and didn’t read this blog) follows the curve in the road.  Curve for curve, Beth will end up running more mileage in the end. Sandra will run the measured 13.1 miles (and be showered  before Beth finishes). This will help you in two very important ways:  One, it keeps your mind actively engaged in running the course as you think your way through every turn.  Two, you’ll run only 13.1 miles! You can add more than a quarter-mile to the course by taking the long way around turns! Stay focused, grasshopper, and set yourself up efficiently as you wind through the course.

I figured this out from running a lot of 5k’s, but I didn’t even think about it for the half marathon. I plan on doing this as much as possible. While I have a time goal in my head, I decided the other day not to hold myself to it. This is my first half marathon and my first time running the distance, ever. I really should focus on enjoying every second.

Only 2 days to go! Thankfully, the weather is going to be gorgeous – almost 70 degrees! The average temperature this winter while I was running was between 35-40 degrees. 70 degrees is going to be quite a change. Hopefully it doesn’t completely throw me off.

 

Readers: Seasoned marathoners/racers – what are your tapering tips? Have you ever tapered before? What are you doing this weekend?

Robot Cars

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a fabulous weekend!

Mine started off really great. Friday night I spent the night hanging out and playing cards at a bar and drinking from this: The Budzilla!

The next day, my friend Lauren and I spent the morning doing suburban things, aka: going to Target. I ended up finding some wicker baskets for Bernie’s entryway table that I’ve been looking for. You also can’t go to Target without taking advantage of their inexpensive workout wear. I picked up some inexpensive sports bras and workout tops! WOO!

Lauren and I were talking about how having a car in Boston isn’t necessary, but it definitely makes things easier. I came across this really awesome article from Boston Magazine all about it called “Hell Yeah, I Love My Car”. Pretty funny and very true!

Then Bernie and I spent the night chilling out and going to bed early because I had 11 miles on tap for the next morning. My half marathon plan had me running 9 miles on Sunday, but since I spent my last Sunday’s “fake 6k” doing 10 miles instead, I thought I would go for 11 this Sunday. Next Sunday is my last long run before the race, so I think I might just take advantage and do a taper long run of 8-9 miles.

I woke up yesterday feeling REALLY tired and beat. I slept like absolute ass and knew that the run was going to be a challenge. I went home, did my usual routine (change, eat, bathroom run, stretch, go) and headed out for 11 miles with my roommate Stephanie. She is running the half marathon with me and we haven’t been able to do any training runs together the whole time. Our schedules just never synched up. So this week we planned to get one in. We set out and did one lap around the Chestnut Hill reservoir and then ran up Beacon St. towards downtown Boston. Once we hit Boston Common, we looped back and ran up Beacon back home. I love running in downtown Boston; you get to explore the city and run at the same time. We kept about a 9:30 pace the whole time. It was really awesome to have someone else with me while running that many miles. We just chatted the whole time about everything! It was super fun! We are definitely doing that again. My miles looked like this:

I ended up running almost 11.5 miles! CRAZINESS! I felt pretty good afterward too. A little tight, but overall good. I’m getting really pumped for this race! It also feels good to push myself. I felt pretty strong – even took my Gu at mile 7ish instead of 5.5 like last week. I’m really proud of myself and my body for pushing through. Bring it on, New Bedford!

After running, I met up with Bernie to run more errands: Target and grocery shopping. When we left the grocery store, however, we ran into a bit of a problem: a flat tire. Bernie’s car’s tire had been looking a little low lately, but I didn’t think it would flat out blow out! Luckily he has AAA, so we called and waited an hour for a mechanic to show up. In the meantime, Steph came to the rescue and picked me and all the groceries up (didn’t want them to spoil!) Then she brought me back and I waited with Bernie. We listened to the Celtics game on the radio and then after about an hour, the AAA guy came. He changed the tire in literally 5 minutes flat! Amazing. When he pulled the tire off, it looked like this:

HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN!??!?!

Now we’re rocking the donut until it gets fixed. Looks like I’ll be taking the T to work for a couple days :(.

The icing on the cake was that since we had the car on to listen to the radio, we totally drained the battery of the car! Bernie’s car is a fancy one with a start button, not a traditional key hole. In the time I’ve known him, this is the second time that the battery has gotten drained. The first time was from leaving a door not completely closed overnight. Since his car is a robot car, it’s apparently really easy to drain the computer battery. Luckily the AAA guy noticed and jumped it for us. So stupid. Pretty eventful Sunday!

How was your weekend? Any big running milestones out there? Anyone else get a flat tire before? Do you know how to fix a flat? (Bernie and I do not – AAA to the rescue!!)

A Tough 8 Miles

So after a schedule change, I ended up doing my Sunday long run Monday. I woke up and had my pb toast, coffee, and water, and then headed out for 8 miles.

The weather was gorgeous! Boston in sunny weather is the greatest place in the world. I ended up running down Beacon St. (a street on the Boston marathon course) towards Kenmore Square and Fenway Park. I noticed around mile 3 that I had to use the restroom (too much water that morning) and decided to head toward my old stompin’ grounds: Northeastern University. I knew that there was a free open bathroom in the building that holds the gym, so I went toward that way. It was weird being back on campus for the first time since August 2011. Good ol’ college days. The pit-stop ended up working out because once I got there I hit mile 4, so I figured I’d just head back home and finish the last 4 miles headed home.

Around mile 6, I took half of a Gu. Then I hit mile 7 and things got tough. I was getting really tired and my legs started to feel really heavy. I don’t know if it was because my route was getting somewhat hilly, if it was because I only took 1/2 the Gu and not the whole Gu like last time, or what it was – but that last mile was pretty mentally tough to push through. Then it was done. Phew!

I got home and immediately felt my muscles tighten up. I grabbed the Stick that my fellow half-marathoner roommate has and got to work. I then stretched more, took a shower, and made myself a recovery smoothie.

This run was a personal distance record for me and I felt really good about finishing it. I’m having a tough time staying mentally in what I’m doing after I hit about mile 6. I get bored and start not focusing – I definitely need to work on that. I ended up listening to NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” podcast for the first 45 minutes, which ended up being a great decision.

I also FINALLY figured out how to sync my Garmin to my computer. This thing is magic! Here’s what my run looked like:

My first mile was all weird because my Garmin was going rogue with its satellite signal. I think it was because my shirt was covering it, so I rolled my sleeve a bit and then it stopped freaking out and telling me I was going at a 12min mile pace. Overall, I’m happy with my mile splits, I just wish that I could get a little more consistent with them. I blame that for the different hills that I tackled, including a big one from mile 6-7.

Another run in the books! I’m off to foam roll – my muscles are barking. If this is how I feel after 8 miles, how am I going to feel after 13.1?! Yikes!

Anyone else ever feel like they’ve tuned out mentally during a run? How do you avoid it? How did you spend your Presidents’ Day off?

Half-Marathon Musings

I’m about 5 weeks in to my half-marathon training schedule for the New Bedford half, and so far so good! This whole “training” thing is new to me. I’ve run a ton of 5k’s, but never properly trained for them. I didn’t do tempo runs, focus on my splits, I didn’t do speed intervals, I didn’t do hill work – nothing. I just ran, and somehow, I seemed to get faster. Now, I am no speed demon, that is for certain. I’m still working on a sub 27 min 5k. My latest attempt earlier this winter was a 27:30ish, and I’d love to get that down to 26:30. the longest I’ve ever run in one stretch was about 7 miles, so I’m looking forward to when I finally reach long runs of 8+ miles (in weeks 8-12). For someone like me who is very organized and regimented in other aspects of her life, I’ve enjoyed having a set schedule of workouts I should do and miles I should run. I’ve learned a lot so far – here are some of the things I’ve figured out throughout this process. 

  • Increased mileage = increased carb cravings. I’ve been craving carbs like it’s my JOB. Bagels, chips, cereals, bread, pasta – give it to me! I’ve been eating oatmeal as my breakfast almost everyday for the last week or two instead of my usual yogurt. I think my body is just craving the carbs. I’m giving in to these cravings for the most part, but definitely in moderation. I’ve heard other bloggers talk about gaining weight during marathon training, so I want to avoid that at all costs.

I was craving one of these all day today!

  • I am not flexible. Before I started this plan, I thought my flexibility was about average – I can touch my toes, but I can’t do a split. I basically found out a couple weeks ago that my hamstrings are NOT even close to being as flexible as they should be. A common issue with runners, I didn’t think this would be a problem for me. As my mileage went up, this became a problem. I’m now working on making my hamstrings and hips more flexible with the help of my chiropractor. It’s bad when my non-runner boyfriend is more flexible than I am. He can put his leg over his head when lying down….me? Not even close.
  • I run better on the weekends. It has a lot to do with the fact that I sit at a desk all day. My hips get tighter, my muscles get colder, and my back hurts more. On the weekends, I usually run after I get up and do some things, not after sitting down for 9 hours.
  • My shoes are awesome. So far, Brooks haven’t let me down. I ordered a new pair of my Brooks Ghost 4’s a week or two ago. They’re bright green and awesome.
  • I have a new boyfriend, and his name is Garmin. I am in love with my Garmin Forerunner405. I got this as a Christmas present from my parents and it has changed the way I run. Pace? Mileage? Splits? All on a watch?! WHHHATTTT?!
  • I’ve made more changes to my running plan than I thought I would. I am currently following Hal Higdon’s Novice half-marathon plan. I did this one because this is my first half-marathon, so I didn’t want to push myself too much and cause an injury. I’ve been injured a few times from running so the last thing I wanted to do was get too far in over my head with training. I’ve been following it pretty closely, but I’ve also been incorporating my own changes. These include doing my long runs on Saturdays usually instead of Sundays, taking a spin class on Wednesdays as my “2 mile run or cross day”, and adding treadmill workouts such as speed intervals or hill repeats on some of the weekday running days. Some things I have stuck with: Friday as rest day, and Monday as stretch and strengthen days. I will have to see how the spin class works with my body as the mileage increases. The spin class I take is 60 minutes long and kicks my butt! If I start to feel burned out, that class may have to go.
  • I’m having fun.I thought that this whole training thing was going to be such a chore, but so far, I’m really enjoying myself.
  • Weather sucks. I’ve never trained for a race during the Boston winters before. During earlier winters I would just run outside when it was nicer, and stick to the gym when it snowed/rained/did crazy Boston things. Now, running anything longer than 4 miles on the treadmill sounds dreadful. I did 5 miles last weekend at the gym because it was snowing all morning. It ended up not being horrible, but something I wouldn’t want to have to do on a regular basis. I love running outside, even when it’s cold, but running in the snow doesn’t seem like something I’ll be doing any time soon. Snowy/icy sidewalks scare me.

  • I need to learn to slow down during my long runs. My goal pace for the race is about 9min/miles. If I can keep that, I will finish just under 2 hours. While a time goal isn’t a huge deal to me during my first half, I’d like to think that under 2 hours is possible for me. But I need to slowwww down during my long runs. I’m running them way too fast. Now that I will cross my “comfort” threshold of 5 mile runs this weekend, I need to focus on being a little bit slower and steadier. I do NOT want to get injured because I rushed through a ton of miles.
  • I’ve gotten pretty good at snot rockets. When I run, my nose runs. This seems to be a common thing that happens to some people when they exercise, called exercise-induced rhinitis. My sinuses just flow freely when I exercise, especially outside when it is cold. I’ve gotten really good at the “plug one nostril and blow out the other” technique for getting rid of excess mucus. I know, it’s not very lady-like, but it’s a necessity for me. Otherwise, breathing out my nose is impossible.

I have about 7 weeks to go in my plan before the New Bedford Half. I’m getting really excited and can’t wait to dominate. The race is St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and being Irish, my roommate and I are thinking about donning all green for the race.

Readers, have you ever trained for a race? What marathon plan did you use? What did you like and not like about it? Do you run in the cold?

Fails Come in Three’s

I feel like things in life often come in “threes”, meaning that when one thing happens, two other similar events will quickly follow. They say that this rule always follows dead celebrities. This rule of threes has seemed to follow me lately, both good and bad.

Bad threes:

  1. As I deposited cash into an ATM last month, I experienced something that I thought would never happen – it broke mid transaction. Me+8am+no coffee+an ATM machine beeping at me+forever lost cash and card=not a happy camper. The money wasn’t even mine; it was funds that my friend Lauren and I raised as part of a fundraiser we held for an organization in South Sudan. Hundreds of dollars gone in a broken ATM. How does that even happen?!
  2. I realized that my lower back pain after running was NOT a good sign, so I paid a visit for the first time to a chiropractor. I was really worried that I was injured and found out that my hip muscles were basically as hard as rocks. No bueno.
  3. My hair straightener broke the other day as I was in the process of getting ready for a night out. Lovely. At least it was cheap.

I know, that’s a pretty weak third, but it still sucked.

But, some good has come out of those threes.

Good threes:

  1. The bank of really responsive, and I got the money and my card back very quickly. I sent the check off to the organization and everything is right with the world!
  2. My chiropractor is amazing, and gave me this really cool thing called a flex band. By doing stretches with it, I should increase my flexibility in my hips and hamstrings, which will help my pain. It made me realize once again how important it is to listen to your body when it comes to injuries. After being readjusted and given a stretching routine to follow with the band, I’m feeling more flexible already.
  3. I bit the bullet and bought a real straightener – the Chi. It was expensive, I realize that, but I never spend money like that on any of my hair products, and I’ve gone through so many broken straighteners, blow dryers, and curlers that I think I can justify spending a bit more money on a nice one. Oh, the perils of being a girl.


Any one else find that their life follows the ‘rule of threes’? What are your ‘threes’? Anything random happen to you lately?