Thursday, November 12, 2015

Reasons to Run

Nature has done one heck of a job with Fall in New England this year. The colors, the mild temperatures and lack of hurricanes and Nor’easters have kept me running, biking and grinning from ear to ear! As excited as I am for ski season, I am very happy for the extended Indian summer we have been given. As the days have gotten shorter, after work R&R (Runs and Rides) have moved to sunrise R&R in order to avoid getting run over in the dark. This fall has been more about getting out and enjoying it than anything else. I have met up with friends to run or ride and, as my roommate pointed out, managed to resist the urge to drop them when I got antsy! More about group training later but for now let’s talk about reasons to run. (or ride, or hike, or whatever, just get out there!)

Over the last year I trained for two marathons and though I didn’t end up running one in the spring and opted for the half this fall, I’m taking a little break from structured running. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still out the door at stupid o’clock on most mornings, I’m just heading out without a plan or workout in mind. I love a solid training schedule and structured workouts but it’s important to get back to running for fun, because that’s the root of it. Races, miles, PRs, splits and paces are all key but running is the thing.

People always ask, “why do you run so much?” I don’t have a good go to reply, especially for people that aren’t runners so during each run over the past month or so I have chosen a reason for running that day. The list is on going but I have a pretty good start;

1. Because today I had the Cliff walk all to myself!
After a tourist packed summer that’s pretty great!

2. Because it’s a reasonable excuse to wear neon.
            Safety first.

3. Because hill repeats is the best workout you can get when you only have 15 minutes!
            Sneaky workouts are exciting!

4. Because I’m in Bermuda and the other crew haven’t done the beach loop.

5. Because the track is empty early in the morning.

6. Because the sunsets have been epic and I don’t want to miss one.
            they never get old…

7. Because my new shoes finally arrived!

8. Because it’s November 12 and it’s still 50 degrees outside.
9. Because you can’t bike in the rain but you can run anytime!

10. Because I moved into a new apartment and I have a new local loop to explore.

So what’s your reason? Put on a reflective vest and some long tights and get out there this weekend.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Ocean State Rhode Race 1/2 Marathon and Jamestown Classic Gran Fondo

It's October! I haven't posted in awhile because this summer was so hot and humid that I was too sweaty to type! I don't know why it hit me so hard, I've trained for marathons in the Caribbean after all, but the humidity here in Rhode Island was a struggle for me this summer. There were times that I seriously doubted my ability to hydrate and rehydrate after relatively short distances. Needless to say I am very happy with the arrival of fall and all that comes with it! The changing season brings a new energy to running and training. I don't know if it's the need for long sleeves, the great excuse to wear neon, or the Facebook feed full of marathon news, I just know that I get a bounce in my step every year around this time.

A few months ago I decided to curb my training towards pushing my half marathon pace, instead of going for another full. I have never been a particularly fast runner and finally decided to get out of my comfort zone and see what happens with more focus on speed and tempo training.

My brother in law signed up for the Rhode Island Triple Crown half marathon series this summer and the Narragansett race was the last in the series. I was out of town for the Jamestown Half so I didn't qualify for the Triple Crown but wanted to run Narragansett with him. Sunday morning arrived with perfect weather for a run. The course was windy and up and down, which is my favorite type of course, there's always something to focus on and I never get bored. For all the little ups there was a good down and there were plenty of turns to keep me entertained. The pack was small, just over 450 runners, and the front group was just my style. I had a goal time of 1:38, knowing that holding onto a 7:30 pace for that distance was going to be uncomfortable but hopefully doable. From the start I had a pair of leggy guys behind me that I wanted to stay in front of. We did some leap frogging and I put some distance on them when one of them stopped for the Porto at mile 7. (Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go). As I approached mile 10 they caught back up and we exchanged the running equivalent to a passive aggressive high five.

Me- "Oh, you're back."
Them- "Yea we are, you're motivating the shit out of us."
Me- "Yea, ditto, but I think I'm about to get passed!"
Them-"Keep it up, we'll see you at the end."

They took off and I churned through the next couple of miles trying to push negative thoughts out of my head and fatigue out of my legs.
Inner dialog went something like this;
Challenge to overtake people in front. Focus on passing one at a time. Focus on the girl. Ok, not catching that girl, passed another one though. Breath. 25 Mile marker for the marathon, that's 1 and a bit for me, go. 1 to go, push. There's always more left. PUSH. Hey! The fam! Finish strong.

I glanced up at the finish clock as I approached the finish and for a quick oxygen deprived moment I couldn't figure out what it said. 13.820? huh? It wasn't until after I crossed and got through the tent did I process what the clock said. My watch was set to pace and distance, not elapsed time. I finished in 1:38:17 and it felt pretty good. And by pretty good I mean uncomfortable and hard the whole way, just what I wanted.

My brother in law finished, completed his Triple Crown and knocked 10+ minutes off his previous time!

This morning was the 40th Annual Jamestown Classic Bike Race and Gran Fondo. One lap around Conanicut Island, 19 miles. It was my first bike race in a big crowd. Being a runner and just a little stubborn I struggled with the concept of not riding my hardest the whole time. The fast pack pulled away very quickly and I ended up with some stragglers in the second group. I picked up a girl happy to have a free ride around mile 4 and carried her for longer than I was psyched about. We broke apart and I pushed the rest of the ride with two very tall men in orange jerseys. It's completely foreign to me to allow someone else to work hard and push past them at the end. I knew that I should slow down and hang on someone's hip but couldn't figure out how to do it, especially with my pride in the way! I'm sure I worked a hell of a lot harder but beat both guys at the end, and the girl from the beginning of the ride. I finished in 57 minutes and a new game to learn!

All in all it was a beautiful fall weekend and now it is time to enjoy one of the other perks of fall, Pumpkin Beer!!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Just two tens...

I spent the first part of this week up in Maine. I am incredibly lucky that my grandparents got tired of traveling around at the Army’s whim and bought an old inn in Five Islands, Maine in the late ‘60’s at which to spend their summers. The harbor is full of lobster boats and the early hours of the morning are filled with gulls calling and diesels coughing, both looking for today’s catch. At 5:45 this morning I woke up to the sun streaming into my eyes and the gulls cackling in my ears. I knew I needed to get out early in order to run a few hours before the hot, humid weather that has been unrelenting this summer made it unbearable, so I crawled out of bed. Armed with my fancy fuel belt full of water and a couple sticky Chomps I headed out the door.  Route 127 is a winding, rolling coastal route with little to no shoulder that runs out along Georgetown Island to the Route 1 bridge in Bath. It rolls up and down past the various harbors, bays and inlets that connect the Sheepscot and Kennebunk River. It is a beautiful place to run.

The first 10 miles rolled along with little traffic and a pretty good pace. Ten miles is my favorite distance to run and to get through today I kept repeating, “It’s just two tens…” but it’s not really. Just like the halfway point in a marathon or any long distance isn’t really half way. As the miles behind you increase, the remaining miles get exponentially harder. Two tens would be fantastic if they didn’t follow each other. The second ten miles is always going to include the fatigue and strain from the first ten. We train in order to build the muscle strength and memory required to get through the fatigue and on to the finish. Every middle distance, midweek run is building towards a more solid long run and the ability to finish a distance not previously run. Increasing what we run increases what we have the ability to run. Last week everything hurt at 13, this week it was 15. Endurance, like anything, needs to be built up slowly.

After running my Father asked me to take the little boat that I learned to sail on around to the boat ramp to haul it out. Though it’s not more than 10 miles to the boat ramp the trip around runs through some pretty strong tidal rips and narrow bays. I always remember a particularly bad trip from when I was very young and we were sailing the boat around. We must have timed the tide wrong and not checked the weather because when we rounded the corner for halfway we sailed straight into a building southerly and ebbing tide that prevented us from making any windward progress. My father was a pretty new sailor and the weather was more than we had seen up to that point. Thinking back now we did everything wrong. Our experience with the boat and sailing was limited. They say there are few things more dangerous than a sailor that knows a little! Like running, we get better at things the more we do them. Experience is key. Just like runners need to build muscle memory, sailors need to build tiller time.  Mistakes are the best teachers. Heading out the door without enough water (for a run) or without checking the tide (in sailing) can have a massive effect on the outcome of the day.

Taking the boat around to the launch this time seemed like a walk in the park. A few years, plenty of experiences and just a few mistakes have made me into a boat captain with 80,000+ sea miles. As I rounded the corner with a full running behind me I watched a small sail boat tacking it’s way out of Robinhood Marine. They were not making any forward progress, the tide was against them and the wind was light. It reminded me that there are always going to be people who are just starting out. Starting to run starts with a few steps, starting to sail starts with a few frustrating days on the water. But what’s important is that we keep moving forward. In the case of trying to make way against an incoming tide, however, move backwards, go back to the dock and wait it out!

A 20 miler is never easy. It gets less painful with proper training and gradual increase of miles. No matter what your long distance is right now, it’s probably going to hurt because it is more than you have done before. Amazingly, though, our muscles adapt and get stronger.  Human physiology proves that we are made for running. We sweat instead of pant and we have lots of sweat glands, more than we would need otherwise. Our joints and limbs can take more impact and shock than required for a species that just walks. The body is a pretty incredible thing and though nothing in my body felt incredible for a day or so after the run, it will be stronger next time. 

So go a little further than usual this weekend and take in the view as you do!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Fuel belts and a Boat Full of Girls

So I bought a fuel belt. I avoided this moment for as long as I could. Fuel belts look uncomfortable and just ridiculous. In order to avoid the ultimate running geek purchase I bought a hand held 8oz water bottle and ran with that, refilling it when I could. Then I bought another one and ran with two. I planned my long runs around public restrooms and water fountains. Finally, after being thirsty for a 15 on a pretty average weather day (not too hot, not too cold) I decided that it was time. Thankfully a trip up to Burlington and the Outdoor Gear Exchange was well timed and I found one on the 'I thought I was going to become a distance runner but then I realized it was really hard and gave up and bought a SUP' rack. I tried it out on a hot and humid Tuesday last week. The humidity has been brutal the past couple weeks. My mileability lessened with each passing one. Intending to go out for 10 I ended up with a very sweaty 7 and appreciated having plenty of water to get me through. It wasn't too uncomfortable, surprisingly, but I still looked pretty silly. 

I gave it the ol Sunday morning long run test this morning and it proved pretty essential in a 17 mile out and back. I ran my usual long route from Kelley's house to the beaches and back. Starting from Portsmouth in the morning is great. The first two miles of any run from here winds through a farm and down across a gully that has a secret path to the beach.The route runs along the Sakonnet and to the Middletown beaches. It is off the main road and so far away from the chaos of Newport in the summer. On the way home I run down Wapping Road and between Rocky's Orchard and Glen road I feel like I'm getting a wapping! It just keeps going.....and everything hurts and I'm dying.... but then I turn back onto the dirt road and through the farm once more and I'm back! A hard finish to 17 that probably should have been 20. Marathon in October?? 

As for Sailing:

I sailed on this new boat/work of art in Martha's Vineyard last week. Funky stuff designed by Frank Gehry. We raced in Edgartown Yacht Club Race week which was a pretty small event. The RC insisted on starting us early each day and we sailed short windward leewards in light, shifting breeze. The boat is heavy and feels heavy especially in light air. The last day was a Round the Island race with 12-15knots of wind. We managed to put up most of our sails and had a great sail around the course! 

The next weekend I made my way to Camden for the Annual Girls Team race on Sapheadra. This year we allowed one male to join the crew, Sharkbait, the boat cat. We competed in the Camden to Brooklin Feeder race and the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta on Saturday. The weather was fantastic both days with no fog and wind from 10-20 knots. It's a great race with a wonderful crew of amazing women. It is one of my favorite weekends of the year! 
Early run in Camden before the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta
Sailing Sapheadra in Brooklin

Friday, July 17, 2015

Track Tuesdays

After a pretty relaxed spring of running what and when I wanted it's finally time to get back into it. The Bristol Half was a good kick in the butt to get started. I'm trying to turn Tuesday into Track day because alliteration makes for good blog titles if nothing else. The Gaudet Middle school is a couple miles from the house and who doesn't like seeing their name on a huge sign as they pass through intervals? (Even though they use a soft T here in RI, Gaud-ehh). I started last Tuesday with a 400 ladder (4, 6, 8, 12, 16, 12, 8, 6, 4) and put in 5X1000 yesterday. Track Thursday also has a nice ring to it if you're too tired on Tuesday morning...

As for distance, I covered 15 miles on Saturday after the half and took last week off to discover the thrills of road biking. I'm loosely basing my distances on a potential full on October 11. It is crazy to think that I'm in the middle of a 16 week program for October! Where did summer go? The fight between the Newport Marathon and the RI Rhode Runner Marathon continues and they have scheduled both for the same day in the fall. Do we really have that many runners in this little state?

In more exciting news downtown Newport has a running store! It's not great and they only carry Brooks, New Balance, Asics and a hand full of Run NPT t-shirts but it's exciting none the less.

Have a great weekend! Get out there, drink water, hit the pavement and then hit the beach!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Maybe it IS about the bike...

I started road biking. Though I've been told that I would probably be a strong rider I have never taken cycling very seriously. I bike to work and back and have an old aluminum hybrid that has always suited me just fine. It is increasingly rusty because of the salt air in the yard and though I have very good intentions to fix it up the state of if has gone downhill. My roommate now used to be a bike mechanic for a bit and looks at the bike deploringly. After finishing every ride I took with a flat, he spent some time looking at the rims and bearings and decided that the thing was taking up too much room in his garage and had to go. I could trade up for his finance's old road bike as long as I took my old bike to pasture. (Don't worry, it will live out it's days as a yard bike at the boat yard...)

Kelley and I have been going to a circuit class 2 or 3 times a week and last week we decided to bike to class. It's just under 10 miles to town and usually takes me about 40 minutes. Wednesday morning we jumped on our bikes, Kel on her new fancy road bike and me on my old bike, and headed to town. And then Kel was gone. I couldn't keep up with her at all. Granted she has been riding a bit more than I  have but it's mostly flat and I should have been able to hang. We made it to the gym, 10 minutes late, and she reiterated that this bike was finished. We were planning on a weekend away on Lake Champlain that weekend that included, among other activities, a lot of biking. There was a 22 mile fundraiser ride on Sunday that we had decided to participate in as a group.

Friday night was a small town 5k that I entered in and finished 3rd across the line and first female. I ran a 21:05 which I was pretty happy with. I didn't have anyone to pace against and should have pushed harder at the end but it was a nice run. Saturday morning we hopped in the ski boat and did some early morning wake boarding and skiing in the lake before getting suited up for a training ride. Ben also had a new bike that he hadn't ridden and it was my first time on a real road bike. The country up there is stunning. The wide roads run along rolling fields and picturesque farms. It was a perfect day with a little south wind that we rode into on our way back home. I was pretty nervous about riding the road bike but adjusted pretty quickly and loved the feeling of flying down the road. My GPS watch beeps when you pass a mile marker and this thing was going off every few minutes! Imagine if it was measuring in kilometers! We finished our ride in 81 minutes and covered 22 miles. A pretty solid start! That afternoon we hopped back in the boat to chase the regatta that was going on on the lake. It was pretty nice not to be sailing all day, I have to admit! After the race finished we anchored off an island and swam and sunned. I imagine this is what most people with boats do but it feels pretty foreign to just hang out on the boat, for fun, without working. We watched the fireworks that night and headed to bed to get ready for the morning ride.

Sunday morning was another perfect day. There was a 70 miler and a 50 miler that headed off early along the same route that we were doing. We signed up for the 22 and headed out in a pack of slightly less competitive riders. Our bike gang was 4 up, Ben, Kelley, Brad and myself. After following a local through town we hit the bike path and took off. The route was rolling with a few up and downs on the road along the lake. We turned around 11 miles out and retraced the way we had come. A few miles form the finished I started to pull ahead thinking Kel would come with, since she never lets me go for long! When I finally turned my head around I realized I had lost the others and was about to get back into town and about to get lost. I didn't know my way back to the hospital that was the start/finish and the signed route ended at just the wrong time! I stopped and asked for directions and made my way back, not all that directly. The others had finished, though admitted getting a little lost as well, and we had a high five and a selfie to celebrate!

We had an epic weekend and I have a new sport. This is probably not good for my social life or my wallet! Anyone want to go for a ride?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Race Recap: Bristol Half Marathon

The Bristol Independence Half Marathon was run on Sunday morning in the tail end of a passing low that dumped buckets of rain and some pretty strong winds on the Northeast. Just over 450 runners showed up because we’re New Englanders, after all, and what’s a little rain? The wind had pretty much died down by the time the race started though the rain kept up for the entire time we were out there.

I had a total girl moment when I woke up and thought, “I don’t know what to wear!” I had planned on running in tights and a t-shirt but thought the rain might make my tights wicked heavy. The choice is to wear lots of clothes to keep warm and deal with the extra weight or wear very little clothing and hope it’s not too cold. I left the house in tights and a tshirt and changed my mind by the time I drove to Bristol.  It wasn’t very cold out, thankfully, and shorts and a long sleeve worked out well though both soaked up plenty of water. The sopping wet pile in my sink after the race felt like it weighed 8 pounds!

My race plan was primarily to run with a race plan since I haven’t done it before. I wanted to see if I could set a plan and stick with it. Not go out too fast, drink water every couple miles even if I didn’t want it and push harder every mile.
The course in Bristol is flat with lots of corners. I like corners, it breaks it up. We were running around the down town area and then out through Colt State Park and back to the start/finish. I intended to split the race into four segments of three miles each. The first three I wanted to run 8min/miles and try to whittle 10 seconds or so off in each of the next segments. I ran with my Garmin watch that I’m still not totally stoked about even after updating the firmware. It seems to read out a high end average pace and I only get an accurate idea of what I’m running at each of the mile marks. The first three miles I stuck to my guns and ran flat 8s. As I started to move forward into mile 4 I felt pretty good and kept thinking about the phrase ‘on the edge of comfortable.’ I felt good, could definitely maintain that pace and could start to push it as the race went on. Around mile 6 a young girl running her first half caught up to me and we fell into sync. We ran together for three miles or so and it was really good to have someone to pace off of. I would have probably slowed down if she hadn’t been right there stride for stride. We were maintaining 7:53 or so and the rain was coming down harder. I broke away from her just after mile 9 and told myself to push for the next 3. What’s a 5k? NBD. You’ve got this. It was a hard push at the end and I ran the last 3 over the edge of comfortable into uncomfortable but doable. As I approached the 12 mile marker the guy next to me commented about the last mile. I looked up toward the finish and it seemed like an awfully long way away! When I mentioned it he calmly reminded me that it was more than a mile, 1.1. We started kicking in down a flat straight bike path, neither of us letting the other get in front. Silently egging eachother on. That’s a great part of racing, the unspoken comararderie paired with fierce competition. He outstepped me just at the coral but it was a good strong finish. 

My chip time was 1:42:58, not quite the sub 1:40 I was aiming for. I know that I haven’t been focusing on training and have done very little speed work so it was as I said it would be going in, a base line for the next two this summer. I’m happy with the result, I liked how I ran and didn’t fall into my normal trap of slowing down in the middle miles. And since it started at 6:30 in the morning I was home and showered and ready to go sailing by 9!  What did you do this morning?!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The end of the VOR and the start of the Triple Crown

It's been a pretty cool couple of months of sailing and travel so far this spring. May brought around the launch of my boat, a run stopping injury and the return of many friends to the Newport area. The Volvo Round the World Ocean Race had a stop over in Newport which brought huge crowds of people into town to watch sailing! I love my sport but let's be honest, it's not exactly a spectator sport. Sail Newport and the VOR did an amazing job with the race village. With interactive simulators and a half hull of a Volvo 60 people could climb around and experience what life on a boat might be like. Having so many people excited about sailing was pretty neat.

The presence of the SCA sponsored team made up of women sailors has opened up some interesting conversations regarding bias in the sport. I've thought about this a lot and for the most part have kept my opinion off of the Internet but I'm pretty sure the only person that reads this is my Dad so I'm safe. After many conversations, articles read and drunk rantings and ramblings, I'm going to go with I don't think the issue is whether or not women as a whole are strong enough or good enough. I am concerned with wether or not I'm strong enough and good enough.  I can't do anything about the lack of opportunities for women to race except try harder to get myself on race programs. Reality is that there are few positions that need to be filled and those positions are being sought after by everyone. Even if you get the job there is no guarantee that the program will last. Yachting and racing are recreations to the billionaire owners of the boats. That doesn't lead to a whole lot of security in the job field. Trust me, I've cried about how unfair it is and yelled at my teammates for not supporting girls in sailing but it comes down to the fact that it's an industry of sailors looking out for number 1. So thank you to my teammates who listened to my bitching and gave me the advice I needed. Sailing, like running, is a sport that will only carry you as far as you push yourself. Just because you have a gig doesn't mean it's going to last and just because you've run something before doesn't guarantee success a second time.

Now we can talk about running. 

(See what I did there with the sailing is like running segway?)

Last week I ran my favorite loop in Palma that takes me gradually uphill to the Belver Castle along with some half mile repeats along the coast. Back in Newport on Monday I ran 10 around Ocean Drive on tired legs and I feel pretty good about my pacing. 
This weekend is the Bristol Half Marathon in Bristol RI. It's the first race of the RI Triple Crown event since I missed running Providence. Training has been pretty unfocused but it will be a good baseline for the other two races. I'm not looking at a PR this weekend, more using it as a long distance tempo training run.The hardest part of distance racing is the pacing and I struggle with keeping calm in the first few miles. My goal this weekend is to stay just over 8min/mile for the first 3 miles and crank it up slowly from there. I know that I can maintain a 7:40 pace for many miles but have yet to run negative splits for a distance race. I usually end up with an average pace of 8 and slower miles in the last third of the race. My friend Jillian always runs with a race plan and as yet I haven't really made one for any of my races. This is my first race this summer so as good a time as any to change some things up and see what happens. 
My math teacher in high school always said, "if you alway do what you always did you will always get what you always got." This doesn't make a whole lot of sense in math teaching because I certinly never "got" math but for running it's pretty a propos.  So get out there this weekend and make a change. Do something a little differently and see what happens. Also, if you know any biionaries looking for a way to spend money tell them to buy a race boat and hire me!

Leaving Sardinia

It's always a good Tuesday night with the Avalanche V crew

12M Class start at NYYC Annual Regatta

Palma Windmill

Everyone needs a cannon

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Spring, Summer, Sardinia

It's been a long time since I posted last. As always I've been running and sailing all over the place. I also bought an iPhone and did the very typical thing that everyone does when they do. I stopped carrying my camera and started running with my phone instead. This is a good thing for a few reasons; I run in new places a lot and am really not a details person thus I end up pretty lost by the turn around point, If I see something awesome or beautiful or interesting while running I can snap a photo and share it with you all and I can use the fancy tracking and Nike apps to improve my workouts. Now I don't take my phone with me on most runs and I don't always track my pace and progress, especially of late, but it's a pretty cool way to recap the last few months.

These two cheered me on during some interval training in Newport.

Sailing in Antigua Classics Regatta

Run, swim, run in Antigua with some friends

Sunset at Shirley's. My favorite Antiguan run

Some Sardinian miles 
Launching my boat took up a lot of time that cut into running, but isn't she pretty?

Do you know where your unicorn is?

Portsmouth, RI morning run 

Summer is in full swing in Newport and training for the Rhode Island Half Marathon Triple Crown is underway.  A 7 miler tempo run yesterday boosted my confidence with an average pace around 7:45. Tomorrow's mission is to find a track and start getting back into repeat speed work. 

It's a great time of year, bring on the miles! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Drugs, Set Backs and Rock and Roll

**Disclaimer: I was on a plane when I wrote this so it does go on a bit, ok it's really long, but bare with me, it's a pretty interesting issue**

With Marathon Monday just around the corner my own spring marathon goals have been on my mind. Over the last month I have been traveling to and sailing at different events in the Caribbean. The break from the cold was much appreciated and the sailing was fantastic but all that rum and sun caused my training to slip. I ran almost every day but my mileage was down and my speed training was practically nonexistent. Tempo runs were replaced with hill repeats and instead of 18-20, long distances were more like 10-12. Being hilly and hot makes Caribbean training hard, for sure, but by this time last year I had run an 18 in Antigua and two 20s in Tortola so that's not an excuse. The bottom line is I have put myself back about a month and probably won't race a full in May, as planned. I want to run my next marathon when I feel really ready and confident that I can decrease my time. I don't know how realistic a BQ really is for me but it is something to run towards and I want to run my next race with that in mind.

As for now I am turning my focus to the half marathon distance, with a race on May 3rd that is part of the Rhode Island Grand Slam half marathon series. Throughout the summer there are four half marathons around the state that count towards an extra t-shirt if you run all four of them. There is the option of running a full for the last event in Newport in October. The Newport Marathon is up in the air this year because of some drama involving the city, permits, Eident racing and sand dunes. Though it is not my favorite race, I still look forward to it because it's my home for now training ground. Eident and the City have both promised to host events, most likely on the same weekend so there will be something to run, there just aren't a lot of details yet. Obviously this has upset the people who have already registered for the series or race but since I don't believe in booking things in advance (or buying round trip tickets, or anything else that commits me to being someplace at sometime) this isn't an issue for me.

With my own training falling off the treadmill, as it were, and an injury to my sister causing her not to run, I have been thinking about goals and set backs. I'm not a goal setter, as I wrote about last year, and I'm sure, along with my unpredictable work schedule, it has a lot to do with the commitment phobia that keeps me from registering for races in advance. If you don't set goals you can't not reach them, right? But I do think it is important to set yourself up for success by setting goals that are realistic. I don't mean that whatever it is it should be easy. It needs to be something that challenges ourself that requires hard work with a big spoonful of self doubt, but something that is achievable. As fate would have it, as I was tuning over these thoughts in my head, I delivered a boat from St. John to The Bahamas and ended up reading one of the recent tell-all books about the Lance Armstrong/Tour de France/Did he or Didn't He/Is Doping Bad? affair. Though I know that it's not realistic, I like to believe that people are honest and hard working and can achieve amazing things and I'm always disappointed to hear about athletes that are striped of medals or honors because they cheated. Reading this book, Wheelmen, made me question my own opinions on the subject. I remember being upset to find out that Marion Jones had taken drugs to win her Olympic gold medals and was equally disappointed when Lance Armstrong admitted to continuous use of the same drugs that probably gave him cancer in the first place. I don't follow cycling and I didn't realize just how much controversy there was over him in particular and his repetitive claims that he was racing clean. It breaks the issue up in to a few different arguments; 

-Why is doping bad?
-Other than the individual athlete, who is it hurting?
-Is it the cheating / lying / legality that is the issue?
-Would you do something drastic to achieve your goals?

EPO, the most common performance enhancing drug, and Human Growth Hormones are two of the big things athletes are tested for. Taking injections of these cause athletes to increase their supply of oxygenated red blood cells, produce them for longer during periods of incredible strain and to feel less strain while pushing their bodies. Honestly, it doesn't sound that bad to me! How fast could I run if my hamstrings weren't straining?  Pain is weakness leaving the body, right? Sort of. Pain is our bodies way of telling us that something is wrong. Strain is different and knowing that difference is important. With pain you should probably stop.  It is a sign that something isn't working the way it is supposed to. Strain is probably fixable with more training and proper stretching or recovery or whatever. Taking a drug that masks the line between the two can lead to two things, achieving incredible feats of endurance and pushing to the point of break down or death, in the case of one TdF cyclist.

Obviously, death is bad but other than the individual athlete does doping in sports hurt anyone else? The main argument in Wheelmen was that the bar was raised so high by athletes and teams that were taking drugs that it made it impossible to compete at that level without it, it was part of the game. Young athletes coming up were encouraged or pressured into taking the drugs, no matter what their natural ability, they wouldn't be an asset to the team if they didn't take it.  Our elementary school teachers drilled into us that drugs are bad but isn't using science to reach new heights part of our culture? The team doctors that were prescribing EPO and blood transfusions monitored these athletes' levels of VO2 (volume of oxygen) and lactic acid and designed drug regimens around it. They were just increasing what the body produces naturally with exercise. Paula Radcliff holds the long standing record for the women's marathon and maintains that she did it clean. I'm inclined to believe her but after reading this book I don't know what to think! Her trainers and doctors have tested her natural VO2 levels and find them higher than most endurance athletes, who have high levels anyways. If her body naturally produces the things it needs to push harder for longer isn't using a drug or a blood transfusion that does the same thing just leveling the playing field?

The other big issue with the Armstrong case was the fact that everyone was lying and lying about lying. Again, from an early age we know lying is bad. Lance Armstrong never felt bad about using drugs to enhance his performance he was just eventually felt bad about lying about it. (Well, at least he told Oprah he felt bad about it, but I would say whatever I thought Oprah wanted me to say too …). If all elite athletes are doing it, should they at least be honest about it?

Then there is the legal side. Using these drugs is against the law and breaking the law is bad. But alcohol and cigarettes are legal and kill more people every year than EPO use. For that matter shouldn't fast food be illegal if it can lead to diabetes, heart disease and death? We're mad at the people that are trying to run 26 miles or bike over the Alps for 3 weeks faster than anyone else. People are upset that these athletes aren't good roll models for their kids or that they let us down in some way but we're perfectly happy to let those young kids become obese and 18 year olds to fill their body with known carcinogens.

We know that dying, lying, cheating, and breaking the law are all bad things and if athletes are doing these things in order to achieve their goals does that make doing anything to meet a goal a bad thing? I don't know, it all makes my head spin. It's a good argument to take on a long training run though! Thankfully, I am not an elite athlete or world record breaker and I'm pretty sure I won't ever be faced with the moral dilemma of taking EPO or HGH. I will admit to taking a strong shot of caffeine, which is a drug, before running. I hope you're all not too disappointed in me. 

As for the comings and goings of this mortal runner, I managed to get home to Newport for about 30 hours this week and was very pleasantly surprised to find that the snow was gone and spring is here! I dropped my bags and turned right back around to run ocean drive, unwilling to pass up an opportunity to celebrate the change of season appropriately. I had an awesome run. All of the doubts and debate about the full were far from my mind as I crushed 11 miles and felt great. I didn't take my GPS with me and mapped it when I returned home. I was pretty happy to see that I averaged an 8:09 pace, way down from last week's 9:21 12 miler. The air was fresh and just a little bit cool and it reinvigorated me completely. Congratulations to everyone who made it through the winter in New England, get out there and celebrate this week, it's only going to get better! 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Did you just call me fat?!

One of the guys that I sail with asked me the other day, "If you run so much, why don't you look like a runner?"
My female intuition kicked in and I automatically responded with, "did you just call me fat?!" After watching him bumble around for a bit trying to dig himself out of that hole I kindly explained that I run often and I run a lot but I'm certainly not winning these marathons and am definitely not an elite athlete. I just enjoy running. It did get me thinking, though, about size and shape as well as the plateau. 

-What does a runner look like? 
-Do genetics control our size and shape more than a work out regime? 
-Is it a nature vs nurture argument? 

Having a consistent regime can cause people to stop seeing change in their bodies. The raving that goes on about different diets and supplement routines  having near instant results is great until your body gets used to the change. As you lose weight your body burns fewer calories per the same amount of exercise or calories eaten.  
The theory behind the Cross Fit phenomenon is to keep your muscles guessing by breaking them down again and again with different activities. Running doesn't do this. Sure, we vary our training with intervals and cross training days but for the most part it's one foot in front of the other. 

My best friend has just celebrated returning to her pre baby weight 2 years after giving birth to her beautiful daughter. I'm incredibly proud of her for setting her goal and having the drive and patience to reach it. Over the past year she has focused on calories and exercise. She has figured out ways to workout while caring for her daughter full time.She maintains her caloric intake by removing tempting foods from her vicinity and she tracks her exercise and calorie burn with a Fit Bit because being a mom burns a lot of calories that are hard to track using traditional methods. I don't see 'chasing a toddler around in attempt to get her dressed: 95 calories' in any of the exercise tracking apps! 

Personally, I rarely change weight. I am and have been 150 lbs since I can remember. It doesn't seem to matter if I am in full training or sailing across oceans, that number doesn't move more than a few pounds. There have been a couple of deliveries when the weather wasn't great that I didn't feel up to eating and stepped off the boat about 10 lbs lighter, but short of starving myself for a couple weeks, I don't see a real possibility of living at the ever elusive 135lbs.  When I'm training a lot my body tones up in different areas and there is definitely some firming of thighs and things but no real weight change. I think I used to get stuck on the number and thinking that I needed to be down below 140 but I'm happy now with it just being my shape. 

What do you do when you plateau?
Do you have a non-traditional runner's shape and size?
Do you change up your routine? What do you do?
Here's a great article about what it will take to run a sub 2 hour marathon, perfect conditions, boring course, cool weather and a short guy with long legs!

Here's a nice view from a plateau in St. Barths

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Caribbean hills and track workouts

I was able to hang up my tights, gloves and hat for a couple weeks while I sail a few races in the Caribbean this month. Winter weather training has certainly been a challenge this year and I know I have a bit more in store for me when I get back. That said, it's definitely nice to have a break from the snow and freezing temps, even if it includes very steep hills!
I was back in the BVI last week racing and running around my old turf in the North Sound, Virgin Gorda. It was great to run a couple of my old routes, out to Oil Nut and up to Hog Heaven. I snuck in an interval workout on the horse track, too, the only flat area on the island!

This week's track

We had a day off of racing on Sunday and I headed out of the house without my shoes but decided to hike over Guy's Trail in my flips anyways. 
Running or hiking it is good to get to the top of the hills here because the views are always worth it!

This morning in St. Barths I found a great 8 mile loop that ran along some of the quieter roads on the island. I headed down into Toiny and around the south facing side toward Saline. As I circled back into St. Jean I was back on the main road and had to play the shoulder hopping game when the big trucks came by (the roads are really small here). All in all a good run and a part of the island I haven't seen before. I think I'll head down to the beach and get in a little cross training with a swim. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015


Sometimes you go to bed early on a Friday night so you can wake up early on Saturday morning to meet up with a new running group and run your first 20 of the season. Sometimes you get up extra early to ensure you have time to eat a banana and peanut butter and drink some water before getting in your car and driving. Sometimes you aren't able to poop before leaving the house and you stop at a Dunkin' Donuts on the way to meet the group and use their bathroom even though you weren't a customer that morning. Sometimes you meet up with a group and start your run but in the back of your mind you realize that even though their pacing at the same pace you would for this distance you are struggling to keep up. And you realize that the pit stop at the DD bathroom didn't quite cover it. And your hamstrings, which are always a little tight, are starting to complain a little more than usual. And as the distance between you and the pack grows you start to panic a little because you didn't bring your phone and you are running in a new place and you don't know your way around. And the complaining from your hamstrings is starting to sound more like yelling. And even after you find a side of the road Porto to use you still can't shake your tight muscles and sore knee. And you eat your chomps and you drink your water and your pace slows to a crawl and your hambos start to really scream at you. And you check in with yourself and know that, though they're screaming they are not tearing, just tight and sore. And you go back in forth in your head about how much distance you should cover and is this an injury or just something that hurts. And you turn around so that your total distance will be just over 16 instead of 18 or 20 that you intended. Sometimes you do everything right the week before and the day before and the morning of and you still have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad run.

Running is an amazing sport and it is as unforgiving as the road we run on. It doesn't matter if you are training for your fourth marathon or your 50th you still have to put in the miles and some of them are going to hurt. For the good or the bad of it, each run is a new day of running. The bad is that you can't bank last year's training sessions or miles, you have to run them again this year. The good is that we can start over after having a terrible run and know the next one will be better. Running keeps you honest and humble.

And sometimes, very rarely, but sometimes, you hit a runner's high. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015


This Throwback Thursday thing seems to be, well a thing, so I thought I would do a sort of year in review. Last Saturday was the 8 Tuff Mile race in St. John and though I was at a similar elevation, this year I was skiing down a mountain instead of running over one. And as I train for another May marathon, this time in the snow, it's fun to think back to where I was last year and where I went to get to here.
8 Tuff, St. John USVI

Sugarloaf Marathon, Maine

 Reach the Beach , NH

United Marathon, Newport, RI

Element Racing NYE 10k, Las Vegas, Nevada

Belleville Pond Trail 10K, North Kingston, RI