Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Turkey and Travel

After a really fun Thanksgiving weekend in New England I’m off to do some sailing again.
I’ve been living and working in Newport for a couple of years now without any big adventures and I got pretty used to having a place to call home. I rented an apartment, unpacked my duffel bag and acquired a whole bunch of stuff. Having a base and a place to store my toys made training and playing a lot easier. Anyone who wandered into my apartment would likely trip over a bike in my kitchen or the surfboard in my bedroom. I love having a place of my own and found it particularly hard to break away from that this winter when a long delivery option popped up. Sail from San Francisco to Charleston via the Panama canal? “Yes, please!” Shouted the world-traveler-duffel-bag-bum Laurel.  “Leave my family, friends and reasonably predictable training schedule?” questioned the home-body-who-likes-her-comfort-zone.  Hesitations or not, work is work so I booked my flight to San Fran and didn’t think about it too much.
This past weekend I was lucky enough to be at home with my family on Thanksgiving Day. I can count on one hand the number of traditional family holidays I’ve spent at my parent’s house since college so I wasn’t disappointed when another delivery was delayed and allowed me to be home for turkey. My family is big and loud and generally agrees on political issues so dinner was fun and delicious without any drama. As always the question of, “what are you doing now?” arose and I found it harder to answer than usual. I have been looking around the marine and yachting industry to try to figure out what I want to do next. I like working with boats but find it harder and harder to sign on for full time, on board jobs. I don’t like yachting enough to give my whole life to it and I’m trying to figure out what else I can do.
 The next day I headed for the mountains in hopes of getting a few runs in on my skis before sailing away. Some friends of mine rent a ski house at Sugarbush Mountain in VT and are generous enough to let me stay with them and attempt to ski with them! They had planned a Friends-giving for Saturday night and as we ate cheese and cooked another turkey questions about my next trip came up. These friends know me and the industry better than most and it’s harder to brush away questions I don’t want to answer.  For the first time I wasn’t very excited about a sailing trip and they could tell. As the dates for this trip got closer I had been waiting for the feelings of excitement and anticipation to sink in and they hadn’t hit me yet. Maybe it’s because I don’t know the boat or the crew particularly well or I’m suffering a bit of FOMO for the upcoming holiday season or maybe I’ve just had too many plans changed and learned not to get excited until I’m on the plane. 
Now I’m on the plane.  And I am getting excited. I’ve sailed a lot of miles but never down the Pacific east coast or through the canal. The first leg of the trip is downwind to Mexico. It’s true that I would do pretty much anything for a good taco and sailing a few thousand miles to get one seems reasonable to me. After that we keep heading south and east to Panama. Hopefully, we are through by Christmas and heading back up towards the eastern tip of Mexico. The rhumb line to Charleston has a few road blocks and will require some wiggling around Cuba and Florida. Roughly 6000 nautical miles, downwind, no wind then upwind. I don’t know where we are stopping, the weather and miles covered dictates that. I don’t generally do a lot of research ahead of time of where I’m going. Some say if you don’t expect too much you can’t be let down but I like to think if you aren’t distracted by expectation you can see what’s around you and appreciate it. I use that idea when I travel and I guess it’s true of my life too. I get caught up when I start to expect it to go a certain way. I’ve never followed the regular path and though the unknown parts of my future are scary and frustrating they are also the parts that make it exciting, random and fun. It’s hard to leave something comfortable for something unknown but at least it gives me something to blog about!

So if you need me I’ll be sailing and looking for tacos and thinking about what to do next. But mostly tacos.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Base layers and (re)Building a Base

On May 31 I ran my fastest marathon yet and on June 1 I stopped running. I had registered for the Burlington marathon knowing that I had an injury to my left heel and that I may not finish the race. I know none of you are shocked that I stubborned my way through it and finished the thing. I knew I had a couple physical injuries to sort through and that taking time off was the best (and probably only) way to address them. I returned to Newport, bought a bike and started Not Running.
Throughout the summer I swam in the ocean, rode miles and miles on my bike, kited whenever the wind cooperated and even learned to surf. I truly enjoy each of these sports but none of them seem to create the same feelings as running, or the same core strength! There is plenty of debate between cyclists and runners about which sport is better for you but are there any scientific reasons that I simply just feel better after running? The strongest argument for cycling is that cycling is low impact. Low impact sports leads to fewer injuries and build sustained stamina by allowing you to go for longer. Leg muscles and stamina get built up over long rides. 
Running’s leading argument is that you simply burn more calories doing it. Holding your body upright and moving it through space requires more muscle groups and more energy. Most of the other benefits of running are really just benefits of exercise in general.
-Exercise boosts serotonin, dopamine and beta endorphins which all help lower stress levels and put you in a happier mood.
-Exercise increases blood flow and the production of white blood cells, strengthening the immune system.
-Exercise increases the body’s production of ATP from glucose in our muscles and blood. This process is like a power boost to our internal batteries.  
Though I couldn't find any concrete evidence that running does magical things to my body I truly missed it and am pretty happy to get back to it. That being said, running after not running for 5 months hurts and I'm trying hard to focus on not doing too many miles too soon. I've been leaving all tracking devices at home and just trying to build a base back. Thankfully, it is fall and the weather has been distractingly beautiful.
Fall is my favorite time of year to run and train. New England pulls out all the stops between September and November in order to convince people that it really is a great place to live, right before burying us in ice, snow and freezing cold temperatures.  The days are crisp and cool, the trees are bursting with colors and the sky is an insane blue. I took the summer off from running but there was no way I was going to be able to sit on the bench as the fall weather came in. When the leaves fall so do the temperatures and lower temps lead to a runner’s other favorite pastime, gear! Summer running is so simple, shorts and tank and you’re out the door. Fall and winter running requires a runner to look at the weather and figure out what to wear. You know the expression “there is no bad weather, just the wrong outfit?” No? Oh. Maybe I made it up. Either way it applies when training outside in the winter. No one likes being cold but being overdressed and sweaty isn’t great either. I use 50°, 30° and single digits as delineations when deciding what to put on. 
When the temperature drops below 50° I put on full length tights and long sleeves.  
Between 30 and 50 I add a base layer top, usually a tank top. The fabric that is touching your skin is the important part. There are all sorts of fancy high tech wicking fabrics out there and they are all good for the job of keeping you warm but also dry(ish). My favorites are more natural wool, merino blends that incorporate the warmth of wool but in a weave or combo that doesn’t itch. A friend of mine is a rep for CRAFT sportswear and recently gave me a couple of base layers to try out. One set is a polyester-polymide blend and the other 50% polymide and 50% wool.  I like the wool blend a little better, it’s a little more breathable but still keeps me really warm. 
If it’s windy or wet outside I add a jacket that keeps the water off or the wind from cutting through. Running jackets are lightweight and designed to do just that, keep warmth in and nature out. Mine is from LLBean, because who knows New England weather better? 
Anytime it’s below 40 I add gloves and something to cover my ears.  I'm pretty obsessed with a pair of Hind gloves/mittens that I found a couple of years ago. They're super thin gloves with a stuff-able pocket that covers over the fingers like a mitten. The mitten/glove combo keeps my hands warm at the start of a run and then lets them breath as things heat up. 
Below 30 is when things start to get exciting and the laundry starts to pile up. Thicker tights, base layer long sleeve top, thick fleece top, hat and Smartwool socks. All that really matters is that I'm comfortable and warm enough to let my body focus on burning energy on the selected sport, not on keeping me warm. So bundle out and get out there! It's a beautiful or cold or windy or rainy or snowy day outside! 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Change is the only Constant

I must have started running again because the urge to blog has returned. . .

I spent the summer in the water and on the bike trying to ignore the instinct to get up and run every morning. I told myself not to run for a whole marathon training cycle and then reevaluate the foot situation. It has been 16+ weeks and the foot hasn’t changed but the weather has and there was no way I was going to stay inside and watch the leaves fall off the trees. Though the miles are few and slow and my foot is still sore, this fall has been one for the books in regards to foliage, wonderful weather and beautiful days. I don’t think anyone can be in New England in the fall and not fall in love with it.

Since I don’t have my own race to report on I have a few thoughts on the other race that is hogging all of the tv news time.  NYC Marathon you say? I love you for watching it, but no, I mean the election of our next president, senate and representatives.
One of my best friends had a baby boy a couple of years ago and when they moved back to Newport this summer she took a job that required her to find daytime care for her son. No parent likes letting go and she and her husband agonized over the decision for live-in care vs a daycare situation. How would interacting with other children affect their son? What if he was bullied? Would his character change? For the good and the bad the people that we meet change us starting as a child and continuing for the rest of our lives. Traveling and having friends all over the world throughout the past three presidential elections has allowed me to see what some of the rest of the world sees when we go through this process. The people we interact with, the choices we make and the life we choose to live all add up to form the person we become. It is an algorithm that is ever changing and adding variables. The things we do and the choices we make, make us who we are as a person. In that respect the things we do, choose and vote on, make us who we are as a country.

A while ago I asked my Dad why he and mom Mom had decided to have kids. He expressed his belief that if they could raise, in their case, four people with good morals and values that it would do some good in the world. When my sisters started to have their children I was scared for them because of all of the bad things that fill the news everyday.  What kind of world would my nieces and nephews grow up in? Today, however,  when my sister posted a photo of my niece voting with her, it brought tears to my eyes. (On a bus to the airport surrounded by people, of course!). And not because I'm scared for her future but because I'm so excited about it. Not because "I'm with Her" or not, but because there is change happening. There are people who face the big, bad, scary world and say, "We can do better. I'm willing to try, it starts with me." My sisters and friends with children are passing on ideals and values to their children. Ideals that include; all people count and are equal, that doing a little good can go a long way, that we can be the change we wish to see in the world. Change doesn't happen on one day every four years. We can't blame everyone else for the state of the country and world.  Yes, you should go vote today, but it's not just for the President. It's for local leaders and for the people who represent you on a federal stage. All change is made in increments. In running, learning, and most of all thinking, nothing happens all at once. The choices we have on a ballot today are from many, many choices we made or let happen along the way. The political situation right now is intense, confusing, and ridiculous. It might seem like democracy is broken but the thing this country is based on is that the people have a say. These are our candidates because the people that we chose to represent us chose them to represent them. It may be an outcome you didn’t envision or agree with but it is the situation we have created. And that’s ok. This is a process. Our country is young. Learning takes time. This country is an experiment.  Change is a constant. Do try to remember that everything we do has a consequence as per Newton’s 3rd law. The love, hate, judgment, kindness and/or patience you express is equally expressed by someone else. Your child, the person on whom you inflicted it or a passer by. Your vote counts and not just as a hanging chad or an ink filled bubble that tests your dexterity, but in the way you live your life. We “vote” everyday. And when you really can't make up your mind, go for a run. 

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to change, it's not." Maybe Dr. Seuss wrote children's books because he knew they are the only ones who would listen.

Monday, July 4, 2016

A Day Off in April

After my last marathon I was sure I would run another but didn't have any specific goals or ideas. 30 for 30 was great fun but what next?  I slowly started thinking about qualifying and running Boston. There's a huge part of me that said; (and keeps saying) You're too slow. You're an endurance athlete, sure, all day at 10 min pace, sure. But run fast? For 26 miles? No way. The other part of me (shall we call it the stubborn part?) started looking into it. For a 30-35 year old female to qualify they must run a 3:35 marathon. My PR is 3:45. What's 10 minutes? It's 20ish seconds a mile. Sounds small. The more I read into it the more I realized 3:35 wasn't going to cut it. No one who just qualified was making it in.To even be considered, runners needed to shave almost two and a half minutes off of the standing qualifying time. If I was going to do it I would have to start training to run a 3:30 marathon. 

The last week in January rolled around and I felt great. I had been building my base miles and cross training like a kid with ADD in a play ground. I decided to map out a plan and go for it. Hindsight being 20/20, I went for it a little too hard.
Now what? Should I try to qualify in May? Should I can the race and retrain? Push it back a month? 

Epic Man
Every year for the past eight, a couple if my friends have turned the Boston Marathon into a triathlon/fundraiser/inspiration mission. They call this the Epic Man. The general gist is to ride their bikes from Portland, Maine to Hopkinton, Ma overnight in time to start the marathon. Usually, they throw in a kayaking element to round out the Tri. Over the past eight years the event has grown and shrunk. Encompassing back to back marathons, trans American flights and skydiving. This year they were keeping it simple, ride to Hopkinton and run the race. 
I have wanted to participate since its founding but never thought I was fit enough and had the lucky excuse that I was usually sailing in Antigua at the same time. This year I was available and fit bit didn't want to derail my training a month before my marathon. When a boat delivery got delayed and I realized my training had gone out the window anyways, I agreed to ride the first half of the ride and see about the rest. I would say anyone that knows me knew I would go for the whole thing. A piece of myself must have known when I packed warm cycling clothes and my running shoes, just in case. 

Just after noon on Sunday a group of 9 riders, 3 support cars and some family and friends gathered at Flatbread Co. in Portland to kick off Epic Man 2016 with some pizza and beer. The 50 mile warmup ride to Kittery was great. Beautiful weather and a casual pace. Refuel (more pizza, more beer) and off to the crash pad for the night in North Hampton, NH. We warmed up and slept for 2 hours before hitting the road at1:30 am. Riding down route 1, through towns I usually just pass on the highway, in the middle of the night, was a pretty intense feeling. The weather was perfect though. Not a breath of wind and clear skies with a 3/4 moon. We rode for a couple of hours and took short breaks to refuel and regroup. The overnight pace was a bit faster than the day pace, to keep everyone warm, together and to get to Hopkinton on time. As the sun came up somewhere around Bedford, Ma, the lightening sky and sounds of birds reinvigorated a tired team. With little sleep and a lot of miles, the remaining 40 miles seemed pretty daunting. I only started riding last summer and my longest ride before this one was a solo 60 miler I did at the end of the fall. 70+ miles in one go, after another 70, was starting to wear. As we climbed into farm land near Maynard and Concord I started to wonder how much further we had to go. Our chase car came up and shouted an encouraging "SINGLE DIGITS!" at just the right time. As we rode into Hopkinton State Park to strange looks from the early morning volunteers, huge smiles covered our faces. We had a couple of hours before the 10am start of the marathon. Coffee, bagels, Nuun, water and even some RedBull was consumed as we chatted and changed into less sweaty running kit. The beautiful weather continued and it was going to be a warm, sunny day with a head wind throughout the race. We headed to the start on the spectator bus, swearing up and down to the volunteers that we were not there to run, just watch. We promise. For real. 

There is a lot of debate in the running community over bandit running races. I understand the view of race directors and paid contestants and would never consider running a race I didn't officially enter other than Boston. Banditing Boston is a different case in my mind. The race is closed to those who have qualified or are running for charity. Historically, after all the official runners started, the start was open for anyone else to run, with the expectation that you would peel off before the finish or at least not claim a medal or any swag given to the runners. Running without a number became a thing. This year also marked the 50th anniversary of the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. Because of the rules at the time that prohibited women from entering, Bobbi Gibb ran as a bandit. So we watched the start of the elites and the first few waves and then casually stepped off the curb and into the race.

This year was the 120th running of the Boston marathon. The hype that surrounds Boston, for runners at least, is something palpable. It's funny to me because I have never even spectated along the route or watched it on tv. My father ran for a charity he was involved in when I was a kid and I remember watching the movie he made of the experience. (Mostly, I remember the soundtrack he used and Stand By Me and That's What Friends are For and those songs will always remind me of running). In recent years I have been in the Caribbean through April and noted it's passing through friends that were running. When the bomb went off I was sailing between St. Barths and Antigua and only found out that something terrible happened through a text message late that night.

As I ran down the road I gobbled up the crowds along the side of the road. I had been worried about taking water from the water stations since I hadn't paid to enter the race. I needn't have worried. Spectators were giving out everything! From high five to freeze pops and bananas! The energy was surreal. Through the first 12 miles I didn't think about my hamstring or my foot. I didn't think about the 150 miles I had just put on my legs. The only thing that hurt was my face from smiling and laughing! The low point of the course passed and we started climbing the hills. You always hear about Heartbreak hill, the last big climb of the Boston course, but they don't mention that there are three others! As with most races, the middle bit is pretty blurred but as I ran passed the 20 mile marker I started looking around for an exit. The Epic Team race plan was to exit around mile 23 and finish our 26 miles at Tyler's house, a few miles from the course. The only flaw with this plan, as I discovered, was in order to keep the crowds out, there were barricades that were also keeping runners in! I wondered if I could fit through the bars, fearing that if I got stuck the gate would topple over onto a runner, be caught on someones phone and become a Youtube sensation overnight. I spotted a med tent on the right side of the course and headed for it. Jogging a block away from the course and checking my phone I realized I had exited on the wrong side of Beacon St and would have to cross it to head towards Tyler's. There was only one way to do that and I headed back to the barricade, realized I could fit through, and re-entered the race. I jogged another half mile or so and ducked out on the other side. The noise of the cheers and energy of the crowd died quickly as I rounded a corner and wove my way towards Watertown. I was done.
I arrived back at the house and slowly everyone filtered in, grabbing a beer and a spot on the couch. Looking around at the people in the room, some newbies, some who have completed all 8 editions of the Epic Man, all started a journey the day before. Many of us had doubts about completing the journey but started anyways. A week before I didn't think I would join the Epic team, a week after I was sailing offshore. But those 24 hours were about a journey. Moving forward, on the bike or on foot. 176.2 miles towards a couch in Watertown.

Because what else are you going to do on your day off?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Not Running around the World

It's been ages, I went pretty blog-silent during my last Oh so Frustrating Up and Down Marathon Training Cycle. I went into January a little excited and very nervous about putting a goal out there to run a 3:30 marathon in May. I've run four marathons, trained for a few more and figured that now was the time to ramp up my training and really focus on speed work. I used my previous training plan from Runner's World as a guide but also looked around for alternate speed workouts and calendars. Looking back I see that I went in too deep too fast and ended up "over training." After about a month and a half I came down with a wicked cold. Then my hamstring started acting up again after months of feeling fine. Finally, I woke up one morning to the dreaded 'bruise on my heel' feeling when I stepped out of bed. I scaled back, stopped cross training, went to the pool, I even took time off, missing an 18 and a not completing a 20 (ew.). It was too little too late and I ran the last month of my training full of doubts about  running my goal pace in May.
As it goes, I had to go offshore for a couple weeks at the end of April. Due to the timing I let Sugarloaf pass by and reset my sights on the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington on Memorial Day weekend. This way I could get back to land, hit it hard for a week or so and then start a slow two week taper. Honestly, I still doubted whether I would run at all.
My main concerns were;
1. My right hamstring would start to really bother me about 7 miles into any run.
2. I had developed plantar fasciitis in my left foot and it was starting to hurt all the time.
3. I wasn't sure if I had lost too much strength and stamina when I scaled back after getting sick.
As the week got closer I had pretty much decided not to run. I looked up the rules for a deferral or refund on the entry fee and found you could only request a deferral over a month before the race. (Which seems pretty silly to me.) A few people and articles were pointing out that continuing to run on a foot with PF could lead to long term damage. I felt that I had probably already passed that point and that I would have to take a considerable amount of time away from running in order to fix it. I also knew that if I didn't run a race I would feel like I hadn't run a full training program and I would take some time off, possibly my foot would feel a little better, and then I would jump back into training somewhere in the middle and push for a summer race, probably hurting myself more. I figured I could either stop running now or run the race and stop afterwards, the damage was already done. I needed an end to the training I had been doing since January. Call it stubborn but I wanted some form of closure. I had had an emotional, frustrating, long few months and I needed a race to finish it.
In the end I ran the race. Since then I haven't run a step and my foot still hurts. Stand by for the race recap.  

Sunday, January 24, 2016


Happy winter!
I know, I know. I’m the least consistent blogger ever. But with longer runs come more time to think of things to write about. I’ve been running and swimming and biking when I can. It’s dark and cold and all of that and like everyone else, it takes a toll on my training and apparently on my writing. But here’s my first post in 2016

Yesterday I got out for a long run before the wind and snow really picked up and fell down, respectively. I had made plans to meet up with one of the women from a local running group and as I lay in bed on Friday night I flashed back to last year on this weekend. It was the first time I ran with Narragansett Running Association and was my very worst long run ever. I was pretty anxious about a repeat performance. I figured it couldn’t be as bad as last year and if it was I could bail early, as we were meeting another member who was only running 12. We met at the parking lot at Narragansett Beach and decided to run north and upwind first. Route 1A runs north/south and isn’t very busy that time of day/this time of year. We ran out for 6 and turned around and enjoyed the tailwind back to the beach. Mary jumped in her car to get ready for her daughters manicure birthday party and Michelle and I carried on south for the remaining 5 miles. We turned around into a strengthening headwind and made it back to the beach where the wind was blowing onshore at 25+ knots and the snow was just starting to fall. It was a really fun run with two new people who encouraged me to stick with speed training and keep trying to qualify for Boston.

The rest of Saturday was spent holed up at a friend’s house in a post run haze. The snow was coming down all day. Though it wasn’t the Storm of the Century, Snowmageddon or even a blizzard, it was a good winter storm to ease into the season of winter storms. It hit hard and fast, dropping about a foot in just about 12 hours and it hit on a Saturday morning so it didn’t disrupt commutes or schedules all that much. It was also followed with a sunny, blue sky day.  Rhode Island is definitely not New Hampshire when it comes to snow removal. (I have yet to see a single plow guy interviewed on the 6 o’clock news here!) Having Saturday night and Sunday morning to clear the roads made them ok to drive on, impossible to bike on and just fine to run on. Sundays are supposed to be bike and hike days, group bike ride and Laser Frostbite sailing. Since the roads were not clear enough to ride on I set up my new stationary bike trainer and had a ride inside. I did an hour of interval training with a Motion Traxx workout. Gatorade teamed up with Motion Traxx a few years ago and released some free workout downloads before Apps were all the rage. Now there is a great Motion Traxx app that is loaded with workouts for when you just can’t be asked to motivate yourself, i.e. on the treadmill or stationary bike. (There are elliptical workouts on there too but I just can’t figure out why anyone wants to use an elliptical). Go download the App, it’s great for working out indoors.

Rhode Island is not New Hampshire and Middletown is not Newport when it comes to clearing sidewalks...

As for sailing, I figured it would take awhile to shovel out the boats so I headed down to Fort Adams early with my shovel at the ready. Sign number 1 you shouldn’t be going sailing is that you have to take along a shovel. Sign number 2 you shouldn’t be going sailing is the windspeed and temperature are the same. In today’s case, 25* and 25knots. I struggle to hold down a full rigged Laser in 20+ but the forecast had the breeze dropping off after noon. We dutifully met and shoveled out the boats and waited for the wind to drop. By noon it was still gusting to 30 so they called it off. (I have a feeling a 3pm kick off for the Patriots swayed a few of the votes.)

Though I was disappointed, mostly because I had already struggled into my wetsuit, I was pretty happy to have a chance to run on such a nice day. All of the articles and books say that recovery runs are as important as training runs. I have a hard time going out and not pushing so it was nice to have a wide open afternoon to sloooww dooowwnn. A great way to make myself slow down is to run a new route and take my camera along for the run. It forces me to look around and see my own back yard with new eyes. This area really is beautiful and the fresh snow made it extra special today.

I wrote this while eating some recovery oatmeal and am headed down to watch some *cough Professional Athletes cough* and have a recovery beer. Happy weekend and don’t let the snow scare you, get out there. There is no bad weather, just the wrong outfit.