The Run of Champions: A Recap of the Boston Marathon ’17

Photo by Madeline Bills, Boston Daily

Most times when you run a race there’s a clear case of “hated it” or “loved it” only rarely are you caught in the middle, ambiguous about where on the running experience spectrum it belongs. My Boston run this year falls somewhere along the lines of amazing and disappointing.

@the start line

No surprise that the disappointment was all due to the weather, which, in all honesty, was hardly surprising as for days leading up to the event we were made aware of the impending warm temperatures. Of course one can always hope as in instances such as these, that maybe, just maybe, it won’t be as bad as all that. It turned out to be maddeningly so, though it felt slightly better than last year, or maybe I was just better prepared. Whichever it was, I’m thankful that I had a better experience.

The truth is, it was amazing. I can find no fault with organizers as the race was seamlessly executed and we were treated to the full effect of phenomenal volunteers and spectators along the course. It’s hardly the organizers fault that the sun graced us with its unabashedly glorious presence from the moment we disembarked the busses at Athletes Village until about mile 22. I did then what every runner had to do, which was adjust my expectations and my strategy – got comfortable with the idea and was able to enjoy the race – for the most part.

Spectators @ Framingham, Massachusetts. (Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images), abc2news.com

The cheers helped tremendously, so did the endless supply of Gatorade and water, both from the amazing volunteers and the awesome spectators. And then there was the sprinklers and open fire hydrants and soaked sponges and wet paper towels and the ices and the list goes on and on. Even the dreaded heartbreak hill and the other minor mountains didn’t seem so bad at all. In fact, the steady down hills for the first half of the race proved more difficult and taxing on my prevailing runner’s knee issue, that flared up during those said miles, than when the course was flat or uphill.

In the end, it was the sure knowledge that I was in Boston and approaching Bolyston Street and the finish line that bolstered the last mile and saw me running it in my fastest time since mile 3. Nothing like running down the home stretch to the uproar and cheers from a sea of spectators rooting for you every step of the way.

Boston-Bound and Race Readiness

What does race readiness look like? For that matter, what does Boston-ready look like? I’m not sure even I know at this point. It just so happens that this race falls smack in the middle of Easter, which is a big deal in these parts, and I normally have a routine I diligently follow. That’s all turned upside down now, but I’m nothing if not adaptable, so although the last couple days have felt like I’ve been on something akin to a rollercoaster, with getting to Boston and the Expo and all that entails, while getting in some church time as well as a tad bit of the sights and sounds of Boston. What can I say, it’s a beautiful city, I love it here in gorgeous Spring.

All that said,  I’ve somehow managed to make it to the eve of marathon day and I’m ready to hit the sack. I’ve gone over my checklist: running gear, bib, pins, shoes & socks, hat, gels, heat sheet, chap-stick, snacks & Gatorade.

Additionally, I’ve read over the course details as well as the transportation details to the start. I think I’ve got it all covered and save for getting up four hours – enough time to eat breakfast, dress and get to the start – before my race time, I’m pretty much ready to run. Maybe I’m Boston-ready after all.

Taper Week Madness

@ Palisades Park Police PostHard to believe a year has gone by already and I’m heading to Boston again. After living (and running) through what was a much-anticipated race-turn-nightmare last year, I just didn’t think that I’d be going back so soon; I mean, how could I have known that my chance at redemption would be this quick? I couldn’t. Exactly six days to d-day and the 2017 Boston Marathon, and I can’t believe I’m here – doing this to myself once again – getting butterflies and all excited and sh**! During my two-week taper countdown, I’ve been trying my darnedest to slow down my mind along with training and while I’ve been successful with the latter, I’m finding it a bit more challenging to put my mind to rest. Nevertheless, forging ahead while assessing what I’ve accomplished and what’s left, I remain the eternal optimist and feel that I’m in a good place now after my last long run a week ago.

Along the course

Last Saturday I took off to New Jersey Palisades Park for my last long run. While I got off to a late start, it proved early enough to make it all the way from the George Washington bridge (178th Street Manhattan) to Palisades Police Post, 10 miles in. The entire run was 20 miles, my longest for the training season since last October, and a good one; away from everyone and everything I was able to lose myself in nature and just be.

Spring-time

Since escape is rare and I don’t often get the opportunity, I enjoyed it for the treat it was. I’ve run this course for three consecutive years, around this time of year and continue to find it a challenge as it rolls along the Hudson River.

View over the Hudson

I took it easy on the hills, kept a more or less steady 8 min/mile pace and even slowed down for a couple of pics. What can I say, sometimes a picture is really worth a thousand words.

Over the Hudson

I’ve run enough marathons to know that I shouldn’t be worried yet there’s this nagging bit of anxiety that I didn’t do enough. Needless to say, the time for debating – what if – is long gone, the race is on, pun intended. Being an optimist has its advantages, which leaves me pretty confident I’ll be fine, last year’s mishap notwithstanding. This is the time, I’m told, to exude confidence, optimism and hope, so here I am cultivating an environment of positivity, looking forward to a final taper week of minimal running, some core and cross training and focusing on storing up my carbs, hydration and getting some major snooze time in. I’m Boston bound, ready or not. Strike that..I’m ready and Boston bound in four days!

Running Inspiration: Ed Whitlock

Ed Whitlock @ the 2016 Toronto Marathon (competitor.com)

Inspiration abounds, you have only to look around.

There is nothing more disappointing or wasted than an unfulfilled dream or unrealized goal. Now imagine going through life not once allowing yourself the chance to see where “it” could have taken you; by “it” I mean that dream or goal that started as a little seed, planted by some per chance wind somewhere in the deep recesses of your psyche. I have a theory that many of us will never achieve our full or real potential, that fear and/or the lack of motivation and inspiration will be the chief deterrents to our success and happiness. However, that is another issue. Here we’ll focus on how, despite that theory, there are those who will go on to inspire, motivate and encourage others to greatness, even in spite of themselves, as was the case with Ed Whitlock, an older Canadian long distance runner and Master, who died in March.

The running world has indeed lost a great soldier and runner in Ed. Without much fanfare but with a lot of heart, he set about running, on and off over his lifetime, a simple life as he termed it – and incurred a host of records to his name and the history books in his latter years and leading up to his death. Over a course of about twenty years from ages 65 to 85 he acquired single-age world records for the 5K, half marathon, and marathon. What is particularly fascinating about Ed is that he never employed any expensive, extensive or intricate system or even had a secret to his success, he simply had a passion for running, was good at it, and had the ability. As far as he was concerned, he just ran and would argue against being called an inspiration by those of us who revered him. Simplicity and humility more than any specific training regimen seemed to be Ed’s modus operandi. I would argue that his investments, unlike so many current-day runners, never graduated to high-tech or inventive methods to improve efficiency or performance but stayed modest and relatively unchanged over the years. Old sneakers, a relatively normal diet, the average shorts and tank in good weather, slightly more for the colder temps, and a body fully engaged in continuous running motion at a steady pace were in essence his tools of trade. He went on to die of prostate cancer at the age of 86, a few months after running a sub 4:00 marathon time.

It would be a mistake if we did not take a step back and see what we can learn from Ed’s life and running ethic. If we want to honor his memory, we would do well to adopt at the very least his modesty and passion for what he believed in, his ability to defy convention and worldly standards. Ed proved once and for all that the only limits that exist are the ones we place on ourselves; that while we operate within the confines of life, we are solely responsible for our choices, attitudes and perspective. Ed chose to live his life each day limitless, ran when he could, as well as he could, where he could and he did it as long as he could. He did it his way.

Ed Whitlock @ Rotterdam Marathon
(globalnews.ca.com) The Canadian Press

Running Benefits to having a Strong Core

The muscles involved in the side plank. Theagonist (active) muscles are highlighted.

Most of us when we think “core,” we think abs (abdominal muscles) and envision the ideal six-pack and harbor dreams of tone, ripped, lean stomach muscles that make us proud and others jealous. I mean who doesn’t want that? I’ll tell you who..no. one. ever. And while I’m super crazy about ripped abs, core muscles are much more than that and I’m more crazy about what they can do; what amazing powers or secrets do they hold. Word on the street is that they’re magic to your running and really that’s all a runner girl needs to hear.

Before we dive into the magic stuff, let’s get rid of any misinformation as it pertains to your core muscles. The core consists of the abdominal, hamstrings, quads, hips, glutes, hip flexors, obliques and lower back (active.com). I know! I wasn’t quite aware it was all that but the truth is you can see how it makes sense, since all these muscles can work together to make you stronger and faster. The aesthetics is purely a pleasant by-product of paying attention to these areas.
Thus, the main benefit of having a strong core is a stronger body with less potential for injuries.  Workouts targeting the core areas outlined above strengthen the muscles, which translates into better performance or running efficiency. The concept of a well-oiled machine can be applied here as the body, tried and tested, continuously strives for optimal performance. A number of the injuries that runners fall prone to such as : Achilles problems, Hamstring issues and lower-back pain, result from bad pelvic alignment (runnersworld.com). Additionally, there are issues of over and under pronation and inefficient cadence; a strong core can help to greatly reduce your risks, if not eliminate these issues altogether resulting in increased running economy.
So enough already with trying to get you on board, if you’re not there by now.. let’s just say you’re missing out on some sexy summer pics 😉 . On the other hand, if you’re sold, here are five of my favorite core exercises that you can include in your daily workout:
Planks – Basic and Side Planks can be done in separate workouts or can be alternated. On your toes, legs a few inches apart and elbows resting on the floor (below shoulders) hold position. Start small and work your way up increasing reps and duration. For example, from reps of 20 seconds to 1 minute with rest intervals in-between from 10-30 seconds depending on length of rep.
Abdominal Crunches – The basic crunch with feet planted on the floor or hyper-extended at right angles to the floor with a twist to do what is termed the bicycle twist gives you two options. You can start with 4 reps of 15 with 30 second rest intervals, gradually increasing reps each workout.
The Superman Pose – Lying stomach to the floor extend arms and legs full out raising first one leg and opposite arm about 4 inches off the floor, hold for an initial 10 seconds and rest, alternating sides and increasing the hold position slightly each workout.
The Bridge – Lie on the floor, hands extended in a cross position with feet planted on the floor right below knees. Slowly lift torso and upper legs until it’s in a straight line and you’re resting on shoulders and pressing down with feet. Extend left leg straight while keeping back straight, so it’s off the floor and hold for about 5 seconds. Repeat with right leg. Do 5 or six reps with the option to increase duration and reps each workout.
Russian Twists – Using a ball or weights, I use 10-15 pound weight, sit  straight up on the floor with legs extended and slightly raised, lean back until abs are engaged and twist and pick up weight, keep twisting right to left with weight and reaching as far behind you on the twists as you can. Do 4 reps of 10-15 to start.
What’s super cool about these is that you can work them into any workout, on any given day, and they can be done indoors or outdoors with minimum fuss. You can also combine as few as or as much of these core exercises as you like. Pretty flexible right? Feel no pressure to get a crunch on..only that summer in all its bikini-clad glory will soon be here. 😜
Sources: active.com, competitor.com, runnersworld.com

A 15K with a Kick

Saturday gone, I ran the annual 15K put on by the Greater Long Island Running Club (GLIRC) here in New York. Suffice to say, sometimes it pays to just dive in while other times it could be a monumental mistake. In this case I think my tendency to the impromptu turned out fine though I wouldn’t always bet on it. Deciding on Thursday that I would do a race on Saturday is not mired in good, well-thought-out decision-making but then I hardly make any such claim. Fanciful, impulsive, adventurous, committed, and a host of other attributes I can attest to, but always being sensible and cautious would not describe me – not by a long shot. Hence why I found myself standing outside in below freezing temperatures in Kings Park out on Long Island Saturday morning.
I was to see that my friends and I weren’t the only crazy ones making rash decisions; more and more runners kept filing in to the school compound which served as the base and start and finish area. Now in all honesty, this is a course I’ve run before. A few months back, a group of runners invited me out there for a long run and we pretty much ate up the course. Hilly, but only nine miles, it went pretty hard and fast. What we did not have then was the weather factor, which turned the tide of the run this time around.
We began in15℉ with real feel temperatures of 2 degrees. Blisteringly cold, I figured it was smart to ration my heat and wrapped myself in a heat sheet to run the first couple of miles, except it lasted about three-quarters of a mile before the wind became too much and said sheet became more of a hindrance than the help it was originally intended for. I had to dump it and face losing feeling in my face, feet and fingers. Despite my strategy of taking it easy on the hills/inclines, it slowly became harder to breathe with intermittent head and cross winds at various intervals and it took a mean mind to keep one foot in front of the other and not give in to the urge to stop and walk.  Add to that the snow and ice on the ground, in some areas, and what should have been a simple challenging run ended up being hazardous. There was little choice but to go into self-preservation mode to guard against getting injured. I reduced my pace – to a crawl really – for about a mile with three miles to go and finished up with a blistering dash in a time of 1:16.
 
We can all agree that the best part of racing in sub-temperatures is finishing and getting to enjoy the post-run eats and hot drinks. The organizers didn’t disappoint offering quite the spread to chase the chills and any discomfort away, so much so that we hung around for the official results ceremony and the raffle and giveaways. Turns out, this is one time my rash decision-making proved to be a bit of a chill running experience.

 

Motivate, Inspire, Encourage..Run to the Power of Words

Source: shape women's magazine

        Source: shape magazine

It’s not the average person who gets up on a typical day and decides – you know what, this is it..this is my kick-butt, bad- ass day; today I decide to stop with the excuses and show up and do shit ( yep I said it). No, even if you’re a veteran in the game, most days you have to do some heavy self-motivating to get those feet moving out the door. So for the newbie or ambivalent, I imagine it’s much harder. Lucky for you, I’ve been there, I’m still here and likely to be here for sometime into the indefinite future. That way I can always motivate my and your asses to lace up those sneakers and hit it up for some mileage.

Very often I’ve found that if you distance yourself from the naysayers and immerse yourself in an environment that’s supportive of your goals and ideals, you’ve gotten rid of the biggest obstacle to your success. We’ve heard it often enough – words are powerful, they have the power to change the world..to start wars or bring about peace (on a global scale). If this is true, and history tells us it is, then consider if we use, or allow them to be used, to allow positive change in our lives. Of course this is already the case with all the self-help books and other motivational material out there, but what if you and I, we, decide to make it our personal goal to immerse ourselves in those positive, transformational and inspiring words to motivate our next step? What if we make it so it’s the first thing we see and ingest in the morning and the last thing we breathe at night? I think crazy stuff will happen..blow-your-mind stuff.. I mean, we’d be unstoppable, both physically and emotionally; talk about goal achieved!

See, I’ve always believed that our destiny is inherently ours to decide, granted it’s guided and overseen by our Heavenly Father, but ultimately ours, as a by-product of His gifts of unconditional love and freedom of choice to us. We get to take these beautiful, and often self-serving machines, and make it into what we will. And the funny thing is words can help us, be it ours or someone else’s, verbosely, orally or in print. Stick it up, write it down, tattoo it on..however works best to get and keep you moving on the good days and not so good days.

Here are five of my favourite get up and kick ass quotes:

“Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to a stern resolve. He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.” –  ascribed to Leonardo Da Vinci

“Once you make the decision that you will not fail, the heart and body will follow.” – Kara Groucher

“Nothing great in this world was ever accomplished without passion.” – ascribed to George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

“It’s when discomfort strikes they realize, a strong mind is the most powerful weapon.” – Chrissie Wellington

“Our limitations and success will be based, most often, on our own expectations of ourselves. What the mind dwells upon, the body acts upon.” – Dennis Waitley

Of the millions out there, these are my every day mantras. You need to suss yours out and wear it like a talisman, Scouts (runners) honor it will serve you well!

 

 

 

Have a Spring Fling with Running

Source: AMP womensrunningmagazine

Source: AMP . womensrunningmagazine

Hard to believe March is only a couple of days away. And I feel as if I say this every month-end, which by the way, comes about way too soon, as I’m practically leaping to keep up. I mean what’s the hurry..why the rush? Not that I’m not happy to get out of February and the dastardly cold, which in all fairness hasn’t been bad at all this year. Still, any likeliness of a snow storm has me breaking out in chills, ready to burrow in a hole somewhere, so I’m practically jumping up and down in anticipation of March and the advent of Spring. I will not entertain one thought or word about how it’s likely be cold for a while yet. I prefer to live passionately in an alternate reality, which for all intents and purposes will be here soon enough anyway.

While we’re here envisioning everything green and blooming and embracing kisses of sunshine and showers of blessings,  we can definitely go about planning some Spring-inspired really fun things:

(1) Rock n’ Roll Mini Marathon 5k, March 11, 2017 – Washington DC.                       This is part of the Rock n’ Roll series and feature a full (did it!) & half marathon but since I’m focusing on fun, tagging along a newbie and Boston will be about one month away, a 5k is a safe fun focus.

(2) Bloomsday 12k, May 17, 2017 – Spokane, WA.                                                 A hugely popular run that sees large numbers of runners from all walks. It sounds, different and promises a picturesque course and a fabulous after-party. A definite drag-some-one(s)-along run, plus it’s cheap.

(3) Carlsbad 5000, Carlsbad, California, April 11, 2017.                                                 The flattest, fastest, scenic 5k in southern California you will ever run. For newbies to avid competitors alike, you gotta dig this killer 3.1 course.

(4) Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon, May 7, 2017.                                                           Touted as the best-named Marathon, it promises a challenge, which is offset by the spectacular views. Who doesn’t run just for those? It’s a new course for me, there’s beer, goody bags and other adventurers. I’m stoked.

(5) St. Jude’s Country Music Rock n’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon, April 29, 2017 – Nashville, TN.                                      A once in a lifetime must-do run through of the iconic sites in country-famous Nashville. There’s bound to be a free concert or a few happening with lots of music on hand.

Really, I could go on and on. There are just so much races to choose from. From mud to color to music, there is a run for everyone in practically every state and beyond. Those listed above are just a few of which I plan on running at least two from.

I invite you to consider taking a step out of your comfort zone, whatever that may be for you, maybe it’s running in another state, a new course, a new distance or a different type of race, Let it be your Spring fling if you will and commit to dive in and enjoy it from start to finish; chances are you may develop a hankering for this running thing.

Powering through Pain: my long run debacle

img_20170218_121104_072I recently did a long run that would probably label me insane by a lot of people, maybe you’re already convinced I am, truth be told, we runners are a crazy lot. I know I’m not the average person anyhow. I’m what my daughter terms “extra” and what I know to be type-A in nature, so it’s hardly surprising that I would choose to hop a train out to Long Island for an impromptu long run, at the suggestion of a friend after suffering through a week of a mother of a toothache. Maybe it was the chance to break the cycle of pain, but I over-zealously grabbed on to it with both hands and jumped right in to a hell of my own making.

I got up early Saturday morning, ate, took my pain meds, and took off running to the train station. A few feet into it..my tooth made me aware that maybe, just maybe, this was not such a good idea after all. In all honesty, I thought about abdicating for all of two seconds and decided to hell with that, I’ll wing it. I loaded up on oral gel – it had to work – and we boarded the train and hello Wantah. We made it in under an hour and immediately took to the street, zig-zagging our way through traffic and sidewalks still packed with ice, from the snow storm last weekend, all the way to the Ceder Park.

img1487614898472Mindful of the cold air getting to my gum and the exposed nerve, I was pretty much mummified, which may have helped except that the pounding of my feet sent shards of glass shooting up the right side of my head. Duhh, you may say. Well, a girl could dream; dream of running fast and far enough that the pain would take flight, only it didn’t. I tried tailing my partner in the hopes that my pain wouldn’t jeopardise his run, I tried running alongside him & letting him chat it up to take focus away from the pain, I even tried running ahead, that lasted for all of one mile. In the end it proved rather difficult to pretend it away and I had to live with reducing my pace and keeping my mouth and much of my face covered.

Seven and a half miles in we came upon the beach area and I was able to appreciate something about the whole mess of a run. Turned out it was a view worth running for. The ocean seemed to beckon as its waves rushed forward invitingly, whereupon we succumbed to its temptation and ventured closer to touch its water. No surprise there, it was as cold as it looked, though we didn’t let that stop us from trying to capture the picturesque scene and peace surrounding us. A futile effort really, as the photograph would never quite capture the awesomeness of that moment.

imag1651While it was hell going, the return proved much easier even though my momentum was shot to hell. Thus, I was able to increase my pace somewhat and breathe easier as the air got warmer and I lost some of the covering over my mouth and face area. Physically, there was little I could do once reaching the beach, it was either Uber, swim or run. Since there was no chance of either of the former, it was down to make-up-a-mean-mind and get it done. And done I did..not in the time nor fashion I wanted, but hell, sometimes finishing just has to be enough.

Fourteen miles and some coconut water later, we were back on the train heading home. Did I end up worst off or further incapacitate myself as a result of running with a toothache, somewhat. I’ve been dealing with an ongoing runner’s knee issue and because I had to favor my right side to minimize the tooth pain, I ended up over-compensating, which flared up my knee pain and has me back to working to recover from that. Sometimes, we can be such fools. However, I promise you I spent the rest of the day as horizontal as I could and plan on having an easy week to help heal my mouth and a painful right knee. After all, April’s fast approaching.

img_20170218_121206_497

Jones Beach

 

Love Beautiful, Love Healthy, Love Happy, Love Running

 

Source:Core Body Fitness

Source: Core Body Fitness

My body and I have been through it all. But recently I have been liberated. I am healthy, I treat myself well, and for that I’m happy. I’ve looked in the mirror and been able to LOVE the things about my body that beauty norms deem ‘undesirable’. I now have grown to know that my body is worthy of so many great things. I don’t need to be a size 0 to believe in myself. My body carries me each and every day, it loves the people i love, it holds what makes me healthy and strong, it bends it shakes it runs and it CHANGES. That is okay and that is beautiful.                ~Sailor Brinkley Cook

Last week there was a CNN opinion piece by Peggy Decker about Christie Brinkley,  a 63 years old former Sports Illustrated (SI) model, who appeared on the cover of SI once again, after many years, alongside her two daughters, Sailor Brinkley Cook and  Alexa Ray Joel. While the article has many merits, I take issue with its attempt to delegitimize Christie Brinkley’s love, validation and pride in her body.
Decker argues that Brinkley’s “sexagenarianism” or youthful beauty and implied good health is an impossible ideal for women to strive for and is therefore unrealistic and unattainable. I hardly agree. Those of us who embrace a healthy lifestyle expect to see the results of our dedication and commitment to same. We are under no illusion that we hold the key to eternal youth or any such fallacy, as that is well within God’s design,  but we do believe that such a path allows us, as far as it is within our power to do so, to minimize the risks of sickness, aging badly and other negative conditions associated with getting older. The idea is that if we love our bodies, regardless of color, size, age and or type, and take care to treat it well, we will be rewarded with a healthy and beautiful life within the limits of this realm of course. It’s a fact, we live in an imperfect world and so we’re privy to all the imperfections that come with that, however we have a responsibility to value greatly this gift we have been blessed with and while it may not always be the case, at least 75% of the time we are guaranteed success.
Our part is clear and easier now than ever before: eat healthy meals, snack healthy, drink lots of water, exercise daily to include running of course (wink), moisturize and use sunscreen, visit your doctor regularly to ensure your necessary checkups and be happy. Those are the things within our purview, things we have every right and responsibility to attain. It will go a long way in refuting the supposition that a long, beautiful, healthy and youthful life is unrealizable.

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 413 other followers

%d bloggers like this: