Monday, May 18, 2015

Why?

Why?

That is a question that many endurance athletes are asked, sometimes by other endurance athletes (who don't "endurance" quite as far as others) and often by non-endurance athletes.

 About 21 miles into a 22 miler

Why?

Why are you going to run 31 miles at one time? Why are you going to subject yourself to hours and hours of potential, and in all likelihood inevitable, pain? Why are you training for this one event like it is a part-time job?

Why?

It is a question that for many there is no one clear answer.

For me, the answer to "why" has many layers.

Mike and I started running using the Couch-to-5K program back in April 2011. We were both swimmers growing up, from 7-8 years old through two years of collegiate swimming, and we both ran cross country when we were younger. I made it through my freshman year of high school and decided that 3 miles was way too long to run.

 I've improved my race photo face since then, ha

On the surface, when we started running we both looked "healthy". We weren't really, we were pretty sedentary, though we had both lost a significant amount of weight that we had gained after we had stopped swimming. The Couch-to-5K was something that we could do together and that was the biggest motivator for me to try to run again.

Running and triathlon has helped me gain a healthy relationship with food. I see food now as a way to nourish my body in order to do all of the things that I love. And quite honestly, I love food!

 Garlic knots? Yes please!

As I look back on my journey, it isn't surprising that I am an endurance athlete, an Ironman and a soon-to-be ultramarathoner. I thrive on setting the bar high, achieving my goals and setting the bar even higher the next time. I don't always achieve everything that I set out to do the first time, but that's what keeps me coming back and working harder to achieve it the next time (and in some cases maybe the third or fourth time that I try).

 We love jumping after a race

I love the friends that I have gained from becoming an endurance athlete. I met my best friend, Crystal, because of our love of running. I have met so many other people because of running and triathlon, and for that I am thankful.

At the same time, I have also come to know myself better. I have become stronger, both physically and mentally. You learn a lot about yourself when you are out there training for hours and hours.

 Sitting in the grass and reflecting is necessary in endurance sports

Those who know me, know that I am not willing to say that I will never do something. A 50 miler? Yes, it is possible. A double Ironman? Sure, I would consider it. Anything and everything is possible with the right mindset, motivation and hard work. I am not willing to limit myself and my abilities.

So I guess the short answer to the question is simple.

Why not?

Friday, May 15, 2015

On the 50K

Back in September, I sat in my living room with my cursor hovering over the "register" button for the Pineland Farms 50K. After some, slight, peer-pressure, I went ahead and completed my registration for the race.

Training has not gone according to plan and at times it has been downright frustrating. I often wondered how Mike and I got through 6 months of Ironman training when (I felt like) I couldn't even get through 19 weeks of 50K training. I was reminded a few times that Mike and I did experience struggles during Ironman training with skipped and shortened workouts, flat tires, windy rides, hot runs where we had to walk so much it almost felt like it wasn't worth it and swims so choppy that even this seasoned swimmer had to get out of the water early.

Trail love

Not everything is perfect and we usually remember the good times over the bad times (which is why endurance athletes continue to race long distances, even if it does hurt really bad while we are in the moment).

I am an overachiever and I like to push myself to the extremes in all aspects of my life. I started training for Pineland Farms on January 12th and the first few weeks were pretty uneventful. I was able to get in most, if not all, of my planned workouts. Then, February hit.

We had a difficult winter this year on the east coast and Rochester was no exception. I tried as hard as I could to get outside to run and to complete all of the miles that I had scheduled for myself, but it just didn't happen. I ended up running on the indoor track more times than I would ever like to again and I shortened numerous training runs.

 During my longest training run this cycle, a 22 miler

One of the hardest aspects of training for this 50K was that Mike was not also training for it. Sure, he was still joining me for the majority of my runs but once I hit a certain distance (and our 70.3 training started in March) he didn't run the entire workout with me. The fact that he did not have to get out there, made it that much easier for me to skip workouts (even though I really shouldn't have). I am not sure I want to train for something that Mike is not also racing ever again, yet, I have a feeling that my desire to run a 50 miler (and probably even further) and to do a double Ironman someday may force me to do just that.

So many snowy runs

Throughout my training, Mike was my biggest supporter (as he always is). He would run with me, when he didn't have to, he would make sure that I was safe at the end of my long runs by stopping along the way in the car, he cheered me on during my 18 mile race and he would tell me that I could do it. While I may not have always believed that I could do it, knowing that he felt that I could meant the world to me.

In the end, I have done what I could. I can't change the fact that we were post-holing during more runs than I would like to count, that I was freezing for the majority of my winter runs, that I ran on the indoor track (up to 12 miles), that I stood there screaming on the trails that I couldn't do it and that I was going to drop out of the 50K or that I didn't complete my Seneca Trail out and back attempt.

The day after an 18 mile race, running 12+ on the trails

I can give myself credit for what I did do. I have run 493 miles (as of writing this post) so far in this training cycle, I ran three 20+ mile training runs, I ran numerous back-to-back long runs on the weekend, I ran 12 miles on the indoor track (that's 96 times around, for those who don't know) and I didn't give up.

 I'll make sure that some of these crazy antics are going on next week!

As with any race, I don't know how next Sunday will go. I do know that I am going to give it my all and I hope to finish with a smile on my face and one of my greatest friends by my side.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mike Flew at Night

I love racing, it is one of the best parts of being a triathlete. However, when I'm not racing, I love to spectate and cheer on others while they are out there crushing their own victory laps!

It is even better when the person that I am cheering on happens to be Mike.

Over the last four years, Mike and I have raced a lot. Granted, we have cut down on races now that we are primarily racing longer distances but we still love to race. I have had the opportunity to race a few times while Mike was a spectator. He is my greatest supporter and having him on the sidelines cheering for me is amazing!

When I registered for my 50K, Mike told me he wasn't going to do it too. This has been the first big race that I have been training for by myself (more on that in another post, most likely). While talking about our racing calendar for the rest of the year, Mike decided that he was going to do the Fly by Night duathlon. Since it was only two weeks before my 50K, I said that I would spectate.

Ready for the Formula 1 Du: 1.7 mile run, 10.2 mile bike, 1.7 mile run, 10.2 mile bike, 1.7 mile run

This was my first time spectating a race that just Mike was racing (unless you count when I had to DNS Cast a Shadow and a few years of the Corporate Challenge). Our friend, Greg, came with us. We had a great time going back and forth between a few spots while Mike raced around the Watkins Glen International race track.

 Around and around he goes!

While I don't know if I ever want to train for a race that Mike isn't also training for again, I did have an amazing time supporting him this past weekend.

Mike flew at night! Finishing time of 1:49:23

Being on the opposite side of the race course makes me appreciate what he has done for me even more and I can't wait to see what the rest of our triathlon season has in store for him!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Medved Madness Race Recap

On Sunday, Mike and I participated in the Medved Madness Trail Race. It was our first year running the race and I am really glad that we did! I had a lot of fun and will definitely try to run this again in the future.

I went in to the race knowing that I would be using it as a training run for my 50K. Saturday we ran 10 miles on trails in the morning and rode 33 miles in the afternoon, so I was just hoping my legs would cooperate enough to get me through the race.

Medved Madness consists of three, approximately 5 mile, loops (the race ended up being a little short, around 14.4 miles total) throughout the entire park of Mendon Ponds.

We lined up for the start around 8am and after a brief explanation of which colors to follow (white/blue, pink/black and then orange) it was time to start! I settled in toward the back and just took my time through the start of the first loop.

The start! Thanks Laura for the photo!

I really liked the first loop, it wasn't too hilly but it did take you through some muddy portions in the woods. I saw our friend, Ron, taking photos a few times and he cheered me on. I was wearing my new hydration vest and used the bladder for the first time, I had too much liquid on me but that was the point so that I could test it for my 50K.

I started off a bit too fast and so I pulled back during the third mile of the race. I was still with other people at this point and passed a few. Toward the end of the first loop, you could see across the pond and I saw other runners making their way through the course. The first loop ends with a nice little romp through the pond. I tried to run the entire time in the water but I felt like I was going to lose my balance so I sloshed my way through and up the grassy hill toward the start/finish area. Some of our friends who were doing the relay and just there to spectate cheered me on.

I went through and finished the first loop in 51:07 and then it was time to start the pink/black loop. I knew that this one was going to be more difficult, and it was. There were more hills and we ran through grassy fields that didn't have any tree cover. It was hot out, around 65 degrees already, and I just kept taking in water/Gatorade every mile or so and took my energy chews every 2.5 miles. I was able to pass a few more runners in this section, but some of the relay teams passed me later on in this loop.

Toward the end of the pink loop, our friend Ron was taking pictures at the top of a hill. He told me that Mike was doing well and having fun, and then I made my way down the hill to only go up another hill.

I got to the end of the pink loop and I only had 9 miles on my watch, I got nervous that maybe I missed something but figured that the third loop would be longer. My loop two time was 46:22 and my total time at this point was 1:37:29. Our friends were still there cheering me on and one told me that Mike wasn't too far ahead of me.

I ran down on to the trail and started to follow the orange markers. I thought that the beginning of this loop was a little confusing and I was concerned that I was going to miss a turn (a volunteer had to tell me to go up at one point because I almost missed a turn).

I was starting to get really hot at this point, but I just kept pushing on. This part of the course was through the woods and also through some grassy areas. There was another race going on in the park and they had used pink flags to mark their course. Since some of the three loops overlapped for our race, I thought that I had missed something during the pink loop and that's why it was so short. Eventually I realized that wasn't the case, but it was a little bit confusing having two races happening at the same time.

About one and half to two miles into the third loop, a friend of ours passed me. He was on a relay team and he was running great! We were running through the cross country skiing trails at this point and I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other. We eventually cut through the woods to leave the cross country trails. There were these two guys behind me the entire time, and I could hear them talking but they hadn't caught me yet. I tried to keep them behind me for as long as I could.

As I kept going, there were some hikers on the trail that we were using for the race. I ran by them and eventually had to walk since we were going up a pretty steep hill. One of them asked me if I had been in Starbucks that morning, and I said that I hadn't. When we got to a flatter point on the trail, the guy next to me said something to the effect of that it was flat so I could start running again. So I did.

There were two women in front of me and I was gaining on them. We went through some more grassy fields and some mud and then I eventually got ahead of them, but the guys behind me passed me!

We finally reached what I had been waiting for - Cardiac Hill. This hill was so steep that it was difficult to keep moving forward without stopping. This was my slowest mile coming in at 12:50 pace.

When I reached the top, I walked a few steps to catch my breath and then started running. I could tell that we were getting close to the end since it was marked with pink and orange markers. I ran down the final hill and out of the woods. A volunteer told me to go around a tree and through the finish line. Our friends were cheering me on and Mike and I high-fived. Then, I was done!


I ran the third loop in 1:03:46 and finished the 14.4ish mile race in 2:41:14 overall. Not bad on those trails! Mike did great and finished in 2:25:01.

Now it is time to start tapering and the next time I toe the line it will be for my first 50K!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Meb for Mortals - Book Review

Even if you aren't a runner, I am sure you have heard of Meb Keflezighi (pronounced Kef-lez-ghee) before. Meb is an amazing long-distance runner and was the 2014 Boston Marathon winner (and he became the first American man to win the Boston Marathon in 31 years!) He is a class act (he had a great performance this year at Boston, but more notable was his hand-in-hand finish with an elite female runner), a 3-time Olympian and yet people still wondered how he did what he did at Boston in 2014.

They had their reasons to wonder - he was almost 39 years old and had experienced years of injuries and setbacks.


In Meb for Mortals: How to Run, Eat and Think like a Champion Marathoner, Keflezighi describes his training, nutritional and mental principles in detail so that anyone from a seasoned runner to a newbie can incorporate them into their daily routine.

His book is broken up into nine sections: Think like Meb, Run like Meb, Train like Meb, Race like Meb, Eat like Meb, Strengthen like Meb, Stretch like Meb, Cross-Train like Meb and Recover like Meb.

The two sections, Strengthen like Meb and Stretch like Meb, are great resources for different strength moves and stretches complete with pictures. I need to incorporate more of the stretches and flexibility moves into my own training! He also describes why, when and how stretching and strengthening are important for runners. The Run like Meb section also includes some running form drills that all runners should consider incorporating into their weekly routine.

 Example of one of the stretches in the book

Personally, the section that I enjoyed the most was the first section: Think like Meb. Keflezighi describes why setting goals is so important and how his philosophy on long-term success with running is one part physical (hard work) and two parts mental (commitment and good goals).

The other section that I enjoyed was the Eat like Meb portion of the book. Admittedly, Mike and I are still figuring out how to properly fuel our training (we have gotten better!) and it was inspiring to read how an elite runner fuels his running career. It was just as inspiring to read that he has a sweet tooth and that he believes that balance is key. He also emphasizes that it is alright to gain weight after a goal race and that you cannot maintain "race weight" the entire year.

Meb for Mortals is a great resource! Whether you are looking to set goals to succeed, looking for resources on how to improve your running form, looking for strategies to improve your stretching, strength training and recovery, looking to improve your daily nutrition or looking for tips on how to mentally prepare for race day (and much more) this book is for you!

If you would like more information about Meb, you can check out his website here.

And if you would like to purchase Meb for Mortals, you can do so here!

I was provided a copy of Meb for Mortals from Runner's World at no charge in exchange for a review. I was not compensated in any other way and the opinions expressed in this post are, as always, my own.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Seneca7 Relay Race Recap - Part 3

Did you miss Part 1 and Part 2? Check them out, here and here!

When we left off, Mike had just taken off on his second leg of the day. The rest of us got in the van and took off, we went a different direction than the runners so we didn't get to cheer him on while he was running.

 Mike about to run leg 14 of the race

Eventually, I got this feeling that we had gone too far and I looked at the directions and asked if we went by Townline Road. We had. Greg turned our van around and then we were back on track. By the time we parked and I ran my way down toward the exchange (as a brief warm-up), I knew I didn't have much time before Mike would come in from his leg.

I went across the road to the port-a-potties and the exchange, and asked if anyone in line was the next runner. One person said she was, and most of the people in line let us go ahead of them. I went to the bathroom and then when I came out, a few minutes later Mike was making his way up the road.

He did great on his second leg and ran the 3.1 miles in approximately 22 minutes at 7:11 pace!

I grabbed the slap bracelet from him and took off on my final leg of the day. My last leg was 3.7 miles and described as "down, down, down". While it was mostly downhill, there were still some rolling hills throughout.

Since we had caught the earlier starters, I passed quite a few people on this leg. The van drove by me shortly after I started and they cheered me on as they continued down the road. My first mile came in at 7:32.

As it was around 4:30pm, it was still hot out but I tried not to let that get to me. I just told myself that these were the final miles of Seneca7 (for me) this year and I didn't want to let my team down. The hills in the second mile slowed me down a little bit to an 8:12 pace, but I was still passing other runners.

The third mile had some nice downhills and unfortunately another runner passed me. It was the same guy from the second leg who passed me (I only recognized him since he had on a team shirt that said, "6 Mikes and Will" - I should have asked if he was a Mike or a Will!) When my watch beeped for the third mile (7:52 pace), I knew that the golf course had to be right around the bend in the road.

And it was. I could see the final turn for the exchange point in the distance. From doing this race so many times I knew that I would still have a bit of a run to the exchange point, but as I turned the final corner I saw one of our friends (the driver of team "Trail Heads") cheering me on. He told me that I knew how much was left and I kept going. Then I saw team "Trail Heads" walking toward me and they all cheered me on as I ran through.

 So close to the end!

This part of the race is a bit congested since runners are running through the parking area for the golf course/exchange. I dodged some people and then I heard my team cheering for me. For some reason, I couldn't see Jamie and asked where he was (I thought he'd be wearing his grey shirt). Finally, I saw him and handed the slap bracelet off to him. And I was done!

 Jamie's turn to run his final leg

I ran the 3.7 miles (I had slightly over on my watch) in 29:10 at 7:48 pace! Not a bad way to end my race.

Since Jamie had a slightly longer leg, we didn't have to rush out of the golf course. So we walked back to the van and I FINALLY could eat more than a few bites of food! The next legs took us through Sampson State Park and from previous years' experience, we knew that it was going to be really congested.

All the people!

Jamie finishing up his third leg

We got through Jamie and Erin's exchange point with relative ease and then we got to where Erin and Greg would exchange. This was so congested! Greg finally jumped out of the van (of course he was driving) and we parked. Mike and I walked down to the exchange (it took FOREVER and randomly I saw someone with a sweatshirt from my high school in Maine). We just barely made it to when Erin and Greg made the exchange.

 I love this sequence of photos!

We saw our friends from Trail Heads (and we were calculating if we could catch/pass them!) and turned around to get back to the van in a hurry. Greg is super speedy (6:00-7:00 pace!) and I knew we wouldn't have much time before he would fly into the exchange. Mike, Erin and I saw the rest of our team and we hustled as much as we could back to the van (we really should have ran back, why we didn't I don't know, ha). As we were driving to the exchange, I was getting really worried that we weren't going to make it in time.

As we drove on the road that the exchange was on and we didn't see Greg, I knew we were going to cut it close. Finally, we saw him. RIGHT before the exchange! We told Heather to jump out (but to make sure that she crossed at the proper place, or we would have been disqualified)! We drove our van through the exchange and saw Greg running across the field toward us. He told us he was only standing there waiting for about a minute, so luckily the congestion didn't cost us too much time!

We didn't even stop at that exchange point and we continued on our way to the next stop. We chatted with team Trail Heads there, all while Mike was thinking we may have a chance to pass them, and then we saw Heather make her way up her final hill.

 I am so proud of Heather, she was a sub for our team, didn't know many of us and crushed the runner 5 position that had the most mileage!

Team Trail Heads was only a few minutes ahead of us at this point and we knew that it was going to be close. When we finally got out of the exchange point (the vehicular, bike and runner traffic here was AWFUL!!), we drove by Liz. I wish we got a photo. She made the "I've got my eyes on you" hand motion, and we knew what she meant. She had Steven, from Team Trail Heads, in her sight!

When we went by him, we knew she may have a chance to catch him. We parked at the exchange point and we waited with everyone for Liz to come in.

 Love the smile at the end!

First came Steven. And then a few seconds later Liz came running down the hill!

 Mike's final leg and the final leg for our team!

Mike took the slap bracelet and before we had even turned back to the car, he had passed Team Trail Heads (this was just a fun way to motivate ourselves and since we are all friends it was some friendly competition, plus most of their runners had raced the day before so they are the true beasts!) A few of our runners got in the port-a-potty line and then we got in the car to go to the Team Reunification area.

 Mike high-fiving members of Team Trail Heads

Looks like Mike is telling us to hurry up!

Before we knew it, Mike was running toward us (he ran his final 3.7 mile leg in approximately 28 minutes at 7:27 pace)! We all ran with him to the finish and then team "Girls in Skirts, Guys in Shirts" was done!

Our team ran the 77.7 miles in 10:12:38 with an average pace of 7:52. We came in 24th overall out of 211 teams that finished the race (7 team were disqualified) and 11th for mixed teams.

 Yay team!

I can't believe another Seneca7 is over. This fourth year reaffirmed how much I love this race, and I hope that I get to continue to run this every year (I have to at least run every runner position!) I am glad that I was able to share this special race with old and new friends this year!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Seneca7 Relay Race Recap - Part 2

Did you miss Part 1? Check it out, here!

As Mike was making his way through his first leg, it was almost time for me to run my second leg! Our team was doing well and holding strong at a consistent 7:50 pace, but the majority of us would run our hardest legs of the day next.

Floating during his first leg!

When I decided on going first this year, I knew that my second leg was going to be tough. Admittedly, all of the runner positions have tough parts to them, but I was scared of the hill that I was about to attempt to run up!

Right around 12:27pm, I saw Mike running along the road and then he made the turn down toward the exchange. He crushed his first 4.1 mile leg! He ran it in approximately 31 minutes at 7:28 pace.

While his leg had some climbing in it, the final portion was a steep downhill toward Glenora Winery. As he came flying in, I said to him, "you need to slow down!" We almost bobbled the exchange, but luckily I grabbed the slap bracelet and took off!

Hilarious relay hand-off

This 3.3 mile leg is described as "down, down, then up, up". The first mile is downhill along North Glenora road. I made my way down and crossed the railroad tracks and just focused on keeping a good pace, since I knew I would slow down the next mile.

This was my loneliest leg. The vehicles went a different way than the runners and I only saw three other runners, who all passed me, during this leg. The views were spectacular and this took my mind off of the monster hill I was soon going to have to run up. As I made my way down the final portion of the downhill (it was pretty steep and I felt like I was going to fall sometimes), another runner passed by me.

The course wasn't marked at this point so he looked back at me to ask which way to go. Since straight was a dead end, I indicated that we had to go right, and up. My first mile was 7:13 pace, which is good since I needed all the help I could get to balance out my next mile!

 Photo from the first year we ran this race

Right when we turned, I saw Glenora Falls. It was beautiful and took my mind off of what I had to do for the next mile, but only for a second. I had it in my mind that I would try to run up the entire hill, but when I saw the guy who had passed me walking up ahead I knew that I might not be able to.

I made it pretty far and then turned the corner and walked for the first time. Eventually another runner caught up to me and we exchange a few words about the hill and he kept going.

I walked a few more times because my calves were burning from being on just my toes (it was that steep) and then the hill started to level out a little bit. I didn't walk again and finally made it back out to the main road. A cyclist from a bike team (yes, some people choose to use bikes as their transportation around the lake) said to me, "great job tackling that hill".

Luckily, at that point the road flattened out a bit for the last mile or so of the leg. My second mile was 11:35 pace so I knew I had to pick up the pace. I didn't want to let my team down!

All business trying to get to the exchange point

So happy to be done!

Finally, I could see the exchange point in the distance. I just focused on getting to Jamie and tried not to slow down. We made the exchange and my hardest leg of the day was done! I ran the 3.3 miles in 28:53 at 8:54 pace, not too bad considering I had 400 feet of elevation gain - all of which was in that second mile!

 Jamie and Erin making their exchange at Lakewood Vineyards

 The exchange at the bottom of the lake in Watkins Glen

Greg and Heather making their way up the hill!

We kept up our pace of around 7:50-7:55 average as we made our way around the lake. As I mentioned previously, the majority of runners had their hardest legs coming up. Erin ran us down a steep hill into Watkins Glen (the halfway point!) and then Greg had to run up a steep hill out of town. There was also a new change to the race this year (a disgruntled winery owner told the race two weeks prior that they could not use their business as an exchange), and as a result, Heather had to run 6.1 miles.

 T: Erin, Liz and Greg waiting for Heather, BL: us enjoying our 4th Seneca7, BR: the line for the port-a-potty at one exchange

Heather crushed her 6.1 mile leg! Beast.

At this point we were catching up to the earlier starters, so some exchange points were becoming even more crowded than the previous ones (but not as bad as some later exchange points, just some foreshadowing). We also started to think that we might have a chance to catch our friends who were on team "Trail Heads". Their team started at 8:30 and we were now about 10-15 minutes behind them.

 Liz and Mike's second exchange of the day

Then before I knew it, Mike was off and running his second leg of the day. It was almost time for me to run my final leg of my fourth Seneca7. I just hoped I had enough left in me to pull a decent pace.

You'll just have to wait and see if I did!