Thursday, February 20, 2014

Why are we doing this?!?

When I decided to train with Griffin's Friends, I had just come off a summer training cycle for a fall marathon. My experience was easy enough and uneventful, and I was looking forward to this new endeavor. Unfortunately I was a little caught up and not thinking about what winter in New England brings.......

According to The Republican, roughly half of this winter's snow (~20 in) has fallen this month - and we're only halfway through February! So it's no wonder that Tim and I woke up on Sunday and decided that we would run indoors. We are lucky to have this option, and doubly so since we have two options: treadmill and indoor track.

Last week was a step-down week, so our long run was only 10 miles and we figured that would be easy enough to do indoors. Tim decided to stick with 80 laps (!!!!) on the indoor track while I decided to split up 3 mi, 4 mi, 3 mi, as track, treadmill, track. The first half hour went by nice and quick as we ran together and chatted. After a weekend away shoving food in our faces, the exercise felt great. It was a grand old time, until we parted ways......

Halfway through my solo run I said to myself - WHY AM I DOING THIS?! This thought has come up during runs all winter long, and I always have to remind myself of why I am running long distances during these cold & snowy winter months.......

*THE KIDS: Mostly, it's for the children who are currently battling cancer. Whatever they are going through is infinitely worse than the slight discomfort I feel about getting out of my bed every Sunday and doing these long runs. While I am not a doctor, nor a family member, I can help bring them moments of joy.

photo taken from GF facebook page

*TIM: Have I mentioned how incredible of a man Tim Lynch is? Well, he's a thoughtful, caring, and dedicated individual who has overcome this battle himself. My life has been enriched by his presence, and it's hard to believe that he has had so many second (third, fourth, ....) chances at life that have allowed him to be here today. He does not take the gift of life for granted and is doing what he can to make the world a better place for others. And although he was not a runner 6 months ago, there's no question about his ability to conquer the marathon now.

This is my inspiration, this is why I am out in the elements. (Un)fortunately we are no longer going to be running the Boston Marathon, but I'm excited about the change of venue. On May 4, we will be running The Walter Childs Memorial Race of Champions Marathon in Holyoke, MA. We look forward to having a huge outpouring of support in this hometown run and will continue to train our hardest.

In the meantime, you can support our fundraising efforts here....thank you! 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy (belated) New Year!

I am not usually one to make goals with the change of calendars, but something pushed me to do so this year. However, I also have a problem with humility so I wanted to wait and see if I could stick to yet another self-imposed challenge! My goal? Just do it. More on that in a little bit, first I want to do a brief 2013 recap.......

Last winter I was training for the annual St. Patrick's 10K Road Race in Holyoke. I was newly recovered after a combination of hip and back injuries and was feeling optimistic. I had run my course PR and kept my targeted pace throughout the course, not to mention that I unexpectedly sprinted the final .2 miles. I felt strong, motivated, and back on track.

Upon returning home, I looked at the calendar and realized that I was on course to run the very half marathon where I was scheduled to volunteer. With the support of my family, boyfriend, and last minute volunteers I was able to register for the Wallis Sands Half Marathon in NH. As a Valentine's gift, Tim paid for my registration fee. This time I smashed my 13.1 PR by 5 minutes. I decided here that the half marathon is my favorite distance to run, but the possibility of running further had creeped into my brain.

Using the money I had received from my April birthday, I signed up for the Smuttynose Brewfest Marathon, also in NH. I wasn't sure what exactly I was getting myself into at the time, but my running partner had completed her first marathon just six months earlier, so I knew that my goal was within reach. And the rest is history..... 

Now, what's on tap for 2014? I expect this year to build on my experiences from last fall – the theme of new challenges is still in the air. It's exhilarating and terrifying all at once, which is why I have chosen “Just do it” as my mantra (thanks, Nike!).

Walking billboards! Tim's mantra: Underarmour = stay warm

While last year was an absolutely incredible time for me athletically, I now have to focus on school and take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. Thus far I have applied to 12 summer internships, applied for my passport, spent a long weekend in NYC and decided to run the Boston Marathon on April 21.

Yes, you read that right...I will be running my second marathon only six months after my first. At first I wasn't sure about this prospect – Could I do it? Would I want to? But with a summer research internship comes the sacrifice of triathlon season and fall distance events. Alas, what's a girl to do?!

My decision to run Boston also serves a larger purpose as I will be running with the group Griffin's Friends, an organization which supports families as their children battle cancer, and my boyfriend – a cancer survivor – will be running alongside me. We have recently set up our fundraising page which you can find here.

We began training around Thanksgiving but were reluctant to make a public announcement until potential injuries were put aside. At this point we are preparing for a 12 mile group run on Sunday and have logged quite a few miles together outdoors, on the track, and on the treadmill.

This training cycle is much different from anything I have ever done before: my running serves a purpose beyond myself, I'm training with my non-runner boyfriend, and I'm working toward this goal as a member of a team. The dynamic is so different from what I have experienced before, and I have learned a lot about myself already. Most importantly, I have learned how to break down my self-imposed boundaries and enter my dis-comfort zones. It has not always been easy, but I am ready to leave stagnancy behind and move forward with my life. This is just another part of the journey.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Honoring my Vegetarian-iversary!

I don't talk much about my decision to stop eating meat, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that most everyone has thought I have been vegetarian for a long time now. The truth is that I fully committed to this lifestyle choice after Christmas 2012.  I went back and forth through my teenage years, the waves of anxiety and depression made it hard to commit to much at that time in my life. Once I became better educated about food I tried to commit for the first time only four years ago. It lasted about 4 months until one day my Mom and I hiked Mt. Monadnock and I got the hunger signals that only protein could satiate. Being naive and under-educated, I really wasn't sure how else to quell such a craving other than with meat. We ended up going to a restaurant in Amherst and I ordered the five spice beef rice, and it was the best meal EVER.

Birthday Meal 2009 - kielbasa & mac 'n cheese
I reverted back to meat eating and 80% of meat consumption was local and/or grass-fed. At this point I only ate meat about once a day and never cared for it much when I did eat it. Honestly, the buffalo sauce is the only reason I ate chicken and I enjoyed being a part of the local, grass-fed beef cycle. Yet I was still bothered by my meat consumption - animals helped me find comfort all throughout my life, and this is how I returned the favor? Not to mention all the problems with environmental degradation and fossil fuel consumption associated with meat.
2010 regression - stir fry with my garden veggies & local grass-fed beef
Thus, I decided last November to give up meat after the holidays. I was not ready to handle all of the concerns from family and friends about how I could possibly get enough protein in my diet, and I didn't want to make a big deal at the dinner table. However, with a few years of living on my own and cooking for myself, I felt adequately armed with the knowledge and know-how to follow a vegetarian lifestyle.

The transition was really easy for me and it helped to have a supportive boyfriend on this go of it. He joined me back in January, and eats vegetarian 80% of the time now. Knowing where to look for cooking inspiration, where I can get the best price on local produce, and meal planning have been essential to my success. I am not a fan of having strict ANYTHING so deciding to commit was a big decision for me. I believe there is a lot of grey area in the world, but I just can't handle contributing to the pain any longer. I am aware of the issues with the dairy industry and have largely cut back on my dairy consumption (definitely have problems digesting it) and have incorporated a lot of vegan baking methods into my kitchen repertoire. I do not buy new material goods anymore and I make sure to get my honey and eggs locally.

I do not judge others based on the foods they eat, which is one of the most personal decisions we can make. Everyone has their reasoning for what works best for them aligned with their values. And in this openness I have found success in sharing meals with people of all different backgrounds. Sometimes they like my food, and sometimes they don't. This bonding over a meal brings up so many wonderful conversations and I'm always surprised at where we end up. If you haven't gotten it yet, I love food. I love meal planning, figuring out how to use new ingredients, and most importantly....sharing!

One final point: For any doubters - I ran a marathon based on a vegetarian diet, with only vegan foods before and during the run. I never hit a wall, never crashed, and never cramped. It is SO doable and if you're thinking about making this lifestyle change, there is no reason to not commit other than fear of commitment. I made this beautiful dish for Thanksgiving and plan on recreating it for Christmas in a couple weeks - it was that good! As we cannot afford to give each other gifts this year, my boyfriend and I will be sharing a healthful and delicious meal in gratitude for all that we have together.

Here's some inspiration, if you're interested:

Until next time...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Post-Marathon Thoughts

I have been thinking a lot about what running a marathon means to me...and I cannot find many words. The experience was a lot less grueling than I expected. From the training all the way up to recovery, I was careful in respecting the distance, but gave those 26.2 miles more space than was warranted. I now have four half marathons under my belt along with four triathlons, so I did not feel like a stranger to endurance events. What's another two or three hours once you've already done several two hour-long events? Anyways, I realize that I could easily turn this into a rambling post with many paragraphs so I'm gonna stick to bullets.

First Race Ever: September, 2009


*Respect your Body: I got really sick after my 18 mile run and was never able to fit in my 20 mile run before the race. Sure, I covered less distance than I planned, but I was extra rested and just barely healthy come race day.

*Course Selection: I love running on hilly terrain, but in the end, I'm glad I choose a fast & flat course for my first marathon. The monotony has the potential to weigh you down.....but I'd rather be bored than mess up my knees.

*Podcasts: Do it! I learned interesting information and listened to inspiring stories about perseverance which kept my brain in the right place for 5 hours.

*Tell the World: Accountability keeps you going on those training days where you question what you got yourself into.

*Yoga: I went to class once or twice a week and I credit yoga with keeping me healthy. This time allows you to assess how your body is functioning, what may feel out of place, and stretching and strengthening in a safe environment are always beneficial. Bonus points on the class atmosphere!


*Cross Training: With life getting in the way, I dropped my biking & swimming. I continued these sports for about half of training....but feel my runners knee would be better if I had stayed with them.

*Shoes: I planned poorly with the timing of my purchase and my race. By the end of 26.2 my beloved Brooks Adrenalines were completely worn through on the R shoe, to the point where the foam middle was completely exposed. Those fancy shoes only work well when you use them correctly!

*Fuel: Compared to others I talked to, I thought I was eating enough. As it turned out I ended up burning 5,000 calories during the marathon and maybe replaced 500 of them while running. I was a bottomless pit for 3 days afterward, I would wake up in the middle of the night and eat raw tempeh out of the fridge. It was incredible how long it took to become satiated and I plan on proper fueling next time I tackle the marathon.

*Mental Preparation: I am not really sure how to change this yet, but the marathon was a huge weight that I did not know I was carrying. I was so busy that I had no time to acknowledge the anxiety I had about my largest physical commitment to date. The days leading up the race I started getting night sweats which I attributed to illness at the time. On race day I had butterflies like never before and could hardly keep my breakfast down. I will definitely acknowledge any fears I have next time and embrace them as a part of the process.

The marathon is a really incredible event, and I am looking forward to my next race. I truly expected everything to change when I crossed the finish line. That's what Hollywood says is supposed to happen. As it turned out, the transformation came gradually during my training, through the race, and continues through my recovery. More than anything I took those 26.2 miles to meditate and enjoyed putting one foot in front of another, with no other cares in the world. It was a great time where I had space to be selfish and take care of only myself. I truly loved every minute of the run and think the timing could not have been better. The fall of 2013 was a huge season for my personal growth and I am so thankful that Tim, my Mom, and Stephen were able to share in my day. Also - I cannot forget to thank my running partner who conquered the marathon in 2012 - Kimmy and I have learned what distance running is all about by sticking together and pushing one another. It's difficult to find such a well-matched and dedicated workout buddy, and I'm glad to have her around!

Our first 13.1 in June, 2010

PS. Signage is super important in keeping up morale! Here are a few of my favorites from the day...

"What happens on the course, stays on the course"

"I have met my hero and she is me"


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon Recap

I have had two weeks to process the big race, and now I can finally write about it. I will need to do a follow-up post about my thoughts post-marathon. But for now, I'm going to revel in the joy of being a new marathoner.

I started race day with a big bowl of oatmeal and a nice fresh coffee from down the way. Our motel had a communal microwave and that served my needs just fine. I was really happy to be able to eat my own food and not have to worry about what I was going to eat...especially since I can be picky about pre-race foods. All seemed to be going well.....until I discovered this situation in my bag.....

Yes - I packed a pair of mismatched socks. But not even two of my own socks - one of my own and one of Tim's! Ah! For a split second my mind screamed and raced with the lack of possibilities. Luckily, my real life scream woke up Tim and he saved the day. You will notice in photos that I am wearing mid-ankle length black socks. They are definitely not appealing to the eye, but his men's large socks saved my feet from terrible blisters.

I was lucky in that this was the only problem of the day. Well, unless you count cold, wind and rain as positives for a 26.2 mile run! I bought a lovely raincoat in August and I told the cashier this is my "no excuses, I am running 26.2 miles no matter what the weather brings" and my prediction was right. Plus one for preparation!

So clean & dry .... no idea what's coming
As I said earlier, my goal was to finish strong, happy, and healthy. I seeded myself in the last wave and enjoyed the company of ~5,000 other runners for the first eleven miles. The first four were along the ocean, the middle fiver were among neighborhoods, then we wound back along the ocean for another two. The split of marathoners and half marathoners occurred at mile 11 and man was that a lonely first mile. To go from running amongst many cheery people to a few determined runners was a lot to handle.

Luckily, Tim was waiting for me at mile 12 with the goods - Arnicare (right knee was trouble), banana, chocolate soymilk, and a refill of my homemade energy drink. I also took the chance to take some ibuprofen. He grabbed a quick shot of me and I was off.

The weather did not deter me, nor did the lack of runners in sight, and I'm not sure why. I had not run in about three weeks by the time the marathon came, so I think I truly got lost in the meditation of running. That, and Radiolab was helplful in keeping my mind occupied on others' stories. I ran the first half in 2:26:27 and was glad to see that my slow pacing was on track. I had trouble going slow on my long runs, but knew it was absolutely key in this - the longest run of my life.

First I passed the three hour mark, then I passed the 18 mile mark, and I was completely in unknown territory. I told myself to keep doing what I was doing and the miles and minutes continued to add up. I got a call from Tim somewhere around mile 18 saying that he was going to run with me. That thought kept me motivated until the end, and I couldn't wait to see his smiling face waiting for me.

Around mile 22 we returned to running along the ocean and it was so beautiful! I snapped a couple photos with my phone, but obviously I was coasting downhill so they are a little blurry. I did what I could to share with everyone!

Tim met met at 24 miles and I was so happy to see his blue raincoat from afar! It was like a snow day or Christmas morning, the anticipation of finally coming across his face. We chatted and ran together for two miles until it was time for me to close in on the finish. He sprinted alongside me - but on the other side of the barrier - in hopes of catching me at the end. It was so adorable and lovely!

I ended up sprinting the last .2 miles and finished feeling very strong, with a huge grin on my face. I got a time that was a *little* disappointing, but I accomplished my main goal: I crossed the finish. I did not walk once (well - except for the THREE bathroom stops I had to make). I did not sustain any significant injuries during the race. I was secretly afraid of DNFing due to freak injury in the unexplored miles of 19-26.2. Oh and my proudest accomplishment: I did not hit a wall!

4:56:10 ... avg pace of 12:26
My Mom and Stephen were waiting for me at the finish and it was really great to have more fans. I wasn't sure how social I would be feeling afterward, but it turns out I was excited and on a high that had not yet run out. We grabbed some photos at the finish then ran to the warmth of the motel room to freshen up. I had no trouble scarfing down a plate of nachos (I NEVER eat those) and a spiked hot apple cider. The little celebration lunch was perfect and hit the spot. We went our separate ways afterward and the big marathon weekend came to a close with our journey home.

Logistics-wise, this was the easiest race I have ever done. Our hotel was two blocks away from the start line, the check-out time was waived so we didn't have to pack nor move the car, and I was able to shower in my room! Kudos to the community of Hampton for being so accommodating to the runners.

It's hard to believe that this marathon has passed. I had never been so nervous in my life, even before my first 5K four years ago. I was so close to throwing up that morning, I hardly spoke to Tim before the race, and my mind was swirling with a mixture of doubt and excitement. But - I can now call myself a marathoner. This journey was a whirlwind....and I'm not sure it's over yet. To be continued.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Night Before...

Tim and I are in our hotel in New Hampshire, settling in for a quiet night before my marathon. If all goes well, I can call myself a marathoner this time tomorrow. The whole thing is kind of surreal, just like the fact that I am going to Mount Holyoke. Two years ago I never would have believed that this is where I would be. Do you know how ridiculous it is packing for an overnight trip to run 26.2 miles? Oh my goodness! I have not run anything requiring such preparation in...well, ever.

Packing included: homemade energy drink, agua fresca, chocolate soymilk, bananas, apples, apricots, polenta bars, oatmeal, espresso beans, fuel belt, watch, ibuprofen, iPod, sneakers, and all types of clothing because who knows what the weather will be like.

Is this a bit much? I'm not sure, but I know my body well, and I know that it is high maintenance. My ONE goal for this race is to cross the finish line strong and smiling. Time? I have a vague goal in mind, but that is nowhere near as important.

We started the night off right with fried pickles and pumpkin beer, then traveled to hang out on the beach in the dark. Now we're going to take it easy and try to stay awake for a couple hours. Who knew preparing for a quick trip could be so exhausting?

Tim will be traveling around to meet me at different checkpoints via bike. There were will be 5,000 runners, 10,000 spectators, and closed roads galore. I'm glad I will have his smiling face to meet me at different points throughout! I am one lucky gal!

Send out good thoughts, I've only done 18 miles thus far!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Surftown Half Marathon in Misquamicut, RI

Oh boy, Surftown, I have waited for you. The first year it just never happened due to lack of training and funding. I had just started AmeriCorps VISTA and was 100% broke and sick off of a summer of full-time waitressing. Last year, I was told by my physical therapist a week before the race that I had to sit it out, after forking over the $50 or whatever to register. This year? Oh.....Kimmy  and I conquered this race. FINALLY.

This half marathon takes place at Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly, RI and winds along the beachfront properties, out to Watch Hill, and back. It is a fast and flat course that offers beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean and has been on my list for a couple years now. My Nana lives in Mystic, CT so this course is accessible because I can sleep over 30 minutes away while visiting family!

The most remarkable part of the race was the start - and it was not good. In fact, this was the very worst start to a race I have ever had. There were 1,800 runners registered for the 13.1 and another 400 registered for the 5K. There aren't too many paths leading to the ocean, and our commute took twice as long as it should have. By the time we found parking we had to run 1/2 a mile to the registration tables, run 1/2 a mile back to the car, then 1/2 a mile back to the starting line. The race start had been pushed back 15 minutes and we still crossed the start line 4 1/2 minutes late! We actually had to walk the first bit because the 5K runners were already lined up our course and would not move out of our way when we tried to jogged through. Never, ever, have I had to travel so far from parking to packet pick-up, never have I encountered such disorganized parking, and never have I missed the start gun.

Lucky for us, our goal was to have fun and enjoy the race - how disappointed we would have been if we were planning on running for time! We grabbed our iPods as the course passed the car and decided to be obnoxious and talk over our music the entire way through. Looking back, we were probably very annoying to all those we passed. Considering that we started so far back, we passed many other runners and didn't shut up for a second of the over two hours of running. One man remarked, "Man you guys make this look so easy, I can't believe you're still talking!" We smiled and laughed - it was a nice reminder of how far we have come since our first half marathon in 2010.

Despite our goal to "take it easy" we still finished in 2:06:16 - faster than our first, and faster than I wanted to go! We went a little crazy with a sprint that made me want to vomit for the last .1 or .2 but it was well worth the fun. Our morning ended with free beer on the beach of an inlet. The race directors won our favor with all the SWAG - awesome ladies tech tee, fun medal, and HMF bag to boot!

After consuming our calories, we moved over to the ocean and did some yoga and gentle stretching. Oh man - if you have never done yoga IN the ocean after a race, you are missing out! It was such an incredible healing feeling and I felt so whole.

Next week: Rugged Maniac! I must be crazy.....