Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Belmar Chase 5k, August 22, Belmar NJ.

photo by Mark Nyhan (thank you Mark!)
I have not raced in a long time because my back has been bothering me a lot, mostly when running, and I did not want to waist the money.  There was a marathon I wanted to run on Aug 25 as a glorified LR. Before I made the trip out there, I needed to test out how my back felt in a race.   

Back Pain: The pain is odd.  It takes about 10-20 minutes of running and then my back gets tight, starting subtly on my lower left side and radiating all the way up my left side to just below my shoulder blade.  The muscles get so tight that I cannot inhale or move.  I feel frozen in place as soon as I stop running when the pain gets worse before it gets better.  Once I stop running, I have to slowly coax my spine into allowing me to roll forward.  When I get my head all the way forward, the muscle spasm stops, and the pain resolves.  I can start running again.  It may happen all over again, several times in a row, or not.  Usually I have more trouble with shorter easier running?  Faster running hurts less.  Long Runs will happen as long as I stop to stretch it out in the early miles, because the pain come mostly during the first 9-10 miles and then it seems to get better for the second half.  Hill work is ok, even though much our warm up is slow and it usually does not hurt during slower running. Sometimes the same pace I am run on Fridays for a shorter run will hurt a lot, but not on a Sunday, when the distance is 2x as far?  I find that Friday and Saturdays tend to be my worst days, which makes me wonder if the chairs I sit in at work are part of the problem since I tend to sit longer on Thursdays and Fridays. The longer I sit the day before the worse I suspect my back will feel.  I tried many adjustments.  I use a foot stool.  I saw a chiropractor.  I also feel my drivers seat is not helping my back. I have not found a comfortable setting. And then every once in while I might wake up at night in pain, but this is rare. So right now I am just training when I can and resting when I need to.  This has been going on since May. 

Belmar 5k and Meb.  OMG, he is going to be at the race! 
I like Belmar.  Kim and I train there regularly.  It is a wonderful location for a Long Run.  

Because I registered last minute and then read the entire pre-race email quickly the night before apparently in a daze.  Maybe I read every other word because I was pretty sure that Meb was going to be talking at 7:30 after the kids races.  I told Kim that parking would like be crazy and I wanted to get there by 7 am.  If Meb was talking I wanted to be there! I was sure parking was going to be a train wreck.  Kim and I have trouble finding parking on the weekends just for long runs.  With a big race happening it had to be bad.  We parked almost a mile a way, at the location where the post-race party was supposed to take place.  We used our run/walk from the car to the starting area as our warm up.  I was so confused to not see some huge crowd of runners gathering at the finish area at 7:30.  And then we learned that I cannot read.  Meb was there "virtually"…  the night before … at 7:30 pm after the kid's races… not this morning.  LOL!   

Racing is more than just about running for me.  I realized that by not racing, I have been missing seeing a lot of people.  It was good to spend some time in person with people I talk with often through technology.   It felt nice to not be in a rush to get work done and to be able to make time to just hang out after the race. 

Rich,  Kim, Elizabeth, me, and Anthony
The Race.
I must admit I was very anxious about Belmar.  How far would I get before my back quit on me?  

As I lined up to start,  I noticed the flags. We would have a tail wind on the way out and head wind on the way back.  I decided to take advantage of the wind assisted start and get out fast.  This way maybe I could be closer to finishing if my back quit on me.  M1 6:19

Ok, that was faster than I thought I could run. I was surprised that I felt so good.  Much better than I have ever felt at this pace.  This could turn out to be a great race!  I settled down a little, hoping to save something for the final mile into the wind. M2: 6:26

As we turn into the final mile, I realize I am in trouble.  I am starting to get tired and I can't find another gear. Oh boy, there is just nothing!  At 2.4 miles, I start to feel the dull ache start in my lower back.  I can feel the wind the we are running into working against me. I am not well as well trained as I was at this time last year. I have not used a final gear in a long time. My back feels tired but it is really not holding me back.  I simply just ran out of steam and faded in to the finish. M3 6:54 with 48 seconds for the last .12.  

This was not my best performance, but I was really there to test my back out and it felt a millions times better than I thought it would! So despite the final mile not going as well as I had hoped it would, I am very happy with this race. 

Time: 20:28
OA: 161/1147
Gender:  26?
Age: 2/59

Sunday, August 23, 2015

July and August Update

It has been a while since I last posted a race report.  It bothers me to not write race reports after each race. This is the first time since I started racing again in 2006, that I haven't written reports afterwards.

In July I raced 3 times. First there was the Woodbridge Run for Pizza where I was 3rd OA Female on a hot humid mid-July night.  It was about one million percent humidity, give or take.  Mark H. raced with me.  We purposely tried to use this race as an exercise in pacing evenly.  LOL! We decided to target 27:00 and hoped to break it.  Unfortunately, we did not reach our goal.  It was simply too hot/humid.  But we did well and both won awards so that made it fun! I finished in 27:44. 

In mid-July, I also ran one of my most favorite races in NJ, Running with the Devil 6 hour.  However this was by far my worst showing at this event.  Running with the Devil starts inside a ski lodge and then we run 5k loops up and down a ski slope.  It is the hardest race I run.  With the exception of meeting John and running with him for many miles and enjoying our chat, I would have said that this race experience was heartbreaking for me.  But I had a good excuse for logging only 12 miles during this 6 hour mountain event before going home early.  I had no idea what place I was in when I left.  But what I do know is just prior to starting Rick asked me if I wanted to go after the CR.  I said something like..."Sure, if I feel good I might be able to try... but I need to finish the first lap in under 45 minutes to have a chance."  Just before  I left, I ask Rick if he had any idea when I discovered the CR was out of reach?  He guessed "The end of lap 1?"  I said "Oh no" and I pointed to the first incline we could see from the lodge.  "Right there, Rick… Right there"  That first incline let me know that I was out of my mind for thinking I had a shot at it. I love this race, but I will never be fast there.

In mid-July, I also started something I had wanted to do for a really long time, return to Graduate School to get a Master of Science degree in Kinesiology (the study of human movement) with a concentration in Sports Psychology. I started with a research class and the work takes a lot of time.  I am so genuinely interested in the subject that often I would rather do nothing else than pull research and learn as much as I can while I have the chance.  I should have never attended Running with the Devil, but I don't think I have ever missed one.  I had a paper to write and not enough time to do it.  Running for 6 hours was not going to help me get my work done, so I left the race early.

A few days later I ran the Westfield Pizza Run.  Clearly I have a thing for Pizza.  Really, I love pizza.  I had low expectations for this event. 12 miles at Running with the Devil took a lot out of me.  This race was Wednesday night.  But once I saw Jim O. my spirits lifted.  I really enjoy racing with Jim.  His love of the sport is amazing and I appreciate how he pays equal attention to the leaders of both the men's and women's races.  If I see Jim en route, he is sure to give he helpful information about my placement and my competition. Jim and I have spent many miles racing each other and I always enjoy running with him.  I did much better than I expected at Westfield.   I was 9th female at this very large race of over 2100 runners in 20:32 (6:39 pace). 

So that is the quick and dirty on why I have not been posting and what I have done.  Basically every weekend, I now scramble to complete training plans and research assignments before Sunday night. It is always a close race.

Now that I am caught up here with and with my school work, I will take some time to draft an appropriate Race Report for the Belmar Chase 5k. Stay tuned ;)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lager Run 5k, Glen Ridge, NJ 6/28/15

Photo by Rich Timlen
When I work up the morning of this race,  I felt an odd sensation in my hip, butt, lower back that concerned me.  I ran 16.2 the day before and didn't notice anything but fatigue.  But Sunday morning I felt twinges of sharp pain when I bent forward.  At first I thought it was my hip joint and panicked a bit. But later I realized it was more likely that something was inflamed or pinched and I was having nerve tingling rather than pain. I really hope this passes soon.  I am not used to having pain.

My last race went better than I expected and I was very happy.  I have been working to get back in shape. I feel like I am seeing good results.  I am back to Long Runs, a little Speed Work, Progressions with a lot of easier paced running.   I am just building my system and my volume first and soon I will add back in some intensity.  The short races, right now, are giving me that element.

As I stood at the starting line, just like I do at the start of almost every 5k, I just wanted it to be over.  5ks are not my best race in comparison to my race times for my age.  They hurt and I can never run as fast with ease as I wish I could.  I am sure I write this same sentence in every 5k race report.

But I know this course well.  I feel like nothing about it will be a surprise to me and this helps me prepare mentally for my approach.  Knowing the course is almost as important as being prepared to run it.

I set out fast because I know 1M lends it self to a naturally fast start. I also know that mile 2 is slower. I take advantage of any descents it the first mile.  I am feeling a little floored by how many women are hauling.  I have no idea how many are in front of me but it is a lot.  I look at my watch and the pace is low 6 and I still can't believe how fast the pack is moving.  I try to settle down to my target pace but still come through M1 a little fast: M1 6:17

In an ideal race I would attempt a 6:20, 6:35, 6:20 and kick hard hoping to sneak in sub-20. I am a little fast here but it is ok.  I feel much better than I thought I would and now I work on staying focused through Mile 2.  I start passing people on the uphill even with the pace slowing. The slower pace is a product of the incline and not a reflection of the effort at all.  The hill starts at the start of M2 and does not last the whole mile.  But it can feel soul crushing after a fast mile 1.  I know we get a reprieve soon and I am just trying to hold it together until the descent. M2 6:38  

We have already started to descend and most of Mile 3 is downhill.  I am running as fast as I can and I can start to feel the wheels coming off.  But I am running fast so this is ok.  My pace is dropping.  I feel like I am getting a side-stitch.  It has been a long time since I have gotten that.  I believe stitches happen to me when I am running faster than my fitness supports.  Today this seemed to be true.  I am passing people and running hard. It feels awesome! I glance at my watch and my average pace is 6:27.  I feel like if I can just run a little harder I might break 20. I know there is track finish.  I am hoping I have a kick today!  M3 6:28 

Rich is at the M3 mark. I remember last year watching Rich from a distance break 20.  I would like to do that today.  But I saw the time on the clock and I was sure I did not have enough time or not.  I decide that slowing down won't get me to sub-20 so if I want a chance I had to sprint.  I feel a person running me down. I don't now if this runners is male of female.  I am sprinting as fast as I can. I know I will get passed despite my effort.  Just as I am getting passed I am relieved to see this runner was a guy.  I can see the clock ticking from a distance .. 19:58… 59… 20:00…20:01…etc.  I am not there yet. I am  too late.   Last .1 in 43 seconds. 

I finish this race and feel a bit shocked it went so well.  I am a little ahead of where I expected to be.  But Lager is one of the fastest courses of the series.

After a few months of down time, where I feared that I might not be able to get my speed and endurance back,  I am very happy to see that my training is working well, at least for now.

Time: 20:07 (6:27)
OA place 101
Gender 11th F
10 yr AG 5th 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sunset Classic 5 Miler, Bloomfield NJ 6/22/15

I cannot say enough about how much I enjoyed racing this race.  I was so happy to meet up with Anthony because he make things fun!  He has great energy and such a love for our sport!

My biggest stress before the start, and most likely Anthony's as well, was the fact that I needed to find a bathroom at 10 minutes to gun time.  We knew the port-o-potty line was going to be too long.  I decided to just skip it and hope everything would be ok… but with 8 minutes until the gun, we were warming up and passed a Quickcheck. I decided to see if I could make a quick pit stop.  I am certain Anthony was thinking "OMG, really… we don't have time for this!!!"  But I was quick and we made it to the start with plenty of time to stand around and chat with others.  Thank you Anthony for being patient with me :)

The last time I raced Sunset was 2013 and I was in good shape.  Right now, I am starting to feel really good again!  My training volume is up with out being forced. I met Anthony for Speed Work last week and got to open up the stride for some fast 300's.  I ran 21 miles on Sat and then another 14 on Sunday without excessive fatigue and no soreness. I logged 75 miles last week.  My immune system feels strong. My fingernails are no longer brittle (which has been a reliable signal to me about how healthy I am:  No fingernails = racing is bad… Healthy fingernails = racing is good).

Last Monday I raced President Cup.  I used that race to run hard but to focused on Pacing myself and sticking to a plan.  I ran 6:50 pace with control, but I did suffer a hard fade in Mile 3.  I felt like I hit a wall and was not able to dig there for anything more.  But after a week, I felt stronger.

Today's plan was to target 7:00 pace or better, with the ultimate goal to conserve on the Mile 2 hill so that I could really find a Kick this time.

M1: Gun goes off and I try to count ladies to have a sense of where I am.  I see at least 3 ahead of me.  Over the course of the first mile, I am passed by 3 more. I figure I am 7th. I am remembering my good pace work from President's Cup and I settle in to just sub-7:00 pace.  I am a little concerned because this effort doesn't actually feel as easy as I had hoped it would.  I was concerned that I would fall about after 3M where I hit the wall last Monday.

I know we make a left turn and CLIMB in mile two. This concerned me.  I look to my left and notice these houses are sitting on top of lawns the consist of steep down hills. I make a comment, "OMG, those lawns are so steep they must be impossible to mow. I would just grow MOSS!"… that makes runner near me LOL.  My comment about the lawn was really more about me knowing that those steep lawns represent the exact grade of the hill we are about to run up.  I settle down and mentally prepare to climb.  M1 6:57

M2: We turn left just after Mile 1 and the pain starts.  I let people go.  I feel tired.  I know I don't want to leave it all on the hill.  I think about Anthony and how I told him he should sit back in mile 2 and let people go.  I told him to plan for a 20 second fade. I follow my own advise to him because I believe it is the smartest way to handle this course.  I pass one lady just over the crest. I suspect I am 6th now. M2 7:20

M3: Just like what I told Anthony… as soon as we crest the hill we need to work to get out paces back down to our goal average pace over M3 and M4 and but plan to be ready to CRUSH mile 5 to make up for Mile 2.  I had forgotten that that climb we survived at the start of M2, comes back to us as a descent at 2.6 miles…  This is the place where everything started to go right for me!  A small pack was ahead of me, 2 ladies were in there.  Runners were somewhat conservative on the descent.  I decide to so the opposite and just let go. I run as fast as I possibly can using gravity in my favor, flailing my arms like a maniac!  If my quads hate me then so be it.  This move was amazing and I FLY past at least 6 runners on this short descent. I suspect I am in 4th.  M3 6:44

M4:  I didn't feel like that blazing descent too took much from me at all.  I think, hmmm, maybe downhill racing is my thing? ;)…  Mile 4 is simply not as fast as Mile 3. There is a little inclining along the way that slows pace in the early part of the mile. This mile is hard.  I focus on a few people I know run well that I can see ahead of me and I try to reel them in.  There is one more female in my sight and I want to be able to get ahead of her before the sharp turn on the way to mile 5. I want to be out of her sight at some point so that there isn't a target on me during the fast final mile.  I am not looking back so I don't know if any other ladies are coming for me.  Just before the drop off at about 4.5M, I pass her and again blaze downhill to put some distance on those I am passing. I am hoping this moves me to 3rdM4 6:52 

M5:  I am already up to speed since the very last part of Mile 4 starts us off with a short steep descent.  The final mile is mild downhill to the track.  I feel really strong. I am reeling in men now.  There are no women in sight, but I am afraid to look back… but I want to look so bad!  I am hoping the cheers from spectators can help me know if there are ladies behind me running me down. I won't turn to look.  Where is Jim O when I need him?  He always gives me the information I need to race hard.

I just run as hard as I can and turn on to the track… 3/4 of a lap and I can stop.  I feel good and then with 150 meters to go, right on my right shoulder I see her in my peripheral vision… she was like a running ninja… silent and sneaking up to kick past me with 100 to go… I didn't even her her breathing.  I only knew she was on me once she was there.

I remember the last 100 meter of the final 300 meters I ran with Anthony on the track when we ran a 1:01 300 meter split.  I had to dig hard to pull up on him and it was the fastest my legs had moved in a long time.  I also remember telling Kim during our final kick of our long runs that leaning forward is like pressing the gas, lean in, drive arm, lift knee and the speed will happen…. I do it all and I find that I do have another gear!  Yes! I pull away and she doesn't come with me. I am running as if it was 100 meter dash and I feel awesome!  M5 6:34  

This is the best race I have had since October and I really needed this to start to feel like myself again!  Thank you Anthony for reminding about Sunset. I am so glad I went!

Time 34:39 (6:56 pace)
OA place: 27
Gender: 3rd (by 2 seconds)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

College Ave Mile, New Brunswick 6/6/15 and President Cup 5k, Millburn, NJ. 6/15.

I owe myself two race reports.  I need to post them before I get too behind so here they are!

College Ave Mile

Somehow a 1 Mile race acquired 700 points Championship Status as part of NJ Long Distance Running Grand Prix Series.  In case that snuck by, I repeat, this is the LONG DISTANCE RUNNING Series.  :)  This is funny to me.

I had not run a mile in a long time so I was curious and terrified at the same time. I must admit, the 700 pt status did help me to justify the 30 minute drive for a very very short run.  There was an additional one mile relay race at the end and this helped too.  A while ago, Nikki asks if I would partner up with her for the relay. As soon as she asked me, I knew we would make a great team!

The race was at night.  I had a conflict. I had scheduled 20 mile group run for the morning. Nikki was ok with me showing up to race on tired legs so we registered and decided to give the mile a shot. I was hoping to break 6 minutes.

I hated the mile in high school.  It was too long for me then. I loved the half.  I once ran a 5:40 mile only because my coach told me we needed a 4th for the relay and it had to be me.  I am sucker for stuff like that so I did it. I was probably 15 years old then.  A few years ago, maybe 5 years, I ran a 6:08 mile just before a 5k race. I was running 21-22 minute 5k's then.  Beating that time was more realistic than expecting to run my fastest mile ever.  

As Nikki and I warmed up we worked out our relay order by deciding that we would race each other in the Mile to decide who gets to anchor. :) I think were well matched and we both probably wanted to anchor so this was the fairest way I could think of that would also motivate us to run harder.

Nikki and I lined up in our corral, after getting some advice from Ben to hug the curb, because that is where the course is measured. The course was a 2 lap course around a square block. LOL! A square! 8 90 degree turns at top speed.

Gun goes off and we go out fast! By the first turn of 8 turns, my Garmin read 5:26… LOL! I yelled for Nikki to slow down since she was ahead of me.  LOL at Nikki!  We both backed off, came to our senses and came through the half way mark just sub 3 minutes, I suppose.  I wish they had a mat for splits.  I was hoping to have some type of kick at the end but I already knew that I was toast from this morning's 20.  All I could hope for is that Nikki's fast start would catch up with her so I could have a chance to anchor. I chased those bright pink shoes for almost another half mile before she solidified her lead on the last turn! I know we both worked hard out there. By the end she ended up 3 seconds ahead of me, which is a lot for a mile! I did not reach my goal but it was close enough for me to feel good about the effort!

M1 6:07

Our relay was the last event. I can honestly say that by the time the relay arrived I had enough of fast running on tired legs. If a thunderstorm rolled in and cause it to be canceled I would have secretly thanked the universe for that gift ;)

My legs were simply toasted by the time the relay started.  But I know I ran my best. I wish they had a split mat because I failed to stop my watch and Nikki failed to start hers… so we have no idea what we ran for our half mile splits. I don't even know the final time but I know were were solidly sub-6:00. Phew. If not, then we know who the weakest link was :)    

President Cup 5k.
As this is my "come back"season, I did not expect to race as fast I was racing last year. That is a good thing, because I can't do it and it would stink to actually feel bad about this.  Instead I want to enjoy to climb back to good shape, whatever that ends up being.

To decide what to do at Presidents Cup, I using my mile time to help me set a goal of 6:50 per mile. I ran a faster 5k on Mother's Day, but today I wanted to just practice self-control and see how things turn out. After all I ask a whole bunch of runners to control their paces each and every day. If I expect others to run specific paces, I better be able to do it myself when I decide to.

My plan was to run M1 6:50, M16:40 and then to see what I could do in the last 1.1.  If I was lucky I would find a kick sleeping inside me somewhere…. but I knew the last mile was uphill.

The weather was in our favor.  It rained a few hours earlier and it cooled everything down.  This was a lovely gift from the years prior.  It may have been humid, but to me it did not feel as humid as it has been lately.

The gun goes off.  First I need to find some actually room to run without falling down.  I am pretty sure Rich  Timlen elbowed me for no reason at all… or maybe that was the other way around. ;) … It was a tight start.

As we start to reach the first decline,  I look at my watch I was moving at 6:32.  This was too fast so I settle down.  I end run running with Jessica and I explain my plan.  M1 6:49 (close enough).

I must say that running 6:50 pace for mile one when I felt I could run faster was a wonderful experience.  It almost felt too easy and I was glad to have spent the first mile in complete control.  This gave me hope that this 5k would go well for me today.

During the second mile, I picked it up.  Jessica went with me.  We could see Nikki up ahead and we discussed trying to catch up to her if it was possible.  As Jessica and I ran a strong Mile 2, I still believed this we might be able to catch her.   M2 6:37

Even as we started Mile 3 I was confident that I would have a great run.  I knew the hill was coming and that it was going to be exhausting.  I was working hard at this point.  I never felt that my race got a way from me in any way.  I knew I did not go out too hard.

But just about Mile 2.5, I distinctly felt a sense of hunger pangs… as if I needed sugar, or food, or maybe just to STOP running as fast as I could... I was running out of steam.  My stomach felt odd, not nauseated, just empty.  I cannot recall the last time I felt this way in a race except for Clinton 15k, when at 7 miles to go I suddenly felt overwhelmed with the need to eat meat.  I am not sure what that is about but I can bet it is just related to me being less fit than I was in the past.

Fom 2.5 to 3.1, I simply fell apart.  My body just wasn't used to that pace.  It is clear I need to get back to the track and also increase my volume.

I push myself to finish strong and watch Jessica pull away over the last few tenths.  We can see Nikki kicking hard in the distance.  Both ran such a fantastic races!  Clifton Women are looking good and this isn't a goal race! I faded a bit as we crested the hill, tried to find a kick M3. 6:50, with a faster  Final .1 to finish.

Time: 21:05
(I have to update this later… I have a 5 miler to get ready for!)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Guest Blogger: Dean Geiring's 24 Hour at Three Day at the Fair, 5/14/15

This Spring, I had the honor of getting to know Dean while helping him train for his first big 24 hour effort.  Through our daily messaging, I was able to see first hand just how dedicated Dean is to his running goals.  I witnessed Dean tackle amazing running challenges like 80 miles in a week with a marathon at the end of those 7 days.  He is strong, smart, and consistent.  He was ready for a 24 hour event!

I have to also thank Stephen Bandfield for being a great friend to Dean.  Steve's presence at the race and his phones calls with me in the middle of night helped me to stay a part of Deans event.  Stephanie Ruzicka also must be thanked for her help in providing assistance when Dean was hitting a low point (which always happens in 24 hour racing). Thank you both so very much for being there!

24 hour racing is truly a team sport.  Sure, it is possible to go out there alone and get it done well.  But I think when a runner knows they have people behind them…. to help them remember why they should push through their strong desire to stop... to gather up the heap of a person they will become by the next day... to think for them when they are have used all their available energy to fight to move their physical form mindlessly forward… it makes it possible for a runner to leave it all on the course.

Good Training an Good Friends are key ingredients to Great 24 hour performances.  Please take a look Dean's report where he shares his first 24 Hour Race experience with us!


Dean's 24 Hour Race Recap

My 3 Days at the Fair 24 hour race started off on a nice Thursday, May 14th morning at 9am. The first few miles were about settling in. I had a long way to go and there was no rush. It was important to not feel like I was pushing and I wasn’t. The first 10 miles were mostly run non-stop with taking drinks and food periodically. By the time I was into the teens, the conditions started to change (at least from my point of view). The temperature wasn’t very hot, but there was no cloud cover and the sun was making the pavement warm. I was going well beyond 20 miles and my friend Loretta came up to run a few laps with me. It was here I noticed salt on my dark top. I made efforts to drink more and kept going. It was feeling hotter, but I used mental milestones as a way to push through. Hitting the marathon distance was a nice psychological boost.

Beyond the marathon things started to get a little more difficult. I’m not sure exactly when, but remember stopping to use the bathroom due to my stomach bothering me. I had a few quick bathroom breaks earlier, but this was longer. I was able to get back out there and my next goal was 50K. Now the heat was starting to get to me more. I hit 50K and my energy began to wane. I think it was in mile 33 I sat down in the shade for a break. After eating and drinking for a little while, I got back up. My friends Lisa, Sue, and Sean came up to see me. We walked and jogged some. It was here I said to myself, it will get better once the sun goes down. If I can make it to sundown, I’ll be ok. My friend Leah stopped by to set up her tent for her race and saw I wasn’t feeling my best, but I kept repeating my thoughts about making it to sundown.

I was up and down from mile 33 to 45. When darkness fell, I felt better and kept counting miles down to my first goal of 100K (62 miles). I was running more with breaks at some points during most laps.

Then I entered the darkest place I’ve ever been to during a long distance event.

Right before finishing mile 44, my energy began to wane again. This time it felt worse than earlier. I was exhausted and had slowed to an almost crawling walk. I was wondering could I be fighting something off. After crossing 44 miles, I walked to my SUV and sat on the back bumper. Maybe I just needed to rest a little. There was a lot of time left in the event…nearly 12 hours still. My friend Stephanie had seen me not feeling well and encouraged me to follow her to where she and her boyfriend Corey were camped. She did not want me to be alone and said she was worried about me. I decided to take her up on her offer. As we walked, I began to feel worse. My head felt like it was on fire and I was shaking. The worst part was at one point feeling like I didn’t know where I was. I found myself standing and staring as my friend calling out to me. It was like I couldn’t hear her.

We got to their campsite where I was wrapped in blankets and a sleeping bag with given water. I was told I looked pale and asked Stephanie to let Steve and Rick know what was going on. Steve came by a little while later and we talked. He believed I was overheated from the sun earlier, dehydrated and depleted. Being a veteran ultra-marathon runner, he has seen some dark times and had help getting through them. Now he was offering to help me and knew I could get past what I was going through. He recommended taking an hour nap to help with the exhaustion. I wanted to continue and agreed to nap to see how I’d feel.

My nap didn’t feel like great sleep. I was shaking from chills and had a hard time being comfortable, but closing my eyes brought some relief. An hour later, Steve came back and asked how I was doing. I was still feeling out of it and a little tight from being immobile. This was normal and he recommended taking in more fluids and eating more. I needed refueling from what he was saying and agreed to give it a try. Before that, he said I needed to change. I needed to layer up including putting long pants on. It was much cooler with the sun down and I needed to get warm. Layering with fueling would help with battling the chills.

Steve walked me to my SUV where I layered up and given a Gatorade. I was not only wearing my clothes. He had an extra sweatshirt and a jacket which he had me wear. We then discussed food and grilled cheese sounded good. We walked back to where I left off of during the lap and told me to walk with drinking the Gatorade. My sandwich would be ready when I came through the aid area.

Now back on my feet I concentrated on getting moving again. I was bummed about losing time, but knew I couldn’t do anything about it. My legs loosened up as I walked and I thought they felt good after resting. Maybe there was something to taking breaks. I slowly drank the Gatorade and marched on. I crossed 45 miles and Steve gave me my grilled cheese sandwich. He asked how I felt and I believe I said “I’m managing” or something to that effect. He said I looked better and to eat.

Mile 46 was another walking lap with taking in my sandwich. This was the first grilled cheese I had in a while and it was tasty. It seemed to lift me physically and psychologically. After finishing the sandwich, I continued walking and noticed my pace was beginning to quicken.

I began mile 47 with a renewed sense of purpose. Steve and others said I looked better, asked how I felt and my response was “pretty good.” In addition, I started to shed layers due to feeling warm which Steve enthusiastically told me was a good sign. I continued to pick up the walking pace and felt very confident 50 miles was a given. Then 12 to 100K. I met and chatted with a nice women named Melissa who encouraged me to go for 50. Not long after that, I began to run again.

My new running beginning wasn’t fast, but it felt good. As I ran, the earlier rough feeling receded further into memory. I was feeling reborn and even wondered if I had dreamt the whole thing. With feeling so good again, I put it behind me and pushed on. I’d run some sections, walk some, say hello to people and the cycle would repeat. As I came through each mile, I’d shed another layer and grab food. For some reason, I was so happy to see peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Steve said something along the lines of “he’s happy, he’s goofy, and he’s fine.” Race director Rick commented how much better I looked. I gave thumbs up and moved on.

Mile 50 came up and I had a brief stop to talk on the phone with my coach, Shannon who was talking with Steve on the phone. He passed me the phone and said someone wants to say hello. It was nice to hear Shannon’s voice who asked how I was doing and gave a yay at hitting 50 miles. We talked for a little while and she encouraged me to get to 100K as soon as possible. Then eat more food and take a half hour nap if I needed. I agreed and took off again.

Miles 51-57 were great miles where I repeated the steps of running, walking, and grabbing food often. After 57, my legs started to feel a little tired so I altered my running/walking as I saw fit. I may have been a little too enthusiastic about reaching 100K as soon as possible. At one point, I had to remind myself to slow down. I was in good spirits so I concentrated on forward progress. Miles 58-60 were slower and I made 2 bathroom stops. All the food I ate and running a little quicker earlier was messing with my stomach. I was feeling better by mile 60.

The last couple miles to 100K were slow. I was feeling ok walking, but didn’t feel much energy to run. I hit 100K and was happy I made it. This was a goal I trained so long for and was successful! Steve had me take a half hour nap after. It was hard to get comfortable in my SUV. I think I tossed and turned most of the half hour. When the 30 minutes were up, Steve came by and asked how I was doing. Honestly at this point fatigue was setting in. There were still around 3 and a half hours left for my event. Steve said start walking and joined me.

It was starting to get light out as I began walking again. I was going slow and decided I needed a pick up when I got to the aid station. Coffee and some food sounded nice (especially the coffee). I was fighting sleepy tiredness and wanted caffeine. After mile 63, I grabbed a cup of coffee with some food items (can’t remember which) and started walking again. I drank the coffee and ate as I continued on. It was around 6am now and I felt content with walking. However, my energy started to return with the food intake and caffeine boost. I started to think about what I could do in the remaining time.

I was finished eating by the time I crossed 64 miles and had picked up the pace again. Feeling more awake, I started to run and was able to duplicate the run/walk cycle from earlier. It seemed to be going very well until my stomach started bothering me and I needed a bathroom break. I had to walk to keep the feeling from worsening. After mile 65, I stopped. Then the same thing happened after 66 & 67. I was like “damn that coffee was potent.” I was losing time with the recurrent breaks.

My stomach was better in mile 68 and I didn’t have to stop again until after I finished the race. It was now daylight and I had less than 2 hours to go. I knew I had 70 miles in the bag and started to run/walk again. As the time continued to tick away, I was amazed I could still run at times. My training over the winter and early spring was really showing its benefits.

Mile 70 came up and Steve said you can make 72. I checked my watch and saw I had plenty of time for it. Even with the time, I gave myself an extra cushion by running more than my usual intervals. In the event my stomach acted up and needed to visit the men’s room, I wanted to make sure I had enough time to make 72. Ten miles beyond 100K sounded so nice at that point. I got further quicker in 71 and my legs started to rebel again, but I was successful in my aim. When I crossed 71 miles, I had about 28 minutes left to do one more mile. With my legs reaching the point of where I felt at 100K, I did my best to maintain a brisk walk. As I set out for one last mile, I asked Steve to be near the finish in about 15 minutes.

I was able to brisk walk about a halfway through 72 and I slowed down. However, I was not stressing. The event was nearly over and I was going to finish with a nice number for my first 24 hour race. I looked at my watch to make sure I was making descent time. As I rounded the 2nd to last turn, I felt a little sad it was coming to an end. All of the training, support from friends and my desire to see it through got me to that point. The final turn came up and I saw Steve getting ready to take a finisher photo. Seeing that, I made one last effort to run and got into a little sprint. I crossed 72 miles with about 11 minutes to spare. My friend Matt was saying “come on Dean. One more mile at 10 minute pace and you got 73.” Rick was like “you have time.” I appreciated the encouragement, but knew that was it.

I was elated with joy having made it to the morning and fell between my goals of 100K and 80 miles.

The ultimate goal would have been 100 miles (101 for the belt buckle award). For my first 24 hour race, 72 miles was a very satisfying accomplishment. I was also encouraged to know I would have gone further if not for the rough patches earlier. I look upon those rough and dark times as learning experiences. They happen during events of these durations. It’s being able to deal with and get through them which make the difference. I had great help with Steve crewing me and Shannon checking up on me. Both encouraged me which really helped when I felt like I could go no further. Adding those to my strong desire to go to Friday, May 15th 9am saw me through. I told Steve after the race, “you were right. I was going all night.” He had told me that during a rough patch and didn’t fully believe it then. I’m glad I listened to his advice and allowed him to push me. I’m also very happy I enlisted Shannon as my coach who trained me for the event. She may not have been there physically at the event, but she was checking in with Steve all night. My conversation with her after 50 miles was uplifting and I was so happy to speak with her after I was done. I know I’m in good hands with them in my corner.

In the days that have followed, I’ve gone through a few thought processes mostly being influenced by various forms of fatigue. Now with the jetlag like feelings behind me, if some asks would I do another 24 hour or 100 mile race with a longer cut off time (30-36 hours), the answer is “YES”.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Common Mistakes New Runners Make, Part 3 - Volume

As a contributing writer for RunJersey.comI will regularly be sharing a writing about something running-related. My first write up is a 4 part series that discusses the four most common mistakes I see new runners make. 

Here is link to the Third Part of that series.

I will post links each new part as it is published on

Thank you for taking a look and sharing your thoughts!


Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day 5k, Summit, NJ 5/10/15

Last night I was up close to midnight reviewing Assessments for my newest runners.  I love the way it feels to think about a fresh start and all the potential that comes with making a focused effort towards a personal goal.

I had given myself a long time (a few months now) of unfocused running without any real goals to target.  But I feel more than ready to get back to work and find my runner-self again.

Today's 5k would be my baseline test, to see where I stand and how much work I need to do.

I weighed in this morning.  Oh boy.  Despite my recent effort to eat well I am still hovering at the heaviest I have been in a long time.  On a good day, recently, I will weigh in at 121.  At my fastest I was 114. This morning I was 124.  That is a LOT of extra weight to carry for a short person.  I suspect the sodium that accompanied my sushi dinner last night may have caused me to retain some water. (I can hope, right?).  Either way, I don't mine starting my baseline testing on the heavy side because I feel like I am stacking the deck in my favor.  As I get lighter, results will come easier and motivation will grow. 

I was excited to race again with Andrew this morning. There is something very inspiring about training with someone very new to the sport.  Not everyone approaches racing with his enthusiasm.  It is really great energy to be around!  He reminds me of how I felt when I first started racing on my own down in Miami. There is a lot to learn and I am happy to get to share.  I know he has raced a few times since our last run at the 15k.  He has been doing well.   

I didn't know any thing about this course, but I saw Mark W. at the staring line. He mentioned that it was hilly around the half way point.  I discussed with Andrew whether we should use this race as an exercise in pacing, to try to start very slow, master controlling the race and speed up as we go… then Mark turned and said, "Don't forget this is a points race."  Well, I do need points.   So Andrew and I decided, forget controlled pacing… this was a race so we are going to race it.  We can find another event to throw away. 

I had no idea what I would do.  The 15k I ran last was at a 7:39 pace.  I was hoping to stay under 7 minute pace, but I was not really sure that would happen.  It was very humid and the hottest day race of the year for me.

I also decided to break in a new pair of fluorescent yellow racing flats. I cannot believe how bright they were.  I ordered them online.  These are the type of shoes you wear when you plan to win.  I was clearly wearing someone else's shoes.  But I wanted to wear them to longer races. Since my feet have not been in a pair of T7's in a long time,  I knew I needed to do a short race first to reacquaint myself with them.

Regardless of what happened today, the beauty of a check in race is that it doesn't matter what happens. It is just a baseline assessment to use as a starting point. Whatever happens, I will still end up with some data I can use.  The more stressful races are those that follow the check in. 

The Gun Goes Off!
It is downhill to the start and we turn right.  I find a clean line and take it.  This feels amazing. I have not run this fast in a long time.  I feel like I haven't missed a beat.  I can't believe I can move this fast.  It may have been only .1-.2 tenths of  mile when I look down and my watch says something that starts with a 5:xx.  LOL!!!!   "Rookie" I think to myself. "Slow down."  I can see the leaders and count ladies.  Two are ahead of me.  This mile does not feel as bad as I imagined it would.  I try to reign in my enthusiasm.  M1 6:27

I can feel my quads burning and I know that it only took me six and half minutes to make some very bad decision about pacing.  LOL!  I am going to fade hard and there is nothing I can do to stop it.  Then we start to go up.  Great!  Lots of turns and uphill sections.  As the hill gets steeper, I get slower.  Many people pass me but this is not a surprise. By the time we hit the top of then hill I am 6th female.  M2 7:20.

I still have high hopes of having something to give on the way back down.  I end up not having as much speed on the decline as I thought I would. I wonder if I any women are going to catch me. I pass a spectator who tell me what position I am in amongst the ladies.  I listen to hear whether he provides any similar information to the people behind me within earshot. I try to assess if people are closing in without turning my head. I do not hear him tell anyone they are 7th female.  I assume this means only men are in striking range as we work our way home.  Despite the last few tenths of this mile being inclined, I hold my position through Mile 3.  M3 7:03

The final .1 is uphill back to the finish line, and I can hear a challenger behind me.  I do dig for a kick and there is a little something there. 42 seconds for the last .1 (6:40 pace).

Shortly after I finished, Andrew came sprinting in to a new PR for him.

This was a good day!

Time: 21:26 (6:58 pace)
OA Place - 20th OA
Gender Place - 6th
AG Place - 2nd 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Clinton Country Run 15k, Clinton, NJ 4/25/15

Less than a week after Boston and I was on my way to another race. I am starting to feel like myself again. Today wasn't my best race, but it was a great day.  

First, Enrique met me early to run a few warm up miles. We wanted to run together to celebrate him being the first runner I have ever coached that became a streaker.

I have been streak running everyday since Dec 2011. I don't expect this from my runners. But one week after Boston last year, Enrique had realized had completed an entire week of running. He did not miss a day even after running the marathon. He wanted to give streaking a shot. Now over 365 days later, we finally had the chance to run together to celebrate his accomplishment  You know you are a runner when you celebrate milestones by going for a run. Enrique also brought me a gift.  A race shirt from the Tokyo Marathon.  In the past two years, Enrique has run Boston, NYC, Chicago, and Tokyo.  All he needs now is London and Berlin to complete the series of World Major Marathons.  Right now we are in Berlin Training mode.  He has inspire me to make this a goal for myself.  This is a fantastic achievement. I am very proud of him! 

About 2 years ago I started a running group for Veterans.  Andrew was the one guy who was involved from Day 1 until the last race.  Despite severe shin pain at the start he pushed on (often against my advice to heal!)  During a 6 month window from May - November 2013, we raced 5ks, halves, road, trails, up mountains, and laps around Central Park in NYC.  And then after a year at the VA, I left my part-time position to take on more hours at the hospital where I currently work. The Veterans group that met at the VA, disbanded and people moved on.  

I always felt that my work with that small group was some of the best work I have ever done as a coach. While training with the guys, Andrew wanted a team name. There were three of us who were regulars. Others came and went. By November he came up with a team name - Triskelion Running Team.  He found a three-pronged triskele symbol, a Celtic swirl that symbolized forward progress, growth, constant movement amongst other things.  We never used this symbol as our team dissolved and we lost touch.

About two months ago, I decided to develop a log for my coaching business.  Taking my inspiration from Andrew, I sketched out out a version of a Triskele and contacted a graphic designer ultra-friend, Elaine Acosta, and asked her to turn it into a logo for me.   A few weeks ago, I got it up on my new website.  I chose this symbol, even though most people would not associated it with running, because it represented my work as a coach with guys who really needed it and excelled because of our time together. 

Right after Boston, I got a surprising email...from Andrew. A very nice message about how he was sorry to lose touch but he is ready to start training again. It has been 2 years now since we first started training together.  He remembered that I race for a team and asked if I would be going to this 15k Championship.  Of course I was! :)

When not coaching, I am a therapist on an inpatient short stay acute psychiatric unit. We monitor and stabilize severely psychiatrically ill patients who are a danger to themselves or others and then connect them with treating sources when they are safe to continue care outside of a locked unit.  I try to make an impact, but my patients are discharged to outpatient follow up before I can determine whether anything we have done in therapy has become a catalyst for positive change.  I rarely get to see the long term impact of my efforts in that setting, although I know many people do get well in time. 

This is why I coach. This is why I NEED to coach.  My runners often thank me for helping them, but I am more grateful than most will ever understand to my athletes for giving me the chance to help them grow. I get to see the beginning, middle, and end of our labor together. I get to see how with my help, people's lives truly change for the better. I get to see people grow strong and confident as athletes and as people.

Very few of my therapy patients ever contact to tell me that I have made a difference. But very often my runners do. I get updates about how they are still running or still using the lessons they learned during our training stay healthy.  

I get updates like Andrew's, where my runners come back to me, ready to start over after a break, or a set back, or a getting side-tracked. When my former athletes think about being healthy and happy, they often remember feeling their best when they were running. They find me and ask me to get them started again. 

Even though this is Run-Coaching and not Therapy, I know for certain that the best work I have ever done as a Therapist has happened inadvertently while I was functioning as a caring, compassionate, understanding, motivating run coach helping people to change their self-image, the physical being, and their world-view.  People excel when they set clear goals and then use a plan to achieve clear concrete measurable results. Running lets us practice goal setting, planning for change, and measuring progress.

Coaching for me is so much bigger than race results. It's is about health, wellness, and overall happiness for the people I get to work with and for me.  Of course not everyone experiences training and running the same way.  But for many, learning how to become a lifelong runner is life changing for the better.  

We don't need to win races to have great results. At this 15k, I ran about 39 seconds (7:39 pace) slower per mile than last year.  This is to be expected.  The weather was beautiful, but my legs were tired and not fully recovered from Boston. With lower training volume, my recovery takes longer now.

My Garmin dumped my splits for some reason. Losing a record of what was essentially a fast start and a hard painful fade is probably for the best.  I don’t need to perserverate on the struggles of the past. I know what happened.  I would prefer to look ahead to tomorrow and focus on the work I need to do to get my speed back, my endurance back and my soul fed again.   

Andrew and I have already begun to make grand plans for the Fall.  Big Races. Big Goals. I know if he sticks around this will be life changing.   Ultrarunning is life changing for pretty anyone who brave enough to face and accept their limitations with eyes wide open and judgement free.  Ultrarunning gives us that.  Ultrarunning is not about winning to grow. It is about giving it all no matter what happens… and more often than not we learn that we have so much more fight inside us than we ever imaged.   

1:11:52 (7:39 pace)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Boston Marathon, 2015

I almost did not go.  

I was on the fence up until the moment we got into the car.

At 5 pm Saturday I called and canceled my room in Framingham for that night.  I needed one more day at home to get myself organized, literally and emotionally.

I had a hard time last year when deciding if I would go back.

In 2013 I had just left the finish area only minutes before the explosions. I did not see anyone get hurt.  It was still a very traumatic experience. 

In 2014, I believed that if I went back, I would create a new set of memories to erase the stress and fear I have mentally connected to the race.  

Last year, I experienced a lot of anxiety from March through April. Ultimately I did go and I finished.  It was safe and emotional.  At the time, I felt that I had achieved some closure.

But it snuck up on me this year. 

An almost imperceptible, creeping, growing fear over a month before the race.  My brain felt like mush. I had trouble making sense of why I felt a little scrambled in my day-to-day life.  I was stressed out at a subconscious level.  I was exhausted.  I wasn't sleeping well.  I had a very low desire to train.  My mileage dropped and my long runs were pushed off and rescheduled.  I was having low-grade fevers day after day.  I even called out from work which I never do.  For weeks this went on…

I had not read a single email from the BAA except the ones that asked me to update something.  I did not open my acceptance letter. I had forgotten where I put that passport and welcome packet.  I had made no connection between my avoidance of all things Boston and my distress about going back until I saw the Guilty Decision on TV and realized I wasn't sure I was able to go back.  I was very concerned about whether someone upset about the decision might retaliate at the race.

I had avoided everything Boston including preparing for it.  My lack of prep was not all stress-related.  I needed to use my Spring for other priorities. If this was any other race I would not have gone. But, with 12 days to go and nothing longer than a 14 miler or two under me, I made a decision:  Either I run 20 miles and then go to Boston or I fail to complete the 20 miles and I stay home on Patriot's Day.

Enzo and Piper at the Hotel
I woke up with a fever. Took the day off from work, disappointed that I didn't even have a chance to get my 20...  Finally at 6 pm, still disappointed, I got on my treadmill just to run as much as I could.  I put on a movie ("Unbroken") and started to run, planning to stop when I had enough….

20 miles later in 8:10 pace I stopped and decided that despite my fears, it was clear that in my heart I NEEDED to go back to Boston.

Sunday morning, after a few miles with the dogs, we loaded them into the car and drove 5+ hours to the Expo.  I waited until about 9 pm to get my gear organized.  I didn't check the weather until the next morning when I got up at 6:15 am.

Weather was not going to be great, but I have run in everything.  I don't look at the specific weather details anymore except for the night before and the morning of races. This removes it as a stressor for me.  I have a general idea of what to expect each season. I have gear for everything. I did check the weather in the morning and saw that the rain would come at 12 noon.  I was concerned that I may have overdressed, which is funny in hindsight.

Running to the Start

Rather than ride busses with the masses to the start, I ran 3.6 miles to the start.  As a sole runner on a quiet course, I finally started to feel at peace. I ran up the street, thanking the Military and Police who were already on duty very early in the morning. I thanked the Volunteers who were setting up the aid stations for elites and for the rest of us. Armored cars patrolled.  As I got t the starting area, I was wanded before being permitted to pass. Spectators were wanded by the metal detector as well.  Officers with bomb sniffing dogs were plentiful.

Sherry volunteering at M2 Aid Station
I decided to not go to the Athlete's Village.  Last year, once in the Village, we were not permitted to leave. I didn't like the idea of not being allowed out.  I felt claustrophobic and trapped.  So this year, I opted to stand out in the rain for hours in order to avoid being locked in to a gated field with 30,000 other anxious runners.  This was a good decision for me.

I was freezing cold once the rain came at 8:15 am. I had over 2 hours to wait outside and nothing to help me warm up. I thought the rain would come at noon, so I did not bring a poncho.  I had a baseball cap.  It was cold.  Someone gave me a plastic garbage bag and saved my morning. That bag helped me stay warm as the cold winds came after the brief rain stopped.

I spent the morning standing, actually standing, around in a garbage bag, people watching.  The mobility impaired, wheelchair, and hand cycle athletes were lined up and sent off.  The elite ladies lined up, and send off for their turn.  I took a seat next to and chatted with a man name Todd who has now run 30 Bostons.  It was a special place to be. It felt like I was at a small local 400 person race.

Runners in the first wave were remarkably different than runners in the second.  Wave 1 runners arrived in singlets and shorts, created an impromptu warm up loop on a side street and ran laps and laps and laps to stay warm… There was a lot of runners grabbing onto trees or poles and swinging their legs dynamically.  Many did strides and form drills.  Everyone had a different technique.  I also noticed A LOT of Mohawks.

Wave 2, the rest of my wave, arrived after the high energy underdressed pre-warmed were sent off on foot to Boston.  Wave 2 were much more laid back. Not as many warm up laps. Not as many drills or special magical pre-race routines. Not a many Mohawks.  Much fewer nasal strips.  Fewer singlets and short shorts. Rather than getting warmed up, Wave 2 runners seemed to prioritize Staying Warm.  Sweat-suited and plastic wrapped runners filed in to their corrals and waited until the last second to ditch their throw away clothes, just before the signal to start.

My Race:
I obviously had low expectations. I had a fantastic qualifying time with a 3:11, but I failed to do it justice.  I could feel the hills on my warm up run to the start and knew that miles 16-21 would simply destroy me today.  I was not going to survive running the entire race, so I decided to get a good start and then try to settle in until the hills.

Before the Rain (Photo by Michele Hudak)
The first few miles were wonderful. The rain had not yet come. I pulled off my arm warmers and tied them around my waist pack rather than tossing them to the side. I was running mid-7:00's to sub-8 minute pace and it felt very good and quiet easy.  A downhill start will do that.  I knew it would not last but I was Happy for the first time in over a month and it felt great.  I wasn't here to run a great race or a smart race … I was here to have fun and get to the finish.

I think the most impressive part of this year's Boston was the fact that once the rain came, the spectators seemed unfazed.  They stood there in the rain, screaming for us.

After a fast 5k, I slowed down a bit…but the descent and the crowds inspired fast turnover with effortless breathing.  At 10k I was almost starting to feel convinced I might run a lot better than I expected.

But the hard rain started, the wind was obvious, and my legs were started to feel the miles.   I hit the half marathon much faster than I expected.

Before hitting Mile 16, where the hills begin, I could feel my hamstrings getting very tired.  My hands were freezing despite my gloves. It was raining hard, but I almost didn't notice the rain. It was the wind that was chilling me to the bone.

Up ahead I notice someone running, then walking, and holding her hip… then running again strong, only to stop and hold her hip again.  I felt her pain.  It was too early to feel this bad.  I was running out of steam as well.  Even with her walking, it was still hard to catch her.  Just before Mile 18 I did.

In my waste pack, I had a few things I thought I might need.  My phone to call Sid to get me when I got back to Hopkinton, my ID, some cash, and two Excedrine in case something got painful and I needed something to help me continue on.  I didn't need the Excedrine.  So I offered them to the girl holding her hip.

She said she was thinking about quitting and she had never dropped out of a race ever.  I told her we were doing well still and if we just kept going we could come in between 3:40-3:50… Together we ran the next 8 miles, she seemed grateful for some company.  I know I was.

The hills really aren't that bad if you have trained for them. But since I had not trained, my legs were toast by the summit of Heartbreak.  By Mile 21, Alex felt better and was now encouraging me the rest of the way in.  Once I slowed down, I became very cold. I tried to pull my arm warmers back on but they were soaking wet and my fingers were so numb and painful that I could not feel what I was doing.  It felt like an impossible task.

As I attempted to pick up my pace I saw a woman holding a sign "Pain is just…. French for Bread" and it made me laugh so hard I forgot I was cold.  All I could think about was that 4 pack of Hawaiian Sweet Rolls in the food packet the runners get at the finish line.  I was going to eat them all as soon as I had the chance.

Despite the slow pace, the cold wind and rain, and the increasing tightness of my hamstring during the final miles, I still absolutely had a fantastic experience.

When I left for the race, I was pretty sure I would end up running about 4 hours and came in at 3:50.

This is fair. I worked so incredibly hard for my 3:11. I trained with dedication and commitment. I ran Long Runs and Speed Work.  I sleep well. I ate well. I let nothing get in my way.  I had a pace plan and stuck with it.  I worked hard.  I was ready and it paid off.  When you do the work, running gives you the chance to shine… but it doesn't work the other way.  Running doesn't give anyone more than they deserve.

As we crossed the finish line, Alex and I followed the line of people shuffling through.  It was so cold and so windy.  We eventually got out heat-shield capes. Someone asked me a question. I turned to answer them.  

When I turned back, all I saw was a sea of hooded, mylar-caped zombies. Alex was somewhere in there, but I lost her.  I looked around to make sure she was gone.  I wanted to thank he again for her company.  When I was certain I was not going to find her, I made my way out of the finish area and onto a bus to wherever it was taking the runners on board.  And as soon as I sat down, I texted Sid and ate all four wonderfully sweet Hawaiian Rolls.

Finish Time 3:50

Saturday, April 4, 2015

How Recovery Running Helps Us Run Faster

Here is a copy of my most recent article submitted to the Clifton Road Runners Monthly Newsletter!

If you reside in New Jersey and would like to become a member of Clifton Road Runners, please visit this website for more information about how you can join my team: 

Why Recovery Running is NECESSARY to Help Us Run Faster
by Shannon McGinn, Certified Distance Running Coach
April 2015

     Many people find it difficult to train at Recovery Pace. They fear that slow running is not going to help them run faster.  I get it.  When we have only a limited amount of time to train, it becomes imperative that we get the most out of it.  Pushing ourselves as much as possible seems to be the best way to get faster.  Some consider slow running “Junk” and would rather rest completely than waste their time. I want to explain how slow mileage is actually necessary to help us run our best.

  We should first clarify what Junk Miles are. The term Junk comes from the idea that we only need a certain amount of quality training to optimize our fitness gains. Any additional mileage over that optimal personalized amount causes unnecessary strain on the body and is deemed Junk. In theory this makes sense. Train only as much as we need to maximize our potential. Anything more than “just enough” will increase risk while providing no additional gains. The problem with this theory is that most runners do not actually train anywhere near that tipping point. 

  Even though some may argue that slow paced running has little value, “Junk” does not actually refer to slow-paced running. The terms describes Moderate-to-Fast paced running that is neither easy enough to help recovery nor fast enough to trigger adaptation. This “no man’s land” training pace just so happens to be the bread-and-butter of many recreational runners who can’t figure out why they are not able to get faster. Ironically, slowing down some training mileage may be exactly what is needed in order to run faster when it matters most. The problem I think many have with accurately identifying Junk begins with the difficulty runners have with identifying or accepting their optimal training paces.   

One you understand how recovery running serves a very specific and necessary purpose in a balanced plan, you will be on your way to becoming a faster you!  A balanced plan should contain varied paced training runs. Fast Workouts should comprise a small percentage of training mileage, about 10-25%. Long Runs should be about  30%. This means the remaining 50% of training mileage should be Easy or Very Easy.  Look at your log.  Do you run easy about 50% of the time?  I know I do!

When I start with new runners, there is resistance to slowing down. Most need a lot of convincing to run their slow days as slow as I ask them to. To help set minds at ease, we need to know that the most successful runners include recovery running in their training.  

Steve Magness, a runner, a coach, an exercise physiologist, and the author of The Science of Running has done plenty of research on this subject.  He discovered that the early morning training runs of Elite Kenyan runners were done at 9-10 minutes per mile.  So lets think about this. Elites who can run sub-5 minute pace for the marathon find it necessary to include some training at TWICE their race pace.  Meanwhile, many recreational runners will insist mileage is useless if the pace is one or two minutes per mile slower than their current or projected marathon race pace.
After stressing the body with a hard workout we must understand that it is only during rest that the body can heal and become stronger. If you run too hard day after day, adaption simply can not occur.  Runners either fail to improve or they end up burned out or injured. 

     Understanding how the body fuels itself is also important. The body uses glycogen to fuel the faster workouts. Glycogen is fast efficient fuel but it can take more than 24 hours and sometimes up to 72 hours to fully replenish. Train hard day after day, depleting your glycogen store more and more, and eventually your body will have no choice but to find alternate fuel sources. In extreme situations, to fuel your workouts the body will need to break down muscle structures, like enzymes or mitochondria, which are the very same things that we are trying to build up to in order run faster. (See Magness). This result is actually worse than diminishing returns. It is a Negative Return, as training more make us less fit.
Whereas faster running is fueled by glycogen, slower running is fueled by fat.  This means we can still restore glycogen while training, but only if we train at a slow enough pace. The slower the pace, the more fat is burned and the less glycogen is used. 

     Although complete rest would be the fastest way to restore glycogen, it is not the fastest way to fully recover.  Slow running can speed up recovery by increasing circulation of blood to areas that need to heal while also helping to circulate out waste. This explain why elite runners report feeling better after a slow day of running than after a complete day off. 

Other benefits include weight management and stress management.  Running burns .63 calories  x your weight in pounds no matter if run fast or slow, so slow running helps to keep us lean. Running helps many of us maintain peace of mind. Fast running may feel amazing, but slow running is better than no running when running is being used to manage stress.  Complete rest does not offer any of those benefits. 

     Once a runner realizes that (1) daily moderate-to-fast paced training is actually holding them back by delaying adaptation and/or pushing them into negative returns and (2) appropriate amounts of easy running will speed recovery, speed adaptation and allow them to train harder on the hard days, those who called slow running “Junk” will suddenly realize they had things backwards all along. 

Practical Application: When following a plan, pay attention to which days are characterized as Rest, Recovery, or Easy Days. In my practice, I use the term General Maintenance and Recovery to identify easy day.  These easy days can not be run too slow but they can be run too fast.  

      When trying to identify your appropriate recovery pace, aim for at least 60-120 seconds slower than your current marathon race pace (not your goal marathon pace). You can use a Finish Time Predictor Calculator find your projected marathon time from a recent race result.  One you see how slow you should train on easy days and realize about 50% of your training can be easy, savor those days. Find a friend who will slower with you.  Enjoy the scenery.  Take your time.  Appreciate running without pressure to perform. Consider the Recovery Run a gift as well as the secret to fast racing while maintaining longevity in our sport.
Read more from Steve Magness here:

Finish Time Predictor Calculator here:


Shannon McGinn is an RRCA Certified Distance Running Coach and the owner of Creating Momentum, LLC.  She is a life-long runner, becoming more involved in racing after surviving cancer.  She considers herself a marathon and ultramarathon specialist, earning several USATF National Championship top 10 or better placements in the 50k and 50M distances. She has not missed a day of running since December 2011. Please feel free to send any questions about this article to

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

2015 Coaching Incentive for Clifton Road Runners who race Team Championship Events

With Miles For Music 20k Team Championship on March 22, the 2015 Team Racing Season has officially started!

I would like to encourage participation in the Team Championship Races, while offering a small incentive to any of my Clifton Teammates who would like to work with me as their Coach.

Since my rates are kept very low from the start, I do not have the ability to offer discounted services. However, I do sincerely hope that some of my Clifton Teammates will find this small incentive helpful as they pursue their running-related goals.

2015 Team Racing Incentive for Clifton Road Runners:
$10 Credit towards any Coaching or Training Service with Creating Momentum Coaching for any runner who is a USATF Member and completes a 2015 Team Championship Race for their Division as a Clifton Road Runner.

- This Incentive must be redeemed within 6 months of completing a Team Championship Race. 
- There are many team races in 2015 for each Division. Incentives can be earned for every team race 
  you run for your division (Open or Masters) during the year.
- Incentives earned at the end of 2015, can be used into 2016, as long as it is still within 6 months from 
  the date of the Championship race. 
- You must race for Clifton Road Runners and you must be a member of USATF. 
- You do not need to be a scoring member to earn the Incentive. You just need to participate
- To redeem your Incentive, you must notify Creating Momentum of which race you completed and
  request your Incentive. Participation as a Clifton Runner must be verified. 

Just like with any new client, all runners must complete an Assessment before they can be accepted as a client.  Online Coaching Roster and In-Person Training slots are limited by availability.  

For More Information: 
Please see this page to join Clifton Road Runners
- Please see this page to join USATF-NJ to be eligible to race for the team!
- Please see this page to see the Team Championship Race Calendar
- Please see this page for more information on Coaching or Training Services