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

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sidney's Freedom Flights Rescue Report: Charlie and Cookie, 3/29/15

Charlie (photo by Karyn Adam Pirl)
Yesterday, Sidney was up very early checking the weather for his trip.  I could smell the coffee he had set next to me, on my night stand, like he does every morning he is up before me. This seems to be all the time now.

Half awake, I asked him what time he had to leave. He said "By 7" and then continue to review piloty things like maps and charts and things online.

Cookie (photo by Karyn Adam Pirl)

His son Justin and Martin would accompany him.  I would stay home with Enzo and Piper.  

I had originally planned to run with Dave and Enrique but at 5:30 am when my alarm went off, I already knew I felt terrible and would not be able to go.  I ended up being sick with a fever the entire day Sid was gone. I was so glad to not have been with them in a small plane. 

After picking up Martin, driving down to Toms River, NJ and doing all his pre-flight piloty things at the airport, just before 10 am they took off.  The were headed to Myrtle Beach to pick up Charlie and Cookie for their trip to a better home. 

These trips are not very leisurely.   Usually the turn around after landing is quick, but busy.

A quick meet and greet with the people for some photos. Those who have been waiting at the airport take a moment to say good bye to the dogs for the last time.  It is usually the hard part.

It is either a foster parent or a rescue volunteer handing off a dog. Foster parents are more connected, as they clearly love their fosters, even thought they knew the dog was not to be theirs forever. Volunteers are usually more happy to see the dogs moving on to a better life!  This time Cookie, a small female mix was fostered.  But the male lab mix, Charlie, his owner was there to send Charlie off to a better home, since he could no longer care for Charlie.  That had to be very hard. 

After loading up the dogs and saying good bye, Sid, Justin, and Martin headed up to Sussex, NJ to drop the dogs off with the Rescue volunteers from Safe and Sound Rescue. They landed in Sussex about 7 pm. Thank you Karyn for your help at Sussex. After taking a little extra time to refuel the plane, they eventually made their way back down to Toms River.  

Sidney dropped off Justin, then dropped of Martin, and by the time he returned home it was after mid-night… and my fever had finally broke.  Our dogs clearly missed him and gave him lots of love as soon as he returned. I think they know he is awesome. I am pretty sure dogs talk. :) 

This was a long day, but completely worth it, I am sure.  I don't even need to ask.

Two more dogs transported to better lives! 

Rescuers at Sussex


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Guest Blogger: Enrique's NYC Half Marathon Race Report, March 15, 2015

Every once in awhile I ask one of my athletes to share a race report as a guest blogger here on Creating Momentum! Enrique has been doing fantastic work during the entire time I have known him, PRing race after race, running further and faster than he ever has before in training.  I have been hoping he would have some time to write up something for the blog someday. I feel very fortunate that he was kind enough to share his latest race experience with us all here!

Please enjoy this humorous Race Report by one of my most inspiration runners - Enrique! 


Pre Race: 6:30 A.M.

While walking together with my cousins from the parking lot on 65th street, we saw the first runners going towards the south end of Central Park. We barely made it just in time to drop our baggage on the UPS trucks. Baggage #12017 was the last bag thrown into the truck number 12.

As I turned to look for my cousins, I saw Saville. He was standing next to truck number 13 changing his shoes, holding on to Marissa's small shoulders. A moment later, his bag went skipping hands in midair until it landed behind the door of the truck.

From there we went behind the long lines to enter the park. The job that these people decided to accept was called Security. In this role, they were tasked with the frustrating job of frustrating others by slowly checking on every single runner using metal detectors. This security measure was implemented by communicating with the people only using facial expressions and hands gestures:
- Eye contact with a slight nod up with the jaw = "You are next"
- Circling the hand inward repeated a couple of times = "Come"
After a brief pause, the runner in front of Security takes a couple of steps to go across the machine. 
- Green dim light to the left of the runner = "This runner is safe to continue." 

So finally this person, this runner, who has already run 5 half-marathons throughout five boroughs in New York to qualify to enter this race... This runner who paid a $200 fee... This runner who transported himself across the river, under tunnels to pick up a number, a shirt and other paraphernalia to wear on race day without security checks…This person who got up in the middle of the night to drive in before dawn to get here early but had to wait along time in this line… This person is now finally deemed safe to enter the park and run. Thanks to what happened in Boston, long security lines like this for big races are happening.  But it just feels a bit misdirected, especially when this runner, who loves racing, and who has trained very hard for this race needs to find a port-a-potty and do a warm up and he would hate to miss the start! ;)   

- Last gesture is the repeated gesture of rolling the hand = "Permission to move forward." Finally!

Once finally past the security lines, I separated from my cousin and his girlfriend.  Needed that port-a-potty pit stop and warm up run. One mile at 13mm pace towards the corral. Made it just in time to hear the end of the National Anthem.

7:45 A.M.
Heard the gun for the second wave,
…  music blasting,
… female voice of the announcer cheering for the runners.

This group was anxious.

We slowly march towards the starting line. Set up my smart phone to start the GPS app.  Making sure the Garmin had a good signal. The pace was picking up.  Each step quicker than the step before until we are jogging. Everybody looking down for the blue and fuscia lines on the floor.  Left hands hovering over the right hands ready to start the Garmins.  In a single motion, the right foot steps over the rubber of the official timing mat, the left hand releases the button on the Garmin, quick look over to the official clock to know the delta. Head is up, heart is pumping the pre-programmed pace, lungs picking up the pattern.

The race has started!
Mile 1 (9:07): The starting line is placed conveniently on a downhill. With the excitement, runners will start faster than the desired race pace, but this allows the runners still in the corrals to start moving before they get to the line. I was comfortable running 9:30 to start the race. I was placed right behind the 1:55 pacer. Was thinking to get closer to the 1:50, but I have trained for negative-splits. Felt right being behind them. Had my first gel.

Mile 2 (17:28): The legs were loosening up. I took advantage of the down hills in the park but averaged a slow start.

Mile 3 (25:57): Decisions to make:, should I speed up on the flat surface leaving the park and use the big hill to rest? To climb the hill I had to slowdown, -- the decision was made, and went hard on the flat (7:55 mm avg pace). Walked the water station and took my electrolyte pill.

Mile 4 (34:31): The plan worked, slow climb up the Harlem hill and rested the muscle groups used on the flat terrain before. Gravity would take over on the other side, so the climb down was a series of long strides (resting again).

Mile 5 (43:12):  What?! The event clock was broken!! "Go with the flow" but people were passing me, checked the Garmin to see if I was fading. Nope. Actually people were pushing on the rolling hills of the park. More decisions. Mile 6 is flatter and then there is 7th Avenue downhill. Decided to hold the pace steady.

Mile 6 (51:42): Legs were going smoothly and feeling strong, the smell of the Tiger Balm was flowing. Time to let loose. The next 2 miles were the fastest portion of the whole race, …after that is 11th Avenue concrete awaiting us. Walked the water station.

Mile 7 (59:38): Was that the sound of my 10K record been broken? Wait a second, so I also broke my 5k record today. Nice. I was catching up to all the people that passed me before. The event clock was completely off, that screwed with my mental game. Have to mark the laps using the Garmin.

Mile 8 (1:07:01): Turned into 42th Street.  Wow! Look at all those people stuck in traffic! Checked the Garmin, 7:45 pace? Too fast! But feels right?... This is a downhill.  I can use mile 9 and 10 to recuperate and let loose again on mile 11. "Wow, that girl looks hot... I can catch up with her... she is going to be my rabbit! ..."

Mile 9 (1:15:07): The momentum from the previous mile carries me, couldn't slow down the legs. My rabbit was still pretty far ahead but within reach. Had my second gel, calculated that it would take 20 minutes to take effect, it would be 1:35 by then, so that would give me the energy much needed to do the final push.

Mile 10 (1:23:13): Caught up to the 1:55 pacer and left them behind. The distance between my rabbit and I was shorter. "Crap! I was suppose to use these 2 last miles to rest... Oh well, this is going to be over soon." … "Haven't seen an interesting sign today." … "These water stations are so filthy! In Tokyo you can run barefoot. Maybe I'll sign up for Tokyo again and run it barefoot, it is so clean! … FOCUS!" … "Where is my rabbit?"

Mile 11 (1:31:26): "Nice, this is going to be over in 16 minutes, let's push it and catch up with the 1:50 people."

Mile 12 (1:39:16): Started to pass people. I could see the sign of the 1:50 VERY far ahead of me. That sign is my NEW rabbit. Caught up to my old rabbit on the tunnel. No more stopping at the water stations. As I was getting out of the tunnel, that hill did a number on my legs. I raced my old rabbit on the hill, -- big mistake. I needed to slow down in that hill.  That would have been a nice 15 seconds rest to push for the last stretch.

Mile 13 (1:48:08): I could see the sign of the 1:50 pacer about 1 minute ahead of me. My old rabbit was 5 seconds ahead of me. Took a deep breath and while other people were celebrating and opening their arms, I was digging deep looking for that last sprint.

Mile 13.1 (1:51:10): Yes! New personal best. Caught up to my rabbit and congratulated her for a great and fierce race. We hi-fived and I went back to my life.

I find it very interesting that every time I checked on the Garmin, my pace was under 8, but, the average for almost every mile was on the 8’s except for miles 8 and 12, both of which were on the 7s.

This race was very re-assuring that I have a sub-4 within me, but I need to work more on the long runs to be able to maintain a sub-4 pace for that long.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sidney's Freedom Flights - Bella the poodle, from NY to VT, 3/24/15

Yesterday, I rushed out of work at noon to meet Sidney in Linden, NJ where he was waiting for me along with an adorable little black poodle called Bella and a woman named Lori.  Sidney left early to drop Enzo and Piper at my parents house, and then pick up a Cessna we would use to transport Bella to  a better situation that she was recently in.

Sidney noticed on the Pilots-N-Paws message board that a flight was needed to get Bella up to Burlington Vermont and he arranged to do the flight.  Lori had picked up Bella the night before from a shelter in Brooklyn after Poodle Rescue of Vermont arranged to have her pulled.

Lori warned us that Bella does not travel well.  Both car trips resulted in her getting car sick.  I grabbed blanket out of my car.  We had a crate, towels, pee-pads, etc... and could set her up in the crate, but Sid and I decided it would be nicer for her if I rode in the back with her and held her in my lap.

No way! Are we going to Fly! 
From the moment we met her, all she wanted to do was be held.  If I set her down, she would walk around with a little strut and lots of pep, but it did not take much time for her return to my feet, reach her little front legs up my legs and jump up a littele, clearly asking in her sweet little, "Please Pick Me Up".

To crate her seemed wrong.  She was so little she didn't seem like she could be too unruly.   

Bella was stinky (most likely from the kennel, I suppose) and needed a good teeth cleaning (which is what made her seem older than 8), but it was very clear she had been loved dearly.  She is affectionate and trusting.  She was so light I could scoop her up in one hand.  After spending a few hours with Bella, she made both Sid and I entertained the idea of someday rescuing a small dog to join our family. 

Landed in VT
So much Love
in such a little girl
Despite Bella's bad luck with car sickness, she had no trouble in the the plane. Phew! She was a little nervous once the plane started but settled in once we took off.  She worked up the courage to peak out the window.

As she tried to make sense of what she was seeing, all I could think of was the how Bella is an older dog suspected to be at least 8 years old but maybe more, and here she was flying in a private plane.  I wonder if she knew how much of a rock star she should feel like at that moment.

After seeming to confirming that she was in fact in flight, she then settled into my lap and we both took a nap. Eventually, I woke up a few minutes later to Sidney snapping photos to use against me at some later date. 

We landed in Burlington where we met a young woman, I believe her name was Monica, and a young man, who were ready to take Bella home for the night.  I had trouble handing her over.  We had already become friends.  I did not want to say good bye.  

We made it! 
Monica shared that Bella was an owner surrender because her owner had to move to assisted living and Bella could not go along.  This is heart-breaking for everyone. 

We took some photos before I hander her over, warning them of her car sickness, that she smelled pretty badly and definitely needed a bath, and where her medication was in her travel bag.

Sidney gave them a can of dog food and baggie of dry food, even though we actual do know that dog rescue people are likely to actually have dog food.  Sidney just likes to make sure they pups eat good and I am sure they can use it.

Lake Champlain

We made a quick stop to get some dinner in the downtown areas of Burlington, just past the University of Vermont, bought some maple syrup for my parents to thank them for watching Enzo and Piper, and then headed right back home as the sun was setting.

Nap Time! :)

By the time we got home around mid-night, Monica had already emailed us to share that Bella was brought right to the groomers.

After a nice bath! :)
This morning when we woke up we had another message that Bella was scheduled to have her teeth cleaned soon and had an appointment to visit the home of a potential new adopter who was already approved.

I have no doubt that wherever she goes, she will be loved.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Miles for Music 20k, Piscataway, NJ 3/22/15

Photo by Elaine Acosta, working the Aid Station. 

Today was a tough. I have not raced in a long time, mostly because I have not been feeling well.  I have been overwhelmed with fatigue, my motivation for high mileage training has been low, and I have gained weight.  I have a few medical issues to monitor that could be the cause.  Or this can simply be a product of being extra busy, a little more stressed while trying to get a lot of thing done and maybe even due to being a little older.  It is hard to tell.

Specifically, I have an autoimmune disorder that is a direct result of my cancer treatment that comes and goes when I get run down. I also had half my thyroid removed several years ago, due to a benign tumor there.  Even though the other half picked up the extra work, I feel like, periodically, my metabolism gets shaken up a bit once in a while.  In addition, once my mileage dropped, I stopped taking in supplemental protein, thinking I did not need it.  After scrutinizing my diet, I am sure I have been pretty low on protein for some time now.  I think this contributed to my sense of extreme fatigue.  I have also added the pursuit of a new Master's Degree in Kinesiology/Sports Psychology to my Bucket List. Currently I am only in the process of trying met the prerequisites to simply APPLY to the program.  I may not get accepted but at this point I need to try. Trying to get extra work done has been a source of stress for me (but this is good stress).

The most recent thing I did was to take care of the easiest thing to change: The Protein.  I am not sure if the dietary changes I made, alone, is all it took to help me feel better.  Yet, since adding more protein for just over a week, my ability and desire to train increased significantly and my fatigue has diminished.  So now I am excited to build mileage and get back to racing. 

I need to race.  It is a huge part of who I am.  Miles for Music was the first USA-TF NJ Team Race of the season. I try my best to get to every team race I can make. A few days before the race I got a little confused and thought this year this was going to be a Master's Team race only. With a sense that my performance really would not matter as much, the pressure was off. I set my personal goal to be easily achievable. I decided that all I needed to do to consider this race a success is "Show Up and Finish It." Time would be irrelevant.

As I sat in my car, getting my gear organized, Anthony and Rich pulled up next to me. Anthony clarified that today was, in fact, an Open Team race as well.  Oh boy!  Well, as much as I hate to let others down, there was really not much I could do to change my ability to run any faster than I was planning to run.  I am not trained to run fast right now.  Nothing I have done over the last few months suggested I should be able to run an amazing race today.  Being heavier than usual (I need to drop about 7 lbs to get back to my best racing weight) only adds to the slow down.  I also had planned to race in my trainers (Brooks Launch 2) rather than racing flats, which does make a difference for me.  The last race I ran was the Key West Half in mid-January.  There was no way I could expect to run faster than I did then. I even commented to Rich, that if I do end up running a faster pace than my Key West pace, I will quit coaching immediately because nothing would make any sense to me.

The weather this year was the worst it has ever been since I started racing this race.  I have raced in worse, but for this day and this race, it was colder and much much windier than it ever has been.  Often I wear shorts at Miles for Music. But this year I started in Capris, Calf Sleeves, Long Sleeve Tech Shirt, T-Shirt, Neck buff, hat, and my mittens.  The wind was horrible.  During our warm up, I felt like my arms were simply too cold whenever the bitter wind whipped by.  I contemplated getting my warm up jacket out of the gear check truck. But in the sun and calm air it was actually quite nice. While we warmed up, we hit these little "Patches of Happiness" along the course which helped me feel better. :)

Did I mention the wind? The wind was very bad the entire morning. During our cool down walk to our cars after the race, one of the large canvas canopies was lifted off the ground and tumbled towards the oncoming runners… Only to be completely stopped in its tracks by a fearless Aid Station Volunteer who threw himself inside the rolling canopy, bracing himself against it to stop it from rolling over others. This guys was impressive. I was sure it was going to knock him over, but he wasn't having it!  The other Aid Station Volunteers all quickly took control of the canopy. Good Job guys!

After a 2 mile warm up and a few peppy strides, we lined up in the giant puddle that unfortunately took up residence at the starting line.  There were only about two puddles on the course and the biggest one was covering the entire starting area, except for the first two rows.  I ended up lining up right at the line, behind Rich and Jim O.  At one point almost in unison,  Rich and  I said "I don't belong up here!" but I wasn't moving back to stand in the water. Other people did not seems to be bothered the puddle, but I did.

The weather:  It was supposed to be in the mid-30s but with the wind it was predicted to "feel like" 27 by race time, according to the weather report online when I left the house.

The course is 2.5 laps around Johnson Park. It is only has a slight mild roll to it, only noticeable on the way out to the first lap, which we do 3 times AND which also happened to be into the wind. Otherwise the course is generally a flat and fast course.

Gun Goes Off!

In consideration of my last half being run at 7:29 pace, and the fact that I did not expect to run faster than that time today, I knew I had no business running much faster than 7:20-7:30 for the first mile. It is easy to get swept away in the crowd, but after about 3 tenths I reigned myself despite actually feeling good.  M1 - 7:20

Despite the headwind, I was feeling stronger than I expected. This is surprising since I can remember the last time I was able to run a single mile at sub-8 pace.  I wanted to try to hold 7:20-7:30 for as long as I could. We headed uphill, into the wind, and toward a turn around that would bring some relief. M2 -7:25

Starting M3, I still feel good and I am bit surprised. At this point we are headed downwind with a decline in our favor.  I enjoy this natural assist. M3 - 7:19

We eventually reach the bottom of the first loop and run loop causing us to head back towards the starting line, back into the wind. This is where the course is hardest. It will be about 2.5 miles until we can get out of the headwind and we have to do this a second time.  Things are starting to feel harder for me, but I try to hold on to that 7:20-7:30 pace.  I just don't feel beat down, but rather more like I have no leg speed to tap into. M4 - 7:23

The wind is taking its toll on me and I am not looking forward to the long inclined route to the next turn-around. I try to find comfort in the idea that I only will need to do it one more time after this second time up to the turn. I slow down to conserve some energy instead of fighting the wind. M5-7:47

The wind was nasty, but I was not suffering since I adjusted my pace.  Once we hit the 10k turnaround, I felt liberated. M6-7:44

Those last 2.5 miles really took a lot out of me.  I needed to take some time to regroup and just tried to relax. I was only half way done and I was not interested in a death march home. We had to repeat that long stretch into the wind and I wanted to feel confident I could do it.  My legs were heavy and running out of steam.  I decided here that I should take my gel. It may not help but one gel couldn't hurt much either.  I was trying very hard to run a smart race. M7-7:39

The gel seemed to help.  So did the descent and the tail wind.  I was starting to move faster than some of those around me. Trying to pick off people is very motivating. It helps me focus less on how badly I feel and gives me something external to distract me. M8 - 7:25

Unfortunately, just as I was feeling good, we hit the turn around loop at the bottom of the course. Once again we faced 2.5 miles of headwind before our next reprieve. I reminded myself that this would be the last time I would have to fight this fight so I just tried to stay focused.  M9 - 7:27 

Initially I thought if i could I would to try to pick up my pace with 5k,  but at 9.3 miles the wind was at its worst ad the course was this most inclined.  I just felt like it was smarter to try to wait it out than blow up at mile 10 of a 12.4 mile race.  I was still moving well compared to those around me, so I decided to sit back and wait for the turn around in about 2 miles.  M10 -7:50

Photo by Jessica Ramos
I can't say I was suffering because I really wasn't at all. I was just running out of steam. I had no pep.  Carrying extra weight was noticeable. Running into the wind was beating me down.  I was having trouble with fast turnover, and I felt like I was running as fast as my legs could carry me. Nothing was torturous and I was still having fun!  I just wanted to get to turn around and get out of the wind. M11 -7:55

Finally! We hit the turn around and I was ready to pick up the pace on the way in.  Once out of the wind I felt much better. I was quite happy with my overall pace so far, despite those last two miles. I did not mind running slower for 10 and 11 because I felt I had a little left to give on the way home. I felt more in control of myself and my pace and this made me happy.  I wanted to finish strong, as fast as my tired legs could move me. M12 - 7:23. 

With just about half mile to go, I attempted to open my stride and find a little more speed. I was able to open it up and move faster than I had at the start of the race. It felt good to find some turnover. Last .48 3:29 (7:15 pace)

I am so very happy to finish as fast as I did. This is not my fastest or best performance, but by setting realistic goals, leaving the ego behind and doing my best for the day, I had a great experience.  I started out by using my last race's race pace as a guide and this helped me maintain control over myself today. I am very happy with my pacing and my overall experience today.  I needed to get back out there.

Now I know how much work I need to do to run my best in the months to come.  Some improvement will come as my training volume increases. Some will come from nutrition improvements. Some will come from extra rest. Some will come as stress reduces. Some will come as I lose a few pounds.  With so many areas to work on, I do not see a set of problems, but rather I see a lot of potential for myself.  I am truly excited to get back to work! 

Distance: 20k (12.4 Miles)
Time: 1:34:14 (7:35 pace)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Common Mistakes New Runners Make, Part 2 - Frequency

I am so very excited to share that I am now a contributing writer for Each month I will be sharing a writing on this website 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 Second Part of that series. The first part can be found here:

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

Thank you for taking a look and sharing your thoughts!