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 RunJersey.com. 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. http://runjersey.com/from-the-coaches-eye-common-mistakes-new-runners-make-part-2/ The first part can be found here: http://runjersey.com/from-the-coachs-eye-common-mistakes-new-runners-make/

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

Thank you for taking a look and sharing your thoughts! 


Thursday, March 5, 2015

How To Use Waking Heart Rate To Achieve Adequate Recovery

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: 

How To Use Your Waking Heart Rate To Achieve Adequate Recovery
by Shannon McGinn, RRCA Running Coach
March 2015

Adequate recovery is essential to any effective training plan. Training breaks us down. It is during recovery that we grow stronger and faster, not during training. The only way our bodies can adapt to the work we do during training is to have time to heal. Rest can be a complete day off or it can be a very low intensity activity. Failing to rest sabotages training, making us weaker instead of stronger. Accordingly, training hard before adequate recovery has been achieved is a big mistake that can lead to a variety of negative results, including mental burn out, illness, and injury.

How Heart Rate Relates to Recovery:
Often we fail to realize we need more rest and instead push too hard. Motivation to do a great job blinds us to our need to work less, not more. The good news is our heart rate can give us a clear measurable physiological clue, before almost any other sign, that we need rest. This will often happen even before our bodies feel overwhelmed from hard work, before we become mentally burnt out, and before we suffer an injury related to overuse.
The concept is simple. When we are working hard our heart rate elevates. It takes time for our heart rate to return to normal or settle in at a lower rate due to our fitness gains. When we are not recovering well, our heart rate will remain in an elevated state for an extended period of time. Recovery of the heart rate may take very little time after light activity, but it can take over 24 hours after long-duration aerobic exercise or extremely hard workouts. This is why we should not train hard every single day. Assuming there are no other injuries to manage and the athlete is otherwise healthy, then heart rate is a good guide to use to assess readiness for hard training.    

When to Track Heart Rate:
To effectively use heart rate to monitor recovery, we need to track it at the proper time.  There are a lot of variables that impact daily “resting” heart rate. Things like hydration status, sodium consumption, a stressful phone call, etc, all can impact resting heart rate. Consequently, taking your resting heart rate at any random time throughout the day is not a reliably consistent measure of the state of your being.

However, it has been found that Sleeping Heart Rate is much more consistent and a more accurate measure of resting heart rate. After all, when are we more rested than when we are asleep! Some people do have heart rate monitors they can wear all night and review data in the morning. Most of us do not. This makes taking your pulse while sleeping very hard to do. Fortunately, the next best thing to Sleeping Heart Rate is Waking Heart Rate.  

To take your Waking Heart Rate, you must remember to take your pulse immediately upon waking. Most people have trouble remembering to do this first thing in the morning. If you do this as often as possible during the week or two prior to beginning a hard training cycle, you will have good sense of what your baseline Waking Heart Rate is. As training begins in ernest, take periodic measurements to confirm your heart rate is recovering to your baseline as your training builds. Make an effort to measure your heart rate the morning after every very hard workout and again the following morning, after a day of rest, to learn your recovery pattern. When your resting heart rate is elevated by 5-10 or more beats per minute, this is a clear measurable signal that you absolutely need more rest and not more hard work. This is where the training schedule needs to be adjusted to accommodate your body’s needs.  

How to Track Waking Heart Rate:
I found it challenging to remember to take my pulse first thing upon waking. Often I got up to get my coffee and then realize it was too late to take my pulse. When I did remember to do it, I found it difficult to attempt to take my pulse in the dark.  Watching seconds pass on my watch, while counting beats at a different pace, while holding my wrist or neck, while also trying to somehow illuminate the light on my watch was practically impossible. 

To make my life easier, I purchased a pulse oximeter. This is a small non-invasive device that clips on the fingertip. It uses red and infrared light to measure oxygen saturation in the blood. It also measures pulse. I keep it on my night table, next to my alarm clock. When I wake up, I hit snooze, and then clip the pulse oximeter to my finger.  I return to my semi-conscious restful state, or completely fall back to sleep, and let the little machine do its thing.  A few minutes later, usually when my snooze alarm sounds, I look at the digital display and get my waking pulse. The hardest thing to do is to remember to just do this before standing up.

This is the Pulse Oximeter that I bought myself. It works fine. Do some research because there may be better options out there. http://www.amazon.com/Octivetech-OT-99-Sports-Oximeter-Sage/dp/B007SPCNDC/ref=pd_sim_hpc_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=18AZNTA6VRHJM7Y4ZJED

Adequate recovery is essential to any effective training plan. Learning how to use your waking heart rate to measure your recovery is a great way to understand whether or not you are getting enough rest. 


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 shanmcginn@gmail.com.

I am now a Contributing Writer for RunJersey.com!

I am so very excited to share that I am now a contributing writer for RunJersey.com.

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 first part of that series. http://runjersey.com/from-the-coachs-eye-common-mistakes-new-runners-make/

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

Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Enzo and Piper, Flying to Florida, and the Key West Half Marathon, Key West FL. 1/18/15

Martin, Piper, Me, Enzo, and Sidney
It has been some time since I have posted a race report.  This race report has been sitting in my draft folder for a long time.  Life does get hectic sometimes.

Recently I have been focused on a few exciting projects that have been taking up much of my time.  I decided I need to invest more into the things I love to do so I have been finding new opportunities to challenge my skills and reach for the stars. :)  I have started some new writing endeavors.  I began laying the foundation for some exciting new educational pursuits.

But the main source of my distraction for the past few months has been Piper, our new canine addition. We adopted her in November.  Adopting a dog should not have been such an overwhelming ordeal, but we had a few special issues to work through.

Piper in the foreground, Enzo in the background

Our first dog, Enzo can be very aggressive towards other dogs. He was acting slightly more civil prior to adopting Piper, so we thought we had a chance at having a second dog.  This was also the only time Sid would be home for an extended time period to help me manage two dogs, so if we wanted a second dog, we needed to do it now.

Enzo was clearly not ready.  He was much more aggressive for much longer than I expected he would be towards her.  I knew he would be bad at first but when he met Cezanne (my friend Liz's dog), he barked for 10 minutes (I timed it) and then starting to relax.  His vehement hatred of Piper lasted for almost two months. During this time, prevent attacks was our main job.

Piper came to us as a dog without a history. We picked her out a photo album of dogs scheduled to be euthanized within the next week.  The description said she was 20lbs. That was a big part of why I chose her. She seemed to fit what we were looking for since we have a small house.

 First, it did not take us long to realize that Piper was 20 lbs because she was starved (she is now over 35 lbs now).  And clearly she was NEVER EVER anyone's dog.  She did not like people. She was very fear aggressive towards people. She was an aggressive resource guarder.

I had never been more afraid of a dog in my lifetime than I was of Piper and she was living in our spare bedroom!  I had even found people (Jessica and Derek) to adopt her when they were able to.  I gave them a list of all the things she did that scared me so they would understand her needs and they could be safe. We had plans to send Piper to a foster (Cristi's) to minimize the danger in our home until the the new owners could take Piper.  But after a lot of tears, we called off the re-homing, and continued to work with Piper and Enzo, hoping we could get through this. Oh boy, did we had our hands full.  We had a wild animal in our house.  She would growl at me if I walked by her room while she was gated.  Snap at me if I tried to pet her.  Clipping her leash to her collar for walks scared both her and me at first.  Feeding her was tense.  Giving her a toy resulted in her getting possessive and aggressive.  She pitched a fit when I put a towel over her crate, growling and flailing about until I took the blanket off the crate and she wasnt even in the crate at the time!

She wanted to be nice and she had a very sweet side to her, but then she would do something reactive and dangerous with little obvious provocation.  At one point Sidney said to me, "She is really making it very hard for us to like her"… but we did like her and we just hoped life could be safe and calm again.
Martin and Piper became fast friends :)

We baby-gated our entire house and this kept everyone safe. Piper slept in her own room gated safely at night, after a week of being crated at night in the gated room.

Sid and Enzo moved into the finished basement. At one point, Sid planned to take Enzo and stay with my parents, but we knew that would just delay progress.

Piper and I lived upstairs. I tried to spend time in the same room as her as long as she seemed comfortable. I did not try to touch her,  but often if I moved to fast, she would do something that scared me (lunge, or growl, or bob and weave).  Food was trust building, but she wold sometime snap the air while we were feeding her.  She wanted us to put it down and leave.

I slept next to her crate on a love seat for a few nights. She wasnt thrilled with that.   Once she seemed ok with me there,  I decided to let her sleep out of her crate if she wanted.  I opened the door and then I was sure that first night that she was going to bite my face off while I slept… so I did not sleep at all. (But instead, she curled up on my chest and she slept on top of me and that night was a big turning point in our relationship).  

Sid and I texted each other to talk or to plan when the dogs were being moved around the house to avoid accidental confrontation. Enzo was clearly angry with me.  He refused to acknowledge me for over an month!

Early on we started doing very regimented training sessions several times per day, where we used classical and operant conditioning to help move desensitization along. All positive reward based. Controlled and timed walks around the neighborhood, then around the yard, into the house and then we sat for 5-10 minutes before separating the dogs.  Sid and I being a team helped tremendously.

Enzo loves to fly… Piper was not thrilled on her 1st flight
It took a long time to see progress since Piper had heart worms and she was on exercise restriction for the first 3 weeks she was with us.  She was pent up and frazzled. She would hump things in her room.  She knew nothing about houses but she could not leave and this made her crazy.  TVs and typing and toilets flushing scared her.  The heat coming from the ducts scared her.  I scared her.  Sid scared her. Her reflection scared her.  Enzo hated her.  She was scared of him. She did not know any words. She did not know we wanted her to know words.  She did not know how to ask us to do things for her. She had no idea that we would actually response to her if she asked us for something.  She was hard to teach anything because she was quick to snap when she was scared, frustrated or possessive and she was all those things all the time for the first week.  But we were all very patient with her and she started to trust us.

Sidney and I had this trip to Key West scheduled long before we knew we would have Piper in our lives.  This race, many years ago, was the first half marathon I ever ran.  It was 3 weeks after my last round of cancer treatment.  My husband (boyfriend then) ran side-by-side with me.  By the end of that race, I felt more like a survivor that I had felt during my entire battle with cancer.  That was January 2007.  Since then, each year we have returned to the race.

This trip marked Enzo's 4th visit to Key West since he became our dog.  We found Enzo under a bridge on 1/1/2011 homeless, very sick, and very broken.  He had night terrors and can be difficult when he is on the defense.

Piper was going to stay with my parents while we traveled to Key West with Enzo.  But spontaneously, after a few runs at the park together, Enzo had begun openly accepting Piper. (He stopped trying to attack her).  One week before our trip, we decided that we wanted to bring her along.

Apparently we are really bad at decision making. :) Enzo and Piper had not yet been left together unsupervised. We were not sure what we were getting ourselves into.  I purchased a travel baby gate and we planned to figure things out along the way.  We hoped to crate her in the plane, but later discovered the crate did not fit in the Cessna.  We were prepared to rent two separate hotel rooms if we had to.  I had tried to upgrade our hotel rooms to suites but none were available the week prior. I found a two room apartment for rent for the first night, so we started with that. 

We didn't need to separate them once on neutral territory :)
Key West is special to us because my husband is a commercially licensed pilot.  Since he is not yet officially employed as a fully time commercial pilot, each year we use this trip from New Jersey to Key West as a way for him to log some cross-country flight time.  The trip takes much much longer than a commercial flight but we can bring anything we want, including our dogs. This year, we also planned to travel with Martin. He planned to meet us in Florida, run the race with us, and then join us for the flight back home to NJ.

The Race:
First time they were loose together in a car!
Last year, I was much better prepared for the race, in the best shape of my life as far as half marathons go. This year, life was more complicated. We spent more then 2 months 100% focused on helping Piper become a member of our family.  Dog Training dogs replaced Run Training during the 60 days before this race.  As a result, the race made me incredibly nervous.  But really most people don't seem to come to Key West to run fast.  

One of the most interesting additions to this year's race were the Drones! This is the first time I experience drones on the course.  At one point, at maybe mile 2, a drone was hovering low above the runners and I could not help but think…"I wonder if getting knocked out by a drone would be a good excuse to DNF a half?"  LOL.  But I am just under 5'2" so I knew I was in this race for the duration! 

I settled in to what I felt was a comfortable pace and I was happy to see that I ran M1 in 7:12.  Oh boy if I could hold that pace would I be happy!

Actually I knew I would be thrilled if I was able to run anything under 8 minutes per mile.  I have learned a long time ago, that running really fast while well trained hurts a lot less than showing up untrained and trying to run faster than you are prepared for.  There is nothing worst than a death march and I know better that to make myself suffer like that. 

I tried to find a pace that was not going to lead to a blow up on the way back and if I was smart then maybe I could actually negative split this thing, even if I ran much slower than last year. M2 7:17

This year's course took us thought the downtown more than last years and I felt like there was more turns this year as we took the scenic route. M3 7:22

As we ran along the water, the sun was rising, the humid was high and I felt like I was starting to feel the lack of training.  I decided I needed to slow down.  I was running with a guy named John at this point and we were both sharing how woefully under prepared we were, despite us both being in fantastic shape in the fall.  He was talking about the pace being a little too fast.  I was hoping he would stay with me because the talking made me worry less about how the later miles that would pummel me. M4 7:29  

I could not ignore the fading pace. I had told John that I was really hoping for a tale wind on the way back. He laughed at my wishful thinking and I promised him it would happen.  I devised some scientific explanation about how the sun will warm up the water and by the time we hit the turn around we will have a nice wind created to blow us briskly back to the finish.  John noted that we were actually getting a head wind now.  He was right.  There was a head wind.  I told him, "See, I told you there would be a wind… it would be a tale wind except we are late! We need to hurry up!" LOL.  M5 7:29

John decided to let me go on with out him and I thanked him for the company.  I only had about 1.5 miles to go until the way back.  The slower 7:30 pace helped me feel like I was not falling apart. I hoped to have something to dig into on the way home. I decided to slow a little more just to make my life easier.  I knew it was going to be a fight on the way back so I tried to give myself a "rest" mile as if there is such a thing. M6 7:40

I started counting ladies on the way in way back and discovered I was 15th. There were some ladies in sight so I decided to try to focus on a strong second half. M7 7:21

I managed to pass one lady early in Mile 7 so that moved me to 14th, but then a woman passed both of us, crap.  I tried to go with her but the humidity was too much and my tired legs were screaming "If you want to be able to finish this, you need to slow down!" M8 7:13

There were several more ladies in sight so rather than try to chase the woman who passed me, I instead focused on the ladies I felt I could catch. I settled back down in my pace and managed to move up to 13th. M9 7:29

The course routed us over the pier this year and although it was a nice scenic touch, I personally was not a fan of running on the pier.  I felt like it was windy out there and I hate wind.  I did like that I was able to see that there were no ladies in range to catch me on the way in but I had a chance to move up a few position if I could stay solid during the last 5k. M10 7:35

As I passed two more women and had my count at 11, the last woman I passed was encouraging and cheered me on. I had done the same for her early on at the 10k turn around.  It was nice to get it back later in the race.  Once I passed her, there was simply no one chasing me and no ladies in sight for me to catch.  I was in a pocket of space and fighting humidity.  It was starting to get really hard. M11 7:34 

I felt the fade coming and the course was not helpful the final few miles contained a lot of turns and once my legs were heavy, it was hard to maintain my pace on the turns. I admit that I often looked back. I did not want to be caught, but I also did not feel I had the desire to run much faster that I was at that time.  I kept telling myself I was going save it for the final mile! LOL  M12 7:40

I actually did pick up the pace at the start of Mile 13, but the final part of the course continue more turns than any other mile.  It made this mile feel harder than I had hoped it would.  With no one on my heels and the humidity killing me I just settling in and enjoyed the finish. M13 7:43

The final stretch was nice with a large shoot lined with cheering fans.  It was so nice to see the end in sight!  

I have to say that although this was not my best performance by far, I am truly happy with how this turned out.  I faded.  I struggled.  I suffered. But I should. I did not train for this and it would completely wrong to expect to do any better than I did out there.  I was simply glad to be in a respectable time without any issues. 

I waited for Sidney who always runs just about a 1:50, almost every single year with no training at all.   As I saw him finish, the first thing he said to me before anything else is "Ok, we are coming back next year!" which is what he always says when he is done with the race. And then, right on cue, I say the next line in our yearly dialogue "And next year we are going to actually train for it!" Then we laugh and we laugh…. because we know it won't happen.  :)

We waited for Martin, who had some drama during his race… him stopping to massage a cramp at mile 11 cause the police to call an ambulance and then we started to proceed they refused to let him go, telling him to wait to be assessed by the Ambulance staff.  When 30 minutes passes and the ambulance never arrived, he was allowed to finishing his race.  This created one of most disappointing race experiences I have ever seen him have.  Martin is 70 years old and in consideration of his age, he is one the most amazing runners I know.  I wanted him to take home an age group award and he would have easily had he not been stopped.  I did write to the race director and Barbara promised to make things right for Martin. Her generosity helped to make the experience not feel do disappointing.  I hope Martin joins us again next year… Maybe next year we can all actually train for it! :)

After Key West we stayed two more day before Martin, Sidney, Enzo, Piper and me all loaded into a Cessna and took a long leisurely flight up the East Coast, getting stranded in Myrtle Beach due to bad weather for only one extra day.  

By the end of the trip Enzo and Piper no longer needed to kept separate even if we went to work.  The baby gates were removed (except the one to her bedroom).  After a week traveling together I can truly say Piper and Enzo are now family and they truly each other's best friend.   They wrestle and play non-stop.  They share bones.  They take things right from each other's mouths without any fighting, it is just what the do.  Peace is restored and Enzo's life is better for having Piper in it. Piper get to have a life now that she is with us.   Life is good.

Time: 1:38:14 (7:29 pace)
11th Female
2nd AG