Badasses in the the snow: The assault

Assault on Mt Hood

“The only other sound’s the sweep; Of easy wind and downy flake.”
-Robert Frost

Me: Trains for months for a marathon and doesn’t get injured.
Also me: Runs a few 5K’s here and there and gets injured.

The Assault on Mt Hood in Melrose, MA was the last race of the year for me. The week before, I had really felt some pain coming off my relay race. That damn calf just kept feeling more and more sore, so I knew I better rest it. Well what’s one more race, eh?

This course is definitely one of the toughest I’ve done. It’s only 3.5 miles, but it’s a cross-country course on a golf course that is part paved path and part trail. The hills are short but very very steep. And there was one other detail that made this course even tougher…snow.

Lake in Melrose
The calm before the storm…

When I first arrived, the sky was dim but the weather seemed calm. By the time I had gotten my bib and settled at the lodge at the start, the storm had started. When we all lined up at the starting line, there was a thin coat of ice on the ground. I knew I would really have to take it easy on the downhills, especially since they were so steep. The last thing I wanted to do was fall and get even more injured.

Slow on downhill

We took off and there was immediately a downhill so I started down easy – step step step. I noticed the paved pathway was pretty icy at this point, so I stuck to the side where the grass was. Even though there was snow there too, it seemed to be less slick. I saw many others also moving around the paved sections, trying to find traction where they could. Despite my leg soreness I was able to power up those steep uphills, but was extra cautious on the downs, which led to a not-so-great time. Another problem I encountered was that I didn’t fuel properly for the race. I had meant to grab a granola bar on my way out and completely forgot. The race started at noon and I had only eaten a light breakfast many hours before. At mile 2, I suddenly felt wiped out and exhausted. At one point the race bottle-necked into a one lane death march up a steep hill. I was so tired at this point, I was actually grateful for the slow down. The trail opened up a bit and people started breaking away, building their speed. I reluctantly picked up my speed again.


As I was approaching mile 3, I started to get some of my strength back. I powered through and reached the end, which was a nice downhill driveway back to the lodge. Normally this would be the place to speed to the finish, but it was so slippery I had to take my time. I think my time ended up being about 40 seconds slower than the previous year, but in those conditions, I’ll take it.

Snowy race

The main reason I didn’t want to miss this race was the post-race atmosphere.The lodge is decorated with nutcrackers and you even get to keep one as a souvenir, along with a very cool pint glass. There is also beer and food – the whole thing feels like a fun Christmas party and always gets me into the holiday spirit. Plus many of the people from my running club tend to be there as well – the post race part really warms your frozen body. There is even a roaring fire.

Swag from Assault on Mt Hood
Post-race swag from the Assault on Mt Hood

The one thing that really got me through this challenging run was my new trail shoes – my Brooks Adrenaline ASRs that I bought at New England Running Company. I bought them this summer, but was too afraid to break them out during my marathon training. I think these really prevented me from falling when racing on the snowy grass and icy surfaces. There were definitely better grips on the bottom while I moved through the course, not to mention it was a very comfortable shoe.  I’m hoping to do a bit more trail running next year so glad to know these work well on my feet.

Brooks Adrenaline

Well the year comes to a close and I have some time to plan for what’s next. Especially since I’m trying to heal. I’m hoping to start my training back up in January, to get going on that under-2 hour half. Not being able to relieve my holiday stress by running has been killing me, plus I’m pretty anxious to start my training. However, I know this rest period is necessary to keep me on track for my next half in February. Until next time…Happy New Year and Merry Running!


Supporting your team: Mill cities relay race 2017

Mill Cities glove

“Support the team.”
-David Puddy

Back when I made my marathon plan, I had decided that the final quarter of the year would be to rest, relax and try to have fun with running again. So what could be more fun than running a relay race with your friends?

27 miles. 5 legs. 2 states. 1 river. That is the Mill Cities Relay race description. This race is also a chance for the running clubs in the area to compete against each other – and the competition is pretty fierce. Since I’m not fast enough to be on a competitive team, we got to put our own team together and we had some really terrific average runners (like myself) who try their hardest, never let their teammates down and also manage to have fun and a great attitude. I could not ask for better people backing me up.

Mill Cities team

I had the first leg, which was perfect since the previous year I had the last leg. It was a 5.6 mile leg that started in Nashua, NH and ended in Hudson, NH. I have been feeling a nagging pain in my left calf and behind my knee that had been occurring off and on, so I was a little nervous the morning of the race. Luckily the pain seems to go away as I’m running – it’s only the aftermath that has me screaming in agony. I have been getting a little faster in my 5K’s lately, so I wanted do really well in this relay. I wanted to keep my leg under a 9 pace. I felt confident about it up until the morning of the race – I was worried I would not have the race I wanted.

Start of Mill CIties
Heading to the start in Nashua, NH…

Many of the leg 1 runners stayed inside until right before the 8 AM start, since it was around 30 degrees. I had been up pretty early since I met my teammates at the finish where we would need to leave some of the cars – except the two we were using along the course. As I lined up for the start, my car was being driven by a teammate, who would meet me at the end of my leg. The start was pretty casual. I waited and chatted with another person from my running club until we got the call to start. All the anxiousness and waiting got me to take off fast – too fast in fact. After mile 2, I started to realize I may not be able to sustain my current pace and tried to dial it back a little. I saw someone from my running club that I know is faster than me just ahead. I wanted to keep her in my sights, but the distance between us increase. Oh well, I was starting to find my groove. Through the rolling hills, I could feel my breathing get better. No more pain.

I did warm up a bit during the 3rd mile, but noticed around the 4th mile how frosty the air felt. My lungs felt like they had a little fluid in them and rattled a bit. But I still felt really good. In fact, I was surprised when I saw the sign for the exchange – I couldn’t believe I had already run 5.6 miles. I ripped my gloves off, so I could get my slap bracelet off for the hand off. As I turned the final corner, I heard them announcing my team number. I heard people calling my name…but my teammate, I couldn’t see him! He was there of course, there were just too many people in the way, it took a minute. I finally saw him and rushed over to hand over the bracelet. I checked my watch – 8:28 pace. I even exceeded my reach goal of 8:30. Ecstatic that I did right by my team, I took off with my other teammate and headed to another exchange.

The exchange at Mill Cities
My teammates making the exchange…and flying through the air!

It was a nice feeling being done so early. My other teammates did their best too and we beat our overall time goal. There is some friendly competition between some of the other average running teams as well and we definitely held our own. I felt good about our effort. The race ends at a bar where we all hung out with the rest of our running club and all the other participating clubs as well. The after party is definitely one of the best as you can connect with so many other people who run in the area.

Comparison of Mill Cities

I always look forward to this race every year and can’t wait to do it all again next year. Our car logistical planning also went smoothly thanks to another teammate who designed it. Everyone was where they are supposed to be and no one missed an exchange – there is nothing more disheartening than getting to a leg and not seeing your team there. I saw it happen a few times. Looking at my time from the previous year, I can also see how I’ve improved. This is always an encouraging feeling as the year winds down. I wonder what next year holds for me? Will I continue to improve or will maintaining this speed take everything I have? Will I finally get rid of this calf pain? I guess I will just have to find out.


My first marathon: The aftermath

Marathon shoes

“Running is nothing more than a series of arguments between the part of your brain that wants to stop and the part that wants to keep going.”

It’s been over a month since I ran my first marathon in Chicago. There have been times when I wanted to write in this blog, but something always seemed to stop me. Even though I have more free time without this rigid training schedule, that time keeps getting taken up with all the stuff I couldn’t do when I was training. Cleaning my house, getting rid of some houses junk and getting back to one of my other passions – sewing.

But I’m still running, and after a much needed two-week break I was able to settle back into a more normal running schedule. My first run after the break felt really horrible. I think since it was only 4 miles, I was thinking I could go really fast without an issue. I died around mile 3. The last mile I began cursing myself for taking this break since I felt like all my fitness had disappeared. However, that weekend I decided to run a last minute 10K that happened to be right around the corner from my house. I ended up getting a PR. I couldn’t believe how easily my legs completed these miles in less than a 9-min pace. I went back to running at my club’s weekly 5K and have been amazed at how good I feel getting my time back down to around 26 minutes. And recently I decided that my new goal now is to get faster. I was not super happy about my marathon time and I think getting all my race times might help me with the next one – whenever that might be. There is nothing wrong with being an average runner – and I’m sure I will always stay one – but improving my times feels so good.

Retired marathon shoes
My retired marathon sneakers…they got me through many a mile

Last week I had an opportunity to get into the Boston Marathon. My running club gets bibs that can be distributed to members. It is done in fairest way possible – with a lottery. The more volunteer work you do for the club, the more times your name is put into the hat. I had spent the whole year analyzing how to get more points and even created a spreadsheet to keep track and maximize my chances. It’s kind of what I do. I ended up with the 2nd most points in the club, Continue reading “My first marathon: The aftermath”

Chicago marathon 2017: The people’s race

Chicago medal holder

“…Chicago is. One town that won’t let you down. It’s my kind of town”
-Frank Sinatra

29 neighborhoods. 26.2 miles. That’s the Chicago Marathon.

I’m not sure I counted 29 neighborhoods though, so I may have that wrong. However, I have to say the experience of running through an amazing city like Chicago is something I am really going to cherish. I come from Boston, which is a pretty cool city. Up until a few weeks ago I was commuting into downtown everyday for work. But Chicago feels more like a real city to me, as much as I love Boston. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get the chance to actually run the Boston Marathon, so for now, this will be my comparison marathon.

getting ready for the marathon
In the apartment before the race. We are ready…and it is still dark out.

The morning started out slightly cool and I was grateful for that. I was starting in the last wave of the last corral – this was a big concern to me because I knew it was going to be in the high 70’s that afternoon. I’m not a fast runner and I knew I was going to be out there in that heat. I tried to adjust by putting all my time goals out the window – just finish and be healthy. Listen to your body. Don’t push it for your goal – this is your first marathon. It’s hard though when you’ve trained harder for this than any other race. I wanted to crush it and impress everyone – I wanted to prove to everyone that I was a runner, Continue reading “Chicago marathon 2017: The people’s race”

Week sixteen: Acceptance

Chicago Marathon bib

“I’ve learned that finishing a marathon isn’t just an athletic achievement. It’s a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible.”
-John Hanc

I know this post is late…my last few weeks have been a whirlwind as I finished up my training and actually ran the Chicago marathon. This last week ends with my final long run – 26.2.

This final week the training is taken down a bit, with the speed workout at the beginning of the week and easy runs and cross-training for the remainder so that you are well rested for the big day. Because I had a lot of things to do before my trip to Chicago, my 5 mile workout of 9:30 pace mile repeats were done in pitch black Monday morning. I was nervous about my footing in the dark, but I knew I had to get it done before work. The speed felt good on that cool morning and my legs felt ready for the challenges ahead. This marathon was going to happen and I had finally accepted it. As I slowed down for my cool-down, I think it all finally hit me.

My 4-mile easy last run on Wednesday brought up some emotion as I thought about what was to come. It was about 6:15 AM when I made my way out. I noticed some tightness in my ankles and Achilles. My mind started to wander as my body took over, knowing exactly what to do without needing to think about it. I began to think about the marathon and how amazing it will be to run through the neighborhoods of Chicago. I thought about the challenges of training. Then my mind wandered into challenges I’ve faced in my life. I began to think about people who had hurt me in the past, one in particular who had promised to grow old with me but then discarded me on a whim. I don’t usually think of this person but sometimes my mind tries to resolve things when I am running. I thought about what I had been doing with my life since and realized that no matter where that person was, Continue reading “Week sixteen: Acceptance”

Week fifteen: Panic

Firearms photos

“Well, I’m a mushroom cloud-laying motherf#cker, motherf#cker.”
-Samuel L. Jackson in the movie Pulp Fiction

Song Mood: “The Distance” – Cake

I am still sick, this cold really likes to linger.

All of last week I’ve had to deal with a lot. Most of my friends are running this marathon so everyone is in taper-mode. And everyone is cranky as hell, present company included. It didn’t help that I also had my period and had to do my 3AM migraine check every morning. Oh and I started a new job. Great timing.

People have been driving me crazy. Everyone is checking the weather non-stop, saying the marathon will be canceled due to the heat. The weather changes every minute I look at it. It makes it impossible to pack. Everyone is also reminding me Continue reading “Week fifteen: Panic”

10Ks by the sea: Lone Gull & Salem Road Race

Finish Line Lone Gull

“Together we can face any challenges as deep as the ocean and as high as the sky.”
-Sonia Gandhi

Sometimes cool races come up, but during my marathon training I have really cut back on racing altogether. Since a lot of my friends are from my running club, I hear about fun and exciting races all the time.  Temptation is always around, but I have been trying to stick closely to my marathon plan. However, sometimes races come up that I really don’t want to miss. Sometimes they serve a double purpose in that they happen to fall on weeks where I need to do an easy 6-mile on a Monday. Getting the miles in a day earlier gives me the additional benefit of not forcing a run on a work-day, especially since my commute makes this mileage difficult to accomplish. This is especially true in September, as daylight is running out fast.

I decided to do this race replacement twice in September. Both races  just happen to take place in seaside locations, with wonderful ocean views along the course. The first race was the Salem Road Race, a casually scenic race with an amazing dance party at the end. Food and beer were flowing afterwards (more so the beer), complete with a DJ that loved to talk over all the songs! But they did get some good tunes in and my friends and I stuck around to dance.

I really didn’t want to push it with this race, but it was really hard because two of my friendly competitors just happened to be running this as well. There was a lot of passing each other back and forth and me telling my legs to slow it down. At one point they both appeared along each side of me and as I looked over, I exclaimed “Oh no! It’s the three of us!”

Since this did take the place of my easy run, I decided to focus on the goal of negative splits. I was able to achieve this almost artfully as evidenced by the screen shot below. Even though this wasn’t my best 10K time, Continue reading “10Ks by the sea: Lone Gull & Salem Road Race”

Week fourteen: The taper

New Legs

“Wake me up when September ends”
-Green Day

I don’t recognize my own legs.

Looking down at them, there seems to be some extra bulges near my knee. I’m pretty sure I haven’t always had these muscles. All I can think when I examine my newly toned areas is, have I done enough?

Now is the time I’ve been looking forward to the most throughout my marathon training. The mileage is going down and my focus is solely on how to make sure I am well enough for this marathon. I thought I would be feeling relief during this taper. Unfortunately, I only feel moody & even more anxious than before.

The week started with a groan as I realized my schedule would be off because of a marketing conference I was attending. Instead of taking a much needed rest day the day after my 20-mile training run, I had to do my 4 mile easy run. It was definitely slow going the first 3-miles as my legs were fairly sore and stiff. I didn’t want to push it too much and risk any injury, so I kept it below my normal pace. But then, Continue reading “Week fourteen: The taper”

Week thirteen: Survival

In it for the long run

“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.”
-Emil Zatopek

Song Mood: “The Man” – The Killers

100% humidity.

That is what the weather report said when I woke up Sunday morning for the mother of all the long runs: the 20-miler. I had been pretty lucky this August – the weather has stayed pretty cool for the most part, especially in the morning. The weekends have not been too humid, compared to other summers I can recall. When I saw how nasty it was going to be the weekend of September 16-17th, I couldn’t help but feel it was a bit unfair. This was a big weekend, why couldn’t the weather cooperate!

Because the weather had obeyed for the most part on previous long run days, our start time had been around 7 AM. This served a double purpose of “getting it over with” so we could have some weekend left to enjoy. After feeling how oppressive and miserable the weather was on Saturday at our annual club sponsored race, the time discussed with my training partner kept getting earlier…6:30…6:00.  Yup, time to suck it up.

The sun was not up yet as I drove to our meeting spot. I was Continue reading “Week thirteen: Survival”

My training buddy

Perfect Strangers

“And we can build this dream together. Standing strong forever. Nothing’s gonna stop us now”

Running partners. They suffer with you for every miserable mile. They cheer you on when a run is going well. They make that long road less lonely, especially when that road is about 18 or so miles.

This post is for my friend Lori, who I’ve been training with every weekend and some week days too. It’s great to find that special someone, especially when taking on something as big as a full marathon. Our speeds are so similar that people in the running club tend to comment on some “healthy competition” between the two of us. I tend to beat her by a few seconds on some 5K’s, but she is clearly a better distance runner. Our speed similarity made us a good match for our long runs, but there are other things that complement us too. I can get so fixated in the details – I would tell her Continue reading “My training buddy”