Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 Highlights - My Top 10 List

In David Letterman style...

10: My first 40 mile bike ride (and crash)

By late August, most of us had been feeling pretty confident on the bikes.  Several of us had done over 30 miles, and after I survived Death By Hills (number 8 on this list) I felt ready for anything.  Jackie, Kristen, Luke and I headed out for a 50 mile ride on a very hot and humid day.  None of us had eaten first.  None of us realized just how hilly the course was that we plotted.  We had ridden most of these roads before but not all in one ride, and we quickly realized "the Winter Street hill feels a lot worse 30 miles into a ride than 15 miles into a ride".  We decided based on a number of factors that this wasn't the day to attempt 50 miles and cut it short to 40.  As if to further emphasize that we were all gassed and couldn't pedal a single mile more, I managed to fall off my bike at an intersection in Uxbridge in the final mile of the ride.  Yes people saw it happen.  Both me and the bike got some bruises but it made for a good story!

9: Jackie's birthday ride

For Jackie's 32nd birthday in July, a bunch of us got together and did a 32 mile bike ride.  It was the longest ride most of us had ever done, and it was a hot day (90 degrees by the finish).  I used Map My Ride to get precisely 32 miles through Mendon, Northbridge, Upton, Westboro, Hopkinton, and Uxbridge.  Towards the end we were pretty darn hot and most of us were fed up with the hills, but it was Jackie's birthday and she eats hills for breakfast, so for her it was the perfect gift!  Here's a recap of that fun filled day in July!

8: Death by hills

I thought I was decent on a bike, until I decided to go for a relaxing 25 miler with Mark and Diana on the hills of upstate New York in August.  It was the most difficult, painful, and gratifying ride of my life.  It made me realize that you really don't know what you're capable of until you are confronted with a seemingly impossible task, and I also learned that no matter what: Never. Stop. Pedaling.  Check out this post to hear the full account of this unbelievable journey.

7: Boston training run
What I liked about this run so much was that, unlike when we had done it on our own, this one was organized through the Hopkinton running club in March, just weeks before the marathon.  I felt no pressure to keep up with anyone, and Brad and I chit chatted for pretty much the whole 21 miles.  I ended this run feeling great.  It was my longest run on the Boston course, itself an accomplishment, and I was confident and ready for race day. Check out this post for all the details of this great training run.

6: 26x1 club relay
This event, organized by the Somerville Road Runners and located at Tufts University track in June, pits local running clubs against each other in a 26.2 mile relay race.  Our TVFR club was a mix of all ages and abilities, and we gleefully cheered on all of our teammates while they were out on the track.  Some of us picked up some new mile PR's.  I didn't, but I did run the mile in 7:28 with a torn ligament in my foot, so that's got to be some sort of record, right?  When our final runner came towards the finish line, we all met him on the track and finished together as a team.  It was such a memorable team building event, capped off by some well deserved brews at a local Somerville bar.  This event should be on the race calendar of all Boston area running clubs!

5: Hyannis Marathon weekend

Start with a great group of girlfriends sharing some hotel rooms, add in some meatballs, beer, and a deluge of pouring rain on Cape Cod in February, and you have one heck of a fun (and soggy) weekend!  Hyannis has a history of rough winter weather and this weekend didn't disappoint.  We made the best of it with makeshift ponchos, ran with some very heavy, saturated clothes, and warmed ourselves up with some beer afterwards. Here's a link to my Hyannis race recap.

4: The Greenway Challenge

Step 1: Get a cool name for our all-female team like Iron Maidens.
Step 2: Get matching badass shirts.
Step 3: Look fabulous.
Step 4: Kick ass.

The six of us rocked this relay race in September and came in 2nd place in what was one of the most enjoyable days of the year.  Here's a look back at all the fun we had at the Greenway Challenge.

3: The Iron Girl Triathlon

Oh if I had a nickel for every time I said I hated swimming, would never swim in a lake, and would never, ever, ever do a triathlon... and yet with the power of persuasion and a lot of encouragement from friends, I did what I swore I'd never do.  Competing in this triathlon in July was probably one of the most fun athletic accomplishments of my life, and I was quickly bitten by "the bug".  So much so that I've now bought a wetsuit and signed up for a half Ironman!  To relive this incredible day, check out my Iron Girl race report.

2: The Disney Marathon

It's hard to pick just one memory from this trip back in January.  I'd say it's a tie between meeting Scott and Tricia in person for the first time, dressing up like Cruella Deville in the 5K, crossing the marathon finish line (my first!), and hanging out in the hotel afterwards with beer, pizza, and a whole lotta friends.  The whole trip was an unforgettable experience!  To relive any of these adventures, check out my blog archive.

1: The Boston Marathon start line

Even now, eight months after the Boston Marathon, I find it difficult to reflect on this day, either through memories or by reading my race recap of the event.  But I can't deny that the hours leading up to the start, and a good portion of the race, were the most memorable of my life.  Our dreams had come true, we had all made it safely and without injury to the start line on April 15th 2013.  We were about to run the world's greatest race, in the presence of the world's greatest athletes, practically in our own backyards.  It was, without a doubt, a hell of a day.

Here's to a happy, healthy, and peaceful 2014!

Monday, December 23, 2013

5 things I love about running

1. Mental clarity
Few things can clear the stress out of your head faster than going for a run.  I enjoy running with friends, but I also cherish my alone time.  It's time I can work out problems, get some time to myself, and decompress.  9.9 times out of 10 I come back from a run a happier, more productive person.  That's a good deal for pretty much everyone!

2. The challenge
When everything inside you tells you that you can't do something, and you find a way to get it done anyways, that's success.  Overcoming challenges comes in so many forms.  Running a new distance, making it up a hill you always had to walk up before, signing up for a race and following through even though you immediately had buyer's remorse.  Nothing feels better than meeting a challenge.

3. The sense of accomplishment
Often times I get hung up on the things I didn't do, and I forget to look at the accomplishments I had along the way.  Sure I had a lousy foot injury for the better part of this year, but I did run two marathons (my first and second!) and I overcame my fear of road cycling, bought a bike, and completed my first triathlon.  That's a pretty good year, I'd say.

4. Crappy weather
Seriously.  I'll take a 20 degree run over 80 degrees any day of the week.  Rain? Perfect, I love the feel of it on my face.  I love to wonder what drivers think when they pass me in the pouring, freezing rain (like they did today).  I don't even mind dodging the puddles in the road when the cars don't leave me enough space.  Even when I complain about the crappy weather I still love it, because it reminds me of how badass runners can be.  I still squawk about the time we ran the Boston Marathon course and it was so cold that all my water bottles froze and I started crying running up Heartbreak Hill, and some guy stopped to ask me if I was okay.  It sucked at the time, but it's kind of fun looking back on it.  And I'll never forget the time we ran a long run during a snow storm and were constantly passed by trucks spraying sand all over the streets and sandblasting our faces.  That was an interesting 18 miles.

5. The people
If it wasn't for the people I have in my support system, I probably would have given up a long time ago.  The running community is a powerful source of insight, opinions, and motivation.  There have been plenty of times in the last couple years that I've become discouraged, mostly due to untimely injuries, but I have a great group of friends that always remind me that nothing is permanent and I'll be back at it in no time.  Also, running friends give the best presents!

Because they know that after a long cold run, nothing warms you up like a hot cocoa with Kahlua and Bailey's.

Because who else would give such a practical gift as some 9mm ammo?

Because we went through some harsh stuff together in April and all came out okay.

Because they think of things like giving a snowflake necklace to signify the amount of snow we ran in together that helped bond us throughout last season's marathon training.

Because they get that this says it all:

Scenes from this weekend

I wish I could tell you all about the party I had on Friday night, but most of it just isn't suitable for a public audience.  I had a few friends over, and although I can't go into detail, here's a review in pictures:

This wine stopper was a big hit:

Our "signature drink" involved this:
It was quickly determined that naming our drink the "Jill-tini" was a terrible idea
Things got sloppy when this guy crashed the party:

As you can imagine, I didn't get a whole lot done on Saturday.  I spent most of the day watching movies and eating leftover meatballs.  I had a run planned, but ehhhhhh Boston's still 4 months away right?

Yesterday I got in my longest run so far, post-injury.  A whopping humdinger of a 3.1 miles.  Most of my runs have been on the safety of a treadmill, and this was my first time in probably six months running up my street.  Wow I forgot how much faster the time goes when there's something other than senior citizens doing bicep curls to look at!

I haven't really talked a lot about my heel lately because I didn't have any good updates.  A few weeks ago I had a cortisone shot which seemed to work wonders, but then after two weeks I was back in a lot of pain.  After taking another week off of running I decided to try a totally different type of shoe to see if maybe changing my gait would help.  I went rogue and ditched the Brooks, and got myself a pair of Altra Torin zero drop shoes.

It was a huge adjustment going from a supportive shoe into something with virtually no support, and I quickly realized how weak my foot/ankle/lower leg muscles are!  I was sore in places I'd never been sore before, but my heel felt great!  The wide toe box is great for my platypus feet, so I'm crossing fingers that these continue to work out for me as my runs get longer.

My plan for this week is to do a short run today (in the pouring freezing rain) and then hopefully a long run on Christmas morning.  A 5 miler sounds like a pretty great Christmas present to me!