Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pre-run rituals and superstitions

Like many athletes and spectators, runners have some interesting pre-run habits.  Whether it's a tried-and-true nutrition system or just a little bit of superstition, if we find something that works we just want to stick with it!

My pre-run nutrition has certainly morphed over the years (or more accurately, been narrowed down).  There are some things I just know for a fact, based on years of research (read: unplanned pit stops) that I simply cannot eat prior to running.

I know that two days prior to a long run, I won't eat a single high fiber product or leafy green.
One day prior to a long run I won't eat (in addition to high fiber products and leafy greens) any carrots, popcorn, red sauce, onions, garlic, oranges, fatty foods, anything with seeds, or high amounts of dairy.

The morning of a long run I will eat something with carbs, like an English muffin.  A tiny bit of peanut butter is okay, but if I cross the line, it will give me heartburn. I went rogue this past weekend and ate a bowl of Apple Jacks (with just a teenie bit of milk).  It was delicious, but I was starving by mile 10.  I always take two hefty doses of Pepto before every long run.  One immediately after breakfast, and another just prior to my run.  It's tradition, tried-and-true.

I have a weird little quirk about the way I lace my shoes before a run.  I always lace them on the outside edge, and I thread the ends of the laces through the loops and under the criss-crosses.  I have this weird hang up about laces hitting the inside of my ankle while I'm running, and if it happens I will lose my mind.  This solves the issue:

This past weekend I had my long 16 miler on Sunday.  It was my longest run this year, and I know I'm a little out of practice preparing for that distance.  In addition to doing my tried-and-true nutrition regime, I wanted to make sure I really took it easy on Saturday.  My "rest days" seem to always turn into some grueling work.  Like "oh well since I'm not running today, I think I'll just spend the whole afternoon digging holes" or something ridiculous.  To prevent the temptation of such silliness, I decided to go to the movies!  And yes, I am that cool kid that goes alone to the movies on a Saturday.

We all know I can't have popcorn, but went I saw soft pretzels, that just seemed like a great idea.  Here's how the order went:
Me: Hi, can I get a small Pepsi and a soft pretzel?
Cashier: Sure, would you like a jumbo Pepsi for a dollar more?
Me: No.
Cashier: Okay, would you like a whole pretzel or nuggets?
Me: Um, one whole pretzel.
Cashier:  Okay, would you like salt or a sugar coating on the pretzel?
Me: Salt. Does she not see I'm a runner?
Cashier: Okay, would you like cheese with that?
Me: <blank stare>... Huh? No, why would I want cheese with a pretzel?
Moments later...
Cashier: Okay, someone just grabbed the last whole pretzel.  You can come back in ten minutes for one, or, you have these pretzel nuggets with cheese.

It was the strangest exchange.  I've never been asked so many follow up questions just for a pretzel, and then I couldn't even get what I ordered.  I settled for the pretzel nuggets, with a cheese dipping sauce, and headed into my movie.  I think I ate all those delicious little cheesy covered nuggets before the movie even started.  I'm hooked!

In case you're wondering, I saw Divergent.  I've read the book twice, so I was really looking forward to the movie.  There were some noticeable differences from the book but it still had the same feel.  And let's be honest, two hours of watching Theo James is not a bad way to spend an afternoon!

Whether it was the afternoon full of Theo James images, my carb/sodium loading of pretzel nuggets, or just a good old fashioned rest day, I ended up having a great run on Sunday.  My 16 miles didn't feel more than 10, and I didn't have any stomach issues or fatigue.  This begs the question... do I sense a new superstition coming on?  I have my last long run scheduled for this Saturday, and as a precaution I have already scheduled a vacation day from work on Friday.  I'm seriously thinking about going back to the movie theater and snacking on some salted-pretzel-nuggets-with-cheese.  (I'm gonna order that like a pro this time).  The question is, should I watch Divergent again, or something different?  I don't know if I dare stray from what worked!  (I'm just trying to justify watching Theo James for two hours again).

Are you superstitious?  What pre-run/race habits do you swear by?

Friday, March 21, 2014

New Bedford 2014

Last Sunday I headed down to New Bedford with Kristen and Danny for their annual half marathon.  It was my third time at this race, so it's become a bit of a tradition.  Now that I've been running for a bunch of years, some races like Hyannis and New Bedford have become my favorites.  I can't decide if I like creating "traditions", or if it makes me boring, predictable, and unwilling to try new things.  I must really be a sucker for this race though, because the first year I ran it, I got sick on the way home, and the second year I had to make an emergency porta-potty stop after several miles of aggressively praying I wouldn't mess myself.  

We got to the race super early, and even though it meant a lot of waiting around, I'm glad we got there when we did.  We were able to park right at the YMCA parking lot and not have to worry about the shuttle or side street parking.  This year the race venue featured heightened security which caused some drama at number pickup.  Kristen and I walked in with our purses, in case they asked for ID.  Outside the building we had to wait in line to have our purses searched (okay, I can understand that), and then had a tag affixed to the purse indicating it had been searched.  Good to go, right?  Nope.  We get into the building and we are informed we can't take our purses, that had just been searched and tagged, into the gymnasium to pick up our numbers.  We could, however, carry the purses anywhere else in the building, including the restrooms, locker rooms, and weight rooms.  I understand the need for security, but it didn't seem like they were using common sense in this case.  So we had to hold each other's purses while we went to get our numbers, and then since we couldn't hang out in the gym we just used the restrooms and headed back to the car.

Hanging out in the car wasn't so bad, and it seems like everyone else was doing that too.  We didn't want to spend a lot of time outside because it was freezing and so windy!  It gave us a chance to relax, at least until we saw all the cops walking through the parking lot with bomb sniffing dogs.  (Well, it's New Bedford, so they could have just been regular drug sniffing dogs on their normal Sunday patrol).  Danny wanted to go talk to the cops but we didn't want to look suspicious so we made him stay in the car.  Finally we had our last bit of pre-race nutrition and headed out to the start line.

Only Kristen could look this elegant drinking Pepto
We met up with Sarah and Peter, also members of our running club, and they all had to stand around and wait a good 15 minutes for me to get through the porta-potty line.  Once I was in the porta-potty, I really took my time.  It was a little warmer, and no wind.  You know it's cold and windy when you'd rather stand in a porta-potty than stand outside!

We got over to the start line and stood in the sun as long as possible before heading into the corral.

Kristen, Moi, Danny, Peter, Sarah. PS - I didn't get the memo we were supposed to all dress like matching ninja's.
This year I decided not to wear my fuel belt, and to bring an iPod.  I don't know why I periodically think it's a good idea to bring an iPod, because I always end up fussing around with it so much, it ends up making me nuts.  In this case, by mile 5 my ears were too sweaty for the "guaranteed to stay in" ear buds to stay in, and finally I just let the right one dangle.

The course itself was just as I remembered.  Freezing, windy, and a wide variety of scenery.  There's the two faux-hills before the real hill at mile 3, then down down down to the water.  The crowds were out in full force despite the brisk day, but I was surprised to see hardly anyone dressed up for St Patrick's Day.  Last year it seemed like every runner was wearing green, but that wasn't the case this year.  I did see one creepy looking leprechaun on the side of the road.  I passed Dick and Rick Hoyt, which is always inspiring, and then a lady with a sign on her back that said "Baby on Board".  My goal for this race was to beat my time at Hyannis, which was 2:11:45.  I didn't need to beat it by much, but I wanted my overall pace to be under 10 minute miles.  For the first 8 miles that seemed locked in, but then I faded at mile 9.  Again!  This happens every year at this course and I don't for the life of me know why.  I'm going to blame the wind coming off the ocean.  I really struggled for a few miles there, walking through water stops (and continuing to walk a bit after them).  I think the only reason I didn't walk more in those last few miles was because it was so windy I was freezing and just wanted to be done!  I gave myself a huge mental pat on the back when I passed the porta-potty that I assaulted last year without having a repeat performance.  I slowly made my way up the hill at mile 12, which for some reason doesn't bother me as much as some people.  So many people were walking going up that hill, so it kind of makes me feel good to pass people late in the race.  There was one lady I had been following pretty much for 12 miles leading up to that point.  Sometimes we would trade positions, but for the most part she was in front of me.  She was walking up the hill at mile 12.  It would've been great of me to say something like, "hey, I've been following you for 12 miles, let's go and finish this together!", but I didn't.  For one, I was so tired I probably would have said "hey!", and drool would've fallen out of my mouth and I would've scared her way.  And also, sometimes you just don't know what someone else's journey is, so I just passed her and never looked back.  I hit the top of the hill and then (best finish line ever) it slopes back downhill, around a corner, and a nice flat straightaway to the finish line.  Phew!  Man I was glad to be done with that race!
I met up with Kristen, Danny, and Sarah, who had all finished well before me.  Kristen and I headed back to the car to change while Danny and Sarah waited for Peter.  All warmed up and dry, we headed over to Hibernia Irish Pub for some post-race drinks!  The place was mobbed, but my friend Chris was bartending there and we quickly got some seats at the bar and settled in for a nice afternoon of draft beer and chicken wings!  Chris was one cool cat behind the bar (and pretending to drink my beer).

He was also praised for his Thor-like qualities.  The next day at work I told him about the Thor comparison, to which he admitted, he didn't know who Thor was.  (WHAT??!??!).  I had to educate him.

Mmmm.... Thor.....
And one last thing... race photos came out today from Capstone Photography.  I always cringe, but can't help but look.  And here we go...
What? No, I'm not a heel striker.  What makes you think that?

Temporarily warm enough to take my gloves off for a bit
I finished in a time of 2:10:30, so I met my goal of (barely) beating my time at Hyannis.  Of course, then I get an auto-generated email from the timing company, which happens to mention that this was 5 minutes slower than last year's time.  I guess this is the price I pay for creating racing "traditions"!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

BAA Bans Cheeseburgers?!

The word is out and everyone's all a-buzz about the hefty restrictions put on runners and spectators for this year's Boston Marathon.  Many have argued that the controversial list of banned items is too restrictive and will not only have no real benefit of added security, but will take away from the experience of the runners.
The following list of banned items is taken directly from the BAA website (as well as emailed to each participant):

Prohibited items for official participants: The following items are prohibited from entering any Marathon venue, including the course, Athletes’ Village near the start in Hopkinton, start or finish area, and all officially-sanctioned Marathon events:
  • Backpacks, any similar item carried over the shoulder, or handbags of any size
  • Glass containers
  • Any container capable of carrying more than 1 liter of liquid
  • Strollers, including baby strollers
  • Suitcases & rolling bags
  • Personal hydration system products (such as CamelBak®, Thor®, etc)
  • Weight vests or any sort of vest with pockets (Note: lightweight running vests are allowable)
  • Costumes covering the face or any non-form fitting, bulky outfits extending beyond the perimeter of the body
  • Props (including sporting equipment and military and fire/gear and signs or flags larger than 11 inches x 17 inches)
  • Any item larger than 5 inches x 15 inches x 5 inches
What's important to remember is that this restriction list isn't limited to the course itself.  It includes all "marathon venues", which could include the start area, finish area, or anywhere in between.  It's sad to think that no one with children will be allowed to use a stroller, or bring a diaper bag, to the race.  I remember last year, I may never have survived if Julia's husband Tony hadn't strolled up to us with their kids, given me the shirt off his back, and handed me his kid's peanut butter sandwich.  You know what I think they should ban? Sports beans.  I get annoyed listening to them rattle in runners' pockets like little mini maracas for 26 miles.

I'm pretty bummed about the costume restriction.  Not that I would wear a costume, but as a back-of-the-packer, I sure get to see a lot of them!  Remember all the cheeseburgers I saw last year?  I can only imagine all the runners right now that are frantically trying to redesign their cheeseburgers into something more form-fitting, like maybe tacos?  And what about the guy with the Pesky Pole hat?  I know I complained about him last year but now I'm worried I won't see him.

I'm also pretty disappointed about the restriction on props.  Again, not that I would ever bring one, but it's extremely inspiring seeing military and fire personnel running or marching the course in full gear and oversized flags.  I'm going to miss that a lot.

It goes on to say: 

Anyone on the course for any distance who has not been assigned, or is not displaying, an officially issued bib number from the B.A.A. is subject to interdiction. The B.A.A. reserves the right to remove any person from the course who is not displaying an official bib that has been assigned by the B.A.A. Similarly, units or groups such as military ruck-marchers and cyclists, which have sometimes joined on course, will not be allowed to participate.

Banning military ruck marchers is just a bad call.  It's un-American, and overall bad karma.  Here's a juicy tidbit from a Runner's World article:

Last year when the bombs went off near the finish line, members of Tough Ruck...were among the first responders to help the wounded. Carlos Arrendondo, a Tough Ruck volunteer who is credited with saving the life of Jeff Bauman who later went on to positively identify alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was also at the scene.

I caught a clip of the newly elected Mayor Marty Walsh addressing the issue of bandit runners.  His comment was, "If you don' have a numbah, don' even botha runnin'.  Ya gettin' pulled off the coss".  (This guy's accent is so thick and awesome, he could have starred in Good Will Hunting).

And my personal worst:
New for this year, there will be a “no bags” policy for the 2014 Boston Marathon.

Frequently a marathon, especially a point-to-point race, will have a bag check option.  Each runner can fill a bag with some essentials that they will need after the race.  Usually, and most importantly, clothes.  But also specialty food items, especially if you have a sensitive stomach and can't rely on whatever the race provides.  I remember last year how carefully I had stocked that bag with everything I felt I needed to have a good post-race experience, only to be blocked from getting at my bag after the race.  I remember how hopeless I felt, like a refugee.  The thought of feeling like that again makes my stomach turn.

For everyone's sake, I really do hope that the race this year is successful and most importantly safe.  But at what cost?  I just wonder how much freedom we have to give up to feel secure.  One of my favorite things about running is feeling free, being able to just float down the street, letting go of stress and the daily grind.  Last year I remember everyone saying "Thank God you're alive, thank God you're safe", and running isn't supposed to be dangerous or life threatening.  I hate the thought of needing to put such tight security around a running event, and I pray this doesn't become the new normal.  Because the thing is, I really love cheeseburgers.