CT Pace Per Mile Report: June Bugs(?)

In this Connecticut Pace Per Mile Race Report for June 1 – 11, 2012, I am featuring several races across the state that will be perfect for enjoying this nice summer weather. Hopefully we will enjoy a few more weeks before the mosquitos, black flies, and other summer pests arrive.

Twilight Trail Run, Groton, CT, Friday, June 1, 2012, 6pm – The 12th annual Twilight Trail Run will benefit the Women’s Center of Southeastern Connecticut. This trail race (run and walk) proceeds through state parks. The field is limited to 400 people and walkers must be able to finish their race by sunset. There are two races, a 7.4 mile loop through Bluff Point & Haley Farm State Parks and a 3.2 mile loop on Bluff Point State Park Main Trail. The Bluff Point State Park is a coastal reserve area, so the scenery will be nice and parking will be ample. The first 350 preregistered participants will get a race t shirt. Registration is $23, with limited race-day registration. There will be awards and refreshments after the race for everyone who participates.

Amica Iron Horse Races, Simbsury, CT, Sunday, June 3, 2012 7:30am – This event features a half marathon, 10k, 5k, and kids’ fun run. Sponsored by Hartford Marathon Foundation (and all that comes with that) and benefitting Purple Heart Homes, this is a popular early sumer race. The Amica Iron Horse Half Marathon is a scenic two-loop course which begins and ends in the center of Simsbury. The 10k and 5k courses also go through scenic Simsbury past farmlands, quaint shops, and typical New England scenery. Pre-registraton is encouraged, as this race will fill up. Prices are $80, half marathon; $40, 10k; $35, 5k; $10, kids’ fun run.

Blum Shapiro 5k, Cromwell, CT, Saturday, June 9, 2012, 8am – The HMF folks will be busy because they will also be hosting the Blum Shapiro 5k, which benefits Camp Courant. Held in conjunction with the Travelers Championship, this 5k race is run along the Cromwell roads that line the fairways and greens of TPC River Highlands. In addition to the usual t shirt, all participants will be given one ticket valid for any one day admission to the 2012 Travelers Championship.

Celebrate West Hartford 5k, West Hartford, CT, Sunday, June 10, 2012 8:30 and 9:30am – Part of the Celebrate West Hartford Weekend, this event features a 5k and a kids’ fun run. The kids’ race starts at 8:30 and the adults run at 9:30am. The 5K scenic, flat course begins on Raymond Road (the start line is at the parking lot of Whole Foods), winds through West Hartford neighborhoods and ends on Burr Street near West Hartford Town  Hall.  The event includes competitive and non-competitive divisions and a half mile kids’ fun run through Blue Back Square. Registration is $25 ($5 for the kids’  fun run) per runner until June 1; $30 for registrations postmarked or received after June 1.

Looking for races in another location, or interested in races other than those I have featured? Check out The Race Robot, a runner-created resource. Also, consider adding your reviews if you run one of the featured races. The feedback will help us all find great races.

Happy Anniversary

Two years ago today I had knee surgery. I had no idea at the time how much my life would be both the same and, in small ways, different. It’s a strange thing to have something so definite shift the way I think and move. I am so grateful today to have run a 10k with an old friend. A nice trail run in the rain was the perfect way to acknowledge the day. I am grateful today for my surgeon, my physical therapists, my nurses, and everyone else who gave me a knee that works, even if I am sometimes irritated with it. I am grateful today for my mom, who staged a hunger protest in solidarity, who didn’t sleep at all those first miserable nights, and who encouraged me when moving my leg hurt so much I saw stars. But today I am most grateful that I can run and that, for the first time, I understand what it is to love running for the pure joy of running.

Ten years ago this month I graduated from undergrad. Until today I had not really been back on my campus. Everything was both the same and so very different. I saw so many places that have been locked in my memory in a certain way. Driving into town and across campus I was overwhelmed with the memories of a specific place or a specific time in my life. I am grateful today for all the people who were there then and who helped me become the person I am today.

It has been a day for nostalgia…

There was a great episode of Sex and the City (I Heart New York) in which Carrie says “There is a time of year in New York when, even before the first leaf falls, you can feel the seasons click. The air is crisp, the summer is gone.” Today I could feel the seasons click and today I am grateful.

Racing for a Personal Worst

Lately I’ve been thinking about the highs and lows of running. It seems lots of my running friends have had either epic highs, or are suffering with running struggles. The tales of running the race of a lifetime or of having to take weeks off due to injury always hit home. I think most runners know the exhilaration of a great race, and the pain of being injured. We all know the sheer joy of achieving a new PR, and the disappointment of a race badly run. However, after achieving a few new Personal Worsts (PWs) lately, I have a new outlook on the PW. Why is it that most runners (myself included) avoid PWs? Sure, it’s important to push yourself and strive to improve upon the past, but sometimes I think there is a place for just gutting it out and finishing a run or a race, knowing it will be far from your best.
I have run two recent half marathons in less than ideal situations, with very different outcomes. One, in Florida, I went into ridiculously undertrained. I hadn’t run a long run of more than 7ish miles in the 6 weeks before the race. The weather was questionable, with serious storms and deluges of rain expected. I went into the race expecting to just finish, and hoping it wouldn’t be the slowest I had ever run. It ended up being my PR. Last weekend, I ran a race in record heat, suffering the whole way. I was well trained, had my nutrition right, and was ready to execute a good race. At mile 4 I had a heart-to-heart with myself and decided to just finish, and to embrace the PW if it came to that. It wasn’t my all time PW, but it was pretty close. I have been thinking about the PW ever since. I think that sometimes surviving a bad race, gutting it out when you want to quit, or making the conscious choice to go slowly deserves recognition. Sometimes a PW can be a special kind of PR – one of perseverance. It’s because of my PWs that I know what I’m capable of. And I’m loving every wonderful, horrible, minute.

Race Recap: Navigant Credit Union Cherry Tree Running Festival

Today the running husband and I ran in the Navigant Credit Union Cherry Tree Running Festival. If that isn’t the longest name for a race festival ever, each race has its own super long name. The half marathon is officially called the Navigant Credit Union Blackstone Valley Half Marathon and the 5k is officially the Navigant Credit Union Cherry Blossom 5k. This review will focus on the half marathon, which I ran.

Run in scenic Pawtucket, Rhode Island and the surrounding areas (Central Falls is the only city I remember), the race features a lovely course, friendly volunteers, and excellent traffic control. The race began in downtown Pawtucket at 8am. It was approximately 72 degrees at the race start and very sunny. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Packet pick up was in the Visitor’s Center – a modern building with clean bathroom facilities and a nice gathering area for waiting runners. There was plenty of easy to find, accessible, well-marked parking just a block and a half from the race start.

The course simply amazing. The organizers didn’t really do it justice in their advertising. Most of the race is run on the Blackstone Valley bike path that borders the Blackstone River. It’s a lovely, clear running river and a well maintained, picturesque path.

The course starts and finishes in downtown Pawtucket. Pawtucket wasn’t special, but runners were quickly ushered through the streets and on to the bike path. Uniformed police held traffic and did a great job of prioritizing the runners. There were orange cones noting the course on every roadway, volunteers with neon flags directing runners, and lots and lots of uniformed police officers. I never waited to cross the street and felt safe throughout the race. Though there was traffic, it was light, and the course was so well marked and monitored the runners were safe. See “Requests from the Back of the Pack” to note how much this pleases me. After running about 3 miles through city streets, the course headed west into a wooded area and along the Blackstone River . The course looped around through historical neighborhoods and scenic marshes. Finally, the course wound along the river, across a bridge or two, and returned to the start via the beautiful Blackstone Valley Bike Path. The Path was really, really lovely and I enjoyed running so much of the race along the bike trails.

In addition to being a beautiful, well-marked course, the course was New England flat. It had only a few moderate hills and was overall a nice, rolling course. Note the decent hill in mile 4. It’s worth note that the hill is in a particularly boring, urban area and in the full sun. That made the hill a bit more intense than it might otherwise have been. After the hill in miles 4-5, the course heads downhill and then flattens again. Overall, it was rolling to flat and I enjoyed the diverse scenery.

Blackstone Valley Half Elevation

The Blackstone Valley Half Marathon was exceptionally well supported and organized. There were fluid stops every other mile that were staffed by friendly volunteers. Most water stations also had Gatorade – and not just any Gatorade, but three different flavors all from bottles. The Gatorade selection was quite remarkable. There were visible medical staff members, plenty of porta potties, and lots of amenities.

At the finish line runners were greeted with a mini bottle of water and a medal. The medal was pretty standard and the water was welcome. By the time the race was over (for me, at least), is was 85 degrees and sunny. I had run most of the race in the full sun, just cooking. I hadn’t run in weather warmer that 60 or so before this race, so running 13 miles in 80 degree plus temperatures was a struggle. I was very hot – and very thankful for the Gatorade, water, and shade. After finishing, runners were treated to delicious pizza, bananas, Powerbars (fruit smoothie variety), Powerade, and water.

The pizza was delicious and plentiful. I give a lot of credit to the race organizers for having enough water and pizza on hand to serve lots of hungry runners. In fact, they had so much pizza that volunteers were giving away pizza to anyone who walked by. If I have one complaint about the Navigant Credit Union Cherry Tree Running Festival it is this – the water was hot. At water stops and at the finish line the water wasn’t cooled in any way. Sitting in the sun, in 85+ degrees, the beverages were all hot. I could have made tea. I would have given someone a lot of money for an ice cold drink at the end of that race. Next year the organizers might want to consider really big coolers to keep the drinks cool.

A few things worth note – this race was really well organized overall and the attention to detail was impressive. I learned lots of useful information on the race’s Facebook page. I got helpful email updates as the race date got close. I even got an email with my official results 15 minutes after I finished. The race organizers really put in the extra effort to be sure runners were informed and up to date. One other thing that made me happy was that walkers were welcomed at the day’s events. I love any race that will welcome people of all abilities and treat them all with respect and consideration.

All in all, I enjoyed this race a lot. The course was stunning and it was well organized. I would definitely run the Blackstone Valley Half Marathon again and would recommend it to others. For the record, the running husband enjoyed the 5k. He reported that the course was flat, fast, and easy to navigate. Though it was about 90 by the time he ran, he got a PR thanks to the flat course.

A good time was had by all.

Race results (by Yankee Timing) and pictures (by Capstone and their chain-smoking band of photographers) can be found on Run Rhody. Race details, including a course map can be found on the event website.

Details for Rachel’s outfit: Lululemon Cool Racerback tank in flash, Lululemon Turbo Run Short (the best shorts EVER) in black, Garmin 610, the usual shoes.

Details for the running husband’s outfit (as dictated to Rachel): a clean shirt, Nike, standard fit, old. Adidas “active” shorts.

Friday Favorite: Garmin Forerunner 610

Today’s Friday Favorite is my favorite piece of running technology. I love my Garmin. It’s the best thing ever. I had a Forerunner 210 back in the day, then, when he died, a 410. When my 410 finally died after 4 years of faithful service, I starting looking for a new running watch. I considered getting another 410, but I saw the 610 at a race expo and knew it would be my next Garmin.

I love the 610. It’s functional, it has great features, it locks on to satellite quickly and easily, and it’s small enough to look normal on my wrist. I use it on every run and I love it. I can’t imagine running without it.

Lucy, My (now) Running Dog

Lucy, my non running dog, is, as of today, my running dog. As I mentioned, I have been working with Lucy for years to understand the fundamental workings of the leash. In the last year, I have been working with her on running so that one day she could be my running companion. Today is that day.

Today’s weather was completely gorgeous and I was determined to run. I’ve run most of my recent runs in the rain, or in the cloudy, dreary, wet weather. Today was perfect running weather, 70 and sunny. I wanted to run on the trails near my house, but I’m never a fan of running in the woods alone. I decided to give Lucy a chance. If she weren’t behaving properly I would just bring her home. At first, I was worried. Lucy went crazy at the sight of her harness and leash and flopped around like a fish as soon as I had her hooked up. After a minute or two, she settled into a nice trot right by my side. And she stayed that way (!) for the next two miles. I couldn’t believe it. Turns out my natural consequence method of dog training (letting her get hit by my bike tire) worked. She stayed by my side, running my pace, for most of the run. She seemed to be enjoying herself up until the time she pooped out. Right around two mile she stopped. Poor Lucy looked like she needed some Gu. She hit the wall. Still a mile from home, we trudged back at a run barely above walking speed. Despite this, Lucy and I had our first real run  – the first run in which she ran with me, as my running dog. I hope there are many more to come.

CT Pace Per Mile Report: May Days

In this Connecticut Pace Per Mile Race Report for May 15 – 28, 2012, I am featuring the end of May races. There is some good stuff coming up.

May 19:

Bishop’s 5k Run for Kids, West Hartford, CT, Saturday, May 19, 2012, 8am – Benefitting the Bishop’s Fund for Children of the Episcopal Diocese of CT and sponsored by a lengthy list of companies and individuals, the Run for Kids will feature a variety of events. At 9am, the day starts with pre-race yoga. Children’s half mile and mile races begin at 9:20am, and the adult 5k run/walk starts at 9:40am. Pre-registration is $20 for adults (15 and up) and $10 for children. Race day registration is available for $25 adults and $15 for children. Online registration, course information, and other details are available on their website.

May 20:

Cherry Tree Running Festival, Pawtucket, RI, Sunday, May 20, 2012 – Sponsored by the Navigant Credit Union, the Cherry Tree Running Festival will feature a half marathon, a 5k, and a kids’ 1k. The half marathon begins at 8am, the 1k begins at 10:30am, and the 5k begins at 11am. The Navigant Credit Union Cherry Tree Festival races will start and finish at Pawtucket City Hall 137 Roosevelt Avenue, Pawtucket, RI.The first 1,500 participants that register for the Navigant Credit Union Blackstone Valley Half marathon or the Navigant Credit Union Cherry Tree 5K will receive technical t-shirts. All other entrants will receive a standard race t-shirt. The organizers encourage registrants to arrive early to park and pick up packets. Parking will be available at the Apex store parking lot off Main Street and on Roosevelt Ave. Race day registration is available and the following prices apply: $70, half marathon; $35, 5k; $18, youth 1k. The course information and other details can be found on their website.

 May 26:

Color Me Rad, Rentschler Field, East Hartford, CT, Saturday, May 26, 2012, 9am – Benefitting the YMCA of Greater Hartford, the Color Me Rad race will be making a stop in Hartford. This race series is identifiable by their quirky, colorful races run across the US. Here’s the basic premise: run a 5k, while volunteers and your fellow runners throw handfuls of brightly colored cornstarch on you, covering you in color. Sounds fun, right? The pictures from other locations certainly make it look awesome. Registration is $45 until 5/23/12 and race day registration is available. More information can be found on their website, or on their Facebook page.

Red, White, and Blue Blast, Worcester, MA, Saturday, May 26, 2012, 9am – Sponsored by and benefitting the Flagg Street School Parent Teachers Group (PTG) The purpose of this organization is to enhance Flagg Street School by promoting school spirit and supplying financial help to benefit of the students of the school. The 5k race begins at 9am at Flagg Street School and walkers are welcome at this event. There will also be a kids’ race (with medals to all child participants) at 10am. The 5k course is wheel measured with timing provided by Central Mass Striders. Prizes will be awarded in male and female age groups.

Looking for races in another location, or interested in races other than those I have featured? Check out The Race Robot, a runner-created resource. Also, consider adding your reviews if you run one of the featured races. The feedback will help us all find great races.

It’s a Downhill Battle

This week was a busy week – a trip to DC, a scintillating CPR/first aid class, and a few runs. One of those runs included a mini-milestone, one that I think merits mention.

The week started with a trip to DC. I love running in DC – it’s probably my favorite running location. My friend/coach and I were there for a work thing, so we got to run together on my favorite route on the Mall. Yay!

It was a busy few days, but I felt inspired by the work and had a great time with some colleagues who are really friends. I got home and had a nice, easy run with my local running friend. It felt like summer.

Saturday I had to sit through a 6 hour first aid and CPR class. It was hideously boring. I have taken the same class 4 previous times, so I was bored to death. What’s worse is that the instructor was a retired stay at home mom who had never done CPR, performed first aid of any kind, couldn’t look at the fake blood on the video, and admitted she taught the class “to get out of the house”. Sigh. At least I’m official for another two years.

Now, on to the milestone. This may be a little one, but I was super excited about it. (!) I ran down a hill! That’s right my friends, I ran all the way down a hill made up of zillions of rocks. More accurately, I ran down a ravine-like, rocky incline. This is a big deal.

Since I tore my ACL, I have lost pretty much all proprioception in my right leg. I still have a really hard time determining where my leg is in the air. The ACL serves an important nerve function in the knee and is the main nerve path that tells the brain where your knee is in space and where your lower leg is relative to the thigh. Without an ACL, this nerve function is lost. The faux-CL is great, but it doesn’t have any nerves.  This means I can’t feel my leg’s location in space. I feel its position when it hits the ground, and my foot sends the information about my leg position back to my brain. This makes it a problem on every down hill path. Because the ground is further away on the downhill, I often slap my foot on the ground, trip, or shuffle along because I just have no idea what my foot placement will be until my foot actually touches the ground. I have been working on learning how to “feel” the path with my good leg and use that information to place my right foot. This is harder than it seems like it would be. I can’t get my two legs to match in position without looking at them and I can’t run a technical trail while looking at my legs. So, this particular downhill on my usual Sunday route has been my nemesis. It’s highly technical, all rocks, and decently steep. And, today, I conquered it. I ran all the way down. I wasn’t going very fast, and, I must admit, there were some girlish squeals, but I did it. That’s right – I ran downhill. Hooray! The downhill battle continues, but today I won.

Lucy, My Non-Running Dog

I love animals and I love my rescued pets. There’s just one problem – Lucy, my non-running dog. Lucy is a great dog. She’s funny, loyal, and very sweet. She has lots of energy, loves to run, and would make a great running companion. The problem is that she doesn’t seem to understand the concept of a leash. At all.

Lucy is a bit of a mutt. She’s part something that herds, part something small and fluffy, and part something very long legged. We adopted her about 6 years ago and until her new life with us, she had likely never been on a leash. At first, she reacted to the leash with confusion, then with abject terror upon finding out that this strange thing was connected to her. For months, she trashed around on the leash, pulling in all directions, trying to get away from her rope-like captor. After a while, she seemed to get the hang of leash walking around the yard and was ready to graduate to longer leash walks.

She loves being outside and going on walks, but she really struggled with understanding that she was connected to her human via the leash. She wanted to go the opposite direction I did, or didn’t follow when I turned. And, being a strong and fast dog, these little disagreements usually resulted in sore arms, rope burns on my hands, and a bit less hairy Lucy. We tried harnesses and easy walker collars and all kinds of trainer-suggested rigs to convince her to walk with us. Nothing seemed to help but repetition. We persisted and she finally learned to walk on a leash – at least most of the time.

For some unknown reason, Lucy still can’t figure out how to run on the leash. She can’t figure out that this new activity is like walking, only faster. Every time I try to run with her I end up with a sore arm, rope burns on my hand, and a shortened run. She regresses to her old self, pulling, thrashing, and generally being a nuisance. Her worst habit is crossing in front of me while I’m running – she has tripped me many times and is lucky I haven’t stomped too hard on her feet. She seems to really love the idea of running and I want to enjoy runs with her. I’ll keep trying – you never know -the 7th year might be the year she gets it and becomes my faithful running companion. So, for you folks who run with your dogs – what strategies worked for you?

Friday Favorite: Chipotle Guacamole

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, one of the best holidays for me and my fellow Mexican food lovers, today’s Friday Favorite is a food – Chipotle’s guacamole. I know it’s only el cuatro de Mayo, but I’m celebrating early. I love Mexican food and I LOVE Chipotle’s guacamole. I think they make the best guacamole. Ever. I suppose I could tell you about how guacamole has healthy fats and minerals and all sorts of good for you stuff, but I don’t really care about any of that. It’s delicious. Yum.

Photo courtesy Chipotle

Want to make it yourself at home? Try one of these great recipes (which really do taste just about like the real thing).

YumSugar (note: has an instructional video)

Or, this version:

Chipotle’s Signature Guacamole Recipe

2 large ripe Hass avocado, peeled and pitted
2 tsp. fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup finely chopped red onions
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
1 jalapeño chili, seeded and chopped (I have heard serrano is better, but I suppose it’s personal preference)
1/2 tsp. salt (Chipotle uses Kosher)

Enjoy!