Eight Tips for Your First Half Marathon

I can’t believe time has gone so quickly, but my contract coaching with Fleet Feet West Hartford is nearly over. The team’s graduation race is coming up in just two short weeks. We will all be running the Hartford Half Marathon. I can’t wait! Until then, here are my tips for a great first half marathon experience:

  1. Run to finish. A great, and perfectly respectable goal, for a first half marathon is to finish. I like to keep my standards just a bit higher. I think a good goal is to finish happily. Focus your energy on running for the joy of running. When you run to finish you can soak in the atmosphere, stop to take pictures, and generally have fun. When you have fun in your first race, you’re guaranteeing there will be more. Race for time next time. You’ll never have another first.
  2. Taper properly. Reduce your milage and keep the intensity high the week or two before the race. How much you taper is personal preference, but don’t push yourself in the last two weeks before the race. Tapering will help your body adapt to training and will ensure that you make it to the finish line feeling fresh, strong, and ready to run.
  3. Hydrate, eat right, and sleep all week. Everyone seems to be overly focused on what you eat the night before the race. I think it’s more important to eat right all week. Don’t try new things, eat what you know works for you, and trust in the foods and habits that have gotten you through training. Be sure to get enough sleep the week before the race. Unless you’re a master sleeper, you’ll have a hard time sleeping the night before the race. Be sure you have some extra hours of sleep in the days before the race so that you’re well rested on race day, even if you don’t sleep well the night before.
  4. Prepare for race day the night before. Lay out your clothes, shoes, and gear the night before the race. Put the bib somewhere you’ll be sure to see it. Some people pin their bib right to the shirt they plan to wear. I prefer to put mine in my race bag along with my food, mid-race fuel, and extra gear (just in case!). If your race has a B-tag (the little thing you attach to your shoe), stick that tag on your shoes before you go to bed. If you have everything ready to go the night before, you’ll avoid forgetting something critical in the pre-dawn haze.
  5. Don’t try anything new on race day. Like that new shirt you got at the expo? Don’t wear it. Thinking of trying Gu for the first time. Huge mistake. Do what you know works. Wear the clothes, use the fuel, and run like you have in training. Trust in the training.
  6. Arrive at the race early and stay late. Soak up as much race atmosphere as you can. Come early so that you can park and make it to the starting line with a minimum of stress. Plan to stay after the race to enjoy the food, beer, and vendors that are typical of big races. Have fun and soak it all in.
  7. Remember why you’re running. There will probably be a point in the race when you feel less than stellar. You might be tired, sore, questioning your sanity… Most runners, even experienced racers, experience some niggling doubts mid-race. For me, it’s mile three. At mile three I inevitably wonder what could possibly have made this race sound like a good idea. Remembering why I’m running helps me get through the tough patches.
  8. Have fun! Enjoy your first half. You’ll remember it always.

Me finishing my first half marathon! (That’s me in the grey top and braid)

 

Connecticut Race Report, Race for Crew

In my efforts to report on races in Connecticut, I sometimes come across great races that need a little promotional help. I want to point out one such event.

Race for Crew, Mansfield, CT, Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 10am – This new race starts and ends at EO Smith High School (near UConn’s campus) in Mansfield Connecticut. Proceeds will benefit the EO Smith High School crew team and help support their season. Prizes will be awarded for overall and age group winners. Registration is $15 in advance and $20 after October 19th. Register online or in person on race day.

Please consider running this race and supporting a good cause.

Run@Work Day at UConn

Friday, September 21st was the RRCA National Run@Work Day. Run@Work Day encourages adults to get 30 minutes of exercise before, during, or after work. The seventh annual event called on individuals, groups, companies, and schools to schedule 30 minutes of physical activity as a part of the work day.

At UConn, we have an HR-sponsored program called Just Move. This program rewards employees for engaging in physical activity. The prizes are pretty fun – an assortment of UConn apparel and gifts – and individuals are encouraged to be active through the program. I offered to team up with the folks at Just Move to offer a UConn Run@Work Day event. HR and Just Move had never offered a running event, so this would be a first. We planned an 8am run around Horsebarn Hill Road (a popular local running circuit). I agreed to lead the run and HR offered to supply bagels. The team at the faculty/staff gym, Hawley Armory, offered to provide their shower facilities. We planned the event, shared the event advertising, and kept our fingers crossed.

On the big day, a few folks showed up ready to exercise.

Four ladies were ready to participate in the 3.75 mile run led by me and my running friend. Three other ladies were prepared to walk the 2 mile loop I had planned. Yay! We had runners. The nice people at Just Move had even make up cute little bibs for the occasion.

It was a gorgeous day for a run/walk – 55 degrees, partly sunny, and breezy. The running group was treated to gorgeous views of campus and the surrounding area.

The trees have just started to turn, so the view was quite lovely. We went on a loop around the on-campus agricultural area, past the cows and horse barns, up the hill, and then around to the center of campus. It was a nice run. The best part of the run was meeting the participants. Most were new to running and were joining a running group for the first time.  One participant ran more than three miles for the first time ever, another conquered the big hill on campus, and everyone had a great run. That’s the best part of organizing running events and coaching – helping others to enjoy running as much as I do.

Twelve Ways to Avoid Running Disaster

 

As you may know, this summer I’m coaching for Fleet Feet West Hartford’s Half Marathon Training Program. One of my favorite responsibilities as a coach is to pass words of running wisdom along to my runners.

The race is less than a month away and I’ve been thinking about potential race-day disasters (always the optimist). In an effort to help my first time half marathoners avoid problems on the run, I offer today’s installment of Dr. Rachel’s Running Wisdom – Twelve Ways to Avoid Running Disaster:

Disaster!

Prevention

Solution (whew!)

Blister! Buy socks that include either some synthetic material or wool. Thickness depends on preference. I prefer thin, with reinforced heels. Test your socks several times before wearing them in a race. Some people have luck with applying BodyGlide, or taping blister-prone areas with KT Tape or regular athletic tape prior to adding the sock. Ill-fitting or old shoes will also create blisters, so make sure your shoes are right for your feet. It’s also wise to carry blister-specific band aids if you’re prone to blisters If you notice a blister starting mid-race, don’t wait until it’s gigantic. Adjust your socks, retie your shoe, and give it another mile. If you are carrying a blister-specific bandaid , now’s the time to use it. Failing that, it’s time to get creative. I have used a leaf as a blister barrier. Some races offer Vaseline at the medical stations. A little Vaseline on the budding blister can sometimes help. If nothing seems to help, take off your sock and try that. Worst case, a blister won’t kill you.
Chafing! The best way to prevent chafing is to wear technical running apparel that is designed for fitness. What you wear is personal preference, but be sure that you test anything you intend to wear in a variety of conditions before the race. Do not wear something that you bought at the expo or your race t-shirt unless it’s that or naked. If you notice a bit of chafing, act as soon as possible. The salt in sweat will exacerbate chafing, so wash the area often with water (it’s great to wash the area at the water stops). Many races will have Vaseline or BodyGlide at first aid stations. If you see one on the course, stop. If you see a course official on a bike, ask what they have. You might be able to get something that will help. In a pinch, lotion, chapstick, and even deodorant will work as an anti-chafing balm.
Cramp! Ensure that you’re properly hydrated before the race and in the week leading up to the race. Drink some water, or take some electrolytes at the first sign of cramping. Walk, massage, or stretch the cramped muscle. Drink an extra cup of water.
Stomach upset (morning of)! Don’t eat anything new the night before a race. Go for something tried and true and heavier on protein just in case. Eat something bland and stomach-friendly before the race. Ideally, you’ve practiced eating a number of different things before the race and are prepared with a list of foods that you can tolerate.
Stomach upset (mid-race)! Don’t eat anything new before or during the race. Hope for the best. Sip water. Sipping cool water can help. Slow your pace and focus on deep breathing. Consider reducing your intake of electrolyte drinks or fuels if you know that carbs are a problem for you.
Side stitch! No one really knows what causes side stitches, so your guess is as good as mine. Some people think that applying pressure directly to the stitch works. Others suggest stretching the abdomen by leaning away from the stitch. Others suggest deep breathing, coughing, and yawning. I suggest trying them all. Sometimes, side stitches can be an early sign of dehydration, so make sure you’re hydrating properly.
Shoelaces won’t stay tied! Check out this neat guide to shoe lacing on Runners World, or another on Katie Runs This. Triple knot those laces and keep going!
Headache! Consider taking ibuprofen or another pill of choice, but don’t overdo it. Pain relievers can mask pain that tips you off to something bad going on. Headaches during the race may be a sign of dehydration – make sure you’re hydrated. If you need a pain reliever, most aid stations will have something.
Sick with a cold! Only take a decongestant if you’ve had experience with them prior to running. Some people experience adverse effects, ranging from mild to serious. Consult your doctor if you have questions or need advice. Perfect the “farmer’s blow” and hope for the best.
Breathing doesn’t seem right! Practice a variety of breathing techniques during training runs. Learn ways to relax on the run and to calm yourself, and your breathing. Try coughing or sighing. Many people find that the more they focus on breathing the worse it becomes. A sigh or a cough can trigger a resetting of the diaphragm. If that doesn’t work, try breathing in a three part breath, feeling breath in the chest, ribs, and belly.
Aches and pains during the race! Practice good training – rest, massage, stretch, foam roll, and treat your body right. Kinesiotaping (using KT tape, the best thing ever) can help support muscles and joints pre-race. Most large race expos will have KT taping. If not, learning the technique from a PT or sports medicine professional can be useful. Stretch, walk if you need to, and honor your body. If it’s something more than the normal aches and pains, stop and evaluate the situation. There’s no shame in DNFing one race to focus on healing and running happily into the future.
Embarrassing race photos! I’m sorry. I have no advice. Every single picture ever taken of me in a race is horrifying. I either look like I’m near death or being chased by zombies. Smile when you see the cameras and know that pretty much everyone looks hideous in race photos. If you need cheering up, check out this Tumblr devoted to terrifying race pictures. Their tagline – “if you look good, you aren’t working hard enough”. I like it.

Gear Review: Skora Base Shoes First Impressions

Recently, I was offered the opportunity to review a pair of Skora Running shoes. I jumped at the chance. I’m someone who loves new shoes, and running gear in general, and I was happy to review the shoes. I picked out the super cool looking Skora Base in the blue/white color. I’ve only worn them once, so this is a preliminary review. I decided that something like shoes needed two reviews – one of my first impressions and one once they have some miles on them.

Skora shoes are built on the philosophy that running shoes should be made practically, for real runners in the real world. Thus, their slogan, “Run Real”. Skora shoes are designed using RealFit technology and are manufactured to offer a natural fit that encourages natural performance and foot movement. The Skora Base shoes are zero drop, have minimal cushioning, and feature a specially shaped outsole to offer a natural, close to the ground feel and encourage natural foot movement. They also feature an anatomically correct fit, including a wide toe box and asymmetrical lacing for comfort.

I was super excited when my new shoes arrived because, let’s face it, they’re cool looking! I selected a pair that doesn’t have laces, but has an elastic strap for a customized fit.

Cool, right? I immediately liked the look of the shoe. I think the strap is clever and interesting. They certainly don’t look like any other shoes I own. I also love the color. It’s pretty and soft and the reflective detailing on the heel, toe, and side of the shoe is a nice touch. I tested out the size of my new shoes. Turns out they run a little big (I usually wear a 9.5 and needed a 9), so I had to send them back. A few weeks later, my shoes were in and ready for a test drive.

I tested the shoes out on a quick recovery run in a friend’s neighborhood. It was the perfect day for running – 68, sunny, and breezy – so we decided to fit in a quick run. I slipped on my new Skoras for the run. The fit of the shoe is noticably roomy in the toe box. I loved that. I liked being able to move my toes freely and the flexible material made it easy. The toe box is wide, but the fit isn’t too large thanks to the snug fit through the mid foot. The elastic strap at the mid foot ensures a tight, custom fit. I cinched my shoes up and hit the road.

At first, the feel of the Skora Base is different than even a low-drop shoe. There is some molding in the heel and forefoot that gives them a distinct fit. The heel molding feels like a cup and my feet slid right in. There definitely is very, very minimal padding. I could feel every rock, stick, and bump in the road. My friend and I decided to run on a variety of surfaces to ensure a good test. I liked the close to the road feel. I generally run in lower profile shoes and I like to wear a responsive shoe. The Skora Base fit the bill. I felt close to the ground and connected to the running surface. My feet were very comfortable in the shoes. I loved the wide toe box and enjoyed the feeling of space around my toes. I also liked the snug fit through the mid foot. It ensured a great fit despite the extra room in the toe box and the heel cup area. The shoes stayed put on my feet, and, thanks to the comfortable fit, were easy to run in. The only down side to the close to the road, responsive fit and feel – the sensitivity of my poor feet. Part of our run was on a gravel road that isn’t well traveled. Large chunks of rock are everywhere. I could feel every large rock and I even have a bruise on the bottom of one foot from a particualrly poorly timed landing on a large rock.

The bottom line – I like the feel and structure of the Skora Base. They run a little large, so consider going a half size down. They have a close to the road feel that’s great on most surfaces but I don’t recommend running on gravel roads in them.

I’ll post another, more complete review when I have some miles on the shoes, but so far, so  good. The Skore Base retails for $110 and can be found online here.

Lake Winnipesaukee Relay – Legs 5-8

In this continuation of the Mansfield Trail Runners’ recap of the Fred Brown Lake Winniepsaukee Relay, my teammates will cover legs 5-8.

Leg 5 – Sarah

Wow!  The Winni relay exceeding all of my expectations-  I had a blast getting a chance to bond with fellow Mansfield runners and was impressed with the scenery of New Hampshire. Oh, and the run kicked my tail 😉  Many thanks to Warren for sharing this unique race with us and to Rachel for organizing so many logistics.
I ran leg #5–10.6 miles from a ski area to Morgan Farm.  I waited with team members at the ski area for Alicia to arrive.  Around 1:30, I lined up very seriously in the exchange zone and was stoked to see Alicia finishing strong. I grabbed the baton and took off, but then my visor flew off!!  So I actually had to turn around and grab my visor. Geez, I’m a klutz!  That inspired me to take off a bit quickly.  After a few minutes, I passed a dude wearing a purple singlet.  It was hot and the sun was glaring down on me.  The course was on the side of a somewhat busy road. I was sweating a lot and had to deal with the extremely slick baton.  I felt like I was running pretty strong and powered up a couple short hills.  My first two miles were under 9 minute pace.
It was getting hotter, and I drank water at every opportunity. At a couple spots, folks were stopped on the side of the road, handing out water, and their cheering really helped out.  I could see a couple runners ahead of me, and I was glad that I wasn’t lost 😉  By mile 4, I could tell that I was expending a lot of energy. The course was scenic- going by farms with traditional New England stone walls.
At mile 5, I took a gel.  I was a mess during this race!  I was running in a sports bra and shorts and was still boiling. I guess that’s what happens when you race in the middle of the afternoon!  I started dumping water on my head to cool myself down. I did NOT want to overheat. I pretended that I was doing an Ironman- where they end up running a marathon in hot, brutal conditions. There were some extended downhills, and I knew they’d shred my quads but I also wanted to make up some time. I tried to let myself float down those hills.
At mile 7, I had to bribe myself to get to mile 8. I checked my garmin a ton, hoping that the miles would click along.  Fortunately, there were a few shaded sections of the course and some clouds rolled in.  I passed a couple people and crossed my fingers that I could stay ahead of them. I sang a few Lady Gaga songs in my head. I reminded myself that my comrades from Connecticut were waiting for me and that really, really motivated me to keep running. It made a huuuuge difference to be running as part of a team.
By mile 9, I knew that I’d make it to the finish. I wanted to finish strong.  My leg ended with a downhill, and I forced my jello legs to move to the exchange zone. I was elated to hand off to Stacey.  I couldn’t believe that I survived this race.  Apparently, Lake Winnipesaukee means the”smile of the Great Spirit.”  I think someone was smiling that we had the moxy, the fierceness, and the sense of humor to run all the way around this fine lake.

Leg 6 – Stacey

My leg was #6 which was 6.4 miles that was relatively flat (some minor inclines).  It was on a course that started out on a country like road (at the farm) but ended in a stretch of highway that had lots of traffic and not a whole lot to look at.  I was very fortunate to run at a time when the sky was getting cloudy as it would have been a lot harder if the sun was beating down on me- it was just plain humid!! (I feel sorry for the others before me that had to run in the hot sun).  It started to sprinkle but did not rain during my leg.  I also got a chance to ride around the entire course and I thought that my leg was a great match for me. (running any distance in heat is challenging).  It is really a perfect match for someone who only runs short to moderate distances at a time and who does not like downhills.  I did find the baton hard to hold as it felt slimy, so I ended up lacing it between my fingers.

Leg 7 – Jack

Well….actually it was about my leg at least partly.  An occasional chronic Achilles issue did bother me, but did not stop me. What a fun weekend.  I wanted to get this written down before I forgot the significant stuff.  My leg was #7 and 8.5 miles which I rounded up to 9 in my log book

First a couple observations about the relay from my perspective….  I’ve run for 30 years but never an event like this.  A race that I did not know really when I would be running (sometime between 1 and 4PM) or the conditions….or even the terrain.  I did have the benefit of driving around and seeing my teammates legs and figured it would be something like theirs.  Maybe a two mile hill up Gunstock like Laura….or maybe a 90 degree slog like Rachel., even a rolling changeable 11 miles like Sarah.  We had gotten in late and missed Rachels elaborate spread sheet of expected times, conditions and contingencies.    But I found it odd that although we were at Winnepesaukee……we barely ever had sight of the lake.  A glimpse here and there, but mostly the race takes place on busy two lane highways with fairly wide shoulders and busy traffic….my leg was no different…except for the weather.

So….my lovely wife ran leg 6 and handed me the baton at a school for my own little race at about 4:00PM.  It was sort of over already in the sense that we had no hope of making the 5:00 cutoff for the last leg and I knew Warren would be running before I could hand him the baton (race rules).  At this point the baton has been with 6 other people and was fairly slimy and not fun to hold…..I decided it was most comfortable to shove it down the back of my shorts where my butt crack would hold it secure……believe me it was better than the other places it had been earlier in the day.  We may have to invest in the baton holster next time.   The first few miles were an uncomfortable and increasingly painful slog along another two lane highway.  I had no idea where we were competitively since other teams had finished hours before….and a few people passed me right away….but I settled into an even…if slow pace to try to accommodate my leg pain.  But around mile 4 I got lucky.  A light rain quickly turned into a torrential downpour.  It changed everything for me. Its odd…..I just love running in the rain…and this was more than that.  Eventually it was a driving downpour and the road runoff was just little rivers that were fun to splash through and lubricated my gait, my body and my attitude.   Ahhhh….after the whole day stuck in the car, cheering and waiting, this was my turn.  Although the race itself was long over, I did manage to pass Lori from Silk City Striders and splash my way to the transition.  Of course there was no one there by then….but the timer guy got out of his truck with his umbrella and told me I was done.

So…lessons learned.  After many years of running, its nice to find so many things I can still work on and try to improve.  How to eat and hydrate before an anticipated and indefinite start time.   How to be competitive with a coed, mixed open/masters/senior team.  And how to have fun and enjoy whatever the race day and the weather can deliver.

Leg 8 – Warren

My leg started at 5 when all the last leg runners   teams   that had not reached that point had to leave together. It had the feeling of a race within a race. It started on a steep downhill so I positioned myself near the front to take advantage of my downhill “prowless” At the last minute I shucked my beloved MTR shirt because of the impending rain and warm temperature (about 80 degrees). I  got off to a good start and actually led the group down the first hill.I will summarize  the rest of the leg under “ugly”, “bad” and “good” categories. THE UGLY: This had to be me plodding up the three long steep hills. The first was one and one half miles long with nearly 350′ of vertical rise. The other two were “only” 1/2 miles long but just as steep as hill #1. THE BAD There was a torrential downpour for most of the leg. It was like running in a river.  And there was a constant stream of cars going by the whole leg. THE GOOD For each uphill there was an equal and opposite downhill where I was able to pass the runners who passed me on the uphills. I was actually able to have a finishing kick on the last up hill to the finish. In spite of the uphill trudging I was able  to average 9.5 min/mile average! Finally the enthusiastic greeting I got from Laura, Rachel and Marc at the finish.
All in all I felt the weekend was a great success!! It was a pleasure to bring back some old running memories and to share the Winnipesaukee Experience with my MTR buddies. I agree we need to go on more road trips.

Lake Winnipesaukee Relay – Legs 1-4

This month, my team from the Mansfield Trail Runners and I ran the Fred Brown Lake Winnipesaukee Relay. It was a wonderful race and we had a great time. In our prep for the race, we noticed that there wasn’t much information online about the legs and the race itself. As a public service to the running community, I asked each of our runners to write a short recap of their experience of their legs. In this first part, we’ll cover Legs 1-3 (a recap of Leg 4 is on the way). You’ll see a theme – my team didn’t do much research and had a great time. Sounds like runners to me.

Leg 1 – Laura

I did not do any research prior to the relay and only knew that I was running the first leg and that it was 10.7 miles. The leg started with a long downhill which I took pretty fast because I’m better at downhills than uphills and I figured this was a good opportunity to put some time in the bank. My quads did not thank me later ;-). Next, as best I can recall, came rolling hills. The temperature was not very hot but it was muggy and I rapidly began to overheat. I determined that I must lose the shirt and stopped at the first aide station, unpinned my number, moved it to my shorts and took off the shirt. Now I was cooler, but carrying the shirt in addition to the baton. Within a mile I found some kind strangers who would be at the finish and were willing to take the shirt off my hands. Thank you kind strangers! There was more help from kind strangers in the hydration department over the course of the leg. The two water stops available were not enough and I failed to carry water with me so I was grateful. If I do this leg again I will bring a hand bottle. Towards the middle of the leg I fell in with a small pack and we worked together for several miles. This pack provided me with valuable intel on how far we had gone, how far we had to go and what I was in for. I learned that the last 3 miles was mostly uphill! I really had not planned or conserved for this hill, but managed to schlog up it anyway, as one always inevitably does in these situations. Things got very uncomfortable towards the end of the leg, kind of like the way the last few miles of a marathon feels, probably because I have not been running much and am not in good running shape. Boy was I happy to see my team at the transition area when it finally appeared! Well that’s my report. My advice: Prepare for lots of downhill, lots of uphill, bring extra water and take off your shirt while you still can!

Leg 2 – Marc

I didn’t do any homework on the legs and simply asked for the longest, as I enjoy long distance runs. Consequently, I was assigned leg two–and didn’t really know much about it other than it was purported to be mostly downhill.
It started with a long, gradual climb. Just about the time I had my fill of climbing, the downhill began–and the leg lived up to its reputation: significant downhill. In fact, this leg is not for a person with knee issues or someone who doesn’t like to run downhill. I found myself widening my stride and picking up a great deal of speed. This probably contributed to me running faster than I should have in the first half of my leg. I became concerned about positive splits once the course transitioned into rolling hills.
 This leg does go onto secondary roads and along the water for a distance, which is quaint and pleasurable to view; however, if you’re anything like me, you don’t really do much sight-seeing while racing.
 By the time I reached the second water station, there was a little more than 4 miles remaining and I was definitely feeling the effects of the first third of the course. The last mile or so flattens out and–if you have any reserves–you can step it up and come in strong for a finish. Overall, the leg was enjoyable and probably one that you want to assign to the fastest runner in your group.
Leg 3 – Rachel (Me!)
One of my teammates had quite possibly the best description of leg three – it was a survival exercise. When my leg started, it was just starting to get sunny. It was about 85 degrees and humid. My leg began with Bay Hill Road, billed at the steepest hill on a “hilly course”. They weren’t kidding. There’s a big warning sign at the bottom of Bay Hill notifying unsuspecting motorists (and runners) that the hill has a 20% grade. It lasts for just over a half mile. At 20% grade. Everyone had been warning me about Bay Hill and I heard several reports that it “evened out” after Bay Hill. So, motivated by the idea that if I could get over this one big hill quickly that I could have a nice, flat run, I ran up Bay Hill. And turned the corner to find a second, huge hill. This one a mere 12% grade over a half mile. I was just over a mile in and had climbed over 500 feet. The sun was shining, it was about 90 degrees and humid, and I was so, so hot. I had water with me, but it wasn’t enough. I refilled my bottle at the first water stop.
I came across a friend of a friend at mile 3. I didn’t know him. I shoved a pile of sweaty clothes at him, took off my shirt, shoved my number in my shorts, and went on my way. I was sure that the stories of the crazy, shirtless lady would be circulating the exchange by the time I made it. By the fourth hill I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to walk. I was hot, miserable, and exhausted and I had 4 miles to go. The hills kept coming. There really was no break and, given that I was running on Route 28, there was also no shade. There wasn’t so much as a tall weed to give me any relief from the sun. Heat ripples were coming off the pavement. I walked up a few hills because I was so hot that I was dizzy. A few people passed me and I saw them fade into the distance. My team appeared like a mirage around mile 4. Some nice strangers gave me water at some point. It was cold and I drank it immediately. Time passed slowly. By mile 6 I was demoralized. I had been walking some, knew I was going to go over my projected time, and there was no end in sight. I forged on, knowing my team was counting on me. Later, our hosts would tell me they don’t even like to drive on Route 28.
At mile 7.5 the course turns and heads into the city. I was so grateful to be off route 28. Exhausted, I continued to the exchange at a school. When I finished, the only thing I could say to my teammate was “take off your shirt while you still can”. Marc asked me if I was ok. I was pretty sure I wasn’t. I was dangerously hot, despite walking and coming in nearly 10 minutes over my projected time (a minute per mile slower than I had hoped). The moral of the story – give Leg 3 to your teammate who can best tolerate heat and hills, or who is slightly sadistic. It wasn’t the leg for me, a terrible hot weather runner and not really a lover of so many hills. It was punishing and I won’t be rushing to repeat it. Next year I’ll try a different leg and our sadistic friend, Jack, will take mine. I won’t be sad to say goodbye to Leg 3.

Eleven Random Running Tips

I’m away at a conference, but I’m still on the job as a running coach. Today, I talked with some new runners about getting started in running. It inspired me to think of my top bits of running advice. In today’s installment of Dr. Rachel’s Running Wisdom, I share that random collection of bits of advice with you. For your reading enjoyment, I offer you Eleven Random Running Tips (in no particular order):

  1. Invest in good shoes!
  2. Get some technical running apparel, but don’t worry about looking too cool. Function is more important than looks or vanity. Don’t worry about how cool you look – feeling comfortable = looking fast.
  3. Embrace running technology. Apps, websites, and GPS gadgets can help you track your distance and pace, helping you to become a better runner. I love my Garmin.
  4. Don’t stress about bad runs. Everyone has tough runs and amazing runs. The tough ones help you appreciate the beauty of the good ones.
  5. Drink water all day to pre-hydrate. Don’t expect to run well dehydrated.
  6. Learn how to run hills effectively, particularly if you live in a hilly area. Believing I can conquer even large hills helps me to feel more confident as a runner.
  7. Vary your training to avoid boredom and build fitness. Find running friends and running strangers who can become friends. Run races in strange places. Take risks and try new things (just never in a race lest you have a race disaster).
  8. Create a list of reasons you run. Read it when you don’t feel like running. There will be many such days. You’ll need that list.
  9. Listen to the wisdom of other runners with attention and skepticism. What works for one person might not work for you. But, you might learn something really useful if you listen to other runners. I might never know how to make cheap arm warmers had I not listened to a random person in a far away 10k.
  10. Rest! Take rest days and get enough sleep.
  11. Have fun! Remember, running is best when you enjoy it. Find a way to enjoy every run. I’ve never felt more free, and more in tune with myself, than when I’m running and I love that.

Happy running!

A Runner Lives Here – Hotel Version

There are some telltale signs that a runner lives in a given place – running shoes lying about, multiple pairs of running shoes (trail shoes, racing flats, training shoes – I need them all!) in a closet, piles of sweaty laundry in the hampers, Body Glide in the medicine cabinet…the list goes on and on. Today, in my hotel room, I saw a sure sign that a runner lives here:

That’s right. A pile of running magazines (Running Times, Runners World, New England Runner, and the odd man out, Yoga Journal), running clothes, sports bra, and my running shoes all clearly displayed on my bed.

What are the telltale signs that a runner lives in your house?