Big City, Big Running

This weekend I headed to New York City for some training (professional type training not running type training). Despite a rigorous schedule that had me indoors 9am to 10pm, I managed to get in a few workouts and a lot of city walking.

First, walking around the city is a workout in itself. Getting from one end of the city to the other takes a long time and inevitably involves lots of walking. And stairs. Stairs into the subway. Stairs from train to train. Stairs out of the subway. Then walking blocks and blocks. The city has everything you could ever want. Provided you want to walk there. Being in the city also skews one’s impression about how far is a long walk. At home, I wouldn’t walk two miles to get to a better sandwich shop if there were a sandwich shop right in front of me. Not in New York City. 20 blocks? We can walk that. 20 blocks to get to the diner we like better. Sure. I definitely got in my walking.

I also got in a great deal of NYC-style “trail running”. Part of what makes trail running great for injury prevention is the side to side motion and the unpredictable nature of the terrain. Walking in New York is great for this. Uneven sidewalks. Trash. Puddles. Scaffolding. Tourists (now, I know, technically, I’m a tourist, but I think there’s a difference between being not from the city and being a tourist). I walked around the city efficiently and definitely got a good workout for all those stabilizing muscles.

My first morning in the city, I went for a proper run. Despite high humidity, the threat of rain, and some serious pollution problems, I got out for a great run. I zipped down a few streets and hopped on the Greenway bike path near Lincoln Tunnel. The bike path is paved, smooth, and popular. Loads of runners and cyclists were zipping down the path. There were helpful crosswalk signs at many intersections and a few areas where plants had been planted. Of course, there was the usual New York assortment of trash, mysterious puddles, and homeless men. Nothing out of the ordinary. Overall, the path was a quite nice place to run. It was certainly much smoother and nicer than running on streets so I got in my miles much more efficiently.

Central Park Reservoir

Right before I left the city, I got in a great run in Central Park. I love Central Park and running through the park on a perfect day was wonderful! All in all, it was a great weekend in a fun city.

Troy Conquers 26.2: BaNa Review

Dr. Rachel’s Note: My awesome brother, Troy, is training for this first marathon. You can read about how it started here. As part of his training, he’s trying new fueling methods and learning more about nutrition, hydration, and running. Recently, we were approached by BaNa rehydration with an opportunity to try their new product. Being the helpful sister I am, I offered the opportunity to Troy. Here’s his take:

BANa  – Review

This is not a new slang term for the delicious, ubiquitous post race treat of a partially green Banana (gre-nana?) but a sports drink I was voluntold into trying.  Sample bottles and pamphlet arrived at my door in the most unassuming of brown boxes.  BANa – ‘an IV in a bottle’ – so claims the pamphlet.  The drink is advertised for runners, outdoor workers, and those suffering from hangovers.  With a composition falling between Pediasure and a saline IV bag, the drink promises to replenish and refresh.  I am an engineer by trade and quickly devised an experimental plan to test this new concoction out.

BaNa

Test 1 – First Impressions

Rather than test BANa out on a long run and risk GI issues, I tried it at home and not even after a particularly grueling day.  The first sip caught me off-guard.  I had been expecting a tart and artificial berry flavor but instead was greeted by a mild berry taste.  The berry flavor worked but along with it came a strange sweet and salty mixture best described as very light syrup.  I struggled a bit and felt like I needed a water rinse when I finished the bottle.  I felt hydrated and continued to feel that way for a much longer time than I thought normal.  With no GI distress, the first bottle seemed to be ok … just a little syrupy. So, after this initial test, I had reservations about being able drink this without a water rinse (could be problematic during a workout) but was pleasantly surprised by the tasty berry flavor.

Test 2 – The Short Run

Basics out of the way, it was time to test BANa out during a workout.  My Tuesday training involves running 3 miles and doing 4 rounds of calisthenics for about an hour long workout and I thought this would be a great first test.  I wanted to try BANa in what I knew would be a tougher situation where I would really need to rehydrate.  I can’t explain what changed and I am not sure how or why it did, but my opinion of BANa drastically improved during that workout.  It was fantastic.  That sweet/salty syrup taste was gone completely and instead it was replaced by that pleasant berry flavor combined with fast hydration.  The consistency was not an issue at all.  Maybe it was my body craving the simple carbs and salt, but the BANa completely hit the spot.  One 12 oz bottle got me through the entire workout and I still felt hydrated when it was over.

Test 3 – The Long Run

I headed out for a 6 mile training run with a bottle of BANa and expectations of good things again.  As with the short run, BANa hit the spot.  The flavor, the mouth-feel, the hydration – all were perfect during the run.  Small sips were all that I needed to feel hydrated and keep me going through my workout.  I finished my run feeling hydrated and with BANa to spare.  Most importantly, no GI disturbance.  Additionally, when finished I wasn’t gulping down water which helped to avoid that “sloshing” feeling that everyone is so familiar with.

BaNa review

Overall

I am mixed here.  I don’t think BANa is something I would grab as a run recovery or hangover recovery when lazing about the house. The taste and texture just didn’t come across right to me when I am not in the middle of intense physical activity.  However, on a run or a workout, this stuff just hit the spot and was great.  I can’t explain it, but it was like a whole different experience while on a workout.  It was refreshing, mild on the stomach, and quenched my thirst completely.  Maybe next time I race, I will take a BANa water with me to keep from eating that gre-nana on the other side of the finish line.

Find them on social media at @BaNaRehydrates

Note: Free products were provided to make this review possible. No other compensation was provided and the opinions are our own.

Race Review: Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon

This spring I had the great opportunity to go to the RRCA national convention. In addition to the useful seminars and fun social runs, there was a silent auction benefitting the RRCA programs. I enjoy silent auctions, so I was happy to participate. A new girlfriend and I teamed up to bid on and monitor a few key items. There were a couple marathon entries I had my eye on and was actively bidding on and so did my friend. Right next to one of my friend’s bidding projects was an entry to the Shipyard Old Port half marathon. No one had bid on it. A half marathon in coastal Maine in the end of July didn’t seem to prompt much in terms of vigorous bidding. The race wasn’t too far from me, and I didn’t have anything on the calendar. I bid on the race. Why not, I thought. Thirty minutes later when the bidding ended, I had won two entries into the Shipyard Old Port half marathon.

A few months later, the Shipyard Old Port half rolled around. The friend who had wanted to join me couldn’t make it, so my husband agreed to ride up to Maine with me for a little road trip. We left at a ridiculously early time to head up to the race. The drive was easy and went by quickly. We got to the port area and were able to easily find a parking spot thanks to the parking maps that were emailed in advance of the race. The maps were clearly marked and made it super easy to navigate to a free parking lot and from the lot to the race staging area.

Race morning packet pick up was smooth and easy. I walked right up -no waiting – and got my gear. I love the race shirt. It’s a pale blue with a lovely multicolor logo design. It even fit! I knew it was one that I would wear often. Thanks to my winning entry in the auction, I got a commemorative hat and a mug. Both had the fun logo and were nicely done. I use my mug often and wore my hat this morning on my run. The hat is a nice sweat wicking hat in a comfortable fabric. The gear was nice looking and useful.

About 45 minutes before race start, I headed for the corals and the porta potties. The lines for the bathroom were epic. I cannot recall a time when I saw longer lines for the bathroom. Worse, the lines snaked out into the driving lane of one of the biggest free parking areas. Cars were dodging runners, runners were in the traffic lane. Volunteers had lost control. There were simply too few porta potties for the number of people. Probably about half as many as were required. The lines were just ridiculous. I waited 42 minutes. Then I race around the bend, down a long hallway, and into the corral. Thank goodness I wasn’t really racing – I barely made it to the corral by the time the race was to start.

Shipyard start

The start got off without a hitch, with runners racing down a huge cement dock and onto the Main Street. Inexplicably, the course went down the middle of the street, kith backed up traffic on either side. The Main Street looked nice (or at least what I could see over the tops of the cars). Very shortly, the course headed into some lovely neighborhoods. The homes were tidy and the gardens attractive. The course was fairly free of traffic and I enjoyed running in the shady neighborhood streets. It was awfully crowded, so I wound my way past other runners and through the masses.

After the first few miles in the neighborhoods, we went back down the Main Street and along the water. As we passed the fish packaging plant for the second time (horrifying and what I once thought was the worst possible smell ever), things started to unravel. I had skipped a too-crowded first water stop and the second water stop didn’t have any water poured, so I passed that, too. By the time I got to the fish plant water stop for the second time, they had no water prepared. Instead, they had a pile of cups and a hose. Runners were told to grab a cup and a volunteer aimed a hose at us. I got soaked and got about three sips of water in my cup. Undeterred, I headed along down the Main Street and up a giant hill. The top of the hill treated runners to an amazing view of the water.

The water and park views were lovely and featured Classic Maine views of boats and rocks and quiet harbors. Following the hill summit, runners headed into a park. In the park, the water stops began to be a disaster. The first water stop in the park was out of water. The second water stop had volunteers bailing water (without gloves) from big coolers. The first cup I took off the table had a dead spider in it. Literally a dead daddy long legs. I dumped it and the second cup had grass in it. Unwilling to waste more time, I picked the grass out and drank the water that was visibly dirty.

Runners then went further into the park, around a tidal marsh. The marsh was not the best. It wasn’t scenic since it was low tide and the crushed shell/sand path was extremely dusty and very hot. Dust billowed up and swirled around. The sun shone down and made the sand so hot I could feel it through my shoes. The next water stop I came to had volunteers bailing water without gloves. Again, the water was dirty. The next water stop was out of water. The next was passing out dirty water. Having no gloves on and giving out water that was *visibly dirty* was totally unacceptable.

I trudged around the marsh on the path for what seemed like ages. Finally, mercifully, it ended and we exited on to a paved bike path. For a few moments, I was so happy. We had left the marsh! Sadly, eye headed past a water treatment plant. Water treatment plants aren’t so bad. Except for when they’re churning the beds. This day, the huge water treatment plant was churning. The smell was indescribable. Truly horrific. I plugged my nose and hustled by. I passed four people vomiting. Everyone was gagging. I’ve never smelled anything so horrible in all my days. Mercifully, I passed the treatment plant and was treated to the best thing ever – a water stop. With clean, cool water. It even had music and misters. It was like an oasis. A spot of beauty. I wanted to just stop there and stay in the cool oasis, drinking my water.

I overcame the urge to stop in the oasis and continued on along the bike path. It was a nice path, smooth and level. Finally, I rounded the bend into the finish area. There were cheering spectators, race announcers, and finishers coming in. I crossed the finish line and was delighted to have finished. It was hot, I was dirty, and I couldn’t wait to find some food and water. The only problem was that I couldn’t find water. A volunteer handed me a tiny six ounce cup. I asked for another and was told that I couldn’t have one because the finish line was running out of water. The finish line had long ago run out of water bottles and was short on water. I knew I had water in the car, so I pressed on. The finish line area was total chaos. There was no organized finish chute and runners lined up in individual lines at various tables for food. I selected a table randomly – I couldn’t see what it was because the line was so long. It was a line for chocolate. I don’t eat chocolate. Next line was for pizza. I lined up, waited several minutes, and was handed one slice of pizza. I had noticed while waiting that every male runner was handed two slices of pizza. Every female I saw was handed one slice of pizza. I got my one slice and was nearly trampled by people in line. I didn’t have the patience to wait in more totally chaotic lines, so I gave up.

Shipyard chaos

My husband and I hopped into the car and went to the first gas statio no we saw for some water. Finally. The ocean views at a nearby scenic spot didn’t hurt.

Shipyard after race

All in all, I was very disappointed by the Shipyard Old Port half marathon. The gear was great. The course was interesting. But to me, there is no excuse for the lack of organization at the water stops and finish line. It is completely unacceptable to have volunteers bailing with bare hands. It is completely unacceptable to have visibly dirty water handed to runners. It is unacceptable to run out of water at the finish line. In talking to other runners, I learned that this is a persistent problem with this race. Other runners were pretty vocal on Facebook about a problem with a miscue on the course or the disgusting smell at the water treatment plant. Still others complained about the finish area chaos. I will forgive a lot of things as a runner, but not a dead spider in my water. Pass on this race.

A Storm’s Brewing

Asthma sucks. If you’ve been reading you’ll know that I have asthma. Getting my lungs to cooperate with me is an ongoing battle that results in some pretty bad runs. But, there are good days and ok days and lots of other days in between the bad ones.

Sometimes, usually in the summer, I can just feel the asthma attack coming. I wake in the morning with a little hitch in my breathing. “Tight” is what my doctor calls it. Things just aren’t working right and I know that sooner or later it’s going to result in an episode of some pretty bad breathing. It happened this week on race day. I regularly run in a local cross country race. It’s a great race with lots of friends and a fun course. Unfortunately, it’s also plagued by some pretty wicked weather. On this particular race day I woke up breathing slowly. My lungs just weren’t as motivated for the day as I was. I took my usual morning meds and things didn’t improve. All day, I knew an asthma attack was coming. Maybe not a proper, full-on attack, but I could feel something building.

I had a decision to make. In the past, I’ve had good luck triggering a mild first attack to get it out of my system and then running later. Usually, I can get a little wheezy, recover, and then run well. I’ve never had a two-attack day. It’s a strategy I used a lot to perform well in races when I was younger. I didn’t really care about the outcome of this race. I wasn’t planning to race race – just have a good time with friends. And there I was, ready to trigger an attack to run well in a casual, local race. The whole thing suddenly seemed silly. If I didn’t care about my time and was only running for fun, why would I need to run well – and why would I trigger an asthma attack to do it? I decided to take my chances in the race.

While I was running, feeling worse and worse, I had the sudden realization that I do the little trigger an attack routine mostly so other people don’t see it and worry. Sometimes I really care how I do and I want to run well. Mostly, I want to avoid the concern/pity I get when I am clearly struggling to breathe. Any time I have an episode of bad breathing, people engage in the concern/pity questions – even people who’ve seen me had multiple attacks and who know I have asthma. Did you bring your inhaler? (No – I never do. Ever. Never have.) Are you going to be ok? (Yes. Always am.) Did I remember to pre-treat? (Of course) And, the worst one – Bad day for you, huh? Sigh. I get it. Asthma is distressing. But it is what it is. Sure, sometimes I imagine what it might be like to just run, with no 30-minute nebulizer routine, but that isn’t going to happen. Mostly, I just want people to accept my poor breathing with minimum distress – the same as we all accept that one really sweaty guy in every group run. It’s just his way. I have a little trouble breathing sometimes. That’s my way. It always passes. I appreciate the concern, but I’m really ok. Really.

Troy Conquers 26.2: How it All Began

The cardboard snack box of post race treats was the only thing keeping me moving.  After running 13.god-awful many miles, I could only curse my family for having the audacity to make me walk to them. That last half mile was harder than the previous 13.1 and all I wanted to do was eat a banana.

My first half marathon was the Walt Disney World 2014 Half Marathon and it didn’t end pretty.  I came in behind my desired time and with plantar fasciitis flaring up to the point of limping.  I swore off running as I hobbled through the crowds in search of a place to collapse and eat.

By the bottom of the snack box, I said I would do it again next year.  All 13.1 miles.

Troy at Disney

Two weeks later my sister, our own Dr.Rachel, was telling me that if I could finish a half I could finish a whole.  Somehow I believed her enough to agree and start planning the next trip to Disney.  A month later, it was the no longer just my first marathon but the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge.  Why not run a half and then full having only completed one of the former and none of the later?  I was in.

It took 71 days to go from finishing my first half marathon to asking Dr.Rachel one very stupid question – ‘if we are doing the Goofy race, why not just do the Dopey and run all four?’.  When running 39.3 miles already, what is another 9.3?  It took 71 days from swearing off running to trying to convince Dr.Rachel that a 48.6 mile challenge run was a good idea.  Brain worms.  It had to be some sort of cerebral parasite.

Since Disney, I have completed five more races including my first sub-30 5K and my second half marathon (20K but who is counting the miles?).  I am comparing the official WDW/Jeff Galloway running plan with races in my area.  A half marathon through scenic mid-Michigan on a long run weekend in October – sign me up.  40+ mile weeks through December in Michigan – better start trying out wool socks now.  A 50 mile week around Christmas – hope Santa brings me new shoes.  Brain worms.  Something is deeply wrong with me.

Troy's Fast 5k

Dr.Rachel has asked me to guest write on my experiences training for my first marathon and I have agreed.  Occasionally I will pop in and detail the horrors of my first marathon experience.  The official Disney Training plan started July 1st but thanks to Dr.Rachel I was already running a half marathon.  I dropped 2 min/mile off my time from 6 months previous and then set a 5KPR the next day.  Two weeks of mild rest later, I am ready to start serious  running again.  This weekend – Warrior Dash MI and a 5.5 mile training run.  Should be fun.

Race Recap: The Coach Kelly Races

Why run one race in Michigan when you can run two?! Because my siblings and I are all a little crazy (well, me, mostly) about running, we decided to run a second race the day after our big Volkslaufe event. We searched some of our favorite race sites and came up with the Coach Kelly Races. I knew nothing about the event, only that there was a 5k that my brother had signed me up to run.

The Coach Kelly Races are named after St. Louis cross country coach Steve Kelly and the race was started in 2006 with a 5k. The race is now an annual tradition in St. Louis, Michigan and is held July 4th weekend. This year was the 9th running of the 5k. The races also feature a 10k and a kids’ mile.

Race morning, my siblings and I headed to St. Louis, a tiny town in the middle of Michigan. The weather was perfect – 55 degrees and sunny.

Coach Kelly Races

It was a super low key event. There wasn’t a line for packet pick up, and packet pick up was hosted by the race director, his wife, and his young daughter. We got a really nice, bright green technical race shirt. I was impressed by the quality of the shirt and will actually wear it again. Most people seemed to know one another. The race start and finish were at the tiny town square. With time to spare, we warmed up, waited around, and watched the kids’ mile (adorable!). We lined up at the start of the 5k with some serious runners, some runners who looked like they were there for fun, and a large group of walkers. The course was perfect small town Michigan. It was well marked and staffed by plenty of volunteers. The course went over a bridge, along a small river, and through quiet neighborhoods. A quick tour past a school and we were back on Main Street and headed for the finish line. The course was hillier than I expected for the area, meaning it had one little tiny hill, but a great 5k course.

Coach Kelly 5k Elevation

At the finish line, there was professional timing, complete with all the amenities typical of a much larger race, including chip timing, a big clock, and a well-marked finish area. Runners were treated to Powerade, cookies, banana, and granola bars. Runners gathered for the results and awaited the last place finisher, an amazing older man who was a true inspiration. Though he wasn’t moving fast, he completed the whole 5k with a cane and a pronounced limp. Everyone cheered as he crossed the finish line.

Coach Kelly 5k last place

When the results were read, we were all thrilled to find out that my brother and sister-in-law placed in their age groups!

Coach Kelly Races 5k

With a small field, and fairly fast times for a local race, both of them had raced well. Overall, the Coach Kelly Races was a great event. I was impressed with the attention to detail, the organization, and the overall high quality of the event. The races had the perks of a big city race, but without all the hassle. The small town atmosphere was charming and the course was great. I would definitely run the Coach Kelly Races again.

Pure Michigan Running

Over the Fourth of July, I headed to my home state, Michigan, for a quick visit. While in town, I couldn’t resist a few races. First up was the Volkslaufe. Volkslaufe (German for “the people’s race” is one of my favorite Fourth of July traditions. What started as a small, hometown race has grown over the years. This year, the race was featured in Runners World Magazine. What I love about the Volkslaufe is that, despite its growth, it hasn’t lost the hometown charm. For example, a giant tractor greeted runners at packet pick up, held in a local event hall.

Volkslaufe packet pick up

My siblings and I were able to easily pick up our packets without waiting in line, and quickly made our way through the tiny expo. The Volkslaufe includes 4 races, a 20k, 10k, 5k, and 2k children’s race. The races are all held on July 4th every year.

This year I chose the 20k, with a course that winds through some of the best Michigan farmland. The weather was perfect, about 75 degrees and sunny. I had on my Fourth of July best, and was ready to run with my sister-in-law (who raced her way to a HUGE PR, by the way).

Volkslaufe

Runners exit town almost immediately and head out past corn fields, soybean fields, and pretty much every other crop Michigan has to offer. The views are stunning and the farmhouses are well-maintained. I loved running through the countryside. The breeze was blowing, the birds were chirping, and the course was smooth. The course began to loop back towards town, over a gorgeous old bridge and along a short dirt road. About 10 miles into the 20k, the course heads back in towards town and through lovely, mature neighborhoods. Spectators were few and far between, but those that were out were enthusiastic. Running behind the classic restaurant, Zehnder’s, the course geared up for its big finish. The last mile or so is run along the Cass River, over a classic, wooden covered bridge, and into Heritage Park. The course is one of my favorites and this year was no exception. The weather was perfect, the course was pretty, and the small-town hospitality was in full effect. It was a great day for a run!

Volkslaufe 20k Elevation

Volkslaufe 20k Elevation

Race Recap: Worcester Running Festival

My running mom came to my house for my birthday. It was a great week, and we decided the best way to finish the week was with a half marathon. After doing a little research, we found the Worcester Running Festival. I communicated with the race director and determined that walkers were welcome and ensured that mom and I could finish well within the time cut off. We signed up and were looking forward to the opportunity to do a half marathon in a new area.

Race morning we got an early start to head up to Worcester. We were using the map provided by the race organizers and got to Worcester easily. Once we got to Worcester, finding parking was another story. We randomly drove around the city. The parking map didn’t include addresses for the parking lots, so we couldn’t GPS the parking lots and the map wasn’t to scale, so it was very difficult to find the parking. Add to that the massive construction zone around the race start area, closed streets, and streets with different names than the map and it was chaos. Luckily, we drove past a parking garage. We pulled in and didn’t care that we would have to pay. We had been driving for 20 minutes and hadn’t managed to find any of the free lots suggested by the organizers. Our parking garage was just feet from the race start, so it seemed like a perfect parking spot.

Wrocester Finish Line

We headed to the race start area to pick up our packets and use the bathrooms (it was a long drive). Upon arriving, we saw that the porta potty line was already ridiculously long. We were there more than an hour before race start – the volunteers were still setting up the finish line – but the line for the porta potty was wrapped around the block. There were way too few potties for the number of people. The line got long and stayed long.

Wrocester bathroom line

After waiting about a half hour, it was nearly time for the race to start. We hustled to the start to get in line. At start time, the bathroom line was still around the block. Nothing happened. Five minutes after the start, someone announced that the race would be starting in five more minutes. Ten minutes later, nothing had happened. Finally, 15 minutes after the scheduled start, announcements began. The race got underway about 20 minutes late. It wasn’t terrible considering that the temperature was good and the sun was shining, but I would have been irritated had I been warmed up and planning to race.

The race course exited Worcester proper pretty quickly and entered an area of neighborhoods with historic homes. It was lovely. The course had some rolling hills and was generally shady and quiet.

Photo credit: Cynthia T

Photo credit: Cynthia T

There were a number of walkers and we were in good company at the back of the pack. The course wound through neighborhoods and past several interesting parts of Worcester. I had not heard the most flattering things about Worcester, so I was pleasantly surprised. Mom and I enjoyed seeing the homes and parks. The volunteers were supportive and cheered wildly when we passed. After the neighborhoods, the course went out into the far reaches of the city and took a T up and down what looked like a minor highway. Though the scenery wasn’t particularly interesting, the road was mostly flat and passed a nice reservoir. We headed back into the neighborhoods, heading toward race finish. Back in town, the course went through the main part of Worcester. This was the Worcester I had heard about. Trash blew around our feet. Broken glass littered the sidewalk and houses had broken porches, bars on the windows, and long grass. Several individuals were drinking from paper bags while sitting on the streets. We drew comments from a few such individuals and hurried along. There was a lot of traffic on the main road, so we were eager for a turn off the street. It finally came, and we headed into the deserted business area. Soon, the finish line was upon us. It was well marked and the finish line announcers were upbeat and fun.

Worcester Running Festival Elevation

Worcester Running Festival Elevation

We next headed over to the main square for some food and water. The water was warm and the food selection was less than appetizing – pizza that had been sitting out for hours and warm yogurt. We passed on the food, took our water, and headed for home.

Mom had raced well and the real disappointment came when results were posted. She wasn’t listed in the results. According to the results, she didn’t cross the finish line or the start line. I immediately emailed the timing company and provided the verification – mom was in the start line video crossing the start right next to me, wearing her number, and in the finish line photos right next to me. Three days later I got an email back that said the problem I reported had been corrected. Mom still wasn’t in the results. I emailed again, and emailed the race organizers. I haven’t heard back and mom still isn’t listed in the results.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this race. The race itself was ok – the course was well-marked and the volunteers were nice. Unfortunately, the course wasn’t pretty. The start wasn’t well organized, amenities were lacking. The shirt was hideous, and medal a bit on the cheap side. And, there was nothing edible at the finish line. It wasn’t the best. I’m glad mom and I had fun together, but I won’t be back.

Beat the Heat!

As I write this post, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the mercury is climbing. It’s humid, hot, and I’m running tonight. In a futile effort to stay cool, I’ve collected some of the best hot weather running wisdom.

1. Modify your runs. First, and most importantly, modify your runs and make adjustments to accommodate the heat. Don’t expect blazing fast times on boiling hot days. Save speed work for cooler days, and cut back on your pace when running in the heat. Consider modifying your training plan to run fewer miles at slower paces for the duration of a heat wave. Be patient and allow yourself to adapt slowly to the heat.

2. Mix it up. Take your runs inside. In the worst heat, consider running on a treadmill or indoor track. Runners World magazines’ online resources include some great suggestions for excellent treadmill workouts, perfect for the hottest of days. Taking speed work inside in hot months ensures that you’re training well, and safely. Consider including more cross training with swimming, surfing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and cycling. Pool running is a great option for those with handy pool access.

3. Think shade. When the weather’s hot, run your runs in the shade and at the coolest times you can manage. Run early in the morning when the weather is the coolest, or in the evening when breezes are more likely to come up. Run on shaded paths or in neighborhood with trees. Consider plotting a route that takes you past shops or big box stores so you can duck in for a little air conditioning – or bail on the run entirely. Run on the grass or on a trail if you can.

4. Chill out. If you’re planning to run in the heat, take precautions. Wear sunglasses and sunscreen. Wear loose fitting clothing made of wicking material, and as little of it as is reasonable. Wear a hat or visor to keep sun off your face. Some evidence suggests that cooling the extremities before and during hot runs can help, so consider wetting your head, carrying a wet cloth, or even putting ice in your clothes. It’s crazy, but it works. Some runners also swear by drinking an ice cold drink just before the run.

5. Carry water. Hydrate early and often with water and, if necessary, an electrolyte replacement product. Consider your individual hydration needs and plan accordingly. Not sure how much you need to drink? A quick consultation of google will tell you everything you need to know about how to hydrate and what to avoid.

6. Consider your non-running activities carefully. Alcohol, antihistamines, and antidepressants can all have a dehydrating effect. Using them regularly, or before a run, can put you at greater risk of heat-realted illness due to dehydration. Talk with your doctor about how to take your medication, and stay safe in the heat.

Finally, protect yourself. Know the signs of heat-related illnesses and take steps to prevent problems before they start. Here are some of the basic heat-realted illnesses, including their signs and symptoms. As always, consult with your medical professional with regard to heat safety.

Heat cramps:

When dehydration leads to an electrolyte imbalance, large muscles cramp. Restore balance with good hydration and stay well hydrating during runs.

Hyponatremia:

When excessive water intake dilutes blood-sodium levels, headache, disorientation, muscle twitching can result. Emergency medical treatment is necessary. To prevent problems with hyponatremia, don’t drink more than about 32 ounces per hour and consider a sports drink over water. Talk with your medical professional about your hydration needs.

Heat exhaustion;

Dehydration can lead to an electrolyte imbalance that results in a core body temperature of 102° to 104°F. This causes headache, fatigue, profuse sweating, nausea, and clammy skin. Restore balance with good hydration and stay well hydrated during runs. Slowly cool down by applying cool water the the head and neck, seek the shade and get out of the heat.

Heat stroke:

Heat stoke occurs when exertion and dehydration prevent your body from being able to regulate core temperature. Core body temperature can exceed 104° or more. Heat stroke is usually accompanied by headache, nausea, vomiting, rapid pulse and disorientation. Seek emergency medical treatment immediately if heat stroke is suspected. Emergency personnel will cool and rehydrate the individual safely. While waiting for help, get out of the heat and cease activity.

Stay cool, my running friends.

Race Recap: Runners World Heartbreak Hill Half Festival

Mom and I always do something fun for my birthday and this year was no exception. We decided to participate in the Runners World Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon Festival (HHHalf for short). We signed up ages ago, thinking that with Runners World magazine and DMSE as hosts, it would be a great weekend. Unfortunately, like many other back-of-the-pack athletes, we didn’t have the most wonderful experience.

The pre-race communication was excellent. Mom and I were sure we had all the details and were ready to go come race day. We had booked a nice hotel on the Charles River and decided to spend the whole weekend. We got to our hotel easily and from there navigated the few short miles to Boston College, where packet pick up was held. At the pickup, we easily found our numbers and headed to the bib and shirt pick up area. There, we encountered our first problem of the weekend. I was handed two shirts, a hat, socks, a bib, four safety pins, and a race information booklet. And no bag. We were told that the bags would be handed out at gear check in the morning. That was a fine strategy, but there was no way for me to carry my goodies. Had I known, I would have brought something larger than my purse. Luckily, my hat made a handy bag and I shoved everything in as best I could. Later review of the race information booklet would note that for gear check I should use the bag I was given during packet pick up. Hmmm. We made our way around the expo, but didn’t spend much time there thanks to a tuna vendor. Both mom and I can’t stand to be around fish and the tuna smell was wafting around. We made our way to one of the suggested dinner locations – Lee’s Burgers. It was delightful.

Newton burgers

Lee’s is a tiny cafe with all the burger basics. Mom and I enjoyed our burgers, walked around Newton a bit, and headed back to the hotel for an early bed time.

Bright and early Saturday morning, mom and I prepared for the 5k. We would have the 10k later that day. We knew that we would pay for parking, but we didn’t know that there would be no re-admittance. That meant that if we wanted to stay for any speakers or other fun events, we had to wait on campus all day, without food. While we had wanted to see the speakers, that didn’t seem like fun, so we parked and planning to head back to the car after racing was over for the day. Parking was close to the race start, and we made our way to the start and got lined up. The race was mass-start, but people generally seemed to have lined up well and it went smoothly. The 5k course was well marked and wound around a nice little lake. The hills were small and the views were lovely, so we were happy. As soon as the 5k was over, we grabbed a water and bagel (no yogurt for us and the bananas were gone) and lined back up for the 10k. The 10k was a big disappointment. Mom was planning to do her first race with hills. Being from Florida, she has only ever raced flat courses. The 10k had a posted cutoff of 15 minute miles – no problem for mom. I had inquired early in the registration process about the 15 minute miles time cut off and was told that there would be a mass start and 15 minute miles counted from the gun. The printed material also noted that the 15 minutes would be counted from the gun. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a mass start. There was a wave start and the 15 minutes was counted from the start of the first wave, not the last. We started 11 minutes after the gun, effectively making the cut off 12 minute miles – and we weren’t the last wave. We were shocked. There was no way mom could do 12 minute miles with the hills. It was disappointing and unexpected. We are very careful about the races we choose and this one, given its advertised openness to back of the packers seemed like a good option. Soon enough, we were asked to move on to the sidewalk. That was fine, but what really bothered me was that the race officials were cleaning up. There wasn’t much assistance at water stops and all the signs were either gone or being removed. The course wasn’t well marked – luckily it’s pretty easy to go out and back on Commerce Avenue.

HHHalf 10k Elevation

HHHalf 10k Elevation

The course had the famous hills and was an enjoyable course. I liked that much of it was on the shady path and I liked seeing the famous Newton scenery. Overall, it was a great race – just one detail that impacted our enjoyment. At the end of the race, we got a water and a bagel. We were offered a bag of chips and a yogurt, but took neither. Both of us were hot and hungry, so we went to a local restaurant for lunch. Not wanting to pay to park again, we went back to the hotel to rest.

The next day, I ran in the HHHalf half marathon and mom cheered. I was in the midst of a major allergy attack and had taken a massive quantity of allergy medicine, so I wasn’t the happiest of runners. I felt lethargic and hot. And, that whole bit about allergy medicine plus running equals heart palpitations – totally true. Luckily, I found a nice lady from Kentucky, who I ran with most of the race. The course headed out into Newton, through some lovely neighborhoods, and up several of the famous Newton hills. When I signed up what I hadn’t thought about was that I would go OUT via the hills AND back via the hills. It was crazy hilly! It was pretty hot, so I ran a conservative pace and had a great time. I chatted with folks around me and enjoyed the camaraderie of the group of runners. It was a fun race.

HHHalf Elevation

As a long time runner, the joy of seeing all the famous Boston Marathon landmarks. I enjoyed the race and found the course well-marked and the volunteers mostly helpful. At the end, I was once again treated to a bagel, water, chips, and yogurt. As hungry as I usually am after a long run, I headed straight for BoLoco Burritos. I had seen their restaurant and recognized it from Ragnar, so we treated ourselves to a huge burrito and headed home.

All in all, it was a fun weekend. As far as the races, they were less wonderful than expected, but still a great experience.

HHHalf