Doyle's 5 Miler Race Recap & Photos!

The second Sunday of April and the Doyle's 5 miler is always a welcome sign that spring is here. The race starts late enough that runners can get a good night's sleep, and the weather is suddenly sunny and 60 degrees, leaving the unprepared runner with their first tan lines of the season (or sunburn in some cases).

This year's race was no different. Adding to the enjoyment of the day was the first time presence of an FHR tent at the race and our friend Paul Gennaro winning the day in 26:00 mins flat! It was a great day to be a Forest Hills Runner!

Paul bringing it home!

Paul bringing it home!

Doug's Finishing Kick!

Doug's Finishing Kick!

Marc Almonds, breezing by and definitely not walking!

Marc Almonds, breezing by and definitely not walking!

Meg all smiles!

Meg all smiles!

Heidi looking cool!

Heidi looking cool!

Ryan getting a PR!

Ryan getting a PR!

Amy on her tip toes!

Amy on her tip toes!

Jeff with both feet off the ground!

Jeff with both feet off the ground!

Mic drop.

Mic drop.

Party time!

Party time!

What a classy crew!

What a classy crew!

Posted on April 10, 2017 .

What's to love about track workouts?

By Kelly Stolzmann, FHR track regular and bad ass marathoning-mom of two

I found a love of running later in life, so I initially didn’t have the experience, coaching, or knowledge to realize the benefits of a track workout. My only personal experience on a track was when I competed in the 400 meter relay race at my 5th grade Sports Day.  I was put in the fourth position, the last runner to bring the baton to the finish line and score a big win for Wilson Elementary.  Alas, I dropped the baton and shattered my team’s chance for gold.  Needless to say, track was not for me (or so I thought). 

Fast forward to my 30’s when I decided to give running a try.  As a mom to two young boys I was looking for a way to be physically active that was low cost and flexible with respect to my schedule. After running consistently for a few months I began to set goals and sign up for local races. An obvious goal was to improve my race time.  My husband, a marathoner and lifelong runner, convinced me to give track workouts a try as a way to improve my race performance and overall fitness.  He even found a local running group for me (FHR, surprise!).  Initially, I was intimidated to show up to a track workout.  I pushed away thoughts like “But I’m not a *real* runner”, “I haven’t been on a track since 5th grade”, “What if I’m the slowest runner?” and “When will I ever need to sprint, anyway?” and attended my first FHR track workout last spring.  Now, it’s a part of my weekly running schedule. 

In addition to improvements in speed, track workouts also*:

  • teach your lungs to process more oxygen more efficiently. Not only will you be faster, but you’ll be able to run harder for longer.
  • are a great way to burn fat. Your metabolism stays higher for longer, so you keep burning fat long after you are finished running.
  • are just one component in creating a well-rounded running program. Even if a runner does not care about getting faster, you can become more efficient and complete a terrific workout in less time.
  • give you a chance to think about and work on your form as well as pushing yourself to your upper limits. Even just one speed work-out a week can help you increase your pace and running efficiency.

(*source: http://www.runwithjill.com/2010/07/06/benefits-of-track-workouts/)

FHR track workouts are semi-structured which is great for newbies.  A guided group warm-up on the track is followed by a choice of two options for a workout (one geared toward shorter distances and another for longer distances), or you can create your own custom workout.  The FHR team leaders always set some guidelines for goal pace and are able to answer questions and give reminders about track etiquette or customizing your workout based on ability or interest.  It’s fun and motivating to be working hard along other runners, and to give out and receive motivation and encouragement.  And lest you think track workouts would be the same thing week after week, running around a big circle like mice on a wheel, FHR keeps things interesting by varying the suggested pace and distances for each practice and sometimes moving practice away from the track to the Arboretum or Jamaicaway for hill repeats. 

FHR track workouts hold me accountable and motivate me to show up and work hard.  I was hesitant to participate in a group track workout since I didn’t want to feel like other runners were judging my pace or effort.  FHR track workouts are great because everyone is supportive; even if you decide to jog around the track while the workout is happening, that’s ok!  No one cares if you do 2 reps or 10, as long as you try and have fun.  The workouts are relatively short but you will leave the track feeling like you accomplished a lot, and (bonus!) you will see improvements in your race times.  I ran my first marathon this fall and I credit FHR track practice with improving my overall fitness and allowing me to give an extra boost when I wanted to kick up the pace in the last few miles of the race.  I encourage all runners (of all abilities) to deviate from the safety of their regular routine and give FHR track practice a try.  At the workouts you will meet a group of friendly people to push you and help you attain your running goals, whatever they may be.  I hope to see you there!  

FHR track practice meets every Thursday at 7pm at Stony Brook or meet us at 7:15 at Downs Field in Brookline. Starting soon for the winter we will be at the Reggie Lewis Track- follow us on Facebook for workout info.

Posted on December 1, 2016 .

What happens when things don’t go according to plan…

By Katie Merrill, FHR member since 2013, sometimes successful amateur racer

If you’ve been running or racing long enough, you’re bound to have a race where things don’t exactly go according to plan. You train for weeks, months, sometimes the better part of a year, only to get to race day and have things fall apart. This can be heartbreaking, especially if you’ve sacrificed other important things in your life, like traveling, social engagements, or time with family and friends. And the longer and more detailed the training was for the race, the more difficult it can be to swallow the idea that it just isn’t going to happen like you hoped. Knowing so many runners, and running many races myself, I feel like I’ve seen and experienced such great race moments that I stay hopeful that any race has the potential to be my best yet. Likewise however, I’ve seen a lot of careful plans fall apart. My most recent experience with this kind of race disappointment was when I decided to race a half marathon for a PR in early June this year (because, you know, June has such excellent racing weather). I trained for 2 ½ months, doing workouts at race pace and speed work on the track to be ready for the big day. When the day of the half marathon finally arrived I got to mile 6.5 at my goal pace before completely falling apart in the heat and feeling like I was going to vomit. For the next 5 miles I walked up every uphill, and shuffled the down hills until I finally was able to jog to the finish line. For the next week I was in a funk and declared things like “I don’t think I really like running that much.” This isn’t just tied to running however. I once did a triathlon and at the start of the swim I got kicked in the side, felt myself starting to have a panic attack, rolled over onto my back, and hyperventilated while back stroking the entire 400 meters to shore. My time was still decent but as I hobbled through the transition area and tried to stop shaking I thought, “Why have I been practicing my freestyle for 6 months if I was just going to float to shore!?”

Trying to get oxygen and keep moving...

Trying to get oxygen and keep moving...

I know I am not alone in these experiences. I know this because I have had to watch other people go through these moments as well. In 2015, while cheering for the Boston Marathon at Mile 23, I watched a young woman step into a little pothole, twist her ankle, fall, and not get back up. A stretcher and ambulance ride were the last few miles of her race. In Burlington, VT this past Memorial Day weekend 2016, the temperature got so warm during the Vermont City Marathon that officials decided to actually stop the race. Months of training turned into a really long walk for many runners in 90 degree heat. This past September, a slow train cut through a marathon course in Allentown, PA, stopping runners for almost ten minutes, and no doubt crushing many people’s dreams of hitting their needed times for a BQ. During this year’s Western States 100, Jim Walmsley, who was on pace to not only win but also beat the course record, missed a turn and veered off course at mile 93, sending him miles off course. He ended up finishing, but he did so four hours later than he anticipated, losing the record and the win.

Knowing all this, and knowing things can go spectacularly wrong, why do we keep signing up for the chance to fail? And maybe even more importantly, how do we pull ourselves together during a race to finish (if we can), when we know that it is not going to be the race we hoped for and might really, really suck through the end?

I’m not sure there are definite answers for these questions, and I know it probably varies from person to person. I know for me personally, the chance that things might not work out makes the moments when all the pieces do come together all the more magical. If I knew ahead of time that I was going to get my first Boston Qualifier at Baystate in 2015, it would have made the emotions I felt at the finish line a little less euphoric. The fact that I knew there was a real chance I could fail made my success that much sweeter. Additionally, I think it is who we are in our failures, how we respond, and the lessons we learn, that helps define us. I’m not always proud of myself after a race goes terribly. (As my fiancé can tell you, I whined like a brat after that June half marathon; not something I am proud of.) The struggle within you can be real and it can be ugly. But we learn so much about ourselves, and hopefully we learn that we are resilient and strong, and that taking chances is how we grow. Running is such a great metaphor for life, and (trying to avoid being too cliché) my hope is that I can apply the skills I learn as a runner to other areas of my life as well; from my career, to relationships, to other personal battles I may encounter.

One last thought I had while biking home the other day, thinking about running and success vs. failures, came to me as I passed a young man in a wheel chair. We are so lucky to be able to run, to move through space at whatever speed our body allows, for as long as we can keep putting one foot in front of the other. I know I will keep signing up for races, knowing there is a chance it could go terribly wrong, for the thrill of testing myself to see if I can be the resilient and strong person I hope to be.

Racing: the agony and the ecstasy!

Racing: the agony and the ecstasy!

Posted on October 20, 2016 .

LOCO Half/ Full Marathon: Course Preview

By Alicia Green Gennaro, FHR Monday Night Run Leader and Marathon Enthusiast

Early morning last Saturday Pete, Nissa, Thom, and I piled into our cars and drove the 90 minutes up to New Market, NH. Pete and I have been tossing around the idea of signing up for the race and decided to go out to the course a take a look around.

The LOCO Marathon is a small (capped at aprox. 400 runners) local race. It was started 3 years ago, and typically takes place a week or so after Baystate. This is ideal for those of us running the BAA Half who want to fit in another fall race. Also, it's super low key, and full of the friendliest New England runners!

The course starts at the Rockingham Ballroom, and consists of 1 or 2 13.1 mile loops (for the half and full, respectively). The course is mostly flat, with a few rolling hills and finishes on 3 miles of rail trail.

Course map!

Course map!

After spraying ourselves down with bug spray, we parked next to the Ballroom and ventured out together, water bottles in hand. Although it was a good 5 degrees cooler than in Boston temperatures were still in the mid-80s at 8:00, and we were thankful for the shade on the sides of the road afforded by the tree lined streets.

The first 3 miles were straight on Ash Swamp Road, and allowed us to ease into the run and find a rhythm. We then took a few easy turns through New Hampshire neighborhoods, appreciating the shade, farms, and spread out houses we passed. Pete had brilliantly printed out the distances and turns and kept them in plastic in his water bottle for easy access, and we navigated our way through the first 10 miles without problem (Thom did not fare so well...but that's another post!).

The last 3 miles of the loop are the race's trademark, and are just lovely to run. We cut from the roads onto the rail trail, a dry, runnable, packed dirt and gravel trail. The first mile and a half of the trail is slightly uphill, but I didn't even notice- the trees and trail and excellent conversation were more than enough to distract me from the fact that this was the furthest I'd run in months. The last mile and a half of the loop are slightly downhill. We ‘decided’ to run it in hard and see if we felt the trail slow us down at all; based on Pete's last mile, any fears about the rail trail slowing us down were allayed.

While I still haven't officially registered for the race, after our preview run it's highly likely I will. This course is flat, fast, and a great option for a fall race!

The Loco Marathon is Sunday, October 23, 2016 at 8am. According to the race website 32% of the field earns a Boston Qualifying time. Plus, there is a feast at the end with Smuttynose Beer :)

Posted on August 10, 2016 .

The Vermont City Marathon: a change of pace

Written by Pete Cannon, Wednesday Night run leader and badass finisher of the 2016 Vermont City Marathon

It was pretty easy to tell we were out of the Boston area by the sunset mountain vista at the I-89 rest area just before the Vermont border. If the views weren’t enough to signal the distance, the rest stop guide’s cheery greeting at 8PM on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend confirmed that we weren’t in Massachusetts anymore. Memorial Day weekend I took the trip — along with lots of other FHR’ers — to the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington.

FHR before the race...already starting to sweat.

FHR before the race...already starting to sweat.

 

Spring races come with hopes of pleasant racing weather, but also carry the promise of preceding training miles in the chilly, dark days of winter. Training through January & February requires a few teaspoons of grit, but a few weeks in you learn to adapt and running in those conditions becomes routine. By April the weather begins to turn the page, albeit unpredictably. As anyone who ran or spectated the Boston Marathon this year can attest, sometimes that means summer comes on fast and unpredictably. It was only fitting that after getting to watch runners in the heat in Boston, my own race was looking to be in the same unseasonably warm weather.

By the time everyone entered the starting corrals downtown at 7:45AM, the sun was out, temperature was hovering in the 70’s, and while not quite sticky, the air was moist just a block away from Lake Champlain; we were expecting mid-high 80’s later in the day, with thunderstorms rolling in for the afternoon. New England runners dream of race days overcast & some thirty degrees cooler. Coming into this weather after running for months in the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s & 50’s meant making some changes. After all, if a much slower than expected time is bad, DNF’ing (Did Not Finish) your first marathon is worse.

Those first miles always feel easy, but on the first out-and-back loop of miles 4-9, I was already watching the first runners of the day drop out on the side of the road from some combination of an overly-eager start, heat, humidity, and a punishing stretch of road completely exposed in the morning sun. Seeing the first drops of the day was a solid reminder on my race day mantra: don’t be concerned about where somebody else is at, pay attention to you & your own race plan.

Go Pete! (photo credit: Esteban Carrizosa)

Go Pete! (photo credit: Esteban Carrizosa)

Ten miles in everything was moving steady, but it was easy to tell that it was warming into the mid-80’s. Rather than gutting out the same pace until my own mental “middle of the race” (the long, steep climb north on Battery Street at Mile 16) and inevitably blowing up in the heat, it was time to change plans again. If it was uncomfortably warm now, I knew there’d be a toll to pay in another ten miles. I pulled the pace back a little bit, and hit the official halfway point in a park, with a solid crowd from the two person relay exchange. I knew some friends on the same pace had slowed a few miles prior, and saw some other FHR friends at the exchange. I never expected to take a stop to chat mid-race, but on a day like this, why not?

Some days it’s okay to call race effort a wash — after all, 95% of running a race is putting in the training work, and if everything goes right, race day is ceremonial. After a few minutes stop, I was rejoined by friends, and gutted through the rest of the day together at an easy run pace. Sometimes it was running at pace, sometimes an easy run, sometimes we walked; but even if the day isn’t agreeable, you can always put one foot ahead and keep moving forward. At the end of the day, I’m okay with the heat, so long as it always ends with Heady Topper on a patio!

Posted on June 6, 2016 .

Running To the Beat

By Alina Gatowski, Thursday night track leader and superstar

Disclaimer: Alina submitted this blog when it was actually still dark and cold at 5pm. Now that Daylight Savings has come, I know I am feeling a bit more eager to be outside. However, it' still full of great tips for compiling your playlist if you choose to run with music, especially for those who have a marathon coming up or lots of long runs they plan to do this summer!

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that running on a treadmill sucks. But, facing impassable sidewalks and fleeting daylight, it can be the only option for an honest tempo run or interval workout. The key to sanity in this situation is a solid playlist -the right music can turn an indeterminately long slog into a triumph, a conquering synchrony of you and the beat.

This is a photo from the internet, but look how happy this woman is? Must be jamming out to some good tunes.

This is a photo from the internet, but look how happy this woman is? Must be jamming out to some good tunes.

 

Taste in workout music differs (wildly, if the tunes bleeding from headphones at the gym are any indication), but there are a few general guidelines for crafting a good workout playlist:

1)      Pick music you like: this may seem obvious, and it probably is. But it’s easy to find a premade playlist that’s ok, harder to create one that’s just right for you. Your playlist should have those songs that make you stop what you are doing, strain to hear, and say “hey! I like this song.” It helps if you know all the words, know instinctively when the opening chords change, the beat drops, and the vocals begin. The songs you can’t help but sing out loud to in public? Those are good. But, all a song really needs is to pass the toe-tap test. As you listen, pay attention - do you find yourself tapping your toes, bopping your head, lost in the song? If so, great! Add it to the list.

a.       When in doubt, throw it back: If you are staring at an empty playlist, waiting for inspiration to strike, take a trip down memory lane. The hit track off the first CD you every owned? The song you and your friends made up a dance to in middle school? The opener to the first mix you ever burned? All go on the list. Let the wave of nostalgia propel you through your workout.

b.      Everyone likes Taylor Swift: shame is a concept that does not exist when it comes to workout music. The pop-industrial complex manufactures music to be catchy, driving, upbeat – perfect for a workout. Don’t fight it.

2)      Order matters:  remember PEMDAS? Well, order is just as important to your playlist as it is to dear Aunt Sally.  You want slower songs for the warm-up, faster for the workout. The energy should build as yours flags, even if your pace stays the same. Keep it chill to start - longer songs you can zone in and out of - getting progressively shorter, bigger, and louder towards the end. Always have an arsenal of emergency music at the back, for when things get desperate - your secret-weapon, anguish-vanquishing songs.

3)      More is better: sometimes, you will get really, really bored. Your mind will refuse to settle, transfixed on the little red numbers moving ever-so-slowly on the display. The songs that killed it last week will barely register. When things get dire, sometimes the only solution is to keep flipping – try to hold on for a minute or two, then on to the next. For this to work, you need a lot of songs – it’s not the most efficient, but sometimes it’s the only way.

And that’s it, really, the secret to a good workout playlist! Here’s a recent one of mine, to get you started:

Super cool playlist!
 

Posted on March 30, 2016 .

Fuel for the Fire

It’s pretty widely understood that healthy eating makes you feel good. As a runner, this is especially important, since food is the fuel that gets you through your long run, or helps speed up your recovery post-run. As an athlete, putting healthy food in your “tank” is critical- you wouldn’t put crude oil in your car, so probably don’t do it to your body either. I am no expert (note: not a nutritionist) but I have learned some things along the way through my years of running (ex: tomato soup before an 8 miler = not ideal). Most of what I have learned has come from the fact that a) I love to eat, b) I love to run, c) I love to make food.

In thinking about how to fuel your tank, it’s important to remember that all of the macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat) are necessary for strong bodies, and quality counts. Eating high quality fats (like those in nuts or avocado) is much better for your body than eating low quality fats (like those in French fries). Having easily digestable carbs 30 minutes to an hour before a run (like a banana) is good if you need a little boost before your run. Eating a mix of carbohydrates and protein within an hour after a run is important to restock your glycogen stores and help rebuild muscle (this is why some people swear by chocolate milk post-run...also its delicious).

The most important thing to remember is that each person’s body is different, so it’s good to figure out what works for you and your body. If you are looking for ideas, below are some tasty recipes from your fellow runners. Run, eat, and feel good!

Run Alive Bowl (inspired by Life Alive in Cambridge) makes 2 bowls

Base: cup Quinoa-Rice (half quinoa, half brown rice, or any other whole grain)

Toppers:

3 cups shredded Kale

1 large Sweet potato, diced

2 Eggs (can also use tempeh or tofu…really any protein)

Nutritional Yeast

Hot sauce (Sriracha or Cholula are my favorites)

THE GOOD STUFF Sauce:

1 clove garlic

1 inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled

2 tbsp tahini

1 tsp tamari (or soy sauce)

1 tsp lemon juice

1-2 tbsp water

Cook quinoa-rice (I do this in a rice cooker with a little sea salt, but you can do it on the stove top, just follow package instructions).

While rice is cooking, lightly oil a baking sheet, and roast sweet potato chunks for 25 minutes on 375F or until fork tender. Add kale and a little salt and cook 10 minutes more.

While potatoes and rice are cooking, make sauce. In a food processor, add ginger and garlic and finely chop. Add tahini, tamari, lemon juice, and a few dashes of black pepper. Puree. Add 1 tbsp. of water to thin out. Puree. If still too thick, add one more tbsp. of water. Sauce should be thick, but like a sauce, not a paste.

Heat a non-stick skillet and cook two eggs according to liking (I like over-easy).

Assemble bowl. Place one cup of cooked quinoa-rice in the bottom of a medium sized bowl. Top with kale and sweet potatoes. Top that with the over-easy egg. On top of all that, drizzle a healthy dose of the Good Stuff sauce. Then sprinkle with nutritional yeast and some hot sauce. Devour.

This is a free-form recipe that you can really adapt to your personal favorites or whatever you have in the fridge. Other great toppers are beets, beet greens, Brussels sprouts, chickpeas, sprouted legumes, mushrooms, eggplant, snap peas…the possibilities are really endless!

FALAFEL WAFFLES (By our Track Co-Leader Alina!)

I won’t claim these are at all like the real thing - without deep frying, falafel just aren’t falafel-y.  Having been instilled with a healthy fear of grease fires, and lacking a kitchen with proper ventilation, I had given up on making them myself. Then, I saw a recipe online for falafel waffles. If my house had a mascot (other than the bat that briefly lived in our attic), it would be our waffle iron. My roommates are masters of the art, and these were a huge success, novelty aside - if you think of them more as extra-crispy spiced chickpea burgers, excellently shaped to drizzle with tahini and pile salad on top of, you will not be disappointed.

Patience and a generous greasing of the waffle iron between waffles was key to our success. We based off of a recipe on the blog My New Roots, but adapted heavily:

  • 2 cups dried chickpeas (I started from dry but you could probably use canned, since you end up pureeing everything. just make sure to drain and dry them well)

  • 2 cloves garlic (I just used one, this is to taste)

  • onion - I didn’t use any and missed the flavor. I’d dice ¼ of a cup or so, or use some onion powder

  • A couple (generous) handfuls coarsely chopped parsley - you will be pureeing, so you can use the stems, too

  • A couple (generous) handfuls coarsely chopped cilantro - same as the parsely. I used extra cilantro b/c I like it

  • A generous amount of  ground cumin - original calls for 1.5 T, I eyeballed it, just don’t skimp

  • A generous amount ground coriander - original calls for 2t, same as cumin

  • turmeric, za’atar, Aleppo pepper - additions we enjoyed

  • salt to taste

  • fresh black pepper

  • zest of 1 lemon

  • juice from the lemon you zested

  • olive oil

  • flour (up to ~½ cup)

  • water (up to ~¼ cup)

THE NIGHT BEFORE: Put your chickpeas in a bowl of water to soak. Use a larger bowl and more water than you’d guess, because they soak up a ton. If when you go to use, your chickpeas are dry and/or smell funky, just bring them to a boil with some vinegar, then drain and continue.

DAY OF: Using a magic bullet, blender, or food processor (but NOT an immersion blender, which is what we did, and which was a royal pain) puree everything through the lemon juice with a healthy glug or two of olive oil. You can make it as smooth as you want;  ours were chunky - we got tired of using the immersion blender - and they were delicious.

Plug in your waffle iron and let it heat up - let it sit for a while even after it beeps (or whatever it does to let you know it’s ready). You want it hot.

Transfer to a bowl and mix in a small amount of flour (start with 1/3ish of a cup) - you don’t want the mixture to be wet or batter-like, but not super-stiff either. Think veggie burger mixture texture, or cookie dough. If it’s too wet, add more flour, and if it’s too dry, add water. You have the opportunity to fine-tune between waffling, so don’t worry too much.

Once your waffle iron is hot, give it a good greasing (paper towel with olive oil, spray, whatever), and spoon some of the falafel mixture on the middle. Use less than you think you need - it spreads. Then, let the waffle iron do it’s thing.

Smoothie Recipes!

All of these smoothies are single serving, so if you want to make more, just double the batch. All you have to do is throw all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth(ie). For harder ingredients (like the carrot or ginger) just put those in first and blend a bit to make sure they get chopped up. If you prefer soy milk or soy protein, you can swap those out too for my suggestions.

Hemp Banana Berry

½ banana

½ c frozen berries

2 tbsp. hemp protein powder

½ tbsp. raw organic cocoa

½ tbsp. ground flax

1 c almond milk

Carrot Cake

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

½ banana

2/3 c almond milk

1tsp honey

½ tbsp. flax

1 tsp. Fresh ginger

Dash of Cinnamon

1 tsp. coconut oil

½ scoop vanilla whey

Raisins and walnuts for mix-ins

Marc’s Favorite Mango Tango

2/3 c almond milk

½ mango, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

¼ tsp. Turmeric

1 tsp. Fresh ginger

1 tsp. Lemon juice

Coffee Buzz

¼ cup cold leftover coffee

½ c almond milk

½ banana

1 tbsp. oats

1 date

1 scoop protein

½ tbsp. raw cocoa powder

RUN. EAT. REPEAT.


Posted on February 17, 2016 .

On Training Together...

By Rosemary Kelley, FHR member since 2012, training partner and bad ass racer

Some suggest running can be an isolating sport. I would challenge that and say that it is a sport where community is built, connections are made, and friends turn to family.

I have been a part of Forest Hills Runners for a little over 3 years. My friends have journeyed with me through multiple training cycles, seasons of fitness, graduate school requiring 5AM runs, across the river moves, significant life changes, and so much more.   What constantly pops into my head is the notion that these friends are truly members of my family in Boston.

Living in Somerville, I am now a little father than before.  No longer can I dart out my door and sprint across the field to Stoneybrook.  Rather, I must take my trusty car and drive 30 minutes to then sprint up the SW Corridor and dart across the field to Stoneybrook.  Some things will never change.

While logistically foolish in rush hour traffic, I have kept returning for the last year and a half.  Why? I return because the people and place are ingrained in my heart.  I can breathe easier knowing I can always find my people at Downes field, sprinting up the J-Way, and meandering running in the neighborhood.

This last year has been filled with change and the dust is still settling.  But my training family is still there, ready to lace up with a few hour's notice.  The people are what compel me to drive in traffic, muttering kind words at Boston drivers, and down Gu-chomps in preparation for a workout or long run.

As the summer sweaty runs transition to fall crunching leaves to wintery hill repeats, to signs of spring and summer again, there is no one I would rather mark the miles with.  In the last year, I have chopped many minutes off my times, set new goals, traveled to new trails, dedicated hills to people and things, competed for reasons beyond myself, and explored new cities. None of these strides would be possible without the crew of which I speak.

So, as fall fades and winter sets in, do not forget the significance of your Forest Hills family.  They will challenge you, cheer you on, ground you and always help you return back to yourself. In a world where we forget that we belong to each other, FHR reminds us of our connection to one another.

Our miles are run faster, joys celebrated and burdens made lighter when shared with others.  Go find your training family.

- We are always looking for personal stories from fellow runners, race recaps, training tips, recipes, and more! If you are interested in becoming a blog contributor, please contact Katie Merrill at merrill.kathryn@gmail.com for more information. And remember, as Owen says, Be Amazing! -

Posted on November 12, 2015 .

The Baystate Marathon 2015 Race Recap!

By Katie Merrill, FHR member since 2013, who swore she'd never run another marathon...

My alarm sounded at 5am. I didn’t need it though, since I'd already been up for 45 minutes. Thinking about the day ahead as I lay in bed in the darkness, I wondered what the next few hours would bring? I was excited and scared, but ready to finally do this. 

My decision to run another marathon was made (as all good decisions are) around a table loaded with food and friends, after a few adult beverages. It took a few weeks later to actually click the “submit” button on the online registration form. I was committed, for better or worse.

As I began thinking about my marathon training plan, I couldn’t help but recall two years earlier when I ran the Providence Marathon. I ran Providence in May 2013, and it had been a struggle. During training I was plagued with IT band issues and I even saw a physical therapist for my sore hip that wouldn’t go away. On race day, around mile 17, I got a pain in my knee that progressed into all out throbbing by mile 21, and I was forced to hobble the last few miles in. I finished, but I didn’t enjoy it. I thought my marathon-ing days were over.

Grimacing in pain.

Grimacing in pain.

I wanted this time to be different. I wanted to use the knowledge I had gained from FHR over the past two years, and train as smart as I could. Most importantly, I really wanted to enjoy it and finish feeling strong.

I began researching training plans and testing the waters with some long runs. For all my previous marathons I had only done one 20 miler, and then tapered. This time I wanted to be really comfortable with 20 milers, so I scheduled myself three of them, staged throughout my training. Because life includes other things than running, I also took into account my need for a summer vacation and a week at work that I knew would be tough. I connected with some great running buddies (hello Marc and Rosie!) who were willing to do some of my longer runs with me.  Finally, I fortified my injury prevention plan. I started foam rolling after every run and on my lunch breaks at work. I took ice baths after my really long runs, and got a lacrosse ball to roll my hamstrings out, which I kept in my desk at work. I went swimming for cross training, and worked on strengthening my core. I also started switching up my sneakers- one pair for speed, one pair for long runs, and one pair for recovery runs, so that I never wore one pair out. Most importantly I listened to my body, pushed when I knew I could handle it, and eased off the gas when I needed some recovery- and I tried to get a ton of sleep.

On race morning I was nervous, but ready to finally put my training to the test. I felt good physically, but my confidence was shaky from four weeks of gradual tapering.  My goal was to do a 3:40 (really a 3:39:59). This would be a half hour PR. But was my last long run too long ago? Would I still have my endurance? I would soon find out.

Our car pool pulled into downtown Lowell, and I recognized the streets well. It was my third time there in 2 weeks (once for my last training run, and once to get my bib). We pulled up to Tsongas Arena, and the whole area was alive with activity. To my surprise and delight, we were able to park in a parking garage right next to the starting area. For the next half hour I kept goofily smiling in my nervous excitement. I took care of my last minute prep- contact lenses in, hair pulled back, shoe laces tied- and walked down to the corrals.

Like many races, the start was a bit of a blur. Luckily I noticed I was in the corral for the half marathon, not the marathon, just in time to squeeze through the bars into the correct chute.  Looking around in the crowd I couldn’t see the promised pacers anywhere. Then, far off in the distance ahead of me, I saw the 4:00 sign waving high. "Crap," I thought. "Too late to squeeze by fellow racers to get up there, so I am going to have to just be strategic in the first mile."

The gun went off AND…. I waited. I was behind so many people it took about 30 seconds at least to even get to the starting line. But then I was running, and smiling, and darting a little bit. I heard one woman say to her friend “Don’t waste too much energy moving around people, it will thin out!” I took it as if she was speaking to me and decided to set myself up to take advantage of the first tangent, which would turn in my favor. By the time my watch beeped for the second mile, I had caught the 3:45 pacer. I decided to hang out there for a moment to see how things felt. I knew I could definitely push harder, but I was worried about using too much energy at the start since I would surely need it later. Gradually, I drifted away from the 3:45 pacer, and suddenly up ahead I saw the 3:35 pacer, with a large group of women about my age. “Okay,” I told myself. “Stick here, see how it feels and hangout with these people for a bit.” A few shifts in the group due to the road barriers brought me to the front of the pack, and then in front of the pacer. About this time at mile 3 I ran past the first group of Forest Hills Runners cheering. I was so excited to see them, and smiling like an idiot. After I passed them I realized I had also dropped the 3:35 group, and was a good 100ft in front of them. Fine I thought. Put some money in the bank as long as you are still feeling good, and then later when you slow down it will be okay.  For the next few miles I hung in that place. Every time I wanted to speed up I told myself to relax and enjoy the ride. If its easy now, great, enjoy it, it will be hard later. I stopped at mile 6 to use the porta potty, ran back out, and resumed my place in front of the 3:35 pacer. I got a bit of a side cramp, but took some swigs from the Skratch in my handheld bottle and told myself I would run it out as long as I kept steady in my pace, and I did.

As planned, at mile 8 I took my first gel. Things were pretty enjoyable up to this point, and as I reached the turnaround point (the downhill bridge!) I kept thinking “Wow, this is going well. I am so glad I tapered!”

When I got to mile 9 or so I caught up to a group of people moving very methodically. Two women were in Somerville Road Runners shirts and I thought, "Oh I bet they will be good to run with for a bit." I over heard one say something about a 3:32 and decided that as long as this felt comfortable I would run with them for a little bit. I had built up some space between me and the 3:35 pacer which would mean that I could drop back a bit if I needed to and still be in the 3:30’s. At about mile 11 I saw the awesome FHR cheering squad, including Marc who jumped in with me for a bit. He refilled my handheld and we chatted a little. It was at this time that I finally acknowledged to the group of women at the front that they had in fact been pacing me for about three miles. They laughed and said something to the effect of “Oh yea stay with us! We’re all going to get 3:32 together!” I laughed along but thought “Suuure, until I drop way back at mile 18 or something.” Together we completed the first loop of the course and turned back to complete the second.

Me with the magical pack.

Me with the magical pack.

Over the next few miles, in a weird way, I felt like I was part of something. There were about 8 of us, and we all moved together. We each took turns taking the lead, we moved through water stops together, chatting along. When we hit mile 13.1 someone yelled “it’s time to start counting down miles instead of up!” We all got a little excited about that. I took my next gel at mile 15 and slugged some water from my handheld bottle.

At mile 17 or so at a water stop everyone slowed to take some water, but because I had my handheld I just kept moving right through thinking the rest would catch up. By mile 19 however, I realized it was just me, and the 3:32 group had dropped a bit behind. I caught up to another woman, who looked at me (somewhat frantically) and asked “What are you going for?!” I responded 3:40, but that I thought that maybe wasn’t a good goal anymore. She laughed and pulled ahead of me.

I knew Marc was meeting me at mile 20, and I was so excited to meet up with him. He handed me my last gel (planned for mile 21) and encouraged me that I was doing so well and to keep at it. He talked and I listened and we kept moving.

Marc, carrying my water and way overdressed.

Marc, carrying my water and way overdressed.

At mile 22 I did some math. I had been doing very even splits all hovering around 8 minute miles. I still felt good, and only had a little fatigue creeping into my left quad. I realized that at this point, with only 4.2 miles left, I had a really good shot of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I whispered “Marc, I think I might qualify for Boston.”

His response- “Don’t worry about that, just keep doing what your doing, just keep going!”

Mile 23 and 24 I felt myself start to slow a bit. I was finally feeling the tired legs I had expected to feel 10 miles before. But I knew I was so close to the end, and the excitement from the runners around me was tangible. Then, from behind, the two women in Somerville shirts from the magical pack earlier caught up to me. One of them was pacing the other, bringing her into the finish. Like before, I tagged along, dropping my pace back down again. We moved forward to mile 25, and before I knew it I had one mile left.

Thumbs Up Lowell!

Thumbs Up Lowell!

Though I had been running almost three and half hours, I wanted to stay in this moment and remember it. In the next mile I would finish a marathon in a time that would qualify me for Boston. I never, ever thought that was something I would do in my lifetime. Most importantly, I had enjoyed the hell out of myself and had met some incredible people along the way.

At this point, I waved, I fist pumped to the crowd, I gave a thumbs up to the race photographer. Marc was cheering and I was turning the corner to the finish line.  The FHR cheer squad was screaming and I was so excited to see them. I looked up as I was coming in the home stretch and saw the time clock. An uncontrollable goofy smile spread across my face. I gave the last of my finishing kick and BAM! I was being handed water bottle and a metal blanket was draped across my shoulders. I couldn’t believe it. Marc was hugging me and laughing with excitement. A volunteer joked that I looked too good and didn’t push enough as I danced through the finishing area. A woman behind me (just as excited) grabbed me and hugged me and told me I had paced her the last 5 miles. I found my friends from before and shook their hands.

Me looking up as the woman behind me is about to attack-hug me.

Me looking up as the woman behind me is about to attack-hug me.

I got my medal and went over to the timer to see my official time- 3:31:15!!!!

Shock. Tears. Dancing.

Shock. Tears. Dancing.

The rest is a blur of photos, Thom telling me to eat, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and wanting to hug everyone. I called my parents who were so excited. I also learned our friend Rob had won the race with an excellent execution of the course (go Rob!).

Later that day, as I sat with good friends around some pizza and adult beverages, I thought about a similar day months before when I had boldly said I would run another marathon. I never imagined it would go this well- my training and my race. In hindsight though, I know a few things definitely contributed to my success. Proper fueling in training and during my race prevented the dreaded Bonk. I took three gels, as opposed to the one and a half taken in my previous marathons. I also drank Skratch and Nuun throughout the week leading up to race day and during the race. I treated recovery and foam rolling as part of training. Additionally, many of my long runs I deliberately designed to be a very similar route to the racecourse, and then I practiced holding a steady pace. Finally, having FHR as a support system provided built-in training. Tempo Tuesday and Track Thursday allowed me to work on speed, not just distance. The Baystate course is such a favorable one (flat, crowd support, amazing volunteers) it really allows your training to shine.

I think the most important thing I learned was not to limit myself. I took the leap, clicked submit, and challenged myself to train smart and enjoy the ride.

Can’t wait for Baystate 2016!

Posted on October 27, 2015 .

from tri-curious to tri-crazy: my first 70.3 ironman

Original post & additional photos at davidthetornado.com

 

In August of 2013 I decided that my goal for the proceeding year would be to complete a triathlon; specifically, I wanted to race the Boston Triathlon--a sprint distance tri (.5 mile swim, 9 mile ride, 4.4 mile run). There was only one problem--I couldn't swim a complete lap in a pool without needing a significant pause. (Significant pause defined in the tri-world as the amount of time it would take to make a sandwich.)

With fall and winter ahead, I had a full year to prepare. My first order of business was to find a swim coach to help me swim more literal laps and make less figurative sandwiches. I spent the next winter months in the pool working on drills and form.

As Summer approached, and at the sage advice of my new-found fellow triathletes, it was time to experience my first taste of open water swimming. This was absolutely fucking terrifying. But I had a lot of help and in 2014 successfully completed three sprints and one olympic distance triathlon (.9 mile swim, 26.2 mile ride, 10k run). While at the time I wasn't completely prepared for the .9 mile swim, I somehow managed to hang onto enough kayaks to get through it. As Summer waned and Autumn waxed, road races supplanted the tri season. I raced a few half marathons and ran the Philadelphia Marathon in November.

During the holiday season my running club, Forest Hills Runners, hosted an end of year party to celebrate our amazing contemporaries year of accomplishments. One of the activities at the get-together included a "goal board" with the sole purpose of having members concretize their New Year's aspirations with a black felt-tip Sharpie. Many people wrote down PR times or other race-related hopes such as staying healthy, etc.. It was at this precise moment, and with very little forethought, that I decided my goal would be a 70.3 Ironman (or half-Ironman) -- a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile ride followed by a half-marathon. Maybe it was the whisky-laced eggnog talking, but I figured if I wrote down my goal publicly there would be no backing out. So, on January 4th of 2015 I registered for Timberman and promptly started to train.

There was only one problem—I couldn’t swim a complete lap in a pool without needing a significant pause. (Significant pause defined in the tri-world as the amount of time it would take to make a sandwich.)

At this point I knew my bike and swim were both in need of major improvement--especially the bike considering I had done little to no riding the preceding year. I found a great tri-specific swim coach and also found a stationary bike-trainer on Craigslist (that I casually hauled onto a Southend bus during a blizzard). Actually, come to think of it... traipsing through several feet of snow with one of the most impossible-to-carry bike contraptions known to mankind is when I kind of knew that I was no longer tri-curious. I had definitely fallen onto the spectrum of tri-crazy.

I was swimming so much during the harsh Boston winter that I started getting together with other tri-newbies and I even organized some weekly group workouts. Not that I was personally very helpful to anyone, but it was fun to pass along some of the drills I had learned. I think my longest swim workout was 3,800 yards. Considering where I started the previous year this was kind of huge for me. Way fewer sandwiches.

As spring sprung and Boston's 108.6 inch glacier melted, the frequency of track workouts, tempo runs and road races ramped up. I PR'ed my 5k and 10k times and made significant gains in speed with each warming day. I was regularly on my bike trainer and endured brick workouts several times a week. (Brick workout: riding (usually) immediately followed by running.) I was also making frequent early morning trips to Walden Pond.

Walden is a special place and the training grounds for many o' triathlete. At 5:30 in the morning the pond is as still as a glass of milk. When I go there I often take my GoPro and snap photos of my experience. Some of the pictures turn out exceptionally well--there's one photo in particular I took of myself where I appear to be towering fifty feet over Walden pond. In some ways I wanted to channel that photo into my race... I wanted to be this giant, swiftly swimming the choppy waters of Lake Winnipesaukee in just five strokes.

And this is when I started to get nervous about my 70.3. I still couldn't shake the feeling of OWS anxiety (open water swimming anxiety). Despite the previous year's successes and all of work I had done in the pool, I still wasn't feeling confident in open water. My swims at Walden often became extended pond laps, closely hugging the shore. Yes, it was technically open water, but in some ways I felt like I was cheating. My Walden selfies were fraudulent.

I signed up for a few sprint triathlons ahead of my race to get into race mode and to remember what triathlon race-day feels like, e.g. the pre-swim nerves, the peeing of self, the transitions. My last sprint of 2014 was so effortless and anxiety-free I couldn't have imagined that these sprints would give me any problems--but unfortunately I couldn't have been more wrong.

Three weeks out I raced my first sprint tri of the year and it was dreadful. Despite almost bailing on the swim and getting lost on a poorly marked run course I placed third in my age group. (My first Tri AG award.) I was so upset with myself for seemingly have gone backwards. Fuck! I've done this! What is my fucking problem!? My half Ironman was only three weeks away and I was severely starting to doubt my perspicacity for the swim. I didn't doubt my physical ability, but the mental collapse of the swim left me extremely discouraged.

Two weeks out I responded to a list-serve email regarding previewing the full Timberman bike and run course hosted by a tri team based in Boston. I'm really, really glad I did this. I explained to the tri-team that I was interested, but that my bike average was in the 16-18mph range. I was assured this pace was perfectly fine--apparently, it was not. I was actually deserted in the middle of nowhere with only Siri as my guide. Seeing as it was an out-and-back course it wasn't too difficult to find my way back, but the Boston-based tri team (who shall go nameless) didn't even wait for me to return to run the course with them even though I was, at most, five minutes behind... what the hell! (I've since unsubscribed to said group's list-serve.)

Words can not explain the frustration and disappointment I was feeling, not to mention the added discouragement I was projecting onto my big race. Throw in tapering... I was a huge, hot mess.

I went into the course preview thinking I would really struggle, but ultimately the long rides, hill repeats and brick work-outs paid off. Unlike the sprint, it was an encouraging day and despite the crazy elevation and abandonment I finished in 3:19 with enough gas in the tank to run one full loop of the course at a sub-8 pace.

With almost a week out I had begun the throes of tapering with exception to one last Sprint tri. If you've ever known anyone training for a big race, tapering is super scary. Going from constant training to very minimal training leaves the mind with plenty of free time to think about all sorts of crazy shit, mainly, "Did I train enough?! What if I fail? What if I can't swim 1.2 miles? What if I panic and drown? Did I bike enough?" Anytime I thought about my upcoming race my heart rate would double, my stomach would crumple and I could almost summon a tear.

Exactly one week before the race I returned to the Boston Tri, the gateway drug race that got me hooked on triathadam triathazine triathadone. I was hoping to rebound from the sprint from a few weeks earlier but it went just as poorly. The swim was slower than the previous year, the bike was slightly faster and the run was a lot faster. And yet somehow I did not PR the course--that's how bad the swim was. I still couldn't get out of my own head. I couldn't relax in the water. Words can not explain the frustration and disappointment I was feeling, not to mention the added discouragement I was projecting onto my big race. Throw in tapering... I was a huge, hot mess.

Lucky for me, I know some pretty swell people. My friend and tri-mentor, Gretchen, was also racing Timberman. We met for drinks several days before the race and commiserated about our mutual angst, specifically my swim and her nagging ankle. I extemporaneously told Gretchen that my new strategy was going to be to "just show up". I had the power to race or not race. On race morning I could stand on the beach and say, "You know what? Fuck this." Or, I could choose to get in the water. Once in the water I had the power to raise my hand and be pulled into a boat at any time. Or, I could choose to keep swimming.

"One buoy at a time, just get to the next buoy and then the next," Gretchen Added.

Just get to the next buoy may be the best metaphor for life I have ever come across. Don't look back at how far away the shore is. Don't look at how far away the finish line is. Just focus on the next buoy ahead. When I started thinking about the race in this way, I think something in my brain clicked.

A few days before Timberman I started making lists and checking them twice. I am not of the OCD sort, but I probably checked my tri-bag 50 times. Trisuit? Check. Wetsuit? Check. Goggles? Check. I carefully monitored my hydration and nutrition. I prepared my pre-race evening meal (quinoa, chicken, sweet potato and avocados). I deep stretched on my sport club's rooftop deck. I spent some time in the steam room. I did my best to stay loose, relaxed and rested.

The day before my race we headed out to Gunstock Mountain Lodge to pick up my credentials (and swag). Hundreds of people were milling around under a blistering sun checking out the tri-booths, weird tri-food and various tri-wares. My wife overheard a small boy groan, "But I thought Ironman was going to be here." It was hot, and with surprisingly little water to be had, we stuck around only long enough to hear the announcer plead for athletes to park at Gunstock Mountain Lodge and use the shuttle to the swim start in the morning. (Sage advice.)

Just get to the next buoy may be the best metaphor for life I have ever come across. Don’t look back at how far away the shore is. Don’t look at how far away the finish line is. Just focus on the next buoy ahead. When I started thinking about the race in this way, I think something in my brain clicked.

Next we were off to the Timberman transition area at Ellacoya State Park in Gilford, New Hampshire for the mandatory bike check. By the way, checking one's bike the day before a race is simply luxurious. The designated space was tight, but with thousands of triathletes it's bound to be close quarters. I racked my bike (a.k.a. Pegasus, or Pegs for short) and reveled in the fact that in just 24 hours I would hopefully be an Ironman, er... half an Ironman. Demi-man? That sounds about right.

It is worth noting that three out of four weekends in a row I was able to stay at my cousin's lake house in Belmont, New Hampshire, for which I am forever grateful. Having one less set of logistics to manage made training and racing much less stressful. We spent the afternoon on my cousin's boat and relaxed a little in the sun just before a massive thunderstorm approached. Ominous clouds came in and I couldn't help feel it was somewhat of an omen. But then again, my nom de plume is David the Tornado... so... maybe it was good luck. Once back on terra firma I heated up my weird runner food, set my alarm for 5:00AM and was in bed by 8:30PM.

The morning of the race I woke up a solid ten minutes before my alarm sounded and hopped out of bed. Oddly, I slept well and felt relaxed and well-rested. I made coffee and standard pre-race breakfast food (peanut butter on a gluten free bagel) followed by my ritual of mixing Skratch (hydration supplement) and filling my water bottles. In the early darkness of morning we were off to Gilford.

We parked at Gunstock Mountain Lodge where busses were idling and ready to drive athletes to the transition area. (Between this year's weddings and triathlons, I can't remember a Summer where I have been on so many busses. Ever.) Our school bus driver was perky and friendly; however, the ride was brutal. Bumpy, twisting roads exacerbated every bit of nervousness that was beginning to fester in my bladder.

I hauled my tri-bag to the body marking area and then proceeded to transition where I set up for my day ahead. Out of all the races I've had in my short tenure as an amateur athlete--this is one race where I did not shit my guts out for extended periods of time. I'm not saying I didn't poop. I did. But it was just normal morning poop. I know this sounds gross and weird, but poop and pee is a natural ordeal that's just part of the race and so in my estimation it's worth mentioning. Nutrition is such a huge part of racing long distances, making sure all "things" are working is just another cog in the triathlon-wheel that needs attention.

The time came to exit transition and head towards the beach start. I met up with my wife amongst the crowds of athletes and spectators. The first thing my spouse said to me was, "Have you seen the swim course?," to which I replied, "No, why?" Oh boy... I had to severely squint to see some semblance of a swim marker off in the distance. "Just get to the next buoy," I reminded myself.

One thing I appreciated about Timberman was that they sequestered a practice/warm-up area in the water that athletes could hang out in until their wave was ready to commence. (I always like to take advantage of getting into the water pre-race as it gets me acclimated to the water temperature so there are no surprises.)

Eventually it was my time to line up with my fellow white domed brethren.

I have no recollection of what I was thinking about at this point. I almost feel like my mind just went completely blank. One moment I was staring at my pink painted toenails, toes massaging the chilled doughy sand of Lake Winnipesaukee, and the next the horn went off and my face was in the water.

Despite taking one kick to the face, all of the fears and anxiety I thought I would experience didn't even enter my mind. It was the most peaceful, tranquil, relaxed, transcendent moment of my life. I'm wondering if I only burned 40 calories because the swim was effortless, albeit slow and pokey. I almost felt like I was dreaming or taking a little nap before heading to the bike portion of the race. I just dreamily swam to the next buoy. And then the next. The water was at times choppy and cause for a bit of water intake... but it was honestly fucking magical. Isn't that crazy? Trust me, it's crazy.

My 1.2 mile swim took 45 minutes, but the photo of me coming out of the water is priceless. (Compared to the photo of me coming out of the water at my very first OD last year.) I feel like I've officially earned my Walden selfies.

Emerging from the Timberman swim I was ecstatic. Oh, and wetsuit strippers, another huge luxury at Ironman. I had never been stripped out of my wetsuit before, but did as others were doing and laid down on my back. I swear, my wetsuit came off Magic Mike style as a volunteer had me down to my trisuit in seconds. I carried my wetsuit to my bike and decided to take some time to fuel up and ready for my long bike trek ahead.

The first half of my bike went well with solid momentum conquering the initial climbs. Having ridden the course I knew what to expect which was a really huge advantage. I was prepared, but I now know there's just a ton I have yet to learn. I need to trust my bike more. (Sorry Pegs.) I'm continually passing athletes on flats and ascents, but get routinely blazed on the downhills because I guess am a wuss. 31mph is kind of my max comfort zone.

This is where things got weird on the ride: at miles 42-43 I could start to feel my legs cramp. Specifically, my quads just above my knees were pulsing on the upstroke. I only took one salt tab before heading out and probably needed more on hand. It was near 92°F and the ride was almost exclusively under the beat-down of the sun. At mile 45 my right leg was freezing up. I pulled to the side and clicked out of my pedal. My entire right leg involuntarily kicked straight out as if I was flexing every muscle possible in my lower extremities. I let out a scream as a woman passed by, "Are you okkkkkkaaaaaayyy," her voice fading as her concern was in complete contradiction with her velocity.

I clicked out of my other pedal, and not knowing what to do, I started to punch my leg to get the muscle to release. Maybe not the smartest thing to do? I have no idea, but it actually worked. I was at least 11 miles out and I didn't know if I would even be able to finish the race. I chugged what little gatorade I had left from one of the bottle exchanges and decided to power through. Honestly, what choice did I have? I clicked back into Pegs and headed back to T2. This was by far the most challenging part of the race--long, steep unyielding inclines for the last six miles. Somehow, I managed. It's funny to look back now because I was actually afraid to click out of my bike at transition for fear my legs would seize up a second time. (They didn't.)

My T2 was much swifter. I downed plenty of salt tabs, hydrated and within a few minutes was on the run course. Ah, my strong suit. I want to say half the field was walking or sporting a slow jog/shuffle. Even after the swim and bike the run felt effortless. I crushed the half-marathon portion. (Relatively speaking.) Maybe it sounds shitty, but there's something richly rewarding about passing people on the run that for three hours on the bike barked, "on your left!"

The run course was amazing. First of all, the views of lake Winnipesaukee are gorgeous. Secondly, the local crowd support was ridiculous. I've never seen so much run course support, sanctioned or otherwise. Locals had hoses, beer stops and in one case a full breakfast bar replete with pancakes and breakfast sausage. Obviously I didn't stop--but by my second loop it was obvious someone was indulging as the pancake stack was significantly shorter.

At the finish line I had plenty of gas left to sprint it out... apt punctuation to the story I had written over the past eight months. And that my friends was my first 70.3.

My swim was 45 minutes, my bike was 3:25... throw in some transitions, and a 1:45 half marathon and I ended up with a 6:07 finish for my very first half Ironman. I really think if I can learn to ride a bike and speed up my swim I should be able to get my time shaved down considerably. And hey, I'm also brand new to the sport.

While it's incontrovertible that triathlon is a solo endurance sport, there is no possible way it can be done alone. So many times I have wanted to give up, or felt utterly hopeless only to be picked up by my spouse, my friends, my family and fellow athletes. So many times I've doubted my training and abilities only to be encouraged and brought back down to Earth. I feel eternally thankful for my family and friends that helped make this race possible.

I also feel extremely blessed and lucky to have been able to train and stay 100% healthy during my entire tri season. This was without a doubt one of my life's biggest achievements--so maybe I earned that selfie after all.

And yes, I've registered for my next race. And yes, it's a full Ironman. KMD Copenhagen IM -- August 2016. I guess to put this all into perspective my first 5k was just three years ago.

In the words of Troy McClure -- "You've come a long way, baby!"

Posted on September 18, 2015 and filed under Race Report.

Get out your singlets and body glide: Fall Racing Season Is Upon Us!

The days are getting cooler and the mornings are getting darker, but have no fear- FALL RACING IS HERE!

While the end of summer might seem sad to some folks (and who can blame them, it was a hard winter) as runners we know that cooler days signal a time for race courses lined with the colors of changing leaves and the opportunity for some big PR’s. If you haven’t signed up for any races yet, you should know that placing a race (or two) on your fall calendar is a great way to celebrate the season (post-race pumpkin beer!) and the cooler temperatures and lower humidity after a New England summer make the experience all the more enjoyable.

Check out some of the local races coming up this fall, and get ready to be amazing!

Race Cancer Summer Series 5k #5- September 10th at 6pm, Chestnut Hill Reservoir http://racecancer.org/

Run to the Rock (5k, 10k, 13.1 miles) – September 12th at 9am, Plymouth, MA http://runtotherock.webs.com/

Middlesex Fells Trail Running Festival (7 & 3 mile options) – September 13th at 8am, Medford, MA http://www.vertraceseries.com/fellsfest/

Fall Classic 5k- September 20th at 9:30am, Cambridge, MA http://classic5k.com/fall-classic

Cambridge 5k Oktoberfest (5th Anniversary!)- October 4th at 9:30am, Cambridge, MA http://cambridge5k.com/oktoberfest/

Smuttynose Rockfest (5k & Half Marathon)- October 4th at 8am, Hampton, MA http://www.hamptonrockfest.com/

BAA Half Marathon (13.1 miles) – October 11th at 8am, Jamaica Plain, MA http://www.baa.org/races/half-marathon.aspx (note, the race is sold out, but come line the streets of JP to cheer your fellow FHRs!)

Mount Desert Island Marathon (Half & Relay options) October 18th at 8am, Bar Harbor, ME http://www.runmdi.org/

Bay State Half & Full Marathon (13.1 miles & 26.2 miles) – October 18th at 8am, Lowell, MA http://baystatemarathon.com/raceinfo/

Newburyport Half Marathon (13.1 miles)- October 25th at 10am, Newburyport, MA http://newburyporthalfmarathon.com/

Busa Bushwhack (5.3 & 10 mile options)- November 1st at 9am, Framingham, MA http://gfrcrun.org/bushwhack/bushwhack.htm

Philadelphia Marathon (8k, 13.1 mile & 26.2 mile options)- November 22nd, Philadelphia, PA http://philadelphiamarathon.com/races

And stay tuned for more information regarding the Franklin Park Turkey Trot, plus loads of December race options. Happy Racing!

Posted on September 2, 2015 .