Personal Bests

  • 04/07 Boston Marathon3:33:22
  • 10/08 Hartford Half Marathon 1:46:23
  • 09/06 New Haven Road Race 20K 1:36:47
  • 08/04 Deary 5-M Road Race - my 1st race ever 39:37
  • 11/06 VMG 5K 21:05
  • 07/06 Boombox Mile 6:12

Breaking The Tape

Upcoming Races 2010

Stay Tuned!

Long Awaited Review

In my previous post, I mentioned that I was testing out a new watch, tech4o’s Women’s Accelerator Trail Runner. For more details on the watch, and to view various models, go to tech40.

After calibrating the watch at the local track, I was unable to immediately test it out because I needed to consult the instructions on exactly how to reset the watch with the new calibration information.

At this point in my testing of the product, I was a little less than impressed. Not only are the instructions on the watch published in a 8-10 pt font which requires both reading glasses and a well-lit area when consulting them, but I found the instructions cumbersome to navigate through. In their effort to be helpful with a schematic drawing of how to navigate through the different screens, it only made things more confusing for me. However, in their defense, I hate following written instructions and I usually just try to intuitively press buttons until I reach the screen I need. I wasn’t able to easily follow their set-up which led to my frustration, and required me to use the instructions. It became a vicious circle.

Once I finally got through all the set-up, I was able to test it out on a measured greenway near my house. I was pleased to see that at the half-mile mark the watch read .492 miles. Most of the distance monitors – GPS and otherwise – have some margin of error and this watch fell within the 95-97% accuracy similar to the others.

The pedometer/mileage display screen was difficult for me to read, especially while I was actually still running. I had to stop and use the backlight in order to read the numbers. The buttons are on the small side, but I’ve been spoiled with the big display and big buttons on both the Nike and Garmin gadgets which I regularly use.

Again, I went back to the instructions to see if there was a way to switch the display so I could set it to display ‘miles’ rather than ’steps’ as the primary display. I wasn’t able to find a way to do it, but then again, I wasn’t thrilled with having to read through the instructions again, so I might have missed it. Since the watch is targeted to ‘runners’, I am baffled as to why the default setting isn’t set to miles in the first place. It does display the mileage, but it’s the secondary display at the top of the screen, which means that it’s very small. Not a watch for those of us with complicated vision issues.

I’m not sure I see the advantage to having this watch, especially with the other products out there that are in a similar price range. Could this be a useful product for a new runner? I suppose. But I’m not sure this would be my first choice. It’s a sleek looking watch and I appreciated the opportunity to test it out, but I suspect I will only use it as a time piece and possibly as a stop watch. I’ll stick to my Garmin or my Nike for distance monitoring.

More Gadgets and Gears

Being a celebrity has it’s perks. Over the past few years I’ve had the pleasure and opportunity to test out various products and post about them here. Fortune has smiled upon me once again, and thanks to tech4O, I am a recent recipient of a new running watch.

Specifically, this one:
This watch – the Women’s Accelerator Trail Runner – is similar to some of the other non-GPS products out there – this one works like a high-tech pedometer except without a foot pod. It will be interesting for me to compare this watch to my now-discontinued Nike SDM which works on similar technology and requires a foot pod.

I was able to use it right out of the box, with the time and date having been pre-programmed in for me. I wore it on one run so far, and it was comfortable enough that I didn’t even notice that I had it on. Compared to the Garmin, it felt like a feather on my wrist. Plus, it’s attractive enough to wear out in public, and doesn’t completely engulf my very tiny wrist.

Unfortunately, I am unable to comment on it’s performance at this time. The mileage was off considerably, by at least .50 miles. Upon further inspection of the rather detailed instructions for the watch, I learned that I might need to calibrate it to insure better monitoring of distances. Looks like a trip to the local track will need to be planned this weekend.

Stay tuned for my next adventure with this latest gadget!

Back to the Beginning

This past week has been filled with experiences that have brought me back to my humble beginnings.

As some of you have heard, I have signed up for a half Ironman distance race in June 2009. For the uninitiated, that means a 1.2 mile swim, then 56 miles on the bike, followed by 13.1 miles of running. Registering for this race was a lot like signing up for my first marathon: it’s something I know I can do, but it will require hard work, focus, a big learning curve and a little bit of crazy. (Oh, and a wet suit – anyone got one I can borrow?)

Yesterday, I ran the Hartford Half Marathon. I haven’t run this race, or even a half-marathon technically, since I started this crazy running addiction in 2003. The whole day was a little surreal for me – it felt strange to head to the race alone without my race crew, and to not run the full marathon. It was odd to be done so early in the day, and see so many people lining up for food and massages.

It felt odd to run the race alone, to have perfect weather, and to find myself smiling so much. Within the first mile of the race I heard one of April-Anne’s favorite song, just after I had parted ways with another wonderful friend who was running the marathon. Later, I thought of Michelle when I passed by the Parrothead’s rest stop, and of course, I thought of jeff whenever I high-fived someone. I got a little weepy when I read the back of one woman’s shirt that said “Running with my mom” when I realized that she was running in memory of her mom. And I nearly jumped out of my skin when my friend Fran screamed my name and ran out into the road to boost my spirits.

I savored every step of that race – the ones that felt good and the ones that didn’t – because these were my roots, this was where it all started, and I realized that running still has me captive.

To complete the weekend, I engaged in some active recovery and further root re-building by climbing on to my very neglected mountain bike to cover 20-miles on the local rail trail. As the autumn leaves swirled down and around, I smiled, knowing that I had reconnected to that part of me that has been buried too long under stress.

New beginnings from old roots; I’m ready.

Summer Moments, Remembered

As my summer wraps up, there are a few moments I want to savor, to hold on to, to keep in my back pocket for those cold days ahead. I thought I’d share a few with you here:

  • A sunny, summer Sunday morning, I pass by a corn field and the golden corn silks glisten in the light, like rows of little blonde-headed fairies.
  • Further down the same road, I pass my favorite little farm and the two cows are pressed against the stone wall, watching me as I pass. I pause to say ‘hello’ and we stand silently staring at each other. A week later, I am formally introduced to the cows – Harold and Kumar, with Spot the calf. They are the highlight of the organized bike ride in which I participate – not to mention to delicious molasses ‘energy bars’ that their owners share with the riders.
  • Each day as I run past the storm grates in the road, I hear the occassional ’sploosh’ of a frog, as it dives for cover from my imposing shadow.
  • Running down the paved greenway, I spot a cat coming towards me. Quickly, off to the side, there’s a flurry of activity as a family of turkeys scurry down the sloped side of the path. The cats curses my loud feet, and bounds away.
  • Mornings greet me with darkness. My headlamp catches some movement off to the side of the road. ‘Oh, a cat!’ Not quite – it has black and white fur, but it’s white striped back and bushy tale straight up in the air suggest that it’s not a cuddly feline at all, and not happy to see me. I move quickly past, waiting to exhale.
  • I sit in the warm sunshine on the damp grass and sip my all-time favorite cup of beer of the summer – the free beer post-race at the New Haven 20k. I swap stories and smiles with my running friends Bill, Missy and Jon and congratulate myself on meeting my simple goal of beating last year’s time. (Jon wrote a great race report.)
  • After three flat tires and 102 miles on my bike, I finish the ride under 6:00 hours with tired legs, salty skin and my cycling ‘family’ at my side.

This will be my second fall season without a marathon on the schedule, and based on my newly changed ‘career,’ it was a good decision. I’ll keep the miles up and may set my sights on a spring race instead. Or maybe something else entirely (she says mysteriously). Hope you all have warm summer memories to hold on to during the cold winter months!

Build a House that Lasts a Lifetime

Back in January, I received a wonderful email from a woman named Susan. She was writing to tell me that she had just started running and while looking for inspiration she had come across my blog. She made a comment in the email about wondering if she was “built” for the whole running thing.

In my response to her, I made the analogy that building a running life is just like building a house. We need to lay a good strong foundation, pick a design that works for for each of us individually, and make the framework solid. Then we can mix and match to suit our styles – change the wall color, change the flooring – whatever we want. Sometimes things break during the building process, and that’s ok…because as long as we tend to the leak before the roof caves in, we can still keep building. If we don’t tend to the leak, we may have to postpone the project longer than we wanted to or worse, start rebuilding from the ground up.

I have recently found myself strengthening my weakened foundation.

Over the past year, it was all I could do to maintain the rough framework of my running ‘house.’ At the end of May, I began to thicken the layers, slowly adding pieces back on. Twelve weeks in to the process, and I’m beginning to resemble the runner I used to know. I’ve still got lots of construction ahead of me, but I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and swing the hammer a little harder.

I hope you can take your time building *your* house and make your love affair with running last a lifetime. Be inspired by other ‘home owners’ – but don’t get caught in the trap of comparing yourself to others. You do what you can do, do what’s right for your ‘home’ and the rest will fall in to place.

Feelin’ Some Title Nine Love

Not sure exactly how Title Nine found me, but I have my suspicions. Even if I’m wrong about how they stumbled across my blog, I am flattered nonetheless. They dug deep, using the ‘Way Back’ machine to uncover one my first posts, and have featured it on their ‘Best of the Blogs’ Timeout with T9 page.

It’s interesting for me to read that post now, knowing that my journey has taken me so far (literally and figuratively) since I typed those words. I hope you can still find a nugget or two in there to entertain or inspire you.

The flashback post is even more poignant to me at this moment, as I almost feel like I am back at the beginning again. I’m trying to figure out what I want to tackle next, both in my athletic life and in my personal life, while also trying to determine exactly HOW to do all the things I want to do as I make the next leap of faith.

For now, I am just moving forward, one step, stroke or revolution at a time. Hope you are doing the same!

Running Dismount in Cape Cod

We were fortunate enough to be invited along on a family trip to Cape Cod in early July. The free lodging aside, we were excited about reconnecting with family, relaxing on the beach, and celebrating our 11-year wedding anniversary.

The in-laws rented the perfect house situated 1.25 miles away from the Bay and 3.50 miles away from the Atlantic. As an added bonus, the Cape Cod Rail Trail was accessible a half mile from the house.

I convinced Hubby to borrow my stepfather’s bike and join me for a ride on the flat, paved trail. He hadn’t been on a bike since he supported me during the Hartford Marathon in 2006 but he was willing to indulge me.

We set off from Orleans, heading towards Wellfleet. The ride itself was smooth and mostly uneventful, save for some saddle sores developing on Hubby’s posterior. The racing saddle he was trying to sit on, coupled with the thin foam chamois in his cycling shorts did not lend themselves to a cushy ride.

He was in quite a bit of pain at the end of the 20-mile ride, and seemed anxious to get off the bike. So anxious, in fact, that he attempted a ‘running dismount’ wherein the rider slows to a gentle coast, swings one leg over the bike and then in one deft motion, unclips the other foot and begins to run with the bike.

Having been trained to be a bicycle cop, Hubby was confident that he could still manage such a maneuver, even after almost 8 years of NOT being a bicycle cop. You can predict where this is headed…graceful, he was not. But dang it, it was funny as hell.

Other than his pride, his thigh and his thumb, he survived intact. He soothed his wounds with a few of these, and politely informed me that I would be riding alone the following day.

Luck of the Irish – A Race Report!

Luck of the Irish – A Race Report!

My favorite Florida runner is in Rhode Island for his annual vacation, and managed to talk me in to running the John J. Kelley 11.6 mile race in New London. By “talk me into” the race I mean that he mentioned he was considering running it to which I replied that I’d happily meet him there. Next thing I know, we’re agreeing on a meeting time, and I’m committed to running a race that I know is notorious for being a hot, humid one. But it starts and ends at the beach, and David would be there so how could I resist?

We found each other easily and fell into conversation like old, familiar friends. David is one of those people who can instantly put me at ease with his laid-back manner and friendly smile. For every question we asked each other, the conversation moved off into a million tangents, leaving some few initial conversations incomplete as we got more and more distracted. I could have talked to him for hours.

We went about our race-readiness routines and did our warm up. The warm-up helped us realize just how warm it already was, and we made our wardrobe adjustments. We found some other runner friends of mine as we neared the start and the energy level started to pick up a few notches.

As I toed the line, it felt odd to not have any real race goals, strategies or aspirations in mind. I really had no idea what I wanted to accomplish or how I wanted to tackle the race. I haven’t raced in almost a year and my training is still less than stable. Rather than rest the day before the race, I went out for a 32 mile bike ride. Part of me thought it would be cool to just hang with David for the whole race but that Other part of me really wanted to gauge my fitness level.

By the end of the first mile, I was feeling pretty good so I pulled away from David as we moved up one of the few noticeable hills on the route. As I caught up to Beth, my friend and former arch-nemesis, I settled comfortably into her pace and thought ‘Yeah, I can do this pace for the whole race’. When I looked down at my watch and realized we were doing 8:10’s, I was shocked but decided ‘What the heck? Let’s see what happens!’

A mile or two later, my friend started to fade in the heat, just a little. I stayed fairly consistent, and got a little nervous when I read the timer call out ‘41 minutes’ at the 5 mile mark. The heat and humidity were beginning to make themselves known and I started to doubt my ability to keep this up for another 6.6 miles. Then I thought ‘Well, maybe I’ll finally get to experience ‘blowing up’ at a race.’

Before I even hit the hill at mile 8, I felt my body begin to protest. The nagging side stitch I’d had from the start was really making itself known, and my quads started to feel heavy and tired. We were running along a main route out in full sun, dodging cars and dealing with sidewalks and curbs. I choked down a warm Gu, hoping for some energy. I walked a few times, trying to find relief and digging deep for some motivation. Mile 8 saw my slowest mile at 9:25 and my heart rate maxed at 187 beats per minute. I was suffering and it was my own fault. For a moment, I considered walking until David caught up with me and then finishing the race with him…but my curiosity got the best of me and I had to see what would happen next if I pushed forward.

I got the pace back up a little and just focused on finishing. I made small talk with other runners, walked through the water stops and ran through all the hoses. I kept dreaming of the cold ocean swirling against my legs. My stomach wouldn’t allow me to think of anything other than cold water to drink. All other foods and drinks were banned for the time being.

Finally the finish was in sight, and I gave the most pathetic finishing kick of my entire career. I got my fill of water, cheering for Beth, hobbled over to my car, changed shoes and made it back to the finish line in time to cheer for David. As we gathered our beach gear from the cars, David broke open the delicious bag of potato chips that he brought especially for me, knowing about my ‘chip’ addiction. The salty treat was just what I needed!

We wandered through the post-race area, then made our way down to the beach to dip our toes in the water. I wasn’t brave enough to go all the way in, as it felt too cold to me, but David didn’t hold back. I made sure to get my legs in far enough so my quad muscles could benefit from the cold water. When Beth found us, I went back out into the water with her, and thought that a whole-body dip might help to get rid of some of the stinkiness of my post-race clothes. It felt wonderful, once the initial shock turned to numbness.

Back on the towels, we relaxed in the fading sunshine, as the storm clouds began rolling in. As an added surprise to the day, Jank’s wife tracked us down and brightened us up even more with her smile. We’d heard that she might be there, so we loved the celebrity sighting.

Reluctantly we began to part ways – David was first to leave, then Beth and I walked out to our cars together. As I got closer to my car, I could see David just pulling out of the parking lot. When I got to my driver side door, he had attached the bag of chips there for me to enjoy on the ride home. I smiled and thought ‘What a great day!’

The story should end here. But it doesn’t.

As I fished my car key fob out of my pocket – the same key fob that I had in the pocket of my running shorts during the race…the shorts that I had worn out into the water…as I pressed the button to open the door – and watched as nothing happened, I felt my stomach sink. I had gotten the fob wet. It was useless. I couldn’t get into the car without setting off the alarm.

Now, normally there would be easy solutions to this predicament…but my car has never made things easy for me. See, my driver side door lock is broken, and the key does not work in the lock. Therefore, the door is always unlocked, even when the alarm is on. In order to disarm the alarm if the fob doesn’t work, you need to be able to lock-unlock the driver side door. If you can’t disarm the alarm, the car won’t start. To sum up: there was no way for me to drive my car, even though I had a key and the car was unlocked.

I spent the next 20 minutes taking the key fob apart, drying it out and trying it over and over. I just had to get the alarm to disarm ONCE. I didn’t want to open the door and set off my alarm until I had to, so I wandered around trying to find out if there was a dealership in the area (yes, but the service department would be closed). I borrowed a cell phone and tracked down a phone book to try to contact a dealer directly but then couldn’t get through. Brick walls at every turn.

I had a mini-meltdown in the middle of the snack bar and left my husband a tearful message.

Finally, I pulled myself together, went back to my car, warned the people near me that the alarm was about to go off and opened the door in order to retrieve my cell phone from the car. The people near me were so sympathetic and everyone wanted to help but no one quite knew what to do. One gentleman, Dennis from SNERRO (the race timing company), offered to drive me home…which was sorta on his way home but not really. As I tried to turn down his offer, he said with a shrug and a smile: ‘I don’t have anything else to do today!’

I called AAA to arrange for a tow and then Dennis sat and waited with me. The storm clouds were thick and dark overhead, the promised storms were imminent. Every once in a while, I would press on the key fob, hoping for it to work just that one time. Dennis went to get his car, and I called my husband to give him an update. We’d been waiting about 40 minutes so it shouldn’t be long before AAA got there. I commented once again to my husband that I just need the stupid thing to work ONE TIME.

Dennis came back with his car just as the sky started to spit out some sprinkles of rain. As I sat on the ground contemplating the situation, I absent mindedly pressed the key fob for the millionth time. The lights flashed on my car. I looked up at Dennis in total disbelief…’DID YOU SEE THAT?!’ I jumped up and pulled open the car door, bracing myself for the alarm…but was greeted by blessed silence.

It worked! I could leave!! I gave Dennis a big hug and thanked him for being so wonderful. Dennis refused to leave until I started the car and he was reassured that it really worked. Then he said he didn’t want to leave until he saw me drive out of the parking lot. I agreed to follow him out, as I wasn’t familiar with the area and could use a hand getting back to the major route.

Needless to say, I called AAA to cancel my order and then promised myself to get the door lock fixed once and for all. I haven’t touched the key fob since the ONE TIME and will likely not try it again until the door lock works. Lesson learned.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, the skies opened up, and the thunder and lightening commenced. Perfect timing…it was still a great day, now it had an added adventure to it.

Obsess Much?

Leave it to me to create a mountain out of a Mouse hill.

Seemed like a simple plan: Run the Disney marathon, get in the car, drive to Tampa, get on a cruise ship. Then I started to actually think about the logistics. Try to stay with me here:

We arrive in Tampa, Florida on Friday for the Sunday race. We rent a car in Tampa and drive to Orlando (about an hour and a half away). Arriving on Friday allows for time for packet pickup, expo shopping and more importantly, rest and relaxation.

We stay ‘on-property’ at Disney in order for me to be able to take the shuttle bus to the start line at the very early hour of 3:30-4:00 a.m. for the 6:00 a.m. start time. This means the Hubby can sleep in a little bit, but will have to pack the car, check out of the hotel and get himself over to the parking lot near the finish line, preferably around 7:30-8:00 a.m. He may or may not be able to catch a glimpse of me on the course (least of my worries, really).

With luck (and good training!) I can cross the finish line around 10:00-10:15 a.m. I make my way through the finishers chute – medal, photos, water and find the Hubby. We walk (I hobble) to the car, climb in and head for Tampa. Goal time of departure from Epcot: 11:00 a.m.

We return the rental car and take a taxi/shuttle to the cruise ship terminal. Hopefully, we reach the ship by 1:30 p.m. and we don’t get stuck in a crummy cabin because all the good ones were already assigned.

This whole plan is contingent on everything running (pun intended) smoothly. No long race start delays, no injuries, no traffic, etc.

I’m crazy. I know it. You can tell me. Actually, I need to hear that this is a crazy idea. As much as I love a challenge, there’s too much money riding on this one if it gets messed up.

Option B:

Arrive in Tampa on Saturday and get on the cruise ship on Sunday (I like to plan to leave a day early in case of weather issues that delay flights). Wait until 2010 and do the Goofy Challenge at Disney with a plan to enjoy the parks for a day or so afterwards.

Really, let me know what you think. This has been completely consuming me and I need to make a decision, make the plans and be done with it.

Thanks!

The Internet Just Got Smaller

While I realize that I will never reach the ‘end of the Internet,’ I had a very surreal blog-world experience late last week that reminded me of it’s potential to be a small place. The story has already been told by 21st Century Mom, so rather than repeat it here, I’ll just let you go read about it over there. (And then tell her how amazing she is for having just done her first Half-Ironman at Vineman this weekend.)

I promise you, the story is jaw-dropping freaky…well, at least it was to me, momentarily. Oh, and a note to my Dad: when you read her story, send me an email and for a small price, I will reveal her true identity.

In other related small-world news…I am entertaining the idea of running the Disney Marathon this year, and then boarding a cruise ship out of Tampa immediately after crossing the finish line. I’ve already sent out an inquiry to my favorite Florida runner, and I’m open to hearing from others if you have advice to share. I have a very small window of opportunity (and budget) for a vacation in January and I’m hoping to start it with a marathon and end it with a tan and five extra pounds on my frame. Disney is almost full, and air fare is only getting higher so I need to make decision soon! (Note: Houston is sold out, and California doesn’t have any marathons in early January. Grrr.)