HELPFUL HINTS for runners

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by here and read. I know the last thing we need is to waste time on the internet, but I try to be selective with my topics. I hope that today’s will benefit you in some way, especially with the upcoming summer racing season.

I will cut right to the chase, so to speak, and share with you some hints/tips that I have acquired and used over my years of running (in no particular order):

SPONGE: If I am going to be running in the heat, I sometimes cut a new sponge to fit inside a pocket or even in my hat, then every few miles I dunk it in water and wipe my face and arms with it. Wring it out on top of your head and store it again until the next opportunity to wipe down. It’s very refreshing and helps wash the salt off!

ICE: If you’re fortunate to be offered ice during a race, don’t pass it up! Put it in your shorts, your bra, your mouth, or your hat! I have filled my hat with ice during the last few miles of a few marathons, and it kept me cool and alert.

SHADE: Even if it means crossing the road to get to it, seek the shade! It can be a few degrees cooler and can make a huge difference. The road will be cooler for your feet, also.

SLEEVES/NECKERCHIEF:  I just learned that some of the name brand apparel companies are making arm sleeves with fabric that protects from UV rays. Wetting the sleeves with water before and during a run keeps you even more cool. The sleeves extend from the wrists up just past the elbows.  I recently ordered some made by Pearl Izumi on Amazon (all white) for $16. I have also worn a cold, wet rag around my neck but this can be tricky at times.

CHAFING: There are few things more miserable than chafing from a rigid sports bra! I have heard horror stories about chafing in other body parts, too. I have to tape up (I use KT brand tape) prior to my long runs, applying it to areas that are susceptible to chafing. Some runners use Aquaphor, Body Glide, vaseline, or another anti-chafing solution. I suppose protecting the nipples is a good idea for the guys, too. I know of Band-Aids made just for this, or KT should work, too. Don’t wear anything that hasn’t already been put to the test before a race (see APPAREL).

APPAREL: Never wear something new during a race (especially marathon) without trying it out first, whether it’s an article of clothing, shoes, socks, earbuds, or sunglasses. Even if it’s something that’s been in your closet for a long time, give it a whirl before going the distance. I once wore a skort that was too big for me (I had forgotten that detail) and I had to hold it up for the first 13 miles (alternating hands) until I found someone with a safety pin to cinch it in. And remember that darling tank top you just had to wear? The one with the seams under the arms? You will be reminded of those seams with every swing of the arms starting about mile 4 (see CHAFING). For your choice of apparel, I highly recommend light-colored wicking fabrics if warm temperatures are forecast (dark colors absorb the heat, while light ones reflect it). Extra credit if your shoes or shoelaces match something else you’re wearing.

LISTS: I am a fan of lists. I makes lists of lists to make. For real, before a race, start making a list a couple days beforehand of the items you will need. As something comes to mind, write it down. Check the weather report and decide if a light jacket or blanket will be useful while waiting at the starting line. What about a big garbage bag? I ran one marathon in a black garbage bag due to unrelenting rain. I was grateful for the protection. However, I ripped it off after 8 miles because I was sweaty and wet anyway. Will you need sunglasses? What direction will you be running — into the sun or not? On the night before the race, set all of your items out where you will have quick access to them on race morning. This takes some of the stress out of race day!

MUSIC: I generally run with music played on an iPod. In fact, I would say that I do 95% of the time. However, some race events do not allow earbuds to be worn, so be aware. My music is hand-picked and categorized by pace. I have a 10K pace list of songs selected based on a faster pace. I run to the rhythm of each song, and I know that if I can get to the finish line before 12 songs at 4 minutes each have played, I will have a decent 48-minute 10K time. That is just an example, because each song is not exactly 4 minutes (my iPod tallies the total time of that folder and I can customize as necessary).

Whatever the distance, whatever the pace, and whatever the reason, find joy in the journey! Happy trails!

 

 

IronMan 70.3 St. George

With Boston in my rearview mirror, I have recently been able to focus on the next big goal, which was the biking leg of the IronMan 70.3. I had tucked my bike away for the winter many months ago, then dusted it off recently to “train” for this goal, which was to bike 56 miles on a tough, hilly course (elevation gain over 3500 feet) as part of a relay team. I received invitation from long-time friend Cheri many months back, asking if I would be interested in participating on her team and represent the biking portion. I consented quickly. Due to Boston being my main focus for the first four months of this year, I was especially anxious about knocking out so many miles on a bike in a reasonable time. This was the IRONMAN after all!

Cheri had a friend of a friend who consented to take the swimming leg, so we were set. However, said swimmer backed out early on, so we were left with the task of finding a replacement — which we did. A dear friend of mine who has an extensive past history of swimming agreed to team up with us and start training. Alas, due to other constraints, she, too, had to bow out just a few weeks prior to judgment day. Fortunately, a mutual friend of both me and Cheri committed to participate with us. Her name is Anji, and she has a plethora of triathlon experience; we felt blessed to have her.

After reviewing the biking portion of the course in my mind and doing a little math, I sent Cheri a text message in late March, suggesting that I hoped to bike the 56 miles in 3 hours 45 minutes.

Fast biking has been a daunting thing for this girl, as I know many who have taken spills and broken bones. My bike is just an average, run-of-the-mill Trek bicycle which I purchased about five years ago at Al’s Sporting Goods in Logan, Utah. It gets me around in fine fashion, and I have never had justification to “upgrade” components and such. I know of some who have $10K invested in a bicycle! But as they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and, therefore, I am content with the “as is” status. One of my favorite friends on earth, Amber, is an avid biker and lives in Northern Utah, where winters are severe which make bike riding from October through March nearly impossible. Amber knows my leave-the-light-on policy with her, so on occasion she loads up her mountain and road bikes, then heads down south to visit us in Southern Utah. On one of these recent visits, she agreed to give the IronMan course a trial run with me. We set out on a Friday morning in cool temperatures but dealt with a strong wind which did not play in our favor. I managed a 52-mile ride that day, sending Amber on ahead of me through the climb in Snow Canyon to fetch her car at my house about 10 miles away. After a long 4-1/2 hour ride for me, she picked me up at a bike shop and drove me home. My hopes for a 3:45 time were dashed and I feared I would be a letdown to my teammates. But in hindsight, I am grateful we had to combat the wind that day because it proved good training for the wind at IronMan. It was the heat that many were unprepared for.

The day before the event, I scheduled a full-body massage with massage therapist Penny Cole, my first time under her skilled hands.

Totally relaxed, I went directly to the IronMan Village where I met up with my two other team members for check-in and packet pickup.

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We had a few questions to which we sought answers, but it seemed that as one was answered, another one cropped up. A group text message exchange went on throughout the day. Taking my packet and instructions, I then I loaded up my bike in my truck and drove to Sand Hollow for bike check-in. At that time, there were only several dozen bikes being racked, nothing in comparison to what it would be like the next morning. I cannot even compute the value of all of these bikes. The following two photos were taken race morning, courtesy of friend Tiffany (race participants were not allowed to have iPods or cameras as they were deemed a distraction, so I borrowed photos from others who were volunteers).

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I sent my teammates a photo pointing to our assigned spot, #4025, as if that would help.

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I always look for opportunities to make new friends, and in the course of bike check-in, I did just that. Meet “Cowboy,” who, I am told, is in charge of the IronMan as far as rules and regulations go. I will have to find out his real name, but he has vast knowledge about this event and was a great resource for details. Randomly, another athlete who was checking in his bike was wearing this year’s Boston Marathon shirt, and when told he could not take his dog into the caged area with his bike, I offered to take the leash and wait with his dog while he got his gear set up. We chatted briefly about the recent marathon, and I again realized what a small world it really is. It’s amazing to me how one item of clothing can trigger a conversation and unite two otherwise complete strangers.

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That night, I had the opportunity of attending a Brian Regan show at Tuacahn. I chose for my date (since Todd could not attend secondary to supporting his son’s graduation in Logan) the beautiful Joann, whom I met at the Boston Marathon but who is a local St. George girl and avid runner. Two thumbs up for Brian! Nonstop laughter was the order for the evening. It definitely served as a pleasant distraction so that my mind was not constantly on IronMan and worrying how it would unfold. Yes, I am a worrier.

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It was after 11:00 p.m. Friday night when I set my alarm for 4:20 a.m. and crawled between the sheets of my bed. Surprisingly, sleep came fairly easily and I fetched about 4.5 totals hours that night, which is double what I get most nights before an event such as this.

Arising at 4:20 a.m. Saturday morning, I quickly dressed in my biking garb, made a peanut butter and honey sandwich for breakfast, drank a protein shake, and headed to Town Square to catch a bus to Sand Hollow. It seemed wrong to be heading the opposite direction (6 miles to Town Square from my house heading west, with Sand Hollow about 7 miles from my house to the east), but riding the bus up was my only option. Unloading from the bus in the dark, I walked to the caged bike area and quickly spotted my dear friend, Tiffany, who volunteers at IronMan each and every year. She had a big black marker in hand, headlight on her head, and was calling out to athletes with offerings of body markings (writing their race number on their arms). If you could bottle the energy of a positive person, I would choose Tiffany; I am pretty sure that what I lacked in sleep was made up for with her enthusiasm as we exchanged 2 minutes’ worth of words. I love her so much. Her other task that morning would be stripping swimmers of their wetsuits as they climbed out of the water, and she has some great stories about that.

I quickly found Anji, and we documented our union in a couple of photos, seen here.

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Following her assistance with tire inflation, as well as reviewing team protocol, Anji left with the last wave of swimmers to embark into the cold water of Sand Hollow. Our assigned wave start time with the swim was 7:37 a.m. Runners have a 1:10 time limit or they DNF (did not finish), meaning they cannot move on to the next event. Anji claimed that she would need that entire time to complete her swim, though I was somewhat skeptical. Regardless, I got comfy in the staging area for the relay teams. We were instructed that we had to wait there for our swimmer (as opposed to wandering aimlessly around the racked bikes). It seemed like mere minutes had passed when I saw Anji running toward me in her full wetsuit, fussing with the zipper in the back. I quickly grabbed the timing chip that was secured via Velcro to her left ankle, shifted it to my left ankle, then ran (in my cleats) to my bike, hoisted it off the rack, and ran/walked it to the exit. We could not mount our bikes before a specific line on the ground. Once across that line, we had a green light (figuratively speaking) to hop on and pedal.

The wind had picked up considerably by this time. The relay teams were the last ones on the course, so it was as if I had some catching up to do. I found a comfortable rhythm just in time for the first big hill, at which point I shifted gears and powered up and over. Bikers pressed on to Hurricane, where at mile 12 we had our first Aid Station. Other than being somewhat rattled by witnessing a biker being strapped on a stretcher by ambulance personnel, I felt really good and opted to blast past the aid station, since I had sufficient water in my bottles and adequate bladder capacity to store the water I was ingesting.

We took a hard left and headed west on State Street in Hurricane, using the right lane of the eastbound traffic. Bikers were starting to spread out, and for every two bikers I passed, it seemed one passed me by. “On your left” was called out often. I felt great and looked forward to seeing my friend, Jason, at about mile 26; he was stationed there with his job (Washington County Sheriff’s Department). He is a great supporter, and his big smile and thumb up out the window of his driver’s seat gave me added energy.

It was fun to scan the crowds of spectators for familiar faces, many to whom I called out. I wish I could express adequately that spectators are a huge factor in any sports event, for without them we would have no reason to perform.

The wind behaved reasonably from our east-to-west angle of travel, but as soon as the course headed back east, the momentum became sluggish and progression came less effortlessly. With the Snow Canyon section looming just ahead, I knew I would have to put on my game face. If I had been wearing a baseball hat, I would have turned it around backwards. I stopped at the base of the hill at the last Aid Station and, with the assistance of brothers who were there volunteering and representing a local bike shop, I had fresh water in my bottle after emptying my bladder in the port-a-potty. The tailwind that followed us up the canyon was definitely heavenly. I imagined angels lining the sides of the road, cheering us on and offering words of encouragement. It reminded me so much of this mortal life as we plow through challenges in front of us, slowing us down but also making us stronger in the process. I was assured of the presence of angels when a particular butterfly fluttered around me for the two steepest miles of the five-mile climb. I actually called out to the butterfly, saying, “Granny! Thanks for coming. I knew you were going to be here with me — now help give me strength to get up this hill!” Many bikers had given in to the hill and were walking their bikes. In my mind, I had bargained that once I got to the top of the hill where it intersects with SR18, I could then relax and float downhill the last 11 miles to T2 where Cheri would be patiently waiting for me.

Boy, was I wrong.

The sense of accomplishment of rising to the hill’s top was short-lived, as immediately upon turning south, we were “hit” (it felt like, literally) with a fierce headwind. Where normally I would be able to coast downhill, I had to continue to pedal to keep forward motion. I have never had to grip my bike handlebars in such a manner before. “White knuckles” has an entirely new meaning. I passed a few bikers along the descent who had stopped along the side of the road, one of them even vomiting. The temperature had risen to mid 80’s, and combined with the wind, it was proving too much for some. I again realized how blessed I was to still be upright and closing in on my goal. However, those last 11 miles were the hardest miles on my bike in my life. I had run out of water but knew I had to hang on until T2. My watch revealed that I could possibly meet my goal of 3:45, and I was anxious to send Cheri on her way before the heat climbed any further.

I unmounted my bike in the designated section and then walked it into T2 and toward the relay racks, where I mounted it at #4025, then found Cheri sitting with other relay runners on a patch of grass under a shade tree. Apparently, the timing system had messed up and had indicated that I had completed my biking leg a full hour before I actually did, sending her into a panic and scrambling to get to T2 via her husband. I am sure that took a lot out of her, that added to the fact that her running shoes had been stolen out of her garage (among other things) in the days leading up to this event. She did not act rattled at all, however, as I wrapped the timing chip around her left ankle and sent her off on her 13.1 mile run in the heat and wind.

I walked my bike to my truck, loaded it up, then returned to the Athletes’ Village for some fruit and potato chips chased down by an ice cold cola drink.

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I had opportunity to chat with friend and ultra fast runner, Amber, in the food tent while sitting on the cool grass. Her relay team had nailed each leg, even with biker Steve taking a tumble on his bike. I checked my watch and then headed to the finish line for the next half hour where I waited for Cheri to run in. By that time, Anji had gone home and showered, then returned for the finale. I had a little time to call my mom, as promised, with an update on my status. Yes, she is a worrier, too. 🙂

Not long after finding a good spectating spot near the finish line, our runner girl Cheri came in with long strides and a smile on her face.

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We did it! We finished the IronMan 70.3 relay! Our summary breaks down like this:

SWIM (1.2 miles) = 50:11   BIKE (56 miles) = 3:46:17    RUN (13.1 miles) = 2:01:15

Below are the bike and run elevation charts, respectively.

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Our total team time, counting T1 and T2 (transitions), was 6:43:37.

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After our team dispersed, I connected with some of my favorite people in the world, Nicole and her mom, Sydney. They are like family to me. I admit that I missed having Todd with me to assure me and put my worries to rest, but I know he was where he belonged at son’s graduation at Utah State.

Participating in an IronMan event has been something I have always aspired to do. I dream that one day I could actually compete in one solo, but until then, I boast that my teammates were top-notch and nothing will alter the positive experience and the memories made on May 6, 2017. Will there be a sequel? Just wait and see…..

Boston Marathon 2017

Yesterday, while flying across the country from east to west, heading home from a five-day adventure, I jotted down some key topics that I wanted to touch on with this post. Without being too long-winded and boring the reader, I hope to accomplish my goal here of giving others an inside view to what running the Boston Marathon is like.

So, as you likely already know, one must “qualify” for Boston, meaning the Boston Athletic Association has set up a grid of qualifying times, depending on one’s age and gender. The female 50-54 age division requires a 4:00 or faster marathon time which has been run on a sanctioned course. It just so happened that I met that requirement at the St. George Marathon in October 2015 with a finish time of 3:57:18 — a whopping 2 minutes and 42 seconds to spare! Oddly, qualifying for Boston was not even on my mind that day. I was simply running my own race at my own pace. When I discovered that it was a BQ time, I discussed with my husband the option of getting registered and making a weekend out of it with him; he gave his consent. I received my acceptance notification from B.A.A. via email about a week after others (who had registered) had received theirs, so I honestly had discounted the idea that it would happen. You see, even though one may run a qualifying time, that is still not a guarantee of entry. There are so many people who are now qualifying and registering that B.A.A. has had to tighten up the requirements with faster times, and even then they skim off the top, meaning they accept the FASTEST times of those who qualified in each particular age division. My bib assignment was #23589, and my calculations lead me to believe that numbers went up to #23600 for those who were accepted (just 11 numbers shy of the cap); once again, I squeaked through.

All that being said, it did not mean this opportunity meant less to me. If anything, it meant far more. I made reservations for airline and hotel last November, then just waited patiently for the time to pass….

There is so much to tell about the entire marathon experience, let alone this experience on a BOSTON MARATHON level. This is the marathon of all marathons, the oldest in the country, celebrating its 121st year. Hence, it gets a lot of attention and lures world-class athletes who compete for the first-place status. I could go on and on about all that, but due to lack of time right now (I would refer reader to the B.A.A. website where all the history is revealed), I will cut right to the chase, so to speak.

As part of my race preparation, I had ordered a black tank top to wear. It is not just any ordinary tank top, though — no sirrreeee! This tank top boasts my running accomplishments to date which include 20 years, 40 marathons (including this one), over 200 races, and 24,901 miles (the circumference of the earth). That is featured on the front. On the back, I have listed the names of 26 friends and family members who are dear to me and who have influenced my life in a positive way. That list could have been extended to hundreds of names, but I chose immediate family members and close friends. Besides that, there was not room for more.

The names are arranged in a column down the middle of the back, looking somewhat like a spine, with the title at the top, BOSTON 2017.

I also chose to wear a pair of red compression socks to commemorate the Boston Red Sox baseball team; we were able to attend one of their games the day prior to the marathon — and they won. 🙂

Getting back to this story, Todd and I picked up my packet at the marathon expo. The packet contained my bib #23589, which was to be affixed to the front of my shirt. The bib also houses the chip which measures the time from start line crossing to finish line crossing. It did not matter that I was assigned to Wave 3, Corral 8, because my personal time only began when I crossed that starting line in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, on April 17, 2017.

I have to post credit here to the St. George Running Center owners Kendra and Steve, who have given back more to the community of St. George than they have taken away from it. One of their running shoes brands, New Balance, offered to make shirts for those of us running the Boston Marathon (see below photo). We met at the finish line last Saturday to take a group photo. These are some amazing athletes and people!

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The night before the race, I ate shrimp scampi which was delicious and so satisfying. I made a true effort to carbo-load starting the week prior. I tried to spare my legs from too many miles as we toured downtown Boston. I have to put in a plug here for my dear friend Conor, who dedicated his weekend to be our tour guide. He even took the day off work on Monday to spectate with Todd alongside the thousands and thousands of other spectators who lined the course on both sides for 26.2+ miles. Conor currently works in New York City but grew up on the outskirts of Boston, so he knew the ins and outs of the city. His knowledge and guidance were priceless.

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Another enormous helper was Tim, with whom I became acquainted via text messaging and Messenger. Tim, it turns out, has his own blog called thevoyageofdh.wordpress.com and started following my son’s blog (Tyson) which is drivetofive.com. Are you still with me? So because of Tyson’s blog, and because he lives in Boston, Tim learned of my pending trip and offered numerous suggestions of places to go, things to do, etc. He was a very valuable resource for us, and I regret that we were unable to connect during the three days we spent in Boston due to his activities or ours.

As per tradition, I set out my running attire the evening before, checking the items off my list in an effort to account for everything I might need. I left the hotel and took the train (Redline, inbound) to Park Street, where I disembarked and walked to Boston Common. It was there that I had arranged to meet up with Natalie, long-time friend and running buddy. We loaded up on one of the dozens of buses (hundreds, more like, maybe even thousands) that took approximately 32,000 runners to the starting line in Hopkinton. It was quickly obvious that the weather would play a role in our performance. It was at least in the high 60’s if not low 70’s when Wave 3, Corral 8 (packed tightly with energetic runners dressed in colorful apparel) was turned loose.  Prior to that moment, four of us (me, Natalie, Cheri, and Joann) had been caught up in the long porta-potty line and then temporary-tattoo-application table, not realizing that our Wave 3 runners had long since departed for their respective corrals. We literally ran to our corral to get ahead of the yellow-bibbed runners, those who had registered under the charity option.

And we were off. The first few miles of the course are downhill, which played in our favor. We maintained about a 9-minute mile pace, weaving in and out of other runners while at the same time keeping track of each other. Natalie had asked to run with me and when Cheri showed up at the runners’ village in Hopkinton, I was grateful, for I had considered running my own race (which I had planned to document as much as possible, and documentation takes time!). We lost Joann somewhere along the first few miles, then the three of us stuck together until mile 7. At that point, I felt that the pace was taking its toll on me, and I opted to linger longer at a water station and let Cheri and Natalie run on ahead (but only after a Facebook Live video).

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I had my phone on airplane mode up to this point in an effort to preserve the battery, but once I was solo, I kept in touch with Todd and Conor. I knew they were tracking me via my bib through an app the B.A.A. offered, but I also was coordinating with them the specific place where they planned to be along the course. They let me know that they would be at mile 14, just past Wellesley, on the left-hand side of the road.

The heat started to get to me — I mean really get to me — about an hour into it. We had a decent tailwind but I felt zapped to a level that I have never felt before. Feeling faint was my main complaint, and it required more-than-usual effort to lift my legs high enough without stumbling.

At precisely mile 13, I saw that I had missed a call from my parents. I called them back and my mom asked, “How was it?” She was not aware that this race had started later morning as per tradition. I got a little emotional as I described to her, “It’s really hard, mom! But Todd and Conor are just up ahead, and that is my focus right now.” I assured her of my love for her and ended the call with a promise for a full race report later. At mile 14.50 (but who is counting?) I called Conor in a panic, believing that I had somehow missed them. Seriously — this was highly possible due to the 3-deep people lining the sides of the streets. I was prepared to go back if I had to, but Conor said, “We’re just past the streetlight — keep coming, KEEP COMING!!!” And there they were at mile 14.65, on the left-hand side as promised, offering hugs, smiles, and encouragement. It was the boost I needed to press on.

Press on I did, though dizzy and somewhat delirious. My progress had slowed down considerably. I sent Todd a text message that I felt like I might pass out, and he ordered me to ingest some sugar stat. Now this is the truth: I pulled off the course briefly and walked over to a family gathering where there was a variety of food. I approached a young mother and asked if she could spare anything with sugar in it. She selected a mini muffin and handed it off to me. It was dried out and stale, but I ate it anyway. I also accepted offerings of other food items after that, like orange sections, Otter Pops, and…. beer, though I did not drink it (I did not realize it was alcohol until I got a whiff of it, and I don’t drink alcohol, even in dire situations such as that). At about mile 20, when I realized that I might be in trouble, I stopped at a medical tent to ask for something salty. I was given a paper cup full of pretzels, which I ate gratefully.

There were some fabulous distractions along the course, including spectators dressed up in costume.

Besides the 26 names on the back of my tank to think about, I was carrying with me a few tokens to remind me of the support from friends and family, one of them a quarter which I actually found on my last training run before Boston. As it was lying there on the road, it seemed to say, “Please, pick me up and take me with you to the Boston Marathon!” I know it was a sign from Granny (see my prior post) and of course I picked it up and took it with me. Coincidentally or not, I also found a quarter on the Boston Marathon course, and I am pretty sure it was my Aunt Marieta, reminding me that she was there to support me, too. Friends with me since the age of 10, Connie and Penny had mailed me some elasticized bracelets to wear during the race. It was their way of offering support. Let me also add here that they also offered monetary support — as in helped pay my way to Boston! And a band from Tia2 was proudly worn as well.

I admit that not all went as planned during the race. Besides the heat and probable dehydration, I also lost a valuable pin that my sister had provided for me to wear. It was a handmade clay pin of an artist holding a painting palette, about 1.5 inches tall and 1.5 inches wide. I pinned it to the upper strap on the left side of my tank top (as can be seen in pre-race photo above) but somewhere early on it must have decided to give running a try and worked its way off my top to the pavement below, only to be crushed (I imagine) by thousands and thousands of runners. Discovery of this fact made me sick inside, and I had to alert my sister of the bad news. She assures me that she is not upset and that she rather likes the story it made. I aim to make it up to her somehow, though. The blue corn is something that my grandson Beckam had colored and given me.

Another mishap was a house fire which we ran past at about mile 4 or 5. It appeared that the fire was accelerating quickly due to the black smoke billowing out of the garage and front door, and witnessing the family outside scrambling to get hoses hooked up to combat the fire was rather unsettling. I felt helpless and could not imagine how a fire truck could access their home, since runners spanned the road for miles elbow to elbow.

The last 10 miles are somewhat of a blur. I turned my music up loudly to try and drown out some of the spectators’ cheering which translated to a constant high-volume noise that was constant and unrelenting. I have a testimony about songs that match the moment I am in. But that’s a topic for a later blog. Music is a daily part of my life, and without it while running, I would suffer.

Realizing that I was on target to finish under 4:30, but still not able to resist documenting the experience via photographs and videos, I hastened my pace and disregarded the miserable state I was in as I focused on the finish line. The last turn of the course delivered us onto Boylston Street. I ran straight down the three blue stripes that were painted on the road, right smack-dab in the middle. I ran as fast as my tired legs could go. I ran past the places where the bombs had gone off four years prior, the bombs that killed three and wounded hundreds. I thought of my Pal Peg, who shares this blog with me (she was mere feet away from the first bomb near the finish line when it exploded on that fateful day in 2013). I thought of the power of love and the outpouring of support, not just by the people in this town called Boston, but also in our nation, a nation united! My watch revealed 4:31 when I crossed the finish line, and though I wanted to curl up in a ball and suck my thumb (I borrowed that line from Cory, a friend who inspires — he has a blog, also, called factory.com), I had Todd to find, for I knew he would take good care of me — and that he did and continues to do on a daily basis as I quickly recover to baseline. I am forever grateful for his patience and support of this passion of mine.

Now in hindsight, looking back two days since the marathon, there are a few thoughts that stand out. In no particular order, let me share some of them with you.

Support: You can’t even begin to imagine the enthusiasm of the spectators. It’s something that cannot be comprehended unless experienced personally.  Energy: It was palpable. It was infectious. Determination: Exhausted runners who resorted to walking were set on finishing regardless of the time clock. Camaraderie: The common bond between runners was unmatched. Complete strangers joined up to spend a few hours together with the same goal, leaving behind their differences. Passion: There was such a sense of dedication which earned all of these athletes the privilege of participating in the Boston Marathon.

Finally, a short video which I took of the spectators just before turning the corner onto Boylston Street and down the final stretch. Can you feel the love, too?

( video to be added when my son can help me this weekend)

I had earlier vowed that this would be my last full marathon, but since there is going to be another party on the St. George Marathon course this October, I had to submit and register! Look out St. George Marathon, here we come!

Happy trails!

 

 

Running Essentials

As redundant as it may seem, each and every time before a race, I make a list of the items I will need for that race. I then refer to said list before I retire for the night, setting out those items so that I have them ready to go come race morning. When deciding what I will need, I have to consider the projected temperature, weather conditions, distance, terrain (road versus trail), and aid stations (if any). In hindsight, I should have just early on laminated one list and included some variables; I would have saved myself a lot of time and paper over the years.

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Usually the first thing on my “needs” list is SHOES. As any runners knows, having a couple pair of good shoes to alternate is a must. I usually save my “best” shoes for the races, then replace them with another pair of “best” shoes when they start to show wear. Shoes can be tricky, believe it or not! When making a shoe selection, one might be asked one or more of the following questions by a sales associate:

  1. Do you supinate or pronate?
  2. How many miles are you training?
  3. Do you have a high or low arch?
  4. Do you need neutral, cushioning, or stability shoe?

One thing I have NEVER been asked is if I have a color preference, which I find interesting because I ALWAYS have a color preference. In fact, I have been known to buy a pair of shoes JUST BECAUSE of their color. I have also made the silly choice of choosing shoes that are a half size smaller than I normally wear, which has caused suffering “down the road” (literally). Just because I think a shoe looks like a clown shoe on my foot does not mean that everyone else thinks it looks like a clown shoe! Having enough room for the foot to do its job (run in fine fashion) is key.

Shoes have transitioned and evolved a great deal over the last 20 years since I bought my first pair. They are made of better products, have specific designs for specific needs, and prices have risen dramatically. Seriously! Paying $150 for a good pair of running shoes seems unthinkable, but often the concept of “you get what you pay for” rings true here. I said often — not always. I have found some screaming bargain deals on shoes that have served me just as well as the pricey ones. So many colors, styles, and purposes to choose from can be overwhelming. Trail shoes have come to the forefront recently as there are many who have given up the road running for trail running. Honestly, I can see myself making that transition soon. Trail running shoes have nubs on the soles for better traction. It is due to those nubs/extra grip protruding from the sole that I have gone down on the trail more than once. Lifting the knees up higher when running on trails is necessary which translates to being more physically and mentally demanding, in my opinion.

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Another item on my list is SOCKS. I prefer Belaga brand, as well as SmartWool, or even Thorlos. They “run” about $10 pair but I find it absolutely essential to have good wicking socks.

 

Moving on down my list, you will find HAT to be near the top. Whether the sun is shining or the rain is pouring down, having a hat can make the difference between pleasant and miserable. Bonus points are credited if the hat can match the laces in the shoes or some other apparel being worn. Function AND style come in to play here. Along this same line, SUNGLASSES is one of those variables which can be added or subtracted, depending on the direction of the course; running into the full sun can be an unpleasant experience. However, that being said, having sunglasses that sit solidly on the face (as opposed to bouncing around) is important!

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What should probably top my “needs” list, even above good shoes, is a good SPORTS BRA. It’s amazing that I don’t have scars from bra chafing over the years. Finding a seamless sports bra is a priority, and wearing KT tape under the points of contact for long distance runs has become a tradition. Taking a hot shower after a run during which chafing has occurred can cause one to make an exclamation of discomfort. It’s true, too, that a decent bra is going to cost upwards of $50, but well worth the money if it does not cause chafing while holding down the girls.

Now on to the fun stuff — what to wear!! Early on in my running years, I prided myself for never wearing the same thing twice. You can imagine the expense. I have long since learned that it’s okay (if not financially pertinent) to mix and match. Necessary basic apparel, in my running opinion, includes at least one of everything: LEGGINGS, CAPRIS, and SHORTS or SKORTS in black and at least one or two other colors. I fell in love with the “skort” (skirt/short) concept right when it came out and it has been a staple in my wardrobe ever since. There is no race or training run that cannot be executed in one of the above-mentioned items of apparel. Don’t get me wrong — I LOVE color, but I have also seen some patterns and color mixes that should stay at home in the drawer, only to come out for lounging around the house. Haha. When throwing on a top, whether it’s a TANK or a thin, long-sleeved TOP versus the thermal variety, consideration must be made for the outside temperature and the fact that it’s better to have thin layers than one heavy, bulky top that cannot be shed as things start to heat up. I like to wear something light that I can tie around my waist (and cover my hind end). Naturally, adding layers for colder weather is a given. Wearing apparel made of wicking fabric is absolutely necessary! I will add here that, at least for me, the perfect temperature for running is low to mid 50’s (wearing a tank top and skort). Anything in the 40’s requires that I wear a light long-sleeved shirt, and anything in the 30’s begs for a heavier (though still wicking) jacket. I have run when it’s 8 degrees, and I have run when it’s over 100 degrees. Let me reiterate that I prefer mid 50’s. 🙂

Anyone who knows that I run must also know that I take my IPOD everywhere I go. I listen to music without fail during training as well as races, unless I am running socially with friends. It really sucks to find out the battery is low or, even worse, dead, when starting a run. That happened to me at a marathon a few years ago, and it was as if the energy in me died, too. Having a charged iPod is as important as having good shoes. I have grown very dependent upon upbeat music to pull me through any given race. I even have playlists that match my desired race pace, but maybe that’s a topic for another time.

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The only other running accessory I consider, depending on the distance of the run, is my HIPS-SISTER FANNY PACK (I chose black) which is made of stretchy fabric and rides on the hips while running. Its role is to hold items like a cell phone, GU, keys, lipstick, and iPod. Carrying all of these items during a marathon can be a real confidence booster! Obviously, wearing a fanny pack during a 5K race just adds extra weight and distraction. The hips-sister belt can be purchased online and costs approximately $22.  *Disclaimer: The model in this photo is not me; it was a photo I found on the hips-sister website.

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Last but not least, not by a long shot, is your BIB! Don’t forget to set your bib out (pins attached) before race morning! Nowadays, most bibs have the timing chip in them so unless you want a DNS (did not show), you won’t get race credit without your bib!

So there you have it, my head-to-toe checklist. It has been very consistent over the course of time, likely because running has not changed — it’s still pretty much a left, right, left, right kind of activity! Happy trails (and roads)!

 

Spice IT UP!

For me, running is only part of the equation for healthy running.  Let me give you a simple equation as to what doesn’t work for my body and what does work:

Running + More Running = Injuries

Running + Cross Training = Healthy Body/Healthy Mind 🙂

So let’s talk about spicing up your weekly routine a bit……….

SWIMMING—-

Swimming serves as an ideal form of active recovery for runners, swim sessions allow you to increase endurance and oxygen capacity, while giving your weary legs a break from all that pavement pounding.
Read more at http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/cross-training-101-swimming-for-runners_82017#641zZguJLriQU2X4.99

I first learned how to swim 6 years ago and at that time, I was petrified to put my face under the water.  This stems from the fact that I nearly IMG_5219drown in a pond when I was 4 years old.  I grew up in a small town in Utah and our pool was a pond.  EWWWWW!  Anyway, my friend, who I met at the pool, did not know what to do with me when I went for the first time and then another older lady came over (it was quite a scene) to see if she could help.  Talk about embarrassing haha.  I found out later that she is the coach of the local Master’s Swimming group and I stumped her too, but she gave me some simple underwater breathing exercises to do to get me warmed up to the idea.  One thing I did know during all of this was that I WAS NOT GIVING UP–I really wanted to learn how to swim and that was that!! I thought about it, watched YouTube videos about it and I even prayed about it.  I had to win the battle within myself.  Someone then introduced me to a book called, “Total Immersion” by Terry Laughlin, which was full of drills to get you to the point to swim freestyle and also the Master’s Swimming Coach still kept coaching me and then soon I was able to swim freestyle in the pool.  I also joined the Master’s Swim Team which was fun too and I learned a lot!

Training in the open water for the Ironman in 2014 was the next obstacle for me to overcome.  I had to do some serious self talk, but I was able to complete it with no panicking.  It was a miracle.  My motto—“just keep swimming, just keep swimming………..” and it worked!

Swimming is just a great overall workout–your arms and lats are pulling you though water so they are strengthened, your abs are engaged at all times, the glutes and legs are engaged when kicking through the water as well.  My heart rate is high when I continuously swim compared to the other cross-training activities, so that tells me it’s giving me one of the best cardio workouts.  SO SWIM PEOPLE:)!! It’s great for the bod!  AND if I can do it, anyone can!  Also, try pool running!  That’s a great workout as well, especially when injured.

BIKING—-

There is something that is so freeing about biking and it’s one of my favorite cross-training activities.  I LOVED training for the biking portion of the Ironman with my Bikesweetheart.  We made some great memories :).  I love a good long ride in the morning and incorporating some interval training, which is riding 1 mile hard and then recover a 1/2 mile and repeating this several times.  It gives me a great cardio workout, but if you’re looking to strengthen the legs, a good hill workout will do the trick–try hill repeats and you will tire those legs out in no time :).  Another option is to catch a spin class at your local gym.  We have some great spin instructors here and if you’re uncomfortable on a road bike, this is a great option.

Biking is a great nonimpact workout and it’s easy to recover–a great complement to your running!

HIIT WORKOUTS—-

Yes, I did say HITT–High-Intensity Interval Training.  A HIIT workout is great if you are in a pinch for time and is a great workout.  As we all know, life gets a little crazy some days and it’s nice to have a short, intense workout for those days.  For me, HITT workouts have made all the difference in my training and has helped make me a stronger runner in my old age :). A HIIT workout consists of intense bursts of physical exercise (like your heart is going to jump out of your chest 🙂 with a less intensity rest or a complete rest.  A favorite HIIT workout of mine is Tabatas, which is 20 seconds on (intense burst) and 10 seconds rest for 8 rounds.  You can get the free HIIT timer app on the App Store.  Try looking up a HIIT workout on Pinterest and do it  2-3 days a week for 6-8 weeks and you’ll notice a change.  Here is an example of a HIIT workout for you:

The three exercise moves below will make up your “intense” interval, then performing an easier form of cardio afterwards will make up your “rest” interval.

  1. Perform the following three exercise moves back-to-back according these reps: Start by doing 10 reps of each, then repeat the cycle doing 15 reps of each, then repeat the cycle doing 20 reps of each. Don’t take any breaks until after you’ve gone through all three sets.
  • Burpees
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Jumping Jacks
  • (In place of these 3 moves, you could also try performing fast alternating lunges, push-ups or kettlebell swings.)
  1. After you’ve completed these three sets, do a form of steady-state cardio for about three minutes. This can mean jogging, running in place, hopping on an exercise bike, etc. You want to be working at about half of your ability.

STRENGTH TRAINING—-

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One of my favorite workouts to do is to run to the gym from my house, which is about 2 miles, do a cardio strength exercise routine at the gym for 30 min, and run home on tired legs ha.  Strength training is easy to do at home too.  I purchased two sets weights– one 8 lb. set and one 12 lb. set and I just look up strength workouts on Pinterest (love Pinterest 🙂  Strength training is important as we age because after the age of 30 our lean muscle tissue decreases at a rate of approximately 5% a year and that percentage increases after the age of 65.  Yikes!!  The more you build muscle, the faster your metabolism becomes, your muscle mass will go up and you will feel tighter and more firm. Who doesn’t want that, especially when we are experiencing hormone changes.  As most of us know, muscle weighs more than fat, so when you first start out lifting, DON’T WEIGH yourself, especially if you are concerned about that stupid number on the scale (for the record, I dislike everything about the scale ha).  Your weight will most likely go up, but don’t despair, because you will look more fit and tone as you lift 2-3 times a week and you will be pleased with the results.  Also, I am less prone to running injuries when I lift on a regular basis, so that’s a huge bonus for me.  Try looking up a weight lifting program online or schedule an appointment with a personal trainer and they can help you if you’re feeling unsure about it.

YOGA—

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Yoga is another great way to strength train.  I try to get a yoga session in once a week at least and this DVD is a favorite of mine.  It strengthens and stretches and it’s only 40 min long. There are many benefits to doing yoga according to a publication called “Yoga Journal.”  Here are just a few:

Improves flexibility

Builds muscle strength

Perfects your posture

Prevents cartilage and joint breakdown

Protects your spine

Betters your bone health

Increases your blood flow

Ups your heart rate

You can view the full article and an explanation of each benefit at http://www.yogajournal.com/article/health/count-yoga-38-ways-yoga-keeps-fit/.

Cross-training is very fun when you work it into your schedule.  Variety is the spice of life so I encourage all of you to SPICE IT UP and let me know how it goes for you.  I think you’ll like it :).

HUGS

Pennies from Heaven

Today I want to write about money — the coin kind of money that comes in various sizes, colors, and values (much like people). My habit of coin-seeking began on March 26, 2011, following the death of my 98-year-old grandmother. We called her Granny. She was full of spunk and fun, always game for adventures. Granny slipped to the other side that day almost exactly six year ago, and I recall vividly that it was raining very hard. I needed a run badly to allow myself time to think and process the fact that her physical body had expired. I laced up my shoes and pulled the knit hat on my head which she had herself made and which she was wearing when she died, then I actually tied a plastic garbage bag over it (something I had never done before, nor have I done since). It was such a Granny thing to do — she was a collector of garbage bags or anything of a plastic nature. I stepped outside and braved the rain… and I ran. I cried while I ran, but the rain washed the tears right off my cheeks. Ahead of me on the road was a bright copper metal object, nearly speaking to me as I approached it; it was a new penny. I stopped and picked it up, tucking it in my pocket and pressing on with my run.

I like to think that Granny sent that penny down from heaven that day as a reminder that she is still with me/us. To me, it was a symbol of love and affection — evidence that angels are among us. Seriously, how else do pennies and other coins wind up on the ground, if not tossed down gently from heaven? Have you ever stopped to wonder why anyone would toss a penny out of a window, or how it would fall out of a pocket of another runner or walker? I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t EVER carry change when I run. Ever since the day that Granny took her last breath, I have been on the lookout for coins (and bills, for that matter). Nearly EVERY TIME I run, walk, or even hike, I find at least one coin. I even have my husband on the lookout now, too. We walk into grocery stores and scan the floors. Gas stations and convenience stores almost always have coin(s) on the floor. We have found them in some very strange places as well!

I have been collecting coins for six years now, and they have added up to quite a mound. I decided a couple years ago to create something with them — something meaningful that I could see often, something inspiring. I bought three matching frames and some special glue, and this is what I came up with:

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Live Out Loud. This has been one of my mottos for many years. I have hung these three frames, each measuring about 18″ x 12″, in my exercise room where I can see them and am reminded of the presence of my Granny daily. I have since collected enough coins to also adorn a frame that holds a photo of Granny:

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Isn’t she a gem? Every single one of the coins on these frames has been found on the ground while I am out and about, and my collection continues to grow. I know that my Granny runs with me and is cheering for me every step of the way.

Thanks for letting me share this personal and spiritual experience with you. I hope your activities have more meaning than just EXERCISE; let your activities strengthen your physical body as well as your emotional and spiritual needs. Happy trails!

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE…

This past weekend, I had the privilege of flying to Phoenix where my oldest son picked me up from the airport and assured my comfort in his home. It was a very big weekend for many in Phoenix, with the focus being primarily on a wedding. I opted out of the Sand Hollow Marathon in Hurricane because it fell on this important weekend, but I was still determined to knock out another marathon before Boston next month. I opted to name this solo marathon the “Hugie/Kenrick Acura Inaugural Marathon” as a tribute to my son, who helped make it happen, and a dear friend of mine, Conor Kenrick, who was celebrating his 29th birthday that very day. Because of this desire to sneak in a long run of marathon distance, I routed a course which started from my son’s house in Central Phoenix and then connected to a trail which paralleled the canal which extends around the perimeter of the city for miles and miles. The trail consists of fine gravel and dirt as well as concrete (like a wide sidewalk), depending on the location. I calculated that if I ran an out-and-back course, 13.1 miles each way, I could make the route scenic and mostly traffic-free while traversing along the trail next to the canal. I loaded my Camelbak vest with all of the essentials, including tissue, Band-Aids, gel blocks, peanut M&M’s, cash, and a credit card. Oh, and I filled the bladder with big chunks of ice (but no added water), anticipating drinking cold ice water along the way as it melted.

 

I checked the weather report and double-checked my route, then headed out at 6:30 a.m. just as the sun was rising. The temperature was in the mid 50’s. I recall thinking how good it felt to run up the street in the brisk morning air, feeling grateful that my legs were rested and ready for the distance which I was about to require of them. At about mile 3.5, the road joined with the canal trail, where I ran and exchanged pleasantries (I have always wanted to use that term) with other fellow joggers and dog-walkers. Other than about a dozen busy road crossings, the trail was perfect for a morning run. At about mile 10, I passed a swanky mall in Scottsdale where shoppers were bustling about, getting their morning on.

Heretofore, the ice in my Camelbak bladder was not melting at the rate which I had expected. Hence, I was only allowed about one good swallow of cold water every mile or so. I decided to get to mile 13 and then turn around, stopping at the mall for a bladder check (both mine and the pack’s).  Mile 16 was the point where I was strolling the halls of the mall, looking for a water fountain and a restroom. Jamba Juice seemed to be the obvious choice for some cold liquid sustenance, so I stopped at their kiosk and described to General Manager Brandon (pictured here with me) what I was doing. He was all too happy to oblige me by filling up my Camelbak bladder with chopped ice and water. It was the size of a volleyball when I stuffed it back into my vest.

With the sun high in the sky by this time, and along with it rising heat, my new goal was to finish my run before noon. I passed up the urge to buy a new shirt or pair of shoes and tarried on my merry way back to Tyson’s house. I am never in too big of a hurry, however, to stop and take photos of beautiful flowers along the way.

With just 2 miles left to go, my watch warned me that it was down to 10% battery. I figured that if I ran quickly I could get my 26.2 miles recorded before the battery died, so I took off on a pretty good sprint. About a block from my finish line, I looked down to check on the time and distance and….. nothing. The battery life was depleted. Feeling dejected (and somewhat dizzy), I stopped at a convenience store to buy a chocolate milk. Having nearly passed out at the counter while paying, I realized that my last block could feel like a mile. I staggered across the street heading toward the house and a wave of nausea came over me. It was all I could do to input the garage code and then weave through five cars in the garage to the interior door. Once inside, I barely got my vest off before collapsing on to the bed, where I curled up for the next hour (sweaty and all) and drifted in and out of a light sleep.

Later that evening, my son presented me with a Finisher Certificate which he had fashioned on his computer and then signed to make it official, plus a medal that he found in his stash and was willing to donate to my cause.

I later realized that my Camelbak bladder was completely empty! That is how much water I ingested over the final 10 miles, which tells me I was on the verge of dehydration. With the coming warmer summer months, I cannot over-emphasize the importance of hydrating adequately. I love LOVE my Camelbak Circuit Hydration Vest which holds 1.5 liters. I hardly know it’s there while I am running. I will get much use out of it with trail runs planned soon. My advice is to be sure and route your runs where there is access to plenty of water…. not the canal kind, but the drinking kind! Happy trails!