Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The "Rolling Hills" of Boston

I’ve never been a great hill runner. In high school, my track team awarded me the graduation superlative “Best Hill Runner” in jest because maintaining my pace through course inclines was my biggest weakness as a runner. I don’t think I’ll ever master the art of hill running, but I’ve certainly improved with experience. These days, I don’t bother trying too hard to maintain – it depletes too much of my energy and is usually fruitless anyway. I’m in awe of those runners that blaze past me running uphill! I just keep my legs moving as best I can and then increase my effort on downhills and flat stretches to make up any time lost on the uphills.

This past Sunday, I ran the Boston 13.1 Marathon, part of a half marathon race series being launched around the country. My friend Sue joined me for the event. It was her very first half marathon road race ever and I am so proud of her for pushing through the extremely tough, hilly course to cross the finish line with a smile on her face!

Sue showing off her well-deserved medal, right.

And this course wasn’t just hilly – it was HILLY to the extreme. There were two hills on the course that ascended for the full length of a mile (damn those rough miles 5 and 11!). Don’t believe me? Check out this elevation map of the course! I would nickname the event The Quad-Buster Half Marathon because, man, my quads are SORE! But Sue and I, as well as nearly 2,700 other runners, persevered and completed the course, many in support of charity teams like Chron’s & Colitis Foundation’s Team Challenge, the main charity affiliated with the 13.1 series (of course, I was there supporting both Girls on the Run and Hospitals for Humanity).

Sue, of course, earned herself a well-deserved Personal Best. While I didn’t run a PB, I did come relatively close. Given the tough nature of the course, I know I’m ready to blast out a PB at my next half marathon – the Madison Mini Marathon on August 21 in Madison, Wisconsin. Come out and catch me there if you can!

But if you’d like to join a shorter run before then, I’ll be running the Red Dress Run for Women in Hartford, Connecticut on July 10, the Party With Purpose in Hoboken, New Jersey on July 13, and the GOTR Poconos' Wurst 5K Trail Run on July 18 at Shawnee Mountain, Pennsylvania. All are 5Ks and perfectly suited for newbie runners. Also, fittingly for followers and supporters of The Race Within US, all are organized in support of local charities so you can cross the finish line feeling healthy and knowing that you have helped to support a good cause!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Seattle...hills and chills.

I just finished my second of 50 marathons, this one in the gorgeous city of Seattle. If you haven't been to the Pacific northwest, go there. The landscape is absolutely gorgeous, right where the mountains meet the ocean. I traveled there with my evil twin, Krystal (OK, she's not really evil and was a great supporter of me this weekend, thanks sis!) and my friend Jen, who completed her first "official" half-marathon. Great job Jen, you did awesome! We were all first-timers in Seattle, and had a great time exploring together.

First, my take on Seattle (if you wanna know). It seems no one is born and raised there. Or at least not that we met. We did end up meeting lots of people from the Midwest, or L.A. Since we all grew up in the Midwest, and Jen currently lives in L.A., we had a lot in common with the people and had some really fun and interesting conversations. Also, there is excellent shopping there (Seattle is home of the Nordstrom flagship store). However, you might not guess this by what people are wearing around town. Granted, the people I might have been were likely mostly tourists, but it seems that North Face fleeces are considered "fashion" rather than simply outerwear. But don't get me wrong, you need a fleece there even at the end of June. It was much cooler than I anticipated, since told me the highs would be low 70s. What it didn't tell me was that the high occurs only from 5pm to 6pm and then the temperatures drop back down to the low 60s. We did not pack accordingly. Unfortunately the weather was the only source of chills for us, although we tried to get some on the Pike Place Market ghost tour. While our guide Penny was entertaining at times, we did not get as scared as we hoped. Well, not except for our fear of contracting some disease from the gum wall outside of the theater where the tour began in Post Alley. Gross is the only way to describe it. We also tried to find some ghosts on the Underworld tour, which takes you through the former streets of Seattle, which are now under the current streets. Apparently some parts of the city are higher than they were originally, and after they rebuilt the city following a big fire in the late 1890s, what used to be the old sidewalks are now tiny passageways underneath the new sidewalks. We got to learn all about the lucrative prostitution industry and our tour guide even taught us a new method of contraception (don't ask). The tour was followed by a free cocktail, and if you are ever at the Underground lounge the bartender makes a great dirty martini or cosmo.

We also took a ferry over to Bainbridge Island which is full of some cute boutiques and some wineries offering tastings. I recommend paying Charlie a visit at the Victor Alexander winery and if you're lucky you can get a taste of his Semillon. It was delicious. But if you're single, be careful. Charlie is quite the charmer!

Ok, now for the race. The first portion of the course was amazing and beautiful....and cold. After I warmed up though, I was able to enjoy the views of Lake Washington and Seward Park. There were bands at almost every mile, which is a great perk of the Rock-n-Roll series of races, so I do recommend them. Plenty of aid stations and good crowd support in the downtown area. I started off at a comfortable pace hitting the halfway mark around 2 hours 11 minutes. My sis was waiting for me at mile 14 with some energy gels, Tylenol, water and anti-bacterial hand spray. (the port-o-potties were lacking in this area). She will tell you that it was her lavender-orange hand spray that made it possible for me to run the second half at about 2 hours and 2 minutes. This is apparently what is called a negative split folks, and I have no idea how I was able to run the second half so much faster than the first. But for whatever reason, at about miles 15-16 I felt really good and strong, so I went with it. This never happens to me, and probably will never happen again. My end time was about 4 hours 12 minutes, which I am completely happy with. Not a personal best, but the negative split was a new personal accomplishment for me.

One negative thing about running a marathon in a place you've never been to before is the pain of walking around sightseeing afterward. But Jen and I toughed it out and had a great time anyway and Krystal was a good sport about our complaining. I think she was having sympathy pains. The 3 of us found out we were good travel mates and are looking forward to traveling to another race together. Where to next???

Monday, June 21, 2010

blah blah blahing about the post marathon blahs

Since I ran the Madison marathon a few weeks I have had little motivation to do anything other then eat, drink and play with my kids. I've spent some time thinking about races I want to do this summer but have nothing definitive planned until the NYC marathon in November. I'm not someone that works out for vanity's sake. If I'm not training for a race, then I really only workout to sweat out the toxins from the burritos, pizza, wine, beer or whatever unhealthy things I've been ingesting for the couple of days prior. Those of you who know me know my diet is not what you'd call healthy. I think cheese and butter should be a central part of every meal. Good genetics and a lot of running mean I have freaky good cholesterol despite my diet. Anyways, I do those meaningless workouts because I feel guilty that I'm not training for some race. I really only get motivated to push myself when I have a race to train for. I need something epic to train for; an Ironman, a marathon, something that is really going to be a challenge. I've been telling myself the last few weeks, rather unconvincingly, that I'm just taking it easy because I need to recover from Madison. But the reality is that we ran so damn slow because of the heat that it really wasn't anything more than another slow long run. I was recovered pretty much within a few days. So that is the malaise I've been feeling, the post-marathon blahs. blaaaaaaaah!!!!! No motivation. blaaaaah!!! Eat some pizza, watch some TV. blaaaah!!!

So one morning last week I'm on a treadmill at my club running a few miles sweating out some beer from the night before while thinking about writing a blog about my post marathon blahs. I was also thinking about how really well I'm running right now and what a waste it seems that I'm rather directionless when it comes to my running/triathlon goals for the summer. My ideas for the blog were gaining momentum in my head while I was on otherside of the gym lifting weights. Then, WHAM, something popped in my lower back. I dropped to a knee and had difficulty standing up. I had to shuffle step my way back home and was in such serious pain I had trouble catching my breath. I felt like a giant vice was crushing my lower back. I was fearful that I had slipped a disc and was going to be layed up for the next few months, or worse yet, have to have surgery. Fortunately, my doc says it's likely a strained ligament. And while I've been really stiff and sore, I'm feeling better thanks to Motrin and lots and lots of ice.

What's my point? Just like that I went from feeling pretty damn fit, although unmotivated, to being barely able to walk. I wasn't doing anything stupid like in the Ironman last summer (Bucky the Badger!). It happened in an instant. Now I can't wait to go on a good, long run. I can't wait to feel healthy again, like I can run, ride or swim to my heart's content. I'm already planning a long run for next weekend, back pain permitting. I need to know I can!

p.s. Of course my diet isn't going to change. Father's day dinner tonight at my BFF's consisted of a steak, a cheeseburger, fries, salad and three beers. And while I certainly understand the subjective reasons for running, like the runner's high, a big reason I run as much as I do is that I don't feel a damn bit of guilt eating whatever I want!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Two States Next Weekend!

Just a brief reminder that next week Kristine and I are each running races towards our RUS goals. Kristine will be running the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon on Saturday, June 26 and I will be running the Boston 13.1 half marathon on Sunday, June 27. Thanks for all your support along the way while we have been training. We know you’ll be cheering for us while we are on the road!

Also, I want to give a little shout out to my good friend Sue. She only started running a few months ago and she has already trained and geared up to run the Boston 13.1 with me. Her first road race ever and it’s a half marathon! GO SUE!!!! So if you’ve ever heard me say that ANYONE can run distance races with dedication and training, here’s proof that it’s true. :) Now, hit the road!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Went the Distance / Now I’m Back on My Feet

I almost psyched myself out on yesterday’s run. Kristine and Mark have both mentioned in past posts how personal stress can affect their running. For me, running has always been my stress relief. I usually fun farther and faster when I have more stresses to unwind from. Yesterday was no different. The past few weeks have included some amazing high points but also some really tough and stressful moments that I’ve had trouble handling.

When I started running yesterday, it felt much harder than usual to build into my pace. All the emotion and adrenaline that had built up this week seemed to have turned into an obstacle course wall. I was tempted to give up for the day but a few things pushed me through that rough start. I thought about a Fitness magazine sidebar I read recently that suggested run mantras to keep you going when you need it most. My favorite was a reminder that you have to earn it, whether “it” is a downhill after pushing through a steep uphill or the feeling of crossing the finish line after a great race. Like they say, “pain is temporary; pride is forever.”

There’s also a New Balance ad that came to mind (full disclosure: New Balance is a national sponsor of GOTR, providing financial support to the organization, as well as 5,000 pairs of sneakers for GOTR girls who cannot afford proper running shoes). The ad has been in many running- and sports-related magazines recently and it says, “You can’t run from your problems. But you’ll both feel a little lighter when you get back.” I love that. It’s exactly how I feel about pounding the pavement – I pound away my stress or anger or sadness or whatever other emotion is starting to get the best of me, and I stay fit at the same time.

Finally, I remembered that I had just spent 12 weeks teaching my GOTR girls that if they visualize their goals – keep them fresh in their heads and hearts – they will be more likely to achieve those goals and overcome any self-doubt. Remembering that made me feel like my GOTR friends were there cheering me on. And the farther my legs carried me, the faster the stresses melted away. By the time I finished my ten mile loop around Queens’ Flushing Meadows Corona Park, I felt relaxed and healthy – and so glad I hadn’t given in and gone home.

In two weeks, on June 27, I’m checking off Massachusetts by running the Boston 13.1. If you’ll be in the Boston area, come run it with me! Or join the event’s 5K course instead. Whether you make it to Boston or not, don’t forget that a good run wherever you are is a rewarding and healthy way to balance the ups and downs of a busy daily schedule. But don’t take my word for it – hit the road and see for yourself!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Look, Ma… No Pocket Protector!

If you know us or you’ve read our first post, you’d know we’re lawyers by profession and runners and non-profit volunteers by passion. Tonight I attended a “Women in Intellectual Property Law – Going Global” Continuing Legal Education program. One of the panelists spoke about the gender disparity in a few specific fields, namely patent law and engineering (especially electrical and computer engineering), where the gender gap is skewed 80% men. This speaker recounted Mattel’s selection of this year’s “I Can Be…” edition of Barbie. Girls overwhelmingly voted for News Anchor Barbie in Mattel’s official online poll, but a society of women engineers rallied significant support for a Computer Engineer Barbie on Facebook and other social media networks; Mattel decided to launch both. News Anchor Barbie wears a frilly pink skirt suit, high heels and pretty makeup, while Computer Engineer Barbie wears glasses, flat shoes, slacks and a binary-code-patterned shirt and is described as “geek chic.”

While I applaud Mattel for creating the “I Can Be…” series of Barbies with the intention of showing young girls they can be anything, including an engineer, we need to do more to teach girls that their career path – and their life path – is not limited by how they look or where they come from. I’m not sure Mattel really succeed in meeting the "I Can Be..." series’ intentions based on the way News Anchor Barbie and Computer Engineer Barbie are respectively accessorized and described.

What does this have to do with a blog about RUNNING? Well, it makes me proud to be a Girls on the Run coach and a GOTR SoleMates fundraising run team member because I can see how far we’ve come and yet how far we still have to go in teaching girls not to feel boxed into any path based on looks, race, economic status or any other category plagued by stereotype. GOTR has been a phenomenal influence in the lives of the girls they serve by their 12-week seasonal programs. The Manhattan chapter’s Spring 2010 season just ended (read about it here), but I’ll be back for the Fall 2010 season to continue helping GOTR reach out to young girls in the NYC area – and hoping that we help them break free of the peer pressures that are exerted on them.

If you would like to see GOTR in action off-season, consider running with girls and coaches of the Pocono GOTR chapter (and me!) at the Poconos’ Wurst 5K Trail Run at Shawnee Mountain in PA on Sunday, July 18. The course follows the shady trails of Shawnee Mountain and is walker friendly. Also, your entry fee includes admission to the Poconos’ Wurst Festival, an “Oktoberfest in July” event at Shawnee Mountain. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Girls on the Run is So Much Fun!

This morning was the season-ending 5K fun run for Girls on the Run (GOTR) in New York City. GOTR’s mantra cheer promises, “Girls on the Run is so much fun!” and today was no exception. Looking around at all the girls who came from schools throughout the city, it was clear that the lessons of the season had been taken to heart: families, friends, and teammates had made posters filled with words of encouragement for all the runners, and all of the girls cheered each other on. But I think one of the biggest lessons exhibited today was that we are all strong and can accomplish any goal we put our minds to. For many of the GOTR participants, including two of the girls I coached this season, Ashara and Jasmine, yesterday was their first time running a 5K. Though they trained for it during the course of the 12-week GOTR program, this was the first opportunity to run a full 3.1 miles consecutively. They did great!

These are some photos from the event. I hope you enjoy them! If you would like to volunteer with GOTR, you can check here whether there’s a local chapter in your area. And if you would like to make a donation to GOTR, you can do so using this link. In either case, your help will go a long way to allowing this amazing program to grow and serve more communities of young girls around the country.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Steam Bath

Kristine's blog does a great job of describing the Madison Marathon and the difficult conditions. I ran in the infamous '07 Chicago Marathon that was cancelled due to extreme heat and the conditions in Madison were just as bad. To the organizer's credit, there were plenty of aid stations that were well stocked. Our race plan was simple: run slow and stay hydrated. Eventually we made it to the finish line and the fried cheese kurds and bloody mary's. They're like ambrosia after a race!

I do want to give a big congratulations to Kristine for finishing. She may be petite in size, but that is one seriously determined and strong-willed woman, and a damn good runner. Great job, KM! Next time, tho, please try not to swerve into me so much with your sweaty arms.

Anyways, unlike Kristine, this wasn't my first of the 50 marathons I'm running for RUS. My official "Wisconsin" race will the Ironman triathlon in Madison in 2011. I had a bad crash on my bike during the Madison Ironman last summer and didn't finish. Like General MacArthur said, "I shall return!" Or maybe I'm more Arnold Schwarzenegger-like in Terminator "I'll be back!" Point is, I've got unfinished business in Madison.

Still working up a race schedule for the rest of this year. I know for sure I'm running in the NYC marathon in November with Miri. That will be a great time. If everything goes as planned, I will be shooting to qualify for the Boston Marathon at NYC. Need to run a 3:30 (8 min pace). Used to be able to do that with no problem but I'm not as fast as I used to be.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I just completed the first of 50 marathons I plan on running over the next decade or so. I suspect (and hope) this will be on the slow end of some of my future races due to some pretty warm temperatures. The clock was stopped early due to the heat, but we kept on running anyway, albeit slowly. No need to make myself sick over a lil' ole marathon, right?

It was my first time in Madison, which I had learned just prior to going that the city is an isthmus. In case some of you are unaware of exactly what that is, (I was), it is a narrow strip of land, bordered on both sides by water, connecting two larger bodies of land. My biggest question was, "Why, Madison, can't you give your two big, beautiful lakes different names?" Menona and Mendota? That's a good way to confuse out-of-towners.

Also, another first I experienced was drinking my first Spotted Cow beer. I sort of was forced to have one since Miri would have come all the way from New York to beat me if I didn't. It was just as delicious as she promised.

If any of you are considering running the Madison marathon at some point, I would give the course a glowing recommendation. First, the aid stations were plentiful, which was key considering the temperatures reached near 90 degrees during the race. There are some shady, scenic parts through the University of Wisconsin's Arboretum, and of course some lake side running. If you like rolling hills, Madison is the place for you. The capital square was the start and finish of the race, and just to give a little challenge at the end, the last few blocks to the finish take you up what I heard referred to as "Capital Hill", which was uphill on Washington street. But the great part is, there are so many people cheering you on there, you hardly notice. Well, okay, I noticed, but I didn't want to look like a wimp and walk, so I pushed through and ran uphill to the finish line.

If anything was worth running a marathon, I think it was to eat the beer-batted cheese curds from the Old Fashioned guilt-free. I think they might be the most delicious things on earth. And if you also like pickled things, which I do, the Old Fashioned has a large assortment of pickled food in stock. Who knew a pickled brussel sprout could be so delicious?

Ok, now the sappy part. Doing these races always reminds me of how strong people, myself included, can be. Finishing a marathon is just as much a mental challenge as it is a physical challenge. Due to some personal issues that have been going on in my life recently, I have not been as prepared mentally or physically as I would have liked. To be honest, I was worried I wouldn't be able to finish, because my body would only take me so far, and I didn't know whether my mind would take me the rest of the way. But I surprised myself. Regardless of what is going on with me personally, for one morning, four hours, forty-three minutes and twenty-six seconds, I was able to just run. And isnt' that what running is about?