Big Fat Scary Goals: My 2016 Race Plans

Just like a runner needs rest days, sometimes runners need a “rest year.” No, not necessarily taking the whole year off, but scaling back. in 2015 I scaled back, but 2016 is here (well, it’s been here for 2 months already) and I’m ready again for a Big Fat Scary Goal (BFSG).

While races aren’t the sole motivation for me to run, I’m very goal-oriented (teacher, yo) and when I can work bit by bit toward something I enjoy, such as racing, it’s the extra kick in the pants I need to make the training happen.

I’ve got all of my races planned (and most are paid for) for this year. One advantage of entering early is not only to put the goal on the calendar, but the race fees are cheaper! (Again, teacher, yo) Here are my races for 2016:

2/21/16: Big Chili 5k, Danbury, CT  I signed up for this in January, then later booked my daughter’s birthday party for the same morning. OOPSIE. There was no way I was going to skip her Star Wars/Peanuts/Shopkins-themed movie party. I was also needed to help put assemble the totally rando favor bags, which contained a Shopkin and a whoopee cushion. Take that, Pinterest suckas! Anyway, last year’s Big Chili was the one where I won an Age Group award because I showed up. While I wasn’t there to defend my “title”,  watching my daughter teach nine 2nd-grade girls how to use a whoopee cushion was totally worth it.

3/20/16: New York City Half Marathon, NY, NY  Back in December, my bank alerted me that this would be my spring running goal. How? Entry for this race was via lottery, and I’d forgotten I entered (what can I say? Mom Memory). Turns out I not only entered, but won a slot, when the alert from my bank app let me know that New York Road Runners charged me for the race. That’s what happens when you “put things out to the universe” and then forget about them.

This race will be an interesting experiment, as I had fairly major sinus surgery in January, and I’m not back to full fitness yet. I’m tempted to Galloway myself (run/walk intervals) through this race and aim for a sub 2:00-hour time. We shall see. Might be pie-in-the-sky. Another post on that later. I ran this race in 2013, and it’s in my “Top 5 Most Fun” races list (in my head). Before that 2013 race I was on the road to recovery from illness (pneumonia) and I vowed to have fun instead of gunning for a PR. I will most definitely have fun again this year. Here’s a pic from 2013:

NYC Half Marathon

Times Square

 

5/1/16: Redding Road Race/The Run For the Cows Half Marathon, Redding, CT  This race sells out every year, as it’s gaining in popularity because it’s super challenging/hilly and very well directed, with nice swag and prizes. Not to mention gorgeous scenery. Luckily, it’s just a 10 minute drive from my house, so I can train on those very same hills. Since NYC will be an experiment-slash-training run, this became my A-goal race. I’m not sure what my A-goal is at the moment, though. Stay tuned.

5/8/16: Run Like a Mother 5k (Volunteering) Ridgefield, CT This hometown race is just a hop, skip, and a jump from my house, too (sleep, yo). I’m volunteering again as  The Run Fairy: Coming In Last So You Don’t Have To. I get to see tons of friends (sometimes it’s their 1st race!) and cheer them on. It’s super fun and uplifting, and I’m very much looking forward to it. I’m going to up my costume game this year, too. PREPARE YOUR EYES. Here’s last year!

5k, mother's day, run like a mother

The start of the kids’ race. You can’t see the wings, but they’re there! (Photo by Lisa Cousins Photography)

 

6/5/16: Tri-Ridgefield Sprint Triathlon, Ridgefield, CT I can practically just roll out of bed and be there for this one (again, sleep, yo!) This will be my 3rd time racing Tri-Ridgefield, having done it in 2013 and 2014. I skipped 2015, as I did the Brooklyn Half Marathon around that time last year instead. This tri is an 800 yd (maybe meters? not sure) swim, 12.5 mile bike, and 5k run, because triathlons like to make life harder by measuring in both metric and US units. I’m looking forward to the (almost) annual triathlon date with my husband as the run course is out-and-back and we get to slap hands when we pass each other, how romantic. I’m not looking forward to potential freezing lake water (open water panic attacks) or potential high pollen counts (wheezing). But I’ll be there to kick off the triathlon part of my Year of the Big Fat Scary Goals.

wetsuit triathlon Ridgefield

This was 2014’s swim exit. Gotta dust off the ole ripplesuit, er, wetsuit. Oh the humanity.

So far, any of the races or distances I’ve listed, I’ve done before. Next I’m bracing myself for some new Big Fat Scary Goals (BFSG’s).

7/17/16: Litchfield Hills Olympic Triathlon, New Hartford, CT  An Olympic-length triathlon is just about double-length of a sprint: 0.9 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike ride, and a 10k (6.2 miles) run. This race will be at a nice, calm lake in central Connecticut, with rolling hills on the bike ride. But this is just a mere tune-up for the big enchilada…

9/4/16: Big George Half-Iron Distance Triathlon, Lake George, NY!!!!!   1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run! Logically, I can do this. I know I can run 13.1 miles. A couple of years ago, I worked up to a mile in the pool, so I can do that again. But 56 miles on the bike? Don’t tell my butt; it will freak out. Emotionally, I will focus on the positives and not the scaries: I purposely choose a fall tri so that I could train over the summer, when I have more time. My family and I are making a vacation weekend out of it. Lake George, NY is positively gorgeous, and no matter what happens, I get to do this race with one of my BRF’s, Lori. I can’t remember who roped who into this, but we’re in it together.

Big George Triathlon

WOWZA
(From their website)

Also on my radar:

I want volunteer for the NYC Marathon again this year, in early November. Last year I was a finish line marshal, and it was amazing. It was like riding along with others’ highs. If my schedule will allow I will volunteer again.

I feel like I need a late-fall goal, since Big George is pretty early in September. I’m thinking possibly the Richmond (Half) Marathon, as it’s a three-day weekend allowing for travel time, and my dear cousin lives there!

There you have my Big Fat Scary Goals for the year. Please tell me I’m not alone in my craziness of having BRSG’s, but they give me joy, anxiety (in a good way), and ultimately remind me that I am alive. Tell me your BFSG, right now. Even if it’s not endurance-related. Here’s to all of our BFSG’s in 2016!

 

 

 

Kissing 2015 Buh-Bye; Hello-ing 2016!

This runner did not write about any races this year. GASP! WHAT? A runner ran races and didn’t talk/write/blather about it! I am proof it can happen.

I had a lot going on. Some of it fell into the “extremely stressful” or even “awful” category. But once again, running was my respite. While it was somewhat accidental, I ran less weekly miles this year, but made every mile count. The result was 6 solid races, including my first sub-2-hour half marathon, and no injuries. I think I might be onto something here in the “less is more” camp. I learned something from each one, which I’ll save for future posts, as they are GEMS, I tell you!

So here’s my 6-in-1 race recap for 2015 in a nutshell. Or should I say in a #hashtag. (#lazyblogger)

March 1: The Big Chili 5k, Danbury, CT

Hashtags: #snow #slippery #PR #1stinagegroup #exclamationpoint

5k, Big chili, PR

As you can see the conditions were ideal. To you faster people who decided to sleep in, I won a chili bowl, and you did not.

 

April 26: NYRR Run as One for Lungevity Foundation 4M, New York, NY

Hashtags: #lungcancersucks

Lungevity, NYRR,

There was a giant whiteboard for notes at race central.

 

May 10: Run Like a Mother 5k, Ridgefield, CT

Hashtags: #runfairy #cameinlastsonooneelsehadto #fun

5k, mother's day, run like a mother

The start of the kids’ race. You can’t see the wings, but they’re there! (Photo by Lisa Cousins Photography)

 

May 16: NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon, Brooklyn, NY

Hashtags: #ran3daysaweek #fastandflat #shaved9minutesoffpriorPR #soakingrain

Brooklyn Half, half marathon

Before the start with my Ragnar friend Nikki. This race was a blast, besides getting drenched for most of it.

 

 

July 12: Mossman Sprint Triathlon, Norwalk, CT

Hashtags: #perfectconditions #solidoverall #didntdrown #didntcrash #didnttrip

This was my nerves freaking out and being photobombed by another triathlete.

This is my pre-race nerves face.

 

 

October 16: Inagural SONO Half Marathon, South Norwalk, CT

Hashtags: #nogps #nomusic #sub2hrsPR #tonsofexclamationpoints

Ah, the two faces of racing. This time, Im the one smiling instead of wanting to puke. Thats a sub-2:00 smile, by the way.

Ah, the two faces of racing. This time, I’m the one smiling instead of wanting to puke. Thats a sub-2:00 smile, by the way.

 

November 21: Mima’s Meatballs 1-miler for MSV (Predict Your Time Race)

Hashtags: #charity #predictyourtime #walkedwithDad #firstimeheeverworearacebib

My dad and I did this together. No words...

My dad and I did this together. No words…

It was a helluva year. I’m happy to kiss it goodbye and put it into the record books. 2016 is going to bring big challenges. Can you guess? Hashtag hint: #70.3

How did you feel about 2015? What challenges are you taking on in 2016? Do tell in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

There Will Always Be Someone Faster Than You

Raise your hand if you’ve heard/said/mumbled the following:

“I’m so slow!”

“I can’t run as fast as you.”

“I’m afraid I’ll come in last.”

Some use it as avoidance, or maybe you have a genuine fear of coming in last in a race. Well, I’ve got news for you.

THERE WILL ALWAYS BE SOMEONE FASTER THAN YOU.

Unless you are an elite badass runner, the above is TRUTH. And even the elite runners get their butts kicked at some point. But guess what?

They put in hard effort…YOU DO TOO.

They put in time…YOU DO TOO.

Sometimes they have great runs, sometimes they have sucky runs. YOU DO TOO.

They have goals. Big ones…YOU DO TOO.

And when you get the starting line of your race, all runners must cover the exact same ground as you. No matter what the race — a 5k, 10k, marathon —  they run the exact same course and distance that you will. (By the way, what other sport can say that? Little leagues don’t typically get to play at Yankee Stadium!)

Once you accept everything that you are, AND everything that you are not, it’s quite freeing. I will never be an elite runner. I may never break a 4-hour marathon. But I aim to get a little faster every year, avoid injury, and enjoy my running time. I’ve just accepted that in races, in training runs, and in life, there will always be someone with fleeter feet than mine. And I’m okay with that.

slow runner

If you find this funny, you’re in the right sport. Photo Credit: The T-Rex Runner

For the past few months, I was a long-run pace leader for the Saturday morning runs at our local run shop. When the runners gathered, we divided into pace groups. There were always 8:00/mile people, 9:00/mile people there. I was proud to represent the 10:00/mile peeps. When we took off on the run, it didn’t matter what the 8’s and 9’s were doing, it mattered what I was doing. Right now, my long-run sweet spot is that pace. Not too long ago I had an 12-13:00/mile pace. To get to this place (and pace) was MY journey, and mine alone. It’s MINE, MINE, MINE! No one can take that from me. That’s where I find my joy, my successes, my happy pace.

comparison-is-the-thief-of-joy

Once you truly accept that you are in charge of your running, then you can go about your business of training for your raceUnless you are on a relay team, you run against yourself. You run against your own clock. You run against the person you were yesterday.

Dont-Compare-Yourself-to-Others-battle can't win

Get out there and do it. You got this!

 

 

My Ankles Are So PO’d At Me Right Now

My husband is just the best. Not only did research my Pinterest boards to find me the coziest, prettiest sweater for Christmas, but he also got me some spikes. Running spikes. True runner love!

We’ve had just a tad of snow lately here in the northeast, so I thought I’d try them out on one of the local rail trails. Our town plows the roads fairly well, so they are clear-ish enough to run without spike assistance. But I had a new toy! I must play with my new running toy!!

They are call NanoSpikes, made by Kahtoola. They fit over your regular running shoes and give you some grip on slushy/slippery surfaces.

snow running spikes nanospikes

As you can see, they fit great, without hitting of the squeezy parts of my toes (aka, the places where I poked holes in my Hokas to accomodate my gnarly-shaped feet).

Wearing my special new running jacket, I walked to the head of the trail, and slipped them on. The first 200 feet of the trail leads to a power station, and the snow had been compacted by the utility trucks. Perfect! Awesome! I’m running on snow! The cold doesn’t bother me anyway!

IMG_0377

Then, after the power station, the snow was not compacted, merely “pressed down” a bit by some cross-country skiis, hikers/walkers, dogs, etc. I though maybe there would have been some renegade ATV or fat bike tracks to compact it more, but nope.

IMG_0378

I took 5 steps into the deeper, fluffier snow, and on the sixth step, hit a divot, proceded to turn my left ankle. YEOW. THIS IS WHY I DON’T TRAIL RUN.

Haters gonna hate. Divots gonna sprain.

Shake it off, sh-sh sh-shake it off.

I proceded. With each step down into 12″ of snow, it became abundantly clear that I didn’t need spikes — I needed snowshoes. I felt like a big dummy.

I wish I could say I rallied, found My Zone, and the rest of the run went well, but alas, I cannot. I had to hyper-focus on every single step. The effort of pushing out from the snow was not sustainable, especially as the second half of the trail is one long, continual uphill for 2 miles.

Way before my planned turnaround point, I blurted out to no one: F____ this s____! Which really means, “I have a feeling of anger and annoyance of this current activity, which is equivalent to poop.”

I turned around and headed back to the top of the trail, mostly running; some shuffling. Went home, iced my ankles. They are so pissed at me right now.

They’ll get over it. I’ve got a 5k in 2 weeks.

I do like the spikes. They did not impede my running at all. I did that to myself thinking I could snow-fairy my way through an un-groomed trail. I will try them again soon in an appropriate place.

For now I need to go show my ankles some TLC.

 

 

 

Worn Jackets and Used Tissues

I have a new-to-me winter running jacket. It’s the prettiest dark cornflower blue, fleece-lined, and wind-proof. It’s not that much out of the ordinary, except…

…it was my mom’s.

My dad handed it to me in the days after the funeral. “This would fit you,” he said. Many of my mom’s clothes do not fit me, as the top of her head came up to my chin, on a good day.

“It’s a medium, not a small. Try it on,” my dad said gently. My mother was a big-time clotheshorse. You know how people find stashes of cash around a house after their loved one dies? I found stashes of clothes in all of the closets, under beds, in storage areas, even in my dad’s closet. Needless to say, I wasn’t ready to go through all of her clothes. But my dad was rumaging through the front coat closet, and came across this jacket.

20150207-102416.jpg

“I bought it for her on one of our trips. It’s warm. She was always cold.”

I tried it on. It fit.

“You could wear it running/I could wear it running!” we pretty much said at the same time.

The jacket went into my suitcase for the trip back home.

The thing with losing a loved one is, life goes on whether you’re ready or not. I had no choice but to jump back into real life…mothering, teaching, wife-ing, etc. Running? I didn’t quite have the energy for that yet.

Two weeks later, I could not ignore The Call Of the Run anymore. My body and brain craved it. It was 25 degrees, and being the cold-weather-wimp that I am, reached for the pretty blue jacket and zipped it up.

Buried in the pockets I found a stash of tissues. One of the pockets held a bunch of neatly folded tissues, ready for use. The other pocket held, well…crumpled tissues I can only assume were “used.” (She had a constantly runny nose from her cancer treatments.) Under normal circumstances, finding someone else’s used tissues would cause me to throw up in my mouth a little. But this little treasure made me smile, as they were hers, and OF COURSE my mother would have one pocket for new tissues and the other for used. She had a system for everything.

While the thought briefly crossed my mind, I did not keep the tissues.

But wearing her jacket that day did not make me sad. It’s really, really hard to feel sorry for yourself when you’re running. Try it, I dare you. Instead, I felt like I was taking her with me on that run, literally and figuratively wrapped around me and keeping me warm. It was a damn good run.

20150207-105105.jpg

I’ll be kind of sad when the weather warms up and I won’t be able to wear the jacket for a while. She wasn’t a runner, so it is unlikely that I will magically find a tank of hers to wear in the warmer months.

But until then, I’ll enjoy taking a piece of my mom with me on my runs, used tissues and all.

 

 

My Insanely Elaborate Blister Prevention System

I have something to celebrate: I came out of the TCS NYC Marathon with all of my toenails! Not only that, but NOT ONE BLISTER!

blister bitch bubbles

After last year’s Philly Marathon, my tootsies looked like someone had taken a hammer to them:

black toenails plantar plate tear toe drift

Martyr left 2nd toenail barely hanging on, 2nd right toe “drifting” toward big toe, blisters on the side of each big toe, unexpected and totally rando black toenail on 4th toe.

This year, I could be a foot model. Haha, just kidding. But I was shocked…shocked! to find zero damage after I peeled off my compression socks post-marathon this year.

To partake in my blister-free bliss, I’m going to share with you my Insanely Elaborate Blister Prevention System, because believe me, this blister-free life doesn’t come easy.

Disclaimer: Only guaranteed up to 26.2 miles. Anything over that, I cannot be held responsible. Really, I cannot be held responsible for any blisters you get, ever. Because you’re probably a runner and I’m a runner and runners do stupid things to their feet. Also, only guaranteed if you have my exact same foot shape, bunions and bunionettes, Morton’s Toe, a formerly damaged plantar plate tear, former plantar fasciitis, and callouses on the side of your big toes that never go away no matter how much the nail tech scrapes, scrubs, and grunts (true story). Basically, only if you have feet that are as anatomically messed-up as mine.

Start my making sure you have some grown-out nail polish that is halfway covering your hideous blackened toenails that you got from forgetting that when you run in the afternoons during the first week of school, your feet turn into balloons and you have to go up a 1/2 size.

marathon blister prevention

It’s not blurry. It’s soft-focus.

Next get out your arsenal.

marathon blister prevention

Not seen: Cheap nylon footies.

As a precautionary measure, I still tape down my cranky toe with waterproof tape on my right foot. I find that the generic tape doesn’t stick as well. Buy the J&J stuff.

marathon blister prevention

The taping holds my toe’s ligament in place. Also, who knew a big-toe callus could reflect so much light?

Now the blister prevention can begin.

First, I apply Body Glide stick to my usual hot spot areas – the insides of my feet.  The Body Glide “For Her” was the only thing in stock at the store at the time. It’s for when you want to feel more feminine while you lube up your bunions.

marathon blister prevention

Lube those puppies.

Then, I apply Mission 5-hour Anti-Chafe ON TOP of the Body Glide. Why? Two different viscosities = double protection. If one fails, there’s a backup. I also put some Mission on the tips of my toes and my heels out of an abundance of caution.

Next, I ready my footies. Nylon footie socks are KEY. Yes, the kind you can buy at Target, CVS, Walgreens, etc.

marathon blister prevention

The key to ending your misery.

Blisters form when 2 things (in this case your skin and your shoe) rub against each other. If you wear footies UNDER your running socks, your skin will not have direct contact with the part of your shoe that’s rubbing — it will rub against your sock instead, which is way more forgiving.

Before I put the footies on, I sprinkle in 2Tom’s Blister Prevention Powder, you know, because IT CAN’T HURT.

marathon blister prevention

I might as well throw a pinch of it over my shoulder, too.

IMG_0096

Once the footies are on, I put on my regular socks (for short runs) or compression socks (longer than 2 hour runs) over them. The easiest way to put on compression socks is to roll them down and out before you put them on, then, instead of having to slide them up (which is impossible), you just roll them up. Who am I kidding? They’re still a pain in the patootie to get on. But here’s my regular, mid-weight, wicking socks.

marathon blister prevention

My new favorite, from Wrightsocks.

Now you’re ready for shoes. In theory, if you have good fitting shoes, you won’t get blisters. However, if you’ve got gnarly feet like mine, you might have to make some modifications. Since my bout two years ago with plantar fasciitis, I had custom orthotics made, and they all but cured it. Since my toe injury one year ago, I added a metatarsal pad on the right side. I can’t say enough about what a godsend these things are.

marathon blister prevention

Worth it.

I have bunions on both the inside and the outside of my feet. The outside ones are more problematic for running. One day out of desperation, I grabbed a pair of scissors, took a deep breath, and poked 4 holes in my $160 Hokas; one on each side. It was the best thing I ever did. My feet were ecstatic!

marathon blister prevention

Oh yes I did poke a hole in my Hokas! This was the second pair I’ve hacked.

And there you have it. My Insanely Elaborate Blister Prevention System. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Do you get blisters? What do you use to prevent them? Do you have gnarly feet and just need to vent? Do so in the comments below!

 

 

A Tale of Three 20’s

Three 20-mile runs. I have never before done THREE of them in a single marathon training cycle.

In 2012, I was a novice runner, and my marathon training included one 20-miler, which I accidentally turned into a 22-miler and almost killed my friend.

In 2013, I was supposed to run 2 X 20’s during that cycle, but the weekend before the first one was scheduled, I ran an extremely danger-zone-hot Ragnar Race, which was epic in and of itself, but also so epic that when I was done I felt like I had just run a marathon. I took the following week as a drop-in-mileage week to recover, and did the other 20-miler later in the cycle with a very sore toe (which turned out to be a plantar plate tear). It wasn’t pleasant, but I pushed through.

This year, when I got my training plan from Coach Erin for the 2014 TCS New York Marathon, I did a spit-take as I glanced at the plan. One…two…THREE twenty-milers??  *looking around the room*  Who..me?

Being that my mantra of the past 6 months has been Calm the Heck Down, (only substitute a certain cuss word for “heck”), I pretty much just told myself that over and over. I’m going to abbreviate it CTFD. I think it’s going to turn into my mantra for life in general.

Twenty miler #1/September 14th: “Relief”

Considering I went to bed at 1 AM and didn’t hydrate properly (was in Manhattan for a play the night before) this run went pretty well. My main goal was to finish, test out my fueling, and try out the elaborate blister-reducing system I had planned for my feet.

I did loops in town from the Starbucks (restroom and water available!) of 6 miles-4 miles-6 miles-4 miles. I was really stoked to have my Ragnar van-mate Iliana join me for the first 10, my friend Chris join for 6, and my bud Lori join me for 14. It makes the time go so much faster when we’re jabbering away. Also, running friends help you CTFD.

It was a bright beautiful day...hence, the squinting.

It was a bright beautiful day…hence, the squinting.

I didn’t bonk (which means I fueled well), and I held back my pace (re: CTFD) to make sure my average pace was 11:09/mile (my goal for long runs is the low-11’s). One teeny blister showed up, but other than that I was happy. I knew if I could get JUST ONE of these suckas under my belt that would acceptable. Not ideal, but acceptable, as it had been in the prior years. The run wasn’t sunshine and rainbows, but it certainly wasn’t the ugly depths of hell, either. It did, however, make me completely useless the rest of the day.

marathon long run 20-miler

Pretty much stayed this way the rest of the day.

Twenty-miler #2/September 28th: “Shock”

I made it through the 6-4-6-4 loops again. And I felt pretty…good! Controlling my pace (again, C-ingTFD), my average was 11:10/mile. I wasn’t completely wiped out afterward, either. But you what I felt afterward? SHOCK. I was shocked that I felt so…good! I believe my quote on my running log to coach Erin was, “WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING?!”

TWO DOWN. I knew that if the wheels came off this training plan, I’d have two 20-milers under my belt. WHEW. I didn’t take a photo before or after the run, but I did take a recovery photo of The Icing Of the Cranky Toe whilst watching my son’s baseball game later that day. A day in the life of a mother runner…

marathon long run 20 miler

Don’t worry, it’s not reinjured. Just soothing the angry digits.

 

Twenty-Miler #3/October 12: “Confidence” 

I faced this one alone…on purpose. I wanted to test my own mettle, just me and my running tunes. I also thought “don’t fix what’s not broken” and stuck with my usual hilly 6-4-6-4 loop route. The last two miles needed to be at goal race pace, somewhere around 9:30-ish/mile. It was the kind of crisp, lovely fall day that makes you want to do a long run (oh wait, maybe that’s just me?), and I was also testing out my race outfit. I’m happy to say that after C-ingTFD, I did not make a bathroom stop, I fueled perfectly, my race outfit did not chafe in hideous places, my average pace was 10:53(!) and the last miles were 9:25 and 10:00. BOOM-SHAKA-LAKA-BOOM!

marathon long run

An eyes-closed selfie is my secret signal that I’m READY

Now I know why Coach Erin put three 20-milers on the plan. Not simply to put the miles on my feet, but to put the CONFIDENCE in my head. I feel READY. My race goal (TBA publicly soon) actually feels reachable. I could race tomorrow if I had to. Don’t get me wrong, I still have random twinges of anxiety about it, but all I have to do is CTFD, right?

Relief, shock, and confidence. Good things come in threes, they say. Good things, indeed.