Friday, May 29, 2015


"The strength of the team is each individual member.  The strength of each member is the team."
~ Coach Phil Jackson

This Saturday, my high school track team will be competing at the Eastern Mass Divisional Championship meet up in Lowell.  It's a big meet and it's also one of the last in their season, which is mind-boggling to me given that it feels like only yesterday we were training in the snow.

These girls have worked their tails off to get to this point.  Countless miles in everything from those first bitter cold days to this past week's brutal humidity and heat.  Hours of stretching and rolling. Limitless amounts of dynamics and strides.  Hundreds of repeats of various distances at speeds that I can only dream about.  Throws and jumps, more throws and jumps and then even more on top of that.  Practice, practice, practice.  And every time they come to the track and get into deal mode, I am in awe of their drive, their determination and their desire.  

More often than not, these girls are fighting fatigue and stress; many of them juggling a number of additional activities beyond track, and all of them dealing with the rigors of a heavy academic workload.  It's not easy to fit it all in.  In fact, it's really damn hard.  I happen to feel the same way almost every single day in my own life.  Balancing family, work and my personal life, including my oft-crazy training regimen, tends to get incredibly overwhelming and sometimes unmanageable.  When I'm in the peak of marathon training, I regularly get so tired that I begin to lose my motivation and drive.  But, every time I get to the track and see these girls dealing with the same things, if only on a different level, I am re-motivated and re-inspired to buck up and get my game face on.  This is life.  It's what we choose.  We crave it.  It's who we are.  Okay.  Let's go.

Each time these girls run well or win a race, and maybe forget, if only for a brief moment, about all the hard work and sacrifices that went it to making it happen, I am reminded, once again, that it's worth it.  For that brief moment of joy and happiness.  Because there is nothing else like it.  And I've got to believe that it's one of the main reasons they keep coming back to the track day in and day out.  To push themselves, yes.  But, to push each other, too.  To laugh, to complain, to commiserate, to be silly and then to focus and work harder than they did day before.  This is what I see every day.  This is what it means to be on a team.  To be one and to be many at the same time.  And it will, undoubtedly, be an experience that they will all look back on continuously throughout their entire lives.  As a former high school athlete, I know I do.  As their coach, I know how lucky they are.  How lucky we are.  GO LEX!

Listen to this:
Scud Books - Hudson Mohawke 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


This past weekend, I was scheduled to run my last long run, a 23 miler, for my upcoming June marathon.  Holy.  Shite.  In all of my past training cycles, I’ve never tackled a run this long, typically peaking out at 20, maybe 21.  But, everything is new this time around; new goals, new workouts, new age bracket.  So, why not a new long run distance?  The issue, however, was that my family was headed to Cape Cod for the holiday week-end to spend time with cousins and grandparents and the thought of running for over 3 hours on one of my precious vacation days was, well, let’s just say I wasn’t thrilled.  To my good fortune, my running partner and good bud, Kirsten, was also going to be on the Cape with her family for the week-end and while she’s not currently training for a marathon, she’s always up for both a long run and a challenge.  I called her last Thursday and asked if she would join me for at least part of this dreaded long run on either Sunday or Monday morning.  “I have a better idea,” she said.  “Let’s run the Johnny Kelly Half Marathon on Sunday.  You can do a few miles before and after on your own and run the race with me.  I don’t want to go nuts, but I’d like to put in a decent effort.  You can be my rabbit."  (meaning, I could help keep her on goal pace throughout the race).  It was a brilliant idea.  23 miles alone?  BRUTAL.  23 miles broken up by 10 miles solo with a half marathon in between which I get to run with my bud?  AWESOME...well, relatively awesome, but still.

Sunset on Cape Cod
Friday night before race day

Saturday morning, I got up at 6:15am and headed out to scoop Kirsten up at 7:00.  The early start was less than ideal for both of us, but, at the same time, it's always good to get the day going early. About 30 minutes later, we got to Hyannis, parked and made our way over to the town green to grab our numbers.  We made a plan to meet at the start, near the back of the crowd and then I headed out to get a few miles under my belt before the race began.  It did feel a little odd to start cruising down the street with my bib on as other runners were pulling in for the race and then even more odd to get to the start fully sweating; not that anyone cared or even noticed.  Finally, at 8:15am, we were off.  We both had our music on, but could still hear each other talk.  As usual, our first mile was a little fast.  Knowing that Kirsten wanted to run a good time and finish strong, I suggested we pull back a bit.  We settled in nicely, still a little fast, but clearly comfortable for her so we went with it.  People were passing us left and right and I got the sense sense that she wanted to pick it up and go with the flow.  But, in my 10 marathons, I have gone out too fast in at least half of them and it never works, so I tried to hold steady and keep us in check, knowing that we could use that saved energy at the end of the race.  After a few miles we got to the beach.  We were running against the wind on a slight incline and our split for mile 5 reflected this as it was a bit slower.  She gave me a look of concern and I told her not to worry, that it would even out.  She nodded and I could see her relax a little.

We continued to cruise along, enjoying the scenery, chatting a little, checking in with each other and just zoning out.  Around mile 8, I paused my music so I could listen to Kirsten’s breathing.  I wanted to make sure our effort was still manageable if not comfortable and by having my music on I couldn’t really gauge this.  As we moved along, I just listened to our footsteps, which were often in synch, to her breathing, to my own breathing, to the crowd, to everything.  I rarely do this and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.  At mile 9, Kirsten took a drink and then slammed dunked it into the trash can, and shouted “2 POINTS” while smiling.  I laughed, knowing, at this stage that we were going to be good to go for the rest of the race.  As we pushed on, the sun beamed down on us and I could tell the heat was starting to become a factor.  Finally, we made it to mile 11.  “Okay, Kirst,"  I said "we’ve got 2 miles to go.  That’s like running from my house to yours and back.  You can do that in your sleep.  Let's do this.” To which she responded, "I'm tired."  Shit.  She’d hit the point when her head was starting to play games with her despite that fact that her body was undoubtedly still capable of powering through.  “I know you’re tired.  I am, too.  But we can do this.  Let’s go."  “Ok," she said.  "Just keep talking.” She needed the distraction.  So, I threw out everything I could think of, running- related or not, even fibbing a little about our pace, which was getting progressively faster, and how close we were to the finish, which was not quite as close as I told her (sorry, Kirst).  We finally rounded the curve for our last .1 and gave it our all to finish strong.  It was an awesome time for her and while she wasn’t feeling good at that particular moment, I knew she would be psyched eventually.  We eased over to the green and grabbed some waters.  There might have been a hug and a high five in there, too.  I don’t really remember and I don't think she would either.  When she was talking again and feeling good, I headed out for my final 7 miles.  Oh, right.  I had 7 more miles to tackle on my own.  Oof.  I was really, really tired.  But, I was also elated.  I was thrilled for Kirsten, who had run a really great race and time and I was pumped in general about how fun the whole experience had been for me.  I was floating on pure runner joy.  I took my bib off, cranked up my tunes and just let it roll.  I’m not going to lie, my legs started to get heavy pretty quickly.  But my head was so filled with good feelings that it didn’t matter.  That was pretty cool.  When I got back to the green, I found Kirsten chilling out in the grass with her feet up and a huge smile across her face.  I laid down next to her and neither said nor did anything for a few minutes.  She took a picture to document my 23 mile finish.

Shortly afterwards, Bekah S., a fellow Oiselle enthusiast, came over and introduced herself.  She’d seen us on the course and shot the above photo.  Kirsten doesn’t actually run on the team with me, but she might as well as she’s a huge fan and always sporting the duds.  We chatted for a while, learning that Bekah is nursing a foot injury (sucks), and that her husband, Paul, had run both the 5K and the half (impressive).  We bugged her for another photo and then headed off to get iced mochas, our traditional post-race treat.

Since Kirsten had had some time to recover while I kept running, she offered to drive my car home so I could put my feet up.  Bless her.  We made it back easily, she dropped herself off and I ambled slowly over to the driver side to get myself home.  Both of us were looking forward to enjoying the rest of the week-end.  Lazily, I might add.

I run for a lot of reasons.  I love to push myself.  I crave the mental release.  I enjoy the challenge of racing.  But, none of it is nearly as exciting or fulfilling without a buddy by your side.  Someone to run with, yes.  But, even more so, someone to get up early with, to commiserate with, to drive to and from races with, to enjoy post-race coffee with, to support when things don’t go as hoped and to celebrate with when they do.  Running is awesome.  Running with a bud is more awesome.  Thanks, K.

Listen to this:
1000 - Ben Khan

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Supposedly, if you want something bad enough, you'll do anything to get it.  In running, this could not be more true.  Runners will do almost anything to get their training and/or racing in.  It could be something as major as flying to Georgia for a marathon because the original marathon destination was getting pummeled by a blizzard or as minor as going to bed before your 8 year old.  I happen to be guilty of both of those things.  I've been running competitively for many years, but I really started to ramp up my level of intensity, excluding high school and college, around 2010.  I got my first taste of the 'Kool Aid' in the fall of that year after running the Bay State Half Marathon, where I ran a 1:37 and was the 28th woman across the finish line.  I'd felt really good throughout the entire race and finished strong, which was new for me.  Not surprisingly, I was fired up and ready to try again.  After that, I started to shift gears a bit; seeking out new training plans (Runner's World, McMillan, Jack Daniels) for various race distances and trying out new fuel and gear every chance I got.  Last October, five years, about 50 races (some good, many bad) and hundreds of miles later, along with the help of a coach, I ran my marathon PR of 3:11:05.  In that race, I ran the first 13.1 miles in 1:37 and the second half in 1:34; the former time one that I was beyond thrilled to run 5 years before for a half alone and the later one that I never dreamed I could pull off at that point in my life.  Once again, I was over the moon.  I felt like I could tackle anything I put my mind to and about 3 minutes after that race I was already thinking about my next move.  So, here I am today in May of 2015.  I'm 40 years old and I'm getting ready to run my 11th marathon.  What do I want now, you ask?  I want to prove to myself that there is still something left in these legs, regardless of the fact that I'm in a new age bracket.  I want to get to the starting line again and know that I have done everything I can to run a successful race.  And I want to feel that pure joy of running for yet another 26.2 miles.  It's a tall order.  Real tall.

As I always do when I train for a marathon, I have put in the time and the miles in for this one.  I have done the 20 milers - 4 to be exact with one more to go, and yes, I'm counting.  I have done the tempo runs, the track work, and the recovery runs.  Some of them have gone well.  Others have been a disaster.  But, for the past 4 months or so, I have done whatever it takes to get my training in.  This past week, I logged 65 miles with a 22 miler on Monday.  On top of that I had to coach 3 high school track meets which were a minimum of 3 hours long along with regular practices in between.  Oh, then there were my mom duties.  I had to fulfill those, too.  By the end of the week, I could barely keep my eyes open.  I honestly don't remember the last time I've felt that tired.  (Kirsten, I can feel your eyes rolling from afar).  But, seriously.  I was in rough shape.  On Saturday, my husband and I had our annual spring BBQ, a big party that we've held for the past 6 years that tends to go on into the wee hours of the night.  I don't usually train for marathons this far into the spring (stupid winter), so I typically manage to stay up and hang with my friends for this shindig.  But this year, not so much.  I was doing all right until I had to take my kids up and tuck them in.  It was around 10:30.  I said good night, shut their door, and then I made the mistake of looking at my own bed.  Oh, man, did I want to get in.  I could hear everyone downstairs, still chatting and hanging out by the fire pit.  I wanted to go back down.  I did.  But, my legs were not budging and my mind was already willing me to get in bed.  It just wasn't happening.

Marathon Training: Social Life: 0

Is it weird to hit the hay while your friends are still partying downstairs at your house?  Yea, kind of.  Am I taking this marathon thing a little too far?  Maybe.  Do I care?  No, I do not.  I am committed.  And, I will do whatever it takes.   Here's to good things.

Listen to this:
Places You Will Go - Patrick Watson  

Thursday, May 14, 2015


"Truth is the property of no individual but is the treasure of all men."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yesterday, my daughter's teacher shared two of her recent poems with me.  Both are short and sweet; one a Haiku, the other an acrostic.  Grace who's 8, is the younger of my two girls and do I put this...also the trickiest.  In a nutshell, she keeps me on my toes pretty much all the time.  So, both of these poems speak volumes to both who she is and how she views me as her mom.  The first that came through was the Haiku.

This one surprised me a bit and also made me laugh.  A lot.  According to Grace, not only am I bossy, but I make the rules AND I'm always bossing.  When I picked her up from gymnastics last night I asked her about it.  Grace, I said, Ashley sent me your poems today.  She smirked.  Do you really think I'm that bossy?  I feel a little sad that you just see me as the one who makes the rules and then tells you what do do.  Her response?  Well, at least I put the 'nice' part in there.  We both laughed.  When it comes down to it, she's kind of right.  I do make the rules and I do enforce them.  And lately, I've been having repeat myself several times to get through to her (ie. Grace, did you brush your teeth?  Grace, you still haven't brushed your teeth.  Grace, you need to get out of bed and brush your teeth.  GRACE!!!)  So, yeah, I guess that comes off as bossy.

Grace, did you do your homework?

But, again, at least she threw the 'nice' in there, too.  The second one was the acrostic poem.  

Early runner
Bare back

This one also had me laughing.  I got most of it - a cute, energetic runner who likes to cuddle and is, in her opinion, awesome.  I'll take it.  I did, however, have to get some clarification from her on the other two.  Turns out, early runner is just that.  I tend to go right after I drop her off from school, which she considers early.  But bare back?!?  She let me know it's because I'm often running in a tank top or sports bra so my back is bear.  Also, true.  A little odd that she put that in there over something like, I don't know, Bossy.  Ha ha.  Seriously, though, I love this.  She is saying so much with so little in this one.  I run a lot.  She sees that.  She even went so far as to comment on when I go and what I wear (or don't wear).  Makes total sense.  But, she also noted my energy.  I'm always worried that I don't save enough for my kids because I use so much of it for my training and coaching.  If she put it in there, it must mean I'm not always totally depleted when I'm with her.  That's a relief.  I'm also happy to know that she associates me with cuddling, which I try to do as much as possible with her.  My older daughter is not so into it, so Grace gets the extra dose.  I knew she liked it, but it's clearly on the forefront of her mind when she thinks of me.  That's cool.  And finally, cute and awesome.  I don't know about cute, but I'll take awesome any day.

Listen to this:
THE SHADE - Metric