Thursday, March 26, 2015

SPRING TRACK

“It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want—oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” 
~ Mark Twain


I wish I could say it feels like spring here in the Boston area.  It doesn't.  Last Friday, the first day of spring, it was a whopping 21 degrees out, windy as hell and there was not a bird in sight.  The next morning, it was snowing.  Not flurrying.  Steadily snowing and accumulating.  WTF??!!  True, it has gotten a bit warmer since then, but not much.  The upside?  When spring does arrive, none of us will be able to wipe the huge perma-grins off of our faces.  Talk about spring fever.  Despite the weather, a lot of big "spring" things are still happening.  The Boston Marathon is a mere four weeks away.  My kids' spring break is right after that (hello Florida).  And despite the fact that the ground is still covered in snow, our high school spring track season is officially underway.  We have 104 girls on our squad this year.  The boys have almost as many.  We do have an indoor facility, which is awesome, but throw 200+ kids into a field house for warmups and you have complete and utter chaos.  Space is ridiculously tight and you can barely hear yourself think let alone hear each other.  Needless to say, the first few days were a bit rough from a logistical standpoint.  For most of that week, temps didn't get above 30, so we were stuck indoors.  All of us.  On Friday, the distance squad (milers and 2 milers) headed out for some hill work.  Hill repeats are hard.  Hill repeats when you're cold are harder.  Not surprisingly, they rocked it.

FIRST DAY OF SPRING
HILL REPEATS

Yesterday, it was 45 degrees and sunny which basically felt like summer.  All the girls were sporting shorts and tees and were beyond thrilled to be outside.  We headed over to the track, which has anywhere from 1-3 open lanes depending on where you are on the oval, and is soaking wet with puddles everywhere.  Not ideal for a group of 24 girls trying do a workout together.  But beggars can't be choosers.  Once again, they rocked it.

FIRST DAY ON THE TRACK
1 MILE TIME TRIAL

Mother Nature works in mysterious ways.  This winter she has tested our strength and patience like never before.  I'm still trying to figure out whether or not I passed.  But, rather than sit around and complain about it, these girls have simply upped their game.  For them, there is no question as to whether or not it can be done....just how.  And they are always up for the challenge.  Spring fever?  Yep.  Spring track?  It's on.  Spring weather?  Who cares?!  GO LEX!

THE DISTANCE SQUAD
#BADASS

Listen to this:
Forgive & Forget - The Kooks 


* Image at the top of the page was taken from the GOOGLE home page on the first day of spring.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

WINNING



A guest post by friend & fellow runner/blogger, Garbanzo, over at ilikemargarine:

The half marathon has been going on for nearly four hours. That’s not unusual.

Nobody has left. That’s unusual.

Back in the old days, 4 hours was the cutoff time for a marathon. Many years later, the mass of participants has resulted in increasing times and waning interest for the later finishers. Until today.

The race team had a genius idea. They’re giving away prizes to 10 people in a raffle. There aren’t that many people in the race, so odds are pretty good. And it’s not a $10 gift certificate to Marlene’s Frangrances that you’ll never actually go to. It’s just a hundred dollars in cash. A HUNDRED BUCKS! 10 PEOPLE! SIGN ME UP! The catch? The raffle won’t start till the last runner finishes.

As I continue to get slower, I’m fascinated with the folks in the back of the pack. Bill Rodgers once said he couldn’t imagine how people could stay out there four hours running a marathon. What would he say about the peeps who take that much time for 13 miles and change?

If you’ve never run way in the back, you don’t know how hard these peeps are working. There’s just as much suffering here as in the lead pack with the gazelles. Maybe more. We’re just doing it in slow motion.

I’ve had the world’s crappiest run today, coming in a nudge under 3 hours, so I know exactly what they feel like as they wage war with the clock, which is quickly ticking down toward the cutoff. I’m alone on a sunny day with free beer and pizza, so I prop my feet up near the finish and watch the last guys come in. And I find myself cheering like crazy.

Finishing clearly is a huge thing for them. The fast guys quibble over seconds. These peeps just want to cross that line. They do it with arms raised, smiles extended, medals gratefully accepted. They’re celebrating in a way you forget about when you’re going to a lot of races. It’s a Big Deal.

A pair of women come across, hands locked and extended overhead. Another pair. What is it with women? Guys would be tripping each other. It takes a village to run a half, I suppose.

And then, the clock ticks past 4 hours. I snap a photo of the last guy, and the race director starts handing out the cash. I’ve got the number 969, so I figure in a pinch I can flip it and claim 696, doubling my odds. Or not.

It goes along at the same pace as every other running auction — 62,000 numbers called out with nobody claiming. Slowly but surely, they find a few winners.

And then.

A bike escort guy pulls up, waving his hands up and down like he’s an NFL linebacker revving up the fans on a fourth-down stand. And there she comes.

She’s shuffling along in pretty much the same fashion I was, except that she looks more determined and does not appear to want to kill herself. She’s got a huge smile and clearly couldn’t be more delighted to be here. She crosses the finish line triumphantly, high-fiving anyone with an outstretched hand.


She’s 10 minutes past the absolute cutoff, which suddenly becomes not absolute at all. The race official leads the applause and then asks someone to grab the lottery number from her bib so she’ll get in on the drawing. I’m suspicious.

She sits down on the raised curb, taking off her shoes after too many hours and basking in the congratulations from her family. The drawing goes on.

The closest I come is 959. I consider asking for 20 bucks and calling it even, but I’m not quick enough. “Not quick enough” is something I’m thinking a lot about these days.

And a few tries later, whose number do they call? Hers.

The race official, who has insisted that people come up to get their money, takes it over to her. An obvious fix? Nobody seems to care. She earned it.


As he’s leaving, I run over and ask if I can take their photo together. Her relay partner gets in the photo as well. They all beam. After a really depressing day of running, I’m happy.

I stop by on my way out to congratulate her. I shake her hand I tell her simply, “that was a great race.” Because it was.

I finish my beer, get my $200 Honda out of the valet parking of my $200 a night hotel, and head home.

I think about it all the way back. I still get so hung up on times. I’m too slow. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m not a runner, just a pretender. Why bother.

Then I see someone finish an hour later, and I realize it’s not about time at all. It’s about winning. She won this race. Maybe I did too. Maybe we all do, every time we put on a number and face down the demons.

Maybe I sort of loved that race after all.

But would it have killed him to call 969 …

Thanks, Garbanzo.  I needed this.  We all did.

Listen to this:
First - Cold War Kids  

Saturday, March 21, 2015

MUSIC & RUNNING

"Don’t listen to music while I run? I respect your right not to, but I can’t hear your argument why. Music’s too loud.  Sorry." 
~ garbonzo a gogo


On Thursday, I was getting my teeth cleaned and the dentist noticed that I was sporting my running clothes.  She asked me if I had just gone for a run or if I was headed out after our appointment.  I told her I'd just gone, but I did not tell her that I basically wear my running clothes all the time.  Why go into detail?  She then proceeded to let me know that she prefers to work out at the gym versus running solo.  She told me that she likes to surround herself with others who are sweating like crazy and working their asses off because it makes her want to do the same thing.  It inspires her, if you will.  "I get that," I told her, "I just put music on when I run and it motivates me in the same way."  "No!" she said, as she shook her head back and forth adamantly.  "Music is not enough.  I like it, but it doesn't do the trick."  Ummmmm.  Okay.  I didn't really have anything else to add after that.  So, we moved on in our conversation, suction and all.  Ironically, the good folks of at FEETURES just asked me to write a post about running and music, including my best running playlist.  Oh man.  Where to begin?  And, is there really a "best" playlist for running?  My own taste in music changes often and the music I listen to while I'm running changes daily.  How can I possibly determine the best playlist and whether running with music is the right choice at all?  Turns out, I can't.  Basically, what it comes down to is this - we all do what works for us.  For some, it's necessary to be alone and silent with their thoughts as they run.  For others, it's better to be surrounded by their fellow gym goers, working out to the pulsing pop music that's blaring over the loud speakers.  For me, it's somewhere between these two scenarios.  I'm happy to run solo, enjoy it even, but I never head out without my iPod.  Ever.  Music has a multifaceted impact on my running; often enhancing my mood, increasing my motivation and providing a welcome distraction from the pain of a workout or the tedium of a long run.  As I laid it out in writing, I thought back on my conversation with my dentist.  If I had written this post before my appointment, I might have shared it with her.  Not to change her mind.  Just so she could get a better sense of why music works for me.  When I sent it over to FEETURES, I asked if I could also share it here.  Not to change your mind, of course.  Simply to provide my own perspective, which happens to be the basis for this blog.  So, here's what I had to say:

When I run, I run with music.  When I’m getting ready to head out, no matter what, the minute I start my music, I am ready to roll.  With each song that comes on, I am taken to a whole new level, both physically and mentally.  The faster the beat, the faster my pace.  On the flip side, when I run, I hear and appreciate the music I’m listening to in a whole new way.  For me, as a runner and a music lover, it’s a win-win.  I understand that running with music is not for everyone and I totally respect that.  But, there have been several studies done on the impact of music in running and research suggests that it truly does boost athletic performance.  I won’t go into the details, but this article, Can Music Make You a Better Runner? by Matt Fitzgerald sums it up nicely.

In a nutshell:
Because the brain essentially chooses to impose fatigue based on a prediction of where the body's true physiological limits lie, the brain has some flexibility in setting performance limits. When an athlete is highly motivated, the brain will risk a bit more and allow the body to come a little closer to the point of self-harm in pursuit of better performance. All kinds of factors may influence an athlete's level of motivation, and music appears to be one of them.

I don’t know about self harm. But, I do know that running is hard.  For many of us, music makes it more bearable.  And for some of us, music is a pleasant and much needed distraction.  For me, the music I listen to on the road enhances my overall experience like nothing else can.  Does it make me faster? The jury is still out on that.  Does it matter?  Nope.  Running and music make me happy.  These days, that’s about all I need.

Listen to this:
Let It Happen - Tame Impala

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

RWR: MEET STACI OF RUNNERBOX

What if you had your very own Running Fairy Godmother who constantly flew around seeking out the latest running related products, tried them out herself (because, she's a runner, of course), selected the ones that you should know about, wrapped them all up in a shoebox and left them on your doorstep every month?  Too good to be true, right?  You're not going to believe this, but this particular fairy does exist and she's willing to fly around for ALL of us.  Her name is Staci and she created and co-owns the company RUNNERBOX.  She's a mother, a runner, and a Fairy Godrunner.  I have no idea how she does it.  All I know is that every other month, this neat little package of pre-tested and runner-approved goodies is waiting for me on my front porch when I get home from work.  It doesn't get much better than that.  When she's not running or doing something running-related, she's rocking out to the Cure, which is just so damn cool.  Here's a little bit about Staci, her family & her running in her own words:

I'm a mom of 2 boys.  My oldest is 22 and in the drumline and brass bands at MSU, so I probably should have named one of them my favorite band!  My youngest is 13, also a drummer and a runner- we ran his first half together last summer in Chicago.  I've run 12 Marathons and 21 halfs.  Aiming to finish up the Majors with London in April.  

Holy smokes!!  Want to know more?  Yea, you do.  Meet Staci a RUNNER WHO ROCKS.

RWR:STACI DIETZEL

Name: Staci Dietzel
Where you're from: Laingsburg, MI
Where you reside now: Dewitt, MI
Age (if you're ok sharing): 41
Occupation: Founder, Co-Owner of RunnerBox
Blog/website: www.therunnerbox.com

RUNNING & MUSIC:
What do you love most about running?  The freedom
What do you love most about music?  The motivation, and that it can take me somewhere else.  Depends on what I'm doing.

STACI'S FAVORITES
Band (current, all time or both) Old favorite, The Cure
Album (current, all time or both):  Current favorite Damien Rice, 'My Favourite Faded Fantasy'
Race venue:  Big Sur & Charlevoix
Music venue: Somewhere small or outside
Race distance: 26.2
Show you've seen live? Johnny Lang
Ice cream flavor Blue Moon





THIS OR THAT:
Sweet or salty?  Sweet
Live or recorded?  Recorded
Coffee or tea? Tea
Summer or winter? Summer




MORE MUSIC INFO:
Which band or artist would you go see tonight if you could? Damien Rice
Which band or artist (wait...but no longer alive or playing together) would you go see tonight if you could? Kurt Cobain
Which band or artist would you like to have dinner with tonight if you could? Tori Amos
Which band or artist would you like to be playing alongside you during your next race (or long run)? Pink


Top 5 Songs for running, dancing or both?
Running:
Born Free - Kid Rock
When You Were Young- The Killers
She Talks To Angels - The Black Crowes
Lonely Boy - The Black Keys
These Are Days - 10,000 Maniacs


Last 5 Songs you listened to today?
On my run:
Afraid - The Neighborhood, 
Dangerous - David Guetta 
Towards the Sun - Rihanna 
What Kind of Man - Florence and the Machine
Made in Gold - Nova Rockafeller