Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Runner's World Big Book of Running for Beginners--Review

Last week I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of The Runner's World Big Book of Running for Beginners for review which will be available April 8th.  The book was written by Jennifer Van Allen, Bart Yasso, Amby Burfoot and Pamela Nisevich Bede.  Jennifer is a special projects editor for Runner's World and a USATF and RRCA certified running coach.  Bart is chief running officer at Runner's World and is author of his own book My life on the run.  Amby is Runner's World editor-at-large and winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon.  Pamela is a sports nutrition expert and co-owner of Swim, Bike, Run, Eat!

The description on the book cover says that this book provides

all of the information neophytes will need to take their first steps, as well as the inspiration they'll need to stay motivated.  The book presents readers with tips for smart nutrition and injury prevention and includes realistic training plans that enable beginning runners to achieve gradual progress (by gearing up for a 30-minute run, a 5-K, or even a 5-miler).  And it shows newbies just how fun and rewarding the sport can be, thanks to the help of "real runner" testimonials. 

I want to start off by saying that I really did enjoy reading this book.  Despite how I feel sometimes, I'm not really a beginner runner anymore but it wasn't that long ago that Emir was trying to push me out our front door to take my first steps as a runner.  A lot of those feelings and memories came flooding back to me as I went through this book. I remember the fear that I would look stupid or not be able to run continuously.  I didn't know what clothes to wear or what kind of shoes to get.  This book would have helped me ALOT when I was just starting out. 

This book not only contains some training plans (including a walking plan) for newbies but also contains every other little detail you might be wondering or worried about before getting started with running.  The authors cover apparel, gear, weather, running surfaces, running partners/groups, nutrition, fueling, hydration, injuries, health issues, weight loss, safety and even running etiquette.  There are so many things that a new runner wouldn't know and probably would be embarrassed to ask (I know I was!) for fear of looking/sounding stupid. Also new runners fear that they look awkward to other runners.  The authors outline every little detail so well even down to operating the treadmill, that anyone can hop on with confidence even the very first time. This book really covers it all.  And it includes a glossary of running terms to boot so you will sound like an expert!

As great as all the running information was, my favorite part was reading the stories of people who overcame great obstacles to become runners.  It's very inspirational and really gives you a feeling that there really is no reason why anyone can't be a runner!

While I enjoyed paging through this book, it clearly wouldn't be very interesting for the seasoned runner however it's not intended for that.  I do think this is a wonderful book/tool for anyone who has even had just one fleeting thought of trying to run.  It's great to have everything in one place, training plans and answers to all your potential questions, rather than googling every little thing that pops into your head and then trying to figure out which answer is the best. When it comes to running, the folks at Runner's World are experts so why not simplify things and just read what they have to say?  I highly recommend this book and feel it's a great investment for any runner just getting started.

Buy the book now HERE!!

Runner's World Home

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me free of charge. I was under no obligation to provide this review. Everything contained in this post is my own opinion.

Monday, March 24, 2014

My Supporting Role--HAT 50K

Ready to go
As I mentioned in a previous entry, Emir and I are doing two different races in March.  This past Saturday was Emir's race, HAT50K.
Niko and Emir before the start

I really considered this my first time in the supporting role.  There was Emir's first ever marathon which I did not run however I didn't feel very supportive.  It's really hard for an 8 month pregnant woman to lug a 2 year old around and be super supportive during a race.  And as excited as I was that all three of us were going to be there to support Emir at the 50K, I did have some concerns over exactly how it would go.  The kids as they are getting bigger (4.5 and almost 2!) are easier to take out in public but a 50K trail race is a long day for anyone let alone two kids.  Luckily for all of us, the day turned out better than I imagined it would.

Happy to support daddy!

The HAT 50K takes place in Susquehanna State Park in Maryland.  For us it was about 1 hour and 20 minute drive, not bad at all.  We were able to leave our house around 6:15 that morning and make it in more than enough time for Emir to get his packet, glide up, warm up and all his other pre-race rituals.  Right off the bat, people were so super friendly to us.  A race volunteer asked me if I had been to the HAT before and when I said no, he brought me right into the building where the packet pickup was to show me the course map.  He told me to stay at the start area until the runners came through twice and then head to the lower aide stations at this picnic area and we would be able to see Emir 4 more times.  I hadn't even asked anyone about the best places to be, it was so nice of him and he was totally right.  Once we were up at the pavilion area by the start, we saw a few other kids and we all (well not Una) needed the potty.   There was a line but it wasn't too bad.  Everyone standing around was so friendly talking to us and the kids.  No one was annoyed that Niko and I, who were not running the race, were utilizing the facilities before the race. 

The starting line?

off they go!

 Next thing I knew, it was time for the start.  The start is a very interesting one.  All the runners are lined up in this field.  I thought they would all be filing out to the course in a line, but once the man set off the siren (which he accidently did 30 seconds early, oops!) it was a mass of people running straight across the field.  Niko was beside himself cheering for everyone to "run fast!"   While we waited for the runners to start making their first trip back through the pavilion, we met a nice man who was just there to watch.  He is an injured runner currently but lives nearby and has run the HAT numerous times.  He started talking to us since Niko was wearing my Blues Cruise 50K sweatshirt.  We also met another gentleman who is race director for a track ultra that actually takes place about 25 minutes from where we live here in PA. 

Then the runners started coming through.  We were able to basically stand right there as they passed both times.  It was somewhere around 1.5 and 3.9 miles that the runners came through that area.  It made for a very exciting first 45 minutes or so.

After that it was time to head to the lower aide stations.  I wasn't sure exactly where we were going but after pulling out of the main area, I followed signs for the picnic area.  Eventually we made it to the picnic area and low and behold, it was the right place!  It was a fantastic setup for support crews, spectators and the volunteers.  It was a huge parking lot with a playground on one side and the trail on the other side.  There was a large aide station ground level near the parking lot, then there was a second smaller aide station up a short hill.  After the initial small loops the course then consists of two 13.7 loops.  The runners first passed through the upper station and then 4 miles later the lower station.  Therefore, we were able to see Emir 4 times at the picnic area.

All 3 of us had a fabulous time at the picnic area despite being there for hours.  As I have mentioned, I'm being coached now by Caleb Masland and everyone that he coaches is part of #teamwickedbonkproof.  I'm not really going to get into all the details now but we all communicate via social media and we all have #teamwickedbonkproof singlets to wear.   This made it easy to spot the 6 or 7 of my teammates who I have never met before.  So not only was I snapping pictures of Emir all day long but of my teammates to post on our team FB page.  So you might be wondering what my children were doing while I'm snapping away with the camera??  In the beginning Niko made friends with a few other kids hanging around the aide stations.  They gave him and Una clappers and they were all cheering for the runners.  Most kids just say "go, go!" or "run fast!"  Not our Niko.  He could be heard loud and clear "Looking good runner!!"  "you've got this!"  "Not much further to go!"  I think some people thought we practiced for weeks for the race ;-) 

taking charge
handing out drinks

one of the crew

After Emir passed through the two aide stations the first time, we were going to have a bit of a wait as there were 9 miles until he would come back again.  And in fact it was quiet in general for a little while until any runners started making their way back.  The nice setup allowed us to go hang out in our car for a while.  I knew they were both getting tired and could use a snack and rest.  We ate a little and rested a little.  And we didn't have to worry about missing anything as both aide stations were so close and visible, we would easily be able to see any activity.  Una actually took about an hour and half nap in the car.  Niko and I after a shorter rest, went back to the aide station on the hill.  We could see the car easily and Niko would periodically go check to make sure Una was still sleeping.  This is when Niko took it upon himself to start working the aide station.  He is constantly amazing me.  He just walks over the to the table grabs a water cup and a Gatorade cup and then positions himself with the other volunteers.  As runners make their way towards the aide station he starts yelling "fresh water! Gatorade!"  After runners grab drinks from him, he goes back to the table for more.  No one including me ever said to him, "do you want to help give out drinks?" or instructed him on what to do.  At one point he even started filling runners bottles for them as well!  It was so fun to watch and everyone there was enjoying it including the runners coming into the station.  Also, thanks to Niko and his outgoingness we ended up meeting and talking with other volunteers who become our "friends".  Of course leave it to Niko to introduce himself to a man who had parked next to us at one point.  Turns out he was Phil Anderson the man who created the HAT race!  Not that I knew any of that at the time.  I think Phil was a bit surprised I didn't know who he was since I was there and wearing a HAT sweatshirt.  Guess I should have done my homework before the race!  Oh well, Phil was super nice and thanked us for being there after he showed us his HAT tattoo on his leg ;-) 

Giving daddy a kiss for "extra energy"
Best support crew

All of that made us pretty busy in between our Emir sightings.  I thought for sure we would be on the playground a lot to pass the time but the kids enjoyed the people and the runners so much at the aide stations that they never once asked to play on the playground.   As much fun as we were having, we were even happier when Emir would show up including Una who would run for Emir "Daaaaddddddyyyyy!!!".  We all gave him kisses and words of encouragement.  We asked how he was feeling and were even able to give him Tailwind refills.  It worked out really well that we were at the picnic area since Emir's drop bag was at the start pavilion.  So about 5.3 miles after the second aide station with us, he would get to his drop bag.  Even though at times, it was a bit hard for me to just be standing around watching everyone run, it was totally worth it to see how us being there for him really made his race.  Just our presence at these 6 stops was enough but the fact that the three of us were clearly having a wonderful time and others would tell him how great it was to have Niko and Una there, made Emir super happy and I'm sure helped him to push on so he could get back to see us again. 

Last aide station stop

Niko's official race photo with the MadHatter on the HAT FB page
 After we set Emir off on his last 5.3 miles, we drove back to where the race started as this is also where the race finished.  It was a huge grassy hill overlooking the finishing stretch.  It was a perfect view.  There were plenty of people sitting on the hill watching and cheering.  There were also tons of kids which Niko and Una had a great time with.  When Emir came into view, I called to Niko and he went running towards him.  He was yelling to me "mommy I want to help daddy finish!!"  And that he did beaming with pride.  What a moment for me as mommy and wife, so proud of my boys! 

My boys finishing the race
 After Emir's finish, we hung out a bit to cheer on some more runners and give Emir some down time.  Lucky for us we didn't have to drive all the way home right away.  We went to meet and eat with some of my #teamwickbonkproof teammates.  It was great to meet in person and chat about the race and all things running.  Thanks Thomas!!!

What a long day for me!  I was on my feet for like 6-7 hours! ;-)

I know time wise the race wasn't exactly what Emir would have liked (you can read his recap here) but I know that the day in general was far beyond both our expectations.  The race was wonderful for all involved whether you were a runner, spectator, support crew or volunteer.  I would love to run this race with Emir next year but at the same time I want the kids to be able to come again.  Then again it depends on what my goals end up being for next spring.  I'm sure we will have many a discussion on this one!

Lucky for me, I don't have long to wait for my turn to race.  This Sunday is the Ocean Drive Marathon down the shore.  There's many reasons I'm excited.  I've been training different than I've ever trained before so I'm excited to get out there and see if I've improved.  I love road marathons!   Emir and the kids will be there supporting me.  And my sister is running the 10 miler that coincides with the marathon so I won't be alone taking the bus to Cape May for the start.  And finally I love the Ocean Drive Marathon.  I love the shore and I love that this marathon is point to point all along the coast.  Of course as excited as I am, I'm starting to get pretty nervous (see why here)!  Check back next week!

Monday, March 10, 2014

How "My Marathon" has changed

So I've been pondering a lot lately how different running a marathon is for me now versus even just last spring.  And this morning one of my #teamwickedbonkproof team members, Amy (yes we Amy's stick together!) was saying how she has never "raced" a marathon, which surprised me since I see her stats all the time and she's a speedy runner.  Even with her speed and all the running she does, she is very nervous for the marathon she just signed up for since this time it will be completely different for her.  This got me thinking "wow I guess what I am feeling happens to a lot of marathon runners at some point!" 
Plitvice Marathon 2011

I ran my first marathon (Plitvice) in June 2011.  I had no expectations as far as time or performance whatsoever.  It was totally "just survive."  My main goal was to just finish it, I could have cared less how long it took me.  Yes more and more people are running marathons, however it's still something that overall not many accomplish.  I was so proud of myself crossing that finish line that I started crying.  It was also one of those things where no one really cared or asked about my time, they would just ask "you ran your first marathon and finished? that's awesome!" There was no follow up as to performance. 

Philly Marathon November 2012 (not a good race outfit!)

Then I ran my second marathon.  Once again I went into it with just the "Finishing is my goal attitude."  I didn't get to run my second marathon until November 2012.  I was pregnant not long after I ran my first marathon and had a c-section early May 2012, which I think is a pretty good reason for why I waited so long between marathons ;-)  So it was not only the fact that my body went through pregnancy and c-section  but also it was ONLY my second marathon.  Maybe the first time was a fluke or that I was so pumped up because it was my first time and this time I might struggle way more.  It felt like a big unknown so in no way was I out to try to get a certain time. In the end I did end up with 4:19 which was actually about 11-12 minutes faster than my first ever marathon.  It felt really good to beat my time but I still was not in "marathon race" mode yet.

OD Marathon March 2013

Then there was my 3rd marathon (I promise I am not talking about every single one of my marathons!).  This is the marathon that pretty much changed it all for me in less than 4 hours.  I went into my 3rd marathon, treating it like a training run.  Emir and I were training for our first 50K.  For our training we ran a 26.2 run together and then only 2 weeks later we were running the OD marathon as our second 26.2 training run.  On our training run the two weeks before the race, I bonked hardcore around mile 19-20.  I thought I was going to have to walk the rest, somehow I made it.  But it took me 4:35 which was actually slower than my first ever marathon.  I felt awful physically during that run.  While slightly disappointing that it was such a hard run for me, I went with the thinking that I was in the middle of 50K training for the first time, so my legs are being worked harder than ever.  But mentally I told myself that I should be prepared for an equally if not harder run two weeks later at the OD marathon.  Because of all this, I totally didn't give the marathon much thought as far as caring about my time or how I felt during it.  It was just a training run that I needed to get done on the road to my first 50K.  You can read exactly what happened in my race report.  Short version is I ended up breaking 4 hours, 3:59.  It was such a shock to me.  Breaking 4 hours seemed like such a long term goal to me and I wasn't even considering trying for a certain time in a marathon for maybe years.  I had literally just started running (at least it felt like it) and I didn't think I could improve speed that much on a distance as long as the marathon in a shorter period of time, I thought for sure it would take years. 
NYC Marathon November 2013

Of course that thrill and excitement got me wanting more.  I want to go faster and try to PR every time I'm out there.  Yes I went from one extreme to the other.  Now I have a different problem.  Now I am so nervous and freaking out when I have a marathon coming up.  In November the couple of weeks leading up the the NYC marathon, I was totally a mess.  And the night before, I could hardly sleep!  I wanted so bad to beat my 3:59 and it was like if I didn't do that then the race was a failure.  It used to be just running the race and being a part of it was enough, that was the enjoyment.  I'm not sure how I feel about these changes.  On one hand, I am super competitive and I love going out and giving it my all.  It's so much fun for me to try to beat my best.  But then if I don't do my best, I feel disappointed and unhappy whereas before I was super happy just to be there running, nothing else mattered. 

 Which leads to where I'm at right now.  I have the OD marathon coming up again in 3 weeks.  And yes I'm starting to get a little freaky!  My PR is 3:55 in the NYC marathon.  My whole reason for doing the OD marathon is to try and beat that time.  We have some major running events coming up, double Blue Ridge and Born To Run 100K, so really I didn't need a marathon but I really wanted it.  So I have one more tough week of training and then I will begin the 2 week taper.  I know it's only going to get worse as the race gets closer.  And just to add to the pressure I put on myself, since I've been working with Coach Caleb, I have the added stress of not wanting to disappoint him!! AHHHHH  ;-)   But the more I think about it, the more I know that this is what keeps me going.  This is why I keep training harder and harder (thanks coach!).  And wouldn't it get boring if after this many marathons I "just want to finish."  I think I would start to feel like "what's the point?"  So despite how crazy I will probably get in the next few weeks, I don't think I would be happy any other way :-)

PS Nothing to do with this entry but we got running tats for our 10 year anniversary!