25 Mar

This marathon was a team effort and so why should this blog entry be any different? Lyn and Jen here 🙂

Meeting in Orlando airport not only kicked off the reality that we were running a marathon together but it also drew to an end the longest period of time during which we hadn’t seen each other since we met.  The week before the marathon consisted of excited/anxious/overwhelmed/panicky late night phone calls, lists, and texts of things not to forget, and two final training runs (a 6 miler and the worst 3 miles ever for Lyn).  Friday morning, after a final phone call to discuss nail polish colors (of course that’s important), Lyn headed to Roanoke’s airport to find dense fog and a non-existent plane.  After multiple delays and a rebooked connection, Lyn texted all of the families to report that boarding had finally begun and that a final training run would occur once in Charlotte in order to make the connection. Safely in Florida, Lyn happened to arrive at side-by-side gates to Jen’s parents and youngest brother, Andrew, at the same time so meet up was easy. Next to arrive was Jen and a slow motion run through baggage claim to hug each other did occur! Lastly, Jen’s middle brother, David, also running the marathon arrived, and then we headed to the place where dreams come true!


567089_672787536548_170167953_oThe following day was filled by a trip to the Expo, which offered the chance to meet the inspiration of our costumes and the chance to get our bibs autographed by Jeff Galloway. Before heading back to the hotel from the expo, Jen found Lyn ominously starring out at the baseball field at the Wide World of Sports—the location of Mile 20 on the marathon race course. The day was almost here. The years of talking about it, months of training for it, and travel to get all of us from Seattle, Cambridge, Malvern, and Blacksburg to Orlando was behind us. It was “go” time.

We headed back to the hotel to work on costume construction and rest our legs before heading to France in Epcot to see Impressions de France (a.k.a “the French movie”–a favorite, must see of Jen’s family when in Disney) and have a wonderful dinner.  Once at dinner, guzzling water became a priority as a heat advisory had been issued for the next day and the meal was unceremoniously called “our last supper.” By the time we were back in the room there was nothing to do but set alarms for 2:30AM (ugh!) and head to bed.

Waking up was surreal. The alarm went off, we dressed in our costumes as though it were old hat, checked that we had all of our belongings fashioned to our bodies in some way and headed to the bus line.  Of course Disney had tons of buses at the ready to move us to the staging location without delay. We debarked and followed the hoards of runners and supporters to the bag check, the home to the most porta-johns we’ve ever seen, and a very pumped up DJ for it being 3:45 AM. We met up with Lyn’s friend, took pictures, and said our last goodbyes to the families. The dark, ominous (thanks to the Pirates of the Caribbean music), 20+ minute march to the corrals allowed time for the reality of the situation to sink in, while also proving that runners (men and women alike) will go to the bathroom anywhere even when thousands of porta-potties have been provided. Bidding farewell to Jen’s speedy brother at the corral ahead of ours we drifted into the silence of our corral and found a seat on the ground.  Just after 5:30 (see, even Disney runs a little late) and a count down from the mouse himself, massive fireworks initiated the start of the 20th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon.


One major difference noticed between this race and half marathons or other races was the lack of enthusiasm because of the overpowering need to conserve energy.  As both DJs and announcers tried to lead the crowd in cheers or provoke responses, most in the crowd sat, allowing the weakest “woo” to escape their mouths.  As the few corrals ahead of us started, the excitement pushed through the crowd, and before we knew it the fireworks were for us. Heading into the dark, with the soft sounds of feet on pavement and sweat pouring off people (thanks to the 95% humidity), 26.2 miles lay ahead of us.

As most runners know, those first steps and miles are uncomfortable as the body warms up and shakes out stiffness and the mind is not yet warmed up enough to compete in the mind over matter debate. The first few miles were pretty eerie running along the highway in relative darkness and silence. The official Disney photo opportunities started right away and continued throughout the course, providing a welcome distraction. It was surprising to see how many people were stopping only a mile or so into the race to wait in line for a photo with Disney characters. Seeing that helped remind us why Disney is such a great first marathon. It’s not about your finish time—it’s about the experience, the fun, and making every mile magical (quick aside: the cheesiest line overheard during the race came from a Disney employee who shouted out, “You’re keeping this place magical!” Oh boy.). Soon the early miles were flying by and we were running past the Contemporary hotel where Lyn’s best friend from HS waited, providing the first friendly face along the course.


The darkness and silence of the first five or so miles quickly vanished as we approached the glow and hum of the Magic Kingdom.  As we entered the gates to the park we were overcome by the crowds of people packed in the square. Thankfully, despite the chaos, we managed to spot Jen’s family for pictures and hugs and then Rachel’s mom for more pictures and hugs. Running through Cinderella’s icicle lit castle was awesome and we have a very dark photo to prove it. Somewhere around mile 7 or so, we stopped for our first official Disney character photo opportunity—Cinderella and Prince Charming and Jen spoke up that she needed a potty break so the three of us—Lyn, Jen, and Rachel—pulled off to a bay of port-a-potties with a minimal line.

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While standing in line we also became aware of a London Olympian running the race while carrying the London Olympic torch. We saw her throughout the race and even got a chance to pose with it ourselves while in line for a photo with Mickey and Minnie at mile 20. Feeling good after our bio break and first photo opt, we were refreshed and ready for the next stretch. Shortly before mile 9, we ran a loop around the Walt Disney World Speedway. While this was visually interesting—a bunch of car enthusiasts had brought their vintage and sports cars to display around the track and were also there to cheer us on—the surface of the track was tough on the body and we were thankful to see that portion of the course come to an end. It was also around this time that the sun was beginning to rise and the heat picked up. From mile 9 to 12, we didn’t have too much stimuli (the biggest stimuli may have been a water or sewage treatment plant we passed which filled our nostrils with a not-so-pleasant scent—ick!) and we began to become more aware of the mental struggle. At mile 12, we entered Disney’s Animal Kingdom after passing our own “petting zoo” photo opportunity with animals and their handlers lined up along the road. As we reached the halfway mark, Rachel decided to finish on her own as she was dealing with some pretty severe leg pain so Lyn and Jen bid her farewell and forged ahead.

Jen carried her iPhone, which provided a welcome distraction as well as a tool to snap photos and communicate with her family along the way:


David (who was also battling a nasty cold in the days leading up to the race) and Lyn experienced some pretty miserable cramps and knee pain beginning around mile 16 or so as the race dragged on and the mercury crept higher and higher.  Miles 16 to 21 were downright miserable. This section of the course involved an out and back to the Wide World of Sports which also placed us in direct sunlight on the open highway. This was not a good stretch for our spirits but we pressed on. Shortly before mile 20, we did a loop around the baseball field before heading back to the highway and passing the parade-like festivities at mile 20, giving us a chance to catch our breath somewhat as we waited in line for a photo with Mickey and Minnie:

73394_673004416918_1004979939_n London Olympic Torch!

The only good part about the Wide World of Sports (and, in fact, one of the best parts about the second part of the race) were the wet sponges they handed out as we entered the park. They were so refreshing and cold and ahhh… easily the best thing we could received at that point in the day. One of the highlights of the race occurred around mile 23 in Hollywood Studios. As we picked up our pace, feeling newfound energy from the crowd after some difficult miles with minimal fan support, “Call Me Maybe” came on the loud speakers and, as we do, we began singing at the top of our lungs and doing our own little dance as we plowed down the main drag. 726003-1110-0024sThe longest mile of the race was easily mile 25, which looped us around the World Showcase Lagoon in Epcot. At mile 26, a booming gospel choir helped recharge our batteries for the final stretch. Overcome by emotion and exhaustion, we picked up our pace yet again and finished, looking stronger than we felt, smiling hand-in-hand. We did it!

After hugging one another and receiving our super sweet medals, we headed to get some ice and then meet up with David and the rest of Jen’s family. Following post-race photos and refueling, we headed back to the hotel for a quick shower and then we hit the park. We stayed on our feet for the majority of the rest of the day on Sunday and all day Monday, which likely helped work out some of the post-race soreness. That said, we looked a bit haggard shuffling along and were thankful for the medals around our neck which helped explain the limps and occasional giving out of our legs. David’s right leg was so shot after the race that we all joked it look like he had a peg leg as he walked with a limp and would swing it in front of him without bending at the knee.

Reflecting on the race weekend, now two months later, still brings back the memories of sweltering heat, the uncomfortable sticky salty layer on our skin, the pain of cramping calves and angry knees AND the adrenaline of beginning the race, the excitement of first entering the Magic Kingdom, the relief of wet sponges at mile 17, the fun of “Call Me Maybe” in Hollywood Studios, and the joy of finishing the race together with hands held high. What a great first marathon experience!

We did it! (1) 711321_672998129518_578333504_o725175-1339-0025s

If you’ve managed to stay with us this far, thanks! And thanks to all of you, friends, family, and strangers who have read these entries and encouraged us to see our first marathon to the finish. Next up: we’ll be running two half marathons together this Spring–the first ever Nike Women’s Marathon Half on April 28th in DC and the Virginia Wine Country Half on June 1st. Jen has also already signed up for marathon #2 this October–the Bank of America Chicago Marathon!

–Lyn & Jen


Am I Ready For This?

10 Jan

Am I really ready for this? When I took up running to fill the void left by 18 years of swimming, I figured it would be a few times around campus, a form of exercise, a chore mostly but some time during the stress of graduate school running became a need, a must, and dare I say a pleasure of mine. Then races took shape – first runs, 5Ks, then scary half marathons – but a full marathon was something “crazy people” did and nothing that I would ever be able to accomplish. And yet some how I’m currently packed, tickets printed, and accommodations arranged for a trip to Disney World and the 20th anniversary of the Disney World Marathon, which I’m not just watching but actually running! 

The training has taken a long 6 months full of ups and downs, miles logged with amazing friends who pushed and motivated me (Thanks C), and lessons learned about running but more importantly about myself. 

First, I learned that I have awful timing or some desire to suffer. This is because I probably choose the worse semester of my PhD to train for a marathon. In the midst of classes, clients, work, research, homework, and trying to have a thing called life, I decided that now would be the best time to add on training for a marathon.

Second, I proved that I’m extremely goal motivated.  While volunteering at mile 25 of the Boston marathon my best friend and I discussed how maybe we could run a marathon too and if we were to do that we’d run Disney, and hey while we were planning while don’t we decide on the year – 2013 sounded good! Once it was said out loud, it was happening. Ever since that conversation we’ve planned to run Disney 2013 and since August we’ve stuck (mostly) to our training plan.

run, run, runThird, I realized that running a marathon is hard.  Obviously most would agree with this but oddly their were times when I expected the training to get easier, the long runs to become more enjoyable, and the desire to walk/sit/lie down to disappear.  Today I ran my final training run – 3 miles – it was hard, I wanted to walk, and I wanted it over long before it started.  Once I accepted that it was going to be hard I made the pain and exhaustion understandable.  I hope I can remember this lesson throughout the marathon on Sunday.

Fourth, I learned that I’m a runner now and not after I run the marathon.  I’ve been a runner since I started running and so is anyone else out there who is running.

Fifth, I learned that my mind is mean – it tells me I can’t; it tells me to quit, give up, sit down, rest awhile; it tells me that something hurts; it makes my stomach feel like a butterfly garden; it keeps me up at night; this week it’s made to run the marathon at least 7 times (that I remember), in weird locations where I keep getting lost, with people I haven’t seen in years, until I wake up without pillows tided in my sheets. I’ve also learned that the body does what the mind tells it to so I’ve learned to push through the desire to quit and to start running after I walk or maybe not even walk at all.

Finally and my mantra for the marathon is “pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” 

I have to answer my own question now… am I ready for this? Even though the butterflies in my stomach might beg to differ, months of training my body and mind mean that I’m as ready as ever. So yes, I’m ready for this.

Starting the New Year off with Taper Time!

5 Jan

It’s TAPER time! The long awaited 3 weeks of decreased mileage prior to the monumental 26.2.  Snowy DaysThe timing of the taper couldn’t have occurred at a better time – the semester is over; I headed home for Christmas; and of course I got sick. That last part ruined my intended long run last week as I spent the weekend in bed but I rallied to start the New Year off right with a 5 miler on New Years Day.  We’d gotten 4/5 inches of snow on Christmas Eve and then 3 more inches on Boxing Day so I hadn’t run out side in awhile.  The recent snow left the non-plowed trail treacherous (exaggerating somewhat) at times but I pulled off a fast tempo run. I’ve clearly gotten pretty used to running up all the hills in Blacksburg as my recent runs on the flat trail in Northern VA have been easier and faster than expected. I hope this is a good sign for things to come in 2013!

 Speaking of 2013, most blogs at this time of year focus on New Years Resolutions so I’ll be honest – I’m not a big fan of new years resolutions. I think this time of year sets people up for failure because of grand aspirations, the myth of the “fresh start,” and the lack of legitimate motivation people have.  I don’t find the cross over from December 31st to January 1st to create some magical power for people to accomplish vague and broad goals. I am all about setting oneself up for success because success breeds success whereas obviously failure can be very discouraging.

So my thoughts on New Years Resolutions:

  1. Create manageable, concrete goals: Set your sights on obtainable goals broken into smaller pieces. So instead of “I want to run more” or “I want to get in shape” try “I want to run 750 miles this year” and then break that up into quarters or training goals for races.
  2. Set yourself up for success: I know we like to say, “shoot for the moon, if you miss you will land amongst the stars,” or something like that, but in my experience huge goals right off the bat like that are unobtainable.  For example I’m going to go from working out never to every single day = failure, discouragement, and normally giving up. What happens when you miss one day? You’ve already failed at the goal, so why bother? Obviously some do very well with failure and are fueled even more, but I don’t think that’s the majority.
  3. Find someone or something to hold you accountable. This may mean signing up for classes, a gym membership, or races especially if the idea of wasting money is a problem. If it’s not than this probably won’t work. If peer pressure helps, than get a friend to do it with you, join a running group, tell people about your goals, have an accountability friend, or sign up for a blog to tell the world about the goals; if you don’t care what other people think – this again won’t work. Maybe you need to reward yourself for miles run or days of working out with new running clothes or new sneakers. Maybe you have to force yourself by dropping your house keys off at the gym on your way out in the morning so you have to go there on the way home. Whatever it is, figure it out so that you can get and stay motivated.
  4. Find ways to enjoy the journey rather than the destination.  In the past 7 months, I’ve trained for a marathon and if I only enjoyed the day of the marathon this would have been an awful 7 months of runs.  While at times it was semi-awful, the overall process of training was empowering.  I hope that if you have a goal you are able to enjoy each thing you do while progressing towards that goal, even the times when seems impossible because that’s when you find your strength. If you’re only happy when you’ve lost 10lbs, or run that race, or whatever than you’re missing out on what’s happening right now.  In a recent interview I heard with an ultra-runner, he said when running don’t just look out for the next mile marker or the finish because you miss the amazing accomplishment of putting one foot in front of the other right now (paraphrased at best).

Those are just some of my thoughts on setting and maintaining goals especially at the start of the New Year.  A few years ago I set my resolution for 2013, which was to train for and run in the 20th Anniversary of the Walt Disney World Marathon with my best friend and anyone else crazy enough to join us along the way. That year has finally arrived and it’s crazy to think in less than a week I’ll be a MARTHONER!! This week I might blow up the blog posting about everything marathon related – because hey, if not now than when!

Race Recap: Somerville Jingle Bell Run

23 Dec

Shortly before heading home for the holidays, I joined a few friends and about 7,000 other festive runners for the 6th Annual Somerville Jingle Bell Run on December 16th.










The majority of participants were dressed up as santas, elves, reindeer, snowmen, or, at the very least, wore red and green colored running gear. Santa himself was even there with his eight reindeer and sleigh! (They were even followed up by the abominable snowman–thankfully, it was only a 5K so that poor runner was only stuck in that costume for a few miles).



















At the conclusion of the race, we were awarded our beer bottle opener race medals and headed off to enjoy the post-race party. While many of the local bars/restaurants are open for the event, we settled at Redbones and enjoyed a complimentary pulled pork sandwich and Harpoon IPA. Fun run and delicious post-race provisions. This just may become an annual tradition. What fun run shall I do next? There’s always the Santa Speedo run in Boston… no thanks, I think I’ll pass. Brrr!




Running 20 miles in Dedication of Newtown

20 Dec

A 20-mile run seemed impossible a short time ago. So did the idea of an elementary school tragedy and the loss of 20 beautiful children.  I know that many of you have likely been immersed in the news or tried to avoid it for your own well-being – both I respect.  I am a news junky, who follows all news daily via NPR (my friends are likely laughing at this- they know it all too well). In a surreal experience I happened to have returned to CT this past weekend for the first time since getting my masters at UConn in 2011.  As I drove into the state the NPR signal strengthened again switching to breaking news and live coverage of the tragedy.  I sat in shock in the car with my friend, who is from CT, and we started to respond as mental health care workers, as VTech students, and as humans.  Our reactions varied over the weekend, culminating during the Vigil on Sunday night.

Wednesday night as I lay in bed trying to sleep the night before the long awaited and anticipated 20 miler, I realized that I needed more than to read every news story; I needed more than to cry over the thought of Viki Soto’s black lab wandering around her apartment waiting for her return and the parents waiting at a fire station in vain; I needed more than to work in mental health doing my part; I needed to move and to remember and to do something.  The next day lay an opportunity – I realized 20 miles isn’t much compared to the loss of a child but I’ve often thought I run for those who can’t because I myself didn’t think I’d be running much (or at all) after a severe back injury a few years ago.  So I lay in bed planning the route, remembering names and faces, and hoping to give my run some meaning.

This morning I awoke, reluctantly in the dark cold I got up and dressed and then I remembered the plan; I wrote the 20 children’s names, and the 6 teachers and the mother on an orange post-it note. When I got to my friend’s house, who would join me for awhile, I vulnerably told her my desire to run in dedication and she overwhelmingly agreed. So with intention and in alphabetical order, we set out.

  • Mile one – I prayed for Charlotte Bacon and her family. I pictured her red curls as I ran.
  • Mile two – I prayed for peace for the family of Daniel Barden.
  • Mile three – I read that Olivia Engel was involved in a bunch of activities including swimming, my personal passion, and I hoped this brought her joy during her short life.
  • Mile four – Josephine Gay is pictured with the big green cone on her head and this made me laugh and smile during this early mile.
  • Mile five – Ana Marquez-Greene’s big adorable curls inspired this mile as I kept her family in prayer.
  • Mile six – I prayed for his older brother and the family of Dylan Hockley.
  • Mile seven – Madeline Hsu, I don’t know if anyone ever called her Maddie but for this mile, I did. I also prayed for her family’s privacy, as I know they’ve asked for that.
  • Mile eight – Catherine Hubbard is such a cute red head – I prayed for the peace of her family and a restful holiday season in which they find something to smile about again.
  • Mile nine – Chase Kowalski loved baseball, according to the reports I’ve read, so I ran the bases for a mile.
  • Mile ten – Jesse Lewis ran out of his classroom trying to help others, according to reports, and so I prayed he’d run with me that mile.
  • Mile eleven –  James Mattioli’s family came to mind as I pictured this little cutie while passing half way.
  • Mile twelve – The apparently “girly-girl,” I prayed for Grace McDonnell and her family.
  • Mile thirteen – The adorable photos, by her phenomenal mother, kept me going as I crossed the half marathon point. This mile was hard as this little one has come to mind many times a day over the past week – here’s to you, Emilie Parker.
  • Mile fourteen – Jack Pinto was a football lover, according to reports, and although a Redskins fan myself, this mile was Giants strong.
  • Mile fifteen – I know they’re all adorable, but Noah Pozner is just a cutie and the thought of his best friend and twin being confused without him made me struggle but persist through mile fifteen.
  • Mile sixteen – I pictured that adorable little bob on Caroline Previdi and knew she probably smiled to the end.
  • Mile seventeen – I knew Jessica Rekos was quite the horse lover and I just prayed her family could find happiness with such gentle animals again in the future.
  • Mile eighteen – Avielle Richman’s memories came at a very difficult mile and I just thanked her for joining me for that mile and prayed that her family would know the gift she gave me this day.
  • Mile nineteen – By this point, I needed strength and honestly just repeated his name aloud for the entire mile – thank you Benjamin Wheeler for the strength to run and not walk.
  • Mile twenty – For Allison Wyatt and her family I dedicated the Lord’s prayer for this mile. I prayed for their privacy, as I knew they’d requested this.

I prayed throughout for the adults as to not forget their sacrifice. This might seem silly but I hope it demonstrates respect to these families. It got me through 20 miles with smiles, some tears, and helped me fight a desire to quit. Overall I hope this 20-miler did more than just finish out training. I’m happy to have accomplished the long runs in my training plan for the marathon and thankful that I had the opportunity to do this run with such intention. Now taper can begin and marathon is just around the corner – up first Christmas. So Merry Christmas to all!

18 Miles + Ice Bath… Whose Idea Was This?

13 Dec

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First off, one month from today, Lyn and I (along with my brother, David) will be running our first ever full marathon. Woah, let’s just let that sink in a bit. Eeeeek! Excitement. Anxiety. Panic. All of these emotions were coursing through my veins when I woke up and saw the date, “December 13, 2012” on my iPhone as I turned off my alarm and realized that at that same time of day on January 13th I would be somewhere in the middle of running 26.2 miles. Over these past few months, progress has certainly been made. We have trained, cross-trained, raced, booked flights and hotel rooms (we’ll be staying at Disney’s Boardwalk Villas, by the way), and even polled our Facebook friends as to which Disney character we should dress up as for the race. We’re entering the home stretch–time to sleep and eat well, tackle the remaining long run (20 miles!), and visualize our success come race day.

Last week, I passed my doctoral oral exam (the second of three major hurdles in my doctoral program and also the cause for my recent absence on the blog). Despite the looming deadline of my thesis proposal and subsequent oral exam (presenting and defending my proposed thesis project to my committee), training has continued over these past few months. The potential fracture I wrote of earlier this fall ended up being either a “stress reaction in my fifth metatarsal” or an “os peroneum in my peroneus longus” (i.e. a stress fracture within a bone particle/ossicle in the tendon running on the outer part of my foot near the base of my fifth metatarsal). The orthopedist I saw evaluated my mobility and concluded, “You look too good” (a phrase he repeated maybe 5 times). What he meant by this was that I looked too good for anything serious to be wrong. He recommended some rest and slight under-training for a little bit and that seemed to do the trick.

During these past few months, I have come to appreciate the importance of yoga/cross-training, sufficient sleep (ideally 9 hours), and perspective. For example, the night before my 15 mile run I found out that my dad had just scheduled a total knee replacement.  As I neared the end of the 15 miles, I, rather dramatically, kept reminding myself not that I had to run but that I get to run—a la “I’m doing these 15 for you, Dad.” Naturally, this dramatic, internal guilt trip continued into the Philadelphia Half Marathon, which took place the day before Dad’s surgery, and, as noted in an earlier post, resulted in a PR. As an aside, I was yet again reminded that I also inherited my competitive nature from my dad. In advance of his surgery and in anticipation of a hard road to recovery,  he remarked to the family that he “wanted to set records in there.” Oh Dad…

With my oral exam behind me, I set out to accomplish my 18 mile run this past Saturday. [Full disclosure: I skipped my 16 miler due to the combined excuse of Thanksgiving at home/Dad’s surgery/oral exam prep so I was a bit apprehensive heading in to the run since I had only worked up to 15 miles by that point in time.] This past Saturday was cold and rainy and I do not run in the rain if I can avoid it. Feeling the need to jump back into marathon training head first, I put on my rain coat and out the door I went. I’m a creature of habit and typically just run around the Charles River here in Boston/Cambridge. On this run, however, I decided to spice it up and tack on a loop around Fresh Pond, a reservoir in Cambridge. This new route helped pass the time and distract me from the rain pelting my face those first 6-7 miles. I was wet, cold, and wasting valuable energy dodging puddles to keep my feet dry. I was also bargaining with myself internally and contemplating cutting the run short. [During the hours spent running on Saturday, I also began making notes for a future blog on the application of the 5 stages of grief–denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance–to marathon training. Stayed tuned!]

The last three miles of the run were some of the hardest miles I have ever run. My body was tired and muscles strained. I rolled my ankle around mile 15 and dealt with tweaking pain until the finish. When I walked back into my apartment, my roommate, Ellie, congratulated me on accomplishing the 18 miles. She was excited. I was exhausted. A friend of mine from grad school, Katie, has now completed two Nike Women’s Marathons in San Francisco. When I asked Katie for marathon training recommendations over the summer, she suggested ice baths. As I neared the end of those 18  miles, I remembered this and, already feeling pain and tightness creeping into my legs, I decided it was time for not only my first 18 miler but also my first ice bath. I bought two bags of ice at the corner market, Googled ice baths when I arrived back to my apartment, and came across an article in Runner’s World. Here’s what I learned:



“Cryotherapy (“cold therapy”) constricts blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown. Once the skin is no longer in contact with the cold source, the underlying tissues warm up, causing a return of faster blood flow, which helps return the byproducts of cellular breakdown to the lymph system for efficient recycling by the body. ‘Ice baths don’t only suppress inflammation, but help to flush harmful metabolic debris out of your muscles,’ says [ultrarunner] David Terry, M.D.  … cold-water immersion generally produces a greater and longer lasting change in deep tissues and is more a more efficient means of cooling large groups of muscles simultaneously.” The author of the Runner’s World article on “Ice Baths: Cold Therapy” credits her ritual of post-workout ice baths for much of orthopedic health and absence of any significant injuries despite over a decade of running ultramarathons.


  • photo 12-3 bags of ice
  • Add cold water to cover nearly to the waist when sitting in the tub
  • Temperature: water temperature should generally fall between 50 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Duration: 10-20 minutes

The author of the article made some recommendations that I decided to try out—namely, donning a jacket, hat, scarf, and making a cup of hot tea. I looked like a fool but I have to say that the winter weather gear and cup of tea really did make the cold torture, excuse me… cold therapy, much more tolerable. The first five minutes before the numbness sets in are pretty uncomfortable but I did seem to get some relief and, if nothing else, it was an entertaining experience.



“The British are running, the British are running!”

29 Nov

Let November 22, 2012 go down in history as the day the British (ie. My parents) ran in their very first run/walk/race of any kind. While this day isn’t potentially as monumental as the Paul Revere’s midnight ride of warning, the Boston Tea Party, or even the Royal Wedding, I do think it deserves recognition and of course its very own blog post.

In November of 2009 my parents attended the SOME Turkey Trot in DC to support my first 5K endeavor. At that time I was anxious, unaware of where running would take me, and thought 3.1 miles was the longest thing ever! Now, with thousands of miles under my feet and a marathon around the corner I figured it was time to try and coax some others out onto a course. So, a few weeks before Thanksgiving I looked up about 5 races occurring in the area where my parents live during the week of Thanksgiving and sent off an email to both mom and dad asking who else thought it would be a brilliant idea to run a 5k together?! I received responses about 2 weeks later with a dampened level of enthusiasm but I knew they were hiding their true eager anticipation (right, how could you not be?)!  Fast forward to my arrival home for break, a race had yet to be selected and a few of them passed without acknowledgement before I just sat down and registered the whole family for the 2012 Ashburn Farm 5k/10K Thanksgiving Day Fun Run.  On Thanksgiving morning, the family awoke, elation brimming, dressed warmly for the freezing temperatures, and headed down to Ashburn.

A bit of a race review here: Bib collection could be done the night before or the morning of and due to the day before being a little hectic we decided to risk long lines the morning of.  Their were sheets posted on the entry windows to the church and inside again listing in alphabetical order, everyone’s race bib.  Once you knew your race number, it was easy to find the volunteer with your bib and race number as pick up was done by number categories (ie. 1-300, 301- 450…). Swag included a long sleeve race tee-shirt, which could be upgraded to a technical shirt if desired. There was absolutely no line and lots of safety pins to go around, which was great. Lots of food and water was already sitting out for those who wanted a pre-race snack but most just headed out to warm up or watch the start of the 10k.  The 10k started at 8:15 and then 5K started at 8:25 from the same point and both had volunteers trying to organize people by pace (8minute miles in the front and walkers in the back).  I thought this was a lot of organization for such a small race but it was their 18th year (or maybe more) of doing this. The race start was a little hard to hear due to the use of a mega-phone and a lot of commotion in the crowd but it’s not that hard to just move when the crowd moves. The course was well marked, with police escorts and volunteers at all intersections, turns, and even just a long the course for support.  A surprising number of people had come out of there homes along the course to cheer, including one woman whose cheers were either full of the holiday spirit or just well caffeinated for so early in the morning.  But it was much appreciated!

My mom and dad ran the first mile, then power-walked the second, and then my dad and me headed off to run the last mile together including a race to the finish, which resulted in the exact same time. My parents are incredibly fast walkers (my dad being 6’4” and my mom, 5’1” learning to keep up for over 36 years of marriage).  There were times we were walking as fast as I end up “running” at the end of a long run!  I ran back to meet mom who was just behind us and ran with her to the finish as well.  It was such a fun way to kick of Thanksgiving and I’m incredibly proud of them for both being willing to sign up and run. I hope (and know) there are many more 5Ks in their future, and not just as spectators!

So for all of you non-runners out there, know that the holiday season is the perfect time to sign up for no-pressure fun run in your area. These races often include a plethora of costumes, walkers, and first timers to create an incredibly fun run and the ability to cross something off the bucket list! Happy fun run season!


Race Recap: Philadelphia Half Marathon

19 Nov


On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I participated in the Philadelphia Half Marathon for the third year in a row. My family lives in suburban Philadelphia so between the location and the timing (just before Thanksgiving), this race has become a bit of a tradition and a great way to kick of the Thanksgiving holiday (and justify eating some extra turkey the following Thursday). The Philly Half was also my first half marathon back in November 2010. This year’s half was my fourth half marathon and my first time running a race solo since my first race (which was only a 5K). This resulted in a bit or pre-race anxiety: Should I run with my iPod? What if I hit the wall and Kaitlin isn’t there to talk me through the final stretch as she did in 2010?


What if I get bored and my brother, David, isn’t beside me to entertain me or attract extra attention from the crowd dressed in his crazy neon green outfit (“green on green, baby!”–see picture from last year: yes, even the cast on his left arm was green)?

The temperatures were in the 30’s at the 7am start of the race, making this year’s race a bit colder than usual. Thankfully, most of us warmed up around miles 2-3 at which point a fellow runner beside me proclaimed, “I can feel my feet again!” This year’s race marked the 19th annual Philadelphia Marathon (the Half Marathon was added in ’06) and also included a special corral of runners let in through a lottery after Hurricane Sandy resulted in the cancelation of the NYC Marathon, bringing the total number of runners to 30,000. Having run the same course twice before, I felt pretty comfortable knowing when to expect various twists and turns and when to pull back in anticipation of those lovely hills in Fairmont Park that sneak up on you at mile ten. This year’s race was a more crowded than past years and, during the stretch down Chestnut Street  (miles 5-7), the crowd encroached a bit on the course which resulted in pretty heavy congestion and general frustration among the runners. The course itself covers a number of scenic and historic sights in the city–“from the history-steeped streets of Old City, through one of the liveliest stretches of Center City, across the Schuylkill and through the campuses of University City, up through the bucolic trails of Fairmount Park, and back down to canvas the banks of the river.” I could probably do without the stench of trash/urine when running through Chinatown between miles 1 and 2 though. This race always has great energy with a vibrant crowd, Mayer Nutter at the starting line high-fiving runners as they head out, and eight “cheer zones” complete with music/entertainment (e.g. drum line at mile 2) are also sprinkled throughout the course to provide energy boosts along the way.

Running solo ended up being far less challenging than anticipated. I made a few friends along the way, was in a better position to encourage runners struggling in the last few miles, and was able to conserve energy (since I wasn’t busy chatting away). Being the “numbers geek” that I am, a trait I inherited from my dad, I spent a great deal of time from approximately mile 9 on calculating what pace I needed to maintain to break two hours. Since my current focus is training for Disney, the pressure to PR in this race was taken off but I definitely considered breaking two hours a “reach goal” as I toed the line on race morning. It was a goal I was thrilled to reach with my best half marathon time yet: 1:59:07 (shaving four minutes off of my time at the same race last year). In the middle of marathon training, crossing that finish line and breaking two hours also helped to give me a mental boost and feeling of accomplishment necessary to motivate me through these last few big long runs. It was also great to see the progress I’ve made since my first Philly half both in my finishing time and how I felt throughout. Since I’ve changed my fueling strategy this past year and no longer eat before long runs (other than a pre-race GU gel), I’ve prevented GI distress that’s characterized previous races. If nothing else, my perspective on running distances has changed a great deal. I ran my 15-miler the weekend before Philly so those 13.1 miles felt far easier than before and almost like a bit of a vacation from my ever-lengthening long runs.

Depending on how Disney goes, maybe I’ll be back in Philly next year to run the full marathon 🙂


Where no man has ever gone before… okay at least where I’ve never gone before

4 Nov

14 miles is my longest run yet, and by the end of next week 15 miles will be my longest run yet… in fact from now on every long run is my longest run yet! I know the difference between 13.1 and 14 is only .90 of a mile but it was a big deal. I know I can run 13 miles because I’ve run 13 miles many times before but from now on I have to trust my training, my body, and even my mind to get me through mental road blocks.  I can’t depend on, “well I’ve done this before so I can do it again.”

I’m one of those people who likes to have run it once just to know I can. For example before my first half marathon I went out and ran 13.1 miles just to know I could when it came to the official race.  I don’t know why this is that important to me and I better get over it because I will not be running 26.2 miles before January 13th, which by the way is 10 weeks from today! Training plans only go up to 20 miles and everyone I know only ran 20 miles before their marathon so I need to trust that process.

Long Run Recap: Today’s long run was 14 miles and it was successfully completed in 2 hours and 28 minutes (running time). I ran the first 6 miles with Wallace and then dropped him at home.  Getting him settled always takes a few minutes because honestly, he gets very upset when he is left behind and he knows I’m continuing to run; I have to sneak out and can’t run by the front of my apartment or he barks and whines and I can hear him for at least a mile.  I know I might seem crazy but normally I can say “in your room” and he bounds in there knowing he is getting a treat but when I come back with him from a run and he can tell I’m going out again he starts to whine and bark (a rarity for him) and won’t take his treats when I finally get him into his (my) room. Today was no different and I actually had to come back in and sooth him at which point he ran 3 laps around the apt (after having just run 6 miles) and bounded around till I pulled out the big guns and gave him his absolute favorite treat.

Anyway I then headed out to the cross-country course at VT, which just hosted the ACC championships, so it is nicely groomed and maintained. I ran 4 miles on the grass, which I can tell made a big difference for my legs but made my ankles hurt more (worked hard to stabilize on the grass, I guess). Then ran my last 4 around campus and back home.  When I crossed the 13.1 threshold it was a very weird moment and I almost half wondered how I struggled with that before. Then again that extra .90 seemed pretty long and I was very happy to get home.

For my last three miles I busted out an old but favorite playlist “power 3miles,” which includes some of my favorite songs to run too (don’t judge):

  1. Bedrock by Young Money
  2. Break Your Heart by Taio Cruz (I once ran 6 miles listening only to this song on repeat)
  3. Down by Jay Sean
  4. And the song that has helped me through many a run when I was getting started Sweetest Girl by Wyclef Jean.

Look they’re not classy songs but the beat is right for running, they put a smile on my face, and maybe even a little dance in my step.

I’m hoping some fun music that brings with it memories of good runs and keeps me smiling along with podcasts and friends, will help increase my mental tenacity and help me through these new “longer than ever before” long-runs.

Running Can Be Fun: Color Me Rad

1 Nov

Finished my first 5K!

My first official running race (ever) was a Turkey Trot 5K in DC to support SOME (So Other Might Eat).  I was so nervous about what to do, what to wear, and in general if I could run 3.1 miles.  I’d taken up running casually the spring of my senior year of college and by that November had the itch to actually run in a race.  Since DC is close to my parent’s home and I was home from my masters for Thanksgiving it was the perfect first race that even included parental support (which if nothing else means someone else will worry about parking)!

Few have seen this as I look sooo miserable!

After that I signed up for half marathon in the Spring in Fairfield, CT and ran with my then roommate and running buddy.  It’s amazing I still like running after that race.  It was 82 degrees at the start; 3,500 people started and just under 2,000 people finished; it was an out and back very hilly course; and people were dropping like flies left right and center.  Pictures of my face at the end of that run look like I felt (see left)… I wanted to give up and never every run again. Yet somehow I kept running, I ran the Hartford Half the following fall and had a much better experience and PRed by over 8 minutes and missed the sub-2 hour goal by seconds.

Post Warrior Dash Experience

There have been other halfs, 10 milers, and 5Ks since then but somewhere along the way people started making running fun… the warrior dash, Viking, macho (wo)man, gladiator… insert hard core name here…  emerged, color runs, glow in the dark runs, runs that needed costumes and runs that needed little more than underwear, zombie runs, and a long list of other options.  I had the opportunity to compete in the Warrior Dash in upstate NY with both running and non-running friends and had an absolute blast. Since then I’d been itching for another fun run and finally the Color Me Rad 5k came to Virginia Tech. 

For those of you who don’t know the Color me Rad is similar to other color runs… you wear white, have colored cornstarch thrown/sprayed/dropped on you as you run a 5k.  It’s pretty awesome.  The run sponsored the Special Olympics in Blacksburg and it sounds like they might be giving up to $25,000 (don’t quote me on that… I saw it on their FB page).  At the start they asked if it was anyone’s first race and over half of the people said it was, which I think is down right AWESOME!

Color Me Rad 5k

A little race recap: The race started early! They had said they would be letting waves of people go from 10 – 10:45 but we went in the second corral just before 10am.  After hyping up the crowd for about 20 minutes, people were so excited they just decided to start. That’s Hokies for you! The race started (for those of you who know these places) over by the tennis courts on campus, ran out to the start of the Corporate Research Center, ran back to the Huckleberry Trail and down that for a stretch to the library, and then looped back to the Lane Stadium parking lot of the final color bomb.  There was green water spray about half a mile in, blue corn starch about a mile in, green and yellow paint about 2 miles in, purple at around 3 miles, and then pink at the finish line.  So by the end we looked something like this:

I was able to take photos of their post race color bomb from the top of their lift.

Overall I think fun runs are an amazing way to let casual runners, non-runners, power (or not) walkers, and everyone in between experience the race atmosphere and a community of runners.  I hope more fun runs pop up and inspire people to get moving… I mean why not pay someone to workout and ruin your clothes with color!

Any fun runs in your future? 

(To see my public facebook album of the Color Me Rad 5K in Blacksburg/Virginia Tech: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.660327162238.2089005.32702205&type=1&l=fc17fd6e33)

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Dr. Rachel Runs - Documenting my life on the run. Running, coaching, and blogging in Connecticut.

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