Tag: running

Plunging into 2016

The 1st Annual ISLAGIATT New Year’s Day Backward Xterra Triathlon

The plan was hatched in the usual way 2 weeks earlier.

Last year we celebrated with a Sufferfest, which was the perfect start to a year in which we would quest for Knighthood of Sufferlandria. With new goals and schemes, we needed an appropriately epic kick-off for 2016

For Kristin, it’s The Year of Dirt – gravel rides, Xterras, CX, plus the full 3 Day PMC. For Nancy, it’s The Year of Epic Cycling, including theBattenkill & PMC. For me, it’s The Year to Bring it All Together – all 3 disciplines, better nutrition & injury prevention. This terrible idea brought it all together and the plunge into the icy, cold water would seal the deal!

As usual in New England, the weather necessitated plan modifications. Recon on the course the day before, revealed too much ice on the trails to make the run leg hit our minimum fun level – so it would be a road run. The crunchy trails were fine on mountain bike, so Fatbikes would be perfect.

We met at noon and it was on! This was actually the first time we had all run together. We pretty much crushed the hilly run, each setting a PR for the number of times we stopped to play with items on lawns along the way.

After the second longest transition in history, we were in the woods, crunching through the snow on Fatbikes. (Special thanks to Anders for letting me borrow his Xmas present.) We covered every trail we could find and following Kristin’s lead, we opted for riding across streams despite the availability of a wooden bridge. We discovered beautiful structures crafted from fallen trees and only a single set of footprints in the first snow of the winter. It was colder in the woods than we expected based on the run, so we determined the ride duration by the discomfort of Kristin’s hands, knowing that body heat was required for the final leg.

We peeled off our warm layers and waited in the warm cars for the arrival of the life guards, Jason & Steve. (Safety is a priority, even amidst craziness) Once the men arrived, we forced ourselves from the warmth out into the cold air. (For her first plunge, Nancy was the most prepared with the awesome robe) Just to add to the shenanigans, we added a shot of Irish liquid courage and started the swim lap on our Garmins. Kristin and I set up for a last pre-swim picture and realized that Nancy was marching stubbornly into the reservoir muttering, “I can do this, I’m a triathlete, dammit.” We dashed in to catch her and take the plunge into the new year, together.

The water was just frickin’ cold – stupid cold, but exhilarating…life affirming… adventure commencing.

It’s amazing what epic adventures you can create with friends who are willing to jump in with both feet with you. Not just in sport, but in all aspects of life, I feel lucky to have many wonderful friends who are willing to jump in with me! We support each other. We rely on each other. We humor each other. We challenge each other.
Together, we live the kind of life you feel; where there’s no doubt we’re alive.

Polar Bear Roar

I remember when I used to run…

It’s been weeks since I’ve laced up and hit the roads.

I know we live in New England & it’s winter. I’ve been trying to be tolerant of this ridiculously snowy patch.
Today, I give up!

The snow is piled half way up the doors that used to lead outside and it’s still coming down in an endless swirling blur of white. There’s more shoveling and car scraping to be done again today and again tomorrow. When this storm stops and the roads are plowed (as much as they can be), there’s no safe shoulder for running. And still more, the foretasted high temps in the teens (less windchill) sound terribly oppressive & depressing.

Unconditional surrender

Surrender?!. Ugh, I’m gonna have to find a treadmill. Crap.

Not today. Today = shoveling + moping + more tea. *pouts*

Turtle crossing!

Why did the turtle cross the road? Why, oh why?! Turtle crossing
(This isn’t a post about my speed in the sudden heat of New England, by the way.)

Around here, in June, there’s an influx of turtles on the road.  I see many turtle casualties on my workouts. It’s sad.

Today, I paused my Garmin to help two shelled travelers on their pilgrimage to the other side. The first one seemed quite happy for the lift.  The second darted in circles, faster than I knew a turtle could move. During my turtle chase I had to flag 3 cars to slow down. Each one passed, nearly missing the remaining shell – I held my breath and couldn’t  look. Happily, I was able to chase the 2nd to the other side where his friend was still hiding in his shell.

I was happy that I had been able to save these little guys. And I spent the rest of the workout wondering why these guys cross in such huge numbers at this time of year. Here’s what I found out:

  • Nesting season lasts from late May to early July, reaching maximum intensity in early June.
  • Male turtles often move among ponds during the spring in search of potential mates, but the amount of movement of male turtles generally doesn’t even begin to approach that of females. Females that hope to contribute to future generations MUST leave the relative safety of ponds and wetlands. 
  • Today, the biggest threat to turtle populations  is being struck by automobiles on roadways. 


  1. Slow down and watch for turtles in roadways!
  2. Help turtles cross roads safely. If you see a turtle crossing a road and it is safe for you to do so, help it cross in the direction it was traveling.
  3. Don’t take the turtle home or move it far from where you found it. A turtle taken to your home is a turtle lost from the local population.
  4. If a turtle is injured, call your local animal control or wildlife authorities.

Please share this and ask friends to slow down on roads with ponds and other bodies of water. 

Thanks so much!


Boston Strong – to the finish!

Boston Marathon Finish LineIt’s been quite a while since my last post. But my experience of the 118th Boston Marathon this past Monday inspired me to spend some time capturing my experience.

My qualifying time just wasn’t fast enough for this year’s race.  After working through my initial disappointment, I was clear that I just wanted to be part of it, in anyway I could.  So, on Monday, I was a BAA volunteer.

When I arrived for my assignment at 7am, there was a lot of confusion and my name wasn’t on any assignment list. The Hopkinton organizer was visibly upset and confused by the complication.  He stopped everything he was doing (which was a lot) and anxiously tried to help me.  So I put my hand on his shoulder and calmly looked him in the eyes and said, “I’m here to be in service, not to add any stress.  Don’t worry about me, I will find where I can help.” He immediately calmed and asked if I’d mind walking ¾ of a mile up the road to the Athlete’s Village.  I told him I’d love to and off I went.

The Athlete’s Village looked so different from years past.  The school roof tops were covered with snipers. There were Secret Service & FBI agents in bullet proof vest with dogs everywhere. The roads which corral the 36,000 runners were barricaded with DPW dump trucks.  It was a spectacle. There was a palpable state of alertness mixed with the most unmistakable energy of determination and joy.

Getting into the village was a whole other challenge, but once into the village I got connected to my identification and uniform.  Still without any specific direction for how I was to help, I walked into the sea of people. For a while people who needed help or questions answered just found me.  Then I started bumping into people I knew from around the country – “coincidentally” – many of whom were traveling alone and wanted someone to share a moment of their experience.  Talk about being in the flow and knowing you’re just where you belong.

Around 8:30 I met a man with a bull horn and asked him if there was anything that needed doing.  He asked me where I was supposed to be.  I smiled and said “right here.”  I gave him a very brief overview of the morning circumstances and the places I’d checked-in for an assignment so far.  He asked me what I wanted to do.  This was my first time volunteering so I really didn’t know the options, but I think I had my best job interview, ever!  I said, “I’m here to be in service in any way I can.  I can offer joy, contagious positive energy, and willingness.”

I spent the rest of the morning on the first-ever team of “bib-checkers”.   Before any of the runners could move out to the roads to the corrals, we checked each of their numbers.  (There were 12 of us – did I mention there were 36K runners?) It was amazing.  While people gathered waiting for their bib color to be called there were tears, hugs, and the ‘thank yous’ were innumerable.  Everyone had their own story that brought them to this specific moment in time.  But it was like a convergence – where everyone was sharing and connected at the core to strangers who weren’t at all strangers. It was powerful.

When the last of the runners passed through, we all just stood and looked out to the fields.  You really can’t imagine the clothing and blankets and stuff that was left behind.  (All of which was donated to Big Brothers/Big Sisters) The runners were out on the streets making their own way to Boston.   All of them determined and so hopeful that they would be able to cross this year. Thoughts were on the miles of running, but also on their families and friends along the way – and their safety.

Many of the people I know who ran, didn’t hit their target times.  Many were off significantly.  But it didn’t sit in their craws like it would have in years past.  They all talked about how many times they cried along the way and how many times they laughed.   Many of them got sick – 70+ degrees is hot after this cold winter’s training.  But none of it detracted from the day.  They had trained to finish the Boston Marathon this year. And they did.  They brought their fears and their hope with them – for 26.2 miles.

I am so grateful for the privilege to have experienced and been part of this transcendence.  When I think about positive energy and sport and human capacity – this is the potential I know with all my being exists for all of us.

Boston Strong
– to the finish
we will run
we will cheer
our determination and spirit are strong
and will not yield

Negative Splits – Positive Thoughts

Garmin - lap 1Workout #1: Endurance Run with negative split
Type: Run Planned Duration: 1:20
Description: 15 min gradual warm-up, the keep effort in check, last 15:00=steady state effort (aim for ~half marathon pace, strong and steady)

As I was “gradually” warming up, I started thinking about my target pace for the run. I was thinking 8:40/8:45 for the first 1:05:00 and then maybe 8:25/8:30 for the 15:00 negative split.  Do-able, I thought.

About 15 minutes into the run, I realized that my pace was under 8:40 and feeling like pretty low effort.  I started to worry that I was going too fast and that I wasn’t going to have enough left in the tank for the negative split. This is also when I realized that I have this worry a lot.

Mental instruction review: “keep effort in check”.  Ok, I decided to primarily pay attention to my heart rate (note: I haven’t used heart rate for training before).  I decided that I felt like my effort was in check around 142 bpm – high 130s on the flats/downhills and up to 145 on the uphill.  It felt like a happy run.  25 min into the run, my pace was down to 8:29, but my heart rate was “in check”.  I started my worrying again and trying to figure out why this was happening.  Maybe it was just one of  those really great runs.  Maybe it was just the perfect temperature – I do love 45 degrees. Maybe I was getting stronger.  maybe I didn’t go as hard as I thought I had on the computrainer the day before. Whatever it was I decided to try to just accept  it and enjoy it.  I was keeping my effort in check, I kept telling myself that I’d have plenty in the tank for the negative split. (And it was pretty awesome.)

The course was an out-and-back.  At the turn around, I was still feeling strong, fast and still pretty awesome. And then it hit me; woosh!   Damn, it was a tailwind!

As I turned into a full face of cold wind, it was so clear I laughed out loud. With all my theories and worries I,  tailwind never came close to crossing my mind. Wow! What a dope slap. (I’m still cracking myself up.)

On the return, I kept my plan and maintained the same effort level.  I watched my pace creep up, of course. And I had to fight my impulse to kick it up to keep the faster pace showing on my Garmin. Every workout has a purpose – this workout was a negative split at 1/2 marathon pace, so killing myself for the Garmin display’s sake, was the wrong choice. I finished the split and maintained my 142 bpm average.  Pace: 8:37 for the first split.

Garmin - lap 2The negative split  portion of the run was almost a loop, so I assumed the wind would be heads & tails.  I decided to run the negative split by heart rate vs. pure pace and targeted between 145 & 150 bpm for an average pace – which seemed like a reasonable bump up for simulating a 1/2 Marathon race pace.  (I was completely making this up, too – I have no idea what my heart rate has ever been in a 1/2.)  It panned out interestingly.  My pace was 8:10 – which was lower than the 8:25 I had guesstimated.  But I felt great – had plenty in the tank and was feeling pretty awesome again.

I can’t actually recall a single time when I completely emptied the tank and run out of energy to finish. And still, I’m always worrying about “saving enough to finish”.  I think that in this realization, there’s a huge opportunity for me to train differently.  If I want to go faster (which I do), I think it’s time to start using something other than moving pace – and saving enough to finish as my primary metrics.

Let the research begin – HR, Power, Thresholds – bring it on! Any suggestions for books, websites, or places to start?

My happy pace

Wednesday December 18, Workout #2: Base Run with Drills
Planned Duration: 0:55
Description: 15 min gradual warm-up Base effort throughout
End with 4 x (:15 skipping/ :15 jog/ :15 grapevine/ :15 jog) 

text to coach

Post-activity comments: This is my happy pace. I love this. When I run like this (without a watch) I think to myself about a hundred times – “I love to run”. My arms are low and swing happy & free. My hands are easy. My face is relaxed. I smile and wave a lot. I feel like the ambassador for running & endorphins. My actual pace varies. It’s faster downhill, like a 6 year old running down a hill.  It’s slower uphill. If I’m still thinking”I love to run”, without wanting to yell at myself or throw my toys, that’s my happy pace.

My happy pace. It makes everything seem ok. What swim? 🙂