Worcester Firefighters Memorial 6K, 3 June 2018

Where: Worcester, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew, the Bairn, and my dad

Benefited: Worcester Firefighters Scholarship Fund, Community Harvest Project, Genesis Club, American Society for Suicide Prevention, and NEADS

Time: 37:01 Personal record!

2018 was my fourth year running this race, and I PRd by a over a minute – and with a time more than 10 minutes faster than the first year I ran! (!!)

My streak ended in 2017 when I decided it was too hot for my out-of-shape postpartum self to attempt. I don’t regret that decision. To read my recaps from years past, see 20162015 and 2014.

Maker:S,Date:2017-11-11,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

The Bairn waiting for the start of the race

Pre-race:

To be honest, this race happened so long ago now that many of the details from the day have fled my brain! Let’s see what I can recall.

I seem to remember feeling a bit more rushed than usual upon arrival… usually we got there early enough for me to pick up my bib and warm up. This year was the first time I registered on-site – my first time ever doing day-of registration for any race, actually! Rather than pre-register and have to DNS for some reason, it felt smarter to go this route. It worked out totally fine. I didn’t get a t-shirt, but hey, I’m getting to the point where I have so many race shirts I’m not sad if I miss out on another.

By the time I was pinning my bib, it was time to head to the starting line. Drew and the Bairn set off to find a good spectating position, and I weaved my way through the crowd to attempt to find a good starting spot. This is one area this awesome race could improve in – an organized starting area! No matter where I position myself in the crowd, I’m always weaving around walkers. I love, love, love that this race is so community-oriented and that so many people of all different abilities participate. But it would also be cool if people planning to walk could be encouraged to start at the back.

Anyway. The pipe and drum band marched by, remarks were given, and we were away.

Maker:S,Date:2017-11-11,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

The start. Can you find me?

Maker:S,Date:2017-11-11,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

Well, my running form is back to wonky, but hey, I was out there!

The race:

One cool thing about running this race so many times is that I’m getting to really know the course – know the turns, the hills, where the shade and water stops are, and when I tend to start to flag.  I know when and where I can push myself, and where to take it easy.

That plus the gorgeous 70-something temps made this year’s race feel easy. This race is held at midday, and the past years I’ve run it’s been in the high 80s or low-to-mid 90s, so 70s made it feel downright cool!

I also was determined to push myself this year, and I ran hard. Not all out by any means, but definitely harder than in years past. Granted, it was easier to push myself in the cooler temps, and I didn’t have an injury slowing me down, but it felt really good to actually try to race, rather than just dally my way toward the finish.

I think I was pushing myself to see how I could do, since I don’t try it too often. I knew I had another race the following week (recap to come… sometime in the future!) that I was going to push the Jogging Stroller in, and I knew that wouldn’t be a prime opportunity to really run, so I told myself I could take it easy the next time. This was the time to see what my body was capable of (at least with minimal training), and a chance to run hard to run through parenting and work and general frustrations. Huzzah for running to keep one’s sanity!

The first 2 miles or so felt pretty awesome and I felt strong, but sometime in the final third I started struggling a bit. I was determined to only walk during water stops, and I managed to run the rest of the time, but I was definitely flagging near the end. I forced myself up the last hill to the finish, then wobbled off to sit under a tree and focused very hard on not puking.

Post-race:

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The Bairn spent most of the race trying to climb Mount Stroller

This was the first year I ran where the giant misting fan wasn’t at the finish line – boo! It took longer than usual to recover, thanks to my determination to push it despite not training at all. I sat under that tree for quite a long time, while my dad took the Bairn to inspect some fire trucks. Some water and ice cream helped!

Yet again, we didn’t stick around for the post-race party. One of these years I’d love to take more advantage of the park and the barbecue and adult beverages and general frivolity. This year our excuse was a grumpy Bairn who was bored of the scenery and getting close to naptime.

I did walk away from the race with a nice runner’s high, feeling strong and accomplished, and especially chuffed when I saw my official results – a PR of over a minute, and a whopping 10+ minutes faster than my first time running the WFD6K! The cooler temps certainly helped, but I was still proud of managing to finish the race with an average pace of 9:55.

Can I nab another PR in next year’s race? Will I actually get around to training? Will the scorching temperatures make a vengeful return? Only time will tell!

 

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Ch-ch-ch-changes 

Has it seriously been 3 months since I last posted? Oh dear. The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?

My blogging never really got back on the rails after the Bairn arrived and I got sucked into the world of parenthood, where priorities take on whole new shapes. Or maybe shapes take on whole new priorities? 

Anyway, in addition to wandering through the new adventure of parenthood, I also started a new job a few months ago. After 12(!) years at my last job, it was time to move on. I landed a part time gig at a public library and it’s been great! I have a few days home with the Bairn and a few days working with awesome people at a beautiful library and getting the nerdy high I get from helping people find books and information all day. 

It’s also way more frenetic than my last job, which was chill and predictable for the most part. I’m on my feet almost constantly and I never know what spanners will get thrown into my day, which keeps things interesting. It also means I spend my lunch breaks generally sitting and reading, or going for walks in the sunshine, to clear my head and recover a bit, leaving no blogging time like I used to have. And when I get home, well, I’ve got a Bairn to wrangle before collapsing on the couch with a cider. 

So, all that to say, I’ve been neglecting the ol’ blog once again, but now as I’m settling into new routines, I hope to start posting again here and there. I have 2 race recaps that are overdue (including one that featured the debut of the Jogging Stroller!), so look for those soon(ish)!

In the meantime, here’s a not-great action shot of the Jogging Stroller in action several weeks ago:


Til next time, turn and face those ch-ch-changes!

Fort Hill Brewery 5K, 15 April 2018

What: 5K

Where: Easthampton, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew (and two Shammies running the half)

Benefited: Easthampton High School’s track and cross country programs

Time: 32:39

Splits:
-Mile 1: 10:13
-Mile 2: 10:47
-Mile 3: 10:33
-Mile 3.1: 01:17

Recap:

This was my first race post-Bairn! I originally signed up for the half marathon back in November, but after training went awry, I switched my registration to the 5K and am quite pleased with how it all played out. Especially because we got a fun weekend of travel out of the deal!

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Fort Hill Brewery*

Bib pickup happened the day before at a fitness studio in nearby Hadley, and was super easy and quick. I had signed up early enough to get a free shirt, which was a tech shirt with gender-specific sizing – always a plus! There was also bib pickup the morning of, but as we were out and about with the Bairn the day before anyway, it seemed prudent to get it done with.

The race itself was held at and around the Fort Hill Brewery in Easthampton, with parking onsite, on a nearby street, and at a community center next door. The brewery looked like an old farmhouse near Mount Tom (which you can see peeking out on the left of the above photo), and felt very picturesque.

We arrived just before the half marathon runners took off at 10am, and we took shelter in the brewery as we waited for the 10:30 start for the 5K. In addition to not feeling trained or physically ready at all for a half marathon, the fact that it was in the low 30s (with wind chill making it feel like the 20s) with freezing rain in the forecast made me even happier I had dropped to the shorter distance! It was awesome having the brewery to shelter in, especially since I had a Bairn in tow.

Maker:S,Date:2017-11-11,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

Checking out the ambulance with the Bairn, pre-race

A little before 10:30 the runners were summoned down to the starting line. It was frikkin’ freezing, guys. I’ve run in colder temps, but it had been quite a while, and my body was not happy with me for making it hang out in, and warm up in, such conditions. I did some half-hearted warmup jogs and dynamic stretching, then stood shivering with the rest of the 95 runners as we waited for the start.

We got some directional instructions before the start, as well as a reminder to take deep breaths and be in the moment, then the starting gun went off and we were away running. I started near the back of the pack, and had intentions of taking it pretty easy, but I was so cold that I found myself running faster than planned just to try to warm up. Also, my recent training runs have all started out fast, so I think that’s just what my body was used to.

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Before the 5K start*

Maybe halfway through the first mile I checked Simon Mark II and saw I was chugging along at a 9:– something pace. I knew that wasn’t sustainable, but I was feeling okay, so I picked a runner near me who was wearing a sparkly skirt and decided to try to pace her. I managed to stay with her until the water stop just before Mile 2, when I took the opportunity to walk as I drank and she ran out of sight. While I was disappointed to see my pacer disappear into the horizon, I was pretty pleased that I had made it nearly 2 miles without needing a walk break.

The water stop was the last(ish) part of the race that was on roads – until then we had been running mostly residential roads near the brewery. After the water stop we turned onto the Manhan Rail Trail, which was beautifully paved (no potholes or rough patches like on the roads!) and which looked like it would be such a cool trail to have at one’s disposal. Not long after hitting the trail we passed behind an old, run-down mill building and I wanted to stop to take a picture… but I didn’t want to stop, as I had just started running again. So I wrestled with my ArmPocket to get my phone, and took a shot of the creepy-looking water tower attached to the mill:

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It didn’t come out great, but it was cool-looking in person, I promise

I had been leapfrogging the guy in the blue hoodie in that photo, and at the time of the picture I had pretty much given up hope that I’d catch him again. The arm at the very far left of the photo was a lady I ended up chatting briefly with (we commented on the not-so-pleasant smell of some kind of factory or stream we ran past) before awkwardly passing her when I got my second wind.

Since I hadn’t warmed up properly, my first mile in this race was pretty much a warmup… as in I couldn’t feel my legs because they were so cold, and they didn’t warm up until the first mile had ticked by. I struggled a bit for the second mile… likely because I wasn’t hydrated (I am me, after all)… but then after taking that walk/water break, I had a few minutes and then BOOM my second wind appeared. I’ve written before about races where I’ve felt like I turn into a machine at the end, and that happened again in this race. Once I passed that lady, I felt like I couldn’t stop or slow down if I wanted to.

I got to a point on the trail where I recognized the community center that’s next to the brewery, and I knew I was almost done. I had about a half-mile to go, but I ate that half-mile for breakfast. My jets turned on and while I didn’t sprint, I did pick up speed, and I felt strong. I even caught up to and passed Blue Hoodie, and left him in my dust. I picked off a few more people as the trail ended and we turned onto the road that leads to the brewery.

Maker:S,Date:2017-11-11,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

Cresting the last hill

The very last bit of the race was a cruel uphill to the finish line, but I ate that hill for second breakfast. Maybe I was just so excited to be done, or maybe I had energy stores galore from the breakfast sandwich and tasty coffee I’d had before the race (ordinarily I don’t eat that much or drink coffee before races), but I tore up that hill, waved excitedly at Drew and the Bairn who were waiting for me near the finish, and crossed the line with a much faster time than I had expected.

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Done!*

As a bonus, a race volunteer placed a medal around my neck after I crossed the finish line (according to all the race info, only half finishers were going to get medals, so bonus bling was awesome!), I grabbed a banana, and wobbled off to find Drew and the Bairn. I was well chuffed with my race, especially the last third or so, and also very glad that I didn’t have 10 more miles to run! The 5K was the right choice for me this time for sure.

We hung out in the brewery for a bit so I could warm up and guzzle some water, then we opted to leave early and skip the post-race party. The brewery was going to be serving beer, a local pizza place was already handing out slices to the runners (I think I’ve written before that I have a hard time with “real” food right after a race, especially things like pizza), and a DJ was ready to spin some tracks, but bad planning on my part meant we had no Airbnb to return to and a long ride home with a tired Bairn, so we bolted. The party pics on Facebook make it look like it was a fun time though!

Even though it wasn’t the half marathon I had planned on running, I’m glad I dropped down to the shorter distance. My training runs had gotten up to 5 miles so I knew I could grind out 3.1, and knowing my family wasn’t killing a long time in the cold eased me of guilt. I ended up feeling strong and finishing faster than expected, so I’d say it was a pretty successful return to the world of road races!

And I’m already putting feelers out for my next race…

*Photos with asterisks by Donna Gulow*

 

A Western Mass Weekend

Hello there! If you read my last post, or have been following along with my ill-fated half marathon training, you’ll know that I recently traveled out to western Mass for the Fort Hill Brewery half marathon/5k.

Western Mass is a place I haven’t spent much time in, considering I’ve lived my whole life in Massachusetts. I grew up in central Mass, and now live a bit outside Boston. Western Mass has always unfortunately been the driving equivalent of flyover country for me – it’s the two-lane bit of the Mass Pike that always feels endless on the way home from somewhere else. I’ve known there are cool things to do and see, but other than a childhood visit to the Yankee Candle Factory, I’ve never gone to see for myself.

Enter the Fort Hill Brewery race. In addition to being motivation to train (ha!!) it would allow me to check another town off my Massachusetts running map, and would give us an excuse to explore someplace new. I found a toddler-friendly airbnb close to the race, which was in Easthampton, and away we went.


Our neighborhood for the weekend was within walking distance of the center of town, and within gazing distance of Mount Tom (as seen above). We spent the first evening taking advantage of the 70-degree temps and exploring the shops and sights of the town center.

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Easthampton seemed to me to be a town that had seen some hard days when its mills closed, but that has done a lot to reinvent itself. It felt like a mix of blue-collar and artsy hipster, with a dash of college town vibe. Several microbreweries have sprung up, and at least one of the giant old mills has had new life breathed into it by new businesses and an indoor park. There are also some non-revitalized mills still around (see below), which I’ve always been fascinated by… maybe because I lived near many such mills when I was growing up.

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One thing that really struck me about western Mass was how nice everyone was… people smiled and said hello, and cars stopped to let us cross while the drivers smiled. Maybe it was because we were pushing a stroller, but I also saw people being nice to other people who weren’t pushing adorable bairns around. It was slightly unsettling, but not in a bad way! Maybe it’s a sign that I need to get out of Boston and its environs more often…


My favorite places we visited while in town:

  • Tandem Bagel Company – an old train station turned into a cool cafe serving a huge variety of bagels and yummy coffees. I loved their special maple latte! This place was hopping each morning we visited, and made me wish we had something similar in my city.
  • New City Brewery – tucked in the back of the old revitalized mill I mentioned earlier, specializing in alcoholic ginger beer but offering other brews as well. They have a nice outdoor patio with river views. I highly recommend the New City Mule!
  • Easthampton Diner – old school, no-frills place serving breakfast all day and big portions for reasonable prices. They make good waffles and grilled cheese!
  • Manhan Rail Trail – well kept paved bike/multi-use path that runs along the Manhan River. A good chunk of the Fort Hill Brewery race was along the path, and it was great! It looked like the path runs from Northampton to New Haven, which would make for an epic run.

We also spent an afternoon in nearby Florence, visiting Look Park. It cost $9 to drive in, but the park boasts lots of grassy space for Bairns to run around, trails to hike/ride bikes on, several playgrounds, a small zoo, a picnic area with grills, a cafe, a theater, and even a train you can ride around in. On a lovely spring day like we had on Saturday, it’s well worth the $9!

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Riding the train in Look Park

Have you been to Western Mass? What are your favorite things to do/see there?

Fort Hill Brewery Half… or Not

Way back in November, I had a goal. I heard about an April half marathon in western Mass, a place Drew and I had been talking about going for ages. April seemed like a decent time for a half – not too hot yet, but (hopefully) not too cold. And a half seemed doable, especially that far out with lots of time to train. And having this goal race would give me motivation to get out there and train… right?


Oh, reader. Alas. For the millionth time: if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’d know that reacting to any kind of motivation is not my strong suit. Especially in these post-Bairn days when all roads to anywhere are paved with the best intentions, and yet….

So. What happened this time? I believe I last left you with the vague “my half marathon training is all over the place,” which it was with illnesses, ghost injuries, and suboptimal weather and running conditions. All in all, I only ever got up to 5 miles at any one time during said training. 

If I had an ironclad will I probably could have done it. I have runner friends who run while sick, while injured, and during blizzards. When the sidewalks aren’t clear they run in the road, or chug out the miles on a treadmill. And that’s great! But I think I’ve learned that that’s not me, especially lately. I love coziness, and safety, and lack of injury. 

Running these days is what keeps me sane as the Bairn embraces the madness of toddlerhood, and my sanity can’t afford injury! So when the top of my foot started giving me grief, and when my right hip started protesting, I reeled it in. I iced, I rested. I avoided slippery slush as well as the treadmill that makes my knees unhappy. 

Through it all there was a little voice in the back of my head that said “you ran the Worcester Half, with its hills and heat, while pregnant, having only ran 5ish miles in training. You can do this!” But there was also a louder voice that said “Sure, but had you injured yourself then you would have had months to recover anyway. You need running now. Plus… do you really want to slog through a half if you’re not feeling it?”

I listened to the louder voice. I emailed the race director and asked if I could drop down to the 5k distance. I figured we could still have our Western Mass vacation, and I could still run, but the shorter distance would make for a happier time for all involved… especially when I saw the forecast of upper-20s and freezing rain for race day!


It ended up being the right decision. I ran a faster 5k than I expected, I felt strong, I didn’t get injured, and Drew and the Bairn didn’t need to kill time for 2.5+ hours in gross weather. And we still had a fun weekend!

Race recap and weekend fun post coming soon…

More Naptime Rambles

I’ve been delinquent with blog posts lately. I think I’m going through one of those phases where I don’t think I have anything interesting to write about, and not enough energy to make myself write regardless. And so the radio silence. 

My half marathon training has been all over the place. I dialed it way back and intended to do a repeat week or two but really I’m just off the training wagon. Two weeks ago I managed 2 runs – a weekday 2-miler on a random gorgeous spring-like day, and a weekend 4-miler. Then last week I got a 5-miler in. But that’s it. No cross training (other than lots of walking at work). The road to Fort Hill Brewery is paved with good intentions. 

I did make my glorious return to the Sunday Morning Shammies last weekend, and it was glorious indeed… at least to see people! I set out for some solo miles and then met up at Shammies HQ, because I wasn’t sure if I’d actually run with anyone (I’m very self conscious right now about my speed and my need to take walk breaks as often as I do… I don’t want to slow anyone else down). I got to chat with my peeps, pet a doggo, and someone took pics and caught me getting some welcome-back hugs:

Feeling the love!


Doggo!

I ran about a mile with K before I was totally winded and had to split off to finish my run alone. But those Shammies warm fuzzies carried me for a few more miles, and I hit the distance I wanted without wanting to die too much. Yay!

So at this point, my half marathon that I signed up for to force me back into training will now likely just be an excuse to take a family trip to Western Mass. And you know what? I’m okay with that. My boss told me about a park near the race that has a train you can ride, and a museum that has dinosaur fossils, so we can have some fun with the Bairn and hopefully I won’t fail at running too badly. I figure if I can survive a really hot, hilly half while pregnant with no training, I should be able to survive this one. 

We had a nor’easter this week that dropped a bunch of snow and now the sidewalks are impassable again. It’s depressing. Especially after we had a few 60-degree days in February. Mother Nature is a cruel lady. 

I’m stuck in a book rut right now. The last book I finished was Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, which I read for the social justice book club at my local library. It was a hard read, one that made me angry and broke my heart over and over again and made me feel helpless. The next book for the book club is pretty long so I feel like I should get a jump-start, but I really need something light and/or funny before I dive in. Nothing I try is really fitting that bill, or if it does I’m finding I just can’t get into it. I took Readers Advisory in library school- why can’t I work that magic on myself??

And the Bairn is stirring… until next time!

How is the weather where you are?

What are you reading? Any nice light books you’d recommend?

Hey, I Put Some New Shoes On…

…and suddenly everything’s right. At least according to Paolo Nutini.

One of those things I’ve been meaning to get around to doing for ages is get some new running shoes. My most current ones, Saucony Guide 8s in a snazzy blue color (see photo below), still have miles in them, but they don’t really fit anymore and have been known to give me a bit of grief every now and then during runs.


(One of the fun pregnancy side effects I experienced was growing feet. Thanks – I’m assuming – to the relaxin that flooded my body a while ago, spreading the bones in my feet, I’m left with feet that are a half-size to full-size bigger, depending on which foot you’re looking at. Which is another cool thing – one foot grew more than the other. Yay!)

Since I started experiencing knee pain last week, and with a half marathon and the lead-up training looming on the horizon, I thought it was high time I bit the bullet. So Drew and I grabbed the Bairn and headed to our nearest Marathon Sports this afternoon so I could get re-fit and have my gait reanalyzed for some new kicks.

The Bairn enjoyed the big doggy in the window display

It was during the fitting that I learned my formerly size 8.5 feet are now size 9 (left) and slightly bigger than size 9 (right). That makes things fun. Also, it seems that whereas my forefoot has spread out a bit, my ankle area is the same as before, so bigger shoes feel looser at the back now. That’s also fun, and makes it very easy to find shoes that work.

Luckily I got a super awesome salesman who knew what he was talking about, and he grabbed a bunch of different shoes for me to try. I gave my Saucony Guides a go again, only to find the new ISO model feels like it’s squishing my feet from the top. The new model of my Adidas shoes felt way too loose at the heel, as did the Brooks  I tried.

There were only two shoes that matched my flat feet/over-pronation/gait that also felt snug enough at the heel – Mizunos (maybe Wave Inspires? I don’t remember) and Nike Zoom Structures. I ran around the store in one of each for a while, and it ended up being the Nikes all the way.


I’m so pumped to take these for a proper run, but I’m a little nervous as well. I’ve been wearing Saucony Guides for almost the entire time I’ve been running, except for the time I branched out to Adidas and ended up with a messed-up knee. It was probably a coincidence, but there’s something of a superstitious comfort in knowing you’ve got a shoe that works for you, and the Guides were my ol’ faithfuls.

My fingers (and beleaguered toes!) are crossed that these Nikes do the trick!

What shoes are your ol’ faithfuls?

Have you ever had to switch shoe brands after being with one for a long time? How did it go?