RAW Series: The Halfway Point

(…well, maybe a little past the halfway point by now, but let’s go with it, shall we?)

I’m a bit of a sucker for a good race series, especially if there is special swag involved. Back when I was still pretty new to running, I did (most) of the Let’s Run, Have Some Fun, and Be Fit series in Cambridge, which looks way cooler this year than when I ran it! I ended up not completing the series, but still got the series swag (a jacket!) because a friend ended up getting one that was too small. Score!

Then, I actually completed the Tour de Worcester in my home city, which was more fun than the Cambridge one. The Let’s Run series was 5 races of the same course… so it was cool to see how I improved over time, but the course got a bit boring. The Tour de Worcester was 3 different races in different parts of the city, which I liked. The swag was a nice beanie, which I still wear on cold runs.

Well, it’s been 5 years, but I’m in the midst of my third series, the RAW Series:

This one is a 6-race series, and like the Tour, it’s 6 different races in different parts of the city. A woman in my run club did it a year or two ago and got a sweet jacket as swag, so I was intrigued! Plus, Waltham is a cool city with lots of history (*history nerd klaxon*) so I signed up quick.

The first three races were back in April and May, and the next one is in September. I appreciate the summer hiatus, especially since it’s been so hot! Here is a quick recap of the first three:

JB Blastoff 5K, April 7, 29:38

AKA the 5k when I finally broke 30:00!!

Just thinking of this race makes me wistful for running weather that’s cloudy and in the 50s!! The JB was a mostly flat race through residential neighborhoods, and to be honest, I don’t remember much about it at this point. I should have written the recap way earlier, but… alas. My post about breaking 30 will have to do. I do remember that I started further up the pack than usual, since the first stretch was on a busy road not blocked to traffic, so the course was very narrow and I didn’t want to get stuck. I remember it being a decent race, with access to real bathrooms at a restaurant pre-race and what sounded like a cool after-party that I did not attend.

Moody St 5K, May 5, 31:51

I ran this race with some friends, who all happen to be librarians! We may have nerded out and gotten some matching t-shirts to wear that said “librarians know how to book it” 🤓

This was a fun race. There were sponsor booths with giveaways and treats, and a big Zumba warmup in the street before the starting gun. Moody St is one of the main thoroughfares in Waltham, so only part of it was closed to traffic (the rest was down to one lane). The course cut through some residential streets until hitting a path along the Charles River. That path went behind the looming Waltham Watch factory, which pleased my inner history nerd.

I would have come very close to breaking 30:00 again in this race if the running buddy I was with hadn’t had a losing-her-breakfast situation around the Mile 2 mark. I stopped nearby (afraid that if I got too close, I, too, would lose my breakfast) to make sure she was okay, until another of our pack of librarian friends came by and told my slightly green self to run away. Even with that diversion, I made great time and was pleased! Again there was an after-party, and again we didn’t attend.

St. Jude School 5K, May 18, 33:45

Attempted selfie with a toddler…

Unlike the first two races, Drew wasn’t around to Bairn-wrangle, so I popped the wee lad in the jogging stroller and took him with me. It was a warmer day than the previous RAW races, but still not too bad. The course was mostly on leafy residential streets, and took us by a farm and under a train bridge, both of which the Bairn loved.

This was also a very family-friendly race, as it was benefitting a K-8 school; lots of kids running and parents with strollers. This made for a fun after-party too, complete with a playground and free giant Italian ices! The Bairn had never had Italian ice before this, and he was an instant convert. There was also a misting tent, which was appreciated:

Thoughts So Far

The RAW Series has been great! I enjoyed the first three races, and was pleased with my times in each. We’ll see how the next ones go, since they’re coming up and it’s still hot and gross. Plus, the next one is basically up a mountain, so… yeah. I have a feeling I won’t do as well in the second half!

This series is different from the others I did in that there’s a scoring system, based on how you perform at each race. The top male and female runners get special prizes (I think) or at least bragging rights.

I’m looking forward to the second half, even if I don’t think my times will compare to the first half. Two of the races are trail races (or maybe one trail and one hybrid?) which will be different, and hopefully a cool change from the baking asphalt.

I’m also dying to find out what this year’s swag will be! #priorities

Hopefully my write-up of the second half won’t be as delayed as this one…

Have you run any race series? Do you prefer them to feature the same course over and over, or to change it up?

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Samantha’s Harvest 5K, 9 June 2019

Hi there! How in the heck is it June already?! I am way behind with race recaps… I’ve run 5 already this year (I’m back, baby!) and have written up exactly 0. Until now. Please excuse the lack of chronological order and maybe someday I’ll get my blogging act back together again.

Let’s press on, shall we?

Samantha’s Harvest 5k

What: 5K

Where: Reading, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Me and the Bairn and a bunch of Shammies

Benefited: Samantha’s Harvest

Time: 32:50 Stroller PR!

Splits*:
-Mile 1: 10:38
-Mile 2: 10:33
-Mile 3: 11:03
-Mile 3.1: 1:08

*I forgot to stop my Garmin until I’d been across for a while, so my Garmin splits don’t add up to my official time

Background

I ran this race last year as my first stroller run ever with the Bairn (you can read the recap here). It was a decent race, supporting a good cause, and it was fun to hang with the Shammies, but I wasn’t planning on running it again this year. It just felt like a once-and-done experience. But, a Shammie who’s a new mom said she might be there with her new wee Shammie, plus the club pays our race fees, and it would be something to do while Drew played soccer that morning… so I thought what the heck and signed up. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t get to meet the newest Shammie, but it was still a good time!)

Pre-race

Much like last year, Drew had a soccer game at the same time as the race, so the Bairn and I hopped in the car and drove to Reading. Sam’s Harvest is a relatively small race, so there’s plenty of parking on-site and bib pickup is fast and easy.

In lieu of warming up like I should have, I made the rounds with the Shammies for the obligatory cooing over/getting high fives from the Bairn and “OMG he’s twice the size he was since I last saw him!” comments. I also wrestled the Bairn in and out of his stroller a few times because toddlers gonna toddler.

The Race

The field felt a lot smaller this year… potentially because the race started an hour earlier than in years past and that fact wasn’t heavily advertised. There were a bunch of runners with strollers last year, but I was one of only two this time around.

The Bairn and I started near the back and were on our own, as all the Shammies running this year were speedy and off winning their age groups.

I don’t remember there being so many hills last year – oof! Otherwise the course was wonderfully shady and on pleasant residential back roads. There were two water stops and both had ice-cold water, which was glorious! Every other race I’ve done so far this year had water that was vaguely cool at best, so the icy hydration felt even more amazing on this hot morning.

Another nice thing about the course being on all residential streets is that several families were out on their front lawns cheering on the runners. The best moment of my race was when I ran by a mom sitting on a blanket with her baby, who looked maybe 10 or 11 months old, and the mom excitedly pointed at the Bairn and said to her wee one “there’s a kid like you! Oh wow, they’re running with a stroller!” Then she looked at me and said “That is so awesome! I’m so proud of you!!” This happened between miles 2 and 3 when I was struggling a bit, and her words totally lifted me for the rest of the race. I feel like you hear so much about moms judging each other these days, and I tend to feel self-conscious a lot about what other moms might be thinking, so to hear such sincere praise from another mom meant so much!

The second best part of my race was as I neared the finish. Like last year I was the last Shammie on the course, and as I came down the hill toward the track where the finish line is, a bunch of Shammies were walking toward me as they headed off for a cool-down run. They all started cheering when they saw me and I reached out for a high-five and ended up high-fiving almost all of them. It felt like running a half-gauntlet of awesomeness!

As we turned onto the track and came down the final straightaway, the rest of the Shammies were clustered by the finish line, cheering. I saw one of them with his phone out for pictures and jokingly flexed, and then made a silly excited face, which got caught on camera:

I was also excited because both my Garmin and the ever-nearer finish line clock both said 32:–, which would not only be a solid 6 minutes faster than last year’s time, but also a PR for me in terms of stroller races. I was pumped!

Post-race

After I crossed the finish and the nice timing person ripped off the bottom of my bib and a nice volunteer handed me an icy, full-size bottle of water (seriously, this race does hydration RIGHT), all I wanted to do was lay down in the shade for a few hours. I was hot and red and probably dehydrated, and had pushed myself harder in this race than I planned to, so I was a bit wobbly. I pushed the Bairn over to some shade, ignoring his protests about wanting to come out and walk around, and plopped down gracelessly to chug water.

After the initial I-might-faint feeling, I felt awesome! I was still feeling pumped from both the nice mom and the Shammies high fives, and was totally chuffed about my time. It blows my mind a little that I’m finishing races faster pushing a toddler in a stroller than I was in most of my pre-Bairn races. I think it’s a combination of mom-strength (hefting an ever-growing child is my answer to weight-lifting and core work, I guess!) and ~cheesy alert~ believing in myself. The more I run faster, the more I know I can do it, and the more I push myself to keep it up. If I can be arsed, I may ramble on about these thoughts in another post. Someday. Maybe.

Anyway, back to post-race. The Bairn and I joined the rest of the Shammies, who were gathering by the leftover donuts in the shade by the registration area. We snacked on some donuts and stretched, and the Bairn joined in clapping for the award winners. We took a club photo:

And then everyone sort of trickled to their cars and left. Not a lot of fanfare or post-race partying, which was fine as I wouldn’t have been able to join in much anyway! The Bairn and I drove home, stopped for some iced coffee, and then repeated last year’s recovery: relaxing in the shade of our yard with a water table:

While I assumed Sam’s Harvest was a one-time race, it’s turning out to be a fun start-of-summer tradition. I wonder how many more years I’ll be pushing the Bairn? Maybe he’ll even run with me in a few!

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…

Post-Bairn Half Training – Week 1

Hi! I’d like to introduce you to someone who’s very excited to be here: a version of me who actually completed a full week of a training plan! Was that your jaw I just heard hitting the floor? It’s okay, mine’s down there too.

I mentioned several posts ago that I had signed up for a spring half marathon so that I could have a goal to work toward. I knew I’d need to finagle some kind of legitimate training in beforehand, otherwise I knew I’d be a hot mess. Plus, the training – and thus getting back into some kind of shape – was really the motivation behind signing up.


…well, that and the chance to check another town off my Massachusetts running map… and the to have an excuse to travel somewhere new with the Bairn.

Anyway, I’m starting to ramble. All that to say – I dug out the ol’ Hal Higdon Novice half marathon training plan (which I attempted for my first half… you can read how swell that experiment went in this post), counted the weeks backward from race day, and set my jaw in a determined manner.

Last week was Week 1 of 12. And, reader, I nailed it. More or less. Here’s how the week looked:

Sunday (last day of Week 0)

1 mile run | 1 mile run

The first run in the plan was 3 miles. I hadn’t run much more than 1 mile post-Bairn, and that was in early December. I figured hoped a nice gentle mile would be a good way to ease me in to the plan.

When Sunday turned out to be in the upper 40s, I giddily set out for that gentle mile despite head congestion and a plugged duct (that made squeezing into my sports bra fun…). It wasn’t my best run by a long shot, and I didn’t feel great during or after, but I did feel accomplished at getting it done.

Monday

Rest | Rest

I’m very good at rest days 🙂 If Mondays hadn’t been rest days in the plan, I would have tweaked it a bit to make it so. Mondays are my late days at work, and are usually a bit hellish as it’s the Bairn’s first day back at daycare and his bedtime gets pushed late because I get home late and… just ugh. A good day for a rest day indeed.

Tuesday

3 mile run | 2 mile run

This is why I wrote “more or less” up there in the intro. While I completed the week of training, I did make a few small tweaks to take into account my general lack of fitness (see this post). Even after my gentle mile on Sunday, I mentally didn’t feel ready for 3, so I hit the gym for 2 miles of walk/running on the treadmill.

Wednesday

2 mile run or cross train | resistance band work

I figured I could use either some yoga/stretching or strength training during this half training, since my body is destroyed from hefting my growing bairn around all the time. Drew set me up with some resistance bands in our living room and showed me a few routines that would work my arms, chest, and back, and I went to it… in my most stylish cross training outfit ever:

img_8908

If you look closely, you’ll see some glow-in-the-dark space otter socks and slippers, plus the sweet goggles that came with the resistance bands.

Anyway, it was a gentle intro workout, as my body was already feeling it after minimal reps and I didn’t want to wreck myself. I’ll work at building it up as the weeks go on.

Thursday

30 mins cross training | Expresso Bike

Remember my good friend the Expresso Bike? I was so excited to hop back in the saddle. I brought the Bairn to the gym, got him registered for on-site childcare, and grabbed a bike. I probably should have started off with an easy lap around the virtual track, but I picked a 1-mile slightly hilly course to make it more interesting.

Yeah… after a half-mile my legs were dead. I hadn’t been on a bike since March 2016, before I got pregnant. And my mostly sedentary lifestyle post-Bairn meant my body was already reeling from 2 runs in a week and some cross training. Plus I was worried about how the Bairn, who is in the throes of some nice separation anxiety, was faring having been deposited in a strange new place. So I finished the course, hopped off the bike, and went down to childcare to pick up the Bairn (who was cheerfully bouncing away in an exersaucer). So it was only 5 mins of CT instead of 30, but it was something, right?

Friday

Rest | Rest

Neither the Bairn nor I felt 100% on Friday, so it was another well-timed rest day.

Saturday

3 mile run | 3 mile run

When Drew and the Bairn settled in to watch the Spurs match, I set off on a 3-miler around the neighborhood, route courtesy of MapMyRun’s Route Genius. It took me down some streets I’d never been down, which is always fun. My first mile was strong, and is now my current post-Bairn best mile time, but the next 2 got slower and slower. Still a decent run, but I need to work on not going out so fast. I think I’m just so pumped to be running again, it’s hard to hold back!

Sunday

4 mile run | 4 mile run

I was curious to see how I’d do with 2 runs in 2 days, and surprised myself by feeling pretty strong. I set off down to the pond, which was iced over and a bit grim-looking despite temps in the upper 40s:

Once again, I set out too fast for my first mile and then got slower as the run went on, but each mile managed to come in under 13:00 per mile, even with multiple walk breaks. I’ll take that!

——

So, Week 1 is complete! Huzzah! Here are some reflections from my first week of training:

Favorite sight while running: a preschool-aged kid dressed as Batman running around his driveway, [I imagine] fighting invisible baddies

Milestone of note: I already have a bruised toenail 😦 I suppose that’s what happens when I dive headlong into a training plan without even a small base settled. Ah well.

Lesson learned: Always have electronics charged and ready to go! Both my Garmin and my iPod were dead when I went to use them this week. The Garmin, meh… at least I have MapMyRun to play GPS for me, but man, treadmill miles are looooong without music.

How was your week?

Any awesome sightings, milestones, or lessons to share?

 

Inconsiderate Running

I’m pretty sure most of us have pet peeves when it comes to running, specifically with other runners. Whether it’s slamming on the brakes out of nowhere during a race, spitting or blowing noses without taking the direction of the wind or proximity of other runners into consideration, or what have you, they run the gamut from mildly irritating to just plain rude.

Here’s one that I was thinking about yesterday – running in hallways or other indoor spaces not intended for running. I hadn’t really thought about this one before, other than reading once about people on running streaks running in airports to make sure they didn’t break their streaks.

Let me set the scene that caused my ponderings: Yesterday I was walking from my office to my car, taking the longer inside route because it was pouring rain. I was approaching a corner when a man kitted out in running gear came flying around that corner and would have crashed into me had I not practically thrown myself into the wall to get out of his way. I glanced over my shoulder at him as he jogged off, and it clearly looked like he was getting his lunchtime run in, inside and away from the rain.

I mean, I get it. It was cold and wet and awful outside yesterday, so I can’t blame him for wanting a nice, dry runch.

However.

For one thing, there are 2 gyms containing many treadmills on campus. Don’t like the treadmill? That’s fine, we also have an indoor track. Maybe he doesn’t like running in circles? Okay, but.

The school currently has a “don’t ride inside” campaign happening, trying to discourage people from riding scooters, skateboards, bicycles, and the like indoors. It happens way more often than what seems normal. I mean, I’ve almost been hit by cyclists in hallways more than once. Bicycles gunning for us lowly pedestrians on the sidewalk is bad enough; can we have no respite indoors either?!

Anyway, I assume campus police are tired of getting complaints from startled people who had near misses with people on wheels, so now they’ve imposed a fine for anyone who gets caught. To me, that seems fair… but I may be biased due to past experiences.

All that to say, using wheels to travel faster through hallways that are generally clogged with people is frowned upon. Should running be as well? The guy who almost collided with me yesterday came around that corner like a ninja [kudos on the proper running form, dude… I hear if you run properly people shouldn’t be able to hear you coming]. What if I had been a elderly professor with arms full of papers or a laptop, who couldn’t get out of the way as fast as I could? Or someone pushing a big heavy cart laden with packages or flat-pack furniture? Running Man could have hurt himself.

To me, running in a hallway – while a great way to avoid inclement weather – seems a bit inconsiderate. The thought to do just what Running Man did has crossed my mind before on gross winter days, but I’ve never really thought it would be a good idea… too many other people around, too many things that could go awry. Especially when there are multiple indoor running facilities right there, just waiting to be used.

What do you think – is running in hallways inconsiderate, or not too bad?

What running pet peeves do you have?

The Road to Orlando is Paved with Good Intentions

Sometimes I feel like a broken record, but, reader(s)… I had good intentions, I really did.

Drew and I (and now the Bairn) alternate Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with our families, so every other year we usually have a warm-weather Christmas in California (which I’ve taken advantage of to run a few warmer winter races – see this post and this post).

Plans changed a bit this year, and the family all converged in Florida, where Drew’s folks rented a huge house in a gated vacation community owned by Disney. It was certainly different, and I missed my trips to In n Out, but there were some concessions:

wawa

Like Wawa!!

It was also very nice to be somewhere warm, especially because the northeast was starting to be hit by a polar vortex and snowstorms. Our house had a pool and screened-in patio, and it felt pretty nice to be enjoying alfresco lunches in shorts and a t-shirt while hearing reports of the snow falling back home. (Of course, the frigid temperatures were still present when we got home, which made leaving the 70s-and-sunny weather that much harder!)

pool

Feeding the Bairn poolside

So, what did I have good intentions about, you might be wondering? You won’t be surprised… I intended to go running! Because of course I did. I packed my running shoes, a bunch of socks, running shorts and tanks, hairbands, the works. I envisioned running outside in the sun, and on a treadmill in the community gym if it was too humid outside. I wanted this. I even packed my LEGEND compression sleeves and my HeartZones Blink 3.0 heart rate monitor, with intentions of posting pictures on social media like a good brand ambassador.

And it all played out like so many of my post-Bairn running adventures, in that it didn’t happen. Traveling and being in a new place surrounded by his noisy cousins made the Bairn a bit contrarian when it came to keeping his nap schedule, and he also didn’t love sleeping in the Pack’n’Play. So most of his naps found me laying on our bed next to him, making sure he didn’t roll off, while Drew spent time with his family. It was relaxing, but it wasn’t what I had planned. (Drew’s family also seemed less excited to babysit than we’d hoped, which meant we had much less Bairn-free time than we’d anticipated.)

We did end up taking two walks around the neighborhood with the Bairn, but other than chasing him around as he crawled through the house and up and down the stairs, my exercise plans came to naught. My running shoes were only useful in taking up space in my suitcase. Oh well.

Like people have commented on other posts where I’ve lamented running plans gone awry, running will always be there when I can get to it. The Bairn is only a baby once, and he’ll only ever have one first vacation, so I don’t mind that I spent it all with him and didn’t do a whole lot else. Someday… someday I’ll make good on my good intentions!

IMG_8058

Proof that we went somewhere warm, and even went outside once!

Friday Rambles: End of September Edition

Okay, but how is it almost October already?! Has this year gone faster than usual? I know people say having kids makes the years speed by, but it’s not just me experiencing this hyper-time, right?

This was the week I was going to dive in to my pre-potential-marathon training plan. … Yep. Angry sinuses + sick and teething baby + suddenly feeling first-trimester exhausted again = nope. Maybe tonight??

I am in the middle of far too many books right now. My Goodreads “currently reading” list can be viewed down on the right-hand sidebar of my blog’s homepage. There are 6 right now. 3 I’m actively reading, 3 are ones I pick up and pick at when I can. But with hardly any time for reading these days, even 3 active books is overwhelming. 


For my above problem, I blame Banned Books Week (in a loving, supportive way!) I mark BBW every year by trying to read as many of the top 10 banned books as I can, or by reading at least one book that has been banned/challenged. Using my Kindle has been the only way I’ve finished any books since the Bairn arrived (he naps on me a lot, and the Kindle can be wrangled with one hand) and all the top 10 ebooks were checked out from my library. I grabbed an older one, and then of course a bunch of holds came in at once. Cue a book flood so overwhelming that apparently I can’t stop writing about it 🤓

We’re finally having some fall weather! Last week was mid-80s and muggy and gross. I love warm weather, but I’m done with mugginess. Plus I want to dress the Bairn in his adorable flannel-shirt-and-overalls outfit and plop him in among some pumpkins for a photo op, and the weather hasn’t been cooperating. So I’m excited for that!

The Bairn woke up inconsolable on Monday, after a miserable weekend of snot and coughing on top of teething, so Drew and I stayed home with him. We set out into the heat and humidity to give our stir-crazy wee one a change of scenery, and despite the mugginess it was lovely. 



How’s the weather where you are? Autumnal yet?

Do you have fun plans for the weekend? Or for October?

Do you have a favorite banned book?