Thursday, May 28, 2015

Pacing at Buffalo Marathon

When I saw that Buffalo Marathon posted they were in need of pacers, I felt like it would be a good thing to do. I have done this race a few times, had both awesome and not-so-awesome runs there but knew I could try and help others have a good day. I ran the half in 2010, 2011, 2014 and I volunteered in 2013 so why not add pacing to 2015? It also meant that I would get a weekend in Buffalo with Britt- win/win.
Britt and I before the race, she was doing her first half coming back from injury!
I told them the times that I would be willing/able to run for the half (I wasn't willing to pace a full right now), and ended up getting the second half of the 3:40 marathon (1:50 half). I was excited to run the second half of the marathon and help people when they really need it most- and hopefully help some people BQ! Running the second half meant I couldn't watch Britt and the others in the half finish- but I was able to cheer at the start which was better than not seeing them at all.

I have paced friends and family members in races and training runs but never officially in a race- for strangers. I've thoroughly enjoyed 99% of the times that I have paced people, there was that one time I dealt with a mile 3 temper tantrum (complete with stomping feet) in a half- that wasn't quite as enjoyable being yelled at. I've paced people on their good days, and on bad days and even on the 'bad days' it's still rewarding to help even if goals aren't met. In fact when people are having an off day, they need you even more. 

I was really excited though, to give back a little. It was fitting considering last year at Buffalo, I had complete strangers help encourage me the last few miles of the half and helped me get under 90 minutes for the first time. This year was my turn.

It worked out really well that I knew the girl who would be running the first half of the marathon for our pace group. I jumped in a little before the half point and got an update from her, and she passed me her watch. I ran using her watch with overall marathon time on it (gun time), and my watch with splits/pace for second half. After the half marathoners split off we took to the rest of the marathon course. I asked some people their names, and how they were doing. I wanted to know what I was looking at, who with me was shooting for BQ etc.

The first few miles I felt like I couldn't find a groove, I was struggling holding set pace and was concerned about letting people down. But once I felt like I found it- I was able to hold it just fine. I used the overall time more than anything as I had mile splits printed out on my sign. I kept an eye on my pace (I had my watch set to see overall pace for the whole run, not the miles) and kept it around 8:18 {1:50/3:40 is 8:23 but from what I gather the general rule of thumb is 5 seconds/mile to account for not running 26.2 exactly}. I had a big group for quite a while, but knew that it would fade off as the miles went on- that's the marathon folks.
Right after finishing singing along with the on course band playing 'wagon wheel'
I saw a girl I ran with in high school out there cheering with her husband and little one in tow!
The group got smaller but having asked peoples names it helped me to encourage them better- knowing what their goals were etc. We had a pretty tight group just ticking off the miles, I had studied the course enough I knew when to tell them to push or hold back (based on upcoming elevation). We picked up some people as we went, and tried like hell to keep them with us- some did. It was getting warm quick and I was reminding everyone to hydrate, including myself.

The final few miles I told two of the guys to start going ahead of me, they were feeling good- and I knew they wanted a time UNDER BQ and not just at a BQ. I could see them and their bright shirts in front of me and every few minutes I yelled up to them with some encouragement. I was excited when I could no longer see them, I couldn't wait to get to the finish to see how they did.

Mile 24, thanks Eric!
I was pretty much alone the final mile or two. I passed some walking on side and tried to get them to come with me, then I found a young man- who probably hates me. I leached onto him like nobody's business. LET'S GO! I was right on his heels pushing him the last 1/2 mile or so- I knew I was going to be VERY close to my time so I had a few wiggle room seconds to try and get this last one in. I just did everything I could to keep him moving, telling him to go have a beer with me after the race. Right up until the turn into the chute, I was pushing him. He finished right in front of me.

I crossed the finish line in 3:39:55- almost dead on gun time. I was so happy I was able to hit pace so well (after feeling nervous first few miles).

Shortly after crossing, I made my way through medals (I didn't take one, they were the marathon ones- and I didn't run a marathon) and got some water. I looked up to see that one of the guys that I was pacing earlier (who went ahead) was waiting for me- he BQ'd by over a minute! He gave me a huge sweaty hug and thanked me- I had the biggest smile on my face. I then made my way back to the end of the course to watch other runners come in.
A new meme for you. This is when I was bribing the last dude with beer and telling him not to let me beat him.
In general it was an amazing experience, very rewarding. Helping others, encouraging them and being there for the good and not so good miles- it's important. I can see why people make a habit out of pacing a few times a year- its a supported long run and you get to help others. I'd like to make a point to do it once or twice a year, half or a full distance. I had so much fun doing it, and smiled so much more than I normally do in races!

The only thing I didn't really like about it- was having to let people go. When people started to fall off, the best I could do is talk to them and encourage but I couldn't really pull back to try and help them more. Part of the job is to hold pace, I can pin point at least 4 times that I would have loved to pull back just for a little to try and get someone back on track- but couldn't. I guess that is one thing about pacing individuals (friends and family) that I love, I can stay right with them no matter what.

I did also come to some realizations about my own pacing abilities, what I think works and what doesn't(personally for me, not necessarily everyone)- and what is ideal for races- that coming in another post for sure.

This only made me that much more excited to run side by side with Britt at Chicago for her first marathon in October with Saucony 26 Strong! Going to be epic!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Recovery Life

It's been four weeks since Boston, four weeks of straight up life and recovery. I'm finally getting back into routine, and back into gear to train again which is a welcome change.

The days following Boston were very emotional. Post-race foggy runner brain, combined with my grandmother passing away two days after the race, and also finding out that my Mom would potentially be moving to Chicago. It wasn't the easiest of weeks, it was a lot to take in at once.

Five days after Boston I decided to run. Normally I am good and wait as per coaches instructions but I NEEDED to run after that emotional week, a few easy miles to see how the legs would react.

I was already planning on spectating the Flower City Half Marathon that Sunday morning, and after running a little Saturday thought about maybe doing the 5k Sunday. Sunday morning came around, and I knew that I needed to run. I needed to feel something and get out there, so I went to spectate and also registered for the 5k. I was able to still watch the start of the half, run the 5k, and be back to spectate the finish- it worked out well.

The start line was pretty amusing. Lot's of "Laura, what are you doing?" from friends giving me funny looks and shaking their heads{but still smiling}. I just smirked and did some strides, running a 5k six days after a 3:04 at Boston wasn't the craziest idea but we got a kick out of it. A few people recognized me from the article a few days prior and congratulated me, I may not be a pro and I may not be the fastest runner in Rochester but it is cool getting recognition {that's me just being honest :), here's the article}.

I ran a 19:38, which was good enough for first place female. It's 30 seconds slower than my PR, but felt good to go out and knock a sub-20 down so soon after my PR in Boston. Was it the smartest of ideas? Probably not. But I needed it, and when I told coach afterwards he understood.
Short Stubby legs for the win, literally.
Article & Source :)
The following week was pretty emotional as well. Still coming off of the Boston highs/lows, and also attending the wake/funeral for my Grandma. The only thing I can really say about this is that I have amazing family and friends. It was a tough time in so many ways, but I never felt 'alone'.

I ran here and there but nothing over the top, taking recovery day to day and not wanting to push. A little over 20 miles that week, not even close to normal miles but enough to keep me from going crazy.

That weekend I got away for a night in Toronto, so I could cheer for friends running the half and full marathon. It was fun to be there for others for THEIR race, and be able to support they way they do for me. Jess ended up with a big PR in the half, and Amber went on to run her first BQ time. She was there the first time I qualified for Boston so it was really cool to be there for hers. This whole weekend, being around runners and races- solidified my fall racing plans, but more about that another time.

More easy running, and more getting back to life after that. The following week was the first week in over a month I worked a full week. Due to travel for Hollie's wedding, Boston, Funeral etc. I hadn't worked as much as normal so I was in for a big 'back to reality'. I admit though, it was a welcome distraction and getting back into routine was much needed.

I was rewarded for a full week of work (the humanity! ha!) with being able to spend time with Heather. She came into town on the weekend to spend time with me and so we could run the Pink Ribbon 5k on Sunday. We went to the Lilac festival for a bit, got rained on, and sat in one of my favorite bars (fantastic draft beer selection) for a while- much needed friend time.

Sunday's 5k was not what we hoped for, but it happens. It was a hot morning (and being in Upstate NY, not exactly acclimated yet), and neither of us felt fantastic. I promised coach that I wouldn't 'red line' during the race especially if I wasn't feeling 100%. I ran a 20:23, not my best but I wasn't overly upset. Heather and I both walked away with age group awards which are Wegmans gift cards, and then we drowned our hot selves with Starbucks S'mores Frappe's. Things could have been worse.

Since then, its pretty much just been more of life. Getting back into running routine, working, taking care of an allergy ridden dog, etc. I've been taking recovery pretty seriously, getting back on track with the little things and the big things. Nutrition, injury prevention, rest, all of that so once it's really time to dive back in I am 100% ready. This past weekend I ran my longest run since the marathon (12) and felt good after a more consistent week of training.

I am excited that I actually have my first workout this week, back to the track! Training can be tough, and time consuming- but there is something calming to me about having a plan and a goal to work towards. Next weekend I will be a pacer at the Buffalo Half Marathon and after that, it's truly back to building and getting ready for summer and fall.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

These are my people, This is my life.

Back in December, while travelling to Memphis with my Dad for the marathon- we had lots of conversations about the upcoming weekend.

"So Dad, YOU can go out late Friday- but I cannot. Just don't be loud when you come back, I'm running a marathon in the morning I need my sleep" {this is the more PG version of this conversation, for those of you who know my father...}

"So I have never met this guy in real life yet, but he is picking us up from the airport and chauffeuring us around"

"Don't mind me eating a bag of cold pasta on the plane"

"I'll be up really early, like really really early before the race"

Just a few of the things said over the course of the trip. My Dad was thrown head first into 'my world', a world of running and also friends through social media. He's been to some of my races before, but travelling and being right there for the 'process' that marathon weekend can be, is a different experience. As I have said before we had an amazing weekend as father-daughter, and also as friends.
Father Daughter Duo, Post marathon celebrations in Memphis!
My Award from Memphis came a few weeks ago, of course we had bourbon to celebrate!
When it came time to plan more for Boston, my Mom decided this race was hers to experience (Dad isn't the biggest fan of cities and people, Memphis was easy to get him there with talk of BBQ and Bourbon--Mom was the better bet for the crowds of Boston though). The plans were set, I would be driving and staying in Boston with my Mom, as well as my good friend Carrie.

Carrie is my friend Joe's sister. Joe and I went to Boston together last year, so it was great to be able to have her there this year at her first Boston the way her brother did for me. I met Joe through running, and his sister through him. Funny how those things work. I can't tell you how many times I answer the question "how did you meet so and so" with---"Running/races/dailymile/etc." These are my people.
Joe and I, Boston 2014
Carrie and I, Boston 2015
My Mom and Carrie hit it off right away, which made for a very fun and entertaining trip to Boston. Once we got into town on Saturday we decided to hit the expo first. It's a process, you get your bib and your bags, you pa rouse the expo (where I was lucky enough to meet up with one of the companies I am proud to represent {Zensah!}). The whole marathon weekend is a process, what/when you eat, when/how much you drink, what nights sleep is most important. You know how it goes.

Then, the meetups began (and the subsequent "how do you know this person?"). I had planned to see Norman at the expo, FINALLY getting to meet after following each other/talking for a long time virtually. He then reminded me of the Dailymile meetup that was happening that afternoon, not far from the expo. All I had to say to Mom and Carrie was--Food and beer. So we finished the expo and wandered over to the restaurant.
We spent a few hours there, talking and meeting with people that I have "known" in some way shape or form for a while- but finally meeting in person. Also, didn't recognize half the people because they were in "real people" clothes and not running gear.

Then it was time to meet up with "the girl you sent the feather to". Krista is such an awesome person, and happens to love Hawks. So as a pre-Boston present, I sent her a Red Tail hawk feather with a note. Boston would be the first time we met in real life. I think by this point my Mom was done being shocked seeing me run up and hug someone I had never met before.
Sole Sister.
The day before the race, I got to do something I never really thought would mean as much as it did. I got to run, along the Charles with my mom the day before running The Boston Marathon. Sharing another piece of 'my world' with the woman who has always supported me, but more recently understands the running thing I love so much. I was incredibly grateful to have her in Boston with me. Supporting me, seeing me in 'my element', and we even shared some bourbon. 27 or not, I'm still Mama's girl.

So between Memphis and Boston, I was able to let my parents into my worlds a little bit more. The world of running, and the world of knowing people without having met them before. Both of these worlds have been important to me for so long, and I LOVE that I feel like they understand it more. I may be 27, but having your parents "get" you is a cool feeling. Both of those worlds have brought some of the best friends, and experiences a person could ask for into my life.

Sometimes I think the task of explaining the running world to people, is impossible. There are no words to describe the grind, every gritty detail of training, that feeling of "this is happening"(good, and bad). I can't put into words what this 'running thing' does to me, and more importantly...what it does for me. I may never be able to explain it all to those in my life who don't run- but I know that with each time I share it with them, they gain a little more appreciation for it. I can't explain those start line emotions, the fear and excitement wrapped in one. I can't explain the mile 20+ hazy mental feeling, or how hard simple math can be when on the go. I can't tell them how AMAZING that finish line looks and how it feels to step over it. But I can show them that it's important to me.

I can show my parents that I have taken the amazing skills they shown me over the years, and put them to use in my career and in my running. Hard work, dedication, persistence, and also the passion and commitment I see in their lives. They have seen me at bad races and good, but I am so grateful they both were there for two pretty incredible races. They've seen me at my worst (not just in running), and I want them to experience me at my best as well (in running, and life). P.S. I love you guys.
A VERY old photo from College, but one of my favorite of the 3 of us.
How lucky am I to also be able to share running and life with my sister? 
Or how about the fact that I have a bunch of extended family that runs? (This isn't even all of them) 
I have met some incredible people over the years through running, and social media. Some people mock that kind of thing- without really understanding. Yes, a LOT of social media interactions are superficial. Liking or favoring something isn't the same as actually having a conversation, but it can START one. In all reality, I have people I have never 'met' before who actually know me better than a good chunk of people I see in my day to day life. But, I also have some people in my every day life whom I met through running/SM who know me and support me like family.

Yes, I'm short. Yes, he's tall. Yes, he's one of the best friends ever
All runners. All met on SM. Some of the BEST friends a girl could ask for.
Britt, Loo, Hollie, Heather, Me, Theresa (& daughter Elizabeth)
More Runners, more SM friends.
Danielle, Heather, Me, Amelia
Oh hey, another runner and best friend originally from SM.
Ellen and I in Cali, saw her again in Boston (mid race!)
Regardless of what it is (running or not), or who the people are in someones life(or how they met). Don't judge. Take a minute to learn something, or appreciate the relationships someone has in their life. Isn't the goal of life to have something to do that makes you happy, and people to share that with? Who are we to judge how each person chooses to go about that.

Nothing but a reminder not to take this life and the people in it for granted.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Growing Strong Friendships through Running

Sometime during the summer of 2013 I started following a girl on social media who was a runner from Buffalo. Her name was Brittany, we both liked running, drinking good beer, and both have a tendency to bruise easily{#bruisertwins}. When we realized that we, as well as Heather and Hollie would be running Lake effect half marathon together in February of 2014- we HAD to meet up. 13.1 winter miles later, we were all sitting jammed into a booth at Empire Brewing Company- drinking beer and chatting in real life for hours on end.
Heather, Me, Hollie & Britt
Brittany and I have since become great friends{we all have!}. She's supported me through so much this past year and I am grateful for any chance I have to return that favor. Races, football, beer tours, girls weekends, road trips- its a well rounded friendship. One that is about to get even stronger.

I love when my 'worlds' collide. Such as Running + Friends.

You know what I love even more?

Getting to combine running a marathon with one of my best friends, not just any marathon- but her first marathon.

Most everyone who knows me, knows my addiction to all things Saucony. I've run in their shoes for years- and practically live in their clothes when not in work attire. I have followed their 26 Strong Program the last 2 years and love the concept behind it all. Women helping women, through running.

The short of it: 26 runners comprised of 13 coaches and 13 cadets. Each coach (veteran marathoner) picks a runner (female, who has not yet run a marathon) and helps coach them through training, and the program concludes with a weekend away & running a marathon side by side. All coaches/cadets travel to the same race, spending a few days together and celebrating marathon weekend. This year Saucony and Competitor group chose Chicago Marathon in October!

I LOVE marathons, but I understand that training is hard, time consuming, and truly a process.  I don't remember a ton about my first marathon- but there are certainly memories about that journey I'll never forget. That feeling of "what did I just do!" when I registered. Each long run being a new "distance PR", literally going further than you ever have before. A long run with a friend training for the same race, where we came back frozen and soaking wet but happy none the less. The excitement of my first big race expo, and picking up my bib. Right down to the pep talk my Aunt gave me on the phone, the night before the race. After 11 Marathons I can't say that I have it all figured out, but I have learned SO much over the years. I feel incredibly lucky to have been chosen as a "coach" this year. To help someone train for their first marathon, offering guidance and encouragement along the way- and that someone being one of my best friends.

I didn't choose Britt to be my cadet for the sole reason of her being a great friend. I chose her because she truly exemplifies "find your strong", something Saucony is all about. She's dealt with setbacks, crappy upstate NY weather (something we commiserate about, often), and has been working so hard to come back stronger and healthier. She worked with physical therapists, and sought out strength training help in conjunction with her run training. Working on training smarter and not just harder. It's been an inspiring comeback to watch, and now I get to be a part of it in a way.

In a few weeks she will be running Buffalo half marathon as her big comeback race- after that, we can sit down and come up with a training plan to get her to the start AND finish line of Chicago healthy and well-prepared! I am so excited for October 11th, to be able to spend 26 POINT 2 miles side by side with Britt. She will totally be sick of me by the end of it- but I promised her it will be worth it :)

Over the coming months we will update on training, and experiences within the program. We won't be doing all of our training together, but definitely will make for some extra thruway trips (we're only a little over an hour apart!) for runs/training meetups. She also will be subject to me texting her constantly with cheesy inspiration, and bribing her with tasty things for post-long runs and workouts.

To say I am excited is an understatement. I get to be on an awesome journey with a great friend, supported by my favorite company- and travelling to Chicago to run and meet up with some inspiring people (Can't wait to meet the other coaches and cadets!).

BIG big thank you to Saucony, Competitor group- and special thanks to my good friend Michele who is also part of the program {and supports/encourages me ALL the time}.

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