Monday, December 28, 2009

One for the Books

I expect we all have memorable runs - "one for the books," I call them - whether it's on account of the sights we witness, the camaraderie we experience over the miles, or simply the outstanding weather conditions on that day. Well, yesterday I had such an outing.

Yesterday marked the end of week-two of my 18-week Boston Marathon training program, and simultaneous with getting my plan underway, I've organized Sunday morning group runs. The past two Saturday nights have been tough sleeping nights for me due to anxiety about 1) getting up on time to meet the group, and 2) the weather for Sunday morning!

Two weeks ago I tossed around in bed listening to the wind blow with such force I just wanted to pull the covers over my head. The temperature had dropped that weekend as well, and I suspected there would be no way I'd be able to go out with a probable wind chill of well below zero. I finally crawled out of bed at around 5:00 to check the weather and planned to get an e-mail out to the group that I was canceling. Surprise - 18 degrees and reports of gusting wind but not sustained. I didn't cancel.

Nine runners showed up and while the wind was quite cold at times, we all did what we set out to do. Some ran seven miles, I ran my prescribed eight, and others did the ten-mile course loop. Great job by all. Yesterday, was a different story.

I woke up very early to pouring rain. Did I mention, it was pouring rain? Exasperated, I said out loud to my poor, now awake husband, "Do you think it could rain any harder?!" But I knew we were in for rain and I also knew the temperature was milder, well, at least it was over freezing. I got up and got ready to run, but I was not very excited about it.

I headed out under dark skies and rain and put out the two usual and customary water stops before arriving at the Cape Elizabeth high school parking lot. There were four vehicles already there, though I did not recognize any of them. I figured it was an earlier group of runners like Joel Croteau and his crew that come up from Kennebunk and other southerly places. I waited until 8:00 and then headed out for my solo ten-miler in the pouring rain. Dang, I thought, I sure could use some company today.

Instead, I called on the gifts I have received from my years of running. These are the gifts I try to share with others in the hope that they can know the same benefits from this sport that I have come to know.

The first and simplest lesson I have learned is to just do it. Period. End of statement. No questions asked. This simple Nike slogan has become much more than a tag-line for me. It is under my skin, it keeps things simple, it's a command, not something negotiable, and it works.

The next realization I embraced while I might have still had some dry skin some where, was my Commitment. It didn't hurt that I had told 84 people I'd be there and set out water stops, but beyond that, I felt my commitment to myself. I realized it is a character-trait that I possess and that it's something I can be proud about. My word is good, and if something about it has to change, I'll try to be clear and honest about it. I'll try.

I then called on my ability to find something positive in this memorable run. And I did. First, I had two gallons of water all to myself. Second, when I needed to make a pit stop I didn't hold anyone up. And third, I got to solve all the problems of my world inside my little brain without having to utter a word. Check. Done.

Some time during mile seven, I made a decision.

No matter how well prepared I am for the Boston Marathon on April 19, 2010, if the weather conditions for that day are comparable to what we had yesterday, I am not doing it. Nope, not going to play. I know, one could ask "Well what about perseverance and commitment and mental toughness?" Yes, I know, and I have those traits.

Here's the reason I would sit out: It's the marathon. It's not a 5K, or a 10K, or even a ten-miler like yesterday. It's a marathon and I respect it. I also respect myself enough to know that I will hurt myself if I tried to do it under such assaulting conditions. During this seventh mile I felt discomfort in ways and places I don't usually feel anything, like in my calves and my Achilles. I could tell toes were unhappy and fingers started getting numb. I'm not willing to hurt (damage) myself for a race, even Boston.

Heck the way my mind was working yesterday....since I was so fit and passed on Boston, perhaps I would run the Sugarloaf Marathon...there I am breaking the tape at the finish line, donning the crown of laurels, winning in a personal best time....

See the benefits of running? You can just do anything.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I eat that I am?

This evening I was reminded, and remembered what I know to be true, albeit hesitatingly, that one is what one eats.

I am a pizza pie.

Enjoying our third homemade pizza of the week (dreadful, right?) my husband says assuredly, "We've got it all covered here: carbs, protein and veggies." Of course this is true, but I counter that the Portland Pie "original" dough, as good as it is, "really should be whole wheat."

Minor details aside, this particular 'za is loaded with grill-roasted red peppers, garlic roasted chicken, fresh green peppers, mushrooms, scallion, (more) garlic and tomato. A bit of mozzarella and tomato sauce, herbs, and love, make our Sunday dinner pizza complete. We also enjoy a mixed green salad, and start with a small bowl of fresh homemade ginger butternut squash soup, all accompanied with wine.

We eat really well here, and sometimes really well means more than enough. But, I think it's mostly good nutrition for us as athletes.

Anne-Marie Davee is a local registered dietitian and nutritionist, and an exemplary endurance athlete. I have heard her speak many times about proper nutrition for peak performance, and her talks have helped me to make adjustments to my daily nutrition. One thing I particularly like about Anne-Marie's philosophy is that the key to healthy eating is to rely on real, whole foods versus supplements or quick fixes.

Simply changing to whole grain breads and whole wheat pastas, for example, can make a significant difference. Maintaining a low-fat (easy on the mozzarella!), complex-carbohydrate-rich diet with loads of rich colored vegetables, grazing throughout the day with balanced, smaller portions, all serve to keep the energy stores high and the body ready for action. Drinking plenty of water every day is extremely important to overall health and performance. Simply, the Basics.

We all know these basic facts about proper nutrition, right? And we all remember the adage, you are what you eat, right? So think about it. What are you made of, and is it good, good enough, optimal, or just plain bad?

Do you want to be something, anything, different?

January 1, eleven days from now, is an awesome time to commit to healthy changes. It's also a full moon on New Year's eve, a spiritually powerful time if you're into that sort of belief system. In any event, healthy nutrition is easy, accessible, affordable ($2 for the aforementioned large size dough) and fun!

There's nothing better than being able to get up and go for a run, KNOWING your temple is being taken care of and is there to serve your performance desires. Trust this, then focus on training that beautiful body with hard, sensible workouts and proper rest. You will reach those performance goals in 2010. Good luck!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tally Ho for 2009

The 2009 racing season is over for this runner, and preparation for the 2010 Boston Marathon is officially underway.

My last race was on Sunday December 6, when I ran the first leg of the five-leg, 28-mile Mill Cities Relay. The race begins in Nashua, NH and ends in Lawrence, MA, after running through Lowell, MA...mill cities, you know. It was good to experience it, though a little odd in that I didn't know my teammates. The Winner's Circle Running Club was vying for the 'Most Teams Entered' award, and recruited heavily. It would have been a lot more fun for me to participate with buds....

My objective in 2009 was to race less than in 2008, and when I did race, to run competitively. I think I achieved both goals, though I haven't really done a race tally like I do at the end of each year. I figured I could do it here:

No races but lots of silly runs in bad weather

Mid-Winter Classic 10-Miler, 1:10:58, 2nd in age
Martha's Vineyard 20-Miler, 2:35:09, 1st in age

Kerrymen Pub 5K, 19:25, 1st in age

Fiddlehead Run for the Arts 5K, 18:40:34, 1st overall

Sea Dogs Mother's Day 5K, 19:28, 3rd overall
14th Annual Memorial Mile, 5:41, 1st overall

18th Covered Bridges Half-Marathon, 1:30:13, 2nd overall
1st Annual Sea Dogs Father's Day 5K, 19:23, 3rd overall

Bridgton Four on the Fourth, 25:43, 5th overall
Ocean Park 5K, 19:06, 1st in age

12th TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon 10K, 39:38.9, 1st in age

PunkinFiddle 5K, 19:40, 1st overall

Tufts 10K for Women, 39:53, 3rd in age
Great Pumpkin 10K, 40:00, 1st in age

MRC Turkey Trot, 19:28, 1st overall
Burn off the Turkey, 19:14, 1st in age

Mill Cities Relay, 2:58:21, 1st Place Coed Seniors Team

As I said, I achieved my goals, but like most runners I am questioning whether I could have done better. Should I have raced more? Should I have trained more? Is more better? Blah blah blah blyeck. It's over.

Yesterday was day one of an 18-week marathon training program. I am following Coach Hal Higdon's Intermediate I schedule, and I'm looking forward to it. I have never done pace running the day before a long run so it should be interesting. My marathon goal is 3:15, which will be a personal record, and by all accounts, I should be able to do this.

Here's the Plan: Put the blinders on, train smart, and enjoy the ride.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Week

My week to give thanks began yesterday when I was awarded a very generous gift card from, and for, Hannaford Supermarket. They were a primary race sponsor and truly put the money where where their mouth is. Since I have no income presently, my household account has been getting smaller and smaller with no replenishment in sight. So Providence has moved in.

Quoting one of my favorite phrases:
"...the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way."

I'm not exactly conscious as to what I have decidedly committed myself to recently, except perhaps to continue to run competitively (yesterday) and to get a nice new job (every day), and as promised, things do and will continue to work out. They do don't they? I believe this, hence, the commitment. I am committed to thrive and know there are forces greater than me at play.

Today is Monday, the second day of my thanksgiving week, and I received a very nice lead on a job opportunity from a friend and running client, Janet. I am very grateful for this and worked on it today with excellent results. No interview yet but great connections!

Janet has always held a special place in my heart: She came into the marathon training program in 2008, alone, that is not with a fundraising group or friend to partner with. She was doing this on her own because she had a latent desire which needed air - her fire needed a bellow and this program was it. She was also an interesting and accomplished woman that I liked right away.

Janet responded brilliantly. She came every week for the training group and worked hard. Sometimes she ran alone and other times with new acquaintances. But always she showed up for her own reasons. Janet was purposeful in her quest to regain a sense of athleticism and accomplishment, and she succeeded.

Her words:
"I feel so fortunate to have taken the step to sign up and embark on the journey with you… I ran all 13.1 miles and finished under 2 hours—they were my goals and I reached them. It was unbelievable. Once upon a time many years ago I was an accomplished athlete—someone who was fortunate enough to represent the United States in some international tournaments as a national team field hockey player. I worked hard and it paid off with some incredible experiences. The joy I felt on Sunday made me realize that for me, a sense of athletic accomplishment is important to defining me and it has been entirely too long since I felt that bliss. Thank you..."

To Janet, I'd like to say, thank you. Gratefully, we continue to work together and I trust she will reach her goals again - to develop consistency with running and a race pace for those days when she wants to make, or best a time.

Another running comrade came to my aid today in the job quest. Margaret completed the half marathon this year and trained with my group when she could. She leads a busy life and often had to train on her own, separate from the group schedule. Margaret serves on the Advisory Board of the organization to which I am applying, and has a good working relationship with the President of the Board. She wrote an email to her concerning my application and I trust her recommendation will be well received, given who I know her to be. I feel extremely grateful for Margaret today, too.

There are five more days in this week of thanks. My objective is to recognize at least something each day that I can give thanks for. Given the start to the week, this will be a slam dunk.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Place In Between

Purgatory is not the same as hell, but it sure does seem like it.

"A place or condition of suffering, expiation or remorse..."

For example, imagine how the marathoner feels in the taper phase of an intense training program, a couple weeks out from the big day - restless, anxious, and full of self doubt? Or the injured athlete who can not participate in their sport and must sit out in order to recover - frustrated, angry, critical? Or the skier in wait of snow. Or the job seeker, unemployed and yearning to be productive. Hurry up and wait can throw one off balance.

Purgatory is subversive. It is where momentum stalls. Patience is tried. Skin becomes thickened in more ways than one. Hopes get dashed and fears aroused.

It is where one can feel desperate and verge on panic. Or one can be bored silly.

Purgatory is a place where loneliness gets amplified. Self searching questions emerge to challenge one's commitment, competency, personal value and sense of optimism.

Time to dig deep. Feel it, figure it out, atone as needed. It is time to call on old and familiar, as well as new and untried, coping strategies. This could be a time to read more, marvel at nature, play soft music in the background, pray and breathe deeper, and stay connected.

The waiting period needs to be trusted and should probably also be managed. It is critical to not let the oppressive forces bear down too hard and extinguish any remaining spark of hope.

Purgatory is the gift of time to return to a state of grace.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


We are one week into November here in northern New England and I must say it has been a lovely month thus far. The burnt oranges and deep greens lining the streets and creating contrast against the vivid blue sky at the horizon are awe-inspiring. The grasses across the marsh are changed from the light greens of the summer, to brown and orange. The atmosphere has been mostly calm, resulting in a settled-ness, a quiet transition from a more turbulent end to the summer.

One thing I appreciate about autumn is that it can be a generous period for preparation for the long, cold winter ahead. It is not always so, of course. There have been years when we have had very cold Halloweens, and snow before the oak has had time to shed its leaves. This year, however, we have been given a grace period. What needs to get done in and around the homestead to be ready for those harsh and limiting winter days?

It seems to me there is a huge list of things do: Endless raking of acorns and leaves, clearing gutters, putting patio furniture into storage, composting the annuals, testing the snow blower, parking the lawn mower away, and battening down hatches. Inside, we have the storm windows back in place, the wood pellet furnace nicely cleaned and ready to fire up when the temperatures warrant, fresh supplies of dried beans and soup stock in the cabinet, flannels sheets upon the beds, and summer dust wiped away.

It is a time of change, and it suits me. The other day my daughter asked me, unsolicited, which I always love, "You're an autumn baby, aren't you?" That I am, born in October. Perhaps that's why I appreciate so many things about this season. I love the colors and the smells. There is little more refreshing to me than running on a trail in the woods and taking in THAT smell of fall. The air seems clearer and more invigorating, and the running more relaxed.

The pressure of the fast racing season is off, and it's time to rest and think about goals for next year. Of course there are races to run in November, a turkey trot and Thanksgiving day pre-turkey trot, but they seem much more optional than other races throughout the summer. Cross-country races are also in full swing. This coming weekend are the state high school final meets, and larger events will take place down in Boston at Franklin Park.

What a nice time of year here in Maine. I'll try to stay present and not think too much about what is around the corner. Happy November!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Job Interview: Rant and Rave

A very strange thing happened yesterday and I find myself still trying to make sense of it, though maybe I can't.

I thought I had a job interview with the Director of Admissions at Andover College, Wendy Burbank, in their South Portland, Maine location. The posted position was for an Admissions Representative. Andover College provides career-focused associate degree and certification programs, serving primarily an adult population, rather than recent high school graduates. The college is owned by Kaplan Higher Education Corporation, a national purveyor of higher ed.

I saw the listing on Wednesday, researched the college, and that evening faxed a thoughtful cover letter and a customized functional resume. I did not have the option to send the material electronically. On Friday, I received an e-mail response from Wendy, saying:

"Thank you for your interest in the Andover College Admissions Representative Position. I have reviewed your resume and would like to schedule a meeting to discuss your qualifications.

"I am available to meet on Monday, October 26, at 3:00 p.m. Please reply to this e-mail if you are able to make it.

"The Admissions Office is located at the address below, just walk through the front entrance and let the receptionist know you are here to meet with me. I look forward to seeing you Monday!"

I was very excited, and hopeful, I might add. I am looking for a meaningful position with a good company. The fact that Andover offers alternative students practical information for endeavoring career moves and professional development is a very good thing. The fact that they are owned by a for-profit corporation seems like a good thing. The fact that they are fairly small, 1,100 students, likely means close contact with the student body and a tightly-knit professional team. It was appealing to me in my quest for employment which promotes teamwork, healthy communication, opportunities to provide solutions, to be resourceful. And of course, I understand, admissions means marketing and sales to some degree. I get that, and, it's on my resume.

I canceled the dentist appointment I had scheduled for the past six months. I did more research on the college and Kaplan. I was very careful about the outfit and jewelry I selected to wear, about my hair and nails, the purse and folder I carried. I figured this all matters. I believe it demonstrates attention to detail, professionalism, and simply caring enough about the opportunity. I think how one presents oneself also shows respect for the other person and their role.

Sadly, it wasn't mutual.

I arrived just before 3:00 and followed Wendy's e-mail instructions. I was invited to sit in the waiting area with the 20 other individuals that had received Wendy's response to their applications. We were then asked to go to a corner classroom where a Powerpoint presentation was set-up, and five admission representatives seated themselves in the front. We all waited for the director.

When she came in she thanked us for coming, etc., and noted that we might be wondering what the heck was going on (my words.) Naturally, she said, there's been a large response to the position and this format saves everybody time. She said she'd give us an overview of the organization, a bit about the job, and then take a break. If we wanted to leave at that time we were welcomed to. (I was hanging on every word, searching for hope.) She said, let's face it, the job is about sales. You'll be on the phone much of the time. We have weekly and monthly, personal and team goals. And the team works really closely. And if there wasn't going to be a good fit with her team, she wasn't going to hire said person. (Really?)

I left. Why do I want to work for a company that can't communicate honestly and directly up front?

Obviously this blog is a vent, and I'm not exactly sure why I want to do it here. Maybe because I consider this a professional vehicle with a quality voice, and I had such a disturbing professional interaction that I think I can heal it here. The disappointment I felt was visceral and provoked a whole range of negative thoughts and feelings: humiliation, embarrassment, anger, dashed hope, and sadness. The only positive response I could muster was the old saying, "Things work out as they're meant to." And I believe that, I do. It just sounds weak to me right now.

Running teaches one how to deal with failure and disappointment, and to persevere. I'll figure out how to make a good living doing something I thoroughly enjoy. A Running Conversation is alive and well and I am looking for more. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Gifts and Goals

Yesterday I registered for the 2010 Boston Marathon. It was not something I had planned to do when I qualified at the Mount Desert Island (MDI) Marathon in October last year, and I definitely was not going to do it the following April, 2009. But the qualification was good for 2010 as well...

The reason I was not concerned about running in Boston was mainly because I have completed five marathons and understand how critically important it is to have focus and discipline during the four to six months of training leading up to it. It takes up a lot of room in one's life, and it's hard work. In fact, after finishing my second Boston in 1999, I swore them off. "Enough of this," I said. Of course I had to amend this and say, "Well, maybe when I'm fifty."

Nine years later I turned fifty and ran MDI the next day. (I even wore bib number 50. It was very celebratory.) I'd been working with a group training to run the Peak Performance Maine Marathon (PPMM) and covered the requisite training miles with them. I had trained, and I had raced well in other distances that season. So I was ready and my husband was running it as well. (He qualified and ran Boston 2009.)

But still when it was all said and done I thought, "Phew, that's out of my system. No need to do another marathon."

Here's what transpired to prompt yesterday's decision to commit to Boston with a capital "C": Again this year I worked with a group of runners participating in an eighteen-week training program leading up to the PPMM, [and Bay State, NYC, and the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco.] Many were first-timers in both the full and half marathon distances. Many were working to cover the distance, to complete the race, and to ward off demons telling them they couldn't do it. They were not racing to meet a Boston-qualifying standard. That was not the goal for most, and yes, it was the goal for some. There were a few veteran marathoners who hold that goal front and center. In truth, I know most marathoners aspire to qualify for Boston. After all, it is the Grand-daddy of marathons.

I've been inspired by these runners. They possess incredible enthusiasm, commitment, and positvity toward the training process and eventual outcome. They work really hard and keep their dream alive. They have helped me realize that I've been given a gift, a present of sorts. I have a green light to go to Boston and cover 26.2 miles with 25,000 other lucky runners. As the saying goes, don't look a gift horse in the mouth. In other words, don't be ungrateful when you receive a gift.

I am not a gifted runner. Don't get me wrong. I am lucky to be an older woman when it comes to Boston qualifying standards. Women have a full half of an hour on men's standards. That's a lot. And yes, I earn it by training properly. Most importantly though, is I realize that I have been given an opportunity to do something special. It's a gift.

I also have to admit I've been in a bit of a funk and needed a serious goal. I raced the Beach to Beacon 10K in early August and then did not race again until September 26, a solid eight weeks. That is uncharacteristic of me and indicative of burn-out, perhaps. Admittedly I became super busy with preparing for the marathon and all that that entailed. Something had to give. Now I'm ready to buckle down again. I have ample time to get my head wrapped around the effort, to prepare psychologically; and I also have a good reason to run, to physically prepare my body.

I've surprised my husband with my decision, but I feel grounded about it. It makes perfect sense to me - new runners have inspired me and preparing for a marathon legitimizes what I do. It seems very purposeful; and it's a sense of purpose, a goal, which I have needed.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Peak Performance Maine Marathon

The Peak Performance Maine Marathon, Half-Marathon, and Relay went off yesterday under overcast skies and fairly mild temperatures. The weather the night before was rain, thunder, and lightening, and so there was a shared sigh of relief among all participants on Sunday morning.

With the exception of a few upcoming marathons, namely, Bay State, Manchester City, Nike Women's, and New York City, the majority of the Peak Performance training group I've been working with since May 31st, achieved their goal to run either the full or half-marathon in Maine yesterday. Twenty-eight group members ran the half, and fourteen completed the full. Congratulations go out to all.

The group trained together for 18-weeks throughout the summer. Everyone had a schedule to follow, and then weekly, came together as a group in various pre-determined locations for the "long run." We were fortunate to have several Team in Training runners join the group about three weeks into it. Runners were able to recognize other runners at their pace and over the course of the four months experienced a wonderful sense of camaraderie. Most runners know the benefit of running with friends - it makes the time go by; it often challenges one to work harder; and it helps one develop a sense of commitment. I think this group received all that by the end of the program.

Many were racing the distance, whether the half or full, for their very first time. I believe the time results of these efforts are less important than the bravery it required to toe the line and the commitment it took to accomplish it. Lives are changed!

Of course, as it goes with running and anything that stretches one's abilities into unknown territory, there was some attrition in the group during the program. Injuries happened, lives became busy and stressed, plans and priorities simply changed. And that's okay. One of the reasons I value running so much, is it teaches us how to cope with failure and disappointment, and how to be flexible and forgiving of one's limitations. It motivates us to try harder and to not give up; and it provides a vehicle for us to share our trepidations, achievements and improvements.

Here are the results from yesterday's races:

Sarah Blodgett – 3:00
Jessica Brown – 3:00
Debbie Chasse – 2:09
Susannah Clark – 2:06
Karen Gilbert – 2:14
Karla Gilbert – 2:14
Michelle Goldman – 2:05
Chris Gould – 2:02
Nora Gross – 2:13
Robert Jolicoeur – 2:10
Katharine McCarthy – 2:04
Emily Morris – 2:21
Stacy Morris-White – 2:01
Carrie Newton – 2:25
Margaret O’Keefe – 2:08
Deb Patry – 2:26
Curtis Picard – 2:15
Julie Smith – 2:05
Jenn Stockless – 2:37
Ashley Stone – 2:11
Nan Tanner – 2:10
Ellen Theodores – 3:15
Chelsea Thompson – 2:24
Stacey Trembley – 2:57
Kristin Watson – 2:15
Cindy Wegener – 2:10
Laura Welles – 2:00
Louisa Wickard – 1:50

Jennifer Christensen – 5:13
Troy DeRoche – 4:02
Cathryn Douglass – 5:07
Shawn Gilbert – 4:39
Jamie Hiltz – 4:39
A.J. Hungerford – 3:34
Andrea Jordan – 4:53
Shelly Lajoie-Carlson – 5:01
Darrin Lary – 4:02
Robyn Merrill – 3:43
Steve Taylor – 4:19
Chuck Thorp – 3:20
Donna Tucci – 5:23
Linda Whitten – 5:50

Congratulations, again. Now it's time to rest and recover, and set new goals.

Best wishes are in store for the following runners for their upcoming events:

Betty Rines – Bay State Marathon in Lowell, MA on October 18
Chuck Thorp – Manchester City Marathon on November 1
Carrie Newton – New York City Marathon on November 1
A.J. Hungerford - New York City Marathon on November 1
Emilie Manhart – Nike Women’s Marathon in San Fran on October 18
Kristin Quatrano - Nike Women’s Marathon in San Fran on October 18

Good luck!!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Comings and Goings of 5Ks

The Dan Cardillo Memorial 5K ran two weeks ago and saw 264 finishers. Clearly not a record-breaker, but always a good-spirited race with 100% of the proceeds going to the scholarship fund for kids needing assistance to pursue their passions. The race contributed just over $5000 this year. Thank you to all who came and ran, and all the sponsors who give a lot, especially in these down times.

On that one weekend, there were no less than six other races vying for runners. I think this is a wonderful statement about the sport of competitive running - it's alive and well and even growing, it seems. It just makes it tough for these competing interests to gain as much benefit for their efforts. Clearly, putting on a road race is not an easy solution for fund-raising. There always needs to be other sources. But it can be an excellent way to get folks up and out and participating for a good cause.

The Cardillo race is in the town of Falmouth, Maine, which has been an outstanding supporter of the event. Falmouth currently has a significant construction project underway, developing a new elementary school and moving athletic fields and facilities, etc. This directly impacts the Dan Cardillo 5K's certified course, as it ends on the existing track.

This turn of events comes at an interesting time in the history of the race for two reasons. One, there has been some discussion 'internally' about rerouting and re-certifying the course to eliminate passage through the Woodlands residential area. There are enough hoops to jump through and solicitations to make without having to keep the course intact every year. One less hurdle would be nice. Second, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, which is a fabulously successful event in Bangor (last weekend they had 5000 runners participate,) is coming to Portland in 2010. I believe I read in the Press Herald last Sunday that it is slated for Sunday September 12. That is the second Sunday in September, the day the Dan Cardillo has run for the past 12 years. Ouch, a direct hit.

I feel disappointed and disillusioned about the whole thing, which is too bad. (I'm probably just very tired from these past two months of running-related work.) I want everyone to succeed at their fundraising endeavors, but I think surely there must have been another day in the year without six other (smaller) races trying to succeed.

Of course, I'll deal with the realities of my race and do my best to keep Dan's spirit alive. Fortunately, Jim Skvorak of Homestead Mortgage Inc. also puts on an annual golf tournament in Dan's name to benefit the scholarship fund. Maybe we can co-brand our events and be hugely successful! I'll keep you posted.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Dan Cardillo Memorial 5K

Today is Labor Day and the weather here on the coast of southern Maine is lovely. It's clear, dry, and warm, with a soft breeze. I hope it is like this next Sunday for the running of the 11th Annual Dan Cardillo Memorial 5K Road Race in Falmouth, Maine. (Last year it rained.)

This memorial race was started 11 years ago by a group of 14-year old students and their families in memory of their friend, Daniel. In January of 1999, Daniel died tragically after crashing in a ski race warm-up. The loss of this special boy left a huge void in the lives of many, and the Falmouth friends chose to honor Dan's life by doing what they could. Falmouth high-schoolers Brent Noyes and Blake and Kirby Davis created the race, and, in its inaugural running in September 1999, there were 694 finishers. All of the proceeds benefited a scholarship fund set up in Cardillo's name and held at the Maine Community Foundation.

The boys and their families managed the race throughout their high school years. When they graduated and headed off to college, and their families and other contributors felt the need to move on, the race management baton was handed off. I took over directing the race in 2003.

The race course was a fairly flat counterclockwise loop which began on Woodsville Road in front of the then Falmouth High School. It turned onto Woods Road and into the Woodlands residential area. This private golf community supported the event which ran on its road for less than a mile, before returning to Woodsville Road. The finish was on the high school track, with food and post-race festivities on the field.

There have been some changes over the past seven years, though not many. In 2004, the race was USATF certified. No longer was there doubt about where it started and whether or not it was too long or too short. This is an important feature for competitive runners seeking to best their times and to set course records. [New in 2009, there is a cash prize for new course records by both male and female winners. More on that in a minute.] Also, since the race began, the town of Falmouth built a new high school and the old school became the middle school. This has not affected the course in any way.

Speaking of the town of Falmouth - they have been incredibly generous in their support of this event. They provide the track and field facility for the finish and awards ceremony, and for the kids race, accommodations for registration, restrooms, the most gracious facilities service, all without a fee. Historically, the police department has also been on hand to lead the race and provide traffic control.

New last year we added a kids' fun run around the track. This is intentionally low-key, free to the kids with medals to all finishers. New this year, kids will get tee-shirts provided by Atlantic Sportswear.

Another change has been the location of the waterstop. It originally was hosted by a Woodlands resident near the two-mile mark. A few years ago, the board of the Woodlands Homeowners Association brought the issue of whether or not the race should be allowed to continue to pass through the property to a vote. It didn't look good. Apparently there were objections to having the few hundred runners and walkers passing through the property, and the presence of a waterstop. I responded with a letter assuring we'd leave no trace; I had participants write letters; I promised we'd moved the waterstop outside the gate; I basically begged and pleaded. Thankfully, the committee has allowed us to continue, though each year there is an element of doubt and the need for me to request permission to continue.

The numbers are also well down from the inaugural event. We've averaged about 300 finishers for the past few years, which is fine given the Woodlands position, but it definitely hampers our fundraising capacity. We have some very loyal sponsors, though, including Bath Savings Institution, Homestead Mortgage Loans, Earl W. Noyes & Sons, Daniel T. Haley Insurance Agency, The Greenshoe Group, Shipyard Brewery, National Distributors, Atlantic Sportswear, and Peak Performance Multisport. New this year, the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein has stepped up as a sponsor.

I think part of the reason we hover at around 300 is because there has been a proliferation of new races occurring on the same day or the day before. It's just the way it goes; people and organizations seek to raise funds and decide a road race is a viable vehicle. The Dan Cardillo Memorial is locked into the second Sunday in September, and has been for years. It certainly has its loyal supporters who come regardless of what else is going on. And for the racers, it's about the race. Which is why we have established a $100 cash prize for setting a new course record. Peak Performance Multisport in Portland is sponsoring this incentive, and while it goes against the purpose of this race to give money away instead of to the fund, the idea is to ultimately attract more runners. Putting on a race is a competitive venture!

Giving technical tee-shirts to participants might also make it more attractive to runners, but I think of the 150 cotton tee-shirts we give away as art. Every year, Joanne Arnold from Falmouth, with a business called talltype, creates an image which includes a component of Daniel's childhood artwork. An image of the sun Dan included on a piece of pottery was taken and used in the race and golf tournament logos, and every year in the new images. Joanne contributes her beautiful work, and it's a treat to see the tee-shirts being worn around year after year.

I hope you decide to come out and support this event. The scholarship fund that has been established provides spirited youth with help they need to pursue their passions. They receive financial support to attend a variety of programs, whether in the arts, sports, or academics. If they demonstrate they are passionate, they have the opportunity to receive assistance. Come on out on Sunday and say, "I ran for Dan."

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Peak Performance Maine Marathon and Half-Marathon is just over five weeks away, on October 4, 2009. This means that over 50 people have been training hard for the past three months with the Peak Performance Marathon Training Group. (A few are doing other marathons, but are in the fold nonetheless!)

The 18-week program got underway on May 31st, with participation doubled from the inaugural group last year. Runners joined the program with a wide range of goals: many to do their first ever marathon or half-marathon; others to improve their half-marathon time from last year; even a 56-time marathon veteran came on board to run a goal time in the half! Over half the runners are also raising funds to benefit the Center for Grieving Children in Portland, Maine, the race beneficiary for the 2008 and 2009 events.

Runners received an individual training schedule based on their level of fitness, running experience, personal schedule, and goals. Most run their weekly long run on Sundays, as a group, while others run their long run on Saturdays, as it works better for them. A few live out-of-state and receive coaching via E-mail; and all are kept up to date with weekly communications.

About three weeks into the program, I received a call from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training Coordinator. The Maine training group had lost its coach and was looking for support. These twelve runners from all around the state were welcomed into the group and are training for the Maine, Dublin, and Nike Women's Marathons, all in October, while also raising funds to benefit the Society.

The distances of the weekly groups runs have been progressively increasing, with a few runners up to 18 miles. Because it's an individual pursuit in a group context, distances and paces vary. What is fascinating and fairly reliable about the process is that people seem to 'find each other' and are able to develop friendships and training partnerships. Because so many are first-time runners at these distances, speed and intensity are not the focal point. Instead, long slow distance runs are encouraged, particularly for the weekly group run.

Training runs will occur on sections of the marathon course for the next few weeks before the taper phase. Runners should have a very good idea of the course and will be prepared both mentally and physically for the big day. Throughout the program they have had access to free clinics covering topics such as nutrition, injury prevention, sports psychology, self-massage techniques, and understanding the physiology behind performance and training. It's a full and productive four and a half months, no doubt!

If you have any questions or would like to receive more information about running programs through A Running Conversation or Peak Performance, please just let me know. And, if you are training for a fall marathon, best wishes for a great run!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Oh, to Post

Whenever someone approaches me and makes a comment about one of these blogs they've read, I'm reminded of how much I enjoy writing them, yet cannot for the life of me find/make the time to do it more frequently.

I suppose it's like stretching or cross-training, eating well or meditating. We know it's good for us and that we always enjoy doing it once we're engaged in it. But dedicating the time when the spirit moves us....aaargh! It is difficult these days.

Tonight Rick A. attended the clinic on injury prevention presented by physical therapists from Edgewater Orthopedic Physical Therapy in Falmouth, Maine. It was a very useful talk about, one, body design and function, and two, how to use it well without injury. Should injury occur, they talked about ways to heal and recover, and to resume your sport.

But back to Rick. He is an Ironman triathlete, in his sixties, and thinks that the over-the-hill phenomenon I mentioned in my last post is more universal than reserved only for women. Perhaps. I just know that on a local level, I see a numbers discrepancy whereby there are more competitive men over 50 than women. But I've not run the numbers so I could be all wrong.

But here's something ironic: I mentioned that a friend thinks competitors over-50 become somewhat discounted, or "invisible." While that notion didn't resonate entirely for me, I thought okay. Maybe. Well, didn't the Portland Press Herald completely leave out the Open Masters and Open Seniors divisions in their reporting of the Beach to Beacon 10K results last Sunday?! What a hoot. Nothing. They reported in the copy about the overall finishers, and the top Mainers, including masters, but when they broke out all the age divisions they failed to include the Masters (40+) and Seniors (50+). Humph. I felt invisible all of a sudden.

I let the Press know about the mistake and unfortunately didn't get a reply, but I'm not hung up about it. I know where I finished, and fortunately the Beach to Beacon race organization recognizes where I and the others finished, as these are prize money categories! They actually award us. I was quite happy to be a senior citizen on August 1st.

Which brings us to the middle of August already. School starts in a few weeks. Summer rapidly winds down. Major events like the Dan Cardillo Memorial 5K, the Reach the Beach Relay, and the Peak Performance Maine Marathon are upon us before you can count to twenty. Wow. I've got to get some sleep. I just remembered there's another clinic to attend tomorrow at the Center for Grieving Children in Portland, Maine - a fabulous organization and the race beneficiary of the Peak Performance Maine Marathon this year. It's a talk by a sports psychologist on how to use your head to its fullest when it comes to athletic performance. I love it! I'd much rather think my way through some of these races than actually feel how physically hard it it is! Go here for more on the clinic. Peace.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What Awaits Over the Hill?

Bruce Springsteen turns 60 in September. Meryl Streep turned 60 in June. Joan Benoit Samuelson is 52. Jamie Lee Curtis is 50. Hilary Clinton is 62. Greg Norman's in his mid-fifties. Dara Torres is 42 (yeah, I know, she's not quite into the "second half", but still...) These athletes, politician and performers do not appear to be slowing down any on account of their age. In fact, some are feisty and forward-moving as ever!

This past Sunday, after completing a ten-mile run, I was talking with two female runners who are also in their fifties. We were discussing running after 50. One said she was running really well in her late-forties into her fifties, but that things have steadily gone down the tubes. My other friend wants to know what the heck is happening to her energy stores and consistency? She feels like she is on a roller coaster - sometimes she begins a run and feels like crap, and then suddenly all is well with the world. Then the negative, doubting self-talk kicks in and it's difficult for her to trust her training.

I am still fairly uninitiated, having entered this new age division less than a year ago. And I feel good. Granted, I don't always sleep well and often have night sweats; I train only at a moderate intensity; I can be moody and down-spirited without any obvious reason; I know I should cross-train and I don't; but mostly I remain confident about my running. In fact, my greatest concern about this issue is not my own ability, rather, it's where is everybody else?

We live in a state that has no shortage of excellent runners. In 1984, during the first ever Women's Olympic Marathon Trials, we had three women running from Maine. They are now all in their fifties. Since then, they and many, many others have been engaged in a high level of local and national competition. But Maine is a small pond and it appears that the landscape is changing. Maybe it's just my old eyes focusing on my old age group.

And this is exactly what disturbs my friend: Are the 50 and over women just not running, and if so, why not? Or if they are, how has it changed? What's it like now as they enter the second half of life? How does menopause affect their training? What do they do about it? Is it all physical, or could it be they think about competition differently and just might not want to do it? What does it feel like to have to slow down? Do we have to slow down?

I bet you can tell I am very interested in having this running conversation with the aforementioned runners and other experts. I'll keep you posted on any program developments and information I gather. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Busy Summer

I had hoped to be able to say it's finally stopped raining, but I can't.

Pretty much all of June and now, half-way through the third week of July, the weather has been wet. We never even planted our tomatoes and herbs this year. I hope the local farmers fared better and will have nice produce to offer at the farmers' markets...

Who am I kidding, though? I have no time to garden. I can't believe how busy this time of year is for me. And I know I'm not alone. People are on the move or they have friends and family on the move to come visit them. I think living in Vacationland makes us more prone to this "busy season" than if we lived in other places.

I see this with the Peak Performance Marathon and Half-Marathon training group. People have family commitments, vacation plans, visiting friends and relatives, weddings to attend, weddings to plan! It makes it a challenge to stick to a training schedule with all the extra activity, but as runners finish out their second month of base-building, it's important to keep the mileage up, and consistent.

Tomorrow the group will be out at Cape Elizabeth training on the roads there. Several runners will be running an awesome ten-mile loop. I love this loop for its scenery, rolling hills, and absence of significant vehicular traffic. The course is the Mid-Winter Classic road race, and I prefer to run it in reverse. (No, I'm not running backwards...I mean in the opposite direction of the race.) I find the clockwise direction provides a more gradual approach to the hills, that is after one is warmed up. Part of the course also covers the first mile of the Beach to Beacon 10K.

For most of the runners in the group, accomplishing a ten-mile run is a huge achievement and a 'first' for many. I love it when runners achieve a break-through in their training. It's a notch on the belt and something to be proud of, and certainly a gift to bear witness to it.

And the aspiration to run a first marathon or a half-marathon is awesome. It's rewarding to work with these first-timers as they head into the unknown. "Put your blinders on," I advise, because there are so many distractions to training, and such a great need to stay focused. We're nearing a half-way point in the training program, and the summer busyness is at full tilt. Focus, and keep your eye on the prize.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July 1

Rabbit, rabbit.

This is our first utterance on the first day of each month. It's supposed to bring good luck for the month. My friend Joycie and I have been practicing this little exercise for years and now I have infected my family with the habit. It's a fun way to stay in touch with Joyce and a superstitious way to keep things looking up!

Many athletes are superstitious in their quest for success. You hear about the lucky pair of socks that MUST be worn for racing, or the small stone in the pocket. The most vivid example I can think of is probably more like an obsessive compulsive disorder. Do you remember seeing Nomar Garciaparra, the former Red Sox shortstop, take the plate? It was actually painful to watch him twitch and fiddle with his gloves, pant leg, and stance when at bat. But he apparently had to go through it to play his game.

I tend to wear tried and true clothing on race day, for sure, but I can't think of a superstition I hold related to my performance other than occasionally reading my horoscope and trying to say "Rabbit rabbit" each month. How about you?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Simply Striders

Coach George Towle, University of Southern Maine's women's cross-country and track coach, spoke at Peak Performance Multisport last evening about "running economy." It's all in the striders, he says.

Simply stated, striders are when a runner picks up speed for a period of time such as 20 - 30 seconds, and then jogs for a minute to recover. An example of a workout might be doing this six times, with a warm-up before and a cool-down after. This picked-up pace is the runner's mile race pace.

This concept is very simple and any level of runner can gain speed and efficiency by doing striders a few times a week. That is, of course, assuming the runner has been running for a while and has a mileage base. Running without injury is a result of a slow and progressive build-up, not doing too much too soon.

Coach Towle also talked about running economy, which he defined as "the amount of oxygen consumed relative to the runner's body weight and speed which he or she is running." Doing striders or repetitions (usually a little longer than striders but at the same pace) will improve running economy because the runner will focus on proper running form - no unnecessary leg or arm motions - and an increased comfort level at faster speeds. Basically, this is how I define training: Practicing something over and over so that it becomes familiar, and works like a stepping stone on the path to improvement.

Proper running form can be practiced by thinking about CHP - chest, hips, and press. Towle's student athletes recall the acronym by calling it California Highway Patrol. Catchy, I think. 1) To achieve proper chest position, standing tall and relaxed, take a deep breath and hold it. Your chest will expand, shoulders go back, chin down. Now release your breath but maintain the chest position. This is the proper chest position. 2) Touch your hips with your thumbs, finding the hip joint. Now tilt your pelvic bowl up, which flattens your lower back a bit. This is proper hip position, again, while keeping everything else relaxed. 3) The press is the push off from the ground while running. The last thing on the ground should be your big toe. Think about pressing that big toe on your take-off.

Once you have the form down, you can practice improving your stride rate, that is how many strides you take for a set amount of time. Ideally, a runner should take 175 - 200 strides per minute. The higher the number, the more efficient (and likely faster) the runner is. You can practice this by timing yourself for a minute and counting how many times your right foot lands. Double this number and you've got it. If it's low, practice a quicker turn-over or cadence, again with a focus on good form. You will begin to see improvement, and, it won't hurt!

Good luck with it. The racing season is upon us - time to make some strides!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Summer's Almost Here

The empty yellow school buses lined the public parking area at Pine Point Beach in Scarborough today, after depositing groups of school-aged children to the beach for what was apparently a "beach day" field trip. Good for them.

I ran to the beach and hit it at the end near the jetty, as part of a five-mile loop from my home. The beach was the most crowded I've seen it in a while, and it was only 10:30 in the morning. The students were in groups - some walking along the beach with teachers or chaperones, collecting shells and whatnot, while others, in fact, no less than 40, bounced up and down valiantly in frigid water up to their waistlines, hands flapping in the air. Good for them. The scene really brought a smile to my face.

Summer running. Time to think sunscreen, hat, early morning runs, hydration, lots of tourist traffic, crowded beaches, the smell of fried food in the air, sweating, lots of races, festivals, longer runs, ice cream indulgences, minimal clothing, days off for family and friends, trips to Peaks Island, Bridgton Four on the Fourth, lots of races on the Fourth, parades, training for Beach to Beacon, weight loss, tanned skin, good fun, new friends, cold beer, healthy competition, surprises, camping, hiking and swimming respites, biking too. And so much more!

Remember running in December and January in preparation for the Mid-Winter Classic? Brr.

Enjoy this final week of Spring 2009, and let's hear it for Summer!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Save it for the Race

I'm glad I didn't race the Doc's Tavern Three-Miler last Friday evening. It very likely could have put me over the "sort of under the weather" state, to a "now I'm definitely sick" condition.

Instead, I traveled to Vermont on Saturday and felt much better by the running of the Belmont Stakes that evening. Don't you just love watching horse races? This one was particularly exciting with Mine that Bird, rather jockey Calvin Borel, going for the win. The pair had a tough time negotiating the field and ended in third place. It was Summer Bird, a long shot, who ultimately ruled the day in a very exciting finish.

The element of surprise is what I love about road racing, as well. You just never know who is going to toe the line and have the best day. What you should know, I suppose, is where you're at physically and mentally, and what you're capable of doing based on your training. It also helps to know the course.

I've raced the Covered Bridges Half-Marathon many times and really enjoy it. This year was clear and sunny, and with a 10:15 start became quite warm during the run. Vermont is so beautiful right now, really lovely. It's green and lush with spring flowers everywhere. The course begins in Pomfrey, goes through Woodstock, and runs along the Queechee River ending in Queechee at the polo fields just outside of town. It runs past covered bridges and in Woodstock we actually run over/through one. It's probably one of my favorite races for its beautiful course and excellent crowd support.

We had a two hour wait from the bus drop-off at Suicide Six ski area until the start, so I stayed hydrated and warmed up fairly well for the distance before the gun went off.

I noticed a few women at the start, but being from away and anonymous, I had no idea how we would compete against each other. I went out comfortably with my husband at my side, and for the first couple miles ran in the lead. A woman with a Colorado Running Company singlet came up beside me, and we commented about the gregarious crowd support for the first ladies. I let her go since I was struggling to find my rhythm. I went out faster than I had planned and during the first six miles or so, cursed the 440's I've been doing in training, because now I was running an inconsistent pace.

You see, my training focus right now is on the 5K. My speed work has been short and fast, and I've not gotten many good long runs in over the past several weeks. But I have a base, and I trust that. I also know that I run scared. Despite the fact there was already someone ahead of me, I ran competitively, not to catch her necessarily, but to hold my position. I was just waiting for a few young fillies to come breezing by, but it never happened. In fact, the number three woman turned out to be 49 years old!

Long story short: I worked hard, I doused myself with water at the aid stations, and I kept a decent pace going. I loved as we headed into Queechee Village once off the river road because I could smell the barn. The 12-mile mark is at the B & B where we stay, The Parker House, and I looked for the innkeeper Adam. I felt elated to be nearly done, and I raced the last mile because I knew there had to be someone right behind me. Silly, but true.

A good day at the races: Just over 1800 racers on a beautiful late spring day in Vermont; I won a Simon Pearce vase and a pair of Darn Tough socks; and my husband and I got to toast our weekend get-away with a cold beer in the beer garden after the race.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Practice What You Preach

This Friday evening I am staying back from racing the Doc's Tavern three-miler in Biddeford, Maine. I was all set to do it yesterday, until I woke up this morning at two a.m. with a crashing sinus headache right between my eyes and other annoying symptoms. Later this morning, I figured I'd go out at around noon for an easy run to see how I might present later this evening.

It never happened.

I tried going back to bed mid-morning only to thrash around, feel chilled, and waste time. I hate that. So I got up and went back to work but by then had decided the race, and the easy run, were off.

You see, I am racing a half-marathon on Sunday in Vermont. It's called the Covered Bridges Half-Marathon and it's a real gem. I've done it many times and last year I missed getting a registration with the on-line process. I was determined to not let that happen again this year, and it didn't. I've been planning this get-away weekend with my husband for months, and only fairly recently thought about running the three-miler, which is also a gem in its Biddeford-bar-beer-drinking-kind of way. You know, the way running should be. But it was definitely not the "A" race this weekend.

More than that, though, is the reasonableness of running two races in one weekend. Of course one could do it. One could run three races in a weekend. I know, it's done all the time by zealous runners. But not me. I think this will result in a compromise - somewhere. One of those efforts does not receive the benefit of my total presence and capability.

As a runner, I have had the good fortune of being coached for over 15 years. Granted, I've been part of a team and not coached as an individual, elite athlete, but, I have gained from coaching, and, it has been individual to a degree. My coach is admittedly conservative. I have been taught to put in moderate mileage, to train with intensity once a week, to incorporate hills and distance, and to not make up missed days. I've been encouraged to race in moderation, as well. And I'm good with

I also coach others to run, and I coach what I know to be true. The way I have been coached works for me. I "get" the schedule - the hard/easy, the overload/recovery, rest. Additionally, the training I received with the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) for my coaching certification is very keen on moderation, slow progression, and injury prevention. Simply put, it promotes running for life without injury.

Today I run without injuries; my energy remains high; I compete in the 50+ age division and I am competitive. Locally, I tend finish in the top ten overall or top in my age division. I toe the line when I am able, and I've learned to stay back when I'm not.

I am in this for the very long haul. I imagine running well into my 80's and beyond. I want to! I have gained so much from running and have seen many wonderful sights, enjoyed many peaceful times, and given my body the gift of staying power. Today my body, really, reminded the rest of me to practice what I preach. I did not need to race this evening. I will race on Sunday.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Remember The Real Deal

I've been moved by the recent Air France 447 tragedy.

I was driving along the other day listening to one of public radio's early reports about the people who were on the flight. A particularly poignant vignette described a French electrical parts company, that awarded its ten top salespeople and their spouses with an expense paid trip to Rio de Janeiro. They were aboard the plane which apparently malfunctioned and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean or exploded into pieces while still in the air above the ocean, on its return trip to Paris. The investigation is ongoing.

Ten employees from one company. Ten families celebrating their related achievements, on what could have been their dream trip. I'm reminded of Alanis Morissete's song "Ironic." But it's not ironic. It's real world, real life. This is how it goes. This is how it ends much of the time.

And it wasn't only these ten individuals and their partners; 228 families broken apart with the loss of one of theirs. Someone dear, someone special, the only one of that person. Gone for good with no adequate good-bye. This is how goes.

But do we fully appreciate this elemental truth? Do we really believe it? Do we live as if our time is precious?

I know I don't. I worry, I judge, I miss moments, I don't do my best, I forget it could be the last good-bye. But this is it. This is the real deal. I must not forget.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Marathon Training Season

Today marks week one of an 18-week marathon (and half-marathon) training program managed and coached by A Running Conversation and sponsored by Peak Performance Multisport in Portland, Maine. Forty people have registered! Isn't that awesome? There is definitely no recession in participation in running and triathlon. I actually think it's growing.

Of the 40, 26 runners showed up today for the kick-off Sunday group run. The group will meet every Sunday for the progressively longer run. We'll vary the meeting places and courses, and some weekends will include races. During the week, runners follow their personal schedules. A handful of the runners are coming out of various walk/jog programs, many are looking to "get back into" running, most are running either distance for the first time. To say the least, this is a refreshing group! I am looking forward to the weeks ahead.

On the other side of the same running coin, I had an experience today that left me feeling, well, honored, I guess. I'm not entirely sure of the feeling, maybe it's just lucky, and when I told my husband about it I prefaced it with, "I know this is dorky, but..."

He and I were out running after the group run, when we came across two local running friends. We joined them for about three and a half miles, chatted and caught up on things. One of these women is, in my opinion, a near world-class runner. Sheri Piers ran in the 2008 Olympic Team Trials last year, in a personal record 2:38:45; this year in Boston she bested that in 2:37:04, finishing in the 11th spot overall. Yesterday, she ran a personal record 5K at Freihofer's in New York, beating Maine's other legendary runner. She is a rockin' runner!

Fully-rooted in Maine, out for an easy run in the 'hood, and as nice and approachable as anyone I've ever met (I really like her) I it star-struck? I don't know. I am fascinated but I fully understand what it takes to get where she is. She works damn hard and is fully committed to it. I feel total respect for that. I guess it is just lucky...and dorky.

Here's to the marathon training season, and appreciating all the amazing runners - whether new or veteran - that we get to witness, in pursuit of their goals.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Strength Training

Erica Napuli is a personal trainer in Portland, Maine. Her business is called Evolution Fitness and she works out of the Health Coaches studio on Free Street. Last night, Erica spoke to a group of runners at Peak Performance Multisport about the benefit of strength training and stretching for endurance athletes.

I think we all know by now about the value of core strength to any kind of physical activity. It's been published and promoted everywhere and exercise physiologists continue to study the various approaches to optimal training: dynamic stretching versus static stretching before workouts; proper uses of the foam roller, fit ball, rubber bands, medicine ball, balance board, etc. But Erica made a point last evening that I thought was unique: If you are currently training for an event like an upcoming 5K or sprint triathlon, and you've been following a specific training program, this might not be the ideal time to begin a strengthening program.

In spite of what we might say, or what we might know to be true, runners often think more is better. So I found it refreshing to hear that strength training is not only complementary to running, it is its own complete workout. If not taken on or applied carefully, a new regime could compromise an immediate speed goal, for example. She also noted that if you already do strength workouts, you'd be wise to do them on your "off" day from your specific sport.

The good news is that when the time is right to adopt a strength program, you can gain benefits with a half hour workout twice a week. Having trained with Erica, I know that a half hour with her is no easy walk in the park. She has a really calm, deliberate, and effective approach to her work, and you don't get that overworked, out of breath feeling. It's sneaky that way. Erica is very experienced in assessment, and will tailor a program for an athlete's specific activities and goals.

Keep your eye on the prize and consider those cross-training activities that will complement your sport. Good luck!

Please let me know if you have any questions, comments or need more information.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Road Races

There has been so much going on and so little opportunity to write! I hope you're still out there dear reader.

Last weekend saw the ninth running of the Portland Sea Dogs Mother's Day 5k race and kids fun run. About 2200 people registered for the 5K and probably a few hundred kids. I believe it is now the largest 5K in Maine. It feels pretty cool to be part of such a successful event. I worked with the race committee on the front end, getting tee-shirts and race numbers made, managing a packet pick-up and small expo at Peak Performance, and eventually running the race myself. Peak Performance has made such a significant contribution to the running community in Maine.

I run with a team called Nor'Easter Run. It's coached by Ziggy Gillespie and is part of Peak Performance's Nor'easter club. Many of us on the team had good results in the race, several setting PRs (personal records.) It's great to be affiliated with such a positive and inspired group of athletes.

There are races every weekend now through the rest of the summer. It's hard to decide sometimes where to run. My family and I are going up to Sugarloaf tomorrow where there is a marathon and 15K race on Sunday. I'm not sure if I'll run the 15K or not, but no matter what, I will enjoy being up there and watching all the others. (I also look forward to watching the Preakness on Saturday evening.)

Next weekend is the Pineland Challenge in New Gloucester, Maine and the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, the Snowy Egret 5K in Scarborough. The last weekend in May has the Pond Cove Challenge in Cape Elizabeth, the Y-Tri Sprint in Bath, Maine, I said, so much going on!

Today is a beautiful day in Southern Maine. Spring is finally settling in. I hope you are enjoying your running or walking, biking, or swimming, or whatever physical pursuit keeps you inspired. If you have a race coming up, best wishes for your success. Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Fun and Games

I don't know why this Spring has me feeling busier than ever, and with no end in sight. Where's that feeling of new energy? Hope and optimism on account of the longer days? A sense of purpose, growth and new beginnings? I mostly feel like I can't get everything done like I want to.

I'm sure it has to do with the running season getting underway; programs need to get executed, schedules developed, and coaching provided. Not to mention the retail work, parenting and homemaking. Oh, and yes, training and racing.

So, I thought it would be fun to play a little with running. Do something fun and silly. Last night was the first Scavenger Hunt from Peak Performance Multisport, with two more hunts (Mondays May 11 and 18) scheduled. It's a series of three outings, so the team with the best average score wins the grand prize.

It was a hoot. The winning team, Team OCD, took home the prize. Despite their name, these gals actually resorted to dumpster-digging to find all that they needed on the list! They came back within the allotted hour with eight out of ten correct items.

There are not many rules: No motorized or wheel-powered transportation, unless you want to push a baby stroller or jogger. You must be back within one hour or you get penalized, two times the time over 60 minutes. The scoring is not complicated either. We take your running time, minus one minute for every correct item, and plus two minutes for each missed or unqualified item. The low score wins. If you didn't make it last night, be sure to get in on the fun next Monday evening at 5:45. You can register here.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

It's All About Coaching

Recently I attended a workshop put on by Hardy Girls Healthy Women. This is a Maine-based organization which has a vision that "All girls and women experience equality, independence and safety in their everyday lives." It's sad, and absolutely true, that these rights or qualities don't naturally occur for many.

During one exercise in the program, participants were asked to think about someone in their life who had been most influential in providing or helping one to gain these strengths - a sense of equality, independence and safety. Basically, we were asked to remember someone we considered a mentor or guide.

This was an easy exercise for me. It was during my first year of high school, which back then was tenth grade, that I met Coach Judy Schoonover. I tried out for the basketball team after a fall season of watching girls field hockey and boys soccer and football. (I never watched running, by the way, if there even was a cross-country team!) I made the varsity basketball team, which shocked me, and it was the beginning of a three-year relationship that I believe saved my life. 'Schoonie', as she was called, also coached the lacrosse program in the spring, where I found my true love.

I realize it sounds dramatic to say that a peripheral and part-time relationship can have so much impact, especially when it was likely one-sided. But what I received were things that were missing elsewhere in my life and, that I needed to thrive: I was noticed and validated. I was guided and assisted to be successful in areas I had become passionate about. I was allowed and encouraged to excel. I was recognized and awarded for my accomplishments. I felt like I was being taken care of, and in large part, the relationship and experiences served to form my identity as a capable, athletic, winning person. I will never forget how she intervened in my life in an extremely subtle way.

The relationship I had with my collegiate lacrosse coach, Pamela Hixon, was built on an equal level of respect as that I had for Schoonie, but did not feel as integral and life-altering. I suppose that's on account of it being during my late teens early twenties versus my formative years. I played Division I women's lacrosse on a nationally ranked team for a highly rated coach and it was an awesome experience. Again, I felt guided and supported, encouraged to succeed and proud of our accomplishments. That time of life stays with me like a feather in my cap.

Today, I continue to work with a coach in my chosen sport of running. I have actually been affiliated with Coach Ziggy Gillespie for nearly 18 years, ever since moving to Maine and deciding to focus on running and racing. Ziggy has been in the game for a long time. The team I joined was his highly successful "Run to Win Ladies Team." I remember when I was first on the running scene in Portland I saw women in race uniforms that were part of Ziggy's team. Joining a running team was never anything I thought about, and frankly, it was probably fairly unique in 1990. But I joined, and I'm still joined, only now it's called Nor'Easter Run.

He also coached Saint Joseph's College Men's XC coach from 1981-1987, winning four New England Championship teams and where he was named Coach of the Year three times. Ziggy presently coaches Waynflete School's Varsity XC, the Maine State Class C Girls XC Champions in 2007 and 2008. He was inducted to the Maine Running Hall of Fame in 1996.

Working with a coach and a team has enabled me to improve my running to that comparable competitive level as I experienced as part of the women's lacrosse team at the University of Massachusetts. I get to be part of a successful winning group that brings out the best in me. I have been able to achieve my running bests, and continue to improve in the face of age. I have been so inspired by running that I started a business founded around the benefits of running and have become a running coach myself.

Last weekend I competed in a neighborhood 5K as a precursor to the upcoming Portland Sea Dogs Mother's Day 5K. I felt nervous as usual, and slept poorly as usual the night before. Despite my own tentativeness, I raced well and finished strong. But I believe a deciding factor was the COACHING.

Ziggy was there at 7:30 a.m. for a 9:00 start. He previewed the course with us beforehand to get a lay of the land and to suggest strategic portions of the route. He led the race in his vehicle to provide the first mile time split to all who passed. He coached me and encouraged me when I went by and said he knew I could do it. He went by in his car during the third mile screaming my time, coaching me on my form. During the last stretch he informed me I could break 19 minutes and helped me to stay focused and determined. And he wasn't put off to hug me and slap my back in my sweaty post-race glory.

My good day at the race was about his coaching. Thanks, Ziggy.

I suppose all coaches hope to make a difference in at least one person's life. I know this is true for me. Coaching is a fairly new endeavor for me and I have a lot to learn. One thing for certain which I've learned from those most influential people in my life is that I can do just about anything I want if I put my mind to it, practice it, and persevere.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Crushing It

For the past couple of years, my 5K race running goal has been to finish under 19 minutes. I made it in 2007, and then failed to get there last year, in 2008. (Well...if only all courses were measured accurately. In one race I know I had it [a 5:30 first mile, and then some,] but it wasn't meant to be. My teammate said she had 3.22 miles on her GPS. Enough said.)

Still, it's a terrific challenge. I wonder what is it about the sub-19 minute mark? I mean, it's not a race winning time. Women are running the 5K in sub-15. American Deena Drossin won the women's division of the Carlsbad 5000 this year in a world road race record time of 14 minutes, 54 seconds. Okay, so she's 29 years old and I'm 50. But still...I'd have to say, it's the six-minute mile that I aspire to maintain. I can easily run a sub-six mile. But three of those? That's a whole different ball game.

Today I crushed it. Yup, it's true. This, my third 5K of the season, and up against one of my strongest co-conspirators. I was tenuous going in given my state of exhaustion, the hilly course, and the unexpected appearance of my challenger, and I did it. Yee-ha!

I let her go at the start. We faced an uphill first mile, and I had planned on keeping something in reserve. It's an out and back, uphill, downhill, uphill, downhill course, if you get what I'm saying:) I passed her with conviction on the first downhill, in the second mile.

It was a 'funny' course with a cone turn-around at the half-way mark, and then back up this same long hill. I was running second overall, and the lead runner was kind enough to wish me well after he went around the cone on his way back up. I saw my co-conspirator and knew she was on my heels. I dug in and worked the uphill the best I could. "I love hills. Hills are my friends." Ya baby.

Then back on the straight-away for a bit before the final descent to the finish area. Turn-over, turn-over, turn-over. I had to keep reminding myself what it takes to run fast and efficiently. And the beautiful thing is I never really knew how close the next woman was behind me. Basically, I ran scared. It worked for me.

I finished in 18:41, a three-season PR (so far) and felt just fine. In another blog I'll talk about HOW that PR was possible today. For now, I'll keep it simple. That too, works for me.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Yesterday saw the 113th running of the Boston Marathon, and what a great running it was!

The alarm went off at 5:00 and I waited while my runner went about his race day preparations. We left our friend's home in Somerville at 5:45 and drove into Boston over what I fondly call the "Salt and Pepper" bridge. As we headed toward Government Center, we saw empty yellow buses lined up for nearly a mile to the Boston Common. It was an amazing sight, another indication of the impressive race management machine that is Dave McGillivray, rather, DMSE Sports, Inc. (By the way, I've had occasion to e-mail Dave over the past couple of years, and each time I receive a response within 24 hours. I love that.)

Runners, carrying their bright yellow plastic marathon bags, were coming from every direction and slowly making their way to the bus-loading area on Tremont Street. They were early and appeared relaxed, as buses were running to the Hopkinton start until 6:45 a.m.

I wished Paul well as he set about on his virgin voyage of the grand-daddy of marathons. Of course his journey began months ago in October, when he comfortably qualified at the Mount Desert Island marathon. Today was about enjoying the ride! (I wish the ride I had to my viewing spot was enjoyable, but more on that later.)

Before he could get going, however, Paul had nearly three hours to wait at the start area. He ate some, walked around some, got some cold, and then tried to warm up some in the sun. Finally, time to get into the stalls. I can't tell his story, but I do know he made it to his stall in the nick of time on account of a porta pottie waiting line. He left in the first wave at 10:00, and took several minutes to cross the starting line.

My story gets good only after I arrived with friends and family at the 24-mile mark in Brookline's Coolidge Corner neighborhood. Getting there, madly, was no fun. We took the 'T' from Cambridge to Park Street in Boston where we had to change lines, and were unable to board at least ten trains because they were too full. Aaaargh! Of course, the Red Sox game was scheduled to begin at 11:00 and throngs of excited spectators of both sports were vying to get to their start on time.

We arrived in time to see the wheelchair athletes in progress, the women's lead pack, the male leaders, and all the fabulous runners thereafter. Mile 24 is on a downhill, which was fairly evident in how the runners took it; some were inspired while others grimaced with the continuous pressure of the descent. Mile 24 is a tough place to spectate because runners are often more done than not.

The women's race was amazing. Kara Goucher was in the front seat of a pack of six women! They virtually flashed by us, but I went on to imagine what the next two miles were going to look like and feel like. Holy cow! What a fantastic race, and the finish, as we know, was thoroughly dramatic. THIS is what I love about the marathon. So much transpires from mile to mile.

The men's race was less exciting but no less amazing. Deriba Merga was all alone, looking absolutely unscathed and with an established lead that was going to be impossible to take away. He had it. Then came Daniel Rono and Ryan Hall, shoulder to shoulder. I noticed that Hall's arms were down, appearing tired, and I worried about his chances to take charge. It panned out as it did. What a great effort.

There are so many details I could share, but I'll spare you. I do want to comment on a couple Maine runners before closing: Sheri Piers for starters. Sheri, from Falmouth, is so inspiring and such a treat to watch in action. She was alone, moving right along in complete control, and smiling as if she was thoroughly enjoying the ride. What joy! She finished in the 11th spot.

Matt Dunlap, also living in Falmouth though originally from Farmington, works at Peak Performance. Last October, he finished his first-ever marathon in the number two spot, at the Peak Performance Maine Marathon in 2:37, but, he hurt his ITB. Matt was forced to take time off and I know struggled to regain his health. Yesterday, when he passed at 24, he gave me that 'pained, panicked look' that I know quite well. It says to me, "I'm doing it, but I'm not really quite sure how." He ran his first Boston in 2:38. Matt rocks.

And saving my best for last, Paul Toohey ran his first (and he said, maybe his last) Boston Marathon in 3:27. He did not see us in spite of our cow bells and cat calls, so I quickly jumped in to let him know we were all there rooting for him. He seemed pleased to hear this and said he felt some sore.

I thought I was late getting to the family meeting area at the finish, again, a terribly crowded train, but in fact, we met right on time. The poor guy had to walk several blocks back to the 'T' at Park Street, but it could have been worse as we walked through Boston's Public Garden and the Common.

Runners ruled the day yesterday in Boston. They were everywhere after the race - sharing their stories, hobbling along, leaning on loved ones, resting on the grass, and I dare say, still enjoying the ride.

Friday, April 17, 2009

In Spite of Confidence

If you've been following this stream for the past couple days, you know that when push comes to shove, it's about fate.

To wit, the following, which I heard it on NPR yesterday.

'The Drunken Driver Has the Right Of Way'
by Ethan Coen

The loudest have the final say,
The wanton win, the rash hold sway,
The realist's rules of order say
The drunken driver has the right of way.

The Kubla Khan can butt in line;
The biggest brute can take what's mine;
When heavyweights break wind, that's fine;
No matter what a judge might say,
The drunken driver has the right of way.

The guiltiest feel free of guilt;
Who care not, bloom; who worry, wilt;
Plans better laid are rarely built
For forethought seldom wins the day;
The drunken driver has the right of way.

The most attentive and unfailing
Carefulness is unavailing
Wheresoever fools are flailing;
Wisdom there is held at bay;,
The drunken driver has the right of way.

De jure is de facto's slave;
The most foolhardy beat the brave;
Brass routs restraint; low lies high's grave;
When conscience leads you, it's astray;
The drunken driver has the right of way.

It's only the naivest who'll
Deny this, that the reckless rule;
When facing an oncoming fool
The practiced and sagacious say
Watch out — one side — look sharp — gang way.

However much you plan and pray,
Alas, alack, tant pis, oy vey,
Now — heretofore — til Judgment Day,
The drunken driver has the right of way.

Excerpted from 'The Drunken Driver Has The Right Of Way' by Ethan Coen.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Run Safe

Last night I had a wild and crazy dream; the kind that was extremely vivid, woke me up, and that I should have written down. But I am never so prepared in the middle of the night, even though I believe that kind of journaling could make a good practice.

In the dream, there was a new order in town. It was actually a kind of lawlessness: Men, dressed in traditional western cowboy garb were patrolling the community in pairs. Some were on foot, others in vehicles, and they were fully armed with guns in holsters, even lassos! They were selectively stalking people and taking them hostage!

Are you still with me? I know it's bizarre but it was too vivid to ignore. There was a pair of dudes that at first blush caused me to raise my antennae, if you will. There was immediately something dangerous about them, and indeed, I became a target. It was during the second interaction that I outran them, even while dragging my daughter along. It really ticked one of them off because he was running as hard as he could, and I knew then I was in trouble.

I was sitting at an outdoor cafe when he came by again, saw me, flashed a light in my face and said "You're coming with me." I resisted, and of course woke up. No need to go any further down that scary path!

The reason I am sharing this with you on the heels of a blog about confidence, is because it's important to remember that no matter how confident we are, some situations are just not safe.

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from a runner and she thought I might want to write about safety. She ran all winter in the peace and quiet of the woods on packed snowmobile trails. Now that the snow is mostly gone and mud season is making it's way back to our world, she has hit the streets again. Here's some of what she said:

Now that I am back on the roads I feel like I am playing "Russian roulette." I have had more close calls with cars and trucks this Spring than my entire 25 years of running. People are on their phones! I saw a woman with a cigarette and a cup of Dunkin' in one hand, and a phone in the other....who was driving? I always run early, facing traffic, well off the road and try to stay away from busy trafficked roads. I wear BRIGHT clothing, a reflective vest in limited lighting, but it is down right dangerous out there. I yell, I jump out of the way, I wave my arms, "Hey, here I am!" Some drivers are completely oblivious.

So we can be confident and we can be capable, but we have got to stay alert and trust our instinct when it informs us that something is not right. Runners have a responsibility to run safely and wisely, practice good judgment and follow the rules of the road. And if an internal alarm goes off, pay attention.

Most of us are drivers too, and it'd be swell if we could remember the Golden Rule. I hope to see you out there!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I want to talk a little about the organic and impressionable character-trait called confidence.

Take the role confidence plays in where and how and when we run: My friend admits there is a road in our neighborhood which she will avoid on a run, at any time of day. There is a fairly "remote" stretch on this road, if you will - woodsy, funky auto body shop, marshy land - and apparently, there's "just something about it" that keeps her away. How sad. This road is a direct connector to another road, making for a nice long running loop. In addition to the auto body shop, it passes by an elk farm, crosses a section of marsh, and is usually not very trafficked. I rather like it. I had never thought of not running on that road until she mentioned it (except of course until I was charged by an angry mutt) and I have run over it, many, many times.

Or what about running in a new area when traveling. Certainly there are cautionary tales about running in foreign places, though honestly, I've never felt compelled to stay back from a run out of fear for my safety. I've run in Hell's Kitchen in NYC, downtown Cancun, Mexico, and frankly got the strangest looks on a run in Kilbrittain, Ireland. They weren't threatening looks, just "What the hell are you doing?" kinds of looks.

I believe that through running, we gain a sense of personal and physical confidence that pervades our other activities. I mean think about the courage it takes to toe the line at a race or lead a department at work, or ask for a raise, or get married and raise a family! Yet we do those things all the time.

So when I lack confidence, like I did this past week leading up to a presentation I made yesterday, it feels very inconsistent and I wonder about that. I actually get cranky about it.

The presentation was at a Women Standing Together quarterly luncheon to talk about my business A Running Conversation. I was invited to present a challenge that I have experienced in the start-up process, and to get feedback from a roomful of professional women. Wow! What an amazing business development opportunity. Why would I even hesitate?

I hesitated because I was concerned about how I would present myself and my business, and perhaps I wouldn't be effective and productive. Or worse, I'm afraid my business isn't viable! I didn't want to waste anyone's time, and I wanted to get the most out of an amazing opportunity. It's significant that going into this meeting, other professionals I admire and respect placed their confidence in me - the event coordinator, my friend who sits on the board and introduced me, past colleagues and friends who knew I was making this presentation, my family. They knew I would do fine, and, they believe in my business.

It's times like these when I doubt myself or feel fear and get entirely different feedback from others, that I must trust their input and believe what they are saying is true, because god knows, I can kid myself right out of performing up to my capabilities.

I wonder if this has ever happened in my running and racing? Ha, ha, you can bet on it. Like I said at the beginning, confidence is impressionable. The challenge is to mold it in a way that nurtures a healthy approach to life, and keeps us moving forward. And it's okay to have help along the way. In fact, I think it's imperative.