Cambridge Half Race Recap (a “just for fun” race)

I’m going to start this race with a confession (runfession?): I am really, really susceptible to peer pressure–especially when it comes from other runners. After crushing my goals for my half last weekend, I was feeling a little bit jealous that a ton of my local runner friends were signed up for yesterday’s Cambridge Half Marathon. I ran the inaugural Cambridge Half last year absolutely loved it–and I also loved the Oktoberfest 5k organized by the same company. So when a teammate had a bib for sale for half price, I jumped on it, figuring I would pace a few friends and just run for fun.

The first warning sign came with a very strongly worded warning to pick up our bibs before race morning. Having been warned that the lines were long on Friday, I went on the later end of the Saturday pickup and was stunned to walk into the back of what was apparently a 40 minute line to pick up bibs and jackets. Luckily, I ran into a friend (thanks Chris!!) who grabbed my confirmation and picked my bib up for me, but then it took us more than 30 minutes just to get out of the mall’s parking garage.

Come race morning, I left my house planning to arrive at 6:30 am (according to my GPS), a full hour before race start. It was marginally too early to take public transit, which I would have preferred–especially because I then sat in traffic for an extra 35 minutes trying to get into the garage, missing the Oiselle team picture 😦 Things were hectic and disorganized, and I couldn’t find the bag check or the bathroom before the staff starting yelling with megaphones for everyone to get to their starting corrals. Luckily I stumbled into some teammates in the corral and we took off, keeping things conversational and comfortable. At mile 5 I popped into a porto potty and then managed to find my friend Sarah, who I had promised to pace for her marathon workout. Unfortunately, a couple of factors were working against us–the rain had picked up and the 7,000 runners were herded on and off of a narrow series of dirt paths. The crowding was made even worse as everyone tried to avoid the mud pits and puddles that were rapidly forming. With our shoes soaked and the traction not being ideal, we kept the pace under control to make sure Sarah gets to her goal race uninjured.

Finally we hit a long paved path towards the finish, where we picked it up for the last three miles, hitting splits at 8:33, 8:18, 8:06, and 7:15 for the .1. Appropriately, the race ended with a series of huge puddles mixed the red clay of the path. Dirty and soaked to the bone, I crossed the finish at 1:54:02, feeling pretty good and fresh after last weekend’s hard effort. We headed inside to change into dry clothes, and the attempted to navigate a super confusing after party with lots more long lines. There were mimosas, bloody mary’s, beer, and cider on hand–and apparently lots of food, but everything was so spread out it was hard to find. Luckily we managed to find some treats and grab a few well-deserved drinks before heading out.

While the rain definitely didn’t add anything, this race was one of the least well-organized events I’ve ever run. On top of the long lines, lack of direction, and overcrowded course, they lost a bunch of the jackets so people couldn’t get the sizes they had ordered, and the photos are all dumped into one 700-photo album instead of being searchable by bib number. Overall, this race was pretty frustrating–and would have been even more so if I had been running for time or if I had paid the full ticket price of over $100. That said, it’s always fun hanging with my birds and it was a super motivating way to get a long run in.

Back soon with a recap of the Prospect Park Turkey Trot I’ll be running with my brother on Thanksgiving! Anyone else have fun turkey trots on tap?


Seacoast Half Marathon Race Recap (new PR!)


Happy Monday, friends! Greetings from the happy end of another training cycle. This past weekend J and I ran the Seacoast Half Marathon in Portsmouth, NH–my 13th and his 1st. This race ticked all the boxes of a goal race for me. It’s on the smaller side, it’s reasonably priced, the scenery is gorgeous, and it’s somewhere new but still within a couple hours of home. We decided to “splurge” and spend credit card points on a hotel the night before–Portsmouth is just over an hour from home, but staying up there made for a much more relaxed race morning. An added bonus was that we got to have dinner with some good friends who live in the area on Saturday night. We ended up at Street, which was awesome. I had my traditional pre-race burger and a side of yucca fries, which were AMAZING. I definitely want to go back to Street some time to try out their cocktails and some of the more interesting dishes 😉

Saturday night I had a fair amount of trouble falling asleep, which is typical for me before races. Luckily I had gotten a great night of sleep on Friday night, so I knew I’d be fine for the race. Saturday morning we had breakfast and coffee in our hotel room before heading just a few miles down the road to Portsmouth High School, where the race starts. We easily parked right by the school and grabbed our race bibs and shirts fairly quickly. There wasn’t a secure bag check for this race, but we were able to leave our coats in the school’s cafeteria and just left our valuables in the car. It was chilly, with temps around 30 degrees at the start of the race, so I opted for tights, a warm base layer, gloves, and a buff. I probably slightly overdressed but I hate being cold at the beginning of races! I ended up taking off my gloves and buff by mile 3 😉

After a couple of rounds waiting in the porto potty lines and a very quick warmup jog, we headed up towards the race start. I wished J good luck and scooted up to the 7:30 pacer. Thanks to my race plan from Coach Laura, I knew race starts downhill and I wanted to make a very concerted effort to hold the pace back. The first two miles were light and easy.

  • Mile 1: 7:20
  • Mile 2: 7:24

By mile 3, I felt good and wanted to pick it up to closer to my goal pace (around 7:10-7:15). My goal was to feel comfortable and steady for the middle miles of the race, while actively conserving energy to be able to pick up the pace near the end.

  • Mile 3: 7:06
  • Mile 4: 7:08
  • Mile 5: 7:18
  • Mile 6: 7:08
  • Mile 7: 7:04
  • Mile 8: 6:56
  • Mile 9: 7:11
  • Mile 10: 7:10

I had accidentally set my watch with the automatic mile split setting off, so I could only see my overall average pace for the race. This turned out to be super helpful–my focus was just on pushing hard enough to inch my average pace slowly down instead of re-calibrating my effort every mile. I had tucked into a fairly steady group and I decided to stick with them through mile 10. The scenery during this section was gorgeous–lots of quaint old houses and sweeping views of the coastline. I made sure to grab a cup at each water stop and slowly sipped a Gu starting around mile 7.5. At mile 10, I could tell I still had some juice left in my legs, so I started picking folks off as I nudged the pace up.

  • Mile 11: 7:00
  • Mile 12: 6:51
  • Mile 13: 6:55
  • .2: 6:15

At mile 13 I was feeling strong, having picked off a couple of other female runners–at that point I knew there weren’t many more ahead of me. I hit the steepest hill of the race at this point, but I gritted my teeth and pushed my way up, knowing the finish line was around the corner. I totally channeled my inner Shalene Flanagan and let loose a “F*$& yeah!” as I crossed the finish line with the pace clock still at 1:34:XX. My official finish time was 1:34:19, which was good for 11th female finisher, 4th in my age group, and 52nd overall. My goals for the race were:

  • A Goal: Sub-1:35
  • B Goal: PR (Sub-1:36:55)
  • C Goal: Sub 1:40

So, I was pretty happy with where I ended up. Jeremy ran an incredible first sub 2 hour half, and is already talking about signing up for his next one. I’ve created a monster!! It was really fun to get to watch him finish for once.

After taking the requisite photos we grabbed some post-race snacks (there was everything from pizza to a Mexican rice dish to squash soup and apple cider!) and then went back to our hotel for a hot tub dip and shower before tucking in at one of our favorite brunch spots, The Friendly Toast. Pro tip–they have an app you can use to skip the wait–our table was ready less than 10 minutes after we arrived! SO necessary.

Overall, this was a fantastic race for me–I felt well-trained, I raced hard and smart, and the course and weather were perfect. I also LOVE the half distance–it’s absolutely where I excel and I think where I still have the most room to grow (looking you, NYC marathon qualifying times!) I have a lot more to say about this training cycle but I’m incredibly happy to have PRed the 5k, 10k, and half this fall! I owe a big debt of gratitude to Coach Laura, who wrote the custom training plan that got me to my goals. More to come on what went well and what’s next–for now, I’m ready for a few sweet weeks of easy running and lots of yoga before Boston training kicks into gear.

Friday five: my favorite races

Hello hello and happy Friday! As we gear up for another snowstorm (yup, happy freaking April to us), I wanted to think back to the warmer days and talk about my favorite racing memories. One of my favorite bloggers/podcasters, Ali on the Run, did an episode this week on her favorite races and it got me thinking about some of my own favorite races and racing memories.

I came up with this list without considering races of different distances, but oddly enough, it ended up including a 5 miler, a 10k, a half, a full, and a relay. I truly loved all of these races for very different reasons, so I’m going to list them from shortest to longest instead of ranking them, which I can’t bring myself to do 😉

Harpoon 5 Miler: This uber-popular race takes place every May, starting and ending at the Harpoon brewery. I had avoided it for years because I can’t drink beer and that seemed like the main reason most people ran (#celiacproblems). But I decided to give it a whirl last year and it was SO much fun!! The course is flat and wicked fast, you can run as part of a 6 pack team (you run individually, but your results count for team awards). I loved this race mostly because it was the first time I felt like I could really run fast, not just long. Also, I got to drink cider afterwards with J and a crew of our pals! Harpoon is the weekend of my marathon this year, so I won’t be running, but I can’t wait to be back.

Tufts Women’s 10k: I think this was one of the first race recaps I ever wrote! It’s also oddly the last 10k I did (back in 2014) so I need to fix that, stat. This is a fantastic, fast, all-women’s race that has been happening for the last 40 years (!) in Boston. I didn’t have a watch at the time, so I ran totally by feel and just enjoyed myself and ran for fun. Everyone was super encouraging and the 10k distance was the perfect challenge at the time. I really hope to get back out for this one soon!

Cambridge Half Marathon: I think this was the first time I’ve ever run an inaugural race, and it was so awesome! I was coming off of the frustration of just missing my goal time in Chicago and went into this local race with no goals other than to run hard and see what I can do. I was SHOCKED to run a 1:36! The course was perfectly varied and not too crowded, and it was so fun to run through a couple of my old neighborhoods. I am crossing my fingers and toes that this race happens again this year!!

NYC Marathon: I’m 1000000% biased on this one because NYC was my first full marathon, but oh my goodness is this one magical race experience! The crowds are wildly supportive and it’s so incredibly cool to run through every borough of NYC. I experienced pretty much every emotion in the book during this race and honestly don’t know if I would run it again (it’s expensive and kind of a logistical nightmare) but I think every runner should have this one on their bucket list. Once in a lifetime for sure.

Ragnar Cape Cod: First of all, a HUGE thank you to my amazing friend Megan for making this happen. She got a group of our coworkers and friends together for this insane, sweaty, exhausting 200 mile relay down the entire length of the Cape. I don’t know that I ever would have thought to do a Ragnar on my own but it was such a fun experience, mostly due to getting to run with an amazing group of ladies. You can read more in my recap, but suffice it to say that if you ever have a chance to do a Ragnar, say YES.

What are your favorite race memories? Got any tips on races I need to add to my bucket list?

Linking up with  Lacey, Meranda, and Rachel for the Friday Five 2.0.

New Bedford Half Race Recap + Week 7

Hello hello! I’m lounging at home celebrating a very successful tune-up half marathon today–and my second to last race before Sugarloaf. I signed up for this half back in December after hearing great things about it. It checks all my boxes: semi-local, sizable but not too big, and some hills but nothing crazy. All week the weather reports said it was going to be snowing, so I was excited to see the report change to no snow… but 38 degrees with wind gusts up to 40 MPH… ugh.

Despite the conditions, I really loved this race and would totally do it again! J and I drove down at a very reasonable hour since this race starts at 11 am (amazing). Packet pickup was quick and easy, parking was free and also super smooth, and I was running a warmup by 10:40. Coach Laura and I had discussed a conservative race strategy for me to hit a solid sub-1:40 time–not necessarily a PR, but a fitness check just about 8 weeks out from my goal race. I easily slotted myself in just in front of the 8 min/mile corral and took off into a doozie of a headwind, holding the pace back to tick off some comfortable miles in the 7:35-7:45 range for miles 1-4. This worked out perfectly since the the first few miles of this course are quite hilly.

By mile 5 I was feeling really strong, and I kicked it up to a 7:20 pace–definitely bolstered after seeing J cheering like a maniac at the mile marker. The crowd had thinned out a bit and the wind had mercifully died down, so miles 5-9 felt pretty breezy at a 7:20 pace. Just as I was letting the glimmer of PR hope sneak into my mind, BAM! We hit the portion of the race along the water and the wind picked up like crazy–almost to this level, no joke. I threw my gloves back on, gritted my teeth (literally, the wind was blowing a bunch of sand and dirt into our eyes and mouths), and pushed my way through miles 10 and 11, hitting my slowest mile of the race (8:04). While the headwinds gusted for the remainder of the race, we turned off the water and they were a little bit less intense. I picked it back up and almost managed to negative split the last three miles, other than a little slowdown due to the sizable hill at mile 12 (YUP). I hit the last .1 at 5:50 pace and finished in 1:39:11, well below my goal of 1:40 and my second-fastest half to date! I finished feeling really strong–my legs actually had some juice left in them, but I was done having my breath knocked out of me by the wind. J and I grabbed some much-needed coffee and lunch at one of my old haunts–I used to work in the area and it was super fun to be back. Overall, this was a fun, competitive, and well-executed race. Highly recommend!

Backing up a bit, this week was a bit of a cutback week so I could do a mini-taper for the race. We had a fairly dramatic snow/ice storm on Tuesday, so it was perfect timing to be holding back a bit. I did a treadmill class Tuesday morning instead of running outside, and luckily by Thursday and Friday it was doable to get back out on the roads. Spring, I will say–I am so, SO ready for you. Feel free to come any time you want!!

Week 7: 35.3 total miles

  • Monday: 6.6 easy + strides
  • Tuesday: 5 miles with hills and intervals at HHRC
  • Wednesday: 60 minute yoga class + strength circuit
  • Thursday: 5 easy
  • Friday: 5.4 easy
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Race! 13.1!

Linking up with The Weekly Wrap (hosted by Hoho Runs and Miss Sippipiddlin) and with Eat Pray Run DC for her training recap linkup. Also, joining the Jess’s (Jess Runs ATL and The Right Fits) for their weekly recap linkup!

Cambridge Half Marathon Race Recap and BIG NEWS!

NRC Gals: before!

Hey all! I’ve been off the grid a little bit recently trying to clear my head after last week’s election debacle. After a few good cries watching this and some time to grieve, I think it’s really healthy for all of us to move up and out of the negativity and treat ourselves to some TLC, which for me meant pushing forward full steam ahead into this weekend’s half marathon. I had been going back and forth about my plans and goals for this race–part of me wanted to just run to enjoy it and not worry about pace at all, and part of me knew that I had a PR in me and that I owed it to myself to give it my all. Spoiler alert–my competitive side definitely won out and I ended up PRing by more than 3 minutes!

While this was the first-ever running of the Cambridge Half Marathon, the race organizers are true pros and have organized a series of popular 5ks in the area. I picked up my bib and shirt on Saturday at the Cambridgeside Galleria, and the despite a decent line the process was really smooth. Sunday morning I woke up at 6, ate my new favorite race day oatmeal from Run Fast Eat Slow, and then Jeremy gave me a lift over to the mall for the race start. 14991305_10155391215334256_1337456909081040667_oProbably the weirdest part of this race was the fact that all of the race-related events (including the after party) took place in the parking garage of the mall–but it actually was totally fine. I dropped my bag at the bag check, waited in the porto lines (long but nothing unexpected), and then happily happened to run into the track gals as I tucked into the 8 minute mile corral.

The start was a little bit chaotic since all 6,000 runners went off at once, but it pretty quickly evened itself out and I didn’t have to do too much bobbing and weaving to get into a comfortable part of the pack. Local Boston-area races like this one tend to attract a fast crowd, and this was no exception. The course was really lovely–some small rolling hills but mostly flat, and on a mix of roads and scenic paved paths.img_0903 There were a few crowded moments along the way, but again, nothing that really slowed me down. I used to live in Cambridge and it was a blast to run through some of my old haunts! The weather was absolutely perfect too–in the upper 40s at the start to lower 50s by the end. I spent the first few miles feeling things out and found myself feeling decently comfortable running 7:25-7:30s. I didn’t let myself get too excited, but I picked it up a bit and squeaked out two 7:14s during miles 6 and 7. The next few miles were a bit slower, but I started doing the math in my head and decided to negative split the last three miles to solidify my PR. I really kept my mental game on point for this race, using the mantra “fast and relaxed” and envisioning myself digging deep into the well to finish strong. At mile 11 I ran by Bry, who was volunteering, and yelled out “I’m going to PR!” Power of positivity, right??img_0899

The last three miles the crowd had thinned considerably–most of the runners I had been pacing with had dropped back, and I was mostly in a group of buff-looking dudes. So of course I channeled my inner nasty woman and gunned it, running my last mile at a 6:55 and sprinting it into the finish at a 6:11 pace. My official finish time was 1:36:55, which was certainly a new PR over the Hyannis Half which I ran in 1:40:27 back in February! I am beyond elated–this is something I’ve worked so hard for and it definitely felt like a little bit of redemption after Chicago. We celebrated with some cider and photos at the after party, and then J and I headed to a well-deserved brunch 🙂

A quick word about the gals in that picture above–I am beyond grateful to have found some awesome, welcoming running friends. Finding a crew that’s right for you isn’t easy, and the NRC track ladies have been amazing. More to come on this topic, which deserves its own post, but if you haven’t found the right running crew yet don’t give up! They are out there for you!

Last but not least–my BIG NEWS: as you might have noticed, the ole blog has a new name and a fresh new look! Shorter and Faster actually came up when we were running 200s at the end of a hard track workout–I immediately decided I wanted that on a t-shirt. Even better? On a blog! So welcome to the brand new Shorter and Faster… stay tuned for all of the adventures still to come!

Linking up with The Weekly Wrap and Tuesdays on the run!

Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon Recap

Greetings from the great state of Maine! I’m back in action to recap the Old Port Half Marathon I ran in Portland, ME last weekend. First of all, apologies are in order. I 100% lied about taking this race nice and easy and not gunning for a PR, and I blame it on the weather. For spectators, it was an awful day–rainy and chilly and in the low 60s. But for us runners, this was fantastic! Just enough rain to cool us off without being too chilly.

IMG_9552We arrived Friday to pick up our bibs at the expo, which wasn’t much to speak of but it was a good chance to get a sense of where the starting line was. After a delicious dinner at the original Otto Pizza (zomg the best gluten free pizza–check out this baby with pear, blue cheese, and arugula), we convened to cheer on my buddy Bry’s cousin Travis, who was running in the finals for the men’s steeplechase at the Olympic trials. It was super fun to watch him run and get ourselves psyched up for our race! Bry and I ran the half with her dad, while her sister ran the 5k. Plus boyfriend spectators, we had a nice crew and it was a great pre-race evening.IMG_9553

After calling it a night and heading back to our AirBnB, we got up just before 6 the next morning to head down to the waterfront for a 7am race start. Other than a long bag check line (as per usual), the logistics were really seamless–we were able to zip right into the portopotties (no lines!) and slot ourselves into our corrals. I lined up in between the 1:40 and 1:50 signs, and we were off! The first few miles were easy warmups, and then we hit the hills. Miles 2-4 and 6-7 of this race are really hilly, so I kept my effort at a medium level, although I noticed that without working too hard I was averaging well under my 8-minute goal pace.

race_1770_photo_39029397Given the amazing conditions and the fact that I was feeling strong, I figured I might as well shoot for the moon and give a PR a whirl, especially as the showers picked up and despite the hard effort I wasn’t hot or sweaty. I picked a couple of strong-looking folks to pace behind and held onto decent paces–and then started doing math in my head which led to me believe that a couple of fast final miles would lead me to PR. I dug deep and ran a 7:09 and a 7:03 for miles 12 and 13. Screen Shot 2016-07-16 at 3.34.26 PMDespite my watch saying differently, I clocked an official time of 1:40:29–two seconds slower than my PR, 12th in my age group and 45th woman overall. Not PR-ing was a little bit of a letdown, but this race felt relatively easy and I’m pleased to see that I was able to hold onto my time without my brother there as a pacer, like he was at the Hyannis Half Marathon.

After the race, we celebrated with coffee, lots of donuts (from the Holy Donut–the BEST both gluten free and regular donuts) and some extra gf treats from Bam Bam Bakery. All told it was a lovely race in a super fun city–despite the hills and rain! And a fantastic way both to make my official race debut as a member of the Heartbreakers and to celebrate Bry’s big birthday.

Onwards and upwards to more marathon training fun. Sub-1:40 half marathon, this fall you are MINE!

Linking up with PattyErika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the run.

Hyannis Half Marathon 2016 Recap

Happy Monday! I’m resting up after a great race day at this year’s Hyannis Half Marathon. I signed up for the race on a whim after last year’s was canceled due to the apocalyptic snow, and I couldn’t be happier that I did. The conditions were perfect–sunny and in the mid-40s with the only downside being some strong wind off the ocean.

J and I drove down the night before the race and treated ourselves to a hotel room–nothing like a solid night’s sleep before a race in a cozy king-size bed! IMG_8410The race doesn’t start til 10 (hurrah for winter running), so I got to sleep in and chow down on my favorite pre-run bread with peanut butter and banana before we scooted out the door around 9am. We took a quick swing by Marylou’s (seriously the yummiest flavored coffees) and then were at the Cape Code Resort and Conference Center a few minutes later. The parking lots were full but all convenient to the start, and the registration area was also packed but decently easy to navigate. There’s no bag check, just like at the Harwich Half, so luckily J was able to grab my last minute layers as I headed out to the race.IMG_8411

My brother A, who running Boston this year after re-qualifying at last year’s race, decided to come down and use the race as his long training run and offered to pace me. I was hoping to PR so he and I decided we would aim for a 1:40 finish as a reach goal, while I assumed I would drop back and aim for a 1:45. After squeezing our way into the 8:00 minute corral, we were off! The course runs along shared/open roads, but there were plenty of volunteers to keep things running smoothly. Especially considering the half, full, relay, and 10k all share the the same course, this was super impressive!

A took this picture so that I could see what the start looked like. #shortpeopleproblems
A took this picture so that I could see what the start looked like. #shortpeopleproblems

I didn’t take any photos while I was running since we were maximizing time and pace, but there were some gorgeous views of the ocean and pretty rolling hills throughout the local neighborhoods.

Thanks to A’s expert pacing and patient encouragement, we kicked things off with a few 7:30 miles and were able to keep that pace up pretty much throughout the race, with a few slightly slower miles in the middle when the wind was really strong. It was definitely a challenging pace for me to maintain, but I think the speedwork I’ve done over the past few months really paid off. IMG_8421

Despite having to drag myself mentally through the last few miles, I really feel like I left it all out there and was thrilled to hit a new PR of 1:40:27, which brought me in 36th in my division! It’s nuts to me to think that just a few years back I ran my first half in 2:15. Guess race number 8 (my lucky number) did the trick!

IMG_8430After the race we grabbed some snacks and drinks (there was a nice selection bananas were the only GF edible option) and then returned to the hotel for hot showers before lunch. I’ve never gotten a hotel room for a race before and it felt super duper luxurious–despite the fact that it didn’t have the hot tub I was hoping for. Ah, well. After a quick stop by Palio Pizzeria in Hyannis (highly recommend for gluten eaters and non-gluten eaters) we were back in the car for the easy drive back home.

My favorite spectator :)
My favorite spectator 🙂

Overall, this was a great race experience and the conditions could not have been better–judging from my Facebook feed, there were PRs happening for lots of my running friends. Can’t wait to be back on the Cape soon for my first Ragnar in May!

Now, off to spend some quality time with my foam roller…


On music and exercise

A huge part of my healthy gluten free lifestyle is keeping myself fit and happy from the inside out and from the outside in. For me, this means exercising 5-6 days a week. If you asked me six years ago if exercise was an important part of my life, I probably would have laughed in your face. I was hitting the gym once or twice a week, where I’d cruise on the elliptical or struggle through a pilates class. And I’d follow that class up with a couple of gluten-full beers and a plate of pasta from the dining hall. No wonder I wasn’t feeling great! Today, I’ve run six half marathons and I get cranky if I don’t get to the yoga studio 2-3 times a week. I feel amazing, and as a bonus, I finally lost that lingering college weight!

Side plank by the lake! #yogaeverywhere
Side plank by the lake! #yogaeverywhere

Part of what helped me make exercise a real part of my life was canceling my gym membership. I’m not anti-gym, but I am anti-exercise-that-isn’t-fun-and-doesn’t-make-you-happy. (I’m also anti anyone who is anti trying new things, so please don’t tell me you “can’t run” or “can’t do yoga” if you haven’t given it a fair chance.)


Personally, I plain old didn’t like going to the gym. I do enjoy yoga, and as it turns out, I really really like being outside. Whether I’m hiking, walking, running, x-c skiing, or downhill skiing, give me someone to chitchat with and some fresh New England air and I’m a happy camper.

On top of the world
On top of the world

As easy and breezy as that sounds now, it has taken me a while to get to this point–and I’m not ashamed to say that music is one of my biggest motivators. I love popping in my headphones and cruising down the Charles River bike path with my Spotify playlists blasting. I also learned to love yoga to the beats of Erica and Caitlyn’s fabulous hip hop yoga yoga classes at Back Bay Yoga. Nothing distracts you from the sweat dripping down your face 65 minutes into a killer vinyasa class like Jay Z,  #amiright?

Something funny happened recently, though–I started to find the music distracting. And not in that fabulous, makes-the-time-fly-by kind of way, but in the irritating, I-can’t-find-my-rhythm kind of way. Both during my yoga practice and my runs, I’m starting to work on dropping into the groove and listening to my body and breath instead of the music. It’s a funny mindset switch for me. I LIKE listening to music while I work out–I know lots of hardcore runners and yogis who are morally opposed, and I have no such problem. But I also like that I’m at a place where I’m not using the music as a crutch. Also, I’m hoping this will help me pace my runs a little bit better and work on running not just farther, but faster. Maybe even a full marathon someday. I still let loose with the occasional hip hop yoga class, and I’ll likely plug in for my longer runs, but in the meantime I’m going to work on listening to my body, my breath, and the sounds of my favorite city. I’m pretty excited about it.

Crossing the finish line of my first half marathon without headphones!
Crossing the finish line of my first half marathon without headphones!

Do you run with headphones in? What kind of music gets you through your toughest workouts? What’s your stance–is music a crutch, a necessity, or a nice added bonus?

6 things that will happen when you run your first half marathon

Greetings from the couch, where I’m resting up from my sixth half marathon. I ran the Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half this morning–congrats to any other runners for completing a tough and sweaty race!

Running is a funny thing. Most (all?) runners have a love/hate relationship with the sport–myself very much included. I forced my way through plenty of treadmill slogs in college with the vague goal of “getting in shape” and hated every second of it. Something flipped for me a few years ago, though, and I actually started enjoying running. The fresh air and sunshine, the endorphin high, the increased endurance and overall fitness–I was hooked. Pretty soon, I had a couple of short races under my belt and I was ready to take the plunge and sign up for my first half marathon.

My first Boston Athletic Association half marathon--still smiling at mile 7!
My first Boston Athletic Association half marathon–still smiling at mile 7!

For all you running newbies (and veterans), here is my very unscientific list top six list of things that might happen to you while you’re training for your first half.

1. Spit, sweat, and snot: Let’s get the gross stuff out of the way right at the beginning. Running is a gnarly sport. Moving your body pretty quickly, especially in the extreme heat and cold, will lead to spitting, sweating, and nose blowing galore. Just be prepared for this and make sure you look behind you before you hawk a loogie. Welcome to the glamorous world of running!

Spitting like a lady, always.

Source: Buzzfeed

2. Second (and last, I promise) gross one: chafing, blisters, and missing toenails. This stuff just happens when you engage in repetitive, pounding motion for a couple of hours at a stretch. The bright side here is that once you get the right gear and especially the right sneakers, you’ll be able to mostly avoid these problems. Be sure to buy your sneakers at least a half a size larger than you normally would to avoid ugly black and blue toenails and even uglier toes sans toenails. Also, invest in proper running clothing (no cotton) and bodyglide.

3. Money, honey: Running is awesome because it’s free, right? Strap on your sneaks and hit the open road! Or… not. Start factoring in race registration fees, running shoes, insoles, techwick shirts/shorts, high viz/awesome neon layers, compression gear, fancy bras (well-endowed ladies, you feel me), foam rollers, fuel belts, GPS watches, running apps, etc. and you’re going to be out a pretty penny. Keep an eye out for an upcoming post on my must-have gear for new runners!

4. Unflattering photos: Heads up–there are generally several photographers stationed along racecourses who will be snapping pictures of you as you run. If you happen to get a flattering photo like this guy, it’s an awesome souvenir. But most of these photos are horribly unflattering and may make you look like you are about to pass out on the pavement even though you were actually feeling awesome. My advice is to be prepared! Keep an eye out for photographers, and when you see them, stand up straight, smile (if you can), and even flash em a quick thumbs up or fist pump.

Left side: typical race photo. Right side: lookin' like a runner!
Left side: typical race photo. Right side: lookin’ like a runner!

5. Eating all of the things: Running is serious business cardio, and with cardio comes a monster appetite. I’m pretty much always hungry all of the time anyway, but even more so when I’m training for a half. Keep this in mind and plan accordingly. I tend to get ravenous about 45 minutes after I finish a run, so I have a meal ready to roll by then. Also, I won’t eat less than an hour before I run (cramps are the pits) but if you can, try to eat something with carbs and protein (like toast and peanut butter) at least an hour before a long run to fuel up. Click here for much more in-depth advice from the pros.

Gluten free post-race crepe at Paris Creperie in Brookline
Gluten free post-race crepe at Paris Creperie in Brookline

6. You’re going to want to do it again: My biggest and most important tip is this–you might actually learn to love running. It’s possible you’ll want to keep on doing it, and maybe even doing more of it. You may find that running clears your mind and makes you feel powerful and strong and free. You might lose a few pounds and gain a few friends. You might be counting down the days until your next race 🙂

All smiles at the Disney Princess Half Marathon
All smiles at the Disney Princess Half Marathon

I want to hear from you: do you have a love/hate relationship with running? What surprised you most when you first started running? Any other tips for first time half marathoners?

Happy running!