Things I’m Loving

In honor of Valentine’s Day this past week (and more specifically, in honor of the leftover candy I’m sitting here eating), I thought I would take the opportunity to talk about some things I’m loving lately. Definitely taking full advantage of this sugar high to try and kick start a return to writing regularly! So, with that said…

1. SCUBA DIVING. I believe I’ve mentioned once or twice (or three times? Or maybe four? Etc…) how much I love swimming and how I firmly consider myself a water person. I’ve been a swimmer for as long as I can remember, but, weirdly, I’ve never tried scuba diving. I’m not sure if that was ever a conscious decision or if I just never got around to it, but as much as I love being in the water, I’ve only ever really spent time on the surface. For the most part, I have been fine with that, although largely thanks to following the artist Jason deCaires Taylor, I’ve become increasingly interested in diving over the past few years. Finally, in January, I decided to go for it, and signed up for the PADI eLearning course and the five initial contained dives through a local dive shop. The next day I had my shiny new flippers, mask, and snorkel in hand and was throwing myself into the first online lesson. I went full-on Hermione and devoured the online course, and on Day 1 of the pool dives, I took my first breath from the regulator (on land, even) and was instantly in love. I finished the pool dives and just need to do my four ocean dives to complete the PADI open water certification (allowing me to dive with a buddy to depths of up to 18 meters). The ocean dives can be completed locally or at a different site through a referral, which brings me to the next thing I’m currently loving…

2. TRAVEL PLANNING. January was a big month for me. While I was still just playing around with the idea of trying scuba, I was also talking with a friend about his plans to spend the spring in Indonesia. “If you’re looking for a travel buddy…” I told him, with exactly zero subtlety or chill. Luckily, this particular friend knows that I don’t offer to come unless I actually mean it. So approximately 24 hours after that first conversation, and after I had confirmed which island in Indonesia I should be flying into, I had my tickets to Bali booked and was researching dive shops “just in case” I decided to sign up for diving and needed a place to do my final dives.

 

RemoteRhode_Bali snip

But for real

 

 

Now, about two weeks out, I’m still reading everything I can about the location, the history, the current events, and best places to eat…anything I can find (and I’ve identified my top two dive shop options). When I travel I want to know as much as I can about everything to do with my destination, and with Indonesia being in a brand-new part of the world for me, I’m loving every second of pre-trip reading. As much as I love solo travel, it also helps to have a friend going. There’s so much more time for fun reading, when I know my accommodation is already being handled. On a related subject…

3. FRIENDS. It wouldn’t be a Valentine’s Day (ish) post without getting a little bit mushy. I love my friends. This isn’t surprising or in any way new information to me, but recently it has truly hit me how many amazing people I have in my life. In the past month I have been lucky enough to celebrate birthdays, engagements, and new babies; I have had dinner, coffee, and gym dates; I have gone to late night concerts and early morning ski trips.

 

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SurfSet NYC with Aheli Wanders

 

I am so grateful that I have people who will help me book spontaneous trips to the other side of the world and who will offer to meet me at the airport when I get there. I am floored by the fact that while my upcoming trip involves only one such friend, I have multiple other people who would do the exact same thing if I happened to be in their part of the world. I am eternally grateful for the people, both local and afar, who know me as well as I know myself and for all the advice, support, and encouragement they offer me, and I only hope I am able to return the favor! I am amazed by this little global community I’ve managed to build for myself and while I hate that I can’t have all my people here with me all the time, I love knowing that they are out there, and it is beyond nice to confidently know that whenever I manage to see them next it will be like no time at all has passed.

4. MOVING. I feel like the past few months I have been almost constantly in motion – swimming, running, spinning, skiing, yoga, surfset – you name it, I’m happy to throw it into the mix. It started with a SwimTrek trip to Oman back in December. SwimTrek is basically my ideal lifestyle – this trip in particular consisted of daily boat rides on a traditional dhow into spectacular fjord-like sounds, 4k wild swimming in the morning, lunch on the dhow, 2k swimming in the afternoon, a boat ride back to the hotel, and fantastic nightly dinners. Waking up to Those Views, and spending the days in, on, and around the water was a dream, and the sense of accomplishment of finishing 6k daily was heady and addictive.

 

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Oman!

 

Back in the frigid New England winter, I couldn’t quite replicate the SwimTrek experience, but the need to spend my days moving and the bliss of collapsing into bed at the end of the day tired and aching in the best possible way haven’t gone away. Now, I know this isn’t necessarily sustainable and I know I have a tendency to go until I absolutely crash. I am also very aware that the yardage/mileage/whatever I’m putting in isn’t all the best quality; “junk miles” would apply to a lot of what I’m doing and there are definitely days I know I need to hold back because I haven’t fully recovered from the previous day. That said, I found 2017 really difficult – personally, politically, globally – and I spent a lot of time feeling stalled, stuck, or like I was working so unbelievably hard to break even and stay exactly where I was. 2018 has brought some relief, along with plenty of new worldwide heartbreak, but on a personal level I feel like I’ve been catapulted forward, and I am loving the sense of being in constant forward motion. My plan right now is to enjoy this until vacation and then use Indonesia to possibly re-set a bit so I’m not burning myself out. But for now? Onward!

5. WRITING. I haven’t written in a while. This is definitely a pattern with me – as always, life happened, I got busy…etc. Writing has always helped me organize my thoughts, but there were times last year when I just didn’t know where to begin, and so I kept falling further and further behind. However, in the later part of the year I managed to organize some trips to some places I was really excited about (England! Oman!) and it has been bothering me that I never managed to write them up or transfer the daily notes I took (seriously) into something more coherent than my frantic, handwritten stream of consciousness thoughts. So, I’m hoping to remedy that soon! With so many good memories I want to commit to a more permanent record, and so many exciting things coming up I know I won’t want to forget, this seems like the perfect time to try and get back into writing, and to try and commit to writing more regularly. It is truly something I love, and that definitely makes it worth effort.

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Eastern States 20 Miler

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I haven’t run a marathon since October 2014, meaning I haven’t run 20 consecutive miles since then either. Mostly I’ve been fine with this, if not decision, state of things, and yet the last weekend in March I found myself on the start line of the Eastern States 20 miler and, spoiler, 2:53:03 later, I found myself at the finish.

The Eastern States 20 milers is the well-known (apparently) and much loved race/last long run before Boston that starts in Kittery, ME and ends in Salisbury, MA, traveling south via the coast of NH including towns like Portsmouth, Rye, and Hampton. Until this year, it wasn’t on my radar, but a friend signed up to run it as part of her marathon training and convinced me to run it as well. I am not training for a marathon, nor have I been training for anything in particular, but something about running through three states appealed to me and so I signed up.

The race is low key but well run, with shuttles to the start and aid stations approximately every three miles. The hardest part of planning for me was deciding what to wear since 1. It is “Spring” in New England and 2. A lot can change along a 20 mile point-to-point course along the coast. In the end, I wore long tights, a tank top, a light long sleeve top, a buff neck warmer, a fleece headband, and gloves with hand warmers. I was definitely grossly overdressed for the start, where it was sunny and not overly windy, and I got rid of the gloves/handwarmers around mile 7, but by the end, when it became exceedingly cloudy and grey, I was grateful for the few extra layers I still had.

The race itself is gorgeous, and it was hard not to smile coming around a corner and seeing the ocean and the sun shining. As for me, this race was great in a lot of ways, and…less than great in others. Like I said, I haven’t run consecutive 20 miles since 2014, so I’m a little out of practice with the planning and the pacing. I’ve also been running less (but faster) throughout the week than I was for my last marathon training cycle. My long runs leading up to this looked something like: 8, 10, 13, 0 (skiing), 15, 17, 9 (taper), RACE. It was a fairly quick training cycle with the only goal being “finish without dying”. With that said:

Miles 1 to 10: GLORIOUS. I started out a little too aggressively (which I paid for in the second half), but I was running between 8 and 8:30/mile. I fell into pace with a few other women and felt challenged, but happy running with them. I took a Honey Stinger gel at Mile 7 and felt good.

Miles 10 through 13: I slowed down a bit to closer more consistent 8:30 miles. I was starting to feel a little tired, but felt like I could keep going at that pace for a while. Not exactly ideal for negative splitting, but fine for getting back on the road.

Mile 14: Things started falling apart. All of a sudden my right ankle started hurting and my ankle never hurts. I panicked a little bit and realized that the road had a pretty significant slant to it for water run-off, which makes sense for a coast road, but isnt something Im used to running on, and certainly not for long distances or at that pace. I slowed down to around 9:00/mile. Ultimately, I didnt want to finish the race injured, so I was disappointed to have to slow down, but wanted to minimize pain. The roads weren’t closed to traffic so running closer to the center where it was more level wasn’t really an option. I took another Honey Stinger gel as much to distract myself as for fuel.

Miles 15 through 18: Despite trying to be sensible and pulling back, I think I must have been adjusting my stride to favor my ankle, because my knee started to hurt, which completely threw me off mentally. I stopped and stretched, and slowed down even more. I started making deals with myself about conditions under which I could just stop and DNF and during one particularly dark and not at all overdramatic moment I may or may not have thought “I’m a swimmer – a water person! I’m not BUILT for land! What am I doing here?!” So yeah, things were going well.

Miles 19 and 20: Luckily the road had leveled off a bit and we got to run along the waterfront boardwalk. My knee wasn’t getting better, but it wasn’t getting worse, so I tried to pick things up again (mixed results). In order to hit the MA border, the race actually goes to about 20.2 (per the course map). I knew this going in. I expected this. I was sort of ready for this. What I didn’t realize was that the finish line was around a corner, so I started to panic a little bit when I hit the 20 mile mark and couldn’t see the finish line anywhere. Still, I picked up my pace a little bit more because I knew it had to be somewhere nearby. Finally I saw the turn and hauled it towards the finish. My last little .2 was back under 8:30, I crossed the line, grabbed a medal, and in a previous break from previous race tradition did NOT immediately start dry heaving. Small victories!

My legs immediately cramped up, but I managed to hobble to the shuttles back to the parking lot. I got to the after party, chugged a cup of soup (turkey noodle!) from the soup buffet (seriously). I was still really cold at that point so I dragged my sorry butt the three blocks back to my car, cranked the heat, and started the trip back home.

Overall, the race is great and I can see why people keep coming back, both to race and for Boston training. The volunteers are fantastic, the view is gorgeous, and even though there aren’t a ton of spectators, the energy is great on course. There were a few groups of people who drove the full course and stopped to cheer at several locations. Even though they weren’t specifically MY people, it was nice to see familiar faces and enthusiastic cow-belling, and I couldn’t help but smile every time I saw them. So THANK YOU whoever you were!

As for my race, those last five miles may have been miserable, but they were important in that I’m considering a fall marathon and I came away with a long list of things to remember next time I’m seriously training/racing:

  • I need the full training cycle. I survived on the minimum for this, but do not want the end of my next marathon to feel like this.
  • I need to run longer during the week. I’ve been doing mostly shorter runs (~4 miles) during the week, whereas for my last marathon I was running 7 and 9 miles during my mid week runs. My short runs are faster than they were last cycle, but I can’t sustain those paces as long. So next cycle I need to get that mid-week distance back.
  • I can’t really help the road conditions on the course, but I should try to train on some different terrains to try and minimize negative impact if/when the road tilts unexpectedly.
  • I need to get back outside for more of my runs (difficult, but not impossble for New England winter) in order to remember the layers I need. I’m good at freezing and hot but in between really threw me off.
  • Mental game needs work. When I started to fall apart, I really fell apart. And I probably shouldn’t be running away to the ocean mid-race.

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Complacency, Caution, and Confidence: An ongoing attitude adjustment

I was looking over my race recaps (putting together my brand new races page) and I realized that they all follow the same basic pattern. By the end of the post I’m satisfied (Hyannis), happy (St. Pat’s), or even elated (NYC!), but at the start they are full of doubt: “I wasn’t sure what to expect,” “I wasn’t exactly sure what my ‘strategy’ was going to be…I was at a total loss,” “I was in a weird place.” Wow. I know I joke about being a little bit clueless, but this is a bit much.

SO. In honor of my recent and ongoing runner’s high, I’m officially proclaiming an attitude adjustment and cutting back on the bullshit.

This is less about the obscene amount of food on my plate, and more about adopting the Happy Buddha Zen of my shirt.

This is less about the obscene amount of food on my plate, and more about adopting the Happy Buddha Zen of my shirt. (Photo courtesy of 8)

I know that relatively, I’m still pretty new to running, especially the longer distances. However, I’ve been doing it long enough, and have access to enough different resources, that I shouldn’t be totally unsure going into a race. Yes, I know that there will always be a level of uncertainty about racing; The weather, course conditions, and fellow runners are only three of the many external variables. And there are just as many, if not more, internal, personal variables that can change the outcome of a big race. But still, at the very least, I should be able to have an idea of my capabilities, assuming decent conditions.

I shouldn’t be surprised that I can hold sub-8 minute miles. I shouldn’t spend an average of two days pre-race panicking and stressing myself out, as well as stressing out the people around me. I was talking to a friend after NYC and he mentioned that he saw so many people strung out before the race started. I was shocked that those people could be so absorbed in their negative concerns that they were missing out on enjoying this great thing they were a part of. Then I realized that I WAS one of those people. Well, shit.

A big part of this is that I think I am still learning, and I’m sure I’ll be learning for many more years to come. I’m still figuring out how to best arrange my race schedule, how to balance recovery with improvement, how to pace myself, etc. Obviously, that, paired with the race day variables, will lead to me not knowing what to expect. But, my attitude adjustment comes in not making that my focus.

The other Buddha in my life. He found me in '08 and reminds me to check in with the Universe from time to time.

The other Buddha in my life. He found me in ’08 and reminds me to check in with the Universe from time to time.

I was talking to another friend and I said that 2013 seems like a good year to go big, to stretch myself, to try and achieve something crazy and maybe even a little bit impossible. In order to do this, I need to not care that I don’t know exactly how my race will play out. I need to just know that I’ve put in the training and that I can go beyond my “comfort” zone. I need to set big goals – not goals that I’m pretty sure I can achieve, but ones that will actually make me work for them.

I need to get over myself when it comes to hills, speedwork, and courses that don’t fit my ideal. Who cares if I keep PR-ing if I only register for flat courses that don’t include loops or out-and-backs?

I know this is all over the place, and maybe doesn’t make a lot of sense. But my point is that I want to work my butt off doing this thing I love, so that I’m more confident on the starting line. And if I’m “not sure what to expect” on race day, I want it to be because I’m pursuing something big, a reach goal. And even when that uncertainty is there, I don’t want it to be doubtful uncertainty; I want it to be able to embrace it as thrilling, exhilarating uncertainty. I want to start my race recaps saying that I went for it, with whether or not I got it being relatively irrelevant. Essentially, I want to combine the approach I took to running when I first started (13k with no training? No big deal. First half a week after my first triathlon? Whatever.) with the ability I’ve gained over the years.

I know, I know. I want a lot of things. But I think this is something worth pursuing. Not unlike that BQ I want to chase down. Bring it on, World. This year, I’m ready.

Boom. Attitude adjusted. And on the internet, for accountability. I’m going for it.

So totally in love with the Universe. No room for negativity here.

So totally in love with the Universe. No room for negativity here.