Tag Archives: Pacers

A red and green (and white!) run to end 2009

It’s so easy to stay inside.

I ran through Silver Spring wearing this, causing at least one passerby to say: “What the … “

If not for the promise of costumes at Pacers Silver Springs’ “red and green fun run” on Tuesday night, I may have done so.

I would have missed such a beautiful adventure!

We left from the store wearing Santa hats on our heads, jingle bells on our shoes and a variety of other interesting holiday fare in addition to our reflective vests and fleece jackets. We did the uber-hilly 5.1-mile Grubb Road Out-and-Back out-and-back, which I usually run in 41 minutes or less, in 44 minutes — and loved every minute of it. We dodged snow drifts as high as we were, slush piles as deep as our ankles and pedestrians trying to dodge these things themselves.

I giggled through the whole run, and I wasn’t the only one taking the “fun” part of this run seriously. The fastest runner in our group, who usually runs sub-7-minute miles on routes like this, turned around a few times to shepherd the gang along. Steve, who’s usually a good 30 seconds per mile faster than me, stuck with my group, running slowly enough to make sure his Santa hat stayed in place.

Best of all, the route took us past some of the most beautiful holiday scenes around: Rock Creek Park with a thick blanket of snow, the stark trees casting eerie moonshadows across the white. Christmas lights made soft-focus from a veil of snow in the bushes. Christmas trees glowing like beacons in the windows of beautiful, stately homes in the Colonial Village neighborhood. And finally, the Bishop’s House, a home on North Portal Road with more Christmas lights than you’ve ever seen in a single yard (trust me – you don’t know from Christmas lights until you’ve seen this baby).

It left me with a sense of peace I’m hoping to carry through the whole holiday season, not to mention 2010.

*Editor’s note: This will be my last blog post of 2009. I will return with running-specific New Year’s Resolutions, my 2010 race schedule and photos of my awesome, runner-friendly Christmas gifts ((crosses fingers)) in 2010.*


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Can a Santa hat boost running performance?

The darkness of the winter solstice, the looming deadlines and the two feet of snow blanketing Silver Spring all My most important piece of gear for tonight's run.suggest a quick treadmill run might be the safest and most comfortable option for today’s run.

But if I run with my group at Pacers Silver Spring, which is holding its annual “red and green” costume run tonight, I get to wear a Santa hat. Easy choice, right?

We’re running the historic Seminary loop, which is one of my favorite routes, even without the Santa hat. And this may be my last chance to see my running buddies before Steve and I start our holiday travel extravaganza, which will take us from DC to Tampa to Colorado, not to return until 2010.

So in a continuation of Motivation Monday, I will admit that today, I’m motivated by the idea of running in a Santa hat. Really. That’s all. It’s the little things in life, right?


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Kicking myself out the door

I woke up yesterday in a Mood.

A trip to the pool saved my mood yesterday.

You know the kind of Mood I’m talking about — when you don’t feel like working, dread the day’s workout hours beforehand and question the motives behind even your most cherished beliefs and most staid routines. One of those.

The mood lingered even after a morning of work, so it was no surprise that I was almost frantic to avoid the early-lunchtime swim I had planned. I tried my best tips and tricks from my adventures in sports psychology over the summer to no avail. In the end, I all but kicked myself out the door.

Once I got to the pool, I had to force myself to actually jump in the water after spending three or four minutes stretching on the deck. “You’re not going home now,” I told myself. Finally, once I jumped in, I used some of the aforementioned tips to get my mind in the right place. I replaced negative thoughts (coldcoldcoldcoldcold! If I’d done the stationary bike, I’d be done by now!) with a simple refrain: I sang “Three Little Birds” to myself, and swam to that tempo.

I enjoyed a random but challenging workout composed entirely of 400s by repeating the following four times:

400 free with pull buoy
400 backstroke

The last four 400s, I added seven hard strokes to the first 50 of each freestyle set, and sprinting every other 25 of backstroke. The final 400 was an IM.

Are you surprised to hear that I had a great workout, and that the rest of the day was drastically better and more productive after I’d finished it? I’ll try to remember that feeling next time I’m struggling to get out the door.

How do you stop negative workout thoughts in their tracks? It’ll be easy to do so tonight — I’m not so much in the mood to head out into one of the first wintry nights for our Pacers Silver Spring group run tonight, but I’m definitely in the mood for a post-run happy hour at Adega Wine Cellars. Easy motivation!

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Carrot and stick, part deux

I just didn’t feel like running last night.

A burrito bol fueled my run last night.

Steve and I have both been fighting off a weird “maybe it’s a cold, maybe it’s not” throat-scratchiness, and running into the chilly darkness just didn’t seem appealing.

Then, we got an e-mail from our group-run organizer announcing we’d be going to Chipotle after the run. Chipotle changes everything.

We could have skipped the run and gone to Chipotle ourselves, but it wouldn’t have seemed right. So we headed out, more excited for the food than the run.

Of course, we had a great time once we got out there. It was a hilly route, but my pace group held a solid 8:10 pace for the 5.26-mile out-and-back — possibly fueled by the promise of yummy food after (plus, sports nutritionists say you can count on a 10-percent increase in calories burned for each degree of incline. This means running on a 10-percent incline actually doubles your calorie-burn, meaning I more than earned my veggie burrito bol).

This made me wonder why I don’t dangle carrots like these to incentivize workouts more often. My new goal, in line with my new run-happy philosophy, is to promise myself something for every workout. A month ago, I wrote about some running toys I’ve got my eye on. These are fine and good for long-term goals, but I need some rewards for micro-goals: a nice bath, an hour with a book, or some other cheap, sustainable carrot I can dangle in front of my eyes on a daily basis. I can think of lots of food-related rewards, but it would be nice to mix that up a little.

How do you reward yourself for hard workouts?


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Prepping for a long run in the rain

I’ve prided myself in being extremely flexible with my Marine Corps Marathon training so far.

I'm running tomorrow, even if it looks like this when I wake up (but let's hope it doesn't!).

I'm running tomorrow, even if it looks like this when I wake up (but let's hope it doesn't!).

Not only did I start my long-run schedule late to accommodate a flareup of an old hip injury in May, I’ve been tackling long runs on weekday mornings to avoid pulling my husband and friends into the juggernaut that is a marathon-training schedule. Not that my life has been completely unaltered by my training: I’ve lobbied for shorter hikes on backpacking trips, like our jaunt through the Shenandoah last weekend. I’m trying to pull off a superhuman feat of fitting a tune-up half-marathon into my life before the race. And I’m planning to tackle my 20-miler for a Saturday, because I just can’t imagine rebounding from that in a way that leads to a productive work day after.

Everything’s been holding up pretty well. Then, along came this week, with the promise of rain into the weekend.

I’ve been planning my 17-miler for tomorrow morning for a couple weeks, with an off-day built in today, a pizza dinner planned for tonight and a massage booked for Friday to work out the kinks that are inevitable after sandwiching a backpacking trip in between a 15-miler and a 17-miler.

So rain or no rain, I’m going tomorrow morning. My Clif gels are out. My route is planned. My massage is booked, and I plan to earn that appointment.

I know: It’s just RAIN. If it rains on race day, I’m not going to skip the race. And really, I’d rather do a long run through a fall drizzle in D.C. than 90-degree heat in Florida, as I did when I trained for the Nashville Country Music Marathon in 2007.

And you know what? If things get really ugly, I can always do my last five-mile loop on the (gulp) treadmill.

As usual, wish me luck!

In other training news: Steve and I got to run with our Pacers Silver Spring running group for the first time since our month of travel in August. It was one of our old standard courses, a 5.6-mile version of the Alaska out-and back route (make it longer by retracing your steps on your way back) but it’s been so long since we’ve gone with the group, it still felt like a novelty. I ran it in just under 45 minutes, which works out to be about eight-minute miles — not what I expected in the least on my sore calves and quads from backpacking! It made me think of a quote that cracked me up recently: “A run is like a relationship; you don’t know how it’s going to go until you get a little bit into it.”


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Montgomery County’s best running routes

Every time I move to a new place, whether it’s a new neighborhood or a new country, I have a simple routine that

The Mormon Temple serves as the centerpiece of one of my favorite hill routes.

The Mormon Temple serves as the centerpiece of one of my favorite hill routes.

never fails to make me feel like I’m home: I put on my running shoes and go.

That was the case when I moved to Silver Spring, Md., in November, after four years in Florida and a month couch-hopping. Once the boxes were unpacked and the furniture in place, I headed out into the deliciously cool fall weather, intending to hit Rock Creek Park, which we apparently lived right near.

The run was glorious, and I loved exploring my new neighborhood, but I never found a trail to spit me into Rock Creek Park. Same deal the next time, and the time after, and the time after. By the time we started running with our Pacers Silver Spring “fun runs” running group, we asked desperately: How do we get into Rock Creek Park?

The leader of the fun runs, Laura Cloher, drew a map on a piece of scrap paper showing the interesting little zig-zag one has to make to get to the trails. I’ve been in love with the park ever since, and am grateful to Laura for introducing me to one of my best friends in the area (yes, I mean the park. I don’t think the “best friend” bit is a stretch).

That was just about the time I was starting to pitch stories to magazines and newspapers in hopes of making a living as a freelance journalist after six years writing for daily newspapers full-time. I pitched a story about Montgomery County’s best running routes to Bethesda Magazine, whose editor is an avid runner, and I got the thumbs-up. I started talking to the county’s master route-makers, including Laura, to get their favorites.

The final product is the result of a few months of hard work on my part, and of hard play — I ran every one of these routes myself, enjoying the adventures and misadventures inherent to exploring a new place with your running shoes on. The Mormon Temple route especially stumped me the first time (read why here), but the hill loop is now one of my favorites. I also fell in love with the C&O Canal Towpath and the network of trails around it.

Since writing the story, I’ve found even more fabulous routes, such as these through Rock Creek Park.

For a more city-centric run that features a great view of the Capitol dome, try the National Half Marathon route, which I’ve used as a long run with great success.

Just this morning, I enjoyed a 13-miler incorporating about 10 miles on Sligo Creek Trail. The flat, paved trail saved what could have been a really miserable morning, and let me finish in just about two hours. That includes several stops for traffic lights — stops for which I was very, very grateful.

More about that tomorrow. For now, enjoy these routes! Let me know if you try any, and let me know what your favorite run in the Washington area is!


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I guess you *do* use your abs when you run

First, let me apologize for my blog looking all messy-like today. I’m screwing around with some stuff with the goal of moving my personal Web site to WordPress, so my blog and my Web site can live together in perfect harmony one day in the near future. For now — well, bear with me.

Now. Back to the important stuff, like my run with Pacers Silver Spring fun runners last night. We did the Sligo-Ritchie loop, a 4.55-mile route that starts with a few lovely, flat miles on Sligo Creek Trail before it heads up Ritchie Avenue, which is steep enough to feel less like aerobic exercise and more like a set of leg presses.

After barely eking out an 8-minute-mile pace at the Crystal City Twilighter 5K last weekend, I wasn’t about to volunteer myself for the 8-minute-mile group for this hilly sweatfest. I hung back, waiting to declare my usual 8:30-9-ish-let’s-just-see-where-the-run-takes-us pace.

“Oh, c’mon,” said one of my regular running partners, a great pacer who’s training for this crazy marathon in Utah that involves climbing 2,000 feet over 26.2 miles. “You know we’ll end up going 8-minute pace anyway.”

I’m a sucker for an ego boost, and this sounded like one to me, so I bounded out the door behind him, and we headed out for what turned out to be a longer and hillier run than either of us anticipated.

Have I mentioned I can’t find my way out of a paper bag? Heck, I couldn’t find my way out of our building for a good month (to be fair, our building is like a snakepit. So confusing!). You know where this is headed: Rather than heading up the aforementioned killer hill, we chose to visit its cousin, Maple Avenue, in an  extended, 5.76-mile version of the run everyone else did.  Turns out Maple Avenue is quite a quad-burner itself.

When we realized our mistake, we had a few choices: Follow the sketchy directions we received from friendly but uninformed dog-walkers, or go the safe route and backtrack. We chose the latter, and sucked it up on yet another giant hill.

Keep in mind that I’ve recently committed myself to an amped-up version of my usual core routine to get my body ready for the Marine Corps Marathon, which I’m still hoping to run this year. Anyone doubting exactly how much runners rely on our core muscles to move us needs to do a few 5-minute planks on the BOSU, then run a hard hill workout the next day. Every step I took, my abs reminded me that really, they’d already had their workout for the week.

Know what, though? It was an awesome run. We were totally synced pace-wise. Just as I’d start to worry I was slowing us up, my buddy (who, based on the number and age of his children, must be about 50) would apologize for holding us back. Other times, we both seemed to hit our stride simultaneously.

And we kept each other honest, averaging 8:23 minute-miles, which erased all the self-doubt lurking in my mind after my disappointing 5K on Saturday.

Almost all the other runners were back by the time we finished, and many were waiting outside. That didn’t stop me from taking off my technical T-shirt and wringing it out as I described our adventure, sending rivers of sweat down Fenton Street.

My friend Liz, who just qualified for the Boston Marathon last March (at her first marathon ever, I might add), looked at me with a mix of disgust and admiration (a cocktail of emotions only a runner or endurance athlete can appreciate).

“Dude,” she said, “You’re a baller.”

When’s the last time getting lost netted you a compliment like that?

In other news, Michelle at Runnin’ Down A Dream let me do a guest post on her awesome blog! Check it out here. Regular readers of this blog will recognize the mind-games theme; I tried to narrow down the tips that helped me most for a sort of greatest-hits list.


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Hitting the trails again

It seems fitting to start this post from the end of my weekend, when I embarked on the most gorgeous, inspiring and relaxing trail run I think I’ve ever had. What made this run so special? It came at the tail end of a weekend that reminded me that regular time outdoors is integral to my mental and spiritual health — and reminded me why I bother with the less sexy side of running, the core exercises and the treadmills and the cross-training.

Oh — and it was my first trail run since spraining my ankle in Rock Creek Park in December, an injury that came with a few weeks off, a cortisone shot in the affected ankle and a few months of skittishness on the trails as I worried my spazzy free-for-all of a body would injure itself again.

I grew up running on the trails in Hartshorne Woods near my home in New Jersey, and ran in the Flatirons in Boulder, Colo., in college. I’d been off the trails since December, and might have stayed away for longer if not for last weekend’s backpacking trip in Shenandoah National Park, where we camped by a 93-foot waterfall, cannonballed into freezing-cold swimming holes and spent large swaths of time sitting on rocks and staring into cool blue-green haze of the mountains in the distance. It’s the closest the spazzy free-for-all that is my brain comes to standing still, aside from running hard.

We got home Saturday, pleasantly sore but still wanting a workout on Sunday. So we hit the trails in Rock Creek Park. Steve led me on a great trail route our running group does frequently, but that I’ve sat out of until now.

Here’s how I got over the hump: I was careful, watching for rocks and roots with every step, slowing down considerably on the downhills and saving my energy for vigorous uphills. It hadn’t rained in a few days, so the trails were firm yet forgiving. I had one of the best runs I’ve had in weeks, and the five-ish miles flew by as I truly tuned in to everything around me. While it’s nice to let your mind wander while running, there’s something about being aware of every step that snaps your brain into the present.

The run reminded me why I slog through the leg lifts and BOSU exercises that stabilize my core and hip muscles: They keep me healthy and injury-free for adventures like trail runs and backpacking trips. I promised myself to keep up with these, to guarantee many happy trail runs in the future.

I also promised myself to get back into the woods on a regular basis, to remind myself why I bother with everything else: The weight training, the treadmill runs in nasty weather, the indoor swims on days I’d rather be lounging at an outdoor cafe. A prime example: I will swim roughly 3,500 yards indoors today, but on Saturday, I’ll tackle roughly the same distance outdoors in the  2-mile Chris Greene Lake Cable Swim in Charlottesville, Va. I’ll be keeping my mind from jumping ahead to the next set my letting it jump ahead to Saturday instead.


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A spring in my step

When I got dressed for my Thursday-night run with Pacers last night, I realized something big: Gloveless season is here again! For what I’m pretty sure is the first time since moving here in November, it was too warm to wear my nifty Mizuno running gloves. Spring!

My excitement was balanced by the realization that warmer weather means I’m back to being the sweaty mess I was for four straight years running in Florida. Truly, I’m the sweatiest person I know, male or female. If you think you can compete with me on this front, you’re wrong.

But I digress. This is a celebration of spring, and sweaty or not, it’s a lot easier to run when you’re distracted by the pillowy pink and white blooms blanketing the Washington area right now. For those of you in colder climes, I’m including some photos of my block so you can share the pretty, pink love.

I’m also including a photo of the other thing motivating me today: new shoes! And not just any new shoes: free new shoes! Once a month or so, a sales rep from a major shoe company visits our Pacers fun runs, offering the chance for every runner to test-drive a pair of new shoes. At the end of the evening, one pair of shoes is raffled off.

Last night, I test-drove a pair of New Balance 769s on Pacers’ 5.2-mile Alaska route, and fell in love. My orthotics fit into the shoes perfectly (no small feat), and the shoes are just as supportive but more cushiony than my beloved Brooks Adrenalines. If I hadn’t won the shoes, I would have been seriously sad to give them back. As my Pacers buddies, who saw me jumping around like a child who’s been given a free bag of candy upon winning, can attest, this totally made my week.

Happy running, and good luck to everyone who’s running the Cherry Blossom 10-miler!

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On the move

Notice anything different?

It’s not my hair, or my outfit (though I did just get a new pair of Brooks Adrenaline shoes — thanks for noticing). It’s the blog, silly! At the advice of a Webby friend, I have migrated from Blogger to wordpress.com to take advantage of some of the neato layouts, widgets and other features wordpress has to offer. I’ll be working out a few kinks over the next few days, but the switch should make this blog much more readable in the long run.

Speaking of the long run, this is my last week of hard training before THE long run — the half marathon on March 21. So last night, at my Pacers fun run, I went out with a faster pace group than I usually do. I love running with these guys — for the first three miles. They almost always lose me by the fourth mile, though, and that’s what happened last night.

But I still posted a quicker finish for the five-miler than usual, which made me feel pretty fabulous.

Next up: cross-training this afternoon, and then some sort of speed work tomorrow. I’m thinking of doing a hill workout to mix up the 1-mile repeats on the treadmill. Wish me luck!

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