Monthly archives: March, 2016

Thankful Thursday 3/31/2016

The last Thankful Thursday of March….and the last day of March. Tomorrow starts Marathon Month!

Boston flowers

Boston flowers

A view into my life, via some of the many things I’ve been thankful for lately….

  • Starting a fresh pair of running shoes
  • Getting that last long long run done
  • Catching myself before I fell while out on a run – took 5 or 6 flailing steps and attempts (no, there’s no video) – those moments, yikes
  • An outside recovery run
  • XT Monday, reading magazines with my caffeinated tea on the bike
  • Walks before or after dinner
  • Forsythia glowing yellow, backlit by the setting sun
  • A flock of birds darting around the yard, singing, when I get home from work
  • The first bird in the morning, singing on its own to welcome the day until others join
  • I can walk and run, talk, read, hear, smell, swallow, breathe – amazing gifts, not given to all or sometimes taken from people
  • Inspiring people (who happen to be runners) – an article in Trail Runner magazine’s special April issue Inside Dirt re-introduces me to Shannon Farar-Griefer (ultrarunner, creator of Moeben arm sleeves) and introduces me to Kendell Kelton…both women, decades separated in age and life situations, are dealing with their MS in part through running. Reminded me of athletes recently featured in our local RunWashington

Heather Jeff, a runner with MS, finds it helps with her condition and created a documentary with her doctor & fellow athletes called “Living, with MS”.

Jeff quickly went from 5k to the  marathon, though she admits she did that a little too quickly. She has finished six marathons and continually reaps the benefits that running has to offer not just generally, but in managing the symptoms of her MS….The women, Urban, Morse and Jeff, showcase how running and athletics has helped each of them combat their diagnoses, both physically and mentally.

Oiselle‘s Volee team includes sponsors and supports 3 runners with MS including Jeff. This post includes link to trailer for her film and to the other two women’s posts. (if anyone knows if the film is available for download/purchase, let me know) Go Oiselle – and thanks Sally!

  • Timely quotes – read this in my BelieveIAm journal after my Saturday long run….

“Erase from your mind that your preparation must be perfect. Hard work + dedication = a shot at your dreams. Keep believing.” Kara Goucher

What have you been thankful for this week?

Tips for the Taper….

caution - tapering runner

caution – tapering runner

In every marathoner’s (and half marathoner’s) life, there comes the dreaded, feared, hated TAPER. Soon it will be that time for many of us. So, I thought I’d provide some resources, thoughts and tips to help you make the best/most of this critical period.

I hear there are some people who love the taper. I’ve never been one of them. Last race I started using a peaking approach (per Greg McMillan) which worked much better for me. I’m using that approach again this time.  Don’t Taper, Peak! You might also like an e-book Greg put out that covers the last few weeks pre-race: Surviving the Marathon Freak-Out. It’s got tips on the last few weeks of training, peaking, preparing for your race, executing your race, and a bit on mindset.

If you’ve got a taper approach that’s worked for you, I suggest you don’t change it because of something you read here! If your training plan has a taper included in it, it might be best to follow that approach and take any tips here that are different under advisement for use next time. If your taper approach hasn’t worked in the past and you’re looking for info or help, then I hope you find something useful here. Please remember, I’m not a coach or expert, just providing information I found and comments on what I’ve learned.

The taper is a tricky beast. The point of the taper is to give your body time to recover, absorb the last few weeks of training, and be prepared and rested/fresh for a great race day performance. In theory, it also gives you a little bit of a mental break, as training can wear you down.

However, reduced training time also gives you a bit more time and energy to worry, fret, etc. I suggest you use some of that that time for race planning/preparation. That helped me a lot for my last race, and I’m doing it again. I cannot recommend strongly enough that you read Sage Rountree’s Racing Wisely and go through the checklists in the book, some of which are also on her site. I also suggest doing some other mental training – visualizations (including watching course videos if available), reading books like Running Within (one of the few running-specific books in this area) and The Champion’s Mind. Other books I’ve read include Elite Minds, 10 Minute Toughness, and The Triathlete’s Guide to Mental Training (by Dr. Jim Taylor, mentioned in podcast list below) which is co-authored by Terri Schneider who wrote the book I’m reading now Dirty Inspirations.

I’ve gotten real inspiration and learned a lot from the book From Last to First by British Olympic marathon bronze medalist Charlie Spedding – I’ve probably read it four or five times. I also read and re-read articles, memoirs and biographies of favorite marathoners (Joanie, Meb, Deena, Billy, Grete to name a few), triathletes (Chrissie) and other endurance athletes (Rebecca Rusch, some ultrarunners), as well as (for Boston) course descriptions and race history. I find this reading relaxing, inspiring, motivating, and helpful.

Do NOT take on big projects at work or at home – it’s not the time to clean out your garage/closets, work 12 hour days, or otherwise load your system as it tries to prepare for race day.

Be prepared for little niggles to make themselves heard, and for you to be convinced you’ve got some injury/illness. Barring some pre-existing issue, it’s likely your body is just behaving a little differently because of the changes to your mileage/training load and that your mind is messing with you a little due to pre-race jitters. That said, don’t ignore anything that seems unusual, really painful or that is causing you problems. Get it checked out.

This is not the time to decide to throw in extra core work, extra stretching or weight work or that Bikram yoga class someone’s been telling you about. The risk/reward approach during taper is much like that on race day – do nothing new or different.

Get some extra sleep if you can while sticking fairly close to your regular routine. For some of us, the body loves routine and will complain about changes, even ones that should be good.

Carry and use hand sanitizer, and stay away from people with colds or the flu (even if you got your flu shot). Do this all the way through to race day – especially if you have kids or work with kids, and if you’re traveling before or for your race.

Know that your taper mileage may vary – literally and figuratively.  Some runners do better on more rest, some on less, some on big reductions of miles, some on reductions of miles but continued speedwork, etc. What taper approach works for you for any given race is part science and part art – and part luck (or lack thereof). Tapers can be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on your race, your experience level, and other factors specific to your situation.

To quote a really cheesy but true phrase – the hay is in the barn. You’re about as fit and ready as you’re going to be. No workout you can do once you hit taper is going to have enough of a beneficial effect by the time of your race – as it takes time for your body to absorb the training and adapt – to offset the risk of fatigue or injury.  And no single workout that didn’t go well or that you missed during training will, in and of itself, make or break your race.

Easy rule for this period: when in doubt, don’t.


By now, you’ve nailed down or dialed in what your nutrition and hydration strategy for the race will be since you’ve been practicing it on long runs. (right?) But there’s also the question of how to eat during taper. I suggest looking at the taper section of The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition by Matt Fitzgerald for helpful tips. The book is a worthwhile read for your next training cycle (if you haven’t already read it) to understand more about race fueling and for suggested approaches. You may also be able to find him on podcasts talking about this topic.

If friends/family have a good sense of humor and “get” you as a runner, one of those “warning, tapering runner” signs, tshirts or mugs might not be a bad idea.

Here are some resources to help you have a successful peak or taper!


MarathonTalk – they have taper tips (often the same ones) in their Training Talk segments around spring/fall marathon time, here are some

Episode 169 April 3, 2013 – also has Matt Fitzgerald as a guest

Episode 219 March 19, 2014

As your race gets closer, listen to MarathonTalk “race week” tips

Episode 65 April 6, 2011 – bonus of guest Greg McMillan

Episode 220 March 26, 2014

The MT boys even have specifics for race day!

Episode 227 May 14, 2014

Episode 205 December 11, 2013

Other choices might include Trail Runner Nation podcast episodes with Lanny Bassham on mental management, Dr. Jim Taylor on dealing with pain and fear of failure. Note these are focused somewhat on trail and ultra running.

There are many articles in the running magazines and online about tapering – here are a couple I like.

The Three Most Common Tapering Mistakes

5 Pre-Marathon Mistakes to Avoid

Other useful reads

How to Taper for Your Next Marathon or Half Marathon

The Art of the Marathon Taper

The Art of Tapering Like a Pro

The Art of Peaking for a Goal Race

(like I said, it’s a science AND an art…..)

How to Taper Correctly (not my title)

But in the end, you’ve got to keep a sense of humor about it. (look for tweets with #tapermadness or #eatallthethings to find fellow tapering runners)

The Five Stages of Pre-Race Tapering

One last thing….you can taper or peak exactly per plan and have things not work out. Or you can have a wrench thrown in your taper and still have a fantastic race.

For Shamrock 2014, I was doing well following my peaking plan. Then the Monday night before the Sunday race, I got some food caught in my throat. Not enough to cause me problems, but enough to feel. Tuesday morning, it still wasn’t gone, so instead of my planned run/chiro appointment, DH and I made a trip to the local emergency room, where we waited for 6 hours for me to get an endoscopy (which requires twilight sedation). While we were waiting in the ER cube, I did some of my chiro exercises and Wharton flexibility work. (yes, I AM that crazy…plus it was something to do and helped my nerves) All was ok, and we were home before dinner – having spent about 10-11 hours in a hospital without food or water (hadn’t eaten in 24h), some of that unconscious with a tube stuck down my throat into my stomach. I think the whole incident was so freaky it put a stop to most of my regular taper and worry nerves. (and in theory I could always blame a poor race on the procedure/anesthetic though I would have been pretty devastated)

The next day (Wednesday), I nailed Tuesday’s planned cruise intervals workout, Thursday I nailed that planned run, Friday off for travel, Saturday a short, pleasant shakeout run. And you may recall, I PR’d and beat my BQ on Sunday. So the bottom line is – stay as calm as you can during your taper and roll with things that are out of your control. It may work out just fine in the end!

Wishing you the sanest, healthiest possible peaking period (aka taper)!

Thankful Thursday 3/24/2016

One more week till the end of March….I won’t go into the Boston countdown, but it’s happening.

Grateful this week for so many things, big, small, in between. Going a little different this week, quick list of thought-provokers.

  • The universe appears to be trying to teach me a number of things this week, lessons flying at me so fast I’m not sure I’m keeping up!
    • via blogs and podcasts
    • via quotes
      • “Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore.” -Cheryl Strayed, Brave Enough
      • “WHAT IF today was the day that you chose to stop blaming yourself for choices you have made, (choices that you would make differently today, knowing what you know now, and being who you are now), and instead put your arm around yourself and kissed yourself smack on the cheek and said…”We know better now, so we can do better now”
        — and then let it be done, once and for all. No more blame, no more shame. Then, what if that made you feel loved and safe enough to take all of the responsibility for those choices and turn those choices into fuel that will feed your beautiful new life with wisdom and experience?” –Brave Girls Club email (thanks to Erin for sharing the BCG with me)
      • “Champions don’t make excuses, they make adjustments. Tough & unexpected things will happen, make adjustments and continue to move forward.” from FastMarathoning (Coach Mark Hadley, Alana’s dad and coach)
      • “Barriers.are artificial…they are stepping stones to excellence.” from Coach Vern Gambetta (and happy 87th birthday to Sir Roger Bannister, who broke the four minute mile barrier!)
      • And one more for you (me) via @sarahblair55 from @alexipappas (such a cool, talented, smart young woman)
Alexi wisdom - focus on hard work and belief, which is what you can control

Alexi wisdom

Getting any messages from the universe lately?

Thankful Thursday 3/17/2016

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I think the theme for this week is “reminders”. I need them, and grab on to them, especially when feeling challenged, uncertain, or tired. I’m thankful for every one that helps me be more of who I want to be, and more how I want to be.

Possibly the best reminder of the week:

Two years ago yesterday, I BQ’d for the first time. Sometimes I can still hardly believe it. After all the years of dreaming of it, cancer, injury, life changes, and hard work – it happened. I BQ’d and I earned the privilege of running the Boston Marathon. I’m so so grateful. I needed the reminder of what is possible, of how far I’ve already come, and that things you dream CAN happen  – with lots of hard work and making choices every day to move me toward my goals, with perseverance and focus, with the incredible support of a team of family, friends, experts (and tweeps/blog readers!), and with a little luck.

And looking toward the (near!) future:

Yesterday, bib numbers and wave/corral/start times for Boston were released! 32 days and counting…..

A bit more Boston…here’s a reminder that we women couldn’t always run Boston…with gratitude to those pioneers who helped that situation change.

The Story of the First Woman to Run the Boston Marathon – Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb – April 19, 1966

BAA announced this week that Bobbi Gibb is this year’s Grand Marshal, and that there will be events celebrating 50 years of women running at Boston!

Looking further out – I was lucky enough to get in to Beach to Beacon again! I so enjoyed the race and the trip last year – I’m really looking forward to returning! Joan Benoit Samuelson, a good tough race, a beautiful area, the ocean, delicious gluten-free treats, ice cream and gelato AND time with my sister – so much goodness in a few short days!

On to the list….

  • My sister – for everything – and happy anniversary!
  • My friends who support me
  • Caffeinated gum
  • The return of porch time – Sunday breakfast, Wednesday dinner, and some evening reading
  • Strawberries – a bit early in the season, but still a couple good ones, and remind me of the abundance to come
  • The mental triumph of getting myself to start some runs (and finish others) that may not have gone as I wanted or felt like I wanted them to feel. As Chrissie says…”some days (sessions) are stars, some are stones, but they are both rocks, and we build with them.”
  • Being able to go to the store and buy food I want and that is (generally) good for me – what a gift, in so many ways we (I) can take for granted
  • Clean water – reminded of this by listening to Lisa Smith-Batchen on a ConnectRunClub episode 21
  • Telework
  • Inspiration and an opportunity to help – how truly amazing Carol Chaoui is, running Boston with two separate stage 4 cancers, for which she’s being treated. She’s also a mother of four, RD, and active in her local running community. Carol is – as she has for years – using her race to raise money to help others.
  • People who remind me you can always try new things – look at the joy on 79 year old Zhen Liu’s face as he finishes his first trail race! (thanks Tina)
  • A story about a penguin and his human that touched my (soft) heart (thanks Mel & DH)
  • Songs that transport me back to important times and remind me of so much – a couple recent examples
    • Wild Wild West – I am building my playlist for Boston, and this must be on it. It will always put me in the last miles of Shamrock, where I played it 5x to get me to the end after the wind of Fort Story.
    • These Are The Days – I heard it today in my chiro’s office while getting zapped (grateful for this!!). It took me back to one spot on the mountain road I drove to work in West Virginia and one particular day after my cancer treatment. I remember feeling almost overpowering joy at the sheer wonder and gift of being alive to see and experience my so lucky life for one more day.

Beauty surrounds – a reminder to me to look up

flowering willow tree

flowering willow tree

look down

tiny purple flowers

tiny purple flowers

look all around

flowering bushes in the yard

flowering bushes in the yard


and try to be present in the moment with all its gifts and challenges.

I've always loved dandelions

I’ve always loved dandelions

What reminders have you been getting – or needing – lately? 

Thankful Thursday 3/10/2016

Well, hello Spring! A little early, aren’t you? Let’s try to keep things a bit less toasty for another 40 days, shall we? 🙂

Another surprise at the house this week – first seen out the window next to the treadmill



How did I miss this celebration? (our library branch staff have a great sense of humor)

national procrastination week

national procrastination week

Now, on to this week’s selection of things I’m thankful for!

  • Days nice enough to walk before or after dinner, alone or with DH
  • My triathlete friend
  • Caffeinated gum
  • Taking a risk (or a few) and trying new things, new approaches, and having them go pretty well!
  • My sister
  • Cream of Rice cereal
  • My SOS Rehydrate drink
  • The universe maybe (maybe!) getting through to me a little on being more process-focused than outcome-focused
  • Books – just finished Raising the Barre by Lauren Kessler, recommend. Lots of good stuff in this that translates to my running and life in general.
  • Still reading back issues of Marathon & Beyond and enjoying them, think it’s time to order more
  • Magazines – running, triathlon, local and regional running mags
  • The feeling of accomplishment after you’ve done something a bit scary or a bit outside your comfort zone (having it go okay helps!)
  • The internet….having it come back after an outage reminds me of how much I enjoy and depend on it
  • My chiro
  • A couple nights of better sleep
  • Being able to sleep in my own bed (knock wood, fingers crossed it lasts…)
  • Mona fartleks
  • Podcasts
  • NBCSports is going to broadcast Boston (since Universal is gone). I can tape it and watch it after I get home!
  • People and small companies helping me out in finding their product

What are you thankful for this week?  Has spring sprung where you are?





Thankful Thursday 3/3/2016

First Thankful Thursday of March….and counting down quickly to April.

Our “spring” weather revealed a few things at the “new” house

daffodils - surprise!

daffodils – surprise!

This past week, I’ve been thankful for….

  • the Aerobed, bought when I lived in West Virginia (a while ago!) and kept “just in case”, moved four times…giving me a place to sleep the last two weeks while we work to rid the walls (especially those in my bedroom) of critters
  • Sleep mask and earplugs
  • Caffeinated gum
  • Telework
  • My triathlete friend, an amazing support
  • A couple nights of good sleep leading up to my long run after many nights of poor sleep
  • Nailing a tough long run – not easy, but got it done, and had some good miles as well as good results from nutrition experiments (knocking wood loudly)
  • A decent outside hilly recovery run the day after my long run
  • My chiro
  • Working to “own” my accomplishments even by doing something as simple as wearing my Boston shirt and jacket, which I sometimes feel I didn’t “earn” (I definitely did though)
  • Leap day
  • Kabocha
  • Patience
  • Forgiveness
  • Podcasts and blog posts with many “aha” moments, making me think deeply about a lot of different aspects of myself, my approach to things, my life – so many opportunities for me to improve and grow, and so many people to learn from and be moved and inspired by
  • Two days of a walk before dinner – one day with DH, one day solo
  • People going out of their way to help others…I know a woman who is trying to help the troubled teen daughter of a non-functional family (at their request). She’s doing so though it is causing her financial, emotional, legal and personal stress and risk. Perhaps, for the teen, having this one person who is trying to give her stability, structure, and positive guidance will be what helps turn things around. It’s impressive to see.
  • Getting a run done when I really “wasn’t feeling it”
  • Mona fartleks! A fun, time-efficient, challenging run – and one that I got done on tired, sore legs
  • Just now, this Thursday morning, as I was sitting in my chair putting anti-chafe cream on my feet before my run (glamorous!), I turned my head to the window to check the progress of the sunrise. Through the bare black branches, I caught a glimpse of the shimmering half moon on dark blue sky. Unexpected joy. #ujoy
  • Inspiration in the form of the ever-energetic, exuberant and enthusiastic Sarah Reinertsen on Babbittville Radio. I got to meet her at the Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half event in 2014 (!), now she’s targeting Rio (Go Sarah!) Think I’m going to re-read her memoir. (note – you can easily support the Challenged Athletes Foundation through the AmazonSmile program – many great causes there to choose from if you prefer another)

What are you grateful for, who or what is inspiring you or making you think? Any moments of unexpected joy to share?