Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Photo Essay: NYRR Bronx 10 Miler

Sunday was supposed to be my long run to prepare for the TCS NYC Marathon. I was going to participate in the NYRR Bronx 10 Miler, run back to Manhattan, around Central Park and home for a total of 18 miles.

I made it to the end of the race and called it quits.

I'm okay with where I am in my training for the big dance. As long as I can get in another 18 miler and a 20 miler, I'll make it to the finish line. It ain't gonna be pretty, but I'll make it.

But I digress.

Sunday was the third year in a row The Bronx race (part of the NYRR 5 Borough Series) was a 10 miler (side note, the race used to be 13.1 miles and took place in February). The course is mostly the same, the org just removed a ~5K of an out and back.

I love the course since it takes us to some places that I would never associate with The Bronx. When I think of the borough, in my mind I see the urban wasteland of the South Bronx circa 70's and 80's. I don't associate it with vibrant street scenes. Yet, that's what The Bronx is today!

See for yourself:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My Experience at the 2014 Hood to Coast relay

I've been enamored with Hood to Coast since I first started running back in 2007. And when the documentary came out a few years ago it only fueled the fire. 

I was intrigued by the whole relay race concept, I've been in love with the Pacific Northwest for years and Oregon was the only state left that I hadn't stepped foot in.

After looking into running the race, it became way to much of a challenge to A. get in B. put together a team C. organize all the logistics from across the country and D. take the time off from work to deal with B and C.

Enter Nuun. I became a brand ambassador last December and was given the opportunity to apply for a spot on its Hood to Coast team. And for some reason, I was accepted!

Fast forward to late August and after a day of fun in Seattle, I load into a van with (from front to back) Casey, Arielle, Sean, Elisabeth, Melissa and Jenny and off we go to the top of Mt. Hood to start what the race calls, The Mother Of All Relays.

After being accepted to the Nuun team, I was given the opportunity to choose the legs I would run. After looking at the ratings (Easy, Kinda Easy, Not So easy, Hard, Pretty Hard and Are You Fucking Kidding?) I chose a series of three legs (the same as all my teammates) that I figured were right in the middle. 

My first leg was fully downhill. I was third in my van to run and ran a 4.2 mile leg that was a total loss of 800 feet. 

My second was a 7.3 mile run along a rolling highway that started at 11PM. 

And my last leg was a 10K roughly 12 hours later.

Here's what I learned about relays, it's a little secret that you'd never know about unless you've participated in one: 

It's not about the run.

I was put in a van with five other runners and a dedicated driver (thank you again Casey) whom I had met the day prior. When we emerged from the van 36.5 hours later, exhausted, dirty, sweaty, starving and elated, we were family.

We now had inside jokes about:

  • Miles and miles of traffic (especially from 3-5AM);
  • Never-ending porta potty lines
  • The porta potty crew that seemed to be following us the entire race!; 
  • The porta potty crew that cleaned said pottys without gloves on their hands
  • The fact that Jenny yelled at us to stop looking at her as she tried to figure out how to step out of the van with burning quads from a five-mile downhill run
  • The foul smells that were emanating from the van
  • The lack of sleep
  • The lack of real food and the abundance of gummy bears (that never seemed to be depleted)
Did I mention the traffic:

I loved participating in the relay (I have a hard time calling it a race since we were in it for fun) and wouldn't trade the experience for the world.

Case and point: At one point during my last leg, I literally stopped running just to listen. At this point on the course there were no cars, no other runners, no birds, no animals, no wind, in fact no sounds at all. It was just me on the cracked pavement looking at these ancient evergreen trees. It. Was. Awesome!

As someone who lives in NYC, I'm used to a baseline of white noise in the background and when it's silent, it's a little disconcerting. But this was different, it was really serene. And for a half second, I thought maybe living in NYC wasn't such a great idea. Then I came to my senses, started running again and just for good measure, made a few sarcastic remarks to myself.

All that said, I think my very short relay career is over. Between the travel, the recovery from lack of sleep, the lack of caloric intake and the lack of showering for that long, I think I'll stick to marathons.

All that said, it's still a magical experience crossing the finish line with two vans full of runners who you've journeyed with for 200 miles.

A huge shout of gratitude to the folks at Nuun who made this possible, Kevin, Vishel, Zoe, (my van-mates) Casey and rock-star runner Arielle and last but not least Megan Fey, the ambassador liaison who treats us all like family.

Here's a little inspiration from the finish line:

And the race video again

Friday, September 19, 2014

Runner Spotlight: Justin Fricke (AKA, The Weekend Warrior)

If you read this space, you know that when I meet or hear about a runner with what I think is an interesting story, I do a "question and answer" post I call Runner Spotlight.

I met Justin when we were put on the Nuun Hood to Coast team together. Here was a guy who was full of personality and a lot of fun to be around, but that's not what I found to be the most interesting thing about him.

In order to get chosen to be on the Hood to Coast team we had to apply. Applications were limited to Nuun Ambassadors which meant on some level, we needed to be athletic and socially savvy (or at least social media savvy). As a runner and blogger, it was a no-brainer for me to apply.

But for Justin, it was a different story. This dude had never even run a 5K. And he not only applied to be part of a team that would run a 200 mile relay (in which he would have to run at a minimum, 15 miles over 36 hours), but he got accepted!

Talk about an adventure!

I can't claim to know him really well, but I can tell you that Justin is a lot of fun to be around and pretty silly. In fact, he knew the Nuun team for less than an hour before this happened:

Need I say more?

So without further preamble, I present you with the first spotlight of my Nuun Hood to Coast teammates.

Name: Justin Fricke

Age: 24

City/state: Winter Springs, FL

Occupation: Banking

Twitter & Instagram: @JustinLFricke

When and why did you start running?
In April of 2014 is when I really got into running. I’m an ambassador for Nuun Hydration Co. and they asked all us ambassador folk to fill out an application to be on one of their Hood to Coast (the mother of all relays) team. They’d be putting together 2 teams with 10 ambassadors on each team; they’d be taking 20 ambassadors altogether.

At the time I was in a real low point in my life and was craving an adventure that’d really put me outside my comfort zone. I figured I’d fill out the application and see what happens. A week later I got an email from Nuun saying I’d been selected to be on one of their teams. The next day I went to the local running store, got fitted, bought my first real pair of running shoes, and got to training.

From there I guess you could say “the rest is history.”

As a runner, what are you most proud of having accomplished?
Running and finishing all my legs during Hood to Coast probably takes the cake. I mean I was running in places unfamiliar to me. I’d just started running five months prior and I wasn’t relying on music to power me through my runs for the first time, ever. It was just really gratifying to be there in those moments, alone, and just letting go of what had transpired months before.

What was the biggest hurdle to running and how did you get over it?
Training during the dog days of summer in Florida has been my biggest running hurdle so far. I just get my mind in the game, knowing it’s going to feel like I’m going to drown from the humidity with each breath I take, and knowing I’m going to be uncomfortable most of the time.

It kind of works to my advantage though because I’m always trying to test myself physically and mentally to see how far I can push myself.

How do you fit running in with your daily schedule?
I’ve found it best for me to set aside certain days throughout the week for running. I’ll adjust to a morning or evening run to make it fit in with my schedule. I’ll run more when I’m training for a half-marathon or a marathon and taper off a bit and do some other sort of activity (cycling, climbing, mountain biking, etc.) to eat up my time.

Do your friends and family support your running or think you are crazy?
For the most part they do. They think it’s cool how active I am and how I’ve just picked up running and just ran with it (pun intended). The only kickback I get is the typical “you know running’s bad for your knees” and my climber friends say that “running’s bad for your climbing.”

I kind of tune it out because let’s face it, people are constantly going to find a way to bring down something they’re not into. To my climber friends I just mention the slew of top notch climbers climbing the hardest routes in the world that are also die hard runners. Running sure doesn’t seem to have a negative impact on their climbing.

Have you ever been injured due to running?
Nothing major, aside for the typical dehydration, sore legs, and feet. Hoping it stays that way!

Any favorite motivational quotes?
4th quarter, let’s go!

That’s what my lacrosse coach in high school would yell at us as we were doing our conditioning at the end of practice. We always made fun of him because we thought it was a stupid saying. Now I find myself repeating that phrase at the end of my runs, guess it stuck with me through all the years.

What’s your favorite piece of running gear?
My New Balance Fresh Foam 980’s. They’re my first legit pair of running shoes, are pretty comfortable, and they’ve got almost 200 miles on them. Without them, my running game would be nothing.

What are your long-term goals?
Right now I’m training for my first half-marathon race (I've run more than that training) and I’m hoping to finish with a sub two hour time. In February I’m running my first marathon and it’d be rad to finish with a sub three hour time.

Really long term, I’d love to run a 100 mile ultra in under 36 hours. That’s a long ways off because training for that takes up a lot of time and there are other things I want to do right now, like cycle, climb, and surf.

Do you use any music or run tracking devices when you run, or are you a “naked” runner?
I prefer to stay clothed while I run (pause for laughter). Right now I’ve got my phone set to the New Found Glory radio station on Pandora. It’s been taking me back to the good old days of middle school and high school.

I also use the Strava run app. on my phone. It keeps me from dropping a crap load of money on one of those fancy GPS watches.

How do you get yourself through the difficult parts of your runs?
While “4th quarter, let’s go” is running through my head (pun intended) I’m also focusing on keeping proper running form and cadence in my step. I find myself deviating from my running form and start running at a slower cadence the more and more tired I get, so making sure my form and cadence is in check helps me take my mind off the pain and monotony.

Justin at the start of Hood to Coast

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hood to Coast - The Day Before

I was thrilled to be chosen to run Hood to Coast on one of the two Nuun Ambassador teams.

I'd heard about the race from a friend who lives in Oregon and when the documentary came out a few years ago, my running friends and I were first in line!

I'd never done a relay race before and thought that the "Mother Of All Relays" would be a great introduction. The kink in the armor was that I needed to be in Utah for work for the week prior so it was going to be a long trip and I wouldn't be able to get a lot of rest prior to traveling to Seattle.

But these are luxury problems.

Leaving Utah should be a pretty painless process, but thanks to Delta, it was more complicated than it needed to be.

Long story short, I arrived at 12:30AM and after a $50 cab ride got the hotel.

I didn't know anyone else who was running the race, we had been in a Facebook group together for a while, but I had never met any of them in person.

So when I arrived at the hotel and finally checked in, the guy who I was sharing the room with (whom, I will remind you, I'd never met in person) was already asleep. I did what I needed to do to get ready for bed with minimal light, collapsed into the bed and was out like a light.

Now, the next morning was interesting. It took me a few minutes to realize where I was and what the noises I was hearing were. My roommate (again, whom I'd never met) was awake and moving around.

To say it was an awkward introduction is putting it mildly. Work with me here folks, but it was like meeting a one-night-stand the next morning (although to be fair, I wasn't drunk and we hadn't had any intimate moments).

Turns out Joe was a great guy and we wound up getting along really well.
My roommate Joe, all "Nuuned" up and ready to roll!
First on the agenda was a shakeout run.

We met up with the rest of the team and our hosts in the hotel lobby. Now would be the appropriate time to thank all the folks at Nuun, and a HUGE shout to Megan Fay for putting this all together and being a phenomenal ambassador liaison!

The run was an easy four miles through Seattle, it was a great way for us to all meet each other.

And as you can see, some of us were more shy than others:

From there, Nuun organized a tour of the new Brooks HQ. It was pretty freaking cool; we learned about its manufacturing process, marketing practices and got a sneak peek at some of the 2015 line. As a marketer, I was fascinated and could have spent the day chatting with the team there.

Clearly I'm unhappy about being at Brooks HQ
But we had more to do!

From Brooks HQ we were treated to lunch and then let loose on Seattle for some free time. Of course, as the elder statesman, when I hear "free time" I think "nap time" and that's exactly what I did!
Nothing but nutritious meals to prepare for the race. Photo credit: George Okinaka
We met up again in the evening at Nuun HQ for a tasty dinner, some last minute planning and most importantly, van decorating!

More to come, but know that the wake up call for the next day was set for 4AM as we needed to leave for Mt. Hood at 4:30.

That nap was the last decent sleep I was going to get for the next 72 hours.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Photo Essay: NYRR 5th Avenue Mile

I'm not a miler and have never participated in the NYRR's annual 5th Avenue Mile, I've just never felt compelled to do it.

But after yesterday, I'm thinking about doing it next year.

I went out and watched a few of the heats and took some photos with the GoPro. Between the fun I saw on the faces of some and the determination on the faces of others, it looked like a phenomenal day.

Next year NYRR, next year.

Here are some of the photos I shot (click to see full size):

Monday, September 8, 2014

My Short Run with Kara Goucher!

In my very short running career I've done some pretty cool stuff. I've run 12 marathons around the country, started this blog, have a ton of fun making videos documenting some pretty epic races, been invited by Nuun to be part of their Hood to Coast team (review coming, I promise!) and become a social reporter for the New York Road Runners.

It's that last thing that I'm riffing off of for my post today. 

I got an email from my contact at the NYRR a few weeks ago saying that "A professional female runner is coming to NYC to announce her entry into the TCS NYC Marathon, as a NYRR social reporter, would you be interested in running the last 10 miles of the course with her?"

Um, you think?

I quickly did some digging and determined that neither Kara Goucher nor Shalane Flanagan had announced NYC yet, so my fingers were crossed it would be one of them.

On Friday I got confirmation it was Kara and it was all I could do to keep my mouth shut for the weekend and not blurt it out to my running friends, I held fast.

So at 7:45 this morning, I met Kara, Mary Wittenberg (president/CEO NYRR), Robert Molke (PR NYRR), Sally Bergesen (CEO and founder, Oiselle) and Shanna Burnette (PR director Oiselle) at Engineer's Gate in Central Park. 
Hanging on and clutching my GoPro (credit Rob Molke)

The pace wasn't as monstrous as I anticipated but it also wasn't as slow as I'd hoped. My PR for a 13.1 is 7:22/mile so you would think that 2.5 miles at 7:34/mile wouldn't be so bad, but then you'd be wrong.
Kara Goucher running across Central Park South (the last mile of the course) 
Being a fly on the wall and listening to Kara speak with Mary about some of her past races, her experience racing with Paula Radcliffe and Shalane, her mindset as she was finishing the NYC Marathon a few years ago (interestingly it's pretty much what all of us are thinking - when is this going to be OVER?!?!) was almost a surreal experience for me. 

Over a 20 year career PR career I've hired and been around more celebrities than I can remember and I'm not usually star struck, but this was different. 

Here was a woman who's career I've been following for years. Who I've seen on magazine covers and who I've watched race her heart out.
Kara running across what will become the finish line for the TCS NYC Marathon
I'm thrilled that I was able to run with her and grateful to the New York Road Runners for giving me the opportunity.

Now I need to get super serious about my TCS NYC Marathon training!

Kara, me and Mary Wittenberg
From left: Rob Molke, Sally Bergesen, Kara Goucher and Shanna Burnette pose near what will become the finish line
The artsy shot

Thursday, September 4, 2014

An Ode to Sweat!

You are the longest, most consistent training partner I've ever had. From the coldest winter day to the muggiest summer morning, you're ever-present.

Today when I went out, you joined me during the second half of my first mile. You were probably there before then, but I first noticed you when you started weighing heavy on my upper lip. Very shortly after, I felt you sliding down my left temple.

By the end of mile one, you had completely covered my bald pate. Despite the humidity, we were feeling good. Actually, because of the humidity, you were around more than usual today, with so much moisture in the air, it's hard for you leave. But I knew at the outset this was going to happen, I was going to get overheated; so today I was smart and compensated by choosing a flat course and keeping my pace down.

By mile two you had started taking over my shirt. I became acutely aware that this was going to be one of those runs.

By mile four you were slipping into my shoes. Over the seven years I've been running, you've ruined more than one pair of my running shoes. I pride myself on a lack of foot odor and at the risk of over sharing, the shoes I train through each and every summer need to be thrown out long before I've run the soles into the ground. I know this at the start of the season, yet it always surprises me.

By mile five you were in my sight. Literally. You were so ever-present that you had taken over my eyelashes and were in the process of doing to the same to the inside of the lenses on my sunglasses.

When I got back to my apartment, you were everywhere and you wouldn't let up. My arms and legs were covered. You had gone from taking over my shirt to taking over my shorts, my socks, and my shoes. You were all over the floor, on the chair and almost covered the mat after I finished stretching.

So why do I put up with you? On the surface, you're not a good running partner. You cause me to freeze after runs in the winter and how many times can I replace headphones that you've shorted out? You make me spend untold amounts on new technical running clothes only to destroy them, leave stains everywhere and not to be cruel but you smell bad. 

So what do you really bring to the table?

I'll tell you.

You make me feel like a warrior. Your presence inspires me to push myself harder. I used to think you were a nuisance, but I was wrong. When you slip down my face and into the corners of my mouth, you taste like victory. You give me the strength and determination to push myself to limits I didn't know I had. When you soak my clothes, I know I'm getting stronger. When you you drip off my fingertips you push me to run faster. When you sting my eyes, I feel like you're telling me I'm doing the right thing. When there's so much of you streaming down the inside of my shirt that my heart rate monitor chafes, I'm not only happy but full of endorphins.

So thank you. Thank you for being ever-present, for inspiring me and for helping me realize my dreams.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Video: Hood to Coast with Nuun

What I think may be my very short relay career is captured in the video below.

I ran Hood to Coast, the mother of all relays last weekend at the invitation of Nuun. I can't thank the folks over there enough for their generosity, enthusiasm, kindness and friendship. (Do yourself a favor folks, when the application opens, apply to be an ambassador, then apply to run a relay with them. Trust me, you won't regret it.)

In addition to the folks at Nuun, I made another 24 friends at this event. Spending 36+ hours in a van, running sections of the course through the night and trying to sleep in a van can make for close friendships fast!

I tried to include everyone on the team in the video (forgive me if anyone was left out). I also used a lot of photos from my teammates and am unable to link to them in the video, but a hearty thank you for the fantastic photos, I couldn't have done this video without your help.

I hope I did the team, the race and you all justice.

Without further preamble, I present you with my take on Hood to Coast:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Photo Essay: Hood to Coast

I'm working on my review and a video, but in the meantime, I wanted to share some of the phenomenal photos the GoPro captured at Hood to Coast last weekend. A huge shout out and thank you to Nuun for brining me out and introducing me to relay racing!

My first leg. 4.2 miles downhill (notice the head tattoo)
The Nuun finger at the Portland exchange
A little corwded at the exchange. We took the race back from Van 2 (or The Deuce as they wanted to be called).
These are called "Honey Buckets" out west. I throw up a little in my mouth every time I think of that name.
Regardless, they were clean and mostly empty due to the crew that practically followed us on the road (hard at work here)
Random runners and team members at an exchange
Some of the running can be lonely, but it's BEAUTIFUL in Oregon!!
Arielle and Casey cresting a 5K hill on her last leg (he was running support) and breaking a toilet paper tape held by
 Melissa and Jenny
Melissa handing off Van 1's last leg to Van Deuce's Kevin to take us home!
The full team, Vans 1 and 2 crossing the finish line together.
The group shot after crossing
And the beer shot
Van 1 window decorations

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My Favorite Place to Run in NYC

My friend Carly over at FineFitDay.com emailed to ask me to participate in a post she was putting together about favorite place to run in NYC. I was thrilled to be included and it made me think long and hard about my favorite place to run.

Central Park would be the obvious choice. I've logged thousands of miles on that 10K loop. But when I really put some thought into it, I came up with the following.

One of my favorite places to run in NYC is also one of my favorite places to cycle. And interestingly, it’s not even in New York rather, about a mile over the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey.

Colloquially called “River Road” because it snakes under the GWB and follows the Hudson River, Henry Hudson Drive (the road’s proper name) is eight miles of ups and downs with very little flat terrain.  I’ve run this road a bunch when I’m at the peak of marathon training and to tell you I’ve ridden it on my bike thousands of times wouldn’t be an exaggeration.

There are two, what I consider steep sections on the course. Heading north, the first starts at the Englewood picnic area, it lasts about a half mile and peaks at 4.5% grade. The second is better known as Alpine (because it starts at the Alpine Boat Basin and is also in the town of Alpine, NJ). It’s the last mile of the course, lasts a full mile and peaks at about 10% grade. Are these hills the most daunting you’ll ever run? Probably not but they are tremendous opportunities for hill work, learning how to run with “the hurt” and figuring out the best way to stay out of your head – all very important things when you’re in the throes of race training.

What I like about running River Road is the simple beauty of the scenery. I’ve had a friend call it a little slice of Northern California outside of NYC and I think that’s pretty accurate. From the rolling to downright steep hills to the boat basins (where you can find a little snack shop during the summer months – great for water stops) to the myriad of cyclists and runners along the course, this is a virtual athlete’s paradise.

Check out Carly's post for some other great spots to run in and around NYC.

Heading back up to the main road from Ross Dock
Heading south on River Road at the Englewood picnic area

At the start of the road heading under the GWB 
Looking across the Hudson at NYC from under the GWB
One of the only flat-ish sections of the road