Tagged with " running"
Aug 23, 2013 - fitness    No Comments

Top 10 Tips for New Runners

1) Buy good shoes. You really should get yourself some good shoes – not the 3 year old ones in the back of the closet, or some you buy online because they are your favorite color. Invest the $100-ish bucks on real running shoes. A running store is a great place to get fitted (as opposed to trying to wing it in Famous Footwear) and in Maine, the gold standard is the Maine Running Company, but if you can’t get down there, Epic Sports is a good place, too, and I think Lamey-Wellehan can fit you as well.

2) Wear the right clothes. They don’t need to be fancy, but a wicking top (NOT COTTON) is a good thing to have. Cotton holds sweat, and if you are overweight and starting, it’s one of the things that would make me self-conscious about it. Plus, gross, you’re running in a wet shirt. I get most of my wicking clothes at Target or Kohl’s, and shirts are usually around $12-15. For pants, I started in some basic non-cotton long fitness pants. But, I have found that more fitted tights feel better, and Old Navy has some nice capri tights for under $25. I have gotten Under Armour on clearance on Amazon for winter running, too. Socks – again, not cotton. The socks I have are varied – I have some Smartwool PhD, Balega, and Darn Tough. They are all fine, I don’t have specific preference except that I like a higher ankle in cold weather and a lower one in hot weather. If you’re a lady, get a good bra. I use Moving Comfort and like it a lot, and prefer the kind with the hooks and back close that doesn’t require an over-the-head wrestling match. I run early, I don’t have time to fight with a bra at 5 am.

3) Follow a plan. Couch to 5k is a great plan to get started. It mixes walking and running, and is very doable. If you have a smartphone, there are apps specifically for the C25K plan, or you can use a general running app and plug in the workouts yourself. I started with a dedicated app, and then moved to using iSmoothRun (which I loooove as a running app.) If you don’t have a smartphone, but do have an ipod, there are podcasts that you can download that are music tracks with the cues for running and walking.

4) No one is watching you. They aren’t. Cars may pass you, but THEY PASS YOU. Same with other runners. C25K programs are so popular now, I don’t think anyone blinks if they see someone running, slow to a walk, or vice versa. And really, if you are considering running, when you encounter a runner on the road – especially a “nontraditional” runner, what do YOU do? Do you throw things at them or point and laugh, or do what I did and wonder “man, I wish I was strong enough to do that….”

5) Do what you can. Maybe the C25K workout is something you knock out of the park on the first pass, or maybe some weeks are harder than others. Maybe you don’t have enough time to do the whole thing – do a mile. Do 20 minutes. Do anything. Again, the only person that knows how long you’ve been out there or how far you’ve gone is probably YOU.

6) Pick a race and set your goal. I love racing because it gives me a goal to work towards. I’ve written about how I choose races, and now that I’ve done several, I can assure you that my formula works. In my section of the pack, it’s totally common to see people take walk breaks or be moving slowly. And the people who are FAST!? They can’t see you, they are ahead of you! As the shuttle driver to the B2B start line said “My advice: keep the Kenyans in front of you!” (And, okay, some of the elites ran the course backwards and passed me as I was still miles from the finish, but again, they PASSED me. Not ONCE has a “real runner” stopped, pointed, laughed, tripped me, scowled, or asked “why are YOU here?”)

7) Track your runs. I use my app (iSmoothRun) and I also now use a Garmin, the FR10 which is the cheapest and most basic model. I like using both, for a variety of reasons, but it’s nice to see my times in a line, and to see how my times improve.

8) Find inspiration. I am a big fan of blogs and social media, and there are some great running blogs out there, but one of my favorites is Katie at RunsforCookies.com. She began as a ‘nontraditonal’ runner, and if she ran by me and I didn’t know her story, I’d probably have some of that anxiety of “she’s judging me, I’m too slow, I’m not a ‘real runner'” stuff going on. So, when I see real runners out there, I try to flip it around – for all I know, their journey started like Katie’s did! Or the Penguin Chronicles, by John Bingham, who also wrote An Accidental Athlete and The Courage to Start. 

9) Be inspiring. I share my running story because I am NOT a traditional runner. And I have had SO MANY PEOPLE tell me, either on twitter or facebook or my blog or by email or in person “Hey, I saw you’ve been doing C25k/running/doing races so I decided to try, thanks!” and I cannot even tell you how happy that makes me. I am not fast, and I doubt I ever will be. But I am steady in my pursuit of being a better me, and part of that is running, and if other people decide to try being better thems by giving running a try, that’s incredible.

10) Let yourself have fun. It can be SO MUCH FUN. Look at this photo! Seriously. Sometimes my runs feel sloggy and gross and blah, and sometimes I am smiling like an idiot, even when there’s no cameras around. (I still remember the beauty of running this particular day.) ESPECIALLY for an “accidental athlete.” I never did a single sport in high school, aside from being the manager of many teams so I could go on bus trips. I did drama and spelling bees. I wish I’d known then what I was missing, and I wish I’d started before my mid-30s. But I am SO GLAD I started in my mid-30s, and didn’t decide it was too late. Seriously, I have asthma, I smoked for a decade (and have been smoke free for over a decade) and am overweight (still overweight, less than when I started, though) and have had two kids and walk like a duck and have the coordination of a drunk baby, but I can do this and have FUN. If I can, you can.


Oct 23, 2011 - fitness    No Comments

Geek Girls Go!

Here are some photos of our team! Some of us had our logo on the back, and some on the front, and they all had our Twitter names. The one I ordered was a Large (so glad I didn't order an XL!) and Tami's didn't ship in time and the only size left for iron-on purposes was a Large, too, which explains our tunic like t-shirts.  I can't wait for the next one!

Oct 23, 2011 - fitness    1 Comment

Freaky 5k!

My second race report! (Really?)

So, I did Race for the Cure and was so proud of myself, I immediately started considering doing another one. On Twitter, I mentioned this:



Almost as a dare, not to the others, but to myself. And wouldn’t you know it, they bit! Over the last month, we quickly organizes a logo (thanks BFF!), a Facebook group, and a plan for our team — made up of basically people who know each other best via Twitter. A week before our race, I even ran with Diana, which was also the first time I’d met her in real life! And only about ten days ago, after hearing they’d be headed this way from southern Maine, I told a friend to join us (Dave’s middle/high school best friend’s wife just did her first 5k two weeks ago!) and we ended up with a team of six. One had to bail due to illness, so today it was five strong women meeting in Waterville for a good cause — for me, Tami, and Bev, it was our second race ever. For Tanya, it was her zillionth race — but her first in more than 8 years. For Diana, it was her very first 5k!

Last night I put together the goodie bags for the car ride, healthy snacks and bottles of water and bananas for the drive, and I put all the things I’d need in the tote bag so I wouldn’t forget it, made sure my iphone was charged, and ate a small bowl of oatmeal and had a small cup of coffee. Diana and Bev showed up at the same time, just before 8, and we picked up Tanya down the road a piece, and we were off!

Picking up our info was easy, and it was great to have Tami there with Aaron, who was deemed team manager and given all our stuff to hold, and told to take pictures. We had to walk to the starting line, and it was timed, but not chip timed so they basically said “go!” and we went. 

The first part I walked while I started my app and got it secured in my SPIbelt, and then I started to run. I caught up with Diana and we were at the same pace for a while and then I inched ahead. My goal was to A) have fun, B) finish, and C) do my best while listening to my body. I should have started out slower, my shins started to hurt, so I alternated running and walking (which was my plan anyway — I am nowhere NEAR being able to RUN the whole thing!) and my app would tell me every 5 minutes how I was doing. I’d also made a playlist to help me — so instead of timing intervals, I’d measure them out, like “I will run until I get to that street/telephone pole/crack in the road” or “I will run til the end of this song” and that helped. The course was a downhill that then cut across and headed alongside the city soccer fields, and that was a highlight — while there were Colby cross country team members directing people, by the time they saw the “penguins,” they were sort of bored and yawning out a “good job!” as people went by. (They were very nice, but not at all impressed by ME! A super geek/non athlete/wrong-side of 35 MOM shuffling by!) But at the soccer fields, there were some passionate little kids, probably 8-10 years old, Hardy Girls, I’m sure, who were lined up on the sidewalk giving us high fives as we ran by, so excited to be seeing RACERS, that it was totally inspiring. To those Hardy Girls, this was a BIG DEAL! And it was great.

After the soccer fields, I thought “hmm, I remember there being a hill when I street viewed the course” (because HELLO, we are the geek girls, of COURSE we streetviewed the course!) so maybe this is it?”… and then I saw The Hill, which reminded me of 14th St Extension here in Bangor, only maybe longer. I knew I’d be walking up that mother. So I did, I walked as fast as I could up the hill, and in the distance, I could see my teammates! Cheering and waving, and it was SO FRIGGING GREAT. They pointed me to the finish lane, and that was after the hill flattened out, so I ran across the finish and beat my Komen time by 2:33! My teammates who finished first had gotten us all water bottles (I was really hoping for a water stop on the course!) and it was very welcome, I pounded some water and then we went and waited for Diana to come in, and she did 2 minutes better than our (much flatter) personal 5k we’d done the week before! It was awesome to have cheerleaders, and to cheer someone on.

At Komen, I had just had Dave drop me off and I did the thing all by myself and then had to wait for him to come find me to take me home. I had no cheering section, no team, no one to hand me water and say “yay!” and having a team this time was so, so awesome. And truly, our common thread, aside from wanting to be healthier and fitter and believing in the Hardy Girls, Healthy Women org, is that we are Twitter friends. (The Internet Is Real Life!)

And now we are looking at the Turkey Trot, in November! I kind of love the challenge of racing against myself — I was 15/15 for my division, but I improved on my own time, on a (I think, with that ending hill) harder course, and I love imagining what these races could look like next year, once I learn to run the whole thing!

mi Pace (min/mi) Elevation (ft)
1 12:31 -113
2 14:26 -17
3 14:11 63
4 15:19 29

I can’t embed the map, but here’s a link!

Oct 12, 2011 - fitness    No Comments

How I pick a race

In eleven days, I do my next 5k! Holy carp! And this time, I have a vanload of people and an official team shirt. Gulp.


And! AND! We are talking about doing one in November. Double carp.


Lest you think this is impetuous, let me just tell you, it is not. There is serious research that goes into choosing an event, especially for a new runner.

At this point I am only looking at 5ks, but I’m sure it will apply if I were looking at different race times, too. Here’s my criteria:


Look for a Run/Walk. I am not even at the point that I can run the whole 5k, but I know I can walk it. I like the idea of a Run/Walk event because when I need to stop to walk, I feel like I still fit in. 

Find past results. I know, for instance, that I can cover a 5k in under an hour. I don’t necessarily want to be last, of course, but more than that I don’t want to hold other people up. If the event shows the last finisher of a 5k clocking in at under 40 minutes, I don’t want to be there. Yet.

Find a cause. Race for the Cure helped me rationalize the idea of a race, and get over my fear of public exercise, because HELL-O, I am so goddamn lucky to have the health I do, and being surrounded by reminders of that good fortune makes my anxiety seem ridiculous. (Rightfully so.) This next event I am rationalizing as setting an example for the girls like me out there, that they can turn into an athlete whenever they want, that a Hardy Girl can be a Healthy Woman, even after senior year of high school. 

Look for a shorter race within a longer race. I’m not there yet, but when I daydream about what a good next goal would be, I like to fantasize about the Sugarloaf 15k that happens at the same time as the Sugarloaf Marathon. Or a half-marathon that happens during a full marathon. (That is way, way, way in the future. Way. But it will be my strategy for the next level.)

And on to my ‘training’ for this 5k, instead of doing the C25K workouts, I have set my own intervals for 30 minutes via RunKeeper, and doing them on a 5k course. So, the first 30 minutes are scripted, and then I play it by ear as I finish the 5k distance. I feel like this builds my strength, but more importantly, builds my confidence to cover 5k at once. As fall settles in, I know I won’t care for running in the snow, so I am hoping to get some treadmill time in at the gym at work, or to join a gym, because I’d like to set some springtime goals for this crazy running thing, too.

Sep 21, 2011 - fitness    No Comments

My next race!

No, really, my next race! And this time, I’m bringing friends.



The race we are going to do is the Freaky 5k, in Waterville, which is sponsored by an organization that I love. I first heard Lyn Mikel Brown speak at the Bangor Book Festival a few years ago about her book Packaging Girlhood, and as a strong woman raising a strong daughter (at the time, now that’s plural) I loved the book, and loved hearing about the organzation she created, Hardy Girls, Healthy Women. (Side note: she grew up in Calais, so I like to think her Washington County upbringing influenced her research track. )  

The team I’m on is made up of other reluctant athletes, but of all the events to run, this might even be better than Race for the Cure for being a “geek-friendly” event. As I said to one member, it’s important to do it because there are girls like us out there who never see women like us doing the things that the Other Girls do, so we need to show those kids that smart girls can race, too. 

If you want to join us, register at the link above and mention you are part of team Geek Girls Go!

Sep 18, 2011 - fitness    7 Comments

My First Race Report!

When I started the C25K plan in spring, I didn’t have a race planned, and I wasn’t training for anything. But then when our wellness people at work were brainstorming things to do, I mentioned the Komen Race for the Cure as something we could do, and we all thought it was a good idea, but then nothing ever came of it. I had volunteered to captain the team, but then summer carried on and I smushed my toe, and I was kind of hoping no one would remember it. Our wellness director, did, though, and so I sucked it up, realized that I was being ridiculous, that I should be celebrating my good health and good fortune, and Race for the Cure was the BEST place to try my hand at a real, live, 5k. I started the team with only 3 weeks before the race, and set my goal for $250, and thanks to very generous friends and family, I exceeded my goal! I also set the goal for the team to be 5 coworkers, and it ended up that 18 were on our team. 

Having had a very fraught relationship with exercise and athletics for my whole life, I’m sure that some people might have thought “Gretchen’s going to run a race? Man, I’d PAY to see that!” and so they did. But having people that had paid meant I really had to go DO THIS. Very scary indeed. And when the baby had a GI bug on Friday, I was hoping beyond hope that it would not transfer to me. (Thank god, it didn’t.)  The other thing I was fretting about was that the race sent an email telling us that timed bibs had to be pinned on…. sideways. For someone already feeling intimidated by an organized athletic event, having that directive made me even more nervous that I was actually being punked. I decided to wait til I got there to pin on my bib, just in case. (And it turns out that it was not a way to trick the newbies, but somehow the bibs got printed wrong. Okay.)

I had Dave drop me off, and I wandered the waterfront for a bit, hoping to see other members of my team (but only finding a few) and I ran into some other people I knew. There were lots of people trying to give me free stuff, but I had no place to put it, so I didn’t take it. I had a thin fleece over my running clothes because it was a chilly morning, and so that I could carry my inhaler and iPhone. (I feel much more comfortable carrying both, in case of emergency, but I already want a Spibelt for next time). I pinned my bib on and tried to figure out where to be — I had a blue bib to be timed, but I knew I’d be slow, so I tried to find the back of the line for the blue bibs but in front of people with strollers and dogs and things like that.  

Still, when the race started it felt a little weird, almost like vertigo with the entire crowd moving at once. I knew I wanted to start out walking, but despite my attempt to place myself well, I still felt it was a little slow getting started. My goal was to “run a bunch” and end up with a time to beat next year. I walked up the hill to start, and then ran for most of Main street, where we were cheered on by firemen and UM students, which was neat. When I got to Lincoln, I walked, briskly, up that street. I was behind two people  who seemed similar to me in pace and ability, and I found myself using them as my motivation. If THEY could do it, so could I! 

Things I learned on Lincoln Street: It’s a lot longer than it seems when you drive it. Also, it’s a lot steeper. 

At mile 1, I checked my app, and I was about 15 minutes in, which is where I had hoped to be, even though I thought I might have run more at that point. At the to of the hill, the weather had really warmed up and I found myself hoping to see my family up there so that I could lose the fleece, but alas, they were not there. On the downhill there was a water station, which was so welcome, and I tied my fleece around my waist. There were cheerleaders from my university, and when I hit the 2 mile marker I had the realization that OH HEY, I was DOING THIS. Not so much covering the distance, because I could walk 5k easy, but I was RUNNING IN PUBLIC. Past people that MIGHT EVEN RECOGNIZE ME. Which might not seem like a big deal to some people, but for ME, a lifelong nerd/bookworm/non-athlete/last pick in gym class/needed special gym because of total lack of coordination? I was kind of excited.

I alternated running and walking for the return on Main Street, but then ran from the corner of Main & Railroad to the finish line. I could see the big clock ticking “46:52/:53/:54” and decided I wanted to be at 47:00 or less so I pushed through and made it, I am pretty sure. (I am really not sure how the whole timing thing works, but my app said “47:40” and I had turned that on before we got started..EDIT! My official time was 45:45, and I am thrilled because when I did a test 5k in my flat neighborhood last week, it was 48:25.) After I got some water, I called Dave to come pick me up, but the place he’d dropped me off at was now closed, and when I tried to call him back, his cell phone wasn’t on, so I ended up hanging out in front of the homeless shelter for 45 minutes trying to figure out where he might come from to find me. (That was the worst part of the whole day, so obviously, it was a good day.) When he arrived, Ingrid piped up “Mama! Did you win your race?!” And I told her “I was racing against myself, so I sure did.” Dave said they have already made plans to do it with me next year. 🙂

I already have plans for next year, and I hope we can form our team in the spring, as opposed to the few weeks before the actual event. I think it would be nice to have someone who doesn’t want to walk or run, be on our team to help at the waterfront — it’d have been nice to have a place to stash our stuff while running, and to have all had a meeting spot beforehand for pictures. I also definitely want a spibelt to carry my necessities, and if my family doesn’t do it with me, I want them to be at the top of the hill encouraging me! 

Above all of that that was my experience, though, was that I was especially moved by the back signs, especially ones that said “mom” or “sister.” (THere was one that was “In memory of: my sister, Kathleen” which, uh, really got to me. I am so fortunate that I don’t have a sign on my back, that it seems silly to be so self-conscious of the sign on my front. Which is why Race for the Cure was the perfect first-ever running in public event for me.

Jul 7, 2011 - fitness    No Comments

36 & 45:15


I turned 36 last week! And to commemorate, I decided I'd do a 5k.

There was an actual event on the day I planned to do it, a '3 mile' race, but when I looked at the form, I panicked. What does one doing C25K register for? I didn't want to be a cheating walker, and I didn't want to be the last runner. So instead of doing The Event, I just walked out of my parents' front door (we were visiting them for the holiday) and turned on my Walkmeter app and decided to go until I hit 3.1 miles.I started by listening to one of the workouts (that damned W4D1 that I am struggling with because it ends up being a week between workouts) but then decided to just run when I wanted and walk when I wanted. That pace marker is for that eleventh-of-a-mile, not the workout (obviously) because I was so ready to see 3.1 I ran the last part.

So, there's my baseline. I'm hoping to do the same route later this summer, and then this fall (basically anytime we visit my parents) and I am hoping to see my time improve.  I also hope to do the actual event next year, for turning 37. It looked great, and while I was out two cars stopped and asked if I wanted a ride to the start, assuming I was headed there (the race started at the end of the road and people made their way BACK to town, where I was going out and waiting for my husband to come pick me up!) and there was even a water station! I also thought that my route might be better because I'd be heading downstream, but there were actually a lot of uphills! And it was the most varied terrain I'd run on, only having done flat sidewalks in my neighborhood til that point.

Of those that did the event, one walker who is in his 70s finished faster than my run (not kidding) so I hope that I can at least beat him next year! In the actual event, as a confirmed Runner. Not this weird run/walk'er that I am now.

Tomorrow, I try again! (Do you sense a theme here? I just keep trying!)
Jun 21, 2011 - fitness    2 Comments

Finding time

I forgot to post last Friday, but I did w4d1 a second time, after a week passing since trying it the first time, and I did improve. Right now I'm just struggling to find the time! That part sucks. Fridays have been good, because I am on summer flex hours, I am able to go out first thing in the morning after the girls are ready for school (Dave does dropoff) and I usually leave before they do, but am back after they've gone. Then I can take a shower and start my day, and it's pretty great. Ideally, I'd end up being someone who could run in the morning, but that isn't happening for a while — for one, the baby tanks up in those hours, for two, it would mean totally changing our family rhythm, as right now I shower at night, and in the morning I get myself and the girls fed and dressed while Dave showers and gets ready. I leave before he comes downstairs (generally RIGHT before) and he takes them to daycare. If I were to try to run in the AM, I'd have to figure out how to get two showers in with enough hot water for both of us, plus start drying my hair, which is all precious minutes that I don't use right now. I do like starting my day with exercise, when I can (basically, at this point that's Friday and Sunday, if I'm lucky) but I don't know how that would work in reality.

After work is hard, too — I pick up the girls at 4:45 (in summer, 4:15 through the rest of the year) and Dave is home by 5:15, and we try to have dinner served at 6, and bedtime is 8. That window is where family time happens, or baths, or trash, or family walks, or whatever. Like tonight, after dinner I had to go to Hannaford, and on the way back I was thinking it was a gorgeous night and I should go run, but when I got back the kids were in the tub (Dave is the Bath Czar here) after getting (gloriously) dirty playing in the yard. And once Wil was clean, she was hungry and cranky and spent the next two hours wanting to be held and fed, so, yeah, the run didn't happen.

Obviously some of this stuff will improve with time, Wil will not always be so needy of my physical presence, at either end of the day, and Ing will be more independent as she gets bigger too, but rightnow? RIGHT NOW is hard for carving out time. And that's just thinking of MY time, not of Dave's wish to go on long bike rides in City Forest (as he's planned for Wednesday) which means I'm in charge, and even if we switched off every day so that we could each meet our fitness goals, that means we would basically never be together as a family of four. It's hard.

I contemplate things like maybe getting a cheap jogging stroller and taking Willa when I can, but that still leaves Ingrid to be minded, and she (obviously) cant be left alone. And I kind of LIKE the mental space going by myself gives me, and a stroller would impede on that, I think. And it still wouldn't buy me TIME.

So, folks, where do you find the time? How do you work it in? I know "make it a priority and you'll find the time" is one that I'll hear, and it's true that I'm prioritizing Willa's needs over my own right now, but after THAT, where can I find the actual time?

Distance: 2.18 miles
Average: 16:18 /mile
Fastest Pace: 10:25 /mile
Walk Pace: 15:05
Run Pace: 12:54

Jun 10, 2011 - fitness    No Comments

Week 4, Day 1

Week Four!

Yeah, it was more like "attempted" than "completed" so I'm going to redo W4D1 again on Saturday. I've been off plan for two weeks because of a cold/sinusy thing, and just in the last few days felt like running wouldn't make my eyeballs pop out of my head. Since it had been two weeks, I was gentle with myself, and ended up walking several times in the runs. The workout for this day is that the runs are 3 minutes/ 5 minutes / 3 minutes/ 5 minutes and I got through most of the first three runs, but the last was rough, because the sun peeked out of the clouds and started warming up my already warm body and I felt gross.

This is also the first time I've run without my fleece, and I miss pockets! I tried an armband for my iphone, but I honestly hate it. It didn't feel secure on my arm so I held it in my hand, to get it in the armband I had to remove it from my regular case, and then it just felt awkward.  I also missed having a pocket for a key, and for my inhaler (while I was fine, I just feel better having it on my person) so maybe I need to find some other solution for holding the stuff that makes me feel confident out there.

And finally, after discussing "events" last time, it came up at a wellness meeting at work that we may get together a team for the Komen Race for the Cure, but that the person who always helped in the past has left… so I volunteered. So maybe I am "training for an event," even though it's three months away, it would be an interesting one to do since breastfeeding was such a motivator to land me in this spot, now. 

Distance: 2.18 miles (I walked a few minutes more than the 28 of the workout)
Average: 16:18 /mile
Fastest Pace: 10:25 /mile

Walk Pace: 16:41
Run Pace: 13:45
May 28, 2011 - fitness    2 Comments

Week 3 is in the bag (again).

Another crazy busy week, but I finished week 3, again, this morning and am confident to tackle week 4 starting on Monday. Yay!

One thing I've found is that Runners find out about this and ask "what race are you training for?" and I really am not training for a race, I'm just racing to complete this program and then, well, we'll see. The race (like it is for many Runners) is against myself, and I'm doing it at my own pace — if I bomb week 4, I'll do it again, I won't just pull out, even if I want to.

But on the events/races/etc, is it better to be training for a Something? Should I set some goal of doing an honest-to-god 5k? I'm still not sure. 

Distance: 1.96 miles
Average: 15:51 /mile
Fastest Pace: 8:56 /mile

Walk Pace: 16:07
Run Pace: 12:12