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Posted on May 21, 2012 in Races | 30 comments

Reach the Beach MA: Part 1

We. Did. It.

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After 31 hours, 200 miles, and 2 vans full of my awe-inspiring teammates, Team Off Balance literally Reached the Beach and I could not be more proud, more happy, or more exhausted.


Our team, plus our AMAZING New Balance drivers/coaches/van moms! (via Anne)

I’m not really even sure where to start with this recap. So much has happened over the past few days — exciting, exhausting, physically and emotionally challenging things — that it’s actually kind of difficult to organize my thoughts to the point of coherency. Still, I want to get it all down while it’s fresh in my mind (and before it’s burned out of my memory by the hot Caribbean sun, haha) so I’m going to try!

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12 bloggers, 200 miles. NBD.

Our epic weekend actually began on Thursday with a New Balance factory tour (they were seriously the most AMAZING sponsor!) and a lot of team preparations (photos, logistical planning, eating of steak and carbs, haha), but I’ll circle back to all of that after I’ve recapped the actual race itself.

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Things got started bright and early Friday morning with our arrival at the starting area at the Mount Wachusett Ski Area. We had to go through a registration process, safety check, and get our team photo before we could line up, so we got there nice and early. Our team’s starting time was 10:20 AM, but I think we arrived sometime around 9.

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Because the start times for all the teams were staggered as to avoid congestion both at the beginning and end of the race, it was a bit of a different starting line experience than I’m used to. No huge crowds of people or corals to push through, just a few other teams and a decent amount of time for me to start freaking out. I was runner number 1, after all!

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Feeling excited…

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… but admittedly anxious!

My first leg was only 2.8 miles, but marked as “hard” (for good reason, as it turns out!). I was excited about the short mileage, but completely petrified about the elevation. I mean, we were at the base of a freakin’ ski resort! I was literally looking straight up the side of a mountain from the starting line.

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See the ski lifts behind me? Hahaha…ha…ha.

Despite my terror, the anticipation and excitement was still very high. My teammates did their best to keep me amped! Because of the short length and fact that this was predominantly a trail run, this was the only leg that our team didn’t give van course support on, so they really layered the support on ahead of time. 🙂 In retrospect, I’m actually kind of glad of that, since I wouldn’t have wanted them to see how much I ended up struggling!

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Anne and me at the base of the mountain.

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Theodora helping to get me pumped with her maaaaaad jump shot skillz.

Before I knew it, they were calling our team to the start and I was lined up and ready to go. At 10:20 on the dot, we were off! My entire team was cheering for me and I was so excited that it was finally starting. I high-fived them all as I ran past! 🙂

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The incline up the mountain path started right away. Seriously, from my very first step, I was headed uphill. I quickly fell to the back of the pack (uh, duh) but held up a steady step as I climbed upward.

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After about half a mile, the trail completely disappeared into the woods and I couldn’t see down to the starting area anymore. This is where things got really bad. If I thought that the initial hill at the starting line was steep, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. It was RIDICULOUS. I started to breathe extremely raggedly, and my quads and hamstrings began to seriously burn.

I was petrified that I wasn’t even going to be able to finish this one leg of the race, and every step forward was a huge mental battle. I knew I couldn’t stop though. I mean, that clearly just wasn’t an option. This was not only my first leg, but the very first leg of the entire race! I had a whole van of supportive women waiting for me on the other side. So onward I plugged, step by step.

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It doesn’t translate very well into photos, but I snapped this shot on my phone as I was making my excruciatingly slow way up the mountain path. Just pretty much think of this hill as being twice, maybe three times as steep as it looks, and maybe that’ll be an accurate representation. It was also rocky and uneven, and I definitely stumbled more than a few times. I even fell once! Luckily (?), I’m super clumsy and am always tripping and falling, plus I was jogging along at a snail’s pace, so I didn’t really hurt myself, just ended up with one or two wicked bruises on my shins to show off later.

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Aside from the unbearable, agonizing steepness, it was a really beautiful trail. There were one or two blissful 50-ish foot stretches of semi-flatness that were absolutely breathtaking. One had this little pond/waterfall was that was babbling nicely, where I was fortunate enough to be chased off by an angry bee (which definitely motivated me to keep running, haha!).

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Another stretch of the path opened up to a little viewing area with a couple of benches that looked over the entire mountain. This was the point where I started to realize how far I had climbed upward. Not too far after seeing this, the trail opened up onto the road (just a tiny bit before the 2 mile point) and things got better. Way better. Super-awesomely-downhill-better. I was so excited to be A) going downhill and B) on solid ground (not to mention feeling fairly guilty about how slowly the first 2 miles had gone) that I started to FLY. At one point I looked down at my phone and saw a 7:40 pace!

In hindsight, this was probably a terrible, terrible thing, because I was hitting the pavement HARD with each step. I definitely bruised the bottom of my right foot and it still hurts even as I write this (though to be fair, I can’t really say whether it happened during this leg or one of my others).

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Finally, after what felt like an eternity, I heard some cheering and whooping as the runner a little ways ahead of me reached the transition area, and I knew I was almost home free. There was one last tiny uphill incline at the very end (cruel!) but I powered through because I knew my van was waiting for me.

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We had a videographer along with our team for the entire race, so I’m sure he got some SUPER attractive footage of me here, hahaha.

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As you can see from my expression, it wasn’t pretty, but I did it!

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Our “baton” for the relay was actually a snap bracelet (80s throwback, what-what!), so I unhooked it from my wrist as I approached my team and slapped it onto Jess‘s wrist right as I finished!

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And that was a wrap on leg 1! To be honest with you all, I was probably the least qualified runner to tackle this insanely difficult leg. I mean, I’m sure it would have been hard for anyone, but it was seriously the most physically challenging thing I have ever done. I guess that just makes me all the more proud that I was able to do it, though! I like to think that I bit the proverbial bullet for the rest of my team by taking one the very first leg, too. You know, so that they didn’t have to. YOU ARE ALL WELCOME. 😉

I think I’ll cut off this lengthy post there. I’ll be back tomorrow with a recap of Leg 2! (Well, technically, I’ll be on my way to St. Maarten tomorrow. But you get what I mean.) And in case you’re in need a refresher, here is the breakdown of Team Off Balance!


Another pilfered pic from Anne, hehe.

Van 1:

#1: Me!
#2: Jess from Fit Chick in the City
#3: Melissa from Fitness NYC
#4: Patricia from Run Foodie Run
#5: Bridget from Yogurt Berries
#6: Sarah from SarahFit

Van 2:

#7: Tina from Carrots ‘N’ Cake
#8: Monica from Run Eat Repeat
#9: Theodora from Losing Weight in the City
#10: Elizabeth from On Tap for Today
#11: Anne from Fannetastic Food
#12: Ashley from A Healthy, Happier Bear

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Posted on May 18, 2012 in Dear Diary, Races | 9 comments

Off to the Races!

Greetings from Wachusett! At precisely 10:20 AM this morning I will be kicking off the Reach the Beach relay and starting the most epic, exhausting, challenging, and hopefully fulfilling 30 hours of my life.

The trip up to Boston so far has already been awesome, involving car decorating, teammate bonding, and an awesome tour of the New Balance factory in Lawrence, MA. For the sake of packing light, I left my laptop at home (I’m blogging from my phone and on Ashley’s comandeered computer, hehe) so I won’t be able to upload my “real” pics until I’m back in DC. I have a few phonetastic snapshots of the day’s events though, so enjoy and think good thoughts for me and my team if it’s past 10:20 when you read this! 😀

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Van #1!

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Touring the manufacturing floor at New Balance! (They are the only major athletic footware company who still manufactures shoes in the US. 25% of their products are from here!)

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In the research labs — the “smash room”!

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So. Many. Shoes.

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Trailing behind Van #2 on our way to the hotel.

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My pre-race dinner: STEAK!

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Ashley and me right after our Team Off Balance photoshoot.

See you on the flipside!

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Posted on May 16, 2012 in Dear Diary, Races | 26 comments

Relay

Wellps, it’s here! As Sean can attest from the tear-stained evidence leftover from my completely hysterical breakdown about it last night, I’m off to the Reach the Beach Relay tomorrow! I fly up to Boston tomorrow morning, and it is going to be a packed weekend, full of more than just the relay race itself. It’s unlikely that I’ll get a ton of blogging in over the next few days. There will, however, be lots of Tweeting and Facebook updating though! We’ll be tagging race-related tweets with #rtbrelay, #newbalance, and/or #offbalance, and we even have a new Team Off Balance Twitter handle: @RTBOffBalance. Wheee, social media storm!

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So a big component of preparing for a 30 hour, 200 mile race is making sure you’re packing well. I want to make sure that I’ve got everything I need without OVER-packing (something that I have a rather strong tendency to do). So I’ve been casually gathering things over the past week to make sure that I’m not forgetting anything. Yesterday I packed up most of the things I’m going to need (though I’m sure there will be a few last minute swaps and additions, for sure!) and gave my duffel bag a trial run.

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Since, as mentioned, our all-blogger team is being generously sponsored by New Balance, packing my fitness clothing isn’t much of a challenge. I’ve had a chance to test out all of the running gear that they sent us, and have my three running outfits all picked out. I have three sports bras, three pairs of socks, and three hair bands too. I’m even bringing the extra items that I won’t be running in — like these infamously short run shorts — because while I may not enjoy the chafing, they are super comfortable just to lounge around in.

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New Balance also sent us an awesome secondary package just a day or so ago with some team-branded clothing! So we have a tank, long sleeve technical tee, and running windbreaker all with Off Balance branding! So exciting, and the tank is not only vented with a sweet logo, but it’s super flattering too. Win-win!

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It was actually much more difficult for me to decide what to pack in terms of non-fitness clothing. Ultimately, I figured that things are going to be pretty casual (with the possibility of going to do something slightly nicer Saturday night if we’re not all dead), so I’m packing a couple of cute tees (including my Team Peeta shirt! RAWR!) and one sundress. I’m planning on wearing my jeans on the plane.

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And yes, that is 7 pairs of underwear you’re seeing folded up in the background there. Underwear is the one thing that I believe can NEVER be over-packed! On the side you might also be able to make out a rolled up plastic-lookin’ thing. That’s three huge Ziplock bags for me to put my race outfits in. All of the relay race packing suggestions I’ve read say to pack your three race outfits in separate plastic bags — that way, it’s easy to pull them out when it’s time to change, and you also have a place to put them back when you’re done! I know it probably seems gross to put sweaty clothes in a plastic bag, but consider that I, the Sweatiest Exerciser Ever, am the first runner. That means that there are like 29.5 hours left in the race that my vanmates would have to put up with my stinky clothes if I didn’t seal ’em off, hahaha. What, TMI?

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I do have just a FEW non-clothing things that I’m packing too. Since I’m flying and don’t want to have to check a bag, I’m trying to keep my extras limited. But I want to contribute to the team/my van, too! So I’m bringing baby wipes (for post-run wipe downs, since there won’t be any showers), a roll of TP (just in case!), the Dreamie travel blanket that Ben gave me for my birthday (if I decide to try to catch even a few minutes of shut-eye in the van, haha), and a jar of Peanut Butter & Co. White Chocolate Wonderful (for eating by the spoonful).

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Of course, I can’t forget the most important thing that I’ll need to be bringing — my sneakers! New Balance also sent me this awesome pair of flip flops in my latest package, which I was counting on relaxing in between running legs. Unfortunately one of the support straps broke! I’m really bummed, because they are SO comfortable (they remind me of Rainbows!), but I guess I’ll have to resort to my UnderArmour flippies instead. Le sigh.

So there you have it! Additional things I’ll be bringing that aren’t shown include my camera (duh!), iPhone (duh!), charger (duh! Are you sending a pattern?), a hand towel (suggested by our New Balance contact to wipe down post-run), PJs for Thursday and Saturday nights so that hotel roomie isn’t subjected to THAT (bahaha!), toiletries (including men’s deodorant – this is no time for my usual Dove Cucumber and Green Tea!), and some very minimal makeup.

Any last minute suggestions for what to bring, what to do, or how to survive? General words of encouragement are also welcome, since I’m still mildly freaking out about the running part of this whole shebang… though, as my loving and rational boyfriend reminded me, I’ll only be spending a fraction of the relay (like, what, 2 hours total?) actually running. But still. Think good thoughts for me! 🙂

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Posted on Apr 2, 2012 in Races | 21 comments

Cherry Blossom 5K

Boy, oh, boy. Where to begin with this one? Well, Sunday I ran the Cherry Blossom 5K and my feelings on it are… complicated. It started off as a huge cluster, unfortunately, but I still felt pretty good about it at the end. So, again, complicated. I felt the slightest bit weird about it in general, since I originally had signed up to run the 10 Miler but then dropped down to the 5K (smartest decision EVER, I should add!), but I still had my 10 Miler bib and everything. Still, I was excited to get another 5K under my belt (a distance that I’ve admitted many times to enjoying), and had plans to meet up with my sister and brother-in-law after they finished the 10 Miler.

The 10 Mile race had kicked off at 7 AM, while the 5K didn’t start until 8:40. I figured I had tons of time to get there, so I left for the Metro around 8 AM. Well, apparently I am fail at riding the metro, because even though the Smithsonian stop is only supposed to be 20 minutes away I didn’t get there until almost 9 o’clock! I hatehateHATE being late, so as soon as I got off the train, I started sprinting to try to find the 5K starting line. Unfortunately, it was blocked by the end of the 10 Miler course! Since I got there so late, there were a TON of fasssssst runners booking it towards their own finish line. I ran back to ask some race volunteers how to get across to the 5K start, and they told me that I did, in fact, have to cross the 10 Miler course… carefully. So I ended up having to wait another 4 to 5 minutes just to find a break in the stream of runners that I could sprint through (and felt like a total toolbag/douchecoaster doing so).

I tried to shake off my humiliation and continue towards the starting line… which had already been converted into the finish line. D’oh. I tried to peek at the clock to see what time I’d actually started at and I started my RunKeeper app to get some semblance of an idea of how I’ll do by the end. At this point, I was pretty disheartened. All of the stuff I love about racing — the crowds, the kick-off, the other people surrounding you — was gone. It was just me, a handful of other latecomers, and a steady stream of runners who are already heading for the finish. I had pretty much resigned myself to having a horrible race experience at this point. It was really difficult not to feel embarrassed as I trudged along by myself, despite all the encouraging words for volunteers and whatnot. I kept wanting to announce to them that I just started really late, that I wasn’t really in last place! Discouraged and already exhausted (after sprinting almost half a mile just to get through the starting gate), I ended up walking most of the first mile. Womp.

As it turned out, all was not lost, however. I did make a friend on the course, a fellow latecomer and 10 Miler drop-downer. After commiserating with her for a little while, I started to get a little bit of my spirit back. We started jogging again, and once we hit the turnaround point I was feeling much better. At this point, we began to pass the majority of the walkers, and as we ran back over the Memorial Bridge one of the volunteers yelled out “You caught up! I remember seeing you on the other side. How did you catch up so fast?!” which made me feel pretty good, haha. The second half of the race went by much faster, and was generally much more pleasant as we passed groups of people and the finish line came into view. I caught sight of Jenny and Dan (who had already finished their 10 Miles before I could even finish my 3.1, haha) near the end and started to really book it. I sprinted across the finish line and, though I don’t have an official read on my time, ended up finishing in ~38 minutes. Not a record by any means, but given my craptastic start and the fact that I walked in the beginning, I actually feel pretty good about. (I also feel I should remind myself that my very first 5K — which I didn’t walk at all during — took me over 40 minutes to complete.)

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In the end, all’s well that ends well, and despite its less-than-stellar beginnings, the race did serve as a good reminder that the actual 3.1 mile distance is totally doable. With a little more dedicated outdoor training (since I’ve been doing almost 100% treadmill runs lately), I know I’ll be able to get back up to a 4 mile running stamina for the Reach the Beach Relay in May.

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The last item on the agenda before Jenny, Dan, and I braved the smelly Metro back to Falls Church was to pick up the 10 Miler finisher medal that I had prematurely ordered, hahaha. Oops. At least you can’t argue about my INTENTIONS to have run that race, right? I bequeathed it to my very deserving sister instead. 🙂

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So the name of the game now is simply to continue training for the RTB Relay, go out with a bang there, and then never have to run ever again! Bahahaha. 😉

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Posted on Mar 1, 2012 in Races, Working Out | 22 comments

Holy Swag, New Balance!

As you are all probably aware, given the number of times I’ve freaked out about it so far, I am running the Reach the Beach Relay in May with a team of pretty awesome bloggers. We have been fortunate enough to be sponsored by New Balance, and while I would have been more than happy just not having to pay a registration fee, they upped the ante. Yesterday I came home to a pretty sweet surprise!

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Well, I guess it wasn’t SO much of a surprise, since I had been hearing the digital shrieks from my teammates who had already received theirs all day, haha.

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I was NOT fully prepared for the epicness that awaited me within the walls of that duffel bag, however. Consider my workout wardrobe effectively doubled (or more!) — I think all my UnderArmour gear is going to start jelly hatin’:

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Holy schlamoly. There is pretty much everything that you would possibly need to train for a relay like this in here!

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The list of swag from my bag is as follows:

  • New Balance 890 sneakers (The soles are really more pink than red, despite how the color turned out in the pic.)
  • PDA Running Gloves
  • Tri-Viz Running Cap (With lights on the front and under the rim!)
  • Prism Run Shorts
  • Fun Run Shorts
  • Fun Run Skirt (My first running skirt! There are shorts built into it.)
  • Prism Capri
  • Impact Capri
  • Tempo Tee
  • Icefill Short Sleeve (Love me some moisture-wicking tees)
  • Tonic Crop Sports Bra
  • NRG Bars
  • GPS Runner (I don’t think that links to the same model we got, but it’s all I could find on the website.)
  • Running Socks
  • I didn’t even know that New Balance made a GPS watch, but I am really excited to try it all out! I’m actually most excited about the running hat. The relay is over the course of 24+ hours, which obviously means that some legs are going to be at night (all the relay recaps I’ve read say that the night legs are the best experience though, so hopefully I get (an easy) one, hehe!). It’ll be so nice having a little headlamp on as we’re running through rural Massachusetts at 3 AM, don’t you think?

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    All of this new jank is DEFINITELY getting me hyped up for the race. It’s even — gasp! — making me want to go run to try it all out! Who’d have ever thunk it? 😉 This is gonna be legendary.

    Do you have a “brand” when it comes to running/workout apparel? My sister works for UA, so all of my stuff has been almost exclusively them up until now (my shoes are Brooks though).

    Edit: I forgot to add that New Balance is offering a discount code for our team to distribute! It’s good for 15% off and free shipping at shopnewbalance.com (valid until March 10th). Code: NBRTB1255CB4T

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