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Tapering a bittersweet experience

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff March 29, 2013 07:00 AM
100scroth.jpg Katie Schroth is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
With less than three weeks until race day, it’s officially tapering time! At least it is for me. Tapering is a bittersweet experience. After training for 15-20 weeks, it is so sweet to finally be cutting back the mileage.

After all the interval workouts, tempo runs, and long runs, being able to finally relax a bit feels amazing. The mega-hard part of the training cycle has past, and I can breath a huge terrific sigh of relief. Ahhh.

Tapering is bitter too though. For one, the race has yet to be run. As the race draws closer, the more nervous and crazy I feel. Normally I deal with crazy via running, but in the instance of marathon preparation, specifically tapering, running is not an appropriate coping mechanism. What’s a runner to do? I still don’t have this figured out. My new coping mechanism is to pretend that I don’t have race. What, the Boston Marathon is less than three weeks away? La la la la, I can’t hear you.

Besides not being able to deal with my crazy nerves through my normal methods, tapering also brings extra energy, which means I can have trouble sleeping. As a result, I have to cut back on the coffee (if I want to sleep). Cutting back on the coffee when you have two small children and work is not exactly super fun. I love my cup of French vanilla coffee with cream...mmmm. Just thinking about it makes me want some!

Then there are the phantom pains brought on by tapering. Inevitably I’ll suddenly start having IT band pain or hip pain, when I haven’t had any such pains throughout the training cycle. Of course, then I start questioning if I’ll even be able to complete the race. The doubts grow from there. Suddenly I feel sluggish, and the thought of running the marathon pace I’ve been training at, for 26.2 miles seems absolutely ridiculous. And who in their right mind runs marathons anyway!? 26 miles? Lunacy!

The bitter aspect of taping has yet to come. This week is all sweet. I’m enjoying the reduction in miles, the crazy hasn’t taken hold, I’m still drinking some coffee (and sleeping), and I haven’t had any phantom pains. Yeah, this week has been the calm before the storm. Now next week might be a whole other story, but one week at a time, right?

In other news, I’m still using the RC3 GPS, mostly for the heart rate function right now. I’ve noticed some interesting trends. For easy runs, my heart rate is almost always around 130 beats per minute. For harder interval or tempo runs, my heart rate seems to like to be around 150, which is significantly less than it was during my half marathon, where I averaged 162.

I’m curious if it’s normal to have a heart rate significantly lower for interval and tempo workouts than in a race? Since I don’t typically train by heart rate, I have no idea. I might try to do some research this week. I’ll let you know what I find.

Dare to live

Posted by Ty Velde March 28, 2013 10:55 PM
100ty_velde.jpg Ty Velde is a regular contributor to Boston.com's Marathon blog.
Oh yeah, life goes on
Long after the thrill of livin' is gone
- John Mellencamp

As we get older and life gets more complex, it’s very easy to become complacent. It’s something that none of us like to admit, but life will often bring forth circumstances and situations that we all need to be accepting of and face the fact they these are our realities.

In doing so, life goes on. Yes, it certainly does not stop. However, instead of the thrill of life being captured in the moment, it’s relegated to that of past glories and achievements. We come to realize that we’ve gotten to where we are because of what we’ve done, and now it’s time to enjoy the ride. In short, as we grow older we become content.

Yet, for many, a fire still burns.

The words “content” and “complacency” are four letter words. While our current state in life may seem tame when compared to past glories, we still desire more. Yes, life is great, but we’re not satisfied. We accept the past, but view the future as the land of opportunity. We want to show ourselves and those around us what were are made of. Nowhere is better defined than in the notion of accepting the challenge of training for and then running a marathon.

In short, we’re all here, because whether we realize it or not, we still “dare to live.”

It’s about Risk
When viewed in the context of a marathon, risk is about leaving your comfort zone. Simply stated, the task of running 26.2 miles is no small undertaking. When you take into account the training, time commitments and ultimately what’s needed on race day to just cross the finish line, to many the thought running a marathon can be a daunting experience.

Yet, you’re here because you have not backed down. Rather, you understand that risk breeds reward. You’re here because to you taking a risk is not about a fear of failure; it’s about identifying opportunity and understanding “what could be” and “what you can become.”

It’s about Challenge
A marathon is much more than a race, it’s a personal challenge. It challenges you both mentally and physically. It challenges your notion of commitment and focus. It challenges your notion of time and dedication. In deciding to run a marathon, you accept challenges on many different levels that impact many different facets your life. When faced with an understanding of the many challenges that a marathon presents, for many the easy solution is to just walk away.

But this is not who you are.

Rather you’ve accepted the challenge and met it head-on. In doing this you’ve discovered a lot about who you are, what drives you and ultimately what inspires you. Whether you realize it or not, the notion of challenge has been a key driving and motivational force in getting you to the point where you’re at today. Sure, the easy route is to just back down, but is that really living? Clearly, you don’t think so, and in the challenge of a marathon, you’ve found the answer.

It’s about Perception
Running a marathon has a unique way in altering how you perceive yourself as well as how you’re perceived by others. While we all choose to run for different reasons, for many of us the marathon represents an opportunity to break the shackles of the past and demonstrate to ourselves and to others that we are someone or something else. In short running a marathon has a way of making you realize that just because you have may have been dealt a certain hand in life, it does not mean that you have fold and be accepting.

For many, running a marathon is the ultimate act in demonstrating to others that who you are, is not who they think you are. Ultimately, when it comes to notion of perception, running the marathon is as much are about crossing the finish line, as it is about transformation. For many of us the marathon represents the final step in in this process, such that you showcasing to yourself and others, that not only have you won the battle, but more importantly you have now won the war.

It’s about Goals
A key motivating factor when it comes to running a marathon is that it forces us to move and look beyond our immediate sense of self and place in life. It forces us to set both short and long-term goals and then chart a path to achieve them. Therefore, we’re here because we realize that the marathon is much more than just about running, it's about creating a sense of vision for who we are and who we want to be.

Ultimately, running a marathon is an experience that touches your life in many different ways. A marathon is more than just a 26.2 mile race, it's a voyage of self-discovery. It's about associating risk with opportunity and seeing a challenge as a source of motivation. It's about understanding the importance of defining ourselves through action and in turn, using it to mold perception. It's about being motivated by setting goals and then guided by the vision they create.

Above all, running a marathon truly has the power to change how you look at your life and perceive the world around you. But what is this so? While it's clear that the impact of the marathon experience for each of us is the sum of many parts, I also believe we're all united by a single common element.

Simply stated, in choosing to run a marathon, we've all "dared to live."

One added, one dropped from Boston Marathon elite field

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff March 28, 2013 11:05 AM
Former Boston Marathon champion Deriba Merga of Ethiopia has joined the field for this year's race on April 15, race sponsor John Hancock Financial announced Thursday.

Guor Marial, who ran the Olympic marathon in London unaffiliated because his home country of South Sudan was not recognized by the International Olympic Committee, dropped out of this year's Boston Marathon. Marial became a US citizen in February.

Merga won the Boston Marathon in 2009 and was third in 2010.

Race organizers extended an invitation to Marial to run in next year's race.

Hopefully this will all be worth the wait

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff March 28, 2013 07:00 AM
100klemond.jpg Jacqueline Palfy Klemond is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
My giant order of official Boston Marathon gear came in the mail the other day. The bright blue and yellow clothes with 2013 embroidered all over them make it difficult to pull my usual marital lie when it comes to new clothes: “This old thing? I’ve had it forever. I dug it out of the archives.”

There was no real way to gently introduce all this new gear into my wardrobe. Knowing that, I ordered my husband Philip a shirt, too, and one for our son, Jack, 4. I figured Genevieve, 2, can wear it when he outgrows it. Though if there is a pink Boston Marathon shirt at the expo, you can guarantee she’ll get it.

Still, I won’t wear any of it until I’ve officially crossed the finish line. I know the rules of the racing community. I couldn’t quite explain them to Jack, though, and he ran around all day this weekend in his oversized Boston shirt. I told him after that day, he couldn’t wear it again until we were at Aunt Kim’s house in Williamstown, where we’re spending a few days before the race.

BostonJack.jpegSo every morning he looks at the shirt and asks, “Are we going to Aunt Kim’s today?” Not yet, buddy.

I’m not the only family member getting excited to head to New England.

There are just over two weeks to go until race day. I’ve kept up my cross-training, with a few technical glitches here and there. My spinning bike won’t pick up my Polar heart-rate monitor, which is troubling. The bikes pick up others’ Polar monitors, but not mine. Maybe I’m heartless. It’s the only answer.

And I’ve thrown the watch into my gym bag, but the buttons are so sensitive, it turned it on and was dead by the time I needed it. That happened twice. Beyond that, it seems to click off the miles accurately, and has measured known courses right. But it just isn’t that user-friendly to me. More than once I’ve turned off a run instead of pausing it, put in random splits by accident, and gotten it stuck on a screen telling me what my heart-rate should be. I’m confident most of these are user errors, but it also tells me it’s just not that intuitive. In good news, I will say the watch band is super comfortable and can be adjusted to fit my tiny wrists and the monitor strap doesn’t slide around.

And it was totally fun to compare heart rates to a friend the other day on our lunch run.

I’ve been running regularly again – good plan, considering there’s a marathon coming up. I continue to be pain-free, to swim, bike and lift regularly, and did a 20-miler on Saturday morning. It was the first of two I hope to complete before race day.

I’m happy to say it was easy. I never had that “kill me now” moment on the run, and I credit that as much to the quality of my cross-training as to the quality of my running partners.

And, of course, our route. We decided to head out of town for the run, and pick up some gravel roads north of the city. Out here in South Dakota, getting out of town is pretty easy – and rural means really rural. I grew up in Ohio and Rhode Island, and when I moved to South Dakota just over 12 years ago, I couldn’t believe how many stretches there are with absolutely nothing – no power lines, no other roads, nothing but blowing grass and blue, blue sky. It’s breathtaking, and I’ve come to love that desolation and open space.

So it always feels refreshing to spend a few hours on a weekend enjoying the countryside. And a gravel road is easy on the legs. My friend Owen and I met at 5:30 a.m., in the pitch black, at a parking lot on the edge of town. We picked up the paved bike trail that goes more than 20 miles around the city, and took a spur north to the edge of town. Then we picked up a gravel road and ran another mile, where two other friends had parked to meet up with us. With them, we did a lollipop course, for about 16 miles together.

It was so dark on the way out, all we could see was the small patch each of our headlamps illuminated. Erica and I wear reflective vests, which glowed, and my friend Chris had a reflective jacket. Owen’s CamelBak lit up in the glow of the headlamps, too. And the bits of reflective strips on tights and shoes and gloves.

For several miles, it was just that patch of light, those random bits of white glowing and the sound of gravel crunching. We passed 100-year-old farmsteads, cows, horses wearing blankets, a donkey, a skunk, a couch, more than one beer can, some fake deer and one car.

At the top of the lollipop, we crossed a bridge – which on the aerial map looked fine. But up close, it had a locked gate on either side. It required climbing two fences in the middle of the run. But on the good side, the old bridge was the perfect spot to stop, grab some water, eat a gel, look at the ice breaking on the river and contemplate heading back toward town.

The sun came up and we finished our 20 miles. I ran the first two and the last two with Owen – perfect, since he was with me when I qualified in Twin Cities. In fact, I credit Owen, a long-time runner and a local legend, with helping me accomplish my goal. We ran side by side, step by step in Twin Cities for about the first 20 miles. I fell back a bit, and he picked up, but if it hadn’t been for him, I never would have run those first 20 miles so quickly or had the confidence to try.

“It’s going really well, Jacqueline,” he said to me on the course that day, when I began to falter.

I’m going to try to remember that in Boston – no matter what, it’s going to go well. Because the goal is to have fun. And getting that 20-miler in last week – and hopefully one more this week before a quick taper – showed me that I’m not in as bad a shape as I thought. And if it starts to go bad, I hope to remember the sunrise in rural South Dakota, the crunch of gravel beneath my feet, and to have the sense to slow down, look around, and revel in how lucky, how truly lucky, I am to be there.

Plus I really, really want to wear that blue and yellow half-zip pullover.

Everyone has a reason why they run

Posted by Rich Horgan March 27, 2013 07:30 AM
100righhorgan.jpg Rich Horgan is a regular contributor to Boston.com's Marathon Blog.
Three weeks from now I'll hopefully be enjoying a beer with friends and family after successfully completing my 20th Boston Marathon.

This past Saturday was the last long run for many runners.

It was estimated that there were several thousand die-hards on the course between Hopkinton and Boston College.

For many first-time marathoners, this was the longest distance they had ever run and I am sure there were a few nervous stomachs prior to the run.

The Boston Athletic Association several years back instituted a program that allows several thousand runners who otherwise would not be qualified to run the race to legally run the race in return for raising funds for worthy charities.

For some this is a way to enter the race and try to run a fast enough time to qualify for next year's race.

For others like myself, qualifying has never been an option. My best time was slightly over four hours, and that was several years ago.

For me and many of my Dana Farber teammates, this is an opportunity to work together for several months with the ultimate goal of raising millions of dollars for cancer research.
Our group gathered at Boston College at 7:30 and stretched and plotted our strategy for the day.

Just prior to beginning our 20-plus mile run, Sandy, a young mother of three boys, addressed our group. Sandy's middle son Matty was a beautiful young boy who went through the ravages of cancer, including several operations, radiation, chemo and finally amputation of one of his arms.

Tuesday was Matty's "Angelversary" – the day he left his loving family and friends.

Matty's courage and that of his brothers and relatives is a sobering reminder that although great strides have been made in research, we still have a way to go.

"Team Matty" manned a water stop on the course and many of us had our pictures taken with a large photo of a smiling Matty.

While most of the runners on the course have a time they would like run on April 15, I'm sure that others like me will feel a greater sense of accomplishment when we top our personal and team fundraising goals to help the hundreds of young cancer patients live long and productive lives.

Now comes the best part of training, tapering.

Shorter runs , healthy eating and plenty of rest.

Boston is running at its best

Posted by Staff March 27, 2013 07:00 AM
100chrissyhoran.jpg Chrissy Horan is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
Boston has a great running community. Every night of the week, there are running clubs heading out with anywhere from 5-50 runners somewhere in town. Any weekend from May through December you can find a 5K through a half marathon somewhere. From January through April, though you may have to drive a little further, there are still a bunch of races each weekend.

I consider myself pretty lucky that I can find someone or somewhere to run pretty much whenever I want. I’ve met many of my friends through running : at run clubs, volunteering at races, and as part of teams. And then there are also the folks who I don’t know by name, but pass along my own routes on a regular basis – headphones guy at the track or the girl with the blue hat I pass on my regular morning loop around 6:10 am. My friend Sarah told me that one morning, while recovering from an injury, she went out for a walk instead of a run. Three of the “regulars” on her route around Jamaica Pond stopped to ask if she was okay.

We have running paths practically everywhere including along the Charles River, Fresh Pond, Jamaica Pond, Castle Island, and the Back Bay Fens.

Oh, and we have the world’s oldest annual marathon.

This Saturday marked one of my favorite Boston running traditions – the charity teams’ long run from Hopkinton. With 3 weeks until the marathon, this is often the last 20+ mile run before most runners begin their taper for the race. While I’m not sure if it is “official” in any capacity, it certainly has become a save-the-date-worthy event for many runners, on charity teams and otherwise, training for Boston.

Probably a few thousand runners departed Hopkinton between 7-10 am. Port-o-potties were available for runners in Hopkinton and along the course, as well as police detail directing traffic at the busiest intersections. As I stopped at the Alzheimer’s Association’s water station in Wellesley, a woman drove up beside me and asked, “What race is this?”

Chrissy and Ted.JPG

From the Newton firehouse to Boston College there are support stations hosted by running clubs, running stores and charity teams, giving away food, drinks and often other goodies. Complete strangers offering Gatorade, jelly beans and encouragement as runners head up the hills of Comm Ave. It’s hard not to feel a little warm and fuzzy.

Gatorade.JPG

As for my run, it went better than I had hoped. My legs felt heavy all week after the race last Sunday and my runs seemed like harder efforts than the paces showed it. On top of that, I learned that my buddy Dale was sidelined with some foot pain. Running 22 miles is already not exactly a walk in the park; running it alone is a true test of mental toughness.

But I lucked out. While waiting for a port-o-potty in Hopkinton (where I’m sure many important conversations have been had), I chatted with Glen and Celia, friends of a friend from New York, in town just to run the course as part of their own Boston Marathon training. They would be running my pace for the first 11 miles, and just like that scored myself a pacer and 90 minutes of conversation. Those 11 miles flew by!

Chrissy Leaping.JPG

Celia is training to run a 3:20 at Boston (you go girl!) and she and Glen picked up the pace for the second half of their run. Despite being on my own, 11 miles didn’t seem that intimidating. I chipped away, one mile at a time. I held a steady pace for the remaining 11 miles, slowing just a bit up the hills.

I’m still enjoying my Polar RC3 GPS. I am starting to play with the screen options to decide what information will help me most on race day. Each screen shows 3 training functions such as overall time, overall distance, lap time, lap distance and heart rate. While I know I’ll keep the overall time visible, I’m having a hard time deciding what other functions I want to view.

Besides being a great day to run, Saturday was the signal for me that the race is truly near. Less than 3 weeks to go and I feel surprisingly prepared given my “laid back” training season. Now it is time for me to figure out everything else for race day – what my watch screen will show, what flavor jelly beans I want to eat during the race and what color I’m going to paint my nails. You know, the important stuff.

The countdown is on!

Challenging winter requires flexible approach to training

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff March 26, 2013 07:00 AM
100chrisgarges.jpg Chris Garges is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
It’s not much of a secret that the Northeast has had a “challenging” winter, one that just doesn’t seem to want to let go. Unless you train indoors 100 percent of the time, this winter has definitely thrown a curve ball at your training plan.

More than just precipitation, cold weather and slippery surfaces make for cold, tight muscles and dangerous footing.

So how do you adjust to these unforeseen circumstances? Well, first and foremost you must be flexible. Move your workout to a different day or skip it all together. Experienced marathoners will tell you that in the long run a missed workout or three doesn’t really matter.

Secondly, you must be cognizant of injury. A long run in extreme cold can be painful and dangerous, and a speed workout on slippery footing can put you on the injured reserve in no time. Be confident in the work that you do get to accomplish and consider the missed workout as extra recovery, maybe even catch some extra sleep.

Last week was one of those weeks where mother nature, my body, and life in general were not cooperating. A couple of night meetings at work, kids swim lessons, snow covered roads, a sore knee and eventually some form of illness or allergies all wreaked havoc in my weekly training schedule.

I had to break one of my “rules” (I ran 4 days in a row, 3 is typically my maximum), but in the end I accomplished my goal mileage and one of my key workouts. The weeks after a hard race are typically tough physically, so looking back it was a good week. I rebounded to have a great weekend of training with a 21-mile long run on Saturday at 15-20 seconds slower than marathon pace followed by a 10-mile recovery run on Sunday.

Sunday’s run was “fun” in that, keeping with the recovery theme, I challenged myself to keep my heart rate below 130 beats per minute (<70% max HR), which I succeeded, averaging 127 bpm!

Below is a screen shot from my Polar Personal Trainer account. It’s a weekly diary that shows the times and days of my runs and includes a summary. Note the weekly totals of 63 miles and 7 hours, 28 minutes (7:06min/mi) as well as my attempt to “spread out” my runs over the four days in a row. My Thursday and Friday runs were in the early morning, I then maximized recovery with a good night of sleep on Friday and an afternoon run on Saturday.

Boston-blog-polar-weekly-diary.jpg

Now that Marathon Monday is a short three weeks away, I’ve also started to consider my “race plan.” I’ve got my shoes and my basic outfit in mind, now it’s time to get some of the details planned out in my head.

I always like to look back at my race reports (2012 can be found here) to remind myself of what went right, what went wrong and what I should change for 2013. I also like to look at nutrition and make sure that I’m practicing with the same nutrition that I’ll be using on race day.

powerbar-gel-double-latte.jpgAs I read through last year’s report, I remember how important the extra sodium in the PowerBar PowerGels was. They have four times more sodium than some of the other brand gels, and when you’re sweating for three hours it’s easy to lose sodium very quickly, which will ultimately lead to cramps.

I also use the caffeine to my advantage, starting out with no caffeine in my first gel, moving to 1x caffeine and ultimately my last gel will have 2x the caffeine. Boston has a PowerGel station at mile 17, which allows me to carry less yet still use the same brand/flavor that I trained with.

One last long run planned for this weekend and a mixed tempo / speed this week. Have a great week!

Heading for the hills

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff March 25, 2013 01:18 PM
100allysonmanchester.jpg Allyson Manchester is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
Hills have entered common vocabulary as a metaphor for life’s most daunting situations. The process of encountering a hill, starting at it from below, and struggling to the top requires psychological and physical intensity. It involves defying gravity, breathing heavily, and forcing the body into a state of discomfort.

In terms of training for the Boston Marathon, I value my hill workouts above all else. I began to incorporate hills into my running routine when I was a student at Stonehill College several years ago. Stonehill was situated on mostly flat terrain, but I found a long staircase as a substitute. Now, I love living in Brighton where hills abound—check out the beautiful city view from the top of my favorite hill!

hill.JPG

congratulations_x.jpgThis week, my Polar RCX3 joined me for a 6-mile run that included a steep, 0.4-mile ascent. The watch conveniently displays training data in “sport zones,” so I was able to look back after the run and evaluate how the hill affected my heart rate during and after the climb. While running the hill, my heart rate jumped to 184 (94 percent), as compared to the average 151 (77 percent) for the rest of the run. The summary on the watch also provided shockingly intuitive, personalized feedback on the workout. The screen read, “Good pace! You improved your aerobic fitness and endurance of your muscles. This session also developed your ability to sustain high intensity effort for longer.” I love being congratulated!

If you find yourself shying away from hills on your runs, I have compiled a few tips for increasing your body’s efficiency and developing a hill mindset:

Three hill tactics from Runners World and Cool Running.com, two very reliable running sources:

1. Posture matters: While on an incline, your body should be as upright as possible. Practicing this posture was difficult for me at first—I naturally tend to hunch over when I am exhausted. Keep your head and chest up, shoulders back, and eyes straight ahead.
2. Get vertical: Vertical motion is just as important as forward motion for hill running. You can increase your speed and stride length by pushing up and off the hill into an “exaggerated knee lift.”
3. Use the downhill: Most runners underestimate the energy required to run downhill. It’s easy to run too fast on a decline and let your muscles take a beating. According to Runner’s World, the best strategy on a downhill is to step softly without letting your feet slap the pavement.

Three hill tactics from me, a semi-reliable running source:
1. Find a power jam: When it comes to running hills, music functions like a jetpack. I have spent many years perfecting the song selection and order of my running playlist, and have now produced a five hour-long masterpiece. Amidst the carefully organized collection, I have four upbeat songs that I reserve solely for running hills.

  • Avicii – “Levels.” When I first moved to Boston last year, I spent far too much time in bro bars. The only positive outcome of this otherwise dark phase in my life was that I learned to love Avicii. A Swedish DJ, Avicii produces bold, dance-friendly tracks that sync perfectly with my hill running pace. “Levels” is composed mostly of instrumentals, but the song still communicates a strong message about energy and focus. While being interviewed in Rolling Stone after the 2012 Olympics, Michael Phelps recognized that the song mirrors the experience of a race: “Swimming a multiple-event program requires you to conserve and manage emotional and physical energy, so you’ve got the goods when you need it most. It’s all about levels.”
  • Beyonce – “Countdown.” As the title suggests, Beyonce engages in a rhythmic, high-powered countdown from the number 10 in the chorus of this song. My high school cross-country coach always suggested mental counting while running up hills, so these lyrics provide built-in focus.
  • Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – “Can’t Hold Us.” A recent and welcome addition, this triumphant beat helped me to survive this Saturday’s 22-mile training run from the Hopkinton starting line to my apartment in Brighton. I queued up the track at the perfect moment: right at the foot of Heartbreak Hill in Newton. As far as I am concerned, any song that manages to reference Bill Cosby’s sweaters, Bob Barker’s suits, Shark Week, and Wu Tang is an instant winner.
  • Nicki Minaj – “Super Bass.” As much as it pains me to endorse this pink-wigged diva, “Super Bass” hasn’t lost its pizazz since I heard it for the first time in April 2011. Incidentally, I have found myself on a never-ending quest to master the jam-packed lyrics of the first and second verse.

face_x.jpg2. Make a face: In all seriousness, nothing makes me feel more powerful while attacking an incline than making a super-determined facial expression. I have actually read running books that advise against this tactic, as using extra muscles to grit your teeth and furrow your brow detracts from the energy in other (more important) parts of your body. I disagree. “Making a face” allows me to give external expression to my internal desire to run up the hill. My mom once captured one of my running faces on camera — this picture is from a high school cross-country meet in 2004.

dad2012_x.jpg3. Envision a cheering section: Sadly, the majority of my running life does not take place in the presence of actual fans. I do spend a lot of time on runs thinking about the people who support me and keep me motivated. While running hills, I often visualize my biggest running role model standing at the top: my dad. My dad ran the Boston Marathon in 1993 and 1994. Although he since has retired from running, he still enacts the qualities of the best runners: he is optimistic, strategic, and fierce. His favorite phrase is “full beast mode” (borrowed from Rob Gronkowski). Living in “full beast mode” means working your absolute hardest—whether you are on a run, at school, or at your job. I have always seen my dad work his absolute hardest, which is why he is the perfect inspiration for steep hills. On the days when I am feeling a little more aggressive and vengeful, envisioning old boyfriends on hills works just as well!

Race perfect way to test new gear

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff March 22, 2013 02:43 PM
100scroth.jpg Katie Schroth is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
On St. Patrick's day, I ran the New Bedford half marathon. New Bedford is a popular race among the local runners, partly because it's approximately a month from the Boston Marathon and partly because it's a New England Grand Prix road race.

As a result, all the running club teams are competing, and because of the fierce competition, New Bedford is an excellent race to attempt a personal record. If you're interested you can read my race report at Experimental Running.

The short version is that I had a great day and ran a PR (1:25:59). The race also gave me a unique opportunity in which to use the Polar RC3 GPS, and note a few observations.

Positive Polar observations:
Over the last few weeks, I've been using both the Polar RC3 GPS and my normal Garmin. As far as the hardware is concerned, the Polar is a nice GPS watch. It acquires the GPS satellite as fast (and sometimes a little faster) than my Garmin. The Polar watch is the thinnest GPS watch I've seen, and I have to admit that it's a lot more comfortable to wear than my Garmin, which can sometimes bruise my wrist. The distances that each watch reports during a run are almost identical.

I find the Polar heart rate strap more comfortable than my Garmin heart rate strap as well. For someone who's new to heart rate training, the Polar watch will figure out your heart rate zones, which is neat, and as far as I know the Garmin doesn't do that. I would say if you're serious about training by heart rate and a smaller watch is important to you, then the Polar RC3 GPS is an excellent option.

Areas for improvement:
That being said, there are some user interface aspects of the Polar RC3 GPS that could be improved. Of course, that statement is completely subjective and my observations are based on my own personal preferences. You might disagree with me.

The first item I've noticed is that when you pause the watch you can't see your current running stats. The watch states that the activity is paused, and doesn't display anything else. If I'm on a training run and I have to pause the watch at a stop light, I like to check out how far I've run and what my average pace is.

My second observation deals with splits. I like to set my watch to automatically record mile splits, which the RC3 will do. The difference between the RC3 and the Garmin is that the Garmin only shows the mile split time, and nothing else during the run. The Polar watch shows a number of stats.

One might be inclined to argue that more is better, but I realized while racing on Sunday that when I'm running I only want to see my time. My goal is to look at my watch as little as possible while I'm running, especially when I'm racing. I want to be focused on the race and keeping my arms swinging by my side. As a result, during the run I only want to see my time for the mile splits.

And here's where I'll sound like a complete crazy person ... immediately after my race I often like to go through my splits and check the times and heart rate. The Garmin will let me go through the splits and see the time, average heart rate and max heart rate without connecting it to a computer. The Polar watch, while it will display your heart rate for the split while you're running (when I'm simply not in the right frame of mind for the information), it only displays the time and not the heart rate for each split once the activity has ended (unless you connect it to a computer).

The last observation has to due with what's displayed while you run. There are a few options to choose from, but what I personally like to see on the display when I'm running is the average pace, distance, total time, and heart rate. The Polar RC3 will only display three items, and I could probably do without the heart rate being displayed, but I don't feel comfortable without the other three items. The option closest to my preference is to display the instant speed, distance, and total time. To be fair, I know a number of runners who prefer to see instant speed, but I want to see the average pace. The way I see it, when you run a race, in the end, it's the average pace that you're looking to hit. Again, these are just my own personal preferences.

Conclusions for this week:
I've noted some of my preferences, but my preferences might not be your preferences. Also, my observations are minor and could be updated relatively easily if Polar decided there were enough runners out there who wanted to the same thing.

The 'long run' and why it matters beyond the miles

Posted by Ty Velde March 22, 2013 07:41 AM

Long distance running

For many of us, this weekend is a critical point in our training.

We’ve been training for months, building up our mileage and it’s now time for “the long run.” For most, this is the apex of the training experience, as the results of this particular run will determine how “ready” we feel we are for race day.


100ty_velde.jpg Ty Velde is a regular contributor to Boston.com's Marathon blog.

With this being said, why is it that we as marathoners put so much stock in one single run? After all, we’ve been training for months. We’re likely in some of the best shape of our lives. Yet, despite these factors when comes to evaluating our readiness for race day, instead of a taking a long term view of all that we have done over the course of our training to prepare, we often tend to judge it within the context of how we feel about “the long run.”

So, what is it about this single run that makes it such a defining moment? Yes, it’s a very important training and preparation milestone, but what are some of the factors that contribute to making it such an important part of the marathon experience, beyond simply the miles that are covered?

It’s a date that “looms” on the training calendar
While we all keep to certain training schedules and regiments, the date of “the long run” is often fixed. You don’t want to do it too early and definitely not too late. Therefore, for most of us there is a defined window as to when this training “event” will occur. As a result when it comes to training, it’s something that is constantly only your mind as it’s an event that you’ve been building up to and working towards.

It’s the training benchmark
How you feel after the long run very often can determine how effective you feel your training has been. While it may sound a bit silly to evaluate your entire training experience around a single run, as the long run is often the culmination of your training efforts, it’s very impactful. Simply stated, if you have a great long run, you’ll feel that you’re “ready” for race day and that you have trained effectively. Conversely, if you have poor long run, it may cause you to rethink how effective your training has been and question your true sense of “readiness.”

In short, while completing the long run often means you’ll still cover the distance and cross the finish line, many have goals that extend beyond this. Therefore, the long run can be very telling as to whether or not you feel you’re in condition to achieve them.

Everyone seems to ask about it

As we train, two of the most common questions any marathoner gets asked, especially by the non-initiated are… “Are you ready?” and “How do you feel?”. While we have all been training for months, I always find that when you reference the long run, either before or after, the awareness and curiosity factor of those around you about the marathon is suddenly heightened and starts to increase.

Up to this point, many people may not have even realized that you’re getting ready to run the Boston marathon, but there is now heightened sense of social awareness and interest in what you are about do. This factor also translates into a heightened sense of self-awareness about yourself and the marathon. Specifically, when viewed in the context of yourself, as well as within the acknowledgement of others, one thing that cannot be denied about the long run, is that it makes race day a reality. It is no longer a dream or a distant goal. Ultimately, with the long run you come you realize that you have now reached the point of no return.

You’re not going any further

This is it. It’s the dress rehearsal before the big dance. Simply stated the only time you’ll be running further is on race day. Therefore, this is the time you want to make sure that everything feels right and that you’ve worked out all the kinks. How you manage the long run tends to showcase how ready you are not just physically, but psychologically as well.

Ultimately while the long run is a very important and defining moment within the context of the marathon experience, it’s always a run that I look forward to. It’s about challenging yourself and putting to the test all that you have worked towards. It’s about validation, and knowing that the only reason you are doing the long run is because of all the effort and desire you’ve put forth to get to this point. It’s about testing your mettle and knowing that you’re prepared both physically and mentally.

Above all, the long run is more than just a run, it’s about demonstrating to yourself and to others, that come race day, you’ll be ready.

No pain, so that's a gain

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff March 21, 2013 07:00 AM
100klemond.jpg Jacqueline Palfy Klemond is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
The first day of spring shouldn’t include mittens. And a balaclava. And chemical handwarmers, two pairs of tights and a fleece under a windbreaker.

But that’s what a windchill of 7 degrees below zero at 5 a.m. requires when you train for a spring marathon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It’s never the actual temperature that gets you – it’s the wind. Always the wind. And today was no different with gusts of 25 mph – a light breeze compared to the 50 mph winds on Monday.

It only hurts when you run into it.

On Wednesday I met up with three friends in the cold, dark morning to run an easy 8 miles before work. They are training for spring races, too, and we talked about weekend long runs. My training plan – which I make up every day as I go along – continues to focus on cross-training and low mileage, to make sure I don’t fire up an old injury.

Still, I need to get the long runs in. And because this isn’t my first time at this rodeo, I figure I can just do them and not follow any reasonable ramp-up. Foolish? Maybe. But here we are.

Right now, this is what a training week looks like for me:

Monday: Teach 45-minute spin class, run 3 miles
Tuesday: Lift weights
Wednesday: Run 8 miles in the morning; teach 45-minute spin class at lunch
Thursday: Run 6-8 miles in the morning, lift weights at lunch
Friday: Teach 45-minute spin class at lunch
Saturday: Run 18-20 miles
Sunday: Swim, go for a walk, or sleep in and make the kids French toast and then read the paper

It’s been about like this for a while now. The good news is I have zero pain in my pelvis. And I’m not having any trouble with the mileage. I ran 15 miles on Friday morning before work, and the only bad part was getting up at 4:30 a.m. And that was only really bad because my daughter Genevieve, 2, woke up repeatedly during the night to ask me to cover her up with her blankie. Just go to sleep!

I miss the high mileage right now, the grind of it, the counting down the days until taper. I don’t even know how I’ll taper for Boston – I feel like I’m barely training, even though I am exercising every day, often doing doubles. It just doesn’t feel the same as a 60-mile week does. But I also recognize that this is the safest, smartest way for me to get to the starting line, so I’m going with it.

Wearing my new Polar RC3 GPS heart-rate monitor for spin class has been fun, too, and a good distraction. I love teaching spin classes – something I just started doing about a year ago. Several years ago, I trained for the Vermont City Marathon running just a few days a week and taking spin classes regularly. Race-day temperatures were brutal, and I missed my goal of qualifying for Boston that day. But I still set a personal record out there, so I know the cross-training works.

Just this week, I started to get excited about the race. I think finishing that 15-miler last week showed me that it won’t be the complete death march I thought it would be. It wasn’t a speedy run, but it wasn’t difficult, either. I felt like I could keep going. Once I get a 20 under my belt, I will feel even better (or worse, I guess, depending on how it goes).

BostonKid.jpgSo I let myself get a little attitude this week and bought this shirt:

I think my son Jack, 4, will look pretty cute in that. I kind of wish it said “My mommy is faster than my daddy,” but my husband might not think that’s as funny. I confess: I love ridiculous race clothing. I ran through both pregnancies – right up until I got put on bedrest – and raced through them, too. I had a friend make me a shirt that said “Baby on board” on the front and, on the back, “You just got passed by a pregnant chick.”

It was pretty funny. Though I had to hustle at 32 weeks pregnant to come in second to last in a 10K. Coming in last wearing that shirt would not have been funny.

There may be more than just a shirt for my son in the order I placed on the Adidas website of official Boston gear. We won’t get to the expo until Sunday afternoon, and I wanted to make sure I got a jacket. When I confessed to a friend about my purchases, he did what I knew he would: Enabled me.

He told me he bought three different official hats at the expo, along with all the other gear he bought.

“It’s Boston,” he said.

It is. And I can’t wait to be there.

It's all in my head

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff March 20, 2013 07:00 AM
100chrissyhoran.jpg Chrissy Horan is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
As I mentioned in my first post, this year’s Boston Marathon has a different focus for me. It’s about raising money and having fun, and as a result, I have approached my training with that same mindset. And for the first time, last weekend I approached racing with that mindset … and what a great day!

Last Sunday I raced the New Bedford Half Marathon. This race was part of my Boston training in several ways, but most importantly: 1) I wanted to push my physical training with a harder-than-normal effort and 2) I wanted to improve my mental game by practicing how I would deal with the ups and downs that are certain to occur over a course of many miles.

I’m an over-thinker. While I like to call it “thoughtful,” others can sometimes view it as slightly neurotic. My mom lovingly compares me to the Shel Silverstein poem, Whatif. My own version goes something like this:

Whatif my shoelace comes undone?
Whatif my stomach gets upset while I run?
Whatif I can’t hold my goal pace?
Whatif I completely blow this race?

Getting both nervous and excited for big races, I have struggled in the past with “pre-race jitters,” sometimes letting the “Whatifs” get the better of me.

I arrived at the race with my neighbor and early morning running partner, Laura. We usually don’t get to see each other much during the daylight, often starting and finishing our weekday runs before sunrise, so this was a treat! I credit Laura, and my boyfriend Brian, who also doubled as our chauffeur and photographer, for keeping me from getting nervous and thinking too much about the race before getting to the starting line. I may have to find a way to take them to Hopkinton with me next month.

Based on my training and a mild cold I am still fighting, my expectations for the race were modest. I ran my half-marathon PR in New Bedford in 2011, but knew I was not prepared to set a new personal best this year. I set my goal pace based on my last few 9-10 mile tempo runs; perhaps a little conservative, but I thought a fair estimate of what I was capable of running.

For the first race in over a year, my performance exceeded my expectations. I felt great. I started a little faster than I had planned, but after slowing down a little after the first mile, settled into a pace that was comfortable, yet still faster than I had planned.

With the physical under control for the moment, I did a head check. I’ve learned the key for me to successfully keep my mind in a race or any tough training run is to only think about the mile I am running.

“Stay in this mile” is my mantra. After each mile marker I checked my watch and calculated the time I wanted to hit the next mile marker. (Tip: This is also how I check to see if my blood sugar is getting too low. If I can’t do the math, I am overdue for some Gu Chomps.) After mile 6, my fastest mile, I caught myself dreaming about a surprise PR. “Stay in this mile”, I repeated to myself. And when I slowed down running uphill into a head wind, I reminded myself “Stay in this mile”.

Again, my Polar RC3 GPS came in handy. I am definitely becoming a heart rate monitor fan. I checked in several times during the race to see what my heart rate was to determine if I had room to push a little harder or if I should maintain my current pace. I wanted this run to be a hard effort, but not flat out kill me. I’d say I managed that pretty well.

607chartx.jpg

At the end of the day, I didn’t run a PR, but I did run 14 seconds per mile better than I had expected and tied my third best half marathon time. If, in addition to the mental and physical components, part of this training race was to practice smiling after I crossed the finish line, I’d say I’m getting in good shape for April 15th!

607medals.jpg

Evaluating your training after a training race

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff March 19, 2013 07:00 AM
100chrisgarges.jpg Chris Garges is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
The long-range goal of racing the Boston Marathon makes it easy to look right past the shorter range, the time between the current date and April 15. Add to that what seems like a relentlessly cold and dismal winter and it’s even easier to forget about the “now”.

We now sit a month away from race day. A lot can happen in a month. The key is to make the best use out of that month so that you can reach your goal. Take a look at where you are right now and what you need to do to help get you there.

Caesar start.jpgOn Sunday I had a great opportunity to see where I’m at, evaluate it and maximize my time over the next four weeks. I raced the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon in Delaware and while the weather was much chillier than I’m hoping for at Boston, the course was a true test with downhill and flat miles early on transitioning to uphills and downhills in the latter miles.

I’ve run this race several times before as a build up to Boston, so it gives me a good measurement of my current fitness. I finished within 20 seconds of my last two finish times, both of which ended up being my two fastest times at Boston. I ran a very consistent race and although I was tired, I could have run more at that same pace, I just didn’t seem to have the speed to go faster. I was very encouraged by the outcome of the race.

I also wore my Polar watch and heart rate monitor, which was the first time I’ve gotten heart rate data during a race in quite a while. I didn’t look at the heart rate data while running, but it was interesting to look at after the race. The watch provides a “summary” at the end of each activity, and as I finished the race it said “Maximum training effort!”

Below is a screen shot of the data from polarpersonaltrainer.com. When I initially set up the watch I input my resting heart rate, weight and maximum heart rate and the watch then calculates your zones and plots them on a graph of the race data. The data confirms that my threshold pace and heart rate are right in line with the values that I’ve been basing my training on (6:00 per mile as threshold pace and 160-165 as my threshold heart rate).

607Caesar-2013-Polar.jpg

Now that I know that everything appears to be on track for my goal finish time, I can work on a few things that I feel I’m lacking over these next four weeks. I’d like to get some leg strength for climbing (a weakness in Sunday’s race), so I’ll work some hill running (up and down) into one or two of my weekly runs. I also need to get some speed into my legs, especially as they fatigue, which I’ll accomplish in one of two ways, some “pick ups” at the end of my middle distance runs (this will train the tired legs to move faster) and by incorporating some short track efforts (200 meters & 400 meters) after running some miles at my goal pace.

I hope everyone’s training is going well and I hope that Mother Nature gets that memo from the Groundhog!

A morning runner's manifesto

Posted by Staff March 18, 2013 07:17 AM
100allysonmanchester.jpg Allyson Manchester is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
My high school (like most high schools) began each day with a broadcast of morning announcements. As the loud speaker crackled, we sleepily pledged our allegiance to the flag and listened to recaps of sports games, standardized test scores, and homecoming dances.

Aside from an occasional message from the principal, a student delivered the announcements every morning. The designated announcers varied from year to year, but all of their voices were the same: loud, exaggerated, and extra perky. For this reason, the heavy-lidded student body resented the morning announcers. I still cringe when I remember the phrase “Good morning, SHS!” and the otherworldly octaves that it reached on our intercom.

While “morning people” are often optimistic and well-intentioned, they are also capable of infuriating everyone in their sunlit path. For those of us who don’t find ourselves waking up to an internal chorus of Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, mornings (and morning people) are unpleasant experiences.

I believe that running has the power to improve mornings and create morning people. I do not mean the kind of morning people with cheesy grins and annoying catchphrases like “Good morning, SHS”; I mean the kind of morning people who find peace in the early hours and approach the upcoming day with confidence and energy.

In the moments when pulling off the covers is a formidable challenge in itself, heading outside for a morning run does not even seem to exist in the realm of possibility. As wise Isaac Newton figured out centuries ago, “a body at rest will stay at rest.” Getting out of bed for a run is not easy…especially when the bed is as cozy as mine.

bed.jpgI evolved into a morning runner for logistical reasons. I do not like hurriedly running through my lunch break or having to cut down my mileage when the day gets busy. I find that morning runs are easier to fit into my schedule (especially because they do not involve having to take multiple showers!) They also eliminate excuses; “I forgot my hair elastic” or “I’ve had a really long day” are not valid excuses for skipping a morning run.

Encouraged by years of Nike commercials, I have learned to throw on my reflective vest and “just do it” when it comes to running in the morning.

reflective.jpgI find that running is actually easier and more enjoyable before my brain is fully “awake,” or wraps itself around the fact that I am struggling through a speed workout on the cold, dark streets of Boston at 6 a.m. My brain is not nervous or overactive in the morning like it is during the day and it allows my body to move more freely.

As a zealot of the morning run, I could probably develop an extensive list on why I love it so much: it makes my breakfast taste better, it cuts down on heat during the summer, it gives me the freedom to sing out loud and skip to my running playlist when no one is watching, it minimizes encounters with traffic, and (sap alert) it allows me to see the sun come up.

sunrise.jpgEven beyond all of these benefits, starting my morning with a run means that the day begins with a concrete accomplishment. The accomplishment won’t get me the full-time job that I desperately need, it won’t win me an award, and it won’t matter to other people in general. Still, the effects of morning runs are real. I have not had a truly “bad day” since I began running in the morning. Logging miles makes the other items on my to-do list seem more manageable. Additionally, I have found myself thinking, “Whatever. I rocked out eight awesome miles this morning” as a way to cope with mishaps that arise throughout the day.

How do my early morning ways impact my experience with the Boston Marathon? Since starting the training schedule, I have had to adjust the time of my long runs until later in the morning so that I can eat and digest a big breakfast. The marathon itself will also be a mid-morning/early-afternoon affair. As a proud representative of the very last corral (9) of the very last wave (3) of Boston Marathon entrants, I will probably not be toeing the starting line until after 11 a.m. on race day.

I am interested to see if running at a different time of day will affect my performance in the Marathon. Fortunately, paying attention to the Polar RCX3 has assured me that running a few hours later than usual will not have a negative impact on my heart rate—in fact, I have had a slightly easier time getting my heart rate up on later runs (this week, for example, I logged 161 and 162 on runs from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. and 166 on a run from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.).

Regardless of what happens in the actual Marathon, running in the morning will always be part of my lifestyle. Running has provided me with a way to embrace the morning (and the rest of my day) without developing the overly cheerful persona of a high school student on the announcements.

Have you experienced morning run euphoria? When do you most enjoy running?

Second run made the difference

Posted by Staff March 15, 2013 07:00 AM
100scroth.jpg Katie Schroth is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
I received my Polar RC3 GPS late last Monday afternoon. Mondays are crazy busy around here, so the package didn't get opened until after dinner. When I finally did open it, I turned to my 5-year-old and said, "Oooh, look how small my new watch is!"

And she gave me a look as if to say momma you are so weird, but actually said, "Momma that watch is not small, it's HUGE!" Complete with emphatic hand motions, you know, to prove her point. I guess it might seem large to a 5-year-old, but it's sleek and thin for a GPS watch (at least when compared to my old GPS). Here’s a picture of the RC3 GPS next to my old GPS watch.

schrothphoto.jpg

I met a co-worker early the next morning to run. We were both short on time, and as a result I didn't have long to play with my new RC3 GPS. I couldn't quite figure out how to determine what was going on with the GPS acquisition. As it turns out, it's not really all that difficult, but somehow I had missed that section of the quick start guide. Doh! In my defense, I was a bit distracted Monday evening when I was going through the guide. I blame my left big toe.

I suppose some explanation is required. I had just finished an 80-mile running week on Sunday, and Monday I had run a tough 10-miler. The result was an angry toenail. The nail was angry enough that I was wondering if I should rip it off. You know how it is, rip it off now and it probably won't impact the Saturday long run, or leave it knowing that it will get worse.

You haven't had that internal struggle? Well, let's just agree that it's distracting, which must be why I missed the whole GPS acquisition process in the quick start guide. And no, I’m not going to tell you what I did, but I did go for that long run. My long run was a 20-miler, the second 20-miler of this training cycle, and I'll run 1-2 more before April 15th.

My second use of the RC3 GPS went much more smoothly. It also made me realize that using it was going to be fun; my skinny RC3 GPS is a sassy little thing! The first thing RC3 asked me was my weight and age! After my second run, RC3 told me, "Great! This long low intensity session improved your basic endurance and your body's ability to burn fat during exercise."

I took this to mean, "Next time run harder." Like I said, RC3 is a sassy little thing. In case you’re wondering, that was an 11-mile run at 8:02 pace, and yes, I guess it was low intensity. Also, RC3 informed me that I only burned 598 calories, which was a downer. That's only 54 calories per mile. Boo! I guess that whole guideline of 100 calories per 8:00 mile is a farce.

A few hours later, I went for another run. Not because RC3 told me I needed to burn more fat, but because sometimes we marathoners run twice a day during training. Doubles probably aren’t necessary until you hit about 70 miles a week, and then you don’t have to run twice a day every day.

I might run twice a day two days a week. The most difficult part of that second run was putting the sweaty heart rate strap back on. It was really cold (and maybe just a tiny bit gross.) Anyway, that was a 5-miler at 7:02 pace. This time RC3 told me, “Excellent! You improved the endurance of your muscles and aerobic fitness.”

Yay! Just in case you’re interested, my average heart rate for that run was 143 beats per minute and the max was 153.

Being slightly more serious, I like how the Polar RC3 GPS notes your age, weight, and sex, then figures out your heart rate zones. I don't generally train by heart rate, so this makes it simple for me. It will be fun tracking my heart rate over the next several weeks. It notes how long you stayed in each heart rate zone too. I’m looking forward to looking at the data, creating graphs of it, and trying to determine what it all means!

What makes a "Great Race"?

Posted by Ty Velde March 14, 2013 11:11 PM
100ty_velde.jpg Ty Velde is a regular contributor to Boston.com's Marathon blog.
Every marathon I have run is an experience unto itself. They each have their moments. There have been highs. There have been lows. I’ve have good days. I’ve had bad days. There are times when everything “clicks”.

Unfortunately, there are times when everything just seems to fall apart. In short, no matter what I’ve done to prepare, there are elements of unpredictability associated with running a marathon and its these factors that make each experience so challenging and yet also so rewarding.

While not every marathon I have run has been the ideal experience, I’d like to say that I’ve had far more good races than bad ones, and every so often I have what I consider to be a “great” race. These are the races that stick in my mind and have defined me as a runner. These are the races where I’ve truly come to see the potential of who I am and what I’m able to accomplish.

But what makes a great race?

When I reflect upon what I feel to be my “great races,” while each experience is unique unto itself, there are elements that seem to consistently reappear. It’s these factors that for me constitute the difference between a race that is “good” and and one that is “great”.

Meeting your goals
Most everyone approaches race day with an objective or goal in mind. Whether it’s achieving a certain time or just crossing the finish line, most everyone has a vision for what they are looking to achieve the moment that the gun goes off and the starting line is crossed. It’s these goals that keep us motivated during grueling training runs and provide us with the vision for why we are doing what we are doing.

Within in the context of the marathon, many of the goals we set are months, even years in the making, and when they are achieved, it is an incredibly rewarding experience. Therefore race day is the moment that it's all put to the test and when you achieve what you've set out to do, for many if not most, this is a sign of having a great race.

The environment
There is no denying that the environment in which you run can have a huge impact on your perception of the race. Great crowd support is a huge motivator. In the case of Boston, this factor can be summed up in three words “Wellesley Scream Tunnel”. A beautiful course or backdrop can turn a race into an awe inspiring journey. While I’ve never run the Big Sur Marathon, there is certainly a reason why it’s consistently rated “most beautiful.”

Of course there is also the weather. This can certainly make or break one’s race, and all one has to do is look at the weather at last year’s Boston Marathon. For me personally, this single factor made it one of my “worst” races of all time. With this all being said, there is clearly no denying that the environment in which a race is run can have a huge impact on your race day experience and its associated perception of "greatness".

The zone
This component of a great race is not so easy to define, but I can guarantee that any of us who feel that they have run a great race have been here. When I’m in the “zone”, the last thing I am thinking about is “running.” Sure that’s what I’m doing, but my mind is somewhere else. When I’m in the “zone”, I’m not thinking about the physical challenges that come with running 26.2 miles, rather I’m soaking up the energy of the experience and living in the moment.

Ultimately when I reflect on my “great” races, you will not hear me tell a single story about pain and discomfort, but rather I will talk about how good everything felt and the energy of the experience. These are the moments when the physiological and the psychological seem to go their separate ways, rather than come together. Yes, it’s hard to explain, but when its occurred, I have always described it within the context of running a great race.

Exceeding expectations
One of the true beauties of the marathon is that in many ways it’s a test. While it can be a “confirming” experience it terms of demonstrating what you know you’re capable of, there many times where it brings out and showcases potential you had not yet discovered.

As I noted earlier, most of us approach race day with some sort of goal or objective in mind, but there are also those moments where your race day performance goes above and beyond anything that you thought was possible. It's moments like these that truly constitute a great race, as you’re not only achieving what you set out to do, you’re discovering and demonstrating potential that you did not necessarily even know existed.

For me, this happened with the very first marathon I ever ran – Chicago 2000 – and is chronicled here. My goal was to finish in less than four hours and I ended up running it in 3:01:00. The fact that I had not only achieved my goal but also so wildly had exceeded my expectations, is one of the core reasons I am still running marathons today. This “great” race was truly a life changing experience for me, as it unearthed potential that I had no idea even existed.

If things had turned out differently that day and had I not run a great race, would I likely be getting ready to run my 24th marathon and 12th consecutive Boston Marathon? I doubt it. However by exceeding my expectations and running a great race, on that day a fire was lit that continues to burn within me to this very day.

Ultimately, when it comes to running a great race there are many factors that contribute to it and what constitutes a great experience is something that is unique to each and every one of us. However, a wonderful factor about running a great race is that it’s something that we all can achieve. It’s not something that is exclusive to the elites, or those who have qualified.

Running a great race is a common goal that we all can share, because no matter where you have come from or who you are, the potential to run a great race resides with us all.

Ryan Hall explains withdrawal from Boston Marathon

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff March 14, 2013 02:00 PM
Ryan Hall, the top American entered in the Boston Marathon prior to his withdrawal on Wednesday, explained why he had to pull out in an interview with Runner's World's John Brant.

"I just strained my right quad during a long run. There wasn't anything going on before the long run, just something that popped up at the end of the long run. It wasn't a serious injury but it did take much longer than I expected to heal. I was hoping to only miss a couple of days, and then only a week or two of training, but it turned into a month of not being able to do any substantial running. I just missed too much time to be in good enough shape to run Boston," Hall said.

He said he's already back running after missing about a month of training, but has not yet chosen the next marathon he will run, although he would like to run a fall marathon.

Check out Brant's full exclusive Q&A on the Runner's World website.

Better not to learn new gear on the run

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff March 14, 2013 01:39 PM
100klemond.jpg Jacqueline Palfy Klemond is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
I’ve done entire runs with my shirt on backward. Or inside out.

I’ve also repeatedly cleaned off my glasses, unable to figure out why they were so cloudy, only to realize later that it’s because I had my contacts in at the same time.

And I once ran a relay with strangers, but the only thing I put in my drop bag was a library book, in case I had to wait around for them at the end. I did, in the rain. But I didn’t have a phone, money or even an ID on me.

It’s probably fair to say that sometimes I am a little dopey.

So I probably should have looked at my new Polar RC3 GPS before 4:45 Tuesday morning, when I put it on to go for a run. With barely a cup of coffee in me, I struggled to figure out how to tighten the heart-rate monitor band enough to wear. And then debated how tight it should be. As someone with the upper body of a baby bird, I could realistically strap it anywhere from my shoulders down and it would still lie flat against my heart.

I’ve never worn a heart-rate monitor before, and I was surprised by how comfy it is. My husband had put in my resting heart rate for me (after I tried to take it laying in bed … but the light on my wristwatch goes off after like 4 seconds, and that was too much math for me, so I kept counting, and guessed). He also put in other stats – and I noticed he made me 2 inches taller and 10 pounds lighter. Thanks, honey! Apparently he thinks I’m still in race shape. I’m now a supermodel.

Still, I stared at the watch in my dim dining room, and randomly hit buttons to figure it out. It seemed to be working, and I headed out with a friend.

We ran 7.5 hilly miles that morning, in the pitch-black South Dakota winter. It was a beautiful run, except the neverending wind we ran into on the back half. Wind is something that just happens, nonstop, in South Dakota. Along with cold.

Easing back into running has been going well – good thing, since the race is just a few weeks away. I ran 13 miles in the pouring rain on Saturday, and felt no pain in my pelvis. That’s good news.

And so I braved running two days in a row this week – and headed out for 6 miles with a group of longtime running friends this morning. As we stood on the corner, waiting for a light to change, we all compared our various devices. Garmins, iPhones, and my new watch, to see if we were on track for distance. It’s funny, because we generally are a low-tech group, and we run so many of the same routes, we don’t need to measure them anymore.

Still, as I stood there, I lamented how I must have hit something wrong on my new watch – it wasn’t giving me an average pace. As I hit more buttons, the light, more buttons and started to be annoyed, it dawned on me.

We were standing still.

Tough to give a pace readout when you aren’t running. Thankfully, my friends are used to my technical difficulties, so they just laughed.

I’ll try the watch out in a spin class this afternoon, and again tomorrow, when I teach spin. It will be interesting to see how my heart rate differs when I’m the teacher. I get a little nervous up there.

But I can see myself doing all kinds of goofy things with the heart-rate monitor. When I was trying to get pregnant, I did the whole basal-body temperature thing, taking my temperature first thing every morning. I ended up also taking it after really hot showers, or once after a 15-mile run in temps of 30 below zero, just to see what it would be.

I thought of that this week – I would love to see my heart rate at various times. I’m sure it spikes when I sit in a particularly stressful work meeting. And I bet it goes down for the 4 seconds I have both kids strapped into their car seats before I get in the driver’s seat.

And if I had to pick when it would be at its highest, I’m just going to guess it is when, for the hundredth time, I tell the kids to get their shoes and socks on because we have to go – and Viv, 2, walks into the kitchen yelling, “I have them on!” but they are on her hands. And Jack, 4, is wandering around looking for some random item. And the dog is underfoot. And the minutes are ticking away as I get later and later for work.

Deep breath. Slow down, and remember: This is why I get up at 4:30 a.m. To log miles in the dark, in the quiet peace of the city, before I come crashing back into the reality that is family life.

Jacqueline Palfy Klemond writes about running, reading and raising a family on her own blog, Jack & Viv.

Ryan Hall out of 2013 Boston Marathon

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff March 13, 2013 01:47 PM
American Ryan Hall will not participate in the 2013 Boston Marathon, race sponsor John Hancock Financial announced on Wednesday.

According to a press release, "Hall missed crucial training due to a quadriceps strain." Hall's 2:04.58 in 2011 was the fastest Boston Marathon run by an American.

Hall expressed his disappointment via Twitter:

Hall has been hampered by injuries in the last year. He dropped out of the Olympic marathon in London because of a hamstring strain and did not compete in the New York City Marathon in November because of a quad strain. He did not run in the Boston Marathon last year because he was training for the Olympics.

Other previously announced elite male runners who have also cancelled because of injury include Moses Mosop, Shami Dawit, Eric Gillis, and Lucas Rotich. Two elite women also dropped out due to "lack of fitness" – Asefelech Mergia Medessa and Karolina Jarzynska.

Three runners were added to the elite field: Tirfi Tsegaye Beyene, Lelisa Desisa Benti, and Laban Korir.

Getting by with some help from my friends

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff March 13, 2013 07:55 AM
100chrissyhoran.jpg Chrissy Horan is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
Marathon training in New England this winter has not been easy. Weekend snowstorms have made plotting long run routes challenging, while the unshoveled sidewalks and black ice have made my 5:30 a.m. runs treacherous – when I have attempted them. As if resorting to the treadmill is not difficult enough, to make it worse, I lost my iPod while travelling early in February and have not yet found a suitable replacement.

It is at times like this when I am extremely glad to have a group of friends to meet for my long run each week. The Alzheimer’s Association’s marathon team, like many other charity teams, holds supported long runs every Saturday morning. The team runs are great because 1.) volunteers man water stops along the route; 2.) the team coach and team leaders coordinate several point-to-point runs along the course allowing runners to see different parts of the marathon course and making for more interesting long runs and 3.) running for several hours with others is WAY better than running alone!

300friends.jpgThis year, I have run most of my long runs with my friend Dale. Dale is a pretty amazing guy, but probably someone I never would have had the opportunity to meet if we had both not decided to run for the Alzheimer’s Association. He’s a 57-year-old former BMW mechanic from Newburyport. Not too much in common that might bring us together besides running and a cause we are passionate about. But that just makes our runs together more interesting.

This past Saturday, the planned route had been a point-to-point run from Framingham to the finish line on Boylston Street. However, after Friday’s greater-than-expected snowfall, we decided the sidewalks, and likely still the roads, may not be safe for running. Plan B was to meet at the top of Heartbreak Hill and run loops out and back both directions. Not nearly as exciting. And all the more important that I didn’t have to do it alone.

607routemap.jpg

But we managed. I completed my first 20-miler this training season, running 15 with Dale.

I also used my Polar RC3 GPS for only the second time, and am happy to declare relative competence using my new personal training computer. After a test run on Wednesday morning, I felt pretty comfortable with what buttons did what and how to use them. And I’m pretty sure that the errors that have occurred so far, like ending my sessions instead of pausing when I stopped to tie my shoe, or keeping my watch running instead of pausing it when I stopped for a bathroom break, were the user’s fault. At this point, I think it’s just fine-tuning the settings to some of my specific personal preferences, but all the information I wanted during my run was there.

I even like the heart rate monitor. I had one heart rate monitor years ago that I trained with briefly, but it was uncomfortable and I didn’t always feel it was accurate, so I gave up on it relatively quickly. However, I kind of like the idea of evaluating my effort based on my heart rate and can certainly see getting used to wearing this one.

I even used it on Sunday when I hosted (and participated in) a spin-a-thon – a three-hour spin class to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association. I was on and off the bike to greet people and make sure they had everything they needed for the class, but rode for about two hours total. I used the heart rate monitor to make sure I kept things under control the day after my long run. This was not too difficult, as my legs were pretty much in agreement that they were not going to work too hard. Here’s my heart rate data for 1:20 of the two-hour ride (I forgot to put the heart rate monitor on for the first class).

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My legs are feeling good. The temperature is warming up. My inner nerd loves figuring out what to do with all this new training data.

I can’t wait for my next run!

It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you run the race

Posted by Ty Velde March 12, 2013 09:54 PM

run-your-own-race.jpg

I’m not going to win the Boston Marathon.

No matter what I do or how hard I try, it’s just not going to happen. At the same time, I know that I’m not going to be the last person across the finish either. While the odds of me coming in last are probably greater than me coming in first, I know that based on past experience I’m going to likely come in somewhere between 3:10:00 and 3:30:00. While this is certainly a respectable time, it’s not fast enough to win, and certainly not slow enough to come in last.

However, what I do know is what it means to run a good race. I understand the challenge that has been laid before me. I understand what it takes to accomplish it. I understand what I will have undertaken to just to get me to the point of getting to the starting line. Most importantly as I have been training, I come understand “me” and what I expect of myself.

This is truly one of the beauties of the running a marathon. While you may be running with thousands of others, they are not necessarily your competition; rather they are your sources of motivation. Sure, when it comes to race day, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there are folks on the course that I’m looking to measure myself against. But are these people really my competition? In reality, the answer is no. While there are certainly people that I measure myself against, these folks are pillars of inspiration who ensure that I don’t hold back and instead give my all.

As runners, one question we are all very familiar with is “how was your race?” Think about this for a moment. The question is not about “the race”, but rather “your race.” As for the answer, I personally always answer this from an introspective mindset. It’s not about that person who finished just ahead of me or the person I may have passed along the way, but rather is about “me” and how “I’ve run the race.”

It’s about setting expectations and achieving personal goals. If I’m happy, it’s because I have met or exceeded them. Conversely, if I am frustrated, it’s because I knew what I could achieve, yet I failed to do so.

However when it comes down to evaluating my performance in the marathon, it’s not about winning or losing, but rather it’s about understanding what I am capable of and setting goals based on expectations of my performance. In short, when I reflect on each marathon I have run and the memories associated it with it, it all comes down to how I ran that race.

While most who read this blog are not out to win the Boston Marathon, one thing we can all strive to be is victorious. To be victorious is not about winning, but rather it’s about achieving the goals you have set for yourself. To be victorious on Marathon Monday is about running a great race.

So while the marathon is still several weeks away, one thing we can all start to envision is what it will take for each of us to emerge victorious. Think about what it means to run a great race and what this fact means to you. While our goals may be different, it’s about applying a vision to the task that lies before us all.

In the end while there will only be one winner on Marathon Monday, if we can all take a moment to think about and understand what it means for each of us to run a great race, I can guarantee that far more many of us will emerge as victors.

Clock continues to tick toward race day

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff March 12, 2013 07:00 AM
100chrisgarges.jpg Chris Garges is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
The clock continues to tick off time as the 2013 Boston Marathon is now less than five weeks away.

Last weekend the Mid-Atlantic was treated to some phenomenal weather. Phenomenal weather brings hidden danger to marathoners-in-training, the first nice Spring-like days make it easy to overdo it. Adding a few miles to your run, perhaps adding an extra run or bike ride, maybe getting all those outside projects done that you never got to finish last year?

Then lose an hour of sleep for Daylight Savings Time on top of that and you’re on the edge of falling into the “trap” of overtraining.

The month of March falls at just the point in training where most plans begin to really log some training volume before tapering down and “sharpening the pencil” as race week approaches. March is also the time of year that the days are getting longer, kids activities are starting up, the weather’s getting nicer and training time is getting harder to find. The key at this point in training is to keep your life in balance and avoid the overtraining and injury that may creep up. Follow your plan, but don’t be a slave to it.

RC3gps.jpegLast week I started to use the Polar RC3 GPS watch for my training. I typically train with a GPS watch and I have previously used a heart rate monitor for training, however in recent years it has collected dust on my shelf. The RC3 was easy to set up and I was amazed how comfortable the heart rate strap was, so I decided to give it a whirl.

Heart rate is a great tool to use when you’re monitoring your training, it allows you to recognize your gains in efficiency as training progresses. Arguably the bigger benefit is that it also allows you to see if you’ve crossed the line into overtraining (high resting heart rate, higher average heart rates, etc). Last week’s data showed me just where I stood in my fitness as I worked some goal marathon pace miles into my long run and watched my heart rate stay within a reasonable range. More importantly, it helped me on my recovery days where I focused not on how fast I was running but maintaining a low heart rate to recognize the benefits of the recovery runs.

Caesar 2010.jpegLast week was the second week in a row of hitting my highest mileage of the year. I had two great workouts, one included three miles at threshold pace followed by seven miles at 15 seconds per mile faster than goal marathon pace.

The second workout was my 21-mile long run that included the last six miles at goal marathon pace. My recovery runs are done on a soft surface, mainly a gravel rail trail, which also helps to reduce the repetitive pounding on your already tired body.

I also included a total of five hours of easy riding on my bicycle to help recovery and maintain fitness.

This week is somewhat of a “down” week with less total mileage and a race next Sunday. I’ll use the race, the Caesar Rodney half-marathon, as an indicator of my current fitness and look for things that I need to work on in coming weeks.

I haven’t done much speed work this year so I’m not expecting a lighting fast race, but it will be a good point of comparison. The down week falls perfectly to allow my body to adjust to Daylight Savings Time and the darkness of the early morning runs.

Gearing up for Boston

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff March 11, 2013 07:57 AM
100allysonmanchester.jpg Allyson Manchester is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
I am strongly inclined toward minimalism. I reside in a clean, uncluttered bedroom; I teach my students to write in concise prose; I listen to stripped versions of Michael Jackson songs. My minimalist nature is also, in part, what led me to running.

I grew up alongside a sister who loved to play ice hockey. As a kid, I watched as she strapped on her equipment, laced up her skates, practiced for an hour or so at the local ice rink, undressed, and then lugged the sweaty pads back to our living room to “air out.” I did not want any part of ice hockey. To me, the whole affair seemed too time-consuming, too expensive, and too complex (and let’s be real: I was too gangly).

Unlike ice hockey, running is awesomely simple. I chose it — and stuck with it — because of its minimalism. I love the power to begin my workout as soon as I put on my sneakers and step outside. There has never been a need for a gym membership, a Zamboni, or an overstuffed duffle bag.

greek runners.jpg... Or so I thought. Competitive running has certainly evolved since its earliest days in ancient Greece, when Olympic warriors ran with nothing more than chiseled facial hair and a strong sense of resolve. Now, there are entire stores filled with overwhelming amounts of running clothing and gear! Foam rollers, glucose packets, and compression socks? It all seems a bit “much.”

Since ramping up my mileage for the Boston Marathon, however, I have become fascinated (perhaps even obsessed) with running gear. I always look for gear that will improve my training and stay true to my minimalist personality. It’s a delicate and important balance to strike.

Check out a few of my current favorites:

sport beans.jpg1. Jelly Belly Sport Beans: These multicolored magic beans are straight out of a fairy tale. According to my well-researched friend Kristen, who has run multiple marathons, 2-plus hour runs require additional fuel — she says the goal is 25-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour. Fuels come in many forms: Gatorade, GU gels, and gummy chews are the most popular. As someone who fears bizarre food textures, I knew that banana-flavored paste would not exactly glide down my throat. Sport Beans are a delicious alternative to other fuels, and still provide the same hair-raising punch of electrolytes and calories. My one recommendation: make sure to consume Sport Beans with water—they are incredibly sweet and will make you extra thirsty.

Polar RCX3.jpg2. Polar RCX3 watch: I have had the same faithful running watch for many years — I never considered using a more complex model. Thankfully, for an old dog, this new trick wasn’t too difficult! The lightweight watch comes with a comfortable (almost weightless!) heart rate belt that sync up with each other pretty easily. I took the Polar on its maiden voyage on Wednesday for a 45-minute (5.5 mile) run through the rolling hills of my neighborhood. I am still studying and getting used to all of the features of the watch, so for now I’m focusing on heart rate data. According to the watch, my average heart rate was 161, with a maximum of 177.

sandwich t&f.jpg3. Various florescent items: I have two requirements for running clothing (that just so happen to rhyme): lightness and brightness. I don’t like to feel restricted on the road, so I look for lightweight materials that wick sweat easily. I also love bright colors. I first fell in love with brights when my high school track team ordered these fierce green t-shirts.

In addition to having a palpable mood-lifting effect, bright colors increase visibility—this is especially important in the city. According to Runner’s World, bright colors help drivers to spot you from 150 yards away, compared to a mere 30-40 feet while wearing dark clothing. The “highlight” of my neon running wardrobe is my pink do-rag.

running gear.jpg
headgear.jpg4. Water belt: Of all the running gear on this list, I am most ashamed to admit that I have acquired a water belt. My roommate and I always used to make fun of geeky water belt-wearers when we saw them jogging in place at traffic lights. It only took one painfully dehydrated long run, however, for me to realize that I needed to start rocking the water belt as well. I plan to run beltless on race day and use the water stations, but this gadget is an absolute must-have for solo training runs. I even picked up some “Body Glide” lubricant to cut down on chafing.

With all of this running gear, sometimes I feel like I am about to launch into outer space! I do not think I have walked around with so many apparatuses since my traumatic headgear-wearing days in the 6th grade (check out this unsightly picture of me singing in youth choir). At the end of the day, however, these items have added to my safety, endurance, hydration, and overall excitement about running.

Have you tested any cool running gear lately?

Even for a local, qualifying for Boston is special

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff March 8, 2013 07:00 AM
100scroth.jpg Katie Schroth is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
I started running competitively when I was 13 years old. I hadn’t yet dreamed of anything as crazy as a marathon; instead it all started with 1 mile races.

As a freshman in high school, I joined the cross country team and track team. Initially I hated running (sort of). I went from running low weekly mileage to 35-40 miles a week, and as you can imagine that can be a shock to the system. To me, running more than three miles at a time was just silly. I also had a really intense coach. He was amazing, but also overwhelmingly excited about all things running. By my second year, I was completely and utterly hooked.

I've never been particularly talented in the running department. I ran varsity in high school and college, so I was a "good" runner on my team, but when I went to the New England cross country meet in college I generally finished somewhere in the middle. So really, I'm nothing special.

After college I gave up serious racing for a bit. I continued running, but I needed a break from the stress of running hard all the time. Then I got pregnant. Having a baby is awesome, but it also made me feel old and a little decrepit. I suddenly had this desire to start racing again and find a new running challenge.

That challenge has become the marathon. I ran my first marathon 14 months after my daughter was born. I did OK. I finished with a smile, which was cool, but I hadn't properly trained. I had secretly (and unrealistically) hoped that I would somehow qualify for Boston. As soon as I finished, I was planning my next. Qualifying for Boston had suddenly become my big running goal.

Now I'm not one to run several marathons a year. They take a lot out of me both physically and mentally. My second marathon was a full year after my first, and it wound up being a complete disaster. It was just a bad day. Most of us have them. I was slightly sick and injured. Oh yes, and there was a Nor'easter during my race. I wound up running 25 minutes slower than the year before.

And then I got pregnant again. I ran through my pregnancy, but I didn't race. Eight months after the birth of my second daughter, I made my third attempt to run a Boston qualifier. I wound up running 3:40:54. Talk about cutting it close! That was the first year of the Boston rolling registration, though, and my time didn't make the cut.

I made another attempt six months later and ran 3:26, but that marathon was in October and the registration deadline was in September. I've since run two more marathons patiently waiting for the 2013 Boston Marathon. My last attempt was 3:11:54. That was a good day.

Boston is alluring to most runners for a variety of reasons. However, besides being a runner, I also happen to live in the Boston area. I've lived 30-45 minutes from Boston my whole life. My parents were both born and raised in Boston. My grandfather was a Boston police officer. We often take the kids to Boston on weekends.

Being able to take part in 2013 Boston Marathon is more special than I can put into words. And I’m honored to share my journey.

A long road to Boston

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff March 7, 2013 07:00 AM
100klemond.jpg Jacqueline Palfy Klemond is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
The race on April 15 will be my 10th marathon, but my first Boston Marathon.

I qualified with a 3:39:13 (those seconds matter) at the Twin Cities Marathon in October. It’s been a long road to get to Boston, for me.

I qualified once before, at the Fargo Marathon in 2009. My son was 9 months old, and I was amazed to have finally made my qualifying time – and to have mustered through the training with a newborn, breastfeeding and working full-time.

But then in my training, I wound up with two stress fractures in my pelvis that summer. I still bet on a speedy recovery and signed up for Boston in 2010. But that wasn’t meant to be. Pelvic stress fractures take an eternity to heal. And then I wound up pregnant with my second baby.

That 2010 race date came and went.

300klemondfamily.jpgAnd then the Boston Athletic Association lowered the qualifying times. I thought I had missed my opportunity to ever stand at the starting line in Hopkinton. I’m dedicated. I can and do get up at 4:45 a.m., to pound out the miles before my kids wake up, before I have to hustle them to daycare and myself to work. It’s what any working mom does, especially one who has chosen distance running as a hobby, and a passion. I don’t even think about it anymore. I just go.

But I wasn’t sure I could squeeze a few more minutes off my time to meet the new standard. I tried in Phoenix in January 2012. I missed it by nearly 2 minutes. On a flat course. My next chance was Twin Cities in October, which has a notoriously challenging final 10K. It’s a course that has beaten me more than once.

But somehow it all came together last year, and after melting down around mile 23, I got it together enough to just make my time – by 47 precious seconds.

Unfortunately, my old pelvic injuries (stress fractures to each pubic ramus) are bothering me again. But I’m determined to not miss out this time. So instead of 50-mile weeks, tempo runs and Saturdays spent winding through Sioux Falls or running to and from nearby towns down gravel roads, I’m cross-training my way to Boston.

The pool. Spin classes. Push-ups. Pull-ups. A month off running, and now a very conservative, bare bones final push to be able to finish. I look forward to trying the new Polar gear to see if I’ve been doing easy runs too hard, and maybe that’s why the years of recurring injuries.

It won’t be my ideal race in April. Knowing that, we planned a family reunion around the weekend. I have three sisters, also marathoners, and we’ll be together, with the kids, the husbands, and the knowledge that getting to the starting line is just as difficult, sometimes more so, than getting to the finish.

The goal this year isn’t to set a PR in Boston. It’s to finish – and not re-injure anything, so I can enjoy another beautiful South Dakota summer running.

After all, you need some kind of reward for running through the winters here.

Jacqueline Palfy Klemond writes about running, reading and raising a family on her own blog, Jack & Viv.

A different focus this time around

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff March 6, 2013 08:07 AM
100chrissyhoran.jpg Chrissy Horan is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
I ran my first timed mile during phys ed class in the third grade. Twelve minutes and change, I hated every minute. Not much changed over the next 14 years. Put me on a field or court and I could play soccer, softball, tennis, basketball or volleyball for hours. I ran when my sport, or coach, required it. Running was torture.

In 2000, I moved to Boston. I was a poor grad student still unfamiliar with my new city, and desperate to find a way to keep in shape. I learned my apartment was a pretty short distance from the Charles, so I forced myself to run there and along its paths. Running still was not my favorite thing to do, but being the competitive athlete I am, I kept at it as I tried to get to new bridges to run new distances or run the loops I was familiar with faster. I entered a few 5Ks, then a half marathon and in 2002, I ran my first marathon. The exhilarating feeling of crossing the finish line meant I knew it would not be my last.

In 2004, I ran my second marathon and my first Boston Marathon as a charity runner. I ran again in 2005 and in 2006 began what has become an amazing ride running for the Alzheimer’s Association. I have since run a total of six Boston Marathons, four for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Run Tri Ride to End Alzheimer’s program. I’ve also raised over $25,000 for the organization in that time. On April 15, I will run my 11th marathon and my seventh Boston Marathon.

Training for my last four marathons, I dedicated myself to a schedule that prepared me to run a qualifying time. Each race day something went wrong and I missed my goal. After months of early morning alarms, bruised toenails and ice baths, I crossed the finish line and felt … disappointed. As a result, my training for the 2013 Boston marathon has had a different focus. A Boston-qualifying time is not the goal this race. I want to run well and my training still reflects that. But this year, I want to cross the finish line and feel proud, whatever the clock says.

I’m thrilled to have been selected to test the Polar RC3 GPS and blog about it. I look forward to using my new gear to train for the Boston Marathon and share my experiences here each week!

Even for a marathon veteran, every year a new set of circumstances

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff March 5, 2013 07:00 AM
100chrisgarges.jpg Chris Garges is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
I’m 38 years old and from Bethlehem, Penn., and I’m excited to be a part of the Boston.com Marathon Blog in 2013, to share my experience as well as to be a part of the other marathon bloggers' training and race day experiences!

The 2013 Boston Marathon will be my ninth time toeing the start line in Hopkinton and my 26th marathon dating back to 2002 when my wife and I ran our first marathon, together, to celebrate our second anniversary.

The marathon weekend including travel, race expo, sightseeing, the spectators, and, oh yeah, the marathon itself, has come to be an annual tradition for myself, my family and my friends. In any given year there may be 15-25 friends and family members running, including my wife who has run two Boston Marathons.

Each year brings a new set of circumstances, in life, in training, and during the race itself. Injury, weather, illness and family obligations are just a few of the variables that you have to navigate on your way to that glorious finish line on Boylston Street each year.

After coming off a back injury last Fall, I started my training buildup to Patriots Day on January 1, 2013, which gave me 14 weeks of training.

My No. 1 goal for 2013 is to get to the finish line healthy, my second goal is to get back under the 2:50 mark. I am self-coached and I do most of my training in the cold, pre-dawn winter mornings with just my head lamp and GPS watch. Not very glorious, and often the biggest challenge of the day is to beat the snooze button and get out of bed!

Having an engineering background, I love the planning and the data that guide you through the marathon training process. Meeting target paces in workouts, comparing training from year to year, sharing data with friends and the dream of seeing a personal best time on the finish clock (my best was 2:47:01 in 2010) are my motivators.

In the days of GPS watches, social training websites such as STRAVA and training applications on cellular phones even running alone doesn’t have to mean that you’re training solo.

There are six weeks of training left before Marathon Monday in Boston, and thus far I am pleased with my training. To date I’ve executed my plan to complete Goal 1 (staying healthy) very well. That plan includes: limiting the number of days per week I run to four, five maximum on rare occasions; not running more than two consecutive days in a row; spending my off days spinning on a bicycle; core strength training and running less total mileage, albeit at a faster pace.

Will success in Goal 1 lead to success in Goal 2? Here’s hoping!

607garges.jpg

Here's a shot of the group I traveled with to Boston via tour bus for the 2012 Boston Marathon.


Teammates

Posted by Rich Horgan March 4, 2013 08:50 PM
After a less-than-stellar 16-mile run last weekend, I was a bit apprehensive about tackling the hills of Lincoln and Concord this past Saturday.

With only six weeks left until the marathon it was key for me both mentally and physically to have a good long run.

As with other charity groups, Dana Farber organizes our weekend long runs from local health clubs and running stores.

The advantage to these runs is that you have a marked course, great volunteers at water stops and most importantly, other people to run with.

For many people, myself included, running 18 miles on your own is not something that is easily accomplished.

With a group of about 80 enthusiastic teammates, we embarked on our odyssey at 8:30 a.m.

After a few miles, I felt that I was probably going to cut my run short and try it another day.

Despite a good night's sleep, I didn't have much energy and found myself walking on one of the first of the many hills on our route. I told my running buddies to head on without me and started to come up with various excuses to make it an early day.

After finishing up the hill and coming to a volunteer water stop, I was shocked to see Matt and Steve waiting for me.

They told me that they weren't letting me off the hook that easy. The next thing I knew we finished seven miles and I was feeling great.

One of the great things about this route is that we run out and back on several different sections of the back roads of Concord and Lincoln.

This allows you to see most of your fellow runners several times and jokes and shouts of encouragement break up several hours of hard work.

At one point I ran by Bill, Hillary and Eileen going in the other direction. Each one these teammates not only raises thousands of dollars for cancer research each year, but also are cancer survivors.

Seeing them smiling as they logged their miles made me feel a little guilty about feeling sorry for myself at the beginning of my run.

While discussing great Jack Bauer stories from 24 with Matt, I prepared myself for the most challenging hill about 12 miles into the run.

Suddenly I was at the next water stop and I realized that I had just finished the hill while trading stories. It's amazing what good company will do for you.

We cruised back to the health club where everyone was cheering and high-fiving each other in the parking lot.

With only one big run left in a few weeks, suddenly 26.2 doesn't seem that daunting.

Fitting running into the puzzle of life

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff March 4, 2013 08:39 AM
100allysonmanchester.jpg Allyson Manchester is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
I am incredibly excited to begin writing about my first-ever 26.2-mile adventure.

When talking to other runners, I love to learn how running fits into the unique puzzle of their everyday routine. After all, the non-running aspects of our lives definitely influence and help us to understand who we are as runners. Here is a little snapshot of the non-running pieces of my life:

apple-tree-roommates.jpgI live in Brighton with four roommates: Kellie, Corinna, Rachel, (me), and Brian (from left). Here, we are in an apple tree attempting to take a photo for our mantle and/or potential album cover. We are all friends from college and almost never look this idyllic.

beyonce.jpgI admire Beyonce as a strong and powerful woman. She is beautiful and has an enlightened view of the music industry, her talent, and her career. Her R&B power jams are the backbone of my running playlist and help me to get in touch with my inner “Sasha Fierce” (as frightening as that may be for other people around me). How can one not experience a sudden spring in her step while listening to “Love on Top”? My respect for Beyonce tripled when I recently watched the HBO documentary “Life is But a Dream.”

my-class-2012.jpgI am currently a graduate student in the English Department at Boston College. My favorite part about school (aside from the insurmountable reading load, clearly) is teaching a writing class to undergraduate students. I love my students and genuinely look forward to discussing essays, art, movies, and life with them every week. Check out my motley crew from last semester! Aren’t they precious?

cambridge-5K.jpgNow to the running part of my life.

My friend Kamilia and I ran an awesome 5K in Cambridge this winter with the undying support of our team manager, Bobby. As you may have guessed, my headband is not really meant to block sweat—it’s mostly for effect.

Last fall, I signed up to run the Boston Marathon with the Red Sox Foundation charity team. I am so proud to be running on behalf of this organization, especially because they are devoted to improving children’s education. The RSF runs an awesome program called Red Sox Scholars, which provides scholarships and mentoring to at-risk children in the Boston area.

Our team’s marathon guru, Skip Cleaver, designed a 20-week training schedule for intermediate runners. At first, I doubted my ability to follow a “schedule.” I had always enjoyed running on my own terms—I had the freedom to run extra miles if I was feeling good, and, at the same time, slow down (or not go running at all!) if I was tired. I was never someone who logged mileage or timed splits. In other words, running had always provided a counterweight to my hyper-scheduled existence, and I was afraid of turning it into another commitment or assignment.

I am currently on week 15 of training. While I do feel a level of accountability to my schedule, I am happy to say that I do not view it as my ball and chain. The schedule has helped me to rise above the comfortable 5-8 mile per day plateau that I had maintained for years—it’s made me noticeably faster and stronger. Above all, it has allowed me to think productively about my running. I am now acutely aware of the interplay between my runs, my sleep patterns, my food intake, and my energy levels. Feeling smarter about my running has given me the confidence to take on the physical challenge of the marathon.

I am excited to keep writing as we approach April 15th!

Allyson Manchester's guest blog entries will appear each Monday through April 15.

Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
  • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
  • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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