Monday, April 30, 2012

Do A Little More

 We are always encouraging our runners to "do a little more each day than you think you possibly can."  Watching so many of our runners meet- and exceed- their goals at their target races this spring has been rewarding beyond words.  Many of our runners from our 10K/10-miler program celebrated the completion of a successful training season at Pike's Peek 10K.  We were joined by runners from many of our other programs, including MedImmune, Montgomery College, and virtual coaching runners.  Perfect running weather- high 40's and sunny- greeted us at the start line and certainly helped everyone perform at their best.  As each runner crossed the finish line, we were reminded why we love coaching- the smiles, the excitement and the sense of accomplishment were overwhelming!  

Congratulations to everyone who worked so hard over the past few months to accomplish your goals.  We are looking forward to having many of you join us in June for our Fall Half Marathon program, and are honored to have been a part of your training.  We hope that you will continue to Run Farther & Faster!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Spirit of Boston

The stories from this year's epic Boston Marathon are numerous- inspiring tales of perseverance, reluctant defeat, humbling realizations. We were privileged to coach Christi towards her goal of running the Boston Marathon along side her husband, Tony, who has MS and is mobility impaired. Christi and Tony ran as part of Team Strike Out MS and didn't let the oppressive heat stop them in their pursuit of their goal of finishing Boston, making Tony the first wheelchair racer with MS to complete the Boston course. With Christi's permission, we're honored to share her experience on Monday:
First I want to say a huge THANK YOU for all of your guidance and support throughout this incredible journey! I am so blessed to have you two as my friends and coaches. Even though I was injured and the weather played nasty tricks on us, I felt strong in spirit and confident in my training that I could face the day and whatever it may bring my way.
It was a tough day not only physically but also emotionally as we were faced with limitations beyond our control with Tony's MS. All the more reason to keep pushing forward! Twice we had to stop so that Tony could use a bathroom. We had not run into this before in training or at MCM so we were not expecting nor prepared for this situation. Both times we had to find a store/restaurant that would allow us in and to use their facilities. Both of these stops took close to 30 minutes each.
I felt pretty good until we hit Wellesley. I was so excited for Tony to experience this and made the mistake of trying to take a picture of him running alongside the women and their kisses. I stopped short and felt like my calves were being twisted beyond repair. I literally collapsed in pain and it took several minutes before I could stand again. That was possibly one of the most painful experiences I have ever had and it felt like an eternity before I was able to focus and stretch them out. We continued on albeit at a slow crawl but I was determined to not give up. I was able to recover but only for short spurts before I could feel the warning signs that the calves were going to cramp again. So we continued on like this, run, walk, run, walk for what seemed like an eternity.
By the time we reached Newton not one single person that we saw was running the hills. Totally different than from my experience in 2009!! I have never seen so many faces of doubt and defeat. It looked like a funeral march and aside from the crowds trying their best to cheer the runners on, it felt like one too. This is about where we saw the first of many casualties that day. People began dropping like flies, it was downright scary. We saw more people vomit than I care to ever remember and also witnessed 2 people unconscious with the paramedics giving them oxygen and trying to resuscitate them. These happened to be about 3 miles apart and talk about scary. It really made me realize just how hot it was and how dangerous it can be if you don't listen to your body and your coaches!!
When we came upon the Citgo sign and Fenway Park, Tony was so excited. He pointed to the sign like a little kid and with the biggest smile he said, "Hey look, it's the Citgo sign! I remember you telling me all about that from your last race here!" He got it! He actually got exactly what so many of us feel when we see that sign and recognize that we are now in the home stretch. At the same time we also saw the temperature posted and it was reading 91*. I can tell you it felt so much hotter and probably was due to the pavement and lack of shade.
What happened next was nothing short of a scene made for a movie. We were trudging along and everyone was doing their best to stay positive and we had grown very quiet. A guy who was running for the MS Society came along side us with tears streaming down his face. He grabbed Tony's hand and said "Thank you. You have no idea what you have done for me today. So many times I wanted to quit and just give up but then I remembered you and your story you shared on Saturday night. You are my hero, you saved me today and gave every reason as to why I should never quit. Not now, not ever." And then he was gone. We were all so lifted by this guy that we found it in us to run the last 2.5 miles and push through the pain and the feelings of defeat we were all experiencing. The finish was magical and Tony cried. I was a complete blubbering mess.
When we got to the MS Society reception a short while later, we found out that the guy who came up to us not only continued on to finish but also re-qualified for next year!! This is when Tony declared how much he really loved what we were doing as a team and that he wants to do MCM again this fall! I was beyond shocked to be honest with you and was worried that the extreme heat of Monday and the long time it took us to finish would have done him in. Not so! I told Tony I was not committed to doing MCM that if I got into New York then that was my fall race otherwise I may just do a few halves. He didn't care, he said he would just race with Iwan and then really have a chance at qualifying for Boston!! I died laughing at his spirit and enthusiasm, but man if he wasn't dead serious! Today he googled the BAA and found out all the info for the mobility impaired qualifying times!! My husband is officially a runner, he is hooked!!
Seriously though, I could never have gotten through this journey without your coaching and support. I cannot put it into words just how much this has meant to me. You two are incredible and I hope someday you both realize just how special and talented you truly are. I am honored and blessed to know you and have you in my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Coach Julie's 2012 Boston Marathon Report

For the past several years, Coach Julie and Coach Lisa have experienced the Boston Marathon together, capping off our version of a Girls' Weekend with a 26.2 mile run along one of the most renown and historic race courses in the world. This year the experience brought us some important insights into why we love to run. Here, in Coach Julie's words:

For most marathoners, the Boston Marathon is the holy grail of running. To run Boston, you must qualify, and to qualify, you must run a fast marathon. No exceptions. For that reason, runners throughout the world, inlcuding me, relish the opportunity to run the magical 26.2 journey from Hopinkton to Boylston Street. on Patriot's Day. The course, while beautiful and steeped in tradition, is challenging, to say the least. A net downhill first half, combined with a hilly second half, produces disastrous results for runners who fail to respect the elevation and terrain. Nonetheless, with the right training, the course is generally kind to those who execute a race plan that includes running conservatively for the first few downhill miles to preserve the quads for the last tough few miles of the race.

Each year at Boston, I've set a personal record on the course, but this year, in particular, I was intent to run the course in 3:15. I knew I had it in me, and with the big 4-0 looming this year. I thought this would be a great way to close out a decade of marathoning and my fifth Boston Marathon. Like so many other Boston-qualified runners, I started preparing for race day in mid-January. I logged more early morning miles than ever, pounded the track with unprecedented workouts, and plodded through miles of marathon pace (MP) miles to prepare for race day. My training was brutal at times, but rewarding nonetheless. I enjoyed the predicatibility, the feeling of completing a seemingly impossible workout at 5am before most are out of bed, and seeing improvements in my fitness as a result. As I started to taper toward race day, I was ready and excited to tackle the course and achieve my goal.

Unfortunately, springtime weather in Boston is unpredictable and can hinder the performances of even the most elite runners. Although temperatures on race day are typically cool and ideal for running, gusty headwinds and unseasonably warm temperatures are not uncommon. The forecast for Patriot's Day 2012 was beyond unusual--it was downright scary--78 at the start and 88 at the finish with some blazing sun added to the mix. It's a disastrous forecast for any large outdoor event, let alone a marathon comprised of runners who trained thoughout the winter in colder tempatures without any acclimation to the heat.

To their credit, the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) issued mutliple warnings to runners leading up to race day and even provided runners the opportunity to defer their race entries to 2013-an unprecendented move in the marathon's 116-year history. Marathoners are tough, though, and not many even considered deferring, and although I admit that I considered it for a moment, I decided that I would rather race the course on a bad day than not race at all. Like so many others, I fretted about how to tackle the race. How would I adjust my pace for the heat when I wasn't even acclimated to the heat? My race goal was no longer about time, as much as it was about finishing strong without injury--not quite the Boston I anticipated when I started training in January.

The weather weighed heavily on all of us as we gathered in Hopkinton on race morning, and unlike my previous Hopkinton experiences, no one seemed pumped to race. In fact, the BAA seemed to choose a lot of seemingly calming music to pipe through the music system, instead of its usual heavy metal music that's intended to energize the runners before the start. Clearly, the BAA was doing everything possible to encourage us not to race the course. As the clock approached the start time of the first wave at 10am, I noticed that I was sweating already, and I wasn't even moving! I knew this would be tough. Twenty minutes before the start in my futile attempts to control the situation, I placed ice packs on my back and core, tied a goofy Chilly Towel around my neck, and stuck a visor on my head to shield myself from the blazing sun I was about to run toward for the next few hours.

The gun went off, and I started running 15 seconds slower than my originally projected marathon pace. I felt okay and almost a bit confident. Maybe I could do this. By mile 2, I was sweating hard, and I knew any thoughts of slowing down slightly were out the window. If I wanted to finish this race, I would have to slow down significantly and respect the heat. I grabbed ice along the course, poured water on my head at every stop, and, of course, consumed electrolytes along the way. I took salt tablets every hour, a GU every 45 minutes, and hoped that my ad hoc nutrition and race plan would work. As I approached Wellesley, the screams of the girls were deafening, yet, in spite of the levity around me, I was not in a good place. I was still going too fast. I was way too tired, and I had a tough remaining half-marathon to go. I knew I had to leave my ego in Wellesley and forget about my pace. I recognized that, in spite of my fitness, I was not acclimated to the heat at all, and to finish, I had to run even slower.

For the remainder of the race, I measured my pace by my breathing only. If I started to breath heavily, I slowed myself down. I did not look at the others around me. I did not try to pass anyone. I tried to enjoy the course as much as I could, while focusing on my nutrition, hydration, and salt intake. I drew on my training, and knew that I would finish strong if I stayed steady. I thought of my kids and how I could use this experience to inspire (or lecture) them to keep going. I tackled Heartbreak Hill, and then, I knew I had a mere five tough miles to go. The temperature reflected on the clock--88 degrees.

Thankfully, my friend, Jenny, jumped in with me at mile 21. Originally, she was planning on running 7:20s with me for the last five miles to help me achieve my 3:15. Little did we realize that she would instead be running 8:30s with me, which is typically a slow training run for me, while I desperately tried to stay with her. I looked at my watch, and knew if I kept that pace, I would re-qualify the following year, thanks to my upcoming 40th birthday. We ran, I poured water, I drank Gatorade, I shoved ice in my clothes, and she kept me on track.

As I turned the corner on Boylston toward the finish line, I knew I was about to complete the hottest Boston Marathon in recent history and re-qualify for next year. Although it was not the PR I set out to attain in January, it was pretty epic, and a great story for years to come.

Congratulations to all Boston Marathoners who gutted it out on that course yesterday. Enjoy your ice bath and here's to a cooler 2013!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fall Half Marathon Registration OPEN!

With our 10K/10-miler runners reaching their goal races this month, we’re already looking forward and planning for our next program, our 3rd annual Fall Half Marathon program. This 11-week program is for runners who are running at least three days a week with a long run of about 6 miles and a total weekly mileage of around 15 miles/week by the time the program starts. Whether you've already run a half marathon (or more!) and want to continue to work on your speed in a group setting, or you've just finished your first 10K and want to take your running to the next level, we will work with you to reach your goals. If you aren’t quite at this level yet but would like to train for a fall half marathon, talk to us about providing you with a build-up program to get you ready to start the group program by the end of June.

Our 2012 Fall Half Marathon program begins Sunday, June 24 with the goal of preparing runners to complete any of a number of fall half marathons, including the Parks Half Marathon in Rockville on September 9. The program includes a comprehensive training calendar, weekly group runs on Sundays at 7:30 a.m. from various locations in the Rockville/Bethesda area, discussions and expert presentations on topics such as strength training, stretching, injury prevention, nutrition and race preparation, a technical t-shirt, and group discount on entry to Parks Half Marathon as well as from As with all of our programs, runners get individualized attention and follow-up throughout the program. In an effort to maintain this personalized attention, registration is limited so register early!

The cost for the 11-week program is $100, but until May 24 runners can take advantage of a discounted rate of $90. Recruit a friend who has NOT done one of our previous programs and pay just $85 each for a total of $170 (select “buddy option” from sidebar drop-down menu). Payment can be made online via PayPal by clicking the button below or on the right sidebar of our blog.

For runners who plan to sign up for the Parks Half Marathon, a well-organized and popular local half marathon, registration opened earlier this month and spots may fill up fast so we encourage you to register as soon as possible on the race website at

Contact us at the email addresses on the left sidebar with any questions or for more information. To enroll, select the appropriate Fall Half Marathon option from the sidebar on the right. Hope to see you in June!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Ladies Night at Potomac River Running

Ladies, come enjoy a chance to catch up with old and new running friends, grab a bite to eat and stock up on running gear at a discount at Potomac River Running in Rockville Town Center ( With warmer weather and spring/summer races coming up, now's the time to stock up on any gear or shoes you need, and on Thursday, April 19 from 7-9 pm, PRR is going to be offering all of our runners an additional 10% off shoes, gear, etc. (electronics and nutritional items excluded). Even if you don't need anything, come join us for free refreshments, gait analysis, sports bra fittings by Moving Comfort, lots of giveaways, and just a chance to catch up and connect with some running buddies-- check out what everyone looks like when they're not in their running clothes! We'd love to see you even if you can stop by for just a little while! Please let us know if you'll be able to make it-- hope to see you then!