Tag Archives: New England

New England Relay: 2 days, 6 states, 225 miles

I’ve been holding on to this post for way too long. It’s another guest appearance from my partner in all things Stride and Joy (the one who these days is actually doing all the running). Don’t worry, I haven’t hung up my sneakers altogether. I have a half-marathon coming up and a 5K or two (plus one in the bag that I’ll write about soon). In the meantime, enjoy …

Since the inception of Stride and Joy, we’ve run races all over New England. There’s been a jeans-based jaunt in R.I., a dizzying number of laps in CT, a truly Mad time in VT, AG awards for two in NH, an Old Port (or two) in Maine, and an abundance of miles at home in Massachusetts. So when the opportunity came to run across all six states in one weekend, it seemed like the easy thing to do. I mean we’d run there before, right? How hard could it be?

Um, really, really hard!

NER2

The New England Relay: How hard could it be? (That’s me on the right.)

For you see, the New England Relay (or NER, because “New England Relay” is a lot to type over and over again) is a team event that covers 225 miles across six states in two days. This is something that is really only possible in the tiny states of New England. Run 225 miles in Texas and you are still in Texas.

This odyssey is the brainchild of a man named Brian Hamill. He came up with the idea several years back and diligently worked to create what can rightly be called a piece of running genius. It’s all back roads with some trails thrown in. At night, the run is along roads with little traffic but wide shoulders to ensure everyone’s safety.

The race starts in North West Rhode Island at the Casimir Pulaski State Park and quickly heads to Connecticut. I think there’s about 400 yards in Rhode Island, but that’s enough to count and get it quickly struck off the list. Connecticut is also quickly completed, with the runner of the second leg crossing the state line into Massachusetts during their first five-mile leg. From there it crosses Massachusetts from south to north and winds its way into Vermont.

The run is timed to go through Brattleboro, VT, early on Saturday night, when far saner people are enjoying a leisurely stroll on a warm summer’s night out on the town (am sure they would rather be running!). It’s then across the Connecticut River into New Hampshire. For a small state, there’s a lot of running (and a lot of hills) to be had. Finally, the race finishes at the water’s edge in Kittery, Maine, home to the world famous* (*may not actually be world famous, but they should be) Kittery Outlet Mall. There have got to be easier and less sweaty ways to get to this shopping nirvana.

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52 Weeks, 52 Runs. No. 44: Quick, call the help desk!

Eighteen months ago, if you had asked me what an IT band was, I would have told you it was a group of musically inclined computer nerds. I know better now, of course. Running has, if nothing else, given me a new understanding of bodies, and what they can ­– and can’t – do. Before this 52 Weeks, 52 Runs challenge, I had never, ever put my own under so much stress. (It’s important to know that prior to my first 5K in May 2011, I would have considered it a huge accomplishment to run for two minutes on the treadmill without stopping.)

This past weekend, we headed to Vermont for the 29th Leaf Peepers Half-Marathon and 5K, timed of course to take in New England’s brilliant fall colors. For the second weekend in a row, it was pitch black when we departed, although this time there were no school buses involved (phew).

Leaf Peepers 5K

Starting crowd. You can’t really tell here, but the fall colors on the hills are lovely.

The first thing we noticed when we got out of the car in Waterbury, Vt., was a tantalizingly sweet aroma hanging in the air. The start line was at the headquarters of Green Mountain Coffee, and it turns out they were brewing their dark roast that morning. Nothing like coffee in vapor form before a run. I was feeling the shame because I got out of the car with an empty cup of Newman’s Own from McDonald’s, but then we discovered that Newman’s Own is brewed by Green Mountain, so all was forgiven. We also got vouchers for free cups of coffee, of which we availed ourselves after the run. Talk about a caffeine-fuelled adventure.

Alas, all the coffee in the world couldn’t help me out on this particular day. The weather was perfect (cloudy and 7C/44F to start), and I had high hopes again that all my summer running would pay off and I’d finally finish in under 30 minutes. My start was fast (for me), and I felt good …

Leaf Peepers 5K

This way to Camel’s Hump. I have no idea what that is.

That was before the pain in my right knee.

Uh oh.

It was a vaguely familiar pain. I felt it around mile 10 of the Wineglass Half-Marathon last weekend, too. But I had chalked it up to my body reacting to an unfamiliar distance, and finished the run without incident. I stretched a little afterwards and went to my regular Strength and Stride class at the Y during the week. I thought my knee still seemed miffed, but I chalked that up to ongoing recovery and put it out of my mind.

That is, until mile 0.75 of the Leaf Peepers, when mild knee annoyance turned into full-blown knee rage. Concurrently, my right hip decided to also join the pity party. I knew these were the telltale indicators of an unhappy IT band, Hubby having gone through his own IT woes last year. Crap.

Not interested in pushing myself while parts of my body were staging a protest, I slowed. Every few minutes or so I’d try to pick up the pace, but the pain would pop up again. I didn’t want to tempt a full-blown knee revolt, so I walked for the last two miles, with a few minutes of lame jogging here and there. I did run across the finish because I have never not done that, even on the toughest run.

Leaf Peepers 5K

This is where we walk.

Funny thing is, I felt OK with the walking because I knew it was for a tangible reason and not because I was a loser with no endurance. And, I kept reminding myself, I had done a half-marathon the week before. If only that could have been on the front of my shirt. Like those bumper stickers that say, “My Other Car Is a Corvette,” my T-shirt would read, “My Other Run Is a Half.”

Leaf Peepers 5K

Coffee and maple syrup awards!

I was scheduled to do the Tufts 10K for Women the next day but decided to opt out; it’s the first time I have done that since I started this challenge at the beginning of the year. I’m still on track though, as we have done a number of two-run weekends. I have no doubt I’ll reach my goal, even if it’s at walking speed, and I plan to get my naughty knee/hip seen to this week. I was taking next weekend off anyway as we’re escorting my Aussie parents to New York and Washington, D.C. I’ll report back.

By the way, while I was limping through my run, Hubby was doing his 18th half-marathon of the year. He began 2012 with a goal of one half every month, but has far surpassed that and now has his eye on 20 by Dec. 31. Impressive, no?

The events: Leaf Peepers Half-Marathon and 5K
The location:
Waterbury, Vt.
The date: October 7, 2012
My time: 38.38
Hubby’s time:
1.38.47
The cause:
Vermont flood relief
The T-shirt:
Blue long-sleeved cotton
The aftermath: Bananas, bagels, cheese

Cold runnings: when it’s perfectly acceptable to dress like a superhero

It’s well documented that heat is my No. 2 nemesis (No 1: hills), so I was quite keen to give cold running a try. But there’s cold and then there’s standing-around-at-7.30am-in-New-England-waiting-for-the-run-to-start cold. Herewith, what I’ve discovered first-hand about dressing when your runs take place in a giant fridge. (Of course, my upcoming events are set to take place in a giant freezer, so stay tuned for “Part Two: What the heck was I thinking?”)

Feaster Five

My duds for the Feaster Five Thanksgiving Day race. Note, fancy tights.

1. The outfit is ridiculous. Where outside of comic books is it OK to roam the streets in shorts over tights? Unfortunately, tights aren’t made to carry an iPhone, an asthma puffer, a lip balm, a hairband and a packet of tissues, so, for me, shorts with giant pockets are mandatory. One day, I’ll rule the world in them! Bwahahaha.

2. OK, I concede the tights are fabulous. Avid readers will recall the  concern I had over my new CW-X Insulator Expert Tights and their circulation-hampering properties. But the tights are genius. They are remarkably warm and indeed have many insulating skills. I’ll take the company’s word for it that they also support my muscles and help them bounce back faster.

3. Bulky gloves are unwise. It was a rookie mistake wearing heavy-duty winter mitts. Who knew hands could sweat so much? And they make it impossible to get anything out of your pockets. (Forget trying to pull the top off an asthma puffer.) Also, when your hands are on fire and you have to take the gloves off, there’s nowhere to stuff them. Disaster.

I replaced them with Lululemon’s Brisk Run gloves, which are not only thinner, they can be used to compose that crucial mid-run text message (“Forget this, I’ll meet you at the bar!” perhaps?) thanks to those smartphone fingertip dealies.

LL Bean Women's Cresta Wool Base Layer4. Merino is your friend. Wearing cotton as a base layer on a cold run is a very bad idea. Or so I discovered. Cotton lets sweat linger on your skin, turning you into a walking block of ice when you start to cool down. I bought the LL Bean Women’s Cresta Wool Base Layer, made of merino, which has serious wicking abilities (I love how the word “wicking” has crept into my life). It’s also toasty warm. And it has thumb holes …


5. Thumbs up for thumb holes.
Where have you been all my life?

I, Claus: Santa Sightings 5K Fun Run

I’ve spent more time than I would have thought necessary trying to figure out how to dress for cold runs. So I was grateful for the folks at last weekend’s Santa Sightings 5K for removing the uncertainty, although I was still in two minds about having to wear a beard.

Santa Sightings 5K Fun Run

The Santas gather in downtown New Bedford, MA.

The Santa suits were provided and mandatory at this New Bedford event. Which meant 1,600 men, women and children decked out in full jolly-fat-man regalia, including pants, jacket, belt, hat, and the aforementioned facial hair. The “Santa Run” is apparently a worldwide phenomenon – one that appeared to have passed me by in the Before Time (i.e., when the thought of running even a single block was hysterical) – and this was its New England premiere. Trust me, Santas en masse is amusing, but Santas running en masse borders on hilarity.

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There with bells on! Jolly Jaunt 5K, Boston

I turned up to the Jolly Jaunt 5K in Boston wearing a pink beanie. This may have been a mistake. In a sea of festive red and green, I stood out like, well, someone wearing a pink beanie.

Jolly Jaunt 5K

The red green show. (One for the Canadians.)

While it may have appeared as though I didn’t get the message about the dress code, my headgear had more to do with the fact that I didn’t fancy riding the train alone looking like an elf (this 5K was a solo affair, as Hubby was off Guarding). I assume the woman who turned up as a Christmas tree didn’t have to subject herself to the indignities of public transport. Or maybe she just has more balls. (Balls, get it? She’s a Christmas tree! Oh dear.)

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Best. Series. Ever.

willrunforbeer.com

Now this is a goal I can meet. http://www.willrunforbeer.com.

Although I’ve been on a bit of a running hiatus during my sojourn Down Under, there will be no rest when I get back to New England (which during my five-week absence has nastily decided to morph from late-summer bliss to early-fall bone-chill). I will scarcely have time to draw breath before I am back scarcely drawing breath in a nose-hair-freezing 5K run.

But that’s OK, because Hubby has discovered something wonderful: the Will Run for Beer 2012 Race Series.

That’s right. Will. Run. For. Beer.

Now, I’m more of a G&T girl myself, but I say cheers to any event that combines running with post-race glass-hoisting (experts say you need to stretch out those arms, after all). This series, which has been going since 2008 (the Before Time), is put on by a New Hampshire company called Loco and sponsored by Portsmouth, N.H.’s Smuttynose Brewing Co. Need I say more.

There will, of course, be updates from the series as I go along, but our presence will definitely be felt at the Smuttynose Palooza in Milford, N.H., on January 14. One, because it’s a relay half-marathon (I can just run a bit!) that’s indoors; and two, because the website asks the probing question: “What is a Palooza?”

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