Friday, May 27, 2011

The Joys Of Not Training

Something usually happens in the weeks after crossing the marathon finish line, a sort of post-marathon blues. It leaves runners asking “what’s next?” and searching for ways to fill the hours they’d set aside for training.

Not for me. Not this time, at least.

After my first marathon in 2009, I felt that sense of emptiness, the nagging need to tackle the next big challenge. This time around, a little more than a month after completing the Boston Marathon, I don’t feel even a slightest twinge of that.

Instead, I continue to feel the sense of pure accomplishment combined with a bit of relief.

During the past few weeks, I’ve simply reconnected with my love of running. I’ve been running when I want, how far I want and at what pace I want. If I don’t want to run, I don’t.

I’ve been appreciating the scenery a little more, taking in the fresh air and trying new routes. In fact, I’ve taken this non-training time to try new things.

Last week, I made a point to finally check out the Goffstown Rail Trail for one of my runs. This was a great change of pace and scenery, winding just far enough off the road to bring some peace and quiet to my run. I can’t wait until the bridge project to connect the Goffstown and Manchester trails is complete. It will open up a whole new world of trail running options.

I also decided to incorporate strength and core work by starting my mornings with Pilates. I’ve discovered the options of the On Demand channel and am totally hooked.

Last week also brought me to my first group bike ride – or should I say, I brought the group bike ride to me. I hosted the ride as a way to bring together many of my active friends for a fun ride through the country.

The group, not all of whom knew each other, melded together perfectly. I saw new friendships forming and riding partners pairing up for future rides. I’m certain another group ride will be in the works soon.

Last but not least, I did my small part of participate in the Commute Green New Hampshire Challenge last week. As you may recall, the weather was certainly less-than-perfect for a challenge asking residents to bike bikes or walk to work. For an event that was supposed to be helping Mother Nature, she sure wasn’t helping us out. Perhaps those opting for the carpooling or telecommuting options were the smart ones?

Commute Green NH set a goal of logging 50,000 miles by asking residents to replace their normal commuting miles with an alternative method. The results are still being compiled, but at last check more than 62,000 miles were logged by New Hampshire residents during the week-long challenge.

I thought it would be an interesting and fun experiment, so I juggled a few things around and was able to fit in two day of “green commuting.” A self-described fair-weather rider, I avoid my bike for the rainy week of the challenge, but was able to arrange to carpool to work for twice. At the end of the day, I ran home.

It was a funny feeling leaving from work knowing that I’d be running home. Even though the eight-mile distance was something I’d done many times, it somehow seemed much farther as I faced this point-to-point route. Once I got started, however, it turned into just another run.

In all, I logged about 50 miles in “green commuting.” (As a side note, I discovered that Commute Green NH didn’t offer a “run” option when I logged my miles, so I had to choose the “walk” option. I gently suggested to the group via Facebook that they consider changing the category to “by foot.”)

Overall, it was a really interesting experiment. I learned that commuting “by foot” (or bike) was completely do-able, although a little challenging. The logistics of transporting clothes and lunches, along with keeping a constant eye on the weather, means it won’t be something I will do every day.

But it’s something I’ll try to incorporate at least once a week during the summer months. At the very least, I’ll save a few bucks on gas and get a few more miles on the legs and bike.

And it will be another way to enjoy my non-training days.

Teresa Robinson is Community Relations Manager for the New Hampshire Union Leader. Her column appears in the New Hampshire Sunday News every other week. Her email address is

Friday, May 13, 2011

Commute Green Challenge ... Indeed!

Apparently May is National Running Month. It also happens to be National Bike Month.

I’m honestly not sure where some of these designated “holidays” originate or why these two sports would be celebrated during the same month. But in the interest of enjoying spring-time and the ability to get outside, I’ve decided to participate.

Commute Green New Hampshire is challenging New Hampshire residents (and out-of-staters who work in New Hampshire) to reduce 50,000 vehicle miles this week as part of its annual Statewide Challenge.

The group says this annual promotion is designed to get “you, your friends, neighbors, co-workers and employers to choose inexpensive, healthier and more environmentally-friendly transportation options.”

The idea is to save us money, help reduce stress, and get us to enjoy and preserve New Hampshire’s beautiful landscape. You can also log your miles on Commute Green’s website ( for prizes and discounts at participating stores and restaurants.

More than 60 New Hampshire businesses and schools have registered as part of the “team” challenge. Individuals, like me, can also participate by logging miles online.

We’re supposed to carpool, bicycle, walk and use public transportation to work, school, shopping and similar trips this week, which coincides with National Bike to Work Day and Walk to Work Day on Friday. (I’d assume if you wanted to run to work, that would be okay, too.)

I participated in National Bike to Work two years ago, just about a month after I got my bike. It was fun and different, and I swore I’d use my bike to commute to work more often.

It never happened again.

Biking to work certainly takes some planning, especially for those of us who can’t attend meetings in cycling-appropriate clothes and prefer not to sport the helmet-head look all day.

Luckily, I have access to a shower and locker room at work so I can do a modified version of my morning routine there.

However, my bike isn’t exactly a commuter-style ride. It doesn’t have saddlebags or any other way to carry my change of clothes, shower items or anything else I might need for the day. Definitely another obstacle to this bike-to-work idea.

After I decided to participate in the Commute Green Statewide Challenge, I asked a few friends who sporadically commute by bike or foot for advice. The most common tip was to plan, plan, plan.

Many suggested starting the workweek by car (sorry, Commute Green) to transport any necessities for my cycling or running days during the week. That means I’ll need to find a place to keep these clothes and other items. One regular bike commuter even suggested keeping a pop-up wardrobe in my office – advice that I won’t be taking, at least not for this one-week challenge.

Another helpful tidbit I picked up was to use the “transport day” to bring along food for the week, including lunches and snacks. Since I’ll be burning calories on your way to work, I’ll likely be hungrier during the day, and I’ll also need to plan a fueling snack before the trip home.

I’ve also had to consider my work schedule, which often takes me around town to various events and meetings. I’ve tried my best to cluster my off-site appointments to coincide with my “transport” day, but this definitely took a bit of planning. (I’m also paying for it the following week with a jam-packed week of meetings around town.)

As if all of these logistics don’t add enough of a challenge, I’ve also had to think about the basics, like the route I’ll take. My normal driving route takes me via the highway, so I’ll opt for a path through downtown. I still need to find a reasonable way to avoid Manchester’s Amoskeag Circle.

Oh, and there’s the weather. I’ve looked at the forecast and it doesn’t look ideal for someone looking to venture into green commuting, especially someone who is admittedly a fair-weather cyclist.

I think I’m remembering now why I only commuted by bike once. It’s not just as easy as hopping on my bike and hitting the road. Ideally, it sounds wonderful. Realistically, it’s tougher than you’d think. It will be an interesting experiment, indeed.

I’m looking forward to giving it a try, even if I only get in a day or two of non-motorized commuting. I hope to get in at least one bike-to-work commute and, fingers crossed, a run to and from work. I’ll log a little more than eight miles for each one-way commute I do.

At any rate, I’ll give it my best shot. Perhaps you will do the same.

If running or cycling to work just isn’t your thing this week, telecommuting and carpooling “count” toward the Statewide Challenge.

If that’s still doesn’t do it for you, a quick online search of wacky holidays showed me that today “National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day.” Now that’s something I can easily celebrate.

Teresa Robinson is Community Relations Manager for the New Hampshire Union Leader. Her column appears in the New Hampshire Sunday News every other week. Her email address is

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Boston In 750 Words

The following NH Runner column appeared in the New Hampshire Sunday News on May 1, 2011.

I have what feels like an impossible task in front of me, something that somehow seems more difficult than running 26.2 miles two weeks ago. I need fit in the experience of the 115th Boston Marathon into 750 words.

As one reader suggested, I might be able to do it if I use only adjectives. I’d go for words like “overwhelming,” “loud” and “impressive.” I’d throw in words like “exhilarating,” “life-changing” and “inspiring.”

A description wouldn’t be complete without words like “well-run,” “organized” and supported.” And, of course, I’d probably include a few words like ”tough” and “painful.” It is a marathon, after all.

There are so many things to share about the experience of running the Boston Marathon. It seems like the easy way out to say it’s something you have to do to fully appreciate it. But it’s true. There is really nothing like it.

The Boston Marathon is more than just a marathon. I knew that going into it, having stood on the sidelines for the past two years, I was not prepared for just how exciting it would be.

Simplified, my running of the Boston Marathon was both better and worse than I thought it would be. It was better in terms of the overall experience – the sights, the sounds, the sheer magnitude of the event. It was worse in running-related ways that reminded me once again to respect the marathon distance.

I crossed the finish line with my arms held high and a smile on my face, but what I’ll remember most about this experience isn’t anything about running.

What strikes me most is the way that this adventure has brought me closer to so many people, many of whom never knew Marathon Monday existed. A marathon, they thought, wasn’t something that people they know did.

Thanks to the power of social media and the Boston Marathon’s top-notch tracking system, my friends and family experienced a marathon in ways they probably never imagined they would. I, in turn, strengthened connections and friendships along the way.

The Boston Marathon bib number doubled as the chip-timing system that would track my official finishing time. It also served as a signaling device that would let my friends and family track me at every 5K mark.

As I crossed the giant mats that would record my time, I thought of the signal being sent out. At the time, I was mostly thinking about the information that was being transmitted to my coach, who I was sure was tracking my per-mile pace to see if I was keeping up with the plan.

As I crossed the finish line, it occurred to me that I really didn’t know my official time. It wasn’t until I’d gone through the process of collecting my medal, heatsheet, packages of food and water and other items, that I reconnected with my sweetie who told me my official time.

It hit me at that moment that my friends and family, some of whom were tracking me in various parts of the country and even into Canada and England, knew my results before I did.

Well-wishes and congratulations filled my Facebook page and email inbox. I was blown away by how much interest was taken in my run, from people I knew in elementary school to professional connections I’d made.

When I returned to work and regular life after the marathon, I was surprised to learn that co-workers and other professional contacts had tracked my run, feeling a sense of excitement as I approached the finish line.

A few days after the marathon, I attended the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s Centennial Celebration, during which I was bombarded with hugs and words of congratulations. The woman I was walking with at one point asked me, “Does everyone in Manchester know you ran a marathon?”

Pretty much, I told her, remembering that I made the conscious decision to share my marathon experience – the good, the bad and the ugly – publicly with so many people.

At the time, I never knew how important that decision would be. But now, I wouldn’t do it any other way.