Friday, November 30, 2012

The Hardest 26.2 Yet

[Not my feet...]

As my running buddy and I wrapped up one of our final training runs for the half marathon, we found ourselves talking about, no surprise, the next big challenge.

We suggested a winter race schedule, weekly long runs, a half marathon early in 2013, and even toyed with the idea of a marathon. But in the end, what we came up with had nothing to do with running at all.

We stumbled upon the idea almost by accident when I made an off-hand comment that I was afraid to sign up for another marathon because I dreaded the post-marathon 10 pounds. You know, those 10 pounds that seemed to creep up me after the marathon, when my body was still in marathon-eating mode but my weekly mileage plunged.

I’ve done two marathons. At about 10 pounds each. With some quick math, it’s easy to see that I need to get myself back in check.

I was surprised (and somewhat relieved) to find that my running-buddy has had the same problem. While it was tempting for us both to make commitments to up our mileage to take on a long-distance goal, I decided to go down a different path. For me, it’s a much more challenging one.

I’ve decided to take on the challenge of 26.2. No, not miles. Pounds. As in, losing them.

Just the thought of that makes me want to run in the other direction, to come up with something “easier” to do. The thought of telling anyone about it makes me question my sanity because, well, now I kind of have to do it. I wonder if I can do it, if I should do it and, honestly, just exactly how to do it.

Yes, it’s pretty much the same feeling I got when I signed up for any marathon.

Like the marathon, this 26.2 challenge leaves me knowing I need to come up with a plan. I know I can’t just fake my way to the end of this one. And I also know that I need a good support system.

I will spend the next few weeks coming up with a plan and equipping myself with the right resources. Instead of new shoes, I may team up with a personal trainer, an organized weight loss program, a calorie-counting app, or some combination of all of those.

I will seek out people who have done this before, just like I sought out the advice of marathoners while I trained for my races.

Yes, this 26.2 is certainly going to take a lot of work and focus. It will mean tracking and recording – this time foods and weight, instead of miles and paces. It’s going to mean doing things I don’t want to do – this time skipping desserts or that second glass of wine, instead of wintry long runs.

Like the marathon, I don’t expect to do it overnight.

I need to remember that, like the marathon, I didn’t set out to run the entire distance when I first started training. I had to mentally break it up into small, more manageable parts.

The same applies here. I need to focus on the 5K – losing 3.1 pounds doesn’t sound too difficult. Then a 10K - 6.2 pounds, still do-able. Then the half-marathon – 13.1 pounds is a little scarier and daunting. Then the big finish line.

Yes, this 26.2 scares me, perhaps more than the thought of signing up for an actual marathon. But I know it will pay off will be big in the end. Just like crossing the finishing line.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Only One Month Left?

Someone once told me that the older you get, the faster times seems to go. They were totally right.

Where the heck has 2012 gone? Sure, I know it's not over, but we're rapidly approaching year-end. And you know what that means: New Year's Resolutions.

I can't believe it's been almost a year since I declared a "do over" to my 2011 running/riding goals [Spoiler alert: I'm failing miserably on this.] and laid out a list of other things I wanted to focus on this year. Think of them as the personal development goals.

Back in February, I wrote that a monthly check-in would keep me focused on track. Umm, right. This is only my second check-in. It's the week of Thanksgiving. 

Let's get the "do over" disaster report over with. Honestly, I didn't work on it at all. I didn't track it. I don't even have a good sense of how many miles I have left to do. All of this is very unlike me - and something for me to delve into a little more on an upcoming long run. 

What I do know, without adding up my stats, is that my bike sat in the front hallway more than it was on the road, that I adjusted my running goal to 800 by year-end a couple of months ago (and I still won't make that) and I have no prayer of hitting any of my speed goals.

I guess now it's time to start thinking of how to approach the next year. A do-do-over? Adjust the goals, gulp, down? Scrap mileage goals altogether? I still have six weeks or so to figure it all out.

On the upside, I did a pretty good job on my "life" focuses I set out for myself early in the year - well, except that 10 pounds part. Does it count if you gain the 10? But the weight was a small, somewhat superficial piece of the whole pie (mmm, pie), so I'm not overly concerned about it.

More importantly, I successfully focused on my health, relationships, finances, career and giving back. 

I continued with my vegetarianism (pescetarianism) without much hassle at all. I had routine check-ups, participated in health fairs and screenings and, happily, have the lowest "numbers" I've seen in a long time - maybe ever.

I had an awesome opportunity to "give back" (really, I think I got more out of it than the girls did) by being a volunteer coach for Girls On The Run. Although the schedule is challenging for a corporate person (practices at 3 p.m.!?), it was worth all of the schedule juggling and running around (no pun intended). 

I'm not sure what my future holds as a coach - I'm really, really hoping I can make it work, but the schedule is so darn tough. And, this year will be even tougher with a new job.

Yes, a new job. When I wrote about my career, I had every intention that I'd be sitting in the same office doing the same thing at year-end. I loved my job. But mid-way through the year an opportunity I couldn't pass up came my way. And I haven't looked back.

Although starting over was daunting and it's sometimes challenging being a new kid in a big place, I'm starting to find my groove. I love the positive atmosphere, the hard-working, goal-oriented people and being part of a team. I have no doubt that this was the right move and that it's a place I can thrive and shine.

It helps that the job change came with a healthy paycheck - certainly helps my goal to focus on my finances this year, at least. I've checked off the goal to pay down my debt by half and, just today, upped the monthly payment to pay it down quicker. Finally, the end is in sight.

My relationships, from Jeff to family and friends, are strong, healthy and moving in good directions. If I had to fault myself on one thing it's that I haven't made the time for my/our friends that I should have. My list of let's-get-a-date-on-the-calendar follow-ups is growing. 

I blame changing jobs (Jeff and I both had changes here this year) that's thrown our schedules off a bit and left us with seemingly less free time. Certainly our time off together has been cut. I suppose it just means that we need to make the most of our free time together (not that we don't) while remembering that friends and family are important.

Trust me, I'm not trying to rush the rest of the year away, but I'm looking forward to continuing in 2013 on the path that I have been on. I have a feeling it's going to be a mighty fine year.

I guess when I look back at all the good things I've been able to do in my life this year, missing those mileage marks doesn't really seem to matter. Much.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Gettin' Back On The Horse

I'm back on the horse. Well, I have a way to go, but I'm at least in the barn.

This morning started my official training regimen for the Manchester Half Marathon. I use the phrase "training regimen" very loosely here. The race will be here sooner than I know it and certainly there's no PR in the cards. 

Perhaps I should say that today officially started the first step of getting back to having running be part of my life, starting with weekly long runs.

I've really been struggling with the motivation to run for a while now. A long while. I've gone in spits and spurts of semi-consistent running, but mostly I haven't much cared if I missed a run. Gone, long gone, are the days that I would be antsy if I missed too many consecutive days.

I may dig deeper into the cause of my hiatus - my mental hiatus - but, for now, I'm just looking forward to getting back on the horse.

What better way to do that than to return to the basics of why I started running in the first place? It was never about pace or finishing times or things like that. It was never about being "good" at it. It wasn't about PRs or goals or race resumes. 

Running used to be just about being out there, pushing myself beyond what I think I could do, even if that meant doing it at 11-minute-miles. Running used to be about friendships and miles filled with chit-chat and laughter. 

A few weeks ago my marathon-running buddy asked if I'd like to join her for the Manchester Half Marathon. More importantly, she asked if I'd like to join her in weekly trainings.

Having a standing "running date" is something I now realize that I've really missed. For the first couple of years of my running-life, I ran with people. The miles varied, and even the faces varied, but I was always surrounded by enthusiastic, fun people using running as a way to meet various goals - stay in shape, train for races, honor loved ones at charity races, acclimate to a new community, make friends.

I'd be lying if I said I was confident about my return to running-dates. I know I've fallen terribly out-of-shape, well below the level of the last time I'd run with this friend (or anyone, for that matter). I tried to prepare her, suggesting a short-ish route for our first long run at a very, very moderate pace. 

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain. I can't tell you the last time I ran in the rain, something that used to be almost commonplace. If I hadn't had someone waiting for me, I'm sure I would have convinced myself that it would be okay to push the run off until later in the day.

But, running-dates have a way of getting you out of bed and out the door.

I agonized about what I should wear. Tank top? Long sleeves? Hat? I used to have a handle of what clothing combinations went with all conditions. Today, I was lost. 

It was cool-ish and overcast, so I settled on a long-sleeved shirt and capris - a decision I would quickly regret when the clouds cleared and the sun warmed the air. Total rookie mistake. I knew my decision wasn't wise when I met my friend and found her wearing shorts and tank-top. We were clearly prepared for different seasons.

We headed out on a loop that I'd mapped earlier, one that would hook us up to part of the Manchester Half course. We knew it would be hilly. But we also know we need to run hills if we have any chance of surviving the "challenging" course in November.

I wore my Garmin and kept it solidly around 10-minute-miles, per my plan to make it all the way to the end without dying. As expected, the hills were hard. I huffed and puffed my way up them, telling myself it was good training and eventually, somehow, they would get easier.

I resisted the urge to think about how easy running used to seem, how we used to carry on conversations - hills or no hills - without skipping a beat. I resisted the urge to think about the fact that the race would be more than double the mileage we were running today. I resisted the urge to completely panic and call it quits.

And you know what? I loved today's run, something I honestly haven't said or thought in a really, really long time.

Yes, being out there this morning - despite the fact that I over-dressed, ran slower than I used to, completely struggled on the hills and even succumbed to a few walk breaks - reminded me why I love running. Finally.

It feels good to be back on that horse. Can't wait to be galloping around like I used to.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Do Something That Scares You

The following column appeared in the New Hampshire Sunday News on July 15, 2012.

Sometimes, a book that has absolutely nothing to do with running, has everything to do with running. This week I stumbled upon a book about an almost-30-year-old's quest to overcome her fears, big and small. The book, called "My Year With Eleanor" and written by Noelle Hancock, is inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt's famous quote: "Do something every day that scares you."

She tackles the seemingly mundane, like going tech-free for a week, to the expected, like fears of heights and sharks, to the profound, like telling people what she really thinks and talking with her boyfriend about the future. (Disclaimer: I should admit that I'm only halfway through the book. I'm assuming her fear-conquering year goes well and she lives happily ever after.)

Either way, big picture, she (and Eleanor) couldn't be more right. Do things that scare you. 

Hancock would probably laugh out loud at the thought of her book speaking to a runner - she has a vocal disdain for all things exercise (oh, aside from that little Kilimanjaro trip) - but reading the story made me think of all of the scary moments I've had as a runner and cyclist. 

The scariest moment was probably the first, back in 2008, when a friend suggested I take on something big. A few days later, I found myself in a room of then-strangers signing up for a half-marathon with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team In Training program. 

From there, there were a series of scary running moments: the first group training session, going to a "real" running shoe store, the first double-digit run, the first energy gel and, of course, the first race day. Soon, the scary moments became the routine ones. And new scary ones took their place - signing up for a marathon, buying a bike, coaching a team of young girls.

Another one of my favorite quotes is from John "The Penguin" Bingham, an author, columnist and self-described spokesperson for the slow-running movement: "The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start."

It's probably not a coincidence that the sentiment is the essentially the same as Eleanor's. 

I've read a lot of things, from books written by credentialed experts to personal blogs, on goal-setting. The one piece of advice that sticks out is that goals should be attainable enough that they are not impossible, but lofty enough that it gives you butterflies at the thought of trying. Looking back, the scary things - especially when it comes to running and riding - are probably the best things I have ever done.

Just this week, I was faced with another scary moment when a couple of gal-pals set up a group bike ride (which conveniently started at my house). I love riding with people, but to be perfectly honest, riding with people who are better than me completely scares (and frustrates) me. It scares me to a point that as the hours ticked away to our planned ride this week, I started to think just how I could get out of this ride. I even wondered if a raging sunburn qualified as a valid excuse.

With the book's sentiment's fresh in my mind (and some encouragement from my sweetie), I decided not to back out. And, guess what, it was great. Not only was it fun, it was the best riding I've done all season. Nothing like a little positive peer pressure to improve performance. 

I've been thinking lately about the next "big thing" - things like another marathon, entering the Mount Washington Road Race lottery, joining and actively participating in a local running club, hiring a personal trainer or coach, going for speed. The possibilities are endless.

For now, I'll keep my stomach butterflies fluttering a little less, but fluttering nonetheless. I signed up for the Bill Kelley 10K again this year. I had a so-so experience at this race last year, mostly due to the hot evening and lack of training. The switch to make it a Sunday morning race, as opposed to an after-work sweat-fest, will probably help part of that. The training part? Well, I haven't been exactly on-point with that lately. But those dang butterflies, and oh, the promise of an after-race poolside party at the Executive Health and Center Center's new tiki bar, Sizzle, lured me in.

The race, which also has a 5K option and benefits New Horizons for New Hampshire, is scheduled for Sunday, July 29. There's still plenty of time to sign up and get squeeze in some training runs. Does that give you butterflies? See you there.

Teresa Robinson's NH Runner column appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. She can be reached at Twitter: @teresakrobinson

Monday, March 26, 2012

Running with the Leprechauns

PHOTO CREDIT: Champion Photo

The following NH RUNNER column appeared in the New Hampshire Sunday News on March 23, 2012.

I don’t know about you, but I once hated running. In fact, one of the most dreaded school days was the day we had to run the mile as part of the Presidential Challenge fitness test.

To the best of my recollection, we did not have any sort of build up or training. We just congregated on the school’s field, the gym teacher standing at one corner with a clipboard and whistle, and ran.

And I hated it. I hated not knowing, really, how far a mile was. I hated breathing hard and sweating. I hated the burning I felt in my lungs. I hated the kids who passed me with ease, trotting by with what seemed like little effort. I hated the fact that someone, somewhere had determined that how well we did in that mile “test” determined how fit we were.

I look back at those days now and laugh. Today, I love running. I love the freedom, the personal challenges and, yes, sometimes I love sweating and that burning feeling in my lungs.

Sometimes I wish I would have discovered the joy of running so much earlier, that someone would have shared the secret with me. That’s why I love when I hear of initiatives to support young runners.

Just before 11 a.m. today, 750 children will take place Leprechaun Kid Fun Runs, before the start of the Shamrock Shuffle in Manchester. Thanks to a sponsorship from MVP Healthcare, they can run the race (and any in the Millennium Running Series) for free.

It’s part of MVP’s commitment to get kids active, according to Rebecca Couture of MVP Healthcare, who added the initiative is also about getting the whole family out and active together.

“We want kids to come out and see what their parents are doing and maybe, just maybe, some parents will be motivated to run a road race, because their kids want to,” Couture said. “It goes both ways.”

In fact, the program has already inspired Couture herself. She will lace up her running shoes for her first-ever race today.

There’s little doubt that the streets will be lined with plenty of cheering fans as the younger runners hit the road. I know I’ll be there.

I’m also getting ready to help share my love of running with a group of elementary school girls as I prepare to become a volunteer coach for Girls On The Run.

The program uses running as a platform for its curriculum that teaches young girls about healthy eating, fitness, making good decisions, building self-esteem, setting goals and more. You know, all the skills and characteristics that running inherently helps us build.

In New Hampshire, the program has grown to about 400 girls, something I give the executive director of New Hampshire’s Girls on the Run chapter, Jen Hubbell a lot of credit for. Her passion and enthusiasm is contagious, and it’s no wonder that there is a waiting list at many of the participating schools.

In a little more than a week, I’ll meet my new team, a group of 15 girls in grades 3 through 5 at Green Acres School in Manchester. Over the course of 10 weeks, they will learn about self-respect and a healthy lifestyle while training for a 5K.

On June 16, all of the Girls On The Run teams from across the state will convene for their grand finale, a 5K event that serves not only as a celebration of their accomplishments but also as a fundraiser for the non-profit. I encourage you to join us, whether to cheer or to run.

I’m excited to get to know my new team, to learn from them, to grow with them and to help them cross the finish line. In turn, they will probably teach me a lot about having fun, supporting each other and making up silly cheers. (Like this!)

Whatever happens, I’m pretty sure it will be a whole lot better than the one-mile fitness test I had in middle school.

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Playing Dress-Up

The following NH Runner column appeared in the New Hampshire Sunday News on Feb. 12, 2012. Photo above courtesy of Jim Stankiewicz.

My usual pre-race shopping list is expanding a bit. No longer will it only consist of the right kind of running shoes, wicking shirts and socks, comfy shorts and stay-put headbands.

Yes, I’m not afraid to admit that last week I bought an item for my next race at a most unusual place: a craft store.

It was what I consider an impulse buy. But I could not resist its sparkles and vibrant color shouting at me from the check-out aisle. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, so I won’t go into much more detail, but I will say that I intend to run my first dress-up race next month when I participate in the Shamrock Shuffle before the St. Patrick’s Parade in Manchester on March 25.

I’ve never been one to run in costume. Even when I went to Disney to run my first half-marathon, I was one of the traditional runners alongside the princesses, Mickey Mouses and all of the other (often elaborate) costumes running through the happiest place on earth.

But playing dress-up appeals to many runners, apparently. At last year’s Boston Marathon, I was passed by a hamburger at Mile 21. (I have convinced myself that the guy wearing the hamburger costume did not run the entire 21 miles before he passed me.)

Let’s face it, most of us aren’t going to win the race. So we might as well have fun with it. In a very informal poll, local runners shares some of their favorite dress-up races:

CHaD Hero Half Marathon
Thousands or runners and supporters of the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth take over Lebanon’s downtown in an all out hero inspired marathon benefitting the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. In fact, the race holds the Guinness World Record for having the most super heroes on one place. This year’s event is taking place on Oct. 21, a welcome change to the August date they had the past couple of years. For more information or to sign your team up, visit

Scheduled near Halloween, dressing up for this race just makes sense. Matt Bryant and his friends (eight of them, I assume) dressed up as Santa and his reindeer for the 3.1 mile run. Christine Telge of Manchester ran this race dressed in full camouflage and boots – and upped the ante by pushing a double-stroller draped with a camo tarp carrying two little army men (her sons). Timm Hartmann of Manchester and his wife dressed up as Batman and Bat Girl, complete with all black-Vibram TrekSports on his feet. I couldn’t find any updated information for 2012 on this race, but it sure stuck in the minds of many of my running friends so hopefully the race organizers are taking notes. Proceeds from the race benefit technology at Ross A. Lurgio Middle School in Bedford. More information at

As if running 200 or so miles as a relay team isn’t challenging enough, some runners decide to take it one step further. Case in point: the Runn’n Commando team. Hooksett’s Muriel Saliba tells me that team members – yes, the guys, too – run in camouflage running skirts and other accessories.

I have a college friend who runs her annual Turkey Trot in a full (and very bulky!) cartoon turkey costume. As if that’s not enough, her brother, dressed as a Pilgrim, chases her along the race route with a fake hatchet. And, who can forget the one thousand runners in full Santa Claus costumes – beards, included – running down Elm Street in December?

It seems like this costume fad isn’t going away, so I might as well join in the fun. Please don’t set the bar too high for my Shamrock Shuffle outfit. Perhaps by the time the CHaD Hero Half Marathon comes around, I’ll be ready for a full Wonder Woman costume. Maybe.

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

Sunday, February 5, 2012

One Month Down, 11 To Go

There's an online trend going around this year (it might have been around longer, I dunno) encouraging people to check in on their resolutions every Monday to help keep them accountable. Personally, every Monday is a bit too frequent for me (plus, who has time for that?), but I do like the idea of consistently checking in on the goals we set for ourselves.

So I've decided that at the end of each month - or close to it - I'd check in to see how I'm doing.

Last month, I set a variety of goals for 2012. I called for a "do-over" after falling short of my 2011 goal to run/ride 3,000 miles (1,000 miles of running and 2,000 miles of cycling).

My January stats ended up being coincidentally event, tallying in at 66 miles on the bike (trainer) and 65.92 miles of running. Certainly not an all-time high for either categories, but given that I'm coming off a few slump months, a good (and smart) start.

More than the numbers, I like that I've reincorporated running and riding into my regular routine. It helps that Jeff also set a lofty goal of riding the Vermont 100/200 in June, so there's been an overall focus on training and building fitness in our house. Not a bad thing, at all.

In a later post, I talked about all of the other things I want to focus on this year - from volunteering to finances to a healthy lifestyle. I also wanted to value relationships in my life and continue to work toward a healthy life/work balance.

One month in to 2012, I think I'm on the right track.

On the finance end, I've been keeping a closer eye on my budget (or rather, how I spend my money) and made an extra month's payment on my credit card (so what if it was just a screw up with my automated payments set by my credit card company - I still declined the refund and told them to apply it to the balance). I also upped my monthly automated payment by $100 and put an extra $10 per week into an auto savings account I've had going for a couple of years now. It's not much, but it's the little steps that will add up.

Aside from my mileage goals, which will obviously help my healthy living goal, I've just passed the five-month mark of vegetarianism (technically, pescetarianism - since I eat fish). I haven't missed anything, and the more I read and learn about the benefits of cutting out meat, the better I feel about it. It's nice to know that the transition hasn't been at all difficult and has really just become a way of life for us.

I've also added some variety into my fitness routine, getting back to a couple of sessions of strength training (so far) and experimenting with yoga for runners.

Another thing I wanted for 2012 was to give back and volunteer. I'm excited about the possibility of working with Girls On The Run as a volunteer coach. I sought out recommendations for volunteer opportunities and was blown away by all of the suggestions - very worthwhile, fun, appropriate-for-me suggestions, I might add.

After a bit of research and talking to people involved in Girls On The Run organization, I think it's a good fit for me. I love the idea of teaching young girls the tools to be confident, healthy and smart in their decisions. I'm sure I'll have plenty more to say about my Girls On The Run experience as it gets going. I'll get a "team" of 15 girls in grades 3-5. (Yikes?!) By mid-June, they'll run a 5K after a 10-week program where they learn about making good decisions, building self-esteem, knowing healthy relationships and lifestyle. Very exciting stuff!

My other goals for 2012 are a little more gray than black and white - things like relationships and balance. I'll try to think of more concrete steps to "success" (however that is defined) to share along the way, but I feel very solid in those areas, too.

Yes, friends, this year is off to a good start. And I'm looking forward to everything 2012 has in store for me.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Gimme The Bling!


As runners, we like to think that we run for health, to support good causes, to compete, to challenge ourselves. Often, all of those reasons – good ones, I might add – are true. But sometimes we’re a little more selfish.

We run to get, well, stuff – like, medals and t-shirts and bags and water bottles and towels and, oh, beer at the end of races. Pretty much just about anything we “earn” by running, we like.

Ask a runner what they think of a local race and they’ll likely to mention the course, the weather, the volunteers and the swag. I cannot count the number of races that have been recommended to me because they have great stuff.

From pint glasses to shirts, my drawers and closets are the proof. Mementos of races and miles are everywhere. (Although, note to race directors, most people I know have tossed all shirts that aren’t “tech” shirts. To us, cotton is rotten.)

I’ve never given race swag much thought until recent weeks when I started contemplating a spring half-marathon, something to keep me motivated in the winter months. A running-pal of mine suggested the Wallis Sands Half Marathon in May, with its scenic (and I’m assuming flat) ocean-side course.

The race quickly made my short list of possibilities, so I solicited some feedback from my local online running friends on Facebook and dailymile. The race got big thumbs up in almost all areas. More than once, however, I heard what I considered to be a warning: the race has no finishers medals. (Top racers, of course, still get bling – as they should.)

Often, the warning came with an apology: “I don’t know why it bothered me not to get a medal, I know it shouldn’t. But it did.”

It struck me as funny because I actually have a drawer full of race medals. They’ve made the cut every time I’ve moved. But still, they are sitting in a drawer, waiting for me to finally find a way to properly display them. I’ve considered seeking out a local version of Medals for Mettle, which allows runners to donate their medals to children in hospitals. (Sounds a lot better than having them sit in a drawer, doesn’t it?)

Still, like my friends, the thought of a half-marathon finish line without finisher medals irked me a bit. Finishers medals are pretty much standard for half-marathons and marathons. They’re more of a memento than a reward.

I thought about it so much that I actually looked online to see how much medals actually cost (which was probably a mistake). For just a few dollars of my $55 registration fee, the race organizers could get custom medals. The event planner in me thinks it would be a good investment. (Can I admit I’d prefer a medal to most of the race shirts out there?)

Finisher medal or not, I've already signed up for the Wallis Sands race. And I’ll still be proud, knowing that I trained for and completed the half-marathon.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to run for all of the other “stuff” out there – like the pint glass and running hat that comes with the Shamrock Shuffle in March. And I’ll continue to participate in the random raffles associated with Runner’s Alley Winter Warriors runs. I scored a sweet half-zip tech shirt from Mizuno a few weeks ago, and my name is in the running (no pun intended) for a pair of New Balance shoes next week.

Yes, runners – at least this one – like swag. I’d love to hear more about your favorite race freebies. Which events have the best?

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

Friday, January 13, 2012

City Sidewalks...

(photo taken from:

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks … What? Christmas is over and we shouldn’t be singing carols?

Holiday festivities aside, I’ve been thinking a lot about, well, sidewalks. If you’re a winter runner, you’re probably thinking about them too. Sidewalks are one of the best things about winter running in the city. Followed closely by street lights.

It looks (and feels!) as if winter is finally here, and we have been thrust into winter running mode. Personally, I’m challenged to find ways to keep this treadmill-hater outside as much as possible, a challenge that’s heightened during storms like last Thursday’s.

Luckily, I’ve kept up with the Runner’s Alley Winter Warriors group and they had planned a nice four-plus miler that night. I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t think of cancelling. I mean, the first storm of the winter was a perfect reason not to run, right?

I really, really thought about being a no-show. I even asked my downtown friends for a “sidewalk update” in hopes that someone would tell me it was just too dangerous to run.

But the folks at Runner’s Alley assured me that the sidewalks would be clear and ready for running. They were right. We went about our usual Thursday evening routine - albeit with a smaller group than usual – as if there was no storm at all.

It’s a run, mind you, that I wouldn’t have tried at home. Run in the country in a storm in the dark? No, thank you.

When I moved to Manchester from the Seacoast area a few years ago, I knew I’d miss my Saturday ocean-side routes. I thought I’d miss running on the rural roads near my house, too. I loved the quiet, the almost traffic-less roads, the calmness of babbling brooks and the chirping of birds.

The big city, I thought, would mean sirens and sketchy neighborhoods and battling traffic at every intersection. My running, I thought, would suffer.

While it turned out that the city did have some of those things – sirens, questionable neighborhoods and lots of traffic-filled intersections – I fell in love with city running. Turns out, city-living helped my running and my ability to adapt to a new place.

Each day was an opportunity to learn something more about my new home. I planned routes that would take me on relatively unknown side-streets. I have explored far more of the city on foot than I have by car, when we as drivers tend to stick to the same roads.

Even once I became more familiar with the city streets, my routes were varied and ever-changing. With so many streets in such a compact area, it was easy to map a route of almost any distance. Need to run hills? No problem. Looking for a long, flat route? No problem. It was all readily available out my front door.

Almost a year ago, I made the move back to semi-country living, and while I’m just a stone’s throw from the city line, my running has most decidedly been country-fied. My routes are limited – mostly because there just aren’t many roads. For someone who prefers looped routes to out-and-backs, it’s challenging.

And the roads? Well, some of them are quiet. But the main country thoroughfares bring speeding cars – really, does anyone drive the speed limit? – and blind curves and dangerously narrow shoulders.

When you find the right route and time of day, country running can be wonderful and relaxing. But in the winter, for me, it’s just a plain pain in the neck.

In winter, give me the shoveled sidewalks and street lights of the city, please.

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

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2011 Dailymile Summary

Here's a snapshot of my 2011 running and cycling year. Thanks to the folks over at dailymile for compiling this and feeding our love of stats. (Admit it, runners and cyclists love keeping track of things.)

I couldn't capture the whole page in my screen shot above, so for a more complete look at my 2011, click here.

Of course, I've already compared this with my 2010 year-end summary (found here). A few things jump out at me - really some very interesting similiarities and differences:

  • My mileage is coincidentally very close, only off by 71 miles from year to year. This was done without any planning or coordinated effort.

  • My average miles per week is also very close from one year to the next, up two miles per week to 50 in 2011.

  • Despite the closeness of these two year-end averages, I posted 31 more workouts in 2010, the equivilant of working out every day for an entire extra month.

  • 2011 was a year of very high highs and very low lows. I had my highest mileage month in July with 711 miles. My lowest month of 2011 came in December at 20 measley miles. In 2010, I was much more consistent, with every month exceeding 100 miles. My highest mileage month in 2010 was May at 446; my lowest 2010 month was November with 121 miles.

  • My longest workout streak in 2011 was 10 days, compared to five days in 2010.

  • I somehow went from a morning runner to someone who posts most workouts in after noon. In 2010, 58 percent of my workouts were posted in the morning; in 2011, only 34 percent were done in the morning.

More to come, I'm sure, as I digest and think about these numbers. Overall, maybe it wasn't such a bad year after all....

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

One And Done

One of the things I'd like to do more of this year is write - and yes, that means more blogging. I've realized that I've slacked off a bit when it comes to that lately, which is probably directly related to my lack of running and riding for the past several months. Literally, nothing to write about. Hopefully that changes for 2012.

On Sunday, I ran my first race of the 2012: the Millennium Mile. It is the first of what I hope is many races of 2012. I actually can't believe it's taken me this long to finally run the Millennium Mile.

Finally, thanks to my participation in the Millennium Running Series, I made an effort to get there. And, boy, I'm glad I did.

The atmosphere was lively and filled with anticipation. People of every age and ability swarmed around everywhere. I was suprised at how good it felt to get back into a race atmosphere.

I felt at home. Last year, I only only three events on my running/riding calendar and neither were really "typical" running events: the Boston Marathon in April, a duathlon in Rye in June and my week-long cycling tour in July. In years prior, I'd had many running races planned, and it wasn't until Sunday that I realized I'd missed the race scene - the bib pick-up, the music blasting, the crews setting up, runners randomly stretching and running around the area. Yes, it was good to be back on familiar turf.

What was totally unfamiliar to me, however, was the distance. One mile.

The funny thing was, I really had no idea how to run a mile. I know it sounds crazy, but as a person who really has only ever trained for distance events, running a mile was going to be really, really hard.

I'm trained to pace myself, to go out slow, to calculate how much is left in the tank at every mile marker. The problem with this race was that there would be only one mile-marker and by then it would be to late. (Okay - they did have markers each quarter-mile, but my distance-running brain is not equipped to deal with such small increments.) There would be no room for adjustments like I usually make in my other races.

When people asked me what finish time I was hoping for, I really had no idea how to answer. Sure, I know my "speed workouts" had me running 8-8:30's last year - but that was at the peak of my Boston Marathon training. Oh, and it was for several - sometimes five or six - miles at a time. And it wasn't downhill.

How fast could I run a mile? I didn't know. I'd never really tried.

And, truth be told, I hadn't trained a lick. The last time a "speed workout" appeared on my training log was sometime in March. And, as I've mentioned many times now, my running has really slacked off lately. I've put on too many pounds. Nothing was really adding up to an ideal mile.

So I decided to take the advice from my friend's nine-year-old, a Millennium Mile veteran. The best strategy, he said, was just to run "balls to the wall." Kind of what you'd expect from a nine-year-old, right?

But, hey, it was better than any other advice I'd gotten and I didn't have any training to back me up, so I went with it.

I was able to meet up with some friends (I was suprirsed at how many people I bumped into at the race!) for the start. Soon enough, the starting gun (actually, airhorn) sounded and we were off. The crowd at the beginning was tight. It was hard to find a spot and, in the first several steps before the starting mat, it was impossible to do anything but walk.

I tried my best to find a clear shot, knowing that every second counts in a mile-long race. Again, there would be no miles later in the race to make up for lost time.

Then I just ran. And ran. I hit the quarter-mile sign and felt surprisingly tired and winded. Geesh, it was only a quarter mile! I'd left my Garmin at home, half on purpose and half because the battery wasn't charged, so I really had no sense of my pace. Really, if you would asked me whether I was running a 10-minute-mile or an 8-minute-mile at that point, I wouldn't have been able to tell you.

The finish line came into view rather quickly, and I noticed the minutes still ticking in the 7-s. Could I finish this thing in under 8 minutes? Given my current physical fitness and lack of running, I'd take a sub-8 as a huge victory - even if it was downhill and the race winners were posting sub-4s.

As I crossed the mat, the clocked ticked over the 8-minute mark. I was incredibly winded and the cool air burned my lungs. Yes, folks, running a mile is hard.

I still wasn't sure if I'd broken 8-minutes, despite the fact that, logically, I knew it took me several seconds to cross the starting line after the airhorn sounded. We waited around the school's gymnasium for the official results and after about an hour after the race, decided we'd just check online. (As someone who plans events, I could tell this one - at least from the timing standpoint - wasn't going as planned. No reason why it should take an hour for results of a one-mile, chip-timed race unless something had gone awry.)

Turns out it took me more than 20 seconds to cross. My official time was 7:37 - which for me is a super-fast time. Granted, the entire race is downhill, so it's not really an accurate reflection of my "real" mile time. But I'll take it.

Yep, I ran a 7:37. Not a bad way to start the year. And it give me something to shoot for - or way under - for July's one-mile series race.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012: It Ain't Just About Running

I'm not usually one for New Year's Resolutions. I've always wondered why flipping the calendar has such importance to have many of us re-evaluating how we've been living our lives. Why does it prompt us to look at our weaknesses? It's not that I don't like resolutions - or as I prefer to think of them - just plain ol' goals. I do.

In fact, I thrive on them. I'm constantly thinking of new goals and ways to be better - at work, at running, at whatever. When it comes to running and riding, I use the new year to set out my goals for the upcoming year. They're not the kind of resolutions you make and forget about in a few weeks. I know at any given moment what my goals are and how I'm measuring up for the year.

Yes, I'm very goal-driven, at least when it comes to running and cycling. But what about the rest of my life? Several years ago, I made a very conscious effort to change my life - to help get me to where (and who) I wanted to be in life. And I've been very successful at that.

I'm happier and healthier than I've ever been. I have confidence, a strong career and a great guy to spend my life with. I have a wonderful and growing group of friends and great relationships with my family.

I don't think it's a coincidence that running (and now cycling) has played such an important part of this process. I'm not just "lucky" - like I said, there was a conscious effort to get to the place where I am, and it wasn't always an easy road. But now that I'm "there," what do I do?

This year, for the first time in ... well, maybe ever... I've been thinking of some personal goals that don't have anything to do with running or riding. I admit, it's been kind of difficult to pinpoint personal goals - partly because I feel really good and happy about how my life is and partly because, well, there's lots on my list.

How can those those statements co-exist? If I didn't change anything in my life, I'd be perfectly happy. But I also know with a little bit of work (and maybe even just some awareness of things that are already good), it can be even better.

I'm a big believer that we make our own happiness. At that's just what I intend to keep doing.

I've had a few goals floating around in my head for the past several weeks. I had the opportunity to take a nice run this afternoon by myself - which made for the perfect opportunity to refine my goals. They seemed to fall into a few main categories:

HEALTH. I have a pretty good handle on health compared to most people, but I'm far from perfect. I think the healthier I get, the healthier I want to become. In 2012, I will be more aware what I eat and how much I eat. And resolutions wouldn't be complete without a pledge to lose those notorious 10 pounds (to get me back to be pre-Boston Marathon weight). My re-dedication to running and riding will surely help this. I will also explore more things like strength training, yoga, Pilates, spin classes and other things to keep things interesting.

FINANCES. This is probably the biggest (and maybe only) way my "past life" affects my current life. That needs to change. I've managed to move on from everything from the negative, but still have some financial black eyes as a reminder that I'm not done yet. And, unfortunately, in some ways it keeps me from fully moving forward. In 2012, I will cut my debt in half, improve my credit score and be more aware of a personal budget.

RELATIONSHIPS. I feel really good about all of the relationships in my life, and in 2012 want to continue fostering meaningful friendships and bringing new people into my life. I want to value time with my family and Jeff's family. I want to spend time with Jeff doing things that we love doing together, and continue to grow and build our relationship in a positive way full of positive things, open communication, fun and love.

GIVING BACK. I realize that I have a pretty darn good life, and I don't want to forget that. In 2012, I will volunteer regularly in some way. I'm not sure yet what this will look like - a soup kitchen, Kids Cafe, Upreach Therapeutic Riding Center, Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters. There are plenty of options. I want to find something that is both meaningful to me and makes a difference in someone's life.

CAREER. When thinking about the coming year, I think a lot about striving for balance. I don't want a life that so work-centered that I forget about all of the other good things. I truly love my job and all of the opportunities that come with it. But it's one of those non-stop kind of jobs - one in which I could work late every night or fill up every evening or weekend with some sort of commitment. It's easy to fall into the pitfalls of living in a constantly connected world. In 2012, I will work hard and work smart - but not be afraid to step away and unplug when I need to. Of course, I have a separate list of "work goals," specific to events and making budget numbers and helping others. Those are better left at the office, but rest assured there will be a lot of focus there, too. For this personal list, it's best to focus on the need to balance this hard work with everything else in my life.

TIME. I'll also find the time (and make time) to continue to do the things I love - things like walk with the dogs in the woods, hike, camp, run, bike and write. Who knows, maybe I'll even find some new things.

Perhaps most importantly, in 2012, I will remember not to be too hard on myself. It's okay to take a day off (from work or running or riding), to sleep in, to gain a few pounds or not to meet all of the expectations I put on myself. It's okay if I don't do everything on this list. The important thing is to revisit this post every once in a while and think about the things that are important to me.

Happy New Year!