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!