Throwback Thursday | Why I Started Running Long Distance

For Throwback Thursday (#TBT) I thought I would talk about what prompted me to start running long distance.

I’ve been asked a couple times how I got involved with running long distance. While I had run in high school cross country and carried it through to running club in college, I had always stuck to 5k’s or 10k’s, living comfortably in my comfort zone and saving those lofty half marathon goals for a later date. When I moved to Boston for grad school I had never done above a 15k (10 miles) and that was stretching it.

In the Spring of the year I moved to Boston, I got a phone call that would forever change my life. I was in the BU bookstore when I got a call from a friend I had fallen out of touch with. It was weird that she was calling me. I didn’t answer and went back to my purchases. She called again. Again I let it go to voicemail. Finally, as I was getting on the train, I called her back. The news she delivered felt like a blow to the chest. My roommate and close friend from undergrad had passed away. My world stopped. I got off the train and broke down sobbing. I couldn’t process it. I had just seen her that fall here in Boston. We had just gotten cannolis and visited our other old roommate at Yale.

She had been having trouble breathing. They had thought it was asthma. However, it turns out she actually had cysts on her lungs. They found out when one burst, causing her lung to collapse. She was in the hospital waiting for a lung transplant when she went into cardiac arrest and passed away. She was 23.

It was a shock.

I had experienced loss before, but never a close friend that young and so unexpectedly. I decided I wanted to stop putting off things that were important to me, and do all that I could in the life that was given to me. I didn’t want to wait for tomorrow anymore. I signed up for my first half marathon that fall: the BAA half. And I wore a green ribbon around my wrist to dedicate the run to Shruti. Green was her favorite color. Shruti had a sassy spirit about her, unlike that of any person I’ve met. She didn’t worry about the little things. She laughed a lot and was full of mischief. She was quick-witted. She was the one I could count on to do crazy things with. She taught me how to solve a rubics cube. We took Thai Chi together. We danced baranachtyum in her dorm room floor lounge. We pined over Chris Pine on the magazine photo on her dorm room wall. We made up songs together. We did midnight yell together as she played her flute. We had game nights. We flirted with boys. We ruined a dorm room waffle maker (sorry about that!). We discovered medori sours together. She taught me a lot about loving life and always looking on the bright side. She once told me, “Elise, you laugh from the soul.” Funny, because that was what I loved about her.

So I guess I have one foreverly sassy young friend to thank for propelling me into this journey, for helping me remember you have one life. Live it. Go after what you want, don’t let anything ruffle your feathers, wear lots of jewelry, enjoy it, and take it one step at a time. Thanks, Shrutles.

_MG_5205

Bright tights and happy trails,

Elise

shrutles

LONG RUN | Feb 28 | A Repeat of Sorts

More Heartbreak Hill. Superhero costumes taking over. And a familiar road. 

Miles: 14

Song in my head: Sugar by Adam Levine

Brunch food motivation: Barcelona’s Homefries

heartbreakbill2015

At 7:30am I laced up for the outdoors, grabbed my new Garmin, and raced down the steps to hop in a white car and greet a smiling Crystal. Sugar was playing on the radio, and the sky was clear, allowing the sun to scatter sunshine all over the snow-covered streets.

This run felt like a repeat of many runs before. Sugar was playing on repeat in my mind and making me crave something sweet. Heartbreak Bill was back on the course taking pictures with the crew. And for a fourth week in a row, the team was facing the carriage road on Beacon Street heading out of BC. Granted, this was my first time venturing back on the roads as opposed to the warm indoor track. We must have missed the memo because there were superheroes everywhere. At the waterstops. On the roads. Outside of Heartbreak Hill Running Company. On John Kelley’s statue.  I found out later it was for another charity team, Team Martin W. Richard, the 8-year-old boy who was killed at the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. We had our own superhero-themed waterstops, and I saw so many familiar faces – Lindsay, Murph, Kellen, and Grace. I don’t think I properly hydrated because I was too busy doling out hugs to faces I hadn’t seen in a little while.

Repeating the same 4 mile out-and-back for a third straight week did not sound appealing to most. I was just happy to be back outside. It was the first run that I’d done outside since hurting my hamstring and knee a few weeks before. It was also the first run in awhile that didn’t start in the negatives. We decided to go a little further out on the carriage road so we would not have to repeat the same strip of road too much. I’m really not exaggerating that the topic of conversation tended to fall on what is going to be consumed at brunch post-run. Today were the homefries specifically at Barcelona, which Eric described in detail just before we made our way up Heartbreak Hill to give us a little extra boost. It always gets very quiet when we ascend Heartbreak Hill. Everyone turns on another gear to get her done. And then share in high fives at the top.

We got back to BC and tacked on an extra loop around the campus to hit 14 miles, waiting for our Garmins to give that sound of completion.

The best part was after the run I got to hang out with this kid and make plans for more runs and Boston exploring.

IMG_3696

To complete our repeat run, we ended this long run with a make your own bloody mary bar, which in and of itself is amazing. It also obviously means bacon IN bloody marys, which I think is a pretty great combo and not one I mind repeating.

IMG_3701

Bright tights and happy trails,

Elise

 

 

LONG RUN | Feb 14 and 21 | Running in Circles

Breaking records and Laps. Then more laps. Then another set of laps.

Miles: 13.1 (93 laps) and 16 (112 laps)

Song in my head: Megan Trainor – All About That Bass

Brunch Motivation: Bloody Mary

February 14

It was Valentine’s Day. I found myself navigating through snowbanks and slush and limited T-service to reach the shelter of BU’s indoor track. Earlier in the week I had been prepping for a 20 mile run in Martha’s Vineyard with Allie and Tim. We were going to make a weekend of it. Then another blizzard warning, piles of snow, and negative temperatures put that trip to bed. The race coordinators cancelled the race due to unsafe roads and race conditions, and I felt my motivation deflating once again.

There have been no breaks, no reprieve from this winter. Cold, wind, and snow. Cold, wind, and snow. It was beating me down. The cancelled race was probably for the best as I was nursing a hamstring/knee injury. Too many miles of not properly warming up in the cold, making my previously injured hammies work harder on the slushy roads left me with tendinitis. And now restricted me to indoor training.

However, waiting for me at the BU gym were Allie and Tim with Valentine’s Day hugs and water stop essentials in hand. We had our Valentine’s Day run after all. The idea of tackling 13 miles on an indoor track was daunting, but not having to go at it alone made it into a much less formidable goal. While it wasn’t one we had anticipated, it was the best backup Valentine’s Day plans I could have asked for.

While Boston winter was breaking records outdoors, Allie, Tim, and I were breaking records indoors. Prior to this run, the longest I had ever done on an indoor track was 11 miles. And I thought that was crazy. 🙂 But what are you going to do when it’s below zero? When we wanted to quit at mile 10, we found it in us to break the 11 mile record. We called it a day at a half marathon. Hands in the air, breaking the imaginary tape. I suppose that’s the funny thing about marathon training, running, or life in general, once you break that barrier, you have a new perspective, a new base. If I can do 11 miles, why can’t I do 13? If I can do 13, why can’t I do 16?

What do you talk about for 93 laps, around and around. Well for one, we made plans for our next races. That could have been the crazy talking, or maybe we were dizzy with delusion. You have to understand. This indoor track is quite small. 7 laps is equal to one mile. That’s a lot of circles. But given the alternatives, I was just happy to be warm and would happily turn to the indoors if it meant avoiding further injury and the chilling winds. After mile 12, the tendon in my knee started to stiffen, letting me know it was about time to call it a day. Talking to the PT, though, if I took proper care of it – ice, foam rolling, Advil, a couple more trips to the PT to work out the tension – I would be back on the roads soon enough.

trackallietim

I’ve recruited Allie and Tim as my sweatpants models this year. You too can have them (the sweatpants not the runners. 🙂 ) Find out more here!

February 21

The following weekend threw another cold spell to Boston and I managed to recruit another runner friend to the perilously monotonous ways of the indoor track. We broke up the 16 mile run into thinking about it as 4 sets of 4 miles, switching directions for each set so as not to put too much pressure on one hip. As with any daunting task, breaking it up into manageable pieces made it into a much more achievable goal. The club basketball tournament happening below us and the view of Sunset Cantina, home of the most giant breakfast burrito and bloody mary ever, with every single passing lap provided some necessary motivation. Plus, if I can do 13, why can’t I do 16?

Thank you for keeping me warm on these snowy days with your encouragement, donations, and hugs.

snowbanks2015

I think all of those things earned me a bloody mary…or two. 🙂

Bright tights and happy trails,

Elise

 

LONG RUN | Feb 7 | Like Shalane

Blueberry Pancakes, Blueberry Pancakes, Blueberry Pancakes

Miles: 14

Song playing in my head: Uptown Funk – Bruno Mars because why not (and Allie put it there)

Brunch Food Motivation: Pancakes

Reminder: We are $155 away from the $1,000 milestone! And as promised in my emails (get yours on the right), if we reach it by mid-February, I’ll put together a few lyrics or a jig just for you. Link here.

Woke up to this text this morning:

“Had a dream you and me were running with Shalane Flanagan! Great karma for the run!”

And Kate was right. As a quick aside, Shalane Flanagan is a kickass long distance Olympic runner and you can probably spot her in the elite field at the Boston Marathon this April. She grew up in Marblehead, MA and runs a 2:22:02 marathon. Yeah, she’s fast.

I was late as per usual, but Grace met me to huff it to Boston College on the B line again. Today’s route was the same as last week, down and back along the carriage road adjacent to the marathon route. It’s the only place that is semi-cleared of black ice and snow with relatively low fear of getting hit by moving vehicles. Up until now we’ve been hit with freezing temperatures, snow, and ice. And while the thermometer still read 20 degrees, that was a heat wave. I don’t know if it was the warmth, the company or a good night’s rest, but it was today that I finally felt that old excitement for being out on the road. Honestly, just being on the other side of zero made all the difference.

Today I ran with Grace and Kate. We passed by John Kelley’s statue along the course. A little more Boston Marathon and long distance running history for you – John Kelley was another long distance Olympic athlete who grew up in Massachusetts. He’s run in a record 61 Boston Marathons, winning 2 and finishing in 2nd and the top 15 in many others. 61 marathons means he was running in his 80s. The statue was decorated with beach-themed attire as that was what a handful of runners and waterstop volunteers were wearing, I’m guessing to honor this 20 degree heat wave.

IMG_3484We hit Heartbreak Hill twice today because Kate made us go 14 instead of the 12 I secretly wanted to do. I immediately begin internally and, as Grace can attest to, externally debating between salty or sweet for brunch. I landed on blueberry pancakes. Thank heavens I had my purple pants on as they always bring a little sunshine. I teased about these pants last year when my favorite Nancy Gould had on matching purple pants and we dubbed them our fast pants because long runs in the cold will do that to a person.

At the end of the run after much stretching I had my lusted after blueberry pancakes at Deluxe Diner and catch up time with Crystal. As you can tell from the picture above, they kind of hit the spot. I like to think Shalane Flanagan also enjoys a blueberry pancake every now and then and that we’ll see a few more days like today.

Bright tights and happy trails,

My purple "make us run fast" pants.
My purple “make us run fast” pants.

Elise

PS. Next week’s post will have more on the Barr program, which is the program at Dana-Farber this run benefits and will focus on the great work researchers are doing to take steps toward finding a cure. It will also have more on my fundraising updates! We are $155 away from the $1,000 milestone!! And as promised in my emails (get yours on the right), if we reach it by mid-February, I’ll put together a few lyrics or a jig just for you.

LONG RUN | Jan 31 | The Frozen Tundra

Snot rockets, rock hard shot blocks, Gatorade slushies, and 2 Heartbreak Hills

Miles: 16

Song in my head: The entire Frozen soundtrack because that was the only way to describe my entire body

Brunch Food Motivation: Bacon

The weather app read -9 degrees with windchill. I begrudgingly pulled myself out of bed and texted my running partners asking if they were going, hoping for a different answer than what I got back. “Yes! I’ll be there.” Poop. I hurriedly put on my layers and layers of clothing. Is that enough? Probably. I put on one more. I hustled out the door and caught the B line to Boston College to meet our brightly colored, neon team huddled close outside the parking garage before taking off into the frigid temps. We winded our way out of the college and down the road backwards along the marathon route.

1620432_10103116350275886_887064183_n
Heartbreak Bill and me hanging out in 2013 and 2014 training seasons.

The piles and piles of snow pushed us off of our previously planned route and put us on the carriage road of Commonwealth Ave. The carriage road is adjacent to the final stretch of the marathon course, meaning it’s hilly and Heartbreak Hill looms in the distance (and for this particular route – Heartbreak Hill loomed twice). We took off four miles out, turned around and then repeated for a total of 16 miles. Heartbreak Bill, the furry gorilla mascot of Heartbreak Hill Running Company located at the base of Heartbreak, was back for a brief bit providing much needed frozen high fives. 

I was just coming back from a cold and still fighting a congested head and the sniffles when this run came up on the schedule. This wasn’t the first time I had run in the negatives. A couple weekends back, I trekked outside when my weather app warned me of the frozen tundra. When I got back from that particular run, my iphone announced its disapproval with an “iphone needs to cool down before starting” warning and locked me out of my phone.  Siri’s a passive aggressive one. It was that day I promised myself never again. Yet here I was. I did keep Siri at home this time. After today though, I think I will need to revisit my initial vow. I will learn to love that warm, glorious treadmill.

Along the route we had the support of other crews stationed to provide water and sustenance to the runners as they train. One crew member shouted, “Water, snacks, warm hugs! I got what you need!”  I got my own mid-run hug from Crystal that most definitely served to warm me up. And there was that faint smell of bacon coming from inside each of those cozy houses we passed.

A lot of people want to know what I think about when I’m running. I’m not gonna lie. A lot of the time, I’m thinking about what I’m going to eat after the run. Brunch. How soon can I get to brunch? And what kind of brunch food am I going to have?

So naturally I was using that thought of salty bacon and brunch to will me up each of the hills. I was also cursing the wind and praising the new fleece-lined buff I just purchased. I know I’m late to the party on this one, but BUFFS ARE THE GREATEST INVENTION of all time. Fleece-lined buffs. They combat the wind and make you feel like you’re taking on the next challenge of Survivor.

My shot blocks became rock solid. (I’m trying out shot blocks as opposed to Gu this year for fueling during the run. They’re delicious.)  My nose joined the battle cry and would not stop running. The Gatorade at the water stops turned to slushies. And I finally understood what a snowman felt like (And all I wanted was some brunch!).

I think it takes a special kind of crazy to venture out in that cold. I don’t think my California bones are quite ready to handle that on a regular basis. Although, Olaf was right: Some people are worth melting for. You have to find that reason to get out and run. This one was a little bit of peer pressure and a giant reminder I have more people to run for this year. Another long run in the books! Stay warm, my East Coast friends!

Bright tights and happy trails,

Elise

DFMC 2015 – New Years Resolution

First run back. First Post.
It’s a new year, a new team, a new reason to run. Getting back into the swing of things.

Screen shot 2014-07-09 at 3.11.06 PM

2014 was the year of growing pains. It was a long road. A lot of rebuilding happened this last year in both my personal and running life. A new job, new relationships, two friends’ family members diagnosed with cancer were just the tipping points. But as with all points of change, I think they reshape you into a stronger version of yourself meshed and molded with new perspectives and understanding. I like to believe the same is true of marathon training: it breaks you down only to build you up. 

Each time you begin a workout, you damage your muscles, creating microscopic tears in them. It’s painful. It makes you sore and weak. But what happens is the muscles respond by repairing themselves and over time becoming stronger than they were before. As with running, the same can be said of life’s challenges. At first it tears you down, tests you, weakens you, only then to build you up into a new being. But the rub is, you have to take that first painful step out the door.

The first run of the season took place at Wellesley, which is ironically the site of our final training run from last season where I donned a superwoman costume per your requests and wonderful fundraising support.

I had no intention of running 10 miles for our first long run. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to sluff off my sluggish, cookie-consuming holiday lifestyle I’d become recently accustomed to. But life’s funny that way. It doesn’t wait. It doesn’t wait for your schedule. And most of the time I think it enjoys giving you a good little shove in a new direction. My favorite man, John Murphy, was stationed at the last waterstop and consequently the turnaround point to give us 10 miles. The only reason I went that far was to see that smiling face. But let me tell you, I could feel those holiday cookies and that junk in the trunk, almost like a tractor trailer dragging me back to the realization that I need to get-to-getting back on the running wagon and can no longer put it off for tomorrow.

So I’m making a resolution. Normally, I scoff at New Years resolutions. Why only do it once a year? Why not make goals throughout the year? And who remembers what happened last New Years anyway – champagne was flowing, Dick’s Rockin’ New Years Eve was counting down in the background, Miley Cyrus was probably shaking it to Wrecking Ball on stage in the blistering cold? But with marathon training starting, I think it’s really lining up this year – the time to find the new normal and to take that first step out the door, bundled up against the winter weather and whatever else the unpredictable climate of New England (and life) decides to throw our way. It only serves to shape us into the people we were meant to and want to become.

This last year taught me that nothing is guaranteed, that you really can’t sweat the small stuff because sometimes life throws you curveballs and you’ll just exhaust yourself with worry. It also reaffirmed the warmth and necessity of surrounding yourself with people you love and who love you. Because ultimately isn’t that what makes everything worth it? And finally it taught me to take it one step at a time. Rebuilding takes time. Training takes time. Marathons (believe me) take time.

But that’s, I think, what equips you with strength (or at least, I hope, with a better sense of humor) down the line.

As I begin to settle into my new normal, I feel with every step I take (metaphorically and out on the road) I’m regaining more of a fresh self, a stronger self and one, that I hope, comes with a cape and Superwoman-ensemble.

Warm thoughts, bright tights, and happy trails,

Elise

http://runDFMC.org/2015/elisek