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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

To Me, With Love

Dear Cyndi:

Hello, it's me.  Your oldest and dearest friend checking in.

I'm your Inner Being.  And it's time we had a little chat.

You see, I've been with you from the very beginning.  I was there for your first cry, your first steps, your first words. 

I'm that small, quiet voice deep down inside that you have to get really still to hear.  Sometimes, you might hear me.  Sometimes, it's just chatter. 

But, rest assured, I'm there and have been throughout your entire life.

And, speaking of life, boy, have you lived a lot of stuff.

There's been laughter and sadness, joy and tears, fear and courage, confusion and understanding.  I know you've had some rough patches.  Like that time your babysitter hurt you and you felt like you couldn't tell anyone.  But, I knew.  And I held the hand of that little girl who wasn't yet mature enough to make sense of it all. 

I watched you struggle as you experienced mental illness and divorce in your family.  You got knocked down and I picked you back up again.  I've seen you strive and work for people to love you; to notice you; to convince you of your worthiness.  Getting those good grades, winning those spelling bees, just trying to BE something special.

But, I never questioned it.  You've always been beautiful and worthy.  Special. 

And I just kept waiting.  Waiting for you to know it too.

You have gone from a 168 lb. person who hated exercise and, sometimes, herself, to someone who has lost excess weight along with the excess baggage.  Not only have you gotten thinner and healthier, but you have become an athlete who is on the verge of running her third Boston Marathon in four years.

So proud.  Can you feel it too, Cyndi?

Here's the thing.  I want you to celebrate YOU.  Last year, when you ran the Atlantic City Marathon, you dedicated each mile of the marathon to someone special that you knew.  You always like to involve yourself with other people.  You are a born teacher who is meant to help others.  But, there have been moments where you bury yourself in other people's lives and issues so you don't have to live your own.  You'll encourage others to be all that they can be, yet you doubt yourself.

No more.

This one's for you, girl.  Boston 2011 is all about you.  It's time to stand up and be proud of all you have become.  You are going to be your own inspiration this year.  Like I said, you've lived a lot of life.  At times, it seemed like the circumstances were less than ideal.

Yet, you survived.  You even referred to yourself as a survivor.

Well, it's not enough anymore to "just survive".  It's time to thrive.  You are a THRIVER.  There is nothing left to work, struggle or fight for.

Just let go. 
And let it come. 

Realize the fullness of all that you have wanted and created.  It's waiting for you.

There is nothing to prove and no expectations to meet.  You don't have to earn your worthiness, Cyndi.  You just have to claim it. 

It's time, don't you think?

I'm rooting for you.

With love,

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Three T's: Training, Taper and Trust

On Saturday, a bunch of us who run for (six different charities managed by my friend, Susan Hurley) boarded a bus in front of the Doug Flutie statue at Boston College to take part in an organized 21 mile long run on the course.  We were dropped off in Hopkinton at the starting line of the Boston Marathon.  Other bigtime organizations were out in full-force as well, such as Team In Training (Leukemia and Lymphoma) and The Liver Foundation.    

Did you know that running for a charity totally ROCKS? 
Well, it does. 

Know why?

Because we get the rock star treatment.  We had a bus (equipped with a bathroom, mind you) chartered to take us out in style.  We had six different stops along the course just for us, complete with water, gatorade, m&m's, pretzels and other assorted goodies.  Not only that, but we had people along the route from Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley and Newton.

On a training run.
No joke.

There was even a "finish" line at the end of our run, drawn on the asphalt in chalk.  We were awarded hugs, high-fives, and beads after crossing.  It was pretty awesome. 

So, it's on, my friends. Last big long run is in the books:

Let the taper BEGIN!!!

For those that don't know what that means, I'll explain.

Tapering refers to the practice of reducing, or tapering off, exercise in the days just before an important competition (I heart Wikipedia).  Shorter distances require no more than several days to a week.  However, for a marathon, we're talking a period of two or three weeks.  Marathon Monday is on April 18th, which is 21 days from now.  Perfect time to start cutting back.

RunnersWorld has a awesome article that talks about the taper.  You can access it here:,7120,s6-238-244-255-5958-0,00.html

The runner's first reaction to the news that they can reduce their volume after 15-20 weeks of hard training borders on utter jubilation. 

You mean I get to run less and sleep more?  Whoo hoo!

However, that feeling soon gives way to mild anxiety that can evolve into full-blown panic.  Why does this happen?

Because it's completely counterintuitive.  How can I cut back on my training so close to my big race and expect to do well?  Shouldn't I have to work even harder?  In "Lore of Running", by Tim Noakes, the importance of tapering is explained:

"This is necessary to allow full recovery of the shock-absorbing capacity of the trained muscles.  Recovery of this function becomes important beyond the marathon wall.  In contrast, too much rest before a shorter distance race may cause you to lose the leg speed necessary for optimum performance in races of up to 21 km.  But in the marathon, inadequate recovery of the shock-absorbing function of the muscles will have a more marked effect on your performance.  Perhaps the brain must also be adequately rested to ensure that it can continue to recruit the muscles appropriately once the pain of the marathon becomes increasingly severe." -- Page 621

In this day and age, you'd be hard pressed to find a coach or a training program that doesn't advocate tapering.  Scientific studies confirm that it does produce a dramatic improvement in performance. 

Ah, good then.  I'll rest.

Oh, but it's not that easy!

Have you ever heard the term, "idle hands are the devil's workshop"?  The less time you spend training, the more time you have to think about the fact that you're not training. 

And the more time you have to think about the fact that you're not training, the more time you have to invent all kinds of aches, pains and afflictions. 

And the more time you have to invent all kinds of aches, pains and afflictions, the more time you have to second-guess yourself.

And, the more time you have to second-guess yourself...

I think you get the point.  If this is resonating with anyone, know that you're not alone.

The best thing that runners, particularly first-time marathoners, can do right now is simply relax and focus their energy and attention on enjoying the extra free time, knowing that they have built a strong foundation and that the bulk of the "work" is done.  Your thoughts are just your thoughts and you don't have to latch on to every single one of them.  Flood your mind with positive reinforcement ONLY.  If you'd like additional reassurance, talk to other people who have run one or more marathons.  The camaraderie in our sport is pretty incredible.  Runners love to help other runners.  Take advantage of that. 

Finally, it has been said that, "The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare".  Perhaps we can throw "and taper" in there as a post-script.

We've trained.  Now we taper.  And we trust.


Friday, March 25, 2011

The Lure of "Lore"

When I attended the two day RRCA (Road Runners Club of America) Coaching Certification last August, two books were recommended to us by the instructors:  Jack Daniels Running Formula and Lore of Running by Tim Noakes.  Last month, I was thumbing through my coaching manual and came upon my chicken scratch, recommending these texts.  Within minutes, I had ordered both on

They arrived at my doorstep a few weeks ago.  Jack Daniels book was a fraction of the size of "Lore", the latter being almost two inches thick and containing 930 pages (which includes the index).  Normally, I am the kind of person who tackles the easiest stuff first, thinking I'll feel more accomplished and motivated to get to the big ones.  This time, I decided to reverse my strategy.  I started with "Lore".

Let me say that just toting this book around is a workout.  I feel stronger just lugging it to and from my house everyday.  I was actually using it for bicep curls the other day. 

Feel the burn baby.  Oh yeah.

I'm not in a position to review the book yet as I'm only (yeah, I know, "only") on page 411.  However, I don't have to be finished with it to say that it is uber comprehensive.  Some of the finer points I've noticed thus far:

  1. Part I deals with the Physiology and Biochemistry of Running.  The first chapter is entitled Muscle Structure and Function.  Here, you will read all about Myofibrils, Sarcomeres, Myofilaments and other big words that you'll probably see on "Jeopardy".  This is the shortest chapter, containing only 19 pages.  As Noakes says, "the bulk of this chapter was devoted to describing how muscles are made up, how they contract to produce movement, the different muscle fiber types that exist, and how this influences athletic ability and perhaps longevity and susceptibility to various diseases".  And you thought it was just about putting one foot in front of the other.
  2. Chapter Two delves into Oxygen Transport and Running Economy.  Here, the author focuses on the relationship between oxygen transport through the body and exercise performance.  It's over three times as long as chapter one.  This was about the time where I decided to read it with a highlighter, coloring the segments that I thought were most important to remember.  I'm not a detail person, as a general rule; that is to say that I tend to "glaze over" when things get technical.  However, it's important that I absorb as much of this as I can, so I'm taking it seriously.  Sometimes that means reading a sentence two or three times.  I can handle it.
  3. Next, we read about Energy Systems and Running Performance.  Having been employed in the fitness industry for over 17 years, not all of this information was new to me.  I had to learn about how the body uses food in my A&P class.  I also had to learn about carbohydrate, fat and protein in order to decode food labels for my clients.  But, Noakes does a great job of reviewing the important aspects of exercise-related metabolism specific to athletes. 
  4. Temperature Regulation During Exercise wraps up the first segment of this book.  It's 80 pages long.  And just so you know, I am not reading the large type edition.  It's 80 pages of what looks like 8 or 9 point font.  This chapter deals with factors that affect heat balance and how to prevent heat-impaired performance.  Noakes also explains the difference between heatstroke and other heat-related disorders such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and exercise-associated collapse.  Truly, I didn't know much about this topic.  However, he confirms what most runners know already:  it's not so much the heat as it is the HUMIDITY. 
  5. Currently, I'm in the middle of Part II.  This is where you get into Training Basics, which is easier reading.  It's also the part where, I suspect, most people reading this book will want to start with.  Chapter 5 tells the reader how to develop a training foundation, which lends itself nicely to the novice runner.  The author does give you permission to skip this part if you want more specific training details for 10 K's, Half-Marathons, Marathons and Ultramarathons, but I didn't.  This book is a challenge.  I can almost hear it whispering, "come on, I dare you.  Read me cover to cover."  I've never been one to resist a dare.  I'm in the middle of Learning From the Experts, which is the title of chapter 6.  And, am I learning a lot.

    So, there you have it.  Even if I stopped reading it right here and now, I can honestly say that it was well worth the $19.33 that I paid for it.  The tagline on the front cover says it all, "For the serious runner or coach, this book is a must." -- Runner's World   
Besides, knowledge is power.  That is the lure of "Lore".

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Beep

Before I go into my combo "ramble/rant", I'll share with you the links from my last three runs:

Now over 2.5 months into my Low Heart Rate Training Experiment, the goal being to stay around or below 146 bpm, I'm starting to notice a significant difference.  My HR is lower and my pace is faster, most of the time, which was the whole point of doing this in the first place.  I'm encouraged.

That's all I'll say in that regard, letting the data provided speak for itself.

Now, back to our story.

The first link I shared with you was from my Friday run.  In Massachusetts, we experienced unseasonable warmth that day, with temps hovering in the upper 60's.  Talk about giving winter a good ol' kick in the keester. 

Buh Bye, Old Man Winter.  Don't let the door hit ya where the Good Lord split ya.

There was one caveat; we had winds gusting in excess of 35-45 mph.  So, I got to run in shorts and a tank top, which was AWESOME, while getting pelted by the occasional acorn or branch flying off a tree.

Not as awesome.  But, overall, it really was a great day and felt good to be out.

As I walked it in, enjoying my cool-down, I hear the sound of a horn beeping.  I did have headphones on, but I usually keep the music low enough so I can hear what's going on around me. 

This car didn't beep once. 
Or twice. 
Try three times.  Yeah.

I was pretty sure it was someone trying to get my attention (I had run from work and was making my way back to the fitness center, walking up the steps) after the first and second beep, but was completely convinced by the third.  I'm a pretty easygoing person most of the time, however, I've never appreciated "the beep shoutout" when I'm out running.  Granted, I was walking it in at this point, but I was still focused on my breathing, heart rate and movement.  I don't enjoy "the beep".  It ranks right up there with the catcalls and whistles that I've occasionally received from randy male motorists in the dead heat of summer when I'm out running in the most minimal amount of clothing allowed that won't get me arrested for indecent exposure.

Why am I bringing this all up now?

Today, I'm at my post (the front desk at the fitness center) and one of our members comes in, who I've known for a while.  We exchange pleasantries and he says, "boy, are you in your own little world when you're running."  I said, "what makes you say that?" 

At this point, he tells me that he was the one who kept beeping at me and I didn't even notice or hear it.


I explained to this gentleman that, yes, I DID in fact both notice and hear it, but I don't enjoy "the beep" because my run is my time and it disrupts my focus (not to mention that half the time it scares the crap outta me).  He sort of "half apologized", which I waved off, letting him know that it was no big deal but, for future reference, refraining from "the beep" would be ever so nice because I'll just ignore you anyway.

Don't get me wrong, here.  I am a pretty friendly person who enjoys the company of others.  If I run into someone I know at a restaurant or in a grocery store, I have no problem stopping to chat for a few moments.  That's different.

That's not "the beep".

So, if you're driving down the road and happen to see me coming with my sunglasses on and bouncing blonde ponytail, do me a favor. 

Just drive on by.

You can give me a little wave.  Maybe I'll see you and wave back.  Maybe I won't.

But, for the love of Pete, please refrain from "The Beep".

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I was on facebook this morning (as is my daily custom) and noticed that one of my friends put his Boston Marathon Bib # in his status update.

Which prompted me to go directly to the BAA home page. 

Do not pass go; do not collect $200.

Well, I had to see if I could find mine too!

Sure enough, there I was:

BIB #17116

Whenever I run a race, I always try to assign some kind of significance to my race # (i.e. my year of birth, date of birth, etc.).  It's just one of those little rituals I have.  Keeps things interesting.  Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't.  This time it worked quite well:

1+7+1+1+6 = 16

1+6 = 7

Lucky Number Seven.

Not only does this happen to be my favorite number (and has been for years), this will be my 7th marathon.

You heard me.  SEVENth.

I think it's a good omen.

Victory shall be mine.  :-)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Random Musings on a Friday

In no particular order of importance

I always seem to forget to put body glide on the, ahem, "chafe zones" before I go out for a run.  Until I get into the shower and the water hits me.  Then, I remember.

My co-worker reminded me today that the sun is always out.  It's just that sometimes it's obscured by the clouds.  I think it's a great analogy that we can apply to our own lives as well.

I'm a dog person.  I love dogs.  Unless they decide to chase after me while I'm running, barking loudly.  Normally, the owner isn't too far behind and they follow it up with a, "don't worry, he's friendly".  I think that is supposed to make me feel better.  But it hardly ever does.

For those that don't know me well (or don't have the nerve to tell me), I have a tendency to come off like a know-it-all.  Somewhere along my physical trail, I picked up the notion that being right is super important and pride is everything.  I've become aware of it in myself, but accept it for what it is.  And I keep it in check whenever possible.

I am a very outgoing and friendly person who does well in social situations.  Yet, running has taught me the value of being alone; the joy of solitude.  I cherish that time when it's just me, myself and I.  And I don't plan on giving it up anytime soon.

Typically, I get along with men better than I do with women (two of my best friends are male), however, I'm learning I don't trust some men easily.  It's not all men.  Just some.

I don't enjoy small talk.  And when it involves the weather, I enjoy it even less.  However, not everyone likes sports, the same kind of music or has the same interests.  But, we all experience the weather.  So, I guess I understand.  And perhaps, I'll make a more concerted effort to enjoy it.

When someone prefaces a statement with, "To be honest with you", does that mean that they're lying all the other times they leave it out?

I say, "Oh, Crikey" a lot; if I drop something, if I stub my toe, etc.  I don't know why.  I'm not from Australia or anything.  But, I guess it's better than dropping F Bombs all over the place.

Even though I dislike shopping, I love being a chick.  The only caveat is I think it'd be great to pee standing up like men do.  Moreover, it would be SO much more convenient.  But, that's not reason enough to switch teams.

I put ketchup on eggs.  And roast beef sandwiches.  Some people find this odd.  I just think it tastes better that way.  

Things don't matter to me as much as they used to.  That is to say, I don't get my knickers in a twist about every little thing.  I used to take a lot of things personally.  Now I find myself relaxed and, sometimes, smiling for no reason.  I think I like that better.

I can wiggle both of my thumbs. 

Do you ever wonder why we have to hear about or experience tragic events in order to get perspective?  Why can't we have it when we're happy?  Where does it go and why do we need something like that to get it back?

I got rid of a couple things yesterday.  That may not seem like a big deal, but to me, it is.  I hold on to "stuff" a lot longer than I need to.  Letting go is so liberating, even if it seems scary at first.  Once you do it, you wonder why you kept it for so long in the first place.

Finally, I'm really starting to learn how to be more flexible with training, relationships and life in general.  It's not procrastination; it's just prioritization.  Do the things that you can do and give it the time and attention it deserves.  If you just don't have it in you that day, then it can wait.  It'll still be there tomorrow. 


Monday, March 7, 2011



I ran my first 18 miler of the marathon training cycle yesterday in the rain and wind.  Check out da stats:

And I am no worse for the wear.  Well, except for this:

Pretty sweet, eh? 

Normally, I slather body glide or vaseline on my toes to avoid such things.  This time, I elected to be footloose (pun intended) and fancy free.  So, I guess you could say I brought it on myself.

Maybe, instead of taking donations for the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, I should fundraise for a pedicure.  If they can have charities such as "Save the Whales", why not "Save Cyndi's Toenails"?

Truthfully, it didn't really hurt.  In fact, I didn't even notice it until I started my cool-down walk and noticed the telltale red splotch on my brand new Saucony Ride Running Shoes.  I think I was more bothered about staining the new kicks than I was ripping my toe open.  Thankfully, Dawn Dishwashing Detergent not only gets grease out of your way, but it does the same for bloodstains on shoes too.

Even the hot water from the shower didn't sting.  I must be getting tougher.  After surveying the damage, I decided that clipping the toenails were probably in order.  In the process, the toenail to the left of the bloody one just came right off.  All in one neat, little piece.

Am I grossing you out?

I never had aspirations to be a foot model, so I'm not worried.  And, as long as my feet do what they are supposed to, which is run for a REALLY long time, that's all that matters.

Besides, I've always said toenails are for sissies.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Wacky Weather Wednesday

"When famine or plague comes to the land, or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers, or when enemies besiege them in any of their cities, whatever disaster or disease may come..." -- 2 Chronicles 6:28

Yesterday, Wednesday, was my "speedwork" day (i.e. intervals run at or slightly faster than projected marathon pace).  Normally, I work the later shift at work and have been doing my workout in the early to mid morning hours.  My co-worker is on vacation for the month of March (I know what you're thinking--how do I get a gig like that?) so I've been relegated to the 6-2 shift.

I also teach Spinning every Wednesday for an hour at lunchtime.  Typically I use it as a post-run recovery to just lightly spin the legs.  I like being freshest for the run workout, because it's more specific to what I'm doing (marathon training).  Since I'm a little backwards this month (no comments, please), I decided to run longer and slower after work instead and switch the speedwork to Fridays.

I enjoyed the warmth and view of the sunshine from my window at work, noticing temps were in the upper 30's and lower 40's.  Sounds like pretty good running weather for early March, wouldn't you say?

Except for this one, simple fact:  I live in New England.  And, as they say:  if you don't like the weather in New England, wait a minute.  Because it's going to change.

This statement never held truer than it did yesterday.

I got home around 2:45 and noticed it had gotten cloudy outside.  The forecast did mention the possibility of scattered showers in the afternoon, so I can't really feign ignorance.  I shared my ambivalence with my husband about the whole "inside or outside thing".  He suggested outside, saying I can just dress for the conditions.  After a little more hemming and hawing, I decided to dress for outside, opting for a dri-fit baseball hat instead of the normal headwrap I wear...just in case we were in for a little rain.  I even put my sunglasses on the top of my head.  You know...just in case.

What can I say?  I'm a "glass is half full" kind of gal.

And, off I went.

About five minutes into my run, the wind picked up and there was some schmootzy stuff flying in the air (yes, schmootzy is a technical weather term).  Could have been rain...could have been sleet...could have been a mix...I wasn't quite sure.  In fact, I ran by the elementary school on Main Street and, after exchanging pleasantries with the crossing guard, I said, "is it raining or snowing?  This is bizarre!"  He chuckled and I kept going.

Well, wonder no more.  The sky got darker.  Schmootz turned into flurries.  Flurries turned into snowflakes.  Windy turned into gusty.  Snowflakes turned into wet, heavy snow that came down like cotton balls from the sky.  It was like freakin' Armageddon out there.  The only thing that was missing was the locusts. 

At this point, I'm about 1.5 miles away from my house and I can barely see.  Not only that, but I have to turn my face sideways in order to avoid being pelted from the oncoming onslaught of the super duper mutant schmootz flying around.

I was wet, cold and a little cranky.  Okay, more than a little.  My "glass" was starting to look a whole lot different than it had earlier.

Which prompted this recurring thought:  This is the last time I ever listen to my husband about anything.  He's the one who encouraged me to go outside in the first place.  Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Of course, it wasn't his fault but, blame always feels better, doesn't it?  It's amazing how our default mode of thought can be so irrational.  After mentally kicking the poor soul around for a few more minutes, I realized how silly the whole thing was.  I was already out there, after all.  Why not just accept the weather for what it is and keep running?  It was either run or walk home.  Even with the headwind, I could get home faster if I ran.  Shortly after that decision, I noticed the cotton balls gave way to flakes, and the sky went from smoky to light gray.  A few minutes later, the flakes became flurries and there was a beam of filtered sunshine streaming through the storm clouds.

And, then it just stopped.

The sky became blue and the sun came out.  JUST as I approached the street I live on.

Instead of turning left and heading for home, I continued along the main road, turning up my tunes and sliding my sunglasses on my face.  What started off as a cold, uncomfortable run ended up being bright and sunny.  It was almost like getting a reward from Mother Nature for staying the course and sticking it out, even if it wasn't the best conditions going in.

It's kind of a lot like life sometimes, isn't it?  Sometimes, we're faced with a situation that appears to be negative.  But, if we just shift our perspective and see it as an opportunity for growth, it ends up being a blessing in disguise.  I couldn't change the weather, but I could change my thoughts about it.

Hmmmmmm.  Mother Nature.

Maybe she's not so bad after all.

 Is this a time to be cloudy and sad, when our mother Nature laughs around;

When even the deep blue heavens look glad, and gladness breathes from the blossoming ground?

-- William Cullen Bryant


I'm pleased to announce that I've raised +/- $695 for the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, which establishes scholarship funds for youth that can't afford to go to college.  I'm only $55 away from meeting my goal.  If you are a fan of education, football or running, please visit my page.  Every little bit helps: