Friday, August 30, 2019

Run Brightly, Pack Lightly With IllumiNITE

My Fave travel tote bag, made by my Mom
from cloth I purchased in a marketplace
near Konko Village in Ghana
I've been traveling a lot lately, and it's been hard to keep the days of the week straight, let alone know what time it is in the whatever place I woke up. But my nonstop traveling has finally slowed for a bit, and it's give me a chance to give my weary legs and even wearier luggage a much needed rest.

So I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on all the places I've run this year: California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island! (I know I'm forgetting a state or two in there!) I've run two mountain races, a bunch of smaller road races (13.1 miles or less), and not one, but two, ultramarathons!

Oh right! In May, I ran Kintyre Way Ultra, a 32-mile ultramarathon from Tayinloan to Tarbert, Scotland! How could I ever forget that?! Don't worry, I didn't really forget. But I did forget to compile the video! So guess what I did today?! Hope you enjoy it! I've embedded it at the end of the post.

Sleepy but cozy, wearing IllumiNITE apparel
on my plane ride to my next destination
As marathon training once again kicks into high gear (we're at half marathon distance this weekend—Woot!), I'm getting excited for some upcoming races. More races also means more travel! But at this point I feel like a pro—maybe not quite George Clooney in Up In the Air pro. But I do alright. And I'm so grateful that IllumiNITE clothing packs light and compact for travel. It's so easy to just roll up (or fold) and store in any type of luggage. Whether I'm lugging a large suitcase, hoisting a small carry-on, or shouldering a small tote bag, IllumiNITE clothing makes traveling lightweight and easy. Check out my IllumiNITE Apparel Revealed for the Kintyre Way Ultra video to see just how compact IllumiNITE apparel can get. What I love about this video is that the packaging reminds me of a clown car....the bright clothing just keeps tumbling out! Additionally, I often wear IllumiNITE capris, tee-shirt, and sometimes a jacket for lengthy travel times. This keeps me so comfortable while sitting for long periods of time and allows for a second (or third) workout outfit on-the-go.

And on-the-go I'll be very soon! I have a few small road races coming up, and I'll post those soon on an event page I'm in the midst of creating. But I'm most excited for my next two marathons! *Drumroll please*

At the end of October, I'll be at the Cape Cod Clam Chowdah Challenge in Falmouth, Massachusetts. I'm just running the marathon on Sunday, but I'll be at the Expo with IllumiNITE on Saturday. Stop on by to say HI! and check out IllumiNITE's latest styles! Are you running the full Challenge (39.3 miles in two days)? I did in 2017, and it was so much fun!

In November, I'll be at Athens Marathon, the Authentic! As a writer, I'm always traveling to my favorite writer's homes and gravesites for inspiration. So naturally, as an official marathoner, I must run the original marathon route from Marathon to Athens! Plus, Greece! *Swoon*

Where are you most excited to run this year? Tell me what you're training for in the comments below!

And as promised, here's the video of me running Kintyre Way Ultra! (Spoiler: there's a little something for you at the end of the video!)

Friday, August 23, 2019

Caution: Runners On Road

Running can be a dangerous sport! I'm not sure people truly understand that we put our lives on the line every time we lace up our running shoes.

I was recently in a race with hundreds of runners when a car sped toward the crowd on a narrow road in a thickly settled neighborhood. Instead of waiting for the crowd to run by, or at the very least slow down, the driver revved his engine, peeled out, and charged at us. Quite a few of us cried out in fear as many runners were forced off the road!

I couldn't help but wonder: What was so urgent that this driver risked inflicting major injury—possibly death—to others on a Saturday morning? Did he even realize the potential harm he was causing? Or was he just annoyed there was a race in his neighborhood?

Runners are not objects or inconveniences; we're people, and we're not out to ruin anyone's day. Our only agenda is to run, and we just want to be safe while running. So I've created a list for non-runners and runners alike to keep everyone safe on the road.

For drivers:

1. Yield and proceed with caution.

When you encounter a runner on the road, please yield and assess the situation before proceeding with caution. Runners aren't always immediately aware that a car is nearby. Slowing down will allow the runner time to become aware that a car is approaching so that they can also proceed with caution, bettering the chances of avoiding an accident. If you drive through a race, follow race signs and volunteer directions, and please take extra caution so we're all safe.

2. Make eye contact.

Just because a runner is coming toward you doesn't mean they see you. Make eye contact when possible so you both know you're aware of the other and can move accordingly. If you don't have time to make eye contact, you're driving too fast. Review tip #1.

3. Do not honk or shout out.

Treat runners like other drivers on the road. Do not honk incessantly, whistle, or catcall out your window. Sudden noises cause panic in runners, and panic can result in erratic movement, which can result in an accident. Also, it's a jerk move. Don't be a jerk.

4. Please be patient.

We runners understand that we're slower than cars and that we might get in the way in some circumstances. We appreciate your patience as we do our best to move out of your way. We just want the same respect as everyone else who shares the road.

The responsibility of safety is not entirely on drivers. We runners must take precautions every time we hit the pavement.

For Runners:

A. Follow the rules.

Whether you're in a race or running solo, follow road rules. For example: run facing traffic, stop at intersections, use crosswalks, obey traffic signals, and use hand signals to signal drivers. When possible, run on pedestrian paths and sidewalks.

B. Pay attention.

It's so easy to zone out when running, but that can lead to injury. To stay alert, play mental games like "how many [animals, car colors, plant/flower types, etc.] can you find while running." If you listen to music, avoid earbuds or noise cancelling headphones. Play music through your phone's speaker (not during a race; that annoys other racers), or buy bone conduction earphones so that you can hear your surroundings.

C. Wear bright, reflective clothing.

Shining bright by sunlight
Women's reflective bling vigor singlet in charcoal
Wait for it...
With all the distractions on the road—other drivers, flashing lights, billboards and scrolling marquees—it's easy for runners to blend into the background. So RUN BRIGHTLY! IllumiNITE athletic apparel comes in a variety of bright colors for all shapes and sizes. And what's better: their reflective ink shines brightly when illuminated by headlights, sunlight, any kind of light, to keep runners visible and safe in all weather conditions. IlumiNITE also sells bright, reflective accessories, such as headbands, bibs, gloves, and hats. And they even have reflective apparel for your pets.

Because you're reading this post, you can receive 15% off your entire IllumiNITE order with my discount code RUNBRIGHTLY. Spread the safety by sharing the code with all your running, and walking, friends!

D. Take extra safety precautions.

Running gear for Kintyre Way Ultra
Anything can happen on a run, so it's good to be prepared for anything. Before heading out on a solo run, tell a friend or family member the route you're running, how many miles, and your estimated return time. Don't forget to text when you're done! Carry extra water, a cell phone, a whistle, a pocket knife, and mace when running solo or in remote areas. A running pack, vest, or bag will hold these supplies. If you don't want to add extra bulk, IllumiNITE offers clothing styles with pockets. I was able to comfortably carry my passport in the zipped back pocket of my IllumiNITE dovetail women's short sleeve reflective tee when I ran Kintyre Way Ultra in Scotland. It was such a relief to not worry about having it on hand.

Runners and non-runners alike. Let's help keep the road a little safer. It may save a life. What safety tips do you find helpful? Leave a comment below.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Six Impossible Things Running Has Taught Me About Living

A completely different post should have gone out last Friday. But here it is...Wednesday. Oops! Now Thursday! Okay, Yikes! Friday!
And I find myself writing finalizing a completely different post.

See, I lost my job last Thursday when my position was eliminated. Suffice to say, it's been a shock to the system, as all losses are. I've been down this unemployment road before, but now I'm a runner! I have a new perspective on new paths I might travel next. Running has taught me to believe at least "six impossible things" about life. Any Alice in Wonderland friends out there? Well, here goes:

1. Keep moving forward, even when it sucks.

I have days where the actual act of running is torture. Whether it's my mental state (I'd rather be lounging on my couch; oh god, it's only been five minutes but it feels like five hours!) or my physical state (my entire body hurts; I can't breathe; I'm so hot/cold I'm going to die), some runs are just the worst! But when all is said and done, I feel so accomplished when I'm done.

This reminds me that not everything in life that's worth doing is enjoyable all the time. But pushing through tough situations makes the end result feel that much better. Plus, working through tough situations sure beats sitting on the couch whining about what I wish I could do.

2. A mile is a mile—no matter the pace.

I used to think that if I didn't run fast, I wasn't a runner. So when I first started running, I ran as fast as I could, which often led to pain, nausea, and burnout. Over time, I've come to realize that running a 13 minute mile is still the same distance as running an 8 minute mile. Some days I feel phenomenal as I seemingly fly down the road. Other days, I need to take it turtle pace. So I honor what my body tells me on any given day and adjust my pace accordingly. It definitely makes for a healthier, more enjoyable run.

I use this self-assessment in other areas of my life now too. I used to think nothing would get accomplished if I wasn't always on the go—moving from one thing to the next. Whether it's checking off items on my to-do list, tackling domestic duties, managing my social calendar, or scheduling time for my personal writing, I now remind myself that I will get it all done—eventually. If it takes longer than expected, so be it. There will always be that extra mile waiting just around the bend. Life is too short to run myself ragged.

3. Breaks are necessary for success.

This one goes hand in hand with pace. Just as I self-assess my speed, I've learned to take breaks during longer runs. Actually, I can thank my very first coach Laura Morris for this gem. She had me walk through every water stop at my first half marathon and my first marathon to stay on track with my desired finish time. Sounds counterintuitive, right? Stopping to go faster? She was right. Taking a few seconds, sometimes minutes, to catch my breath, fuel up, and drink some water helped me regroup and maintain my stamina for the long run (pun intended).

Whenever life starts to overwhelm me and it feels like I'm moving so fast I can't see straight, I take some time to regroup. I get off social media, step away from my phone, and just live in the moment by myself for a few days. These "life breaks" really help reset body, mind, and soul so I can remain the productive, disciplined worker that I am. And I feel happier overall. It's all about balance.

4. It's okay to accept help when offered and to ask for help too.

© Susan Egan
Anyone who knows me knows I struggle with accepting help or asking for help. But when I became a runner, I quickly learned that support from others can be lifesaving. For example, during the Seven Sisters Trail Race, a complete stranger caught me as I tripped down a rocky descent, saving me from major injury. He even stayed with me a short while to make sure I was okay—during a race!  Accepting and offering help is a given in my running community—spectators on the sidelines handing out orange slices and electrolytes, volunteers hiking through forests to provide racers food and supplies, competitors offering their last drop of water to a runner in distress. Egos aside, we runners depend on this support to succeed.

So, as uncomfortable as I feel, I'm learning to accept help from others in all aspects of my life. And I've discovered that I don't feel weaker by "letting people help me." I feel stronger. And freer. Accepting help has made me realize that no one has to go it alone. And it's helped me realize how much I also help others. We're all here for each other, and so much more can be accomplished with "a village."

Running 30 miles at Ghost Train Ultra

5. Do what makes you happy, even if the results are mediocre.

I'm a terrible runner. I am, really. I've developed asthma, which slows me down. I never cross-train. I don't follow rigorous training plans. I'm so bad at running that I realized it's is the first thing I've ever maintained that I'm not naturally good at. I think that's why I hated it for so long. But eventually, I stopped trying to excel at running and that's when I realized how much I love it. Shifting my mindset on enjoying running rather than excelling at running has made me a much happier runner.

This mindset shift has made me enjoy other areas of life that I'm not so great at. I can now laugh at how I park my car all crooked in large parking lots. I accept slightly wrinkled clothes because I haven't mastered ironing. I marvel at the tranquility I feel when I create a terrible painting. I've stopped trying to be the best at everything so I can enjoy things that I never imagined trying before.

6. You can accomplish anything, even the seemingly impossible.

Mt. Tom Ridge
When I first started running, I couldn't imagine running a whole minute, let alone a whole mile. But before I knew it, I was running two whole minutes, then three, then one whole mile, then ten... And now I've run as long as nine hours; as far as 33 miles.

I apply this knowledge and experience to all aspects of my life. When I feel like I could never accomplish [insert difficult decision/tough task/something unknown], I remember how putting one foot in front of the other helped me see I could reach the finish line...and keep on going. So I act on these difficult areas of my life, and remember one step leads to two...and eventually I know I'll make it through ANYTHING. I can accomplish anything, even the seemingly impossible.

And I want to practice these six impossible things at least a half an hour a day. What has running taught you?

Friday, August 2, 2019

Loon Mountain Race: Who's The Boss?

Loon Mountain Race is a one-way, 6.6 mile race up a 3,125-foot mountain in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. With an average 14% grade, LMR is known as one of the toughest mountain races because the last kilometer takes runners up Upper Walking Boss—known as "The Boss"—a black-diamond ski slope with a dizzying 48% vertical incline. 

Last year was the first year I ran LMR. I signed up because Trail Sisters gave a fifty-percent off discount for first-time females as an incentive to gain more female entrants. Even though I had run Seven Sisters Trail Race two months prior and had trained on local ski slopes, I was terrified of LMR—so terrified I could barely swallow down my pre-race fuel. I took it easy to conserve my energy for "The Boss,” taking lots of pictures along the way as my excuse for going slow—the views are stunning! But when I reached the Upper Walking Boss, I was surprised at how well I had hiked it. Was it grueling? Yes! Did I have to stop several times? Yes! Did I almost fall backwards? Yes! I may have even crawled at one point. Still, I felt like "The Boss!" I finished the race at 2 hours 6 minutes, 47 seconds, and I couldn't wait to run it again! 

Making my way up Upper Walking Boss
This year, my goal was to PR (personal record) at two hours, but I told myself I'd be happy with the same time as last year’s because my ultramarathon schedule didn't give me much time to run on mountains. I thought running two ultras three weeks apart, with the last race happening just one month before LMR, would have prepared me. Boy was I wrong. Less than a mile up, my legs cramped, my back spasmed, my whole body screamed: "Why are you doing this to me?" There was nothing I could do, except keep on climbing up...



Running down was so much fun!
Once my pain leveled off to a dull throb, I was able to focus on the positives. The views still amazed me, and despite other runners complaining about the brutal heat, I noticed I didn't feel sticky or swampy. My clothes stayed dry, and my headband wicked away sweat so my sunscreen didn't drip into my eyes. Last year, I was so sweaty and gross, I had to jump in the river to cool off immediately after the race. But this year, I was completely dry before I even started running back down the mountain. I was able to enjoy the after party, which I had missed last year.

I'm glad IllumiNITE had my back, even if I was undertrained. It's good to know their clothing keeps me dry and cool in all environments. Plus, I feel so much safer running in reflective apparel. I once got lost for more than an hour on a mountain I have never been on before. I was alone with no map, no cell service, and no idea where I was or where to go. I couldn’t even figure out where I made the wrong turn during the race! It was the scariest thing ever (a story for another time!)! But now that I've found IllumiNITE, I know that if I ever get lost again, I'll be easily found when a search crew's flashlights illuminate my clothing! But don’t take my word for it. Try IllumiNITE for yourself. Use discount code Sera15 for 15% off your entire order!

But I digress.

At the top of Loon Mountain!
Back to LMR. It’s humbling to say that I finished at 2 hours, 18 minutes, 35 seconds. It’s even more humbling that the first elite male runner passed me on Upper Walking Boss, despite starting 1 hour, 15 minutes after the women—and even more humbling that he effortlessly said, “Good work, Ladies,” as he jogged past.

So Loon Mountain Race, I ask of you, “Who’s The Boss?” You may have won this year, but I'm coming back for you!

What mountains do you like to run?! Comment below.

Weather You Run This Summer

The first time I signed up for the Mike cooling down near the end of our 13-mile run. IllumiNITE's Endeavor Tank and Long Running Shorts...