Friday, September 27, 2019

Best Running Clothes For Finicky Fall Weather

I've never lived outside of New England; yet every year, I'm shocked when the temperature drops from the eighties to sixties, then soars up to the nineties over the course of a week—sometimes even over the course of ONE DAY! New England is definitely known for it's finicky fall weather, which makes it quite difficult to dress properly for a run.

IllumiNITE Featherlite Jacket
I really don't like being too hot, but I absolutely detest being even the slightest bit cold, especially when running. My muscles get all stiff, my hands go numb, and my nose drips wet. Fortunately, IlumiNITE offers lightweight clothing that I can layer to keep me warm in brisk temperatures and easily remove when I get too hot.
IllumiNITE Women's Reflective Featherlite Packable Nylon Hooded Jacket
My favorite item, hands down, is IllumiNITE's Women's Featherlite Reflective Hooded Nylon Packable Jacket in Graphite. I know I rave about this jacket all the time, but seriously, it's the lightest material ever. You barely notice you're wearing it. It has two zip pockets on the outside to protect valuable items such as my license and car key, and larger internal pockets to store running snacks and my phone. And it has a hood to lock out cold air in windy conditions and keep my head dry in the rain. Its most prominent feature is its reflective powers. The whole jackets illuminates in the dark when hit by headlights, flashlights, and streetlamps. But my most favorite thing about this jacket? I can easily ball it up and store it in my running vest on longer runs if I get too hot. I can also tie it around my waist without irritation when I'm not wearing my vest.
IllumiNITE women's reflective bling vigor singlet in charcoal
Bling Vigor reflective design

IllumiNITE women's reflective bling vigor singlet in charcoal
Bling Vigor Singlet
Don't let the lightweight material fool you. This Featherlite Jacket traps body heat like crazy! So I like to pair it with lightweight tops, such as IllumiNITE's Women's Reflective Bling Vigor Singlet in Charcoal, which is actually on sale right now!

And to tie everything together, I wear IllumiNITE's Women's Reflective Power Stretch Capri in Black. This capri is so versatile, it looks great with whatever styles and colors I'm wearing on top. Plus, it makes me look quite shapely while keeping me warm and dry. I also love the deep pockets on both sides that grip my phone and keep my snacks in place once my Featherlite Jacket comes off.

runner, mountain, hike, running gear, IllumiNITE
Power Stretch Capris,
Dovetail TeeFeatherlite Jacket
I don't know about you, but once I'm done with a run, I totally need to slip into cozy clothes. IlumiNITE's Reflective String Bag is big enough to carry a change of clothing and one pair of shoes, and it's even managed to double as a comfortable running tote when I forget my vest for a planned long run (by wrapping the strings around my waist and securing them in a knot tied tightly across my chest).  I'm usually headed off to my next adventure, whether it's visiting with friends, running errands, or continuing my day outside in nature. And that's where IllumiNITE's Bristol Reflective Jacket in Red Aztec comes in. It feels so soft against my skin, and has enough pockets to carry my essentials.
IllumiNITE Bristol reflective jacket in aztec red
Bristol Reflective Jacket
 and Drawstring Bag

The leaves are already starting to turn, and soon this finicky weather is going to grow into a full-blown winter tantrum. So next week, I'll be visiting IllumiNITE headquarters in Fall River to meet with the team, tour the place, and to try out their newest styles so I can stay warm—and safe—as the days grow colder and shorter.

Stay tuned to hear about my Fall River adventures. You just might catch me in an IllumiNITE photoshoot.

In the meantime, use 15% off discount code Sera15  to stock up on some of your IllumiNITE faves.

How do you stay warm, yet cool and dry, in this finicky fall weather? 

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Running Mindset: Is Distance All In Your Head?

frustrated runner
A new runner joined our running group. She just moved here from New York and mentioned how she was a volunteer for the New York Marathon for years. When I asked her if she'd ever run the race, she said she couldn't imagine running that far. The conversation got me thinking about mindset and how my own mentality shifts based on the distance I'm running. There are distances I absolutely love and distances I absolutely loathe. But I'm not quite sure why or how I set these mental limits.

For example:

running, race, 5k
Feeling ROUGH during a 5k; BUT...
(finish reading for the payoff)

  • I loathe 5ks (3.1 miles) because I feel like "I need to run for my life! no excuses! because anyone can run 3 miles and I need to PR or I am an utter failure."
  • I enjoy 10ks (6.2 miles) because the first 3 miles feels like a warmup, and during the second half, I compete with my time, daring myself to run faster. 
  • Half marathons (13.1 miles) are difficult but satisfactory. I want to keep a faster pace without burning out, so I focus on my breathing and footfalls. It's a nice meditation for about 2 and a half hours, give or take, and I feel so accomplished when I'm done.

Here's where things get really interesting:

    street sign, running
  • 15-mile training runs are the worst! So I do crazy mind games to distract "the suck" of it: Like, "Why does this street name sound so familiar? OMJ, I'm thinking of Woody Harrelson's character in Anger Management! Perhaps Galaska is Galaxia's evil cousin! hahahahaha" But then, 'll glance down at my watch thinking I must have run at least a mile—only to find out I ran less than a quarter-mile since I last checked. *insert wailing sob here!* Why, oh why, does this distance hate me? Furthermore, why do I always think it's a good idea to sign up for a 25k (15.5 miles) race when I know this distance is out to get me? 
  • Running 16 miles makes me so, so happy. It's like a three-hour jog through meditation land.
  • The 20-miler is my anxiety distance. It's four hours of me telling myself that this is Do-Or-Die
    food, distance running
    Post-run meal for two, please! haha
    —If I fail, how will I ever finish a marathon? This anxiety keeps me moving, and before I know it, I'm at 20 miles. I stare at my watch to make sure I'm not dreaming. "Yes, Sera, you've hit 20 miles." Then, I check that watch three more times before believing I'm truly done.
  • I devote my entire day to 25-milers (part of my training plan for ultramarathons) because they are a time suck. Knowing I don't have to do anything other than run and eat, eat, and eat some more—ooh, and soak my sore legs in the tub with some epsom salts—makes this distance tolerable. Really, I'm just preparing my brain for the monotony of running for hours more than preparing my legs to withstand the distance. At about mile 24, I get excited and wonder if I should just run that extra 1.2 miles! But by 24.7, I equate that excitement to depletion of oxygen in my brain! I just want to get through this last quarter-mile and be on to all the amazing food I dreamt about while racking up the miles. 

Now we're really getting into the chaos of the mind distances: Marathons (26.2 miles) have highs and lows throughout the race. 

marathoner, chowdah challenge, cape cod, runner, finish line
Racing to the finish line at the final stretch of
Day 2 of Cape Cod Chowdah Challenge
  • I usually hit 10 miles before I realize how far I've run. 
  • I praise myself when I hit 13.1. HALFWAY, WOOT! 
  • Mile 15 sucks because...well, because it's mile 15! 
  • Miles 16–20 get me in a groove! I'm really doing this!  
  • At mile, 21 I convince myself to walk. After all, I'm way ahead of my estimated finish time.
  • Mile 23 sucks because I have 5k left, and I hate 5ks. Also, why did I think I was ahead of schedule? At this rate, I'll NEVER finish!
  • At Mile 24, I recommit! "Sera, keep one foot in front of the other: left, right, left. Just two more miles to go!" 
  • Mile 26 makes me question the logic of that extra point-two miles. Who the hell thought this nuance was a good idea? Satan, that's who!
  • That final stretch speeds me up as I run as fast as my little legs will carry me because "there is the finish line and all these people are cheering and I hope my lungs don't burst from running so fast while crying tears of relief and joy and pain from tired muscles!"

Ultramarathons (50ks actually) are my absolute favorite distance because I run on a high until the very end (with the exception of mile 15, which naturally, SUCKS!)

  • Hooray for mile 16! I'm past the halfway mark. That went by so fast!
  • Mile 23: Whoa! I've almost hit a marathon! Time to speed things up.
  • 26.2: Woot! Woot! I've just run a marathon, baby! Less than 10k to go!
  • Mile 29: Maybe I'll walk for a bit. Why overdo it? You're running a 50k, Sera! Isn't that badass enough?
  • Mile 29.5: Okay girl. Suck it up and finish this thing already! 
  • Mile 30: Just one more mile to go! Omj! I am a badass! Is this real life? 
  • Mile 31: I run straight through the finish line, feeling on top of the world!

Why do we set these limits on ourselves? Whether it's believing we can't actually run *insert said distance here* or the negative mentality we have at certain distances, it definitely puts a damper on the love of running. I'm trying to get out of my head, find that zen balance that we runners are always chasing. I don't have the answers...yet. But I think acknowledgment is the first step to getting over this negative mindset.

So my question is: How can I adjust my thinking to love 5ks as much as I love 50ks? How can I push through that brain fog, slog, or bog to find my ultimate flow no matter what distance I'm running?

Can you relate? What distances do you absolutely love? Which do you despise?

It was my FASTEST 5k ever! 2018 Westfield's Flat Fast

Friday, September 13, 2019

Night Running: Who's Afraid of the Dark?

sun setting over road, sunset
Daylight savings time might not end until November, but the days are definitely getting shorter. This means more opportunities for night running. Yes!

When I first started running, I never considered running at night. To me, night running could only mean one thing: escape from imminent danger, or death! Obviously.

But fast forward to 2017. My friends and I entered Ragnar's Reach the Beach—a 200-mile relay race in New Hampshire from the White Mountains to Hampton Beach. Running at night was inevitable. And I'll admit. I WAS AFRAID! I must have been in denial that we had to run at night because I didn't properly prepare. Sure, I brought the mandatory gear required for the race. But I didn't try my borrowed headlamp until race night, discovering all too late that it didn't fit well, and the lamp was spotty. And, my vest's small reflective strip barely made me visible. Yikes! Fortunately, we were in in a controlled environment with occasional patrol vehicles and a few spectators cheering us on. My support van was not too far away, and my best friend ran by my side.
night running, ragnar, reach the beach
You can barely see us! Night running
at Ragnar Reach the Beach

The steady thump-thump-thumping of our shoes against pavement lulled my fear to sleep. Mostly. A small amount of nagging anxiety remained, so I used it to fuel my excitement. I was doing something new! Something I never imagined doing before! I was running on a tree-lined street with no streetlights in the middle of the night! And I wasn't doing it to escape imminent danger! I was doing it for fun! MIND BLOWN!

That first plunge into literal darkness sparked a newfound joy. Here's what I learned about night running:

  • The air is cool and crisp
  • I experience quietude as the world settles down from its day
  • I focus on being present because I'm more alert about my surroundings
  • My muscles feel more limber (vs. feeling stiff from sleep during early morning runs)
  • I sleep so much better when I run at night
  • It spices up the monotony of everyday routines 

These days, I find myself running at night often because I'm always training for some distance race. But here's the thing: I don't even think twice about it anymore, especially because I now own the proper night running gear. I have a new-and-improved bright headlamp so I can see where I'm stepping and a flashing red light that clips onto my clothes. Best of all, my reflective IllumiNITE running clothes illuminate me like a spotlight so drivers and other people on the road can see me running a mile away (okay, maybe "a mile away" is hyperbolic; but maybe not; I've not tested the actual distance, haha). I'm also especially conscious of following safety rules while running at night. Need a refresher? Check out my post CAUTION: RUNNERS ON ROAD for a list of running safety tips.
IllumiNITE, reflective apparel, running
How I look BEFORE light hits me!
IllumiNITE, reflective apparel, running, women's featherlite reflective packable jacket in graphite, women's reflective shortie in black
An IllumiNITED runner
SHINES BRIGHT like a spotlight
(rocking Featherlite Jacket in Graphite
and Reflective Shortie in Black)
IllumiNITE, reflective apparel, running
Run Brightly!
So while I'm sad that the days are getting shorter (and colder), I'm definitely excited for more night running. The running groups I belong to have frequent night runs during the week. And let's face it: It's more fun to run in the dark with friends—especially in the woods.

So I challenge you to give it a try. Find a running group in your area and go for a weeknight run! Many running stores, like Marathon Sports, host run clubs that include weeknight runs. Or you could invite a friend—or two, or five!—to an evening neighborhood jog. Or IllumiNITE your dog and ramp up your pace when you take doggie out at night. Whatever you decide, I bet you'll find your newfound joy in night running.

Need an extra push out the door? It's Friday the 13th, and there's a full moon out tonight. What are you waiting for?

Get out there and howl like you're not afraid of the dark!

Friday, September 6, 2019

How Green River Marathon Got Me Out of My Funk

Cranky. Anti social. Unmotivated. In other words: In A Funk! It happens to the best of us, and it's how I've felt for a while now. All the activities I love doing have recently felt like a burden, another thing I have to do. And that's not me. So I knew I had to do something drastic to get rid of this funk once and for all. But I didn't know what could possibly help!

Let's rewind.

Early this year, I raved about Green River Marathon to anyone who would listen. I had run it last year and loved every minute of it. The course was so beautiful; I wanted to run it again! I convinced some friends that Green River was the perfect first marathon because the course descends 1,450 feet to the finish line. I had shaved an hour off my marathon time! So, my friends signed up, and I promised to follow suit. But when I went to register, it was sold out! 

Fast-forward to a couple months. 

My friends kept me in the loop of their training. They sent texts like "16 mile long run this morning. Feet don't fail me now" and then a few hours later "Mission accomplished!" It felt good to know that I had inspired people to run their first marathon and that they thought of me as they increased their mileage. Every time I run long distance, I still think of the first people who inspired me to run my first marathon. And I'm forever grateful to them. I was happy to pay that inspiration forward. Though, I myself, was beginning to slide into a terrible funk.

Fast-forward to a couple more months. 

One of my friends training for Green River for his first marathon got injured. A stress fracture. Doctor's orders: No running. He was devastated. And I'll admit I felt guilty that I was the one who convinced him to sign up. I wondered: Why the hell do we do this to ourselves? Which added to my frustration, which added to my feeling overwhelmed, which added to my lack of motivation.

This funk wasn't going away. I noticed that running on my own (which I love so much) totally sucked. I couldn't even get pumped up when I ran with my boyfriend, who is beyond excited to be training for his first marathon—in Greece! Despite all my smiling selfies, my joy for running got lost somewhere on the road. I had entered the danger zone of rutsville, but I couldn't explain why. I needed to take action. But how?

Fast-forward to one week before Green River Marathon.

My injured friend? He messaged me a few days before the race telling me he was out of his boot. He was healing just fine and felt excited that he could start running again soon. He said he was still going to Green River to cheer everyone on! He asked if he would see me there. I was so happy to hear he was recovering well and was in good spirits. But I had never gone to a race as a spectator before.

This funk of mine made every excuse in the book as to why sleeping in was the better option. But his text reminded me that many of my friends were running Green River, including Ruthie—who I convinced to run her first marathon. Then I remembered that some running friends had surprised me at the Green River finish line last year. It was the best feeling ever to see people I loved and admired cheering me on at my finish!

So I found myself texting back before I could talk myself out of it: "YES!" I wrote. "I'll be there!"

Green River Marathon Finish Line! 

Fast-forward to RACE DAY!

Ruthie won first place female!
2019 Green River Marathon
My running friends and I set up chairs at the finish line with a bunch of other spectators and watched with anticipation as
the clock ticked away. I met mothers, fathers, children, siblings, romantic partners, and extended families of the racers. I met runners who were injured, runners who had run last year, runners who didn't get in this year, and runners simply there to cheer on friends. I was surprised to feel a similar excited energy among fellow spectators that I had felt amidst fellow racers at starting lines. 

When the first three male runners crossed the finish line, the excitement skyrocketed. Cheers and noise-makers and hand-claps erupted in a cacophony of congratulations. And then the crowd buzzed with anticipation for the first female. After a while, I said, "Did we miss her?" Murmurs broke out, "Where could she be?" and "It should be any moment now!" Someone pointed and shouted, "There she is!" We all craned our necks and pointed our cameras. As I looked through my phone's screen as it recorded, I realized I knew that face. "Ruthie....First! She's first! That's my girl!" I shouted so loud, I lost my voice for a bit.

The hours ticked by as I continued to cheer on multiple friends over the finish line! Before I knew it, the last of my friends came through, and I was eating and drinking and listening to all their stories about their experience on the course. Their bodies shook with excitement....and okay, maybe a little fatigue...their faces beamed with pure joy, and their eyes misted up with pride for their accomplishment. My own heart swelled with pride, joy, and inspiration. 

Do you see the pure joy on my face?!
So proud of my marathoner friends!
As I packed up my lawn chair to head out, I left my funk on the sidelines. Good riddance!

Once I got home, I texted my boyfriend. "We're adding speedwork into our marathon training! Monday night we're going to the track. Be prepared to work hard!"

Being a spectator is exactly what I needed to get out of this funk. Thank you to everyone for keeping me inspired and for all your support in my own running endeavors! I left Green River feeling so much love for my running community. You remind me why I run. 

Congratulations to all the Green River Marathon finishers. 

What's next on your race list?

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...