Friday, October 25, 2019

Falmouth Bound: Cape Cod Marathon

IllumiNITE Long Sleeve Reflective Women's Piper Tee in Flo Lime/Graphite
IllumiNITE Long Sleeve
Piper Tee in Flo Lime/Graphite

Comet Running Tight
As you're reading this, I am Falmouth bound, and...I am so excited to be running the Cape Cod Marathon THIS Sunday! This is my favorite race weekend of the year, by far! Why, you ask? Because it's truly a weekend-long event!

A Facebook memory popped up the other week, reminding me that just three years ago I had completed my first ever 20-mile run. I was following Hal Higdon's Novice 1 Marathon Training Program (I still do!), and 20 miles was the farthest distance I had to run before marathon day. I remember that day clearly. It was rainy and dreary out and my right foot hurt like hell (I had flexor tendinitis), but I was excited. I ran with my coach Laura, my best friend Loretta who got me into this running nonsense (Read my I HATE Running post), and another running friend who was also training for her first marathon. I told myself: If I can run 20 miles with an injury, I can run a marathon. And I did!

IllumiNITE Unisex Velocity Mitten
IllumiNITE Unisex Velocity Mitten
Disclaimer: I'm not recommending anyone run with an injury. Injuries are no joke and should be taken seriously. I consulted with my physical therapist first. She put me on a strict no-running until marathon day respite after my 20-mile run. She also said she couldn't medically clear me to run the marathon. BUT she never knew anyone who had permanent injury from flexor tendinitis, so she understood if I chose to run it anyway. She was a runner so she got it. But I digress.

IllumiNITE Long Sleeve  Reflective Women's Piper Tee
IllumiNITE Long Sleeve
Reflective Women's Piper Tee
This will be my fourth year returning to Cape Cod Marathon. The first year, I ran the relay. The second year, I ran my first marathon. The third year, I did the Chowdah Challenge, which was my favorite! Thanks to my sponsor IllumiNITE, I'm returning this year to run the new marathon course! I heard this new route is much flatter than the previous course that had 17 miles of rolling hills. Phew! This will be a great training run before my Athens Authentic Marathon in just two weeks, which I heard has hills! I also heard Cape Cod's new course includes more running along the ocean. I LOVE running by water, so this is an added bonus for me.

What do I pack for a New England marathon in October? 

IllumiNITE women's reflective Bling Vigor Singlet in Charcoal
IllumiNITE Bling
Vigor Singlet in Charcoal

& Shortie in Black
Good question! I truly bring enough clothes to start my own pop-up store because New England weather is so finicky, as I've mentioned before. So I bring: 
  • tank top
  • short sleeve shirt
  • long sleeve shirt
  • shorts 
  • capris

  • post-race outfit and Oofos sandals

  • skeleton knee-highs for the Halloween Spirit!

IllumiNITE Tahoe Performance
Softshell Fleece Jacket In Graphite

IllumiNITE Graphic Tees  Grim on Black and Power Stretch Capri
IllumiNITE Graphic Tees
Grim on Black
(post race)
and Power Stretch Capri
IllumiNITE Waterproof Reflective Women's Colorado Jacket in Mimosa Floral
IllumiNITE Waterproof Colorado
Jacket in Mimosa Floral

IllumiNITE Ambition Reflective Women's Hoodie in Coral Glo Black
IllumiNITEAmbition Hoodie
in Coral Glo/Black

& Unisex All Over Glow Glove
When running distance, it's truly better to be over prepared than freezing cold for miles and miles. I just received my latest IllumiNITE shipment that includes warmer clothes, so I will definitely add the following to my suitcase to be safe:

  • hooded pullover
  • rain jacket
  • heavy duty jacket (for when I'm not racing)
  • gloves 
  • head covering 

IllumiNITE Waterproof Colorado Men's Reflective Jacket  in Graphite/Flo Lime
IllumiNITE Waterproof Colorado Jacket
in Graphite/Flo Lime
I never truly know what I'm going to wear until the morning of the race! My decision is always based on a combination of the weather, my mood, and what feels most comfortable at that moment. We marathoners are as finicky as fall New England weather, and it's most important to avoid any clothing regrets—the mind gloms onto the zaniest things when running for hours on end.

I also pack my hydration pack so I can carry:

  • my 2-liter bladder
  • 2 handhelds for electrolyte drinks
  • my albuterol inhaler
  • a second pair of contacts (once, a contact popped out during a 50k! I got it back in, but whoa!)
IllumiNITE Reflective Halo Unisex Knit Hat
IllumiNITE Halo Unisex Knit Hat

  • rewetting eye drops
  • chapstick
  • salt tabs

  • ibuprofen
  • acetaminophen
  • naproxen

My hydration vest also allows me to stow away any layers if I get too hot!

IllumiNITE Hartford Reflective Men's Jacket in Red/Silver
IllumiNITE Hartford Men's Jacket
in Red/Silver
& Endeavor Long Running Short 
I also make sure to pack:

  • Flovent inhaler
  • wireless headphones and back up plug in headphones

  • bacitracin and bandaids

Why do I LOVE Cape Cod Marathon weekend:

2016 Cape Cod Marathon
The Expo is so fun! I always run into all my running friends here because we're all heading to pick up our bibs and our tee shirts. Cape Cod Marathon shirts are my fave race shirts ever! I wear them all the time! The Expo also has vendors galore! So if race jitters made you forget to pack something vital, don't worry! You can easily find what you need at the Expo!

I love exploring all the various running essentials and discovering new products to try. This year, I'll be hanging out at the IllumiNITE pop-up store, so come on by and say Hello! I'll show you my favorite products and chat about all things running—and whatever else you'd like to discuss!

Run Your Health Cape Cod Crew
The Running Community is strong! About 30-50 people from my very first running group, Run Your Health, come together this weekend to run. It feels like we're taking over Falmouth. Relay teams, half marathoners, full marathoners, and yes, even the Chowdah Challenge runners. Our families and friends cheer us on with the signs we make Friday night! And we eat pre-race and post-race meals together. I don't get to run with this group often anymore because I moved to another town, so I really cherish seeing so many RYHers in Falmouth! I've also made quite a few running friends while running Cape Cod Marathon, including @trainerhelice and @2018bostonmarathon4dad and @btrfli4u. We stay in touch via social media throughout the year to keep us motivated. It's great to maintain a strong online running community to stay inspired!

The Falmouth Community is so supportive! I've run many, many races, but the Falmouth community is by far the most supportive of race communities! Hundreds, maybe thousands, of residents line the streets on the course offering water, oranges, Halloween candy, and other refreshments to us runners. Many of them dress up in costumes, play music, dance, and cheer us all on! One guy even let us runners pose on his lawn with his elaborate Halloween display. Falmouth residents, I love you!

The Food is the best! I'll admit, when I first heard that clam chowder was served at the end of the marathon, my stomach felt a bit queasy. But come race finish, when you're stomach is rumbling and your sweat is running cold now that you've stopped moving, hot clam chowder is just what you need—followed up with those amazing apple cider donuts! Cape Cod Marathon has the best post-race food I've ever had in America! I must give a shoutout to all the Falmouth restaurants who gracefully handle feeding the thousands of people all weekend. Food has always been superb and service has always been provided with a smile!

IllumiNITE Long Sleeve
Piper Tee in Flo Lime/Graphite

Comet Running Tight

What distance will you be running this weekend and where? Leave a comment below!

And don't forget, if you'll be at Cape Cod Marathon, I'll be at IllumiNITE at the Expo on Saturday or somewhere along the marathon route on Sunday! Please find me and say HI!

IllumiNITE photos by Matt Francis Photography

Friday, October 18, 2019

I HATE Running! The Makings of an Ultra Marathoner

As I gear up for not one, but two marathons just two weeks apart in two different countries, I think back to how it all began...

I first started running because my best friend Loretta stopped being social, and I missed her terribly. 

"If you want to hangout," she said, "you need to run with me. I'm training for my first marathon."

"I hate running," I said. But I joined her the next Saturday morning at a nearby parking lot to give it a try. To my surprise, a bunch of people in real athletic wear were gathered around stretching and doing high knees and butt kicks. I felt so out of place in my beat up walking shoes and old sweats.

When it was time to run, I told Loretta: "We're taking walk breaks as often as I need them." 

Loretta and I at my first half marathon:
Amica Iron Horse Half Marathon 2016
My first "birthday" race.
"Okay," she said. She may have rolled her eyes.

"And you better not leave me," I said.

"I won't," she said.

"And don't expect me to run more than three miles. Ever. I HATE running," I reiterated.

"Okay," she said, this time with a smirk. And she kept her word...mostly.

When I first started running, I ran about 30 seconds and walked two minutes. Loretta did not complain once, even though I was being a terrible sport. So, I came back each Saturday to spend time with my bestie. I noticed how happy and excited the other runners seemed, and that confused me. We're running...for no reason...what's there to be happy about? But their joy became contagious. I decided to try harder to see what all this "happiness" was about. Over time, I was able to run longer and farther before taking a walk break. People noticed and congratulated my tiniest accomplishments. I'd never belonged to any club before. And I had to admit, it was more fun than I expected. Shoutout to Run Your Health!

But then, Loretta did the most despicable thing. She volunteered me for a relay marathon team at the Cape Cod Marathon. Before I could protest, the relay team captain threw her arms around me and exclaimed her excitement. The team couldn’t race without a fifth person. I knew I couldn’t let these people down. I had no choice but to run.

"You were going to the Cape to watch me run my marathon anyway," Loretta said. "You might as well run, too."

Shooting out the gate with all the other runners
Cape Cod Marathon and Relay 2015
Loretta waving to me as we ran
the beginning our first race together
Cape Cod Marathon 2015

My leg of the race was the first three miles, and I got to shoot out the gate with all the other relay runners and marathoners alike. The vibrating energy of the crowd was exhilarating, and for the first time, I felt like I was a part of something greater than life. Those three miles were excruciating. I had only run three miles without stopping once before, but I was determined to do my best, so I ran for my life. When I saw my teammates at the transition point, I felt like a rockstar. They were jumping up and down—cheering for me. FOR ME! And that was it, I was hooked.

Cheesing it with my first marathon medal
Cape Cod Marathon 2016

I bought a real pair of running shoes from a running store that fitted me for the perfect fit. Then:

Marathon Relay, turned into 
5ks, turned into 
10ks, turned into
Half Marathons, turned into 
Marathons, turned into 
Chowdah Challenge (half marathon on Saturday/Full on Sunday), turned into
Ragnar Reach the Beach (2-day, 200-mile relay race), turned into 
Trail and Mountain races, turned into 

And now I’m running in multiple states, in other countries, on multiple continents.

Loretta ran right by my side through my first half marathon AND my first marathon. We ran side by side for Ragnar’s Reach the Beach for some of our legs, and she even ran on a few trails and mountains with me. Life gets busy, and Loretta and I don’t run together as often as we used to. Part of that is because our schedules don't always mesh, our running goals don't always match, and she isn’t too fond of trail running...or ultramarathons. But that’s okay. I still feel her energy and inspiration with me on every run.

Loretta and I celebrating after finishing my first marathon
Cape Cod Marathon 2016
Running has changed my life in ways I could never imagine. It’s given me the chance to see pieces of the world I would never see whizzing by in a car. It’s lessened my anxiety and increased my happiness tenfold. It’s helped me realize that I can overcome other obstacles or hardships in my life. I’ve learned nothing is impossible; some things just take more effort or patience or time or education.

I'm so excited to be running Cape Cod Marathon in just eight days! Especially since it's the race that sparked my love of running! 

Still, ask me on a bad run day, and I’ll tell you: “I HATE running.” But I also LOVE it. And I can’t imagine experiencing life without it ever again.

Is there something you thought you didn't like but learned to love once you gave it a real shot? Leave a comment below!

Friday, October 11, 2019

Wearing Pride: Westfield's 350th Race Series

westfield 350th jacket series group photo
350th Race Series Group Photo
I am a Westfield native, through and through, and I now have the jacket to represent my hometown!

 As part of its 350th birthday celebration, Westfield, Massachusetts, put on a race series where runners received a commemorative jacket upon the completion of five races. This series was a tricky one for me as I traveled a lot this spring and summer when most of the races took place. But as a native of Westfield—born and raised—I knew I needed that jacket, so I did everything in my power to make it happen!

gordy's first race sera rivers westfield ma
At the start line
Gordy's First Race 2019

westfield state college indoor track all-comers meet sera rivers
WSU All-Comers Meet 2019
photo credit: Heather Nunley
Every year, I run Gordy's First Race to start off the New Year running, so signing up for that one was a no-brainer. It helps me stay pretty tame on New Year's Eve, and it gives me an immediate goal for the new year. I was so grateful that the weather was mild this year! It was great to catch up with my running friends and start my new year off right! Then, in February, I ran the Indoor Track All-Comers Meet at Westfield State College, which challenged me like no road race ever has! I'd never sprinted before, so I was surprised to discover how fast I could potentially be if I ever get my asthma under control for longer distances!

sera rivers westfield half marathon
Westfield Half 2019
Photo Credit:
Kimberly Perron-Burke
In June, I ran the Westfield Half Marathon just a couple weeks after my Chesterfield Gorge Ultramarathon, so I focused on maintaining a moderate speed throughout the hilly 13.1 miles. It wasn't my fastest half-marathon, but I'm pretty proud of the consistency of my pace, which I often struggle with.

Three races down and just two more to go! I was getting excited! I had planned on running one of the Monday night runs in Stanley Park sponsored by Empire One Running Club. With all my travel over the summer, I made a plan to run the first Monday in September so I could qualify for the jacket. The original postcard I had received—way back when—stated that the park runs ran through September. But when I went online on September 1st to check the race's start time, I discovered the Monday night races had ended in August! 


Sera rivers brown bear invitational
Brown Bear Invitational 2019
Photo Credit: Mike Rose
I had worked so hard to make sure I could run FIVE races, and I needed that jacket. I emailed the series director, Vanessa Diana, right away and explained what happened. I even shared a screenshot of the postcard. I'm so impressed at how quickly she responded. She said they had sent out updated postcards. (I must have dismissed the second one.) But...then she informed me that a new race had been added to the series and there was still time to sign up! Phew! She saved the day! Thank you, Vanessa!


In September, I ran the Brown Bear Invitational 6k, which took us through my favorite woods in Stanley Park. I focused on speed as I hopped over tree roots and rocks and tried to keep up with all the 20-year-old college kids who left me inhaling their dust a half-mile in. It's humbling to watch an entire pack of runners disappear in such a short amount of time. I had to keep reminding myself: Sera, you're not 20 anymore. I'm quite proud of my time. I ran 9:41 minute miles, which is pretty speedy for me when running a trail race. And I'm super grateful to my boyfriend for cheering me on while I ran my heart out. It kept me moving! His picture of me crossing the finish line truly sums up the amount of effort I put into this race. I was dying!

westfield 350th jacket series group photo
Westfield 350th Race Series Group Photo
I'm behind the sign to the left of 1669
Before I knew it, it was October. And that meant the final race of the series. And jacket pickup! Run Stanley took me on a different route through the woods of Stanley Park. It was a nice recovery run after running 18 miles the day before. Kids raced, dogs raced with their owners, and then us 5k runners raced. There was music blasting, and physical therapists gave out free pre- and post-race massages. And I was ever so grateful for the post-race apples, as I was still on the WHOLE30 and couldn't eat the typical post-race carbs. Those apples tasted divine! It was so wonderful to see my Westfield community all come together to celebrate Westfield's 350th birthday!

westfield 350th jacket series
Wearing Westfield Pride with my Run Your Health crew
I love my jacket so much! I want to wear it everywhere. But what I love even more about this race series is that I revisited so many childhood memories as I explored the various streets, parks, and woods in my hometown—running by the very swing set my dad pushed me on when I was little, racing down the same streets my friends and I raced our bikes, trotting past my fourth grade teacher's home, plodding up the hill that eventually led to my first boyfriend's house. Each and every memory, even the sad ones, makes me proud to have such a strong history with my hometown.

sera rivers eighth grade westfield middle school
8th Gr. Westfield Middle School
My last year in Westfield
Before I moved back as an adult
This race series reminded me that Westfield is where I first learned about the world, both the good and bad, where I first fell in love and where my heart broke over and over again, and most likely, where I broke some hearts too. It's where I daydreamed of traveling far, far away and never coming back, and it's where I came back to raise my own son. And it's where I joined my very first running club, Run Your Health, where I found my love for running.

Westfield is where I call home, no matter where I reside. So I wear my jacket proud!

Happy 350th Birthday Westfield!

Have you ever ran a race series for a jacket? Share your story in the comments below!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Lights, Camera, IllumiNITEd!

An IllumiNITEd date, captured by photographer Matt Francis 

Fabric Lots in the Dark
Yesterday was so much fun! Mike and I drove to Fall River for our official photoshoot with IllumiNITE! We got to meet with the IllumiNITE team, tour the factory, and check out the newest
Fabric Lots IllumiNITED
IllumiNITE styles—some of which aren't even out yet! I just wanted to twirl around in the lots of fabric, but I restrained myself; I am a professional after all (hee hee). I did take flash pictures to see what patterns lit up, and that was a fun surprise. It was so cool to see where the magic happens. And it was very clear how proud everyone was of the work they did, and they should be! The designs, the fit, the comfort—I could live in IllumiNITE clothing forever!

IllumiNITE Pop-Up Store for Race Expos!

A runner's dream!
When we walked into the area where the pop up store lives, I felt like Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I wanted to run up and down the aisles, grabbing this shirt and that jacket, and ooh! These gloves are so cool! I want them all and I want them now! Okay, maybe I felt more like Varuca Salt. But you get the gist. Before I could begin my impromptu shopping spree, the IllumiNITE team announced it was time to go to the photoshoot location!

Right, I was here to work!

Matt Francis and IllumiNITE team
planning a shot
We walked around downtown Fall River, seeking various shots for the different outfits. Good thing running has helped me get over my shyness because wardrobe changes happened in the van-turned-dressing-room. It mostly concealed us, but if you ever see semi-naked photos of me on the Internet....well, you'll know why. haha

Then we were on camera! We walked, we posed, we ran, we had silly conversations, and I even got to jump around and do all the silly poses I love doing at races. For once, "act natural" didn't get me into trouble! What I appreciated most was that the IllumiNITE team asked that I didn't wear makeup. It's refreshing to work for a company that appreciates women's natural faces.

The funniest part of the shoot was when the photographer exclaimed: "What's going on here?"

You see, Mike kept flirting with me to make me laugh while I was doing my solo shots. He made comments like: "Just stare into my eyes" and "Why don't you pretend you're texting me" and other silly comments to help me look more natural on camera.

It's always an adventure with us!
Matt had no idea we were a couple, a "power model couple" as my friend Heather jokingly calls us. I couldn't stop laughing hysterically for a long while. I could only imagine what a creep Mike must have seemed to the photographer who thought we'd just met on location. I truly appreciate Matt speaking up, though, because if we weren't a couple, Mike's comments would have been inappropriate. Thanks for looking out, Matt!

But the biggest surprise of the day? The IllumiNITE team gave me the team shirts they designed for us for the Athens Authentic Marathon! I'm getting so excited! I cannot believe I'll be running the original marathon route in just 36 days! It's a marathoner's dream!

In the Dark
(L to R): Brynne Sawyer,
Sera Rivers, Meg Decubellis
I want to give a big shoutout to the IllumiNITE design team, Meg and Brynne, and photographer Matt Francis for making us feel like stars! It was such a great experience!

Lights! Camera! IllumiNITEd! ... And that's a wrap!

October is such a busy month as I'm gearing up for not one, but two marathons! So be sure to follow my blog for updates!

Stay tuned for:

  • Official IllumiNITE photoshoot photos
  • Marathon Training Updates
  • IllumiNITE Team shirt design reveal for Athens Authentic Marathon

In the meantime, check out:

  • IllumiNITE website and use discount code Sera15 for 15%off your entire order
  • My Events page to see where I'll be running in the next few months! 

Where are you running next? Will I see you at one of my races? 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...