To Fuel Belt or Not to Fuel Belt? That is the Question.

Howdy y’all! It’s that time of year again… Fall marathon training is in full swing, but the summer heat and humidity haven’t let up and (at least where I live) they most likely won’t for another month or so.  As your mileage creeps up, how are you going to stay hydrated? I think it’s high time we addressed the general fastness and fabulousness (or lack there of) the fuel belt in order keep you not only well-hydrated, but looking as cool as possible in those final long running of your fall training cycle.

My Personal Fuel Belt Story:

There  was a time not so long ago when I subscribed to the fuel belt doctrine. As a well-established part-time running store employee I am accustomed to having every possible running accessory under the sun at my disposal, and I honestly thought the fuel belt was just another legitimate essential of marathon training. I trained and raced with it regularly without giving it a second thought. I never considered my fuel belt to be particularly comfortable or stylish, but I did fancy it to be a means of liberation from utter dehydration, the dreaded “wall”, and congested race course water stations. After completing two marathons with what I felt to be two decently mediocre times, my fuel belt and I decided to take on qualifying for Boston. When I missed the qualifier in two consecutive attempts, my amazing, much-faster-than-me running friends  from near and far joined forces and cooked up a large-scale marathon intervention to make sure I got the BQ once and for all.  Needless to say, their master plan involved pacing me, which meant being seen running with me in public. And that is when they set me down and lovingly gave me what will forever be known as “The Fuel Belt Talk”.

That's me rocking the fuel belt in marathons gone by, and making it look damn good if I do say so myself.

That’s me rocking the fuel belt in marathons gone by, and making it look damn sexy if I do say so myself.

My goal for race day was not just to hit the BQ, but to beat it by 5 minutes in order to increase my odds of actually securing a spot at Boston with the 5 minute priority registration cushion. For me this meant running 3:30. On the eve of my third-time’s-the-charm BQ attempt, my dear friend and esteemed running mentor (who just so happens to be a total running bad-ass and 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon finisher) pulled me aside for a little pre-race debriefing. She put her hand on my shoulder, looked me square in the eye, and said to me in a gentle, yet firm voice “Ellen, people who run 3:30 marathons DO NOT wear fuel belts. And NO ONE was wearing a fuel belt in the Olympic Trials Marathon.” I recall looking at her wide-eyed with surprise and thinking to myself ” How the eff did the entire field of the Olympic Trials Marathon make it through 26.2 miles without withering into dehydration despair if they weren’t wearing fuel belts?”  Up until this moment I had honestly assumed that hydration belts were a universal truth of marathon training for everyone from the 6 hour marathoner all the way up to Kara and Shalene.

I know that in marathon training and in life, it is above all important to know thy self, and to avoid comparing yourself to others (especially when you run 3:30 marathons and “others” are people who competed in the Olympic Trials)”, but I am here to tell you that the moment those fateful words rolled off my wise and speedy running idol’s tongue I swore off racing with the fuel belt forever and never looked back.  To think that I had been running around for all this time looking like a total marathon newb! I still cringe a little when I think about it…

Bring home the BQ and a big, shiny new PR in my first marathon sans fuel belt!

Bring home the BQ and a big, shiny new PR in my first marathon sans fuel belt!

Since “The Fuel Belt Talk” I have belted up on a few particularly hot, humid, extra-long long runs here and there, but with time my once faithful hydration sidekick has faded into near obscurity in my training as well. This leads me to wonder how the general running public perceives and embraces the fuel belt, and what is thought to be the least lame/ most social acceptable means of long run hydration these days.

Survey Says…

And so I took it upon myself to poll my trusted running community. With help of a Survey Monkey savvy friend, I whipped up the  fun little “Feelings About Fuel Belts” survey below and mercilessly pestered the runners of my social media feeds and local run club email distribution list to complete it. As you review the results below, keep the following things in mind…

A Few Disclaimers First… 

  • This was an anonymous survey that did not define participants’ gender, running abilities or the duration of their long runs.
  • As I write this post, a whopping 61  people have completed this survey. (That might not sound like a lot to you, but I was actually pretty pumped about this response. I figured I might get 12 responses if I was lucky.)
  • I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty dang confident that the results below reflect the views of a cross-section of runners that includes 2 hour + half marathoners, sub-3 hour marathoners, ultra-marathoners, and plenty of paces and abilities in between.
  • In all likelihood, the majority of people who completed this survey live and run in the hot, humid Southeastern US.

The Findings:

Question 1:  Which of the statements below best describes your general feelings about fuel belts…
  •  6.78 of survey participants  answered (A) My fuel belt is my favorite training BFF! I almost never run without it!
  •   35.59% of survey participants answered (B) I appreciate my fuel belt’s functionality and the hydration liberation that it offers. I don’t take it on every run, but it is clutch for any and all of my longer distance stuff!
  • 25.42% of survey participants answered (C) My fuel belt is kind of drag, but every now and then I have to swallow my pride and bust it out for really super-long and/ or super-hot running activities.
  • 32.20% of survey participants answered  (D) Fuel belts are effing lame and I would sooner die of dehydration and shame than be caught wearing one.
 Question 2: If you do believe in fuel belts, what distance, temperature, or combination of the two warrants using one?
  • 38.71% of participants who answered this question would wear a fuel belt on runs as short as 5 miles IF the temperature was 90 degrees or greater.
  • 38.10% of participants who answered this question would rock their fuel belts on 10 + mile runs, regardless of the temperature.
  • 51.43% of participants agreed that the fuel belt is a must for runs longer 15 miles, no matter the temperature.
  • 66.67 % of participants who answered this question indicated that no distance was long enough to warrant the shame of the fuel belt.
  • 50% of participants who answered this question selected “I don’t care if I am running on the surface of the sun. I am NOT WEARING a damn fuel belt.”

*I got a little crazy with the Survey Monkey and made this question a multiple choice matrix something-or-other. It allowed people to choose more than one answer, which they clearly did and/or I got all confused in interpreting the results (understanding numbers has never be my strong suit), as all the percentages listed here obviously add up to something greater than 100%.

Question 3:  Would you wear a fuel belt in a race or only for training?
  • 33.90% of participants who answered this question chose (A) Both! Ain’t nobody got time for those crazy congested water stops at crowded races!
  • 42.37% chose (B) Only training! Racing in a fuel belt is so Busch League!
  • 23.73% chose (C) Neither! I already told you that fuel belts are lame!
Question 4: For all you hardcore fuel belt haters out there, how do you avoid utter dehydration sans belt and where do you stash all your other crap? (i.e. car keys, gels, etc.)
  • 63.16%  of participants use a handheld water bottle in lieu of the fuel belt.
  • 31.58% use a hydration pack. (Shocking! I always thought those were only for mountain biking and adventure racing!)
  • 47.37% plan routes with water stops/ water fountains so they can leave the fuel belt at home.
  • 10.53% stash gels and small personal items in their sports bras. (I think this percentage may be a little skewed because some people who completed this survey were most likely dudes.)
  • 5.26% pin gels to the inside waistband of their shorts for long runs and races.
I took the liberty of showcasing a few socially acceptable fuel belt alternative options just for you!

I took the liberty of showcasing a few socially acceptable fuel belt alternative options just for you!

In Conclusion…
I’m not gonna lie, I thought that most everyone who filled out the survey would be all like “Hell to the no, I don’t use a fuel belt! Those are for losers!”  And don’t get me wrong, this sentiment was certainly present in my findings, but as it turns out, despite the fact the fuel belts are shunned by elites per my Olympic Trials friend, the majority of my surveyed population agrees that they do have a place in one’s training program.
Furthermore, it seems safe to assume that fuel belts are generally considered to be more socially acceptable for training  as opposed to racing use, although use in races is not out of the question for particularly crowded races, particularly hot races, and/or runners with specific nutrition sensitivities.
The handheld water bottle seems to be embraced as a less dorky, more fashion forward, and less annoying hydration alternative to the fuel belt for longer, hotter runs and races. The hydration pack was also a surprisingly socially acceptable fuel belt alternative.
Also, Survey Monkey is the bomb, and surveying your friends is a great reminder of how smart, witty, thoughtful, and hilarious they are. I highly recommend it!
In the end, I suppose it all comes down to this: If you are doing any sort of long distance training you will eventually encounter some runs the require carrying some means of hydration. If you are down with the fit, feel, and fashion of the fuel belt, well then, get out there and rock that shit! The little cross-section of runners that I surveyed finds fuels belts to be marginally social acceptable! Not to mention the fact that hydration belts are becoming more fashionable all the time! Just look at this veritable cornucopia of styles and colors available at Bull City Running Co.!
Just look at all these fast, fabulous hydration belt options!

Just look at all these fast, fabulous hydration belt options!

  (However, you will most certainly face judgement  should you dare to wear a fuel belt in the Olympic Trials Marathon, and I personally recommend avoiding them for all distances shorter than the 1/2 marathon as well.)   On the other hand, if you think fuel belts are hideous, uncomfortable, and just all around sucky, you most certainly are not alone in this opinion either, and thanks to this little post, you are now privy to some great, simple fuel belt alternatives that are sure to keep you hydrated AND looking and feeling fast and fabulous!

As it turns out, my running community has plenty of room for both lovers and haters of fuel belts. After all, it takes all kinds!

As it turns out, my running community has plenty of room for both lovers and haters of fuel belts. After all, it takes all kinds!

A Few Words of Gratitude…
First and foremost, major thanks to all of you kind souls who filled out my little survey! You guys all rock, your comments were fantastic, and I loved hearing from you! I am sending out some serious love to my favorite blogging consultant and Survey Monkey mentor, Mixmaster J, and also to my lovely friend Sarah who saved me from a life of eternal newb-dom by giving me The Fuel Belt Talk. And kudos to my BFFs at Bull City Running Co. for permitting my use of the store’s entire hydration inventory in a large-scale iPhone photo shoot, even though they will probably never stopping making fun of me for doing this. Thanks to Bigs for being my loyal official iPhone photographer, and most importantly, thanks to all of you for reading!
Click here to take the “Feelings About Fuel Belts” survey for yourself!
What is your favorite hydration accessory and at what distance and/or temperature is it non-negotiable?

A Fast and Fabulous Guide to Your Most Awesome Race Photos Ever!

So you might have already guessed from reading my race reports that I am the kind of runner who sets goals based on personal improvement rather than competition. I am not, never have been, and probably never will be the runner that wins the race, although I might occasionally score a nice little age group award pint glass or a Starbucks gift card on days when no one fast shows up. I’m totally cool with this. There is no doubt in my mind that what I lack in speed I make up for in fun. All that said, there is one aspect of racing that I ALWAYS dominate…the photo shoot. That’s right friends, whether it’s a mid-race action shot or an after-party team photo, I guarantee you I’ve got  a facial expression, theme, or pose that’s  so ridiculously over-the-top enthusiastic you won’t be able to resist hitting the “like”, “share”, and/ or “retweet” button when it shows up in your newsfeed. And guess what? I have put together this handy little guide with a few tips for adding a little extra awesome to your running pics. Sit back and enjoy the ride if you will…

You’re Doing it Wrong”: Common Race Pic Faux Pas

Before we delve into to strategies for nailing a fabulous race pic every time, let’s talk about common bad race photo scenarios to be avoided at all costs…

The Narcoleptic Marathoner

The Narcoleptic Marathoner

Seriously, how do you fall asleep while you’re running?!?

The Zombie Apocalypse

The Zombie Apocalypse

The T Rex, also known to some as "Mixmaster J".

The T Rex, also known as “Mixmaster J”.

As it turns out, T Rex not only hates push ups, he also hates the final miles of a half marathon and/ or 8K.

"What do you mean this isn't a RACE WALKING marathon?!?!"

“What do you mean this isn’t a race walking marathon?!?!”

Come on folks, at least make an effort to actually be running for the race photographer.

Holy crap, this race is full of shit!

Holy crap, this race is full of shit!

Ok, so the “Holy crap” one is actually pretty unlikely unless you are, in fact, running a race involving giant piles cow dung, (and yes, that’s really what’s happening here.) But seriously y’all, how awesome is this photo?!?

And just because you've crossed the finish line doesn't necessarily mean your safe from bad the curse of the bad race pics.

And just because you’ve crossed the finish line doesn’t necessarily mean your safe from bad the curse of the bad race pics.

Yes friends, this amazing photo was captured by the official race photographer. Apparently he was so enamored with how fantastically  hilarious my teammates looked that he neglected to snap a pic of me crossing the finish line. This was all  for the best because (a) this picture is possibly the best thing I’ve ever seen. Ever.  And (b), this turned out to be one of those yak-all-over-the-finish-line type of days for me.  So be grateful that you were spared THAT unfortunate race pic!

Tips for Stepping Up Your Race Pics Game

1. Abandon All Hope of Looking Normal, Natural, and/or Pretty.

Instead I recommend the over-the-top, hyperbolically enthusiastic, this-race-is-the-best-effing-thing-that-ever-happened-to-me face, which is best served up with some sort of enthusiastic, always (mostly) HR appropriate hand gesture.  Here are some super-excited-face/ hand gesture combos that I have found to be particularly clutch for pulling off the extra-awesome race day snaps…

The Double Thumbs Up…

The Double Thumbs Up...

The Double Thumbs Up…

Far too cheesy to be unflattering.

Furthermore, the double thumbs up has the power to make you look like you are having tons of fun even after only barely surviving the most epic marathon blow up of your life.

Furthermore, the double thumbs up has the power to make you look like you are having tons of fun even after only barely surviving the most epic marathon blow up EVER.

The above photo was taken immediately after I crossed the finish line of the most heinous running experience of my life.  For reals, it was one of those days when I would frequently stop and sit in the (sketchy Eastern European) porta-johns just because that seemed like a more pleasant thing to be doing than running. At approximately mile 25 I watched myself  progressively vomit up EVERYTHING I had eaten in the last 48 hours. I can’t think of another time when  I have experienced such utter physical bodily rebellion against the act of running. But you would never in a million years guess any of that when you look at this pic because everything about my facial expression and body language says “That was  more fun than hugging 50 puppies!!!”. This picture is perhaps my greatest personal victory of that vile marathon experience. The double thumbs up is truly a powerful thing.

The Victory Arms…

The Victory Arms...

A fabulous montage of The Victory Arms in action.

Use The Victory Arms in your action shots to convince your race photo viewers that you are surely winning the race, even if you are actually still miles from the finish line.

Your Very Own Official Team Hand Gesture…

Show love for your local running club/ team with an official team hand gesture.

Show love for your local running club/ team with an official team hand gesture.

I live and run in Durham, NC, affectionately known to it’s residents as “The Bull City”. Furthermore, I work at Durham’s favorite local running store which is appropriately named Bull City Running Company. Thus, the store’s racing team’s official trademarked team hand gesture is the legendary “Bull Hands” pictured above.  It is easy to see that this official team hand gesture adds significant extra fun and badass-ness to our race photos. Because it is so intimidating (and probably also because we’re from Durham) people sometimes assume the Bull Hands represent some sort of gang affiliation. I like to believe that striking fear in the hearts of other local teams only stands to give us an extra competitive edge. So get out there and have fun coming up with your own custom group hand gesture. From time to time you my get some “WTF?!?” looks from your fellow runners, but don’t sweat those haters. You are absolutely having more fun than they are and you can rest assured that your race snaps are infinitely more exciting than theirs.

Haters gonna hate, but there's no denying that this is awesome.

Haters gonna hate, but there’s no denying that this is awesome.

2. Accessorize.

Accessories play a key role in setting you apart from the crowd.

Accessories play a key role in setting you apart from the crowd.

I think it’s pretty obvious that if you want to have awesome race pics, you are going to have to put a little effort into quite literally covering yourself with awesomeness. Accessories play a key roll in setting you apart from the crowd in your photos. My list of standard must-have high-visibility accessories includes brightly colored compression wear, Shwings (which are wings for your shoes), thematic nail polish (I have a mandatory two color minimum), my Picky Bars sweat band (Lauren Fleshman took it off of HER OWN WRIST and gave to me, y’all!), all things sparkly, and as many temporary tattoos as possible. It is important to note that there are no temporary tattoos featured in the photo of my favorite accessories above, because I used up the last 19 I had in my recent 4th of July 5K.

Remember, when it comes to temporary tattoos, spare no expense!

Remember, there is just no such thing as too many temporary tattoos!

I also try to add additional themed accessories to my race day outfit whenever possible. So far my favorites are the tutu with matching head piece and the patriotic fascinator (pictured above along with some of my 19 temporary tats). More on the importance of themes in the paragraphs to come… So don’t get lost in the crowd. Stop what you are doing right now and get yourself down to the nearest Claire’s and/or Michael’s to buy up all the sparkly, tacky goodness so you can stand out like the superstar that you are!

3. Pick  a Theme…

I have always loved a good themed event. A younger, cooler, more fun version of myself was notorious for throwing kick-ass theme parties on the regular. The debatably “more grown up” me (who uses the term “more grown up” very loosely) is considerably less inclined to throw a raging Golf Pros and Tennis Hos party, but still incorporates the element of theme into her race photos on a regular basis. (At no other point in this blog post will I refer to myself in the third person, I promise.)  So here is a little theme inspiration for you…

Don’t Be Afraid to Make Someone Else’s Theme Your Own…

Sometimes it is easiest to simply borrow someone else’s theme. This is why I generally make it a point to have my picture made with anyone dressed in an extravagant costume at a race. *Note: Do not be shy about approaching people who are thematically dressed for photo ops. They are dressed up because they WANT people to ask to have their pictures taken with them. You are only bringing them joy and validation in making such a request. Don’t think of it as approaching oddly dressed strangers. Instead, seize the opportunity to be spontaneous, make new friends, and most importantly, score some fantastic race pics.

 Here are some of the better dress-up themes I’ve encountered over the course of my illustrious career as an amazing race photo connoisseur…

'Merica!

‘Merica!

Mr. Go America here ran an entire 5K  on the 4th of July in South Carolina (not exactly a state know for its cool and comfortable 4th of July temperatures). Mad respect, dude! ‘Merica done be proud!

Pirates vs. Marathoners

Pirates vs. Marathoners

Who doesn’t love a good pirate themed marathon?!? I am on the hunt for a good ninja themed marathon to balance it out. Holla if you know of one.

Turtle Power!

Turtle Power!

Speaking of ninjas,these heroes in a half shell may have us in the creative dress department, but they didn’t stand a chance against us in the race! Next year we will be sweeping both the running part and the costume contest. Say your prayers, Ninja Turtles!

Theme Park Races…

You may also want to try doing a race in a THEME park. In my (limited) theme park racing experience it seemed that people who were not heavily accessorized and/ or dressed utterly ridiculously were in the minority. Let it be known that this was probably the thing I loved the most about theme park racing. I also found that wearing a tutu and tiara and being surrounded by a sundry Disney characters and fantastical landscapes inspired an exceptionally richly creative post-race photo shoot. Here are some of our best theme park race shots with their respective sub-themes…

"Damn, it feels good to be a gansta."

“Damn, it feels good to be a gansta.”

You know, just living the thug life in the happiest place on earth.

"Pretty Princesses" (It's a no-brainer, I know...)

“Pretty Princesses”

What can I say. When in Rome…

And my personal favorite "Impersonations of popular Olympic athlete's signature photo poses."

And my personal favorite “Impersonations of popular Olympic athlete’s signature photo poses.”

See! I TOLD YOU all the cool kids have their own signature photo shoot  move! 😉

Get Creative…

Don’t sweat it if you don’t live close to a theme park and/or ridiculously dressed race participants kind of creep you out. It is still perfectly acceptable, and in fact, encouraged to get creative and come up with your own photo themes. These themes can be as simple or as complex or as wacky and random as your heart desires! Here are some of my favorite classic race pic themes…

The Animal Kingdom:

Snapping pics like a boss with the King of the Jungle.

Snapping pics like a boss with the King of the Jungle.

It's ok to go a little buck wild every now and then.

It’s ok to go a little buck wild every now and then.

Beer:

Show a little photo love to real reason you paid money to get up early to run a long way... FREE BEER!

Show a little photo love to real reason you paid money to get up early to run a long way… FREE BEER!

Fun with Fountains:

Add a little fountain flair to your race photos!

Who doesn’t love a little fancy fountain flair?

Synchronized Jumping:

When it comes synchronized jumping pictures, we're kind of big deal!

When it comes synchronized jumping pics, we’re kind of big deal!

Generally, I am not all that into tooting my own horn, so forgive me for what I’m about to type next, but  my friends/ teammates and I pretty much wrote the book on awesome synchronized jumping pictures. Don’t hate us because our jump shots are more syched up than yours.  I think the amazing montage above and the impressive synchronized jumping multi-tasking feat documented below really speak for themselves.

We at Oiselle Team NC have perfected the synchronized jump pic...

The lovely ladies of Oiselle Team NC are especially skilled in the ways of the synchronized jump shot…

Oiselle Team NC Jump with Burger

So much so that we execute it flawlessly, even while enjoying these hearty and delicious Morningstar spicy black bean burgers!

Here’s a little insider tip from the synchronized jumping pic pros: Count up from 1 and JUMP on 3. Instruct your photographer to begin the act of snapping the picture between the numbers 2 and 3. This strategy has afforded me many successfully jumping pics using the cameras of both the iPhone 4 and 5.  Good luck, have fun, and may your jumps be ever synchronized!

My Point, and I Do Have One…

As I conclude this silly little post, you may be wondering if there is a point to it and if so, what that point might be. Well friends, I suppose it is this:  In running and life we should dream big, train hard, get out of our comfort zones, and leave it all out there whether our goal is to win the race or simply to make it to the finish line. Just make sure that it’s not all work and no play. I believe  it is of absolute paramount importance to leave a little room to have some fun, and also to celebrate the hard work, dedication, discipline and accountability that it took to get you to both the start and the finish of whatever race you may be running.  I guarantee that if you implement my proven strategies for race photo enhancement listed above you WILL experience copious amounts of pure, unadulterated kid-on-Christmas-morning-esque fun and celebration which will surely facilitate wonderful and hilarious memories as well as friendships that will last a lifetime. Furthermore, everyone in all of your various social media feeds will most likely want to be you, and that is always a nice perk. You only live once after all, so don’t waste any more time. Get out there and start hamming up those race pics and celebrating your general awesomeness as soon as possible!

Shout Out to My Peeps…

Many thanks to my terrific,  admirably self-confident and secure friends for boldly offering up their least flattering (but most awesome) race pics for use in this post. If that doesn’t epitomize fast and fabulous, well then I do know what does. And even more thanks to those very same friends for making my race photos and the experiences that they represent so truly fantastically fun! Oh, and extra special thanks to the one and only Mixmaster  J and the equally baller Jen D. for inspiring this little race photo anthology. Cheers to many more awesome race pics to come!

The Secret to Half Marathon PR Success: Stalking…Ummm, I Mean Teamwork…

Check it out y’all, I wrote another race report! Time to cozy up to the computer or mobile device of your choosing and read all about my latest running adventure, The Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon! It’s sure to be a real page-turner…

We’ll Start with Some Reflections and Some Strategy…

Leading up to Sunday’s race I had been doing a lot of reflecting on my run at Disney Princess and why it did not go so well. I know that a lot of reasons for my disappointing performance that day were entirely out my control… Heat and humidity, GI distress, tutu drag, etc. But still, it is disappointing to fall short of your target pace on race day, especially when you have been nailing said pace in all of your workouts. I was discussing this matter with my wise and speedy Oiselle teammates on our Saturday shake out/ race strategizing run when it dawned on me: I should approach this race as though it were workout! I like workouts and I am generally successful at them because they provide a structured plan of action… Run at this pace for this long, then take this much rest and repeat x number of times. All you have to do is follow a few simple steps and maybe endure a little discomfort, but before you know it you are done and you probably kicked that workout’s butt! This whole simple how-to thing usually works out really well for me.  And so somewhere in the mix of our profound and very important conversations about what’s trending on Twitter, our Oiselle spring line wish lists, the latest episode of Glee, and sweet vs. savory crepes for our post-run festival of carbo loading, my teammates/ running gurus Allison and Bigs and I put our heads together and my race day game plan was born.

We decided that the Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon should be a progression run, and we mapped it out to look something like this:

  • Miles 1 through 4: Keep it comfortable, let’s say 7:20 to 7:15.
  • Miles 5 through 9: Try to pick it up at little, but don’t go crazy… 7:10 to 7:05 pace.
  • Miles 10 through 13.1: Get the hell out of the comfort zone. It’s all out balls-to-the-wall from here to the finish.

I took great comfort in mapping out a game plan, and also in spending a lovely Saturday morning running, eating, hydrating, and power-shopping (all critical components of my day-before-the-race preparation plan) with my awesome teammates. I had a good feeling as we packed up and head east for Wrightsville Beach.

Just in case you were wondering, I was unable to choose a winner in the great Sweet vs. Savory Crepe debate. This left me no choice but to have one of each.

Just in case you were wondering, I was unable to choose a winner in the great Sweet vs. Savory Crepe debate. This left me no choice but to have one of each.

Upon our arrival at the beautiful North Carolina coast, we enjoyed a pleasant afternoon and evening of packet pick-up, more shopping, 5K watching/ cheering, a very carbohydrate-intensive team dinner, and of course, a serious green nail polish mani-pedi party… I mean, is it even possible to run a race on St. Patrick’s Day without green finger and toe nails?

All for one, and St. Paddy's Day manicures for all!

All for one, and St. Paddy’s Day manicures for all!

I awoke on St. Patrick’s Day morning feeling reasonably well rested, well hydrated, and ready to kick some ass. My fabulously fun teammates and I donned our race kits and all the sparkly green accessories we could find and jogged/ booty danced our way to the start line. (Apparently dance parties are the new half marathon warm up of champions.)  Before we knew it, the gun went off and so did we.

Bigs and I take a quick moment between the dance party warm up and the starting gun to model our fly new Oiselle spike bags before depositing them at bag drop.

Bigs and I take a quick moment between the dance party warm up and the starting gun to model our fly new Oiselle spike bags before depositing them at bag drop.

The Mile By Mile Breakdown…

Right away my teammate Caren (Caren is the reigning Masters North Carolina State Champion of the mile distance.  She’s kind of a big deal.) pulled up to me, and I breathed a giant sigh of relief. I was admittedly lacking confidence in my ability to execute the race plan on my own, so I was extremely grateful to have some company. We easily rolled through mile 1 in 7:11 and I decided to rein it in a little, even it meant losing Caren. She humored me with a conservative  7:17 mile for #2, but pulled away by mile 3, which I ran in a somewhat embarrassing 7:28. Fortunately, the running gods were smiling on me and I missed the slowest split of the day as it popped up the watch. Had I been aware of it, I suspect it would have psychologically derailed me for the remainder of the race. By mile 4 I was back on track with a 7:15 and it was Hammer Time. Hammer Gel time, that is. I celebrated completing phase one of the game plan with a delicious raspberry Hammer Gel.

Raspberry Hammer Gel, the race day nectar of the gods...

Raspberry Hammer Gel, the race day nectar of the gods…

Time to step it up a little… I was able to accomplish this pretty easily thanks to my first sighting of the officially Bull City Track Club cheering section (i.e. Jason Page toting the camera and the child-filled baby jogger,) plus an especially awesome NC State-themed aid station complete with a pack’s worth of cardboard cut-out wolves and guy with a sign that read “FREE HIGH FIVES”. (I don’t really have any special attachment to NC State University, but who doesn’t love a good cardboard wolf pack?) I cashed in my free high-five as my watch chirped a big  7:05 for mile 5, and to my great joy I caught a glimpse of Caren maybe a quarter of mile ahead of me!  I immediately adjusted my game plan to include reeling her in by mile 10 so we could work together for the balls-out portion of the race.

I kept my sights set on Caren for miles 6 and 7, which were 7:09 and 7:10 respectively. Although I did not seem to be gaining any ground on her, she didn’t seem to be putting any distance on me either, and this kept my optimism for catching her alive.

At mile 8 I came across some nice, chatty marathoners and clicked off a 7:04 thanks to their pleasant company. The power of a little friendly distraction never ceases to amaze me.

But wait, where is Caren?! We’re getting dangerously close the “Beast Mode On” phase of the race plan, and I haven’t caught her yet! Balls! Time to focus. I downed Hammer Gel #2, the espresso flavor this time for good measure. At this point I realized that all I really needed to do now was run 4 miles at 7:00 min pace. This was precisely the tempo workout I ran last week and it went particularly well for me.  Just the confidence boost I needed. That, and oh yeah, THERE’S CAREN and I am starting to close the gap!

I very nearly yelled as loud as I could “HEY CAREN, WAIT FOR ME!!!”, but then it occurred to me that this was a totally selfish/ ridiculous thing to do and that Caren probably wasn’t especially interested in throwing her own ballin’ half marathon time out the window in the name of getting me through the last 3 miles of the race. As I rolled through mile 9 in 7:01 and mile 10 at 6:58 I rejoiced at the realization that I was totally rocking the execution of the game plan and feeling strong. It also crossed my mind that I had cleared the mile marker that had been my digestive system’s demise in my last half marathon without one fleeting sign of GI distress.  Then I prayed that I had not jinxed myself by patting  myself on the back for making it this far without digestive issues. Thankfully, my prayers were answered.

By mile 11 I was definitely gaining ground on Caren. “Perfect!” I thought to myself. “Since Caren is the Master’s Mile Champion of North Carolina I am so gonna draft off of her for a super-speedy final mile.” Near the end of mile 11 I encountered the Official BCTC Cheering Section again. I had to chuckled to myself as Jason yelled at me “ELLEN, THERE’S CAREN! GO GET HER!!!” Yeah, no kidding dude.  I have been stalking her as “Every Breath You Take” by The Police plays in my head the entire race! And then with the help of a 2nd round of free high fives from the cardboard wolf pack aid station, something magical happened. Just like that, I CAUGHT CAREN! This time  I actually did yell her name to make my presence known, and as  Mile 11 popped at 6:51 we I kicked it into high gear for a big, glorious BCTC teamwork finish. Then somewhere in my shockingly speedy 6:29 (at least by my standards) mile 12 I lost Caren again. Except this time she was behind me.

As I charged into the final mile that bad feeling of impending vomit set in.  I channeled the wise and profound final-kick mantra of the amazing Bigs , “Don’t shoot your wad. Don’t lose your lunch.” (She really said this to me repeatedly last year in the last 800m or so of the Napa Valley Marathon as she paced me to a big ol’ Boston Qualifier.) It got me to the finish line barf-free that day in Napa, and it did the same  for me on Sunday in the home stretch at Wrightsville Beach.

Speaking of Bigs, where were all the BCTC fasties who had surely finished way ahead of me and why weren’t they out here cheering for me? I had reached the point where I could really use some encouraging words and familiar faces in my world. I breathed a tremendous sigh of relief as mile 13 flashed up at 6:35 and not any slower.  Then I graciously  turned the final corner for the remaining  .1 portion of the race to the tune of the very enthusiastic cheers of Bigs and our teammate Rachel.

I crossed the finish line with 1:32:59 on the watch and the lovely girl who very barely out-kicked me and I celebrated our matching sequined shamrock hair clips and our nearly matching new half marathon PRs (the first time breaking 1:35 for both of us) with some serious high-fiving. The celebrations continued as I learned that the aforementioned  BCTC fasties, Rachel, Jen, and Bigs had swept the podium for the women’s half marathon and that every single runner in our group had run a phatty new 13.1 PR.

BCTC fasties Rachel, Jen, and Bigs sweep the podium. (Podium not pictured.)

BCTC fasties Rachel, Jen, and Bigs sweep the podium! (Podium not pictured.)

The whole gang sporting our shiny new half marathon PRs!

The whole gang sporting our shiny new half marathon PRs!

The rest of the day was pretty much a non-stop fun-fest complete with finish line beers,  the best post-race DJ dance party I have ever experienced, a beach trip, and Irish Car Bombs for lunch.

Free Beer: The real reason we paid money to run 13.1 miles.

Free Beer: The real reason we paid money to run 13.1 miles.

In addition to winning the race, Rachel (left) DOMINATED the after DJ Dance Party. Rachel is my running AND my dance party hero.

In addition to winning the race, Rachel (left) DOMINATED the  DJ Dance Party afterwards. Rachel is my running AND my dance party hero.

It just wouldn't be a trip to the beach with out the obligatory synchronized jumping pic. Also, no small children were harmed in the taking of this phot0.

It just wouldn’t be a trip to the beach with out the obligatory synchronized jumping pic. Also, no small children were harmed in the taking of this photo.

Irish Car Bombs, because it's St. Patrick's Day and we all just ran half marathon PRs. As if we really needed a reason...

Irish Car Bombs, because it’s St. Patrick’s Day and we all just ran half marathon PRs. As if we really needed a reason…

A Few Words of Gratitude, Oscars Acceptance Speech Style…

First and foremost, I would like to thank Caren.  Caren, know that I mean this in the most sincere and non-creepy way possible when I say that I could not have been more grateful to get to watch your backside for the majority of the race if you had been Matthew McConaghey wearing chaps. Seriously though, having you there gave me focus I needed to stick to the game plan and saved me from being sidetracked by my race day nemesis; self-doubt and negative inner dialogue. Cheers to you, your tremendous new 1/2 Marathon PR, and the loss of your Irish Car Bomb virginity!

The Wrightsville Beach 13.1 experience was a huge testament to the power of teamwork in my opinion. I really believe that being a part of something bigger than myself and just knowing my friends/ teammates are out there running the same course and working towards the same goal improves my running, or at least my outlook on racing. I feel like I say this a lot, but can really never say it enough, so here I go again… Thank you to all of you wonderful people out there who race and train with me on a regular basis. Your energy, humor, and all around aweosomeness are the things that get my out of bed and running nearly every morning. All of that great stuff I just mentioned, plus the motivation, training expertise, and accountability y’all supply me with have made a better runner and a better person, and I am oh-so-grateful for that. Sometimes I wonder if I would run at all without you people. I also really appreciate how all of you are still friends with me even though I am nearly always late to our scheduled runs, even when I am the one who insists on an obscenely early start time. Y’all are the best. Thank you.

So very grateful for awesome teammates like Bigs, who is pretty much the most awesome running BFF a gal could hope for!

So very grateful for awesome teammates like Bigs, who is pretty much the most awesome running BFF a gal could hope for!

I would also like to give a big shout to the nice people who put on this lovely event. I found it to be among the most congenial courses I’ve run  recently, and after a trying training cycle of long runs in Umstead State Park,  its flatness felt particularly luxurious. To all of you out there who are on the lookout for a fast, fun, well-organized race, I highly recommend the Qunitiles Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon. Furthermore,  Kudos to the Official Bull City Track Club Cheering Section, and to Bull City Running Co. for giving me the weekend off work so I could take this little get-away.  And extra-special thanks to you, NCSU Alumni Association of the Greater Wrightsville Beach area. I doubt this new half marathon PR would have been possible without your cardboard wolf pack and your free high fives.

Oh, and I almost forgot, thanks to Shwings, which are wings for your shoes. OMG Shwings, where have you been all my life? So glad I finally found you.

This half marathon PR was brought to you by Shwings, which are wings for your shoes.

This half marathon PR was brought to you by Shwings, which are wings for your shoes.

And last, but not least, thanks to all of you for reading, and may you all be lucky enough to have a spring racing experience as fast and fabulous as mine at Wrightsville Beach! Next stop, Boston!

The Disney Princess Half Marathon: Not Very Fast, but Still Mostly Fabulous

The local running club that I am a part of asks that we write race reports for all of our races. This was a request that I routinely brushed off until recently. But after a particularly fabulous racing experience as a part of an especially great team, I decided I would jot down a few lines and send it out to the list serve, mostly as a tribute the awesomeness of my teammates, and to make everyone else jealous of how much fun we had together. “Hmmm”… I thought to myself, “this race report thing is kind of fun and it feels an awful lot like blogging, something I am striving to more of in 2013 anyway.” So I figured why not combine the two and start posting race reports on the blog…  After all, all the cool kids are doing it. I still want The Fast and the Fabulous to be more about product reviews than my personal running experiences, but just for shits and giggles (both of which are mentioned in the report you are about to read) here’s a little recap of my most recent running adventure, the Disney Princess Half Marathon…

It All Started with a Pre-Dawn Dance Party:

My 32nd birthday started off with a new waking up early PR of 3 am. On birthdays gone by I might have stayed up until this hour, but setting the alarm for this time was a first for me. I was hopeful that today would be a day that I would also set a half marathon PR, but I took one look at the outdoor temperature and humidity level (72 degrees and 90%, respectively), and was immediately consumed with feelings of doubt. I tried my best to stay optimistic as I donned my tutu and tiara and headed off to the happiest place on earth for the race. We were required to be in our corrals by 5 am for the 5:35 am race start, and as we made the long trek across the park to the starting area I realized this was going to throw a serious wrench into my warm up plan. Upon arriving at my corral I debated in my head how important it really was to warm up for a half marathon and calculated the risks of leaving the corral to do it. I didn’t see anyone else warming up and in the end I settled for some half-ass drills, the Cha-Cha Slide, Gangnam Style, and the YMCA dance in lieu of my original warm-up plan of 1 to 2 easy miles. This did nothing to bolster the feelings doubt I was experiencing on account of the North Carolina/ Florida climate difference. Furthermore, my little dance party warm-up left me feeling downright hungry, which brought on additional feelings of doubt that my modest breakfast of a mini Luna bar and a banana might be inadequate for getting me through 13.1 miles without bonking. I tried to ease my troubled mind by consuming one of my two raspberry Hammer Gels about 10 minutes prior to gun time.

Early AM Princess

That’s right friends, Bigs and I are in full-on party mode and it isn’t even 5 am yet!

The Good…

Eventually, after numerous line dance numbers, interviews with a sundry Disney characters, and some pep-rally style crowd involvement cheers the fireworks went off and fairy dust rained from the sky (no seriously, there was fairy dust) and the race began. My first order of business was to get the hell out of the starting line mayhem and settle into a decent pace. I was really hoping to keep it around 7:10 today, but I tried not to be too hard on myself when I came up with 7:25 for mile 1, and 7:20 for mile 2. After all, I had not properly warmed up…

By mile 4 I had managed to settle into a 7:15ish pace, which felt like work, but also seemed manageable. At this point I decided that my new plan was to hold on to 7:15 until mile 10 and then see if I could push the final 5K.

The Fabulous…

Suddenly, at approximately mile 6 after winding through mostly desolate access roads and parking lots, the course turned onto The Magic Kingdom’s Main Street USA which was packed with cheering crowds, and complete with a close up view of Cinderella’s Castle. Caught up in the magic of the moment, I loudly verbally expressed the joy I felt at the sight of all of this by quoting a line from the chorus of the popular Macklemore song “Thrift Shop”. The particular line that I exclaimed contains adult language so I will refrain from mentioning it in this post, as I know my mother will be reading it. We were then diverted through the Frontier Land portion of the Magic Kingdom before looping back for the climax of the Disney Princess Half Marathon experience: Running through the castle. When I signed up for this race, I remember thinking to myself rather nonchalantly “Oh cool, you get to run through Cinderella’s Castle. Whateves.” But I swear to you as I ran through that castle my inner child (which makes up a significant portion of the core of my being) had an orgasm. My apologies for not putting that more delicately, especially to you, Mom.  It was just really that fantastically amazing.

Castle

This is f@#$ing awesome!

The Ugly…

Unfortunately, the castle marked the end of the awesome part of my run and I quickly crashed from my Magic Kingdom high. As I came through mile 7 I choked down gel number two, which was a bit of a struggle made even more unpleasant by an ultra-concentrated dose of Powerade that I snagged at an aid station. At mile 8 I officially began to experience symptoms of GI distress, including but not limited to slowing down. Sigh. I thought back to my spontaneous episode of swearing on Main Street USA and wondered if this was some sort of karmic punishment for saying the f-word in The Magic Kingdom on Sunday. I prayed for forgiveness and digestive cooperation as I pressed on, willing myself not to walk. Mile 9 was about 15 seconds slower than mile 8 and mile 10 was an additional 15 seconds slower than mile 9. Rats. So much for picking it up at mile 10.

There were thousands of porta-johns on this race course. Thousands. And yet at the moment when I absolutely had to have one (circa mile 10.5) there were none to be found. I soon as I was out of sight of the army man from Toy Story who was shouting out orders of encouragement on the side of the road, I dove for the bushes in what I am sure was a most un-princess-like fashion. I will spare you the rest of the details of this part of the story.

porta john

So many here, yet you can never find one when you need one.

Getting started again after that little pit stop was perhaps the most miserable thing I’ve done all year and I was actually surprised and relieved when my split for mile 11 popped up as 7:43, seeing as it felt like every bit of  12:43.

Then somehow, by the grace of God I managed to slog out a 7:20 for mile 12, and despite a ridiculous series of twists and turns through Epcot, a 7:06 for  lucky number 13. “WHERE THE F IS THE EFFING FINISH LINE?!?!?” was the mantra the resounded in my head as that last mile split flashed up on my watch. When I finally found it, Praise The Lord, the Garmin read 13.26 miles and 1:37:33. Unfortunately, they don’t stop the clock for bathroom breaks, so my official finishing time was 1:38:51, a good 4 mins slower than my goal time. However, all feelings of disappointment quickly vanished when I was reunited with Allie, Carter, and Colleen for the most important part of race day… The photo shoot, featuring shots inspired by great Olympic athletes such as Usain Bolt, Mo Farrah, and Ryan Lochte. Here are a few snaps for your viewing enjoyment…

Usain Bolt

It all started with a little Usain Bolt….

MoBot

…which was naturally followed by the MoBot…

A little medal-biting love for Ryan Lochte...

A little medal-biting love for Ryan Lochte…

Brush ya shoulder off

Then things took a turn towards gangstaville with the brushing off of the shoulders…

And you know gotta tho up some signs cuz we'z from D-Town... You get the idea. The photo shoot was really fun.

And you know we gotta tho up some signs cuz we’z from D-Town… You get the idea. The photo shoot was really fun.

Despite a less than stellar performance that can most likely be attributed to high levels of humidity and self-doubt, the fun and fabulous aspects of the Disney Princess experience and the wonderful people I got to share it with outweighed all the running unpleasantries. Big thanks and much love to Allie, Carter, and Colleen for a lovely birthday weekend get away, and to my friend Cindy who made me the most awesome running tutu of all time especially for this race. Also, extra-special congratulations to Carter who rocked her very first half marathon!  Looking forward to some sweet 13.1 redemption and more great photo shoot fun in a few weeks at Wrightsville Beach!

5 Marathon Race Day Essentials

Barring any hurricane related cancellation (cross your fingers and think extra-positive thoughts out there people!), in exactly 4 days I am taking to the streets of The Big Apple to run the New York City Marathon! New York will be the 6th 26.2 race of my illustrious marathoning career. Now I am not claiming to be a marathon expert or guru by any stretch of the imagination, but I like to think that my first 5 marathons have taught me a thing or two about tackling this distance. I am sure I’m not the only one out there who has a big fall race on the calendar, and that is why today’s post is all about my top 5 marathon race day essentials! Let’s get started, shall we?

1. Disposable Warmth

There is no denying that weather for fall marathons can be wildly unpredictable (Exhibit A: Hurricane Sandy), but unless your fall race is in a tropical, sub-equatorial locale, the one weather scenario that you can probably count on is the chilly race start. This is why numero uno on my list of marathon race day essentials is disposable warmth. You are going to need some warm stuff that you don’t mind parting with at the start line or shortly thereafter so you don’t freeze your speedy little tush off while you are waiting for the starting gun.  My favorite disposal warmth essentials are the classic trash bag with head hole cut out and those little knit gloves from Wal-Mart that come in a pack of three for $3.00 (perfect for sharing with your running buddies!)

Classic black trash bag paired with $3.00 stripey Wal-Mart gloves: New York Fashion Week here I come!

Other handy (and free) starting line accouterments might include the mylar blanket you got at the finish line of the last marathon you did or just some old warm up gear that you never want to see again. Often races will donate discarded warm up apparel to charity, so there is a chance that you may even be abandoning your old gear to benefit the greater good!

Also, although you probably would want to dispose of them because they are super-awesome, arm warmers are a must-have fall marathon stay-warm accessory. They allow just enough warmth to keep you comfortable in only shorts and a singlet at a 40 to 50 degree start temperature, and you can easily just push them down around your wrists or tuck them into your waistband if they get too warm as temperatures rise. Or if you can’t be bothered with stashing your arm warmers on your person, you can fashion some killer disposable ones out of an old pair of tube socks using only a pair of scissors! Follow the simple instructional photo essay below to hand craft your own pair of tube sock arm warmers…

Step 1: Use scissors to cut off toe portion of tube sock.

Step 2: Wear and enjoy!

2. Facial Sun Protection

If you are an average to maybe-slightly-above-average-on-a-good-day, middle-of-the-pack marathoner like myself, you are going to be spending the better part of 4 hours out there on the race course. If you don’t arm your pretty little mug with some sun protection, you are going to be subjecting it to some serious UV rays for most, if not all of the time that you are running. Show your skin some love and apply some sunscreen and/ or wear a fabulously colorful hat or visor on race day and on all of your sunny day runs! This concludes the skin care/ skin cancer prevention PSA portion of this blog post.

This message was brought to you by The Fast and Fabulous Foundation for Skin Cancer  Free Running.

3. Fuel

So I don’t know about you, but if I am going to be running for three hours plus, there is no way I am getting through it without some kind of nourishment! As you probably already know, you can generally count on races to provide some sort of sustenance other than just water out on the course. Do your homework so you will know ahead of time what type of gels and sports drink are being offered at your race so you can try them out during training. If the official course product works well for you, then you can pack extra-light on race day. I am personally in an exclusive, committed relationship with raspberry Hammer Gel, so I typically pack my own stuff. I store my marathon day gels in all the obvious places (like that little back zipper pocket in my shorts) and some not-so-obvious places as well. (Did you know that the average A cup sized sports bra can comfortably accommodate at least 3 packs of Hammer Gel?) Make sure that come race day you know what fuel you need and where to stash it on your person! Be sure to practice both your fuel consumption and storage strategies in advance in order to avoid race day unpleasantries such as bonking, sternum chafing from the energy gels in your sports bra, etc.

Just look at this mad gel storage capacity! And I’m not even wearing a shirt!

Note the gel storage capacity of my race day outfit pictured above: That would be 3 gels in my sports bra, 2 in both the back and side pockets of my Oiselle Distance Shorts, 1 in each of my compression socks, and 1 in each arm warmer. This comes to a grand total of 11 gels. Please understand that I am not suggesting that you will need to consume 11 gels in order to complete a marathon. I am just saying that with a little creative thinking you can easily carry all the fuel you (and up to 2 other people) need for 26.2 miles completely hands and fuel belt free.

4. An Outfit that Makes You Feel Fast and Fabulous

You might have already guessed that I am a firm believer in the “look fast, run fast” philosophy. I also believe that my race day outfit should be a reflection of my personality and my attitude.  Therefore, I want it to be as bright and cheery and fabulous as possible. I am also not ashamed to admit that I want my race day outfit to get attention from spectators. I personally feel that the marathon distance is even more psychologically challenging than it is physical challenging. Ergo, I make a concerted effort to position myself to soak up every ounce of positive energy I possibly can on the race course. For me the signature race day accessories that make me feel extra fast and fabulous are my hot pink CEP compression socks. Not only do they keep my feet, ankles, and calves snugly compressed and supported, they also elicit chants of “Nice socks!” and “Go Pink Socks Girl!” from the crowd. These words of encouragement are every bit as valuable to me as any performance benefits of compression!

You know you can’t help cheering aloud  as you look at this photo of my fast and fabulous compression socks.

Whatever you choose to wear on marathon day should make you feel fast and awesome. However, your marathon outfit should not be something that you picked up the night before at the expo. I certainly love trying out new and exotic running gear as much, if not more than the next guy, but when it comes to selecting your marathon outfit keep this wise running adage in mind: “No new is good new.” You are going to be spending several hours of quality time running in your marathon threads, so it is important to know exactly what to expect from them. Purchase your super-fly race day ensemble  a month or so in advance and have yourself a little long run dress rehearsal so you will know ahead of time if those cute new boy shorts chafe you with an inch of your life or have a seam that just drives you crazy. This way you will have some margin of error for making outfit changes if needed, and you’ll be sure to avoid race day wardrobe malfunctions.

5. A Kick-Ass Cheering Section: You Deserve and Need to Feel Like a Rock Star

Do not under-estimate the importance of a great cheering section. Trust me, your personal marathon fan club has the power to make a good race awesome and bad race at least a little better.  I have found the marathon experience to be a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I think it is safe to say that in every single marathon I have completed I have run not only 26.2 miles, but also the entire gambit of emotions that one might experience while running… Exhilaration, doubt, depression, euphoria, fear, anxiety: Yeah, I’m pretty sure the whole gang has showed up at every one of my marathons thus far, in varying quantities and forms of course. A little encouraging distraction from a cheering bunch of people who love you, or just a familiar face in the crowd can really go a long way in saving you from your potentially destructive marathon internal dialogue. (I don’t know about all of you, but the little voice inside my head is my number one arch nemesis on race day.)

Hilarious distractions such as this awesome sign are always welcome.

*Note to all of you who are reading this from the perspective of marathon spectator: This is your marathoner’s big day! The nicest, most supportive thing you can do for them right now is lovingly tolerate and indulge all of their anal retentive, obsessive compulsive race preparation behavior. They also need you to get out there on the race course and cheer your face off for them. No matter what the outcome of your marathoner’s race, they will be oh-so-greatful for your wonderful support when you meet them at the finish line.

I have found that it is also extremely helpful to train and race with a pack. I am very fortunate to be  part of a particularly supportive, talented, inspiring, and hilarious running group. I honestly can’t remember how I ever got out of bed to go for a run before I started training with them. Six of us will be traveling to New York to run the marathon, even if we have to drive there all the way from North Carolina! We all have different time goals and run at very different paces, and with 48,000 runners on the course, I know that chances of seeing my teammates out there are slim to none. But just knowing that I am part of something bigger than myself, and that they are running the same race as me and sending me good thoughts and positive energy, is comforting and exciting and motivating.

 

Just look how fabulous these ladies are! It’s no wonder that training with them makes me run faster!

So bribe your training BFF into pacing you,  map out spectating routes for your friends, family, and significant others, and bedazzle your name across your singlet! Do whatever it takes to keep you feeling like the extra-special rock star that you are on race day!  Believe me, every little bit helps!

Best wishes to all of you fall marathoners out there, and thanks so much for reading! I hope that you will find my 5 marathon race day essentials to be useful in reaching new heights of marathon success!