Shamrock Marathon Recap & #SeekToInspire

Shamrock Marathon Weekend Recap and #SeekToInspireScreen Shot 2015-03-23 at 8.50.20 AM

What an experience. My dad and I started Friday morning standing around (*cheering) at November Project DC and I soaked up some last minute good vibes and positivity before heading down to Virginia Beach, where we had dinner with 4 November Project tribes. Saturday morning brought us a shakeout run led by Bart Yasso. This was the fastest group of runners I’ve ever run with, including Mike Wardian (multiple WR holder, including fastest treadmill 50k, completed 30 hours after a prior attempt), Jen Bigham who is a 1:15 half marathoner (Jen’s blog inspired me to take a big chance on this race rather than play it conservatively), and a 12 year old who was chasing a 1:19 half marathon for another World Record. Fortunately, “easy pace “ meant the same to all of us, so we ran a couple miles at 8:00 or so.

Saturday afternoon was spent around the expo, tagging #GrassrootsGear with now the 5 November Project tribes in town. Talk about high spirits.

#TagEverything

#TagEverything

I was listening to Bart Yasso speak, while wearing a shirt tagged with November Project. A woman came up to me and said that she’s been a couple of times before and that #WorldTakeover is real. I posted about how awesome that was on Facebook, and didn’t think much more of it. We ended up talking more afterwards and took a photo. On the way to dinner, I noticed we happened to follow each other on Twitter, and that we have about a hundred mutual friends through NP. What a small world.

Sunday morning was race day. The start line was about 50 feet from my hotel, and I was still way short on time. The elevator seemed like it was never going to show up, so I ran down twelve flights of stairs instead (not recommended!!!!/#trainingforlife). I lined up and immediately shed my throwaway long sleeve, as I was pretty warm already.

I lined up with the 3:05 pace group, and planned on letting them get ahead of me a little bit. It seemed like a few other runners had the same plan (to negative split the race) which led to some great conversations just behind the main pack, while also helping to block the nasty wind.

The first 4 or 5 miles went perfectly, right around 7:05-7:15 – perhaps a few seconds too fast if anything. I saw Mike Wardian cruising around mile 4 after he hit the turnaround. It was an awesome lift to hear him say “nice job buddy you’re right on pace!” as I certainly was. I saw Jen Bigham just a minute or so later.

After the turnaround, I started to get a side stitch that seemed to get worse with every stride. I tried everything that had successfully made them go away before, with no positive results. I took my first serving of ENERGYbits earlier than planned, at about the 10k (44:10, right on pace) but wasn’t able to get enough water. I tried walking through the next couple water stops, as this had helped in the past. The side stitch hung on until mile 18, getting worse every mile.

Mile 10 brought the boardwalk, with a strong head wind. I tucked in behind a guy probably twice my size, which created a nice barrier for the wind. I turned around and saw 3 other people drafting behind me as well. Someone called out from their hotel balcony “that’s cheating!” but it sure helped.

At the half, I was at 1:33:38 (now my second fastest half), with a goal of 1:33. My coach later said I ran this almost perfectly, and now it was time to pick it up and cover the next 13.1 in 1:30. I saw my dad, who had just run his first half, and he announced he did it in 2:08, which was incredible because he was thinking 2:30. That definitely provided a boost, and helped me pick it up to what was my fastest mile of the day, at 6:58. With the goal of easing into 6:55, and then 6:50, I was off to a great start on the back half. Next miles: 7:03, 7:19, 7:30, 7:55. I had just lost almost two full minutes, but was still in range of a 3:05.

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Overall pace… 7:55 min/mi

I threw up for the second time (oops TMI) right around there. I was pushing my body harder and for longer than I ever had before, and my fueling was way off. This part hurts the most, because it’s normally my strong suite. I was underhydrated, cramping due to electrolyte loss and sweating and despite taking in Nuun. I have a new respect for anyone who successfully completes a race in different conditions than what they trained in.

Between 19-21 I ran in the 8’s, and then 22-24 were 10-11 minute miles. The run walking started, and I saw a lot of other runners struggling at this point too. The 3:15 pacer passed me around mile 20, and the 3:25 pacer caught me with 2 miles to go.

I dragged on, and dropped to 8:20 for mile 25 as I turned onto the boardwalk. This part was deceptive because I thought as soon as I made the turn, I was done (my watch’s distance had been funky) but I had about a half mile on the boardwalk, as I dropped back down to 7:11 for the final stretch.

My final 10k was 61 minutes, and I crossed the finish line at 3:27. It was humbling, painful and I’m proud of somehow still managing a 7-minute PR. It still hurts to train so hard in such ridiculous conditions as we had in Boston and come up 22 minutes short. To see friendly faces (my dad, November Project VB and others) helped calm me down and realize what I had still accomplished.

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King Neptune – the photo taken about 1 second later showed a pure look of disgust at the .25 miles left to go

Shamrock Marathon was a great weekend and J&A Racing puts on a great race including an 8k on Saturday (and 1 mile run) and a half and full marathon on Sunday. The crowd support is good at the start and end, and there’s plenty of beer available on the course. The marathon starts 90 minutes after the half, and I passed a lot of half marathoners at my mile 10-13 (which was theirs as well) and then the marathoners from my 21-23.5, at that same marathon mile 10-13 spot. It was a nice distraction, especially as I was hurting at that point.

The expo was solid, and I easily spent a decent amount on stuff I actually needed. As a sponsor, Livestrong was there and was selling their $100 gym/travel bags for $20, along with $10 arm warmer/sleeves.

#SeekToInspire – what I really care about

The way I see it though, I had already won. The part I haven’t been telling people is how much I’ve enjoyed the journey and consistent training rather than the time on my watch. So many people have reached out to tell me that they’ve been following my progress and it has inspired them to take on a ridiculous goal for them (BQ, sub 2 half, a big PR, first marathon…) or simply stay consistent with their own training through the worst winter in Boston’s history.

This means a whole lot more to me than any time on my watch ever can. A twitter friend has been tweeting #SeekToInspire lately, using her own journey battling some health issues to inspire others to stay motivated, no matter the situation. We’ve been talking a lot lately and she’s helped me to figure out what’s most important to me.

“I want to inspire others in life. It’s what I do. I’ve lived a very hard life and gone through hell, I’ve overcome so much and I want others to set goals and overcome obstacles and I want to inspire others to do amazing things. Because they can because they want to & not question if it’s possible, and also look to inspire others as they continue along their own journey.”

-Asheton Brown

I put my goal out there and was not afraid of failing. I was proud of the work I needed to put in and I worked my ass off, training 7 days a week, often running in sub zero temperatures, or for 2 and a half hours on an indoor track. If I was able to inspire just one person to set the bar high with a scary goal, then I’ve already won.

This makes all those early mornings and days where you need 25 pieces of clothing just to run a couple miles, worth it.

Maybe I’ll get the urge to take on another marathon in the near future, but I’ve battled through two so far with the final 5-8 miles of both races being extremely uncomfortable. I much prefer the type of discomfort you get from speed at a shorter distance than the physical type from longer distances, in addition to the success I continue to have. I understand marathons aren’t supposed to feel good, but it’s not the kind of discomfort I enjoy. I LOVE the hurt of the 5k and the half.

I was blown away by the support I got after my race, both from what I posted as well as people who were tracking me on their own. To all of you, thanks – it means a ton. What many of you shared with me helped with a lot of guidance.

For now, I’m excited to get back to November Project and give it 100% 3x a week with some of the most motivating and inspirational people I’ve ever met…



I’m ready.

I’m ready.

It’s time. I’m sitting on the train headed to DC today, and then Virginia Beach tomorrow for marathon number 2, and to drop a major PR and qualify for Boston in the process.

21 indoor track miles, including an outdoor run to and from.

21 indoor track miles, including an outdoor run to and from.

It’s been an insane winter of training, ranging from running with a face mask in -25 degrees or a 2:45 long run around an indoor track because there simply wasn’t anywhere to get in quality speed work outside. I’m going to draw on that type of mental training when the miles start to get harder this weekend.

I finished last year with a couple of big 5k PR’s, and then totally lost focus and the motivation to run fast without a goal in mind. I decided the BQ would be my next goal, and with a solid base of training for speed in the shorter 5k (dropped PR by almost two minutes to a 17:42 from August through November) with and a whole lot of race day, confidence building repetitions, my coach and I decided to take on the BQ.

My first marathon looked like this, and ended with a nasty uphill climb. I walked quite a bit during the last 4 miles, and while my overall average was 8:12, I was around 10-11 minute miles at that point.

 

In comparison, Shamrock is almost entirely flat.

In comparison, Shamrock is almost entirely flat.

This round of training has been much different. Due to a trip to the Olympics last February, I lost an entire two weeks of training. My 3 longest long runs were 22, 18 and 16 miles. This time around I’ve progressed to 45+ mile weeks (was at 30-35 for first marathon) while adding much more intense speed workouts. I’ve also seriously upped my nutrition game thanks to InsideTracker, which has fueled my ability to recover faster and feel more energized towards the end of harder efforts AND throughout the day after training.

InsideTracker inspired food shopping

InsideTracker inspired food shopping

I’ve learned a lot from other runners lately too. I used the mantra “Get Uncomfortable” during the 5k PR in November. It isn’t supposed to be easy! Another thing that has worked has been “it’s hard to hurt when you’re smiling,” which has made me look like a psycho while pushing a 6 minute pace through the hills of Newton along the Boston Marathon course, as well as on a couple tempo treadmill runs at the gym.

IMG_7115My big 5k PR came at a race where I was surrounded by family. My dad was there, as well as my November Project family. The same will be true in Virginia Beach, who just got an official November Project tribe. Despite not actually knowing many of these people prior to race weekend, the community that NP has created is full of incredibly supportive and motivating people.

I read this blog from Deniz, one of the leaders of NP Boston about ten billion times prior to my final 5k PR in the fall. The next day, Evan (another leader) came up to me at the start line and promised to carry me to a PR by pacing me the whole way, which he did. Emily, the 3rd co-leader’s motivating words on the blog and in person have kept me focused and motivated to succeed.

“At the end of the day, your marathon time is just a number, but your attitude about setting the bar high and striving for it makes the difference.” – DenizIMG_7123

Recently, Shalane Flanagan shared: “My goal is to inspire our next generation to chase down their personal excellence and passion.” The most exciting part of my marathon training this time around is how many people have reached out to say that my focus, determination and progress has been inspiring them to get out there in the snow/wind/cold/rain and set crazy goals for themselves.

That’s what makes it all worth it to me. Personal progress is great, but to be able to inspire others is even better. I’ve had friends decide to sign up for their first marathon, or people on Twitter commit to some crazy goal they’ve been thinking about for months and finally put it out there in writing. My dad is even running his first half this weekend! I’ll remember all of this, as well as much more come race day.

Deniz: “We can only get better if we set the bar high. The part we shy away from is to tell everybody that’s what we want to do. We don’t want to sound cocky. We don’t want to say something, and end up being far away from it and look like a fool. But, that is exactly what we should do: set the bar high and tell everybody about it. That’s how we will get support, that’s how we will inspire others, and that’s how we will excel in what we do.

As Deniz and Shalane have shared, the real gains come when you verbalize your goals, and not scared to fail. You never know who you’re inspiring.

In about 18 hours I’ll be at November Project DC, after spending Wednesday morning with Project Austin, in Texas. In almost exactly 3 days, if all goes as planned, I will be wrapping up the Shamrock Marathon. Bring. It. On.



Impact of InsideTracker and a Training Update
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Shalane Flanagan’s Back the Track 5k

It’s been exactly four months since my first InsideTracker test. After reviewing my recommendations (over and over again) and beginning to make some changes, I’ve experienced some incredible results. Within the first month of my test, I dropped a full minute from my 5k time, and hit my goal of sub 18, two weeks early. I PR’d in 3 5k’s in November (:14, :30 and :16) to bring my time down to a 17:42.

Despite adding 15 more miles per week to bring my weekly average right around 45 miles per week, my recovery, sleep and overall energy levels have improved. I’m sleeping better than I ever have since I started running, and long runs are not as taxing as they used to be. A large part of that is training adaptation, as I’m sure my coach will be quick to point out, but the difference between October and November’s long runs was dramatically different.

What’s different? I’ve focused on improving my cortisol (stress level), muscle health, Vitamin D, magnesium and eating more fish (leading to more protein) and other fatty foods, as well as my “personalized Focus Foods,” specifically chia and avocado.

First, cortisol. CortiScreen Shot 2015-02-27 at 10.14.53 AMsol is a stress hormone that has an impact on quite a few other markers. One thing that InsideTracker, has made me very aware of is the impact of sleep. As a result, I’ve also added in daily analysis via Heart Rate Variability monitoring (how recovered/rested you are – high is good). I followed a few of the recommendations related to lowering cortisol from a nutrition standpoint, as well as making certain I get a bare minimum of 7 hours per night. I’ve been aiming for 7.5-8 as much as possible, and have moved a few runs each week to the evening so that I can sleep a few minutes later. I’ve also been drinking less, which I’m sure helps everything. Instead of going out 2 nights a week, it’s been 1 or more of a calmer night in with friends. Longer long runs also made this a requirement anyways, but it’s cool to see the impact on liver health as a result.

All liver related markers (ALT, AST, GGT, and Albumin) have either moved into the optimized zone, or towards the middle of it.

All liver related markers (ALT, AST, GGT, and Albumin) have either moved into the optimized zone, or towards the middle of it.

HRV also helped me pick up on the impact that standing for an hour or two after a long run (or any hard run) has on recovery, in that the data shows that I’ve recovered faster when I don’t sit around after 2+ hours running. That’s a challenge in and of itself, but worth it in the long run.

Running commutes (when possible earlier in the fall) also added an extra hour to my day on recovery run days, so that is very helpful when it comes to getting extra sleep.

 

InsideTracker inspired food shopping

InsideTracker inspired food shopping

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 11.24.32 AMBone and Muscle health: I started supplementing with Vitamin D, as it’s much harder to absorb (naturally) in the winter especially in New England. I went with 5000IU, which ended up being too much. I’ll scale back on that to bring it into the optimized zone, and will stop probably by May.

InsideTracker recommended I start weight training to help with muscle health, which I started doing 2x a week. With a 7 day running program, at first it was difficult figuring out which days were best to add a double to, but after speaking with Jenny Hadfield from Runners World, I learned that most of the elites strength train in the evening of days that they have speed work in the morning.

It’s clearly had an impact. Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 10.05.43 AM

One of my problem areas still seems to be magnesium. Despite it being in the optimized zone, after speaking with a few dietitians, I’d like to see it higher. At the advice of one of them, I began supplementing 2-3x daily, which didn’t have an impact on changing the level. I’ve also been making it a point to eat dark chocolate every day, which impacts both magnesium and cortisol. And because it’s awesome. (lesson: chocolate is good for you, because #science).

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I spoke with our sport scientist about this, and he said it’s likely due to a high training load and my body’s ability to use/process magnesium with the amount of training. As much as I’m opposed to supplementation and prefer a real, whole foods approach, I already eat plenty of magnesium rich foods. I’ll continue with the magnesium, and focus on incorporating more magnesium rich foods as well and see if I’m able to reduce the amount, while still increasing the level. My sleep quality has definitely improved, and I’m sure it’s related despite the number not changing.

I was happy to see cholesterol levels drop, despite continuing to eat 3-4 eggs (yolk included) just about every day. I’ve been eating less red meat, and a whole lot more fish. Canned wild salmon ($3 for 2-3 servings) or canned wild herring ($3, one serving) has been my go to source of protein for lunch. More fiber has been helping too I’m sure.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 10.08.43 AMWhat still needs work? Blood sugar level, which only saw a very trivial decrease. Fine, I’ll eat MORE avocados.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 10.13.39 AMInsideTracker has been a huge wake up call to show a path to success, and that’s been the feedback I’ve heard from many of our users as well. Overall I’m thrilled with the progress, and have some more work to do with a few of the other markers (Ultimate includes 30 total biomarkers).

Non fitness related impact:  I’ve felt more energy throughout the day at work (full disclosure, I do work for InsideTracker so we’re a pretty lively bunch to begin with!) and haven’t experienced the same fatigue or mental fog that I often occasionally get in the afternoon. I’m waking up feeling much more refreshed too.

Training update: The insane winter we’re having has been causing some problems with normal training routines, but we’ve been adapting, whether that’s a tempo run on a treadmill, or 20 miles/170+ laps on a 200m track (I NEVER want to do that again) or just layering up and running through it.

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A little #weatherproof, with a side of crazy

I have just over 3 weeks to go until my next marathon and first BQ attempt. While I’d love to get the BQ sooner rather than later, I’m not sure if my fitness is at a point where I can run 26.2 miles at a sub 7 pace and hit 3:03 or faster. I did a long run a few weeks ago that covered 16 miles at a 7:16 pace, and then finished 21 at a 7:30ish pace. This was a group run, and I went out faster than planned and expected to get dropped in the first 3 miles, but 2 hours later I found myself closing the final mile of the group part at around 6:45/mile. Eighteen months ago that was nearly my all out mile pace.

It ended up being somewhat of a time trial, as I completed 21 at what would have been just over a 3:15 marathon pace if I had gone a little further. I wasn’t intending for this to be a race pace long run, but rather a long slow distance due to the poor road conditions and the fact that most of the run was on the rolling hills of Newton including Heartbreak Hill.

My long runs are in segments of a longer easy piece, just over a mile at a fast pace, and then 3 minutes at an even faster pace. I’ve done this 4x for most of my long runs lately, but last week’s was 5x. Out of nowhere (coach says it’s the training obviously) I found myself (just barely) sub 6:00 for the last 3 minutes right around mile 19. This is the second time that’s happened (goal pace for 3:00 minutes is 5:50-5:59). I’ve been noticing that lately I have a kick/extra gear at the end of long runs that I’ve never felt before.

A bit of foolishness (not following instructions from coach) led to a tweaked hamstring in the November Project Sunrise 6k (turned 5 mile tempo), so I’m hoping to heal up real fast and arrive at the starting line a bit rested (a recent long run was turned into a 2 hour bike) and recovered. Who knows what will happen at Shamrock Marathon, but I’m going to work to make it a big PR.

 



How can InsideTracker help you?

About a month ago I joined the InsideTracker team. I was excited for a new challenge career-wise, but I had no idea the impact that it’d have on my running and overall health.Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 3.00.50 PM

Short summary: InsideTracker provides specific recommendations based on analysis of hormone and nutrient biomarkers in your blood. The goal of the program is to help optimize these levels.

As someone who eats pretty healthy, I wasn’t sure how much of an impact InsideTracker could have. That couldn’t have been any further from the truth. We all can stand to improve our nutrition a bit more, and InsideTracker picked up on nearly a dozen things I could do differently that would have a substantial impact on my performance.

Most notably, my creatine kinase (a marker related to muscle health) was a little high, as well as cortisol (stress hormone), LDL and glucose (which is the most important marker contributing to longevity and anti-aging) and magnesium, vitamin D were on the lower end.

Magnesium has been called the “miracle mineral” and impacts everything from sleep, to mood, to athletic performance. From InsideTracker’s recommendations page:

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 3.19.14 PMBeing on the lower end of the “optimized zone,” I already knew this was one I wanted to monitor. While I appear in the “optimized zone,” it’s still the lower side of it. I’m excited to see the changes from incorporating more magnesium into my diet.

“82% of the US population is compromising their longevity by not looking carefully/maintaining their glucose”Gil Blander, Founder

Glucose is another marker that InsideTracker flagged as one that I should pay more attention to. I’ve been drinking several cups of green tea daily, as well as eating more nuts, as recommended by InsideTracker. A perfect example of how InsideTracker is different than a standard blood test with your doctor can be seen in the image below. “Normal results for a fasting blood glucose test are less than 100mg/dL,” which means a doctor would tell me my glucose levels are fine. InsideTracker’s system takes into account height, weight, activity level, alcohol consumption and gender to narrow the “acceptable” zone into a more personalized, optimal range.

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 4.42.03 PMAvocado showed up for a good number of the recommendations, as did chia, so I’ve been working on adding more of those as well as other healthy fats (olive oil, almonds, cashews, etc) into my routine. I haven’t had the ravenous hunger issues since beginning to incorporate these recommendations as well. The image below comes from my personalized “Focus Foods” which the system has determined as having the largest potential to improve my overall health and longevity based on a metric called “InnerAge,” which is essentially a measure of how old your body is, compared to your biological age. Mine was higher than I expected, mostly due to elevated glucose and very low vitamin D levels. I’m excited to see that number drop the next time I test.

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 4.44.29 PMI was happy to see all of my inflammation markers were almost perfectly optimized. Inflammation is the cause of many diseases so it’s critical to have under control. ENERGYbits are one of the most anti-inflammatory foods, and I eat at least a serving or two every day, so I’m sure that’s been helping.

This all leads me to the most important part: results. I’m feeling faster, stronger and healthier than ever before and my running performance gives me the numbers to prove it. I’ve felt stronger towards the end of my racing than I ever have before, and in November alone I dropped a full minute from my 5k PR. Three PR’s: first of 30 seconds, then 16, then 14 seconds. I hit my goal 5k time two weeks early, and ended up improving that time by an additional 14 seconds, good for a 17:42 5k. My goal was sub 18. I was tested mid October and began making changes within two days of the test, and all through November I was hitting or exceeding my goal paces during training and racing.

I’m excited to see what kind of impact this will have once the marathon training picks back up again in January, as I push forward towards my goal of qualifying for Boston. The longer and more intense the training gets, the more important nutrition becomes. Since I need to cut more than 30 minutes from my 1st marathon, I need every edge I can get.Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 4.57.18 PM



Today’s goal: Get Uncomfortable.

Today’s goal: Get Uncomfortable. I saw those two words together for the first time after a friend commented on my Instagram photo from last night of all my running gear laid out for today’s Back the Track 5k. I didn’t understand it at first, but seconds later, it clicked. Anything worth striving for isn’t supposed to be easy.

Yesterday I read a gem of a blog post by Deniz (PLEASE read it), one of the November Project tribe leaders here in Boston. Quick recap of Deniz for anyone not familiar: he’s an Ironman and ran a 3:30 something marathon AFTER the swim and bike “warmup.” He’s BQ’d, and is insanely fast.

That alone would be good enough. Not only is Deniz a talented athlete, he’s also one of the most humble and caring people I’ve ever met. Deniz’ post yesterday was all about “setting the bar high” and being ok with failure. Failure means you had the nerve to challenge yourself by stepping outside your comfort zone and pushing the limit of your own ability.

Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 3.27.30 PMWe had a special guest yesterday at November Project. Shalane Flanagan, a US Olympian and one of the fastest women in the world joined us. I’ve been learning a lot from Shalane’s successes and even more from when she isn’t successful. The second I saw the quote to the right, I started sharing my goals with other runner friends. Instantly something clicked. I had this burning fire inside me to get faster, push harder and crush my goal, which at the time was a sub 18 5k. (Point of reference: 9/2013 my PR was 20:53. Going into summer 2014 it was mid 19’s.)

Coach knows best. I’ve been working with Steven for over a year now and he knows my ability better than I do apparently. But that’s why he’s the coach. It’s certainly a reality check when your coach shakes off a 16 second PR with a “congrats, now let’s get 10 seconds faster.” I know he’s excited for me, but he knows I can do better. I wouldn’t be anywhere close to the speed I’m at without him.

Many of my November Project friends helped me get there, whether that was joining in on a track workout or racing up Summit Ave, it was certainly not a solo effort.

This brings me to today. After reading Deniz’ post a dozen times in the last 24 hours, I decided to write “Get Uncomfortable” on my wrist. Shalane said recently, “if it’s not hard, you’re not dreaming big enough.” After PRing and hitting my sub 18 goal early two weeks ago (17:56) my coach’s goal for today’s race was not just sub 18, as I had been training for, but 10 seconds faster, a 17:46. This terrified me. I barely snuck in under 18 minutes, and now I had to cut another 10 seconds off of that? Scary.

IMG_7115“If you think you can run a sub-4 hour marathon, and on a really good day you think you may be able to run the marathon in 3h 40m, that should be your goal. Tell the whole world that you want the run the marathon in 3 hours and 40 minutes. Who cares if you fail? Who cares if you ran it in 3 hour 55 minutes? It may sound more successful to say: “I ran a sub-4 hour marathon with 5 minutes to spare.” But, believe me it is much more badass and inspiring to say: “I wanted to run a 3h 40m marathon, I was 15 minutes off, but I will get better, work harder and try again”. At the end of the day, your marathon time is just a number, but your attitude about setting the bar high and striving for it makes the difference. And apply this to everything you do. I want to run 50 sections at the stadium. I want to be more loving to my friends and family. I want to be a better husband/wife, mom/dad, sibling. I want to solve this problem today. I want to ask that girl/guy out.

– Deniz of November Project Boston

That post couldn’t have been more timely. I was proud of my sub 18 (and 46 seconds worth of PR in the last 3 weeks), and would’ve been happy hitting the same time again today, as it was my original goal race, and original goal.

Nope. Not with this crowd.

The second I shared the 17:46 goal and heard myself say it out loud, I knew I had to crush it. This gets back to sharing your goals. Be proud of your dreams and the work it takes to get there.

This takes me to the race. I started my morning with my race day routine of bulletproof coffee, chia and a serving of ENERGYbits.

Race morning today was a little different. November Project friends were EVERYWHERE. Racing or not, we showed up in numbers. Mentally I was in a much different place prior to this race. I was ready to crush it.

At 9:15 I set out for my 15 minute warmup and then dynamic stretches. I had another serving of Bits, and then found my way over to the starting line. Out of the blue, Evan Dana, another NP Boston leader comes up to me and tells me that he’s going to make sure I PR today.IMG_7125

We set out at a 4:50 pace until the first turn, and I knew I needed to slow down. I ran alongside Evan and a few minutes later, Deniz catches up to us and said hello (or something like that, my music was too loud). Mile 1 passes, and I look at my watch and it said 5:32. I shouted “Fuck Yeah” (typical November Project) and Evan gave me a fist bump. We made a turn, and then saw the .4 mile long hill. Here’s where it really helped having Evan pacing me. I turned my watch over, and followed him for pacing instead. We probably slowed a couple seconds per mile, but glided up and over the hill. Thanks Summit Ave.

The route was a rectangle, and the last turn put us headed toward the finish. Conveniently, my warmup run brought me almost right to that turn, so I knew how much further we had. My 3rd mile pace was 5:52, but once I saw the finish line and could hear all my November Project friends, I dropped into a sprint with everything I had left at 2.9 miles in, with .2 to go. It felt faster, but the last .1 was at a 5:30 pace. As soon as IIMG_7123 could see the clock, I could see it said 17:4 but couldn’t read the second number. My heart sank as I gave every last ounce of effort I had. In what seemed like slow motion, I crossed the finish line to see only two seconds had ticked off. I crossed at 17:42, 4 seconds UNDER my goal.

I went found Evan and gave him a giant hug (again, typical November Project) and tried to thank him, but I couldn’t get any words out I was so gassed.

As soon as I could speak again, I went and found Shalane. I shared with her that whether she knew it or not, she pushed me to not just hitting my goal, but a 14 second PR in the process, good for exactly a full minute 5k PR (30 seconds, 16 seconds, 14 seconds) in the last month. Coincidence that was about the time I joined the InsideTracker team? (hint: no). We took a giant group photo and I can’t wait to see it. Every single person in it helped me crush my goal today in one way or another.

Am I proud? Yes. Am I content? No. Tomorrow begins the journey to Boston 2016.

“There is nothing cool about coasting in your successes, because that clearly means you are not pushing yourself hard enough. Be proud of your failure, be proud of your nerve to challenge yourself so hard, be proud of how close you got to your goal, and keep pushing to reach that goal. Don’t be afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid of failing. Don’t be embarrassed about failing. Always set the bar high!” – Deniz

 

 

 



It’s not supposed to be easy

Today I raced for the 3rd week in a row. My coach has been evaluating my weekly progress and for the last 3 weeks, on Wednesday or Thursday he’s asked me to race that weekend, which has been awesome. I absolutely love the rush of lining up to race, especially at these small 5k’s where I know a bunch of other people racing.

Three weeks ago I hit 18:58 in a race that had snow, hills and stairs (yes this actually happened) and came in 2nd overall. Last week I hit 18:12 (30 second PR) in a flat course along the Charles, good for 4th place out of 800. Today’s race was on the same course, and I finally hit my goal of sub 18 with a 17:56… less than 4 seconds to spare. Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 2.07.25 PM

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and hearing advice from pro runners about motivation. It’s not supposed to be easy. Otherwise, everyone would do it. At about mile 1.5 I had the urge to back off my 5:45 pace. I reminded myself of the quote to the right from Shalane Flanagan. This race wasn’t supposed to be my goal race, but I knew that a sub 5:47 average pace would give me a sub 18 5k. If I kept pushing at/around the same effort, I’d PR for sure, and potentially even hit my goal two weeks early.

I worked to catch up to the runner ahead of me, and then promised myself I’d stay in front of him for the rest of the race. I did, and my last .1 mile came in at a 5:07 pace… A full sprint with everything I had left. I crossed the finish line in 17:56 (5:47/mile) and since then I’ve been on cloud 9.

When I started working with my coach (Steven) about a year ago, I was hovering around a 25 minute 5k and a 2 hour half marathon. I’ve cut over 7 minutes off the 5k, and 32 minutes off the half. I could not have made anywhere close to this progress without him, while also avoiding injury. Steven’s training plans adapt based on my training, and if I’m in a good place, he’ll send me out to race, which is always a confidence boost.

I’ve PR’d by 30 seconds and then 16 additional seconds in the last two weeks, in a race that only lasts about 18 minutes. That’s huge. It’s not just training alone though. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I just started working at InsideTracker, a company that provides nutrition and lifestyle recommendations to optimize performance based on blood analysis of up to 30 nutrient and hormone levels.

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 2.29.06 PMOne of the markers that needed improvement was creatine kinase, a key indicator of muscle health and recovery. I’ve added a CoQ10 supplement every day for the last 3 weeks after breakfast, and have been going to bed about 45 minutes earlier. In addition, I’ve increased both my fat and protein consumption, which has not only helped with muscle recovery, but has seemed to fix my ravenous hunger that has been a result of the increased weekly mileage. (Had been at 35-40 range, last 3 weeks have been 43-47) I also stopped doing my post-run core work outside and now do it inside, as seen in the recommendation to the left.

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 2.30.14 PMI’ve also added a Vitamin D supplement, since my test showed that my Vitamin D levels were very low. The system also recommends the top 5 foods that will make the biggest impact (based on the markers that need improvement) and as a result I’ve been eating a lot more avocado (1/2-2/3 per day), chia (1-2 servings/daily) and raspberries, which conveniently have been on sale at Whole Foods recently.

I had stopped drinking cherry juice a few weeks ago simply because I had run out of it, but I restocked last week and that’s definitely also been helping with my sleep quality, which improves the CK level.

All of this is to say that I think I’ve found the sweet spot from a training perspective. As Chris said this afternoon, Training = Workout + Recovery.

Your training is only as good as your recovery, and the food your eating throughout the day has such an impact. Couple that with a professionally created training program, and anything is possible.



New job, same passion.

I have recently accepted an opportunity with another Boston based nutrition related company called InsideTracker. I was not actively searching for a job, and was presented with this opportunity a couple of weeks ago. I’m excited for a new challenge while allowing me to continue with my passion of helping improve athletes’ performance and overall health.

I have loved every minute of my two and a half years working at ENERGYbits, seeing it grow from a product to an entire community of inspiring and motivated people, which includes several hundred brand ambassadors as well as 60+ pro and Olympic athletes. I’ve enjoyed working with our brand ambassadors, learning all about their training, families, racing, and much more. If you’re one of our brand ambassadors reading this, thank you for all of your support. It’s been a true pleasure working with all of you. I’m proud to call quite a few of you my friends and look forward to staying in touch!

I will be forever grateful to Catharine for all of her guidance and for believing in me and providing me with the opportunity and chance to grow as much as I have. I’ve learned so much about social media and nutrition, and I’ve had the opportunity to go to the Olympics. I started running because most of our customers are runners/marathoners, so I decided to sign up for a marathon to learn more about how the product helps. Along the way, I’ve met some pretty incredible people which has led me to November Project, which has totally changed my life.

InsideTracker is a game changer, already working with several professional teams. I’m excited to introduce my network of coaches, nutrition professionals and athletes to the benefits as well.

InsideTracker analyzes biomarkers in blood and then makes specific recommendations regarding how to change your lifestyle (food/alcohol/exercise) to optimize these levels. Doing so allows for increased recovery time, better sports performance and improved overall health and energy levels. I was recently tested and am excited to incorporate many of the recommend changes in regards to my nutrition and seeing the results over time.

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More avocado? Sure!

I was tested a few weeks ago and have already begun to make a few of the recommended changes and I’ve already seen performance benefits. I ran the most miles in a week last week that I’ve ever run before, and felt significantly better than I did during any of my peak marathon training weeks. My day to day energy levels seem to be better recently as well, which was something I was struggling with when I made the jump from 25-30 mile weeks back up to 30-40. I’m now running between 40 and 47 miles and feel better than ever before.

My role with InsideTracker will be similar to my mission with ENERGYbits, which was to help show people (mainly athletes) the substantial impact that food can have on performance. InsideTracker takes it to the next level, by using blood analysis to improve athletic performance and longevity.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 1.29.12 PM

Showing recommendation on how to incorporate more effective rest, coenzyme Q10 and foods to help. Note: I raced a half marathon two weeks prior, and often train (and then hang out) outside, which slightly elevates CK

InsideTracker does several things. It analyzes up to 30 nutrient levels (called biomarkers) and then gives you recommendations on how to improve them, while also explaining why you should consider doing so. The system gives you five foods that have the largest potential to help improve what they call “InnerAge” (based on nutrient levels, stress and training inputs), which is shown above.

Foods to improve CK

In addition to giving recommendations on foods and supplements (you can choose if you are open to all supplements, some, or none at all. I picked “some”) to improve these biomarkers, InsideTracker also gives you the science behind the recommendations.

Science behind Creatine Kinase suggestions

As seen in the image that says “Eat Less… Eat More…,” you can also input your specific dietary choices, including vegan, vegetarian, paleo, Mediterranean, gluten free and much more. InsideTracker shows you which specific biomarkers each food impacts, and there are 7,500 foods in the database to choose from.

If you have any questions regarding InsideTracker or would like to learn more about getting your own results, let me know! It’s a very quick turnaround. I was in and out of the blood draw in about 5 minutes, and received my results two days later.

I will continue to use both ENERGYbits and RECOVERYbits as part of my training, as it truly does have a performance and recovery benefit. Algae contains many of the nutrients that InsideTracker tests for, and as a result, those specific biomarkers (about a half dozen of them) were almost exactly in the middle (optimized) of where they should be.

It may be a new job, but it’s still the same passion.



BAA Half PR Recap

This past weekend I ran the BAA Half for the first time, which is a race I’ve registered for twice. Last year a stress fracture caused me to drop out the week before.

This year, I’ve been working with a coach and I’m “in-season” as Steven puts it, so I didn’t have much of a taper week prior to the race (also my fault for mixing up the dates on the program). My shakeout run on Saturday was a 20:03 5k, which would’ve been more than a 4 minute PR this time last year.

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The night of the race I laid out everything I planned on wearing and eating, as has become custom. It helps to make race morning easier if you don’t have to think about anything. I had quinoa, a salmon burger and stir fry veggies for dinner, which is a bit different than normal (usually sweet potato instead of the quinoa).

Race morning we drove to UMass Boston to park and took a bus to Franklin Park. The porta potty lines were absurdly long, which was my only negative feedback regarding the race.

When I asked Steven about my goal time, he said I was to run a 1:28-1:32. My previous two half marathons were 1:37 and 1:50 (1:50 was during Heartbreak Hill Half weekend, where I also raced a 5k and 10k the day before). This worked out to around a 6:50 pace which scared me a bit (a lot).

I saw a quote from Shalane Flanagan earlier in the week where she mentioned sharing and being proud of your goals and the work that it takes to get there. I hadn’t wanted to share my goal time since it was such an aggressive PR, but after seeing what Shalane said, I did. I’m very glad I did, since it helped hold me accountable when I wanted to slow down later in the race.

I did my 10 minute warmup run and dynamic stretches and lined up with the 7:00/mile pace group. I set out too fast, as I always do. I started chatting with a couple of other November Project runners and when my watch beeped to note the first mile down, it was at a 6:40 pace… Too fast for my own good. I slowed it down a bit for the next mile or two, and then came the turnaround. We started running the opposite way, right towards the runners previously behind us. I ran one of my fastest miles of the whole race, since I was watching for friends and cheering on anyone I recognized which included quite a few November Project people. The next few miles were relatively uneventful. At the 6 mile mark I checked my watch and realized I PR’d my 10k by over 4 minutes, which gave me a confidence boost.

I had a serving of both ENERGYbits and RECOVERYbits pre race, and refueled with 30 ENERGYbits at the 10k mark, according to plan. A few more miles ticked away, and then came a climb at mile 9. I saw a few friends, picked up the pace and passed a whole bunch of people going up the hill. Thanks November Project Fridays. Training on Summit Ave every Friday has incredible benefits come race day. There was another climb around mile 11, where I started to slow down. It was the biggest climb of the race and then we ran towards the Franklin Park Zoo, which was mile 12. I started to slow down and decided I needed more ENERGYbits, but I didn’t have any water.

I chewed a half serving and managed to swallow most of them. That gave me what I needed to pick up the pace. My last full mile was at 6:25, and the final .2 (I need to mind the turns more) were at around a 5:30 pace. The last ~200 meters were around White Stadium (a track) where the stands were full. I found myself in a full sprint towards the finish line with everything I had left, and crossed in 1:28:43, good for a ~9 minute PR.

I did not do a cool down run, and paid for it the next day with some soreness and hamstring tightness. Hit the track again the following Tuesday and ran my 9 miles of speed work at a slightly slower pace than normal, but was able to get through the 12x400m workout with no problem.

Fuel plan/hydration:

ENERGYbits and RECOVERYbits 15 minutes prior.

Half cup of water every 2 miles

30 ENERGYbits at 10k (41:20), ~15 at mile 11.

ENERGYbits and RECOVERYbits immediately post run.

No stomach cramps, minimal energy issues which may have been more mental than physical, as it was my longest run in 4 months.

 

 



Training update: PR’s, #RaceEverything and #TrackTuesdays

With the 2nd of 4 consecutive race weekends being this weekend (Rugged Maniac 5k, 1 Mile, BAA Half, 5k) I wanted to provide a bit of an update. I’ve been focusing on speed a lot lately and my coach’s workouts have been pretty tough lately. I’ve been used to hitting all of my splits and recently I’ve had a couple workouts where I didn’t even come close. His response: “It’s not supposed to be easy,” which I suppose makes complete sense. My last 5k race was on 9/18, and I PR’d with an 18:42, good for a 13 second PR.

Seconds before the finish line

I’ve added another morning group workout to my already 3x a week routine of November Project. Every Tuesday a group of us (from NP) have been going to the Harvard track for speed work. It started out as just one or two of us, and has grown into 5-10 people that regularly show up. Most people do different workouts, meaning everyone’s on their recovery laps at different times, which is great. It helps a ton to have that positive reinforcement right when you need it most. It’s much easier to speed up along the last 100m of the loop when you have a group of friends standing at the end.

My last track workout was 8×400 at 77 goal pace, and I ran most of the workout with a friend. My previous pace was 81, and then 83 before that and I was relatively close for all of those workouts. While running with a friend, I nailed 7/8 of the goal paces and was under for most, running at a sub 5 minute mile pace.

I’ve been doing more of the myrtl routine afterwards, which has been helping for hip strength/mobility. I definitely recommend checking it out and doing it 2-3 times a week.

After more than 2 months of showing up to the Wednesday November Project stadium workout and just hanging out, my coach has finally given me the green light to get back at it, since he’s interested to see what happens. I normally do speed work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so Wednesdays have been an easier rest day with just a run to and from the stadium for about 3 miles total. He wants me to alternate easy and hard efforts, which will eventually mean a half and full tour, although at first I’ll go with a half and a quarter (at speed). I walked 5 sections the other day and still had the wobbly legs afterwards that normally happens after a full stadium run, so I’ll definitely ease back into it.

Today’s race was “just” a mile at Franklin Park. I went out quick (75 seconds for the first 400m) and hit a small hill near the half way mark which slowed me down by about 6 seconds overall. The middle half mile was done in ~2:40 (which was my goal pace), and the final 400m was at 72 seconds. I saw a friend right around the 1200m mark and she gave me the motivation I needed to push a bit harder. I finished with an official time of 5:13, which is good for a 10 second mile PR!

A bunch of November Project friends ran the race (as always… #raceeverything) which was awesome motivation whether it was from a friend on the side, or chasing the guy in front of me.

Next weekend is the BAA Half, and my coach has said to go for a 1:28-1:32, which would be another (big) PR. I’ve been slacking a bit on my long runs lately due to all these races, so I’ll be running my last long run tomorrow before my 4th half.

Nutrition/fueling update:

Perfect for hill sprints…

After a meeting with an NHL strength coach a while ago, we (ENERGYbits) began looking into the performance and recovery benefits of our RECOVERYbits, a different type of algae. What we found is that they have the ability to help with lactic acid buildup/muscle fatigue (among many other benefits) during anaerobic exercise (sprints, intervals, etc). I’ve been experimenting with taking RECOVERYbits both pre and post workout (along with ENERGYbits that help promote endurance and longer term energy) and I haven’t been getting the muscle/lactic acid burn towards the end of harder workouts like speed intervals or hill training, which has gotten harder recently too. Steven (my coach) now has me doing 5×30 second intervals up Summit Ave, which ranges between 9-17% grade. I look like a crazy person “sprinting” that hill but it’s a blast.

Rosa: “Wait, I didn’t get that on camera. Do it again!”

RECOVERYbits have been helping me push through these harder interval/speed sessions and next week’s workout will be a good test. Next week is 4×200, 5×1000, 4×200 (9 miles including warmup/cooldown) and I’m going to need all the help I can get. I’ll likely also have another serving of ENERGYbits after the second 1000m since it will be longer than an hour’s worth of speed work.

Shoes: I just started running in New Balance 1400’s for speed work and love them so far. I PR’d my 5k and mile in them, and they’re so much more lightweight than the Altra Torin’s, which I love for distance but feel a little clunky when going fast.

Have a great week!

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#NPSummit and #ECSWI

Last weekend was the November Project’s Summit in Madison, Wisconsin. #NPSummit was where the leaders from the 16 cities in the US and Canada met to talk about world takeover by way of free fitness and sweaty hugs. We also raced The North Face Endurance Challenge’s Trail Marathon Relay as part of the weekend.

We had a 10am flight out of Boston on September 11th. Our flight left from one of the gates where one of the hi-jacked planes left from in 2001. We were in the security line at 8:46, during the moment of silence for when the first plane hit.

After arriving in Chicago, we picked up the rental car and began exploring the downtown area. We parked and went to Frontera, a Mexican restaurant downtown. I met Heather, one of our brand ambassadors, and Agnes, one of our customers. We had an awesome lunch and then set off on a Lake/Riverboat tour which gave us a great tour of the city. We had dinner in the city and then headed towards Madison, a 3 hour drive.

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Me, Agnes and Heather

We arrived in Madison at around 11:15 and settled in and went to bed. We woke up at 6am to 45 degree temperatures for the November Project Madison workout, which consisted of a 20 minute “deck of cards” workout with sprints, pushups, air squats and stair jumping, and then a 16 minute workout called #Octopus16. We ran around the capitol building, running up and down each of the sets of stairs, and then ran repeats on the last section. Madison’s record is 11 repeats. I hit 10 and started my 11th, and several others from Boston did as well. http://photos-a.ak.instagram.com/hphotos-ak-xfa1/10684142_856250324399688_2038358725_n.jpg

The #raceeverything mentality was in full effect here, as I ran the second half of the workout alongside Chris and we both pushed harder together than we would have solo.

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Garmin’s view of the workout

 

 

After the workout we took some photos, gave out more sweaty hugs and headed to breakfast and hung out there for a while. #MrBirdman came to breakfast too.

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“A group game that can be played at all times in all locations of this world. Put on the Mr. Birdman goggles and catch eye contact with other members. If they look into your eyes they must lay down on the ground for 5 seconds no matter where they’re standing.” Source: November-Project.com

 

We left breakfast and hung out at the pool for a while before heading to the University of Madison bookstore where we bought shirts to be tagged as #GrassrootsGear. After that came lunch. Lunch provided the opportunity to start carbo-loading (aka drink Spotted Cow, a local beer) for the marathon relay the following morning. I met several people from the DC tribe, along with the team from Mission:Bars, which just launched a kickstarter for an awesome, real food based bar.

After lunch came a nap, followed by dinner right next to our hotel. I don’t normally eat dairy, but figured I couldn’t come to Wisconsin without trying cheese curds, which were delicious. After dinner we headed over to a nearby bar for a bit, and then back to the hotel bar for a while longer.

It seemed like a late wakeup the next morning when the alarm went off around 7 (CT, which felt like 8), since the entire last week had been closer to 5:30. I had a Vega meal bar and coffee around 7:30 since the hotel didn’t offer breakfast. We got to the race around 9:30 and since I still hadn’t eaten anything besides the bar, I had a serving of UCAN around 10:15 for the 11am race start. At 10:30 I had a half serving of ENERGYbits and went for a 1.25 mile warmup run, followed by full serving of ENERGYbits. I threw two servings in my pocket along with a handful of almonds since I was starting to feel hungry with not too many options left. At 11 we lined up, warmed up, and sped off.

The first mile was on the road and entirely flat. At exactly the 1 mile mark, we started to climb into the woods. It leveled out a bit, and then there was another climb right around mile 2, which turned into rolling hills.

I was pretty thankful I threw those almonds into my pocket, because at around mile 3 I started getting hungry and my legs were starting to get heavy. I didn’t eat nearly enough that morning and paid for it 3 miles in. With no water available, I pulled out my bag of ENERGYbits and put a half serving into my mouth along with 3 almonds. I was happily surprised that the almonds TOTALLY masked the taste from the Bits! When I finished the race, I still had algae in my teeth and was asked if I was ok (and not dying), since I had green all around my mouth. As soon as I chewed through the full serving, my pace dropped almost a full minute per mile for the rest of the race, including some decent climbs.

The last climb was at 4.5, and then it was a steep downhill after that. At mile 5.7 I asked the girl running next to me to confirm that it was ~6.5 miles total, which was not correct. She said it was 6.2, so I turned Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 8.42.29 PMon the speed after that. I averaged 7:30/mile (after training at a 10:30 pace on a much easier trail) and my last mile ended up being around 6:30 as a result of overestimating the distance.

I finished my 6.26 mile leg (just over a 10k) in 46:54 which I was very happy with. Our team finished in 32nd place of about 130, and November Project teams not only swept the podium and the first 5 spots, but likely the first 10-15 as well.

We hung around watching everyone else finish, and then headed back to Madison. I met Tim and Jess of BibRave which was awesome, especially since Jess came in 4th in her 50 mile race!

That night we met outside the Union at University of Wisconsin to make sure everyone was appropriately “rehydrated” from a long day on the trails. Some people may or may not have ended up in Lake Monona, which was pretty warm for a cool evening. The quote of the night came from Brogan’s brother Dan, who has started two tribes. He was talking about how to get more people to show up, and how we should tell everyone to come, “Because you guys know, this shit is gooood!”

After hearing Brogan and Bojan (the co-founders of NP) speak about their goals for going forward we headed over to a nearby bar for the rest of the night, which made the 7am wake up to drive back to Chicago even more fun.

Between an awesome trail race, a party that lasted til 4am, new friends, friends from NP Boston/Edmonton and meeting people who I’ve only spoken to online, it was a weekend I’ll never forget.

November Project may seem like a running club, fitness group or something along those lines. When you start, maybe it is. If you stick with it, it can become something so much more than that. November Project is building a community of people who care about pushing others to be the best they can be, while also racing and getting super fit. There are 15 cities in the US where November Project exists, plus Edmonton in Canada, and many more pledge groups that will turn into actual November Project tribes in 2015. If you’re near one (see the list here) check it out and enjoy!

 



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