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I recently read an article on Outside that smiling makes you a more efficient runner. The article went on to say that “a hard effort makes you frown, and, conversely, frowning might make an effort feel harder—and smiling might make it feel easier“. Seems reasonable. Apparently, a study was even conducted, which pretty much proved that smiling does make you a more efficient runner.

I liked what I was reading and wondered if that was indeed true. Not that I am doubting science, but I just wondered anyway, as a personal experience. I thought about my past races, especially when Julia and Joel cheered for me or when others cheered for me… I feel that their presence and inspiration definitely helped but I was unsure about the smiling part. I do tend to smile a bunch if I see someone who I know, especially Julia or Joel. Did that brief period of smiling really help? I definitely think that their cheer was a distraction, which helped reset my thoughts at that particular point in time. But the actual smile… I was skeptical. So I decided to conduct my own experiment (because that scientific study did not convince me… ha!).

The article could not have been written at a more perfect time… I had a race coming up. This past Saturday I raced the 10k option of the Mendon Trail Run, which took place in Mendon Ponds Park. Joel ran it too. The weather changed a bit drastically and it was a chilly morning so I did not want to get to the start line too early. But once at the start line, there was no pep talk from the organizers and all of a sudden we were off. I hardly had enough time to start my watch. Also, as the pack hastily took off, the front group did not pay attention and missed the required turn. All of a sudden I found myself at the back of the pack. Joel ran past me annoyed. I was annoyed too… we just started and already got lost. Ugh!

As I was trying to settle on the route, I noticed that I was frowning and felt very annoyed. I was going up a small hill and I felt out of breath. That sudden start and missed turn really affected my mood. I then thought about my experiment and I laughed. And I kept smiling for the entire race. I even found myself bursting into laughter thinking about the experiment. I wondered if the other runners saw my smile and heard my laughter. That made me laugh too… I must have looked a bit ridiculous. I ran past the only aid stating, which was located at the half way point, and the volunteers cheered for me and one actually said “good job and you are still smiling!“. That made me smile even more! So with the biggest smile on my face, I thanked them for their cheer.

As I was coming close to the last stretch, I ran as fast as I could… still smiling. I felt super good and finished strong. Joel finished ahead of me, so we chatted about our runs. He mentioned that he did not feel too good. I told him that it was one of my best races and felt super!

I believe that the smiling really helped my run. Throughout the race, I felt super good. My legs were not in pain as they usually are. Even my breathing was calmer. Also, throughout the race, I really enjoyed the run and was not dreading each mile, especially towards the end of the race. I also felt like the run was easier than any of my previous runs or races. And lastly, I think that smiling really changed my overall mood and attitude.

As Joel and I were hanging out in the lodge resting and having a snack, the organizers presented the race awards. For my age group, she called my name. I could not believe it! Also, looking at the results, I placed 23 out of 65 for the overall group and placed 7 out of 32 in my gender group. That is just crazy! I thought that I had a good race, but I felt like there were a bunch of runners and women who were much stronger than I was.

The convincing part of this experiment was the pace. Recently, my pace has been around 11 to even 12 minute miles for 3 to 4 mile runs. I have actually been pretty disappointed about it lately since I feel like I was much faster in the past and even at the beginning of the year. Granted that I have only been able to run twice a week and I do run on my own a lot, so perhaps those are some of the reasons. Running or cycling with a group has always motivated me… I know this for a fact. For the race, my pace was 10:19… and this was a 10k! I am really excited and proud of myself that I was able to run it at that pace! And although there were many runners around to motivate me, I definitely think that the smiling helped. Every athlete should give this a try! And if you do, I am curious to hear all about it.

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On a fine November day last year, Joel and I decided to sign up for the Sehgahunda Trail Marathon Relay. We ran it as a four person relay two years ago, which was fun, so we thought that it was a good idea to run it as a two person relay. Hmm…

The official training started in February. Luckily for me, Joel figured it all out. Run two short runs during the week and then a long run on the weekends. Seems easy enough. I quickly realized that running two days a week was not very feasible. Working full time and taking care of our daughter, the house, etc. kind of put a damper on my training plan. My weekday runs were 5 or 6 milers, so they worked well enough to run longer during the weekends. But once I hit the 9.5 mile mark, I also realized that I did have to run two days a week, otherwise I would not be able to start increasing my mileage without risking an injury. Luckily for us, my parents live in town so they have been very helpful with watching Julia for us so we can do this thing. I am super grateful for it! Even our neighbors helped us one weekend… so grateful!!

The 9.5 mile run was not too bad. On that run I surpassed my longest distance that I have ever ran since I started running about 5 years ago. Then two weekends ago, we ran 10.5 miles. “That was crazy!”, I thought. I felt super good and it gave me more confidence that I will be able to do this race.

Then, as I was running mile 10ish of my 11.5 mile training run on Sunday and Parachute Youth was blasting in my ear “Can’t Get Better Than This…“, I thought to myself… “Oh yes it can, actually!!”. At least I was in the woods and the song distracted me a bit and made me think of the mountain biking video where I discovered the song.

I remember after riding for a few years, a bunch of my friends were asking me why I was not racing. “You would do well!”, they said. My answer was always that cycling would become work. You have to ride a lot of hours to be able to have the stamina and fitness to be a racer. I ride because I love riding and because I love to explore the area on my bike. It is not my job… it is my hobby. The same goes for running. I love being in the woods and exploring our parks.

I recently read this article, which made me laugh but also resonated with me. It was called “I Hate Running” and the writer’s statement after finishing a 50 miler was on point. When someone congratulated him for finishing the race, his answer was something like “I just ran 750 miles… you just saw the last 50 miles!“. (Another great article to check out is “People Who Say That Running Is Fun Are Lying To You“.) Although my feat is not as great as his, this idea of running three times a week in order to complete a half marathon is kind of a chore. It has become work.

I am not sure why it feels this way. Perhaps all those years that I spent on the bike riding thousands of miles burned me out and this is starting to feel that way. Or perhaps the fact that I love to ride, run, hike, and other things makes me feel like I am stuck with this one thing. I guess that is the downside of having multiple hobbies. Ha!

Nevertheless, I am glad that I signed up for this race. I never in a million years would have thought that I would be able to run 10 miles, 11 miles, or even a half marathon. It is a good challenge and I do not want to stop. The race is on May 20th, so I am almost there. I guess that this race also made me realize that long distance running is not for me and that I am happier if I am able to do everything that I love instead of only one single activity.

As I write this, the weather forecast is calling for rain for tonight, on Thursday, and on Sunday. Another reason not to sign up for a race in Spring. Hooray for training!

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I ran the Ready Set Glow trail race on Saturday. I was pretty excited to run it. I mean.. does it not sound fun to run in the woods at night with glow sticks?

I planned to run it last year too, but I waited too long to sign up and it filled up. I was so bummed! So I added the date the registration opened on my calendar and I signed up super early. Joel signed up for it too.

We invested in a bunch of glow sticks so we were set. I was not sure what to expect. I have never run in the dark before. Also, the race was at Dryer Road Park, which has a bunch of super twisty trail sections with lots of switchbacks. I ran in there a bunch of times and I always found myself questioning where I was… and that was during the day. It was going to be interesting.

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Since it was a mass start, we decided to start towards the front to avoid the inevitable bottleneck. We started fast. Joel started even faster… I lost him as soon as we entered the woods. Our friend Jeff stuck with me for a bit, but then he took off too. There were a bunch of runners behind me so I was not left alone. Everything was going fine until I came to a spot where the trail split into two directions. I stopped. I did not see a race marker. I was not sure which was the correct way. But then the girl behind me so confidently took the trail that veered left. So we all followed. As I was running, I noticed that there were no trail makers on the trail. A few others made the same comment. But we kept going. I was on the fence about it, but I decided not to turn around. Serves me right!

The rest of the group split up once again and I found myself running alone. I must admit that I was a little uneasy being out there alone in the woods at night… I run alone all the time and I have never felt this way before. The fact that it was dark was different. I did hear and see other runners in the distance, but my uneasiness did not fade. I also felt like I was just going in circles since the terrain looked so similar in a bunch of places.

Then all of a sudden I found myself in the field near the finish line. “How can that be??”, I thought to myself. My watch showed not even 4 miles… the race was supposed to be close to 5 miles. There were two people standing in the field and they told me that a few others finished early too.

I was so upset! I decided to go back into the woods. I ran for a bit but then decided that it was pointless. I had no idea where I was. I did not have a map to check. It was dark. I was alone.

I ended up with 4 miles. As I crossed the finish line, I told the folks who organized the race that I got lost and off the course and that I only ran 4 miles. I was so disappointed!!

Joel and Jeff finished about 10 minutes after I did. They were upset too… apparently they also got lost. They ended up with 5.5 miles. At least they did not finish early! As more runners finished, getting lost was the conversation of the night and everyone shared their experiences. So at least I was not the only one, but I still did not feel any better about it.

Then the results got posted, which made me feel even worse. I was placed with a “U”. What the heck is a “U”?!?! Apparently it means unofficial result. Blah!

I guess that I should not care too much about it, but I do not run many races, so when I do, I try my hardest. I guess that I do have a little competitive spirit in me. Ha! And I have learned my lesson… I will never follow anyone without double checking the trail markers. I am not sure if I will run this race again in the future. If I do, I will have to make sure that I will have a running partner.

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I recently ran my longest distance… 8.4 miles. On June 10, I raced in the Mendon Mauler Trail Run. I was very excited to run it. The previous week I ended up running almost 8 miles, so I knew that I was ready. The run took place in Mendon Ponds Park, which was familiar… I ran in there plenty of times, so I knew what to expect.

Since I signed up for the 8 miler, it meant that I had to run the same loop twice. That was a bit challenging, since there were a bunch of runners who were doing just the 4 miler and they were running pretty fast. I realized that I am definitely an inexperienced racer. I think that I started a bit too fast since I wanted to stay with the crowd. After about a mile, I calmed down and just ran my pace.

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I felt great on the fist loop. I took a gel towards the end of the first loop, hoping that it would keep my energy going. I saw Joel and Julia at the end of the loop, which made me smile! Then about a mile into the second loop, my left foot started to cramp. I was very thirsty during the entire run, not sure why. It was also a fairly warm evening. I tried to conserve my water since I knew that I had 8 miles to run and I figured that the 10 oz bottle would be plenty for the run. Apparently not. Then my second foot cramped too. I actually had to stop running to alleviate the cramps. I was so mad at myself for not refilling my bottle at the end of the 4 mile loop. I knew that there was a water station further down the trail but I could not remember exactly where it was. The cramps eased up a bit so I started to run slowly. Luckily the water station came sooner than I thought, so I refilled. I started to feel better… perhaps the gel kicked in and the fresh water helped too. I was running next to this woman and she mentioned that we had about a mile left. When I heard that, I just took off and ran as fast as I could. I felt amazing! I finished strong, but right as I got close to the finish line, my shin started to cramp. Ugh!

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I was happy with my run considering how I felt. Since it was getting late and close to Julia’s bedtime, we did not hang around much. Once I got home, I decided to check the results. I was amazed and beside myself… I won my age group (1st out of 9), got second in the female group (2nd out of 34), and placed 21 overall (21st out of 71). That’s crazy!! I never would have thought or expected it!

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My average pace was 12:24, which was a bit slow. I blame my cramps and this steep, full of rocks hill that I had to descend twice. Ha! And I definitely learned my lesson about drinking enough fluids. I should have known better since I had the same experiences when I first started cycling. It was also a Friday night… Friday nights are hard due to working all week, taking care of an almost 4 year old, and blah blah blah. Ha!

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I am still amazed that I can actually run that distance. I guess that I felt the same way when I first started cycling. I never imagined riding 15 miles, 50 miles, or even 100 miles… but it happened. For some reason I have no desire to run longer though. I like the 8 mile/10k distance. I also do not have time to train for longer distances. For this race, I ran twice and rode my bike once a week. I can definitely keep that up.

Oh and the best part about the race was the prize… a jar of Once and Again Peanut Butter! That’s right!

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Oh and this log… haha!!

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The Medved Madness trail race took place a few weeks ago… on May 1st to be exact. I am always weary about signing up for anything that takes place outside… I do not like to do anything outside if it rains.

Before I started running, I would always sign up for the Highlander Cycle Tour, which in the past took place in September. September in Rochester can be super hot, super cold, super sunny, or super rainy. In fact, the first year that I rode it, it was all those throughout the ride. It was also my first century and I kept thinking to myself what was I doing out there riding for 100 miles in the cold/cloudy, then sunny, then rainy, then cold, then sunny/warmer day. I think that out of the 6 years that I rode it, only 2 or 3 times was nice out.

In the days leading up to the Medved Madness run the weather was looking good. No rain but a bit chilly. Then of course, with my luck and the stupid Rochester weather, it changed to rain. Bah! “Why can it just be nice for once!”, I complained to Joel. I ran the run as a relay… Joel ran the first leg, our friend Marc ran the second leg, and I ran the last leg. The run was actually super fun! And the weather ended up not being too bad. It was just a bit drizzly at times and not too cold. Also, with my luck, I ended up running through the exact same mud gardens and hill as in the Dirt Cheap race, since the race was also in Mendon Ponds Park. Super lucky! Ha!

But the most exciting part of the race was the kid race. When we first told Julia about our race, she enthusiastically told us that she wanted to run in the race too. Of course we said yes! So during the leading months, weeks, and days, she trained for the race too. Joel set up courses for her… around the perimeter of our house, around the trees in our front yard. She was super excited!

As we were walking towards the event tent, Julia told me that this year she wanted to run it on her own. Last year she ran the race too, but we ran together and I held her hand the entire way. She was only 2 1/2, so I was impressed that she even wanted to run it at all. She did great last year too. She also told a few of her friends that she was going to run in the rain. Although, as we were walking towards the race tent, she mentioned that she no longer wanted to run in the rain. I reassured her that it was not a big deal and that all of us were going to run too. I am glad that she changed her mind.

As the kids took off and she ran past me, I could tell that she was super excited. I ended up running behind her to cheer for her and to make sure that she ran the course. She had the largest smile on her face the entire time. As I was checking out the photos that Joel and Marc took, I noticed that she also had an intense and focused look on her face at times. She seemed so determined to have a good run.

And she did! She did SO awesome! We are super proud of her. I think that she is proud too… she talked about it for a few days after the race. It was so fun to watch her race and I loved her excitement and enthusiasm. I hope that we can find some more races for her soon.

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She did it!! Good job Julia!!

Lastly, I wanted to mention the après run party. This was by far the best running event that I have ever attended. The food was fantastic! We are super lucky to have Medved in our community. They did a fantastic job with the entire event!

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About a month ago, an email came into my inbox about a race that was on dirt and it was cheap… $13 to be exact. How can you pass that one up! Ha!

The Fleet Feet Sports Dirt Cheap Trail Race Series (aka Dirt Cheap) is a series of 6 races, but I decided to only sign up for the 1st series just to check it out. The race started at Devil’s Bathtub in Mendon Ponds Park. As I drove into the park, I came across rows and rows of cars that were parked along both sides of the road. “Wow! That’s a lot of people.”, I thought to myself. I heard that the race was popular, but I did not realize that it was this popular.

The race was interesting. Apparently 432 people ran it. Crazy!! The trails are not very wide, so there were bottlenecks. Luckily I started closer to the front, but even so, there were bottlenecks. And then there were the mud gardens. In the mountain biking world, there are rock gardens. In the running world, there are mud gardens… or at least that is what I am calling them. Ha! And oh what mud there was! Deep, wet, slathery mud. Mud where you are afraid to pull your foot out of since your shoe may be lost in it. It was the craziest mud that I have ever ran through. And it was not just one mud garden, there were at least 3 mud gardens. Although, one was definitely the worse. I do not like mud! I could not help but just laugh as I ran through them.

As if the mud gardens were not challenging enough, there was this one hill that went straight up and then straight down. I do not care for running too fast down a hill since I can just picture myself tripping and just doing cartwheels all the way down. Some folks were running it full speed, which I do not understand how that is even possible.

Lastly, as if the mud gardens and the huge hill were not enough, the finish included running up a staircase. That’s right… a staircase. I am speechless. Haha! This reminded me of the Highlander Cycle Tour where you had to climb Route 12 out of Naples at mile 90… so cruel!!

I guess that in the end the run was pretty fun! It ended up being 4.73 miles and I ran it with a 10:44 average. I was pretty proud of myself for that. I think that I could have ran it a little faster if those bottlenecks were removed. And apparently I ended up placing 145 out of 432. Yes! :)

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I had an amazing run last week! I started to run with a group called The Borough Runners. The run starts and ends at The Lost Borough Brewery, which is fantastic! You run with a bunch of super nice people and then you have a pint of the most tasty beer… brilliant! Last week it worked out that only Joel and I decided to run the 4 miler route. And running I did… I averaged 8:33 per mile. That is super fast for me! I was very proud of myself.

It is all Joel’s fault. :) I have been chasing him for years.

It all started about 8 years or so ago when I bought my first road bike. It was terrible! I never rode before and even riding at all was a huge feat. Forget about keeping up with anyone. I found myself lost and defeated around the beautiful country roads of Mendon. I was so annoyed. We always rode with the Rochester Bicycling Club so even before we left for the ride, we would decide if he would ride with me or with the other faster boys. I was always happy when he rode with me. So many times he would yell “jump on” and I would pedal my hardest to catch him and draft behind him so I could ride faster. I cannot even tell you how many times we did that. It was such a rush, and still is, to be able to ride fast and with someone else. Over the years I got stronger and stronger, but it took me 6 years to be strong enough to ride with all those fast boys. I still remember the day… I was so proud of myself on that day too.

Then about 4 years ago I decided to start running. Running even 1 mile felt terrible at first. I was so annoyed. I thought that I was in good shape. But slowly I got stronger and stronger. I run by myself a lot, since it is so easy to run from the house. But same as with cycling, I do enjoy running with Joel and other folks. It definitely pushes you to go faster.

So last week I ran faster… because Joel was ahead of me and I was trying to catch him for pretty much the entire run. I am not a very competitive person, but for some reason I am competitive with Joel. I have so many episodes where he would come back from a ride or a run and he would share his amazing rides and runs. I always lovingly responded “whatever dude… you suck!“. And then I would go for a ride or a run and I would push myself to go faster.

I feel super lucky to have Joel in the front so I can chase him. It is definitely nice to have an inspiration and someone who pushes you to have amazing rides and runs.

Smooches Joel!

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