My brother recently wrote a really good post about conquering fears.  Even though he was relating it to running, it really could apply to so much in life. Please read it here on the blog: Coaching, Training and Motivation.

One of the things I love about my brother is his willingness to help others, and even though he has an amazing running ability, (one that most of us would pretty much die for), he always seems very low-key about it. When I told him that one of my very fast runner friends thought my brother was ridiculously fast in comparison to him, I could tell I made him blush over the phone.  He said, “you know I spend so much time talking to people about speed, I just seem to take myself out of the equation.”

I love people like that – people who could be all “big about themselves” for a variety of reasons, but they choose not to. People who dig down deep and face their fears. People who follow their heart.  (FYI, clicking on this picture of the elevation chart will blow it up for you.)

Elevation Chart for Leadville 100 course, which is an out-and-back, so what goes up must come down, and vice versa.

My brother has come a long way in a few years. He made a career change that took him from one of constant stress and anxiety attacks (literally) to one that he’s so devoted to that when he comes to visit, he always has his laptop out so he can communicate with his running clients. When he was on a bus enroute to come see me last fall, he asked if I could give a client of his a call, to let them know he’d be sending an email as soon as he got to me, telling them final strategy tips for their marathon race the following morning.  When I contacted his client, he said that my brother was an awesome coach, and so dedicated.  It was no surprise to me, but I think it might have been to my brother.  That’s just how he is.

A few years ago, he barely seemed to have the energy to train for marathons. Now he’s training for the Leadville 100, and signs his emails about it, by using the phrase “Crazy Train.” [At least he knows he’s nuts. :-)]   I like the fact that he’s pushing himself to another level (figuratively and literally, as the Leadville Race has some mileage that will be run above the tree line.)

In case you are wondering, yes, a longtime friend of his and I have already volunteered to pilot the Medivac Helicopter for him when the race is over.  We’ve watched him run the marathon at Philadelphia a few times, and always wonder “Why do we drive all this way [from D.C. and Boston] to see him fly by us for just a few seconds during the course of 2-3 hours??” LOL

Brooks ST Racers, image from Amazon.com

I’ll never have my brother’s speed (6 repeat 800s at 2:45, anyone?) but I’ve been thinking of ways to challenge myself too, running and otherwise.  On my brother’s advice, I’ve just bought a pair of racing flats to try out this year: the Brooks ST Racers. (This link takes you to the new model, 5, but I think mine will be the 4, pictured at right.)

I never thought that they were for people like me, before.  By that, I mean  people who tend to run in the middle of the pack. However, Ive seen my times improve over the past few years.  So, now I want to see if having less physical weight on my feet, and the added mental boost of knowing my feet are lighter, will help speed up my times. (Even though they will clash with all of my running clothes, color-wise…)

I’ve been meeting new people and reaching out to others more than I used to. I’ve tended to move away from people or situations that are not right with me, and doing so lifts a heavy load off of me, mentally.  Sticking with them just tends to make you look backward, and I don’t want to do that anymore. (I’m not saying it’s bad to remember everything, I think you need to learn and grow from past experiences, and not always dwell on the past.  It won’t change it.)

I’m also toying with the idea of learning how to rock climb. People who have known me my entire life know how terrified I am of heights.  So, I’m thinking more of learning what they call bouldering, because with that type of climbing, it’s more about the challenge of forging a route to the top of a, say, 30-foot high piece of rock that others might not see.  Or, it’s the challenge of finding handholds or footholds that work, while others might find them impossible. (At least, this is what I have read about it.)  You don’t have to be 100 feet off of the ground, or trying to scale the flat faces of Yosemite or Zion out west.  I’ve always liked reading about people who challenge themselves physically and mentally, such as the mountaineers who climb Everest, or any of the other 8Kers (mountains taller than 8,000 meters).  I’m thinking that maybe I should experience some of it rather than just reading about it! (Although, don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to actually climb an 8,000 meter peak!)

So, who knows? I may go to a class or two and find that “yep, I really do not like heights” or I’m so clutzy as to find the endeavor totally laughable, and feel like a complete and total jackass.  I may end up in a class with a bunch of under-10-year-olds.   But I will never know until I try it.

p.s. A friend suggested I find a half marathon to run this spring, after having run 10.2 miles (walked about .2 of it) on the treadmill yesterday. I am considering it. Some days, you just feel like running long and zoning out, and I’m just trying to go with the flow these days, in so many ways. I’m trying to make a concerted effort of keeping my workouts fun, and even think I’ve found a new good friend to run with now.

Things are coming together, slowly but surely.

Image from Boston Volvo 5K race website

I’ve had this post written, but as usual, I’ve been disorganized and not actually published it!

As is our custom for the past 4 years, my brother Jim and I ran together on Thanksgiving.  The first year we ran together, we did the Feaster Five 5K. The second and third years, we ran the Feaster Five 5 Miler.  This year, I meant for us to run with the Somerville Road Runners and their Gobble 3X, but I didn’t have my act together enough to get us signed up in time, and the race closed out with 2600 runners. I wanted to volunteer, but that would have meant we couldn’t run together, and I knew my brother would be disappointed (as would I.)  At one point, I thought of volunteering and asked my brother if he would mind also doing it, but he said there aren’t many days he gets to sleep in, so he felt bad saying it, but he wanted to be lazy.  Honestly, I can’t say as I blame the guy.  He got in at 12:30 in the night on Tuesday evening, and he caught a  6 a.m. bus back to NYC on Friday (he had to work that day at 11.)

Anyway, my brother hadn’t run much since his 100 mile trail race in October.  He had planned to take 4 weeks off anyway, so it was easy for him to obey the doc’s orders after he ruptured a tendon behind  his right knee. You can read his race report here. So, when it came time to pack running clothes, he didn’t think about packing pants, just shorts.  Those of you who live or have lived in New England know how strange the weather can be here around this time of year. I ran in shorts on Tuesday morning, but on Thanksgiving, it was long tights, winter hat, gloves, and two-layers-on-top weather, with temps in the 20s, and some pretty good winds. So yeah, he was a **wee** bit cold that morning!

Anyway, we got our bibs, kept warm in the car as long as we could, and visited the porta pottie lines (which were surprisingly not bad…) For the race start, it was just, well, as my brother called it, a “moving herd.”  No gun or anything.  We had the disposable ChronoTrack timing chips, but there was no mat at the beginning, so we had no idea where the actual start line was. But hey, it was only $20, and we were just there to enjoy ourselves. As my brother said, we were like a “moving herd” – we all just kind of started moving forward, even without any gun or horn that we could hear, to get us started.

That was literally our only plan – to just have fun and talk the whole way. Imagine, then, my surprise when I realized we did an awesome progression run.

Stats:

  • First mile: 8:35
  • Second mile: 8:15
  • Third mile: 7:55
  • Last .13: 7:05 pace
  • Overall time on Garmin: 25:39 (again, didn’t know when to start it!)
  • Overall official time: 25:59
  • Place overall: 312/1181 (Top 26%)
  • Place in sex: 98/658 (Top 15%)
  • Place in division, F30-39: 31/196 (Top 16%)

There were definitely a few hills in this course, especially during the first mile. My brother said his legs felt a bit tight, so I really didn’t want him to hurt himself any further. It’s funny but toward the end of mile 3, he said “you want to kick it in?”  And then in a few seconds, “you want to sprint to the end?”  To which my answer was, “I am sprinting already! That last mile was under 8!” It might have just been the cold, but I could definitely feel my lungs getting ready for an asthma attack at the end, but I didn’t want to slow down to take out the inhaler (which I usually run with nowadays.)

Anyway, it felt awesome to run with my brother again. He’s been a role model to me when it comes to running, and now with his redesigned blog, I hope, to many more.  Please check out his blog, it’s called “Coaching, Training and Motivation.”

By “Flying,”  I mean I’m on a total high after today’s race.  🙂

All I can say is, I pushed. I really, really pushed myself on this one. And, what I’m most happiest about now is that I didn’t let myself down. I had a goal in mind – I was afraid to tell too many people in case I couldn’t achieve it, but I did it. I DID IT!

Loved the way the sun's rays scattered on top of Ruthie at old house

My brother, the running coach at Urban Athletics NYC’s World Trade Center location (ask for Jim Saint-Amour if you call), gave me a suggested goal of 51:25 for today, based on my fastest 5K time of 24:45.  Now, my brother’s always been an optimist and one of my biggest cheerleaders when it comes to running, so I thought he was being overly optimistic.  But something he said to me last week on the phone really stuck with me during this race: “sis, it’s gonna be hard, and you’re not gonna have anything at the end if you do it right. You’re gonna feel totally wiped, but you can do it, sis. You can do it, go for the time, go for the time.”

Favorite memories from today: 

  • Seeing Joan Benoit-Samuelson at around mile 2.75 for me (over 3 for her!) and seeing the huge smile on her face as she looked at all of us running in the opposite direction.  This woman ran Chicago yesterday in 2:47:50, and she was kicking ass again today, and there she was, cheering for us, can you believe it?!  I yelled out “Go Joanie!” when I was pretty close to her and she looked right at me and smiled. Definitely gave me a boost there!
  • Seeing the women age-group winners, and noting how amazing these women look. The woman who won the 60-69 age group was 69, and set a record for 69 year olds by 2 minutes! If I look anything close to how awesome those women look when I get to those ages, I will be SO happy.  I often get mistaken for being in my late 20s/early 30s (and hee hee, sometimes even a law student!)  It’s sooo gotta be the running!
  • Seeing the elite runners, including Katie McGregor, one of my personal faves, and much earlier in the race than I’m used to. (I’m telling you, I started much further forward in the pack this year.)

Ruthie, pooped, after a 3 mile walk on Saturday

Unlike last year when I found myself near the porta-potties as they sang the national anthem, I was waiting on the street by 11:45.  I didn’t do a lot of warm-up, just some stretching, so my legs felt a bit heavy for the first mile or so. As you can tell from my stats, I did a bit of weaving. (My friend, Dan, who is new to racing, now understands my aggravation with people lining up at the 7 minute mile pace, only to begin walking about 200 yards after the start line. In case you’re wondering, yes, he got some weird looks from the women around him, since this is a race “for women.” Doesn’t mean they dont’ allow guys to run it, however.)

I have to admit, I saw how close I was to the start line this time around, and part of me felt like “I can’t be here, I’m not supposed to be this far up in the pack.” But part of me also felt like “you know what? I’ve been working my butt off all year, I do belong here!”  Still, it made me nervous to pass Dan after a few minutes, and then I didn’t see him again until he had just passed Mile 4, and I was about a half mile back from him. Seeing that difference between us made me feel better and like I was on track.

This was one of the first races I’ve run where I’ve looked down at my watch and felt happy with my splits. I passed the 3 mile mark at about 25 flat (net-time), which I knew put me on target to finish with a “51” in the first part of my time. That definitely helped to quicken my legs when I looked down and saw 8:39 as my current pace at one point. I told myself to kick it up a notch and get moving, and the next time I looked at my watch it said 8:04 as my current pace. Definitely an improvement!  

Watching a very captivating episode of "Dog in the City" TV

Up until very recently, my goal for this race had been 54-55 minutes, and I thought even that would be really hard. However, running with my friend Dan once a week for the past month or so has really, really helped. He’s younger and a naturally gifted runner, that much is obvious, and I’ve grown much stronger mentally by running with him. I didn’t use to do tempo runs (they scare the bejesus out of me) but running with him, we talk, and I don’t stop when I otherwise would.

I took a look at my times for this race since I started running it, and I can’t believe how far I’ve come. This year, I’ve had much, much more personal stress in my life but one good thing that’s come out of it is that I’ve never run this well in my life before. My recent races have given me that one small time frame where I can forget everything else going on in my life, mentally, and just focus on what’s happening physically for that brief distance of 5K, 5 miles, or 10K.  It’s also been the one constant in my life these past few months, other than the support I’ve had from family and friends. I think without it, I might have felt like “losing it” a lot more often than I have.

Past 3 years:

  • 2007: 1:02:13
  • 2008: 1:00:09
  • 2009: 59 minutes (this race involved a face plant, and sprained ankle around mile 1)

 Stats from today – wow, what a difference!

  • Garmin time: 51:52
  • Garmin distance: 6.29
  • Garmin average pace: 8:15 min/mile
  • Official time: 51:51
  • Official distance: 6.2 miles
  • Official average pace: 8:21
  • Division place: Women 30-39 = 234/2079 (Top 11%)
  • Overall place: 715/6719 (Top 11%)

I definitely felt like I left everything I had in me, on the road, today.  As we neared the Boston Public Gardens, I had a feeling I could beat 52 minutes, but it would involve a very fast last quarter mile. I couldn’t do an all-out sprint like I normally do at the end, but I was able to pick it up, and my last .29 on my watch was at a 7:04 pace. This, after my 6th mile in 8:06!!  I have never been soooo glad to see a finish line in my life.  It was such an awesome feeling to look up at the finish line clock and know that after subtracting 45 or so seconds, my net time was under 52! I DID IT!

Anway…

Sorry, no pics from the race.  My car broke down last night, so I had to do “bag check” which included my cell phone. I wanted to race with as little extra weight on me as possible. I know many of you are “Ruthie Lovers” so I hope you like those instead! (She came for an overnight visit this past Saturday.)

Allow me to float through tomorrow, now….yay!!!

Jim at the Philly Marathon finish, a Boston Qualifier again!

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, odds are you’ve heard me talk (write) about my brother in the past. If you’re new to my blog, let me tell you a few things. 

First, his name is Jim Saint-Amour (I call him Jamie but I’m one of the only people in the world that calls him that.)  Second, he’s my younger brother. The baby of the family.  According to my husband, he has two moms, me and our real Mom.  I admit it, I will always worry about him but that’s because I’m older and we’re close in age, only 15 months separate us. Mom always said that, growing up, I’d be the first to get in a fight-to-the-death with him, but I’d also be the first one to stick up for and defend him against anyone outside of our family.  Third, he helped me to finish a marathon back in 2007. When he found out I was going to do it, he offered to run it with me, at my pace, which, believe me, was a LOT slower than his!  He also carried a sign during the entire race, which he’d put over my head whenever we saw crowds, which said “Run Happy:My Sister’s First Marathon” to get people to cheer for me.  I think you need to read this post of mine about that experience, to really see what I’m talking about.  Did I mention he also carried an extra camelbak on his back, just for me, the entire 26.2 miles?  He did. 

While he’s younger, I can tell you that in at least one aspect of his life, I’ve always envied him and looked up to him.  That aspect is his positive, just go-with-the-flow attitude. I’ve always been the one that needs to have things planned out. He’s the one that’s been able to go backpacking across Europe and move cross-country, without having a job lined up, only to have a job on an Australian cruise ship land in his lap 4 days later. (Ah, the life.) 

So, over the past two years, while he was pursuing a job as a middle/high school special ed teacher in inner city NY, I could tell something was off. He was usually very stressed, and he sighed. A lot. So much so that when I visited him last year, I commented on how often I heard him sigh.  Without knowing I’d said something, that same weekend, his friends noted the same thing. 

Well, he decided to follow his heart and leave that job, to pursue a job working in the running/coaching industry full time.  He now works for Urban Athletics in NYC. He works in the store and is also part of their coaching program.  He is RRCA certified.  He does one-on-one training, is the speed-and-form coach at their downtown location, online training, and yes, he does also work with beginners!   

If you read his bio,  you’ll hear about his first coaching experience a few years ago, when he worked with individuals who had never run before.  I met a few of the folks from that program at the Philly expo last November.  Three of them were planning on running the half-marathon the following day. It was clear that they still looked up to him, and he’d helped them to nurture a true love of running, as I discovered at dinner that evening. 

Here’s what I am really happy about. Every time I talk to him now, even if he’s tired, there’s a lift in his voice that’s been back. I know it’s because he’s doing something he truly loves.  I can’t tell you how positive and knowledgeable he is, and how generous he is with that knowledge.  He won’t judge you. He’ll work with you, and you will accomplish your goals, and probably a whole lot more than you thought possible.   

If you’d like his contact information, just drop me a note in the comments and I can give you his personal email address.  Or, of course, you can contact him at the store (I’ m not great with knowing where things are in NY, but I believe this is their downtown location.)

2 World Financial Center
in The Winter Garden
New York, NY 10281
Phone: 212/267-2247

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the photo above is from the 2009 Philly Marathon, where, again, he qualified for Boston in 3:07 and some change.  And he was smiling. 🙂