running

Four Days in Coastal Maine

When I was up north last month, for the Maine Coast Bosom Buddy Relay, the race was clearly the highlight of the trip. But I also had a great time exploring the stretch of coast from Kennebunkport to Portland.

Since the race was in Biddeford, I wanted to stay somewhere nearby. After a bit of searching online, I came across a little beach cottage for rent in Saco, a neighboring town.

Eiderdown Cottage, Saco, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

While it wasn’t big or fancy, it worked well for our purposes. It had two bedrooms and an enclosed porch that served as a third, which more than accommodated five of us.

Plus, it was on the same block as the beach! And luckily, the weather was in the 80s for two of our four days, which gave us some much-appreciated sun time.

Saco, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Saco, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

TheВ Saco/Biddeford area also hadВ some great food:

Run of the Mill Public House and Brewery: I love trying new breweries, and this was our first stop when we arrived in Maine. We sat outside and had beers and a late lunch.

The Portland Pie Co., which has some of the best pizza I’ve ever eaten outside of NYC. It was so good, we had it three times (!!!) in four days: for dinner the first night we were in Maine; at the race, where each finisher received a slice; and the day we were heading back to NYC! I highly recommend a veggie-laden pie with the beer crust.

Biscuits & Company, another restaurant that we visited multiple times. It’s a bright, airy cafe that specializes in its namesake. We had breakfast there the day before the race—delicious biscuit sandwiches that were crispy and salty on the outside, and rich and soft on the inside. And on Sunday after the race, we went back for Mother’s Day brunch.

Biscuits & Company, Biddeford, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Huot’s Seafood Restaurant: Hunt, the caretaker of our cottage, highly recommended this place, just a quick drive away. We went for dinner the evening after our race and the place was packed! The restaurant is larger and nicer than it looks from the outside, and once the food came, we could see why it was so popular. I loved the clam chowder and every bit of my whole lobster.

Huot's, Saco, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Huot's, Saco, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Portland and Cape Elizabeth
The day before the race, we drove into Portland for the sole purpose of going to Lululemon. (Yeah, I know!) I needed running pants and a wicking shirt. Plus, I’d never been to Portland.

I could easily see the appeal of the city. It’s small, walkable and has a cute downtown with stone streets. We picked up my running gear at Lulu, and then spent a few hours exploring the nearby streets. We loved Sherman’s bookstore; the Coastal Maine Popcorn Co., a place that sells popcorn in every flavor; and the Holy Donut, which features potato doughnuts. Of course, we had to try the chocolate sea salt one.

From there, we drove to Cape Elizabeth.

We grabbed lunch at the Lobster Shack.

Lobster Shack, Cape Elizabeth, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

It has the look and location of your classic New England joint: perched on a rocky shore, and decorated to the brim with fishing paraphernalia.

Lobster Shack, Cape Elizabeth, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Yet, the lobster rolls, though pretty, didn’t blow us away.

Lobster Shack, Cape Elizabeth, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

But watching the waves crash against the shore outside the restaurant, afterwards, made the trip worth it.

Lobster Shack, Cape Elizabeth, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Afterwards, we drove north to Portland Head Light, a beautiful lighthouse in pristine condition. I’ll admit, as we were walking up to it, I couldn’t help but think, “Oh yes—this is what a Maine lighthouse is supposed to look like!”

Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Kennebunk
After the race, despite the free pizza and beer at the end, we wanted a proper celebratory seafood lunch. We opted for the Clam Shack, in Kennebunkport, which had just reopened for the season.

This was my favorite lobster roll of the trip. The meat was so fresh and sweet.

The Clam Shack, Kennebunkport, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Kennebunkport is a cute little tourist town, but by the time we’d finished lunch, we were zonked—getting up early for the race caught upВ with us. We were too tired to explore, but we mustered up enough energy to go to Rococo, an amazing ice cream parlor with flavors like goat cheese and blackberry chambord swirl, honey vanilla and whoopie pie.

It was worth it—as was running a road race just to have a good excuse to travel!

Race Recap: Maine Coast Half Marathon Bosom Buddy Relay

Last month, Evan and I went north to run the Maine Coast Half Marathon Bosom Buddy Relay. The race was in Biddeford, a small town about halfway between Kennebunkport and Portland.

We had a great four days in the area with Mal, Peter and my mom, who came up to cheer us on. (Photos and recommendations in another post!) The beaches were quiet and pretty, and the small towns had some good food. But the highlight of the weekend was, of course, the race.

Like most half-marathon relays, the 13.1 mile course was split up into two legs: a first leg of 7.25 miles, and a second of 5.85 miles. Evan opted to do the longer half.

Going into it, I wasn’t sure how my time would be. Evan and I didn’t train as much as we could have. As usual, I based my training around my ballet schedule, adding one day at the gym and one outdoor run, each week. Evan did about two days at the gym and one outdoor run, a week. Not bad, but not a ton of mileage. Based on our training runs, I figured Evan would go around 12 minutes per mile, and I’d go around 9:15, putting our total finish time at about 2 hours, 15 minutes.

The race started on Saturday morning, at the University of New England. At 7 a.m., Mal, Peter and my mom dropped us off, and they headed to the relay exchange point, a couple miles away, near the coast.

The weather was perfect for running: overcast and cool, in the 50s—but it was freezing waiting around for an hour!

Finally, at a few minutes to 8, they called runners to the starting line.

Maine Coast Half Marathon Bosom Buddy Relay | nycexpeditionist.com

Evan was in the fourth and final wave; I waited alongside him, on the other side of the corral. We snapped pictured and got excited as the other waves took off, every three minutes.

When they released Evan’s wave, I cheered him on and watched as he ran out of sight. Then I boarded a cheese bus that was transporting us second leg relay runners to the exchange place.

Once we arrived, I met up with my family. I was so glad they were there!

Maine Coast Half Marathon Bosom Buddy Relay | nycexpeditionist.com

Maine Coast Half Marathon Bosom Buddy Relay | nycexpeditionist.com

Maine Coast Half Marathon Bosom Buddy Relay | nycexpeditionist.com

I sat in Mal’s car toВ beat the chill—this is one problem I’ve noticed with relay races. The second runner ends up waiting around outside for hours, making it hard to stay warm.

The lead runners started coming in amazingly soon. The second one who arrived was actually a relay runner who tagged his teammate. A few other runners zoomed in, including relayers. Those runners were hardcore! They tagged each other the way they do in the Olympics and other big races, with the second runner starting to run as the first is coming in, so they’re in motion together.

…that was something I had never thought of doing! 😉

Within a half hour, more runners were coming through. After it had been more than an hour since the start, I decided it was time to head into the relay corral to wait for Evan.

I watched other relay runners come in and tag their teammates. Seeing the exchanges was one of my favorite parts of the race. Teams were made up of all sorts of relationships: couples, friends, siblings, parents and their adult kids. Everyone was so excited as they came in and hugged or tagged their partner.

I started to get a little nervous when I realized I was one of the last relayers left. But then, my mom and Mal shouted that they saw Evan in the distance. I was so proud and excited that I couldn’t help but jump up and down and wave. When he reached me, he was all smiles. I gave him a big hug, but he shook me off, saying, “Go! Go!”

The first few miles were my favorite. The road went through a residential area, so I ran by pretty shore houses. The ocean gleamed beyond.

Maine Coast Half Marathon Bosom Buddy Relay | nycexpeditionist.com

Some runners were taking photos along the way (!!) but I’m not coordinated enough to snap pictures while running. Plus, my competitive nature wanted me to clock in with my best possible time.

Because I was on fresh legs, I steadily passed other runners. (And felt kind of bad about it, since they were running the full 13.1 miles!) In a way, it became like a game that helped me get through the run—target someone to gradually pass, then target someone else once I had.

The Maine Coast Half Marathon is a race that’s mostly run on roads that are still open to traffic. (As was the Saint Michaels race we ran in Maryland three years ago.) Initially, I was worried about this—running a race is trying enough, and I didn’t want to think about getting hit by a car while doing so. But the race organizers and Biddeford law enforcement did a great job. They directed traffic around the runners, and held it up, when necessary. And for most of the race, there were very few cars on the road.

Maine Coast Half Marathon Bosom Buddy Relay | nycexpeditionist.com

I felt great for most of my run—strong and upbeat as I ran along the coastal road, then made my way back inland, among houses and trees.

Maine Coast Half Marathon Bosom Buddy Relay | nycexpeditionist.com

As usual, I started getting antsy towards the end. The last half-mile or so is always the toughest for me, when I just want the race to be over.

The course ended in a clever way. The final stretch went back into the University of New England campus, then through a small underpass that led right to the spectators near the finish line.

It was there where I saw Mal, Peter, Evan and my mom cheering me on. Clearly, I was thrilled to see them!

Maine Coast Half Marathon Bosom Buddy Relay | nycexpeditionist.com

The finish line was right beyond. OurВ final time was 2:07:08—much faster than I had expected! Evan ended up running about 10:20 a mile, and I ran an average pace of 8:53.

Shipyard Brewing Co. sponsored the race, so there was free beer at the end, as well as pizza from the Portland Pie Co.В But we didn’t stick around the festivities for too long. I was looking forward to celebrating my finish with a few crustaceous meals elsewhere!

Spring Running Weekend, Booked! Maine Coast Half Marathon Relay

lobster buoys

Apologies for the radio silence!

The past few months have been pretty crazy. I’ve had some good things going on—work has been busy, and I’ve been doing lots of ballet, including my first pointe variation performance! But I’ve also been dealing with some not-so-fun personal life stuff, as well.

I think it’s telling that we’re now deep into the long slog (my least favorite time of year), and I haven’t even put up my annual post about getting through it!

In all seriousness, though, over the past few weeks, I decided I’ve been in need of some carrot-planting: planning some fun things to look forward to, to ride out the remainder of this long slog/rough patch.

The very first carrot planted: signingВ up for a spring road race.

I’ll admit, I was a bit hesitant. I really haven’t gone running since my last race, the Long Branch Half Marathon Relay, two years ago (!!). And that was such a special race. My pace was a personal best, and Mal and I hit the goal we set for ourselves. And we finished ninth out of all the female teams! Accomplishing that, with my sister, was seriously one of the best moments of my life.

But I realized that that’s not a reason to never run again! I’ve felt like Evan and I have needed to shake up our routine. Plus, I wanted a carrot that would take me right into spring. And, of course, I wanted an excuse to get away.

The Maine Coast Marathon’s Bosom Buddy Relay seemed like the perfect fit. It’s in early May, which will mean ideal running weather–not too hot, not too cold. Since it’s another relay, I can prep for the raceВ without disrupting my ballet schedule—and Evan and I can train as a team. Part of the run is by the beach—and you know how much I love the beach. Shipyard Brewery Co. is one of the sponsors—and it’s in Maine! Hello?! Beer and lobster to celebrate afterwards!

So we’ve started training, a bit. Some runs at the gym, an outdoor run this weekend, now that NYC isn’t covered in ice. (Evan had the brilliant idea to run from my place to Sylvia’s, 4.5 miles away in Harlem. Nothing like the promise of mac and cheese to get you motivated!)

Seven weeks to go!

(Image via Pinterest)

Race Recap: Long Branch Half Marathon Relay

half marathon

Back from our spring running weekend of 2013—and I’d definitely say it was a success! Mal, Peter and I had an awesome time racing down the Jersey Shore, early Sunday morning.

Peter ran theВ Long Branch Half MarathonВ and Mal and I teamed up for theВ Half Marathon Relay; both events went simultaneously along one course, which wound throughВ Oceanport, Monmouth Beach and Long Branch. (The headlining event, the New Jersey Marathon, started about an hour later and went along the same route—just with 13.1 extra miles tacked on midway!)

This was my first relay, which made for an exciting but slightly nerve-racking experience, due to all the logistics. Here’s how it worked: Mal and I decided that she’d run the first leg (6.9 miles) and I’d run the second (6.2 miles). Early on Sunday morning (5:15 a.m.!), Mal, Peter and I went to the stating point at Monmouth Park. When it got close to race time, Mal and Peter headed to their corrals atВ starting line. Meanwhile, other second leg runners and I took a shuttle bus to the transition point, several miles away.

Once there, a volunteer explained the runner hand-off. A row of metal barriers divided the street down the middle. The half marathoners would be on the far side of the barriers. The first leg relayers would come down the section next to the sidewalk where we were gathered.В A volunteer farther down the course would radio in the last three digits of the approaching relay runner’s bib number. Then, the volunteer near us would call out that number and that runner would get on deck in preparation for his/her partner’s arrival. Once the two met, runner #1 would hand over the time chip belt, and runner #2 would be off!

While I waited for Mal, I tried to stay warm (it was freezing!), stretch and talk to my parents, who’d met me there. And not be too nervous. But it was also very exciting. All of us second leggers cheered as the super-fast half marathoners and relay runners came through the course. Soon after the stream of runners grew from a trickle to a pack, we caught Peter going by, looking as fresh-faced and smiley as this guy.

I knew Mal would be there shortly, so I took off my sweats—and all of a sudden, my mom shouted that she saw Mal! A few other relayers were arriving at the same time, so our number didn’t get called. Feeling frazzled, I ran over to Mal and fumbled to grab the belt from her and shove my headphones in my ears. The belt cinch snapped off as I tried to put it on, but I took off running while knotting it around my waist.

I felt pretty horrible for the entire run. I was freezing from standing outside for a good part of the morning, and it was a shock to run while so cold. Also, I’m not used to working out in the morning. And I’d been up since 4 a.m. Not my normal wake-up time.

But I tried to maintain a consistent clip because I didn’t want to drag us down. Mal and I had set a goal to finish in 1:55—and she’d completed her leg at that pace. I wasn’t going to be the reason we didn’t achieve our time! Luckily, I was among runners who were sticking to what felt like my goal pace, so I held steady with them.

I ran on, as the course meandered through various residential streets. Each time I completed a mile and saw a time clock, I vowed to try to reach the next one in 8-9 minutes. Finally, I was on the last mile, along the beach. Just seeing the ocean energized me, though it was sad to note where Sandy had destroyed part of the boardwalk.

As I approached the finish line, I did not feel great, like I did last year. I felt like I was going to die. (This year, my mom later told me, I definitely did not look like I was taking a walk in the park!) But after crossing the finish line, getting our medals, and finding Mal, I almost teared up with joy—I came in at 1:56:58, and knew that our chip time would put us around our goal.

Our official time was 1:54:08—and we placed 9th out of 95 all-female relay teams! We were thrilled with our results! And Peter finished in a crazy-fast time—1:45:48.

We celebrated with doughnuts back at our hotel, then went out to cheer on the marathoners who were finishing their (much longer) race on the boardwalk. I was completely zonked for the rest of the day but it was so worth it! It’s funny; I’ve run a half marathon and a faster 10K before, but this was probably the most gratifying race I’ve completed. I think it was the team aspect of it—not just working toward my own goal, but Mal’s as well.

We’re already looking for another relay to do this year. Anyone up for Ragnar?!

(The photo above is the only one I took at the race! I even ran with my phone because I was planning to take pics while waiting for my turn to run, but I didn’t snap a single one. I suppose sometimes you just have to live in the moment!)

Off to Run!

nj marathon

I’m off to the Jersey Shore and couldn’t be more excited! Tomorrow is the New Jersey Marathon, half-marathon and half-marathon relay, which goes through Ocean Port, Monmouth Beach and Long Branch. Mal and I will be running the relay and Peter will be running the full half.

This is my first relay, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that goes. I’m also curious to see what my time will be. I haven’t trained enough to have a solid idea of my pace; I figured it would be around 9:15/mile, which is what it was last year, but in my last two runs with Mal, we’ve been averaging about :45/mile faster. Running together has made us push each other, but we won’t be together during the actual race! I’m wondering whether I can get to that pace on my own. (Last year, I definitely didn’t push myself hard enough. After I crossed the finish line, my mom said I looked like I was strolling through the park—and I felt that way, too! I should have emptied the tank more.)

The organizers of the NJ Marathon have impressed me very much, so far. They’ve built in many great extras to make the race more socially conscious: They’ve given out virtual goody bags (an email with freebies and special offers) to cut down on waste, and they’re holding used sneakers and canned food drives at the pre-run expo. They’ve also created special “United We Run” shirts to support Boston, with a portion of the proceeds going to The One Fund, which benefits the bombing victims.

All this is coming from an area that’s still rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy.

Here’s to a wonderful weekend!

(Photo via the New Jersey Marathon’s Facebook page)

Runners for Boston

I still can’t believe what happened last week in Boston. The attack on the marathon was so pointless, shocking and sad, and the subsequent lockdown of the city was terrifying. I can’t help but get upset any time I’m reminded of it. And I haven’t lived in Boston in years.

But I do know the city well, and one thing I’m 100% sure of is that Boston, and everyone who lives there, will get through this tough time. I know the marathon will be back next year, and thousands of people will be out in the streets to support the runners and the city, and show that they’re stronger than this year’s tragedy.

I’ve also been heartened to see all the support the worldwide running community has shown Boston, in the aftermath. And it’s not a wonder—anyone who has the drive and dedication to train for these races certainly feels camaraderie with others who do the same. (Back when I lived in Boston, and running, not dancing, was my singular focus, I’d trade grim smiles with other crazies who’d be running through the snowy paths along the Charles in the dead of winter!)

At yesterday’s Salt Lake City Marathon, runners, were given bracelets with Boston Marathon colors
Salt Lake City Hosts Marathon Under Stepped Up Security Measures
…and a several runners from the Boston Marathon, dubbed the “4:09 Group” crossed the Salt Lake City finish line at that time—when the first bomb went off in Boston—in honor of those who were killed, injured or unable to finish the race. Thousands of Salt Lake City runners signed a giant banner to show their support.
Salt Lake City Hosts Marathon Under Stepped Up Security Measures
At today’s London Marathon, runners observed a moment of silence before the race…
london marathon moment of silence
…and, in various places across the country, this weekend, runners ran for Boston.

I’ll be doing the same, in a few weeks. On Friday, the New Jersey Marathon posted this message on its Facebook page:

In solidarity with the Boston running community we are encouraging every one to wear blue and yellow on race day – shorts, hat, socks, etc. Whatever works for you! Let’s show our support with a sea of blue and yellow on the Jersey Shore.

If you’d like to make a monetary contribution, The One Fund has been set up to help the people most affected by these tragic events.В http://www.onefundboston.org/

I am so excited to do so. It’s just a small gesture, but one that sends a strong message.

one fund

Have you come across other ways runners are showing their support?

(Salt Lake City photos by George Fray/Getty via theВ San Jose Mercury News; London Marathon photo by Luke Macgregor/ReutersВ via the NY Times; bottom photo via the NJ Marathon Facebook page)

Spring 2013 Race: Long Branch Half Marathon Relay

nj marathon

Of all the weekend trips I took last year, one of my favorites was theВ Saint Michaels Running Festival, in Maryland. This was my first time making a mini-vacation out of a road race, but afterwards, I totally understood why people do. The running part was fun enough—I was proud of myself for running my first 10K in eight years, and thrilled to watch Mal and Peter cross the finish line after their first half marathons. And it was refreshing to celebrate all that in a new setting. Saint Michaels is a stately little town on the Chesapeake, and,В instead of booking hotel rooms, my family rentedВ an airy lake houseВ that served as our home base for the weekend. We chillaxed there after the race, and celebrated that evening with a dinner of crabs and beer.

So this spring, as we were slogging through the Long Slog, Mal and Peter found a road race for us to enter: The Long Branch Half MarathonВ at the Jersey Shore, on the first weekend in May. Well, Peter is running the half marathon. Mal and I are running the half marathon relay.

I haven’t run a relay before, so I’m super-excited to see how it goes. Plus, the fact that I’ll be on a team with my favorite person in the entire world makes it even more exciting!

I’ve also found that the 10K is the perfect distance for me. As lazy as it sounds, I don’t have to train a lot (just one or two runs a week), so I don’t have to give up any ballet classes for the gym. Because in all honesty, I like running, but I don’t love it. It’s refreshing to do once in a while, as long as it feels like a novelty. (Especially during the Long Slog, when I’m looking for anything to pass the time until summer!) A 10K is a long enough distance to be challenging, but not so lengthy that the training stops being fun and starts feeling like a chore.

I’m also looking forward to the race’s location. Parts of the course are along the beach—I’m hoping for a bright, sunny and not-too-hot May day!

PS – I’m updating my running playlist and could use some good suggestions! What songs always get you going when you work out?

(Photo via the New Jersey Marathon Facebook page)