Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Race Review: Hyannis Half Marathon 2013

This weekend Louie and I both completed our first half marathon - the Hyannis Half Marathon in Hyannis, MA, which is the first race in the Cape Cod Half Marathon Trilogy. This event has been going on since 1996, and over the years has evolved into the Marathon, Half Marathon, and Marathon Team Relay that it is today. Needless to say, it was very well run event.

Despite threatening weather warnings, the event was not cancelled or delayed. The race began, as scheduled, right at 10AM in the pouring rain. As it is in every large race, the first few miles were a bit crowded, but after the first 5K everyone started to find their pace and spread out. Around miles 2.5 and 3, there were some giant puddles that covered the width of the road. At some points, we had to trudge single-file through the muddy grass on the side of the road. Fortunately, those disappeared after that section of the course.

The course itself wasn't completely closed. I'm not sure if this is normal for races of this length as it was my first one, but there were points where regular traffic was on the course or waiting for runners to go by to make turns and cross intersections. I thought that was a little odd, but the police for each town did a great job controlling traffic and made sure the runners got the right of way.

The wind and rain wasn't so bad at the beginning, but right around mile 10 I could really feel the weight of the water in my clothes. Even though I was only wearing a Dri-Fit sweatshirt and Under Armour Cold Gear pants, it felt like I was carrying around an extra 30 pounds.

Crossing the finish line was one of the best feelings ever. Even though my whole lower body felt like it was going to fall apart, as soon as I passed mile marker 13, a whole new rush of energy went through my body and it felt like I was sprinting for the last .1! I felt so accomplished when I got my finishers medal and I wore it around with pride for the rest of the afternoon. (Louie and I also got our photo taken for Core Power's website, because we're basically models. :P)

By my watch, I finished in 2:14:52, but my official time was 2:15:56 (I paused my watch when we stopped a couple times to stretch out). I came in 1,800th place (haha) out of about 2,400. I'm so happy I finally accomplished my goal of completing a half marathon, and am looking forward to getting better and better at this distance! 

The next race for me will be the Great Bay Half Marathon in April, and I'm definitely looking forward to competing again! :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sent from Heaven: Foam Rollers & Lacrosse Balls

As an athlete, sore leg (and entire body) muscles are something that I'm no stranger to. I remember the first few days of high school every year were excruciating because it was smack in the middle of soccer pre-season, and my school had a lot of stairs. So many memories of not being able to move... >_>

When I got to college, being an athlete meant I got access to our awesome training room. I was never really in the training room because I was never hurt, but once my knees started to really bother me my junior year, I knew I'd better get it checked before I injured myself and ruined my season. The trainer just told me that my quads were tight (wouldn't have guessed that) and showed me a few different stretches to relieve the pain. She also introduced me to what I now believe is God's gift to leg muscles - the foam roller.

If you've never used one of these things, you've really got to try it. If I'm being honest, I'm pretty terrible about stretching... ever. My muscles are constantly tight, I have knots all over my body, and I definitely can't touch my toes.

I know. It's disgraceful.

But as soon as I rolled out my legs on this contraption for the first time, I was hooked. I'm not going to lie, it definitely hurts while you're doing it. You're essentially forcing knots out of your legs that aren't ready to leave by using all of your body weight. But as soon as you stand up off of the ground and shake your legs out a little bit, you feel like a million bucks. You're muscles are loose, you can stretch a little bit further, and (the best part) you can run a little bit faster! Awesome.

When my senior season of lacrosse wrapped up, so did my opportunity to use the foam rollers in the training room. I went almost a whole year without rolling my legs out, and I definitely felt the difference. My legs felt heavier and I was significantly less flexible than I was during lacrosse season. A few days ago, though, the stars aligned and I wound up with a foam roller of my very own in my apartment. With my first half only 4 days away (WHAT?!), it couldn't have been better timing!

For those of you who may be intimidated by this large, foamy miracle, lacrosse balls work just as good for un-knotting muscles in your body. Since it's smaller, it will (obviously) only help smaller areas of your body at any one time. The plus side, though, is that it's portable and hand held, so you can take one wherever you go. You better believe I'll have a few of these in my bag come race day!

One of my favorite things to do, especially after a long run or a long day of work, is roll a couple of lacrosse balls under my feet. Bam - instant foot massage! I also use them to target more problem knots. The muscles around my knees tend to carry a lot of the stress caused by running, so taking one of these and really focusing on getting one knot out is super helpful. However, since lacrosse balls are made of hard rubber, they might cause bruising, so be careful!


In other news, like I mentioned before, Louie and I are running our first half marathon this upcoming Sunday! I'm sure Louie and I will be updating the blog like crazy next week, but I'm planning on live Tweeting/Instagramming/Vine-ing the expo on Saturday and the race on Sunday, so make sure you're following me!

Twitter: @rmfickfack
Instagram: rmfickfack
Vine: rmfickfack

See you guys on the other side!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Transformation from the Inside Out

I sort of explained that I was not much of a runner before I graduated, in my about me section, but there is more to the story than simply not being a runner one day and being a runner the next. That is the really simplified version of the story.


I graduated from Lasell College in May 2011. Finding a job right out of school was not going well and the end of a relationship that was almost a year long led me to decide that I needed something I could control.  I decided I was going to run. I bought a pair of shoes and that was just the start.

I started running on September 14, 2011.I know this due to the app on my iPhone I used to track my run. My first run was 1 mile in 14 minutes and 16 seconds. I was really excited. First, I wanted to complete a mile. Second, I wanted to run the mile in under 15 minutes. I accomplished both goals.

After running the first mile, I would eventually push to be faster and push to go further. It has turned into a way to test my limits, but I started out running because I could. I wanted something that I did not need to depend on someone else for. It was also time where I could be focused on running and not worry about anything else. It is still that today.

I will say, when I started running I was extremely nervous and well extremely out of shape. I started running on the paths in a cemetery. I know that is probably a strange place to start, but there was no one around to judge me or for me to feel uncomfortable around. When I started running I weighed over 200 lbs.  I do not know the exact number/ I was too embarrassed to actually see the number on a scale even if I was the only seeing it.

After, I started running I decided I was going to start paying attention to what I ate, especially the portion sizes.  That was very important. This was a big part of me changing.

That is where I started.  Where I am now is worlds different.  I now weigh around 145 lbs.  I have an average mile below 9 minutes. I have run 17 races of varying distances and I am planning to run a marathon!The cemetery and those extra 50+ lbs seem like they belong to a different person.

 I have learned quite a bit along the way. The biggest thing though, is that nothing is really impossible. Hard work and dedication are the keys to achieving anything.  I went from feeling helpless and lost to knowing I am the person who decides what my future holds.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Trapped on the Treadmill

We here in New England were hit by a major blizzard this past weekend. There was about 2 feet of snow where I live, not including the huge drifts that ended up burying my car:

Poor little car!
For those of you who don't live in colder climates during the winter, it's extremely dangerous to train outside on the road when there's huge piles of snow on the ground. Snow banks make it hard for cars to see you, you can slip on ice that's covered up, and in extreme cases, cars can slip on ice and hit you. In winter weather like this, it's best to train in one of my least favorite ways - the dreaded treadmill.

AKA the dreadmill.
Personally, I much prefer running outside. There's more to look at, there's hills that will keep you in better shape, and it's nice to get some fresh air after being inside working all day. But when there's piles of snow on the ground and I have a race right around the corner, it'd be stupid of me to attempt a run outside.

The treadmill isn't all bad. I love using it for speed workouts, shorter recovery runs, and warm ups for lifting. I know a lot of people who even prefer the treadmill over running outside and can pound out 10 miles on it with no problem. I don't think I'll ever understand how or why they do it, but maybe over these next couple weeks I'll learn.

...haha, yeah right!

So I'm trapped on the treadmill until some of the snow clears off. I usually avoid the treadmill like the plague if I'm running for longer than 45 minutes, but with Hyannis being 12 days away and the snow from Nemo still fresh on the ground, I'm going to have to suck it up and run my 8-10 milers on this torturous machine. Let's just hope I don't go flying off the back of it!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Music for Running Review: The Heist by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

      The connection between running and music is an interesting one. The type of music I like to listen really depends on the mood I am in when it comes time to run. Some runs I prefer dubstep. Some I prefer more of an alternative rock. Acoustic rock has made it's way into my music choice and even just a run with nothing but my thoughts happens occasionally. I thought it would be a cool feature to look at some artists and how I felt while running and listening to their music.
    For the first review on this topic I decided to do The Heist by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. There were a few songs on this album that I thought were great for using during a workout or running and others that were not the great for either. When I workout I tend to look for songs that are upbeat and energetic and my choices reflect that fully:

The songs I really liked to workout to:
1. Make the Money
2. Thrift Shop
3. Thin Line

The songs that I didn't like working out to:
1. Neon Cathedral
2. Cowboy Boots
3. BomBom

    This is by no means an indictment of the album in general. In fact, I actually really liked the entire album outside of working out. It's a great album with a lot of great music. I would recommend anyone who likes hip-hop to get a hold of it. It's worth a listen and has a great message throughout many of the songs.

Let me know what you think about this.

A Little More About Louie

Hi! I'm Louie. I'm 23 years old, almost 24. I'm an avid New England Revolution fan and running enthusiast. Okay, some may say I'm crazy when it comes to my running, but I really like it.

As for what got me into running, it was a combination of things. My post-graduation life was not going the way I had thought it would. I was struggling to find a job and had recently gone through a break up.  I decided to go buy a pair of running shoes because at least that was something I could control. I could control whether I got up and went for a run.

I started running pretty slowly.  I was excited about a 15 minute mile and being able to run more than a mile.  Eventually, I decided to start running races. Well, I was talked into it because I had no plans to race. I was not comfortable with my ability to run, but still signed up for my first race. It was a the Harvard Pilgrim Finish at the 50 10k on July 3rd.  I have been addicted since. I have run 5k's, 10k's, 5 milers, a Spartan Race, and other obstacle races. I plan to continue to run them and I hope you enjoy the reviews and other posts.

Welcome to VStR! / Meet Riley

Hey everyone! Welcome to Versus the Road, a blog all about racing, running, and fitness.

My good friend Louie and I have become quite the running freaks ever since we graduated college, and thought a blog would be a great place to talk about and share our love for the sport. Here we'll post training stories, race reviews, fitness tips, and everything in between. We're both excited to get this project started, and to share our journey through the racing world with you all!


Me after finishing Color Me Rad
Before we kick this thing off, I suppose I should introduce myself. My name's Riley and I'm a 22 year-old athlete living about 45 minutes outside of Boston. I've been active my entire life - from toddler ballet at age 3, to being captain of my college's women's lacrosse team at age 21.

After graduation, I turned to long distance running to stay in shape, and completed my first official 5K in July of 2012 (Color Me Rad!). Being a poor post-grad, I haven't competed in lots of "official" races since my finals days as a track athlete, but I'm hoping to change that in 2013.

Since I started running distance, my ultimate goal has been to finish a marathon. This October, I'm going to have the opportunity to reach that goal by running in the Hartford Marathon. I have a lot of work to do before I'm ready to take on 26.2, but I'm looking forward to October when I can finally attempt it!