New Balance Zante v3 Review: My “Metro Shoe”

The day before the Publix Savannah Women’s Half & and 5K I got to work a shift at the “Solutions Desk” at the race expo. This is my favorite station because I get to solve problems for a group of my favorite people: runners. I also get to meet runners visiting from out of town and first-time racers. There’s anxious, adrenaline-fueled chatter about the weather, course, pace, gear and training setbacks. If I had a dollar for every time someone said, almost apologetically, “But I’m not fast,” I could’ve bought a new pair of running shoes.

Publix Savannah Women's Half & 5k

Me, solving problems.

Oh wait, I did.

My beloved New Balance 860v7s were beyond wear. My Garmin told me I’d logged 770 miles in them since July and considering I didn’t wear my watch on every run, these wheels were clearly overextended. So, two days before the race, I went to Fleet Feet and picked up another pair of 860v7s in a new color.

New Balance 860v7

So pretty.

“But you just got a new pair,” my husband complained. Oh, silly, silly Ray.

Last week, as a Publix Savannah Women’s race ambassador, I was given a pair of the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante version 3s to review. As a die-hard NB fan, and owner of last-year’s version, I already knew I’d love these. They’re incredibly lightweight, sport a low profile, contour fit and an accommodating toe-box, and are the perfect complement to my joggers, which have become what my husband refers to as my “giving-up pants.”

New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v3

Joggers + Zante = Giving up (in a good way)

But run in them? Not so much.

It’s not them. It’s me.

See, there are three things I’ll never cheat on: my husband, a race or my running shoes. I’ve worn the New Balance 860s for about 20 years now, and I’m not changing anytime soon—not even going to dabble. So, while many people have said the Zante is an ideal, lightweight racing shoe, it has been designated as my official “metro shoe.” It’s the shoe I wear post-race, when anything else would feel like a pair of strappy Payless 4-inch stilettos made exclusively from man-made materials not unlike plastic zip-ties pulled taught.

This not only gives my feet the support and kindness they deserve, it also gives my 860s a needed break to air out and maybe even extends their life. They work as a team, my 860s and my Zantes. They’re like Sonny and Cher, prosecco and OJ, left foot and right foot.

Plus, there’s something cool—something a little Mr. Rogers—about having specific shoes for specific activities, and going through the ritual of changing shoes from running 6 miles to running errands. And having something you call your “metro shoes” is inherently hipster. (At almost 40, those opportunities are few and far between.)

I didn’t wear my new 860s for the race. That’s what is called a “rookie mistake.” Instead, I beat out whatever pulp was left in my old shoes and ceremoniously retired them after a respectable 1:47 half-marathon finish (in my book).

New Balance 806v7

RIP my good friend.

Then I promptly showered, slipped into my joggers and Zantes, and gave up.

(You can get your Zante V3s at Fleet Feet Savannah, which retail for about $99. How you use them is up to you!)

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Nourish: Pampering Products for the Runner’s Body and Soul

I know that I should stretch, wash my water bottles regularly and not pour that next glass of wine. But what we should do is so not fun. In fact, most things that are “good for us” are miserable, like flossing and flu shots.

Can something be good for me and fun? I mean, I like running and working out. I like to eat fruits and vegetables. And I drink wine—wine is good for me, right? (Someone said something about “moderation” but I stopped listening, so I don’t know what the hell that was all about…)

But everything else that’s awesome—bubble baths, massage, naps—those fall under the category of “pampering,” suggesting they’re an indulgence, not a fundamental need.

Then I met my friend and running partner, Lindsay. Lindsay treats pampering like it’s her job. I once touched her arm and was so taken by the luxe, velvety feel of her skin, I thought she was magic.

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So relaxed. So pampered. So smart.

“You’re so soft!!!” I exclaimed, self-consciously rubbing my berber carpet-like arm.

“I exfoliate,” she replied, as if she just explained how brushing makes your teeth clean.

I bought a loofah that very day.

When I was sidelined by an IT-band injury, Lindsay suggested a massage.

Up until that point, I had only gotten a massage when my parents gift-certificated me a hot-stone session, and I had to force myself to stay awake for fear I’d miss the bliss. It was, indeed, an indulgence.

But 30 minutes whimpering under the powerful hands of Lindsay’s Russian massage therapist at the local YMCA, and I realized massage was neither Swedish nor relaxing. It is Russian and 100% necessary.

I let Lindsay be my guide dog for all-things good for me, and she was the one to introduce me to Nourish: in the form of hand-made, rosemary-scented bath salts to soak my weary muscles.

Nourish Natural Bath Products

Nourish creates some of the best natural bath products I’ve ever encountered. From salts to soy candles, this family-owned business produces some of the best, chemical-free bath boosters you can imagine. (I grew up with my mother warning that Mr. Bubbles was going to work his way into my “parts” and wreak havoc. Mom, you can relax knowing I’ve gone all natural.) Nourish also gives back to the community; they’re one of the sponsors of Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon and 5K.

Because I’m a race ambassador, Nourish sent me some products to review and give away, which I’m more than happy to do for a company I’m already obsessed with. Because the more runners who know about Nourish, the better equipped our bodies are to survive the toil we put them through.

After my 9-mile training run (yes, for the upcoming Publix Women’s Half!), my hips and low back felt as if a welder was holding a blow torch to them, trying to fuse them back in place.

I channeled my inner Lindsay—who I can bet was already steeping in her own fragrant bath complete with candle, face-mask and cabernet—and turned on my tub. My husband came in and asked, disgusted, “What are you doing?” as if I were skinning a cat.

“I’m running a bath.” He looked perplexed.  “Because I’m sore.” (i.e. Not because I’m indulging myself).

Ray refers to baths as “human stew.” He claims I’m “simmering in my own funk.” Consequently, this also revokes his ticket to watch. (I win.)

But not the cat. The kitten stands on the ledge of the tub, fascinated by this process. In fact, she’s so fascinated that I shield myself from her judging stare. (The hair-full always mock the hairless.)

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“What are you doing, strange human?”

As I loofah and bath gel my way to happiness with the Lemongrass & Rosemary Moisturizing Wash, I wonder why I don’t do this more often?

Lemongrass and Rosemary Moisturizing Wash

I smell like a delicious lemon drop.

Why is a bath accompanied by salts and fizz not regarded as simple maintenance? I mean, B.L. (before Lindsay), I’d run a bunch of miles, swallow an Advil and call it a day. Today, A.L., I know that my body is me. Not something I reward with a massage or a fragrant dip. This body and me, we’re one and the same. And to take care of me, means to take care of this body. This vessel—this physical expression of “me.” (Whoa, that got existential for a minute.)

A soak, a massage, a candle—these things aren’t extravagant. They aren’t indulgent. They’re the necessary ways in which we tell ourselves we’re worth the trouble. And ways in which we tell ourselves “Thank you.” And “Please keep going another day.” And another day. And another day.

Lindsay’s got it figured out. She—her skin, her soul, her mind, her heart—is nourished.

Not “just another half marathon”

The week of the Crites Tybee Race Fest, a 2-day, 5-race festival with a cumulative distance of 26.2 miles, I came down with a cold. Because, well, of course I did.

No one else was faring much better. Lindsay had been fighting all sorts of sickness and Robin wisely decided to give her knee a rest after our Charleston Marathon. So I’d have to run by my lonesome. And if you know me at all, you know I don’t like to be alone. Like, ever.

So I decided to race “just” the half-marathon, which compared to the marathon a couple weeks ago, should be no problem.

At the 11th hour, my friend Jodie decided to join me for the race.  Jodie claims she’s “not a runner” but she’s pretty much whatever she wants to be. A salsa dancer? Sure! A Gladiator? No problem! A human fork-lift? I mean, have you seen her arms?!

And she can decide at a moment’s that she’s going to run 13.1 miles.

But Jodie won’t run with me. See, Jodie doesn’t like to talk and run. And I pretty much run to talk.

Jodie also doesn’t like the cold, and by cold I mean anything sub-78. In the middle of summer, when it’s 100 degrees and 100% humidity, you’ll see her running at 2 p.m. By choice.

This morning, it’s barely 40 with wind gusts up to 20 mph. And Jodie is not happy.

“I can’t believe you talked me into this,” she grumbles, pulling her jacket tight around her body in spite of the fact that we’re inside a heated car.

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Not happy.

We both know I didn’t talk her into this. A few months ago, Jodie decided to run the Key West Marathon in support of her dad, who’s fighting cancer. A few days before the race she came down with the flu and decided to run the half, fueled by fever, chills and a promise she made to her dad.

She finished the half, but the fact that she was still 13.1 miles short of her promise haunted her. Which brings us to the Tybee Half.

“This is just God’s way of punishing me for not running the marathon,” Jodie continues to lament at the race start line, her entire body trembling with the cold.

Neither of us have any expectations for this race; we’re going for the finish where we have VIP passes to the Savannah magazine tent and the promise of bottomless mimosas.

At the gun, we disappear into our individual playlists and race. It takes about two miles for my feet to thaw and I’m holding a pretty steady 8:15 pace. If I can keep it up, I’ll have a good finish.

Of course, I can’t. Not only because the wind pushes me backwards, but also because I’m mentally weak.

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Running (fake) happy.

Why do I do this? I ask myself, the beginning of a series of self-defeating rhetorical questions.

Why am I so slow?

Why am I so old?

Burp.

Why did I eat Mexican last night?

Then I turn the corner and run with the wind and all is right again.

Why does this feel so easy?

Another switchback.

Why does this suck so much?

Like all things, the race eventually ends. I somehow muster what I think is a sprint to the finish, but probably looks more like an angry orangutan scaring off a would-be predator.  I know this because spectators avert their eyes as I bear my teeth and emit very un-humanlike sounds.

I finish in 1:48, a respectable time but not a PR, gather myself and cheer Jodie in, who bounds along like she could run another 10 miles. Because she could.

Crites Tybee Run Fest

Jodie immediately wraps herself in “Grandma’s coat”—her affectionate name for the warmest, if not the most hideous, jacket—and we bee-line to the mimosas.

“Go easy on the orange juice,” I instruct the bartender. He pours maybe a half-teaspoon into my complimentary travel cup before I stop him. “Whoa—leave a little room for the champagne, buddy.”

We want to hang around to test the bottomless-ness of our cups, but the wind and cold is unbearable, so unbearable that even the free drinks aren’t worth the discomfort (a sentence I never thought I’d write).

Crites Tybee Run Fest

Actually happy.

As we flee to our cars, we congratulate one another on our accomplishment: finishing. Only it was a little sweeter for Jodie because finishing also meant honoring her dad by engaging in an activity they use to enjoy together.

For me it was “just another half marathon,” but at the same time there’s no such thing as “just another half marathon.” It’s always a struggle, always an accomplishment, and never should it be something we take for granted. To be healthy, to be active, to be able to run, to have friends to cheer us on, these are gifts we work for, but they are not forever.

I’m grateful I had them today.

Another (rough) race is in the books

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Just Sluggin’ Along

So this has not been my best racing year. But instead of letting that discourage me (as it did after the Rock ‘n’ Roll debacle in November), I’m looking to the bright side, asking myself, “What can I take from this experience?” And hopefully, next year, the high-price I’m paying for this data collection will turn into a Boston qualifying time as a 40-year-old even though I will not be 40. I repeat, I will not be 40. Yet.

I knew going into the Publix Women’s Half-Marathon that I wasn’t prepared. Not to top last year’s PR, anyway. I have been running regularly, but hadn’t gone further than 7 ½ miles. And yet, when I stood at the start line, the plan to start slow, run by feel and finish strong, disappeared along with all my best judgment. You know, that thing that tells you not to eat Mexican food the night before a race? (Which I also did.)

As always, the first mile was great, except that I was alone. That morning my running partner, Lindsay, called to say she wasn’t going to race because the forecast promised a downpour. Lindsay doesn’t run in the rain, in the wind, in temperatures below 48 or above 78, or on Fridays. Some would call her a finicky runner, but I prefer “particular.” She also told me that she’s also never going to race again.

“What?!” I’m pinning my big for the 10th time, trying to get it “just right.”

“I just don’t think it’s for me,” she said. “I get too anxious.”

I had already retied my shoes twice, visited the bathroom three times and re-checked my Garmin’s charge at least a dozen times. Racing makes us all anxious.

It’s true that there’s a lot of pressure—pressure we put on ourselves. I know I’m probably not going to win a race unless it’s made up entirely of 3-legged Chihuahuas, but I do want to get faster, beat my best time, maybe even snag an age-group medal. I don’t pay upwards of $25 to race for fun; I’ve come to accept this about myself. Many people can and do, and a part of me admires that—that 1% of me who says things like, “Just do your best.” But the other 99% of me might be a little competitive (and my sister just rolled her eyes at my use of “might”). And in age-group racing, our biggest competitor is always our self.

My self was fast last year.

This year, my less conditioned self went out too fast. I managed to hold pace for nearly 3 miles, somehow forgetting that there would still be 10 to go. I slowed considerably, and then, around mile 6, I retched. The retching continued for the next three miles, fist to mouth, trying to keep what I imagined to be a flaming, devil-faced fajita from coming up. I was thirsty. My head ached. I considered the medical tent, but knew as soon as I stopped I’d feel fine and the medics would be all, “Oooh, are you tired? It’s a race, you’re supposed to be tired.” (OK, a medic wouldn’t say that, but I would.)

On the switchbacks, I could see I was losing distance. When the 1:45 pacer passed me, it would take everything I had to stay under 2:00. About 2 miles from the finish, I saw one of my daughter’s 4th-grade classmates working the water station.

“Mrs. Goto!” she yelled out enthusiastically, waving her arms. I pulled myself together, because while it’s cool to be a mom who can run a half-marathon, it’s totally not cool to throw-up on your daughter’s friend. In fact, it’s social suicide.

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14th Age-group, 1:54:11

Faking that you feel good always helps. I smiled big, took a swig of water and headed toward the finish. Shortly thereafter, I heard the sweet twang of Lindsay’s voice cheering me on. She ran alongside me for about a tenth of a mile, and those were the best steps I’d taken all day.

I didn’t fling my fajitas. I finished strong. I also finished 14 minutes off last year’s time, but still under 2 hours. See, that’s what you have to do to reconcile a bad race. You have to consider the worst-case scenarios and appreciate how they didn’t happen: At least it stopped raining. At least I didn’t fall down. At least a 3-legged Chihuahua didn’t beat me.

 

 

But here’s the real takeaway: train for the distance you want to run.

Today, Lindsay and I began training for the Azalea 10K with a clearer purpose. And yes, we’re going to race together again…weather permitting.

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My other running partner, Robin, got a PR–without training. But I don’t like to talk about that.

What I Learned from My Worst Race Ever

I’ve never had a bad race.

Until I did.

The night before the Savannah Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon, race organizers warned runners that the weather would be unseasonably warm. Drink lots of water, they said. Slow down, they said.

Slow down?! I’d been training 12 weeks to run a 1:38 PR in this race and a little bit of heat and humidity wasn’t going to slow me down.

Until it did.

Right before race start. So happy. So naive.

Me, Lindsay and Robin at the race start. So happy. So naive.

I was standing near the front, squeezed in with a serious crowd of runners, when the race-horn blew. The mass of runners lurched forward with intention, void of the nervous chatter or enthusiastic “woo-hooing” that peppers the runners further down the line. I know, because I’m usually back there. But here, at the front, there was just breathing, feet slapping pavement and the occasional watch alerting a runner to his overzealous pace.

“We’re going too fast,” I heard a guy to my right gasp to his running partner.

I looked down at my watch to see my pace. 7:10. I had to maintain a 7:30 pace to get my PR—but the fact that 7:10s could qualify me for the NYC Marathon was on my radar—tucked into the make-believe zone where unicorns are real, Sandra Bullock is my best friend and David Beckham wants me real bad. Some call it mental illness. I call it mental hopefulness.

By mile 2, acid began to collect in my stomach and I thought I might heave. My heart was pumping too hard and the negative thoughts starting unfurling from the dark corners of my head. At mile 2, I usually feel like a winged gazelle, not a quadriplegic manatee. Something was wrong.

I gave myself some quick tough love.

You’ve got this. Suck it up.

And then I looked down and saw my pace slip to 7:40.

I don’t got this. I’m gonna throw up.

Plan B: No PR—just hold 7:50s.

Two miles later, I wanted to stop.

Plan C: Just don’t walk.

Plan D: Just finish.

The next 9 miles felt like the longest I’ve ever run—some of which I walked. I felt like a failure.

My friend, Chad Brock, who was cheering us on, snapped this photo. Glad you can''t see my face filled with pain.

My friend, Chad Brock, who knows all too well the pain of running, snapped this photo. Glad you can’t see my face filled with pain.

Then, just one-mile from the finish line, I looked around me and noticed with half-closed eyes that I was still surrounded by runners—good runners—who were engaged in the same strange shuffle-scuff-run I was. My brain, depleted by effort, was trying hard to make sense of what I was seeing, when I heard a familiar voice yell out.

“Go, Andrea! You can do it!”

Huh? It took an enormous effort to turn my head in the direction of the voice, slowly, like a dim-witted Brontosaurus looking for some greens to munch on. And there on the sidewalk, running parallel to me, I saw my running partner, Lindsay.

“I threw up at mile 5! I pulled out! You have to do this for us!”

Nothing made sense. Certainly not Lindsay on the sidewalk at mile 12. But I was more grateful for her at that moment than I’d ever been (and I’m pretty grateful considering what she’s seen me—and my body—do while running together). I summoned up what little bit of race I had left in me and pushed to the finish. In that final stretch, I noticed runners cramping, vomiting and even someone who had collapsed and was receiving aid. It felt like it would never end.

Until it did.

Once I crossed the line and controlled my instinct to vomit on the nice lady trying to put a finisher’s medal around my neck, I realized that my poor race wasn’t about a lack of training or mental toughness. It was about unseasonable temperatures and a stubborn unwillingness to heed the warning from more seasoned runners who knew it was not only OK, but also necessary to back off. That just finishing could be enough.

A number of runners didn’t finish, either because they knew better or their bodies wouldn’t let them—whichever came first. Tragically, one runner took his last breath on that race course. Another would collapse at home a few hours later.

And there I was disappointed about running 8 minutes off my PR.

For people who log ridiculous miles each week, it’s easy to get wrapped up in finishing times, PRs and medals. And because we sweat, bleed, blister and cramp through most of our days, it’s easy to overestimate our toughness. It’s also easy to forget that what we do isn’t easy.

But this race reminded me that we are a fragile lot. Life rarely goes as planned; why would a 13.1-mile race be any different—any easier?

Yesterday, I ran for the first time since the race. I didn’t have any expectations; I just wanted to run. Somewhere around mile 4, Lindsay and I began discussing our plans for our next race and what our goals would be. And that’s when I realized what I was supposed to take away from Saturday’s botched race: You just keep going.

Until you can’t.

The End--of yet another new beginning.

The End–of yet another new beginning.

‘Twas the Night Before Race Day

Pre-race plans never go as planned. I can manage to (loosely) follow a 3-month training program for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah half marathon, but somehow the two days prior to the actual race—which are supposed to be filled with quiet reflection and preparation—roll out more like a Saturday afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese.

I’m sleep deprived, I’ve got students panicking as the end of the quarter nears, I’m trying to pull two articles together, and Ava has a fundraiser dinner for gymnastics and a meet first thing in the morning. She’s concerned that I’m missing her meet, but more than that, we’re all concerned about who is going to do her hair. Because, in gymnastics, hair is akin to sticking a landing. Intricate French braids with glitter spray say “my mom cares about me,” whereas a loose ponytail that looks like a rodent nested in it says “abandoned at birth”—or, in my case, “my mom cares more about her half-marathon.” But we all know what it really means: “Dad did my hair.”

In spite of this chaos, I’ve managed to squeeze in most of my pre-race rituals today. I’ve set out my running clothes, charged my Garmin, shaved my legs and painted my nails (this is proven to increase your speed). I’m already wearing my lucky necklace, earrings and my paper “free beer” wristband I got yesterday at the race expo. It’s not that I’m super-concerned about getting a Michelob Ultra at the end of 13.1 miles (or ever, for that matter), but I like how the band reminds me of what’s to come—how my stomach will reject said beer but I will force it down nonetheless because, dammit, it’s free.

Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon

Prepped and ready to go!

I’ve learned to go to the race expo as early as possible to avoid long lines. This year, the bib pick-up was organized by corral numbers; in other words, how fast you intend to finish. When I saw that I was in corral 1, I panicked. Had I entered the correct time? Surely, I shouldn’t be at the front of any race, let alone one of this scale. I looked at the various lines for “people like me,” and discovered the people in every corral looked like me: running shoes, ponytail, extreme nervousness…

No one was in line at corral 1. I approached the table apprehensively.

“Andrea Goto?” I asked, as if I didn’t know my own identity.

I expected her to look me up and down and declare, “I think you have the wrong line,” but when she cheerily handed me my bib, it sunk in: I’m in corral 1. Not because I lied about my finishing time to avoid bulky start lines, but because I’ve been training hard for the past few years. And here I am—a place I never imagined I’d be, especially at 38.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no delusions that I’m going to place. Last year’s female runner came in 26 minutes faster than my PR. She could enjoy an entire sitcom before I come through. But at least I’m in the near vicinity—a mere shadow—of awesomeness.

Not two seconds later, a television reporter approached and asked for an interview. I want to believe it’s because he saw me in the corral 1 line, but I know it’s because he wanted to interview Lindsay, but she demurred and shoved me his way like a good friend. Again, I’ll take it.

When everyone else says

When everyone else says “no,” I say “yes.”

I’m 15 hours from race-start. I’m enjoying a glass of wine (don’t wanna get the shakes), I’ll eat my boiled beets and soak in the bath. I’m ready.

Ready for what? An enjoyable run? A PR? A NYC marathon qualifying time? I’m not sure—and in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter. No one will remember my performance, my suffering or my time (half the time I can’t either). But for a couple of hours on a Saturday I will do something that is personally challenging. I will push myself beyond what’s comfortable, and I’ll do it with a good number of friends along the way—either as runners or supporters.

My friend Christine Hattrich shared these signs she made.

My friend Christine Hattrich shared these signs she made.

And then I’ll look to the next race, the next goal, the next PR. Because that’s what I want to believe life is about: waking each day and, at the very least, trying to do better.

Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon

Trust the plan: Just when you think it isn’t working…it is.

Rock 'n' Roll Savannah

Last year: A different time, a different plan. (Lindsay, Kelley and me)

“Maybe when we train for the next half-marathon, we should try a different training plan,” I suggested to Lindsay, two miles into our Sunday morning long run, already dragging my leg like something from “The Walking Dead.”

“I remember liking Hal Higdon’s plans–maybe we could try the advanced one,” I offered.

“Andrea, we are doing the Hal Higdon advanced plan,” Lindsay said, exasperated.

See, I don’t actually follow a plan–at least not in the normal, self-reliant way. Instead, I show up to each run and ask Lindsay, “So, what are we doing today?” She’s given me the plan–in the form of email, text, hardcopy taped to my forehead–but it’s so much more fun to be surprised.

Texas Tech head coach Bob Knight reacts to the officials as Stanford beat Texas Tech 62-61 Saturday, December 22, 2007 during The O'Reilly Red Raider Christmas Classic at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. (Tom Pennington/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT)

“If my Garmin doesn’t record my miles, it’s like they never happened!!!!” — Lindsay

Lindsay doesn’t seem to mind that she’s the gatekeeper of my training–the one who wears the running pants in this partnership, telling me what to do when and how fast. She’s good at it, too. She syncs her Garmin after every run like it’s her job (I haven’t done this once since buying mine in 2009), and if she forgets to start it and a quarter-mile goes unrecorded, she gets mad. Like, Bobby Knight mad.

She’s also a natural statistician when it comes to running. She remembers PRs, medals, race pace–both hers and mine–while I can barely remember that I can’t eat wheat the night before a run.

“Did you eat gluten last night, Andrea?” Lindsay often inquires to the closed doors of porta-potties that sit on empty construction sites.

“Nooooo,” I call from inside, indignant.

And then: “Wait, yes. Crap.”

If you’ve been keeping up with my whining, you know that this usually stellar path to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half has been tarnished by injuries and illnesses. Then, Sunday morning I woke feeling like I swallowed thumbtacks–the same day Lindsay finally finished up her round of antibiotics. Naturally, I want to blame the plan–the first I’ve ever done that calls for a significant amount of speed work.

Lindsay also distrusts the plan, as demonstrated by the series of questions she rapid-fires around the midpoint of every run:

“Do you think we’re running too much?”

“Do you think we’re running enough?”

“Are we going to fast for a tempo?”

“Are we going to slow for speed work?”

“Are we going to peak too soon?”

“Should we run further than the plan says?”

And inevitably: “I don’t think this plan is working.”

It’s ironic that she poses these questions to me since I don’t even know the plan, and also because my approach to running is a little more … organic.

“It’ll all work out.”

And it has. Or at least it’s starting to. By the grace of Hal, the next 10 miles of that long run were swift and painless. We ran negative splits and came in hot; our last mile was an 8:50 (or so I kinda remember–Lindsay can edit).

“I think the plan is working!” we squealed, like only people who wear arm warmers and compression socks can.

We’re three weeks out from the race. Past experience should tell me that this is the time I start to see my running goals as attainable. Three months ago, not so much. It’s easy to forget. And it’s easy to doubt that all those days of training, slowly adding mileage and speed, add up to one (hopefully) spectacular moment. Even the setbacks–the ugly runs, the injuries and illnesses–are part of the equation.

Today we held an 8:07 pace for four-miles of speed work. When we stop, I say what we’re both thinking: “This plan is totally working.”

Let’s Run, Ladies: The Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon and 5k

Coming to you on April 2, 2016!

Coming to you on April 2, 2016!

Last spring, I participated in my first all-women’s race. Though I run with girlfriends on a regular basis, I wasn’t sure what to expect at the inaugural Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon and 5k. Would it be…girlie? Like a Lilith Fair concert minus the music, booze and underlying anger for the phallus? As it turned out, the race was one of the best running experiences of my life.

For starters, I was in the front. Like, the for-real front. Because when you eliminate half the population from a race, the mid-packers are suddenly leaders, which is where I found myself. I could count the women in front of me. And while they were busy counting who was behind them on the switchbacks, I couldn’t help but feel that we were all counting on one another as well.

See, I discovered there’s an almost inexplicable thing that happens when women get the rare opportunity to race together. We’re at once competitive and supportive–which is shockingly possible. Because even more than we want to beat one another, we want to simply race our best–to run among our sisters and see what our legs, lungs and heart can do.

Claudia and I raced together that year and held a steady 7:50 pace until the last half-mile when I hit a mental and physical wall. When she said, “Let’s pick it up,” I puffed, “You go ahead.” She hesitated for a minute, then saw in my empty I’ve-got-nothing-left-please-just-let-this-end-and-give-me-my-beer-face that I was, in fact, incapable of picking anything up including my pace, my feet or even my pride.

Claudia and I staying the course.

Claudia and me staying the course.

She blazed forward and I admired her “I’m still in my 20s” sprint to the finish from a good decade out. Another woman caught me shortly thereafter and said, “C’mon, you got this,” as she passed by.

At that point, I didn’t have much of anything left in me. But I did feel like I had the support of every runner out there–every woman who ever put one foot in front of the other not because she hoped to break a land-speed record or score a corporate sponsorship, but because one day she thought–for any one of a million reasons–I need to run. And then for some inexplicable reason, she kept doing it.

When I crossed the finish line, Claudia was there to congratulate me on what was still a mighty-fine PR. And then we cheered our friends in, from the girls we trained with to the women who were racing for the first time. Some jogged, some walked, but we all felt like we were in it together–and I don’t just mean the race. I mean the fact that we are all women. All daughters. All runners of various degrees for various reasons.

A happy ending.

A happy ending.

So I was clearly honored when I was asked to be an ambassador for this year’s race on April 2. For me, it’s a no-brainer. The race is in my city, sponsored by my grocery store, my running store, the magazine I write for, and my favorite shoe/apparel brand, New Balance, whose 860s I’ve been wearing for nearly as long as I’ve been running.

I have the privilege of encouraging women of all ages and abilities to join in–to run, walk, or Galloway themselves through a beautiful 3.2 or 13.1-mile course. I’ll be sharing tips, discount codes and product giveaways–the first being a $10 half-marathon registration discount when you use the Code: ONTHEROAD10.

Follow my blog and the On the Road Facebook page for more information–and feel free to ask any questions and share your experiences to encourage others to join us on this unique journey.

Begin Again: Why it’s Possible to Restart Running

I was coming off my fastest year yet. I PR’d or placed in every run I raced in the 2014/15 season. I beat my previous year’s marathon by 24 minutes, finishing at 3:48, and charged to a 1:40 half-marathon PR time. For me, these were not only victories, they were incentives to push harder. I set my sights on qualifying for Boston in 2015—the Mecca of marathons. I even told people about my goal, knowing that saying it out loud meant I would do it.

Publix Savannah Women's Half Marathon PR with Claudia

Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon PR with Claudia

But by spring we had moved into a new home and I let the first qualifying opportunity pass by, knowing November’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon here in Savannah—a course I’ve run many times—would give me another opportunity. Then my friend Robert, who played an enormous role in Savannah’s running community and was a personal inspiration to me, died tragically, and running stopped feeling like that thing I escaped to, could excel at and could count on to kill me but never quite. It felt…complicated.

Nonetheless, I half-heartedly approached the first week of my marathon training and immediately irritated my IT Band—my first injury in 20 years—sidelining me for four weeks. So I took it as an opportunity to re-evaluate my goals. I would put Boston on hold and instead train hard for the Rock ‘n’ Roll half with my running partner, Lindsay.

Then I got sidelined again, this time with a stomach virus that took 7 days and 7 pounds from me. And then…and then…and then…

I don’t lose friends. I don’t get injured. I don’t get sick.

We don’t. Until we do.

And yet I get up four to five days a week, lace up my shoes and run, imagining that it will get easier again, another PR will be reached and Boston will come. Eventually.

What is this craziness? Why am I running hill repeats and tempo runs that make me dry heave? Why am I running toward the next goal as life seems to push it just out of reach?

It’s simple really. It’s hope.

Every day I wake up and try to do and be better. I say I’ll eat better, drink less, write more, laugh harder, love deeper, run faster. Most times I don’t and then I’ll try again tomorrow. But, every now and then, I do.

Today I had my first good run in weeks. Rain forced Lindsay and me inside on a bone-jamming gym treadmill for speed work. My earbuds kept falling out of my ear. Without them I had the limited choice of Fox News and ESPN. I tossed the earbuds, ignored the TVs and just ran. I ran each 800 faster than the last, trying to see how much I could take. Turns out, I could take more than I expected.

We’re all distracted and affected by the endless challenges life throws at us. I’m behind on my grading. Our previous house has not sold and I know we can’t float two mortgages much longer. Tomorrow my dad undergoes a back surgery. My sister has discovered a lump in her leg.

But I also believe with all my heart that things will improve—that I will improve along with them. Because, really, what are the options? It’s the possibility of tomorrow that makes today’s challenges survivable.

A morning run.

A morning run.