Chilly running ramblings (and dodging snowplows)

We’ve been lucky this winter with mostly mild weather. Sure, Rochester had a huge snowstorm last week, a storm that brought 19 inches to my yard and the typically hearty community to its knees for about 24 hours.

So true cold-weather running has been pretty much non-existent for me this season. That said, there are always a few thoughts that zip through my mind when I hit the pavement amid snow and subzero temps.

It was bitter cold when pal Beth and I ran a winter half-marathon last year. Subzero temps had us bundle up and we were still darn chilly by the time we finished.

It was bitter cold when pal Beth and I ran a winter half-marathon last year. Subzero temps had us bundle up and we were still darn chilly by the time we finished.

Here are just a few random winter running thoughts:

  • I can’t feel my fingers. I should’ve worn more clothing. (This usually occurs within the first half-mile.)
  • Did my water bottle just freeze? Why yes, I am now carrying a 5-pound ice weight.
  • None of what I am wearing matches, but it’s all bright neon. Notice me, oncoming cars. I’m a beacon of color.
  • Sidewalk? What sidewalk?
  • Aim for the bald patches in the road. Anything not to wear spikes when not snow/trail running.
  • Perhaps the treadmill would’ve been a good idea today.
  • I’m melting. I should’ve worn fewer layers. (about 3 to 5 miles in.)
Wintry run!

Wintry run!

I love winter running, actually. In part because I feel like a badass for braving elements that send many inside for a warmer workout.

And there was a time that a passerby asked me how much I was being paid to run in the snow. (Ha! Wouldn’t that be nice?)

But there are challenges.

Sometimes a 5-mile tromp through fresh snow equals the effort for a 10-miler on a crisp fall day. Sometimes you find yourself on a busy road’s shoulder because the icy, unplowed sidewalk is downright treacherous. Occasionally, you have to jump into a snowdrift and out of the path of an oncoming snowplow.

No matter the obstacle, I always feel great once I am done. It’s always well worth the bitter cold effort.

What runs through your mind when you run in the snow?

Changing it up: Vic’s cross-training chronicles

You may have noticed that I’m not running as much.

Yes, I’m still running, but given the demands of my work life and home life lately – and a somewhat bothersome knee – I’ve been cross training A LOT more.

That means more swimming, hiking, paddling and yes, it even means yoga.

A little HikYoga action with my pal Amy!

A little HikYoga action with my pal Amy!

I have to say guys, I’m loving exploring. Perhaps I was in a bit of a running rut and didn’t even know it. In the last week alone, I went paddleboarding in the bay with a friend, hiked a nearby nature preserve, swam 2,200 yards in the YMCA pool, practiced yoga in the woods then hiked a stunning gorge.

Enjoying the view in this small but mighty town park by my house.

Enjoying the view in this small but mighty town park by my house.

I’m not training for anything. I’m just living life. I’m exploring Rochester, which I have to say, is damn gorgeous.

I fell in love with SUP yoga and went repeatedly this summer.

I fell in love with SUP yoga and went repeatedly this summer.

Sure, I’ve been trying new activities for work – sailboarding, footgolf, SUP yoga. I even tried Taekwondo AND broke a board! You can read more of my articles here.

Hiking through the gorge in Stony Brook State Park near Dansville NY.

Hiking through the gorge in Stony Brook State Park near Dansville NY.

I just went on a HikYoga outing last week, and plan to go target shooting this coming weekend. Stay tuned kids! This could get interesting.

I’ve been enjoying the change of pace, and not being a slave to a marathon training schedule. I even branched out to try my hand at a monthlong yoga challenge, where through a local health club I am posting a daily yoga pose every day in September on my Instagram feed. It’s been interesting and definitely outside my comfort zone, but I am so glad I gave it a shot.

The 30-day #midtownyogachallenge. Day 22: Plank in a waterfall in Grimes Glen.

The 30-day #midtownyogachallenge. Day 22: Plank in a waterfall in Grimes Glen.

Sure, I’m still running. I tackled 4.5 miles last night and witnessed a stunning sunset with my trusty running partner Gary. I’ve been running 4-5 miles at least 3 times a week and even ran a 10-mile race with Oiselle teammate Beth. It was a stunning course through rural Orleans County (including a mile through a fruit farm), albeit I could have done without the 10 am start time on a hot, humid summer day No matter. We’ll be back for sure!

Best race pic ever. We are laughing our butts off since neither of us were well-trained for this race. But we finished.

Best race pic ever. We are laughing our butts off since neither of us were well-trained for this race. But we finished.

Stay tuned for more adventures as we head into the next season. Welcome fall! What activities should I try in the cooler weather?

Are you in an exercise rut? What do you do to change it up? How do you cross train? What activity should I try next? Tell me in the comments!

Freezin’ for a reason

It was like someone repeatedly stabbed my feet with knives.

Earlier this month I participated in Rochester’s annual Polar Plunge.  I was covering it for work, and figured I might as well take a dip in the icy, 34-degree waters of Lake Ontario. Thousands take part in the event, which raises funds for Special Olympics programs in the Rochester area.

Dec 14 to Feb 15 768Yes, those are snow ice banks. And that’s ice floating in the water.

After working for a few hours (interviewing organizers and other plungers) I strapped a go pro camera to my head and headed toward the gathering spot. Led by several Special Olympics athletes, masses of people dressed in costumes and bathing suits all headed toward the water.

Dec 14 to Feb 15 834We’re about to go for a swim Pic by Hank Kula

I shivered in a bathing suit as I walked arm in arm with my friend Hannah. Neither of us had plunged before and were a little nervous. But we shuffled forward and in we went. As you can see- there’s a camera on my head. To see footage of my plunge – check out my article and D&C video here.

I shed my jacket and dumped my towel, wearing only sneakers and a bathing suit into the water. I hesitated at the edge before running in.  A slew of students ran past me and dove into the frigid water.

Dec 14 to Feb 15 838I’m in here! Do you see me?

It was cold. Damn cold. But I dropped to my knees and dipped myself amid the ice chunks. Yes, ice chunks. I wanted to dunk my head, but didn’t. (Still kicking myself there). I wanted to shoot more footage, but my body was screaming at me to head for shore — and most importantly — WARMTH.

Out I went, cutting my legs on ice chunks – not that I felt it or anything. I ran up the shore – wincing each step in my now soaked sneakers.

Dec 14 to Feb 15 777Shivering and smiling post-plunge. Pic by Hank Kula

Once back in the tent – I couldn’t get out of my wet clothes fast enough. I couldn’t feel my feet as I changed into fresh socks. I chucked my iced-over sneakers and icicle socks into the garbage and layered up. Friends Gary and Charlotte came to watch me plunge and ensure I wasn’t frozen. THANK YOU! I may not have made it so easily to my car if not for them!

In all, I raised $400 for Special Olympics programs and more than $300,000 was raised through the entire event. Amazing! Thank you to everyone who supported my crazy efforts and donated. You all made a difference on a young athlete’s life!

It took more than an hour for my feet to stop hurting and much of the day to really thaw out. (And then I bundled back up and went curling that night)

I’ve been asked several times if I would plunge again. Surprisingly, yes. It’s insane. It’s freezing. I might get sick.

But I need to dunk my head and really jump headfirst into Lake Ontario. Who wants to join me?

Have you ever gone for a wintry swim? How cold was it? Would you do it again?

Chick Chat: Hey Santa!

In case it’s not readily apparent from reading this blog, you should know that we all adore each other. When you get a few of us in a room together, there’s an awful lot of hugging and smiling and giggling. And inappropriate jokes, just saying.

But, since we don’t really get a chance to get together for the holiday, we like to do a litttle Chick Secret Santa Exchange. And by ‘secret’, I mean we spend most of the time trying to figure out who has who. Or maybe that’s just me? It probably is just me!

So, without further ado, I present our holiday lovefest!


I was so excited when I got Jess in the Secret Santa exchange. Jess is the West to my East. We have a history of long, LONG, emails and a shared love of bacon. But when it came time to actually shop for Jess, I got a little stumped. It wasn’t that I couldn’t think of anything, more that I thought of too many things! In the end, I picked out a stacking set of mugs that I hope will remind Jess of her trip to a city that is as gorgeous as she is <3



I was paired up with Kyle this year and I know she’s been focused on getting that ankle of hers healed.  I wanted to send her some good vibes, literally!  I opted for a lava rock and Tiger Eye bracelet from Heal Meow and a little bottle of Serenity Doterra Oil.  Lava beads are made from volcanic rock.  They’re grounding and balancing but provide strength and courage.  They also absorb oils, perfect for getting a whiff of Serenity all day long.  Tiger Eye is a protective stone that promotes commitment, focus, self-worth, luck, balance and strength. Plus, it sounds pretty badass which is perfect for this badass chick.


What do you get a marathoner and Oiselle team runner for Christmas? Yeah, I didn’t know either. I mean, of course Vic would have EVERYTHING needed for running; she’s been in the sport for a while now. Necessities were out of the question. So when I got to the Boulder Running Company, I asked the very helpful sales woman to show me the luxury! She RAVED and RAVED about the headbands from Smart Wool. Once I touched one, I fell in love, too. They were soft, sleek, and came in several pretty colors and patterns. Considering where Vic lives and runs, I decided this would be the perfect lux gift for my new New England runner friend. After all, you can never have too much cold gear, especially in upstate NY.

Vic gift


I chose this cozy scarf/wrap for Jenn for a few reasons. Firstly, she lives in chilly Colorado, and who doesn’t want to be all warm and adorable in cold weather (though I suspect she is regardless)? Secondly, the beautiful pattern – which unfortunately you can’t see very well in this picture – reminded me of something she’d wear and like. And thirdly, I’m just obsessed with Zara scarves and am the happy owner of several. I’m more than happy to pass my obsession on to Jenn and hope she enjoys it!



I won’t lie. I was SUPES EXCITED when I found out Meri was mine. For lots of reasons (you know, she’s wonderful, hilarious, amazeballs… all of that) but mostly I was excited because I knew EXACTLY what she was getting. Immediately.

You see, Meri and I have a few things in common. Like me, she lives on coffee. Also like me, she has an affinity for breakfast foods. And yet again like me, she loves her some Leslie Knope. So clearly, she NEEDED this gift in her life. Literally the best mug ever.

Mer Kyle Gift


In the fall of 2012 I traveled to Bec’s house for a girl’s weekend of fun. Jenn, Cam and myself descended on Bec’s house, ate her food, drank her wine, and made ourselves at home in her daughter’s room (full of One Direction posters). Oh yeah, we did a Superhero 5k too! While we were there, we were on the search for TOMS for Bec. We went to various stores looking for the perfect shoes but alas, came away empty-handed.

That’s why when I saw this TOMS blanket (at Target, natch), I knew that it had to belong to Bec. We spent many hours hanging out on her couch, watching movies such as Mean Girls and Grease 2. I envision her wrapped up in this blanket, watching movies, and pretending it’s a hug from ME.



For the second straight year, I got Cam!

I went shopping looking for baking-related items, because I know Cam loves to bake. Nothing jumped out to me, so I turned to Ragnar. Then I thought, Cam likely already has anything and everything Ragnar one could ever want.

So I decided to buy something for Cam that she would never buy herself – an Alex and Ani bracelet that signifies “beginnings.”

Cam’s life has changed drastically since I first met her three-plus years ago. But rather than letting those challenges overwhelm her, Cam tackles them, head-on  – for her and for her children. It’s for that reason I thought this bracelet was perfect for my dear Cameroo!

And the shirt – it’s a slice of Rochester just for you! My local running store was selling the leftover race shirts on Black Friday and I snagged one for you with hopes to someday get you to my fair city! (Plus I really liked the design this year!)

And you know what this means, Cam. Third year’s the charm. So start dropping hints now. You know I can’t actually ask you what you want once cyber Santa pairs us up again.



From our little Scootadoot family to yours, happiest of holidays <3


A runner’s point of view: VIDEO

“You run really steadily with a camera,” my husband told me over the weekend. “That’s a talent.”

Uh, thanks?

But really, I was worried if I could pull it off, shooting video footage with a camera strapped to my noggin. If I was all over the place, it would make all our viewers green…but certainly NOT with envy.

As some of you may already know, I ran the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Rochester last week with a GoPro camera on my head.

gopro1Yep. That’s a video camera on my head

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE VIDEO: Running the Corporate Challenge

I really wasn’t sure how it would go – and it very nearly didn’t since I managed to drain the battery just before the big race. Fortunately, I caught it in time, recharged and was ready to roll when the 3.5-mile road race started Thursday evening.



I tweeted the above picture out moments before I headed to the start line.

I’ve tackled the race, Rochester’s largest office party more than a half-dozen times in recent years. Held annually at the Rochester Institute of Technology campus, it’s a lot of fun.

691Laughing my butt off with Jessica before the 2013 race.

I’ve run in 95 degrees and begged for water at both of the course’s water stops. I’ve raced it. I’ve paced other runners. I’ve run injured.

Oh yeah, and I ran in a monsoon. Looking at you, 2009.

wetCCWith former colleagues Steph and John in 2009. You really can’t tell in this pic, but we are all completely drenched. And as a side bonus, my car battery died on the way home from this waterlogged race.

I know the course well, so was prepared and excited to take the Democrat and Chronicle’s readers on a tour. This year, the weather was perfect. It was in the 6os or so, with a light breeze and only a few clouds in the sky. I was ready to run.

corpcTeam Democrat and Chronicle

I headed over to the start line just minutes before the 7 p.m. and shot some footage of some of the 10,900 waiting runners. (It was way more packed than the below pic, which I snapped about 2 hours before the race started.)

corpc1The starting line; before the masses arrived.

I lined up with my friend Traci, knowing full well that I’d lose her in the first quarter-mile. Even if she wasn’t listening to a word I said, I felt better chatting up a storm with a friend nearby rather the talking-to-myself tactic I adopted partway through the course.

The second wave started and were were off. I repeatedly reminded myself not to dodge other runners and weave through the crowd as I’d regret spending that energy later. And really, it doesn’t get you any further ahead in the crowd, it only serves as an aggravation. Trust me!

Last year was the first year the race offered wave starts, a huge improvement from previous years when about 10,000 people started at all once. It was always frustrating, as people would line up inappropriately and you’d be dodging people left and right for the first full mile. The improvement was much appreciated.

I quickly conquered the lone hill on the course and chatted with a few strangers as I coasted downhill. I pulled to the side to film runners rounding a curve. I paused at the water stop – and as a result scared the stuffing out of one lovely volunteer, sorry buddy! But I got some great footage.

I talked to myself as I ran. I cheered for a few strangers. I chatted with (and scared off) several more runners.

I pulled the camera off my head repeatedly. I shot my own moving feet. I shot the people next to me as we ran side by side. I shot over my shoulder. I shot upside down. I repeatedly checked that the camera was operating properly. (it was, sorry Tina.)

I ran off the course repeatedly and filmed runners coming straight towards me. I shoved the camera back on my head and huffed and puffed to pass people as I ran toward the finish.

After crossing, I zipped to the side, behind one of the D&C’s photographers, and shot more images of finishers. Success!

 corpc2Thanks for watching!

The final video was produced by my talented colleague Tina MacIntyre-Yee. She did an amazing job, as she always does.

Have you ever run with a GoPro? Would you? Have you ever run the Corporate Challenge… in the sun, wind or rain? Tell me about your experiences in the comments!

A Day in the Life: Vic

My newspaper used to do a monthly Day in the Life series. It was one of my favorite assignments each month as I got to learn all about people’s special stories.

I witnessed a grape fight in the cafeteria of an area high school, which made it into print despite pleas from an assistant principal.

I met a local vet who showed me the bullet that was his ticket home from Europe in World War II. (He proudly kept it, by the way.) And I even interviewed an enthusiastic autistic teen just days before he wowed the world by sinking six 3-pointers in the final four minutes on the basketball court during his only varsity game of the season. Yep, I’m talking about J-Mac.

Yep. DITLO has a special place in my heart. But still I wasn’t sure how to go about my own.

I couldn’t decide whether to share a weekday or weekend, so I went with my behind the scenes on a workday. After all, I know you’re dying to know what happens at a newspaper.

On days when I don’t run before I head to the office, I snooze my alarm until the last possible moment before I launch into my pre-work morning routine.

And what’s the item I can’t leave home without? You guessed it- coffee.

20140527-214539.jpgI make myself not one, but two travel mugs of coffee each morning.

I’m at my desk by 7:30, unless I’m called in earlier for an assignment or sent straight to a crime scene. I’ll regret saying this, but I haven’t been woken out of a dead sleep by an editor yet this year. I’m long overdue.

20140527-220241.jpgMy home away from home: The Democrat and Chronicle newspaper. It’s in a pretty sharp old building in downtown Rochester.

I make calls and gather info for breaking news stories. Then I run over to court to get some more info, interview people and so on.

20140527-221229.jpgHeaded to court, with a letter to mail to Meri!

I can’t take photos inside court, but here’s the view of from the front doors, just outside Rochester City Court.

20140528-203325.jpgThat’s the Hall of Justice on the left. I spent lots of time there.

Sometimes I cover a news conference, as I did with this one about the lone unsolved homicide for 2014 in Rochester.

homicideFamily of a city man  killed in January and Rochester police before a news conference.

As I worked Tuesday, runDisney announced their newest race – the Star Wars Half Marathon… And the interwebs exploded. Holy Moly! I quickly wrote about it for work before the workday was through.

After work, I hurried over to my salon to get my eyebrows waxed. I get defuzzed every few weeks and today was my day. Otherwise I could double as a wookiee for an upcoming race!

20140528-204415.jpgWaiting my turn in my fave pink chucks

After my appointment, I popped into a drug store. But first, traffic.

20140528-204945.jpgJamming to my jams in a jam

Then I headed toward Wegmans to get a few staples – milk, yogurt, bananas. I also got English muffins. I am currently obsessed with them. Never heard of Wegmans? I live in the land where the popular grocery store is based, so I have more than a dozen stores to choose from. My neighborhood store is a mile from my house.

And yes, I go almost daily. Take my money, Danny.

20140528-205239.jpgGot yogurt?

20140528-205521.jpgNanas! The greener the better.

Once home, I found that our new screen door was partially installed. Hubs and I live in a 190-year-old farm house in suburban Rochester. And an old farm house, while pretty damn awesome, also means a lot of work. This summer we are tackling some work that we had been putting off. This door was long overdue – the old one was literally crumbling and has been since we bought the house 9 years ago.

20140528-210328.jpgview out the new screen door

I was greeted by my two kitties, who turned on each other shortly I after I fed them. But hey – progress! Old cat has started fleeing the loft and stealing food from new cat. She’s tiny but feisty.  I have the scratches on my hand to prove it.

20140528-210838.jpgOld cat strikes a pose. or pouts. Not sure which.

To help clear my head, I went for a quick run around dusk. Not my best mileage, but it felt good. (and I looked cute in some Oiselle gear)

 20140529-122035.jpgCreepy leg shot, but I love the brill blue Big O burnout tank and poppy rogas. The bright colors will lift me out of any funk.

Each day is different and that’s so much what I love about my job. As I type this, I am working a split shift, and will run a local road race in the evening with a go-pro camera attached to me. You’ll hear about THAT next week!

mobileI’m a true mobile journalist. Photo by Tina MacIntyre-Yee

How much coffee do you drink each day? Do you have a Wegmans store near you? Any suggestions on how to repair an old farmhouse?

Memorial Day fun – and then some.

I cleaned lobster parts off the ceiling yesterday. I also scrubbed little bits of lobster off the front door, the sofa and our kitchen cabinets.

You see, my husband smashed our big holiday weekend dinner open using a typical hammer. It was hilarious at the time, but as we I cleaned up, I found more and more stray pieces. Choice words were spoken.

Oh, and the hammer? It’s a bit…fishy.

Typically, hubs and I spend Memorial Day weekend tackling a season’s worth of yard work and chores. We clear out the flower beds. We till and plant our vegetable garden. We decided to skip the big gardens this year and focus only on herbs. So with less yard work on the docket, we had more time for fun!

We spent Saturday showing my cousin Keith and his wife Laura around Rochester. Stops at the Public Market and Ontario Beach Park were no-brainers.

20140526-164540.jpgOntario Beach Park, from the pier. That’s right kids, that’s Lake Ontario.

We also visited Rochester’s Turning Point Park, and its impressive boardwalk over the Genesee River. This city park is one of my favorite hidden gems in the area. (It’s also one of my favorite running paths in the area.)

20140526-164835.jpgLaura and Keith loved the boardwalk

And of course we had to stop at the Genesee Brew House, where we had lunch, some beer and a brewery tour.

20140526-165133.jpgWe enjoyed $2 flights at the brewery. Proceeds go to charity.

highfallsThe view from Rochester’s High Falls, from the brewery, of course.

As hubs and I ran errands on Sunday, we found ourselves renting The Home Depot’s hourly pickup to bring home a new grill. (J loved his birthday gift this year!) I found myself in the bed of the truck holding onto the base of the grill as he rounded each corner. Yep, I was perched right next to the “no passengers in bed” sign. Oops.

Monday brought us to another lakeside park where we walked along Lake Ontario the second time in a weekend.

20140526-170422.jpgHubs enjoys the view

We wandered, without really any predetermined plans, and those who know me best know I’m not a good wanderer. Like, Meri, I’m a planner. It’s something I’m working on. But this weekend, I went with it more than usual.

I agreed when he suggested we drive along the shoreline without a destination in mind. I agreed when he changed course and headed for the Erie Canal path, where we enjoyed some ice cream. And I agreed when I jumped into the back of the pickup for a bumpy but fabulous 9-mile trek to our house.

I’m getting better about living in each moment and enjoying them for what they are.

But I can promise you, cleaning up lobster bits will never be among them. Ick.

How did you spend your holiday weekend? Are you a hiker or a beach-dweller? Have you ever had Genesee beer? Tell me all about it!

Guest post: My first 15K and my first runiversary

Next week will mark the first anniversary of when I decided to get serious about running. Before last April, I had never run more than 22.5 miles in a month. Starting with last April, I’ve run at least 50 miles every month.

In fact, I’ve run about 1,200 miles since I decided to become a runner last April. And I’ve run in 10 races. The last of those 10 races was at the end of March: the Spring Forward Distance Run 15K in Mendon Ponds Park, which I ran with Chick Vic and a few other members of our informal running group.

The course at Mendon Ponds Park varies depending on the distance of the race, but it’s always hilly. Very hilly. The kind of course where when you crest a hill, you frequently see a downhill followed immediately by another big uphill. You hear all sorts of comments about the hills when you’re racing. “I hate these hills.” “Don’t look.” “At least we get to go down the other side.”

I love it. I don’t know why, but I’ve discovered I love hilly races. Of my 10 races, three have been at Mendon Ponds Park, and at all three races the hills have been where I’ve tracked down and passed people.

Anyway, on race day I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and went through my standard race morning routine: go to the bathroom, eat breakfast, get dressed, drive to course. The race was at 8 a.m., and I got to Mendon Ponds Park at 7 a.m. and took the shuttle to the starting area. Around 7:30 I ran into Vic and Ray and we made our way to the starting area, where we found Mark.

This was my first 15K, so I was guaranteed a PR. But I was planning to use it as a test for my upcoming half marathon, where I want a big PR. So my goal for Spring Forward was under 1:20. I planned to try to do about 8:30 miles all the way through and then see if I could pick it up even more the last mile or so.

Vic was getting over a cold, so I knew she wouldn’t be interested in trying to go really fast. Ray was doing the race as the first 9 miles of a 16-mile training day, so he didn’t want to push it either. Mark said he’d try to stick with me but warned that he was working through some discomfort and might need to back off at some point.

With our plans in place (Mark and I running together, Vic and Ray running together, and Bill starting up front en route to second place in his age group), we settled into our spots to wait for the start.

The weather was really nice for a race, which was lucky for us considering that it snowed later that day. In the morning, it was cold but not frigid. There was no rain, no sun and little wind.

Mark and I started off with an 8:14 mile and then clicked off back-to-back 8:22 miles. We were a little bit faster than we needed to be for 1:20, but I felt good. We were able to hold a conversation, so the effort wasn’t tiring us too much. Unfortunately, the hills weren’t helping Mark’s injury. On a hill just past the 5K point, Mark told me he’d see me at the finish and slowed down.

Running on my own now, I maintained a sub-8:30 pace for the next two miles (8:27 and 8:23) while enjoying the scenery. The rolling hills in the middle of country and park space make for a beautiful course, and it was nice to just take it all in.

FF1Picturesque but hilly course (Photo by Fleet Feet Rochester)

I slowed up a bit in miles 6 and 7 (8:45 and 8:49), but that didn’t bother me. I was feeling strong and I knew I still had a kick left in me. I had no concerns about hitting my 1:20 goal. I sped up a bit to 8:32 in mile 8 and then again for an 8:13 in mile 9.

In races, I don’t really care where I finish in relation to the other runners. I’m competing against myself, and I know I’m not going to place in my age group. But the other runners can be useful props as the race goes on, especially at the end.

Over the last couple miles of the race, an older runner and I had been trading places back and forth a few times. I’d generally catch him on the uphills and he’d catch me on the flats. As we made the turn toward the finish line, I decided there was nothing more important than staying ahead of him. I kicked into as close to a sprint as I could manage at that point and I could hear him pushing to catch me.

I held him off and as I approached the line I saw that the clock hadn’t hit 1:19 yet (my official chip time was 1:18:47). I took a few seconds to celebrate my personal victory, then I walked back along the finishing stretch so that I could cheer in Vic, Mark and Ray. Mark came in around 1:23 with Vic and Ray a couple minutes later. It wasn’t the fastest any of them could run, but they were all happy with their times given their personal circumstances for the day.

And really, that’s what every race is all about: Running the best race you can given whatever you’re dealing with that day.

For me, this race was huge for two reasons.

First, as I mentioned earlier, it was a test run for the Flower City Half Marathon on April 27. Flower City is a hillier course than my first half marathon, so while I know I’m faster than when I ran 1:58:38 in September, I wasn’t sure how fast I should try to go at Flower City. My time at Spring Forward, and how good I felt after the race, gave me the confidence to decide that I’m going to run with the 1:50 pacer at Flower City.

Second, this was my first race since my marathon DNF in mid-February. After how badly that race went, it was nice to set a goal, follow a plan and have everything work out perfectly. It’s been nearly two months since my DNF and I still think about it almost every day. I don’t think I’ll be able to let go of it completely until I finish a marathon, but this was a nice step forward.

And it was a nice cap to my first year of running. Despite the marathon setback, I did more in the past year than I ever thought I could. I can’t wait to find out what I’m capable of doing in my second year of running, and beyond.

Ben is a husband, father, runner and editor in Rochester, NY. He can be found on Twitter at @bjacobsroch.

Remembering West Webster heroes

One year ago, I covered an unimaginable tragedy.

A 62-year-old Webster, NY man fatally shot his sister, set fire to her car – which then spread to their shared home. When firefighters responded to battle the blaze early on Christmas Eve morning, the same man opened fire. He shot four responding firefighters, killing two of them and seriously wounding the other pair before he shot himself.

One year ago today, Rochester-area residents woke to find the lakeside neighborhood ablaze. The fire, left to burn unchecked for more than four hours, ultimately consumed seven homes on Lake Road and damaged two more. Fire engines were left in place on the road, where they stopped moments before the shots rang out.

The lakeside community was never going to be the same.

I was among the first reporters on the scene, covering the tragedy for my paper the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and USA Today. In today’s paper, I recounted what it was like to cover the ambush on Christmas Eve and it’s fallout over the next few days.

Click here to read the column:

I’ll be honest, I cried as I wrote this column. I cried as I proofed it. I cried as I re-read it this morning. I cried as I thought about what the events meant to the community.


West Webster Fire Department last Christmas Day

Last week, I watched as a backhoe leveled the remaining debris of the gunman’s home. Tears I had not realized I was holding back welled in my eyes. I stood with a colleague and friend across the road, perhaps not far from where the gunman stood one year ago today.


The memorial on Lake Road earlier this month.

Today and every day, we think of you Mike and Tomasz. You are true heroes.

Please say a prayer below to the families of Mike Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka. Where were you last Christmas Eve? Do you remember what you were doing when you heard of the ambush?

Guest Post: Non-runner to half-marathoner

Six months ago, I wasn’t a runner.

Today, I’m a half marathoner.

The story of how I went from non-runner to half marathoner begins and ends with the same person: Chick Vic.

Vic and I both work at the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, NY, and she’s the newsroom captain for our team for the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge, an annual 3.5-mile race that draws 10,000-plus runners who work for Rochester-area companies.

In early April, I was at a conference in St. Louis for work when I got an email from Vic saying when this year’s race would be. She sent it to me, I presume, because I had expressed some interest in running and had tweeted some about my difficulties on my once-a-week treadmill runs at the Y.

Even though I didn’t really enjoy running at that time, I had always been intrigued by the Chase because my colleagues all seemed to have a great time every year. By the time I left the conference, I had decided to reschedule an event I had planned for the night of the Chase and register to run. I left the hotel in St. Louis the morning of Sunday, April 7, walked past runners competing in the St. Louis Marathon and headed to the airport with no idea that I’d soon have plans to become a marathoner myself.

Eight days later I was at work when bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. As with most everybody else, I was sickened by what happened, but the thing that moved me to tears over the next couple days was the power of the running community. The stories of runners who pushed exhaustion aside to help those who had been injured. Of the finisher who gave his medal to a runner who had been stopped at mile 25. I was so moved that I decided that I wanted to be part of the running community.

Two days after the bombing, I tweeted out a new fitness goal: To get myself into good enough shape to run the half marathon in Rochester on Sept. 22.

I had no idea what this would entail. I had never run a road race before. I had never run “farther” than six miles before. And I say “farther” because I didn’t actually go anywhere; my only runs to that point had been on the treadmill.

I spent the rest of April researching how to train for a half marathon. Vic and some of the other distance runners I work with gave me some advice, and articles online provided a wealth of information. Ultimately, I decided that I would modify Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 program, extending it by four weeks so I could start it right after the Chase.

I immediately increased my running from once a week to four times a week to get ready for the Chase. And I started to run outside some. The results were immediate. I started to run faster. I started to enjoy running. I started to think about running all the time. I started to look up other races I could run. I was hooked.

Getting my first taste of racing at the Chase just cemented my addiction to running. The atmosphere before the race was incredible. I lined up with Vic and several other members of team D&C. For the first couple miles, Vic, Traci Bauer and I ran as a group, a tremendous help to me since I had almost no experience pacing myself. I pulled away with about 1.5 miles to go as they cheered me on and when I saw the finish line I got a jolt of adrenaline and was able to sprint to a 30:43 finish.

The rest of the summer was some of the best fitness self-control I’ve ever exhibited. My training plan called for four runs a week for 15 weeks, so 60 total. I did 59 of them, skipping one three-mile run in July because my knee hurt.

I ran three more races between the Chase and the half marathon: the Firecracker 5-mile (44:22) on Fourth of July, the Jungle Jog 5K (25:23) a few weeks later and the Summer Fest 12K (1:09:20) at the end of August. I loved all three races. The feeling of crossing the finish line is one of the best imaginable, and my times in the races made me feel like I had a good shot at hitting my goal for the half marathon: two hours.

junglejogBen finishes the Jungle Jog 5K in July

The unexpected part of the summer was that my journey to a half marathon became more than just me, my training program and some advice from friends.

A little before the Chase, Vic mentioned that Scoot A Doot was holding a giveaway for PROCompression socks. I didn’t really know anything about compression running socks, but I like free stuff, so I entered (I didn’t win, but I ended up buying four pairs of PROCompression marathon socks over the course of the summer).

As many of you know, getting entries to the giveaway entailed following Scoot A Doot on Twitter and Facebook, tweeting about the giveaway, etc. That led to me learning about more giveaways, which of course I entered. Which led to me following more people on twitter and following more blogs. Which led me to chatting about running on Twitter with people I may never meet and getting tons of encouragement from an online running community I never even knew existed.

It was, and is, amazing. The thing that pushed me into running was that I thought it would be great to be part of the running community. I was right. The specifics of what that would mean just weren’t exactly what I expected.

When I finished my final training run before tapering, a slow 10-miler the Sunday before the race, I felt incredibly content. Whatever happened in the race, I had already fulfilled the fitness goal I set out in that tweet five months earlier: to get myself in good enough shape to run a half marathon.

The morning of the race, my nerves weren’t as bad as I might have expected. I was glad I had already run four races earlier in the summer. I knew what routine worked for me and I just made sure I gave myself plenty of time to get ready. My wife dropped me off down the road from the start line about 25 minutes before the race, which was perfect.

As I wandered around among the thousands of people gathered around the starting area, I saw Vic. We hadn’t planned to meet at the start (she was actually looking for a different friend she was going to run with), but I was glad to see a friendly face. She reassured me that I’d do great and, as the start time neared and she still hadn’t found her friend, she said she’d run with me until she felt like she needed to slow down. This was just supposed to be a training run for her as she prepares for the New York City Marathon.

I won’t go into as much detail as she did in her recap last week, but she never slowed down. We ran side-by-side, almost step-for-step at times, and chatted for 13 miles. It was so much fun. I think most non-runners, and even some runners, are skeptical when people say running can be fun. And certainly, not every run is fun. This one was. I enjoyed every minute I was out there on the course.

Some people asked me if I had a time I was shooting for. My response was always the same: two hours would be nice, but it’s not a big deal if I miss. I was lying. I wanted to be under two hours badly. As we ticked off each mile, I become more and more confident that I’d make it. We were setting a great pace and felt comfortable doing it.

Also as the miles went past, I became more confident that Vic was going to keep up with me the entire way. At some point I asked her what her PR was. “2:03:something.” I got even more excited for a potential sub-two-hour finish. It’s one thing to set a goal, work for months toward that goal and then achieve it. A intensely satisfying feeling, to be sure. It’s something else entirely to have somebody give you encouragement and advice every step of the way toward that goal and then, unexpectedly, be able to help them reach a goal of their own. It was wonderful running karma that all the help she gave me in preparing for my first half marathon led to me being able to help her break the two-hour mark.

As the finish line came into view, we could see that we had plenty of time to cross before the clock would read 2:00:00. I got my usual finish line adrenaline surge and Vic, sensing that I suddenly had a lot more energy, told me to go. I sprinted to the line and crossed in 1:58:56 for a net time of 1:58:38. I got my medal and turned to cheer on Vic, but she was already across, finishing seven seconds behind me. Traci (whom we had seen briefly about halfway through the race) finished nine seconds after Vic.

sprinttofinishBen sprints to the finish at the half marathon

We hugged. We high-fived (badly; we were tired). We grinned from ear to ear. We got some post-race food and drinks. We took pictures. We discussed the race. We reveled in our achievement.

Over the summer, when I told people I was training for a half marathon, they frequently looked at me like I was crazy and/or told me they could never do that. I used to feel the same way. Then I started running. I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

sub2clubThe sub-2-hour club: Vic, Traci and Ben

Ben is a husband, father, runner and editor. This week he started training to run his first marathon in February at a race to be determined (but hopefully in Florida). He can be found on Twitter at @bjacobsroch.