Author Archives: Running Boston and Beyond

About Running Boston and Beyond

Avid Runner, Wife, Mom, Coach, and Blogger. 11-time marathoner, 3 x Boston Qualifier, and Ironman finisher. Dream big, work hard! Follow your passion and do what you love.

Just Put A Nail In It Already

Did you know that months are approximately thirty days or about four weeks long? Did you know that October is next week (I wrote this last week)? Well, these bits of information are known to me, but evidently slipped through the cracks of the intersection of not paying attention and distraction. Maybe they got swept away by the river of denial during one of the many pop up thunderstorms we have been having. In either case, it dawned on me that the half ironman triathlon I have been training for all summer was four weeks away. Wait, what???

One thing I truly love about training are the sunrises.

Last Wednesday, when I was swimming alone in my community pool, comforted by the police officer parked in the parking lot where I could see his truck because there could be a bad guy jump in the water and try and drown me and then what am I supposed to do because I kind of drown a little every time I swim but if the officer is there and sees it he can save me, I really thought through whether or not I should do the triathlon. I mean, I know for 100% fact I CAN do the race. Of course I can complete it. But what are the risks? Well, I’m not positive I can fit into my wet suite, but that’s another subject. I have biked more this training cycle than I did for my endurance trifecta, so the bike is good. But the run. Oy… the run.

If you have read my blog at all the past year, Covid has really done a number on my mental health. Part of my mental health is related to running. I’ve always been a runner and when I can’t run, it has a negative effect on me. I was injured so many times for so many different reasons after my JFK 50, one being running 50 miles and probably causing a small stress fracture or something that may not be that but sure felt like it. I have literally just started feeling like a runner again. Running during the summer doesn’t count either because running in the summer here in coastal South Carolina is more like land swimming, and see above for how swimming and I get along. I just started incorporating some faster splits and what came with it is the good kind of adrenaline. Not the kind where you’re being chased by a rabid dog, but the feeling that you enjoy the effort, you enjoy the uncomfortableness that came with it, and you want more. I don’t particularly care for the pace I see when I’m running “faster”, but I also know that it will take time to get my speed back and I need to take as much time as I need to in order to build speed slowly without injury.

Gotta find happiness wherever you look.

With all the stuff with Covid, vaccines, masks, and the fact that Wilmington could pull the permits for the race without any real warning, I decided to defer the race until 2022. It’s rare Ironman allows this anymore, like extremely very rare, but I was lucky enough to find the deferral option link from a vault buried in a volcano in Papua New Guinea. Whew.

So I deferred. Immediately, I emailed Coach Sami and let her know, and I felt some relief. I also felt a little disappointment because I was looking forward to a nice long workout and seeing lots of friends and family while in Wilmington. I was disappointed in myself for not taking the training plan more seriously, and I wondered why this time it was so different. My life is very different now, but still, I am a hard working athlete who sees a goal and does what it takes to accomplish said goal. Well, not so fast, Red Rocket, I did not take my training seriously. I missed long bikes. I missed several of them. I didn’t start swimming until two weeks ago. Yes, I’ve been in the pool three times. So what gives? Well, it’s simple. It simply wasn’t my priority. Will that change in the future? Will I have a different outlook next year? Yes. I already know this year has been really rough followed by months of adjustment and a new lifestyle. I’m feeling more and more back to myself, thankfully.

So what’s next for me? Well, I already made plans with someone to swim this week. I am planning on some other running races so I have something to look forward to as I marathon train. The best thing about half ironman training is that it has left me with an extremely good base with which to begin marathon training. I’m nervous. I’m excited. I will take it day by day. As sad as I am to say goodbye to the 2021 IMNC 70.3, I needed to put all the uncertainty behind me and concentrate on what I know now. 2022 will be an even better year in which to train, that I know for sure.

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Don’t Call It A Comeback

I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason. I’d like to think so, but there’s just too many bad things that happen for me to feel all in on it. But whether things happen for a reason or they do not, I don’t really have the head space to analyze everything. Most of the time, it is what it is. I do look back on the last few years and feel like there’ some sort of guiding force. As you know from my prior writings, I am an avid endurance athlete. Somewhere in between moving my family to Summerville and Covid and watching my kids deal with so much nonsense and disappointment, I got lost. I was injured several times, injuries that seemingly made no sense to me, and suffered from some sort of depression. Where they there to teach me a lesson? Possibly. I’m willing to learn. I’m tired of it, but I will learn. I could go a few years without finding a lesson.

When I was in grad school last summer and fall, I learned a ton about myself. It was therapeutic. When I had to quit grad school, I felt lost. I didn’t want to quit something I started and wanted to finish. I applied to so many jobs, and I was really picky how I wanted to spend my time. I was turned down, even without an interview, so many times. It was crushing to my spirit, so much so, I almost started counseling myself.

I look back now with a sense that things really were supposed to happen the way they played out. I was supposed to send my youngest to private school (where he is so happy and thriving, thankfully), I was supposed to be in school for those two semesters and have those professors, and learn those specific things about myself. As much as I miss Wilmington, we are supposed to be here and Tyler is supposed to go to Clemson. And I was supposed to refinance my house with a company recommended on my neighborhood Facebook page. I now work there. If that’s not ironic, I don’t know what is.

The lessons we have learned the last few years have been tough. Instead of crossing my arms and refusing to learn, I have embraced the suck, I’ve learned, and I’ve grown. And it’s time to move on. I feel different, I feel better, and I feel stronger. It’s time to wave goodbye to the past, turn around, and move forward.

It’s time to tri. It’s time to marathon. I’ve been patient, and I’ve healed. I’ve gotten my competitive spirit back. I can envision competing again, where for so long, I couldn’t even picture it. Now I can see it. I can feel it. I can hear it. I feel like a runner again, even with the extra weight I haven’t lost yet.

So first thing up on my schedule is IMNC 70.3. I love this race. I need this race. This is my first and the only half ironman course I’ve ever done (three times so far), and I love it. It’s home to me. It will be a different training routine for me since I’m working full time. I’m not sure how to navigate it, but with Coach Sami, my love for competing, and of course, my husband who always steps up to fill in where I am lacking, it will be exciting to take on this challenge. I am finally ready.  Do I have a time goal? HELL TO THE NAW. I’m almost positive I won’t even be wearing a watch (I might because I get points for my health insurance but might try to turn the data off if I can).

Instead of writing about being injured and frustrated and all that, I look forward to writing about training, about what’s working or not, new people I meet through training in a new city, and swimming again. My kryptonite. Swimming. But part of the reason I signed up for a tri is it forces me out of my comfort zone. Funny, as I watch Olympic swimming on TV, they’re swimming the 4×100 m relay and I’m thinking it would be at the 25 when they’re done, lol.

This is the finish line of the men’s triathlon at the Olympics. As much as I enjoy pushing myself, not sure I’m ready to feel like this when I’m done.

As I wave bye bye to the past while remembering the lessons that were taught, I look toward the future. I’m excited about the future and all it can hold, the potential of what could be. For the first time in a very long time, I look forward to being uncomfortable, to pushing myself, to making things right in my little athletic world. Don’t call it a comeback though.

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Running with Sherman

A few weeks ago, I finished the lovely book titled Running with Sherman. There’s a quirky little donkey on the cover, appropriately named Sherman. It was easy to fall in love with him and with this book, and there’s a few reasons why I wanted to write about it.

I might get struck by lightning from the running gods about this, but I have never read Born to Run. I started it a few years ago, but I never stuck with it, even though it’s sort of the runner’s Bible, per se. I just never got it, so I didn’t finish it. I’m not sure if I even realized the Sherman book was written by the same author until I started reading it, but I found his writing to be funny, smart, entertaining, and educational. And it’s not really about running….at all. I mean it is, but it isn’t.

I learned about goats, and donkeys, and the Amish, running with goats, running with donkeys, the Amish and running, races I never thought existed, and then finally, depression. In order to understand something or someone, you at least need to know the basics, right? Christopher McDougall does a beautiful job detailing why, among other things, donkeys are the way they are, pretty much remaining the way they were initially made eons ago. Why have they basically remained unchanged? Because it works for them. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

As much as this book is not about running, it does center on one goal of the author and his crew that slowly morphs from two to many more than two. Sherman was taken in after being severely neglected by his prior owner who was an animal hoarder. The deal was for “just two years” and then Sherman would be retuned; however, you know they would never give a living creature back to someone who was capable of such neglect. The owner does make an appearance near the end of the book, and I’m happy to say there’s a happy ending. That’s the thing with this book that makes it so good. After my fall semester ended, I’ve been reading a lot, and since I had to take a hiatus from school this spring semester, I’ve still had time to read in between getting rejected for jobs I’m quite capable of doing and doing well. Frustrating. I digress. I’ve read a lot of “book club” books, and while so many are captivating in some way, they are fairly dark. Take, for instance, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. While the story telling is very good, it’s depressing. I mean, Addie sells her soul when she’s just a young girl and has to live with the consequences for CENTURIES. It’s sad. I got another book that looked good, The Sisters Etcetera, written by Sydney Sheldon’s very own daughter. After the last page was read, I threw it across the floor in disappointment. Bah! Same with This Could All Be Yours. Bah! I wanted and I needed a good story with a happy ending.

I was not let down by Running with Sherman!

Christopher tells the story of first meeting and taking in Sherman, his neighborhood of just plain old good people who want to help, and his goal of taking Sherman to Leadville, Colorado for a race. Now this is no horse race, mind you, but one where you run alongside (you’re actually behind it, but you get the gist) your donkey. It’s actually called a burro race, but the only thing standing between a burro and a donkey is a Mexican translation. According to the internets, “Burro is the Spanish, Portuguese or Mexican name for donkey”. Huh. I didn’t know that.

Bad things happen to good people in this book, but so many come together to make this dream work for Christopher and Sherman and the crew. Goodness was seeping out of the pages, and I soaked in every bit of it. There’s real pictures of Sherman and the group’s shenanigans along the way, and because curiosity got the best of me, I looked up this Colorado race and found videos that proved these strange things have been happening, without my knowledge, for YEARS. Who knew??

All in all, this is a must read, feel good, wonderfully written testament to humanity and our unique bond with animals.

Another part of this story I found fascinating is the link (and story behind it) between depression and competitive athletes. **Because I have already returned the book, some of the following sentences or fragments could be directly from the book. I wrote some notes down while looking into this fascinating topic, but I failed to use quotes.**

One of Sherman’s crew members, Zeke, came into the picture after a suicide attempt. He was an extremely competitive swimmer from a young age until some time in high school when he and his sister both decided to quit swimming. His sister, two years older than he was, had issues with depression that ended up with a suicide attempt in college. She got her life patched back together quickly, along with the help of a therapy cat. Pets are a great way to spur release of oxytocin, which is a hormone that functions like dopamine. Zeke, who had decided to go off his depression medicine because “he felt fine” his freshman year of college, also ended up in a psych ward post suicide attempt. Their younger sister, who was sleeping when they both would take off at 4:30 am for those early swim practices and did not have to ride in the car two additional hours in the evening for part two of practice, never had an issue with depression. Interesting. Zeke did not bounce back as his sister had, and is totally understandable, which is why he came to help Christopher with Sherm. And to cut all the details out, Sherm and Zeke needed each other to heal. There’s an update at the end of the book, and as of release time, which was fall of 2020, Zeke was back in school and thriving. There’s just one of your happy stories from this book!

The author introduces a study from the University of Bonn done in 2008 that showed competitive athletes are twice as vulnerable to depression as non-athletes. You’d think it would be the opposite, right? What this particular study showed (I am leaving out a lot of the details here, FYI) is that after an endurance run, not of 30 minutes, but TWO HOURS, all runners’ opioid levels increased significantly. The better each runner felt, the more dopamine was found in the spinal fluid. That hormone was acting like an intoxicant. So with the lack of dopamine-inducing activity, there could have been a chemical imbalance caused by a sudden drop in dopamine. If you spend half your life getting a daily superdose of dopamine, what happens when you suddenly quit? Do you go through withdrawal? They were used to endorphins, this high. And then suddenly it stops. Granted, time had passed, but as stated before, years and years of this rush…..that’s got to leave a mark.

Curious thought, isn’t it? To me, it related so much to me, to so many of my friends, and my son, who pre-Covid, were very active, busy, training hard, planning, and….then…….everything……….stopped. Is that what post-race depression really is? A dopamine drop?

I know I dealt with some depression with Covid. I know many of my friends dealt with depression. And I know my son did. This isn’t necessarily laying out a cause, really, but just a little warning bell to anyone who might be reading this. I’ll tell Ryan’s story.

Ryan has a really good group of friends in Wilmington, and we moved from Wilmington during the summer of 2019. He found his posse here with the high schoolers, even though he was in eighth grade. He connected with them in cross country and then track, and right at the beginning of track season, he had a good group of kids he could hang out with and just be himself around. They had the whole season’s worth of get-togethers planned. Kids need that, and Ryan, being my extra social kid, really needed that. When Covid hit, all the friends disappeared. I couldn’t get a hold of some, and this two week flatten-the-curve thing, well, it’s still not over. They had online school, where assignments would get posted, teachers would have some class meetings here and there, and all sports were over. Well, first they were postponed, then we all know what happened last spring.

I couldn’t get Ryan out of bed before noon. I couldn’t get him to eat. He was angry. He was sad. He was quiet. My talker didn’t have anything to say. I had absolutely no idea what to do. We couldn’t go to the park, we couldn’t go to the beach, we couldn’t go to visit Wilmington, so we stayed home. I tried, oh my, I sure tried to get them engaged, to play, to cook, to puzzle, to game (the yahtzee kind, not the GTO kind). I couldn’t get that kid out of bed until the afternoon most days. When he and his cross country team started summer practice in June, he immediately was a little different. He talked a little more. When school started, and we were SOOOOO lucky we had the choice to be in-person, the only thing he liked was practice after school, and he constantly heard how crappy he ran or that all summer, he didn’t try hard, and in the meets, he was berated by his coach for not going fast enough. His one happy place was a source of negativity. Ugh. As a coach myself, I truly believe the kids should have heard “how are you all handling this, how ARE you?” and to have a supportive hand reaching out to lift them up if needed. That’s what my kid needed for sure. While I’m no softy when it comes to coaching, this was a much different situation and it really needed a hero.

Ryan “doing his homework”, or something like it

Fast forward to November. I knew Ryan wasn’t thrilled with school, and that’s understandable. He had some issues with teachers, and I got involved when I felt necessary, which was just two or three times, more than several years prior combined. But the Monday before Thanksgiving, the day before we were supposed to go back to Wilmington for a fun weekend, I felt there was something wrong with Ryan. Something was off. Something was different. I went to go talk to him.

When I went to his room, closed the door, and simply said, “What’s going on, Bud?”, I’ll just say that he fell apart. He cried and he cried hard. He was lost, and he didn’t know what to do. He felt stuck and angry. As my wide-eyes stared at his wall as he hugged me and cried, all I could think was that he needed a connection that was missing. Sounds simple, right? His teachers changed (as expected and this is NOT being critical of teachers one bit but his, for the most part, were not providing what he needed, but I can truly understand that task was nearly impossible), he wasn’t in sports at that time, and he didn’t have his friend base built up. I was scared.

During that brain scramble, I remembered growing up in a small town. Due to moving during high school, I moved into a huge school, and immediately hated it. I open enrolled into a smaller school and found my peeps again. The people I am connected to, with the exception of one, the people I connected with and remain connected with are my classmates from the small schools. Everyone knew everyone, pretty much, and when I go back to that town, I will often run into someone I know. It’s connections.

I proposed to Ryan that we will figure it out. It will be ok. I wanted him to know that he was heard. We don’t have a lot of options with schools here, so we looked into private school. We had him work with a personal trainer twice a week. We tried to get him connected. Several weeks and LOTS (and lots and lots and lots) of conversation later, Ryan started at a private school about five or six miles away. Within THREE days, DAYS, he came home, sat with me while I made dinner, and went for a walk with me, chatting the entire time. I would ask him every day if he thought we made the right decision, and still, after over a month, he gives the thumbs up. When we said we would probably enroll him, and he went to go look for his long lost baseball bag and wanted to join the team, I had a good feeling.

As much as the school part of school continues to annoy him, I feel like he’s connected again. People know his name, people talk to him, joke with him, and he’s different. The good kind of different. Or should I say, he’s back to what he was like prior to Covid…. It was sad when he said “Mom. They actually said BYE to me and know my name!”.

The reason that I’m talking about all of this is that we need to be sure we are listening to our kids. Kids are resilient, but they’re not bullet proof. What could have happened? I don’t know. It might have been fine to keep Ryan where he was. It might not have. I know what kids do when they feel trapped. Drugs, bad friends, stop caring, suicide. It’s all possible. Don’t sweep bad things under the rug, talk about them. Sometimes it’s ok to not be ok. Some days I don’t feel ok, and that’s ok. I’ve had to adjust my expectations, which has been quite a struggle. But I’ll be ok, that I do know. With Ryan, I wasn’t willing to take the chance. I saw my kid changing before my eyes, and both Andy and I knew we had a really important choice to make. Honestly, it turned out to be a pretty easy choice, too, and we were thankful to be able to make it. Ryan has his first baseball game on Thursday, and I cannot wait to cheer that kid on.

Be the voice that lifts up. Thank you for doing that for me, Sherman!

Ryan in front of his new school
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2020: A reflection of sorts

I wrote this last week, but something went awry with my page on Chrome, so finally, I used another browser. Let’s just say I’m not very computer savvy. I read what I wrote again, and I felt a sort of sadness. I don’t mean to be, but I guess things in life can be very complicated, and that’s where I’m at right now. I’m tired of the roller coaster feeling, not really knowing what’s going to happen. “Change fatigue” is what I’m calling it. It’s like being on a paddleboard on lava, then striking ground, but then it just melts into lava again and you’re back on the unsettled surface, not really knowing where to go or what to think. That’s kind of how I’m feeling, plus coming down from such a wonderful Christmas with my family. We took the risk and my parents flew here, my sister and husband drove down. We cooked, we played games, we laughed, we made fun of each other, we opened presents. It was really good. Good things must come to an end at some point, right? Well, that’s what I’m coming down from. Oh well, it’s not that bad, the air is crisp and the humidity is almost non-existent this week. The kids are doing school from their game room and it’s not terrible so far. I think they go back in person next week.

That being said, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! Let’s see some good things in 2021! And back to the regularly non-scheduled blog post.

I like to reflect at the end of each year, as many of us do. What went right, what didn’t, what can I do better, what can I continue to do, stuff like that. Last year started out with a goal of running and walking 2020 miles, which led me to take long walks and contemplate what direction I wanted my life to head. That led me to make the decision to apply for grad school to be a clinical licensed counselor. I’m two semesters in and have learned so much about humans, but especially about myself. I also had to kiss that 2020 miles goal bye-bye over the summer since a weird injury emerged and I was unable to run for a very long time. But if we didn’t learn but one thing in 2020, it’s that we must adapt to unexpected things.

I’ve watched the country, or rather, the world change. I have an inkling that one country could have predicted this, but that’s just my thoughts from things I’ve seen. I have been scared, angry, exhausted, depressed, happy, confused, and probably about a thousand more emotions, many at the same time. We are so thankful that my husband did not lose income. In fact, he was busier after interest rates dropped and sales went through the roof. He is not considered an “essential worker”, but what people need to realize is that his job is essential to us. Everyone’s job is essential to them. And when so many husbands and wives are home, mine wasn’t at home helping me deal with a very difficult situation. He was at work. So think about it when you might think that only essential people should be going to work. Everyone’s job is essential to that person/family.

I’ve watched my kids get significant activities taken away from them and I’ve watched them border depression. It would be incorrect to say that my kids have been unscathed during this pandemic. They aren’t simply “surviving” a pandemic as some say, they are most certainly being held back from things, from activities, from people, from experiences they will never have the chance to replace. Their education changed, significantly. Their teachers changed. They changed. I’ve changed.  They missed out on some life-changing activities, especially my oldest.

In my classes, I’ve learned so much about myself. It was eye opening and therapeutic for me to write these papers, so many unexpectedly about myself, my childhood. I had no idea that’s what I would be doing. I got deep. I got honest. I healed. I saw unhealthy patterns in others, actually, as well as myself. I also realized I am so extremely lucky to have the family that I do.

We traveled twice over the summer, once in June and once in August. The second trip was a last-minute invite from my sister to my parent’s house in Missouri. We needed them. My kids needed them most. We need togetherness, and mostly, my kids needed their grandparents, to feel just a little normal, to play in the lake and shoot guns. It was wonderful. My best friend of all times came to visit me, so we stayed at the beach a few days. That was great. She’s the person who’s known me the longest and the most, besides my sister of course.

Politically speaking, it’s hard to see the division around me. It’s hard to see such judgement, knowing there’s so many who believe in some aspects of both sides. The fact we have sides is ridiculous to me in the first place. The hatred and vitriol from people who simply disagree with others is disheartening. When was it wrong to hold different opinions, and since when are “you” better for making “your” choices? Ugh, social media seems to be the downfall of humans. Except Tik Tok, some of those people have really brought it this year. Yes, I’m talkin’ to you, cranberry juice guy. I took a break from Facebook, and it’s been really nice. I think a lot of people get their validation from likes and stuff like that, and since it seems we can’t even have a real conversation without someone getting butt hurt over opinions, I’ve distanced myself from it. It’s been great, actually. I’ll say something when I feel the need to, but most often, I just scroll on or delete it from my phone for a week or so. I suggest this to anyone who finds themselves on social media at the grocery store. You will feel better.

I’m a little sad today, knowing I went into 2020 with so much hope, a lot for myself. I haven’t kept up well, and I’m a little disappointed in myself, but I also have a whole lot of understanding and compassion for myself too. This year has been a big pile of crap with a few daisies growing on top, if that makes sense.

For 2021, I’m not making resolutions, I’m not choosing a word, I’m not promising to do anything. I’m going to do the best I can on any given day. There’s a lot of change coming for my family this year, and I know a lot of it is going to take a big amount of adjustment. I’m going to give myself grace, I’m going to make very few concrete goals at some point, but most of all, I just want to love on my husband and kids as much as possible. Life is short, you never know, so don’t take it for granted.

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Finding the Lesson

On July 8th of this year, I wrote my last blog post titled “Giving Myself a Little Grace”. I look back on that post and the information I had to make those decisions, and I kind of want to push me, Elaine Benes style and tell that girl to “GET OUT!!!!”.

If I had known that taking that time off and letting my body rest so much would end up in not really being able to run pain-free until this week, I’d have gotten my butt out of bed. Then again, I wouldn’t know what I know and I might have ended up in the same “no running” situation, but not running has been soooooo difficult for this lover of running. I always say that I am tired of learning lessons, I just want to run or train or do what I can do, but who knows better? Not me, that’s for sure. There was a big lesson in this injury, even if I didn’t want to hear or listen or do what I already know I needed to do but couldn’t find the mental energy to do it.

In July, I took my son to Wilmington for his orthodontist appointment, and I ran with a friend of mine. During the run, something in my upper hamstring, the old injury area from January 2019, started hurting enough where I stopped running and walked it in. I don’t do that often. The pain and discomfort I’ve pushed myself through has been pretty significant, but when you have something that’s telling you to stop, you stop.

Since then, I’ve taken time off. That seemed to actually make the symptoms worse. Was it a muscle, tendon, nerve problem? I sure didn’t know.

In September, I went to physical therapy. She said it was likely a nerve impingement from my lower back. My left side, the one that hurt, was weaker than my right side, and I was sort of crooked. After doing some of the prescribed exercises, that was clear. But I still couldn’t run. I walked. I biked. I sulked. Running hurt, especially after. I resented most other runners. I wanted to give up. For me, stress makes me feel like a deer in headlights, and with being in grad school, not being able to run, worrying about a lot of other things going on, and then that little thing called CORONAVIRUS that’s wrecking havoc on the world, I just haven’t handled this well. Granted, the last two years of my life have been so full of unknowns and changes and challenges, some good, some not so good, some expected and planned, some not. I, along with many others, have stress fatigue. I’m so sick of it all. But alas, I am not God and cannot take this thing away, so along with many others, have tried to keep my own ship afloat.

So I kept trying to fix myself. Physical therapy was quickly halted because in South Carolina, you have to have a doctor referral to continue past thirty days. Who know? I sure didn’t. And I’m stubborn enough to refuse to comply with that stupid rule. So I continued to do the strength, but I wasn’t making progress. Frustration grew. I knew I was having some issues initiating and/or following through with strength prescribed by coach, so I quit that too and hired a personal trainer.

One month, m and several good conversations with trainer later, I am stronger, I am able to run a little, and my symptoms have decreased significantly. That being said, I did go to the chiropractor on Monday and found that I’m still pretty jacked up. My spine is like a backwards “C”, and my pelvis is tilted forward, putting tons of pressure on the nerves that travel through said crooked pelvis, hence the pain, especially when sitting or sleeping.

I’m done with the trainer, who has done an amazing job and I am forever thankful for those damn push ups (maybe?), and am continuing chiropractic care and strength on my own. Will I follow through now? Absolutely! What makes it a million times better is that since my sister is a Peloton groupie, I get to be too. Who knew you could sign friends and family up for their own Peloton account and have access to amazing workouts of every type? I certainly didn’t, but found out last week, so game on!

This is the first time since July I’ve had any positive movement, so I’m extremely motivated to continue it. I know I can’t get all crazy with the running until I get things straightened out in the spine department, because the last thing I want to do is to make something else break because I’m running with an uneven body. Stronger than before, but definitely uneven. It’s not worth it.

As everything else in this dumpster fire of a year, I was expecting to run the Wilmington marathon in February, the day before my youngest son turns 15, but I will not. I won’t even run the half, because that’s a lot of training to do and as I said above, I do not want to hurt something else by getting all crazy with the running. Let’s do it smart!

As mentioned above, this year is a dumpster fire, but there’s been a lot of good. Remember that 2020 goal to walk/run 2020 miles in 2020? Yeah, that isn’t going to happen. But if I hadn’t taken that challenge, I may not have gone for a walk the day I decided I need to figure out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and I may not have decided to go to grad school to be a counselor. Good Lord knows, that is a job with increasing demand. Unfortunate but fortunate for me given the decision.

I think we all need to learn something from the situation that is 2020. Not that there’s just a LOT of stupid people out there, not new silly slogans that drive me completely crazy, but helpful pieces of a puzzle, or finding out that you do need to give yourself a little grace, but do it in a healthy and balanced way. Maybe it’s that life is precious and that you may not want to pass on the holiday get together. Maybe it’s that you really like driving when there’s no traffic. Or don’t. Haha, not sure who doesn’t, but you just never know. Even when things are bleak, there’s always a light to find!

I think one more important thing to remember is to stay kind. Hold yourself to a higher standard. Listen to those who hold differing opinions. Have conversations. Be graceful. If you’re going to call someone a dumbass, do it behind their back for crying out loud!


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Giving Myself A Little Grace

As normal, it’s been a long time since I’ve written. Crazy times right now, and so much has changed in just a short amount of time. As I’m sure so many people have felt, it’s been extremely stressful. My family moved last summer, almost exactly a year ago. Along with that, my kids had to adjust to a new routine, my husband had to work his old project in Wilmington plus the current project in Summerville, and I trained for the Endurance Trifecta. Once that was over, I had a foot injury, and fought tooth and nail to get my health back so I could run again. It was like molasses in winter. Thankfully my patience paid off.

In November, my oldest son found a great traveling, competitive percussion group. It was his THING. He worked for endless, tiring hours practicing the routine and music, perfecting every little movement and facial expression along the way. Just an FYI, I didn’t know this even existed prior to my son joining, so check out WGI Percussion if you’re curious. It’s a mix of marching band meets dance team meets drum line, but at a really high level of competition. This spring, my youngest son found his people in his teammates on the track team. He’s had trouble adjusting to his new 8th grade, and he just naturally gets along better with the 9th graders he’s met from cross country and track. I was just meeting more people in my neighborhood. I figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I enrolled in grad school at Charleston Southern University.

Then. Hits. Corona. All of it stopped. Everything my kids truly loved at this point in their lives was *poof*, gone. I couldn’t cultivate my new friendships. I was on an emotional roller coaster with everything and was glued to the TV. My husband was pretty much working normally, except for the distancing from everyone else. He works in the field a lot, so it was fairly easy for them to adjust to meeting on the project grounds or Zoom meetings. So there was some normalcy in the family, and we didn’t have to worry about his income. Sigh of relief. My oldest completed his schoolwork from home and did a great job albeit he did not enjoy online learning at all. I almost got my youngest counseling because I thought he was falling into a depression. I was scared. Thankfully, he slowly came out of it, for the most part.

Through all this, I tried to maintain some semblance of normalcy for me and the boys. All my spring races were cancelled. I tried to maintain my fitness and it was really hard for me to do so. I wanted to sleep. I was exhausted, unmotivated, and I wasn’t sure why. I forced myself to complete most workouts. I would run 3 miles and want to quit, but I forged ahead. I hired my former coach, because I needed motivation. Coach Sami is awesome. I got it done. But I found myself begrudgingly getting up, even though I knew I would be glad I got the workout done. I was not inspired. I was faking it til I made it, but I just never made it. My mind is full, it’s cluttered, and I need a break. The chaos in the country hasn’t helped. The incessant arguing, the right-fighting, the name-calling. I. Am. Over. It. All.

Then I went on vacation to see my parents that I haven’t seen or hugged or laid eyes on in almost a year, the longest I’ve ever gone in my entire life without seeing them. I slept in. I deleted my news and social media apps. I sat on their deck for hours, soaking in the plethora of birds, the sound of boats on the lake, the breeze on the leaves, and the conversation we had. We went out on the boat and floated around, talking while soaking in the sun. It was amazing. My kids got to learn how to water ski. They shot guns. They ate nutty buddies at lunch. We laughed, we joked, we talked about serious stuff. I did my school work. My parents cooked for us. And we got refreshed.

Float time on Table Rock Lake

I took a few days off running. For the first time in a hundred billion years, I wasn’t guilty about that. That was a new feeling. I told my husband that I was going to give myself a little grace for missing workouts. He wasn’t sure if he believed me, but I was serious. This is the first time since I can remember that I’ve been so unstructured, so unwilling to guilt myself into working out. But when I do work out, it’s been good. It’s been sweaty, and unplanned. It’s been nice. If I feel a breeze when it’s time to stop, I keep going. If I want to stop at 55 minutes instead of 60, I quit. If I want to get up and drink coffee instead, I do.

I also decided to put off my marathon goal and run a marathon for fun again. Instead of Houston in January, I’ll stay home and run Charleston the same weekend. It’s been years. I can barely even remember that time when I could let go of time workouts, goals, and making every single workout count. I’ve run a 3:33 marathon, and that would be great to do again, but that time will have to wait. I want to be free. I want to enjoy, I want to be one with running again. I don’t want to feel pressure from anywhere, mostly myself, of what my time will be when I cross the finish line. I want to not even care.

I talked to Coach Sami about it all, and I gave myself July to be free. To just do what I felt. To not feel guilty about a missed workout. And I feel really comfortable about it. I don’t want to unpack and live in this space, I just want to rent a VRBO for a few weeks. I want to ride my bike and get back in the pool. I can’t believe I want to get back in the pool. But if I don’t make it to the pool, I don’t want to feel bad about it either.

I feel relief. I feel like the vice is off and the pressure blanket has been removed. As Sami framed it, I’m breaking up with the feelings I was having, not running itself. Separation is good, the reunion will be grand. I can already feel it!

How have you been in this weird time? What’s the phrase you’ll never want to hear again. My word is “mask”. I already detest this word, and the only time I ever want to hear it after this whole pandemic is over is when referring to Halloween.

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The Twilight Zone

I know I’m not the only one who feels like we live in The Twilight Zone. It’s very weird out right now in so many ways. It feels like a hurricane is bearing down on us but we don’t know it’s path or strength so we just hunker down in the corner with our hands over our head, elementary-school-tornado-drill-style, and peek out every once in a while to see what the heck is going on. I appreciate the way humans come together during difficult times, and in some ways, our country needed a good shake up; that being said, I wouldn’t wish this on anyone at any time, as I could think of a million better ways for a country to come together besides a pandemic. People are bringing their meme game, which proves we all need humor in difficult times. Some of my favorites:


I have to say, it’s all I can do to not white out that apostrophe. 



And the winner goes to:


This reminds me of the build up and then the subsequent aftermath of Hurricane Florence. You see so many hurting, scared, sick, unemployed, underemployed, lonely, but on the flipside, you see so many coming together to help out. This is a very weird time.

I’m very thankful I can continue to run. I was just starting to train for a half marathon trail race at the beginning of May, but I assume this race will not happen. Now that I can’t use the gym to get in some incline work, I’ve continued to add miles to my weekend long runs, now up to ten. Some runs are good, some are not-so-good, but they are improving overall, which is the goal. I struggled most when it was humid, so I’m a little nervous about the summer, but all I can do is keep pushing forward. **I wrote this on Friday but didn’t get to posting it until today. Race was postponed until September so I did not do a long run this weekend. I rode my bike for 90 minutes on the trainer instead.

For me, when things are stressful, which I feel like it has been in one way or another for almost two years, I either put my nose to the grindstone and forge ahead or freeze up. I’m in the freeze up version of stress right now. When expectation and reality are not close, and they are about as far away as the Sun and Pluto (yes, it’s a planet because that’s what I learned in school), I tend to struggle. This has been a very strange year so far, as I know it has been for many.

I started the year with the 2020 challenge, which consists of running 2020 miles in 2020. I took the challenge, but gave myself permission to walk additional miles and to not meet the goal. It averages about 5.5 miles per day, and when I cross train one day and take one day off, that is a lot of miles! And it’s a challenge that really doesn’t have a reason, it’s just a number, so I am not going to stress about it. I’m just keeping track of my miles, that’s all. It will be interesting to see how many I get by the end of the year! January was 161.52 miles, February 138.96, and with one day left, March is 150.78, and total is 451.26 miles! Considering I need 507 in the first quarter to meet the 2020 goal, it’s not likely that I will make it, but dang! 450-ish miles is pretty awesome!

When the kids went back to school after Christmas break, I found myself trying to get in extra walking miles with my dog. I have a path where I let her off the leash and she just runs around, sniffs everything, and pees about twelve hundred million times. She loves it and I love to see her happy. I had applied for a few jobs, and during one of those walks, I realized that I probably wasn’t going to get a call back for the one I really wanted and one I knew I was well qualified to do. Either way, I needed a plan. I decided that I needed to figure out what I wanted to do. I thought about not doing anything, which was quickly dismissed. I’ve only not worked or been a major volunteer a few years since my kids were born, and I needed to have something for me, something that was mine, like my coaching business had been. I thought about starting up my business in the schools again, and I just couldn’t figure out a way that it would work. Access to a bathroom, safety, and a good location were lacking. I thought about returning to the mortgage industry. I really enjoyed being a mortgage underwriter, but I knew I’d have to start at the bottom again since I had been out of the industry for 17 years. As much as I could do this, I felt like it wasn’t for me anymore, especially starting at the bottom, again.

My oldest son is a junior in high school, and we had just booked college tours. I kept telling both my kids that they need to do what they truly want to do, as long as it’s not something like “butterfly hunting in Africa”, and they could make a living at it. College is so expensive, they needed to have a career goal or they should just stay home and go to community college and work until they figure it out. I kept telling them to follow their passion, don’t be someone who grits their teeth through every work day. Their dad, my husband had chased his dreams for years and is finally at a place where he wanted to be and imagines staying until retirement. That’s what I want for them. Yes, you have to start at the bottom, you have to do jobs you don’t like, you have to work more than 40 hours per week, but if that’s what it takes to get to your goal, then so be it. To get your dream job, you really should have to pay your dues, live in a crappy apartment, drive an old car. But it’s worth it.

I found it ironic that I was telling my kids to follow their dreams when I wasn’t. I had stopped myself from even considering going back to school because of money, time, it’s too much sacrifice, blah blah blah. There was always a reason why I couldn’t or shouldn’t go back, and this time, I could not find one reasonable reason why I couldn’t follow my dreams. But what were they? Hmmmm, well, I’d enrolled in college after high school with the hopes of being a psychologist so I could help people with their problems. I had struggled with an eating disorder in high school, been to counseling, and felt my counselors were not very good. I wanted to be the good one. But once I got to school, I didn’t want to have to go for a bazillion more years. Looking back, it was a very short-sighted decision, but I wouldn’t be right here writing this if I had continued with that goal.

During that walk on a sunny, cool January morning, I decided that I was going to go back to school. I did days of research, met with an enrollment counselor, talked to others on the phone, and finally applied to Charleston Southern University grad school for the Clinical Counseling master degree. I was accepted on my son’s birthday, February 28th. Just this week, after talking to the director a few times, I officially enrolled in two classes for summer and three for the fall. I am officially going to graduate school!

And while I am bored out of my gourd and relatively frozen during this quarantine, I am hopeful for my future as a student and then as a counselor. It’s crazy what can happen when you take time to clear your head and get straight with yourself. I’m a lot less likely to take crap from people and cut out the drama, more likely to help out local businesses and call those I love, and find the niche where I can help. I’ve spent a lot of time on my phone playing games, reading, and not doing house work. My kids have been doing eLearning through their school, but I’ve allowed pretty much anything.



This is how eLearning is going for my middle schooler.

I hope you all are doing ok. I can’t imagine facing unemployment at this time, having sick relatives, being sick myself. I haven’t seen my parents since last July, and we are supposed to see them for a fun ten day trip this summer at their house. I don’t know if that will happen. It scares me. I miss them SO MUCH. I worry about them, I worry about the economy, I worry about paying for college for me and my kids. There’s a LOT of unknowns. My youngest son’s orthodontist appointment was cancelled (by me because he had run a fever two days prior) and I have no idea when he can get in again. My oldest son needs an eye exam. I need an eye exam. But I have to trust we are in the middle of a snow globe snow storm, and it WILL calm down. Things WILL get back to normal.

I’m wishing the absolute best for everyone out there reading this. I will say a prayer of calm, of comfort, of releasing the worry. Til next time.


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Hitting the Reset Button

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while, not just to share it really, but as a process that writing can be. I’m actually really glad that I starting thinking about it, since I figured some things during the process. If this extremely personal share can help one person, it was worth posting.

Not long before the turn of the new year, someone mentioned that it was a new decade. I had never even thought of that! I started to think about where I was in 2010 and what the last decade has ensued, and it was literally too overwhelming for me to consider. I decided to look back over just 2019, but what occurred in 2019 includes 2018, and I really figured some things out. I “Dr. Phil’d” myself pretty successfully and decided that 2020 is the year of hitting the RESET button.

reset button

What happened? What went wrong? I mean, I just finished an endurance trifecta, so it can’t be that bad, can it? Yes and no. I shall ‘splain.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, it doesn’t take long to understand that I absolutely love to run. Now, those July and August mornings I could use a portable air conditioner along the route, but running makes me feel like me. I can work things out, run with friends, and feel accomplished before 7 am. My spiral, whether it can be considered an actual spiral remains to be seen, but it certainly wasn’t a rise to the top, began when I got injured two years ago, right before my marathon. It was a calf injury that THANKFULLY, did not bring itself about during my race and I was able to get my 3:33 PR. It was when I returned to speed work a few weeks later that it flared up. Since it flared up, I didn’t train much on hills/trails for my 43ish mile stage race, each day being around 14 miles. So when I did the stage race in April, my calf was fine, but since it was so technical, my posterior tibialis had a panic attack and caused my ankle to swell and hurt like the bananas. It was the first time I’d ever been injured where I was taken out of the game. I couldn’t run, I could barely walk. And I didn’t know what to do. Physical therapy didn’t magically heal it, and I slowly realized, like as in two months later slowly, that I would seriously need to just STOP trying so hard to will my way through the pain and let it slowly heal on its own. Patience is not always my strong suit.


During this time, I spent my workouts on my bike, aerobically working out, doing what I wanted, when I wanted, at the pace I wanted. Translate that to about an hour a day on my bike pedaling pretty darn easily.

I had to DNS all my races that I was really looking forward to, and it bothered me when I saw happy runners running. I wanted to be out there too, and I felt some pent-up pressure building.

Then Hurricane Florence hit Wilmington. During this time, my son had an injury that required him to be hospitalized, and that story, in and of itself, would drive anyone to madness, so I’ll keep it short. I’ll just say that I don’t know if I’ll ever truly get over what happened and how the doctor behaved and our subsequent meetings to discuss said behavior, but eventually, after lots of tears and “I wish I would have said ~”, I decided to give that up. But that revelation came months after Florence. Florence did not wreck havoc on my house, thankfully, but the entire disaster brought about so much uncertainty, fear, and general sadness because so many others had been affected. Thankfully, I had recovered from my ankle pain enough that I could run, but for about a week after the storm, I was literally too exhausted to run. It might have been the stress of my son being in the hospital, worrying if we should stay or leave, getting windows boarded up, getting up early and staying up late to be sure we were aware of the weather (the storm took two entire days to pass through), dealing with tornado warnings in the middle of the night, and then hearing the stories of those flooded. Then the aftermath included the pictures of death, retention ponds smelling like rotten fish, smelling the river from our house, and knowing we were damn lucky. That’s all I can say to describe it to keep it short. We bonded with our neighbors, tried to help others as much as we could, but with my son’s massive foot injury, we stayed closed to home so he would not be exposed to any sort of bacteria. And he couldn’t walk.


The eye over my house


The actual speed of Hurricane Florence











Time slowly healed those wounds, and life got back to a new sort of normal. I began to plan for the Boston Marathon, so I was really careful about my miles, and I started to pay more attention to my nutrition that I had let go the last few months due to being injured and dealing with the hurricane.

My training was going really well, until it wasn’t. I was at the track, having a fantastic workout, feeling amazing, which was too amazing. I pulled my hamstring, which was pretty tender already, doing leg swings before a long run the Saturday after the amazing track workout. I remember exactly where I was, the position I was in, and how it felt when it happened.

I desperately tried to make it work, but after lots of physical therapy, time off, and tiny test runs, I pulled the plug on running the 2019 Boston Marathon. I cried. A lot. But after that, it was ok. I knew things would be ok. I spend a lot of time run/walking myself back to health. Again.

While I rehabbed, my husband got a job offer from his current company to move to South Carolina. I worked my fingers off with finishing my jobs in Wilmington, preparing our house to sell (oh my, this was a doozy), planning a surprise 50th anniversary party for my parents IN MISSOURI, and planning a gift-giving present for my sister’s 50th birthday. Then we had a trip to Missouri, sold our Wilmington house, surprise party, trip to South Carolina, close and move in to our new house. Then my husband was required to travel every week for work back in Wilmington, due to company decisions that shouldn’t have been made, was required but wasn’t part of the plan. I was also dealing with some other personal stuff that I’m not getting into, but it caused a lot of not-so-good feelings. It was a lot. I had started to train for my endurance trifecta as well, and if anyone knows me, running more than maybe 6 miles in the summer is not my cup of tea. I was riding the struggle bus when it came to this part, but I got it done, each and every weekend. I followed my plan, I did what I needed to do to accomplish my trifecta goal.

Then all our travel started in October. Half iron tri, New York City, Lake Norman, JFK (which was 18 hours over 3 days plus that pesky 12 hours of running) weekend, then immediately turning around and being gone all Thanksgiving.  And to top it all off, the cherry on the pie was that I had yet another injury from the 50 miler that took me out of the game. Again. I. Was. Damn. Frustrated. And I stopped caring.

Why am I writing about this? Because it paints a picture, and not just the cropped “after” picture, but the entire thing. I needed to zoom out, so I could see what happened to me. I was sort of lost, probably about 15 pounds heavier than I had ever been without having just had a baby, and my nutrition was off the rails. I had too many empty bottles of wine in the recycle bin, too many crackers in the pantry, and way too much shredded cheese on my salads.

When I zoomed out, I realized exactly what happened. I got distracted and was doing so much for so many other people, I let myself go. I remember asking myself one time on the bike when I saw a belly roll I’d never seen before, are you ok with that? And unfortunately, my answer was, “Yup, don’t care. Chocolate covered almond, please, with a side of chardonnay.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming the circumstances on my nutritional failures. I made every single decision that led up to it. It was my fault, not stress nor moving nor being so damn busy this summer that I barely knew what side was up. I holed myself up in my house, avoided meeting the neighbors because I was just too freaking damn tired, didn’t want to tell my story, and felt judged because I didn’t have a job. If I wanted a glass of wine (or three), I had the damn glass(es). If I was too exhausted to cook, we either ordered pizza or got some fresh meals from the store. If I wanted to eat cheese, I ate cheese. Creamer in my coffee? Yup, fill ‘er up! I didn’t say no very much, my body paid the price, and it became the norm.

Now some people have already told me that I’m being ridiculous, I’m not overweight, I don’t need to worry about it, blah blah. But it bothers ME. It’s not who I am, and my current nutrition and weight would not coincide with my HUGE athletic goal that I have. I knew I couldn’t continue, as my already-tight clothes were not going to last any longer. And I just was not happy. That is the cue for change.


Not this time…this one is for real and for good.

In looking back, I realized the mistakes I made, but what do I do about it? It took me a few weeks, and I decided I needed to do a few things. The first, and most important thing, something that I have rarely done, was to forgive myself. Things happen, but the key point was that I was going to do something about it. After I forgave myself, I picked a date to start, which was January 6th. What was I starting? I hate this word, but it’s a diet. I needed to go cold turkey. No creamer, no cheese, no wine, no nonsense. I have been on this diet before, and it’s really hard. Low carb, low fat, low calorie plus exercise every day. Why this plan? Because I needed a reset, a complete reset in my mindset. And I wanted results quickly, because I know myself and I tend to get frustrated easily. When I feel and see progress quickly, it eases my mind and makes the sacrifices worth it just a little quicker than if I just cut back.

Today, after one week in and yesterday being my cheat day due to the Clemson game, I can feel progress. I feel different, I feel better, and my mindset has definitely shifted. It’s been good for me, absolutely a good decision that I made, and I’m extremely lucky that I had the opportunity to stop, think, and start to move forward again. I visualize what I will look like and how I will feel when I take the excess weight off, and I can see myself running the Houston Marathon for a PR next January.  I might grow my hair out longer so I can have a Jordan Hassay braid. I might not. I might have my tattoo redone. I might not. I’m hoping to find a job that fits my crazy kids’ schedules, but I might not. And that’s ok. I can see and feel a healthy, happy me emerging. This I know for sure.

bye felicia

See ya, 2019!

I wave goodbye to 2019. It was stressful and CraZy, but it was a really good year. As I wave goodbye, I turn around and face 2020 with my arms open wide. I am here.

hello 2020

From Overcomer, one of my favorite movies of all time.

Categories: anything is possible, being epic, Boston Marathon, follow your dreams, learning from failure, marathon, running, running buddies, training for marathon, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

‘Cause I Love The Adrenaline In My Veins – JFK 50 Race Recap Part II

Pull up a chair and grab a cup of coffee. This is a long race report.

It was 5:00 am, and a ribbon of cars led us to the school where we were to have our 5:45 am pre-race briefing about 20 minutes from the hotel. A Cyndi Lauper song was on the satellite radio. Because of “potty gate” in NYC, I was very anxious about using the bathroom before the race started. There was no parking spaces left at the school  when we got there, so Andy dropped me off. I got in line at the row of port-a-jons outside the school, and was quickly done. I tried not to drink too much since I knew there would be no way I’d have time to go before the race started. Most race reports I’d read said that (it was very true). Andy found me inside the gym, and we waited. The Cyndi Lauper song was on repeat in my head. NO. I can’t race with Cyndi today. So I turned my phone on music and the first song was the Lizzo women’s anthem, Truth Hurts. No, I don’t really want to hear Lizzo for 13 hours either so I changed it to Tom Petty, hoping for the best, but knowing that my mind plays whatever song it wants to.


Before it got full in there

Race Director Mike Spinnler gave our race orders, and the meeting was dismissed right around 6:00 am. The gist of it was “If someone slips, don’t step where they step. If they don’t slip, step where they step.” Simple. We had about a 1000-meter walk to the start of the race in downtown Boonsboro. So many people. I want to say there would be around 900 runners who started. Bathroom lines were too long. Oh well, I’ll figure it out and if need to go in the woods, I will.

Downtown Boonsboro was cool. The barber shop was already open and had customers getting coifed. That’s awfully early for a haircut. There was a hotel there with a double-decker porch with people watching us. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to cry. I wanted to go home. But I was there, it was the perfect morning. Dry, partly sunny (when the sun would come up as it was still dark), and rain was only predicted for the later afternoon. I gave Andy a kiss, said thank you, and told him I was ready to get into the crowd. As soon as I walked away from him, I regretted it.  I looked back for him, but he already moved. I found a few ladies, talked to them about their prior experience (they had experienced more than one DNF in their seven years of running) so I kind of didn’t follow them since DNF wasn’t on my list of possibilities, and I tucked myself in near the second half of the pack. All I could think about was to follow my plan, go slow in the beginning. Don’t ruin your legs in the beginning, no matter how “good” you feel.

I didn’t hear the National Anthem, but all of a sudden, it was time to go. We started. I didn’t use my Garmin, as I knew the battery would only last maybe a quarter of the race, so I looked at the time when I crossed the start line, and it read 6:30. When they say they promptly start at 6:30, they ain’t kidding.


Race Start 

Over the first 5.5 miles, you gain 1,172 feet in elevation. I had done many treadmill/stair stepper workouts over the months. I felt prepared. The first 2.5 miles were on a paved road. The first mile or so is basically rolling hills. It was starting to get light out, and it was a pretty day. Then we rounded a corner and my jaw dropped. Oh. I had it in my mind the road portion was rolling and as soon as you hit the AT at mile 2.5, you went straight up. That wasn’t the case. This road was going at a very steep incline. Most of us slowed to a walk. I used to be a really slow walker, but doing so many walks on the tread and walking parts of trails taught me to walk a lot faster. We went up and up and up. I heard some say that the trail was close, and then I saw the sign. I wasn’t sure how it would work, so many of us crammed onto a single-track trail. Would there be a back up or a line to just get onto the trail? Ain’t got time for that!

When we got to the trail entrance. I stopped at the bathrooms, where there was a short line, texted Andy I was about to cross the first timing mat, and went on my way. After that stop, I had ten minutes of time banked.


A road-ish trail or a trail-ish road?

The trail was pretty wide and it did not go straight up, as I thought it would. Actually, it went down. Hmm. Not sure where I had gotten that information from or how I would’ve misinterpreted it. Oh well! The next mile was a pretty easy portion of the trail. Some ups and downs but nothing steep, nothing really rocky. The trails were in PERFECT condition, and I often thought about those who ran the race last year when it was a huge sloppy mess after getting 8 inches of snow the day before. At mile 3.5, you got onto a paved road again. Thankfully, I overheard someone earlier saying that the road portion was the steepest part. That tidbit of information helped me deal with the fact that it was 100% true. We walked straight freaking up. Forever. The damn road kept going up and up. I wasn’t sure what 1,172 feet of elevation gain really was, but I was beginning to get an idea. It was a lot when it’s compacted into a few sections within 5.5 miles.


Up and Up and Up

After we climbed up and up, we got back onto the trail at mile 5.5. This was a much narrower portion, and I was excited that most of the steep incline was over. I told myself, “Just be careful, make sure you eat, and have fun”.

We were mostly single file, and you had to be strategic in passing someone in front of you. This is where Lizzo decided to join me in my head, and she hung in there for a LONG time, although I tried and tried, unsuccessfully, to get Tom Petty back. You run with interesting people in races like these. Well, probably in any race. Behind me, there was a group of ladies running, and every time we walked over the rocks, one of them yelled, “WALKING!”. Then when we ran on the trail, she yelled, “RUNNING!”. Constantly. “RUNNING! WALKING! RUNNING! WALKING!”. I tried not to get irritated, but how could any regular person not get irritated with that? I wanted to tell her to STFU and just go with the flow like everyone else was doing. I had to get out of there.

Then I got stuck with these two guys behind me. One was soft-spoken, but the other one was apparently using a megaphone because the dude was so loud. Like yelling at me kind of loud. A few miles later, I got ahead of them, thankfully.

No, I wasn’t grumpy, but when you’re running that long, you become slightly poodle-like, and things that don’t ordinarily bug you, do, then things that normally bug you, do not.

I chatted with a few people, watched the sun come up, and tried to take it all in.


Along the trail as the sun came up

At mile 9.3, we came to a check point in what was like a big field. I didn’t go over a timing mat, so I texted Andy where I was. At that point, I had banked more time and was 30 minutes ahead of the cutoff. I got some Gatorade, took an energy bar, and tried to eat a few potato chips. For some reason, they pretty much crumbled and fell out of my mouth. It still makes me laugh thinking about that, especially since it didn’t make much sense, because my mouth wasn’t dry and I wasn’t thirsty. The bar was pretty hard since it was cold – probably still in the 30’s, but it was good.


I’m pretty sure this is mile 9.3

One of the ladies I talked to said she had run this part of the course before, and it goes up more, then turns really rocky, then goes into the switchbacks down. I wasn’t sure what mile I was on (remember, no Garmin), so I pretty much went with what she said. I figured we would have a good mile with rock and a mile of switchback, which I think ended up being pretty close to being true. The only difference was the rocky portion was probably longer than a mile. Once we did get to that part, which pictures do not do it justice, I was really careful to 1) NOT fall, and 2) NOT twist something. I got caught behind a few slower runners and just a few times, I took a chance running on the rocks a little faster than I normally would have. Thankfully all was well. We could hear the trains below, as the director had told us that if we get caught by the train, we are SOL, just be patient, and wait for it to pass.


The rocky trail. It doesn’t look rocky, but it is.

I wish I had a picture of the switchbacks. I’ve been on switchbacks before, both on a trail and road, and what I had pictured was pretty much nothing like what we had. This was all rock, steep decline, and you could see straight down. Safety people were along the course, most likely for the people who chose to run down those things. I’m sure they drive around without seat belts too. My little group was chatting about something I can’t remember, taking our time getting off the hill, and we passed one woman in a sling and one guy who had hit his face on the rock. It wasn’t too bad, thankfully, and that guy and I passed each other back and forth the next 30 or so miles. We knew we were getting close to the bottom, as we could hear the cheering of the checkpoint and the first of three stops where our support people could see us.


I’m the one with my arms flying in the air

Four hours into the race, I passed mile 15, one hour ahead of the cutoff. I found Andy, went to the bathroom, got some mini potatoes and shoved them into my pocket, grabbed an Uncrustable, changed my socks and into running shoes, and went on my way. I was in a really good mood. Eleven minutes later, after winding around a trail and under a bridge and over some railroad tracks (NO TRAIN!!!!) while munching on the sandwich, I crossed the 15.5 mile marker. I had a feeling I was going to get warm, so I took my long sleeved shirt off, took my number off, re-pinned it to my sleeveless shirt, dropping my Uncrustable in the process, and asked someone to stuff my long sleeve into my pack after picking up and dusting off my Uncrustable. If I’m going to run 50 miles, I can eat a dirty sandwich, especially since it was DELICIOUS. I realized the photographer was there, and at the same time, realized my sleeveless shirt was inside out. Sigh.

The next check point was at mile 27.3, also one of the points our support people could meet us. Twelve miles, I can do this.

I’d heard from several race reports that the C & O Canal was boring and flat. Like super extra boring. Considering it was a change of scenery and my running routes at home are boring (I often run when it’s dark just so I don’t have to see the same thing over and over again), I wasn’t worried about it. I knew the required pace dropped to 12-13 minute miles along this section, so I did not allow myself to walk much at all. Since I had no concept of distance or pace, I turned my Garmin on so I could give myself a tad sense of how far I had gone and how far I had to go. My pace hovered around 10:20, which I felt was perfect. I sped up a few times, but made myself slow down when I started to breathe harder. The canal was pretty. It wasn’t all straight, as it followed the winding of the river. The leaves still had a slight bit of color, and the dead leaves on the trail made a soft sound with our footsteps. Granted, many many many others had gotten to this point in the race before me and tamped them down, but that still didn’t matter.


The C&O Canal

Then I started to hurt. I felt the incline from the trails. I didn’t understand how I could be hurting already, when I had over half the race to go. I went into panic mode, then I talked myself off the ledge. The hard is what makes it great. Keep going. You’ll be fine. Breathe. It will be ok. This is a blip.

Our first aid station on the canal was at mile 19, and it did not disappoint. This is one thing I didn’t know about the JFK 50, but this is one thing that I heard during the first miles that sets it apart. The aid stations are AMAZING. So many things were offered, typical of trail races and ultras, but I believe there’s just more people there (at LEAST ten per) and they are offered more frequently. If I remember right, one aid station during another trail race I had run offered a hose. So this was pretty stacked compared to a hose.


I may or may not have texted my husband that I was leaving him for this grilled cheese….

I texted Andy that I was getting a headache and to bring ibuprofen to the next meet up, but right near the race half way point, there was an aid station and I got two from someone there. I was really wary of taking anything, but I knew I was hydrated, so I took them and didn’t look back. My aches went away. And I was now half way through my 50 mile race!


Whoop Whoop!

Since I was wearing my tank top, my bra was chafing my arm. When I came upon the next check point at mile 27.3, Andy was there waiting for me. It’s interesting, because I didn’t NEED him, as the race had everything I could need or want, but I needed to see him. It was like during Ironman Florida, just seeing my people filled me up. Just seeing him made me feel better.

I used the port-a-jon, he gave me a few more ibuprofen to stash in my pack, and I went to the medical tent to get a band aid. The chafe stuff I put on my arm was not working well enough. I told them what I needed, and I ended up laughing so hard because one of them rubbed Body Glide all over my arms, me laughing because the stupid tag of my inside-out shirt was sticking out and I was getting body glided. I went on my way with a smile on my face and an hour and five minutes to spare.

Eleven miles until I see him next. The pace requirement increased to almost a 15 minute mile. I allowed myself to walk a little more. I still had a LONG way to run! I chatted with some people, one guy gave me an orange wedge, and then I heard music. I wasn’t sure what in the world was going on, but it was the song “Get Lucky” that repeats the lyrics “We’re up all night to get lucky” about a hundred times. I’m not sure about you, but there’s nothing romantic about being in the middle of a 50 mile race. I was thinking it was just a bad choice of music. Then the guy said, “Ok, here you go, you will remember this moment forever” and the Marvin Gaye and Tammi Tarrell song “Aint No Mountain High Enough” came on. It’s funny because I didn’t know it was basically a love song, but I teared up thinking that there was no mountain that was going to keep me from finishing this race. Little did I know, the music was coming from a couple on bikes dressed as The Incredibles. A few more songs came on as they slowly pedaled, and the music was a really nice distraction from what we were all doing. They stopped so I got their picture and thanked them for being out there for us. In all honesty, Mr. Incredible was right. I will remember that song at that moment for the rest of my life.


The Incredibles

I played games to get me to the next stop. Ok, you can either run two miles and then walk for half a mile, or you can run a mile then walk a quarter. Catch the lady in front of you. Get in front of the guy who was walking in the leaves and looked like he was going to fall into the river. Don’t fall down. Eat. Aid stations were plentiful, and at one I had a quarter hamburger and at the 34.4 mile check point, I had homemade Christmas cookies. This aid station was decorated, Santa was there, and the number of kids out there wanting to help us was overwhelming. During the entire race, I really tried to tell as many as I could, “THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE, YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE”. They certainly did.

Four miles until the next stop. In all honesty, for running this far, I felt pretty damn good. I felt hydrated, fed, and happy. I was truly enjoying myself. No, I didn’t want to do any extra dance steps or drop and do 20, but I was feeling good. Despite feeling good, a cramp developed in my left calf. Part of my race plan was to assess whether it was from a lack of electrolytes or just needed to be stretched. I took some Base salt and stretched. It migrated down into my Achilles and then into my heel then to the side of my heel over the next ten miles.

When I arrived at mile 38.4 at 8 hours and 48 minutes, I was an hour and 27 minutes ahead of the official cutoff, and I “only” had around a half marathon to go. I would be on the canal until around mile 42, and I knew, I just knew that I was going to finish this race. I saw Andy and honestly do not remember much else about that stop except that it started to rain.

Four miles until the canal. My watch gave me the low battery message, which made me mad because I had only had it on for about 2.5 hours. Piece of crap. I turned it off and went by time from then on. The migratory cramp now in my foot was irritating, and the top of my left foot had started to bug me a little bit. All in a day’s running, right? It started to cool off as I approached the country road portion of the race, especially with the rain. At least it was a light rain. Three, two, one, I was there. Mile 41.8, four minutes shy of two hours ahead of the cutoff. And the rain stopped. I had three and a half hours to finish 8 miles. Let’s do this thing. We couldn’t feel the finish yet, and 8 miles is a long distance when you’ve done 42, but it was more than doable. We were handed safety vests and I dug my long sleeve shirt out of my pack and put it on. When we got onto the road, we went straight friggin’ up. So much for rolling hills.


Looking back, down the giant hill, and I actually passed up the guy handing out beer 

I’m not sure how the conversation started, but someone right there said he had done a ton of ultras before, including this one more than once. I asked him for some tips on how to NOT feel like complete trash the next day. Basically, his lesson was to take care of yourself that night and the next day. Compression socks, roll, stretch, hydrate. Jeff is an experienced ultra runner, as I had mentioned before, and he was having a bad race. Funny, since I considered myself having a good race and we were at the same place at the same time. Perspective.


Up the damn hill

We ended up talking the rest of the race. Racing, life, just stuff like that. We ran the flat and down hills, start at the mail box, go to the power pole, and I took in the beautiful countryside while it was still light. There was a fair amount of traffic on the road, and as careful as the drivers were, it was a little unnerving. My feet were really starting to hurt. It wasn’t a cramp feeling, it was pain. I look back on this decision, and I still, one week out, do not regret one tiny shred, but for the majority of the last six miles of the race, I walked. I knew I was going to make the cutoff, but I did not like the feeling I had in my feet, and it wasn’t worth risking an injury to make a certain finish time, when my goal was always to just finish.

Night fell like a hammer, and all of a sudden, it was dark. The race had mile markers for us, which was nice. We passed others, others passed us, and soon, we came into town. The finish was so close.

Three, two, one. One mile to go. Do I run, do I continue to walk? Eh, walking seemed like the smart solution. When I made the final turn, the wind picked up, and it was cold. I could hear the finish line. Thankfulness overflowed in my heart. My body carried me this far. My family supported me the whole way. I did it.

Eleven hours and forty-seven minutes after I started running the JFK 50, I crossed the finish line. I RAN across the finish line.


FINISH LINE!! And a fist bump.


Post race in the school

The Aftermath:

I cried after the race. So many emotions, it’s really hard to describe, and I still struggle to come up with words. The main takeaway is gratefulness. I’m so thankful that I was able to participate and finish this race. Since I’m not sure what to say, I’ll copy what the race director had to share the day after the race, which still brings me to tears. It was a special year, as the person who created this race, the one I wrote about in my last post, Buzz Sawyer, passed away in 2019. Of all things, I wish I could thank him for creating something such as this.

“This one was for Buzz. He would be so proud of all the athletes, volunteers, race staff and supporters who came out yesterday to be a part of the 57th Annual JFK 50 Mile presented by @altrarunning

Whether you finished or not, PR’d or not, scored one of those beautiful cookies at mile 19 or not… be proud to be out there when many people will never have the guts to even try.

“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men”. John F. Kennedy” ~ Mike Spinnler


Buzz, Thank You

One week out, my foot still hurts and I’ve taken one mile walk, which was way too far. I’ll be patient, head to the pool, and count my blessings. I already know what I want to do next. 🙂




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Tongue-Tied and Twisted – JFK 50 Race Report, Part I

Several years ago, I read a few race reports from the JFK 50 Mile Race (link for one of them is below and it’s funny). At the time, I was all about qualifying and running Boston, but I had looked into that particular race and thought, “Well that’s interesting”. You had to run a marathon in a certain time to enter the race and from one of the blogs, the cutoff times were fairly strict along the way, requiring you to finish in 12 hours. Besides that, it has an interesting history that was equally, if not more intriguing. I’m not exactly sure why, but I set in my mind, THIS was the race I wanted to do IF I did a 50 miler.

Everybody Tai Fung Tonight Race Report

A Brief JFK History Lesson.

The initial inspiration behind the event came in 1963 from JFK challenging his military officers to meet the requirements that Teddy Roosevelt had set for his own military officers at the dawn of the 20th Century. That requirement was for all military officers to be able to cover 50 miles on foot in 20 hours to maintain their commissions. When word got out about the Kennedy Challenge, non-commissioned military personnel also wanted to take the test themselves as did certain robust members of the civilian population. In 1963, Buzz Sawyer answered the call by organizing a challenging 50-mile route that would incorporate the Appalachian Trail (the AT), C & O Canal Towpath and rolling rural roads. This was one of many events like this around the country. The JFK 50 Mile Challenge was born.

After JFK was killed in 1963, most of the challenge events held around the country ceased to exist. Buzz Sawyer renamed the event from the JFK 50 Mile Challenge to the JFK 50 Mile Memorial. This 50-mile race is the only original JFK 50 Mile Challenge event to be held every year.

THIS is one of the reasons why I wanted to do this race. It’s the oldest ultra race in the country.

Besides that, there have only been two race directors in the entire history of the race. Buzz was the first, and he directed the race for thirty years. THIRTY! Then he handed it over to Mike Spinnler, who had participated in (and won twice) since 1971. Mike has been the director since 1993. I don’t know exactly what it is, probably because I’m not an experienced ultra runner (does one make me experienced?), but there’s just something about this race that is unique and something to consider.

So now I’ve done the most prestigious marathon, the biggest marathon, and now the oldest footrace. How cool is that?!

Ahhh, back to the story. Marathons and triathlons came and went, and finally, the time arrived where it would work out to run the JFK 50. But as chances would have it, two additional events popped up: IMNC 70.3 triathlon from the 2018 race that was cancelled due to Hurricane Florence and the NYC Marathon, which I had never thought about until I qualified in winter of 2018.

A lot of times, challenges make me more interested, not less, and I decided I wanted to tackle all three of these events. The additional challenge was there were only five weeks between the first and last event. Five weeks. The good part and the part that really made the whole thing possible, or not a dumb thing to do, is that each event builds on the next, and I had no time goals for any of them, just to finish them.

Half ironman, two weeks, marathon, three weeks, 50 miler. Why not?

That’s how my Endurance Trifecta was invented.

On the first day of open registration, which was March 1st, I signed up for the JFK 50. There were no registration requirements and the time cutoff had been extended to 13 hours. Who knew if I could make it all happen, but I was going to try my hardest to do exactly that.

Fast forward to fall. It was here. It was happening. I was ready to do this thing.

Once I got the triathlon done, I knew the marathon would be completed, which it was. We could have walked most of the marathon and finished in time. There was a lot of running and walking over four days, but the experience was beyond what I thought it would be. You just can’t picture what running 26 miles through the boroughs of New York City is like until you do it, and I was lucky to be able to do that with my BFF. It also ended up being a really good training weekend for the 50 miler since we did so much running and walking.

Then I had three weeks to prepare for the 50 miler. As I had written before, I ran a 30k trail race the week after the marathon, and had some pretty bad negative goblins show up. Good thing I chased them away, and I was overcome with a combination of “Oh Lord Jesus” and “Let’s Do This” when thinking about running 50.2 miles at one time. It was almost too much for me to even conceptualize. I broke it up into pieces and thought about each piece. I felt it was the only way that I could handle something so outside of what I ever thought I could do.

Another key for me was to prepare. One of the details that intrigued me back in the day was you do not have a steady time goal for each cutoff of the race. The trails give you a slower pace and on the flat part, you need to push the gas. I had been worried about meeting time cutoffs, primarily because it gave me something else to think obsess about besides the pain of running 50 miles at once. I’m not a very strong trail runner, so having fairly strict cutoffs worried me.

I went over the rules and the cutoffs, and I made myself a handy dandy cheat sheet to keep with me during the race, mostly so I didn’t have to wonder about the cutoffs. I had them right there with me in blue and white.


I went over my race plan, and got my list of things I needed to take. The weather was unreliable, so I decided to pretty much bring three sets of everything. Shoes. Tights. Socks. Ear covers. Gloves. Shirts. Hats. Multiple everything.  I got all the food, not knowing what was on the course and what I would actually want to eat, and all of a sudden, it was race week. My sister came to stay with the kids, and the day before the race, my husband and I drove (well, he drove, I rode) nine hours north to Hagerstown, Maryland. Packet pickup had just started at the hotel where we stayed, and I felt very Thanksgiving-Day-Parade-Balloon-like next to all the wiry trail racers. It bothered me less than it normally would have since my only goal was to finish in 12:59:59. I hadn’t even done a 50k, so there was no reason to put any pressure on myself to finish this race in a certain time, especially since I didn’t know exactly how the course was laid out. I had read many race reports to get an idea of the course, which is funny, since I don’t really think any of them did a great job in explaining exactly how that course is laid out and how challenging the inclines really are. But I’d find that out the next day.


Packet Pickup

Andy and I found a brewery close to the hotel, shared some nachos and queso, had a beer (or two), and ordered dinner to take back since it was a little too early to eat a full dinner. I got a chicken sandwich and mashed potatoes, which is my norm. The only difference was it was fried instead of grilled, simply because they did not have a grilled option, which is pretty stupid if you have a six-page menu. Add grilled chicken!  I digress.


We went back to the room and I sorted out all the clothes and food in support bags for Andy. He could see me at three different portions of the race, so in case it rained or I didn’t like the food on course, I could get what I needed from him. I was going to carry my time cheat sheet, my phone, chapstick, eFuel in my hydration pack, salt, gu, small packs of almond butter, and a few small bags of energy beans.

In my mind, this race was so big and huge and overwhelming, I was at a loss for words. Songs spoke to me, and I had some spontaneous crying and plenty of adrenaline rushes in my stomach. I honestly couldn’t conceptualize what I was about to do. I felt numb most of it. I was well aware of what I was going to do, but I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea what I was going to feel like, what the course was like, how my body would respond. And as I sit now writing this, I have to admit, that’s part of the draw. That’s what reels so many of us in. It’s big, it’s unknown, it’s a huge challenge, and it’s beyond words amazing.

We went to bed by 10, and I actually slept well, despite having bad dreams all week of being late to the race start and missing time cutoffs.

I got up at 4 am on race morning. I was numb. I am going to run 50.2 miles today. It’s going to hurt. At some point, it will hurt. What’s going to happen? How will it go? Oh my.

No. Big. Deal. (Thanks to Charlie Engle for that mantra). Just keep going. One foot in front of the other. Whatever it takes. I was meant for this. I found this song by mistake, simply because it has the same title as a good Tom Petty song, but it is now one of my favorite “get into yourself and concentrate while escaping” songs. I’ve copied the lyrics below and highlighted the ones where I felt it was me. I’d had signs all week. As soon as I had thought of certain people, they called. I felt my Grandma Nolan’s presence. I knew she was there with me. I felt it was a very strong sign to manifest my finish. I needed to see it, to believe it in order to do it. So that’s what I did. We headed to Boonsboro for the race start.


Into the distance a ribbon of black
Stretched to the point of no turning back
A flight of fancy on a windswept field
Standing alone my senses reeled
A fatal attraction is holding me fast how
How can I escape this irresistible grasp?

Can’t keep my eyes from the circling skies
Tongue tied and twisted just an earthbound misfit, I

Ice is forming on the tips of my wings
Unheeded warnings I thought I thought of everything
No navigator to find my way home
Unladened, empty and turned to stone

A soul in tension that’s learning to fly
Condition grounded but determined to try
Can’t keep my eyes from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted just an earth-bound misfit, I

Above the planet on a wing and a prayer,
My grubby halo, a vapor trail in the empty air,
Across the clouds I see my shadow fly
Out of the corner of my watering eye
A dream unthreatened by the morning light
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night

There’s no sensation to compare with this
Suspended animation, a state of bliss
Can’t keep my MIND from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted just an earth-bound misfit, I

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