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.

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.

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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:

geese

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

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And the winner goes to:

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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.

 

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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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Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments

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.

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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.

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The eye over my house

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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.

motivated

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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FINISH LINE!! And a fist bump.

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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

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. 🙂

 

 

 

Categories: being epic, follow your dreams, learning from failure, marathon, running, running buddies, ultra marathon, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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.

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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.

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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

Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Going Mental: When You Become Your Own Mean Girl

Into every training cycle, a little fear must fall.  At least for me. And when it happens, sometimes it happens big. This training cycle was no different than many, especially the really big races like Ironman Florida, Boston Marathon, and going for a big PR at the Houston Marathon. Sometimes something can be so big and so new, it’s hard to wrap my head around it, which is how the fear creeps in. Fear and I are not strangers but we are not friends. I certainly don’t welcome fear into my house for a cup of coffee. I also don’t loathe fear, as it’s a natural consequence for going above yourself to do something new. That’s the way I see it. Fear is natural, but the most important thing about fear is how you handle it.

There’s a difference between fear and “can’t”. I remember hearing the phrase “Can’t never did anything”, and I say this to my kids whenever I hear a misplaced “can’t”. It literally never did anything for anyone. Fear isn’t “can’t”.

There are many types of fear. Like the real kind when you’re running down a dark street and you hear this noise and you think you’re being followed and then all of a sudden you realize it’s a leaf skittering alongside you with the wind. The fear when you’re running to your ringing phone and slip a little on the carpet while you’re going downstairs and you get a shot of adrenaline in your fingertips. There’s more REAL fear but I don’t need to go there. Then there’s the fear you get when you start a new job, or meet a possible business partner, which would probably be better described as “nerves”, but it’s still fear. Then there’s that pesky fear. The fear of failure. The fear of failure and “can’t” are first cousins and they often have family reunions when the fear of failure arrives at your doorstep.

I applied for a full-time job last week. I was scared to do it, mostly because I didn’t want to get rejected. I didn’t want to be the one looking kind of dumb with my finger and my thumb in the shape of an “L” on my forehead. Back in the day, I was way overqualified to do this job, and now, I’m not quite qualified, technically. And I didn’t want to be rejected, because it would just validate my fear of being the L. But I wanted the chance to find out if I would at least get a shot at that job, and if I didn’t apply, I would never know. When I got that dreaded email “Thank you for applying, BUT….”, I felt pretty low. But at least I took a shot at it. And now I know they will never get a chance to work with me and know how awesome I am, how hard-working I am, that I’m funny, smart, and thoughtful. Their loss. Time to move on. But I’m actually proud of myself for putting myself out there and punching fear in the face. Nothing bad happened when I got the email. It actually gave me a little clarity.

I digress.

Last weekend, I ran a 30k trail race at Lake Norman State Park. It was a trip that I didn’t want to take because we had just gotten back from New York, and two weeks before that was the half iron triathlon and a ton of long runs and training and I was just t i r e d. But it was already past the time to cancel my hotel reservation and my kids and I were supposed to go to a wedding, a wedding that I wanted to attend, but I didn’t want to drive that far.  I resigned myself that I HAD to go, although I just wanted to stay home. I worried about traffic and I worried about driving in the dark and I worried about finishing the race in time to drive to the afternoon wedding about an hour away from our hotel.

I got up and got ready for the race, worried some more, then drove myself through some gorgeous fall hills to the park. It was 28 degrees, and it had been a long time since I had felt temps that low. I missed the beginning of the “trail talk” since I, among many others, was sitting in my car keeping myself warm. I arrived for the giveaways and asked another participant if I had missed anything really important. “Go left at the junctions and be sure you punch your bib at the checkpoints” was all I missed. There were probably about 110 of us total for the 30k and 50k, so it took maybe half a mile or so for the crowd to thin out. I stayed back and let a lot of others go in front of me. It was a gorgeous morning and a beautiful trail. We were off.

Things were going fine. Until they weren’t. My legs have handled the tremendous amount of volume I’m put them through and recovery was typically quick. (I didn’t see that then but I do now.) And this was my last long workout before my big race. About four or five miles in, my somewhat fragile mental state collapsed. Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of something, or near the end, your perception becomes skewed. For instance, the week between the half iron triathlon and the NYC marathon was a ten mile run. And I was like, “Oh! ONLY ten miles this weekend.” I forget that running ten miles is actually quite a lot. And during my meltdown on that trail, when I felt my legs starting to get a little tired (I know this because I start tripping on things), I unleashed the wrath of my fear onto myself.

It’s also important to note that within failure, you find the opportunity for growth. I’ve failed at reaching my marathon goals, but within that, I’ve learned my biggest lessons. But that is not the same as fear that stops you from trying. And tells you you’re not good enough. Which is what I was feeling.

Here’s just a sample of things I said to myself.

You’re NEVER going to be able to finish the JFK in 13 hours if you can’t even run this easy trail in 15 minute miles.

How could you let yourself gain so much weight over the last year.

You can’t do this.

You’re going to be late for the wedding. You can’t use “I was running” as a valid reason.

You have absolutely no reason to be this tired right now.

Then I reminded myself that I had run a marathon the week before. And walked 60-70 miles in four days.

STOP MAKING EXCUSES.

Why did you even sign up for this 50 mile race when you KNOW you are a BAD trail runner?

There is no excuse for being tired.

You are going to embarrass yourself when you get a DNF.

Then I told myself that yeah, I ran a freaking marathon the week before and to not lose sight that THAT event is typically the goal for most people. But it didn’t matter.

You’re going to be last.

Running a marathon is no excuse for being tired right now.

Stop being a huge pansy. Pan. Zee.

You’re pretty dumb for thinking you can do this.

There were a few cycles of this negativity. I was really mean to me. I’m not proud of it, and I wasn’t even sure if I was going to share this. But I know I’m not the only one who does this. But I didn’t let it win. First, I knew from Ironman training that when you get low, you probably need to eat. So I ate one of my gels. I felt better and my mood lifted a little almost immediately. Then I went through my last month of training in my head.

20 miles

22 miles

Half Iron Triathlon, which is 70.2 miles and took me 6.5 hours

10 miles (yeah, the EASY week)

Marathon day, which was 32 miles of running and walking, plus 27 miles of walking in 4 days.

Look LADY, you have put your body through a LOT, so STOP being a bully, stop being so hard on yourself and just keep moving forward. And I did.

I went through the mean lady/nice lady cycle a few times during that race.

I think the 30k course was short a mile or two, but I finished in just under four hours. Four hours of running is a lot of time to be running. And I wasn’t last. I wasn’t in the top half of the finishers, but that’s ok.

I made it back to the hotel in plenty of time to get prepped for the wedding and find food. And as I said, it was one of my favorite weddings of all time. I totally borrowed worry. And we went home on Sunday. I was tired. Really. Really. Tired.

Then Monday came. And the mean lady came back. I got scared again. And I questioned my ability to finish the JFK 50 Mile race over and over. I was familiar with this feeling, but it came on really extra hard for this event. All it is, is fear of failure. So you want to give yourself enough reasons to just not even go? Just don’t even try because if you don’t try, you can’t fail, right? RIGHT? But just like that job, you can’t fail if you don’t even try. I didn’t come this far to only go this far. And I wanted to try, and I was going to put everything I had into making a successful race plan, then more importantly, execute it. I told my coach my mental state wasn’t really good, and I told her that this was normal for me and zero negativity would be allowed in my thought processes come race week. And she gave me the race plan assignment, and I really can’t express my gratitude at the timing of it, because it ignited the thought processes that will carry me over that finish line.

It only took three days, and all that bad juju is gone. Poof. And I look back and am disappointed that I was so mean to myself. I sealed the negative off and I will not allow it back in. I have worked too damn hard to be afraid. And part of a good race plan is to prepare for the unknown, as something unusually typically pops up in an event that long. And that’s ok. It’s crazy that I was feeling so bad at the beginning of the week, and today, I’m feeling nervous and a little anxious and really, really, dang excited.

On November 23rd, I’m running the JFK 50. I’m not going to TRY it, I’m not going to attempt to, I’m going to do it. I’m not naive enough to believe that things can’t happen to cause a DNF, but I’m not even going to let that into my space. At this point, a DNF is just not possible.

My mantra is to “Keep fucking going”.

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I’m carrying this bracelet my sister gave me.

Follow my race plan.

Adapt to changes.

Stay positive.

Bullet proof.

Remember that I didn’t come this far to only go this far.

All the way. 50.2 miles. I’m going to do it.

running quote 2

Categories: anything is possible, follow your dreams, learning from failure, marathon, marathon training, running, temper tantrum, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Pan, A Spoon, And A Whistle: NYC Marathon Recap

Warning: Picture heavy on this one.

Potty-gate was over, and we could finally run the race we’d been planning on for months and months. It was hard to believe we were running this huge, beautiful bridge from Staten Island over to Brooklyn. The bridge was pretty quiet, just hearing the sound of running shoes hitting the pavement. So many were stopped to take selfies on the bridge. We weren’t ready to do that yet, as we had a LONG way to go. Mile 1 ticked by and as always, I said, “Hey, only 25 more to go!”. I’m so funny.

The bridge wasn’t that difficult, although it’s nearly a mile on incline and a mile on decline. I’d done incline work on the treadmill thankfully, and I really wish I would have added it to Andy’s training plan. Oops. When we were near the end of the two-mile bridge, we heard the cannon from wave 4 go off, and I knew some of my friends were running the bridge with us.

When we entered Brooklyn, the crowds started. That’s the one thing I was told over and over, there were millions of spectators spread throughout the entire course. It’s crazy to imagine these people were stand for hours cheering on people they didn’t know, but that’s what happens.

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The best way I can describe the race is this. There’s miles and miles of runners. Thousands of runners spread out, with miles and miles and miles of spectators, holding signs, ringing bells, banging on pans, blowing obnoxious horns, and cheering. For miles. And miles. The sign I was waiting for was at mile 3.5. “You’re almost there!”. Haha. This is a classic. I really wish I would’ve taken pictures of these signs, but I had my phone in a flip belt sort of thing and since I’d had it out for most of the bridge, I didn’t want to keep getting it out. I should have though.

I’ve run a lot of marathons, including Boston, and I’ve never seen anyone bang on a pan with a spoon while blowing a whistle. It was just funny. I found myself smiling a lot, knowing this was most likely a once in a lifetime experience. I wanted to soak it in. The pan banging made me giggle, not knowing I’d see at least three of them. One was using a whisk on her pan. Whatever works, right?

I looked at the homes, the businesses, the tree lined streets. It was crazy to think it was a regular street in a regular city in the middle of New York City. What was it like to live there? What would it be like to grow up in such a large city? If I didn’t say it before, New York City is one of the most diverse places I’ve ever been. I think we heard more non-English than English, which was cool. Where were these people from, did they live there, what did they do for a living, were they visiting? It’s just interesting. Unique. I loved it.

Because Andy and I were relatively dehydrated going into the race, we stopped at all but one aid station, which were approximately every mile, except for the first few miles on the bridge. We walked through them, and the further we got into the race, the more cup pileage I noticed. Like I’ve said before, I’ve run in big races, but this one was about 20,000 runners BIGGER than the biggest one I’ve done before. The water/Gatorade cups pile up. And pile up and pile up. The streets get sticky, and after the bananas are handed out, they get slick. It made me think of some cartoon with an elephant slipping all over the banana peels. So we were extra careful with the banana peels.

You run through Brooklyn for many, many miles. Bands are spread out, lots of garage band type groups playing good music, and a few notable percussion groups were throughout the marathon. I saw a banana playing some sort of recorder/flute thing (I don’t think I’ll ever see that again), a lady running the marathon barefoot and with a grass skirt, trying to raise awareness for the environment. I saw tons of people running for charity, and I was specifically looking for my coach, who was guiding another sight-impaired friend. They were wearing neon yellow shirts, so I figured I would find them eventually. I saw many “Touch Here For Power” signs, and I touched many of them for power. I saw a few more banana people, I saw people running find their people in the crowds, running to them with huge smiles, I saw gorgeous brownstone townhouses on tree lined streets. Is that where the Cosby Show was set? We couldn’t remember.

The volunteers. The police presence. UNBELIEVABLE. AMAZING. Pretty indescribable to me. City dump trucks and salt trucks to protect main intersections. Police EVERYWHERE. Aid stations with plenty of people handing us our water or Gatorade, getting totally soaked in the process. They handed out Gu, bananas, Vaseline, and spectators handed out oranges and potato chips, among other things. If I remember right, some had beer (hey, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere) or mimosas (it’s basically a smoothie).

There were so many runners, we were separated onto different courses from the beginning until mile 8, where we all merged onto one course. I figured the course would eventually thin out some. Wrong. Andy and I didn’t always run side by side, but I never lost him. I had no idea how many Clemson fans are in New York City. Until Andy took his top shirt off to expose his orange shirt with white Clemson paw. I swear, I heard no less than ten million “Go Tigers!”, “Clemson!” and a few “Hey Clemson, Roll Tide” and one “Clemson, Go Dawgs”. I always knew he was near because I constantly heard someone yelling at him.

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Andy and his famous Clemson shirt

Little kids were lined up to high-five us. Several signs said “GO RANDOM STRANGER!”.  The people you see along the way and the people running alongside you. Everyone is so different, yet we were all united on that day to celebrate the human spirit. If you’ve never spectated a marathon, you really should. Even better, run one.

Brooklyn seemed to go on forever. And ever. Around mile 13-14, we crossed a bridge into Queens. For some reason, I thought Long Island was a borough, so I was so confused as to where that long island was. It was QUEENS. And I thought about “The King of Queens”, knowing we wouldn’t see Kevin James on the course but secretly hoping we would. It was basically the same as Brooklyn, and just as cool.

Somewhere along there a guy was by himself on the sidelines blowing this horrendous whistle horn thing. It was one of the most annoying sounds I’ve ever heard, which explains why he was by himself on the sidelines. That was one of the very few times the race course didn’t have many spectators.

Then came the bridge that no one talks about. The Queensboro Bridge. This sucker is a beautiful, old, STEEP bridge spanning about 1.4 miles, starting at around mile 15. It’s a double decker bridge, and the runners were on the bottom deck. We had a gorgeous view of Manhattan. Lots of people were walking, but I felt like I needed to run, for training. I was slow, but I kept going. The course was still really crowded, so you could see people going up and up and up and up and up. The bridges in the NYC Marathon ain’t no joke. I pulled over to the right so I could get a picture of Manhattan.

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Just gorgeous. Pictures don’t do it justice.

Then we started going down. I was REALLY glad we didn’t go up this part of the bridge because it was a steep decline. I found Andy, we got to the bottom and ran about 3.5 miles north through Manhattan, parallel to Central Park. I didn’t realize we ran that long in Manhattan at this point, so I looked for the next bridge far too long. At this point, I did not want the race to end but I couldn’t wait for it to be over, if that makes any sense. My legs were starting to feel the burn from the miles of walking the prior two days, and my knees were sore.

I’m not sure when we saw the dead rat along the course, but several other people saw it too. All I could think about for a while was how the thing was dead in the road. Did one of the Kenyans run over it with their fast feet? Did a car run over it over night? Why wasn’t it flatter like the bananas? It made no sense to me, but it entertained me for a while. Thanks, Rat.

Andy saw an inflatable unicorn holding a sign that said “Motherf***ing Marathoners!”. I REALLY wish I would’ve seen that. Next up, the bridge to The Bronx. Lo and behold, there was Coach Maleia and Diane. I knew I would find them among the thousands of people! We chatted a bit and then went on our way.

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Coach, Diane, and Andy

Bronx wasn’t anything spectacular, but we wound around the streets to get our miles in. The last bridge was around mile 21. Several people were holding signs and yelling at us, “THE LAST DAMN BRIDGE”. Perfect. It made me laugh and it was nice to know THIS was it for the incline. Sort of. The best part was the bridge was small and mostly a slight decline.

We were finally at our last destination…Manhattan! We ran down 5th Avenue about 3 miles. It was NUTS. It was gorgeous. It was full of runners. It was full of spectators. It seemed the streets got more and more crowded, louder and louder, and it was great to have that energy to use since the “low fuel” light came on for our gas tanks, haha.

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Crazy crowds

About half way down Central Park, we entered the park. Did you know that Central Park is hilly? Did you know The Met, as in The Metropolitan Museum, spanning several blocks, is on 5th Avenue and backs up into the park? Found out both of them that day. I knew from watching Shalane win this exact race a few years ago that the park has hills, but, fun fact, you can’t really detect hills adequately on a tv screen. It was hilly. And crazy full. Many times, we had to stop due to the congested streets. But the energy. You cannot beat the energy of this part of the race! Then I heard my name. WHAT???? My rock star friend Pam saw me from the sidelines!

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In the middle of my wave to Pam. I can’t believe someone found me on that crazy full course!

Now THAT was crazy, but not as crazy as the last mile. I know at some point, Andy and I were walking, and I said, “Come on, let’s go”, which made him mad because his feet were about to fall off, but all I could think about is finishing the damn thing. As great as the experience was, I wanted to stop. I was ready for it to be over. After a few more ups and downs, we crossed the finish line. We did it.

FINISH TIME: 4:53

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed in the finish time. As much as I truly don’t care, for as torn up as I felt, I felt like we went faster, not that it really matters. It’s a weird combination of not caring and being competitive. Speaking of being competitive, Andy’s time was one second faster, so he beat me at a marathon, something he said he’d never do. Well done, Andy, well done.

Not many feet into the finisher chute, we were in a traffic jam. One of the volunteers chastised us for being slow and taking selfies that held up the line (that wasn’t the problem and no one around us was taking selfies), which we didn’t appreciate and I decided to keep my trap shut so I wouldn’t end up saying something equally rude back to him. Nothing like being ridiculed as soon as you finish a race, huh?

We stood there a while and came upon our photo op, post-race garb, and heat sheets. We opted for ponchos, which would be handed out about a hundred half mile (or more) later. We were thankful for the heat sheets, as the sun was going down and it was cold. One girl behind us said “Where’s the f%$King exit???” True that. We felt like we had to walk all way up to the other side of the park to get back to the finish, which was towards our hotel. Goodness.

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Aren’t we so cute?

Many, many steps later, we found the exit and walked slowly back to our hotel. Total steps for that day totaled 32 miles. THIRTY-TWO MILES. And we still had to find dinner.

We did it. Endurance Trifecta Event #2: Mission Completion

We met up with the kids in our room, cleaned up, compared stories, and found dinner. Wow. What an amazing event. The ONLY complaint I have is the lack of bathrooms at the start. That’s it.

I heard some people say this marathon is better than any marathon, including Boston. I’m not so sure. To me, it’s like picking between your children. They’re different and you love them equally. There’s something very special about the Boston Marathon, and there’s definitely something special about NYC Marathon. Running a major with my husband was pretty special as well. Anyway, I’m not picking because I don’t have to, haha.

I must have gotten a sunburn, because in our room, my face was on fire. My son was thoughtful enough and got me the “freezer” tray from our mini fridge to help cool my face. Such a thoughtful boy.

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Ahhhhhhh….

The next day, we walked up and through Central Park. Wow. Seeing it again was a good thing, as I hadn’t realized it’s beauty the prior day. We walked the park, saw the finish line, the green lawn (or whatever it’s called), Strawberry Hill, a couple sucking face, a strange workout (I have a video of it and it makes me laugh so hard my abs hurt), and then walked back on 5th Avenue and by The Met. The people we saw and the stores we walked by. Hmmm, let’s say they have some disposable income. And The Met. Wow. One thing I’d like to do when I go back is to take advantage of the museums in the city.

By the time we found New York Pizza and walked back to our room, we’d added ten miles to our total. Our feet were tired, our hearts were full, and we were ready to go home.

Thanks New York City, we love you.

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NYC Marathon

Up next in my Endurance Trifecta: JFK 50

Categories: Boston Marathon, follow your dreams, go for your dreams, marathon, marathon training, running, running with friends, training for marathon, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

New York City Marathon: Recap Part 1

I’ve been thinking about how to start my race report for the New York City Marathon, and it’s not an easy thing to start. I mean, how do you write about something so mind-blowing and crazy and awesome? Do I start it like, “Once upon a time…”, or “One day, I…” or “Running rocks! Lemme tell you a story”? I guess I should start from the beginning.

The New York City Marathon was never on a list of marathons I wanted to do, simply because you have about a 15% chance of getting in by the lottery. In January of 2018, I ran the Houston marathon and was subsequently stuck in a hotel for two days due to a freak ice storm, with literally nothing better to do than watch “My 600 lb Life”, go to the liquor store and Subway next door, and surf the net. Ads for the NYC Marathon kept popping up and popping up and popping up. The ad finally got what it wanted because I clicked the dang thing, just because it was starting to irritate me, and I literally had nothing else to do.

There’s a few ways you can get in the marathon – run the NYRR races locally, enter the lottery and take your chances, run a race fast enough to qualify, or run for charity. It was that moment when I realized that I had a time that would qualify me to run the biggest marathon in the world. OMG. OMGOMGOMG, I can run the NYC Marathon! Andy and I concocted the plan that I would enter via time qualification and he would enter the lottery, and if he didn’t get in that way, he would consider the entry via charity, where you have to raise around $3000, depending on the charity. Fast forward to February/March 2019 and I was entered and he was accepted in the lottery. We were going to New York City!!!! (get a rope)

Andy and I planned to take the kids for a weekend in NYC and run the race together. What better way to see all five boroughs in the city!? We got a hotel close enough to walk to the pick up busses and walk home from the finish line in Central Park. This marathon was race #2 in my “Endurance Trifecta”, sandwiched between the IMNC 70.3 triathlon and the finale, the JFK 50 Miler. It was the perfect way to get a lot of time on my feet for a good ultra training weekend. 

It’s crazy to think we planned for this so many months ago, and on Friday, November 1st, we headed to New York. When we landed, we dropped our things at the hotel and headed to the expo. After abusing our credit card there, we walked around, saw some interesting buildings – really, the architecture is AMAZING – and walked to Times Square, which was close to our hotel. Day 1: 8 miles of walking!

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Found our names at the expo

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Still not sure what this is but it was cool. 

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Seeing all the sights

The next day, we walked 9 miles throughout the city, the highlights being Grand Central Station and the observation deck (it’s not a deck but not sure what else to call it) of the Freedom Tower. Pausing at the 9/11 Memorial was a must as well.

Because our wave of the race wasn’t going to start until 10:30, we waited until a little later to eat dinner. The good thing about New York City is there’s tons of places to eat, right at your doorstep. We got up early, but not the normal pre-marathon early, thankfully. We headed to the bus pick up at the library, expecting chaos and people running all over the place. Basically, we found a line, a long line to go through “security”, and were led to get on the bus. There were bathrooms on the other side of the park, but I didn’t want to get out of line and then have to go through that again. Mistake. The bus ride was quiet and the scenery was pleasant. What a gorgeous morning to run with 54,000 of your best friends, right? When we finally were allowed off the bus (it was chaotic and a mess and from what the driver said, wasn’t like that in years past), I made a bee line to the bathroom. I really had to go.

I realized at this moment that the reason why New Yorkers are angry and always in a hurry is because there’s no bathrooms. Anywhere. When we made it through security to the race staging area, there were thousands of people wandering around and probably fifty bathrooms for us all. I am not exaggerating. There were barely any bathrooms for runners, the line was probably a football field long, and people were peeing along the fence. I started to cry because I thought I was going to die pee myself. I made it very clear that I was unhappy, and I got myself in line because I didn’t want to pee in the grass. How convenient it would have been to be a man at that point.  Forty-five minutes later, I was able to go, so my mood lightened up.

The professionals started and the place was buzzing with an energy that is indescribable. With every wave start, they shoot off a huge cannon and play Frank Sinatra’s “New York”. It was finally time to get into our corral. The announcer kept saying to not wait in line to use the restroom until you get in to your corral, because “there are plenty of toilets to use in your corral”. Lie. When we got into our corral, there were three. For hundreds of people. And the corral behind us had zero. ZERO bathrooms for people getting ready to run a marathon. This was a big deal, or at least to me, since you go into a long race dehydrated simply because you have nowhere to pee. It’s a huge complaint, but that was literally the only thing the race did not do well, as once we got over that issue, it was simply the coolest race I’ve ever done. I’ve heard a lot of people say it’s better than Boston, and I don’t necessarily agree with that. For me, it would be like choosing a favorite child. They’re just different and you love them both. Boston is…well, it’s Boston. It’s special. You can’t just get in. I worked my butt off to get in to that race. But New York? It’s just unique and just as good.

We were at the very end of our wave since I had to wait so long to use the bathroom and Andy wasn’t able to go or risk having to wait until the next wave to start. Ridiculous.

But we started and realized we would be starting the race on the top of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. Some waves would be on the lower level, but we were lucky enough to be on the top. Off we went. It was almost like a dream. We were running the streets of New York City, all five boroughs, and my husband and I were running a marathon together.

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

IMNC 70.3 Race Recap

In the spring of 2018, I signed up for IMNC 70.3, which was cancelled due to severe damage from Hurricane Florence. We were offered free deferrals to the 2019 race, so I signed up, just to ensure I had a spot, not knowing if I would, in fact, participate in the race.

As I’ve talked about, my “endurance trifecta” begins with IMNC 70.3 and ends with the JFK50 miler five weeks later, with the New York City marathon sandwiched between the two. The good thing about triathlon, is that it forced me to cross train to help my overall strength and to prevent overtraining on the run. I figured that if I needed to let a race go, it would be the triathlon. I’m honestly so overjoyed that I didn’t need to do that.

The best thing I could have ever done is to hire a coach. I can coach marathons all day long, but not triathlons or 50 milers, and mostly, not when I’m the athlete nor when all the said events are within five weeks of each other. Coach knew my goals and set the plan accordingly, often checking in on my hamstring injury and in general.

I decided to head to Wilmington on the Thursday before the race (race was Saturday), and Wednesday night, I woke up at 2 am and could not get back to sleep. Ugh. My son and I left after he was out of school, and we got to Wilmington around 8 pm. Let’s say that driving in the dark is not one of my favorite things to do, especially when I’m sleep deprived and need glasses. I figured I would sleep like a baby, but it was one of the worst nights of not sleeping ever. I’ve had insomnia issues before, and this was a pretty bad string of it. I think I possibly dozed for about an hour. Double ugh.

That Friday was packet pick up, run stuff drop off, and bike drop off. I saw a bunch of people I knew and glanced at the finish line being set up. A quick dose of adrenaline surged through me, part excitement, part fear. Could I actually do this race? I’m exhausted and haven’t trained for it like I had in the past. Yes, yes I’ll be fine. I can do it.

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My son and me in front of the convention center

I dropped my son with his BFF and headed to dinner with a friend, where I had my traditional chicken sandwich with mushrooms, cheese, and a fried egg. Delicious. It was then that I got my actual race plan together. Nothing like waiting until the last minute, right? Race numbers on bike, nutrition planned, clothes laid out, bag packed and ready to go. I decided not to get up too early, but I knew I had somethings to do before we headed to the race. My poor tired little brain could only muster up a few things, haha. At least it was written down.

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My “list” of things to do in the morning

I woke at 4, having only had a few hours of sleep. Probably the second worst string of insomnia, and it was NOT caused by nerves. Not in the slightest. SO FRUSTRATING. I melted down in my sister’s kitchen, and I muttered a few inappropriate things that I can’t believe came out of my mouth, but I was just SO EFFING TIRED. I honestly didn’t know how I was going to make it. The best Sherpa in the world and I took off and headed to the start.

The start area was buzzing, and it was 5:10 am. Crazy. I went to my bike and got my tires pumped up and nutrition laid out. Saw some friends. Oops, forgot to leave my watch in my bike helmet. Did that. Saw more friends, waited in line for the bathroom. I couldn’t believe the activity and how well organized it was. I got my numbers put on my arms and leg. Oops, forgot to put something else in my bike bag. Did that. Saw some more friends. Oops, forgot to put one last thing in my bike bag. Geez, this is what happens when you are exhausted!

Gorgeous sunrise over T1

I said “see ya later” to my sister and headed to the line to get a bus to the start. Wow, there were a lot of people. I found out later there were over 2,200 finishers, so there had to be 2,300-2,400 people there. Crazy. Once I got to the start, I realized it wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be. That was good, because standing and freezing your wetsuit tail off wasn’t my way of beginning a long day of racing, as I had literally zero additional energy to spare. The start was delayed for some reason, I could never figure out why, but once they started, things went pretty fast. It used to be a wave start, but this year, it was a self-seeded time trial sort of start. About one person goes per second. Smooth. I ended up finding two friends in the time I was going to start so we ended up walking across the road to the water. OMG OMG OMG OMG I AM GONNA DO THIS HOLY SHIT HOW AM I GONNA DO THIS IT’S OK I WILL BE FINE OMG OMG OMG.

SWIM: The race started for me. The water felt great and it was a clear shade of green. It has been two years since I have been open water swimming, and I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t adjust from solely pool training for the race. Nope. I was fine. I hadn’t done more than 500 meters at one time without stopping (many of my swims were over 2000 meters though), so I was a little concerned I would get out of breath. Nope. I was fine. Current was strong, the salt water didn’t bother at all, and the sunrise was beautiful. Granted, I did stop a few times to get my bearings and figure out where I wanted to sight. I would NEVER EVER EVER suggest doing this race without open water experience, but considering I used to swim a few miles a week in that very waterway three, four, and five years ago, it came back like it was last week. My goggles got kicked off and I felt slightly violated by a few other swimmers, but it was nothing that I wasn’t expecting nor had dealt with during Ironman Florida, four short years ago. Turn, turn, turn, holy crap, I’m almost done. I felt great.

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The swim start

If you haven’t had your wetsuit stripped or haven’t actually seen it done, you should. It’s an “interesting” experience, haha.

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I made it through the swim!!!!

SWIM: 36:08

Transition: It’s quite a run from the swim finish to the bikes, and I had to run right by my bike to go the race route, which added about 200 extra yards for me when it was already a quarter mile. Ugh.

I saw several friends, volunteer extraordinaire Sami, Lena, and sister Sherpa, took my time to get my swim stuff packed in my bag and bike stuff on. My uncrustable would not fit in anything I had, so I left it. Boo.

Off on the bike

T1: 9:30 (that is a LONG transition)

Off I go on the bike. We will just go for a little ride. Just 57.65 miles. The good thing is that I knew the course was a little long, so I didn’t worry, I was just glad I knew. I kept Corey’s words in my head too, “Looks like we will likely have a head wind both ways.” Hmmmm. Ok then.

The route was a little different than before, and I was concerned since we crossed several major roads in Wilmington. Once I actually rode it, I was blown away at how good the route was and how safe I felt as a biker, unlike in year’s past. I glanced at the time when I left Wrightsville Beach behind, 8:30. I did not have anything on measuring pace or anything, only cadence. THAT was the important thing.

Bike training. I didn’t tell anyone this, but I did minimal bike training, and ZERO training on the road. 100% of my bike rides this entire year were indoor on my trainer. The longest ride was 2 ½ hours, which I did once, and two 2-hour rides and many other shorter rides, one per week. I didn’t tell anyone because, just in case something happened on the bike, someone couldn’t tell me, well, what do you THINK would happen? As soon as I got out there, all those thousands of miles I’d done before came back, pretty much like the swim. Ahhh, it was a beautiful day, slight head wind, but it was beautiful out. I was out with so many athletes, and I was doing it.

I had no idea what my MPH was or anything, but I knew I was taking care of my soon-to-be tired legs that would still be required to run a half marathon. NUTRITION was my main focus, and I made sure to drink every few minutes. I filled my bottle with Gatorade at each aid station and grabbed a gu. I had mini potatoes that I brought out just in time for the photographer. I had some chews as well. I felt good and I had a good therapy session with myself along the way.

The miles ticked by and we turned left and were rewarded with a nice tail wind. We turned left yet again, and the tail wind sort of disappeared, but hey, it wasn’t a strong head wind, so I certainly didn’t care. Half way, OMG I am DOING THIS THING! I tried my best to follow the rules, which is not what everyone decided to do, but I was not going to draft and I was not going to pass on the right. I yelled at the moron who did. The road was pretty bumpy and considering my seat hadn’t had as much training as I suspect almost everyone else did, I was careful for the bumps and cracks in the road. Extra careful.

Once we got back on the main highway, I knew I was going to make it just fine. My knee had been bothering me some, and with some head wind, it kept getting a little worse. As the head wind strengthened, I made sure I was eating and drinking enough, something I really messed up the last time I had done this race, and I was careful not to go below 80 cadence, especially to protect my knee. After Ironman it swelled up for a really long time, and I wanted to avoid as much as that as possible. I’m so thankful that Corey mentioned having head wind both ways – I wasn’t expecting it, and knowing it was possible made it so much better to handle when it actually happened.

The last two weekends, I had run 20 and 22 miles, 30 of them being on trails. My legs were not tapered for this race, but I was really happy at how they were responding. The miles started to get hard. I pushed and kept at it, clinging to positivity, knowing I was almost there. Just the run, just the run, oh, after the big bridge, then you run. You know how to run, you do it all the time, you will be good!

We climbed up toward the grated section of the bridge once last time, and I clung to my bike and desperately tried not to fall over, saying some unsavory words along the way. Whew, down hill. And I choked up. OMG. I did it. Minimal bike training, zero outdoor training, I freaking did it. My coach said it best when she was like “I bet your legs were like WTF”. Yes, they certainly were.

I rolled into the bike dismount area and stopped. I tried to lift my right leg over my bike and it wouldn’t move. One of the volunteers asked me if I was ok, and I asked her to come closer to my left arm, so I could use her to balance myself. Last time I did this race, I actually fell down at this part. I did not want to fall down. I held on to the volunteer and still couldn’t lift my leg over my bike. I started laughing and said “I can’t get off my bike”, when a guy came over and politely lifted my leg over my bike for me. I could fall down laughing at this visual, because it’s one of the funniest things that’s happened to me in a race.

BIKE: 3:25:31

The run. Transition didn’t seem as big when I checked my run bag in, but it was big when I had to run in bike shoes. I took them off and walked toward my bike rack and run stuff. I changed my shirt, put my hat on, grabbed some energy chews, gum, and turned my watch on. The bathroom had a line, so I planned to go to the next one and go there. I saw my sister and a few others there, and went on my way.

T2: 4:52

Just one problem. My legs wouldn’t work. Since my bike was an hour longer than I had trained all season and I had done zero brick workouts, it took a VERY long time for my bike legs to transition to run legs. Like 3-4 miles longer. Oh well, I was doing it. I ran shuffled through downtown Front Street where there were lots of spectators, and I glanced at my pace – 9:30. What? That didn’t seem right considering I was barely moving. I did a bunch of calculations in my head and started to worry. Oh, how long is this going to take? What if I have the walk the entire thing? Worry, worry, worry. A mile clicked by and we were in the unattractive part of the run. I was getting passed by what I felt like was the entire race field. It was frustrating for me since my run is typically my strong part, and that is where I pass everyone else. I saw the leaders coming through, I saw several friends, and my mind clouded up. I looked at my watch again, and I decided to turn the damn thing off. I don’t need it. This is supposed to be fun, not a competition. Remember what Lauren said? You’re partici-racing, not racing this thing, STOP it with the comparing and pressure to perform. That is NOT what this is about, KELLI.

I deleted my run, and decided once and for all to knock it off and just run. I walked through the aid stations and a little bit more, and focused on pushing myself to run when I didn’t feel like it. Practice. This is practice for the 50 miler. Push yourself to run when you don’t want to.

The course is sort of boring for me, but it’s pretty. I didn’t know where the turnaround was, so I just concentrated on going one mile at a time. I saw so many people, and it was fun to go through the aid stations. They were A-MAZING. I drank Gatorade and water at each one, and at one near half way, I took a gu.

The minutes and miles ticked by, and my legs got increasingly smooth. I felt like a runner, finally, and I started passing people. What everyone’s goal should be is to nail nutrition enough to speed up during your run, not slow down. And I was doing that. I was still walking, so my splits show the same pace, but in all honesty, I didn’t care. I was doing it. Race #1 of my endurance trifecta, the one I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do, and I was doing it.

Then I saw this crazy lady holding a sign with my name spelled correctly yelling things that included my name, and as I got closer, I realized it was my friend Lena. OMG, she made a SIGN???!!! She made me give her a sweaty hug, and her enthusiasm absorbed into me, and I couldn’t stop smiling. That was so cool.

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Comin’ in for my schweaty hug

Soon, I was headed back to town on Front street. I was almost there. I’m going to do this thing! And I felt GOOD!!! Pick up your feet, don’t trip, pick up the pace, finish strong. And that is what I did.

RUN: 2:13:44

TOTAL RACE TIME: 6:29:44

I’m so freaking proud of myself, honestly. A good attitude when completely exhausted, PERFECT nutrition, strong legs, and a good attitude. That’s what it took to get this race done. I love this race. I loved the course, the amazing volunteers, and my friends along the way. It was a good day, a very good day.

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My sister Sherpa and me!

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Endurance Trifecta Race 1, COMPLETE. Next up, New York City Marathon on November 3rd.

I had to add this picture. I had NO idea there was a smiley face under my age until I got back to my sister’s house, AFTER the run. Thanks, Erin!!!!!

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My smiley face

Categories: anything is possible, follow your dreams, half iron distance, ironman, ironman florida, marathon, marathon training, no fear, open water swimming, running, training for half iron distance, training for triathlon, triathlon, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Going Retro: Finding Focus

It’s been a long time since I’ve written. My family moved over the summer, so I equate the situation to eating before swimming. When you swim, all the blood goes to your muscles to keep you afloat, so your stomach gets less blood, which causes cramps. All my energy went to setting our home up, getting the kids settled, and having a three week stint with a job that didn’t pan out, so I didn’t have enough energy to blog. If I did blog, it would’ve been like “Here’s my blog. I’m doing a blog post. This is a blog. Hi.” So I didn’t blog.

Slowly but surely, my creativity started to come back. I figured I’d take advantage of it and update on some happenings.

Last week, it dawned on me that my endurance trifecta was an actual possibility. I never put much thought into the completion of it, because it’s something that doesn’t truly matter and I created it, not like I joined in a challenge……  Ok, I lied. It does matter, because no one wants to back away from a challenge they created. And there’s no reason why I can’t complete this thing.

Race #1: IMNC 70.3 – This race was supposed to be a do-over from the horrible 2017 race, when I went into it completely exhausted and depleted, and I totally melted down during the bike (I would say crash and burned, but I know enough people who have actually crashed, I won’t use that term). Then last year, Hurricane Florence forced the race to cancel, so I used my entry from last year for this year. I took the biking REALLY easy this training cycle to ensure it didn’t flare my hamstring injury from January that has decided to unpack and stay for a while. Thankfully, the injury keeps getting better, even with my increase in volume and adding incline.

I do have to say, since I’m on the trainer a lot, I got a chance to binge watch Stranger Things. I had no idea it was such a good show, and now I feel like one of the cool kids at school because I know who Eleven is. And Halloween will make so much more sense this year. So much more.

Swimming has gone well….. let’s just say I’m getting it done. I had a tantrum slash pity party in the middle of my swim last week. I was sucking air and frustrated, so I stopped in the middle of the lane. UGH! I had a little talk with myself and decided that I’d better get comfortable with being uncomfortable REALLY QUICK, and to have a cup of “suck it up” with a side of “STOP WHINING”. Let’s say the 2600 meter swim this week went way better.

no whining

Running. Oh, running. There’s a huge difference between summer running and non-summer running, and when I say summer, I mean all the seasons because it’s never really cold here. I literally think it’s going to stay in the 90’s until the end of time. I’ve had some decent runs, and some non-decent runs, and ones where I’m all like, “what the hell was that?”, and some that are “THAT’S what running is”. I don’t do well in the heat and humidity, which, for me, is pretty much anything above 60. Give me some 40-degree days and I can run forever.

How ironic is it that when I’m running and getting on with a big diatribe of how horrible and hot I am, I’m listening to audio books where the runners are competing in the Badwater 135, where it’s basically the temperature of a casserole-ready oven. So I take what I can from those authors and their experiences with something so unbelievably uncomfortable, and know that all I need to do is keep moving forward and keep my chin up. It’s that simple. It sucks that my pace is 2-3 minutes slower than my cold weather pace and that I probably will pass on training for another fall marathon, but I’m out there getting it done, flushing my body free of all the water it has ever taken in.

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This is me.

Like I said before, I recently realized that the first race of my trifecta will be here in the blink of an eye. I shifted my focus to this one race. Because I’ve raced a lot over the years, visualization comes quite naturally to me. It’s something I started doing the first time I raced a marathon, and it really comes in handy with other races as well. I need to think through the transitions, remember what I need to have, and to make sure I am on-point with nutrition.

My focus for this 70.3 is FUN. And finishing. Just finishing. Remembering to find joy in each mile, knowing that I’m out there, accomplishing a goal, not worrying about a time. It’s like going retro since I haven’t raced a race without a time goal in a long time. The first triathlon I ever did was a 70.3, and I had a total blast along the way, so that is what I want to recapture in this race. I can see myself talking to my spectator friends, stopping to pee if I feel like it, and run/walking the run part. I don’t even want to wear a watch, because the goal is to finish, not to finish in XX hours and minutes. It just doesn’t matter.

it just doesn't matter

Please tell me my family and I aren’t the only ones who knows what this is from. Please.

As my training gets longer and more difficult, I’m embracing the difficulty, keeping a positive attitude, and trying to prepare the best way I can. And honestly, as hot and humid, as much as I just don’t get faster in the pool, as tired as my legs can be, I’m enjoying myself, maintaining my house, keeping my boys fed, meeting new friends and neighbors, and occasionally, binge watching Netflix. Go me!

As I celebrate another year on the planet, I look up at the sky, take in a breath of horribly hot and humid air with twinge of sewer smell, and thank God that I’m able to be out there, smelling stinky air, running for 3-4 hours at a time, swimming slowly in a pool, watching Netflix as I bike, and coming home to a family that loves me.

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Happy Birthday To Me!

 

 

Categories: anything is possible, being epic, follow your dreams, half iron distance, marathon, marathon training, running, swimming, temper tantrum, training for half iron distance, training for marathon, training for triathlon, triathlon, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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