Thursday, April 27, 2017

Every Mile a Memory: 10 and 20 Mile Drop 4.23.17..."Unstoppable Hope"

The 10 and 20 Mile Drop will always be a bittersweet race for me. Sweet because I always do better than expected running the 10 mile distance but bitter because it was after my first go at it in 2015 when I was so excited with how well I did that day, I would go to my parent's house later on to share my excitement with my dad, only to see his time here on Earth quickly coming to an end. I didn't leave his side that day and two days later, I would watch him take his last breath at 1:23 PM. I was devastated. I couldn’t even LOOK at my running shoes without reliving that day of going from ultimate high to lowest of the lows or reliving my father's final hours or the days that followed so I was done. My heart was broken and so was my running spirit. Luckily that spirt was renewed several weeks later but I swore I would never run the 10 Mile Drop. My heart just wouldn't let me. Fast forward to December. For whatever reason (coincidence my dad's birthday is that month?? Perhaps some angels at work??), I decided to sign up for April's 2016 race again. My goal was to finish 1:23:00 in honor of my dad's last breath. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make that goal but I DID finish in 1:29:36 shaving over 8 minutes off my time from the previous year. A victory for sure and my love for this race would be renewed. This year, my goal was 1:22:00 which again was a lofty one but why not? In 2015, I was 14th in my AG and in 2016 I was 9th so my goal for this race was to make the top 10. Paul told me I should try for the top 5 which would be nice but after having a week of "blah-ish" types of runs, I wasn't feeling too strong about that. Not to mention, I woke up out of a dead sleep Sunday morning around 2 AM and never really went back to sleep so I was tired to begin with, making a top 5 in my AG finish a lofty one, at least in my mind.

The course

This is a point-to-point race with two distances: 10 and 20 miles. The 20 mile race started at 7:15 and the 10 mile at 8:15 and the 10 mile course is the second half of the 20 mile. They bill this as a "downhill" race (hence the "drop") because of the change in elevation from start to finish but there are definitely some hills you have to run up as well so it's still quite challenging. They caution the 10 milers to not go out too fast the first 5K because there's a hill to contend with between miles 3 and 4. A good portion of the course is on a scenic exercise path with both asphalt and crushed surfaces but you also run through neighborhoods and some pretty heavily traveled roads so they have police officers at every intersection stopping traffic. There are also several sets of active railroad tracks you have to cross and even though the RDs give the rail company a heads up about the race, there is no guarantee you won't encounter a train or two. Luckily for the past 3 years, my race has been train-free.

Runners are bussed to each starting line run to the finish at Fairport Harbor Beach Park (another beach finish…my favorite!). Since Paul always goes with me, he takes me to the starting line. This year, he was going out of town right after the race so we had to leave a Jeep at the finish line. This worked out well because my co-worker/racing friend was walking the 10 miler again and we were able to pick her up there so she didn't have to ride the bus.

The Get Up

As you all know, I am very particular about what I race in, especially when a race has some meaning behind it. Since this was more that "just a race" to me, I wanted to wear something to reflect that. The weather was supposed to be pretty decent; lower 40's at race time and mid 50's by the time I'd be done with sunshine. Such a contrast from last year when we had a blizzard two days before and a cloudy and balmy 27 degrees. They were calling for rain for weeks before the race but a day or two before, the weather decided to cooperate. Yay! Since it was going to be perfect race weather, I was excited I was going to be able to wear the special tank top I ordered with some arm warmers. I debated between my SmartWool ones or the lighter weight ones but remembering back to the 5K I did a couple weeks ago when it was much colder, the SmartWool was almost too warm. When I picked up the race shirt and bib on Saturday and saw the shirt was the color of my favorite forgetful fish, I took that as some good race juju and decided to go along with the blue theme. I also decided to wear a pair of Balega running socks that had the words "unstoppable" "hope" on them.



The race shirts never disappoints. Gotta love the Dory blue!

Race morning

I was not very happy with the fact I woke up at 2 am and never really went back to sleep so when I finally got up at 6 am, I was not a happy camper. Thank goodness for my two cups of coffee ritual. Our goal was to be at the finish line by 7:20 so we could drop off the Jeep, pick up my friend, and head to the starting line before the busses got there. Last year, they didn't have enough port-a-johns so the race was delayed by several minutes while everyone was making their final head calls so I wanted to make sure we were there in plenty of time. Well, just as we are just about to get to the beach park, we see the buses leaving. Luckily, we were able to get my friend and get to the start just as the busses were pulling in. Whew, talk about timing. We stood around and chatted for a bit before I went to do a quick warm up run, one last stop at the port-a-john, and headed to the starting line. Last year they had pacers so I had been debating whether I'd run with one but apparently they didn't have them this year so that made that decision easy. I was also planning on lining up closer to the back so I didn't start out too fast but when I saw there was no timing mat and this would be a gun start (which was odd because they've had one the last two years), I decided to squeeze in somewhere closer to the front.


Could that ray of sunshine photobombing our picture be my ray of "hope?? Kind of neat seeing this after the fact. Things that make you go "hmmm." 

And they're off

The gun went off and away we went. The half mile or so is pretty much all down hill and this, along with the excitement, of the race, had me running too fast. There were times I'd look down at my watch and see paces in the mid 7's and panic started to kick in. I decided I would only look at my watch on the mile splits and even though I missed the first mile split, the 2nd and 3rd ones blew my mind and I kept telling myself I needed to slow down or I'd never make it to the finish. The conversations going on in my head were a lot of back and forth between "you can do this" and "you'll never make it" and I really started to reconsider this being my favorite race. The whole thing was so much harder than I remember from past years. Around mile 4, I decided to quit obsessing about my pace and just run. Run fast, run slow, run however, just run…or walk if need be. I kept telling myself I had nothing to prove to anyone and however fast or slow I got to the finish line, finishing it is all that mattered. Every once in a while I would try to find someone to use as a target and other times I would just run and keep the positive self talk coming. I would also try to distract myself by noticing whom of the people were passing me were those running the 20 mile distance and wonder how they were feeling. On top of everything else, I was also dealing with a side stitch which started around mile 2 and didn't really ever go away and I was worried if it was going to force me to stop running. There were several water, Gatorade, and gel stops along the course and several times I thought about stopping just to get a couple of walking steps in and give my legs a break because I do remember doing that once during last year's race and I'm used to stopping during my training runs while waiting for traffic but every time I'd see one coming up, I say "I'll stop at the next one." Needless to say, I never stopped.

Flash backs to Ragnar

There were several parts of the course that reminded me of my legs at Ragnar as two of them followed a paved exercise path very similar to what I was running during this race. There was even one spot where I went under the freeway just like I did during one of my legs and it made for a good distraction as I drifted back in my mind to how much fun that race was. What also made it similar is there were several spots Paul was able to cheer me on and I went past. That was a nice surprised because he hadn't done that in year's past (since we lived so close, he'd just go home and then be at the finish line). It was also nice because I was able to hand him the arm warmers when I took them off.

The finish

Last year at mile 7, I distinctly remember how good I felt at that mile and was hoping for the same this year. Nope, didn't feel good at all and I really think that starting out as fast as I did "blew" it for me this race because the whole race was a lot harder than I remember from last year and when I got to mile 7, I was starting to doubt how this was all going to end. I did tell myself though that unless I totally tanked the last 3 miles, I'd probably beat last year's time so I kept reminding myself on that. One good thing about mile 7 is I was finally able to keep my lead over is the girl whom I kept playing the passing game with (I'd pass her, she'd pass me, etc.) for a good majority of the race. Every time someone would come up behind me, I'd wonder if it was her and it kind of kept pushing me to try not to drop my pace too much. I also remember last year hitting mile 9 and feeling super strong and mighty (to use one of my sole sistas, Jaime's words) for a fast finish. That didn't happen this year either. But rather than dwell on how tired or "bad" I was feeling or how hard this race had been, I just told myself I beat my time from last year and my mission was accomplished. I was also running against a head wind coming off the lake which is not something you want that last mile of a race. LOL

The last 0.10 of a mile to the finish was an uphill dash through a grass field. As I rounded the corner to the final stretch, I said to one of the race directors "looks like another cross country finish." He laughed. Ohhh, but I was in a for a big shocker…. My thoughts of holy crap, please God, don't let me twist an ankle to holy crap, the time clock is at 1:22:23 and if I kick it up, I'll come in right under 1:23:00, beating the time goal from last year!!! Not sure how I was able to muster up the energy but I did it! I have to be honest with you, last year it was A LOT easier running through 12 inches of snow like last year than it was the grass! It sounds crazy but it's true. This was not manicured like the NXN course but rather filled with lots of holes and uneven ground. Plus it's up hill. But anyway, I turned off my music and heard a couple women who had already finished telling me to be careful and watch my step. And just like last year, there was a bunch of mud and a little dip JUST before you hit the timing mat. Last year I jumped it. A lot of my races have this DJ (who also runs the race) commenting at the finish line and it's always entertaining to hear what says. Kind makes for a fun finish, too. I don't recall exactly what he said but it was something about needing to jump the mud and when I ran through it, he started laughing and said "or just run through it." I was so out of breath when I stopped I could hardly catch it but I was glad the feeling didn't last long. Paul, who cheered me on through the finish, came over and we went to the pavilion on the beach for the post race snacks (pancakes, sausage, bananas, chocolate milk, coffee, hot chocolate, and of course, my favorite…bagel bites). They also have live results so we went over to the computer to see how I did and woot woot woot I made the top 5, coming in 4th and only a minute and a half for so behind the 1st place finisher. Super stoked! I wanted to stay for the awards just in case the 1st place finisher took a female OA spot which would bump me up to 3rd in mine but she did not and Paul needed to get on the road so we left.

Final thoughts

Another sweet and unexpected surprise when I crossed the finish line at 1:22:47. What's more, in three years, I've gone from 14th in my age group to 9th to 4th. Never in a million years did I ever think I'd reach the top 10, much less the top 5! This race wasn't easy by any means and there were plenty of times I thought about giving up but I kept thinking about all the reasons I was out there in the first place so I pressed on. Those reasons got me to the finish line today and made the 10 Mile Drop a little more sweet and a little less bitter. Not because I did well, but because it just goes to show when you have unstoppable hope, you can finish whatever race life puts in your way, often times with results better than ever expected.

I have to say it's taking me a bit long to recover this time around. The only time I've been this sore after a race was my first HM in 2014… I didn't have much soreness after my HM this past fall nor after last year's 10 Mile Drop but this year I was sore enough I haven't run in two days. I COULD have run but I'm at 90 miles for the month and only have 10 more to go to reach my goal so being a "slacker" didn't bother me too much and figure my legs could use the break. What's interesting is my friend from work said the same thing and she also said the thought this year's race was a lot more hilly and tougher than last year. It was the same course as last year so it was the same hills so the only thing I can think of is it's from pushing myself as much as I did. Who knows. I just can't wait to get back to running!

Thank you for reading.  
Cool finishers medal with movable bus


Stats

Splits per garmin
8:18
7:49
7:52
8:16
8:28
8:28
8:30
8:43
8:40
8:14

Splits per chip
5K 08:00
10K 08:10
Last 3.8 miles 08:28
Finish 08:17


Race placement
Overall 69th of 320
Female 22nd of 202
Female 45-49 4th of 25

Friday, April 14, 2017

Missing Papa D: Two Years Later 4.14.17

I'm everything I am because you loved me
I always loved the month of April.

April meant April Fool's Day when we as kids would play silly but memorable tricks on our parents and each other; it meant spring flowers, longer days of sunlight, the beginning of flip flop weather (although let's be honest, I had them on as early as the first day of Spring if not before); it meant the start of a warming trend that would eventually lead to summer… and camping…and the beach. Sure, Mother Nature has been known to throw a blizzard or two our way during this time of year but it has always been a little more tolerable knowing it would be short-lived because better days were coming. Two years ago today, however, April became bittersweet. 

It was the beginning of April I would watch cancer steal my dear father, affectionately known as Papa D, away from me faster than a freight train and no matter how hard I begged, pleaded, or prayed, the train didn't stop. At 1:53 p.m. two years ago today, I would watch him take his last breath here on Earth and join my brother in Glory. The month of April would never be the same. Heck, my life would never be the same. 

It makes me sad my dad hasn't had the fun of watching Rick run like a rock star at cross country meets and I know he would be at every single one because that's just what Papa D did, or see Kelly get married and have the pleasure of not only knowing his beautiful wife, Jaime (and girl, he would ADORE you!!), but holding his great-grandson who is due to bless us with his presence any day. Gosh, dad, I hope God allows you to see us down here… I know you would be so proud!!

What a blessing it is to say I had the most amazing man for 45 years of my life to call my dad and even though I am 47 now and have lived the past two years without him and will live the rest of my days the same, I know he is with me always and I am thankful this life is not the end because I know I will see him one day.

Until we meet again, Papa D….

Papa D, my brother, and me at my cousin's wedding in 1995.

My sisters, Papa D, and I. Our last Christmas Eve together 2014.

One of the last times I would get to hold my dad's hand.

In honor of my dad's second angel anniversary, I finally finished this post and wanted to share it. Better late than never: "For I know the plans I have for you"...the unexpected tattoo trilogy is complete 



Wednesday, April 12, 2017

"For I know the plans I have for you"...the unexpected tattoo trilogy is complete

For I know the plans I have for you, plans for peace and not of evil, to give you a future and hope." Jeremiah 29:11

After I got my hope tattoo on May 12, 2015 in honor of Papa D's one month home going/angel anniversary with my son, Kelly, I had no plans to get another. I had a tattoo on my stomach which was done in 1997 in memory of the one year anniversary of my brother's murder and then I got my hope tattoo for my dad and that was all I needed….or so I thought. As time went on, I got to thinking I wanted something in memory of my dad's sixth month angel anniversary. Well, that date snuck up on me and I didn't want to just get any tattoo so I decided I would get one on his birthday in December. The timing would be perfect since my brother's 20th angel anniversary would follow in January and I decided whatever the next tattoo I got would serve as a memorial to both my dad any my brother.

On my dad's birthday on December 8, 2015, I got my "until we meet again" tattoo. A few weeks before my appointment, I came across a picture of a woman with a tattoo on her neck, one on her shoulder, and an Irish blessing scripted between them. I loved that idea but wasn’t sure I would be up for another tattoo after the second one so I had the artist position it in a way that it could stand alone should I chicken out. Second tattoo was complete and I'll admit, as soon as I got home, I knew another tattoo would be happening in the near future. I decided the one year anniversary of Papa D's home going in 2016 was going to be the day I completed this unplanned trilogy. The question was: what saying would I have done?

When I first heard the song "The Light" by the band, Disturbed, the words "sometimes the darkness can show you the light" jumped right out at me as a definite possibility. Those are great lyrics with a very deep and profound meaning for me (and truth be told, I will probably get those tattooed on me at some point), but I wasn't really quite sure that's what I wanted for this tattoo. I remembered my life verse, Jeremiah 29:11 which says "For I know the plans I have for you, plans for peace and not of evil, to give you a future and hope." That would be the perfect verse. However, I was having a hard time deciding what part of it to use. While I liked all of the words, I didn't know if it was going to be too much. I just couldn't envision it. One morning, I was talking to my cousin, Michelle, and the subject of tattoos came up. I told her what I was thinking and she suggested to just use the first part of the verse. Hmmm. That could work I thought. As I drove to work that morning, I was thinking about what Michelle had suggested and all the sudden it hit me: the two tattoos I already had would "complete" the Bible verse if you think about it; the hope tattoo was obvious what it represented and the infinity tattoo represented the "future" part of the verse; because of my faith and God's promise that this life is not the end, one day I would be reunited with my loves and live eternally with them and our Heavenly Father. Perfect! Now I was ready to get it done.

Since getting a tattoo is more than just getting ink, I have to get it done on a day that means something. It probably sounds weird but it's just the way I am. If am going to endure the pain, that pain would never compare to the pain of losing someone I love so I originally had the tattoo scheduled with Jeff at Iron Clad Tattoos (who also did my hope tattoo) on the one year anniversary of my dad's home going. Unfortunately, there was a family emergency so I had to cancel and thought maybe I'd get it done on the anniversary of my dad's celebration of life service, but that didn't work out either. Then I remembered my brother's birthday was coming up May 10 and that date worked out with Jeff's schedule so May10th it was; a tattoo in honor of Papa D's angel anniversary and my brother's 43rd birthday. Perfect!

I wasn't really sure how it was going to all come together so I told Jeff what I wanted, sent him a picture of where I got my inspiration from, and when I got there, he had something drawn up. After a few weeks, we were ready to go. I am so glad my good friend, Nissa, was able to come with me, not only for moral support, but her creative input was invaluable. Since I was already going under the needle, Jeff touched up my hope tattoo as well. I wasn't really mentally prepared for that but surprisingly, it barely hurt at all. I must be getting tough in my old age. LOL

Jeff was done in no time and once again, he did not disappoint. My tattoo turned out better than I ever imagined.

The unexpected tattoo trilogy was now complete and a perfect way to honor Papa D's one year angel anniversary and my brother's birthday.

Afterwards, Nissa and I went out to get a bite to eat, a beverage, and, of course, a shot of Jager.

Of course, Squishy Dory had to come for moral support (AKA my right hand fish...literally.
I thought she was a gonner after this round of getting inked)

Note: I know I am a little late in the game as I got this tattoo in May of 2016 and it is now April of 2017 and I have gotten another tattoo since. It has taken me over a year to write this post for many reasons but it was my goal to make sure I had it posted for Papa D's second home going anniversary which is in two days.



Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Every Mile a Memory: Cardinal Pump and Chase 5K 4.2.17

The 4th Annual Cardinal Pump and Chase 5K was my first 5K for the year and also my first time participating in this particular race. It is presented by a local gym called Anytime Fitness and held at our high school. Initially, it was started to benefit the high school's track team but this year it also benefited a scholarship fund named for a boy at one of our elementary schools who passed away from cancer last fall. It's called the pump and chase because you can earn 1-10 minute credits off your 5K time based on how much you can bench press using the formula weight x reps x 10. For woman, the minimum is 450 for a one minute credit and maximum is 900 for a 10 minute credit. So for example, since the bar is 45# alone, you would have to do 10 reps to get at a minute off. For men, the minimum was 1,500. You don't have to do the pump part, you can just run the 5K, you just start with those who didn't earn credits. The "chase" was a staggered start and everyone was lined up by time credits on the football field. Those who got 10 minutes toed the line on the track at the timing mat first and started as soon as the clock did and then each group would move up and start every minute after that until everyone was out on the course. It's kind of a neat concept because typically people who can lift heavy aren't usually very fast and people who are very fast aren't usually power lifters so it kind of levels the playing field in a way. Case in point, none of the XC boys earned credits that I know of but they are so fast, they really didn't need to.

Getting Pumped

I work out regularly but I haven't done bench presses since before my surgery four years ago and I have no upper body strength so I've never been interested in doing this race. Not to mention, knowing the main sponsor is a gym, the inferiority complex I have kicks in big time and I never thought I'd stand a chance with the women in my AG because they would either be strong, fast, or both. Even when my son learned he had to run the race as a track requirement a couple weeks ago, I wasn't really interested in joining him but eventually decided we don't get to run too many races together so why not. It was for a good cause, too, and I love races for good causes, especially when it comes to cancer. Plus, it would be first 5K of the year and I was kind of curious where my 5K time looked like. Finally, I've run the course before so I was familiar with it.

I decided to sign up Thursday but online registration was closed. Probably a good thing because later that day, my son sprained his OTHER ankle at track (he severely sprained his right ankle towards the end of XC season this past year which almost required surgery) so he was out of the race. I am beginning to think I am jinxing him because on the day he got hurt in XC, I had just signed up for the Nike Cross Regionals Community 5K, a race that took place before he and his teammates would run the actual Nike races. Maybe I need to start signing up for races on the weekends when he's not at practice! Anyway, he was going to help out at the race, it's fun having him there to cheer me on, and I had kind of "pumped" myself up for the race (pun intended) so I asked the race director on Friday if I could take his registration and she said it wouldn't be a problem.

Goals

For every race I do, I like to have goals. I looked at the stats from last year and it was a small race with only five in my AG so my usual goal of making the top 10 for any new race would be easy assuming there wasn't a huge amount of ladies signed up. Based on the times of top three in my AG from last year, there was a chance I could get at least 3rd but certainly not 1st if the woman who ran last year was there (her time was 15:57 Yickes!). Gotta check out your competition, right? The one thing you don't know looking at the results though is what the point credits each person had. Like the woman who ran 15:57. Did she actually run a 25:57 5K with 10 minute credited or did she run faster and not lift as much? Makes it hard when you are trying to size up your competition LOL. Since you never know who will show up on race day, I really wasn't worried about where I ended up and was just going to go have fun. My other goal was to PR the course. I was pretty confident with that one given my other two race times on this course (which I talk about below). A lifetime PR would have been a nice bonus but I wasn't expecting it given the course it was not 100% flat and I'm not particularly fast on it, not to mention my goal race is in June so I wasn't looking to PR anyway.

The course

The course is the exact same one used for the race benefiting the XC team that's held in July called Friday Night Lights (FNL). It starts on the high school track with one and half times around, then through the school driveway and parking lots to the paved bike/exercise path that has some nice rolling "hills", then into the stadium again where you run 3/4 way around on the track to finish. I've run the bike path many times in addition to races so I fully knew what to expect. The FNL race is always at 9 pm and is ALWAYS hot/humid so needless to say, it's always my worst race time of the year. Just to give you an idea, in 2015, I ran it in 27:40 and in 2016, I ran it at 26:34. SPOILER ALERT: even though I did PR the course, I'm not sure it's really a fair apples-to-apples comparison since this was a 9 am race and cold and not 9 pm race in sweltering heat and humidity so if anything, it just proves my point of how worthless I am running later in the day.

Not really hills to some but still a challenge to me

We're going to pump <clap> you up

People think because I do weight training that I'm strong but that's not the case. I don't work out so I can move cars, I work out to be toned and fend off where my genetics is taking me as I get older if I didn't work out so I'm not strong, not by a long shot. With that said, I decided I should probably have an idea where my abilities were so on Friday, I asked a couple of the guys at my gym to help me. We started out with just the bar and added weight as we went along and determined 60-70# would probably get me the most minute credits. Thing is though, since I had been pushing for awhile, my arms were tired so I thought maybe 80# would be doable on race day but as me and my "coaches" kept talking, we decided it would be best to go for the sure thing. If I tried 80# and could only do say three reps, that would only be 240 points and I'd miss the minimum requirement of 450.


What to wear, what to wear

The low Saturday was in the 30s and by race time at 9, it wasn't supposed to be that much warmer...sunny, but cold. This is where running indoors so much is a disadvantage: knowing how to dress when it's not "perfect" weather conditions. I used to have a pretty good grasp of it before the TM and I came to an understanding last year but now I'm definitely clueless. I have a running jacket that matched that I wanted to wear but if I got too hot once I started running, I’d be distracted, same with a long sleeve shirt, but I hate when my arms are cold so when I picked up my bib and t-shirt on Saturday at one of the local running stores, I purchased a pair of SmartWool PhD arm warmers to wear with my tank top. I have to say after wearing them for a race, I LOVE THEM, well, except the only color they come in is black.. BORING! LOL) .
Not shown, shiny purple headband and yes,
there is purple in my capris to match my purple tank top.

Look friends, proof that I DO own running closes that aren't pink!!!! LOL Jacket or no jacket was debated right up until race time. Originally I was just going to have Rick hold it, my phone, keys, etc. right before the race started but they wanted him out at the water stop so had to put everything but my keys in the Jeep when I did my warm up run.

Let's do this

The bench press portion was from 7-8:30 am and the race was at 9. I woke up at 6 and had my usual two cups of coffee. Since I had my outfit picked out the day before and the school is only five minutes from my house, I had lots of time to putz around. I checked the race registration online and was concerned they didn't have me listed for the race, even though I saw her change Rick's info to mine when I picked up my race packet. Rick and I got there shortly before 7:30 so I asked them to double check and make sure I was in the system. Sure enough, I was. Whew! The weight room is huge with lots of benches so you could do warm up reps before you did the ones that counted. I was told you had two chances to get your best weight/reps in but I was kind of confused about the process and I didn't want to tire out my arms too much so I decided to try a couple practice reps of 75#. I wasn't sure I'd be able to get the most bang for my buck with that so I dropped to 65# and I felt confident I could do 10 reps which would get me a five minute credit. Yep, mission accomplished. It was fun watching people cheer their friends on when they were attempting their reps. My friend from work who usually does races with me and signed up last minute for this race arrived and she wasn't going to try for credits because she doesn't lift weights at all but when she saw that it wasn’t just a bunch of beefcakes but people of all ages, shapes and sizes, she decided to give a go. She was able to get a three minute credit. Since I could technically try one more time, I almost decided to attempt a 70# bench press but decided five minutes was good enough and just stuck with that. A couple of the parents from the XC team who were running the race arrived as well so we chatted for a bit. It was pretty cold outside so just about everyone hung out in the weight room until closer to race time.

Annnd they're off

About 8:40, I decided it was time to make a decision on what I was wearing, hit the restroom one last time, and get my warm up run in so my friend and I walked over to my Jeep so I could get rid of my stuff. Holy Moses was it cold when I took my jacket off. Even when I did my warm up run I was freezing. I am SOOO thankful I had those arm warmers! I wish I would have had gloves too! With about three minutes to spare, I found my group on the appropriate yard line and we all chatted for a bit. None of the races I've ever done have ever had corrals so I assume this is kind of what it's like? The race starts but you don't move until it's your time? It was a tad warmer on the football field because it's artificial turf and the sun was "heating it up" a bit so that was good but it was still COLD! Thank goodness there was no wind our I would have been MISERABLE!

The race started and eventually it was my turn to toe the line. The good thing about this staggered start is you don't have the sea of people you have to try and get around. The bad thing is you don't have a sea of people to get around so you take off waaaay faster than you should…and of course, I did exactly that. And then my stupid iPod Nano kept coming unclipped from the bottom of my tank top as I was trying to run and it was dangling and bouncing around. Great, this is how it's going to go I guess, huh? I flutzed around with it and finally was able to clip it to the top of my tank top and get the wires from my headphones stuffed down my shirt so they weren't flapping all over the place shortly after I exited the stadium. Right before I made the turn to head down the driveway to the bike path, I saw Paul. What a surprise! He was going to come to see me finish so I was completely not expecting to see him. It was almost like he was put there at that moment on purpose because I was pretty flustered about the Nano ordeal and seeing him made me totally forget my frustration.

The race itself was pretty uneventful. Having the staggered start made it nice because there was no congestion out on the course and you almost felt like you were running alone. But I just didn't feel very good about the race in general at all. It was cold so my lungs weren't happy, my legs kind of felt "blah," and all those thoughts of self doubt that I get when I'm not "feeling it" were in high gear. Of course, being up until after midnight Saturday night didn't help matters so I was tired. I'd look down at my Garmin and see numbers consistently in the upper 7s and lower 8s which totally blew my mind but also concerned me because I knew there were the rolling hills between miles 2 and 3 plus a very sneaky incline at the end of the bike path and I thought for sure I was going to bonk. Just like all my other races, I quit looking at my watch after a couple minutes into it and just concentrated on running. I remember a woman from the running club saying her coach told her the only time she should look at her watch was at the mile splits so that's what I did and was in utter disbelief I was running as fast as what I was when I saw them because I certainly wasn't feeling fast.

Boosts a plenty

I knew Rick was out on the course but I didn't know where so it was perfect timing when I saw him working the water stop between mile 1.5 and 2. A much needed mental boost hearing him and another one of the XC boys cheer me on. Speaking of them, I mentioned earlier none of the XC boys had credits so they started the race last with all the other people who didn't have them either. At mile 2, the first XC runner blew past me and soon I could no longer see him. I knew it was only a matter of time they'd catch up to me LOL. It was shortly after that that the bike path takes you into the woods where you encounter a somewhat short but steep hill going into the woods and you come to a "t": go left and continue on the race course, go right and it's a "short cut" back to the stadium. Of course, there were no short cuts for me and I was dreading this part of the race because once you take the hill out of the woods, you're not "out of the woods" because shortly after that, there is a subtle but tiring incline on the bike path that takes you to the school property where you head back into the stadium to finish. EVERYONE who knows this course HATES this part of it because of that dang hill followed by the incline! Anyway, at the "t" I could see some of the XC parents standing there and sure enough, there was Paul again. They all cheered me on as I ran past and I got another much needed boost. I really thought I would end up walking the hill out of the woods because I felt so tired but surprisingly, I didn't. Shortly after I got to the top, another pack of XC boys went flying past me. Again, before I knew it, they were out of sight.  I would have loved to have analyzed their running form more but they were too fast. I was really feeling tired by now and as I ran the incline, I really felt like my pace had slowed way down. I didn't want to look at my watch so I just kept running. I would learn afterward that slowing down definitely was not the case.


Home stretch

As I approached the stadium, I was quite certain there was going to be no fast finish for this girl and it seemed my legs were barely moving as I made my way around the track. Since they were playing music and had one of the local DJs (who also runs all the races around here, too) MCing the race, I turned off my music so I could hear. It was actually pretty entertaining and quite motivating so as I rounded the corner to the straight away where the finish line was waiting for me, I kicked it into overdrive and finished as fast as my legs would move. I couldn't believe my eyes when I stopped my Garmin and it said 24:44! Sawwwweeet! I certainly wasn’t expecting that! I was extremely out of breath and having a hard time regaining my composure and there were a couple of times I felt dizzy and by the time I found Paul, I was feeling better but needed something to eat. Unfortunately, there were no post-race goodies, just water, which was a first and somewhat of a disappointment. Even just a granola bar would have been nice.


Unexpected victory

Since this race had live results, we went to where the computer was set up to check my time. They were having problems with it so I had Paul look on the timing company's website. Sure enough, I was 3rd in my AG with a chip time of 19:48 (remember I had a 5 minute credit so my run time was actually 24:48). Not only did I PR the course, but I only missed a lifetime PR by 21 seconds and THAT was a complete shocker because I was certainly not feeling that fast. I was stoked!! We went back onto the field to wait for the awards and met up with the other XC parents, a few had run the race, too. By that time, my friend was just finishing up so she joined us. I ended up being awarded 2nd in my AG because #1 won 3rd OA female so that was a nice surprise. Even my friend from work won an AG placing: 3rd out of 3 but hey, a placing is a placing! After the race, there was a fundraiser at the sponsoring bar/restaurant but I was tired and Rick didn't really want to go either so we just went home.

Final thoughts


  • Yet again, another race I wasn’t feeling it and I did better than I expected. I am super stoked to see what this year brings.
  • Bring a snack in the car just in case a race doesn't have anything to eat. Better to be safe than sorry.
  • LOVE the arm warmers. They were awesome! At one point I almost wanted to take them off because they were almost too warm.
  • My splits were 8:03, 8:04, 7:56 Again, total shocker, especially with how I felt during the race and especially on the hill and incline. I have to think while running on the TM in detrimental in knowing how to dress for the weather, it has been beneficial "teaching" my body how to run at a consistent pace, even if my brain doesn't think that I am.
  • I will definitely do this race again next year. I think the concept is unique and a lot of fun, not to mention it has a fun race vibe in general. I'm even thinking of doing another race on Mother's Day with a similar format. It'll be harder because you have to lift a percentage of your body weight rather than you getting to pick what weight you want to do but hey, why not. I may not be able to lift heavy but what I lack there I can make up in speed.
  • Having my guys there was awesome and it seeing Paul at the beginning, especially after having difficulties with my Nano, really helped my mental state. The timing could not have been any more perfect!


Oh, and #1 in my AG? She ended up being the same woman from last year. Her time was 15:26! Funny thing is I talked to her briefly when we were in the weight room having no idea who she was. I found out later when I posted my mileage on Facebook for that monthly contest some people in my running club are doing that she was that woman because she liked my post and said she loved my tattoos LOL. Hmmm, maybe I'll have to ask her how much she lifts and how fast she runs now that we're friends so I know what I can work on for next year.

Thanks for reading!

Stats

Overall 32nd of 172
Female 13th of 71
Female 45-49 3rd of 7

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Every Mile a Memory: Kiss Me I'm a Runner 5K/10K/10K Relay 3.12.17

The Kiss Me I'm a Runner race was held at an upscale outdoor shopping complex. It was my first race of 2017. There was a 5K, 10K, and 10K relay. Since this was the second time I've run this 10K , I won't go into details about the course but you can read more about that in my RR from last year if you are so inclined. I will say though it was very hilly, very curvy, and with the down hill at the beginning that we would then have to run back up again at the end, this race intimidated the heck out of me because I remember what a beast it was last year. I wasn't sure if it would be a blessing or a curse I knew what to expect. Add my apprehension of not feeling prepared for because of choosing to run inside on the dreadmill than "brave the cold" and I really wasn't feeling very optimistic about this race.
The course 
The elevation profile
I had been watching the weather all week and every day it was getting colder and colder. By race time at 9 a.m., it was 23 degrees with a RF of 10 and the wind we had the day prior, while not as strong, was still present. I had not raced in these cold of temperatures before. I had been debating all week what to wear, finally made a decision about 10 minutes before I had to leave. Since this was a race where they encourage to you dress festively and I love to play the part, I didn't have a jacket to match my get up and I didn't want to wear a jacket that didn't match so whatever I wore had to go under the festive t-shirt I had. Priorities, right? LOL I ended up deciding on a thin, long sleeve microfiber CuddleDud as a base with their medium weight, long sleeve "warm layer" shirt over top. On the bottom, I wore a pair of winter running tights (which really aren't all that warm) and my green metallic pants. Those were perfect because they blocked the wind however, they are made for a lot of things but running is NOT one of them. They kept creeping down as I was running so I was continually pulling them up during the race. Thank goodness I had tights underneath!! I'm sure the people running behind me got a kick out of my constant battle with them. Next year I'm wearing suspenders! LOL I contemplated wearing the fleece CuddleDud top and bottoms I have but I am glad I decided not to because I would have been WAAY too warm. SmartWool socks on my feet and it probably helped that I had spray painted an old pair of running shoes gold to block the wind. I decided keep my hair down and just have my headband cover my ears hoping that would be warm enough. Instead of wearing a neck gaiter, I opted to wear two thin scarves I bought at the dollar store. I took my son's running gloves because they were black and green and would match. I really didn't know how all of this was going to work out because it was so cold so I scoped out what other people were wearing when I got to the race. Total mixed bag of course. I ended up leaving the gloves in the Jeep with the hopes that with my shirt sleeves being long enough, I could wrap the material around my hands and that would suffice. All of my clothing options were perfect. The only thing that ended up being too cold was my upper lip the last mile of the race. I thought for sure I was going to have frostbite.

Believe it or not, everything stayed intact the whole race, even the big green sparkly shamrock I wore on the back (not pictured).


On to the race specifics

I woke up earlier than needed but I was really nervous about this race. I have been "chickening out" on the cold weather and have been opting to run in the comfort of a warm gym on the dreadmill so I was worried the cold, windy weather was really going to take a toll on my lungs. Last year, I ran the race in 57:17 and was 4th in my AG and given my lack of outdoor training (and of course, I'm still not running many hills), I kept my goals for this race very conservative with a hope of beating my time from last year, even if it was just by a couple seconds, and to make the top 5 of my AG. It's funny because when I picked up my packet on Saturday, they gave me the bib number 7575. I have a thing with numbers and lot of times will see if they are meaningful in any way. It's just a silly thing that I do. Anyway, I was kind of excited they were duplicate numbers but couldn’t think of anything really significant about them other than that. When I messaged my friend with a picture of the race swag we got with our packets, she shot back with 7+5=12 and I was racing on the 12th. I thought that was kind of neat and assumed the "luck" that would bring is being able to cross the finish line on my feet and not crawling LOL. Who knew what surprised I'd be in for.

I had my two cups of coffee and about 10 minutes before I left, I made my clothing selections, grabbed a banana, and out the door I went. I got to the race in plenty of time and met up with my two co-workers who were walking the 5k. I went for quick warm up and was able to get a couple of trips to the bathroom in before it was time to line up. When the gun went off, it was pretty congested at first because of all the three different race options as we ran through the complex so there was a lot of weaving in and out, slow running, etc. Kind of frustrating but kind of good too because it kept me from starting off too fast. I never ceases to amaze me the people who take "short cuts" to get passed the crowd by running on the sidewalk rather than suck it up like the rest of us and stay on the road where everyone else is. Maybe it's not poor racing etiquette but it sure seems like it to me. Anyway, even as we entered the park at mile 1, it was still kind of hard to get around people because of the narrow golf cart path we were on. I was glad when we go to the point where the 5Kers spilt off to head back to the finish and we 10kers continued on because it was then I pretty much had the path to myself except for the occasional person who would pass me or vice versa.

I told myself I wasn't going to get too caught up in what pace I was running and just try to focus on finishing and every time I'd glance down, I'd see paces in the mid 8s. I was shocked that I was running that fast (especially because my perceived effort didn't feel like I was running that fast) and it was actually making me a little nervous because I knew what this course was going to be like, especially the mother trucker hill at the end and I kept telling myself I was going to loose steam if I kept running that fast. But it was one mile down and then before I knew it mile two. I was feeling pretty good but still worried I was pushing too hard and just decided to get lost in my thoughts, my surroundings, and my music. Around mile three, I was feeling a bit tired and a little weary that I still had half the race to go, that is until I saw a figure in the distance and realized as I got closer it was Paul. I knew he was going to come to the race to see me cross the finish line but I didn't expect him to see him mid way through. What an awesome surprise! That gave me a boost and with the way the course snaked around, I would see him one more time a couple minutes later. What was neat about this race is there were a lot of the kids from the XC team working the course and it was neat to hear them cheer me on as I'd run past so there was a lot of encouragement along the way. Rick's coach, who owns the race/timing company that put on the race, was on the course too and he high fived me when I passed him; once when I entered the one part of the course the went through a neighborhood and then again when we looped around and reentered the park to finish the race. Running through the neighborhood was a nice break from the hills because it was nice and flat. I had a panic moment right after mile four though when my iPod Nano announced the battery was almost low. I didn't understand how that could be because I let it charge all night and I absolutely cannot STAND to run without music because I cannot stand hearing my labored breath (and trust me, it was pretty labored) not to mention I can't stand hearing other people breath either. I tried to not let the sense of dread take over and luckily my the Nano held out. Whew! Come to find out after the race reason the battery was being drained was because it was so dang cold out! I'm sure the windy conditions didn't help matters either, making it even colder. There were times the wind was blowing so hard my eyes watered, making it hard to see.

After we entered the park again after mile 4, my concern of how fast I had been running turned into optimism. It dawned on me I was clearly running MUCH faster than I was last year and I realized that even if I tanked the last two miles, I'd have enough time "built in" to compensate and stood a very good chance of beating last year's time, if even only by a couple seconds. I would need this mental boost because the last mile was going to be the toughest….the mother trucker hill heading back up into the shopping complex!!! At one point, I started to think I could just take it easy the rest of the way before I got there because I was already going to PR and even noticed I slowed down a little but then a voice inside my head told me I was crazy and that I made it this far, why take it "easy" now. So I listened and picked it back up. We exited the park and then came the moment of dread….the hill!!! As we started the descent, the wind was blowing so hard I could feel my upper lip start to freeze. I tried to pull one of the scarves up to cover my face but it wasn’t working. I thought for sure I was going to end up with frostbite. There was a gentleman running next to me and we chatted for a bit about the climb that was coming up. This served two purposes: a motivator to make it up the hill and to see if my lip wasn't frozen to the point of no return. LOL We reach the bottom and now it was time to go up. I was pleasantly surprised that even though the hill was a beast, I was able to run it as well as I did. Last year I had to stop and walk a couple of steps because my legs were so tired but this year, even though I ran it slow (at one point I looked down and my pace was 9:40 which even that was faster than I expected) and it seemed like it took FOREVER to get to the top, I was excited that I was actually running it! At the top, I passed one of my co-workers who was walking the 5K. I could hear her cheer me on but I was too "in the zone" to respond so I waved and kept going. The hill brought you to the back of the shopping complex so the last part of the race you kind of snaked around the back of some of the stores, down a side street within the complex, to the main "drag" approaching the finish in the opposite direction we started. Once we hit the straight away to the finish, I couldn't believe when I saw the clock and it was still in the 53s! Granted, I knew I had been running fast but certainly not THAT fast. I then saw Paul and he yelled something to me about how great my time was and I yelled back that I couldn't believe I was going to smash my PR....and kicked in whatever I had left and crossed the finish line. Official time 53:20. Wooohoooo talk about a major rush!!!! Another interesting observation is usually after I cross the finish line, I'm breathing so hard it takes awhile to regain my composure. Not this time. Sure, I was breathing hard but within less than a minute, I was good to go like I hadn't even raced....even with it being that cold. Weird!

After Paul and I found each other, I went over to the computers and lo and behold, I placed first in my AG!! I could NOT believe it. Now I will say that there were two other well established races on Saturday and a lot of the people ran those instead of this one and I know several people from the running club who ran on Saturday were running and not "racing" (I know this because they were all talking about it in our private group on Facebook) so I very could have won in my AG by default but you know what? I'll take it! The AG was a total shocker but not as much of a shocker as Pr-ing the same course under much colder conditions than last year by almost four minutes. That's HUGE to me! After we met up with my co-workers, we hung around for the awards and then headed into the restaurant that was the title sponsor for post-race festivities. There was a lot of post race goodies but it was just to darn cold to enjoy them so we headed indoors.

Lots of people came up to me and complimented me on my get up… especially the shoes and the green pants. They were both a hit. I wish there was a market for designing fun race wear because I'd be all over it!

A couple of take aways from this race

Perhaps "whimping out" by running on the dreadmill on cold days rather that taking my runs outside wasn't such a bad thing after all. Perhaps it made for a different kind of mental and physical toughness. I thought for sure I was going to bonk later in the race given how fast I was running and the weather conditions but I did anything but.

Perhaps there are a lot of things I "should" be doing in my training: making an effort to run places where there are more hills (which means getting in my car and drive to them) or incorporate formal speed work into my routine and maybe even just have a routine in general rather than just run however I feel, whenever I feel for whatever distance the spirit moves me that particular day. In the three years I've been running, I still have no plan, I just run. Most of my runs, especially as of late because so many of them are on the dreadmill, are slow. Forget the 80/20 rule, I'm more like 90/10 LOL. Maybe there is just some to "winging it" and doing it "my way" because I am still able to improve. Is a four minute improvement in a year major one? Maybe not to some. Could I be even faster if I put forth "real" effort? Perhaps. But I'm extremely pleased and super stoked at where I am right now and whatever I'm doing (or lack thereof) is working and I'm pretty dang pleased with myself how my first race for 2017 went, especially with this month being my three year run-aversary, and I am super stoked to see what the rest of the year brings. My next race is my 10 miler next month. Last year I was able to knock of over eight minutes from my 10 miler time from the previous year and that was with only having three months of steady/consistent weekly mileage. Can't wait to see what happens this year having a year and three months of steady/consistent weekly mileage!

T-shirts were given as AG awards


Stats

Overall 42nd of 179
Female 18th of 115
Female 45-49 1st of 10

Chip pace: 08:35

Mile splits per my Garmin
1 8:43
2 8:37
3 8:35
4 8:41
5 8:38
6 8:43
7 1:21

Monday, February 27, 2017

8.2 Miles for Elijah

On Friday, Elijah's liver biopsy revealed the lesions were not cancer! PTL. That meant round two of chemo could begin. Eight days of chemo with two treatments every day started Friday. Pretty intense stuff. It's been a little rough for him as you can imagine so Sunday I chose my distance in honor of him. Slow miles when it was all said and done but miles all the same. 8.2 on the dreadmill is no comparison to what he is going through but if he is doing what he needs to do to make himself better, then I can too.

The red and blue "strings" make up a leukemia/lymphoma awareness bracelet supporting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society I bought this week and will serve as a reminder over the next three months as I prepare for my goal race that I am running in his honor that no matter how tough things may seem, never give up. Elijah won't and neither will I.

#racefortheplace# kickingcancersbutt #everymileamemory #justkeepswimming

Friday, February 10, 2017

Prayers for Elijah

Smiles and silliness because that's
how Elijah rolls 
As many of you know, I have been an adult volunteer for the Greater Lake County Young Marines for many years. As a matter of fact, this past fall marked my 11th year with the program. Over the years, many kids and their families have come and gone and most of the time, when they leave the program, they are never to be seen or heard from again. There are a few, however, with whom you develop personal relationships/friendships and those friendships remain long after their time with the program ends. Because I would feel horrible if I left anyone out, I won't mention names. There is one such young man I would like to mention, however, and that is a former Young Marine Elijah Smart. He was only in the Young Marines for a few years but he was one of the nicest, most polite, hard working, and helpful kids in our program. He loved being a Young Marine and was always so eager to learn. He was one of the first kids to always ask to help out if something needed done, always willing to help his fellow Young Marines, just an all around good kid with a heart of gold and one of those kids who made volunteering thousands of hours every year worth it.

I mention Elijah because not too long ago, I learned he was recently diagnosed with AML, Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a very aggressive form of the disease and is spending the next five or so months (as well as his 18th birthday in a couple weeks) hospitalized undergoing equally aggressive treatment until the cancer is gone. I had the pleasure of visiting with Elijah and his mom on Sunday, February 6, and with everything that is going on and everything he is facing, especially with a medical set backs he has encountered in the last couple weeks due to this aggressive treatment, his spirit and faith haven't wavered and he is still the kind, funny, and gentle soul always thinking about others instead of himself, just as he was when he was in Young Marines program. Truly an inspiration! The apple doesn't fall far from the tree because his mom is a pretty special lady as well. I have been so inspired by Elijah's strength and courage through all of this that I have decided to run The Gathering Place's Race for the Place 5K in June, my goal race and a race I hold very near and dear to my heart for many reasons, in his honor.

Elijah could really use all the prayers, positive vibes, and whatever else you can send his way right now and in the months ahead. His mom could, too. I can't imagine what it's like being an almost 18 year old young man facing a life-threatening disease, knowing you will have to spend your senior year within the sterile walls of a hospital, wondering why God chose this path for you, and wondering what the future holds for you or being a mother watching your only son fight a battle no son should ever have to. Really makes you put things into perspective. It's hard to comprehend why these things happen but I know from my own experience with cancer, the love, support, prayers, positive thoughts, etc. from friends, family, and even from complete strangers makes all the difference in the world. I know it will make all the difference with Elijah and his mom, too.

Just keep swimming, buddy! We're your floaties and with you every step (or stroke LOL) of the way!