Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Every Mile a Memory: Johnnycake Jog 5 Mile Race 7.9.17

I honestly intended on keeping this short, sweet, and to the point. You can see I failed miserably. I've added subheads for those who want to skip the fluff. LOL

The Course

The Johnnycake Jog 5 Mile Race is very popular and competitive. It's one of the few USTAF certified courses locally (as far as I know anyway) and it draws people from all over the country. This was it’s 41st year and last year for the 40th anniversary, they added a 5K distance. The course is relatively flat with a sneaky, gradual hill between miles 1 and 2. Sneaky meaning when you drive it in your car, you'd barely know it was an incline but running it is a different story. Not a killer hill, you just don’t realize how long it is and since maybe people start off too fast as it is, that hill can make or break how you do the rest of the race.

The route is pretty basic and all right turns. The first stretch along a road outside the county fairgrounds, the second is down a busy but residential road call Johnnycake Ridge Road, hence the name of the race, with a little shade here and there (but not much), and the final stretch is what I call the death march: 1.75 miles in full sun straight down a very busy 5 lane road surrounded by shopping plazas. Basically a concrete jungle with next to no green space so the heat from the concrete makes it feel 100 times warmer. It seems to go on forever…and ever… AND ever with no finish arch in sight most of the way. It literally can be a death march if it’s hot and humid because you get absolutely no break from the sun and if there was any breeze, you wouldn't feel it because of the buildings. We were lucky this year because of the unseasonably cool and wet summer we've been having here on the North Coast, race-time temps were in the upper 60s/low 70s and the humidity wasn't bad, at least not at race time.

If there are two things people “complain” about this race is that sneaky hill in the beginning and the death march at the end and several people swear they will never run the race again because of one, the other, or both…only to show up the next year. Waving hand…that was me… matter of fact, I said it in 2015 but went back for more in 2016…this year made round #3 LOL. 

Ironic it is held in the City of Painesville? I think not.

To race or not to race, that is the question

For the past month, I have been dealing with what I thought was a hamstring issue so I haven’t raced since June’s Race for the Place 5K. I have been taking it easy ever since which means I’ve had to pass on all the races I was planning on doing and have done more run/walks than runs in an effort to keep whatever what’s going on in my back of my left leg at bay. I went back and forth whether I should attempt this but I wanted to do this race because A. it’s the only 5 miler locally I am liking mid-distance races more and more and B. my son., Rick, was going to run it and it’s one of the very few races we can do together because of him being in track and cross country and not being allowed to run road races during those seasons. I waited until a couple days before the race to sign up and once I picked up our packets, I was really excited to be finally able to be in a race again at whatever capacity that would be.


Knowing how competitive this race is, in the years I’ve done it, I’ve never expected to get an AG placing because the women in my AG are just too dang fast. We're talking finish times in the low 30s. As with any other race, I look at the previous years times and try to gauge where I might fit in. In 2015, my goal was to place in the top 15. I came in 10th. In 2016, my goal was to make the top 10. I came in 7th. For repeat races, I always make it a goal to beat the time from the previous year. In 2015, my time was 46:57 and in 2016 it was 43:25. Since I haven’t been able to do any fast running in over a month, I really thought it was going to have a negative impact on my race time plus given the fact that most of my miles over the last month have been run/walk miles and not all running miles AND throw in I haven't actually ran 5 miles without having to take walk breaks in the last month, I pretty much decided my only goal for this year was just to be able to finish because I didn't even know I was going to be able to run it, much less race it. If a top 10 placement and PR miraculously happened, it would be icing on the cake but I definitely wasn’t counting on it. With that said, I decided for this race I would not worry about what my Garmin said and just run completely by feel and see how it went. In past races, I usually end up making that decision after I'm already well into the race but this time I decided to do it from the get go. This would truly be a race where time was not a factor and I would just run for fun. I was leaving everything out on the course.

Queen of mysterious injuries

As most of you know, whatever has been going on with the back of my left leg has been a bit of a mystery. It really did come out of no where and even the PT isn't sure what's going on. Well, if that wasn't bad enough when it came to my anticipated race performance, I woke up Saturday morning barely able to walk. The ball of my left foot was on FIRE. Seriously, it hurt to walk. I have NO idea what happened either. I ran Friday and was fine, was fine all day at work, even walked the beach with Paul Friday night after dinner (I've walked that beach more times than I can count and was even there just a few weeks ago and didn't have any problems). I know I didn’t step on anything so yet again, another mysterious injury. While the pain subsided a bit throughout the day, I could still feel something and I was so upset because here I was racing for the first time in over a month and now this! And it wasn't even just a 5K… it was 5 miles! How the heck was I going to do this?! I hoped that maybe the pain would just go away on Sunday morning as mysteriously as it came so I proceeded to get my race outfit ready Saturday night.

Of course, my black cat decided she needed to lay on my race outfit and I was trying to get it ready. Like I needed any more "bad" luck for this race. However, her name IS Hope and I DID pick out my "unstoppable" "hope" Balega running socks to wear... Hmmmmm...

Race Morning

I slept like crap all night obsessing about my foot and praying that when I got out of bed, I would be miraculously cured. Nope, I stepped out of bed Sunday morning and was hardly able to walk again. I honestly didn't know what I was going to do. Do I even attempt to do this or just bag it all together? Do I try it and if my foot doesn't improve, do I turn off at the 5K turn off just to get back to the fairgrounds faster? Do I take my phone (which I don’t usually race with because I have my iPod Nano) in case I am in such excruciating pain I need to have Paul come pick me up? I was at a total loss. I thought about wearing the new pair of shoes that haven't been broken in yet but even though they are the same make and model as what I've been running in for the last year and a half, I was worried if that would make matter worse. Goodness knows I didn't need any MORE running injuries. I also thought about going to the store to see if they had pads I could use to cushion the ball of my foot with but we were running out of time and I didn't know if they'd have what I needed. Wouldn’t you know I was looking through a drawer in the bathroom right before we were getting ready to leave and I found two silicone foot pads I forgot I had! Yay! I doubled them up and even though you're not supposed to try anything new on race day, I was willing to give it a whirl. Race morning cup off coffee done, banana eaten, foot pads inserted, it's time to go!

Warm Up

We parked our Jeep in a shopping plaza a little less than a 1/4 mile from the staging area which is at the county fairgrounds. My foot ached but at least I could walk. But how about run? That was the question. Once we got to the staging area, Rick and I decided to go for a warm up run. Even though the padding helped, my foot was still sore but I decided I would attempt the 5 miles because if worse came to worse, I'd just walk to the finish. I could at least manage that. 

Race time

The 5 mile started at 8 am and the 5K started at 8:15 so when they announced for the 5 milers to head to the starting line, we said goodbye to Paul went to find our spots. Rick saw one of his XC friends closer to the front so we wished each other luck and I went a little further back. Last year I purposely put myself closer to the back so I didn't start out too fast but it was so aggravating having to weave around people, strollers, etc. (there are several hundred runners) so I was just far back enough where I wouldn't be in the way of the serious runners but close enough I would hopefully not have to deal with the usual mayhem. Since this race is all right hand turns, I decided to stand as close to the right side as possible. The gun went off and so did we.

What a different self-talk makes

I remember reading the article "Talk yourself through a better 5k" on RW not too long ago and decided to use some of the strategies mentioned. One was replacing the “Uh-oh, I started too fast” thought with “This is what I’ve trained for.” Another was how dwelling on how hard a effort feels makes it worse so rather focus on how well you're doing. I think this is the first race I've done where I completely let go of all thoughts about how fast I started out and bad I was feeling in any particular moment during the race right from the start. There have been other races I've kind of let go midway through but this was the first time I went into a race with this mindset. I would tell myself "this is the speed that I am running at this moment and right now I feel good. If it gets to be too much, I will just scale it back as needed and enjoy just being out there." In all honesty, that's what racing is all about to me…it's not about winning or placing. Don't get me wrong, those are nice when they happen, but those are not the end all, be all in my opinion. Racing is about being out there doing something I never dreamed possible. Not to mention, the race vibe is such a rush and I am highly addicted to it.

Wow, let me tell you what a difference freeing your mind makes!! I will admit I looked at my watch one time a couple minutes into the race because old habits die hard and I think it might have been in the 7's but I didn't obsess about it like I usually do. The only other times I would glance my watch was when it would vibrate after every mile because I wanted to see how closely my Garmin matched the course mile markers. Quiet honestly, I couldn't believe when I saw numbers in the 8s! I certainly didn't feel like I was running that fast. That right there had many positive mental effects because I actually felt good and not like I was dying. What's funny is even though I happened to notice my numbers were in the 8s, it didn't really compute how well I was really doing. I've never been good when it comes to numbers anyway LOL.

The miles

It always impresses me how so many of my running friends can break down a race mile by mile and write about things that happened during each specific one. I thought I would try that for this race but the miles just all blend together now and my short term memory stinks so here are just some general things about the race that stand out.

I must have picked a good spot to start this race because even though the crowd didn't thin out until about mile 3 or so, I rarely did a lot of bob and weaving. Perhaps I just happen to pick the right people behind who were running my speed. There was yet again one little boy whom I though was going to constantly cut me off which always seems to happen but not this time. Whew.

I used my usual race strategy of picking out a person ahead of me trying to stick with them. If I passed them up, I'd find someone else.

It was pretty amazing that I felt zero foot pain when I ran and when I got to the sneaky hill where I thought my hamstring my bark, it was like there was never an issue at all. Even after the race and throughout the remainder of the day…no foot pain, no back of leg pain. As I write this though, the ball of my foot still hurts. I can run just fine but walking is still painful and my back of leg business was completely gone until this morning. So.weird.

Perfect playlist

Music played a huge part in this race and rather than make a new playlist, I decided to use the one I made for the 10 Mile Drop. I will always be one of those people who run with music and I've talked about why before so I won't go there again. When I run on the treadmill, the only way I have found I can tolerate it is by watching music videos. I go off to another world. Often times I will have my own little concert going on, too, complete with air drums (I'm sure the people at the gym think I'm crazy). Well that's kind of what I did during this race. I figured if this was supposed to be a race for fun, I might as well go with it! LOL A song would come on and I would just zone into the music. There were a couple times I did some head banging, fist pumps and I think I even played air drums at one point. Now mind you, I wasn't obnoxious about it but I am sure the people behind me thought I was off my rocker.

Even though my playlist is set to shuffle, the songs that came on as certain times could not have been any more perfect. Rather than talk about all of them, I will only name a couple. The first song when the race started was "Lose Yourself" by Eminem. I was my "power song" when I ran my first HM in honor of my dad and because this is already long enough, I won't go into why that song has such meaning but feel free to visit my blog post about it if you want to know more. It was the perfect song to start off with because I thought back to my determination to finish that HM and how I was determined to finish this race even if it meant I had to walk. Another one worth mentioning is "Ready to Go" by Republica. I distinctly remember it starting right around mile 3 because shortly after the mile marker is when you make your last right turn and start the death march toward the finish. I will be honest as mile 3 approached, the negative thoughts started creeping into my head. It was nearing 80 degrees, there were no clouds, and the death march was coming…worst part of the race! But the song came on and I took that as sign that I was ready to take those last 2 miles head on. Death march be damned!! Power of positive thinking at work once again! There are other songs that had other significant effects on my performance but I will just leave you with those two.

The Death March

If the death march isn't bad enough and not being able to see the finish arch for what seems like an eternity, looking at the shops and plazas as you are running past and realizing just how far away you really are makes it only worse. This year I decided I was only going to focus on what was ahead of me and not what I was running past (which in turns maked me think about how much farther I still have to go). Good strategy. I also focused on the two people who were running in front of me. I had been thinking how I was going to approach the last mile and if I was going to try and gun it as I got closer to the finish line. It was hot and I was pretty tired at this point so I decided I was going to just keep the pace with the people ahead of me and not push for a fast finish. A couple of us leap frogged a bit and while I was able to pass one woman, I was never able to pass the other. That's ok though, I never let her get more than a few strides ahead of me.

I'm not sure at what point I saw Paul along side of the road but I gave him a high five as I passed and said "I'm nailing it" because I was still running and hadn't needed a single walk break. I had no clue how true that statement would be just a few minutes later. I know he said something to me because at this point I had taken one of my earbuds off and turned down my music so I could hear the crowd, something I do at every race, but I couldn't tell you what he said…I was on a death march to the finish and that was my focus but seeing him must have put a little more pep in my step because I could feel myself starting to pick up the pace. And then I saw Rick in the long line of people cheering right before the shoot and also heard one of the XC kids call out my name which always gives me a little more oomph but the biggest oomph of all was seeing the time clock at 41 something and realizing that I was just about to PR this race….so I dug as deep as I could and crossed the finish line. I grabbed a water and walked around for a couple minutes trying to catch my breath. I saw a couple of people from the running club so we chatted for a bit. Paul and Rick eventually found me when Paul showed me my official time (gotta love live results), I just couldn't not believe the numbers I saw. Official time 41:19, a PR by over 2 minutes! We headed over to the building where the computers with the results and post race snacks (bananas, pizza, and my favorite, bagel bites) were. If PR-ing by 2+ minutes wasn't enough of a high, seeing that I placed 4th in my AG and moved up in the ranks yet again, all with my mysterious ailments, put me right over the edge. I jumped up and down like a kid with excitement.

Rick wanted between 35:00 and 40:00. Not to bad for his first road race since both ankle sprains.

I wanted to hang around for the group picture with the running club which I always miss so we headed over to the tent and I got to meet a few people I chat with on Facebook but have never met in person.


The main one is how self-talk can make or break a race. This is the very first race where I didn't dwell on how bad I was feeling but rather how good I was feeling. I didn't worry about whether I started out to fast, I just ran. Even when it came time for the death march, the way I approached it and ran it mentally was a huge game changer. If you haven' t read the article I mentioned about, I highly recommend it.

Once again, racing with no expectations yielded results I never imagined. I thought for sure I'd either have to DNF or take walk breaks so I went into this race with the intention of just having fun…and look, not only did I have fun, but I kicked some butt while I was at it!

Because I was feeling so good during the race and still running at a pretty decent clip, does that mean I wasn't pushing myself hard enough? Don't get me wrong, I didn't feel like I was taking a leisurely stroll but I'm wondering if that's where the positive self-talk was coming into play or if I really had more to give. At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter. Just something I think about.

Going forward, I will not worry about what my watch says, especially in the beginning of a race. I planned on taping it for this race but forgot until we were already on our way. I may just do that for the next race though. If I remember, that is LOL.

I have to say with the exception of the 1st and 2nd miles where I had to deal with running in the herd and then sneaky hill, I am pretty impressed with myself how consistent my mile split were and I wasn't even trying…I was just running. Maybe I'm getting the hang of this running thing after all.

This race confirmed all the more that I'm really not a fan of 5Ks and I am more of a mid-distance kinda girl. It sealed the deal as to what distance to pick for next month's Rock Hall HM/Rock City 5K race. They are offering a 10K distance this year and I've been going back and forth between trying my hand at the 10K or stick with the 5K because both years I've set my PR for the year and also won 1st and 2nd places in my AG. I think I'll try the 10K and see how I fare.

Lastly, having to take time off and not race and run like I would like to this past month apparently had no effect on my race times like I thought it was going to. This is a HUGE mental boost for me because I've been feeling pretty discouraged lately. I can't wait for my next race!

As always, thank you for taking the time to read this if you made it all the way here.

41:19 and a new PR
4/18 AG
48/192 Females
23/81 Female Masters
182/444 OA


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

It all started with a Kris .. My 3 year race-aversary report for the Race for the Place 5K in honor of Elijah

The Gathering Place is a local organization that offers free services to cancer patients and their families and the Race for the Place 5K/1 Mile Walk (RftP) is their fundraiser for the year. It is held annually on National Cancer Survivors Day, the first Sunday in June, at a local, up-scale mall about a half hour from my house. I affectionately call it my race-aversary because it was the race that started it all for me three years ago. The first year after my cancer diagnosis, we did the 1 mile walk with my husband's company's team and when my friend, Kris, was called home after her battle with breast cancer the following January, I vowed to run the 5K in her memory. I wasn't an athlete growing up and had really never run before but that March, I laced up and got moving. My only intention was to run the race, however, and call it a day but I fell in love with racing and here I am, three years later. Last year, I decided to make the RftP my goal race for the year so this year's goal was to run sub 24:00. I have also carried on the "tradition" of running in someone's honor/memory. This year, I decided to run in honor of a young man I know through an organization have been an adult volunteer for for the past 12 years called the Greater Lake County Young Marines named Elijah who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia this past January and has basically lived that the Cleveland Clinic undergoing equally aggressive treatment ever since.

Even though this is a fundraising race, you aren't required to solicit donations like some other cancer organizations make you do. If all you do is sign up for either the 1 mile walk or 5K, they are happy with that and is one of the many reasons The Gathering Place is one of the few cancer-related organizations I support. No high pressure fundraising and the money raised goes back to the community because of the free services the offer. I believe in their mission so much that like to try and raise money though so I had set a goal of $1,800 in honor of the 18th birthday Elijah had to spend in the hospital this spring. I also set a more attainable goal of $500 because anyone who raised that amount would earn a The Gathering Place hooded sweatshirt and I decided if I raised the money, I'd give the shirt to Elijah. Mission complete with $639 to date.

My team consisted of the usual suspects: my oldest sister and her DH, my nephew, his wife, and two boys, my youngest son, Rick, and my co-worker who does a lot of other races with me. Paul usually does the race, too, but he was out of town. We were joined this year by my other co-worker and her daughter, my friend and her husband, and one of the mother's of two of Rick's XC team mates.
 A family the runs together stays together. Full team photo to come. 

The course

The one mile walk goes around the mall through adjacent parking lots and there is no chip timing. The 5K is chip timed and starts on a road next to the mall, goes through well-to-do residential neighborhoods, and then ends back at the mall. It's not a hilly course but it definitely had some inclines and declines (especially for a girl that doesn't run hills). 


For every race, I like to have 2-3 goals. My first goal (since it was my goal race after all), was to run a sub 24:00. After I PRd on Mother's Day at a 5K with a time of 24:14 on a VERY hilly course (the Race for the Place is relatively flat with some inclines and declines but not really hilly AND I'm not accustom to running hills to begin with), I thought for sure that goal was well in reach. My other two goals were to PR the course (a goal for any repeat race) and to make the top 5 in my AG (I started at 21 the first time I did the race and every year pick a number working my way to being closer to the top finisher). Unfortunately, several days after the Mother's Day race, I developed a mysterious issue with my hamstring and as the RftP got closer, it wasn't getting any better so I was questioning whether any of those would happen. I decided I would take several days off before the race to see if that fixed whatever was going on but had pretty much given up hope that this would be the goal race I planned for it to be. My focus switched from it being more "about me" and my running goals to just being able to make it across the finish line, even if it meant walking it, and that no matter how I got there, it was all in honor of Elijah. I'll be honest, it was a very hard pill to swallow at first but remembering all the personal reason as to why this race was important to me put me back on track mentally.

What to wear, what to wear

I like to have wearable tribute when I run this race but I wasn't sure what to do so I just planned on wearing the shirt I designed in 2015 race when I dedicated the race to the memory of my dear father and wear the leukemia bracelet I bought and have worn every day since deciding to run the race for Elijah. A couple weeks ago, I was talking his mom and she told me about some t-shirts they were having made up to sell to help pay for his mounting medical bills. I'm not a t-shirt person to begin with but she was still getting quotes for the shirts and didn't know if they could do tank top. I decided to make my own using the online storefront I have. What little commissions I make from any of my shirt sales I donate every year to the RftP so it's a win-win. I chose the color blue because it's Elijah's favor color and how ironic, it just so happens to be the color of Dory. Since the name of my team is "Just Keep Swimming..and Running", I decided that text would be perfect for the front and use the saying from the shirts his mom was having made on the back. Of course, I had to add my own tribute text, too. Since I am very particular about I like to run in, I don't require my team to buy team shirts plus it's just another expense but I always make one for me so I let everyone know they are available just in case. My two co-workers like them so they ordered some for race day.

I decided to wear my yellow running skort, too, so I could in Dory colors. Perfect! One more thing about colors… When I got the race packets for my team, I chuckled when I saw the color for this year's event shirt was blue. Perhaps it was a sign of good things to come?

Race morning

At 2:30 am Sunday morning, I woke up stressing about my hamstring and how I would fare during the race and never went back to sleep. I was already exhausted from staying up too late Friday night when my son has his birthday sleep over so needless to say, even if my hamstring cooperated, there is no way I'd have the energy for a stellar performance. Add to the fact I got out of the house later than I wanted, missed the exit to where the race was being held which made me even later which then added to the pre-race anxiety I already had, and they were calling for severe thunderstorms, this race was surely doomed.

Meeting up with the team

The race is staged at a local mall's parking lot. The teams are organized alphabetically in the parking spaces in one of their many lots. There were over 3,500 people at this event and because I got there later than I wanted, we had to park pretty far away. This actually worked out well though because Rick and I could get our warm up run in. I started to jog and sure enough, there went that hamstring making it's presence know. Apparently taking all that time off didn't do a thing. Great! Any hope I had of actually trying to race this race was gone for sure. Even though teams are organized the way they are, it's still very hard to find team mates. We eventually all found each other and then the heavens opened up so we took cover under some trees (I decided next year we'll just meet at the trees rather than search in the sea of people. It was much easier to say "hey, we're by the trees" than anything else). I tried to do a couple more test runs and things still didn't feel good so decided I would start running the race and figured at some point I'd end up walking.

It's go time

The rain stopped, the opening ceremony started at 8:45, and shortly there after, those of us running the 5K headed over to starting line. It gets PACKED. QUICKLY, so we've learned over the years to leave the ceremony and listen as best as we can from the starting line. It's a shame because you miss everything they say but they could also manage the race a little differently where people would get the best of both worlds. I always mention this on the after race survey they send out to all the team captains but it's always the same year after year.

There are a lot of competitive runners and a lot of local school track and XC athletes from schools not in our division who attend this race so it's not all just "community" runners and those of us who want to race the race always try to get close to the front as possible (giving the competitive runners their space, of course) and it never fails people who don't "run" try to get close to the front too. When a group of kids walked up and stood in front of us, at first we were like "ok great, this will be fun" but we quickly learned they were athletes so we figured they'd be perfect to stand behind because they'd all take off and we'd be eating their dust. =) This is exactly what happened when the gun went off and it was the first year there wasn't a lot of dodging and weaving and almost tripping over people. Speaking of the gun going off, the race was supposed to start at 9 but it was delayed by several minutes for some reason. Wouldn't you know the heavens decided to open up and by the time we were off, the rain was really coming down. Great, it was going to be a crappy race AND a wet one.

Rain is a good thing

I'm not sure how long the rain lasted and at one point I remember looking up and seeing the sun starting to peak through. It was already in the upper 70s and I thought for sure if the sun came out, we'd be roasting, just like we were last year. Luckily, the sun didn't come out until well after the race was over so to me, it was almost darn near perfect racing conditions and I'm kind of glad it rained to be honest: we were wet but not soaking, it was warm but comfortable.

Hammy, oh my hammy

I could definitely feel my hamstring the whole race but it was more of a sore feeling rather than painful feeling so I decided I would just try to run at a decent pace and if it got worse, I'd just scale it back. Of course, just like every other race, I looked at my watch too much at the beginning and wondering if I was running too fast but this time because I was worried what effect this was going to have on my hamstring. And, just like every other race, I eventually decided to ignore the watch and just run by feel. Mile two was a pretty rough mile for me mentally and at one point I wanted to walk. My hamstring was achy but no more achy than it was during my warm up so it wasn't getting worse, I was just tired and I'll be honest, 5Ks suck and are really my least favorite distance… BUT then I kept thinking about Elijah and how he keeps fighting so I used that motivation to keep me going. I told myself to I could slow down, but walking would only be a last resort and only if my hamstring was telling me to.

Unexpected pacer

My friend's husband knew about my hamstring issues and knew what a big deal this race was to me so before the race began, he asked if I wanted him to run with me so he could keep me motivated. He's a competitive runner who is just coming back from long-term injury and I knew he wanted to see how well he could do so I thanked him but said I would be ok to run on my own and just get into a zone. The XC mom who joined my team this year is an experienced and pretty fast runner, much faster that I am. She has been running for over 20 years and has several marathons under her belt. Luckily she's in an older AG so she's not my competition LOL but definitely is a lot faster. We lined up together at the starting line and I had decided when she got ahead of me, I was going to try and keep up with her or at least not let her get too far out of my sights if my hamstring would allow it. Sure enough, she and I started out at the same time and for a brief time I was ahead of her but she ended up taking the lead and I knew if I could at least not let her get too far ahead, I might have a shot at a decent time so she became my target, never knowing she had become my pacer.

The finish

As we headed out of the residential area across the main road and down the final stretch to the finish, I knew I didn't have much longer to go and by that time I almost felt like I had just a little bit left to give. My hamstring was achy, I was tired, but it was the finish and I was still running!!! Plus, the street is always lined with people cheering and I knew my family who did the one mile walk and the family members and/or friends who finished the 5K before me would be there too so I decide to see what I had left. Imagine my surprise when I turned the corner and saw the time clock still in the 24:00's. Are you serious? Did I really did just race my goal race? Bum hamstring, tired from no sleep and all?! With only seconds to spare before the clock turned 25:00, I remembered Elijah, the race, and all the things it meant to me and put everything I had to crossing that finish and sure enough, official time was 24:46… a mere 3 seconds from my course PR! As I sit and type this I still can't believe I did so well, not with all the odds that were stacked against me.

Post race

Since this race doesn't have live results like my other races do, we always stay for the awards. My brother-in-law is a competitive runner and usually does really well in his AG PLUS this year I decided to schedule our team picture for AFTER the race rather than before because it's always such a cluster before the race. Also, the XC mom and my other friend are competitive runners too and I knew they would be interested to see how they fared. And I'll be honest, last year I surprised the heck out of myself and won 3rd female OA cancer survivor and knowing my time per my Garmin was only seconds off from last year's time, I wanted to see if I placed again. We eventually met up with everyone and walked over by the stage to wait for the awards. My hamstring would give me fits causing me to limp at times but if I kept walking around, it would get better, so that's what I did.

After they announced the awards, we got our team picture taken and some of us decided to go out after for celebratory drinks and lunch (a ritual of ours, even if we don't win anything). None of us won anything but by the time we got back to our cars, the results were posted. My friend, the XC mom, PRd and came in 4th in her AG and even though they only gave out 1st male and 1st female cancer OA cancer survivors rather than the top 3 like they did last year, had they given out the other awards, I would have placed second with a time only 20 seconds behind the woman who was awarded first. I also placed 5th in my AG, moving up in the ranks. Sweet!

Final thoughts

While I didn't make my time goal of a sub 24:00 5K, other goals were achieved making 2017's race a huge victory regardless of what the time clock said. In three years, I've gone from 21st in my AG to the top 5 and this year was 6th OA cancer survivor, 2nd OA female cancer survivor, and was 203/1834 OA. Lastly though, the biggest goal was just being able to cross that finish line, come hell or high water, for Elijah. And I did it!! What a great day. Yep, rain and all.

This race sealed the deal on my opinion of 5Ks and that they are really my least favorite race distance. I know I was tired from lack of sleep and I know I was having hamstring issues but regardless, 5Ks are pretty dang tough and with everyone one I do, I like them less and less.

Thank you to everyone who supported me for this race. Whether you made a donation, joined my team, encouraged me not only when my hamstring issues started, but encouraged me in general, or cheered me on from afar, you definitely made my third race-aversary one of the most memorial races of my lifetime and I could never have done it without you. Of course, my biggest thank you goes to my friend, Elijah, for being my inspiration from day one as I prepared for this race. His attitude, grace, and fighting spirit is truly amazing and I could not have picked a better person to dedicate this year's RftP too.

The Gathering Place will accept donations through the end of June for the RftP so if you are interested in helping me get closer to my $1,800 goal, click on this link. As always, thank you for your support.


8:07, 8:43, 7:59

Race stats

Chip time 24:46
5/91 AG
203/1843 OA
6/125 OA cancer survivor
2nd OA female cancer survivor

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Elijah Update: My Sweatshirt Goal

Always smilling
Even though he is done with chemo, he has to stay at the Clinic for at least 6 weeks to be monitored for various things and to undergo more tests. A couple days ago, he was visited by Josh Tomlin and Cody Allen of the Cleveland Indians and their wives and received tickets to the game and an autographed baseball! How cool is that?! Today he is fighting a fever, he received transfusions for blood and platelets with possible surgery today as bacteria grew on the blood culture from his line so they maybe be replacing it. Through the highs and the lows, in typical Elijah fashion, he is all smiles and in good spirits. Gotta love that kid!

As you know, I am running this years Race for the Place 5K in his honor. We are only 17 days away from race day and I'm getting more excited as it get's closer! So far I have 11 people on my team Just Keep Swimming…and Running I have raised $289.25 in donations so far. Thank you to everyone who has joined my team and/or has supported my efforts by making a donation.

My end goal is to raise $1,800 in honor of the 18th birthday Elijah had to spend at the Clinic. If I am able to raise $500, though, I will earn an embroidered Gathering Place sweatshirt. I would love to give that sweatshirt to Elijah since he is my inspiration for this years and I am only $210.75 from that goal. Will you help? All donations are tax-deductible. To make a donation and help me earn the sweatshirt for Elijah, visit my personal race page. There is still plenty of time to join my team, too, so you can also join my team there.

Thank you for your support. It means more to me than you know!

A sweatshirt for Elijah

Some Cleveland Indians stop in to say hello

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

My brother's 45th birthday

Rick holding my son, Kelly
Fourty-five years ago today, my baby brother, Rick, was born. Even though we fought like brothers and sisters do, he was so much fun to grow up with. So many happy memories! I will never forget how he would make us laugh, especially when we were camping: we'd be at the pool and he'd do his crazy dives and belly flops, or when Janna and I made him talk like a girl and called him "Suzie" because we had to take him into the girl's restroom since he couldn't see at night. There are many other happy memories, but those are the two I remember most often, especially since we still camp to this day. And the happy memories continued as we got older. Rick had the most amazing smile and even more amazing hugs and there is not a day that goes by that I don't miss him terribly. But I know that for every day I miss him, I am one day closer to seeing him again.

I think one of the hardest things about his birthday this year is that in the next week or so, I will welcome my first grandchild. It really hit me like a ton of bricks this morning when I came across the picture of Rick holding my Kelly when he was a few days old or remembering when he came to see me in the hospital and how excited he was to be an uncle again. Knowing my brother will not be here to welcome Kelly’s son, Kelly Jr., or hold him, or knowing he is just one more family addition who will never have the pleasure of knowing my brother, makes me miss not only him, but Papa D, all the more.

There are so many songs that would be fitting for this day, but rather than trying to choose the “best” one, I decide to repost the YouTube video I made in May, 2011.

Happy birthday, Rick. I know you are smiling down on us from heaven and I am thankful for God’s promise that this life isn’t the end and I will see you again someday. Love you, brother! Give Papa D a kiss and hug from me. xoxox

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Elijah update: 5.9.17

Nurses attack with silly string
Elijah update from his mom:

"Today was this boys last day of chemo! He is officially done. Now we wait for his blood counts to drop and come up. Praying he doesn't get fevers or mouth sores. His body handled it really well. He had to have a heart echo and an EKG, as well as a CT due to some chest pains. So far he's doing OK. The Minimal Residual Disease (MRD) came back negative for any small amount of Leukemia. My boy is still leukemia free. We are still anticipating about 6 weeks here and then we will find out what happens from there. There is also a cytogenetic test result we are waiting for as well but won't get back until Monday. God is still good. Thank you everyone who has continued to pray and come alone on this journey with us.

He was starving today. He is eating French onion soup...x2. You'd never know looking at him that he's been fighting a life threatening disease for the last 4 months! I've seen a quote the other day that said, "people who say winning doesn't matter never fought cancer!""


Thank you to everyone who has been praying, sending good thoughts, positive vibes, wishes, etc. over these last several months for Elijah and his mom. They continue to win the war but the battle is not over so keep them coming. They are truly making all the difference.

As you know, I am running the Race for the Place 5K on June 4 is his honor and my goal is to raise $1,800 for the 18th birthday he had to spend at the Clinic receiving treatment. I would love for you to join my team: Just Keep Swimming…and Running! Not a runner? No problem, you can walk the 5K or sign up for the 1 mile walk. If you aren't able to participate in the race in person but would like to make a donation to support our efforts, you can do so on this page using the "Give Now" button on the right of my personal race page.

Thank you for your support.

Monday, May 1, 2017

It's Time of Year Again: The Annual Race for the Place 5K

Elijah after he was
admitted in January
If you've been following my blog over the years, you'll know that The Gathering Place's annual Race for the Place 5K/1Mile Walk is a special race to me for many reasons and I run it every year for the ever-growing list of friends, family members, and other loved ones who have been diagnosed with cancer. It was the race that "started it all" for me running wise in 2014 and what I now refer to as my "race-a-versary." It is held the first Sunday in June, rain or shine, on National Cancer Survivors Day

In 2016, there were a lot of races I wanted to do and decided with so many on my schedule, I would pick one to serve as my "goal" race meaning it would be the race I worked towards setting my 5K PR for that year. With all this race has become to me, it only made sense so 2016's race would be "for" me and I decided to make my goal to run the 5K in under 25:00. I also decided to branch off from the team we were with and team Just Keep Swimming…and Running was formed. Not only did I finish in 24:43, achieving my goal, I finished 3rd overall in the Female Cancer Survivor division.

This year, I am running it in honor of Elijah, a young man whom I got to know through the Young Marine program I have been a staff member of for the last 11 years. Elijah is currently undergoing a long and very intense treatment at the Cleveland Clinic for AML, a very aggressive form of leukemia. Since Elijah had to spend his 18th birthday in the hospital, I made my fundraising goal $1,800. My time goal for this year is to set a new PR of a sub 24:00 5K also in honor of him.

We are team "Just Keep Swimming...and Running" and I would love for you to join us to support this wonderful cause! Not a runner? No problem! Walk the 5K or sign up to do the 1 Mile Walk. Either way you are supporting an wonderful organization. Even though this event is a fundraiser for The Gathering Place, there is no pressure to raise a certain amount of money when you join a team like there is with other charity races. As a matter of fact, several people solely pay the race fee which serves as their contribution. Of course, donations are always appreciated but certainly not required.

To learn more about The Gathering Place and the free services they offer to cancer patients and their families right here in our community, please visit their website at or their Facebook page.

Thank you for your support!

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


Splits per garmin

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