Sunday, October 2, 2016

Every mile a memory: the Northern Ohio Half Marathon 10.2.16 (full race report to come)

I will work on full race report once I've had time to condense all my notes but here is the "brief" overview" how today's race went.

Today I accomplished what I thought would be impossible: a sub 2:00:00 half marathon and not only did I do that, I smashed my 2014 time with a finish of 1:58:42, shaving almost 20 MINUTES off that time. In 2014, I was 21st in my AG so my goal was to hopefully make the top 20 this year. Not only did I make the top 20, I was 8th!!!! Just goes to show that you should never listen to the voices in your head that say you can't because they have no idea what they are talking about and when your friends and loved ones tell you can, they are right. LOL. Running with a pacer/pace group this time around was definitely a good move because it was just like having my own personal running coach every step of the way and he not only kept us motivated, but I told him I would love to try to break two hours (a lofty goal but hey, a girl can dream) so the last mile of the race, he told those of us who wanted to beat the pacer to kick it up...and he kept right on encouraging us from behind up to the second we cross the finish.

What was extra awesome is that my son's XC team volunteered for the race so I had a few cheerleaders along the way and a couple of the boys, including Rick, even gave me high fives as I ran past. And of course, Paul was taking pictures of the race so he was able to meet me at various points of the course and cheered me on. That was icing on the cake. Of course, having some inspiration not only from above, but inspiration here on Earth helped, too.

AWESOME AWESOME race, AWESOME day, and who knows, I may just make it round 3 next year. Wait, did I just say that???!!! Just keep swimming...and running.

Nailed it. What a complete and utterly amazing surprise.

Half marathon #2 complete. A PR to boot!
Start and finish at the beach? What's not to love!!!

Thanks to my pacer, Sean, and a friend I met along the way for helping me to the finish.
She finished a tad bit in front of me but it was fun running with her and trying to catch her in the shoot.
Cool swag. Thanks to the race organizers and sponsors for another amazing race.
A personal best and victory in honor and memory of all my sisters in pink.

Here's to never saying never. Northern Ohio Half Marathon, take two. 10.2.16

In October 2014, I ran my first and only half in honor of my dad as he battled lung cancer: the Lake Health Northern Ohio Marathon/Half Marathon. His fight was my inspiration to cross the finish, especially during the times I thought I'd never make it there. After than race, I swore I would never run a half again, especially not that one for two reasons. One, let's be honest, I love running and I love racing but 13.1 miles? Not really a fan of that distance. Second, knowing what this particular race meant to me and the reason I ran it in the first place, yep, I swore never again. It's really a great race though and last year, they changed the course a bit. They moved the start and finish to Headlands State Park/the beach/my favorite place and it's a relatively flat course going through the streets of Mentor so last year we put together a team for the 5-person marathon relay they offered instead. Well, this year the plans to run the relay fell through and left me with either not running the race at all and kicking myself later or sucking it up and running another half, the race and distance I have vehemently sworn I would never run again. I chose to suck it up and go for round two.

So if I was going to do this again, I needed to make it personal and have something to push me in those moments When I feel like I can't take another step. One morning on a run a few weeks ago before sunrise it hit me. The race is in October. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It was in October four years ago my cancer roller coaster began and it's because of cancer that I started running in the first place. Good motivation but making it about me wouldn't be enough. So then I started thinking about the people who have crossed my path from the moment God put me on it and the answer became clear: run this race in honor of my sisters in pink: the fighters, the survivors, and the taken. I found my inspiration.

7:30 a.m. today in the rain…it's round two. This one's for you, "sisters."

Monday, August 8, 2016

Every Mile a Memory: 3rd Annual Community Run for Life 5K 8.7.16

Some background behind this race
Even though this was my third time running the Community Run for Life 5K, I wasn't really sure what to expect and I’ll explain why in a moment. But first, this is one of my races that is more of a personal event rather than “just another race.” As you know, I am a three year, eight month year breast cancer survivor and three months after I was diagnosed, my dear father, AKA Papa D, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, a battle he fought ferociously but with grace until God called him home April 14, 2015. This race benefits the Lake Health/UH Seidman Cancer Center where my oncologist is as well as where my dad’s was and where he received his chemo and radiation treatments. Unlike June's Race for the Place 5K, there are no teams or fundraising efforts, you just support the medical center by participating. So there was a very personal aspect for running this race. Also, when I ran their inaugural race in 2014, I had just started running in March that year and it was only my third 5K so you can imagine how utterly surprised and stoked I was when I received my first AG placing during that race. Even when they changed the course up a bit last year, I still managed to place in my AG. As you can see, it’s a special race on many levels. Why wasn't I sure what to expect? Even though this was my third time running it, not only did they change race management companies this year, but they also changed the location to the Holden Arboretum where a few of my other races have been (trail-type, mostly gravel and windy course with lots of rolling hills). The good thing was I knew what I was in for as far as what the course was going to be like in general however, the specific route looked like it was a little different than any of the other races I’ve done there that is why I wasn't really sure what to expect from a finish time aspect. Add to it this year they grouped the awards by the 40-49 ages rather than 45-49 so I really didn't see an AG placement this time around. It's ok though, I decided I would just run the race in memory of my dad and not worry about times, AG placings, etc. Another thing new this year, since it's at the arboretum, they have added a flower dedication in the butterfly garden in memory of a friend or family after the awards ceremony.

And now on to race day
I woke up at 6 am in a complete panic about this race. I wasn't bothered by the fact my left hip and right knee had given me troubles earlier in the week so I used the elliptical rather than run most of the week. I thought about just how hard a 5K is, both physically and mentally, especially on this particular course because it's not a flat road race, and quite honestly, I almost prefer running my 10 mile race over a 5K.  I even mentioned it to my DH on the way to the race. Yep, self-doubt kicked in the minute I opened my eyes. It didn't help that I woke up to some minor family drama and add that to the emotional aspect of this race, yeah, I really wasn't feeling strong about this one. I decided I was going to stick with my plan of just running the race in memory of my dad and not worry about anything else. I was joined by my brother-in-law who is an avid runner and runs many of the same races I do, my oldest sister and mom (who were going to walk either the 1 mile or 2 mile option which was new this year), a few co-workers (one co-worker's sister died of breast cancer in December and she herself had a cancer scare month ago), and my cousin and her family.

Me, my big sis, and my mom
After we all met up in the staging area, I went for a short half mile warm up and while my knee was fine, my hip was a bit achy as was my calf which was weird because I've never had an issue with it before. Nothing too horrible though and I figured once the race adrenaline kicked in, I'd be ok (which ended up being the case).

It was a small race this year with only around 100 people participating in the 5K. I'm not sure how many people were actually running the 5K as opposed to walking it. There were so few "competitive" runners it seemed that I was able to position myself right at the front. Plus, the walkers, whether for the 5K, 1 mile or 2 mile distance, were instructed to line up behind the runners. The gun went off and for the first quarter mile or so, I started to cry a bit thinking of my dad.  I think I was just in emotional overdrive and I was able to regain my composure and just run. With it being a small race, there wasn't whole lot of weaving in and out of people and probably around the half mile mark, I was pretty much running by myself. There was this one little boy that for some reason felt the need to speed up and move over in front of me every time I tried to pass him. It seems EVERY race I do there is some little kid who does that. Why do they feel the need to do that?! It drives me crazy because a few times I've almost tripped over them!  Luckily he ended up stopping at one of the porta johns and I wouldn't see him again.

Anyway, I fought with feelings of self-doubt for most of the race. I was tired, this was hard, I couldn't breath, how would I finish, etc. etc. It was so bad at times even my power songs on my playlist weren't cutting it but then as I approached the water stop, I saw my dad's care coordinator handing out water.  She didn't recognize me or anything and I didn't stop but seeing her was a much needed mental boost that no matter how I was feeling physically, this race was about my dad. I really think it was no accident she was at that water stop as would remind myself several times after that why I was running. There were several hills that were kicking my butt and I kept telling myself they were pieces of cake compared to the monsters I encountered on my vacation. When I reached the tops, I decided to slow down because my breathing was horrible and I felt like I couldn't catch my breath. At one point during the race, my cousin's son, who was running a 5K for the first time, passed me and at first I thought I might try to keep up with him but there was no way I could, he was just too dang fast! Paul was taking pictures and he was positioned somewhere between miles 2.5 and 3. Seeing him gave me another mental boost. At the 3 mile mark, I started to feel very overwhelmed again and a couple of the volunteers were standing there directing the runners where to go. I said something like "what, we still have more to go?!" and the one man cheer me on and said "you can do it, you only have about a minute left." Ugh, I was not going to make it one more second, much less a minute…but I pressed on. All the sudden I started to feel like I was going to throw up. I have never ever run a race and had that feeling before. There were a couple of times I even put my hand up to my mouth because I thought I was going to. But a little voice in my head said "just go, you can throw up when you cross that finish line so move it!" I rounded the corner and saw the finish line clock. Holy heck, it was still in that 24's! I kicked into overdrive and crossed the finish shortly after the 25 minute mark. According to Garmin, my time was 25:12.5. Dang, once again I felt like I was running like crap but instead I was killing it! I kept thinking to myself had I not slowed down the times that I did, I would have finished sub 25 again. Although I was so out of breath it took me about 10 minutes to regain my composure, the sick feeling I had went away. Sweet, this would not be the race I tossed my cookies!

Once everyone finished, we walked over to where the award presentation was being held. Knowing my time was better than I thought and given the fact the race was so small and there weren't any women who looked like they'd be in my AG who passed me, I was feeling pretty confident an AG placing would happen, despite the ages being 40-49 rather than 45-49.  They announced the overall winners first and wouldn't you know I was only 0.5 seconds behind the #3 female?! Since I was behind her the entire race but never able to catch up to her, I felt even more confident a placing would happen. Sure enough, they announced the winners in my AG and I guess you've figured it out by now that I was #1. Chip time of 25:12.5.  As they announced my name and my family and friends cheered, I cried as I bounded up like Tigger to receive my award. The woman who was handing out the awards hugged everyone as they came up so sure enough when I went up to get my award, she hugged me too and she could tell I was crying so she held on just a little bit longer than usual and told me nice job. What made this unexpected victory even more special, after I received my award and walked back to where my family was, my dad's care coordinator, who was talking to my mom at the time, walked up to me, gave me a huge hug, and told me my dad would have been very proud of me. There really are no words to describe how I felt in that moment.  My brother-in-law won first in his AG and my cousin's son, the one who passed me, won first in his, too. My sister who did the walk with my mom won one of the door prizes.
A family who races together wins together

After the awards, they had a small memorial "service" in the butterfly garden. Everyone was given a sunflower and after a short prayer was read, we threw our flowers into the pond. Paul took pictures so once he gets them processed, I will share them.

Last year when we ran this race, we met a woman and her friend. They had been running partners for years and he had been diagnosed with lung cancer a couple months prior so it was his first race since. At  Sunday's race, she won in her AG but I didn't happen to see her friend anywhere. When we were at the butterfly garden, I noticed her across the way crying. After the memorial service was over and as everyone was leaving, she walked past me so I stopped her, mentioned we met at last year's race and I said I noticed her friend wasn't there. We chatted for a bit and sadly, he passed away in November. She mentioned again how he was her running partner for the last 12 years and how much she missed him. She thanked me for remembering her, we congratulated each other on our awards, and said we'll see each other next year.

So, while my chip time was not my fastest to date and had the usual suspects been at this race and I probably wouldn't have placed, yesterday's race was a personal best on so many other levels. It just goes to show that sometimes even when you aren't feeling it, you just might surprise yourself when you race with your heart rather than race with expectations.

1/13 AG 40-49
19/99 overall

One last note: I'm not sure if the course was the same as the race I ran there on Father's Day. The start and finish were the same, but as I was running the trails, some of it seemed to be a bit different (and seem to be more hilly!!). I chalked it up to them adding the 1 and 2 mile walk option but when I compared the course from the Father's Day race in June to this one this morning, they are almost identical so who knows. At any rate, my time for that race was 25:53 so if that's the case, I beat that time by about 41 seconds. Another unexpected victory!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Race Report: 40th Annual Johnnycake Jog 5 Mile Race 7.11.16

This was the 40th year for the Johnnycake Jog. According to it's website: The course is one of the main reasons for the Jog's notoriety. It is generally considered to be flat, fast and accurate. National age-group, as well as hundreds of personal records, have been set on its friendly confines. It's one of the few USTAF certified courses locally (that I know of anyway)  and it draws people from all over the country. There were people from Florida, Texas, and even California yesterday. There were other states, too, but those were the ones that caught my eye because of the distance. They added a 5k run/walk this year and added finishers medals for those who did the 5 miler.

My 15 year old son who is on the high school XC team ran the race with me. Paul is still recovering from his AT so he went for moral support. The race starts and ends in front of the fairgrounds and the course is on city streets with the final stretch down a main, heavily traveled, five-lane road with stores, shopping plazas, restaurants, etc. Here is a map of the route.

With the exception of a gradual incline after the first mile until you make the 2nd turn and a nice decline right before the turn to the final stretch, a it is truly flat. Not a whole lot of shade but luckily it was partly cloudy so we did have some breaks from the sun. It was only 70 degrees which made for relatively decent weather despite the humidity but it didn't take long to heat up, especially because you were basically running through a concrete jungle. It's funny the "hill" I remember from last year between miles 1 and 2  that seemed like it was "so hard" wasn't a big deal this time around and I have to thank my other much hilly races for that.

The 5 mile started at 8:00 and the 5K started at 8:15 so I figured if we were there by 7:30, that would give us some time to park, walk to the staging area, etc. plus my friend from work was running the 5K and we usually meet up beforehand to chat and wish each other well. We live about 15 minutes away so I got up around 6:15 because I like to have a cup of coffee or two an hour before we need to leave. Not sure if it would help or not, I decided to put on Willow Balm and my knee and calf just in case. 7:15 we were ready and out the door.

With every repeat race, it is my goal to do better than the year before. Last year I ran this race in 46:57 and was 10th in my AG. I have significantly stepped up my game in 2016 and since my pace for the hilly 10K in March was 9:14 and for the 10 Miler in April it was 8:58, I wasn't sure what kind of pace I "should" have for this race but I did a number on my kneecap when I fell 4th of July weekend and I hadn't been able to run all week so the elliptical was my only source of exercise. About mid week, the top of my calf on the same leg started doing something weird so I really didn't know how this race was going to go and kind of just decided I'd just run however and see what happens.

I debated whether I would do a warm up run because I was worried about my knee and wanted to "save" it for the race and figured my "warm up" could be the 1st mile. My plan was if my knee started to act up during the race, I had several options. I could turn off where the 5K runners were going and walk the 5K route (not crossing the mat, of course). I decided to run with my phone in case I had to stop running and I could have Paul pick me up since the roads were only closed in one direction and were still accessible by vehicle.  Also, as we drove to the race, I saw there was a first aid station at mile 3 so I had several options. Well, I decided to run a brief warm up with my son anyway and while my knee cap wasn't bothering me, I felt "that" feeling in my calf and really started to doubt whether I'd be able to finish the race. But, with all my back up plans if I couldn't, I decided to give it a go anyway.

About 7:45 we headed to the starting line. 566 people ran the 5 mile and 230 ran the 5K. The 5K people hung out on the sidewalk and we 5 milers took our positions. Since there were timing mats at the start, I wasn't too concerned about being up in the front plus I knew I wouldn't be running fast so I stood several yards back. My son found one of his XC teammates so they decided to get a little closer. We were packing in like sardines and when the gun went off, it took a bit for the pack to move. I crossed the mat 40 seconds after the gun.

There are some more starting line pictures in the 20's as well. Yeah, I'm somewhere in that madness.
Since the entire race was all right turns, I decided I would hang to the right side because that's how you run a race efficiently, right, by "hugging" the curves? For this race, it was blessing and a curse. Blessing because there was no way to start out too fast because it was soooo crowded but a curse because you were constantly doing the bob and weave and  trying not to trip over each other and it wasn't until after mile 2 where it opened up and I was able to run at a constant speed. I think next year I may opt for the middle or the left side until mile 2 because it was really annoying and people are just so dang inconsiderate. Plus, I'd probably be able to run more consistently and therefore not really lose any time.

For some reason, I had it in my head that I wanted to keep my pace around 9:00. I'm not sure why. Maybe because I knew I had to go 5 miles and I didn't want to run too fast and be too tired at the end? And I know from my last several races not to rely on what my watch says, especially if there is a lot of tree cover but with the absence of trees and just being curious, I'd glance down every now and then just to see where I was at. It was at mile 2 or so where I was feeling really good and noticed my pace was in the low 8's and at first I was like "hey Joy, you better scale it back because you still have a while to go" and then I decided to stop looking at the watch, just run and who cares what it said just like I've done for the last several races. So that's what I did for the duration of the race.

I kind of got "lost" in my thoughts and kind of observed people ahead of me. There was one guy who kept stopping to fiddle with his armband. I wondered at what point he was going to just say "screw it" and run because I got closer and closer and closer to him and eventually passed him somewhere on the home stretch. There were also a couple women from one of the local fitness centers. The gym has a running "team" so they are at most of the races I do. Watching the two of them was cracking me up. One was constantly taking selfies of her and the other woman as they were running and when they passed their gym at mile 2.5, she took more pictures. Needless to say, I passed them just as we approached the small decline towards mile 3.

 The final stretch of the race, the last two miles, is probably THE worse part of the race. It's a straight shot and it seems like it goes on…and on….AND on forever. When you can finally see the finish arch around 4.25 miles or so, it feels like it's STILL going to take FOREVER to get there so the best thing I have found to do is not pay attention to what store, plaza, or restaurant I am running past and just keep looking forward. The last mile of the race I was feeling tired and wasn’t sure I was going to be able to pick it up towards the end. I decided to just maintain the rhythm I was in and just keep going at that pace. My son's XC coach had already finished and was walking back up the route and when he saw me, he gave me a high five. There was a little boy watching the race and he stood up and put out his hand for a high five so I gave him one too. I try acknowledge people who are standing along the route so I'll high five the kids if they put their hand out or if there are adults standing there clapping, I always say thank you or wave.  It just seems like the right thing to do. Anyway, I can finally see the finish arch and the crowd of people standing along the route is getting thicker. Ahhh, almost done! I had two people in my sights who I was going to try and keep up with to "help" me finish the race. I eventually saw Paul and then looked at the clock. Holy crap!  I was going to beat my time after all! That gave me the little boost I needed so digging as deep as I could, I crossed the finish line. Woot woot official time was 43:25…almost 3.5 minutes faster than last year!  While I didn't get an AG placing, I set a new 5 mile PR and I was 7/30 in my AG, 82/263 females, 30/119 female masters, 251/566.  Super stoked that both goals were met! All that and my knee didn't bother me one bit.
My splits:  8:55, 8:57, 8:27, 8:30, 8:26.  You can tell from the first two miles it was "slow" going due to the crazy amount of people.

So I cross the finish line, take one of the waters they were handing out, and then walk over to the table where they were passing out the finishers medals. My boss, who I had seen before the race started, walked over to me and we chatted about our times. Then I see Paul looking for me so we walk over to him. He asks me where our son is. He is much faster than me so he should have crossed the finish line well ahead of me. I explained I had no idea where he was and that around mile 2, I noticed my son and the friend from XC walking back along the race route. I didn't stop running but I did ask if everything was ok and they both said yes and told me to keep going. Come to find out after the race when we finally found him that his friend from XC started having a seizure as they were running so they stopped and our son decided to walk back with him to meet the boy's father. After his friend left, our son, not knowing what to do, decide to just walk back to the staging area and not finish the race. Do you get mad at the kid for helping his friend and taking a DNF? While I'm certainly not mad he helped his friend, should he have finished the race after the boy left with his dad? I don't know. What's interesting is even though he never crossed the finish line, they still have a time for him of 50:07. Odd. Anyway, I grabbed some post race snacks and these races never disappoint: bananas, water, bagel bites (my favorite) and this really awesome pizza yum!  We walked over to the computers where the race times were. Even though Paul received the text when I crossed the finish line, I wanted to see where I placed in my AG. Super stoked I went from #10 to #7 in my AG and I missed #6 by less than a second.

So once again, I surprised myself and exceeded my expectations! I thought about it later on in the afternoon that maybe I should have pushed myself harder. I mean I was running hard during the race but I didn't feel as nearly as hard as I do when I run a 5K. Heck, I ran my 10 miler in April at a 8:58 pace and that was twice as long! Was I capable of more? Does it matter? Not really, I am very pleased with my results and even more pleased that my knee didn't so much as twinge during the race so it was a win all the way around.

One thing I thought was weird is how my watch would hit the mile markers several feet before I reached them, especially with this being a certified course. I know there are a lot of factors that come into play with GPS watches and also how a course is measured, it's just never been that far off. Just an observation I had.

By the way, a new overall course record was set this year by a 37 year old male with a time of 23:16 37.

A realization I had after my goal race and even after Ragnar was reinforced after this race and that's having confidence in my training or "non-training" as I call it. For a really long time, I thought maybe I should be stepping up my game with some kind of formal training plan, including scheduled speed work, running hills/hill repeats, intervals, etc. but I have yet to do come up with a plan.  I HAVE  stepped up my game by running more miles more consistently this year, but really that's been it. I don't do tempo runs, I don't do strides, I don't do repeats, I went to the track a few times this Spring but that was it. I kind of just run however I'm feeling on any given day if you look back at most of my training runs, they are at a slow/easy pace, probably slower than what I "should" be running. But something is working and I am continually surprising myself with how much I am improving or how well I am doing despite not taking a more serious approach to training. Knocked 8 minutes off my time from my 10 miler in April, met my sub 25:00 5K in June, ran all three of my legs totally 15.5 miles at Ragnar at 9:18, 9:26, and 9:36 (which floored me because I was guessing they'd be in the 10-10:30 range) and that was probably the toughest race I've ever done, and I improved my time by almost 3.5 minutes this race. Could I be making more significant improvements if I DID have a formal training plan? Could I be running 21 and 22 minute 5Ks like some of the other ladies in my AG? Perhaps but I really don't want to put forth the kind of effort it would take to get there. Some may call it lazy or having lack of ambition but for me, I'm kind of content where I am and my "just winging it" way of doing things, plus I am meeting my goals in the process. I don't need to be the best or the fastest. Sure, getting an AG placing is nice and I love getting them but it's not what's important to me. I just want to run and at the end of the day, as long as I continue to have fun and enjoy what I do, that's what matters.

If you made it to the end of this race report, thank you for sticking it out.  You may be the one who deserves a finisher's medal.

Just keep swimming...and running.

Cool swag

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Race Report: Flag Day 5K/2 Mile Walk 6.15.16

The Flag Day 5K/2 Mile Walk is put on by my running club every year and it benefits not only their scholarship fund, but all a local center for special needs/developmental disabled youth and adults. Before the race started, they had a “challenge race,” a short distance where several of the clients from three centers got to show the efforts of their training. It was pretty cool because all of us runners and walkers stood around and cheered them on. They also served as race workers and handed out water at water stop so this was definitely one of those “feel good” races where it didn’t really matter how you did, it was for a good cause. It was hot and muggy but not as bad as it could have been with temps in the low 80’s. It was cloudy up until race time (of course) but luckily most of the course was shaded so the sun really didn’t interfere.

Since this was put on by the running club, I assumed all the top ladies in my AG would be there (and they are fast!!!) and since I was still recouping from Ragnar, I decided to use this race as a training run and not worry about my time. It was billed as Ohio’s largest Flag Day race so I assumed there would be a ton of people there so I was surprised when we got there and there weren’t as many people as I expected; 251 runners and 32 walkers. I guess I expected a lot more. Anyway, the RD, whom I see at a lot of my races, has been telling me about this race for the last two years and has always said it was a nice, flat course. OH HE LIED, HE LIED LIKE RUG. It was anything but! Paul and I did a quick warm up run and when I realized there were going to be hills, I could hear my legs protesting. I was already going into this race knowing there would be no fancy footwork and that with all the “real” runners at the race, there was no chance for an AG placing but after getting a taste of what it was going to be like? Yeah, this was going to probably be one of my slowest races to date…and I was ok with that. I was planning on running this race with Paul but when we got there, he said he didn’t want to run with me, which was ok, so I just decided I’d run however I felt and see what happens. I was also going to run with only one ear bud in and the music turned down low and see how I fared.

Since it was a gun start and I wasn’t really worried about a time, I didn’t get right up front with the real runners but kind of hung mid pack. The start of the race was down hill so I had some pretty good momentum going which of course is never a good thing at the beginning of the race but I just went with it anyway. I was actually surprised how good I felt so even though I checked my watch a couple of times just to see where I was at for curiosity sake, I really didn’t speed up or slow down, I just ran. Running with one ear bud didn’t last long because there was someone behind me breathing so hard it was driving me up a wall so in went the other ear bud and up went the music. Up down up down up down went the course through an apartment complex and exercise path. One of the residents had their hose out and was spraying the runners (there was enough room to get away from it if you didn’t want to get wet) and even though I was already drenched in sweat, it was a welcome relief.

We got to one hill towards the end where a couple of people were walking. My legs were tired and I admit I stopped running for a couple of steps but then I noticed a woman pushing a stroller who had been ahead of me most of the race didn’t stop, she didn’t even slow down so I said if she could do it pushing a stroller, so could I. The course looped around so the home stretch was the downhill from the beginning and then a straightway to the finish. My legs welcomed that “boost” and I decided it was time to kick it into overdrive…my goal to hopefully pass the woman in the stroller. And I did. As I was passing her, she congratulated me and I told her thank you for helping me because I was chasing her the entire race and through the shoot I went with the time clock at 26:00. What the?!? Really?? Sure enough, I stopped my Garmin as I crossed the timing mat and it read 25:59.5. Sweet!!! I know how fast the ladies are in my AG are so while I was excited about my time, I figured it wouldn’t be fast enough for a placing. It's all good, I wasn’t expecting one anyway. I waited for Paul to come down the straightway toward the finish and cheered him on as he went past. Jaime will get a kick out of this but I asked him if he wanted me to get him some water and felt the need to get it and bring it to him while he was cooling down (you can take the girl from Ragnar but you can’t take Ragnar from the girl LOL). This race has live results so I went over to check my time and officially it was 26:05 but holy macaroni, I placed 3rd in my AG!!! Guess most of the real runners stayed home!!

After the race, they had a ton of goodies, including pasta salad and this concoction made of brown rice a black beans that was REALLY good and since I would be getting an award, we decided to stay. Thankfully it was air conditioned.

Official time: 26:05
3/13 AG
31/116 females
92/251 overall

Even though the course was not the flat course I thought it was initially, I would definitely run it again. It was for a good cause and it was very well run and hey, the post race snacks were awesome, what's not to love about that!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Every Mile a Memory: Race for the Place 5K on National Cancer Survivors Day 6.5.16

Race for the Place 5K/1 Mile walk benefiting The Gathering Place (TGP) held every year on National Cancer Survivors Day, the first Sunday in June.

Every race I try to have 2-3 goals. This one I had two:
First goal: Sub 25:00 time
Second goal (if first wasn’t met): Top 5 in my AG

I apologize in advance for such a long race report. This event was more than just a "race" to me and a few lines just wouldn't do it justice. I've included pictures to give your eyes a break from all the text. LOL

What can I say, the race that started it all for me two years ago will always be "my" race and for all the reasons it is special to me, every year it becomes even more so. As I've mentioned before, this is my anniversary race and the race report from last year's race includes details and challenges of the course so I'll skip over that.

Not only was this the first year I had my own team (aptly named Just Keep Swimming…and Running), but it was also the first year I was not only joined by the usual suspects (family and a friend or two), but my cousin, Michelle, who is more like a sister and my two life-long friends, Leslie and Shawne, with whom I have been recently reunited with were part of my team this year, too.  Being a team captain is somewhat stressful because so many people were running late and I know what a complete MADHOUSE it is in the staging area from doing this race before (over 4,000 people participate) and then throw in the fact I'm a basket case before ANY race, much less this one, so I was a bit on edge.  Plus I had picked up our race packets on Thursday so I had to make sure everyone had their bibs before I headed over to the starting line. We were supposed to meet at 8 am and then get our team picture taken at 8:15 but half of my team wasn't even there yet so we just got the picture taken with the handful we had. But we all managed to find each other before the race and everything worked out. Next year I will do a couple things differently to alleviate some of the stress but DEFINITELY, Lord willing, will have my own team again.

Even though I tossed and turned all night (which has become the norm for me), I stayed in bed "resting" until about 5:45 am. We have to leave the house by 7:15 and I planned on getting up at 6 anyway so it wasn't that big of a deal that I was up a little early. I had my race outfit all set and ready to go the night before so all of this allowed me to have not one but TWO cups of coffee before the race. Bonus java is always a good thing on race morning!  I didn't do team shirts because I feel people should wear what they feel comfortable in, especially if they are running,  and not everyone wants to spend the additional money anyway plus they get a shirt from the race. I decide to wear the shirt I made for last year's race, the one with my dad's picture on it. I also made a pair of shorts the first time I ran the race two years ago so those are a must every time I run an "honor/memorial" race.
Every mile a memory, my running mantra
I don't eat breakfast as it is and don't eat before a race but I decided to have a banana just for good measure. The weather was rainy and drizzly the entire ride to the race, which was about 30 minutes from my house. Temps were in the 60's so it was a little chilly but not too bad. Pau had checked the weather before we left home and he said it was supposed to clear out by race time. Because this race means what it does to me, I was going to run it regardless of what the weather did. When we got to the mall where the event took place, it was raining again so Paul and Rick decided to wait in the lower level/covered parking area while I decided to "brave" the elements and go up the team meeting area where my cousin was waiting for me. Shortly there after, other team members trickled in and after we got out picture taken, we just hung around waiting for everyone else to show up. By that time the rain all but stopped.
Leslie isn't afraid of a little rain
The one mile walk takes place in the parking lot of the mall and the 5K starts and ends at the mall but goes through neighborhood streets. After a short warm up run with my friends, Paul, son, friends, and I said goodbye to the team mates who were doing the 1 mile walk and the 5K-ers who didn't want to be close to the front and we headed over to the starting line. Since I've done this race before, I know what a zoo it is at the starting line and I wanted to be pretty close to the timing mat so we headed over about 8:50. This, unfortunately means we missed the opening ceremonies, which you could sort of hear off in the distance.  This was this first year they told the walkers of the 5K to line up AFTER the runners. Guess they finally listened to all the people who complained. I have to admit I was a bit irked when a woman pushing a jogging stroller lined up in front of us. She looked like a legit runner and she ended up being pretty fast and all that but I still think it was kind of rude to be smack dab right there in front knowing full well of ALL the runners that were behind her but whatever. The race started late, about 9:10 or so but eventually the blew the horn and we were off.
Rick, me, and Paul at the starting line
Girls just wanna have fun
Rather than give a play by place of the full race, especially since this is long enough at is it, I'll just say it was muggy and it was tough! The course ran though heavily populated neighborhood streets and to those of you who run hills all the time, this course would have been a piece of cake probably but not for this girl. Again, I talk more about the course in my race report from last year so I'll skip that. This year it seemed that's all we did was run up never ending inclines with very few declines and even though this was my third time running this race, both Paul and my brother-in-law, Eric, felt the course was a little more hilly than in years past so we weren't sure if they changed the course a bit or if it was just us.  Looking back at my RR from last year's race, the "hills" were an issue for me so it could have just been our perception. Every mile was a struggle and in mile 1, I got my first ever race side stitch and I thought I was doomed for sure. Then a second one stared. They eventually disappeared which is good because I was having a hard enough time as it was. At one point, perhaps mile 2ish, the sun looked like it might peek out from the clouds and I kept thinking if it came out, I'd be doomed even more. It had warmed up a bit but luckily the sun never did come out and even though the air felt as thick as mud, at least it wasn't a million degrees.

When I first started the race, I looked down at my watch quite a bit but I finally got to the point, especially when I saw it at 9:30 pace somewhere in mile 2, that checking my watch was only frustrating me because I was clearly not going to meet my goal so quit looking at it and just ran. This is the second race I've done that (the other being my 5K from last month) so I've decided I will ignore my Garmin from now on when I race. Lesson learned from last race confirmed in this race.

Once again, I felt like I was running like crap the entire time and decided this was not going to be the race I'd run sub 25:00 so I just changed my focus to why I was running the race...the fighters, the survivors, the taken.  A woman passed me and she looked like she was floating, running effortlessly like a gazelle without a hint of struggle and I wondered if I'd ever get to the point where I'd run like that, too. With not to much longer to go, I passed her and when I got to mile 3 and the volunteer said the time was 24 something, I could not believe my ears!!  I thought I was going to completely blow this race and here I was, only seconds from my goal. As I rounded the corner to the finish, my son who had already finished the race, called out to me and told me to gun it.  I yelled back "I can't" and then I saw the finish clock and when I saw it was still in the 24's, I dug for what little energy I had left and as I crossed the timing mat, the clock read 24:48. No.flippin.way!! My Garmin said 24:45 and given where I started the race, my numbers were pretty accurate. The timing company for this race doesn't have live results like the other races I do so we had to wait for several hours to find out what our official times were but dang it, I my met goal!  Now would I place in the top 5 of my AG? We'd have to wait for the award ceremony for that.

One by one, as team members would finish the race, we'd head up to the final stretch and cheer on those on our team who were still racing. Meanwhile, the team members who did the one mile walk found us so we all stood around talking as we waited. When my cousin, Michelle, our last team member to come in passed us, we all cheered and screamed for her. This was her first 5K race and her first time walking an "official" 5K distance. You know that "gazelle" I mentioned earlier? As we were waiting, she came up to me and thanked me for helping her. Shocked, I thanked her and told her SHE was the one who helped keep ME going. I told her how effortlessly she looked and how I envied her and much to my surprise, she said she didn't feel very "gazelle-like," that she felt very off, and the race was kicking her butt just as it was me. She said she thinks it appears she runs like that because she is very tall and has long legs because she surely doesn't feel like she's floating. Glad to know I wasn't the only one suffering LOL.

My nephew, Daniel, his wife, Shari, and their two boys participate every year
My cousin's first 5K
Michelle finished and met up with us and we all walked to over to where the awards ceremony was getting ready to start. We were able to get someone to take our picture while we waited so we'd have one with all the team members present. So I met my goal of a sub 25, now would I make the top 5 in my AG? First they announced the top three overall winners in the Survivor Male category and then they announced the top three overall winners in the Survivor Female Category. I was only half paying attention because in the years I've been doing this race, I've never even been close to being a contender so imagine my utter surprise and astonishment when they announced the 3rd place winner and it was me!! I started jumping all over the place as my team screamed and cheered for me. I started to cry! Never in a million years did I ever think I'd be running, much less winning overall anything. I was so excited and stoked when they announced my name, when I went up to get my award bounding like Tigger from Monica Robbins, a local TV personality, I didn't realize they were doing a group shot of all the overall female winners and walked back over to my family, missing being part of the group shot. LOL  My brother-in-law, who is a serious runner and almost always places in his AG, placed 3rd in his AG.
So excited to win my award I missed the group picture
Eric and I with our awards
After the awards, we all headed over to a local restaurant to celebrate an awesome day. As we were leaving the race, a woman came up to me and congratulated me on my award and asked what my time was. They didn't announce times when they handed out the awards which I thought was odd. I told her what my Garmin said and she said she sees me at a lot of races and always picks me out as one of the people to try to keep up with. Me?? Really??  Who woulda thunk it! Now I am not sharing that to brag, it just really meant a lot to me and was a big confidence booster (something I severely lack, just ask Paul), especially with the way I was feeling during the race and it made this special day even more so. Before we left lunch, the times had been posted on the website. My official time was 24:43 and I did not make the top 5 of my AG but rather 8th which was a bit of a surprise because I picked the top 5 goal based on last year's times and what I thought I might run. Just goes to show you never know who will show up on race day, even when it's raining. However, I didn't care, wining 3rd overall trumped a #5 in my AG hands down!

Yesterday just happened to be my 3.5 year anniversary as a cancer survivor to the day. A strange twist of fate? I think not. 12.5.12 will be a day I will never forget nor will 6.5.16. I am truly blessed for more reasons I can express and I can't thank my family and friends who help me just keep swimming…and running. If you made it all the way to the end, thank you for taking the time out of your day to read this. =)

Final thought: This race proves all the more to never let the feelings of self doubt, technology, or the voice inside your head that says you can't or you won't get the best of you. Sometimes you just have to let the cards fall as they may and be happy that you can and will cross the finish line. And when you get there, you may just surprise yourself.

Time: 24:43.3
3rd Place Overall Survivors Women (8/158 Overall Survivors)
8/127 AG
207/1,759 overall

Our team raised $1,018 and I personally raised $437. There is still time to donate to our team. The Gathering Place is accepting them through June 30.
Just Keep Swimming...and Running
Me, my mom, son, and sisters
My co-worker, Debbie, nevers misses a chance to race

Every mile a memory

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

It all started with a beer...celebrating 17 years of wedded bliss

"So tonight let's raise 'em up to where we ended up 

There's been highs, there's lows, fast lane freeways and bumpy roads, cursed the devil and prayed to heaven, lost it all when we rolled some sevens. Been more smiles than there's been tears, been more good than bad years. Ain't it crazy baby how we got here, Oh, it all started with a beer. Oh, it all started with an ice cold beer."

"It All Started with a Beer" ~ Frankie Ballard

I know my husband, Paul, hates honky tonk but the first time I heard this song I chuckled and then l got a little choked up thinking about us. It was in that moment when I knew this would be the song I would quote on our 17th anniversary. Love it or hate it, Paul, this song is so us.

Our first "date" was at the Chesterland Tavern. Our mutual friend, Anne, knew we both had an interest in each other so when she and Paul were both home on leave from the Marine Corps one December evening (the 21st…in 1996 to be exact), she arranged for the three of us to meet for a beer…or two… It was that night Paul and I started talking and when we walked out the door at the end of that evening, I knew he was it. My life was changed forever. Well, here we are today, celebrating our 17th wedding anniversary. Yep, it all started with a beer (and truth be told, a shot or two of Jager LOL).

There has been a lot highs and lows in the years we have been together and I am sure there have been times I have been a lot more than he bargained for but regardless what crazy has been thrown our way, here we are today. Love you always, honey.

Ain't it crazy baby how we got here, it all started with a beer❤️
May 29, 1999 ~ The day I married my Marine