When a House Becomes a Home

I often think about the words house versus home. Sometimes they are synonymous with one another. Sometimes they aren’t. While VB has been my home for some time now, I’ve always called the place where I reside a house. It could’ve been an apartment, a condo, a townhouse, or an actual house. It didn’t matter. As I settle into this place I purchased on my own, I find myself still struggling to call it a home. It’s my house, yes. But those definitive lines seemed to blur today as I literally dumped and crushed every last box. I was determined to make this house MY home.

The symbolic act of depleting my home of the simple cardboard box, a ways and means to maneuver one’s belongings from one place of residence to another, truly allowed the idea of my home to settle in. I have no need for the box any particular item came in. I am not saving it for the next move. I can truly put away the packing tape. I can proudly display both grandmother’s blenders proudly on a kitchen rack instead of keeping them swaddled in cloths and nestled in boxes marked “fragile,” and “NO, REALLY- I mean FRAGILE.”

As I slit the last piece of tape, and crushed the last box. I felt a sense of being grounded, of relief. No need to worry about how or why something will be shuffled around. No need to worry at all. Well, maybe a little about Murphy’s crazy, constantly wagging tail. And the sense of happy has come full circle again. #happyadventures

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The Ocean Can Giveth and the Ocean Can Taketh Away

There are moments where my mind drifts, and I’m not present where I physically exist. There are moments when I am fully present, and couldn’t feel more alive and aware of my surroundings. As I literally stood on a paddle board tonight, propelling myself forward with a paddle through the depths of the ever vast ocean, my body felt strong, my legs were shaking from my first body pump class earlier in the day, my cheeks, nose, and shoulders felt the kiss of the sun as it slid slowly down the sky, and a Cheshire Cat grin crept up my face. I was fully present in this moment. I was aware of how incredibly amazing it was to try two new types of physically challenging adventures today, and to be successful at both. It is no easy feat to “toss” around some weights. I think it’s even more challenging to go from your butt to your knees to your feet on a board that’s *maybe* two feet wide while its floating on the open ocean with nothing to hang onto. That’s some seriously balancing skills in motion!

I realize that the ocean is not something you ever take for granted. It is vast, it is deep, it will swallow you up in a hot minute. It is also majestic, calming, and one of the most soothing places to end your day. I relish these moments where I find my true happy place. I seek these moments. To be so happy my face seeks the sky instead of staring down the people around me, worried about them scrutinizing my extra padding. To be so happy, I am thrilled to see and cheer on the successes of others. I was so stoked when everyone in the class tonight stood up on their paddle boards! We did it! We trusted ourselves to be strong enough to balance on a board on the water! To be so happy, my anxiety seemed to vanish away. To be so happy, I didn’t care how sore my arms were getting from an earlier workout and from paddling. To be so happy, I truly was disconnected from the world of technology, and I was one with nature. I allowed Mama Nature to teach me it was ok to not fight the waves, but to ride them. It was ok to not be so tightly in control. To be so happy, I could just let go.

Sometimes we need those challenges that hurt so bad that you grin when you’re done because you KNOW you’ve pushed your mental and physical boundaries. Today was one of those days, and I couldn’t be more grateful for my friend, Sarah, for taking me out of my comfort zone. Life isn’t about control or conciseness or the time on the watch. Sometimes, it is fully about being in the moment, being connected with the people you are with, and being happy. As I curl up for the night with my favorite chocolate lab, I smell the mix of my coconut conditioner and the salt in my wet hair, and I smile because life isn’t about tomorrow. It’s about living right now.

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A Time Out, A Diagnosis, and A Deferral

Sometimes, I have to do things backwards before things get aligned in my life. I’ve been wanting to blog about the Wineglass Marathon, and my adventures home in NY, but things have taken precedence. I promise I will get to it… soon.

On to other things that are first and foremost these days: a time out from running, a diagnosis, and a deferral. After three very different, and very challenging marathons this year, my body, my legs, my mind, all need a vacation, or rather a hiatus from running. I never want to quit running. I never want to give up on running. However, I know when enough is enough, and I need a break from running. I am allowing myself some mileage right now, but it’s minimal, and it’s to keep my sanity. I can’t imagine not running…

I have a lot of time on my hands since I’m not currently training for a marathon. A LOT of time. It’s weird. I stare at Murphy, and wonder what to do next. Mind you, my to-do list is the length of both of my legs combined, but Murphy is loving the extra attention, walks, and ball chasing time. I’m learning what to do with my crockpot, and reading so much more than I have in months. Being in a runner time out is this weird, limbo-like realm of my life. I took two full weeks off after running the Wineglass Marathon, and literally was going stir-crazy from all the down time. The ghost pains mirrored those of the ones you typically get during taper. My restless legs kept me from the much needed sleep I craved. I had headaches and was frequently wondering why I was so cranky.

Fast-forward from the day of Wineglass to two Saturdays later, and you find me hopping out of bed at 5:30am to get ready to meet some members of my training team for a run. A TEN MILE RUN. Who does that? Who does a recovery run of 10 miles after a marathon? Me. Yes, it was stupid. Yes, my legs rebelled, and I was waddling like a duck the next few days. I was back in a funk, and I hated it. I tried again that Tuesday and felt like I was running through a tub of peanut butter, backwards. My legs refused to go any faster. “That’s it,” I thought. “I’m done.” Imagine feeling like this humungous part of your life was just ripped out from under you, and you couldn’t ever have it again. That’s how I felt that Tuesday night. It was all I could do to not stop, and burst into tears in front of my teammate who stuck it out with me at that crazy crawl (it wasn’t even worthy of the word RUN.) My legs ached so badly I was afraid to even speak of it, with the fear of injury lurking behind the pain. I soothed my legs in a hot Epsom salt bath, and slept restlessly with my legs twitching away that night.

This little adventure solidified my decision to defer the Harbor Lights Half Marathon. My body has been through enough this year between all of the smaller races and three full marathons. I know myself well enough to know that if I don’t defer the race, I will push to my capacity, and in turn risk injury instead of allowing my body to heal as it needs to. Recovery is now my focus, despite the sour, sinking feeling in my stomach I have after hitting “confirm” on the deferral of Harbor Lights Half. Recovery is why I need a “runner time out.” My body needs to heal. I need to rest, and to sleep in after getting up earlier on the weekends than I do during the week for the past several YEARS. My focus during my “runner time out” is time with Murphy, friends, family, rest, and my nutrition. Watch for my runner time out posts, as I am sure I will have more to post about. I recently took another yoga class that forced my abs to shake like they were in Zumba class. Might as well get my core stronger while my legs rest, right?

Well, we’ve covered a time out and a deferral… on to the diagnosis. There’s a quote out there that refers to the fact that everyone is fighting a battle, and there’s no need to bring them down with you, but rather lift them up instead. I don’t share what I am about to share to seek sympathy, or attention. I am just sharing for awareness, as I know other runners out there are dealing with this also. I struggled the past few years with some pretty severe cases of bronchitis and sinus and or ear infections. I didn’t think too much into it at the time because I work day in and day out with children, who as we all know, can bring lots of germs that can make anyone sick.

Last December was the beginning of a different story. I started the training cycle for the Shamrock Half with my team, and got sick pretty early on into the training. Fast forward six months, and imagine having fought through several bouts of sinus infections, asthmatic bronchitis, the flu, and a recurring cough that wouldn’t go away. Imagine trying to train through all of this feeling like an elephant is sitting on your chest, and you are breathing through a straw… ALL the time. Imagine not being able to breathe, and having to stop mid-run, despite the fact your endurance proves you are more than capable of running miles upon miles without stopping. Imagine coughing uncontrollably before, during, and after a run.

Fast forward a few more months, and a few more conversations with several medical professionals.

asthma

Imagine your breath being knocked out of you, and every last dream of running faster than you ever have before just blowing away in the wind. Imagine those bucket list dreams of ever qualifying for Boston slipping away. I let those sad, hurtful thoughts roll around for a few days. I cried many, many hot tears. I got angry. I threw things. I took Murphy on several drives so he could stick his head out the window, and I could clear my head.

Then I decided I wasn’t a quitter.

Other runners have asthma. Mine had just gone undiagnosed for quite some time, and now I needed a way to handle it and move forward. I started talking about it. I asked questions. I got a “trusty” inhaler to carry with me on all my runs. I got another inhaler I have to use every day. I learned that I have to ask for help when I can’t breathe while running. I learned that I have to tell people that I have asthma so that they know if something is suddenly wrong, they can help. I’ve learned that I have an amazing support system. My running buddies, teammates, friends, and family have all stepped up to show their support for me through all of this. They have proven that I CAN still run despite the asthma diagnosis. I, again, just need to listen to my body.

As I take this runner time out, I will continue to reflect on what I can do to be a better, stronger, more fit, healthier runner. This new chapter in my life includes working on controlling my asthma, but it DOES NOT mean I will back down. I am still a runner. I am still chasing my goals and dreams.

Dear Boston,

We aren’t finished yet.

Because I am DR1V3N.

Live. Love. Run. PASSIONATELY.

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Miles to Minnesota for MS: Grandma’s Marathon 2015

How do I even begin? My journey to Grandma’s Marathon was not the normal way to get to a race. I didn’t go online and sign up, I didn’t just opt to sign-up for a race in a state I had never been to, and I certainly didn’t decide to do three marathons in one year again. But then it happened… I won the entry into Grandma’s Marathon via Fitsok’s Facebook page. They offered the race entry for the best reason to want to run it. Grandma’s Marathon had been on my bucket list of races since I found out about it from some other runners and via a Runner’s World article calling it one of the top ten to run in the U.S. I responded to their contest, stating this, and unbeknownst to me, I was chosen as the winner of the race entry that night. One of my running buddies had to text me to tell me to check Facebook to see that I had won. Her question was “Are you ready to run another marathon this year?” I was clueless til I read the post that I was chosen. I was certain my coach was going to shoot me for putting another marathon in the books. I was wrong. He loved the idea of me running a race with a long standing reputation.

And so it began… plans of travels, and places to stay, and what to do when I got there. Plans of figuring out my work schedules, and where Murphy would stay started to fall into place. Then it hit me. This was good karma. I needed to put good karma back into the world, and it needed to be related to this race. I talked with some friends, and opted to open a GiveForward page in honor of my Dad, who has been fighting Multiple Sclerosis for longer than I have been alive. I set a lofty goal for a fundraiser in hopes of being able to make a sizable contribution in honor of my Dad. Once I started reading all the details on Grandma’s Marathon’s webpage, I realized I could also be a part of the MS Society team and run to “Finish MS.” Once I had raised the appropriate amount, I reached out to the head of the committee for the team, and shared my story about my Dad and his battle with MS. I was given instructions on how to sign up and to transfer the funds to the MS Society in his honor. I was officially a part of the MS Society “Finish MS” running team for Grandma’s Marathon!

With all the logistics falling into place, I practiced packing a backpack to hold all of my necessary belongings and running gear for this four day adventure to Duluth, Minnesota. I was determined to travel with just a backpack and a mostly empty bag so that I wouldn’t have to cart a ton of stuff around at the expo when I arrived, nor would I have to check any bags at the airport. I successfully managed to fit it all in my backpack, and tossed a book, an empty water bottle, and a hoodie in my extra bag at the last minute as I left my home.

My flight was at 7:15am EST heading to Duluth. I hugged Murphy one more time, and headed out the door. I was excited, and nervous, and ready to get there. I kept my fingers crossed there were no flight delays. I arrived at the airport, went through security, and still managed to wait a bit before boarding my flight. Who knows why it takes so long to actually board a flight, but they always manage to drag it out, even when it’s a puddle jumper. As I got on the plane, settled in, and hooked my seatbelt, I again crossed my fingers that we would take off before there was any chance for a delay. Thankfully, we took off quickly, and were up and away before I knew it. I took out my book, and tried to read a few pages, but my eyes wouldn’t focus. I nestled my head against the seat and my hoodie, and closed my eyes for a while. Sometimes the best naps are the short ones you sneak in when you can.

I opted to photojournal my journey and took some pictures when I woke up to the Captain turning the seatbelt sign off. The flight attendant offered me a drink, and I chose the spicy Bloody Mary mix without the vodka. I certainly could use the extra salt and the vitamins from the tomato juice before my race. I had to stay hydrated also as I flew. I attempted a Sudoku puzzle or two, but failed miserably. I opted to draw a picture of a person pushing numbers up over a hill to make a pattern in the magazine instead. Enjoy next person who sits there! Enjoy. The Captain soon told us we would be landing at O’Hare Airport, and I was again getting anxious about my connecting flight. I knew I had about four hours between flights, but I just hoped my connecting flight was on time so I could get to the expo in enough time to get my bib for the race!

Once in Chicago, I rode the bus to my next departing terminal, grabbed some food, and wandered around for a bit. Once I settled into my gate, I put my legs up the wall to ease some tightness in my hamstrings, and to just relax. Must be people don’t see others doing yoga in the airport often. I didn’t care. It helped me. I worked on my book some more, and made it a few chapters before I started texting people to say hello. Soon enough, I got a text from United Airlines saying my gate had changed, and I made the walk to the next gate.

Shortly after getting to the gate, we were boarding for my flight to Duluth. It was on time! The whole way to Duluth, I managed to sleep once again, and only woke as the Captain said we were about to land. I was pumped to be getting off the plane, and landing in Minnesota. Once we landed, or rather bounced down the run way, I made my way to the waiting taxis. I found a taxi to make to the convention center where I would be picking up my packet, meeting the committee director of the MS Society running team, and eating a spaghetti dinner!

I’ve been to plenty of expos before, but this one was pretty large, yet fairly organized. There were so many people there, that even with the wide aisles between booths, it was challenging to maneuver with my backpack on. As light as I traveled, I wonder if there would be a way to rent a locker space or something for the next time I travel like this. I introduced myself to the awesome owners of Fitsok who gave me the entry to Grandma’s Marathon, (Thanks Jeff and Mike!), managed to find my way through the official race apparel section of the expo with only a jacket and a 26.2 Grandma’s Marathon sticker, and then found my way to the MS Society tent outside.

I was just tired from all the travel and was ready to put some food in my belly. Once I got my spaghetti dinner ticket, I made my way to the area of the convention center to get food. I wasn’t sure how good this meal would be considering it was made en masse. It was surprisingly really yummy! They even had chocolate milk to drink and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for dessert! I was sold! I had one of those high school moments when I had my tray in hand, and scanned the whole eating area. Who was I going to sit with? I finally made my way to a table, and just asked if I could sit down. I met some people who were also running the race, and had run it several times. I got a quick description of what the course was really like, and what to expect on race day. It’s nice finding locals at out of town races. They really do give you the scoop.

I finished my dinner, and made a buddy who dropped me off at where I was staying for the duration of my trip. I checked in, and immediately changed into running gear for a shakeout run. I explored the area around where I stayed, and made my way back. I figured it was better to do a shorter run, than to keep exploring and be too tired. By then, I was ready for a shower, and to put my feet up. It was nearing 7pm East Coast time, and I was tired from having been up since 5am EST. I talked to Coach about strategy for the race while I was icing my legs down one last time. I took a quick shower, got settled into my pajamas, set out everything I would need the next day for the race, and read for a little bit more before calling it a night. I had an early morning ahead of me. Fortunately, I slept really well, and woke up at 4am CST with no problems. I was so excited about the race that I had butterflies in my stomach! I looked outside and saw no sunshine, but no rain either. I was hopeful the weatherman was wrong, and we wouldn’t get any storms or rain.

I quickly put on my running gear, ate my breakfast, and made my way down to the shuttle in front of the building by 5:10am. I was ready to go. I forgot that since this race is a point to point race, we had to ride the bus all the way to the start line, and I was staying closer to the finish line. Thankfully, the shuttle turned out to be a coach bus, and it rode really smoothly the entire way there. I sat next to a man who had run this race before, and he talked the whole way to the start line, distracting me from thinking about what I was about to do. We pull up to the starting line area, and had to wait our turn to get off the bus. There were so many buses there that I lost count, and each one was packed with runners! How awesome is that to see all these runners ready to roll so early in the morning!

As we walked towards the starting line, I realized how chily it actually was outside, and pulled my hoodie out of my checked bag, and over my head. 57 degrees felt chilly after having left the high 90s at the beach with high humidity. I knew I was cold now, but that it would be great once the race started. We arrived just before 7am, and had 45 minutes before the race would begin. I opted to not give up my hoodie nor my checked bag yet, and made my way to the porta-potty for the first of several times. As I waited in line, it started to rain, but it was really sporadic. Once I got out of the porta-potty and was walking around to stay loose, the sky opened up and it POURED. I managed to sneak under an umbrella with a few ladies, but I don’t know that it really helped because I was already wet, and it was only 7:15am. Now I was chilly, and wet, and shivering. I was doing my best to stay calm so I didn’t waste much energy. I needed to be mentally ready for the race. I focused on getting my headphone wires fed through the back of my sports bra. I used my “lucky” inhaler. I talked to the ladies about where I am from, and how the weather is so different right now. I pulled on my MS Society hat that I grabbed last minute in case it did rain. I adjusted my ponytail so the hat would fit. It was now 7:30am, still pouring, and the wind was blowing. I had to suck it up to peel off my hoodie, turn in my checked bag, and make it to the porta-potty one last time.

Some tall guy stepped on the back of my shoe as I got in line, and then offered to share his tarp to keep me out of the rain for being a jerk. I took advantage. It was better than shivering again. He left it with me when people started to line up in the corrals. I knew I had 8 minutes, and that the timing chip time would start when I did. I stayed in the porta-potty line until it was my turn. As I came out, a train was going by with friends and families waving at us and wishing us luck. That was pretty awesome! Just as I got in the corrals, the middle corrals started to take off. The rain kept coming, and I was shivering, but walking towards the start line was making my grimace quickly turn to a smile. I was ready. I reassured myself that I had trained in the pouring rain, on bridges no less, and I was ready.

I turned on my Garmin, and we finally got to the start line. Off we went with the rain pouring, and everyone cheering. I was full-on grinning like the Cheshire Cat. I was ready to go, to prove that I could tackle the marathon distance once again. By this point my fingers were prune-y and really, really cold. I was so glad I opted for my capris at the last minute because my bare shoulders were covered in goose bumps until close to mile 2. I saw people running in trash bags, watched as people pitched extra layers in the middle of the street, carefully stepped my way around each thing in the road, and maneuvered my way through the runners not going my pace. I saw a sign up ahead for Murphy Street, and knew I had to take a fast picture while I was starting to warm up before I had to be serious. I snapped a picture of the street sign and the other runners around me who were just as soaking wet as I was. It was proof that we did it, in the pouring rain, with puddles in the street.

I put my phone away, plugged my earbuds back in, and kept on trucking. I knew my focus for the race was to maintain a steady pace throughout, and to gradually decrease my time per mile every 8 miles. I knew to check in with myself and be realistic about what I could hold, what was too much, and when I was talking negatively to myself. I started with a 10:20 pace, and found myself picking it up just because of my giddiness for the race. I knew if I didn’t reign it in, I would be spent towards the back 3rd of the race, just like every other marathon, and I wasn’t willing to do that. As I ran, I tried to take in my surroundings and really see who and what was around me. Within mile two, another train with more friends and families passed us, and I enthusiastically waved at them as they went by. Talk about having a feel good moment! I know I didn’t know any of these people, but having a train go by us like that made me feel like a celebrity! We had our own paparazzi!

The scenery in Minnesota was absolutely gorgeous! The rain seemed to only intensify how green everything was, and there was so much to look at. These Minnesotans are some serious loggers. I honestly forgot how many log cabins, log signs, log trucks, and log references we passed as we ran because I lost count!! They also seem to love their moose, and I thought that was super cute as well. I realized as we continued to run how some people really seemed uncomfortable running in the rain. I felt bad for them, but was super thankful for all the wet runs I had done, and just kept moving forward. I felt really good through the first 8 miles, and stayed within my range for time.

As I approached mile 9, I started to increase my time to a 10:15 pace. At that point, we were going up one of many “rolling hills” that echo the Rudee’s Inlet Bridge, and I went by feel rather than pace. The hills didn’t feel like a challenge to me after all those bridge repeats I have been doing since December. It was nice to know my legs were well prepared for them. By mile 11, I noticed my tummy wasn’t very happy, and that I would soon need a porta-potty. I was highly disappointed, but didn’t want to risk not being anywhere near one on the course. I tried to stop at mile 12, but despite the short line, the runners in the porta-potties were not moving fast enough for me. As I stood there waiting, another runner went by and mentioned that up near mile 13 were about 100 porta-potties. She wasn’t kidding. At mile 13, I made my visit, and quickly hurried on my way, with a happy tummy.

By this point, the rain had tapered but not out and out stopped. By mile 16, I had seen a lot of the beautiful Lake Superior and was in awe of such an incredible sight to see while running this race. The sun started to peek out from behind the clouds and the humidity that came with it felt like someone had just thrown a wool blanket over my head. My legs felt heavy, my breathing wasn’t so steady, and I had to do a quick mental check-in and remind myself that it was okay to slow down a bit to regroup, and get moving. I allowed myself to walk through the next couple water stops, and pour water over my head to cool down. Soon enough the sun went away, and it started to half mist, half rain again. While the rain felt good, the temperature had increased, and the pace had slowed with it. I found myself behind a couple running together that was pushing my previous pace, and I forced myself to stay with them. I distracted myself by looking at Lake Superior, which reminds me of the ocean with endless blue water, and is surrounded by evergreen trees.

I found that I was arguing with myself about sticking with this couple. They were staying within about 10 to 20 seconds on either side of a 10:20, which it where I wanted to be, but after the little burst of heat, my legs didn’t want to cooperate. I fought it. I didn’t want to give in. I stuck it out with them until mile 20 when they backed off and walked longer than the water stop. By this point in the race, we had had very little cheers or signs or support on the course due to the way the race was set up from point to point. Around mile 20, the spectators started to get more plentiful, and it was definitely the boost I needed. I wanted so badly to be as consistent as I could for the race, but I felt my pace falling back. I was hot, and I knew I needed more salt tabs, and more cold sponges to squeeze water over my head. For those last miles, I kept checking in on myself on how I felt, tummy, head, legs, tummy, head, legs. Oh man. My fingers looked like sausages. Time for more salt tabs.

I felt my pace wavering, and I looked at my Garmin. It was mile 21, and I needed to push, even if it meant I was a low 11:00 pace. That was closer to 10:20 than a 14:00 walking pace. The miles seemed to drag by. I felt like 1/10 of a mile was FOR.EV.ER. Then I fussed at myself. This is nothing. It’s a loop around the neighborhood. There isn’t that much left. PUSH IT ERICA. As I passed the spectators, I held out my hand. I needed the high fives. I needed the motivation. I needed that push to keep going to get me across that finish line. I picked it up. I hit Lemon Drop Hill, and made it 2/3 of the way up before my right calf started to cramp. I refused to think about it. Cramp or no cramp, I was getting over the hill and finishing. I gave in enough to walk a bit. I hit the top of that hill, and I started running again. I knew that only smaller hills were left for me, and It was not going to be a challenge.

The signs started showing up in spectators’ hands. “Don’t poop, you’re almost there!” “Smile if you aren’t wearing underwear!” “Powerboost here!” “Free hugs!” “Free beer!!!” I had a kid chase after me with candy, and all I could do was shake my head “no.” Sometimes I wonder how I get out the “thank you” to the volunteer who hands me water at the end of a race. It takes a lot of energy to talk when you are running hard. Miles 22-nearly 25 were mostly downhill, and man did it feel really good on the legs to let my bodyweight pull me down those hills. People were cheering and clapping, and telling us we were almost there. I grinned. This time they weren’t lying. I saw a big sign on Superior Street that said “Welcome Runners.” Way to make us feel special, Duluth! That was a welcome sign to see that close to the end of the race.

At that point, we were running on a brick road, and my fear was slipping and falling after all the rain we had run through. Somehow, my feet managed to stay under me, and after struggling with the humidity, I suddenly felt strong again. I counted down by half miles at this point because I kept looking at my Garmin, wishing the miles would go by faster. I probably looked at it too much, but it kept me doing math in my head to distract me from what my legs were doing. We got towards the 24 mile marker and started making all kinds of turns to get to the finish line. I felt the energy around me from the crowds rising, and the energy of the runners dropping. I had to pick it up, or I would have been sucked in. I wanted to finish the race as consistently as I had started the race. I didn’t want to give into the desire to walk. I passed the 24 mile marker and found my breath ragged. I slowed to a walk for a hot second, sucked in some deep breaths, and took off again. I was NOT walking again. I was too close to finishing to even justify such a “break.” With each turn, I was getting more and more anxious to see the finish line. I turned the corner around the convention center where I had picked up my race packet just the day before. I saw the gorgeous water of Lake Superior once again and the overcast sky. I spotted the MS Society tent, and knew I was less than a mile away. The runners in front of me slowed to a walk, and I only took it as fuel to my fire, and picked up my pace. I heard a man shouting that we were only ½ a mile from the finish line. I knew it was a bit further, but I dug in anyways. I quit looking at my Garmin. I focused on not running anyone over, on taking the shortest tangent at each of the next corners, and at the faces of the crowd who were cheering us on.

I finally could see the finish line, and judged the point at which I would need to pick it up once again to be able to hold a flat out sprint. I targeted that point, I made the step, and went into sprinter mode. I gave it all the energy I had left, and flew through the finish chute. I was done. I had finished. I looked at my Garmin as I paused. It said 6:50 pace just before I hit the stop and save buttons. I was sprinting the last 3/10 of a mile in under 6:50 pace when I had just run 26 miles before? HOLY CANNOLI. I had done it. I finished my 7th marathon! I grabbed my water, my flower, my medal, and took a finisher’s picture.

I found someone at the medical tent to help me massage my calves to get the throbbing to stop, and to get the blood to flood the muscles again. I sucked down some powerade. I checked my split times. I had managed to run a mostly consistent race for 26.FREAKING2 miles! I had done it! Was it a PR? No. Did it matter? No. I had done what I had set out; I enjoyed an absolutely gorgeous race and I had run it consistently. I know that running a consistent race will someday get me to Boston. Right now, let me revel in my journey called Grandma’s Marathon. 26.2 is done in 4:45:15 for an overall average pace of 10:45! Woot woot! I beat those dinosaurs again!!!!

Live. Love. Run. Passionately!

 

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Life Lessons on the Run

There are times when you realize that no matter how prepared you can be for a situation, you still aren’t prepared enough. Today was one of those days. It’s very clear to me that my body has not yet acclimated to weather that climbs the thermometer quickly with 99% humidity and a high dew point.

I had prepared for today’s run with an insulated water bottle, packed with ice, 2/3 Gatorade, and 1/3 water, two packs of shot bloks, several salt tabs, and my “lucky” inhaler.  The route I had picked out had shade, water fountains, and bathroom stops.  It still wasn’t enough to combat the heat and humidity and the way my body handled it today. I took a salt tab before I left for the run.  I drank a full glass of water before I even left home. I ate shot bloks and salt tabs at regular intervals. I still had to stop and use my inhaler between miles 4 and 5 because the density of the air made it nearly impossible to breathe.  I try not to rely on  it, but today I am glad I did. I realized how little I was breathing once I used it.

I am thankful for my running buddy, Tracy, who toughed it out with me today.  I don’t know that I would have made it as far as I did without her encouragement and company. I was really struggling with heat exhaustion today.  I am pretty sure that the intensity of my two other training runs this week (bridge repeats and a barefoot run on the beach) only intensified the tiredness in my legs from the beginning of today’s run.

To add to all of this, I miscalculated how far our run would actually be.  The intended 16 turned into 18, and my intended pace flew out the window after the first 6 miles when the heat exhaustion hit me. Being overheated is not something to take lightly.  Walk breaks, running water over your wrists and face, and staying in the shade are some of the ways I was able to combat the overheated feeling I had.

I am super thankful for my teammates and friends from the J&A training team for waiting around at Murphy’s until I was done, for cheering for me as I finished the last block, and for taking care of me as I sat down and the heat exhaustion turned to visible shakes and a pasty white complexion.  They got me quickly taken care of with orange slices, ice water, an ice pack, Gatorade, an extra Gu, a drink with magnesium, and finding ways to regulate my body temperature after completing all 18 miles.  I knew my salt and sugar levels in my blood stream were low when I sat down and started shivering. I consumed what I could handle, laid the ice pack on my neck, and soaked in the feeling of sitting  after being on my feet for over 3 hours.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time I’ve dealt with heat exhaustion this bad, but this is exactly why I bring it up.  It’s good to know your body, to know what you can handle, and to listen instead of pushing through and ending up worse off.  While I completed my miles today, I knew there would be consequences at the end that I could handle and friends to help me get through it. In this weather, it’s always good to let someone know where you are going, be as prepared as you can be, and listen to your body along the way.

Training is important, being smart about it is even more so.  Thank you to Tracy, Kim, John, Justin, and Steve for looking out for me today. It means the world to me!

Grandma’s Marathon is in 22 days!!! After today, I think I can handle a race in cooler weather, around a lake, and with less humidity!!!

Live. Love. Run. Passionately!

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Blue Ridge Marathon 2015

For the second time in my life, I have run the Blue Ridge Marathon. I ran the marathon that is trademarked as “America’s Toughest Road Marathon” TWICE. Holy cannoli, I ran over 7,430 feet of elevation change two times in two years.

Sometimes I still don’t believe it. Then I ran 6 miles on Saturday, one week after the BRM, and my glutes and hamstrings reminded me what I had just done. My body is taking longer to recover than it did last year, but I think it’s for a number of reasons. My training this time around was very different than it has been before. I actually incorporated cross-training one to two times in a week in the form of yoga. As much as I still don’t love yoga, I see the drastic benefits of getting limber after a particularly difficult run. I fueled differently. I purposely ate more protein the day before my long run to fuel my muscles better. I have not always been so good about this since I am not a big meat eater. My protein came in the form of chicken and eggs; sometimes to the point of me not wanting to ever look at a chicken again. I trained on the various bridges in the area once a week, and I did NOT slack off at all on the bridge repeats.

As the days got closer to the race day of April 18, 2015, my anxiety slowly began to increase. The more I was asked about the race, the more my anxiety levels rose. I couldn’t put my finger on the why. About two days before race day, I had already arrived in Roanoke to visit with family, and as I was talking about the race, the truth came out. The reason for my anxiety was because this race wasn’t for anyone else. This race was for ME. As selfish as that may sound, it literally shook me to the core. This race was about how well I could do. It wasn’t about making a goal for someone else. It wasn’t about coming full circle in a journey home, like last year’s first time running the Blue Ridge Marathon, when I ran it for my Mom. It wasn’t to impress anyone. It was to not disappoint. It was to not fail. It was to successfully complete this flippin’ hard marathon by kicking my time from last year’s race to the freakin’ curb!

Surprisingly, I slept well both Thursday and Friday nights. This never happens. I am usually a bundle of nerves the night before the race. I did manage to wake up exactly 15 minutes before my alarm clock was to go off. I wasn’t jolted awake by any horrible marathon dreams, but rather the peaceful thought that it was go time. I didn’t rush around like I normally do to get ready. I had set out everything I needed in one spot the night before. I got up, made my oatmeal, set it on the counter to cool, and went to wash my face and brush my teeth. It was go time. I got into my gear, donned my bright pink headband that my stepdad had chosen out of my collection for me to wear, tied a purple ribbon in my hair, pinned my bib on, and double knotted my shoes. I let Murphy outside one more time before I grabbed my fuel belt, and headed out the door onto the silent, early morning lit roads.

I drove with my mind on what was ahead of me in just a short hour. I parked around 6:30a.m., turned the radio on, and put in a cd I had made a few years ago with some of my favorite music. I cranked it loud, and let it play. I was jamming in my car at 6:30am, on a Saturday, in downtown Roanoke. Some older guy, around my stepdad’s age, pulled up behind me and parked. I saw the look. He was watching me. He kinda shook his head, and then grinned when I looked at him. Maybe he got it. Maybe he didn’t. It didn’t matter. I needed that moment to just chill out before I got out of the car. I finally turned the car off, and got out. I put on my fuel belt, unhooked my car key from my other keys, tucked it safely in my pocket, took out my trusty “lucky” inhaler and used what was required by the doc. It wasn’t chilly out, more of a balmy 56 degrees and super muggy, but I shivered anyways. As I got closer and closer to the start line, I knew the shivering wasn’t at all from the cold. My anxiety was starting to get to me. It was a lot of pressure on me to do well. A LOT. It was a lot of pressure on me to succeed, even from my stepdad who jokingly told me to not fall flat on my face. I felt the old shallow breathing begin, and quickly texted a few friends. I took a shaky picture of an even shakier smile and eyes that reflected how I terrified I was to be toeing the line at this race. I posted it on facebook to ease the anxiety, to show that I was attempting to be brave, and to get the support I so desperately needed to calm the palpitations in my heart. This was my freakin’ sixth marathon. Why was I so incredibly anxious? Why was I ready to burst into tears?

Obviously, I had it written all over my face. A lady turned to me in the bathroom line and asked if I was okay. She put her hand on my arm, and I felt the tears ready to spill over. I just shook my head as little as possible so they wouldn’t go spilling down my face. The messages started pouring in via texts and facebook. My running buddies were awake and at it. They knew today was a big day. THE DAY. They understood my fears. Some gave me permission to cry. Some told me to be strong. Some said to just breathe and take it one step at a time. Some sent love and good running vibes. Some just sent love and hugs. God, I have such amazing friends and support. I am SO thankful for it. After four trips to the porta-potty, mostly to sit in solitude for just another second, I found some of my running buddies who I knew were also running today. One of my friends went to college with me at Lynchburg, and we frequent a lot of the same races in Virginia. He gave me a hug, and I started to feel a bit better. I saw some other familiar faces, and some of the anxiety started to let go. We all wished each other a good race, and found our spots in our honor system corrals.

I put in my ear phones, got my watch ready, and sucked in several deep breaths. This race is for me. It’s ok to be nervous. Trust your training. TRUST it. The corrals started to move, and finally corral C was off, and heading under the start line. The first thing we encounter? A hill. Was I gasping for air or fighting to go over it? No. My training had prepared me for these hills, these mountains, I was about to tackle. I kept a consistent pace, tried not to obsessively look at my watch, turned my music up, and smiled as I got going. This was MY race, and I was going to go it MY way. I could hear the words of wisdom in my head as I ran. “Run strong. Trust your training. Put your heart into it. Stay steady. Be strong.” As I stood in line at the porta-potties early, I quickly realized that Siri could read me text messages, and that I could respond all via voice command. I didn’t care that anyone thought I was talking to myself. It was useful.

I didn’t care to listen to any of the messages I heard pinging in my ear as they arrived. I wanted to save them until the race got tough and I needed/wanted the motivation to keep going. We quickly reached the base of Roanoke Mountain, the steepest mountain of the whole race, and started our way to the top. I was determined to run as much of this race as I possibly could, knowing that some of the steepness of the mountain may force me to take walk breaks and then continue to run up it. I made it to two miles up the mountain until I had to take a walk break to catch my breath. We had run nearly straight up for two miles, and the air wasn’t as easy to come by as usual, and my glutes were burning already. I was trying to not get too down on myself for walking already, but I also knew I had another 24 miles ahead of me, and I certainly didn’t need to burn out this soon. I walked until my ragged breathing got back under control, and I continued run/walk intervals as needed til we got to the top of that mountain.

When we finally reached the highest peak, we were met with trays of oranges, gummy bears, pretzels, and other treats. I was so thankful to be at the top, I smiled, and sucked in huge breaths as I walked through grabbing a few orange slices. I snuck a quick selfie of me with the Roanoke Valley wayyyyyy behind me. I had tackled the first side of the first mountain. What goes up must come down. I walkie talkie messaged my brother and his girlfriend, who were patiently waiting to hear my progress while they were snuggled inside in cold, upstate New York. My brother reminded me to stay hydrated, as I had mentioned to him earlier that it was going to be a hotter than expected race temperature wise. I let him know I had just downed two cups of water at the aid station and eaten a few orange slices. My family’s support of my running endeavors means the world to me. My brother’s unfailing words of wisdom at the absolute perfect moment, every single time, remind me of how grateful I am he is my brother, and how much he not only supports my running, but just me. I got a message back from his girlfriend and I could hear him laughing in the background as she reminded him to not just stare at the phone but to say something. We seriously have our British grandparents’ sense of humor. I didn’t have to hear any words, his laughter was enough to make me grin. I felt my steps starting to get faster as I made my way back down Roanoke Mountain. Going down is the hardest part because you try so hard to not kill your quads when you know you have so many more miles to go, but at the same time you just want to let your body fly back down the mountain, taking advantage of the momentum of your body weight and gravity propelling you forward.

I got about a third of the way down the mountain to the next aid station, and stopped for my only visit to the porta-potty. I seriously don’t know how people go an entire race without stopping. They must be dehydrated the whole way. I think running down the mountain shook everything out of my bladder on the way down. As I left the porta-potty, and started up the next incline that led to the next downhill, I noticed a pair of guys who had been running about the same pace as me. I caught up to them, and asked how they could let a girl pass them, especially after I had stopped at the porta-potty. Who knows why I felt so brazen to taunt… Maybe it was my way of getting out of my head and pushing forward. At this point, we were nine miles in, and I was feeling strong. I felt like I had found the group of marathoners I would stick with throughout the race as we moved along, but was surprised at how much the group fluctuated. Some people fell way back, and then eventually caught up. Some stayed ahead, just within my line of vision, and were whom I concentrated on as I kept moving forward. Others fell back, and I fear the rising temperatures and humidity really got to them. As we moved along, that balmy 56 degrees quickly escalated into the hottest day of the spring that Roanoke had seen so far this year. The sun was shining so brightly that I felt the sunscreen I had so carefully applied was melting away.

As we made our way up to Mill Mountain, I was so focused at getting to the top and keeping salt tabs in my system, that I totally missed seeing the Roanoke Star and enjoying the overlook. I was focused on keeping moving, and by this point, I was listening and responding to text messages on my walk intervals. I tried my best to keep the walk intervals to a minimum, but I felt they were necessary as I moved along so that my body temperature wouldn’t spike to the point of heat exhaustion, and my breathing wouldn’t get so ragged to cause me to need my “lucky” inhaler. I kept ingesting a steady flow of orange slices along the course at each aid station, and taking my shotbloks as needed in-between. I am so thankful that I remembered salt tabs this year. I swear I went through 7-8 of them. I saw so many people stopping and sitting down from the cramping and dizziness. I knew it was from the heat, dehydration, and depletion of salt and magnesium in their bodies. I offered salt tabs, but many just wanted water. I haven’t run much with music over the winter because I usually had someone to talk to during my training runs, and didn’t really feel it was necessary. I found it refreshing to be able to respond to and listen to text messages and walkie talkie messages via Siri, as well as, going back and forth to music by simple voice commands.

As we came down Mill Mountain, I knew the last mountain would be the toughest one. It wasn’t the highest, but it had so many switchbacks, and such steep curves that if you continued to run each one, you were bound to knee yourself in the nose. I made my run/walk intervals shorter in time, and continued to press on. There were some points where not a single marathoner was running. We were doing our best just to get to the top of Peakwood. Pressing forward with one foot at a time, we were determined to get to the top, where each volunteer’s sign kept claiming was “just a little ways away.” We reached the flattest part of Peakwood, and I ran into one of my childhood friends who was volunteering. I know Serena was cheering for me. I could see her and hear her, and I asked her for a hug. I don’t know if I was delirious from the heat, or just fighting too hard to get up to the top, but she didn’t hear me. She kept cheering though and told me that I got this. I was going to finish strong. She can’t even begin to grasp how much I needed that encouragement right then. She was so right. Her words and smile gave me the pep I needed to press on as I ran down the other side of Peakwood, leaning forward to the point of being fearful of literally falling on my face. When they say the elevation change is steep and that there are switchbacks on this part of the course, they are NOT joking. I had to back peddle my feet at one point because I seriously thought I was going to fall. I slowed my steps to walk to gain my footing, and then started running again, allowing the momentum to carry me back down the mountain.

As we finally came out of the Peakwood neighborhood, and popped out onto a less dizzying, more straight road, I ran into my 7th grade English teacher who I have not seen in YEARS! I could see her as I came down the road, and instead of turning the corner, I made a wide arc and opened my arms as I literally ran into her. She hugged me tight, and kicked off her shoes, as she ran with me down her road. She promised to be in touch as soon as the race was done, hugged me again, and I was off for the last 5ish miles of the race. Mrs. Mary Ellen Stokes- you so rock! You helped make my day by running with me! I’ve missed your smiling face and sweet words!

I flew on words of encouragement, text messages in my ears, lyrics to amazing songs I actually was tuned into, and the waves, high fives, and shouts of the volunteers and spectators for the last five miles. I imagined that T-Rex was chasing me, swearing that his arms weren’t long enough, but that he was going to get me anyways. I feared if my legs quit moving, I wouldn’t be able to finish. Every time I wanted to walk, I pushed myself to go a bit further before I allowed a few seconds of walking. I reminded myself the worst was over. It was only rolling hills from here on out. I had completed the three worst parts: Roanoke Mountain, Mill Mountain, and Peakwood. I ticked off the miles, and looked for the awesome signs the race put out about each mile. I waved at the other marathoners and reminded them we only had a few miles to go. They encouraged me as they passed too. We realized we were in this together as we looped around an area and back before hitting the final three miles. That’s when I really began to notice how far spread out this group of marathoners was, and how close one of those guys I had taunted earlier had stayed to me throughout the race.

The sun was really beating down on us, and every time I got a cup of water, I got a second one to pour over my head and down my back. I tried a cup of Gu Brew about half way through the race, and spit it out because it was so sickeningly sweet. I opted to continue with my salt tabs as planned. As I continued along the course, I felt a sense of comfort knowing how much further I had to go since I was familiar with the course for having run it last year. I knew I needed to text my stepdad and let him know I was only a few miles out from the finish, and would be off from the original estimated finish time a bit due to the heat. I swear he read my mind because he texted me first. It’s funny to hear Siri say things that are being read from a dude’s text. I reminded him I needed Gatorade or something at the end of the race because it was so hot.

As I made my way along the last three-ish miles, I refused to let myself stop and walk. I knew how close I was to the finish, I knew how hot I was, and I knew I could find shade, chocolate milk, and ice when I was done. I kept pushing. I don’t know if it’s a runner’s instinct or not, but it seems every time I slowed down, those near me did. Every time I picked it up again, they did too. I think the sense of the end is near was hitting us all and we were expending all that was left in the tank. I knew that there were several turns on the last 2.2 miles, and I was ready for them. These were the rolling hills that I was determined would not beat me. These hills were like the Rudee’s Inlet Bridge, and I pushed through each one, and glided down the other side. (I may have been gallivanting like an elephant, but let me fantasize here…) With each police officer in the middle of each intersection allowing traffic to go, and stopping it as a runner came near, I waved and smiled and said, “thank you.” Each one had words of encouragement. Somehow I sensed they knew how tough this marathon was, particularly on a hot day like today. I was grateful for their words and their willingness to be out there with us.

I saw the mile 25 marker, and texted my stepdad to let him know I was close, and to be on the lookout for me at the finish line. Somehow, someway, I managed to really push my pace through the last 1.2 miles. They were my fastest miles over the entire race. I think it was pure adrenaline pushing me through to that finish line. I could have easily stopped and walked, but I didn’t. I was hungry for that big “FINISH” sign, and to be flying under it. I didn’t even want water at the last water stop. I knew I had pizza and chocolate milk on the other side. It helped that the last 1.2 miles were through a street with fairly decent sized buildings that provided some shade from the sweltering sun. It helped provide some relief as I pressed forward. I approached the 26 mile marker, and before I even could read it, I was picking up my pace more. I knew I had one more little uphill before I could go flying as fast as my feet could carry me downhill to go. Anxiety, determination, drive, fierceness, whatever you want to call it, was all over my face because despite my music in my ears, the yells from the volunteers got louder, the “Go, Erica, Go”s got louder and more frequent, and they kept telling me I had this, that I needed to keep pushing hard like I was up that last hill. I rounded that last corner, saw that big old FINISH in .2 miles away, and I gave it all I had left. My watch paced me at a 6 something ish mile for that last .2. Somehow the announcer saw me coming. I heard him tell the crowd to “Look at her finish strong!” There is nothing like coming into a finishing chute knowing you have given it your absolute best try, to the VERY LAST STEP. I came across the finish chute so fast my stepdad couldn’t even get a picture. I nearly missed knocking over John Carlin from the News Channel, who was standing there trying to high five me for finishing this amazing marathon. I finished America’s Toughest Road Marathon a second time. I kicked my time from last year to the curb by 17 minutes and 9 seconds. I finished it in 5:52:39 in 2014. I finished the Blue Ridge Marathon in 5:35:30 in 2015. I did it! I didn’t disappoint. I was successful in kicking my time to the curb from last year with a HUGE PR!

I can’t say enough about the crowd and volunteer support for this race. This race is so phenomenally supported, and it makes a world of difference when you are tackling one of the toughest races out there. This was a phenomenal race, and I am sure I will do it again. I don’t know if it will be next year, or in the future. Time will tell. I am just floating in the sparkle of a new, shiny PR (and the fact that I out ran T-Rex yet again!)! Marathon #6 is DONE!

 

Live. Love. Run. Passionately!

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Cherry Blossom 10 Miler 2015

I wanted to write a recap about the Cherry Blossom 10 miler on Monday, before the week got away from me. You see how far I got. As I look back on the weekend, I can honestly say it’s been a while since I’ve had a weekend away with girlfriends that was so relaxing and so much fun!

We opted to ride the train to DC instead of driving, and found ourselves brainstorming about other possible trips throughout the year via train instead of driving by about the halfway point to DC. It is so much less stressful than sitting in DC traffic and finding parking and paying $35 a night to just park your car! Holy crap! That’s a tank of gas!

When we arrived at Union Station, I was literally in awe of the building. We couldn’t spend much time there though because we had to walk to the hotel and then on to the expo to get our bibs and goodies. We walked the mile to our hotel with  all our luggage, and soaked in the sunshine along the way. It was so nice to not have to sit in standstill traffic, to be honked at incessantly, or to be clenching the steering wheel in fear of getting hit or sideswiped. I felt so light, and stress free!

I was soaking in the sights as we walked. It’s been over a decade since I’ve been to DC, and it truly felt like city life with all the towering buildings, the lengths of sidewalk, and the rows and rows of cars parked and moving on the city streets. I know Virginia Beach is a city, but beach life is so different than DC. I have to say I prefer beach life any day!

We made our way to the Renaissance Hotel, the host hotel for the race, and the place we would be resting our heads. While the front desk service left plenty to be desired, the hotel itself and the rooms were fantastically designed. We dropped off our belongings, changed into running gear, and made our way to the expo, another half a mile or so away from the hotel.

The expo seemed to be fairly well organized, but was in a seriously tight space. I definitely felt squished and uncomfortable walking around looking at the various vendor booths. I was disappointed to find out that the Sparkly Soul booth was out of the Run DC cherry blossom headbands by the time we arrived at the expo on Saturday. They were super cute. We managed to find some really cute “stardust” sparkly headbands instead to wear to the race. We managed to get a picture taken in them and Sparkly Soul shared it online! Talk about making us feel like rockstars! Way to make up for not having the headbands we were after! I love my new stardust headband!

We finally left the expo after feeling too crowded, and went in search of food. We landed at a restaurant called Sixth Engine. Our burgers were amazing, but the service left much to be desired. (I’m seeing a theme here with customer service. If you work with people on a day-to-day basis, please be nice and use manners! It goes a long way.)

We headed back to the hotel to put our feet up and get some rest since we had been awake since 5am to catch the train. I felt a little restless, and left my two sorority sisters in the hotel room so I could go exploring. While I love traveling with sisters and friends, sometimes I need a little down time by myself to mellow out.  I took this time to wander the hotel and get a feel for what was inside. I also ventured outside to soak in the last of the daylight, and stumbled across a water fountain where two ducks were taking a bath and playing in the water. I truly soaked in some peaceful moments of quiet among the city sounds within that,  little square by the fountain. I refocused, felt less crowded, and headed back to the hotel, ready for rest.

Once I got back to the hotel, we opted to find a snack in the restaurant within the hotel. We opted for some sweet treats and then headed back upstairs to crash on the cozy beds in our room. I definitely fell asleep while the other two were watching tv and settling in for the night. Sleep hit me like a freight train. Sometimes the need for sleep shuts down other functions. My brain couldn’t handle any further conversation, and I was asleep as soon as my cheek pressed into the cool pillow on my bed.

At 5am, our alarms woke us to prepare for the race. We dressed in our chosen running gear, made and are our various breakfasts, and headed to the starting area near the monument. Since it had been such a long time since the last time I was in DC, I felt like a big kid as I marveled at the Monument and how close we were to the White House. We stopped to take pictures by the cherry blossom trees and the Monument. You could just feel the excitement in the air as we joined the other runners making their way to the dry bag checks. As we moved along, we heard an announcement over the loudspeaker that the course would be slightly shortened due to an unforeseen accident which caused a crime scene within miles 4-6.  They weren’t sure how much of the course would be lost, but guesstimated about 1/2 a mile or so. The race director and staff quickly redirected the course, and announced we would be starting on time. I hugged my two sorority sisters and made my way to my assigned corral- blue. The race started on time, and each of the corrals were separated by about 3-4 minutes.

The announcer cheered on each corral, and we hooted and hollered as we crossed the starting line.  Knowing I was assigned to a corral based on my last 10 miler, I knew the group would be surging ahead at a faster pace than I wanted to be running. This race would serve as my last long run before the Blue Ridge Marathon on April 18th, and my plan was to run it at a 9:45 pace. As we started out, I went more by effort, than by pace, but continued to remind myself to not push too hard because I didn’t want to have tired legs for my upcoming marathon.

As we made our way along the route, I got excited about where we were heading and had my eyes wide open for each turn as we moved along the course since I was unfamiliar with it. As we moved along, I realized we were heading over a bridge, running a roundabout and then back over the bridge.  The view from the top of the bridge overlooking the roundabout was enthralling at the least.  It was incredible to see a group of runners, pursuing the goal of finishing another race, moving as one around the roundabout, and coming back over the bridge. It made my eyes well up as I watched this while I made my way towards my own trip around the roundabout.  Sometimes I am floored by the cameraderie in the running community, but it was evident as we ran the Cherry Blossom 10 miler. Some moments that stuck out to me as we  moved along the course were the volunteers and spectators smiling and cheering us on with some fantastic signs (Don’t Poop!), the number of runners who yelled various funny noises and words in the tunnels to make them echo, and the absolutely gorgeous cherry blossom trees that were in full bloom as we made our way around the tidal basin.  This race was quite an experience, and definitely one I want to remember.

The cherry blossom trees smelled delicious, and kept me in awe of Mother Nature’s artwork with each step. I think I could run that path daily if I lived in DC.  It is definitely a way to appreciate the season. As I got near the 8 mile sign, I knew that my Garmin would show a shorter distance in miles. I tried to guess at what mileage we would finish, as I often do during races, and found for some reason I was too distracted by my surroundings to focus on the math.  I let it go, and kept moving forward based on feel.  At one point, I looked down and realized I was hovering around 8:30…. Way too fast for my goal and last long run before the marathon.  I slowed up to close to where I needed to be, and just soaked in the sights and sang along with my music.  It makes a world of difference to be running less stressed. My body wasn’t tense or tight, and I had plenty of pick me up juice at the last half mile of the race. I realized that the last half mile had an incline, but my legs didn’t seem to mind. I crossed the finish line with my Garmin showing 9.52 miles in 1:30:45.  My overall pace was a 9:32, and I couldn’t have been happier with how I felt when I was done. What a phenomenal race! I waited anxiously for my two sorority sisters to finish, as they had started in different corrals than I did. While I waited for one of my sorority sisters from Lynchburg and her hubby found me at the race to come say hello! They had barely seen me fly past them to the finish line, and had hoped to come celebrate with me in the finishing area. They are so sweet! They brought goodies!

My other two sisters who had run the race eventually found us as well. They both  had successful races too! This was such a good weekend, and I am so glad I got to share it with sisters! Way to go CherryBlossom 10 miler planning team!!

Live. Love. Run. Passionately!

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