Baystate Half Marathon

On Sunday, 10/19/14 I ran my first race since my injury last April. It was an amazing experience, unlike any other race I’ve run. Over the last year my good friend Kate got bit by the running bug. She declared herself a winter runner and endured the nasty frigid weather this past winter to keep up with her training. She was training for a spring 5K. The plan was to run it together, but I was injured two days before the race.

The morning of the 5K it was pouring out and unseasonably cool. Kate didn’t seem to mind the weather. It reminded me a little of my first 5K which was also on a cold rainy day. I cheered for her as the race got under way and I was there at the finish line. I am not sure who was more excited! I was grateful for the raindrops because they masked my tears as she crossed the finish line. Those darn finish lines!

Finish lines are emotional and also infectious. Kate decided her next goal was to run the Hartford Half Marathon in early October. We put a training plan together to start in July. I was very hopeful that I would be healed and able to run the race with her by that time.

Half marathon training began as the summer really heated up. I was still not really able to run for more than a mile and Kate absolutely hated running in the summer heat. It was difficult on her breathing and she simply didn’t like how it felt. Also it was challenging to fit in the training runs with the kids home for the summer.

As Kate’s self-appointed “running coach” I suggested backing off on long runs over the summer and just doing what felt comfortable. This applied to both of us. We began incorporating strength training “boot camp” sessions into our routine once a week since we could do it while the kids played or were at camp.

The week before the kids went back to school Kate and I talked about the race. Neither of us were feeling great about how our summer training went and we were a bit nervous to run Hartford on October 11th. I looked up other fall half marathons and we decided on the Baystate Half Marathon a week later in Lowell, MA. Somehow having that extra week to train made us both feel better. We set up a new training plan and as soon as the kids went back to school we began with a new focus.

Kate struggles with asthma. This causes her some anxiety during her runs. For the last couple of weeks of summer I encouraged Kate to work on her breathing rather than pace or time. The goal was to run comfortably focusing on breath exclusively with emphasis on taking in air slowly and evenly and breathing out fully through the mouth. By the time we began incorporating long runs into our training again Kate was feeling more confident with her breathing.

The rest of our training went very smoothly. Our long runs were amazing. We ran by time rather than distance with the ultimate goal of completing a 3 hour run before the race. This was Kate’s goal time. Most of our training runs were on hilly terrain. The 3 hour training run involved a detour off of our intended course, traffic along the roads we ended up running, wind and rain. Kate did an incredible job on that run. It was a very consistent pace with few stops. I was confident at that point that she was ready for the half marathon even though we still had two weeks of training left at that point.

The half marathon training was as much for me as at was for Kate. My Achilles felt better by August, but there was a phantom like discomfort and a twinge of fear every time I set out for a run.  I’m not sure if Kate understands how grateful I was for the opportunity to run with her. For all of the years I have been running, I have never run with a friend. Running with fear of re-injuring myself was extremely stressful, but having Kate running next to me was a comfort. If something happened I wouldn’t be alone. Along the way something else happened, I learned to really enjoy running with someone. I looked forward to our training runs and I miss them now that the race is over.

Kate and I made a weekend out of the race. After our boys’ soccer game on Saturday, 11/18 we drove out to Lowell together. We picked up our packets at the race expo. I am a total running geek. I love the expos, but usually I’m rushed along by my husband and son who aren’t into the experience of wandering around running gear, demos and products. Kate and I were looking forward to taking in the whole expo, but it was small and rather uneventful. So we checked into our hotel room and found a local place for dinner.

I think we were both feeling a bit nervous about the race. Being the rock stars we are we were in bed by 9 o’clock! I got up bright and early around 5 to begin my pre-race rituals. I really am a running nut! I forgot how much I missed my Vega Pre-Workout Energizer drink that tastes like ass, but makes me feel like I just had three cups of coffee. I also welcome any opportunity to eat an entire packet of Justin’s honey roasted peanut butter with my pre-race banana. We headed out around 6 a.m. because we weren’t exactly sure about parking and road closures.

Of course we found the parking garage fairly easily. We followed the flow of runners to the Tsongas Center where they were having race day packet pick up. Kate wanted to exchange her shirt for a different size so we went in and were thrilled to find that they were allowing the runners to hang out and use the facilities. It was chilly outside, but all signs were pointing to great running weather.


Ready to go

Ready to go

We hung out until it was time to line up. The race started promptly at 8 a.m. It’s a big race with a large number of full marathoners. The Baystate Marathon is known to be flat and fast so it is a great qualifier for many Boston Marathon hopefuls. We were lined up on the right for the half marathon and full marathons were on the other side of the barriers to our left. I was hoping Kate didn’t notice my eyes tearing up during the national anthem #runningdorkalert. I felt so grateful to be running again and especially to be racing.

Starting line at the Baystate Half Marathon

Starting line at the Baystate Half Marathon

However, this race was about Kate. I was there to offer support and to pace her to finish at her goal time. I had a plan, but I didn’t tell her because I didn’t want her to argue! I knew she was more than capable of finishing the half marathon in under 3 hours. I wanted to push her a bit in the last half up to mile 12 to make sure she had a cushion of time during her last mile. We set off at a steady pace, but a little faster than normal. I kept checking in with Kate. I encouraged her to slow down if necessary. I didn’t want her to lose steam before the halfway point.


Along the course

Along the course

We ran with another woman for quite a while. The three of us chatted easily. She was running alone and we all cheered each other on. It was a double loop course so when we got to the halfway point we had to run the same course all over again. Kate was doing great and by my mental calculations we were right on track with a sub-3 hour time. By mile 10 I think she was getting a bit annoyed by my Katie Couric-like chipper positivity and my torture encouragement. The course had a few hills, but nothing close to what we encountered in our training. Kate was doing better than she knew. I really pushed her throughout mile 11 and 12 because I wanted to afford her that cushion for her last mile. I don’t think she liked me much, but when we reached mile 13 and I announced that we now had 20 minutes to run that last mile I think I was back in her good graces. I encouraged her at the end to finish strong and surge over the finish line. I was beaming as we ran down the chute and the time clock came into my sight.

Kate’s official time was 2:53:40!!! She ran a solid, consistent race. It was an amazing effort for her first half marathon. I am so proud of her dedication and commitment to training for the race. I was truly honored to be a part of her experience. I’m hoping this is just the first of many races to come.



Fast Times 2013

Happy New Year! Where does the time go? I had high hopes and obviously grandiose expectations for an end of the year wrap up post, a year of races post, recaps of two late fall races and another Skin Deep post. The posts are all written…in my head. If only there was a way to synch my mind with my computer I would be a prolific blogger.

I love this blogging thing and wish I could devote more time to honing my writing and photography skills. I love the therapeutic aspect of writing my thoughts and feelings. It’s been beneficial simply to get it out, but even more helpful to hear feedback from others who graciously take the time to comment here.

I have felt very welcomed by the community of bloggers I have joined. I am reading even if you don’t see a comment from me. Technical issues took up a great deal of time in the last few months. For some reason my phone does not allow me to comment on certain blogs. I enjoy tech troubleshooting so it annoys me that I can’t figure out the problem. My 2008 MacBook has given me a run for my money this year. After countless trips to the Genius Bar at my local Apple Store I installed new RAM and a new hard drive on my own. Prior to these interventions the computer ran so slowly it was impossible to do anything without being locked out by the swirling ball of frustration. It’s a running much better now thankfully so maybe I can get blog posts done more frequently.

From November through the New Year life rolled along at breakneck speed. Here are some highlights:

  • I am now the proud wearer of Invisalign braces! Long story short although I had braces at the very early age of 10 my bottom teeth have turned inward and I need to straighten them so I can finish an unresolved issue on my top teeth. I don’t believe they are invisible and though I am grateful to have the good fortune to fix this issue they are an uncomfortable nuisance.
  • I ran the Monson Memorial Classic Half Marathon (cute pics of Carlos if you click the link!) again in November. I ran it for the first time in 2011 less than two months after breaking a rib during my training for the Disney Marathon. It was my slowest half marathon time. This time I ran an unbelievable race and enjoyed a truly unexpected PR. I will eventually write about it because it’s a race I would like to remember.
  • My husband, son and I ran the Northampton Hot Chocolate 5K in early December. I first ran this race in 2010. This time Orlando and Carlos ran together with my friend Mary’s daughter. Carlos did amazing. He ran the entire race and finished in just over 32 minutes. I stayed back with Mary who hasn’t run in years and suffers from tremendous knee pain at times. This was an interesting experience for me and one I would really like to elaborate on in a future post.
  • I helped run the Secret Santa Gift Shop at my son’s school which is a three day event where the kids get to shop for their families.
  • I adopted a whole foods plant based diet aka vegan after being vegetarian for three years.
  • Carlos and I enjoyed an impromptu two days in New York City with my sister. We went to the top of the Empire State Building, walked a bit of Central Park, saw Rockefeller Center, went to the Lego Store, the Apple Store and F.A.O. Schwartz.
  • Thanks to my sister I had the good fortune of dining at the organic vegan Candle Cafe in NYC. It was incredibly delicious.
  • My baby boy turned 7. I really wish time would slow down. Legos are all the rage in his life right now. Our guest room has been turned into Lego City.

    Legos have taken over my home!

    A new Lego truck

  • Christmas came and went with little fanfare. Orlando and I got iPads for each other. I got the mini and he got the new iPad Air.
  • I worked a lot of overtime in December. My husband got laid off on December 16th which always causes a bit of distress initially. Fortunately he started back at work the week after Christmas. This has been a very unpredictable year for him. I have been lucky to pick up overtime often, but more work means less blogging, reading and other nonessential “fun” activities.
  • Carlos got old school Battleship for Christmas and we have been having so much fun playing it together, such a great game!
  • We spent New Year’s Eve at my friend’s home in upstate New York. It was a fitting way to close the year. She is one of my dearest friends and I have been honored to be welcomed into her trusted circle of friends this year as she bravely battled breast cancer. This, in and of itself is challenging, but she did it while pregnant with her second child. She is a warrior! My friend and her husband now have a gorgeous baby girl who is healthy and so very happy. I couldn’t wait to hold her. She just sat there blissfully in my arms. As I watched my friend and her beautiful family my heart filled with so many emotions just thinking of all she has been through this year. It was an important reminder for me to not take the goodness of life for granted.

I learned a lot about myself this year. I ran a lot this year.  I shattered my fitness goals. I have taken up yoga pretty seriously and hope to continue to improve and grow in my practice.

Despite all of these milestones I have found myself in the throes of emotional eating on and off since October. Just as things improved the holidays triggered the behavior once again. I realize that my journey with weight, food issues and body image distortion are far from over. I have more tools now to cope with emotional eating so that I don’t incur a weight gain, but the fact that I’m still struggling with certain behaviors is frustrating and a bit frightening.

It’s a new year and as with the past 7 new years I intend to continue to grow, change and improve myself and my life. Having Carlos 7 years ago sparked a fire inside of me that has encouraged me to be the best person I can be. I can always be better. Improvement requires change. Change is difficult. It means facing fears, looking inside of yourself and digging up hidden truths, trying new things and most importantly it means failing.

“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” C.S. Lewis

Free Flow Friday

Another edition of my random thoughts posted via the talk to text feature on my phone.

I really love the new iTunes Radio. I’m currently listening to an Avicii station at the gym.

Today’s workout is Jamie Eason’s Live Trainer phase 1 week 4 chest/triceps. I tend to go out of order on the days. So far I really like this program because it gives me some structure and guidance in the gym. Plus all of the exercises have accompanying video demonstrations.

Oh my goodness why am I so emotional. Seriously I have no self-esteem or confidence lately.

Halloween trick or treating was a success despite the rain. Now I have to figure out how to slowly get rid of the massive quantity of candy without Carlos noticing.

Mission accomplished

Mission accomplished

We just got new neighbors yesterday. Hopefully they are friendlier than the last neighbors.

I really enjoy podcasts. My favorites are Roni’s Weigh, The Rich Roll Podcast, Half Size Me and No Meat Athlete.

White socks and little boys make no sense.

I just paid $3.19 per gallon of gas at Stop & Shop. It’s sad that i’m excited by this.

I’m washing my bed linens today. It takes 3 loads to do them all.

Taking Carlos and his friend to Kick or Treat event through Carlos’ soccer program. More candy coming their way!

The boys are having such interesting conversation about butts, poop, diarrhea and farts. They are talking about it while eating!

Carlos lost a shin pad during soccer and actually tried to blame it on me.

House Hunters in Athens, Greece – the couple is most concerned about getting a piano in the apartment. Also the guy looks very much like Howard Stern.

We ordered pizza tonight after soccer. I didn’t eat any because I don’t eat dairy anymore. It was my favorite pizza with fresh roasted tomatoes, feta and artichoke hearts. I made a kale salad for myself. Sometimes it’s really difficult to eat differently, but I feel so much better eating a certain diet.

Since I’m not eating dairy that means no milk chocolate which makes eating most of Carlos’ Halloween candy off limits. I have not touched one piece of candy this year. I feel great and very in control right now.

Election Day on Tuesday…go vote!

Watching the local news and turns out that guy Penn from Penn and Teller is from Greenfield, MA about 45 minutes north of where I love. Who knew?

I went to vinyasa yoga class twice this week. I love it but it’s really challenging. I want to be good at yoga someday.

It’s a late night and already 11:30. Time for bed. Long run in the morning, soccer, more soccer, afternoon Fright Fest at Six Flags and date night with my husband on the agenda tomorrow.

A Pink Ribbon of Hope

I cannot let October slip away without discussing one very important topic. October has become synonymous with Breast Cancer Awareness and the pink ribbon. I think we all know someone in our lives who has been affected by breast cancer.  The dedication to promoting breast cancer awareness has resulted in such great advances for both detecting and treating the disease. Per the American Cancer Society there are currently 2.8 million breast cancer survivors here in the this country and a steady decline in death rates since 1989 due largely in part to emphasis on early detection, education and improved treatment.

Breast Cancer Awareness

I have a dear friend who is battling breast cancer. This amazing woman, whom I have mentioned on the blog before, most recently in my marathon training post, also gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl on 10/11/13. This baby is nothing short of a miracle. Very soon after learning she was pregnant with her second child, my friend received the terrifying news that she had breast cancer. In the face of adversity my friend looked it straight in the eye, flipped the big C the bird, put on her boxing gloves and has been beating the hell out of breast cancer from day one. I have no doubt that she will win. She has an incredibly positive attitude, a fighting spirit and the love and support of so many. I have spent the better part of this year praying for the healing of my friend. I would do anything possible to help her, but given the distance between us I’ve mostly sat on the sidelines offering my support from afar.

My friend reminded all the women in her life to please utilize the tools available to screen for early detection of breast cancer. These tools include self-breast exams, routine visits to a gynecologist and yearly mammograms from age 40 if no history is present. A week before my 40th birthday I called my OB/Gyn doctor and scheduled my first mammogram. Ladies please, if you are over the age of 40 and have never had a mammogram go get one if possible. My experience was surprisingly quick and painless. I was in and out of the office in about 35 minutes. There was a little pressure on the breasts, but it was over very quickly.

There are so many ways to support this cause. The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month website is a wealth of resources. You can donate money, run a 5K, buy products designated with a pink ribbon or simply pray for all of the brave men and women fighting their own personal battle against breast cancer.

Race Together Fight Together

Race Together Fight Together

Prelude to a Marathon PR

In my last post I cut to the chase and announced my marathon results. What I didn’t explain was the significance of my race time.

Back in June I outlined my race plans for the summer up until the Montreal Marathon. At the end of that post I said this about my marathon goals:

“I have big goals. That’s right Oprah I’m coming for your time sister (Oprah ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 1994 and finished in 4:29:15)! I’m light years from ever qualifying for Boston so I need to shoot for something more attainable. Given the way my training runs are going I actually do have an even bigger goal in mind, but I’m going to keep it to myself for now.”

For some time now I have been running at a sub-10 minute/mile pace. When it became more consistent run after run I was astonished considering where I began with my running. My speed has improved so naturally and gradually over the course of my running. I don’t have a coach or anyone forcing me to do more than I am doing. I do speed training and some high intensity interval training to help improve my speed, but I am always mindful to do what feels right to me. I love running and I want to continue to love running. However, if it feels too much like work then I might not love it so much anymore.

In order to accomplish my goal of beating Oprah’s time (which really was just a fun way to strive for a sub-4:30 time) I would have to average a pace of 10:16/mile. My last marathon time was 4:38:52 or an average pace of 10:38/mile. When I first set my sights on running another marathon this seemed like a lofty goal, but one to work towards. As I began my training I also started to feel like I might be able to challenge myself even more given the improvement in my speed and overall running. So I set three personal goals:

B Goal = beat Oprah’s marathon time of 4:29:15

A Goal = maintain an average pace under 10 minutes/mile which would be 4:21:45 or less

A+ Goal = finish in under 4:20 for an average pace of just under 9:55/mile

Ok that’s a whole lotta numbers. Are you still with me?

The bottom line is this training was vastly different than my previous two marathons. I have begun to come into my own with running. I have developed some confidence in my running and my ability to improve at running. I worked hard and pushed myself without pushing to the point of injury or burn out. I upped my weekly mileage as much as possible this time around. I was diligent about maintaining strength training 2-3 times a week and P90X Plyometrics once a week. I stretched and foam rolled. My hill training was awesomely difficult, but it yielded results. I ran races and set PRs in many of them. My long runs peaked at 22 miles, and included two 20 mile runs along new routes.

In reflecting on the training period I have also identified other factors that were instrumental in helping me to accomplish my goals. I had no setbacks in this training unlike the last two. Four months prior to Disney I broke a toe and two floating ribs and throughout my training for Philly I endured calf and Achilles issues. My diet is cleaner with a central focus on eating whole unprocessed foods as much as possible. I food journaled consistently throughout training either online or on paper. I have shed some weight since my last marathon. I paid close attention to hydration especially throughout the hot summer. I switched my fuel during long runs to Vega Sport Endurance Gel, pretzels and dates. Vega* products are entirely plant based and complimented my diet nicely. I drank Vega Pre-Sport Workout Energizer prior to long runs and races. My pre-race and pre-long run meal used to be toast, nut butter and banana. I have traded the toast for a chia pudding made with 1-2 tablespoons of chia seeds soaked in water or almond milk topped later with banana and nut butter. Weird, I know, but it didn’t weigh me down and I am really starting to wonder about the power of those little seeds! I also followed up my long runs with Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator. I seemed to bounce back very quickly from long runs this training. I know I can’t give all the credit to Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator, but I do believe it helped as I experienced little to no muscle soreness the following day after my 13-17 mile runs and much less than typical soreness on my 18-22 mile runs.

There is one other component that affected my training and ultimately the final event for me and it is largely psychological. Back in April I wrote about my PR in the Plattsburgh Half Marathon and my dear friend who, at that time, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. What I didn’t tell you was that my friend was also pregnant with her second child. Throughout her chemo treatments this summer, pregnancy hormones, navigating life with cancer, a toddler and a baby on the way I have been completely humbled by my amazing friend who has handled it all with such poise and grace. She is truly a Wonder Woman.

There were moments during training and even during the race that felt difficult, but my thoughts immediately shifted to my friend and I pushed the discomfort away because I knew nothing could possibly be more trying or uncomfortable than what she has been going through. As a result I had so few doubts about this race. If she could kick cancer’s ass then I sure as hell could run another marathon faster than my last. In the grand scheme of what my friend has had to cope with this year I felt like the least I could do was push past my mental limitations once and for all.

I purposely chose this race in Montreal because I knew it would give me the opportunity to stop and see my friend as we passed through upstate New York on the way home. I didn’t know my final time yet when we arrived at her home. It didn’t matter. I knew I ran a great race. I felt phenomenal the entire way. Given the distance that separates us I couldn’t be there for my friend as much as I would have liked. I was able to spend a couple of weekends with her but mostly we stayed in touch through email, text and phone calls when possible. Her positive attitude, courage and fighting spirit are a constant source of inspiration and motivation. I thought about my friend so much during the marathon knowing that she is running her own marathon and there was no one else I wanted to share that medal with more than her.

Race Together Fight Together

Race Together Fight Together

When I finally received my official time my eyes filled with tears. It’s not really about the actual time 4:16:35 or that I shaved 22 minutes off my marathon time. It is about me finally believing in myself. It is about reaching my full potential. It is about exceeding my own expectations. It is about committing to something, setting a goal and following through. It is about going the distance.

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” John Bingham

*I should note that I do not work for Vega, nor did I receive any of the aforementioned products from Vega. I purchased them with my own money and all opinions are my own. I was not contacted by Vega to discuss their products. I just happen to really love them. 

It’s Electric

After my awesome PR in the Bridge of Flowers 10K I had another race to run that same day. Carlos, my friend, Colleen, and I drove down to Rentschler Field in West Hartford, CT in the evening for the Electric Run. The race supported the March of Dimes. If you have any interest in doing one of these fun type runs but don’t want to get dirty, colored, or electrocuted then this is a great one to try. It is enjoyable for kids, teens, and grown ups. The environment is family friendly early on and as the night goes on it becomes a giant club scene. We left before that started heating up, but it looked like a good time.

We got there early so we could join the first wave of runners because the race didn’t start until about 8:20 p.m. and Carlos usually goes to bed around 7:15. He rested up in the afternoon for our special night out. While waiting for the sun to set we were entertained by the DJs. The music was pumping. The DJs were throwing out glow sticks and glow necklaces. Carlos was psyched to catch a few since I forgot to bring ours.

Once the sky grew dark the DJs counted down and released the first wave of runners. We set off grooving to the energetic techno beats of club music blaring over the speakers. As runners tore past us Carlos got savvy and began picking up all the dropped glow gear.  It was a riot watching him try to put everything on. Then suddenly he would burst into a full on run stopping only to look back and make sure we were following. Seeing Carlos have so much fun was the best part of the night.

This race was an absolute blast. I think it works best as a run/walk if you want to experience the different sights and sounds, take pictures and loot lost glow gear along the way. The end of the race took us through the stadium. We ran through bubbles and umbrellas suspended from the ceiling. It was a wild time. At the end, instead of hitting the “club scene” we opted to wait in line at the Ben & Jerry’s truck for a free ice cream.

If there is an Electric Run in your area I highly recommend it! If this post doesn’t make you want to get electric maybe my photos will. Enjoy!!


Bridge of Flowers: Fourth Time’s a Charm

August racing rocked my socks off. It was a phenomenal month of running all around. My training was spot on and my races were awesome. I’ll write about them separately starting with the first race of the month. This was my fourth running of the Bridge of Flowers 10K in Shelburne, MA. I wrote posts about my second and third Bridge of Flowers experiences, but not my first.

I first ran this race in August 2010 as part of my training for my first half marathon, (click the link for a cute pic of my little guy) the Hartford ING half marathon. I’m drawn to the quaint simplicity of the town Shelburne Falls, MA. My husband also loves the area and was happy to spend a beautiful summer morning there. I ran that first 10K in 1:07:36. I had nothing to compare it to so I was simply happy to have completed the race.

There is something equally challenging and fun about this race that has made me want to compete year after year and strive to improve my time. This year it was all about running it under an hour. My 2013 goal of running a 10K in under an hour was fulfilled on New Year’s Day at the Sawmill River Run. I then completed the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Road Race in 57:08, but the Sawmill River 10K time of 56:10 is my standing 10K personal best. I wasn’t necessarily shooting for a PR at the Bridge of Flowers. My goal was to simply finish in under an hour, but best case scenario was obviously a PR. However, I had to contend with Crittendon Hill and the darn thing really slows people down, right down to a walk. I train in a fairly hilly area as it is, but to amp up my hill training I also began running up a nearby mountain once a week to simulate the experience at Shelburne Falls.

The pre-race vibe is so enthusiastic at this race. It is super family friendly. There is a short 3K walk/run before the 10K for kids and parents alike. The town is very picturesque and the actual Bridge of Flowers a stunning pre-race sight to see. For the second year in a row my college roommate came out for a visit to cheer me on so we have now deemed it an annual tradition. She is hoping that her knee issues resolve so she can run it next year. My husband and son were there to cheer me on as well.

Bridge of Flowers 10K 2013

Bridge of Flowers 10K 2013

I’m not going to lie it’s like pulling teeth lately to get the little guy to pose for pre-race photos. It took many attempts but we finally got this one.

The day was insanely gorgeous. Miraculously I had the weekend off so I was well rested. I was ready to go. Instead of holding back like I’ve done in the past I placed myself smack dab in the middle of the 9 and 10 minute pace groups. The horn sounded and I broke the cardinal rule of racing…I went out too fast! Being so familiar with this course I knew exactly what I was doing. The first couple of miles are fairly easy and I wanted to gain a little time before the hill. I didn’t overdo it, but I did hit the gas so to speak. I can’t remember what my time was as I approached the base of the hill, but it was a pleasant surprise.

My goal for the hill was to run as much of it as possible even if it was a slow run. This hill takes a few sharp turns as you climb your way up the steep incline. I was pleased with my progress up the hill. As I neared the top my phone rang into my wireless headphones. “Mom, seriously?!” “Oh I’m sorry I forgot about the race. Call me later.” LOL! She is a nut.

I breezed down the back end of the hill. I kept telling myself I was almost done and to keep pushing. I drank from all the water stops except the last. I dug deep as I neared the bridge again and felt a surge of energy when I saw my family and my friend just before I headed back over the bridge towards the finish line. I had absolutely no idea of my time. I pushed my legs as hard as I could and as the finish line clock came into sight I knew I had achieved at least one of my goals. I was definitely under an hour as the clock ticked past 56 minutes.

Despite the small town, laid back feel of the race there was nothing slow about getting our official race times. They were posted by the time I exited the finish chute.

Bridge of Flowers 10K in Numbers

2010 – 1:07:36 (10:52 pace)

2011 – 1:04:16 (10:21 pace)

2012 – 1:01:53 (9:58 pace)

2013 – 56:01 (9:01 pace)

My new 10K PR set at the 2013 Bridge of Flowers is 56:01!! I earned that PR. I worked really hard for that PR. I am proud of that PR.

Yesterday Diana Nyad fulfilled her long time dream to swim from Cuba to Florida. This was her fifth attempt. Her mantra throughout the swim was “You don’t like it. It’s not doing well. Find a way.” Yes find a way even if it takes more than one try. Do not give up!

At 64 years old Ms. Nyad proves that age is irrelevant if we put our mind to something. She is quoted as saying, “I really do believe that endurance grows and, also, we can never discount, in any sport, the mental.” I couldn’t agree more!

Plattsburgh Half Marathon

Last week was downright gloomy; from the tragic events at the Boston Marathon to the strange weather all week. My son was on school vacation and that automatically changes the flow of our lives. I did not work out at all from Monday through Friday. Instead of tracking my food in Spark People like I usually do I resorted to pen and paper and did not bother to count calories. My weight was all over the place thanks to some water retention, lack of attention to my food intake and no exercise.  I had so many other things going on sometimes something has to give and unfortunately it was my diet and exercise. Needless to say by Friday I felt pretty badly about myself. I had a long drive to upstate New York where I was going to visit one of my best friends and also to run a half marathon on Sunday, April 21st. I spent much of the drive listening to podcasts from Heather at Half Size Me. Heather has a very inspiring story as do the people she interviews. It was just what I needed to bounce back and stop the negative self-talk.

I haven’t set too many running or fitness goals this year other than to run a race each month. So far I’m doing great with that goal. I ran one race in January, two in February, one in March and now one in April. I have nothing planned for May so I need to figure that out soon. I have a half marathon planned for the beginning of June. I am contemplating a full marathon sometime in the fall, but I’m not sure which one yet. I really want to do the Chicago Marathon, but darned if it doesn’t always fall on my weekend to work.

Anyway back to my most recent half marathon. I signed up for the Plattsburgh Half Marathon a few months ago. Plattsburgh is located near the Adirondack Mountains on the western shores of Lake Champlain and is not far from the Canadian border. My Peace Corps site mate lives there so I’m happy to find any reason to visit the area. Due to other obligations for my husband and son it was decided that I would go alone on this trip. Much as I would miss my guys I haven’t had much alone time in the last 6.5 years so I relished the thought of spending quality time with my friend.

Since I enjoyed a taper week of absolutely no structured exercise I decided to go for a short run on Saturday morning. It was a sunny day though quite breezy and cool. Midmorning I threw on my running shoes and hit the road. My friend lives in a rather rural area. I ran past quaint barns, a log house and lots of open fields. It was a beautiful run. The first half was a steady downhill with the wind at my back. I ran one of my fastest miles ever. Of course the return was not so easy, all uphill and against the wind! Still it felt great to get out there, stretch my legs and remember why I love running so much.

The weather in Plattsburgh was crazy on Saturday. It went from sunny and breezy to cloudy and really windy to snow by the night time. Yet my weather app was still showing temps in the 30s-40s and sun for Sunday.

The race was on Sunday at 8 a.m. so as I was getting ready that morning I popped on the race’s Facebook page and was thrilled to see the weather update was indeed calling for a sunny, wind free day. I got ready and headed over to the starting area. Normally I take a photo with my son, but since he wasn’t with me I asked someone to take one of me. I don’t save my bibs so this is my remembrance.

Before running the Plattsburgh Half Marathon

Before running the Plattsburgh Half Marathon

I did my best to represent Boston. There were lots of runners on the course with their Boston paraphernalia on as well as spectators. In the minutes before the race began there was a moment of silence dedicated to those that were injured or lost their lives at the Boston Marathon. It was a somber moment. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous. Truthfully I didn’t think anything would happen that day in Plattsburgh, but it seems like lately nowhere is safe. I was particularly concerned about my friend and her family coming to the finish line. I don’t ever want to feel responsible for putting others into danger. I tried to convince her to stay home.

As always with races I set goals. The ultimate goal is to finish and have fun doing the race. Then there are those personal goals that have to do with time and speed. I’ve been running strong in the last couple of months. My speed has improved and I’ve noticed my endurance growing stronger. I think this is in part due to strength training, stretching and yoga. However, given how I was feeling about myself throughout the week the only personal goal reasonable was to try to beat my last half marathon time even if only by a second.

My last half marathon was the Lake Placid North Elba Half Marathon back in September. I ran it in 2:10:12. I just reread my post on this race and remembered how proud I was of my accomplishment.

I did something a little different at the start of the Plattsburgh Half. Instead of relegating myself to the back of the pack I lined up in the back of the 9 minute mile pace group. The race started and off we went. The beginning of the course had us running on a bike trail along Lake Champlain. The views were gorgeous. We ran through the city and eventually through residential neighborhoods. There were spectators out cheering for us which is always wonderful. I especially loved the children at mile 6 who were handing out water on their front lawn. Running a half or full marathon is a fantastic way to see a new place. In the last few miles of the race we ran over a bridge and through an area with gorgeous old homes and then back down near the lake. The weather could not have been more perfect, sunny, cool, but no wind.

As much as I enjoyed the scenery throughout the race I had a lot going on in my head. Running is my time to sort through things, feelings, emotions, stress, etc. I have a friend who is going through an exceptionally trying battle with cancer. I want to show her that I’m fighting for her. I want to be there as a support. I want her to know that I love her and I know she will beat this. Already I’m in awe of how she is triumphing over this hurdle. She has an infectious positive attitude. Her strength and courage are unmatched by anyone I know. I thought about her the most as I ran this race. For so many years I told myself I couldn’t…couldn’t lose weight, couldn’t excel in any sort of sport, couldn’t, couldn’t, couldn’t. I was full of negativity and self-degradation. I loathed running for most of my life. The thought of doing it for enjoyment was ridiculous.

Running, ironically, has breathed new life into me. It has become my saving grace when I need to process “life” so to speak. It is my “me time.” It refreshes me, revives me and makes me feel strong. Though I have made peace with the treadmill I seek the freshness of running outdoors. I love the warmth of the sun on my arms and face. I even love the cool crisp air of a winter run. If I don’t run for a few days I actually miss it and crave it. Running has also made me somewhat competitive against myself. When I first started running I was weary of these PRs I heard other runners talk about. Oh great if I improve my time during this race then I have to keep improving it, I thought. That’s a lot of pressure. Yes and it’s also really exciting and motivating.

While running Plattsburgh I pushed myself. My breathing was not easy as it sometimes becomes during a run. It was always just a little bit labored, not uncomfortable, but I was aware that I was working hard. I don’t wear my Garmin to race and there were no time clocks along the route. I really had no idea how I was doing time wise.

I kept thinking about my friend. If she could fight this fight that her body is making her fight then I could push my body too. We are strong, stronger than we give ourselves credit for both in sickness and in health. I was running this race for my friend. Someday she will run with me. Every time I wanted to slow down or back off I thought about how my friend cannot slow down her fight so instead I picked up the pace.

I smiled every step of the way as I ran. I was so proud to be running out of support for Boston and silently out of support for my friend whether she knew it or not. This race supports Team Fox which donates all proceeds to Parkinson’s Research and I was especially proud to be a part of the race for that reason as well. The friend I was visiting has a close relative suffering from Parkinson’s.

As I entered the U.S. Oval of the old air force base  for the last lap of the race I felt a surge of energy fill me and I started running as fast as I could. Then I saw the friend I was visiting. Darn her for coming out despite my pleas not to, but at the same time I was really overjoyed to see her. Then I spotted the time clock which from a distance almost certainly read 2:08. Oh my goodness that was much better than I expected. I started sprinting and as I got closer I realized that the 8 was actually a 3. 2:03?! No way. NO WAY! No that must be wrong. Seriously!

Yes seriously 2:03:52 was my official finish time. I beat my last half marathon time by over 6 minutes. I teared up as the race volunteer placed the medal over my head.

Plattsburgh Half Marathon Finisher

Plattsburgh Half Marathon Finisher

“Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.” -Oprah Winfrey