Fated tooth

I mentioned that I was having dental surgery on Friday. There’s a story behind that surgery that connects many dots of my life. In my early 20s while a student at UMass the left side of my face became swollen and inflamed in pain. Two ER visits, a dentist visit and finally an X-ray later it was discovered that I had an infection in the root of one of my molars and required a root canal.

After graduating from college in 1996, I knew that I was going to apply to the Peace Corps. However, my stepfather passed away on December 2, 1996 and I put my Peace Corps (PC) application in a drawer because it didn’t seem right to leave my mom. Eventually she found it and told me to apply.

I sent in the application sometime in mid 1997. Applying to the PC is a long process for some of us. There is a medical exam, dental exam, lots of paperwork and an interview. I sent in all the paperwork as well as the medical and dental which included full mouth X-rays. My interview was in Boston in August 1997. By February of 1998 I was getting antsy. I wanted to move on with my life and was ready to take off for distant places whether with the PC or on my own to teach English.

In early March 1998, I called the PC headquarters in D.C. I was congratulated and told I had been invited to serve in Armenia. I told the woman  that I hadn’t received anything in the mail. She put me on hold and when she returned she seemed nervous. She explained she shouldn’t have given me that information over the phone. She also mentioned I should have received an envelope from the Dental Office. I hadn’t so she transferred me to that department. I was told that it had been sent a couple of months ago and indicated a problem with the tooth I had the root canal on a couple of years earlier.

The invitation to Armenia finally arrived. The group was scheduled to leave at the end of May 1998. I eagerly began seeking as much information about Armenia as I could including connecting with current PC volunteers in Armenia via a very bare bones newsgroup on the internet. I was really excited to go especially after communicating with people who were already there. They spent vacations traveling to Greece or interesting places within Armenia and the summers sounded beautiful.

While planning my departure to Armenia, I was also being scheduled for the dental procedure to repair the root canal. I had periodontal surgery at the beginning of April. I can’t remember how it worked exactly, but by the end of April I had been told I could not go to Armenia because I would not be dentally cleared until my mouth was completely healed. My dentist wouldn’t clear me until June. I was devastated.

The PC recruiter in D.C. assured me that once I was cleared he would work on placing me somewhere else. However, when I called him in June 1998 with the news that I was finally cleared by dental, he was dealing with 4 PC evacuations out of unstable countries. His priority was placing those PC volunteers who wanted to continue their service. In our conversation he mentioned a new PC program in Mozambique beginning in the fall of 1998. I expressed my interest and he immediately apologized saying that I wasn’t going to be on the list for the new Mozambique program.

I hung up the phone and immediately called my boss at the time. He was an African American Studies professor at UMass Amherst. He also ran a scholarship program for black students in Durban, South Africa. I had been involved in organizing his trips to and from South Africa. Together we wrote a letter to PC to explain why I thought I would be an asset in PC Mozambique.

I sent the letter and waited. I waited and waited. Finally I called and spoke to the recruiter. He told me he received the letter, but was very sorry he couldn’t invite me to serve in Mozambique. I thanked him and told him I really couldn’t let PC keep me in limbo any longer. I fibbed and said I had an opportunity to teach English in Guatemala. In all honesty I could have gotten a job in a hot minute teaching English in Guatemala as jobs were plentiful then.

That evening there when I got home there ws a voice mail from Dan, the recruiter, welcoming me into PC Mozambique. I screamed!! I knew without a doubt that this was where I was supposed to be going. Armenia never felt like a good fit, but Mozambique seemed to have everything I was hoping for in a PC experience.

My PC experience is another story for another day, but suffice it to say my time in Mozambique was life changing. I loved my life in Mozambique and not just because I met my husband there. I was truly happy and comfortable there. I met such beautiful people. The food was delicious. The weather was hot. The beaches nothing short of perfect. I ate mangos and papayas from the trees in my yard. Most importantly I learned to relax.

Prior to leaving many friends and family members “warned” me not to get married over there in Africa. I laughed. I wasn’t exactly known for dating. And who goes into the PC with a goal of getting married anyway? I certainly didn’t, but it happened. Orlando and I will celebrate 14 years of marriage this September.

Not only did Mozambique introduce me to my husband, it also gave me a dear friend. For my first year in the PC, I had a site mate. Well when you live in a small house with lots of down time and no tv you become friends really quickly. Amelia and I learned so much about each other in a short time. There was no such thing as TMI! However, when she was offered an opportunity to move to the capitol and work with the Ministry of Education after a year we both knew we were ready for an independent experience. Our friendship has stood the test of time and I cannot imagine having gone through my first year of PC without Amelia.

Upon my return to the US the pesky tooth required an updated crown. Then a couple of years ago I felt a twinge of pain in that area and the memory came flooding back. I knew it was an infection so I called the dentist. A quick X-ray confirmed it and after a short discussion with my dentist I decided to pull the tooth. I couldn’t justify anymore expensive root canals. My dentist who had nothing to do with the previous procedures showed me exactly what the problem was and admitted that the job not done properly.

In a matter of 30 barbaric seconds a dental surgeon yanked the tooth out of my thankfully numb mouth. It was horrible. I cried briefly because I couldn’t believe the manner in which it was done. I left with a wad of gauze in my mouth and a nauseous feeling in my stomach. Later on I would run my tongue over the gaping hole and feel a sense of sadness. That tooth had cost me a great deal of pain, anguish and money, but it also changed my life forever.

I was assured by my dentist that the issues did not stem from poor dental care. I refused to leave the hole as is because I didn’t want my top teeth to shift as the bottom teeth had shifted. Before I could address the missing tooth I had to straighten my teeth. A word to anyone with teens in braces…insist that they wear their retainers or get a permanent retainer placed behind the teeth. I had braces at age 10 and they were removed by age 12. I wore my retainers for a bit, but then orthodontic care fell to the wayside as did my retainers. By not continuing to wear the retainers my bottom front two teeth began to spin inwards towards each other.

I wore Invisalign from October 2013 until Friday. I now have retainers which look similar. I have to wear them as often as possible for the next 6 months and then I will go to nighttime wear only.

With Invisalign completed we could now discuss the gaping hole wear my molar once sat. I had two options – a bridge or implants. I say implants because the space is large enough to fill two teeth into it. I honestly don’t know what happened to the other tooth or if there really was another tooth. My dentist sent me for an CT scan of the head to determine if implants were a feasible option. We sat in his office and he explained that implants were possible but I would need to have a sinus lift to add more bone in which to “implant” the new teeth.

My dentist is truly enthusiastic about his profession. He admitted that he was just learning to do this procedure and offered to do it for free. I just had to pay the cost of materials. He said he would invite a more experienced colleague to assist. I had faith in his abilities so I said yes. Friday was the sinus lift and first stage of the implants. The procedure took 3 hours. I am a ridiculously good patient. I don’t flinch or whine. I am totally still. At one point I even got drowsy! It went really well, but my face is really swollen and uncomfortable.

I honestly think the worst part of the surgery was the post op instructions. Before beginning the procedure Dr. Fox told me I could do any crazy pounding exercise. I thought he was kidding because he knows I’m training for a marathon. I said, “what like a 20 mile run on Sunday.” He thought I was kidding. I reassured him I wasn’t joking and he forbade me. He and his colleague told me absolutely not, no 20 mile run. No running for at least 48 hours and then only a short run if the swelling has subsided. My eyes welled up with tears. Not only was I mentally ready for my 20 miler the weather is amazing.

At the end of the procedure he told me I should stick to a liquid (smoothies, juices, broths, pureed soups) diet for 2 weeks and then a soft/liquid diet for another 4 weeks. I have numerous sutures and the area really needs to heal without any potential trauma. I will do anything I have to in order to heal properly. This tooth has cost me more money than I care to think about.

In 6 months I will at last have the implants and this lengthy tooth saga will at hopefully be finished. When I recount the story of “the tooth” it’s difficult to be resentful of the money spent (quite possibly a down payment on a house) and the pain felt because I wouldn’t have the one thing that means more to me than anything in the entire world…Carlos.

IMG_0146
My little bug

 

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After tearing it up on the dance floor at his aunt’s wedding!

 

 

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. 

Skin Deep: Living in America

Earlier this sumer I introduced a series of posts touching on my weight issues and body image over the years. I have wanted to return to it for some time now. If you missed any of the previous posts they can be found below.

Skin Deep: Adolescence

Skin Deep: College Years

Skin Deep: Mozambique

I left off on the verge of leaving my life in Mozambique to return to the United States. I was newlywed and had been out of the country for nearly four years. Unfortunately student loan payments began calling and neither my husband or I could find stable employment in Mozambique. So back to the U.S. it was.

I looked and felt great the day I stepped off the plane. In the back of my head I was worried about the temptations that awaited me. I returned home first. Orlando arrived two months later. I lived with my mother while I began setting up our new life in the states. I got busy applying for jobs and while I waited for work I began substitute teaching in my hometown. However, I often found myself alone on days I didn’t work. It didn’t take long for my old habits to rear their ugly heads. I began to eat my old favorite processed foods I hadn’t eaten for the years I lived abroad. I didn’t just eat a little. I ate a lot and I ate most of it in private. As you can imagine it didn’t take me long to start gaining weight.

By the time I was reunited with my husband I had gained at least 10 pounds. With the weight came the old feelings, insecurity, self-consciousness and lack of confidence. I knew I was on a slippery slope and it didn’t end there. Despite being here with my husband I felt very lonely. Friendships had changed while I was away. My family was adjusting to my marriage particularly my mother who strongly disagreed with my decision. As my weight increased so did my defensive attitude. I became angry, frustrated and looking back I can now identify that I was also depressed.

A year earlier a very good college friend had asked me to be in her wedding. The wedding was 5 months after my return. I had been fitted for the bridesmaid dress a year earlier on a visit to the U.S. at a time when I was comfortable with my weight. The dress fit beautifully and looked quite nice. Cut to a year later as the wedding neared. I was embarrassed and ashamed of my body. The dress was beyond snug. It actually looked horrible.  I didn’t want to be in the wedding. Needless to say I was not the model of a supportive bridesmaid. I was resentful because of how I felt inside. I attended the wedding alone and though I did my best to be happy for my friend I clearly wasn’t happy to be there. After the wedding our communication waned. I haven’t seen my friend since. I did call her months later to apologize for my behavior but the damage had been done. This memory is cemented in my mind and thinking about it makes me feel terrible.

My husband began working within days of arriving for a swimming pool company. I was not so lucky. It turned out to be almost as difficult to find employment here in the U.S. It took me 4 months to get a full time job with health insurance. I finally took a position running a program for pregnant and parenting teens. The program was run through the state supported Department of Transitional Assistance as an alternative to traditional schooling. Since the girls were all receiving welfare they were required to attend school or obtain a GED. This program prepared the girls to take the GED. I also ran health workshops, parenting classes and life skills classes. I enjoyed the job and the day structure.

After a few months on the job I began to lose some weight and felt a bit better about myself. I began walking a lot for exercise. As I lost weight my mood improved, but I would get down 5-10 pounds and then gain again. It became a vicious cycle. My eating habits were terrible. I relied on frozen foods and convenience food for meals. My pantry was full of packages labeled fat free, low fat and light. I tricked myself into believing that I was eating healthy by eating less fat.

I also picked up some new damaging habits. This is difficult for me to write about because I haven’t readily admitted it before. I began eating in secret. I would buy a forbidden treat at the grocery store with the intent of finishing it in the car on the way home, quite a feat considering I lived about 3 minutes away. I would hide a bag of chips in the pantry and basically binge eat it when my husband was at work or asleep. Again rather risky given the fact that we lived in a small apartment. I didn’t do it all the time, but when I did I was left feeling confused, remorseful and regretful. I would instantly vow to embark on a drastic diet the following day. You can probably guess where that kind of thinking led me.

Between 2002 and 2004 my weight bounced up and down finally settling somewhere in the high 170s, a place I had been many times before. I squeezed into my familiar size 14s, did my best at hiding my body with baggie sweaters and used my go to defense mechanism of sarcasm to deal with the hurt and shame I felt. I was miserable inside.

Despite the weight I didn’t shy away from new opportunities or challenges in other aspects of my life. I had thought about becoming a nurse during my years in Mozambique because of the need for health care workers there. Also the demand for nurses here promised a decent paying career.  My job with the Young Parents Program was tenuous and budget cuts in the state forced the program to close temporarily in the beginning of 2003. When it reopened the program I ran did not so I was only offered a part-time position in another town. I declined because I had the foresight to register for a prerequisite nursing class at a local community college. At that point I decided to throw myself into preparing for nursing school full time so I signed up for more classes and began working at a pizza shop where my aunt worked for extra money.

My self-esteem was at a low. My weight was all over the place. In October of 2003 we had our U.S. wedding for my friends and family. It was a nice day, but I am disappointed looking back on it. I wanted to glow and feel my best, but instead I settled for mediocre. I didn’t feel like the beautiful bride. I was jealous of how thin my wedding party was and how great they looked in their dresses. Imagine the bride envious of her wedding party. The way I felt about myself definitely cast a shadow on my mood that day. I managed to put on a good face, but deep down I was mad at myself for once again allowing my weight to dictate my mood.

I’m aware that I may get comments about these photos. Remember that how one feels about their body is subjective. This is my story and these are my feelings. I have struggled with weight issues most of my life. While my weight in these photos may not be considered by some to be a problem, to me it was a problem.

Here comes the bride
Here comes the bride: My Dad and I walking down the aisle
I do...again!
I do…again!

After the wedding I threw myself into my studies, I joined a gym and I began waitressing full time. I was busy. My weight fluctuated and even dropped for a time, but not too low. I didn’t own a scale and didn’t weigh myself at the gym so I’m not quite sure what I weighed. My mood was often directly correlated to the current state of my weight and how I felt in my clothing.

This has been a very difficult and emotional post to write. This was a rather dark time in my life. It’s also important for me to write about this time period because it plays an important role in who I’ve become today. Disordered eating was accompanied by disordered thinking and both needed to be addressed before any real change could take place.

I realize this post is somewhat disjointed and unorganized. That reflects how I felt during this period of my life. To tie up some loose ends I will end with a list to make my thoughts more organized.

  • My marriage withstood my moods and frustrations with my weight primarily because I have a wonderful husband who has always loved me as I am.
  • My relationship with friends and family deteriorated because I was not a joy to be around most of the time.
  • I avoided family gatherings if possible.
  • Emotional eating was in full swing.
  • Nursing school allowed me an excuse to hide in some ways. It also provided me with added stress which led me to eat more.
  • I was unhappy and it showed most of the time.
  • I wanted to change but I wanted someone to help me. Essentially I wanted someone to do it for me.

Summer Races: Shelburne Falls

Most road races are like books to me. Just as I rarely re-read a book even if I love it I tend to only run a race once and then I’m done. This was my third running of the Bridge of Flowers 10K. It is a fairly local race for me held in the quaint northwestern town of Shelburne Falls, MA in the Deerfield River valley along the Mohawk Trail.

The Bridge of Flowers

The race began in 1979 and has been run each year since along the same route with a few adjustments here and there. The course offers scenic charm, a steep uphill challenge, a fast back half and lots of cheering support.

This is a rough sketch of the course. It’s more of a double loop course than a flat line. Trust me when I say that Crittenden Hill should be renamed Crittenden Small Mountain!

I first ran this race in August 2010. It was my first 10K and I completed the race in 1:07:36. With nothing to compare it to I was quite pleased. Last year I was training for the Disney Marathon and incorporated the Bridge of Flowers 10K into my training plan. My goal for the race was simply to finish a second or two under my 2010 time. In rereading my blog post (check out the photo of me near the finish) about the race I will say that I was very modest about my results. I ran the 2011 race in 1:04:16. That’s a fantastic improvement over the year before if I do say so myself.

Back in January after the Disney Marathon I set forth a new running goal in this post. Why the emphasis on speed and time you ask? Turns out I really thrive on having fitness goals. However, I do not wallow in defeat if I am unable to achieve my ideal goal. It’s fun and gives me something to work for. I try to make my goals realistic and attainable. It’s a personal challenge since the only one I’m competing against is myself. I also take into consideration that all race courses are not equal to my training runs. With all that said I have a few general guidelines when I run a race:

  1. Have fun!
  2. Run the best you can
  3. Smile and say thank you to volunteers at the water tables

I do not wear my Garmin when I race because as much I want to accomplish my goals it is more important to enjoy what I’m doing. If I finish with a good time even better.

This was the first year my husband would not be accompanying me. With very little arm twisting my college roommate, Colleen, graciously agreed to come up from Boston for the weekend to cheer me on while watching Carlos during the race. She has run the Boston Marathon twice once with a team during which she qualified to run the race on her own. She ran the second time in under 3:40. In recent years she has suffered with terrible knee injuries and has been unable to run long distances. She’s an inspiration to me and one of my dearest friends.

Me, Colleen & Carlos on the Bridge of Flowers

OK enough already you’re probably saying, get on with it. The day before the race it down poured nearly all day. I was a bit concerned when I woke up to grey overcast skies. Luckily the skies held back and the weather was perfect for racing. I lined up on the bridge without the slightest hint of nerves; made me feel like a real veteran of this race. Soon we set off across the bridge to the cheers of hundreds of supporters. Carlos and Colleen were there to see me off.

The obligatory pre-race photo

I know the course well. The hill was in front of me before I knew it and I tried to keep running, but it feels like you are running up a wall. I began to walk as fast as possible. There were supporters along the way up shouting words of encouragement. I picked markers every now and then and ran from one point to the next. By the time I reached the water station near the top I was certain the hill had grown over the past year. I quickly drank a cup of water and then sped downward as quickly and safely as I could.

The back half of the course begins on a tree lined shaded dirt road. It empties the runners out onto a main road which remains open to cars though there are cones to indicate the lane for runners. We wind our way back down toward the back side of the bridge which we cross yet again to enter the chute to the finish line.

My training for this race was incorporated into my marathon training plan. That was halted in early July thanks to a sore hamstring followed by a strained Achilles. I listened carefully to my body and held off on running until about a week and a half before this race. It was a very frustrating time. In place of running I did strength training, stretching and some swimming.

Despite the training setbacks I felt great during the race. I was comfortable with my pace and had no discomfort at all. I put no pressure on myself to set a PR and I certainly didn’t hold myself to my original goal of running this particular 10K in under an hour. I was just so thrilled to be running my favorite race pain free.

Someday I will run a 10K in under an hour, someday I will run this race in under and hour, but on this day I did not, but that was just fine. As the time clock came into sight I was overjoyed by what I saw and much to my delight I did set a PR with a finish time of 1:01:53. Hot damn!!

“Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” 

–William Faulkner

Disney Marathon Part 4

Let the Races Begin

Grab a cup of coffee, tea or whatever you wish. This is one wordy post. My apologies in advance, but I promise by the end of this post I will finally finish that darn marathon I keep talking about!

The Disney Family Fiesta 5K

The 5K began at 6:30am on Friday, January 6,2012. My friend, her husband, her daughter and I all got up around 4 that morning. She came into the kitchen looking absolutely gorgeous despite the wretched hour.

Just a little background on my best nursing school friend. She has never been a runner. After recovering from foot surgery she announced that she was going to start running with hopes of completing a 5K. She followed the Jeff Galloway run/walk method throughout her training. In April 2011 we ran a local 5K together along with her husband and her next door neighbor. She finished it and later decided to sign up for this race.

We left early because we weren’t sure what to expect with traffic and road closings. The weather was very cool, in the 40s. There was a fun vibe at the starting area with a DJ blasting music. I was getting very excited about my own race. Many of the runners were wearing adorable and interesting costumes. As they announced the start the daylight began to break.

We said our goodbyes as my friend walked, nervously over to the starting area. We headed to the bleachers at the finish line. The amazing thing about a 5K is that within 15 minutes you have your winner. Incredible!

Disney Family Fiesta 5K Finish Line

My friend did an amazing job. She finished the race and didn’t come in last as she feared. We knew she wouldn’t come in last. I’m so proud of her. She admits that she has not quite fallen in love with running. If she never runs again that’s ok. She committed to running the races, trained for them and completed them. I give her so much credit. Not that it matters, but my friend turned 50 the week after the Disney race. I wish I could put her photo up because she is one stunning lady who doesn’t look a day over 40 in my opinion.

The 2012 Disney World Half Marathon

Next up was my friend’s husband, “D,” who ran the half marathon on Saturday morning. His race was scheduled to begin at 5:30am. The plan was to bring D to the starting area around 4, return to the hotel for about an hour and then head out again to try to catch him on the course before heading over to the finish line.

Our plan was foiled a bit because we kept getting directed in circles as we tried to find our way to the parking area in the Magic Kingdom. Roads were closed and spectator traffic was heavy even at the early hour. We finally managed to park and made our way to one of the spectator zones near the Polynesian Hotel. It was still fairly dark out and though my friend caught a glimpse of D pass quickly by, I missed him. I must have blinked! At this point he was doing great. We were receiving text updates of his time and pace.

D was a serious runner years ago when he was in the military. He talks about when he could run a 6 minute mile with ease. He has suffered from some knee and calf problems in recent years making running a bit of a struggle. His training was derailed a few times by pain and injury. To me the fact that he was out there at all was a triumph in and of itself, but I was in awe of the pace he was maintaining.

We hopped on the monorail and headed over to Epcot to get a spot at the finish line. We were cutting it close and ended up running from the monorail to the finish area. We scored a great viewing spot about 300 yards from the finish line. The crowd was going wild, cow bells and loud cheers surrounded us. My friend held up the neon yellow sign we had made for each of us so D could easily find us. I had my camera ready to shoot. Then we saw him coming around the bend. He looked strong, gave us a wave and pushed forward towards the finish.

Half marathoners still smiling as they near the finish line

Ultimately D’s goal was to simply finish the race. His A+ goal was to finish in just under 2 hours. He was a little disappointed by his official time which was just under 2:05, but he shouldn’t have been. He did start hurting in the second half of the race. For his first half marathon in many years and a challenging training, I think he had a lot to be proud of.

My friend and her husband have been so encouraging of my running. I was honored to be there to watch them accomplish their own running goals.

Spectating races is almost as much fun as running them. I loved being there on the side lines cheering other runners on as they passed by. The energy of the crowd was infectious. As faces go by I wonder what their running story is because everyone has one. One particularly interesting runner was a blind man running the Goofy Challenge which involves running the Half Marathon and the Full Marathon and in his case he also ran the 5K. Can you imagine running over 42 miles in 3 days never mind running it tethered to another person who is acting as your guide? Talk about inspirational!

The 2012 Disney Marathon

My alarm sounded at 2am on Sunday, January 8, 2012 but let’s back up a little. On Saturday I received an incredible surprise. If you haven’t read about it please do. You’ll find my post here. My pre-marathon carb loading fest was a family affair with my Mom, sister, Dad and his girlfriend, my husband and son. We met my cousin who was participating in the marathon as a Team in Training coach. She always goes to the same Italian restaurant in Celebration, FL the night before the marathon. I stuck to a simple bowl of pasta with marinara sauce. Dessert took place at a near by ice cream sweet shop. I treated myself to a small bag of chocolate truffles.

Back at the hotel I prepared my things for the morning and settled down to sleep around 8:30pm. I was up at 2:15 before my alarm even went off. I was surprised at how good I felt. No headache, my voice was back and there wasn’t even a hint of a cough or congestion. I took a quick shower to wake up, ate my typical long run breakfast of peanut butter toast and banana.

Pre race breakfast: Peanut butter toast with smooshed bananas!

I took a photo of myself and texted it to the girls at work! Who the heck else is up at such a ridiculous hour?

Marathon Prep
My race bib: I was way too excited that it had my name on it!

After the half marathon we discovered that the hotel did indeed have a shuttle bus going to the starting area. We had asked previously and had been told that they weren’t having any shuttles. Apparently it was a last minute decision. I woke up my husband and he and D walked me over to the bus around 3:30. I wasn’t feeling nervous. I was sort of anxious to get started.

Despite the more than 15,000 runners arriving at the starting area I managed to literally bump into my cousin, Jenna within 5 minutes of getting off the shuttle.

Cousins!

I was so happy to see a familiar face. She had done the Disney Marathon 5 times before so I just followed her lead. We hit the port-a-potties and then filtered into the herd of runners heading to the starting line. I really did feel like I was one in a herd of cattle. The mood was oddly somber and we were walking at such a slow pace. It was dark and cool out, but the temperature was comfortable. I never needed the blanket I brought so I ditched it in a pile of other discarded clothing to be donated by the marathon organizers.

I bid my cousin and her team farewell as they dropped me off at Corral D. I found my spot on the far right about 3/4 of the way to the back of the corral. I soaked up the scene. The DJ was playing music. All I remember is Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” Before I knew it Mickey and friends hit the stage, the fireworks erupted and the wheel chairs took off. Next Corral A, then B, then C and then finally it was my turn. I have learned the hard way never to start out at a race with a fast pace. This was no exception. I hit the ground at a slow jog, picking up my pace slowly. I do not wear my Garmin when I race and the time clocks along the way were reflective of the time that the 1st group started. However, I knew by the 5K mark that I was doing well, better than I expected. I fell into a comfortable pace and I stayed there for a while.

The race was well organized in my opinion. There was a water station and a medic station at every mile. Twice there were volunteers handing out bananas and twice Clif representatives were on the course passing out Gu and other Clif products.

Running a Marathon

I am one of those runners who just runs. I don’t stop too often other than to drink or if I really need to take a walking break. I run alone. I tend to get lost in my thoughts or my music. My pace during a long run is often the result of whatever is playing on my iPod.

I ran my heart out on January 8, 2012. I took in all the sights and sounds of the race. We ran through Epcot, the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Disney Hollywood Studio. I was motivated along the way by the spectators who were cheering and waving. Having my name on my bib was more exciting than I thought as people called out encouraging words to me; people I didn’t even know! I saw my friend and her daughter around mile 9 across from the Shades of Green Hotel. I know they couldn’t tell, but my eyes immediately welled up with tears when I spotted them holding that big fluorescent yellow sign.

Running through Cinderella’s castle was so exciting. The Magic Kingdom was lined with spectators and their energy was infectious.

Approaching Cinderella's Castle

I saw my cousin around mile 21 and she ran for a little bit with me before turning back to be there for her team.

The spectators grew in numbers as I neared the finish line. Having been at the finish line for D’s race the day before I knew exactly when to expect to see my family and friends. I was propelled through the last half mile by the energy of the crowd. Seeing my little guy again brought tears to my eyes.

Getting emotional as I pass my family

I’m not going to lie, my legs were really sore and I don’t know where the will came from but I picked up my speed and crossed the finish line with a sense of determination I have never felt before. As one of the volunteers placed the medal over my head I started to cry.

Me and my husband: I am verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves.

I really can’t seem to come up with the right words to describe this experience. I accomplished a goal I never thought possible. In all the years I have struggled with my weight and body image it never occurred to me that I would someday be fit enough to run a marathon. I’m so proud of myself. I’ve also never said those words.  Truthfully this was one of the most incredible days of my life. It is astonishing how empowering it can be to push yourself physically and mentally past your comfort zone and beyond any limits you had previously set. Crossing that finish line eliminated any doubt that I can do anything I set my mind to. There was never a moment during the race that I thought I might not finish. I dug in with my heels and I went for it with all I had.

Though I don’t place too much emphasis on speed I did have some goals in mind. First and foremost I was intent on finishing the race, but I knew it was a reasonable challenge to set my A+ goal to finish in just under 5 hours.

5:01:37 on the clock. I wasn’t disappointed though. After all wasn’t it Walt Disney himself who said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

Disney Maraton Finisher's Certificate: I did it! Official chip time 4:48:19

My official chip time was 4:48:19. What!!!! I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t. I exceeded even my own expectations. I have been walking on air since. Every time I think about the marathon I smile. I beamed nonstop for at least a week. I actually wore my medal into work my first night back!

Thanks for staying with me through this loooonnnngggg post! I appreciate all the support I received here on the blog. I have enjoyed getting to know many of my visitors as well. The marathon may be over, but that was just beginning. I will be back with some upcoming plans.

Marathon Training Week 5

This was a good week in training. I was able to stick to my schedule for the most part. The weather was really rainy throughout the early part of the week. I know that I should run in all types of weather to feel comfortable on race day no matter what the day brings. I have run in the rain before and I’m sure that I will again. I have run in the cold and on snowy days. I have run in extreme humidity. I prefer to run outside but sometimes I just don’t feel like getting wet. So there were a few treadmill days this week.

Sunday, 8/14/11 Rest Day

 

Monday, 8/15/11 6 Miles Adjusted the schedule a little bit because my husband was home from work. I did a longer run today and saved the shorter run for later in the week. Unfortunately due to the weather I ran this one inside at the gym.

 

Tuesday, 8/16/11 4 Miles I did this run after work at the gym thanks to a rainy morning.

 

Wednesday, 8/17/11 3 Miles On the treadmill again.

 

Thursday, 8/18/11 Rest Day Spent the day at the beach with my BFF and our kids.

 

Friday, 8/19/11 5 miles Finally able to run outside again!

 

Saturday, 8/20/11 11 miles A glorious 11 miles right after work on a cool sunny morning at the reservoir. Done by 9:30 am!

Thursday was spent on the Connecticut shore with my best friend, Missy, and her four boys. They are all really great kids ranging in age from 15 to 4. I never thought we would have children the same age although it was in our plans as children sitting on my front steps. She had her first three kids in her 20s and I didn’t have Carlos until I was 33 years old. I was so excited when she found out she was due with her fourth son just months after I was due.

I’ve literally known her all my life. We grew up across the street from each other. We have one of those friendships that require little or no effort. We don’t have to talk every day or even every week to know that if one of us needs the other we would be there. We are as different as night and day, but that never mattered.

My mother used to tell me “if you can count your true friends on one hand then you’re lucky.” I don’t have many true friends, but I do have a few. If I only had Missy I would still consider myself lucky.