Bridge of Flowers 10K 2017

Morning came too quickly. I got up hoping to see a message from my friend, Michelle, informing me she couldn’t run that morning. It wasn’t there. The sun was out, but the air was cool. I knew we would be running. I have run the Bridge of Flowers 10K six times since 2010, missing only 2014 after injuring my Achilles. My heart and body did not feel in it this year. I began the summer killing my training plan. I was feeling amazing. I had a specific pace goal and I was nailing my training runs. Then it fell apart.

The downward spiral began with a dental procedure at the beginning of July. I needed to have skin removed from the roof of my mouth to graft to the gums below my two front bottom teeth. I am no stranger to dental surgery, and I pride myself on being able to tolerate discomfort and pain to a high degree. When my dentist described the aftermath as akin to what it feels like when you burn the roof of your mouth only much worse. Well that was an understatement.  For two weeks, I was unable to eat or drink anything except a well-blended smoothie and tepid water out of a straw while tipping my head to the left side. Even that  caused me to cry. After a week of excruciating pain, I returned to the dentist certain something was terribly wrong. He assured me I was healing well, but was experiencing heightened sensitivity due to the exposed nerve endings.

While this was going on, work issues escalated for the nursing team and we were put under an enormous amount of pressure to clean up messes that we did not create. I was hungry, exhausted, and frustrated. Some personal issues crept into the mix as well. My stomach was empty and tangled with worry. I worked sun up to sun down while trying to be sure my son’s summer vacation was not affected. Running all but stopped. I tried to run a few times, stupidly in the high heat of the day because it was the only time I could go, and inevitably the runs were demoralizing.

I emailed my coach and told her I had to stop.  Something had to give and this time it had to be my training. I didn’t want to stop moving my body. I just wanted to stop the structured training plan. I was walking daily and doing some yoga at home when I could fit it into the day. Instead of being tied to a schedule I began doing whatever I felt like with my own self-imposed goal of moving for at least an hour every day if not more. I took a Barre class, did two OrangeTheory classes while visiting family in Florida, ran without pace goals, walked, rode my bike, and I swam. It was refreshing. My mouth eventually healed. Work is still insane and a bit unhealthy. I don’t want to say too much because the obvious response from people seems to be “if it’s so bad maybe it’s time to find another job.” I can’t argue with that point, but it’s never quite that black and white. Personal matters ebb and flow, but through the teachings of Sharon Salzberg, meditation and self-reflection, I continue to grow, accept responsibility for my own short comings, and in the end I will emerge a stronger, better, and happier person. I know things will be ok, but my patience and ability to give space to the issues is being tested. Historically, I am not a patient person. I like quick resolve, but that will not help things this time. Deep breaths!

My training fell apart for Bridge of Flowers. In the week leading up to the race I had the most horrendous work week of the summer. My hormones were also wreaking havoc as I retained water and felt like my body had become as wide as the Goodyear Blimp. I was in absolutely no mood to conquer Crittendon Hill this year. My friend, Michelle, texted a few days before to make a plan for race day. I knew I would run the race, but I wouldn’t like it! Race day came and surprisingly I woke up feeling better than I had in previous days. I did all my pre-race rituals. The weather outside was perfect. I was relieved that we would not have to deal with the stifling heat and humidity we experienced at last year’s race.

We arrived in Shelburne Falls with 45 minutes to spare, but the road to the parking area was already closed for the short 3K race. We waited in a line of vehicles for the road to reopen.  People were getting antsy, but I felt calm. Even if the race started without us, and I knew it wouldn’t, we would be joined by everyone in the car line. We eventually parked, picked up our bibs, and used the bathrooms before walking about 5 minutes to the starting area. As we left the packet pick up area, I heard a volunteer signal to someone on her walky talky to hold the start 10 minutes.

We took our time to the start on the Iron Bridge.

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As soon as we settled into middle of the pack, the national anthem began, the gun sounded and we were off. I knew instantly that I would run the race with my heart and soul. This is my race. I know this course better than any other. I know the tangents. I know the hills. I know where I can let it all out and I know when to hold back. The old familiar feelings welled up inside and I knew I made the right choice to run.

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Bridge of Flowers is my current 10K PR though it is a pre-Achilles injury feat. I am far from running that kind of pace right now. I wanted to run it in under an hour and my A goal was to beat my 2015 time in an attempt to begin working towards getting back to that 10K PR pace and beyond. I ran hard and pushed pace more than I thought I would be able to, but it wasn’t enough to meet either goal. I finished in 1:00:23. I finished the last mile with gusto. My feet were on fire. I was neck and neck with another woman, and I made a private competition out of it, pushing myself above and beyond my comfort zone in the last half mile. I pulled ahead of her so far she couldn’t catch me. It was exhilarating. This was all in my head obviously, but it made for a fun and fast finish for me. As I rounded the corner back onto the Iron Bridge my feet felt as though they were lifted off the ground. I was beaming. The bridge is always lined with spectators cheering wildly. It’s my favorite part of the entire race. I paused my headphones so I could hear my name being announced as I crossed the finish line. I get a charge out of it every year.

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I’m not disappointed with my time or my performance. Running is not just a passing phase in my life. It’s a part of my life and has been for many years now. I love running. It brings me peace and clarity.  I also love training for races. I enjoy the challenges running goals create. However, one crucial thing I learned after being injured a few years ago is that when my body or mind signal that I need a break it’s imperative I listen. I have come to trust that taking a break from running does not mean it’s the end. When I am ready to return, I do it gently and from a place of love. I don’t watch my pace or the minutes I’m out running. I simply run.

This won’t be my last Bridge of Flowers. It is my race. The course may be the same each year, but it challenges me in a different way every single time. It frustrates me sometimes. It makes me smile too. It takes me out of my comfort zone. No matter what my time is at the end, I have always run my best race and each finish makes me proud. Until next year!

Post Marathon High

After the marathon I enjoyed spending time with my friends and family. First lunch with my family an BFF Amelia and her adorable family. Then I took a much needed long hot shower. We enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Farmhouse Tap and Grill. The energy in Burlington was electric. And yes I wore my medal the entire night!!

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On our way home from Burlington we stopped in the tiny state capital of Montpelier. We wandered around so I could stretch my achy legs! I really love Vermont and these two handsome guys.

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The Vermont City Marathon seemed to have the complete opposite effect that Montreal had on me. I have been on the post marathon high since I finished and it’s been two weeks. Maybe it’s the psychological effect of having another tangible goal in the near future. Since I registered for the New England Double I am automatically registered for the Hartford Marathon in October. Just knowing I have that race to run has made me incredibly excited about training. I usually take a few days off of running after a marathon in exchange for nice walks, not this time. I couldn’t wait to go for a run.

Part of that enthusiasm was due to my new running shoes. My sister had purchased a pair of Hoka One One running shoes while I was running the marathon. She suffers from neuromas in both feet. These are essentially caused by thick skin that grows over a nerve in the ball of the foot typically between the 3rd and 4th toe. They are very painful and she is almost always uncomfortable no matter what shoes she wears so she keeps a sharp eye out for comfortable footwear. She was raving about her new Hokas and offered to buy me a pair as a congratulatory gift . I really wasn’t in the mood to try on shoes, but she convinced me and after taking a little spin in the purple Hokas I was sold. My sister’s husband bought a pair as well.

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Team Hoka One One

I feel like I’m bouncing on air when I run and my toes don’t hurt anymore something I had come to believe was normal.

I have been running, made a return to strength training and I am hiking whenever I can. I have enjoyed a few trail runs too. I love them. They are so refreshing and tranquil. Moving more translates into eating better too. I’m not perfect, but the last couple of years have proved to me that I don’t have to be perfect to continue to achieve goals and overcome obstacles. I just have to keep trying and doing my best.

I emailed the following to my health coach and I think it sums up perfectly how I’m feeling and where I’m heading:

Vermont City lit a match under me. I have placed way too much emphasis on the outside of my body. I am never going to be a super model. I’m going to continue to age and my body will inevitably change through that process. After reading about the 92 year old woman who finished the San Diego Marathon I came to the conclusion that I would much rather still be running marathons when I’m 92 than be thin. I enjoy being active and in the middle of a race I could care less what I look like. However, I really would like to see what my body is capable of doing, how far I can push it and what else I can accomplish. 

 

Racing Thoughts

I worked Sunday night at the hospital and then went for a run at the reservoir right after. It felt like old times. I ran a little over 6 miles which gave me plenty of time to think. I’ve been slowly putting the marathon in perspective mentally. Initially it was easy to conjure up all the negative aspects leading up to Vermont City:

  • my training was unorganized
  • I trained during a brutal winter
  • the Achilles injury has slowed me down
  • the sinus surgery disrupted an already disjointed training right at the crucial 20 and 22 mile long run weeks
  • the miserable 22 mile run!
  • new job, new schedule

Running, in my opinion, is much more mental than it is physical. For many years I’ve lived parallel to the philosophy of positive thinking and its power to create change. I’m open to the idea and I embrace it for short periods of time, but for so long I’ve found it easier to let the negativity in my mind control my thoughts…thoughts about myself, others and situations. However, I keep coming in contact with this idea of using the power of positive thinking to really control and direct life in a more purposeful manner. I’m moving closer and closer to that as I learn more about altering my thoughts. On Sunday evening I followed a link that Kris Carr posted on Facebook. Kris Carr has a fascinating story of healing herself while living with an incurable disease. The link led me to Louise Hay’s new movie, You Can Heal Your Life. It may seem a little out there to some and I get that, but I needed to see it and hear the message at that moment.

I am currently reading this interesting book called The Art of Work by Jeff Goins. These three passages stopped me in my tracks on Sunday. I have read them a number of times.

“Maybe a coach encouraged you or a parent pushed you or in a moment of inspiration you motivated yourself. But you dug a little deeper, increased your dedication, and somehow accomplished the impossible—all because you changed the way you thought. Hardwired in our brains and bodies is a potential greater than we realize, and all we have to do to unlock it is believe. ” (p64)

YES! I have done many things I didn’t think I was capable of and I love that feeling. I love proving myself wrong. I am no stranger to going outside of my comfort zone. I have dug deeper, dedicated myself to the “impossible” and conquered it.

“With the growth mindset, however, potential is unlimited. You can always get better. For this kind of person, the goal is not so much to be the best in the world but to be better than you were yesterday. Regardless of natural talent or the lack thereof, every person has the ability to improve themselves.” (p64)

I know this is true, but I often don’t give myself enough credit. Yet lately I am beginning to feel the tug of my life clock ticking. I want to do big things. I want more. I want to shoot for the stars and see just how far I can go.

“it’s more important to try than to rest on your natural ability. Why? Because you’re capable of more than you realize, and in trying, you learn something new as you push past possibility. As a result, you grow, learning that most skills are not inborn, but learned. Practiced. At least, they can be, if you’re willing to adopt the growth mindset and dedicate yourself to the practice that follows.” (64)

It’s really about learning to love the process and accepting growth and change along the way. This winter I bought skis and a ski pass. Carlos and I hit the slopes a number of times and I royally suck at skiing down anything but the beginner hill. I can’t even get off the chair lift without falling. I really don’t care. I love being out there. Next year I will get a little better. I might take a lesson or two. I definitely don’t plan on giving up on skiing.

Skis

Carlos has been helping to compile my marathon playlist and he popped one of our old faves on in the car on Monday morning, Let’s Go, Calvin Harris and Pitbull. These lyrics jumped out at me that morning even though I’ve heard them so many times before,

It’s all about where you’re going
No matter where you’ve been

So basic, so simple, but so true. Move forward. Stop looking backwards.

After my run on Sunday morning, my encounter with a little inspiration, and some soul searching this is how I really feel about running the marathon next weekend:

  • I’m so excited to run this course. I’ve heard really positive feedback about the race.
  • The finish line is right on gorgeous Lake Champlain.
  • The weather looks beautiful for next weekend.
  • This hasn’t been my best training, but so what? Seriously, so what! I could walk a marathon if I had to so no matter what happens on the day of the race I know these legs can go the distance.
  • Being aware of what didn’t work this training cycle will be really helpful when I begin training for the Hartford Marathon.
  • I worked as hard as I could, did as much as I could and I am going to be proud of that on race day.

I am going to run this marathon and I will finish. I’m going into it as the runner I am today, not the runner I was on September 28, 2013 when I finished Montreal. From here on out Vermont City will be my new baseline marathon. I have goals in my head, big goals and Vermont City is my jumping off point. My goal next Sunday is to run the best race I can and finish it smiling and uninjured. Those other goals, well I’m going keep those to myself for right now!!

Weekend Memories and a Half

Saturday morning Carlos made his First Communion. It was a beautiful mass. Carlos was a reader and he did a great job! The girls looked like mini brides and the boys looked so handsome in their white dress shirts and ties. After the mass we had a party for Carlos. My dad came up from Florida and my sister and her husband were here from the Boston area. It was a really nice afternoon with friends and family.

The handsome guys in my life.

 

Why must they grow so quickly?

 

My family

 

That evening we spent more time with my dad. We took him for a walk around the college in town and then we went to the town commons for frozen yogurt.

As I was getting ready for bed I reminded Orlando that the WMass Mother’s Day Half Marathon was the next day. I have been on the fence about running it and decided to play it by ear. Before I went to sleep I told Orlando I was going to run.

The next morning was a bit of a rush to get out the door. I couldn’t find my hat or my check book. My stomach was a little off. Off we went. We got to the registration area and I was told check or cash only. I never carry cash on me. Back at the car Orlando was talking to a woman who was telling him where to park. I thanked her and told her I wouldn’t be running after all. Turns out she was from the Cancer Connection, the local organization the run benefits. Well she insisted that I follow her and she would get me registered. It all worked out and I threw in a donation for the Cancer Connection as well.

I lined up at the start and the gun sounded a few minutes later. The sun was already blazing and it was only 8 o’clock. I ran the race once before two years ago so I was familiar with the course. It’s a beautiful course in rural Whately, MA; rolling hills, vast expanses of farmland and lots of colorful trees, flowers and people along the way. The water stops are plentiful, thankfully. There were a few fabulous spectators with hoses and sprinklers to cool us down. The finish line is full of energy and well stocked with food for the runners (and their sneaky 8 year olds who somehow always manage to find something other than a banana!).

It was an unseasonably hot day. I started slow and just tried keep an even pace. My thoughts were all over the place for the first few miles – “what is my goal today,” “I feel so slow, so heavy,” “I can’t believe I have a full marathon in two weeks,” “I feel like a new runner,” “I’m hot,” “I love running,” “This is my idea of fun on Mother’s Day now, remember when it used to be going to a buffet brunch?!”God I’m so happy to be running again,” “My Achilles feels good, wait what was that, oh nothing I think,” “I love half marathons.”

Then somewhere around mile 4 my mind began to focus on my ego. Over the course of the last few years I had developed a running ego. I got better at running. Then I got faster. I had an entire year of PR’s in 2013. I thought the injury to my Achilles shattered that ego, but it didn’t really. The ego is still very intact so much so that it has inhibited me from running races because I know I am not in a place to PR right now.

By mile 8 I came to the conclusion that I have to let go of the ego if I want to enjoy running races again. In a way I am starting over again. Not only am I a different runner, I have a different life and a different schedule. The ego needs to go. I’m fortunate to be running again. I’m so lucky to be healthy. I can set new challenges for myself and achieve new goals, but I cannot go backwards. No one can take away my running accomplishments and from here on out I will make new memories.

I ran the rest of the race with a new attitude. I let go of any expectations of myself other than to run a steady pace and finish the race. I did just that. As I neared the end I saw Orlando and Carlos. Carlos reached his hand out and joined me as I crossed the finish line. In that very moment I didn’t care what the time clock read. Carlos’ hand in mine was the best Mother’s Day gift! Oh and the medal of course.

Looking good sweaty! Must find hat before VT.

 

It’s all about the medal!!

 

I love him!

 

Now it’s on to Vermont without my running ego!

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.

 

 

Why Me?

If you had known me back in my younger years this whole running thing would come as a surprise to you. It still surprises me. I believed that I was not, nor was I capable of becoming athletic. I sat on the bleachers during high school gym class because I refused to play football. I nearly failed my junior year for lack of gym participation. I managed to slide under the radar somehow and passed by the skin of my teeth because I told the male gym teacher I had really bad PMS cramps!

This injury is a real bummer, but don’t think for one minute I’m sitting here with a box a tissues whimpering Why Me when I have a marathon coming up in a couple of weeks. Running has taught me so many things and I’m not about to let those lessons fly right out the window because of an injury. Running has made me a stronger, more adaptable person. I will run again and there will be other marathons.

I think the most important thing you can do when you are injured is try to understand how the injury happened so you can avoid re-injury in the future. So how did this happen to my foot? Even without a definitive diagnosis I have reflected on my training this winter and the activities during the week of injury. I did a lot of my training indoors this winter. I have never trained for a late spring marathon and training outdoors in the frigid temperatures with ice and snow on the ground wasn’t possible. I ran a lot of my speed work and tempo runs on the treadmill. I also ran in the same running shoes I’ve had since before the Montreal Marathon in September. I bought a new pair, but stupidly only wore them a few times in the two weeks before the injury because I kept telling myself I would wait until I was outdoors more often. How silly! Three days before the injury I did P90X Plyometrics. I used to do this workout a lot, but hadn’t done it quite sometime. It involves a lot of jumping and dynamic moves. I can’t be sure, but it’s possible that a combination of overuse, speedy treadmill workouts, maybe landing the wrong way during Plyometrics and old shoes are what caused this foot injury.

I continue to do whatever I can to stay active without the risk of worsening my foot. Yesterday I joined the YMCA for a month mainly so I can use the pool to swim laps. I love swimming, always have. In fact I was actually a pretty decent swimmer back in the day. We used to spend summers at a local lake and I would be in the water from early morning to dusk. My mom was constantly yelling for me to swim closer to the dock, but I always managed to swim my way out towards the middle of the lake. Water has always been a source of peace for me. It was so refreshing and soothing to swim quietly for 45 minutes this morning after an extremely hectic night at work.

I will undoubtedly learn from this experience and take those lessons on the road with me when I start running again. Absence certainly makes the heart grow fonder. A break from running always reminds me how much I love to run simply for the sake of running and not just a race. Although this swimming thing did get me thinking about what a triathlon might be like. I am a good swimmer and I know I can handle the running. Now I just have to get a bike. Orlando if you’re reading this Mother’s Day is on Sunday and there is still plenty of time to go to the bike shop!

 

 

Monson Half Marathon Recap Finally

In the fall of 2011 I fell down the stairs in my house and broke a rib. I just re-read the post I wrote about it and I said that the doctor gave me order not to run for one week. I’m pretty sure I was delusional when I wrote that because I am certain he said 6-8 weeks. I was in the midst of training for my first marathon at the time so I’m sure there was no way I wanted to believe that I couldn’t run for that long. As it turned out, thanks to lots of rest, a mix of homeopathic remedies and Ibuprofen I was comfortably back in action after about 3 weeks. One of my first double digit runs after the injury was the Monson Memorial Classic half marathon. The idea was to enjoy a change of scenery and have fun with the long run. I was not looking for a PR or any special time. To date it remains my slowest half marathon. I finished in 2:22:57 (10:55 pace).

This fall in my attempt to complete at least one race a month I needed to find a race for November. The Monson Memorial Classic was once again a last minute decision. It was held on November 10, 2013 and again fell on a day that I worked the night before. I coordinated with my friend who lives on the race route and since she was going to be home Carlos could hang out at her house and play with her son who is the same age.

Quick side story… My friend who lives in Monson is my best friend from childhood. We grew up across the street from each other. She is a couple of years older than me, but we have maintained a close friendship since we were kids. We used to talk about moving to California, going to college there and then we planned to have children around the same time so they could be friends too! However, she got married when she was 25 and had three boys before I even got married so we never imagined we would have children the same age. I love her kids. They are awesome boys and I  have always thoroughly enjoyed spending time with them. I called Missy the day after I discovered I was pregnant to tell her. Of course she was thrilled for me. She called me the next day to let me know she was also pregnant, but didn’t want to tell me the day before because she didn’t want to steal my thunder. I was so excited to know we were going to have children at the same time. Sadly she miscarried a month later. Fate works in mysterious ways though and she became pregnant again months later. Her 4th boy arrived 3 and a half months after Carlos was born. When those boys get together they are best buds and have so much fun together just as their moms did.

Monson Memorial Classic, pre-race photo with my Bug
Monson Memorial Classic, pre-race photo with my Bug

OK back to the race. So with little fanfare my friend dropped me off at the starting area of the race so I could register at the last minute. I hung out by myself feeling a little self-conscious and rather indifferent about running a half marathon. At that point I was tentatively training for the 50K race I did in December. I had actually run 5 miles right after work that same morning. I remember feeling great during that run. I just looked back at Map My Run for the workout and I ran 5.05 miles in 47:28 which is a great pace for me. So the half marathon was really meant to make up the rest of an 18 mile run I had on my training plan.

The weather was cool and a bit overcast, but perfect for running. The race started with little fanfare and we were off. This race is notorious for its hills. You climb slowly here and there for much of the first 8 miles. It’s a challenging course with few spectators and not a great deal of scenery to enjoy. I fell into a comfortable pace, my breathing was calm and I actually felt great once I got going. Then it began to rain rather unexpectedly. It wasn’t heavy rain and it did little to disturb my groove.

I’m not sure I can explain what happened during this race, but I was on fire. My legs felt amazing. My pace was steady. I powered up every single hill without backing down. I had absolutely no idea what my time was at all throughout the race. The last couple of miles were brutal as the rain picked up and the temperature grew colder. Although there is a nice downhill stretch towards the end there is also another big hill to contend with.

As I was entering the home stretch in the last mile a woman passed me pushing a wheelchair. I read her shirt and knew immediately she was a member of Team Hoyt. Team Hoyt is the organization inspired by the father and son team of Dick and Rick Hoyt. Dick Hoyt has pushed his son Rick, who is in a wheelchair, in over 1000 races including the Boston Marathon multiple times. This woman was pushing a little girl who was older and larger than Carlos. My eyes welled up with tears and I felt a surge of energy as I saw the finish line ahead. I had no desire to “beat” this woman, but suddenly I needed to finish my race strong. If she could run 13 miles pushing this beautiful child then surely I could keep up my momentum all the way to the finish.

I didn’t even see the time as I crossed. I kept my eye on the woman and the little girl. As I cleared the finish chute I went to her and with tears in my eyes I congratulated her and the girl. It was her daughter she said as her eyes also filled with tears. We spoke briefly and she told me that she runs with Team Hoyt to raise money and awareness for others with disabilities. She was around my age and told me that only a couple of years prior she was overweight and inactive. I was in awe of how fit she was now. She had to turn her attention to someone greeting her, but her husband immediately introduced himself. He was beaming with pride and said that both he and his wife had undergone a huge transformation over the past year. I am constantly inspired when I run races, but this was an exceptionally moving encounter.

It was hours before I would learn my time. Honestly it wasn’t a focal point of this race as it had been with other races last year. For me it was just my “November” race. Well it also turned out to be my 2013 half marathon PR. Prior to this race my official half marathon PR of 2:03:52 was achieved at the Plattsburgh Half Marathon in April (I just re-read my race recap of that race and I now have tears running down my face #iamagoof!). My new half marathon PR set at the 2013 Monson Memorial Classic Half Marathon is 2:02:22!!

Funny story about the race results. When I finally got the email announcing they were online I checked them out right away. I was nowhere to be found. However, I knew the woman’s name from Team Hoyt and there was a mysterious “Unknown” a few people below her time with a time of 2:02:22 which I suspected might be me. The age was correct, but the Unknown was a male. I sent an email through the race website and politely explained that I thought it might me my time. Although I felt kind of silly, I asked if there was any way to determine whose time it was because if it was my time it was a hard earned PR for me. I also asked if it was my time could they please change the sex to female. I know it’s silly, but for some reason I get a charge out of pulling up the growing list of my race results on Athlinks and I wanted this race to get listed there as well. I was contacted by a very understanding race director confirming that it was indeed my time.

What a year in running for me!! Truly incredible! If you had told me a few years ago that this running thing would become such a huge part of my life I would have rolled my eyes and snidely told you “I don’t think so.” Running isn’t everyone’s thing and that’s really ok, but get out there and move even if it’s only a little bit. The more you move, I guarantee you, the more amazing you will feel.