Category: Racing

Montreal Marathon Recap

I wrote about my training and my marathon results, but for some reason I haven’t been able to finish this post about race day and actually running the Montreal Marathon.

We stayed at Le Nouvel Hotel in Montreal. It was a short walk to the metro from the hotel and a quick metro ride to the starting area. I headed out into the cold, rainy early morning alone. Orlando and Carlos would meet me later at the finish line. The metro was packed with runners so I wasn’t worried about getting lost. 

I arrived at the starting area with plenty of time to spare so I jumped in line for the port-a-johns. The girl in front of me was beside herself because she had never used a port-a-john. When it was her turn she let me go ahead of her! I wonder if she ever mustered up enough courage to go inside.

The entrance to the Jacques Cartier Bridge was jamming with a live band and swarms of runners. I retreated to a grassy area nearby. It was a dreary morning, but the rain had subsided for the time being. I took the opportunity to stretch and relax. It was nice to take time to clear my mind, stretch my body and just be in the moment.

About 30 minutes before the start I began to walk to my corral, Corral 18. As I was walking up the Jacques Cartier Bridge I noticed in contrast to my red bib everyone else seemed to be wearing green bibs causing me to worry that I had been given the wrong bib. When I finally spotted another red bib I asked which race she running. I was relieved when she said the red bibs were for the full marathon and the green bibs were for the half. There were approximately 14,000 runners in the half marathon and only 4,000 running the full marathon.

I settled into my corral and got to chatting with some friendly women from Montreal. Both were in their 50s and doing the half marathon. One had lived in China and ran the Great Wall adventure marathon and the Beijing Marathon (I thought of you Carina ). She was running the half that day in preparation for the Marine Corps Marathon in October. The other woman had qualified for Boston during her very first marathon in her 20s. She had been out of running for some time and this was her first long race in many years.

As we chatted the rain returned and really began to pick up. I marveled at the sheer ingenuity of so many of the runners who came equipped with a simple trash bag over their head. Absolutely ridiculously brilliant, simple and cheap! Guess who now has a trash bag in her running bag?! I had a throw away sweatshirt on with a hood and gloves to keep my hands warm which turned out to be enough.

We made our way very slowly across the Jacques Cartier Bridge towards the actual starting line. Corral after corral we inched closer and closer. My legs were getting antsy and I was itching to run. Finally after at least 45 minutes Corral 18 took off. The rain was coming down at a good clip and I had ditched my sweatshirt already. I really didn’t care too much about the rain. I was more focused on keeping my feet out of puddles. Running with soaking wet shoes that early would not be fun.

What's a little rain?
What’s a little rain?

During the first 5 miles I excitedly spotted the 4:30 pacer. I somehow managed to pull ahead of her and stayed in front of her for the rest of the race. I was very satisfied with that, but I continued to be on the lookout for the 4:15 pacer to know I had a good cushion for time. I never did see the 4:15 pacer!

At approximately the 10K mark we crossed the St. Lawrence river again via the Concorde Bridge. I love running over bridges. I frequently run across a nearby bridge into a neighboring town just to glimpse views of the river. Before reaching the end of the bridge I realized the rain had stopped. The weather continued to be overcast for the rest of the race, but no more rain! On the other side of the river we ran through Old Montreal, past the Notre Dame Basilica and up the bustling Ste Catherine Street. At Lafontaine Park we broke with the half marathoners. This would also be the finishing point for the full marathon. The spectator support was fabulous through Old Montreal and grew in intensity as we neared Lafontaine Park. This was the finish area and also where we would break off from the half marathoners.

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However, as I cheered the runners whizzing by me who were finishing the half marathon the noise and excitement of the race also disappeared. I looked ahead and saw two lone runners way up in front of me. I jerked my head to look behind me and realized I was basically alone. At this point I settled into my pace and into my thoughts. I felt great, better than I had expected both mentally and physically.

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The second half of the course meandered north through some rather quiet streets before turning east towards the Botanical Gardens and Olympic Stadium, neither of which I remember passing because I believe we just ran past the outside of the sites. There were wonderful volunteers along the back half of the course and because it is a Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon there were bands in various places along the route. Before the finish line was even in sight I could hear the roar of the cheering spectators. It is still amazing to me that people come to cheer their hearts out for the runners. It brings tears to my eyes every time. Montreal supporters did not disappoint.

Almost there!
Almost there!

As the finish chute came into sight I felt a surge of energy ignite my body. It was as though I was just beginning my run as opposed to finishing 26.2 miles. The last quarter of a mile or so was like an out of body experience. Just before I crossed the finish line I caught sight of my husband and son to the right beyond the finish. “Yes,” I thought, “they made it!”

Montreal Marathon Mom!
Montreal Marathon Mom! Together we are Boston Strong!!

And so did I!

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A proud moment

This post has taken me so long to write. Sometimes I feel really alone in this running journey. No one around me really “gets it.” This race started out as just another marathon, yet it turned into so much more. I knew I had a good chance of running a sub 4:30 marathon which for someone like me is a huge accomplishment so to run it in 4:16:35 is still a bit mind boggling. I exceeded my own expectations far beyond what I believed to be possible for me as a runner. I’m not sure how to channel that right now. I’m exploring goals I have previously scoffed at, but now they don’t seem so strange or unattainable. I have a desire to run longer races and I can’t quite explain why. Yet I feel I need to explain why before I sign up for one. I don’t just want to run though, I want to run healthy and clean. I also want to feel strong and flexible. I’m not sure exactly what is next for me, but I am anxious and excited to find out. I am also a little bit terrified.

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” Henry Ford

Bragging Rights Guest Post: Deb

Since embarking on this journey to lose weight, become physically fit and lead a healthy lifestyle I have received so much inspiration, support and motivation from blogs. I love the excitement and enthusiasm in the posts of bloggers who reach their goal weight, PR a race, lift a bigger weight or fit into a new size of jeans. I also appreciate the raw honesty of bloggers who share the challenges and obstacles they face along the way. The reader comments are typically full of encouragement, cheers and helpful advice. 

For me the blog has been a great space to share my love of running and how it is helping me to come to terms with my lifelong struggle with weight, poor body image and lack of confidence. Part of this process for me is learning to be proud of my accomplishments and ultimately to really love this new person I am becoming. We are so quick to put ourselves down. I am great at doing that, but I have difficulty accepting a compliment or singing my own praises. When I wrote the post Bragging Rights  it was also a call to anyone who wanted to share something awesome that they have accomplished.

Deb has recently celebrated a couple of big accomplishments. She graciously agreed to write a guest post. I’m so honored to share Deb’s inspiring story here.

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My name is Deb, and I am a runner.

A little over a year ago, I would have never believed it.  I was a depressed, 100 pound overweight semi-couch potato.  I say “semi” because, like Aimee, I am an RN who works night shift.  Any nurse will tell you, we get plenty of “exercise” running up and down the hallway for eight to sixteen hours at a time. But, all that “exercise” I had over the last 27 years didn’t prevent me from becoming morbidly obese.

I think we can all agree that it’s challenging enough to exercise and lose weight.  But, when you work nightshift, it’s like climbing Mount Everest.  Well, maybe not quite THAT hard.  But, I’m sure you can appreciate the obstacles.  When you’re chronically sleep deprived, unhealthy carbs are the stimulant of choice, and there is usually no shortage of them – chocolate kisses at the front desk, donuts in the staff lounge, and a multitude of sweet or salty options in the vending machines.  And, that’s just on a regular night.  During the holidays, it’s a veritable smorgasbord of cookies, cakes and brownies!  As for healthy eating habits, sitting down for a meal is not always possible, especially on a busy labor & delivery unit.  Donuts are great for eating on the run!  As for “real” exercise, when faced with the choice between a treadmill and a nap on the couch, the nap is pretty hard to resist.

But, “choice” is the operative word here, isn’t it?

Last year, I realized it was past time to start making better choices.  No more yo-yo dieting.  No more binge eating. No more mindless snacking.  No more excuses for not exercising.  I knew that if I continued on the same path I was on, I would dread my 50th birthday; I would never know the joy of slipping into a size 10 and loving what I see in the mirror; I would never let my husband see me naked again; I would never know the simple pleasure of walking uphill without getting out of breath; I may die of some chronic illness and never get to enjoy my future grandchildren.  When I looked at it that way, the choice became quite clear.

I’ve lost weight before, too many times to mention.  I’ve always fallen off the diet bandwagon and ran out of steam before ever reaching my weight loss and fitness goals.  But, THIS time, I decided to go public.  I confessed to my family, and all of my friends and coworkers, that I was embarrassed that I let myself become so overweight and out of shape; that I avoided having my picture taken, and didn’t attend family gatherings and other social outings because I was ashamed of my appearance; that I didn’t want to hide anymore because I missed them. I asked them to keep me accountable and I promised them that with their help, I would commit to taking better care of myself.

I received such an outpouring of love and support, that I cannot begin to express my gratitude. It made me finally realize I AM worthy.

More than anything, I’ve wanted to make my kids proud of me.  They’ve seen my weight go up and down over the years, and they’ve learned to accept my many attempts to “take better care of myself” with a big grain of salt.  One afternoon, my son and I were taking a walk in our hilly central PA neighborhood – me huffing and puffing and making the usual promise to get in better shape — when my son told me about the Couch-2-5K running program. I said, “I’m doing it!” Whether he believed me or not, I was determined that THIS time, I wasn’t going to let him down.

The first time I ran, I thought I was going to die! (I’m sure all of you beginner runners out there can relate.)  After a few false starts, a proper pair of running shoes, and a YouTube video about Chi Running, I really began to hit my stride. 🙂

In order to keep myself motivated, I registered for my first running event, The Great Race 5K, in Pittsburgh, PA in September 2012. It was a life-changing experience.  There was so much energy and emotion! I stood toward the back of the pack – it’s was a HUGE crowd — and looked around in amazement at all the shapes and sizes of runners. Music was playing and people were stretching and warming up. I couldn’t believe I was there and I was actually going to run a 5K.

My only goal was to finish the race. After the National Anthem and the sound of the gun, we began to move toward the starting line. I was so overwhelmed with emotion; I could feel my eyes welling up with tears.  But then, as I fell into pace with the rest of the runners, I felt my confidence soar. Around mile two, the course begins a slow steady uphill climb. A nice gentleman talked me through it and when I reached the crest, it was downhill the rest of the way, and I knew I was going to make it. For the last half mile, I couldn’t help laughing with the sheer joy of it. I saw my son and husband in the crowd, cheering me on, and I couldn’t stop smiling. I never felt more proud of myself when I crossed that finish line. From that day on, I was completely hooked on running, and I couldn’t wait to do it again!

Despite all that great exercise, I noticed I wasn’t losing any weight.  My husband felt inspired by my 5K, and we decided to help each other reach our weight loss and fitness goals. We joined Weight Watchers together and we starting going to the gym on a regular basis. And, of course, I began training for a half-marathon!

Since then, I’ve lost that 100 pounds, I’ve become a Lifetime member of Weight Watchers, and I am proud to say, “I am a runner!”

I ran my first half marathon at the Rock & Roll Cleveland with a time of 2:43, and I’m hoping to PR at my next half marathon on November 2nd. I decided to borrow Aimee’s idea and try to run a race every month. I find I really like the discipline that being in training mode requires. It keeps me motivated. But, more importantly, it’s fun!

How do I know THIS time I’m going to keep the weight off?

Because I know if I slip up — and I probably will once in a while — I have the tools, and the support to get right back on track. I know how good it feels to make the right choices for my health and well-being.

Best of all, I am looking forward to celebrating my 50th birthday in two weeks, and I’ve never felt better. And, I don’t even mind having my picture taken anymore! 🙂

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(Me, my son Kevin, my step daughter Maggie, and my husband Larry, at the Rock & Roll Cleveland Half Marathon)

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Thank you so much for sharing Deb! Congratulations on the half marathon and achieving Lifetime membership with Weight Watchers. You look fabulous for almost 50!! 

Do you have anything you want to brag about?

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. 

Montreal Marathon Results

In high school physical fitness involved sitting on the bleachers during gym. In college physical fitness was walking to the bars with a cigarette in hand. In my 20s I joined gyms and resolved nearly every Monday that “today was the day” I would finally lose weight and get fit. By Tuesday I was berating myself for screwing up my new diet and the vicious cycle continued as I got heavier and heavier. For as long as I can remember I told myself I was not an athlete nor could I be an athlete because I was overweight.

Then in my 30s I became a mom and suddenly life had a new meaning. My never ending plight to lose weight became less about my weight and more about leading a healthy lifestyle and becoming a positive role model for my son. As a result not only did my body finally change so did my mind.

For so long I believed I COULD NOT. I want to tell you that if you really want to you CAN!

On Sunday, 9/22/13 I ran my third full marathon in Montreal in 4:16:35!!

It was amazing. I feel fantastic. I can’t stop smiling!

A full recap to follow I promise.

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Half Size Me Interview

First I want to say I miss blogging. On top of a fun, active summer my computer has been having all sorts of problems. Most recently, last week I had to have the track pad replaced. I’m just not ready to put my 6 year old MacBook down yet! I love technology and my electronics, but everything I own is considered old by technology standards.   I tend to read blogs on my phone, but that’s been giving me a headache too; it’s slow and freezes up. I have an “old” iPhone 4 (no Siri).  I cannot comment on many blogs from my phone for some reason. So Carina, Biz and Marion I’m reading! I love keeping up with my favorite blogs and I enjoy commenting because it’s nice to know people are out there reading and caring about what you write. I honestly can’t tell you how much I appreciate your comments and feedback.

This is an exciting week for a couple of reasons. I’ll start with the upcoming weekend. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Oasis Montreal Marathon is this Sunday, September 22nd. I am ready! This week of training is very light. I’m focusing on my diet, stretching and a few easy runs. This training was incredible. I enjoyed every moment of it even the 22 mile run and my 20 mile runs. I endured the hot summer and surprisingly didn’t mind it too much. I tried some new things this time around including incorporating more strength training, different types of fuel for long runs, and more stretching. I feel great about this marathon. I have goals (I’m looking at you Oprah!), but no matter what happens on that day I know I am going into the race well trained, strong and healthy.

The other exciting news is that I am this week’s interview on Half Size Me. I have been listening to Heather’s podcasts for over a year now and I have drawn so much inspiration from the stories she features. Heather, herself, has an inspiring story that motivates and encourages others to stay on the road to a healthy lifestyle. I contacted Heather of halfsizeme.com first for some motivation during a time of frustration this past spring when the scale just wouldn’t budge despite my efforts. She kindly offered some advice and suggestions to help me along. I’m happy to report that I was able to push past the plateau and lose a few pounds before beginning marathon training. I then contacted Heather again after listening to one of her podcasts where a listener asked for advice about maintaining healthy habits and losing weight while working the night shift. I was honored that Heather asked me to participate in an interview.

You can find the interview today at Half Size Me. I hope you enjoy it.

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Waterville Valley: Birthday and a Race

Orlando and I don’t do gifts for birthdays or Christmas for each other. We opt for a night away or a fancy dinner somewhere new. This year Orlando’s birthday fell on a Sunday and it also happened to be my weekend off. Perfect! I asked him what he might like to do and you know what he said without any cajoling or bribing? He said he would like to run a race! Well who am I to deny that wish?!! A quick search of races in New England on that weekend revealed a 5K and a half marathon in Waterville Valley, NH. The Black Bear Half Marathon and 5K description boasted  “a scenic tour of one of New Hampshire’s most beautiful towns, along quiet country roads, finishing in the center of the quaint village.” We had never visited before and it gave me the option of running a half if I needed to for marathon training.

As the day neared I was doing well with marathon training, but suspected that running a half marathon might be too much on that particular weekend. After careful consideration I opted to run the 5K alongside my husband. He really wanted to run it together and agreed to help me run a strong 5K. I really dislike 5Ks because it means basically sprinting at a fairly uncomfortable pace.

Anyway I’ll get to the race in a minute. Let me just take a moment to discuss the lovely Waterville Valley. It is a ski resort by winter and a family vacation site by summer. We got to our hotel in early afternoon. The day was gorgeous so we hopped on the bikes provided by the hotel and toured the property. There is a golf course, tennis courts, a playground, an adventure center, a beach with a volleyball net, shops, restaurants and kayak, canoe and paddle boat rentals. We saw a wedding party taking photos before heading to the reception. The resort is nestled below Mount Tecumseh and provides beautiful views in every direction.

We stopped in the adorable town square for an afternoon snack of local homemade ice cream. We meandered back to the hotel on the bikes to relax and prepare to go out to dinner. We made reservations at Lantern in the town square. We got a table overlooking the pond in the center of the village. The town square was bustling with activity at night. There was a band playing. People were hanging out eating more casual fare like pizza and burgers. Others were enjoying a beer or beverage down by the pond. We loved the vibe of the area. It was extremely family friendly. Kids were everywhere on scooters, roller blades, running around. It was such a lively environment. Of course we kept saying, “Carlos would love this.” It’s nice to have time alone, but we sure miss Carlos when we go somewhere without him.

We had a nice drawn out 4 course dinner including wine and dessert. This was a real treat for me. I enjoyed every delicious bite.

The next morning we were up bright and early to prepare for the race. I knew that morning that running the 5K was the right decision. We picked up our bibs and went for a little walk to kill time before the race. As we lined up at the start we realized there was only a small group running the race. The race organizer told us he would lead us on bicycle, and with that he counted down 3-2-1 and off we went. We ran through the resort, over a small bridge, past a small waterfall and back through the village to finish across from our hotel. There were some people cheering us on along the way which is always nice.

Orlando insisted on running the race with me. Now he is significantly faster than me so I told him to push me a little bit. It’s always nice to PR whenever possible, but as I was nearing the last weeks of marathon training I also didn’t want to risk injury so I told Orlando just to stay a little ahead of me at all times. The race course was scenic as promised and the weather could not have been more perfect. I felt really good throughout the run. I worked hard though as I always do during the shorter distances. Orlando’s long stride kept me reaching. The race ended on an uphill which is pure evil. I powered up the hill with Orlando next to me. He pulled back as I tore through the finish line. He now tells everyone that he “let me win!!” We were surprised with medals as finished. I’ve never received a medal for a 5K.  I didn’t really know my time because the clock was reading the half marathon time. They said there would be an awards ceremony in about 20 minutes, but we had to check out of the hotel within the hour and still needed to shower. We knew we didn’t win! We grabbed a snack and some water and returned to the hotel to get ready and pack up.

On the way home we stopped at Lake Winnipesaukee for lunch and a little walk to check out the lake. It was beautiful. The day was perfect for swimming and boating. We took some photos and then hit the road.

Carlos stayed with my mom for the night and we couldn’t wait to see him. When we pulled into my mom’s driveway I spotted the balloons. We were greeted with sombreros and margaritas at our surprise birthday fiesta! Orlando’s birthday was that day and mine was three days later. My sister came out for the party which was a huge surprise because we had just seen her a few days earlier. It was just my immediate family there to celebrate. The evening was wonderful. Year after year we have had the same cook out for our birthday. I constantly beg for something different, but my stuck in her ways mom won’t budge. My sister planned the menu which included all the fixings for tacos along with guacamole, a corn and avocado salad, shrimp and fresh salsa. This took pretty much everyone except my husband, sister and me outside of their food comfort zone. It was comical. My mom and her husband were not thrilled, but my aunt and uncle seemed to enjoy the meal. Orlando and I were in heaven.

After dinner Carlos took us over to the piñata. He couldn’t wait for that part of the party. My mom and sister filled it with things you might find in a Christmas stocking like gum, lotion and chapstick. It was hilarious. We had fun going through everything once we managed to break it open.

No birthday party would be complete without cake. Again after pleading for many years for a cake I could eat without splurging on all of my calories for the day I was treated to angel food cake and fresh berries. It was delicious. I smiled thinking of how my grandmother would have loved the party as different as it was from years past. It was truly a wonderful weekend and a beautiful way to usher in a new age.

Oh sorry I forgot to mention my race results. So I killed it! Not only did I set a PR of 26:52, I also came in 2nd for the females overall and 1st for the females in my age group. OK I should probably mention that there were only 42 runners in the entire race. The first female actually won the race with a time of 20:55. It’s been a few weeks, but I’m still smiling about this race every time I think about it!

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!

Run or Dye

Last year Carlos and I did the Color Me Rad 5K in Boston. We had so much fun we signed up for another color run this year. This time we did Run or Dye in East Hartford, CT. The air was still steamy from the week long heat wave. Let’s just say we did more walking than running. We were a tie dyed mess before our wave even took off and sweat was pouring down our faces. Carlos and I made the most of it, throwing more color on each other then chasing each other. We both agreed that for some reason the race last year was more fun, but we still had a great time together.

I overheard lots of people as we waited for our wave to take off mentioning that it was their first race. I started to ponder the pros and cons of doing one of these color runs as first 5K.

Cons

As we were going through the course I felt kind of badly for some of the people who were really trying to give it their all. Almost everyone was walking because of the heat and the fact that the course was along thick grass and loose gravel. This made it challenging for anyone actually trying to run. Then you are periodically met with color stations where you get color bombed as you run through. If you’ve been training for a 5K and are trying to set a certain time goal this type of race might prove disappointing.

Pros

These are fun runs that new runners can do to try out the distance and the race experience. There is no pressure to run a certain time or pace. Color runs are even better to do with a group of people so if you’re apprehensive about running a race alone and don’t already have people to run with these are easy races to recruit friends to join in with you. Any age can participate so these races are fantastic for parents who might have difficulty finding child care in order to run a race.

Run or Dye East Hartford took place at Rentschler Field which is better known as home to the UConn Huskies football team. The parking lots were packed so pros and cons aside it was awesome to see so many people come out on a hot day to do something active and fun.  There isn’t much else to say so I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Race Plans

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but I love goals and challenges. At the beginning of this year I set a goal to run one race a month. I enjoy training for races. It’s oddly exciting for me to have a race on the calendar and a training schedule. This motivates me to work out and gives me something to look forward to.

So here is a look at the first 6 months of races:

JanuarySawmill River 10K

FebruarySnowstorm Classic 5K and the Jones 10 Miler

MarchHolyoke St. Patrick’s Day 10K Road Race

AprilPlattsburgh Half Marathon

MayWestern Mass Mother’s Day Half Marathon

JuneZooma Annapolis Half Marathon and the Lake Wyola 4.8 Mile Road Race

It’s been a really fun 6 months of racing. I even exceeded my own expectations. I have made some major strides in my running this year and I’m really excited about the next few months of racing. Here’s a peek at my summer racing plans.

July – Carlos and I are doing the Run or Dye 5K color run in Hartford. Now this is a fun run and as of yet I’m not signed up for any other races, but I’m going to try to sneak in at least one more race for the month. It will probably be a local 5K since those are the most popular this time of year.

August – On the same day I will run one of my favorite local races, the Bridge of Flowers 10K in Shelburne Falls and later that night Carlos and I will be participating in the Electric Run, a glow in the dark 5K extravaganza. Since my birthday is at the end of August I might also try to find a birthday race.

As of right now my racing plans only go as far as September. While training for my spring half marathons I began to seek out another full marathon for the fall. I had been thinking about it and discussing it with my husband pretty much since I ran the Philadelphia Marathon last November, but with our travel plans this year I wasn’t sure how another full marathon would fit into our schedule. Then one night I got an email announcing a Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon on September 22, 2013 in Montreal. I quickly checked my schedule, yes I’m off that weekend. I called my husband as soon as I left work in the morning to tell him. Without taking even a second to think about it he said to register for the race. My husband loves all things Canada. We’ve only been to Montreal once for a brief one night stay in the middle of winter. He is thrilled to be able to return for a bit longer at a time when the weather is a little warmer. So without hesitation I registered for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Oasis Marathon.

I’m finishing up week 4 of training. It’s going really well though a little challenging with Carlos out of school for the summer. He was in half day soccer camp this week from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. While he played soccer I ran or cross trained. It doesn’t leave me much time for anything else but a quick shower before heading back to pick him up, but I have come to realize that this part of my life is not negotiable. Exercise has become a fixture in my days. I schedule it on the calendar just like any appointment. When I have to go without it I feel a huge difference in my mood and energy level.

I am beyond excited about this marathon. 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.