“Running is my therapy.”
Over the years, I’ve heard this statement from many and have said it myself. Some use running as means of recovering from an addiction, some are running down one problem at a time and some just need to escape life for an hour to help manage stress or anger. Consciously or not, I think we are all often in search of the “runner’s high” – a little bit of euphoria before we tackle our day or to escape whatever the day heaved upon our shoulders.
Other times, running with a friend may create a safe space where you feel comfortable letting your guard down. Running side by side, runners often offer each other advice, sympathy and support. Over thousands of miles in my lifetime, I’ve listened to stories of heartbreak, vents of frustration from work and relationships, sadness over divorce and death. I’ve played devil’s advocate, I’ve suggested gifts for birthdays, holidays and anniversaries. I’ve also experienced the positives – times of excitement over exam grades, proposals, pregnancies and promotions. Thankfully, others have also listened to the good and the bad I’ve shared. Running tends to break down barriers. Some days it’s not about speed or miles; it’s just therapy.
Social media has become a highlight reel of our lives. Marriages look picture perfect, our children look like Albert Einsteins or Michael Jordans and we all have bottomless bank accounts to experience exotic vacations. The marital arguments, financial distress and the times when Junior failed history stay hidden offline; where we may pretend they do not exist. I feel the reason many may struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s vibrant highlight reel.
But you know what? Life is hard. We all struggle sometimes…and that’s okay. We fail. We get sick. We have bad days. We make mistakes. We doubt ourselves. We are human. As positive and cheery as I may seem, I too, am pessimistic at times. I stumble and fall; yet pick myself up again and again. Some days, I have terrible runs. Some races, it’s just not my day. No need to make excuses. I am human.
Life is about being real, being humble and being kind. I want you to know I will be there if you need someone to run (or walk) a mile with you and hash out the ugly. Or I’ll run/walk by your side in sacred silence just so you know someone is there for you. Running has taught me to plan for life’s obstacles and showed me how to tackle the tough parts while making sure to enjoy the journey. I’ve learned that, in order to get where we want to go in life, we have to keep moving forward no matter how difficult it may be. And I’ve learned we don’t have to do it alone.
The Shenandoah Valley Runners Winter Series starts on Sunday! This year, the series kicks off at the South Berkeley Christmas 5K which is a very festive and fun way to begin. Are you signed up yet? Why not?
Based on my experience, here’s a great reason why you should sign up plus I’ll share my goals for this year.
The first time I ran the SVR Winter Series was in 2016-2017. Still new to the area’s running community, I would show up and nervously smile and say hi to the few runners I knew. I loved the energy; listening to some of the guys exchange a little friendly trash talk and seeing family and friends running together; I felt excited to find this wonderful group of people. Every other weekend, I continued to show up and meet more and more friendly runners.
This is where I found my tribe. Somewhere in the middle of the first Winter Series, I started joining a few of the guys who were training for Boston for weekend long runs. Being around the easy and humorous banter between them made the miles fly by and pushing myself to keep their pace helped me improve immensely. At this point, I had never even considered qualifying for Boston a possibility, but they inspired me to reach higher than I had ever dreamed about. With my newly rekindled passion for running, my competitive fire was ablaze and I was able to finish the last two Winter Series as the 2nd Overall Female.
The first Winter Series was a springboard for me back into competitive racing. In training runs and during races, I chased the guys which helped me stay in the top of the women’s field. I will confess I did have serious FOMO (Fear of Missing Out); running a lot of races within a year. If there was a race, I wanted to run. I set some Becky v.2 PRs in every distance from the mile to a 50 miler; and qualified for both Boston and NYC. It has been a lot of fun not only from a personal standpoint but the social aspect as well. I sometimes find myself wondering if I would have ever have attempted some of the challenges I have without the encouragement and support of the inspiring runners I have had the pleasure of meeting.
This year, things started to change. Races I once loved, I didn’t find myself excited for. I found myself searching for the next challenge. Seeking out where I felt I belong – is it the 5K? Half? Marathons? Trails?
As I ran through the trails with friends Sunday, a conversation took place discussing doing what others think you should do versus what you feel you should do. Which brings me to the reason I am writing today.
Looking towards this Winter Series, at this moment, running the 5K races competitively is not jump starting my heart. Maybe this will change on Sunday, but I’m unsure. However, this does not mean I will stay home under the blankets while you fools run in subzero temps and snow. I have just decided to take on the WS in a different way – I am the race director for WS#3 and the others, I may volunteer, maybe pace a friend and yes, I will still race a couple too. I am just going to have fun being involved, no matter the role I play. Giving back makes me just as happy as racing.
As for my 2019 goals, my race calendar is still full of holes as I continue to scour available races while listening to the pitter patter of my heart telling me I am on the right path. Until I share my plans, I sure hope to see you out at the SVR Winter Series! Be sure to become a member first (if you are not, shame on you!) and then sign up for the Winter Series – you can’t beat this deal! I truly hope you not only have fun at the Winter Series but maybe you’ll find your tribe too.
And if you’re lucky, they’ll help you achieve more than you ever imagined.
If you landed on this page from my personal Facebook page, sorry for the click bait. Since you are here, you might as well keep reading!
I promise, this does have something to do with cake pops.
- If I’m going to run, I might as well run for a good cause!
- Thanksgiving Prep. One would think you might drop a few pounds running 100 miles in 100 days. Wrong. You are hungry. All. Day. Long. This challenge should be called 10x10x10 (gain 10 pounds by doing 10 miles 10 days in a row because you want to eat everything in sight).
- I love a challenge. You might say, “But Becky, you’ve run 50 miles in 1 day. Surely, you can easily do 10 miles 10 days in a row.” Not the same. Knowing I had to run 10 miles every day for 10 days in a row was a little mentally overwhelming.
To push my limits. I learned I am capable of running more miles in one week than I previously thought. 100 miles and I feel surprisingly great (other than a bit sleepy!).
Our family has a connection to UVA Children’s Hospital. Dylan had surgery in 2017 at UVA Children’s Hospital. We were so pleased with his doctors and all the staff who took great care of him during his procedure.
November is Prematurity Awareness Month. Dylan was born approximately a month early and had a short stay in our local NICU.
To bring awareness to the Sanders’ new goal. $30,000 in 3 years to the UVA Neonatal Intensive Care Unit’s Bereavement Program. This program will use the funds to help emotionally console families with hand and foot molds, memory boxes, photography and to offset funeral costs.
To encourage you to aim for a goal you feel may be slightly out of reach. Set your goals high and don’t stop until you get there! Believe in yourself.
To give back. A little over 2 years ago, I met Jeremy as I returned to the running community. He has helped me surpass many of the goals I set for myself (including Boston and becoming an ultrarunner) in addition to introducing me to so many runners I now call friends.
To pay it forward. I get the miles; one of you gets cake pops. To thank you for your generosity, I sweetened the deal with the offer of yumminess.
So, how did I do?
Anyone who donates any amount to the For Lucas Fund through my page will be entered into a raffle to win 2 dozen holiday cake pops.
You know me – simply meeting a goal is not quite enough – help me surpass this goal for the Sanders family and other UVA NICU families!
I will pick a winner on December 1, 2018. Don’t miss your chance!
10 days. 10 miles a day. In a row. I will take care of the miles, but I need your help in other ways!
First, read all about the For Lucas Fund. Then, visit my personal giving page to help Jeremy and Jen Sanders achieve a new goal: $30,000 in 3 years to the UVA Neonatal Intensive Care Unit’s Bereavement Program. This program will use the funds to help emotionally console families with hand and foot molds, memory boxes, photography and to offset funeral costs.
In addition to your generous gift, I am going to “sweeten” the deal. Anyone who donates any amount to the For Lucas Fund through my page will be entered into a raffle to win 2 dozen holiday cake pops.
For those of you who don’t know, I was a cake artist in a previous chapter of life at Beckaboo’s Cakes.
You don’t live local? You are in luck. I will even ship the cake pops to you f you are the winner.
Win-win right? Your pocketbook may experience a temporary strain, but I am going to take on the majority of the physical discomfort. You get to help NICU families and you may win dessert. You have until 11/30/2018 to make your donation. On December 1, I will pick 1 winner! Let’s blast my fundraising goal out of the water together.
Again, go to http://get-involved.uvahealth.com/goto/bmcgraw and make a donation #ForLucas!
After JFK50 last year, I was intrigued by the ultra world and researched what would be my next ultra-marathon. I loved training on trails for JFK50 and was hoping to find something with challenging and beautiful terrain. Soon after, I started training for Boston and my 2018 ultra decision took a backseat. In mid to late summer, a post appeared on my Facebook news feed about Fire on the Mountain 50K – trail, only an hour away and $45? Sold.
Before I dive into race day, I’ll first mention one of the official training runs I attended. My friends Jamey and Sara joined me for a course preview in October. The race director, Kevin, willingly gave up his time on a Sunday to follow us along for the first 16 miles of FOTM. As we waited at the Log Roll Overlook, a SUV came barreling through the unpaved road, stopped before us and the driver said, “Here to run? Jump in!” As Kevin traveled at a good rate of speed through the backwoods roads (very familiar to him), Sara and I bounced all over the place, laughing all the way. What did we get ourselves into?! The course preview was so beautiful and ended up being quite an adventure as one of the runners became lost along the way. (First piece of advice – if you can, research the course and if you are able to do a couple training runs there, do it!)
Race weekend – I was so nervous! My first ultra was a 50 miler; some may feel your first step into the ultra world would be a 50K. FOTM would be my first 50K and my first full trail race. Longest I had been on the trails was 16 miles. As you know, I embrace crazy challenges, but I was thinking maybe I should have started off with a trail half?!
When I woke up race morning, my stomach was a ball of nerves. We hit the road a little early just in case we were lost trying to find the middle of nowhere and to ease some of my pre-race anxiety. Although we didn’t arrive until nearly 5:50 am, I was one of the first runners to show. I picked up my Tshirt and bib and was ready to go. The temperature was hovering around 30 and we were surrounded my fog (so much for the overlook!). However, the “fire” began to rise on the mountain.
My goals going into the race were (1) Do not get injured, (2) Do not get lost,
(3) Top 3 Female and (4) Sub 7:00
We headed down to the starting line and we were all ready to go. Knowing we had a mile on road before we entered the trails, I knew I wanted to start off at a good clip to fight for positioning. Little did I know, I’d run a 7:41 first mile and still be slowed down when we hit the trail. No worries, a couple guys let me pass and it was time to play. The first couple miles were a little faster than I wanted, so I tried to settle in to a comfortable pace. We hit our first few creek crossings in the first 3 miles and a lot of mud. The first big climb was near 3-3.5 and I power hiked most of the climb – then came the downhill. Unlike downhills on road, this steep descent (called the “Buttslide Descent”) is not “let gravity help you; free running”.
More like, try not to fall off the mountain or face plant against a tree. Thankfully, I descended as best as I could, and managed to stay on my feet.
Mile 4-5, I took a weird step, twisted my right ankle and have no idea how I did not fall. Stayed upright, but yeoooch! Had to walk that one off for a little bit, but was excited I’d see my crew near mile 6. I ran through Aid Station 1, saying hi to John, Mario and Dylan. I started another mile of road with more elevation. All of a sudden, the girl who had been in first place comes running from behind along with a guy who had been running with her. They had taken a wrong turn and added on some bonus trail. We exchanged a few words and entered back into the red trail. This part featured it’s own challenges – billy goat single track trail, uprooted trees, and some rolling hills. Two guys were hot on my tail, so I let them pass.
Somewhere around this mark, I started to think, “Today, I am running for me.” I LOVE helping others – it’s my passion. It’s what I do. I was on my own today; and I could just focus on me and my goals.
So, I continued forward. I knew good race management would help me have a good race. My worst fear was running the first half too aggressively and then dying on the way back trying to ascend the mountain. When I felt my heart rate was too high, I hiked. When I felt amazing, I took advantage. Like any race distance, I had high and low points. After a couple tough miles, I felt like I was flying during mile 15. Knowing I had quite a hike up to the halfway point, I planned to eat a PBJ as I ascended The Oasis.
As I reached the top, I saw Jamey (thanks for volunteering), got some Nuun from John and Dylan and headed back down and on the 16 mile homestretch! I passed the 3rd female who was just heading up to the The Oasis. My favorite part came over the next few miles – getting to cheer on the runners coming my way! As I passed the unmanned Aid Station #5 and tried to descend the “stone staircase” back onto the trail, I felt the first twinges of fatigue in my hip flexors/quads. Then, from miles 17-24, I ran a good clip with barely any stops other than going through the creek crossings (almost 3 dozen in all!). After tripping a good bit early on and catching myself a ton, through these miles I ended up falling 3 times. Once on the right side (I did a good tuck and roll made popular by Coach Jeremy), then the left and then full frontal smashing my hand into a rock and leaving a small cut. Oh well, keep moving. This quote was often in my mind:
“If you can‘t fly then run, if you can‘t run then walk, if you can‘t walk then crawl,
but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
Although FOTM50K is an out and back course, the return trip seemed very different than the first 16. However, I did have landmarks I remembered from earlier in the day – the large uprooted tree we had to climb around, the waterfall, and the log Sara and I stopped at on our training run. As I passed the log, I knew it was time to climb back up the “Buttslider Hill”. Don’t look up; just keep moving – grab a root, a tree, anything to help climb. This .2 mile featured ~426 foot of elevation and took me nearly 8.5 minutes to ascend. My legs were screaming; I was breathing hard but I knew eventually I would be rewarded with a downhill.
Eventually, I crested the mountain and began going down the other side. Which you feel would sound lovely, but honestly, it almost hurt just as much. Add in a leaf-covered path full of roots and rocks, and the downhill adds quite a challenge. Finally, I could run a little until I hit the mud bog again. After all the runners passed through (some twice), the mud was full of shoe holes and some steps threatened to remove my shoe. I crossed over a deep stream of water and just kept moving. Just a few more creek crossings, up a switchback and I’d be on the road to the finish. After my last creek crossing, I ran into a hiker who gave me an update – 2nd female; top 10 overall. “She’s not too far ahead.” I could hear cheers in the distance. Keep going. Finally, I see the road and volunteers cheered me on. About 1 mile to go and of course it’s uphill. Time to power hike. As soon as I crested the hill, I started running which felt great! I cruised in; passed Dylan (who I didn’t realize had the job of giving out the fire logs); ran back for mine and threw my log into the bonfire – then finished with a cartwheel. I did it – 6:16 – time to cartwheel!
Kevin announced I was the 2nd female and gave me the award for 1st in the 30-39 age group. I did it!! Can we eat and have a beer now??
Throughout the day, I tried to rank this challenge among others I have accomplished. 2018 Boston was probably the most mentally challenging day. JFK50 was tough; but was manageable and fun with Sara. FOTM50K was definitely the most physically demanding. One of the reasons I feel I succeeded was because I ran my race and didn’t get caught up with others. I feel early on, seeing the lead female and a male runner right in front of me was pressuring me to run faster than I planned. As they were swallowed into the forest, I felt I was able to focus more on me. I also didn’t waste much time at the aid stations; I’d grab a few things and go. Fueling happened when I knew I would be hiking – much more efficient use of time. All 32 miles, I was mentally positive and in all honesty, felt physically stronger than I anticipated. My gear performed extremely well – all the mud and all the creek wading – not one blister thanks to my Injinjis and Altras. My Legend Compression Wear leg sleeves kept my calves happy, my RaceDots kept my bib secure (yes, even after falling 3 times) and my new pack carrying Nuun was lightweight and I was well hydrated.
Check out the women’s race recap!
Would I do Fire on the Mountain 50K again? Definitely. Sometime soon, I want to share this trail with friends on a group run. A beautiful forest not too far from home.
So….what is next? Two days post race and of course I am already researching 2019 ultras. More trail? Hit a new distance – 100K? Try for a coveted 100 mile belt buckle? Time will tell.
For now, I have a short-term goal to help out my running family.
As you may know, Jeremy Sanders recently completed his 10×10 #For Lucas Challenge.
Now, it’s my turn. And, I need your help.
First, read all about the For Lucas Fund. Then, visit my personal giving page to help Jeremy and Jen Sanders achieve a new goal: $30,000 in 3 years to the UVA Neonatal Intensive Care Unit’s Bereavement Program. This program will use the funds to help emotionally console families with hand and foot molds, memory boxes, photography and to offset funeral costs.
In addition to your generous gift, I am going to “sweeten” the deal. Anyone who donates any amount to the For Lucas Fund on my page will be entered into a raffle to win 2 dozen holiday cake pops.
You don’t live local? You are in luck. I will even ship the cake pops to you f you are the winner.
Win-win right? Your pocketbook may experience a temporary strain, but I am going to take on the majority of the physical discomfort. You get to help NICU families and you may win dessert. You have until 11/30/2018 to make your donation. On December 1, I will pick 1 winner! Let’s blast my fundraising goal out of the water together.
After a little rest, I will begin! Follow my #ForLucas10x10 journey on Facebook!
Friends, it has been a long time since I have written a blog post! After Boston, I took a break from stepping on a starting line after running several races in a short amount of time. I knew in May, I would start another marathon training cycle, and finally worked on my FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), which is NOT easy. This July, a new 8 hour endurance run directed by 2 local fabulous females was created and as much as I wanted to enter, I knew jumping on the start line was a bad idea for several reasons based on my goals. I’ve enjoyed the races from the perspective of a volunteer this summer and I believe this has helped me stay focused on race day (and healthy!).
A year ago, I ran the Erie Marathon as an attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon. A few years ago, running a marathon alone was a dream, and not until I met my tribe did I even feel Boston was a possibility. 2017 Erie will always hold a special place in my heart for so many reasons – it’s the first marathon I asked someone to coach me, I was blessed to train with several running friends over a hot summer, Mario traveled to run with me and friends drove 5 hours one way just to surprise me on the course. And, in the end, I got my BQ: 3:25:24!
Here I am, 1 year later, headed north to run the Erie Marathon once again. This time, we have a small group (including my husband!) striving for PRs, trying to improve their Boston qualifying times or chasing the unicorn for the first time. Race day isn’t quite here yet, but the 2018 Erie Marathon experience has already proved to be just as memorable for me. Jeremy gave me the opportunity to help create the group training plan and a number of us have been able to meet before dawn at least twice a week to train together. Through social events as well as our runs, we have grown closer as friends. The positive attitudes are contagious and being part of a group training for a common goal is inspiring and motivating. We’ve shared both successes and struggles with one another since we began this journey in May. I am very excited to see how race day goes for each of us! Sad to tell you no runner tracking is available, so you’ll need to wait until we have reception to post results. Although it is sad to see our training cycle come to an end, I feel once we cross the finish line this bunch will not dissolve – I see many more early morning runs from Dunkin Donuts in the future!
Since I already acquired a BQ time earlier this year (Shamrock and Boston), I am chasing my marathon PR which was set at Erie last year. I feel I’ve learned something new each time I’ve run a marathon and I’m hoping I can pull it all together for #5 and execute better. Let’s see what happens! 🙂
What comes next is still mulling around in my mind. After doing a little bit of everything since I returned to the racing scene, I feel my heart is calling me in a certain direction. I have some big decisions to make in the near future and I can’t wait to share what’s next!
Let’s do this guys!
After my head hit the pillow, I slept for a few hours then I kept waking up imagining I had missed my alarm: 12:06 am, 2:20 am, 3:15 am. My alarm was not set until 5:30 am, but around 5:15 am, I finally surrendered and started my day. I tried to be as quiet as I could as I made my first breakfast of the day (peanut butter bread and applesauce) and began to put on my layers. At the last minute, I added leggings over my shorts/compression socks and under my throw-away sweats to
try to keep myself as warm as possible before the race. Around 6 a.m., I headed out to make the trip to the T. As soon as I stepped outside, I received a taste of what was to come – cold, blustery winds nearly took off my hat and poncho. I quickly fixed my gear and continued on to the T station. Only 2 other runners got on the train with me and we all had a look of concern on our faces. As we traveled to the Arlington stop, more and more runners boarded the T all with waterproof outerwear to try to stay as dry as possible.
Once I arrived at the final stop, I headed to gear check to at least leave a dry sweatshirt and pants to put on after the race and then started towards the buses. Going through security wasn’t too bad but many runners were stopped due to trying to bring unapproved bags on the bus, including me. The email sent the night before mentioned we could bring dry shoes in a clear, plastic bag, but they did not specify a size. I had to discard the bag I brought along and shove my shoes into another gallon-sized bag. No big deal and an easy fix. I heard one woman arguing with the inspectors about not being able to bring more due to the awful weather.
Jeremy and Mario had informed me the bus ride was about 40-50 minutes long so I hit the port-a-pots before boarding the bus. The ride was long and I kept drifting off in little cat naps while I listened to the conversation between runners from Alaska, Colorado, Washington and Minnesota. We finally pulled up near Athlete’s Village and I watched runners trudging up a slight incline through rain and gusty winds. We tried our best to avoid puddles as long as we could and once we entered Athlete’s Village, yikes. Mud everywhere. Jeremy said to look for him and Mario near Tents 1 & 2 and I was determined to find them among the sea of runners. I passed Tent 3 and continued to the back side of the school in search of the other tents. Walking from the blacktop to the tent was so mucky and I was so glad I brought old shoes to wear
before the race. I tiptoed through the mud towards Tent 2 and went inside. Wow, runners nearly covered every square inch of real estate under the tent, huddled on the ground on trash bags and blankets. I circled the tent looking for the guys with no luck and headed towards Tent 1. Tent 1 literally had a moat around the outside and I thought, “no way Jeremy and Mario are in there” and headed back towards Tent 2 for another loop. No luck. Still I was determined and headed back to Tent 1. I grimaced as I trudged through the mud and looked just inside the tent to see Jeremy sitting there. Bingo! So good to see a familiar face.
I spread out my trash bag and huddled down with my heat sheet while Jeremy told me he couldn’t find Mario at the bus area and still hadn’t seen him. Although we sat there for over an hour, we didn’t chat much. I think we were just focused on the challenge we were about to endure. We looked up at one point and saw Tom Thomas who Jeremy met at 2017 Shamrock. Tom had a great pre-race outfit – disposable galoshes and a full rainsuit – smart guy! We said a few words about how most time goals were probably out the window. Jeremy offered a fellow runner who came in looking a bit overwhelmed an extra trash bag to sit on. We both ate a little more food – I had more peanut butter bread and a banana. At times, the winds would gust through the tent and we’d have to hunker down. This weather was no joke – the rain falling off the tent had turned into slushy snow/ice on the ground. Soon, announcements were being made for Jeremy’s wave to start lining up. I looked outside the tent and saw Mario standing at a trash can and we yelled to him. He was so excited to see us! Jeremy joked he looked like a baked potato because he had a silver heat sheet tied around this waist. Jeremy wished me luck and went to join Mario for the walk to the starting line. Mario and I waved or maybe threw a thumb up; I can’t remember. I watched the two of them start their trek to the starting line while I tried to stay as warm and dry as possible. At one point, a huge gust of wind came through and the gentleman making announcements said, “You are all dedicated. There is no way I’d run in this.”
I made my 3rd trip of the morning to the port-a-pots and then came back to change into my racing shoes. Using the extra trash bags I brought, I tied one around each of my legs to ward off the mud and rain until I was closer to the starting line. Throughout the morning, I kept making gear adjustments – I put my ear warmer over my hat to help keep the hat on with the winds, I decided to run with Goodrs on to protect my eyes and I decided to just keep my leggings on to have less skin exposure to the elements. Sometimes you just need to go with the flow and make game-time decisions on what you feel will work best for you. As my bib color was called, I confidently walked through the mud moat and out to the next stop. I wasn’t sure how long I could keep my extra clothes on for and I definitely took them off too soon; now I have a better idea of distance and how much time I have until the starting line for a future Boston. We walked down the street towards the starting corral area and I entered into #6. I kept looking around for other runners who were slated to be in my corral, Jill and Anna, but did not see them. I took off the last bit of my gear just as we were released to begin our 26.2 mile trek. My heart pounded as I crossed the starting mat and clicked my watch. Here we go!
(Side note: I keep clicking back to my Garmin stats as I write this because I lost track of exactly when certain things happened.) Right away, I was so excited and appreciative to see spectators braving the conditions to cheer us on. A few miles in, I passed someone blasting Rocky music (how can that not pump you up?) and then Jump Around by House of Pain. This song reminded me of my college days with my teammates Keri and Andy and I started singing the lyrics out loud as we passed by.
Every now and then, I’d have a sense of panic. I’d get a cold chill and I did think to myself, “Am I going to finish today?” I promised myself to just keep moving forward and not worry about my time. Reminded myself of two things over and over – one was something my son had said to me over the weekend: “Mom, no matter what, you are going to have a course PR!” Keeping this in mind and also the fact I had already qualified for Boston 2019 kept me in check. As the freezing rain fell all around me and the winds gusted, I realized it was going to be a long race. Just keep moving forward.
Around mile 11, I realized I had to pee. I have never stopped in a race to pee, but I think the cold, wet conditions caused me to have to go. I actually contemplated not stopping and again thought, “Just go. Make yourself as comfortable as possible.” I veered off course to the next port-a-pot. I was not as speedy as Shalane’s pit stop; trying to pull two layers of wet clothing back up was very difficult. I tied my left shoe and jumped back in the race. I had been averaging pretty decent miles and this stop caused me to clock a 9:36. “Oh well” I thought. Next stop, Wellesley!
The Wellesley girls did not let the weather keep them inside. I ran right up the fence and high fived every girl I came across. The noise from their screams was deafening but so motivating. Soon, we were at the halfway mark and I think this is where I had to tie my other shoe. Trying to tie your shoe with wet, freezing cold fingers is not easy. Somewhere around here I was once again reminded how brutal this race was – I heard the announcer say there was a warming center set up for anyone who needed to stop. By this point, I had seen several runners being walked off course by medical personnel with heat sheets and the medical emergency carts going up and down the course picking up runners who could not continue. I can remember running past a gentleman who was on his cell phone calling a family member and I heard him say, “My race is over. I’m done.” It was heartbreaking.
Somewhere near this point, my feet hurt with each step. I felt like I was running with ice cold bricks for feet and it certainly was uncomfortable for most of the latter part of the race. Here are a few things I thought of or things that happened every time I would get start to feel very uncomfortable:
– One runner I passed was running with an AFO which made me think of my friend Kris and how she would love to run Boston one day. Run for Kris.
Running past the enthusiastic spectators and athletes of all kinds of abilities kept me going. At times, the rain absolutely dumped on us which for a second I’m sure we all thought “Really??? Could it be much worse??” However, when the deluge happened, the crowd went absolutely wild and made you feel like a beast. So I trudged on. At some point, we passed an area that was blasting the Cupid Shuffle and when they said “to the right, to the right” you better believe I shuffled right to the fence line, high fived a few people (who roared) and then shuffled back “to the left, to the left” then kicked now! I did what I had to stay sane. Also at points, I remembered listening to Deena Kastor speak at the RRCA convention the weekend prior about smiling when you were hurting which will help your body relax. I probably looked like a deranged goofball, but I smiled through the insanity several times. Even around so many runners, the race felt lonely at times and I was glad Jeremy and Mario were together. Some of my (crazy) family was around 17-18 and were able to capture a photo/video of me.
Right around Heartbreak, I wanted to fuel again and could not get my food out of my bag. I decided to stop, take my time getting my fuel out, eat and then get moving again. And I did. I’m unsure what sparked my reboot, but after Heartbreak Hill, I felt like I was on fire. I just felt like I was flying and I knew I had about an hour to go until I would cross that finish line. Heading into the these last miles, I have never seen so many people walking in a race ahead of me, standing on the side against the fences trying to stretch or limping along the route. I felt grateful to be still moving at what I thought was a decent pace (I had stopped looking at my watch after the potty stop). Mile 22, 23, 24…getting so close. I see the Citgo sign – keep pushing! Soon, I recognized the area where I had run the 5K with Dylan just 2 days prior. I looked ahead and saw the arrows pointing us right – Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston. I was almost there. I glanced around hoping for a glimpse of my family; if I saw them I was going to go over and hug them but the noise was deafening so I wasn’t able to hear anyone calling my name. I looked ahead and saw the finish area ahead. I was about to be a Boston Marathon finisher. I raised my hands in a double thumbs up and crossed that line with a smile and continued through the chute.
As that medal was placed over my head, I choked up and tears came to my eyes. The final 26.2 miles to this medal was most likely one of the most brutal, difficult runs I have ever experienced. I won’t lie, I felt like a complete badass (or completely insane; deranged; call it what you will). I ran directly into that storm and I prevailed.
After I was given my medal, heat poncho, food, water and continued through the chute. I will never forget looking ahead and seeing hundreds of runners in their ponchos slowly moving forward away from the finish line. I started
shivering badly. When I arrived at the gear check area, it was a zoo. I almost considered leaving my gear because trying to find your bag was a nightmare but I really needed more layers. Thankfully, it didn’t take me too long to find my bag and I headed towards the family meeting area. My heart dropped as I didn’t recognize any familiar faces and then realized my phone battery had died. At this point, I feel I went into survival mode and was a little panicked. All I could think about was, find a warm area. I boarded a warming bus they had for the runners and pleaded to use anyone’s cell phone. I dialed John’s phone; no answer – I left a message with somewhat garbled information of where I was. Several minutes later, I borrowed a 2nd phone. Called again, no luck. Called my mother-in-law and tried my best to relay my location. I heard someone at the front of the bus call, “Becky McGraw?” I quickly grabbed my bags and went outside to find no one. Maybe I had imagined my name? Shivering, I headed back onto the bus to wait. A few minutes later, I saw John outside the window. I yelled up front, “Someone please yell John!!” Several people realized I was freaking out a bit and thankfully yelled until John heard and headed onto our bus. I was so glad to see him.
Wow. More than 48 hours after I finished Boston and I still feel like memories are popping up in my mind – unsure if I am finally thawing out or just being able to wrap my mind around what I just experienced. I know there is much to say, so I am going to break this one into two parts. Are you ready for a novel??
Around 8 am Friday morning, we (Mario, John, Dylan, my Mother-in-law Marcelle and I) departed in Mario’s vehicle headed north. We were excited and ready for our long weekend adventure. This was Mario’s second trip to Boston and if you remember, he ran with me during my Boston qualifier (read here). To try to make our ride easier, we decided to stay away from NYC and take a little longer route through Pennsylvania. After some thought, I realized we would be going through my hometown (Wilkes-Barre) around lunchtime. I texted my family to see if anyone would be around to meet us. Here we are with my Dad!
We were just about halfway and continued on our way. Traffic wasn’t too bad until we started to get closer to Hartford, CT. Luckily, we were able to reroute before we got snagged in an hour and a half backup. I messaged with my college teammate Monique as we passed by (she works in the tallest building!).
As we neared Boston, our GPS got a little squirrely and I received a message from Jeremy that he and his wife, Jen had landed in Boston. After a little rerouting, we finally arrived at our hotel. Check in was easy and we quickly freshened up and made plans to meet Jeremy, Jen and their friend Sharon for dinner. We were able to stretch our legs on a short walk to the T. I had been a little nervous about using a new transportation system, but it was fairly easy to figure out. We found our way to the right station and finally made our way to dinner at Kinsale Irish Pub. I had a delicious chicken pot pie with what else? A Sam Adams!! We also had the opportunity to meet Mario’s niece Andrea and her boyfriend, Manu, who both live in Boston. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to settle in and get ready for Saturday’s 5K.
Dylan and I were running the Boston 5K together and I was very excited to share this race with him. He wasn’t sure if he was going to try for a PR or just have fun. We woke up early, ate breakfast and once again used the T to arrive in Boston Commons. We picked up our T-shirts and tried to find our friends. Mario found us and the three of us warmed up to the starting corral. At first, few runners were in the corral but quickly, it began to fill. Dylan spotted Jeremy walking towards us and we chatted about the race. As the area became more crowded, we saw our friend Becky Polite on the sidelines (who took our picture) and I saw my college teammate DiGi!
Dylan began to be a little nervous and a bit overwhelmed since we were jam packed in the corral. We held hands as we shuffled forward to the starting line. We were able to see some of the elites warming up as we waited to begin. Knowing about the impending weather for Marathon Monday, the race announcer joked maybe we should start the marathon today (I’m pretty sure the majority of us would have said yes). Soon, we were off. Dylan mentioned he would like to run about 7 minute pace so I dialed us in. Even though the corral was crowded, we were able to spread out in the streets. We raced through the streets of Boston and I kept encouraging him to look around and see the sights. We clocked through the first mile at 7:09. As we continued down Commonwealth, we could see the lead runners heading back the other way. We saw the women’s lead pack and I told Dylan to start looking for Jeremy & Mario. I said, “We can’t miss Jeremy’s pink shorts!” and as soon as I said that, I saw Jeremy and Mario on the other side – I yelled out to them and we continued on to the turnaround.
After the turnaround, we had a slight hill and then we were about to share 2 famous turns together for the very first time – Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston. We hit mile 2 at 6:49 before turning onto Boylston. Up ahead, we could see the Boston Marathon finish area. We soon crossed the Boston Marathon finish line and I said, “YOU just crossed the Boston Marathon finish line!!” I think he got a burst of energy because he started to really push. With about .5 miles to go, he turned it on and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up! We cruised through the spectator-lined streets, weaving in and around other runners and he was going full tilt. This mom was doing all she could to keep up with her speedy boy! Our last split ended up at a 6:28. We crossed the finish line, he looked over and said, “Thanks Mom.” Wow, right to the heart. I will never forget this moment.
We walked hand in hand through the chute, got our medals and into the finish area. Up ahead, I could see Jeremy and Mario found my college teammate DiGi. I was able to catch up with him for a few minutes. Then, we saw Michael Wardian and were able to grab a quick pic and chat with him. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Maryland flag shorts and thought “cool shorts!”, then realized it was another college teammate, Jason. Chatted with Jason for a few minutes and then chatted with everyone while we waited for Jen and Sharon to finish. Mario came in 3rd in his age group! Here are all the 5K runners and some race day shots.
After the race, we headed to Finagle Bagel to refuel before we headed back to the hotel to clean up. After showers, we caught an Uber to Sam Adams Brewery for a tour. The weather wasn’t too bad so John and Dylan played some cornhole. Then, we had a great tour and of course, awesome beer! Of course, I purchased a bottle of 26.2 Brew and a T-shirt. We were hungry after Sam Adams and ended up going in search of lobster rolls. YUM! At this point, we were exhausted and decided to head back to the hotel and relax. When we walked into our room, there was a surprise waiting for me. My sole sister and her family (our running family, the Ilnickis) sent me balloons with an amazing note. I felt so loved!! Our mealtimes were so off Saturday, so we didn’t really end up eating dinner. We relaxed in the hotel and ended up playing cards. Around 9 p.m., we called it a night.
Sunday, I woke up and headed to Cheers to meet the crew for our shakeout run. The temperatures had started to dip and the winds had picked up, so I figured we wouldn’t see the crewers out on the Charles. I arrived a little early, so ran through Boston Public Garden taking photos and checking out the area. Soon, I ran into Mario, then Jeremy, Jen and Sharon. We waited at Cheers for a few minutes for Shane and Renee and we were off!
Running along the Charles, we saw so many other runners including what we assumed were some elites. Heading out the wind wasn’t so bad, but on our return trip, whew!! Once we were on a bridge to get these pics with the Citgo sign, I thought we were going to be blown off the sidewalk. After our shakeout run, we once again headed to Finagle Bagel. After, I headed back to the hotel to meet up with my family. Once I showered, there was a knock on our hotel door. Who is other side? My dad and his wife! They drove all the way up to Boston to see me run. Crazy!
Today was Expo day and we headed to the Seaport World Trade Center to pick up our packets. By now, the weather was brutal. Cold and windy. When they placed my bib in my hand, I got chills. Here was my ticket to the race I worked so hard for; I was so excited! We made our way downstairs to grab my Tshirt and check out the expo. Once we were in the main area, wow, was that overwhelming. Jam packed with runners and their support crew checking out all the booths. We first went to the Clif Bar booth so I could meet Scott Jurek and get a signed copy of his new book, North. For about an hour, we meandered through the booths picking up goodies.
We decided to then grab some lunch and head back to the hotel for some rest. We really wanted to do a duck tour, but the weather was just miserable. After getting back to the hotel, we decided to take a little siesta. A few minutes later, knock on the door again. This time it’s my sister! Knock, knock again – now who?? My mom and my aunt! I told them they were all crazy for coming to watch what may be my slowest marathon yet. They didn’t care – they just wanted to see me in my first Boston. Wow. I am blessed.
We all went downstairs to the hotel bar to chat and have a few beverages (Nuun for me) for an hour or two. After catching up, we all took an Uber to an Italian restaurant Jeremy goes to each year. Thankfully, Jen had made reservations for us in January! The place was small, but the food was great and us marathoners were very excited for the next day. We chatted a bit about the race and the crazy weather that was expected. After, we headed to Mike’s Pastry shop for cannolis! Wow, the shop was slammed with patrons and I could not fathom how many cannolis they had prepared for this marathon weekend. After we all ordered our goodies, we headed back to our hotel so I could prepare for the morning, which proved to be a difficult task.
I took my time and gathered all the items I would need – old and new Topos (I planned to keep a pair dry as long as possible), Injinjis, shorts, my Runner In Training tee, arm sleeves, my Legend Compression leg sleeves, my Racedots (2 new Boston Strong ones and 1 lucky Michael Wardian 777), my bib (of course!), throwaway clothes, a heat sheet (Thanks Katie!), my fuel belt, hat, gloves, earband, Goodrs and a poncho. Wow, just writing that made me realize how much I had to gather! I also stuffed my one gallon plastic bag I was allowed to bring with me with 2 trash bags, a banana, peanut butter sandwich, Nuun and unsweetened applesauce. Finally, I was ready to set my alarm and (attempt to) get some sleep.
This was my 2nd year running this race (2017 race recap here). Last year’s time awarded me seeded entry into this year’s race. Since I knew Boston would be only a week away from CUCB10, I did not set any goals. At the RRCA Convention, I think Jeremy and I both realized our bodies (and minds) were pretty worn down from the long days learning and agreed racing this 10 miler was not a smart decision.
Getting to the hotel room late Saturday night with Josh and Sara, I haphazardly gathered my race kit together and realized I didn’t have the shoes I wanted to run with (others were in my car wherever the valet had parked it). Set our alarms for 5:30 a.m. and climbed into bed around 10 p.m. while still chatting away about our days. Woke up with chipper Sara saying good morning – time to get ready to face the brisk morning air. We were ready to go fairly quickly and started off on our mile trek to the starting area. Upon arriving, we stationed Sara near the corral area while Josh and I headed out for a warm up. After circling the Washington Monument, we reunited with Sara and then ran into Michelle, Mark, Vern, Lisa and Mario. Soon after, I found Alex, Duane and Jeremy near the yellow corral. We chatted away and took a few pictures.
I stayed in my warm clothes until the last moment and then entered the corral area. The guys were already in there and it was packed. I weaved my way up near the front until I found them (which isn’t terribly too hard with neon pink and green). We saw Mike Wardian warming up and Meb standing at the side in his RRCA fleece jacket. Soon, the elites were off. And so were we.
I decided to just head out at a 7 minute pace. Starting a race without being focused on a race strategy was odd to me. All these runners were blowing past me and I had to restrain myself from falling in stride with them. The first mile felt quite long but I finally settled into pace. I had quite the heart-to-heart with myself early on in the race. Knowing I would need a sub 70 to qualify for seeded entry again; I definitely wanted to push harder. However, I was at peace if I didn’t hit the time standard. Maybe if I didn’t get a seeded entry for 2019, I’d skip this race and go all out in Boston. And so, this is when I decided to just keep plugging away at 7 minute pace. After mile 2, I stopped looking at my watch.
At the first turnaround, I caught a glimpse of some of the RRCA Road Scholars up front as well as Mike Wardian and Meb. Soon, I saw Mario come by and cheered for him. Next was Jeremy – last year, we completely whiffed on a high five, but this time, we perfectly executed a high five over the median. As I rounded the corner, I saw Laura not too far behind.
At the next turn around, I again was able to cheer for Mario (Alex, how come I kept missing you?) and had another high five with Jeremy (2 for 2!). On my way around, I saw Josh this time; not far behind. I thought, it would be way more fun to run with someone. Maybe I can pull back and wait for Josh. So, I did. Eventually around mile 6, Josh came up behind me and told me he had been chasing me for miles. My idea of running with him was short lived as he blew by me. I knew he was going faster than the pace I wanted to run, so I watched him pull ahead and was happy to see him fly by.
You have a lot of time to think and look around when you aren’t focused on running hard. I was paying much attention to my footing; watching out for the uneven ground and potholes. I took time to look over the water. I listened to the breathing of runners who surrounded me. I read all the signs spectators had and really enjoyed the drummers along the way.
Then we hit mile 8 and the wind was in our face. Soon, I was able to see the Washington Monument and knew the finish was not far ahead. Ran by the 1200 meters to go sign, then the 800 meter sign. I focused on form and finishing the race strong. Sara snapped this great photo of me coming into the finish. I ended up hitting sub 70 – 69:25. Sounds good to me!
After crossing the line, I walked a few steps and then started jogging through the chute. Grabbed my space blanket and kept on jogging through. Ran into Mario as I made my way out of the fence. Since I couldn’t find anyone, I figured I would jog up sidewalk until I ran into Sara. I heard my name being called and found Jeremy; followed by Josh and Sara. Jeremy and I jogged over to the 5K start to find Jen before she ran the 5K. We watched her start and then found some food before circling back around. After the 5K finish, Josh, Sara and I headed to Fado’s to meet the others for brunch!
Sara, Jess, me, Josh, Laura, Vernon, Lisa and Mario enjoying post race beverages and grub!
Next up…..the 2018 Boston Marathon Chronicles!
Have you ever sat in a work-related convention and nearly shed tears of joy?
Sounds crazy right? Yet, this is exactly what happened to me late last week.
For nearly a year, our Runner In Training calendar had the 60th Annual RRCA Convention listed. Often, I’d load the site and check out the details, seeing if I could make it happen. In addition to the convention itself, I also noticed the RRCA Level 1 Coaching class would be held at the convention. Conveniently, this year’s host city was Arlington, VA.
Finally, I decided to make the jump and click register…just in time. I snagged the last spot!
Leading up to convention weekend, I found out Meb Keflezighi and Deena Kastor would be our luncheon speakers – so awesome. Our lead instructor sent out the course schedule which looked pretty intense for 3 days plus fitting in whatever convention events would be possible. Jeremy and I also found out we could maybe squeeze in the Crystal City 5K on Friday for a discounted rate, which of course we couldn’t turn down.
My Day 1 of RRCA started bright and early at 8 a.m. I hit the road from Winchester around 5:30 a.m. and headed towards the city. Thankfully, had little issue with traffic and directions and was one of the first to arrive at the Double Tree Crystal City. Upon check-in, I received an awesome Leslie Jordan windbreaker jacket, a pair of Feetures socks and a pretty sweet RRCA backpack. I gathered up all my gear and headed to our classroom. Approximately 40 students were in our Level 1 Class, and it was so neat to discover where everyone was from – New York, Florida, Texas, even Poland and Ireland! I was intrigued to learn about everyone’s running backgrounds and experiences.
Usually, you may have 1 or 2 coaching instructors, but at convention, we actually had 4 (Randy, Brent, Bobby and Cari). After introductions, we started cruising through course material and soon it was lunch. We had a tasty lunch and went right back into coursework for a few more hours until it was time to meet our Regional Reps. By this time, Jeremy had arrived and we sat in to meet our Eastern Region rep and running leaders from our region. After, we headed up to the 14th floor for the Welcome Reception which provided a beautiful evening view of the city.
Jeremy, his wife Jen and I grabbed drinks and snagged a bite to eat. Met a few new people and then all of a sudden Jeremy said, “Meb is here!” Turned around and there he was. To say I was excited is an understatement. Meb was very kind; shaking hands with all of us, saying a few words and taking pics. Meb’s brother Hawi was also present and I enjoyed chatting with him for a few minutes as well. After about an hour or so, I headed out to drive to a friend’s house to spend the night (and have some girl time!).
Early to rise – 6:30 a.m. run. Arrived at the hotel in the lower lobby which was soon abuzz with excitement with dozens and dozens of runners ready for an early bird run. We headed towards the Mt. Vernon Trail where we got a glimpse of the Washington Monument and watched a few early flights take off. Out 2 miles and 2 miles back to the hotel; time to get ready for the day (check out the Leslie Jordan shirt and medal from Ashworth Awards). After showers, we headed to breakfast which I chowed down on a delicious yogurt parfait. We had a welcoming act by Ben Franklin (pretty funny and odd at the same time) then sat through a talk about insurance (heard about some interesting claims from races). After, Jeremy and I headed to our respective sessions – me back to Level 1 Coaching and Jeremy to a talk about running injuries with our local Dr. Mark from Two River Treads.
Soon, it was time for lunch with our speaker Meb Keflezighi. Wow. Meb was funny, inspiring, engaging and just overall amazing. Listening to him speak about his family’s departure from Eritrea and relive his Boston win with us nearly brought me to tears. If you ever have the chance to hear Meb speak, do it.
After lunch, I headed back to coaching and Jeremy to another discussion by Dr. Mark. After we finished learning for the day, it was time to run, again! We changed and grabbed our gear and headed to the Crystal City 5K start approximately 1 mile away. Thankfully, we arrived early and had little wait for our bib pickup. Unfortunately, the race was delayed 10 minutes which was a little stressful since we needed to pick up our Credit Union Cherry Blossom packets by 7:45! At 6:40, the 5K started with approximately 1300 runners – crazy. We snaked behind buildings and through the streets of Crystal City. The wind was pretty fierce in our face during mile 3 and I comfortably finished in a 20:07. Jeremy ended up 2nd in his age group (out of 139) and I was 3rd out of 282 in my age group.
Time to hoof it to the National Building Museum to pick up our packets. The 3 of us seriously dashed to the nearest metro only to have a 7 minute wait for the next train, then be momentarily stopped in a tunnel and finally arrived at our station, with 5 minutes to spare. Again, dashed through the streets of DC trying to arrive before the expo was shutting down. Literally felt like we were running another race! Once we arrived, packet pickup was smooth; and went downstairs to grab our tshirts. Along the way, I stopped by Racedots to see my favorite crew! Luckily, there were RRCA buses to get back to the hotel. By this time, I was sweaty and getting hangry. Grabbed a bite to eat at the hotel and started to head to my friend’s house for more girl chat (and to try to get my homework completed!).
Another early morning wake up call for a 6:30 a.m. group run. This time, we headed towards the Air Force Monument. What a beautiful sight early in the morning. Also had a great view of the Washington Monument again and the Arlington Cemetery. Leaving the monument area, who is running right by us? Bart Yasso! Jeremy asked if we could grab a selfie (Bartie) and he said sure. From this point, we were the only ones running with him. We headed to the 9/11 Memorial and chatted about races with him – Kauai, Maldives and when I told him I was from Northeast PA, we discussed Steamtown and the Run for Diamonds.
Back at the hotel, we received another great shirt from Leslie Jordan and another unique medal from Ashworth awards. Then, time to hit the showers, great breakfast and head back to class. I had my last full day of Level 1 and Jeremy would be in Level 2 all day. This time for lunch, we had Deena Kastor as our speaker. Another inspiring story, and I loved hearing about her experience as a runner as well as something we both love – baking!
After lunch, you guessed it – back to class. But first, I met Amby Burfoot! We finished up around 5 to get ready for the Silent Auction/Closing Reception and then dinner. I quickly got dressed in the downstairs lobby bathroom (thank goodness no one came in as I straightened my hair in my dress and Feetures socks – with gear all over the place!). Great time at the closing reception connecting with my Level 1 classmates on a personal level as well as chatting with Deena Kastor about baking.
Once again at dinner, my previous life as a baker was resurrected as I had the opportunity to see (and taste) a cake from Charm City Cakes! Dinner was good and then the awards started – greatly enjoyed Bart’s speech as he was inducted into the RRCA Hall of Fame. At 9 p.m., I called it a night and headed to meet Sara and Josh at a hotel for the night (which was another adventure in itself!). I’ll pick back up here for the next post about the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler!
For now, I want to summarize my experience at RRCA Convention. The days were long, informative, fun and an experience I will never forget. Being surrounded by running leaders, legends and others with a passion for running was completely overwhelming (in a very positive way). Returning to the running world has been such a satisfying journey for me. For the past 4 days, I felt like I was “home” – extremely thankful I had the courage to try once again and had the opportunity to do so. Meeting Meb, Deena, Amby and running with Bart created so many amazing memories. In addition, this couldn’t have been planned at a better time – attending the convention the week before my 1st Boston Marathon was extremely inspiring. I can’t wait to take my test and start plotting the course for others to keep taking the next step.
Thanks RRCA – now I need to start saving and figure out how I can possibly attend 2019 in New Orleans!
Last March was my first experience at the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon/Anthem Shamrock Half & 8K weekend which was definitely memorable. The weather was wicked and I surprised myself with one heck of a half PR. Knowing the course was flat and fast, my husband decided to make the 2018 Yuengling Shamrock Marathon his first marathon. The group I run with decided to sign up for several of the races as well to see if we could set some new PRs and perhaps get a few BQs.
What first began as maybe a half dozen of us quickly grew into approximately 30 runners from our local area. We created a social media page which was helpful for everyone to find someone to train with over the winter. Luckily, we had pretty mild weather in the Shenandoah Valley; a couple subzero training runs, but minimal ice and snow.
I linked back up with Sara (my ultra partner in crime) to hopefully pace her to a BQ. We were able to run most of our long runs together and starting in January, we were able to train together much more since she moved closer to where I live. The training cycle went well. A couple days out from race day, I made Shalane Flanagan’s bone broth and then Flu Fighter Chicken & Rice Stew to help us start our fueling. We planned to head to Virginia Beach on Friday and it couldn’t come soon enough!
We arrived at the Expo as soon as it opened to grab our race packets and browse the booths. The usual vendors were there and being an ambassador, I was excited to see Nuun set up. We walked through with my son and let him gather up some freebies before lunch. We popped over to Max & Erma’s next door since I was scheduled to work at the RaceDots booth (another great company I am an ambassador for) from 2-7. Working at the booth is a lot of fun – I really enjoy chatting with other runners about races they’ve run or about goals for the upcoming race. Seeing all of the kids for Operation Final Mile was great as well.
After the expo, we headed to Murphy’s Irish Pub and then headed back to our hotel (Sheraton Oceanfront) to get to bed since we’d have an early start Saturday. Sara and I headed out about 7 a.m. on Saturday to do our shakeout run before heading to the start of the 8K. Our teammates Alex and Mario were running the 8K as well as several other of our running friends (Barbara, Russ, Suzie, Karie, Jess, Nelson, Michelle, Andrew, Jerry and Dianne) – all but 1 were challengers! We watched a few waves go off and then headed to Atlantic Ave. to catch a glimpse of our runners before heading to the finish. Made it in time to see Alex carry Mario to a sub 30! Woohoo!
We headed to Pocahontas Pancake House for some nourishment before heading back to clean up at the hotel. I was again working for RaceDots at the expo from 12-2 so headed off soon. Again, a great time working with Jason and Amy at the booth and Bart Yasso walked on by and said hello. Walking out, I saw our coach Jeremy and his wife Jen coming into the expo. I headed back to the hotel and we decided to go mini golf with the kids black light/3D style! A little crazy; but definitely kept the race nerves at bay.
Dinnertime. Thanks to Russ, we had arranged a reservation for our local runners at Chick’s Oyster Bar where his son works. They prepared us a pasta dinner as we were able to relax overlooking the water. The room was a buzz from 8K talk and everyone chatting about the next day’s races. Some of us finished dinner off with Key Lime pie (YUM!) and then headed back to the hotel. We took a dip in the hot tub and then it was time to set out our race kits and get ready to ShamROCK. I set out my Injinji socks, Topo St-2s, Legend compression sleeves with my other gear (including my festive headband and gold tattoos!). I actually slept pretty well the night before the race. I think John was pretty nervous!
Woke up to a brisk morning with a little breeze. Sara, Mario, Laura and I started jogging up to the starting area. Andrew was also there and we soon ran into Alex (Alex was interviewed – check out the video) and Jeremy. We tried to keep loose and warm before heading into our corrals. Soon, we all headed into the ropes – said good luck to Alex and Jeremy since they were in fast corrals and Sara, Mario, Laura, Joe and I headed to Corral 3. We saw Josh & Estella (Sara’s husband and daughter) and my son Dylan before we were off.
This year, the half and full started at the same place at the same time. I was a little worried to see how this played out, but actually, wasn’t bad at all. Sara and I started to lock into our pace and chatted a little. About a mile or two in, I saw a familiar gait to my left. I said, “Sara, looks like Vern!” Sure enough, Vern and Barbara were running alongside us in the half. After a few words, we forged ahead. Early on, the race was exciting. We saw a lot of fun signs and we just kept the miles clicking along.
We fueled around mile 5 and started to head towards Fort Story. Last year, we had quite a cross wind which blew the sand right at us which gave us a little exfoliation treatment. Not today; weather was still calm with a slight breeze. Around the lighthouse, we passed our friend Mike. Soon, we were out of the base and back on the roads. Crowd support was great; several chances to have a beer, a shot of alcohol or oranges. One thoughtful spectator had a Vaseline stop set up.
Around this time, I warned Sara to be careful of our pace picking up because the half marathoners would start increasing their pace to the finish. Right after the half/full split, we saw Josh, Estella and Dylan. We turned left and ran on the boardwalk along the ocean. I made sure to get a glimpse of the water and just enjoy the scenery as we headed into mile 15. Before we headed over the bridge, we saw our friend Joe, and started one of the very few inclines on the course. Coming off the bridge and heading towards the 18-19 mile turnaround, I was trying to calculate where Jeremy would be around this point; wondering if we would run past him. Once I told Sara we might see him, she started speeding up again! Shortly thereafter, we saw him coming towards us and exchanged some high fives. After the turnaround, we saw Mario and Laura as well as Jason.
Right before we headed into Camp Pendleton, Sara started to fall back just a tad although we were still on target. We passed mile 20 and meandered our way through the base. At the aid station, Sara went to grab water and I grabbed a banana. I turned around and oh no! Sara was walking. I had a hunch these next few miles were going to be tough. We walked for a minute or so and started jogging again. Started heading back over the bridge towards the boardwalk. After the bridge, we saw John, Karie and Suzie which gave us some encouragement. On the boardwalk, things were rough. Sara was very thirsty – no aid stations were near and my bottles were empty. Off in the distance behind us, I could hear Mario yelling, “Let’s go Sara!” Soon, Mario and Laura were behind us and Laura shared some water with Sara as they passed.
We kept plugging along; slowly at times; yet still forward. I knew Sara was hurting and I tried to say every positive and motivational phrase I could say to keep her moving. I may have been stern at times, but I was trying EVERYTHING! I remember telling her we had 40 minutes to go 4 miles. Those last few miles of a marathon are no joke; they seem to suck every mental and physical bit of you as possible. Yet, we kept moving.
Eventually, we turned off the boardwalk and started heading back through the last mile. We saw Josh, Estella and Dylan and then Jess with her awesome signs. We rounded the last turn to head towards the finish and saw Russ. I kept turning around and encouraging Sara to bring it home. The finish line was in sight; yet was still so far away. I’m unsure where she mustered this late race energy, but she dug in and hammered it home. 3:33:08. A BQ. Maybe not quite enough to be accepted, but a BQ AND A PR!
We walked through the finishing chute grabbing our medals, hats, towels, a drawstring bag and a lot of snacks. We were greeted by several of our running friends as we walked down to the party tent. There was a lot of excitement and chatter about our respective races as we refueled with stew, bratwursts, cookies and of course, beer! We found out how our friends did in the half (Alex smoked it!) and kept tracking those who were still out on the course. We headed back out to the finish line to catch John, Karie and Suzie run down the homestretch. We hit the PR bell along the way, took some photos and ate and drank some more before needing to head back to check out at the hotel.
After some hot showers and checking out of our rooms, we were still hungry so headed to North End Pizza. After pizza, wings, beer and ice cream, Josh, Estella and Sara hit the road back to Winchester. John, Dylan and I headed to meet Jess and then link up with a few others at a hotel bar. Dylan and Jess’s boys had a great time playing football on the beach while the adults chatted. Our group ended up at Catch 31 before calling it a night. What a fun time!
Sharing this weekend with so many others was a blast. There were approximately 30 runners from the Shenandoah Valley registered in at least one of the weekend races. Seven runners finished their first marathon and around 20 set a new personal record. Awesome! Several runners have already registered for the 2019 race weekend and there is talk about trying to all book at the same hotel to enhance the weekend even more. Congrats everyone!!
Check out this great video Josh created on his YouTube Channel: Left Foot, Right Foot, Repeat:
Up next, Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler (and the 60th RRCA National Convention)!
“We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated.” – Maya Angelou
We all are happy to paint that perfect picture on social media. Happy runners, just logging the miles; no aches or pains right?
I have been struggling since the South Berkeley 5k. I know I’ve hinted in posts I have been off, but I haven’t elaborated. This post has been weeks in the making; just waiting for the right time to share. What I’ve learned since I started blogging is someone out there may be dealing with a similar situation; so here I am, being real.
I think I was so focused on finishing the JFK 50 Miler and hitting the goal of 2,017 miles for the year, I ignored early warning signs something may be off. Or maybe I was just in denial. Or maybe I just wanted to keep trying to look like Superwoman. Who knows. It’s true I dislike showing vulnerability; weakness. I also didn’t want to feel I was making excuses for my performance, so I didn’t talk about how I felt.
On December 3rd, I raced a great 5k and since then, I’ve felt flat. Whether I was in a training run or a race, I felt like I was working 3x as hard for a less than ideal result. I felt dizzy, winded, exhausted. My body continued to just break down it seemed. Did I overtrain? Ugh. I built in extra rest; no change. Running became more and more frustrating. I was nearly in tears after 3 of the SVR Winter Series; just feeling defeated. In at least two races, I almost started walking or quitting altogether. It’s difficult when something you love to do becomes stressful.
Then, my body really started freaking out – the little symptoms I could almost ignore – until the muscle cramps started. I’d be cruising along; feeling fairly good and then start feeling those little twinges in one calf or another until the entire calf completely locked up. Imagine one of those awful charley horse cramps in the middle of a run. I’d stop and stretch; but nothing would help. Being stubborn, I’d try to finish my run – which by the way, trying to run with a peg leg isn’t effective or attractive – but I was determined to keep pushing. The last long run of this training cycle was miserable. Calf cramp in mile 1 and then I almost passed out at breakfast after the run. What was happening?
With the new development of debilitating muscle cramps, I finally realized I needed to take a step back and figure this out. The list of symptoms was long: headaches, fatigue, anxiety, sleeping issues, etc. I scheduled appointments with my PCP and Obgyn. I was ready for answers, but what I wasn’t prepared for was more frustration. Even though I informed the doctors a resting heart rate of 75 and blood pressure of 138/89 was not normal for me; they assured me this was still within the acceptable range. I felt like screaming, NO – this is not normal for me. Tests were run for Lyme’s, anemia and thyroid and when all came back “normal”, it seemed the PCP and OBGYN were happy to close my case since no major alarms were set off. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. It didn’t seem to matter that I still didn’t feel right, because the tests said I was clinically fine.
So, I kept researching on my own. Talking to my athletic friends, reading books and articles, asking questions, visiting a physical therapist, chatting with a registered dietitian and analyzing results from blood work. Once I am focused on a topic, I’m all in, determined to find answers.
Two weeks ago, I feel an answer was discovered – low magnesium. Do you realize magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body? Wow. Also interesting, nearly 50% of people are not taking in enough magnesium.
I started supplementing daily. Guess what!? I haven’t had a single cramp since and nearly all of the other symptoms have abated. The two races since I started focusing on an adequate potassium and magnesium intake have been so different! I feel once my upcoming marathons are over, I will able to get back on track for a faster 5K. Now I feel like crying happy tears.
Why am I sharing this with you? If you feel doctors are not listening to you and you know you do not feel right; keep pushing. Don’t give up. Talk to others, don’t be silent; you never know who might have an answer. Be your own advocate.
We are almost 2 weeks into 2018 and I still have been unable to commit to goals for this year. 2017 was an amazing year; I challenged myself in so many areas and now, I feel lost. Not for lack of options – there are still so many things I would love to do – Ragnar, Spartan, a 100 miler, etc. I am usually a decent decision maker but right now, I feel I’m at a fork in a road which has a plethora of directions. It’s a weird feeling to have all these options in front of you and have the inability to select the right one.
If I had won the Mega Millions or Power Ball last week, that would have made my decision a tad bit easier; I’d do them all, ha ha. Alas, I did not strike the jackpot so I need to pick and choose.
Yes, I have Boston and I am very much looking forward to my experience. However, I am most likely not going to “race” Boston. I feel I want to take in all the sights and sounds without the pressure of trying to hit a certain time.
Other races I plan to run in 2018 are Shamrock Marathon, CUCB Cherry Blossom 10 Miler and of course our hometown race, the Apple Blossom 10K.
And although I want to try and grab a 2019 BQ at Shamrock, none of these races are creating that sense of fear; lighting that fire within; giving me a challenge which lies outside my comfort zone.
Today, I need to make a decision. Throw my name in the hat for Yeti 100? I so enjoyed supporting Jeremy and Josh at last year’s race, would love to run and have planned on signing up for the past couple of months. Now that it’s time to register, I am hesitant to pull the trigger. Funny enough, the reason is not because of the distance.
Or do I try to throw my name in the hat for the 2018 NYC Marathon? My half marathon time at 2017 Shamrock qualified me for this year’s running. Chances are slim I’d get picked, but should I take the chance? The thought of wondering if I’d ever qualify again did pop into my mind…
Or … do I go and find a completely new race to attempt? After JFK, I scoured the internet for ultra trail races. Something challenging. Insane.
Where does my heart want me to go?
What goal is crazy enough to light the fire under my feet; instill some fear into my mind? Kick my butt out of bed at 4:30 in the freezing cold to chase that goal?
The race is an out and back, which is a lot of fun when you know a lot of the runners. I was able to high-five a lot of people and cheer them on as we passed one another. The theme was Ugly Christmas Sweater and I so enjoyed everyone’s holiday spirit. In the beginning of the race, I ran a little with Mike M. which was nice. Heading into the last half mile, I had to hold myself back from going all out to finish, but still ended up clocking a 6:23. Finished and ran back to see Dylan finish and then cheer John in (who would have possibly had a PR if there was a start & finish mat VERN!). My family (including our adopted Mario) went out for brunch after to replace some of those calories lost.
“You must go on adventures to find where you truly belong.”
Like any other distance, 50 miles begins with a single step. You put one foot in front of the other, mile after mile. Just as I imagined, the JFK 50 was an amazing adventure full of many steps.
Where to begin? Even on Friday night, I was in disbelief I’d be attempting to run 50 miles the next day. Mario planned on sleeping at our house and riding with us to the race, so I made a pasta dinner for all of us. I set out my race outfit, a couple pairs of shoes, change of clothes and fuel yet still felt I wasn’t prepared. Falling asleep took awhile as I was anticipating the 3:30 a.m. wake up call.
We left our house at 4:15 a.m. for the trek to Boonsboro, MD. Packet pickup was quick and easy and a small group of runners were already scattered across the gym. Soon after, we found Jeremy then Josh and Sara. After a couple last minute trips to the port-a-potties, it was time for pre-race instructions. The director asked runners who had run multiple JFKs at certain finishing times to stand up. Seeing the JFK 50 veterans was inspiring – especially those with bib numbers less than 100 (meaning elite athletes or multiple JFK50 finishes). As soon as instructions were complete, everyone headed outside for the 5-10 minute walk to the starting line.
Walking to the start, everyone enjoyed light conversation and seemed very calm. I had just a few minutes to take off my warm ups, then the 4 of us headed to join the runners – Mario and Jeremy went up near the front and Sara and I hung back. I began retying one of my trail shoes and then BANG! It was time to go. We started running through downtown Boonsboro for the 2.5 mile uphill journey to the Appalachian Trail.
Sara and I ran for about 1.5 miles before we hit the long, winding uphill where we decided to power walk. We climbed and climbed until we saw familiar territory, the parking lot where we began several training runs. We were happy to hit the first timing checkpoint and start on the trail. Right away, we were laughing. If you read our training post, you’ll remember the numerous times we thought we were off course. The 2nd training run we thought we went the wrong way to “tent city”. As soon as we were directed on the trail, guess where we were headed? Right towards the tents! We were right all along and had no idea. Quickly, we accessed the actual trails and started the AT section.
All of our training runs, we were pretty much the only humans on the trails. Race day was a little different – was a little tougher to plan foot placement when someone was running right in front of you. We chatted about our week as we fell into line with the others. Soon, another laughing moment. I believe I mentioned in our training blog post about our first time trying to run the course and running up the long road; trying to access directions via Facebook and finding the trail by the communication tower. On our next attempt, we thought we found the actual trail/course. Well, Saturday we found out we were supposed to go up the road! The road seems very long and is quite an incline so we ended up speed walking for most of the climb. Much more boring than the trail close by, but definitely easier to traverse than the steep, rocky path.
Once we reached the fenced area, we were back on the Appalachian Trail and on a familiar route. The path becomes rockier and some runners were having a little trouble with this more technical part of the course. We enjoyed running the trail until…BOOM! One rock reached up, grabbed Sara and down she went with a spectacular roll! Thankfully no injuries, right back up, walked it off and we continued along the way.
Soon we were at the 1st aid station at Gathland State Park. A girl commented on my pink hair as we ran through the tunnel of volunteers. We took a quick walk up the pavement before getting back on the trail. About ¾ of the way through the 2nd part of the trail, a light rain began to fall. We navigated the trail chitchatting with other runners and began the descent to Weverton Cliffs. 15 miles down! As we came off the trail, we quickly spotted John and Josh, changed out of our trail shoes, refilled our water bottles and hopped back on course. John and Josh told us we were only 20 minutes behind Jeremy and Mario. Wow! About .5 mile away, we were able to see Vern and Lisa as well as visit the 2nd aid station. I grabbed PB&J and a banana before we began the 2nd section of the day – 26 miles on the C&O.
Going from climbing on trails to running on a flat surface was a big change. Immediately, Sara and I started to keep each other in check when we saw our splits in the 8s. On this part of the course, we created a comfortable pattern. Thank goodness for aid stations every 2-5 miles; otherwise the towpath would have seemed a lot longer! As we reached each aid station, we would grab whatever fuel we needed and then walk a bit to eat and drink. Then, we’d start up the engine again which at times was difficult. I joked I needed an oil can to get the joints moving again. After a few minutes of running, it always felt much easier and we would be plugging away at 9-9:30 pace. Usually when we were in need of a break, another aid station would appear and we would start the cycle all over again.
We leapfrogged the same runners over and over again on the towpath. We met Justin from NC who is being deployed to Iraq in December, Andrew from NOVA and Geoffrey from Albuquerque. We would chat about where we were all from, our families, our jobs and offer words of encouragement. Everyone was so friendly cheering us on. Andrew told us we were doing great for our first 50 and mentioned if we kept up the pace, we’d be around 8:45. WHAT! I hadn’t even tried to calculate what our finishing time would be – we were just focusing on finishing and not being out on the course in the dark. A 9 hour finish? Wow.
The rain continued which made the path muddy and slick, especially with the leaf cover. I knew we both began to feel a little tired but mentally, we never wavered. Often, we’d run a few steps apart, always within talking distance. Although the majority of the time we were not talking, knowing a friend was near you was always comforting. We were able to see our crew again before 30 miles. Just refills on water, a few words and an update on our teammates – again, just about 30 minutes ahead. Glad to hear they were doing well. I think around this time, Sara mentioned one of the runners ahead was one of the JFK 50 veterans who usually finishes in 9:30. Soon after, we caught up and passed him.
We’d chat and joke with the volunteers at the aid stations, thanking them for their help. Usually, I am a sweet tooth kind of a girl, but this time I craved the salty items. Chips and pretzels were my go-to although I did grab a pretty cookie and M&Ms. Having warm soup or broth at several stops was wonderful since the rain did make us a little chilly.
Just before mile 40, we were able to see our crew one last time. We were still smiling and in good spirits although the miles were starting to take their toll. I commented to Sara how amazing it was to still be dropping low 9 minute miles. Only 10 more to go! We were so ready to get to the road portion, and just had a couple more miles on the towpath. One of the last stations was Christmas-themed, complete with Santa Claus and Christmas cookies, yum! Not much longer and we were onto the 3rd part, road for about 8.5 miles.
At this point, we realized our watches were off the official race miles which was frustrating since my watch said we were 1 mile further. I had stopped awhile back looking at the total miles and just focusing on our per mile pace. We ate our fuel and started on the pavement. As soon as we came off the C&O, a hill awaited. One resident was kind enough to be offering beer to help dull the pain of the incline. A few runners veered over to join him; we did not. As we reached the crest, we decided to try to run again. A little rusty, but soon we were moving. Although it was nice to be out of the muddy path, running on hard asphalt was a bit jarring.
We continued along the country road, stopping a few times when we’d reach inclines for a short walk. Then, we’d start it up again. Seeing the mile markers alongside the road was very exciting – 8, 7, 6…. We were so close! I looked at my watch to see what our overall time was and was surprised to see we had been out for 8 hours and 11 minutes. Really? It didn’t seem like that long. Is it crazy to say I started to feel a little sad the end was near?
Honestly, my muscles didn’t feel that awful until mile 45. My calves were feeling a little tight and my upper back was aching a bit but I kept trying to drop my shoulders to stay loose. I certainly felt like I had been running for hours, but not as bad as I expected.
Just before the mile 4-to-go marker, we ran into a woman we had met in the beginning of the race. My eyes went wide as I saw trails of blood running down both legs. Beast! She must have taken a spill back along the trails.
A couple more twists and turns and we approached the last aid station. 1.5 MILES TO GO! Wow! It was hard to believe our adventure was nearly over. We kept moving forward, knowing with each step we’d be seeing our family, friends and teammates soon. As we ran up one last hill, I heard a crowd ahead. I lifted up my eyes and saw the finish line! Since we didn’t see a 1 mile to go marker, this was an exciting and unexpected sight. I turned around and said, “Sara!?” She said, “Is that the finish?!” YES!!
We were so excited – we both threw our water bottles to Mario (thank you!) and with BIG smiles, we crossed that finish line (with a cartwheel and raised arms) in 9:09:57! Our primary goal was to finish and the expected finish time we had registered with: 10 hours. We were in disbelief we finished just over 9 hours for our first 50 miler. We were reunited with our group with hugs and all immediately headed inside to warm up. A smorgasbord of food awaited us and we noshed while chatting with the guys about their race.
I am an ultramarathoner!
A couple days have passed and we are still on cloud 9. My body had a couple aches and pains, but nothing near what I imagined. I think the year of training, both running and strength workouts completely prepared my body for the challenge. It will take awhile to fully sink in what we accomplished.
Thank you to John, Josh, Vern, Lisa, Laura and Andrew for being at the aid stations to give us whatever was needed – water, fuel and most importantly, words of encouragement. Seeing friendly faces at those points really kept us moving. Thanks to Mario and Jeremy for the votes of confidence and for believing in us. Thanks to all of you for following us and cheering us on! Last, but certainly not least, thank you to Sara. Thank you for agreeing to tackle this challenge, being beside me during training runs and my partner for 50 miles of fun. I’ll never forget my first ultra. Love ya girl!
Finishing the JFK 50 means I have now checked all the boxes for my 2017 goals. What’s next? Stay tuned…
“Believe in yourself, push your limits, experience life, conquer your goals and be happy.”
The end of the year is creeping up on us and wow, what a year. Back around June, I did a goal inventory and haven’t looked back since…until today.
2017 Race-Related Goals:
- Mile – I wanted to break 6 minutes and clock a 5:45. In May 2017, I ran 5:21. CHECK!
- 5K – Breaking 20 was my goal for this year. Added in speed work as I had planned and ran sub 19 in May. CHECK!
- Half Marathon – 2017 goal was to break 1:40. Shamrock Half was very kind to me in March – 1:29. CHECK!
- Marathon – I mentioned I wanted to simply beat my 2016 time of 3:46 and possibly BQ. CHECK! 3:25 AND a BQ!
- Ultra – The thought was a maybe. Now it’s just a few days away…
Other 2017 Goals:
- Train my husband for his first half: CHECK! He also did a 2nd which I helped pace him for a sub 2 hour finish.
- Find more opportunities in the fitness/running industry – started working full-time in fitness once again. CHECK!
- Personal Trainer Certification. CHECK!
- Coaching Certification. CHECK!
Which leads me to….
Fellow runners and readers, you may understand or you really may think I am crazy.
Do you ever feel a little lost once you complete a task? You’ve worked so hard for an extended period of time, focused on doing whatever it takes to be a success, and finally crossed the finish line. You are ecstatic. Yet, soon after, you are looking for a new challenge.
That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. Just a couple days out before the 50 miles and I’m already thinking, what’s next? Where do I go from here? Do I want to run longer? Go faster? Try something new? I have been so focused on checking off the boxes and not looking ahead for the next carrot.
Chasing goals is exciting; keeps me dreaming and raising the bar. The line we cross when we tackle a goal is not the finish, but a new starting line.
What do I want to try to do? Honestly, I am unsure right now.
I’m not too worried; after all, I have 50 miles to think about the possibilities. 🙂
I do have a goal formulating in my mind, but I’m not quite ready to share yet. Stay tuned….
Tell me: Have you reached your 2017 goals? Set any new goals for 2018?
Even after witnessing the wild weather which occurred during JFK 50 last year, the seed was planted about possibly running an ultra. Last December, I was out at a winery celebrating a friend’s birthday when the topic arose (obviously alcohol-induced). At this point, it still sounded crazy and I still wasn’t quite sure I’d really consider entering.
Fast forward to the spring. Through several group runs and races, Sara and I became great friends (as did our families). Ads for JFK kept popping up on social media. Mario signed up for his 2nd, then Jeremy for his 3rd. Would I really try to run 50 miles? So far, I had only completed 1 marathon. Was I really considering doing almost double? Unsure how the conversation came about, all I remember is a message between Sara and me: “I’ll do it if you do it” (and no, this time the conversation was not fueled with any wine). That night, we filled out the form and hit submit. We were in.
Over the next few months, I think we both bobbled between excitement and “what the hell did we sign up for?”. Knowing we would have each other to run with I think made the task seem a little less overwhelming. Over the summer, I racked up miles training for my marathon and Sara worked on building a base as well. Now, if you read my post on crewing Yeti, you’ll know Sara joined Josh for 43 miles! Unsure how many she ran vs walked, but she still did 43 miles. Amazing. After Yeti, I knew she would have no problem with JFK.
Once Yeti was over, we started to look towards our race. We planned to head up to the course and tackle the trail portion one Saturday morning. I emailed the race director with a few questions and looked up the maps since we had never been to the area before. From the moment we pulled into the parking lot, we were already a bit discombobulated, haha! Out of the car and we weren’t sure where the trail started – sheesh, what are we in for? We asked another runner in the lot and felt better after he said he had no idea since it was his first time there as well. Blind leading the blind is not a great way to start. Another duo of runners were gearing up and thankfully they pointed us in the right direction. And, off we went!
The two of us were having so much fun, running through the trails, chattering away. We came to a road, crossed and kept going up the asphalt. We continued up this looooong incline forever, switching off between walking and running until we reached the top. And came to a dead end. Crud, what now? I remembered reading a post about a runner who asked where to go at the top, thankfully had cell service and was able to pull up the information on my phone. We circumvented the tower and started back on the trail….until we came to an intersection. Now, the two of us are no girl scouts, so we had to make a decision of which way to go. I again tried to use my phone and we headed to the left. Chattering away again as we ran through the woods – we kept saying, this is so much fun! And then, we ran into the other runners….coming toward us from the opposite direction. Navigators, we are not. So, we turned around and followed them back the way we just came and settled back into our pace. Happy to say, the rest of the run was great! We ended up with 15 great miles and headed to refuel at Panera.
We decided to head back out again, this time adding on more miles on the C&O. One of our goals was to run the trail correctly this time. Once again, we parked in the lot and we started off to the trail…or so we thought. Somehow we ended up in tent city! Laughing at our awful orienteering skills (Sara – unsure if we are cut out for Barkley!), we quickly found the trail and were underway. When we crossed the road this time, we found the trail we missed on the last run (woohoo!). The trail became fairly rocky and we ended up speedwalking much of the first couple miles. About halfway through, Sara tripped and came up with minor scrapes but that girl kept on trucking! So glad Sara is an easy person to be around; always positive, never panics and is just as determined as I am.
Once we finished the trail and came to the Weverton lot, we met John who was going to run on the C&O with us. We changed out of our trail shoes, fueled, and set off again with John this time. The sun was out and it was a little unseasonably warm for late October. We kept hydrated and ran onto the C&O through Harper’s Ferry. What should be a beautiful running route, especially during the fall, ends up being a tad boring after the miles of trail. We realized on this part of our run when coming to a complete stop; you shouldn’t try to go back to running right away. Definitely need to ease in; walk a bit before taking off. We ended up doing a marathon and John did 12. Another great training run.
We hit the trail one more time this past weekend and we are glad we did. Since our last run, many more leaves had fallen off the trees which make the trail a little more challenging. We are happy to share with you this time, we did not get lost at all. About halfway through, I was running along chatting and then WHAM! I was flat on my face. Brushed myself off and we continued on; no injuries. A few more miles and our last training run was finished. Almost 3 hours and 13.5 miles later, we came out of the trail and began walking towards the car as if we had just jogged a mile.
As we headed back to pick up my car at the start, we decided to check out where the race begins and the course leading up to the trail. As we drove down the street, we once again were reminded of the intensity of this race. The road leading to the Appalachian Trail is one long giant hill! Unsure if was a good or bad idea to go see what the start has in store for us. Oh, what an adventure this will be.
Now it is race week. Did we get in enough long runs; enough miles? Not as many as I would have liked to, but there are only so many hours in the day. I know we will finish – even if we are crawling or Sara carries me on her back. We are still excited and still wondering, “what the heck did I sign up for?”. 50 miles is FAR!
Tune in next week for my race recap – hopefully I’ll be able to type after 50 miles!
Update: did you read yesterday’s post about fear? After publishing, I worked with 2 clients who both decided to move forward, not be frozen by fear and go after their goals! Exciting!
Each week, someone will chat with me about goals they’d like to achieve whether related to weight loss, running/fitness, career or personal goals. Many times, I can sense a hesitancy; something holding them back from proceeding with 100% effort. The end result they are looking to achieve would definitely make them happier, more fulfilled; yet fully committing to the journey creates an uncomfortable feeling….fear.
Fear of change. Fear of feeling like a disappointment. Fear of failing. Fear of the unknown.
Fear can be found creeping in every area of our lives – careers, families, relationships, extracurricular activities, our health, attitudes towards ourselves and others, etc. Sometimes due to our fears, we become slaves to habits, patterns and actions which do not serve us and may actually hurt us.
The fuzzy gray zone of the unknown stops many people in their tracks – should I stay in the less than ideal, somewhat comfortable area I know so well? Or should I push my boundaries, struggle a bit, be uncomfortable to hopefully reap big rewards?
There are no guarantees. We can plan our hearts out, work hard every day, do everything we can to succeed and still, we can end up with a different result than we anticipated.
Is your fear stopping you from living your life to its full potential? One day will you look back and think, “What might have I achieved if I didn’t let fear get in the way?”
What can you do? Feel the fear and do it any way. Yes, you will have to decide whether the struggle will be worth the possible prize waiting for you on the other side of fear.
Whether or not we believe we are in control of our destiny, we are certainly in control of our choices. Don’t let fear paralyze your actions. After all, YOLO!
How does this relate to me right now? I definitely have fear approaching this 50 miler. Yes, racing is not life-altering, but it’s the current fear I am experiencing. I have trained and trained for months. Run hundreds of miles, made a plan, studied the course and yet, I may fail. Running 50 miles is going to hurt. My brain is going to fight me; want me to give up. I fear giving in. I fear feeling extreme discomfort.
Outside of the upcoming race, I also have fear of returning to the old me. I feel I need to keep moving forward; always looking for the next goal to stay focused. I fear injury and needing recovery time. I fear letting others down. Like you, I have many fears. Some I am attacking full speed and others I am still tip toeing around; dipping my little toe in the dark, unchartered waters. If I don’t try, how will I know what is possible?
Once again, I encourage you to do what makes you happy – whatever that is. If needed, take a step back to see the big picture. Maybe write down goals you’d like to accomplish – where do you want to see yourself a year from now? 5 years from now? How can you get there? Who can help you?
Whatever the goal is, I want you to buckle up, brace yourself and take the first step. Don’t let fear decide your future or kill your dreams. Remember, fear is only temporary – regret is forever. Be brave heading towards the unknown. You may reach the other side and be surprised by what awaits you.
And if you fail, at least you tried – you probably learned something about yourself along the way. Go try again.
I’m stepping aside from my blog series about ultras for a moment to chat about something that has been weighing on my mind.
While most of my posts discuss race recaps and running fun, there is also a negative side I didn’t expect to experience from losing weight and returning to the racing scene. Obviously, I like to share positive and inspirational posts, but sometimes I feel being truthful and open is refreshing. Also, my words just may hit home with someone else. After a conversation this morning with fitness friends, I realized I needed to put my thoughts down on “paper”.
Most of you reading this probably have only known the “me” of the last 10 years or so. When you met me, I was sedentary, overweight and not overly confident. Some of you may only know the “me” of the last 2 years, when I hit the running scene again after 15 years.
Yes, these two versions of Becky are vastly different.
At this point, I feel more like me than I have since I was in college. I feel alive, energetic, healthy, outgoing and inspired to help others. Sharing my passion for fitness and running helps me to keep putting one step in front of the other. I feel reignited.
Now, the dark side I’ve experienced. There’s a word that’s been floating around that makes me cringe. Upsets me. A word that makes something so positive in my life seem so negative.
Obsession: a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling.
I run 5 days a week and take 2 days of rest. I run early in the morning so I don’t interfere with family, work and other extracurricular activities. If I’m sick or really injured, I will rest. Because I may run what some may consider extreme distances, I may be considered obsessed. Because I run through most any weather, I may be considered obsessed. Because a core group of my friends are runners, I may be considered obsessed.
I prefer dedicated. Passionate. Committed. Lucky to work in a field I love.
Running is what keeps me sane. Running alone, or with friends, allows me to escape for just a fraction of my day. A short period of time to get away from the day in and day out stresses of life that will be awaiting me once I cross back over the threshold.
This is my therapy. My time to clear whatever is on my mind; mull over big decisions or plan out my day.
As I said in my last blog post, some of you will understand the need to push your boundaries. Some will not. Either way is okay; just don’t pass judgment on those who aren’t the same as you. For each of us, there are different feelings, different emotions which trigger how we view each other. Some will ask “why?” and some will say “why not?”. I have a need to pursue the challenges set before me. I am unable to leave a box unchecked without trying. You may see obstacles differently than me.
Friends, family, we are not obsessed. Are we preoccupied with an unreasonable idea? I don’t believe so. Yes, maybe we are not normal. We say yes when others say no. We rise when others sleep. We do what others may not. We have a drive; a need to determine our limits and then break through. We are always on a quest to see how far we can possibly go.
For those of you have been with me along my journey, yes, I know I am different. After college, priorities changed and I did not consider myself high on the priority list. Now, I want to be the best I can – for not only myself, but for my family, for my kids to know to never give up. That anything is possible, whether you are 20, 30, 60 or beyond. Why let others make the rules? Go and be you.
And, if you truly feel obsessed? Come run with me; we’ll enjoy a therapy session together 🙂
Last week, I shared a little introduction to ultramarathons and also the perspective of crewing an ultra.
Now, we will chat a little about one of the more extreme ultras – the Barkley marathons.
Nicknamed “The Race That Eats Its Young”, the Barkley is a 100+ mile race through Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee. Barkley is a little bit of an enigma wrapped into a puzzle interwoven into one wild race. Everything from how to apply for entry, when the race will begin, and what the course will be is held under lock and key by Lazarus Lake, the race director. Since 1986, many runners have tried to complete Barkley, yet only 15 runners have finished within the 60 hour time limit. Over the winter, I watched this documentary of Barkley.
First thought, these people are insane. Second, eccentric Lazarus Lake was extremely entertaining. Third, yes, these people are definitely crazy. But yet, I couldn’t stop watching.
When race time rolled around this spring, I was intrigued to follow the runners (including NOVA runner Michael Wardian) attempt whatever the Barkley would entail for 2017. After 3 loops (which in the Barkley world is considered a “fun run”), only 2 runners remained – John Kelly (3rd Barkley attempt) and Gary Robbins (2nd Barkley attempt). I won’t spoil what happens…
Ethan Newberry, The Ginger Runner, followed and documented Gary Robbins during his 2016 and 2017 Barkley attempts. Once his project Where Dreams Go To Die was complete, Ethan & Gary went on a 15 city tour to share this emotional, powerful and inspirational journey. Lucky for me, one stop was in DC. A few of us decided we could go, I bought my ticket and quickly found out the event was sold out before anyone else could purchase. I hit up social media to find extra tickets and thanks to a retweet from Michael Wardian, we scored! On to DC!
Amazing. Simply amazing. Watching the planning which goes into an ultra – the training, deciding and gathering your gear and fuel, communicating with your support crew – there’s a lot to consider. Every runners understands the highs and lows when you are out on the course; Barkley takes it to the extreme. The drive, the passion and the will to not only continue, but to succeed, is admirable.
After the movie, we were treated to a Q&A panel by Ethan, Gary and a special guest, the 15th Barkley finisher and MD resident, John Kelly. Very cool.
Listening to the questions from the audience presented to the panel, I felt like I shared at least an iota of the same personality they have. I also realized some people just don’t get it (and that’s okay). Some people won’t understand; they will ask why? Why would you do this? This distance? This extreme?
I still say, why not? Why not see what you are capable of? Why not see how far you can push?
‘Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, it’s not for them.’ – Joubert Botha
Will I ever consider even applying for a Barkley type event? Maybe, maybe not. In the past few years, I have definitely learned to “never say never”.
The first running steps I took were training for a 5k, then I pushed a little more, then just a bit more and eventually worked my way to a marathon. And now, I’m 11 days away from my first ultra.
Am I scared? Of course. Am I nervous? Heck yes. But the fear and the overwhelming idea of running 50 miles will not hold me back. I will not give up.
I’m still writing my story, one chapter at a time, one mile at a time. It’s not over yet…
Today kicks off my November series discussing the crazy world of ultramarathon running – from crewing to training to racing!
Part 1 is long…kick back and relax!
To be honest, being out of the running world for so long, I somehow missed hearing about the ultra world. To me, if people wanted to run long, they ran marathons. When I first started running with Jeremy, he told me about his awful 1st time experience at the JFK 50 miler in 2015. He described how he felt, how he had come to terms with quitting after the marathon mark (technically making him an ultra runner) and how he continued on thanks to some running friends. Listening to his story, it certainly didn’t seem like he’d do it again. Yet, a couple months later, he shared how he signed up again. 2016 JFK went a little smoother; which seemed to cause him to seek out a new, crazier challenge – the Yeti 100. Here I was, still thinking it was crazy people ran 50 miles, now 100? Who are these crazy running friends I’ve met?
So, you can read here how Jeremy and Josh talked each other into not only entering the Yeti 100, but attempting to finish under 24 hours to be rewarded with one of these fabulous belt buckles.
Race was on the calendar and of course, the rest of us jumped on board to help crew/pace J+J, not quite knowing all what we got ourselves into.
The Virginia Creeper trail is 33 miles from point to point and the race would go out, back and out again. Seven aid stations were set between Abingdon and White Top and we decided to travel to each one for as long as our runners needed; giving additional aid and someone to run alongside them providing company, maybe distraction from the discomfort and a mental pick-me-up as needed. Sara created a spreadsheet to help the rest of us have some sort of idea of when each of us could jump in and how many miles we would run, based on the run/walk strategy created by Sanders and Ilnicki.
Showing up at the starting line in the dark with all the other runners, support crew and friends was very exciting. I felt like we were part of a crazy cult. A few words were spoken by the race director and off they went (and so did we!).
We were all worried before the race we wouldn’t have cell service for GPS; thankfully this didn’t pose a problem. We easily navigated from stop to stop (most of the time) to await our runners. Each stop, we listened to our runners’ needs – we were ready and waiting with food, water, extra clothes/shoes, headlamps, jackets, etc.
One of the important tips I would tell an ultra crew it to make sure you eat, sleep and drink as well. In the 24-30 hours we were out on the course, I think maybe the most rest any of us got was 1 hour. Yes, we aren’t running nearly as far as the racers, but the ultra still takes a toll on you. We had been surviving on bars, PB&J and other snacks, but Mario, Sara and I knew we needed some real food before we jumped in as pacers. The options between two of the aid stations didn’t bode well for running after eating – fast food and gas stations. However, we found a Kroger and ran in to see what ready-made healthier food we could find. We headed towards the deli and AHA! The sight and smell of a rotisserie chicken caught my eye (and nose!). I think Mario and Sara thought I was crazy, but they quickly agreed the chicken sounded better than a pre-made sandwich which had been sitting in a cooler all day. We added a few snacks to our order and out to the car we went!
Lisa and Mario hiking down from one of the trestles.
We pulled up to mile 33, crossed the bridge and noshed on our food as we awaited the guys to complete their first point to point. Some runners had already dropped out, or were considering to drop out at this time. The guys had been way ahead pace, and I knew we were concerned they were going too fast up front. However, they looked strong coming into the turnaround point. No pacers were allowed to join until right around mile 42, so Jeremy and Josh stayed together until then. At this time, the weather was pretty warm – the guys were sweaty and I was hoping they were hydrating well. First pacers, Vernon and Mario jumped in from Alvarado to Damascus, a 7 mile jaunt. As we waited by the caboose, we saw Mario approaching with Jeremy – unfortunately Josh and Vernon were not with them. Thankfully, we had a pacer assigned to each, so we keep moving forward with the plan. We heard Josh was hurting and hoped to see him along the way.
I was slated to hit the trail with Jeremy around mile 56. I confess, I did not look at what elevation we would be gaining in the planned 10 mile run when I agreed to this pacing slot. Jeremy came down the trail with Jen; we refilled his water and checked his other supplies and off we went. The trail was beautiful; the surface was softer than I expected and the natural surroundings were just stunning. Unsure how Jeremy’s mental state would be at this point (especially hearing about his 50 mile experiences), I was quite surprised. He was in the game. Funny to hear him still processing the fact he was running 100 miles. For the ascent to White Top, we started off with switching off running and walking – and as we went further, we definitely started to be walking more. I encouraged Jeremy to eat and drink. He was hydrating well but he was starting to walk a little crooked. He tried to eat a waffle, but his stomach was not wanting food. I started to worry a little as we continued our trek as day turned into night. We talked about getting some liquid calories if he wasn’t able to take in much solids and climbed the last couple of miles.
When we came to White Top (mile 66), he was definitely still feeling a bit off but downed a mug of soup. After more Nuun refills and adding another layer, we headed out of White Top. Literally, it was all downhill from here. I kid you not, there must have been something magical in that soup because Jeremy was on fire! The combination of calories and a descent gave him the ability to run and run much faster! Seeing bobbing headlamps coming at you and exchanging words of encouragement to others helped the miles click by. All the way down to mile 69, Jeremy was still in a great mental state. He was tired and hurting, but was so positive to everyone in the race – I think the reciprocal positive energy kept him moving forward. We cruised into mile 69 where Lisa would take over. I could not believe we had been running together for over 3 hours – it was so peaceful and therapeutic, I just felt in the zone and had no idea of elapsed time.
At this point, I switched teams. Mario and I jumped in my car and headed back to White Top to see Josh and Sara. When they arrived, Josh was in bad shape. Shivering. Tired. Hurting. As he struggled to add layers, he was having difficulty so I jumped in to assist as Sara helped him with other tasks. And then the tears came. As a friend, I felt heartbreak. As a runner, I understood the mental anguish and the physical exhaustion (somewhat since I definitely have never pushed myself this far…yet!). As part of the aid crew, I worried about his well being. Seeing him hurt, I hurt. Internally, I struggled thinking maybe I should say, “Josh, you’ve made it 66 miles. You are an ultra runner. It’s okay to quit.” But, I didn’t. I knew he would know if it was time to quit. He sipped down some broth and just like I had seen about an hour or so before, a magical change!! Sara and Josh took off down the hill and when we saw them at the next stop, he was doing great!
Mario and I drove between stations, aiding as needed and catching a few Z’s (I did not – Mario fell asleep so quickly and snored so loudly). The exhaustion were starting to get to us. We missed Sara and Josh at one station and we quickly drove to the next. In my somewhat tired state of mind, I ended up at the wrong station. Crap. What to do? We quickly made a decision and I think I took a year off Mario’s life with my NASCAR-style driving on curvy country roads. We sailed into Taylors Landing with fingers crossed they’d be here. THANK GOODNESS! There they were, at the tent – eating and resting. Whew, minor crisis averted. Off Mario and I went to the next stop and then onto Damascus. At this point, it was about 2:40 in the morning. We had cell service again and had a few updates on Jeremy. He was plugging away still and expected to reach his goal of sub 24 hours – AWESOME!
At this point, we realized we would have enough time to make it to the finish line to see Jeremy cross and then make it back to Alvarado for Josh and Sara. A quick coffee stop for Mario and we met up with Lisa and Vernon at the finish line. Yeti is not your typical finish line. No big blow up arch, throngs of people, after race parties. No, just a couple dozen people waiting in the dark; anticipating bobbing lights coming down the dark path. We didn’t have to wait long. Jeremy and Jen came around the corner. So freaking exciting. He crossed, got a hug from Jason the race director, received his TWO belt buckles and sadly, that was that. Check off the box. 100 miles in the books. Wow.
Unfortunately, at this point, I needed to get ready to head back home and Jeremy needed to go relax/chill/shower/sleep, so the crew split up to get Jeremy home and get back out to see Josh finish (in a little over 25 hours!).
Before I finish with a few thoughts from the other crew members, I wanted to share a few tips if you are considering being part of an ultra team:
– Make sure you are part of the plan prior to the race. Know what is expected from you. Pack food for yourself and extra clothes.
– Be ready for the plan to change on the fly. Remember: the goal is to get your runner safely to the finish line. Focus on them and their needs. Communicate clearly to everyone involved of any changes.
– If you can, take a power nap. You will be exhausted and a few minutes of shut eye can help work wonders.
– Have fun! Yes, it was a long day. Yes, I was tired. But, so many fun memories were made.
– Celebrate with your runner! What an accomplishment!
Without further adieu, here are a few comments from the crew:
Mario – “Good experience. I recommend anyone thinking about doing an ultra to crew first, so you can see what is like to run an ultra and what to expect when your time comes. I will do it again any time.”
Vernon – “What is it like to pace a runner for 100 miles? I thought the runner would be the one tired, hungry, exhausted? Little did I expect that all of those would apply to me, they person occasionally running/walking and just riding around in a car chasing our runners. But with that said it was an experience unlike anything else I have ever been part of. Watching 2 guys run 100 miles was truly inspiring. From the highs to the lows these guys pushed on and finished! An accomplishment a small percentage of the population can say they have. If you ever decided to pace I recommend the following. Plenty of layers of clothes, plenty of food, lots of good spirit, and the mindset that you won’t sleep. You will go through many of the same highs and lows the runners are experiencing. But the reward will be amazing!”
Sara’s Story (Josh’s wife):
“Being a pacer for Josh was one of the best experiences, and I would do it again in a heartbeat! When Josh signed up for Yeti, I knew right away I wanted to pace. The week leading up to the race, thoughts started flooding my head with the responsibilities of a pacer – can I physically do it and would I be able to watch him struggle, and not encourage him to stop? I actually googled tips – the dos and don’ts for pacing an ultramarathon. Some takeaways were – Do you know you can handle the distance, checking in on nutrition and hydration, don’t talk the runner’s ear off, offer moral support, don’t complain…
Tip – Review the course map! I learned the day before the race, that I had signed myself up to pace Josh going up Whitetop, gaining ~ 3,000ft in elevation. My stomach was in knots.. Could I do this?
The morning of the race was a whirlwind, the race started around 7:30 a.m., and Jeremy and Josh were off on their journey. No time to waste or worry, for the first 41.9 miles the guys could not have a pacer. We had 2 vehicles driving to each waypoint to crew the guys. At every stop, I would carry a bag full of Josh’s preferred snacks, med kit essentials, shoes and clothes. After mile 41.9 they would pick-up pacers until the end of the race. Mile 56 is when I would be joining Josh, at this point I knew he was in rough shape, it took him about 80 minutes to run 4 miles. And, Jeremy had gone ahead with his pacer.
As I waited for Josh, I started to strategize what I needed to do – head lamp, sandwich bag full of potato chips and water to fill his bottles. When I met up with him at Taylor Valley, it was dusk. He stopped briefly to sip on some broth, then we were off. All of a sudden it was dark, I was able to get a recap of his day and state of mind – no bueno. He picks on me now, but I honestly repeated a handful of phrases for the entirely of 43 miles – “you’re doing great, excellent job, proud of you, and I love you!” My thought was don’t talk too much but those phrases will let him know I was okay. At this point you can tell we were climbing, he couldn’t even run. I kept thinking one foot in front of the other. We basically walked the 10 miles up to Whitetop, and it was freezing! And, I had to use the restroom but it was too far away. We were suppose to switch pacers at this point but I wanted to stay with him. Josh hit a tough point, it was hard for me to swallow. Miraculously, he stood up and off we went. And, I didn’t get to use the bathroom! I kept it to myself, I was shocked he was moving onward.
Josh found his inner strength, and we picked up the pace going down the hill. I was pumped! The next 33 miles was a remarkable accomplishment for Josh. Eventually, he would lose some of the momentum he found leaving Whitetop and his body started to become tired. He stubbed his toes a million times and fell twice. I kept reminding him how cool this experience was, in the woods of VA, running in the dark of the night together to chase the 100 miles. Over the course of the night into morning, I wouldn’t let him rest much at the waypoints in fear his body would totally cramp up. When we hit Mile 80 in Damascus around 3 a.m., I started to become sore and tired, but refused to stop pacing. We carried on, it was a 7 mile jaunt to the next way point. We ran, stopped, walked and repeat. He fell asleep on me twice!! I just kept on reminding him, he could sleep at the finish line 🙂 We made it to Alvarado then to Watauga Trestle – the last point before the finish. The sun was coming up, it was breathtaking – absolutely beautiful. Josh started to change gears and we were running again knowing the end was near. We passed about 8 runners. When we closed in on the finished line, we booked it down the hill, and all I remember is stepping aside and watching Josh cross the line. It was incredible.” Read Josh’s story here.
Next up, is a recap of a great ultra event I was able to attend with Josh and Jeremy – stay tuned!
One year ago today, Runaissance Mom was created. At the time, I wanted a single location to share information since many of you were messaging me asking similar questions. Writing a blog was never a plan of mine; I disliked writing essays and papers during high school & college and not once did I ever think I’d pen blogs or share my inner thoughts with the world. Being so open with all of you has been both scary and therapeutic, but also a lot of fun. I’ve enjoyed putting my goals on paper for you to see and reliving races through my recaps.
So, one year and many milestones later, what’s next? 2 months from now, I’ll be tackling the JFK 50 Mile with my friend Sara. When I have talked about doing this challenge, I’ve had people question, “Are you a glutton for punishment?” and “What possesses you to run for so long?” All I can answer is “Why not?”
Why not try to see how far you can go? Why not jump into what could be a life-changing adventure?
We aren’t trying to set any records or finishing in a fast time; we just want to have an experience. Being out in nature, walking and running along the Appalachian Trail and the C&O during the autumn months is sure to be beautiful.
Yes, 50 miles is a long way (about the same distance from Winchester to Reston). I imagine we will experience every emotion through our travels – excitement, anxiety, pain, worry and a sense of accomplishment when we reach that finish line. I am lucky to have someone willing to attempt such a crazy idea with me. We’ve only been friends for about a year, but I know we work well together and will keep each other good company along the way. I can’t wait to write the race recap!
Thank you for sharing the last year with me. Who knows what the future holds, but I look forward to telling you all about the crazy challenges I say yes to!
Microwave some popcorn, sit back and get ready for a novel!
Let’s rewind to the Monday prior to the race – woke up with a sore throat. Really?! I rarely get sick or deal with allergies and of course it would happen race week. Then Tuesday, I woke up with poison ivy! I guess when I was taking photos of friends at Chick-fil-a Dash for Diabetes, I must have leaned against a tree with ivy on it. Crap. Now I could barely breathe and was itchy.
On top of all of that, reduced mileage for a taper and my body wasn’t feeling all that great. Ran a solo 10K in the rain Wednesday morning and felt okay. Wednesday eve, added a little streak of blue for Boston luck.
Thursday, met up with Shane for an easy 4 and ended up running into a few other running friends along the way.
Friday around 9 a.m., the nerves started. I was running a marathon in 2 days – yikes! Still wasn’t feeling 100% and was running out of time.
Before I continue, I need to go back a few months. When I first said I would run Erie, Mario said he was thinking of coming along to run with me. A couple months later, he showed up to a group run and presented me with a piece of paper – proof of race registration!
So, Saturday morning, woke up ready to roll. John, Mario and I piled in Mario’s car and we were off on our 5 hour journey.
We stopped a few times along the way and arrived at Presque Isle just as packet pickup and the expo began. The process was quick and the expo was very small as expected.
We walked over to the lake shore, took a photo and the drove the course. Flat, shaded and beautiful.
Next, we headed back to check in at the hotel and got ready for a shakeout run. Since the hotel was around a lot of shopping, we headed back to Presque Isle to run. I was feeling a little better, but still felt a few niggles here and there. Tried to just get myself into race mode. After our run, back again to hotel and took a dip in the hot tub. Felt great!!
Off to a pasta dinner – of course so many runners there, and Boston jackets all over!
With a 4 a.m. alarm set, I was in bed at 8 p.m. after a nice rubdown. I thought I would have a tough time falling asleep, but was asleep fairly quickly. Unfortunately, woke up around 2:45 a.m. My eyelids flew open and my neck was stiff. Great. I tossed and turned for the last hour, uncomfortable and ready to get out of bed. Finally, 4 a.m.
Dressed, ate my pre-race breakfast, gathered my things and we were out the door.
We parked just in time for the shuttle buses to arrive and jumped on board. It was DARK! We got flashlights in our race bags and now we understood why. No lights in the bathrooms, around the pavilion or starting line.
The weather was absolutely perfect. Just about 50 degrees and no wind. After a few trips to the Portapotties, the sun began to rise and it was time to head to the starting line.
The starting line was fairly crowded, yet a couple runners in front of us were from Loudoun County; not too far from Winchester. We had a few last minute race instructions, the anthem was played and then we were off!
Getting off the line was slow going; congested through a narrow path. Mario and I had to weave through and around runners until we caught back up with one another maybe 200 meters off the start.
Now Mario is a sub 3 hour marathoner and here he is running my pace. During one of the early miles, he jokingly yawned at the pace and then mentioned how this would be his slowest 10K ever. Thanks Mario.
We locked in pretty well at a good clip. Felt easy; wasn’t breathing hard and was enjoying the tree-lined path and lake to our left. Around mile 7, we hit one of the only (tiny) hills we would see twice on the course. We passed a man playing the accordion and several very energetic spectators.
The Erie marathon has a water stop at every mile, which is great not only for hydrating but for helping those miles go by. In addition, local sports teams man the stops and everyone votes on who was the best. One had a moonbounce and yet another around mile 10 featured young men in Speedos!
Still feeling great, we were headed to the halfway mark. I knew I’d see John soon. Around mile 12, I heard people yelling for a Becky with signs. I thought to myself, “I’m going to pretend they are cheering for me.” As we got closer, Mario yells, “Look who it is!!” Our running friends who are family, the Ilnickis. They surprised me by driving all the way up just to cheer us on! Wow.
Mario turned to me and said, “There’s some motivation for you.” Uh yeah. So much so that I dropped two fast miles in a row accidentally. I knew I’d see them after I passed the halfway mark again, so made sure I was close to the side for high 5’s and I even blew a kiss.
Off we continued; still plugging away at pace and feeling great. Fueled for 3rd time and kept hydrated. Around 19, I started feeling a couple of twinges in my calves. Crap. Up until now, was feeling absolutely on point…and then the cramps set in.
If you’ve never experienced these before, the only way I can explain what I felt was along the lines of something crawling under my skin, up and down my calves. Then, extreme tightening and straightening of my lower leg. Ugh. I stopped and stretched, drank more, etc. Whatever I could do. Poor Mario was concerned but did such a great job keeping me moving. At each stop, he’d grab extra drinks for me and would run holding them until I needed more.
This continued for 5 miles. Mario kept looking at his watch. I knew he was trying to calculate our pace and what we needed to do. I also knew what we needed to do and his constant watch checking was stressing me out. Finally, I said, stop looking at your watch! I was angry and frustrated with the situation but never felt like giving up or felt like I wasn’t going to qualify. I knew I’d make it to the finish one way or another. Mind over matter. I knew I wanted this BAD.
At mile 25, I gave it all I had. It felt awful and it felt slow. Calves were still seizing up and I was so close to the finish line. Mario was hooting and hollering; so excited that we were going to finish soon. Somehow I ran the last mile in a 7:44 even though it felt like the longest and slowest mile ever.
We crossed with a clock time of 3:26:05 (chip time 3:25:24) – I qualified for Boston and PR’d by almost 20 minutes. Wow. Surreal.
I was so excited to tell my family, my friends and my coach my results yet I had no service at the park. Finally was able to get the word out to all who had been impatiently waiting. So many people played a role in helping me achieve this goal and I was ecstatic to share my success. It truly has been an adventure filled with highs and lows.
Looking back at race photos sure makes me smile. Having Mario run this race with me will always be a great memory. Thank you Mario – for your time, encouragement and support every step of the way!
Thanks to John for the pre-race massage and encouragement, Ilnickis for surprising me, Jeremy for coaching and running with me, TRD for all the training support, and all of you friends and family who sent lots of well wishes. I thought of so many of you along the way.
Today, I get to submit my registration for the Boston Marathon! I will definitely keep you updated on Boston as well as the next adventure…what’s next?! I’ll share one tidbit with you – it involves this pretty lady!
Hitting the pavement as the world sleeps
Sound of footsteps beside me
SVR track workouts
Stupid, “punny” jokes
RIT group runs
Feelings of success after nailing a workout
- remember running around Handley as you ran your first track workout.
- remember running and listening about the infamous fowl attack.
- think of running from Winchester to Woodstock with you.
- think of sharing a glass of wine and pizza with you after a tough run.
- remember running 14 miles through the streets while kicking a ball with you.
- think “the floor is lava!” and want to jump onto the nearest ledge.
- remember sharing in your successes and in your failures.
Have little time to fit in running AND a strength workout?
Maximize time and perform this circuit routine for an quick, intense full body workout. While improving cardio, you will also increase the calorie burn, develop strength and enhance flexibility which all can contribute to faster and healthier running.
No need for fancy equipment since we will be using bodyweight. Buuuuut, you have to promise to work hard through the entire workout!
Start with a 400 meter jog or run between each set of exercises. Do each exercise for 30 seconds. Progress up to 800 meter jog or run, and 60 seconds of each exercise.
Jog/Run 400 meters
- Mountain Climbers
- Push Ups
- Windshield Wipers
Jog/Run 400 meters
- Walking Lunges
- Jumping Jacks
- Downward Dog Pushups
- Flutter Kicks
Jog/Run 400 meters
- Alternating Step Ups (ledge/park bench/bleacher)
- Tricep Push Ups
- Plank w/Knee
Jog/Run 400 meters
There you go! A mile of running with a full body workout and still plenty of time to go get ice cream, or, I mean, enjoy the rest of your day with your family and friends…and ice cream.
Great shots by Angela Hawk Photography
Runners, and many other athletes, can benefit from adding this short routine into their workout routine. Most runners suffer from weak, tight and under-developed hip muscles and believe me, your hips will not lie – they will let you know when they are struggling. Weak hips can attribute to a myriad of injuries including sciatica, IT band syndrome, runner’s knee, piriformis issues and more.
Think of the hips as the fulcrums of leg levers driving our bodies forward. If your hips are tight, your legs are not going to be able to provide optimal power and speed. Concentrate on your form as you perform each exercise; not only strengthening but being mindful of the movement pattern.
“It’s all in the hips. It’s all in the hips.” – Chubbs, Happy Gilmore
Hip strengthening and mobility exercises should be a part of your weekly plan, whether you are injured or not. You can easily perform these exercises before your next run (or during your next Netflix binge watching sesh). Make the time, so you won’t lose time due to injury.
All exercises will be performed 10 times on each leg.
- Reverse Clamshells
- Leg Raises
- Fire Hydrants
- Donkey Kicks
- Side Hurdles (front & back)
- Bent Leg Swings
- Leg Swings (front/back)
- Leg Swings (side/side)
You will see we need to work on Jeremy’s hip mobility a little (I’m not immune either, need to do this routine more often!).
Get to it!
Better. Faster. Stronger. No, not lyrics by Kanye, but the benefits you can gain through plyometrics.
Bouncing off Jeremy’s post last week about a jump rope workout (see what I did there?), I thought I would delve more into the world of why distance runners should add jump training into their routine.
When we put one foot in front of the other, our leg muscles engage in what is referred to as a Stretch-Shortening Cycle – an eccentric contraction (lengthening of the muscle) immediately followed by a concentric contraction (shortening of the same muscle). A muscle which is stretched right before an explosive movement will contract more forcefully and more rapidly.
Think about a rubber band. If I wanted to shoot the rubber band at someone, what do I do first?
For maximum performance, I’d pull back (stretch) on the band to build up energy. When I release, the stored energy will take action and (hopefully) hit the target. Our muscles are the same. During the stretch phase, our muscles store energy and then release – hopefully quickly and forcefully – to propel us forward.
Simply put, running is a form of jumping – a series of single leg hops, over and over again. In a marathon, men average about 57,640 strides whereas women average about 63,000 strides – those hops sure add up! Isolating the jumping element through plyometrics is a great way to boost running performance without needing to increase your mileage as well as make each of those strides count.
Proper form is key – not only for injury prevention but for maximum benefit. You should have a solid base foundation of cardio and strength before adding plyos to your routine. If you are working through one of the Runner In Training Enhanced Run+Strength plans, explosive training is added to your program after we’ve built up your overall endurance and strength and can be strategically prescribed leading up to prepare you for your big race.
Plyometric Exercises for Runners:
Bounding: this exercise is also great for stretching the hamstrings. Bounding is performed by exaggerating your running form and jumping with each step for about 25 meters. Repeat 2-3 times.
Squat Jumps: Powerhouse. Explosive and effective exercise to power up those glutes!
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Toes should be pointed straight ahead. Bend down into squat position and explode upward with your arms stretched above your head. When you land, land softly with your knees bent as you lower back into the squat position. Do 2 sets of 10-15 reps.
Switch Lunge Jump: You can’t get much more running-specific than a jump lunge. Switch jumps target all those running muscles in an explosive fashion.
Begin in a lunge position, weight equally distributed on both legs. Jump and reverse the position of your legs, lowering back down into a lunge position. Drive your arms just as you would while running. Do 2 sets of 12-15 reps (each leg).
Single Leg Lateral Jumps: C’mon coach – running is forward! Why do I need to jump side to side? Moving laterally, we are engaging different muscles which can help us not only with our athleticism but with injury prevention. Strength, stability, balance, control – simple and effective.
Find a line or use tape to create a line on the floor. Jump over the line back and forth. Minimize ground contact time – land softly and take off quickly. Do 2 sets of 12-15 hops (each side).
Burpees: Brilliant move – full body exercise and also boosts your cardio.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Squat down and place your hands on the floor, jump feet back into a plank position. Do a push-up. Jump feet back to hands, stand up and jump as high as you can. Repeat. 2 sets of 10-15 reps.
Bench Taps: Quick turnover!
Stand in front of a step with both feet on the ground. Rapidly alternate tapping the top of the step with each foot, springing off the ground each time. Drive your arms in your running motion. Do 2 sets of 20 taps (each foot).
Plyometric training can be a powerful tool for improving your running economy. So, if you are ready, go on now – jump up, jump up and get down!
Holy smokes, I haven’t posted a blog in almost a month! A lot has been going on, so let’s have a #FlashbackFriday recap.
June didn’t include much racing, but lots of crazy hill training, closing out running club and putting finishing touches on an exciting project.
This 3rd session of running club was fun and yes, a little challenging with 40 kiddos! So thankful for all my volunteers who run with us at practices. Each session I coach, I learn a little something new and am always inspired by these young runners. Below is a message I received from one of my runner’s parents:
“You have truly given my son a sport he loves! We have tried t-ball, baseball and basketball. All of which he didn’t complain about going, but we could tell he wasn’t into it at all. This is the first time he has ever been excited to go to practice or do a race! In fact, immediately after the Apple Blossom race, his first words were, “When is my next race?!” This running club has helped him find his sport! Thanks to you and running club, I know he will have many more races he is looking forward to in his future.”
Yes, my heart burst. The joy I receive in helping to foster a love for running in others is unfathomable. Watching someone reaching their goals or overcome an obstacle they didn’t think is possible is truly amazing. Which makes me want to tell you about that project I’ve been working on…
If you haven’t heard by now, my running coach/partner and I launched a new business this month – Runner In Training, LLC! Jeremy and I have been running together for nearly a year and have seen much improvement by combining running and strength workouts. Many times during our early bird runs, we’d chat about the possibility of combining our strengths and offering other runners a comprehensive training program. Since we have similar ambitious personalities, the dream didn’t stay just a dream for long. Once we started sharing ideas, the business was full speed ahead and we can’t wait to share all we have in store over the months to come!
Side note: We are about to have our 2nd group run tomorrow, so if you are in the area, please join us. Check out the details here:
On the 4th of July, I raced at the Liberty 5K here in Winchester. What a fun race. There were approximately 300 runners, great awards, fun door prizes and a lot of red, white & blue. Prior to the race, I didn’t really set a time goal. Since I am deep into marathon training, shifting into 5K race pace gear was a bit different. I went out hard at a 6 flat with teammate Alex ahead of me by about 50 meters for the first half of the race. Alex and I run track workouts and long runs often side by side so I kept telling myself there was no reason I couldn’t catch him. Around mile 2, I finally passed him up a hill and felt bad for just a second since it was his birthday (Sorry Alex!). The course is a bit challenging with a few late race hills which didn’t phase me too much after all the hill work the previous month. Surprised myself with an 18:45 – a new PR. My favorite part of the race: after I finished, I ran back down to the last hill to encourage other runners and help them push all the way to the finish line as well as cheering on the kids in the mile.
What else has happened since I talked to you last? Well….although I have my degree in Kinesiology, I never had any certifications. I am proud to say after a lot of studying and a tough exam, I received my National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Personal Training certification! In the near future, I am hoping to add another certification to my name but will tell you more about that one in a future post.
Update on chasing the unicorn …. Wow, as soon as I wrote that, butterflies started dancing in my stomach. At this point, I am under the 60 day mark for my BQ attempt. Training has been going extremely well. Since the Erie marathon is in early September, there is a chance of warmer temps, so I’ve been trying to adapt to running in higher heat and humidity. One of my major goals in this training cycle has been to stay healthy and injury-free and I’m happy to say I haven’t had any issues. I’ve been averaging 45-60 mile weeks with a lot of variety – track, fartleks, hill repeats, LSD (not as slow as Coach would like I think) and am feeling strong. Training has been a lot of fun and I am thankful for my running crew who is very encouraging and continues to push me every week.
Sorry so long but I had a lot to say! Hope all of you are enjoying the summer!
Alright runners, let’s do a new core workout today. I apologize if I make you do more reps than I promised….ok, maybe not. #sorrynotsorry #youllthankmelater
Core v.2: 5 Cubed
Today, we will do 5 exercises – about 25 repetitions. On each 5th rep, do 5 pulses.
- Basic Crunch
- Side Hip Raises
- Flutter Kicks
- Toe Touch Crunches
- Side Crunches
I even did a quick video this morning so you can workout right along with me! No excuses!
My neighbors were walking by smiling; probably think I’m crazy. Annnnd, they’d be right! 🙂
Happy Wednesday all!!
How Do I Make My Water Count?
I have always had a tough time drinking enough water. As a young child and even as a college athlete, I struggled with water intake – I didn’t like the taste (or lack of?). Instead, after practices and races, I would choose sports drinks over H2O. Yes, those artificially-colored and sugar-laden beverages marketed towards athletes were my drink of choice.
When I first started training for a marathon last summer, I started experimenting with different beverages during and after my long runs. After one of the first longer runs (maybe 14 miles), I popped in to a nearby convenience store to grab a well-known sports drink. Trying to rehydrate after a particularly warm run, I thirstily guzzled down the ice cold, sweet and brightly hued liquid. Soon after, my stomach hated me. I felt terrible for hours. Never again.
During most of the training, I chose water, but I always craved something a little sweet post run. After learning about nuun at a local race and seeing a few running friends mention the product, I decided to give it a try. Honestly, in the beginning, I was not a fan of the taste. However, I quickly found flavors I did enjoy and began drinking after long training runs. Best part – I felt rehydrated; I didn’t feel the drink was sitting and sloshing in my stomach and I recovered well.
Per the nuun site, nuun “is an electrolyte enhanced drink tablet designed for an on-the-go lifestyle. Packed with electrolytes, light flavor, and made from clean ingredients, nuun is the perfect sports drink for any of the activities you do. Drop a nuun tablet into 16oz of water and you’re good to go.” Easy peasy.
Nuun has definitely helped me progress towards my goal of increasing my water intake not only for training purposes, but throughout the day as well.
How do I make my water count? Before my morning run or pre-race, I toss a tab of nuun Energy into my bottle to start hydrating with a hit of caffeine. During the day, I prefer nuun Active or nuun Vitamins. Recently, a new product, nuun Performance was launched and I hope to sample very soon.
When the company started looking for 2017 brand ambassadors, I quickly applied since I had become such a fan of the product.
So, why else do I choose nuun over other electrolyte-replacement drinks?
nuun believes in a #LiveClean Standard – they want to replenish active people and the planet; so the company believes in producing a:
- Clean product: clean ingredients, vegan, gluten-free, non-gmo
- Clean planet: minimize carbon footprint with minimal waste and production energy
- Clean sport: nuun values the essence of clean sport and have pledged to play by the rules and hold themselves to standards of integrity of sport
Have you tried nuun before? What are your thoughts?
Although my marathon training plan includes a mixed bag of runs – long, easy, speed training, hills – there is one that generates maximum force. Hills!
When you think of a hill workout, I’m sure you think of a workout like this one.
Run up hill, jog down, repeat.
And, I’ve done those….but….
Coach’s prescribed workout for me yesterday consisted of 10 x 1 minute downhill repeats. Jog up and barrel back down.
Sounds easy – just let gravity do its job right? Not.
My upcoming marathon is pancake flat. So, why do I even bother with hills?
Currently, I am in the strength period of my training plan which includes a variety of hill-based runs. Running hills help build strength, increase VO2Max and of course, tackle hills more easily.
What happens when you run downhill? The muscles in your legs elongate and actually generate more force than when running uphill or on level ground. Running hard downhill also produces more impact on our bodies – joints, bones and muscles. Training on hills helps the body to adapt to the force, repair itself and in turn, become stronger.
Strengthening the muscles used on downhills easily translates into faster paces on any type of terrain.
As you descend down the hill, it is important to work on quickening your cadence and shortening your stride to have better control over form. Stay off your heels and don’t brake!
Planning on running Boston 2018? Add this workout into your regimen to ready your legs to tackle the 4-mile downhill in the beginning of the race.
- Add in the downhill workout early in your training plan.
- Choose a hill that’s less than a 10% grade.
- If you can get on a softer surface, do it. Otherwise, it’s okay to hit the pavement.
- Start with 5 downhill repeats and work your way up to 10.
- Use rocks or chalk to help you count your reps!
Result? A great workout, fun stats and killer quads!
It seems like just yesterday I was creating and posting my goals for 2017.
Here we are, already about halfway through the year and honestly, I haven’t looked back at my goals post since I published. So today, I decided to take a glance to see how I am doing.
- Mile – I wanted to break 6 minutes and clock a 5:45. Last week, 5:21. CHECK!
- 5K – Breaking 20 was my goal for this year. Added in speed work as I had planned and ran sub 19 in May. CHECK!
- Half Marathon – 2017 goal was to break 1:40. Shamrock Half was very kind to me in March – 1:29. CHECK!
- Marathon – I mentioned I wanted to simply beat my 2016 time of 3:46 and possibly BQ. In progress… Training well underway for Erie at Presque Isle Marathon on September 10 and I am definitely chasing that unicorn.
- Ultra? The thought was a maybe. However, all signed up for JFK 50 with Sara! In progress…
- Train my husband for his first half: CHECK!
- Find more opportunities in the fitness/running industry – started working full-time in fitness once again. CHECK! Also in progress, PT certification.
As I stumble upon exciting new experiences offered to me, I now hesitate for only a second before jumping in with both feet. Why not?
Unsure if I purposely found more opportunities or the opportunities found me! Since late last year, I’ve continued to grow in several areas – who knew I would willingly tell my story in front of a group (and like it!)?
Over the past few months, I’ve been working on a new project (I obviously do not have enough on my plate). On one early morning run, a business idea appeared in my mind. (Side note: anyone else find clarity while running? I find my best ideas and thoughts occur on runs).
Next thought – can this idea work? This little spark soon turned into a raging fire to determine how to put this plan into action. Like any unchartered path, there have been obstacles, excitement about the unknown, and a little self-doubt. However, I’ve been lucky to not have to blaze this trail alone.
The time is coming to let you all in on the secret.
With some collaborative sweat equity, a simple idea developed into more than I anticipated. I am so excited to share the plans which have been in the making for months and I hope you all will be excited as well.
Be sure to follow me on Facebook so you don’t miss the big announcement!
As for now, I need to go update those goals…
“Feeling healthy and feeling good about yourself is NOT a luxury – it’s an absolute necessity.”
In honor of May being National Mental Health Awareness Month, I asked my daughter Sierra to rehash a social media post she shared late last year about her own journey into better physical and mental health.
At first, I was very hesitant to share my story of how fitness has positively affected my life because I am not very good at opening up to people but I was encouraged to share my story.
My sophomore year of high school, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I had always noticed when I worked out more often, exercise helped my symptoms. During this time, I was involved in competitive cheerleading and track & field, and I always felt my best after a rigorous practice. The summer before my freshman year of college, I was working out harder than ever. I was constantly in the gym and I felt amazing.
Unfortunately, as soon as I arrived to college, my schedule and habits changed and I completely stopped working out. I continued to be somewhat sedentary and ate unhealthily through my freshman and sophomore years. After two years of not working out and eating whatever I wanted, I had gained 20 lbs. When I realized how much weight I had gained and saw how great of shape Becky was in after a year of getting back into fitness and eating healthier, I became eager to make a change in my life. I was so afraid to begin though. At first, I didn’t know if I would even remember how to workout. I had also become very intimidated by the gym and was afraid to go. I felt as though I would be judged if I went.
In May of 2016, I started running and attending the HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) classes Becky taught at HIIT Like A Girl and eating healthier. Running was the main aspect that really sparked my fire. I had been a sprinter in high school and had never run more than 2 miles at one time. I also thought long distance running looked like torture and had no interest in trying it….until last May.
In the beginning, I started out by running/walking 3 miles a few days a week. Eventually, I was able to run the whole 3 miles. Then, I ran my first 5k on July 4th (Liberty 5k). Running a race felt so incredible and I was happy to finish in under 30 minutes!
When I came back to school for the fall semester, I decided I wanted to try and go back to the gym to start lifting weights. I began going with a friend who knew more about weightlifting which made me feel more comfortable having someone to workout with.
Since last May, my life has changed greatly for the better. Fitness has brought so much more confidence, motivation and positivism into my life. Dealing with anxiety and depression has always made it so hard for me to become and remain motivated. I’ve always had to work extra hard to get myself going every day, and even though I’ve been pretty successful in my life, I had struggled tremendously with getting myself there. I used to have the most difficult time getting myself out of bed before noon. I would often miss class or show up late because I just couldn’t get the motivation to go.
Now, I wake up much earlier (usually around 8 am) and I even have been getting up at 5:45 am for sunrise yoga on Thursday mornings at my college gym. I find when I start my day out with yoga, I feel so much more relaxed. I also run 3-4 times a week and workout to HIIT videos on YouTube. Not only have I run multiple 5ks, but I have also run an 8k and a two 10ks within a year of starting to run. I would like to run a half marathon by the end of the year, which I would have never thought was a possible goal for me before. In addition, I lost the weight I had gained since freshman year. Goodbye Freshman 15!
It’s truly an unbelievable feeling being able to conquer longer distances and achieve personal records. I also sit down and eat breakfast almost every morning before beginning my day now. I was never really a breakfast type of person before but now I always make sure I have time to eat breakfast because it helps with my energy level.
I barely missed any class this past semester and the class that I did miss was not due to mental illness. Now, I have the motivation to get through each day with a positive mindset. I’m constantly busy due to school, work, sorority, and working out. I don’t even have much time to watch TV, but I haven’t felt stressed like I would have before. I am so much happier and have set a goal for 2017 of continuing to better myself physically, mentally and spiritually. I want to improve myself in all aspects so that I can become the best version of myself. I would not be where I am right now if I had not started running last year. I am so incredibly blessed to have the ability to be able run and workout, and I want to continue to do so as long as I can. As for the future, I plan to continue learning as much as I can about fitness and nutrition so that I can continue a healthy lifestyle and help other people.
My advice to others?
Starting to work out can be intimidating, but it can be extremely beneficial for anyone suffering from a mental illness. If you’re just starting out and nervous, even a run/walk for 30 minutes 3 days a week can be helpful. I’m not saying exercise will completely cure mental illness, but exercise is a natural form of medication I strongly believe in. I still have bad days but even on my worst days, getting a workout in or going on a run can make a big difference for me.
For anyone who may be struggling with a mental illness, I just want to say I know how it can be stressful and sometimes you feel like there’s no way out, but YOU CAN’T GIVE UP. Keep pushing yourself to find ways to put more positivity in your life; fill your life with positive people who you can lean on when times are rough.
You are stronger than you think and you will get through it.”
Thanks for sharing Sierra!
Some may argue distance runners may not benefit from SARQ — Speed, Agility, Reactivity and Quickness—training, but I disagree.
SARQ training can benefit runners a variety of ways.
Key Benefits of Agility Work:
- Provides a great dynamic warm-up.
- Helps to improve coordination and body awareness.
- Agility drills use more muscles than linear running – engaging more muscles requires more oxygen which increases the amount of energy that is expended = more calories burned!
- Movement variability. While running, we are performing the same repetitive movement patterns. During agility, you can move in a variety of planes to strengthen your joints, ligaments and tendons which can help stabilize your muscles and help with injury prevention.
- Use as a tool to work on form and cadence.
- FUN. Doing the same workouts day in and day out can become monotonous. Adding in new types of engaging workouts can be challenging as well as exciting.
Do I think you need to spend a lot of time doing agility drills? Not at all; but every now and then it’s fun to shake up your routine.
Today’s workout utilizes an agility ladder. Ladders come with a cost so a few DIY options:
- Easy version: chalk. Draw two parallel lines 15 ft in length and about 19 inches apart. Draw connecting lines every about every 15 inches.
- Duct Tape (double layers). Same as above.
- Duct Tape & Paint Stirrers. I tried this method below. First try was a bit rough, and I would recommend longer sticks and larger boxes.
Check out the video for the basic idea (thanks to my 10 year old for helping!).
Now that you have your ladder, let’s get to work!
For photo purposes, I made my guinea pig Coach Jeremy do the workout after one of our 4:45 a.m. runs. Between pre-dawn runs, ab workouts and now agility drills, I am pretty sure his neighbors think we are lunatics.
It was close, but he did a little better than this guy:
Agility v.1: Basic Ladder Drills
Forward High Knees: Start at one of the ladder, facing the first “rung”. Run forward, driving knees up and placing 2 feet in each square before moving on.
Hmm, looks like the master has become the student. I have some work to do (I will give him a little leeway since his brain was probably still half asleep)!
Lateral High Knees: Start at one of the ladder, with the “rungs” on your left. Move laterally performing high knees; placing 2 feet in each square before moving on. Change directions.
Single Leg Hopscotch: Start at one of the ladder, facing the first “rung”. Both feet jump outside each square, then alternate one foot inside each square while moving forward.
In/Out Hops: Start at one of the ladder, facing the first “rung”. Move your feet inside and outside each square while jumping forward.
Lateral Switch Jumps: Start at one of the ladder, facing the ladder side and “rungs” vertically in front of you. Move laterally while switching feet in/out of each square from side. Change directions.
Overall, job well done by Running Dad Jeremy (no tears shed or pants pooped).
Now it’s your turn! This week you can get one entry for posting a picture of your agility ladder as well as a photo of you doing one of the drills!
Challenge yourself! Need some incentive? RunningDad.com and I are challenging you during the month of May.
Take a #WW selfie of you doing one of our workouts and post on either of our Facebook or Twitter pages to try to win!
(1) Prize: (1) Nuun tube, (1) pair of Lock Laces, (2) Honey Stinger waffles and a $20 gift card to Dick’s Sporting Goods!
1. Post your selfie on the Workout Wednesday post and use the #WorkoutWednesday tag. Photo can be submitted on either RunningDad.com or RunaissanceMom Facebook or Twitter accounts.
2. Each photo equals one entry. Only one entry per Workout Wednesday will be counted. 5 Wednesdays in May = 5 chances to win.
3. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook, Twitter, Nuun, Honey Stinger, Lock Laces or Dick’s Sporting Goods.
4. Contest will close at midnight EST on June 1, 2017. One winner will be selected and contacted on June 2, 2017.
“You can keep going and your legs might hurt for a week, or you can quit and your mind will hurt for a lifetime.” — Mark Allen
A few months ago, I discussed the mental battle many of us feel when running whether you are a beginner or an experienced runner. A friend read my post and mentioned I should read How Bad Do You Want It? by Matt Fitzgerald.
So, during a cold winter weekend, I downloaded a copy and curled up on the couch to gather some knowledge about the mental game. I knew this book would speak to me, but I wasn’t prepared for the negative emotional effect.
I’ll admit the beginning of the book was tough for me to read. To be brutally honest, I was pissed off. Sometimes reading the truth and admitting previous self defeat really sucks.
In college, I felt like that athlete who “pulled up lame”. I was tired. I had lost interest. My passion for running was at a low. I’ll confess I claimed a fake injury once or twice during a race when I couldn’t hang. So many life changes had occurred when I was in college and some days I felt I was just a lost ship at sea. Or maybe I just stopped trying.
For years, my goal was to use my running talent to earn a college scholarship. Looking back, once I achieved this major feat, I don’t recall setting a new goal. No goal to win the 800m at ACCs or qualify for NCAAs. Did I stop dreaming? Was I just happy to settle and have college athletics be my final destination? Unsure.
I’ve strayed – back to the story.
This book is a collection of stories about athletes who share their experiences; their battles and the coping mechanisms they have used to conquer the beast within themselves. I especially enjoyed reading about a runner named Jenny and her disaster of a race at 2009 NCAA Cross Country Championships. Later, you find out her married name – Jenny Simpson – who was just in the most recent Olympics.
Upon finishing this particular chapter, I thought, “thank goodness”. I am not the only one. This fierce battle between mind and matter even happens to the best of the best.
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone into the area where running is HARD is difficult for everyone. During a typical 5K, you have at least 3,000 steps to conjure up many thoughts – good or bad. And the bad tends to scream much louder than the good.
Since finishing the book, I have utilized a couple key tips while racing.
Embrace the hurt. Accept the fact that some of your run/race may be tough.
One of our local 5ks ends with a windy, gradual uphill about a half mile long. During the race, I knew it would be in front of me soon. I told myself, accept the challenge; yes – it will hurt. But you WILL run the hill and you will be finished soon. Fitzgerald mentions bracing yourself for a tough race or workout can boost performance by 15% or more.
Preparing yourself for the inevitable helps.
Also, reading and being reminded your brain is going to try to quit before your body is ready to give up. Studies show although you mentally feel you cannot take another step, your muscles are not at maximum effort yet. Mind over matter or matter over mind??
I encourage you to read this book if you’ve ever engaged in this mental war while running. You can admit you do – it’s more common than you think.
Whether you are an elite runner or a recreational jogger, I’m sure your mind has tried to make you quit before your body was ready. Arm yourself with a few coping tools and next time, you’ll be prepared to power through!
Now years later, my passion has been reignited and I’m back to racing. I feel as though I’ve been given a second chance to give it my all.
From here on out, and especially when I toe the line chasing that BQ, I will I ask myself, “How bad do you want it?”.
Bad…very, very bad.
My turn for Workout Wednesday!
During strength training, our muscles can produce force in three different ways. In the lifting phase of an exercise, the muscle is shortened, which is called the concentric action. When lowering the load and lengthening the muscle, this action is referred to as the eccentric action. If you have strength trained before, you are most likely familiar with these two dynamic actions.
Normally, many of us do not tend to focus on the static contraction.
This third action which causes our muscles to produce force are called isometric contractions. In an isometric contraction, no length in the muscle is created. Incorporating isometric exercises into your training can lead to gains muscle strength, flexibility and improved balance.
Today’s workout pairs all 3 contractions in a modified Tabata-style workout and we add in a little cardio as well.
Remember to warm up at least 5-10 minutes before starting. You will need light dumbbells and a mat.
Each exercise will be completed twice for 20 seconds on/10 seconds rest Static/Dynamic/Static/Dynamic before moving to the next set.
Workout will take approximately 25 minutes.
- Static Squat/Squat (i.e. Static Squat/Squats/Static Squat/Squats)
- Low Push Up Hold/Push Up (i.e. Push Up Hold/Push Up/Push Up Hold/Push Ups and so on; pushups can be modified on knees)
- Static Lunge/Alternating Lunges
CARDIO: Jumping Jacks (20 on/10 off X 4), then 45-60 Seconds of REST
- V-Sit/Chest Fly/V-Sit + Chest Fly (on floor; this one has 3 parts)
- Wall Sit/Squat Jumps
- Tricep Dip Hold/Tricep Dips
CARDIO: Skater Jumps (20 on/10 off X 4), then 45-60 Seconds of REST
- Superman Hold/Superman Raises
- Side Plank Hold/Side Plank Hip Dips (Do Left, then Right; can be in modified position)
- Downward Dog Hold/Downward Dog Press
CARDIO: Jack + Alternating Kick (20 on/10 off X 4), then 45-60 Seconds of REST
Remember, the first exercise is a static hold, second is dynamic/moving (ie squat hold; up & down squats).
All of these strength and cardio exercises can be found online if you aren’t sure what to do. If you have questions, please feel free to ask!
Stepping outside my comfort zone – chatting with you about what I feel are the benefits of HIIT for Runners!
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to speak at our local running store, Runner’s Retreat, about the benefits of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for Runners. While I greatly enjoy instructing HIIT classes, generally speaking in front of a group of people just about scares me to death!
When I’m nervous, I tend to talk about as fast as I run, so I decided to record my presentation and share my feelings on how HIIT has helped me become a better runner. This way, if you were there and couldn’t figure out what in the world I was trying to say, or you weren’t able to attend – you can hear it all now.
Bear with me, stepping outside my comfort zone here!
In case you missed my key benefits, HIIT training can help:
- Improve muscular strength in multiple planes
- Increase performance potential and help prevent injuries.
- Improve muscular stability to increase your ability to efficiently transfer energy.
- Increase lactate threshold – work at a higher intensity longer before reaching fatigue.
- Provide an awesome metabolic benefit – continue to burn calories and fat after your workout for an extended period of time.
And from the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal, here is an example workout for you to try!
Exercises are performed for 30 seconds, with 10 seconds of rest time between exercises. Total time for the entire workout is approximately 7 minutes.
The circuit can be repeated 2 to 3 times.
Let me know what you think, and if you have any questions!
Until next time,