By now, you may already classify me as certifiably crazy. If not, I may be able to convince you before you finish reading this entry.
In two days, I am signed up for a “training run”. The WTF 50K. Noooo, it does not stand for “What the F*ck” – it’s Waterfall (what is wrong with you??). Actually, the closer we get to Sunday, the more I am thinking the acronym does stand for that potty mouthed acronym.
Let’s preview what I’m up against…
The course is 31 miles on trails. The course is unmarked. You are responsible for carrying your own turnsheet and paying attention to your surroundings. It’s going to be snowing and/or raining. And windy. And cold….and the temp is going to drop. The high for Sunday is about 38. The low? 8. Without a wind chill. WTF (remember, that stands for WATERFALL).
In 2018, I endured the historic (read: insane) weather conditions of the Boston Marathon. It was cold, windy, raining – over a thousand dropped out due to hypothermia. I suffered from a sense of race weather PTSD for months. Anytime that weather trifecta is forecasted, I remember the paralyzing feeling of running along for 26.2 miles as a mobile popsicle. Now I’m thinking that race was just preparing me for something bigger; more challenging.
Not going to lie, this week I’ve been really contemplating over my decision making. The run has no entry fee. There is no tangible reward. No race t-shirt. No medals (that’s right, no bling!). If you complete the task? A WTF50K sticker. Yes, I said sticker.
I shared my anxiety with my fellow 2018 Boston teammates Mario and Jeremy. Jeremy quickly reminded me, “You wanted a challenge. It just got more intense.” Mario agreed it’d be a challenge, but assured me I’d be fine. I messaged with friends who are experienced WTF50k finishers. Thankful for their brutal honesty, tips and a little bit of comfort, my attitude started to change. By the end of the day, my fear was slowly dissipating and the beast mode was flickering on.
By nature, I am competitive. However, I am not treating WTF50K as a race. To me, this adventure is so much more. There are so many variables and obstacles I will be up against – what if I get lost? What if I start feeling hypothermic? How will I handle 7000+ ft of elevation gain over 31 miles?
My competition will be me, myself and I. Pace will not matter. Who finishes ahead or behind me does not matter. What matters to me is continuing to push my limits and see what I am capable of. And yes, getting that dang sticker.
On Thursday, I asked you via Runner In Training – what would you do if you knew you could not fail? Part of this journey is knowing I can definitely fail and choosing to forge ahead despite that possibility. You will never know your limits until you push yourself to them.
While most will be pulling up the blankets a little tighter Sunday morning as Mother Nature unleashes another bout of unsettled weather, about 60 runners will be preparing for several hours on the WTF 50K course. Crazy? Perhaps. In our minds, it’s a chance to willingly put ourselves outside our comfort zone and see what we are made of.
Hopefully, I’ll be back on Monday with an exciting race recap to share all the highs and lows of this next challenge. Stay tuned!
“The longer and farther I ran, the more I realised that what I was often chasing was a state of mind – a place where worries that seemed monumental melted away, where the beauty and timelessness of the universe, of the present moment, came into sharp focus.” – Scott Jurek
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.
Sometimes, running alone in silence can be therapeutic – just tuning into the rhythm of your footsteps and the sound of your breath. Some of my best thinking occurs during a run; away from all of the distractions of life. Nearly of my blog posts have been mentally hashed out and many decisions have been made as I logged my miles. The road is a good listener.
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.
Especially in the darkness of pre-dawn runs, I’ve learned just how much we all struggle. You know, the types of stories that don’t show up on our news feed. No one wants to read stories of sadness and no one wants to be the Debbie Downer. I’ve chatted with people who have been afraid to share goals or stories with others in fear of being a disappointment. People who feel they aren’t “enough”. Friends who have distanced themselves because they feel alone in their struggle (whatever it may be). We tend to be hesitant to share the “real” version of ourselves to each other.
Why am I writing about this? I want people to know they are not alone. I want people to know life is not about being rich, or popular, being highly educated or being (or seeming) perfect.
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.
My offer will always stand. You know how to reach me 🙂
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?
Okay, okay, I’ll get back to what you really came here for – cake pops!
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.
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.
“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.
For now, I’m still nervously optimistic I am on the right path. Thanks to those who listened to me whine, offered suggestions and support. As I’ve said before, it takes a village. We may have figured this out just in time – my spring race schedule is packed and I feel I am ready to fly!
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?