Friday, December 10, 2010

When the (Running) Shoe is on the Other Foot

Since my last post, I have had another beginner's group start and finish. This time, though, it didn't go as planned.

I found out I was pregnant back in July. While this is an exciting time for us, I have a pretty complicated pregnancy history and one that does not allow me to run. And this go around is even more complicated as I'm pregnant with twins. While I was able to keep coaching my groups, I wasn't able to run with them.

About half-way through this last group (at the end of October), I had some complications and went on bed rest. Everything is all right now, but I wasn't able to continue to physically coach my group through the end of their program. Needless to say, I was heartbroken that I couldn't see them finish not only their program but their first 5K race. I had a lot of wonderful people helping me with the program, so they weren't on their own and all of them finished the program and their race beautifully.

I continued to coach them as much as possible through email. I often have clients from around the country that I coach "virtually," so this was not a foreign concept to me. But I still felt terribly and I felt I was somehow letting them down. I know that life happens and certain things are out of control and my health and that of my babies is the top priority. Still, when you spend much of your time helping others reach their goals and suddenly you are not physically there for them, it is hard. For beginning runners, this running thing can be scary, intimidating, overwhelming, you name it. And I love helping them get through it, sometimes physically holding their hands through it. So many people try to run on their own and they fail. And they never get to experience that feeling of exhilaration of crossing a finish line or running a certain distance. I feel so honored to be able to do that with others. The people I coach are like my little chicks and I get to see them grow and get strong enough to fly on their own. It's an amazing experience.

What I wasn't prepared for was the outpouring of love and support from the participants in the group. I guess when you're usually the one being supportive you aren't used to people supporting you. The running shoe was definitely on the other foot. I had people from my group bring my family dinners, books for me to read, etc. It has meant so much to me to have that support.

Earlier this week we held a dinner for all the participants of all my running programs from 2010. I was given the green light from my doctor to attend as long as I didn't move around too much. I cannot tell you how much of a boost it was to see everyone again. To hear their stories about how they are still running, looking to try new things, new goals, new distances. It was a wonderful evening and it really meant so much to be there.

What I'm trying to say is 'thank you' to all the people who have sent their words of love and support my way. It has meant the world to me. It's hard sometimes to except the fact that you need help and support from others, especially when you're used to being there for others.

I cannot wait until the next program begins and I can be with a whole new crop of runners-to-be. I love ya!

Monday, September 6, 2010

New Runners Offer New Inspiration

This past weekend my 4th beginners group of the year completed their first 5K. It was a glorious morning at the Kentlands/Lakelands 5K and my runners really had a great time. The smiles as they crossed the finish line were just dazzling.

As I mentioned, this was my 4th group of the year. Each year I have the pleasure of coaching groups and individuals, helping them reach goals and heights they never thought possible. While I love coaching people of all abilities, I have a special fondness for coaching beginners.

I'm sure I've written about this a million times already, but working with beginning runners is such a privilege for me. I feel really honored that someone has chosen me to help them start a new chapter in their lives. Quite frankly, I feel honored that all of my clients have chosen to work with me. But beginners are generally terrified of running and they are completely intimidated by the sport. They feel that they aren't real runners, will never be a real runner, and need more in the way of encouragement, motivation and support than more established runners.

The group that just finished this past Saturday had a pretty hard summer for training. It was the hottest summer on record in DC and even the people that like running in hot and humid weather had to wave their white flag in surrender. But these runners were determined. They did as many runs as they could, they stuck to it when most people would just skip it. I have never been more inspired by a group than I was with this one. And the main reason is really because of that determination. I, for one, hate running in the heat. Give me cold any day. But this group showed me, and all runners, that it can still be done and goals can still be reached, regardless of the things standing in the way. A beginner (and even a few veterans) usually finds any reason to not do something. No matter how big or small the reason, most beginners usually give in and skip their workout. Not this group. Not the heat, summer vacations, children, jobs, nothing stood in the way.

If they can do, anyone can. So, the next time you're wondering if you should bother getting your run in, think about all those beginners that never let anything get in their way. Let them inspire you and fill you with renewed motivation and excitement for the sport we dearly love.

Happy running!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

American Odyssey Relay

On April 23rd and 24th, I was part of two teams that ran in a relay race from Gettysburg, PA to Washington, DC. We were the Krybabies and Slackers and we were awesome. Each team consisted of 12 people and the teams ran simultaneously so everyone had someone to run with. I was runner 11 on the Krybaby team. The Slackers didn't have a runner for leg 11 (who we referred to as TBD), so I didn't have a set running partner. But lots of people stepped up and ran extra to run with me. No one runs alone!

Most of the 24 people on the teams knew each other from the Sargeant's Program they do in Rockville. They ran this relay last year, when it was in its first year, and had so much fun they needed to do it again. A few of their team members were not able to do it this year, so they had a few openings. I was brought in through my friend Connie, who was brought in through her friend Dave. Connie and I didn't know anyone (other than her friend Dave) and we both were a little apprehensive. Two days in a van with people you don't know could very well be a nightmare.

We met everyone for the first time about 2 weeks before the relay. All of our doubts were dashed as we really liked everyone. They welcomed us newbies (there were others as well) with open arms (literally) and we felt part of the group from the get-go.

Fast forward 2 weeks. We met in the parking lot of the Rockville Community Center on Thursday night, April 23rd. We loaded our van and headed on to Gettysburg. Though we stopped on the way to pick up a roof-rack storage bag. We made it to Gettysburg and met the rest of the teams for dinner. We all toasted to a fun relay in the days ahead.

The hotel we stayed at, America's Best Value, was exactly as it sounds. It was kind of dumpy with retro style (really, they have really just not redecorated since 1972) but the staff was nice and we were only going to be there for 12 hours, so it didn't matter.

What did matter was the other guests of the hotel. Appently there was a Greyhound dog convention of sorts and this hotel was hosting quite a few attendees. It stank. The dogs barked. And we weren't happy. I'll never look at a Greyhound the same way.

We were up early Friday morning to have a last minute team meeting and load the vans. I was in Van 2 of the Krybaby team. In our van, we had Fabi, Eric, Connie, Dave and me. We had another runner, Purley, who had to drive up on his own and didn't actually come into our van. I don't know how we would have fit him because we took advantage of that extra space. After the vans were packed, we headed to the start.

Because we were certain we'd come in last, or very close to it, we had a 7:00 AM start time on Friday. The race organizers' hopes were that, by staggering the start times and having slower teams start earlier, everyone would finish around the same time. We started with one other team (America the Bootyful...who turned out to be sandbaggers. They totally smoked the field).

After the start, we headed back to the doghouse hotel, checked out, decorated our van and headed to the hand off between our first van and us.

Waiting was really the hardest part for me. So, we started at 7:00AM on Friday but with me being number 11 of 12 runners, I didn't actually until 5:00. I had 2 TBDs for my first leg. The first half I ran with Dee, a chemistry professor up in NJ. And the next half I ran with Keith, who is a lawyer here in Olney. We ran across the Mason and Dixon line from Pennsylvania into Maryland. It was cool crossing the line, which was over a bridge, but then we had run up a gigantic hill. That wasn't cool. But getting to know Keith and Dee was great.

After my leg I really earned my place in the group. This group is an awesome group of wise-cracking, chop-busting, fun people. So, as we were driving to the next spot to pick up our last runner, we passed some women that looked like they could use some water. I had a water bottle and I wasn't sure if one of the girls was coming to the car and there were cars behind us so we couldn't stop. Well, I didn't know what to do so I threw the bottle. I didn't anyone but with this group, by the end of the weekend, I had pegged the girl in the head with a water bottle that had knives coming out of it, she fell into a ditch and had to be retrieved. It was pretty hysterical.

After our team was finished, we camped out at this high school in Smithsburg, MD. Some spouses of runners on our teams met us there and cooked for us. Oh, it was an awesome meal of grilled chicken (yes, they brought their grill) pasta and salad. It was fantastic and other teams were walking by drooling.

It was our van's turn to start running, but not before we were able to get some massages. That's right! Another spouse is a massage therapist and met us and gave us all 15-minute massages. Heavenly. I was able to get a few hours of sleep after that!

Time to run again. Time being 3:28 AM to be exact. My next TBD was Gary and Gary loved hills. Good thing too because we had to run through Antietam National Battleground and cemetary. At 3:30 in the morning. It was misty and eerie and incredibly hilly. But Gary is a riot and we had a good time. He kicked those hills out.

After our last runner finished their second leg, we were lucky enough to camp out at the house of one of our van captain's friends. We were in West Virginia and they had a great lawn that we were able to camp in and a bathroom and shower we could use. A few of us decided to sleep in the van because Eric snored like a chainsaw the whole time. But we got some sleep and enjoyed awesome food and coffee the next morning.

From West Virginia, it was onto Dickerson, MD which is actually not too far from where I live. We were meeting up with our first van and the place was a mad house. The port-o-johns were hideous and it was getting to that point where we just wanted to be done. We devised a plan to have all of our remaining legs running simultaneously so we could finish at a reasonable hour. Because our team captains have a good relationship with the race organizers, and we were in no way in contention for any prize (other than being the slowest team), it didn't matter. So, off we all went to our last legs.

My last leg began in Glen Echo, near Bethesda, along the C & O canal towpath. Nice and flat. The first part of the leg I ran with Kay, who was the other team captian. She was my team's (the Krybabies) captain. Kay is an awesome woman. Great stories and a great outlook on life. My second TBD for my last leg was Jorge. I was glad about this because I hadn't had a chance to talk to him much at all and we had a good talk. He's a cool, funny dude.

We finished in Georgetown, DC and our last runners took off. We all went to the finish and the party started while we were waiting. Lots of beers and dancing. We waited for our last runners and then when we saw them, we all ran together crossing the finish line together. That was awesome.

Really, this was one of the best running experiences I've ever had. I met and became part of a great group of people. I can't wait to do it again!! I felt like I had been a part of the group for years and it was such a wonderful feeling. These people really know how to show a girl a good time!

Me and my TBDs: to my left is Jorge, then Gary, Dee, Kay and Keith. Thanks guys for not leaving me alone out there!

The following days were interesting. I was in a relay fog for probably the week following. I slept most of the following day and took a lot of naps the week after. It took a long time for me to recover! And I was to run the Frederick Marathon the following week but decided after about 2 miles into that it just wasn't going to happen. I was tired and it was so hot and humid that I was already feeling lightheaded and dizzy. Not a good sign. So with major disappointment, I bailed. This is definitely for another post, but I was having major abdominal problems at the time too. I had the beginning of an ulcer and was in a bad way. But that's all under control, and like I said, will be another post shortly.

Anyway, I highly recommend doing a relay. As long as your teammates are fun and you get along well, there's no way you can't have a good time. That's what running is all about, right?

To see more of my pictures, check out my Facebook page.

Happy running!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Time Flies When You're Having Fun...Or Something Like That

I cannot believe I haven't posted anything since my 50K. That was March and it's now June! But then I started thinking about how busy things have been. After the 50K, it seems like things just took off from there. Let's just see what has been going on:

  • Ran the National Marathon
  • Ran the Ukrops Monument 10K in Richmond
  • Ran the inaugral 13.1 series half marathon in NYC
  • Ran Cherry Blossom 10-miler
  • Ran the American Odyssey Relay from Gettysburg, PA to Washington, DC (that will be a post soon)
  • Tried to run the Frederick Marathon but bailed for several reasons (that will be a post soon)
  • Coached 3 beginning 5K groups and getting ready to start group #4
  • Coached Girls on The Run
  • Ran Zooma Half Marathon
  • Did my day job. Did my side job.
  • All this in addition to being a wife and mom!

Needless to say, it's been hectic. But it's been fun too. And...needless to say, I'm taking some time off from racing. I will be taking the summer off and maybe do a short race here and there. It's now my husband's turn to race as he did the Air Force Cycling Classic last weekend and is doing the DC Triathlon last weekend. He did a few half marathons already this year but his focus is going to be another half Ironman in the fall.

Stay tuned for more! And as always....

Happy running!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Seneca Creek Greenway Trail 50K

Yesterday, I became an ultra-marathoner. I ran the Seneca Creek Trail 50K (locally known as the Greenway 50K as it's run on the beautiful Greenway Trail which runs alongside Seneca Creek).

Most people know of the tough times my husband and I have had this past year. I've mentioned it here a few times, but mostly on my personal blog. The road to this race was paved with a lot of tears and anguish. I decided to run this race as a way to do something for myself. To give myself a sense of focus and something to look forward to. I chose a trail ultra rather than another marathon because the trail running community is much more relaxed and laid back. It's much more about connecting to the sport and the surroundings, less about the times and performance. Don't get me wrong, it's competitive. But it's much less stressful and a lot more fun. This is what I needed.

The months leading up to the race were rough. While I usually love running in the winter, training this winter even tested my patience. With over 40 inches of snow falling in the DC area in less than 2 months, it was tough to find places to run, let alone run on the trail. Long runs were split up and I could only take so much treadmill running. I had planned on running the Myrtle Beach Marathon as a training run, but even that was cancelled due to snow. With the winter progressing as it was, the Greenway 50K was looking less and less likely.

The race is put on by our local Road Runners Club, the Montgomery County Road Runners. And we are a dedicated bunch. Volunteers were out clearing the trail for days leading up to this race. Clearing snow and blown down trees, marking the course and ensuring the race would go on. And go on it did. Here's my recap.

The race starts in Damascus, MD and finishes at Riley's Lock along the C & O Canal towpath. You park at the finish and the race organizers bus you to the start. It was freezing in the morning. The organizers provided us with mylar blankets and hand warmers to keep us from freezing to death. I got to the race start with an hour to spare yet still found myself rushing when the race started. I was in the port-o-potty of all places and literally ran out of the potty and crossed the starting line. It was pretty amusing.

The first 4 miles were on a combination of ice and hard, packed snow. Not ideal conditions. It was very difficult to have steady footing and it was very tiresome. I walked through a lot of it just to prevent falling. At mile 4, the creek crossing was pretty deep, about ankle-deep. Thankfully, the race organizers provided a rope for us to hold onto while crossing or I would have been in the creek for sure. I was glad it was only my feet that were wet. But running in wet shoes and socks on hard, packed snow is pretty difficult! At mile 7 was the first aid station. I changed into dry socks and loaded up on potatoes and pretzels. Off we went on more packed snow. Finally the trail thawed out and we were on dry dirt. I clearly remember sighing in relief at the snow being gone. AHHH, running on dry dirt feels good.

I got to the aid station at mile 11 where I saw John and Keller for the first time. That was great. Such a great sight. More pretzels and some Pepsi and I was on my way. At this point, the trail goes under some major roads, which was pretty darn cool. The bridges are over the creek and the trail is alongside the creek. I must have been a troll living under a bridge in a former life, because I really love running under bridges. I see John and Keller again after about 2 more miles and that was nice. Then we powered on into Seneca Creek State Park. At the next aid station at mile 15, I saw John and Keller again. My friend, Jon was there to run the rest of the race with me. He's a good friend! We ran around Clopper Lake, which is a beautiful run. There was more packed snow but it wasn't too bad. We stopped back at the aid station. After more Pepsi and potatoes, we were on our way.

We headed south and ran under Great Seneca Highway (another bridge, yay!) and to the aid station at Riffle Ford Road. This is about mile 20.5 or so. I didn't know there was going to be an aid station here, so this was a nice surprise. A PB&J and Pepsi later and we were off. The section between Riffle Ford Rd and Route 118 was a muddy mess with me tripping and falling and almost losing a shoe (two separate incidents). But I managed to get through it.

The section between Route 118 and the Route 28 aid station is a hilly section of the course. This is about 23-24 miles into the race, so I was definitely feeling those hills. Thankfully Jon was with me to distract me from those hills. There were also some strategically placed signs along the course that were distracting. They were for Goldfish crackers. Yes, Goldfish, and they said things like "I think, therefore I Goldfish" and "Goldfish: the other white meat." The signs actually started appearing around mile 13, so there were 12 miles of Goldfish signs. You'd be surprised at how many things you can say about a Goldfish cracker.

At the Route 28 aid station, my friends Connie and Ken, the husband and wife dynamic duo (and 2 more good friends!), were there to run the rest of the race with us. After more potatoes and Pepsi, I was ready to finish the race.

The next 3 miles were good. Muddy but good. We talked about movies and the military, though not exclusively movies about the military. It was nice because the time was passing and the miles were ticking away. But then I was hitting the wall. It was around mile 28 and I was getting tired and losing my steam. We got to the last aid station at Berryville Rd. John and Keller were there, which was awesome. Keller was so cute, telling me I was winning the race. I had my last bites of potatoes and off we went. The last 2.2 miles.

In those last 2.2 miles is the largest hill on the course. But first you need to cross the creek. Thankfully, with Ken's help, I got across without wet feet. Had I been alone, I'm sure I would have been in the creek and floated into the Potomac. After the creek we climbed the hill and then it was smooth sailing to the finish (well, as smooth as a muddy trail can be). We got to Seneca Rd., which is right by the finish, and I almost screamed out with joy. My friend Tammy was there, and it was great to see her. We ran down Seneca Rd. to River Rd. Then onto Tshiffley Rd. "Oh my God. I can't believe I'm doing this" was going through my mind. "Oh my God, I can't believe I'm going to finish." I can't really put into words how I felt.

As we approach the finish I see John and Keller. I really started getting emotional at this point. I crossed the finish and just let it go. I took a moment and just bent down and cried. Months of emotional pain, the incredible loss we endured, the sorrow, that's what came to the surface right then and there. I survived. I pulled myself out of the hole and I survived. Training for and ultimately finishing this race helped me get through the hardest time in my life. I will never forget how I felt when I finished this race.

For pictures from the race, check out my Facebook page. For some reason, Blogger's not letting me post them here.

Where do I go from here? Well, I have a number of (shorter) races lined up in the beginning of April as well as a 200-mile relay at the end of April. Perhaps another 50K is in store for me'll have to wait and see!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Snow = No Go

The Myrtle Beach Marathon was canceled. For 3-4 inches of snow. Apparently Myrtle Beach doesn't have a snow plow and can't deal with removing snow from the streets. They canceled the race because the course isn't closed to cars and, due to the slippery conditions, wanted to keep the runners safe. Great. I get that. But cancel? Why not just postpone a few hours?

A bunch of us met and ran because that was the point of being here in the first place. We met up with a bunch of folks from Twitter: Megan (@veganrunningmom), Eric (@veganrunningdad), Eva (@EvaTEsq) and her husband, who's name escapes me (sorry!) and Gordon (@disneyrunner). We were also there with John's cousin Tim and his wife Tina. We did a nice and easy 10 miles and then hung out at Starbucks for a while chatting. A few of us wore our race numbers and it was generally a great time. There were tons of runners on the roads. We weren't the only ones trying to make the best out of things. We runners are a dedicated bunch and when we want something, we find a way to do it.

Today was the bike rides. John did the 33-mile ride and had a good time. I was supposed to do the 14-mile ride but decided not to so I could get some more miles in. I did another 10 along the beach road. There were still a ton of runners out, a few with their race numbers. I ran along the beach for a while as well. It was a nice morning. Everyone was in a fantastic mood. Tons of hellos, nods, waves, a Happy Valentine's Day, and a "good girl." I liked that one.

So, while we were extremely disappointed that we couldn't do the race, we had a great time anyway. Sometimes the best times are not the ones we thought we would have.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

First Race of Many

Next Saturday I'm running the Myrtle Beach Marathon. I'm super excited.

I'm using this race as a training run for my 50K. So, I have no expectations. No time goals. No pressure. This is for fun, if you can believe it. With this as my 8th marathon, I just want to have a good time. I've never been to Myrtle Beach before and I figured this would be a great way to see the city! I've heard great things about the race. My husband is doing the half marathon and his cousin and his wife are also doing the half. We're going to have a blast.

I really think, as runners, we have to have races that are for pure fun. Sure, we need to race to test ourselves, measure our fitness, get experience, etc. But we also need to have fun. We need to race for the pure pleasure of running. Of being part of the atmosphere. I love the race atmosphere. Being among sometimes thousands of others that have the same interests and passions I do is electric to me. It makes me feel alive.

Sign up for a race just for the heck of it. Don't set any time goals for yourself. Don't put any pressure on yourself. Just run it because you can. Enjoy yourself. It will recharge you, it will recharge your running.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Iron Heart

Last week I had the distinct pleasure to read Iron Heart: The True Story of How I Came Back From The Dead by Brian Boyle. I read it for a couple of reasons. I first heard about Brian back in 2007 when he completed the Ironman World Championships in Kona. His story captivated me and when I heard he put out a book, I got in touch with him. He's doing an appearance and Fun Run with us at Fleet Feet Sports, Gaithersburg this Thursday, January 7th. I had to read the book before I met him :)

Back to Brian's story. Back in 2004, a month after he graduated high school, Brian was in a horrific car accident that should have killed him. Technically it did kill him, he was pronounced dead 8 times. His injuries were so severe he was placed in a medically-induced coma for 2 months because he wouldn't have survived the pain from his injuries. His pelvis was broken, along with several other bones. But what was worse was the trauma his internal organs endured. Most of his organs were dislodged and moved, including his heart which was knocked across his chest. It's truly a miracle that he survived the crash.

After he came out of the coma, doctors thought he would be resigned to a life in assisted-living homes and certainly would never walk again. But Brian was an athlete at the time of the accident. He was a swimmer and bodybuilder, getting ready to swim at the collegiate level. He was in phenomenal shape and his mental and physical toughness really helped him in his rehabilitation. Not only was he able to regain his physical strength and abilities, he was able to live the active lifestyle he loved.

Three years after the accident, after his rehab was complete for the most part, Brian contacted the Ironman organization. A dream of his was to complete an Ironman, so when visiting the website one day he sent an email detailing his accident, recovery, rehabilitation and dream. The organization was so impressed with Brian's sure will to survive that they contacted him. They wanted to give Brian a media slot to compete at the Ironman World Championships in Kona. The catch was he had never done a triathlon before. So, he had to complete a Half Ironman first, then they would see if the full Ironman was doable. He was given about 2 weeks time to train for the Half Ironman. Two weeks. But he did it. It hurt, but this previously paralyzed guy finished a 70.3-mile race just over 3 years after his accident. The Ironman organization gave him a slot at Kona, which was 45 days after his Half Ironman. 45 days.

Well, Brian worked hard and was able to finish the 2007 Ford Ironman World Championships. In just over three years he went from a healthy, active 18 year old, to an accident victim with little hope of walking again, to an Ironman.

I think his story is extremely inspiring. And not because he fought hard and overcame odds that were against him. That's only part of his amazing story. Brian faced all of this with strength, courage and a tenacity that people in his situation rarely have. Yes, he did have dark moments and times when he wanted to give up. But for the most part, he gave it his all everyday with a smile on his face. He now lives his life to the fullest and in a way that appreciates every moment. He isn't boastful or conceited, though he is proud of his accomplishments. He is humble and modest and thankful that he has been given this second chance. He holds blood drives to raise awareness and support for the blood services industry that helped save his life. He supports the rescue teams that work tirelessly to help those in accidents like his. He still visits his doctors and nurses that cared for him and worked to save his life.

I'm inviting all Washington, DC-area runners to our Fun Run/Walk on Thursday at 6:30 PM. Brian will be there at 6:00 for a book signing and then we'll run at 6:30. This is a rain or shine event, so please plan on coming. Even if you don't run, you don't want to miss the opportunity to meet such an amazing person. If you're in need of some inspiration this New Year, Brian is it.

Happy running!