2015: Focus, Purpose & Gratitude

New Years day. A day to feel instantly renewed and ready to face the brand new year! Well, not so much for me. I sat comatose on the coach for the majority of the day nursing my New Years hangover (insert shame face) and a bad cough I have been trying to kick for two weeks. Throughout the day, I found myself mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and I was struck by the number of my friends who updated their statuses noting how challenging 2014 was and that it also had some exciting and memorable moments. I thought to myself, wow, I’m not alone. 2014 certainly had some high points, but it had a great deal of stress, challenges and sadness. While I celebrate and enjoy the high points, I unfortunately continue to feel overwhelmed by the sadness, illness and struggles of many close friends and family.

As a little break from these challenges, I decided to move on and visit some old photos of fun times

Fun in college with my swimming friends.

190728_503311902183_34_n 207932_503312685613_7744_n

My incredible trip to visit my best friend from high school in Panama, who was there for 2.5 years in the Peace Corps. 

Life is good

The beginning of my foray into running and my first marathon in 2008.

n43200227_31021544_1818

I won’t bore you with my entire digital photography archive from the past 10 years. It made me laugh, smile and also yearn for a period in my life that was in no way free from stress, but my friends all seemed happier and life certainly seemed a bit less complicated.

Life is certainly not a cake walk. I came to the realization, that maybe all of this means I am finally a “grown up”? But, even as an adult do you need to feel overwhelmed by unfortunate and bad things that happen to those around us? I refuse to let this be the case any longer. I want to make a concerted effort to be positive and optimistic each day. With that in mind, my only goals for 2015 are: focus, purpose & gratitude for happiness in 2015.

Focus

Everyone who knows me will not dispute the fact that I am a type A, intense person, for better or for worse. I set the bar very high for myself and I do not stop until I achieve that goal. The last few months of 2014 were a very challenging at work, but also a period of tremendous growth in my professional life that I have craved since graduating from college.

IMG_3731

I was so far out of my comfort zone, but I was thriving and happy. I confirmed that I loved my career path, the people I work with, but I was completely spent at the end of each day. Luckily, in 2015 I will welcome a new boss and better work/life balance (fingers crossed). I hope to continue this same focus on my career, but on a manageable scale so I can focus on pursuits equally, career, personal life, training and the list goes on.

Purpose

This goes hand in hand with focus, but I am hoping to be more strategic in all facets of life in 2015: Training, career, personal life, friendships, and hobbies. I am the queen of taking on too much and feeling frazzled and overwhelmed, so I would like to approach things by thinking about how it will impact my schedule, husband and most importantly, my happiness. 

My husband constantly reminds me to think about how adding something to my schedule will impact my schedule long term. He also always carefully points out that something will need to come off to make room for the new addition. He also recognizes that sometimes adding things to my schedule with purpose bring a great deal of happiness to my daily life. An example of this was joining Cambridge Masters Swim Club after a long hiatus and years of swim training on my own.

IMG_3647

I missed swimming with a group for the motivation, friendships and team camaraderie. Swimming by myself certainly was convenient, but it was not fun. I began to toy with this idea of rejoining CMSC as OWS season was ending. I decided to join and my first practice back with the team I immediately felt at home and had I a huge grin on my face. The pool is truly my happy place. This addition has had a significant impact on my schedule, as it requires me to wake up at 4:45 am when I am going to practice. It means going to bed at 9:30pm at the absolute latest (ideally, closer to 8:30) and having my bag and lunch for the entire work day packed the night before. In a time when the work felt never ending, it provided me with a fantastic outlet, the opportunity to train with a dedicated group of swimmers, many of whom have become good friends. I am thrilled to continue this in 2015.

Gratitude

For my amazingly patient and incredibly supportive husband. There are not enough words to express my love for him. I try to make it a point to tell him thank you and how much I appreciate every small gesture he does for me. I am also thankful for the fact that no matter what is going on, what we are feeling, we always find a way to laugh together.

Wedding Photo Beach

I have incredible gratitude for my amazing friends, many of whom who live far away and go to great lengths to stay in touch. I want to make sure that I approach each day by being gracious for what it brings me, and also approach every situation with positivity.

So that is it. I am excited to have a new year to tackle new challenges, goals and experiences. I look forward to filling out my training and racing calendar, but for now I am focusing on positivity in 2015. Most of all, I am looking forward to following this mantra…

IMG_3723

 What are your resolutions and goals for 2015?

Timberman Half Ironman Race Report

Ok folks, here it is, the spoiler alert – I had  BLAST at Ironman Timberman 70.3. So much so that I am still riding the wave even a week later! The day was not without it’s challenges, but for the most part I had an unreal day.

Pre-Race:

My alarm wet off at 4am, just as planned. I joke with Rob and a lot of my friend’s that as a swimmer we have a ridiculous internal body clock. Well, race mornings seem to only magnify this special quality. I found myself staring at the clock at 3:59am – BOOM! Not only did I think, “Oh, I have a moment to myself to relax before this alarm goes off.” I thought “OOF, Jules and D are ALREADY at the parking lot.”

Foxy was a rockstar husband/sherpa and ran everything out to the car while I ate breakfast, packed up my essentials and made sure that I was achieving everything on my to do list. I put on the TV and watched a really heart warming Make A Wish story about a terminally ill boy who got to meet the entire Seattle Seahawks team and play with them during training camp. I thought it was particularly approprate considering how much Ironman Timberman raises for the Make A Wish Foundation. Always good to start off your day feeling thankful for what you have!

Once we piled in the car, I felt confident, some nervous energy but most of all, I felt excited. I knew I put in all of the work that I could, so it was time to test my training.

We made the short trip to Ellacoya State Park. I updated my facebook status with an amazing quote from Andy Potts “Every Race is a balance of hope and doubt” (then I improvised) “today, the hope will be louder than the doubt!” I felt great and just wanted to stay positive and most of all, HAVE FUN.

In addition to motivational quotes from my swimming/triathlon idol, we were treated to an amazing sunrise over the lake at that hour:

timberman sunrise

(Photo credit: Beth from Unleash the Beath)

When we arrived I was very pleasantly surprised to see that we were able to get a parking spot at the state park. Usually, the parking lot fills up so quickly that people are diverted to the nearby ski mountain for parking and shuttle service. I was really happy that I was able to park with Foxy (aka, Zen Fox) and walk with him to the transition area 🙂

I stopped and got inked by the body markers and then made my way to my transition spot. Since I was so close to the end Foxy was able to stand so close that we could chat. Then, I started bumping into people left and right, first Alett’s husband Hugh – who spotted my amongst the craziness and looked as cool as a cucumber. Then I saw Julia and Dutch. Then I saw Alett herself. I met a Ashley in the rack position next to me  who I recently friended on Instagram. I finally met up with my high school best friend, Kaitlin in line for the porto-potties. I then bumped into Will, another friend from high school at the Porto-potties, along with his entire crew (who I had met briefly previously.)

photo-3

LOTS of excitement in the TA

When I arrived at the park I thought I had eons of time, then all of a sudden I found myself sprinting to the transition area before it closed in order to retrieve my wet suit, cap and goggles before it officially closed. Luckily, I still had another 45 minutes before my wave went off, so I spent that time joking around with Rob, Kaitlin and my other friends I had picked up along the way.

Before too long I saw that my wave of women was corralled and we were quickly pushed to the edge of the lake, so I kissed Foxy goodbye, hugged Kaitlin (who unfortunately her wave wasn’t set to go off for another 30 minutes) and made my way to the edge of Lake Winnipesaukee.

photo-4

So excited to SWIM!

I watched the two waves in front of me go off, and when they called my wave to the water, I did my standard nervous shake out, jump and arm movements and confidently walked the distance to the swim start (side note: I absolutely LOVE beach starts, nothing gets my adrenaline going more! I realize that the lake where Timberman is located is insanely shallow, but this was a huge let down for me) and tried like hell to let my body relax enough to pee.

NO DICE.

I stood at the start and made my way to the front row. I looked around and found Jules and wished her good luck! I talked to MJ and Mary (newly acquired triathlon friends) and tried to just take in the amazing scenery. Before too long they were giving us the count down, and then WE WERE OFF!

The swim:

DSCN1256

In every triathlon race my strategy is to take out the first 50 yards relatively hard so I can do my best to break away from the pack. I did that and quickly noticed that there were 2 other women hanging with me and I thought “sweet – PACERS!”, so I just tried to settle in and find my pace. Unfortunately, the field was so dense with slow people in the waves in front of us and the chop from the water was so tough that I struggled to settle in. In the beginning I tried to count the amount of different colored swim caps I passed in Ragnar/Reach The Beach fashion, counting my “kills” (though, they would then definitely not only kill but murder me on the bike in a few short moments), but after awhile I started to lose track and gave up. The last cap I remember seeing was five waves in front of me. Hooray for swimming!

Somewhere along the way I felt my left calf seize up in a slight charlie horse and I tried to remain calm. Calf cramps when you’re roughly 20 minutes into a 6+ hour day doesn’t exactly bode well. I quickly modified my stroke and did everything in my power to stretch out my leg while still pulling like crazy. It seemed to work, but I struggled with the current pushing me into shore on the parrallel section and then it then again, pushed me  away from the finish on our way into shore. I kept on thinking to myself “why do I feel so crappy?!” (In hindsight, this is because I didn’t warm up. I always enjoy stretching out and getting loose, but no one I was with wanted to join. Next time I will most certainly warm up!)

Finally I closed in on that beautiful white arch and hammered down for the last 200 yards. I knew that expending lower body energy at this point wasn’t worth it, so I tried to turn off my legs and let my upper body do the work. Quickly I was on shore and Foxy was standing nearby screaming my name.

DSCN1260

DSCN1261

I made my way into the transition area and reminded myself to relax and take my time. I knew I had over three hours on the bike ahead of me, so taking an extra minute wasn’t going to kill me!

Swim time: 30:25

T1: 3:04

The bike: “Go Knausser”

Oh hello the bike, my triathlon nemesis.

I’ve been dreading this section of the race ever since I signed up. There were a million questions swirling in my head…

What if I got a flat tire? What if I bonked on the bike? What if my ass hurt so much I wanted to cry? What am I going to do if I need to pee?

I tried to quell my nerves and just focus. A friend of mine from college told me that a former triathlon coach of her’s told her to treat the bike portion as “an all you can eat buffett.” So I went to town and did just that, trying to get as much down before infamous Marsh Hill.

T-Man elevation chart

There was a gentle hill straight out of the transition area and I looked down at my bike computer to and noticed it said I was going 25 UP the hill. I knew something was definitely wrong and realized that when resetting it the night before I accidentally set it to kilometers and not miles, sonofa! I joked to myself that I was channeling my friend’s Hannah & Nick in more ways than my transition towel 🙂

There were a couple hills and turns into little neighborhoods and I knew that Marsh was coming soon. My left hip flexor was CRAZY tight and I was very uncomfortable. To make matters worse, I was getting passed like crazy by all sorts of fancy bikes. I told myself “this isn’t your strength, just ride your own race!”

Prior to Timberman I met Paul from the Boston Triathlon Team, who told me that people climbing up Marsh Hill will be “tire to tire”, which didn’t seem possible to me at the time. As I approached Marsh I all of a sudden felt like I was in the middle of the peloton in the Pyrenees mountains at the Tour De France. USAT has a rule against drafting, but apparently that doesn’t apply to Marsh Hill! Everyone was literally tire to tire, huffing and puffing away. It was a pretty surreal moment having so many cyclists working so hard to conquer a single hill.

I was hurting big time and would have loved to hop off my bike and walk it up the hill. I started thinking about a lot of friends and people I know that are sick, or had lost their battle with cancer. I thought of my friend Tanya and her husband Eric who passed away from brain cancer in March. My heart ached and I dug DEEP. A few days before we left for Timberman I found some photos from their wedding in fall of 2004. When I found the photos, my heart sank, but instead I decided to use this as my motivation to literally carry me up this hill. I thought about his suffering and how people rallied by his side in his final days. People from different parts of Eric’s life changed their facebook photos to “Go Knausser”, and I must have repeated that to myself hundreds of times. Eric’s fight and strength were exactly what I needed to dig deep. From now on I’m going to call that beat of a hill Knausser’s Hill instead of Marsh hill!

Just when I thought the hill would absolutely never end I heard my friend Julia talking to someone behind me and I heard her say “that was it, we’re done with Marsh!” I said hello and then she was off. We had some amazing descents which I took at full speed before we headed out towards the main highway.

The next 30 miles went like this:

“I need to pee…should I go in the woods?”

“THIS IS SO BORING”

“MY ASS HURTS”

“I think the entire race field passed me”

I saw a few of my friends heading out on the other side of the road which gave me a nice boost, but my GOD that bike course was boring! Where are the mountains, lake, neighborhoods, ANYTHING to look at?! This would probably be my biggest beef with this race, the bike course wasn’t exactly what I would call visually interesting.

Somewhere around miles 30-40 I finally gave in and used a porto-potty, where an eager volunteer was ready to hold my bike and get me anything I might need. So amazing! It took me awhile to find a break in the pack so I could head back out, but eventually I did! Before too long we hit the same hills on the way back and then I was within 3 miles of the transition area. I passed by the section of the run course that shares the road with the bike and thought, “man, that looks hard” and I instantly went into my lowest gear and tried my best to spin out my legs.

SO HAPPY TO BE DONE (with the bike!)

DSCN1265

T2: I dropped my bike, drank some water and slipped on my sneakers and then I was off – 13.1 miles!

Bike: 3:22:16/16.61 average MPH

T2: 3:02

The Run: “No White Flags”

I had been slightly nervous about the fact that the run course is a double loop, but as soon as I made my way out on the run absolutely loved it. It was so motivating seeing my fellow competitors working so hard, and I was able to see a lot of friends, which gave me a huge boost. I set a goal for myself: No walking (except for the hill around mile 4) and no bathroom stops until the second loop. I also made the decision not to run with a garmin or to worry about my pace, but rather to just enjoy the experience and focus on feeling good and finishing with a SMILE!

As I ran I was surprised at how good I felt coming off the bike, I guess that is what happens when you actually put work in! I kept on seeing more and more friends, which was a huge blast. I heard a LOT of people choking and gagging, which I tried my best to block out. The last thing I needed was to barf, ick. The first lap was suddenly done and I made my way towards the turn around – I knew this would get in my head so I just decided to look at the finish line and take it all in…I would be there SOON! I looked around for Rob but sadly never saw him. Apparently my splits were saying I was walking so he was expecting me much, much later. Definitely a bummer, but it’s always better to be faster than slower 🙂

Lap two: I somehow found myself running with a woman that worked in fitness at my rival high school. She was running as a part of a relay and tried to motivate people as she ran by. Most people were scowling and getting pretty annoyed, but I personally LOVED her drill sergeant attitude and insesent comments for me to push up hard sections of the course. I don’t know who you are, but Fitness instructor/coach from Lincoln-Sudbury High School – you literally carried me through the 2nd lap.

As I approached the finish line I dug deep and all of a sudden Rob was running up to me, I was shocked he wasn’t at the finish line, but again my splits were all messed up so he had no idea where I was on the course.

As I ran through the finish chute I kept on thinking, I’M DOING IT!!!!!!! I put my hands up and then enjoyed the fact that I could finally walk after over six hours of racing.

Timberman finish

The run: 2:14:19

Volunteers were putting medals around finisher’s necks and all of a sudden a man was telling me congrats and I looked up and it was ANDY POTTS!!!!!!!!!!!!! I had a huge moment of disbelief and then like a small child asked “CAN I HUG YOU?!” he laughed and said yes.

DSCN1269

Final Time: 6:13:06/Division Rank: 55/Overall Rank: 1292

Happiness level: through the freaking roof.

Post race thoughts:

  • I loved every moment of this race. Yes, even when I was really bored on the bike, it was still better than my best running race.
  • I have finally found my sport. I will definitely run another marathon, but not for quite some time.
  • I have a LOT of work to do on the bike, but I’ve also made a lot of progress considering how I was nervous about even biking around the block, let alone 56 miles.
  • I can’t wait to do it again!
  • A full ironman would be a ridiculous amount of work, but I think I can do it…someday!

I definitely never could have done with without the amazing support of my husband Rob, who is my rock and “Zen Fox” (His new nickname I bestowed upon him during Timberman craziness.)

I also had some amazing friends near and far that were unbelievably supportive, THANK YOU!

And to everyone in blogland/twitter/instagram – you ROCK! Your advice kept my nervousness in check, laughs on point and enthusiasm was through the roof.

Now the big question is – WHAT’S NEXT?!

What races should I do next year??

Pretending to be a cyclist

2013 has certainly been an interesting and very busy year – I could bore you with all of the ups and the downs, but right now my eyes are on the prize: Successfully finishing the Timberman Half Ironman with a smile on my face on August 18th! 

So far, training has been great. I’ve been nursing my hip injury from Boston training and the running portion of my training plan is definitely behind, but I’m not nervous. Strengthening and avoiding future issues is definitely my #1 goal. 

To compensate, I have been swimming at higher volume than in my prescribed training plan.  Swimming is my strongest leg and where I feel the most confident. I am extremely grateful that I started the sport at such a young age and my swim club had such heavy emphasis on stroke and technique. I listen to fellow triathletes complain about the swim portion of the race constantly. As they talk, I nod my head and usually insert a quip about what a novice I am in the sport of cycling, but silently I am thanking all of my swim coaches over the years. Imagine if I had anxiety about swimming AND cycling? I think this whole Half Ironman game would most certainly be over if that was the case. I’ve adjusted my training plan as follows: when my plan calls for 1,000-1,500 I am traditionally swimming anywhere from 1,650-3,000. Part of this is to try to over compensate for lack of running, and the other part is: 1,000 yards swimming is a joke for me! In order to feel like I have done anything at all, I really need to swim at least a mile. 

The other part, is aggressively trying to wrap my head around the sport of cycling. I have been slow to get started with my new “hobby”, but luckily I have some really patient cycling friends. They are willing to give me parking lot tutorials on how to clip in and out, proper technique for starting and stopping and generally avoiding getting killed by crazy Boston motorists. They will even wait for me at the top of a hill when I’m too nervous to go up clipped in and half to walk my bike up to the top (this has happened on multiple occasions) and of course they are always willing to smile for a photo as I constantly need to document every single aspect of training. 

Here are such a few of my cycling sensi’s & myself in Lexington a few weeks ago – Proof I can do this!

Image

And, cycling is VERY hard, especially on Boston’s first warm weekend of the year. #unattractiveselfies

Image

All in all, I know this will pay off in a big way at Timberman, but I’m TERRIFIED. I looked at the elevation chart and HOT DAMN, there are some crazy, crazy elevation grades. If you don’t believe me, just check out this course map here. I just feel like there is so much to learn, and so much strategy behind it! Luckily the internet has a breadth of cycling and triathlon tips, tricks, videos and articles. Thank you, internet!

The other source of cycling anxiety is my general “fraidy cat” ways when driving a car with an engine, let alone a road bike with tiny wheels sharing the road with crazy Boston motorists. I’m hoping this pays off since I am overly cautious, but I definitely have a tendency to psyche myself out in a big way. I just need to repeat to myself “keep calm and pedal on.” (Side note, I need this shirt!)

I know in order to succeed, I need to stay calm and focus, so here are my goals over this next month of training:

  • Get increasingly more comfortable on the bike
  • Tackle as many challenging hills as humanly possible (without having a total mental breakdown)
  • Amp up running mileage once I get the OK that my hip is cleared to run longer than 3-4 miles (hopefully this news will come very soon)
  • Practice transitions. Luckily I have a triple brick work out planned on Cape Cod with friends on June 15th followed by the Oh My Goddard Olympic Triathlon June 23rd and the Cohasset Sprint Triathlon June 30th

So there we have it friends, someday soon perhaps I can remove “pretending” and instead shout from the roof tops about how much I love cycling. Something tells me it will be awhile before I get to that point, but I am certainly in it for the long haul to give this new sport the good old college try. It also wouldn’t hurt if I took a step back and reminded myself of this…

Image

Do you have fears of cycling? What steps have you taken to help ease your fears and build up confidence?

 

Falmouth Road Race Prep!

This coming weekend is the 38th running of the Falmouth Road Race, and I am pleased to say that I am running this year! The race is one of New England’s most storied and prestigious road races, yet it most certainly will never outshine the most prestigious race in the nation, the Boston Marathon. It’s picturesque beach side location and challenging course make it appealing for serious and casual runners a like. Just saying “Yeah, I ran Falmouth” brings a certain level of credibility and respect to any running conversation.

For those who know me well, will retell the story of when I ran the Falmouth Road Race in 2008, it was a terrible experience and I vowed to never run the race ever again. My boyfriend was dumbfounded when I admitted to him that I thought the 2008 ING New York City Marathon was easier than the Falmouth Road Race. Yes, I realize that NYM is 19 miles longer than FRR! However, much like my curses and vows to never run another marathon, I am running Falmouth again. Yes, I truly am a glutton for punishment.

Since I’m just getting back into the running swing of things and this race is a particularly challenging course, I’ve decided to outline a few goals for Falmouth 2010.

Goals for the 2010 Falmouth Road Race

  1. Slow and Steady– In order to make sure that I don’t reinjure myself, I’m going to take things very slow and steady, particularly the brutal hills near the end of this course
  2. Take in the Scenery– The last time I ran this race I went out so fast that I wasn’t able to take in the true beauty of the race. This time I’m planning on hanging out and enjoying the scenery and actually enjoying myself 🙂
  3. Use the spectators to fuel me through the race– One of my memories from FRR ’08 was the sheer number of spectators that come out to cheer on runners. It was similar in volume to the amount of people that come out to watch a marathon, which is very impressive!
  4. JUST FINISH– ‘Nuff said!

Hopefully if all goes well, the race will be an enjoyable experience for me and it won’t end in me cursing one of my favorite hobbies. Until next time, happy running!

Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon: Race Report

The name of his race does not lie, the hills of Newton to induce absolute heart break. What’s missing? The plural, because it certainly caused multiple Heartbreaks for me, as well as most of the 500 person field of runners over the challenging 13.1 mile course of the Heartbreak Hill Half.

The day didn’t start out with heartbreak though. I woke up at 6am and despite not getting the best night of sleep in my life, I popped right out of bed. I went straight to the kitchen and put on the coffee, mostly for my boyfriend who was playing chauffeur and cheerleader and is not exactly a morning person. After getting everything in order, we were off and on our way to Newton. The drive from my apartment was relatively quick, but we were cutting it a little close, so of course I was stressed about timing. Luckily we found a parking spot immediately, and I jetted off to find the closest bathroom. In order to make it there in time I ran over to minimize time anxiety and get a little warm up run in. I was in and out within a few minutes and I was running back to the start line. On my way there I ran into my boyfriend, who was waiting patiently for me and told me he saw my coworker, Melisa, who was running her first half marathon. I was bummed that I missed her, but all I could focus on was running 13.1 miles, EEK! I gave him a kiss and ran on my way to the start line. After a few moments of waiting around the gun went off and I was over the start line within seconds.

Here we go!

I knew the course was going to be challenging, so I decided to go out conservatively and try to keep an even pace throughout the race. When I saw the elevation chart I threw out the notion of getting closer to my PR (1:50), and just tried to settle into a pace. I was holding back, but I felt like everyone around me was absolutely flying by me. I told myself they were newbies, or didn’t know the extent of the elevation on this course. Immediately the course started punishing my legs, and since this was and out and back course, I realized that a hill at the first mile was the killer hill at mile 12 that everyone said to save a little gas in the tank. CRAP. I continued on, focusing more of my thoughts on an efficient stride and body position. The course was rolling for the next few miles before it leveled out (somewhat) for about a mile to a mile and a half. The rest of the course, however, was more rolling hills and mountains to climb. UGH.

Somewhere around mile 3, already feeling fatigued

I was able to get through the first 5 miles of the course without many problems, but by the time I reached Heartbreak my legs were completely gassed. As I looked up the historic hill at which many marathons are won and lost, I whined to myself for a half second and then put my head down and trudged on. After a few minutes I stopped and walked, my legs were so tight and exhausted that I needed the break. Not surprisingly, this started a bad habit for the rest of the race. I started running after a quick walk and ran until the gigantic hill located at the halfway point of the race. I thought to myself, “Well, here it is, FINALLY”. I was exhausted just looking at it, but it actually gave me a sense of relief that it was no longer something to fear. I ran to the top of the hill and started walking again, ICK. I was walking along when an older man that I saw earlier in the race run up to me and say “come on yellow shirt, let’s go!”, he even went as far to grab my arm and pull me along. Some people absolutely hate this, but I couldn’t get enough. Maybe I have a secret sign on my forehead that reads “glutton for punishment. I chatted with him a little bit about my lack of hill training and then as soon as we started down the hill I lost him. Older guy in the grey shirt, THANK YOU for getting me through that horrific hill!

Then, I made my way back down heartbreak, hooray for downhills! I was coasting along when I saw my coworker Melisa in the distance. She was all smiles and I ran up and gave her a hug, she looked great! What an awesome attitude for such a killer first half marathon. Her great attitude definitely helped propel me through the next 15 minutes of the race! The rest of heartbreak was a nice break from the rolling hills, but the downhills were rough on my battered legs. When we crossed from Heartbreak to the winding neighborhoods my heart sank. This course was not only a test of your running ability, but a test of will.

The rest of the race was a blur. I felt waves of depression, exhaustion and sheer determination to finish this race and put it in the books. Around mile 10 I misread the mile marker and thought I was on mile 11, which I learned was not the case when I reached the mile 11 marker, UGH. The saving grace was seeing my boyfriend around mile 11, where I told him about my mishap, how hard the race was and thanked him for the bottle of water he had waiting for me. Attempting to harness this lift in my spirits, I gave him a kiss and went on my way. I felt as if the rest of the race went on forever, though I attempted to just keep my head down and run. When we finally turned the corner to Newton South High School I almost cried out of sheer joy “oh sweet Jesus, THANK YOU!” I turned up the intensity with whatever energy I had left and pushed on to the finish. The minute I crossed the finish line I let out a huge sigh of relief, IT’S OVER!! My time, which is over 15 minutes off my best, could not have meant less at that moment. After I got my medal, some water and met up with my boyfriend we went out to the road to see if we could find my coworker Melisa. Her goal was to finish under 2:45, so I knew she was a ways away from finishing, but I decided to get out there and cheer anyways. All of the runners had a look of pain and elation as they headed for the finish line, I was happy to see I wasn’t being over dramatic, the race was really THAT hard. Rob even told me that every finisher was complaining about the elevation, thank goodness I’m not THAT big of a wuss. After about 25 minutes we gave up, and went back to Rob’s car. Right before we got there we were chased down by Rob’s friend Lauren from college who also ran the race. We talked a bit about the course and snapped a picture before we went off on our way:

Victorious!

So, lesson learned from this half marathon? ALWAYS check the elevation chart of a race and train accordingly! Even though I changed up my training with including speed work, gentle pickups and tempo runs, that wasn’t enough. Hill raining can simply can not be neglected and I dropped the ball, big time.

Will I do this race again? Doubtful. Was it a good experience? Yes. The race directors and volunteers did a fantastic job keeping everyone on track and motivated. I would have loved more spectators, but I knew this course wasn’t going to offer much in that department, so I was ok with it. All in all, it was a difficult day and I’m happy I ran the race. It’s given me a chance to kickstart my training for the Chicago Marathon, an excuse to focus on my diet, experiment with different cross training elements and trim down. It was a challenge, but what fun is running if you never have a challenge?

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends…

When Noel departed Boston putting a successful 2010 Boston Marathon in the books, something donned on me. The running community in Boston and beyond is awesome, and I think everyone out there needs to know that. So, for this post I’ve decided to do a little shout out to my running buddies. Thank you for inspiring me to train, compete and finish races, even when I’m feeling at my worst. Without you guys, I never would have signed up for a marathon, let alone THREE (with many more to come)

Thank You to my Favorite Running Buddies, you guys are the best:

Kate

Kate & Me before the Marine Corps Marathon 2009

I first met Kate in the kitchenette at work waiting in line for the spring water filter. Naturally, we had gigantic nalgene bottles, so we usually had a few minutes to kill while they filled with water. We started with small talk, and then instantly found out that we both LOVED to work out, particularly running. We are lucky enough that our office supplies showers and towels, so we started venturing out on lunch time runs together.

Kate is a very powerful runner with great form and stride, she always pushes me to run faster and make me a better runner. As good of a runner she is, she’s also the most humble person I know, she is constantly always telling me how much better I am than x,y,z than her (which is completely untrue!) Aside from physically pushing me to become a better runner, Kate is also a great listener. Part of why I love distance running is the camaraderie between training partners, and Kate is no exception.  My favorite example of her unwaivering friendship and team work is in the Marine Corps Marathon in October 2009. I was struggling big time near a hill at mile 8, and I decided that I should try to run off and walk in order to get Kate to stay on the pace she needed to break four hours. Everything was going to plan when she RAN BACK to find me. After screaming at her and telling her to move on, I finally gave up and ran with her for a bit. When it was clear that I wasn’t going to make a recovery I forced her to move ahead and carry on without me. I will never forget her act of selflessness!

On top of this, she listens to all of my good and bad news and always has a supportive or encouraging comment to back it up. Whenever I return from a run with her I feel challenged and pushed, but also refreshed to know that I have such a good friend, on and off the pavement.

Michele

Michele and me at the NYC Marathon expo 2008

My first memory of meeting Michele was over New Years Eve, and we instantly bonded over our love of running. I was impressed that she had run two marathons, and she firmly planted a bug in my ear to try to get into the NYC marathon the following year. Any normal person listening to her stories of training and racing would run for the hills, but not me! As a fellow glutton for punishment, I successfully secured a number in the 2008 NYC marathon running for one of my favorite charities, the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Over the next few months leading up to the November 2nd race, Michele and I traded emails and thoughts regarding training, gear and race preparation. Even from a distance, she was able to prepare me for the trials and tribulations of the marathon, and reassure me that she would be there right along side me.

Just 10 months later, both of us found ourselves ready to embark on the New York Marathon, holy crap! Michele let my boyfriend and I stay with her, and they instantly made us feel at home by hosting a pre race pasta dinner. Her mother drove us to the start of NYC in Staten Island, which sure beats a crowded marathon school bus shuttle from the New York Public Library. I enjoyed Michele’s company while waiting for the race to begin, and her words of marathon wisdom for this newbie. At 11am we were finally off! The race was great, there was an amazing crowd, fantastic water/Gatorade stops and challenging bridges to climb. Fast forward to mile 22, and I lost Michele, I’m not 100% sure what happened, I think the crowds were thick before central park and I suddenly had a burst of energy, but I looked back and she was nowhere to be seen. I finished with a time of 4:16 and Michele finished shortly thereafter. Afterwards we were both exhausted, but instantly started plotting our next marathon. Thank you Michele for encouraging me to embark on this new frontier!

Liz

Awkward Extended Arm/Elevator Picture Pre Lunch time Run

Liz is another running buddy from my office, and she’s great! I met Liz two years ago, but finally started running together just a year ago. She was training for the 2009 NYC marathon, and I was training for the Marine Corps Marathon, so it was a perfect training match. I love running with Liz because of her enthusiasm and dedication to the sport. She’s always looking for ways to push herself to the next level, and unfortunately this same ambition is to blame for her achilles tendonitis which eventually kept her running NYC. Yet, even an injury wasn’t enough to sideline her! This coming Sunday she will set out to complete her first official full, the Providence Marathon. I am so proud of Liz for not only overcoming an injury, but having the strength and resilience to stick with running in order to fulfill her goal: kicking butt and taking names over 26.2 miles. Liz, good luck to you and kick butt! You’ve put in the work, now just let your body do what it knows best, RUN!

Noel

Noel & Me after the 2010 Boston Marathon

I have written multiple posts over Noel’s running, so I will keep this short! Noel and I met in college on the swim team, and once we both graduated we turned to running. Though she lives in Florida and I live in Boston, we are able to share our running experiences, times, and enthusiasm over email. I loved tracking her Boston Marathon training and knowing that one of my closest friends would be running the country’s longest running, and most prestigious marathon. Her love of running has helped motivate and inspire me through ruts in my own training, and her experience has helped me figure out my own marathon training plan. Though Noel is MUCH faster than I am, this fall we will both run the Chicago marathon together. We might not be running the marathon alongside each other, but I’m looking forward to her positive influence and motivation over the race weekend. After losing her grandfather to cancer recently, Noel made the decision to run Chicago for the American Cancer Society, be sure to check her fundraising page!

Rob

Rob & Me before the Camp Harborview Harborthon 5k

Celebrating after a successful first marathon & $5,500 raised for LAF, NYC 2008

Lastly, but certainly not least is my boyfriend, and favorite running partner, Rob (or more popularly referred to as “Foxy”.) Prior to dating, Foxy and I met and became close friends through our mutual friend Greg and were instantly very close. His fun, easy going attitude and great friendship eventually lead to dating after a year and a half of friendship and after over two years we’re still going strong. When I was training for my first marathon (NYC 2008) he was there for me through thick and thin, which he admitted, took a toll on him as a supporter. Since he knows how important running and fitness is to my life, he has taken to running a few shorter distances with me, and eventually even embarked on running several 5k’s. When he first set out on the pavement he struggled through 1-2 mile runs, and now runs a 3.5 mile loop with ease! He is also looking to increase the challenge by perhaps running a 4 or 5 mile race. I’m so lucky for his participation in the sport, because I love going on runs together and our comitment to a healthy lifestyle. He firmly states that he will never run a marathon, but he has found the value and rewards of running for himself, all the while still supporting me and my quest for the finish line in endurance races. Thank you for everything Foxy! 🙂

Post Race thoughts from a Boston Marathon Champ!

Marathon Monday has come and gone, but the excitement and prestige of the Boston Marathon is not leaving the hearts and minds of runners and non-runners anytime soon. As you read in my previous post, Noel had an extremely hard fought race and truly gave it her all, as demonstrated by her near collapse and rush to the medical tent. Noel and I have always been intense competitors, but she truly stepped up to the plate and left everything out on the storied 26.2 mile marathon course. Before she left my apartment to head to the start line I gave her a few color print outs with pictures, memories and motivational quotes to really get her in the zone. The quote that resonates the most with the marathon, as well as Noel’s personal race,  is one of my all-time personal favorites:

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift”-Steve Prefontaine

Below is Noel’s personal race recap as she saw it over those 26.2 miles. Congrats again to Noel on a job well done!

My first Boston Marathon was certainly an unforgettable experience. This was my first major marathon, and what an initiation! The race weekend kicked off with a trip to the Expo. Luckily, Kim was smart enough to get us there early on Saturday morning around 10 AM before we were shoulder to shoulder with other runners. We retrieved our race numbers, shopped for goodies, and chatted with some of the vendors. It was amazing to see so many runners in the same place who had achieved such an amazing goal of qualifying to run in the most prestigious marathon. Throughout the weekend, I kept seeing the bright blue and teal jackets all over the city, reminding me of what I had come to do! Enjoying Kim’s fabulous meals, catching up with old friends, and watching the 5K race sure made the weekend go by quickly. Before I knew it, Monday morning was upon me.

Foxy (Kim’s boyfriend) was nice enough to drive me to the loading buses early Monday morning. When I arrived at 7 AM, the lines were already long, and I got on the 2nd to last group of buses around 8. The drive was very long and painful for all of us racers, as our anxiety built. We finally reached Athlete’s Village around 9:30, leaving a limited amount of time to wait for a porta-potty. After relieving myself, I made the .7 mile trek to my start corral #14. I can’t go without mentioning my “star” sighting of Rudy from the Biggest Loser in one of the charity corrals. I wish I could say I told him to have a good race, but I was too focused on my 10:30 start time.

The gun went off, and I was across the start line in under 30 seconds. It definitely pays to be in the first corral! The first several miles had a lot of rolling hills, more than I expected. The spectators lining every inch of the course, the net downhill grade, and the general excitement took everyone out fast. I checked my Garmin very frequently and kept seeing 7:49, 7:53, 8:04 pace. I knew, with my training and the uphills that were to come, I had taken it out too fast, but there was nothing I could do to slow myself down. I just went with it and crossed the half marathon mark at 1:44. Around mile 15, I started feeling it…my stomach couldn’t tolerate Gatorade or Gels any longer, so from there on out I drank only water. Thank goodness I saw my friends soon after I hit the wall because they motivated me for several miles to follow. Then came mile 16 and the Newton Hills. I was not prepared. They were steep and seemed to go on forever. The only thing that kept me going was the crowd and different spectators yelling my name which was written on the front of my shirt. Before long, I was walking through the water stations to make sure I was getting my fluids and then starting back up to a slow trot – 9 min/ miles on downhills and flat roads, and 11 min/ miles up the hills. My crowning accomplishment was making it up Heartbreak Hill without walking. When I came to the last few miles, the crowds were amazing. Rows and rows of families, drunk college kids, professionals on their lunch break just chanting my name. It was truly unbelievable, and I wish I felt better so that I could’ve truly enjoyed it. When I made the final turn towards the finish line, I could barely hear myself think, when I heard Kim’s voice from the opposite side of the course. I immediately spotted her yellow Livestrong hat and was inspired to hammer down into the finish. I crossed the finish line in 3 hours and 44 mins, within the target range of 3:35-3:45 I had set for myself in the weeks leading up to the marathon. Although during the race, I just promised myself I would finish no matter what the time.

My first Boston Marathon was without a doubt the hardest athletic endeavor I’ve ever taken on. I was unprepared for the hills and honestly the duration of the race, but the crowds and my psychological strength got me through the finish. A few hours after the race, I ended up in the medical tent with IVs of fluids running through my veins. It was at that time I knew I had given it my all, and even though I felt miserable, I was more proud of myself than I have ever been. I look forward to my next Boston experience, where I will be more physically and mentally prepared for what’s to come. Reflecting back on the weekend, I understand why it is such an honor to be a participant in the race, and I can’t wait to be back for Round 2!

Sprint Your Halls Off: Hill Holliday Edition

My company was lucky enough to be challenged by the Puma Running team in the “Sprint Your Halls Off” challenge. A crew of 18 brave Hill Holliday employees took to the halls of 53 State St to fearlessly defend the HHCC identity. Though we fell short of the blazing fast defending Google, we held our own. Quick Question PUMA, are there points for style while completing a Dunkin’ Run?

Please watch the video below, I’m lucky to work at a kickass company that let’s us take an hour of our day to run around and then celebrate with a beer. I was at the office until 8pm that night, but it was 100% worth it. All of the participants and spectators had a blast and got to know one another.

Thanks to Johnny Won for making it happen–you rock!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SDLcNK8LoM]

The Flickr feed and recap

Cheers!

Reflecting on 2008 and looking forward to a bright 2009

Kicking Ass and taking names!When the ball dropped at midnight at 12am on December 31st, I kissed my boyfriend, hugged my friends, and toasted champagne with all of my friends. From the untrained eye, it was a prototypical New Years that was happening in every American city. Yet, after the ball dropped, I reflected on the past year. I thought about the good, the bad, and of course, the ugly. I couldn’t stop and think, ” WOw, I did some cool things!” In March 2008, I went to visit my friend in England and took a European vacation for 2 weeks, something I had never done before. This summer, I sent a best friend off to Panama for a 2 year Peace Corps assignment, saw Jimmy Buffet for the very first time, and ran a marathon in November and somehow survived the current economic meltdown with maintaining employment; Pretty cool stuff!

None of that compares to 2009, a year that Kate and I both know are destined for great memories and life changing experiences. First of all, my first new years resolution is to bring lunch to work 4 days a week and allow myself to buy 1 day a week. I used to life by this rule the first year that I lived in Boston, and I want to get back into these great habits. No more blaming the lack of grocery stores in the North End! 2009 is not a time for excuses.

My other resolution was to blog more on this site. I want to retell my experiences in exercise and competition and then in turn, pass on experience and tips to help people meet their own fitness goals. I have always been a team oriented person, so this blog is another avenue for me to help bring people together to reach a common athletic goal.

Along those same lines, I would love to run another marathon and push my body to the limit. The 2008 ING NYC Marathon was an amazing first marathon experience. I learned so much about the sport of running marathons and had a LOT of fun. The race ignited a fire, and now I can’t wait to run my next marathon as a seasoned vet. My eyes are on Chicago or Twin Cities, but who knows!

Here’s to a happy, healthy and memorable 2009! (Full of blogging, of course ;))