2019 in review

2019 in review

Here we go again! The annual yearly review. I feel like this year has flown by….yet it has also felt like a lifetime. A lot of things happened but because grad school has consumed my life I feel like my life is mundane. Perhaps composing this post will help me reflect on all that HAS happened. If it doesn’t help me this year, I’m sure that in the future I can look back on this post with some appreciation. Let’s begin.

Josh & I kicked off 2019 with a trail run at Brandywine. Typical us!

I was accepted as a member of the Altra Red Team for the 3rd consecutive year! My favorite Altras are still the Superiors and the Escalantes.

I did a chocolate tasting with my mom, granny, and mommom. The chocolate was so so good!

My second semester of grad school started and I faced two pediatric courses, neuroscience, research, a mental health course, and my first Level I fieldwork. Yikes!

Sneakers & Spokes had some great nighttime group trails runs (even in cold temps!)

Michael & Savannah got engaged.

Emily, Megan & I planned a fun Bachelorette weekend for Bridgette! I took the train into Philly, met them at their Airbnb, walked around the city searching for brunch, and then surprised Bridgette with an Escape Room experience! Let it be known that we did indeed escape the Thai prison!

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We escaped the Thai prison!

A week later, Josh got to experience an Escape Room for his 30th birthday. This time around we escaped The Lost City! (pretty sure the guy gave us wayyyy too many clues though)

It snowed frequently in January & February so I got a lot of fun snow runs in solo and with Gwin. Gwin loves running through the snow!

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My favorite running pic with Gwin

I volunteered first to led an adult behavioral health group (to get it done & over with) but it snowed on the day I was supposed to present so my presentation got pushed back 3 months (THREE MONTHS!) which I was extremely unhappy about.

I ran 10 trail miles on the first Saturday in March and woke up feeling horrible on Sunday.

On Monday, the doctor told me I had the flu after sticking something up my nose (thanks, classmate). The doctor advised me not to go to school for a week to prevent spreading the flu to my classmates. Despite knowing I would miss an entire week of class and lose an excessive amount of points on a research quiz, I obliged because I myself am considerate towards others.

Josh also got the flu a few days later because I spent the majority of the weekend with him. (forever guilty)

I quarantined myself in my room for six days because my parents were flying out to Utah the following week for Michael’s wedding. I would only leave my room to walk 3 steps into the bathroom. My mom would hand me food when I cracked open the door. Tamiflu is the WORST medicine – my stomach hurt every time I had to take it and I had no appetite. Flu week was the worst week!

Flu week was followed up with mid-terms week. My parents were in Utah with Michael  for the wedding so Josh stayed over a few days to keep me company.

Michael & Savannah got married.

Spring break came along. I hosted an Altra demo day with NJ’s awesome tech rep, Luke.

Just like last year, I craved ultramarathons.

Bridgette & Bryce got married! Josh & I got to celebrate at her wedding with Emily and Megan and their men. After the wedding we went to a bar in town and just hung out for a while. It was so much fun and so refreshing to be back with lifelong friends!

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Celebrating Bridgette & Bryce!

Level I fieldwork in the school-based setting went smoothly. My FW educator was nice and I enjoyed getting to know the kids she worked with. I don’t envision myself working in a school-based setting though.

My birthday landed on the same day as a lab regarding feeding for the pediatric population. Jess fed me a spoonful of pudding on my 25th birthday.

The S&S red, white, and blue van was brought into the world.

Josh took me out on some White Clay mountain bike adventures. I snagged some segment PR’s as my confidence grew.

Josh & I went on many double dates with Brianna & Luke this year. It was always a fun time!

Neuroscience and research was killing my cohort slowly.

We took Mom axe throwing on her birthday. We were pretty good at it even though none of us won the tournament.

Josh & I both finished as the 2nd place male and female, respectively, at the Sasquatch 5k.

I brought Gwin with me to the FACES 4 Autism Walk which was chaotic because the walk ended up being inside instead of outside…. apparently people melt if little raindrops fall on them.

I published blog posts for the “ABCs of OT“. It was tedious but I hope people learned something from it!

My research group “presented” research on the effectiveness of alternative and augmentative communication systems for facilitating functional communication in children with autism. I feel like nobody but students attended the research symposium so there weren’t really people to present to….. oh well!

I finally led the behavioral health group I was supposed to lead three months prior. I stressed so so much after I failed to conclude my group as instructed. I felt so angry and frustrated after this and cried to Josh on my way home…… plot twist: I still got an A.

Instead of studying for exams, I went for a run during a tornado watch and severe thunderstorm warning. YOLO.

I finished my second semester of grad school with four A’s and an A-.

Josh & I celebrated three years together by going for a mountain bike ride at Fair Hill. Josh cracked open a beer at a stream stop. It truly was the best way for us to celebrate together!

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Three years!

Josh and I planted our garden for the third summer in a row. We hoped for lots of cucumbers, crispy bell peppers, tolerable long hots & jalapeños, tasty tomatoes, and refreshing watermelons!

I worked wine festivals again. Drunk people are…. interesting.

We also attended a wine festival with Josh’s family. Wine is good!

Our two-week summer class was basically a waste of time but my groupmates made a pretty cool story spinner for our project. Unfortunately, the attendees of the fair weren’t as impressed. Oh well.

Josh & I raced the Race to Save the World 10k at White Clay. I finished as the 4th overall female and Josh finished as the 1st overall male. After, we got brunch on Main St and then went mountain biking with a group of S&S folks! What a day!

I accompanied Josh to many mountain bike races as his crew member. I perfected water bottle hand-offs and cheered loud for him as frequently as possible! Pride filled my heart every time he stepped up on the podium (which was frequently because he’s amazing).

I ran to the Elmer Memorial Day parade to see my parents driving in the S&S van. Then I hustled off to work at the winery.

Uncle Eddie passed away. He was remembered through a beautiful military ceremony with the Fraser’s remembering him as a strong, resilient, and caring human.

Josh & I camped at Lums Pond for a night. We mountain biked and went to Grain for lunch. This was the only time we camped this year but it was fantastic!

Gabriele Grunewald passed away and the running community grieved. I did mile repeats for Gabriele and Justin (#BraveLikeGabe) a few days later using their strength to push me along.

I decided to register for a duathlon – my first duathlon ever – so that I would be motivated to train for something.

Michael & Savannah came to NJ to celebrate 4th of July! We went blueberry picking at Mood’s. We went to the boardwalk and played mini golf. We went to a mountain bike race (where 95% of Team S&S got lost – it was not a good day). And we celebrated 4th of July with fireworks.

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OC Boardwalk with the fam

I raced the Pitman 4 Miler as usual. It was tough but I didn’t throw up. Afterwards, Josh & I got to the Woodstown Parade to ride along the route with the Reactors and the S&S van. It was so so so hot out (cars were overheating) and everyone was drenched in sweat.

I started working as a classroom aide during extended school year at a special services school nearby. You can read more about that here.

Josh & I made friends with a neighborhood cat he decided to call Milford. Milford is a lovebug!

I tried racing a mountain bike race at Granogue – I walked my bike for most of it….

The morning of one of Josh’s mountain bike races, I spotted a dog abandoned and tied up to the gate of an animal shelter (which wasn’t open yet) which made me both extremely sad and angry. We tried calling the county police (who weren’t helpful) and then left a message with the animal shelter (who had opened 30ish minutes later & had taken the dog in). That same morning my mommom’s dog passed away sending me into even more devastated tears. Josh had a rough race that morning and ended up breaking something on his bike. It was just a really rough day.

Our garden produced great cucumbers, iffy bell peppers, lots of long hots & jalapeños, and…. no ripened watermelons.

I logged several 50+ mile bike rides throughout the summer which was AWESOME!

Josh & I had date night at Auburn Winery while Lauren Hart performed. It was a perfect night of pizza, wine, and great music!

I made it my mission to strengthen the running community in Salem County and initiated group runs/walks and 2nd Saturday trail runs.

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Our first ever 2nd Saturday trail run was a success!

Training was going great for the duathlon I signed up for. I was feeling strong both running and biking and was practicing transitions weekly.

I stopped using Twitter. I started unfollowing accounts on Instagram and defriended some folks on Facebook. It just felt like it was time to simplify and declutter my social media accounts. Living in the present, not attached to the phone, is so much more enjoyable anyways.

Sneakers & Spokes celebrated its four year anniversary!

Hope passed away on August 23rd after 15 loving and playful years. This was by far the hardest day of 2019 and I miss her everyday.

Josh & I started making rice bowls together which are so delicious and (relatively) healthy!

I started my last year of grad school and had to tackle adult classes, clinical research, foundations of OT, an assistive technology course, and my second Level I fieldwork (in hand therapy…)

I ran the 9/11 Memorial Run with runners from Sneakers & Spokes and other runners from the south jersey running community.

 

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Never forget.

Josh & I continued our tradition of attending Oktoberfest together. It was fun as usual!

I completed my first ever duathlon finishing as the 3rd overall female. Team S&S also won 2nd overall team. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed the challenge! I am grateful for the team I got to do the duathlon with. I hope we conquer more dus together in 2020!

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Team S&S with all the hardware

I organized a Ride & Wine with Monroeville Winery. It was successful but improvements can definitely be made.

I volunteered at the “calf-way” stop at the Cow Run 10 Miler with S&S. Two skunks decided to cross through our water stop just as the first few runners were passing through. It was terrifying.

I raced (and volunteered) at the Shred the Edge MTB race for the second consecutive year. This year I bumped myself down to the novice race and finished as the 2nd overall female following a sprint finish. Grad school legs and lungs did me in. I helped with registration and timing too – it was a fun day!

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Shred the Edge volunteers

My mom started fostering animals from South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter. The first dog we fostered, named Cookie, we ended up adopting (#fosterfail). My mom renamed her Zoey and she has been with us since the end of October. We have also fostered one kitten and two dogs (Sheepy & Douglas). All of them have since been adopted!

 

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Gwin & Zoey love snuggling!
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Running with Sheepy
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Douglas, Zoey, & Gwin

In my assistive technology course, we got to work with 3D printers. My group designed a bottle cap opener with a built up handle for individuals who have difficulty pronating.

Patti, Colin, & Tammy visited from California. We went out to eat and a magician (who will be on AGT this summer) visited our table. I hate magicians yet somehow I ended up being the person chosen for all the tricks.

I miserably raced the Ghosts of Granogue 5k. That’s all I have to say about that.

My assistive technology group also designed “The Mailman’s Basket” for an individual with a C6 SCI who worked as a mailman at a university. We designed the basket to swing to the side from behind the wheelchair for him to easily deliver mail. We presented our assistive device to students in Colombia, South America who also designed assistive devices from the same case studies. This project was a lot of fun!

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Assistive Technology course!

I did not enjoy my fieldwork in hand therapy and I don’t foresee myself ever working in this setting. It’s just far too redundant and unexciting.

Josh & I began planning for The Ultimate Woodstown Scavenger Hunt which we are directing in January 2020. This will be our first time as race directors and I am beyond excited!

Josh & I made tater tot nachos for the first time ever and they were DELICIOUS.

Gwin & Zoey really loved snuggling together. They’re so precious!

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I celebrated my 6th year of being a vegetarian.

I submitted both my case studies before Thanksgiving break. The first case study was 29 pages which I spent 21 hours on. The second case study was 31 pages which I spent just over 10 hours on. These case studies challenged me beyond belief but all the determination paid off as I got 100s on both of them. HOOZAH.

We had our annual Thanksgiving weekend nighttime trail run. It was freezing that night.

My research group presented on ayurveda and chronic pain. I hate ayurveda and don’t want to say anything more about it.

I finished my 3rd semester of grad school (THANK GOODNESS THE END IS GETTING NEAR) with four As and one A-. It was a tough semester. Practicals stressed me out. Research stressed me out. But there’s only one more academic semester to go. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting slightly brighter. I can’t wait to be done!

Josh & I ran our 2nd annual Christmas lights run through his town. We saw a lot of greatly decorated houses!

Angela came back to visit NJ and we got in a lot of good runs together! I am extremely grateful for the miles we got to share!

My parents took Granny & Mommom on a Christmas lights tour. We visited the Griswold house in Mickleton which was awesome!

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with Cousin Eddie

I directed the S&S Santa Run with a mission in mind – to collect as much dog/cat food and litter as possible to donate to SJRAS in memory of Hope. This was my way of paying it back to the shelter that gave me Hope for 15 wonderful years. This was my way of paying it forward to the animals still looking for their forever homes. We collected 1,426 pounds of food to donate. My heart is still so so grateful for the generosity of the running community.

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Santa Run 2019
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1,426lbs of food & litter

For the second consecutive year, my family cut down our Christmas tree from the front yard.

Christmas Eve and Christmas day traditions remained the same. The Palmieri’s tricked my family into believing we were calling NORAD when in reality it was Micheal pretending to be NORAD.

Mommom adopted a dog from Salem County Humane Society. His name is Bashee and he’s a chocolate lab!

I got to reunite with Bridgette, Bryce, and Megan during Christmastime. It was so nice to catch up with them!

I ran 6 miles in under 50min to close off the 2019 running year. Four of those miles were with Zoey (Gwin wouldn’t get out of bed), averaging 8:30/mile. Zoey loves to run!

Running Stats of 2019:

  • Total miles: 1,025.1 miles
  • Highest monthly mileage: May (103.5 miles)
  • Three trail races: Sasquatch 5k, Race to Save the World 10k, Ghosts of Granogue 5k
  • One road race: Pitman Freedom 4 Miler
  • One duathlon: Parvin Anniversary Duathlon
  • Shoes worn: Altra Superiors & Altra Escalantes
  • States I ran in: New Jersey, Maryland, & Delaware

Cycling Stats of 2019:

  • Total miles: 1,111.7 miles
  • Highest monthly mountain bike mileage: May (93.5 miles)
  • Highest monthly road bike mileage: August (287.9 miles)
  • Highest monthly combined mileage: August (325.4 miles)
  • Total Road Bike Miles: 739 miles
  • Total MTB Miles: 372.7 miles
  • Mountain Bike Races: Fair Hill Classic, Escape Granogue, & Shred the Edge
  • One duathlon: Parvin Anniversary Duathlon

Total woman-powered miles: 2,136.8 miles

2019 brought fewer running and cycling miles; however, I am proud of what I was able to accomplish while balancing the demands of grad school. Squeezing in runs mid-semester has been challenging but I’ve learned to adapt in order to overcome.

Because running is such an integral part of my overall physical and mental health, I have come to recognize its importance in keeping my stress levels in check.

I learned that I am more likely to run if I run before the demands of the day begin. Throughout the fall semester I would head out the door at 6 AM with my headlight on and log 3 miles. I hated doing this but the rest of my day tended to be better because my run was done and my stress was manageable.

The races I did weren’t at optimal fitness. My grad school lungs often limited how fast I could go or how much I could push myself. I still miss ultramarathons like mad and I hope that in the coming year or so I can make my ultra comeback.

A year from now, my yearly review should say “finished grad school” somewhere in it. I can’t wait to start the next chapter of my life in 2020 when school is officially done done done and I can start working towards an established career.

Another year has come and gone. It’s been a year of highs and lows. It’s been a year of new and old running friends. It’s been a year of academic stress. It’s been a year of falling in love with so many dogs. It’s been a year of learning to simplify and balance all that life throws at me.

I hope everyone can find joy in the coming year. Reflect on what you have accomplished.

Set goals that scare you. Set goals that will make you stronger.

Wishing you a happy and healthy new year (and decade).

Much love,

-L

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Race to Save the World 10k Race Recap

Race to Save the World 10k Race Recap

A few Saturdays ago Josh and I raced the Enoch Lee Race to Save the World 10k at Middle Run Valley Park in Newark, DE. A week before the race, while on our way to go mountain biking, Josh and I saw one of those yard signs (the ones politicians usually use) advertising for the race so we quickly Googled it to gather more information. A few days later, Josh convinced me to pre-register for the race as a way to celebrate the official start of my summer break. Although I knew I was no where near in race shape after a stressful semester of grad school, I figured it would be fun. After all, the course looped through some of our favorite trail running trails.

Saturday morning arrived and I ate my typical pre-race meal – peanut butter and banana on toast. The race began at 10 AM so we were able to sleep in a little bit and prepare for the day ahead of us (which we planned out to be a 10k race, followed by brunch, followed by a group mountain bike ride through the same trail system). We departed Josh’s around 8:30AM with race attire, mountain bike gear, and two mountain bikes.

My stomach was a bundle of nerves on our drive to the race. Multiple times I told Josh I felt like I was going to throw up (disclaimer: I never did). We arrived an hour early to the race, picked up our bibs, and waited anxiously for 10 AM to arrive. The morning was chilly and I felt unprepared with the clothing I had packed – shorts and a tank top. I scavenged up Josh’s arm sleeves and swapped out my tank top for a short-sleeve racing jersey. Josh paced around the truck and opened and closed his truck doors 5000 times.

Around 9:30 we decided to do a 1 mile warm-up. I was still a little chilly and my legs felt unprepared but by the time we ended our warm-up, I had decided to leave the arm sleeves in the truck. Better to start the race a little chilly, knowing I was going to warm up eventually.

Before the race started, the cadets from the University of Delaware (UD) did a flag ceremony and a group of women from a local church sang the National Anthem. It was Memorial Day Weekend so this was a nice touch to the morning. A family member of Enoch Lee, whom the race is memorialized for, made a brief speech explaining that race profits contribute to a scholarship for a biology major at UD. As a broke college student myself, I know how important scholarships can be!

The race started with a small loop around a grassy field before diving into single track. I started comfortably, not wanting to overexert early but also knowing that I needed to beat some of the crowd to the single track. I could see Josh up ahead at the front of the pack – go, Josh, go!

A lot of the race itself was a blur because the trails just kind of blend together. I knew that two women were ahead of me but didn’t have any intention to work to go catch them. The course terrain varied from smooth twists and turns to longer uphills to rewarding downhills. The trails were in great condition!

A local Delaware bike shop was stationed at the approximate half-way point with water and encouragement. It was nice to have people cheering out on the course as most of the course was isolated from spectator view. Trail runs are rarely spectator-friendly. After the water stop, there was a long uphill. It felt soooo long and I could feel myself progressively slowing as the climb continued. I probably could have walked faster, but I trudged along, my breathing becoming increasingly labored.

At the top, we were rewarded with flat, twisty single track. At this point, I was completely alone on the course and I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me and couldn’t hear any footsteps or breathing behind me. I just continued trudging along.

I didn’t recognize where we were in the trail system at this point in time even though Josh and I frequently mountain bike on these trails. The course followed trails we hadn’t looped through in over a year so I was completely disoriented.

Eventually the course landed us on my favorite downhill in the whole trail system. I was familiar with the downhill from mountain biking it and I knew exactly where the course was taking us!

After the downhill we made a left onto a long bridge and one of the race volunteers said “there’s a women not too far ahead of you”. That literally meant NOTHING to me. I was completely gassed. I hadn’t seen anyone ahead of me since about mile 2 and I definitely didn’t have the legs to go catch someone. So, I dismissed the comment and kept trudging.

I heard footsteps behind me and my gut told me it was probably a woman (note: I don’t look back ever during a race so I never know who might be closing in on me). The course crossed a stream (which I ran straight through, soaking my feet – no problem though, I wear the Altra Superiors which have optimal draining capabilities!). The person behind me, confirmed to be a woman once she asked me a question, asked “how much further?”. To this I said, “I have no idea”. Because 1) honestly, I had no idea where the finish line was in relation to where we were currently and 2) I don’t ever look at my watch during a race so I never know what mileage I’m at.

She ran right on my heels for 3/4 of the final uphill. For a second, I tried brainstorming ways I could get her off my heels (i.e. by sprinting up the hill) but I had no energy whatsoever to run faster than I was. I was simply in survival mode. My endurance meter had reached a big fat zero.

She eventually passed me and I felt bummed, knowing I had held 3rd overall female for 85% of the race. But I had nothing in me to try to physically react. So she trotted off, gapping me almost instantaneously. My only intrinsic goal was to keep running, no walking. And that’s what I did. Kept running until I crossed the finish line.

Once I got the finish, Josh offered me a cup of water. I stared at him and said “I’m at zero”. My endurance had expired around mile 5. The last mile was a slugfest. I probably could have walked faster but my own pride kept me running. We replenished with Gatorade we had brought and recapped our races.

Josh finished as the 1st overall male, 2nd place overall (figure that one out for yourself). He also had ran out of endurance which is to be expected considering he had only been running once or twice per week, not exceeding 3-4 mile runs (#naturaltalent). Regardless, I was proud of him. His natural ability to run fast amazes me time and time again.

I finished in 55:38, 18th/58 overall, 4th overall female, and 1/1 in my age group. Josh won a sweet travel coffee mug and a wooden phone holder (which he promises me to video chat with so he doesn’t have to prop his phone up awkwardly). I won a medal and some great S&S exposure.

I am glad that I did this race. Grad school had left me craving trail runs and races and, in a way, starting off summer break with a trail race was symbolic. Grad school requires endurance just like running. This race reaffirmed that I can be a grad student and a runner and be happy. I might not have as much endurance as I did last summer and the trails may challenge me even more so, but they will always be there for me to enjoy and for me to find bliss, serenity, and a welcoming running community.

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Race Recap: Xterra Lums Pond 12k

Race Recap: Xterra Lums Pond 12k

This past Sunday I raced at Lums Pond State Park in Bear, DE for the first time ever.  I knew of some people that had ran and mountain biked at Lums Pond so I kind of knew what the terrain was going to be like ahead of time – flat, non-technical, but with a few scattered rooty sections.  None of these characteristics of the course played in my favor.  Truthfully, I have a better chance excelling on a hilly, technical, rocky course.  I wasn’t looking forward to this race at all and, honestly, I regretted even signing up for it.  I only signed up for it because it was part of a series of trail races and back in January/February I was desperate for some motivation to get myself out for runs.  So here I was on race morning, standing in a state park parking lot trying to find an inkling of trail serenity in a road-runner dominated field of runners (sorry, roadies).

Josh selflessly chauffeured me to Bear, DE so I was thankful to have him there to be my morning company.  I picked up my bib number and race swag and got back into Josh’s truck.

The morning was chilly but warmer than usual so I was trying to figure out what I wanted to race in.  I went for a warm-up with 3/4 length capris, an Altra sweatshirt, Sneakers & Spokes long sleeve, a base layer long sleeve, gloves, and my Team Altra buff.  I warmed up on the road for 10 minutes than discovered a trail that ended up being the last 1/4 mile of the race course.  By the end of a 15-minute warm-up, I decided I need to shed my base layer for the race.  I also decided I wanted to race in shorts and ditch the gloves.  Wardrobe malfunction!  My Sneakers & Spokes long sleeve was so long that it covered up my spandex shorts making it appear that I wasn’t wearing shorts.  DARNIT!  I tried pinning the bottom of the shirt up but it was a lost cause once the race started.

The race started on time and we ran across the parking lot towards the path.  We would be running one 6-7 mile clockwise loop around Lums Pond (literally, I giant pond).  I navigated around some racers and I could see 2 women in front of me.  I hoped to keep them in my sight, but that didn’t last long.

1.5 miles into the race I found myself pancaked on the ground.  My memory fails me, but I’m assuming I tripped on a root.  I had no chance to catch my fall.  One second I was running, the next second I was on the ground, and one second after that I was back to running.  The men behind me asked if I was ok.  I said bluntly, “yes, I’m fine”, as they sprinted around me.  Nothing hurt but I could see some blood on my thigh.  Not exactly how I wanted to run the next 5.5 miles of the race but oh well.

The course wasn’t exactly scenic.  There were a lot of little turns, some rooty sections, and very small “hills”.  The “hills” were basically speed bumps that slowed racers down a little but they took about 3 seconds to get up and 2 seconds to get down.  Not impressed.  I had lost complete sight of the women by this point, men were passing me left & right, but I just kept chugging along.  I was more focused on where I was putting my feet and less focused on catching anyone ahead of me.  My elbow started to sting but everything else felt fine.

I remember crossing a 200m mini bridge which was pretty cool.  I jumped over a few muddy spots to avoid soaking my Superiors.  We passed through a field.  Then we reached the part of the course I had ran earlier for my warm-up.  I knew I was almost done.  I heard Josh to the right and caught a brief glimpse of him with his phone out snapping pictures.  I crossed the finish line and they handed me a medal.

I looked down at my knees for the first time since I’d fallen and both were bloody.  My thigh looked like a bear scratched it up.  My elbow was still stinging.  I knew I needed to get my cuts cleaned up so I looped back to find Josh, told him I needed to clean my knees (which is actually when he even noticed my knees were scraped).  We walked over to the ambulance parked in the lot.  I asked them for some peroxide and they gave me saline water and a towel to clean myself up.  I sat haphazardly on the asphalt as I cleaned up.  They didn’t have any normal sized bandaids and I could tell that my right knee was still bleeding so the paramedic wrapped me up with gauze and medical wrap.  Josh told the paramedics, “she runs 50ks up mountains and doesn’t fall but here she is after a 12k…”.  Yes, the irony of it all.

31234945_2028515467407407_1324880377252151296_oI finished in 57:28 as the 3rd overall female and 25th overall out of 98.  The course was shorter than a 12k so technically it’s not a 12k PR.  I stayed for the awards ceremony and then left for the 2nd race of the day – spectating the NJ NICA race held in Alloway.  It was a busy but great Sunday.  I didn’t do a cool-down after the race because I spent my time with the paramedics, but I ran around the NICA course with Josh to cheer on the racers.

Would I race this again?  No.  The course wasn’t hilly or technical (despite the fact that I tripped on a root).  I thrive on challenging trail courses.  This was more so a cross country style race and those days of xc racing were over after college.  I don’t have the speed to keep up with those xc-type of racers.  I would rather go a little slower and be able to bomb some descents.  I still have a good story to tell as I take care of my knees.

Would I go to Lums Pond again?  Yes.  I would like to mountain bike there because I prefer non-technical trails for mountain biking (my mtb skills are lacking).  If I’m looking for a flat trail running loop and want to drive all the way there then I would run there again too.  But I’m not interested in racing there.  One and done!

Runner’s World Half Marathon – Race Recap

Runner’s World Half Marathon – Race Recap

This past Sunday I raced the Runner’s World Half Marathon in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  This was the culminating race of the Runner’s World Half Marathon Festival after a weekend of various races.

Because I had to work a 12 hour shift on Saturday, this race weekend was slightly different than most race weekends for me.  I wasn’t able to visit the 2-day expo hosted by Runner’s World as I was forced to pick-up my bib on race morning due to other “adult responsibilities”.  I also wasn’t able to run the day before the race which was a huge mental barrier for me.  Because I worked 6:45 AM until 7 PM, I had little to no choice than to skip a pre-race shake-out run.  I didn’t want to wake up at 5 AM and go for a shake-out run because I feared running by myself so early in the morning and I didn’t want to run at 8 PM after work because that would cut in to my sleep the night before the race – after all, we had to leave for the race at 3:30 AM.

I consumed my carbo-loading pasta dinner after getting done my 12 hour shift, packed up some last minute things for race morning, and was in bed by 9:30 PM.  My alarm was set for 3 AM which would leave me with 30 minutes to get my race outfit on and get out the door.

I was grateful to have my mom with me on race day as my dad and Josh were racing an adventure race at Brandywine the same day.  We left the house around 3:35 AM and started out towards Bethlehem with the full moon shining high in the sky.  We passed about 7 total cars within the 30 minute drive to the highway we needed to get on.  The roads were dark and the rest of the world was still fast asleep.

Half way to Bethlehem, I realized I forgot my red Gatorade in the fridge so we stopped at a Wawa off the Turnpike since we knew we would have plenty of time to spare once we arrived to the race location.  I opted for a blue Gatorade and continued on our way.

We arrived at the designated race parking lots around 5:25 AM and nobody was around.  The parking lots were dark and empty, and I actually questioned whether I had the right date for the race.  We asked a security guard where to park and he directed us to a different lot.  Still the only ones parked in a huge parking lot, we gathered our belongings and I double and triple checked that I had everything I needed.

All of the pre-race emails designated these particular lots as the only lots available for parking, so my mom and I had no choice but to walk 1.5 miles to the Arts Quest building for bib pick-up.  Here we were, at 5:30 AM walking down Daly Ave in the dark past the start, Sands Casino, and the outlets both layered with warm clothes.

We finally arrived to the Arts Quest building and I was able to pick up my race bib and race shirt.  I am quite disappointed with the size of the long sleeve shirt I received.  Usually I fit comfortably into a small, but the volunteers at the shirt pick-up warned me the sizes were running small.  So, heeding to their warning,  I opted for a medium.  When I got home and actually put on the medium, the sleeves were about 2 inches too short, and the shirt just didn’t fit right.  Believe me, I don’t do these races for the race shirts or the medals, but if Runner’s World expected me to wear this shirt around to advertise their race, they’re going to be quite disappointed in me.

Regardless, my mom and I hung out in the Arts Quest building until about 7 AM to stay warm before walking 3/4 of  a mile back to the starting line.  I used the bathroom two more times (my nerves were really getting to me!).  We started our walk back to the starting line and by this time, Josh was awake so I was able to update him on safely making it to the race with ample time to spare!  While we were walking my mom and I also got to talk to one of the pacers for the race who was pacing the 8:25 goal-pace runners.  I told him I hoped to be ahead of his pace group the entire time and I hope I didn’t offend him.  He didn’t seem offended and he wished me luck as he continued down a different road to a warmer place to wait out the remaining time until the start.

At 7:25 AM I decided to go on a 15 minute warm-up run to get the blood flowing.  I ran back to the bathrooms at the Art Quest building since no bathrooms were available at the start line but was appalled by the line and couldn’t afford to wait in line.  I located another bathroom which was just as bad of a wait so I decided to do some exploring on my own and located a much less popular bathroom in the outlets at Sands Casino.  Turns out, there were about one hundred runners in this building waiting inside to stay warm until the race started – it wasn’t even that cold out!

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Picture from the starting line

After locating and using the bathroom for the third time that morning, I ran back to the start to meet my mom before the race started.  At this time, I opted to run in my spandex shorts, my Sneakers and Spokes singlet, and arm sleeves.  I had been debating all morning whether to run in my shorts or 3/4 length tights but running in shorts was definitely a good choice!  I striped off my layers one by one as the starting time quickly approached.  I told my mom to head down the street a ways as she would have a better chance of seeing me in the mass of people further down the street.

At this time, I also found Tiffany, our previous Altra tech rep for Sneakers and Spokes, and I was so excited to see her!  She had won the 3.8 mile trail run on Friday, and also raced the 5k and 10k Saturday, and here she was ready to take on the 13.1 mile race as well (click here to read her race recap!).  We were both very excited that we found each other in the mass of people.  We wished each other good luck and by that time it was just about time to start.

I found myself towards the front of the crowd as nobody seemed too ambitious to start towards the front.  After the national anthem, the gun was shot off and the mass of runners started their way down Daly Ave.  The start was on a downhill so it seemed that everyone was moving pretty quickly.  I knew it was going to be a fast mile but I felt comfortable and knew once it flattened out that I could settle in to a pace.  We made a few turns and crossed a bridge, then the uphills started.

My goal for this race was to run a 1/2 marathon PR of sub-1:41 but I didn’t expect the course to be nearly as hilly as it was.  It seemed that every half mile was either an uphill or a downhill.  The uphills got my heart rate up, and the downhills destroyed by quads.  After every downhill, it would take me nearly a quarter of a mile to regain a consistent pace and by that time we were going back uphill.  It was a vicious cycle and I remember thinking numerous times that I just wanted the race to be over and done with already….we were only 3 miles into the race.

The course weaved us through some streets of Bethlehem – the main street in Bethlehem which was lined with about 100 or so spectators, and back neighborhood streets of Bethlehem that got me questioning where I was.  I had no idea where I was the entire race and the neighborhoods we ran through were quaint and quiet.  The course wasn’t lined with spectators like big city races and I was actually somewhat disappointed that not more spectators were out and about – I was under the assumption that this was a big event for Bethlehem.  I guess I was wrong.

Mile 6 brought a huge uphill that seemed to go on forever.  I knew at the 10k mark that a text would be sent to my family and friends tracking me so that motivated me to get to that point but I still felt tired and ready for the race to be done.  I knew how much the uphills were slowing down my pace so I tried to make up as much time on the downhills as my legs would permit.  Other racers kept passing me – I actually don’t think there was a single person that I personally passed from mile 2-11.  Everyone seemed to be passing me.  I kept thinking that I must really be slowing down and I had a feeling that 8:25 pacer we met earlier was going to also pass me (he never did).

At the 10 mile mark the clock read 1:18.  After some quick calculations, I realized a PR was out of reach but I could try my best to run under 1:45.  That became my new goal.  We crossed the bridge again to get back to the finishing area and a fellow racer was alternating between running and walking.  I figured he probably just was cramped up or maybe pulled a muscle.  When I eventually did pass him I asked him if he was ok and he said he was fine.  I kept running hoping he was indeed fine.

We passed the finishing area and looped back around for an additional 1/2 mile until the finish.  At this time, I saw a fellow South Jersey runner that I know by association (check out her race recap here).  She told me I was doing a great job but at this point I felt absolutely horrible and I was sure I was running very very slow.  In the last 1/2 mile I got a painful stitch right below my rib cage that pulled with every step.  It hurt but I had no choice but to keep moving forward.

The finishing stretch included a local high school band playing pep songs, and spectators lining the last 200m of the race.  I tried my best to look strong and to finish strong but my legs weren’t moving very fast.  People kept passing me.  I just wanted to be done.  I crossed the finish line next to a man carrying an American flag.  My finishing time was 1:43.

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after the race – check out my Altra Torins!

I was handed a medal and a heat blanket.  It didn’t feel nearly as warm as the one after the Philadelphia Marathon but I was grateful for it.  I walked over to grab from an array of snacks.  I picked up some veggie straws, granola bars, and a chocolate bar (mmm chocolate!).  I met my mom at our designated meeting spot and she congratulated me.  We walked over to a sculpture and she took a few pictures of me.  I tried my best to look happy even though I felt physically drained.

My feet felt great in my Altra Torins.  I didn’t get any blisters and I was happy to have raced in my Torins as the race was sponsored by Altra – this was actually one of the main reasons I signed up to run this race!

My mom informed me that there was a platform that ran along the steel stacks if I wanted to go up there and check it.  This required me to climb 3 flights of stairs but I made it to the top.  I got an awesome view of the finishing area and the rest of the runners finishing.

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view of the festival from the steel stacks

After that, we made our way back to the car which was yet another 1.5 miles away.  This was a much slower walk than earlier in the morning.  Luckily when we arrived back to the parking area there were actually cars parked in the lots from other races.  That made us feel better about our choice to park so far away – after all, we were only following the instructions listed specifically in the race emails.

I changed into warmer clothes and we started our drive back home.  My legs ached and I was exhausted.  Although I didn’t run a 1/2 marathon PR like I intended too, I was happy with the fact that I got in a solid training run for my marathon.  The marathon is my bigger goal and this 1/2 was just conveniently at the mid-point of my training.  My splits weren’t as consistent as I would have liked them to be, but due to the rolling hills throughout the course I have accepted them for what they are.  Now I know that the next 2 weeks of marathon training before tapering need to be solid training weeks.  My body needs to be ready for 26.2 miles.

Race Review:

Organization – I would give this race an “A” for organization.  Offering race day bib pick-up was convenient and the race was very well organized.  There are two things keeping me from giving this race an A+ – the inconvenience of parking and not having bathrooms available at the start line.

Swag – I would give this race a “B-” for swag.  Knowing how big of a company Runner’s World is, I expected quality swag.  I am very disappointed in the situation with the race shirts.  However, I do like the medals that were handed out for the race – it also functions as a bottle opener!

Course – I would give this race a “B” for the course.  I wasn’t overly impressed with where the course brought the runners, as there were very many desolate and quiet sections of the course  (“how the heck did we get here?!”).  If you’re looking for a more challenging half marathon this is the race for you! Do not expect a PR, but do expect a nice challenge for both your quads and your calf muscles!

Spectator-friendly – I would give this race a “B-” in regards to how spectator friendly it was. My mom was only able to see me at the start and the finish. There weren’t very many spectators throughout the course, however most of the spectators congregated around the start/finish area.  If you’re looking for a race that will keep your adrenaline flowing for the entire course, you may want to look for a different race.

Would I do this race again?

Simply, the answer is no.  This was a one and done race for me.  I wasn’t impressed with the course and I’d rather find a 1/2 marathon closer than a 2-hour drive.   It was fun while it lasted, and I’m happy with such a great training run leading up my marathon but I wouldn’t go back to this race time and time again.

I am 100% looking forward to my goal race – the Philadelphia Marathon!  Time to put in some solid work this next 2 weeks before I start tapering!!

Running and Resting

Running and Resting

This week I started my new part-time job and my internship.  My week started with some car troubles due to bitter cold temperatures but improved as the week progressed.  I took two consecutive days off from running and only was able to reach a 19.5 mile week (and over half of these miles were ran on Saturday and Sunday).  This low number frightens me but I need to recognize that this was a crazy, hectic, and exhausting week.  I need to accept the fact that this was a rough week of training.  Between my internship and new job I had four consecutive 13 hour days in which I was out of my house from 7:30AM until 8:30PM.  I was eating dinner at 9 o’clock at night and I barely had the energy to even do a 10-minute core workout.  I didn’t run on Monday or Tuesday due to car troubles and my new schedule.  Thursday morning I ran at 6AM.  I was anxious to get to the weekend to log some miles even though a blizzard was about to drop over a foot of snow on my house.

Although I am disappointed I didn’t get to run on Monday or Tuesday I am accepting that these days were rest days.  I know a lot of runners who believe in “run streaks” and training 7 days per week, 365 days per year.  I am not one of these runners.  I know runners who are okay with logging miles on the treadmill. I am not one of these runners either.  I know runners who are ok with trudging through a foot of snow for 12 miles just to get in their modified long run.  I am not one of these runners.

I enjoyed my Saturday and Sunday run even though I was running on a trail with over 12 inches of snow on it.  I got to see beautiful snow-covered trees and picturesque white fields.  I got to spend time outside and got a good workout from adjusting and readjusting my stride with every step.  I love a good challenge and this weekend’s runs definitely worked muscles I never even knew I had.

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Out for a 6.5 mile run in 12+ inches of snow with dad in #blizzard2016

I would like to say I am okay with only logging 19.5 miles this week.  I’m not okay with but I have to accept it.  I can’t reverse time and go back and run 5 miles last Monday.  I must only focus on the present and the future.  It’s okay to take a rest day when your car doesn’t cooperate.  It’s okay to take a rest day if there’s 12 inches of snow on the ground and you can’t get in your scheduled long run. There’s always tomorrow or the next day or the next.  It’s okay to take a rest day and it’s okay to modify whatever training plan you’re following.

After a crazy week of new beginnings, I’ve become more appreciative of every run I am able to go on.  Somedays my schedule literally only allots 30 minutes of running time.  And for those 30 minutes, I appreciate the run.  I’m grateful for those 30 minutes where I can do something I love to do.  It’s okay to take a break from running when life gets too overwhelming.  But next time you get out on the trails or the snow-covered sidewalk, don’t forget to be grateful for the run – every mile is a gift. 

run grateful

Marathon Reflections

Marathon Reflections

This past Sunday I ran my first ever marathon – the Philadelphia Marathon.  I finished in 3:46:24.  Of course I was ecstatic to finish under 4 hours, but I was more excited that I could officially call myself a marathoner.  I could now proudly display a 26.2 magnet on the back of my car and I could stop posting on social media about my marathon training (which people may or may not have been getting annoyed at..I’m not really sure).  So instead of posting about training for a marathon, I filled social media with posts, tweets, pictures, and videos about the marathon.  I’m sure the excitement will dissipate over time, but I still have plenty of people to tell about my 26.2 miles.  So here’s a blog post about it to share with the rest of the Internet world my marathon journey.

On Friday, I went to the expo to pick up my race bib, stop by the SparklySoul table and see Angela, pick up some free giveaways, and meet the elite marathoner, Bill Rogers.  After picking up my race bib, I was ready to race but the race wasn’t for another 36 hours!  So I distracted myself at my dad’s bike/running business by decorating it for Christmas and prepared my race outfit instead.  My weather app said the start of the race would be in the high 40s so I opted for a t-shirt and arm sleeves, three-quarter length spandex, gloves, and my “Run Philadelphia” SparklySoul.  I was ready to go!

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Race day outfit

Sunday my alarm went off at 3:39 AM – it was race day!  My parents, brother, mommom, and I planned to leave by 4:15 AM.  The security gates were scheduled to open at 5 AM so that gave us plenty of time to drive to Philadelphia, find parking, and walk to the security checkpoints.  My biggest fear leading up to the race was not getting to the start line in time so I opted to get there extra early to avoid any lines that might start forming for the security checkpoints.  We were at my corral by 5:15 AM so I sat on a curb nearby and tried to maintain my body heat in the chilly morning air.  I had 3 layers overtop of my race outfit that I planned on tossing to the side right before my corral started (which would be gathered later on by volunteers to donate to homeless shelters).  During the 2 hours leading up to the race time, I used the port-a-potties three times, saw people from the local running club I’m a part of, and patiently waited in my corral with an older woman I knew from local races who was also in my corral.

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Waiting in the green corral

I knew that Angela was in the corral in front of me and that a running friend was in the same corral as me but because of the immense amount of people in each corral, I didn’t get to see either of my fellow running friends prior to the start of the race.  Apparently there was a delay due to a car accident on the course so the race started 5-10 minutes late.  I completely lost track of time once I was standing in the corral though and I have no idea what time the race actually started. I tossed my clothes to the side and found myself 3 rows back from the front of my corral.

Angela’s corral was sent off and next thing I knew my corral was waiting for the airhorn to signal the start of our race.  I vividly remember a huge gust of wind that rushed through the crowd which caused a billowing sigh of surprise to echo throughout the racers.  The airhorn sounded when nine minutes showed up on the clock.  This basically meant that the elite runners were almost already two miles into the race.  I settled into a pace nicely with a comfortable amount of space in front of, to my sides, and behind me.  Nobody was tripping over each other’s feet which I was relieved about.

Going into the race, I planned on looking at my watch every 3 miles to ensure I wasn’t running too fast or too slow.  At the one mile mark though I opted to check my mile split to make sure I wasn’t running too fast.  I ran my first mile in 7:26.  Way.  Too.  Fast.  I consciously told myself to slow down and settle into a more reasonable pace that I could sustain for the 25.2 miles that still laid ahead of me.

I saw my dad and my brother on their bikes at about the 3rd or 4th or 5th mile mark (I don’t actually remember what mile it was).  I saw a lot of men peeing off to the side of the race course.  Not just like one or two.  Like 10 people peeing at once.  I have never seen something like that ever in my life and, honestly, I never want to see something like that ever again.

I remember seeing a sign that said “four mile frenzy” and then later down the road seeing a sign that said “Run like you’re in the Hunger Games” and it even had the Mockingjay symbol drawn on the side.  This made me happy.

I remember passing a house that I assumed was a frat house because there was a bunch of loud and obnoxious college students drinking and yelling up on the porch.  It wasn’t even 8 AM at this point in the race.  Talk about day drinking.

I remember running down a crowded street in center city and feeling energized by the crowd.  The billowing of the cheers and the music made me run faster and I was still feeling the adrenaline of just being in the race itself.  I probably should’ve slowed down but my pace felt comfortable.  I didn’t feel like I was breathing heavy and my legs felt fine.

I remember seeing a visually impaired runner who was running with his guide. His guide was telling him what was directly ahead of him on the course.  I was intrigued by this.  I also remember seeing an athlete in a wheel chair.  I made sure to encourage him when I passed by with a simple “great job, keep it up”. This inspired me.

I also remember someone say how she always hit a wall as she passed the zoo. I wasn’t even aware that the course ran near the zoo.  This was exciting.  Next thing I knew we were crossing a very steep but quick bridge and there were spectators banging on huge drums.  This made me smile and gave me another burst of energy.

Then there was a hill.  The hill didn’t look too long at first but then it kept winding upwards.  I told myself that every uphill has a downhill so I would be rewarded at the top with a downhill.  There wasn’t a downhill at the top though.  Instead, the course leveled off, made 2 quick right turns, and passed another band playing guitars and a drum set.  I also remember hearing what I thought was a radio show host talking about runners passing by but I don’t have a clear memory of this.

The course also went around a random circle too.  I remember thinking “how silly we must look going around this circle right now”.  There’s a lot of random thoughts that go through your head during a race – especially during long races when you have hours to think.

Then the course went down a steep downhill.  Finally the downhill I was waiting to be rewarded with.  It was a long one and I remember hoping that my quads weren’t being destroyed by the forces being exerted on my feet and legs (thanks, kinesiology class, for instilling this fear in me).  Then we were on the outskirts of Fairmount Park and headed back towards the Ben Franklin Parkway. I saw a runner I recognized from local running races and focused on catching up to him.  I caught up to him and passed him.  Also, across the river I could see marathoners who were probably already 2 miles ahead of me.  I was impressed by the fact that these runners were already at that point on the course but I just kept running forward.  This all happened right before the half-marathon turn off. I made sure I stayed to the left so that I didn’t accidentally go the wrong way. Once again I was re-energized by the crowd who were cheering on the half-marathoners who were almost done the race.  How nice it must be to be almost done.  I was only half-way done: 13.1 miles to go.

I was waiting for the 13.1 mile marker to see my half-way split.  I think I remember seeing 1:45.  My watch was also 0.3 miles off from every mile marker they had on the course.  Even for the first mile marker, my watch beeped waaaaay before I passed the mile marker.  This upset me continuously throughout the race but I just kept running.

At the half-way point I had looked down at my right shoe and noticed blood seeping through my shoe fabric.  My toe was bleeding.  Did I lose a toenail?  I thought I lost a toenail.  I yelled over to my dad that my toe was bleeding.  He told me I had plenty of blood to spare and to keep running.  So I did.  But then my left ankle started to cramp up.  Pain radiated down my foot.  I started to run with a slight hobble.  It hurt.  I figured the pain would disappear if I kept running. So I kept running.

First, the wheelchair marathoners started to pass in the opposite direction. They were headed back towards the finish line.  Then the elite runners started passing in the opposite direction.  Dang, they were fast.  I kept looking for the lead woman.  She eventually passed by and the runners around me shouted over to her.  It was an awesome moment to see the leaders.  I had only ever seen lead marathoners on TV.  And here they were in person!  One word recap for this moment as the running nerd that I am: AWESOME!

I passed the medical tent with a medic who was holding up a thumbs up and a thumbs down.  I didn’t need a medic and nobody around me needed a medic so we kept going.  I started to look for Angela at this point because I needed some mid-race motivation.  A familiar face would surely make me happier.  We turned onto a bridge and ran down a hill that I knew we would have to run back up soon.  There were a lot of negative thoughts in my head at this moment.  I wasn’t having fun anymore.  Every step seemed like a nuisance.  The course made an extremely sharp turn that killed my momentum, screwed up my stride, and made my feet and legs hurt.  We started running back up the hill and back over the bridge.  I was hoping that Angela hadn’t already gone back past this part of the course.  I really needed to see a familiar face.

We weren’t even in Manayunk yet.  How much further until the turn-around-point?  It felt like an eternity.  The course took a weird turn.  I was hoping that I would still see Angela.  We were almost in Manayunk.  Finally I saw Angela! FINALLY!  I think I said “Go, Angela!” (I don’t really remember to make the direct quote) and she replied with a quick “heyyy!”  And we kept running.

I knew that two of my parents’ friends were waiting in Manayunk to cheer me on. I was hoping to see them soon too.  Then I heard their excited cheers.  I wished I was running faster but my legs weren’t moving.  My left ankle was cramping up again and I thought I kept feeling my toenail in my shoe.  I was running weirdly again.  I hadn’t looked at my watch since mile 18 and I didn’t want to check it again until the race was over.  I knew I would be disappointed in my slower pace so I refused to look at my watch when it beeped.  I also had ran out of water in my hand-held water bottle at this point so I could no longer eat the Shot Bloks I had been eating throughout the race.  I needed water to wash them down.  So I switched over to taking Gatorade at the hydration stations.  Yellow Gatorade, which I usually refuse to drink on any normal day, never tasted so good during this race.  I drank every last drop in every cup I grabbed.

Finally we were running back towards the art museum.  Only 5ish more miles to. I told myself that 5 miles was basically nothing.  I ran 5 miles for an easy run during training.  Five.  More.  Miles.  And let me tell you:  those 5 miles were the longest 5 miles of my life.  My feet weren’t moving.  My legs were heavy.  I was pretty sure I lost a toenail.  I was tired.  No…I was exhausted.

At miles 20 and 23 there were people handing out cups of beer.  It smelled like beer.  I hate the smell of beer.

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finishing stretch

The finish line seemed like an eternity away.  Where the heck was the art museum?  Where the heck were the crowds?  The only thing I wanted was to sit down and to get the emergency blanket that someone would wrap around me at the finish line.  I completely forgot that I would get a medal.  I just wanted that blanket.  I wanted to be warm.

Then I heard my parents yelling and I finally saw the finish line.  My feet definitely weren’t lifting off the ground. Every muscle in my legs were telling me to stop and walk.  I just wanted to be done.

Then I saw the mayor of Philadelphia with his hand outstretched for a high five.  I think I tried high-fiving him but I ended up hitting some guy that was sprinting towards the finish line.  My feet stopped once I crossed that finish line.  I’m not sure how my legs didn’t crumble from underneath me.  It surely felt like they didn’t want to hold me up anymore.

I was given a medal from a kind volunteer.  I also heard someone yell my name and turned to see that it was a runner I knew from the running club I am a member of.  I tried my best to muster up energy to acknowledge her excitement and I don’t really remember how I responded.  I was definitely delusional at this point.  That’s when I remembered I didn’t turn off my watch.  So I stopped my watch and saved my run.  The race was over.

Another kind volunteer wrapped that emergency blanket around me.  It was so warm.  I just wanted to sit down and huddle underneath this blanket.  But I had to walk through the end of the finish line chute.  There was food – I grabbed 3 packets of peanut butter, a random bag of chips, and an apple juice.  This is all I could muster up the energy to grab.  The finishing chute was at least a half mile long.  And even if it wasn’t a half mile, it felt like it.  I passed like 10 UPS trucks that had runners’ gear bags in them.  I just kept walking at a turtle’s pace.  Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.

marathon finishI had no idea how I was going to find my family.  We didn’t make any plans to meet up anywhere.  I just needed to sit.  Finally I got to the end of the chute.  I kept walking delusionally.  I had no idea where to go. I dropped my food that I had grabbed to the ground and resisted sitting down.  My family would never find me if I sat.  Luckily I saw my mom within 2 minutes and tried calling over to her.  She eventually heard me – thank goodness because there was no way I could go chasing after her.  She came over and helped me sit down.  I was shivering, I was exhausted, and I wanted to sit forever.  My dad then found us but stood on the opposite side of the guardrail.  My parents forced me to put on a pull-over running sweatshirt.  I just wanted to sit forever but I was shivering.  Within 4 minutes they told me to stand up so we could go back to our car.  A woman who was passing by helped my mom lift me up.  My mom took a picture of me with my medal, emergency blanket, and sign that she made.  I tried smiling and I thought I was smiling but the picture looks like I’m miserable.  You can decide.

Luckily the car was only one block away from where we were.  I hobbled slowly towards the car.  It probably took me 10 minutes to walk a quarter mile.  But then I got in the car and it was warm because the heat was blasting.  I didn’t complain.  I tried to eat some peanut butter crackers but I wasn’t even hungry.

When I got home I just wanted to take a hot shower.  I finally took my shoes and socks off.  I expected to only have 9 toenails.  Luckily, and thankfully, I still had all 10.  My toes just rubbed against each other which had caused them to bleed.  I got in the shower.  It was so warm.

My stomach started to hurt.  I didn’t want food.  I also didn’t want to throw up.  I ate 4 Ritz crackers and drank some hot chocolate.  I wanted to sleep.  So I curled up in bed and tried answering the 15 texts that were on my phone from various friends and family members who had tracked my race.  Then I fell asleep for 2.5 hours.  I woke up and still felt tired and I had a horrible headache.  I diagnosed myself with dehydration.  Luckily, my mommom had given my a bottle of chocolate milk 2 days before my race so I drank the entire thing to refuel and rehydrate.  I then forced myself to drink water.  I watched TV and started to fall asleep again.  Then my mom made pancakes.  I still wasn’t hungry.  I ate 3 pancakes.  I watched more TV and posted the half-smiling picture of myself on Facebook.  Then I talked to John for an hour to tell him all about my day.  I had planned on going to bed by 9 but we ended up talking until almost 10.  Then I went to bed.

Looking back on this race, it doesn’t seem like I even ran for a continuous 3 hours, 46 minutes, and 24 seconds.  It doesn’t seem like I ran 26.2 miles.  It just seems like a bunch of back-to-back-to-back 5ks.  It’s still hard for me to grasp that I am indeed a marathoner now.  Maybe I’m in shock or maybe I’m delusional.  Whatever it may be, on the results sheet, I am a marathoner.

The overwhelming amount of support from friends and family, near and far, has made me extremely grateful for the life I am living.  I honestly believe that without all the support, I would’ve gone insane.  During the race I knew that by getting to certain miles a text would be sent to people who were tracking me.  I wanted to make them proud.  There were some people that tracked me and I didn’t even know it.  So thank you, friends.  Thank you, family.  You’re the best!

So here I am 3 days later.  The pain in my quads is manageable.  I ran 2 miles today.  This is a continued process of recovering.  Will I do a marathon in the future?  The answer:  HECK YES.  I will sign up for another one when my body forgets the pain that it’s been through.  But for now, I will continue to be proud that I am a marathoner.  I will continue to be proud that I am a runner.

Yes, you can learn a lot about yourself in 26.2 miles.  But you can learn a lot more about yourself when you test your limits.  Never put a limit on how fast, how far, or how long you can run for.  I promise you, you can go the distance when you believe.

 

 

 

 

Marathon Training: Week 3 and 4

Marathon Training: Week 3 and 4

Week 3:

applesThis is the week where I actually felt like I had adjusted to the rolling hills around here.  My lungs and my legs both felt stronger.  I completed a workout and re-discovered how mentally challenging it’s going to be running a slower-than-usual pace for marathon day.  I can’t go out too fast because the race isn’t just a 5k.  The marathon needs to be 26.2 miles of consistency.  Going out too hard in the beginning of the race will just make the end of the race that much more challenging.  After a mentally grueling workout because I found myself not maintaining the pace I was supposed to be maintaining for the workout, (because it was too slow for a workout and I couldn’t get in the groove of that pace for a 5 mile tempo), my dad suggested up-ing the pace for week 4’s workout.  This week I also completed a 9 mile run.  The last two miles were completely uphill which made miles 8 and 9 rough.  But hey, my legs will be trained to ignore the tiredness come marathon day.  This is the week I also made an apple and cinnamon quinoa recovery mini meal :]

Week 4:

This was one of the most stressful weeks of my life because of internship drama but I got it all straightened out so it’s okay now.  My dad changed my target workout pace which made for a much better Wednesday Workout day.  I ran super early Thursday because I had waaaay too much to do throughout the day.  This run was superrrrrrrr slow.  I woke up Friday feeling like I had a cold, so I cut my run way shorter than planned.  I’m trying to listen to my body more these days so I don’t overwork myself too much before race day.  I took Saturday as a rest day and skipped my long run for the weekend.  Although this is a bummer, I want to feel better because there’s a lot of great things to look forward to this week – the fair, friends, the Pope, and so so sooo much more :]

My Believe journal also forced me to re-evaluate my priorities.  Here’s the list of reminders I came up with:

  • Focus on long-term goals but set short term goals that help you get there.
  • Be willing to ask for advice, help, guidance, and support.  You are not alone!
  • Don’t define your limits – you can do anything you set your mind to.
  • Sleep enough.  Drink enough.  Eat enough.
  • Enjoy the process
Learning to Love Your “Imperfect” Running Body

Learning to Love Your “Imperfect” Running Body

For the month of June, my Believe journal have been focused on body image – a topic all too familiar with many runners.  It has taken me the entire month to come up with the perfect way to present a blog post about this sensitive topic, and I honestly don’t believe that there is a perfect way to discuss it.  Why?  Because “perfect” doesn’t exist. Instead, we must all focus on accepting our “imperfect perfections”.  There is not a single person in this world that has the “ideal” body type we see on magazines, the “flawless” skin disguised by make-up, the beautifully chiseled muscles of our athletic idols, or the frizz-less hair of celebrities.  Instead, we are made up of many unique body traits that make us individuals – our uniquely shaped extremities, our natural skin, our free-flying hair style, and our uniquely developed muscles.  This is who we are.  This is who YOU are.

As runners, it has been instilled in our mind that the best runners are the thinnest, the ones with just the right amount of muscle, and the ones who still look flawless after a race.  But is that realistic?  If you haven’t been to a 5k in awhile, I ask you to sign up for one now.  Go to this race and look around.  Look at the person you’re standing next to at the starting line.  Then look at the fifth person behind you.  Do you all look the same?  Do you have the same hair?  The same amount of arm muscle?  The same shaped thighs and calves?  Most likely each one of you looks different.  And this is what we need to learn to accept – there is no “perfect” body type for running.  As long as those feet come off the ground, those legs are moving forward, and that heart of yours is beating, your body is perfect for running.

While brainstorming for this post, a particular video, titled “Size 26.2”, I watched a few months ago came into my mind. If you haven’t watched the video before, I encourage you to do so because this woman reminds you of why runners should appreciate their body.  I don’t think I’ve met a runner yet that hasn’t complained about some part of their running body.  The most common complaints are:

  • “My calf muscles are too big and I can’t find a pair of jeans that fit”
  • “I have thunderthighs”
  • “My arms have no muscle”
  • “I still don’t have six-pack abs”
  • “I have a pancake butt”
  • “My boobs are basically non-existent”
  • “My feet are absolutely disgusting”
  • “My hair is always so frizzy after I run”

The list goes on.  But as mentioned in the video, these are all complaints we should be proud of.  Without those calf muscles and thunderthighs, how would you reach the finish line?  Yeah, your arms may look like chopsticks, but how would you pump those arms during the final stretch of a race if they were bulky?  And honestly, six-pack abs rely heavily on diet, not just those ab-workouts you’ve been doing religiously.  That flat butt and those nearly-invisible boobs are just your method of aerodynamics.  Your feet look disgusting because they travel hundreds of miles per year – you can replace tires on your car, but you can’t replace your toes!  If your hair is flawless after a run, you must have some seriously strong hair product keeping those fly-aways from (yup, you guessed it) flying away.

As we critique our “imperfections”, we need to be reminded that without those “imperfections” we wouldn’t be runners.  And not every runner has the same body image “imperfections”.  Some runners have long legs.  Some are short and stocky.  Some have broader shoulders.  Some wear their hair in a ponytail.  Others prefer to keep their hair down. Some runners like to run in sports bras.  Some runners like to run without socks.  Jeez, some runners don’t even run with shoes!  So what are we even comparing ourselves to if every runner looks different?  How can we come up with this image of the “perfect runner” when every runner we pass by looks different?

Lastly, I’d like to comment on one other controversial topic among runners.  Eating.  I’ve met plenty of runners who say they run just so they can eat their dinner at night or drink some beer on the weekends.  They run to prevent weight gain. And this is where we get the common running quote of “I run so I can eat”.  But what if “eat” and “run” were swapped in that sentence?  I eat so I can run.  Read it again slowly:  I eat…so I can run.  I fuel my body so I can cover the mileage in my training plan.  I carbo-load so I have the energy to endure the run that lies before me.  I consume nutrients so I can finish a race with a new PR.  I eat so I can run.

So I ask you to answer this today:  What makes your body strong enough to run?

Respect your strength.

Embrace your imperfect perfections.

Be proud of your body.

Be proud of who you are.

Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you are unique.  You are beautiful.  You are perfect.

And during your next race tell yourself that your legs are strong enough, fast enough, and powerful enough to bring you to that finish line.

Love your body – you only get one of them.

Deception is running in the dark…

Deception is running in the dark…

Most days I would feel anxious until my run was done for the day.  But today was different because I had so much to do!  I didn’t have an option to run in the morning because my shift at work started at 6:30 AM.  I worked 8 hours and I still had to go find a dress to wear to my brother’s graduation and an upcoming wedding I’m attending.  (Side note:  I ended up buying 3 dresses from Plato’s Closet for a total of $37.  One of these dresses was only $9!!  I forgot how much I loved that store).  I came home and had to check my online class for anything I might’ve missed.  Then I got sidetracked reading the Hunger Games, making myself a veggie stirfry for dinner, and having a long conversation with my family.  Before we realized it, it was already 8 o’clock and my dad and I still didn’t run.  But by 8:20 we were out on the trail.

Out on the trail, with our headlights and trying to race the inevitable darkness, I realized how different running without the sun’s natural light is.  I run the same trail nearly everyday and I can basically memorize every rock and stick on the trail.  I know exactly where the puddles usually set and I know where the random patches of stones intercept the dirt.  This is my home course – a trail that is 200 feet from my driveway and extends for nearly 3 miles one-way in either direction (it’s good for 10 mile runs!)

But this trail is deceptive in the dark.  The trail seems completely different when you can see only 20 feet in front of you instead of 200+ feet.  The tree branches block the light still glowing from the nighttime sky.  There’s more shadows.  The stones and rocks seem 10 times bigger at night than in the day.  Shining eyes can be seen reflecting from our headlights as nocturnal animals come out of hiding for the duration of the night and wander the woods.

But here we were running 4 miles before 9 PM.  It’s hard to focus on the end because you’re focusing so intently on the next step.  Maybe that’s why the run seemed longer than it was.  But then again it felt easy because I could only mentally picture how much further we had left to go.  I couldn’t physically see the finish line because all I could see was the darkness ahead and the bobbing of our headlights shining on the 4 feet ahead of us.  Ask anyone who has ever ran that trail for our hosted nighttime trail runs races.  Welcome to the darkness and the deception – focus only on your next step and run at your own risk of animals and obstacles.  And whatever you do….don’t fear the dark.

It WILL deceive you.