Rock n Roll USA Half Marathon 2014

My goals for the Rock n Roll USA half marathon this Saturday were the following ~

  • Break 1:28. 
  • Run the hills SMART, not hard.
  • TRUST myself.
  • BE BOLD.

I was pretty nervous about the time goal for a few reasons.  A 6:40-6:45 average pace over 13.1 miles intimidated me – that’s not much slower than my tempo pace and the most consecutive tempo miles I’ve done in a training run this cycle has been 6.  Also, I was not planning to taper for this race at all (I ran 81 miles last week, including the race, and was in the high 70s the week before), so I knew I wouldn’t be heading into it with “fresh” legs.  I didn’t really want to set a “limit” on what I was capable of, yet I also wanted to have something to reach for.

With all that said though, I was still going to GO for it and give it the best I had in me, because the other goals I had for the race were ultimately a ton more important to me than the time on the clock.

Race morning came and my plan was to run the first mile or two easy, which I was thinking would be right around a 6:50ish pace.  By Mile 3 I wanted to be holding my goal race pace, locked in at 6:40-6:45 through Mile 10, with the understanding that Mile 7 would be slower because I was aware of the long monster hill in that mile and I wanted to maintain an even effort up it so I wasn’t winded at the top.  Then from Mile 11 on I would push myself and put it all out on the line, running as fast as I could to the finish.  I figured if I could execute the race like that I would be in pretty great shape to accomplish all of my goals.

Sometimes we surprise ourselves though.

As soon as the race started I knew things were going to go differently than I had planned.  I just had no idea how differently.  I was running with ease and strength and felt so present in the moment, so in my element, so in love with this sport and with the energy of race day.  I looked at my watch early on and saw that the pace was faster than I expected, but it didn’t shake me at all.  I was trusting myself, trusting my body.  This was where I was meant to be.

I took the hills in stride and maintained an even, constant effort up them as well as down them, including the huge one at the start of Mile 7 (last year that hill had me nearly throwing up when I reached the top, this year I dominated it – THAT was a good feeling!).

Around Mile 6 I felt my tummy cramp a little bit but this is not a feeling that is new to me.  I told myself it would pass and thankfully it did.  I was planning to eat the gel I brought with me right around Mile 6 or 7, but because of my tummy I decided it would be a bad idea and I really didn’t feel like I needed the extra energy anyway.  My tummy talked to me again at some point during miles 8 and 10, but both times the feeling went away and I was glad I didn’t stop for a false alarm.  I kept running strong.

Miles 1-10:
6:31, 6:30, 6:29, 6:14, 6:22, 6:25, 6:57 (hill), 6:23, 6:25, 6:20

When I came through Mile 10 it was time to be BOLD – time to pick up my pace and race the last 3.1 miles to the finish.  I knew I had it in me and I felt this amazing sense of energy – I was so ready to rock it.

Mile 11: 6:13

Mile 12 was more of the same.  There was one woman left in front of me that I could see.  I passed her with ease early on in Mile 12 and was running with a pack of guys at that point.  It was a really cool feeling.

I looked at my watch as I approached the 12 mile marker and saw that I was clocking a 6:08 pace and it felt amazing.  I was so excited and determined!  I only had a little more than a mile to go and I was going to race it all out.

I was being BOLD.

And then, all of a sudden, I felt my tummy talk to me again.  I told myself it would go away just like it had earlier on in the race…but I was wrong.  I was in trouble and came to a screeching halt on a neighborhood street of Capitol Hill and was all of a sudden walking, trying to calm my GI system down.  It wasn’t working.  I literally was looking around for places to pull over – checking out parked cars to see if maybe I could hide behind one (ridiculous thought), alleyway streets – looking for any place I could go to the bathroom.  There were no porta-potties and there wouldn’t be until the Finish which was still over a mile away.  I crossed the 12th mile in 6:30, so I really hadn’t lost much time at that point.

I quickly considered my options, nervously walking as fast as I could because any time I tried to run I was pretty sure I would go to the bathroom in my pants and THAT was most definitely NOT an option I would consider.  I hate writing this by the way.  It is hugely embarrassing but it’s really real so I am just telling it like it was — awful!  I decided my choices were as follows:

(1) Just walk, and hope my system would calm down.  Be happy with how I raced up until this point.  It was still a great race after all!

(2) Find a place to go to the bathroom – take care of it – and run hard!  Don’t let it stop me.

I really wasn’t okay with option 1, as long as I could find a place for option 2.  There were cops and spectators lining the streets because we were in a neighborhood and the turnoff split for half/full marathoners was coming up.  I saw an alleyway blocked by three cones.  I am sure what I did was completely horrible and illegal and disgusting … but I ran down the alley and ducked in by the side of a brick building and went to the bathroom.  And now I am telling the world about it!  Oh my gosh.  Go me.  Such a lady.  Ugh.

Anyway, I took care of it and ran back down the alley out onto the course and raced my heart out from there. I distinctly heard a man yell to me “YOU GO GIRL!” as I race passed people.  I laughed to myself as I thought “thanks, I just did, and I feel SO much better!”  I figured no sense in dwelling, let’s just move on and finish what I started.

Mile 13 was a 6:56 including my stop.  I over-ran the course by more than a quarter mile, thanks in large part to my detour, and my last .38 was at an average pace of 5:51.  I crossed the Finish with a time of 1:26:25.  According to my watch, with the extra mileage, my average pace was a 6:28.  This was 7 minutes faster than I ran this same race last year, and a PR in the half marathon distance by a little more than 3 minutes.

I found out later that I was 1st in my age group and the 11th overall female out of more than 10,000 women running the half that day.  All of this really did, and still does, astound me.

I was really happy with how I raced this, and with how I handled and overcame my issues towards the end … even if I am horribly embarrassed by what I had to do to deal with it.  I accomplished every one of my goals for this race, and surprised myself a lot.  GI issues are no fun and I have dealt with them a ton – not just in my running but in my daily life – and I am still working to improve on this.  Figuring out my food allergies and making changes to when and what I eat before running and especially racing has helped me a lot, but I obviously have not gotten it all figured out yet and that’s okay.  I will keep trying and I won’t give up.  I am certain now that I should avoid dairy completely the week before my races, and probably just avoid it altogether even though I’m not allergic to it.  It messes with me!

Boston is exactly 5 weeks from today and I’m feeling strong and hopeful about the journey ahead.  I am finding myself dreaming bigger and feeling bolder lately.

In my heart, I know that anything is possible.

Rehoboth Seashore Half Marathon

I think sometimes our best races are the ones we don’t get all psyched up for.  When all the pressure’s off and we give ourselves permission to truly, truly let go – and just trust in ourselves and in what the day will bring.

When I returned to running a little less than a week after the Richmond Marathon and my legs were feeling so good, I really didn’t want to think about tapering all over again or gearing myself up mentally or physically for another RACE.  I was signed up for the Rehoboth Seashore Half Marathon three weeks later though, and I had an opportunity to race again there.  I considered it, trust me – even thought about switching to the full marathon in Rehoboth because I felt I had trained for a faster 26.2 this cycle – and I wrote down (in my Believe I Am journal) all my reasons for wanting to race again and all my reasons for not wanting to …. it was a no-brainer when I looked at it that way.  I wanted to keep moving, to just run for the love of and joy of running.  I didn’t want to think at all about paces or pushing myself in a workout or consider strategies or have to run a ton less to properly taper.  Boston training starts up in early January and in my heart I knew if I spent the weeks between cycles thinking about racing, preparing for it, running it and recovering from it, I would burn out mentally and emotionally without a doubt.  And possibly – actually, most likely, if I really think about it – be disappointed with myself for one reason or another.

So in the weeks after Richmond I hopped in the pool and started swimming (something I have been wanting to do for a while).  I took spinning classes and fell in love with that all over again.  I ran with my friends, I ran on the trails, and didn’t even wear my watch much of the time.  The week before the Rehoboth half I ran 58 miles like that, and the week of the race (including the race) I came in at 52, including 7 miles the day before the race.  Needless to say, my legs were feeling strong but they were anything but “fresh” or “race ready.”  And you know what – I didn’t care at all!  Inside, I was happy.  I felt balanced.  I was SO excited to go to Rehoboth with my good friend Elizabeth who was traveling up here from Atlanta to visit me and have a girls running weekend together.  Elizabeth and I met at Hood to Coast when we ran with Nuun two summers ago.  We hadn’t seen one another since then, and I don’t even exactly know how to describe to you how awesome it was to have her here, to get to spend time together.  Some people just come into your life in an instant and they are meant to be there forever.  Elizabeth is one of those people for me.  She has this incredible goal of running a marathon or half marathon in every state, so this trip would check off Delaware for her and be her 20th state!  It was also her first race since having hip labrum surgery back in April.  We had a ton to celebrate.  Not being all pre-race-crazy was a good thing for both of us.  I wanted to be present to enjoy my time with my friend and let the race be a part of that — not the focus of that.

re-nuunited and it feels so good!

Elizabeth and I had so much fun walking around and exploring Rehoboth when we got there.  The town is adorable and was decorated festively for the holidays.  The shops (there are a ton, and many of them are just so cute and unique!) were open and our hotel could not have been more perfect, or more convenient – it was walking distance to anything and everything we wanted to see or do (including the packet pickup, the ocean, the start and the finish lines!)  We had a great dinner with Michele (who I was really excited to finally meet in person) before calling it a night, and the next morning the three of us walked together to the Start.

ready and all smiles!

As I stood at the Start with Michele I felt giddy.  Just excited to be there and so happy to feel so relaxed about the run.  I hadn’t thought through my pacing at all but I knew I wanted to feel comfortable and I also felt pretty confident that I could do that and still run a PR, which would be under a 1:33.

The race began and I found myself really relaxed, and was surprised when I looked at my watch and saw sub-7:00 pace.  At first I thought maybe I should slow down, that this pace might start to kick me in the butt later especially on the windy parts of the course which would come later.  Quickly though I decided I didn’t care so much about that, and reminded myself that I was going to trust my body and just run relaxed and enjoy myself.

I felt pretty steady at that pace for quite a while, and controlled my effort when the wind got bad or when I found myself in the park dodging mud puddles or sloshing right through them.  I stopped looking at my watch and just had fun with it.

Mile 1 – 6:45
Mile 2 – 6:49
Mile 3 – 6:56
Mile 4 – 6:42
Mile 5 – 6:41
Mile 6 – 6:47
Mile 7 – 6:59
Mile 8 – 6:51
Mile 9 – 6:48

gotta love the gel-eating race pictures!

At the end of Mile 9, the half marathoners turned back and the marathoners continued on.  It was at this point, as I was making the u-turn, that the girl in front of me called to me with a big smile – I remember her saying something like “Come on!  Let’s do this!” and telling me that she knew me from my blog and that she totally believed we could run a 1:31 or 1:32!  I told her I was sure she was right and admitted that I wasn’t really planning to race hard today, but her energy and excitement totally kicked me into a new gear and just made me want to run faster.  This is the way to race — with another awesome woman who loves running as much as you do!!  I think this is what they must have meant when they coined the term “perfect stranger” – we were instant friends and on a mission together for the next few miles.  It was SO much fun!  I felt our pace picking up and told her I couldn’t chat anymore until after the race (because I needed to breathe!) and she totally agreed.  We ran single file on the trail from there on out and it just felt awesome.  I am pretty sure I was smiling the whole way.

Mile 10- 6:35
Mile 11 – 6:42
Mile 12 – 6:37
Mile 13 – 6:31
Last .2 (watch was long) – 6:23 average

I crossed the line seconds before she did and as soon as she came across I greeted her with a huge hug!!  It was so cool!!  My time was 1:29:31, a 6:50 average and it was the first time I ran a half marathon under 1:30 (not to forget the fact that this was a PR for me by 4 minutes!).  We stood at the finish and chatted for a while – and as luck would have it Anabelle (that’s her name, I found once we could actually speak!) doesn’t live far from me at all!  This winter we will both be training for Boston (it will be her first – and she qualified with her first and only marathon ever – aaaamazing in my opinion).  We were the 6th and 7th overall female finishers and we took 1st and 2nd places in our age group!  She had to hit the road to get back to her family but we are going to make plans to run together this winter – I am beaming just thinking about how fun this aspect of the weekend was, making a new friend out on the course like that.  So cool.  So much of what I love about this awesome sport is summed up by my experience meeting and running with Anabelle.  I wish we had gotten a picture taken of us, but neither of us had our phones or cameras with us. 

me with my award! 

And the celebrations continued from there.  Elizabeth crushed her goal of 2 hours and finished strong in a 1:52!  I was so proud of her, and so excited that she felt as good as she did for her first race after surgery!  We had tons of fun at the Finish Line tent – I got my award, we had an awesome beer (Dogfish Head brewery!) and met more amazing runners!  That night Elizabeth and I had a great time watching football, drinking beer and just hanging out!

I’m really so thankful for the weekend that we had together.   It was the **perfect** end to a fantastic season of training and racing and I would not have wanted it to be any other way.  I learned a lot about myself and was reminded about what I love most about the sport and the community of running.  The HEART that is in it, the people it connects me to and the strength and joy it brings out from within me … that’s what matters the most!!

Richmond Marathon 2013

It’s been over a week since I ran the Richmond Marathon.  I have been thinking about it every day – remembering the details, trying to learn from the experience and embrace all that I loved about it and all that I struggled through.  In some ways, I have found myself wishing I could go back and do it all over again.  Not necessarily out of regret or wanting to change the result, because I am so happy with my time and how awesome the whole experience was and because I really did learn so much, but because I feel like it just flew by so quickly and some of it is a blur to me now.  Those few hours that I worked for months and months to arrive at, went by in a blink.  I want to savor all of it.  I don’t feel that way about every marathon that I’ve run.  Some of them I have literally begged and prayed to finish and then swore I was DONE with marathons altogether afterwards, and I never wanted to think about running 26.2 miles again.  Not this one.  This one was nothing like that.  This one left me feeling more excited, more grateful, more passionate about running and especially about running marathons.  This one left me understanding more about myself as a person and as a runner.

halfway through and happy – doing what i love!

We talk about this kind of thing a lot as runners – one of the reasons many of us love distance running so much is because it is so symbolic of life.  You get out what you put in.  When everything sucks and you feel like you’re falling apart, the best thing to do is to keep moving forward.  All you need is within you.  Trust in the process … trust that you are exactly where you’re meant to be and that the struggles and how you overcome them (and you WILL have struggles and you WILL overcome them) are there for a reason and will help you grow.  It’s about the journey, not the destination.  Be in the moment, that’s where it’s at and that’s all that matters!  Don’t worry about what lies ahead or how far you have to go.  Just BE.  Here.  Now.

It all might sound cliche, but I don’t even care.  It’s all true.  And that kind of stuff is the reason I know I will run for all of my life.  Not for times on the clock, but for what it does for my spirit.  How it fuels my fire and reminds me of who I am and that I am ALIVE.

Every marathon, in my opinion, is practice at trust.  Practice at not quitting, hanging on and hanging in.  Practice at moving on when you hit the lowest of lows.  At riding it all out – the good the bad, the amazing, the agonizing.  And every marathon is also an opportunity – a chance to learn things about yourself, a chance let yourself shine, a chance to dig deep inside and pull out some courage and fight when the going gets tough.  A chance to take some risks.

I think the biggest lesson I have to face from Richmond is this – I am still a scaredy-cat when it comes to putting myself completely out on the line.  Don’t get me wrong – I have done a ton of work on this and I have grown by putting myself in tough places and pushing through them, but when it comes to racing the marathon I am bit of a chicken later in the race.  I keep myself as comfortable as possible for as long as I can and then when things start to get hard, I just make it my mission to stay comfortable, which oftentimes means pulling back and resisting the chances for disaster.  This might sound smart to you, and for the first 2/3 of the race I think it really is the way to go, but what I’m realizing from Richmond is that I am going to need to take a risk later in the race if I want to achieve my full potential.  I’m going to need to make myself really uncomfortable during those last 6 miles of the marathon, and let things happen and maybe even let my wheels fall off as a result…and be OK with that because I will KNOW I gave it my all.

I almost went there for Richmond, but I made a decision not to because I was pretty happy, really content is the right word, with how I was doing and the time I was running.  I knew I was going to run a personal best time and didn’t want to risk failing at that.  I weighed my options and decided to be careful.

For the first half of the race, I was steady and in control and everything felt light and easy – just as it should!  I was drenched from the rain, but I had a huge smile on my face as it poured down on me.  Everything felt good and I was happy and strong and in control.

Miles 1-13: 7:21, 7:14, 7:18, 7:12, 7:09, 7:15, 6:53, 7:13, 6:58, 7:15, 7:24, 7:09, 7:26

I came through the halfway point in almost exactly 1:35.  And I felt like I was ready to crank things up a bit.  I had a LOT of energy in my tank there.  This was awesome because I felt confident I could negative-split the course and come in under 3:10.  I hadn’t been checking my watch at each mile up to that point, I was listening to my body and trusted that I was running a smart race because everything felt so smooth.  I saw Maddie (most amazing friend ever!!!!) at that point and gave her my hand-held water bottle.  I would grab cups at water stops from here on out.

I ran the next couple of miles faster and felt strong, and then had some hills to tackle for a few miles which I was both mentally and physically prepared for.  I didn’t let them get to me, didn’t worry about my pace slowing because I was maintaining a steady effort.  It wasn’t time to feel like crap yet, I told myself.

I saw Maddie again just before around 18.5/19 and told her I was feeling good and that I was happy because I was pretty sure the hills were over.  She gently told me I was wrong (she ran this race last year), that there was a pretty big hill coming up.  She was right.  I told myself to stay comfortable for longer.

Miles 14-20: 7:01, 6:58, 7:19, 7:26, 7:28, 7:18, 7:43

mile 18.5-ish

When I came into Mile 21, I started to feel discomfort in my tummy.  This is when I wanted to RACE, when I intended to put it all out on the line.  But …. I also didn’t want to.  I had a reasonable excuse not to now – another reason to stay conservative.  I had noticed my tummy feeling crampy earlier in the race a few times but it subsided.  I told myself if I stayed at a comfortable pace that maybe it would subside again, but I had a pretty strong feeling I would need to make a porta-potty stop at some point.  My efforts to ignore it stopped working, and by the time I was in Mile 23 I realized I had no real choice but to stop and take care of it.  I was determined not to let it ruin my experience or derail me – I started telling myself it was still okay that I wasn’t racing yet.  I jumped right back in and tried to get my pace back down.  I found myself hanging in a pack of guys which turned out to be the 3:15 pace group.  I stayed with them for a mile and then tried to pull ahead a little bit.

For the last two miles, I made it my mission to ENJOY the finish of my fastest ever marathon.  I knew the race wasn’t over yet, that I still had two miles more to run, but I had no doubt I would do it and that I would keep running, even if I wasn’t “racing” in the way I wanted to at that point.

I saw Maddie again just before the finish and she said to me something like “How awesome is this!??!”  Seeing her really help me move beyond any lingering negative thoughts and feelings about those last several miles, because there was SO MUCH to be SO HAPPY about.  I was running my fastest ever marathon!

Miles 21-26.2: 7:29, 7:44, 8:20, 7:20, 8:06, 7:54, 6:57

almost done!

When I crossed the finish, the first person I saw was Bart Yasso.  I had met him at the expo the night before – which was a very cool experience!  He gave me a hug and then pointed at me and said “BE HAPPY!”  And I was.  So happy.

My official finish time was 3:14:10.  A 7:22 average pace.  This is a seven and a half minute PR for me, and over 11 minutes faster than I ran my fall marathon last year.  I’m pretty ecstatic about that.  There’s a lot to be happy about.

For the first hour after the race, all I wanted to do was be dry and not on my feet.  Maddie and I sat together and talked for a while – I can’t even tell you how much it meant to me that she was there.

so grateful for her

The rest of the weekend was really nice.  My sister Jodi and a bunch of our buddies and I all went out for yummy Mexican and beer that afternoon.  Jodi and I stayed in Richmond Saturday night together and had a mellow and fun evening hanging out with Bart Yasso which was, um, really really neat.

so fun!

I got on the foam roller that night and my legs felt great.  This past week I did not feel as though I was recovering from a marathon at all, though I am no dummy and knew that even though I wasn’t feeling that way, I needed to honor my usual post-marathon recovery routine.  I went swimming this week (!), worked on my core, and went for a run on Friday with Maddie and yesterday solo.  My legs feel great and I’m excited to spend the next 6-8 weeks not training for something, just enjoying running because I love it, sleeping in some (if my kids will let me!) and recharging so I will feel renewed and excited about training in the winter for Boston!

As Thanksgiving approaches I am feeling so overwhelmed with gratitude.  Gratitude for this sport I love so much, and for the people it has brought into my life.  Gratitude for my family and and for my friends and for all of their support and love and encouragement, always.

so much more than a race

I laced up my racing shoes on Sunday morning for the Potomac River Running Birthday Bash 5k.

When I got up that morning I had butterflies in my tummy.  I am always jittery and jumpy and extra energetic on race day morning.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a local 5k or the Boston Marathon – I am full of joy and excitement.  ELATION.  I find it hard to harness my emotions in.

Sunday morning was no different from that perspective.  But this race was special to me in so many ways right from the start.  It was being held in honor of the tenth birthday of my favorite running store, a store that is just SO MUCH MORE than a store to me.  Potomac River Running is a family and community of people who provide tons of support and inspiration to so many people in our area.  I am beyond thankful for the friendships I have made through it, and for how these people have not only helped me to become a better runner but have also inspired and encouraged me to follow my dreams and be the best ME that I can be.  I mean that with all of my heart.

This race was also really special to me because my husband Robert was running the race, too. And my mom took all three kids for a sleepover the night before, so it was just the two of us heading to the race.  I have been running since Robert and I started dating almost 14 years ago, but it is only in the last several months that he has begun to find his own love for the sport.  It is really, really cool to share this with him.  Something totally new and unexpected.  Something that has been really good for us, as individuals and as a couple.

When we arrived at the race I went for a warm-up run along the course.  I ran the whole thing from start to finish at an easy pace with a few strides in the last quarter mile to get my legs moving quicker.  The course was hilly all throughout – lots of ups and downs the entire way.  I knew it would be tough – it was HUMID outside and I was drenched in sweat from the warm up.  I also noticed that my watch said I ran 3.2 miles for the warm up and I thought that was weird – maybe the course was long or I ran a little extra?  I didn’t pay much mind to it though – I felt good and I was ready to race and see what I had in me.  I saw my sister and Maddie as I waited in the start line and this made me SO happy.  I am just so blessed with amazing people in my life.

me and maddie just before the start!

When the race started I really had zero idea how fast I could run it.  I wanted to beat my PR of 19:59, and believed in my heart that I could run something around a 19:30 if all went well.  That would be a 6:15 average pace.  Since I hadn’t done any speed work or tempo runs in several months, this was all kind of speculation though and I knew that.  So I started running and made sure it didn’t feel too hard for the first mile.  There was a pretty nice decline early in that mile and my watch clicked in with a 6:05 when I completed it.  There was a really strong woman in front of me – she passed me on the down hill during the first mile and as she approached me I was amazed by her strength and the ease with which she ran.  It was almost like she was gliding.  I had no urge to try to catch her though – I told myself you are competing against yourself here Jess, not anyone else.  Just give it your best.  I wanted to maintain my focus and be really in tune with how I was feeling.

I felt steady at the end of the first mile and decided to just maintain my effort.  Mile two had some up hills in it and I tried not to push too hard up them so that I could save my energy for a good kick at the finish.  Even effort on the ups, don’t worry about the pace, you’ll make it up on the downs.  I ran Mile 2 in 6:18.

And this is when I started to feel the PAIN of the 5k.

The third mile was really tough.  More hills.  Hot sun.  Humidity.  I felt like I could lose my breakfast on one of the up hills.

Hello, pain.  Hello, misery.
Hello negative thoughts of this sucking and I WANT TO QUIT. 
I was wondering when you would show up.

I wanted it to be over, but I also really wanted to hang on so badly.  At this point I remembered a quote I had recently read from Robert Frost.  I have not been able to stop thinking about this quote for a couple of weeks now.

The best way out is always through.

I repeated it over and over to myself during that third mile.  I cannot hide from the pain or the hurt.  Or from the work.  And in fact, if I am being real with myself, I don’t even want to!  Stepping up and getting THROUGH it makes you grow, makes you stronger, makes you feel more alive and capable than quitting or taking the “easy” way out.  It carves you deeper and makes more room for joy and authenticity.  I cannot deny that it is difficult to face hard things, whether it’s the pain of mile three of a 5k or the pain of changes in your life that you have no control over and just want to hide from, or the pain of tragedy or betrayal or disappointment.  Trying to go around it or just table having to deal with it isn’t going to really accomplish anything GOOD.  But I can push on through and know that I will get to the other side of it, TRUST that this is where the magic happens, and BELIEVE that I will be stronger for it – on every level.

I actually turned it into a little poem for myself (not sure what Mr. Frost would think of this, but oh well) —

The best way out is always through.
This is what I am made to do.

I told myself to just push through it. To keep going.  To hang on.  Don’t give up.  This is what I believe in.  Hanging on, pushing through.  I know that I am strong enough to go through it.

Mile 3 – 6:26.

When I passed the third mile marker I was SO ready to gun it with everything I had left in me.  I was fighting so hard.  Crossing the Finish line was awesome – my sister and so many of my friends were all there cheering me in and I was so ready to be done!  I really laid it all out on the line there.

pain face at the finish line

I thought for sure I had a PR in the bag, even with the slower last mile.  But in fact the course was a little long – my watch clocked it in at 3.2 miles again!  The last .2 I held onto a 5:41 pace though, and was definitely feeling strong.  I averaged a 6:14 pace for the entire run – I thought this was extra cool because my bib number was 614!!!  I was so happy about it – I ran one second faster than my goal pace!  It wasn’t an official PR (missed it by ONE SECOND!) because the course was long, but I honestly don’t care.  I was really happy with how I did.  And what was even sweeter – I was the 2nd overall female!  This just literally amazed me!  My sister was waiting for me as soon as I crossed and gave me a water bottle and a huge sister hug.  There really isn’t a better way to finish a race if you ask me!

#sistersonamission

After I was done I joined Jodi and Maddie in cheering in all the runners, including Robert who looked INCREDIBLY strong as he crossed the finish line!  He ran a 3 MINUTE PR!!!!!!  It was so much fun to celebrate together.  I am so proud of him for all the hard work and dedication he has put into his running over these last several months.  Really, into his HEALTH.  Seeing someone you love make their own health and happiness a priority is a really good feeling.  It makes my heart swell up with gratitude.

happy and proud and grateful!

We hung out at the race for a while afterwards – it was a huge party!  Cupcakes, a super fun photo booth with silly props to use, an ice cream truck and Saucony even had a dunk tank!  There were even more fun things happening that I don’t think I even got around to participating in.  I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been to a more fun race than this one!  Here’s hoping that =PR= will make it an annual event!

For me this race was about so much more than running.  I guess in general that’s because RUNNING is about so much more than running for me.  It is a huge part of my life.  A huge part of who I am, and who I want to be.  Life and running are so connected to one another for me, so intertwined.

I am beyond thankful to have discovered my love for this sport.  The lessons that running has taught me, and the people it has brought into my life, and the way it has shown me how much my loved ones really truly love me by supporting me and encouraging me so much, and how it has taught me how amazing it feels to give that same love and support and encouragement right back to them …  it has all truly helped to shape me from the inside out.  Words don’t work here…

My. Heart. Is. Full.

Happy Birthday, Potomac River Running!!!

50 miles

It’s been 12 days since I ran 50 miles.  I’ve been reflecting on the experience for all this time, with a huge smile on my face and just a big giant heart full of happy, as I think back through the day and the journey and the whole entire beautiful, amazing experience.

To put it simply, it was INCREDIBLE.

All that I imagined and hoped it would be … and honestly SO much more.

I’ve wanted to sit down and write all about it, to tell the whole story with loads of details – all about the strategy and the logistics and what went on inside my mind and heart over those 12+ hours, but wow has it been tough to find – or really let’s face it make – the time for that.  We’ve had a lot going on around here over the last 12 days – the biggest events being that my son graduated kindergarten and my daughter turned 8 years old.  Lately I’ve been struggling with writing about everything.  It’s not for lack of things I want to chronicle or reflect on or share, but rather more about getting into a new routine with my kids getting out of school and having so many priorities to balance.  I’m figuring it out though.  We all are, and a rhythm is starting to form and feel good around here.  Hooray for that!

So, about those 50 miles.

Running my first ultra trail race (and I say first because I hope and believe that there are many more to come in my future) was about soaking up the experience and taking it all in.  Celebrating this incredible sport that I love SO VERY MUCH.  Feeling gratitude for how blessed I am to have such amazing people in my life – many of whom would not be in my life it weren’t for our shared love of running.  Trusting in and feeling thankful for my able body, my strong mind and my faithful heart and believing they could carry me across rocks and tree roots, up and down steep hills and over streams, through tall grasses and forests, across blazingly hot sunny fields … for hours and hours and hours … without failing me.

I did not care how fast I moved or how long it took me to get to the finish line.  I truly did not care about that one tiny ounce.  It was going to be an adventure and a journey and just such an awesome, beautiful day.

I had a few goals for this race, and they were the following:

  • Stick to the strategy.  At all costs.  No excuses.
  • HAVE FUN!!!
  • Expect low points and negative thoughts to come at me full force during certain parts of the race, and especially during the second half of it.  Acknowledge them and accept them but MOVE ON from them.
  • Check in with my body regularly and make sure any pain I am feeling is not an injury.  I would be fine with a DNF if it meant protecting my body from injury – big picture big picture BIG PICTURE.

We started running at 5:00AM, which meant that I set my alarm for 3:00 in the morning because Chris and Jodi were picking me up at 3:45.  This was insanely early, but totally necessary because the race was about a half hour away.  I had everything laid out the night before – my race bib was pinned to my shirt, my pack was loaded with water, snacks and necessities.  We dropped off our extra bags at packet pickup the day before.  I was all set and as ready as I could be.

ready to go!

There were a few key strategies that we were committed to sticking to, just as we had practiced on our training runs:

  • Eat every 30 minutes, whether we are hungry for it or not, starting right from the beginning of the race (I wasn’t counting calories, but typically I would eat 2-3 shot blocks, a gel, a half a bar or maybe a handful of pretzels or potato chips when it was chow time.  My buddy Chris who is a lot bigger than me would eat double what I ate most times.)
  • Take one salt tablet (we used Lava Salts) every hour, right from the first hour of the race.
  • Drink to thirst (I had water in my pack) the whole duration of the journey, and make sure to drink every time we eat even if we weren’t feeling thirsty.
  • Walk up ALL the hills, no matter how much we might feel like running up them.
  • If we think we are running slow – especially in the first half of the race – then we need to slow down even more.

It was a great plan and an excellent strategy.  But as we all know, things don’t always go just how you hope they will … sometimes unexpected obstacles barrel at you or sneak up on you and cause you to take stock and change your tune, and sometimes things go even better than you imagined they would or could and you are soaring higher than you ever thought possible.

In the case of our 50 mile race, I would say we experienced both.

Before the race even started, Chris wasn’t feeling right.  He had an air bubble in his chest or something and was burping.  A LOT.  Under practically any other circumstance I probably would have been really grossed out or annoyed by this, but in this case I wasn’t at all.  I imagined what it would feel like to be in his position, with air trapped in my chest while trying to run farther and for longer than I ever had before in all my life.  We were both hoping it would work its way out quickly so he could move on from it, focus on the task at hand and enjoy the race.  Neither one of us was really sure what to do about it, so we just stuck to our plan and hoped for the best.

smiling early on

Things started off really well.  I felt mentally really happy and excited.  I had to reign in my emotions a bunch during those first 10-15 miles because I would speed up with all the bursting joy that was overtaking my spirit.  I was just all smiles and so chatty with the other runners.  This may have been the reason that I fell (not once, but twice) during the 7th mile (thankfully nothing major, just good ‘ole klutzy Jess falls for no apparent reason).   By Mile 10 I noticed that it was getting really humid and hot and when I flexed my hands my knuckles turned white – I could tell my fingers were getting a little puffy and that the heat was on the rise.  It was going to be a high of 90 degrees and sunny.  Chris was feeling this too.

chris in the early miles as the sun was rising

The first 15 miles took us from Algonkian Park in Sterling to Great Falls Park – mostly through the woods and across some sunny fields.  I didn’t love running through the tall grasses – they made my skin super itchy.  I adored the forest, though – crossing over streams along rickety wooden bridges, climbing hills and soaking in the beauty of these amazing trails was lots of fun.  When we got to Great Falls Park the loops began.  We would run the same loop three times and then head back to Algonkian Park for the last 15 miles of the race.  The loop was a little more than 6 miles long and going into the first one I was really worried that it would get OLD.  I thought I would detest having to do the same loop three times and that it would make me cranky and antsy.  I could not have been more wrong about this!!

loop love

I found that I really LOVED the loops in Great Falls for the following reasons:

(1) The route was insanely beautiful – thanks to breathtaking views of the Potomac River, and serene, magical wooded areas.

(2) I came to savor the predictability, especially the aid station (oasis!) about halfway through.

(3) We got to see our buddies – my sister Jodi and our dear friends Terri and Michel – as well as the newly familiar faces of other runners we met that day – along the course lots of times because of the way it was designed.

(4) Our AMAZING INCREDIBLE BEAUTIFUL AWESOME OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD friends were waiting for us with ice and cold wet sponges (!!!!) and refreshing drinks and hugs and high fives and love and support every single time we came through there.  I really cannot express how much this meant to us.  Knowing they were there just lifted my heart a gazillion times over and made me feel so blessed and lucky.  I was sad when it was time to head back to Algonkian for the last 15 miles of the race because it meant we wouldn’t see them again for a while!

As the miles and the hours ticked by, it became more and more apparent that my buddy Chris was not feeling very well at all.  He never stopped burping the whole way.  His stomach was somersaulting and he had a hard time eating for a good while.  His hands were so swollen and puffy (as were mine).  A few times, he was so convinced that he had rocks in his shoes that we would stop and take off his socks and his shoes and dump them upside down and shake them around only to discover there were no rocks to be found at all (we later realized that what he was feeling was the process of the formation of MASSIVE blisters).  His shoes were literally falling apart and – I am not kidding – he put on a second, practically brand new pair about halfway through after one of the Great Falls loops and then again before the final 15 miles he had to actually put duct tape around one of his new shoes because it was so busted!

I knew all along that my friend was having a TOUGH time and that he was being faced with a totally different kind of day than I was.  Several times, he told me it was okay for me to just go on and leave him behind, but I wasn’t going to consider that.  Though I believed in my heart that he would be fine, I also knew that if our situations were reversed he would stay with me without hesitation.  That’s just what friends do for one another on a day like this.  Plus, part of the experience was sharing it with him and I wanted to see it through together.  I was holding up with lots of physical, mental and emotional strength and energy, and I knew that we would make it all 50 miles and have smiles on our faces and in our hearts when we completed our adventure.  Neither of us planned to have pacers for the last stretch the way our friends did, so I kind of saw it as we had one another’s backs come hell or high water.  We were going to stick together.

seeing it through

Not once did I hit a low spot emotionally, mentally or physically – not for a minute across all 50 miles – which literally amazed me.  My muscles and joints felt great, I’m sure because of the softer surfaces and all the walking we did.  And my feet were fine, too – I didn’t feel the need to change my socks or my shoes at all.  I had no chafing anywhere which in that heat was kind of astonishing to me.  I lubed up with BodyGlide really well before the race but never reapplied it, though at the second stop at the aid station within the Great Falls loop I had a volunteer put Vaseline on my back where my pack straps rubbed just in case.  That did the trick in preventing any hot spots.

My energy level was up up UP, and this may or may not have had something to do with the fact that I realized I seriously LOVE cold Mountain Dew when I’m running in the heat all day.  It was incredibly refreshing and rejuvenating.  For someone who never ever drinks soda, this was a huge surprise!

doin’ the Dew!

Chris and I basically walked the last 15 miles of the race from Great Falls to the finish line in Algonkian.  My sister Jodi passed us along this last stretch and we could not have been more overjoyed to see how strong she was powering through.  She had ACL surgery a year earlier and now she was completing a 50 mile race!!  Who does that?  My sister, that’s who.  Our amazing friend Terri also forged ahead, looking so strong and so so happy.  Chris and I were both lifted up by seeing them and by knowing that they were both in good places that day.  The Honey Badger love is fierce, you guys!!!  So freaking fierce.  We are all so lucky to have each other.

The last 15 miles were some of my favorite miles ever in all my life.  The conditions were NOT so ideal, but that didn’t matter at all for some reason – at this point we knew we were completing this journey in one piece and we were going to make the best of whatever came our way.  It was disgustingly hot out.  The water in my pack was not just warm, it was HOT and stale and gross.  My hands were so swollen that they truly looked like they belonged to someone who weighs 100 pounds more than I do!  It was freaky.  The aid stations were muddy and picked over, no longer the oases they had been hours earlier.  There were people all along the course who looked like the living dead – doing all they could to just survive – getting taken back by medical personnel, limping and covered in mud and cuts, throwing up and hunched over.  There were a million reasons to be miserable but we weren’t.  WE WERE RUNNING 50 MILES!  We were doing it!  And we were almost done!!  There was so much to be happy and grateful and totally psyched about.

So we soaked that up and carried on.

Over those last several miles, Chris and I met some really cool people who walked along with us and told us awesome and inspiring stories about their adventures in ultra trail racing and in life. We laughed as we shared our own stories too.  We talked about how amazing it would feel when we were done – and were dreaming about jumping right into a cold pool.  We actually texted our spouses at this point and asked them to bring our bathing suits so we could go with our families straight to the pool from the race.  For the first time in my life I was yearning for an ice bath!

About a mile before the finish we thought we would try to run again, but pretty much as soon as we did that Chris felt what he described as an explosion in his foot – a massive blister had popped!  So we walked a little more and then ran once we actually saw the finish line.  Our families were there cheering for us and it was so so so COOL to see them.  Crossing that finish line was amazing.

approaching the finish!

My sister Jodi was the first person I saw as I crossed the finish line and she was so excited to see us – I will never forget her sheer joy upon hugging me!!  It was so much more than awesome.

SISTER I LOVE YOU

It is really hard for me to describe the truly overwhelming feeling I had upon reuniting with family and friends after an experience like that.  It completed the day in the most perfect and wonderful and essential way.  The fact is – there is no way that I would have even made it to the start line without their love and support.  And all along the way, with every step that I took, I know that my heart was fueled by the love that I have for them and that they have for me.  I am just so thankful.  Beyond words.  So very thankful.

We hung out at the finish line for a while – everyone surveying their bodies (there were some pretty nasty blisters on both Jodi’s and Chris’s feet!) and telling stories about our adventures and how amazing the day was.  I drank an ice cold beer and it was easily the best beer I have ever had in all my life!

the honey badgers ran 50 freaking miles!!!!

After we left, we went straight to the pool.  I was grimy and gross but I totally didn’t care.  The water felt good, but surprisingly not as awesome as I thought it would — I think the tiredness and fatigue were setting in and I was just so ready to crash.  I didn’t sleep well that night, tossing and turning a whole bunch.  It took a few days for me to feel like the swelling in my hands and feet totally dissipated, but overall I was really amazed by the recovery process from 50 miles of trails.  My muscles were hardly sore, my joints not sore at all.  I had one blister on my foot but it never popped and just absorbed back into my skin within a day or two.  Even all of my toenails were intact and not bruised at all.  I have felt worse than this after a hard training run – it really was incredible!

Even still, I spent the following week taking it pretty easy.  I went for walks and did light weight training, mostly my upper body and abs.  By Sunday, just over a week after the race, I went for a nice 12 mile run at a pace that felt really easy to me – right around an 8 minute mile.

first run after 50

This week has been all about running for the pure and simple joy of running.  I haven’t been pushing my pace and will tally about 50 miles when the week is over, but I’ve been getting back into a routine of running in the early mornings with my friends.  I’m not planning to begin training for another race (Richmond Marathon!!) for another month or so, but I will be running and smiling a whole lot between now and then.

One of the biggest things that I came out of the 50 miler with is knowing that running is so truly and completely a part of WHO I AM.  I love it so much.  As cheesy or as strange as that may sound to anybody, it is just the simplest and truest kind of truth.  Running is a blessing and a gift and I am my happiest, most whole self when moving my body outdoors is a regular part of my life.  It doesn’t matter to me how fast I run or how far I go.

I am a runner and I am a runner for LIFE.  It is who I am.

And this fact, and the fact that I know this about myself, makes me extremely happy.

me and my beautiful trail

Boston.

I want to begin this post by telling you – by just putting it out there up front – that I sit here with a pretty huge lump in my throat that just will not go away.  It has kind been there all week.

I am sad.

I don’t want to be feeling this way.
 
Emotions are all over the place in my heart right now.  I am trying to work through them.  I am trying to let go of the negative feelings – the fear, the grief, the sadness, the confusion, the worry.

To accept them, but move through them and to send them on their way.

I am trying to clear the ground and make room for all the goodness and love and positivity that I know there is truly so much of.

Because there really really is SO MUCH goodness and love.
Inside my heart.
Inside the hearts of others.

It is everywhere.

And I know I need to focus on that.  We all do.  I know it will carry us through the confusion and the pain.

It always does.

Ever since I walked on the plane bound for Boston on Saturday, I have had this intensely keen awareness of the importance of each and every moment I am stepping into.

I haven’t understood the meaning behind it all very much yet, but I have been FEELING it all.

I remember thinking on Saturday, how incredibly blessed I was to be going to Boston to run this race.  I felt like I was walking right into a dream.  Floating.  I was so aware of the fact that this experience would be like nothing I had ever done before or would ever do again.  And that was such a blessing.

Some of life’s amazing moments happen to us and we don’t really know how awesome they truly are, or how important they are to us, until after they occur.  But with something like this, I was so aware of it as it was happening and I was so focused on being present for it all.  On having an open heart and a free spirit to really soak it all in.  I didn’t want to let any of it be lost on me.

It might sound silly to someone who isn’t a runner, but for me running the Boston Marathon for the first time was up there with other major life events that you look forward to and dream about – you want to savor all the little details and be so present for them, so open to the amazingness of it all.  That was what I wanted more than anything for my Boston experience – to be aware and grateful and open to the whole entire thing.

And it was amazing.  In so many beautiful ways.  And I don’t want to forget that.

My mom came with me and this in and of itself was really special.  I can honestly tell you that I do not know the last time my mother and I had one-on-one time together for more than a few minutes.  I’m sure it had been years.  I love my mom.  My love for her is big and powerful and everlasting and the connection and trust I feel with her is cooler than cool.

I am so thankful she was with me.

on our way!

My mom is and has always been my biggest cheerleader.  Not just in sports, but in life.  She reminds me to hold my head up high.  To believe in myself and in others.  To trust that things always happen for a reason, even when we don’t understand it at the time.  She has shown me that there are no coincidences in life.  Ever.  She has taught me to trust in the path I am on, to follow my heart and to never ever ever give up on goodness and love.  Even at the darkest of times.

My mom was coming with me to Boston and she was so very proud.  I could feel her joy and excitement and gratitude.  It meant the world to me.

My trip to Boston was a very emotional one for me for many reasons.  Almost 11 years ago my parents were divorced after being married for 35 years.  It was painful and shocking for all of us, and it has taken years for us to heal.  In many ways we are all still healing.  My parents had not seen one another or even spoken in over 10 years.  My father lives in Maine and he wanted to come to Boston to be there for me on this very special day, for which I was incredibly grateful.  The timing of my parents’ split made it much more painful for me because it was one month before my wedding day.  My father was not at my wedding.  He did not walk me down the aisle.  Since then, we have mended and healed and I have a relationship with my father that I am very grateful for.  I love him very much and it was so meaningful to me – and to him – that he was able to be on Boyslton Street on Monday to cheer me on and support me.  My mother was also thankful that my dad was coming to support me.  Going into the weekend though, I was worried about both of them being there.  They weren’t worried, they each assured me many times over – I was.  I was afraid someone would feel hurt or so sad and that old wounds would be opened again and I wouldn’t know how to help them.  I wanted to focus on my race, on my day, but I was scared about this.  I was going to try to split my time between them and avoid them having to face one another and me being in the middle.  I tried not to think about it too much, tried to relax about it and trust that things would happen how they were meant to and that it would be ok.

Logistics were going to be rather interesting.  A few months ago, I booked a hotel room in Cambridge for myself.  My mom was going to stay at a dear friend’s house outside the city.  My dad would get his own hotel room.  My husband and kids were going to stay home – it was too much to bring them and it was difficult for us to find someone who could stay with them for so many days.  This plan was fine, but left me feeling a little lonely and I wishing it could be different.

Then, about 6 weeks before the race, I got a message from a runner from the Seattle area – Meghan – who runs for Oiselle and is also an ambassador for Nuun like I am.  She was looking for a roommate to share an apartment she rented just blocks from the finish line and wanted to know if I would be interested in staying with her.  I had never read Meghan’s blog.  We didn’t know one another at all.  But something just told me this would be the perfect thing.  My heart told me – DO IT.  I couldn’t get out of my hotel room but my dad needed one so I gave him my room for Sunday and Monday nights.  It worked out perfectly.

On Saturday night I had a lovely dinner with my mom and we stayed in the Cambridge hotel room together.  When we arrived I discovered a beautiful bouquet of flowers waiting for me in my room.

They were from my amazing lululemon family!  I was so touched by this, and felt so much love and gratitude.  It was coming at me from all directions of my life.

I opened my suitcase and found this note from my husband…

I read it so many times over and over and will keep it forever.  I am so thankful.  So very, very thankful.

On Sunday morning we left Cambridge and went to the apartment to meet Meghan in Boston.

From the second I met her, I felt like we were old friends.  This has happened to me before in life – especially with people I have met through running.  I guess when you share a passion for something, there is just so much unspoken understanding.  You’re on the same wave length.  You just “get” one another.  The cool thing with this too was that it was the first time either of us were running Boston.  We had both worked so hard to get there and were trained to run very similar times which made it even more awesome.  We would soak this all in together, both of us walking (well, running!) into it with open and grateful and TOTALLY EXCITED hearts.  I cannot imagine my Boston experience without Meghan.  A girl I have never met became a close friend in less than 24 hours, a friend who I will share a bond with for all my life.  A friend I am forever grateful for and love with all my heart!

We hung out at the apartment for a little while talking all about the race and the incredible-ness of the weekend – what we’d already experienced and what we were in store for.  Mason (CEO of Nuun) was there and he had so much great advice for us.  Mason had run Boston many times before and is such a calming presence to be around.  He told us something I had heard from lots of Boston veterans – do not get carried away by the down hills and the adrenalin in the first half of the race!  That will crush you and make you feel awful by the time you get to Boston.  It was excellent advice and advice I would repeat to myself over and over many times.

That afternoon my mother and I went to the expo.  I have never ever ever seen anything like the Boston expo.  My heart was aflutter and I just could not believe how cool it was.  It was HUGE.  And just so amazing.  People all over Boston were so excited about the marathon.  Everywhere we went – riding in cabs, at the grocery store, at restaurants, just walking on the streets – people were talking about the race.  It seemed like everyone in the entire city was either a runner or someone who loved a runner or someone who just loved Boston.  I think if you love Boston, you love the Boston Marathon.  I could not take the smile off my face.

For me, the highlight of the expo (besides getting my race bib of course) was meeting Lauren Fleshman.  I was so giddy – so incredibly happy and excited – to meet her.  I kind of don’t know how to explain it.  She is just as awesome as I expected her to be.  Talking with her felt like talking with a good friend.  A good friend who is also a freaking awesome elite runner!!  If you aren’t totally familiar with who she is and how awesome she is, you should check her out via Picky Bars, Oiselle, and Believe I Am.  She also writes a fabulously inspiring and real blog – Ask Lauren Fleshman.

She completely rocks.

awesome awesome moment

I spent the rest of the day hydrating like crazy with water and Nuun, just like I always do the day before a marathon.  I ate well and tried to stay off my feet as much as I could.  On their way out of the city, my mom and her friends dropped me off at a great store in Wellesly called Getti Gear – where Meghan and other Oiselle runners were hanging out.  I was SO excited to meet other Oiselle runners!  It both pumped me up and calmed me down to be with them.  After a little while there we got a ride back to our apartment from Ann – who happens to be the mom of one of my favorite Oiselle ladies on the west coast who also ran Hood to Coast with me last summer – Sarah Mac!  I had no idea that Ann was Mac’s mom at first.  When she told me that I think I beamed a huge smile.  It was really awesome to hang out with this super amazing mom of a super amazing girl who made such an impact on me in a short time last year.

Connections, connections.
Everywhere, connections.

The running community is so amazing, you guys.  It just really, really is.
It is a big, huge amazing awesome family.

Early Sunday evening I went to grab a quick bite to eat with my dad at an Italian restaurant on Newbury Street not far from our apartment.  I loved hanging out with my dad and catching up, but the service was SO slow.  After waiting for a very long time (and eating three baskets of bread!) we decided to leave and take it to go.  I was nervous about eating the pasta I ordered anyway (just plain bow-tie pasta!) so when I got back to the apartment I made myself a half a bagel with peanut butter and a banana.  I laid out my race outfit, quickly ran to Starbucks to grab a coffee to heat up in the morning, chatted with Meghan, set my alarm for the morning and went to bed!  I would be running Boston in the morning!!

But at 2:45am, I woke up with a massive, horrible awful headache.  I had no medicine for it – I searched my bags – nothing.  I took a hot shower and put an ice pack on my head and tried to relax.  I was so worried I would not feel well enough to race.  I told myself over and over to relax and let go – it would be okay.  I think I fell back asleep a little after 4am, and then at 5am Meghan woke me up so we could start getting ready.

I didn’t feel better.

I was white as a ghost.  My head was pounding.  My stomach was reeling.  Meghan gave me one Aleeve and I took it.  We got dressed and stopped at an open Walgreen’s along the way.  I bought Advil and took just one, unsure of how it would impact my stomach or my race but feeling like it was the best chance I had at getting my headache to go away.  My brain was in a fog, a daze.  We passed the finish line and I actually asked Meghan where the start line was!  Ummm … it’s in Hopkinton!  Hello??!!  A good 26.2 miles from here which is why we are walking to the buses!  This made us both crack up and I started to feel those good, happy race day sillies.

Race day sillies are some of my very favorite feelings ever.  Giddy with excitement and anticipation.  Grateful to be there.  Full of ENERGY.  I have so many awesome memories of race day morning moments with my friends and running buddies.  We are all so bouncy and silly.  I LOVE it.

When we arrived at the Boston Commons to get on the school buses to take us to Hopkinton, I started to feel the pain and the negativity float away.  The excitement and hope and joy started to fill me up.

On the Commons

Meghan and I stopped for a picture along the fence of the Boston Commons before lining up for the buses.  I really wanted a picture there.  I love that place.  One of my favorite children’s books is Make Way for Ducklings and being there was just so happy for me.  I thought of my three little ones at home, of how much we all love that book, and how cool I knew they would think it was that I was right by the Swan Boats, right along the busy streets of Boston.  I laughed to myself as I realized that they would probably consider that to be the highlight of my weekend, not actually running the marathon.

As we waited in line for the buses, I was starting to feel really excited.  I decided right there to leave the negative behind me.  I was not going to bring it on that bus.  I was going to move forward with a grateful attitude and fill my cup with hope and happiness.  I was going to let things happen, and trust that it would all work out.

in line – HAPPY & SILLY

The bus ride was TONS of fun.  We were happy and excited!!  On our way to Hopkinton!!  We sat way in the back, which we thought was fun.

best field trip ever – cool kids in the back of the bus

But by the time we arrived in Hopkinton, we were a little nauseous….

this picture will always make me laugh!

Getting to Hopkinton was awesome.  Runners Village was very, very cool.  I loved seeing all the runners buzzing with excitement.  Runners EVERYWHERE.  Napping, peeing, BodyGliding, stretching, talking, laughing, just hanging out with new friends and old.  We found Mason and hunkered down with him and the time went by quickly.

made it to Hopkinton!
runners runners everywhere
eating Picky Bars before we run!

Finally, a little before 10am, it was time for us to make our way to the Start.  Meghan and I talked about how to run the race, and we both agreed that we wanted to run together as much as possible.  And that based on all we had heard and read about the course, we would try to run a conservative pace until we got through the halfway point, maybe even through Mile 16.  “Conservative” – we were thinking – would be somewhere in the 7:30s.  But we would run by feel and make sure we felt as though we were holding back for a while.  We weren’t going to race down the hills and trash our quads.

My goal for Boston, though I knew I was fit enough for a time in the 3:10-3:15 range, had nothing to do with the time on the clock.

I wanted to arrive at the top of Heartbreak Hill, around mile 21, in a GOOD mood.  To get to that part of the race, where we are entering Boston, and be able to soak in all the excitement and energy and amazement of those last 5 miles.  I wanted to be able to finish strong.  To focus on the magic and not the misery of those final miles.  If I wanted to do that, I would need to execute a smart strategy and take it easy on those downhills early on, and climb up the hills later with even effort.  Steady as I go.

Meghan and I started together, side by side.

We were running our first Boston Marathon!!!

I was worried we would go out too fast, but once we started moving I laughed about that worry.  It was SO crowded I felt like we were barely moving.  The first mile felt so slow, but we were gradually able to bring our pace down and lock it in.

The course was amazing.  Lined with spectators almost every inch of the way.  There was only one moment I remember not hearing spectators and it was early on and it was actually a beautiful moment.  So many runners, so many feet hitting the pavement.  The sound made me smile and feel so at peace.  So present and grateful to be there.

Miles 1-13:
8:05, 7:44, 7:36, 7:32, 7:44, 7:26, 7:31, 7:36, 7:32, 7:34, 7:34, 7:31, 7:27

For that entire first half of the race, I felt like I was cruising.  My effort was steady and easy.  Like that of a long run, I was coasting.  I checked in with my body and everything felt amazing.  I ate my Honey Stinger gels right on time, regularly sipping from my hand held water bottle.  My tummy felt good and this ELATED me.  My mind was clear and my heart was so so so happy.  It was a beautiful day and I was running the Boston Marathon!

In the 13th mile we approached the town of Wellesly and I could hear the girls screaming as we got closer.  It was as exciting as I thought it would be.  Those girls were adorable and watching the male runners get their kisses from them was entertaining.  Their signs were hilarious – “Kiss me!  I’m FLEXIBLE” – “Kiss me! I’m from California!” – “Kiss me! I’m a Jersey Girl!” – “Kiss me! I’m the BATMAN!” – so many funny signs.  It cracked me up.

I was having a blast.

Not long after that, we came up by the Oiselle cheer squad at Getti Gear and that was so fun too!

Meghan and I were still right by one another and every now and then checked in, but we weren’t talking much.  I knew we were going to have the Newton Hills after Mile 16 and I think I was unsure of whether or not to try to bring the pace down at the halfway point, afraid I would wreck myself too soon.

So we just hung on to even effort and the miles clicked by.

Miles 14 – 16:
7:29, 7:29, 7:29

How’s that for even pacing!!??

In Mile 16 I stopped to fill up my water bottle and dropped the lid and it rolled down the hill a bit.  We were climbing up the hill so I quickly took care of it and then burst up the hill to catch back up with Meghan.  When I got to the top I though whoa maybe I ran that too hard!  But it was pretty easy to recover from and I just kept going.

We were entering the Newton Hills at this point and I could tell I was not going to be picking up my pace for a while.  I focused on maintaining an even effort and enjoying it all.

Miles 17 – 21:
7:50, 7:48, 7:29, 7:44, 8:05

I did not stress at all about the slower pace.  I repeated a mantra (thanks to Oiselle!) in my head:

Head UP.
Wings OUT.
Heart OPEN.

There was a pretty major hill in Mile 20.  Meghan was near me and when we crested the hill I asked her if that was Heartbreak.  She said she thought so and I agreed!  It was kind of major.  But there wasn’t a big to-do about it with the spectators so I wasn’t convinced.  And sure enough, in mile 21, I met Heartbreak.

And you know what?  I loved running up that hill.

In my head I was singing to the hill:
Don’t go breakin’ my heart

and I imagined the hill singing back to me:
I couldn’t if I tried

And I laughed at myself and at the imagery of the hill and I having this exchange and I loved it.  There were people cheering everywhere.  I was entering Boston.

I was at the place in the race where it was just so important to me that I felt strong and happy.  And I did.  I was having SO MUCH FUN.  The kids of Boston College were so amazing.  I loved them.  I loved their enthusiasm and excitement and guts.  LOVED this part of the race.  So much.

The streets of Boston were so incredible!!  I have never seen so many spectators, never felt this kind of energy in a race.  It was so magical.

So very, very magical.

Miles 22 – 26:
7:21, 7:29, 7:49, 7:36, 7:46

I saw the CITGO sign and a huge smile – huger than huge – graced my face.  I was so excited!  I had no idea what my pace was or what my time would be.  I hadn’t even looked at my watch for miles.  It just didn’t matter to me at all.  I made the right on Hereford and then turned left on Boylston and just could not believe what I was feeling and experiencing.

The crowd was INCREDIBLE.

And then, off to my left, I actually heard her voice.  My mom!!!!!!!  She was right there!!  She yelled my name and I heard her and I saw her and I just felt so blessed in that moment.  I remember putting my hand on my heart.  It was okay to cry now.  To cry tears of joy and gratitude.

I ran the last .47 miles (ran it a little long, but that’s always the case) in a pace of 7:14.

I finished strong.  I finished happy.

I finished the Boston Marathon!

With a new PR of 3:21:43, 4 minutes faster than I had ever run this distance before.  I never stopped for tummy issues either!

When I came across the finish I stopped and couldn’t believe how good I felt.  I knew I had executed the race just as I hoped I would, and it didn’t bug me at all that I still had so much left in my tank.  I did exactly what I wanted to do.  Walking through the finishing chute I searched for Meghan but didn’t see her anywhere.  I was pretty sure she was behind me but I had no idea where or how far behind me she was.  I got to my bag and walked to the Boston Commons again to turn on my phone.

Those moments alone in the Commons were really beautiful for me.  I looked up at the sky and said THANK YOU.

happy. proud. grateful!

 My mom found me not long after and we were both just SO HAPPY to be together.

At this point I was started to feel FREEZING.  My teeth were chattering and I could not get warm, even with the warm dry clothes I put on over my running clothes.  We walked to a nearby Starbucks to get a latte and warm up a bit before figuring out what was next.  I wanted to meet up with my dad and to find Meghan too.

While in Starbucks I spoke with my father and we decided to meet about a block from the finish at the Four Seasons hotel in about an hour, where my mom’s friends had grabbed a table for us to have tea and free dessert for me since I ran the marathon.  The plan was that I would say bye to my mom and then get a beer and a bite to eat with my dad.

But as we walked towards the hotel, in the direction of the Finish, a man stopped us and told us we needed to turn around.  He said bombs were going off at the Finish Line and that we needed to get away from there.  It was entirely confusing.  I think at first I didn’t believe him.  What?  It just made no sense to me.  We were so close to the Four Seasons where my mom’s friends were, so we went there to find them and figure out what was going on.

The door to the hotel was blocked with security and they would not let anyone in unless they were guests of the hotel.  My mom and I begged them to let us in.  After a few minutes they agreed to let my mom in, just so she could tell her friend what was going on and where we were (cell service wasn’t working).  I waited outside by myself for another 5 minutes or so and then the manager came out to get me.  They were going to let us stay there in the lounge.

We sat at a table, looking out the window at the Boston Commons.  Scared and confused, horrified, worried about what was next.  I tried reaching my dad over and over but service was bad and my phone was dying.  I was so scared he decided to bide his time by watching more of the race at the Finish Line (which he did indeed do, but thankfully was not in the vicinity when the bombs went off).  My mom’s friends had a ride out of the city but my mom did not want to leave me, so they left and she stayed with me.  Not long after they left, the hotel went on lock down.

The manager at the Four Seasons could not have been more amazing.  He charged our phones for us.  He let my father in the hotel.  He updated us frequently on what was going on with the bombings and the city.

A little before 4pm, my father came to the hotel.  He was safe.  We were safe.  And there we sat – me and my parents who had not seen one another in more than 10 years.  At a table in Boston in a hotel on lock down during a major crisis not long after I finished running my first Boston Marathon.

People were losing their lives, their family members, their limbs, right down the street.
Fear was everywhere.

But love wins.  Love matters the most.  LOVE is the most powerful thing.

All my fears about my parents just melted away.  Gratitude.  Healing.  Acceptance.  Love.  That is what I felt with my parents.  I felt safe.  I felt watched over.  I felt assured that even when there is so much ICK, so much to be scared of, so much anger and confusion … love conquers all of that.  And over and over again in my head I told myself that.  We were in the midst of something so terrible and horrifying and we did not know what would come next, but all the while I had this very strong sense that things would be okay.

Around 6pm the hotel told us that the T was open and people should get back to where they were staying and get out of the city if possible.  My mom’s friend picked her up and my dad and I started walking back towards my apartment which was about a block away from the Finish Line on the other side.

Walking down Boyslton Street was eerie.  Seeing the HAZMAT and SWAT and Police everywhere was unnerving and scary.  Newscasters were on street corners reporting.  People were walking in a daze.  Helicopters were hovering overhead.

My dad put his arm around me and I put mine around him.  We walked like that for a few blocks, both of us feeling like we had been pulled into this strange new reality, a place of confusion and fear.

The only thing to do in moments like that is hold on to the ones we love.  Walk with them.  Trust that as long as you are together, everything will be okay.

me and my dad

I remember telling my dad how grateful I was that he was there.  Emotionally I was just so overwhelmed.  I had been so happy – so INCREDIBLY happy – just hours earlier when I ran my race.  I knew I was physically spent, beyond exhausted after getting up at 2:45am with my headache, running the race I ran and then all the chaos that ensued.  The fear and uncertainty over the bombings were incomprehensible to me.  Being with my parents when they hadn’t seen one another for a decade was still sinking in.  I missed my husband and my children and I just wanted to be home and to hug them.

But at the time, all of that took a back seat to the tragedy and horror of what others were going through.  People had lost their lives, their loved ones and their limbs.  People had been told they couldn’t finish their Boston marathon.  People had been right there when it happened.

I focused my energy on praying for those people, and on being grateful that I was okay and that everyone I knew was okay.

We had been turning off onto various streets to meander our way to my apartment, but eventually the police told us there was no way we were going to get there – the streets were closed off all around that area.  It was getting dark and we were right near the Marriott at that point so we begged the manager to let us in.  There were armed guards out front of the hotel, carrying huge guns.  The hotel management was hesitant to let us in at first but I think seeing that we had literally NO place to go, and that I was still in my marathon clothes and freezing, they finally let us in.  We were vagabonds there for a couple more hours, along with many other people.  I curled up in a chair in the lobby and sat with my dad and strangers who became friends.  Around 8:30 we were able to leave and get through to my street.  My dad walked me there.  We hugged and then he hopped on the T back to Cambridge.  I love my dad.

When I walked into the apartment, I was so thankful to see Meghan again.  We had been able to text on and off during the chaos of being apart and I knew she was there and that she was safe.  But she was ALONE and I hated knowing that she was sitting there all by herself.  Being together again was just what we both needed.

Meghan and I had met not much more than 24 hours earlier.  I don’t know how to describe how amazing her friendship is to me.  The way things worked out – her reaching out to me out of the blue and inviting me to stay with her – I  just think it is so incredible.  I believe there are no coincidences in life.  We were meant to know another, to share this time together, to be there for one another for the amazing highs and terrifying lows of this experience.  I don’t know what I would have done without her through all of it.  It was like we were both leaning into one another, holding one another up at the same time.  I guess that is what friends are for, what loved ones are for.  They’re there right when you need them.  I will forever be grateful for Meghan.

The two of us stayed up way later than we should have, talking about our experiences.  Telling one another about our races.  We realized there was still SO much to be grateful for, even amidst the sickening and terrifying chaos.  Meghan set her timer on her phone and we took a picture of ourselves with our medals on.  I am so happy that we did that.

people come into your life for a reason

For so long, I never even imagined I would be running the Boston Marathon at all.  I could not have dreamed up how incredible the journey was to get to that moment, or how magical the experience felt until I crossed that Finish Line.  I certainly never imagined the events that happened after that, not in a million years would I have fathomed that.

I believe with all of my heart that anything is possible, and that things happen the way that they do for a reason.  I believe that sometimes we have to fall apart in order to discover pieces of ourselves that are so strong, in order to become completely and truly our very best, whole selves.  We find love in the wreckage, light in the darkness.  It might take some time, but it is there and we will see it.  Maybe the world works that way, too.  I have to believe that it does.  That when people are hurt and lives are lost, it is NOT for nothing.  There must be some greater good or purpose to it.  The world will become a better, stronger and safer place I hope.  There will be more love in the world now.  Not more hate.  I think it is up to us to make sure of that.  To spread love.  Believe in goodness.

I am so thankful for so much about what I experienced in Boston last week.  I saw and felt a tremendous amount of love all week, leading up to and during the race and most certainly after the race.

I know that love will prevail over hate.  I know it is stronger.  I know that light will outshine the darkness.  I believe it with all of my heart.  I believe in the good in others.  I believe in miracles.  I believe in the power and beauty and strength and resiliency of the human spirit.  I believe in love.

The running community is a truly amazing group of people.  I am so incredibly proud and grateful to be a part of it.  I can’t wait to get back to Boston in 2014.  There is no question, I will be there.  Running with that city.  Running with my family.  Running with my heart.

RnR USA Half Marathon Race Report

When I signed up for the Rock n’ Roll USA Half Marathon several months ago at the start of my (first ever) Boston Marathon training cycle, I could not have been more excited about the race for a lot of reasons.  Here are some of them…

#1 — My good friend and fellow Nuun Hood to Coast teammate Molly was traveling here all the way from Ohio to run it with me!!  She is one of those people I felt destined to know from the second we met.  I feel like we are old friends even though we have hung out in person all of two times in our lives, both of which happened within the last 8 months.  We clicked from the instant we met and I am so grateful for her friendship, the memories we have made in such a short time and for all of the good times I know we have ahead of us in our lives.

me & molly ~ big smiles at hood to coast

As it so happens, we are also “pace twins” – all of our workouts and long runs this training cycle (I am coaching her for a seriously awesome Eugene Marathon!) have been spot on – almost exactly the same times!  We were both so pumped to run this race together and imagined motivating one another to epic personal bests on race day.  I couldn’t wait.

#2 — I ran the full marathon at RnR USA last year and this is where I achieved my first BQ time, finishing it in 3:34.  The race just holds a special place in my heart for this reason and it always will.  I was excited to experience the half marathon, even though I knew they were making some changes to the course and that it would be even hillier and more challenging than last year.

RnR USA Marathon – 2012

#3 — I love the half marathon distance.  Truthfully.  I think the 10 mile and half marathon distances are my very favorites.

#4 — I was pretty sure that no matter how things went down on race day, I would set a new personal best in this distance.  My old PR was a 1:43:02, set well over a year ago.  I was pretty certain I would run faster than that even if I wasn’t having the best race.

#5 — This training cycle has been “wonky” for me.  I’ve been running strong times and have had great workouts and long runs, but there has been a lot of self doubt nonetheless due to illnesses and a fall on the trails that left me feeling out of whack and nervous about my running.  I was ready to race – to prove to myself that I am strong and ready for Boston.

And then, about a week before the race, I started getting a cold.  Sore throat, tightness in my chest and I just felt tired.  Ugh.  I dropped my mileage considerably last week (from 80 miles the week before down to 50 miles) in order to taper a little for the race and the extra rest was good for my body. Instead of a normal track workout with intervals, on Wednesday I practiced my goal race pace (6:50) and found that it felt easy and comfortable – which was just how I wanted it to feel.  The week progressed and I didn’t really feel worse.  I still had a lot of tightness and congestion in my chest, but I felt strong enough to race.  The cough I couldn’t kick was more annoying than anything else.

Molly arrived on Thursday afternoon and we were so excited!!  I loved introducing her to my family – my husband and kids adored her and were so thrilled to finally meet her after so many months of me talking about her.  And I was so excited to be introducing her to my “running family” too – the Honey Badgers – and showing her around my town and all of my favorite running spots.

Molly & Me ~ reNUUNited

On Friday morning we all went out for a 4 mile easy run and grabbed coffee together afterwards.  The pre-race excitement was in the air.  We were all looking forward to a great day on Saturday – me and Molly would be racing the half, and my sister Jodi, Terri and Maddie were all running the full.

running + coffee = honey badger heaven

Saturday morning came and we all felt READY.  It was a little chaotic getting to the race start this year.  I paid $20 for a parking spot at the Finish and we took the Metro from there to the race start on Constitution.  I have to say I really liked the set up from last year better – when the Start & Finish were both at the Armory.  We made it to the Start with maybe 10 minutes to spare and all of us needed to pee BADLY.  The lines were insanely long and there were very few port-o-potties available up by our corral.  We finally decided to duck behind a building and used the big trash bags we had brought in case of rain to make a little “ladies room” so people couldn’t see us peeing so easily!  Kind of hilarious when I think back on it, but every race has it’s own share of adventure for me, especially when it comes to using the bathroom, and this one would be no exception apparently!

I think all of us felt a little anxious before the gun went off.  I know I did.  Going into the race Molly knew she was going to have to make a bathroom stop at some point and I was nervous about my chest cold and recovering from my fall last month.  We felt really rushed getting there and all of a sudden it was time to RACE and my emotions were all over the place.

The gun went off for our Corral and we started running.  The plan was to run the first two miles right around a 7:00 pace and then pick up to the 6:50 range through Mile 10 – at which point we would race the last 5k ALL OUT.  We knew there would be hills around miles 5-7, but were okay with slowing down there to save our effort for a strong finish.

Except … things just didn’t go quite as planned pretty much right from the start.

Molly and I were separated before the first mile marker when she stopped for the bathroom.  I felt strong at my pace but was sad that we weren’t together and hoped she would catch up to me quickly.  I saw her at the out-and-back across the Memorial Bridge (around Mile 3, I think) and she yelled to me that she was at least 2 minutes behind me because of her bathroom stop.  That was a HUGE bummer.  I was running a smart race though, and felt strong despite the disgusting postnasal drip that was making me feel nauseous and causing me to cough every now and then.  I was in the zone though and tried to focus on the positives.

It was working.

Miles 1-4 ~ 6:59, 6:46, 6:46, 6:52

Just as I was approaching the 5 Mile marker as we got onto the Rock Creek Parkway, I felt my stomach cramp.  I needed a bathroom and thankfully there was a row of potties behind the water stop on the other side of the road.  I knew I would lose time going up there, but I didn’t care.  I was beyond annoyed and disappointed that I was having tummy issues for this race, but thankfully I knew what to do about them.  I couldn’t let it get to me and had to move on.

It was what it was.

Mile 5 ~ 7:31

I lost some time – but I got right back on pace and did my best to make up for it.   There were some rolling hills but nothing major.

Mile 6 ~ 6:52

And then, about a quarter of the way through the 7th mile, I saw THE HILL.  I wasn’t expecting it to look or feel so giant.  Or to last forever.  As I climbed it, I felt like a huge slug.  I told myself over and over to just sustain the effort and not worry about how slow I was going.  I would be STRONG at the top and have lots of energy to make up for the lost time.  I made the mistake of glancing at my watch though and saw a 9:20 pace.

** Note to self – do NOT look at your watch as you are climbing hills in a race.  Totally a bad idea. **

When I crested the hill – finally! – I was so pumped to get on pace again, but I felt really off for the next few miles and couldn’t get back on pace.  There were more hills and I wasn’t expecting them.  I felt nauseous and was coughing a lot.  Mentally and emotionally I just didn’t feel so positive.  I swear we looked at the elevation chart and thought the hills were not going to be bad and that they would pretty much be over with by the 7th mile.  Wrong.  This irritated me!

Miles 7-9 ~ 7:49 (monster hill), 7:08, 7:01

Mile 10 came and I finally felt like myself again.  Determination set in and I wanted so badly to finish strong.  I focused in on all of the things that felt GOOD.  My legs felt so strong – especially after the crazy month I’d had since my fall, this was really awesome news for me.  The weather was perfect – we thought it was going to rain but it didn’t even rain a drop.  Molly was here and I would see her again soon!!  I thought about my sister Jodi who was running the full marathon – her first since having two knee surgeries and dealing with two very scary blood clots in her calf – I was SO proud of her.

I told myself to find that GEAR – to kick it in and finish with all that I had.  Mile 12 was hilly again – which frustrated me because I didn’t want to slow down! – but the way I run hills is by even effort because I don’t want to get to the top feeling like death.  So that mile was slower once again.

Miles 10-13 ~ 6:51, 6:57, 7:18 (hillllls), 6:52

The finish of this race is a HILL (of course!) and comes up and around a big turn.  My pace for the last .1 was a 7:07.  As soon as I crossed I began coughing uncontrollably and the reality of what I had just done – set a half marathon PR by 10 minutes on a really hard course with a time of 1:33:48 – while fighting a terrible cold and making a pit stop for the bathroom – hit me.  Whoa.

Aaaand about 40ish seconds later, Molly finished right behind me!  I couldn’t believe that she came all this way and we ran our races within less than a minute of one another and didn’t run more than a quarter mile of it side by side!  So it goes!

together again!!

As we were getting ourselves settled and ready to go back to the car to change into dry clothes so we could stick around to see my sister and the other honey badgers finish their races, my family popped up and surprised us.  Robert had brought all three kids downtown for the finish and surprised me!  I wasn’t expecting them because the weather forecast was so bleak, but since it wasn’t raining after all he decided to come down.  This made me so happy.

My sister Jodi’s family was there too, along with several of our good friends – our “running family.”

Dora & Michiel!

We all camped out by the Finish and saw Maddie come through next.  She ROCKED the full marathon in 3:17!!  We cheered our heads off for her and were so proud of her as she came around the turn to cross the finish line!!  Maddie fought so hard to the very end of this difficult race – and never gave up.  Seeing her finish made my heart swell – we have trained together for almost an entire year and have never really raced together or seen one another race.  I loved being there to support her – to see my friend so strong and so beautiful during the final moments of a race.  These are the moments we work so hard for, the moments we lift one another up for.  I was so grateful to be there to witness her do this amazing thing.

Maddie & Kevin after the finish!

We’d been tracking Jodi and Terri and knew they would finish within minutes of one another.  As Jodi came around the turn we all got so excited.  Dora jumped in to run with her and tell her how awesome she was!

Gus cheering for his Aunt Jojo!!

As I saw my sister running towards the finish, tears filled my eyes.  I don’t really have the words to tell you guys how proud I am of my sister.  She loves running SO MUCH.  Last year she fell while skiing and tore her ACL badly.  She had to have ACL surgery twice and developed blood clots in her calf that were very dangerous.  She was on blood thinners and so much pain medication.  Her journey to return to running over the past year has been a battle and she never once considered giving up.  My sister is a pillar of strength.  She is so composed.  So strong.  So determined.  She ran her marathon in 4:23:12 and is a complete and total rock star in my book!!

Jodi has taught me so much about courage and dignity and honoring what matters most to you and what is in your heart.  She has taught me to never give up on myself, on the people I love or on what I believe in.  Not just by what she did this past year or on Saturday, but by how she lives her life every single day – Saturday was just another shining example of her character.  I am so proud she is my sister.  So grateful.

post-race sistah love!

A few minutes later Terri came around the corner – stoic and strong AS ALWAYS.  Terri is training for the North Face 50 Miler and was using this race as a 26.2 mile training run.  So awesome!!!

As we headed back home after such an amazing morning and day and I reflected on the race … the thing that stuck out the most to me was how blessed I am to have such amazing people in my life.  My family – in particular my husband – is so supportive of my running and the huge role that this sport plays in my life.  And my “running family” is just that – the people who have come into my life because of this sport are so much more than just people I run with – they are true friends and will be for all of my life whether we are running marathons or not.

We are there for one another through thick and thin.

One other really incredible thing that happened on Saturday was that my brother-in-law Simon, as he watched for Jodi to finish, witnessed a truly incredible thing and was able to capture it on camera.  You may have read the story and seen the picture he took on Runners World

How incredible is that?  What an amazing example of how awesome runners are, and what a wonderful community of people we have in this sport!!

I’ve been feeling pretty lousy this week.  I went to the doctor on Tuesday after another sleepless and painful night and found out that I actually have a double ear infection!  It has been a hard week for me and today is the third day in a row that I haven’t run a single mile.  But, I am trusting that my body must need the rest.  That I have to get better and that in order to do that I’ve got to honor what my body is telling me.  It is HARD, trust me – this is at the height of my Boston training – but I know that once I am better I will get right back into the swing of things.  I’m telling myself that each and every day… and am doing my best to focus on all the good things around me.  Because really, there is just SO MUCH to be thankful for and so much to look forward to!

And as awful as I feel, I am reminded every day of how lucky I am to be a surrounded by so much love.