Coming back to work after a fun-filled extended weekend in Blowing Rock, North Carolina with fellow Oiselle Volee birds from all over the country was really, really tough. It’s funny how the sentiment coming home on Sunday was completely different from the nervous anxiety I felt when making the drive up to Oiselle Southern Bird Camp at Zap Fitness just days before.
As a child, my parents never sent me to camp so I never experienced what it feels like to be at a camp. All I knew about summer camps came from movies (like Meatballs....). Ha! Anyways, it’s midnight and here I am standing at the foot of my bed, cramming way too much stuff into a large rolling suitcase and next to it, a plastic grocery bag with my road trip essentials to help me stay awake on my first ever 5 ½ hour road trip (by myself) - beef jerky, Twizzlers, a pack of gum, potato chips, and a Diet Coke, ready to go to my first adult camp - a running camp!
I was both excited (because I had heard so many good things about the Zap Fitness camp) and terribly anxious. I was headed to a camp where I knew going in that I wouldn’t know a soul. Would I feel welcomed? Would we all hit it off? Was I going to have fun? Would I like my roommate? Would I be able to handle “my business” comfortably? I mean, I hate sharing bathrooms so the thought of sharing one was already making me cringe (by the way, it wasn’t bad at all!) As I backed out of my driveway, I already had my Spotify Showtunes radio blaring (since I was driving alone and not having to fight over the music with my husband and 2 kids) and cruised the highway to Blowing Rock.
The scenery upon entering Blowing Rock was just gorgeous! The leaves were already changing colors and I loved seeing the mountains come into view. It was around 2:00 pm once I pulled into the driveway at Zap Fitness, I sat in my car for a few minutes to take a few deep breaths. Is this what it feels like going into a blind date? Once I felt ready, I went to go check in. Everyone who was already there - Oiselle Volee and Zap Fitness staff and athletes - were sitting outside on the patio waiting to check registrants in. I immediately felt a weight lifted off my shoulders because everyone seemed so relaxed and cool. I grabbed my luggage and went to my room to get dressed for a 3:30 run and slowly started meeting all the Volee as they began trickling in. There were girls from Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and even all the way from Seattle. We were all here for the love of running, as well as wanting to build upon the sisterhood of Oiselle.
Our first day at camp was full of introductions and what was to be expected at the Zap Fitness camp. We had an itinerary of workouts, discussions/programs, Pilates workout, and most importantly - when breakfast, lunch, and dinner took place. They even had a resident fine dining chef - Chef Mike - my goodness, this man made some delicious meals for us. He spoiled the shit out of us. Talk about food withdrawals when I got home and had to cook for myself! After check-in, we also did a quick shake-out run at Moses Cone Park. Running uphill on shaded trails and the higher elevation took a toll on me, but I enjoyed every minute. The weather was such a nice change from this hellacious heat and humidity of Savannah.
Throughout the weekend, we discussed training plans for 5Ks up to marathons, nutrition, proper running form, gait analysis, mental preparations, and exercises to help strengthen muscles needed for running. Our instructors and coaches were very knowledgeable and wonderful to work with. We met the resident athletes who so graciously kept us company for trips into Blowing Rock. We hiked up a gorgeous mountain with breathtaking views.
What was a special treat was having an inspirational talk from our 2 guest Haute Volees - Andie Cozzarelli and Marie Elena Calle where they talked about their trials and tribulations and how they each achieved success through being persistent, not quitting, believing in themselves, and finding the joy in their running. They shared a special quote that was near and dear to them - “Keep your heart open to dreams - for as long as there is a dream, there is hope. And as long as there is hope, there is joy in living.” We shared laughter, tears, and vulnerabilities as we shared our stories with one another. It was beautiful to hear, see, and feel this kindred spirit amongst all of us. Our stories were intertwined and it was amazing to see the connections we all made.
Building upon this, we had a Skype session the next day with Sarah Lesko to chat and ask questions. She shared upcoming top-secret news that made us all excited to see what was next in store with Oiselle! She’s so laid back. It felt like talking to someone who you’ve known for years! I was falling more and more in love with this brand and the power amongst all us women. The rest of the weekend continued with more bonding. We all were having such a great time!
I was sad for the weekend to come to a close. I wanted it to go for just a few more days!! We were having so much fun telling stories and snapping boomerang videos and photos! But I guess all good things have to come to an end, right? Isn’t that how the saying goes? Our last morning was our final workout. We all had to shed our Garmin GPS watches and predict our easy running pace for 3.2 miles. I was very close and came in 5th place to guessing my time. It was so much fun running around the Zap Fitness property. Once our workout was done, we all showered up and prepared to say our goodbyes. We were so bummed to leave after getting to know one another and having so much fun. Before the drive home, a few of us decided to hit up Camp Coffee, a local coffee shop (that must be super popular because there was a line out the door when we got there), for our last hoo-rah. We were all excited to see the results of the Chicago Marathon while sipping on our coffee. And then it was time to hit the road.
My drive home had me in smiles remembering the good times and laughter. My first experience with camp was a success! I felt like it boosted my confidence and I truly feel like I’ve developed some lifelong friendships. If anything's a testament, I’ve already signed up for April’s Tenacious 10 in Seattle and will be staying with one of the Volee Birds I met at camp! I’m looking forward to hearing more information about next year’s Big Bird Camp on the east coast. MUST SAVE MONEY NOW!
As I was browsing various Etsy shops last night, I stumbled upon this fabulous t-shirt with big vinyl letters emblazoned across the front with the statement, Empowered Women Empower Women.
This statement is so simple, yet so true. Empowered women have a certain air about them. You can quickly spot them out in the crowd. They exude power, strength, confidence, and fearlessness. These kinds of women inspire you. They make you proud to be a part of the sisterhood. They move you to act, to want to pass along this electricity of energy onto others.
How can I empower other women?
I believe it’s important to be empowered and valued starting at a young age. Young girls are extremely impressionable. If you believe in them, give them the support they need, and allow them to make decisions, they will gain the confidence and have the tenacity to achieve great things. This is exactly why I volunteer for Girls on the Run.
I’m finding myself more and more passionate about supporting brands and programs that grow female empowerment. Before I volunteered with Girls on the Run, I thought it was merely just a fitness program to train young girls on what it takes to complete a 5K. Boy, was I wrong! Little did I know that running plays but just a small part of a much larger curriculum.
Girls on the Run is much more than just completing a 5K. It’s a 10-week program, coached by certified volunteers, offered to young girls in elementary and middle schools (third through eighth grades) that helps girls define their own definitions of strength, both mentally and physically, individually and in numbers. Think sisterhood. I am strong, but together, we are mighty.
It’s merging physical fitness and taking care of your body with self affirmations and discovery that as females, we can achieve anything we put our minds to. This program encourages positivity and belief in one’s limitless potential. It allows girls to identify their own boundaries, set personal goals, speak out, and defy stereotypes. It turns the negative connotation of “like a girl” into a compliment, into a statement that makes you hold your chin up high.
Girls on the Run empowers our young girls to embrace who they are, define what they can be, rise to any challenge, and change the world. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this?
This past season, I had the honor of assistant coaching the Garrison Performing Arts’ inaugural Heart & Sole Program, which is the Girls on the Run curriculum catered to middle school girls. I was excited about this program because it took me back to my middle school years, which were some of the most awkward and challenging. I remember how cruel the kids were at this age. You become overwhelmed with self doubt. These years are a very crucial time in which girls begin to lose confidence in themselves. They start to feel pressured by what they think should be societal norms. They start losing their individuality, their sense of self, and become easily discouraged. Most importantly, they lose some of their raw grit and feelings of invincibility, which is where Girls on the Run’s Heart & Sole program comes into play.
We had seven girls participate this season - a small, yet manageable group coming from all walks of life. Throughout the season, I witnessed them all become better friends as they grew quite supportive of one another. I loved hearing their discussions on their insecurities and what steps they would take if put in certain situations. I loved hearing their brute honesty and was proud of how they provided guidance to one another. These girls learned empathy, trust, courage, and belief in themselves and for one another. They would run/walk their laps while discussing different scenarios. I enjoyed these times being silent and observant. Many times, these lessons were a great reminder to focus on my own strengths. Not only was I helping to coach these girls, unbeknownst to them, these seven girls were also inspiring me.
To end the season, we all met this past Saturday, April 28th, at Savannah State’s Wright Stadium to tackle on the last challenge of the program, the Celebration 5K. Seeing all the young girls from our area schools with huge smiles plastered on their faces, lined up with their coaches and schools, was such a happy sight to see. With their loved ones there to support and cheer them on, our Garrison girls were all bright-eyed and full of energy ready to run. I was so proud to see their determination on the course, many running in pairs because of the bond formed during our lessons. It was so gratifying to see them sprint through the finish line - all smiles as they showed us their medals, proudly symbolizing their accomplishments in which they had been training for the past 10 weeks.
And who knows? This electricity, this energy - just maybe they will pass along what they learned to their own friends and family, continuing the truth in the statement - Empowered Women Empower Women.
Photo Credit: Corey Brooks Photography
As a Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon & 5K Ambassador, Publix gave me a $50 gift card to whip up a healthy delicious meal to share with my fellow runners. On top of that, Publix also generously gave me a $25 gift card to give away to one of my lucky followers. Congratulations to Jacy Vergara on being the lucky winner!
I swear the older you get, the busier your calendar becomes. My girlfriends, Claudia and Kristen, and I try and get together often to make juice. We’ve talked about trying to do it at least once a month, but you know...life. Luckily, we threw a date on the calendar and all of us were free (that doesn’t happen often).
There is something very comforting when you're gathered around friends and cooking. Conversations flow freely and we are all in the present moment. The glasses of wine probably help too :) The last time we got together to make juice, Claudia prepared us one of her awesome recipes - a Pesto + Mushroom Spaghetti Squash boats. This stuff is AMAZING! So, with compliments of Publix, we had a deja vu night and once again made juice and whipped up this recipe over wine and alcoholic kombucha (who knew this existed?). It’s a simple recipe and using fresh pesto is definitely the way to go! If you have friends to help you cook and clean, it makes it even easier!
Check out Claudia’s recipe for the Pesto + Mushroom Spaghetti Squash. We also added asparagus spears and freshly grated parmesan cheese. They added a nice touch!
For our freshly squeezed juice, we did one of our favorite concoctions consisting of the following fruits and veggies:
If you haven’t signed up for the race yet, you can save $15 with my discount code "COTR" or automatically using the following link - https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2017-publix-savannah-womens-half-5k-registration-22470954229?discount=COTR
Three years ago today, on March 16th, I lost the one woman who loved me with every fiber of her being. Her physical absence left my world shattered. I was broken. Lost. Terrified.
I felt like a 5-year old who had somehow separated from her mother at the supermarket after being warned not to stray from her side. Frantically running down each and every aisle, I look up to scan every single face, every head of hair, looking for any resemblance that might be my mom. Panic-stricken, I cry out “Mom!!! Moooommmm!!!”, hoping she’ll appear around the corner.
But she’s not there. She’s disappeared. Gone. I’m left stranded and all alone. Lost amongst all these other moms that aren’t mine. Who’s going to take care of me?
At 34 years old, I felt like that terrified whimpering little 5-year old who only wanted nothing but her mommy.
It’s hard to think that I’ve been mom-less for 1,095 days. I never thought I could miss someone so much. I miss talking to her on Sunday afternoons while she’s cooking one of her delicious meals; the sound of her sucking her teeth when she thought we were being too silly or when she was mad; her lovingly “gentle” slaps across the back of my head; her bright and vibrant colorful outfits and fuschia lipstick.
God, I miss her cooking, especially when I’m sick and all I want is her chicken and rice soup or a piping hot bowl of pho to get my sinus cavities cleared.
I miss absolutely everything about my mom.
She was such a hard worker. She taught me that things don’t come free. You have to work hard to get what you want. This meant she worked all her life. I’m not talking about just holding a single 9-5 job. Growing up, I hardly saw my mom except for on Sundays. She carried two jobs and came home late when we were already sound asleep in bed. She’d be up when we were getting ready for school cooking a meal to put in the fridge so that we would have something to eat when we got home from school and then she’d head over to her first job. When that shift was done, she’d head over to her second job, both in restaurants, and wouldn’t be home until well after 11:30 at night - only to clean up the mess we left for her when she got home.
Vacations were far and few between. They were a treat. Many of them were visits to see family who lived out of town. Those were always fun! When she got close to retirement, she always talked excitedly about not having to work and receiving her first Social Security check. She couldn’t wait! Unfortunately, her first Social Security check came in the mail just 2 months after she passed away.
My dad had built her the backyard of her dreams, complete with a swimming pool-sized koi pond and gazebo. He planted her rose bushes and brightly colored flowers. They would drink their cups of coffee gazing out into their perfect backyard. Sadly, she wasn’t given much time to enjoy it.
It’s maddening. Realizing that my poor mom worked all her life and didn’t really get to reap the benefits taught me many things. March 16, 2014 made me see the world completely different. Now, I’m no longer that lost 5-year old girl. I’m much more enlightened. With a new lense on life, my mom’s death truly taught me that life is just way too damn short. It also made me realize the following:
And it will be.
I had just finished slipping on my Pure Barre sticky socks and placed my purse and shoes in my usual cubby when my phone dinged with a new text message. I quickly checked it as the loud thumping music signaled that class was starting in just a few short minutes.
“Want to come run Myrtle Beach with me in 2 weeks?”
It was my friend, Claudia, who by the way, introduced me to the idea of running 50 marathons in 50 states. She was feeling good and wanted to check off South Carolina in her pursuit to do 50 in 50. She was looking for a sucker.
“What’s the date? I cannot believe I’m contemplating this. Hahaha!”
If there was a picture in the dictionary to visually define the word “sucker”, it’d be my headshot. I can be convinced into doing almost anything. My level of fomo (fear of missing out) is always at an all-time high so when the question was asked, in the midst of all of this energetic and fist-pumping music, I agreed. And so this is how all it began - how I ended up running the Myrtle Beach Marathon.
My friend and coworker, Matthew, also came with us and was running the marathon. ROAD TRIP! We all piled in Claudia’s car and left for Myrtle Beach on Friday. This was going to be a short trip. We planned it so we would arrive on Friday and leave Saturday after the race to get back home. We arrived before sunset and picked up our race packets at the expo. This happened to be the 20th anniversary of the Myrtle Beach Marathon and they hooked us up with these commemorative socks and sunglasses. The race bibs were of really durable material and even had our emergency information already included on the bib. Nice! I must confess - I’m a slacker and fail to fill in this crucial information all the time.
We perused a little around the expo, but didn’t end up staying long because we were hungry. All we had on the brain was pizza from Mellow Mushroom! After we finally got our carb load in, we parted ways. Matthew was staying with one of our coworkers and Claudia and I made our way back to our hotel. We would all reunite in the morning at the start line (or so we thought).
Race conditions were set to be 37 degrees in the morning and would be in the upper 40s at race finish. We had no idea what to wear and had packed several options. We kept going back and forth with either wearing short sleeves and tights or long-sleeves and shorts or long-sleeves and tights. All of this back and forth on what to wear had us up until after 11 pm so when the alarm went off at 4:45 the next morning, it felt as if I had just finally closed my eyes. I hit snooze so many times.
In order to make our final decisions, we stepped out on our patio to see how it felt. I decided to go with my long-sleeved pullover and my Skirt Sports skirt and was ultimately happy with it. I also paired it with my new Swiftwick Vision Race series socks that just launched a few days ago. Of course, I had to rock out my 26.2 socks!
Once we finished eating and getting dressed, we headed down to the hotel lobby. The last race shuttle was scheduled to leave our hotel at 6 a.m. We thought we ended up missing the last shuttle since we saw one take off just minutes before. FYI - the race starts at 6:30. Luckily, we saw one down the street and jumped on board. After we shuffled off the bus and gear checked, Claudia and I ended up running through a very sparse start line since, oh you know, the race had STARTED 6 MINUTES AGO. Oops!
By the way, this is the first time I’ve ever been late to a race. I didn’t even get a chance to take pictures of us lined up at the start! Amazingly though, I wasn’t freaking out at all. It was nice to just be super casual about the whole race. The bad part though is we ended up missing Matthew at the start since we were so late. We’d reunite with him at the finish.
Claudia and I stayed together throughout the entire race. Neither one of us had any intentions of racing it. With good conversation and great company, the miles just flew by. We were feeling great! I highly recommend this marathon! It’s flat and takes you through different parts of the city- the tourist-filled beachfront attractions with all its hotels, ferris wheels, and gift shops, through the trendy Market Common (a redeveloped Air Force Base) with its townhomes mixed in with restaurants and retail shops, to right along the coast that's lined with magnificent beautiful homes and scattered cute little beach bungalows, through a shaded trail at around mile 22, and back to the modern Broadway at the Beach area.
I really wished that I had trained for this one! With the weather, this race would be a good one to try and PR. The winds were a bit gusty at times and there were parts of the course that had a good deal of headwind, but I’ll take that and the cold over heat any day! With it being so cold though, I couldn’t even move my fingers. At mile 12, my Huma gels had fallen out of my pocket and my hands and fingers were so numb that I struggled to put them back in my pockets. I had to wait until we got to the next water stop before I could stuff them back in my pockets. Speaking of, there were many water stops and aid stations adequately along the course! There were also many bands. Many of them were just one-man bands with a guy on a guitar, his amp, and his mic. I loved it! They were all singing songs that kept us pumped!
We were coasting and before I knew it, we saw the 24-mile marker - which is where I usually am just completely exhausted and those last 2.2 miles feel like an eternity. I practiced my breathing and was taking deep breaths through my nose and exhaling from my mouth. Doing this over and over keeps me grounded and calm. In addition, I absolutely LOVED that each mile marker had “You Can. You Will.” on them. Every time I would run past a mile marker, it gave me that extra push I needed.
We rounded the final corner and saw the finish line chute and pushed it to the finish. We were both excited that we could officially check off South Carolina in our pursuit of 50! Technically, I already have South Carolina checked off with the Delirium Ultra I ran two years ago. It counts according to the 50 States Marathon Club, however, the Myrtle Beach Marathon is officially a “marathon”.
As Claudia and I ran through the finish, we gave each other the biggest hugs! We did it and managed to have fun along the entire 26.2-mile jaunt around the city. We collected our huge beautiful medals (my largest one yet) and searched for Matthew. We walked over to the finishers area and ran into Matthew who killed it with a 30-minute PR!
We snapped a bunch of finisher photos (duh!) and I began devouring everything in sight. They fed us with Krispy Kremes (I’ll have 2 please), Mellow Mushroom pizza, and the normal post-race foods of bananas and orange slices. After I consumed enough for the three of us, we jumped on a shuttle back to our hotel, showered, and had celebratory lunch at the River City Cafe (Matthew’s recommendation) before we hit the road back home.
Overall, even though this racecation was short and sweet, it’s great to share in these experiences with awesome company. Even though this marathon wasn’t planned in my schedule, I’m happy that I did it. I had fun spending time with my friends and creating memories that I’ll look fondly back on.
Now, seriously, my next marathon is the Steel City Challenge in Pittsburgh in May. I don’t plan to do another marathon until then. You can’t talk me into it! Nope, nope, nope.
“No matter how awful a time I had during the run, when I cross that finish line all the pain or struggle goes away and it turns out to be a glorious day.” - John Churchill
When I opened up my emails this morning, this popped up as the Runner’s World Quote of the Day and boy, did it speak to me. I started writing my New Orleans race recap last night and had to struggle to find my joy in running this marathon. Maybe it was because I wasn’t fully trained for it and had felt “meh” from the start. I tried my best to activate my inner bubbliness when it comes to running a new marathon in a city I’ve never run before, but I couldn’t seem to find my powdered sugar-dusted mojo. See what I mean? Instead of running, all I had were beignets on the brain.
Last Sunday, Feb. 5th, I completed my 11th marathon and state running the Big Easy and let me tell you, there was nothing easy about it. My friend, Chris, and I registered for Rock n’ Roll New Orleans a year out (March 2016) and later registered for the 5K in December when they announced its addition as part of the Remix Challenge. If you run Saturday and Sunday, you could earn three medals. More bling?! Hell yeah, sign us up!
We were ready to have a great time in New Orleans! Both of us even downloaded customizable watch faces on our Garmin to count down the days until marathon morning. Several of us from Savannah were running New Orleans and there was so much excited chatter as the days neared our racecation!
We got in Friday (Feb. 3) and stayed at the The Troubador, a fabulous Joie de Vivre luxury boutique hotel in New Orleans. It was so funky and eclectic and I loved every bit of it! Our room was spacious and we both fell in love with this little lightbox that when lit, highlighted the word - Desire. Instantly, we decided our theme song for this trip would be Janet Jackson’s “That’s the Way Love Goes” (my love is blind, can’t you see my desire?) and played it every time we were getting ready to head out for an adventure.
After we checked in, we walked over to the expo at the convention center to pick up our race packets. Thankfully, I noticed that my marathon bib was missing its shoe timing tag. Chris checked his and the wrong timing tag was attached to his bib. We headed over to the Solutions table and they quickly fixed it. Once we picked up our gear, we walked back to our hotel to drop off our things and grabbed a drink at our hotel’s super trendy rooftop bar - Monkey Board. We had a wonderful view of the city and the drinks were on point! We got a little tipsy and decided to venture out for dinner in the French Quarter to get a taste of what New Orleans had to offer - a little jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, gumbo, and red rice & beans - and we were happy campers! New Orleans has THE best food! We never had one bad meal. Obviously, we ended the night with beignets and a cafe au lait from Cafe Du Monde. Duh :)
The next morning, we woke up bright and early to a cold and brisk Saturday to run the 5K. Thankfully, Chris reminded me to pack a long-sleeve zip-up and gloves because I definitely needed them! We took an Uber to the start line (which would be our marathon’s finish line) since it was about 5 miles away. The 5K took place at City Park, which standing under the shaded oak trees, reminded me so much of Savannah’s Daffin Park. It felt as if we were home. This was going to be a good shakeout run for tomorrow’s marathon. Yeah!
...and then it began. As I started running, the voices started going off in my head. On top of that, I found myself constantly looking at my watch.
Dude, really? I haven’t even hit a mile yet?
Why do my legs feel so tired?
Where’s the finish?
Ugh, I’m not even running fast. if I feel like this today, how’s tomorrow going to be like?
I absolutely HATE when I have conversations like these in my head. It’s so draining. All I kept thinking was how I’d rather be curled up in my super soft bed lounging lazily under my cushiony cloud-like comforter while being hugged with pillows that mold to you perfectly. Before I knew it, I could hear the announcers and the finish line was in sight. Finally!
But seriously, if I felt like this today, how was tomorrow going to be like?
We grabbed an Uber and headed over to a recommended breakfast spot - The Ruby Slipper. It’s so good, we ate here twice during our stay. I definitely recommend their famous eggs benedict dishes. Served on biscuits, I had one with a fried green tomato with shrimp and one with corn beef hash. So good! They have a great background story on how they originated with the name Ruby Slipper. It had to do with Hurricane Katrina and how they came back to rebuild because “there’s no place like home.” Try it if you ever visit NOLA! You won’t be disappointed!
We spent the rest of the day and evening exploring more of the French Quarter. We did a little eating (I had to have a shrimp po boy) and a little drinking - more than what we’d normally do before race day - but hey, we’re in New Orleans! Laissez les bon temps rouler! I even discovered a new favorite drink - a Pimms cup! We were brave enough to walk a few blocks down Bourbon Street. It took only those few blocks to realize it was time to call it a night. We walked back towards our hotel and stopped at a little no-frills pizza joint to have our last carb load before marathon morning.
Ugh, that alarm came fast the next morning. Thankfully our hotel was just a few blocks away from the start line, so we walked over with plenty of time to spare. The weather was a lot warmer than the day before and I was fine just wearing my tank and skirt. The weather even felt like we were in Savannah.
Since I had not trained, I had no intention to race. This was purely a “check a state off” in my 50 states marathon journey. As we crowded in corral 9, I noticed the 4:15 pacer was amongst us. I was at hoping that I’d finish within 4:15 or so, but since my only long training run was 17 miles and I barely did any speed work sessions, I didn’t know if this would even be possible.
I’d find out later that yeah, no, this wasn’t possible.
As our corral passed through the start, I ran the first 2 miles coasting and ended up catching up with the 4:15 group. Running the streets of New Orleans felt as if I was back in Savannah. Parts of the course looked exactly like running down Washington Avenue. The only difference was spectators handing out pieces of king cake and jello shots! I loved how all the homes were completely decked out in purple and green Mardi Gras decor. After mile 3, I started wondering when I’d get into my groove where the miles would just easily come and go. I still felt like I was struggling. What was wrong with me?
At around mile 10, I needed to hit a porta-potty from all the water (or beer) I had last night. I veered off, did my business, and got back onto the course. For the next mile and a half, I ran my fastest pace at 8:00 trying to catch up with the 4:15 group. I finally caught up to them and out of breath. Thank goodness, I could slow this pace down a little and try to get into a groove. The plan was to hang on as far as I could.
“I’m going to shoot for 4:30 guys. I wasn’t expecting it to be this warm.”
“I can’t keep the pace this much longer. See you guys at the finish.”
I know what you’re thinking, but this wasn’t me or those annoying negative voices in my head. These were other runners in our 4:15 group. Our small group was starting to dwindle one by one. I ran with the 4:15 group until I hit mile 17. This is when I completely unraveled. It was hot. The sun was beating down upon us and there was absolutely no shade to try and even escape the sun rays. I wished I had put on sunblock. Every water stop, I grabbed a cup to drink and another to dump on my head. I found it extremely difficult to beat my mental game. I wanted to quit. I questioned my love for running. I called myself an idiot for having this lofty goal of running 50 marathons in 50 states. Why did I think this was fun? And for the love of God, why is it so damn hot?! I thought it was supposed to be an overcast day!
As I looked around me, I didn’t feel quite as horrible because everyone was feeling the same way. We were all grumbling, and walking, and running for a few seconds only to resort back to walking, which led to more grumbling. We were unified in our disdain of running in direct sunlight on a warm day. I felt like we resembled those drunken idiots we saw last night walking down Bourbon Street, except they were most likely still in bed while we were up and running a marathon. I couldn’t even enjoy beautiful Lakeshore Drive with all its magnificent homes. Instead, all I could think about as I watched the runners on the opposite side of the street was trying to calculate how far the turnaround was ahead. At one point, I saw Chris on the other side of the road and screamed “It’s too hot for this!” He looked as equally miserable as me and since misery loves company, it made me feel better. Later, he would tell me the same thing.
It’s been a long time since I’ve walked this much during a marathon. I was hurting mentally and I felt overheated. Those last few miles were brutal. I tried to talk myself into running the last 3 miles, but I just couldn’t do it. I felt so defeated. I ran/walked it to the finish with a time of 4:30:07. I was relieved that it was over and that I had my 11th state covered. On top of feeling miserable, I was famished. Before I picked up my Remix medal and marathon finisher jacket, I headed straight over to the food trucks. There was a line of them and I went for the one that had smoked sausage. I grabbed my sausage dog and hunkered down in a shaded (thankfully) grassy area in the finisher zone to wait for Chris. I didn’t even take advantage of the unlimited free beer. Sheesh. What the hell was wrong with me?
Once Chris made it through the finish, he joined me in the shade as we swapped stories and laughed at how miserable we felt during the run. We didn’t hang around long at the finish line festival before we hopped on one of the free bus shuttles that took us back close to our hotel. We quickly showered so we could enjoy our last hoorah in the city which consisted of a delicious crawfish boil at the Monkey Board, some chargrilled and raw Gulf oysters at a new oyster bar (can’t recall the name), a few drinks at Jackson’s Brewery to watch the Super Bowl's half-time show and last half, one last drink at the Golden Lantern, and then ended the night at Cafe Du Monde for our last beignets and coffee.
Even though my marathon didn’t go as well as I liked, overall, New Orleans was a great racecation! We shared so much laughter and have some great memories from this trip. I would do this all over again, but for sure I’d run the half instead of the full (now that I have Louisiana checked off the map).
Now that New Orleans is in the books, I’ve got to think about my next racecation coming up in May! A group of us are headed to Pittsburgh, PA to run the Pittsburgh Marathon. This time around Michael is joining me as we take on the Steel City Challenge where we run the 5K the day before the full and half marathon!
People are always telling me that the older you get, the faster the years seem to fly by. They weren’t kidding! Sheesh, 2016 feels like a gigantic blur! I swear it feels as if yesterday I proclaimed my yearly resolutions and look - here we are - back at it again.
As 2017 approaches (in just a few hours), I sit and ponder about my racing goals for the new year. As I’m typing, I can’t help but nervously glance at my Garmin, with its customized watchface, taunting me that I have 36 days until my next marathon - Rock n’ Roll New Orleans, on February 9th. Um, say whaaaat? (nervous giggles)
Am I ready? No.
Will I PR? No.
Will I have fun? Hell to the yeah!
I’m going to New Orleans with one of my good friends, Chris. We both tackled Disney’s Dopey Challenge last January and now we’re entering another new year with another destination race. Like Dopey, our goal is to have fun and enjoy the sights. This time, instead of downing butterbeer and turkey legs from Universal Studios, we plan to hit the French Quarter and eat our weight in crawfish etoufee, shrimp po boys, and beignets and maybe top it all off with a signature cafe au lait from Cafe DuMonde or possibly an ice cold hurricane from Pat O’Brien’s - you know, depending on our mood. Actually, I haven’t really checked with Chris on what his goal is, but what I just spewed out is definitely mine!
Rock n’ Roll New Orleans will be my 11th marathon in my 50 states journey and the first to kick off 2017. Plane ticket and hotel - booked! Although nervous since I haven’t really tackled on any long mileage, I’m pretty stoked about hitting up the Big Easy! We’re going to have a great time! That’s my goal.
Many of you know that I’ve set a long-term goal of running a marathon in each state, which means I choose to run multiple marathons a year. This is my main focus and I plan to do this as long as my finances (and my marriage) will allow it.
It's only going to get tougher since my oldest is a high school senior and will be entering college later this year. Goodbye disposable income! Guess I’ll be looking for marathons in nearer states that I can drive to instead of ones that require flying. I just submitted my application to the 50 States Marathon Club so hopefully I’ll be getting my welcome packet soon!
I’m currently registered for 4 marathons in 2017. In addition to Rock n’ Roll New Orleans (LA), I have Pittsburgh Marathon (PA) in May (hello hills), Marine Corps Marathon (VA) in October (this is a deferred race from 2016 due to injury and is tentative since I may have a scheduling conflict), and Charlotte Marathon (NC) in November. My only race goal for 2017 is to pick one marathon where I’ll strive to set a new PR - which I’ve decided realistically, will be Charlotte. My time to beat is 3:55 that I got at this year’s Eugene Marathon. I remember that feeling running through the finish chute at Heyward Stadium. As the volunteer hung my finisher’s medal on my neck, I got so emotional and was left in tears. The waterworks just came out of nowhere - especially seeing Michael waiting for me at the finish! I’m hoping I’ll be left in tears again this coming November at the Charlotte Marathon. Let’s hope it’s because I’ve nailed a PR and not because all the muscles in my body are spasming. With that said, that means I have to stay focused on my training (and take it more seriously) and start journaling my training again. I started doing it this year in preparation for the Chicago Marathon before my foot injury. Grrr! I was on such a roll too. Speaking of that, here’s to hoping I don’t have any injuries (knock on wood) to derail me from my training. So Charlotte - I have you in my sights and I have plenty of time to train for you!
Other than that, I plan to have fun with all my other races. Pittsburgh is going to be one hilly marathon and I plan to incorporate more of the bridge runs into my training. I don’t care about time/pace. I’m going with a slew of friends (most non-runners) so I plan on just enjoying the trip and the race. I love the race medal! It reminds me of the medals they hand out at the New York Marathon. Pittsburgh is my friend’s (Christina) stomping grounds so she’s going to be our own personal tour guide (maybe catch a Pirate’s game) and foodie (Primanti Bros. is on the list), as well as one of the cheerleaders jeering us on (yinz run like jagoffs) on race day! Going with this group of friends is guaranteed to be epic fun and I can’t wait! Michael is registered to run the half marathon and we’re both signed up for the Steel City Challenge (where you run a 5K the day before). Plane tickets and hotels - booked! Race goal? Conquer the hills as best as I can and have fun!
The Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) is one I’ve been so excited to do! It’s a bucket list race. As part of the RRCA community, I couldn’t pass up on this year’s awesome opportunity to sign up for MCM’s 41st anniversary at an unbelievable price. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be smart to run it this year due to my foot injury and it shortly being after my Chicago Marathon. I was able to defer it to 2017 so it’s on the calendar. However, it’s tentative because I will most likely have a scheduling conflict that won’t permit me to run it. My scheduling conflict (which I swore to secrecy and can’t discuss) is another bucket list item and is an opportunity that probably won’t come up for me again. I can always run the MCM another year - even though I’ll lose such a great price and opportunity! Ah well, both opportunities are bucket list-worthy items and I’m going with the one that may never happen for me again. I can always run MCM another time.
I’m excited to see how 2017 pans out! I’ve been poring over what marathons to run in the new year and these were the ones that made the cut. If I feel adventurous, I may sign up for another one since MCM is tentative, but my schedule is already all over the place. I don’t have any elaborate goals (usually they’re the same recycled goals from the previous year) or a certain specific time to beat other than to PR.
We’ll see how it all goes. Ready or not, here I come 2017!
I’m a destination runner with a goal of running 50 marathons in 50 states. I love traveling and exploring new cities. My life has been pretty hectic lately and I didn’t get a chance to write up a detailed race report within a week of completing the race. So, this post is not just about the Chicago Marathon, it’s about the journey getting to Chicago, as well as the trip.
When I registered to run the Chicago Marathon through Team Ronald McDonald House Charities (Team RMHC), I had set out to reach some major goals.
1) I wanted to surpass my minimum fundraising goal for Team RMHC. I’ve volunteered and cooked meals for the families staying in our local Ronald McDonald House and have witnessed the amazing work in keeping families together while their children are receiving care and treatment at the hospital.
2) I wanted to be serious about training to get a new personal record on race day.
I reached my fundraising goal fairly quick so now I just needed to focus on my training to set a new PR. But, I guess you can’t get everything you want, right?
Who knew a freaking gum tree ball could take you out of the running game for so long?! At the start of my training, I was feeling confident and determined. I had supportive runners who willingly agreed to join me on my Tuesday and Thursday morning workouts - from fartleks, to Yassos, to tempos, to track workouts, and weekend long runs. Everyone was game! I was so determined that I even bought a training journal to start logging my mileage and workouts. I focused on my diet to make sure I was taking in enough protein at the right time - within the critical 30-45 minute window after my workouts, so my muscles could properly recover. I was on a roll and feeling invincible! I was nailing paces on my tempo runs that I didn’t even think were possible for me.
NO ONE COULD STOP ME FROM KICKING SO MUCH ASS!!!
Until that dreadful day I stepped on that damn gumtree ball. We were running fartleks in Ardsley Park and I rolled my ankle as I stepped on one. It didn’t hurt at the time, but after a few more training runs, my left foot started killing me. I couldn’t put much weight on it and started running with a limp. Then, I couldn’t even run at all. This injury put me out of the running game for the whole month of July into the end of August. My marathon was in October. WHYYYYY? I was on such a good roll! I saw my physician and took some x-rays and they didn’t see any fractures - which was a huge relief! I went to Ledesma Sports Medicine and was treated using K-Laser and graston treatments. I tried running a few times on the Alter-G treadmill, but it wasn’t the same. I was depressed and sad reading my run group’s texts on what mileage and workouts they were doing. I just wanted to get out there and run with everyone!
After weeks of rest and several attempts to run without injury, it was recommended that I change up shoes. I went to Fleet Feet and switched from my favorite Adidas Boosts to Asics Gel Nimbus because I needed more stability and support. I even changed my socks to a higher compression length. This helped and I was happy if I could even run more than 3 miles without any pain. It was as if I was a newbie to running again. My lungs ached on my runs and I felt miserable and tired. I wanted to keep up with everyone. I felt so defeated. I was also terrified that I had a marathon coming up! Would my foot hold up? Would I have enough endurance to even get through a marathon? I had to take it easy and my goal now for the Chicago Marathon was to just finish without any injury. I was hoping and praying that my foot would be okay. Turns out, my injury was just another minor bump in the road within my journey to get to the Chicago Marathon.
Hurricane freaking Matthew was about to throw my trip in total chaos! The week leading into race weekend was so intense. My head hurt so bad just trying to work out the logistics. On top of that, I was in the middle of rehearsals for The Bay Street Theatre’s annual production of Rocky Horror Live. I was dead tired. Exhausted. Cecilia need sleep.
I was obsessed with the Weather Channel. The news and social media outlets were flooded with posts regarding impending doom as Hurricane Matthew might possibly take a direct hit to Savannah. Oh man...Should I go on this trip? Can I even go? What do I do about the flights and the hotel? What about my kids? If I go, will I look like a horrible mom? Can I make this work?
Stop. Take a deep breath.
This now became a “if I can make it work, I will make it work” situation. I talked to my mother-in-law and asked what her evacuation plans would be and if my kids could tag along - which was an obvious YES. They turned the evacuation into a trip to visit my sister-in-law and her family in Williamsburg, VA. Meanwhile, Michael and I got in contact with our friends, the Luskeys, who were also running Chicago. With airport closures predicted, they changed their flights from Charleston to Atlanta and we ended up ours from departing from Savannah to an Atlanta departure. After several group texts and quick decisions, we decided to carpool up to Atlanta.
We were going to make this work!
I didn’t feel at ease until our plane landed in Chicago and I had finally step foot onto Chicago’s soil. We finally made it. Everyone was accounted for and safe. However, I was still glued to the Weather Channel and my phone looking at pictures of downed trees and powerlines coming from folks who stayed and braved the storm. But, now that we were in Chicago…..
I fell in love with the city - the tall buildings, various architectural boat tours and kayakers constantly gliding along the river, the music blaring from all the trendy and chic restaurants and bars, and the variety of food everywhere. It had the big city excitement like that of New York, but with a midwestern charm. Once we checked into Hotel Chicago, we made our way to some deep-dish pizza at Lou Minalti’s. It was delicious and a great recommendation. This deep-dish pizza was just right for my carbo-load! After lunch, we took the subway over to the expo. On our walk, we passed by a sticker someone stuck on one of the bridges and I stopped to take a picture of it. It said “Be Optimistic” and it was just what I need to see with all the worrying about the hurricane and the marathon. At the expo, I picked up my race packet and checked in with my Team RMHC to pick up our wristbands to enjoy the race tent on marathon day. I had already pre-ordered my Nike marathon gear online so we avoided all the long lines at checkout and walked around and enjoyed visiting all the vendors.
The next morning Michael and I woke up bright and early and made our way to the start line of the inaugural Chicago International 5K. The announcer mentioned that the start of the 5K was once the original marathon start location. It was a nice sight to see everyone in different race bibs representing their countries. I even got to take a peek at the marathon’s start and finish lines - which gave me all the nervous jitters again. After the race, we walked past the Bean and of course, we took our obligatory pictures. We met the Luskeys later that afternoon and went on an architectural boat tour and finished the evening with a nice dinner at a wonderful authentic Italian restaurant. It was so good! Round 2 of carbo-loading! Once we got back to the hotel, I was so exhausted. I set aside my marathon race gear and hit the sheets. It was going to be an early morning.
The next morning, I got dressed and met the Luskeys downstairs. The great thing about the Chicago Marathon is that our hotel was conveniently located to the start/finish so we followed all the other runners and walked to the race start. I broke off from the group and met my fellow Team RMHC runners at our tent. They had a wonderful breakfast spread and our own private gear check. I waited there, listening to the DJ getting us pumped up for the marathon, until it was time for me to head out to my corral. Once I made it to the start line, I remembered thinking, “Breathe. You’ll be fine. Take it easy. Please, foot, don’t fail me now. Enjoy the sights. This is your 10th marathon/state! Oh, and find Elvis (an inside joke - which by the way, I did find).” And before I knew it, I was crossing the start line. My friends who ran it last year had already warned me that my Garmin wouldn’t be accurate during the race and it was true. My watch was all over the place, but since I wasn’t worried about time, it didn’t bother me at all. My goal was to finish and enjoy the experience (and hopefully not end with any injury). We ran through neighborhoods that reminded me of Ardsley Park, Chinatown, and my favorite area was Boys Town. The drag queens were performing on stage and I enjoyed running past the male cheerleaders and twirlers. They had such lively music blaring and all their cheers put such a big smile on my face. I was having a blast.
The miles were going by easily. I felt great listening to the crowd cheering and reading all of the funny signs (my favorite - “Run before Trump grabs you by the p--sy”). My foot didn’t give me any trouble, but it started to ache a little towards to the end, but not enough to stop. Before I knew it, I had crossed the finish line and a volunteer was handing me my medal. I had completed my 10th marathon/state. YES!!! I ached. My body felt the same as when I ran my first marathon. I slowly trekked back over to the Team RMHC tent (which felt like forever) and met up with Michael. He prepared me a plate from the buffet and I got myself a free massage. We walked back to the hotel and I couldn’t wait to jump into a hot shower and take a nice nap. Later that evening, we met up with the Luskeys again and had a nice dinner at a trendy ramen restaurant and ended the evening at a piano bar. It wasn’t a long night. I was still exhausted and needed sleep. This trip was a whirlwind of nerves and excitement and my body was slowly shutting down on me.
So folks, the lesson here is - There will always be obstacles that may prevent you from getting to a specific goal, but you can’t let it stop you or get you down. Continue moving forward and everything will work out!
Sorry - I've been slacking in the blogging department! I ran Colfax back in May and am now just posting up my race report. Slacker!!
Yes, I know I am nuts for running two marathons within two weeks, but I’ve got 50 states to cover and the Colfax Marathon in Denver, Colorado was a great opportunity that just couldn’t be passed up. My dad approached me some time last year about running for his ex-seminarian charity group called Team Joy & Hope. It’s a group of his brothers (or ex-brothers I should say) who were once in the seminary together when they lived in Vietnam and now they raise money to help the poor and sick in local communities, as well as in Vietnam. Of course I would run for this great cause! Team Joy & Hope consisted of me from Georgia, my aunt from Tennessee, and a Denver local who ran the marathon, as well as a married couple and their brother from Kentucky who ran the half. We spent a weekend getting to know one another and spent most of the time feeding our faces with ALL THE VIETNAMESE FOOD, which I don’t get much of anymore ever since my mom passed, so I was relishing in all of its yumminess.
Since I ran the Eugene Marathon two weeks before, my intention going into this race was to have fun and enjoy this 26.2-mile jaunt around the city. No pressure, no nervous pre-race jitters, right? Who am I kidding? I felt the pressure and had all kinds of pre-race jitters which weren’t caused by time or pace. It was the thinness of the air and running in these unknown conditions. Also - Where was I going to park in the morning? Why didn’t I pack enough for different race temps? Was I going to conk out way early? The games your mind plays. Sheesh!
We went to the race expo on Saturday at the Sports Authority at Mile High Stadium - home of the Super Bowl champs, the Denver Broncos. The expo was great with lots of samples and awesome sales! I snagged a pretty groovy tee from Denver’s local running store, Runner’s Roost, as well as some arm warmers and gloves (I never learn my lesson of packing for all weather conditions). I checked the weather (which happened to change daily) and now the start of the race was going to be in the low 40s (but would feel like the high 30s) and it was going to be cloudy in the high 50s when the race was done. My long-sleeve throwaway that I thankfully packed was going to be part of my running gear for a couple of miles. Since I’m one of the Ambassadors representing the Southeast, I made sure to stop by the Skirt Sports booth to say hello to the volunteers and made sure we took a group pic! I was bummed that I wasn’t staying longer since Monday would be the grand opening of their first retail store in Boulder. While at the expo, I caught a glimpse of some of the marathon course since I knew we’d be running through the stadium. Painted on the stadium wall is a saying that goes, “As the air gets thinner, Denver’s hearts get thicker” or something like that. It was just another reminder that I CAN’T BREATHE! Hahaha! This was going to be an interesting marathon for sure!
This was the first race where I was accompanied by my dad. He’s a proud one. He loves to boast about all his children’s accomplishments and then some. I know he’s proud of me running all these marathons. Seeing me raise money and run on behalf of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and just recently the Ronald McDonald House Charities, it was his idea to lead the charge for the Team Joy & Hope initiative. I overheard someone say that my dad raised $7,000. Way to go dad! This was going to be the first time I’d have family cheering me on at the finish line - besides my husband. And this would be the first time my dad would experience me running through the finish line (which he jumped into the corral at the last couple of meters to help me run in strong). It was quite an experience!
On race morning, my aunt and I scored a sweet parking spot close to the Start/Finish line. It was freezing! The marathon and half marathon start were at different times. As we got into our corrals, I started my Garmin 235 and the freaking low battery alert popped up. Really?! I assumed it was fully charged so didn’t bother to put it on the charger the night before (lesson learned). Oh well, I wasn’t planning on racing this marathon so this wasn’t going to be an issue. However, I hated every bit of it. I kept thinking I was a mile ahead every time and at mile 24, when you think you’re about to hit mile 25, it BLOWS!! Hahaha! Even with that said, it felt great not worrying about time and pace. I was just cruising along and enjoying the sights. I will say I didn’t particularly care for the 10-milers and marathon relay runners running full speed past me at certain parts of the race. “How are these people flying past me so fast? Oh wait, they’re not running a marathon. Calm down!” Once again, head games. I also managed to get some air jumping for one of the photographers inside the stadium at around mile 20. I regretted it afterwards because I spent so much energy doing it and should’ve conserved it for the last stretch of the race - especially at mile 23 where there’s a brutal hill/incline!
Colfax Marathon is on the list of best marathons to run according to Runner’s World. It really is an awesome course - although I’d like to say it’s not a fast and flat course as advertised. I know this - I live in Savannah, where it’s truly flat! It’s a gorgeous course especially running down Colfax Boulevard with all the beautiful art and graffiti on the walls. We also ran past an amusement park, alongside a river and stream, really quaint neighborhoods that reminded me of Savannah’s Ardsley Park area, and of course through the Broncos stadium (except the jumbotron was not working)! As I finally made my way to the finish chute, I heard my fellow teammates cheering me on and saw my dad jump into the corral to run me in. That was the best feeling ever! I made it! I ran the mile high city in 4:09:21 and survived!
Next up is marathon #10 in my 50 marathons in 50 states quest - Chicago Marathon !
I remember it clearly. I had just completed a flurry of races that included the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler, Big Sur 21-Miler, and the Flying Pig Marathon. Each race tells a different story along my journey - whether it’s the blooming cherry blossoms that welcomed me into their sweet canopy, like the arms of my mother in which I ran to honor; the scenic and hilly Pacific coast of Big Sur, listening to the waves break against the rugged, rocky edge as my husband, who ran his longest mileage ever, stayed side-by-side with his selfie stick wielding wife making him stop at every possible mile (and hill) for pictures; and tackling the rolling hills of Cincinnati, while grabbing strips of bacon and scarfing down Twizzlers along the course that would fuel me into a personal best of 4:08.
With my runner’s high of getting a new PR and with each race being so rewarding, unique, and most importantly, fun, I was chomping at the bits to register for more races in my lifelong pursuit of 50 marathons in 50 states. Plus who doesn’t love a reason to travel the country?!
That summer of 2015, I had just gotten the latest issue of Runner’s World and was flipping through the pages when I came across a Races + Places article titled “10 Editor-Approved Marathons for 2015: Find Your Perfect 26.2”. Conversations amongst my running crew spurred into registering for one of these “perfect 26.2” - the Eugene Marathon. Because of the build up in conversation and excitement, one registration led to a group of 8 Savannahians preparing to head to Eugene in April/May of 2016 to run the Eugene Marathon and Half! Fun! I was marking Oregon off my list of states and was pretty excited since Michael and I have never been. So in July of 2015, we registered and our friends booked us all a sweet vacation home (which we dubbed our Real World house) just 8 blocks away from the University of Oregon - the start and finish of the Eugene Marathon.
Why the Eugene Marathon? Runner’s World boasts Eugene as “the epicenter of American distance running - it’s where Nike began, where Steve Prefontaine lived and died, and the home of the Oregon Track Club. The grand finale is on the historic Hayward Field track, where legendary coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman trained Pre.” The race’s tagline is “Running in the Footsteps of Legends” and the city is dubbed as Tracktown USA. Not to mention, the city has hosted the Olympic Marathon Trials. This city is serious about running. The very thought of running the same city streets and bike paths, as well as finishing on Hayward Track, literally in the footsteps of Oregon running legends, was just so damn exciting! I was looking forward to seeing what kind of story the Eugene Marathon would tell.
A few weeks ago, I took part in a Runner’s World Getaway and the guest speaker, Deena Kastor, said that you should set an intention for every run. You should ask yourself what purpose will this current run serve? Is it for improving speed, is to clear your mind, is it to build up endurance? What intention was I going to set for the Eugene Marathon?
I hate to admit it, but I’m usually very lackadaisical in my training. Meh, I don’t want to run a tempo so I’m just going to do an easy run. Hill work, shmill work. Long runs? But I’m hungry! ….and then I started thinking about my NYC Marathon and how my legs felt like they were going to pop out of its sockets on mile 20 and wondering if I was actually going to be able to finish it afterall. That’s a scary thought when others around you are collapsing and being carted off in a wheelchair. Hmm….maybe I should run the bridge on Sundays and do some more long runs to build up endurance for those last couple of miles? Ya think? Having a group of friends running the same marathon, or a marathon on the same weekend (Claudia), helps A LOT! I don’t think I would’ve survived doing those long runs or those Sunday bridge runs on my own. Actually, I can go ahead and tell you that I wouldn’t do those long runs and bridge runs on my own because - well, lackadaisical. I like that word, but can’t wait to get rid of it in my vocab!
So, I set my intention on beating my PR. Since I didn’t hit my 4-hour goal for the NYC Marathon, Eugene was going to be where it happened. Secretly, I wanted to run a sub-4:00 and I didn’t share it with anyone. Not one single soul. Not even to Michael. I’m a weenie when it comes to announcing goals. I know, I can already hear you, “Cecilia? You’re keeping something private? What?!” Yes, I don’t like to announce my race goal to anyone. It’s private and personal to me and I don’t need any kind of added pressure. My ultimate goal for the Eugene Marathon was to focus, dig deep, and do well on race day.
Saturday before the race, we went to the expo to pick up our packets at the University of Oregon and I thought it was so cool how they listed all the runners’ names under our respective states. All 50 states were represented amongst the 5,500 runners. There was even another person running from Savannah, but the name wasn’t familiar to any of us. Georgia (especially Savannah) was very well represented! Since this is where Nike was founded and Eugene is known as a distance running mecca, I thought there would be a smorgasbord of cool Nike and Pre-themed apparel, but there wasn’t much of that at the expo at all, which was disappointing. However, I had to remind myself that this race is significantly smaller (approximately 1,361 marathoners) than any of my other marathons so it’s really not fair to compare it to the big race expos. We all grabbed our race packets and prepared for a low-key day so we could be well rested for the next morning.
Sunday morning, we prepared our way to the race start and found parking literally right around the corner from the start/finish line. Score! I love it when there’s no stress of traffic (hello Disney) to deal with! This is an advantage of running a smaller race. Each of us had different goals so we all split up as we got to our corrals. Some of us made a final pit stop to the port-a-potties, nervously glancing at our watches with minutes/seconds to spare before the 7:00 start! Mel and I had just enough time to spot our 4-hour pacer and crawled into our corral with just minutes before the race began. Because of the rush, it prevented any of the nervous jitters I usually get just standing and waiting around in the corral. I quickly ate one of my Huma gels, started my watch, and was off running!
As with all races, there was some mild congestion at the beginning, but it wasn’t too bad. Running with the crowd masqueraded some of the hills. I felt it in my legs, but couldn’t see the depth. The one memorable hill came at mile 8. It also didn’t help that the two ladies (who must be locals) running next to me kept talking about this dreaded hill. I channeled Ernie Ledesma’s advice he gave at one of the Savannah Striders’ meetings on form and did a slight lean into the hill, focusing on my footfalls under my body. I’ve also been trying to practice mindfulness meditation in my runs and started taking some really deep breaths through the nose and exhaling out my mouth. Focusing on my breath really does provide a calming effect. Many times throughout the race when I would start to feel a little weary, I would focus on my breaths, accepting the little aches and pains, and continue to truck along. A couple of times I would glance at my watch during these breaths and it was amazing to see just how much faster I was actually moving when doing this.
Overall, I really felt good throughout the race. At around mile 16, Mel told me her foot was bothering her and to go ahead. I took a deep breath and kept going. Throughout the race, I paid careful attention to my pace - making sure I wasn’t getting ahead of myself like I did in New York. I didn’t want to make that same mistake again and it scared the shit out of me. Once I hit mile 20, I was all smiles. I couldn’t believe just how incredibly strong I felt so I pushed the pace a little bit. Occasionally, I’d find a runner on the course to partner with for a few meters or so and then my goal was to break away. Then I started getting nervous and was having flashbacks of NYC and told myself to stay conservative with the pace. I knew I was well ahead of the 4-hour pacer. I looked around and saw there was some distance between myself and the other runners so I would repeat my mantra out loud, “YOU GOT THIS! COME ON! YOU GOT THIS!” My plan was if I still felt good at mile 23, to push it a little more to the finish. At mile 23, I felt excellent! I was still doing my mindfulness meditation exercises and feeling more relaxed with each step.
This race was really beautiful and I would totally recommend it. There were so many sights to see and I took them all in. I watched the quick currents and the streaming water falling along the jagged rocks of the Willamette River. The scenery is just so different from the streets of Savannah. I was captivated by it all. At some parts, it felt like a nice trail run with all the shade from the trees and the tunnels. I loved seeing the different colors and vibrancy in the greenery. As we ran the bike paths through the several parks, I found myself people watching as they went about enjoying their day as we ran past them. I started noticing the same folks over and over on the course as they followed their loved ones to offer support. Before I knew it, mile marker 25 was coming into view and I still felt really strong so with a couple of deep breaths, I hoped to push the pace a little more..and I did! I was so excited to see the entrance into Hayward Field. As I ran the last stretch along the rubber track, my friends who had already finished their races, stood along the side cheering me into my finish! It gave me that extra oomph to finish strong. I glanced at the gun time clock and saw 3:58 so I was really excited that I’d be finishing well under 4:00. As I passed the timing mat, I went to stop my Garmin and saw that my time was 3:55! Emotions hit me hard. I found Michael waiting for me around the corner and I couldn’t help myself and started tearing up. Not only had I gotten a new PR, but I shaved 13 minutes! What a story!!
My Eugene Marathon was all about listening. Listening to my body, words of advice, deep breaths and exhalations, and the sounds of my environment. When you’re running 26.2 miles and running for close to 4 hours, you spend a lot of time listening.
The whole trip to Eugene is one that I will always cherish. We made some great memories that I will always fondly look back upon. It was an amazing time with great friends. There wasn’t a day wasted - even on our low-key day. Our trip included running a nice shakeout 3-miler at a local brewery called Ninkasi Brewing; buying a dozen, and then some, of the famous VooDoo Donuts (yum!); shopping at a local art festival where I bought some nice smelling handmade soaps and a cool print that was created using exoskeletons of flies (trust me - it’s so cool!); some more shopping at the Eugene Running Company and other local retailers; dining and sipping pinot noir wine flights at the beautiful King Estate Winery (my first trip to a winery); snapping selfies along the glorious Pacific coast and visiting the sea lion caves; winning some money at the Three Rivers Casino; running out of a vegan pizza joint because well, no meat; playing multiple games of pinball, Gauntlet, and air hockey for hours at a bar called Level Up; and just lots of laughter that bring so much joy to my heart. This trip was a major success and just so much fun!
Next up, Colfax Marathon….in 4 days.
If you look up the idiom "on-the-run", it means to constantly travel or moving from place to place. Welcome to my life! I get asked the question - "Do you ever sleep?" at least once a week. The truth is - I am always on the run. My weeks are filled with work, training runs, dropping kids off to school and extra curricular activities, traveling out-of-town for races and soccer games, theatre rehearsals, civic duties - you name it. In addition to being an avid runner, I'm a happily married wife, mother of two, an actress, singer, a Fleet Feet CREW coach, and work full time as the Marketing Manager for Thomas & Hutton Engineering Co. I love being on the run!