I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving surrounded by family and/or close friends. This year, we spent Thanksgiving in Hiawasee, GA - right on the border of Georgia and North Carolina. It was gorgeous. The house we rented was 1 of 2 that sat on a mountaintop with spectacular views. My family of four, my sister's family and extended family, and my brother and dad stayed for Thanksgiving weekend and it was the most relaxing one we've had thus far. This was our first year without our mom. I totally missed and craved her good ole collard greens :( We talked so much about renting a cabin and never did it when she was alive and so we decided this would be the year. We also wanted to get away from Savannah and so glad we did.
The house was HUGE. It was spacious enough that it didn't feel like we were on top of one another. We had 13 people in the house and we still all had space to lounge around and feel comfortable. Our realtor gave us a flyer on a Thanksgiving feast offered at Brother's at Willow Ranch. It came highly recommended and it was delicious. Their Thanksgiving spread was amazing - turkey, prime rib, salmon, apricot-glazed ham with all the fixins'. We hit up the nearest grocery store and purchased food to make meals for the rest of the week and only left the cabin to go sightseeing and to buy more firewood and drinks.
The weekend consisted of sightseeing, lounging around in pajamas, sitting around the fire pit outside, drinking wine and beer, playing Scrabble and Cards Against Humanity, and chasing the kids and dogs around the cabin. It was perfect.
My brother-in-law, Noah, found out about a trail race in Helen, GA on Saturday after Thanksgiving - the Helen Holiday Half and 10K. Michael and I signed up before online registration closed. We were only about 30-40 minutes away from Helen. I looked up the details and because it's a trail race set up in Unicoi State Park, the race was cup-free and green. I didn't pack our water bottles and fuel so we decided we'd just run the 10K. The race was a lot of fun. It was Michael's first trail run and some of those hills were KILLER! I had to stop half-trek to take a breather before I could start running again. There were a couple of times where I tweaked my ankle, but not enough to do any damage. There were about 400 participants - some in costumes that ranged from reindeer to Captain America (he won the contest). It was a cold morning, but I packed my cold weather running gear. The run was definitely challenging, but I'm starting to love these trail races. It's just completely different from running the streets. You have to be more aware of your surroundings - roots, rocks, inclines and declines as obstacles, the beautiful scenery of tall trees and lakes, the serene sound of peacefulness and nature all around you. I loved every bit of it. I wished we could've run the half marathon! Note to self - next time we leave on vacation, check for any nearby races, register for it, and pack for it! Michael and I crossed the finish line at the same time with a pace of 8:47. I'm super stoked and surprised considering it was a challenging uphill run. Instead of medals, they handed out beer glasses! I love them! They gave us a free beer ticket for the after-party celebration in Helen at Big Daddy's, but Michael and I didn't go. We went back to the cabin to meet up with the family. We had already made plans to visit Anna Ruby Falls and check out the waterfalls. Gorgeous!
The day before, we went to Helen to walk around the Bavarian-themed town. We ate at the Hofbrauhaus restaurant. I was mostly excited to have a cold mug of their Dunkel beer and a Hungarian Bratwurst with sauerkraut. We then walked around the little strip and checked out the shops. We went and surveyed the area where the race was going to be held at - the Unicoi State Park - and picked up our race packets. We were told to go and visit Brasstown Bald - the highest mountain in GA with stunning views - but we didn't get a chance to. Next time! We plan to come back! Overall, this trip was a memorable one. We had a most relaxing time. It was great to get away and hey - I was able to churn out a run! Everything's better when you fit in a run! It felt so good that I went ahead and signed up for the 24-Hour Run for Delirium!!! What? Did you just give me that look? I gave myself the same look, but hey - it's going to be the last one and with some persuasion by my Moms Run This Town (MRTT) group, I couldn't resist!
But, let's talk about the next race - the Savannah Enmark Bridge Run! I'm running the Double Pump (5K and 10K) and will be dressed as Rosie the Riveter with my MRTT crew! See you there!
Shut it Down! We're Rockin', Rollin', and Running the Strip at Night! - Recap of Las Vegas Rock n' Roll weekend
I remember having this conversation about running Vegas Rock n' Roll around this same time last year. It was right after Thanksgiving and my mom had just left the hospital. I laid next to her in bed and told her this was one of my bucket list races. I remember how excited I was telling her about grand plans for the race and possibly renewing my 15th wedding anniversary vows there. Not a beat passed when she told me that she and my dad would give us the plane tickets to Vegas as a wedding anniversary gift. Once registration opened up, I registered Michael and I for the race and convinced my two trusty run friends, Dan and Stephanie, to sign up as well. I spread the word to all my friends and family and my run pals, Larry and Wesley, and my sister and brother-in-law, Tanya and Mike, registered for the race and we all booked our trip!
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Actually what happens in Vegas get posted all over social media! That is if you behaved :) What a fun-filled weekend in Sin City! We left Saturday early morning for our 6:00 AM flight to Vegas. We met up with Larry and Wesley at the airport and took off. Once we landed in Vegas, we met up with Stephanie, who came along with her friends, Hannah and Lily. Dan was flying in later with his co-worker, Dana, and we'd catch up with him the next day. Tanya and Mike flew in earlier that morning and were already at the hotel.
My cousin recommended us to book the ARIA and we're so glad we did! It was so nice and swanky. It's one of the newer hotels on the strip. When we stepped foot into the room, the curtains parted, the lamps switched on, and soft music started to play automatically. Fancy! Once we settled in, we took a cab to the Convention Center to hit up the expo. It was so packed!! I ended up buying a long sleeve Nike running shirt to wear underneath our Custom Ink shirts I had made for Michael and I for our run-thru wedding ceremony. I had the toughest time trying to figure out what to pack for the race. It's so hard to prepare for the unknown - a night race in an unfamiliar city. It was so chilly!
Once we left the expo, we headed back to the hotel to eat (and gamble). We ate at The Buffet (a $45 per person buffet) that included dishes from every country you could think of and seafood galore. We ate like it was our last meal...which made me sleepy, not to mention there was a 3-hour time change for us. After that hefty meal, Michael and I went to bed. Yep, we're in Vegas and we were in bed by 11 pm. Ha! Man, times have changed!
The next morning, the concierge recommended us to eat at a French restaurant, Mon Ami Gabi at the Paris. It was probably the best breakfast I've ever had. No lie. It was so good we ended up eating there the very next morning too! We were watching them prepare to shut the strip down. How cool! There are only 2 times the strip is shut down - New Years and the Rock n' Roll race. After some walking, shopping, and eating, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the race.
I was exhausted riding the shuttle to the start line. The music was blaring as Macklemore and Ryan Lewis took the stage as they were headlining the pre-race concert. We got there fairly early because Wesley and Tanya were doing the Half of the Half, which started an hour before the half and marathon. We plopped ourselves on the asphalt lot and tried to stay warm. Once it got closer to the race start, we began walking to our corrals. Mike was running his first full and was in corral 12. Larry stayed back to pace him for the first 10 miles. Everyone else joined Michael and I in corral 11 - the run-thru corral. There were several brides and grooms dressed up in running gear with veils and bow ties. It was awesome!
This was Michael's first half marathon and I could tell he was anxious. This was going to be the farthest he had ever run. We stopped off at mile 3 to renew our vows in front of the Monte Carlo. Michael and I were among several couples either getting married or renewing vows. We were being silly the entire time with Stephanie, Hannah, and Dan at our side. The only downside to it was that we had to wait 25-30 minutes before the ceremony started. Once it was done, we got back on the course to finish the race. There were 35,000 runners so there was A LOT of bobbing and weaving through folks - even all the way to the finish line! It was that crowded! We were having so much fun during the first couple of miles watching newly wedded couples exiting the wedding chapels on the race course, bands rocking out some Spice Girls, all the blinding bright lights, and then the excitement waned as the music died down, the bright lights were at our backs, and ALL THE BOBBING AND WEAVING! At this point, I was ready to hurry and finish up. I was cold and just wanted the race to be over. The excitement was done. We already renewed our vows and I was lacking adrenaline that even GU couldn't perk up. Michael, Stephanie, Hannah, and I ran together until the finish. I was so proud of Michael on completing his first half! We were actually kicking it once we got back on course because all of us were ready for the race to be done. We ran through the finish, grabbed our medals, draped ourselves in the RNR capes they gave us to keep warm, guzzled down water, chocolate milk, Gatorade, and some beer, parked ourselves in the warm and welcoming Flamingo casino, and waited for Mike to finish his marathon. Once the 4 hour mark came up, Tanya and I walked over to the finish line to wait and cheer Mike on. I went to use the bathroom and I can't believe that Mike ran through the finish chute and I missed him! I was so bummed that I missed it. I am super proud of Mike for running his first marathon, Michael on his first half, and Tanya for completing her first race. How awesome! That made this trip even more worthwhile!
After the race, we made our way back to the ARIA and had dinner and celebratory drinks at the Todd English Pub. It's so different running a race without an after party. I guess Vegas itself is an after party. My big plans for partying the night away fizzled out as I quickly turned into a pumpkin. What is wrong with me? I'm in Vegas and I'm not going to party?! I was just so tired. So Michael and I made our way back to the room, took a nice hot shower, and passed out. We slept gloriously.
The next day (Monday), everyone left except Michael, Larry, Wesley, Dan, Dana, and I. We spent the day exploring the strip and all the different casinos. That night, we went to see Cirque Du Soleil's Zarkana, which was in our hotel. It was amazing! It was also my first Cirque show and I was completely mesmerized from the very beginning. I didn't want it to end! Once the show was over, a few of us stayed out and played some Blackjack. I was getting the hang of it. We all won some, then lost some. After several hands, we decided to call it quits and head to bed since some of us had to be at the airport by 4:30 AM.
Overall it was a very successful trip! We explored the strip, watched a show, ate until our bellies were full, and gambled without going overboard. It wasn't the crazy, party-til-you-drop trip that I had in mind. I couldn't adjust to the time and my belly was always too full for mass consumption of alcohol. However, the trip was a blast! I would like to come back again and visit the Hoover Dam and take a tour of the Grand Canyon. Who knows, maybe next time I'll venture into running the marathon. It was an awesome time with friends and family and great memories were made, as well as new friendships. Until the next destination race...
What a whirlwind of a weekend this was! Say that 3 times and see if you don't get tongue-tied. In addition to preparing for the Savannah Rock n' Roll marathon and 5K, I also worked at the Team In Training booth at the expo for a few hours on Friday, rushed home to get the family ready to see Savannah Arts Academy's production of Legally Blonde - the musical (FYI - which was an entertaining production), and then rushed home again to get my race gear prepared for the marathon! I didn't hit the sheets until well after 11:30 and I had to be up at around 4:30 AM to mentally and literally prepare myself for tackling the 26.2! I regret not having a calm, uneventful, and lazy lounge night at the house before race day. I'm sure this would've prevented me from being so frazzled on race morning. I kept thinking that I forgot something! Luckily, that didn't happen.
Saturday morning I drove myself down and parked near Forsyth Park and joined some nice ladies to walk down to the race start. They happened to be CREWbies as well, so I followed them to Reynolds Square for our group photo before the race. Everyone looked energized and ready to roll! The weather was perfect for race day - nice cool bite to the air. I met up with my running buds Larry and Cealan and made our way to gear check and then headed to our corrals. I loved all the excitement and energy in the air! It's so infectious! You can't help but catch the pre-race jitters! I love to see people from all over visit our beautiful city to run our streets, our home.
This was my first time running the Savannah RNR marathon and I was anxious that morning (and that whole week). So many things were going on in my head - I publicized my goal out to the universe (4:15-4:30 range), thought about all my training for this race, and was determined to PR. Now to just do it. I moved from corral 12 to 9 and ran with Larry. As soon as our corral dashed through the start chute, I made the decision to run at a steady pace until mile 13 or 14 - taking it easy while weaving and bobbing through the pack. I felt great! I made sure to cheer on Team Trust (a group of runners from several states running to honor the memory of Jake Zeman who collapsed and died at the finish line of last year's 2013 Savannah RNR) whenever I passed by them on the course. How inspiring! I also had friends stationed on the course around mile 9 holding up hilarious signs and enticing runners with shots! I wasn't crazy enough to take one!
Once I hit mile 15, I started to struggle just a bit and was not feeling it. In fear that I would hit a wall, I refueled with a Huma Chia energy and it gave me the jolt I needed. I ran into my husband, Michael, as we ran across Skidaway Road to enter into Savannah State's campus. He was stationed at the intersection of Skidaway and LaRoche. I ran by and gave him a quick kiss and went on my way. He and his 2 other fellow cops gave me some words of encouragement and that helped too. The amount of cheer and support through the SSU campus is just amazing! I loved every minute of it.
Larry and I stuck together until around mile 20 around Daffin and he stopped to inspect his blistered foot and encouraged me to go on. So I started running...(did you just read that in Forest Gump's voice?)
I kept hearing the crowd cheering "good job 4:15 pacers!" and could see the pace group closing in behind me. This made me feel like I was on track so I kept with them for about a mile. However, this little competitiveness spurred inside me and just came out of nowhere and I started itching to beat my goal of 4:15. Was I crazy? I knew I was going to PR from my last marathon, so why did I feel like I needed to become this overachiever? When did I go mad? So I started pushing it and my goal now was to just stay ahead of the pacer gripping his 4:15 sign.
My right leg locked up coming back onto Truman Parkway because of the incline combined with my tired legs. I winced, but kept running hoping the pain and tightness would go away and eventually it did. Thank goodness! Here's where I started repeating mantras of "Cecilia - you've got this! Keep going!" over and over again. Did it help? Maybe. It made me feel better anyways.
As soon as I got off Truman Parkway, I was overjoyed. I was so glad that portion was over. However, the rest of the race is a slight incline to the finish. What kind of cruel joke is this? Repeating my mantras again. Refuel again. Just don't HIT THE WALL...or was this the wall that I just careened into? At mile 25, I ran up on my co-worker, Chris, who was running his first marathon. He looked just as miserable as I was so I grabbed his hand, without him knowing it was me, and said, "Come on Chris! Almost there! We've got this!!" I let go of his hand and we started running. Glancing at my watch, I wasn't paying attention to time. I was looking at distance and my Garmin read 25.5 and I just wanted to hurry up and be done. I pushed myself to the finish with my CREW coaches and friends cheering me on, and AAHHHHHH - I was through the finish chute and high-fiving the announcer! I JUST FINISHED MY 3rd MARATHON!! WOO HOO!! AGGHHH LEG CRAMP!! Never ever try to step up on a curb after running with all your might. You will scream like a banshee looking like a mad person gesticulating to everyone that your leg is stuck and you're in pain - all the while looking like you're doing the famous Karate Kid move. True story.
I just shattered my last marathon record of 4:49:23 (Austin Marathon) with completing Savannah RNR at 4:14:31! A new PR! Things can only go uphill (no pun intended or wanted) from here, right?
Later than evening, I had a baby shower to attend for my friend, Crystal. We ordered Mexican food and threw her a "Taco About Stella (her daughter-to-be's name)" party or what we jokingly referred to as the "fetus fiesta". It was a great time with good friends. I got home around 11 that night and crashed. Thankfully the 5K of the Running Festival didn't kick off until 1 PM at Daffin Park the next day. This year, Savannah was one of the destinations chosen to have a Running Festival with extra cool medals and shirts and even a remix medal if you completed an event on Saturday and Sunday. I was supposed to sing the National Anthem that morning, but somehow Competitor's announcer forgot and so I didn't get to sing :( What a bummer!
I told myself I would hobble the 5K because my legs were still aching from yesterday's pavement pounding and what do I do? I end up running that 5K like an actual race. It hurt at first, but then the pain subsided. With a pace of 8:08, I finished it in 25:18. So much for taking it easy. It definitely was a good shakeout run. Once the race was over, I got in line to collect my Running Remix medal and jet on home to shower, get ready, and head on over to Fort Pulaski for a movie shoot that would last until 11:30 PM. Needless to say, it was a LONG weekend and this mama is exhausted!
I need to spend as much time with my kiddos this week because CECILIA IS ON THE RUN! I'm preparing to do it all over again as Michael and I head to Las Vegas to run the strip at night on Sunday, Nov. 16th! Here we come Sin City to run the half marathon and renew our 15th wedding anniversary vows! First time in Vegas for the both of us!
What time are you aiming for?
This is a "If I had a nickel for every time...." question. It's the most popular question any runner gets asked. I know I ask fellow runners all the time out of sheer curiosity. However, when it's my turn to answer, I usually clam up and never voice my goal out loud - partly because I'm terrified that I won't reach it and also my ideal goal is usually to just beat my last time. I want a PR! Who doesn't?! Like me, do you ever get nervous announcing your goal out to the universe?
After running the Savannah Rock n' Roll half marathon these past 3 years, I would stay and watch the marathoners run their hearts out through the finish line. Some of these runners speeding through the finish looked like death. Watching their stomach wrenching disappointments as they studied their watches knowing that they hadn't qualified for Boston was heartbreaking. It made me not ever want to run a marathon. They looked so pained. How could this be fun?
So what do I do? I signed up for a marathon. I got involved through Team In Training and signed up to fundraise for the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco. My only goal was to finish. I mean, this was going to be a PR for me anyways. I was already terrified. Why stress myself out even more? During training, my mom fell ill and was hospitalized several times throughout the year. I had so much going on in my life at the time that I couldn't devote much time to my training and I needed to be realistic. So I set the only goals I could - to surpass my fundraising goal and to just cross the finish line whether it was running, walking, or crawling. I surpassed both goals and it was a wonderful experience! I didn't put too much pressure on myself, enjoyed the beautiful views San Francisco had to offer, and even recorded my sprint to the finish with my iPhone. I figured if I could sprint to the finish with that much energy, I had it in me all along to run my first 26.2.
So shortly after, I signed up for my second, the Austin Marathon, which I ran this past February. Again, I didn't have time to devote to training and my mom was still in and out of the hospital so I didn't set up a goal time for this race either. Instead, my goal was to run the 26.2 in its entirety - no walking, no intervals. If I didn't walk, I knew I would PR again, which I did in 4:47:35. It felt amazing! I cried as I crossed the finish line. I just did something that I didn't think was possible. I ran the entire thing and it was brutally hilly! After running the Austin, I wanted to really train for my next marathon. Just how much can I push myself? Just how well can I do?
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!