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.
Ask a runner “why do you run?” and you’ll get a myriad of responses ranging from staying in shape, improving physical and mental health, developing friendships, achieving what once were impossibilities, and many more. One of my favorites that I always respond back with is simply, “it just makes me feel good.” But really delving into it - why does running make me feel good?
Your mind is a constant wanderer. You analyze (and overanalyze) everything! “Why couldn’t I keep the pace on that tempo run a few days ago?” “Why don’t we have any decent Presidential candidates?” “How am I going to perform on race day that’s coming up in a few short weeks (Eugene Marathon - May 1st - eek!)?” “How do we stop ISIS?” “Why did I spend so much money on that Kate Spade purse (yes, I still have shopper’s remorse)?” “Why am I running 2 marathons in one month?” “How am I going to get this project done before its deadline?” “What are the kids’ schedules this evening?” “Why won’t this muffin top go away?” I mean, it’s ridiculous!
We incessantly think about where we’re going, what we’ll be doing, and how we’ll do it or we beat ourselves up about something that’s already happened in the past. Our minds are in constant analytical chaos, a stubborn beast that’s hard to quell, delivering stressor upon stressor upon stressor. It’s enough to make your head want to explode. STOP!
Take a deep breath.
Isn’t is funny how that’s the first thing anyone ever says to you when you’re about to lose it (or if you’ve already lost it)? “Take a deep breath.” In the heat of the moment, sometimes you just imagine slapping the crap out of him/her, but you heed the advice and do just that - take a deep breath - inhaling deeply through the nose (using the diaphragm) and exhaling all the air out the mouth. Surprisingly, you find that this little exercise does indeed make you feel better. Why? Because in that moment, you’re practicing mindfulness. Your mind is no longer in a state of wanderlust. It’s focusing on the present - in the action of taking those deep breaths. It’s mindfulness meditation - letting go. This breathing exercise relaxes you. Each inhalation and exhalation is alerting your body that it’s in distress and taking those deep breaths provides a calming effect. It’s taming the beast that is your chaotic mind.
In relation to running, the art of practicing mindfulness meditation has really piqued my interest lately. Every time I turn around, I’m reading another article on mindfulness meditation from my latest running magazines and even to my recent Cooking Light issue. Currently, I have Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s “Running With the Mind of Meditation” in my Amazon cart. I’m inspired. There are even running meditation retreats. I wanna go!
Read this article where Rinpoche talks more about combining the efforts of running and meditation - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sakyong-mipham-rinpoche/running-with-the-mind-of-meditation_b_1418102.html
In practicing mindfulness meditation, you’re focused on the “here and now” through your breathing. Just recently, I downloaded this meditation app on my iPhone called Headspace (https://www.headspace.com/) and just completed my 10-day/10-minute introductory guided meditation. Every morning, I clear off 10 minutes out of my schedule to meditate and hone in on my breathing and focus on my “now”.
Look mom! I’m meditating!
I wish it was that easy. It’s actually pretty challenging. I catch my mind wandering and have to gently bring it back to the present, focusing on my breath. You should totally try it (the 10-day Headspace introductory is free).
In Karen Asp’s article, “Meditate Your Way to Better Health” (featured in Cooking Light), she states:
Physiological changes takes place in your body when you meditate. Studies show that just 8 weeks of meditation can increase density in the area of your brain responsible for executive function, which helps regulate emotions, holds information, and allows you to perform at your highest level. And meanwhile, the amygdala, the part of your brain that acts like a stress button, shrinks. It’s like going to the gym for your brain.
If meditation is like going to the gym for your brain and running is like going to the gym for your body, why not incorporate the two? And do some of us already naturally do that? I just completed Day 10 so I’m going to continue on this meditation journey and see how it improves my wellbeing.
This takes me back to my standard answer to the question, “Why do you run?” I run because it makes me feel good. Yes, I run for my health and for my sanity, as well as for conversations with friends - which all make me feel good. But I run because it ultimately clears my mind. It allows me to be aware of what’s going on in the moment. It’s listening to my body. Running provides the right distraction. Instead of focusing on the past or what obstacles I may have ahead of me, I make a conscious effort to hone in on what’s happening right now - my breathing, my stride, putting one foot in front of the other, relaxing my shoulders, focusing on how I carry my arms. I listen to the sounds around me - birds chirping, leaves rustling in the wind, or even just the stillness of the morning. It’s about awareness. As soon as I start wandering into doubts and/or negativity about my performance, I gently bring my mind back to my breathing. I am practicing mindfulness meditation.
In the Runner’s World article, “Four Ways to Build Mental Toughness”, Coach Jenny Hadfield (who I had to pleasure of meeting at this year’s inaugural Runner’s World Getaway) reached out to Mark Divine, a retired Navy Seal Commander and NY Times best-selling author of “Unbeatable Mind”, to share his thoughts on training practices that help make a better athlete. To help remain calm and focused, Divine suggests to “slow your breathing and sync it to your steps while you run - breathe in through your nose for 3-4 steps, then out your mouth for 3.” I’ve made a conscious effort to practice this exercise for the last couple of training runs, especially in times where I’m trying to push my pace to keep up with others or even trekking up the top of the Talmadge Bridge. When I start falling behind, I notice how easily negative thoughts start seeping in. In efforts to tame my mind through mindfulness meditation, I simply go back to focusing on my breath - inhaling deeply through the nose and exhaling out the mouth - and focusing on my feet hitting the pavement. Having that heightened awareness and then focusing in through mindfulness meditation can help instantly calm and relax you. It can change the negative thoughts of “I can’t” into a positive mantra of “let’s do this”.
In fact, Gretchen Reynolds in her NY Times article, “Meditation Plus Running as a Treatment for Depression” recommends we practice mindfulness in all that we do and to focus on the “now”. It’s a tool that can be integrated into running to enhance your experience and even performance. She states, “You accept what has taken place in the past, without judging it and do not fret about the future, the next race, or workout, for example. Rather it is a focus on the ‘power of now’.” Doing this will help you maintain a positive mindset.
This, my friends, is why running makes me feel good. It’s therapeutic and good for the mind and sole/soul (I can’t help a good pun). It’s my “me time”. It’s where I can escape my mind’s wandering ways and really just focus on how I’m feeling right then and there - by gently shifting my mind’s focus back to the breath, to the body, and to the present, or as Reynolds calls it - “the power of now.”
Next time you go out for a run and find yourself sucked into negative thoughts like being worried about how your next race will turn out, how you can’t keep up with the person in front of you, how last week’s speed workout sucked, or how you don’t have enough hours in the day to get all your work done - STOP!
Take a deep breath.
...and go kick some ass!
Can you believe the Publix Savannah Women’s Half & 5K has already come and gone? We spend all these months training and planning for race day and build up all this anticipation and excitement for race weekend and - in the blink of an eye - the weekend is over as quickly as it started.
The race, held on April 2nd, fell on a very wet and balmy weekend. The weather wasn’t quite as ideal as last year’s. In fact, the Doppler radar showed Savannah completely entrenched in various shades of deep dark green. Ugh, Mother Nature can be so iffy. You never know what you’re gonna get (channeling my inner Gump) and since you can’t control the weather, you can at least take charge of the situation given. I knew I was going to run this thing - rain or shine - so I went ahead and prepared myself mentally to run in the rain (which meant just throwing a visor on top of my stack of clothes).
Well whaddya know? Someone must’ve put on his/her boogie shoes and rocked out a mean rain jig, because although cloudy, the rain thankfully held out for the race. I’m glad because with 70% of runners coming from out of town, I would hate for the race to be canceled and their missed opportunity to run this beautiful course - which by far, is my favorite locally! You are truly running through the prettiest parts of Savannah. Half marathoners run around 12 historic squares, while the 5K weaves around 4. It’s the perfect “run tour” to view the city’s historic layout, rich in architecture with the magnificent homes and wrought iron fences (which inspired the race logo), Spanish moss-draped oaks, lush green trees, bright and colorful varieties of azaleas in bloom everywhere, historic Grayson Stadium, and a finish line right around the iconic fountain in Forsyth Park. Trust me when I say this course is absolutely gorgeous!
I woke up to a dreary gray and cloudy morning, however, Forsyth Park was teeming with excitement full of runners dressed in bright pastels and neons. I made my way to the start line area and waited for my cue to begin singing the National Anthem to kick off the race. As I stood there waiting, I spent those minutes being present and taking in my surroundings. I watched all these runners (obviously the majority were women, with a few men sprinkled here and there) with big smiles on their faces. Some looked nervous, some were checking their watches, and some were bunched up in groups taking selfies at the race start. I closed my eyes briefly and could feel the intensity of their energy, soaking in their chatter and laughter. When I opened them, I was looking at women of all ages, color, shapes, and sizes. It was an amazing scene to see women empowering one another. I took a deep breath and exhaled, getting all the nervous jitters out, and couldn’t help but feel thankful to be a part of this community and proud of Savannah for putting on a women’s race!
I had just been a part of the Runner’s World Getaway, a running retreat for women, over on Hilton Head Island a few weeks ago. I left feeling renewed, energized, and empowered. Deena Kastor, a bronze Olympic medalist was our featured guest and most of all, a huge source of inspiration. We talked a lot about women empowerment and supporting one another. There has been a tremendous increase in the numbers of women running and the numbers continue to grow. In a study provided by Runner’s World, 61% of half marathoners in 2014 were women. In 1990, women made up just a quarter of all runners. In 2014, it spiked up to 57%. It’s hard to believe that it wasn’t quite that long ago when women were prohibited to race more than 1.5 miles. How insane is that?!
Just this week, I received my Runner’s World and Women’s Running magazine subscriptions - all of them highlighting the great Roberta “Bobbi” Gibbs and the movement she made for women in running. In 1966, this 23-year old’s Boston Marathon application was returned stating that “women are not physiologically able to run a marathon.” Boy, did it light and fire, which only made her more hell bent and determined on running the Boston Marathon. On race day, Bobbi hid in the bushes waiting for her opportunity to jump in with the other runners and became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. Not only that, she ran it fast! She completed it in 3:21:40 - beating more than half the field - wearing her brother’s Bermuda shorts, a bathing suit, a blue-hoodie, and some brand new men’s size 6 Adidas (back then, there weren’t any running gear for women). Wow!
2016 marks the 50th anniversary of when this 23-year old female defiant became the catalyst spurring the movement for women to participate in the Boston Marathon. It didn’t happen immediately. It wasn’t until 1972 when Title IX was enacted and women were officially allowed to run Boston. If you think about it, the first US Women’s Olympic Marathon was only introduced in 1984 (with Joan Benoit Samuelson winning it) and Bobbi Gibb wasn’t even recognized for her three consecutive Boston wins until 1996! Put it into perspective and you’ll see it hasn’t really been that long at all! And now look - we have races that are dedicated to women and in my hometown! Now that’s not to say that the Publix Women’s Half & 5K is only for women. Men are welcomed and encouraged to run it also!
As I finished belting the last notes of the National Anthem, I made my way to the start corral and found my girlfriends. I didn’t set a goal for the race and just wanted to run what felt good to me. No pressure! We had the best time running the race - gabbing the miles away and laughing at our silly selfies along the route. We would occasionally offer words of support to one another, as well as the other runners along the course. We were completely blown away by how far ahead Joy Regina was in taking the lead. She’s a fast one! It was truly inspirational to see her go! We cheered on our training pals who were in pursuit of some impressive PRs and they both killed it! I ended up finishing in 1:54 and I’m pretty happy with it! I felt great at the finish which means I could’ve given more effort. I’ll try it for another half marathon. It’s best to see how I can do without drinking beer the night before ;)
I was so happy for my friends who smashed their goals, as well as their personal bests. I was also proud of my friends who ran just for the pure enjoyment of being part of this beautiful running community. Most importantly, I was proud of all of us who toed the line and completed the race! You go girls! There were so many smiles and laughter on the course and that is such a beautiful sight to see. Overall, the Publix Savannah Women’s Half & 5K was a great race, despite the weather, and I’m looking forward to running next year and seeing this race continue to grow through the years!
For the last couple of months, you've been prying yourself out of bed at 4:30 in the mornings to execute those training runs - knocking out your speed work and tempo runs - and spending lots of time hitting the pavement for those long and easy miles! A glance at the calendar and you notice race weekend is just around the corner! With training coming down to a taper, are you getting excited about next weekend?! Not only will Savannah be rocking out with various musicians and bands for the Savannah Music Festival, but us runners will be running our hearts out at the 2nd annual Savannah Publix Women’s Half & 5K! I’ll be doing a little bit of both and the city is already alive with excitement and energy in the air. Today kicks off the Savannah Music Festival and I just got home from jamming out to some Bayou Blues and Southern Soul with the Marc Broussard/Paul Thorn Band. I love this festival! Michael and I bought tickets to see The Suffers and Langhorne Slim at the Ships of the Sea Museum the night before the race. I’m not sure how smart that is, but when in Rome...or Savannah, right?! Oh, and did I mention that I’ll be singing the National Anthem to kick off the race? I can’t wait!
Folks traveling into Savannah for this race are in for a real treat! For visitors, Savannah is a running destination and for us locals, it’s a runner’s playground - with so many beautiful sights and gems hidden around every corner! I like to describe the course as taking all the best parts from the various local races in town and merging them into one ideal, scenic run-tour that winds through the historic district into Ardsley Park, Daffin Park, the beautiful oak-lined Washington Avenue, and more. With about 70% of participants coming from out of town, I can’t wait to show off our city as runners explore Savannah on foot! Things to look out for: bright azaleas in full bloom, massive oak trees draped in Spanish moss, historic city squares, beautiful architecture, wrought-iron fences, Grayson Stadium, Forsyth and Daffin Parks, iconic Forsyth Park fountain, and an overabundance of Southern hospitality!
The race starts and finishes at Forsyth Park. The finish line chute is so cool as you run past Savannah’s iconic Forsyth Park fountain. Finishers will be greeted with a newly designed spinner medal and a nice refreshing mimosa, as well as other refreshments. Head on over to the lawn to stretch and rock out to one of Savannah’s favorite local bands, A Nickel Bag of Funk!
As one of this year’s local race Ambassadors, New Balance sent me some gear to product test and I’ve run several training runs in them - from my speedier track workouts to my easy-paced long runs and I’m totally digging my run outfit - from head to toe! The Perfect Tank is great for our weather. It’s super flattering and lightweight, and I really dig the ruching on the sides. Also I love that the color of the tank is called “azalea”. How fitting as they are in colorful bloom all across the city! It’s one of my favorite tanks right now. The midrise Impact 3-Inch Shorts are also really comfortable. I love the wide waistband! It does really “smooth” out your curves (nicer way to say it hides spare tires). There’s also a nifty zip pocket to hold your key or ID/cards/or fuel. The NB DRY technology on both The Perfect Tank and the Impact 3-Inch Shorts wick sweat away so you can enjoy your run. I already know that I’ll be picking up more of these tanks and shorts in different colors at the Fashion Fitness Expo!
I’m always weary about trying out new shoes, but the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v2 are so comfortable and provide just the right cushion. They are neutral cushioned and designed for fast speeds. I’ve done my tempo and track workouts in these shoes and there is so much comfort and cushion packed in one incredibly light shoe!
You can check these out and more at the Fashion Fitness Expo on Friday, April 1 at the Desoto Savannah Hilton. I’ll be volunteering the 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm shift so find me and say hello! I can’t wait to get my hands on that tote bag and do some shopping too :) This expo is unlike any other race expos. In addition to selling all of the awesome New Balance gear, this expo offers more of a boutique experience offering some of Savannah’s local flavors. Come check out local vendors such as Satchel (they do the leather cuffs for winners of the top 3 in each groups), T's Bees (honey), Nourish (soaps), and more! If you’re coming into town early, Fleet Feet is hosting a Girls’ Night Out on Thurs, March 31 with an optional fun run, a fashion show and sneak peak of the New Balance apparel, bra fittings, raffles and prizes, and refreshments. The first 100 guests to RSVP will receive a gift!
Also before you skip town on Sunday, April 3rd, make sure you do a little more stretching with free yoga at Ellis Square from 9:00 - 10:00 AM! Bring your mat and melt away in one of Savannah's beautiful squares!
This is going to be one great weekend! Stay tuned and I’ll keep you up-to-date on all the activities leading up to race day!
As a Publix Savannah Women's Half Marathon & 5K Ambassador, Publix so graciously gave me a gift card to help me out with my New Year's resolutions on eating better. The good news?! Publix also gave me a $25 gift card to reward a friend! You could be the lucky winner, winner, chicken dinner! Ahem...baked chicken dinner...
Before I usually head out to my neighborhood Publix, I try my best to lock in some recipes so I can get my shopping list squared away. As I was searching Pinterest for healthy recipes, I found myself completely fascinated (maybe borderline obsessed) with all these quick cooking tutorials of simple and delicious meals. They're plastered all over my Facebook and Instagram feed - and it's addicting. It's like eating chips - you can't just eat one. One video usually leads to me watching about 10 more and I'm just mesmerized by how easy it all looks! Since the new year, my family has been making a conscious effort to eat better and I'm always on the search for recipes that are delicious, yet healthy.
So here's the deal! I'm going to share with you a healthy meal I made and in order for you to be in the drawing for the $25 Publix gift card, I ask you to do the following:
So, I'll go first! I came across this awesome Buzzfeed Tasty recipe tutorial that involved one baking sheet. Um…yes please!! Less mess = less dishes to wash! The recipe's called "One Pan Salmon and Veggie Dinner". Disclaimer: I never ever follow the exact recipe so here's my take on this delicious meal. I've made some variations on this recipe and have cooked it different ways.
Here's how I made my ONE PAN SALMON AND VEGGIE DINNER:
Now it's your turn! What's cookin' good lookin'?
"Anyone wanna run the 5K, 10K, half, and full marathon for the Dopey Challenge?"
I'm pretty sure this is how it all began. Someone posed the question, we all scoffed at the ridiculousness of it all, and then slowly, but surely, started entertaining the idea of taking on the Dopey Challenge. I mean, have you seen all the pictures of the participants with their medals adorning their neck in gleaming, shiny medal gloriousness?! After seeing picture after picture, I channeled my inner Ariel and belted out in Disney song, "WISH I COULD BE PART OF THAT WORLD!"
So, my friend Chris and I registered. The registration date had been saved months before in our Outlook calendar with reminders set. On that day, we had our credit cards ready in hand, texting each other to make sure we both got in. Our plan was "leave no man behind". We were going to run this entire challenge together and just have fun! We're coming for you Run Disney! And before you know it...."Congratulations! You are registered for Run Disney's Walt Disney World's Dopey Challenge 2016!
We were both in! I remember sweating like bullets afterwards. I can't believe I just dropped that much $$ on a race. I was suffering from the 3 Rs - race registration remorse. But then I went online and saw past participants draped in their medal gloriousness and my guilt quickly disappeared! Also - it's Disney. There is nothing cheap about Disney. And really...I just wanted to be adorned in my own medal gloriousness!
The Dopey Challenge took place in Walt Disney World Orlando Jan 7-10. You run a 5K on Thursday, 10K on Friday, half marathon on Saturday, and the full marathon on Sunday. In an attempt to not bore you with all the details that took place for each race, I put together a list of my musings over those past couple of days running the Dopey Challenge:
I was experiencing pure laziness on writing this race recap. Clearly. It's the day after Thanksgiving and I'm just finishing it. So...here we go.
The Savannah Rock n' Roll full and half marathon took place Saturday, Nov. 7th. Those of us who ran it since its inception in 2011 were given special race bibs to highlight that we were legacy runners celebrating its 5th anniversary. We were making history! Oh the irony, because this race was about to leave a lasting legacy of angry Facebook rants and posts to come. I hope it doesn't turn away runners from wanting to run in our beautiful city. It was just definitely an off year.
Because I had just completed the TCS New York City Marathon the weekend before, I ran the half marathon with the intention of just having fun - no pressure, no sweat - except I crossed that finish line completely drenched in sweat! Pouring loads and loads of sweat! I'm not weather man, but it was safe to say that it was 100% swamp ass weather and it was by far the hottest RNR Savannah yet! I'm sure if I had specific goals on setting a PR, I would've been devastated and angry. However, my plan was just to take it super easy on this run. On top of that, it was my birthday weekend and the Competitor Group gave me a big ole birthday pin to wear for race day and I wore it proudly! My goal was to have an enjoyable 13.1-mile jaunt along my home turf, joined by the company of 20,000+ runners...oh, and to also find beer and mimosas on the course. I already had it mapped out with friends in Gordonston, as well as the 13th mile. Oh yes! I was prepared to get my chug on!
On race eve, I set aside a long-sleeve tee just in case I needed it in the morning. In the last 4 years, we've bundled up in layers at the start line and would gradually shed our clothing before the race started - shivering at the start. That morning, I woke up and checked my Weather Channel app and saw that it was in the low 60s, but with the humidity, it felt like it was 71 degrees. Wow - this was at 4:30 in the morning! No need for my long-sleeve tee. It was going to be a hot day! The Savannah RNR Facebook page had even posted up a notification about a Heat Plan. I'd never experienced anything like this before. This weather was definitely not typical for race day. We usually have cool, crisp weather perfect for running - especially with this one serving as a Boston qualifier.
I noticed that I didn't have any of the usual pre-race jitters the morning of the race and realized it was because I took away all that pressure of trying to PR. Man, it felt good to be able to relax and take in all my surroundings. The only nervousness I had was preparing to sing the National Anthem to kick off the race - in front of 20,000+ people! Gah!! Terrified that I would goof up the lyrics, I had my cheat sheet ready! It went very smoothly I must say! It's been a dream of mine to be able to sing the National Anthem to kick off the race and it finally happened! Here's to hoping they invite me to do it again next year! After I sang, I joined Corral 3 and waited for our wave to start.
Many people think that the race runs through all the pretty historic downtown areas that you typically see in travel brochures or filtered Instagram posts, but the reality is that we run throughout ALL of Savannah - the pretty parts and the not-so-pretty parts. However, the folks that live in the not-so-pretty parts of town are out there showing just as much support and love for the runners. It's a nice sight to see.
Ugh, how can I already be soaked in sweat and we haven't even reached the first mile marker yet?! The humidity was unbelievable. In efforts to stay hydrated, I made pit stops at every single water and Gatorade stop (as well as anyone offering beer along the course). Later, I would find out that many of these stops would run out of water and/or cups for the runners in later corrals. Yikes! Not good. Competitor later issued an apology.
As I ran past rowdy spectators, one even dressed as Forrest Gump, I held up my birthday pin, screaming obnoxiously, "IT'S MY BIRTHDAY WEEEEEKEEEEEND!!" and was rewarded with a chug of some nice cold Coors Light. Classy! I was having a fun time, despite the heat and was enjoying the sights running through parts of town that weren't part of my usual training routes. I even struck up a few conversations with fellow runners throughout the course.
As we headed into Gordonston, I saw a runner down. I remember saying out loud, "Oh no. Oh no. No, no, no." There was a concerned crowd standing around him as someone on the ground was giving him chest compressions. We alerted residents that a medic was needed. As we notified the residents, I saw another group of runners help out another runner who was about to faint. He was completely spaced out. This was getting scary and it was only getting warmer and warmer. Competitor would later call the race and divert runners to the finish due to the heat, as well as local medics and EMT staff being inundated with emergencies along the route. Not many completed the full marathon. Many were angry and took to social media with furious rants on having their race cut short. I agreed with Competitor in shutting the race down. Not too many people know when to listen to their bodies and will push ahead at any cost to finish. I know because I'm one of those people. However, since I ran the half, I wasn't affected by it. I finished before they shut the race down. I saw many of my friends struggling that day and my heart went out to them. It sucks to train all season long for race day conditions to be so poorly The humidity killed that race. Mother nature, you!!
Despite the warm temperature and the awful humidity, I still managed to finish the half marathon in under 2 hours. As I said earlier, I didn't put any pressure on myself and the intent was to just go out and have fun - and that's exactly what I did. I stopped to take pictures, guzzle beer, chat with friends, and walked some with runners who weren't having such a great race day. As I crossed the finish line, the commentators recognized me from singing the National Anthem that morning and stopped to interview me. I felt like a rockstar with my big ole birthday pin still hanging on for dear life on my tank.
Overall - the race was a great experience for me. I'm sorry that the weather didn't cooperate this year and that it left many with a bad taste in their mouth on the Savannah Rock n' Roll. However, this will always be the race that initiated my running and I'll keep with the tradition of running this race that I strongly believe started the movement of runners in our city!
They say running marathons is like birthing children. I've experienced both. You put your body through all this indescribable sweat, pain, and sometimes tears and yet... you do it all over again.
You sign up for another marathon, erasing your mind of all those crippling leg spasms, cramps, and god awful chafing the instant that shiny medal is adorned around your neck. I figured I should immediately write up this race report before the pain subsides and everything I describe becomes all unicorns and rainbows because right now, my legs - especially my thighs and calves - are screaming out that it wasn't all rainbows and unicorns, but more like imagining an angry dwarf wreaking havoc with a war hammer on my poor legs!
Let's start with the expo. As soon as my plane landed and we checked into our hotel (Wyndham New Yorker), my family and I walked a few blocks over to the Javitz Center to pick up my race packet. I didn't stay too long because the expo was super crowded and I felt completely overwhelmed - lost in a sea of people. I mean we are talking about the largest marathon in the world here. So I picked up my race packet, bought some Glide (I realized I ran out of it while packing my luggage), and left. I did my shopping for the Asics marathon gear online which I'm glad because the merchandise line at the expo was atrocious! Once I got my race packet and checked that off my "to do" list, I was able to relax and enjoy our family time sightseeing in New York before marathon morning. One of the highlights was seeing Matilda the Musical at the Schubert Theatre. It was fantastic!! I highly recommend seeing it!
They say to try and keep off your feet the day before the race, but how can you stay off your feet when you're in New York City?! We did a whole lot of walking exploring the city, which left me completely worn out so I was actually pretty happy with the time change and gaining that extra hour of sleep. On race eve, it took me longer than usual to set out my race gear. I was a big ball of nerves just trying to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything. It probably didn't help that I didn't have my usual lemonade flavored Huma packed with caffeine. Since I literally packed the night before we left for New York - I didn't realize that I was completely out so I just grabbed what was left, which happened to be the non-caffeinated mango-flavored Huma gels. Note to self: Don't ever do that again. Work consumed me the week of the race and I waited til the very last minute to do my packing. I should've made sure I was equipped with my essentials prior to packing for the race. Lesson learned! I plugged my Garmin for a good full charge and finally set aside everything and fell sleep.
One of my CREW training buds, John, met me race morning at my hotel and we walked over to the subway station to take us to the Staten Island Ferry. I was so happy I had a companion because I didn't know a thing about riding subways. They confuse me - train 1, 2, 3 or A, C, E....which ones take us where?! Layered in our throwaway neon bright cheap sweatsuits that we wouldn't be caught dead in on a normal day, we found the right subway that took us to the ferry. The Staten Island ferry was the best transportation pick! We made sure we made our way onto the side of the ferry that would have the best view of the Statue of Liberty. With a cool breeze running through my hair, surrounded by so many runners, we all took out our camera phones and began snapping away. It was such a beautiful sight! Once we landed over on Staten Island, we boarded the buses that would take us to the start village. We were both in the Green Village and in the same wave, but parted ways to get into our specified corrals. We even ran into some fellow Savannahians - Lee Ann and Michael. It's so fun to see familiar faces in these big races in big cities - amongst the 50,000 runners!
We had gotten lucky with the weather. It had fluctuated so much within the week. At one point, it was going to be cold with a 60% chance of rain. We ended up with a high of 69 with partly cloudy skies. Perfect! It was almost too warm, but I'm not complaining! I laid out a rain poncho to use for sitting at the start village since I would be there for a while before race start and watched the runners all around me - admiring everyone speaking all these different languages - and sharing in that electricity, that buzz of excitement of running the NYC Marathon. Eventually we made our way into the corrals so I shed the poncho, along with my cheap sweatsuit, as we made our way to the start line. After the singing of the National Anthem, announcements, and the shooting of the cannons to signal the start of the corral, Frank Sinatra's famous "New York" blared on the speakers as we made our way across the Start line onto the Verrazano Bridge. Sing it Sinatra! "Start spreadin' the news, I'm leavin' today. I want to be a part of it - New York, New York! These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray, right through the very heart of it, New York, New York!" The energy was incredible and contagious! We all, as a community of runners, were different in so many ways, coming together from many different parts of the world to share in one common goal - to complete the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon!
I had read so many blogs offering sage advice on running the marathon. Every single one of them cautioned us to not go all out in the beginning miles. Many said it was really easy to gun it in the beginning and to be wary of it. Do not even kick in speed until after mile 15. I threw all of that out the window and decided to run by effort and to go with the flow. I guess the flow was pretty fast because it would later kick my butt - which, to be fair, all the blogs had given me fair warning. I just felt so good that I thought I'd be able to hang until the end.
The crowd support was unreal. There are millions of people lining the streets in the different boroughs cheering on their friends, loved ones, and perfect strangers - like me. If you were lucky enough to put your name on your shirt, you could hear folks chanting your name to cheer you on. My sister ironed a "Cecilia on the Run" decal on my race shirt and I can't tell you how many times I needed that extra support of hearing my name from the crowd. "Cecilia - you're looking strong!" "Cecilia - you're breaking my heart!" "Go Cecilia!" At one point, someone in the crowd screamed my name as I was rounding a sharp corner and the runner next to me got my attention and it happened to be one of my running Instagram buddies (nycsweat)! I couldn't believe we ran into each other in this huge race! I love New York! On top of that, hearing Alicia Keys' "Empire State of Mind" at full blast on speakers throughout various parts of the course just got you inspired to push even harder.
I was still feeling pretty good! However, once I passed mile 15, I made a mental note that this was the point where all the bloggers mentioned picking up the pace. Earlier in the race, it was so crowded that it masked all the hills. By this time, the crowd had thinned out and that's when I was able to notice all the hills and its ups and downs...many ups and downs. I read that one of the race commentators described the course as that of a cross-country one. I could feel my pace slowing. At around mile 18, my right calf started cramping. I was talking out loud to myself, "oh no....no, no, no, no, no." I kept running, hoping it would go away and not turn into a full fledged charlie horse. It went away...kind of. I couldn't tell if it was messing with my gait as I tried to run away and ignore the discomfort and pain. At mile 20, not only was my calf on fire, but it had moved into both of my thighs. They began to seize. It hurt to run and it hurt to walk. At this point, it wasn't even a battle of mental will. It was a battle of physically making it to the finish. Damn it Seal - why did you start off so fast? Why didn't you listen to all these seasoned runners who ran this marathon many times? I looked to the right and saw a runner in tears as the medical group and its volunteers helped her into a wheelchair. It frightened me a little. I felt so bad for her. We were so close to the finish!!
I'd never experienced these leg spasms before and I was nervous that it was going to physically stop me from finishing. I did not want a DNF!! At certain points, I was in so much pain that I had to stop and walk for a brief period. But even walking hurt so I made myself run as much as I could to the finish. IT WAS BRUTAL. Those last 3 miles felt like an eternity. The .2 felt even longer. Where the hell was the damn finish line?! Ah, there it is!! It was so bad I couldn't even enjoy the beauty of Central Park. I just craved the instant sense of relief of finally crossing the finish. As I ran through with the crowds cheering with all their might, I looked over to the left and noticed John was right in front of me. He had crossed the finish at right around the same time I did.
I completed the NYC Marathon in 4:09:04. No PR for me, but this was by far the toughest marathon I've tackled yet. However, it was also one of the best experiences. I would love to take another shot at it knowing the things I know now of the course, of shooting out too early, of being better prepared (more hill work in training!!), and making sure I have everything to pack for race day! I want redemption! But we shall see what the future has in store.
As we made our way out and picked up our awesome ponchos (since we didn't do gear check), John and I hobbled out of the race exit to meet up with our families. I met up with Michael and the kids and we made the 1-mile trek back to the hotel. I opted to walk instead of trying to hail a cab. I thought the walk would be better for me. I even made a pit stop to get my medal engraved by the Lincoln Center. There wasn't a line so why not?! As I slowly trudged back to our hotel, along with many of the other finishers, we received cheers from other pedestrians. A mom and her two small kids clapped for me as I walked past. It was a beautiful thing to be acknowledged, especially in a city that is always on the go. I noticed that many New Yorkers walking through Manhattan seem to be in such a hurry, hastily making their way to their specified location with purpose and no small talk, so to hear any acknowledgment or a congratulations was huge! And there was a lot of it!
As I sit here and type with my legs still sore as can be, I hope to see you again New York and have another chance of running through your beautiful city. You made me feel like part of the elite - someone special - running in this marathon major. We all started the race listening to Sinatra croon, "I want to be a part of it. New York, New York." And now that it's finished, I can happily say that I WAS a part of it! New York, New York!
Til next time!
I am beyond excited that Shape Magazine chose to feature my running book Club, Read, Run, & Rant, in their October issue highlighting running clubs that get you motivated to run!
I was actually inspired after reading an article in Runner's World about the Long Run Book Club and decided to do something in our local community. Who knew that months later, my own club would be featured with this Albany, NY-based book club as well! Sweet!!
With all of our busy schedules, we meet bi-monthly at Foxy Loxy Cafe, run an easy 3 miles discussing the book, and head back to this quirky coffee shop favorite to finish up the discussion over a cup of coffee. Come join us!
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!